We were excited to be heading for Santiago de Cuba, Cuba’s former capital on the south eastern coast and one of the few points of entry. What should have been a three day sail took us five due to the wind shadow caused by the 1900 m Hispaniola mountain chain. Having daughter Megs on board eased the night watches considerably as we could each get six hours’ sleep instead of four.
Southern Cuba sits on an underwater escarpment that rises sharply from depths of thousands of metres and it has some amazing, almost completely land locked natural harbours, Santiago de Cuba being one.
After entering via the narrow channel we tied up at the marina and were warmly greeted by its manager who told us to stay on board until the doctor had examined us. A white coated lady arrived, enquired about our health, took our forehead temperatures and cleared us to proceed on shore.
Following our departure from Antigua, we arrived at St. Martin, apparently the smallest bi-national island in the world; in this case occupied by France and the Netherlands. We dropped anchor in French Marigot Bay and once again cleared in easily online.
Jolly Harbour on the west of Antigua was an easy landfall and we anchored outside the channel, along with perhaps 14 other yachts and the next morning took the dinghy to clear in and do some shopping. Development along the coastline is first world and substantial; palatial homes, guest accommodation and hotels. We later learnt that much of the coastline is private property above the high tide level, which includes most of the beach, as the tide only rises about half a metre in the Caribbean.
Replacement of our sail being a top priority, I sent out some email enquiries and we later motored around the coast to nearby St. John’s, from where we could get transport. Here we found the anchor holding very poor, eventuating in the need to motor back out a kilometre to Side Hill Bay, where, after several more attempts, the anchor finally held.
We asked Frank and Marijke, who visited us on Moondust recently, to share their impressions as newbies of what it entails to live on a yacht. Herewith their experience….
We gladly accepted Karin and Pete’s generous invitation to join them on board Moondust and loved their company and living at sea and virtually in the sea, as we did a lot of snorkeling! Being Duchies we stem from a sea faring nation, but personally we had no experience at all of life ‘adrift’, therefore Pete had to give us an induction.
He explained a set of necessary rules of conduct on board a ship. They were quite logic for living at sea and concentrated on aspects like safety, living together in a confined space, and the use of water.
For safety reasons one never walks on deck without a firm hold whilst sailing. It is extremely challenging to retrieve somebody who fell overboard because of currents and difficulties to keep track of the exact location of the man overboard.
When sailing, you have to make sure that all hatches and portholes are firmly closed, unless you like sleeping in a soaked bed.
A fire on a ship can be life threatening, so there are special safety measures for cooking with gas.
What struck us was the ‘war against salt’. Salt is everywhere around you, but you don’t want it in your living space because it inevitably attracts moisture. Preventing this is an ongoing battle. Clothing, shoes and towels soaked with salt water are NOT permitted beyond a certain point.
You even try to keep sweet water and damp out as much as possible. You shower in the open on the back sugarscoop, which is a sheer joy.
Sweet water has to be used very sparingly and for us Duchies this required a change in mindset. In Holland we have an abundance of sweet water but on a ship you have to find ways to economise without compromising on hygiene.
When the desalinator, which turns seawater into potable water, is in operation nobody is allowed to use the toilet!
Living on board
The catamaran has four cabins, but nevertheless you live in a confined space. Moondust has an inner and outer living space but we spent most of our time in the outside cockpit area, enjoying the wind, the sea and Cuba Libre sundowners. As this space is covered, it offers shade as well as protection against rain and spray from the sea. This is the nicest spot on board with ample room for everybody.
After we picked our Dutch friends Frank and Marijke up from St George, our first stop was the underwater sculpture gallery at Dragon Bay on the west coast of Grenada. A number of sculptures, created by UK sculptor, Jason deCaires Taylor, are placed around Molinére Reef in shallow, clear water.
Sadly some of the sculptures have been damaged by stormy sea conditions but there is still plenty to see. The most impressive is Vicissitudes, a circle of figures, all joining hands. Another impressive figure is Christ of the Deep, which is a replica of the original that lies underwater off San Fruttuoso Bay in Italy. Other sculptures include a mermaid, a kneeling and praying figure and a woman sitting on a bench.
Our haul out in Trinidad completed, we headed for Carriacou, 25km north of Grenada. The north west flowing Equatorial Current pushed us in the right direction, which was just as well as the predicted wind only appeared later in the afternoon, when on one of our fishing lines we caught a beautiful Black Hind; a mature fish which was a challenge to scale and fillet, but a delight to eat in a soft, fragrant curry.
Once in the full Atlantic swell Karin began to feel sea sick and turned her attention to one of the buckets, shortly afterwards retiring for an early night. She didn’t get much sleep, but always the stalwart crew member, she refused to rest longer and took her four hour watch between midnight and 04:00. Shortly after dawn we passed the northern end of Grenada and made landfall at Tyrell Bay, Carriacou at around 09:00.
Carriacou is known as the ‘Isle of Reefs’ evidenced by the many shipwrecks we saw. Its people originate both from Africa and Scotland, the latter group settling in the village of Windward and starting the local boat building industry, which persists to this day. Both the appearance and speech of the people in that area still reflect their lineage.
Sailing is not all about exotic islands, beautiful sunsets and enjoying G&T’s. On top of doing at least one maintenance job daily, there comes a time when a boat owner really has to do the hard yards.
It was time for Moondust’s maintenance haul-out and, since we could not sail much further north in the Caribbean until the end of the hurricane season in November, being impressed with Power Boat’s prompt e-mail responses and general interest shown, we decided to follow the good references that we got from fellow cruisers and have the work done in Trinidad. We could not have made a better choice!
It was only a two hour sail from Charlotteville around the headland to Bloody Bay. If one looks at the peaceful bay, it is hard to believe that it derived its name from pirate activity in the early 1700’s. It is a small bay with facilities only for day visitors.
For a small island, 42km long and 10km wide, we found that Tobago punches well above its weight! It’s one of the last unspoilt Caribbean islands lying just south of the hurricane belt, close to the coast of South America and 33km north-east of its ‘parent’ Trinidad.
It has lush, tropical rain forest clad mountains with beautiful beaches and quiet bays. The island has two season: a wet and a dry season. The temperature is around 30 degrees C with no seasonal change.