Category Archives: Caribbean & Bahamas

BPO Completion, Barbados

Well, the Blue Planet Odyssey is done. Tonight we had our completion/celebration with Jimmy Cornell (and his wife Gwenda, and a dozen or so boats in his Caribbean Odyssey that just arrived from the Canary Islands). We came away with Mount Gay Rum hats, and a brand new BPO flag (our old one is in tatters). It was fun to drink rum punches and talk with some of the other sailors. But it hit me when Carol (on Maggie) said: If we don’t see you again… Yikes! It’s hard to imagine not rendezvousing again with Maggie and Tahawus. We’ve sailed around the world together!! Oh well, we will stay in touch, but it is a sad thought that after all we’ve been through we are sailing our separate ways. I’m feeling sad about the other friends we made along the way, too — the many crews who turned back or wanted to stay in the South Pacific or had health issues or shipped their boat home or…whatever. We had a bond, and I wish they (and Luc and Jackie!) could have been here to acknowledge the completion and swap tales.

Tomorrow we depart for Grenada. Of course I will be very happy to be sailing again. Twelve days here has been a bit long. Tim and Josh changed their flights and left as quickly as they could. Tim says his knee is healing well. Josh got to fly home on his birthday, which was important to him, plus he got to attend his son’s basketball game (also important to him, and something that used to be an important factor to me).

I remained in the downtown Careenage, partly because it is convenient to have electricity and water available; partly because it makes it easier for my three new crew (Bill, Nora and Bill’s friend Harry) to come and go as they please. They haven’t “gone” much, except to a tour/tasting at the Mount Gay distillery. We’ve done some satisfying work on the boat, fixing various things that have gone bad over the past months.

I arranged an island tour for myself and the other two crews. It was pretty bad. We asked for a history lesson, but our two drivers didn’t really know the history, plus one spoke with such an accent that it was extremely difficult to understand her. And many of the places they took us had additional admission fees, which I had not expected. The people here are friendly and the area seems pretty safe, but I can’t say that the island itself is very notable. It’s all about servicing the tourists from the huge cruise ships, and second homes for rich people. One of the things I enjoyed most was going to a cricket match ($5). Barbados crushed Guyana, although I only watched Barbados bat, because I’d had enough after two hours.

We are cleared out. We are pretty well stocked (lots more marlin even after giving hunks away to the other boats). We have a destination in mind (an overnight sail away). The bridge is scheduled to open at noon to let us out. Time to start island hopping in the gorgeous Caribbean.

Cricket match at Kensington Oval
Cricket match at Kensington Oval
Tahawus joins us in the Careenage
Tahawus joins us in the Careenage
For catamarans like us it is challenging getting through the bridge into and out of the Careenage.
For catamarans like us it is challenging getting through the bridge into and out of the Careenage.

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Oldest church in Barbados; start of our island tour.
Oldest church in Barbados; start of our island tour.

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An unfortunately large part of the tour was about where the multitude of rich and famous live or visit. And checking out their yachts...
An unfortunately large part of the tour was about where the multitude of rich and famous live or visit. And checking out their yachts…
East coast of the island is pretty
East coast of the island is pretty
North end, too.
North end, too.
Exploring a sea cave
Exploring a sea cave

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Bathsheba, east coast
Bathsheba, east coast

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Back in Bridgetown, this is the "Screw Dock" -- Victorian era technology for lifting a big ship out of the water to work on the bottom.
Back in Bridgetown, this is the “Screw Dock” — Victorian era technology for lifting a big ship out of the water to work on the bottom.

And finally we have the completion/celebration/farewell party for the Blue Planet Odyssey. Lots of rum punch (with not much food…) at the Yacht Club, a pleasant mile walk along a beautiful beach. A little more about it on the Cornell Sailing web site: http://cornellsailing.com/2017/02/blue-planet-odyssey-comes-to-a-successful-end-in-barbados/

Collecting that coveted Mount Gay cap and Aventura shirt.
Collecting that coveted Mount Gay cap and Aventura shirt.
The three BPO crews. No Tim at the party, unfortunately, but including Bill and Nora.
The three BPO crews. No Tim at the party, unfortunately, but including Bill and Nora.

Arrival in Barbados

The fast conditions ended, and we did some motorsailing, but for the most part the sailing continued to be good. In the clear night sky one could see uncountable stars that most people in the modern electrified polluted world never see. I had a little sense of “home” seeing the North Star once again.

Then we caught a fish. A big fish. A “game fish” — jumping out of the water and “tail walking.” I believe he was a marlin, but please correct me if the photo says otherwise. He pulled most of the line out from our reel, so I had to tighten the drag to keep from running out. I fully expected him to break the line or free himself, but neither happened. Reeling him in was a challenge. But the real trick was what to do next. We thought it best to try to free him. With Tim tottering on the transom steps and me pulling the fish alongside the boat, we managed to get a line around his bill. Tim approached with pliers to try to pull the hook out. The pliers ended up in the deep, and Tim ended up with a puncture wound in the knee courtesy of the marlin’s bill!

The hook was not coming out while the fish was alive, which was not going to be much longer. We changed the plan — to landing the fish and having marlin fillets for a month. We got a line around his tail and hauled him up the transom steps. From bill to tail was at least as long as I am tall. I filleted him right there, and our freezer is well stocked. Plus Josh made the best fish tacos I’ve ever had!

Meanwhile Tim was doctoring his wound. It didn’t appear to be serious, but it was deep enough to penetrate inside tissues of the knee. Concerns were infection and possible damage to the knee structure. Antibiotics were administered, but Tim thought we should consult with a doctor ASAP. He tried calling on the emergency frequency on the SSB radio — something I had never done before. The result was…nothing. No response. So we emailed Jimmy Cornell to ask if he could help arrange a doctor visit immediately upon arrival (on a Saturday holiday).

We arrived the next morning. Nearly 2,000 miles in just under 11 days! We were guided to a berth at a floating dock, where it would be easy for Tim to get off/on the boat. And as soon as we cleared in with the authorities, our BPO agent drove Tim to a medical center. The consultation with the doctor was short and sweet: keep taking the antibiotics and if it gets worse rather than better then get yourself on a flight home and get medical care in the US!

We couldn’t stay at the immigration dock, but our local do-everything man Andy arranged to get the drawbridge opened, despite the holiday, so we could move into The Careenage, right downtown with easy access to everything. And he said we could tie alongside the wall, rather than the usual stern-to, to make it easy for Tim to get off/on. That arrangement is temporary, but the point is that people are going out of their way to help.

So we are in downtown Bridgetown. Buses roaring by. People walking in the park a few feet from the boat. Music blaring on Saturday night. Plus everything costs too much. Welcome to the Caribbean, I guess. I was not happy here at first. But I know by now that I usually feel this way at first at each new place. I need at least a day to adjust. Already (next day) I’m starting to like it. I’ll be here for about 12 days, switching crew, meeting with Jimmy to acknowledge the completion of the Blue Planet Odyssey, and then we’ll be off to explore the Caribbean islands.

In my last Brazil post I neglected to include this photo of our hosts at the Olinda B&B, who then came to visit us on the boat. A fond memory and a suitable parting shot to say goodbye to Brazil.
In my last Brazil post I neglected to include this photo of our hosts at the Olinda B&B, who then came to visit us on the boat. A fond memory and a suitable parting shot to say goodbye to Brazil.
Tim shows the fish we caught that provided dinner for something else before we reeled it in! Still enough for a meal aboard.
Tim shows the fish we caught that provided dinner for something else before we reeled it in! Still enough for a meal aboard.
Josh
Josh
We tried not to talk about Trump, but every discussion seemed to go in that direction, like it or not.
We tried not to talk about Trump, but every discussion seemed to go in that direction, like it or not.
Hitchhiker
Hitchhiker
Nighttime hitchhiker
Nighttime hitchhiker
Typical trade wind conditions
Typical trade wind conditions
Occasional mini-squalls
Occasional mini-squalls

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Plenty of time for contemplation...
Plenty of time for contemplation…

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My improvised hatch closure
My improvised hatch closure
One BIG fish!
One BIG fish!

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Having cleaned and bandaged his wound, Tim administers some medicine.
Having cleaned and bandaged his wound, Tim administers some medicine.
Barbados emerges under a rainbow
Barbados emerges under a rainbow
There was a big race around the island the day we arrived, including this 211 foot vessel.
There was a big race around the island the day we arrived, including this 211 foot vessel.

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Entrance to the Careenage
Entrance to the Careenage
The Careenage
The Careenage
No Regrets in the Careenage
No Regrets in the Careenage

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Approaching Barbados

Ten days out; one day away from Barbados…

We crossed the equator during the night, so no special celebration at the time. But in the morning the wind went light, so we furled the screecher, reducing our speed to 2 or 3 knots, put a line trailing astern, and took turns jumping in. Very refreshing! And always a fun experience to jump into water that you know is three miles deep. Of course it makes no difference if it is 10 feet deep or 10,000, but somehow the mind conjures up a touch of fear of the deep.

Not much has happened on this passage. Each morning and evening we check in with Tahawus and Maggie, and trade positions. Then we ask if anything exciting has happened, and for the most part there is silence. Boring, we say, and let’s keep it that way!

Without having our attention on problems, we focus mostly on our speed and our miles run from noon to noon each day. We had a brief period of doldrums, crossing from the predominantly SE trade winds of the South to the predominantly NE trade winds north of the equator. We were lucky to have flukey conditions for only one day. When the NE trades kicked in, that brought the wind on our beam (roughly 90 degrees from our course), which makes for fast sailing. Plus there was a favorable current. The 20 knot winds kicked up some uncomfortable cross seas and made for unwelcome spray in the cockpit, but we enjoyed the possibility of recording a 200+ mile day. We did 217. The next day we got caught in some counter-current (we were too far offshore) , yet we still logged 206. And the next day we worked our way back inshore, found the good current again, and set our all time noon to noon record with 228. Three in a row — fantastic! These runs pushed up our lead over Tahawus to 100 miles. Maggie is back about 450 miles.

Then the wind went light and the current diminished, with about 450 miles to go. We normally figure we can do 150 miles per day even in mediocre conditions, so we set our sites on arriving in Barbados in three days. Our arrival has to be in daylight (between 8am and 6pm, though I expect the authorities would head home if they saw us approaching at 5:30…). So we have to keep up the 150 pace or else we will have to heave to and drift for an entire night. We’re not keen on that idea, so we are watching our speed constantly. When the wind blows 10 knots on the beam, or 14 from behind, we’re good. When it is lighter (which is becoming more and more the case) we motorsail. We have enough fuel, so we should be able to arrive in time, but we’d rather be sailing! Unfortunately the forecast is for continued light winds.

All our fresh food is gone, so the cooks now have to get creative. I chopped and roasted some almonds to add to a can of green beans, to provide some crunch. I put dried mango and raisins and some chutney in last night’s leftover curry rice, for some interest and flavor. Our food has been excellent — better than I would normally have at home; but challenging now. We even ran out of onions, which I consider a major error in my provisioning. Never run out of onions! We celebrated Tim’s birthday; Josh cooked whatever Tim requested, and we baked chocolate brownies. Josh’s birthday is in 3 days, but of course we will be in Barbados for that.

Initially we saw many ships, rounding the NE corner of Brazil. But we haven’t seen any for 3 days. No airplanes. No trash in the ocean, either. No whales. Some pelagic birds, and frequently we have one or two roosting on the boat for the night. Once we had dolphins visit in the night under a brilliant full moon. That was magical. The night was so bright that you could see the dolphins swimming under water as they played near our bows.

Yesterday a line got caught under the hatch above my berth, and it ripped the hatch open, breaking the “dogs” that hold it closed. I desperately tried to find replacements, to no avail. Then a wave broke over the deck, and I got to watch the seawater slosh onto my mattress and bedding. To say the least, I was not happy. I came up with a solution before another wave came in — lashing an aluminum bar across the inside hatch frame, and using “Spanish windlasses” (twisting the lash lines) to tighten the hatch down to it. This is keeping the water out until Barbados.

Lots of reading: Ken Follett and Paul Theroux and one about the Qur’an that Jesse had been assigned in college. Lots of fiddling with the radio trying to send/receive email.

Bridgetown tomorrow.