Sunday, 23 June 2019

St. George's, Bermuda, 23rd of June 2019

A Detour Home

While sailing to Bermuda, we became conscious of the fact that we had lost some of our spirit of adventure which, as you know, is a prerequisite for enjoyable sailing. And the reason for this was clear: we were retracing our own footsteps, repeating the very same things we had already done in 2003 and again in 2012. But then we realised that we didn’t have to follow the same tracks as before but, instead, we could take a completely different route home. This realisation restored our high spirits, and we are raring to set off! 

We are now all ready to leave the protected harbour of St. George’s: our fuel and water tanks are full, provisioning has been completed, and our good boat Sarema and her crew have been blessed. Tomorrow, when we depart from Bermuda, instead of sailing to the Azores as we had originally planned, we’ll head N-NE to places we have never visited before. And if we get lucky, we might even see some icebergs there!  

Saturday, 22 June 2019

St. George's, Bermuda

From Barbuda to Bermuda

When we neared Barbuda from the south we were amazed at the island’s flatness. Contrary to the more southern Caribbean islands, there was not a single hill, not to mention a mountain, to be seen. We later learned, however, that there is a ‘highlands’ area on the eastern side of the island where hills rise to a staggering height of 38 metres! 

Just two years ago, 6 September 2017 to be exact, Hurricane Irma caused catastrophic damage to the island destroying most of its structures, and the entire population of Barbuda had to be evacuated to Antigua. Now most of the residents have returned, and homes and some of the tourist destinations have been rebuilt. Hurricane Irma had also caused havoc to the corals around the island but luckily, sea grass beds were thriving. Most of the shallow sea bottom at Cocoa Point, where we were at anchor, seemed to be covered with sea grass and there were dozens of big, beautiful hawksbill turtles feeding on it. 

After four days of turtle watching and beach strolling under the scorching sun, we were more than happy to continue our journey further north, in anticipation of a colder climate.
On the way to Bermuda, the first three days were plain sailing as we had 15 to 20 knot south-westerly winds and made an average of 140 nm a day. But on the fourth day, we reached the horse latitudes, a belt of calm air and sea between the trade winds and the westerlies, and thereafter it was first motor-sailing and then plain motoring for the rest of our one-week voyage. 
The origin of the term horse latitudes is not certain but it probably comes from the fact that in bygone days when there was no engine power available, becalmed sailing ships were forced to dispose of their horses in order to conserve precious water for the crew. The idea of the term referring to a playground for seahorses is much more appealing however!

During the first two days we were seriously fishing for tuna, but to no avail. It was to be a mahi-mahi - take it or leave it. The first mahi-mahi we hooked was far too big for us and to the satisfaction of all parties concerned, the fish got away. The next day, we caught a considerably smaller  (115 cm) mahi-mahi which we consumed with gusto. We’ll continue fishing for tuna after Bermuda when we are in the Gulf Stream. It won’t matter whether the tuna has blue or yellow fins as long as it is not as big as the one we caught there In 2010 when coming from the Northwest Passage. The tuna weighed about 35 kilos (Pekka’s estimate), and it was a real struggle to get it aboard, not to mention to consume it.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

English Harbor, Antigua

While sailing from Brazil towards the Caribbean, we had been admiring the moon as she was getting fuller and fuller. What we didn’t realise at the time was that it was the first full moon following the northern spring equinox which meant Easter and, in our case, very bad timing! Although we arrived in Prickly Bay, Grenada already on the 19th of April, due to Easter holidays we had to wait until the 29th before our good boat Sarema would be hauled out at Carriacou Marine Ltd’s boat yard in Tyrell Bay. 

We had been there in 2005 and again in 2011 after which the place had undergone a facelift under new management. The boat yard now had a store, shower rooms, a laundry as well as a restaurant. To our delight, despite the facelift, as before there were a number of goats, big and small, roaming the yard, eating whatever edible trash they could find, and dozing underneath the boats.

While waiting for Sarema to be hauled out, we made a nostalgic tour from Tyrell Bay to Union Island, Tobaco Cays, and Sandy Island. The iguanas of Tobaco Cays seemed to be doing fine despite the dry season but, sadly, the corals in the reef protecting Tobaco Cays were not looking good at all. There were large areas where all the corals had died, and consequently most of the beautiful, colourful fish had disappeared. 

We had visited Sandy Island in 2005 when there were no more than remains of the island with only a few palm trees left due to Hurricane Ivan which had devastated the area the year before. During the past fifteen years, the island has gradually risen from the sea and has at least tripled its size compared to our previous visit. Although the island now had dozens of palm trees, here too the underwater world seemed to be suffering (from pollution, global warming??). 

In Carriacou, we only had just over a week to get Sarema ready before we had to sail to Martinique to welcome our children and grandchildren. The time was far too short to do any proper job on the boat but at least the hundreds of speed reducing barnacles were removed from the bottom, and the hull got a new coat of paint. The deck was not painted until the day before our family arrived when we were already in Le Marin, Martinique. Talk about hustle and bustle! On the 11th of May, everything was as ready as it could be to receive our new, eagerly awaited crew.

Time flies when you are having fun, and the two weeks our children and grandchildren stayed with us were gone far too quickly. When the children flew back to Finland, we too continued our homeward-bound voyage, first to Dominica and from there to Iles des Saintes, Guadeloupe. We are now in Antigua and will sail from here to Barbuda, the last (ever!?) Caribbean island that we'll be visiting.