Monday, November 28, 2011

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

One of the sacrifices I have made living on a boat is that I no longer go to the hair dressers. I have never been known for my fabulous hair do's and I have learnt to live without a hair dryer and straightening tongs. So to trim those sun fried and frizzled ends or for when we are looking a little too shaggy, Alianna turns into a mobile hairdressers. I cut Sims hair with the clippers (not as often as I would like though!). And along the way I have met cruisers who were hairdressers and cut my hair or I get a friend to do it. But if all else fails then I resort to a visit with Simone. Simone is the type of hairdresser that you tell her one thing and she does another. She claims to know and understand what you are talking about but when the whole procedure is over with one hack, I mean, snip of the scissors, I have my doubts. But over the years our relationship has grown. We have had laughter (at my hair cuts) and tears (oh so many - at my hair cuts). But with the help of the internet we have learnt a lot together. The less then 30 second method has now turned into at least 20 minutes and has almost become an enjoyable experience. In fact Simone’s reputation has gone before her and she has even had new clients, although none bar myself have ever returned.

So recently when I wondered to myself what I would look like with a fringe (bangs), I should maybe, just maybe, have gone and seen Simone (so Simone keeps telling me). But I figured I could do this simple task myself. I pulled the ever so slightly rusty hair cutting scissors from the box and slowly snipped away at my locks. At first attempt I was very happy with what I achieved, I liked the long sweeping bangs. But it wasn’t enough. I wanted more. Every time I went to the heads (bathroom) I could feel the pull of the shiny (and speckled with rust) scissors and eventually a week later I gave into the pull. I am not really sure what happened except to say that I think it was “Thing”, the disembodied hand from The Addams Family, that cut the large mullet like wedge into the front of my hair and not my own fair hand. Too much hair from too far back, I look like Pat Sharp of the 80’s! Simone shakes her head every time she sees me pulling at the remaining shafts of hair. I am surprised at how calm I feel especially with Christmas and birthdays and friends coming out. I have resigned myself to clips, hats and headbands. All thoughts of a beautiful barnet have vanished from my mind. Instead I dream of the day I don’t look like I have been dragged through a hedge backwards. You will understand if I don’t include any pictures with this post.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Island Hopping

We left the peaceful and charming island of Carriacou behind and day sailed up the islands, gently easing ourselves into the sailing mode with a relatively short to hop Union Island in St Vincent and the Grenadines. The following day we made the 30 mile trip up to Bequia. And finally a 70 mile trip from Bequia to Rodney Bay at the north end of St Lucia. 70 miles is more than we can manage in day light and so we made a (very) early start, leaving at 2am in the morning. This means that we are shipshape and ready to go the night before and in bed by 8pm. At 2am when the buzzer sounds we haul our sleepy selves out of bed and make coffee before we can do anything. Then its engine on and heave ho on the anchor windless. Sim and I work silently as we lift anchor, tie dinghy on deck and set the sails in the dark, working as part of a well oiled team. I like these mini night sails as it means that we sit in the cockpit at night together, something that we wouldn’t do if we were doing a full overnighter. There is something much more peaceful sitting there in the darkness when someone is with you, than when you are on your own. Sim likes night sailing and the dark doesn’t bother him but I find the darkness uncomfortable with only my vivid imagination to keep me company. So with Sim at the helm and the cat in her box by my feet, I feel happy and content and safe surrounded by the darkness. I stay up for a couple of hours until the motion of the boat makes me drowsy and I go back down below to sleep for a few hours. Sim pretty much deals with most things until lunch time and then just after we approach the coast of St Lucia he goes down for a few hours rest himself and I take us up to Rodney Bay.

We had a romping sail between the islands once the wind picked up, with a reef in the main and the full headsail out. As usual Imagine of Falmouth who we were sailing with over took us. We had to motor sail a bit of the way to keep to windward especially when we were in the lee of the islands, unlike Imagine, whose super fast boat can get much closer to the wind than we are able to. We passed the famous Pitons and the huge sailing ship The Royal Clipper. We passed huge cruise ships out of the port of Castries. Then at 5pm we arrived with Imagine of Falmouth at Rodney Bay and in time for a well deserved glass of wine and a rum and coke, tired but happy to be here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Weather Window

Its time for us to be on the move again. We have been in the country of Grenada and Carriacou for five months now and with an air of anticipation we look forward to the new season.

As with all passages, we check the weather days in advance, waiting for a good weather window (a period of good weather) to get to our next destinations no matter how near or far they are. In the Caribbean just when all the boats that have hurricaned in Grenada or places south get ready to head north, the easterly winds that have had an element of south in them for months, flick to the north for the winter season. Making sailing the Caribbean a beat to windward as you head up the island chain.

As the time draws near for us to leave we watch the weather and wait until we get a flick back to the east or even better the southeast and watch the sea states to make sure they are how we like them. We constantly review the weather forecast primarily using and the weather subscription that we have with the weather guru Chris Parker as well as National Hurricane Centre to make sure there is nothing brewing out there.

Now that we have the all clear for a few days, we head off with Sam and Jon on Imagine of Falmouth to points north. We have a weather window that will take us to St Lucia by Friday and weather depending on to Martinique, Saturday. We are looking forward to a few days sailing, back out on the open water….being free on the sea. Just as long as we don’t get hit by the nasty squalls that may arrive by the end of the week.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Catching Raindrops

Water is a very precious commodity especially if like us you do not spend much time in marinas and do not have a water-maker. Most of the time a boat is within easy reach of a fuel dock to get water but on passage or in far out places or if an island is suffering from a drought it can be difficult. So what better way to replenish your tanks than to collect what falls from the sky for free?

On Alianna we collect the water straight from our decks and put it into our tanks. We have a high toe rail all around the boat with two small scuppers/drains, one each side towards the aft end of the boat before the cockpit. When it rains or when we take waves the water runs down the gently sloping decks to the scuppers at the end. The deck fitting goes into a pipe inside the boat and back out through the side of the hull. Sim has put a Y valve onto the starboard side pipe so that we can divert the fresh water when it rains into our water tanks. Unfortunately we can’t get to the pipes on the port side of our boat but all our four water tanks are connected so we can equalize. We have a fairly large water capacity and can carry around 180 gallons which at a push and if we were really frugal with it could last us around two months. However we do not normally ration ourselves quite so much.

We try to make sure that our decks are always kept clean. Before we put any water in the tanks we always check it by collecting buckets of water that are pouring out from the scuppers before we divert it. We put a filter in the scupper, which we made, to prevent any particles to slip through. We also chlorinate our water with regular household bleach. Approximately 5 ml per 50 gallons. Our galley tap then has a water filter on it to make the water taste better.

We always fill the buckets first to make sure that the deck has had a good wash. Or wait until after we have had a couple of downpours if we have just had a sail and the boat is covered in salt.

And with all those buckets of water…..we do the laundry.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Paradise Beach, Carriacou

We arrived in Carriacou the sister island to the north of Grenada a week ago and since then we have done, well, not a lot! Considering how much money we spent before we left Grenada we were hoping for a week or so of pulling in the purse strings. And that is pretty much what we have done. We are anchored in a lovely spot almost at the back of the fleet. The water is clear and blue all around us and everyday we jump in and go for a swim to cool off. But we need to go and stretch those old sea legs and get some exercise before we seize up.

There are plenty of nice walks in and around the small island of Carriacou and Sim and I happened to find one of the muddiest and the smelliest as we walked up and down steep roads and tracks to find a small and yucky beach on the south side of the island. Walking past the countryside was pretty and the baby lambs were cute too but the stink from the farm and the mangrove area towards our destination was pretty horrendous. Couple that with the muddy tracks that turned to stinking, squelchy mud and I was not a happy camper (or walker as the case maybe). So we can’t really recommend that walk.

However, when our friends Sam and Jon on SY Imagine of Falmouth arrived a couple of days ago, Sam and I took our selves on a 4 mile walk to Paradise Beach which is up and over the hill from Tyrell Bay. Just pull your dinghy up on the beach by the main dock and turn left at the hill. At the roundabout turn right and eventually you will see the beach on your left. It’s a very pretty beach with views out to Sandy Island and crystal clear blue water. I should have put a bikini on as they have showers there too (for a fee). But I didn’t so we took pictures and walked the length and breadth of the shoreline, beach combing as we went. Sam even found an illusive knickernut bean washed up on the shore. There are a couple of bars to grab a refreshing beer and a slightly pricey gift shop though it does have lots of nice items in. On the way back we stopped at the fruit and vegetable stall and bought a few items. The shrewd ladies compensate for their over inflated prices and entice you back by giving you a free grapefruit or some extra tomatoes when you leave.

We finished the day with a BBQ on Alianna with Sam and Jon and Steve from SY Meteor. Steve has just released his debut album Fantastic Voyage.

Today is Steve's birthday so we are all going around to his boat with cakes and food goodies to help celebrate.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sailing on a Budget

Here are our top tips for cruising and sailing the world on a budget.

1. Before you take to sailing and boating make sure you are as proficient as you possibly can be on doing your own maintenance. Take courses, read books and search the internet. We do pretty much all our own work on Alianna. If we are uncertain about which way to proceed we research the subject thoroughly on the web, talk to other cruisers and gather as much information as possible.

2. Wait for the right weather and remember you are a sailing yacht. You will save heaps on fuel. Reef early and save stress on your boat.

3. Have a planned maintenance schedule i.e. change the engine oil when it’s due and check the rigging often. Preventative maintenance is always cheaper in the long run.

4. Think about the area you are going to be cruising in and try and have a reasonable stock of repair materials on board rather than be forced to by expensive materials in out of the way places.

5. Rather than carry a whole heap of paper charts go to electronic charts and just keep a paper passage chart of the area you are cruising for planning purposes. Even if you don’t have a chart plotter there are plenty of programs out there that you can interface on your laptop.

7. Avoid marinas and moorings that charge. Buy a decent, good quality anchor to ensure a good nights sleep. It is much nicer to swing on the hook and let the breeze blow though your boat than to be stuck, cornered in a windless marina.

8. Eat on board and avoid fancy restaurants. Or eat out in the cheaper more local places.

9. When in Rome… like the locals. Buy local produce and avoid items that have been imported.

10. Buy reasonable stocks of things when you see them cheaper. And buy them when you see them, chances are if you wait until the next day they will be gone.

11. All sailors like a drink and a yarn but try and stick to happy hours and to whatever the local brew is.

12. Catch your own rain water. Some places can charge as much as $0.50c a gallon.

13. Row your dinghy and save on outboard fuel. Or buy a dinghy with a sailing rig. Definitely on our wish list.

14. Be as self sufficient as you can afford to be in terms of energy. Have solar panels and wind generator. Our solar panels were one of our best investments.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Best of Grenada

Here in our humble opinion are our best bits of Grenada


Port Egmont – Great holding and completely landlocked.

Prickly Bay – Both and were firm favourites with us especially for their happy hour deals. 3 beers for 10ec you can’t go wrong.

St Georges – Now that we have found that there is good holding (after snorkeling around for an hour) we like it there, the water is clear and its easy distance to town or to Grand Anse beach.
Prickly Bay – Was also a good location, it was within walking distance of a big supermarket if you could stand the heat. But the busses were also cheap and easy.

Grenada, although not particularly known for its beaches does have some real gems. Our favouites include Grand Anse Beach, Magazine Beach, Calabash Beach, La Sagesse Beach, Levera Beach and Petite Anse. Check out

There are a few good places to snorkel in Grenada but we particularly like the area in and around the underwater sculpture park at Moliniere Point. Also the beach at Magazine Bay by the Aquarium Resturant offers good snorkeling too.

See best anchorage to be near a bar both and are great bars with live music and great happy hour prices.

This is a tricky one, so I think we can only recommend that the following are places that we have enjoyed.,,

The roti’s at Nimrods in Clarks Court Bay are pretty darn good but we also like the roti at B’s Roti shop at the Carenage in St Georges and in the IGA shopping mall at Grand Anse.

Our all time favourite waterfall is without a doubt Concord Falls. It may be a common choice but if you get there late in the day when there are no cruise ships in, you can have the place to yourself ducking and diving in and out of the fall.

There are lots of wonderful walks in Grenada. We particularly liked the walk to the Seven Sisters waterfall. But if you like walking and exploring new places why not try a Hash, which is a hike through forest, beaches, jungle, roads or parks with a group of self proclaimed drinkers with a running problem! check it out

IGA has a good selection of imported luxury items but Foodland is good for local items and produce.

The Cruising Kitty

The cruising kitty is what it all comes down to at the end of the day. I am not talking about the four legged fury kind but of the ever depleting financial kind. There is no denying the truth to B.O.A.T = Break Out Another Thousand. But sailing and cruising does not have to cost huge amounts of money.

We try and budget on $1000US a month, some months we stick to this and other months we go over. But it is a guideline. We could raise that guideline but we will always be pushing it to its limits and spending more than we allocate ourselves. We don’t include haulouts, insurance, or other major expenses like the cost of flights home etc. But it is supposed to include boat repairs on a daily basis, food, drinks, socializing or island exploring. The majority is spent on food or if you have any expensive boat parts to buy. But filling up with petrol and diesel are also very costly as are some countries check in procedures.

Maybe the more money you have the more you enjoy your experience of cruising. But it all depends on your circumstances. Neither Sim nor I are retired and therefore are not getting a pension yet. We are fortunate that Sim has rental property that we get a small income from that we live off. We could if we wanted a bigger budget go back to the UK and work for a few more years. But we love our life out here too much. (who wants to work 9-5 anyway?). There are many things a restrictive budget do not allow you to do and you do need to be able to be reasonably self sufficient to make it work on less. But Sim and I also get a kick out of living a more basic and frugal life style …..don’t quote me on those words however! But we do enjoy the more simple life that cruising offers. We still sit in the same anchorages as the big boats and we still drink at the same bars. We still manage to explore the islands; we still make friends and enjoy good food. We make what we have work for us because this is the way we like it. I’m not sure we could manage it on much less. When we first came out we were extremely careful on what we spent our money on plus our social life was pretty non existent. We didn’t know how long the money would last and how long we would want to go cruising. Now we seem to have found what works. Check out my future blogs with tips on how to cruise cheaply.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Butternut Squash Risotto

Butternut squash risotto

1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock,
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces pancetta, (or chopped up bacon)
diced 1/2 cup minced shallots/onion
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads (optional)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta (or bacon) and onions on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan cheese. Mix well and serve. Enjoy.

The Best Boat Bread EVER

Best boat bread EVER...! From Doon on Bold Endeavour

1 tbsp Dry yeast
2 x 1/2 Cup warm water
3 cups of flour (can be 1/2 whole wheat mix)
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
In a large bowl sprinkle yeast into half the cup of warm water, sugar and yeast, dissolve and allow 5-10 mins for yeast to froth.
Add dry ingredients to a large bowl. When yeast mixture has frothed add another 1/2 cup warm water and the oil. Mix well. Knead for 10 mins. A little trick is to twist the dough and through it down onto the surface. This really helps to make a nice dough.
I like to let my dough rise for an hour in a bowl with a lid for an hour. Once it has risen or doubled in size in can be knocked back down and shaped for bread tin or baking try. Preheat oven to 400 deg. Allow to rise for another 15-20 mins. Place bread in preheated oven for 25-30 mins or until the bottom sounds hollow when you knock on it.

For Delicious Cheesy Rolls.

Double the above recipe and prepare up to knock down. Once dough has been knocked don tear off a third of it and break into 4 pieces. Roll each piece between both hands and ties a knot with the dough. Place on baking tray. Sprinkle with mixed herbs and grate cheddar cheese on top. Allow to rise a second time with main bread dough. Bake for 15-20 mins. Delicious dunked in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 x cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 x cup semi sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325 deg F, grease cookie tray, no need if using silicon tray.
Sift flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
In a medium bowl cream together the butter, sugars then beat in the egg until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chip cookies.
Drop spoonfuls of cookies spaced fairly evenly apart onto the cookie tray. Bake for about 15 mins or until golden around the edges. Allow to cool on baking sheet before transferring to wire rack.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Black Box Theory of Sailing

It’s the start of a new sailing season and as we prepare the boat for another 6 – 8 months of sailing, an article, I am sure many sailors are familiar with springs to mind; Jon Vigor’s, Black Box theory of sailing. For those who are not yet familiar with it, it is a theory suggesting why some sailors come into trouble and while others seem to sail on by unscathed. It explains that sailing is reduced to 5 essential elements.
A well found ship.
A good crew.
Adequate preparation and maintenance.
But the 5th essential is never given a name. Could it be the reason why some sailors will go aground on the only patch of sand that is surround by reefs or despite all your best efforts the elements go against you but somehow you come out safe and sound. Jon Vigor reduced this 5th essential to the black box theory. Whereby, every boat has its own imaginary black box, which is filled up with lucky points when you practice good seamanship or are safety conscious. There is no way to check how many points are in the box but points come out too when you ignore that inner voice in your head that tells you, you should have checked something or waited for better weather etc.
If the box is kept filled then when you do get into unexpected trouble the lucky points will help you. However if your box is empty then maybe your luck is running low.

And so with this in mind I am thinking back over the last season and wondering did we work hard enough on “Alianna”. Maybe we should have ticked off a few more jobs on the jobs list. Its not that we are not safety conscious, Sim is overly so – working extra hard to put in points for my clumsiness at times. We have done all the usual checks when we are about to put to sea. Sim has checked the engine and fixed the small over heating problem on our old, 33hp Westerbeke by cleaning out the heat exchanger. I have been up the mast on two occasions and checked the rig to the best of my ability or taken pictures for Sim to inspect when I get down. A few water leaks have been fixed though we still have a couple more we need to do while we are here. The hull and the propeller have been scraped free of barnacles and the chain scrubbed of all the nasty growth that had accumulated in the particularly potent Prickly Bay.

Despite all this I still have that nagging feeling that our little black box could be fuller. So we will keep chipping away at the jobs list in an effort to earn more points to keep us safe on our travels.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Here we go again....

We have spent nearly 5 wonderful months in Grenada at the southern end of the Caribbean chain. Hurricane season is almost over and the bays across the island have slowly been emptying of boats. We have taken our time slowly preparing to go; stocking up on food and drink for when we are in those deserted islands or where prices are exuberantly high. Cases of beer and coke, several 2 litre rum bottles, tins and packages of food fill our storage lockers. Propane, Gas, diesel and water have all been topped up. All the laundry has been done and the engine checked.

We have met up with friends for “one last time” not really knowing if and when we will see them again. Said final goodbyes and arranged to meet other friends in other islands further up the chain. This year Sim and I leave begrudgingly; Grenada has always been good to us. It is an easy island to like and we are familiar with it now. It is a good a home as any. But like any place (when you live on a boat) after a while we start to get itchy feet and start to wonder what the next sailing season will hold for us and what new adventures will be in store. And so we lifted anchor yesterday morning outside St Georges with the morning sun beating down on us. The excitement that we normally feel at the start of a new season slowly seeping in, though that may have been something to do with crossing the path of a very large sailing ship that Sim insisted we had right of way on. Then we were off, sailing up the side of the island, watching the sun rise over the steep verdant tropical hills of Grenada – The spice island.
We caught two tunas, though one got away as we were lifting it on deck. As we rounded the end of the island the wind filled in and we took off; dodging the dark squalls that seemed to be forming all around us. It was a lovely sail. We felt happy and free. We didn’t talk much just watched the sea as it sparkled a deep cobalt blue and watched Grenada as it turned into a dark hilly landscape on the horizon. Brown Boobie birds flew over head and I worried they would try and catch our fishing lure that they mistake as food. We have heard grizzle stories from fellow cruisers of having to untangle fishing line and hooks from these fair sized birds. But luckily they were happy to just soar above us – birds flying high.

We arrived in Tyrell Bay, Carriacou by mid afternoon. The bay is full of other cruising boats all at their first stop on their way north. But we found a good place to be, the anchor buried deep in the sand, assuring a good nights sleep. I had fresh (how much fresher can you get) tuna for dinner, while Sim refrained and ate last nights left over chilli! I’m not sure he always realizes what he is missing….if only we could catch a cow.

Now we are settled in and ready to tackle a few minor jobs that we always seemed to get distracted from in Grenada. Life is good…..