Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Fleet Arrives in St Martin

Arriving in St Martin
The day sail we had intend from Dominica to Deshaies in Guadeloupe turned into a night sail all the way up to St Martin. The winds were good and though it was a windward trip it wasn’t uncomfortable. We had an almost full moon all of the way, lighting the night sky. I have never been particularly fond of night sailing. Being left alone in the dark for hours on end with only my own thoughts to entertain me has never really appealed. (What does that say about me?). But over the years I have (almost) come to enjoy these solitary moments. With the full moon and the water moving quickly beneath the keel, it was a trip that I really enjoyed. Which is good, as may be it will be one of the last we have on the good ship Alianna. We arrived in St Martin on Saturday afternoon and anchored under sail – a first for us, as the engine wouldn’t start because of a blocked fuel filter. Sim changed the filter later that afternoon and the engine is now purring (roaring) sweetly again.

Entering the bridge into Simpson Bay Lagoon
I have always said St Martin brings about mixed feelings. Sometimes I find it too much and long for the slower pace that some of the other islands offer. It is a hugely international and cosmopolitan island; with the split French/Dutch nationalities and the massive North American influence. It is a good time island where anything goes. You can see why it is full of so many ex pats. It has some of the most stunning beaches. Being anchored in the Simpson Bay lagoon, there is no suffering from the nasty roll that the outside bays offer. It’s a fast and busy place. And I am actually looking forward to spending some time here this time around. This is a good thing, as we may be here for some time trying to sell Alianna

Sunset in the Lagoon
We would like to announce that we are now the proud owners of a new boat. Yikes, even a fleet of boats as we have not sold Alianna. Scary stuff. We are now really pushing for Alianna to be sold. She has been a wondering home for nearly the last nine years; the longest place I have ever lived other than my family home. She has taken me to wonderful places but more than anything she has kept me safe and been my place of sanctuary. It’s going to take a while to find this familiarity on the new boat but I don’t doubt it will come. I hope that she can give these same things to new owners and look after them like she has looked after us.

So without further ado….introducing Wandering Star – A 44ft custom design steel hulled boat.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Boat Bound In Dominica

Portsmouth anchorage from Blue Bay restaurant
We have been stuck on the boat for the last 3 days with the winds howling in excess of 30kts.  The amount of boats moving about over these last few days has truely surprised us - but some had suffered the consequences, limping in to Portsmouth Bay with tattered sails.  Eventually, feeling fairly confident that our anchor was holding we ventured ashore to stretch our legs.  I love walking down the dusty road, it is so pretty with vibrant flowers and cute little houses.  After being in the more civilized St Lucia for so long it was a welcome change of scene. Little stores, shacks and bars dot the side of the road.  The Bread Shop sells the odd loaf of bread, and the veggies are truely delicious - dominica being such a fertile island.  As long as you like your chicken parts you will always find something meaty to eat from the small supermarkets. The fried smells that drift out of the small cafes and little eating places are enough to tempt anyone out of a diet. But all we really came ashore for was a loaf of bread. We walked back along the black sand beach, keeping up a march to stop our feet from burning on the hot sand. Tomorrow the wind and seas will have died down sufficiently for us to carry on.  

My fruit and veg shop.
The handy thing about Dominica is that you can clear in and out at the same time for up to a two week period so there is no need to traipse back down to the customs offices.  As much as we would like to stay and explore Dominica some more (they have a whole series of hiking trails stretching the length of the island - although I don't think Sims knees are up to it), we need to keep moving up to St Martin and try and get Alianna sold.
Portsmouth's black sand beach
The outside of the bread shop

The well stocked bread shop!

The Lagoon Bar

The High Street

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Windy Weather Window

Goodbye Rodney Bay
We are now very keen to sell Alianna and so are on our way north to St Martin where our broker Tony at the Little Ships Company is and where we hope to have a better chance of selling her quickly.
Sim setting the main.
So heading northwards with a small and windy weather window, we left the comfy confines of Rodney Bay behind early on Saturday morning. It is only a 45 mile or so trip up to St Pierre at the north end of Martinique but always erring on the cautious side we like to leave ourselves plenty of time to arrive before dark. We were up at the crack of dawn, already shipshape with only the sails to pull up and the anchor to haul away. This two day weather window wasn’t the best in the world with force 5-6 winds and seas to accompany. Alianna was reefed down with just half a headsail and two reefs in the main. It was a bumpy ride across the St Lucia/Martinique channel. Alianna was surfing the waves, disappearing down troughs only to rise up again on the crests. One minute my view would span the world the next a wall of water. The wind was howling a good 25+kts and Alianna was stonking along loving every minute of it. It was an exhilarating ride, not one I like to do for very long but it certainly blows all the cobwebs away. Thankfully the seas died down as we came into the lee of Martinique and we had a beautiful sail in the flat waters all the way up to the pretty anchorage at St Pierre and below the always awesome Mt Pelee.
Anchorage St Pierre, Martinique
It was the same procedure the following day, up at the crack of dawn for the 55 miles to Dominca. Another bumpy ride for slightly longer as this channel between the islands is wider. But again Alianna sailed like a trooper. Double rainbows and dolphins entertained us. It’s so wonderful to be sailing again after being immobile for so long. The sense of freedom it evokes is indescribable.
Beautiful double rainbow.
We are now anchored in Portsmouth Bay, Dominica. We have anchored and re-anchored and….re-anchored again as the holding is notoriously bad but as we are going to be holed up here for a few days while force 7 winds blow through we want to be happy that our anchor is secure. The boat boys have been out and greeted us; it can get rather annoying when they hang off the sides while you are trying to anchor. But they are only trying to earn a living. Sim has cleared in. We will now wait for this weather to pass through before we carry on north to St Martin.

Dominica last night.
Sim having a quick cuppa b4 we head out.
T'was a wet and windy trip.

with the wind in my hair!
Sim taking a dive in St Pierre

so clear and blue at St Pierre

At anchor in St Pierre
Cute town of St Pierre

Friday, February 8, 2013

What Are We Looking For In A New Boat?

Alianna with her new gold boot stripe
Alianna is back floating in the water where she should be and she is as happy as the fish in the sea. We are happy our home is gently rocking us to sleep at night and those oh so necessary boat yard days are a thing of the past.
Now it’s back to the business of boat shopping – we never quite realized what a difficult job this would be. Every time we think we have cracked it; something has come up, some detail not quite right that we have had to walk away.
So we made a list of all the things we require of a new boat and then tried to set ourselves some parameters in the great search. So here are our must haves :
44-48ft mono hull – that’s not to say that we would not totally rule out a catamaran if the right one came up but the smaller ones lack space and storage and the larger ones cost more not just initially but also to keep and maintain as well. Which is the reason we don’t want a bigger then 48ft mono either.
Two decent cabins – Alianna has the most comfortable bed ever. I love it but we only have one cabin although she can sleep 7 there is no guest cabin. As we seem to have a lot of visitors it would be very nice to have a door to close on them ;-)
Good engine – What with Sim being a Marine Diesel Engineer he is fairly fussy about the kind of engine we have.
Comfortable settee for slobbing out and watching movies but also comfortable for wining and dining
Electric Windless
65ft or less mast – so we can do the ICW in America
6ft or less draft – ditto
3 hob burner – we like to cook
Protected cockpit
Good sailing performance
Cutter rig
Solar Panels

Wind Gen
Lots of storage

Now here is the added wish list:
Work area so Sim can have his work bench out
Washing machine- haha but why not – this is a wish list!

We have looked at a few boats in the southern Caribbean and to be quite honest if we had flown to see them I would be extremely pissed off and deeply out of pocket. Few are actually as described by seller or broker and mostly have been very disappointing. So that leads us on to where to look. It has to be where we are now or within a very close proximity where traveling costs don’t mount up. But that sadly does limit what we are looking for. Beneteau’s, Jeanneau’s, Amels and Dufours are the kind of boats you find for sale here. Or boxy Lagoons and Fountaine Pajots too. And they are great boats but they are not for us. We want something more substantial, something maybe a bit quirkier or more robust yet traditional. We like the idea of the Hylas and the Tayanas and there are some on the internet in the States that we can afford. But then we have Alianna to sell and we would rather do that here then in the States where tax and all that stuff comes into play. Plus the idea of shifting all our stuff and cat if we were to sell Alianna here and buy in the states just gives me a headache.
So in the meantime we were going to slowly make our way up to St Martin and see what happens along the way. One thing we have learned is that boats do just keep popping up.

EXCEPT..... We noticed an advert for a boat in St Lucia that seemed to meet all our requirements. Only that we had forgotten one little thing in our search criteria; and that is hull material. This boat as it turns out is made of steel! The desire to take a look though….just to see, overwhelmed us. This is not your usual steel boat with hard chines. She has got nice lines and a pretty paint job. She looks sweet! She meets all out needs and even a couple of wish list items (sadly no washing machine). But what do we know about steel? Well luckily Sim has some working knowledge albeit of the big ship variety so we are not going to be totally ignorant. But maybe we are crazy. I’m sure many of you will think so. Be that as it may. One thing has lead to another. We liked what we saw (alot) and things have just progressed. And here we are with an offer excepted and a surveyor’s first inspection. Boy, are we nervous. Time will tell with this one. We are not afraid of the work involved in a steel boat only that she is a safe, strong and a good sailing boat.
Waking up to a glorious morning after our first night back in the water.
Sim practicing his wife beating!