Caribbean cruising

  • ALBERT'S NEW BOAT: OPO Makes a Difference in Dominica

    Albert's boat profile

    Hank Schmitt of Offshore Passage Opportunities first met Albert the first time he pulled into Dominica while sailing the West Indies several years back. He was the very first islander Hank met, so he took him on as his "boat boy," though of course Albert is no boy, being all of 47 years old with three grown kids. "What struck me was how Albert was like any dad," says Hank. "His kids are in nursing school and high school, and his oldest is working in the construction business, but they would come down to the docks and Albert would empty his pockets to give them money almost as fast as he was making it. Just like any other struggling family man."

    Hank visited Dominica regularly, and when he learned Albert's daughter in nursing school needed a new computer, he handed Albert an old one he was replacing. When he learned how Albert spent the off-season fishing offshore in his rickety old wooden boat-boy skiff, which had definitely seen better days, Hank, a former offshore fisherman himself, decided he needed to help Albert get a better ride.

  • BUILDING MOORINGS: Yachtie Appreciation Week Postscript

    Cement guys

    I have just moved into Phase Two of my OPB Caribbean cruising season, of which more later, but wanted to share this last glimpse of the scene back in Prince Rupert’s Bay on Dominica. This occurring yesterday, as PAYS folk and various yacht people gathered on shore outside PAYS HQ to construct new mooring blocks, to witness said construction, and to enjoy a big pot-luck lunch together. This all being preceded by the inevitable island-time delay, as we waited around twiddling our thumbs for the cement-mixer guys to show up with their equipment, which did finally happen (see image up top), whereupon everything got rolling both figuratively and literally.

  • JEFF & MOLLY'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE: An Engineless Cruise Through the W'Indies

    Chanticleer sailing

    Editor's note: Attention WaveTrain riders! I have just received a most excellent missive from my erstwhile skipper/crew (it's a symbiotic relationship) Jeff Bolster, featured here previously, regarding his long-planned much-looked-forward-to entire winter of cruising with his bride Molly through the length and breadth of the Caribbean islands aboard their Valiant 40Chanticleer. Long story short: they broke their prop strut three days out of Bermuda and are just now getting around to fixing it. I'll let Jeff fill you in on all the gory details (this from an e-mail dated March 10).

    Good thing we like Martinique: we might need to get French citizenship and live here forever. The boat has already been on the hard for 10 days and the "A-Team" has barely begun to work. It's the Caribbean, mon.

    As some of you know, we broke the propeller shaft strut on the third day of the voyage and essentially have had no use of the engine since then. It's that Old Timey Sailing Ship stuff that I live for. As Joni Mitchell once wailed, "It's suffering, makes me feel that I am alive..."

  • JURGEN KANTNER: German Cruiser Beheaded in Philippines, Body Recovered

    Sabine and Jurgen

    We have some very grim news here. That Jurgen Kanter, taken hostage by the Filipino terrorist group, Abu Sayyaf, late last year, was beheaded last week after a ransom demand of $600K was not met. Just yesterday there came follow-up reports that Kantner’s remains have been recovered by the Philippine military. Reportedly, Philippine armed forces suffered fatal casualties during operations conducted in an effort to rescue Kantner and other hostages held by Abu Sayyaf. Evidently, no details on these casualties are available.

  • LADDER BAY: Eater of Yachts!

    RM 1350 in slings

    Late-breaking news from the W’Indies! Not one but two yachts have broken off moorings on the west coast of Saba in the past several days and both have ground ashore in Ladder Bay, a most inhospitable shore. The first was a sailboat, a French RM 1350, which reportedly was left on a mooring unattended while the family crew went ashore for a three-day holiday. The boat was refloated and towed to St. Martin, where it was hauled for repairs (see photo up top). An ugly bit of damage for sure.

  • LEEWARD ISLANDS CRUISE: St. Kitts and Nevis

    Kitts cruise under sail

    This was my primary personal goal for Lunacy's winter season in St. Martin. Together with fellow SEMOSA members, Phil "He Of Many Nicknames" Cavanaugh and Charles "May I Cast Off Now?" Lassen, I had previously sailed Lunacy south from St. Martin to explore Saba and Statia. Also, of course, I have voyaged with the immediate family north and east to the more immediately neighboring islands of Anguilla and St. Bart's. But this year I wanted to get to St. Kitts and Nevis, to the southeast, which are probably the furthest islands you can easily reach from St. Martin during a one-week round-trip cruise.

  • MARINE INSURANCE: Scoring New Coverage for Bluewater Cruising

    Lloyds coffehouse

    As I may have mentioned, I am in the midst of getting Lunacy ready for a run down to the W'Indies. This is always a fraught process, what with the normal anxieties of worrying about whether the boat is truly ready to go offshore, putting together crew, and watching the unruly fall weather unfold. Historically for me this anxiety has always been compounded by my fussy insurance company, ACE, which insists on vetting my crews and making me fill out lots of forms before they'll give me an endorsement for a passage to the Caribbean.

    Marine insurance, of course, is how the whole concept of insurance first got started. Hedging against the potential loss of a vessel and its cargo is a financial game that dates as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans and was institutionalized in its modern form as early as the late 17th century in Edward Lloyd's famous coffee house in London (see image up top), where shipowners, merchants, and skippers all gathered together to mull over the perils of ocean-borne commerce while getting hopped up on caffeine. As such, it is fair to say that marine insurance has played a very important role in the development of our global economy, but in the context of recreational bluewater cruising it is another animal entirely.

  • ON PASSAGE WITH JIMMY CORNELL: Ft. Lauderdale to Panama

    Aventura aerial

    O how fickle the Wind Gods! A couple of weeks ago while aboard Lunacy with the family in St. Martin you'll recall we had far too much of it. Wind, I mean. Then just two days after returning from that venture, I sallied forth to join Jimmy Cornell aboard his new Garcia Exploration 45 Aventura (same name as his last three boats) to crew on a 1,300-mile passage across the entire breadth of the Caribbean during prime-time tradewind season, and what do I see on prognosticatory WX charts while waiting to board a flight to Florida? A most emphatic lack of wind, 10 knots or less, all the way from the shoal-spangled Bahamas to the chicken-neck isthmus of Central America. For one whole week, at least.

  • ON PASSAGE WITH JIMMY CORNELL: Panama Canal Transit

    Transit celebration

    I'll be honest, folks. When Jimmy Cornell shot me an e-mail after his new Garcia Exploration 45 debuted at the Annapolis show last fall and asked if I could carve two weeks out of my schedule in March to join him on a passage from Florida to Panama and on through the canal, I was skeptical. Not about the bluewater bit. I was sure we could pull that off inside two weeks. But I wasn't so sure about having time to make it through the canal. I'd heard wait times for yachts seeking transits can run from one to six weeks, so when Jimmy assured me he had connections in Panama and could get us through with the quickness, I took all that with the proverbial grain of salt. Worst case, I reckoned, was I'd do the passage and miss the transit, which in the cosmic scheme of things seemed a pretty good worst case.

  • OPB CARIBBEAN CRUISING: Circumnavigating Martinique

    Lifted cat

    Phase Two my OPB (Other People’s Boats) cruising season (completed this past Saturday) began at the Dream Yacht Charter base in Le Marin on Martinique, where I encountered a few random nautical oddities, including this very interesting technique, employed by a rival charter outfit, for hauling out a catamaran without actually hauling it out. Is this freaking ingenious, or what?

  • OPB CARIBBEAN CRUISING: Making the Scene With PAYS and Company in Dominica

    Ranger out

    Phase One of my OPB (Other People’s Boats) Caribbean cruising season this winter begins in St. Maarten, where I flew in to meet Hank Schmitt and my old friend, the Swan 48 Avocation, which I once delivered to St. Maarten many moons ago after Hank first started managing her. Faithful readers will recall that I ran out of fuel at the very end of that trip waiting for the bridge to open to enter the Simpson Bay lagoon. So I considered it auspicious this time when we not only didn’t run out of fuel exiting the lagoon (which would have been extremely alarming, considering we had just left a fuel dock), but also got to queue up behind the big J-boat Ranger going out through the bridge (see photo up top).

    Our passage southeast to Dominica went very well, as the easterly tradewinds had just a whiff of a northerly slant to them, which allowed us to sail the whole course on port tack in just one board. This with only a bit of cheating with the motor--from St. Maarten up to St. Bart’s to dodge some squalls, and through the lee of Guadeloupe and its sister islands. We did lose our autopilot, but we had a large crew (myself, Hank, our mutual sailing buddy Johnathan Ishmael, and two of Hank’s OPO members, Janet Schuhl and Eva Gross) so hand-steering was not onerous.

  • POST-CHRISTMAS WEST INDIES CRUISE: High Maintenance Vacation

    Una and Lucy

    Truth be told, I originally resisted the idea of basing Lunacy in St. Maarten this winter, primarily because she previously spent two other winters there, and I was hoping to check out someplace new. Also, I've always found the island to be a bit over-developed, with too many people, too much traffic, and too many big-box stores. Inexorably, however, it was the place that made the most sense for the sort of winter cruising we do (in short bursts of a week or so), because the airfares are reasonable and there are often direct flights from Boston. And during our just completed post-Christmas cruise, the island's over-developedness in fact turned out to be a blessing, as we spent an inordinate amount of time attending to boat maintenance (a price one often must pay when wandering about on one's own boat), and St. Maarten, if nothing else, is a great place to buy boat gear.

  • THRASH TO WINDWARD: Swan 60 Delivery from Florida to Tortola

    Foredeck in art mode

    This is called going against the flow: sailing from Florida to the W’Indies against the prevailing easterly tradewinds. I did something similar many years ago, moving a Taswell 56 from Great Exuma in the Bahamas to St. Thomas, and remember it as an exercise in gross masochism. Like banging your head against a wall… for days on end. When you do it in little hops, from one Bahamian island to the next, they call it the Thorny Path. When you do it all in one fell swoop they should maybe call it the Quantum Thorny Leap.

  • WINDBOUND IN SXM: More Sailing With the Family (Or Not)

    Lunacy aerial

    The better part of valor, and all that. When we arrived here on St. Martin Saturday evening it was blowing a bit, and all day Sunday--as we provisioned Lunacy, adjusted to the pleasant weather, and diddled around at the pool while watching Heineken Regatta boats stream up and down the coast outside the entrance to Oyster Pond--it was blowing a bit harder. And by Monday morning, as post-Heineken bareboats started streaming like locusts into the docks here at Capt. Oliver's Marina in a just-as-stiff breeze, it occurred to me that an idle family cruise might not be so idle in conditions such as these. Checking the weather (finally), I discovered the forecast was for the wind to increase a bit more still and hold there for the rest of the week. Fortunately, the family wasn't too disappointed when I told them I thought our sailing vacation would be much more vacation-like if we morphed it into a dock-based event.

  • YACHTIE APPRECIATION WEEK: Good Times and New Moorings at Dominica

    Prince Rupert's Bay

    Attention all Caribbean cruisers! This is an event you’ll want to check out if you’re in the area. My old partner-in-crime Hank Schmitt and his organization, Offshore Passage Opportunities (OPO), have conspired with the Tourism Board of Dominica and with the Dominica Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security (PAYS) to launch the first annual Yachtie Appreciation Week (YAW) in Prince Rupert’s Bay (see photo up top) this February 14-21. During the event all visiting yachts will get free moorings and their “yachtie” crews will be eligible for discounts on island tours and will also get to enjoy some serious partying in the evenings.

    My understanding is all you have to do to qualify is show up on a boat! Plus, if you’re wondering what to do afterwards, the St. Maarten Yacht Club is organizing a race/rally to feed boats from Dominica up to St. Maarten in time for the Heineken Regatta.

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