Sail away with Paul Chopin.
A blog highlighting the steps taken to purchase a yacht, getting out to sail her and the adventures, not to mention the cost(!) in putting her to sea.
Another new venture
The start of my 'circumnavigation'!
Tuesday 17th. May 2022.
Up bright and early, I’ve booked a flight from Gatwick to Antigua to go out to my new acquisition, a Lagoon 380 S2, moored in St. Maarten. As expected, the M25 was busy and slow due to accidents or breakdowns. Helen dropped me off at the departure gate and I still had 1 3/4hrs before the flight was due to leave. The queue at check in was horrendously long but eventually I was through. I just had to drop my parasailor sail off at the oversize bags point. Next was security. If the check in was bad this was worse. Most of my luggage and I cleared security, my laptop didn’t. A long wait before security got to my tray. I had taken all of my electrical equipment out of my bag but hadn’t removed the laptop from its own case. Something to remember for next time. So, now cleared of everything it was time to go to the boarding gate, with no time to spare. Gate 23 was some distance from leaving security so it was a case of running most of the way there. I arrived, hot, sweaty and just as the last passengers were boarded.
The flight to Antigua was nothing to write home about. Food was adequate but bland, the wine was passable and the onboard entertainment disappointing. I slept quite a bit! Customs and immigration in Antigua went without a hitch, but now I had a day to kill at the airport before my connecting flight to St. Maarten. I had intended to sleep in the airport but it’s locked up at night. Advised against sleeping outside as the mosquitoes would get me, and, as I needed wifi the information desk organised a collection and drop off with a local guesthouse. Carter’s Guesthouse, minutes from the airport was expensive for what they provided (and for what they didn’t!) I got told off for helping myself to a cup of water from the water cooler on arrival in the reception office. The room was tired and needed a complete makeover. I tried running the cold water tap to get a drink but it didn’t work. I then decided to take a jug and a large glass to fill up from the water cooler in the reception. As I was filling the jug the receptionist again told me off. I explained that I couldn’t get any water from the cold water tap. Her reply, that’s not drinkable and we sell the water. Fuming, I told her that I expected more due to the cost she had charged me and would help myself to the water!!! No evening meal nor breakfast in the price. The wifi was good, if I remained in the lounge!
Wednesday 18th. May.
Killing time until midday was difficult but eventually I got to 11:50 and time to leave my room, get the shuttle back to the airport and check in for the flight to St. Maarten. Very straightforward, very helpful staff and better still, I only got charged for one gold bag and less than I expected, a bonus. A bite to eat at the airport before boarding the twin prop 50 seater island hopper. Time for health, immigration and customs checks. I arrived along with other flights so more queuing. Eventually I got through and was met by John Moorhouse, one of my crew, waiting to take me to my yacht, Better together, (named to be changed!) A short journey to the marina and then on to the boat. John and Karen had been working hard cleaning the boat and logging all of the equipment left behind. The amount of tools, cooking equipment, bedding and more that I have inherited will save me having to ship out some of the goodies I took off of Corryvreckan! As a thank you I took my crew out for a meal and drinks to Lagoonies.
Trying to organise yacht insurance from a distance is nigh on impossible, but it has been sorted at the expense of agreeing to carry out quite a few repair jobs. The insurance has been agreed subject to the following;
Gas rubber pipes and regulator replaced - done.
Safety equipment updated - offshore flares bought.
Soft wood bungs attached to all seacocks - work in progress.
Fire extinguishers replaced or inspected - could only buy one with a shelf life > 1yr.
Smoke detector fitted - done.
Gas alarm fitted. Job for Friday.
Goiot hatch recall addressed - contacted Harel Yachts to get the parts before departing St. Maarten.
All seacocks to be double jubilee clipped - job for Friday.
Standing rigging checked - to be replaced in Trinidad.
Small welding on the cross member - to be done in Trinidad.
On top of these issues we have a small water leak from a filter tucked under the sink. Part bought but too difficult to fix immediately. Another job for Trinidad!
Still working through the list of things to do but slowly getting there. Have decided to leave tomorrow and head for St. Barts. Gas alarm bought but not an easy install, so another task for Trinidad. Got the goiot brackets from Harel Yachts and again, Trinidad! Food provisions bought for the week, disposed of the old flares and now it’s drinking time. Another visit to Lagoonies!
Up very early, just before 05:00am. Tried to get a wifi connection at the marina and Lagoonies but no joy. Showered and then a walk down to Budget Marine to use their wifi. All necessary calls made, back to the boat to decide how best to leave the pontoon and recover the two mooring lines that had slipped down the piles. I decided that I would attach a line to the boat on my starboard side as the wind was blowing from that direction. We would release the stern lines, ease forward and use the midship line to stop the boat from swinging to port. Might have been better to use the stern cleat as we did get very close to the boat on my port side. Eventually got the two bow lines off the piles, time to head to the swing bridge. We had a 40 minute wait for the 10:30 opening and then went off to fuel up the boat. There was a fuel dock at the marina but a very large old boat came in and took all the fuel, 6000 litres!!! Arriving at the fuel pontoon I had decided that I would reverse and go alongside the dock. As I was approaching the attendant told be that he wanted me to do a 180 and come on the inside of the wall. Another test of my driving skills after an hour of leaving the marina in this catamaran!!
Getting off the dock was also a bit difficult as the wind was blowing us onto the wall. Again, another 180 degree turn, avoid running aground, and soon we were on our way to St. Barts. Motored all the way as wind on the nose. Arrived and picked up a free mooring ball. A couple of turtles seen swimming round the bay and, as it was too hot to sit around, trunks were the order of the day and the swim was delightful. Having a good look around the hull of the catamaran it seems that anti fouling is necessary when the boat is taken out of the water in Trinidad.
Up at the crack of dawn today as we have a long passage down to Antigua. Slipped the mooring ball at 05:00 and motored to the end of the island before setting the sails. Wind angle not perfect to get us straight to Antigua without tacking but we are keeping the speed up above 5kts close hauled. During the course of the morning the cockpit auto pilot decided to stop working. Despite reading through the manuals for both Raymarine and B and G I have failed to get it working. Thankfully we have a second head unit at the navigation table so hand steering isn’t a concern for the moment. As it seemed an appropriate time to tack we did, and now we are heading in the opposite direction! Not good. After a couple of hours I decided that we needed to go back on our original heading, and if necessary, motor in for Antigua. It’s now 13:25 and we still have at least another 8 hours before our arrival at Jolly Harbour, in the dark!! First loss of the passage, one of the small window covers has decided not to be part of this journey. As we approached Antigua we made a decision to continue on our heading to Monserrat. The reason being that a change of tack to head for Antigua was not favourable, and we were making excellent progress on our current course m. John had identified a couple of bays that we could anchor in so we made for Little Bay. Appropriately named, it was little, no other yachts were there and a moonless night made it difficult to fathom out where to moor. First attempt the anchor was dragging as was the second and third attempts. It was not going well so I decided that we would leave the bay and head out to Martinique. An overnight passage some 150nm away. And to add to our woes, the wind has dropped off!!
So, having decided to head for Martinique it was a case of sharing watch duties. I would take the first 2hr watch and then John and Karen would do the next two, alternating until daylight. No moon to guide us through the water and no chart plotter at the helm we had to constantly go down to the nav station to check we were on the right heading and clear of trouble. All was going well until we got in the wind shadow of Guadeloupe. Speed dropped from over 6kts to under 3kts! The engine had to be engaged once again. Once past the end of the island the wind was back up, and a bit too much so the first reef put in. I need to work out how to ensure the sail drops evenly so that when the reefing line is tightened up it pulls both the front and back of the sail down horizontally, rather than leaving the rear of the sail at the reefing point too high. Nothing of note seen so far on the travels. One yacht yesterday, a couple of small fishing boats this morning followed by a much larger one an hour later. Yet another drop in the wind as we draw alongside Dominica. Flat calm water, plenty of sargassum and the engines back on. Had a message from my brother Frank asking if I had caught any fish. He knows what the answer is going to be but it sowed the seeds to make a lure and dangle it in the water to see if there’s anything foolish enough to go for it! The lure was made out of tin foil, there’s a rod, reel and line with hooks so no excuse not to give it a try. I could wait and tell you tomorrow how many i caught, but I think we all know the answer!!
Sailing down from Monserrat to Martinique was a bit of hit and miss. Fantastic speed when clear of the islands but this dropped right down to around 2kts due to the islands wind shadow. On top of this there was an awful lot of sargassum in the water, and I’m assuming that it got caught under the rudders or the keel. Either way it caused problems for keeping the speed greater than 2kts!!! Finally we arrived in Martinique and dropped the anchor in a lovely place underneath the old fort. This time the anchor held, first time of asking and then it was time for breakfast and to call Helen of our arrival. Before breakfast had been finished the port police came along and asked us (and all the other boats) to leave this particular anchorage because a regatta rally was due to start. So the anchor was raised, we set off for the next anchorage, a bay a couple of miles north that we had passed on the way to Fort de France 🇫🇷. I needed to check in (and out) so we dropped the tender into the water, set off for the nearest dingy dock, found a tourist information office and got them to arrange a hire car for us. They were brilliant as they were meant to be closed! A trip to town, clearances completed, a spot of lunch and a visit to Monsieur Bricolage for some items for the boat, oh, and John and Karen bought an inflatable kayak for use when we begin the round the world sail. That’s commitment!!
Possible itinerary for the next week. Flights back home are booked for the 6th, arriving UK on the 7th.
(We want to go to Mustique so one of the listed islands may have to be replaced).
24th. Arrive in Martinique
25th. Explore Martinique
26th. Depart Martinique for St. Vincent - 100 nm 20hrs.
27th. Arrive St. Vincent.
28th. Explore St. Vincent.
29th. Depart St. Vincent for Grenada - 72nm. 15hrs.
30th. Explore Grenada.
31st. Depart Grenada for Trinidad - 97nm. 20hrs.
1st. June. Arrive Trinidad.
2nd. June. Explore Trinidad.
3/4th June. Boat hauled out of the water.
5th. Tidy boat.
6/7th. June. Flight home.
A disastrous day for me! Yesterday, on arrival in Martinique, Karen, one of the crew noticed that the starboard forward cabin window was coming away from its frame, and had let in a considerable amount of water. Thankfully it hadn’t fallen out but it so easily could have. This needed to be repaired but only as a temporary fix as to do it properly the boat would have to be static for 7 - 10 days for the sealant to cure. Several trips to Monsieur Bricolage and all the parts were purchased and ready to be prepared. I had been left a full kit of tools, for which I am grateful. The first job, drill holes in the two braces that would hold the plywood panel on the outside of the yacht. Window replaced with plywood, with the sea just cm’s below the window frame!
Drill, drill bit and the two wooden braces were taken to the bottom step at the stern of the boat so that when I drilled into the wood the shavings could easily be washed off the back. I went back up into the cockpit for something and on my return DISASTER. It had been raining most of the morning, I had no shoes on my feet, and as I went down the steps I slipped. As I slipped my feet kicked into the water the drill, box of drill bits and the two wooden braces that I was drilling!!!! I went in to retrieve the wooden braces as they were floating on the water, the two other items went the same way as Rebecca Vardy’s phone, down to Dave Jones’s locker. I needed to get the drill bits so flippers on, back in the water I managed to get the box. The drill battery would be ruined and probably the drill itself but I thought I would go back down rather than leaving it there. Luckily the previous owner had left two drills on the boat so I managed to finish off the job. However, when trying to seal the outside of the plywood panel, it threw it down, so yet another soaking. We leave for St. Vincent tomorrow so we will have to keep an eye on whether the repair holds up.
Up with the larks again. A few last minute jobs to do before departing for St. Vincent. Cut some shims to place under the bolts holding the plywood window in place. Hopefully to prevent it dropping down. Checked oil and water, the starboard engine needed topping up, but not a great deal. Went into town for a few more provisions, returned the hire car, a last minute swim and then off. Just shy of 100nm with hopefully favourable winds. We shall see! Very little activity during the passage apart from the threat of heavy rain clouds that passed us by, quite a few flying fish and a commercial vessel that came storming by (in the opposite direction) at 17kts, heading for Castries. A bit of a bumpy ride as the winds picked up but, thankfully, the window repair job is holding up.
Arrived at the Blue Lagoon marina in St. Vincent at 06:30. The entrance to the bay is guarded by reefs so knowing how to approach it is essential. Cardinal marks and buoys lead you in, and once past the reefs the depth increases and you then have a choice of which mooring ball to pick up. Customs and immigration do not open until 08:00. A cup of coffee for me and a short sleep for John and Karen before we get the tender off the davits and into the water. Well, let’s say that checking through customs and immigration was an experience. Having spoken to the man in the customs office about clearing in he asked for my PCR or antigen test result that should have been taken within 72 hours of my arrival in St. Vincent. No test no entry. Explaining that I am my crew were fully vaccinated the response was one I wasn’t expecting. Regardless of vaccination status all arrivals in SVG must have a test result to show negative. He then called the health officer who said he’d be down in 20 minutes. 40 minutes later he arrived. He said that he would organise a rapid flow test for all crew and we would then be cleared in, at a cost of $375EC, and only cash would do. I returned to the boat to see if John and Karen had that amount as I rarely carry cash. They did so Karen returned to the office with me and the paperwork began. Now, the price was either $375EC, $145US or €150. In order to keep relevant currency Karen offered to pay in sterling. It appears that a £ is on par with a € according to the health officer! And the receipt I received, that was for $105EC for clearing in. And what about the antigen tests? I’ll leave that to your imagination as to whether they were done or not!!! We fully expected to see the health guy in the pub buying everyone a round after his windfall. Cost of the mooring for the night, $68EC, a reasonable price to pay. After lunch we visited Fort Duvernette, a garrison built in the early 1700’s by the British to repel the locals, aided by the French. 255 steps to the top with spectacular views to the south. Getting there nearly ruined the outboard engine as the depth was very shallow and we hit the odd rock or two.
Back to the tender, a visit to the local bar and then back to the boat before going back ashore for a meal this evening. What a surprise, my younger brother, Frank, has been on the island for a week doing work for the UN. He sent me a message saying he was staying at an hotel 650m away from the anchorage. We met up later in the evening for a meal and a good chat. Lovely.
Rained again through the night. Thankfully all the seating had been brought in before going to bed last night so it’s not going to be wet bum time in the cockpit. Need to get some fuel for the tender and then set off around 09:00 for a brief stop in Mustique. Tried to clear out at the Customs and Immigration office but it didn’t open until 13:00. Not sure whether we are able to do it in Mustique, so rather than risk it we’ve decided to go to Bequia instead. Reading through the advice in the cruiser guide the C & I closed at 12:00! Time to put our skates on. Got on the fuel dock with 20 minutes to go. John and Karen raced off to the office (strictly speaking I should have gone) but they managed to clear us out. No fuel at the dock as they don’t open for another month, we killed a few hours having a walk around the coastline coupled with a drink or two. Back at the boat we topped up with water and then set off for Grenada (St. David’s bay).
Well that was an exhilarating time getting from Bequia to Grenada. Once out of the channel from Bequia the sails were raised and course set. It wasn’t long before we were steaming ahead at a goodly rate. Wind was picking up and a reef was put in. Despite reducing sail the speed was increasing, together with the waves and most of them crashing into the yacht. At one point I saw 10kts on the ‘speed over ground’ monitor, but it was mainly in the highs 8’s to 9’s. Along the passage we had to negotiate between land and ‘Sisters Rock’ a west cardinal buoy. Rather than risk slamming into the rock or land I cautiously went round the outside of the both of them. Next highlight, dropping the anchor in the dark, not being able to see what was around. First attempt not a success but the second was. Three bearings taken and checked to see if the anchor was dragging. A couple were a degree or so different but then that might have been me rushing to take them. Anchor watch until daylight and, well, it looks pretty safe now that we can see what’s around us.
As there was no possibility of clearing in here we weighed anchor and went round to Le Phare Bleu marina. Very helpful chap came out to meet us in the bay and showed us where to moor up, assisting with our lines. As the reception was closed to check in we went off to Port Louis to clear in and out. A walk round the town, everything was closed except a street bar where we had a beer and a good natter with the locals. Back to Port Louis and a spot of lunch and another beer. Back at the marina I thought I’d give the swimming pool a try. Too small and noisy children! In the evening, time for sun downers and the local rum punch. My goodness, they were strong!
Up early, a shower on the boat lighthouse and then start dealing with all the paperwork needed to enter Trinidad. Next, go back to reception to see if they’re now open. Still closed, staffing issues. For entry to Trinidad we have to have an antigen test so a taxi ride back into St. George for testing, $150EC per person. Now sitting waiting for the results. Results back, all three tested negative so we can leave for Trinidad tomorrow. A walk to Grand Anse beach, a spot of lunch and now back on the boat to compile all the documents required for entry to Trinidad 🇹🇹.
Departure day today. Have checked the weather and winds will be around 15kts from the east for most of the passage, veering to southeast as we approach Trinidad, favourable for most of the trip. Looking at getting into the Bay of Chaguaramas during daylight hours so setting off from Grenada about 17:00. Have just spoken with Alex, he’s bringing a tank of diesel to the boat so that we can top up. A guided taxi trip round the island and up into the rain forest; a swim under one of the waterfalls - Annandale falls, with herb,spices and fruits being highlighted by our guide, a look at Grand Etang lake, a glimpse of a mona monkey before heading back to the boat. I would have to say the driver would have no difficulty keeping up with the F1 cars around the Monaco circuit!
Last lap was the slowest! We thought we would have favourable winds, and to a certain extent we did. But the wind was not as strong as predicted. Coupled that with currents mainly against for most of the passage and what should have taken around 16 hours took 20. Before we arrived in Chaguaramas bay we were boarded by armed men in masks. Fortunately they were the local coast guard and they were quite pleasant enough once they had checked us out. Picked up a mooring ball outside Peakes marina, now waiting for clearance on health before doing customs and immigration. What fun and games spread over a number of hours getting everything sorted. First, get checked in at the marina once we had health clearance. A multitude of forms to complete, some duplicate, some triplicate and one had six copies and all with carbon paper. Sign of the times! So I was then told to get $500TT from the ATM to pay for customs. Next go to immigration. Very slow and when I eventually reached the counter I was told to go back to the boat for my crew. Why the marina didn’t tell me this before setting off I don’t know. Crew collected, back to immigration. Another long wait until all the paperwork had been processed and passports stamped. Finally customs. Another wait for the counter to clear and then my turn. No problems this time but the cost was $265TT and they had no change. One restaurant was open and the lady behind the till was kind enough to change $100 into the denomination’s that I needed. Back once again to customs to pay my bill. So, about 4 hrs had elapsed between getting to check in and leaving the customs office. Time for a drink, several!!!
Woke up with cramp yet again. This time it was hampering my walking. Just as well there wasn’t a great deal to do today, it was throwing it down. The start of the rainy season!!! With the rain it has identified a couple of leaks in the two aft cabins. One coming from the hatch and possibly the outside window in the starboard cabin. The port cabin is more problematic. There is a thin strip of fabric headlining by the outer wall. This has some cleat and stanchion bolts coming from the deck above but I’m not sure if the water is dripping down the bolts? This is one of the many jobs that will need to be addressed over the time the boat is in storage. Returned all the paperwork (yes, yet again) to the marina office for haul out tomorrow. Initially it was going to be at 13:00, then 09:00 and now 08:00. Up with the larks tomorrow!!
Up early in preparation for the haul out. By 07:00 it was a case of leaving the mooring ball, heading offshore to empty the holding tanks. Back by the marina we were waiting for the staff to appear before going in to the haul out box. Eventually they appeared and in we went. Lines handed to the guys on the dock for securing the boat, we had to get off as they lifted the boat out of the water. Pressure washed, including the bottom of the tender, the boat was finally placed in store for the next eight months (?). Now time to clean the boat and prep it for storage. Plenty of locals coming to the boat and offering their services to ‘keep an eye on the boat’ in my absence. Outboard removed and flushed through with fresh water. Life raft dropped from its holder. This will need to be replaced. It’s too old, too big, out of service and not +24hrs. All the washing was taken care of, cleaned, dried and back in vacuum bags. Heavy rain prevented much else being done on the boat but I had visited plenty of trades to organise work during my absence.
Final day before setting off. Chris, the rigger, attended to measure the boat as all the standing rigging is getting to its end of shelf life. Main sail removed and stored on board. Gas turned off, all curtains closed and doors locked. That’s it!
John had booked a hire car and Karen had arranged accommodation at Grande Riviere for a couple of nights to do a spot of turtle watching. 120km journey with a break for lunch, we arrived late afternoon. Lovely little room with a bijou balcony looking out to sea. A short nap, a few beers, supper and a much longer nap!!
Breakfast at 08:00, a cheese and spinach omelette, orange juice and a coffee. Mid-morning the heat was rising so time for a swim, in between the heavy showers. In the afternoon a 5 mile trek through the forest, mainly along muddy tracks before heading back to the hotel. Tonight was turtle watching night so supper was taken at 19:00 before heading out to our guided tour at 21:00. Within 200m of getting on the beach we were shown the first of the leather back turtles 🐢, already digging the hole where she was going to lay her eggs. Not long after the hole was dug she began to lay the eggs before covering them over with compressed sand. During the tour we saw at least another five turtles come ashore to repeat the process before heading back to sea. A marvellous experience.
Flight home day, we will leave here around 13:00 and try to find a few places to explore before going to the airport at Port of Spain. Flight departs at 19:15 with an hour stopover in St. Lucia. Heavy rain stops play so now sitting in the airport with 3 1/2hrs to go!
New crew hard at work, waiting for me to arrive!!.
Yours truly at the helm of the new boat, a Lagoon 380 S2, just waiting to start sailing in a westerly direction!
Time to move the yacht out from between the mooring piers.... with the wind on the beam! Hope I'm a quick learner!
Now, there should be a window here!!!
Removing the window to replace it with a piece of plywood, a couple of wooden braces and plenty of sealant. Hoping all will hold up until Trinidad.
There's always time for a small amount of refreshment...... but only after all of the work has been completed!
Annandale falls. A lovely swim underneath one of the waterfalls before heading back to the yacht.
Leather backed turtles. Breeding season is between April and November, so for us, the timing was just right. They grow up to 2.2m and weigh up to 700kg!!!
Having flown in to St. Maarten from the UK via Antigua I was picked up at the airport by John, one of my new crew. A drive to the marina where my new acquisition was berthed to meet Karen, the second of my new crew and John's wife. A couple of days getting to know the 'ropes' before setting off. First to St. Barts, then on to Martinique missing out Antigua (unfavourable winds) and Montserrat (too dark to safely consider dropping the anchor). A few days in Martinique to repair the window and then off to St. Vincent's, Bequai (to check out), missing out Basil's Bar on Mustique, Grenada and finally Trinidad.