Friday, April 13, 2018

OCC - In The Club

OCC burgee

April 2018
What is the famous line - "I don't want to belong to any club that would accept people like me as a member." - Groucho Marx

Actually, we are thrill.  We are in!  We are officially members of the Ocean Cruising Club, better known as the OCC.  We have been threatening to join for a couple of years now but just haven't gotten around to it.  Besides, it is not that easy.  There are rules and a process. 

To join the OCC you must have completed 1000 non-stop ocean miles.  Okay - check , we did that on our passage down from the USA in 2013.  AND we have a sponsor to join.  Someone to vouch for our character.  Oh dear.  Hee hee.  Actually, several cruising friends have encouraged us to join and offered to be our sponsors.  So many, it was hard to choose who to put as our sponsor.  But Richard and Rowena on sv Galene have been the most badgering.....I mean encouraging for us to join so Richard was our the one we chose.

We have yet to learn the secret handshake but I am sure that will come.  For now, we are proudly flying the OCC burgee thanks to OCC member Bill on sv Tootaloo.   

Martinique 2018 - The Land Of Cheese

KC own Boulevard Beer Tank 7 beer
April 2018
This pic is for sv Just Imagine
We are back in the land of cheese!  And wine, and pain du chocolate, and baguettes, and coffee, and cheese.  YES!  Also good chandleries.  This is the primary reason we came back here to stock up on provisions and also boat parts, spares and upgrades. 
Polde and Tom

Annika and Bruce on the hike

Of course we are also getting caught up with cruising friends.

Old friends - sv Tango (Stefan and Annika)  and sv Imagine (Kurt) - New friend sv Shiraz (Thomas)

Caliber 40 LRC - sv Honey Ryder and sv Lost Loon (Nancy and Mike)

And meeting new cruising friends. 


And exploring.
Bocce Ball
 And trying new things.  
Bocce Ball

It's all good.   
Bill (sv Tootaloo)

Another fabulous sunset

Bequia to Martinique 2018

Our St Vincent and Grenadines flag or what is left after two months

March 2018

After two terrific months in Bequia, we weighed anchor and sailed for Martinique.  It seems to us that Bequia has really taken their game up a notch or two.  I would encourage any cruisers to spend more time there.  I would encourage land people to make the extra effort and go visit Bequia.

It was a full moon - aka dark so we didn't sail straight through to Martinique like we had planned but inside stopped overnight in Rodney Bay St Lucia.  We pulled in after dark, put up our yellow Q - quarantine flag and left first thing in the morning.  There is a lot of theft against cruisers going on in St Lucia.  Until something is done to change that, we are choosing not to spend ANY money there. 
sv Imagine - our friend Kurt ahead of us

sv Imagine - our friend Kurt behind us 

We had a fantastic sail from St Lucia to St Anne Martinique, sailing the whole way.  We have never had the right wind angle to sail the whole way in from St Lucia.  What fun! 
Sundowners in St Anne Martinique


Bequia 2018 - Private Party At The Moon Holes

March 2018

We have always been fascinated by the Moon Holes of Bequia, especially Tom.  If you will remember, he even launched a dinghy expedition a few years back to get a closer look at them here-Tom's Great Moon Hole Expedition.  That is part of the challenge, geographically tough to get to and it is a private community, gated off with a security guard.

I suggested to ex-pat couple Nicolle and Nate that maybe they could arrange a walking tour because we would love to see them closer up.  "We would like to see them too" said sv Freedom (John and Roberta).  Nicolle said "Funny you should say that.  We were just invited to a private party this Saturday up at one of the Moon Hole houses.  Come with us."  "Really?  Are you sure?"   "Absolutely!"  Sweet!

So just like that, we were invited to a private party up at the Moon Holes.  Saturday arrived and we had screaming winds again - we saw a gust to 44 knots.  Ugh!  Normally, we would not get off the boat in winds like that but when would we ever get a chance to go to a private party at the Moon Holes again?  So we went.

We all stuffed in Nate and Nicolle's island car - six of us plus their a tiny island SUV held together by little more gray tape.  They dropped off their daughter at a friends houses and then we headed to the Moon Hole parking.  See, you can't drive into the Moon Holes.  You must walk in.  And the path is bumpy, uneven lava rock.  Kewl because it fits with the whole Moon Hole setting but think about that......if you live there, you would need to schlep your stuff in and out on an unlit path of  bumpy lava rock!

The security guard was not at the gate for some reason so we couldn't ask directions to the party house.  "Oh well.  I am sure we will find it." said Nicolle as she lead the way.  She has been up to the Moon Holes before so we followed along.

Soon we were upon the first of the Moon Holes house.  WOW!  I mean.......WOW!  Think Flintstones.  Houses built into the rock and hills.  Some have no doors or windows but are simply open.

The party location was not obvious.  We kept wandering along, taking in each house we passed.  We ventured clear to the end of the island, the last Moon Hole house.  It may or may not have been open.  We may or may not have taken the opportunity to explore it.  Wink, wink.  Amazing.  Absolutely Amazing.
Huge doors and windows trimmed in purple heart wood from Guyana - beautiful
We eventually ran into a woman cleaning one of the houses who pointed us back towards the party house.  It was one of the more developed Moon Hole homes with windows and doors that could be closed....although they were not.  It also had some color and decoration to it.  This two bedroom was nothing short of amazing.  There are two patio's - one facing north and one facing south, both views were stunning.  Our host (David, I think) is an ex-pat that comes to Bequia every year for 2 or 3 months.  He rents a place in Lower Bay.  However, one week each year during his stay in Bequia, he rents this Moon Hole house for a week and he has a big party to share this unique place with others.  The party goers were primarily other ex-pats we have been seeing at all the various islands events.  The only other cruisers were Sally and Jim from sv Chaos -aka the duo Mice in a Matchbox.  Jim brought his guitar and they sang as entertainment on the southern patio later in the afternoon.  Sadly, we didn't get any real pics of the party house.  We were too busy taking it all in.
Look at that view to the south
This Moon Hole house rents out with a chef and cleaning person.  Wise, given all the water is cistern water.  *Land people are usually not used to cistern water which is code for water rationing.

It was a good party.  Crazy trip home.

A day to remember!!

Bequia 2018 Screaming Winds, Dragging Boats, HUGE Swell

Big anchorage, why so close?  And look who it is......

February 2018

It has been really windy here in Bequia.  REALLY!  It can funnel through the gap in the hills and scream down into the anchorage.  And it keeps blowing.  We had two and a half weeks of non-stop wind.  Then a short break and then back at it again.  Below is some of the fun that has taken place in the anchorage lately.  Some of this during the week we had no yacht insurance.  Yep, never dull.
Dragging, tangled cats
sv Wind Cat broke her anchor chain and started dragging through the anchorage.  The owners are charter captains who were down in the Tobago Cayes on a charter.  A call went out on the VHF radio that sv Wind Cat was dragging.  She soon snagged another unoccupied cat and then they were both dragging.  Of course, cruisers to the rescue.  Tom went, Patrick (sv Illusions), Jason (sv Blue Blaze) a few others and then a few local boats arrived as well.  Tom had to actually get on sv Wind Cat along with another guy to help untangle it from the other cat.  The wind was so strong that the dinghies were not having any luck moving the two tangled boats.  A local boat took over and towed sv Wind Cat up and put her on a mooring.  The other cruisers were able to get the other cat's anchor to set again.  Whew!  Scary note - Tom nearly lost his head during this rescue.  sv Wind Cat has a wind generator on her forward, starboard bow AT NECK HEIGHT!  Let me state that again, the wind generator is at neck level!  This should never, ever be.  And on the starboard bow?  WTF!  It was spinning so fast in the wind, Tom could not see the blades at all.  He could hear it but with all the commotion, didn't really take note.  It was only at the last minute he saw it swivel in the wind and stopped short.  People - never, ever, EVER mount a wind generator at body height, period!!!!  Even if you get a wind generator for free, spend the money to mount it properly.
Putting sv Wind Cat on a mooring after she broke free of her anchor
Just before 4am this morning a strong squall came through with powerful winds.  It woke me up.  I got up to check the 62ft charter cat in front of us.  I was worried they would drag.  Sure enough, they are dragging down towards us.  We both went into scrambled mode.  I hit them with our new, powerful, LED spotlight (love this thing) trying to wake someone up.  Tom went for our airhorn - not working -damn!  Tom dives for the dinghy key to unlock it and race up there and bang on their hull.  This monstrosity keeps dragging down towards us. This 62ft by 30ft+ monster is going to hit us!  I didn't know what else to do.  I started screaming WAKE UP! GET UP! YOUR DRAGGING! over and over and over at the top of my lungs. I hear Tom fire up the dinghy. I hear people on another cruising boat near by.  I keep screaming.  OMG -They are going to hit us.  They are less that 1/2 boat length away from us.  I am shaking all over.  Finally, a few on board wake up. The captain comes up and acknowledges. I keep yelling GO,GO,GO.  Luckily, they swing off to the side so I can spot our anchor marker, now ahead of their port bow.  I hit my spot on that and keep it there, yelling at the captain to keep clear of it.  Slowly they motored forward.  It seemed like it took forever. They pulled anchor and slowly motored to the outer edge of the anchorage.  Maybe the Captain decided to go on to Tobago Cayes "early".  I don't know or care as long as they are gone from us. Tom motored back to our boat and I finally shut off the spotlight and made my way back to the cockpit, wet and shaking from the whole thing.  This morning I have many strong thoughts about charter boats, charter captains and 62 ft catamarans - most are not nice. I am going to hold those for now until I can get some more sleep. 
Charter cat - this one is only 50 ft (roll eyes)
Bitch wings - a common sight in most anchorages.  Bitch wings are when a cruiser gets up on deck and puts their hands on their hips and arms out to the side.  This is done when someone is anchoring too near or thinking about anchoring near or perceived to be anchoring too near.  "Did you see that stupid charterboat trying to anchor too near this afternoon?  I had to get out my bitch wings and run them off."  Or "Dude, I saw you out there just now with your bitch wings on.  Good for you."  Bitch wings are not reserved for a particular sex.  Anyone can put on their bitch wings and flash them around when needed.  Sometimes they work (like with charter boats that are self chartered or other cruisers) and sometimes they don't (like charter boat captains and the French).  
Too close, no need in such a big anchorage

I have found something better than Bitch Wings.  It is my handy-dandy, new, lightweight and powerful LED spotlight.  If I am worried, I hit that a few times starting at sundown, even just to spot on the boat in front of us so I know exactly where they are and how close.  If they don't like getting hit with a powerful spotlight a couple of times during the night, they should not have anchored so near and they can move in the morning.  I joked with friends that instead of bitch wings, I would stand on deck with a holster.  On one side would be my spotlight and on the other, my airhorn.  A cruising friend added "Don't forget your cutlass.  Put that in the belt of your holster for an added touch."  Good idea.  Ha!  Let's see who anchors near us now if I am up on deck with all that!  
Poor sv Crazy Love
Poor sv Crazy Love.  This is a chartboat out of St Vincent at it is being abused.  In the last four weeks we have seen the following.  1.)  Three English guys grounded her and then "bumped" a cruising cat while trying to un-ground themselves.  2.)  sv Crazy Love drug down slowly on our friend Kurt's (sv Imagine) boat.  French cruisers rescue Kurt's boat by hopping on board and putting his fenders out and kept damage from happening.  The clueless charters return to find their boat has moved.  Resulting inquiry uncovered the reason for the dragging....they put out 40ft of anchor scope in 12 -15ft of water.  WAY too little scope as Tom scolded them.  3.)  A week later, a family of three chartered sv Crazy Love. Dad is motoring FULL speed through the anchorage.  He is way too close to shore and headed straight for shallows just off our starboard side.  He is motoring so fast there is not time to yell over and warn him.  They come to an abrupt stop - hard grounding.  They get themselves off and then anchor too close to us and then too near the French boat to our port stern.  Sigh.....poor sv Crazy Love.  It has done nothing and yet charter guests are abusing the hell out of this poor boat.  I emailed the company to let them know.  I got a very nice and prompt email back thanking me for the information.
Big swell destroying the new part of the Belmont Walkway and Princess Margaret Beach

Big Swell was predicted.  Big swell arrived in Bequia big time!  There are basically four areas to anchor in Admiralty Bay;  Lower Bay, Princess Margaret Beach, up front on the south side and north side.  Lower Bay and Princess Margaret Beach can be rolly at times.  This is not uncommon.  What was predicted was big swell, all up and down the island chain. We all knew about it for days.  Many changed anchorages or even islands, looking for protection.  The problem was the direction of the swell.  It was supposed to come from the north, northwest, west and possibly even a little southwest.  None of these good for the normally well protect anchorages in the lee of these islands.  We had already moved up from Princess Margaret Beach weeks ago during the really strong winds.  We were now anchored off the Bequia Plantation Hotel - at the start of the up front south side.  We thought we would be ok.  The day the swell hit, I was up early for some reason.  At 6am I looked down at Lower Bay to see a series of HUGE swells breaking way far out from shore in the anchorage.  At least 100 yards out from the beach, basically in the back of the anchoring field.   I woke Tom up. "You have to come see the swells in Lower Bay."  Soon our awe turned to serious concern.  It was getting dangerous for the yachts down there and in Princess Margaret Beach.  They were all violently rolling in the swell.  Many began pulling up anchor and heading to the north side or up front to mooring balls.  As more and more swells broke, a mass exodus happened.  Most but not all.  A few stayed.  Then as the day went on, the swell shifted and came towards us.  We ended up facing west -so weird.  Which put us 90 degrees to our anchor set and much closer to the beach.  Luckily, this also put us head on into the swell.  Much safer and more comfortable to ride them out head on vs taking the waves on the side of the boat.  They were breaking just behind us and occasionally under us.  In hindsight, I would have preferred to be one more boat length out from shore.  We were a tad close at this angle.  The full weight of sv Honey Ryder pulling and tugging at the anchor snubber, chain and anchor.  But she held.  Everyone stayed on their boats at the ready for whatever.  Huge waves crashed all day on the Belmont Walkway, battering dinghy docks and sloshing into restaurants along the shoreline.  The new part of the walkway was washed way.  The pounding waves eroded must of Princess Margaret Beach.  It was an intense, nerve wracking day.  Then just as sunset was starting, the swell returned to Lower Bay with a vengeance.  The few boats that were left down there were once again in danger.  Two or three of them were knocked down rail to rail in the violent rolling.  They all but two moved.  Those somehow survived.  Tom and I decided to sleep in the cockpit just in case.  It finally calmed down enough that we went below at 1:30 am to bed.  What a day!   

Double fire hose for chafe guard on the anchor snubber.  This is after two months in Bequia.

It wasn't always terrible in the anchorage.  There were many nice days and calm mornings and still nights.  I just give you the above examples so you know what it can sometimes be like in an anchorage.  We had a wonderful time in Bequia.  We stayed two months!

Bequia 2018 - More Thievery - Insurance Fraud

February 2018

We got an odd email from someone we do not know saying our annual yacht insurance premium may not have been paid and could we please provide proof of payment.  Weird.  We paid by check last fall.  We sent this person proof of the cancelled check.  We got a follow up email.  "Your payment was not forwarded on by your agent, Kent Urbine - Pegasus Group, to the underwriters.  Please contact me immediately."  WTF?!

Tom called the guy that sent the email, William (Bill) Coates with Offshore Risk Management.  It seems his group took over servicing of our agent's files and that some premiums were not forwarded on to the underwriters aka STOLEN (my wording not Bill's) and they were trying to sort through which customers had been effected.  He said we needed to pay again and ASAP to get re-instated.  The more questions we asked, the more questions we had.  We tried to go direct to the underwriters to pay them.  No go.  They referred us back to ORM and Bill.  We were not able to establish the relationship and timeline between ORM and our thieving agent to our satisfaction and the clock was ticking.

Instead, we called yacht insurance agent and guru Al Golden at IMIS, a well known and established agent and company.  We had been with them originally when we bought sv Honey Ryder.  He had not heard of Kent Urbine, or the Pegasus Group, or the theft of premiums.  He quickly cut to the chase -  "First thing we have to do is get you insured."   He made it easy by becoming our agent of choice and thus getting us re-instated with Yachtline for the same policy, at the same price.  Whew!

We did have to pay again but we were insured.  It was a stressful week of trying to negotiate who, what, when, where and the terminology of the insurance industry.  Luckily, fellow cruiser Laura used to sell commercial insurance in FL.  She helped us understand, do internet research and gave us ideas.  Thank you Laura!!  All the while, the Caribbean winds picked up and were screaming through the anchorage.  Boats were dragging and chartboats were parking WAY too close.  It was a nerve wracking week!  But we got through.

It turns out we are not the only ones the agent stole from.  He stole from other clients as well.  Not everyone, just some.  Lucky us.  I have located a few other victims through Women Who Sail Facebook group and a few others.  We have all be in contact, sharing information and generally supporting one and other through this frustrating experience of being ripped off.

We have filed a complaint in Florida where we sent the check.  We got a case number and an investigating officer immediately.   Tom has communicated back and forth with him several times.  We don't expect to get our money back.  It would be great if we did but more than likely, not.  We want to see Kent Urbine go to jail for what he has done.  At the very least, he should be fined and lose his license.  We believe he is still out there acting as an agent.  Not kewl!

As with everything in life, this has been a learning experience.  We are now asking more questions and requesting additional documentation and proof on certain things than we did before.  It's never dull aboard sv Honey Ryder, that is for sure.