By Captain Mike Lovegrove.
Friday Jan 25, 2013.
Pelican weighed anchor in Rodney Bay at 1230 and after clearing the Barrel of Beef Rock headed south along the West coast of St Lucia passing the main port of Castries, the delightful anchorage of Marigot Bay and then closing into the shore at Soufriere so the crew could get a better view of the Pittons. Even dolphins came along to play in the bow wave.
Unfortunately closing the shore meant putting an 800 metre high mountain between us and the wind so the engines had to go on to get us out of the lee of St Lucia. Once clear we set sail again and had a grand overnight sail between St Lucia and St Vincent with the strong North Atlantic current pushing us well west of our intended track with a clear sky and an almost full moon. It was a wonderful sail.
In the morning we again fell into the lee, this time of St Vincent, so once again the engine was started and all sails handed. Whilst the crew were aloft stowing the sails we were pleased to see several pilot whales making their leisurely way northwards and also a sperm whale cow with her calf!! Pelican anchored in Kingstown bay so after lunch and dealing with all the entry formalities the crew went ashore to discover the local delights. We landed ashore on the fish dock quay with the local fish market in full swing - doubtless our cook Peter will be bringing back some exotic fish to tempt our palates. St Vincent has not embraced the tourism market to the extent of some of the other islands so it is a genuine Caribbean Island. We are now cleared into the Grenadine Islands for the next week and Bequia and the Tobago Cays beckon us southwards.
Captain Mike Lovegrove, left, takes over control from Captain Paul Compton, right.
Saturday, January 26th 2013.
As the voyage crew decided that they had seen enough of St Vincent and didn't fancy any volcano bashing the plan for today was to weigh anchor from Kingstown take Pelican out to sea set a lot of sail and put her through her paces taking and wearing and maybe a man over board drill then head to Bequia. However with the wind gusting to over 25knts and from an unusual south east direction that soon put paid to that silly idea.So with just the topsail and jib set we headed north up the coast of St Vincent at about 6knts boat speed. We did practice wearing ship a couple of times and then tuned southwards bound for Bequia. After lunch Admiralty Bay was in sight so sails were handed and we motored into the anchorage. There is a jazz festival being held in Bequia this weekend (one of the reasons every one wanted to get here today) but that also meant that the anchorage is pretty full of yachts, requiring Pelican to anchor much further out to sea with a long run in to the shore in the RIB. Once the vessel was secure the first crew members went ashore to see if the natives were friendly and the water was drinkable! Those that stayed on board enjoyed a swim in the warm clear waters of the bay. Plan is to stay in the anchorage here until Monday morning then make our way southwards towards Tobago Cay
Tuesday, 29th January 2013.
Pelican was safely anchored of Mayreau - the smallest inhabited island in the Grenadines - in Saline Bay in 9mtrs of water with 1 1/2 shackles of anchor chain out (that's about 135 feet). But due to a combination of the wind gusting above 20knts and an Atlantic Ocean current holding Pelican off the wind, it was a rather uncomfortable roly poly night on board Pelican. So the crew were more than anxious to weigh anchor and head round the corner to Tobago Cays.
The passage is relatively simple but with shallows, rocks and coral heads never more than a few hundred yards away, it keeps the ulcer licking its lips! As we approached the anchorage we could see well over 40 yachts anchored behind Horseshoe reef, the luxury cruise liner The World anchored just outside the reef (that's the vessel that you buy an apartment on board and live in it forever. Apparently it's cheaper than a UK care home!) more yachts anchored in the anchorage by Petit Bateau Island and the luxury 5-masted sailing ship Royal Clipper at anchor as well(she isnt really a sailing ship, all the sails are hydraulicly controlled at the press of a button. No pulling on ropes for them, it's more a case of two six press when they want to set sail, and as one of their Captains told me, the sails are purely cosmetic).
The anchorage was beginning to look like the Solent during Cowes week. Pelican found room to anchor, and after lunch the crew went ashore. However, with the passengers from the World and Royal Clipper all having their own private barbecues and bars on the beach, there were more people there than on the beach at Weymouth when Ben Ainslie won his gold medal. The crew found a more secluded spot and enjoyed snorkelling in the clear warm waters spotting many different types of fish and turtles. At one time Tobago Cays was the cruising yachtsman's idyllic Caribbean paradise. Now it seems to be the Mecca for charter yachts and well-healed cruise liner passengers. Off tomorrow to Union Island when I must clear Pelican out of the Grenadine Islands
Photograph courtesy of Yazz Quinton.
Wednesday, 30th January 2013.
Clearing out at Union Island was a lot less painful than I envisaged! Customs went very quickly and when I arrived at the Immigration Department it was just before 12 and the Customs officer was moaning about him not getting his lunch. Apparently he should have a lunch break at 12 and the Customs should have made me stay there until 1pm. But he filled in the paper work OK and we got our clearance out. This piece of paper is most important as it is needed when we clear into the next island.
The crew are all a bit miffed because he didn't have time to stamp all the passports with a Union Island exit stamp, but it saved me a good half an hour whilst he stamped each one on the correct page.
The main drama of the day came when we wanted to weigh anchor, as a charter yacht had anchored between Pelican and where our anchor was laid. Despite calling them on the VHF they didn't move. Luckily for them the anchor broke out just before I T-Boned them! It was a short 10 mile motor round to Chatham Bay on Union Island where Chief Officer Mike Cunningham brought Pelican safely to anchor just in time to see a flock of real pelicans and frigate birds diving into the sea to catch their lunch. Some of the crew came with me across the island to Clifton where I cleared us out. The rest spent their time on the beach or snorkelling. I think the crew are planning a barbecue on the beach tonight as this will probably be their last beach until we get back to St Lucia.
A very early start in the morning 0400 for the 50 mile voyage down to Grenada
Thursday, 31st January 2013.
We got up at silly o'clock to be sure of arriving in Grenada at 1400. 50 miles at 5knts takes 10 hours so we would arrive just at the correct time. However, with a brisk north-easterly wind and only 3 sails set Pelican was off at nearly 8 knts even after the top gallant was handed.
Pelican was still sailing along at 5 knts, meaning we arrived off the port of St George early and had to stooge around for a couple of hours before the berth was free. We moored-up on the commercial dock right behind the luxury sailing ship Sea Cloud (at least the crew have to pull on ropes to set the sails). The Captain of the Sea Cloud came on board to have a look round as he had sailed on Astrid when he was younger and had seen Pelican being built. He was very enthusiastic about the ship.
Sea Cloud hauled off at about 1800 and we were told that we had to move along the quay into her berth to make room for 2 commercial freighters that were due in during the night. So half an hour of musical ropes ensued whilst we moved to the new berth. I expect we will have to move back again some time; that's the way it works out here.
Tomorrow the crew are off to discover the interior of the island with a local guide and maybe even swim in a waterfall. We will take fuel on Friday and stay in Grenada until Saturday afternoon when we will have to start the long trip into the prevailing wind to get back to St Lucia.
Photo courtesy of Yazz Quinton
Saturday, 2nd February 2013.
Today, most of the crew took a taxi sight-seeing tour of Grenada which included swimming under the Annandale waterfall, a visit to a rum distillery, and a chocolate plantation. It is coming up to the island's Independence Day celebrations on 7th February and the whole island is decked out in the colours of their national flag - red, yellow and green.
I dont know if it was connected to their Independence Day celebrations or just because it was a Friday but every school we passed was a hive of sporting activity. The school children looked so smart, all of them wearing the school uniform with brilliant white shirts and ties done up properly even in this heat. They are also so polite, always greeting you with a big smile and a cheery 'good day to you'. They do make some of our students at home appear quite scruffy.
A ship always needs looking after so not everyone could get ashore. It meant Chief Officer Mike and Chief Engineer Richard stayed on board for the ship to be re-fuelled and to strip down the steering gear that had been making some strange noises. Steering gear all greased up and re assembled in readiness for the voyage back to St Lucia
Sunday, 3rd February 2013. (I)
Having tried unsuccessfully to contact the agent to clear us out, the Port Authorities to grant us permission to leave, and the Pilot to take us out to sea, at mid day I took matters into my own hands and took all the passports and the required ships documents over to the Customs and Immigration Office in the rather up market Port Louis Marina.
The clearing out process was all very straight forward but took rather longer than I had anticipated possibly due to the customs men watching the England versus Scotland rugby match and I had to explain the finer points of the game to them! I got that all important piece of paper our clearance certificate England beat Scotland 38-18 and Wales lost as well so quite a satisfactory afternoon.
The Pilot had also been in touch to say I was authorised to take Pelican to sea without him (I think it was he didnt want to get wet as it was now raining).
Whilst I had been away Pelican crew had not been idle. The ship was all ready to go to sea with the gangway in, the mooring lines singled up, and the engine running. So all that had to be done was let go the fore and aft lines and spin Pelican off the quay using the RIB and a stern spring. Once clear of the harbour sails were set the engines turned off and we started the northward voyage back to St Lucia.
Sunday, 3rd January 2013 (II)
It all started out so well as we left St George: all square sails were set and Pelican was sailing north up the West coast of the island of Grenada.
As it got dark we handed the royal and top gallant sail but over night I let Pelican sail far too freely off the wind (hey ho, any fool can sail to leeward!). So in the morning we found ourselves 60 miles to the West of the island, getting the full effects of a force 6/7 wind and a moderate to rough sea.
There was nothing for it but to turn on the engine, hand the square sails sheet in the fore and aft sails, and start to batter our way back into the lee of the islands. Battling into a strong head wind and sea isn't something that Pelican is good at and at times the boat speed is down to less than 2 knots. At this rate it will take us until Wednesday to get to Rodney Bay!
Still it's not all bad. There isn't a cloud in the sky,the air temperature is 27 degrees, the wind is warm and it's quite fun watching the shoals of flying fish skip from wave top to wave top.
Monday, 4th February 2013.
As we clawed our way slowly, slowly towards the lee of the islands, the sea state moderated, the boat speed picked up and life became a little less tedious for those on board. We continued to motor sail over night and as darkness fell with a cloudless sky and no moon, we could see all the stars against the velvety blackness of the sky. The complete swathe of the Milky Way was clearly visible and the constellations of Orion, Leo and The Plough and the planet Jupiter all shining down on us. Even if Pelican was motor sailing it was a very pleasant night watch.
In the morning, Pelican was approaching the anchorage at Marigot Bay with a proper harbour, stow on the sails, a deck scrub, and a happy hour below decks. Pelican was looking a fine sight as we anchored in the bay. (for those that dont know "Happy Hour" is not the well recognised two-drinks-for-the-price-of-one. It is when all hands turn to giving the ship a really good clean up).
Wednesday, 6th February 2013.
Having arrived in the beautiful (if expensive) harbour of Marigot Bay, the crew went ashore, though most seemed weary after their 48 hours at sea to stay out and enjoy the marina and resort. There were some rather impressive vessels in the marina - not proper ones with sails, but very expensive motor boats.
Most of the crew were safely tucked up in bed by about 2100. Off to Rodney Bay in the morning, just a 10 mile motor round the corner from Marigot Bay. Here we will say good bye to some of our island-hopping crew, hoping they have some wonderful memories of Pelican and the Grenadines to take home with them.
We will be saying hello to a new crew ready to face the challenge of a Transatlantic voyage, taking on stores over the next two days, and preparing Pelican for the adventure of the long journey home. The Furuno chart plotter that I had left to be repaired when we left Rodney Bay two weeks ago wasn't ready, even though I had told them I wanted it back by Monday 4th, but the refrigeration engineer who we desperately needed - because the ice cream was melting in the freezer - was waiting as arranged for us to pick him up from the dinghy dock. Huge relief the freezer is now up and working.
Sunday, 10th February 2013.
Position 16 07N 61 49W
Wind North East
Sea state slight
Days Run 133
Distance to Bermuda 985
It has been a busy few days for the crew of Pelican - taking on stores for the long journey home, changing the topsail for the new heavy weather sail for the stronger winds that we will encounter later, saying good bye to some of our ship mates and welcoming new ones.
So on Friday evening it was time for a bit of relaxation. We had a barbecue on deck. As always Peter, our cook, excelled himself with a fine spread and the mate produced a rather good rum punch. A very pleasant evening that allowed all the new crew to get to know each other.
Saturday morning was spent training the crew in basic seamanship, going aloft and how to steer the ship. The all important clearance papers were obtained and at 1340 on Saturday Pelican weighed anchor and said good bye to St Lucia. The wind was a moderate North Easterly so sails were set but as we neared the island of Martinique we fell into the wind shadow so on went the engines.
Speed is of the essence. We must maintain an advance to Bermuda of at least 100 miles a day so if the boat speed drops below 5knts on goes the tin topsail (engine).
Day break found us just off the islands of Les Saints - probably one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean. I was sorely tempted to make a short stop over there but no we must press on the wind was good and we need to make the most of the favourable winds when they are available.
Photo courtesy of Steve Nuttie.
Monday, 11th February 2013.
Noon Position 17.44N 62.11W
Days Run 107 nm
Distance to go 885 nm
Wind North Easterly
Sea state moderate
Pelican sailed away from the beautiful islands of Les Saints and on towards Guadeloupe and again fell into the wind shadow of the islands so it was on with the engine. Once clear of the island the square sails were set again and we enjoyed a fine sail, but the north easterly wind and the Atlantic current were setting Pelican down towards the island of Monserrat. The
square sails were again clewed up and we started to motor sail but were still being set onto the land. Being on a lee shore and having to rely on the engine to keep us clear is not a seaman-like thing to do so there was nothing for it but to tack the ship and turn away from the island to gain more sea room.
Having gained a good offing we turned north once again. Pelican motor sailed over night with just the fore and aft sails set. The course to Bermuda is 351 degrees by motor sailing against the north easterly wind. With the fore and aft sails set Pelican can just about lay
that course but progress is slow and painful. If we tried to sail with the square sails set we would probably end up in Florida!
The morning still brought north easterly winds coupled with vicious squalls which increase
the wind speed to above 30 knots and torrential rain. The down-pours usually only last about 5 minutes but you sure do get wet! Still, after they have gone the sun comes out again and we quickly dry off. After all, skin is waterproof.
Tuesday, 12th February 2013.
Noon Position 19-16N 62-47W
Wind North East
Sea state moderate to rough
Days Run 98
Distance to Bermuda 791
Pelican was motor sailing with just 3 fore and aft sails set, but with the
north easterly winds gusting to over 30 knots and the sea state getting
increasingly rough, it was futile trying to keep Pelican on track for
Bermuda, so she was allowed to fall off a couple of points to the west to
make life less arduous for the crew on board.
Over night a weather front came through increasing the wind strength to a good force 7 with gusts of 35 knots accompanied by torrential rain which lasted far longer than 5 minutes. By the time it had passed over, the watch on deck were thoroughly soaked. In the morning the wind had eased down to a force 5 and the sea state was moderating, but with the wind not showing any sign of moving from the north east, Pelican continued to motor sail, making a painfully slow and costly way to Bermuda.
Wednesday, 13th February 2013
Noon Position 21-16N 62-53W
Wind East North East
Sea state moderate to slight
Days Run 122
Distance to Bermuda 671
The wind stayed stubbornly in the North East, but the sea state was moderating which at least allowed Pelican to make a more northerly course and point in the direction of Bermuda. The speed improved as well. The good news was that I was able to contact Herb Hilgenberg on the ship's radio - Herb is an amateur meteorologist and radio ham who has been providing yachts that are crossing the Atlantic with weather routing information for many years. (Check out Herb's website: www3.sympatico.ca/hehilgen/vax498.htm or search Google for "southbound 2" - that's his call sign).
Herb advised that the current north-easterly wind will start to veer to the east and drop in strength. The veer is good news as we will be able to set the square sails and stop the engine, but the drop in wind strength is not so good as we need the speed.
Herb also indicated that as we near Bermuda we may well encounter gale force South-westerlies. South westerlies?! Where did that come from?! I have done this voyage from the Caribbean to Bermuda several times but I have never had south westerlies. Still I have always placed great reliance on Herb's forecasts so we will just have to wait and see. We certainly need some stronger winds in the right direction because at this rate we are struggling to make Bermuda for the 19th..
Thursday, 14th February 2013
Noon Position 23-23N 62-57W
Sea state slight
Days Run 129
Distance to Bermuda 545
Fuel 8.4 m3
Just as Herb predicted, the wind veered around to the east, but it decreased to force 3. For a delicious 6 hours we tried to sail but even with all sail set, Pelican only made 18 miles in that 6 hours, so come night-fall the square sails were handed and on went the engine again. At least with the lighter winds and smoother sea state Pelican can motor sail at 6 knts towards Bermuda. If we can carry on like this we will arrive on Monday. Unfortunately the weather forecast shows a massive weather system moving over Bermuda at the weekend giving gale force north westerly winds. I am now sailing more to the west to take advantage of those winds and not have to bash into them.
As Pelican has now passed the half way mark, that seemed like a good excuse to have a party! So tnight we will have a Valentine's day party. Pelican is now settling down into the sea-going routine of a long voyage. Chief Officer Mike gave a talk on sail setting. David Jenkins got a passable noon position with the sextant. A deck scrub and a good happy-hour below decks and the prospect of a party tonight - Pelican is a happy ship.
Friday 15th February 2013.
Sea state slight
Days Run 141
Distance to Bermuda 413
Fuel 7.9 m3
At last at last at last: Pelican is a sailing ship! Over night the wind slowly veered round to the south east so at 0800 the gaff and spanker were handed, all square sails were set, and the engine was turned off (Hurrah).
We are now sailing along at a very pleasant 5.5 knots, aiming slightly to the west of Bermuda in order to make the best use of the north westerly winds when they arrive. Last night's half-way party was a great success - it's good for the voyage crew to be able to relax together for a couple of hours with out having to go on watch. The permanent crew stood the watch. However, taking advantage of the fact that I was on watch the crew decided to redecorate my cabin, making it look like a Turkish knocking shop (not that I have been in a Turkish knocking shop you understand, I just happen to know a man that has). All good fun and an indication of the great spirit now on board Pelican.
We didn't hear anything from Herb yesterday and I thought it might be down to our radio equipment but I got an e-mail from him this morning telling me that there had been a power cut where he lives and his back up batteries were out of charge so he couldn't contact anyone. The last time that happened to him was more than 3 years ago. I hope we get a call from him today and I will pay very careful attention to his advice as to how best to deal with the stronger winds that are approaching us.
Saturday, 16th February 2013.
Wind south westerly
Sea state slight
Days Run 96
Distance to Bermuda 327
Fuel 7.8 m3
For one whole day for 24 glorious hours, Pelican was a sailing ship. But over night the wind died away and in the morning down came the rain, totally killing off the wind, so there was nothing for it but to clew up the square sails and on with the engine.
Herb has warned us that there will be strong to gale force winds of 30 to 40 knots over the weekend above 28 degrees north, no sign of them yet but ignore Herb at your peril! So Pelican is well battened down with safety lines and nets rigged and all loose gear secured. We await the stronger winds.
Sunday, 17th February 2013.
Wind West North West
Sea state ROUGH
Days Run 143
Distance to Bermuda 207
Fuel 7.3 m3
During the afternoon and over night the south westerly wind increased and even though sails were reduced accordingly, Pelican was surging along at up to 8.5 knots. At about 0700 this morning the warm front of the expected weather system passed over us bringing heavy rain and the wind veering to the west. We are now motor sailing north in the warm sector of the weather system awaiting the arrival of the cold front when the wind will veer to the north west and Pelican will then pay off and head directly towards Bermuda. The air temperature is now dropping- it was down to 19 degrees last night so I have a feeling that last night was the last night-watch wearing shorts!
Monday, 18th February 2013
Wind West North West
Sea state VERY ROUGH
Days Run 112
Distance to Bermuda 105
Fuel 6.9 m3
Herb says we must make it to Bermuda by Tuesday as he is expecting another storm to cross the island on Wednesday. Not that we have got out of this one yet. With more than 24 hours of strong to gale force winds and a big sea now running, life on Pelican is decidedly tedious not even the sight of dolphins surfing down inside the waves beside us could raise much enthusiasm.
Tuesday, 19th February 2013
Pelican all fast Pt side to Ordnance Island Bermuda, 2 and 2, first line ashore 1150.
After the trials with the strong winds over the last 2 days, the final run into Bermuda was relatively peaceful. The wind went very fluky and light, so in the end all sails were handed and we motored in the last 30 miles. We were met by the pilot as planned at 1100