Thursday, September 8, 2016

South to North Transatlantic, Suriname to Canada

This voyage started like many others, months later than I would have preferred. Boat maintenance and another delivery job pushed back my departure from Suriname until 09 July. While sailing the Atlantic in midsummer is quite pleasant, it requires constant vigilance regarding the weather as tropical storms may form at any time. Fortunately, the weather remained stable throughout the passage with tropical activity only beginning the week after I arrived in St John's Newfoundland.

The journey began on the tropical Suriname River

And the voyage concludes at Fort Amherst, St John's, Newfoundland

The trip began hot and wet. Sail was set at the sea bouy and Nomad reached right out into the tradewinds. With the strong equatorial current and the tradewinds on the beam it was necessary to sail on a very close reach to maintain a northerly course. Nomad would take a good blast of spray across the deck with nearly every wave making it impossible to open the hatch or ports for ventilation. For the first week of the voyage it was quite warm inside! The weather remained pleasant for most of the voyage. Reaching 41N it was a little cool at night. The next night a jacket was needed, then Nomad crossed onto the olive green waters of the Grand Banks  and it was time for long underwear and the wool hat, courtesy of the Labrador current bringing cold water down from the Arctic. About a hundred miles south of Newfoundland I encountered the only headwinds of the trip. A deep low to the south and a high to the north made for an east then northeasterly  wind for a couple of days. As the wind backed around, it forced me further west. I had sailed to within 80 miles of St Pierre and was considering ending the voyage there, but the wind backed around before I reached the Burin Peninsula. With the wind now firmly northwest and backing I tacked and resumed heading for St John's, arriving two days later with a stiff southwesterly behind me. It was during this time that I crossed my eastbound track out of St Pierre from 2014, closing the circle on Nomad' first circumnavigation of the North Atlantic Ocean.
Most days looked like this

Some days in mid ocean were like this
This was usually how most days started out

Twenty eight days and 2726 miles from Suriname to Newfoundland with no major problems or weather systems to deal with makes for a pleasant trip but not much to write about. It was fairly routine dealing with the daily repairs mostly due to chafe and the vigorous motion of being underway for nearly a month. I tried one of the stock safety tubes for the windvane, it only lasted a thousand miles before breaking, so it was replaced with a heavier gauge tube. Chafe wore through the windvane control lines several times. Chafe also caused the loss of the spinner on the taffrail log. Since replacements are getting hard to find, I decided to stow it before I lost another.
Land ho! For the first time in twenty eight days

Making speed along the Avalon Peninsula. St John's by sunset!

It was not all work and studying weather faxes. A nice singlehander sized mahi mahi grabbed the fishing line and it became three huge meals and a bowl of ceviche before it was gone.    I didn't trail the fishing line after catching that one, as I had eaten enough fresh fish for awhile!     I was quite happy to catch the smaller size fish.  A huge mahi mahi such as we caught on the trip across from The Gambia would have been difficult to handle singlehandedly and would have been way more fish than I needed. I was prepared this time with extra lime juice and kilos of salt onboard in case I caught the "big one".
Fresh fish on the menu for dinner. And breakfast, lunch and the next dinner. And snacks in between.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Nomad's year in Suriname

Nomad arrived in Suriname at the height of the rainy season, blown in from the ocean on the back of the first rain squall she had experienced in many months.  Sailing just another seven miles upriver past Paramaribo, the anchor was dropped in the town of Domburg.  This far upriver the fast flowing Suriname River is fresh water that rapidly dissolved all the saltwater flora and barnacles picked up on the crossing.
The anchorage/mooring in Domburg

Domburg is a small town that is ideally situated for cruisers. There is a small park where the water taxi  lands and most of the village congregates in the evening with  Saturdays and Sundays being quite busy.  Most anything you could need is available there with several stores and two gas stations selling diesel fuel within walking distance of the waterfront. There are a number of small markets selling fresh produce and some small restaurants on the Waterkant.  For more varied shopping in Paramaribo, there are several buses that pick up right at the waterfront in the morning. Returning before the evening buses is not on a schedule as they will only make the trip back from Paramaribo when they are full of passengers.
Pet birds are popular, and they are taken everywhere.

It rains a lot here!

The Harbor Resort  is the go-to place for cruisers.  They maintain a number  a number of excellent  moorings for those who do not wish to use their own anchors. I left Nomad unattended twice on one of their moorings with no problems. Owned by Huib, the harbor resort was under the management of Gaby , who has since returned to the cruising life and is now run by Nettie and her husband, also cruisers.  They sailed from Europe and liked it so well they have been here for eight years. If there is anything you can’t find, ask them.   The Harbor Resort has showers and pool, included in the price of the mooring.  They also have the coldest beer in town.
Dutch board games at The Harbor Resort

Jungle exploration is just a few steps out of town.  It is a great way to check out the variety of tropical plants and wildlife.  Rubber boots and insect repellent required!  And a compass is a good idea.  Walking into the dense jungle foliage in a matter of minutes you will not be able to see where you came from.   Aside from the curiosity of the  new environment,  the jungle also provided some much needed boat parts. With forests of bamboo, it was easy to replace the damaged and suspect battens in Nomad’s sails.
The jungle

Interesting plants.

More tropical flowers

Wet hiking

With all this travelling sooner or later it becomes time to stop and refill the cruising kitty. Lyza was the first one out, returning to Texas to work for a few months.  I was the next one out, flying to California to work with a friend for nearly 6 months and do a few delivery jobs.  Kris worked locally at The Harbor Resort (the landscaping there is his handiwork) and Surinat.  When Lyza returned they put Nomad on a mooring after untangling her anchor chain from a tree picked up anchoring behind the grocery store.  Then they set off to explore South America. Another nautical wanderer, Luca, stayed onboard until the end of the year. Nomad stayed alone on a mooring for four more months until I returned. That much time in the tropics did not hurt anything that a good cleaning didn’t cure. Mold and mildew inside and out, mushrooms growing in the bamboo and sails, bright orange fungus growing out of the oars, black and green slime on the deck and lines and spider nests all over inside.

Within a few weeks of returning, I sourced some bottom paint and made arrangements at Cevihas shipyard to haul out Nomad for a much need bottom job.  At thirteen days, it was the quickest  haul out I have ever done, but it was quite a challenge.  Complicating things was the weather…it was rainy season again. The first time it stopped raining in the evening, I set up worklights and started painting. The security guard promptly came to visit and said that it was forbidden to work after 1800. I had to get special permission from the yard manager to work at night, explaining that I had to paint whenever the rain stopped.  When I went to Cevihas to check them out they assured they had 110 volt electricity and showed me where they would put Nomad, right next to the building close by the water and electric.  When I arrived, it didn’t work out quite that way. The spot I was supposed to use was still occupied, so Nomad was placed on the other side of the yard. With all the hoses I could borrow connected to mine, I was able to get water to the boat to scrub down the bottom. This was done by hand with scrubbing pads as the promised pressure washer never arrived.    I am not sure why, but their 110 volt electricity would not run any of my tools, so all sanding and grinding was done on inverter power.  Understandably, the wind generator and solar panels could not keep up with that kind of use, so the solution was to run that long collection of hoses to the water spigot  and hook it up to the water inlet for the generator so I could run it to recharge the batteries.  This required standing watch near the spigot so nobody would take the hose off to get a drink! Eventually, I did succeed at getting another through hull welded in and two coats of paint on the bottom and topsides. It was a relief to get back in the water as they did not have any of the right jackstands available and the short ones used would shift and require adjustments during some of the heavier squalls.
Cevihas at low tide. Hauling and launching is only possible at high tide.

Almost done painting

Finishing in the shipyard quickly worked well. Shortly after returning to Domburg, another delivery come was ready,  so Nomad went back onto a mooring and I flew to the USA for one more job. Upon returning again , fresh provisions were stored.  On  9 July, one year and three weeks after arriving in Suriname, Nomad set sail for Newfoundland, Canada.

Cruising Notes:
Entry formalities are laid back, you need to go Paramaribo and visit MAS, and get a tourist visa from Immigration, directions are available at the Harbor Resort.This needs to be done within two or three days of arriving.  Reporting for another stamp at the tourist police (Vreemdelingendienst) monthly is required. If you want to stay longer than 90 days, it is quite acceptable to rent a car and drive to Albina, clear out and take a water taxi or the ferry across to clear in and out of French Guyana and return to re-enter Suriname. Departing by boat, get an exit stamp from Immigration and call MAS on the vhf radio when going by Paramaribo. If you leave and return by airplane, take you your ships papers with you when going in for you thirty day stamp, they will enquire as to your onward ticket when the see the airport entry stamp.

Anchoring:  Behind the red roofed grocery store is good, but beware  of trees on the bottom; this is reportedly the the site  of an old sawmill. Show an anchor light, anchored or on a mooring. Large ships pass close by the moorings  and small unlit sailboats on the river are nearly invisible on a dark moonless night.  Anchoring here requires special care due to swift currents and occasional floating islands drifting by.  Anchoring here requires that you keep your entire swinging circle clear of other vessels as the vagaries of wind and current are unpredictable; it is not unusual for boats to be facing each other or your anchor to be behind you! The current switches direction with every tide, the ebb is noticeably stronger.
Small random floating island drifting on the river

Tree hauled upin the anchor chain by Lyza and Kris when moving to the mooring.

Navigation:  Plan your movements with the tide, currents are normally 2-4 knots. Visibility can be greatly reduced in frequent heavy rains.

Diesel fuel can be jugged from nearby service stations or make arrangements with the nearby fishing boat company.

Propane cans are refilled at Ingas, Euros and USD happily accepted here. Telephone 482255. They will also pick up and deliver for a small charge.

Money: The large red roofed grocery store will happily take Euros or USD for a reasonable exchange rate. There is an ATM machine next to the gas station. It is not advisable to change a large sum unless you need it because of the rapidly changing exchange rate.

Taxi/car rental is quite reasonable.  Ritchie  handles both, and his drivers will reliably pick you up and drop you off at the airport on time. Mr. Harry is a retired gentleman that also provides a taxi service. Their numbers are available at the Harbor Resort.

Language: Dutch and Sirnan Tongo are the official languages, and English is widely spoken as well.
Local small craft in Paramaribo.

Church in Paramaribo, built entirely with wood.

Historic homes.

Along the Waterkant, Paramaribo.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

A brief taste of the Pacific Ocean

 This blog is about Nomad's travels, but the nomad on Nomad does tend to wander about. I was working  my through the project list  on Nomad  this summer when I received a message from a friend asking me to deliver his boat from Baja MX to San Francisco CA. Not a pleasant ride in the best of weather, central California is 1000+ miles from Mexico straight into the prevailing NW winds .  Natasha is not an unfamiliar boat, I helped sail her to San Francisco the year before Nomad was purchased and have spent some time on her over the years  while visiting. This is not like my usual commercial delivery jobs, there was time for play and hanging out with friends before heading north.
Anchorage at Isla San Francisco
 After checking out the boat and getting some provisions onboard, we picked up another friend and set off for a week's sail in the Sea of Cortez, visiting Isla San Francisco and Isla Perdita. Both islands had magnificent hiking and bouldering as well as the usual clear warm water swimming. It was really nice to be back in the desert again, even if only for a short time. Play time was over all to soon and it was time to return to LaPaz to provision the boat for the long journey north.
Hiking on Isla San Francisco
 Within sight of LaPaz the electric auto pilot failed , leaving me only with the windvane  to steer the boat. Although the windvane is my preferred method of staying on course, it is of no use when motoring through calms. After clearing out of Mexico in LaPaz, I had the best sailing of the trip on the trip with brisk northerly winds over the stern pushing Natasha along towards Cabo San Lucas at speeds occasionally reaching nine knots.  I put her to anchor at Bahia Los Frailes for two days to get somethings sorted out and try to stop some leaks in preparation for the long beat to windward after rounding the bottom of the Baja penisula. The weather had settled while I was anchored and thre trip around the cape was done under power in a flat calm.
Looking south from a cave on Isla Perdita

Hiking to the top of Isla Perdita would be no fun in the rain

Natasha sailing in the Sea of Cortez
 The trip north went as expected with a few gales, and calms during which Natasha was driven under power straight north, though most of the ride was just a long beat to windward.
The usual view heading north
 They voyage from LaPaz was 2165 miles over 25 days from departing LaPaz to arriving at her home dock in Berkeley at my usual arrival time of midnight.
Some sunrises were stunning in the south

There was some good boulder climbing to the top of Isla Perdita

Hiking would be a misnomer here, there was no flat place to walk on the island except the beach