Tag Archives: #koolkat

Island friendliness…

We needed to refuel but the fuel dock on Mayaguana is no more so locals, Marissa and Dalton, drove us to Pirate’s Well to pick up fuel in two 15-gallon drums. We talked, laughed and sang and generally hit it off! We discussed all things island, and it came up that we hadn’t ever tried conch salad. Ok, says Dalton, today is your lucky day!

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OK, out to KK to refuel whilst Dalton and Marissa go fishing, or is that conching?

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We’ve never refueled like this before! Boy, those drums are heavy!

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Four hours later, we’d finished refueling and Marissa and Dalton arrived with all the ingredients to make a conch salad and with two fabulous dog snapper for our din-dins!

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Chop, chop, chop and dice, dice, dice very finely! Intersperse with jokes and a little rum and soda!

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Add some salt, goat pepper (wow, it sure packs a punch!), ground black pepper, capsicum, red and brown onion, and heaps, I mean heaps, of lime juice!

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It was sooooo good! Dalton’s THE MAN! It went down very nicely with an ice cold beer!

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Then he prepared our snapper; first he created a rub with salt, garlic, that fiery little goat pepper and a touch of black pepper.

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He made an incision on the outside and placed in the cut along with inside the fish itself.

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Then he placed sliced capsicum and onions over and inside the fish and wrapped in foil. We refrigerated it for a few hours and then placed on the grill and hmm! Need I say more!

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What a day! Thanks Marissa and Dalton for giving us a taste of island life Mayaguana-style!

Still having a blast, Sue and Mal xx

PS: Conch are everywhere throughout the Caribbean and The Bahamas and is also known as Lambi. We’ve tried it a few times in a stew-style dish but it’s always been a little rubbery. This is what a conch looks like alive….

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Photo courtesy of Google – one type of conch.

Overnighters

Doing an overnight passage is not my favourite part of sailing – well, actually, it’s my least favourite part – arriving at our destination and exploring is much more fun! But, hey, sometimes you’ve just gotta do it!

And, so it was when we had to make the big jump from the DR (Dominican Republic) up to The Turks & Caicos in our quest to reach The Bahamas. 198nm (367kms or 299miles) is the distance we needed to cover to reach Grand Turk in The Turks & Caicos.  At an average speed of 6 knots, we estimated it would take us about 33hrs and if we left at 6am from Samana Bay in the DR, we should reach landfall on or around 3pm a day later in T&C. The weather window indicated the winds were ENE which suited us but they would be light to start, building to about 25knots along the journey. Alright, let’s do it!

Of course, you can’t just throw off the lines and sail into the sunrise! We needed to prepare.  Food first! In case the weather is bad and you don’t want to spend too much time indoors, you need ready-to-go and easy-to-manage food. So I set about preparing: we’d have our normal cereal for brekky, soup with toasted cheese and vegemite sandwiches for lunch, red peppers stuffed with jambalaya  for dinner and apple fritters/pancakes for snacks. We also had fruit, dry biscuits and muesli bars in the ‘snack basket’. It’s amazing how hungry you get in the middle of the night! Oh, and we had a take-away pizza from the restaurant at the marina which went down a treat!

Cheese and vegemite sangers ready to be toasted!
Cheese and vegemite sangers ready to be toasted!

Next, check the Grab Bag. Well, actually, create a Grab Bag! One of those ‘just-in-case’ things; a bag full of everything we might need if we had to abandon the boat, God forbid!

Items in our Grab Bag: water, flares, phone, dinghy key, flare gun, torches, horn, Leatherman, whistle, passports and important documents, wallet.

Next, get our harnesses out. We both wear a harness at night or in bad weather and it is always clipped on, especially if the other person is not in the cockpit.

The Despacho, Shephard, came aboard at 6am and cleared us to leave. It  was still pretty dark and as we traversed the channel we nearly clipped the starboard buoy – it wasn’t lit and Mal couldn’t see it. Not a great start! Motoring along to exit Samana Bay we then proceeded to nudge four fishing buoys tied together – egads, I was meant to be on lookout! Luckily for us they didn’t get tangled in our props and we counted our lucky stars!

As we headed out of the bay our fortunes changed and we were lucky to catch sight of some North Atlantic Humpback whales. Lots of spouts and tails kept us entertained.

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During night passages we aim to have 2hrs on-watch and 2hrs asleep but it never seems to work that way. This time we got into a rhythm of Mal being 1hr off and 2hrs on with me have 2 glorious hours of sleep and being on watch for 1! 🙂 Mal was happy with it and so was I! 🙂

We set the phone stopwatch for 12 minutes. When it goes off whoever is on watch stands up and does a full 360 of the horizon. Ships can come up on you very quickly at night and we know of friends who were hit from behind by a ferry. Fortunately, they’re OK but you have to be very vigilant!

During the night we went past Silver Banks and Navidad Bank which are two shallow areas where the North Atlantic Humpback whales come to mate and calve. On my watch I could smell whales on at least four occasions which was quite scary as we definitely wouldn’t want to hit one! I cranked up the playlist and sang louder so they might hear me. The first few glimpses of sunrise are so uplifting and such a relief after a long, dark and sometimes, cold night.

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Sunrise between DR and The Turks & Caicos

As the morning progressed the winds picked up and Mal put a 2nd reef in the mainsail and pulled in the heady a little. With winds hitting over 25knots we reached 10.2 and the direction made it possible to alter our destination to South Caicos. This meant we’d have an extra 27nm to go but we had plenty of time to arrive in daylight.

9.4 knots well above our anticipated average of 6!
9.4 knots – well above our anticipated average of 6!

We are pretty good at dodging squalls but this one caught us on the edge.  We watched it edge forward very slowly but there was no escaping it.

The squall passed leaving this gorgeous cloud formation. See the  row of puppies….

How many dogs do you see?
How many dogs do you see?

And, then we arrived. We had travelled 225nm (417kms or 340miles) in just under 30 hours, averaging 7.5knots/hour. After a very brief tidy up, we had a well-earned arrival beer and promptly went to bed for some catch up sleep!

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There’s nothing quite like the arrival beer!

We’re both hoping this might have been our last overnighter.

Until next time, take care, Sue and Mal xx

February already?

It’s been a long time between drinks, well blog posts anyway and we’ve got a bit of catching up to do.

We’ve been busy with festive season celebrations, guests and generally just hangin’!

Christmas was in St Barths with friends aboard Kool Kat and we had a blast!

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Plating up is always a hive of activity!
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Slow Waltz (Gwen & Guillaume) with Mal and me in back row, Banyan (Alex & Dave) and Sea Life (Mark, another Aussie) had a great day, and night!

New Year was in Sint Maarten with friends and Aussie guests, Jo and Bob, who had just flown in for their second tour on Kool Kat! Another blast!

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Ready to party….
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Jo and Gwen enjoying the best Margaritas in town!

Then it was off to the Virgin Islands, British, US and Spanish, with Jo and Bob, for three weeks of fun. We snorkelled The Indians, Long Bay, Anegada, Christmas Cove just to name a few; hiked Virgin Gorda; drank Painkillers at Saba Rock, Foxy’s, Pusser’s, The Soggy Dollar, The Greenhouse and many more; played Rummy Tiles ad infinitum and basically had a ball.

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Their fave spot on Kool Kat

We had an awesome time together and felt more homesick than usual as we waved them goodbye at Culebra airport on our last time together on Kool Kat. Hang on, did Jo yell something about The Bahamas…..?

We spent a few more days in  Culebra before heading to Puerto Rico where we stayed in the Palmas del Mar Marina – a bit of luxe whilst we provision for The Bahamas but that’s a whole other story….

Happy sailing, Sue and Mal xx

Our last Caribbean sailing season starts now….

This has always been a 3-year project for us and it is with mixed feelings that we head into our final season of Caribbean cruising. We will miss so many things: the amazing, fabulous, awesome friends we have met along the way; the friendly, relaxed islanders and their enviable way of life; the incredible diversity and adventures each island offers; the warm seas; fresh, cheap coconut water; amazing chicken (jerk, roti or a la St Pierre); rum punches that knock your socks off; and, the memorable sunrises, sunsets, sundowners, green flashes and rainbows all viewed from ours or other boats! I could go on and on but there’s still fun to be had and one more season to do it!

This post is a pictorial representation of our journey over the last few months and covers Grenada to Martinique.

Friends…..

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A dock gathering at Secret Harbour, Grenada

And more friends….

And friends saying farewell to cruising….

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Dalynn and Glenn (S/V Amoray)
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Wendy and Doug (S/V Nahanni River)

Mal and I enjoying the Underwater Sculpture Park at Moliniere Point, Grenada….

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The best Jerk Chicken Shop in Grenada….

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A couple of Mona Monkeys of Grenada

Leaving Grenada behind and heading north….

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And somewhere in between we fitted in a birthday celebration….

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Birthday celebrations at The Slipway Restaurant, Carriacou

Some of our underwater friends between Grenada and Martinique….

Sunrise and sunset….

And, we’ve now made it to the French island of Martinique. Hmmmm, Lorraine beer, baguettes, cheese, wine, pate and so it goes…

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Mal enjoying a 50cl Lorraine beer!

Of course, it’s not all beer and skittles.  There’s been the odd boat job, like replacing the dodger….

But, even when things don’t go the way you think they will, it’s all still fun and we are excited to still be living this life! Well, for a few more months anyway! 🙂

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We hope you follow our last journey through the Eastern Caribbean. So until next time, safe sailing, Sue and Mal xx

Wow – The Virgin Islands

We have been in The Virgin Islands for just on a month now and they are stunning! There are over 100 islands, both large and small, inhabited and uninhabited and they are a cruiser’s delight! It is very quick and easy to sail to other islands or to find a protected bay if needed.

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To the east are the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and to the south and west lie the US Virgin Islands (USVI). There are three larger islands in each country and lots of smaller ones dispersed throughout. We are currently in St Croix (bottom of the map) in the USVI and really enjoying this low-key island.

These photos are just a quick snapshot of our month here. Most islands satisfy our basic needs: good hiking, interesting flora and fauna and fabulous snorkelling.

We started on Virgin Gorda in the BVI:

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A rest from hiking, overlooking Saba Rock.
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Spotted Eagle Ray

We swam with Spotted Eagle Rays who seemed to feed under our boat! They have beautiful markings and the tail is three times longer than the photo shows. Absolutely majestic and not worried about us.

After much toing and froing through Facebook we were able to coordinate a gathering at Norman Island (six boats) so we hightailed it down the Francis Drake Channel, which I liken to a water super highway and reminds us of the Australian Whitsundays. It was great to catch up  with friends and we did some fabulous snorkelling off the back of Izzy R at a rocky outcrop known as The Indians.

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L-R: Gorgeous but crazy girls, Gagi, Sunny & Gwen
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Snorkelling preparations!

Then it was off to Peter Island for a night before heading to Jost Van Dyke Island (JVD). We were lucky to catch up with Jo and Gregg from s/v Serenade and their guests.

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Enjoying the famous BVIs Painkiller at One Love on Jost Van Dyke Island

The next day we walked to the Bubble Pool on JVD. Looks pretty calm…..

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L-R: Gwen, Guillaume & Mal waiting for the bubbles!
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Here they come…..
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Whoa, get me outta here!

Off the next day to Cane Garden Bay on Tortola. A very pretty anchorage and we enjoyed a few quiet days here.

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Very typical of the bays on many Caribbean islands.
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Pristine beach on Sandy Cay

Over to Sandy Cay, near Little Jost Van Dyke. This is a tiny island that Laurence Rockefeller owned and gave to the Brits. It’s home to the biggest collection of hermit crabs I’ve ever seen! It’s also totally untouched and a pleasure to take the short trail around the island.

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We then cleared out of the BVIs and entered the USVIs at St John. What an amazing island. Again, thank goodness for the philanthropy of Laurence Rockefeller. He bought huge tracts of land (almost 2/3rds of the island) and bequeathed it to the US subject to it gaining National Park status. It is now a National Park with fabulous hikes and underwater marine parks. This is where I swam with an endangered hawksbill turtle and saw my first nurse sharks.

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Not worried at all. Green turtles are more skittish but the Hawksbill is much more relaxed.
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Apparently it’s common practice for nurse sharks to sleep under ledges.

As with most Caribbean islands, St John has had many ‘owners’; Spanish, British and Danish. It was built on slavery and had a substantial sugar industry until sugar beet came on the scene and slaves were freed in 1848. There are lots of sugar mill ruins and plantation estates throughout the island which make for very interesting hikes. We often caught a glimpse back in time and got our minds imagining what life may have been like with some of the estates looking very grand. The US purchased the islands from the Danes in 1917 for 25 million in gold.

On St John we stayed at the following bays: Caneel, Maho, Waterlemon, Salt Pond and Little Lameshur. Each had their own beauty with hikes and snorkelling – what more could you ask for?

This cactus is common throughout The Virgin Islands and has a wonderful little fruit very high in Vitamin C. Check out the pics.

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Turks Cap Cactus at Rams Head, Salt Pond Bay, St John.

Then it was a hike to the Petroglyphs, the ruins of the Reef Bay Sugar Mill and the ruins  of the Reef Bay Estate atop a hill. The Petroglyphs are attributed to the Taino Indians and date to between 900-1500AD.

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Fabulous rock walls litter the whole island.
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Rock carvings are attributed to the Taino Indians.

Then it was Mal’s birthday. He had a breakfast fit for a king, enjoyed his present and shared a beautiful meal at night with Gwen & Guillaume.

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Birthday breakfast!
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Birthday present,  a Stand Up Paddleboard, sure comes in handy when doing the rubbish run!

Below are some underwater pics I just love taking!

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Reef Squid
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A Red Hind harassing a Spotted Moray Eel.
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The well camouflaged Peacock Flounder

We are now six as Dalynn and Glen from S/V Amoray have joined Kool Kat and Slow Waltz and we are spending a week or so here in St Croix.

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S/V Amoray
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Gorgeous corals on the Fredriksted pier in St Croix.

This is a month’s worth of news so I’ll stop here. St Croix has heaps of interesting bits and pieces too so that will have to be in the next update!

Throughout Antigua and Barbuda, and now The Virgin Islands, we have been boat buddies with Canadians, Gwen and Guillaume from s/v Slow Waltz. They have been a delight to travel with and we have shared some amazing times together and created incredible memories.

Until next time, stay well, Sue and Mal. xx

What flag is that?

We are asked that question often and our answer is: it’s the Australian Red Ensign. Then people say, but the Aussie flag is blue, why fly a red one? Traditionally the blue flag is used on land and the red one at sea. In reality, we can fly either the blue or the red but, because we are at sea, we choose to fly the flag associated with maritime activity.

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Australian Red Ensign

Then people say, oh, we thought you were British.

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Britain’s Red Ensign

We can see their confusion and, to be honest, there are alot more Brits over here than Aussies.

The very next question seems to be about the New Zealand flag. What is the difference between the Australian and the NZ flags? As I couldn’t remember, and they almost look the same when fluttering behind a boat, I did some research and found the following.

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Australian flag

The Aussie flag, both Red and Blue Ensigns, have the Union Jack, the Commonwealth Star and five stars representing the Southern Cross.

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The New Zealand flag also has the Union Jack but with four stars, each with a red interior, representing the Southern Cross. Interestingly, the New Zealanders may change their flag soon as there has been ongoing debate since 1973 resulting in a promised referendum by the current government. Will it be the very recognisable Silver Fern?

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NZ quasi-national emblem, the Silver Fern

If they get to use the Silver Fern as their national flag, perhaps we could use our Boxing Kangaroo?

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Since we commenced sailing in the Caribbean, we have become more and more interested in flags and, both of us being quite competitive, now regard identification of the flag as a sport. By far, the easiest to recognise are the USA, Canada and France.

When sailing, in addition to flying the flag of the vessel’s home port, it is customary to fly the flag of the country you are visiting, known as a courtesy flag. At the moment we are in Antigua and it is a beautiful one. Many Caribbean countries have modern designs due to their more recent independence which makes them very interesting.

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According to Wikipedia, the rising sun on the flag of Antigua symbolises the dawning of a new era. The colours have different meanings, the black is for the African ancestry of the people, the blue for hope, the red for energy or dynamism of the people. The successive colouring of yellow, blue, and white (from the sun down) also stands for the sun, sea, and sand.

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Kool Kat flying the courtesy flag of Grenada

Upon arrival for the first time in a country and before visiting customs and immigration, it is required that your vessel flies a Quarantine flag. This is yellow, known as a Q flag, and indicates you haven’t yet cleared in. On occasions, if we are sailing from one country and by-passing another, we may pull into a bay to spend the night and fly the Q flag. We can’t go ashore under these circumstances. The next morning we sail away and continue our journey. We did this recently when we pulled into St Lucia for the night, after having left St Vincent and the Grenadines and on our way to Martinique.

Flags get a beating and this is what happens to them after eight months exposure to the elements. Fortunately, we purchased two new ones which my sister, Anne, recently brought with her which we are treating with far more reverence 😉

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A sad state of affairs!
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Our brand new flag! Gorgeous, isn’t she?

Anne very kindly gave us an Australian Aboriginal flag but before flying it we want to check if there are any regulations we need to follow. Hopefully it will be fluttering on Kool Kat soon.

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The flag designer, aboriginal artist Harold Thomas, stated black represents the Aboriginal people of Australia, red represents the red earth, the red ochre and a spiritual relation to the land, and yellow represents the sun, the giver of life and protector.

Happy sailing, Sue & Mal xx