Guadaloupe was a very short stop. After a late morning nap we gathered ourselves together and prepared for the next leg of the trip leaving just a few hours later for Dominica.
Portsmouth in Dominica treated us well for the next few days. Liquid sunshine glistened on our skin and we enjoyed the quiet anchorage.
Most of the beach bars and restaurants were closed because it was so late in the season. Luckily, one very small local bar called Monty’s was open and serving the fresh catch of the day. If you ever visit Dominica, be sure to find this hidden gem in the northern most corner of Portsmouth, marked by a small rock jetty.
After a bad incident a few years back, several of the locals have gotten together to form what is called the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security (P.A.Y.S) – a group of trained and certified locals that patrol the harbor 24/7 from November through May. We were told that even if you can’t see them, they are watching. We felt very safe. These guys also double as tour guides each with their own flair.
For our first time in Dominica, Titus became “our guy,” representing the Lawrence of Arabia group of boat boys (also part of the P.A.Y.S. association. We took a wonderful tour up the Indian River with him (stay tuned for pics in the next post) and he even took us out on a private tour to all the best local spearfishing spots!
Foreigners are not allowed to spearfish in Dominica, unless accompanied by a local. Titus was just doing us a favor by taking us out on his boat, but he was pleasantly surprised when Peter slayed one Lionfish after another in just a short two-hour period.
Peter got two in one shot on his first kill!
He carefully handed the spear up to Titus where he clubbed the two monsters and then removed the spear tip, sliding them off the end of the spear into his boat.
We ended up with at least 10 large Lionfish and shared half the catch with Titus. Five Lionfish provided a decent size meal for two people.
Here are two videos we managed to capture on our iPhone 5 in an Otterbox Preserver case:
Peter was happy to get some spearfishing in while doing his part to help eliminate this terribly invasive species. For more information on this serious Lionfish problem click <HERE>.
Have you ever tasted Lionfish before? What did you think?
Sailing from one end of Virgin Gorda to the other was a breeze. On June 24th we anchored in front of Spanish Town and got settled for the night.
The following day marked 30 days we had spent in BVI. Our mission was to visit the Customs and Immigration office to check out. We were misinformed about the location for checking out and found ourselves at the office up the hill which happens to be the place to go only for extending visas. The officials kindly informed us at 3pm that they were closed for the day and we would have to visit the Customs office near the Port Authority back down by our boat the next day. Go figure.
The next morning Peter and I dinghied back to shore and hiked across the field adjacent to the Marina to reach the Customs office. We brought our cruising permit, Certificate of Documentation, passports and money. Expecting to be hit hard for taxes and fees in a country that thrives on the Charter Boat Industry, we were pleasantly surprised to only be charged .75 cents for administration fees. It was even more strange since we had to visit three different windows with three different staff members to complete the transaction. One person could have done in two minutes what it took three people to do in 20.
Before this experience we had heard that various offices around BVI charge different rates for checking out of the country. Some are as high as $20. We heard Gun Creek was only $1.75 but it wasn’t convenient for us to check out of there since they didn’t have a decent grocery store or propane filling station. We took our chances with Spanish Town and everything worked out great.
The officials here did make sure to inform us, however, that our cruising permit had in fact only been valid for one week – not the 30 days we had thought. It wasn’t a terribly big deal and they waved us away after we told them it was our first time in BVI. They warned us for next time to notify the officials upon entry if we plan on staying longer than one week. NOTED!
On June 26th, the day had finally come to say “Goodbye BVI” and “Adios to Jost”. Already late in the season we still had a long way to go before reaching Grenada where we would be spending Hurricane Season below 12-degrees latitude. If you’re interested on why a lot of Caribbean cruisers choose to spend Hurricane Season in Grenada, take a look at this fun little tool from NOAA: Historical Hurricane Tracks.
Next up… St. Eustatius! We’re currently finishing up projects in Grenada as Hurricane Season comes to an end :)
When we arrived at Brown’s Marina in Bimini Thursday 2.6.14 at dusk, we hooked up to shore power after Bob and Ellen so kindly let us borrow their 50 amp connector. Our power hookup at our slip wasn’t working so we had to wait until the next morning to let the marina know we needed to use power from another slip. No biggie. We didn’t bother filling up water or fuel here but we charged up our batteries and laptops and phones. We had nice hot showers on shore and found a few cockroaches in the bathrooms behind the door. We made sure none caught a ride back to the boat in our shower bags.
The guy in the slip next to us had underwater lights and he would turn them on at night. It was crazy to see how many huge fish were underneath the boat all the time. We saw monster tarpon, tiger sharks, nurse sharks, starfish, needle fish, manta rays, eagle rays… a ton of sea creatures!!
The next day (Friday 2.7.14) we finally got to see how beautiful it was here in Bimini.
There was a nice sandy manmade beach area next to the docks.
The dockmasters told us about the 8′ bull sharks that come feed when the fishermen clean their fish twice a day. Scary! Peter managed to snag a photo. It doesn’t look like it here but it was huge!
I got to meet LeeAnn Toth (another fellow WWS member)! She was just a few slips down at Brown’s. Erica & Jordan from the blog, Seadoodle, were just one dock over at Weech’s. Erica is also a member of WWS. How cool is that?? Four of us (including Ellen and myself) all in one tiny place! And from what I hear, there were several other waves of fellow WWSers that came through just before us.
Conch is all over the place here. The shells litter the whole area. It’s hard to clean but actually tastes pretty good!
Customs was a breeze for Peter. He walked over to Customs and Immigration in the morning and paid our fees for the cruising permit. Since our boat is over 35′ the cost is $300. They did ask about the dogs and it was just as everyone told me it would be. All they wanted to see was the Bahamas Permit we had applied for before leaving Florida. They didn’t ask to see the International Heath Certificates at all. Good thing because we weren’t able to get one of the vaccines that they require. The vaccine for Coronavirus is just not available anymore in most places in the US although it’s a requirement for entry into the Bahamas. Our vet placed a big note on our documentation explaining this so it was even better that they didn’t care to see any other documents except for the ones they issued themselves. When Peter got back to the boat we took down the quarantine flag. We’re official now!!
Our boat came equipped with a standard orange plastic 12 gauge flare gun, a big-daddy metal 25mm flare gun, a distress signal flag, a bunch of expired flares and an orange container mounted behind the ladder at our forward companionway.
Unfortunately the 12 gauge launcher that the previous owner left for us is not fully operational and qualifies for replacement. There was a large recall on Olin 12 gauge launchers years ago for flare guns that don’t open properly. When you go to load it, you can’t get the flare into the gun. Peter is able to pull it open just enough to get one round in there so we decided to leave that launcher loaded. We’ve heard from quite a few cruisers that it’s good practice to have several flare guns stashed around the boat for quick access in the event that any dangerous characters are approaching your boat and you want to draw attention to yourself. Our safety from pirates is another topic all together, but as it relates to flare guns, we’ll keep this defective one as a backup weapon and distress signal :) We attempted to send the defective launcher in for replacement but the U.S. Post Office won’t let you just put it in an envelope and mail it off. The Post Office, wanted us to declare it as a weapon and it could only be placed in a box and wrapped carefully with a lot of bubble wrap. They of course had boxes and bubble wrap available for purchase but at a ridiculous price. The line was getting longer and it was more of a hassle than it was worth. Plus, we don’t plan on staying in the U.S. very much longer and who knows how long it would take for them to send us a replacement. Those recall departments don’t exactly put a priority on giving you free products.
We ended up buying another 12 gauge launcher at the used marine store along with a few more super cheap expired flares. Even though they’re expired, it’s better to have extras in case we are ever truly in need. If we run out of the ‘current’ flares, then we can at least try the expired ones instead of being bummed out that we don’t have any more flares.
I had a hard time finding a clear and concise official description of what the U.S. Coast Guard requires us to carry for visual distress signals. From what I gather, there are lots of different combinations of flares that will satisfy the U.S. Coast Guard requirements but the easiest and most simple choice for us was carrying a minimum of three (3) day/night handheld red signal flares. We ordered a 4-pack of day/night handheld red signal flares and a 4-pack of 12 gauge aerial signal flares from West Marine on Black Friday and got 10% off :)
Now a little bit about the 25mm launcher…
It’s made of aluminum and feels more like a real pistol than the little 12 gauge launchers. There is a removable insert that goes into the barrel which allows you to fire 25mm shells or 12 gauge depending on your situation. If we are far out at sea I would much rather have the 25mm flares shooting up as high as we can get them! Another benefit of having an aluminum flare gun is that it will last much longer than the plastic ones. I’m not sure how many rounds a plastic gun will fire but I can’t imagine its good for very many.
It’s even harder to find out what to do with your flares once they have expired. There is not a standardized procedure for properly disposing of or recycling expired flares. Some local law enforcement and fire departments will not take expired flares off your hands. Some will. I’ve also heard of some West Marine stores taking them back. Sometimes a local Coast Guard auxiliary might take them in for training purposes, but again you would need to call your local chapter to verify this. Some organizations that used to take them in, don’t anymore. It all depends.
Some people decide to shoot them off on holidays like New Years Eve and 4th of July to create the least annoyance by local law enforcement and rescue teams when there are typically a lot of fireworks going off all over the place. We’ve been told that some expired flares still work just fine, but Peter and I wondered just how well they work…
Two nights ago on New Years Eve, “Pistol Pete” decided to try out the 25mm launcher instead of going out to buy fireworks. The only three 25mm flares we had in our supply expired in 1986!! We grabbed one of those and one of the expired 12 gauge shells and set out to a safe spot. Flares are definitely not something to mess around with and extreme caution MUST be used. It’s illegal to shoot off flares OVER WATER if it’s not an emergency situation so we went to an empty parking lot instead :) Many people might debate this and we’ve seen plenty disagree, but I read on USCG documents that its only illegal if you are shooting them over water in a non-emergency situation. Of course it’s always best to check with your local law enforcement.
We learned some very important lessons about what happens when you use expired flares. BOTH of the shells we tried DID NOT function properly. We tried the 12 gauge insert first. There was a minor flash at the gun when the shot went off with no aerial signal at all. It was pretty much a dud and had long since expired. The shell expanded when it was fired and got stuck inside the insert:
The 1986 25mm shell also performed badly. There was a huge explosion right as it exited the gun instead of igniting the flare way up in the air. If this had been on the boat it could have caught our sails on fire or severely burned us. You can see in the picture below that there was a lot of burning phosphorus inches from Peter’s hand and it was very hot. A tiny ember floated down and actually got into his eye!! We were able to flush it with water right away and his vision was not affected but it was still scary and VERY dangerous. We decided that if we are ever in a situation where we need to fire an expired flare, we do our best to wear protective eyewear, gloves and to stand as far away as possible from anything that could catch fire. In an emergency situation it may be difficult to grab protective gear in time but we will definitely keep it close by!
Back to the question… “Are expired marine flares still safe?” We’ll leave that up to you to decide :)
Its becoming common knowledge worldwide that trash is a big problem. When we were little, our elementary schools were just starting recycling programs to teach kids about the importance of REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE. Today, more and more business are making a conscious effort to “go green” and make environmentally friendly business decisions. There are industries entirely devoted to sustainable practices to reduce the human impact on our planet.
Once we leave the dock we are going to have to make some serious changes to the way we deal with our trash. There is no garbage man that will cruise up to the side of our boat to collect our trash once a week. There is no back yard to compost our garbage. There is no recycling center to give us a refund on cans and plastic bottles and take them away for us. Many of the islands we will be visiting will have less than ideal dumping areas and some won’t have any at all. So what do we do with it all? Just dump it overboard? No way!! We’ll be storing the items that cannot be dissolved until we get get to a proper disposal area. Check out how long it takes for these items to dissolve in the ocean:
Paper bus ticket: 2-4 weeks
Cotton cloth: 1-5 months
Rope: 3-14 months
Woolen cloth: 1 year
Painted wood: 13 years
Tin can: 13 years
Aluminum can: 200-500 years
Plastic bottle: 450 years
Source: Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association (HELMEPA)
How about glass? I’ve read it can take something like an estimated few million years!! But who knows…
We LOVE the ocean and are choosing to change to a lifestyle that is 99% based on ocean life. We will be sailing, fishing, surfing, beach combing, paddleboarding, and swimming ALL THE TIME. If we can make even a small difference and help protect the ocean environment then we will. We don’t want to see any wildlife like the poor turtle with the deformed shell, or dolphins caught in nets, or other sea creatures washed up on the beach that have died from being trapped in or eating trash. We can only hope that if we respect the sea, it will take care of us in return and help us to continue living this amazing adventure.
We’ve heard of tips like crushing, cutting and reusing our garbage while at sea but we still aren’t sure what the best way is to deal with our trash. God forbid we attract bugs because of failing to rinse something out or put it in a sealed container. Our main trash can in the galley is a plastic can with a lid and foot pedal and lined with a plastic bag. We plan on bringing some big heavy-duty garbage sacks to store other trash that can’t stay inside, but we aren’t sure what to do with it yet. Some cruisers put it in the dinghy when hanging off davits, but we don’t have davits. We will surely dispose of all trash we can on shore when provisioning, but as new cruisers I’m sure we will end up with more trash than we’d like until we get the hang of it ;)
Please let us know what you do with your trash when you know you’ll be gone cruising for a long time! All suggestions are welcome :)
Now for the technical stuff…
Our survey noted that our garbage discharge placard was not up to snuff. It was one of the (get this – only three!!) mandatory fixes we must do to be in regulation. How awesome were our previous owners!? They took such good care of this boat, it was amazing how it all came together and how we found the perfect boat at the right time. The other two mandatory survey items to resolve were an inoperable navigation light (easy peasy) and an improperly affixed Hull ID Number. Theres a much longer story to why the HIN is wrong, but with some super determined detective skills I got it all figured out. Maybe we’ll post about that another day :) If you have ANY questions about the National Vessel Documentation Center and registering your vessel with the Coast Guard just ask us!! It really is a simple process and if you like to take the DIY route it’s totally possible – even when you don’t have the vessel history. I’m happy to help if anyone needs it.
The Waste Management Plan regulations are ridiculously confusing to say the least. It would be simple if there weren’t updates, but there are all these amendments and new requirements and new language and a bunch of other mumbo jumbo that’s really tough to sift through. I spent all day trying to find which verbiage is the most current and what we need to do for our boat. If you’re interested in the requirements then keep reading :) Don’t forget to leave us a comment and let us know of any good tips for trash management while at sea!
The U.S. Coast Guard published an Interim Rule on February 28, 2013 to implement the revised MARPOL Annex V garbage regulations. The amendments to Annex V entered into force both internationally and domestically on January 1, 2013. The Interim Rule revises 33 C.F.R. Part 151 to reflect U.S. requirements under Annex V and can be found at www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-02-28/pdf/2013-04616.pdf. In addition, the Coast Guard issued a policy letter, Interim Guidance for Revised MARPOL Annex V Implementation (CG-CVC Policy Letter 13-01), to aid U.S. and foreign flag oceangoing vessels in ensuring compliance with the revised Annex V interim guidance to these new amendments.
As a 42′ recreational vessel we are not required to perform record keeping of garbage discharge, but we are required to have a Waste Management Plan IN WRITING, and display a placard (minimum 8″x5″ according to the interim revisions).
This is the Sample Placard for Waste Discharge we will be using as suggested within the USCG Letter in the link above targeting crew and shipboard operations on vessels of more than 7.9 meters (26 feet) in length overall:
DISCHARGE OF ALL GARBAGE INTO THE SEA IS PROHIBITED
EXCEPT WHEN SPECIFICALLY ALLOWED
The MARPOL Convention and U.S. law prohibit the discharge of most garbage from ships. Only the following garbage types are allowed to be discharged and under the specified conditions.
Outside Special Areas designated under MARPOL Annex V:
Comminuted or ground food wastes (capable of passing through a screen with openings no larger than 25 millimeters (1 inch)) may be discharged not less than 3 nautical miles from the nearest land.
Other food wastes may be discharged not less than 12 nautical miles from the nearest land.
Cargo residues classified as not harmful to the marine environment may be discharged not less than 12 nautical miles from the nearest land.
Cleaning agents or additives in cargo hold, deck and external surfaces washing water may be discharged only if they are not harmful to the marine environment.
With the exception of discharging cleaning agents in washing water, the ship must be en route and as far as practicable from the nearest land.
Inside Special Areas designated under MARPOL Annex V:
More stringent discharge requirements apply for the discharges of food wastes and cargo residues; and
Consult Annex V and the shipboard garbage management plan for details.
For all areas of the sea, ships carrying specialized cargos such as live animals or solid bulk cargoes should consult Annex V and the associated Guidelines for the implementation of Annex V.
Discharge of any type of garbage must be entered in the Garbage Record Book.
Violation of these requirements may result in penalties.
The special areas are the Mediterranean Sea area, the Baltic Sea area, the Black Sea area, the Red Sea area, the Gulfs area, the North Sea area, the Antarctic area, and the Wider Caribbean region, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. These are areas which have particular problems because of heavy maritime traffic or low water exchange caused by the land-locked nature of the sea concerned.
The Wider Caribbean region means the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea proper, including the bays and seas therein and that portion of the Atlantic Ocean within the boundary constituted by the 30° N parallel from Florida eastward to 77°30′ W meridian, thence a rhumb line to the intersection of 20° N parallel and 59° W meridian, thence a rhumb line to the intersection of 7°20′ N parallel and 50° W meridian, thence a rhumb line drawn southwesterly to the eastern boundary of French Guiana.
In Summary, the only permitted discharges in Special Areas are:
Food Waste comminuted or ground permitted ≥12 nm, en route
Cargo residues contained in wash water permitted ≥12 nm, en route
Cleaning agents and additives contained in cargo hold wash water permitted ≥12 nm, en route
Cleaning agents and additives in deck and external surfaces wash water permitted