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Sailing with "GRAND PHA" Tiki46 N°2 Part 2 : From St Martin (Caribbean) to the San Blas (Panama)

( Here are the Part 01Part 03 )

From St Martin to Great Inagua

Here is a general map of our track from St Martin to Great Abaco in red and from Great Abaco to Haiti in green :

We left St Martin the Monday 9 December 2013 at 18h30 in order to reach the Necker island passage ( Virgin Islands) at the sunrise. But with a wind ofE-NE  20-25 kts and only one sail reduced of one panel we reached the passage at the end of the night. During the day we saw a few of the Virgins islands and after no lands until Great Inagua.

It was a good, fast and comfortable voyage. We dropped the anchor the Friday 13 December at 07h20 at the beginning of the day  after 630NM at an average speed of 7.3 Kts. We were very happy to have a so beautiful clear sea all around us.

At anchor in front of Matthew town, the only town of Great Inagua :

We anchored near where our map indicated the building of the customs. To make our arrival clearance I landed alone and when I was finishing  to pull up our little light dinghy at the top of the beach a giant black man help me and told me the custom has changed of place, they are now 3 km in the north near the airport.
When I reached the area above the beach the man was sitting in a big 4x4 car and he invited me to drive with him to the customs and immigration offices. It was a very good welcome. without to have requested some help!

Customs and immigration offices :

All the economy of this island is the production of sea salt. There is only a very little harbour which can be very dangerous with westerly swell :

The unique general store :

At 12h00 we sailed heading north to anchor in the north of the Man of War bay (21° 05.13N - 73° 38.77W). We were in front of a beautiful white sand beach anchored between coral heads. We were alone, the terminal pier for the salt company is 2NM in the south.
We enjoyed this stop in swimming, diving and walking.

View from the boat :

From Great Inagua to Long Island (Diamond Salt harbour)

The Saturday 14 December  before the sunset we sailed heading north. In the night at 03h20 we passed the south point of Acklins island but the Castle Island light was not working. Happily the GPS and the electronic map are good.
In the afternoon of the Monday  15 December we dropped the anchor in the SW of Long Island near Diamond Salt Harbour in 2.5m of water. (23° 01.4N - 074° 56.57W).  There was an USA sail-boat at anchor.

Near Diamond Salt Harbour :

From Diamond Salt Harbour to Coakley Cay (West of Great Exuma Cay island)
We have chose to sail in the shallow waters, so each evening we'll have to anchor. We can anchor anywhere, but we prefer to stop near little islands.
We left the anchorage early with no wind in using  one diesel engine  + the  electric engine in the other hull.
At 12h15 the Monday 16 December  we entered the shallow waters via the Pear cay pass along the No Bush cay.
As the depth on the map are not sure we have to be vigilant and to look ahead if there are no coral heads.

No Bush cay :

At the end of the day we were in the south of Coakley Cay we reached just after the sunset to anchor for the night.

From Coakley Cay to Staniel Cay

Bertrand prepares the navigation :

At 06h50 the Tuesday 17 December we continued in motor sailing heading north to Staniel Cay. The depth was between 4m and 1.5m.

Motor sailing with light wind :

We anchored in the middle of the bay  in front 3 little islands near a Canadian sail boat ( 24°10.50N - 76°26.94W ).

Approaching  our anchorage :

Staniel marina :

We were lucky to be here the day the little cargo brough new fresh fruits and vegetables to  the island.

Near the little cargo is a beautiful local sail boat :

From Staniel Cay to Warderick Wells Cays

Early in the morning of Thursday 19 December we sailed to Warderick Wells Cays in the center of the "Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park". We take the buoy No 16 near the Headquarter Park after to have contact the office at the VHF.

When diving we can see beautiful sea life.We visited the little museum and walked on the island which is beautiful but without trees. It's difficult to believe that before the arrival of the European 300 years ago all these low islands were covered by big trees :

From Warderick Wells Cays to Ship Channel Cay

The Friday 20 December 2013 we continue to sail north in shallow water untill Ship Channel Cay  just before the channel ( 24°48.98N 76°49.65W ).
We tried to explore a part of this little island and we enjoyed the sunset :

From Ship Channel Cay to Manjack Cay

The Saturday 21 December we had a good sailing heading north in the shallow water between Eleuthera Island and Providence Island pushing by a 10-12 kts E-SE wind.
After Fleeming Channel we sailed in deep water and we reduced the sail to don't arrive before the sunrise to enter the east Abaco lagoon via the Whale Cay Channel.
During the night we keep only one sail reduced with 5 panels down and have extended our track  to don't arrive too early.

But at the approach of the sunrise the wind drop and we put up all the sails.
We've had a VHF contact with Ann and Nev aboard their Tiki 46 Peace4 and with a little late we entered the lagoon at 08h00 AM.
We were very pleased to meet again them and we enjoyed to take photos of our boats sailing :

We follow them and moored near Manjack Cay where we passed a wonderful time during one month with short sails around. We have been very well welcome by the friends of Ann and Nev who live here.
Here are a few pictures of these time  :

New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay :

New Plymouth the First January 2014 is the Junkanoo Carnival day :

A modified Pahi 42 near New Plymmouth :

A biig breakfast aboard Peace4

Ann at works in her kitchen :

Many thanks to Leslie and Bill for their nice welcome and their help :

During the winter here, the wind make a complete circle in about one week. As the weather seemed not too bad to sail to the south during a few days, the 21 December we left with regret this place to have a night stop in Crosssing Bay on Great Abaco in order to sail out of the lagoon early the tomorrow morning.

From Great Abaco to Royal Island (West of Eleuthera Island)

At 06h30 the Wednesday  22 January 2014 we passed the Whale Channel  and sailed in deep waters around Great Abaco pushed by a good  westerly wind.
We hoped to enter in the shallow waters before the night and happily at 19h00 it was still possible to see the coast we passed between Egg Island and Little Egg Island via a narrow passage and anchored ( 25°30.34N  76°51.89W ) just in the SW of Royal Island with the help of the GPS ( Average speed : 7.2 kts).

At 06h10 the Thursday 23 January we motored until the very narrow short cut between Current Island ad Eleuthera :

After we sailed or motor-sailed according the caprices of the wind. At 15h40 we dropped the anchor near South Palmetto Point : 25°8.88N  76°10.92W  (average speed 4.7 kts).

We had a stop here to search for an organic shop we found after a half hour of walk. As the shop was closed we came back the tomorrow morning.
We were very happy because in the Bahamas the majority of the food is coming from the USA and here we found exellent fruits and vegetables produced localy.

At 11h00 we left unhappily after a too short time this nice place in hoping to reach Great Inagua before the wind changes. The wind was from NE 10-12 kts and after to have passed Powell point at 14h25 the wind increased to 15-20 kts.

At 00h00 the Saturday 25 January we passed the SE point of Cat island and at 15h00 we were abeam the south of Long island. A few minutes before midnight we were at 1.5 NM in the south of Castle Island ( SW of Acklins Island ).
Initially I wanted to have a stop at the Northwest Cay situated alone between Acklins and Great Inagua but as I didn't know if we'll be well protected from the swell we headed to Great Inagua knowing the wind will turn more and more in the nose in vanishing.

The Sunday 26 January  from 04h30 we motor-sailed in alternating the diesel and electric engines until 13h30 and after sailing only until to drop again our anchor in the Man of War bay  (NW of Great Inagua Island) at 16h45.

Just before  to leave Great Abaco I collected at New Plymouth a feather propeller which required 3 weeks to come from Nassau to Green Turtle Cay. Initially I wanted to ground on a beach to install it but due too bad weather I made the job here at anchor in a very clear water with no swell :

Removing the previous propeller :
Installing a new one Kiwiprop which don't work as well as I have expected :

In waiting a good weather forecast to join Haiti we moved closer of  Matthew town

Passing along the long pier where the hills of salt are loaded in cargo boats :

We enjoyed very well this very large and beautiful archipelago with hundreds of islands and good anchorages with beautiful  shallow waters with live coral reefs. We enjoyed so very much their local people and we want to sail back in this beautiful area in a few years.

We wanted to have a look at the multitude of flamingos on the lacs inside the island, but it's far away and we didn't find a car.

In the little harbour of Matthew town this commercial Haitian sail boat was arrived during the night without engine with Haitian passengers on board :

The only other yacht at anchor near Matthew town :

It's difficult to don't love a such landscape and  seascape :

The Thursday  30 January we anchored near the airport to make our departure at the Customs and Immigration offices.

From Great Inagua Island ( Bahamas )  to the Ile a Vaches ( Haiti )

After 7 weeks in the Bahamas, the Friday 31 January 2014 at 06h20 we left Great Inagua Island heading south to Haiti.
The sea was rough with crossed swell but with a good eastern wind of 18-24 kts  Grand PHA sailed easily among the waves at 7-8 kts.
At the end of the night the Saturday 01 February  the  wind dropped at 5 kts and at 04h20 we started the port diesel engine + the starboard electric engine on a flat sea.

At the sunrise we saw the SW point of Haiti :

When approaching the Cap des Irois we saw a few pirogues fishing with only  one crew aboard :

The ground is bared :

During the afternoon the wind came back from SE up to 12-16 kts and with the 2 sails up we motor-sailed against the wind in tacking at 25-30° off the wind.
The night was completely dark when we passed the Pointe Carrefour at the entrance of the Baie des Cayes.
At 22h00 the anchor is dropped  in the Baie a Feret in the NW of the Ile a Vaches at Haiti in front of the village Cay Kok ( 18°6.20N  73°41.73W ).

When finishing to check the good holding of the anchor, one pirogue and one old rubber dinghy arrived  to propose little jobs to do on board and to request old sails, old ropes old batteries etc.

The tomorrow morning we saw the beauty of the landscape around us :

On the right is the little cove of Port Morgan which was a favourite place for the the pirate Morgan :

As spoon as we were on the deck, a lot of pirogues came along our boat to sell fruits and fishes, proposed restaurant in their home, to work on our boat, asking again for sails, ropes, batteries, etc...
We were unable to satisfy each one. We try to share a big light nylon material in a few parts, took a man to clean our stainless gears on board and gave to the kids a lot of little things.

In St Martin we put on board a lot of things for an orphanage here and in the evening a big power pirogue came to collect them.
Among all the people who visited us there was Willeme a young man who hired us a 2G dongle to get Internet and who proposed us to be our guide on the island and to go to the main land in the town Les Cayes to make our clearance.

Willeme our guide who became a friend is very active. He try to help the children and to make a little museum about the island. He lived a part of his childhood aboard the sailing boat of a couple of French people   :

With him we walked to the village of Madame Bernard to visit the orphanage of Sister Flora and to shop on the market.

On the track, there are a lot of big mango-trees which are an important source of food here :

Horses near the market :

The school of the orphanage :

To come back to the Cay Kok village we used a local sailing boat :

Since 3 months Robert is aboard. At first all seemed perfect.
During the Atlantic crossing he wanted  I use no electronic navigation systems, only the compass. Week after week he became more and more closed and lazy, sometime refusing to talk and replying only in moving his head.  I don't know why if he didn't like our life style he didn't leave us in St Martin. In The Bahamas although we have aboard 2 dinghys and 1 kayak he often prefered to stay on board. He said he can't leave us in the Bahamas because he didn't get an USA visa.....
To leave us here in Haiti via a flight he needed a paper to prove he is arrived aboard a sailing boat and me I needed  to declare his departure in the clearance procedure. So with our guide Willeme and two of his friends we take a big pirogue pushed by an old Yamaha engine to cross the bay until the town of Les Cayes on the main land at 6.5 NM in the north.

The landing stage of Les Cayes is only a little beach between the houses  :

Cargo sailing boats at anchor near Les Cayes :

Little pirogues are used to take the passengers and goods from the bigger pirogues to the land :

People waiting for the departure of their pirogue (it's not easy to take photos of the people, because they don't like that):

Inside the shop of a pharmacy :

Marie-Helene was very happy to welcome aboard each day a few children :

To help them, sometime we pay there parents to have a meal in their home :

Or as here when I repaired a solar panel :

Near each house is the family ancestor grave and some pigs :

A little field of local vegetables :

Fisher preparing his net :

Houses in the Cay Kok village :

Compared to the main land, the Ile a Vaches is a little paradise. There are a lot of trees with tropical fruits and some fishes but the government has declared the island as a touristic priority.
Foreign investors want to transform the island in a luxury touristic industry with an airport, a golf, roads, obliging the people living along the beautiful beaches to go out.
During our stay there was manifestations against this project.

With the children we enjoyed to visit the island :

They have already begun to make a road and for that they have had to cut a lot of big mango trees as this one :

This beach is reserved for the customers of an hotel :

Young girls transporting water to their house :

Marie-Helene with the son of Willeme who asked her to be his godmother :

We returned to the town of Les Cayes to get money and to the village of Madame Bernard for shopping.
We enjoyed very much this place and their braves people, but each day you have the pressure of people requesting something and it's frustrating to feel powerless to help them.

We hope when we'll sail back in a few years the nice people of this beautiful island will not become slaves of a touristic industry.

From the Ile a Vaches (Haiti) to the San Blas (Panama)

At 13h15 the Sunday 16 February we left the Ile a Vaches toward the archipelago of the San Blas following a 210°  ground track.
The wind was from 110° 10-15kts. It's not her favourite point of sail but she sailed at 5-6 kts on a cross swell sea.

The night watch was divided in 2 parts : Marie-Helene from 18h00 to 24h00 and Bertrand from 00h00  to 06h00-09h00. It's easier for Marie-Helene and I take extra sleep in the day.
The next days the wind increase a little with always a cross swell. The Tuesday 18 February in checking the rig I noticed something was wrong with the shape of the starboard sail. In looking inside the wing-sail I saw  the 5th wishbone from the bottom was broken just after the wishbone beam situated after the mast.
At first I lowered all the sail using only the port one and the tomorrow I've been abble to take off the broken wishbone from the sail.

Broken wishbone, happily the sail was not damaged :

With a wind increasing to 20-30kts with only the port sail reduced of one panel we sailed at 7-8 kts.
The Thursday 20 February early in the night, as  the wind  decreased when approaching the coast we put the two sails.

It's possible to sail with a missing wishbone :

At 07h15  the 20 February 2014 we dropped the anchor in front of a little hotel near the administration offices of Porvenir ( 09°33.50N  78°57.05W ). Porvenir is a very little island with just a short runway and a few houses.

At anchor in Porvenir

A little plane is landing on the runway of Porvenir :

The San Blas Archipelago

It's only a part of the west San Blas Archipelago where we sailed :

At 10h30 after to get our visas and a cruising permit  in Porvenir we sailed slowly on a flat sea along low islands  with coconuts palms.

In the Cayos Holandes  we rounded a reef on our port hand and entered in a good shallow cove well protected from all the winds where our friends Serges and Martine who owned  in second hand the Tiki46 No3 were waiting our arrival on their catamaran Dislesenisles. As they were living on board their catamaran here since three years, they know very well the area.

  With the dinghy we want to dive around coral heads :

Each week a local shopping  boat visits the anchorages to sell fruits and vegetables. It's very nice because on this little islands we can only buy coconuts :

In an other anchorage of the Cayos Holandes we saw this Narai :

The 22 February we moved with our friends on a new anchorage in the Cayos Holandes in taking photos of our boats :

In the afternoon we saw the Pahi 63 Moana anchoring not very far away from us. We saw this cat in the St Miguel marina in Tenerife Canaries, but  there was nobody  on board :

As this anchorage was not very well protected from the swell, we sailed back to the previous one with Moana.

When we were aboard Moana, a sailing pirogue came to sell beautiful Molas which are made of layers of color clothes(if there are 4 colours it needs for layers} :

We met with pleasure the crew of Moana who was made of Chris the captain and his young son, Nine and her young daughter and a young child from their friends.
When they were in the  Caribbean they met our friends  Cynthia and Jean-Paul on their Tiki 46  Apatiki. But their behaviour has been incomprehensible, they refused to show the inside accommodations of Apatiki and they told to them a lot of negative words about Marie-Helene and me.
They didn't gave us details, but they said their words about us were so bad they have had an opposite reaction and they wanted to meet us!

When we met Cynthia and Jean-Paul for the last time, it was in the Canaries where our two boats has been coupled. At this time we felt them different as if their motivation was more to take a picture of our two boats together than to meet us. Marie-Helene talked about her difficulties when sailing offshore and Cynthia said her to phone or to write if she needs help.

(A few month later, in reading the Mailasail tracking blog of Apatiki, I learnt during their crossing from the Bermudes to the Azores,  Cynthia at a moment loosed completely the notion of time and she didn't understand why she was sailing and Jean-Paul wrote he will assume alone the handle of Apatiki until the arrival.

I wrote them a letter to know if she was better and to know why we have no news from them. No immediate reply but in the next days the Mailasail tracking blog of Apatiki  has been deleted and all the blogs  of Jean-Paul with comments  on Wharrambuilders  has been deleted so! After he published a new blog to advertise the sale of Apatiki.

But what a surprise when, the birthday of Marie-Helene, Cynthia sent us an email named 'Explanations'  saying they decided to stop all communications with us because they were tired with our couple stories and to don't reply to this letter.! )

We were very surprised and disappointed by a such behaviour. To build and to sail a boat it is not only a technical adventure, it's at first a human adventure with all its difficulties and pleasures and at my eyes it is not indecent but natural to  describe how  since the beginning of the building until today our couple has been able to survive).

The next days at first I repaired the broken wishbone with some pieces of stainless steel given by Chris in glueing  them inside the tubes and after I cut off from all the wishbones the parallel guides welded on the wishbones near the mast and added  plastic tubes on the nose to don't damage the sails :

New view inside the sails after to have cuted the parallel guides :

The Friday 28 February we left Moana  and  in company of the catamaran Dislesenisles we sailed near the Uchutupu Dummat island in the Cayos Chichime for the night (09°35.03N 78°52.61W ).

The Saturday 01 March 2014 at 07h00 we left the Cayos Chichime to sail alongside of the Panama cost until the nearest good anchorage from Colon to shop.

All the coast until the sea level is covered with trees :

With a wind of NE 10-12 kts we sailed until the marina of Green Turtle where we stopped for the night and bought diesel. The entrance is invisible, when coming from the east it is ust after the Punta Macolla ( 09°35.97N  79°26.46W0 ) and the narrow entrance can be dangerous with big swell.

In the Green Turtle marina :

The tomorrow  Sunday 02 March we sailed without stop until Puerto Bello. 

Along this coat a  a video of Grand PHA sailing  has been made by Serges and Martine.

At the entrance of the bay of Puerto Bello was a little Wharram catamaran :

The bay of Puerto Bello is very muddy  at some places and after a lot of tries on a bad place we found a good ground to fix our anchor ( 09°35.57N  79°39.90W).

During the manoeuvre we were surprised and happy to meet again the French junk sail boat "Lakatao" we met the first time in Brest at the sea festival in Jully 2008! They were here to prepare the passage of Panama :

The anchorage of Puerto Bello, view from the old castle :

North side of the anchorage :

The Monday morning  03 March with Serges and Martine we took an old bus to drive  until a big commercial centre  near Colon :

If you buy a minimum of 500USD, a supermarket offers to drive you back. So in a little Mitsubishi van we were 9 peoples with all our shopping!

The Tuesday 04 Mars 2014 we have had to tack until the anchorage near the Isla Linton.

In searching a place at the end of the afternoon with no clear water we touched a reef at low speed.
With the help of two local tourist pirogues and our own engines in reverse we came back in deep water. Happily no damages on the hulls.

The tomorrow with our dinghies we visited Panamarina  at 2 NM from  linton anchorage via the mangrove under a green tunnel :

Panamarina :

 On the anchorage of Linton we met the crew of Tanoa, a Pahi 42 :

 View of the anchorage from the Isla Linton :

A monkey on the Isla Linton

The wind being better to sail back to the San Blas, the Friday  7 March we sailed and motor sailed with Dislesenisles to anchor in the SE of the Cayos Chichime in the San Blas.

The tomorrow Saturday 8 March 2014 we sailed to our good anchorage of Cayos Holandes to finish to check the port rig. In approaching the little cove we were under electric pilot and I made the mistake to drop the sails at the last moment. During the manoeuvre we touched a coral head. I immediately turn to the starboard and we recovered quicly the good track. In diving I saw the port skeg was slightly damaged but it was only a part of the glass cloth.

End of the Part 2

For more informations, you can follow the wake of Grand PHA via this tracking blog 

Part 01 : From Brest (France) to St Martin (Carribean)

Part 03 : From the San Blas (Panama) to ?

Bertrand and Marie-Helene Fercot

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Comment by Luis Sa Figueiredo on February 28, 2016 at 2:54pm

Very nice in did. 


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