Rod Heikell's very informal site on sailing around bits of the world and an eclectic collection of things nautical or nearly so.


Skylax blog CARIBBEAN 2008


This edited blog covers our cruising in the CARIBBEAN in 2008. In truth it only covers Antigua and Sint Maarten as we returned to work in the UK after we had arrived. This was my fourth time in the Caribbean, or I should say the Lesser Antilles. Lu and I got married in Antigua in 2004 - a great knees up with cruising boats coming from all over to the party at OJ's on the beach. I have edited out some items of the general blog and put them on other more directly related pages. The blog runs chronologically backwards, as it were, with the latest entries for 2008 first and the earliest last.

Skylax position reports

We will be posting position reports with Yotreps from September 2007 WHEN WE ARE ON PASSAGE. Position reports can be found at Yotreps from either THE REPORTING BOAT LIST or you can download the YOTREPS POSITION REPORTER and locate our track on the world map.

Yotreps  has a side bar menu with the reporting boat list and also a button to download the Yotreps Reporter (reporter software) and instructions on how to use it. The software is free.

You can find Skylax either by our call sign or name:


Call sign   MGAY


Towards Panama

St Maarten: Simpson Baii and the lagoon


To get into the lagoon you need to go through the lifting bridge. The opening times (3 a day in and out) are in the office near the bridge where you need to clear in anyway. The cost for small boats up to 50ft is $30 a time. Boats up to 40ft pay $20 per week to be in the lagoon (irrespective of any other marina fees you may be paying) and over 40ft pay $30 per week. We stayed at Lagoon Marina shown on the map though the channel to it is not obvious and the buoyage confusing to say the least - the red track shows the approximate position of the channel. Bernard from the marina will come out to show deeper draught yachts the way although we never had less than 3m until up to Lagoon Marina where there were some 2.7m patches.

We also anchored off in the bay shown as 'Anchorage (uneven - with care) though you need to be careful of shallows everywhere. It's quiter than the anchorage further out and close to the chandlers at Island Water World and Budget - definitely the biggest chandlery selection in the Caribbean and duty free.

For more annotated Google Earth maps go here



For more on Practical Boat Stuff start here

Spare RIBs


I hate all those morons who swish through crowded anchorages at anything over 10 knots and most of them are off yachts at anchor. Some are locals out for the day, but most are cruising yachties who know there are other slower craft pottering around, maybe being rowed, that there are people swimming off the back of boats or snorkelling, that there are often kids aroundÖ and yet they zoom through the anchorage at full whack right up to the dinghy dock or the beach. So Iím not a fan of RIBs.


But I have to fess up. A RIB sits nice and high out of the water. It's those fat tubes and fibreglass bottom. Itís a good load carrier. It performs better under power, even with a small outboard, than a straight inflatable. So Iíve gone and done it, in the interests of dryer bums when we go ashore and stability when Iím bringing four jerry-cans of water and the shopping back to the boat. Just a small 8í6Ē RIB you understand, still with the same old 5Ĺ hp Merc on the back so it doesnít go all that fast, and itís rubbish to row. But Iím a convert in these tropical waters and nahh, I donít think Iím going to get an 8hp so it will plane, and I donít zoom around and create wash for other small craft or try to carve up swimmers, though 8 hp might just do the trick.

So with all the other junk we have below there is now the old Avon dinghy - it rows a lot better and if the new sexy RIB gets stolen, we still have the old trusty Avon.


I hate it when the hypocrisy shines right out of where it oughtnít.

 Like the name?

And a whole nest of RIBS in St Maarten at Shrimpy's Sunday bash



30-03-08 Sint Maarten in the lagoon


Years ago in more penurious days I used to make my own yoghurt using skimmed milk powder and a wide-mouthed vacuum flask. Somewhere along the way the flask broke and I reverted to commercially made yoghurt in those deceiving little tubs. Apart from Greek yoghurt, most of this stuff is a sugar-fest and itís only when you go back to making your own yoghurt that you realise how much sugar, artificial sweetener and other compounds from some organic chemistry lab go into the commercially made yoghurts. I know this because we, actually Lu, have started making our own yoghurt on board. From Easy-Yo we got the wide-mouthed thermos flask and the plastic screw-cap jar that fits inside. Easy-Yo make packets of dried milk powder with the yoghurt culture (good bacteria! including acidopholus) mixed in and you just mix this up with some cold water, boil a kettle of water and fill to the top of the baffle in the thermos flask and stick it somewhere warm (we put it in a shelf above the engine though almost anywhere would be warm enough in the Tropics or Mediterranean summer). It will make yoghurt overnight and then you just stick the screw-top jar in the fridge: viola, one litre of yoghurt.

You donít need to keep using the EasiYo packets of dried milk and bacteria culture. Once you have one batch just mix up dried milk powder and add a couple of tablespoons of the old culture. Keep some back-up packets in case your culture gets a bit old or you have a no-yoghurt period and need to start it all over again, though you can also do this with any live yoghurts from the grocery shop though not with some of the sterilised sugar solutions passing themselves off as yoghurt.





Apart from yoghurt with honey and cereal for breakfast you can also use it for:

  • Yoghurt dressing. A cup of yoghurt, two tablespoons of olive oil, a tablespoon of honey, salt and pepper, two tablespoons of lemon juice, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard or less of the powdered kind, a squirt of balsamic and mix it all up. Experiment with other things like a bit of sesame oil, chopped parsley/coriander/basil, white wine vinegar, a squirt of hot chilli sauce, etc. Make it upÖ
  • Stir some yoghurt into curries, stews, ragu, etc. in place of cream.
  • Use on desserts in place of cream.
  • And apparently EasiYo do an ice-cream pack though I havenít tried it.



For more info go to EasiYo

 Step 1  Step 2  
Half-fill the yogurt jar with
cold drinking water.
Thoroughly mix in the
contents of the sachet
(add 2 to 4 tablespoons
sugar if desired).
Top up with more cold water.
Replace lid and re-shake.
Push the baffle down
inside the Yogurt Maker
as far as it will go.
Pour boiling water into the
Yogurt Maker to the top
of the red baffle only.
(see Diagram A below)
Place jar inside.
The boiling water will rise
up around the base of
the jar.
(see Diagram B below)
Put lid on Yogurt Maker.
Leave a minimum of
6 to 8 hours or overnight
until set.
Then store the yogurt jar in
the refrigerator (4įC).
If you forget, and leave the jar inside the Yogurt Maker for longer, up to 24 hours, it will not
spoil the product. Just take the yogurt jar out and store it in the refrigerator (4įC).
Diagram A

Diagram B







For more on food on board go to Gourmets and Gourmands


Skylax and the curious Humpback


Humpback just off Skylax!



Skylax en route from Antigua to St Barts on 24th March.

Lu had just gone down below for a bit of kip and I was reclining in the back of the cockpit while Ďmoleí the autopilot steered us at 7Ĺ knots towards St Barts. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something in the water off the starboard quarter, something big. Then Humphrey the whale blew a bushy spout and I nearly had a heart attack. I called Lu up who emerged rubbing sleepy eyes as I gabbled: whale, bloody big, right near the boat, bloody bloody big. We looked around, nothing to be seen and Lu not best amused from being woken from her slumber. She looked accusingly at me, the sort of look that says Ďtoo much imaginationí; and then Humphrey surfaced and blew again just off the back of the boat.

He swam alongside, under the boat, off the back for over an hour. Humphrey was a humpback whale, he was so close we could get the whale book out and make a positive identification. He was around 10-11 metres (33-38 ft) so he was a junior specimen. But at one point mum or dad came to check him and us out. The parent humpback was 15-16 metres (around 50 plus feet, bigger than Skylax) and that is really really big. In all my years of sailing Iíve never had this size whale accompany the boat. Sperm whale pass nearby Ė yes. Lots and lots of pilot whales. Killer whale. And lots of whales of some sort in the distance. But a humpback swimming alongside Ė never until now.







Back in Antigua

Skylax is back in the water after antifouling (by Sailor, Bob Marley & nephew Wayne) and polishing. The sails, canvas, liferaft and all the other bits we had put away are out and in place. Soon we will head off for Barbuda and a couple of days R&R, but for now we are still getting Skylax ship-shape and ready for sea, well at least ready for a little bimble up island to Sint Maarten.

When I put the new chartplotter behind the wheel in the cockpit I little realised how easily these new daylight viewable screens are scratched. The handbook tells you to carefully clean it with a lint-free cloth, but even being careful, in six months it has accumulated scratches and bald spots all over it. What I should have done is invested in a protective film over the screen. Belatedly I ordered one off Ebay from the USA (cost around $7) and have now put that on, but it would have been much better to protect the screen from the very beginning. So be warned: if you have a lovely new sunlight viewable screen in the cockpit, get some protection for it.


Create a Free Website