We have been closely watching a large storm since it left the African coast last Friday, building in size and strength before turning from depression 97L into Tropical Storm Matthew just as it arrived at the Windward Islands on Tuesday. After causing havoc in almost all the islands in that chain with high winds, rain and storm surge it has continued heading west across the Caribbean Sea and this afternoon was upgraded to Hurricane Matthew packing a nasty 75mph punch whilst it stomps on at 15mph, centred now about 150 miles north east of Curacao.
Since Matthew arrived in the Caribbean the predicted tracks have become more defined, with the GFS and now the European models expecting it to slow down in forward speed and take a sharp turn north some time in the next 72 hours heading for Jamaica, Haiti and eastern Cuba. We have prepared Joy ready for sea just in case this northerly turn does not happen when expected as it would be heading straight for us, so hopefully we will have time to head south to Panama to escape the worst of the winds. But for now we stay put, hoping for our sake that Matthew does what is forecast, but at the same time praying it spares the poor people on these islands further north.
Meanwhile in Providencia we continue with more localised weather, after a week of hot sun and almost zero wind, with a gentle wind reversal, we had three full days of torrential almost non-stop rain and intense thunder and lightning. Luckily it stopped Friday night just in time for our local friend Paul to pick us up on his motorbike (yep, three-up – a ‘susie-sandwich’ experience) as we had been invited to their beautiful home just out of town for the evening. With all the rain their track was very muddy and Paul did really well to get us all up to the house without sliding off! It was a great evening with them both and two of Becky’s friends, both Paul and Becky are great cooks and had prepared some local dishes for us to try including Bonito fish balls and pork in plantain cups. What a treat!
Sadly we have had to change our sailing plans for the next year, on the farm back home we suffered a very bad harvest this summer with unexpectedly low yields due to a very wet June. After a lot of soul searching we had almost come to the decision that we just could not afford to go through the Panama Canal as planned…and then our 11 year old watermaker sprung rather a bad leak. It is a 12 volt desalination system which has a low pressure 12v pump sending water into a hydraulic amplifier increasing the pressure 10 fold without using any additional electrical power. The sea water is then forced through a membrane at around 800psi producing a good quality drinking water by separating it from the brine. The amplifier itself is leaking badly although still usable at the moment. Typically the manufacturer no longer makes or services this old type of amplifier and as it is now built together with the membrane vessel and salinity switch we have to replace this whole section of the unit at a cost of £3,650! This really was the straw that broke the camels back, the decision to put on hold our long awaited Pacific adventure had been made for us. So we will stay in the Caribbean for a while longer at least to recover financially (its not all that bad eh?!) and get this part replaced along with a long list of essentials including new anchor chain, batteries and engine mounts. Well that’s boating!