All Rightey Then.

We ran to Martinique through acres and acres of Sargasso weed.  Didn’t get hung up once.  Seamantha followed us 10 hours later with no problems either.  In Martinique, we rented a car, got provisioned up, and looked forward to staying a week or so.  There were a few attractions that we had missed on our last visits, so we planned a trip to St. Pierre and Mt. Pelee, and one to hike the Jesuit Trail.  The hike was also on John and Paulette’s radar, so we took two cars up the mountain, and spotted one at each end of the hike, as we weren’t sure that we were up for a round-tripper.  Rated at a “7” on a scale of 1 to 10, with an elevation change of a little over 2,000 feet through steaming rain forest seemed rather daunting.  The hike was a bit challenging, but very doable.  It didn’t hurt that the day was cloudy and a little less hot that usual.  At the lowest point, we crossed the Lorraine River on a rope suspension bridge and stopped for a snack before climbing out through the dripping trees in the tropical rain forest.

Another day found Suzanne and I driving up to the North, for a visit to Mt. Pelee, and the town of St. Pierre.  Mt. Pelee is a quiescent volcano which last erupted in 1902.  In May of that year, it was responsible for the instant incineration of around 30,000 people and the total destruction of the village of St. Pierre.  The pyroclastic flow, reaching temperatures in excess of 1,900 degrees F, and charging along at a speed of over of 400 MPH left absolutely no chance for survival, the exceptions being 2 individuals.  One, Louis-Auguste Cyparis, was a prisoner, housed in a tiny stone hut with a door measuring about a foot or two on a side that was situated in the lee of a stone wall.  The other being Leone Campere -Leandre who lived on the outskirts of town.  The Volcano Museum in St. Pierre was worth the visit, with video and static displays. 

More hikes were on the itinerary, but Ahhhh ”The plans of mice and men.” We got a call from back in the States.  Marty’s Dad was very sick, and we felt that we needed to get there as soon as possible.  We called Port Louis Marina in Grenada.  “Yes.  They could squeeze us in earlier.” Changed our flight to Michigan.  Did a “touch and go” in St. Lucia for duty-free fuel, and were tied up in Grenada 2 days later.  Four days to get the Girl “Hurricane ready” and we were off to Michigan.

We got back home to the boat on September 20th.  We didn’t have our bags on board yet, when an old friend reminded us that it was “Chicken Dinner Night” at Whisper Cove.  “Are you guys in?”  Hey, why not?  Quick shower, into our boating uniforms (for me-Carhartt shorts and a Tee shirt), and we were off.

The next week was a blur.  Reacquainting with old pals, going out to dinner, provisioning our larders, routine maintenance and repairs filled our days and evenings.  Unfortunately, one of our fridges had quit while we were gone.  Usually, that’s not a problem, as we empty them before we leave.  However….you may remember that we visited Martinique before flying back to the States.  Needless to say, all of the French goodies that we left had coalesced to form a rather odiferous goo in the bottom of the unit.  Oh, how I love FedEx.  3 days later, I had a new compressor control module in my hand.  That, coupled with a new cooling fan (which I already had on board), made cold work of the old fridge.  It was only…Mmmmh.. a “four expletive” job.  While we were at it, we pulled the other, functional unit and gave it the good vacuuming that it deserved.  So…let’s talk about the defunct WIFI antenna up on the mast.  That was about a “fifty-two expletive” job.  It only took two days and multiple trips up the mast (you know me and heights) to finally give up on the cable that was there, and replace it with a new one which we had brought back from the States.  The router is in the safety of the pilothouse, so the mast, ceiling panels, wire chases all had to be opened up to route the cable from the top of the mast down.  Good times.  It did, however allow us to clean the route along the way.  The Admiral standing by and giving directions while sipping on a pastel, umbrella decorated drink?  Surely you jest.  She was on a “seventy-seven expletive” course of her own, updating charts on 3 computers, then reconfiguring cables so that they would talk to “Otto,”our autopilot.  That stuff is waaaay beyond my pay grade, but I still don’t understand why you can’t just install the upgrades and carry on.  Job security for the Geek Squad, I presume.  Anyhoo…  The impellers and fuel filters are changed (oil and filters changed before we left the Girl).  The watermaker has been re-commissioned.  Everything SEEMED to be working 4x4.

The plan was to head over to Bonaire and do some diving and touring as soon as possible.  Our hurricane insurance be damned.  They want us to stay below twelve-and-a-half degrees North Latitude until November, but Bonaire hasn’t had a hurricane since the early 1800’s.  As beautiful as Grenada is, and as comfortable as we are in the marina with all our Pals, we were feeling the urge to move.  A weather window appeared to be opening starting in the evening of the 2nd, closing on Friday the 5th.  That forecast didn’t change for a week, and several models agreed, so we’re comfortable with its’ accuracy.  Right now, we’re 45 hours out of Grenada, having maintained a course of 271 degrees, True for 44.5 hrs.  Lines are out.  We hooked what looked to be a 50+” Wahoo yesterday, but after taking nearly all of my line, he swam back up under the boat, tangling the line so hopelessly that I had to cut it.  We’ve caught and released a couple of Skipjacks, and a VERY small Tuna.  We had our hearts set on some fish for the freezer, but now we’re not so sure.  Just heard a puff and went out to the bow.  A pod of around twelve dolphins treated us to a good show getting pushed along by our bow wave, all under sunny skies and an 84 degree temperature.  How’d we get so lucky?

-Later

 

Really??  5 months without even a “Hello”?  Okay.  It’s been a busy 5 months.  It’s painful for me to sit and write.  Four of the months were spent back on dirt, and I don’t want to bother you with that mundane stuff.   And……. sometimes I wonder if anyone reads it (even though Google says that we’ve had 700K hits.)

I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast yesterday.  But I’ll try to recap our last few months.

When we left you last, it was upon our arrival in Barbados.  When I dove the boat, there were no remnants of whatever we had been dragging through the night.  Our new bottom paint was a bit the worse for wear, but everything looked good.  Guess that we’ll never know what our uninvited passenger was.  Topsides, we got the Girl scrubbed up after her salty trip.  Retrieval of our cleaning supplies from the lazarette (the storage space under the back deck) revealed that we had taken on a bit of water during our trip over.  Although the laz was dry (it has its’ own bilge pump), there was a salt ring about 8-10” off the sole, and everything stored had a fine salt water mist on it.  Needless to say, everything out, everything rinsed, then everything restowed in the now dry, immaculate lazarette.  All I can say is that there must have been a heckuva lot of water in the cockpit for there to be that much down below.  That is…………if it hadn’t backed up the drains around the hatch…Hmmmmh.  By the way, we discovered that our WIFI amplifier had taken a hike as well.  It was still up on the mast (on its’ apocalypse-proof) mount, just no longer on speaking terms with his router friend down in the pilothouse.   Grrrrr.  Checked the simple stuff.  Up and down the mast a few times and etc.  “This project will wait until we’re back in Grenada for the Summer.”  The dockmaster was nice enough to let me hardwire our spare wireless router into his cable, so we were all set in that regard.

Now the fun stuff.  Port St. Charles marina is very small by anybody’s standards.  It’s set up for mega yachts, with around ten looong docks.  Alizann and Seamantha looked lost side-tied to 100 foot fixed concrete piers.  Barbados is a beautiful island, but doesn’t receive many cruisers, as it’s so hard to get to, being upwind from the Antilles chain.  The marina sits inside a gated community, much like the one that we stayed in at Las Palmas, in Puerto Rico, albeit on a much smaller scale.  Swimming pools and snorkeling in the ocean just a short swim from the boat made it a great base for exploration.

Now, for the adventures, in no particular order.

Suz and I rented a car, as the public transportation is spotty at best, and totally indecipherable to an outsider at worst.  Barbados, although independent, was a British colony, and the only (I believe) Caribbean island that has flown only one flag, as no other European nation was able to wrest it from the Brits.  It also happens to be the only foreign nation that George Washington ever visited, living here for several years in his late teens

We made several excursions to Bridgetown, Barbados’ capital.  There, we toured the garrison and explored some underground tunnels there.  Next, a guided walking tour of the town was in order before visiting Washington House for another guided tour.  Another day was spent watching the thoroughbred races for the first Jewel of the Barbados Triple Crown-run on a grass track.

Being formed by subduction of two tectonic plates, Barbados was pushed up from the ocean floor, creating a limestone, not volcanic, island.  There are many caves.  After taking a trolley tour through Harrison cave, Suz and I decided to return for a personal walking, crawling, swimming scrambling experience with a guide.  Before heading into the depths, we were outfitted with knee and elbow pads as well as hardhats, then asked to army-crawl a few hundred feet to make sure that we were fit enough for the experience.  The tour was incredible, and I would strongly recommend it if you come for a visit.

Another day was devoted to visiting beaches (of which there are many), shoreside caves, and not a few rhum shops and restaurants.  Driving overland between the shores, we took a walking tour of the Portvale Sugar Refinery, the only one on the island.

Nicholas Abbey, a restored sugar plantation is a must-see, with the manor house, cane grinding building, and numerous out buildings available for exploration.  On the way home, we visited Lewis sugar mill, a restored, wind-powered mill.

Suz and I took a tour of Banks Brewery to see the local beer being created.  As it turned out, we were the only two people on the tour, so we got the up close and personal version-very cool.

Remember the Concorde?  Well…during its’ short lifespan, these supersonic passenger jets had scheduled flights to only four airports: Heathrow, Paris, JFK and?  Barbados!  Of course, we had to visit the one on static display at the airport.  With a hangar built around this sleek airship, you are able to walk in, around and under her, while there are numerous interactive displays around the periphery of the building.

Almost forgot this one.  I have Suz, John and Paulette in our rental car on our way to Bridgetown one morning.  Forgot to get gas the night before, so we wheel in to a busy gas station/convenience store joint, wait in line, then fillerup.  I’m walking out of the store after paying, and I’m watching this guy in an old pickup truck backing out of the parking space directly in front of our car.  Surely, he’s going to turn the wheel and head out the driveway.  Nope, he keeps backing up until the truck is stopped by our car as I watch the scenario develop in slow motion.  Are you kidding?  Our rental only has 3,000 miles on it.  Long story short.  In Barbados you gotta wait for the police to arrive before moving the involved vehicles.  Soooo….we’re blocking 2 pumps at this very busy station.  The cop finally arrives and takes both of our statements.  Good to go, right?  Nope.  Can’t leave until both vehicle’s insurance guy comes and takes 18 glossy, full color photos, measures the scene, takes statements, and etc.  Our insurance’s guy was at the other end of the island, so needless to say, we had a wonderful time people watching.

This short synopsis doesn’t do justice to our visit to this beautiful Caribbean nation.  We hiked and drove much of the island, ate local food, and experienced the warm graciousness of her people.  If hurricane season had not been just around the corner, we would have passed our “weather window” and spent much more time here.

But……the wine cellar is empty, and it’s a quick 14-hour cruise to Martinique, where we’ll remedy that problem before heading down island to Alizann’s Summer home in Grenada.

Hopefully, we’ll get back on track with the blogs not too much

-Later

 

Morning, Morning,

We were back in the water on Monday, as promised.  Our pal at Crew’s Inn, Meleena, found room at the Inn for us, and we were in our berth by late afternoon.  The relaunch was not without a little drama, however.  The boys that we had hired to remove/replace the stabilizer wings and bow thruster props didn’t show until 14h00, when we were scheduled to splash at 15h00.  They showed up without the proper tools, but the good news was that we had ‘em.  15h05, and the Travelift was ready.  They picked us up at 15h15, and we were splashed shortly thereafter.  Really?

After we went back in the water, we were basically looking for a weather window for our passage up to Barbados.  We took a tour to Pitch Lake with one of Jesse’s guys.  Pitch Lake is the largest of three asphalt lakes on the planet, the others being in Venezuela and California.  The lake is 75 meters deep and is said to contain over 100 million tons of asphalt.  Asphalt has been mined here for a few hundred years and was used in paving roads in much of the northeast of the United States.  Asphalt is still strip-mined here today and exported overseas.  The machinery doing the mining must be kept in constant motion, or it will sink and be trapped.  Sections of the lake are mined in succession, to approximately two meters of depth.  It takes less than 2 weeks for the asphalt to rise back up.  Meanwhile, other sections of the lake are mined.  We hired a guide to walk us out onto the lake.  It felt spongy underfoot, and if you stood in one place too long, you could feel yourself sinking slightly.  There are spots on the lake that are more liquid, and our guide was careful to route us around these, lest we be trapped in the tar.  The houses in the village surrounding the lake are in constant motion, moving inexorably toward the lake, gardens and paths circumvent pools of pitch which has bubbled to the surface.  On the way home, we visited two Hindu shrines: The Temple in the Sea, and the Dattatreya yoga center.  The Temple in the Sea was built by an indentured immigrant from India.  As the British colonials would not permit the building of temples on land, he spent many years hand-carrying bricks and cement out onto the mudflats of the Gulf of Paria to create an island for the Temple.  Restored in 1994, the temple is the anchor for a park on shore.  When we were visiting, a cremation was taking place at the park.  The Hindus here still do it the old-fashioned way:  The body is placed on a pyre, the fire is lit, and the ashes are raked up afterward.  We saw a couple of these ceremonies in locations that we passed on our road trip that day.  The Dattatreya Yoga center boasts the tallest statue of Hanuman (the Hindu monkey god) outside India, standing at 85 feet.

The rest of out days were spent wheeling and waxing the Girl, as well as other minor boat chores.  Afternoons found us gathering at the swimming pool with other cruisers.  Of course, Saturday mornings were Market Days in Port of Spain, and Saturday nights were “Bake and Shark” nights, when we joined with other cruisers at the local watering hole.  We usually had a table of 10-15.  Conversation was lively and the beer was ice cold.  Bake and Shark?  It isn’t actually baked at all.  We’re talkin’ a fried dough bread pocket filled with fried shark and other ingredients-maybe coleslaw, tomatoes, peppers, topped with garlic sauce, Chadon Beni (kinda like cilantro) sauce, and a little Peppah sauce.  Deeeelicious Trini street food.  Thursday evenings, Crew’s Inn supplied the charcoal, grill, tables and chairs for the cruiser’s potluck.  Everyone brought a dish to pass, and a meat, or fish, or ?? to grill. 

Our projected couple day stay morphed into nearly 13 as we waited for the wind to quit howling.  Finally, the 22nd of April looked less bad, so, itching to leave, we settled for a forecast of 5’-8’ seas on a 10 second interval with 15-20 knot winds, which would be on our nose for half the trip, and our beam for the other half of our 190 mile passage, which we thought should take us around 24 hours.  We figured that we could take advantage of the North Equatorial Current, which had hampered our progress on the way to Tobago earlier in the Spring.  We were off the dock at 06h05 on the 22nd.  Our course was laid in to keep us around 10-12 miles off the coast of Tobago, to keep us out of the opposing current which always runs along its shore.  Just north of the eastern tip of Tobago, we would veer north to take advantage of the Equatorial Current.  The first leg of the trip was beautiful, as we cruised into 3’-5’ seas, under sunny skies.  The lines were wet, but no bites.  As we passed out of the lee of Tobago around 19h00, the seas increased to 4’-6’, darkness had fallen, we turned north with the seas now on our beam.  The Girl was rolling, but comfortably, thanks to her stabilizers.  Overhead, the wind had increased to 17kn with gusts to 23.  Suz had settled into bed around 20h00, and I was on the first watch.  All of a sudden, I felt a shudder, and an odd vibration.  The engine work load meter jumped to 65% from its normal 42%.  The engine temperature rose 10 degrees, and the fuel consumption went up 1.5 gallons per hour.  This all happened within about a minute or so.  The Admiral bounced out of bed and I cut the throttle.  “Sh#@! t, we must have picked up a net or something” Okay, we knew this drill.  Throw the prop into reverse, back up and whatever you have picked up will dislodge and you’re on your way.  Well, when you slow down, the stabilizers don’t work, and now the seas were running 5’-7’.  Stopping the Girl and wallowing in the troughs between waves in reverse was a cupboard-rearranging affair.  We rolled from beam to beam, and the cockpit was awash.  “Okay, that should do it.”  On our way again, I went below to check on the bilges.  Lifting the hatches, I could hear an ominous “Bang, bang, bang” against the hull.  Okay, repeat the backing up maneuver, this time at a higher speed, and for longer.  The wallowing between waves was magnified.  It was necessary to hold on with both hands to stay upright.  On our way again, the banging had stopped, and all seemed well.  Wrong!  Throughout the night at various intervals ranging from 45 minutes to 2 hours, we kept experiencing the same scenario, minus the banging.  The engine temperature would slowly rise, along with our fuel consumption and engine work load until we did the back-up maneuver again.  At every juncture, we acted more aggressively in the hopes of shaking our passenger.  We could see large patches of Sargasso weed with our spotlight, and we figured that we were dragging a net.  When it accumulated enough weed, the symptoms would become critical.  Going overboard with dive gear was out of the question, as Alizann was rolling from rail to rail.  We thought about heading due west to Grenada or the Grenadines, putting the wind and seas on our stern, but in the end, decided to push on to Barbados as we were really in no danger.  Worst case, if we lost propulsion, the wind and seas would carry us west to the Windwards somewhere.  We were 70 miles from any land. Needless to say, it was a long night.  At 08h00 on the 23rd, we ducked out of the current, changing our course to the northwest for Barbados.  It was now daylight, but we still couldn’t see what we were dragging.  At 11h00, we reversed for what would be the last time.  The surface of the sea was now covered with Sargasso weed in ¼ mile long patches.  We passed through effortlessly.  Whatever we had picked up was gone!!  I was almost disappointed, as I wanted to see what it was.  In the lee of the island, I was even able to wash some of the salt from our trusty little ship sailing into 1’-3’ seas.  We arrived at Port St. Charles, Barbados at 16h35, 34 hours after departing Trinidad.  John and Paulette, who had been there for two weeks aboard Seamantha were standing on the seawall waving when we arrived.  Paulette, true to form, had remembered that it was my birthday and had us over for her (in)famous rhum punch and munchies.  We went home early, fell into bed and slept like the dead.

Barbados travelogue to follow:

-Later

Morning, Morning,

Let’s just call this the “All work, and no play” log.  After an uneventful flight back home, and a very speedy visit with Customs and Immigration, Chad was waiting at the airport for us.  It was, of course, a real shocker to get off the plane dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt.  Not exactly apropos for eighty-five degrees and seventy eight percent humidity.

Besides being filthy, the Girl looked good sitting at her berth.  She had new neighbors, sailors from Germany.  During our absence, John had kept a close eye on her.  He told us that there had been an unusually high tide which required retying some of her lines-thank you, John.  We spent the first full day just cleaning the outside from top to bottom.  Saturday was Market day, so we rode in to Port of Spain with Stanley (another of Jesse’s guys) for fruit, produce and Trinidadian shrimp.  On the way home, a blast through Massey supermarket rounded out our supply of staples.  We pulled away from the dock at 07h30 on Monday, the 26th, and took a short short toodle out of the harbor to do a quick system check and empty the holding tank.  By 08h15, we were in the sling of Peake Yacht Services Travelift, getting our first haulout in 2½ years.  After 2 idle months sitting at a marina in very bioactive (polluted) water, there was plenty of growth for the guys to scrape/power wash off her bottom.  Very fragrant.  We left to go have breakfast at Zanzibar, where we could watch from a distance.  Alizann’s spot in the yard was less than fifty meters from the Travelift, and equidistant from Zanzibar.  Once we were blocked and the jack stands were in place, the troops were mobilized.  Richard came to the boat and installed an air conditioner in the overhead hatch of our stateroom (the boat’s A/C doesn’t function when she’s out of the water.)  We met with Greg and Lincoln, who would be managing our yard work and went over our list.  As we talked, the list grew, and it wasn’t too long before our one-week haulout looked like it would take two or so.  Git ‘R Done!  We got up with Mitch, our welder, to pick up our burglar bars and have him weld the “knees” that he had fabricated for our stanchions.  Oops.  “Thought that you were coming back after Easter.”  Okay, back on task.  Rishi, owner of Jonathon’s Outboard Service was lined up to do routine maintenance and chase down a cooling problem on the dinghy outboard.  Lastly, we visited Franz, owner of West End Power to remove and inspect our stabilizer fins and bow thruster props.

It's Friday of our second week on the hard, (FYI, Good Friday and Easter Monday are national holidays) and we’ve been pretty pleased with the progress.  The hull has been sanded and has two coats of new paint (waterline-four coats).  The boot stripe has been raised 2 more inches and reprimed and painted.  The hull above the water line has been wheeled out and polished.  The dinghy has had 2 coats of epoxy and 2 coats of bottom paint.  The outboard has been repaired and serviced.  The welding has been completed, and the bars are being polished as I write.  Suz and I have been busy too.  We replaced the support for the swim platform (which was damaged in Puerto Rico).  In doing so, we found that the core of the platform was wet, having been infiltrated around some improperly bedded fasteners.  We removed all hardware, reamed out all holes, let the core dry for a week, removed soft core material then refilled all holes with epoxy and rebedded hardware.  After discovering this problem, we removed some rails from our boat deck, and discovered that it too, wasn’t bedded properly.  Good news!  Some holes damp, but not soft.  Same fix.  The tender got its rails rebedded-Hey! As long as I was mixing epoxy (Actually, each hole took several “pours” in order to control heat).  One evening, we spooled out 300’ of anchor chain and reversed it, end-for-end (to keep wear even), cleaning the anchor locker as we went.  Retrieving 300’ of chain by hand is a real workout, being that we had no hydraulic power to raise it mechanically.  I replaced the stainless-steel tubing on our water maker another day (starting to spring some little leaks here and there from corrosion).  Of course, the unit couldn’t be worked on in place, so I had to disassemble it and take the membranes out on deck to replace 2 of the tubes.  Meanwhile, the Admiral got software updated on all of our devices in between “Hey Suz, can you come help me’s?”  Cocktail time doubled as “Marlinspike Hour,” splicing up new working lines for our Girl.  That’s the big stuff, I won’t bore you any more with all of the little tidbits that were dealt with.  Let’s just say that we’ve been busy.

The Admiral’s birthday came around, so we shed our work clothes and gussied up for a night out.  Chad drove us, joined by John and Paulette,  to Aioli, a fine dining restaurant in Port of Spain.  Of course “fine dining” means a lot of things to a lot of people.  Well….the place had a continental vibe from the moment that we climbed the stairs from its’ strip-mall entrance.  The food was truly incredible.  We could have been in Paris, New York City or Napa Valley.  The service matched the appearance.  We had a very uncruiser-like night out, and Suz was smilin’.

We had a farewell lunch with John and Paulette on the 30th, as they were off to Tobago to join Ken and Sylvianne.  It was kinda sad to see them go, but we’ll surely see them in the future (we think that they may join us for the Panama Canal transit in a year or so).

Anyhoo, that’s it for now.  They’re thinkin’ that we’ll be back in the water on Monday, the 9th.  We’ll sit at the dock until we get some semblance of a weather window (it’s been GORGEOUS this week) behind the weather that’s supposed to blow in next week.

-Later

Really?

So, I was posting up some pictures, and realized that there were a few adventures before the Grandbaby trip that I missed:

First of all, every Saturday, Jesse has a van to the city market down in Port of Spain.  We’re off at 06h30, but that’s still a couple of hours after the market opens.  Oh yeah!!  It’s your typical farmers market on steroids.  You wannit?  We gotit!  That’s where we be goin’ for fresh everytang.  Produce, seafood, meat, and then there’s the Indian spices and etc.  Oh yeah, there’s a “Doubles” guy there that has our favorites.  (Thanks, John and Paulette.)  I dunno how many acres the market covers, but it’s enough to spend a couple of hours there.  Jesse says “an hour-and-a-half,” so the foray reminds me of an old TV show where they give the contestants a shopping cart and a short amount of time to fill it.  The first pass is to scope out the various stalls and wares for prices and availability.  Stop at the end point for doubles, then sweep back through to make our purchases.  After the market, it’s a quick (half hour) stop at Massey (grocery store) for staples, canned goods, and etc.  Back at the boat by 10h00.  Fill sink with bleach water, soak all fresh produce, refrigerate, put away dry goods.  NAP!!!

One morning, Suzanne, Paulette, and I had one of Jesse’s guys, Chad drive us out to the “Bamboo Cathedral” for a hike.  The area is so-named, because the bamboo trees on both sides of the pedestrian path overhang it, creating a tunnel-like effect.  Troupes of howler monkeys live in the area, so if you get there either before or after the heat of the day, you may see them moving through.  We arrived just before light and lucked out.  We were the only people there.  We heard the monkeys before we saw them.  The howls/growls were loud and throaty.  Then, overhead, we spotted a group of three moving through the canopy.  The light was bad, so the pictures were very marginal.  After hiking through the bamboo, which was beautiful in and of itself, we followed the unimproved pedestrian road to the deserted U.S.A. radar station at the top of the mountain, a remnant of WW II.  As you might imagine, the view was tremendous.

So, we were ready for a little independent adventure one day, so decided to take public transportation into Port of Spain to walk around and have a fancy lunch.  Suzanne made reservations at “Veni Menage,” a highly rated Indian restaurant.  When we told Jesse of our plans, he said “Just make sure that you’re out of Port of Spain by 13h30, because there’s an afternoon Fete going on just north of the marina, and no taxis, buses, whatever will drive down there because of the traffic.”  We arrived in POS in the morning, and window (and otherwise) shopped until our 11h00 reservation.  We were careful to avoid parts of the city that had been forewarned by locals. Lunch was remarkable.  We left the resto at 13h15 and walked down to the highway to flag down a bus.  Every one that went by was filled to capacity (unlike Grenada, overfilled vans get big fines here).  We decided that this wasn’t gonna happen, so we started walking to the central maxi-taxi terminal, about a mile-and-a-half away.  Baloney!  I stuck out my thumb, and a private taxi picked us up.  He was headed south and would drop us off at the maxi-taxi terminal.  There, people were packed up, waiting for a maxi south.  A nice lady who happened to be passing by told us that no taxis were headed north, because they didn’t want to get stuck in traffic up there.  The maxis were not obliged to make their routes if they didn’t want to, but the public buses were.  She suggested that we walk to the bus terminal and take one of the hourly buses.  Dang!  It was 14h10, we’d have to wait nearly an hour for the next bus.  Oh well, we hot-footed it to the bus station, about a half mile away (Oh yeah, did I tell you that it was raining now?).  We bought tickets and got in line.  15h00.  No bus.  16h00.  No bus.  We’re starting to chat up the folks ahead of us in line.  They’re still waiting for the 14h00 bus.  Rumor has it that the bus is having “mechanical problems.”  Yeah, but how is it that we’re looking at a lot full of buses that aren’t in service?  Long, long, long story short, a bus rolls in at around 17h30.  After all of the pushing ‘n shoving, we, who were around tenth in line, make it onto the 50+ seat bus with about 10 seats to spare.  After some near-fisticuffs, the security guard closes the door, and 30 people are left standing on the platform, awaiting the next hourly(?) bus.  The next day, Jesse just laughed.  We were not amused.

So… we got back home from the adventure to POS.  The “Pool Gang” at the marina had a news flash for us.  A solo sailboater coming in had a little problem getting into the slip next to the Girl.  Somewhere in the 4 tries that he took getting into the slot next to us, He HIT our boat.  Dang!  We inspected our trusty little ship, and yeah, there was a whack out of our boat, and a bigger whack out of the concrete dock.   Whatever.  I got the buffer out, and soon the scar was gone.  Went over to talk to the skipper.  He was apologetic (in French), and said he’d buy me a case of beer.  (Well, three days later, and after his departure before daybreak, we didn’t see a drop of beer.)  Two strikes-a sailboater and a Frenchman-just sayin’.

Guess we’re almost caught up, so……

-Later

 

Morning, Morning!

So…..I don’t usually do trips back to the States in the Log, but a trip to Ann Arbor to welcome our new Grandchild?  Whatever.  Suffer through it.  Jesse’s guy Stanley picked us up at 04h30 and whisked us off to the airport.  There were no gate agents or signs, but we got in with a family of 6, and started a line.  Forty-five minutes later, we had fifty people behind us (and another 30 milling around, waiting for an official start-Trinis don’t like lines, they wait until the last minute, then push to the front).  The gate agents sauntered in, en masse, and the young lady from American Airlines tried to move us.  Not a chance!  Trinis are also very outspoken, and not a little bit resistant of authority.  We kept our mouths shut as several people at the head of the line with us argued heatedly that we weren’t moving and risking giving up our place in the queue.  In the end, several male agents came out, and moved the tightly-packed line backwards so that everybody more or less maintained their respective positions.  (Of course, some of the loiterers wedged their way in, which is why nobody in line wanted to move in the first place.)  We held our ground, as this was not our first rodeo, and it was on to the next hurdle.  Every passenger needed to be interviewed one-on-one with a security agent (Yep, you heard me right).  Then…. every checked bag was opened and hand-inspected.  I guess Trinidad is a high-risk point of embarkation for flights to the U.S.  Didn’t mention it before, but several alleged members of an ISIS cell were arrested right before Carnival.  Maybe the airport was on high alert.  Fourteen hours after we got up, Alison picked us up at the airport in Detroit, and we were at her and Ben’s house in Ann Arbor.

Nash wasn’t due until the 25th but didn’t make his arrival until the 5th of March.  The ten days was interminable for Alison and Ben, but it allowed us to get a lot of work done around their house.  And…we saw snow.  First time in a couple of years.  That’s the Admiral in Lowe’s parking lot.  Among other things at the house, we replaced all the copper plumbing in the kitchen, ran a new circuit from the main panel, installed a dishwasher and garbage disposal and plumbed an icemaker.  A ceiling fan was added to the living room, and we put 3 coats of paint on the inside trim of the windows, which had all been replaced during the Summer.  The list goes on, but you get the picture.  Busy, busy, busy.

Gotta quick tell you a funny story.  Here’s a copy of an email that I sent to John, Paulette, Ken and Sylvianne:

Alison and Nash were supposed to come home today, but her blood pressure is high, so they decided to keep her another day.   Nash is doing great.  Can't believe it, but he almost turned himself over yesterday.  But....I digress. A couple of months ago, Ali told Ben that she wanted Schramsberg Cremant when they came home from the hospital with the baby.  Schramsberg is a California sparkler that happens to beat many of the houses of Champagne in French competitions.  It is also the official sparkler of the White House since Nixon entertained the Chinese.  Well...Ben had a lot on his mind and failed to get a couple of bottles.  Hey Marty!  So, I call the high-end wine stores that I know in Ann Arbor, and no dice.  Finally, I find a little hole-in-the-wall liquor store that has the goods.  I get a couple of bottles of Cremant and a bottle of Blanc de noir for Suz and I.  Night before last, I grab what I thought was the odd bottle and cracked it.  Pour it, sip it...sh**, it's one of the bottles of Cremant!  No problem, we're coming home from the hospital today and we wheel in to pick up another bottle of Cremant.  As you know, Suzanne loves hardware stores and marine chandleries.  I guess that she likes liquor stores too.  I make the purchase, and she says "I just want to look around a bit. Wow, they have a ton of single malts and Bourbons.  Look at this, look at that" & etc.  She says that she just wants to check out their rums.  Now the owner's interest is piqued. He says that he has rum from this shelf divider to that, floor to ceiling.  Next, he's telling us that he saw a show on TV about rum, and that some of these distilleries have stockpiles of rum in barrels in warehouses as far as you can see.  "Yeah, we know.  We live in the Caribbean, and every island has a half dozen distillers." The Admiral says "They don't have Don Q.".  "Oh yeah, I do.  It's on the bottom shelf"  "Crazy, we have a friend that loves Don Q.  He had us buy 6 handles for him when we were in Puerto Rico.” ” That’s really strange." he says.  "I had a guy call me from Trinidad today asking me to deliver some to a friend that just had a baby"  "You taking it to ***** Dunmore Rd.?"  The rest, as they say, is history.  We took it and two bottles of Veuve, saving you a delivery fee.  CRAZY, No?  

Is truth stranger than fiction?

 

When the kids came home from the hospital, Ben’s parents and sister came in all the way from Pennsylvania for a visit.  It was a bonus for the Admiral and I, ‘cause we hadn’t seen them since Ali and Ben’s wedding in 2015. 

After a month of being house guests, it was time for us to leave and let their new rhythm settle in.  The flight home was uneventful, although boarding the plane in Miami was a bit unusual.  Customs and Border Patrol ,with dogs in tow, was on the jet bridge, greeting every passenger before they boarded the plane.  Home again, just call us Grandma and Grandpa.

-Later

 

Good Day, Good Day

OMG!  Has it really been 2 months?  My bad.  No excuse except that we’ve been having waaayyy too much fun.

So, we arrived in Trinidad, which was where I left you hanging.  The marina at Crew’s Inn was pretty comfy.  We motored in, and the dockmaster put us in an end slip with the port side of the Girl along the wall, and her stern on the dock.  Right below the swimming pool-SWEET!  With the Admiral’s expert directions, we backed our little home between the boat next to us, the wall, and the boat that was tied on the wall ahead of us.  Paulette and John, aboard Seamantha were a few days early, but a spot was still located for them while they waited for their assigned slip to become available.  For the next few days, we just walked around to get the “lay of the land,” locating vendors, repair guys, boatyards, and most importantly a “Doubles” roadside stand, and the “Roti Hut.”  Suz and I contracted with Peake Boatyard to haul us and give the Girl a couple fresh coats of bottom paint, lined up a tech to remove our stabilizers (I’m getting’ too old to haul those babies around), located a welder to fabricate some “Burglar bars” for the hatches over our bed and “knees” for the stanchions holding our new awning on the boat deck.  In between these jaunts, we lit up the internet, ordering some replacement spare parts and miscellaneous doodads.  One day, when Mitch, the welder was over taking some measurements, I was knee-deep in sewing machine parts which were scattered all over the cockpit table.  He asked me if I was okay, to which I jokingly replied “Do you do sewing machines too?”  To my surprise, he said “Sure.  My Mom’s a seamstress.  Who do you think takes care of her machines?”  Knowing that I had a backup in case of disaster was reassuring, but YouTube pulled me through.

Meanwhile, we all were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our friends Ken and Sylvianne on the Krogen 48 “Sylken Sea.”  They had recently launched in Antigua after the boat spent hurricane season on the hard there.  I’ve already alluded to the fact that the weather and seas have been very uncooperative this season.  Every day that they were stuck behind the weather, we had 6 sets of eyes checking numerous weather websites and offering their valued opinions.  Emails and texts flew back and forth hourly (actually, more frequently) for days with conjecture about weather windows and best routes for them to take.  Of course, there was no pressure for them to get to Trini, just the fact that they wanted to participate in Carnival, and oh yeah-they had boat guests flying into Trini from Canada.  Long story short, they made it after a less-than-enjoyable few days at sea with the Mother Hens on this end following their progress and texting them every hour of the trip.  Their guests, Ken and Carol arrived to find a lovely boat to sleep on.

Jesse James is THE go-to guy for cruisers visiting Trinidad.  He runs tours and shopping trips for cruisers with his fleet of five minibuses.  Besides that, he is the master facilitator.  No problem is too large for him to help solve, and it seems that he knows everyone on the island.  Unfortunately, when we arrived he was busy with a big job in another area of the island.  We went to his office daily, arranging tours and outings with his wife, Sharon Rose.  It became a standing joke that Jesse didn’t really exist, he was just the mythical face of the business.  When he finally appeared, we all had a good laugh.

Carnival here isn’t just for a day or two.  Some say that it is the third largest Carnival in the world, behind New Orleans and Rio.  Words alone can’t describe the two weeks leading up to and culminating with Fat Tuesday.  We attended the Junior King and Queen competition, a 6-hour marathon featuring elaborately costumed boys and girls separated by age from 2 to 16 years old.  Another night, we visited several “Pan Yards,” where various steel bands ranging in size from 20 to over 100 drummers practiced for the big competition.  Another evening took us to a costume shop, where workers fabricated costumes for the locals who played in various bands during carnival.  Made to order, some of the costumes were priced into the thousands of dollars ($TT).  (So, let me digress for a moment here.  There are many “bands” which march in “Pretty Mas,” which is the big parade on what we call Fat Tuesday.  The bands range in size from a few hundred to six or seven hundred.  Each band has a theme, so the costumes that are worn by the players all conform to that theme.  You may pay upwards of $1,500(TT) or $200(USD) to march (or play) in that band.  What you get as a participant is 4 semi-trailers: one with the hugest sets of speakers and amplifiers that you’ll see short of a rock concert, one with an endless bar (mostly serving beer and rum (150 proof) punch), the next is the food truck, lastly there’s the trailer loaded with porta potties.  Security details surround each band to help keep a modicum of control.  Picture band after band moving down the street, music cranking to the point that you need earplugs, stopping at four judging points along the 5-mile route all day long.  In between judging points, there’s a lot of winin’ and chippin’ going on.  The competition for the King and Queen of Carnival was another marathon which extended well past midnight.  The costumes were beyond incredible.  The semi finals for the pan band competition lasted a good eight hours, but we wimped out after six, just before 1:00 A.M.  So, you see, the lead up to Carnival was quite rigorous for us middle-aged cruisers.  I said nothing of the “Fetes,” which went on around the island virtually nightly (I say nightly, but the Fetes usually start around midnight or so and last until midmorning.  Pronounced Fet, these parties usually feature live music and lotsa’ adult beverages.  Some were attended by upwards of 10,000 people.)

Monday morning, J’Ouvert, or “Opening of day,” A.K.A. “Dirty Mas.”  There was no way that Suzanne and I were not going to participate.  You don’t need costumes for “Dirty Mas.”  In fact, the less the better.  You join a band, (ours had around 400 people) pay your money, put on some clothes that you don’t mind being trashed, show up at 2:00AM and start the parade.  Our 4 semi-trailers were ready to go, so off we went.  It’s Dirty Mas, because along the way, paint, mud, and chocolate are flying.  By the time 9:30AM rolled around, we looked like walking rainbows.  After seven-and-a-half hours of strong rum punch and dirty dancing along our 7-mile route, I’m not sure that my feet were even hitting the ground, but what happens at Carnival stays at Carnival.  We coerced Paulette, John, Carol, Ken, Sylvianne and Ken to join us, but that’s their story to tell.  We all recovered sufficiently to be back in Port of Spain the following morning at 7:00 to be observers for “Pretty Mas.”  The costumes were incredible, the excitement level built during the day, and by the time we bailed at 5:00 PM, it looked like it was going to be another long night.  All right, let’s address the 500-pound gorilla in the room.  There IS a lot of crime here in Trinidad.  The poor economy, due in part to the low price of oil is not helping the matter a bit.  It’s very important to be aware of your surroundings at all times and stay out of certain areas.  That being said, aren’t those precautions important anywhere?  Trying our best to adhere to “Alizann Rules,” i.e. not being far from home at night, not flashing a lot of cash, and not wearing jewelry makes us feel a bit more comfortable here.

After Carnival was over, the eight of us headed to Asa Wright Nature Center and Lodge, located in the north rainforest.  Our diet hadn’t been bad enough during Carnival, so we stopped at one of Jesse’s favorite roadside stands for some Trini Streetfood.  The Saheena was to die for.  The Roti, doubles, and etc. weren’t too shabby either.  Winding up to 2,000 feet above sealevel through the rain forest, the road narrowed to 1 ½ lanes in places.  Rounding one corner, we came across a well-kept little home.  In the carport, a lady had a 12’x12’ tarp laid out, covered with a medley of hot peppers.  Red, orange, yellow and green, glistening from their recent hose-down, they made for a real Kodak moment.  We got out of the van and chatted with her and her husband.  She makes hot (peppah) sauce for some of the local markets.  On Sunday, the carport is transformed into a church where her husband preaches the Gospel.  Cool.  Back on the road, Asa Wright’s main gate soon came into view.  The lodge consists of the original manor house and several outbuildings, accommodating up to 50 guests, on 200 acres of wildlife conservation area.  There, we had three days and two nights of quiet relaxation, hiking and bird-watching.  Suzanne and my room, one of 2 guest rooms in the manor house, afforded us easy access to the dining room, and the veranda which overlooked a dozen or so bird feeders as well as a several-mile view of the forest valley.  Guides were always available on the veranda to help identify any of the 170 species of birds found there.

Well, just about time to wrap this one up.  We headed back to Alizann, packed some winter clothes, and headed to Michigan to await the arrival of our newest Grandchild, Nash Joseph Wells.

-Later

Good Day, Good Day

John and Paulette recovered all of the stuff that bounced out of their dinghy when the hovercraft crashed, including the 2 new gas cans.  It didn’t look like the outboard went in the drink, but we took both dinks ashore just in case.  Customs and Immigration-Oh, Baby!  Sign on the door says that if we are not dressed appropriately (respectfully), that we will be turned away.  Luckily, we all put on our Customs clothes before checking in anywhere.  We had 4 sets of forms, in triplicate (lotsa carbon paper).  The “Do you have Stowaways on Board” form woulda made us laugh if we weren’t being on our best C & I behavior.  Next came the “If you have Stowaways on Board, what are their names and nationalities” form.  Really?  Computer is not scanning passports, so all info is hand-entered into the system.  I’ll make this quick-an hour later we were done with Immigration.  On to Customs down the hall.  So…..you can’t just “bay hop” here.  You need to give an itinerary, letting Customs know where you are at all times.  “It’s for your protection.  Officers check on your whereabouts for your safety.”  By the way, the island is divided into 2 sectors.  If you move to the other sector, you need to clear in and out there, as well as provide an itinerary for the anchorages that you visit within that sector.  Made our heads hurt.  Good reason to just stay in Charlotteville and explore from here by land.  Total C&I time, 1 hour, 20 minutes.  Good thing that no one else was in line.  Next stop, the only ATM in town.  Nope, neither of our cards work.  John’s only able to get a couple hundred TT dollars ($1TT=$.15US) out of it.  At the tourist office, the nice lady tells us that it’s a small ATM.  The truck from the bank arrives to fill it, and it’s immediately emptied by the folks who’ve been waiting in line for $$$.

It was time to stretch our legs, so we decided to hike up to Flagstaff Mountain for a view and photo op, then down to the windward side to check out the anchorage in Anse Bateau, and the dive shop at the Blue Waters Inn there.  The hike was on pavement all the way.  We had been previously warned by more than one local not to stray out into the bush without a guide.  Seems that over the years, several tourists had gone missing after not heeding this admonition, causing the whole village to be mobilized for search and rescue operations.  After being lounge-chair lizards for a few weeks, the 6.2-mile, 1,300 feet up and down was plenty of exercise, even on pavement.  Of course, it was lunch time when we hit the Blue Water, so lunch on the veranda, featuring Tobagonian delights was in order.  I wondered out loud how my rubber legs were going to make it back over the hill.  I must have missed the memo (not unusual), ‘cause the other three just laughed and informed me that we were getting a ride home.  Whew!  Hate to see a grown man cry, especially when it’s me.

Charlottesville is a fishing village, and there’s not a whole lot else there, so the Sunday check out town day went pretty quickly.  We walked over to Pirate’s Bay, a 600’ up-and-down, then walked the streets of the village, ending up at “The Suck Hole” restaurant.  “No local food,” our waitress informed us.  Our lunch was super good, starting out with an order of fries which were served as an appetizer.  OMG!  There was probably a pound of fries in each order (x4).  We had watched other diners squirting ketchup, mustard, and mayo all over theirs, so asked our server if this was a local custom.  Hahaha.  The squirt bottles contained Pepper sauce, Garlic sauce, and Chadon Bene (Windward Islands equivalent of Cilantro).  Squirted liberally over the sautéed plantain and eggplant-covered fries, the finished product might have been responsible for a paroxysm of ecstasy (tryin’ to keep things G-rated here).  When the main plates of fried fish, shrimp and chicken arrived, we were pretty much sated, so doggie boxes were distributed all around.

On Monday morning, Junior picked us up for a day of touring Tobago by car.  We toured the length of the island, checking out every anchorage and little fishing village on the leeward side.  After our recon, we decided that staying at anchor up in Charlottesville was still a good idea.  Moving to the interior of the island, Junior took us to visit the “Herb Lady”, Philomene, at Eboe Gardens.  Around her house, perched on the side of a hill (and what house here isn’t?)  were a myriad of imaginative containers filled with dirt and harboring a variety of herbs, medicinals, and decorative plants.  The containers ranged from discarded Styrofoam cooler tops to garbage bags, with all manner of holders in between.  Suz bolstered her collection of herb plants here.  Next, we had to stop at Bucoo Bay for a peek at the goat-racing track. Once a year, on Easter weekend, the annual goat races are held there.  Crazy-a huge stadium, built around a grass-covered dragstrip, and used only once per year.  I guess it’s a huge event.  People come from all around the islands to participate in the betting and spectacle of it all.  (Think a boisterous Kentucky Derby.)  BTW, these aren’t your garden variety goats, these are RACING goats.  With long legs and slimmer bodies, they look more like Greyhounds than goats.  The trick, though, is picking the right jockey(?).  Young men sprint alongside the tethered goats, so the oddsmakers place a fair amount of weight on who’s drivin’.    Might just have to get back for this event.  Wheeeling into Scarborough, the vibe was like day and night compared to little Charlotteville.  Very touristy, and a much busier, apparently the “business center” on Tobago.  We stopped for “Doubles” at a roadside vendor (the back of a station wagon).  Okay……Doubles are a breakfast staple here in Trinidad/Tobago.  Delicious.  First, a sheet of waxed paper.  Next, two Bara (a fried pancake made of Gheera (roasted ground cumin), flour and curry powder).  Next, Chana (chick peas, minced onion, ground garlic, chopped pimiento, chopped onions, curry powder, amchar masala, water, salt, and chadon bene is ladled on top.  The Chana has the consistency of split pea soup.  You bet it’s a challenge to eat.  Ya got no implements.  Hold the paper in one hand.  Slip one of the Bara out from under the fray.  Use it as a spoon to sop/scoop the Chana off the other Bara.  Then, eat the other Bara with the remaining Chana.  Or………….Get yer face right into the whole mess and slurp/suck your way through.  Walk to 2-gallon water jug and wipe off mouth, chin, nose, hands, shirt, shoes, etc.  Or be a Trini.  Eat and walk away without a trace of food on your Sunday finest.  Mastering the Double will become a quest during the following weeks here.   A short hike the Argyle waterfalls gave us a chance to stretch our legs with a stroll through the forest.  Back to the boats by early evening, we had a good feel for the island.  Paulette called Newton George, a renowned local guide to arrange some hikes in the rain forest later in the week to do some bird-watching.

Another day took us back to the Blue Waters Inn, where we had arranged for a half day excursion to Little Tobago Island.  This National park is a bird sanctuary, where we expected to see Frigate Birds, Red Footed Boobies, Brown Boobies and Red-Billed Tropic Birds.  We weren’t disappointed.  We saw all of these and more, even spotted a Tropic Bird in her nest on the ground, guarding her single chick.  After our hike, we enjoyed a nice snorkel on the reef, seeing the usual suspects plus a Hawksbill Turtle.

Well, that old weather thing cut short our sojourn on Tobago.  During our stay, the winds continued to build, but it looked like we’d get a bit of a reprieve late in the week before the Trades became “Brisk” again.  We had to cancel our Rain Forest hike, but promised ourselves that we’d return in March or April to finish what we had started.

Back at Customs and Immigration, our pleasant conversation about grandchildren, kids, and life in general paid off.  We were granted passage out of Tobago on a “nod and a wink.”  The officer provided us with a handwritten note, which she dutifully stapled together.  She told us that while we anchored overnight in the Scarborough sector that we didn’t have to check in, and when we got to Trinidad,  present her note to Immigration, and everything would be all right-she’d make a call.  So, we left the office after more chittin’ and chattin’, promising to bury her in New Grandbaby pictures upon our return.  (Oh, the Admiral tells me that I mightn’t have shared the news.  Our daughter and son in law are giving us a new little boy at the end of February.)

We crept down the lee side of Tobago on Thursday and anchored in Store Bay, outside Scarborough.  On Friday, we made a smooth passage to Trinidad over two-foot seas.  One more 48” Mahi in the freezer, by the way.  We docked at Crew’s Inn Marina and Hotel and readied ourselves for the Customs and Immigration ChaCha.  (Even tho’ it’s the same country, you still have to clear in and out.)  Ha Ha.  We produced our “Get out of jail free” note.  Frowns on the officers turned to smiles.  No paperwork.  Zip, Zilch, Nada.  After some more chitchat with the officers while everyone else in the room was filling out forms and waiting in line, we were home. 30 seconds formality, 5 minutes rappin’.

We’re here for the next couple of months.

-Later

Good Day,

John and Paulette arrived just when we were finishing up with our projects.  The last coat of Awlbrite went on the teak, Gazza and Peter finished up with the detailing, and I was done with the mechanicals-for now.  It looked like the wind and seas would abate somewhat in a few days, so we made ready to skedaddle to Tobago.  We said goodbye to Rob and Cindy over dinner at the marina, and had our last Indian food fix at “Spice of India” (sister restaurant to “Masala Bay”, which we enjoyed several times while at Marigot.)

On the 18th of January, we started our first passage of the new year.  Alizann was off the dock at 05h08.  Our plan was to run in the Caribbean down the lee side of St. Lucia, then into the Atlantic for a straight run to Tobago.  The seas were forecast to be 3’-5’, increasing to 4’-6’ by the end of our 26-hour run.  Winds pretty steady at 15-18 knots.  Both the wind and waves were predicted to be just a little aft of our beam, causing us to expect a bit of a rolly ride. As Seamantha is a larger boat, and thus a bit faster, we left about an hour ahead of John and Paulette, figuring that they’d catch us sometime in the middle of the afternoon.  The first four hours were gorgeous.  We had a slight push of current, and seas were running less than 2’.  As we rounded the southern tip of St. Lucia, the seas ramped up a bit to 2’-4’, pretty much on our beam.  A 1.5 knot current pushing against us was going to be the story of our life for the southbound cruise.  (In actuality, it varied from .5-1.5 knots nearly the whole trip.)  The lines went out, and by 12h30, the fishing drought was over.  We hooked into a 4.5’ Wahoo, and before we lost him 15 minutes later, he gave us quite a show.  At 13h00 the reel was zingin’ out again.  This time, we boated a 48” Mahi.  Less than a half hour later we boated a 42 incher.  At the same time, the other reel was spoolin’ out.  When the Admiral brought it in, there was a disembodied Skipjack head on the lure.  Missed another biggie!  Yow!  Suz thought that the fishing would be better out in the Atlantic, and she sure was right.  Stopping for the fish thing slowed our progress, and Seamantha caught and passed us.  By now, the seas were running 3’-5’ with a bit of chop on top, thanks to the now steady 18 knot winds.  Getting a bit too wavy to fish, as every time we hook up we have to slow the Girl, and she commences to rock and roll, pitch and yaw.  It’s always hard to gauge the height of seas, but when I’m standing in the cockpit and can’t see over the top of the waves, I feel pretty comfortable calling them 3’-5’.  We were still 19 hours from Tobago, so our little buddies folded up in the cooler needed to be butchered and refrigerated.  Brought out the Husky portable workbench, braced my back against the bulkhead and went to work.  Of course, after I was done the cockpit looked like the scene of a mass murder.  I didn’t start feeling pukey(sp?) until I was just about done cleaning up on my hands and knees.  Not good.  Suz had to come down and chunk up the filets and throw them in the freezer while I stood in the pilothouse door, gulping in fresh air.  (Note to self-take antiemetics when filleting in cockpit in rolling seas.)  Some pre-cooked sloppy Joe’s hit the spot, then we settled in for the evening.  Four to six feet now, winds back to around 15 knots.  The inside of the cupboards were being re (or is it “dis”) organized as we listened in amusement to the clatter from the outside.  As the sun sunk below the horizon, it was dark as the inside of a pocket, being just a day or two from New Moon.  Suz hit the rack early, so by 00h30, she had six solid hours of sleep under her belt when she came on watch.  By 06h30 when I got up, the seas had dropped to 3’-5’, winds still 15 kn, and the current was abating.  The Admiral said that during her watch, the current had become so intense that she lost another knot of headway, causing her to have to increase throttle.    By morning, Seamantha was two and a half miles ahead of us and headed for the barn.  As Tobago drew closer, the seas dropped to 2’-4’, then 1’-2’ over the last hour of the trip.  When we entered the harbor John and Paulette had the hook down, and Suz maneuvered the girl into position where I snubbed the anchor chain with 225 feet out in 40 feet of water.  While I was studying our position relative to other boats, an “Oh sh$#t” exploded from the door of the pilothouse.  “John and Paulette just dropped their dinghy!” “So?”  “I mean DROPPED, not lowered.”  We couldn’t see their tender due to the relative positions of the boats, but we could see bright red gas cans floating on the water.  Now we’re getting nervous as they’re not answering their VHF and we can’t see either of them.  Boats rotate a bit.  There’s John.  There’s Paulette.  This all transpired in probably less than a minute, but it seemed like an eternity.  Amazingly, all four of the dinghy lifting lines severed at the same moment, dropping the tender straight down where it landed upright.  What if the dinghy hadn’t been clear of the boat?  What if only one or two legs of the bridle had broken?  What if it had swung back and hit one of our pals?  Thankfully J & P had some good JuJu going in a bad situation.

Time now for the Customs and Immigration Chacha, but that’s a story for

-Later

Good Day, Good Day

Here in the islands, it’s very poor form to neglect greeting someone, even if just passing on the street.  A little bit different than back in the States.  “Good day, everything okay?, you good?”  Then, you’d better be ready to chat for a minute (or ten) with a total stranger.

It was a good thing that we headed to Carolina with an extra bag-lotsa boat parts to bring home.  Kurt’s partner, Richard was waiting for us at the airport when we arrived in St. Lucia.  We took a leisurely ride back to Rodney Bay, stopping at a scenic overlook on the windward side, and the “bread man” in the interior.  Baked in a traditional stone oven, the 8 inch loaves were split and slathered with butter and slices of cheese while still hot.  Richard looked the other way as we ate in the backseat of the minivan.  (Just what we needed after all the food and drink over the holiday).  Back at the ranch, the Girl looked good.  Zim had looked after her while we were gone, even watering Suz’s plants.  They looked better than when we had left.

Over the Holiday, I had talked to Jeff, on Idyll Time.  He and Suzie had just gotten their boat surveyed for their insurance renewal.  In the course of the survey, a small leak was noticed in…….Guess what?  The gennie exhaust elbow.  Time to face the music.  Easy(?) jobs always seem to grow in scope as you’re working through them.  One of the screws holding a flange was buried behind the shore power cord bin.  Only the shorty screwdriver would fit-my hand wouldn’t.  Grrrhh!  Sweat, swear, sweat, swear.  Repeat.  Screws out, flange won’t budge.  Chinese 5200 (permanent adhesive) under the flange and around the elbow.  Repeat sweat/swear mantra.  Fetch 4 pound sledge.  Satisfaction.  When the elbow was out, the cause of the problem was evident.  A faulty weld had allowed the stainless steel to corrode, and there WAS a small leak in the tubing.  One of the legs of the new fiberglass elbow not long enough, and another problem discovered with the original installation.  Time for a re-engineer.  Incredibly, Island Water World had some fiberglass tubing.  JB Weld, a couple coats of glass matting and some epoxy followed by a coat of black paint, and the new bits were ready for install.  Channeling MacGyver? Guess the dues were paid on the removal, ‘cause the install went super smoothly.

Suz and I had been commiserating over recoating our brightwork (teak caprails).  The teak still looked good, but we knew that it wouldn’t be long until the epoxy coating (Awlbrite) began to fail.  After procrastinating for a month, we hired Tony and “Friend” to do the job.  It sure felt good to have that project off our plate, as we had both dreaded the prospect of taping, sanding, coating and etc.  Oh yeah, we had to move the boat so that the guys would have access to the port side, and as we were moving the Girl, Suzanne heard a new and strange noise.  We finally determined that it was the raw water pump for the oil cooler.  I thought that it’d always sounded that way (see: Delusional thinking).  Nope, “That’s new” says the Admiral.  Check spare parts spreadsheet-Yep, got one of those.  Yada, yada, yada.  They say that one of the definitions of cruising is “working on your boat in exotic places.”

My sad story is done for now.  I’m sure that it really choked you up.

Gary and Tori came in shortly after our return in anticipation of starting the first leg of the ARC around the world rally, so we had more playmates.  New Year’s Eve saw a cruiser-organized wine tasting dock party on the tee head next to our boat.  Local hikes, including a stroll up to Fort Rodney on Pigeon Island kept us occupied for a few days.  We had eight dive days with Dive St. Lucia.  They have a great program.  A two-tank dive with lunch in between dives off a well maintained, open transom 46’ dive boat costs around $100 (U.S.) a head.  The crew is well trained and very enthusiastic-we love ‘em.  Suz headed back to Ann Arbor in the States for a few days to attend Ali, our daughters’ baby shower.  While she was gone, I had a chance to replace that pesky pump, and do a thorough cleaning on Alizann.  From the flybridge to the bilge, everything was removed from its’ hiding place, cleaned and replaced.  Stopped counting at 29 hours.  (I know, sob, sob, sob!)  The good news was that I ran out of time, so hired Gazza and Peter to wash, wax and detail the outside.  It took the two of them two full days, which of course was stretched to occupy the better part of three-and-a-half to get the job done.  At the end of the workday, we sat in the cockpit of Alizann sipping cold beverages and rappin’.  Gazza is a Rastafarian, and we had some spirited discussions on religion.  Gazza had some very unambiguous opinions on both.  I thought it was a dealbreaker when I told him that Suz and I were Catholic, but serendipitously, a guy came by in a dinghy after just having lost his chain and lock in the water.  When I dropped everything, donned my mask and snorkel and found the lost goods, Gazza decided that I was a righteous man and let the Catholic thing slide.  Whew!

Shortly after Suz returned, Rob and Cindy on “Avventura” (Grenada pals) came back to their boat from a holiday trip to the States.  The weather was so cold in Kansas City, where they live, that some pipes froze and burst in their home.  Maybe one of the few things more expensive than boat repairs is hiring a plumber on New Year’s Day.  This boating thing is so hard to describe, but the intense friendships that you develop and renew periodically are one of the attractions for us.

Too soon, it was time for the World ARC to leave.  After years of preparation and planning, Kim and Zim on Someday and Tori and Gary on Solitude dreams were about to come to fruition.  You can follow these two boat and others on www.worldcruising.com.  As the last days before departure wound down, their moods changed and the tension was palpable.  After all, this wasn’t a 3 or 4-day passage.  They were leaving to go AROUND the world.  Two nights before departure, Suz broke the tension with a “Bon Voyage” meal aboard Alizann.  The “Four Cheese, Drunken Sun-Dried Tomato and Spinach Pasta” casserole, washed down with a few bottles of French red and white pop was delicious.  Dinner was capped with a homemade Key Lime pie, Godiva chocolates, and orange-infused rum.  Yum!  After the forty World ARC boats left the marina, it was pretty quiet, but no worries.  John and Paulette, aboard Seamantha, were soon on their way from Martinique to join us for our Trinidad/Tobago excursion.

Internet is spotty.  I’ll try to bounce some pictures into space when it gets better.

-Later

Pages

Captain's Log

Buenos Dias,

Our “go to” lady here at the marina is Kelly at the front desk.  (She’s one of the 3 people in town that speaks English-not dissin’, just sayin’).  We have a Q&A with her at least twice a day, and she’s invaluable.  She guided all of our paperwork through Customs and Immigration without us ever seeing an official.  Nice!  She also acts as our go-between with the marina manager and the dock supervisor.  IMHO this place would be lost without her.

Back to our walkabout, the visit to the Museo D’Oro turned out to be a hidden gem.  Besides exhibits featuring gold jewelry (as the name implies), there is a wealth of information regarding the Sierra Nevada regions of Colombia.  The museum also happens to be housed in the building in which Simon Bolivar laid in state after his death in 1830.  Written descriptions in Spanish and English attend each display.  We learned more South American history in two visits than we had in the previous sixty-odd years.

Adjoining Simon Bolivar Parque and adjacent to the Gold Museum is Juan Valdez coffee shop.  This is the Colombian version of Starbucks, with coffee that is ten times better.  Most of the best Colombian coffee is exported to Europe, with the inferior mass produced beans staying in-country, or exported to the U.S.A. The Juan Valdez chain’s aim is to introduce Colombians to their finest coffees. However, it was a total shocker when we were charged 13,000 pesos for a large cappuccino and a large latte.  Ohhh…. That’s around four bucks.  Needless to say, we’re now regulars.  The coffee dude doesn’t ask our names anymore.

In the morning, fruit vendors ply the streets, pushing their handcarts.  Some have amplifiers and loudspeakers over which they hawk their wares in the concrete canyons between the high rises.  Whole pineapples go for 3,000 ($.90 U.S.).  Bananas, Mangos, Pineapples and other South American fruits that I’ve never heard of are equally inexpensive.  After we buy fruit for the boat on the sidestreets, we have a favorite guy by Bolivar Parque that sells plastic cups full of sliced fruits, accompanied by plastic forks for 2,000 a pop.

We’re not really sure what the diving here is all about, but there are several dive operations in town.  We’ve visited a couple of them, and may go for a dive or two while we’re here.  -Keep you posted.

Besides street food, we’ve eaten at a couple of recommended restaurants.  “Ouzo”, is highly rated by both Tripadvisor and fellow cruisers-very good, with Sangria that is superior (or maybe it was so because we had been walking all afternoon).  Lamart, a funky little place recommended by Andrea (up at Minca), served up a mean Ceviche, followed by a very good main course of fish. A couple of other restaurants were good, but not memorable.  The common denominator is that all have been very inexpensive by North American standards ($30-$40 U.S. for 2 drinks, apps, and entrees).  Kinda makes going out a very viable alternative to staying home and cooking.

Back on the docks, we filled our water tanks with the tap water.  No good! No good! No good! cried another North American who had been here for 6 months.  “I was sick for a month, and Nigel, down the dock, ended up in hospital for a week (he has other health issues) from drinking the water.  Sheesh!  What a dummy.  We’ve been drinking tap water since we left home 5 years ago, but this IS South America.  So we’ve just taken on 300 gallons of potentially poisonous H2O in our public health graduate’s pristine water tanks. W.H.O website says that a cup-and-a-half of bleach in each tank should do the trick, so now our dishes, laundry, and skin is whiter than white.  The Admiral does this procedure once a year, so the drill wasn’t unfamiliar.  Meanwhile, we’re buying bottled water.

You know that these two science majors are nerding out on history these days, and our visit to the gold museum just whetted our appetites for some South American rat facts.  After a twenty minute, two dollar cab ride, we arrived at Quinta San Pedro Alejandrino, the estate at which Simon Bolivar spent his last few weeks. The botanical garden there was very much less-than-spectacular, but the colonial architecture and the artifacts on display more than made up for it.  With the help of our sorta English speaking guide, we learned more about General Bolivar, a.k.a. El Libertador.  Our taste of history at the estate provoked us to dig deeper, thanks Google, when we got home.

Monday the 8th, 08h30.  Time for our road trip to Mompox.  Sue and Mike joined us for the 5 hour trip, driving out of the shadow of the Sierra Nevadas, through the lowlands leading to and surrounding the once-busy port of Mompox on the Rio Magdalena. Established in 1540, the town was the major port linking the coast to the interior of the colony. During that period, goldsmithing and ironwork flourished in this center of commerce.  Late in the 19th century, trade routes changed to another branch of the river Magdalena, and Mompox has been in decline ever since.  As of late, it has been increasingly popular as a tourist destination, due to the plethora of colonial architecture there.  By no means touristic(?), I can see this sleepy village exploding on the traveler “must see” scene when the local airport and highway are completed.  We stayed at a small, 8 room hotel on the river in Mompox. It is a charming little property housed in the historic Portales De Marqueza warehouse. Our cook, Margherita served us up a savory breakfast of local fare which generally held us until dinnertime every day.  Jim and Carole joined us, and the six of us wandered town, taking in the local culture.  We visited several churches, took a three hour boat ride into the Pijino swamp, and plied basically every street in this busy little village.  Feeling like we had seen all there was to see in Mompox, Suz and I came home on Thursday, leaving Jim, Carole, Mike and Sue, who were spending another day (Their rooms were prepaid).

Suzanne prepared a fantastic chicken curry yesterday.  Mike and Sue joined us for dinner when they returned from Mompox, as we figured that they wouldn’t want to chase for food after the long drive home.

The washer quit yesterday with a load still in the drum.  Sleep last night was sporadic.  I hate having things broken.  This morning, while Suz was having her hair cut by a fellow cruiser, I pulled the doors and moldings off the cabinet where the washer/dryer sits, and pulled it out so I could take the cabinet apart.  Good news was that the failure was located in the switch that stops the washer when the lid is open.  I couldn’t fix the switch, so I bypassed it by jumping the wires.  All good!  The Admiral says that she’ll enjoy sleeping with the Maytag repairman tonight.  T.M.I., I know.  No worries, I won’t keep you posted.

-Luego

Buenos Tardes,

So… we’re getting ready to start our second week in Colombia, and what a time it’s been.  Right now it’s 92 degrees and 88% humidity at 13h00. It has become pretty clear to this Gringo why siestas are the order of the day here.  I’m hidin’ out, peckin’ away at the laptop with the sweat rolling down my spine.

The crossing was a dream.  We had 2’-4’ seas on our quarter most of the way.  At 06h00 on Saturday morning (36 hours into the trip), we rounded the point north of Santa Marta.  It’s not unusual to have 40 knot winds with the current piling the waves up around this point where the Sierra Nevadas rise up out of the sea.  This passage is consistently rated as one of the most difficult in the WORLD!  Yeah, that includes Cape Horn.  My red-headed weather forecaster and lifelong companion hit the nail on the head.  5-10 knots, 1’-3’ seas, as we watched the sun rise over snow-capped mountains.  I got the 2 Blackfin tunas that we caught filleted and into the freezer as we eased our way down to the IGY Marina at Santa Marta.  After we had the Girl properly secured in her assigned slip, screens and sunshades in place and lounge chairs out, one of the dock guys came by.  He didn’t think that the other guys had put us in the best spot and wondered if we might want to move before it got windy.  Long story short, we moved.  Later that night the wind came up to a steady 27 knots with gusts into the mid 30’s.  At 22h00 Suz and I were on the dock securing extra lines across the slip next to us, happy that we had moved.

Small world time.  We introduced ourselves to the Australian couple on the sailboat next to us.  They told us that they had some friends from Michigan that they had met in Indonesia several years ago and had travelled quite extensively with them.  Suz asked what city in Michigan.  “Grand Rapids” The name of their boat?  “Nepenthe” Aha! Must be talking about Carol and Jim (You remember them-we met them in Guadeloupe a couple of years ago.  You know the couple that started a 2 year circumnavigation and ended it 17 years later.) Well….Turns out that they didn’t go back to land after all, and they were about 20 miles up the coast here in Colombia. The 4 of them had just returned from a trip up the mountain to Minca, and were planning a 4-day jaunt to Mompox(Mompos) the next week.  Carol hoped that our new pals, Sue and Mike would talk us into joining them.  No problem!  Mompox was on our list of places to visit.  We got a hotel reservation, arranged transportation for Sue, Mike and ourselves, and made a plan to meet up with Jim and Carol there.

For the first day or so, we just got the “lay of the land” here in Santa Marta.  We quickly found out that in this city of 400,000 or so, about 3 people spoke English.  Crash the Spanish “How-To” books, and gracias de Dio for Google Translate.  After hitting the ATM, I finally found out what it feels like to be a billionaire.  (A Coke costs around 5,000 Colombian pesos. 10,000 COP is around $3.15 U.S.)  It took awhile to get the conversion thing figured out.  We had planned to do some hiking/touring inland from Santa Marta (hereafter SM), so we checked out the tour operators in town.  We settled on “Magic Tours,” and booked a day trip to the small village of Minca, located up in the mountains around an hour from SM.  It seemed like a good way to check out their operation before booking our big trips with them.

The next morning, our driver was at the marina gate.  We drove through the narrow streets of SM, congested with cars, motorbikes, bicycles, and yes, horse and mule-drawn wagons.  It took me about 5 minutes to realize that renting a car and driving in this snarl of apparent traffic anarchy was TOTALLY OUT OF THE QUESTION.  Nonetheless, we popped out the other side and made our way up the serpentine road to Minca.  So what’s in Minca? Not much.  Some small farms, growing coffee and cacao and some small hostels.  It’s known as a hub for backpackers and trekkers, and there are scads of them there.  Suz and I were definitely the oldest non-locals by 30 years.  What’d we do there?  We met our guide, Andrea and our 5 fellow walkers.  Our first walk was to a small coffee plantation, where we stopped and had some killer coffee.  One of our companions was a Brit who didn’t like coffee, so they brewed her a cup of Coca tea.  We also learned that only the indigenous men, not women, chewed coca.  It is legal to grow and smoke marijuana in your home, but not in public, nor is it legal to sell it.  Oh….the useful information tangents that we get off on. After the coffee farm, we hiked for another 2 hours to a small waterfall, where we cooled off under the rushing water.  From there, it was another hour or so to Andrea’s dad’s house on the side of the mountain, where he cooked us a wonderful lunch followed by some cacao drinks. Besides the ignominious moment when Yours Truly slipped off the bridge comprised of 2 bamboo poles spanning the creek, the hour long walk back to the village was uneventful.  I really thought that the least one of my companions could do was follow me in to the drink, or at least suppress their laughter, but no.  It wasn’t to be.  Ego severely bruised, but ankles unharmed (although rather soggy) I trudged (squishelly) down the jungle path.  Our ride arrived, and we decided we’d stick with Magic Tours for our next outings.

The Santa Marta marina is right in the center of town, so walking access is very easy.  Before it gets too hot, our routine has been to put a few miles on and explore.  After our Minca experience, we headed back to Magic with Mike and Sue in tow, to book our hike to Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City).  It’s said to be a pretty strenuous hike, so we’ve been trying to get some walks in before, even though we know that we won’t be able to get in shape walking on the flat at sea level.  We’ve got our trek scheduled to begin the Monday after Easter.  We’ll keep you posted.  If you want, you can check out The Lost City at:  https://ciudadperdida.co/

Lotsa stuff here in SM, so I’ll talk at ya

-Luego

Adios, Curacao!

As usual, leaving a comfy berth and heading into an unfamiliar one was kind of a Yin/Yang thing.  On the one hand, we had seen what we wanted to see on Curacao, but the familiar routine was comfortable.  On the other, the prospect of visiting a new island was exciting, but would we really like it?

We decided to shorten the trip by 20 miles, so we obtained an anchoring permit, allowing us to move north up the west coast of Curacao and anchor overnight in Santa Kruz Bay before heading west to Aruba.  The Girl was off the dock at Santa Barbara Plantation at 09h00 and had the anchor down (for the first time) in Santa Kruz by 12h30.  A guy in a tourist snorkel boat comes by and tells me we NEED to leave.  We’re right where he takes his snorkelers to the sunken boat nearby.  Well…..ask me-it’s all good.  Tell me…..we may have an issue. I told him that his snorkelers were welcome to swim near our boat-no problem.  He didn’t like that idea, and as he motored off, he let me know that he’d be back “Motherf#$@r!”.  The Admiral and I didn’t like the idea of sleeping with one eye open, so when he was out of sight, we moved over a hundred feet.  Before dinner, we had a visit from the Coast Guard, as the lady issuing our anchoring permit suggested we might.  They boarded us, checked our papers (which were all in order), and bade us good night.  We were up, and the lines were out by 06h45.  In 15 minutes, the drought was over.  We had a nice 34” Mahi in the cooler, and life was good.  No bites the rest of the trip.  The seas were predicted to be 3’-5’, they were actually 2’-4- all the way over, and we got a nice push from the current.  Aruba Customs and Immigration was a breeze.  After the paperwork, an officer came on board, exchanged pleasantries and sent us off.  The marina was a couple miles away.  We motored over and Med-moored (stern in, bow tied to a mooring) against the wall just inside the jetty with the help of a dockhand in a dinghy and one on the dock.

The dude from “Carvenience” picked us up at 09h30 the next morning, took us back to his office and we were in business with our rental by 11h00.  The first order of business was to find a battery for our engine starting, as our current (no pun intended) one was darn near dead.  Budget Marine had one size 8D in stock, so one boat unit ($1K) poorer, and one battery richer, we were almost good to go.  Almost, because the battery box for said behemoth (156 pounds) has about 20” of clearance above it and is situated at about chest height when you’re kneeling in front of it.  Jair, the manager at Budget said “No problem, I’ll come over after work and put it in for you and take out and dispose of the old one”.  He said that he was really strong, shouldn’t be a problem, but I had my doubts.  The last time that we changed batteries, we got 3 football players from Florida Central to do the honors.  Suz and I managed to get it out of the trunk and down to the dock, then on to the stern of the Girl with the help of a dock hand.  At 18h30, Jair and his wife, Natasha show up, and he’s ready to go.  He couldn’t get the battery down the ladder into the engine room, but this wasn’t MY first rodeo.  I had the salon floor ready to pull up, so we took out the floor panels and lowered the unit into the engine room with ropes, while Suzanne was down below, steering.  That was the easy part.  Now, the battery had to be lifted into the battery box that is tucked back in the corner.  Let’s just say that it took a half hour or so of noodling different ways to get the job done without result.  In the end, pride was the solution.  He said he was strong, he said that he could do it, and by Gosh, he wasn’t going to be humiliated.  Up and in.  We spent the next hour or so chatting with Jair and Natasha about their daughter, Bella, who is an autistic savant.  She was talking by age one, reading before 2, knew several languages before age 5 (self-taught), and is a whiz at math. Of course, we were fascinated and mostly just listened intently while they described their now 14 year old’s exploits.  It seems that her extraordinary talents are balanced against some behavioral issues and present quite a challenge for both her teachers and parents.  We meet some pretty interesting people in our travels. 

James and Pam, aboard “LoveZur” (Thanksgiving dinner in Antigua- 2017), were in a slip around six boats down from us.  After being in Aruba for 7 months, they knew the drill.  Over cocktails, they read us in.  We knew what groceries to buy at which stores, what day of the week that they stocked, Senior discount day, etc.  They told us about the facilities at the two Renaissance Hotels where we had privileges etc. and etc. The island of Aruba is fairly small, so it’s pretty easy to cover the high points in a week.  We drove from the Dutch military base in the south to the California Lighthouse in the north.  We visited the beaches and the “Hotel Zone” on the west (Leeward) coast to the rock-strewn east (windward) shore.  We climbed to the highest point, Mt. Hooiberg and signed up with “Mermaid Divers” to explore the depths. James and Pam hadn’t done much exploring, as he had been dealing with some now-resolved health issues, so we dragged them along on a couple of our jaunts.  Compared to the “B” and “C” of the ABC islands, Aruba is super touristy (like athleticism-Is that really a word?).  Anyway, we hit the tourist spots.  My favorite was the butterfly farm-I had never been to one before, and our guide imparted some fascinating facts about the life and times of butterflies.

We got our boat chores done. I needed to fabricate some attachments for the terminals on our new battery, as the new one wasn’t quite the same as the old one.  It took a little time to find the parts that I needed, but a picture of the final result garnered a “Nice” from Scotty, our “Master of All Things Krogen” guru back in the States. We had also developed a fuel line leak when leaving Curacao the week before. Jair put me in touch with a local guy, Roberto, who made up a new hose patterned after the one that I removed.  Nothing’s ever easy.  The new one leaked at the other end, and I ended up replacing some flared fittings (Also supplied by Roberto) before the Girl was leak-free.  Sheesh!

Okay.  You know the plan.  We are staying in Aruba for a couple of weeks. Wait for a weather window.  Go to Colombia.  It’s been windy as all get out for weeks, with seas to match.  We’re laying in bed the morning of Thursday, the 28th and Suzanne busts out with “I’ve been watching the weather for the route to Colombia for a month or so, trying to figure out a pattern.  The offshore high in the western Caribbean is contracting right now.  It’s too bad that we aren’t leaving today.”  Well…….’Nuff said.  Aruba wasn’t really our cuppa tea.  By 09h00 we had called the marina at Santa Marta.  Yep, they had room for us.  Reservation made.  Told Hans and crew at Renaissance “You know that month’s berthing that we paid in advance……?” New bill computed, refund made by 12h00.  Rental car? “Okay if we bring it back a day early?”  Check.  Mexican rice casserole, Tuna salad, carrot and celery sticks cut (for the ride) Ditto.  Guest stateroom (It’s midship-quieter and less motion while underway) bed made.  We were off the dock at 16h30.  Had to show up at Customs in person and with boat, so a 45 minute ride in the wrong direction to take care of that bit of business. We were enroute to Colombia forty minutes ahead of schedule.  Sunset.  Dinner.  I am off to bed and Suzanne will take the first 6 hour watch, so I’ll talk at ya….

-Later

Adios, Curacao!

As usual, leaving a comfy berth and heading into an unfamiliar one was kind of a Yin/Yang thing.  On the one hand, we had seen what we wanted to see on Curacao, but the familiar routine was comfortable.  On the other, the prospect of visiting a new island was exciting, but would we really like it?

We decided to shorten the trip by 20 miles, so we obtained an anchoring permit, allowing us to move north up the west coast of Curacao and anchor overnight in Santa Kruz Bay before heading west to Aruba.  The Girl was off the dock at Santa Barbara Plantation at 09h00 and had the anchor down (for the first time) in Santa Kruz by 12h30.  A guy in a tourist snorkel boat comes by and tells me we NEED to leave.  We’re right where he takes his snorkelers to the sunken boat nearby.  Well…..ask me-it’s all good.  Tell me…..we may have an issue. I told him that his snorkelers were welcome to swim near our boat-no problem.  He didn’t like that idea, and as he motored off, he let me know that he’d be back “Motherf#$@r!”.  The Admiral and I didn’t like the idea of sleeping with one eye open, so when he was out of sight, we moved over a hundred feet.  Before dinner, we had a visit from the Coast Guard, as the lady issuing our anchoring permit suggested we might.  They boarded us, checked our papers (which were all in order), and bade us good night.  We were up, and the lines were out by 06h45.  In 15 minutes, the drought was over.  We had a nice 34” Mahi in the cooler, and life was good.  No bites the rest of the trip.  The seas were predicted to be 3’-5’, they were actually 2’-4- all the way over, and we got a nice push from the current.  Aruba Customs and Immigration was a breeze.  After the paperwork, an officer came on board, exchanged pleasantries and sent us off.  The marina was a couple miles away.  We motored over and Med-moored (stern in, bow tied to a mooring) against the wall just inside the jetty with the help of a dockhand in a dinghy and one on the dock.

The dude from “Carvenience” picked us up at 09h30 the next morning, took us back to his office and we were in business with our rental by 11h00.  The first order of business was to find a battery for our engine starting, as our current (no pun intended) one was darn near dead.  Budget Marine had one size 8D in stock, so one boat unit ($1K) poorer, and one battery richer, we were almost good to go.  Almost, because the battery box for said behemoth (156 pounds) has about 20” of clearance above it and is situated at about chest height when you’re kneeling in front of it.  Jair, the manager at Budget said “No problem, I’ll come over after work and put it in for you and take out and dispose of the old one”.  He said that he was really strong, shouldn’t be a problem, but I had my doubts.  The last time that we changed batteries, we got 3 football players from Florida Central to do the honors.  Suz and I managed to get it out of the trunk and down to the dock, then on to the stern of the Girl with the help of a dock hand.  At 18h30, Jair and his wife, Natasha show up, and he’s ready to go.  He couldn’t get the battery down the ladder into the engine room, but this wasn’t MY first rodeo.  I had the salon floor ready to pull up, so we took out the floor panels and lowered the unit into the engine room with ropes, while Suzanne was down below, steering.  That was the easy part.  Now, the battery had to be lifted into the battery box that is tucked back in the corner.  Let’s just say that it took a half hour or so of noodling different ways to get the job done without result.  In the end, pride was the solution.  He said he was strong, he said that he could do it, and by Gosh, he wasn’t going to be humiliated.  Up and in.  We spent the next hour or so chatting with Jair and Natasha about their daughter, Bella, who is an autistic savant.  She was talking by age one, reading before 2, knew several languages before age 5 (self-taught), and is a whiz at math. Of course, we were fascinated and mostly just listened intently while they described their now 14 year old’s exploits.  It seems that her extraordinary talents are balanced against some behavioral issues and present quite a challenge for both her teachers and parents.  We meet some pretty interesting people in our travels. 

James and Pam, aboard “LoveZur” (Thanksgiving dinner in Antigua- 2017), were in a slip around six boats down from us.  After being in Aruba for 7 months, they knew the drill.  Over cocktails, they read us in.  We knew what groceries to buy at which stores, what day of the week that they stocked, Senior discount day, etc.  They told us about the facilities at the two Renaissance Hotels where we had privileges etc. and etc. The island of Aruba is fairly small, so it’s pretty easy to cover the high points in a week.  We drove from the Dutch military base in the south to the California Lighthouse in the north.  We visited the beaches and the “Hotel Zone” on the west (Leeward) coast to the rock-strewn east (windward) shore.  We climbed to the highest point, Mt. Hooiberg and signed up with “Mermaid Divers” to explore the depths. James and Pam hadn’t done much exploring, as he had been dealing with some now-resolved health issues, so we dragged them along on a couple of our jaunts.  Compared to the “B” and “C” of the ABC islands, Aruba is super touristy (like athleticism-Is that really a word?).  Anyway, we hit the tourist spots.  My favorite was the butterfly farm-I had never been to one before, and our guide imparted some fascinating facts about the life and times of butterflies.

We got our boat chores done. I needed to fabricate some attachments for the terminals on our new battery, as the new one wasn’t quite the same as the old one.  It took a little time to find the parts that I needed, but a picture of the final result garnered a “Nice” from Scotty, our “Master of All Things Krogen” guru back in the States. We had also developed a fuel line leak when leaving Curacao the week before. Jair put me in touch with a local guy, Roberto, who made up a new hose patterned after the one that I removed.  Nothing’s ever easy.  The new one leaked at the other end, and I ended up replacing some flared fittings (Also supplied by Roberto) before the Girl was leak-free.  Sheesh!

Okay.  You know the plan.  We are staying in Aruba for a couple of weeks. Wait for a weather window.  Go to Colombia.  It’s been windy as all get out for weeks, with seas to match.  We’re laying in bed the morning of Thursday, the 28th and Suzanne busts out with “I’ve been watching the weather for the route to Colombia for a month or so, trying to figure out a pattern.  The offshore high in the western Caribbean is contracting right now.  It’s too bad that we aren’t leaving today.”  Well…….’Nuff said.  Aruba wasn’t really our cuppa tea.  By 09h00 we had called the marina at Santa Marta.  Yep, they had room for us.  Reservation made.  Told Hans and crew at Renaissance “You know that month’s berthing that we paid in advance……?” New bill computed, refund made by 12h00.  Rental car? “Okay if we bring it back a day early?”  Check.  Mexican rice casserole, Tuna salad, carrot and celery sticks cut (for the ride) Ditto.  Guest stateroom (It’s midship-quieter and less motion while underway) bed made.  We were off the dock at 16h30.  Had to show up at Customs in person and with boat, so a 45 minute ride in the wrong direction to take care of that bit of business. We were enroute to Colombia forty minutes ahead of schedule.  Sunset.  Dinner.  I am off to bed and Suzanne will take the first 6 hour watch, so I’ll talk at ya….

-Later

 

 

Goedenmiddag,

Well….I’m still playin’ catchup, ‘cause I was playinhookie for months. I took some editorial liberties with the Bonaire and Curacao visits.  We visited both islands twice.  Bonaire #1 was from October 4th-December 5th.  Curacao #1 from December 5th-January 31rst.  Bonaire #2 from January 31rst-February 27th.  Curacao #2 from February 27th-March 21rst.  Sooo….we had nearly 6 months split between the 2 islands.

For the sake of brevity(?), some stuff was omitted:

The kids’ visits

The flu (or whatever-we had our shots) that put both of us down in bed for a week when we returned to Bonaire after Jeremy and Jodi’s wedding. (Yep!!!)  My cough is still hanging on nearly 2 months later.

Many memorable dive trips

More great restaurants

Lotsa fun with John and Paulette

Gulp! Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa!

-Sooner

Goedemorgen,

Well….it’s always nice to get a quick and dirty overview of a new location. The Admiral found an outfit that offered tuktuk tours of Willemstad, so the day after we arrived, we Tucks were tucked in the back of a tuktuk with our new friend Nigel at the wheel.  At 6’ 8”, Nigel hadn’t fit the profile of former tuktuk drivers in southeast Asia, but after he folded himself in, he was one with the machine.  We spent a couple of hours together, seeing the sights, learning some history, and ugh! talking politics. It was a blast.  Note to selves… “Schedule tuktuk tours for the kids.”

Our favorite tour director, Paulette scheduled a dive trip for us with Go West Diving out at Westpunt, the western end of the island.  Marilyn and Steve, friends of John and Paulette’s from 2 other boats joined in, and we car-a-vanned out to west end.  We did 2 boat dives on the dive boat, captained by one certifiably crazy captain-they were delightful.  Of course, you can’t do an outing with J&P without food.  We had a late lunch at Playa Forti restaurant, located on a cliff overlooking the azure blue Caribbean sea. Second note to selves... “The kids will love this restaurant.”  By the way, there was a nice little bay near the restaurant where the fishermen cleaned their fish and threw the offal into the water.  Yuck?  Well no, not really.  The turtles were always present in droves.  The chance of seeing a turtle was 100%.  (third note to selves).

I’m pretty sure that I mentioned that we were moored in the entrance to a large lagoon called Spanish Waters.  The several square mile lagoon made for great exploration, both by kayak and dinghy (cocktail cruises). Literally, 100’s of boats were either moored or berthed in there.

More tourist stuff. We toured the Aloe farm and the Curaloe product manufacturing facility, a commercial Ostrich farm, and the ChiChi studio (Serena’s Art Factory).  Gotta check out the fat lady figurines at:  https://chichi-curacao.com/

“De Koksmaat,” a top-end kitchen supply store was a regular stop for us (you know us, hardware stores and kitchen shops). Owned by Monica and her husband Wilfried (a retired high-end caterer) had a small commercial kitchen in one corner. In this kitchen, he put on a weekly cooking demonstration, each week with a theme.  Wil would cook one course per hour for 4 hours from 1100-1400 every Saturday.  His philosophy was that great food needn’t be complicated to cook.  No, we didn’t hang out for 4 hours.  We’d show up for the last 2 courses, but by the time we left Curacao, he knew that we were coming, so he’d reserve a couple servings of the first 2 for us.  Oh yeah, we bought a few gadgets too.

We’re still looking for fun stuff to do when the kids arrive, so it was our duty to take a day trip out to Klein Curacao, a small island around 8 miles east of Curacao.  Although there are many operators who go there, the gang aboard “Blue Finn,” a 75’ catamaran came highly recommended.  We were rather familiar with the boat, as she came past our dock twice a day-early morning and late afternoon.  The boat had a great playlist and a killer sound system.  Looked like the crew was always having a good time.  It was a no-brainer.  They picked us up at the Girl, then we motored over to Jan Thiel, where we picked up the rest of the touristas.  We had a wonderful day, anchoring on the lee side of Klein.  We had time for a snorkel before lunch was served on the stern of Blue Finn. Afterwards, Suz and I walked this small coral islet to the lighthouse on the far side.  We climbed the lighthouse, snapped a few pics and checked out a shipwreck nearby.  A bit more swimming, then sailing back to Curacao with an open bar with a never-empty glass completed the day.  The Admiral and I decided that it probably wasn’t a great day for our soon-to-be 1 year old grandson or anyone that couldn’t/shouldn’t handle a day of extreme sun. Grandpa and Nanna (did I really say that?) had a great day, though.  (fourth note to Selves.)

Crikey!!  Christmas sure got here in a hurry!  We got the Girl all dolled up a couple days ahead of time.  Suz had her Flamingoes in their Christmas hats and driftwood Christmas tree inside, and I (a.k.a. Clark Griswald) had my strings of lights outside (on a timer, of course).  Off to the States to see the fam, John and Paulette kept an eye on our little ship.

Back from our Holiday foray to the States, it was time for the Pagara celebration.  Don’t ask me-I have no idea about the origin or the meaning of the festivities.  The high point is the lighting of millions (literally) of firecrackers in and around Curacao, with the majority taking place in the Petermaii district of Willemstad.  Strings of firecrackers, bound together in 8” diameter snakes up to a couple hundred meters long are laid out in the streets and lit on one end.  After 250,000 firecrackers have blown, you can’t see across the street the smoke is so thick.  Walking along and following the main fuse is painful, as unlit ‘crackers blown from the main bunch explode randomly in the smoldering ashes.  Okay, those are the big ones.  Smaller strings, maybe only 10,000 or so, are going off here, there, and everywhere for 4 days.  The strings on the sidewalks are setting off burglar alarms, the ones on busy streets and sidewalks are stopping traffic.  Stores pop up in empty locations selling nothing but firecrackers.  Hey, any excuse for a party.

Suz and I were interested in the “Coral Restoration Project,” so got up with Ruud, at his shop Atlantis divers.  There, he taught us how to clean the “trees” that he was growing coral on in the bay prior to transplanting it on the reef.  With the participation of many dive shops on Bonaire and Curacao, the intention of the project is to rejuvenate storm-damaged reefs.  The project is going well, as evidenced by the new patches of vital coral in many areas around the islands.  We visited him several times, cleaning algae off the PVC trees with toothbrushes and scouring pads.

Our kids, Jeremy and Alison are both certified divers, but neither had been diving for years.  We needed to find a place where they could do a refresher dive, and their non-diving spouses/kids could chill on the beach.  Enter Samantha.  We had met her and her partner,on our trip to Klein Curacao. They both worked at, and told us about a dive shop at Blue Bay.  Sounded ideal.  Suz and I road tripped there.  Nice sand beach, palapas, 2 restaurants.  Check.  (fifth note to selves).

Getting’ wordy…

-Later

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