We were off the hook at Tyrell by 07h50, and had an uneventful passage to Grenada over 2’-4’ seas, with 21 knot winds on the beam.  The hydraulic oil cooling pump continued to give us problems, and the hydraulic system overheated a couple of times, necessitating trips to the engine room to break air locks.  The Xantrex charger/inverter also continued to shut down due to overheats, so we used the second unit, a Magnum without incident-another project.  By 13h30 we were at Port Louis Marina, in St. George Harbor, Grenada.  New experience.  We did a Mediterranean mooring there.  That is, we backed over a mooring ball around 70 feet from the seawall, attaching a line as we went by, and backed the Girl up to the seawall.  We secured the stern to the wall, and ran another line (making two) from the bow to the mooring ball, suspending Alizann between the wall and the ball.  We’ve done the Med-moor thing before, using our own anchor off the bow, but grabbing the ball, then backing in between two other boats with barely enough room for our fenders between was a big deal.  We get by with a little help from our friends.

The next ten days was a blur, lotsa boatchores.  We pulled the balky inverter out and took it apart.  It’s cooled by 3 computer fans, and 2 were completely defunct.  The third had funky bearings.  How hard could that be to fix?  From past experience, I know that nothing’s ever that easy, so we bought a new battery charger/inverter, did some modifications to mount it, some rewiring and carpentry work to place the new remote control panel, and called it good.  I figured that we’d buy some fans back in the States, repair the eight year old unit when we returned in the Fall, and keep it as a spare.  (All boats need three inverter/chargers, Right?).  Both of the motors received new oil and filters.  The transmission got a fluid change, then we flushed out the John Deere, the generator, and dinghy outboard engines with Saltaway and bedded them down for the Summer.  Washed, buffed and polished the Girl to help her resist the scorching Summer sun, and cleaned her interior, doing a final wipe-down with a dilute vinegar solution to help resist mold during the upcoming layup.  We covered the insides of hatches with aluminum foil to keep out the sun, unplugged all appliances to protect them from lightning damage, and set the air conditioners on “Dehumidify”.  All mooring lines were doubled, and chafe protection was placed to ready Alizann for potential high winds during hurricane season.  In between the scut work, we met with a welder and a canvas maker, whose projects would include modifying the solar panel rack to accommodate our new panels, and fabricating a sunshade for the boat deck.  While we were gone, the Girl would need attending to, so we met with Mark Sutton, owner of Island Dreams, whose company would check in on Alizann while we were Stateside.  Brett Fairhead’s guys would come by and clean her bottom monthly, keeping her free of barnacles while sitting in the warm, nutrient-rich water of the harbor.  Getting the Girl ready for Hurricane Season entailed removing anything from the decks that was loose, or could potentially get loose in high winds.  We had our bicycles and kayaks stored on land, out of harm’s way, and removed everything else that wasn’t fastened down.  The weekend before we left, Tropical Storm Brett roared through, causing cancellation of flights to Trinidad.  The high winds gave us a chance to see how the Girl would do in her mooring configuration, and we were pleased.

It wasn’t all work and no play for the crew of Alizann, though.  Ed and Cheryl on Slowdown were five boats down from us, and we also made some new friends in the marina.  Our immediate neighbors, Paul and Sue, aboard their 65’ Fleming motoryacht “Suzanna Aqui” were familiar faces that we had met in Gorda Sound in the BVI.  We had several enjoyable dinners both out and in (You know by now that the Admiral loves to cook for friends), but seriously we never got farther than a mile or so from the boat.  We figured that we’d do our island exploration after our return in the Fall.  Only too soon, it was time to leave Grenada and our new and old pals to return to the States.  Hector, our driver, picked us up in a light drizzle at noon on the ………., took us to the airport, where we boarded a plane for Miami.

-Later

 

 

Good Evening

The passage to the Tobago Cays wasn’t exactly taxing.  It was windy (what’s new), but it was only a two-hour trip. The Tobagos are five small islands, four of which are encircled by a very shallow reef to the east (the prevailing wind side), creating a nicely protected anchorage.  The fifth, to the east was the island that the beach bonfire scene from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” was filmed, Petit Tabac.  We rounded into the anchorage, which is a national park, and dropped the hook onto a sandy bottom in fifteen feet of water.  We passed on using a mooring, as it was rumored that they were poorly maintained, resulting in a boat breaking loose several months earlier, with significant consequences.  The” boat boys” were in fine form here.  Several in their pangas approached the Girl within the first half hour of our arrival.  “Need bread?, Need fish?, Need water?, Want a Tee shirt?, Have any garbage?”  These entrepreneurs come over from Union Island, several miles to the south to try to scratch out a living.  The further south that we have travelled, the more ubiquitous they have become.  The vast majority are very polite, but once in awhile, you encounter persistence that borders on aggressive.  These guys are working, doing the best that they can in a part of the world where opportunity is very limited (huge understatement), so we try to patronize them whenever possible.  Cruisers that we have met along the way have raved about the Tobago Cays.  We were underwhelmed.  We could see it being a beautiful spot in the Summer, when the wind was non-existent, and no other boats were cruising.  In twenty-something knot sustained winds, under overcast skies-not so much.  We went out in the dink to do some snorkeling, but couldn’t really find a spot that was appealing, so we didn’t.  BTW, don’t remember if I mentioned this, but we met a French-Canadian (Quebecois) couple in Bequia that were cruising on their 40-something foot sailboat with their seven (yes, count’em folks, seven) kids, the eldest being twelve.  Their youngest was one, and they’ve been cruising for 2 years.  No.  We didn’t ask.  Anyway, we were anchored right in front of them here in T.C.  We reconnected with them, and were able to unload a gallon or so of boxed milk, and some other stuff that we didn’t think would survive the Summer on the boat.  After two days, we decided that it was time to push on to Union Island.  We had the choice of two potential anchorages.  One, Clifton Harbour, was off the main town on Union Island, with the potential of being very windy.  The other, Chatham Bay, would be sheltered and very quiet, with little or no population.  No brainer, right?  Wrong.  Just off the bay at Clifton, tucked in behind the reef was the home of JT Procenter Kitesurf.  Suz and I had been thinking about learning to kiteboard for the past few years.  Only problem was that everyone that we saw doing it was a tad bit younger than us.  Well, we decided to go on in and ask the pros if they thought that two sixty-somethings were trainable, so it was off to Clifton Harbour.

Another short hop brought us into Clifton Harbour.  As has become the custom, we were met by a boat boy, wanting to take us to a mooring ball.  “No thank-you.” Then, the litany of questions of do you need this or that?  We brought the Girl up into shallow water just east of the moorings, and just west of the kiteboarding center.  Facing into the wind, the bow settee was a perfect grandstand seat for the numerous boarders already riding in the shallow bay.  We didn’t waste any time in getting to shore to ask about lessons.  “No problem.  If you’re fit, it doesn’t matter how old you are, we had a seventy-year-old on a board last month.”  So….We signed up for an “Introductory Lesson”  Long story short, after a couple of lessons, we can both get up on a board and ride in a straight line (more or less).  Even with bruised ribs and some coral rashes, we were both all smiles, ready to return in the Fall for Act 2.  Besides the boarding, we found Clifton to be a place worth returning to.  The produce stalls in the town square were well-stocked every day, and Yummy’s Bakery makes the best Roti in town, as well as fresh baguettes.  The folks were very friendly, and it is rumored that there are some nice restaurants as well.

After 4 days in Clifton, we cleared out of S.V.G.(Saint Vincent & The Grenadines), and pointed our bow to the islands of Petit St. Vincent and Petit Martinique.  The former is part of S.V.G., the latter, Grenada.  Petit St. Vincent is a privately-owned island with a very exclusive resort, it’s only structures.  Petit Martinique, a mile or two distant, has a population of less than 500 people.  We anchored between the two, inside a protecting reef, close to a beautiful sandy beach on PSV.  Even though it’s a private island, guests from boats are welcome to use the restaurant and the beach bar, “Goaties.”  We did our best to go ashore, but the seas refused to cooperate.  The dinghy dock was treacherous in the wind and swell.  After 15 minutes of trying to tie the tender so that it wouldn’t get bashed on the dock, we gave up (a stern anchor wouldn’t hold on the scrabbly bottom).  We weren’t cleared into Grenada, and there is no office in Petit Martinique, but official presence is very sparse here in this no-man’s land between the two countries.  Which brings me to a story:  Petit Martinique has been known as a smugglers’ den for the past century or so.  Rum running was a main revenue source.  Rum running in these islands where there is a distillery on every corner, you say?  Ahhh, this is different.  Barrels of 80% rum alcohol, bound for blending elsewhere were intercepted, bottled, and sold as “strong rum”.  I’ll say, 160 proof!  Now, strong rum is the unofficial drink of SVG.  It’s also one of the reasons that you need to be careful about your consumption of rum punch, which I once considered a “foo-foo” drink.  I’ve seen more than one unsuspecting American feeling no pain after a couple of these.  At some time in the mid twentieth century, a new governor was elected in Grenada after running on a platform which included bringing the smugglers of P.M. to heel.  After he was elected, he embarked to Petit Martinique on a publicity junket as a show of force.  As his boat approached the dock, he could see that the pier and harbor were lined with people.  They were all wearing black!  At that point, he asked one of the ship’s crew what was going on, and was told “They’re dressed for your funeral.”  Apparently, he never went to shore, headed back to Grenada, and didn’t fulfill at least one of his campaign promises.  We headed the dinghy over to Petit Martinique, where the docking was much easier, and strolled much of the perimeter of the island.  There isn’t much going on there, but the people are nice, and the island is pretty.  We picked up some cheap booze (Hmmmh.  Yeah, we bought some), and spent a rolly night on the hook.  By the way, my rum punch smoothies, courtesy of our Vitamix blender have never been better.

It didn’t look like the weather was going to change for the next few days, so the next morning it was time to continue south, aiming towards Carriacou, which is part of the nation of Grenada.  We had heard stories from other cruisers, and on the internet, that the Customs and Immigration officers in Carriacou were a little less than enthusiastic about their jobs.  We didn’t find them to be rude and abusive as others had reported, but Suzanne did wait patiently for a good bit for the officer to terminate a personal call on his cellphone.  By the time that Suz and I had left the office, the four of us had shared a few laughs.  We think that a lot of the enmity between officials and boaters arises from preconceived notions on both sides.  Suzanne is good at “breaking the ice” with a little plain old civility.  Here in the islands, it’s considered bad manners to “get right down to business” without exchanging a few pleasantries first.  At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that we’re guests in another country, and that these officials are not our employees.  Being pleasant also moves you to the front of the line, and gets you on your way quicker.  End of rant. 

We saw Ed (SlowDown) on our way to Customs, so we joined him and Cheryl for sips that evening.  They were on their way to Grenada the following day, and we talked about all of the things that we had to do to get our boats ready for Summer.  By the time that we returned to the Girl, we had decided to head to Grenada as well.  We’ll explore Carriacou next Fall.  Spending a week or so in Alizann’s Summer home would allow us to get to know the marina staff, and our neighbors before jetting back to the States, and leaving the Girl all alone.

Sooo……In the morning, we were off to Port Louis Marina, on Grenada.

-Later

Good Morning!

It wasn’t exactly a long ride from Bequia to Mustique.  We were on the mooring ball by 11h15.  Then we were off.  The Harbormaster wanted the phat Girl on a stouter mooring.  Okay, we can always use the practice.  So, you probably know that Mustique is a private island.  The unwashed masses are allowed to visit at certain times of year when the well-heeled are not present.  Boaters are allowed three days, and must take a mooring.  (The mooring fees are quite reasonable, though-$200 Eastern Caribbean for 3 nights).  Well, we didn’t see any celebrities, but we sure saw a lot of the island.  We hiked over 20 miles in 2 days, circumnavigating the coast, and crisscrossing the hilly interior.  The windward side of the island featured a rugged coastline, with dramatic views from cliffs down into small pocket bays and isolated beaches.  There aren’t a lot of them, but the homes that we saw (from a distance) were spectacular.  The going prices, once affordable at a million $ or so, are now easily ten times that much.  We didn’t spend a lot of time house hunting.

Being the off-season, the island was pretty quiet.  The first afternoon, as we were doing a quick recon of “town,” we stopped at The View, a restaurant perched on a cliff high over the harbor.  Well named, the open air dining room has a panoramic view of the harbor and surrounding sea.  Suz and I were the only guests until we were joined by Alastair and Fiona, fellow boaters on the s/v Busco Viento II.  British citizens, but living in California for the past couple decades, they cruise for several months a year.  They were bar-hopping by dinghy, and reported that they had just missed Bryan Adams (Canadian rocker) at their previous stop, The Cotton House Plantation bar.  Lisa, the owner of The View was chattin’ us up, and by the time that we left, we had reserved the prime table for dinner (Barbeque Night) the following evening.  The barbequed pork, beef, and chicken was delicious (or was it because we had hiked all day?)  The half-inch of rain that drenched the four of us in 10 minutes on the way to dinner didn’t dampen our spirits.  We just wrung out our clothes (literally), and carried on.  Another evening, over sips on our boat, they were intrigued by our flopperstoppers.  They took our extra one home, and were so impressed by it’s performance that they ended up taking it off our hands.

Three days went by in a flash.  We had heard of a new multimillion dollar marina that was being built on Canouan, so we decided to check it out.  The facility, Glossy Bay Marina, is to have a retail center, hotel, restaurants, and private residences in addition to the marina, which is equipped to handle megayachts.  The marina had just opened the previous month, and we were the only boat in the whole place.  The place is going to be gorgeous.  The man-made harbor is surrounded by a granite-capped seawall with nicely rounded edges.  Stainless steel power pedestals with both 50 and 60Hz electric service, as well as reverse-osmosis water are evenly spaced between substantial mooring cleats.  The marina is set up for Med-mooring, that is, stern-to, but they allowed us to side-tie as it wasn’t exactly crowded.  Acres of new plant material have been placed, and a gang of nurserymen were planting more by the day.  Excavators and bulldozers were moving dirt and placing topsoil out on the point opposite the Girl, while crane operators and construction workers hung steel and poured concrete for the retail center and hotel on the other side of the lagoon.  It’s very clear that no expense is being spared in the creation of this project.  Yanik, the dock dude insisted that we have a golf cart at our disposal, so he parked one right next to our boat.  It was a good thing, too, as the beach club, pool, and restaurant (Shenanigan’s) on the point between the marina and the ocean was about a half mile (by land) around the lagoon.  We played the first afternoon.  After a late lunch, prepared by the chef (not cook) at the restaurant, we lounged on the couches under the shade of the pergola near the bar.  Suz napped while I availed myself of the WiFi, continuing to put our website back together.  (You may have noticed that the site was a shambles for a few days, with most of the content gone.  We don’t have any idea how it happened, but I was literally sick when I discovered the mess that appeared where our website once was.  After exchanging a few frantic emails with Bill, our website designer, he worked through the weekend to get us back up and running.  We’ll have better backup systems in place from here on out-lesson learned.)

The following day was all work.  In anticipation of leaving the Girl for the summer, we have a lot of deep cleaning to do.  Mold and mildew are big problems during the hot, humid Caribbean summers, so the cleaner the boat, the better.  We emptied the lazarette.  Wow, is there a lot of stuff in there!  We cleaned every square inch with soapy water, then wiped down with a vinegar solution to kill any mold spores.  We laid out over a thousand feet of line on the seawall to bake in the sun.  After taking an inventory of the stuff, it was re-pack time.  We took a quick break, then Suz was into the front machinery space to give it the same treatment, while I headed to the engine room to fiddle with the hydraulic oil cooler again.  (Scottie suggested that I take all of the hoses off and check to make sure that none had delaminated and collapsed inside).  Well, the hoses all looked good, but I did find a fingernail-sized bit of tree bark in the hose between the thru-hull and the sea strainer.  I doubt that this was the problem, but we’ll see-fingers crossed.  I also re-routed one of the hoses for a more favorable angle out of the raw water pump.  By the time I was done, Suz was just finishing up.  We’ll do the remaining two bilge spaces when we “pickle” the watermaker, and prep the engine and generator for storage.  It doesn’t sound like much, but by the time we were done, we were whipped.  Showers, sips, spaghetti and meatballs (Yeah, Baby!), and about 10 minutes of reading in bed, and we were out for the count.  That is……….....until The Admiral jars me awake in the wee hours shouting “Someone’s on deck!”  Whoa, I didn’t even know what planet I was on, let alone what was happening.  However,…we had rehearsed this scenario many times, and the training kicked in.  Suzanne hit the panic switch that I had installed next to the bed.  All the deck lights popped on.  I had the “Bear spray” in one hand, and the axe handle in the other as I woke up on the run to the pilothouse.  Didn’t see anyone in the cockpit or side companionway, nobody visible on the bow.  Once outside, I saw no one up on the boat deck.  (If there had been someone there, I’m not sure what would have scared them more, my weapons or the sight of me in my birthday suit.)  In the end, we’re not sure if someone was outside, or if Suz, in a sensitized half-sleep (she had been awakened by a carful of partiers leaving the bar earlier) had heard one of the fenders rubbing against the hull.

We’ll head down to the Tobago Cays on this, the last day of May.  With the very un-Caribbean-like speed with which the construction is progressing, it’ll be interesting to see what this place looks like when we pass back through here in six months.

-Later

Allright?

19th of May, off the ball at the Pitons in St. Lucia by 05h00.  Of course, the drizzle started just as we were bringing in the flopperstopper birds, and quit when we were ten minutes out. The lines went in the water at first light, and we trolled along with 20 knots of wind on the port beam in 2’-4’ seas.  I had rigged up a couple of frozen Ballyhoo, but they didn’t feel “right.”  The first time that I reeled them in to check for weeds, they were just a head and a hook, with a defleshed spine trailing (Musta thawed out somewhere along the way-oh well).  Threw out some lazy man’s bait (lures) and kept on truckin’.  With the luck that we’ve had fishing this year, I didn’t expect to catch anything anyway.  As we motored along, with the oil cooler overheating every forty minutes or so, the lures kept picking up clumps of Sargasso weed.  Reel in, clean lure, let out-repeat often.  At 09h57 we had a big clump of weed on one of the lines and the reel was slowly paying out.  As I was reeling in, and I could see the lure around 50’ behind the boat two big fins appeared just behind it.  Then, it was off to the races!!  That line started screaming off the reel.  I increased to full drag (I can barely pull line off the reel at this setting), and the line was going out so fast, that I swear the reel was smoking.  Three hundred yards (that’s three football fields, folks) later, he started coming back to the boat, and I was reeling as fast as I could. Then, he decided that perpendicular to our course was a good idea, and he “tailwalked” across the surface.  He was a huge Marlin!!  He snapped 80# Spectra line like it was kite twine, and the excitement was over.  He had my lucky lure and I didn’t even have a picture to show for it-only a tall tale about “the one that got away.”

As we passed the lee side of St. Vincent, we rued the fact that it was not a safe place for cruisers to hang out.  There were several nice little anchorages, and many potential snorkeling spots.  Geographically speaking, the island is gorgeous.  The reality is, that several cruisers have been attacked and brutally murdered here in the past decade.  Senseless ultraviolence.  As we neared Bequia (Beck-way), the rain came down in sheets, washing off lotsa salt.  We dropped the hook off Princess Margaret beach, and went in to Port Elizabeth to clear SVG (Saint Vincent, Grenadines) Customs.  From there, we proceeded to fall in love with Bequia.  Suzanne found Donnaka, the local hiking guide, online, and we met with him the next morning to map out a few hikes around the island.  Born in Ireland, but having spent most of his life working in the European equivalent of the Peace Corps, he has lived all over the world.  We decided on 3 hikes, one by ourselves, and two with Donnaka as our guide.  Over the next three days, we covered nearly twenty miles, most in the bush.  We visited most of the bays/beaches on the windward side of the island, and summited Mt. Peggy, the highest peak on Bequia.  Along the way, Donnaka gave us a running history lesson of the island and its people.  We learned that Bequia is still allowed to hunt whales, and that 2 families on the island still do.  The International Whaling Commission allows Bequians to harvest up to 4 whales per year, using only traditional methods.  That is, boats no longer than 7 meters, hand-thrown harpoons, meat is not allowed to be exported off the island, etc.  Some years, no whales are taken, this year-only one.  One of the families has announced that as of this year, they will no longer be involved in the hunt.  I’m guessin’ that it’s just a matter of time before there is no whale hunt on Bequia.  Between our hikes, we enjoyed the village and its people.  Model boatbuilding is a traditional craft here, so we hit several workshops, and were amazed at the fine craftsmanship.  Getting around on Bequia is a story unto itself.  Mass transit entepreneurs abound.  Careening up and down the just barely two lane streets, brightly-colored 8 passenger minivans blaring a Soca beat from their oversized sound systems get you formheretothere.  Just stand on the side of the road, wave your hand, hop aboard, and you’re in for an adventure.  One of our rides stood out from the rest.  First, let me lay out the scene:  the buses always have one driver plus what I would call a “shotgunner”, who rides at the sliding door, collecting fares, operating the door and managing the seating.  Well, this bus stops, the door opens, and the inside sure looks full to me.  No problem.  No one blinks an eye.  Suz and I wedge in, and we’re off.  But wait!  There’s more!  We stop THREE more times to pick people up.  Jump seats are dropped, then homemade cushions are placed in the cracks.  By the time that we departed the circus clown-car there were 20 souls on board.  Quite a pungent, ear-splitting experience.  Oh, I almost forgot.  The driver’s staying cool by drinking a beer, driving with the other hand.  (“Tell me again how your parents died?”)  It’s hard to paint an adequate picture.  Bequia is like what I would imagine the “old Caribbean” was like-unspoiled by tourism or development.  Happy people with a laid-back lifestyle.  We swam on deserted beaches, bought fresh local produce from a “Mom and Pop” stand, ordered Roti in an alleyway off Front Street, and enjoyed homemade fruit juices from a small shop, hidden away on a back street.  Could’ve stayed for a long time, but Mustique was calling, and the weather looked favorable for a stay in the marginal anchorage there, so on the 26th, we were off.

-Later

Well, the flopperstoppers got a rigorous test in the Bight off Roseau.  After a night of 3’ swell on the beam (no exaggeration), we pulled them aboard at 04h15.  The new “bird” did very well.  Our older (and undersized one) came up waaayyy too easily.  The rings holding the lines to the wings had separated, allowing the bird to hang at a ninety degree angle.  No Bueno, but fixable.  By 04h25 we were underway on the 12 hour passage to Le Marin, on Martinique, where we have tentatively planned to dock for a couple of months over the Christmas holiday.  The passage was pretty snotty, but we had expected it.  All of the cupboard doors had been Velcro-tied closed, and everything that could take flight was stowed away.  What we didn’t expect was for the hydraulic oil cooler to take a hike, causing us to overheat the hydraulic system.  Every hour or so, I was in the engine room, bleeding the raw water pump and sea strainer, coaxing it back to life.  Of course the lines were in, and we continued our streak of nobitesnofish.   With the anchor down in the bay outside Le Marin, we headed to shore to clear Customs and begin our reconnaissance mission.  We had no sooner tied the dink up than Bobbie and Craig (Mona Kai) appeared on the dock.  They had just arrived, and were leaving their boat here while they flew home for Craig’s family reunion in Illinois.  By the time we got done yakkin’, we barely made it to clear in before the office closed.  Next day, I opened up the raw water pump for the oil cooler, and inspected the impeller and cam.  They looked Okay, but I replaced them anyhows.  Later, we scoped out the rental car offices, located the boulangerie (always a must for baguettes on French islands), noted the inventories of the marine stores and visited the grocery store to check the produce.  We decided that this was the place for our long stay over the holiday, so made our reservation at the marina office.  Our day wasn’t allworkandnoplay.  We ended our recon with a fashionably late lunch at “Zanzibar”, a Paulette and John recommendation.  After a two hour lunch and a bottleawine, we were all about a dinghy tour of the harbor, and the little hurricane holes around its’ periphery.  Looking forward to our next visit, we had the hook up by 07h00, headed for Rodney Bay on St. Lucia.    Lines in the water, our drought ended.  The big gold reel was spinning off line so fast that it was almost smoking.  I increased the drag to the stops, and it continued to run.  After 400 yards were off, I was beginning to wonder if that bad boy was going to strip the reel.  All of a sudden, the rod snapped back, and the line went limp.  Dunno what it was, but it was big and powerful.  At least he left me my lure.  As we neared the island, we rejoiced in the fact that the oil cooler had performed flawlessly in the heavy seas.  We were docked at the IGY marina in Rodney Bay by noon.  Of course, the skies broke open right as we neared the dock, just in time to give us a good shower.  The marina there has a dock with U.S. shorepower pedestals, making it possible for us to do laundry and run the air conditioning.  Having a sackful of dirty clothes, and a very salty boat interior in need of a thorough cleaning, the washer and air conditioning would be handy.  After clearing Customs and checking in, we walked the docks in search of the sailing vessel, “Slow Dance” Ed and Cheryl, her owners, are friends of John and Paulette’s and expected our arrival.  They were both knee-deep in boatchores, so we agreed to meet for sips at the dockside Tiki bar later that evening.  Even though the oil cooler had not failed on this leg, it still hadn’t been fixed, so I didn’t delude myself-it needed attention.  But…….the engine room was too hot to fuss with the oil cooler, so we rolled up our sleeves, filled the sink with Murphy’s soapy water, fired up the air conditioning, started the washer and got down to it.  Four hours later, the Girl was standing tall again, and Suz and I had clean clothes back in our drawers.  Definitely time for sips.  Besides being fun folks, Ed and Cheryl shared a wealth of information, having cruised this part of the Caribbean off and on for over a decade.  On Monday, we made use of some of the tips that they shared with us.  That is; AFTER I spent a couple of hours in the engine room, taking apart the oil cooler, removing its’ hoses, backflushing it, and basically not finding anything wrong with it.  GRRRRR!  We found the ATM, hit the grocery store (which was pretty nice), and checked out the dive shop that Ed had told us about (John and Paulette got their SCUBA certification there and had raved about it).  Walking into Dive St. Lucia’s shop was like stepping into another country.  It was easily the nicest dive shop that we’d ever been in.  Besides the beautiful showroom, their educational facilities are top-notch.  They have a swimming pool with a 14’ deep end, replete with a wheelchair hoist for accommodating handicapped students.  Their classrooms are well-lit, and air-conditioned, with up to date audiovisual equipment.  They have 2 custom-built dive boats which look like new.  Before we left, we had signed up for a class to get our enriched gas (Nitrox) certification, and 2 dives the following day.  Before heading back to the boat, I stopped at the chandlery to pick up some European electrical parts so that I could fabricate an adapter for the Girl’s visit to Martinique next Christmas.

The class was a breeze, Suzanne and I were the only students.  By 09h00, we had aced our tests and loaded our gear on the boat.  The dive site was a 40 minute ride.  It was a joy to have someone else drive and we used our time to meet 2 other cruising couples with whom we’d be diving today.  The first dive was along a fringe of coral surrounding a small bay.  The reef was very healthy, so we were pleasantly surprised.  When we surfaced, lunch had been served.  Lunch.  Not snacks.  Really?  Roasted chicken, peas and rice, fried plantain, green salad.  What a treat!  The afternoon dive was on a small wrecked freighter which had been intentionally sunk for use as a dive site.  Back on the surface, fresh fruit for the ride home.  We had so much fun that we wanted to go the next day, but were told that there were no openings.  Our new cruiser buddies, Bob, Suzanne, Kevin and Ellen wanted in, too, so when we returned to the shop and whined a bit, Marcel (the owner) called a couple of employees to see if they could come in the following day.  Voila!  We were a go.  Bob and Suzanne asked us to join them for dinner, but we had already planned to eat at a local steakhouse with Ed and Cheryl.  They ended up being at the table next to us at the same place.

Today, Wednesday the 15th, we dove Superman’s Flight, a dive site just below the Pitons (Gros and Petit).  The dive was spectacular.  We saw beautiful sponges, corals, invertebrates, fish and crustaceans of all types.  Lunch was great again, the afternoon dive in the same bay, was very nice too.  We’ll leave the marina tomorrow and grab a mooring ball below the Pitons for the night.  There really isn’t much of a weather window, it’s just going to be a little less crappy on Friday than it will be for the following week.  Our plan is to cross to Bequia (in the Grenadines), travelling in the lee of St. Vincent.  We don’t plan on stopping in St. Vincent (beautiful island, but lots of crime against boaters), but if the seas are untenable, we’ve heard of a marina on the south end of St. V that has good security where we can duck in.

The internet is miserable here, so I’ll put this up

-Later 

Bon jour,

Ahhh…. Les Saintes.  Our few days on Terre-de-Haut flew by.  With John and Paulette, it’s pretty much non-stop.  We toured the French fort, Fort Napolean, took a half-day hike to visit all the beaches, had a Gelcoat repair seminar aboard Seamantha for J & P, went out to eat three times (hey, it’s a French island, and we were with John and Paulette), had fresh baguettes every day (see above), and visited the nearby anchorages by dinghy.  These islands are a tourist destination, so of course, there were lots of shops and boutiques to visit.  Before we knew it, the weather report was saying “Now or next week,” and we needed to get on down island.  Next season we will return to Les Saintes and continue our exploration. We departed at 09h00 on the 9th and banged along in 5’-7’ seas, with 20kn on the beam (this is getting to be a recurring theme).  Since I hadn’t been in the mood to fuss with it, (and frankly, I was stumped.  Theoretically, it’s not possible for the raw water pump for the oil cooler to get air-locked, as it’s all below the water line.  Our guru, Scotty is stumped too) the oil cooler overheated twice.  As we arrived in the mooring field outside Portsmouth, Dominica we were met by Anthony, who grabbed our lines and helped us with a mooring.  Portsmouth is interesting, as the mooring balls are owned by individuals that have banded together to form P.A.Y.S. (Portsmouth Area Yacht Services).  This move, they believe, has reduced competition for, and raised the level of service to visiting yachties.  It worked for us.  We contacted Jeffrey (aka “Seabird”) for our ball, as he is the current president of PAYS.  Clearing Customs was not as easy as the French islands, and not nearly as convoluted as Antigua, but Suz got the job done easily after we finally found the office at a pier a mile or so away.  Jeffrey arranged a driver and minivan for us the next day, and we spent 6 hours touring the island with 6 new friends (from a sailboat near us).  Winston, our driver, was extremely knowledgeable about the flora of the island, and as we wound our way up a mountain road no wider than a driveway in the U.S., he would stop periodically to show us various plants.  (Even though Dominica is an extremely poor island, the soil is very rich, and agriculture combined with bounty from the sea keep people from going hungry.  What’s incredible to me is that the government is EXTREMELY aware that the island’s natural resources are its’ main saleable commodity.  The environmental regulations to protect these resources are very strict, and the population is very proud of their island.)  Near the top of the mountain, we hopped out of the van, hiked across some garden plots and up a stream to Syndicate Falls, beautifully situated in the rain forest.  It was cloudy, drizzly, and a little cool for the troops, but I’ll be darned if I was going to walk all that way and not swim in the pool at the bottom of the falls.  I dropped my shorts, pulled on my bathing suit, and was in the water for a dip and a quick picture.  Winston regaled us with the history of the island, and anecdotes from local life as we drove back along the shore road.  The tour was over way too quickly.  Back at the Seabird base, Jeffrey informed us that he had been in contact with the principal of the school, and that she’d like to meet us the next day.  (We had brought a few bags of school supplies to drop off for the kids here.)   We enjoyed an early dinner with our new minibus friends from s/v “Jalapeno” at the Purple Turtle restaurant nearby.  The next morning, Anthony picked us up in his panga for an early morning trip up the Indian River which runs through Mangrove swamps and lowlands after originating high above us in the mountains.  Per environmental regulations, no gas engines are allowed on the river, and you must go with a guide.  At that time of day, we were the only boat on the river.  The water abounded with fish.  Birds in the impenetrable forest surrounding us were waking up, and exercising their voices.  High up in the branches, iguanas gathered warmth from the rising sun.  We passed by Calypso’s house (scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed in Dominica) on the muddy bank, then tied up to a ramshackle dock.  After scrambling to shore, Anthony led us on a short hike onto high ground, where we passed several shacks with their associated garden plots-kids and dogs playing outside.  Goats were tied here and there amidst the scrub.  The crops that we saw on both of our tours included: mango, papaya, passion fruit, cashews, almonds, pineapple, bananas, lettuce, cabbage, potatoes, yams, dasheen, star fruit, cacao(chocolate)and coffee,etc.

When we returned to base, Jeffrey was ready to take us to the school, where we met Ms. Peter, the principal.  She was thankful for the stuff that we brought, and we had a conversation about some more substantial things that were needed.  We agreed to stay in touch until our return.  (We’ll be back with some A/V equipment next year.)  Jeffrey drove us to Customs, Anthony took us back to the boat, and we were off to Rouseau, the capital city on the south end of the island.  It’s said that the harbor at Rouseau is not the safest for visiting boaters because of crime there.  Anthony had recommended that we contact “Seacat”, who had some moorings in a Bight just south of town, and that he would take good care of us.  As we rounded the point, we called on the VHF, and his guy came out in a panga to guide us to a mooring ball.  He recommended that we give Marcus, hovering nearby in another panga, a tip, as he was in charge of security for the mooring field. Hey, when in Rome…  Seacat’s man asked if we were interested in any tours ashore.  There were plenty of things that we wanted to see, but we had cleared out of the country at Customs, and planned to stay on the boat under the yellow “quarantine” flag before moving on in the morning, figuring that we’d go ashore in the Fall on our way up.  He says: “You’re Seacat’s guests now, no one’s going to bother you.”  No rest for the wicked.  We told him to come back to fetch us in 15 minutes.  We got the flopperstoppers down, as it was really rollin’, buttoned up the boat, and headed to shore when he returned for us.  We landed at a dock that looked like it had been built from discarded lumber and driftwood.  At the end of the dock, sitting on makeshift stools next to the seawall, and sheltered by a rusty corrugated sheet metal roof, sat a group of Rastas smoking ganja.  Our driver introduces us to Seacat.  As I shake his hand, and make eye contact with his nowhiteallbloodshot eyes, I’m thinkin “Your lilly-white behind is a long way from Kansas, dude.”  One thing led to another, and he asked us if we wanted to go up to Trafalgar Falls (That’s what we really wanted to do, but it was getting late in the day).  I said yes, and asked him how much.  He wouldn’t say.  I asked him 3 different ways, and with this sly, sh&$-eatin’ grin, he replied that we’d go on the trip, and we could pay him what we thought it was worth at the end.  Discomfort level rising.  I glanced to Suzanne, and she gave me that “in for a penny, in for a pound” look and we were off.  Well…….looks can be deceiving.  He asked if it was okay with us if this young man (looked to be about high school age) could come with us.  We said “Sure.”  Over the next few hours, we discovered that S.C was mentoring this kid in the ways of entrepreneurship, trying to keep him away from the heavy drugs and violence that are becoming part of the young male culture here.  In S.C., we witnessed a gentle, but firm teacher.  As we wound up into the mountains, we stopped at a cliff overlooking the city of Rouseau, and watched the Pakistan-Dominica cricket game being played in the stadium far below.  He stopped the car every few minutes to pick and identify a flower or fruit growing by the roadside for us.  

Standing on the observation platform, looking up at the base of the falls some 200 feet above us, he asked: “Do you want to go swimming?”  Oh Yeah!  Forty minutes later, after scrambling over and around algae-covered rocks the size of minibuses, and thru raging torrents of water, we were twenty feet below the pool, huddled against a sulfur-colored, rock face that was almost too hot to touch, under the cascading water.  The last twenty feet was a straight up scramble over slippery rocks, with water gushing over completely obscured footholds.  Not having a good supply of Xanax, nor wanting to convalesce in a third-world hospital, we called it good.  After we got back to the van, he related that he was the only guide that took guests into the river.  As we wound down the mountain, we stopped at several springs, where boiling water gushed out of the ground, fired by the magma below and feeding warm sulfur-laden streams.  Of course, we had to see Rouseau, so we headed into town, where the cricket game had just ended.  The streets were jammed with pedestrians.  As we edged through the throngs, it seemed that every other person knew Seacat.  He told Suzanne “Yeah, I’m the unelected Mayor.”  Well Ollie, it just goes to show that you can’t judge a book by its’ cover.  This guy,that we weren’t so sure about ended up to be a straight-up good guy.  He was very knowledgeable, was great with the young man that accompanied us, and a perfect host.  (He wasn’t a bad businessman, either.  We probably paid him more that he would have quoted the tour.)  As the sun fell lower and we worked our way out to the dock for a ride back to the Girl, the guys previously hangin’ out were hard at work cleaning a couple of bushel baskets full of Red Snappers.  This ain’t Kansas, but who says Kansans have a corner on the “Right Way?”

-Later 

Bon Jour,

Even though the locals said that Little Bay was calm (for Little Bay), The 2 nights at Montserrat were pretty rolly.  We got the hook up, and were underway by 07h05.  After 7 and a half hours of 4’-6’ beam seas, we were happy to have the anchor down at Deshaies, Guadeloupe.  As we were heading to clear Customs, a guy on a sailboat is whistling and waving his arms at us.  We motor over, and he asks: “Are you really from Charlevoix?”  Yes, we are.  “I’m from Michigan, too”  One thing led to another, and we departed, promising to pick them up for church the following morning.  Typical of Customs in the French islands, check in was a breeze.  The computer terminal was in a tee shirt shop.  We checked in online, paid the guy at the counter five EC bucks, and we were outtathere.  Never took out our passports, boat papers-nada.  Sweet!

We picked Jim and Carol up the next morning.  The service was, of course, in French.  So…we only picked up snippets, and apparently missed a lot of good stuff.  The priest looked like Idi Amin, complete with the exophthalmos (bug eyes), and was quite a showman.  His gesticulations, expressions, and delivery were energetic, if not frantic.  Every two minutes, the congregation was laughing.  He also apparently missed the memo regarding Mass being one hour long.  An hour and forty-five minutes later, we stumbled out of the church, and down the stairs to the dinghy dock.  Aboard “Nepenthe,” Jim related that they were headed home after working their way up the Antilles from Surinam.  We asked them how long they’d been gone.  “Seventeen years.”  Must be a story there (yes, there was.)  Here’s the short version:  They had been friends for a number of years, both having (other) significant others.  After becoming single, they suddenly realized that they were dating, and went on like this for a year or so, before Jim became eligible for early retirement from General Motors.  When Carol (a nurse practioner) asked him what he was going to do next, he told her that he was going to buy a boat and sail in the islands.  Did she want to go?  She told Jim that she really didn’t.  When he asked her why, she replied that she really wanted to sail around the world.  When he told her that he really didn’t know how to do that, she replied: “It’s easy.  Go down to the islands and take a right.”  Seventeen years later, they have lots of stories to share, after circumnavigating the globe in a 42’ boat with no generator or freezer.

We all rented a car the next day, and toured Basse Terre, our half of the island.  (Guadeloupe is shaped like a butterfly.  One half is volcanic in origin, and quite mountainous.  The other half is coral, and very flat.  Once two separate islands, movement of tectonic plates forced them together, forming a single island).  We drove the Route de la Traverse, a road that climbs up through the cloud tropical forest from one coast to the other.  We got a short hike in at the top of the mountain through the forest during a break in the rain.  We crossed a raging river on a cable bridge, then walked for 45 minutes under the towering, dripping canopy-beautiful.  We stopped at a bakery and bought sandwiches, which we ate at a deserted black sand beach on the blustery South Sound, between the two halves of the island.  Viewing Soufriere, the volcano requires a pretty long hike, but we tried to get as far up the slope as possible by car.  In the process, we visited Bains Jaunes, where warm water bubbles out of the side of the mountain into a pool, a favorite for bathers.  We visited Montebello agricole rhum distillery, and got a private, behind-the-scenes tour.  The plant looked like a set from a Tim Burton movie, straight out of an alternate universe industrial age.  As we wandered past open conveyor belts feeding choppers and crushing apparatus, powered by steam engines with their mechanical governors spinning around, and open gears, I couldn’t help but think what the O.S.H.A. folks would think about this place.  The machinery, put into service in the early 1900’s, is so old that replacement parts need to be custom made.  In spite of its’ appearance, the distillery actually is very “green,” that is, it has a small carbon footprint.  The canes that have been squeezed dry for their juice are then burned to heat the boilers that power the machinery.  The ash that remains is sold to farmers to place on their fields as fertilizer.  On our way out, past the bottling station, where labels are applied to each bottle by hand, we passed a tank with what appeared to be a filling station hose running out of it.  When we asked, we were told that the locals come here to fill up their own bottles ($5/liter).  Personally, I prefer the molasses-based rums to the Rhum Agricole (which is made directly from cane juice).  I would describe the rhum Agricole as a “hotter” taste, as opposed to the sweeter rums made from molasses.  With stops at the Musee de Cacao, and an orchid garden, you could say that we had a full day.  The following morning, Suz and I took a taxi up to the botanical gardens.  Jim and Carol passed, as they had seen botanical gardens all around the world.  The gardens were a pleasant surprise.  They were quite extensive, well laid out, and nicely maintained.  We spent a good part of the day there, culminating with a late lunch, taken at the terraced hilltop restaurant, overlooking the gardens and the sea.

We cleared Customs the next morning, and stopped by Nepenthe to say goodbye to Jim and Carol.  They had guests onboard, some folks that they’d last seen in Borneo several years ago, and who happened to spot Nepenthe when they had sailed into the anchorage the night before.  Our proposed anchorage, 9 miles to the south, but still on Guadeloupe, was the bay near Pigeon Island, purportedly a good snorkeling spot.  We got the hook down on this rainy afternoon, and decided to just stay on the Girl and chill.  We snorkeled for an hour the next morning, and found the site to be above average, not exceptional.  By 09h15, we were on our way to Les Saintes, a group of French islands some 20 miles south of Guadeloupe.  There, we would meet up with John and Paulette aboard Seamantha.  As we cruised down the lee side of Guadeloupe, the sea and breeze were delightful-less than a foot, and less than 10 knots.  John and Paulette had left Deshais in the early hours of the morning, and told us that they were getting pounded.  Suzanne told them not to worry about dinner.  She’d have it ready for them when they arrived in les Saintes.  John replied that dinner would be greatly appreciated, as long as we preceded it with a “Don Q” (rum).  No problem there.  As we rounded the southern tip of Guadeloupe, the winds blasted us on the beam (18-22kn), and the waves built to 3’-5’.  #$%@!! The oil cooler overheated two times in the last 2 hours of the trip, necessitating forays into the 110 degree, rockin’ and rollin’ engine room to bleed the system.  Just before we passed the outer buoy leading into the anchorage at Les Saintes, the sky opened up-perfect timing as it washed off a great deal of the salt that we had accumulated in 2 hours of beam seas. We grabbed a mooring ball, put the flopperstoppers down, (it was surge-y), and awaited the arrival of Seamantha.  Two hours later, they arrived, and we were ready to begin our Les Saints adventure.

-Later

Bon Jour mes amis,

John and Paulette?  We met them at a Krogen Rendezvous in Solomon’s Maryland maybe six years ago, just after they had purchased their 58’ KK, “Seamantha.” We enjoyed the little time that we had together, and hoped that our wakes would cross in the future.  Fast forward to January, 2015.  When we arrived at Sunset Marina in Stuart, we found that we had just missed them.  In November, they had left with two other Krogens, “Anne Marie,”a 58’ and “Sylken Sea,” a 48’, bound for the Antilles.  Knowing that we would be heading south in the next year or two, our long-distance correspondence began.  For the past two years, we’ve been picking John and Paulette’s brains for places to stay, sights to see, and people to meet.  They’ve offered sage advice and friendly suggestions to us Caribbean wannabees, all the while planning to meet up and spend time together.

Back in Falmouth Harbor, we got down to the serious business of “getting caught up.”  We started by delivering a few (but who’s counting?) bottles of “Don Q,”John’s favorite rum, that we had picked up for him in Puerto Rico.  The rest of the evening flew by.  Ever the gracious hostess, and consummate organizer, Paulette had planned an Easter feast to be attended by Ken and Sylvianne (Sylken Sea), and James and Pam (Love Zur).  So…..on Easter Sunday afternoon, we all got together aboard Seamantha to celebrate the day.  Without exception, these crews are great cooks, and no one was to be outdone.  John and Paulette provided the main dishes (Veal, lamb, fresh veggies, salad, potatoes, homemade spanakopita, fresh-baked braided Greek bread, and etc.) while the other crews provided apps and deserts.  Foie gras, Mexican rolls, fish/cheese spread and assorted cured meats before, then Suzanne’s(Thank you Julia) Tequila Lime pie after.  All washed down with liberal amounts of French red wine, it was a chore to get back into our tenders to head home afterwards.  The next week and a half just flew by.  The classic yachts rolled in, ranging in age from over 100 years old, to those that were less than a decade, and in sizes from 30’ to well over 100’.  We watched the start of the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta races from our dinghies a couple of days, and from high up on the seaside cliffs a few others.  We hiked and shopped, went out for lunches and met aboard one boat or another for Sundowners.  One day, John, Paulette, Suz and I took the bus, number 17, to St. John, the largest city on Antigua for lunch and a lookaround.  From there, we transferred to the number 54 bus for a field trip to the Epicurean, definitely the nicest grocery store that we’ve seen in the past 6 months.  Another day, Suz and I explored Nelson’s Dockyard, a UNESCO heritage site, in nearby English Harbor.

Suz and I were starting to feel the pull of the sea, and the calendar was inexorably ticking down the days until Hurricane Season.  So, on the 27th of April, when a small weather window opened, we were off to Montserrat.  Seamantha needed a few more days for their guys to finish varnishing, and Sylken Sea was headed to dry dock, as our Canadian friends had to head home for 6 months (to maintain their health insurance), so it was just the Admiral and me.  Five hours later, we had the anchor down in Little Bay, on the north end of Montserrat.  The anchorage there is nothing more than a Bight, so you must go there in very settled weather.  This we expected for two days, so we were quite surprised when the surge was rolling in, and waves were crashing on the rocks.  Oh well, we were here, and this was as good as it was predicted to get in the next week or so.  You may recall that Montserrat, an overseas territory of Great Britain, was hit by a devastating volcanic eruption in 1997.  Actually, it was many eruptions spanning a few years, culminating in 1997, by which time, more than ¾ of the population had fled the island.  Prior to the volcano, Montserrat had been a veritable paradise.  With its’ fertile soil and abundant water supply, agriculture thrived.  Since the island was a bit “off the beaten path,” it was attractive to the rich and famous who didn’t want to be seen.  Sir George Martin (the fifth Beatle) built Air Studios here, recording some 70 albums by such notables as Paul McCartney, The Police, Sting, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Simply Red, James Taylor, Jimmie Buffet, Arrow (Hot, Hot, Hot), Dire straits, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Lou Reed, and many more.  The studio was mostly destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, and never rebuilt.  Sir George’s family still maintains his home on the island since his death in 2016.  Now, post-volcano, the population of roughly 3,500 (down from 11,000), is forced to live on the northern 1/3 of the island, due to the fact that the southern section is now an “exclusion zone” where entry is forbidden due to the threat of continued pyroclastic activity.  Unfortunately, the northern section has very little arable land, and water is scarcer.  One has to wonder if the population will ever reach “critical mass,” to allow businesses to thrive, and life to return to “normal.”

So let me tell you about our tour of the island:  We met our guide, Sunny (no, not Sonny.  Sunny.) on the road outside the port security office at 09h00.  He was easy to spot.  As described by his wife to Suzanne: “A skinny white guy, around 5’11  Dishwater blonde hair.”  Conceived and born in Key West, FL, Sunny moved to Montserrat with his parents (a couple of hippies, disenchanted with the U.S.A.-my distillation of his description) when he was one year old.  Now thirty-nine, he has lived on Montserrat his whole life.  For the next eight hours, we toured the island in his little SUV.  He shared anecdotes about life on the island pre and post volcano.  His knowledge regarding the history of the island seemed boundless.  When we asked a question, he would rattle off dates and details as if he was reading from an almanac.  As we gazed out across a miles-long pyroclastic flow on the east side of the island from a high vantage point several miles away, it was hard to imagine the international airport buried thirty feet below the surface.  The top of the control tower was all that was visible.  When the volcano was more active, Sunny and his folks would come up to this vantage point to witness the incandescent flows on the side of the volcano, and watch the lightning storms which always accompanied an event.  Before heading to the exclusion zone (Sunny had obtained passes from the police to enter), we stopped at the Hilltop Café for lunch.  The Hilltop is a non-profit coffee shop run by Sunny’s parents, David and Clover.  The shop provides a gathering spot with free WiFi for locals and travelers alike.  In addition to coffee, tea, and an assortment of organic juices, there’s usually some type of healthy casserole in the oven.  Clover cut us each a piece of “Mexican Pie.”  The Hilltop is also the best museum on the island.  The place is packed with relics from the island, ranging from pre-Carib inhabitants, to furniture and mementos from Air Studio.  As we enjoyed lunch, Clover cued up a video entitled “Remembering Montserrat” for us.  The video, shot by Sunny’s Dad (he’s a professional photographer), with a soundtrack by Sunny and Clover (oh yeah, he’s a professional musician) highlighted scenes of Montserrat, and the capital, Plymouth, pre-volcano.  After lunch, we headed into the exclusion zone, an area encompassing most of the southern half of the island.  Entry is forbidden unless a special pass is obtained, due to the possibility of renewed pyroclastic activity.

Our experience there was profound on two levels:  the immensity of the geologic change, and the incredible toll on the people.  Sunny described the hikes that his family took when he was a kid, up to the highest peak on the island, gazing down to the lush valley below.  That valley has now grown into the highest peak on the island.  Driving down a dusty two-track, Sunny stops the car and tells us that there’s a two story house under us, and a truck that the electric company didn’t move fast enough over there.  The buildings on higher ground are untouched, they’ve just been vacant for 20 years.  Many are buried by vegetation, not ash.  The original owners still retain possession; they’re just not allowed to live there-very strange.  As we drive down the roads of Sunny’s old neighborhood, the scene reminds us of a post-apocalyptic movie set.  Hard to explain-ya gotta be there.  We got back to the boat by 18h00, spent the night, and were off to Guadaloupe early the next morning.

-Later

Bon Jour mes amis,

John and Paulette?  We met them at a Krogen Rendezvous in Solomon’s Maryland maybe six years ago, just after they had purchased their 58’ KK, “Seamantha.” We enjoyed the little time that we had together, and hoped that our wakes would cross in the future.  Fast forward to January, 2015.  When we arrived at Sunset Marina in Stuart, we found that we had just missed them.  In November, they had left with two other Krogens, “Anne Marie,”a 58’ and “Sylken Sea,” a 48’, bound for the Antilles.  Knowing that we would be heading south in the next year or two, our long-distance correspondence began.  For the past two years, we’ve been picking John and Paulette’s brains for places to stay, sights to see, and people to meet.  They’ve offered sage advice and friendly suggestions to us Caribbean wannabees, all the while planning to meet up and spend time together.

Back in Falmouth Harbor, we got down to the serious business of “getting caught up.”  We started by delivering a few (but who’s counting?) bottles of “Don Q,”John’s favorite rum, that we had picked up for him in Puerto Rico.  The rest of the evening flew by.  Ever the gracious hostess, and consummate organizer, Paulette had planned an Easter feast to be attended by Ken and Sylvianne (Sylken Sea), and James and Pam (Love Zur).  So…..on Easter Sunday afternoon, we all got together aboard Seamantha to celebrate the day.  Without exception, these crews are great cooks, and no one was to be outdone.  John and Paulette provided the main dishes (Veal, lamb, fresh veggies, salad, potatoes, homemade spanakopita, fresh-baked braided Greek bread, and etc.) while the other crews provided apps and deserts.  Foie gras, Mexican rolls, fish/cheese spread and assorted cured meats before, then Suzanne’s(Thank you Julia) Tequila Lime pie after.  All washed down with liberal amounts of French red wine, it was a chore to get back into our tenders to head home afterwards.  The next week and a half just flew by.  The classic yachts rolled in, ranging in age from over 100 years old, to those that were less than a decade, and in sizes from 30’ to well over 100’.  We watched the start of the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta races from our dinghies a couple of days, and from high up on the seaside cliffs a few others.  We hiked and shopped, went out for lunches and met aboard one boat or another for Sundowners.  One day, John, Paulette, Suz and I took the bus, number 17, to St. John, the largest city on Antigua for lunch and a lookaround.  From there, we transferred to the number 54 bus for a field trip to the Epicurean, definitely the nicest grocery store that we’ve seen in the past 6 months.  Another day, Suz and I explored Nelson’s Dockyard, a UNESCO heritage site, in nearby English Harbor.

Suz and I were starting to feel the pull of the sea, and the calendar was inexorably ticking down the days until Hurricane Season.  So, on the 27th of April, when a small weather window opened, we were off to Montserrat.  Seamantha needed a few more days for their guys to finish varnishing, and Sylken Sea was headed to dry dock, as our Canadian friends had to head home for 6 months (to maintain their health insurance), so it was just the Admiral and me.  Five hours later, we had the anchor down in Little Bay, on the north end of Montserrat.  The anchorage there is nothing more than a Bight, so you must go there in very settled weather.  This we expected for two days, so we were quite surprised when the surge was rolling in, and waves were crashing on the rocks.  Oh well, we were here, and this was as good as it was predicted to get in the next week or so.  You may recall that Montserrat, an overseas territory of Great Britain, was hit by a devastating volcanic eruption in 1997.  Actually, it was many eruptions spanning a few years, culminating in 1997, by which time, more than ¾ of the population had fled the island.  Prior to the volcano, Montserrat had been a veritable paradise.  With its’ fertile soil and abundant water supply, agriculture thrived.  Since the island was a bit “off the beaten path,” it was attractive to the rich and famous who didn’t want to be seen.  Sir George Martin (the fifth Beatle) built Air Studios here, recording some 70 albums by such notables as Paul McCartney, The Police, Sting, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Simply Red, James Taylor, Jimmie Buffet, Arrow (Hot, Hot, Hot), Dire straits, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Lou Reed, and many more.  The studio was mostly destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, and never rebuilt.  Sir George’s family still maintains his home on the island since his death in 2016.  Now, post-volcano, the population of roughly 3,500 (down from 11,000), is forced to live on the northern 1/3 of the island, due to the fact that the southern section is now an “exclusion zone” where entry is forbidden due to the threat of continued pyroclastic activity.  Unfortunately, the northern section has very little arable land, and water is scarcer.  One has to wonder if the population will ever reach “critical mass,” to allow businesses to thrive, and life to return to “normal.”

So let me tell you about our tour of the island:  We met our guide, Sunny (no, not Sonny.  Sunny.) on the road outside the port security office at 09h00.  He was easy to spot.  As described by his wife to Suzanne: “A skinny white guy, around 5’11  Dishwater blonde hair.”  Conceived and born in Key West, FL, Sunny moved to Montserrat with his parents (a couple of hippies, disenchanted with the U.S.A.-my distillation of his description) when he was one year old.  Now thirty-nine, he has lived on Montserrat his whole life.  For the next eight hours, we toured the island in his little SUV.  He shared anecdotes about life on the island pre and post volcano.  His knowledge regarding the history of the island seemed boundless.  When we asked a question, he would rattle off dates and details as if he was reading from an almanac.  As we gazed out across a miles-long pyroclastic flow on the east side of the island from a high vantage point several miles away, it was hard to imagine the international airport buried thirty feet below the surface.  The top of the control tower was all that was visible.  When the volcano was more active, Sunny and his folks would come up to this vantage point to witness the incandescent flows on the side of the volcano, and watch the lightning storms which always accompanied an event.  Before heading to the exclusion zone (Sunny had obtained passes from the police to enter), we stopped at the Hilltop Café for lunch.  The Hilltop is a non-profit coffee shop run by Sunny’s parents, David and Clover.  The shop provides a gathering spot with free WiFi for locals and travelers alike.  In addition to coffee, tea, and an assortment of organic juices, there’s usually some type of healthy casserole in the oven.  Clover cut us each a piece of “Mexican Pie.”  The Hilltop is also the best museum on the island.  The place is packed with relics from the island, ranging from pre-Carib inhabitants, to furniture and mementos from Air Studio.  As we enjoyed lunch, Clover cued up a video entitled “Remembering Montserrat” for us.  The video, shot by Sunny’s Dad (he’s a professional photographer), with a soundtrack by Sunny and Clover (oh yeah, he’s a professional musician) highlighted scenes of Montserrat, and the capital, Plymouth, pre-volcano.  After lunch, we headed into the exclusion zone, an area encompassing most of the southern half of the island.  Entry is forbidden unless a special pass is obtained, due to the possibility of renewed pyroclastic activity.

Our experience there was profound on two levels:  the immensity of the geologic change, and the incredible toll on the people.  Sunny described the hikes that his family took when he was a kid, up to the highest peak on the island, gazing down to the lush valley below.  That valley has now grown into the highest peak on the island.  Driving down a dusty two-track, Sunny stops the car and tells us that there’s a two story house under us, and a truck that the electric company didn’t move fast enough over there.  The buildings on higher ground are untouched, they’ve just been vacant for 20 years.  Many are buried by vegetation, not ash.  The original owners still retain possession; they’re just not allowed to live there-very strange.  As we drive down the roads of Sunny’s old neighborhood, the scene reminds us of a post-apocalyptic movie set.  Hard to explain-ya gotta be there.  We got back to the boat by 18h00, spent the night, and were off to Guadaloupe early the next morning.

-Later

Bon Jour,

WARNING!  This may be a long one, it’s been three weeks since I talked at ya.  We got off the dock at Crown Bay Marina by 08h15, en route to North Sound, Virgin Gorda.  We had a beautiful, sunny day for our seven hour voyage.  Driving from the upper helm, we just enjoyed the breeze, rehashing the week with Jeremy, Jodi and Mikaela.  By 15h15, we were on a ball in our familiar haunt, Biras Creek.  On the 9th, by the light of the waxing gibbous moon (full on the 11th), we threaded our way out of the harbor at 03h55.  Gliding past Sir Richard Branson’s island, Necker, the bioluminescent critters set our bow wave aglow.  Lightning flickered below the distant horizon.  A gazillion stars overhead.  This is what it’s all about for us.  Accumulating patchy clouds obscured the sunrise, but as the sky lightened, the lines went in the water.  We struck out on the fishing program, and as we reached the shallows north of St. Maarten, we hauled the lines in and cleaned the reels.  We were beginning to get an appreciation for how good the fishing is in the Bahamas and the coast of Florida.  Okay……Here we go.  The Bahamian and Chinese governments are currently negotiating an “agriculture and fishing agreement.” For a little over a billion dollars, the Chinese will have the right to fish Bahamian waters, and farm the land.  Well, over the last 400 years we’ve gotten a pretty good idea about farming (or growing anything) in the Bahamas.  Wonder what the Chinese are after and wonder what the ocean will look like when they’re done.  Hopefully, the Bahamian politicians will break from their traditionally short-sighted habits and ask any South American country how their dealings with China has worked out for them.  By the way, the fishing boundary between the Bahamas and the U.S.A. has been in dispute for years-where do we fit into this mess?  Hopefully, I won’t break my leg jumping off this soapbox.  …..Aaah, there we go.

We missed the 17h00 bridge into the Lagoon at St. Maarten, so spent a rolly night anchored in Simpson Bay, utilizing the old, small flopperstoppers.  We made the 09h30 bridge the next morning, anchored in the Lagoon, and cleared Customs by 11h00.  We called Havin, our fabricator, and he said that the new, larger flopperstoppers were almost done, but that he needed to ask me a couple of questions about them in person.  We went in to his shop, got things straightened out, and agreed to pick the finished work up that afternoon.  Meanwhile, Budget Marine for line and some miscellaneous hardware, grocery store for produce, and the salon to make an appointment for the Admiral to get her hair cut.  Back at Havin’s, “no way I can get this done today.  How about you come back tomorrow around Noon?” Well, when we told him that we needed them by the 4th, we figured on a two week overage, so no stress.  The town was a bit quieter this time, with all of the Heineken Regatta folks gone, but still very vibrant.  We got our business taken care of, and went to pick up our flopperstopper “birds” and spinnaker pole at around 14h00 the next day.  The work was beautiful.  After grabbing one of the birds, I asked Havin where the other one was.  Blank look-bad sign.  He had only made one.  No wonder the job was such a good price.  We went back and looked at my drawings/specs, and sure enough, I had specified 2 birds.  Since he special-ordered the materials, he couldn’t have another one done for us until 4 days hence.  No good.  We had to be in Antigua by the 14th, and only had a teeny weather window to sneak through.  After exploring the ways that we could possibly get the goods down island, or whether we could come back later, we said “Uncle,” and took what was finished.  We left the Lagoon at the 08h30 bridge, and dropped anchor again in Simpson Bay.  While Suzanne took the tender back through the bridge into town to get her haircut, I cleaned “Alizann’s” bottom.  Two hours flew by, and when I surfaced, Suz was back, happily shorn, and we were on our way to Ile Forchue, off of St. Barth’s, to spend the night before heading down to Antigua.

It was another early morning departure from Ile Forchue, but at 03h00, under clear skies and lit by a full moon, we raised anchor, pointing The Girl southeast to Antigua.  Our plan was to hit the marina at Jolly Harbor so that we could get on a dock, as I had to install hardware on the side of the boat and up on the mast for the new flopperstopper.  After fishing from sunup, we finally had a strike in the early afternoon.  Before long, we had boated a nice little 18 pound Blackfin Tuna.  We got him bled and chilled down for a couple of hours, then filleted him, bagged him, and got most of him in the freezer, reserving some for “just now.” Well…Antigua Customs was a trip.  We came in around 10 minutes before they were to close, found no place to tie the boat, and figured that we’d just clear in the morning.  At Jolly Harbor Marina, the Dockmaster asked us if we had cleared.  “Nope.  We’ll do it in the morning.”  He wasn’t so sure about that.  He told us to follow him, as he roared away in his inflatable.  Down the harbor, he went in to the Customs office, then back out to our boat.  They wanted us to clear tonight before docking.  A space opened up at the wall, and we slid in.  An hour-and-a-half later, after waiting in line behind two other boats, we were cleared.  Our dock dude said that the reverse-osmosis dockside water was ten cents a gallon, so we put 200 gallons in the tanks.  In the morning, we were up at daybreak.  First, we gave The Girl a thorough desalting, scrubbing her from stem to stern.  Then, it was up the mast to tap a couple of holes for the padeye and block which was to hold the new F.S.  Now came the notsomuchfun part.  Drilling holes in the hull, one thing that you don’t want on a boat.  Well, it had to be done, so after measuring five times, I drilled once.  By 13h00, the deed was done, and we were ready to (not) roll.  I left the dock for literally the first time to go up to the office and pay the rent.  I nearly choked when I was presented with the bill.  Seven hundred and ninety-three dollars?  We were on the dock for all of twenty hours!  When I regained my composure, the nice lady informed me that that was EC$ (around 2.2:1USD).  Still seemed like a lot.  By the way, the water was $.10 USD/LITER, and we had used a little OVER 60kw of power.  Really?  On a bad day, we use around 20-25kw.  We did the two-step about the bill for around 20 minutes, and I just ended up aggravated, not placated.  All of a sudden, installing an electric meter on board doesn’t look like such an expensive proposition.  (Our ace troubleshooter, mechanic, friend and nautical Jedi Master, Scottie had warned us about the electric scam thing in the Caribbean.  We had decided that we needed to “stop the bleeding” on boat expenses at that time, so opted to forego the meter install).  Liveandlearn.  Their house, their meter, their rules, our $$$.  Outta there.

So, on the 14th of April, we entered Falmouth Harbor at around 15h00, where John and Paulette, from Seamantha, came out in their tender to meet us, and lead us to our mooring ball.  This is getting kinda long.  We’re only up to the 14th of April, and it’s the 3rd of May, so I’ll try not to wear out my welcome until

-Later

Pages

Captain's Log

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

 

Pages