Hellooo….

So, let me say a few words about Marigot Bay.  This is an extremely sheltered, nearly round bay surrounded by tall headlands rising to nearly 600’.  The narrow channel leads out to an anchorage which has a few mooring balls, and room to anchor.  The inner harbor has many mooring balls and a dock running along the shore with room for about 25 boats to Med-moor (stern-to, bow tied to a lead line away from shore).  Both the moorings and the dock are owned by Capella Resort, which is adjacent to the bay.  The good news is that as a marina customer, you have access to their two swimming pools and spa.  Dockside power is European (240V, 50Hz), but they had a small converter which allowed limited power for 2 or 3 North American boats (220V, 60Hz).  This allowed us to keep our batteries charged, and run the A/C in our stateroom at night.

Day two dawned bright and sunny.  The Admiral went for a ninety-minute massage while I chilled at the boat, taking care of some odds ‘n ends.  John’s brother and sister-in-law flew in from England for a 3 week visit on board Seamantha.  The afternoon had me peelin’, slicin’, and dicin’, while the Admiral handled the skilled job of prepping food for our Thanksgiving celebration the following day.  Aboard Seamantha, Paulette was continuing her preparations, which had already been in process for a few days.  Later in the day, the rest of the U.S. Thanksgiving gang cruised in.  Randy and Theresa, along with their two boys Ryan (12 years old) and Ronan (10 years old) docked their 54’ SeaRay, “Pilot’s Discretion” down the way.  John and Paulette had met them a couple of years before when docked in Grenada for the Summer.  Randy is retired from American Airlines after serving stints as Bob Hope’s, then Clint Eastwood’s private pilot subsequent to a stint in the U.S. Coast Guard.  Theresa is an attorney on sabbatical, as they have been cruising for 3 years.

It wasn’t Thanksgiving with the family and Detroit Lions football on the tube, but it sure weren’t bad.  Appetizers and sips started at Noon, and we pushed away around 16h00.  John started us out with some French white pop.  Smoked salmon (brought by John’s family from Scotland), Paulette’s homemade Spanakopita, and steamed shrimp got the party started.  Then the real fun began.  I’ll just give you the list:  Roast beef; Turkey; mashed potatoes (of course!); roasted vegetables; roasted Brussel Sprouts; roasted Sweet Potatoes; Onion casserole; Cranberry and Orange sauce; gravy and stuffing, all washed down with a red(?) Sancerre.  Dessert put us over the top:  Pecan pie, Chocolate cheese cake; ice cream; and stewed fruit with whipped cream were all on the menu.

We didn’t waste a minute during our weeklong stay at Marigot.  The day after Thanksgiving, John and Paulette arranged for Curt Joseph (a.k.a. Island Man) to take us on a tour of St. Lucia.  He picked up John, Paulette, Michael, Wendy, Suzanne and I at 09h00, and we didn’t return until after dark. We visited Tet Paul Nature trail first.  There, our guide took us along an easy trail, identifying local plants and trees along the way, culminating in a spectacular lookout which overlooked The Pitons (Gros and Petit), two extinct volcanic cones, which are St. Lucian geologic icons.  Next stop was the Diamond Botanical Gardens, where we spent a couple hours strolling the paths.  Our guide did a superb job of identifying and describing the uses of the myriad of plants there.  We took a late lunch at “Fedo’s” restaurant, located on one of the back alleys of Soufriere.  We never would have found it on our own, but Curt said that he wouldn’t eat anywhere else.  After lunch, we could see why.  Then, it was off to the Soufriere volcano.  We were the only tourists there, as it was late in the day, so we had our own personal guide.  We walked the boardwalks over pits of boiling mud through tendrils of sulfur-laden steam which had bubbled up through the Earth’s crust.  Cool.  Afterwards, we visited the “Volcano Museum”, which provided some rudimentary facts.  At sunset, we walked the beach outside the town of Soufriere, viewing Gros Piton one last time, from a different angle.  It was a long, sleepy ride home.  We all agreed that Curt was the man.  He picked us up early enough that we were ahead of the busses filled with cruise ship passengers, timing lunch so that they could pass ahead of us, and finished our tour after they were on their way back to their ships-perfect!  The next morning Theresa and the boys led Suz and I on a hike that almost literally went straight up through the forest to a 630’ peak overlooking Marigot.  As we were scrambling up the path, at times aided by ropes strung along the side, and starting mini slides of loose stones, I have to admit I was worrying about how we’d get back down.  The view from the top was well worth the climb, and a different path, this one winding down another face of the peak took us back down.  We enjoyed pizza and a few sodas while the boys played pool at “Doolittles” before taking the little ferry boat back to our side of the harbor.  That evening, Suz and I had dinner at “Masala Bay,” an exceptional Indian restaurant located right at the marina (the Seamantha and Alizann crews managed to wedge in 2 lunches there during the week too).

It’s funny how inertia can grab ahold of you.  When Suz and I are on the move, we can’t wait to see the next anchorage.  When we pull into a marina and stay for a while, it gets tough to move along.  I guess that we just get used to the routine……… Anyway, it was time to get on up island.  On Tuesday morning, the crews of Alizann and Seamantha pushed off for the 5 hour hop to Martinique.

-Later

Bon jour

Reluctantly, we upped the anchor in Chatham Bay, Union Island at 09h00 on the 15th of November.  An hour later, we entered the anchorage at Salt Whistle Bay on the north end of tiny Mayreau (population 250), another island of the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines archipelago.  It’s a very popular, but small anchorage on the northwest corner of the island.  If it was full, we planned to head a few miles south, and toss down the hook in Saline Bay, at the south end of Mayreau.  That wasn’t our first choice, as the ferries and small cruise ships use the commercial port there.  As luck would have it, a boat was just dropping a mooring ball as we entered the harbor (it also happened to be the one that we would have chosen if the whole mooring field had been empty.  Our “Boat Boy” du jour, “Fifty Cent” guided us in and took our lines, helping us to secure the Girl to the mooring.  (Of course, we could have very easily secured ourselves, but the Boat Boys plying the anchorages in their little pangas really need the work on these islands where there’s very little opportunity for employment.  They really hustle-good for them!)  The bay was separated from the Atlantic by a low, sandy spit covered by palm trees.  We had a nice breeze, but virtually no waves.  We brought the dinghy to the sandy shore and anchored it in 3’ of water.  Crossing the spit, we had a nice mile-and-a-half walk down the deserted sand beach on the windward side.  The remaining few hours of the afternoon afforded me the perfect opportunity to give the Girl a good bottom cleaning.  Two hours, and one broken putty knife later, her backside was smooth as a babies…  The next day, it was time to stretch our legs.  We walked the island loop, which took us over the top and down into Saline Bay.  High above Saline Bay, we stopped at the Catholic church.  On the walkway looping behind the church, we were treated to a beautiful view of the Tobago Cays, some seven miles distant.  The first part of our walk was on pavement (although we never saw a vehicle).  The way home took us past the island dump to the windward (and uninhabited) side of the island.  The trail wound along the coastline, meandering through grassy highlands, rocky shoreline and mangrove groves.  Not a well-travelled path, we backtracked several times to find our way, and bushwhacked through deep growth, finally ending up at the end of the beach that we had tramped the day before.  After 5 miles in the hot sun, we lolled in the knee-deep water off our anchorage’s sandy beach in bathtub calm, 85-degree water.

After two days at Mayreau, we were off to our old stompin’ grounds in Port Elizabeth, Bequia (another island in SVG).  We were looking forward to meeting up with our friend, Donnaka (See hiking in Bequia from April or May 2017).  We also had a load of swim suits and goggles for the Bequia swim team which we’d hand off to their coach, and our friend, Tyrell Olivierre.  Well…..the four days in Bequia went quickly.  We met up with Donnaka, who regaled us with stories from his recent two-month walkabout in South America.  It just fanned our already simmering fires to spend some time there next year.  Our friend Ken (“In Dreams”-from Grenada) arrived, so we spent some time bangin’ around with him.  We did a couple of dives with “Dive Bequia,” enjoying a couple of surprisingly nice sites, accompanied by James, our boat driver, and Max, Divemaster.  The morning dive, it was just Suzanne and I, in the later dive, just another guy and his daughter.  Max and I speared a dozen-and-a-half Lionfish, giving us enough for a nice dinner, leaving a dozen for Max.  I say that the dives were “surprisingly nice” because I had read a review online that said that the reefs here were disappointing.  Not so.  The corals appeared to be as vibrant and healthy as any that we’ve seen here in the Windwards.  The number of lobster that we saw was off the charts.  We met up with Ty and the swim team and they were delighted with their new goodies.  Ty confided that the girls especially were embarrassed at their competitions, as they didn’t have (couldn’t afford) proper racing suits.  Well, they’re gonna be stylin’ now.  Suzanne picked out the most colorfully patterned Speedos that she could find, in a variety of sizes (Ty sent us size requirements in an email during the Summer).  Four days went too quickly, but it was time to get on up to St. Lucia to join Paulette and John (aboard Seamantha) for Thanksgiving.  We had the turkey in our freezer, so our absence would’ve been noticed.  Before we left, I got out the pressure gauge, and handheld tachometer, and got our recalcitrant hydraulic oil cooler into spec.  (It wasn’t).  I figured that the next leg would be a good test.

The anchor was shipped by 05h35 for our anticipated 8-hour trip to Marigot Bay on St. Lucia.  On the way, the Girl got a nice salty coating from short period, 2’-4’ seas on the starboard bow.  We caught a little (24”) Blackfin Tuna along the way.  More importantly, we had NO hydraulic system overheats.  Maybe we’ve got it licked (knock wood).  At 14h15, we backed into our Med-moor slip between Seamantha and another vessel, under Paulette and John’s watchful eyes.  After a quick washdown of boat and crew, we joined our pals for sips and stories, as it had been nearly 7 months since we had seen each other.

On to Thanksgiving……….

-Later

Time Flies.

We glided into Clifton Harbor at 13h25 on the 7th of November.  Within minutes, we were at “our spot” in the northeast corner of the anchorage near “Kiteboard Beach.”  Well…. not exactly “our spot,” as there was a rather ratty-looking catamaran parked right over our old GPS fix from the previous Spring.  As usual, Suz was driving, I was handling the ground tackle on the bow.  I came inside to confer with the Admiral on the next best spot to drop the hook, when Suz said “Did you see that?”  “Yeah, those guys are right in “our sp……”.  Really?  None of the four guys sunbathing on the deck had a stitch on.  After a quick conference, we decided to drop our anchor at their midships so that The Girl would lay well off the German Nature Boys’ stern (their boat).  We tidied up the boat and got the dinghy deployed about the time that the Canadian couple on the sailboat behind us returned from shore on their tender.  After an animated discussion between the two of them, he came out to his bow, pacing in an obviously agitated manner.  Uh Oh.  I went over for a chat, and was informed that I was anchored on top of his chain.  When I asked him how much chain he had out, he growled “40 meters”.  One hundred twenty-five feet in ten feet of water?  Seemed rather excessive to me.  We had fifty feet out, anchored in a sandy bottom, behind a sheltering reef.  I told him that I really didn’t think that we had a problem, but that I’d be happy to swim his anchor, then mine to make sure.  As he glowered from his foredeck, I did just that.  Our hooks were around fifty feet apart, neither upwind of the other.  Somewhat mollified, he semi-stomped back to his cockpit.  Time to clear Customs, so we stopped at their boat to introduce ourselves and ask them if they needed anything from shore.  Curt “No thanks,” no names.  Sometimes it’s just that way, even here in paradise.

Over the next five days, we resumed our kiteboard lessons, graduating from the shallow waters off Kiteboard Beach to the deep water off Frigate Island.  The first and second days, we progressed nicely.  Suz took the third day off to rest.  I thought that I had some catching up to do, as she was learning quicker than me.  BIG MISTAKE!  I was tired too, but didn’t realize it.  I backslid bigtime.  By the end of the session, I was totally ready to quit.  (I’m not sure that I’ve ever quit at anything).  Next day, Suz had a morning lesson.  She had the deep water starts perfected, and was going well in one direction, pretty good in the other.  I was happy that she was progressing so well, but had to tell her that I was more than a little bit jealous, and pretty upset by the difference in our progression.  We had lunch on the shore with a bunch of younger boarders, as well as the owner of the school, Jeremie.  They all praised Suz for her accomplishments, and offered me some “buck up” anecdotes (they had all been watching our lessons for the past few days).  I had determined that I was done with the boarding thing, but hadn’t told anyone yet, when Jeremie (the JT Pro Kiteboarding owner) took me aside.  He shared that it took him a long time to get going at first (probably a lie).  More importantly, he told me to just relax.  He related that men had a tendency to use too much muscle and try to overpower the kite and board, but that women learned much faster because they just “went with the flow”.  Okay, I could see that.  I’d seen that learning how to snow ski at age 32.  I was still in a funk, and was going to quit anyway, when a French guy who was doing aerials, and all kinds of tricks earlier gave me the talk too.  He said that his wife was up and boarding in three lessons, whereas after his eighth, he was just starting to get up on the board.  Well, with all those folks in my corner, I couldn’t just walk away.  Zen kiteboarding won the day.  Everything suddenly got easier, and we ended the afternoon in smiles.  I don’t look pretty (but then again, I never have), but I’m driving the board in both directions, and we’ll be back.  Suzanne and I think that our instructor, Butter, and our boat driver, Marlin, are the best.  Jeremie, we’ll be back.

It wasn’t all work and no play in Clifton.  Onshore, we went back to “Yummy’s Bakery” for Rose’s Roti, and Zoey’s (Jeremie’s wife) “Snack Shack” for a wonderful lunch.  The open-air market supplied us with fresh fruit and veggies.  Cocktails happened a couple of evenings at the “Anchorage Yacht Club”, and “Bougainvilla”.

On the 15th, we moved up the west side of Union Island to Chatham Bay.  What an idyllic anchorage.  A crescent-shaped beach rings the bay, and there is good holding for the anchor throughout.  We dropped the hook away from all other boats (there were 8 in an anchorage large enough for 70, easily).  Soon enough, we were approached by a guy in a panga hawking his restaurant on shore.  He also told us that we’d be getting some swell during the night if we remained anchored here.  He motored on, and after a bit of discussion, the Admiral and I hauled anchor.  Seckie reappeared, and led us up to a spot in the northeast corner of the bay, and indicated a good spot to drop the hook.  Uncharacteristically, he didn’t hang around for a tip, just motored back to shore.  Long story short, we radio’d him on the VHF, ordered two grilled Red Snapper dinners, and headed in to the beach an hour later.  We met Seckie’s girlfriend, Vanessa.  In her small kitchen(?), she cooked the sides, while Seckie grilled the fish over an open hearth.  Their power was supplied by a generator, as there were no power lines down to this isolated bay.  The food was delicious.  As it turned out, Vanessa was a jewelry artist, creating necklaces and bracelets from beach glass and sterling silver.  Suz picked out several (it’s almost Christmas), and asked Vanessa to hold them until we could come back tomorrow with more $$$.  Nope.  She said take them and come back tomorrow when we get here.  Next day was a hike day.  We got to shore and hit the trail after a false start which took us down a rutted, muddy road.  Elton, a local fisherman, called out to us, and directed us to a path through the bush that would take us out of the wet lowlands and up a steep trail through the bush to the peak of the mountain.  He did want a tip, and wasn’t shy about asking for one.  We scrambled up a mile-long trail that rose some 600 feet.  On the way up, we met “Shark Attack”, who was walking down to his shack on the shore of the bay.  For the next twenty minutes, standing on the steep trail in the middle of the rain forest, we had a spirited discussion on the politics of SVG (I guess I should say that we mostly listened while he talked).  As we broke out of the bush onto the paved road, we continued on our 5-mile jaunt, which took us up to the Digicel tower, the village of Ashton, and out to the point overlooking our bay, (where we met “Bushman”, another local figure along with “Shark Attack”, about whom we had read in the cruising guides), eventually ending up back on the beach, where our dinghy was tied to Seckie’s dock.  As I crab-walked down the steep, gravel-strewn trail form the tower, I rubbed my hand against a piece of plant lying on the rocks-oooh!, that kinda burned.  When we got to the bottom, Suz reported that she had brushed her leg against some brush with the same result-thought that she’d been bitten by a bug.  After a half hour or forty-five minutes, the burning subsided.  Even though we were on a paved road, we never saw a motorized vehicle.  Another trail took us on a circuitous path back down to the bay.  We walked the beach to Chatham resort at the south end of the anchorage.  It’s a secluded, exclusive resort, with a total of 3 little guest villas, all made of stone.  With a small swimming pool and the beautiful beach, the resort would be the perfect “get away from it all.”  We had ulterior motives.  After 2 Cokes, we had secured the WiFi password, giving us coverage on the boat.  Alas, we were too far away to connect, even though we could “see” the network.  The $10 glasses of Coke tasted good all the same.  Walking the beach back north, we passed the dinghy, heading to Shark Attack’s shack to inspect his collection of wood carvings that he was selling.  He is really quite talented, but the boat will only hold so many knickknacks.  More political commentary ensued, and we learned that the 15 or so people living on the beach were all squatters, and that sooner or later, the government would probably sell this gorgeous waterfront land, and give them the boot.  BTW, we showed Shark Attack a picture of the nasty plant that we had encountered.  He identified it as “Burn Bush”, as he had ministered to many crying young victims over the years.

Lotsa talkin’

-Later

Morning, Morning.

Hurricane season is over!!  Doesn’t mean that there couldn’t be any more storms, just means that our insurance company will allow us to move back up into the “hurricane latitudes”.  Yesterday, we left Port Louis Marina in St. George, taking a short shakedown cruise around the south end of Grenada to Woburn Bay.  The short trip allowed us to try out the Girls’ systems which have all been asleep for the past months while at the marina.  Everybody but the weather station at the top of the mast behaved well.  We can live with a funky wind speed indicator.  We spent the night in Woburn, picking up our last meat order from Gilles, the butcher/owner of Whisper Cove Marina and restaurant.  Our order was short a couple of pork tenderloins.  Gilles said that if we could stay until Friday, we could get our tenderloins, as he was “killing the animal” on Thursday.  We’ll survive without-grabbed a couple of cutlets instead.  This morning, we were off the hook by 07h14.  By 08h15, we were at the dropoff on the windward (Atlantic) side of Grenada, heading North with 2 lines wet.  So far, (at 10h00) not a single nibble.  On the bright side, we’ve had no hydraulic overheats, and all systems running well over 2’-4’ beam seas.  The plan is to stop at Ronde Island, near Kick ‘Em Jenny (the underwater volcano) for lunch.  If the anchorage isn’t too rolly, we’ll stay the night.  Otherwise, we’ll continue north to Carriacou.

Here I am, a couple of days later.  The anchorage at Ronde Island was really pretty.  There was a fair bit of swell coming around the corner, but it wasn’t anything that the flopperstoppers couldn’t handle.  We ran up to Sandy Island, off Carriacou the next morning.  We’ve been on a national Park mooring ball here for the past two days, our bow pointed toward the town of Hillsborough, some 2 miles away.  The prevailing winds have us positioned beautifully.  Sunset off the back porch, with the full moon rising over the bow shortly after.  Off to our port lies Sandy Island, its’ white beach 400 yards distant.  There are only 10 mooring balls here, and anchoring is not allowed.  Besides ourselves, there have been 3 boats here every day.  The other 6 balls turn over daily.  It’s really nice to be out of the commercial harbor and into clean water.  We were able to run our watermaker for the first time in months.  We held our breaths as we awakened the slumbering beast, and to our relief, she purred along smoothly.  Chores have been held to a minimum, although I’m trying to reclaim the lines that ran off Alizann’s bow to the submerged mooring in Port Louis.  Even though we had the divers scrub them monthly, they came up covered in soft and hard growth.  We soaked them in buckets of bleach solution for two days, then trailed them off the back of the boat after scrubbing them a foot at a time, and scraping the barnacles off.  Another bleach bath, and they still smell DISGUSTING!  They’re hanging in the sun now-we’ll see.  Ed on “Slowdown” says that he just throws them away after a season-now I know why.

On Friday, we walked on the beach, relaxed, and started to get reacquainted with life on the water.  Yesterday, we had an early morning snorkel off the northeast tip of the island, finding a nice patch of healthy coral and a diversity of fish and invertebrates.  In the afternoon, we took a dinghy ride over to Hillsborough and booked a 2 tank dive with “Deefer Divers” for tomorrow morning (Monday).  We’re hoping to get a few of our new favorite dinner fish (Lionfish).

The dive with Deefer Divers was a “Red Carpet” experience.  They were expecting a dive club from Illinois the next day, booking their boats for the rest of the week.  As such, the full staff was with us (for 6 divers), I assume to get them all on the same page before the arrival of the twenty-some-odd divers from the States.  We had the divemasters from Deefer, the divemaster and new manager from Arawak Divers (Deefer’s sister shop in Tyrell Bay), two boat captains, and one of the owners of both dive shops.  Suzanne and I dove with Mike, the new manager of Arawak (soon to be Carriacou Divers), and his mate, Bob.  They both turned out to be super “spotters”.  In addition to bagging a half dozen Lionfish, we saw uncounted lobsters, 9 Manta Rays (groups of 2, 3, and 4), several Stingrays, a field of Garden Eels, a Nurse Shark, a school of Squid, a few free-swimming and hidey-hole ensconced Moray Eels, and the usual suspects of coral reef habitats

We had planned to head out after the morning dive, but it was a beautiful day, so we just hung out on the Girl and enjoyed the post-dive “glow”.   Midafternoon, “Exclusive” (everybody in the islands has a nickname) and his twin boys came by with fresh lobster.  Sure, why not?  The tail went on the grill with a couple of steaks.  No red pop on board (we’ll wait ‘till the French islands to restock), but the Champaign washed it all down satisfactorily.

Morning came soon enough.  We dropped the dinghy, headed in to town and cleared out with Customs and Immigration.  We walked the streets a bit, and checked out the grocery stores, deciding that this definitely was not a provisioning spot on any return trip.  We’ll certainly be back for an encore with the dive operation here, though.  We’ve heard that Sister’s Rock is a primo dive, so we’ll try to time our stop to coincide with a Neap tide, as the current out there is ferocious during a Spring tide (it was a full moon this weekend).

Off to Union Island in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).  JT Pro Kiteboarding Center is calling us back.

-Later

 

Good Morning,

Our last 2 weeks in Grenada passed quickly.  We woke up the propulsion engine and generator after everybody got new impellers in their raw water pumps.  The watermaker remained an unknown, as there was no way that we’d run it in this commercial harbor with its many chemical and biologic pollutants.  We were now texting and emailing Clarke every day, with very little progress being made on our awning.  One night, while we were at Grenada Brewing Company with a bunch of other cruisers, Clarke’s name came up.  Oooooh Boy!  Lotsa vitriol.  Seems that he used to do a great job, but as of this year, we heard the same story from 4 other boats-delays, excuses, and projects not delivered to agreed-upon specifications.  All the stories ended the same way, with his customers threatening to trash him on social media, and feeling anger instead of satisfaction.  Let’s just say that we got an awning a few days before our departure.  We’re in the process of modifying it so that it’ll work.  Unfortunately, our sewing machine took a hike after the first seam, so the 2 of us have been sewing by hand.  Somewhere down the line, we’ll find a professional to remake it properly.

One night, a bunch of us went to “Patrick’s” restaurant.  We enjoyed Momma’s cooking, served family-style.  Will served us 13 different Grenadian dishes, including Green Papaya salad, Green Banana salad, Mashed Pumpkin, grilled Breadfruit, curried Goat, Cucumber fritters, Lambi (Conch), sweet & sour fish, etc. and etc……….., so we all had a nice “taste of Grenada”, even tho’ Manicou (Possum) and Iguana were not on the menu that night.  Another evening, the crew of “Alizann” hosted a “Goodbye” cocktail party for Dan and Melissa (“Slow Dancing”) for a dozen of their friends before they departed for Bonaire.  Suzanne just had to cook one more dinner for Ron.  He requested Shepherd’s Pie.  In 88 degree weather?  Really?  Poor guy came down with a bad cold, so Suz delivered his comfort food to his boat.  I have to admit, the Pie was good (With the air-conditioning cranking, and an NFL game on cable TV).

We got our last delivery from “Fast Manicou”, a.k.a. John Hovan.  He came to “Alizann”, picked up our empty propane tank, SodaStream CO2 bottles, and returned them to us full, as well as bringing a couple of cases of Coke (diet and otherwise), and a case of French Champagne (for $25EC/bottle), all at considerably lower prices than we could find around town.

Soon enough, all was made ready and it was time to go.

-Later

Good Day,

Sooo…. Grenada has a very active chapter of “Hash House Harriers”.  (The H3 is an international group of non-competitive runners, commonly described as “drinkers with a running problem”.  The group originated in the Federated Malay States in 1938 by some British colonial officers to combat post weekend hangovers).  Anyway, instead of avoiding this group, as we had been sagely advised (by one who had dislocated a shoulder, and another who had broken an ankle while Hashing with this group), we decided to join them in celebrating the Grenada chapters’ 1,000th Hash.  We took a cab up to the north end of Grenada, found the location, and signed up for the course that was right in the middle of the 7 trail choices of varying difficulty.  Our trail led us up and down through the tropical rain forest.  In places, the trail was so steep that you had to pull yourself along on brush growing alongside the trail(?).  In others you had to hold on for dear life as you slid downhill on Teflon-slick mud (which covered the trail from start to finish-Hey, it’s rainy season, and we were up north).  The trail crossed several streams, and in the muddy lowlands, many a shoe was sucked off the unsuspecting participant.  After a couple of muddy, sweaty hours, we finished unscathed, except for a bit of mud (especially our backsides).  The beer was cold and cheap (3 for $12EC).  Afterwards we enjoyed the festivities, including music and fun with the nearly 400 other participants.  Unfortunately, they ran out of tee shirts in my size.  Suz was able to score one, though.  The hour-and-a-half ride home was looonnng!

We continued to check boat projects off the list, while enjoying the company of our fellow cruisers at Port Louis.  Suz and I fell into a routine of heading over to the salt water pool in the early evenings to get in some much-needed exercise swimming laps.  Of course, it helped us cool off after the hot, humid days here in Grenada.  Our awning project remained unfinished, but hey, we had a few more weeks ‘till departure.

Saturday, the 14th of October.  We were headed over to Eco Dive with our friend, Ron by 08h00.  This was the last day of the first annual Dive Pure Grenada week, a week-long celebration of scuba diving in Grenada.  We headed out to the reefs up north to hunt Lionfish.  These beautiful, but nasty little guys are the bane of reef fish from South America all the way north to Maine.  They are an invasive species, native to the South Pacific, and have no natural predators in this hemisphere.  Voracious eaters, they can wipe out whole populations of reef fish, especially the juveniles.  Our mission, along with divers from eight other dive operators here is to bag as many of these bad boys as possible.  We’ll take our catch to Coconuts, a restaurant on Grand Anse beach, where Pat’s crew will cook them up for our dinner tonight.  We dropped over the side, and as we passed through 95 feet, we realized that maybe were in the wrong spot, as the reef was supposed to be at 45’-50’.  After this inauspicious start, the boat dropped us in the right spot.  With Suzanne doing the spotting, Ron and I speared around 15 fish.  The second dive site was much more productive for us-25 fish.  As I was jamming one of my victims into our carrier, I caught one of his spines in my thumb.  Didn’t hurt much at first, but as the venom spread, the feeling of intense heat spread down to my second knuckle.  Yeeouch!!  After an hour or so, it subsided with no ill effects.  (As a protective mechanism, the Lionfish has some 18 venomous spines, located in front of their dorsal, pectoral, and anal fins.  They don’t attack with them, but if one happens to catch you, it’ll really get your attention.  If you mount an allergic reaction, it can be fatal) When we surfaced from the second dive, the wind had come up and whipped the sea surface into a froth.  It rained sideways all the way home, and for a change, we were all cold.  The weigh-in told the tale-our six shooters had netted a little over 80 pounds of fish.  All told, the 9 boats participating took 401 pounds of tasty Lionfish.  That evening, we were joined by other divers at Coconuts for the closing presentations of the first annual dive week.  The assistant minister of tourism gave a short talk, declaring the week a success.  Awards were given to the winners of the underwater photography contest as the photo entries streamed along on a large screen.  Afterwards, live music was provided by a local band, “Solid.” The chefs prepared the fish as a curry, baked with butter and garlic, as a Creole stew, and breaded with panko and deep-fried.  Our table ordered all styles and shared.  The light, white filets lent themselves well to all the preparations, and washed down well with Rhum Punch.

On Monday morning, Dan, Melissa, and Margrite joined us on the number 1 bus to St. George to visit the fort .  Besides changing hands (France and Great Britain) several times in the 18th and 19th centuries, the fort has 20th century significance.  It was there, in 1983, that the Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop, and seven others in his government were executed by the military and other factions of his party, precipitating the intervention by the United States.  Of course, after touring the fort, then the Grenada National Museum, we had to drop by the Chocolate Museum for chocolate shakes.  It was really hot outside!  We got a line on lunch from a local kid, who said that “Rin’s” had good, cheap Roti.  We found the place, but peering through the locked door, it didn’t look promising-basically a 7’x10’ space with a card table in the middle.  No signage, but we suspected that someone might show up at Noon, 10 minutes away.  Sure enough, at around ten after, a couple came down the sidewalk carrying a couple of insulated boxes.  After unlocking the door and plunking the boxes down, they were open for business.  The fare included Chicken, Veggie, Beef or Fish Roti.  Suzanne and I both ordered Chicken.  We wandered down to the water and found some picnic tables in a square by the cruise ship dock.  Eating the Roti was a challenge, as bones were included, but for $10EC ($3.70US), we felt like we did okay.

-Later

The flight back went smoothly, arriving in Grenada at 14h30 after changing planes in Miami.  The Girl was happy to have us back, although she had been well taken care of in our absence.  Randolph and the guys from Island Dreams had kept her clean inside and out, as well as checking on the dehumidifier/air conditioning.  Brett Fairhead’s guys kept her bottom clean, diving her once a month.

The next morning, it was “hammer time”.  Our shipping container had avoided the hurricanes, and Tropical Shipping notified us that it was in the warehouse at the port.  Suzanne contacted Ricky Telesford, our shipping agent, to get things moving through Customs.  To her surprise, he said that everything was already in order, and that he could drive his truck up to the boat and deliver the next business day.  (Just lettin’ you know that this didn’t happen without plenty of effort by the Admiral.  She had emailed receipts for each and every item in the container-a hundred or so, to Ricky weeks before.  Even so, friends had told us that it might take days/weeks to move through Customs).  None of the welding had been started, even though we had met with the welder before we left.  None of the canvas work had been started.  Hey, we’re in the islands.  Problem is, the end of Hurricane Season is the busy time for these guys (which is why we gave them jobs in the Summer).  Several calls, texts, emails to each of them, and we got responses from both, who assured us that they were “just getting around to it” (more or less).  We got in a quick provisioning trip to Foodland, and joined Paul and Sue (Suzanna Aqui, our marina neighbors) for dinner at Victory’s, the marina restaurant, for Barbeque Night.  Over the weekend, we joined Ron, and his wife, Judy for a snorkel trip to the underwater sculpture park, the reef off the Grand Anse beach, and lunch at the L’Anse aux Pines resort.  Ron is the manager at Island Water World, the local boat supply shop, and has the use of the company boat, a 20’ rigid inflatable with a 60 horse outboard.  Very nice for getting from here to there.  Nick, the welder, was true to his word.  His guys showed up on Monday to get going on the welding jobs.  They got the plates for the awning supports started, and said they’d be back the following day to remove the old solar panels.  Suz and I thought we’d keep them focused on the skill job, telling them that we’d have the panels off by the time that they arrived the next day.  All in all, the welding was done well, although it wasn’t the smoothest project that we’ve ever done.  Lots of poor communication and failed deadlines, but completed by the first week of October.  (In his defense, I think that Nick is an artist, not a businessman.)  The canvas guy, Clarke, -not so much.  Lots of no-shows, then he’d show for a few minutes right before dark, take a few measurements, and promise to see us the next day, only to no-show.  (no worries, we thought, not leaving for another month)  Well……the project dragged on.  Lots of excuses (never his fault) meeting at the kids school, car broke down, lost my phone, and on and on.  Would have fired him, but had prepaid him several $K for materials and some labor.

Suz and I got the new solar panels up, and I got the worst sunburn of my life.  I just went out one morning in my boxers to take a quick measurement or two.  Five hours later, as the last panel was going up, one of our neighbors, Torie, walked by and informed me that she could see my red back from the street.  I blistered and bled for nearly three weeks-what a dummy!  We pulled wire, and Nick fabricated a bracket for our new WIFI booster antenna which I installed at the top of our mast (Yes, I still hate heights-coulda’ used a couple Xanax).

Over the next few weeks, we spent a lot of time socializing with fellow cruisers on our dock, and seeing the sights on Grenada:

Saturday is “Market Day” in St. George, and a gang from the marina usually bussed in for fresh veggies and fish.  (to say nothing of a “breakfast beer” for Ken and Dan.)

Sundays started with Mass at the cathedral (never less than 2 hours) followed by Brunch at Whisper Cove marina with any of our neighbors that Suzanne could motivate.  We usually had a bus full.  Afternoons were occupied by the NFL (yes, El Cheapo popped for cable so he could catch some football games).  On alternate Sundays, we’d head over to Eco Dive on Grand Anse for a two-tank dive, usually with Ron (Judy had to return to Florida to work-long distance marriage works for them for now.  She’ll retire next year).  Post dive lunch at Umbrellas was always a treat.

Wednesday was “Pizza Night” at the marina restaurant.

Thursday was “Chicken Night” at Whisper Cove

Suz and I had heard from several sources that Cutty’s Tour was the way to see Grenada, so we signed up, talking Rob and Cindy, aboard “Aventura”, to come along.  Cutty picked us up in his air-conditioned van, and we were off on our day-long adventure.  By the time that the day was done, we had driven nearly the length of the island, visiting Grenada Chocolate Factory, Belmont Estate, Anandale waterfall, River Antoine rum distillery (where we had lunch in their restaurant), a nutmeg depot, and stopping numerous times to identify and/or taste local fruits and vegetables.

True to form, Suzanne cooked.  For Paul and Sue one night, she created a fantastic curry chicken stew that I had been whining about for weeks (having read about it in Ann Vanderhoof’s book “Spice Necklace”).  Another night, it was stuffed, grilled avocado for Torie and Gary. Still another, a special request from Ron put Suzanne’s famous enchiladas on the menu.

I passed on the girls shopping trip, but I understand that Suz, Melissa, and Magrite did some damage in St. George.

Besides the canvas from Clarke’s Upholstery, projects were falling off the “To Do” list daily.  Oh yeah, did I mention that it’s still the “Rainy Season” so any outside activities were punctuated regularly by torrential rainfalls, creating humidity readings in excess of 90% to go along with 89 degree temperatures.

That’s enough for now (maybe too much).

-Later

 

 

So……A quick Summer synopsis, ‘cause I’m guessin’ you don’t wanna hear about our life on dirt: Alison and Ben bought a house in Ann Arbor last fall, and we saw it for the first time this Summer. Over the course of our Stateside visit, we stayed with them several times, getting back to our roots in the old college town, and helping with a few home-improvement projects. We drove to Charleston for our week at the beach on Isle of Palms for Suzanne’s family’s annual reunion. Both of our kids made it too, so life was good. (even tho’ Ali wasn’t joining in cocktail hour…..Hmmmh!). Spent the front and back sides of that trip in Asheville, with Mike, Sheila (Suz’s sister) and Casey, (Suzanne’s Mom) Found the house to be in great shape after our nine-month absence. Put 2 coats of varnish on the entire interior (White Cedar walls and ceilings). Figure that it’s the last time that we’ll have to do that, since the last time was 20 years ago. Cut up some dead trees that had fallen during the Winter. Had a new outdrive put on the 30 year old runabout (croaked immediately after launching). Enjoyed a jam-packed social calendar, nurturing old relationships with many dear friends. Bill and Lauren (Seastar- St. Lawrence and Newfoundland cruise), Mark and Christine (pals from Michigan), and the crazies from Chicago (our kid’s pals) came for sleepovers and kayaking/canoeing trips down the river. Spending time with Jody and Andy (longtime Michigan pals, and crew on the St. Lawrence and the Bahamas) was long overdue, but again, there wasn’t enough of it. On a sad note, our good friend and neighbor, Kim, diagnosed while were back the previous Summer, lost his battle with Multiple Myeloma just before our return. We had all hoped that he would make it to the Summer, when Suz and I would act as crew so that he and his wife, Cyndy could take one last cruise on their Benetau sailboat, “Endless Dream”. We make plans-God laughs. Although Kim and Cyndy have a loving and supporting family, it’s sometimes good to have some “outsiders” for a different perspective. We like to think that we helped in our own small way. Also, in the Spring, we got the news that our other upnorth friends/neighbors, married for some 30 years had split. Lots of evenings spent with Jayne and Cyndi, trying to be good listeners. We happened to be there at the right time for both of them. (of course, as a Male, I just wanted to FIX things). Hoped that just being there helped in some small way. We needed to send boatstuff to Grenada that was difficult to buy there (including new SunPower solar panels), so made a quick drive to Florida to pack a container, which would be shipped by Tropical Shipping. We packed our rental SUV with boat things- oil, coolant, another flopperstopper bird, computer, bottom paint, WIFI booster, spare parts, some favorite foods, etc. & etc. Drove down on Monday, picked up our new panels (oh yeah, they were too big for the SUV, so we had to rent a truck), packed our container on Tuesday, (container wasn’t full, so we went shopping at Walmart for hurricane-relief supplies to fill it), and drove back to Michigan on Wednesday. (Whoa! Getting’ too old for 44 hours of driving in 72). Bam! Time to go home. Back to Ali and Ben’s. University of Michigan game against Air Force. Tailgating with old friends, Gary, Lynn, Dick and Jan. Ben drives us to the airport at 04h00 to catch our plane south. Oh….That “no Cocktail” thing? The Admiral and I will be Grandparents in late February. Nash Joseph is scheduled to make his debut in late February. Whew! Makes me tired just writin’ it. -Later

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

Pages

Captain's Log

Adios, Curacao!

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Later

Adios, Curacao!

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Later

 

 

Goedenmiddag,

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

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

The kids’ visits

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

Many memorable dive trips

More great restaurants

Lotsa fun with John and Paulette

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

-Sooner

Goedemorgen,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting’ wordy…

-Later

Ola, Amigos

The thirty-five mile or so trip from Bonaire to Curacao is an easy one.  The wind and current is always at your back, thanks to the Trade Winds.  You (almost) don’t even need to check the weather, just throw a dart at the calendar and go.  Halfway across, we passed another Krogen 48 going the other way.  Chuck and Barb, aboard Tusen Tak were headed back to Bonaire from their seasonal haulout in Curacao for the 8th year.  They went to Bonaire 8 years ago, fell in love with the island and diving, and never left.  This’ll be their last year in Bonaire, as they’ll head back to the States, sell their boat, and R.V. around North America for the next few years.  We dragged lines all the way, and passed through several patches of water that were literally “boiling” with schools of feeding Tuna, but got nary a bite-Boo!  Our destination was Santa Barbara Plantation Resort.  A spot on their quarter-mile long floating dock in the channel leading into Spanish Water lagoon would be our home for the next couple months.  As we pulled alongside, our pals, John and Paulette aboard “Seamantha” were waiting to catch our lines.  Later, they whisked us off to Willemstad, a 30 minute drive, so that we could clear in with Customs and Immigration. Locating the offices would have been akin to the search for the Holy Grail on our own.  Each was on a different side of the harbor, and located amidst a warren of alleys and one-way streets.  It sure is nice to have friends like J & P.  We hadn’t seen them since Martinique back in May, so had plenty of catching up to do.  Paulette, like Suzanne, is a “research queen” and having been on Curacao for 6 months had a ton of local knowledge for us, right down to where to take our dry cleaning.

The resort hotel at Santa Barbara was our choice for the simple reason that both of our kids and their families were coming to visit us (at different times).  Our dock paralleled the sandy beach at the hotel, providing a nice sheltered place to swim.  We had 2 swimming pools and a “splash pad” at our disposal, as well as a fitness center and 3 restaurants (where we received a 20% discount).  If the boat got “too small”, we could always get a room at the hotel to overflow into.  The hotel is located within the Santa Barbara Plantation development, which covers 1,500 acres of the southeast end of Curacao.  There are paved roads with platted building lots covering a small portion of the acreage, but only 50 or so homes have actually been built.  So…….there is plenty of undeveloped “bush”, which makes for lots of hiking and mountain biking. We took maximum advantage of both opportunities.

We had a little adventure on one of our mountain bike treks.  Suz and I were heading down a dirt two-track through the bush on our way to a path we knew.  All of a sudden, a helicopter appears.  It is hovering at about 100’ of altitude, around 200 yards behind us, and sidling sideways, keeping pace with us, it’s gun door pointed toward us.  We had planned on stopping at a rifle range up ahead for a water break.  As we did, the helicopter stopped and hovered.  We figured that these military guys were just using us for practice until 3 white SUV’s roared up the track and positioned around us.  Flak jackets, semi-automatic weapons and faces as serious as a heart attack accompanied the guys that got out of the vehicles.  Hmmm.  “You guys coming up for some target practice?”  After a little discussion regarding who we were, where we came from, and why we were there, we were informed that it was “Not safe for you to be here”, and that we were to leave immediately.  Interesting.  We had been out here several times before, hiking and biking.  On the way home, we stopped at the Seru Boca marina and related our story to Robbie, the marina manager there.  Yep, he had gotten a call about us.  He told us that the military was looking for some Venezuelan illegals who had come ashore nearby, and that the troops should have told us instead of being so mysterious about it.

Besides hiking around our area, one morning we joined a local hiking group to a peak overlooking Pescaidera Bay. The hike was led by a naturalist who stopped along the way to identify and tell us about some of the local flora.  Although there weren’t many English speakers in the group, they were enjoyable to walk with.  Of course, a visit to an island without taking the guy who doesn’t like heights (Yours Truly) to the highest point wouldn’t be any fun at all.  We drove to the west end of the island to the national park there and scaled Mount Christoffel.  Most of that hike was an uphill on a reasonably wide path, but there were parts that traversed narrow (at least to me) ledges along drop-offs, ending with a short climb up the rocks at the end.  I had a hard time enjoying the view, as the Admiral scampered around the edges at the top snapping pics in a 20 knot breeze, because I was thinking about having to get down. (What a weenie!).

Shete Boka is another national park at the west end of Curacao.  It stretches for a couple of miles along the windward shore.  As is typical of the windward side, the land is very rocky and arid.  The sea can be wild, crashing in on the near vertical fossilized coral shore.  The park has dirt tracks which connect several scenic points along the shore, so each can be accessed by driving.  There are also hiking paths, so we had the chance to get around 10 km of walking in.  The wind was really blowing, and we got some good pictures at one of the bokas, where the waves were rolling in to this indentation in the rocks.  At another boka, a cave could be entered from the land, winding down to a small grotto which was open to the sea.  So much for staying dry, as every 10th wave crashed over the flimsy platform, leaving you crouching in 2 feet of water.  Another of the trails coursed inland, and up to a small promontory about a mile or so from the shore, giving us a totally different perspective.  We’d be back 2 more times, as both of our kids wanted to visit too.

Well then, that’s 1100 words, so let’s continue

-Later

 

Bon Tarde,

Here are the odds ‘n ends to wrap up Bonaire.

First, the couldabeena cruise ender.  I told you about the Ostracod night dive.  Suz and I came back to Alizann in the marina and were rinsing off our dive gear in the cockpit.  The wind was blowing offshore, and bringing with it a “chemical/electrical” burning smell.  Eagle nose mentioned it, I kept on rinsing.  A bit later….(well, let me say that the Admiral never uses that word unless seriously provoked).  I turned and saw that the electrical power cord entering our boat from the dock was completely melted where it entered the inlet.  The fiberglass above it was covered with a black plume of soot.  We hadn’t even unlocked the door into the salon, but when we did, the acrid smell was just a tad (yes, that’s sarcasm) stronger.  The back side of the power inlet is under the corner of our settee.  Also, under that space is a heat exchanger for our diesel furnace, the control for our cockpit winch, our power cord winch and its’ controls, assorted cabling for our stereo, and a 110V supply for an outlet.  I was afraid to pull off the cushions and remove the cover for the space.  When I did, I saw that the conduits and many of the wires had been reduced to a dripping mess (they looked like candle wax).  The backside of the power inlet had the consistency of that marshmallow that fell off the stick and into the fire at camp-black and easily crumbled by hand.  Soot covered everything, and the odor was intense.  The next compartments contained our non-perishable food.  Since our heating ducts pierced the bulkheads between them, the soot had permeated all cabinets up to and around the right angle 7 feet away.  We kinda lost our appetites, so spent the rest of the night trying to salvage what we could.  Suzanne pulled all the sooty labels off cans and jars, relabeling them with magic marker after washing every single one.  Every product in boxes came out.  Rice and flour went into Tupperware—You get the picture.

Now the postmortem.  We could have very easily lost our boat.  If you’ve ever seen a plastic boat on fire, you know EXACTLY what I mean.  Why did the fire self-extinguish?  All of our wire conduits are marine grade and self extinguishing (don’t cheap out with the Home Depot stuff).  I think that the presence of the cushions over the space caused the fire to oxygen-starve, as it must have all happened within seconds or less.  So, what caused this near-catastrophe and how could it have been avoided?  Okay, we all check the ends of our shorepower cords a couple times a day to make sure that they’re not warm (did that).  Routinely pull ends of cords apart to check for corrosion (do that).  Take apart power inlet to snug up screws and check for corrosion on the backside (got me on that one).  Unplug shorepower when leaving the boat.

The next week was spent ripping out old wiring and replacing, scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing, and applying 3 coats of paint, while the overlying, upholstered cushions lived in garbage bags containing baking soda.  Sunshine helped too.  Suz could still get a faint smell of smoke from the lockers-a 12V ozone generator from Amazon took care of the last bits.

As long as we’re on “Oopses,” here’s one for you.  Suzanne and I were doing a beach day at Coco Beach, just down the street from our marina.  It was a “No cruise ship” day, so we were nearly the only ones there.  We snagged a couple of lounge chairs under a shade and were peacefully reading our Kindle’s when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye.  I looked to my right while exclaiming to Suzanne that “That idiot is going to drive his jeep onto the beach!”  Whoa!  Nobody at the wheel.  The jeep careened over the foot-high seawall, across the 15-foot beach and straight into the water, where it stopped, hanging precariously on a rock ledge, it’s rear wheels in 2 feet of water, its front wheels hanging several feet off the bottom.  Every wave rocked the vehicle, threatening to pull it off the ledge into deeper water.  I yelled for the beach dudes working the bar.  Two of them tried to keep the car from slipping deeper, while I sent the third to fetch rope.  He came back with a clothesline.  “That’s all we got.”  “Dude, we need to tie this vehicle to the palm tree up there.  Go to “WannaDive,” they must have a longer, stouter rope.  Meanwhile, a beachwalker and a couple in scuba gear are on the scene, helping to hold the aspiring submarine.  I swear, the owner must’ve lived in his car, because life possessions, seat cushions, and last months garbage were all floating out.  Suzanne went into action, fishing crap(coke cans, bags of M&M, plastic bottles, etc) out of the water until the oil/gasoline slick chased her to the showers.  Yay!  Guy’s back with a real rope.  They get a line around the trailer hitch and we tie it to a palm tree on shore.  There’s been a guy watching the scene unfold from a distance.  A light goes on, and I walk over and ask him if it’s his jeep.  Yep.  I ask him if he’s called anyone to retrieve his car.  Well…. maybe later he’ll call a friend.  Even though I remind him of the ecological damage he’s causing, he seems unconcerned, As I’m calling the authorities, he melts away.  The cops never came, but I called STINAPA, the managers of the national Marine Park, and within a half hour they had a crew and a pickup truck on site fishing out the mess.

 

I mentioned that there’s no anchoring anywhere around Bonaire.  When we arrived, all 42 moorings were occupied, so the marina was our only choice.  (By the way, if you’re headed to Bonaire, make a marina reservation as the moorings are first come first serve-no reservations).  Many of the moorings were occupied by participants in a large sailboat rally slated to leave Curacao several weeks hence.  Nonetheless, when we passed by the mooring field on our way to dive, we would notice several new boats in the field every day.  Finally got the memo from some sailing friends that we met there.  The grapevine knows who’s leaving and who needs a mooring.  The minute that a mooring is vacated (or before if the incoming boat ties their dinghy to the mooring), the ball is re-occupied.  A few weeks in, we had met enough friends that we were now part of the grapevine.  The day that we moved out onto a mooring, we had 3 choices.  Well……. that night was an adventure.  We had a wind shift, then the wind died (unheard of), and we found ourselves literally on top of our neighbor boat.  They were very gracious, but I stayed up all night fending off their boat so they could sleep.  The next morning, we were back to the marina, but not before calling our new friends, Dennis and Karen, stuck on their sailing catamaran “Toes in the Water,” in the marina.  They popped out and snatched our mooring as they were a few feet shorter than Alizann.  It only took a day or 2 for the grapevine to get us out onto a ball with more swinging room.  And……. we could dive right off the stern of the boat.

Thanksgiving was closing in on us fast, so Suz got a feast organized.  She and Karen from “Toes in the Water” started working on the menu while we decided on the guest list.  We ended up with Karen and Dennis, Dan and Roseann (our morning water aerobics pal) from “Exit strategy”, and a couple of their friends who we had over for dinner but never saw again so don’t expect me to remember their names.  The Admiral/Chef outdid herself.  Roast turkey, mashed potatoes (of course), homemade bread, cranberry/citrus salad, sweet potatoes, ambrosia, pumpkin pie and Hooch (yeah their was a bit of alcohol in it) pie.  Wine from Martinique (France) helped wash down the goodies from apps to the main course, while liqueurs chased dessert.

Okay, that’s it-off to Curacao.

-Later

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