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

Good Morning!

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

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

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

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

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

-Later

Allright?

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

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

-Later

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

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

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

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

-Later 

Bon jour,

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

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

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

-Later 

Pages

Captain's Log

Buenos Tardes,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Luego

Adios, Curacao!

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Later

Adios, Curacao!

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Later

 

 

Goedenmiddag,

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

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

The kids’ visits

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

Many memorable dive trips

More great restaurants

Lotsa fun with John and Paulette

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

-Sooner

Goedemorgen,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting’ wordy…

-Later

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

 

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