Good Morning!

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

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

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

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

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

-Later

Allright?

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

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

-Later

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

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

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

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

-Later 

Bon jour,

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

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

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

-Later 

Bon Jour,

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

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

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

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

-Later

Bon Jour mes amis,

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

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

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

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

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

-Later

Bon Jour mes amis,

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

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

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

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

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

-Later

Bon Jour,

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

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

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

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

-Later

Top of the Morning

The week spent with Jeremy and his family went by waaayyyyy too quickly.  We did a whirlwind tour of some of the hot spots in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.  On the day of their arrival, March 30th, we did the tourist/shopping thing in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas.  We were off the dock by 08h30 the following morning to grab a mooring ball at Leinster Bay, where we toured the Ananberg sugar mill ruins.  After a morning snorkel, it was off to Great Harbour, on Jost Van Dyke, to clear Customs and have a snack and sip at “Foxy’s.” By 15h10, we had moved to a ball in Little Harbour, in anticipation of our dinner reservation at “Sydney’s Peace and Love.”  While the girls cleaned out the gift shop, Jeremy and I made drinks at the “honor bar.”  (You keep track of your drinks on a scratch pad, then tote them up at the end of the night to pay).  Later, we enjoyed our meals that we had pre-ordered on the VHF radio.  Being the end of the season, we were the only patrons in the place.  The night wasn’t quite as lively as the last time that Jeremy was here, at the peak of the season, but we had a nice quiet dinner prepared by the owner, Strawberry’s Mom.  07h30 the next morning, we were on our way to North Sound on Virgin Gorda, where we took a ball in Biras Creek.  The Bitter End Yacht Club, the Fat Virgin Café, and Saba Rock were our targets there.  We even had time for a little swim.  Wanting to catch a ball at the Baths, we left North Sound at 06h20, and got a ball by 07h35, just as they were beginning to fill up.  Getting to shore was a challenge, as the swell was up, and the waves were crashing.  To compound matters, the dinghy corrals that were there the last time that we visited a few years ago had been removed.  In their place was a roped off swim area that extended 100 yards or so from the beach.  We tied the dink to a buoy, and went hand-over-hand along a buoyed line to the beach.  We spent a couple of hours climbing in, around, and under the unusual rock formations and the sheltered pools that they create, availing ourselves of numerous photo-ops (A Sports Illustrated swim suit issue was shot here a few decades ago).  Next stop, Marina Cay, home of the Pusser’s Bar (home of the Painkiller). We had a couple before motoring to White Bay, on the South side of Peter Island.  While the rest of the gang caught their breath at anchor, Mikaela and I had a great snorkel.  We started out to just dive the anchor, but ended up being out over an hour.  Swimming over the Eel Grass on the way to the reef, I spotted “something” on the bottom which looked really weird.  It was a blood red and orange ball with blackish spiky, feathery appendages-kinda like a round featherduster, and a little bigger than a softball.  It was obviously some kind of critter, maybe an urchin, but it looked like an alien.  In all of our diving in several hemispheres, I’ve never seen anything like it.  When we got back to the boat, we brought the rest of our crew out for a look-see.  Digging out our critter books, we discovered that it was a Magnificent Urchin.  Strange thing is that they’re usually found at fairly great depths-I don’t know what this guy was doing in 15’ of water, but we were happy that he was there.  We slept in the next morning, and motored the 3 miles over to Benure Bay, on Norman Island.  Instead of hitting Pirate’s Bight, another beach bar, we voted for a “rest” day, just enjoying the scenery, snorkeling, and sunning before heading to Cruz Bay the following day to clear back in to the U.S.A.  After clearing Customs, we made the obligatory pilgrimage to “Woody’s” for cheeseburgers and fries before moving the Girl to Francis Bay on St. John’s for our final night together.  Early on the 6th, we departed Francis, moving over to Crown Bay Marina in St. Thomas, where the gang caught a taxi to the airport for their flight back home to Atlanta.  Whew!  Makes me tired just recounting the high points.  You know what comes next-BOATCHORES.  We rolled over and used a laundry service instead of doing it ourselves.  At a buck eighty-five a pound, the forty-two pounds was a bargain.  All we had to do was drop it off, bring it home and vacuum-bag it.  Two days later, with the oil changed and the Girl spiffed up, we were ready to bid “Adieu” to the Virgin’s, and get on South and East, back to St. Maarten.

-Later

 

Well………Change of plans.  We opted out of Great Harbour, and decided to head over to Sandy Spit, off the east end of Jost Van Dyke.  The surge was really rolling in, so we moved a little west, to Machioneel Bay.  The cruising guides told us that the anchoring was difficult due to the rocky bottom, but we looked for a sandy spot and buried the hook on the first try.  Score!  Our next bright idea was to take the “soccer Mom” chairs to Sandy Spit with a few sips and watch the sunset.  Great concept.  Execution?  Not so much.  The waves were wrapping around the spit, creating quite a surf.  I got the Admiral, chairs, and sips on to the beach, then tried to anchor the dinghy.  No way.  After some dinghyslammin’, and wavescrashin’ (over the side of the dinghy-nearly swamping it), the saltwater-infused drinks, Admiral, and chairs were safely on “White Star” and back to sea.  Back at the Girl, we exchanged our salty vodka tonics with fresh ones and did a quick recon over to Little Harbour, JVD to make sure that “Sydney’s Peace and Love” restaurant was still in bidness.  Check.  We’d be heading there next week when our son, Jeremy, and his family were with us.  Next morning, it was off to Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke, to check the status of “Foxy’s”  bar.  Check.  See ya in a week or so.  Next day, we were off to Soper’s Hole to get our despacho for clearing out of the B.V.I.’s.  Customs and Immigration was a zoo.  The 6’x 8’ room was packed with charter boat crews looking to clear their day charter passengers in…..lots of twenty-somethings making snarky comments about the process while the officers are sitting right there.  The head lady whispered “Next,” then pointed to Suzanne (who might’ve been last in line).  We were outta there (mooring, launch dinghy, retrieve dinghy, drop mooring) in less than an hour.  It pays to respect authoritay.  From Soper’s Hole, it was off to Cruz Bay, in the USVI, to do the Customs and Immigration Cha Cha there.  Always a treat (I’ll leave it at that).  It did, however, allow us to visit “Woody’s” our favorite hamburger (and fries) bar in Cruz.  Is this becoming a theme?  Hmmmh…..  The fresh produce was excellent at the grocery store, so we stocked up before returning to the Girl.

From the 15th through the 19th, we spent our time on a mooring in Francis Bay, on St. John in the USVI.  Besides beaching and snorkeling, we got together with “Vision Quest” and “Eagles Wings” (see St. Martin) for a lively game of dominoes.  The 19th and 20th, we moved around the corner to Leinster Bay, where we visited the ruins of Annaberg sugar mill and the Murphy house.  In a fit of stupidity, we hiked over the top of the island to Coral Bay, only around two-and-a-half miles, but up and down and up and down on trails covered with loose rock.  We got to “Skinny Legs,” our hiking for hamburgers destination, and our “Map my Walk” app said we had burned 256 calories.  We scoffed.  Half pound hamburgers, chips (no fryer), and about a half dozen Cokes each and we still felt calorie-depleted.  We explored the little enclave of Coral Bay and gave more than a second thought about finding a cab for a ride home.  Neither of us said “Uncle,” so it was back over the top.  On the way home, we saw a hand-painted sign that said “Google Maps is wrong.  This is not a road to Leinster or Maho Bay.  This is a foot trail”.  HeHee.

Thought it might be fun to circumnavigate St. John’s, so on the 21rst, we headed around the east end to Hurricane Hole on the south side, just adjacent to Coral Bay.  We took a “day ball” in Otter Cove there, and explored the bays by dinghy.  Of course, we ended up in Coral Bay, where we offloaded trash and hit the Dolphin Market for fresh produce.  We looked for a bar that we had visited some thirty-five years ago, meeting Suzanne’s doppelganger.  Long story, but we were sitting at a bar there, and a guy at the other end kept staring at us.  Finally, he came over and said something like “Suzanne, who’s this?”  We thought that he was going to hit us up for a drink or something.  The Admiral says “I don’t know you.”  He looks at her like she’s out of her mind.  Okay, so we talk a little bit more, with us wondering what his angle is.  He tells us that there’s a girl in town named Suzanne, that looks just like my Suzanne.  Right.  He goes back to his bar stool.  Within the half hour, he’s back at our end of the bar with a girl in tow.  Holy Crap!  The two could’ve been twins.  Even the Admiral said that it was like looking in a mirror.  Okay, that’s the story.  Present day-couldn’t find the place.  We did find “Skinny Legs” again for an encore.  If you like burgers, highly recommended.  I wanted to stay on the ball, but the boss said it was for day use only for a reason.  We motored over to Hansen Bay, and anchored in front of a little resort there.

On the 22nd, we continued west and took a ball in Great Lameshur Bay, former home of the Tektite underwater habitat/research lab.  I won’t bore you with the details, but in the late 60’s, the Tektite habitat was built by General Electric.  Besides marine biology, the research conducted there included the use of rebreathing SCUBA devices, psychological effects of living in close quarters in a hostile environment for extended periods (NASA was all about this), and the new technique of saturation diving (where humans stayed underwater for extended periods, negating the need for multiple decompressions).  Google it if you’re interested-cool stuff, especially for my marine scientist spouse.  There were some good hiking trails, so we took the opportunity to get off the boat and do some walking.  We stayed in the bay for a couple of days, until the surge drove us out on the 24th.  While we were there, we met Zim and Kim, aboard their 54’ Jeanneau, “Someday,” as they readied their vessel for the “Around the World Rally” starting in May.  We shared drinks and stories a couple nights.  I’m sure that they’ll have a lot more after they complete their circumnavigation in a few years.

Back on the north side of St. John’s, the waves were kinder, and we spent a few nights snorkeling and hiking around various bays.  On the Admiral’s birthday, we got gussied up and dined at ZoZo’s at the old sugar mill in Caneel Bay Resort.

Off to Charlotte Amalie, on St. Thomas to get the Girl cleaned up in readiness for our son, Jeremy, and his family’s arrival.  Having not stayed in a marina for 6 weeks or so, we needed to fully charge and equalize boat batteries, do a thorough housecleaning, laundry, reprovision our fresh produce, and restock with duty-free alcohol.  We checked into the IGY Marina there, dwarfed by the many 150’+ boats in residence.  Not an economical stay at $4/ft., plus electricity, plus water, plus trash removal etc., but very convenient for the reception of guests flying in.  Being near the cruise ship port, all the amenities were nearby too.  We also discovered National Marine, a boat chandlery specializing in servicing the megayachts, but more than happy to order a part for little old us to fix our recalcitrant head.  The price that they quoted was only a bit more than we would have paid for the part in the States (including shipping).  Well, Jeremy, Jodi, and Mikaela are arriving on the 30th, so we’ll catch up with you

-Later

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Captain's Log

Hey There

So…..Whadja do on Bonaire?

You got the diving part-lots of it.

After dives on Klein (Little) Bonaire, accessible only by boat, we’d stop at the sandy beach there.  I’d drop the Admiral and our beach shelter on the shore, take the dinghy out to a mooring and swim in.  Did I mention that anchoring anywhere around Bonaire or Klein Bonaire is strictly forbidden?  Well, it’s a good thing.  Keeps the reefs from being destroyed by anchors and chains.  Picnic lunches, reading, napping and floating on our swim noodles was the extent of our activities on Klein.

Flamingoes are a big attraction on Bonaire, which fulfills all of the requirements for an ideal Flamingo breeding habitat.  About 2,500 of the Southern Caribbean’s 50,000 Flamingoes reside on Bonaire.  The population can rise as high as 7,000 as the birds fly regularly between Curacao, Venezuela and Bonaire.  Flamingoes are the only filter feeders in the bird kingdom.  They stand in shallow water, tilting their heads upside down while stirring up the mud on the bottom with their feet.  This they draw into their mouths where their tongues, acting like a plunger forces the muddy water through lamellae on the bill, filtering out small edible bits of plant and animal matter.  We spent a fair bit of time, both on the North, and South ends of the island, where salty ponds supported flocks of these colorful guys.  By the way, the adults are pink from the betacarotene in the animals that they eat.  The juveniles start changing from white to pink as their diet transitions from herbivorous to carnivorous.  The Papiamento word for Flamingo is “Chogogo.”

The Yellow Shouldered Amazon Parrot is a bird whose habitat is primarily in Bonaire and Venezuela.  The population of these birds on Bonaire has been decimated by poaching (they’re beautiful birds, and in high demand as pets) and loss of habitat.  Fortunately, it is now illegal to own Yellow Shoulder’d’s in Bonaire.  Echo Bonaire is a facility dedicated to “Conserving the endangered Yellow Shouldered Parrot of Bonaire through conservation management, local community engagement and research.”  Suzanne and I visited the facility and received a tour from its’ director Julianka.  We visited the cages where injured and confiscated birds were being rehabilitated-over 75 parrots and 100 Brown-Throated Parakeets have been returned to the wild.  She also showed us their nursery, where plants are grown to reforest areas of the island as parrot habitats.  Some 85 acres have already been created, and fenced off to keep invasive herbivores (feral pigs, goats and donkeys) out.  We told Julianka that we’d be at the northwest coast the following Saturday where more trees were to be planted.   If you want to know more, check out www.echobonaire.org.

Okay, so let’s talk about the donkeys of Bonaire.  They were originally left here by the Spaniards who visited the islands briefly in the early 1600’s, before moving on to the South American mainland in their quest for gold.  (In fact, the Spaniards labelled these the “Islas Inutiles”- The useless islands, as they lacked any sources of gold).  The feral donkeys have become a real problem, as they are responsible for wreaking havoc with all edible vegetation.  Car/donkey confrontations are also a real problem.  Enter “The Bonaire Donkey Sanctuary,” whose “primary objective is to offer a sheltered, protected life to all the donkeys of Bonaire.”  The sanctuary covers around 400 acres (I think) near the airport on the south end of Bonaire.  Sick and wounded donkeys are brought there from elsewhere on the island.  They are then nursed to health and housed for the rest of their lives.  The Sanctuary also participated in a program to castrate males in the wild to control population (Until the “animal rights” folks got involved and put a stop to this humane way of controlling the population-ed.)  We visited the Sanctuary by truck.  Driving through the habitat with a bag of raw carrots provided for some interesting pictures.  Want more?  https://donkeysanctuary.org

Ever drink a cactus?  The Cadushy (cactus) Distillery will give you a chance to do so.  This small distillery formulates several liqueurs from a sustainable crop (they collect cactus on the roadside).  Their distillation apparatus is TINY and looks like it could have come straight from your uncle’s place in the hills of North Carolina.  It took about 10 minutes for the tour, a half hour for the tasting.  I think that the stuff is an acquired taste, but hey, we were here, we hadda do it.

Alleta has a goat farm in the middle of the island where she raises milking goats.  She makes and sells feta cheese, goat milk, and goat milk yoghurt.  What started out as a hobby has morphed into a full-time (although definitely on a shoestring budget) business.  We had a chance to milk goats and play with some babies which had been born several weeks earlier.  They were the cutest, and we got some good pictures.

We decided that we needed a quiet “Beach Day.”  Remembering “Sorobon” resort from our outing at Lac Bai, we figured that renting a cabana on the beach there would be a perfect way to chill on the water while staying out of the sun.  (Neither of us can afford a lot of time sunbathing these days.)  At Sorobon, a small exclusive resort, the pamper factor is high.  The palm-thatched bar afforded cold drinks and a delicious lunch while the windsurfers on the bay provided entertainment.

Regatta week in Bonaire brings sailors from all over the islands to participate in the races.  It also creates a mess on the reef that parallels the shore road in Kralendijk.  The Monday after the festivities ended, we joined around 100 other divers for a reef cleanup.  In all, we pulled a bit more than half a large dumpster of bottles, cans, and other assorted trash off the bottom.  “Thanks for the help” came in the form of a barbeque dinner at “Dive Friends” resort.  Suz and I won two reuseable grocery bags in the raffle-Wahoo!  

Every couple months or so, (I really never figured out a schedule, think they do it when the spirit moves) a park ranger leads a hike which involves climbing Mount Brandaris, the highest peak on Bonaire.  The hike is timed so that the sun is setting just about the time that you reach the summit.  The view for 360 degrees is nothing short of incredible.  Being that the first half mile down would be a scramble down a scree-covered face and a foot-in-front-of-foot on narrow ledges, Yours Truly who doesn’t really care for heights was just a tad concerned as the sun went down.  As I crouched low and sweated every step, Admiral Mountaingoat nursed me along.  It was pitch dark by the time we got back to “Jason” our trusty little Toyota Hilux truck.  It was an incredible experience, and being in the park after closing felt like a taste of forbidden fruit.

The majority of the slaves on the island worked on the salt pans in the south.  You may be aware that salt was the major (sustainable)  export from Bonaire for many decades.  In fact thousands of tons are still exported by the Cargill Corporation to this day.  Production goes like this:  seawater is pumped into huge holding ponds where it is allowed to evaporate, leaving sea salt behind.  Back in the day, this salt was harvested and transported to waiting ships by slave labor.  As you may imagine, this was back-breaking work, and the sunlight glaring off the snow white salt often resulted in blindness for the workers there.  Nowadays all operations are mechanized.  After working 6 days in the pans, the slaves made the 8 mile trek to Rincon, where many of their families lived, to receive their weeks food rations at the King’s warehouse there.  After a day off, it was an 8 mile trek back to the salt pans for another week.

The King’s warehouse now contains a cultural museum which is well worth the stop.  After visiting the museum, Suzanne and I returned on the last Saturday of the month for the cultural market.  Not many tourists, but the locals turn out in force for food, music and activities for all ages.

Okay, that’s it for now.  More adventures…..

-Later

 

HiYa,

I’m always torn when it comes to subject matter for these missives.  Do I do a travelogue, boating technical stuff, or what?  I guess we’ll just keep on layin’ it down as we have been for the past few years until a better idea comes along.

The diving in Bonaire is super easy.  The island is surrounded by a reef which begins 50-75 yards offshore at a depth of around 7-10 meters.  This opens up the sport to those without watertaxis, because nearly every dive site on Bonaire is accessible from shore entries. We probably dove 2 out of 3 days that we were here.  We did a couple of boat dives with Wannadive, the scuba operation next door, but mostly dove from our dinghy, ranging a couple of miles both north and south, with frequent trips to Klein (Little) Bonaire.  Four days after the full moon, we did a night dive to look for ostracods.  These little guys are crustaceans, some 20,000 species in all, averaging around 1mm in diameter.  After the full moon, this particular species bio luminesces(?) for about a half hour after night falls.  We laid on the sandy bottom waiting for the show to start.  True to form, shortly after nightfall, the lights came on.  We felt like we were in the middle of the Milky Way, surrounded by a galaxy of stars.  Very cool.  We fell into a nice rhythm with our diving.  Heading out around noon assured us of good lighting for photos and our choice of dive sites, as all of the dive boats were back at base for lunch.  There are mooring buoys at every site, so it makes for a secure feeling when leaving the boat while diving.  Drop in the water, do our dive, then back in the dinghy easily (thanks to our new ladder).  Stop at Wannadive, drop off our empty tanks and pick up the 2 that we had left the day before (now filled).  Sweeeeet!  Boy, what’s not to like?  

Suzanne felt like she had maxed out her photo quality with her waterproof Nikon, so she picked up an Olympus TG5 camera, a serious little point-and-shoot, and an underwater housing.  In my humble opinion, she’s taking some great shots-we’ll do an all-scuba gallery soon.  I’m still just doing video with our GoPro Hero whenever we see a good “action shot.”

So…….The Caribbean Journal just ran a piece on the fantastic dining choices in Bonaire.  I’m here to tell ya that we didn’t have a bad meal while on island.  Here we go:  “Bistro de Paris, Zazu Bar”-our marina restaurant.  Super fresh ceviche, good burgers (especially on burger night), Happy hour from 17h00-19h00 featuring 2 for 1 beers and wines.  A nice place to chill after a busy day.  “La Terrazza”-a 3-time favorite for us.  (2 wine tastings-4 courses with 2 wines for each course with audience participation, moderated by owner, Gabi).  “Foodies”-kind of out in the sticks south of Kralendijk on the other side of the salt pans.  We stopped there for an early dinner on our way home from a beach day at Lac Bai.  They had just opened, so we were the only diners there when we arrived.  Great service, cool setting.  “Cappricio”-Just like it sounds.  Fresh Italian cooking in an upscale modern venue with both in and outdoor seating.  “It Rains Fishes”-right on the shore road in Kralendijk.  Upscale outdoor dining featuring you guessed it.  “Posada Para Mira”-just outside Rincon.  This open-air thatched roofed restaurant features local cuisine-goat stew and iguana soup being just 2 of the features.  The commanding view and steady breeze contribute to the ambience.  “Mezze” for Mediterranean.  “Sebastian’s” for oceanside seafood with an Italian bent.  “Captain Don’s,” an all-inclusive dive resort just north of our marina boasts a multi-level outdoor dining area abutting the ocean.  Very cool vibe.  The menu is typical of North American tastes.  “Between Two Buns” was our go-to for a savory lunch-great salads, specialty sandwiches.  “Donna and Giorgio’s”-Italian in a funky setting.  “La Creperie”-a favorite morning hangout for cruisers.  Their savory crepes are super tasty.  And…….let’s not forget the “Street Food” genre.  Lisa had a stall in the market featuring Indonesian food.  After buying finger-food from her several times, we got her to cook a traditional Indonesian meal for us, which we carried home.  Yhanni has a little palapa on Coco beach where she makes killer Arepas.  After a couple of post-dive lunches with her, she shared her secrets and recipes with Suzanne, who now makes these incredible Venezuelan treats.  

“Dash” food truck is only open on weekends, but their fried chicken on homemade biscuits with spicy slaw are worth the wait.  Their donuts look incredible too. 

 It’s amazing that I got out of Bonaire not a pound over a buck ninety-five.  Guess I can thank the diving for that.

“Jason,” our super-ratty, but trusty Toyota Hilux pickup truck took us on adventures all over the island.  From the salt pans in the south to the sunset hike up Mount Brandaris, he kept on keepin’ on.  We off-roaded the windward side of the island, hiking down into every boca (little inlets in the rocky coast, often with a small pebbly beach).  I don’t think that we saw 3 other vehicles all day.  Along the way, we visited a cave with pre-columbian drawings on the ceiling.  Massive wind generators dotted the shore on the northern end of our trek.  We returned to the road(?) at the gate to the National Park.  The park was an adventure for another day.  When we returned the following morning, it was an all-day hoot.  You are not allowed in the park unless you have a four wheel drive vehicle or truck.  Yep, 2 mile-an-hour roads (ummmhhhh….make that washed-out ruts).  We visited every boca, beach, dive site and vantage point in the park, enjoying a picnic lunch along the way.  After lurching and bouncing along all day, 600mg of “Vitamin I”, then happy hour soothed our aching backs.

Well, let’s pick up more of Bonaire…

-Later

Hola, mi Amigos

Here we are in Bonaire.  Alizann was really jammin’ on the way here from Grenada.  Following seas and a half to full knot current pushing us along, we shaved around 5 hours off our ETA.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that we arrived around midnight.  New harbor (for us), no entrance lights, narrow entrance, and the night was darker than the inside of a pocket.  Had a slip number, but had no idea where it was.  Another boating “DON’T,” but here we were.  Well…. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds.  We “What’s Apped” John on Seamantha.  He knew the marina, and told us where our slip was.  The radar and chartplotter were spot on, and the water depth here is in the hundreds of feet up pretty close to shore-all good.  We crept up within spotlight range and spied the opening, glided in.  We backed the Girl in between a finger pier and a 62-foot sailboat, and it was time for sips before turning in.

So….I’ve been pretty mum on the fish wars.  That’s because the score was edible fish 4, Alizann 0.  Not anything that I wanted to brag about.  We lost around 4 or 500 yards of line and 4 of our best lures.  ‘Nuff said.

Visits to Customs and Immigration were on the docket for Friday.  The mile-and-a-quarter walk should have taken 15 minutes, but morphed into a 2-hour ordeal as we fought the elements, walking in the steady rain, then dodging for cover as the squalls sporting 25+knot winds rolled through.  Three quarters of the way there, we said “The heck with it” and took cover in Julian’s Café for a late lunch.  We were soaked to the bone by then, so sat in the covered patio as the rain misted in-just a couple of loco touristas.  But…we did help them save their patio umbrellas which were turning inside out in the near-gale force wind.  No English speakers here, but their thank you’s were easily translated.  I had forgotten that even though this is a Dutch island, there is a preponderance of Spanish speakers here-shoulda brushed up on ours.  Actually, many of the folks here speak 4 languages-Dutch, Spanish, Papiamentu and English.  We got the job done with the authorities late in the afternoon.  No fees or taxes and super easy.  On the way home, we dodged ankle-deep puddles and scoped out some shops along the main drag.  Pretty evident that the local economy is tourist-based.  Shops catering to cruise ship passengers, and a dive shop on every corner, as well as restaurants of every ilk lined the downtown streets.

Sheeiit! How can you get a month behind in two weeks (or so it seems)?  1. Writing is super painful for me. (as a science geek) 2.  Time flies when you’re having fun.

So… Here’s the short version:

                Already went through Customs.  Super easy, with gracious officers who actually seemed happy that we were here-Check.

Dive shops.  One on every corner.  I think that CVS and Rite Aid took their business model from these guys-if you leave your door unlocked, there’ll be a dive shop up and running in your space the next morning when you get up.  This island is set up for below the water activities.  If you need the toys, you can find them here.  Also-kudos to the internet.  Prices of equipment are very competitive, in fact, many shops will honor or beat an internet price for the same doodad.  We’re looking for an underwater camera and housing for the Admiral, and finding prices very competitive-especially when you figure in shipping costs. -Check

Food.  Grocery shopping is a real pleasure-even better if you can decipher Dutch (thank you, Google Translate!!)  Instead of going shopping and setting our menu based on what was available in the store, we’re back to creating menus, then shopping for what we need.  Reminds us of Martinique.  Better than Martinique, every Tuesday and Friday, there’s a free bus to VanDenTweel, the “Gucci” supermarket for your provisioning pleasure.  Eating out is also a pleasure, with multiple, not wrong choices.  In the 3 weeks that we’ve been here, we’ve eaten at everyplace from local holes in-the-wall to food trucks and kiosks, to fine dining.  So much for losing weight!  I’m loathe to recommend particular venues-ask around to decide what sounds good for your tastes.  You already know that we like fine dining as well as the funky stuff, so iguana soup, goat stew, and tripe casserole may not float your boat.

Diving.  What superlatives are left to be said?  The reefs have certainly changed from our last visit, around 30 years ago, and not for the better.  At that time, the dive guide listed 14 dive sites.  Now, the newest edition lists over 100.  That being said, the diving is still superb.  After two weeks for me to shake off the “Grenada Cough,” we have been diving nearly every day from our tender, “White Star,” who recently received a dive ladder, courtesy of “Yours Truly’s” monkey work, under the tutelage of the Admiral.  Oh…..diving.  We participated in a dive “cleanup” of the harbor after the Bonaire Sailing Regatta, which left plenty of human-made trash (translation-bottles, paper cups, and assorted crap on the bottom.)  100 divers pulled up around half a dumpster of crap off the bottom.  There, we met Marije and Bart, a young Dutch couple taking time off from life to backpack around the world.  The post-dive appreciation barbeque at Hamlet Oasis, hosted by “Dive Friends”, was an enjoyable evening.  The next afternoon, drinks on Alizann with Marije and Bart proved to be very enjoyable.

The Girl.  Well, she has certainly become a “Marina Queen.”  After anchoring out almost exclusively for the first 3 years, we have kinda settled into the “tie up, plug in, drop off the bikes, rentacar, and keep our lives cushy routine.  The whole setup here in Bonaire kinda pushed us in that direction anyway:

  1.  You can’t anchor anywhere on Bonaire (reef protection) There are a finite number of moorings here (less than 40) You need to “know somebody” to get one, as they’re “first come, first serve”, and when a boat is leaving, they have already been in contact with someone who will slip onto the mooring the second that they’re off.
  2. We have internet coverage here in the marina.  Good for streaming American football, Skyping our kids, and downloading Netflix.
  3. It’s easy to put our bikes on land.
  4. The rental car’s right here.
  5. Maybe we’re getting older, and like to step off the boat onto land without schlepping in on the dinghy

Touring.  We started with an all-day “Island Tour” with our driver, Therese, so that we could get our bearings and see the high spots.  Subsequently, we rented a Toyota HiLux pickup for a couple of weeks.  “Jason” our truck, has a high ground clearance, super-torquey gear ratio, the ability to jump boulders in a single bound, and a propensity for conquering deep water has served us well, and so far, has taken us over 8 hours of off-road touring through and over some of the most uninhabited regions of the island.  Tho’ the trails are “lower back and vehicle undercarriage challenges,” they  are well marked.  The extreme diversity of geologic (?) features is mind-blowing.  Every two minutes, it’s an “Oh, my God, or This is incredible!”  The Cadushy Distillery in Rincon makes several liqueurs and a vodka, based on the distillation of the local Kadushi cactus.  It’s worth a visit, with expectations kept in check.

Fellow cruisers:  Well…….the Dutch are wonderful people.  The rub…..they take a long time to warm up.  We’ve been next to a Dutch couple for three weeks now, and in spite of us asking them at every juncture if we can help with their boat chores, pick them up something at the grocery store, lend tools, or whatever…we’re still just neighbors.  There aren’t a lot of North Americans here in the marina, so last night, we went to one of the “all inclusive” scuba resorts, and met some friendly Americans.  Only trouble is, that they’ll be gone in a week.  Oh well, the Admiral will just have to put up with my company exclusively ☹.

-Later

All Rightey Then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Later

 

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

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

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

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

Now, for the adventures, in no particular order.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Later

 

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