Good Day,

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

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

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

-Later

Good Day, Good Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Later

Au Revoir, Martinique.  Hello St. Lucia.

Time to giddyup.  The weather window popped open, so we were off to St. Lucia.  Had reservations for a slip beginning on the 15th, but figured that 2 days early was no big deal.  Emails to the office went unanswered, and our phones were acting up by not acting at all.  Arriving at Rodney Bay Marina in St. Lucia, we found that there was “no room at the inn.”  Oops.  Elton, the Dockmaster worked his magic and put us at the “Big Boy” dock, where Alizann nestled in among the 100 and 200 footers.  He even got us a U.S.A. power supply.  Livin’ large in the expensive seats (at the cheap seat price).  He said that we’d probably have to move over to the “poor side of town” as soon as a spot opened up on the other dock.  So, I’m doing the post passage engine room check, and there’s some dried salt on the floor of the generator compartment right under the raw water cooling pump.  Sheesh!  My handy dental mirror and flashlight reveal that there’s also a trickle on the underside of the pump.  I knew that it was going to be there, but I like to delude myself now and then, preferring to think that everything’s O.K. when it’s not.  I know the drill.  There’s a spare pump on board.  We’ll get another spare when we’re home at Christmas-Ka-ch$ng!  Continuing the inspection, there’s a puddle of dried rust on the sole where the generator exhaust passes through the engine room bulkhead.  Hmmmh.  It’s directly under a stainless-steel elbow which is bright and shiny.  Mirror and flashlight reveal a different story underneath.  Clean rust trail off with emery cloth-shiny, no worries.  Tighten hose clamp, repeat delusional thought process.  Run generator for 10 minutes-no leaks.  Finish engine room inspection-all good.

Over the next few days, we get The Girl dressed up for Christmas with outdoor lights, etc.  In the meantime, we meet up with Kim and Zim (s/v Someday-St. John’s and Grenada), who are here for the start of the ARC Around the World Rally.  Theresa, Randy and the boys from Pilot’s Discretion are here too.  After being on the megayacht dock for a few days, we figure that they’re not moving us.  Meticulously get all the chafing gear on the lines, double-tie, get down extra fenders so that we can leave the Girl over Christmas.  Kiss of death.  Next morning, Sean, the marina manager comes by to tell us that we need to move.  Grrrhh.  Meanwhile, the elbow is nagging me.  Pull hose on other side of bulkhead to check inside of elbow.  Looks good, but the elbow is made from SS tubing, not pipe which is thicker.  Google, Google, Google.  Okay, the experts say that the fittings should be SS pipe or fiberglass/polyester.  We better have a spare.  Call Krogen-Gregg says that he has a new Stainless elbow that he can ship.  Thinking, thinking.  Hmmh, if it does start leaking, and I have to replace it, why not use fiberglass, which will never corrode.  Kill a half day online.  Order fiber elbow to be delivered over Christmas.  Sheila, just add it to the pile of boatstuff that’s accumulating in your guest bedroom.

“Oh, you’re leaving your boat in the marina for ten days with no one onboard?  You need a Temporary Importation Permit.”  Are you kidding?  The Customs cha-cha all over again.  (Why can’t I just keep my mouth shut?)  Customs needs a boat inventory before the officer can come to do a boat inspection before we can get our permit to leave.  Ka-ch$ng!  Okay, most of our stuff (spares, tools) is enumerated on spreadsheets, but it’s not a bad idea to have a list of all our goodies for insurance purposes.  We ended up with 5 sheets, single-spaced, 2 columns for our boat inventory.  When we gave it to the Customs officer, his eyes nearly popped out.  We made it about halfway through the first page, when he said he’d take our word for it.  He had an icy drink, signed our papers in triplicate, and was on his way.  (They DO love their paperwork down here in the islands.  Suz and I believe that they comprise 90% of the world market for carbon paper.)

Kurt picked us up at Noon on the 18th, for our hour-and-a-half drive to the airport.  Fourteen hours later, Suzanne’s sister, Sheila, picked us up in Asheville, North Carolina.

-Later

Bonjour,

Ah Martinique.  Great food, wonderful grocery stores, cheap French wines, great food, good roads, lots of hiking trails, great food, many sights to see.

Soo…..  Our plan was to anchor out in Martinique.  Then, we thought we’d get a mooring ball so that we could be close to the marina.  Then, maybe we should rent a car (John and Paulette had one).  Well, let’s see if they have a berth at the dock so we could have easy access to the car.  Long story short, we rented a car for 2 weeks, and Le Marin found a spot on the dock for us, on the condition that we left in a week.  The marina holds around a thousand boats, but was jammed full.  We figured that things would work themselves out as long as we just hung loose.  Okeey Dokey.  Time to Med-moor between our neighbors who were about 19 feet apart (our beam is 17.5).  I’m backing the Girl in from the pilothouse, totally blind.  The monkey working the controls while the Admiral is in the stern whispering commands into my headset.  (We prefer this routine to my driving from up top, as I can step out of the pilothouse to the bow easily).  The dock guy is in his tender, holding the bow mooring ball sorta out of the way, as I’m backing between the our neighbor’s stern  and the ball.  All’s going well until we’re sideways without a lot of room to maneuver.  “Oops, I meant stern to starboard, not port”.  It was gettin’ on towards dusk, and cloudy, but I could see the dock guy’s eyes, as big as pies as the Girl slid past his tender before he disappeared below my line of sight.  No crunch, no foul.  We got ‘er straightened out without a go-around, Suz got stern lines on with the help of the young lady next door, and our Dude, now visibly more relaxed, got the bow attached to the ball.  We jammed some fenders between the boats, and we were home.  Our neighbor lady, Elodie, had just single-handed from France in the Mini Transat, a race which had ended for her the day previously.  (The Mini Transat is a race for 6.5 meter-that’s 21 feet, folks- boats that starts in France, and ends in Martinique around 17 days later.)  We didn’t see much of her for the first few days as she was laying in the cockpit of her Uncle’s boat next to us, catching up on her sleep.  Our neighbors on the other side?   Let’s just say that we locked up tight whenever we left, even for a minute.  Not judgin’-just sayin’.  The always colorful life on a boat!  We solved the European shore power problem (partially) by wiring up an adapter to allow us to bring 220V, 50Hz into the Girl.  We charged our batteries with one of our chargers which would accept 50Hz, while running the boats’ AC appliances off of a different inverter.  The only appliances that we lacked were air conditioning and the washing machine, as our inverter doesn’t put out enough voltage to run these guys, and they don’t like 50Hz frequencies.  (Okay, tech geeks, I tried to keep the explanation simple)

The hikes on Martinique are plentiful.  There are kilometers and kilometers of reasonably marked trails covering much of the island.  Suz and I knocked off the south end of the windward coast in several day-sized pieces, as well as a few in the interior.  There’re still plenty for our next visit.

There are plenty of other attractions to visit:

The banana plantation, Habitation Balfort, where we toured the fields aboard a little train.  We were taught us everything that we needed to know about the cultivation of bananas.  All of the fruit exported from Martinique goes directly to France. 

The Habitation Clement, a restored sugar plantation, gave us a taste of what life was like on a 19th century sugar plantation.  (It was also the location where George H.W. Bush and Frances’ Francoise Mitterrand met following the First Gulf War).  Several buildings and an old rum distillery were available for a walk-thru.  At the end of our tour, we had a real bonus!  Rum tasting-with samples of all of Clement’s current products.  The pourers weren’t in any rush to chase us out.  I had the feeling that we could have tasted all afternoon, but we had to drive home in the now torrential rain.  It was raining so hard that there was a guard at the bridge over the raging creek to show us the way to drive over the now-submerged, railingless(?) plank bridge. 

We were a bit disappointed after driving all the way north to the sugar refinery, only to find that they were closed until a few months into the dry season when cane would again be harvested.

The ruins of the Chateau Dubuc  on the Caravelle peninsula were extensive, and the setting was stunning, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on the windward side.  Another rainy day, but as we walked along on our self-guided tour, we stopped to seek shelter for our brown bag lunch (baguette, French cheese and meats, of course!).  We had planned on hiking another segment of the shore trail after our tour, but were foiled by the pouring rain.

Another day took us to Jardin Balata (Balata Gardens).  Even though exotic species of plants from all over the world were displayed, Balata wasn’t your typical botanical garden.  Instead of groupings by species, the garden was designed to be a work of art, blending different colors and textures of plants to create scenes pleasing to the eye.  Every time that you rounded a turn in the serpentine path coursing through the property, you were confronted with another Kodak moment.  Very cool.

The Anse Cafard memorial was very moving.  Erected on a prominence overlooking a bay where a slave ship grounded on a stormy night in 1830, killing most on board, it features fifteen modern art stone sculptures.  Depicting slaves, the figures are oriented so that they face the African’s homeland of Ghana, thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean.

The childhood homesite of Josephine (Napolean’s wife) is worth a stop, if for no other reason than to say that you were there…Nowadays, only the foundation of the main house and the ruins of the sugar mill are visible.  A small museum is also on the grounds.  (You may know that both Martinique and St. Lucia claim to be her birthplace)

La Savanes des Esclaves is a reproduction of a typical slave “village” that would be found on plantations during the 18th and 19th centuries.  Although the guided tours are in French, a self-guide brochure, printed in English, allows you to fill in the blanks if your French is “iffy”.  Very easy to spend a couple of hours there.

Martinique is a country where daily life revolves around lunch, much like France.  Businesses close between Noon and Two P.M., and there are no two ways about it.  We fell easily into the habit of taking our main meal at lunch time, and our days of exploration were punctuated by lunch at some great little restaurant that someone had recommended.  I could name names, but the places will probably be different by the time you get here.  Don’t be long!..........tick,tick,tick.

Do the French like their wine?  As my pal Dick would say “Does a chicken have lips?”  I’ve never quite figured the simile, but it rolls off the tongue well.  Yeah, French wine is inexpensive here, but mores so when you shop at Pomal wholesale distributor (Thank you, John and Paulette).  This is where the retailers shop, and we felt fortunate to escape with only 6 cases of red and white pop.

All in all, the two weeks flew by.  Yes, on day 7 we were awarded a reprieve of 3 more days.  On day 10, the Dockmaster appeared at our stern and informed us that we “must leave right now”, as a boat was coming in to this, their reserved slip.  No worries.  He moved us to the “Big Boy” dock for the remainder of our stay.  John and Paulette’s 58-footer looked like a dinghy compared to the other yachts berthed there, so you can imagine how lost Alizann looked.

It would be really easy to get sucked in to life here at Le Marin.  The dockage is inexpensive, and there are modern conveniences here on Martinique (In absolute contrast to Dominica and St. Lucia, around 30 miles or so to the north and south, respectively).  Fresh baguettes every morning, loads of great little restaurants, good roads, nice beaches, a real shopping mall………….

We may be back.

-Later

Hellooo….

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

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

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

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

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

-Later

Bon jour

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

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

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

On to Thanksgiving……….

-Later

Time Flies.

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

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

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

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

Lotsa talkin’

-Later

Morning, Morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Later

 

Good Morning,

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

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

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

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

-Later

Good Day,

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

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

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

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

-Later

Pages

Captain's Log

Feliz Pascua!

The Girl was resting so comfortably (and clean) that we didn’t even leave her all afternoon and evening.  Periodically, gusts of wind would race up the bay, causing our wind generators to really fly.  I love the sound of money going into the bank.  I think that we finally have our renewable energy sources tuned in.  The solar panels and the wind generators are at full potential.  We’re covering all of our electrical loads, and putting the surplus in the battery bank.

Warning:  A small bit of tech talk ahead.  I think that I told you that I had rewired our 110VAC watermaker to run off our inverter, so that we could make water while underway without running the generator.  That experiment didn’t work out so well at first.  The watermaker was drawing so much power that the alternator never fully charged the house battery bank, so…the engine start battery (which also runs the CPU controlling the engine) never got it’s share of juice.  As the start battery’s voltage dropped, the low voltage alarm on the John Deere panel went off, signaling that the CPU was not getting enough voltage to run the engine.  (Bad Juju!)  Eureka moment!  A month or so ago, I figured out that I could reprogram the alternator regulator in such a manner that we could overcome that problem.  After a half dozen passages, I can now confidently report that the fix is working.  We no longer regret not purchasing a 12VDC watermaker.

We had a wonderful night at anchor.  Absolutely no chance of rain, so we inflated the Air bed that our pals Dick and Jan bought us and slept up on the boat deck.  Under the full moon, we didn’t see many stars, but it was all good.  Friday morning greeted us with a conundrum.  We were only allowed one night in a bay.  The wind was, if anything, blowing harder than the day before.  We decided to stay put.  If the Coast Guard chased us out, we’d head back to the marina.  After a breakfast of Tuckmuffins (a legendary breakfast treat in my own mind), we dropped the kayaks into the water.  Paddling out to the opening of the bay, the Admiral found that she couldn’t paddle against the (I’m guessin’-30 knot winds).  One gust hit me on the beam and nearly knocked me over.  Back at the Girl, we had a refreshing swim/read/nap afternoon.  17h00 (park closing time) came and went without a visit from the authorities, so we had another quiet night on the hook.

Saturday morning we were up and out in order to get ahead of the winds, which increase as the day progresses.  We still had 20+ knot winds and 4’-6’ seas, but they were on our stern.  After a year or so without fueling, the Girl was thirsty, so we put on 575 gallons of diesel before returning to our slip.  We got our backpacks loaded up for our forthcoming hike to Ciudad Perdida on Monday, then took a stroll through town.  Holy week is a big deal here in this predominantly Catholic country, so the city was rockin’.  We snagged a table at “Ouzo” before the dinner rush:  Crispy pork belly app., Duck Confit Ravioli for Suz and Hornido Sofrito for Yours Truly, all washed down with a pitcher of Sangria de Casa (tinto).

We hit 07h00 Mass this morning, only to find out that the Easter schedule was different than the usual-it started at 06h00.  That turned out to be okay.  Forty-five minutes into the service, Father was just getting warmed up, so we still got an hour and fifteen minutes of religion even tho’ we were 45 minutes late.  Suz looked like Death during church, and she’s been in bed since we got home at 08h00.  It’s 15h00 now.  The lower G.I. funk has been going around, and it looks like she’s the latest victim.  We’ll see about the hike tomorrow………

-Later

Ola, Amigos!

We’ve had a couple of quiet days, just hangin’ on the Girl taking care of the necessaries.  Holly the haircutter invited us to a potluck the other night, and we met half a dozen other cruisers.  Most are on the other dock, so we hadn’t interacted with them yet.  Among a few other pearls of wisdom, we found out that all of them were making water here at the docks, and most of them had been here at least 6 months.  We have never run our watermaker at a dock, for fear of fouling the delicate membranes with any petroleum pollutants which may be in the water.  Long story short, we made water for 7 hours yesterday without any issues.  We still won’t make a habit of it.

Yesterday we rinsed off our trusty little ship and polished some stainless steel.  The dust here is unbelievable.  You can rinse down the decks, come back a day later and still get a wave of brown water streaming out the gutters.  We’ve learned to keep the hatches mostly closed since we were having the same problem inside.  Thank goodness for Vornado fans.  At night, we turn on the airco in our stateroom.

 

We’re into our second day of “Lose incredible amounts of time to computer crap”.  Yesterday, I cleaned up our main navigation black box.  We still had routes and waypoints from Labrador and Newfoundland clogging up the memory.  That went smoothly, just took some time.  Then we started on the PC based program.  I got stuck.  The Admiral couldn’t help.  Then……I know better, but consulted multiple forums and flogged around for a few hours without result.  Suz says that John on Seamantha uses the same program-he’ll know.  What’s Apped him last night.  Talked to him this morning.  All good.  I just heard a “Woohoo!” from the pilothouse while I’m peckin’ away in the cockpit.  Here’s the deal.  There aren’t any official charts of the area we’ll be visiting next (The San Blas Archipelago in Panama).  The definitive cruising guide for the area has been compiled over the years by Eric Bauhaus.  He has taken over a million soundings and created a whole portfolio of charts which can be found in his book “The Panama Cruising Guide.”  These charts have in turn been magically turned into an electronic format for “Open CPN,” an open-source navigation program created by a group of cruisers.  Suz downloaded these on to our nav PC months ago, but never said “Abracadabra!” so our boat did not appear on the electronic chart.  Well, she did her prestidigitating today, and made it so.  When she called me up to the pilothouse a couple hours ago, it was working waaayyy cool.  When she closed the program and tried to reopen it, it crashed big-time.  She’s been up there for all this time trying to resurrect it.  In the meantime, I’m hogging up the bandwidth downloading 650 other charts to the laptop.  Okay, I’m heading up to see how it’s going.  Hahaha.  She’s got GPS position, AIS targets, and depth working on the Open -CPN and the Bauhaus charts.  And you thought that she was just another pretty face.

Well, we spent another day manually entering the latitude/longitudes for waypoints and anchorages in the San Blas islands.  It was painful, (I think that there were around 140- some odd positions) but will be well worth it over the next year.  It was time for a break, so we decided to take the Girl up to a couple of the bays in Tayrona National Park.  We had passed them on our way here and they looked, and we had heard, that they were pretty cool.  Problem was that you need a cruising permit and permission from the Port Captain here in Santa Marta to anchor there.  Our trusty lady at the desk, Kelly failed us big-time on this one.  She told us that the cruising permit could be had in a day, and that as soon as it was in process, we could head out.  We paid for the cruising permit last Friday, planning on heading out on Monday.  Monday morning, we head to the office for our permit.  Kelly’s on vacation for 2 weeks, but David, the Agent here at the marina will handle it.  Come back this afternoon.  The Port Captain had to check with the bank to make sure our $$$ had been deposited, manana.  Tuesday morning.  He’s working on it.  Come back this afternoon.  Manana.  Wednesday morning.  David’s meeting with the Port Captain.  Come back this afternoon.  No can do.  “Can’t we go, since he has our money, and it’s in process?” No.  We’re resigned to not being able to go, and having a cocktail up on the boat deck, when David appears around 17h30 with a gorgeous document in his hand.  Yay!  Weather’s supposed to be iffy-very windy and high seas.  We’d already decided not to go.  Didn’t tell David that.  So, we are in this conversation with him, and he tells us that he’s so happy that we got the permit ‘cause he worked so hard to get it.  His contract here at the marina is up, and his last day is Sunday.  He’s a full-time business student at Magdalena university, and his last year will require his full time attention.  After he leaves, Suz and I decide that we should probably go-it’ll make David happy.  My concern is that David is also the Agent at the marina, acting as the go-between with Customs and Immigration.  I have a shipment of boat parts coming that I don’t want to pay duty on.  Hopefully the new guy knows the ropes and will get our stuff through the maze.

Thursday, 07h30, and I hail the Port Captain on the VHF.  Yep, we get permission to anchor for 1 night each at 2 bays up in the park (The limit is 1 night).  The wind was brisk when we pulled out of the harbor, but nothing really significant.  As we turn the corner 45 minutes later and start heading East, the breeze is picking up.  Picking our way between a rocky point on the mainland and a small island, the sea becomes a washing machine.  Breakers are crashing over the shallows on our port and starboard.  It looks scary, but the guides that we’ve read say that we can go through.  Well…we never see less than 66’ of depth.  Boy, it was kind of a puker.  27 knots of breeze on the nose with a beam sea.  We could hear the cupboards being rearranged, and took a peek down into the salon.  Oh yeah!  Our recliners had slid across the floor, bunching up the rug in the process, but were now stable in the center of the boat thanks to the bunched-up rug.  An hour-and-a-half later, we turned the corner into Bahia Neguange, more or less out of the wind-driven waves.  Up at the head of the bay, all appeared calm.  Before we dropped the hook, we let the boat settle into the wind, and found that the swell rolling into the bay was right on our beam, making for a bit of a roll.  Nope.  Even with the flopperstoppers out, it’d probably be an uncomfortable stay, and we were looking forward to some peace.  Out of the bay and into the one next over, Bahia Gayraca.  Much better.  The swell wasn’t funneling in to this one nearly as much and we had a nice breeze.  We dropped the hook in 22’ of water around 150 yards off the beach and put out 150’ of chain, just in case.  We got the cupboards and inside of the boat tidied up, then took to scrubbing the layer Santa Marta dust off the outside while enjoying the sunny afternoon.

-Later

Buenos Dias,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Luego

Buenos Tardes,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Luego

Adios, Curacao!

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Later

Adios, Curacao!

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Later

 

 

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