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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday was “Pizza Night” at the marina restaurant.

Thursday was “Chicken Night” at Whisper Cove

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

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

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

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

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

-Later

 

 

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

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

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

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

-Later

 

 

Good Evening

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Later

Good Morning!

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

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

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

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

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

-Later

Allright?

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

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

-Later

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

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

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

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

-Later 

Bon jour,

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

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

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

-Later 

Bon Jour,

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

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

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

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

-Later

Bon Jour mes amis,

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

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

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

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

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

-Later

Pages

Captain's Log

Goedenmiddag,

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

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

The kids’ visits

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

Many memorable dive trips

More great restaurants

Lotsa fun with John and Paulette

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

-Sooner

Goedemorgen,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting’ wordy…

-Later

Ola, Amigos

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Later

 

Bon Tarde,

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Okay, that’s it-off to Curacao.

-Later

Hey There

So…..Whadja do on Bonaire?

You got the diving part-lots of it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Later

 

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