Laura’s brother Leon’s blog

Leon sent us this blog after his visit to us at the end of January with Ricky.  We can not read it without laughing and nearly crying. It is perfect. My apologies to those of you who don’t get the humor in this – I promise that if you spend a week with us and listen as attentively as Leon and Ricky did to everything the Captain said – you will agree that this about sums it all up. — L.

Leon’s Blog from Sabbatical III

Spending a week in paradise with the two of you and Ricky on Sabbatical III is not only good for the soul; it is also good for pretty much anything that ails you;    With that in mind, I thought I would share a little bit of what I learned in the past week cruising around the island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenandines:

Keep you head down at all times.

Make sure to install your Firdell Blipper below your radome.

“Sea Me’s” are made in England, not Canada, and make your 52.5 foot yacht look like an oil tanker so why bother with a Firdell Blipper in the first     place?

Keep your sea cocks  in an open position, especially in the forward head.

Gen-set and make water as often as you can.

The wind in the Caribbean is always from an easterly direction.

Whatever the Rasta’s have in terms of spirituality, they lack in hygeine.

Sailboat on the windward side has to yield if you are on the same tack – easier for her to manuever you know.

Sailboat on the leeward side has to yield if you are going on opposite tacks

Wrap your lines around the winch at least three times (never just twice) and you are better off with four wraps in January in the Caribbean.

Shower quickly or better yet, don’t shower at all.

Swim your anchor.

Beware of French boaters.

Let out your anchor chain so you have a 4:1 ratio of chain: depth of the water below your keel.

Your bow will head into the wind when you are anchored or moored.

Beware of moorings with empty Clorox bottles as floats.

Lock the hatches or you will certainly get wet.

Do not ever go below for more than 30 seconds when the hatches are closed.

Lock up at night.

Green is on; red is off (Ricky and I are still trying to get that one straight).

Peeing in 6 foot swells is harder than it sounds.

Check the water tank as often as you can so you can watch the stick pop up.

Water made on the boat is cleaner than the water in your tap at home but be sure to use the special drinking spigot since it has only 80 ppms.

Do not let go of the dinghy line until you have secured it to the boat.

Folding a jib sail on the boat is a cause for real celebration.

If your anchor is wet when it comes out of the anchor locker, you have an issue.

Water should not go up a drain pipe but it can…

Two seacocks are not always better than one.

Keep your head down at all times.

Do not leave the mast light on all day.

Do not throw metal locks on the bottom of aluminum dingys.

Sting Rays can fly.

Scorpion fish look like dragons.

You can read by moonlight.

Boats make more noises at night than you can even imagine.

If your boat is moving around a bit too much when you are anchored, let that mizzen sail out just a tad.

Do not close the hatches at night.

“Da sea is good for you maaaan…”

You may want to consider a “gentleman’s jibe” if you have your large jib sail out.

You can never have enough chocolate on a boat.

The “green flash” is for real.

Getting your dingy in the water and keeping it there is no easy task.

Scrubbing the water line can be fun.

If you have water in the boat, get rid of it.

Mr. Amel was a fanatic about water in the boat but he missed a few things along the way.

In case I forgot to mention it, keep your head down.

The boom is harder than any part of your body.

The Weather Channel is nothing compared to what you need on a boat.

Do not use just one clothespin when you hang your laundry to dry.

Chances are pretty good that it going to be 83 and sunny today… and tomorrow… and the next day…

It is not as hard as you think to tell the difference between a wind that blows at 12 v. 18 knots.

Days on a boat just disappear…

You can be very happy without stepping on dry land for very long periods of time.

GPS is the greatest sailing invention since the sexton.

Above all, I learned that if you ever go sailing be sure that your fellow crew is a perfect match for you like my brother is for me and that you have a captain and first mate who are as masterful, knowledgeable and gracious as Mark and Laura (although I seriously doubt you could find any…)

Xo

Leon, your eternally grateful and former crew member of Sabbatical III

P.S.  Also, I believe the 4:1 anchor chain ratio is calculated from the anchor hole on the deck to the bottom, not from the keel to the bottom – what was I thinking???

Preparing to depart Bonaire

We are still in Bonaire.  This is a delightful island and suited our needs perfectly.  The provisioning is very good, there is an excellent Budget Marine chandlery, and the people are very friendly. 

 

This evening (Tuesday, Feb 13), Claus Portner joins us for the passage to Panama.  I have known Claus since he was a graduate student at the University of Copenhagen and took the PhD short-course that I taught there about 9 years ago.  I served on the PhD thesis committee and he was a visitor at Brown for a semester last year.  He now teaches at the University of Washington, so it is a long way for him to come to Bonaire.  Claus is an experiences sailor and the trip from here to Panama is known to have higher winds and rough seas, althought he forecast now is quite good.

 

We leave for the San Blas Island of Panama on Thursday morning. It is a trip of about 700 nautical miles that takes us north of Curacao and Aruba and well off the Colombian coast.  Our initial destination is Porvernir in the western San Blas islands. 

 

M.

Passage to Bonaire: Day 2

This is yesterdays blog entry that was not sent due to an
approaching squall. We have since arrived safely in Bonaire
after a fast and comfortable sail.

A picture of Laura typing the blog entry is also attached. More
tomorrow.

Feb 7, 2007. 18:00 AST: position North 12 degrees, 22 minutes;
West 66 degrees. 24, minutes; course: 279 degrees magnetic;
current speed 7.8 knots.

It’s nearly sunset now – on our 2nd day of our 2.5 day trip from
Union Island to Bonaire. What’s it like to sail for 2.5 days
non-stop? Well, actually, it has been very nice so far. Not
scary – not particularly uncomfortable – although the boat is
rolling a fair amount from side to side in the swells. Before
doing night sails I am typically very scared and nervous, but
have found, at least on this voyage so far, that once I am out
in the cock-pit at night, with the beautiful stars and the
moon-lit seas, it is very nice. The days are short in the
Caribbean – it is pretty much dark for 12 hours a day, but out
on the boat it doesn’t really seem dark. First the stars light
up the sky, then the moon rises and everything becomes crystal
clear – you can see colors on the sails – and then you see some
phosphorescence on the water. The sun rises at 6:00 am, and
doesn’t get hot til about 9:00. We have taken turns taking lots
of naps – sometimes for an hour, sometimes for as long as 3.5
hours. All in all we end up getting 8 or 9 hours of sleep
during a 24 hour period – although it is pretty broken up sleep.
The sailing conditions were really great for most of the past
two days. For a few hours we were sailing between 9 and 11 knots
– that is a really great speed for us. We have two big
headsails set on poles ( see photo), one of which is our
ballooner which is red, white and blue. The other is the big
jib which Rick and Leon helped us set up when they were here.
They are very beautiful when set out together. They also make
for very easy downwind sailing – which is what we are doing now,
as we head almost due West. We are sailing about 30-50 miles
north of a whole string of Venezuelan Islands that we would love
to see, but don’t have time to stop at. Right now we are about
300 miles away from Union and have another 130 or so to get to
Bonaire. It will be good to arrive – but right now we are
enjoying the sea and the air. We have only seen two boats on
route – both large oil tankers – nicely lit up in our radar –
and also very visible to the naked eye. It is interesting to
pass another boat in the dark- almost easier to see them at
night than during the day. We have been listening to a lot of
music on our Ipod Nano’s and eating good meals – stuff we
prepared before leaving Union. Amazing how good everything
tastes when you are at sea.

L.

Enroute to Bonarie

We left Chatham Bay, Union Island at 2:00 am AST for Bonaire.
We are now 100 miles west of Union Island sailing in moderate
winds and 8 foot swells. All in all, comfortable but a bit
rolly. We are sailing a bit slower than planned as the winds
have moderated all afternoon. We are still doing 6.5 knots.
Our location is N 12 degrees 23 minutes 86, W 64 degrees, 14
minutes 58. Heading 285 degrees magnetic. It is now 16:30 AST
or 20:30 UTC (Zulu). Here is a picture of the first mate
sheltering from the sun with the ballooner behind her.

M.

Union Trouble

It is Monday February 5th, and we are back in Chatham Bay, Union
Island. We are happy to finally get out of Clifton Harbor
after a couple of trying days. We had hoped to get all of our
passage preparations done on Saturday and leave at 6 am Sunday.
Saturday was not long enough a day for us. We spent too much
time catching up on email at Erika’s Internet Cafe and then did
not finish our food shopping until 5 pm. When we headed back to
the boat in the dinghy, the wind was up in the mid-20 knot range
and it seemed like a bad time to haul the outboard engine and
dinghy onto the deck. We had a long list of things to do before
departure and there was no way we could get them done that
evening. So we decided to stay one more day and plan on a
Monday departure.

Saturday night brought one squall after another beginning about
10:30 pm and ending about 8:45 am. When the wind howls and the
boat pitches, I feel the need to get out of bed and sit at the
helm in case the anchor drags. I was particularly concerned
because we were anchored in back of a reef, and thus there was
no protection from the wind, and in front of another reef, and
thus if we dragged we would quickly be be hard aground and
grinding on the rocks. The last squall was the worst that I had
seen in the Caribbean with winds approaching 40 knots and
lasting 45 minutes. Our anchor held and we did not move an
inch, but I was exhausted. I went off to bed in the forward
berth hoping for a few hours of sleep but an hour later I heard
Laura’s rapid footsteps above me and her shouting. I figured
that she was telling a local vendor in a boat who was trying to
sell us stuff that we were not interested. A minute later she
came into the forward berth and told me I need to see what was
going on outside. There was a 51 foot Contest sailboat (“Lara”)
flying the French flag that was obviously out of control
directly in front of us. The helmsman was using his engine and
bowthrusters to try and keep from crashing into “Sabbatical III”
and the neighboring catamaran, also at anchor. He swung within
a few feet of each of our boats and his two crew run around
frantically trying to figure out what to do.

Laura saw the hold thing unfold. The boat came into the tightly
packed anchorage at high speed with an anchor already hanging in
the water. Laura ran forward and yelled repeatedly at the
Captain not to anchor in front of us or he would likely get
entangled with our anchor and chain rode. He simply shrugged
her off and dropped his anchor while still moving forward, a
maneuver common among French vessels. As he pulled back from
his anchor he nearly missed us and the neighboring catamaran.
He then sheepishly realized that he was badly placed and begun
to haul up his anchor when his windlass ground to a halt. That
is when I came up on deck. He yelled out that his windlass was
jammed. The occupants of all of the boats in the area came out
to see the show as he swung wildly around trying not to hit us
our our neighbor. A Union Islander came out to help and dove
down 18 feet to the bottom on multiple occasions. I sat at the
helm with the engine running just in case he pulled up my anchor
and we started to drift. After 90 minutes the French boat
retreived her anchor. I asked the Union Islander what the
problem had been and he said that the French boat had caught my
anchor chain with her anchor. If we had not been on the boat,
and the French boat had pulled up our anchor, we would have come
to grief on the rocks.

That misadventure, plus continuing high winds and squalls kept
us in Clifton another day. We went to bed exhausted at 7:30pm
and got up early this morning to finally get the dinghy up and
the downwind poles set. We left Clifton before someone else
anchored on top of us and headed west to hoist our balloner and
then furl it along with the genoa on the headstay. We
immediately ran into a problem since we have a brand new
ballooner halyard that was too big to fit into the slot at the
head of the ballooner. So I sat on deck for 45 minutes as the
boat headed west, filing the slot until the halyard would just
fit. Once we got the two head sails up (and doing over 8 knots)
and then furled them,we were over 6 miles due west of Chatham
and so had to motor directly into the wind and chop to get back.
We are now peacefully anchored here in wide open Chatham Bay
and are mostly set for the 412 nautical mile passage to Bonaire.
We figure it will take us 54 to 62 hours. To be certain that
we arrive in Bonaire when there is still light, we plan on
leaving here at 2 am AST in the morning (just 7 hours from now,
or 0600 Zulu). Our course is pretty direct — taking us just
north of Las Roques (Venezuelan islands) and around the southern
end of Bonaire and up to the moorings just off of the Habour
Village Marina.

M.

Re-Union

We started out our day on Thursday by taking a dinghy ride out
to the far northern point of Canouan’s Charlestown Bay to do
some snorkeling. It looked like a pretty spot, but there was
too much swell on one side to land the dinghy, and on a
neighboring beach the water was all churned up with sand. We
returned to the boat for a little swim before weighing anchor
and setting out for new sights. We tried to get into the pretty
palm tree lined harbor in Mayreau, but it was chock full of
boats and we couldn’t even consider staying there. We decided
that Chatham Bay in Union would be a good spot to go as it is
protected from the north where swells were expected. We had a
great sail there – and everyone was thrilled with the place. It
is a beautiful quiet harbour facing some very high green lush
looking hills and lined with a white sand beach. There is a guy
there whose boat “Shark Attack” is something of a legend among
boaters. He prepares terrific beach barbecues for a reasonable
price – with as many people there as he can sign on from the
visiting boats. We signed on for dinner, although his helper
warned us that there were no langostine available that night.
Just an hour or so before we left the boat to go to shore to
eat, a boat came by with two local fisherman selling langostine.
As they held up a huge one, Brock motioned him over and asked
if he could buy one, have the guy deliver it to Shark Attack,
and have Shark Attack include it in the barbecue. It seemed as
if the guy was not thrilled about working with Shark Attack, but
he was thrilled to have Brock’s money, so they arranged for two
large langostine to be purchased and delivered in time for the
dinner. We went to shore and wandered along the beautiful beach
for a while before dinner – watching the full moon rise. There
were about 20 other people eating when we did, although no-one
seemed particularly interested in getting to know us. One group
had brought a huge picnic cooler filled with wines and drinks
and who knows what else. We had our one little bottle of wine
with us. The “restaurant” was on the beach – three wooden picnic
tables overhung with simple tarps and a gas lantern on each
table. Shark Attack and his two assistants were working in the
dark at a couple of huge grills. We had our own table and
feasted on langostine, fresh tuna, barbecued chicken, roasted
potatoes and cole-slaw and rice. Afterwards a local guy with a
guitar and pretty much the worst voice I have ever heard
seranaded us. We made a polite exit as soon as we could get
away from him and took another quick walk down the beach to see
what was happening at the other two restaurants that were open.
We felt so sad for the other proprieters as both of their
places were completed devoid of visitors. They looked longingly
at us and invited us to visit their places, but we were full and
slightly drunk already, so we had to say no and dinghied back
to the boat under a bright moon and clear skies.

Today, Friday we spent the morning on the beach. It turned out
to be an incredible place to snorkel- millions of silvery fish
darting around the rocks that lined the shore. It looked like a
scene in a Disney movie – just a solid wall of fish glittering
in the water. Mom came in to snorkel at least
three times, really loving the water and the fish. After a
few hours, we had to leave the beach because we wanted to get
back to the other side of Union to make sure we found a good
anchorage for the night in Clifton Harbour. Lucky we left when
we did. We arrived in Clifton at about 3:30, and by 5:00 the
weather changed and we found ourselves bracing up against an
incredibly long stretch of storms. The anchorage was so full
when we arrived that we ended up anchoring much closer to
another boat than we would have liked. The owner of the other
boat was standing on his deck glaring at us ( for good reason),
until he finally called out to Mark that he would like him to
let out more chain. I went up on deck when it calmed a little
bit and we dropped some more chain. Although we ended up with a
pretty good distance between us I have a feeling it may be a
night where Mark or I gets up at least once to have a peek
around. It was too stormy to go to town for dinner, so we
managed to put together a nice pasta and chicken dinner.
Tomorrow morning Cathy, Brock and Shirl will all leave and Mark
and I will prepare for our big sail to Bonaire…..

L.

2nd Bloomfield Crew

2nd Bloomfield Crew

On Monday, after Leon and Ricky left, Shirley, Brock and Cathy
helped us provision. Union is kind of a tough island to
provision at despite a plethora of fruit stalls and small and
medium size food stores. It involves going from store to store,
figuring what they have, and then figuring out the best plan to
gather all the stuff and get it back out to the dinghy and the
boat before the frozen foods defrost or the fruit gets mashed
around too much. Some of the stores even have their own dinghy
dock so you can pull up and put the heavy cans and bottles in,
but they are not that easy to tie up to. We ended up buying
fruit from three different fruit vendors in the market –
skipping Jenny- our favorite from last time because we were a
little miffed at her having charged Brock about 3 times the
going price for a pineapple that was the size of an orange.
Between the fancy French boat provisioner, the big “Lambi”
supermarket, and a couple of smaller stores we were able to get
a nice selection of cheese, chicken, fruits, vegies, and drinks.
We ended up walking up and down the streets, from store to
store for quite a while, and mom was getting heat stroke so she
went back to the hotel to wait while we finished up. It’s not
quite the same type of shopping as driving over to Lunds in St.
Paul for a 10 minute shop.

They got a water taxi driver – who Mom nicknamed Chicago for his
shirt – to drive them and their luggage over to the boat while
Mark and I brought the groceries back to the boat in our dinghy.
It was pretty hot – so we were all glad to weigh anchor about
3:30 and start sailing over to Tobago Cays. It is so much more
pleasant out on the open water. It is a short hop from Union to
Tobago so we only had the sails up for a half an hour and then
had to motor the final half hour through the openings in the
reefs to beautiful Tobago Cays. We picked an anchoring spot
very close to where we were just a few days earlier with Leon
and Ricky. Still gorgeaus. Lots and lots of boats in the
harbour. We had a quick swim around the boat, before starting
dinner..and then sat on deck to watch the moon and stars.

Next day, Tuesday was spent doing lots of water activities.
Started out dinghying over to one of the tiny islands behind the
Cays where we could go for a short walk. There is a path that
goes to the other side of the island – which is facing leeward-
and is very quiet and calm. Lots of other people were there –
mostly day-trippers on charter boats. It was a great place for
an introductory snorkel with Mom. She put on the snorkel mask
and hopped right in – very fun to find such a nice beach. Not
too many fish, but the water was great. After that we dropped
Mom back at the boat while the rest of us went out to the big
reef for another snorkel. The current was very strong and it
was pretty hard to swim towards the reef – but quite a thrill to
turn around and go the other way where the water was pushing us
quickly along. Getting back onto the dinghy from the water is
tricky and we had some good laughs as we all pulled ourselves up
via the dinghy strap – each of us doing a great impersonation of
a beached whale, or more like a hippo.

We had a rest on the boat for a while and then headed out to yet
another small island – in search of a good snorkel and possibly
some turtle sightings. The beach ended up to be “the place” to
be- as it had at least a dozen people on it, several of whom
were doing kite surfing. It was really beautiful to watch these
incredibly strong young people flying back and forth through the
water and then gently landing back at the beach..
Just as we were dinghying back to the boat, someone snorkeling
in the water called out to us that there were at least 10
turtles right near us in the water. We rushed back to shore to
dock the dinghy – knocking Mom off the dinghy, and creaming
Brock with the bow of the boat as we reached shore. We jumped
back in with our snorkel gear and headed out again over some
disgustingly gooshy looking green grass in search of turtles.
Apparently the turtles like that green grass and tend to hang
out there. Although we saw only one turtle and one huge
starfish it was a great swim.

Sun was setting as we dinghied back to the boat for dinner.
Next day, Wednesday, the crew was anxious to go see some other
islands, so we set sail for wherever the winds would take us.
Gorgeaus sail – past Mayreau and Canouan. The winds were quite
high and we decided that we would try out Canouan as an
anchorage. It doesn’t have much of a reputation as a “gorgeaus”
island, but it does have restaurants and a protected anchorage,
so it seemed worth trying. When we pulled into the harbour it
was suddenly amazingly calm. We decided to go to shore to have
lunch at the Tamarind Beach Hotel and were immediately charmed.
It is a lovely hotel with a gorgeaus white sand beach, palm
trees and comfy beach chairs. We had a delicious lunch and then
spent the rest of the afternoon just lazing around on the beach
– swimming, snorkeling and napping. Great Pina Coladas at
sunset topped off the day. We met a couple of great women on
the beach – Cheryl and Petra – and ended up inviting them to the
boat for a little visit. It was fun – we showed them the boat
and sat on deck for a while chatting under the full moon.

After dinghying them back to shore, we all decided to have
dinner on shore again – and returned to the Tamarind Beach Hotel
Restaurant for dinner. We had a very charming waiter, great
service, and a totally enjoyable meal. Very nice day in
Canouan. Back to the boat for a final “full moon watch” before
crashing.

L.

Ricky and Leon depart and new guests arrive

Ricky and Leon have left now, but we didn’t finish writing up
our blog, so let me catch up. Our last full day in Tobago Cays
was spent doing more snorkeling and dinghying around the
beautiful reefs. We had an amazing morning snorkel –
highlighted by seeing a huge sting-ray laying on the bottom
of the ocean, in only about 10 feet of water. We hovered over
him (her?) for a while, keeping what we hoped was a safe
distance, until he slowly lifted up from the sandy bottom and,
spookily fluttering its wings, floated away from us. Much of
the afternoon was spent doing more boat projects. Rick and Leon
helped Mark diagnose a water leakage problem – and we all spent
a few hours getting some stale water out of the anchor locker.
Somehow the whole day flew by and before we knew it, it was time
for another swim off the boat, a magnificent sunset, and a great
pasta dinner (thank you Leon for doing all the cooking and Ricky
for overseeing everything). We stayed up late to watch the
moon – amazed by the amount of light it was casting on the
sea. Within a few days it will be full and it was so bright
that you could literally read by it. “The boys”, as we like to
call them, became true converts to the boating life. Except for
a few minutes spent on shore on one of the tiny Tobago Cay
islands behind us, we spent about 72 hours without touching
land, and everyone loved it. Rick loved the idea of going from
the big boat, to the little boat (the dinghy), out to the reef
to snorkel, and then back to the boat again so that the whole
day was spent on the water. We had a perfect vacation together.

On Sunday, we picked up anchor and sailed over to Union Island.
We took a little detour close to Petite Martinique(Grenada)just
to extend the sail by a bit since it was an absolutely gorgeous
day to sail. By about 2:00 we were anchored behind the reef at
Union Island – another beautiful anchorage, but not quite
as magical as Tobago Cays. The anchorage is right near the
airport at Union, so we were scanning the skies looking for
Shirley, Cathy and Brock’s plane to arrive from Barbados. We
are pretty sure we saw it land – just after 2:00. We dinghied
over to shore to look for lunch and our new guests. It is a
small island, but it was still a fun surprise to walk into a
restaurant and find them all sitting at a table – the only
people in the whole restaurant. Later that evening we all went
out to the very nice Bougainvillea Restaurant to celebrate
Shirl’s 80th birthday. It was a beautiful place and the dinner
was lots of fun. Pina Colada’s for everyone – with doubles for
the hard-core drinkers (like Mom).

Today, Monday, we brought Leon and Ricky in from the boat and
met everyone else down by the dinghy dock. We all walked to the
airport (a 4 minute walk) to send Leon and Ricky home. It was
sad to say goodbye having spent such an amazingly fun week
together. After provisioning the boat as best we could, we
returned to the Tobago Cays with our new guests late this afternoon.

L.

Ricky and Leon visit Sabbatical III

Overlooking the harbor

Bequia and Passage to Tobago Cays with Leon and Ricky

On Sunday night, swells entered Admiralty Bay, Bequia and
the boat rolled uncomfortably all night. First thing in the
morning, we picked up anchor and moved from our picturesque
location off of Prince Margaret’s Beach to a more protected
location off of Point Peter on the north side of the bay. We
spent the morning doing some boat maintenance and cleaning
before McCarthy, our water taxi driver from 3 years ago, picked
us up to take us to town (Port Elizabeth). We did the check-in
at Customs and Immigration, bought some fruit at the Rasta
Market, and then bought 3 hours of time at the Lenroc internet
cafe and tried to catch up on email and the news. We had a
delicious and cheap supper at a local Creole restaurant called
Porthole. The next morning (Tuesday) I spent some time with the
floor boards up trying to figure out the source of a persistent
leak of sea water in the forward compartments of the boat, while
Laura prepared the boat for the visit of her brothers. At 1 pm,
McCarthy picked us up and delivered us to “Indian” and his
“Faithful Taxi”, a pick-up truck with seats and a sun cover in
the back, for the ride to the airport. Ricky and Leon arrived
on an incredibly small plane from Barbados and got hung up in
Customs for a few minutes over the Chemex drip coffee pot and
assorted other stuff they were bringing to us. After big hugs,
we showed them the boat, went for a swim, and that evening we
had supper at Gingerbread House.

Wednesday, after adding the boys to the crew list at Customs
and Immigration and visiting the Rasta market, we went on a tour
with Indian. He went out of his way to show us some of the
unusual “highlights” of Bequia such as the power plant, the road
leading to a church, the solid waste disposal site, the gravel
pit, his wife, an old fort with five cannons and a t-shirt
seller, before finally arriving at Hegg Turtle Sanctuary. We
were the only people there except for the guide who only told
how old turtles were in each pool. We ended the tour with a
trip up Mount Pleasant which had beautiful views in all
directions. We actually loved the tour, appeciated the
idiosyncratic tastes of our guide, and found the island to be
beautiful. After a late lunch, we did some major provisioning
at the Rasta market and one of the stores in town. We shlepped
all our goods to the dock where “Good Choice” took us and our
goods back to the boat. While on the boat, we saw a pod of six
sting rays swimming in formation while occasionally breaking
the surface.We watched the sunset and saw the “green flash”
before going back to shore for supper at the relatively upscale
Frangipangi. On the way to town, a sting ray leaped three feet
out of the water with its wings spread wide.

Thursday we had a great sail to the Tobago Cays. The seas
were down and the winds were moderate, and the “boys” did not
suffer from any seasickness as we had feared. It was intensely
hot as we anchored in front of Horseshoe Reef, and we went below
to have lunch and rest while out of the sun. At 3:30 we put the
dinghy into the water, dropped the outboard onto the transom,
and went off to snorkel the reef. The water was crystal clear,
and the coral and fish were spectacular. We ate on the boat and
went on deck to watch the moon and the stars. Leon and Ricky
thought it was the most beautiful night yet. This morning
(Friday), we snorkeled the reef again and then spent a couple of
hours in the afternoon dropping and folding the 110 % genoa
sail, and replacing it with the much bigger 155% genoa sailin
preparation for our upcoming passage to Bonaire. The biggest
problems were folding the sail on the deck (which was
accomplished on the second try), and hauling the big sail out of
the forward sail locker. In unrolling the big sail out of the
sail bag, where it had been since September, we found Ben’s
sandal which mysteriously went missing on the day he helped me
put that sail away. After it was up and furled on the headstay
we all clapped and hugged, as did the people on the boat next to
us. As we finished the delicious meal that Leon prepared this
evening, the wind gusted up and a series of strong squalls swept
through the anchorage. We sat in the cockpit as the rain pelted
down and told stories.

One of the most interesting characters we have met so far is
McCarthy, our water taxi guy in Bequia. When you pick a water
taxi in Bequia, that person has proprietary rights over all
subsequent transactions including tours, land taxis, and boat
services. It was McCarthy who set us up with “Indian” for the
trip to the airport and the tour of the island, and it was
McCarthy was brought us home baked banana bread in the morning.
He insisted that we only use his taxi services, which we were
happy to do. One evening we called him on channel 68 and
another taxi responded saying McCarthy was home resting and that
he was his cousin and had been delegated to transport us. It
turns out that this was a lie and he had stolen McCarthy’s
customers. Later that night when we went to call the “cousin”
for a ride back, McCarthy came storming in to tell us that the
other taxi was an impostor. On more than one occassion, we have
seen driver taxi drivers shouting at each other for poaching
customers, which is rather unpleasant for the customer.
McCarthy is a very emotional person with a distinctive deep
voice that occasionally turns into a whispered falsetto while
telling us a story. While driving us to or from “Sabbatical
III”, he suddenly slows his boat down and leans forward to tell
us a story in his Creole inflected English. He is like a
Shakespearean actor as he relates his tale, acting out the parts
with expressive body language. His eyes fix on us while doing
30 knots without lights through the crowded anchorage. (We
figure he knows what he is doing — after all he is a
professional). On the last trip to town, he told us a story
about coming eye-to-eye with a huge whale while taking his small
boat to St. Vincent. This was almost a religious experience to
McCarthy and he did not hold back in telling us details about
his run in with the whale, the meaning of the ocean in his life,
and how the sea cures pus filled sores and makes one a strong man.

Tomorrow I hope to put our new crew to work helping us clean
the boat under the waterline, as well as snorkeling the Tobago
Cays reefs. We are hoping that Ricky remembers to duck his head
in the companionway and under the boom as a large goose egg has
arisen on his head from at least a dozen hard knocks.

Passage to Bequia

Passage to Bequia

We left Rodney Bay Saturday morning. Leaving a harbor involves
so many steps: filling the boat’s water tank ( up to 1000
liters), checking out with customs, checking out of the marina,
making sure that everything is stowed away, tying up lines,
pulling up the ladder, closing the hatches, putting away the
fenders, taking down the courtesy flag of the country we are in,
re-fueling ( only occasionally)… It is really a big process.
We keep a check-list that we go through each time because
without it we invariably forget something. We ended up at the
fuel dock at about 11:00 a.m. under the scorching sun. It takes
a while to fill up a tank that holds 600 liters of diesel.
Luckily it was only about 1/3 empty. It was a relief to pull out
of the harbor and into the sea where the air was much cooler. We
sailed to the Pitons – the famous mountains on the S.W. side of
Saint Lucia, and got some help picking up a mooring from one of
the official boat boys in the area. The moorings are safe, but
it takes some getting used to as they are incredibly close to
the side of the mountain. It was so hot that we immediately went
for a snorkel to cool off. Sunset was beautiful, but the
anchorage was very rolly as it is quite exposed to swells. We
set up our “rocker stopper” for the first time. Without going
into detail at this time, the rocker stopper is a gadget that we
bought that we have to hook up to a pole off the side of our
boat and it is supposed to reduce the amount of rolling the boat
does in a rolly anchorage. Since it was the first time we did
it, it took almost an hour to set it up. It was hard to tell if
it worked at first, because just as we finished setting it up,
the winds calmed and the whole anchorage seemed flatter.
However, starting about 3:00 a.m. the boat was rocking and
rolling like crazy – so we are still not sure if the silly thing
works at all. We will have to try again another time.

Today, Sunday, we got up very early ( since we were up early
with all the rolling in the anchorage), and by 7:00 a.m. were
headed south for the island of Bequia which is part of St.
Vincent and the Grenadines. Our sail took us past the Pitons
which were magnificent from each new angle we saw them, and then
past the beautiful, rugged island of St. Vincent. After a
beautiful 8 hour sail we arrived in Bequia – exhausted as usual
by the heat and the sun. We said, wouldn’t it be nice if it
would just rain for the rest of they day – and guess what? It
did. We assume it will all blow through tonight and be sunny and
warm again tomorrow.

Only one more day til Ricky and Leon arrive. Hooray !

L.

Saint Lucia

Have a look at the new photos in our slide show. Hold the cursor on a photo to see any caption.

On Wednesday, January 17th we set sail from St. Anne for St. Lucia – a distance of only about 24 nautical miles. We had 15-18 knots of breeze from the east north-east so we had a smooth and exhilarating sail all the way here. We put on some great classical music and just enjoyed the air, the view and the beautiful music for three and a half hours. It is a bit hard to dock in St. Lucia as you have to back in to the slip, and tie onto a pole. Luckily they have a lot of dock-hands at Rodney Bay Marina – and two guys were on the dock to help us pull in. Mark is getting really good at backing the boat in – although he gets pretty nervous beforehand (for good reason). Anyways, we were kind of beat from the sun and just spent the rest of the day cleaning the boat and ourselves. Naomi took us out for a wonderful dinner at Castaways Restaurant.

Dahlia loves the boat

On Thursday morning Bernita’s daughter Dahlia and her youngest son Malcolm came to the boat at 10:00 a.m. Bernita is a wonderful woman from St. Lucia who has been taking care of Kitty (Mark’s mom) for the past 4 years in New York. The rest of her family is in St. Lucia. Unfortunately when Dalia came to the dock to find us, we were onboard but below with the air conditioning on, and she saw the boat closed up and thought we had left to do errands. It wasn’t until 11:00 when Mark, who was sitting nearby in an outdoor internet cafe, ran into Dahlia, and steered her back to the boat for an emotional meeting with Naomi. A little later Bernita’s niece Eleanor and her son Gerie (spelling?) joined us as well. It was a great group to have on board. We had sandwiches and drinks and then decided to go for a short sail. Malcolm and Dahlia had sailed with us 3 years before and were anxious to go again. Once we got out of the protected bay the wind and waves picked up quite a bit – and some of the guests were decidedly green. Only Gerie looked unmistakenly thrilled to be on board. Luckily it didn’t take us too long to get back to protected waters and everyone perked up a lot.

Naomi left with Dahlia and Malcolm in the late afternoon. They were heading back to Dahlia’s house which is near the town of Vieux Fort at the other end of the island. Although it is only about 20 miles away, you have to go through the big mountains of St. Lucia via windy roads to get there and it takes at least an hour and a half. So we tearfully said goodbye to them. Eleanor was kind enough to take us to a big supermarket nearby and then pick us up an hour later to help us with our groceries. She brought both her son Gerie and her daughter Chelsea (another absolutely sweet and adorable child). Gerie pushed my cart around the store, helped me pick out fruit, and insisted on unloading the cart at the check-out. He is a terrific kid and promises to be my e-mail pal. We are sad that we will not see them again on this trip – but hopefully at the end of our circumnavigation we will end up right back here in St. Lucia.

Martinique, encore

Martinique, encore
Yesterday was Monday, January 15th, and it was time for us to check out of Martinique. When we checked in, we had dinghied in to Le Marin from St. Anne where we are anchored to get to the customs office. It was an uncomfortable dinghy ride when we checked in on Friday – much too far to go in high winds and rough seas – and yesterday the conditions were pretty rough ( by Caribbean standards that is), so we decided we would make our way to Le Marin by land. We had seen taxis in town and we knew there was supposed to be a “communal taxi” that ran between towns for a very cheap price – so we decided we would see what we could find. On land we ran into another couple – from our neighboring boat “Zest” – who were also on their way to Le Marin to do their check-in and check-out. We decided to taxi in to town together. After waiting at the taxi stand and talking for about 30 minutes we realized something was wrong as no taxis showed up. We saw a taxi 50 feet away so I walked over to tell him we would all like a ride to Le Marin. The taxi driver had parked in front of the local lottery shop and when I asked him if he would drive us to Le Marin, he very rudely exclaimed that that would be impossible, and waved his lotto tickets at me. Hmmmmm. Ok, so then we saw another taxi parked nearby and I approached him. This guy said, no, he would not take us to Le Marin, he only goes to Fort de France. I told him we would pay him more than the regular taxi fare, but he was not interested. Our friend from Zest had a cell phone and she called the phone number posted on the taxi stand. It was hysterical, as the phone hidden behind the taxi stand – started to ring – but there was no-one there to pick it up except us. NOw it had been about an hour and we had not yet seen the “communal taxi” to Le Marin, nor did it seem possible to get a regular taxi. We waited and waited (while the second taxi driver continued to stand by his taxi, not securing any other passengers) . Suddenly we were confronted by an attractive, well dressed lady, who was intent on converting us to being Jehovah’s Witnesses. Even after our friend from Zest, said no, she was Jewish ( was she?), the lady persisted in her quest to gain at least one convert. She even offered to take up to three of us to Le Marin in her small car, but we were all too chicken to get in the car with her. Meanwhile, our friend from Zest wandered off for a morning beer. It was now 11:45 and we knew that the customs office closes promptly at 12:30, so We were just about to give up, when suddenly the communal taxi showed up. He had a few other passengers who were going to some destinations several miles off the main road. He accomodated them and dropped them wherever they asked. Then he drove us to Le Marin (which is a harbor), and parked the car way up high on a hill. He told us that this was the stop. We looked down the very steep hill and could see the masts from the marina off in the indeterminant distance. Seemed a bit odd, and when we asked him how far it was to town, he responded, with a shrug, and said it was “just there”, not far at all. It turned out to be true to a certain extent. It wasnt far – but was down an incredibly steep hill and long set of stairs. We are still trying to figure out why he didnt just drive us down the hill. We made sure to get a return time from him for the trip back.

It took all of two minutes to check out – and then Mark took care of some internet business in town- while Naomi and I wandered over to a supermarket nearby. Interesting place – very modern air conditioned market – with a huge bull tethered just across the street ( I guess the meat must be fresh). Then we all hurried up the hill to await the 2:00
return bus, but a normal taxi showed up, and much to our relief he was willing to drive us back to St. Anne. It was hot, and we were cranky, but Naomi thought it was all good fun, and kept us in good humour.

Today, Tuesday, January 16th we were sure we were going to be leaving for St. Lucia, but continued high winds kept us from leaving the anchorage. In fact, we didn’t even leave the boat. Had a nice relaxing day – and a great “boat dinner” – meaning a big melange of stuff – canned and fresh.

Just in case anyone is keeping tabs, Naomi had wine both last night and tonight. We are keeping her away from the edge of the boat.

L.

St. Anne, Martinique

More fun in Martinique

We left Grande Anse d’Arlet early on Friday morning headed for St. Anne on the SE edge of Martinique. It is only a 16 nm sail, but for most of the trip you have to head directly into the wind. The winds were strong, but luckily, the seas were not terribly rough, and we had a eautiful “motor” into St. Anne’s anchorage. This is apparently a very popular spot in Martinique, and we can see why. The anchorage is huge, and reasonably protected from any swell. It has mountains around it, but they are not terribly high, so they allow for a nice breeze to blow through the anchorage. The town is an adorable little tourist town with a good patisserie, several restaurants, well stocked grocery stores, a couple of fruit stores, plus a daily market where they vend all sorts of fruits and vegetables, plus a huge variety of spices and flavored rums. Very friendly and clean and French ( garbage cans everywhere and public toilets – both important things in the scheme of things). We had to check in to Martinique as we had already been in the country for a couple of days without checking in at either St. Pierre or Grand Anse, so as soon as we anchored we jumped in the dinghy and headed across the bay to the town of Le Marin where the customs office is. It was a 3 mile dinghy ride, and much to our chagrin, the wind was so strong and the seas so choppy that it was a pretty uncomfortable ride. Marin is a huge yachting center as well as the major yacht chartering marina around here and there were literally hundreds of boats in the harbor and at the docks. We managed to find the customs office at 12:20, just 10 minutes before they closed for the day. They checked us in incredibly quickly and efficiently – and we were done before 12:30. Starving, hot and thirsty, we stopped at the big local seaside restaurant there – and had a bad, slow, but otherwise enjoyable lunch. Sometimes the French style of serving can be frustrating – talk about taking it easy – they are so leisurely – I don’t think you can have a lunch in less than 2 hours anywhere. Interesting. We spent 90 minutes in an internet cafe trying to catch up on communications, and then headed back to the boat in calmer winds and seas than when we arrived.

Mark’s sister Naomi arrived at the square in front of the church in St. Anne at the appointed time yesterday, along with some incredibly heavy bags filled mostly with gifts for Bernita’s family in St. Lucia. Bernita has provided loving care to Mark’s mother in New York City for the past four years. We had to use a halyard and winch to bring the bags onto the boat. That evening we returned to St. Anne to walk around, tried to make some phone calls, and had a lengthy dinner. This morning we checked out the open air market in St. Anne before hiking along a trail that paralleled the coast with the goal of visiting the beach at Anse Salines. It was a bit more of a walk then we bargained for so we headed back after crossing Pointe Dunkerque with a view to St. Lucia. It started to rain hard just as we approached the Restaurant Ouai Ouai adjacent to the Hotel Caritan. Rain squalls this time of year usually last all of ten minutes (except in the mountains), but this one lasted all afternoon. We had a 2 1/2 lunch overlooking the beach as the rain beat down on the roof. When we left it was still raining although not as hard. We picked up two of these great rotisserie chickens and a couple cases of Didier, our favorite sparkling water, and returned to the dinghy which had a 6 inches of water in the bottom. We left the dinghy pump on “Sabbatical III” and could not bail it out. It did not matter since we were wet from the rain and it was raining still. Upon arrival at the boat, Laura and Naomi skinny-dipped while Mark kept his nose strategically in a book. Tomorrow morning we have to go to Marin to perform the required check-out before sailing off to Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, weather permitting.
L. & M.

Naomi visits us in Martinique

More fun in Martinique

We left Grande Anse d’Arlet early on Friday morning headed for St. Anne
on the SE edge of Martinique. It is only a 16 nm sail, but for most of
the trip you have to head directly into the wind. The winds were
strong, but luckily, the seas were not terribly rough, and we had a
beautiful “motor” into St. Anne’s anchorage. This is apparently a very
popular spot in Martinique, and we can see why. The anchorage is huge,
and reasonably protected from any swell. It has mountains around it,
but they are not terribly high, so they allow for a nice breeze to blow
through the anchorage. The town is an adorable little tourist town with
a good patisserie, several restaurants, well stocked grocery stores, a
couple of fruit stores, plus a daily market where they vend all sorts of
fruits and vegetables, plus a huge variety of spices and flavored rums.
Very friendly and clean and French ( garbage cans everywhere and
public toilets – both important things in the scheme of things). We had
to check in to Martinique as we had already been in the country for a
couple of days without checking in at either St. Pierre or Grand Anse,
so as soon as we anchored we jumped in the dinghy and headed across the
bay to the town of Le Marin where the customs office is. It was a 3
mile dinghy ride, and much to our chagrin, the wind was so strong and
the seas so choppy that it was a pretty uncomfortable ride. Marin is a
huge yachting center as well as the major yacht chartering marina around
here and there were literally hundreds of boats in the harbor and at the
docks. We managed to find the customs office at 12:20, just 10 minutes
before they closed for the day. They checked us in incredibly quickly
and efficiently – and we were done before 12:30. Starving, hot and
thirsty, we stopped at the big local seaside restaurant there – and had
a bad, slow, but otherwise enjoyable lunch. Sometimes the French style
of serving can be frustrating – talk about taking it easy – they are so
leisurely – I don’t think you can have a lunch in less than 2 hours
anywhere. Interesting. We spent 90 minutes in an internet cafe trying
to catch up on communications, and then headed back to the boat in
calmer winds and seas than when we arrived.

Naomi on the dock in St. Anne, MartiniqueMark’s sister Naomi arrived at the square in front of the church in St.
Anne at the appointed time yesterday, along with some incredibly heavy
bags filled mostly with gifts for Bernita’s family in St. Lucia.
Bernita has provided loving care to Mark’s mother in New York City for
the past four years. We had to use a halyard and winch to bring the
bags onto the boat. That evening we returned to St. Anne to walk
around, tried to make some phone calls, and had a lengthy dinner. This
morning we checked out the open air market in St. Anne before hiking
along a trail that paralleled the coast with the goal of visiting the
beach at Anse Salines. It was a bit more of a walk then we bargained for
so we headed back after crossing Pointe Dunkerque with a view to St.
Lucia. It started to rain hard just as we approached the Restaurant
Ouai Ouai adjacent to the Hotel Caritan. Rain squalls this time of year
usually last all of ten minutes (except in the mountains), but this one
lasted all afternoon. We had a 2 1/2 lunch overlooking the beach as the
rain beat down on the roof. When we left it was still raining although
not as hard. We picked up two of these great rotisserie chickens and a
couple cases of Didier, our favorite sparkling water, and returned to
the dinghy which had a 6 inches of water in the bottom. We left the
dinghy pump on “Sabbatical III” and could not bail it out. It did not
matter since we were wet from the rain and it was raining still. Upon
arrival at the boat, Laura and Naomi skinny-dipped while Mark kept his
nose strategically in a book. Tomorrow morning we have to go to Marin
to perform the required check-out before sailing off to Rodney Bay, St.
Lucia, weather permitting.

L. & M.

Passage to Martinique

Passage to Martinique (Jan 11)

Yesterday (January 10) at 7 am, we left Prince Rupert Bay, Dominica headed for Martinique. The wind was occasionally blocked by the high peaks of Dominica as we headed south but once we entered into the channel between Dominica and Martinique there was more than enough wind.
We sailed across at 8+ knots with reefs in all of the sails. We arrived at St.Pierre about 2:30 and anchored to the north of the town dock, and promptly went below to rest. We we came back on deck, we noticed that another boat had anchored uncomfortably close to us and had left in their dinghy. European sailors, particularly French ones and charterers, have a much more casual attitude about anchoring than Americans. They enter anchorages at higher speeds, often drop their anchors while still moving forward, and do not always back down on their anchor to set it — plus they are more comfortable with getting quite close to other anchored boats. It is something that still leaves us uncomfortable. In order to retreive our anchor this morning, I had to have the boat do this slow-motion dance in order to avoid hitting our close-in neighbor who was parked right over it.

It is the same tonight in Grande Anse d’Arlet. When we were ashore, a boat came in and anchored much closer to us than I would like. When on the boat earlier, I would stand on the deck and stare intently at however was cruising by looking to anchor as a way of staking out my “territory.” But once you leave the boat, anything goes–particularly in the French Carribean. The biggest charter base in the French
Carribean is just a few miles away at Le Marin, so I expect charterers who just picked up their boats head up here as their first destination.

We did not expect to visit Grande Anse d’Arlet. As we sailed south we saw this attractive little bay set among steep hills and pulled in on the spur of the moment. We thought we might like it enough to have my sister Naomi meet us here on Saturday instead of St. Anne/Le Marin. The water is beautiful and a large sea turtle kept swimming around the boat. Once ashore, we were not terribly impressed. It did not have much to offer except elderly French pensioners in bathing suits that were altogether too small. We bought a phone card to call the kids, but neither public phone worked. In addition, the dock is an awkward platform to get Naomi’s bag of goodies for St. Lucia onto the dinghy.

We were very hungry at 6pm and wanted to get some early supper but the restaurants did not open until 7:30 pm. As we had a drink on the beach contemplating our options, a small pirogue came ashore just in front of us and the two firsherman jumped out with their catch of fish. Laura greeted them and purchased a small, whole tuna that they filleted for us. We went to the small store nearby and bought the last
baguette and the problem of dinner seemed to be solved. In the end, nothing beats eating on the boat.

Tomorrow morning we will head for St. Anne or nearby Le Marin where we can catch up on email at an internet cafe, I can get some overdue research work done, and we can finally officially check-in.

M.

Farewell to Dominica

Our last day here in Dominica was great – spent tons of time in the water.  The wind was from the west, almost an unknown situation here.  It resulted in crystal clear water in the bay and we took advantage of it by spending a lot of the day swimming and snorkeling. Our pal Martin took us to the other side of the bay in his speedy wooden skiff (maybe 4 miles away), and we had a great snorkel amongst beautiful fan and brain corals, and an occasional moray eel.  Tomorrow we leave early for Martinique.
L.

Dominica

Saturday night, after our sail here from Guadeloupe, we were tired and went to bed early, something we commonly do on the boat. To our chagrin, “Big Poppa’s Bar and Restaurant” on the beach was hosting a party with a live band. The party only got louder as the night wore on, before finally ending sometime after 3 am. Amplified bass was not what we expected in usually peaceful Prince Rupert Bay. Three years ago when we were here this was no “Big Poppa’s.”

Sunday we did not leave the boat, except to swim. We mostly read books and did some light boat maintenance. A charter catamaran that came in after us decided to anchor right on top of our anchor (we snorkeled out to check) even though this is a big bay with lots of room and not that many boats. We asked them if they would move but they said that their windlass was broken. If I had a broken windlass, I would not have anchored where they did. They are still there today on top of our anchor. Martin told us we would sleep well on Sunday night since there were never parties on Sunday night as this was a religious island. However, there was a large Pentecostal Christian revival meeting with amplified sermons and song that went on until past 10 pm. The music was great but we lay in our bed not knowing how long this event would go on.

Rain forest roadToday we did a big tour arranged though Martin. We joined Jim and Ruth Smith of Harpswell, Maine on a full day trip across northern Dominica guided by one of Martin’s associates. It was a rainy morning and, as we headed up into the rainforest, it just rained even harder. This is the dry season so the intensity and length of the rain showers were unusual. We made the short hike to the “Cold Souffriere,” a bubbling volcanic spring that was cold to the touch — in pouring rain. The volcanic mountains were filled with vegetation and fruit trees. There were trees of coffee, lime, orange, papaya, banana, plantain, cinnamon, bay, nutmeg, cocoa, mango, soursop, custard apple, guava, and more. Our tour guide was constantly stopping the van to run out and get us samples of every variety of fruit, spice, and medical plants, plus some huge bromelia flowers. We also bought 4 grapefruit for 30 cents. We then went to the Red Rocks on the northeast coast of the island which was spectacular, followed by lunch of fish and assorted starches, and to a beach where the river meets the ocean. We had planned on swimming in the river but the rain had swollen it so much that we decided to not get in above our ankles. The sun finally came out in the afternoon but the rain did not detract much from an altogether delightful trip.

We will stay here tomorrow (Tuesday) and try some snorkeling before leaving early Wednesday for Martinique. We hope to get to St. Pierre by Wednesday night and then to St. Anne by the end of the day Thursday.

M.

Last Two Days in Guadeloupe and Passage to Dominica

Last Two Days in Guadeloupe and Passage to Dominica

Thursday morning we took a taxi to the commercial port area to visit Electro-Nautic, the biggest chandlery around. I had a long list of items to purchase, some of which are not standard items in smaller chandleries, including the friendly and convenient Karukera Marine in the marina complex. This was clearly more a chandlery for commercial fishmen and larger commercial vessels rather than recreational sailors. The fellow who stepped up to help us spoke no English, but Laura was up to the task. If she did not know the word for a part, she described its use until our saleperson led us briskly across the large store to where the requested item lay.

Late Thursday afternoon (Jan. 4) we rented a little Renault Clio from
Jumbo Car in the marina complex and drove to Gosier, east of the Marina Bas du Fort on the Grande Terre island of Guadeloupe. We got caught up in the rush hour traffic leaving Pointe-a-Pitre and were surprised at how long it took to crawl to Gosier. We checked out the town and the little harbor there and bought from fruit from a vendor, and then headed to the giant Cora supermarket just off the road on the way back to the boat. We had forgotten how large it is.  It is like a Wal-Mart — selling clothing, electrical supplies, flat-screen TVs, liquor, and groceries. We filled up a large cart with mostly nonperishable items and then dragged it all onto the boat.

Friday morning the repair work on Sabbatical III was finally done and we settled up with Chantiers Amel.  The repair work did not take that many hours to perform, its just that they would appear at random times for 15 minutes to an hour and then disappear again.  You never knew when they would return.  Fred of Fred Marine, the local Yanmar diesel repair guy, was both timely and efficient in fixing our hydraulic shaft brake problem and is highly recommended.  I did the customs check-out at the Captainerie, and then we headed out in the car along the southeast coast of Grande Terre towards St. Anne and St. Francois. We stopped for lunch in a little place in St. Francois where the fisherman were busy cleaning their catch. It was a great meal and the best deal we had encountered. The “menu” had accras (fried conch fritters), grilled fish with frites, and bananas flambe. As squalls drenched the fisherman cleaning their catch, we enjoyed our meal as it was served in slow motion.  We continued out to Pointe des Chateaux, the eastern most point of the island. There we watched waves from the Atlantic crash on the huge rock formations.  We stopped at the Cora superstore on the way back for perishable items, shlepped it all on the boat, and then got the car back just in time.

We pulled away from the dock at Marina Bas du Fort at 8:30 this morning and had a great sail to Prince Rupert Bay in the island country of Dominica. We made between 7 and 8 knots the whole way with the wind on the beam, and are currently anchored in front of the small town of Portsmouth (15 degrees 35′ North, 61 degrees 28′ West). This is a place we really love – we were here twice in 2003/2004.  The mountains are high and green.  There are lots of waterfalls and giant hardwoods in the rainforest.  The arrangement here is to use a “boat helper.”  Boat helpers scan the horizon looking for arriving boats and then zoom out in their outboard powered wooden boats to get your business.  In the past we have used Martin Carriere who goes by the name “Providence.”  When we tell others that approach that we use Martin they all politely back off.  Martin came out to greet us as soon as our anchor was down.  He took me to customs to clear in and we made some tentative plans to talk about hikes and snorkeling.  We will stay here until Tuesday or Wednesday.

M.

 

Guadeloupe

Restaurant in little fishing/tourist village of St. Francois, Guadeloupe

It is now Thursday, January 4th, and We have been here in Marina Bas du Fort since Sunday – after our overnight sail from Nevis. Amazing how the days fly by. We have spent most of our time on the boat – waiting for the Amel mechanics to come over and do the work that needs to be done. Monday was a holiday here so nothing was open (except a few restaurants). On Tuesday, a repair person came over in the morning so we could go over our “to fix” list with him. He left at 10:00 a.m. saying he would be back after lunch to start the work. At about 3:00 P.M. he popped by again ( guess it was a good lunch) – and spent 10 minutes on the boat, before leaving again, promising he would come by again the next day. Needless to say, much of the next day was spent with the same kind of service. Fred of Fred Marine was more timely, and arrived to fix our shaft brake problem at the arranged time. He said that the drive shaft was not properly aligned since the original installation, resulting in our brake shoes wearing out by the wobbly flywheel. He assures us the problem is now fixed. Amazingly enough, it is now Thursday, and most everything IS done. How can that be? The French eat fattening food, smoke cigarettes, work from 10:00 to 12:00 and then from 3:00 to 5:30, and still manage to be thin, beautiful and successful. Hmmmmmm, maybe there is a lesson there for us. Anyway, for those of you who are interested, but primarily for Mark and my records, here is what we had fixed while in Guadeloupe:

Replaced shaft brake-shoes (Machoire de frein) on Hurth transmission connected to the Yanmar engine

Replaced seals on bow-thruster and filled it with fresh lubrication oil

Fixed deck light on mast

Replaced outhaul line on main boom

Replaced defective windlass switch

Bought new zinc anodes, extra brake shoes, an extra windlass switch, new shroud covers, extra windlass boots, and a few other spare parts

Fixed corian countertop

In between our waiting, I have been reading Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” – don’t know how I missed reading it when I was young. What a beautiful book. Mark is switching between reading “Marine Diesel Engines”, New Yorker magazines, and doing some important office work.

I am getting lots of opportunity to practice my French – very fun for me. Amazing what you can do when you need to – there is really very little English spoken here.

We have nice boat neighbors here too – all middle aged semi or fully retired people, just kind of hanging around enjoying life. We were invited to a small wine and cheese party last night with an interesting group of yachties- including an extremely British couple ( she was very much into royalty gossip – he, as the owner of a couple of radio stations in England was up on all the music fads), and another couple – one of whom was a teacher here . He was extremely smart and articulate and opinionated and talkative. It made for some interesting discussions – until the topic turned too much to religion and politics, and we decided it was time to go to sleep.

Love to everyone…….
L.

Passage to Guadeloupe

January 1, 2007

Our blog posting of December 28 inexplicably did not post.  I have reposted it below.  This is what we have been up to since that blog entry was written.

On the 29th we took a taxi up to Golden Rock Estate on the slope of Mt. Nevis.  It is the site of an old sugar mill constructed of blocks of volcanic rock.  It is now a small hotel and restaurant. It has beautifully landscaped grounds and good, but not great, views of the sea.  After a quick walk around the grounds, we ate a nice lunch on the terrace.  The rum drinks we ordered quickly reduced our hiking ambitions for the rest of the afternoon.  Walking on narrow paths did not seem the prudent thing to do until the effects of the single drink we each consumed wore off. In the end, we did not lose any hiking time since it rained hard for the next hour.  We sat in a large stone hall (circa 1815) and listened to music as the rain fell outside.  The “nature walk” we started on was well marked to start but all directional indicators disappeared after 30 minutes.  Laura has a great sense of spatial orientation in these circumstances and we were able to walk in a big loop back to the estate.  Towards the end of the walk the monkeys came out of the rainforest in small groups– walking on the path, sitting on roofs, and nonchalantly grooming each other.  The monkeys are very cute but apparently they are the reason that little fruit is available in the market — the monkeys eat it all.

The hotel called a different taxi driver for our return to the dock at Charlestown.  We asked him if we could stop somewhere to buy some papaya and bananas, neither of which we could find in the open air market at the port.  He suggested that we stop at his home and pick some papaya off of his trees, and so we did.  His house was just 100 yards off of the road.  Using a long stick, he coaxed six papaya in different stages of ripeness off of two different trees.  We then stopped at the Ram supermarket for bananas and we had the fruit that we craved.

We went to town on the morning of the 30th, a Saturday, to perform the formal check-out of the boat and us, as required by the Nevis authorities, as we planned to leave the next day and it was not clear that Customs would be open on Sunday.  The check-out procedure was positively streamlined compared to the check-in procedure requiring only a visit to one office as compared to three for check-in.  We both noticed the calendar hanging on the wall in Customs that advertised a Chinese restaurant on “Jews Street.”  After a quick visit to the internet cafe, we went looking for Jews Street.  Street signs are not abundant in Charlestown but after we found an old Jewish cemetary and the Chinese restaurant we knew we must have found it.  The grave stones were in both Hebrew and Spanish and dated from about 1640 to 1740.  A small plaque noted that Jews once made up one-quarter of  Charlestown’s 300 inhabitants by the year 1700.  They were of Spanish origin and there had been a small synagogue adjacent to the cemetary but there was no evidence of the latter (although I suspected it might have been on the space now occupied by the Gold Coast Chinese Restaurant.)  We had a quick lunch in the restaurant and returned to the boat.

Earlier that morning we listened to the weather report of Chris Parker of CaribWX on the SSB radio.  My “to do” list including checking on the Montserrat volcano and to my surprise, he started his broadcast with the news that the volcano has just increased its level of activity and the Monserrat Volcano Observatory had raised the alert level to 4 out of 5, where 5 means run away.  There were new lava flows, dome enlargement, and a 12,000 foot plume of ash and cinder.  Chris  also reported that the wind and waves would remain moderate for the next 24 hours, with some north in the easterly tradewinds, but the wind and waves would increase on Sunday and Monday and the bit of north in the wind would end and move slightly south of due east. As our next destination, Guadeloupe, was south and east, this was not the best weather change for our planned Sunday night and Monday sail.  So we thought, lets see if we can leave today.  We had already checked-out, but we needed to get through a list of tasks including finding a safe resting place for our new hard bottomed dinghy on the foredeck.  I had already checked the web site of the Monserrat Volcano Observatory to find out how large the marine navigation exclusion zone was given the new alert level (2 nautical miles).  Prior to starting on prepartions to sail away that afternoon, we used the satphone to download the wind and wave GRIB charts that provide detailed wind and wave forecasts for every six hour interval out 72 hours over the route we would traverse, and they confirmed Chris Parker’s forecast.  So we got busy.  Just as the sun was setting we had the boat ready to go.  I started up the engine and motored up on the anchor and Laura went forward and used her big toe on the windlass switch to haul in our anchor and chain — but nothing happened.  It was dead.  It worked in the other direction, letting more chain out, but refused to budge in the direction required.  We could haul everything in using the manual backup but that is a sweaty job and the sun was already on the horizon.  I suddenly remembered that I had a remote windlass switch at the helm station (duh!) and that worked.  But then  a squall was upon us, so we watched the sun set into a clear sky to the west while rain pelted the boat.  Finally, the rain passed, the anchor was up, and we were off,

In the wind acceleration zone south of Nevis we did over 8 knots in reasonably light seas, and as night fell and we moved away from the island, we did a solid 7.5 knots.  After a light supper, Laura went off to bed while I did the first watch.  It was glorious.  The almost full moon provided great visibility, and I gave my new IPod Nano its first work out listening to Rachmaninoff 3rd piano concerto and Lucia de Lammermoor.  I was in no rush to have Laura take over.  As we approached Montserrat, I could see an enormous dust plume blotting out the sky some miles ahead, so I decided to divert further west in order to keep our closest point of approach at 6 nm, triple the 2 nm exclusion zone.  But soon ash and cinder started to fall on the boat, leaving a layer of grit on everything.  The wind also dropped dramatically and boat speed dropped to 5 knots.

Laura woke herself up and came to relieve me just as we passed Montserrat’s wind shadow and the wind picked up.  As I lay in my bunk I heard a unusual noise from the engine room, something that is particularly odd when the engine is not running.  I opened up the cockpit floor and climbed down with my trusty Petzl headlamp strapped to my head and found the hydraulic shaft brake had become disengaged from the flywheel, which was spinning free.  This is a bad thing as this makes the transmission turn without having oil pumped to the bearings, leading to complete failure of the transmission.  Bob Fritz experienced this problem on the delivery of Sabbatical III from Rhode Island to St. Maarten.  He emailed me about it while at sea, I emailed Amel in France, and then forwarded their reply to Bob.  It is a fairly simple adjustment.  I had checked on the shaft brake during our first two sails after leaving St. Maarten, and it was nicely engaged so I thought the problem had been fixed. Coincidently, the last book I bought before leaving for our trip was Nigel Calder’s new edition of “Marine Diesel Engines”. One evening in St.Maarten, I read the section on hydraulic shaft brakes.  That knowledge came in handy now.  I located the right set of wrenches, loosened the set screw, and tightened the jack bolt which increased the clamping pressure of the brake shoes on the flywheel.  The flywheel stopped its spin.  I had Laura start the engine and put it into gear to make sure that I did not overtighten so that the hydraulic release would not free the transmission.  It worked fine.  I climbed up but before I could get back and into my bunk the weather changed.  A series of squalls blew through so I stayed up with Laura until they passed. I went back to bed but before I could sleep, Laura called me to tell me that the shaft brake had disengaged again.  This time the engine room was hot as we had run it.  With the engine going and in gear, I could see how far the brake shoes were from the flywheel and adjusted the jack bolt so that the shoes were just off the flywheel.  When Laura stopped the engine, the brake clamped solidly on the flywheel.  I came up from the engine room dirty and drenched in sweat.  I cleaned up and went back to my bunk.  But then the wind died and the boat rolled badly in a sloppy sea.  I could not sleep in an hour of trying with the boat rolling and the engine on, so I returned to relieve Laura.  When the wind picked up again and the boat was going 8+ knots, the brake disengaged once again.  The engine room was now hot like a sauna and, try as I might, I could not move the jack bolt in any further.  I then saw what the problem really was — the whole hydraulic brake assembly had come loose from the engine frame.  The whole things just moved aft under the pressure of the  brake shoes on the flywheel which itself was being turned by the force of water against the propellor while we were under sail.  I tried strapping the thing into place with some cinch straps, but there was no way I could get the brake to hold when the boat was moving quickly through the water while under sail.  So we reduced sail dramatically.  With the boat slowed to 5 knots, the flywheel did not turn and the transmission would not burn out.  As it was I got only one hour of sleep the whole night as my ear was constantly listening out for the turning of the flywheel.  We motored the last six or seven hours of the trip in very rolly seas with Laura on watch, and even though the shaft brake is not an issue while under power, the roll was too severe to let me sleep.  We came into Pointe-a-Pitre at about 2:30 pm,  4 hours later than we expected, both of us tired and hot.

The Marina Bas du Fort in Pointe-a-Pitre is not the prettiest place, but it sure is restful.  One minute after backing the boat to a stern-to dock, we had the shore power connected and the AC running full blast.  The 95 degree interior cooled down quickly, and we napped deeply for three hours after taking showers.  At 7 pm, Bob and Lorelai Diamond of the boat next door knocked on the hull and asked us to join them at a restaurant for New Years Eve supper.  We had a delightful evening with them but our fatigue could not quite get us up past midnight.  Today (January 1), we checked in (by fax — takes two minutes), bought one of these great French Caribbean phone cards, and talked with the kids, my mother, and Laura’s mother.  Tomorrow, I hope to get some repair people on the boat and get things back into proper shape.

M.

Another day in Nevis

December 28, 2006

We are still in Nevis.  Tomorrow we plan to go to Golden Rock Estate, which is up high on the slope of Mt. Nevis, for a hike in the rainforest.  There are supposed to be great views and lots of monkeys in the trees.

Winds in the anchorage  have picked up considerably but luckily there is still only a light swell here on the leeward side of the island.  We listened to Chris Parker of CaribWX give his 8:30 am forecast on the SSB radio (similar to ham radio).  He broadcasts from the British Virgin Islands. Lots of sailors listen in to his broadcast, and then identify themselves and ask questions about forecast conditions for the route they have planned over the coming days.  The winds and seas are forecast to abate on Sunday and early Monday morning, and then pick up again, so we have planned to sail the 115 nm. to Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe in one go,  leaving Sunday late afternoon and arriving  Monday morning.  The other possibilities did not seem attractive.  We could sail to Antigua and then on to Guadeloupe, but the sail to Antigua would be directly into the wind.  We could sail to Montserrat, but it was pretty much destroyed by a volcano a few years ago, most of the population evacuated, and there has been an  exclusion zone around much of the island due to falling ash and volcanic flows.  As it is,our list of preparations for the sail to Guadeloupe include calling the Montserrat Volcano Observatory to make sure our course past Monserrat takes us far enoughaway  to avoid the sticky ash that has been reported to fall downwind of the island.

Please check our slide show.  We have added photos from St. Maarten and St. Barts.  You can get to the slideshows from the home page, click on slide shows, and then the Caribbean Dec. 2006 link.  The resolution looked poor from the internet cafe here in Nevis, but that could have just been the computer that I wsas using.

I think that I may have fixed the problem with the formatting of the blog but I am not certain.  If it looks funky, please let me know.

M.

Nevis, Day 3

December 28, 2006

We are still in Nevis. Tomorrow we plan to go to Golden Rock Estate, which is up high on the slope of Mt. Nevis, for a hike in the rainforest. There are supposed to be great views and lots of monkeys in the trees.

Winds in the anchorage have picked up considerably but luckily there is still only a light swell here on the leeward side of the island. We listened to Chris Parker of CaribWX give his 8:30 am forecast on the SSB radio (similar to ham radio). He broadcasts from the British Virgin Islands. Lots of sailors listen in to his broadcast, and then identify themselves and ask questions about forecast conditions for the route they have planned over the coming days. The winds and seas are forecast to abate on Sunday and early Monday morning, and then pick up again, so we have planned to sail the 115 nm. to Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe in one go, leaving Sunday late afternoon and arriving Monday morning. The other possibilities did not seem attractive. We could sail to Antigua and then on to Guadeloupe, but the sail to Antigua would be directly into the wind. We could sail to Montserrat, but it was pretty much destroyed by a volcano a few years ago, most of the population evacuated, and there has been an exclusion zone around much of the island due to falling ash and volcanic flows. As it is,our list of preparations for the sail to Guadeloupe include calling the Montserrat Volcano Observatory to make sure our course past Monserrat takes us far enoughaway to avoid the sticky ash that has been reported to fall downwind of the island.

Please check our slide show. We have added photos from St. Maarten and St. Barts. You can get to the slideshows from the home page, click on slide shows, and then the Caribbean Dec. 2006 link. The resolution looked poor from the internet cafe here in Nevis, but that could have just been the computer that I wsas using.

I think that I may have fixed the problem with the formatting of the blog but I am not certain. If it looks funky, please let me know.

M.

Nevis, day 2

We had an entirely different perspective on Nevis today when we dinghied in to the dock. Last night it was kind of deserted and it didn’t feel very safe. We didn’t like the dinghy dock at all and the town seemed lifeless. Today when we pulled up we were greeted at the dock by a very nice, friendly Nevis dockmaster, who immediately welcomed us to the island, offered to take our garbage for us, and told us exactly where to go to start the check in procedures for transient yachts. We figured out how the dinghy dock worked – you need to set an anchor off the stern of the dinghy or it will bump underneath the big wooden dock, and break your engine.
We came prepared and all went well. The dockmaster then walked us over the the customs office. He said it was a very busy day because a couple of cruise ships had just pulled in. They had a guy playing steel drums on the dock, and everyone was so friendly and helpful. Of course, once we reached the customs office, things changed a bit. There is something about bureaucracy in every country that is particularly annoying, but in the Caribbean it really is something to grin and bear. Totally unsmiling and severe,the guy in the customs office read and re-read our documentation before collecting the required $13 and approving our stay. From there we had to walk to the police station, where a relatively friendly officer requested the same information (this time, however, we didn’t have to pay), and then finally to the third and final office required for check-in – the port master. This poor guy was sitting in a little cubicle office,
just 100 feet from the beautiful bay, but his office had no windows at all and was barely big enough for his desk and paper-work. At least it was air-conditioned. Poor guy – he collected another fee from us – had us fill out the same papers again!- and then we were officially registered to stay in Nevis for 6 days.

We wandered around the town – now full of life and people. We found a great little internet cafe – run by Shelly – and were appalled to find that our last few blogs had been coming through with all sorts of odd characters in the text. We can’t see our web site when we are on the boat, so we were just assuming it was ok. We will try to get that all fixed by tomorrow if possible. We got a phone card and tried to make some calls – a lot of the phones here don’t work right, so we called Shirley and left a message (which I don’t think worked), called Ben and Hannah in Israel ( which didn’t work either), and then finally reached Kitty’s house ( but she was sleeping). Oh well, we will try again tomorrow.

Then we tried to get into the Alexander Hamilton museum – apparently he was born here -but the museum was inexplicably locked up. After a nice lunch at a restaurant that clearly catered to the cruise boat crowd, we retired to the boat to get out of the hot sun. An evening stroll on the beautiful beach, and an hour or so on deck watching the sun set reflected on the volcano Mt.Nevis capped off the day.Dinner consisted of one very large avocado, mashed into guacamole, and some great Gouda cheese and crackers-  nice not to have to prepare regular dinners here like at home.

Now we are both sitting at our computers on the boat, swaying back and forth in the slight swell of the waves, listening to some good music while our water maker is making a hundred liters or so of fresh water.

By the way, Ben and Hannah, Dad made an awesome mix for his nano.  It is classic dad music – you will have to hear it when you come out.

Love to all

Laura

Nevis

Nevis - the Volcano

We left Anse du Colombier in St. Barts early this morning for the island of Nevis. Nevis is one of two islands that make up the country of St.Christopher and Nevis (more often referred to as St. Kitts and Nevis. The winds were stronger than forecast, and we sailed a close reach almost the whole way, with water coming over the bow and spray against the windscreen. The outhaul kept slipping even though I had covered it and the pulley wheels with fan belt conditioner — which is really just stickly stuff in an aerosol can. One more thing to replace when we get to Guadeloupe.

Our course took us through “The Narrows”, a narrow strait separating Kitts and Nevis. It became gusty and squally just as we entered The Narrows so we took down sail and motored. It cleared up as we got to the leeward side of Nevis. The island is beautiful, with sugar cane fields on the sloping land coming up from the beach until the forested sides of Mt Nevis which towers up in the center of this circular island. There are no natural bays or harbors on Nevis so anchoring is likely to be very uncomfortable if a northerly swell is running. Fortunately it is not, although there are still swells rocking the boat from side to side. We are anchored off of Pinney’s Beach (17 08=2E96N, 62 degrees 37=2E81W) to
the north of Charlestown. The beach is a long expanse of sand framed by swaying palm trees.

We put the outboard on the dinghy and motored along the beach to town.It was just sunset as we tied up to the dock so we did not want to stay long. After walking a couple of blocks, and seeing everything shuttered with almost no traffic in the streets, we remembered that it is Boxing Day in all former English possessions — a holiday. We found a place that served an excellent banana ice cream and then headed back to the boat. We will hang out here for a couple of days before heading south again.

Anse du Columbier

The view on the way back

December 24th, 2006

This is our second day in Anse du Columbier – a beautiful little cove on the western side of St. Bart’s. Today we spent an inordinant amount of time just figuring out how to get to shore. There is a very pretty beach here which leads to a wonderful walking path, and eventually to the little village of Flamands which has a great restaurant (La Langouste) and an amazing beach complete with umbrellas and beach chairs. The problem was getting to the beach from the boat. Too far to swim, and we didn’t want to hike to the restaurant all salty and wet With the dinghy engine on, our dinghy is too heavy to drag up on the beach, and with the engine off, we have to row the dinghy, which is not very easy, as it is big and clunky and we were a little afraid we wouldn’t be able to manage it. We decided to throw Mark into the dinghy – with a safety line attached – and see how hard it was to row. Luckily it turned out to be relatively easy – and the current was not strong – so we rowed in. Great exercise.
The restaurant was wonderful – (delicious Soupe de Poisson again) – and we spent most of the afternoon at the beach – trying our best to look French.

Love to all.
Laura

On Our Way

On Our Way

Doing e-mail at the cafe by the dockWe dropped our lines at 8:35 am and headed out to wait for the 9 am bridge opening. We both felt nervous and excited about the start of our circumnavigation. It certainly did not
feel like just another day out for a sail. We did not sleep well last night even though we had a relaxing evening of wine and cheese wih our neighbors on “Toot” , and then a quick
dinner at “Where’s Ivan?” in the marina.

We did not go very far today, just to St. Barts (St. Barthelemy) which is just 15 nautical miles away. We made even less distance in terms of a west-about circumnavigation since St. Barts is actually east (and south) of St. Martins. What a great feeling to set our sails in the warm breezes and turquoise water of the Carribean and start on a great adventure.

We arrived in Anse du Colombier at 12:45 and found an empty mooring. We celebrated with a baguette sandwich, iced tea, and a 90 minute nap in he forward berth with a 15
knot breeze coming through the open hatch to cool us off. When we awoke we dug up our bathing suits and had our first swim. I put on my snorkel mask and flippers and inspected the boat bottom (a bit slimy but otherwise perfect) and the mooring line. Laura swam with a noodle we found at a Dutch-side hardware store in St.Martins. Tomorrow we will do a proper snorkel on the reef.

It took over three hours to get here since it was an upwind sail in a choppy sea that brought water over the bow and spray onto the cockpit windscreen. The outhaul that holds the
main sail out on the boom kept slipping so the sail could not stay flat, slowing our progress upwind. The outhaul line is new and apparently too slippery for the pulley wheels. I had
tightened it so much it twanged like a guitar string but that apparently is not enough. I have some belt conditioner on the boat that should add friction.I will try that out tomorrow.

It was a gorgeous evening with a sky full of stars and the breeze kept it pleasantly cool. We will be here until after Christmas.

Mark

Vinegar Head

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

Quote of the day: ” Laura, I am concerned about your head. It has so much trouble opening and closing. I am going to have to open it up and pour some vinegar in.”

That was Mark’s good-night words to me, last night. Needless to say, I almost split a gut laughing. I guess he must have been talking about the toilet “head”, but, I don’t know, maybe he was really referring to me. I have been kind of forgetful lately, but really… threatening to open it up and pour in vinegar seems a bit much.

We are still in Simpson’s Bay – we worked so hard getting everything put away on the boat yesterday in preparation for our first sail, that when it was time to take the hike over to customs to check out, neither of us had the energy. We decided to just wait one more day. Customs here is the type of thing that you can’t approach lightly.

We had a great relaxing evening – went out to dinner with a couple on the boat next to us – Mike and Marleen from “Toot”. We all had a good laugh over the name of the mega-yacht that pulled in yesterday “Hooter Patrol IV”. That has to be about the lowest class name one could come up with for a multi-million dollar yacht, but I guess if you made your money from the Hooter’s bars, it works just fine. We are keeping our eyes peeled to see what the crew and owners look like. So far, we haven’t seen anything too unusual.
Today we made the trip over to the customs office. You have to be very patient in the Caribbean, as everything works at a snails’ pace…. but we successfully checked out and tomorrow we should push off.

PS If you double-click on the photos posted in our blog you can see them larger and in greater resolution.
Laura

Dec 19-20: completing preparations in St. Maarten

Yesterday, December 19, was another day devoted to
boat preparations. Our rental car had to be back by
11:30 or we would have to pay for another day.
Renting a car is not cheap here. We organized our day
around the bridge opening times. At the first bridge
closing, we headed west away from the bridge in light
traffic, watching those heading east towards the
bridge lined up for a mile. We first stopped at the
sailmaker. Laura went in while I sat in the
double-parked car. Laura checked on his work and
found that he had gotten confused about what wed had
asked of him and had sewn a batten pocket closed. He
quickly set out to fix his error as we waited, but
that set us off of our tight schedule. From the
sailmaker we headed to a new supermarket we noticed on
the road to Marigot. It was the nicest one we had
seen and, with this one, we had seen them all. We
quickly loaded up the cart with 48 rolls of Charmin,
bananas, and other stuff that we grabbed off the
shelves quickly. Then back to the marina to unload
these new purchases plus those of the day before that
still filled the trunk. I also got 4 gallons of
diesel motor oil. The day was hot with passing
squalls, and we worked up a sweat hauling our load
onto the boat. We then left for the car rental place,
located on the other side of the bridge just 15
minutes before the next bridge closing. We walked
back to the marina and rested before setting out by
taxi to Budget Marine to pick up our new dinghy and
outboard engine, and a few marine odds and ends. They
now know us well at Budget Marine. We work mostly with
Rosemary and Andrew, who were very patient and
helpful. It took a while to get the dinghy all set up
at Budget Marine’s dock, and we had problems getting
the outboard to start for the first time. Finally it
sprang to life and we headed off across Simpson’s
Lagoon at the slowest possible speed. The manual says
that new outboards should be run at dead slow for the
first hour as part of the break-in process.

As we started the process of turning our mizzen
boom into a crane to haul the outboard onto the
transom of Sabbatical III, we starting talking with
Mike and Marlene in the boat next to ours. They have
been sailing out of St. Maarten for the past 14 years,
sailing around the islands for 6 months each winter
and spring before having their boat sailed back to the
States for them. They had some useful suggestions
about anchorages in St.Barths and elsewhere.

It is December 20th now, and we got lots done today
so it looks like we will push off to make the 9 am
bridge opening (the only other choices are 11:00 and
4:30). The weather is clear and hot and the wind has
moderated. “Farmer” (real name Elwyn Charles) came
by this morning to help to haul the big genoa out of
the sail locker and install some Dri-Deck on the
bottom of the locker to help keep the sail dry. While
we were at it, we emptied a number of lockers to make
sure everything is dry and mildew free, and left it
all sitting up on the deck for the day. Farmer is the
guy who watched over our boat since it arrived,
flushed our watermaker every week, and gave it a good
scrub. Everyone knows him at the marina and many
boaters trust him for all sorts of boat-keeping
responsibilities. His picture is attached, as is one
of the boat from across the dock (with our new AB
dinghy tied to the stern).

M.

Perpetual Provisioning

Dec 18, 2006

We are still busy buying things for the boat. You would think that after 9 months of purchasing stuff for the boat, there would be little left to buy. But two trips to Budget Marine for boat hardware, and two huge shopping expeditions for groceries– one to the Dutch side and to the French side – still leave us a couple of shopping trips short of meeting our perceived needs. It is amazing to unload a couple of hundred pounds of grocery items and then find that there is nothing to eat.

We have also sent our sun awning to the sail maker for alternations and stopped in at least a half-dozen places to look for a drip coffee pot. Our beautiful Chemex pot broke within 15 seconds of our first arrival at the boat when I reached for a light switch and knocked the Chemex into on open galley storage box. We have a stock of 500 Chemex coffee filters, so we do not want to give up on this “technology” too quickly. All we could find in two days of looking is a Melita drip top. We could not even find a coffee press. And this is a French island!

Water entered various storage compartments under the floor board in the forward half of the boat. We did not realize the extent of the problem until yesterday. We lost most of our engine oil filters, three novels, and had mildew on a number of other items, mostly books and equipment manuals. Luckily, we found replacement oil filters here in Simpsons Bay, and we have so many books we probably will not miss those three until August or so.

We have a little Toyota Corolla that has been extraordinarily useful in getting our shopping done. The stores and roads are crowded with Xmas shoppers who come from other islands to take advantage of the duty-free shopping that make this place popular.

Yesterday afternoon, we took a drive to the other side of the island and found ourselves in Grand Case, a cute tourist village set on a beach. We hung out on the beach sipping drinks until restaurant L’Escapade opened at 5 pm. They have the soup de poisson that we fell in love with in La Rochelle, where we bought the boat. Laura loves soup de poisson, and she was not disappointed. We savored our soup as the sun set over the bay.
We attach a picture of us that the woman sharing our table in the internet cafe just took. She is starting a circumnavigation too, along with her husband and 8 and 10 year old childen. I met her husband at the ships chandlery when I went to buy oil filters. I bet we see them again sometime over the next few months.

Time to shop again. Not that much left — bottled water, diesel engine oil, coffee pot, and garlic. What are the chances of finding those items in a single store?

M.

Posted December 17, 2006

We are doing great. We seem to be moving in slow motion though – I think we have already taken on the Caribbean personality – just get a couple of things accomplished each day. We are anxious to get going though- I am sure St. Maarten is a beautiful island, but it is so congested with traffic that it is a bit hard to appreciate. We need to provision some more, and we are waiting for some charts to arrive. I stupidly sent them US mail –
insured – but I can’t seem to track them and it has already been two weeks since
they were sent – we are really hoping they arrive before we move on to the
next island.

We drove to the large supermarket on the Dutch side of the island yesterday and loaded up two huge carts full of drinks and staples- still nothing much to eat on the boat – unless you count crackers and cookies and water.  We are planning to go to the big supermarket on the French side either today or tomorrow and load up on good food and produce

Your Documents, Please…

Your Documents, Please…..

We made it to T.F. Green airport with plenty of time to spare on Wednesday morning. Our flight was scheduled for 7:15 a.m. and having been picked up by the Comfort Inn Shuttle at 5:15 we were at the airport just minutes later. (By the way, for those of you who love airports, you have got to try the Comfort Inn. Your room will pretty much be on the runway). Loaded down with FIVE suitcases – each packed to the maximum 50 pounds, plus two stuffed carry-ons and another two mega-size carry-on “purses’”, we were all set to pay our $80 “extra-luggage” fine, and settle down for the flight south. When we presented the U.S. Air attendant our one-way tickets she morosely asked us what we were doing with one way tickets. We explained ever so humbly that we were embarking on a circumnavigation, and only needed a one way ticket. Much to our amazement she told us that there was no way that we would either be able to get on the flight, or pass through immigration in Saint Maarten unless we had the proper documentation.
What documentation, we asked? Your boat documentation of course, she replied.
Please understand that most of the weight of our five suitcases, two carry-ons, and 2 jumbo purses was taken up by various paper we were carrying with us – Mark’s work, empty and full notebooks, portfolios stuffed with documents, etc. etc. Which suitcase, and which folder contained the boat documents was not so clear. So there, with the ever increasing stream of other travelers to watch, we had to basically unzip and search through 100 pounds of paper. After a relatively short search Mark came up with our boat document. Triumphantly handing it to the woman at the desk, she responded that this document only showed that we owned a boat, not that we had a boat in Saint Maarten, and that we were going to pick her up and sail away . Ok, now we panicked. What kind of document could we possibly have that would suit her demands? After another 10 minutes of searching Mark came up with a document from the marina in St. Maarten saying that our boat was there and that they would be expecting us on December 13th. Whew! She accepted it – and we were on board.
After a change of planes in Phili, and another in San Juan we arrived in St. Maarten . We nervously approached one of the women at the immigration counter. Just as the U.S. Air attendant had anticipated, we were not about to pass through unquestioned. She passively, but severely inquired about our boat, and asked if we had “the letter” to prove that we really had a boat, that we were the owners, that it was in St. Maarten, and that we were really going to sail out of there . Just what kind of letter this could be was beyond us. We showed her the letter we had used at the Providence airport, and Mark pointed out how official it was, including our boat name, our names, and the Marina ’s name and address. Luckily she was not in the mood to inquire further and we passed through immigration without further ado.
Our bags were there, a dozen taxis were parked outside, and soon we were on our way to the marina – a mere two miles away. When the taxi came to an abrupt halt just ½ mile down the road from the airport, we thought there must have been an accident on the road. When the time stretched from a few minutes to several minutes we inquired about what was happening. “Oh”, the taxi driver said, “the bridge is up”. The bridge is opened six times a day to let boats into and out of the large harbor that our boat is in. What we didn’t realize was that when the bridge is up – which can be anywhere from ½ hour to a couple of hours, depending on how many boats are moving in and out – the main road into and out of the airport comes to a complete stop. What was so bewildering to us was that the taxi driver knew in advance that the bridge was up and would be up for a while – and yet we sat there in line with what grew to be several hundred cars – all with their motors idling. No one thought to say , “ Hey, let’s just wait at the airport until the bridge opens.” So much for environmental awareness.
After 40 minutes we were on our way again, and safely made it to the marina.
The boat looks great- clean and all polished up – and we are exhausted.
Welcome to Paradise .
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Just one thing to report from this first very laid back day. There are some unbelievable yachts here – our boat looks like a dinghy compared to some of our neighbors. The 150 foot, 3 story high mega-yacht that is just across the dock from us had their lights on in their dining area last night, so we could spy in. There was an unusually pretty painting mounted on the wall facing us. Taking out our binoculars, we casually glanced inside to see what was clearly an original Chagall oil painting. Wow!