December 2010 ~ Grenada
Day 108 ~ Chatham Bay, Union IslandDecember 31st, 2010
It blew in powerful gusts throughout the night. One minute peace, the next a torrent of air that jerked us back on our anchor rode (chain). While the airflow is nice for drying clothes and ventilating cabins, it's all a bit much. These are the "Chirstmas Winds" that this area is known for. The satellites say it should pass soon, but time will tell.
Took it easy today, breakfast and then a walk on the beautiful beach that wraps Chatham Bay, probably 1/2 a mile long or more. Nice sand, but steep sweeping waves making landing a dinghy a little dicey. Jerry, the owner of one of the beach restaurants, was really helpful and we chatted for a while. He is really geninue and didn't ask for anything, which is nice to see.
We stopped back by the boat for a quick sandwich lunch and then headed out for some snorkeling on a nearby rocky wall. The current and waves made for hazy visibility but there were quite a few fish to see and some fascinating coral structures. We anchored the dinghy and snorkeled around for a good hour.
While were there, the mega sail yacht, Helios, arrived and anchored nearby. The crew were scrambling around with the anchor stuff, then deploying an armada of blowup toys, which went untouched. The owners were carted off to a seaside restaurant while the staff cleaned up. It all makes no sense; going on vacation with an entourage of servants sounds like prison to me.
The water temperature is great, but once we were back out in the wind it's pretty chilly. We got the girls back to the boat and they goofed off some more in the water when I heard Sara scream, "My goggles! They're sinking!"
We are in about 14 feet of water and, sure enough, Sara's snorkling face mask went right to the bottom. Emma tried to get to it but couldn't quite get there. Lisa dove repeatedly just trying to see where it ended up and, finally on about the 15th try, found and retrieved it. Our hero. This is only the third for fourth valuable she has snatched off the ocean floor in our travels so far. Something tells me it's not the last.
To consumate the new year, we had the perennial favorite, Swedish Pancakes, for dinner. Not a crumb to be left, the trolls.
Day 107 ~ Clifton to Chatham Bay, Union IslandDecember 30th, 2010
What with the stiff winds, and tight tolerances between boats, it wasn't a great night's sleep. Got up at 3:00am to check on things and found the batteries at the top of their charge range. I cranked on the big fridge and turned down the small fridge so it will burn off some of the excess watts the wind generator was pulling in, a good problem to have.
The GPS says we aren't moving an inch, but on a night with a just a shave of moon, the haunting sound of the wind in your ears and the lights of a foreign shore shifting through the windows, there's plenty of room for one's imagination to wonder.
Finally got back to bed about an hour later and next thing you know it's light out and Joy, the cute little ketch (boat with two masts) was standing smartly right were I had seen her at sundown.
Traffic through the harbor is intense. One minute a small speed boat whips by with a smokey roar and a wicked wake, the next it's a $2 million dollar British super sailboat slipping past so close you feel like you could reach out and touch it. Mix in a nice stiff breeze, some wind blown chop and a reef just behind you and a guy gets the urge to move pretty stongly. I am afraid all the girls suffered some of the bad anchorage "get up and get moving" wrath. Need to work on that.
With the customs formalities wrapped up yesterday, we just needed a little light shopping, some produce, dinghy gas and water to be on our way.
Clifton is a cute little town and definitely feels different than Grenada. It's more colorful, cleaner and has a little more polish. Found gas and made a few food stops. Prices are considerably higher than we are used to. $2EC (75c) for an orange, $8EC ($3) per pound for pint size pineapples, $3EC each for red apples. That's like Alaska fruit prices. The locals don't look like they are starving, so my guess is these are tourista prices while the real people shop someplace just a little back from the docks. Too bad we didn't have time to explore; I was itching to blow town and find someplace, anyplace, with a little more space.
I think we use about 15 gallons of fresh water a day. Made a couple of dinghy watering trips with about 30 gallons a run so that should keep us for about 4 days, in theory. It was nearly 2:00pm by the time we were ready, but plenty of daylight to make it to the other side of the island to Chatham Bay, a large and protected anchorage.
We motored for a bit, then sailed some but, as we rounded the headland, the winds shifted nearly 90 degrees as they bent around the mountain, making sailing into the bay a non-option. Engines on again; nasty necessities.
For the second time, our CQR anchor dragged the bottom with the sound of a semi truck sliding on its side down a concrete hill. More and more scope never helped, so we pulled the entire pile back in and moved over 50 yards and gave it another go with the 66lb Bruce. I see why people like these things. It set quickly and firmly. We swam over a few minutes later and found it buried to the hilt.
I've got to say that having two anchor combinations ready to drop is a huge plus. I knew it as theory, but the reality is even better.
We played in the water for a while and then did the kid shower routine. Anna and I made dinner of smashed taters and drumsticks. There were no leftovers. Hyenas.
There's definitely a different feel here. We are surrounded now by charter boats packed to the gills with pasty white, overweight, beer-slugging touristas on a Christmas dream vacation. They are certainly entitled to be here as much as we are, but it feels very different than the last several anchorages where it was clear that most of the boats and their occupants were invested for the long haul (5, 7, 25 years). Now I have the trailer park feeling, radios, voices, water skiiers, clapping, half-dazed laughter that's just a little too loud and, to top it off, some clown just came into the anchorage in pitch darkness and anchored right in front of us. If he drags 20 yards tonight he'll be sitting on our trampoline.
Day 106 ~ Carriacou to Union IslandDecember 29th, 2010
I suppose it takes some time to get an airliner prepped for takeoff. The route planning, the cleaning, the provisioning, the coordination. Well, we're not much different. Awnings down and stowed, numerous necessary knicknacks such as bouncy balls, art supplies and lego houses must be stowed and stashed. Hours pass.
The main sail rigging still wasn't quite right, so Emma and I raised the main to the first reef and I worked on routing the reefing lines better. The bay has strong and varying currents, as we well know from swimming. I was pre-occupied with getting things changed when Emma yelled, "Papa, we are going to hit Abracadabra!"
My spine went cold as with in one of those kind of nighmares with you making a public appearance in your underwear. But, alas, this was under diamond hewed sun surrounded by glittering water and austere sky, wide awake and doing something really dumb. In my inattention the main had filled with air, the main sheet had gone tight, and the current had kept us from just waving into the wind as a flag normally would. So, the boat did what it was supposed to do, and started sailing.
Abracadabra had anchored intentionally within kid yelling distance to facilitate all the fun of the last several days. Now we were cutting a nice arc defined by our anchor chain right into their stern.
In hindsight, a quick turn of the helm into the weather would have caused the sail to luff (flap uselessly) and avoided any problems but, in the moment, all I could think of was engines. With no small amount of yelling and mad scrambling, the port engine fired and Lisa got us in reverse. The whole thing lasted less than 30 seconds, but if felt like it took a year off my life.
Got the reefing lines in place, and dropped the sail again. We motored up and pulled anchor. After a week, she was firmly embedded, but a couple of good pulls and we were leaving Tyrrel Bay and many of our new friends behind. It's easy to swallow the hook in a thousand places; 7 days was enough.
We motored right into the teeth of a nice 20-knot breeze until we ducked under Sandy Isle. Hugging the coast of Carriacou we made good progress to windward and then ran as tight to the wind as we could point going across Martinique Channel. The plan was to tuck under Union Island and motor around to Clifton Harbor where Customs and Immigration live.
Lisa was napping on the on the settee (main room couch), Sara was sleeping in the cockpit snuggled among the life jackets, Anna and Emma were reading peacefully. The fishing pole was all set up and a flying fish lure was doing it's best to attract something tasty. So, instead, we tacked back, nearly all the way back across the channel, and then north again giving everyone more time to soak up the tranquility of soul that only sailing can bring.
Then, alas, it was time to fire the engines and drive head into the wind for a few miles to make Clifton Harbor. It's a horeshoe affair with room for 15, maybe 20 boats. Well, 35+ were there when we arrived and another dozen came by night fall. I could just about spit and hit our nearest neighbor, who had the class to apologize for the proximity. "It's really tight in here", he said with a shrug. We compared scope (how much chain is out) details and concluded that a wind shift should have us swinging on about the same radius which, in theory, means we won't hit. Guess we'll see. I resisted the urge to put out bumpers.
We swam around some and tried to see the anchor, but the water was really cloudy and the light low.
It always amazes me how draining sailing is. Not sure if it's the wind or the sun exposure, or the fun, but before dinner was over, we were all yawning.
Day 105 ~ Getting ready to moveDecember 28th, 2010
Tackled a few boat projects this morning in anticipation of moving tomorrow. Tried to get water from the yard next door, but the tap was quite a distance from the dock, so could only fill a few jerry cans. We could use a good rain shower, or two, this evening to top off the tanks.
The girls went to the beach this morning with the kids from Abracadabra and took a dinghy sailing class. They came buzzing by all smiles a couple of hours later. Five little tikes in a tiny little boat. The winds picked up and they weren't able to work their way to windward, so they went downwind to Strong Legs, where Jack saw them coming and caught their painter. They were a bit traumatized by the whole thing but, in an anchorage full of parents, fast dinghies and, well, Moms who pass out cookies and juice to the weary travellers, they weren't in any real danger.
We brought them all back to our boat for what turned into an all day swim and Lego-fest. I say Legos, because Jabus, the 7 year old boy, wasn't allowed in the water; poor guy has swimmers ear.
While the kids played, I caught a bus to town for a $3EC ($1.25) and did the custom's and immigration checkout thing. Went pretty smooth actually, and we were charged $5EC for immigration processing. Ouch. Tried some "shopping," but we are in the back 40 now. Very little of anything fresh, so had to settle for some canned spam like things and a ham. Not an egg to be found anywhere. I guess the chickens took Christmas off.
Got back, snagged the laundry and got back in time to clean up and pull together a dinner for Alouette whom we had invited over earlier in the day. It was a pleasant evening of wide ranging conversation on international cultures, and the rather abysmal state of our own money-obsessed American approach to life. The kids had a blast as well, burning off several thousand BTUs of surplus energy while yelling, running around and otherwise making chaos.
Not a bad day, actually. We're officially checked out of Grenada now so that should be motivation enough to pick our anchor, which has been down nearly a week, and have a change of scenery.
Day 104 ~ Carriacou Dive & HikeDecember 27th, 2010
The morning broke clear, windy and cooler. Perfect temperature actually. We grabbed a quick cereal breakfast and dropped Lisa off at the dive place which was just on the beach in front of us. Lisa admitted to being a bit apprehensive about diving down 40 feet and breathing out of a tank, but also excited to try something new. The dive place has been in operation for 11 years so I was pretty confident she was going to have a great time.
Katie from Alouette came over for an hour or so and Emma is in heaven; a 12 year old who is polite and thoughtful and is just as excited to find another girl her age. Imagine that. They talked the the hour away in a flash.
Lisa zoomed by on her way to the dive zone, so we cheered her on. She had a big smile plastered on her face so I think things are going well.
Anna and Sara have been begging to fish more, and with some rancid tuna stuck away in a dark corner of the fridge, it's like shooting fish in a barrel. This time I was ready with the reception committee, a bucket, knife and glove. These tropical fish often have weaponry available of which their northern brethren have not yet conceived. Stinging spines, razor sharp tail armor, etc. Best to be prepared.
Sure enough, Anna's hook wasn't in the water for a minute before she had one. I then baited the hook up for Sara, and she nailed one a minute later. Like I said, barrel, gun, dead fish. Sara was pretty pumped about it, yelling and holding on for dear glory. "I am not sure I can hold him," she said about a minute into the fight. "Sure you can, you are a strong girl, you can do it," I encouraged. It was a good growing up moment for her as she managed to lift the bobbing pole up high enough to land the poor guy in the bucket.
She was beaming. Wow, what a great first catch. Then she had to participate in the filleting, the cooking, the eating and, most importantly, I made her scrub out the bloody bucket, which she didn't like doing one bit. But hey, catching a fish comes with inherent responsibilities; best to burn that one in at the start. And if she didn't eat some of her catch, then she couldn't keep him.
By the time it was all cooked and eaten, it was time to head for the hills. What started out as a hike with Alouette and ourselves, mushroomed quickly into a bay wide cruisers marathon, we had 20+ people show up and probably 12+ kids in the mix. It felt pretty similar to so many other Alaska hikes we have done with our friends back home. So much so that Anna came back and had a good "I want to go back to Alaska" cry, then felt better and wanted to eat dinner. And lots of it.
The view from the mountain was incredible, but I'll let the pictures do the talking.
The walk back was interesting as some of the veteran cruisers compared notes about far out locations like the Solomons and Malaysia. I just soaked it in. Back at the boat we got things cleaned up a bit, did dinner of tuna spaghetti; yes, we are still eating on that one. One more meal to go I think.
Not a bad day at all. Lisa is hooked on diving, the kids are making friends left and right, and I have several other cruising dads to turn to if something breaks I can't fix. It's a good feeling.
Day 103 ~ Carriacou KidsDecember 26th, 2010
Squalls throughout the night with gusts to the 30 knot range. Having snorkled on the anchor and put out plenty of chain, I slept like a baby. Checked the wind generator at one point, it was cranking in well over 25 amps of power, so turned on the drinks fridge to take advantage of the surplus.
Day broke pleasant and cooler, which lead to higher than normal motivation levels. Hit lessons hard with the girls covering graphing, averaging, public speaking (played out a board room profits report Q & A based on the graph), art and botany (fish anatomy using the photos of Anna's first jack).
Then it was time for a snack and a swim. We had just gotten in the water when Abracadabra appeared, with an 8 year old boy and an 11 year old girl aboard. We swam over to say hi and ended up heading to the beach with a regular crowd of 6+ other boat kids.
Alouette also arrived. We had heard about them from Haven. They have a 12 year old girl and 10 year old boy. Just a few minutes of talking and we can tell we're on the same wavelength so it was no surprise that Emma and Katie (12yr) hit it off at the beach and came back as fast friends. We made plans to share a hike with them tomorrow after Lisa's introductory dive class.
Finally, after three trips, we collected all our gear off the beach and brought it back to the boat. The Roti didn't exactly win any awards, but it filled the hole and held off the wolf pack for another few hours. After dinner Anna the attorney and I headed out to the tramps to watch for shooting stars and talk about big questions. She wanted to know all about dinosaurs, cavemen and origins of life. We covered the top theories including pansporia and cast them against a backdrop of accidentalism versus intelligent design theory.
A palentolgist is walking along a path and comes to a fork in the road. Next to one path is a stack of three stones, and next to the other is nothing. What does he do? He takes the path with the stack of three stones, of course. The greatest simpleton understands that three stacked stones aren't part of the organic disorder and, so, correctly implies meaning behind their presense.
But the same guy will look at 750 megabytes of highly ordered DNA information, so artfully constructed that our greatest supercomputers labor to unravel its payload, and proudly declare that it spontaneously erupted from a harsh environment, the same one that is eating my boat by the day.
That takes a paramount ignorance of information theory and a commitment to blind faith that I am just not prepared to make. I know nothing about rocks, or bones or deep space, but I know something about information and what it takes to create it, organize it and troubleshoot it. The information contained in our DNA is mind bogglingly complex, inter-related and directed towards a purpose greater than the sum of its parts (meaning not possible by a nearest neighbor explanation of knowledge).
I freely admit that non-materialist alternatives are scary and not subject to the scientific method, but that doesn't mean they are not possible.
It appears that the framework of what is actually possible was not designed to make us feel comfortable but to make us possible.
Come to think of it, the love you received from your mother wasn't imperically proveable either, but that doesn't mean it didn't matter.
Day 102 ~ Christmas thoughts in CarriacouDecember 25th, 2010
Well the big day finally came. The Christmas craziness is one of the things from which Lisa and I are glad to take a break. Materialism gone awry. However, in the vein of taking baby steps, and not shocking the girls too severely, we brought one present each over from the states and then picked up a few stocking stuffers in Grenada like notepads, pens, painting supplies for art projects etc.
Present-wise, our emphasis is on creative hands-on tools, at the expense of electronic narcotics.
So, Emma got a digital camera, replacing the one she had bought with her own money and then broken a few weeks later this fall. Anna received a ukelele, which she has expressed and interest in numerous times and Sara unwrapped the American Girl doll she's been talking about for over a year.
Now, I know what you are thinking. "How is an American Girl doll named Molly something creative and hands-on?" Lisa is with you. She thinks I am just a softie for the whole daughter with pleading eyes thing, but I take a different view.
In a culture that is working overtime to either de-feminize my daughters (make them aspire to be a man) or tell her she's an object for men to drool over, I maintain that encouraging a girl to play with a classy, modest doll is actually a counter cultural statement of the first order. Derailing, as it were, the entire motherhood-is-worthless train of thought.
So Sara braids Molly's hair, puts her to bed, dresses and undresses her as girls have done for thousands of years to corn cobs, potatos and turnips. She does it not because I tell her to, or even model it, but because she deeply yearns to mother something, preferrably small and cute.
In today's world, that's weird: a lost art of mother training that would be the butt of Letterman's Top Ten if the New York writers were naïve enough to believe such values still existed in the world. Well, they don't, I guess, in their world. Who really is the butt of so much cynical humor if not the teller themselves?
Cynicism is modern mans' crown of thorns ~ T.S. Elliott
I am probably more cynical than most. In fact, perhaps, a recovering cynic, having plumbed the virtual depths of that abyssmal approach to life. A common elixir is to mix cyncism and consumerism. Now you buy and buy but are never happy, so you buy some more. In the end, the only person sold short is yourself. But the greatest loss of the cynic is the belief that anything meaningful or beautiful is true. Or, eventually, that anything is true at all. I am convinced now that this posture, so smug, so sauve, so fashionable, really is the greatest blindness possible. One that only a carefully programmed sucker could really swallow.
More aptly, perhaps everything is true. While that's certainly not possible, it might be safer and a more accurate starting point; it certainly leads to a life of wonder and discovery at a level that Letterman himself could no longer appreciate. He's been robbed, as it were, and proud of it.
In a world of kangaroos, the double helix, black holes and relative masses the disbeliever is at a severe disadvantage. If a quark really can tunnel and if the bullet really could go through the window without leaving a hole, then maybe we should approach what we define as "possible" with a few more gradiations of humility and openness.
A sense of wonder is something I am learning to treasure as never before. The idea that perhaps anything or, even scarier, everything really is possible.
Perhaps it is the greatest gift a person can receive at Christmas.
It takes Anna a bit to realize that what's in the box is really true.
Emma is excited about her camera. It's blue even.
Sara opens her American Girl doll.
Day 101 ~ Tyrrel Bay, CarriacouDecember 24th, 2010
I guess you could say we had a breakthrough today. Emma, the keeper of all things social and cultural around here sat down to breakfast today and declared, "I am starting to like the boating life." I think this has to do with the kids we keep meeting. Today it was Lola from a German boat, a 10 year old who has lived aboard her entire life. They swam and otherwise burned energy together until it was time for showers.
Took it fairly easy this morning. It got hot fast with near constant sunshine, so we were in the water by noon.
Having enjoyed the tuna fish yesterday, I took about 1/3 of the remaining fillet and pan fried it to make some more tuna salad. I skinned it, and mindlessly tossed it overboard through the galley window. Lisa was outside about then pinning up an a few of the endless wet items that require drying. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a feeding frenzy explode as a school of young Jacks attacked. Anna grabbed her pole. I put a small piece of tuna on her hook and passed it up through the hatch. She dropped it over, and in a minute I heard a yell, "I got one! I got one!"
She surely had. It took a minute to get everything together and then she hauled it aboard. We're still learning the artform of blood management, because there was a bit of back splatter, but it wasn't nearly the bloodbath the tuna showered. She has a video posted on her blog.
Anna's second question was, "Can I eat him?" Sure, I said, let's have him for lunch. So we filleted him up and I gave Anna a few pointers on fish frying, which she devoured in detail and then insisted I take a picture of the plate. "We need something green to put on the side." she observed.
Lisa and the girls made some peanut butter cookies to help celebrate the Christmas season. Yum.
Our little 12" tree was given to us by another cruising couple whose kids are grown and gone. It came complete with lights.
So, was that Cactus Buddy who took a fall or Sara?
Anna lands her first edible fish (and is therefore not a killer).
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Day 100 ~ Tyrrel Bay, CarriacouDecember 23rd, 2010
A squally night led to a mostly overcast day, a welcome break from the heat and UV radiation which is, I suspect, taking several years off our complexions. Guess I'll have to give up my modeling career in favor of the weathered leather look. No matter how much dope you put on, its normal to have a few hot spots every night. Our poor Scandinavian skin doesn't know what to make of it all.
We had a slow morning. I made another 4 pound stack of pancakes which were promptly devoured. The girls did some history while I piddled on tightening up the clew on the mainsail. When we put the main back on there was this piece of spectra (carbon fiber) line that just didn't make sense so I cut it off. Well, now I know what it was for, and spent a half hour re-running and rigging it. It's a bit technical, but basically the car that holds the clew (bottom outside tip) of the sail down against the boom is MIA. So, now we use a piece of really strong line (rope) to keep it in place.
I had greater aspirations, but the sun popped out and with the added heat came a loss of motivation. So, resigned myself to exploring our bay a bit, found the garbage dumpsters and deposited our weeks' worth. Found the local supermarket and bought some bread.
Lost the dinghy keys, again (2nd time) and finally found them floating, as the key fob was designed to do, about 50 feet off shore. Lesson learned this time, the hole in my pocket really is big enough to swallow a huge foam floating key ring thingy. Check.
Lisa had some killer tuna fish sandwiches ready just as I returned. Somehow the tuna just tastes better when it comes in over the back of the boat than out of a can. Go figure.
Took the girls to play with some other boat kids on the beach, where they body surfed for a couple of hours. They then promptly wolfed down two huge burritos apiece, enough to fill a Nebraska corn husker.
Emma and I discussed the key difference between the Persian and Greek cultures (per the history lessons the last couple of days) and I was pleased to find that she had caught the essential points. Innovation versus tradition, tensions we still feel today. But with an iPhone in my pocket, I guess the Greeks carried the day.
Day 99 ~ St. Georges to CarriacouDecember 22nd, 2010
It was time to leave. Grenada is a great place, with friendly people and a beautiful blend of history and natural beauty. The anchorage is fairly exposed and last night varied from calm and peaceful to bouncy. Carriacou is a small island about 30 miles north of St. George's. Politically part of Grenada, it is said to be a treasure.
Considering the mobilization process involved, including making lunches, doing breakfast, taking in all laundry on the lifelines and generally converting a home into a boat leaving by 9:00am felt like an accomplishment.
It was raining in the mountains, but we left with sunshine and hardly a whisper of wind. We ran the engines for the first hour and a half or so and made good time. I had dropped my line in the water as we left. Other than the engine grinding, it was a peaceful serene ride. The girls listened to history while the autopilot kept us on course. I was just slipping into that mental space that I perfected in the cubicle when my reel let off a burst of bait click buzz. Roughly akin to the sound a small plastic chain saw would make.
I am embarrassed to say that I overreacted a bit and started yelling for Lisa to slow down the the boat. As it turned out, she was downstairs having a drink of water. Emma reacted to my reaction and started screaming "Slow down! Slow down!". Lisa, of course, thought that I had fallen overboard, or something. She wasn't particularly impressed that it was just a fish on.
Having learned the hard way not to stop (the fish will then entangle himself around your rudder, prop or both if possible), we put the engine on the fish side in neutral and kept the other running with enough power to drive us at about 4 mph. This keeps the fish behind the boat where he belongs but doesn't make getting him to the boat too difficult.
Even with 50lb line and a 60lb steel leader rigged, it was a decent fight. At first I wasn't sure it was a done deal. He ran several times and it felt like I dare not hold him. Anna was running around, "I can't believe we caught a fish! Oh, this is so exciting, what kind is he, how big is he, how long will it take to get him in?" and a ceaseless barrage of similar questions. I was careful to correct her: "We have hooked a fish, but we haven't caught him yet." Subtle distinction perhaps in the mind of a 9 year old, but darn those subtleties of life. They'll hook you if you don't pay attention.
He ran a few times but it eventually became clear he wasn't a match for the tackle. It takes a long time to reel in 100 yards of empty line, so it was probably 15 minutes before we saw the first flash. They always look bigger in the water, but he was a beauty. We moved a few things around in preparation for the landing and, with a heave and a ho, he was aboard. That's when the lessons started to be taught. The next thing we knew, the hook was out and it was a blood bath. The fish was dancing around and every tail slap sent a nice explosion of scarlet droplets arcing onto a seemingly endless array of previously clean surfaces. Lisa was underwhelmed to say the least.
Having given away all the rum that came with the boat, we had nothing civilized to dispatch the poor sucker with. No fish bonker, no electric chair. I finally slit a gill, which lead to more blood and more splatter. Emma found an old rusty hammer which, after a few whacks appeared to help. Sara was giving a running commentary, "Oh, I don't like all this blood...this is gross...is it always this bloody? I like fish but I don't like blood...you're making a huge mess Papa...can't you stop him?" and other choice observations that all contributed to the feeling that I was the one getting worked over.
Bluefin tuna are amazingly athletic and he lived much longer than he should have, but at last it was over. A few buckets of sea water flooded out the most graphic scenes and Sara's commentary took a decidedly more positive tone, "he's pretty...will we eat him? what do tuna taste like?" to which Emma replied, "chicken", of course.
Got the boat underway again and before long the wind picked up. We set the sails and cut the engines and, before I knew it, Lisa and Sara were napping. The boat's motion was smooth and even and we were making good time while keeping the hydrocarbons in the tank. It was a great feeling. After much prodding I put the line in the water again, but really didn't want another fish to deal with.
We sailed for 2-3 hours, tacked once toward our upwind destination, and then ground our way the last 6 miles dead into the wind. Engines aren't all bad. We anchored in 4.5 meters of water with a sandy bottom, the hook set well the first time and everyone breathed a sign of relief. Time to relax and get in the water.
Snorkeled out to our anchor and it's set perfectly. We'll probably camp here through Christmas, so always nice to know you're in good holding country. Swam around with the girls awhile, and then Jack from Strong Legs and two new kids arrived by kayak and all fun broke loose (picture 6 kids in one kayak).
Grilled the tuna and served it with a side of mashed potatoes. Darn thing was so meaty that one fillet left us with a nice stack of leftovers that should make tasty sandwiches come tomorrow.
Burst of wind and rain lulled the girls to sleep, and now it's time I follow their lead.
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Day 98 ~ St. Georges, GrenadaDecember 21st, 2010
Lisa woke up the family for the 3:30am lunar eclipse which was nicely visible against a starry backdrop. I watched for a few minutes, then found myself back in bed with a sleepy head.
The regular day started sunny then turned squally, winds from all directions, bursts of showers.
Anna has always been into fish and fishing. Since age 3 she'll look at a body of water and think fish. "Are there fish in there?" is a common question. The idea of hidden creatures sneaking around below the surface just intrigues her.
So, after the catching of the jack, she has been more into fish than ever. We swam around a little in the morning, and, with a snorkel mask, could clearly see many kinds of fish. Then, when she went to rinse out her swimming skirt, three little trigger fish came up and started nipping it. She was enthralled. Out came her pole and, next thing you know, she had hooked one.
"I got one! I got one!" she yelled at full volume. I looked over and, sure enough, her pole was bouncing around. She was beaming with pride. "What do I do now Papa?"
To both our surprises new voices chimed in. "You're killing the pretty fish," Sara screamed in her special shrieking voice reserved for the gravest offenses, like going in her room without permission. "Your hurting them, you're SO mean!" chimed in Emma with her special, I-am-really-your-true-mother voice. "Stop it, you meany" Sara continued.
Poor Anna was completely taken aback. Flummoxed. What were fish for anyway, if not catching? She had dreamed of this moment her whole life and now it was being shattered by her sisters turn traitor fish huggers.
Her tone changed from excited announcement to near sorrowful plea, "What do I do now Papa? Does he have to die?"
I ducked inside and returned with needle nose pliers. "Just land him on the steps and we'll get the hook out."
Three pairs of eyes watched my every move as I pinned the 6 inch gasping fish to the back step and worked the hook out. It wasn't a clean job, but it came free without too much damage and, in a flash, he was back in the water joining his friends. Alas.
I have had the theory that if I can get 50+ gallons in a dinghy trip, then we can go without having to get water every day or other day. So, here in St. Georges, I bought a collapsible water tank while I had the chance and filled it with 34 gallons of water. The dinghy rode a little low in the water, but worked fine.
The trick, of course, is how to get those gallons up to our water tanks. Actually, our tanks are lower than the water line, so a siphon would work, in theory, but I started with the most obvious method. Just pump it in with the little portable pump I found aboard.
Nice idea, but first the outdoor 12v receptacle didn't work. I ripped it apart, when, in fact, it only needed a good cleaning. By the time I had it all put back together a nice squall came up and I found myself in the dink bouncing around in 3 foot chop trying to keep the dinghy in position, prevent the pump from going in the water and hold the inlet and outlet hoses in place. An octopus could have pulled it off, but we little bipeds are limb-challenged at such times.
After a few minutes I had the sense to read the specs, written right on the pump's label. MAX OUTPUT: 1.1 gpm. That's right, 1 measly gallon per minute. What was I thinking? With 34 gallons to go, that was half an hour's worth of arm straining bouncing. Roughly akin to riding an innertube up whitewater rapids while threading a needle with one hand and holding onto the tow rope with the other. For 30 minutes.
About 10 minutes into the marathon I started to reconsider the benefits of a good old fashion siphon.
We are making progress, and making fewer dumb mistakes, a slow and painful process at times. But there is hope. Yesterday a charter boat anchored nearby. The lady hopped into the dink and started bailing, throwing the water up over her shoulder – upwind. It only took two strokes before the message got through. Out here, wind matters.
Did a few more minor shopping errands, got a new pressure switch for the starboard side pressure pump, installed it and now the pump actually kicks on before the water is down to a trickle.
Invited Jack, a 10 year old boy from Strong Legs, an Australian boat. They left the land Down Under when he was 4 and have made it this far, after taking in the Orient and Africa. The girls burned off energy for a couple of hours chasing him around under water and being regaled with tales of distant lands.
Then the rains came. Whipped up some chili and rice, 5 pounds of the first and 2 of the second. There were scant leftovers.
Day 97 ~ St. Georges, GrenadaDecember 20th, 2010
Up with the sun and going. Not much on the agenda today, some shopping for local fruits, a few fishing supplies and more boat stuff, although mostly minor. Need a lock for our outboard motor so it can't be removed without serious headache. Grenada actually seems to be very safe, but other cruisers say that's not always the case further north.
The anchorage is a bit rolly, but really not too bad. And it's a treat to be able to go shopping without having to arrange for taxi or bus transport.
Since I wasn't sure how cool the fridge was, I filleted and fried the Jack for breakfast. It was fantastic, light and flaky. "Tastes like chicken", Anna said. Emma countered with, "Or does chicken taste like jack?" which follows a debate in simple logic that we've been having fun with.
The first town trip, a walk into St. Georges street market, was interesting, bustling, and quickly became a cook out with Alaskans on the menu. Wow, it's one thing to lay around in the peak hours and another thing entirely to go walking around in it. Learned that lesson before, and learned it again. We aborted our mission about 1:00pm and headed back to the boat for a swim and lunch consisting of our purchases. Mowed through two star fruit and several guavas, not to mention uncounted other "normal" items.
We swam for quite a while and used snorkle masks checked out the anchor, which appears fairly well set. It's about 20 feet deep here, but the water is as clear as can be and we can see the bottom easily from the surface. Got plenty of scope out, probably 130 feet.
We got rinsed off and headed back to the boat parts store and Food Land, both of which have their own dinghy docks for cruisers making it very handy. It was a zoo. Isles were narrow and crammed, the checkout wait pushed 40 minutes. Another lesson re-learned. We puttered back to the boat as the last hints of the sun dissipated from the copper horizon. Whipped up some french toast and ham, which disappeared within minutes. Savages.
Day 96 ~ St. Georges, GrenadaDecember 19th, 2010
It was an exhilarating feeling to wake up this morning with all systems go. The dawn broke with one more tropical morning, a soft peach haze punctuated by puffy cotton clouds. The sun rose soundlessly over a perfectly calm anchorage, hardly a ripple to be seen.
We meandered through breakfast and started tightening the boat for sailing. It's quite the task, converting a floating condo into a sailboat. The sheer volume of stuff that must be moved, packed, stowed and secured is mind boggling. An hour passed, and then another. Finally, everything was in its place. The trash guy came by and took our huge bag for $3 EC ($1.25).
The engines fired, we raised the main and then slowly worked our anchor up. After a week in the mud she was well embedded and came up with a nice coating of really sticky blue gray muck. We dodged the other anchored boats and headed towards the horizon.
With the main already up, it was near effortless sailing. Unfurl the head sail, tweak this and that, raise the traveler a touch, ease the main sheet. Crowning the experience was a perfectly working auto pilot. Two button presses and she held the course like a rock. This freed up Lisa to catch a few items in jeopardy of being blown overboard, enjoy the sunshine and relax while I tweaked lines and watched the chart.
We sailed with only the slightest of sounds. A whisper in the rigging, a tap-tap of a spare halyard on the mast as a swell rolled under us, the slight gurgle of our wake. I dropped a flying fish lure over and let out 80 yards of line, careful to set the bait click so there would be some indicator when or if we got a strike.
We rounded Point Salines (the Southwest most point of Grenada) about noon, and then tacked up to St. Georges. The boat tracks incredibly well, very little helm input, and fast, 6-8 knots in 10-16 variable gusts. With the engines off and the peaceful motion of the boat under wind power, time always slides by too quickly. Before long, we were approaching the anchorage and the engines fired up again.
We picked a nice looking spot and dropped the hook, reversing lightly to set her in. No dice. I could hear the sound of metal on stone coming up the chain like a telegraph. Grind, slide, catch, release. The bottom was smooth and hard. We raised the anchor, motored forward a hundred yards and dropped again while reversing, and again she made contact with the bottom and slid as if we were dragging an engine block down a concrete driveway. Picked her up, motored forward more, dropped again. Again she slid and slid. Put out more and more scope 4:1, 5:1, 7:1, still no catch.
Ok, the fun was wearing off. This time we sat for awhile, waiting to see if she would stick. Not a chance. Picked again, and this time moved farther north. On a whim, I decided to try the 66lb Bruce anchor instead of the 45lb CQR that usually works so well.
Same same. Drop-drag-grind, more scope, drop-drag-grind. Finally, with nearly 50 meters out in 6 meters of water, the chain went taut and held. We swung into the wind. Relief. I wouldn't spend any time here if the weather turned, but the winds are light and predicted to stay that way for the next few days. And, if we drag, next stop is Panama, so there's not much to run into.
With the anchor down, we cleaned up and converted the boat back into a home of sorts. Coiled lines, zipped up the sail bag. Made some sandwiches and then hung out for awhile, waiting for the heat of the day to pass.
We dropped the dink and motored over to the lagoon and then the Caranage, a European style town on the quay where you tie your dink to the dock and step up to the main street. It's very nice and, before we knew it, we were hoofing it towards the local fruit smoothie stand located in the Cruise Ship Mall. As we got within sight, we saw a guy leave and pull down the security gate being as though the cruise ship was preparing for departure. I jogged ahead and found one lone employee cleaning up.
Our pleas were successful in getting him to whip us up a few Banana-Peanut and Passionfruit concoctions. Then we walked around and got as close as we could to the cruise ship dock so the girls could get an idea of her sheer size.
Then, on a whim, we walked back by way of the old British Fort George, circa 1703. The narrow passages, low rounded doors and cannonades were pretty cool. Best of all, the sun was low, the breeze was cool and fresh and we were the only ones there. All the gates were unlocked, but it was completely deserted adding a finality to the antiquity of the place. It echoed with our steps and seemingly the aspirations of colonists past. As forts go, it was a dandy commanding a 360 degree view, clear fields of fire to the anchorage on three sides and an impressively steep ascent that would have put any attackers at a huge disadvantage.
We got back to the dinghy about sunset and motored slowly home. The sunset was so beautiful, we just sat on the back of the boat and watched it play out into ever deepening shades of purple and scarlet nicely accented by a 5 mile wide squall cell which was unloading its cargo of fresh water on the ungrateful sea below.
Wrapped up the evening with tacos followed by Anna and I doing what we could to attract a local fish. No luck; we can see them circling the rancid glob of ham, but no takers. Honestly, though, after such an incredibe satisfying day, I am not sure any of us as the energy to deal with a fresh fish coming in over the lifelines.
Guess we'll call it a day, and a magical one at that.
11:31pm update: just landed a four taco Jack, which will spend a cool night in our fridge. I think he had other plans for the evening.
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Day 95 ~ Hog Island, GrenadaDecember 18th, 2010
Well, we were thinking of moving today, but the charm of the island way took hold and instead we hung out by a pool sipping cool fruit juices. After a month or boat projects, it is nice to relax a little.
Joe, the German electrician who worked for a Dutch company in Spain for 15 years and met his Portuguese wife before they bought an American boat that was built in Maine by an English shipwright arrived promptly at 8:15am as promised. By the way, Joe's terrier, Lucky, only understands German; if you want him to drop the tennis ball he is obsessed with, you have to say "oust". Joe ran a few more tests to confirm his earlier diagnosis and then proceeded to connect the new wiring I had run a couple of days ago.
"You did goot job," he complimented, "you can come vork for me." Yeah, right, that's just what I need, another job. However, in a few minutes, I was able to start and stop the starboard engine as it should be done, from the cockpit, as opposed to head down in the engine room.
Lyn from Haven had invited us to join them at the Le Phare Bleu marina, just a short dinghy ride away. They have a really nice restaurant and pool area that you are free to use if you buy something to eat or drink. So, we had some fruit juice while the kids burned off energy for several hours. It was an idyllic setting: deep blue sky, palm wrapped pool, little grass roofed verandas, a steep tropical slope angling off behind as we faced the rippling ocean beyond. Venezula is almost close enough to touch. Too bad Hugo is in charge.
We only intended to spend a hour or two there, but three or more slipped by. They try and make up for their high overhead with the food prices, so we opted instead to head back to our own boats for a late lunch and break from the sun.
When we arrived I was surprised to see a new boat next to us flying a large dark blue flag with the Big Dipper and Polaris on it. Fellow Alaskans, hailing from Fairbanks as it turns out. Lisa went over to chat and I headed down in to the port engine room again, on my belly of course, to see if there is a way to enhance my sail drive seal fix. Spent another hour tucked in there, sweating like a boxer and smelling worse by the time I crawled out. No real headway, but some more ideas.
Lyn came by with Katie and took Sara and Anna to the beach for a while which gave me time to clean up some of the war zone carnage left over from the wiring project. In other words, get Emma's room back in commission and squirrel away piles of greasy tools.
Made dinner of local chicken and potatoes; nothing fancy but it sure disappeared quickly. I think Anna and Emma are both out eating Lisa and I these days. Wolves.
We raised and secured the dink for leaving tomorrow. It feels great to have the engine issues at bay, at least for the present, and be free to do what this boat is really meant to do, go sailing.
Day 94 ~ Hog Island, GrenadaDecember 17th, 2010
The day broke partly cloudy. I must say the overcast composition of the last few days has been a nice break from the constant sunshine. I know, in northern climates that's tantamount to heresy, but hey, you can have too much of a good thing.
It wasn't until last night that I realized the reason my motivation has been so high lately is that the temperature has been so low, well like 81 instead of 84. It may not sound like much but between those two numbers is heaven and hell, figuratively speaking.
The electrician didn't come today; guess the cooler weather motivates him to do other things. I found him on the beach shooting the breeze with the bartender a couple of hours after I thought he'd show up here. I casually mentioned that I had got the new #10 wires run and that he could come by anytime.
"It's Friday" he replied nonchalantly with a wave of this hand, "Never vork on Fridays, dat's shopping day."
What can you say, it's the islands!? So I just smiled and said, "No problem, how about tomorrow?" He says he'll be there, but only time will tell. Talking to Jerry from Poco Loco this evening, Joe is from Germany and one of the most highly respected boat fixers on the island, so I think it will work out fine.
Katie from Haven came by about 9:15am. Lisa and Lyn zipped off to do Christmas shopping and I kept the flock under control, but just barely. I also managed to slip in some quality knuckle busting time on the port engine inner seal and have a temporary solution rigged for the present. Need to chew on the best way to make it permanent.
The lack of sun has taken its toll on our battery banks which are at an all time low. I could run an engine, I suppose, but they seem so crude compared to the silent solar option. I think we'll just keep a few more things turned down, or turned off, and see what tomorrow brings. If the electrician comes and we get things all put together, it would be nice to move to another anchorage and see more of the island. Well, actually, I just want to anchor somewhere where we are within walking distance to one of the local smoothie shops. Man, those passion fruit concoctions are worth a 15-minute trek, just not quite the 40 minute driving distance from where we are now.
Took the girls over the beach about 3:00pm and let them have at it in the sand and water. I was napping with one eye open on the dink when a shadow fell across my face. I started a little.
"Sorry to disturb you", the face said. It slowly came into focus. "Could I trouble you for some aluminum foil?"
I stuttered a little while pondering the situation. I am sleeping on a water access only beach on a small remote islet within a stone's throw of South America and a local guy has walked up to me, while I was clearly napping, and asked me for a baking product?!
"You need to wrap something?" I asked, stalling for time while I tried to wake up and figure out what this guy's game was.
"Yes." he replied, clearly a little uncomfortable. "I need to barbeque a barracuda."
Now we are talking. "Ahh", I said, "I'll be right back." I zipped over to our boat, snagged the entire box and returned.
I wasn't sure what his intentions were, but about an hour later I started making moves to gather the kids and leave. I walked over to retrieve what was left of my foil.
"You can't go yet, Mon!" he said emphatically, "Barracuda's not done yet. No hurry, Mon."
What do you say to that? I told the girls to keep playing, and chilled out for another half hour. Then he walked over with two large portions of really hot wrapped fish. "Thanks for the foil, Mon" he said handing it over with a big smile.
Sometimes you score.
I got the girls home and enjoyed a few tasty morsels before returning Katie to her boat and getting water and ice at Whisper Cove Marina. I am still learning a lot and one thing that I have realized is that the morale management theory strongly favors cold drinks. The $7EC ($2.50) that a huge bag of ice costs amounts to an investment in my future sailing career.
In other words, money well spent.
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Day 93 ~ Hog Island, GrenadaDecember 16th, 2010
The day broke overcast and cooler, which is always a treat. By 10am dark clouds were looming and we prepared for rain. We were not to be disappointed.
It started with a sprinkle, as many rains do, but quickly turned into a downpour as only it can in the tropics. Buckets falling around your head. We scrambled back and forth, gathering laundry in and putting buckets out. Fresh water is a precious commodity in a world of sun and salt so not a drop was spared. A few too many drops weren't spared, actually. After the last few days there had been so much romping and stomping by kidlets and friends that the trampoline, the back steps and the deck actually sparkled with salt. A visual treat, but not to your feet.
One of the things I love about our boat is the entire deck drains right past the water fill inlets. All you have to do to catch water is let the rain rinse the boat clean for a few minutes, then make a little dam with a rag and divert the torrent into the tube. Lisa has perfected the art, best done in a birthday suit since it's usually raining cats and dogs at night and getting your clothes soaked just makes for extra work. Today, what with the daylight, neighbors and all, she opted for her swimwear, but the effect on the water tanks was the same: look out below!
In our last boat, if you overfilled the water tank, it just ran out again. On this boat, if you overfill too fast, you get extra water in places where it doesn't belong. Places you didn't know you had places. So, ten minutes of over-filling meant 30 minutes of mopping up inside, under floor boards and elsewhere. Granted, these are places that should be cleaned from time to time, but today was not the day, at least not what was planned for the day.
The rain finally let up, every vessel we had was filled, and it was nigh onto lunch time.
Lisa zipped off to buy fruit from Rosey the veggie lady and the girls, already drenched from the rain, jumped into the big water to freshen up a bit. I had a few desperate clients, so tackled some computer w***, then made some sandwiches for our little sharks that stood there shivering, dripping and gobbling their turkey sandwiches, all the while recounting diving techniques and other excitements.
The sun soon re-appeared and we puttered over the beach for some history lessons. We drew the Asian continent, then mapped out the Korean War and ended up building South Korea and North Korea complete with a big wall between them. I think Sara missed some of the finer points, but Anna and Emma were able to answer some key questions, so something got through.
We hung out on the beach, wonderfully deserted now in the prime of the late afternoon sun (the touristas had come during the downpour) when another cruiser dingied over with a poodle named Sparky. Yes, Sparky quickly lit up the world with a tinkle here and a tinkle there, proudly marking the mooring line the tourist boats hook up to every day to bring in their catch of visitors. Not sure the pee will feel any different than the salt water when the boat handlers grab the line, but every canine will know that Sparky lives, and is dominant.
Turns out the owner is a former shoe designer from St. Louis who moved to L.A, bought a boat and sailed away 6 years ago from California. This as as far as he and Sparky have made it.
We headed back home as the light started to wane. I whipped up some long overdue Swedish pancakes while the girls facetimed Grandma.
After dinner, the moon was out strong and we all migrated to the tramps for some moon glassing with binoculars. What with all the fresh calories, Sara and Anna had to go crazy for at least a few minutes, which they promptly did. All the giggling and jostling made the craters on the moon look like so many cracks in an Alaskan windshield. Ah, so much energy wasted on the young.
Day 92 ~ Hog Island, GrenadaDecember 15th, 2010
Tough day. Marine electrician arrived promptly at 8:00am. Turns out he lives on the boat right next to ours, so that's wasn't a tall order.
It was a good call having him check things out. He ran about 8 different test in the first 20 minutes and had zeroed in on the issue in short order. It was electrical, as I suspected, but he narrowed it down quickly to one of the low voltage wires that run from the ignition and kill switches to the engine. We traced out the wiring that was in place and it's pretty ugly. Obviously, it's been worked on before, by several different people who took several different approaches. We opted to just run two new wires even though that will contribute some to the congestion and will probably confuse a future owner.
The reality is that we need engine(s) and control panels. I knew this when we bought the boat, but I was hoping to get another year or two out of these. Probably still will, actually, but it will be a constant battle; like an old car you keep repairing, you wonder then the tipping point will come. New engines are not cheap (think, new car) so spending a few hundred bucks here and there to keep these humming still feels like a good idea. Time will tell.
He was gone in 45 minutes with the promise to return tomorrow after I had acquired and fished in the new wiring. I could probably tie things up myself, but it should only take him a few minutes and he's right next door anyway.
Rushed through a late breakfast in time for Lisa to run Emma and I over to the Hartman Bay shopping shuttle. The cruising crowd arranges for taxi twice a week to take us to all the usual haunts and wait at each while we shop. Then we all split the cost so it comes out very affordable.
Things were going great until the taxi died and we had to push start it, or try. It still wouldn't fire so we all retired to "de Big Fish", a sailor's bar, for some refreshment and gossip while we waited. He eventually got it going again and we were off to IGA. Spent a ton there on more groceries than we could push in one cart. Enough cans and pasta and beans to keep this hungry crowd alive for a couple of weeks, at least.
Lisa zipped over in the dink and it probably took an hour to load, motor back, unload, organize, unpack and shelve all the goods. We got things wrapped up just before a nice rain squall moved in. It blew pretty hard for a while and the radio came alive with lost cushions, dingies and boats dragging down onto other ones.
Sara and I tackled some math, carrying addition now that she has mastered basic addition. At age 7, it's clear she won't have any trouble with math so need to keep pushing her or she'll tire quickly.
Then it was into the bilges for some nasty work on the secondary saildrive seal while the kids played with their newfound friend from Haven. I kept thinking I was close to a breakthrough but, after 3 hours upside down (or close), many skinned knuckles, a nice puncture wound and greasy nails to make any mechanic proud, I had to call it a day, defeated for now. Close, but no cigar.
The highlight came about 2 hours into it. I had Emma helping me some and she got out the quart jar of "Grime Gobbler" to clean up the two postage stamp size smudges of grease that she acquired, complete with drama. I was laying on the engine, feet up, head down when I heard a THUNK, "Oh no!" and then simultaneously felt and heard a splatter. A good portion of Grime Gobbler came raining down on my now upturned face and across my back, soaking my shirt with the "that fresh citronella" fragrance that is Grime Gobbler's principle attraction.
I wanted to scream. I could take credit for self control, but I really think it was the fact that because my lungs were compressed against the heat exchanger, I just couldn't get enough of a lung full of air to make it worthwhile. By the time I extracated myself, much of the Grime Gobbler was well pooled in the usual places. Emma ran for towels and buckets and did a noble job of trying to make the situation a little more bearable. A few hours later at dinner, some chicken and pasta that Lisa whipped up, we were able to smile about it.
Looking for a better day tomorrow. A working Starboard engine ignition would be great.
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Day 91 ~ Hog Island, GrenadaDecember 14th, 2010
We're in the groove and it's a good one. Up early and busy early when it's cooler. Under cover during the peak sun hours doing math, history and philosophy (sorry, it just keeps poking it's head in).
I had two daunting projects facing me this morning. A starboard engine that starts when it feels like it, and doesn't when it don't, and an industrial strength AutoHelm (thing that steers the boat on a set course for you) that worked great in February and just throughs a trouble alarm now and freezes. I really don't know much about diesel engines and I know far less about autopilots. I suspected that was about to change.
They say that as you age tackling new and different problems goes from being fun, to being stressful to being repulsive. That may be true, because I laid awake last night with some discomfort wondering where to even start.
I find that if you tackle the most difficult project before breakfast, and even make some headway, the day just seems to get better from there and turns out being much easier or at least more pleasant, than you thought possible.
So, while the girls listened to "treasures of the bilge", and advertised our suitcases again, I removed the engine control panel to have a peek see. Then I dove into the engine room to have a look see, and a feel see and a listen see.
With Emma cranking the key, I could clearly hear the starter solenoid clicking. I got 12.4 volts of control charge to the solenoid. Hmmm. Time for some internet work. Fifteen minutes later I had watched a video on how to change the starter solenoid and found out that intermittent starting issues were the number one complaint about my series of engines. Everyone agrees they are great, and lovable, except for that.
My research turned up several very detailed threads on the various fixes, some involving hammers and whacking, others in re-wiring this or that. I found the starter relay which the yard "fixed" just last week and it seemed to be fine. The next step was to start disassembling some things. I stopped. Hmmm, real mechanics cost $60 an hour and I can do a fair bit of damage in much less time than that. It should be a simple fix, perhaps I should just log in a few hours of computer work and let the experts do their thing and, this time, pay more attention. I radioed a local service that comes to your boat, and booked Joe, their marine electrician for 8:00am tomorrow morning.
We'll see how that goes.
While I had things torn up, it was time to find the autopilot control computer, the brain. This thing is not small, about the size of two egg cartons side by side and with numerous wires coming into and out of. It shouldn't be hard to find.
Well, turns out our boat has some nooks and crannies I haven't seen yet, including one that would fit several ruminants should the need arise to smuggle any. There were several "ah-ha" moments and then, at last, the eureka! As I expected, I had been within a few feet of it the entire time; I just had to remove a key wall panel and all was revealed.
A few minute's inspection showed a suspicous wire dangling with no home. A quick consultation of the ST7000 installation manual showed that this wire should be attached, and firmly at that. And, what else was in the neighborhood, if not the throttle and shifting cables that we replaced a couple of weeks ago. It was easy to see how all that pulling and shoving would have easily dislodged the wire. Slipped the brown wire back next to its blue mate, turned on the autopilot breaker, set the course for our present heading (at anchor) then told it to turn right 10 degrees. Quick as a flash, both wheels twirled starboard. It was a beautiful sight.
Sara loves pancakes and has been asking, no begging, for them throughout our trip. The first batch I made were so-so, and this Sunday I took another crack only to find that we were out of milk. Now you can make pancakes with water, but are they worth eating?
We punted and stashed the already mixed dry ingredients for another day. Sara was crestfallen.
The Monday came and went. We got more milk, so today was the day. Made about 3lbs of batter and then watched in astonishment as they were all promptly chowed down by the wolves. Give these girls some sun, wind and several hours swimming and running a day and they can really pack it away. I think Sara has grown 2 inches since we have been here and now she was fueled up for another spurt.
After the hotcakes it was lesson time and work cleanup, followed by some lunch and then several hours of rompus play with Katie from Haven.
It was a big day for Sara because she has been, up to this point, required to wear a life jacket when not in the cockpit or inside while we're at anchor. The other two girls have passed their swim test, but she hasn't quite worked up the gumption. Today the girls were in and out of the water, up to the front of the boat and back again, each time requiring Sara to put on and take off her life jacket. They were jumping and swiming like fish and couldn't make up their minds where to play.
Sara decided she was ready. She chose to jump off the back of the boat, swim to the front and return to the back again. She then had to get out of the water with no ladder and no help.
I am proud to say she aced it. It's quite a jump to begin, 4 feet down or so, then 47 feet one-way and then back again and a wet hoist out of the water. Being in 30 feet of water, with the wind whipping at times, a little chop and no one watching (she thought). It was a brave thing to do, being only 7, where the world is still a big scary place in many ways.
Now she was free. We all clapped and congratulated her. Even Emma, her favorite sis, chimed in with geninue enthusiasm. I guess it's not all lost between them.
Lisa dinghied Katie home, and I whipped up some beans, rice and burger. The chilled local papaya really capped it off nicely. Then Anna started asking more questions about germs, and an hour later, we had done a sweeping survey of all things bacteria, some virus work (HIV) and a touch of sporology. The net is a beautiful thing.
To top it all off, about 1:00pm an old codger arrived in a well-weathered dinghy and gladly motored off with our two suitcases. Ahhh, their absence finally left a much needed pathway unfilled.
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Day 90 ~ Grenada Grand TourDecember 13th, 2010
We were up and going early to make our 8:30am appointment with Gordon and Jean, who had graciously offered to take us on a cross-island tour. We were late, of course. Getting 4 ladies, a day's worth of water, swimming gear and accessories into a small boat and transported a mile to the dock isn't going to be a fast excercise.
And, to top it off, we got there and I realized Anna and I had forgotten our shoes. Nice; a mile back and another mile to the dock again.
We were finally off and running and transversed four out of Grenada's six parishes (ie counties) over the course of the day. What with the traffic, the Hitachi 200 loading excercise on a one-lane winding road through the mountains, nothing really happened quickly. The waterfall was beautiful, the mountain forests were lush and tranquil and the northern beaches were pristine and largely deserted. We particularly enjoyed the swim at Bathway Beach, where a reef just a few dozen yards off shore broke up the incoming swells which arrived regularly, fresh from Africa.
We had a chicken and chips lunch at a little beach-side shack named Elo's, cooked by a guy with a huge mass of hair. He had been in business 15 years.
We drove back through Grenville, the "real" Grenada situated far from the cruise ship tourists. Did some quick shopping at a supermarket and then headed back to Gordon and Jean's for a nice fish and chips dinner. The homemade chips were particulalry popular, disappearing in a flash as one might imagine a school of shrimp encountering a pack of tuna.
We checked out a huge Christmas display in Grand Anse, fueled up the dinghy gas jerries and then headed back to Whisper Cove. Second time now we motored back to our boat without a light but, under a half full moon at high noon, the stars and the nearly flat water, it was a magical ride on a floating carpet across a twinkling velvet sea. We idled along at a few miles an hour and talked about our great day.
Day 89 ~ Hog Island, GrenadaDecember 12th, 2010
Was up and going earlier today. There is a special tropical pre-dawn light that no camera can accurately capture. It's as if the world were painted with a pastel palette dipped in gold. The water is steely and shimmering, the sky only the softest hint of honey.
Hog Island is one of the best anchorages I have seen, not just here in Grenada, but anywhere. It has nearly 360 protection with high bluffs and good holding. If there is a downside it is that we are sharing it with a couple of dozen other boats, but hey, it's a free ocean out here, so not sure that's really a complaint. At least all the beauty is being appreciated.
We were planning on some beach time with kids from Kamaloha and Haven, but the morning still got away from us. I fixed a troublesome floorboard in Emma's room that I expected would take a half hour but, 90 minutes later, everyone was done with breakfast and in the dink waiting for me. Just another day doing what cruisers do, fix boats in exotic locations. The autopilot and starboard engine control grounding issue are still outstanding. And, to top it off, I found a seeping through-hull fitting tonight. There is not a viable wet fix for that one; we just watch it and, if it gets bad, we park at a beach or get pulled out. It looks to me that in the nearly two weeks we have been in it's allowed about a cup of water in, so not exactly an emergency.
Took the girls over the beach and the energy started to get burned off. Read a sum total of 3 pages in my book, in between dinghy runs back for this or that, including a rather nasty cut Sara got on the underside where her large toe meets the sole of her foot. She was running full tilt and suddenly started hopping and screaming. There was a fair bit of blood flowing, so set her on the soft side of the dingy, head down, feet up, doused it with our drinking water several times and then did the direct pressure thing.
I wasted a ton of precious time in college and the one class I value most wasn't even part of my major. Wilderness Medical First Responder is the one I use more than anything else. The instructor was so good I can still rattle off a bunch of helpful acronyms. Man, she was tough and, boy, does it pay.
They say that education is the only industry where the provider and the consumer both conspire to rip off the consumer. And then they wonder why we have gradflation and why so many 4 year degrees are nearly worthless. A great mystery.
So, no panic, we controlled the blood flow and a lady at the beach had a first aid kit. She butterflied it enough for me to get our own supplies, get Sara on the kitchen counter with the foot in the sink (to control the mess) and get things cleaned up and dressed nicely. Since there was a nice bit of blood in the dink and the kids were still in the water, I opted to not clean it up until everyone was out. No reason to summon the men in gray suits.
The hardest part was seeing Sara suffer sitting still while all the other kids ran around and had a blast.
Finally she started hopping around just to do something and, the next thing I knew, she was walking around. So, I guess the pain has subsided some, but it will need to be re-dressed and cleaned routinely for a few days, at least.
We never did find what she stepped on.
The beach started filling up with Sunday night sociable types about 6pm which was our cue to move on. Got the girls back and showered before dark and did a quick dinner.
They barely kept their eyes open through story time.
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Day 88 ~ Hog Island Anchorage, GrenadaDecember 11th, 2010
With a soft breeze blowing in through the hatches and a gentle rocking of calm anchorage everyone slept in considerably later than usual. We almost missed the cruisers radio net at 7:30am.
We had agreed, the night before, to do a day sail and fishing expedition with Gordon and Jean. Whisper Cove called us on the radio at 9:00am to say they were there and waiting. I thought the time was 9:30 so it was a bit of scramble getting the dink down and off.
By the time they arrived, we were pretty close to being ready to go. The engines fired and the anchor came up caked heavily with gooey clay. We motored out and then unrolled the head sail. We trolled under sail for nearly three hours, making 3-4 knots and getting about 11 miles off shore. The seas were pleasant with large long period swells right on the beam as we reached (sailed 90 degrees to the wind) due south.
We changed lures, but still no hits. When it was clear the fish weren't cooperating, and the time was getting away from us, we raised the main sail and cooked home at 7-8 knots, closing in on the island was an impressive sight. I love the fact that Grenada has mountains and it strikes an impressive outline from the sea.
We anchored up in the lee of Hog Island, a popular spot with probably 20 other boats in place already. Fortunately, there was a nice opening for us to drop the hook in 9 meters of water. Let out about 30 meters of chain and she set well. Before we were even done, a dinghy with a couple of boat kids stopped by, and before we knew it the girls had a play date. I took them to shore while leaving the engines running to drive the heavy fridge for a bit more. Got to gabbing on the beach and realized I hadn't left Lisa any details on what to turn off when. I dinghied back and shut down the port side and turned off the fridge circuits. I then pressed "stop" on the starboard side. Nothing happened. Tried it again, zero.
In the cruising certification class a few years back, we had this exact problem and shut the engine down easily with suffocation. Off came the air filter and I clamped a flip flop over the intake. A great sucking sound ensued, but the little bugger just kept on a-ticking. Rats. Now what?! Plan B had failed. Lisa was just departing to gather the girls so I asked her to mention the problem to the Dad of the other kids since they had been crusing a while. He came buzzing over a minute later.
"Is it a Yanmar?", was his first question.
"Yep", I replied.
"I have one just like it and had this same problem; its easy."
"I handed him a light and pair of crocs so he didn't get toasty heels and he dropped in." Five seconds later, she puttered to a stop.
"You'd better show me that one," I said with a chuckle, "could come in handy."
So, another lesson learned. It's just a little lever tucked under a manifold. Press and kill.
Why the switch doesn't work though is another matter. He had some ideas, which I'll chase down next chance I get. By the time I had cleaned up my mess, it was virtually dark. I suddenly heard a squeal and found Sara and Emma frantically scrambling up the ladder. "Something had brushed me" Emma said, and her arm was stinging. I think a jelly fish was involved because a dousing of vinegar calmed things down in a few minutes.
By this time, we were all exhausted but also famished. Out came the beans and, in an hour or so, several pounds of award-losing chili was put before the pack. Hyenas, I tell you.
By the time dishes were done and the Wi-Fi super antenna set up and working, it was nighty-night time. I think we'll sleep like rocks. The wind, the sun and the excitement all work in harmony to create a completely new level of exhaustion.
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Day 87 ~ Clarkes Court Bay & St. GeorgesDecember 10th, 2010
It was a squally night, which lead to a peaceful morning, perfectly warm and breezy. We slept in for the first time in weeks. Got up just in time for Treasures of the Bilge. We offered our suitcases, and had an interested party, but he decided they were too small to suit his needs.
Made some real french toast. Defined as real because the eggs were from chickens that live about halfway up the hill we are looking at, the bread was baked in the building at the bottom of the hill, the nutmeg came from trees at the top of the hill, and we ate it all on the water in front of the hill.
We had agreed to meet Gordon and Jean at 10:00am at Whisper Cove but, by the time the boat was locked up and everything was gathered, we were a solid 20 minutes late. I guess the islands are soaking in. Gordon and Jean had graciously offered to show us around town, do some shopping with us and help run errands. We returned things here and there and otherwise frittered away a hot afternoon.
Downtown St. Georges is a bustling, menagrie of little street vendors hawking breadfruit to snapper while traffic crawls by honking and jostling bold pedestrians with a death-wish. Some stalls blare music, others are shady holes that require allowing your eyes to adjust before making out dim figures crammed around tiny tables sipping drinks or watching a football (soccer) match over a bowl of stewed meats.
Guess what the fish market smelled like? Rotund older ladies with large cutlasses (machetes) stood in hospital clean dresses read to wack off any appropriate sized portion without splattering a single drop of blood or mis-placing a scale of skin. Right. Actually, if you put a few snapper and a tuna into a large blender, fold in five gallons of sea water and run it through your lawn sprinkler while asking them to dance through the glistening streams you'd have a pretty good idea of what they really wore and what it really smelled like.
The highlight had to be the local fruit smoothies made with fruits of the island. Wow, the Passion Fruit was outstanding. Lisa and Jean preferred the peanut butter and banana.
Time kept slipping by, Gordon and I wanted to go fishing but, by the time we stopped in for a late lunch of Roti, it was getting close to 4 o'clock and the sun sets at 6:00pm.
The girls have taken to the local street food quite nicely. Emma downed her entire 1lb chicken curry wrap. The Roti is always hearty and always affordable which, when you have 3 growing offspring, is an important consideration.
We got back to the boat about 4:30 and decided that fishing from the dinghy would be best. Anna and Sara joined us for the first windy, rainy half hour. Then we returned to drop them off and went back to the most promising spot. We had a few hits but, alas, no catch. I guess that's why it's called fishing, not catching.
We got back just as a squall wall hit us. It was nice and cozy, if a bit rocky, in the boat and we enjoyed their company while I pulled together a spagetti feast, which did the usual disappearing act. We waited for a break in the weather, then dropped them off and got the boat in order. The girls are in a daze; so many new sights, sounds and smells, there little bodies just poop out about 8pm.
I think we are right behind them.
Day 86 ~ Clarkes Court Bay, GrenadaDecember 9th, 2010
Were up and rolling with the sun. I have a teleconference (w***!) today. Tried not to think about it.
Did some lesson work this morning and then Lisa and the girls gathered laundry and took it over Whisper Cove, just a minute dinghy ride away. While they were gone, I re-read materials for the phone call this evening and did a couple of invoices for **** that wrapped up last month.
It felt like being pulled forcibly back in time to a far off distant place that I know objectively exists but feels a galaxy away. Like, say, junior high.
By the time the girls were back, Rosey the fruit vendor was across the bay waiting, so Lisa zipped off and returned with pounds of grapefruit, star fruit, sweet potatoes and more, all locally grown. It doesn't look like the stuff you see in the supermarket, but it tastes great.
The star fruit were especially tasty with a little sugar on top and, before we knew it, there was only a half of one left.
We explored a nearby cove in the dink, "Faster! Faster!" the girls cried, but the 25hp outboard was already wide open. We swung back by Haven and invited Katie to come swimming. It didn't take too much encouragement, and the next couple of hours were consumed in a wild frenzy of very soaking activity.
Did some omelettes and potatos for dinner where were hoovered down in short order. After the meal it was the teleconference time and, by the time that was over, it was stories and beddie-by time.
Then the first of several squalls hit - 30-40 knot winds, a blast of heavy rain for about 15 minutes, then calm and starry skies. To the Alaskan used to drizzle for days, the first impression is of the violence and the noise, like a parade of fire trucks ripping past your door with their hoses on full blast.
After the last one passes, the silence and calm under a sliver of moon leave one with the old church graveyard sensation, where a whisper would wake the dead.
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Day 85 ~ Clarkes Court Bay, GrenadaDecember 8th, 2010
It felt really good to wake up in a new place. There were a few land noises through the night, a barking dog in the distance, a rooster, some music and voices from time to time. It's amazing how sound carries over water.
The day broke sunny with puffy clouds, the norm I am afraid to say.
We listen to the cruisers net each morning and particularly enjoy "treasures of the bilge", the part where sailors advertise old or not so old gear they are trying to unload. We have a few treasures ourselves, so will join in the foray at some point.
We did some lessons in the morning, but it was Katie that was on the girls' minds. They came over about noon and Anna and Lisa joined them on trip to town, using the local busses. Lisa described it as an "experience", 20 people crammed into a tiny van with local rap music blaring while dodging goats and pedestrians who bet their life, minute by minute, that an inch really is as good as mile.
I worked on getting primary refridge insulation re-sealed and the fridge up and running. It works, thankfully, but uses a ton of power. Somewhere in the 2000 watt range. It's a cold plate system, so designed to run heavy for a short period, then sit through the night. It's a good idea, as long as the engines are running. I would prefer to survive on solar and wind alone, so we'll see if we can support it for a half an hour today during the peak solar gain time. I have my doubts, but it would be nice to have more cold storage.
Sara and Emma had itchy feet so, while the others were gone, we went exploring in the dinghy. Whisper Cove Marina is just a hundred yards away so we dropped in there for a peek. It's a quaint little establishment whose jumbled exterior and modest proportions bely the activities inside. There is a full fledged meat shop where they make their own sausage, fresh bread every day and a range goods geared toward sailors. Homemade sauces and provisions canned in glass jars with wax tops "vill last long time in boat", says the French-Canadian owner.
We snagged a fresh loaf of bread, and topped up our water jugs for a whopping $6.30 EC (about $2.50).
We buzzed around Clarkes Court Bay in the dink, checking out the Hog Island anchorage. There are some really old classy boats here and plenty of craft who have been here a really long time and are slowly succumbing to the toxic combination of UV, rain and barnacles.
We hadn't been back 5 minutes when the girls arrived from town.
"What's in the bag?" Lisa queried.
"We bought a loaf of bread," I replied.
"Where's the loaf?" she asked, lifting the bag which contain perhaps a muffin size lump of remains.
"You're holding it." I said, with a sheepish look. Fresh bread is hard to resist.
Katie went home to get her swim gear on and the following couple of hours were a mayhem of swimming, diving down the anchor chain and then using the dink as a ship, a car and who knows what else.
Dinner of spaghetti had to wait for showers and cleanup but was promptly devoured with nary a word.
Anna and I went out on the tramp and watched the stars while she narrated her view of the day's bus and store experiences. She has a very interesting view of the world which include important details such as finding bird seed which looked like dog food.
Then it was lights out.
Day 84 ~ St. David's to Clarkes Court Bay AnchorageDecember 7th, 2010
Today was the day. I guess it could be day 1 if sailing was all that mattered. But, thankfully, there is more to life.
The day broke with the usual puffy tradewind clouds and sunshine. I was itching to get moving, but still had to settle up our final bills with the boat yard and parts store. And our friends on Wiki had taken the mooring right next to us.
We were in the middle of a breakfast of Weetabix and Frosted Miniwheat knockoffs when we heard a splash, and then a little voice calling. A tiny head and a life jacket were paddling over to us. The girls, like fighter pilots scrambling for an intercept, dropped their breakfast, grabbed swim suits and were in the water in seconds. Those bombers didn't have chance.
Having covered World War II recently, "the Germans" have been the usual bad guys of choice. A few days after meeting Wiki and Victoria (the 6 year old), we were playing another game and someone was going to represent the bad guys, "the Germans".
"Let's not call them 'Germans'", Emma asserted, out of the blue, "How about Romans?"
Now that Germans were real people, with real names, it was a little harder to demonize them. I guess history lessons have consequences.
Well, the morning turned into an extended swimfest. Like salmon headed up stream, the girls migrated over to Wiki. Lisa and I finished breakfast and then dinghied over. They were sitting around the outside table enjoying Russian pancakes, jam and tea in little white cups with blue rims in the very best European tradition.
Turns out that Inna, Victoria's mom, is Russian so we exchanged a few words in her native tongue, which is now mostly lost to me I am sad to say.
Lisa and the girls visited for an hour or more while I wrapped up details ashore.
Then, the moment had come. I rounded up the crew and we fumbled through the process of readying a home for turning into a sailboat. Snorkels, fins, towels and underwear that were drying on the lifelines, all had to find a home.
It took a really long time, but at last all was ready. We raised the main sail while still anchored and then Anna raised the anchor and we were off. The riggers who put the sails on hadn't really got all the details correct, so for the first half hour it was one minor panic after another getting main clew (the pointy bottom of the sail) tightened down, keeping the boom off the solar panels and jibing a few times along the way.
Our destination was only 6 miles away, so we had just gotten the bugs worked out when it was time to drop the sails and motor in. We picked a spot with plenty of room around us and anchored up. Anna did a great job on the windlass (anchor winch) controls.
Lisa made lunch and we were hanging out afterwards when a dinghy came in our general direction. From a distance we could make out a lady and smaller girl. Our girls waved, and they changed course to come our way. Katie is a 7 year old who has never lived on land, can swim like a fish and was promply invited to come on over.
It was another mad rush for swimsuits and flippers. An hour and a half later, the sun was receding and it was time to part ways with promises for getting together tomorrow.
Now, in the fading light, the girls are coloring while Lisa reads and the boat rocks gently. A nice breeze is filtering through the hatches and some acoustic guitar is on the stereo. The sound of distant crickets is just discernable from the nearby tropical hills.
It's a beautiful, peaceful feeling.
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Day 83 ~ St. David Harbour, GrenadaDecember 6th, 2010
I must say that today it all came together.
No, we didn't sail anywhere, no the FedEx package didn't come in time to leave, no the store didn't have the parts I was looking for and yes we are still camped in our little 1/4 acre of paradise.
I have this theory that if you do one hour of boat maintenance per day, you can keep up with this huge complex machine and keep it going. It's a theory, only.
Today started looking pretty grim. We had two toilets out of commission, a non-working bilge float switch and several other minor cabinetry problems. Nothing to do but charge forward. Turns out the first toilet had a small sea shell that got sucked in on the water supply side and jammed itself under one of the flapper valves. Remove sea shell = working toilet. One down.
Sara's toilet was next and, digging through Alan's plumbing supplies, I found a suspiciously sized O-ring that looked like it was just the part that might do the trick. Sure enough, took the unit apart, replaced the O-ring, gave it a good olive oil rub down and put it all back together. Works like a champ.
Since things were on a roll it felt right to just keep on going. The two younger girls went over to play with their friend on Wiki, so up came the floor boards and out came the old float switch. It was so nasty looking I forgot to take a picture.
Got it off the mounting plate, cleaned that up, ran and connected the new wiring, tested it, screwed the plate back into place and, bingo, it works like a champ again. Having a functioning automatic bilge pump is a great relief as hearing it running would be the first alert that unseen water activity was going on under the floor which, like a house, is never a good thing.
Our friends on Wiki were supposed to go in "first thing this morning" but, at 3:00pm, we still hadn't seen them in the lift. Lisa went over and offered to have their 6 year old come hang out with us at the beach for a while leaving them free to do final preparations.
They finally splashed about 5:30pm. They plan on heading up the East Coast as well, so perhaps our paths will cross again. Sara and Anna are still not too sure what to think about playing with someone they can't really talk to, but they always seem to have fun and they certainly need some kid time as much as we need some kid-free time.
After two weeks, FedEx finally figured out we were in Grenada, not Greece, and the courier finally got there, and his dog didn't eat the letter. So, we officially have title to our boat and can now leave the country, and enter other countries, without getting too much attention from the local authorities.
On paper, it should have been another frustrating day, but somehow it was different. The boat is starting to make sense to me now, the plumbing is working better, the meals are getting better, we're sleeping better at night, daily routines are falling into place. The solar panels and wind generator are keeping the laptops and the fridge going day after day without the need to run engines, which is a huge plus. Most of the sounds I hear laying in bed are just part of "normal" night sounds.
There's a lot more to learn about this craft, but it's not "the boat" anymore, it's home. A really cool floating home with a 360 water view and swimming dock right out your back door.
And, tomorrow, I think we'll take it sailing.
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Day 82 ~ St. David Harbour, GrenadaDecember 5th, 2010
Was up about 6:00am, before the sun, and the sky soon burned off into a few cirrus feathers and bright sunshine. Moved the boom over the port side to expose the solar panels to full solar blast and the batteries heaved a sigh of relief.
I was hot to trot this morning, anxious to see something other than this little valley. A month is enough. But, alas, turns out that the yard's courier signed for our boat title at FedEx on Friday, then took it home for the weekend. Nice. Hope his dog doesn't eat it.
So we remain marooned, as it were, in this little backwater. I guess that, since we have no real schedule and enough food for at least a week now, we should probably just relax and enjoy the view...but you know how it is. Humans don't like to be told what to do and being stuck here somehow diminishes the fun of what would otherwise be an idyllic little piece of paradise by any other measure.
Took Anna and Sara to the shore to refill the solar shower and drinking water bottles. We were just loading up and leaving when we heard some honking from the other shore. It was Jean waving at us, so we motored over. They had pawpaws and oranges for us, and invited us to dinner this afternoon. They are so generous, it's really a marvelous addition to our experience here.
In order for the girls have free roam of the boat lifejacket-free while anchored, they have to pass their swim test (they have to wear life jackets while underway no matter what). This entails jumping off the front of the boat without having gone in the water first, swimming to the back and climbing out unassisted.
Anna really hates wearing a life jacket so said she was ready to try. But when it came right down to it, she just couldn't bring herself to make the plunge. Perhaps tomorrow.
We swam off most of the afternoon. Emma has been bugging me about to learn about Cuba, so I spent half an hour on wikipedia and then we dove into the Spanish Colonist period. Again, not sure it all got through, but they were listening with rapt attention and before we knew it 4pm had arrived.
Gordon picked us up and we enjoyed a fabulous homemade dinner Jean had prepared. We conversed the evening away and left it that we would connect again on Friday for some fishing with Gordon and shopping for the girls with Jean.
We are so rusty on the cruising thing. Seems like everytime I turn around there is another lesson to re-learn. We got back after dark, the boat was locked up tight, completely dark. We didn't even have a flashlight and the anchorage was rolly so it was a regular circus getting into the boat and getting some light on. I think we can do that a little better.
After our bedtime story, somehow the conversation morphed into a philsophical vein. The idea that time is plastic, that it's not actually real was discussed (and completely missed I suspect), the potential afterlife, the critical flaw in the scientific method's definition of truth and other topics were all brushed over with rather broad strokes. Sara drifted off after a few minutes, but the others listend with wide eyes and asked engaging questions. I think they just wanted to get me talking so they could stay up later.
I am such a sucker for that one.
Day 81 ~ St. David Harbour & Grand AnseDecember 4th, 2010
With our provisions at an all time low, it was time to go to town if it meant crawling there and back. We have seen it's fairly easy to hitch rides, and buses are common and cheap, so it shouldn't come to anything too terrible.
It was Emma's turn to go, so we gathered some backpacks and such, and Lisa took us to the dinghy dock. Met a guy at the bar who was also looking for a ride and had been for quite a while with no luck.
We decided to start hoofing it.
We were just about to the gate when a car pulled up. The people looked at us quizzically and we looked back hopefully. The guy asked, with a heavy accent, if we were headed to town. Yes, yes we were. They could take us.
They turned out to be a French couple who had just splashed their boat a day before. They needed to stop at Budget Marine and for groceries. We crammed in the back of their little Suzuki Sidekick leaving the back seats folded up. It's a pretty rough road, and there were sore bones at the end, but we made it to Budget Marine, waited while they did their Customs clear out and then it was off to IGA for food.
Emma and I burned through the store expecting to take longer than they would, but we got done in enough time to snag some lunch and a few swimming noodles. I wasn't sure how we were going to get all the supplies and our bodies back in such a small vehicle but, with Emma on my lap and the canned goods on the bottom, it worked out just fine.
We were back by about 2:00pm. It was a cool overcast day but we went swimming anyway. Sara lost a flipper, and Anna dove down and snagged it before it could get out of sight. We are anchored in about 24 feet of water, but it's those last 10 feet that get you, as Lisa learned while trying to recover a "waterproof" radio on our first sailing venture.
While we were gone the electricians came and, supposedly, everything is working now. Of course it's not, the wind speed indicator reads 0.00 all the time, but I am not sure whether it's worth belaboring the point and I am sure the bill now is pretty substantial. The safety stuff works, so we should probably just claim victory and move on.
By the time the showers were done it was time for dinner. It felt sooo good to cook in our own space. Two pounds of meat and beans later, the girls were finally satisfied. It's like feeding an Army around here.
Day 80 ~ St. David Harbour AnchorageDecember 3rd, 2010
Well, not sure it was a productive day. The electricians never came; first they needed wire, then it was raining. Not sure we are going to wait for them all weekend. The urge to move on is pretty strong and no-so-distant anchorages are calling. We also need to re-provision pretty badly. Ate our only two cans of beans tonight. We have cereal and flour, but are pretty lean when it comes to protein.
I tackled Sara's toilet issues today, and ruled out a couple of the most obvious issues. It really helps having disassembled the exact same unit several times on the last boat. All the mystique is gone, and it's all down to the nitty gritty, as it were. I think the needed part was found just before dinner, but somehow I couldn't make the transition from one end of line to the other that quickly, so put it off for tomorrow.
High overcast and light rain on and off today; nice to have it cooler, but it means our solar shower was a bit chilly and the electical situation is on the weak side. I really don't know what our practical capacity is and how much we are still surfing on the three day's ago high charge when the sun was shining and nothing was being used. I had planned on replacing all the lights with LED bulbs to save power, but now find it's already been done with just a few fluorescent expections. The flicker and color are distasteful, but they are more efficient.
Time to consult the charts and weather report and see if tomorrow is the day to set sail and move on; I either make the electricians come to us or just fix it myself, which would take an hour or two, perhaps.
Did real 'boat food' tonight, rice and beans. Came out pretty good, actually, but the star of the show was the fresh pawpaw (papaya) which was, by far, the best we have had. Wow, nothing like getting fruit right at the source. It's amazing the difference 9,000 miles makes.
Day 79 ~ Anchored at lastDecember 2nd, 2010
It wasn't exactly a quiet night. Land has bugs and docks require bumpers and lines which squeak all night. Lisa fashioned screens from some mesh material I bought at Ace and used blue tape to temporarily secure them in place. They helped some, but we still had a few strafing runs from flies and a few mosquitos. Between the noise, the bugs and the sleeping-in-a-new placeness of it all, I think Lisa and I each got about 3 hours of sleep.
I had promised pancakes the first morning on the boat and now Sara demanded I make good on it. So, even though much remains to be done, like commissioning the heads (aka toilets), instead we made our first batch of pancakes, the first of many I am sure. They were promptly devoured.
The fuel guy showed up right in the middle of the first bite, so I asked him if he could wait just a few more and then began the process of fueling our two 100 gallon tanks which, I assumed, were near empty. Started out by filling 3 jerry cans and packing them properly. On our last boat, filling the tank was a tedious affair of filling some, doing a visual check and then filling some more. You want it full, but if you overfill it results in a half hour of chasing down and destroying every drop of fuel as the smell makes Lisa queezy.
I assumed this would be the same undertaking. Turns out there is a filler vent which makes a distinctive gurgling sound as the tank tops up. It's a nice audible way to avoid a mess. And, to top it all off, the port side 97 gallon tank only accepted 11 gallons, the starboard took 20. It was more along the lines of finding $500 under an old mattress.
The electricans arrived again and spent more hours trying to re-wire what they had de-wired a few months ago. I am sure the billing of it all will be an interesting discussion.
Got two more heads (toilets) working and the fresh water pump on the port side which feeds the galley (kitchen).
Then, Mark came over from the yard to say we had to leave, like "now". There was a brief frenzy of taking in cushions, sun screens and final filling of water tanks which, of course, overfilled because I didn't mention to Lisa who was outside filling) that the lid was off under the floorboards inside. Amid the urgent and angry voice from the Italian boat owner who would be taking our place at the dock due to the boat lift quickly approaching with a boat to drop in his spot, the engines fired, thankfully, and Nicholas, Mark and a few other yard guys where there to cast us off.
Gerald had done good work on the new throttle and shifting cables; the controls now were smooth and provided excellent feedback. We backed out, flipped a u-turn and motored out to the anchorage, turned into the wind and Anna did the honors of dropping our first hook. Aside from threading the bridal through the bowspirit, which required some strong arming to fix, the boat settled into a smooth and quiet rest, anchored at last.
More projects called but, as the sun waned, the girls and I hung out on the tramps and talked about how it felt finally be away from land. Sara and Anna played they were cowgirls and set to roping the front cleat. The bugs were gone, the sounds were quiet and peaceful. A few dogs barked in the distance and the clouds lit up as the sun went down. It was a magical feeling.
Hunger finally drove us in. With the kitchen in better working order now, I made one of our favorite dishes, pasta and white sauce with fresh garden tomatoes and green beans.
We were yawning at the table.
Day 78 ~ Moving AboardDecember 1st, 2010
Well, we have finally cut ties with land. I came over to the boat first thing in hopes of wrapping up the final projects, but of course, the electricians who were supposed to come over "first thing" arrived about 11:30am.
The Travel-lift arrived with another boat just a few minutes later, so the dock hands pulled us around to the outside slip. As you can guess, this involved some yelling, lots of pulling, and placement and moving of fenders and such. Glad it went smoothly.
Lisa and the girls arrived with all our final baggage about noon. Not sure where it's all going to go. A rain shower arrived just after them so we threw a canvas over the pile and hoped for the best.
With the girls moving aboard, it was time to get around to trying the plumbing system. Well, of course, it wouldn't just cooperate the first time. The starboard pump would run indefinitely. Suspecting the supply was weak, I removed the filter and supplied it directly. Still didn't work. Took off the pressure switch, manually operated it and then put it back together. Still didn't work. Took the pressure switch off again, then put it back on. Still wouldn't shut off. Removed the high pressure side and put my thumb over the outlet. The pump shut off immediately. Ok, so it's not the switch. The water must be getting out somewhere. Tore up all the floor boards; dry as a bone. Ok, we'll flush you out you sucker. I ran the pump for about 10 minutes at 4.5 gallons a minute. Bilges are dry, pump is running full out. Checked the water tank, it was a lot lower.
Where was all the water going???
Had a frustrating lunch wondering why it worked in February but not now. Back at it, I tore open the questionable faucet in Anna's bathroom. It had plenty of water supply and no leaks. Of course, all this was done in tiny spaces, during the heat of the day with serpentine neck twisting just to see anything meaningful.
Finally headed up about 3:00pm for a break and saw the hose lying next to where I used to fill the water tanks.
THE HOSE. With a groan I ran over to the anchor compartment where the hose attaches for anchor washdown work. There was my answer: a soaking wet pile of 100 meters of chain which had just enjoyed an on-again off-again 4 hour bath from the wide open 3/4 hole fitting just above.
There went another day, and one whole water tank.
Worked with Gerald then getting parts and supplies for an oil change and exhaust hose fix and then a couple of hours cleaning up the explosion of floorboards, tools and parts involved in the mechanical and plumbing fixes that dominated every available space. With those cleaned up, it was possible to put all the bed cushions back in place so beds could be made and the girls could "move in", which they promptly did, decorating their rooms, slamming doors and bossing anyone who came near their space.
By then it was well after dark, the kids were famished and I was protein deprived (not a good thing). I grabbed a can of refried beans and some tortillas intending to whip up some quick quesdillas. But, alas, no can opener. Anywhere. We have stacks of sheets, more pans than I had at home, tools, spares, you name it. But not a single can opener to be found. Anna and Lisa even checked the restaurant for a quick loan of the proper tool, but found it locked up tight at 7:30pm. The girls looked at me wide-eyed. Now what? Starvation?!
Emma and Anna were dispatched with the can to their little friend's boat, "Wiki" (pron. Vicki), two boats down from our land spot, and where they had spent most of the day playing. They returned in a few minutes with a brand new can opener still in the package. It was a nice touch.
With newfound access to beans (aka protein), we managed to feed everyone and then send them off to bed. Didn't sleep well; new place, new sounds and all that. And it rained at midnight, but that's just part of boat life. Should sleep better, at anchor, tomorrow.