August 2013 ~ Grenada
Day 1052 ~ Client CatchupAugust 1st, 2013
Lisa and the girls packed off to the beach with their school work and lunches about 10am. They ended up staying all day, enjoying the shade under the tree canopy and then playing Mexican Train dominoes with other cruising moms and kin in the afternoon.
I spent most of the time catching up on client work that's been put off far too long. Kids camp in the afternoon, including the long-awaited kayak races.
Day 1053 ~ Dinner with DafneAugust 2nd, 2013
The kids were up and going early for the kids camp hike around Hog Island. Peer pressure is a good thing that way I guess. Getting my three to go on a hike with me is like pulling teeth, but if other short people are going, you can hardly stop them long enough to get their hats and sunglasses. Giving them a choice of hiking or math didn't hurt either.
I finally got around to doing a slew of minor Amazon orders, hopefully in time to have the shipments arrive with our New York friends before they fly down on the 17th. I won't be a bit surprised if a few miscellaneous items don't make it aboard.
Dafne, the boat family who generously pre-paid our St. Maarten electrical order and carted it 450 miles southward, invited us to join them for burgers on their boat. They are also cruising with three girls, about the ages ours were when we started, 6, 9 and 11. It was a most enjoyable night for everyone as the parent swapped sailing dream dramas and the kids ran around spying on us, and dropping huge loops of 5/8" line through hatches trying to 'steal' things from the kitchen without being noticed. Right.
Day 1054 ~ Kid Boat CentralAugust 3rd, 2013
Nana's birthday. What a feeling, being twelve. Perhaps the last really great kid year of a life. After this, things just seem to get complicated.
Caminante called and invited the girls to join them in town for the kid Carnival. I was surprised and pleased when Nana and Nina opted to go. I guess the home-body gene isn't as dominate as I had thought.
I spent the morning riding the shopping bus around town, returning bags full of supplies I ended up not needing for the creaking wall repair. Returns here are like pulling teeth. Employees glare at you, roll their eyes, sigh, shuffle, delay, take cell calls, talk with friends and, in general, communicate to you that 'we aren't here to give money back!'
Then there are all the receipts, and paper work, and cross checking, and supervisor sign-offs. It took more than 30 minutes to return about 200 EC ($66) worth of little stuff. At Home Depot, it would have been 4 minutes, tops. I guess Grenada has some room to grow.
Nika, our true home-body stuck around played with Derek on What If. Evenstar sailed over from Prickly Bay in the afternoon and Danielle came to play as well. Kid boats = happy kids.
Day 1055 ~ Pancake Cook-OffAugust 4th, 2013
The girls have been busy making party favors and finished up this morning. Nana opened her gifts from Gramma and the rest are coming with our friends later in the month.
Two Swedish boats, Caminante II and Elin, came over at 9am for the Swedish Pancake cook-off, each bringing samples of their traditional recipes. The Swedes keep telling us they have never heard of 'Swedish' Pancakes. They just have pancakes, period.
We all agreed Caminante's cakes swept the field. They had a fabulous chew, wonderful texture and great flavor. Sigh, I guess we'll take our recipe back to the drawing board.
We got Sea Pearl's sailing rig all set up then Lisa and the crew headed to Hog Island for the 2pm birthday bash. The cake was devoured pretty quickly then it was off to the boats where our three enjoyed the spotlight of taking all their friends out for sailing rides. They also managed to break a record. They fit 11 kids in Sea Pearl with the sail unfurled. Granted, there was little freeboard remaining, but it didn't tip.
Day 1056 ~ Magnetic SoulAugust 5th, 2013
Well, after a month in Hog Island, perhaps the single finest anchorage in the Caribbean, the day has finally come. Despite some prep last night, it still took nearly an hour to get Sea Pearl raised and lashed down, numerous covers off and stowed, etc. Converting the house to a boat again is always a process.
We dropped our mooring about 10:30am and purred out of the easterly cut through the barrier reef which provides such good protection to the inner harbor.
We got the main up and turned dead downwind, nearly due west along the southern coast of Grenada. The wind was light so our speed barely passed 4 knots in the puffs. We accidently jibed, then jibed again. Something was fishy.
Our autopilot, which has been rock solid mile after mile, didn't seem to be working properly. I could set a heading and the pilot would respond with appropriate beeps and indicated it was sailing a heading, say, of 280. I could feel the pilot making minor corrections in the wheel but, at the same time, watch the true course slowly drift one way or the other, first by a few degrees, then slowly farther and farther until we were 30 degrees off course. The wheel would still be virtually centered, and I could feel the pilot making minor adjustments second by second.
The autopilot computer has alarms for when it can't get a rudder position reading or isn't getting information from the fluxgate compass. There were no alarms so it thought it had all the data it needed.
Once again, that horrible let down, this-is-going-to-be-expensive feeling started crawling up my spine. I should know by now that the initial sinking gut feeling is usually an exaggeration. I should just get used to the feeling, as it seems to be part and parcel to the boating life. After the initial wave of sickness passed the brain kicked back into gear. What could possibly cause this kind of problem, and why now? What had changed since a month ago when the autopilot worked like a champ?
Well, we had thoroughly cleaned the boat after the repair, but that didn't make any sense. Then, vaguely, a story I had once heard came back to me. It was another mysterious autopilot problem related over the transom in some windy anchorage a couple of years ago. Yes, yes, it was another Lagoon, a 440 condo-cat with a waterline well below the actual water. The owner had brought his treadmill aboard and then had an on-going month-long battle with Raymarine tech support after which he finally got a specialist out to the boat.
The expert first traced the fluxgate compass wire back to the compass which the owner had never been able to find. Turned out it was a few inches from the huge electric motor which drove the treadmill. They moved the treadmill and the autopilot started working again. I wonder...
Fortunately, I had stumbled on our fluxgate compass location a long time ago, tucked into a corner of Nina's storage cupboard. Hmmm, Nina's cupboard + cleaning; there might me be something there. As realization dawned I dashed downstairs, threw open Nina's aft cupboard door and started grabbing fistfuls of stuffed junk.
There were trays of wooden beads, piles of old paintings, Sculpey clay, yarn, half finished knitting projects and a mini dry-erase board complete with award ribbons and mini-cork bulletin board. It all looked so innocent, hardly a scrap of metal to be found and nothing that would interfere with a compass. Right?
Wait a minute. That dry erase board felt suspiciously heavy. I flipped it over. There, plastered on the back were 4 magnets designed to attach the board to a refrigerator. One was a 4" x 5" square plate, and three more solid looking corner magnetics. That might just be the ticket.
I ran back upstairs and clicked the autopilot back on then watched closely as she held our course rock solid, making all necessary adjustments. No more jibing. You never know when some passing conversation will mean something personal in the future.
Rounding the south western tip of Grenada, we turned across the wind and sailed smartly up to the anchorage at St. Georges. We knew from past experience that the bottom was mostly poor holding, so we tried to hit a patch of sand in about 3 meters of water. The anchor seemed to set, but snorkeling showed it was just caught on a little rocky edge. We re-anchored, then again, and then a fourth time, finally hitting a patch of sand deep enough to hold us , nearly an hour of motoring and massaging chain. The girls were frustrated and ready to play by the time we got a good set.
I was ready for a nap, if only it hadn't been too hot.
Day 1057 ~ Keyboard SmugglersAugust 6th, 2013
Lessons in morning then town in the afternoon for shopping, wandering and trying to check out. Managed to find a smaller electronic keyboard for Nina's birthday gift that wasn't too expensive and runs on 12-volt DC power. It should be an easy matter to built a cigarette lighter power cord adapter.
We got to customs at 3:55p only to be informed that because we would finish the process was after 4pm overtime fees would have to be assessed. We decided to wait 'til 8am to check out.
Kids played at What If most of the afternoon, and were conveniently far enough away that Lisa and I could smuggle aboard the keyboard in its huge cardboard box.
Day 1058 ~ Ripping NorthAugust 7th, 2013
Lisa, Kris and Dean headed to Customs and immigration arriving promptly at 7:50a along with another cruiser, but the official, who told Lisa the night before the office opens at 8am, didn't manage to show up until 8:45. More delay but they didn't offer to pay us 'overtime' for waiting for them. Funny how that works.
We raised the main at anchor and turned northward. Light following breeze meant we were forced to motor-sail the first 15 miles or so up the west coast of Grenada until we finally cleared the mountains. Sailed the rest of the way to Union Island in nearly ideal conditions, 15-20 knots right on the beam. Clifton, Union Island, is one of our least favorite places in the world, but that's where the bureaucrats are ready and waiting, complete with sharpened knives.
Lisa and Nina tried to check in before 4pm, but finished with Customs at 4:12p so were slapped with an additional 'overtime' fee of $13USD even though they'll be on duty until the last plane arrives tonight at 6pm.
Spent the night in Clifton Harbour so What If can check in tomorrow morning with no extra fees.
Day 1059 ~ Birthday DazeAugust 8th, 2013
The wind picked up during the night. With the anchor set well in shallow sand, I rolled over and went back to sleep.
Nika and Nana were in on Nina's gift secret, so were bouncing around the boat begging to open gifts "first thing!"
There was a little delay for a client crisis, but then the opening commenced. Nina's nearly-adult brain and powers of observation had apprised her of an underlying agitation in the younger girls and other suspicious activities, so the element of surprise was lost. Oh well, at 14, she won't be a kid much longer.
We upped the anchor about 9:30am and motored about an hour straight upwind to the Tobago Cays. Crystal clear water had the kids overboard in short order moon-walking on the bottom with the benefits of a dive belt.
The adults snorkeled the reef and Petit Bateau while kids played on the beach. Nothing spectacular to see here, but nice to have clear blue water and white sand bottom again.
Day 1060 ~ Beyond BeliefAugust 9th, 2013
Rocky night with occasional high gusty winds. Up at 5am, I see a distant boat's anchor ball sliding backwards in the howling torrent. They seemed to get re-anchored ok. Sure glad we are in pure sand.
By 8am we and What If are the only boats that remain. Kris is still keen to snorkel the turtle sanctuary having come all this way and, to my surprise, Lisa says she wants to go too. It actually looks cold out there, complete with grayed out Seattle cloud ceiling. You go girl.
While the girls and I devoured a huge stack of french toast, Lisa captured some excellent turtle photos once the sun had popped out. They said there must have been over a dozen at least.
Being seriously low on water, and surrounded by rain but still dry, I decided to try and run the water maker on solar and wind alone for about an hour. We had full sun on the panels and 20 knots of wind so, on paper, it should work out fine.
What If left ahead of us and we followed them north to Canouan under sail. It was a nice 6 mile run, but as we neared the anchorage, a dark cloud line moved over us packing a wall of 28 knot winds. We missed a few lulls for dropping sails, then finally got everything in without too much drama.
Nana and I hit a sandy patch with the Spade and she set immediately. We all went snorkeling a long, shallow rocky formation off the point. Lisa and I spotted a large octopus which, once it saw us, sucked itself under a rock and changed colors to be all but invisible. A natural politician.
In the late afternoon a really dark cloud bank moved in and we all got prepared for serious rain. Just as it was starting to blow hard a charter boat came in full steam on both engines. They dropped 3-4 snorkelers in the water, then the big boat proceed to drive all around them in a tight circle under engine power. Sort of like putting your kids in a huge blender and telling them to hang on to the edge. It was impossible for the driver to keep track of all three swimmers, the shallow reef and What If by which he made several close passes. With two 16" props sucking and churning the shallow water, an accident seemed unavoidable.
Eventually, the guy seemed to realize how stupid it was, so he turned and promptly drove right up onto the shallow rocks Lisa and I had just snorkeled. We couldn't hear the crunching, but you could see the boat pivot and the black smoke from the engines as he full throttled it to try and back off. A swell came in and lifted him just enough to get free. All the while, Kris and Lisa were on the radio exchanging, "I can't believe this guy!" remarks.
The guy returned a few minutes later towing a small line with a milk jug on the end. He came steaming right back into the swim area, turned a nice circle through the swimmers. One at a time boarded as he was moving on to the next. Who are these people!? We just tried not to watch and hoped no one lost an arm, leg or neck in the process. Real medical care is at least 40 water miles away.
Day 1061 ~ Nature's Air ConditioningAugust 10th, 2013
Feeling lazy so spent a quiet morning. Lisa did a couple buckets of laundry while it rained. Neither What If or we felt inclined to move anywhere so opted to stay put for another night.
The variety of direction blasts of mountain-cooled air through doors and hatches penetrated every nook and cranny with cool goodness. I even made a loaf of bread since it wasn't too hot for the oven. That's a first in months. The smells brought back chilly Long Island morning memories which we swapped with downing warm slabs of butter soaked, honey-topped slices.
Kids went around L'Ance Guyac Point into Corbay to check out the beach play potential and the adults went to snorkel the north side of Corbay. Nothing spectacular, but we did see a couple of manta rays and a spotted eagle ray.
Dinner then another hour or so of Lord of the Rings.
Day 1062 ~ Chart Anyone?August 11th, 2013
Another rainy night and another lazy day. The bay filled up by sundown, but all but two were gone by mid-morning. We're finding it rather pleasant having the cool breeze blowing off the nearby 900 foot Mount Royal in blasting, swirling gusts. The blasts are sometimes 20-30 knots, but rarely last more than 15 seconds; not enough time to create any real strain on the anchoring gear.
Opened with our traditional Swedish pancakes followed by a game of Sorry! which Nika, ever the game enthusiast, won with triumph leaving older sister making throw up sounds and rolling her eyes like they were marbles on a table.
What If called over to see if we wanted to move. Whatever, I guess so, why not, were all reasons heard.
It was a short 7 nautical mile sail to Saline Bay on Mayreau. We'd heard of a sunken boat that sounded like a promising dive so opted to anchor in the bay with more people but closer to the dive site. We readied our gear and Kris came with us to snorkel the southern edge of the bay.
With iPad chart in hand, I circled around the dive coordinates which Lisa had found on-line while she drug her face in the water. The sunken boat was supposedly in 40' and relatively close to the shoreline, but all Lisa found was a sore neck. Back to the boat to double-check another website with waypoints only to find that those were on the north edge of the bay, right where there was a wreck marked on the iPad chart, about a half mile from the first coordinates. Sometimes you just try too hard.
There was too much current for a dive, but the snorkeling off the point just north of Saline Bay proved to have some of the best colors and fish we have seen in recent memory.
Day 1063 ~ A Blip on the RadarAugust 12th, 2013
A new low pressure system has formed south of the Cape Verde islands off the west coast of Africa. It's barely 12 hours old and already has a 30% chance of full cyclone development. Because of its location far to the south, this one actually has the chance of staying south and T-boning us here in Grenada/SVG. Needless to say, we'll be watching it closely.
A couple boats pulled out so we and What If moved closer to shore to gain more protection from the swell coming around the headland to the north.
Waited for the dive boats to vacate the buoy at the Purini gunboat wreck site. We dropped quickly to 37 feet and flippered around for about 15 minutes just as the current was kicking in. While it was hard to distinguish many parts of the ship, the stern section, boiler and windlass were still visible. There were several large schools of fish hanging around and numerous smaller groupings tucked into every corner. As we made our initial approach, the largest mutton snapper I have ever seen, about 3 feet long, ghosted around corner and out of sight into the haze.
As we came up, a local dive shop boat stopped by to inform us that the dive site is in the park so we must have permission to dive there (we think permission means to just hire a local guide to take you). Ok, whatever.
We got our gear off and up into the dinghy as they were throbbing away in a cloud of smoke. I grabbed the motor's pull cord and just about ripped my wrist off. It had completely seized. Having replaced the line a couple of years ago, I know how the mechanism works. Taking off the cover, I worked the wheel by hand attempting to unspool or respool. Nada. It was incredibly stiff.
Here's where the self criticism comes in. The cord jammed about 10 days ago; the line's casing had chafed through and created a wad jamming the works. Of course, proper cruising practice would have been to replace the line right then and there. I was at the boat, I had all my tools, we were in a flat calm anchorage.
But no, it was warm, it was later afternoon, it was time for a swim. I picked the wad of jammed line free, trimmed the cover back a few feet and went for a swim, promptly forgetting about the problem.
Each morning, I would see a flash of reminder as the pull cord, now just really the core of original line, streaked out and then back in as the engine fired on the first pull over and over. Then, it was again forgotten.
Now, in the fashion of the sea since time immemorial, having failed to heed the first fair warning, we were in trouble. Actually, we came within 10 seconds of serious trouble. As the cord felt like it was jerking my fingers out of their socket, Lisa was untying the painter from dive mooring.
After the initial shock of my hand going numb by some undeserved grace, I had the presence of mind to immediately yell, "Don't let go of that mooring!"
Lisa's hands froze. Another 8 seconds and we would have been drifting free in rapidly building current sweeping us west. Next stop, Bonaire, 389 nautical miles out.
We had no radio, no sunshade, no GPS, no food, not even a dry thread of clothing. And we had just used 80% of our 2 liters of water rinsing the salt off our hair and faces. Of course, we used to keep a radio in the dinghy and we usually have some water. Over time, day after day of reliable operation just numbs one to reality. The dinghy really is the single most dangerous part of cruising, following apathy.
But today wasn't going to be the start of some dramatic chapter. I re-tied us onto the mooring and we hunkered in for a sit-in. One of the benefits of buddy boating is that eventually Dean or Kris, safely anchored on their floating home a half mile away would set down their book and remark, "hmm, shouldn't Peter and Lisa be back by now?"
Of course, that might be an hour or two, or three. The sun beat down. This was the first day in a month I hadn't put sunscreen on as aftershave. No clue why. I arranged flippers over body parts, and sat with the least skin exposed. Lisa, who had sunscreen, remained standing in the dinghy in hopes of attracting attention our way since you rarely see anyone standing in a small boat.
After 20 minutes or so, we saw a catamaran sailing in our general direction. After a while we could see it was a French charter boat from Le Marin, Martinique. It was loaded with the usual complement of white tourists all standing on deck watching Mayreau slide by. Surely they would see us.
As they came into the range where one could distinguish men from women, I used my yellow flippers to make a beckoning gesture. I pantomimed the broken engine. Its cover was off, surely that would be obvious.
They altered course about 15 degrees, away from us. We were incredulous. It's difficult to imagine a fellow cruiser, well aware of the dinghy risks, not immediately grasping the situation. But these poor souls were 48 hours out of the cubicle and probably saw us as a strange aberation to be avoided.
Even on their new course, they were going to pass by fairly close. When they were about 200 yards away, I started fresh with my best game of charades. Pulling at the cord in exaggerated, mock futility. Putting the motor cover on, off and over my head.
Finally, excruciatingly slowly, the light bulb must have dawned. No, these aren't male and female pirates in some elaborate trick complete with lime green dive tanks. These are humans.
They turned upwind and doused their main sail, then manuvered to within easy shouting distance. Lisa's mastery of French came in pretty handy as she explained the situation. Eventually, not able to hail What If on the VHF themselves, they pulled along side so Lisa could scramble aboard and try.
Dean buzzed over a minute later and towed us back to the boat. The rest of the afternoon saw me ripping the top off the dinghy motor. There's a coil spring inside; it's about 12 feet long, and serves to retract the pull cord after each stroke. It is delicately placed and, at one point, expoded out of the spindle flipping greasy sharp edged metal all over my person and the cockpit. "Girls, it's time to leave, this is going to get messy."
With Lisa's help, I was able to get the snake back in the bag, and, eventually, all the little pieces and parts cleaned, lubricated and reassembled. There was even some sand in there. Now I wonder where that came from?
Tried to Skype some friends and FaceTime gramma, but the connection, which seemed strong, just wasn't enough.
Day 1064 ~ DevelopmentsAugust 13th, 2013
Slow morning of math complaints. Motored then sailed to Frigate Island.
The low has matured today and now shows more organization. NOAA says it may well disintegrate due to its heading into an area of lower humidity, but that seems like wishful thinking to me. We are in the second week of August now, so this is the big gun season and it's been suspiciously quiet for weeks.
Kris and I dinghied then rode the bus to Clifton for a few supplies while the kids played. Found a few overpriced mangoes and some other items. This is the off-season so the meagerly supplied stores have even less; one specialty store that caters more to the US and French taste buds, for reasons beyond my comprehension, was closed for the day so we'll have to try again tomorrow.
Day 1065 ~ Freight Train a-ComingAugust 14th, 2013
Today NOAA admits the low pressure system has a 70% chance of full cyclonic development. That's probably still being conservative. Government funded weather services have a vested interest in being overly cautious. We share no such bias and are checking the weather situation every few hours. We've always wanted to see Trinidad; perhaps a run south might be in our immediate future.
The girls, and even Derek we heard, grumbled through their lessons today until they were finally released to play. You'd think they never got to have any fun. They spent the whole afternoon in the water collecting star fish, 'moonwalking' on the bottom with dive weights and general energy-expending play. Just the way we like it.
Lisa, Nina and I dinghied then bussed to Clifton to see if the gourmet store was open and if it might have some esoteric (by Caribbean standards) items we lack like brown sugar, real milk, rice milk or even a box of, perish the thought, Grape Nuts. Unfortunately, we were sorely disappointed. A whole wall of alcohol, two fridges full of Snickers and Dove bars and one skinny baguette didn't do it for us so we bought a dozen eggs and headed back. On the way to the bus, we stopped at the post office to send off a few postcards to home so the trip wasn't all in vain.
Day 1066 ~ Long, Slow, Fishless SailAugust 15th, 2013
Headed south today. Raised the anchor around 7:30a in hopes of making it to Hog Island by mid-afternoon so allow enough time for some kid play. Because winds are predicted to be light we opted to head out to the big water on the East side of Carriacou and Grenada. If the breeze is light out here, it will be virtually non-existent on the leeward side among the mountains' wind shadows. However, winds were so light and from directly behind that we could only make 4-5 knots with the main and genny both pulling and flopping intermittently.
Since not many boats take this outside passage, I was sure we would have some fish action. We hooked something about a half hour into the trip, but it entangled itself on our second line and escaped. Argh. After, that not a single hit in the next 40 miles. Perhaps all the fish move north for the summer. I am sure someone local knows the full story, but for the clueless like us it's an impenetrable mystery.
Fortunately, we had left early enough that we could afford the slow pace. It was a nice, long leisurely sail with plenty of "family time" out on the tramp talking, which we have recently learned, is Nika's favorite pastime.
GPS location Date/Time:08/15/2013 04:48:06 AKDT
GPS location Date/Time:08/15/2013 09:37:31 AKDT
Well, it's official, AL05 got a name, Tropical Storm Erin. Hard to say where it will go yet, but we're on the alert nevertheless.
Arrived at 5:30p and found the mooring ball free on which we had left our pennant so hooked back up.
Day 1067 ~ Sailorly VitaminsAugust 16th, 2013
Girls did math while I went on the shopping bus with Trevor's Taxi. After the sparsity in the lesser Grenadines, the comparative wealth and luxury of stocked grocery stores felt a bit strange, but welcome as well. What with all the waiting, hauling and stopping, the 10am shopping bus generally returns to unload about 2pm. I was fortunate this time in that there were only a few others on the bus so we had ample legroom to accommodate the flats of Carib beer, boxes of Smirnoff Vodka and other sailorly vitamins. In fairness, some bags contained bread as well.
I have no idea what we save, but being one of the few non-alcoholic boats out here has got to extend our cruising kitty by some appreciable amount. Say 5%?
Once back and fed, I took the girls to the beach to play, at long last!, while Lisa dinghied to Whisper Cove to do one massive load of laundry.
Day 1068 ~ Mango SadnessAugust 17th, 2013
Lisa and I went into St. Georges via the morning shopping bus, searching for, among other things, a kitchen faucet. The one on the boat hasn't been cosmetically sound for a year or more, but only recently the handle broke clean off in Lisa's grasp. Not good.
In the good 'ol US of A, we'd have 46 to choose from, but here, where a the average wage is about $30 a day, finding a nice, tall single handed affair with pull out nozzle is like searching for a Lexus dealer in Cuba. We stuck out time and again. We finally found one that would work, an off-brand. We'll see how it works out.
We expected the bus to be full since it was picking up from three different bays, but in fact there were only 4 of us, and two got out at the first stop and waited for our return. Lisa and I had the entire bus for most of the morning, which included a stop at the Merry Baker. A South African guy and his English wife came to Grenada some years ago and couldn't find a bakery anywhere. They had never baked themselves, but decided to open shop anyway. Now, some years later, they have a thriving business. Turns out that Chelsea Buns (sort of a combination between cinnamon rolls and bread pudding) and real Ciabatta have universal appeal, even if you grew up on boiled green bananas and callaloo (like spinach) soup.
We then stopped at the local Marketing Board. This is a farmers cooperative kind of place which generally carries the best one-stop selection of freshies. I was stunned to find the all-important mango display, anchor of the store taking up a huge section of premium space, had now been completely replaced with squash.
After nearly 5 months of mango madness, fantastic fruits daily at rock-bottom prices, we were informed with a wave of the hand, that they were "finished". Well, we know a little better as there still are a few to be had on the street, but mango madness has now become mango sadness.
We received an email about 7pm. Our friends the Greens are stuck for at least three extra hours in the airport in St. Lucia. The girls groaned.
Day 1069 ~ Getting High on Your BirthdayAugust 18th, 2013
Well, Erin has been reduced to a Tropical Depression and heading northwest, well away from us. We're in the clear for the moment, but Africa has thrown another low off her coast that may or may not develop into something real, likely the first of many now that summer is well underway.
Swedish pancakes were the first order, then Kalle came over to check my alternator and help me up the mast. In another life Kalle was an electronics engineer, so he understands how electrical systems are really supposed to work.
I have been putting off this masthead trip for months, if not longer. I bought some parts for the job in St. Maarten in January, so that gives you a general idea of the urgency involved. But, Hog Island is flatter than anywhere else, so probably a good time to go for it. Kalle had me up the mast in a flash where I dealt with aging spreader boots and, most importantly, replaced the genny block and U bolt with more substantial equipment.
In a couple of hours of engine room aerobics, Kalle got 3 of our 4 alternators working. The odd man out is the only one that worked a short time ago, before we got the breaker hand-delivered from St. Maarten by cruisers we didn't know, and just happens to be the only one that powers the watermaker. If it isn't one thing, it's another.
The Greens motored into Hog Island and anchored next to us about 1pm. Frenzied excitement and kid chaos ensued. Lisa made my favorite meal for dinner, red pepper pasta with our friends. It's tough to beat good boat friends and good food.
Day 1070 ~ Slip Sliding AwayAugust 19th, 2013
We marshalled forces and hired a local bus driver, Joe, to take us to a local waterfall on the Marquis river. Lisa organized for Elin and Zingay to join us. The falls looked a little intimidating at first and sliders could be seen with rattling jaws on the way down.
Kalle, from Elin and a bit of an extreme sports guy, went first and reported, "No problem!" Nina went next, which surprised Lisa and I. She is not our risk taker. Once she went and reported the same, the other kids and adults, one by one, went for it. After a nice plunge, our lunches hit the spot.
Returned around 3:30p and Zingay came with James and I to do a provisioning run to IGA with our taxi driver.
Kidlets and Lisa returned to the boat to burn off even more kid energy.
Day 1071 ~ Trading TacksAugust 20th, 2013
Why do I believe the bureaucratic weather gurus anyway? Time and again they are wrong and, like a drunk stumbling back into a bar, I just suck down another file and allow it to influence routing decisions. Not that we have much choice. It's still the best information available, but I should know by now that the wind will be 30 degrees off, against our course and substantially stronger than predicted.
Today was, by far, the worst sail this year. Wind kept shifting toward our nose as we turned around the south end of the Grenada trying to head north. We motor-sailed for two hours, then sailed smartly for about an hour. A dark squall line deepened and closed out the light as a curtain falls on a theater. We were pulling along nicely with the genny up, but it was clear that serious winds were ahead. The Hummingbird Day lesson is not soon forgotten. We doused the Genny, which didn't roll well. There was some yelling involved and flailing sheets, but in the end Nana and I got it down and pinned on the tramp. Ten minutes later, we had 25 knots on the nose in a maelstrom of blowing rain and sea. Back to the motors, then, slowly the wind clocked around. By now the day was long gone so James agreed that bailing out to Ronde Island made sense.
GPS location Date/Time:08/20/2013 09:40:45 AKDT
The sun burst through the gray blanket as we chugged into the lee of Ronde Island and set the anchor. First run and we hit rocks and crud. Second try we found deep sand and Spade did what she does best and we were set.
Day 1072 ~ Passive Aggressive SailingAugust 21st, 2013
Passive-aggressive means, basically, acting nice while pulling the rug out from under a person whenever there's a chance to do so while avoiding a direct confrontation. The weather continues this mind game.
We had a bouncy night, mostly as gentle but persistent swells hooked around the northern tip of Ronde Island and into the anchorage. We had noted on arrival, that most of the other boats had stern anchors out to pull their sterns around into the waves. It just seemed like a lot of work for only being here a single night. So, about 2am, I got to tie the stern to the anchor chain to pull us around. It did help some.
We decided to head to Carriacou. By the time breakfast was over and cleaned up, it was nearly 10am. We upped anchor and Lisa turned me into the wind to to raise the main. With kid power, we got it nearly all the way to the masthead with pure pull power. No sooner had we fallen off the wind and started to sail that I noticed the dark crinkle cut through the murky sky ahead, like a fold in a slate gray expanse of asphalt in the sky. This could get interesting.
We shot out of the bay and were slammed with 29 knots of wind on the beam. The wind funnels between Ronde Island and Diamond Island, labelled, "Kick 'Em Jenny" on the charts. Gee I wonder how it got that name!? I blew off the mainsheet some to reduce the load on the rig, but we were still doing 10-11 knots. It felt good to be under sail power, at least.
However, it didn't last long. Within 20 minutes, the squall line had moved south and we were sucked into the doldrums which lay behind it. Zero, flat calm and 2-3 knots of current sweeping us towards Panama. No choice but to keep motoring. And motoring. A few smaller puffs came along, but who where they kidding, Exxon got all the smiles today.
We puttered into the park just in time for the park rangers to collect their "mooring fee". Anchoring, apparently didn't matter. Just existing next to Sandy Cay will cost you.
We took the crew to the beach and James and Nina-Kate swam over a bit later. Lisa tried snorkeling. Not much to see, but there were huge schools of little fish everywhere. On the swim back to the boat, she spotted a large shoal of squid.
Day 1073 ~ Hurry Up and WaitAugust 22nd, 2013
Leisurely morning. James and I headed to Hillsborough to grab a few provisions and check out of Grenadian territory. The winds were fickle again. We managed to sail the first few minutes. Occasionally there were helpful gusts, but for the most part it was another engine day. But, it was sunny and my favorite anchorage in the SVG, Frigate Island, was as hospitable as ever with clear water and excellent holding surrounded by an austere crop of jagged peaks.
James and I bussed to the airport to check into SVG territory. It was your typical island bureaucratic experience. Hurry up and wait, about an hour, for the full bus loads of ferry passengers to complete all their paperwork. Things like that used to stress me out. Now, it's just another laugh. James, fresh in from the go-fast New York advertising scene didn't take it quite so calmly but, as an ex-cruiser, he understood the dichotomy of cultures.
We have motored more in the last three days than in the previous three months.
Day 1074 ~ King DinnerAugust 23rd, 2013
Stayed in Frigate Island for a day. Nice to not have to move. Decent weather today, light winds. Lisa, James and I snorkeled around the south side of Frigate Rock. Colors were fairly flat and few fish, but some interesting coral formations.
James bought a King mackerel from a local fisherman. It was actually fresh, the eyes were still bright. James filleted it up and everyone came to our boat for dinner. We grilled the entire thing on two slabs, being very careful not to overcook the delicate meat. With a little resting time in tin foil after a hot flash on the grill, it was fantastic. Our fishing luck has been pretty poor lately, and I had forgotten how good fish tasted.
Day 1075 ~ Lazy DayAugust 24th, 2013
James and I went to Clifton for some provisioning and adventure. Adventure means, in this context, wondering which of the handful of rickety buses you'll actually end up riding and whether or not the driver will be sucking down a cold beer while weaving between pedestrians or if he'll have 20 gallons of diesel stuffed in between the seats in old Corn Oil jugs.
Yes, all of the above actually happened. We found a pretty lean and mean selection of items in Clifton. With some odd things as well, like 10lb bags of croutons and the single largest jar of Skippy peanut butter I have every seen. At 2kg that will set you back a mere 88EC ($32 USD). Go figure.
James and I took Sea Pearl out for consecutive spins in the afternoon. We wrapped up the day with a corporate dinner together on our boat.
Day 1076 ~ Rocking PalmsAugust 25th, 2013
Started the day off right with Swedish pancakes. We upped anchor and motored straight into the wind for forty minutes towards Palm Island. On the chart, Palm Island looks like a potentially good anchorage, but don't be deceived. It's very deep (18 meters) right up the the sandy beach in the one calm triangle of protection. There are shallower areas both north and south, but both were subject to a nasty, confusing cross roll. Not dangerous, but not comfortable, either. And this in very calm conditions (10 knots of wind all night).
We anchored in the northern patch of shallow sand, but after 10 minutes could see it had no future. We consulted the Greens by VHF and agreed to charge on for the Tobago Cays.
It is a cool spot despite the park fees. We anchored in about 7 feet of crystal clear water over white sand. James anchored close by, within swimming distance, so kids had a blast going back and forth between boats and, in general, getting as wet as possible.
Day 1077 ~ Nasty NeighborsAugust 26th, 2013
I have yet to do a turtle snorkel here in the Tobago Cays, the mecca of all things turtle. Keep putting it off for another time, only to have that time snatched away. Tortoise and Hare anyone? I guess having seen hundreds of turtles in unplanned encounters softens the sting of deprivation just a touch.
James went for a morning swim and reported that jellyfish had moved in during the night. He got a few strokes from the boat, and decided the pain was just not worth it. Oh well.
We upped anchor and motored to Mayreau. Downwind, but when the wind is only 6 knots, that doesn't really work too well. Nothing to do but motor with it.
We anchored in Saline Bay where we enjoyed a few days with What If a couple weeks ago. Good holding and nice swimming fronted by a steep sandy beach the color of, well, sand.
Went snorkeling off the rocks and came back to find a French party boat anchored right next to us with music blaring. There were at least 10 people, mostly young guys, each with a beer in their hands. This was around noon, maybe. If it was this loud this early, the evening was not going to be peaceful. We stuck it out for a few hours, but when the music didn't get any better, and the slurred laughter and drunken, stumbling half-speed dance moves on the trampoline just got more involved, it was time to change neighborhoods.
I had a friend once who surprised me by saying, "I intentionally avoid an opportunity to meet my neighbors. Strangers for neighbors are the best, then there are no disagreements. Once you have a conflict, every time you turn the corner of your street you'll get a touch of that seasick feeling. When I come home I want to feel nothing but happy."
It was a pain to move, but in 10 minutes it was done, and we set the hook in Trois Anse Bay, just to the north. We were out of sight of the Green's boat, and we had all the kids. I had gone over to tell James where we were going, but they were taking a nap so I didn't rap too hard on the hull.
When they awoke, their buddy boat with all the kids was simply gone. Vaporized. Fortunately, James knows us, as well as our tastes, that he "knew exactly what had happened".
They called us on the radio while I was down cooking something. Paloma, the oldest girl and Nina's best sailing friend, answered. When James asked for our location, she said, "I don't know, we just left! I don't know where we are!" Calmer heads soon prevailed and a few minutes later they rounded the corner.
We enjoyed a most peaceful evening. Not a drinking song was heard in any language.
Day 1078 ~ Blessings From AboveAugust 27th, 2013
With our boat as cruise central, to say we are going through water a little faster than normal is to understate the situation. This morning broke cool and overcast, with a promise of showers to come.
We didn't have long to wait. The rains came down and the tanks filled up. Nana made pancakes for the group, the heat from the stove, for once, being welcome. We find that we treasure these slate gray days with cool breezes as much as we used to treasure the rare sunny spectacular ones in Anchorage.
We took the moms and kids to the beach for some walking and exploration. The adults returned while the kids built a huge sand mountain and village. They eventually swam back when they got hungry.
Time got away so ended up staying for another night.
Day 1079 ~ Cold Reality of PhysicsAugust 28th, 2013
With itchy feet and a timetable for the Greens to return their boat in just a few days, we upped anchor and tried sailing to Clifton. We had a nice 10 minutes or so of sailing before a dark ridgeline formed ahead of us and the wind clocked, you got it, right on the nose. That's right, now the wind is blowing from the south, right where we were just a few days ago, trying desperately to get north against northerly gusts.
We dropped all sails, including the genny which had been up a whopping 10 minutes. The wind grew and we were crawling forward at a mere 3.5 knots, fighting a stiff westward current trying to sweep us into the lee of Union Island.
Fortunately, the large squall stayed to the south and buried Carriacou in heavy rain while we maneuvered into Clifton Harbor and got the anchor set. We aimed to hit the exact same spot we used a couple of weeks ago, knowing the holding was ideal. It worked.
Lisa and James headed in and got checked out. While they were out, the winds shifted back to easterly and the sky cleared off. It was now a beautiful blue-bird day, as if nothing had happened. Inspired by the bright weather and fair winds, we upped anchors and actually sailed, yes, sailed, to Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou.
We got off about the same time and James used his motor to get in close, then sucked the wind out from us, just about passing us. This would never do. Now, with engines off, we both tweaked and trimmed as best we could. I luffed a little, allowing him to pass, then veered hard to port and shifted to his windward side. Re-trimming, we slowly, but methodically, reeled them in, meter by meter. Soon our massive genny and main started to suck the air out of their sails and we danced past. Nina and Paloma shook their fists in our direction as Ronan and Nika danced a victory jig on the tramp. An extra 8 feet of waterline proved unstoppable; darn bow wave theory.
We arrived in Tyrrel Bay about 4:30pm, too late to check in.
Day 1080 ~ At Last, a Good SailAugust 29th, 2013
We kicked around alternate plans, but in the end decided to take advantage of what little wind there was to make tracks back to Grenada. The weather gurus say we'll have near zero wind for most of the coming week. We got the anchor up and the genny unrolled in good time. At last, movement under sail. We ripped along for several hours fishing the entire way with nary a nibble.
Eventually we fell within the wind shadow of Grenada's rocky ledges. No choice but to motor the last hour and half setting the hook in Dragon Bay, a dicey proposition, but we did manage to hit a sandy patch. The bottom is strewn with rocks, defunct mooring blocks and large crops of a branchy coral that look like leftovers from a 1950's nuclear test.
Zero wind, sweltering sun. Everyone hit the water. We dingied around to the underwater sculpture garden which is under-documented to say the least. Their website doesn't even have GPS coordinates or a general description of where they might actually be sitting. We eventually found most of the features and were just wrapping up when the Greens motored out of the mirage the sea becomes on these hot windless days.
After dinner at our place, the Greens went to head home when someone looked down in the water. It was teaming with a swarm of Sea Wasps, their tentacles tipped with glowing red tips. If they were solid, you could have walked on them they were packed so densely. They are phototaxic, seeking to embrace the glow of our cockpit LED lighting, but hopelessly confined to the brine. Turns out they are related to the Aussie Box Jelly, and some lawyers I know. Night swim anyone?
Day 1081 ~ Meat FestAugust 30th, 2013
We motored to St. Georges after a quick brekkie. It's only 3 miles, and we had the hook down and checked by 10am. There is quite an assortment of boats here, including an esoteric three story metal catamaran.
The older girls, James, Nina-Kate and I went to IGA for provisions and bussed it there and back. A taxi ride for 5 from IGA to the Port Louis Marina, two miles, was quoted at $50EC dollars ($18). You would think this was New York City.
Since this is potentially our last dinner together, James splurged and bought four kinds of meat for dinner: chicken, rib-eye steak, tuna and mahi-mahi. It was a massive grill fest at our boat. Nina, ever our carnivore, was in seventh heaven. Meat of all kinds and all she could eat. Big steaks, slabs of tuna. James did a great job grilling it all and there were surprisingly few leftovers. Visited until late.
Day 1082 ~ Leaky No MoreAugust 31st, 2013
The Greens fly home tomorrow and must return the boat today by 3pm. We took all the kids while they motored back to Horizon's Charter base in True Blue Bay. I dashed into town and purchased a new galley faucet, as our old one, which has been suffering the better part of a year, had finally become untenable.
Many things can go wrong on a seemingly simple project like this. A fitting can break off, holes that worked for the previous faucet might not fit the new one. But, sometimes, it all comes together. In an hour it was done and working properly, an upgrade to be sure.
I took the kids to the beach later, and then we had one more two-family meal with the entire gang. Way too late, we all piled into the dinghy and puttered the Greens to the dock at Port Louis where a few tears were shed at their parting.