December 2013 ~ Moving On
Day 1174 ~ Day of RestDecember 1st, 2013
Lisa, Nina, Grandma and Dan visited the local Four Square church which is pastored by, none other than, Joe the taxi man who picked us up at the airport and toured us around the island a couple of times.
The girls and I stayed home and had the Swedish Pancakes ready to go when the church going crew returned. We then headed over to Secret Harbor for some volleyball and ended up staying until well past sunset to avoid the rain potential.
My philosophy is that if you live on a boat, you are going to get wet. Perhaps even every day. But the girls just don't see the logic in accepting this fate and go to great lengths, exhausting lengths one might say, to avoid wetness. Whatever floats your boat, I guess.
Day 1175 ~ Math MadnessDecember 2nd, 2013
The usual Monday morning grind: brekkie, lessons and tropical sunshine. No alarm clock, no busses to catch, no cars to start or defrost, but plenty of long division for Nana, who exclaims nearly every morning, "Math is SOOOO tedious. What's the Point!?" Considering that Nana's chance of becoming an engineer are roughly the same as DNA spontaneously forming in a lightning-stricken primordial soup, she may have a point. However, we stick to our story and a stiff upper lip and say, "Math is important, you must know it. Sorry to break the bad news but now you need to get busy."
Grandma and Lisa went noodling. Apparently, there is an ex-Marine drill sergeant who likes to do "double time!" The girls come back whipped.
Dan leaves in 6 days so we cracked down on the hardtop, getting the trim fitted (Dan doing the really elegant parts). Nana ended up not feeling well today. I wonder if the math lesson was just too much.
Day 1176 ~ Hard-ly DoneDecember 3rd, 2013
The girls did their morning noodle, then Lisa headed out for some shopping and an appointment with the eye doctor. Medical care here is amazingly cheap and, generally, highly professional, at least for routine things.
Got some good hours in on the hard top project this morning. Epoxy-filleted the edging and did some final fairing. Getting close to have it ready to haul back to the boat. Given that it is so large and cumbersome, and windy of late, the prospect of lifting it into place gives one a touch of the chills. I lay in bed at night trying to envision different systems of hoisting it with a halyard run to a winch at the base of the mast, but nothing really seems to click.
More volleyball and kid play at Secret Harbor in the afternoon. Was supposed to launch the website on Dec 1, but we ended up punting until today. It all went smoothly which is, by no means, a foregone conclusion.
Day 1177 ~ The Whole FishDecember 4th, 2013
More hard top finish work in the morning, we're painting now. Using grip additive for a non-skid, non-smooth finish. This should help to hide some of the finishing flaws that Yours Truly didn't have the patience to fair and sand again for the 4th time.
Everyone loaded up and headed over to Secret Harbor, yet again, for a round of laundry and volleyball. I stayed behind to work in silence.
We arranged for the animal rescue people to take Pippin in for his neutering session. Poor guy thought I was abandoning him for sure. He had such a pitiful look on his face as he was placed in the cubby of the dog catcher truck. Probably thought we had had enough of him.
Grandma and Lisa went to Gordon and Val's for lunch and were treated to some genuine Caribbean fish soup. They use the whole fish, head, bones, eyes and all. They brought home a sample which I thought was exceptionally tasty. Grandma wasn't too keen on the floating fins. Slippery suckers.
Day 1178 ~ Island TourDecember 5th, 2013
More hard top work in the morning. Dan leaves in 3 days, so the pressure is on to get things wrapped up, or at least out from under the bridge.
Gordon took Grandma and Lisa on an island driving tour, girls stayed behind to play. Gordon loves to drive and show off Grenada's abundant natural beauty. Lisa took lots of pictures, naturally.
Day 1179 ~ Moving DayDecember 6th, 2013
Sometimes your brain makes things out to be larger than they really are. After laying awake the last few nights trying to figure out how to move the hardtop, which would make a great, rigid kiteboard sail, without risking an accident, it finally hit me today. We just need more hands.
The top is very light (for its size). Dan and I can lift it ourselves without a strain. However, standing on level ground and lifting it six inches above the frame and setting it down again is one thing, maneuvering it from a floating, shifting dinghy up the back steps and onto the frame is something entirely different. So, we asked around and managed to round up 4 more guys and another dinghy. We debated doing a dual dinghy approach to float it to the boat, but opted in the end for a single for maneuverability.
Then the magic happened. With the dinghy secured to dual painters so its bow wouldn't swerve around too much, we got two guys each on the back steps, one in the center and up she came, much like anti-gravity. I think I was only lifting 10 lbs, maybe. The entire thing took 20 seconds, maybe 30, and there she sat, a decent fit.
Then, the sacred moment. Walking on the top felt fantastic. Just think, no more rain leaks! We no longer have to scramble to pull in cushions and stuff every time it rains.
The Vet people called and Pippin was ready to return. I went to retrieve him since I was the bad guy who dropped him off. He was very excited to see us, but, oh dear! What was that thing on his head?
The Cone of Shame.
Day 1180 ~ Hot WiredDecember 7th, 2013
Usual morning for the kidlets, lessons and brekkie. They were hot to trot over to Secret Harbor for some kid play right after lunch, but the adults (boring!) didn't want to surrender the dinghy. After some verbal arm twisting, it finally dawned on the fearsome threesome that if they wanted to get some place where Mom and Dad didn't want to drive, then they had better take their own car, or in this case Sea Pearl.
With the new top on and sort of fastened down, it soon became apparent that we needed solar power, and soon. The winds are still blowing, but not particularly hard. With the laptop running nearly 12 hours a day, the batteries are beginning to suffer. I slid a couple of the larger panels out from their weighted stacks (the idea of a solar panel taking flight in a wind gust just doesn't seem so charming) and proceeded to wire them together. Not as easy to do as to say. Most of the panels are linked in with 10 or 12 gauge wire and wire nuts, the home construction solution just isn't done on boats. So, after some head scratching, scrounging and jumpering, I finally managed to get three panels wired in parallel to at least bring in some electrical power. My top grade wiring, completely compliant with ABYC safety standards and spacings, would send my Dad into a "What is this, the Philippines?" spiral.
Ah, it's just temporary, right? Sure glad these panels don't put out serious current. At a couple of hundred volts, this could get downright dangerous. But even at 15 volts, when Pippin came up to sniff the wires, he got an earful.
Day 1181 ~ Sleep SundayDecember 8th, 2013
Alarm clock when off early. Grandma and Daniel need to get to Joe's taxi at 6am. After a final packing scramble, we managed to get everything, including Grandma, into the dinghy.
Swedish pancakes, while appreciated, weren't quite the same without Grandma; perhaps it's time to wrap this boat thing up. Before long, the kids went off to play and I laid down for a nap that turned into a three hour snooze. All the mad rush to finish the hardtop set me back a bit.
Mid-afternoon we dinghied around the point for more volleyball; with few kids left, we're taking full advantage of this three-day-a-week activity. Dan and I had left the Honda 3KW generator hanging from our davits for the owner to pick up after work. On our return, as we rounded the point we saw the him, his son and the genset dinghying to his car parked at Secret Harbor so we turned back to lend a hand then continued on our way. Nice to have that job done.
Day 1182 ~ Freedom for PuppiesDecember 9th, 2013
Noodling and lessons first thing. Lisa then headed over to meet Jenny the dog and fruit lady who immediately looked Pippin over and pronounced that the Cone of Shame could be removed. Pippin didn't say thank you, but he ran around with an extra spring in his step.
Lisa dropped me off to catch the bus to town in hopes of finding some brackets for the solar panels. Long trip involving many stops and re-directing to other shops. Finally found "the place" everyone was talking about. They had a huge selection of aluminum extrusions and were happy to cut to specification. Surprised and relieved to even find customer service with smile.
Nina took Sea Pearl to Secret Harbor then walked to Prickly Bay to say goodbye to Cape who is leaving for Tobago. That's a good hour's trip on her own. She's no longer a child, at least in many ways. It won't be long now, and the trips will get longer and longer.
I puttered over to the bridge work site, hopefully for the last time. I dismantled the hard top frame and returned the lumber I had borrowed from Roger, throwing in some extra pieces that were no longer needed. Nana is changing too; she cooked up a nice meatloaf dinner and then insisted on washing dishes to boot. Not sure what's got into that girl, but whatever it is, I guess it is good.
Daniel and Gramma landed in Alaska at 6:30pm, our time, 36 and a half hours after leaving the boat.
Day 1183 ~ Emma Goes PublicDecember 10th, 2013
The Cruisers Net is a morning radio program on VHF channel 68. A Net Controller opens the broadcast with basic safety information, weather and then MCs the exchanges between boats as they seek information, security issues, parts/services questions, treasures of the bilge offers, shopping bus availability and local business ads.
Everyone listens. You can stand outside in the cockpit and hear it echoing from boats throughout the anchorage. Nina is usually up and listening to catch all the news, up and coming events, who's coming, who's leaving, etc.
Finally she worked up the courage to ask me if she thought she, Nina, could be a net controller. We talked about the possible problems, unexpected emergencies, cantankerous sailors, combative personalities, of which there are a few around, etc. She accepted that any of these things might happen. Then she contacted Jean on Olive and it was agreed that Dec 10th would be her day.
She was a little nervous at first, but pulled through and did a great job. We were very proud. I took the shopping bus to town for a last round of provisions and overheard many people asking, "Did you hear that young lady on the radio this morning....?"
Departure frenzy has begun which meant a long shopping bus. Provisioned well and managed to find more parts and pieces for the hard top, solar and water catchment system. Nina went to Secret Harbor to play with another boat kid. Nana and Nika stayed to finish math. Epoxied more joints and drilled holes for water catchment. Nika helped me epoxy in the water catchment tubes; that girl just loves the sticky stuff. Then we were off play volleyball. One of the vet school students came over with Pippin's adoption papers to sign so he's now officially ours.
Other cruisers have bragged about good rib prices at the meat market next to Ace so I swung in and snagged a rack. Okay, okay, so I knew Pippin would enjoy the leftovers. Nika, our finicky eater wasn't too sure at first, but after a few tentative bites she, too, dug in with gusto. There were only bones left and Pippin dove in with relish. We rationed him to one rib a day and he was in heaven.
Day 1184 ~ Last, Mad ScrambleDecember 11th, 2013
Crazy day of departure preparation. Nina and I started working on the solar panel installation. Long and tedious it would prove to be. Working through the heat of the day was probably a mistake, but we really needed some solar in place before we took to the sea.
Lisa went noodling, then to get fruit, dog papers and meds from Jenny at Le Phare Bleu. Of course, she couldn't check out because Immigration officer decided not to show up that morning. The Customs guy said that he would try to get someone in after 1pm.
Lisa came back for lunch, called and immigration did actually show up so headed back to the marina a second time. The canvas shop next door had just the right amount of Sunbrella material in stock for our back awning so she bought that. When she returned, Nana and Nika were anxiously awaiting to go to Secret Harbor to play one last time with Nina and Zoe from Iza so we all piled in and zoomed off again.
Back by dark for dinner, I had a teleconference at 7, then finally got 6 of 8 panels done by 10pm. A quick clean up to minimize flying objects for tomorrow's voyage and called it a day. Working in the dark with flashlights was actually a lot more productive than the middle of the day simply because it was so much more comfortable.
Day 1185 ~ Bashing NorthDecember 12th, 2013
Morning rituals, final email check, last-minute stowage and we were off our ball at 9:35am. Not bad for having not moved since Oct 29th.
Good winds, raised the sails, went around Point Salines and set our course for due north. We had to motor for a short period in the lee of Grenada's mountain range, but then the wind filled in nicely.
About 5pm we were between Carriacou and Union island; the winds shifted northerly and the seas grew rough and confused. This proved to be the pattern. Nice sailing in the lee of the islands with rough stretches in between, particularly around the upper ends of each island where the wind, with its northerly component, is compressed around their tips thus kicking up short steep seas. A few hours of peace followed by a few of mayhem and repeat.
GPS location Date/Time:12/12/2013 11:32:09 AKST
Day 1186 ~ The Perfect FinishDecember 13th, 2013
Rough ride. Between islands the wind and waves were crazy, in the lee of them it was noticeably calmer. Even 36 nautical miles due-West of Martinique the winds were a nice and calm at 15 knots, the seas were small and even. Then, like clock work, as we cleared the island, the howling started again. With each island northward, the wind peaks grew fiercer. The highest we saw around Carriacou was 26 knots, but around Dominica they ramped up to 32 knots.
Each gap was a washing machine of steep confused seas and high winds. We took many hard bridge deck slams. At one point Lisa looked aft from the salon through the floor boards and hollered, "We have a problem -- I see the sea!" Sure enough the fiberglass door which allows access to the underside of the cockpit storage area had been ripped off. Alas, another fiberglass project.
The sun set as we slipped along peacefully in the lee of Dominica and then the rage started again. This time, however, it seemed to last only a few miles when the wind backed and we ripped along at nearly 10 knots at times with 22 knots of wind nearly on the beam.
As we closed in on the narrow southern pass to Les Saintes I went to turned on the port engine and...CHUNK...nothing. Approaching a rough coast in the dark with no moon and no engines didn't sound like a great idea. Fortunately, the starboard fired right up and actually revved up without delay. The wind did swirl a bit as we threaded through the 100 meter opening between rocks punctuated with crashing waves, but GPS is a wonderful thing. Both our chart plotters were on and watched with many eyes. After we turned to drop the main, the engine refused to rev back up so we were forced to putter the rest of the way into the bay at 2.5 knots. There was a little moon now and we could see a dark line coming. We managed to get Bruce down and pulled back against him as hard as our one wimpy, but working, engine would allow -- not enough to feel a firm jerk. We just got our awnings down when 40 knots of wind slammed into us and also accompanied by heavy rain, a virtual fire hose.
There's a little current in this anchorage and we had swirled off to the side of our anchor. When the wall of air hit us, we immediately turned sideways to and started to slide backwards. The jerk of Bruce's authority nearly knocked us over. I guess he really is set.
We arrived at 10:35pm, 37 hours from departure and 230 nautical miles (265 mi) up island giving us a 6.2 knot (7.1 mph) average. The rain desalted the boat and filled our water tanks with our new hard top water catchment system; a two-for-one deal. Cool. Could have been a perfect finish if wasn't for an engine that doesn't start and two missing hatch doors.
GPS location Date/Time:12/13/2013 02:56:11 AKST
GPS location Date/Time:12/13/2013 10:08:32 AKST
Day 1187 ~ Carnage Clean UpDecember 14th, 2013
Started Saturday off running. Cleaned up the carnage, desalted the cockpit and inside leaks, cleared in, did a load of salty laundry and found five other boat friends on the town's moorings. Two more with us in the anchorage. A regular Hog Island reunion!
As we loaded into the dinghy I noticed that not one, but both, aft doors had been lost. Darn. I should have fixed those questionable hinges I noted back in Grenada and then promptly forgot about.
Thankfully, there is a small lip at the back of the storage area, so no spare propane bottles, gas cans or spare anchors were lost in the making of this passage.
Day 1188 ~ A Dive At LastDecember 15th, 2013
Lisa doesn't ask for much but she has been hankering for a dive of late. Didn't happen with Dan, we were too busy with the hard top and activities.
We started the day right with Swedish pancakes and then Elin came to play dominoes and visit. The kids were overtaken by the urge to conduct chemistry experiments in the galley, most featuring baking soda and vinegar.
Laurie's (Moana Roa) 50th birthday is today so Sonia asked if Lisa could take him diving and then go with her for a refresh. We had about 25 minutes of air in our tanks yet, so took each on a quick trip at Pain de Sucre. They had a blast.
Headed over in the late afternoon to a restaurant where we would celebrate Laurie's big day. We got together at the pool for drinks at 5pm so the kids could swim and adults could visit. Dinner was served at 8pm so, while most stayed for the food portion, we opted to save the $140 dining tab and zip back to the boat for homemade pizzas. The prices here in the French islands seem to show the same numbers as Grenada, but instead of dividing EC dollars by 2.7, we now have to multiply Euros by 1.37. Yikes.
Day 1189 ~ Bad Engine DayDecember 16th, 2013
Kids did their lessons while Lisa and I dinghied to town. A nice cruiser we met last night has an air compressor and generously agreed to fill our tanks for us. Bought some provisions, baguettes (of course), postage stamps and were back by lunchtime.
Finally looked into the port engine issue. Tested the battery, it seemed to be fine. It actually sounds like its hydro locked but can't see how that's possible. Kris came over and we finally pulled an injector out and hand-cranked it over. A geyser of salt water shot out. Had to pull all three injectors out and then cranked her over again. It looked like a fast action movie of Old Faithful.
Not good but, thanks to the patient help of Kris and Dimitri from Windchasers, we pumped all the water out, drained and re-filled the oil and then cranked her over. She fired right up and purred like a kitten. In fact, after a few more oil changes, the oil now stays clean and golden longer than ever. It now runs like a champ, thus confirming Kris's experience that a good internal salt water flush is just what old engines need.
Day 1190 ~ Scrub and ScrapeDecember 17th, 2013
Started out the day repaying Dimitri, the former diesel mechanic, by helping him scrape the barnies and slime off of his hulls. He took the starboard side, and I took the port. A bit sloshy in the anchorage this morning, so there was plenty of salt in the mouth before we were done.
Next on the list was a second oil change on the port engine and the temporary covers for the lost hatch doors. The oil change went smoothly, if slowly. I borrowed What If's jig saw to cut the old sign material into the correct, rounded-corner shapes. The process involved not a little noise which ended up also running off some charterers who had anchored a little too close to us. A cool, two-for-one tool!
As long as I was in project mode, I pulled the last two solar panels out of Nana's room to start the installation process. While retrieving them I found that two sharp metal corners had cut into the lining of the wall panel due to all the rocking and rolling we had experienced. We have some extra/leftover liner and what's another boat project when you've got an endless list already?!
What If is headed north tomorrow morning so, despite the project madness, we'll probably be following in their tracks.
Day 1191 ~ Out of Hot WaterDecember 18th, 2013
Most of the kid boats pulled out first thing, but we were far from ready. Spent the next couple hours cleaning up plastic shavings, and what seems like acres of grease and engine oil hand prints creating a mural of gray on the white gelcoat of our port stern sugar scoop.
Just putting all the tools back in their proper places seems to take a half an hour. Both forward lockers had taken some sea water due to repeated wave submersions and washes over the deck which had settled in the bottom. No choice but to excavate the contents and break out the towels and buckets.
The girls grew desperate as they watched What If and company sail northward. We finally upped anchor and got underway about 10am and headed for our favorite spot on the mainland of Guadeloupe, Pigeon Island. Nice sail, not too choppy. As the wind moved around from behind, it got quite calm. Eventually, we did have to provide engine power as the mountains foil the Trade Winds. Port engine needed running anyway as it's still recovering from the salt water intake.
Kids went off to play at the beach and we needed a few provisions and clean laundry. Led a small dinghy armada to the "secret" fishing harbor with all amenities just a minute walk ashore. Lisa had been saving up all the sheets from when our guests were here so she could use the huge front-loading washers with hot water that the French provide so well. Or, so we thought. Turns out there's no hot water today in the big machine. Judging from her reaction, I guess this is a *really big deal*.
Day 1192 ~ Zipping Around GuadeloupeDecember 19th, 2013
A usual kid day. With boat friends nearby, school snapped right along. Lisa and I, along with Tim (Pollux), Dean (What If) and Dimitri (Windchasers) rented a little Clio for the day to do some shopping. We finally landed a French Digicel SIM card for our phone, which should provide us with reliable, reasonably fast internet. You never really know for sure, though, when you plunk down the money.
We hopped around to various chandleries, enjoyed a decent lunch and then stopped at the massive Carrefour mall. With its bright lights, glitter, bling and hoards of people it's always a bit of a shock to our cruiser equilibrium. I mean, really, is bling that important? The waves just don't seem to care.
Exhausted, but reasonably satisfied with our finds, we weaved our way over the spiny mountains just as the sun settled in the west.
Day 1193 ~ Kids CommunityDecember 20th, 2013
Lessons in the morning while Lisa and I went to return the car. Rainy and cloudy all day with occasional blasts of wind from the easterly peaks. Elin and Emily Grace came over to do arts and craft in the afternoon while Nina went knee boarding with Pollux and What If. Since the kids were quietly and busily crafting, I was able to tackle some much-needed computer work.
Day 1194 ~ Powering UpDecember 21st, 2013
The idea of nearly doubling our solar array was, in fact, to get more power, as opposed to adding large black rectangles to our interior decor.
After carting these monsters around for what feels like a month, Nina and I finally got down to business and mounted the last two-part panels on the starboard side. Looks like we are bringing in about 20-24 amps per side, so somewhere in the neighborhood of 44amps of 12V power in during the peak sunny hours. That's what some folks get by running an engine. Needless to say, I am all smiles. Perhaps I'll even surprise Nina with that most sacred of all appliances, an electric toaster.
Lisa and I took Pippin for a little swim to cool off after all that work. Despite being a boat dog, he's none too fond of water.
Day 1195 ~ Diving RushDecember 22nd, 2013
Started the day out right with Swedish pancakes. Elin joined us bringing a plate of the actual "Swedish" pancakes along. Theirs went faster than ours. Maybe the Swedes do have something figured out in the pancake department.
Kids played on the boat for a while Lisa and Kalle took Pollux's Brownie (floating, gas-powered dive compressor) for a test run. They had fun, and Lisa got some nice pictures. However, nothing seems to happen without a little twist. About 30 minutes into the dive the engine cut out and they had to make a run for the surface. Good thing they weren't too deep. I think we'll stick with tanks, painful as they are to haul around and get refilled.
Day 1196 ~ Pippin, the SaltyDecember 23rd, 2013
Ripped out the jury-rigged wiring on the port solar array and drilled proper holes. Fished, pulled and fitted until I am reasonably confident we won't entice more water into the boat through the new openings.
Kids did math that took all morning. The idea that other boat kids get today off from school just rubbed salt into the wounds. I puttered over to Leader Price in hopes of finding some of the kangaroo meat advertised in their Christmas coupon book. I wanted to try something new but, alas, they were sold out. Don't get the feeling I'll be seeing that in the Anchorage Costco anytime too soon.
Nika and Nana went to Emily Grace to do art and Nina went to the beach with Maya from Elin. Once the boat was quiet, I put in several hours of work while Lisa started crafting a brand spanking new Alaska flag, turning down all offers to epoxy the stars on and save all that tedium. She's just not as excited about the sticky stuff as I am. Go figure.
I flippered Pippin to the beach via the boogie board. Poor guy was so excited to see land he jumped off at the last 10 feet and dashed ashore. He generously shared his salt with several sun bathers with a vigorous shake.
Day 1197 ~ Another day, another rescueDecember 24th, 2013
During the night, the swell train from south moved in making for a rocky night. By morning things had calmed down some, but I am sure this will add to the "move to Deshaies" politics. Cloudy during the day with patches of sun. Today is Christmas Eve so we will host the kid boat get-together in the afternoon with food and a Secret Santa gift exchange between the kids (10 kids and 10 adults). Such are the duties of having the largest boat in the fleet.
Late morning with French toast, then kids worked at cleaning up a bit while I made a quick provisioning trip to the store. Nana made an apple pie then all went off to play at the beach. Kris and Dean came over for a visit with Sam, their dog. Pippin, of course, started nipping and playing. Eventually, Sam grew weary and put him in his place with a few barks and snarls, establishing no doubt as to who the Alpha dog was. Interesting to watch.
Mid-afternoon, I dashed off to the store for some ice to make ice cream for the pie. Kalle and Lisa heard a man holler out for help so Lisa threw him a life-ring and Kalle came over with his dinghy to take him to shore. This is the second person we've had to rescue from this area. Based on the number of clueless tourists who don't understand the power of the sea, it's amazing there aren't more.
Everyone started arriving around 4pm. Managed to get all 20 on board and seated pretty comfortably. Kids mixed in between salon and cockpit. Using a large bag of ice and lots of salt, I managed to make about two quarts of homemade ice cream in Ziploc bags, squeezing and squishing them by hand every few minutes. It was excellent and, between Kalle and I, there were no leftovers.
It was a fun evening with the cruiser gang.
Day 1198 ~ Rock and MoveDecember 25th, 2013
Rocky all night again. This is going to be the last straw. Sure enough, everyone was keen to head north to the next bay so we followed behind. Based on the size and proximity of the mountain range I expected to have to motor the entire way, but, in fact, it turned out be a great Christmas day sail. With 20-32 knots of wind, we made good time and, at a few points, we hit 10.5 knots of speed.
We had the usual Deshaies anchoring drama; we dropped twice only to pull the anchor out with moderate tugs in reverse. I was in the water both times and watched with chagrin as both just popped right out of the grassy bottom. The scary thing is many of the boats in the bay don't bother to pull back at all. They won't know there's a problem until there's a real problem. Of course, it will also be dark.
We moved over to anther area. With me in the water and Nina on the windlass, we managed to drop Spade on a small patch of sand. Lisa backed up and I watched the hook set and hold tenaciously on the first go. Ah, much better.
I went to town to walk Pippin and get off the boat. Elin came over for a round of dominoes with the remaining crew. April, from Spirit of Argo, came later and joined in the fun. Starboard engine wouldn't start at one point, so I ran through all the connections, cleaning and tweaking. No love.
Kalle came to help, went into the battery bank area and, 15 seconds later hollered up, "Give it a try now". Bam! She fired right up. Loose connection at the battery terminal which, come to think of it, I had found some time before but never got around to fixing. Grrr, procrastination really bites on a boat.
Day 1199 ~ The Big Mall TripDecember 26th, 2013
We decided to ride the bus to the big Carrefour shopping mall. The kids have worn through a number of swim shirts and there is a large sporting goods store there with, supposedly, fair prices. Having scoped out the bus stop the night before, we knew the time and place, but what to do with the dog?
The girls were interested in a little companionship, so we traded Pippin for Maya (Elin's daughter) and headed in to shore. The bus arrived right on time and soon we were aboard and flying along through the rolling hills.
The girls had been pretty skeptical of "the bus" while remembering many a tight, sweaty, steamy, cramped island bus. Alas, this is France. The bus was huge, well appointed and very tall. Like those busses that Princess Cruise lines use to move people from Anchorage to Seward and back again. Nana was very impressed.
It was an hour and 10 minutes or so to the mall and we arrived about 10:50a.
While Lisa did the serious shopping, the girls and I walked through the sporting goods store which rivals any back in the states. All kinds of cool stuff and, I would say, an overall higher standard of quality for a little more money.
Eventually, all the shopping was done so we headed out for some food. Here is where the European standard of quality really shows. There wasn't a mall offering for less than 4 Euros ($6 USD) a serving. I finally sucked it up and ordered 6 slices of pizza, picking the flavors pretty much at random. Maya was nearby and asked for a slice of salmon pizza; feeling in an adventurous spirit, I went for a tuna slice as well. Both were outstanding, probably the best pizza I have had in years and discovered under a hot light in the center aisle of the mall. When it comes to food, the French really do have the upper hand.
While we were all still a little hungry, promises of ice cream to come kept the masses at peace. We wandered around Carrefour for while and then, with careful timing, selected our favorite flavors and checked out as quickly as possible. Spoons had already been packed and ready. There were no leftovers.
By the time we returned, it was nearly 5pm. Pippin and Love were running around the beach as kids and dogs have done for centuries.
The total bus fare was nearly the same as renting a car, but without the cost of fuel. Perhaps that would have been the wiser choice, but then I guess there wouldn't have been enough seats. French cars can barely do five, much less six.
Day 1200 ~ Busting Our ShouldersDecember 27th, 2013
It seemed like a good idea. Instead of renting a car for the budget crunching sum of 32 Euros plus some gas money, Kalle and I took the bus to the nearest Leader Price for a last stock up on some of the French goods that will become scarce once we move on and cool our jets in Antigua and St. Maarten.
Specifically, Leader Price has really excellent canned spiced tomatoes, perfect for chilis and sauces, very nice corn, and top grade tuna fish. The prices aren't great compared to Costco back home, but they are better than most other islands in the chain.
Somehow we got the bus schedule crossways. We waited, and waited. Eventually we snagged a snack at a nearby little convenience store when, at last, the bus arrived. Lisa had written up a paper asking the driver to drop us at the nearest Leader Price. The words didn't look that large, but the driver seemed confused.
Kalle and I just shrugged and sat down. I had a fair idea of where the Leader Price was so figured, if worst came to worst, a little window tapping would effect the message just as well. Another beautiful drive around the mountain; farms and fields flashed past, sprinkled liberally with goats and an occasional cow, the huge humped kind with the drooping ears and neck. The kind they have in India.
The bus ended up stopping right in front of Leader Price to pick up other people, so it was a simple matter to get off. Total cost for the both of us, $8 Euros.
We did our shopping, perhaps 30 minutes worth of picking and choosing. I was trying to ration my selections with an eye towards weight. I wouldn't have to carry them too far, perhaps only 100 yards, but I didn't want to have to make two trips on and off a crowded bus.
When the time came to unload the cart, it was clear I had underestimated the weight, or overestimated my strength. I could barely stand; guess I am getting old.
We waited a long time again for the bus, perhaps 30 or 40 minutes. Kalle is good company, so the time didn't weigh too heavily. We talked inventions, ideas and philosophies of life. The bus was fairly full and there were some awkward moments stumbling on with my bricks of steel cans. A few French shoulders were clubbed, I am afraid.
It was a slow ride back, with many stops to let people off, but the bus slowly emptied. We were the last few to reach the end of the line in Deshaies. Thanks to a hand from Kalle, we were able to exit the bus in one pass, paying $10 Euros this time (not sure why, language barrier and all?).
By now, it was nearly 1pm. We shouldered our burdens the 50 yards or so to the dinghy dock and called Nina for a pick up. Since we paid $18 Euros in bus fare, and my back hurt for a couple of days afterward, I question the brilliance of the bus approach. We saved $14 Euros ($7 each), but spent a couple of extra hours and suffered some at the same time. That netted us each about $3 Euros an hour. You couldn't pay me that much to eat free McDonalds' food. At some point, I need to stop thinking like a pauper and remember I have computer work to do; every hour counts for a lot more than four bucks.
Lisa took the girls to beach with Elin while I worked, then they came back for dinner and dominoes. Played 'til 10pm.
Day 1201 ~ Blue JewelDecember 28th, 2013
I awoke to the sound of Elin's anchor rattling home. They were up and moving at the crack of dawn, 6:30am. Yikes, those Swedes can get moving early.
With a faster boat and only 42 miles to go to reach Antigua, we had the luxury of just laying there and waking up slowly. We had prepared some the night before so it didn't take long to get the boat up and moving. We opted to do a leisurely breakfast first, well, just because we could.
The winds were about what they usually are this time of year, well north of east, making for pinched sailing. Apparent wind was about 40 degrees, enough to sail well, but not enough to be really comfortable. Just a little too crashy and bashy.
About halfway across, a large trawler-style mega-yacht passed us, very slowly. We were doing 7.5-8 knots pointing into 17-18 knots of wind. They slowly gained and then passed us, their massive prow bow crushing the 6-7 foot on-coming waves with huge hammer like bursts of white spray and foam. The yacht, about 100 feet long and probably 200 tons, muscled the swell aside with barely a sway of motion, no doubt dynamically stabilized by unseen arms in the water.
Nina tried not to look too awestricken, but neither did her eyes leave the swift strong glittering craft for a few moments. "I want to work on a mega-yacht someday!" she exclaimed as it finally passed us and our view was diminished by a wallet-shrinking haze of diesel exhaust. Okay, kid.
We arrived in Falmouth Harbor about 3pm and found an anchor spot next to Pollux and What If. It was about 3pm, plenty of time still to get checked in and settled.
Day 1202 ~ Out Sailing the BoysDecember 29th, 2013
Hard to believe it's already the end of the year. It really doesn't seem that long ago we were leaving St. Maarten ten months ago.
Pollux signed up with the local yacht club and got a sailing dinghy for each of their kids. These are Picos, large, open-stern laser-like boats, with considerably more waterline and sail area than Sea Pearl. I usually have to coax the girls into getting Sea Pearl down, but this time I was the "slow" one. It's amazing what a little peer pressure will do. Perhaps that was Hitler's secret.
After contriving to hobble together our broken tiller pole extension, Nina took off to catch the boys. And catch she did. Despite her sail power disadvantage two years on the water really shone through. She caught them, passed them and just flat-out sailed them up and back and forth again. Nika danced around the stern steps like she was stepping on hot egg shells; waiting for big sis' is worse than a kitchen full of watched pots. After 30 minutes or so, they started sharing the boat and a wet, wild and fun time was had by all. The Picos were dumped and rolled many a time.
Pollux and Elin came over for dominoes while I walked Pippin on shore. Elin ended up stayed for dinner again. It was a blast.
Day 1203 ~ Washing DayDecember 30th, 2013
In Little House on the Prairie, "laundry day" was an all day event, requiring preplanning and plenty of elbow grease. Some things never change.
The piles were accumulating and, with the watermaker running on "free" power from the sun, there were buckets a-plenty for sudsing and rinsing. It's not the washing machine Lisa wanted, but it does get the job done.
I tackled some computer work while the crew played dominos. time slipped away too quickly; after two nights of eating at our place without really planning to, Elin insisted on feeding us this time, but on our boat. Theirs is really too small for even them. Nina (Elin) brought her famous black bean and chickpea cakes. Amazingly, Nika gobbled them up. I guess since the Elin kids were excited about them, the psychological "new food, yuck!" instinct was suppressed. That girl does not like change.
Day 1204 ~ Goodbye YearDecember 31st, 2013
We don't take summer school breaks and we don't do a Christmas vacation. However, after considerable debate, we agreed to suspend lessons from Christmas through New Year's Day. Nika woke up happy this morning; no math!
Nana's adult-like behavior has really put me in a pinch. We are simply running out of things with which to reward her. When she found "the perfect" bow (a stick) on the beach and then noted that it really was a little too flexible; I got the hint. So, we commenced Fiberglass 101. We mixed epoxy, cut glass and wore plastic gloves together. It actually came out pretty good, but most importantly she got the message that what was important to her was important to me.
As the sticky stuff got hard, the kids took off to the beach. Lisa and I enjoyed a nice walk over to English Harbor, ostensibly in pursuit of a batten for an awning, but really to just stretch our legs and spend some time together, sans enfants.
Once back on the boat, I realized, a little too late, that if we were going to make ice cream for tonight it was time to get cracking. The store was sold out of ice (hello, New Year's Eve?) but, mercifully, the gas station down the street was still well stocked, and at half the price.
Nina made a fantastic, picture book perfect bundt cake and the homemade passion fruit ice cream didn't come out too badly either. Two liters of the stuff disappeared without a trace, except for a few drips on the floor, which Pippin and Charlie soon licked clean.
We stayed at Pollux until about 9pm, then retired. Boat life just isn't conducive to staying up all night. The sun comes up early and fierce.
Lisa and the girls ended up staying up for the fireworks at midnight. Pippin did well, but shivered the whole time for the mercifully short display. Rain came just after the last blast, so it was quiet the rest of night.