July 2013 ~ Grenada
Day 1051 ~ Hauling Water, AgainJuly 31st, 2013
Lisa joined the Hog Island noodlers this morning for some in-water exercise. Hog Island is like living in a trailer park complete with a stadium size pool.
I took another shopping bus to town and managed to find some wifi to deal with a couple of client issues thanks to Skype.
This is supposed to be the rainy season. We made extensive preparations for the sweltering heat and torrential rains, but, so far, they have just never come. As a result we are now out of water. It would take 8 hours of engine running water making to fill the tanks completely, so it seems wisest to break out the jerry cans and 200 liter bag. Since this is the first time we've had to buy water in several months, there's not too much to complain about. And, at $5 to fill them all, it's a steal of a deal.
Day 1050 ~ Mini Bus FunJuly 30th, 2013
Kris on What If arranged a tour with a taxi man named Joe. Evenstar and Tsi Na Pah (a French kid boat) joined us. We all met at Clarke's Court Marina at 9am and piled into the Nissan mini-van. These are not like vans in the states. Mini means mini.
Joe drove us nearly an hour to the Grenada Chocolate Factory where we learned how local beans are harvested, fermented, dried and then used to make organic chocolate bars which are exported to Whole Foods in the States, among others. Of course, there were free 60%, 71% and 100% samples afterwards, which were really what all the bean-oholics had come for.
We piled back in the van and rode to the Seven Sisters waterfall. Well, actually just to the trail head. It's a vigorous 20 minute scramble up and down some mud-greased, root-clawed slopes to the actual water fall, which is spectacular. The cool, crystal clear, fresh water pools beneath each of the falls are like something from a fantasy novel. A while after we had come, another group appeared with a local kid who had pitched us his "guiding" service when we had arrived. While we had politely declined, the next touristas, all pale skinned and naïve, had taken him up on the offer.
The kid, perhaps 19, was all sinew with a light accent of tightly bound muscle. He was tall and spry, probably tipping the scales at 120 pounds, max. Apparently, he had been deprived since birth of the health wonders that only high fructose corn syrup can provide. I mean the poor guy probably grew up eating fresh fruits and veggies from his mom's garden. How miserable is that?
Upon arrival, while his charges were still changing into swim trunks, he scrambled up the side of the falls like a cat on a wall. Once that top, he took a couple of deep breaths, turned his back to the falls and jumped.
It was easily a 45-foot plunge, which he executed with flare and composure, doing a perfect, tight, clean back flip in one slow long arc to the raging surface of the water. He landed squarely on his heels and disappeared in a tiny swirl of white water. A hush of silence fell over the 20 watchers, stunned by the clean, no-nonsense lift-off. His head popped back up and he swam confidently to shore. He still had his cheap plastic shoes on.
I guess you got more for your "guided" tour than we would have guessed.
Our "half day" tour ended up lasting until 4pm. Lots of fun riding around in a crammed little mini bus with all your friends.
We had just gotten back when Kalle, Gustaf and Barry came by on their way to the the starting of Le Phare Bleu lighthouse's two-cylinder crude oil engine. It was built in Sweden in 1921 and hasn't been fired in 7 years. A couple of mechanics from Germany have been working on it for a few weeks. There's even a raffle about when, and if, it will start at all.
Every starting attempt requires a build-up of compressed air, correct positioning of the crankshaft, which is manually turned with a chain hoist block and tackle arrangement and a prayer. A half hour into it, on the fifth attempt, one cylinder fired, and there she went, chugging away. There were cheers from above and below.
Day 1049 ~ Cleaning Done At LastJuly 29th, 2013
The girls and I did a final scrub down of the boat and then they headed off to Caminante for lessons. It's so nice to have friends nearby, and they even know how to make Swedish pancakes. After all the moving and cleaning stress Lisa came home in the afternoon and collapsed into a nice comfy corner.
Day 1048 ~ More Clean UpJuly 28th, 2013
More cleaning today. After all the sanding and mess, we scrubbed deep and long. The girls were real troopers and stuck with it for the most part. Nika and Nana in particular are showing some real helpfulness recently. Nina, well, she slipped into teenager land today. At one point while we were all scrubbing away, I looked over to see her laying underneath the sunscreen, elbows in the air, legs up on the deck, just relaxing. That's right, she had run out of soap.
I assure you I never, ever, did anything like that. Ever.
While the kids recreated, Lisa and I took bags of garbage ashore and returned with yet another load of water.
Day 1047 ~ Coming Back TogetherJuly 27th, 2013
We ate French toast for breakfast then I painted the rebuilt cockpit locker and rehung the sliding door. We can now lock the boat again, imagine that. Now that the major work is done, the little jobs keep me occupied and all seem like a piece of cake. I remember when just removing the sliding door and fixing the skid pads on which it runs was a task I dreaded for days. Ha.
Yesterday, the sailboat, Ned Kelly, vacated the mooring ball next to our pre-repair anchoring spot so we decided it was time to move out of the mangroves. We opted to take the ball since it was clear that it wasn't regularly used and we plan to take a brief side-trip to somewhere anyway. I am pretty skeptical of moorings in the Caribbean in general, so I had Lisa reverse hard on this one several times. It stopped us cold in our tracks.
Being mostly tied to lines connecting to the mangrove roots made for an easy departure; the stern anchor's position (jettisoned from the dinghy) was too close to the boats behind us so I left it behind for later recovery.
Once secured on the ball, I went back for the anchor and shore lines. It's absolutely unbelievable how much brown goo grows on a line in these waters in just a 10 days. Recovering all the lines was like some nightmare from a biology lesson gone awry. If this much life grows here, there must be something alive on Mars.
When I went to pull up the 20-kilo Bruce stern anchor it wasn't budging. I ended up having to load the dinghy with kids and flood it with water, then tie the trip line as tightly as possible. When all the kids jumped overboard and I finished bailing out the water, the dink was lifting on her pretty hard, to the tune of a couple hundred pounds at least. We all climbed on the front of the dinghy, raising the back even farther, and bounced up and down. Nika loved that part. Pretty soon the anchor popped free and was shortly back aboard.
Having seen Lisa scrubbing our mangrove spider web of lines earlier, I decided to try a new tactic with this stern anchor line, merely another 100 feet of 3/4" slime. I trailed it behind the dinghy and drove around at high speed for a few minutes. When we hand-over-handed it aboard, it was surprisingly clean. Lisa breathed a sigh of relief.
I rounded off evening by re-caulking the floor seams. I had guessed the previous owner used Mahogany 5200 and it turned out to be a dead match. 5200 is like the Superman of caulking; it's incredibly sticky. All was going well until Nina stuck a toe in one section.
Day 1046 ~ Re-AssemblyJuly 26th, 2013
Kids did their lessons then went to play at What If. Lisa cleaned more inside and hosed down the cockpit to reduce tracking fiberglass dust all over. I installed the sliding door track, fixed one section of the wall panel I removed and reinstalled the floor and back of the cockpit locker using a mix of epoxy and stainless screws.
It feels really good to see the boat coming back together and starting to look like a home again. We can finally see light at the end of the tunnel.
Day 1045 ~ Ivan the TerribleJuly 25th, 2013
Spent the first night back on the boat with the entire crew. Went pretty well, piles everywhere, but at least the dinghy rides back and forth are over. I started putting the sliding door frame back in and did some grinding and glassing under the storage area. Forgot about that little grinding part. Lisa took a dim view of it, but with the vacuum handy, it was finished without too much backscatter. Lisa dove into cleaning.
We took an evening off and rode the free bus into Prickly Bay marina where a home movie of Hurricane Ivan was shown. The footage was beyond amateur, bad, shaky, grainy, etc. Had a headache after the first half hour. But the reality of the event came through. The family tried to sit the hurricane out in Clarke's Court Bay, just a 1/4 mile from us but was eventually blown up onto the rocky hills to the south. It was a huge monohull left high and dry afterwards, completely out of the water. Their three anchor set was no match for the Category 3 winds, even though they stayed aboard and motored into the maelstrom.
They claim to have been hit by another boat sliding into them, but the reality was that many, many boats where up on the rock afterwards. Entire marinas were reduced to jumbles of gelcoat and plastic after the boats fell into each other like dominoes. It just reinforces my belief that, for anything over a Category 1 storm, it's not reasonable to stay aboard unless you have no viable alternatives.
With the movie combined with 2-for-1 pizza night, there were numerous other kid boats at the restaurant as well, so after the movie you can guess what happened.
Day 1044 ~ Birthday FunJuly 24th, 2013
Put the last touch of glue on the stairs as 8:30 this morning, then did some vacuuming and stashing of tools to make way for the impending arrival of royalty, trying to spare them from the worst of the mayhem.
Did some preparations for putting the floor back in the cockpit storage bin. Kicked around the idea of moving the floor down a foot to take advantage of a huge empty space down there but, in the end, decided to keep things simple and just re-install it the way it was.
Lisa arrived with the first flotilla about noon.
Girls enjoyed Anne's 6th birthday party at the Hog Island beach, a Spanish boat kid in the anchorage who invited all her Kids Camp friends. It was complete with lunch, treats, party favors and lots of fun. Somehow the fact that Anne speaks very little English hardly seems to matter.
Day 1043 ~ Flooring and StairsJuly 23rd, 2013
Started the morning off by adding a third fiberglass layup to the most critically loaded area. The new layups have meshed nicely with the old. Did a little light touch up here and there with sandpaper then turned my attention to reinstalling the part of floor I had to cut out.
I used a tinted epoxy to replicate the floor's natural seam color and was very pleased with the results. I then started the laborious process of re-installing the steps.
Girls did their lessons and Lisa took the shopping bus for groceries, then went to the apartment to pack up. While the kids played at What If, Lisa started cleaning the boat's kitchen so we can uncover Nika's bed which has served as the interim storage spot for pots and pans. Tomorrow they move back aboard.
I must say that the land stint was nice for the washing machine and shower alone, but it's going to feel good to be back at home where we belong. Roger, the landlord, has been very helpful and accommodating, so we couldn't have asked for a better situation.
Day 1042 ~ Send More Sticky StuffJuly 22nd, 2013
Ashore, the girls (grudgingly) got back into school mode in the morning; they were thinking (and hoping) that Mom would forget to pack their math books. I got up first thing and headed to Island Water World to get more epoxy. Somehow, I have blown through nearly a half gallon already. Thankfully, Island Water World had gallons more in stock.
Lisa brought the girls by to expend some energy in the water with What If while I, with more of Kalle's help, tackled the largest piece of fiberglass. Things went smoothly. Kalle is a quick learner and we soon had that best kind of teamwork mojo going that you can never plan for but that just makes things work. Few muffled-by-respirator words were needed, hands helping hands, a few grunts and it all came together nicely. Sure glad he is here though, it would be a lot for one guy to handle.
Lisa then took the girls and Derek back to the apartment so they could finish filming their "movie", named Case at the Hotel Royale, after which she returned with Derek and to fetch me for dinner.
Spent the evening with the family again, took a shower, checked my email (it's 73 degrees back home so client email is quiet) and then headed back. Plan is to move the girls back to the boat on Wednesday so only 48 hours remain until the princesses land.
Day 1041 ~ Taking a Day OffJuly 21st, 2013
After a full meal and a comfy chair with A/C running in the background, I ended up staying ashore for the night. This naturally led to a Sunday morning of Swedish pancakes. Went to the boat in the afternoon, dropping of the girls with What If to expend some pent up energy. Unfortunately, I was the one needing the energy.
Nice to have a day off to recouperate and recharge.
Day 1040 ~ Sticking with your FriendsJuly 20th, 2013
Girls had nice day at the apartment with no place to go. They all worked on their Rosetta Stone languages of choice: Spanish for Nina, French for Nana and German for Nika.
Derek came over to play after lunch and stayed for a traditional taco dinner.
Back in the mangroves, I cut and fit glass on the aft side of the wood piece, then called Kalle, from Elin, who had offered to help. It was one those, "oh, give me a call if you need a hand" kind of offers. You never really know how serious they are.
Turns out, he was dead serious. He brought his own respirator, gloves and dove right in. Wow, what a difference two sets of hands make when the epoxy is flowing by the half gallon and the glass is measured in feet.
With our squeegees and hands we worked all the glass into all the curves and it flattened out perfectly. A beautiful application. Sorry, for some reason we didn't take any pictures of that part.
Day 1039 ~ A Daily GrindJuly 19th, 2013
Kids got a ride to camp from the apartment. Lisa took the shopping bus to get groceries and save me the hours normally spent coasting through the IGA aisles.
Yesterday was cutting, so today is grinding. Having some experience at this helped considerably and, before long, amid the shriek of a shop vac and the buzz of a 36-grit grinding pad the old glass tabbing and filler melted away. It really didn't take all that long, perhaps two hours of slimy, sweaty dust clouds.
Actually, keeping the vacuum close at hand really helped to contain the mess. A nice breeze through the hatch bore much of the grit downwind and out to sea. When I finally came up for air, my arms were completely coated with white. I know scrubbing is bad, so dropped my drawers and jumped straight into the drink. A couple of repeat plunges seemed to remove most of the grit. But my forearms itched for days, not to mention ankles too. I guess we all make sacrifices for the things we love.
Using the old piece as a pattern, I cut a new one intentionally a bit small, then used that and blue tape to mark the exact edge of the final two pieces that will be laminated together.
Dinner and shower at the apartment. When I returned about 8pm, I realized I really should laminate my two pieces of 8mm marine ply together tonight, so they would be ready to install tomorrow. I opted for a layer of biaxial glass in between my slices of bread. Can't really hurt.
Day 1038 ~ Diving into the Coal MineJuly 18th, 2013
There's no point in putting the pain off any longer. All the prep is done and today is incision time.
With no kids or breakfast to manage, I was up early and pulling on my mask at 7am. Best to get the really nasty stuff over with before the heat climbs any higher. The Fein tool started a-slicing. The beauty of the Multimaster is that it cuts just about anything, but does so very, very slowly and with a very thin blade. This insures precision. And when you are slicing into your floating home, precision is your friend. I suppose there are guys would and could do this with a chain saw, but I am not one of them.
Lisa came over with the kids to help me put plastic over the remaining open areas before the messy grinding began. With the old plywood out, the dust started flying, Lisa headed to shore to join the kids where the air was up to OSHA standards.
Then, a eureka moment! The answer to my long nights of laying awake trying to figure out what terrible thing I had done to my boat to cause this problem in the first place. And why it didn't happen when we were at sea with more serious motion.
As I finished my last cut and tried to yank the old glassed plywood out, it broke in half, right in my hands. There was a mushy section of plywood between the glass, about the size of a large cantaloupe, and right at the most critical part of the bulkhead, just where the bridge deck transitions to the hull. Water, the nemesis of all boats, was to blame. It wasn't a nasty passage or bad seamanship. Nothing dramatic. Just water in the wrong place.
I had long known there was some standing water under our cockpit floor and never gave it much thought. Well, thanks to some old Sikaflex, and probably plenty of years of rocking around, some of this undrained water found its way into the bulkhead and headed, guess what, downhill. The bad stuff always does.
Now that I know what caused the problem in the first place, I can be confident that my repair will address the root issue. Oh, what about the starboard side? I dashed across down the stairs and opened up the under sink access hatch. Dry as a bone. Whew.
Took the crew to the house for homemade pizza and a shower, then went back to the boat. Shower time today was more like three minutes. What did I used to do standing around in the shower anyway?
Day 1037 ~ Tweaking and TuningJuly 17th, 2013
Lisa and the kids went to Kids Camp while I started mapping out the areas to cut and preparing everything. After realizing that the aluminum door track was 5200'd to the wall (meaning a real bear to remove) I decided cutting it would be the best route. Those first sparks were sickening, but there was nothing to do but proceed with caution.
More trim pieces soon followed and, before long, the creaking wall was laid bare before me, like a patient on the table.
Before actually cutting anything that might have a structural component involved, I loosened the rigging so that the boat was as relaxed in the water as possible. I also ran two huge trucking straps under the boat and ratcheted them as tightly as I possibly could. Not sure what, if any, good this will do, but it just made sense to squeeze the boat a bit in the direction I wanted to to go, and stay.
Lisa brought Derek back to the house to play with the girls, then Kris brought me over to pick him up. I stayed for dinner and a shower then went back to the boat. Out of instinct, I took a 55-second shower. I didn't realize it until I was drying off. Oh well, I'll just enjoy it tomorrow.
Day 1036 ~ Mangrove GrooveJuly 16th, 2013
Kids Week activity in the morning. Lisa stayed behind to finish packing for her migration ashore. I took the shopping bus to town, again, for more parts. Parts like drop cloths, grinder pads, sand paper, etc. All the fun stuff you laid awake in bed dreaming about finding in your stocking as a kid. Well, some kids. Big kids, big kids with big toys. With boats. The truth emerges ever so slowly.
At about 3pm, with Dean (What If) in our dinghy and Kris in theirs we were escorted into the mangroves where I had pre-tied some lines into the root structures. Lisa did her usual masterful job of moving our 24,000 pound home right into the perfect spot. Dean handed me a line, Kris handed me the other and that was it. After all the thinking, talking and planning, it was almost a non-event. And oh, the flatness; rock solid and not a ripple. Steadier than most marinas, quieter than all. No neighbors, no bugs, no squeaky bumpers; just a nice steady breeze. The perfect shop-for-a-boat-project spot.
As a precaution, we ran a stern anchor out and a third windward line from the bridal dead ahead into the grove.
Lisa and Kris then proceeded to load both dinghies to the max with laundry, laundry and more. Some food, some pillows, some books, and more laundry.
The piled in and said good-bye. A boat bachelor again.
It really is a nice apartment. Very clean, bright and new. Two bedrooms, balcony, living/dining area, washing machine. And a shower that never runs out of water.
- Mangroves, Hog Island, St George, Grenada, Caribbean
- Apartment, Lower Woburn, St. George, Grenada, Caribbean
Day 1035 ~ Artful SlicesJuly 15th, 2013
Kids Week starts again. I think this would be about it for our involvement in favor of the lesson-play yin-yang routine. But with the tools coming out and the dust about to rise, having the kids distracted and off ship really does make the most sense.
Once they were off to the races, I used a jigsaw and the Fein tool to remove the back and floor of the cockpit storage locker as artfully as possible. Sort of like surgical art; cutting something that has never been cut. So the art part is a bit of a stretch.
It went smoothly though, with nice, clean and mostly square cuts. All the material I find is in excellent condition, so at least no nasty surprises, yet. To top it off, the opening is large enough to crawl into to access the back of the bulkhead. The repair is going to be much easier now that I can get the to back side with both hands, and head for that matter.
Kids played with What If and Shaitan all afternoon and returned exhausted and "STARVED!"
Day 1034 ~ Match RacingJuly 14th, 2013
Decided to take a day with no boat project gloom hanging over my head. Started the day right with Swedish Pancakes, of course. Danielle, from Evenstar, came to play while Nina and I went to the Hobie Cat Match races Le Phare Bleu, a 10 minute dinghy ride the the east.
We enjoyed the 5EC burgers and some really close races. In the end, a stunning come-from-behind victory had everyone on their feet.
It doesn't matter how far away from home you are, the wind and the water mold the sailing spirit into a united experience of hope over fear.
Day 1033 ~ Roti ExperimentJuly 13th, 2013
The local brick oven bread we have been buying is really excellent. So much so that it spoils remarkably quickly when stored at, say, 88 degrees. No preservatives in this stuff!
As a result, we have been having French Toast more than normal of late. As far as I can tell no one is complaining. You just cut the white and lime green spotted crust off, feed it to the pigs and toast away. Top it with the local nutmeg syrup and, yum!
Being Saturday, there's no school and no kids camp. I took the shopping bus to town as I was told that it was going by Island Water World today. On the way, I dropped the girls off to play at Shaitan. Sure enough, we ended up at IWW, where they did in fact have the right glass, the right plywood and the right epoxy all in stock. Big relief, and sure glad there is a second choice on this little rock.
When I returned, I picked up the gang for lunch and post-lunch play time. Experimented with replicating the local dish called Roti. It came out pretty good, actually, and the big shocker was that even Nika, ever the all-change-is-bad eater, loved it, pronouncing it, "my second favorite meal!"
I'll leave you to guess what the first one is.
Day 1032 ~ Secret SantaJuly 12th, 2013
Last day of Kids Week. Potluck today so the kids built a cooking fire and then practiced their first aid lessons. Plenty of smoke-in-the-eye fun.
What If and I took the shopping bus to town. Dropped off at the roundabout and walked to Budget since the bus didn't go there today. Turns out that Budget doesn't have the supplies, epoxy, glass or plywood we need in stock. Sure hope Island Water World, "the other guys," do.
Walked back to the roundabout and took a local bus to meet up with the shopping bus at IGA. Got groceries and added some money to our local phone plan. The Digicel adventure continues. I was pretty sure of the phone number, but didn't have it with me. The lady doing the "top up" for me couldn't imagine the idea of just putting money on a working number but not being sure it was yours. When I indicated we should just do it anyway, she starred at me, incredulous. Someone else might get that money! From my point of view, I was adding a mere 10EC ($3.72). It just wasn't a huge deal.
Then, as I filled out my little line in the paper ledger, yes, a big multi-ring binder with little green lines, I scanned up the list above my line. Most people had put 2EC, 5EC, 3EC, etc, on their phones. Greater than 20EC was rare. I suddenly realized how much fun one could have just putting 5EC on 10 phones at random. It would be like Christmas in July, with you being the Secret Santa. If you did it a few times, say on the 25th of each month, after 3 or 4 months everyone on the island would be staring at their phones on the next 25th of the month. So, for 200EC ($74) you too could be the talk of Grenada. You just can't buy publicity that cheaply anywhere else.
Back by 12:30p. Shaitan and What If came to play in the water for a few hours while I researched and read all about fiberglass repair repair. Oh joy.
Day 1031 ~ Apartment DiscoveryJuly 11th, 2013
Dropped off the girls and Lisa at the beach for Kids Week first thing. They went to tour a local vegetable farm across the bay. Lisa returned about 10am to join a flock of boat ladies on a tour to a local batik shop where locals hand paint cloth patterns that are then crafted into top draw attire. For some reason, not a single male sailor went along. Go figure. The ladies rounded off the day with lunch at La Sagesse, where we started our trip 2 and a half years ago.
We've been looking for a place on land for the girls to stay while I make a huge mess in the boat. Mary, co-owner of Whisper Cove Marina, put us in touch with Roger, a nearby neighbor who was between long-term renters for his basement flat. We arranged to see it this afternoon at 5pm.
It's perfect really. It has 2 bedrooms (bunk beds / double bed), living room, a decent size kitchen, patio overlooking the water, a dinghy dock at the bottom of the hill (though it's a doozy of a hill) and – get this! – a washing machine and shower with endless water. A piece of heaven! We talked it over and called Roger back to let him know we would take the apartment for one to two weeks starting next Tuesday.
Now it's time to get serious about gathering tools and supplies to fix this creaking wall.
Day 1030 ~ Running Digicel to the GroundJuly 10th, 2013
Kids and Lisa off to Kids Week at 8:30am. I see why parents love *real* school. Ahh, the peace that transcends all understanding.
I dinghied to Secret Harbor marina in Mount Hartman Bay, thinking it was closer walk to the bus. Wrong. After walking for 20 minutes, a generous local came along and offered me a ride to the nearest bus pickup. It was a lot farther, perhaps another mile and a half.
Caught a local bus which took me to the Digicel office in Grenada's largest city, St. Georges. However, the bee-bopping teenage "service representatives" where pretty much clueless. "Well you activated your plan so of course it doesn't work, there's no money in your account!"
"But I want it to work."
"Then you have to activate your plan."
"But I thought I had."
"That's the problem. You activated your plan and now you have no money in your account."
"Where did the money I paid go?"
"You activated your plan (stupid! expression)."
Seriously, the conversation was that circular, that silly. I couldn't have made it up. Eventually, I realized I needed to find a coherent adult. I finally noticed that the lady at the other end of the counter who looked like she might be old enough to legally drive a car on a public roadway.
I moved to her line. I carefully and slowly explained everything that I did yesterday at the other Digicel office, and what I wanted done. She smiled understandingly. "Yes, you are stuck now", she agreed. "Your only option now is to abandon the two week plan you paid for, or go back to that office where they can help you."
"If I buy another one week plan here, can we get it working? Then can I go back to the mother ship office and get them to credit me for my lost activation?"
"Yes," she assured me, that would be possible.
So, I signed up for another week (#3), got a new activation number and had her do it right there. It still didn't work. I couldn't even do a google search on my phone. I stood in line again, this time getting a guy who seemed like he might be able to help. "Well, did you put in the APN codes?"
"Ah, no. No one said anything about APN codes."
"Give me your phone." He navigated through 4 layers of options, then typed some codes.
It worked, at last it actually worked. I wondered how many offices from which I would have been sent away believing it would work before someone bothered to mention that you had to put in the web.digiceloecs.com APN address. Another reason to never leave an office in the Caribbean until you have exactly what you came for.
At least it worked now. I decided to go back to the mother ship office, even though it would add a couple of hours of transit time. One bus, then another, then a long walk, at last I am there. I get the same guy who helped me a couple days ago. He remembers me and I explain the entire thing. "Yes, yes, I see how that happened. But there is a problem." I get that sinking feeling. "We don't have a three week plan. You bought one week here, and now you just bought two weeks there, but I can't give you three weeks of credit. You only option is to buy one more week, and then I can credit you with a month plan."
"You are kidding me?!"
Fortunately, now that I know it works, I am willing to cough up the additional five dollars for another week. I pull out my wallet again, pay my 14.35EC and it's all click, click, smile, smile. I now have sum total of one month of cellular network time. Good thing we had planned to stay for a several months.
Let me credit your two weeks right now." Click, click. All set. At last.
It was a 20 minute walk to the nearest bus pickup, then an hour plus walk back to the dinghy at Secret Harbor. Supposedly there is a super secret sailor's short cut trail through some woods and gardens to cut down the walking time but, not knowing where it was, I had no choice but to pound pavement the entire way. Oh, and it's only 92 degrees in the shade.
This is the kind of thing that would have killed me physically at the start of the trip, the heat would have been overwhelming. It would have killed me mentally as well with all the waiting, the delays, the games, the excuses. But now mind and body just take the heat and the excuses in stride. You're living your dream, buddy, it could be worse.
Day 1029 ~ Chantal PassesJuly 9th, 2013
We have been watching the development of Tropical Storm Chantal with considerable interest. There were a few models which showed it crossing right over our location, but the majority, and now all, of the models show it passing between Martinique and St. Lucia, where we were just a couple of weeks ago. It doesn't look like she'll develop into a full fledged hurricane, but 65 knots of TS force winds are enough to get anyone's attention.
Today, Chantal is close, but going on a more northerly path. Some rain in the morning and then intermittent all day, winds are supposed to increase this evening as her tail passes overhead.
Girls were up and off to the beach for their Kids Week activities. I headed to the next bay over, Clarke's Court, for some real connectivity on a real, imagine this, ethernet cable. Seems like the dark ages, I know. With real bandwidth, the iPhone download and unlock ripped right along, perhaps in 20 minutes. Managed to get a handle on some client projects as well as actually execute the iPhone unlock.
Now that the phone is unlocked and the SIM card in place, it still doesn't work. Called the local Digicel help number, and all we got is a series of numbered recordings, none of which offered a live human. Tried every combination of numbers and always ended up with more recordings, or back to the main menu. It's a trap. Phone upgraded and unlocked, still doesn't work. Wifi paid for, still doesn't work. SIM card paid for, still doesn't work. Road blocks in every direction. To add insult to injury, we're now getting a text every 30 seconds telling us we have insufficient funds.
Meanwhile, the girls had friends from What If and Shaitan over to play in the water. Can't beat having a swimming pool out the back steps.
Day 1028 ~ Internet Lock OutJuly 8th, 2013
First day of Hog Island Kid's Week. I dropped the girls off at the beach with Lisa for a morning of organized kid activities by a South African crew on Dixi Rollar, another boat anchored in the bay. I then took 10am shopping bus to the local Digicel office. In theory, our iPhone should be able to receive and share an internet connection over the cellular network.
I tried the grocery mall Digicel Top Up station but ended up having to pay extra to the bus driver to take me to the Mother Ship out by the airport. I got a sim card, a local phone number and paid for two weeks of service only to find out that our iPhone is locked to AT&T's network and so won't work on anyone else's. Gee thanks guys.
Tried our other Cruiser Wifi we paid for but now it wouldn't connect at all. We now have paid for two internet services, neither of which does anything useful. In exasperation, Lisa and I dinghied to Whisper Cove to get closer to the antenna to no avail. Eventually, we asked Whisper Cove for their 60 minute internet without offering to buy a drink since they are listed as the contact point. Started to download the iPhone unlocker/update but it said it was going to take 69 minutes to download. Ahhhh. If the download is interrupted in the slightest, it just starts all over. So, after getting eaten alive by mosquitos and restarting the download several times, we went back for a last-ditch effort using What If's internet connection. However, it, too, reset several times and, after hours of itchy trying, we accomplished absolutely nothing today.
Is this a plot? I guess it just wasn't meant to happen today and, finally at 7pm, we finally gave up.
Day 1027 ~ RechargingJuly 7th, 2013
No matter the season no matter the reason, if it's Sunday, Swedish pancakes are in order. It felt great to get a quiet night's rest last night and even better to just take a day of down time.
Last night we prepped the boat for an insect assault. We had every reason to expect serious mosquitos being so close to land, land which has recently experienced rain. But, whether it was the wind or the topography, there was not a single bug seen. Let's see, flat calm, lots of boat kids, nice breeze, swimmable water and no bugs. That's going to be tough to beat.
Lisa and I attached the Breeze Booster covers she sewed up nearly a year ago in North Carolina. Nothing like procrastination to get things done.
Kids swam and played in the afternoon with What If while Lisa and I struggled to get the Cruisers's Wifi working. We just spent $40 for the month and it would work for a few minutes then drop the connection. We asked around and others are having similar problems, so at least we are not the only ones.
Day 1026 ~ Back to Cruiser CentralJuly 6th, 2013
Prickly Bay is not exactly an ideal anchorage. The boats lie facing the prevailing easterly winds while the swell hooks in from the south. Normally this would be mildly annoying as we roll some from side to side. Okay for sleeping, but more difficult for cooking and living.
However, when your wall sounds like the world's largest cricket on steroids there really isn't much sleep to be had. Time to move to some place calmer.
Thankfully, such a spot is just around the corner, and flat water. We upped Mr. Bruce and motored around the point, picking our way through the reefs which guard the entrances of Hartman Bay and Hog Island. We found a nice spot deep in the latter anchorage. Flat clam, no creaks, peace reigns again.
We had discussed going into a marina to make the repair. This would offer unlimited electrical power, but most marinas in Grenada have some roll surge to them. This is because Grenadian law requires a multi-million dollar bond prior to the installation of any sea walls. No one can afford this, so no sea walls are built. Hog Island, by contrast, is naturally flat calm. I think we'll stay here for a while.
We launched Sea Pearl so the kids would have their own car available. What If moved around as well so, after lessons, and lunch the kids were off exploring.
Day 1025 ~ Steps Be GoneJuly 5th, 2013
Girls tackled lessons in the morning while Lisa took the shopping bus to town for provisions. One of the great things about Grenada's cruiser community is that they arrange bi-weekly shopping buses that go right where you want and cost less than doing your own series of the local version.
Using Evenstar's Fein Multimaster tool, I managed to liberate the steps from the screws and Sikaflex which have held it fast for 22 years. This gives us excellent access to the wall and showed where some fiberglass tabbing was torn.
There's certainly going to be some grinding involved so now we have to find a reasonably priced apartment for the fam. Argh.
Day 1024 ~ Assessment and Pizza NightJuly 4th, 2013
Had a expert come out to look at the creaking wall. He didn't seem to think it was anything all that unusual, but agreed it would be a messy, dusty, fiberglassy repair and not something that would be family compatible. And, to really look at it, I need to get the moulded stairs removed so we can see undernearth.
Lisa did some deep cleaning in Nika's room, then headed off to Spice Island for a long overdue laundry run while the kids enjoyed a swimming reunion with Evenstar wit whom we hadn't crossed paths since April.
Everyone needed a break from the boat, so we all headed over to Prickly Bay Marina for their two-for-one pizza night. The kids ate like wolves, then ran around like gazelles on the high Serengheti. Nina ended up tending a few tiny cruisers who just couldn't keep up with the herd. It was long, long after dark when we all puttered back to our floating homes.
Day 1023 ~ Horrible NightJuly 3rd, 2013
Last night was one of those nights when you question yourself, kick yourself and berate yourself for disregarding better judgment. During dinner, we heard a pop/crack, but assumed it was the eggs outside falling to the floor. Nana mentioned that it sounded like the boat was cracking apart. We continued our dinner and the rest of the evening as normal.
Lisa, having awakened at 2am the previous morning, went right to sleep. I read for a bit and drifted off to the raucus bouncing of our boat in the side swell. Then, around 11pm, the creaking started. Not just a little creak off in the distance, either. This one was loud and forceful. I checked the bathroom wall as that's where it seemed to be originating. Eventually, Lisa was up and we worked our way around to the wall going up the stairs. Either the panels were well-glued or velcroed on and were not easy to lift for a peek inside. We started with the smallest panel and ended up breaking it while cutting through the glue. Nothing. I then took the clock, barometer and stair railing off to lift that panel, but the sound seemed to be coming from up on top. It was then that I noticed the new 1/4" gap between floor and stair. Putting a hand on the two, I could feel the two sides flexing and moving opposite each other. I managed to lift the wall panel above that enough to see a large crack in the wood underneath. Great.
Removing the panel completely, I could now see what caused the loud crack we heard at dinner. A hand size piece of fiberglass had disingaged from the underlying plywood bulkhead. This is not good and it's not going to be cheap to fix.
The sound is so loud that there is no quiet place on the boat, so I read my offline Wikipedia to the drone of the background creaking noises. Hmmm. What can I read about? Well, Nika had several red spots in an odd pattern across the back of her shoulders the other morning. They didn't look like the work of mosquitoes so why not start with bedbugs?!
By 6am when the sun came up, I put a reef in and we needed to go to Grenada sooner than later to sort this out. Called What If at 6:30a and Kris answered right away. Some others didn't get much sleep either thanks to the side-on-roll. They opted to stick with us for safety, so we both upped anchor about 7:30am and headed southward to Grenada.
Unfortunately, we had small side-on swell while anchored in the bay which only served to reduce the volume a tad bit. We managed to get settled before the stores closed, so I took a break from the ear numbing drone and dashed to town to get a sense for what we're up against.
Day 1022 ~ Not a Drop Shall You FeelJuly 2nd, 2013
Lessons and town trip in the morning. Dropped our handheld VHF radio in water at the dock so Nina went in for it. Hopefully it'll dry out and work again. At this rate, with the one we lost a couple months ago, we'll be going through a couple of them per year.
Rain is a funny thing in the Caribbean. It's like a volcanic eruption. Life stops. Workers stop, everyone just stands around and waits, as if time is frozen. As I rode the bus into Hillsborough, I watched a dark band of clouds looming in the east over the mountains. Sure enough, just as we got to town the deluge broke. The bus windows were promptly shut and the humidity in the crammed mini-van soared. The driver parked us right next to a large covered bus station, but not a soul moved. It was raining. The rain lightened up to a decent drizzle. Still, no one moved. It would have taken 8 seconds to open the door, exit and be under the bus shelter. But no, the informal democracy of 12 people jammed into a Nissan mini-van said nope, sit it out. The only saving grace was the window I was able to open. Otherwise, oxygen would soon have been in short supply.
There was a little break in the rain; a few people fidgeted, but no one moved. More rain, another lull. Finally, someone opened the door and dashed to cover. He might have been hit by a single drop, maybe. This was the last time I would sit at the very back corner of the bus, at least voluntarily.
After a couple of rain showers back at the boat, we headed around the southwest point with What If to White Island. Leaving the kids on the beach to play, the adults snorkeled Saline Reef. Some fish, but the coral was a bit monochromatic. Dean and Kris saw a rather large octopus.
Anchorage was rather bouncy and we considered going back to Tyrrel Bay. We also found the reef protected bay on the northeast side that has been recommended for great snorkeling. The current lull in the wind would make an east side trip possible so opted to put up with the swell and stay put.
Day 1021 ~ A Decent DiveJuly 1st, 2013
Started the day out with usual lesson work for the girls with a side of programming for yours truly. While it is possible to be productive on the boat, it does require a certain mental stretch.
In the afternoon the kids ran off to play with Derek while Lisa and I mobilized up for a real dive, this time with tanks. We dinghied out to the rock we had spotted yesterday and got suited up.
Having not been down in well over a month I was a little concerned about my ears clearing, but the reverse seems to be true. The more dives, the better it gets. I was down to 56 feet in a matter of 2 minutes, where I hung out for a while waiting for Lisa to catch up. The rock formation is about the size of a large house, but contains many nooks and cracks loaded with life forms. Creepy eels, squid and fish too numerous to name. Lisa managed to compose some beautiful underwater coral garden photos.
Through dumb luck, we caught the area at ebb tide. About 40 minutes into the dive the current began to build. I got myself on the front side of the formation and was washed up and over the top, effectively spit up to the surface. Lisa came up a few minutes later, finding the current becoming unbearable.