June 2013 ~ Back and Forth
Day 1020 ~ Exploring Southern CarriacouJune 30th, 2013
We started the day off right with Swedish pancakes. Ah, it must be Sunday.
Dean and Kris has expressed interest in snorkeling some of the nearby reefs, so we zipped out with them and explored south of Tyrrel Bay, finding mostly barren rock and sand floors, with few fish and little coral. There was one exception, a large rock marked with a dive buoy. It was just a little too deep to effectively see from the surface, or with our meager free-diving skills, so we determined to come back tomorrow with a set of tanks.
Kids did their thing with Derek. It's nice to have a kid boat around again.
Day 1019 ~ Archers Ashore!June 29th, 2013
A nice, perfect, tropical Saturday. We did an easy morning, the girls basking in the glow of a day off of math. I did some computer catch up, occasionally noting odd sounds from below.
It turns out that the current kid fad is for bows and arrows, along with the shooting of the latter. After Nika came up in tears after having been accidently hit while holding a target pillow. Hmmm, sounds like it's time for Dad to take a break and direct these Medieval tendencies towards a better field.
We rounded up all weapons and archers and headed to the beach where errant projectiles weren't likely to cause any problems. I read in the dinghy while they dance around the sand shooting and imagining all kinds of hero scenarios. Do modern kids even have imaginations, must less an opportunity to use them?
Day 1018 ~ Family Fun NightJune 28th, 2013
Did the usual lesson work in the morning. I did a few client projects, then headed into town with Nina and Kris from What If. The local bus from Harvey Vale to Hillsborough is a whopping $3.50 EC. Not much has changed since we were here in December 2010. In fact, so little has changed I knew right where to go for the best ice cream and Roti (curried meat/potatoes in a flour shell). Ice cream for yours truly and the roti for the ever-hungry Nina whose growth spurt is now in its fifth month; it weighed in at nearly a pound.
Did find a fairly nice selection of fresh produce at the stands near the bus station including some very ripe mangos, starfruit and the usual bananas and plantains. The costs here seem a little higher than Dominica.
Meanwhile, while the other two swam and yelled with other of their boat kid kind, Lisa found the motivation to tackle the ultimate nasty of nasties. The under cockpit storage area which is an ongoing collection point for every stray Cheerio and noodle, not to mention matted piles of long blond hair, rotting detritus, gnat colonies and gray lumps of indeterminable pedigree. It's a miserable job requiring tons of water, harsh chemicals and back-breaking postures. Go team!
Since it's Friday, and it's universally accepted that I am a movie miser, it seemed like a good time for a Family Fun Night which involves homemade pizzas and "family" movie. Nika defines "family movie" as one watched "with everyone," meaning I can't sneak away to the laptop and do something productive.
Nana has perfected the pizza crust, vastly exceeding anything I was able to create at home. I guess some people are just born with the baking gene.
Day 1017 ~ Top of the Tropical WorldJune 28th, 2013
The kids managed to convince the adults that a morning hike was better than an afternoon one. Turns out it was a coordinated plot to avoid lessons, the theory being that if you go hiking in the morning, then no school gets done. Unless, of course, you call it physical education.
We mobilized as fast as 4 girls can and managed to get in the dink about 9am. The hike was a nice variety of shaded back road, slippery steep tracks, grassy knolls and plenty of spider webs tended by a colorful variety of 8 legged demons. I eventually realized that it would be smarter to clear these with a stick than a bare arm. Alaskans don't really think much about spiders.
It was about an hour and a half walk, hike and scramble to the top of Chapeau Carre which tips the scale of peaks at nearly 1,000 feet. A mammoth by Bahamian standards. As we were working our way up a saddle near the top, a fierce gust of Trade-winds-meets-mountain grabbed Lisa's new hat and took it for a flight up, over the tops of trees and off a cliff edge, out of all knowledge. We scouted for ways to get down but quickly found no possible access other than vertical.
Our energy expending efforts were rewarded with a fabulous panoramic view from the top and we took the opportunity to enjoy it while eating a snack. We took an alternate route on the way down which descended steeply, then eased through a random patchwork of grassy meadows and groves of thick-trunked Africa-like trees with heavy tops. A rain shower rolled past with just enough rainfall to soak through a sweat-soaked shirt, after which blue skies reappeared. We crossed paths with skeptical goats and a critical cow. It might have been the presence of What If's dog, Sam, which maintained the herbivores attention.
Swam in the afternoon to cool off. Met some Italian and French kids from boats on either side of us and they came over to swim for a bit.
Day 1016 ~ Back to Tyrrel BayJune 26th, 2013
It rained hard and blew even harder throughout the night. We were able to fill our tanks to the brim and avert the headaches and questions of quality that purchasing water in Carriacou always brings. Once again, Lisa prayed for water, and I didn't, which led to some interesting exchanges.
After breakfast and some lessons, we motored to Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou's premier anchorage. I had forgotten how clear the water was, the holding was excellent. We backed down on Spade hard and were stopped in our tracks.
Walking on shore, little has changed in two and a half years. The door to the little 7-11 sized grocery store creaks just like it did before but freezer contents are now written on the lid in black Sharpee. You no longer have to open them up just to figure out if you are looking at animal or vegetable parts.
For some odd reason, and I can only guess it's a clerical error, Weetabix, a breakfast cereal from England, is 30% cheaper here than in the big stores in St. Lucia. I guess it could be a tax thing, but I snatched up a few boxes just in case this was a one-time opportunity.
What If is anchored just ahead of us, so I am guessing more kid time is in order. They ended up inviting us over for a spaghetti dinner, which was we topped of with a batch of Nana's legendary brownies. There weren't any leftovers.
Day 1015 ~ What If We Had CompanyJune 25th, 2013
Nice anchorage with a peaceful, zero-music night. While the girls tackled lessons in the morning, What If arrived having done a long overnight from St. Lucia. While Dean and Kris caught up on sleep, the kids took off to the deserted beach on Sandy Island and did what kids always do in such circumstances.
I bored myself to tears with a client project deadline. Amazingly, we had wifi even though we were well offshore. You just never know.
We'll have to move somewhere tomorrow as our water tanks just went dry.
Day 1014 ~ Yet Another Perfect SailJune 24th, 2013
With only 30 miles to make today, we opted for a leisurely breakfast on the veranda. Thank goodness, because a local bar decided that cruisers deserved a night of extra loud music just in case they were tired of sleeping. We've determined that locals, predominantly on the ex-British isles, must just be deaf.
The new chain wheels in perfectly taking the sting out of Nana's anchor duty. We upped hook smoothly and motored out a bit for some space, then turned and raised the main. With stable air and protected waters today, I opted for the full main again. It's so nice to see it all up and pulling.
The Grenadines really have the best sailing in the Caribbean group. The tiny string of islands are small enough to allow a steady Trade wind flow while breaking up all the ocean swell. We ripped along in 22 knots directly on the beam in nearly flat conditions. It felt like being at anchor.
We chased a few boats until they turned into the Tobago Cays, then we rounded Union island and set the hook near Hillsborough, Carriacou. I dropped Lisa off at the dock to clear into the country which went smoothly despite our having checked out of Martinique 3 days ago.
For the first time in a long time we are low on water. There just hasn't been much rain. I took a few jerry jugs into the ferry dock. The tourist information office had a water tap out back, which they freely let me use. The additional 11 gallons should get us through another day. It's the rainy season so it can't be long now.
We had anchored fairly close to a Venezuelan fishing boat. I got the sense that the girls were attracting a little too much attention, so we upped anchor and took a mooring ball near Sandy Island. It was nearly flat calm and quiet, with a pleasant evening breeze. It feels nice to be back in Grenada again.
GPS location Date/Time:06/24/2013 08:17:31 AKDT
Day 1013 ~ Hanging in BequiaJune 23rd, 2013
Snorkeled on our Spade anchor at morning and found it just hooked in a crevasse of scoured rock pan. Not good.
With sunlight illuminating the bottom, it was a simple matter to find a nice patch of sand about 100 yards farther east. While the girls visited Sonadio Cat, our French friends we first met in Guadeloupe, Lisa and I re-anchored and backed down hard. Spade disappeared into the sandy white.
Our friends invited us to the beach in the afternoon, then to dinner. I stayed to work for the afternoon while the kids and Lisa came back to change before all going over to their boat. Tomorrow we both leave, they'll go north to return their long-term charter boat and we'll go south in hopes of actually making it to Grenada sometime this year.
Day 1012 ~ The Outside RouteJune 22nd, 2013
We were up and moving with the sun. St. Lucia and St. Vincent both cast large wind shadows to the west, their jagged peaks ripping the Trade winds into swirling shreds. With 85+ miles to go today, I opted to bite the bullet and suffer some pain for the first hour or two of motoring straight into and around the northern tip of St. Lucia in order to sail the rest of the way. The same place where Grandma had read about a boat sinking and its two tourists having to swim for 14 hours to get back ashore.
It was miserable. A ripping 3 knot current against us swirled the waves into wicked mounds of shark teeth shaped pillars. We rocked and bounced and rolled and flew off of waves with both engines screaming for grip in the frothy waters.
"How long is this going to last?" Lisa queried at one point. "Just another 20 minutes." I replied, at least three times.
I finally consulted the chart and saw that deep water was just another mile to the east, so we headed there. Sure enough, as soon as the depth fell, the current released its grip and the waves evened out into a nice steady ocean ground swell. Winds were 18-20 on the beam; we flew the full main and started laying down some miles.
Once clear of St. Lucia, St. Vincent, being a bit farther west, allowed us to fall off another 10 degrees and the ride became even smoother. The boat was right in the groove, perfectly balanced and ripping along, the leeward hull driving hard and ripping a nice wake through the ink blue vastness below.
We ate a late lunch, Nika and I talked for hours on the roof in the precious shadow of the sails. Eventually, the sun started to dance along the tips of St. Vincent as we neared it's southern terminus. The winds tend to funnel straight down the channel between St. Vincent and Bequia, turning our reach in to a run. The motion became almost undetectable as the waves hooked to the stern and, with the current now in our favor, the speed went to 10 then 11. We were squirted past the cliffs of Bequia and into the large expanse of Admiralty Bay, dropping the hook just as a full moon burst over the ridge line just before 8pm.
A nearly perfect day.
GPS location Date/Time:06/22/2013 05:55:39 AKDT
GPS location Date/Time:06/22/2013 07:50:11 AKDT
GPS location Date/Time:06/22/2013 11:02:54 AKDT
GPS location Date/Time:06/22/2013 14:12:47 AKDT
Day 1011 ~ Chasing Cat TailsJune 21st, 2013
Up with the sun and motoring out at 7:15am. Busy day in St. Lucia ahead. What If left a half hour earlier and we could just seem them as a white triangle on a hazy horizon. We left and had zero wind for the first half hour. We called Kris and she said, "there's plenty of wind out here!"
Once we cleared the southern tip of Martinique the breeze filled in and we could finally turn off the engines. The wind piped up to 18-22 or so pretty much directly on the beam. Perfect. We slowly, inch by inch, ate up the distance between us and finally passed What if with about 10 miles to go and managed to get some more nice photos of them underway.
Set Spade in 3 meters of water on the northern end of Rodney Bay, Lisa's least favorite anchorage in the Caribbean. I dashed off to stock up on some precious provisions, real milk, yoghurt, Oatmeal squares and the most sacred of all, Skippy Peanut Butter. Oh, and what did we find in the money bowl when switching from Euros back to EC dollars? A two Euro coin, the one that could have covered the boat cards and saved us ATM machine hassles. Ah well, life goes on.
Kids swam at the boat and then went over to the beach to play.
Day 1010 ~ King or Captain?June 20th, 2013
Morning errands. Print shop didn't have our boat cards ready by "late morning" as promised. No surprise. Two clients were sitting on either side of the graphic lady, watching her build their request on the computer.
We decided to move over to Sainte Anne in preparation for our departure tomorrow morning so we also needed to check out since there were no Customs computers there. Not sure if the marina closed for lunch, we dashed over to pay our 5 Euro fee to get their official signature on the clearance paper. After one last quick stop at the chandlery we were heading back to the boat when we saw a fellow cruising couple tying up their dinghy to the channel marker. The guy was messing with the outboard, which wasn't running. We pulled alongside and offered a tow, which they gratefully accepted.
After dropping them off, we passed a large monohull that looked "heavily" lived on. Perched on the back, basking in the sun on a large swim platform was a massive Rottweiler holding his head nobly erect, like the classic lion statue. He was king of his domain and knew it. Something told me that guy's solar panels weren't going anywhere.
Then, after getting a few things at the fruit market, we hit Carrefour and Leader Price to rid ourselves of our last Euros. The final tally left us with a nice paper 10 Euros in case we return so I thought we hit it perfectly. Oh, but the cashier forgot our 2 baguettes. Not a huge deal, I thought, 9.81 in coins isn't the end of the world. However, on the way out, Lisa reminded me that we still needed to pick up our boat cards quoted at 10 Euros. Oops.
Lisa headed for the cash machine (minimum withdrawal is 10 Euros) and I took the heavy grocery bags to the dinghy. We almost made it.
Returned at 1:30p to drop off our goods, but figured we may as well eat lunch just in case the print shop doesn't get back until 2pm. We still had to wait a half hour for them to return, but this time our cards were done and we could finally leave this industrial zoo that they call Le Marin.
Motor-sailed to Sainte Anne. I then took kids to the beach with Dean and Derek of What If. Homemade pizza for dinner.
Day 1009 ~ Light WorkJune 19th, 2013
Usual morning noises and activities. Lisa and I ran some errands in the morning and filling up with dinghy gas, a 27 Euro affair, and checking on some storage bins for my tool area which is difficult to manage these days. The mess is mostly due to the plethora of parts that 'might be needed someday'. No luck on the storage bin angle, but if you want a bright green wicker table with purple accents, we found you one.
Having checked all five of the local chandleries, I now know where and how to buy some LED strip lighting, the super thin stuff that comes with a 3M sticky backing. Carïbe Marine sells it for 17 Euros a meter and will cut it to whatever length requested. Pretty handy.
I really need to get some computer work done, but the urge to rip off a cabinet and wire up the new acquisition was just too strong. Poor Nika just wanted to eat lunch so she could go swimming with Derek, but hand to wait while I turned the kitchen into a project kill zone. It looked pretty bad at one point but, as boat projects go, this one was a snap. A half hour later Nina and I re-mounted the cupboard and Nana did a light switch test. In the full light of day the LED strip didn't appear too impressive, but at least it worked.
Nika finally got her wish and Lisa generously agreed to take the kids to the distance beach, the good one, so I could get some client work done. It seemed like they were gone for 20 minutes, maybe, but two+ hours later they returned, wet, sandy and hungry. Lisa wasn't too crazy about another burrito night, but it's a sure fire way to fill these camels up.
It was well after dusk now, so Nika flicked on the new kitchen lights and, Shazaam! the previously dark corner by the sink exploded with a warm glow. A collective 'ooooh' was heard. Nika hung out in the kitchen half the evening, even cleaning up and organizing without being asked. Maybe LED lights are the solution to children cleaning their rooms without being asked. Now that would be a discovery of the century.
Day 1008 ~ Laundry DayJune 18th, 2013
Lisa has the feeling she has been here before. Sacks of laundry over our shoulder, we pick our way over the locked dinghy pile at the dock and head for the laundromat. At least the prices here are a little more reasonable than Saint Lucia. Eleven Euros for 14 kilos, the recommended serving for the machine. With iron fists and loads of experience (pun intended), Lisa crams in considerably more.
We hadn't been in the place 30 seconds, when the back door opens and a 10 year old girl donning a brown apron walks gingerly in, beaming at us. In her hand she offers us a tiny wooden plate on which two extra dark chocolate delicacies sit. The mom appears in the background and French words are exchanged; it's apparent that the neighboring business runs the laundry, but their mainline is candy, and of the best custom chocolaty kind. The kind the French like to mainline themselves at nearly every meal.
Since it's been empirically shown that the French live longer, healthier lives Lisa and I decided after some deliberation to accept the offer. Or, perhaps, we just wolfed them right down with a smile and a 'Merci beaucoup!'
Day 1007 ~ Industry RowJune 17th, 2013
Usual lessons in the morning, with a side stroke of client work. Dark clouds threatened all afternoon, but I managed to dodge a few to research what LED lighting possibilities exist here in Le Marin. Should be better than just about any place else within a 300 mile radius. Learned a few things and managed to find a few minor needed parts. Derek from What If came over for an afternoon swim.
Our departure weather forecast has changed, yet again. We now have 30-35 knot winds on Wednesday which means we will be sitting tight for at least another day or two. Le Marin is nice in a way, very convenient, but not at all picturesque. Like being anchored in your neighborhood industrial park, complete with canine neighbors. One boat ahead of us is home to a large and voicy dog. I guess we could move, but the anchor is well set and the WiFi is passable, so camp on we do.
On a bit of a whim, I ripped into an unknown plastic blob near the radio station in the salon. When we visited the sister Lagoon 47 back in Les Saintes, we had learned that their second light switch, the one we never could figure out where it went, actually powered a lamp in this general area. Sure enough, off came the plastic cover which turned out to be the base of some kind of light fixture that had long ago been sheered off. I put the volt meter to it and found 12.4v. Nika flicked the switch, the voltage dropped to .19.
The irony is that this is the very spot I have imagined pulling and running wires perhaps a dozen times for a couple of years. Poor Lisa has had to wash the dishes in a virtual black hole most evenings. The specter of pulling the wires through some tight places and been enough to keep the project on the back burner, but it turns out the boat designers had already thought of that and the builders had already done the dirty work. All I had to do was find a light and make the connections. If you need boat light solutions, Le Marin is probably the best place within a 1,500 miles. Guess the weather keeping us here wasn't all bad.
Day 1006 ~ Sickness, with BenefitsJune 16th, 2013
We heard rumors of a flea market that started at 7am. Island people tend to be early risers. It's cooler then. Nina was game to check it out, so we buzzed over about 7:45am. It was a flea market, a large one too, but only two tables/booths were dedicated to boat stuff. A few interesting things, but nothing we really needed. It's easier to avoid spending money when Euros are on the line.
To our surprise Nana woke up feeling sick again. This is odd as land bugs usually persist less than a week. The poor girl's olive complexion turns downright yellow-green. Poor thing.
Nina, ever the rule keeper, wants to know immediately if Nana 'still has to do her math'. Furthermore, there is considerable consternation when it is also learned that no, Nana won't be clearing the table either since moving even an inch causes misery. To add insult to injury, Nina and Nika will be each pitching in a little more to make up the gap.
You can imagine the groans, eye rolling and moaning that ensues at the injustice of Nana's being sick again. Nina launches into a diatribe about the unfairness of it all, how Nana is always sick when it's her turn to clear the table and that she, Nina, never gets sick enough to skip out on any chores and is still is required to do all the terrible things that are her lot in life, like sweeping under the table and doing math.
"One of these days I want to be sick enough to really benefit from it!" Nina retorted.
"Oh really?" Lisa asks back rhetorically. Then Nina's brain, often a half step behind her tongue, finally computes what she just said. "Well, maybe not."
Here's where some ancient scripture knowledge comes in handy. "It's very simple", I offer the stubborn audience of slighted sisters. "Nana isn't eating today so we know she is actually sick and not just faking it to avoid work. If you would like to skip Swedish Pancakes this morning, you won't have to clear off a single dish."
Little grey cells whirled for a few seconds, but amazingly they opted not to miss the cakes.
Beach time later with What If and Globi, a Swiss kid boat. A French boat with 3 kids, just ending their year at sea, came by as well so the beach today was a regular kid-fest.
Day 1005 ~ Leaving Your Insides BehindJune 15th, 2013
Math and client work occupied the morning hours. After lunch, which inevitably involves baguettes, I took the kids to the beach for a spell. The city beach here in Le Marin isn't particularly nice, clean or inviting. It does, however, have sand. I had taken Lisa's large umbrella to work through a few more tedious chapters of Michael Crichton. This guy's only strong suit is interesting ideas, his characterizations are flatter than Kansas, his dialog one-sided and strained and his structure unimaginative. He most certainly has an engineering background. Or worse.
The kids hadn't been at the beach a half hour when they decided what really sounded like fun was jumping off What If's arch again. Nika described it this way,
"At first, when you are standing there looking down, it's scary. It's looks very high. Then when you are falling, you are thinking, 'why am I doing this?' It feel like you left the insides of your body behind. But then when you hit the water, you say to yourself, 'now I get it! This is FUN!'"
I found her adopted narrative voice charming. Must be all the books we've been reading.
A Swiss boat, Globi, came over to visit with their two kids, 9 and 11. We invited them aboard to get to know each other. They've been gone one year, have one more to go, are also heading to Grenada for the season, and are late arriving there, like everyone else who's still this far north.
Day 1004 ~ Wet KittensJune 14th, 2013
Day started out sunny, a nice change from all the recent rain and clouds. Lessons and computer work were the order of the day. After a quick lunch, we met What If at the city beach for some play time and a dinghy repair. When the dock ate our dinghy a few months ago, the motor mounting area received some nasty indentations. With the Dad's help, removing the outboard was a snap and, while it was off, I was able to trowel in some thickened epoxy. We spent the half hour of wait time chatting, then I spray painted it and installed the new anode mounting plate that we had found in Fort de France a couple of weeks ago. The plate creates a secure mounting pad for the outboard and operates as a large sacrificial anode as well, bleeding off electrons that really want to eat the aluminum outdrive for dinner.
I returned the sandy lot to What If where they explored new territory in water play by jumping off their hard top, arch, a nearly 10 foot drop. After a half hour of splashing (and de-sanding) fun, Lisa and I puttered over to retrieve our soaking wet and nearly exhausted kittens. They'll sleep well tonight, but not before Nina packed away three burritos, each one of which would have fed your average African village. It's amazing just to watch it all disappear, down the hatch.
Day 1003 ~ Heads Up, It's a Flying EmmaJune 13th, 2013
I guess this is what they mean by the tropical rainy season. Rain, rain and more rain today, inches of it, it seems. We filled both water tanks on the first dump. While lessons were going and between bursts, I changed our starboard upper rudder bearing. It turned out to be one of those projects which went smoothly and pretty much as planned, a rare treat.
On a whim, since we are here, I puttered over to the nearby boatyard to do some price comparisons on hauling out. Turns out, the price is within $200 of St. Maarten.
I managed to return before the next squall, which was important since I was the one holding sacred baguettes. This cloudburst packed a punch, nearly 40 knots of wind. I prairie-dogged a quick look forward during the worst of it and once again saw our Bavaria 46 neighbor sliding sideways towards us. I think it would have missed, actually, and T-boned our neighboring boat, but once again, the anchor caught with only 50 feet to spare.
Lisa rang the Coasties on channel 16, again, and they responded that they knew "precisely what to do" (call the owner, again). The same guys came out, again, but this time moved the boat to a nearby mooring. Whew.
Between rain, the wind slackened to around 8 knots so we took advantage of the lull to put the headsail back on. The last time I did this was in Long Island with Steven and it took a couple of hours to get it past all the mismatched foils. Being a little smarter this time though, and with extra hands, we sent Nina up the headsail in a bosun's chair and she was able to work the bolt rope through the transitions. We were halfway up when we realized we hadn't pre-spooled the drum. Duh. By the time that was done, the wind was whipping up again and the rain falling, so we adjourned.
Take Two went even faster. Nina was up in a flash with Nana working and watching the safety line closely. Every once in a while we get flashes of a good team effort and having one member of the family suspended 40 feet in the air seems to help everyone focus. This time, however, it only took two attempts and a half hour with all five of us at the various stations; Nina in the bosuns chair to keep the track aligned, Nana on the safety line, Lisa feeding the sail in, me on the main winch and Nika tailing the line.
Several rains later and before all the stores closed for the day, Lisa and I went to town to do some wifi antenna research and download a few files at the restaurant since what little internet we have at the boat is pretty pathetic. Had to wait for yet another rain squall, but returned in time for a quick swim before our regular evening rituals.
Day 1002 ~ Windy CityJune 12th, 2013
The weather just isn't cooperating. The winds this time of year should be going soft and shifting southeast a little, but day after day it's just more of the same: 20-25 knots of wind and nearly 3 meter seas. These conditions aren't dangerous but they are uncomfortable, and there's no point in suffering for suffering's sake. Granted, it could be worse; we could be roasting our gizzards again in North Carolina.
After lunch and lessons, Lisa and I dinghied through a long mangrove-lined river to get to the other marine store complex. We found a store full of cheap odds and ends from China bearing expensive French prices. Lisa found some plastic sleeves with a thin bendable plastic covers similar to the cutting boards she repurposed as wind scoops. The $5 price tag belied the huge markup, but they are probably easier to find than the cutting boards themselves and should work well for another set of windows.
Our boat uses a fairly common rudder bearing system involving ultra high molecular weight plastic shaped like a tall donut. Everyone I asked knew what it was, but the best they could do was to order them from France. "One week, maybe three," was the usual answer. Today, all those rabbit trails converged on a shop called "Altec". The propreiter was a weathered little Frenchman with wireframe glasses and a nice beer belly. I handed him the part, and he whipped out his calipers with a smooth practiced sweep of this forearm, "I'll be right back."
He came down the stairs a few minutes later with a brand new one in his hand. Ah, the French. You couldn't get one of these things in Grenada without a serious Customs hassle, not to mention shipping delays and costs.
"I'll take two," caught him a little off guard but he then took us upstairs, handed us another one along a receipt and sent us on our way with a smile.
Derek from What If joined the girls for some swimming in the afternoon. It only takes one new kid to keep things interesting.
Day 1001 ~ Back in BusinessJune 11th, 2013
I picked up Bernard and his son again at 9am. In another hour they had the new roller furling fitted and the rig re-tuned. I took them back to the boatyard and received a receipt for 180 Euros for labor. Much better than the 400 quoted by the other guy, and no marina headaches to boot. That's an excellent value and it feels good to have a working sailing rig again.
Lisa picked up a nasty sea urchin spine yesterday in her heel and I did my best to get it with tweezers and a razor knife but to no avail. I have yet to see a pair of tweezers worth their salt.
After lessons we dingied over to the far beach with What If and then had them over for dinner. The girls had a blast making then eating their pizzas, then playing the rest of the evening with Derek.
Day 1000 ~ Another Day, Another Boat BuckJune 10th, 2013
After a quick Weetabix brekkie, I dinghied over the boat yard to pickup the rigger, Bernard, and his son to release the rig and remove the roller furling. Turns out that Bernard designed the rig on our boat 23 years ago when he worked in France. I guess that would qualify him to take it apart.
In an hour, they had the headstay down and the roller base off. My work yesterday certainly saved them some time. Unfortunately, once he was able to see inside, the outlook doesn't look good for repairing our old furling unit. The bearing race is severely corroded and scored. Back at his shop, he tried for a half hour to see if he could clean the inside to make it useful, but no luck.
Went to town for a new roller furling base. At least here they have six of them on the shelf. Managed to get a 5% discount on the price just by asking, but our Visa charges 3% so it was just enough to cover that fee. These suckers are priced in Euros, so it hurt even worse; the current exchange rate is 1.32 to one. Took care of a few other miscellaneous odds and ends then returned to the boat. Spent all evening getting screws out of the old roller furling base so we can at least recycle the metal arms, thus saving a few hundred in the end.
Day 999 ~ Rain Deflector v3.0June 9th, 2013
Started the day with Swedish pancakes. Intermittent rain and blustery winds motivated me to take another crack at what has proved to be a more difficult invention than one would have thought. This time, I decided to use plywood and glass to use up the glut of epoxy we are carrying around. The entire project took twice as long as it should have, probably 3 or 4 hours in addition to drying time as well. Hopefully this will work.
Lisa got her own dose of motivation and engineered some side window scoops out of cutting boards. They worked remarkably well. Who needs a $60 Breeze Booster anyway?
Day 998 ~ Panel Be GoneJune 8th, 2013
We were just finishing up breakfast when a dinghy puttered up. Aboard were two friends checking on the catamaran anchored in front of us; the owner had left his boat here while back home in Belgium. They asked if we'd recently seen any suspicious activity on the boat as someone had recently boarded her and stole all the solar panels which had only been purchased 2-3 months ago. He also told us that it wasn't a grab-n-go hack job, but the perpetrator(s) had carefully and properly unscrewed all the bolts and then clipped the wires. Having just arrived yesterday afternoon, we hadn't seen or heard anything.
He then went to another boat in front of the victim boat and heard from them that it may have happened only 2 days ago. Bummer, dude. Solar panels are really expensive, particularly here in France.
Nina and I went to town to check out some parts, namely a new diesel cap to replace the one we shredded in St. Lucia. These are all French fittings and finding one in the states is next to impossible. I found one web-based guy in Florida who has them, sometimes, and he charges around $70 a cap. But the shop here had a rack full of them for $20 a piece. While we were at it, we may as well get new water tank caps as the port side has a habit of popping out on passage when the bounce and air pressure is just right.
While were were out, a few minutes later, Nina and I were walking the marina's dock when we spotted the catamaran owner's friend marching down the dock with a distinct stride of a man on a holy mission. He was flanked by two armed Gendarme (policeman), one with a silver box. The friend marched right up to a specific boat, a rather rough looking live-aboard, and started having a discussion with the owner. When we returned to our boat, Lisa reported that I just missed the friend and a Gendarme on the victim boat. The policeman carried a small silver box and had been dusting for fingerprints.
Sad that some have to resort to theft. With so many French and Belgian residents leaving their boats at anchor for long periods alongside so many live-aboards of varied financial means, it's a location with potentially easy pickings that can attract the wrong crowd. Hopefully, the owner will get some justice through his diligent friends.
I then swapped Nina for Lisa and we were off again to the local Farmer's market before they closed.
The shopping complete, it was now time for us to solve our own little problem of the dropped roller furling part. Lisa donned dive gear and descended into the murky water looking for the pickle jar we dropped moments after the part fell. She reported that the 'freak out factor' of not being able to see anything in the water was a little less than her Newport experience with the dropped bridle, but not exactly pleasant either. Chalk it up to prayer, warmer water (82 vs 72 degrees) and, perhaps, more diving experience under her belt, she stuck with it despite her nerves.
To help give her a sense of direction (and hopefully shorten the time down), Lisa tied a line onto the anchor chain where it starts curving up from the sea floor and held onto the other end to search in a defined arc. There had been little wind or current to shift the part of the chain touching the sea floor so swimming on this arc should closely match that of our boat through the night. Considering that visibility was about 3-4 feet, less in some places, this was the best we could come up with. One 45 degree pass to port, then back. On the return trip from the starboard side and as soon as she got back to the boat again, she was going to retie the line closer to give her more length for another arc search, but she didn't get the chance. The precious stainless part was sitting on the sandy bottom not 10 feet from the current position of the boat. Just a few feet away sat the pickle jar.
Being a trooper Lisa offered to go back down to check on the anchor and also to use her diving computer under the boat to get a true depth reading to calibrate our depth sounder. After 2 and a half years, it's about time we set it properly. With those tasks complete, she crawled out of the murk, happy to be in the sunshine again.
After lunch, I took the girls drifting to the beach at the point across the channel.
Day 997 ~ A Busy Day Ends with a SplashJune 7th, 2013
Quiet calm night. Leisurely morning. Nana was thrilled to drop the new anchor and chain last night; it ran smoothly out instead of skipping and hopping around. Today, it was the same in reverse. With a properly sized gypsy and new chain, Nana reeled in Spade without a single skip. Like magic. Spade held well all night and now easily popped clean.
We upped anchor just about the time the Sandal's dive boats got busy making their wakes and motor-sailed until we were past the wind shadow of Pigeon Island so we could shut the engines off. The winds were much better today, and calmer, so we enjoyed a relaxed three hour sail to Le Marin, Martinique. Of course, the sea rebels against those who have it too easy and we were hit with a 30 knot squall just as we were dropping the sails. It only lasted a few minutes but added some, apparently needed, drama.
First task was to chase down a rigger who could install the used roller furling we saw in the boat store on our rental car day a couple weeks ago. We went to the chandlery's rigger who, via a mix of French and English, gave us a price of 400 Euros (50 Euros an hour, 2 guys, 4 hours). Oh, plus, dock space, the price of which needs to be quoted by the marina office.
While getting a price (35 Euros per day), clearing into the country would be an efficient use of time since the marina does that too. Realized, however, upon stepping onto the dinghy dock that we not only left behind our boat papers but also our wallets. Since visited the area 2 years ago, most Customs' offices have been replaced by computer stations at various marinas or cafés; some charge a user fee, others don't, even though entering French islands is always free. Since the French don't ask for passports, getting the numbers from the girls over the VHF radio is not the problem but here the marina charges 5 Euros. Without even one centime between us we couldn't do anything. You'd think this was our first week out.
We stopped by Carene Shop to check on the used roller furling. If they had already sold it, then there wasn't much point; it was still there but rougher than I recalled. Hmmm. When we asked about a rigger, the guy suggested we contact a father/son team to help and, looking out the window, he said, "They are right there on that small boat now."
We wandered over and Lisa did the talking. Yes, they could help us install a new roller furling, yes they would come out to the boat and do it at anchor. No docks or marina fees and he'd be ready to come out to look in 30 minutes. Zipped to Leader Price next door for some groceries and then back to retrieve Bernard. Seeing it in person, he said he could repair it for us so we didn't have to buy a replacement and it would cost no more than 400 Euros *total.* Now we're talking.
Since it was calm, I decided to get started by taking down the headsail. After dinner, I went after the bolts, the detaching of which Bernard said might be the only delay of the repair. However, the potentially problematic one came out easily so dodged that bullet. The one above took a bit longer and eventually required a power tool and screw tip (déjà-vu moment here from our recent diesel cap experience). At some point through the drilling process, I lifted on the roller and it came free. My efforts had been for nothing as the stuck bolt wasn't attached to the rig, it just held a the metal guide sin place. Oh well. Chalk another one up to experience.
All in all, it was a simple process, but as with all boat projects, there's always a catch somewhere. While unrolling and removing the line, we heard a 'plop' in the water below. Not a fish, but a critical part to holding the furling on had just taken a one-way trip to Davey Jones' locker. Of course, the metal piece is small and the water around here is not quite so clear so guess who'll be diving tomorrow?
Day 996 ~ Dodging the Bureaucratic BulletJune 6th, 2013
There was a hazy cover this morning, so I took the rare opportunity of cooler temperatures, unaccompanied by rain, to tackle some long deferred exterior caulking.
We had larger plans for the day, larger as in leaving St. Lucia. Poor Lisa has had about all she can take of the place, rude people and thumping beach music included. So, I grabbed a few mouthfuls of Weetabix, buzzed to the dinghy dock and hopped a bus a minute later, exiting at Do-It Hardware. The goal was to acquire some raw material (3/16" plywood) for another hatch rain deflection concept. This will be Round Two as the first design was only partially effective. (Hint: 'partially' effective means you and your bed will be drenched when the tropics get serious about rain).
The lumber yard went smoothly, although I raised a few eyebrows while slicing up a brand new sheet of plywood with a razor knife. The bus ride back with four various shaped splintery sheets went reasonably smooth, but I didn't exactly blend in with the local crowd.
I swung into Island Water World for a few last items, then dashed over to Customs to checkout before they closed at noon for lunch. I walked through the door at 11:54am only to be met with a scowl, "We're closed, can't you read the sign on the door?"
Now this was a critical moment. The novice cruiser, say one who grew up in a responsibility minded society would have mentioned that, yes, I saw the sign that said you closed at noon for lunch, and that it's not currently noon, as shown on your own large clock hanging right behind your head.
That would be a terrible mistake. A comment like that breaks several unwritten laws of the Caribbean, the first being never, ever, under any circumstances, do you contradict a representative of the Government. The second being that any kind of American-driven, get-'er-done now attitude immediately results in passive-resistant behavior on the part of the pressuree. Pressure backfires and you don't pick fights with people who wear uniforms or those who determine your departure success. Both were hammered into my head, so I did the "natural" thing and replied calmly, "No problem, I'll come back after lunch."
"That's at 1:30.", he stated with emphasis.
I recognized the dulled gaze and pale complexion. This guy was obviously on the falling side of a nasty sugar low. I mean he had been working so hard all morning in the air conditioned office pushing forms around. Imagine the stress.
So much for our 2pm departure plan. We need boat papers to leave and they will also get us duty-free fuel. Returned to our boat at 1pm to drop off my goods, grab a quick bite and kill the rest of the half hour.
Meanwhile, back at the boat, Lisa reported increased jet ski activity around the bay, and our boat (two young boys in particular kept circling). Colored umbrellas and lawn chairs appeared up and down the beach. The Port Authority brought the answer. They came by in their pilot boat to invite us to the regatta this weekend and mention that the small kid-size boats would be racing right where we're anchored. Regattas mean activity and a reason to crank up the volume everywhere and all through the night. All the more reason to get outta Dodge.
Back in the dinghy again and to Customs, again. It is nice to have the outboard running like a champ again.
I now see why he didn't want me to eat into his lunch break. St. Lucia requires boaters to fill out the exact same paperwork in triplicate as they did for checking in. That's right, every boat detail again, every registration address, every passport number, every passport issue date, etc. EXACTLY as you did on check-in, except this time you check the little box at the top next to the words, "Clearing Out". Is it possible to conceive of a more mind numbing process?
I knew better than to say a word. Twenty minutes later, I was back at the boat again. Lisa and the girls had the boat ready to roll, bumpers out and awnings in. After fighting some kind of underwater obstruction for a few minutes, the chain ran free and we soon welcomed Bruce back into the family.
St. Lucia does have at least one redeeming value, the IGY fuel dock. It's huge, properly done and, at this time of year, virtually empty the entire day. It has a straight upwind approach, and a huge turning area to the south. Tough to beat. Our last fuel was taken on in St. Maarten in February, so after three and a half months, we are about due for a top-up.
In typical island fashion, Lisa held station by the dock for a few minutes but no help appeared. A passing cruiser caught our lines and tied us off. Nina had done a great job with the bumpers.
The port tank took 66 litres of fuel but when I went to remove the starboard cap, I was mystified to find it just wouldn't turn. I applied more and more elbow grease to zero effect. Baffled. The fuel caps had never been a problem before, usually turning in and out smoothly (lubed no doubt by some stray diesel droplets).
Not this time. After 10 minutes of straining, and trying desperately *not* to strip out the edges of the screw head, it was clear she wasn't going to budge. Now what?
Normally, fuel docks don't like you hanging around. The idea is to get in, fill up, pay and move on so they can serve the next customer. Two months ago, and we would have been told to suck it up, leave and fix our own problems on our own time. However, in June it's another matter. The fuel attendant came aboard and helped by standing on the winch handle while I cranked, but to no avail.
We scratched our heads for awhile, then I remembered I had a tap set aboard. In 15 minutes I had drilled and tapped two 8mm bolt holds into the aluminum cap. Thank goodness it was aluminum and not steel. With two studs in place, we had some serious leverage, but she still wouldn't budge. I switched from the monster Craftsman screwdriver to the biggest baddest winch handle we have, a massive double handled Barlow.
With the fuel guy standing on it and cranking my hardest while the 8mm bolts started to fold into the aluminum material which inprisioned them, we finally heard the first pop. Incredibly, beyond all comprehension, the resistance continued for a full 270 degrees. It took all my effort on a lever nearly 18" long to get the cap to turn again. The bolts eventually started to twist out, so I had to reinforce them with nuts to broaden their base against the cap.
At last, probably 40 minutes into the contest, the mutilated cap spun free. Jeepers, can't a guy just get some gas? It's a boat man, and things just don't work that way.
Is this another sign that we're not supposed to leave?
Finally checked out, filled up and paid out, we departed from the marina at 4:23p and then left Rodney Bay. We were free, at last.
Calculations with both engines running full bore would put us into Saint Anne at 7:30p, 8:30p if we sailed. In addition to the wind being a bit too far forward, we were bucking a 2 knot current. This just didn't feel right. The Customs delay, the anchor chain being tangled, the fuel cap that wouldn't come off and now we are headed for a anchoring experiment in the dark. At the start of the trip I would have dismissed all these setbacks and muscled forward. Call it experience, superstition or good judgment. Whatever the reason, real men admit their defeats and do the smart thing. We tacked 180 degrees and headed back to the Noisy Jetski-Blaring Music Land that is Rodney Bay.
Being cruisers, time is on our side. There's always tomorrow.
Day 995 ~ Spade Back on DutyJune 5th, 2013
Girls tackled math lessons while I worked on installing the new anchor rode and runner tube. After watching a few YouTube videos, I figured I could use a heat gun to put the slight curve on the tube that it needs to feed the chain properly. The videos recommend filling the tube with sand before heating to help prevent the tube from buckling inward. It sort of worked. There is a bit of buckle but, over all, it looks pretty sharp. Think I will also change from a soft toilet style tube on the port side to the stiff PVC approach.
Thought it was Tuesday all day so figured, with one more day, we'd be able to leave. Except, actually, it turned out to be Wednesday. Argh.
Lisa and I went made another trip to Mega J in the afternoon. Once you get the feel for them, the local buses work great, much faster and more effective than any bus system I have seen or used in the States. Nika was thrilled when I brought home another box of Quaker Oatmeal Squares. Living on a boat has a way of helping the appreciation factor a bit.
Day 994 ~ Drying TimeJune 4th, 2013
While the kids worked through their math, I went back to town for more boat parts and to get the bolts removed from the triple block so I can replacement with longer ones. Painted the starboard chain locker as removing the rust stains was an impossibility. Must say, painting is the most rewarding form of cleaning.
Good day for drying laundry day, windy and partly cloudy. Hung the rest out and saved the $90 USD it would have cost to dry it all to perfection.
Day 993 ~ In Pursuit of the Perfect WashJune 3rd, 2013
Breakfast, math. I took care some boat projects, like scrubbing out the starboard anchor locker which included scooping out piles of old rusty chain fragments.
After lunch, Lisa and I headed to town for laundry. Three huge loads in the 14kg washer; that's right 42 kilos of laundry, or nearly 100 pounds. It was even heavier carrying it back to the dinghy wet.
Since this place charges $16.75 for a normal size 8kg washer it made sense to go for the big boy. However, at $18.60US per load, they win the award for highest price laundry machine, ever. Most extra-large washers in the Caribbean we've found to hover around $9US. Even the French come in far cheaper at 9 Euros, or about $12US a load. Keep in mind that an expert Lucian brick layer makes about $60US per day.
As for drying, Lisa's habit is to use the sun and fresh air, but these take the cake too. We had formerly considered 3 Euros for 10 minutes in a dryer to be in the steep range. However, every ten minutes in these special St. Lucian dryers will set you back $9.30US! Incredible. Gee I wonder why we were the the only ones there. It's a testament to having boat guests and 3 growing kids that a Mom can get that desperate for a real washing machine.
Since the place is new since our last trip here 2 years ago, Lisa asked her how business was going and she replied, "Slow". Really!? Shocking revelation. We spent a full day's pay for a local brick layer just to wash our clothes.
Returned between rain showers. Got all laundry hung when rain came. Ate dinner inside since we couldn't find the cockpit within the forest of sheets, shirts and shorts.
Day 992 ~ The Donkey SpeaksJune 2nd, 2013
St. Lucia knows how to treat their visitors. Thumping beach noise kept the sensitive among us awake for half the night. Add surly vendors, hateful stares and threats against our dinghy to the many charms that St. Lucia offers. If it weren't for the superior airline connections, I doubt we'd ever return.
After an early taxi drop off, we started the day right with Swedish Pancakes. We had met another kid boat, in Anse Mitan a couple of weeks ago. We exchanged email addresses with the British/American former cruiser family who now lives on St Lucia and had arranged to meet them at 1:30p at the marina.
They piled us into their two beater cars and we headed north. Soon, we were off-road and wandering through cactus laden hills and rutted paths dodging goats and wild horses as we wound our way to Donkey Beach. Imagine navigating deeply rutted rock-strewn water courses in a two wheel drive Subaru Justy packed with 3 adults and 4 kids. You get the general idea.
Survey poles are scattered throughout the boulder strewn landscape, spindly reminders of a world class golf resort concept that died on the vine in 2008. As we picked our way towards the coast, the trees thinned out and took on a decidedly wind-sculpted aspect. It blows hard here. The windows of the car started to glaze over with salt before we even got all our bodies extricated. Several other families arrived and, before long, bodies were bobbing everywhere.
Donkey Beach proved to be a steep, sugar sand affair sporting a marching line of 4-12 foot rollers. Just perfect for surf enthused boys. Nina spent most of her time trying to catch waves as well.
I took a few rounds on a boogie board, but mostly sat around with the adults pumping them for information on business in St. Lucia and how things really get done. No real surprise, there's a good old boy network you don't dare cross but, in general, if you are keeping locals employed the taxes and regulations aren't over burdensome. Personal income tax is 10%, corporate income tax is 40%. And then I mentioned the St. Lucia attitude to one of the guys. He replied:
"Okay, so the British government abolished slavery. The slaves where "freed" and given small plots of land. But what is really going on is that the same plantation families who dominated St. Lucia in 1840 still control everything today, and I mean everything.
They control all the big businesses and tourism operations, they own or control all the prime real estate, the best farming land, the hardware stores, the suppliers and these families still view Africans as an inferior race. For example, they are ostensibly British and they will greet you on the street; they might even come to a neighborhood barbecue and put on a friendly smile, but they are never, ever going to let me into their business or into their lives.
The fact is these original families resent the presence of ex-pats (Americans, British, Canadians, etc) in St. Lucia because they know that if we saw how racist they really are, we would be sickened and hold them in complete contempt.
The locals are keenly attuned to this racism. Since these power families are white, when the average local encounters you, they are unable to look past your skin and see the individual that you are. What they see is money, power, control and prejudice coming from you, and so they repay the favor.
Locals who work for these families or their hotels or farms are looked down upon by their friends and neighbors for "still being slaves to them". And so those poor souls are taking heat from both sides, prejudice from their boss's boss, and enmity from their peers. This leads to some of the really weird habits they have, like the phone thing."
"The phone thing?" I asked, already guessing where this was going.
"Have you noticed, that you'll walk into a store and start to engage in the process of buying something, anything, and the employee will begin the transaction, but then stop and completely cut off contact with you, as if you just vaporized before their eyes. At this point they will send a text message, or check their voicemail, or even place an outgoing call."
"Have I noticed?!" It happens every day, sometimes multiple times.
"Exactly. They do that to any white person, including me, and I have lived here for a decade and know many of them personally. What they are really saying is that 'I am no white man's slave, not now not ever and I'll prove this by completely dismissing you and making you wait on me.' It's usually done where other employees can see them so that they reinforce their independence among themselves and defend themselves against the slave image. They just can't help it."
That made a lot of sense. Then, turning to his friend he added,
"Hey I have figured out how to make the Domino's thing work. You walk in there, wait in line and when your turn comes the phone will ring and they will drop you in mid-sentence and pickup the phone, or call someone or text someone. It takes 20 minutes to order a simple pizza. So what I am going to do this next time is walk in the door, sit down at a table and call them on from my cell phone. When they ask for the delivery address, I am just going to say, 'drop it off at my table' instead of my house. I bet it will work like a charm."
Kidnap people, ship them across the seas, force them to work toilsome labor under the burning sun and their great, great, grand children will still walk around completely blind to the chip on their shoulder. Some sins just never stop giving back.
The kids had fun, and just about feel asleep at the dinner table, but all I could think about were the 100,000 people who just need to know, to actually believe, that they truly are created equal.
Day 991 ~ Lively SailJune 1st, 2013
Boats and planes do not mix. Teal's flight leaves on Sunday so we need to get back to St. Lucia despite the 20-25 knot winds that will grace our trip today. I can already wager that some of the guest tummies aren't going to be happy campers.
As usual, we got kicked straight out of Anse Mitan and around the corner southward, only to have the wind flip 180 degrees and head us until we cleared the HMS Diamond Rock. After that, we had a nice lively reach back to St. Lucia. Couple of abnormal waves slapped us sideways and doused the cockpit with wind drift. Salty spray everywhere, how glorious! We set the hook in Rodney Bay about 4pm.
We have fished this Martinique to St. Lucia and back straight 8-10 times now without a single strike. That's a tough one to figure as flying fish abound. Guess there are just too many people with boats.