March 2013 ~ New Islands
Day 929 ~ Blender BlissMarch 31st, 2013
Being Sunday, it was Swedish pancakes right out of the gate. Sara is so happy, she is silly.
Jake, from an American boat, Avalanche, had stopped by to introduce himself yesterday. Turns out that he is an avid diver, and even has a dive compressor, so Lisa was all ears. They tentatively planned to dive this morning around 11.
Needing some exercise to burn of all the pancakes, I went for a swim and ended up near Avalanche, a stunning, custom rolled aluminum centerboard cutter. I popped up to say hi. Jake wasn't looking too happy.
"My generator just overheated and shut down," he reported gloomily. "There's antifreeze all over the place." Somehow I got the impression that anti-freeze soaked floors weren't a good complement for the clean perfection I saw in every corner. I guess having a million dollar boat doesn't insulate you from the inevitable boat troubles. The location is certainly exotic enough.
Jake rallied and agreed that, despite the mess, he was going to go for a dive anyway. Plus, it was too hot to work on the generator. He and Lisa went out to the barrier islands to check out a few potential spots but were turned back by sharp rip currents and standing waves. "It's not too nice out there right now!" he reported.
So, he and Lisa mobilized their gear and went for a dive just off the nearby rocky point, in sheltered water. They came back all smiles even heard whales calling each other.
Lisa used what was left of her tank to root around the anchorage for sea urchin shells and conchs. She found some nice ones and surfaced just as her tank was on the redline.
She was pretty whipped and everyone was eager for some refreshment so I headed ashore for some ice from the beach restaurant. Pineapple juice, crème de coco, orange, vanilla and ice makes one tasty treat and disappears rather quickly. With some ice to spare we tried a lime zest, lemon juice, cane sugar and vanilla concoction. It didn't look so appetizing, but tasted great. Further research is required.
Lisa went diving with Jake and found some very colorful scenery.
Day 928 ~ La Croix HikeMarch 30th, 2013
The anchorage here in Anse à Cointe is stunning, really. Rocky peaks at both ends, sand beaches cap the shoreline while volcanic rocky boulders punctuate the center.
After a quick brekkie and some boat clean up, Lisa and I decided to hike up the nearest promontory and were rewarded with some skittish goat encounters and a exhilarating 360 degree ocean view from the top. A nice cool breeze as blowing as well, which made just hanging out there a persuasive argument.
We came back hungry so Anna and I whipped up some traditional Norwegian Lefse. Well, they didn't come out as good as Mom's, but they were tasty with zero leftovers.
Day 927 ~ Baguette ManiaMarch 29th, 2013
Slept in late this morning. I recognized that long forgotten feeling of a baguette hangover. So, to keep the carb balance in place, I whipped up some American pancakes and then tackled lessons. The girls are doing pretty good, some occasional and unnecessary drama but, in general, they are getting that buckling-down and cranking-it-out-is-the-best-approach attitude.
Quick lunch, swimming then Lisa and I went snorkeling (ho-hum) along the rocky promontory to our immediate north. Kid boat arrived with British flag, but when we dinghied over and tried to hail someone, the 14 yo in the cockpit didn't even look up to acknowledge us. Her iPad was much more interesting. "Land kids" explained everything. Wrapped up the evening some outstanding plantains. In the states, every plantain is a gamble, some turn out okay, many do not. The local Guadeloupe plantains, by contrast, are batting 1000. Even Sara, the 'never tried a new food I liked' girl, tasted them and smiled.
Day 926 ~ Alone AgainMarch 28th, 2013
After yesterday's kids mania, the girls slept in an hour later than normal. Poor things. Boys, as we learned, actually do have more energy to burn than Sara after a Swedish pancake breakfast. We weren't finished with our Birch Mirch before we heard engines starting and anchor chain clanking as the Brazilian armada made their exit.
We did the usual lessons and then Emma and I dinghied east about a mile to the main little tourista town for the Isle des Saintes. We arrived just a touch late, as most shops were closing down for lunch. Gotta love the French. We managed to snag a couple of the last baguettes available along with Emma's postcards.
Iona joined us in the anchorage yesterday evening. Their 11 year old boy, Dillon, came over in the afternoon for some board game and swimming fun. Sara, Emma and I explored the nearby beach as the sun was setting. Emma scored some large pieces of sea glass which was the talk of the town when we returned. Maybe I am just being a manipulative parent, but excitement over sea glass seems to sound a lot cooler than excitement over a new app.
Day 925 ~ Flatter FutureMarch 27th, 2013
It rained most of the night and the wind kicked up at some point during the night making the anchorage quite rocky. By morning, we were ready to leave except that this little island begs to be explored a bit more. Unlike Terre-de-Haut, Terre-de-Bas is a peaceful island with heritage (no military forts) and revealing rich agricultural and industrial activities (coffee, sugar cane, cocoa, cotton, Indian timber, pottery).
We spotted some ruins last night a bit further down the path and more toward the boat so we put lessons on hold and went ashore. Turns out it's an old pottery factory from the 18th century where they manufactured sugar forms and molasses pots for the sugar cane industry. Returned via another path that took us through town on the main road.
We upped Bruce and motored out and over to Terre-de-Haut and anchored amid several Brazilian and Spanish kid boats. There are three boats traveling together with a total of 9 boys and one 2 year old girl. Our crew was impressed, but not excited. Boys, ugh, who needs 'em?
They all came in the late afternoon for some swim time and then we all migrated over to one of the Brazilian boats (another kid-magnet catamaran). We joined them later to visit with the parents, who spoke very good English. Their boys could converse adequately as well (as homeschooling is not allowed in Brazil, they follow the Calvert program so all their lessons are in English). Unfortunately, tomorrow they are headed to Guadeloupe and parts north. Alas.
This anchorage is, at last, flat as a pancake in Kansas.
Translation of the pottery factory sign:
This site is coastal forest managed by the National Forest Office.
An archaeological study and stabilization/remediation works of the buildings will start very soon. They will be followed by a showcase and opening to the public.
The creation of this pottery is attributed to Jean-Pierre FIDELIN around 1760. It was part of a residential structure extending around the Great Bay. By the end of the 18th century, its activity seems to be exclusively manufacturing shapes corresponding sugar pots.
This pottery was produced until the sugar crisis of 1815 of the sugar forms and molasses pots. In the end of this century, the clay was the most suitable material used to manufacture these containers. These utensils were essential in the crystallization of sugar in each sugar mill that possessed 2-3000 units.
Pottery labels: Sugar Form - Molasses Pot - Sugar Loaf
Schematic Map of Industrial Remains
1 Clay Stock
2 Grinding beast
3 Pit to soak/dip and cast the earth
3 Evaporation trays
Extraction of ground from the heights of Terre-de-Bas (existing ponds) but also of Terre-de-Haut and elsewhere.
2 Grinding (Manual grinding mill or animal traction)
3 Settling (soak 2 to 3 days)
- vegetable waste (top)
- clay water (middle)
- mineral waste (bottom)
Day 924 ~ Underway At LastMarch 26th, 2013
The morning broke clear and flat calm. We welcomed Bruce back into the family and gave each engine some much needed exercise. We raised the main to take advantage of any puffs. It's amazing what a difference clean props and a clean bottom make. We were motoring at 8+ knots for the first 20 minutes. Then I shut off the port side and ran the starboard alone. We still made 6.4.
The last time we sailed around the tip of Guadeloupe the winds were funneling around the tip of the island. I suspected that today would be no different. We had motored about an hour, when I could see wind ahead on the surface of the water. And did it ever blow. We went from virtually nothing to a peak of 32 knots in just a a few miles. We took a couple of tacks to stay in the swell protection of the headland, then tacked through the Canal des Saintes.
Was going to try the first bay on Terre-de-Bas, but since the chart was written there is now a huge sea wall blocking 80% of the entrance to form a ferry terminal. The second bay only had 3 boats so we opted to give it a try. The surrounding hills wreck havoc on the trade winds; at times we were experiencing westerly gusts, exact opposite of the boat just 100 yards away. The rocky, hostile looking coast line and swirling winds discouraged company. We watched 3-4 boats anchor, stand around looking for a bit, then promptly leave.
I snorkeled the anchor and surrounding undersea landscape. It's good sand holding with light grass patches. Bruce was buried to the hilt. The wind gusts were short and moderate, so Lisa and I left the girls aboard, their favorite thing now, and went ashore to explore and perhaps find internet. Lisa met a lady who lived in the village and was able to use her French to gain a little intel on the lay of the land. The "town" is really just a village with no grocery stores, no boulangerie (baguette shop) and the question of wifi was met with an empty stare. Perhaps, perhaps.
The village is quite small but well-kept and clean. The houses, in French style, have wooden shutters on all doors and windows (most of which have lace curtains), some measure of a porch and lots of flowers. A picturesque place.
After the sun went down, the swell was reduced and the anchorage became more comfortable. Just a few lights twinkled on shore as the moon rose. Goats bleated on the surrounding hills, giving the impression of numerous lost toddlers crying for a bottle.
Intermittent rain throughout the night. Only the second rainy spell in the last month.
Day 923 ~ Tankless and HappyMarch 25th, 2013
It must be time to go because we've fallen into a routine. The winds were right to go today, but motivation wasn't quite there. Still need to top up our water and produce supplies as well as fill the dive tanks where they've already been filled two other times. The French can be picky about tank certifications so we are never sure what to expect when taking them somewhere new.
While the girls tackled their lessons, I went to town to knock a couple of items off the list. After lessons and lunch, the girls and I went swimming. In the late afternoon, Lisa and I went to shore to get more water and inquire about the tank filling. The price was much better than that a mile down the road, 4 Euros instead of 7. However, they wouldn't fill two half tanks for one price so Lisa opted to go diving to at least completely empty one.
We then headed over to Pointe Malendure where I snorkeled over her while she explored and documented the underworld in 15-22 feet. The tanks only took 10 minutes to refill, we topped up our water and were back on the boat by 5:30p. Tomorrow is the day.
You Belong with Me
Sara and Anna are looking to enter the music industry as Taylor Swift wanna-bes. Check out their own blogs for some solo action. Code 09 means "parents are back!"
Everybody Went Low
Sara goes solo.
Day 922 ~ A Family DayMarch 24th, 2013
It's Sunday, again. Which means, of course, you guessed it, Swedish Pancakes for breakfast. I mixed up a batch, then decided to put the Spade anchor back on our starboard windlass. I had removed it to use in tandem with the Monster during Hurricane Sandy. It stuck so good that it took a winch to recover, and that was also pulling on the tripline. It was impossible to budge otherwise.
This should have been a 10 minutes job. Well, two hours later, I finally asked Lisa to cook the cakes while Emma and I finished flipping the starboard chain rode end for end, then replacing the tramp rode chase and finally attaching the anchor with a squirt of Loctite Red just for good measure. Whew, that was a project that got out of hand. I grabbed the windlass remote and clicked "Up" to tighten the chain in the tube. Nothing happened. Use it or lose it.
The girls were growling like bears by this time and the cakes were done so took a break to reassess the situation. A quick disconnect of the wires found that the problem was in the remote. That's good, because the remote is easy to work on and easy to replace. A bad solenoid would have been much worse news.
I ripped into the remote, thinking a bad connection might be fixable. Turns out the good stuff is on a printed circuit board. I tried a clumsy solder fix but in the end it ended up in File 13. I found a three-way flip switch in the electrical parts bin and rigged it up to work for now. Just another $100 remote needed in addition to four hours of a Sunday morning lost. Ahh, the ease of boat life.
Spent the rest of the day doing "family" things, which Sara seems intent on making happen. This is a new phenomenon, Sara insisting on "family" time, "where we all do things TOGETHER". She emphasizes the 'together' part. So, we played round after round of UNO, then read more Lord of the Rings, then went for a swim, TOGETHER.
Day 921 ~ Saturday ZooMarch 23rd, 2013
Best to get the heavy work over with as quickly as possible. I gathered our miscellaneous water jugs and buzzed over to the dock about 7am.
The French have a few things right, not the least of which is they aren't ashamed to take some time off, routinely. It all works out as long as everyone knows the plan ahead of time. All the stores close Saturday at noon. I didn't remember this, naturally, so sauntered into the local Carrefour only needing a few small items. It was a raving zoo. I waited 25 minutes in line just to check out with a pittance of items. By then, the nearby pizza restaurant opened at 12:30p and they actually had wifi. Lisa bought the required payment, an apple juice for 2 Euros, and did her thing. I then did mine and we were back at the boat 2pm. Another hot day.
Dillon from Iona came over to swim and Lisa and I went snorkeling in search of the huge turtle but the water was hazy from beach-goers. Sara exercised her rope swinging muscles after dinner. That bosun's chair has been the best birthday present ever.
Snorkeling through a school of Blue Tangs.
Day 920 ~ A Terrible TurtleMarch 22nd, 2013
Arranged for water from one of the dive shops, but too many boats during the diving/tourist departures to actually get some.
Lessons as usual. Spent a scorching couple of hours doing client work at the laundromat with the nearly-impossible-to-find French wifi. After lunch, Dillon, from Iona, came over for some rope swing time. Kids played games and then went swimming. I went for the traditional afternoon snorkel to cool off and spotted the largest turtle I have ever seen. Would just about cover your average dining table. He didn't care about me one bit. Guess I am not large enough to be a threat.
Never did get the drinking water. Perhaps tomorrow.
Day 919 ~ Back to the Dark AgesMarch 21st, 2013
A usual day. Lessons in the morning while I worked to the extent of my laptop's battery life at the local laundromat. The first lady who arrived to do her wash looked a little confused when she saw all the machines quiet and empty. Oh well. I just said the usual, "Bonjour" with a smile then went back to the code.
There's no A/C, the hot machines are running, sun is beating in and, of course, no wind. Whew. Geeks aren't used to sweating while they work. How primitive.
Day 918 ~ Water and WifiMarch 20th, 2013
Sprinkled all morning. Not really enough to get the boat clean or collect but just enough to get everything wet. First in a long while. I gathered our jerry jugs and puttered over the to dock for some H20.
I was just connecting the hose when a large bald French guy came running up yelling at me. Of course, it was all Greek to me. I shrugged and stopped. A passerby intervened to interpret. Turns out it's this guy's water, which he wasn't happy to find me using.
Ok, no problem, I countered, I am happy to pay. There was an exchange and then all smiles. "No, no he says you can use the water, no problem." I looked stupid, I am sure. Clearly, I missed something there, but the take home was clear. I filled my jugs and puttered back.
Lisa and I then loaded up a month's worth of dirty laundry. I found a bit of wifi at the Pizza place, but was just getting into things when they closed up for the afternoon, right in the middle of my teleconference. They are only open for lunch and dinner, not the in between hours. Naturally.
Weather cleared off in the afternoon. A new boat arrived flying a British ensign. Parents British and Hawaiian, they have two children aboard. Dillon came over to play games, rope swing and swim, the 2 year old stayed behind with Mama.
Day 917 ~ Going DeeperMarch 19th, 2013
Lessons and computer work in the morning. The work is nice because the money is needed, but cranking up the motivation every day while looking out the window and seeing the screensaver in person that millions use on their computers to day dream is a constant challenge.
The water clarity here is good and diving sounds intriguing. We have full tanks, why not give it a try? Lisa and I geared up and dinghied around to Pointe Malendure where there is a mooring buoy over a nice, modest dive site with depths from 20-30 feet. We geared up and went in. The first couple of minutes breathing below the surface is a little freaky. Hours of snorkeling helped, but it does feels completely different. And the sounds are strange and gurgly. I have had trouble clearing my ears in the past, and did this time as well. Able to clear the left as the pressure increases, but my right just kept on a-hurting. Went down to about 25 feet and back a couple of times. Things seem to get better the second time around.
Lisa used the rest of her tank to explore the surrounding area while I snorkeled above her.
These little guys are oddly shaped.
There's more to explore down under the sea.
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Day 916 ~ Swinging TriadMarch 18th, 2013
We were up and going early. We used the last few hours of our car rental run to Basseterre for a circuit breaker for the watermaker. No luck. They had only A/C breakers and recommended a shop in Point-à-Pitre, another two hour drive. It just wasn't going to happen.
We returned skunked but did get the car back in time. Lisa collapsed after three days of banzai driving and exploration. After math, the girls worked to rig a third rope swing so all three of them could swing at a time. A big breakthrough in peace and happiness.
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Day 915 ~ The Best Ice Cream on EarthMarch 17th, 2013
We were up and going on Day 2 with a non-traditional Sunday brekkie of cold cereal. The sacred pancakes would have to wait, we had a rental car to catch. A neighboring boat, Nocé, gave us a dinghy ride to the dock so ours could stay in on the davits, safe and sound.
We piled into the car, books, iPods and all, for another day of cross-island trekking. We had just started to wind our way over a few modest hills when Lisa noticed that the car's temperature gauge had redlined. We pulled off immediately and I figured out how to pop the hood on out little Citroën C3. All seemed well underneath, no steam, smoke or excessively hot metal. I suspected the sensor was probably just sending a false signal.
Now what? If we run the car more and burn up the engine, will we be liable? Never know for sure, especially in a foreign country. So, we found a phone and Lisa managed to find the number to the rental agency. We were still close and the owner rolled in just a few minutes later. He poked around a bit and confirmed that and all was well the sensor was faulty.
Then we really tackled a hill. Our little French baguette burner got a workout dragging us up nearly 1,000 meters to the trail head on Mt. Soufrière, a "semi-active" volcano. "Semi" meaning it hasn't erupted in nearly 30 years while at the same time keeps the vegetation at bay by venting off a continuous flow of sulfuric acid, smoke and steam. We hiked about a half hour to the base of the crater and enjoyed a brown bag lunch with a panoramic view of the Caribbean Sea and a small cluster of islands south of Guadeloupe called "the Saints" where we anchored a couple of years ago with Remi De.
We were back at the car at 2:30pm. It seemed too soon to go back, so we decided to go for the full enchilada and drive the car and ourselves into the ground by going for the far northeastern tip of Guadeloupe. It took nearly two hours of winding mountain roads and a few missed turns to finally find Petit-Canal and Port-Louis. Like Charleston, South Carolina, Petit-Canal shares the distinction of being the primary slave port during the sugar boom of centuries past.
On our way out, we spotted a lady on the side of the road, doubtless a descendant of those past servants in bondage. She was bent over and cranking away on a wooden handle. It looked just like those ice cream makers your grandma used to have, the ones where you put the ice in the space between the wooden bucket and the metal cylinder. Sure enough, it was. But this wasn't ice cream, it was "sorbet de coco". It seemed prudent that I try some and make sure it was safe for the general public.
Wow, this was no sorbet. It was full cream, coconut ice cream with a generous helping of local pure cane squeezed sugar and distilled vanilla. It was hands-down the finest frozen confection I have ever tasted, besting anything from a freezer and easily topping my dozens of homemade experiments. It was easily 50 calories a swallow of pure heaven on a spoon. The girls tasted it and frowned, "blah, coconut, yuck". Bullseye. Now if Dan were just here to appreciate it with me it would have been the perfect discovery. As it was, he'll just have to take my word for it.
Turns out the 70 Euros spent on two days of rental car was money well spent.
Day 914 ~ Buzzing Around TownMarch 16th, 2013
We have a love/hate relationship with rental car days. It's always fun to broaden the horizons and enjoy some shopping diversity, but the unknown roads, the kids crammed in the back, the dead-end directions in a foreign tongue often lead to consternation.
We were up and going early for Day 1 of our car adventure. Philippe generously took us to the diving dock (so our dinghy motor won't try another dive). Lisa walked to the car rental place while I waited at the beach with the girls and gear. Soon, we were on our way in our zippy Citroën C3, yee haw. Being that we're essentially in France where most shops close at Noon on Saturday, we opted to go straight over the mountain to the main city of Pointe-à-Pitre while making a quick stopover at La Cascade aux Ecrivisses (waterfall) along the way.
Once in the big city, we had to ask directions several times before finding all the places we needed. The chandlery we found by chance when we took a wrong turn. Good thing, as later on we found that the 'right' turn would have taken us several miles out of the way.
By the time we were done shopping, we only had a few hours of daylight so took the north road home hooking around the top of Guadeloupe's western most "butterfly wing" going through Deshaies along the way. Philippe met us at the dock and returned us to our boat, groceries, purchases and all.
Day 913 ~ Option #1March 15th, 2013
After some debate, we decided to rent a car for the coming couple of days. Mixed blessing. Guadeloupe is a huge island and offers some attractive sights that can really only be reached by car, or helicopter. I guess we'll take option number 1.
Maxime, the 8 year old French banzai boy came over for a few hours of mimed Lego building, swinging and diving. He loves to entertain the girls with his antics.
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Day 912 ~ Sara's BirthdayMarch 14th, 2013
The girls were up early and decorating first thing. It's a very exciting double-digit day to which Sara has been counting down the last 28 days. On top of all the festivities planned, we've cancelled lessons for the day as well. You can imagine how upset the girls were.
Anna, Emma and I went shopping for cake supplies and then I went to go work on the computer during the party preparations. Our French friends returned about 2pm and dropped the kids off on our boat for the party.
As I rounded the last corner back to the beach, I automatically swept the dock with my eyes looking for our purple dinghy, ever a stand-out from the crowd. Well, there she was, but something was terribly wrong. She was pinned under the dock, each wave driving her up against the ragged underbelly of the metal structure. And, blinking to cut through the disbelief, I saw that her outboard was gone, completely gone.
"They stole my outboard right in front of a crowd of beach-goers. Incredible!" I thought. These French are ruthless and cruel.
I dashed as fast as my flip-flops and laptop laden backpack would allow. There was a small crowd gathered on the dock watching our precious dinghy getting pummeled by each progressive wave. As I got closer, I recognized them as our French neighbors in the anchorage. They were staring in disbelief at the wreckage. "Where's my outboard?" I hollered as I dropped my bag and leaped off the side of the dock into the lap of carnage. The dinghy was nearly full of water, the fiberglass seat was smashed in three shards and the fuel tank was slopping about trailing its hose to nowhere. No engine. But why would these devious French leave the fuel tank if they went to all the trouble to haul off the motor, which takes two guys to carry, unless you are Arnold.
I immediately starting opening valves to let out air from the tubes. This allowed me to "sink" the dinghy low enough to get her out from under the strangle hold of the dock. I was just getting her free when Philippe, the French boat dad, hollered, "Your motor! It's right here under the waters!" Sure enough, masked by the shadow of the dock, and hazily visible under each breaking wave was the outboard, our reliable companion of nine hundred forlorn nights. What a mix of emotions, NOT STOLEN! SUNK! and no doubt saturated with sea water and probably sand.
I dragged the dinghy up on the beach to at least get one asset out of danger. By the time I had turned around, Philippe and Olivier (his visiting brother-in-law) already had the outboard out and were sliding it up on the dock. I popped the engine cover off and was blessed with large gloop of sand on the arm. I watched as little lava-like flows oozed over the top of the engine and starting mechanism. Salt, sand and sea-water saturation. Just what the manufacture recommends every 3 months or 3,000 miles.
Now what? My brain was in overdrive trying to make sense of a suddenly upside-down world. I had just enough time to pull the dinghy farther up the beach with Olivier's help when Philippe returned, "My friend (pointing to a dive shop owned by an acquaintance of his) says we can use his waters." I grabbed the heavy end of the 25hp engine and we waddled as best we could up to the the shop's washdown area in the back, accompanied by the inquisitive stares of 2 dozen touristas. A high volume fresh water hose was hanging over a properly drained and spotlessly clean concrete pad. Just what the doctor ordered.
I didn't spare any water. We hosed and sprayed and turned the engine upside down and every which way while getting ourselves sopped from head to toe. Philippe disappeared and returned with a crescent wrench. In two shakes we had the spark plugs out and I started cranking her over with the pull-cord. With each pull she blew blasts of misty water 6 feet into the air, just like a little two little whales surfacing in tandem. There didn't seem to be any end. Pull after pull yielded more and more water. We finally turned the engine upside-down and just drained out the cylinders through the spark plug holes, then cranked it some more.
She finally blew dry. The friend came over and spoke a few words in rapid-fire French. "We must now go, the boat is coming," Philippe announced. We gathered spark plugs and waddled back down the beach. By then Philippe's wife was back with my tools and a foot pump. We dropped the engine on the dinghy and I started a-pumping. It took a few minutes, but soon the dinghy was hard again and seemed to be holding air. Whew. I paddled out to deeper water and Philippe threw me a line from his dinghy. I had two minutes to collect my thoughts before we were back at the boat. If this outboard didn't run in the next few hours, it probably never would.
First, I had to test for spark. Pull as might and squint as I may, I just couldn't get any spark to show. Crushing. Not knowing what else to do, I removed a fuel line and, working the primer pump, squirted and bubbled until pure fuel was coming through.
I put the fuel line back on and went to make a another pull, not really knowing what else to do. That's when my eye caught on the missing safety switch. As a precaution, I removed the kill switch when leaving the dinghy. It was still in my pocket. Well, now, that might explain the lack of a spark. I popped it back in and pulled. Varooom! She fired and died. One more pull, a sputter and then nothing. Pull as I might, there was not another flash of life. I pulled until I was bleeding on both hands and an elbow. Nothing.
Out came more tools. The ohm meter showed the kill switch working properly. Time for the carburetor. Fortunately, I had disassembled it once before with the oversight of competent engineering support (Jeff, Ken and Dan), so this time there was no guess work. This particular carburetor is elegantly simple. In six bolts it was removed and in my hand. The fuel bowl came off with four more screws. It was pristine inside, except for one little piece of grit in the take-up tube from the fuel bowl to the intake manifold. That might do it. I removed the tube blew it clean and put it back together. Everything else looked great. Just to be sure, I rinsed things in some clean fuel and wiped it all down with a cloth. Looks like the day it came from the factory.
High with optimism, I put it all back on. In my mind the 'start or never start' clock was ever ticking. This thing needed to run and run hard for 30 minutes to blow two stroke oil over every internal part and burn off any residue of salt or water in the wrong place. Total time the carb was off was 20 minutes, max. I started pulling.
All the while Sara's birthday party aboard carried on. Visiting French kids sang the happy birthday song, ate copious quantities of cake and chips, rope swung and, in general, had a blast.
I pulled on. Long since losing count of strokes, this thing would just not run. I choked it up and down, pumped tons of gas in, let it run dry, tried every combination that had always worked in the past. Nothing. My left arm and shoulder were going fuzzy and numb. My back was killing me. Blood was dripping on our nice dinghy cover. Nothing seemed to work.
Finally, I had pulled my last. Something wasn't working here. I lay down on the dinghy and just bobbed around in the waning sunlight of a beautiful, tropical paradise day. Hues of lemon and orange gilded the skating clouds. The kids moved inside to the Lego table. Lisa, knowing that things were bad, came out to commiserate. She asked a few leading questions to get me talking, knowing instinctively that just reviewing all the steps we had taken would help things feel less desperate, if not potentially help, sort of.
"How much does a new engine cost?" she finally broached the scary subject. Having just priced them out in St. Maarten, I knew the answer all too well, "Even pulling all our friends-that-are-store-manager strings, it'll still cost $2,800 to replace." "Ouch," she moaned.
Has anyone mentioned that boats are expensive?
I decided to check if there was still spark. I removed both spark plugs and foolishly grabbed one and held it against the block. "Give it a pull," I said. Lisa dutifully reached over and pulled, surprised at how easy it was without the compression.
Yow! Electric lightening pulsed through my wrist and dissipated somewhere between my elbow and shoulder. "Ok, we have spark," I concluded wryly.
Just for the fun of it, I cranked it over multiple times, watching nice little white plumes of atomized fuel jet out of the cylinders like clock work. I cranked the throttle up and watched the plume thicken, turned it down and watched them wane. It was like clockwork. If you have fuel and you have spark, then this thing has got to fire.
I put the plugs back in and reconnected the wires. I gave it another pull. Rrrroar! She actually ran and she ran hot. I cranked up the throttle and rattled windows across the entire anchorage with what sounded like a 25 horsepower chain saw. Nothing ever sounded so good. Music, sweet music. Philippe popped his head out and held his two thumbs high. Nearby relaxing sailors grimaced my direction, but I pretended not to notice, and certainly didn't care.
I ran the engine high and low for a good half hour and puttered around the anchorage until well after sunset. Felt great after three laborious hours.
Since I missed out on the celebration, we snapped the dinghy in place and found Sara, the patient birthday girl. We put a candle in a cupcake, sang "Happy Birthday" and she opened the rest of her gifts. Instead of a PlayStation game or cell phone, she was delighted to find salt water fishing lures (so they don't rust) and her very own bosun's chair (for use as a rope swing). Life on a boat has its pluses.
But wait, in all the excitement, where had my laptop bag ended up?
Then I got scared. My laptop, with files and emails was where? Where had I dropped and promptly forgotten it in the rush to save the dinghy?
Perhaps Philippe had grabbed it. Lisa hollered over in French. They shook their heads. Nada. Speaking French like a local, Philippe buzzed off to see if he could recover my waterproof backpack and its precious contents. In just a couple minutes, I heard the buzz of his return. I cringed to look up and see his face. It was impassive. Then, he smiled broadly and held up my backpack.
"It was right on the dock, where you put it first," he said, smiling. "I didn't even have to get out of my boat!"
Once the engine was running and the kids put to bed I got to thinking.
- No, the "French" hadn't stolen my motor.
- Two "French" I hardly knew willingly got soaked and sweaty fishing my motor of the drink and lugging it around.
- Another "French" guy I had never met let me use 100 gallons of fresh water and his prime beach front real estate to clean the motor.
- And he lent me tools.
- While I ripped apart the motor back in the anchorage, my brand new, waterproof Overboard backpack had sat on the dock in plain sight of hundreds of tourists and dock walkers. For two hours. No one had touched it.
Perhaps I had jumped to some conclusions about "the French".
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Day 911 ~ Social StudiesMarch 13th, 2013
Started math, but the French boat's visitors are leaving tomorrow so their 4 kids went to play at the beach and asked our girls to come too. Ah, sure!
While they played, Lisa and Philippe went diving at Pigeon Island and I caught up with a few client projects while keeping an eye on the beach crew. Philippe happens to be a dive instructor so Lisa was in good hands. All 7 kids played on our boat the rest of the afternoon, swimming, rope swinging and creating Lego designs. Guess we'll call this a "socialization day".
Sara's birthday is tomorrow so we made plans with our new friends for a celebration. Philippe's brother's family doesn't have to be at the airport to fly home until 5pm, so we're going to have Sara's party before they leave. Of course, she wishes Remi De were here again but it looks like they are anchored down in the BVIs for the foreseeable future.
Day 910 ~ Rocking OutMarch 12th, 2013
I hate Deshaies. It's a deep anchorage with too many boats, swirling winds and twisting currents. To spice things up even more, a nice swell wraps around the northern headlands of Guadeloupe and enters the wide open harbor from the back corner, making life aboard something like living through a slow motion earthquake that just never dies.
So, we made a quick morning of it. Checked ourselves into the country, extracted Euros from the ATM, bought some produce, postcards and stamps and raised the anchor a couple hours later. Screaming down from the north, the wind funnelled along the west side of the mountains. We just unrolled the head sail and ran with it making 5-6 knots for the first half hour. When it tapered off farther south, having no schedule, we just moseyed along. It took well over two hours to make the eight and a half miles south to "Birthday Bay", the anchorage where we celebrated Sara's 8th birthday two years ago.
Anchored next to a French cruising family who had family visiting from France. Went snorkeling at Pigeon Island with them. The kids got acquainted despite the language barrier. They invited us over to their boat for 'un apéro' (appetizers) and we ended up visiting and chattering away until 9pm. Lisa's French skills are a huge help.
Day 909 ~ Kissing St. Kitts GoodbyeMarch 11th, 2013
The police and Coasties went out of their way to get me back aboard quickly so we could leave as planned. By the time I exited the police station the shadows were growing long on the gnarled pavement of Basseterre. I didn't have the heart to tell them that too much time had passed and we didn't have a chance of making a new anchorage before nightfall. We weren't going anywhere until dawn.
St Kitts is a peculiar attraction, perhaps because it's off the beaten track. We commonly see British, Australian and US flagged boats. However, out of 17 boats in the anchorage, we had a wider range most of which we rarely see. Aside from Britain and only two from the US, Holland, France, Belgium, Italy, Hungary, Iceland, Norway and Sweden were represented.
Having seen the culprits cooling their jets at the station and experienced how seriously the local authorities had taken the entire affair, I actually slept pretty well. Even so, Lisa and I were both up and going at 6am and we raised the anchor before 7. We turned windward, raised the main and killed the engines. Ah, what a feeling. Based on the wind forecast for 10-15 knots all day, mostly right on the port side, we flew the genny again. She went up and unrolled like a champ.
The wind increased as we gained sea room from St. Kitts and, after a little flopping and motoring for 5 minutes in Nevis's wind shadow, we were under full sail and smoking our way toward Montserrat, which was itself doing a fair bit of smoking. The southernmost volcanic peak on Montserrat violently erupted in 1997 and buried the capital city under several feet of mud and ash. It was an eerie perspective, sliding past all that destruction on silent, velvet wings. We could clearly see buildings burned out, just the roofs of houses showing above the ash, wild rivers cut through by flash floods through the ash and debris. Downwind of the funnel, there was a strong smell of sulfur. We turned 15 degrees northward at that point and made for Guadeloupe, arriving in Deshaies (pron. 'day-ay') with just a half hour of sunlight remaining.
A fantastic 83 mile run in 10 hours. The swimming thieves feel a million miles away.
Day 908 ~ Help Where it Wasn't NeededMarch 10th, 2013
Started the day off with Swedish pancakes and a teak floor scrub. It's amazing how fast the grime accumulates when land is in the picture. Emma really cracked down and put some effort into her work. I think the adult inside her is close to shedding its child skin. Scary and cool all at the same time.
On the bus ride yesterday I had spotted an IGA grocery fairly nearby. Emma and I headed shore and hoofed it the 5 blocks or so and did a little more provisioning. Found some state-side prices on staples, which is a pleasant discovery in this back corner of the world. I also remembered to bring along the oven mitts and this time, Emma already knew what that meant. We selected a local tub of Guava ice cream and wrapped it up tight.
We hiked back in the heat of the day, probably 2pm, and arrived back aboard with keen appetites for something chilled and tasty. The mitts worked like a champ.
Having polished off our treat we then took Sara's advice and started a game of Sorry! As we were getting close to the end, we noticed a couple of young local men in the water swimming near a neighboring Swedish boat. The anchorage is a fair distance offshore, so it caught our attention.
A turn or two later, "they are climbing aboard!" Lisa hissed. "This doesn't feel right."
"Maybe they are friends of his," I countered. See no evil.
Lisa kept a discreet eye pealed. "They are rummaging around!" she growled, loud, but not loud enough to reach them.
It did look mighty fishy. I noticed another boat watching so hopped in the dinghy and zipped over for a chat. "I have already called the Coast Guard," said the owner with whom I had visited earlier in the day. Turns out he had been in Oriental, North Carolina, when we were there. Sara had recognized the boat the moment we had pulled in; that girl has an incredible memory for boats. If she would just apply the same standard to her math lessons, life would be a lot easier for both of us. "They say they are coming," he continued with a shrug, but "this is the islands, Mon, who know's when they will eventually show."
"About the time these guys are disappearing back into the streets," I observed.
I buzzed back to the Sorry! standoff. "The younger one was keenly watching you when you were over there talking." Lisa informed me in earnest. "This is not right."
"Well, the Coast Guard said they are coming," I offered. "Harumph! I'll believe that when I see it! This is the islands, Mon."
We played a couple more hands. Sara started behind as usual, but was just in the middle of her traditional comeback explosion when Lisa broke loose with a new revelation. She was peeping out with binoculars, "They are getting off, one guy is in the water. Now the other is getting in with a package. He's holding it over his head to keep it dry. They are both swimming for shore and the Coast Guard isn't here. You have to do something!"
"Er, what exactly am I supposed to do?" I asked, not exactly crazy about the idea.
"I don't know, go over and get the package! If you don't, I will!"
The thought of having to explain that, well, actually, it was my wife that confronted the boat thieves and put herself on the line to promote cruising safety in third world countries was enough to get me motivated.
Having watched running outboards and dinghies numerous times while swimming I knew how intimidating they could be. Unless the guys where packing heat, there really wasn't much danger. I opted for the loud and bold approach. I revved up the 25hp outboard and gunned it right for the lead guy, who seemed to be calling the shots and who had the package. The sound of a 150lb buzz saw headed right for your head does have a way of arresting one's attention.
He stopped paddling and stared at me wide-eyed in a combination of chagrin and fear. I swerved and chopped the power with just enough momentum to skid right in front of him and stop just out of reach. By now he had somewhat recovered his composure and wore a mocking "you can't touch me" smirk, offset nicely by a large fake, flashing diamond earring.
"Give me the package!" I stood for extra effect and gave him my best Don't-you-dare-use-your-Sorry!-card-on-me" stare.
"I ain't got no package, man!" he ejaculated, vigorously shoving both hands under his backside in a swirl of blue-green water.
"I saw the package come off the boat, I know you have it, now give it back!" I exclaimed with a little touch of confrontation and a quick twitch at the throttle to bump me closer.
"It's none o' yo' bizzness!" he spat back. I decided to employ some local lingo help drive the point home, "No, you vexin' me, mon! Give me the package!"
The "vexin'" told him this wasn't my first season in the Caribbean and maybe I had local friends. With a mocking smirk to cover his frustration, he passed up the now soaking package, a small book bag with a shoulder strap. I dropped the bag into the dinghy and took off after a few parting words about the wisdom of boarding other people's boats and what he might expect to find on mine should he ever get the idea in his head to repay my attention.
I wasn't sure what to do now. We were planning on sailing to Montserrat the next morning anyway, but I had a hard time envisioning sleeping all that well tonight. I knew Customs was open until 6pm. The sun was still high. As I glanced up I saw the guy on Norvik, the boat behind us, gesturing for me to come over. I flipped the tiller over, glided to a stop alongside and grabbed his toe rail.
I knew from the flag flying on the stern that he was Hungarian. His English was pretty rough, but he had a video camera in his hand and I soon gathered he had taped the entire drama. Package and all. By then I had decided we needed to check out and leave, tonight, no delays. I told him the coast guard was coming and we were leaving. I passed him the sacred package to give to the Coasties and buzzed back our boat.
"What was in the package?" Lisa queried. "I have no clue," I replied, "But we are leaving tonight!" She starred dumbfounded. Her expressions said, "You went to all that trouble and didn't even look in the package!? You must be a man."
I grabbed our boat documents, passports and the like and headed for the landing. I saw another cruiser messing about on his boat, so tied my dinghy next to his and requested that he keep an eye on it while I was clearing out. The purple cover is a nice calling card for anyone looking for some payback.
I was in the custom's office filling out the exit papers when there was a knock at the door and an official poked his head in. "You the guy who got the package?" he asked with raised eyebrows. "Yes, that's me." "The police are waiting for you outside." This got the Customs' guys full attention. He stopped texting and put down his cell phone.
"What do the police want with you?" he asked, giving me the hint of a feeling that perhaps I wasn't going to leave anytime soon.
So I had to tell him the entire story. I guess I was still a little wired as it came out with plenty of gestures, details and emphasis. The immigration lady had hung up her cell phone and was also listening now. They seemed to take it seriously and shook their heads. "This is bad," one said to the other, "this is going to get around and people will stop coming." No kidding, sugar cookie. The internet cuts both ways.
Understanding now my motivations for leaving quickly, the Custom's guy rubber stamped this and that and we were clear to go.
Outside was was a smartly dressed police officer and a plainclothesman looking guy. "Are you the guy who has the package?" they wanted to know. When I told them I didn't have the package any longer and didn't have a clue what it contained, they stared at me dumbfounded. Their faces said, "You had the package and didn't keep it!? What are you thinking, Mon!"
They asked me to come identify the suspects, who were now cooling their jets in a silver Land Rover under the watchful eyes of a guy in military clothing. He was holding an M-16 assault rifle I noticed he always kept pointed at the ground. Always.
They had the right guys. The guy with the earring was trying to look tough and cool but the younger guy wore an "I do NOT want to be here" expression. I gave a brief blow-by-blow of events to the smartly dressed guy who took some notes. Everyone was listening closely. He asked a few questions. I admitted that I didn't know if they had got on the boat with the package in the first place, but that the Hungarian had it all on video, and he had the package to boot. Maybe they should talk to him.
I motored back to our boat and start getting things ready to make tracks. Shortly after, a big, bad US built Coast Guard boat came humming into the anchorage. They stopped at the Hungarian boat and then came to us. "Would it be possible to come to the station and make a full written statement?" they asked. I guess so. May as well make this one stick.
The Hungarian, cameras and all, was already aboard. We growled over to the dock and hopped into a little thrashed Toyota Tercel with the POLICE emblazoned on the sides. Looking closely, it appeared the car had been originally white, but now included touches of Krylon to maintain uniformity of tone. The side panels sported the telltale wave of numerous dents that had been popped out. They mostly seemed to be on the drivers side rear, where, somehow, I ended up.
The guy driving was young, perhaps 24. He sported a Glock 17 tucked inside his pants. Probably just to keep them from slipping down, I mused. He was as skinny as a rail but was also in the limelight. We whipped through city blocks at incredible speeds, swerving through traffic circles, narrowly missing bystanders. I had to hang on to keep from hitting my head on the side of the door when he swerved to the right. His attitude said, "I am on a REAL CASE here, people, and these are important witnesses -- staaand back!"
We arrived with a screech and a jerk in front of Police HQ. It is a stone building from sometime in the 1940s, maybe older. Clearly, it pre-dated the advent of electricity on the island. All the switches and wiring were run on the surface in little metal tracks that were rusting through and hanging askew in places. Spiders were having a heyday with the resulting gaps. A few dim lights hung from the ceiling at odd angles. Newer paint was bubbling and peeling in places, revealing a trend from lime sherbet to more neutral vanilla tones. The floor was tile from a a by-gone era that was partially worn through in the high traffic areas.
We waited for a while in the front offices and then were ushered back through a dark, narrow stone floored hallway with cells on each side, maybe 8 total. That passage was straight from the Alcatraz Solitary block. Dark, low ceiling, dim light, huge iron doors streaked with rust featured tiny peep holes and slits with locking steel flaps through which meals, and perhaps messages, could be passed.
We were led into what must have once been a recreational room for prisoners. It had a TV at one end blaring a women's NCAA basketball tournament. The wall on the right had high, narrow, barred windows casting long, pale pillars of light across a knotted wooden floor that would have made great Cracker Barrel decor. There were three rickety chairs on one side were we were directed to wait. After testing my chair for structural integrity, I relaxed a little and finally had a chance to think this whole, crazy situation through.
The Hungarian was feeling restive and wanted to talk. Through hand motions and use of common nautical terms we were able to communicate some basics about each of our trips and cruising goals. He had built his boat on his own over years in a spare corner of an acquaintance's factory. His friends all thought he was nuts. Apparently, leaving it all to go sail around the world isn't a common Hungarian aspiration.
We paused then for a moment having exhausted our available vocabularies. He paused for a moment and looked reflectively out the barred windows. I took a moment from this whole crazy scene to actually see the guy. He was well into his sixties, his face drawn and lined with the weather, his eyes a pale watery blue, drawn down at the corners. He seemed pensive, even somber. His hands were huge, and leathery. He starred past the bars towards the sliding clouds beyond. The TV screeched on. "Can you believe that, Bill, a third foul for Hendersen, this is unbelievable!"
Then I realized what had changed the Hungarian's mood. It was the people bustling about in uniform. The derelict, institutional feel of the place. The hanging wires, the low ceiling, the cold stone, the cells, the rust streaked iron doors. The bars.
"My kids." he stuttered after a long pause. "They jest no underztand. I grew under the Communists. For me, this boat, the sea, this is de true freedom."
In a flash his years of labor, his secret dream, sprang to life right in front of me. The TV blared on, the huge, flaxom players with their long pony tails glided over the glossy wooden stage throwing an orange ball at each other. They wore grave, serious expressions on their perfect, pale faces. The ones with just a touch of eyeliner and rouge. The coaches yelled at referees through Italian designer glasses.
For one suspended moment I saw them in the same light as my comrade. The precision, the sterility of their perfect little dream world. An ideal world, a golden utopia. Was this building on the same planet? Did we actually co-exist in the same era?
After a long wait, I was taken to a wooden picnic table at the far end of the room. It could have been a standard issue U.S. Forest Service picnic table, except that it was crooked in places where it should have been square. But the chocolate brown color, the rounded bolt heads were a dead-on match.
I carefully and slowly re-told my story for the 4th or 5th time. The young officer took it all down carefully in neat hand writing. He asked for clarification in places. In 20 minutes we were done. I read the entire thing and signed at the bottom in the right hand corner.
Once we were finished they said they were taking me back to the waterfront where the Coasties would take me back to my boat so I could leave that evening as planned. By now the sun was low and I didn't have the heart to tell them I wasn't going anywhere; gaining a new anchorage before nightfall was impossible. I just went with the flow. As I was walking out it finally hit me. What was in the package? I stopped and asked the Hungarian who was still dutifully waiting his turn.
"Oh, ze bag?" he asked, unsure of his comprehension. "It had a laptop. It was very with sea waters."
I never did see the package or the Hungarian again. During the crazy car ride back, I couldn't help but wonder, if I hadn't intervened, would the thieves have carried it ashore, dry as a bone, right into the waiting hands of the police?
Day 907 ~ Bus ManiaMarch 9th, 2013
St. Kitts has been wonderful, actually, but it's probably time to take on a few more provisions and head further south. We upped anchor in the morning and motored over to the main town, Basseterre, one of the (at least) 36 places in the Caribbean named exactly the same thing. Creativity in France or England wasn't richly encouraged in the Victorian Era, by the looks of things.
Renting a car is about $100 US per day by the time you are done with the rental, the insurance and the local driving license one must buy. So, we decided to take the local bus around the island, but as seems to be the custom, there are no local buses making a complete circle. It's a guild thing, I am sure. Again, we arranged to get dropped off at the farthest point and then transferred to another bus for the return around the north and east sides of St. Kitts.
When we were done, I was keen to hop right back in and do it again, but Lisa and the girls had seen enough, or swerved through traffic enough for one day. St. Kitts, on the whole, conveys a rugged beauty that seems a bit more untamed than many of its neighbors; it's good to see some initiative. We passed large tended fields of sugarcane and produce.
When the last bus deposited us back in Basseterre, I spotted a guy selling watermelons from the back of his thrashed Toyota truck. He had starfruit, huge watermelons and a variety of small garden items, such as squash and "pumpkin" (local word for another kind of squash). I asked where he had gotten the produce, and he replied, "I grow everything I sell."
Now we're talking. The melon was absolutely perfect; crunchy, bursting with juice and sweet from the center to the farthest edge. Puts Fred Meyer melons to a crying shame.
Day 906 ~ Finishing TouchesMarch 8th, 2013
Well, the new epoxy and honeycomb floor in the forward locker came out pretty well. It's nearly perfectly level, and stiffer than you would think possible with just cloth and glue. Time for some paint work.
You've always heard that story about the guy who painted himself into the corner. Well, in this case, the guy was in a locker. I knew that, by the end, foot space was going to get scarce and just figured something would work out. Well, it did, sort of. The thought of having to crack open the paint again, use a new brush just for those last few square inches spurred on a last minute invention that got the job done in one pass with only minimal paint under the toes.
Anna and I sailed toward Basseterre in Sea Pearl, running before a fading evening breeze. We enjoyed the scenery and talked about life and all the friends we had made along our way. Well, actually, Anna talked. Freed from Emma's critical ear and interrupting comments, Anna just talked and talked and talked. Probably a solid hour.
When it was time to turn back we found that the breeze really was slacking. Had we brought paddles? Uh, no. Radio? Ditto. We tacked and tacked, and finally ghosted up to the stern an hour later than I had intended.
Didn't your dad sometimes tell you, "I ought to give you a good paddle."
Day 905 ~ The Far SideMarch 7th, 2013
We are anchored on the protected side of a narrow spit of land. If you listen closely you can hear the surf pounding on the windward side, where some of the waves left Africa a few days ago.
After a quick brekkie, we marshalled the troops and hiked across the isthmus, spotting numerous monkeys suspiciously eyeing us from the dense foliage bordering the road. The monkeys are "cute" until you hear the stories about them staking out people's gardens, watching their comings and goings and waiting to strike until they know your house is empty and your veggies undefended. Oh, and they grow large canine teeth.
The windward side sported an impressive beach, a 40 yard wide pulverization zone. The sand was ground into the finest silk. Flotsam and jetsam were jammed into the bushes above the highest tide line. The winds were modest but even so your nostrils tingled with the salt air and energy of the incoming swells.
After lessons we headed over to the Carambola (local lingo for starfish) beach where the girls enjoyed some time in the water. I snorkeled a bit and encountered a school of squid, which is rare. Like seasoned politicians, you could watch them change colors and stripes right before your eyes. Like magic.
In the evening, Lisa and I walked up nearby Timothy hill for a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape.
Day 904 ~ Leaving NevisMarch 6th, 2013
Looking back, we have had some idyllic days here in Nevis. Calm anchorage, bright sunshine, cool breezes, lots of swimming and peaceful nights. The girls seem to be over their obsession with requiring other kids around to be happy and just play together without too much fuss or consternation.
Then the weather shifted. A nice wind kicked up from the north last night bringing swells into the anchorage that make daily life uncomfortable. I did my last big batch of epoxy on the locker floor then we tightened up the boat and sailed off our mooring ball. We started off a little bouncy at first until we fell under the lee of the southern tip of St. Kitts. Then we made smooth, fast tacks back to Carambola Resort where we dropped the hook in 5 meters over pure sand. Nearly flat calm. Ahhhh.
Got the Sea Pearl itch, so Emma and I sailed for a few hours exploring the desolate southern coast of St. Kitts from a more intimate perspective. Winds were a little fickle and, at one point, we realized we had forgotten to bring a radio. Ahem.
Day 903 ~ Little MovesMarch 5th, 2013
Epoxied the first of the floor pieces in before brekkie. Went pretty smooth, a couple of minor hang-ups, but nothing critical. Managed to only get a few blobs of epoxy in my hair.
Did breakfast and lessons, then cast off our mooring ball. We are supposed to use the moorings at all times in Nevis, but I found a couple washed up on the beach which leave one with some doubts. We sailed nicely downwind with just our headsail. We need to return to the main town (Charlestown) to check out of Nevis so we can return to St Kitts. In hindsight, there wasn't much point to all this formality, but you never know your first time.
Thought about trying to pick the ball up under sail power, but once we got close it was just too tight with mega-yachts on one side and charter boats lining the other. Both have attorneys just waiting for some work.
Got into customs and presented all our papers. When asked if we have a certain time limit to leave to return to St. Kitts and the Customs agent just shrugged his shoulders. Ahhh, yes, I see. Afterward, I went to three local stores for a few items. Found the local produce market and some real fruit and veggies from Dominica.
Motored north again a few miles back to Nelson's Spring (where we spent the last few days) by a vote of 4 to 1. It's "just nicer" everyone agrees. Whatever it takes to keep my girls happy.
Day 902 ~ A Pleasant DayMarch 4th, 2013
Tackled more glass work in the morning and client work after that while the girls did lessons. The wind is fairly light making Nevis's western side fairly flat and enjoyable. Girls seem to be over their Infinite loss of playmates and actually had a good day of playing and energy burning time in the afternoon. Nothing like jumping into and climbing out of water hours on end to mellow out a 9 year old girl who suffers from the wiggles.
Day 901 ~ ExploringMarch 3rd, 2013
Got started right off with some glass and epoxy work. Best to get the gooey part of the day over with quickly.
Did a small test piece to validate the idea that you can laminate multiple layers of Nida-Core together to make stiffer panels. Should work, but always good to do a test before committing my last pieces of honeycomb panel. Worked great and came out very light and strong. Wish Dan was here to enjoy the learning curve and engage in some destructive testing (the best kind).
We ate a breakfast of Swedish pancakes to make up for yesterday's shortage.
After some lessons and project clean up we puttered north about a mile and a half in the dinghy to check out more of Nevis. There are a few really artfully done waterfront houses which were fun to see. We walked around a bit on Oualie Beach, which, according to the cruising guide, offers the "best dinghy dock on Nevis". This isn't saying much.
Day 900 ~ Getting StartedMarch 2nd, 2013
Infinity left before sunrise headed for Guadeloupe. The girls are at a loss. We're ready for a break from having to "find more boat kids".
After lessons the girls swam and played in the water, Lisa cranked out another flag, this time tackling Dutch St. Maarten complete with circa 1800 insignia.
I started rebuilding the floor of our forward-most storage locker which I had ripped out just before leaving St. Maarten. By comparison to the water tank fixes, this should be a piece of cake. I don't think my fiberglass skills are quite to professional standards, but there's less mess every time it doesn't take half an hour now to figure out where to cut the cloth (and I can still comb my hair afterward). I used some of the scrap Garolite to create a lip to receive the new floor panels. G-10 and a grinder come in really handy sometimes.
Day 899 ~ Bussing around NevisMarch 1st, 2013
Today we decided to divide and conquer. Lisa and Anna love gardens and flowers and actually care about living members of the flora kingdom. The other members of the family, who shall remain unnamed, prefer other pursuits. Lisa and Anna took a bus to the Botanical Gardens while Emma, Sara and I took a separate set of busses around the island.
Let's see. You have an island that is nearly a perfect circle with a road all the way around. Do any busses actually drive all the way around this circle? It seemed like a logical question, but the drivers stare at you like you are from another planet. Turns out one group of busses go halfway and the other go the other way. No, they don't meet in the middle. Apparently, there is a reality that appears to make sense but actually doesn't.
We finally crossed paths with a younger driver who had a touch more ambition. He agreed to take us a little farther around and even called his friend, who drives the other half, to make sure he would come that far and get us. "Bus" really means "cheap and local shared taxi kind of thing that goes when and where they please" -- just never all the way around the island. Guess the two ends are kind of a turf thing.
St. Kitts and Nevis are obviously a little richer than the islands farther south. The roads actually have lines and are in fairly good repair. Nevis is essentially a large volcanic cone with most of the civilization on the leeward western and flatter southern sides. Once out of "town" houses were fairly sparse and, by the time we were half way around on the wind-battered eastern side, I could see why the busses don't run that far. It's essentially wild land with occasional driveways and a church or two. The windward side is drier as well and the vegetation had a high desert feel offset by a backdrop of emerald blue sea on the right and towering jungle hills to the left. As the forest flickered by, an occasional flash of eyes and tails would streak past. Wild monkeys, ho!
Bus #1 deposited us at a little sports bar affair with the promise that his friend "in the purple bus" would be along shortly. The girls and I shared a Lemon-Lime Bitters while watching football (soccer match), England versus someone.
Bus #2 arrived 15 minutes later and we were off again, rocketing around winding mountain roads and zipping past fragments of unfinished construction and modest dwellings.
We arrived back in town perhaps 20 minutes later a bit dizzy but well worth doing. The girls and I waited in the Customs outdoor atrium area, while I enjoyed some free wifi. Lisa and Anna returned a couple hours later to report a beautiful botanical experience, complete with parrots, hummingbirds and wild monkeys.
Due to the noisy and bouncy anchorage, we then moved north about 3 miles to mooring field. Had dinner on Infinity.