December 2015 ~ Frenchy Bits
Day 1903 ~ Fish On...and On...and OnDecember 1st, 2015
Managed to leave around 9:30am. Light winds, smooth sailing, speed 5-6 knots. Had internet through the phone for 14 miles off St. Lucia so I used up the last of our Grenada SIM card data by uploading photos and WhatsApp'ing Nina in St. Maarten.
Caught one small jack for Pippin, lost it. Caught another small jack, then another hit the 2nd line. Lost the first, brought in the second. Five minutes later the starboard rig went, then the port rig. Two mahis. Managed to keep both, though they put up a fight and tried to get away. That was a tense 10 minutes. Whew!
Arrived at 1:30p in one of our preferred anchorages. Found a nice spot close to shore and the town dock. Since our Tobago papers have us outbound on November 23rd, our clearance into Martinique will serve as a bit of a reset. Clearance here is quite simple. Go to the designated café or marina office, hop on the Customs computer, type in all the details, sign the form stamped by the café owner and you're on your way. Often, there's a nominal 1-5 Euro charge for the convenient service (the French government doesn't charge to enter) and we understand the computers aren't connected to any centralized system (think thumb drives and cars), but the whole process makes us feel like this government trusts us and doesn't just want to bilk us for everything it can.
Vive la France!
Where's Nana? Right here in Domburg.
Day 1904 ~ Ah, Civilization AgainDecember 2nd, 2015
What, no blasting music (err, rattles and scratches) all night long? No beggars at the dock wanting to 'watch your dinghy'? No taxi driver gauntlet to run through when going into town? Prepaid internet that actually works?
Ah, civilization again! Oui, oui! Can you tell that we love the French islands? It does help that I can speak my 'get by' French, but I think we'd like it if we couldn't understand a word anyone said.
After attempting to install our new drinking water faucet two times now, complete with disassembling the whole thing only to have to put the old one back again twice, Peter finally was able to find the right part in St. Lucia (after being skunked in Tobago and Bequia). A yelp of success came from the galley and even the drawer no longer hits the end when pulling it out. Imagine!
Having several passage days of late (when school is cancelled), Nika plodded through her math. She still has science, language and phonics but with no kid friends around, the morning crept by. Peter caught up with work in the morning and then he couldn't resist dinghying to Le Marin for a few boat part odds and ends, a 5.5 mile round trip. What can we say, our boat is French built, so often we can find here what we can't anywhere else. Personally, I think it's partly because he hasn't been in a proper boat store for several weeks now but, if it helps to knock some items off that never-ending project list, why not?!
Day 1905 ~ It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like ChristmasDecember 3rd, 2015
Peter, Pippin and I went to shore to check on a rental car for tomorrow and practice my French. Last time we were here, I only paid 5 Euros more than the web price, but the online system requires two days advance and they're closed on Sunday. Monday is the earliest. However, this was not so today and we were quoted a little more than double so not sure why the difference. We opted to save the money so, after telling the guy that I would be back, he offered the use of his computer to reserve it right there in the office. He'll even come pick us up at the dock so we don't have to beach the dinghy for the day.
Mundane tasks taken care of, we headed back and Nika and I worked on her lessons. Our neighbor also came over and politely asked us if we could move back a little. While a little surprising, as most French anchor much closer for comfort than other nationalities, we do tend to get a little close when the wind dies. Even though Peter saw that he had just as much chain out as we do, we saw an an open spot just ahead so why not just move and be done with it.
Later, I dug out our decorations which consist of one 12-inch and one 18-inch tree plus a grocery sized bag of miscellaneous stuff. Nika went to work making the boat look festive while singers sang of sleighs, white Christmases and of kings of old. Okay, so we're surrounded by 82 degree water and palm trees, but we can still imagine.
Day 1906 ~ On the WaylaidDecember 4th, 2015
Several years ago, I found a great word that describes how I go about my day - on the waylaid. On my way to one task, I get sidetracked with another, and on it goes. Today is no different. My goal this afternoon was to de-mold Nina's bedroom, one of the last two areas left.
On a side note, we're also a bit desperate for water. Bouncy sailing tends to tea-stain the water as it sloshes against the plywood top (no, not the brightest minds at work when designing water tanks), so we've been keeping the level low as we've moved up the chain from Tobago. Being only three people, it hasn't been much of an issue until recently. Buying water at 47 cents a gallon in Bequia was not an option and we didn't stay in St. Lucia long enough to bother, but did collect a bit of rain water to get us by for a couple days.
Sainte Anne tends to be on the cloudy side which makes running the watermaker a non-starter. Up until now, we've filled our jugs from the open faucets at the fish market stall to get us by, just like some of the locals. However, when we took our containers the other day, the handles had been removed. Hmmm, I guess they didn't appreciate others taking their water. Between our last trip and this one, I've probably now asked most waterfront businesses about the possibility of buying water and all give the same resounding no. If I had a better command of the French language, perhaps I would be able to understand the why behind this attitude, but I don't.
Up ahead, we see a grey mass looming large. Granted, we don't get excited because, since our arrival, we've seen several dark clouds head our way only to slip by on either side leaving us either lightly sprinkled or completely dry as we watch the hills on either side getting soaked. We go through the motions of closing hatches and willing the cloud to dump our way, only this time it listened and the sky opened up. If we were on land, we might just watch the storm through a front window or settle in to watch a good movie, but we're cruisers and water is a precious and continually monitored commodity. When it rains hard, we either go for the soap and shampoo or for the cleaners and scrub brushes. In our case, today was a day for the latter. While we diverted all surface water into the tanks, we ran around collecting every vessel we could, buckets/cookie jars/vinegar jugs/water bottles, along with a few dirty shirts; this rain was going to stick around for a bit and our tanks can hold only so much.
Tanks and jugs full, laundry soaking, I grabbed a scrub brush and rag and began to clear out all of Peter's pieces and parts from his cockpit stash places (this boat's proverbial junk drawer). While I washed, Peter got motivated and started to organize his tools (my intended mission) in the hall cupboards, employing his new storage bins purchased in St. Lucia. Before long, the whole cockpit was clean and pile of boat parts gone, so I then moved on to the remaining hall closets, those we use for food and dishes.
Nika steered clear of her parents on a mission and invited Nanabelle over to swim. On the waylaid all day, Nina's room never did get touched.
Day 1907 ~ Mold Be GoneDecember 5th, 2015
I'm close to my goal of getting a mold-free boat and, having picked at it here and there since leaving Grenada, I'm now on a mission to kill the last spore sooner by weekend's end. Our kid boat friends are stuck in St. Lucia a couple more days and it's only going to get busier the closer we get to Christmas.
Actually, with better ventilation in the stern cabins, Nina's and our mold doesn't grow as fast as the others, but it still shows on close inspection. A wipe down with vinegar, then again with Concrobium, and several hours later my mission came to an end. It even smelled fresher inside, but this could just be a mental thing just knowing we're no longer sniffing spores everywhere we turn. Tomorrow is for laundry so we can start the week fresh.
Day 1908 ~ Getting CleanDecember 6th, 2015
Having just gotten my washing done in Bequia a week ago, one would think I would just have a small load by now. Somehow, though, I ended up packing a 7kg and 14kg washer full. Maybe laundry and mold spores grow together.
Day 1909 ~ Rental Car ManiaDecember 7th, 2015
The day has come to rent a car. This time, we got an online special for 26 Euros, about half the counter price. We didn't have an agenda really, just buy some fishing gear, see some sights and stop for ice cream (Nika brought the spoons). Nanabelle called to say her family had rented a car so she would not be going with us. However, Proud Mary hailed us from 3 miles off-shore and said Cora could come along so we waited around until they anchored before we set off on an adventure.
We can't leave Pippin on the boat because, as we found out after the fact at least two times, he yowls the whole time we're gone and irritates the neighbors. We also like to take him along as he loves running, but is a bit of a spaz until he gets a little exercise. While on the SE end of the island, Peter noted a road along a ridge line in hopes of finding an open area, preferably cow-less. We took it and ended up at a church amid large grassy spaces and ruined buildings. Perfect. That should calm him for a little while.
Continuing on, we ended up at the large mall on the NE side. It seems this has become our tradition since we toured the island with Discovery last year and this is where the spoons come to play. Nika and Cora chose Blueberry Haagen Dazs and Peter and I split a mint chocolate chip. Healthy dinner. Heading back into the store, we then bought some groceries and sandwich making items for dessert. By now it was well past dark and we still had an hour drive home.
Another fun day.
Day 1910 ~ LateDecember 8th, 2015
Last night when we got ice cream at the big mall, I saw ruins of an old castle on a postcard. So, today, our goal was to find it. Of course, it's at the end of the larger peninsula of land that reaches out into the sea on the NE side, just 15 minutes from the mall where we ended up last night. Turns out it's the ruins of an old sugar, molasses, coffee and rum plantation with much of the structure bases still intact but (1) they don't allow dogs, (2) it would have been 16 Euros to get in and (3) we only had about 15-20 minutes to spare. We had to have the car back by 1pm, it was 10am, and we still had a stop at Digicel to get our internet working. It's a beautiful area, however, and we had some awesome views along the way.
We got lost finding the main Digicel office, but thanks to a mechanic, finally found our way. Although they couldn't figure out why our 40 Euro purchase didn't produce any data credit, she managed to get it working another way. I thought we'd make it just in time with the car, but between slow traffic and a pit stop at the gas pump, I ended up 10 minutes late and the building was empty.
Returning to town, a woman at the Town Hall was a huge help and made several phone calls trying to find someone who could tell me what to do with car and key. An hour later, I left the car at the rental place and walked the key down to an unrelated property manager's office. He was a bit surprised at being suggested by the rental company, but grudgingly agreed to keep the key until morning when the manager returned.
Finally back on the boat, the rental mania was done and we all sat around all afternoon (well, Peter did some work).
Where's Nana? In the jungle!
Day 1911 ~ Chill DayDecember 9th, 2015
After a late breakfast, Nika tackled her lessons and Peter dropped Pippin and I off at the beach on the north end of the anchorage. We walked to the rental car place to see if the guy had gotten the message about the key. He said he found the car when he got to work at 7:30, but didn't get the message from the main office until just before I came by at 10:30a. At any rate, all turned out fine in the end and both car and key were found.
We walked back through town for some extra exercise and I stopped at post office for some stamps. The French really don't seem to mind long lines as only one of three cashiers was open and five in line. Pippin, on the other hand, does and started barking and yowling after about three customers were served. Our poor, social dog, left alone for 10 minutes.
The afternoon turned out to be a do-nothing day, though Peter had to work. Proud Mary went to anchor in Le Marin so Nika and I watched a couple of documentaries on the senses for science.
Day 1912 ~ Just an Ordinary DayDecember 10th, 2015
Land disease. Nika awoke this morning with a sore throat which, conveniently, is two days after our car rental trip. Poor girl, she had just gotten well from her two in a row after leaving Grenada. She did manage to muster most of her lessons, but only after being told she couldn't use her device unless she does some school.
Peter worked, seems all his clients are in a panic to finish their projects before Christmas, end of year or both. I completed a couple plastic bag crocheting projects started in Grenada. Some of my finished items are here. Took Pippin to shore for his daily walk and bought a few groceries. Pretty average, mundane day.
Where's Nana? Back in Domburg.
Day 1913 ~ Another Day in the TropicsDecember 11th, 2015
Three Little Birds anchored back in Sainte Anne and Neptune II is in Le Marin so it was high time to connect the friends together again. We met Neptunes halfway and the girls came over to our boat for some swim and catch up time. Pippin and I went for a walk later in the afternoon up the path to the church on the hill. Since we were here in early June, someone has reformed and repainted all the stations of the cross (last photo). Before, someone had just slapped some blue paint on the reliefs. They look much better now.
Day 1915 ~ OnwardDecember 13th, 2015
Smooth sail, pretty much downwind. Breeze picked up across the open and large Fort de France bay, but then we resumed a flat sail until the wind shadow forced us to fire up the engines and motor into St. Pierre. Three Little Birds was already anchored, so Nanabelle came over to swim as soon as we were set.
Day 1916 ~ ArrangementsDecember 14th, 2015
Peter's goal was to hike Pelée's east side so we headed to town to arrange a car rental and took Pippin so he could get his daily walk in. We know of the rental place from our last trip, so getting there was quick. While the lot held a few cars, they had one available any day we wished. I saw a flyer offering a 3-door diesel puddle-jumper for 35 Euros, sans permis (without permit). Since I have a license, I asked if I could get the same deal. Inquiring further, it turns out that anyone over 21 can rent this particular model...without having a license! In addition, he responded like it was perfectly normal to let any inexperienced or untrained driver behind the wheel. Same thing goes for owning one too. With this new information, I'm going to look at all the Twingos I pass in a whole new light.
After lunch, Bill & Tinka borrowed our dive gear to dive the wreck just south of us. With over 80 dives under my belt, I would say it's one of the top five dives I've done even though all that remains is a smoke stack and several ribs. For some reason, the coral and fish flourish on very little. I was going to go, but bagged out in the end. I've been twice and they haven't seen it yet.
Day 1917 ~ Canal WalkDecember 15th, 2015
I'm determined to complete the Canal walk and Proud Mary and Three Little Birds are keen to join me. This past summer when we were here last, I made it to the trailhead once and had 45 minutes for a second round trip visit. While attempting to do the latter and still get the car back to the south end of the island before the rental place closed at 1pm, I managed to unknowingly pass one of those automatic photo boxes while going several kilometers over the speed limit. Oops.
This time, I wanted to avoid being boxed in by deadlines by tackling it by foot from the beach where we anchored. Safer that way with my track record. However, Peter did have a work deadline and needed to be back by 1pm when Alaska opens for business, but he could always turn back early if necessary. We planned an 8:30am departure since its a 45-60 min walk just to get to the canal and the map says to anticipate 1.5 hours each way of the 4km trail. We lucked out too, because the Birds' guest offered to drive us to the trailhead on his way to returning his rental car later that morning. Score!
The walk is amazing and awe-inspiring. First off, it was built on an incredibly steep mountainside by slave labor in 1760 to irrigate four different rum distilleries in the area. Secondly, engineers of old were so thorough in their planning that water still flows today, over 250 years later. The path is actually the outside rock wall of the canal, also still well intact. In Caribbean fashion, there are no guard rails, no warning signs, no safety nets; just survival of the most careful and stunning views. Granted, the sign with the map at the beginning does warn against persons with vertigo attempting the walk; the hiking map also includes a recommendation against going with unruly children, but otherwise, you're on your own and allowed to fend for yourself as you see fit. Imagine!
Four kilmeters later, we found a cute little restaurant overlooking the valley. She also offered rooms with a view. We stopped briefly for a rest and a drink, then returned the same way we came. We opted to return via the road that appeared to head straight to the waterfront, only it twisted and wound around the valley and, an hour and a half later, eventually met up with the road we took that morning. So much for the shortcut. Once it turned away from the water the first time, Peter was late making his deadline, so the dads beat feet it down the hill with him while the moms hung back with the slower-moving kids. Pippin was oblivous of the time crunches, he was just happy to have been included, though his pace was finally slowing while he searched for shady areas in which to walk.
Once back at the beach, an ice cream stand called our name and we just had to answer. And no speeding tickets this time.
Day 1918 ~ Picturesque ValleyDecember 16th, 2015
We had planned to rent the car yesterday and hike Pelée this morning, but who knew that walking at a 2% grade on stone for 8km and an hour and a half on a concrete road would take a toll? We opted to delay the car for a day and took the morning to rest and recoup. Well, if you consider doing laundry as restful. I'm always amazed at how fast the clothes pile up. I just did a load in Sainte Anne a week or so ago and still filled a 14kg washer.
We headed in mid-afternoon to get our little Twingo; Nika and Cora decided to stay behind and hang out on Proud Mary rather than come on the car ride. We managed to take a wrong turn leaving town, but ended up on this windy picturesque road through the valley behind town that eventually connects with the shorter, less windy road from St. Pierre. Passing the road up to the Pelée trailhead, we continued east to the Atlantic seaboard road and turned left. We'd never driven to the end of the road before so, why not?
Winding through banana fields, through tree tunnels then passing along sugar cane plantations, the road kept going. Eventually, as we neared the base of Pelée, hairpin turns and narrow bridges became the norm. Finally, at the third town, we aim for the church at the at the top of the hill, round the top and the road ends abruptly. A huge sea wall juts out to protect the fishing harbor and steep cliffs at the base of the mountain plunge into the sea. We now understand why the road doesn't connect to the other side.
In the waning light, I'm able to take a few photographs, but then it's time to head back as we have a long way to go over a windy road in the dark.
Day 1919 ~ Pelée RevisitedDecember 17th, 2015
Peter wanted to climb the east side of Pelée, but his vote this last summer couldn't muster a majority. He tried again this trip but, unfortunately, all our friends were either not here yet or sailed off this morning. Pippin and I were planning to give Peter some company but, with our anchorage now empty, there's no way we would leave Nika on the boat alone. In the end, Peter opted to just take Pippin for some male bonding, thus leaving Nika and I to putter around in the car for four hours.
Good thing, as the mountain was the most fogged in we'd seen it all week. I know it's nice to hike a steep mountain in the shade, but I've experienced hiking a fog-envelopped mountain in Guadeloupe where the winds blasted over the crater at 50 knots. To add insult to injury, it started raining as Peter gathered his belongings. Lovely. Pippin, on the other hand, giddy with the excitement of being included, made random dashes all around the parking lot in anticipation. He's definitely a chien de la montagne (mountain dog), not a chien de la mer (sea dog). Perhaps a day for us is like seven to him so it really has been a week since being off the boat and walking the canal.
Day 1920 ~ Another RescueDecember 18th, 2015
We've got potential buyers coming this evening and we plan to leave tomorrow afternoon before the wind pipes up to make the passage miserable. Thankfully, I just finished a deep-clean of our boat so all we had to tackle was the area under the cockpit floor. Once that was done, we tidied up a bit, Nika tackled some lessons and then I headed into town to clear out.
What began as a low-key day, however, turned adventurous after I returned. Cruisers we met in Grenada on s/v Jump, anchored in front of the town, called us on the radio to ask about a sailboat they saw headed out to sea. No surprise, as the town anchorage's sea floor is steep and deep and the winds/current can swirl boats around in any direction. This isn't the first time we've seen one go adrift either. Just yesterday, a cruiser whose boat Peter helped crew to Trinidad last year also wnet adrift toward Mexico. Peter found her at the beach walking her dogs so she was able to take on the recovery herself.
Not so with this one. Today's floater was a smaller sailboat, around 24 feet, and it looked more like a vacation weekender rather than a cruising boat. Since Jump only had a 4hp engine and the boat was bobbing closer to usby now, Peter picked up Ken and Lynn on Silverheels, anchored next to us, and headed out. They found the mooring was still attached and it appeared that the owner had tied his line too tight so, with the more extreme tides of late, ended up floating the ball off its tether. They had to cut the ball free as it was hampering their movement.
Without a way to start the engine, they hip-towed it to our anchorage under dinghy power and were able to find and get the anchor down in the sand. I called the French coast guard, managed to transmit, receive and understand everything in French. Yea! Because the boat was registered in France, they were able to contact the owner within a few minutes. Speaking to him myself, it sounded as if he lives and works on the island and will be by in the morning to collect his boat and figure out how to keep it securely in French waters.
Day 1921 ~ Gone with the WindDecember 19th, 2015
Due to the short time window, we invited the buyers to stay the night aboard. Good thing because, after a morning weather check, both wind and waves were increasing by the hour and we needed to shoo them off earlier than planned so we start our 8-10 hour journey to Dominica by Noon.
I'm including Peter recount of today's sail from St. Pierre to Portsmouth, as he's better at sailing and writing:
Fast and fairly flat. At one point, the starboard fishing pole started bucking and buzzing. I ran for the reel and looked back. A huge sailfish, dark green and black in the overcast light, lunged full-length out of the water, slashing his sword and rolling his eyes. The lure popped free in mid air and the tensioned line sprang forward and coiled into our wake like a broken spiral of glass. I had mixed feelings about it. While it would have been fun, there was no chance I could wrestle a five-foot spear-armed fish up the back steps.
We pulled anchor at 12:30p and aimed for Dominica's northern bay. We made good time in relatively flat seas, but resorted to burning dinosaurs for two and a half hours once in the wind shadow of the island's tall mountains. Arriving after dark isn't a problem. The bay is large, open and isn't full of fish pots like in Martinique. I pulled up our GPS coordinates to aim for this summer's anchor location, went out on deck to watch for obstructions and we set the hook around 8:30p. Not bad for a day's sail. Tomorrow, we'll continue on to Les Saintes.
Where's Nana? Enroute at 6:43am AKST
Where's Nina? She flew from St. Maarten to Antigua to join our friends who are chartering a boat to meet up with us.
Day 1922 ~ Honking SailDecember 20th, 2015
Peter's summation of today's sail. His description follows:
Blow the doors off kind of fun; 23-26 knots of apparent wind at about 70 degrees. Minutes spent in the 10 knot range. I saw 10.8 on one glance but wasn't spending much time watching. Rooster tails. Seas were really pretty modest until the current started piling them up on the shelf just south of the Saintes. Then we saw some nice ones. We had pointed a little high to be sure we made it through that little bitty cut with a good wind angle, so we were taking them mostly on the aft quarter, and surfing some too. Darn, I love this boat, and I love sailing her.
Once settled and checked in, Pippin and I joined Ally Cat and we walked over to the Bois Joli restaurant by the bay in which we normally anchor. Nice to be in the French islands.
Day 1923 ~ Getting CloserDecember 21st, 2015
Nana's still on her way, although we haven't heard from them in a couple days. Assume the Spot device is not sending properly again. Nina, on the other hand, flew to Antigua on Saturday and should arrive in Deshaies, Guadeloupe, this evening with our friends.
Where's Nana? After five days at sea, they pulled into Portsmouth, Dominica, for a quick rest.
Day 1924 ~ Family ReunionDecember 22nd, 2015
Quiet morning except when we saw a mooring ball come free three boats ahead. The swell has moved northward and coming more straight in through the channel, thus making the bay quite choppy. It doesn't look like 50 yards would make much of a difference, but it was worth a shot. We called our friends located just ahead of it and asked if they would hold it with their dinghy, dropped our lines and scooted ahead. The chop is a little less, and every bit helps.
Nika grudgingly did some school work after asking softie Papa if she could skip it due to the holidays. While he agreed, she failed to tell him that I told her, just yesterday, that she would be doing school Monday and Tuesday until her sister arrived late Tuesday afternoon. Hmmm.
Got an email from the Daystar crew that they made it all the way to Dominica last night and would continue north this morning to join us. By 2pm, they were motoring in the bay with Proud Mary. Nina followed with her hosts a couple of hours later. It's been six weeks since we've seen both our girls; it's really good to have them back.
Where's Nana? Finally arrived in Les Saintes at 2pm today!
Where's Nina? Sailed from Deshaies, Guadeloupe and arrived at 5pm!
Day 1925 ~ Creative JuicesDecember 23rd, 2015
The girls started right in on their gift making. The creative juices are flowing fast. Five of our kid boat friends made it here so, with 12 kids and 12 adults, we've planned a kid gift exchange and potluck at the park on Christmas day. Once some progress was made, the kids all headed over to the park for the rest of the day. The adults, we just did our own thing or nothing at all.
In the evening, we split kids and adults. The kids went to make dinner for themselves on Green's charter boat and the adults came to ours for some snacking and socializing. Imagine, full sentences without interruption.
Day 1926 ~ Divers DownDecember 24th, 2015
A couple years ago, someone told me about a shallow wreck that was 'really cool'. For the past several trips to Les Saintes, I've wanted to check it out but, for one reason or another, never quite got the chance, found a dive partner or had the time. Proud Mary got certified in Grenada so we made a plan to try it and the point of land nearby. Bill ended up staying behind, so Tinka and I donned our gear and descended on the ferry wreck.
I've come to realize that everyone's perception of 'cool' is different based on their own likes and experiences. Diving is no different. Having my own gear and a near enough location, we can try new things with minimal cost. It's possible the ferry was sunk recently because there really wasn't much coral growth or fish milling about. Not the greatest dive in my book, but interesting enough when imagining how it came to its demise in so shallow of water so close to town. In 10 minutes, we were able to circle the ferry, look inside and be off to try something new.
The next spot had more coral and fish, but a large cloud covered the sun so the colors weren't as vibrant. The point along the channel entrance has sloping sides down to about 60-70 feet of sandy floor. Along the wall grew corals, sponges and was home to a variety of fish, a turtle, lobsters, rays and eels. I keep searching for the elusive, but fascinating, octopus. We headed out to sea, then turned back until we got cold. Just as we surfaced, the clouds disappeared and the sun shone down brightly. So much for timing.
Day 1927 ~ New TraditionsDecember 25th, 2015
I'm still getting used to Christmas without snow. Hearing carols over the airwaves doesn't help much either; keep dreaming. I'm convinced that many of the classic carol writers must have lived in northern climates, something I've only noticed onboard. We've made the most of our lack of snow and being surrounded by 80 degree water and palm trees. We put up our trees, one given to us our very first boat Christmas and the other procured in Grenada last year. With some battery-operated lights, garland and a few homemade decorations, Nika had created a festive look when in Tobago. With the daily help of the iPod and Bing, we played ourselves into the holiday spirit.
Despite long days and late nights, the girls woke early and found their stockings. We enjoyed a few hours of family time opening gifts and eating our traditional Swedish pancake breakfast. Peter even found Canadian maple syrup in the French grocery store here. Shockingly enough, it was 5 Euros for a small bottle as opposed to the 17 and up that we've seen on every other island.
The Greens came over in afternoon and introduced us to British crackers. James is originally from England and Nina-Kate from Australia; Christmas crackers are a part of their tradition. They look like large hard candy wrappers, but contain a crown, a joke and a trinket inside. Each person pulls an end and the 'winner' has to wear the crown, read the joke and gets to keep the little gift. The 'loser' takes the next cracker to another person and on it goes until everyone 'wins'. Granted, the jokes are cheesy, but what a fun activity.
The rest of the afternoon was busily spent making food and finishing gifts for the long-awaited gathering of the boats. The girls said that this is our best boat Christmas yet.
Day 1928 ~ Another 'Short' HikeDecember 26th, 2015
Our kid boat crew likes to hike and explore, but we've been so busy and scattered that we haven't done much of that lately. Today was the day to get back into the swing of things. The kids are still wary of our day hikes that often turn into a 6-7 hour venture, so they made plans to go to the park. However, this island is quite small so we headed to meet at the dock at 10am and figured we'd be gone 2-3 hours, max.
The island doesn't have much elevation so, once we crested the 'peak' (relatively speaking), the rest was downhill. From the map, the loop appeared pretty short. Once we got to the point, however, then the path took us along the windward side a ways before heading inland. It wasn't until 12:30 that we connected again with the main trail. By 1pm we were hungry since we didn't bother to bring a lunch. The well-situated restaurant won us over at the end so we stopped to have lunch and sit a spell. By the time we got back to the boat, we'd been gone six hours. So much for estimations; you'd think we'd know this by now.
The Greens took us out to dinner at Au Bon Vivre. It's been a while since we've eaten in a restaurant.
Day 1929 ~ BeggarsDecember 27th, 2015
The Greens need to be back in Antigua on January 1 and we still want to go to Barbuda. After a week in Les Saintes, it's time to move on. Fresh Trades pushed us along at a good clip across the 8 miles of open water and well beyond the southern tip where we're normally met with a wind shadow. Arriving around Noon, I began gathering the laundry, Peter the grocery bags and we made plans to bring James and Kimberly along to shop and wash for their respective boats. However, on arriving in the fishing port, we suddenly had the realization that nothing is open in any French island after Noon on Sunday, except the unmanned laundromat. Of course, the change machine's paper bill slot was broken and between us we maybe had 5-6 Euros in coins; we needed at least 35. Not a good start to a well-laid plan. I started at the restaurant next door and managed to get 10 Euros from the proprietor. Desperate, I also asked four of his patrons who were just getting into their car; they managed another 10. Two customers were still chatting in the dive shop and, although the owner had none, came up with 5 more. Score, we can at least start our five washers. Kimberly headed to town for dryer coins and found a convenience store still open.
Maybe this is what beggars feel like.
Day 1930 ~ Enroute to AntiguaDecember 28th, 2015
With a few pieces of damp laundry still hanging out of my range of sight, we left at 7am and set sail for Antigua. We motor-sailed a fair way until the island allowed the wind to move us along at a reasonable speed. James called us soon after they got going - engine failure this time, a belt had shredded. Starting the fourth day of their charter, they've had nothing but failure. The generator impeller was first to go, then the inside lights wouldn't turn on. When they ran out of water in their first tank, the pump wouldn't stop running when their second tank was switched on. Thankfully, it's a sailboat and the wind was blowing so James didn't feel the need to stop. Not that he could do anything anyway; while the boat had a spare belt, there were no tools to install it.
The wind filled in once clear of the island and we skipped right along. The seas were rough so, while Peter was adjusting sails to be sure James didn't get the advantage, the rest of us slept or watched movies to help make the time go faster. Finally, we flattened out as we tucked in behind Antigua and dropped the hook about 3pm.
We'd heard and read that Jolly Harbour customs requires that the big boat be brought in to their dock when clearing in the country. Mind you, other than Chaguaramas, Trinidad, this is the only other country, not to mention harbour, that does this. It's almost as if each office needs to come up with something totally different than anyone else in order to feel legitimate. Regardless, we'd also heard rumors that this rule was no longer enforced so we took a chance and went in with the dinghy. Good thing, because out of the four boats to clear in, our friends were the only boat at the dock and that was only because they had no engine and had to be assisted with getting into the marina anyway.
While they no longer mandate a visual on boats, they are the only office that we've used to require a serial number from the boat. Of course, neither the hull or Coast Guard number, that works for every other office/island, was sufficient; good thing I remembered the handheld VHF, but it still took an extra 15 minutes to get it all sorted out. They are also on a computerized check-in system where all I have to do is pick the entry date, select the crew members from my account's list and hand them my arrival ID number. Of course, since all these islands love paperwork, three copies are printed out to take to the respective offices: Customs, Immigration, back to Customs and, finally, Port Authority. Each has a small air-conditioned room with counter, desk, computer and paper pile as basics. The grumpy lady is immigration then typed in each of our passport numbers in separately and logged us into a big paper book while her TV was blaring some soap opera. The other two officers were quite pleasant to deal with, and no TV, though the Customs guy was particular about keeping the door closed for the A/C.
Makes me think that a case study of island clearance officers would be a fascinating read.
Day 1931 ~ Going BahamasDecember 29th, 2015
The final boat sale paperwork came yesterday and we now just need to send notarized documents to the US. Just. Our preference is to have everything done by the end of the year, which is crazy soon. Daystar had recommended notarycam.com for our home sale, but the Alaska title company wouldn't accept esignatures. This morning, due to our remote circumstances, the Florida documentation office gave us permission to do the boat process electronically. It's up to us to see if we can actually pull it off.
Now, one could consider each Caribbean island to be rather remote, but when it comes to needing legal help and an express carrier between two major vacation holidays, good luck. Yesterday, I found 4-5 notary listings in the Antigua yellow pages, but the thought of spending a full day chasing down attorneys and express mail offices on an unfamiliar island was a bit depressing. Our friends have three more days with us. Perhaps it was foolish, but armed with hope and our new Antigua/Barbuda SIM card filled with 1.5GB of data, we sailed to Barbuda to ring in the new year.
It was an awful sail in my book, perhaps a 'spirited' one for Peter who spent most of the time trying to beat James in his 51' chartered monohull. The wind was high and waves were steep. Several times we crashed over and slammed into the chop. Nothing unsafe, but we did lose a couple plates when the full dish drainer went sailing off the counter, not to mention other stuff that went flying as the boat was tossed about. The coup d'etat was the open hatch above the fridge after being told, 'yes, Mom, all hatches are closed'. I could be thankful it wasn't over a bed, but upon my triple check, I found the bed hatch's center lock undone (the end ones sealed it some) and only half the knobs tightened on the side hatches. Needless to say, it wasn't my best parenting moment.
We did, however, make it to Barbuda and anchored in turquoise water in front of an 11 mile deserted beach. I consider this flat island to be a preview of the Exumas in the Bahamas. Very similar. The rest of the afternoon was spent putting our new data plan to the test. All was in place by the close of US business and I requested a morning appointment. The 3G is either going to work or we'll need the rest of the day to search for alternative internet (a major understatement if you look at the Google Map below).
Day 1932 ~ Notable NotaryDecember 30th, 2015
Today was the day. Notarycam confirmed a 10am appointment and, in the meantime, emailed documents and instructions back and forth. We have 5 bars of 3G and my Skype test call was clear, as well as a YouTube video I sampled. We were hopeful. Or, just plain desperate. If the video conference didn't work, then we get to dinghy a mile and a half, anchor out because of the large swell, hike over the spit, pay for a water taxi and wander through Barbuda's main town looking for strong enough wifi for the video conference.
I guess that being remote does offer one advantage, there are very few people using their cell phones. All our fears were alleviated. Within two hours of emailing the files, our closing documents were signed, notarized, paid and delivered and we never had to leave our boat! What a relief and we got the rest of the afternoon to do what we wanted to do.
Day 1933 ~ All's Well That Ends WellDecember 31st, 2015
As many an adult is wont to say, this year flew by and the last day of 2015 is upon us already. A lot has happened, most notably with the sale of our house and our boat in the last two months. In March, we'll take to the RV and end our sailing chapter as we began it, as road nomads.
We've been blessed over the past five years of our 'one year voyage'. We've now sailed roughly 13,400 miles (with 250 to go), expanded our world, met many great people and established lifelong friendships. We'll miss exploring at 6 knots, being free, self-sufficient and off the grid. We'll miss the people, those from all walks of life but connected by that one sense of a seabourne adventure. We'll miss experiencing other cultures and ways of doing things not our own. We'll miss zipping around in our dinghy, moving as the crow flies and free from traffic snarls and gas fumes. We'll miss being able to decide, on a whim, to pack up and travel to a new country without worrying about black-out dates and baggage limits.
So, yes, we've had our boat and house on the market for the past four years, but we're gonna miss the boat life.