The realities of sailing
01/11/2014, Rodney Bay, St. Lucia
Happy New Year! We have, over time, more than likely, left some with the impression that while cruising we are sipping tropical drinks and sailing with full while sails on turquoise waters, but that is not always the case.
The 2014 sailing season got off to a rough start. Leaving Grenada heading north Dragon's Toy looked beautiful with shinny stainless and lovely newly varnished teak trim. We knew there would be high winds and moderately big seas, but when we got to the very northern end of Grenada at Kick em' Jenny, an active underwater volcano that can kick up big waves, we were blasted. Hit hard enough to send the kayak flying off the boat. After doing our kayak overboard drill and retrieving the kayak three times we were finally forced to cut her loose to places unknown. Each time we actually got hold of the bobbing kayak, but we just couldn't fight the waves and the weight of the the water in the kayak to get it back on the boat. Very sad to see the lone bright yellow kayak bobbing east with the winds in high seas. Hopefully she finds a good home probably in Nicaragua.
After that first rough day with rain squalls producing winds up to 40 knots we made the 35 miles to Carriacou for a much needed nights sleep. The following day we again fought the wind and waves to Bequia. Going north this time of year is always difficult. On shore we checked into Bequia and after a couple of beers while checking the weather we returned to the boat for an early night as we had a 12 hour day ahead of us to St. Lucia. Just as we started to drift off to sleep we realized that the anchor was dragging (meaning we were slowly moving back toward the boat behind us). Anchoring at any time is anxiety producing, but in the dark it is especially true, as it is difficult to see other boats and unlit buoys in the water. With Tom on the bow with a head lamp and Cary on the wheel and three attempts later we were finally holding firm. After that a short, fitful night's sleep was attempted.
Up at 5 AM for the 75 miles to St. Lucia - being like a bobbing cork in a washing machine makes for a long day and unsettled stomachs. It is during these periods that discussions about why we do this, selling the boat, and pushing the limits are had only to be forgotten once we arrive. Arriving in St. Lucia feeling like we had been riding a bucking bronco for three days we anchored, ate and passed out.
We are now in the marina at Rodney Bay, St. Lucia and enjoying seeing friends, telling tales of rough passages and chilling out. Now we are sipping tropical drinks and watching the many boats from all over the world that have gathered here in preparation for their round the world circumnavigation leaving tomorrow. We know one of the boats in this ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers). Tom will hobble out to send them off. Oh, yeah, at the very end of this rough passage Tom broke a toe. So maybe we have all the bad stuff behind us.
We will leave for Martinique with our friends from Portland, Oregon next week when the seas settle down.
Return to Grenada
01/10/2014, Port Louis Marina, Grenada
We arrived in Grenada on December 12, we found Dragon's Toy safely on the hard (up on stilts out of the water) as we left her. We rented an apartment adjacent to the Spice Island boat yard and spent the week cleaning, repairing and getting the boat in shape to be splashed (back in the water). Not being used to the humidity and time change we were pretty wiped out by the end of each day.
Getting Dragon's Toy back in the water, after six months on the hard, brought smiles to our faces. Getting the sails on and the dinghy motor repaired and, oh, yes, the bulk order of wine delivered, we headed out to anchor in Prickly Bay which can be rolly. Forced us to get our sea legs back quickly.
For a little diversion we attended the Grenada Botanical Garden Christmas program with a variety of musicians on a large stage with even larger speakers. The only really good thing that can be said about the event is that Tom won the raffle and, low and behold, our Christmas wishes were answered. He won a clothing iron. Now we have a new anchor.
Christmas in the islands is a different kind of celebration. Lobster, fresh caught that morning, BBQ on the beach with about 20 others followed by a leisurely swim was a very relaxing way to enjoy the day. One of the marinas then provided a dinner with turkey, ham, and dressing with all sides and desserts brought by cruisers. What a feast. Couldn't miss a Boxing Day celebration with more food and great music.
Our decision to stay in Grenada longer than intended was made for several reasons: no weather window to go north, getting the teak work done in a marina that was half price because we had been in Spice Island, all the fun holiday activities, and the friendly Grenadian people on the lovely island. Ashley, a local teak master, has been working on the boat non stop, other than rain delays, for a week.
We are especially glad we are in the Port Louie marina as a huge storm blew in on Christmas. This storm was unlike anything the locals had ever seen. Thunder and two straight hours of lightening that lit up the sky like a strobe light plus torrential rains. Other islands north of us sustained some sever damage and there were some deaths from the flooding. But all is back to normal in Grenada. Teak should be done in a week and we'll be on our way north.
Grenada at Last
05/03/2013, Hillsborough, Carriacou, Grenada
We have reached our final country for the season. Our last international boarder crossing before we head back to the US. A little bittersweet as we are not going any farther south this season. On the other hand, the goal has been reached of sailing through the Antilles before the start of the hurricane season.
We are looking forward to the four weeks that we will have on the Island of Grenada and meeting all of the cruiser that call this home. We met some on the radio net this morning and others in the harbor at Carriacou. Still many more in southern Grenada. We are also looking forward to exploring the "Spice Island."
We had a raucous sail from Dominica over to Martinique. We woke up in the morning intending to stay for a couple more days in Roseau but the weatherman said the seas between the islands we going to build to be very large and uncomfortable for the next week, so a not so quick trip to customs to check out and off we went. Off the tip of Dominica the winds were blowing close to 30 and the seas were already becoming steep. We couldn't imagine what it was going to be like the next day.
We arrived in St Pierre, Martinique on Saturday of Easter weekend. Very few shops were going to be open before the following Tuesday. What was open though were the restaurants on the beach. They all had very loud stereos and tried to drown each other out. This made for quite a cacophony out on the water. Fortunately, by 7:00pm, they all shutdown and it was quiet again.
The one big redeeming aspect though, we were back again in the land of baguettes and chocolate croissants. Yum!
With the folks on Cutter Loose, we rented a car again and drove around the northern part of the island. Much like Dominica, Martinique is Volcanic in nature. This means roads going up the side of nearly vertical mountains with lots of twists and turns and switch backs (Tom really misses his "Red Racer" at times like this) that make driving very slow. Just as well, the scenery is spectacular.
On the way back down, we stopped at a Rum distillery for a tour. The plantation and distillery had been wiped out in the volcanic blast that killed 30,000 people and destroyed St Pierre in 1902. The lone surviving relative of the original owners moved in and rebuilt the entire operation. The operation of taking raw sugar cane and converting it into rum is very fascinating. Almost nothing is wasted as they use the sugar cane husks as fuel for the boilers that drive the cane crushers and heat the juice in the stills. The ash that is left over is spread back on the fields as fertilizer.
Off to Fort de France, or so we thought. The boat, Wind Swept Dreams, came on the VHF to tell us that the authorities were clearing the harbor of anchored boats due to a Transat race (trans Atlantic). So, off to Anse Mitan across the bay. Yeah! Cary's favorite stop so far. Beautiful bays to swim, little boutique shops, and new cruiser friends from Portland on Wind Swept Dreams. Anse Mitan is a small version of the French Riveria including topless, and sometimes bottomless, women much to Tom's delight. He has become so acclimated that now he hardly notices.
Hitch hiked our way to the Empress Josephine's, of Napoleon, plantation where she was born. Very interesting history. She went to France at 16, married, widowed, courtesan, married Bonaparte. She is called the grandmother of Europe as her lineage is still in royal families.
Took the ferry across the bay to Fort de France which is actually quite a nice large city - lots of shops with the latest Parisian neon colored fashions, a library designed by Eiffel and transported to Fort de France, and a huge open air market.
Yoles are sailing canoes specific to Martinique. 12 men in a boat with large brightly colored square sails balancing on boards moved from side to side with three men on the tiller. This is a graceful ballet of precision team work and lots of yelling.
Our last stop in Martinique is Ste. Anne/Marin. Arrived just in time for a music festival with a variety of performers, provisioned, grabbed our last French baguettes and croissants before checking out to move on to St. Lucia. All British from her to Grenada.
Our favorite stop thus far is Dominica known as the "isle of beauty, isle of splendor." Dominica is, as we had hoped all of the Caribbean would be, not as touristy, quite untouched and natural with 75% of the island a heavily wooded rainforest and more than a quarter of the island protected by law. The terrain is lush with a range of mountains reaching nearly 5,000 ft. north and south along the spine of the island, and home to 8 potentially active volcanos. There are 365 rivers on the island that have created a magnificent tropical rainforest that is spectacular. We hiked to two waterfalls - Victoria and Sari Sari with a stop for lunch at a Rastaurant which served the most delicious vegetarian stew/soup with all ingredients grown on the farm where the extended Rastafarian family lives. They actually own the entire valley. We ate out of gourd bowls and used coconut spoons.
The hikes were intense with boulder hopping, wading across a river 5 times in thigh deep water to reach Victoria, the highest falls in Dominica, plus muddy, slippery trails to Sari Sari with the most beautiful pools and falls. Magnificient!
We were a little slow on the get up the next morning but went snorkeling to work out the stiffness to Champagne beach where warm bubbles ascend from thermal pools. We could actually catch the bubbles. There is an eerie sound as the steam bubbles are released.
Dominica is quite unique in many ways but the "boat boys" really men provide a huge service. One boat boy meets each boat as they arrive and guide the boat to the mooring ball. That particular boat boy then becomes your personal procurement officer - tours, laundry, car rental, back and forth to customs and so friendly. Our boat boy was Lawrence of Arabia who has been doing this for 15 years.
On Sunday nights they put on a BBQ with all the rum punch one can drink, music and dancing. Great party other than too much rum punch. Cruisers! All you can drink! What can anyone expect other than lots of hangovers in the anchorage the next morning. Met people from Chez Republic, Switzerland, England, Australia, and Israel.
All the people we've encountered in Dominica has been warm and welcoming. Maybe the Rastas have in figured out. Moses who ran the restaurant was the most laid back person we've met. See pics of him and his three gorgeous children.
Escape from the Tourists Traps
03/22/2013, Marie Galant, Guadeloupe
"Let's get away from all the tourist spots." So we headed to Marie Galante and got our wish. Riding our bikes through sugar cane fields for miles was a fun and a good workout. Seeing oxen pulling carts loaded with cane that had been cut by hand definitely was off the beaten path.