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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Another LO
08/31/2007, Martin's Marina

The morning weather continued to rain on our parade. Razmig and Atsuko had come a long way to hang out in the sunny tropics and the reality was now somewhat less exciting. Tropical Depression #6 was on the way. As far as anyone could tell it was heading straight to our position. Today would be dedicated to preparations.

The first order of business was to collect some more detailed weather info from the Internet. Razmig and I dinghied out to Clark's Court Bay Marina to get online but the Internet was down there. Along the way I continued to survey the area specifically looking for spots not open to the west through south. If TD6 came through as advertised it would not be a big deal. If it strengthened it could be rather unpleasant and bring some serious chop from the south. Also the west wind that shows up when a rotating storm passes north of the area is unsettling. It seems that no one is ever ready for the wind to come from the west in a country where it always blows from the east.

On our way back to the boat I saw the skipper of the boat next door on deck. We stopped by to have a quick discussion. I wanted to diffuse any misgivings that may have been brewing. We exchanged information on anchor locations and discussed our proximity. He was friendly and reasonable but I detected a bit of underlying friction. I am always willing to move if someone anchored before me finds my proximity unpleasant, but I move regardless when I find myself near boats that aren't committed to work together in the face of a storm.

Razmig and I took Little Star on around to Secret Harbor to get our Internet business completed. Upon arrival we saw all of our friend's boats; Kelp Fiction, Monaco, Blue Star and the others. We also found the Internet up and our slip wide open, with two weeks still prepaid. The slip I originally chose was at the absolute North end of the dock with the best protection from southern swell in the bay. It also allowed us to face the east and west wind and to be blown off the dock by the south wind. It didn't take long for me to decide on our location for riding the disturbance out.

When we returned to Swingin' on a Star I told everyone that we were going to move back to Martin's Marina, and so we did. This also gave me the opportunity to put our guests ashore if need be and allowed them to still have fun on the island while I prepped the boat. Hideko took everyone out to lunch while I got things ready. I felt bad that we could not be better hosts.

TD6 was not supposed to be a storm upon arrival, just a depression and it was likely to go north, which always makes things quite a bit more mellow. I always prepare for the worst and assume a direct hit one to two categories up if a system is in the area. So, prepping for a strong Tropical Storm, I lashed the sail bag and main to the boom and secured the boom. I didn't drop the jib but I removed just about everything else on deck. Fred helped me drop an anchor out to the north just in case. I put little star on a cleat on the dock about 10 yards from the big boat. Little Star has minimal freeboard and actually sits lower than the dock allowing it to just about ignore anything other than strong wind from the north. Being on the north end of the bay, strong wind from the north has to cross the entire island and then has about 30 yards of fetch before reaching the boats.

Scott on Odyssey was busy on the dock with a neighboring catamaran. When I enquired he said that the marina owned the boat but declined to do anything to secure it further. It was basically tied up for a sunny day and parked right next to Scott's boat. Sad that Scott had to be the one to take care of someone else's property to protect himself. In retrospect looking into how others were secured is the one thing I should have done more of.

Everyone was anxious as it came time to hit the hay. I had checked the weather after the 5PM NWS updates (positions and reports are updated every 6 hours at 5AM, 11AM, 5PM and 11PM with an occasional intermediate update if things are nasty). TD6 was still TD6, so that was good news. The bad news was that he was still headed right at us.

Moving to Hog Island
08/30/2007, Hog Island

August and September are the hot months for weather down here. Learning how to dance around the nasty stuff is certainly an important skill if you want to enjoy yourself aboard a yacht without endangering your vessel and crew. If you let every possible development lock you in port you will never go anywhere or see anything. If you are not vigilant and go sailing about willy-nilly you will most certainly suffer a more unpleasant fate.

Staying within an easy day sail of a great hurricane hole is not too hard around here. You could be in the Tobago Cays (one of the most beautiful places in the world) and jump to the Tyrrel Bay mangroves at Cariacou in a mater of hours. All of Grenada is a short sail from Port Egmont. A fast boat can make Trinidad in a day and anyone can make Trinidad or even Venezuela from Grenada overnight. There is always something brewing this time of year but there is rarely reason to sit in a marina and stew about it.

Today, however, was our day to head for a safe haven to stew. The low pressure area we'd been watching in the approaching wave was rotating and well formed. Squalls were focused and abundant. All of these things equal bad news in the tropics. The only good news was that it was close enough that there would not be enough time for it to develop into anything super nasty. Super nasty causes us to leave the area. We prefer not to hang around for even nasty, but with guests aboard who were not ready to transit 100 miles or so of the North Atlantic we decided to stick it out in Grenada.

Mourne Rouge would not be our anchorage for this, or any other storm, presenting a lee shore in a west or south wind and being totally open to the south and southwest swell. After a discussion of the reasonable options the crew decided to head for Clark's Court Bay, two bays over from Martin's Marina where we had been holing up. The idea was to provide a secure anchorage with new scenery, proximity to Calviny Island's beach, proximity to the Light Ship and its restaurant, as well as the Internet WiFi at Clark's Court Bay marina.

Everyone slept in, biological clocks still adjusting to AST, so it was early afternoon before we headed out. We raised the anchor and motored in minimal wind around Point Salines toward the southern anchorages and entered the channel leading up to Clarks Court Bay, often called Woburn Bay. We circumnavigated the bay checking depths and looking at the other boats anchored and their positions. In the end we decided to try a spot behind Hog Island.

With the impending conditions no anchorage is totally open. This area did have a good space for us even though there were other boats in the neighborhood. As we anchored we got the "don't anchor near me" glare from a lady in a neighboring boat. I typically ignore this until we are settled on the anchor. I don't like being close to other boats more than most folks, and will be the first to relocate if need be.

We set the hook at 2,000 rpms and even sat with the engines running for an extra bit to ensure things were solid. It was at this point that the same lady popped her head out of the forward hatch and yelled, "you're too close". Lovely. I asked her where her anchor was and she simply ignored me and went below not to be seen again.

When a storm is coming, everyone in an anchorage has to cooperate to ensure mutual safety. One boat flying around makes all the work everyone else has done to secure their own assets futile. Coordination regarding anchor placement, scope and other factors can not only avoid problems, but allow others to assist more easily if something untoward occurs when things pipe up.

We expected no wind to speak of this evening and the Low Pressure of note was at least 36 hours away. Everyone would need to reset for the strongest wind direction, most likely south. We were a comfortable distance from all boats in the anchorage, though we could have been better centered. I decided to stay put for the night and address our neighbors concern in the morning.

Morne Rouge
08/29/2007, Mourne Rouge

I loosened up the shrouds again today. I have been monitoring the rig under various loads and after comparing things with other cats and talking to the factory I am fairly certain FKG over tightened things. I figured that the rigger with the best reputation in the Caribbean would know how to tension a cat's rig. I was wrong. Beware catamaran owners, if you are not in southern Florida, Western France or Cape Town, you will not find anyone who knows what they're doing when it comes to setting up a catamaran rig. Worse yet, they will say they do, charge you for it, and you'll spends weeks getting the rig set back correctly.

The morning weather was getting a bit more ominous. The low we were watching was not going away but it was getting late in the game for it to turn hurricane. I decided to head out to the beachy part of the island so that our friends could have some fun in the sun, but keep a close eye on things in case we needed to get to cover.

We said goodbyes to Jay and Tami on Blue Star, Jose and Louise on Monaco, and hardest of all, Fred and Cindy on Kelp Fiction. We had been cruising with Fred and Cindy for several months and had no idea when we would see them again.

We headed out the western most cut at the south end of Mount Hartman Bay. The chart showed it getting down to 10 feet or so here but we never saw less than 20. It is not one of the marked entrances but it was high noon and Hideko was on the bow. If you head for the eastern tip of the last dock on the way out of the bay and then, as you approach the shoal at the end of the dock, head out to Tara Island, you will clear all hazards. Hang a right before you run into Tara and you have good water to Prickly Bay.

As we headed out this way we passed a deep draft mono hull at anchor. A guy came on deck and watched us for a bit. After a while he realized where we were going and started waving us madly toward the eastern deep water channel. We smiled and waved back.

Our Saint Francis has four fuel tanks with combiners allowing you to partition things in various useful ways. The combiner that joins the port bank to the starboard bank has never seemed to work however and I have not had time to sort it out. Both the port auxiliary and the genset draw from the port fuel bank. Often we will have plenty of fuel in the starboard tank set but need to top up on the port side.

We had decided to stop in at Prickly Bay to fuel up on the port side and to try the Pizza which everyone raves about. It being a slow time of the year, the dock master allowed us to sit on the fuel dock while we ate lunch. Prickly bay is under construction and there's not much there at present; a condo development, a small dock, fuel, and a little bar. But do not under estimate the pizza! They have got the pizza figured out.

After a nice lunch we set off for Morne Rouge. This is our favorite anchorage in Grenada. The current is mild but it keeps the water beautiful. The beach is nice and the anchorage is rarely crowded, often leaving you alone for the night. We hung a hammock under the tramps and everyone set about relaxing, diving from the boat, swimming and snorkeling.

We did dinner and another movie in the calm anchorage. After the twisted intensity of Jacobs Ladder the night before, we decided that we'd better get the new family (Atsuko is 5 months pregnant) on track with the more G rated world. The Princess Bride won out providing sweet dreams for all.

Relaxing Aboard
08/28/2007, Martin's Marina

We had planned to leave the dock today but it just didn't work out. I got up early to listen to the weather. Everything looks good but there is still a high amplitude wave on the way Thursday night with an embedded low. Nothing problematic expected but something to keep an eye on.

I paid up at the marina office so that we could take off if we got around to it. We are a 50 foot catamaran and so I expected a little more than the mono hull rate. The bill was astronomical. I couldn't believe that a place this small would charge so much. Then I noticed the name on the bill. They were charging me for the 130 foot motor yacht Monaco's tab. After sorting that out I got a corrected bill. We had been here for two weeks and they wanted to charge us for 14 days. This was a bit more expensive than the monthly rate. So after a third computation I finally got the correct bill. About 1,400 EC ($525 US). Not bad at all for a month on the dock with a 50 foot boat, even though we didn't use power or water. The rate worked out to $0.70 US per foot per day for us and it would have been only $0.35 per foot if we'd have used the whole month.

Back at the boat Hideko and Atsuko had decided to go to the grocery store. There were grocery stores in our future travels but the biggest and best (the IGA in Grande Anse) was the only one that would do. So off they went for groceries. This pretty much ended any hope for departure today. Just as well though because Razmig and I were happy to get some rest in.

Once back at the boat, Hideko proceeded to dominate all contenders in Risk. We wrapped up the day with dinner and a movie (Jacob's Ladder) on the dock. Tomorrow we're really leaving...

Jumping off Annandale Falls
08/27/2007, Annandale Falls

This is the day I made Haro (my older brother, who always beat me at machismo games) proud. I'm not sure how I even ended up at the top of a 50-foot water fall (looked so much higher standing up) but when Randy took off his t-shirt for the climb, I knew that my manhood was challenged.

In Randy, I saw Haro, and thought, crap, I might have to jump. When we reached the top, to my relief, Randy sat down and was the first to say, "I don't know about this." Like a little Rooster, I thought here is my chance, and urged him on, knowing full well that I wouldn't jump. Our "instructor", who had a mysterious long scar on his face, helped our case by telling us that jumping off a bit to the left or forward would land us on the nice and shiny rocks. To top it off, we couldn't even see the water below, had to jump through tree branches, and to acrobatically kick our legs up as soon as we hit the water (too shallow apparently, nice).

The rooster in me kept pushing the envelope. To my horror I found myself convincing Randy / Haro to jump. I took my shirt off and held my breath, trying to at least match Randy's cut pecs and hoping that I might at least scare him away. It didn't. I approached the slippery edge of the cliff, looked at Atsuko (who seemed very small at this point), kissed her and our yet to be born daughter goodbye (man, I'm such a sucker for drama), and took forever to jump. Then, I jumped. Free fall sucks, and the impact (close your legs), really hurts.

I hoped Randy / Haro wouldn't follow, so I could be the only bona-fide Rooster. But alas, Randy followed, hitting the water pecs and all ; ) What a day and what a rush. Wouldn't have done it without Randy. No machismo here, but I did wonder if Haro would have done this jump. I just wanted to face my fear and see if I could do it. Plus, it was our five year wedding anniversary on that day, and Atsuko was cheering me on ...

Hog Island BBQ
08/26/2007, Hog Island

Our friends Razmig and Atsuko arrived late last night. They are one of the reasons that we have been hanging around in Grenada. We knew that they were coming to visit and we wanted to show them Grenada and the Tobago Cays, some of our favorite spots in the Caribbean.

The marina seemed like a good base to operate from while exploring inland so we decided to stay here at Secret Harbor until after our island tour. There was also a disturbance brewing out in the Atlantic that we were keeping our eyes on.

Razmig and Atsuko are from the west coast of the US and after more than a day of traveling they ended up comatose until around 10AM. Once conscious it was, "which way to the beach?" Grenada has nice beaches but I don't think of it as a "beach" island, like say Anguilla. The south coast is particularly short on beaches, having more rocky coves cutting deep into the island with mangroves lined bays.

There are, however, some nice islands set into the southern fjords that are quite hospitable. Nearby Calviny island has a nice beach so we dinghied over to swim and relax a bit. The island is private and the new French owner of Martin's Marina also owns the island resort at Calviny. They are doing some upgrades for the next season and it looks quite nice. Even though the island is private the beach, like all beaches we have run across in the world, is public. Here in Grenada you are allowed to roam within one cable (whatever that is) above the high tide mark.

After a bit of fun at Calviny we headed over to Hog island for the Sunday Barbeque. Hog island is a pretty little island set into the south end of Clarks Court Bay. The Kelp Fiction, Blue Star and Monaco crews had beat us there. The weekly Sunday barbeque at hog island packs with cruisers and locals. Tasty food, a beach bar and a local band on an otherwise deserted island usually makes for good fun.

BBQ at Monaco
08/25/2007, Monaco

In our travels we have ended up in the proximity of many motor yachts. Oddly we haven't spent any real time with their crews. Stepping back I think that there are just different circles at work. Cruisers tend to be older retired folks. Professional yacht crew, excepting captains, tend to be very young. Cruisers spend their days on cruising and social activities, yacht crews work 8-5 M-F. Cruisers anchor in places big yachts can't get into and big yacht marinas are usually too expensive for cruisers. Also when the owners or guests are aboard a motor yacht the crews are pretty busy all the time.

The motor yacht Monaco is here in Martin's Marina and she is just waiting out the season until it is time to head to Florida. The crew work hard during the week to keep her in beautiful condition but they have the weekends and evenings off. Hideko and I have made friends with Jose and Louise the Mate and Stewardess and they invited us to a dock barbeque this evening.

It was a wonderful barbeque. Nicky, the chef on board, made a fantastic potato salad among other things, and Jose cooked beef filets on the grill. Blue Star and Kelp Fiction were there as well and a great time was had by all.

I really enjoyed meeting the entire crew, particularly the engineer. The scope of the systems he has to manage is staggering. Jose gave us a tour of Monaco, a lovely, classic Feadship, and very well built. Just touring the engine room and looking at all of the massive diesels will allow me to smile the next time I have to do a 250 hour service on Swingin' on a Star's modest motors. Monaco has a crew of seven and I can see why.

We will miss Monaco and crew when we leave. She is heading for the Mediterranean ultimately so perhaps we will see her and her crew again down the line.


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