We had originally planned to do our annual haul out in Trinidad due to the variety and concentration of services found in Chagaramas. I was however impressed by the speed and quality of the work done on Blue Star. Jay managed to get hauled one day, have his boat painted the next, and then he was back in the water on day three. In the Caribbean, that is beyond impressive.
So when we contacted Grenada Marine and they said they could take us, we felt it was worth the wait. We had originally planned to be in Venezuela or the ABCs by now but that is the nice thing about cruising, you don't really have to adhere to your plans. There are also only so many places that can haul us and having one that can haul us offer us a spot and bottom paint in what is peak season for boat yards was motivational.
Hideko had rented a car so that we could be mobile while at the yard but she would need to drive the car over to the yard. That left me to single hand Swingin' on a Star over to the yard. I was not too worried about the prospect but it is always easier with at least one crew aboard to handle lines while you drive the boat. Jay on Blue Star had a friend, Andy, from Canada aboard. I asked Jay if I could borrow said friend.
So Andy and I set off to Saint David's Bay. You always have a knot or two of current running west on the south side of Grenada but the trip was fairly eventless and Andy was a great help. We anchored up in Saint David's Bay less than an hour after we departed. Jay and Hideko had driven over so we picked them up with the dinghy and relaxed on Swingin' on a Star waiting for the yard to hail us on the VHF.
When our number was up Hideko took the dink ashore and went to the slip to help from the dock and Jay and Andy took up positions port and starboard. The slip is about 31' wide and we are just over 26', a little tight but nothing like what Jay had to deal with (Blue Star is 30' wide). We dropped the topping lift and backed in to make sure that the lift cross bar didn't tangle with the rigging. There was a bit of a cross breeze but not too bad so getting in was pretty easy. There are certainly conditions occurring here within which it would get interesting.
The haul out was uneventful. The yard crew pressure washed her and chocked her up in a nice spot. It was the second time we'd seen her out of the water. It made me think of how some folks in more extreme climes never see the bottom of their boats except for once every year or two when they haul them. When you sail in the tropics you see the bottom of your boat several times a week, and typically give it minor inspection each time. This is, upon reflection, quite a luxury.
The yard is pretty large and full of catamarans. It was very interesting being able to inspect so many different types of cats in one place. The yard has the usual services, mechanical, fiberglass and paint, rigging and sail loft, as well as electronics. There is an Island Water World branch on site also which is very convenient. The bar and grill on the beach is a little dodgy but they have very cold beer. It seemed like a good place to work but I was looking forward to getting out already.
Splicing rope is a great skill to have if you are an outdoor type person. I remember many Boy Scout outings as a kid with my Dad working on rope-craft. Splicing was certainly an advanced skill for the 13 year old contingent. Even so most of us mastered the short splice, long splice, end splice and eye splice. Albeit on three strand Sisal. Now perhaps I'm just old, or perhaps we just used Sisal because they didn't want to ruin the rustic feel of camping and hiking. Either way on a boat you have nothing but synthetic lines and few of them are three strand.
When I first tried to sort out double braid splicing the list of exotic tools stated as mandatory by the various references I considered was daunting. I also found the instructions I dug up somewhat vague. Several references and many bits of double braid, greatly reduced in length, later I think I have gotten the hang of it. I have a habit of explaining difficult things to myself. If I can explain it to myself, as if I were someone else, I feel pretty good about my understanding. In the process of trying to really own splicing double braid I ended up with a pictorial process that I thought might be useful to others. If you are interested you can find the link on the Links page of our web site.
10/18/2007, Le Phare Bleu
We have been lingering in Grenada to see if Grenada Marine could haul us for our annual out and bottom paint. We were impressed by how fast and thorough they were with Blue Star. They told us they could on Monday so we will be in Grenada for a bit longer.
Andy, Jay's friend from Canada, flew down for a week and we all decided to go to Le Phare Bleu, a new marina in the process of opening, for dinner. They purchased an old Lightship which serves as the marina's office and restaurant. Tonight though they were having a BBQ on the dock with live music from Mad Violet, a couple of Canadian Girls.
Oddly enough Andy had tried to catch their show in Canada a few weeks back and now was going to get to see them, ... in Grenada? What are the odds. Turns out the owner of Le Phare Bleu met the girls in Switzerland, where he owns a music shop. Small world
10/16/2007, Southwest Granada
We had dinner with Jay from Blue Star and his friend Andy tonight at the Beach House. This is hands down the best restaurant we've been to in Grenada. Hideko had Tuna Carpaccio and Beef Tenderloin in a brown brandy sauce. I had spicy scallops and Cajun Lobster. The food was tremendous and so was the bill.
During most of the year the Beach House is open for lunch and dinner. They are situated right on a nice beach and you can swim or snorkel during the day and then eat lunch at one of the out door tables.
10/15/2007, Lance Aux E'pines
I had to pick up a few things at Budget Marine today. Martin's Marina is a little off of the beaten track. It is a little walk over the hill to the Prickly Bay area where you can grab a taxi or catch a bus. Instead I decided to bike over to Budget Marine. It is a decent bike ride but great exercise. Getting over the hill from Martins is steep peddling but after that it is a nice flatish run.
The bikes we have aboard are folding bikes from West Marine. Practical Sailor liked them and they have held up well. We haven't used them as much as we should have but they have been very handy in the more urban spots.
We stow them folded in their carry bags in the lazarette. One of the bikes was sitting under the horse for the dinghy outboard. When we go offshore I stow the outboard in the lazarette for safety. Unfortunately it leaked salt water onto the bike. Doing an A/B comparison between the bike that got hit with salt water and the one that didn't really opened my eyes to just how nasty a fluid salt water is. The briny sea had put some serious rust on a lot of unpainted bike parts and had completely eaten through about a third of the spokes on both wheels.
Fortunately there's a bike shop in Grenada. I dropped the damaged bike off and three days later it was respoked and ready to go for a very reasonable price.
As general advice for folks cruising the eastern Caribbean I would have to say skip the bikes. It is a lot of fun to walk and hike and often islands are mountainous without good paths for bikes. When they're not they are often sandy, not good for bikes either. If you love bikes then they great to have and with some looking you can often find some place to go for a ride. I hope we find more fun places to ride ours in the miles ahead.
Hideko and I were very happy with our little drip coffee maker (see blog from a year ago). Then, about a month back, Fred made us lattes with his La Pavoni infusion espresso machine. Our world crumbled and a vicious espresso machine envy set in.
We stood strong though. No snap decisions, right Hideko?, Right! We'll just go on enjoying our lives. Heck, we hardly ever even make coffee anymore unless guest are aboard or we're on passage... darn it, here comes Fred with another Latte.
It wouldn't have been so bad but the La Pavoni, which incidentally Fred selected after 3 months of online research, is like having an Italian Cafe in your galley. Every cup Fred made for us was fantastic. You pull the shots yourself so you never have to worry about a failed pump (I hate pumps) and you can create infinite variations. No two shots are ever the same. The machine circulates the water constantly keeping the boiler at 2 atmospheres (as a dive instructor I love anything with a pressure gague). It is also easy to clean and take care of.
Fred's experience and ours have this to recommend: Get the La Pavoni Romantica Professional. It is hard to come by but if you look around you can find it online. (try: http://www.1st-line.net) It has the large boiler which heats up as fast as the small one but lets you make five or six good sized lattes without a refill. It also has the pressure gauge which is cool, but also helpful. The finish is a beautiful golden bronze with rose wood handles (I've heard complaints about the plastic ones breaking). It is also worth considering the La Pavoni bur grinder. We love ours and it allows you to make espresso grind coffee anywhere (blade grinders don't work for espresso). You may have a tough time getting espresso grind in out of the way places but you can get coffee just about anywhere.
In the end, efficiency and minimal material possessions gave way to awesome coffee. I rationalize this as a critical preparation for our South Pacific journey where good coffee will ensure alert watch keeping on our various passages. Yeah right...
10/13/2007, Martin's Marina
Hideko and I started working on our sail repair skills in earnest today. There's a great book, widely respected amongst the salty, called the Sailmaker's Apprentice. The book teaches you everything you could possibly want to know about sails, from rig and sail types, to sail shapes and sail construction. The first chapter is titled, "A Ditty Bag Apprenticeship", and takes you through the construction of a fairly complex ditty bag. We purchased the book as part of our library and planned to go through it together to develop some key cruising skills (neither of us have done much sowing historically...).
Before we left Fort Lauderdale Hideko and I bought ditty bag kits. Sailrite (located right around the block from Lauderdale Marine Center) puts kits together specifically for the Sailmaker's Apprentice text with all of the thread, cloth, grommets, wax, needles and other bits that you need.
We are using a large floor board to protect our table from pins, markers and whatnot. It became surplus when we installed the washer dryer and I almost threw it out, it is a rather heavy chunk of wood. Hideko talked me into keeping it and we have had it stashed under one of the quarter berths (wait that's mono hull lingo, well you know what I mean).
It is far too early to predict the results of this endeavor but the process has been very educational so far. We are learning the flat stitch, round stitch, sticking stitch and cross stitch, as well as how to finish eyes, grommets and cringles, among other more exotic rope and needle work. If you fancy upgrading your salt rating I highly recommend taking a look at Emiliano Marino's Sailmaker's Apprentice.