Mimi - Isle De Saints and Guadeloupe
16 March 2011
We are writing to you from Guadeloupe, a French island that is actually composed of two islands separated only by the narrow water course, Riviere Salle (salt river). The two islands take the shape of a malformed butterfly, one wing larger than the other. The large wing is mountainous and volcanic, and is known for its waterfalls, national parks and jungle terrain. Oddly, this half is called Basse Terre (translation, Low Land). The other half of this island , the smaller wing on the eastern side of Riviere Salle is an older island. Its mountain peaks eroded long ago and it is a low lying mass with wonderful sandy beaches. Curiously, this part of the island is known as Grand Terre (large land). Mimi is now floating off one of those wonderful beaches on Grand Terre by the name of Ilet a Gosier. We don't understand it, but now that we have it straight, we're enjoying it.
In the past 2 weeks since our last entry, we have taken Mimi from the island of Martinique northward,
spending only 2 nights on the island of Dominica, then sailing on to Isle De Saintes, a tiny French holding that is grouped with Guadeloupe. The French take care of their islands and that said, Martinique and Isle De Saintes appear to be financially healthy with good roads, services (such as garbage cans and public bathrooms) good grocery stores and absolutely irresistible patisseries. Dominica, which sits right between the two, is quite a contrast with its poor infrastructure, scant services, (we don't even try to take garbage ashore) shoddy or nonexistent docks, meager grocery stores,persistent boat boys, obviously poor population and potential for crime. Surprisingly, something about it called to us at this year's stop. Maybe we'd spent too much time on easy-street ( Martinique). We had to move on though. Carnival was approaching. We stayed just 2 days but made plans to return.
This year we had our eye on Isle De Saintes for Carnival which fell on March 6,7 and 8....the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday prior to Ash Wednesday. Traditional celebrations take place on almost all the islands in the chain, each one with its personal stamp. We weren't sure what would take place at the Saintes, but it had been recommended by some cruiser friends who "knew Carnival".
Last year we had been in the large city of Fort De France for Carnival. Thousands of people marched in costume. Dozens of bands marched around the city. TheSaintes was more of a village setting. More like going to a 4th of July celebration in a small town (like Wausaukee!) and we thought we'd enjoy it.
The winds have been very heavy in the Caribbean this year. We have met cruisers who have crossed the Atlantic, sailed the North Sea and even one couple that have done the better part of a circumnavigation....all of which have been somewhat traumatized by the winds and seas in the Caribbean this year. No kidding! Our passage between Dominica and Martinique followed the usual pattern.....8 to 10 foot seas and winds gusting into the 20s......even though we had waited for a mild weather pattern. Transiting Dominica to the Saintes finally, after 2 months of waiting, delivered the idyllic goods and we had a passage much like we all imagine. Captain and I were happy campers (oops, I mean Sailors!) and got to the Saintes with smiles on our faces.
Isle De Saintes is so small that its history didn't follow the regular pattern of the other Caribbean islands. The islands weren't agricultural, so slaves weren't imported. The islands have stayed French since they were colonized. and today the main population is French speaking and a good part of the population have come from Brittany on France's northwestern coast. The people are a beautiful blend of French and Caribbean. Throughout the village the homes are cottage-like with darling shutters, covered porches and red tin roofs. The smell of baguettes baking waifs though the air. People sit on benches, chat and eat ice cream and little stores sell regional fabrics and other souvenirs. The commerce is fed by ferries transporting visitors from large cities on Guadeloupe and the only glitch in this picture is the propensity of scooters screaming by ceaselessly.....the renting of which is a super earner for many of the islands merchants. The water on the shoreline is clear and unless a north swell comes in, the anchorage is nice and still. There are several challenging walks on the main island of Terre Den Haut that can lead to beaches or vistas. Keith and I took several, the most challenging of which was to Fort Chambeau, at an elevation of 1500 feet above Mimi....oops, I mean above sea-level.
The views were awesome, but the muscle and aerobic strain were something else. We are glad we did it and we think it might have even help offset the caloric gain our bodies are trying to cope with from all the baguettes and pain au chocolat.
Carnival in this small village did have the personal punch of a local event. We hustled in on Sunday when it was evident from the drum beat that things had started. Happily we ran into friends Ron and Penny from the ship (really, their boat is a ship) Arctic Vixen. We had met them on this very island last year, had struck up an immediate accord, and this time around got to spend some really nice social time with them. Here is what the Carnival parade is composed of in Isle De Saintes: First in line - Big flat-bed truck with huge speakers on the back. Also at the rear of the bed sits a keyboard which will be marched behind by a most important, amplified keyboard player. The piano tone they choose is one that sounds much like an accordion. Next to the player marches one or two vocalists, loudly singing in French one of the 3 or so songs that make up their repertoire. Behind these fellows marches a Salvation Army Band of sorts with horns (trumpets and trombones) and then a happy, energetic hodge-podge of drummers and percussion players. Most of the drums are standard, but some of them are cut-off barrels. Everyone is super enthusiastic and most have a costume element to their clothing. Behind this group are a group of dancers. The dancers were absolutely charming with self-made tropical style hats and white dresses with full skirts. The first of the procession were a group of children. All of the little girls looked so darling in their hats and outfits and moved along with a choreographed set of steps. Behind them were their older counterpart, getting more aged as the group tapered off. Around the town they went stopping and putting on a show at different locations. The best seats in the house were the step of the Church. I hung out there. Ron and Penny followed the band around the town and Keith went back to the boat to work on some belt of filter (or whatever).
Toward the end of the event, Keith returned and we watched the action from the Church together. It was a great evening.
The next day of Carnival we hosted Ron and Penny on our boat along with 2 other boating couples, had drinks and puu-puus and then headed in for Pizza expecting second day of Carnival to start around 7:30 or so. We all went into town. We ate. We talked. Everything was quiet which was strange. Suddenly a huge group of 300 or so people marched by silently all wearing black and white. A man at a nearby table told us that a 13 year old girl from the island had died that day in a motorcycle accident and that Carnival was canceled. He was angry. He pointed to TV, drugs and the Internet being a bad influence. He obviously didn't like seeing the cultural change and felt it was detrimental to their lives. We were all taken with the solidarity of the island for the loss of one of their own. It was touching.
Wednesday things picked up again though several of the participants wore a black arm band over their costumes. This day the trucks, keyboard player and band were of the same ilk, but the dancers had changed costumes with gorgeous frilled long skirts and stunning headdresses. This time, marching behind the dancers were a jovial bunch of "men" dressed in black pants, white shirts and ties. Some had made themselves poochie stomachs. All wore full head masks which were portraying either Obama or (we think) Sarkosi. It was a riot, though we weren't sure what point they were trying to make. Some got together (a Sarkosi and an Obama) and did a close dance complete with pelvic thrusting. One of the Sarkosi characters would face the crowd and stroke his chin, then his nose in a thoughtful fashion. We were puzzled, but fascinated. Following this element of the parade was the show stopper of a massive lizard, Chinese New Years style, with about a dozen people within it making it slither through the town.
Thursday, Carnival behind us we moved northward to Guadeloupe.
The passage to Guadeloupe was fairly mild and we motored into the wind. As we approached the island, the depth shallowed to about 25to 50 feet. Finally we had a fish on the line without Doug on board. I slowed the engines as the Captain reeled him in... an awesome 3 foot barracuda. Barracudas are a large reef predator. It eats fish that feed on coral. Fish that feed on coral carry a very nasty cumulative nerve toxin by the name of ciguatera. As the barracuda eats more and more of these toxin carrying fish, it grows, and so does its toxicity. We had eaten a 2 foot barracuda that Doug had caught in the Grenadines. We have read that ciguatera is not prevalent in the islands south of St. Kitts, and we were well south of that island in the Grenadines, and somewhat south of it here in Guadeloupe.
If a person eats a fish that that has ciguatera toxins, they can expect some nasty physical responses, such as fever, achy joints, gastrointestinal disorders and an odd nerve response. Hot will feel cold and cold will feel hot! There is no throwing back a barracuda as getting the hook out of its throat while it is alive is nearly impossible. The barracuda has some really nasty long teeth. So Keith cut him up into gorgeous filets and minded my one request that we ask a local fish expert if we were smart to eat this fish. Ultimately, the answer was no...not over 2 feet in length even that this latitude. Out of the Tupperware and into the sea he went to be eaten by other predators. Such is the circle of life.
I had always been fascinated by the Riviere Salle having read that at the northern end the water was crystal clear, white sand bottomed and red starfish littered the sea floor. The recommendation was to get towed behind a dinghy and glide, flying-like over this magical terrain. Having anchored at Pointe a Pitre, Keith and I took off in the dinghy and motored northward through the 4 miles of mangrove lined waterway, nearly getting plowed over by a (jerk) powerboater. Unfortunately at the north-end, things were rough, stirred-up and likely we would have had to venture a few miles more to take in the idyllic scene the cruising guide described....and we suspected it was too rough to experience its special features anyway.
At days end, I asked Keith to take me around the corner in the dinghy to scope out the Old Town of Point a Pitre. Here we discovered that they were celebrating the last night of Carnival that evening. It is amazing the things you discover through dumb luck. We went back to the boat, cleaned up and headed in, dressed in our best black and white (the theme of the night). Several bands blaring horns and banging drums marched by with a casual crowd of dancers. We ate from the food stands (Bokit and crepes) and excitedly watched as the traditional statue of the symbol of Carnival was rolled out on the wharf for ceremonial burning. Certainly we thought, they would float the huge plasticized statue out into the water for the effigy. We hung out. We waited. We thought, "hmm, isn't that awfully close to our dinghy?" Suddenly the flames roared up....at the same time, our stomachs turned. Nope. Vaval (the name of the fellow who symbolizes Carnival.......and by the way a serious look alike contender for the masked Sarkosi fellow in the Saintes parade (we are still confused by that) was not pushed out into the water and was torching up right next to where we had tied out dinghy. Sparks flared, flames shot upward, and smoke billowed. Luckily, by the time we got to survey our little boat we found that she was only coated with soot and ashes. No burn holes, thank goodness. An exciting fireworks show ended the evening and we headed back to Mimi having had a great day.
Our next stop on this Southeastern shore of Guadeloupe was Ilet a Grosier, which has a sand lined shore and boasts a sweet little palm dotted island about 1/4 mile offshore which is capped off with a historic lighthouse. As we motored into the bay I checked to make sure that Keith saw the 4 different swimmers crossing from the island to the town shore. This was the beginning of an amazing observation. During the two days we stayed in this very nice anchorage we must have seen at least 100 locals swimming at various paces from the shore to the island and back. Some were lifeguard quality, but many were just relaxed swimmers making their way back and forth, some stopping for a chat. On shore, we noticed an inordinate amount of people running back and forth on the shortish beach front. We don't know if it is something in the water, a challenge from Weight Watchers, or just what it is, but we were amazed by the quest for fitness that went on in this town. We laughed about the movie "Cocoon" and pondered the possibilities.
Note: We were able to return to this anchorage for our very last night before heading south to the Saintes. Two male swimmers, on a long course to the island passed close to the boat. They sensed me watching them and raised their heads at which time I asked if either of them spoke English. Yes! So I queried, "what is all this swimming about? So many people are out swimming to the island every and also running on the beach. Is there a race coming up? " The answer, a big smiley "no!" Swimming is very peaceful and beautiful. It is the Guadeloupian way!" We are still amazed at the masses of people out doing their daily machination. Captain and I suited up, swam to the island, swam back to the town beach, then after a fast stroll down the shore, swam back to Mimi. If we move to Guadeloupe, this is the town we will live in!This was a very good spot to leave the boat while we rented a car for some touring. Yesterday we got a little Peugeot and headed for the "Carbet Chutes" the highest waterfalls in the Caribbean. Here was a place to prove our muscle. We strapped on our hiking shoes and headed for the highest possible climb. I won't go into all the gruesome realizations of our aging knees, hips, ankles, backs and glutes, but I will say that we took a 3 1/2 hour hike that escalated from nifty wooden walkways to rock studded passages, to slimy mud treks through boulder strewn mountainsides, ending in a lovely view of a waterfall. I could barely walk today and suspect that I will never knowingly take another hike like that again at this stage in my life. Simultaneously, I am proud that we made it.........however I am tired and crabby as a ...________.well, I'll let Keith fill in that blank.
March 13, Sainte Francois
We are almost sitting on the tip of the butterfly's wing at this point. When casting our eyes East, there is a real feeling of looking out into the vastness of the Atlantic ocean. The water is crystal clear (or "gin clear" as the Captain likes to say) with a turquoise hue while the sky is true sky blue with billowy white clouds floating by. We are anchored behind an exposed reef. Locals, this Sunday, have come out in there little pleasure crafts to hang out, walk on the reef and languish in the shallow gorgeous water. Never failing to review his engines, the Captain has found that one of the bolts anchoring the alternator is stripped. Further exploring is to be put on hold. We are headed back to Point De Pitre to a well qualified mechanic (it is a blessing to have one so close by).
As we were leaving Sainte Francois this morning, the port engine didn't want to start. Another clue that heading to the mechanic is the right thing to be doing. Two kayakers drafted off of our stern for the first 1/2 mile out of the harbor. As they detached and headed off we were reminded of dolphins.
My apologies for such a long and overdue blog. The trip this year has lacked some of the fantasy that prior years dished up. Maybe it is the "done that, been there" syndrome, or maybe not. Maybe I'm just getting lazy and more at home in this part of the world. For those of you who worried for our safely, many apologies, once again.
We are exactly one month from returning to Santa Cruz. Better kick it up a few notches. Friends Sandi and Dave Moore are due on board in just over a week and we will take them through the Grenadines which will be a hoot in itself.
Write when you have the time. We love hearing what is going on at home............We did hear about the tsunami! Holy cow! Hope everyone is OK!
'Til next time,
Captain and Crew,
Mimi in Martinique
21 February 2011 | St. Anne
February 20 and February 21, 2011
St. Anne, Martinique
We make this posting from the utterly charming village of St. Anne on the southwestern coast of Martinique. The weather is mellow, the winds fair, the seas turquoise and life is good.
We left Bequia on February 18th at 6:30 in the morning with the plan of sailing north, past St Vincent, the northerly most of the Grenadine islands, and across the 30 mile channel to St. Lucia. A total trip of 50 miles start to finish. The winds had backed down and were predicted to be in the 18 knot range. Seas were still pretty high, but we'd had Mimi out in worse. The north end of St. Vincent throws up some pretty stiff winds and we got our share of them for about a half and hour, seeing gusts of 26 and 27. We had a double reef in the main and had the jib reefed as well. We had read warnings about this particularly gusty spot in our sailing guide and adjusted the sails ahead of time. The next 4 hours were pretty rocky. Keith stayed at the helm and I often stood on the cockpit bench, holding on to the bimini framework. I can kind of let my body flow with the boat's jerky motion, plus I can see over the top of the cabin. At one point Keith, with a serene smile, but alert look on his face said "look at that", pointing to the right of the boat. Moving toward us was a "hill" of water, 12 feet or more tall with the most gorgeous icy turquoise top lip to it....it was obviously about to break and it looked like it was going to break BIG on us! Off the bench I jumped and braced myself in the lower reaches of the cockpit for the wet impact.............which never came. Mimi beautifully rode over the "hill" and down the other side. We took a lot of water on the hulls and cabin, but made it to St. Lucia where, 3 miles out we were greeted by a boat boy in his colorful craft. Southern St. Lucia is rife with boat boys so he had to meet us early to grab our business. He wanted to kindly escort us into the Pitons where, though we would need no help, he would assist us in obtaining a mooring ball, offer to take us on tours and sell us any number of things. After such a long day, we just didn't feel like dealing with him and the other hords which would follow him. In the end we decided to head further north. We pulled into St. Lucia's most northerly protected anchorage of Rodney Bay just as the sun set having made about a 70 mile passage.
Rodney Bay is a great place to stock up and we were excited about shopping. There is a big hardware store, a Chandlery, and a couple of great big grocery stores. Oddly, to access these fancy stores, a person has to tie up at a small dinghy dock that leads to a narrow, rubbley alley way. On the dinghy dock sits a man...a very thin man with bad teeth who wants to help grab your line when you pull up. For that, he asks for food. Something to eat and maybe some juice. Of course we couldn't refuse him, he looked so pitiful. He must really be hungry to ask for food and not money. We bought him a chicken roti and a bottle of orange juice. After a long shopping trip we pushed our 2 shopping carts down the rubbley alleyway and there he was, still sitting on the dock. Obviously some other kind sole had also responded to his plea for food because he was drinking a cold beer and had a large back of mixed snacks. Hmm. He got started helping us take the food out of the carts and load it on the dinghy. We gave him his roti and juice, but he spotted the Heineken and asked for one of those. The Heinekens had broken out of their packaging and were starting to fall all over the place. In the frenzy to capture our beer and get it all in the dinghy, somehow we managed to leave 2 bags in the rear shopping cart.....something we noticed midway into preparing our lunch back at the boat . Back we barreled in the dinghy. There he was, still sitting on the dock and he smiled (looking sleepy now) and pointed to the 2 bags, still in our abandoned shopping cart. By now he had a bag of hamburger buns and a box of macaroni and cheese snugged up next to him in the shade. He was obviously stuffed and had started asking for groceries to take home. We gave him $5EC, deciding next time to buy him a tooth brush and tooth paste, and marveled at his prosperous day, The kindness of strangers....it's a great thing.
That night in Rodney Bay we had a group of cruisers over that we had previously met in Grenada. One couple was picking up their son in Canouan the day after we picked up Cass and Doug. That weekend (and the following week unfortunately) was darn windy and in Canouan the winds stack up in the hills and come roaring down at increased speeds, often switching directions. After a gusty night we had left Sunday morning for Bequia and the Super Bowl, but this couple spent Sunday night in the anchorage and the winds howled. In the evening they had a visit from a single-hander that was nearby and while on board, his dinghy flipped over in the wind and submerged the outboard motor. It was too windy to take him back to his boat, so he spent the night in their cockpit. Hours later he noticed that his boat was missing. It had dragged across the harbor and was rafted up alongside a catamaran that was holding. We've heard of many boats dragging their anchors this season. We have reanchored and reanchored and at times taken a mooring ball over the past few weeks. None-the-less, someone else can always drag and run into your boat. This hasn't happened to Mimi yet and we seriously hope it doesn't. So does she.
NOTE ABOUT THE ABOVE PICTURE: This boat anchored next to us yesterday. They are French so we haven't spoken to them, but can you imagine what they must have gone through!? Keith thinks the forestay must have broken and the calamity began. Obviously the owner is very, very seaworthy as the whole rig was tided down securely. A product of our high seas and big winds??? Possibly. What a year.
Martinique has been largely controlled by the French since the Europeans arrived and colonized it. It basically is part of France and it feels like it. Nearly every seaside bay that we enter is anchored by a top rate government-built dock and not far beyond the quintessential Church steeple points toward the heavens. Supported by France, the infrastructure is well cared for, tidy, has good roads, ample garbage cans and a seemingly content population.
When we crossed to Martinique we were fortunate enough to be able to sail close enough to the wind to make our entry into this delightful and more southern area where we are presently anchored. St. Anne is a quintessential French Caribbean Village and the neighbor to Club Med Martinique which fronts on a long sandy beach next to a public beach park.
Our plan was to enjoy St. Anne for the number of days until we picked up good friends, Jim and Caryl Holloway in the more northerly town of Anse Mitan. Since we arrived, the wind has backed down and there has only been the occasional shower. It is beautiful. This is the same spot that Keith took me dancing for my birthday last year. There is something about their open air restaurant and the French entertainment that seems to stir his soul and........I can hardly believe this.......inspire him to dance! We've been out twice this past 4 days If you had told me in my 40s that Keith would become a dance enthusiast (my work, not his) in his 60s, I would never had believed it. While he does have his own unique style and a girl has to be quick on her feet to adjust to his musical interpretations, I've got no complaints and am having a ball with my ever evolving husband.
Sadly, circumstances have come up that have forced the Holloways to cancel their trip. We are blue and just staying put until our gusto returns. We've got 4+ weeks until the Moores arrive and think we may take the time to sail to more northerly reaches of the chain, or do a more in-depth study of Guadeloupe. As of now Keith is getting some boat chores done. We'll probably do the mega hike we were saving for the Holloways and there is a snorkel area we've spotted that needs our investigation. We'll have to force ourselves to start eating something that doesn't have to be lain open-faced on a fresh baguette.........but not now. It's lunch time! and it's just too, too good!
I may have gotten the picture part of this blog working. If so, you will also find a video. Last night the locals started practicing for Carnival and marchers, drummers and a trumpet player or two made the rounds of the town. Keith filmed it on our little camera and took in the Harbor and got a bit of a feel for where we are currently and temporarily calling home. I'll add it to the Gallery, provided I do the task successfully.
Write back when you have a chance. We love hearing from home....yada, yada...you've heard it all before, but we really love your letters. I save them for the evening and read them to Keith off of the Blackberry. Hope all is well with all of you, Love, Captain and Crew, S/V Mimi
Mimi on February 14, 2011
14 February 2011 | Bequia, The Grenadines
This new blog post is a combination of a number of days of reporting, from 2/2 to 2/14. Usually in a blog the latest day is at the top of the column, but in this posting, that isn't the case. It is long. Very sorry, but Internet access has been evasive. Hope all is well with you and yours, Dear Readers. Drop us a line if you have the time. We love to hear from home.
February 2, 2011
We stayed in Grenada for 5 days and it turned out to be a real treat. Friday night we had a fun time right on the shore with cruiser friends at an outdoor restaurant with both a Pan and Rock and Roll band. Scads of kids from the University flooded in...which was testimony to how little there is to entertain one in Grenada. The Rock band was talented, but the songs were recognizable to us, so it was interesting how many 19 plussers were there. Saturday we had a beachside dinner at the University Club, which our friends are members of. I nearly had the gumption to sneak in a freshwater shower in the locker room just before leaving, but thought better of it. It was a very nice evening and a great break from the boater's normal life.
We write to you from Carriacou, a darling little island that is the adjunct to the country of Grenada. It took us about 5 hours of sailing to get here from Grenada and again, the conditions weren't for wimpy sailors like us. The wind was coming directly at us the entire time and gusting to mid to upper 20s. The seas through a good part of it were steep and confused and their height crested to 12 feet. Mimi's bows did a lot of submarining and crusty salt was everywhere. Happily the skies were blue and the bad stuff only lasted for about 3 hours.
Once we arrived we had no need to check in with Customs since we hadn't changed countries. If we had needed to do so we would have headed to the bay at Hillsborough . Instead, we pulled into the cruiser preferred bay of Tyrrel Bay. Tyrrel Bay is a nice deep and shallow bay with a sandy bottom...just great for digging in the anchor. The shore is defined by a thin sandy beach and just beyond it is a sleepy road and bits and pieces of commerce. Here a little restaurant serving Lambi (conch), there a little funky grocery store. Produce stands are big here, but their offerings are scant. Sometimes no more than some cabbage, some green oranges and callalou. We marvel at the prices and wonder how the locals afford to feed themselves. Most likely their prices differ from what yachties are charged. We tried to spread our purchases out among 2 or 3 of the stands.
Sailing around the Caribbean for 3 or 4 months a year makes physical demands on a person of advanced years. There is the jump from the dinghy to the boat in a swell which taxes the knees and stretches the groin. Hauling groceries from the store, down the road, onto a dock and hoisted (then followed) into a dinghy demands arm, leg and core strength. Swimming to check the anchor, dive on the anchor, climb back on the boat and go through the rigmaroles of resetting the anchor takes lung, arm, quad and emotional strength. Keith and I try to put the put the whole package to task with the hopes of returning from our adventure in more fit shape than when we left our Santa Cruz home. Our second day in Tyrell Bay we decided to take a walk toward Hillsborough, then circle the mountain that separated it from Tyrell Bay. We started out complaining about all the dang taxi drivers that announced our option to ride, rather than walk, with a sharp beep on their horn. It makes a pedestrian jump! We waved them friendily on. After a while it seemed that the walk to Hillsborough was absolutely as long as walking West Cliff at home, and wasn't that 5 miles??? Finally we reached the turn off to Hillsborough where a nice young woman at an open-air stand was offering roasted corn. Intrigued, I purchase a cob which was roasted on a BBQ grill. The blackened cob was pulled off the grill then placed back in a shell from its own husk leaf. Meaty, starchy, bland and warm, it was still an interesting local fare that diverted my attention from the heat and the never ending hike we were on...if only for 15 minutes. Onward we hiked as we chatted about our various muscles that were obviously kicking in and becoming more fit with every strike of the heel. We could tell by their low level of ache. We walked by tropical forests , vacation homes with striking ocean views and the neighborhoods of the working families. Children smiled and waved at us, chickens took off running and goats baaahhed. At one point we reached a fork in the road. Keith's natural sense of direction kicked in, but so did the uncertainty of his walking partner. The dilemma was solved when a true and curious Caribbean Gramma came out on the second story porch of her unpainted wood sided home. Classically she wore a house dress and a truckers baseball cap. She leaned forward resting her broad frame and forearms on the deck railing and looked down at us. Politely we asked if this was the road to Tyrell Bay. She answered us at length in the local Caribbean dialect. It seemed that she wanted us to take the fork we had just passed, but it was hard to be certain. A chained up dog was incessantly barking at us from the lowest level of the house noisily overlaying Gramma's island-speak. Eventually I took matters into my own hand telling Gramma that we really couldn't understand her due to the dog and could we get to Tyrell Bay by following the road we were on. "Sure! You go down to da big road and follow dat!" We waved and thanked her, and luckily met another local as we headed toward the aforementioned big road. Back up the hill we trudged with the corrected directions, took the fork and walked about another 10 miles. (where be dem dam Taxi's now?!) Hot, exhausted and relieved we returned to Mimi, and found we had really and truly walked about 6 miles total. Not all that impressive, but it was a start.
FEBRUARY 12, 2011
Blogs are just impossible to write when you are in midst of some of your favorite family members. To any readers waiting for the next addition, mega apologies for the delay. Daughter Cassidy and our brother Doug just left after a terrific week of island hopping in the Grenadines. We picked them up just one week ago on the Island of Canouan and quickly hustled up to the more hopping island of Bequia where we could definitely catch the Super Bowl. With only a few hours of occupancy aboard Mimi, Doug was definitely capable of starting a mutiny were we not to put him in front of a TV set to watch his home team of Green Bay fight for the big win. We did the 20 mile sail in a little over 3 hours with big seas. Cass's tummy was temperamental, but Doug was stoked and managed to land a tuna in transit. Needless to say the Super Bowl was fun and we managed to share it with another Packer-Backer cruising family. Everything was good and Doug was so elated, he picked up the dinner tab. Go Doug Go! I mean, Go Pack Go!
Sailing into Bequia we were able to share the experience of Boat Boys with Cass and Doug. "Captain!" is the general initial hail, which captures everyone's attention. Please note, no one wants to share their attention since the intense focus at this time is looking for an ample anchoring area and a sandy bottom in which to land the anchor. The helpful boat boy in his colorful craft which he brings alongside our boat yells "mooring ball?!" which will cost us $20 a night as opposed to a $00 cost for anchoring. The Captain nicely yells "No thanks!" The crew steels themselves to the wind, readies the anchor and banters with the Captain as to the depth and bottom conditions (in certain crew members circumstances, bantering might be more like arguing). The anchoring begins. Suddenly there is the hail again..."Captain!" Now the boat boy is using hand signals as he yells at Mrs. Captain on the bow. Beautifully, with both hands he fashions a nice mooring ball in the air as the wind is blasting her in the face and the filthy chain drops from just below her feet. It looks so good. The Captain now firmly and loudly yells "NO!" to the helpful boat boy. The anchor is dropped. The chain is eased out. The crew relaxes. Later the anchor drags in the incessant winds and the procedure begins again. Boat Boys. Where are they when you need them?
Doug and Cass;s week was a bit windy and rainy, but we managed to walk to and tour the Turtle sanctuary in Bequia, sail on to Mustique (the private island for the rich and famous) taking in their Blues Festival, sail on to the premiere diving area and marine reserve of Tabago Cay (Doug caught a 28" barracuda on the way) where we spotted turtles under the water and iguanas in the trees. Cass was undaunted by strong currents and wave battered beaches. In she'd go. Leopard Rays had an affinity for our boat and we could watch them swimming by in the clear, clear water of the Cays. We finished the sailing loop by returning to Canouan. Oddly Doug was without his possessions the entire week. His bag never showed up and luckily he and Keith were able to share clothes. We became so familiar with his washing and hanging of his one pair of BVDs that Cass named them. (Mimi Pants). It was a great week for us. We wish that the winds had been a little more kind. Many times we had gusts in the mid-20s, both sailing and at anchor (which always feels like gusts in the mid-30s). The seas on the second of our third passages had heights of up to 4 meters on the beam and Doug was stoked, but both Captain, Cass and Commodore would have wished for milder conditions. Both Cass and Doug were great sports, got nicely burnt/tan (and whooped in dominoes!) and will go home with some good seafaring tales to tell. They left on the morning of February 12th out of Canouan. It was a great week. and we miss them already.
FEBRUARY 14, BEQUIA
Guests gone, it's just the Captain and myself once again. The passage from Canouan to Bequia yesterday had higher seas and wind than what we like, but as we neared Bequia it mellowed and we saw winds in the teens and the seas went well down. Hopefully this is a sign that the weather is improving. Once anchored we surveyed the boat. It was pretty much a mess, but despite that we jumped in for a swim that led to a lunch at a beachside restaurant and a snooze in the sand. All in all a pretty darn good day. Laundry can always wait.
That's pretty much up to the minute. We wish you all a Sweet Valentines Day and hope to hear what is new with you and yours.
Captain and Crew,
Mimi makes Grenada
30 January 2011 | Prickley Bay, Grenada
Dear Readers, This blog is written with fits and starts and this portion covers a fair period of time and events. Today, the 28th of January, I am posting for the time period January 23rd though today, with not a lot of reference necessarily to the dates. I'm sorry it is so long. Skim read if you choose. There won' t be a test! Here is the starting of the blog from some days ago
Writing this as of Sunday, January 23 and we are still in Trinidad. Things have improved and we are having more fun than when we first arrived. This past Thursday we were "splashed", meaning that Mimi had a trailer slipped under her and was then hauled by a tractor to a ramp where she was eased into the Chaguaramas bay. Everything went very well and we are now attached to a mooring ball in the bay. Last year at this time in this same place, the water was filled with "tennis ball" jellyfish.....hordes of them. Whatever condition sent them here also brought in schools of smallish fish (which eventually died...I don't know if it was the water or some other factor) and with that, enormous flocks of pelicans which were feeding on the fish. Each factor might have been in itself somewhat fascinating, but the whole bunch together was overwhelming. I wasn't a happy camper. This year the water is just its toxic self with the occasional Styrofoam or plastic container floating by. Much easier to handle. Though endlessly I wish they were more ecological here.
We have been warned to be very diligent about lifting and locking our dinghy at night. Many, many outboards have been stolen here though the anchorage is awash with light through the night. We have heard that 20+ outboards were stolen through the earliest few months of this season. Luckily our outboard is fairly low HP, so most thieves aren't interested in it.
Once in the water we took Mimi for a trial run. Out we went through the Boca (the passage we will take when we head north to Grenada that has a few shoals to avoid and an Island or two to mark our path. Last year a grungy old porpoise joined us and rolled and rolled his body alongside our hulls. It seemed like he was using the wave action of the hulls to scratch himself. As we were passing through the Boca gap, there he was again! I think! I scurried up to the front of the hull just in time to see him for an instant and then he disappeared. About then we hit the incoming current which was stacking up against the outgoing wind (oops! Visa versa!) and things got pretty bouncy and wild. Bad ankle aside, I scurried back up to the boat cockpit. The rest of the trial went well. All sails raised and preformed well. The engines hummed. We headed back to our mooring ball
Since we launched on Thursday we have been doing minor tasks to get Mimi in better seagoing shape. We had the opportunity however to participate in a Hash this past Saturday. I'd heard of them in Grenada and known that they happened here as well. What they are is a modified takeoff on the English tradition of fox hunting.. In this case there is no fox. The hounds and horsemen are the people participating. Prior to the event the volunteer organizers for this particular Hash mark a trail through the wilderness with paper fragments. The trail is tricky with steep muddy hills, shallow river crossings and log jams to climb over. The organizers who mark the trail make sure there are plenty of false starts and dead ends. This particular trail did have the added challenge of having to pass by a large beehive (Africanized Killer Bees!) that we were warned to pass by quietly. The heartiest of this group were in the front of the pack and started out running. We older folk migrated toward the back and tried to keep up a good pace regardless of the fact that we were jammed in amongst others and worried about turning an ankle or spraining a knee. The tropical rain forest was stunning (when we could look up from our feet placement). We hustled along and ran when the trail was firm. Keith held my hand and offered assistance when things got dicey. We had gotten ourselves into something that was too laden with possibilities for an injury......but! The forest was stunning with bamboo, tropical birds harping and lush, lush green everywhere. 2....3....4 (maybe) miles into it we were getting tired and wondering when we had passed the bees. The trail turned ever upward. The air cooled. We were feeling our muscles complaining. In the distance it appeared the trail was reaching its zenith when suddenly something hit me in my face. Hmmm. It felt like a bug. Up ahead people were running... .. in our direction! We didn't know why, but we turned around and ran as well. Yes. You guessed it. Bees. The vigorous young runners were probably quiet , as well as the multi-dozen trotter/runners behind them, but eventually the bees sensed a whole bunch of activity near their home and came out in swarms to investigate. Fortunately, the organizers pointed out a short cut and we didn't have to retrace our steps all the way back to the beginning. Partying after the event with the Trinidadians was a real kick.
Each day at anchor in Chaguaramas Bay we would listen to the weather forecast with baited breath. The crossing to Grenada can be rough and seizing the moment with reduced wave heights and moderate winds is crucial to a comfortable crossing....particularly for sailing wimps like us. Daily the reported seas were topping out from 10 to 12 feet. The winds were generally 15 to 20 knots. One waits for a "window" and in this case ours came on Wednesday, the 26th of January. Seas were to be 6 to 8 feet....still higher than we would have liked, but we knew Mimi could handle it if we could. Tuesday the 25th we moved the boat to a beautiful and peaceful anchorage near the tip of the Island by the name of Scotland Bay. Our day had been hectic and we dropped anchor as the daylight was fading. Keith attached the lifelines and I got out the foul weather gear and secured the cabin. Dinner made and ate, and we turned in early. It was a beautiful night and we had the hatches open with gobs of gorgeous fresh air blowing in...I pictured it blowing away my anxiety. At 2 I woke up and got restless. We had an alarm set for 3:30. I struggled to go back to sleep. Rolling over at some point a noise alerted me to open my eyes ...which I did...just in time to see a bat fly through our hatch and come swooping down toward my head! Scotland Bay was no longer peaceful. Keith of course thought I was dreaming. I of course threatened his life if he didn't get up and investigate. Eventually he found our visitor hanging upside down from the light fixture in the guestroom. Turns out I had left ripe bananas on the counter and after eating himself sleepy the little fellow was searching for a cave to chill out in. Keith probed him with the fly swatter and reluctantly the little guy gave up his nap and found his way outside. Needless to say, we left for Grenada before the alarm had a chance to sound.
The crossing was a little rougher than we would have liked. Waves blasted our hulls, reaching at one point heights of 10 feet. A strong current pushes through that area from east to west. For a period of hours we headed as much as 30 degrees east of our course , just to stay on course. Keith manned the steering station for the full 11 hours and truly experienced the benefits of our new bimini and isinglass dodger. I'm feeling nostalgic over the fact that we won't be headed back to Trinidad in the year to come, but knowing that we won' t have to make that crossing again is actually quite a relief.
We pulled into Prickley Bay in Grenada at about 3pm on Wednesday rather bushed and full of salt. Happily we have friends here that we met and partied with last year. They already know the ropes of the Bay and have us organized for a few social events in the days to come. In just about a week we will be meeting up with Cassidy and brother Doug on the island of Canouan and having all kinds of fun taking them around the Grenadines.
Grenada is a fresh breath of air. The humidity is lower, the water is clean enough for swimming and people can actually walk the streets without fearing for their life! (unlike Trinidad). We were stunned at seeing other boaters in the anchorage with their dinghies still in the water after turning in for the night (again unlike Trinidad!). Unfortunately a dinghy was stolen from a dinghy dock today in broad daylight. Young kids. Our friend saw them race by with the stolen inflatable and had a split second thought that there might be a robbery in progress.....then immediately admonished herself for typecasting 2 young black men. It certainly isn't as prevalent here as Trinidad, but I guess it still happens. Another point in Grenada's favor....the Coast Guard chased down the thieves. One of the kids was hurt and wound up in the Hospital while the other 2 got away. Not a perfect end to the story, but at least here there are consequences for crime against boaters.
That's the report right up to the minute. Hope all is well with all of you back in the States. Write when you get a chance and tell us what is new with you.
Captain and Commodore Kjeldsen
Mimi in Trinidad
17 January 2011 | Chaguaramas
Hello Dear Readers,
I'm writing you from about 10 feet above the ground in the illustrious setting of the boatyard in Chaguaramas,Trinidad. Dull, hot with toxins surrounding us and the whiff of poisonous paint fumes everywhere, it is none-the-less the best place to get Mimi cleaned up and running well for her Caribbean season, 2011. We've been here just about one week and so far she has had her engines started successfully with a few new hoses in the process, she's had her jib reinstalled, her bottom scrapped, scrubbed and painted, a full acid wash and wax job, her interior rearranged, her cooking element repaired, new hot water heater installed and a good scrubbing on her top side. Mildew has been attacked. Birds' nest evicted from her mainsail pouch (%^!!!)(it left a nasty stain) And her bimini sent in for replacement.
We are bummed about the new bimini though it will be nice, no doubt about that. We left here in a bit of a hurry last year and didn't have any luck putting a tarp over the boom which would have protected our aging bimini from the ravages of the sun. This year we returned to a pregnant belly of sorts, hanging down in the mid part of her structure. It looked like it held about 5 gallons of water after a good rain....and it has rained a lot here in Trinidad this past and present season. We could have maybe had it patched, but for a grand we can have a new one. Add to that a Mylar windshield and we managed to push it up to $1500. And of course after all that I wanted a matching sail bag!! But the Captain said no. Not this year. He is a stern, but practical Captain. It would take too much time and effort.
Socially Chaguaramas has been on the quiet side. I think a lot of the regulars that we met last year have moved on to Grenada. The dinghy and outboard motor thefts have been rampant here and the authorities seem to look the other way. The country's Coast Guard station is just up the shoreline and yet their presence doesn't seem to be a deterrent. Between that and the rare, but possible incidents of Pirate attacks when sailing north to Grenada, we have decided to hang it up too and have arranged for our insurance to cover Mimi through next year's hurricane season in Grenada.
There will be things that I'll miss about this place. There are quite an assortment of eclectic characters that we've gotten used to seeing and exchanging greetings with. We really love the restaurant on the shore here. The fish is fantastic . We've gotten used to taking the maxi taxi to the malls and larger grocery stores and that can sometimes be interesting. Then there is the excitement of hurrying down the road at sunset to some kind of boater gathering, knowing that you have to get there before dark or risk kidnapping. Lots of fun and excitement.
Today we are taking a break and are going to try our luck at dominoes with a group of cruisers. There are a couple of domino-sharks and we only hope we won't be sitting at their table.
Sometimes I wonder how long Keith and I can continue to cruise. It is a fairly physical lifestyle. We did, however, meet our neighbors in the boatyard and in getting to know them better we found our minds begin to ease. He, probably about 80 years old, had both of his knees replaced last August and is out doggedly working on his boat. She is a spunky late 70's type, tiny, trim, cheerful and decked out always in colorful clothing. The two of them are friends since both of their spouses passed away. 3 years ago she joined him on his boat and they hopped Islands in the Carribean. They both enjoy looking at announcement boards and that first year spotted a note asking for crew, Trinidad to Australia. Yes, he was about 80....his knees hurt and his eyes aren't too good, but he holds a Master Sailor designation and his past occupation was as the owner of a boatyard on Lake Erie. She is a good cook and has sailed recreationally all her life. Add to that that the 50-something English couple advertising for crew got no other takers. They left Trinidad in November. The owner/female was highly seasick which left our spunky colorful friend at the helm every night from midnight to 3am. Mr. Master Sailor took over at 3. The four of them sailed to Aruba, on to Cartagena, through the Panama Canal, on to the Galapagos, and from there across the Pacific. It was an 8 month passage. Really amazing what people can do. They aren't next to us anymore having launched last Wednesday, but I'll bet they will be at dominoes and I'm a little scarred to play with them.
Boatyard women are pretty tough. In this environment the general and accepted look is frizzy haired, sleeveless and sweating and many are right there with their captains working to put their boat in order. We marveled at a blond-bomb-shell (sleeveless, sweating and frizzy-haired....and flushed) hauling her Captain up the mast as he relaxed in his boson chair, ratcheting up centimeter by centimeter in the blazing sun. A few days later, an older dyed brunette, frizzy haired, sweating like a race horse and swearing like a sailor, hauled her Captain's lethargic form up their mast, painful centimeter by painful centimeter. I'm happy to report that Keith was able to caulk the mast top in an area that may have been leaking. Not entirely unproud of myself for that one. What a workout!
Each day's work concludes with a real treat. Somewhere around 5 to 6pm a particular flock of birds start to squawk and stream over us. A large group of parrots spend their days on one end of this bay and their nights on another. They fly by in pairs, very recognizable when they dip low enough for us to get a good look at them. Keith likes to look at it as Mother Nature's way of announcing Happy Hour.
This weekend the weather is fairly acceptable for a crossing, but that all ends with Monday. The seas will build after that point and the winds escalate. Mimi is slated to launch on Tuesday or Wednesday. After that it is a wait-and-see period, waiting for the seas to calm and the winds to come from the right direction at the right speed. Hopefully next weekend we'll be on our way to Grenada.
More as the inspiration moves us.