All good things must end
09 May 2018
We left the British Virgin Islands as planned on April 30—the SVRS worked when I used a saved template, and Tom checked out of Her Majesty’s customs under the tent at West End. Tom reports in the ship’s log, “After six months, we no longer fly a courtesy flag. 20 check-ins, 20 check-outs, 13 island nations.” We motored the short distance to St. John, USVI, and picked up one of the many vacant moorings in Leinster Bay, at the far eastern end of the island. The National Park Service isn’t charging for any of its moorings this year, but they’re still pretty empty in spite of the offer.
May 1 we relaxed and enjoyed being in one of our favorite places. I snorkeled around Waterlemon Cay (Tom had an open wound and decided to stay out of the water), and found some magnificent areas of bright purple fans, just like in the old days, before all the reefs began to bleach out. The next morning we watched a fish feeding frenzy around the boat for a good hour or more—typical chain of life business, with thousands of tiny minnows, leaping in unison like liquid silver, being chased by bigger fish, and so on up to the seagulls and pelicans. Late morning we snorkeled the reef at the midway curve of the bay, and saw more gigantic purple sea fans, including one sheltering a huge school of French grunts. And of course we left the underwater camera on the boat.
We motorsailed to St. Thomas on May 3, past the sad empty buildings of the Caneel Bay Resort, past Cruz Bay, which looked pretty good from a mile out, and along the southern coast of St. Thomas to Charlotte Amalie. The big hotel on the outer point was closed, and we could see a couple people in hard hats looking at the repairs needed where part of the pool patio fell down the hillside. But around the point, the big hotel painted in the multicolors of an Italian village was open and busy. No cruise ships, and only one arrived in the last five days. We picked up a mooring off the Frenchtown Marina, and had a nice homecoming with our friends at CYOA, the boat charter company that runs things. Since the hurricane the mooring price has skyrocketed, but it’s where we need to be now. Then we went around the corner to Betsy’s Bar (now under new ownership and called French Quarter Bistro, but Betsy’s still working there three days a week) to have lunch and some WiFi, and Tom got a bear hug from Betsy (or should I say a Wisconsin badger hug?). We took the safari bus out to the Tutu Mall, where there’s a big grocery store we hadn’t tried before (we were so enamored of CostULess that we hadn’t ventured farther, but CUL was destroyed in the hurricane). What a store! It’s more comprehensive than any we have in Maine. Prices are a bit higher, but that’s because it’s in Paradise. We got just enough for me to start cooking meals for “the boys’” offshore passage and took the safari bus back again. We love taking those buses!
The next day we moved to the other end of Charlotte Amalie harbor and anchored to save on the mooring cost at Frenchtown. Friends were also anchored there—Helen and Bill Weigel on Alembic—so we had a cocktail hour get-together. The weekend involved more grocery shopping, lots of cooking, and Tom working through his page-long list of offshore preparation jobs—checking fastenings, lights, adding safety features, etc. etc. etc. We moved back to Frenchtown on Monday, but it was much too windy and choppy to move into a slip. So we picked up a mooring again and continued our preparations. Dinner at French Quarter Bistro to end our six-month odyssey (delicious!), and back to Bravo.
Tuesday, May 9, we moved into a slip, I put the final few items in my bags, and left in a taxi at 12:15. Tom’s crew was on their way to St. Thomas, but he had a little time to get their bunks ready. Now it’s Wednesday, and I’m in Florida on my way to see Jay Rabow in Sarasota; Jay and his late wife Midge set us up on our blind date 45 years ago. Tom and crew are doing the last few tasks before heading offshore, and we should meet up in Camden on May 18. Our winter sojourn has ended, and it was better than either of us expected. Nicer people, more post-hurricane resilience, better grocery shopping, no warned-of thievery or bothersome locals. Lots of happy memories…and now we get to enjoy summer in Maine! Thanks for sharing it with us.
To the Virgins
30 April 2018
Thursday, April 19. Wednesday we had a peaceful night in Colombier Bay, St. Barth’s, with nothing but a few boats and lots of turtles around us. We went back in to Gustavia late morning to check out, and I wore my “Sorry about our president “ tee-shirt (that phrase in 14 languages, including ASL) so Jacques, the nice customs agent, could enjoy it. He got a good belly laugh from it! It’s had very favorable reactions all over the Caribbean, and prompted good discussions (most involving the words Why? or How?). Early afternoon we set sail for St. Maarten, to knock about 16 miles off our passage to the British Virgin Islands. We anchored in Simpson Bay, and replaced our French tricolor with the Q flag. We won’t check into St. Maarten, but we won’t go ashore, either, so we’re in quarantine limbo, having arrived after customs closed and departing before they open. At first it seemed to be not quite as rolly as Gustavia, but it caught up! Jonathan Lloyd, a Roving Rear Commodore for OCC, came by to invite us to a get-together Friday night, if we’d still be there, but we gave him our regrets. Maybe he’ll pop up next in the BVI!
Friday, April 20. Tom and I set two alarms for roughly 4:45 am, wanting to get an early start on our 78-mile passage to Virgin Gorda. But pounding rain convinced us that we didn’t need to start that early, so we finally got away around 7:00. The rain squalls followed us across for a good distance, and the first one to hit us was an unexpected doozy, with winds over 40 knots. I went below, closed the hatch, and put the lower companionway board in, trying to keep the rain out. Oh, did I mention that the wind was dead astern? I watched Tom struggle to maintain control, but it was hard, as he could barely see, and he was just steering by apparent wind, trying to keep the sails full. He saw me watching and gave me the weakest smile that said, “I’ll pretend everything is fine if you will.” After the squall passed and we weren’t dismasted and we didn’t die, we put the third reef in the main and furled the jib (it wasn’t accomplishing anything dead downwind anyhow). So the wind angle was miserable, the rain squalls were miserable, the seas were uncomfortable, but we had a big group of dolphins join us for a few minutes, and that’s awfully special. These dolphins are different from those we see in Maine—they have a truncated tail and a pink underbelly. I tried looking them up in one of our fish books, but then did a self-dope-slap. Mammals. Even though they swim with the fish, they’re mammals. We arrived in Virgin Gorda about 6:00 pm, and anchored by Prickly Pear Island. There are several boats at Leverick Bay Marina, in slips and on moorings. We could see as we passed by the eastern end of the island that the cottages at Bitter End are just shells, but I couldn’t see clearly enough to tell whether new construction is happening. It’s looking very sad at that end of the Sound.
Saturday, April 21. We began leisurely, with Tom cleaning the forward head and shower and me repairing a tear on the mainsail cover. When we figured customs would be open, we departed for Spanish Town, on the west side of Virgin Gorda just north of The Baths. We picked up one of the many vacant private moorings, because we reasoned if the owners’ boats aren’t on them now, they probably won’t be this season. I had precleared us online via SailClear, and Tom went ashore with the documents—only the master of the vessel is allowed. There was no dock at the customs building, so he dinghied through the entrance channel to the inner harbor, found a place to dock, and with much guidance found the unmarked customs building. He encountered a couple trying to find resources to get their hurricane-damaged boat repaired; for some reason, the boatyard had fired all its employees rather than keep them on at a time of greatest need! At customs Tom found the agents to be displaying their usual lack of charm, and they maintained they are NOT on SailClear (regardless of the fact that I successfully cleared us in that way). So Tom had to fill out the long form, having it returned to him four times for errors. $40.25, but at least they take credit cards and we’re back in US currency (I don’t know why it’s not pounds).
On our return to North Sound we did a tour of the Sound, taking a closer look at the hurricane damage. The beach bar on Prickly Pear is ruined, but we’ve learned from a friend that PP is a BVI national park and the bar is owned by a nephew of one of the Chief Ministers, so I won’t bemoan its demise. Although it looks like they’re working to make it bigger. Saba Rock Resort was pretty much just walls, but an excavator was being offloaded there while we passed. We’ve heard (same friend with insider knowledge) that it’s been purchased for an ungodly sum. The Bitter End Yacht Club is totally destroyed—flattened, deroofed, partly gone. I’ll post pictures in the gallery. There are very nice signs there apologizing for their appearance while they renovate, but nothing is happening, and apparently they’re in bankruptcy. The mooring balls are still there, but with the eyes taped over and labels saying “out of order.” Biras Creek wasn’t operational when we were here two years ago, and it also suffered damage in Irma. Fat Virgin Café was destroyed, and they seem to be actively working on repairs. Yacht Club Costa Smeralda didn’t seem to suffer too much damage to the buildings, but their extensive system of megayacht docks is gone. Just gone. The customs building at Gun Creek is gone. Leverick Bay had a tremendous amount of damage—lots of houses were lost, the resort lost its roof and dock house, but they’re open for business and thriving. A brand new roof, a cement dock house, fresh paint everywhere, and big letters near the Jumbie Beach Bar proclaiming ONE BVI. Michael Bean is there several nights a week for his Happy Arrrrr, and the crowds come. The stores are open, the laundry has three of four washers and dryers working (same as always), and the spa is open. I got a pedicure, and Martina, who did an excellent job on my feet, lost her house and everything she owns in the hurricane. She’s been living in a shelter since October, on a waiting list for an apartment along with all the other displaced people. The manicure was $45 on Visa. I gave her a $20 cash tip.
Mosquito Island, where Richard Branson is apparently building a resort called Moskito, is being rebuilt in all concrete. Work there seems to be constant, at both ends of the island. His place on Necker Island seemed fine, probably the first to be repaired.
We decided to cruise the Virgin Islands knowing that facilitates would be diminished or gone, but hoping that the charter boat population would be, also. There were lots of them at Leverick because that’s one of the few functioning facilities, but overall we haven’t seen nearly as many.
Over the next week we anchored at Long Bay, a spot we’d been wanting to try for a long time; off Eustatia in crystal clear water; back to Leverick; on a mooring at Great Harbour, Peter Island, where we were able to pick up WiFi off The Moorings charter boats and saw a Manta ray while snorkeling; a mooring at Soper’s Hole, where everything is pretty much destroyed. The West End customs office there is open, but under a canopy, with the agents sitting on folding chairs with a folding table. The terrific two-story grocery store is a shell, with holes in the roof. The only open businesses are Omar’s Café, where we had a delicious breakfast, and Pusser’s Landing, where they’ve hauled the tables, chairs, and umbrellas up to the second floor and set up al fresco dining there. The roof still has holes, and to look at the building you’d think it had been bombed…but they’re open. And both places have WiFi.
Friday , April 27, we motored into the wind from Soper’s to Nanny Cay, because Tom found someone there who could clean the hull. In this warm water we find nasty stuff grows very quickly. We’d been into the Nanny Cay Marina several times two years ago, but were stunned to see the condition of it now. Most of the docks were gone, and there were sunken boats here and there. The remaining docks and bulkheads were mostly filled with boats, and no one responded on the radio. There was one man sitting on a work boat, and he indicated that we needed to go outside and around to the new marina. Aha! Although it didn’t show on our chart plotter, the entrance was marked by red and green buoys, so we made our way in from the surf to the calm of the marina. Opposite the lovely new slips is a pile of hurricane-ruined boats, some upright, some still on their sides, surrounded by large heaps of coral that looked to me like cremated human remains. A sad sight. But the diver came, we got some fresh provisions at the Rite-way grocery store, and we enjoyed dinner at the beach barbecue, along with dozens of others. At the next table was a 6-month-old baby, born in Maine, whose parents are operating a spiny lobster farm on Tortola! You never know whom you’ll meet.
April 28: We spent the morning maximizing our time with WiFi. I kept trying to file a float plan with the Small Vessel Reporting System, a process by which registered boaters can reenter the US from Canada or the Bahamas or Caribbean islands by filing a float plan online, and then simply calling a customs office when you reach the US. We’ve used it returning from Nova Scotia and down here in 2015-16, and it worked like a charm. But now it’s telling me that my return point must be a US destination. Maybe that’s why the USVI hasn’t had proper disaster relief after the hurricanes—our government no longer recognizes them as part of the US?! I sent an email to the designated “If you need help” address, and then called the customs office in St. Thomas, since we couldn’t find a phone number for St. John. I explained the problem, and the agent said, “Must be a glitch. You’ll have to come into the office in Red Hook.” I said, “No, we want to go to St. John. So we go to the Cruz Bay office?” “There isn’t one at Cruz Bay. Only on St. Thomas.” That means no one can go directly to St. John! No wonder we’ve heard the National Park moorings there are free—you have to jump through hoops to get there.
Our plan is to go back to Soper’s Hole on Monday, post this, hope the SVRS is working so we can file a float plan, then go straight to St. John and relax at Leinster Bay and do some snorkeling. Stay tuned.
19 April 2018
We just had a surprisingly rip-snorting sail from Iles des Saintes to Deshaies, Guadeloupe. We expected the first hour to be rough, crossing the open water from the islands to the “mainland,” but once we were in the big island’s lee, we thought things would calm down. First there was the long period of wrap-around wind and confused waves. But then for a few minutes the wind dropped under 10 knots, and the waves flattened out. I almost went below to get my needlepoint. But then the wind picked up again, and I mean it really picked up—I saw a couple gusts of 42 knots. Another day of the forecasts missing the mark!
Deshaies was crowded, but we tucked into a great spot in the center of the mooring field. The moorings are free, and several boats seem to be abandoned on them—one is upside down and partially submerged! Yet somehow transient boats manage to pick them up, too; there’s a magic formula we haven’t learned. The wind was howling even in the harbor, so much so that we tried to time hoisting the dinghy up off the foredeck (its traveling position) during a perceived lull, and it still knocked Tom off his feet with a sudden gust! We went ashore later in the afternoon to check out of customs…unless there was evidence of filming for Death in Paradise season 8 having started. We walked up to the building we’d learned is used as the police station, and there was the sign declaring it Honoré Police! Tom took my picture next to it. Then we went down to the real police station, which is very modern and not nearly as spacious or picturesque, and asked when filming would begin. Not until April 23! Well, much as we’d love to see it, we can’t hang around that long. So we cleared out. French customs is so civilized—do it yourself on a designated computer in a shop, restaurant, or even a customs office, pay 2€ to 5€, print the form and sign it. Other countries, fill out tedious forms, go to the customs desk, pay up to $100EC, then the immigration desk, then often the port authority, pay another $40EC or so. Antigua does use eSeaClear, which is an online system where you enter all the boat and crew information once, and then just create arrival and departure information at the appropriate times. When Tom (only the vessel’s master can go ashore) goes to customs, all the information they need is in their computer. The other countries all take part in SailClear, and I dutifully file my arrival plans online, but invariably when I show up at the customs office, their computer is down and the forms are out.
Thursday, April 12, and we’re anchored in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua. Today’s sail was a bit more like I expected, although slightly higher winds and seas. Maybe I’m just expecting it to be higher than predicted now! We sustained a speed over ground of 9 to 10 knots for a very long time, so we hardly minded the errant wave dousing us occasionally. Prevail, a 65 foot hi tech boat flying the Camden Yacht Club burgee (!), sailed in tandem with us, barely edging past us at the harbor entrance. Turns out they were just flying a jib—no main—because the mate was down below, sick with food poisoning. Arrived too late to get to customs, so Tom went in the morning. He also stopped at the sailmaker’s shop to see Franklyn Braithwaite, to find out how much it will cost to put new foam in our cockpit cushions, now that it’s finally arrived. The price is good, and he arranges to be picked up at the dinghy dock at 8:30 in the morning with the cushions. Because we fly our Ocean Cruising Club burgee, a man came by to invite us to an OCC cocktail gathering at the Antigua Yacht Club at 1700 hours, so we enjoyed a bit of sociability that evening.
Saturday, April 14, Tom headed to shore with the floppy old cushions and I stayed on the boat to recaulk some seams in the forward head—there’s no end to the fun of living on a boat! When Tom returned with the cushions, our comfort level increased a hundred-fold. We went from sitting on Wonderbread sandwiches, where our butts really felt the fiberglass underneath, to sitting on a luxurious three inches of sturdy foam. Bliss! (We didn’t do it sooner because the foam wasn’t available anywhere we went; Franklyn ordered it last November.)
Sunday we had an easy motor to Jolly Harbour, dead downwind. We were fortunate to pick up mooring #2, close enough to the marina to pick up the WiFi signal. Once again we were invited to an OCC party, by a roving rear commodore of the OCC, Jonathan Lloyd, where we met a young family from Sweden who have sailed around the world. Their boys knew almost no English when they left home, but are quite fluent now! Following that we went to dinner with friends Jerry Mashaw and Anne MacClintock, authors of a wonderful book about their first experience sailing offshore to the Caribbean—Seasoned by Salt.
Monday, April 16, we were at the fuel dock before they opened at 8:00 to fill up on diesel and water. Then back to the mooring for a pancake breakfast, then in to customs to clear out, and to Epicurean—the grocery store by which all others are judged—for a provisioning before we face the unknown (the Virgin Islands). We had a final dinner at Melini’s, where I warned Adrian, the public half of the team—Mark is in the kitchen, that we’d be using up the last of our EC dollars. And I did: I was left with one EC nickel and a Visa charge of about $14 US. Sweet Continental kisses from Adrian, and one more final goodbye. This final leave-taking is hard when we’ve made so many endearing relationships.
We were off the mooring at 0615 headed to St. Barth’s, hoisting the main in the calm of Jolly Harbour. The wind was too light and too far aft to really sail, and although we did roll out the jib and try, we motorsailed the 10 hours. Tom had to put a preventer on the main, because it kept slamming back and forth with the flukey wind. The seas were a bit rolly, but I managed to work on my needlepoint by looking down to place the needle, then looking up for the follow- through. I wasn’t going to just sit idle for ten hours! The anchorage at Gustavia was horribly rolly, but we had no choice. In the morning we had to do everything slowly and carefully, holding on to protect ourselves against the roll. Getting the motor on the dinghy to go ashore in between rain squalls was a real challenge. It was about 11:00 am before we finally managed to get to the customs office. The man in charge there is terrific—Jacques. Unlike the computer system at the other French island/departments, where you have to type all the information when you enter and again when you leave, and when you re-enter, etc., in St. Barth’s you enter it once, enter a password, and you’re done. Our boat information was still in there from two years ago, but Jacques had to remind me of the password—with the French keyboard, it wasn’t my usual password. We spent some time there using the free WiFi, then lunch at a nice café on the harbor, a few groceries at a great store, then back to the wildly pitching Bravo. We decided to up anchor and move to the marine park moorings at Colombier, where we found lots of available moorings, no roll, clear turquoise water, lovely sand beaches, and quiet. A lovely night.
Bequia, St. Lucia, Dominica, Martinique...
10 April 2018
When people send me emails, they often include phrases like, “Enjoy your sailing!” And yet we’ve not had a perfect 10 sail. The inter island passage-making tends to be rather boisterous and our coastwise transiting in the lee of these tall islands is more often motorsailing. But Wednesday’s sail from Carriacou to Bequia (March 28) was five-and-a-half hours of lovely what-it’s-all-about sailing. Ahh.
Back in Bequia, and it happens to be Easter Regatta Week, so it’s crowded. It’s a strange experience being in the midst of a regatta that Tom’s not racing in! A wide range of boats, from J-24s to traditional Carriacou wooden hand-built boats, and hot racing boats of all sizes. We spent time with Harriet and TL Linskey, the founders of Hands Across the Sea, debriefing me on all the school visits I’d made and me asking questions—as a new board member of Hands, there’s so much I want to learn. And we made several trips into town, getting fresh produce from the market stands, other provisions at Doris’s incredible store, and using the WiFi at the Whaleboner (a bit of lunch, an iced tea, each day something different to pay our way). But night after night of the regatta brought ear-shattering amplified music from one restaurant or another, until we just had to get out of there.
I’m writing on Easter Monday now, which is a holiday in the Caribbean, and we had another gorgeous sailing day from Bequia to Marigot Bay, St. Lucia—62 miles at an average of 8.4 knots. For about 3 hours we were “racing” a 72-foot ketch, Celtic Spirit, flying Genoa, staysail, mizzen, full main, and professional crew of four running around trimming sails, while we had a main and our little #3 jib, and I was down below sleeping off a headache. After 2 ½ hours they finally pulled ahead of us, but when the wind turned flukey and Tom started gaining on them again, they furled their jib and started motoring. Tom called them on the VHF and said, “That was fun! You’re the only boat that’s beat us all winter!”
“You didn’t make it easy,” they replied.
While I was checking into customs, Tom walked down the dock to where Celtic Spirit had tied up, transferred his pictures to them, met the owner and crew, and had a good chat. Meanwhile, I was filling out the long customs form with Mr. Grumpy who was working on a holiday (but watching a video while he waited for me to fill out the form!). There was no one at the immigration desk or at the port authority office, so I’d have to come back in the morning to take care of those.
Marigot Bay in St. Lucia is one of our favorite places, with a quiet inner harbor that’s so nicely protected there’s never a swell (in our experience). The marina is well-run, the harborside restaurant is decent, the pool is lovely (although I didn’t have a chance to swim this time), and we have a friend there, Laney (see previous blog about being at Marigot), so it’s a sort of homecoming when someone’s there to wave hello. Tom and I both got haircuts at the Sea-Side Barber (see the picture gallery), and he did a great job! I heard a long story about the local dog who kept “making little dogs” right there on the beach, and people would come along and take them as soon as she “made” them, and she’d be lonely. She finally figured out that if she made her little dogs underneath the restaurant, no one would know. But of course when the “little dogs” wandered out, people would take them. There was one dog left when a woman from a boat fell in love with it and asked people whose dog it was, and she was told it was no one’s. She really wanted that cute dog, but her husband said no way were they having a dog on the boat. But she really wanted that dog, so she paid someone to bring it alongside in a dinghy and help her smuggle it aboard as they were leaving. She was going to tell her husband after they were long gone; she figured, “What could he do then?” Tom and I pictured that poor puppy getting offshore swimming lessons, but hoped the poor husband sucked it up and accepted the hassle of going through customs with an animal. An animal with no veterinary papers. Anyhow, I got a great haircut.
Tuesday, April 3, we expected delivery of a prescription Laura sent from Boston via DHL, and my email notifications showed its arrival and clearance through customs. We checked out of customs (actually forgetting that we had the package arriving that day), but had a 24-hour grace period before we had to leave. The marina office called DHL to see when it would be delivered…tomorrow morning. Oh, dear. But still okay, as long as it’s early. Ten a.m., nothing. Ten-thirty, the marina’s agent has picked up the package from DHL, but has no transportation for getting it to the marina. What? Marina office asks him to please take it back to DHL, because they’ve already said they’re going to deliver it…but that was supposed to be this morning. By 2:00 p.m. with no package, it’s too late for us to depart for Martinique. We’re informed that the package will be delivered in the morning. I have to face Mr. Grumpy and tell him our sad tale. I include the fact that the prescription is for headaches, and this kind of stressful situation gives me a headache. He doesn’t quite smile, but he does simply change the date of departure, tell me to take it easy and not worry about it, and let him know if we’re not able to leave the next day. One hurdle successfully cleared! When I get back to the marina office (next door), I learn that someone will indeed be able to bring the package this afternoon, maybe in an hour. We pay for another night on the mooring, and go back to the boat to wait, not really expecting to see the package until morning. But wait! What’s this we see? Someone walking to the marina office with a large envelope tucked under his arm! “Bravo! The package is here!” squawks the radio. We’re in like a flash, pick it up without giving them a chance to try charging us for their agent’s work (they didn’t try), and hustle the precious ($12 prescription, $95 delivery, $30 extra night) pills to the boat. Added bonus: Laura has enclosed six photographs of Charlotte! As my late mother would say, “Pictures you can hold in your hand!” We had an exquisite sunset to end the day—I posted it on Facebook and got lots of nice comments.
Thursday, April 5, we set off for St. Anne, Martinique. Laney had someone bring us a boxful of luscious pastries before we cast off, and he and Ford, the dockmaster, were on shore waving goodbye. Boy, if that don’t bring a tear to de eye! The forecast was 13-16, gusts to 21. The reality was 15-20, gusts to 25, building to 20-25, gusts to 30, for a 30 nm beat. Quite a bouncy slog, with some gully washers getting both of us drenched. Partway across our VHF radio started emitting a high-pitched beep that increased in volume. I looked at the radio, and saw the word FLOODING, with two choices below, one of which was OK. I pushed that to get rid of the awful noise. A torrent of French language followed, and continued for a while. After some time, the high-pitched beep started again, and as I pushed the OK button, I saw that this time the message was SINKING. More French, and once again I rued not knowing the language. We arrived in St. Anne early afternoon, found a wonderful spot to anchor, and were delighted by the breeze that would ensure a pleasant contrast to the previous few hot muggy nights. We went ashore to check in on the customs computer at Snack Boubou, then on to Cherie Doudou for pastries and WiFi. That evening we heard an announcement on the VHF, finally in English, that a person was lost overboard when a boat sank between southwest Martinique and St. Lucia, and would mariners keep a lookout for debris or any sightings that might be relevant. If only they’d made an announcement in English while the person was in trouble and we were out there…
Friday morning we go back to Doudou for more WiFi to check the weather forecast (and, yes, to download more pictures and videos of Charlotte). The wind and waves are going to increase in a few days, so we decide to start moving north today. We check out of Martinique (back to Snack Boubou—love these names), and hoist the anchor. It’s so calm we don’t even stow the cockpit table or take down the awning—it’s a pure motorboat ride up the coast to St. Pierre, where we arrive at dusk. Being there reminds us of the volcano victims, especially with a large area marked with buoys to prevent anchoring over the shipwrecks. Only two people survived. It’s a classic story of political ineptitude—google it.
Saturday, April 7, we were off by 0630, headed for Dominica. Again the forecast is wrong, predicting lighter winds than we encountered, so we ate up the 52 nm in good time. Our previous PAYS guy, Anthony, was stationed at the southern edge of Prince Rupert Bay, and came zooming out to greet us, but didn’t follow us into the harbor. As we approached the mooring field, Eddison’s boat, with Ken aboard, greeted us and helped us with a mooring, took our laundry, and took me to check in at customs. Customs is closed on Saturday, so Ken walked me over to the agent’s apartment (same distance, opposite direction), where he’s ready to conduct off-hours business on his porch while his toddler watches a learning video inside. The nice thing about Dominica’s customs—we wish all Caribbean countries did this—is they give you a two-week in/out clearance, as long as you’re in one port. There’s a rally for a charity onshore, with loud music interspersed with talking. Ken says it will end by 6:00 or 7:00, but of course it goes until 10:00 or so. Sunday we go to a beachfront restaurant that’s closed, but the owner is there, preparing food, so we’re able to procure the WiFi password and a Heineken for Tom, and spend some time online. Once we’re back at the boat, Anthony stops by for a chat. It’s sad that Dominica still has a bad reputation with some of being a dangerous place to stop. These men are so nice, helpful, and trying hard to earn a living in a devastated economy.
April 9 began with several rain squalls, but we got going about 8:15, headed for Iles des Saintes. Yet again, the wind beat the forecast, blowing mostly 20-25, gusting to 30, and we probably averaged over 9 knots. I saw a surfing speed of 12, with lots of 11+, and we arrived at Bourg Des Saintes at 10:30 a.m., a prime time for finding an empty mooring. Indeed, someone was just dropping their mooring as we approached, and waved us over. We went into town after lunch to accomplish four things: ATM for euros, check into customs, WiFi time, and groceries. There’s an ATM machine in the heart of town, and we inserted Tom’s card. You know how sometimes it’s hard to line up the text with the button you should push? When it asked which language to use, I pushed French instead of English. Oops! Well, nothing to do but try to figure it out by context. Next thing we know, it’s sucking in Tom’s card, and saying something about not finishing the transaction, but we can’t grab hold of his card, and then…it’s gone. Eaten by the machine. CARTE RETENUE. CONTACTEZ VOTRE AGENCE. Uh oh. Our next stop is LSM (Les Saintes Multiservices) for customs, which is also where you get WiFi, pay for the mooring, do laundry, and ask for help when the ATM has eaten your card. But it was 1:30, and they were closed until 2:00, so Tom went off to check out the new supermarket while I had a dish of gelato downstairs from LSM. (Yes, dairy disagrees with me, but not as much as having an ATM eat our card, so while I’m still suffering the effects of it today, it was just what I needed yesterday. Chocolate and cinnamon.) At 1400 hours, when Dabriou Ludovic had reopened LSM, I did the customs clearance, we paid for an hour of WiFi, and he called the bank that operates the ATM. When can we get the card back? April 13. No, we need it now, tomorrow! There was no reason to take it! Our bank says it’s fine! (I’ve had an online chat with Camden National, who’s put a temporary freeze now on Tom’s card.) The bank person was just here, and returned to Pointe à Pitre on the 1:00 ferry. We used the machine at 1:23. Aargh! We’re now in a time crunch, and don’t have the leisure to stay another four or five days. Tom and his crew plan to leave St. Thomas May 9 or so, and we want time to sail the relatively deserted Virgin Islands before the crew arrives on the 8th (and I fly out). And before we get to the Virgins we have Guadeloupe, Antigua—both Falmouth and Jolly Harbours, St. Barth… We have less than a month! I may have to go ashore for more gelato.
To Grenada and back
30 March 2018
It’s Palm Sunday, and we’re back at Carriacou, where I last worked on this blog entry on March 5. We’ve had a busy three weeks in Grenada. First I’ll backtrack.
Don’t tell anyone, but we followed the advice in Doyle’s cruising guide and went to Petite (“Petty”) Martinique from Union Island in order to take advantage of the “great prices on wines and spirits” in the two stores there. We had checked out of SVG (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) and had 24 hours to leave, but we were going to spend them in Grenada. Illegally. But Doyle says “everyone does it,” so that makes it okay, right? (This from the woman who worked at the Institute for Global Ethics for many years and not only knows the difference between right and wrong, but how to choose between two rights!) Petit St. Vincent is part of SVG, and it’s right next to Petite Martinique, which is, I repeat, part of Grenada. They practically share the same anchorage, and are merely a dinghy ride away from each other if you have a much more powerful dinghy than ours.
The guide said the holding there can be iffy, but if you eat at the Palm Beach Restaurant you can use one of their two moorings. I called and made a reservation for dinner. We found one of the moorings and went ashore. I was expecting megastores with magnificent offerings, but instead we found two normal-sized island grocery stores with normal-sized (for a small island) selections of wine and spirits. Nothing to write home about (and yet here I am, doing just that), and certainly nothing worth breaking the law for! And dinner at the Palm Beach Restaurant? Well, access was obtained by walking along the beach from the town dock to their gate, avoiding particularly aggressive waves. We seated ourselves at one of the two tables and greeted the men at the other table. The four of us were it for that evening’s clientele. Fortunately, they were good company, because, again, the food was nothing to write home about.
We had a hot, rolly, airless night, and stayed there until Sunday afternoon so we wouldn’t arrive at Carriacou until after customs closed on Sunday, allowing us to check in Monday with no overtime charges. I remember Tyrrel Bay as a sleepy village where a few boats were anchored (in 1989) and we ate at a simple beach restaurant that served basic Caribbean cuisine—peas and rice, chicken, and probably pumpkin and greens. Now it’s a bustling town with a modern supermarket lit by a big red neon sign, scores of boats at anchor, and in addition to a profusion of modest homes since ’89, many palatial homes as well. The windless day becomes a windless night—hot and muggy.
Monday, March 5, the big swell arrives from the storms up north. Even though this bay faces west, the northern swells are significant enough to wrap around corners and make most anchorages miserable.
Heard on channels 16 and 68 (the calling channel used by cruisers in most of the islands): Attention all stations! Urgent announcement on channel 69!” We switch to 69, of course. “Urgent announcement! Because of the high surf this morning, there will be no noodling exercises on the beach at 9:00!” We’ll, if that isn’t a sign of dangerous weather conditions, I just don’t know what is.
But the swells really are significant. There are huge breakers on a reef near us, and as boats surge toward us, surfing on the swells, we hold our breath until we’re also picked up by the swell and carried forward. You hope your neighbors set their anchors well. After a very rolly Monday night and a quick breakfast, we rely on our past experiences to quickly move the outboard motor from the dinghy to the stern rail, hoist the dinghy to the forward deck, and get the anchor up without surging into another boat in the process. Whew!
We sailed down the windward side of Grenada to Mount Hartman Bay, which is next to Prickly Bay on the southeast coast. Entrance to the bay is protected by interwoven reefs, which means one must weave through the reefs to enter the bay—its most appealing and least appealing feature. Most appealing when you’re nestled inside in calm water while those anchored in neighboring bays are rolling in the swells, but least appealing when you’re navigating through the reefs for the first time. We made it in with no misadventures, unlike a few other boats over the course of the next few days! We anchored and spent a few days scoping things out, as Secret Harbour Marina and Hotel is where we’ll be docking Bravo and putting up Mary’s family the following week. There’s an active community of cruisers here, as many seem to live here all winter. Shopping buses to the big IGA twice a week pick up at the various harbors along the southeast coast—Prickly, Secret, Hog Island, etc., for $15 EC round trip (taxi is $40 one way), and Island Water World, a marine store in St. George’s, takes people there for free at least once a week. Social events are announced on the Cruisers Net every morning at 7:30 (“First, are there any emergency announcements—medical, safety, navigation? Please come now.” Then they move on to give the local weather. Then, are there any new arrivals? Boats that have been away and returned, or never been to Grenada before and coming for the first time? Departures? Then social events. Yoga, poker, Mexican train dominoes, pot luck lunch on the beach—you get the idea. We used to cringe (ok, Tom still cringes), because it sounds like a Kampground of America (no, we’ve never been to one), but there are also volunteer activities, such as the reading programs for local kids that I’ve helped with in Grenada and Bequia, and some other efforts that are announced periodically. A significant percentage of the boats in Grenada never move. You can spot them because of piles of gear on deck and abundant growth along the waterline—clearly in no condition to go to sea. As they will all store their boats on land for the hurricane season, there is great apprehension about the cost of insurance renewals coming up soon after the huge losses in the Leeward Islands last year.
Thursday, March 8, I visited some schools with Olivia Phillip, the Hands Across the Sea Literacy Link for Grenada. It was my first time visiting schools as an official board member (oh, yes—Harriet invited me to join in Antigua, but it took me a while to be sure I could devote the appropriate time and energy to it, given my migraine problems. However, the more time I spent visiting schools and seeing the results of their work, the more I realized I couldn’t stop helping.), and that helped Olivia rationalize our visit to a couple of the schools at the last minute, I think. Our day involved good surprises, one bad but not unexpected encounter, and two tiny automotive mishaps that really weren’t Olivia’s fault. Sort of. Handsacrossthesea.net. There’s a DONATE button at the top right.
The next day we departed Mt. Hartman Bay for St. George’s, in anticipation of Mary, Kyle, and the boys’ arrival on Saturday the 10th. It was a wild, windy ride, mostly dead downwind, around Point Saline and into St. George’s to Port Louis Marina. For a fancy marina, it’s got the most backward way of offering WiFi—they give you a modem and coaxial cable, and you have to find a place for the box on your boat and run the cable to the nearest electrical post, which in our case was over a hundred feet away and over a bridge connecting two docks. It was ineffective, so we returned it the next morning, but others maintained theirs worked great!
Saturday, March 10, was the arrival day for the Majchrowski (ma-KROW-ski) family! But, no. Their midnight flight out of Denver was delayed two hours, then cancelled. Now they’d be arriving Sunday afternoon instead of Saturday—one less (fewer?) day to play in paradise. But now I was glad I’d agreed to help with a morning reading program for local kids, so off I went to a house on Mt. Airy with a van load of other volunteers. Jeanne and Everest converted their garage into an amazing library/reading room, and run a very well-structured weekly program for a couple dozen or so kids. I was assigned to help Casey, one-on-one, and she did quite well on the reading, but I faced a dilemma. Was it up to me to correct the local pronunciation of “th” as “t”? Everyting and Tursday bumped up against my correction trigger, and I pictured the scene in Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, when he’s teaching his sexy French neighbor to pronounce the “th” sound. I decided to let it go. Meanwhile, back on Bravo, Tom was left with a nonstarting engine, and when he went into the marina office asking about a mechanic, their best one was standing right there. Patrick was still working on the problem when I returned mid-afternoon. He installed an emergency switch, but had yet to solve the root problem. He says he’ll be back Monday at 9:00. Turns out we needed an electrician, not a mechanic. Tom works over an hour cleaning greasy tools and putting everything back in order before we treat ourselves to a mediocre meal at the marina restaurant.
Sunday, March 11, really is the day Mary and family will arrive! Over breakfast we discussed the lack of progress Patrick made on the engine starter, and Tom decided he should try to find an electrician…but at 9:00 Patrick showed up! He says he’s a mechanic, not an electrician, and he’s going to work on it another two or three hours, but if he can’t fix it he’ll bring an electrician friend on Monday and pay for him to fix it! Two hours later, it’s fixed. While that’s happening, I hop a bus to the big IGA and do some provisioning for our week with “the kids.” With the engine starter repaired and groceries stowed, we clean and organize the boat, get the bunks made for their one night aboard, and shower. About 4:00 the Majchrowskis arrive, we get them stowed and off we go to the pool. Well, most of us—Kyle and Tom stay on Bravo and have a beer, but the boys can’t get to the water fast enough after two days of travel. Spaghetti dinner in the cockpit, some strolling the docks to feed fish by flashlight, and sleep…although their Mountain Time Zone bodies had no idea what time it was, landing in the Atlantic Time Zone after two days of travel.
In 1989 we took a tour of Grenada with Henry’s Safari Tours. A young man named Carl was our guide, and not only did he know everything about the island, he also seemed to know every pretty young woman we passed. We’ve never forgotten that wonderful tour, so with Mary choosing Grenada as her favorite place to revisit, I called Henry’s Safari Tours the week before the kids arrived.
“May I speak with Mr. Henry, please?”
“The older or the younger?”
That gave me a brief pause, but I confidently said, “The older.”
I had a delightful conversation with Mr. Henry, telling him about our tour 29 years ago and that our then-10-year-old was returning with her 10-year-old, Ethan. He loved it, and wanted to come meet the whole family. So Monday morning I told Mary I had a surprise visitor for her, and said, “Remember when we took the tour here…? I admit, it would have been more of a kick if the visitor were our tour guide, Carl, but apparently he’s now living in the States. Anyhow, I showed Mr. Henry the story about our trip in Cruising World magazine, including the picture of Mary and Laura feeding a donkey stalks of sugar cane in the rain forest, and we regaled him with memories of our long-ago cruise. Mary said the tour of Grenada was the reason it was her favorite island. He’s a delightful man, and we had an enjoyable discussion for a little too long, since we needed to check out of the marina and get going to Secret Harbour. But we roughed out the high points of our tour for Thursday (“No charge for the kids,” he said.), and got a picture of Mr. Henry and Mary.
Tom and I had as rough a ride returning to Secret Harbour as we’d had going to St. George’s, so everyone was relieved that the Majchrowskis went by taxi. Their room at Secret Harbour was beautiful, just like the website (secretharbourgrenada.com) showed, and Kelsean, the man in the office with whom I dealt, was very accommodating regarding extra dishes, a bigger table for the patio, etc. We arrived on Bravo and settled into the marina, and when everyone had chilled for a bit, we all had dinner aboard the boat.
The next four days were spent at beaches, doing a little snorkeling (the hoped-for snorkeling excursion didn’t happen because the northern swells made the seas too rough and the water too murky), and the day-long Henry’s Safari Tour. That was really too long for the kids, but it was a fabulous tour of the island, and Mary got to revisit the nutmeg cooperative and one of the waterfalls (where an exuberant Riley escaped our vigil and raced down the stone stairs toward Kyle and Ethan, missing the last few and scraping knees and elbows). Mary took lots of pictures, which you can see on her Facebook page (Mary Babbitt Majchrowski) because she tagged me (somehow that works). I managed to leave my phone/camera on the boat. They left on Saturday, and things were strangely quiet.
Because I have a WiFi-connected Hands Across the Sea board meeting coming up Tuesday evening, and Secret Harbour has the best WiFi we’ve found anywhere, we decided to stay until Wednesday. I spent a day making (WiFi) thank-you calls to Hands donors and writing thank-you notes, while Tom dealt with the engine nonstarting issue, again. Jenny’s Farmer’s Market brought her traveling produce assortment to Secret Harbour Monday morning, and I got a couple butternut squash, a cucumber, a bunch of fat little bananas, a couple sprigs off a clove tree, and a lime (orange in color, and about the size of an orange). All for $11 EC, which is about $4 US. A forecast for high winds through Thursday encouraged us to stay on at Secret Harbour, making use of the excellent WiFi to accomplish various tasks and being grateful for secure dockage in those high winds.
Friday, March 23, sadly, we left Grenada—still our favorite Caribbean island (but now with VERY close runners up!). It was a surprisingly rough and windy passage up to Carriacou! I had taken my seasickness meds, but this time it didn’t work, and the motion got the better of me. Not only did I lose my breakfast, but I injured a rib leaning on the cockpit coaming. Note to self: when experiencing mal de mer, have a cushion ready.
Tyrrel Bay was much more calm than when we left, with no northern swells causing boats to surf on their anchors. We tried calling a taxi recommended in the guidebook to arrange a trip to the northeast side of the island, to a town called Windward. I had seen a great documentary (Vanishing Sail) about the wooden sailboats still being hand built there, and we thought it was worth a pilgrimage. No answer from the taxi man, and no call back. But I moved wrong and twisted the rib that I’d only bruised the day before, so now I was really hurting, and we decided a bumpy ride probably wouldn’t help. Then, to clinch the decision, on Sunday evening the propane solenoid failed, and Tom was unable to unscrew it to finagle a bypass. Salad for dinner, and Tom went ashore early Monday morning to find Manny, the mechanic at Carriacou Marina, to fix it. Most of the day was back and forth—looking at the problem, going ashore for parts, going back ashore for the proper-size parts, creating a working bypass! The new solenoid is ordered, and should arrive around noon the next day, Tuesday.
Tuesday morning Tom and I take the #10 bus to Hillsborough ($3.50 EC each), then take the #11 bus to Windward ($3.50 EC each). We walked a short distance, and saw a hand-painted sign pointing the way to “wooden boat building.” And there’s a partially finished boat, so I go in the open gate to take a look…and there’s Alwyn Enoe himself, coming out from under the hull and wiping his hands on his shorts! Whoa! I said, “Are you the movie star?” and he chuckled. We had a great conversation. When I asked if the film had made a difference in the number of visitors he got, he rolled his eyes and made an exclamation. What a charming man, with a real twinkle in his eyes (must be the Scottish heritage). The boat seemed to have a long way to go (look at pictures in the gallery), but he said he expected to launch in August. As we retreated down the path, another yachtie-looking couple was just arriving. I hope they put at least as much in the donation box as we did, because he’ll never get any work done at that rate! We caught the #11 bus back to Hillsborough and the #10 bus to Tyrrel Bay. A $28 EC excursion ($10.37 US) rather than the $100 EC the taxi tour would have cost! We were back at the boat well before Manny arrived with the new solenoid, which he installed by keeping the bypass in place, so we have a backup for future failures, which of course won’t ever happen again. Tom went ashore to check us out of Carriacou and Grenada so we’d be ready for an early start Wednesday morning.
St. Lucia, Bequia, Union Island
08 March 2018
February 16 there was a break in the weather, with the wind down to 17-20, gusts to 25, and seas 6 to 10 feet—not too bad for an inter island passage. We hauled anchor at 8:15, which was a bit tricky with boats anchored so close to use, but no hits, no fouls! At least five other boats took advantage of the improved conditions to head south, but we left them behind and were in Marigot Bay early enough to get a mooring (“first come, first served”) in the inner harbor. The customs, then immigration (next desk over), and then port authority (next office over) were all very congenial, but because their computer isn’t set up to handle SailClear processing (where I’ve already entered every detail about the boat, including documentation number, gross and net tonnage, year manufactured, length, width, depth, horsepower, etc., etc. and us, including date of birth, passport numbers, date of issue and expiry, etc., etc.), I have to fill out a long form with three carbon copies. Tom doesn’t like to do forms.
Having a marina mooring entitles us to WiFi, use of their showers if we wanted (no), and use of their pool, which was gorgeous. I’ll post a couple pictures of it, and my new Facebook picture was taken in the pool, not in the open ocean, although the water really does look the same! The marina has several mega yachts, and they come and go with great frequency. Tom recalls that he was here on business several years ago, to photograph a client’s boat for listing it. The client’s captain, Laney, was from Marigot.
Our second morning there, Feb. 17, a colorful native boat rowed up to us during breakfast and asked, “Are you Tom Babbitt?” Tom admits he is. “My brother gives this to you.” Laney had sent us a palm frond basket filled with an assortment of fresh baked goods! Tom went in to thank him and have a chat. Laney has a craft table right at the dock, and apparently knows everyone. He arranged a taxi to take us to a big inland supermarket that afternoon, and we were in English-language shopping heaven, with products we recognized and labels we could read once again. The taxi ride alone cost $40, but if we think of it as a mini tour of the island, it’s not so bad! Our haul pretty much filled the dinghy, especially when we added the two bags of laundry we’d picked up (no smelly fabric softener! Yay!). The young couple we met in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua, Jenny and Steve from Camden on the Swan 77 Aquila, came into Marigot. You tend to see people over and over as you leapfrog down the island chain.
The inner harbor is tight with moorings—it’s a wonder the boats aren’t bumping into each other, because they seem to assign them to moorings randomly as they arrive. So when the megayachts need to maneuver into a slip, as the 200’ Sea Lyon did at 8:00 pm, it’s a show worth watching! They were going in next to the 180’ Silver Shalis, and there was a sailboat on a mooring that appeared to make this impossible (in fact, the next day the marina tied a line to that sailboat and pulled it aside while another megayacht maneuvered past it!). From our point of view, a collision was unavoidable. But there’s a reason those captains earn the big bucks!
Sunday, Feb. 18, I got to haul Tom up the mast so he could try to repair the steaming light. He was up there a long time, but no success. Then he checked the breaker…and that’s the culprit.
Monday I visited schools with Clara Paul, one of the Literacy Links on St. Lucia for Hands Across the Sea (http://handsacrossthesea.net/ If you haven’t been to their website yet, please take a look!). We went to six primary schools, seeing quite a variety of libraries, ranging from one that has put every book in a baggie due to the issues of termites and mildew, to one whose library is a corner of a third-grade classroom, yet the school just won the regional reading award and is determined to win the national award! Monday evening Laney introduced us to a hidden restaurant among the mangroves, behind the shoreside restaurant, connected by a long walkway, where we had a delicious dinner (we put bug spray on before we left the boat!).
Tuesday I took a cab up to Gros Islet (where Rodney Bay is located) to meet the other St. Lucia Literacy Link, Khrystal Lucien. I arrived an hour early and Khrystal was delayed because her dog dislocated his hip (emergency trip to the vet!), but that was terrific for me, however, because the principal put me in a third-grade classroom, where I got to introduce myself, give a big promotion for Hands and classroom use of the library (because libraries are new to them, it can be a struggle to get the teachers to understand how to utilize all the library can offer their students) and then each and every student introduced themselves to me at a barely audible whisper (after I announced that I was hard of hearing and would need them to speak loudly!). Then the best part was the teacher, Ms Franklin, asking if I’d like to read to the children. Well, my day was made right there. But after reading, I tore myself away from that happy experience and found the principal, who took me to the library to await Khrystal. We went to four schools, with completely different library experiences. In my report to Harriet and Tom Linskey of Hands Across the Sea, I remarked that both Clara and Khrystal would make excellent Le Mans race car drivers, as they had superior skills at driving treacherous mountain hairpin turns at breakneck speeds, as required in St. Lucia. Tuesday evening Steve and Jenny invited us aboard Aquila for drinks, and as is our custom in Maine, we brought our own drink and an appetizer, our usual bowl of popcorn. Well, of course, Aquila IS a charter boat, and Jenny IS the professional chef, so we shouldn’t have been so surprised to see the magnificent board she brought out, with little filled pastry cups, a cheese and bread selection, slices of lightly broiled star fruit, scatterings of pistachios and cranberries, fingers of wahoo coated with coconut… I wish I’d taken a picture, but I guess I’d left my phone back on the boat. Steve raved over the popcorn, saying they can’t ever make it on board because of the lingering smell, and it did get snarfed down, but it was a poor cousin. Lou and Astra came over from the boat next door, which turned out to be Palawan, from Maine. They’re the crew, scoping out places the family and guests might enjoy when they come down to join the boat during the winter. So we had a lovely evening of sort-of-Mainers gathering in the tropics.
Wednesday, February 21, we cast off the mooring shortly after 8:00 and got a vigorous farewell wave from Laney. We motorsailed to the southern end of St. Lucia, as the wind was too light and variable, but as usual the inter island conditions were much different. But we had a speed issue—our SOG, speed over the ground as opposed to speed through the water, was way lower than normal. The reason was a really strong current or tide on the nose, dropping our speed by a couple knots. Once we were halfway down St. Vincent the current abated and the seas were so high that we were surfing! Our average speed was back up to about 9 knots, and we were surfing at 11 to 13 or more, even seeing one ride at 15.1! Approaching Bequia I called Fitz, the man Earl MacKenzie recommended for moorings, and he said his son would meet us in his boat—Blue Sky—and help us pick up a mooring. That’s a big relief, arriving so late in the day (about 4:45). Turns out the mooring is right about where we’d anchored—and dragged—when we were here in 1989. We were ashore at Mac’s Pizza—it’s still there—when we looked out and saw lots of people on and around our boat. The reason that spot was open is because it’s hard pan, and anchors don’t set there. Our only dragging experience.
Thursday we went ashore and found an ok grocery store and the incomparable Doris’s Provisions, which is a place you have to know about in order to find. It’s on a side street, and the sign, which is inside the fence, is as darkly varnished as the fence and the building containing both their home and the store. Doris has an assortment of gourmet chocolates to tempt you as you enter, and and wonderful big Red Riding Hood baskets to use while you shop for gluten-free mixes and pasta, specialty items that you’d never expect to find in a small Caribbean shop, nice fresh vegetables and frozen fish and meat, and charter-boat-worthy size roasts of meat that we don’t eat (v**l). Then we bought some fresh, unrefrigerated tomatoes at a market stand before heading back to the boat. Almost back to Bravo we have a dinghy meeting with Jerry and Anne from Magic, a black Valiant 42 from Branford, CT, that we first saw in Jolly Harbour and have crossed paths with again in Marin. They invited us for cocktails, and we had a great time. We discovered that they’re going to be looking at one of the villas at Jolly Harbour that’s on the market, and lo and behold, it’s OUR villa! Well, it’s the one we grew very fond of when we rented it for a week in November. So we gave them the low-down on it, and the fact that the neighbors are terrific, it’s got a good dock, great location, but very slippery deck tiles that must be replaced.
Saturday morning back into the village to the Digicel store, in between vegetable stalls, to get yet another SIM card and phone number! Now you can call us at 1-784-530-0853. From 2:00 to 4:00 I went to the Fig Tree Restaurant on the beach, where there’s a reading program for kids every Saturday afternoon. There are bins of donated books arranged roughly by age group, and as the kids come in the pick a book they want to read. I was given the table with two kids in the 10/11 age group, and I coached them through reading a book about minerals. We didn’t get to the second book. It was a struggle for them, so I’m really glad this program exists. There was also a woman there doing face painting, with an incredible array of theatrical face paint. You’ve got to look at the pictures in the gallery!
Sunday the 25th I went to the Anglican Church service while Tom picked up Tyrone, a diesel mechanic (again, someone recommended by Earl MacKenzie) to fix a starting problem with the engine. The service was almost two hours long, partly because the passing of the peace was at least 10-15 minutes long, and after the choir came down from the balcony to hug and greet everyone, they went back up and sang a rousing song while everyone else kept hugging, greeting, and sharing God’s peace. I must admit I took a short video of it to share back home!
The priest for the service, while theirs was off somewhere else, was The Rev. Canon Angela Ifill, who recently retired as the Episcopal Church Missioner for the Office of Black Ministries (no, there are none in Maine—I asked her). She was very engaging, and I got to have a short chat with her afterwards. Other congregants were from Bass Harbor, Maine, and I saw them again at the dinghy dock being picked up by Lou, of Palawan.
Monday morning I took the ferry to Kingstown, St. Vincent, to meet with one of the Literacy Links there, Chris Ashton. The ferry ride was very rolly, but then it was a tall, narrow ship, not like the squatting wide ones in Maine! We visited four very different schools, two of which were literally right next to each other. One is considered the better school, and parents finagle to get their kids in there. “The poorer kids” go to the other school.
Tuesday the 27th we got water from Daffodil, one of the water/ice/diesel/laundry services that comes to your boat. (See the picture gallery.) That evening we went to Jack’s beachfront restaurant, which was highly recommended. It was their buffet night, but there was a good assortment of food that even I could eat! As is often the case, there was quite a surge at the dinghy dock, and we had to be very careful timing our transfer from dinghy to dock. Although the meal was enjoyable, partway through it the live music started—one roving singer with a wireless mike and someone controlling his backup electronic symphony. It. Was. WAY. Too. LOUD. We talked to our waitress, who sent the hostess. She spoke to the musician, and came back presently asking, is that better? We said, “Did he change anything?” We’re obviously too stodgy for live music.
February 28 we departed beautiful Bequia for Saline Bay on Mayreau, and there was absolutely no wind. It picked up to about 10 to 14 knots, but was way aft—a very slow angle with our tiny jib— so we motorsailed. An easy morning, with small seas, sunny, and so calm that I was able to do needlepoint while underway! As we approached the anchorage at Saline, I looked at the long stretch of white sand beach lined with palm trees and the bright turquoise water, and exclaimed, “This is what I’ve been waiting for!” Tom went forward to get the anchor ready while I weaved among the boats trying to find a sandy spot where it wasn’t too rolly (all the boats did seem to be rolling a lot), but then he came aft shaking his head. The windlass wasn’t working. No windlass to haul up the 65 lb. anchor and 125’ of 3/8” chain, no anchoring. We were only a few miles from Clifton, Union Island, so I called the Anchorage Yacht Club there and, after explaining our predicament, asked, “Are there any moorings there?” The woman replied, “No, we don’t have any moorings.” So I arranged dock space, and said we’d be there shortly. When we arrived in Clifton, the first thing we saw inside the barrier reef delineating the harbor was several moorings. A local man with “SAM” painted boldly on his boat offered to help us pick up a mooring, and zoomed ahead to stand by until we arrived at his chosen mooring ball. I was on the wheel; he and Tom handled the mooring lines. We gave him a tip, he gave us a ticket to give to the park mooring management people, and we were in that beautiful spot whose picture I posted on Facebook that day. The park mooring people followed close behind, and with slick salesmanship talked us into four nights for the price of three. I think they collect the money quickly, before you realize that you’ll be surrounded by yahoos on their chartered catamarans among a web of crisscrossing speedboats run by local entrepreneurs just trying to make a buck, offering fish, bread, whatever. (We only stayed three nights.)
Tom took both his electrical and mechanical tool bags up to the anchor locker and settled down for what could be a long, frustrating afternoon trying to fix the windlass. The second wire he touched came loose in his hand. He reconnected it properly, and Bingo! Windlass fixed. We were entertained by kite surfers zooming past us, some of them on foils like the new America’s Cup Boats. How do they do that?
Thursday morning we went into town and found the dinghy dock at Bougainvilla (yes, “villa”), which you access by going under a stone arch. It’s a novelty the first time you do it, but it’s hilarious once you’re in there, watching others trying to negotiate the small opening from the small enclosure packed with dinghies, sometimes with other dinghies coming at them from the outside. A dinghy with two women whom we’d helped cast off, because our dinghy lines were entangled, went at the opening full tilt and rammed the stone wall like a bumper car, bouncing back into the the enclosure, with all four of us laughing hysterically. That was the best among many funny episodes at the dinghy arch. We continued into town, which has grown tremendously from the lazy village of Rasta fruit & vegetable stands I remember from 1989. We found an upstairs café with WiFi, a place to deposit our trash, and I found a beautiful shop where the owner made jewelry from a local precious stone similar to turquoise, but less green. I complimented her, but said I was at a stage of life when I was limited to admiring, not acquiring. Since she seemed to be about my age, I think she understood. Back to the boat for an afternoon of reading (Tom) and blogging (me, obviously). The next day we pulled into the dock at the Anchorage Yacht Club, a tired-looking place, and I stayed in the dinghy while Tom walked to the airport terminal to see when we could check out without incurring overtime charges of $50 EC per person, and there are both immigration and customs officials. We cleared out of Grenada there in 1989, and the airport was slightly different—one had to cross the runway to get to the terminal. Tom blithely started across the runway and a woman rushed out of a market stall yelling at him to stop! Just then a little plane came swooshing out of the sky and landed right in front of him. We noticed when we checked out the next morning, because you can check out with no overtime charge Saturday morning, that the new airport was dedicated in 1993–four years after some idiot almost got killed walking across the runway and they probably decided, “Okay, enough of this foolishness. We’ve got to redesign this place before someone ruins a landing.”
And thus we leave Union Island without taking advantage of the four nights for the price of three. We would have lost it on the customs overtime.