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.
Martinique part 2
02 March 2018
Day 4 in Martinique began with the aft head (toilet) getting jammed. We have two heads on the boat because two heads are better than one—so if one is out of order, we have a backup. But the forward head is a vacuum flush, and requires a bit of fresh water for its electronic cycle. That reminds us that we’re getting low on water; Tom’s been trying to call a water delivery boat that we’ve seen, but no response. Now the new first priority on the day’s agenda is to fix the head, so Tom gets right to work (yes, I’m very mechanical, but the aft head is his head, so clearly the clog is his to fix). After 3–1/2 hours he conceded defeat—the plug must be in the hose that runs to the exterior, and we don’t have a snake or other means of attacking the problem, so we’ll need to go ashore to find help. I suggest we turn off the fresh water pump while we’re ashore, just in case our tiny leak causes it to kick in and the tank runs dry and the pump keeps running. Meanwhile, I’ve used the forward head and flushed, and whammo! The water tank ran dry and the pump kicked on and We Are Out Of Water! And now both heads are unusable, so it’s time to cast off the mooring and go in to the fuel dock for water…and fuel, while we’re at it. We tied the dinghy to the mooring and hustled to the fuel dock, and were only second in line, with three boats on the dock. You never know how long you’ll be waiting; some big boats might take upwards of an hour to fill huge tanks, especially if they let their passengers wander off in the meantime. But we were lucky, didn’t have to wait long that day, and were back on our mooring fully fueled, watered, and with a suggestion of where to try for the head repair—Caraibe Marine.
We went back to the marina building, to the tourist office, to pick up the laundry. While Tom was on the upper level doing that, I was on the lower level at a small laundromat doing one more small load of laundry. An English-speaking woman was there, talking to the washing machine about its inadequate instructions. Together we figured out, more or less, where to put the detergent, where and how to pay, and how to set the temperature. We got to chatting, of course. She’s on a friend’s boat for a couple months, and before this adventure she was in the Philippines doing humanitarian work. She grew up in East Germany, and realized after the fact that her best friend’s father was spying on her family. She was told as a girl that she wouldn’t be able to go to high school or travel the world—two things that she desperately wanted to do—and then The Wall came down. She became a software engineer, traveling the world to meet with, as she said, geeks and nerds. After 17 years she left that job and is now doing more traveling; when I suggested she probably wouldn’t have any trouble getting another job, she said google and amazon are possibilities in Berlin. I suggested she write a book about her fascinating life, but she said she’d rather tell her story one-on-one, because everyone hears it from their own place. A man in India said, “We’d heard about this, but didn’t know if it was true.” And to me she explained that those who spied did so because they were threatened—do this or lose your children. She felt like she’d lived the life of a refugee. “Not like the Syrians, or others of today, but still…” Her voice trailed off and she looked away. It was a compelling story. Worth doing laundry!
Tom and I rejoined upstairs with our bags of laundry, and went to Numero 20, a nice tapas bar, to relax and use some WiFi time. We got a FaceTime call from Laura, wherein Charlotte grabbed the phone and gave us a racing tour of the ceiling of her bedroom, the bathroom, and Laura’s office, interspersed with Laura’s face. We managed some conversation, but cut it short because, after all, we were in a restaurant (even if it was pre-dinner hour). Shortly thereafter our 1G of wifi runs out. I switched to the ½ -hour of daily free WiFi we get as marina guests while Tom goes over to the Simply Market to see what provisions he can find. He returned, reporting that it’s much better than the Leader Price, and certainly much closer! We decided to grab a quick dinner at the Cocoarum Restaurant there at the marina before heading back out to the boat, but when the waitress came, she said, “Kitchen closed. Only drinks.” We’re so provincial! We think 6:00 pm is a reasonable dinner hour!
Back at the boat, we realize the laundry service has shorted us one bath towel and they used an awfully fragrant softener, and I’m nauseated by the smell of everything. Thus ends Day 4.
Day 5 in Martinique, Sunday, February 4. We reconnoitered the waterfront by dinghy, and found the Bichik Fuel/Snack/Laundry business that the Doyle guide said was the place to go for snacks, drinks, and conversation. Yuck! Not at all appealing. It was tucked in a corner of a large yacht yard/haul-out facility, Carenantilles. The yard had 80-ton and 400-ton travel lifts, several shops—rigging, electronics, fiberglass, etc., plus a restaurant, but it was all shut down on Sunday. Fortunately another couple was coming into the yard, as entry and exit was restricted by a locked gate. They told us the code, and we walked up to the Carrefour grocery store, which was very nice. The natural food store adjoining it was closed, but I had high hopes for it when we returned Monday.
We returned to the Carenantilles yard the next day, and while Tom talked to a mechanic (no, they don’t unplug heads, but they could change the oil... in another week), I proceeded up the hill to the stores. The natural food store had a meager selection, with the only gluten-free bread being individual rolls for about 4 or 5 euros each. I passed on those! Back again to Carrefour, next door, then we dinghied back to Bravo to deposit our purchases. Off again, this time to Caraibe Marine, but alas, they also do not fix toilets. They sent us to another person, but he only fixes outboard motors—he can’t even change our engine’s oil. Finally, Tom went to RM (a general services place recommended in the Doyle guide that I had suggested we try right off the bat…), which stands for Roberto Maxera. He says come back in 45 minutes—we have our man! He can do it all. Tom will meet him at 9:00 am, see the slip we’re to enter, then we take Bravo in for repairs. While Tom went to RM, I went to the tourist office to report the missing towel, intending to ask for the laundry’s phone number so I could call them. But the extraordinarily kind person in the office immediately picked up the phone and called the laundry. They’d look into it; I’ll check back.
While we’re ashore, we use more of our paid WiFi time (2G for 8€), have lunch, then head back to the Leader Price store, but this time by dinghy rather than the mile(s)-long walk. LP seems to have made a great effort to attract boaters, with a very nice dinghy dock, a paved walkway up to the store, and a covered cart return area by the dock. Before grocery shopping, we searched for the Digicel store that people said was right by LP, and sure enough, up the path to McDonalds, across another parking lot…we found it. So now we have an international phone number that we bought before we left home (372-8143-2119) and a Martinique phone number (0696-53 97 22). Back to LP for grocery shopping (it seems to have improved since we had to walk 20 miles to get there), and then home (a.k.a., back to Bravo).
Tuesday , February 6, Day 7 in Martinique, is the Unforgettable Day of Repairs. As arranged, Tom met with Roberto Maxera to reconnoiter the Med-moor slip we’re to back into. He warns Tom to be aware that the mooring ball is pulling from a concrete block, and we’ll need to swerve around that…in the 30-knot wind blowing broadside. We rig docklines and fenders and proceed to the appropriate marina channel, backing down it against the 30-knot wind, with me on the bow holding a line ready for a guy in an inflatable to slip into the mooring ring and hand back to me to secure. When we get to the head of the channel where the slip is, no one’s there to help us. Tom whistles, knowing they’re on a catamaran across the channel. No response, so we motored out of the channel and backed in again—with that amount of wind there was no way to remain stationary and just wait. Another whistle, but still no response. Back out, back in, this time with a blast from the air horn. No response. Back out. Backing in yet again, another air horn blast rouses the workers from the catamaran, but they’re not in position to help, so we have to exit the channel again. Final approach, the guy in the inflatable is still bailing furiously—he’s ankle-deep in water, and has to keep restarting his finicky motor, but he finally takes the line from me in the nick of time. Meanwhile, to quote Tom’s log entry, “So here’s the challenge—the ball (Med-moor ball) is roughly in the middle of our entry space. And that ball’s anchor line stretches farther across our entry—so I have to back into 30 knots of stern wind, overshoot the approach between two boats while having 30 knots on the beam as I aggressively power back into the slip with the RM guys shouting directions at bow & stern in French! Whew. A nice young man named Valentine and Tom worked together for several hours and the oil and filter were changed, the fuel filter changed, and then the big one…the head was declogged. Meanwhile I was on shore uploading a blog post and lots of pictures and blowing through another 2G of WiFi , so I bought another 2G. I also went to the tourist office for an update on Tom’s missing blue towel, since they’re now the official go-between. The towel can’t be found, but they’ll give us another one.
When the repairs on the boat were completed, Tom went up to the office to pay and requested a couple people to help us get out of the slip. They discussed the exit strategy, lines were adjusted, everyone was in place, and Tom hit the throttle so we could rocket out of the slip without getting blown sideways into the neighboring boat. Zoom! Slam! We went firmly aground in the mud. The depth sounder showed 5’2”. We draw 6’2”, as we told Roberto. Inflatable dinghies tried pushing and pulling. Bravo’s 76 horsepower won’t budge us. One of the RM people called the harbormaster, who zoomed in, took our spare halyard, pulled the boat on her side, and we were out of the mud. It sounds so easy in the retelling, but it was a nerve wracking experience. Back to the mooring, and fortunately our dinghy is still tied there!
Day 8 follows yet another windy, squally night—one after another, and this is the dry season! We go into the marina building for some WiFi time, and I checked the two car rental agencies, hoping we can get a car and drive to Genipa, where there’s a big shopping center including a big Carrefour supermarket, which I’m hoping might have gluten-free bread. Neither agency has cars—totally booked up. We go to the tourist office, and I said, “I have a real tourist question today!” They were pleased (still waiting for the blue towel replacement). We asked how to get to Genipa by bus, and they brought up several bus schedules on the computer, but not only is it not an easy thing to do, it’s apparently too late in the day to begin such a trip—one must start at 9:00 am. We went back to the boat and read.
Thursday, February 8, Day 9. Another windy, squally night. That means frequently being awakened to open or close the hatch over us. If we leave it closed, it’s stifling; if we leave it open, well… We go ashore to catch the 9:00 bus for the first leg of our trip to Genipa, but we’re confused as to where to go. There are different types of buses—community and regional—and they stop in different places, and I wasn’t sure which bus we were supposed to take first…or second. So we went into the RM office and asked the very nice lady in there, and she convinced us it would be very complicated, many stops, and many hours of travel. She called a taxi, but that would cost 120€ there and back, with a wait. Neither mode of transportation is easy to use here, which is why all the rental cars were gone! Nice Lady then called a friend who sometimes taxis people (while she’s on the phone Roberto and others come in, greet us warmly, much chattering in French and some English about our experience leaving the slip), and the friend can do it for 40€ but not until the next day. We decide this has become too much bother and abandon the plan. One last run to Leader Price for groceries, then back to the boat where I color a greeting card to give as a merci/thank you to the tourist office the next day. They’ve bent over backwards trying to get our missing towel issue resolved!
Day 10 in Martinique. Another night of open hatch, close hatch, stifling, raining. We go ashore to deliver the card to the tourist office, and the woman who first helped me and whom I consider to be the boss is there, and is touched by the card. But no replacement blue towel! She calls them again. We shrug and move on. Check out of the marina, use up our WiFi time, Tom got some antifogging spray for his snorkel mask, another run to the Simply supermarket, and Tom went back to the tourist office one last time. They tried calling the laundry; he waited; they called again, and just as he was about to leave, the young man came in with a bright turquoise towel…reeking of fabric softener. We let it hang on the rail through a couple rain showers, and it calmed down.
We departed Marin for the long voyage ( a mile? Two?) to Sainte Anne, where we anchored, went ashore and found the boulangerie, Cherie Doudou, with free WiFi. We found a 2015 Salty Dawg compatriot and had a good chat. Passing the church in the center of town, it looked like there might be a pre-carnival event, because everyone looked so festive in black and white, but it was a funeral. A festive funeral! Back at the boat, although the water here is clean enough for swimming, a rain squall was threatening, so we showered below, as we’ve had to do while being in Marin. Again, it was a wild night of squalls, but now we listened to the sound of the anchor rode groaning and squealing.
Saturday, February 10, Day 11 in Martinique was so windy and rainy we stayed on the boat all day. We’re surrounded by boats from France, of course, Brazil, Germany, Sweden, UK, USA, Canada, Switzerland, and others. Many have small children—more than in 1989 when we had our kids aboard. We’re delighted to see them, because we believe it’s the best learning experience you can give your kids.
Monday, February 12, we tried to find the man who delivers water to boats. He’s got a bright yellow craft with a big tank, and although we’ve seen him motoring through the anchorages, we’re unable to reach him by radio or phone. We walked a very long way to his place of business, but he’s not there. We’re too low on water to mess around any longer, so after one more rain squall we up anchor and head back to Marin. The fuel/water dock isn’t busy, so we’re able to tie up promptly, and because there are no dock hands to help, a fellow sailor, Tony Burn, gives us a hand. Turns out they’re from Buffalo, but are members of and hail from the Youngstown Yacht Club! I grew up at that club, my father was commodore in the 60s, and Tom and I sailed out of there. And their Oyster 53 is named Spindrift, which was the name of one of my parents’ boats. Back to Ste. Anne, and an even better spot to anchor, a bit closer to shore. We had cocktails on Pandora with Bob and Brenda Osborne, our 2015 Salty Dawg compatriots, and had a great time. Brenda is a fiber artist (my friends will appreciate that—her blog is www.argoknot.com).
February 13, Day 14. Yet another squally, windy night, but the anchor is holding fast. It’s Carnival, and around 4:00 pm a band on a truck—with great amplification—went back and forth through town, playing nonstop for three hours.
February 14, Valentines Day and Ash Wednesday—what a combination! At6:30 the drums start in town. We went into town to the boulangerie for WiFi, and the place was mobbed with people having lunch—the space is shared with a restaurant. We found one unused table, worked until our batteries died, then back to the boat. Tonight is the end of Carnival, with a battle of bands, a bonfire, and big crowds along the shore.
Thursday, February 15, Day 16 in Martinique. The wind has moderated a bit, and squalls are less frequent. On our morning trip to town we saw Carnival decorations and the stage being taken down, and the central square being swept. We first went to Snack Boubou to check out on the customs computer there, then back to Cherie Doudou for our WiFi fix. We had a farewell lunch there, which wasn’t worth the price, but we had sometimes used their WiFi for free. In the afternoon we took the motor off the dinghy; put the route to Marigot, St. Lucia, in the GPS; and mentally prepared for our voyage the next day. Bonnie and Earl McKenzie from Islesboro stopped by, and we invited them aboard for a good chat. They’ve been “doing” the Caribbean for 20 years, so they gave us some good advice about places and people. At 6:55 pm a fellow cruiser announced on channel 68 that the international space station could be seen overhead, and sure enough…we saw it! A great finale to our visit to Martinique.
Martinique, part 1
14 February 2018
We left Portsmouth, Dominica, about 7:00 am on January 31, and had a lovely sail down the coast, seeing hundreds of flying fish and several dolphins. Crossing the open ocean to Martinique again gave us some big waves and strong gusts, but we were ready—this time I’d even taken sea sickness medicine! We’d considered stopping in St. Pierre, the former capital that had been wiped out by a volcano in 1902 (google it—it’s a fascinating story!), but it was still early, so we continued on to Fort de France, the current capital. We’d been there in 1989, and I remembered it as a nice little Caribbean town. Now it’s a bustling city with industrial zones, cruise ship docks, and a small designated mooring area for cruising boats. We’d been warned by other cruisers that the anchorage is tight and subject to rolling from ferry boat wakes, but we approached it hoping there’d be room for one more. There wasn’t. Part of the difficulty was restricted areas because of underwater cables, and another issue was bad holding—the anchor would skitter through loose stones. One of our Salty Dawg friends from 2015 was anchored within yards of the beach, but at 3:30 in the afternoon we couldn’t find a suitable spot. The guidebook said there was a new marina with transient slips east of the city, so we headed there, even though it would put us beyond walking distance of FdF. As we approached the Marina Z’Abricots, which was sheltered behind a significant breakwater, we saw that it was wall-to-wall with masts and powerboat superstructures…but there were several moorings outside the breakwater, and it was a well-protected area. We tried calling on the radio, but they didn’t respond. There was one boat on a mooring, so we picked up another mooring. Shortly another boat came in and did the same. It was after 5:00, so we had to wait until morning to hope they had a customs check-in station at the marina office. We hoisted our Q flag and had dinner. Interesting location—on final approach to the airport and 500 yards from the container port. So much to see!
In the morning we were able to clear customs, pay for the mooring, and get some WiFi time. Late morning we set sail for Cul-de-sac du Marin, at the southern end of Martinique, which was recommended to us as a less crowded anchorage than FdF with better provisioning than its neighbor, Sainte Anne. When we’d reached the southernmost point and turned east toward Marin, we were heading straight into the wind, so down came the main. (See the gallery for pictures!) As we passed inside of Diamond Rock—a huge peak jutting from the water—tropicbirds swooped past us, and we could see St. Anne ahead of us, a solid wall of masts. As we got closer we figured there must be about 500 boats anchored at St. Anne, which didn’t bode well for what we’d find around the corner in Marin, “one of the Caribbean’s largest yacht centers.” Sure enough, Marin was chock-a-block with boats, from the marina docks at the far end of the harbor through the mass of moorings, to several separate anchorage fields divided by fingers of reefs—some marked, some not. After our experience trying to anchor in Fort de France, we decided to try for a mooring, even though the guide book said most of them were on permanent rental. We called the marina on the radio, and heard talking in French, but didn’t hear anyone say ”Bravo.” Once we got into the mooring area, I noticed that several of the boats were transients—they had dinghies tied off, and they were from a variety of countries—and there were empty moorings near them, so I suggested we just pick one up! We did. (It was one of our most awkward experiences as a cruising couple, and I’m not going to describe it. Don’t ask. Thank you.) We found the marina office on our second attempt—the complex is divided into two parts, reached from different dinghy docks—and checked in for three nights. We had a long list of things we might accomplish in “the Caribbean’s largest yacht center“ with all sorts of nautical vendors—get the engine oil changed (a cumbersome job that requires three arms), perhaps getting the cockpit cushions recushioned, getting the masthead light fixed, finding a laundry service—as well as provisioning, with three supermarkets here.
Friday, February 2 (the 45th anniversary of the day we met), we set out with great confidence that we would accomplish a lot on our list. While I went into the marina office to extend our stay to a week (too much to do in just three days), Tom took our two heavy bags of laundry in search of a drop-off facility. The place mentioned in the Doyle guidebook, across the road, is now only a self-service laundromat—no drop-off. A bedraggled Tom appeared back at the marina office, where I was finishing my negotiations to extend our stay to a week. We sat down in our favorite WiFi spot, around the corner from the office on a shady balcony, past a plastic chain that implied we shouldn’t be there (but security ignored our presence) and spent some time on WiFi (we bought it in increments—we’d already used up 1 gig for 5€, so we bought 2G for 8€) so Tom could rest up from shlepping laundry. Next we loaded the laundry and ourselves back in the dinghy and motored over to the other part of the marina, where there was supposed to be another laundry with wash/dry/fold service. We walked the length of the building without finding it, and stopped at a yacht brokerage so Tom could ask, as a retired yacht broker, if the broker there knew of any laundries. He made some phone calls, told us about the place Tom had tried; I asked about the one in the guidebook—Bichik. He frowned and shook his head. “No good,” he said. We thanked him and kept walking, ending up back at the other marina. Tom again checked the one across the street, but no, they really are just self service now. I found the little laundromat at the marina complex, but it was also self service. We saw signs for an office of tourism, so I left Tom with the laundry and went upstairs to find the office. They didn’t speak much English, but enough. Yes, they had the number of a laundry that would wash, dry, and fold. They called. The van came. Ahhh. It only took two hours and much hot, exhaustive legwork to accomplish that!
Next on the list was provisioning. We looked in the Simply grocery store next to the marina, but it seemed small, so we decided to go to the Leader Price, which didn’t look too far away according to the little map in the guidebook (I think I’ll post it in the photo gallery). So we started walking, and we walked, and walked, and asked, and kept walking, and finally passed a restaurant we thought looked good from its write-up in the guidebook. At that point we realized the sketch map was not at all to scale. But we kept walking, and reached a busy road with lots of businesses, including a McDonalds. A small group was standing outside, so we asked them, and one of them pointed, but that direction was just the enclosed McD’s parking lot, so we returned. One of the women in the group said, “Go with me!” and she led us to a muddy path lined with shipping pallets. The path curved downhill and around, but beyond we could see Leader Price rising over the weeds. She said, “Keep left,” waving her left hand. “Yes?Left?” I said yes. She waved her right hand and asked what that was, and I told her, “Right.” We got led to Leader Price and she got a little English lesson. Win win.
But what a disappointing grocery store! We found very little on our list, and certainly not gluten free bread. While I was perusing the freezer section, however, hoping to find some, a grocery employee spoke to me. I assume he was asking if he could help me find something, so I said, “Gluten free?” He looked bewildered, and we both shrugged. Then a voice behind me said, in English, “Any special dietary items will be on the next aisle over.” Wow! We chatted briefly, and I went to find GF spaghetti. When I saw him in the checkout line, I asked him where we could get a taxi, and he told me, but then asked where we were going. He said he’d be going right by and offered us a ride. He pointed out the dinghy dock behind the store. If only we’d known! The man is German, his wife is French, and their kids are being raised French, although the son with him never said a word. His wife had a water park, but apparently it was destroyed by Hurricane Maria. She also does eco tours—things to explore the resources of the island, rather than exploit them. He looked and sounded like a young Onne von der Wal (our South African marine photographer friend—if you’re not familiar with his work, google him!) our unknown new friend dropped us at the Marin yacht harbor with our meager provisioning and we discovered our dinghy was totally trapped by other dinghies. Fortunately one of them was merely tied, not chained or locked, so I untied it, pulled it aside, Tom backed ours out, I retied the other dinghy (Can you tie a bowline? Everyone should have that skill in their repertoire.), climbed into it so I could be retrieved be Tom, and off we went. A fitting end to our day of Nothing is Easy errands.
Thus ends Day 3 in Martinique, and Day 1 was mostly spent just getting here! I thought this cruising life was supposed to be laid back.
06 February 2018
I got so caught up in the work we did in Dominica that I didn’t write about it, except a couple Facebook posts. Sorry for the delay, because our time there was very important to me.
Our sail from Iles des Saintes to Portsmouth, Dominica, was a vigorous romp(average speed close to 9 knots). We should have learned after our Antigua to Guadeloupe passage to expect big seas and gusty winds, but we’d forgotten, and although we’d removed the outboard motor from the dinghy, we were still towing the dinghy and still had the full main up. I was immobilized with seasickness before we were halfway there, so wasn’t any help to Tom (not that he needed any, but still…). Even when we’d supposedly entered the lee of Dominica it was still wild, but behind the headland of Portsmouth’s Prince Rupert Bay we were able to drop the main… and encounter our first “boat boy.” When we were last in Dominica, in 1989, it was notorious for pesky boat boys, who would encircle visiting yachts with offers of fruit, handicrafts, island tours, or “protection.” Since then conditions got so uncomfortable and even unsafe for boaters that they started to avoid Dominica altogether. Former boat boys (they’re men now) got their act together and formed The Portsmouth Area Yacht Services (PAYS) group, which offered boaters the same things, but in a nonaggressive, businesslike manner. They actually have someone patrolling the anchorage at night, they have moorings for a reasonable rental (and they’re really sturdy moorings—ours held us through some gale-force winds!), and they’re very nice people! The Chris Doyle guide still makes it sound scary, which is a shame.
So we continued into the harbor, Anthony of the Sea Bird PAYS boat helped us pick up a mooring, and arranged to take us to customs in a couple hours, when they reopen after lunch. Good thing we accepted his offer of help, because we wouldn’t have found it on our own. The dock is one used by cargo vessels, and there’s no signage indicating the presence of customs and immigration. Fortunately I’d preregistered us with seaclear.com, and clearance took only 10-15 minutes, rather than spending an hour or so filling out forms there. The fastest, cheapest clearance we’ve encountered so far (just very hard to find)—and they clear you in and out in one operation.
Our goal while in Dominica was to be of help to the schools through Hands Across the Sea. Harriet Linskey’s information was that the buildings were still filled with muck and needed some heavy-duty cleaning, so we brought the requested rubber gloves, bleach, garbage bags, etc. I’d been trying to get through to Giselle, the Hands Literacy Link in Dominica, but without success. Angie and Peter Arndt, who toured schools with me in Antigua, arrived in Dominica with us, and had managed a conversation with Giselle, but the news was disappointing for us. The schools had been pretty well cleaned up, but more couldn’t be done because they still didn’t have roofs. However, we learned through the PAYS office that the primary school right there in Portsmouth could use our help with some painting. The pillars at the Roosevelt Douglas Primary School entrance had been damaged by flying debris during the hurricane, and while the building itself had been repainted, the entryway hadn’t, and looked even worse in comparison. So could we please get some paint and come paint the pillars? We arranged to do that on Friday.
Thursday, January 25, Arndts and Babbitts took a 7:30 am tour up the Indian River with Anthony, and we could see the damage done by the hurricane. Vague memories of the same tour in 1989 and guidebook pictures of the river show it covered in a dense canopy of foliage. Now it’s open to the sun, and narrow in places where the boatmen had to cut through piles of fallen trees with chainsaws, sometimes working a whole week to make one breakthrough. Everything upstream came washing down the river, including buildings (such as their prized brewery) and all the trees uprooted along the way. It created a huge jam that flooded the town. I’ll post pictures in the gallery.
Friday, the day of our painting project, we announced it on the morning cruisers’ net and a family with a couple kids joined in. Meanwhile, the school’s library is a Hands Across the Sea (handsacrossthesea.net) library, so I offered to pop in to see how they were doing. Cruising kids want to help in the library, too! While the painters and rust-scrapers got to work outside, Angie and I, along with Nathan, Millie, and their mom, Cindy, headed to the library. There isn’t a dedicated librarian, but the teacher who oversees the library, Miss Francis, was teaching in the room next door. I could see right away that all of their nonfiction was designated as reference, and I suggested to her that she might want to allow it to circulate—there’s a lot of interesting reading material for kids to take home and enjoy. She thought that was fine! In fact, she was totally on board with every suggestion I made—discard a few more titles that were really out of date , or not appropriate for a primary school (sometimes donations end up in the wrong place), or missed in the wet-and-mildewed discard purge. And she reminded me SO much of my niece Susie Gray Isaac, who’s an incredible school librarian (see the Sunrise Newbery Club that she started—https://www.sunrisenewberyclub.com/), that I just loved her from the get-go. Nathan and Millie spent their time perusing the fiction collection for their levels, and came up with terrific lists of books to suggest adding to RDPS library’s collection. I’ll pass it along to Hands Across the Sea. We worked in the library in the morning, and Angie, Cindy, and the kids left at lunchtime and came back later to join the painters’ afternoon shift. I stayed on, eating a granola bar with my book-dirty hands while I sorted nonfiction into categories. When my eyes started to cross I went out front to see how the painters were doing, and found a cross-cultural scene of Tom Sawyer (Angie) and the fence painters (because there was a wall in addition to the pillars). School was out and the kids wanted to help! Do look at the pictures in the gallery.
Saturday we went back to the school to finish up a few spots, thinking that without the kids there it will go faster and be less chaotic. But of course the kids are there! Playing ball on the school’s inner courtyard, which meant the gate was open and kids were in and out and all over, and again wanted to help. We finally got away, and rested on Bravo in the afternoon.
Sunday evening was the first PAYS barbecue since the hurricane, and they’d had to really hustle to get their facility in shape in time to host it. Eddison went around the boats selling tickets—what a charmer he is!—so we were committed to going. But the waves were choppy, and there was quite a surge at the beach, so all the dinghies were clustered at the outer end of the dock. As the water surged, the dingy would get sucked under the dock, and one could get seriously injured if caught in the wrong position. Stepping or crawling off a surging dinghy is tough, too. But the party was great—lots of cruisers, the PAYS people, and good food…and rum punch. Loud music, but that doesn’t have the same appeal it might have 40 years ago.
Monday morning I was back at the library, and Tom, Peter, and Angie did a little more touching up of the paint job (taking a wire brush to some areas where the kids using rollers forgot how far the paint would reach). While we’d planned to leave Tuesday, I called Tom on the VHF from the library window and said, “Can we stay another day?” He agreed, so I said in that case I was ready to be picked up (and spent the rest of the day with a massive headache, probably anxiety over leaving). Tuesday I did finish up as much as I could do, gave Emrica Francis a hug and my email address, and said I hoped we’d be back in April, on our way north. I fell in love with that school—the kids; Teddy Wallace, the principal; the energy that surrounds it all. There’s so much more I could write about Dominica, but we’ve now been in Martinique for a week, and I haven’t begun to write about our adventures here!
From Tom: Christopher Columbus stated that Dominica was the most beautiful island of any that he had visited. And indeed that is true, while you watch the denuded landscape become gradually green again. But Dominica has always been poor, and the total devastation visited upon the place is hard to comprehend. Even months after the hurricane, vast piles of debris lined the main road, a third of the dwellings were nonexistent except for the rubble, another third were hanging in there with blue tarps as roofs flapping in the breeze, and perhaps a third were fully habitable. Electricity is coming back, but a dwelling has to have a roof before service will be restored.
Everywhere we found the residents to be polite and kind, looking you in the eye as greetings were exchanged: good morning, good day, good afternoon.
While the students begging to “help” with our beautification project at the school were at times slightly counterproductive, to see the enthusiasm for the project was worth the bit of clean up on Monday.
25 January 2018
The plan: leave Deshaies after our almond croissants are delivered at 7:00 am, stop at the big Carrefours supermarket at Pigeon, partway down the coast, then go into the marina at Basse-Terre to get water, and either pick up one of their moorings or take one of their slips for transients. Then we’d get an early start to Iles des Saintes the next day, and have a morning arrival and therefore a chance at picking up a mooring during the height of the season. All planned according to Chris Doyle’s guide to the Leeward Islands, the cruising sailor’s go-to book for information.
The actual day: I didn’t awaken until close to 8:00, to discover that the bakery truly is no longer making almond croissants—only plain. Tom had already eaten one, and I gave him mine as well, since I had awakened with—surprise—a headache! I blamed it on the glass of white wine I’d had at our “farewell to Deshaies” dinner ashore, and I wasn’t going to make it worse with a slug of gluten. We left about 9:00, and by 10:00 my headache had reached prescription strength, so I took my pill and reclined in the cockpit. I was enough better by the time we reached Pigeon to go ashore to shop, so we anchored at the far end of the beach away from Pigeon Island where we’d been snorkeling in November. We found the tiny inlet the fishermen use—a “fishing port” the guidebook says—and Tom waited in the dinghy while I ventured off to find a few groceries for us and a list of school supplies, cleaning supplies, and vegetable seeds for Dominicans. Once again I felt like the brunt of the old joke: “What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual. What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call someone who speaks one language? An American.” That’s me, and I so regret it.
We raised anchor and continued on to Basse-Terre, to the Marina Rivière Sens. As we approached we heard another boat attempting to call them on the radio, unsuccessfully, so we didn’t bother. We could tell from the photograph and diagram in the guidebook that maneuvering would be tight, and we’d need to be ready with dock lines and fenders on the starboard side, so we were. As we rounded the breakwater into the marina, the only people we saw on the fuel dock were a couple young boys, fishing. The dock was short, the wind was swirling, and it took us three tries to secure the boat, but we did it. Finally a man sauntered along, and he asked, “Diesel?” “No, water…eau…agua,” Tom replied. “No water.” And apparently no transient dockage, either, as what the guidebook showed as designated “visitor berths” was filled with small powerboats, all snugged in for the long term. So much for that part of our plan. We let off the lines and backed completely out of the marina, since we weren’t sure there was room to negotiate a turn. The few moorings we saw were taken, and it was pretty rolly outside the marina, so we pushed on to the Saintes. Once we passed the southern tip of Guadeloupe and were out of the lee of the island, it got very rough very quickly. We slammed through the waves, with winds averaging 30 knots on the nose. Longest couple miles ever. Finally reached the islands, and went from one mooring area to another, but they were all full except for one empty mooring at Pain de Sucre, but that seemed too rolly. We looked at the mooring field off the town and began preparing to anchor outside its perimeter, but the harbor master chased us off, so we returned to Pain de Sucre, where a different mooring was available. My headache had reared up again, and when I went below to lie down, realized that our forward hatch—the one right over our bunk—had been closed PRETTY securely that morning, but not COMPLETELY securely. There’s a huge difference in that last little quarter turn of the latch. Our bunk was soaked—mostly my side, and since I’m probably the one who messed up on the latch closure, I probably deserved it, but as I laid down in the main cabin and covered my head, Tom did all the cleanup. We were both asleep by about 8:00. It was a rolly night, but there was a French naval ship anchored nearby, so we felt well protected.
Around 7:30 the next morning, Sunday January 21, we motored around to the mooring field off Bourg des Saintes, and found an already-vacated mooring. Quiet day—went into town to walk around, got some WiFi time at a bar (Pellegrino and Heineken), and back to the boat. The young Frenchman on the beat-up metal boat next to ours asked if we’d seen anyone on his boat—his PC had been stolen while he was ashore. After that, we lock up when we go ashore. Another rolly night.
Monday we took our laundry to the Les Saintes Multiservices (LSM) office (moorings, customs clearance, laundry, WiFi, Internet café and sports bar, and they sell water alongside the ferry dock during certain hours. You pay at their office and they give you a coded key that triggers the hose on the dock to deliver the prepaid amount of water. While I did the customs checkout for Tuesday, Tom paid for water, and we returned to Bravo. We had until 12:45 to finish filling the tanks, so we hustled to rig fenders and docklines. Since we were landing on a dock meant for large ferry boats, the bollards were far apart—one at the end of the dock and the next one about 50 feet away and up six steps!—and the two-foot-wide rubber fenders on the dock stuck out a couple feet and were spaced about 20 feet apart—there were only two on the section of dock where we’d be landing, so we had to position a couple of our fenders to land on the one central dock fender, since that’s all we’d be touching. According to protocol, We tried to call the ferry dock to request permission to come alongside for water, but got no response. The catamaran that had tied up to get water at about 10:45 was still sitting there, so we decided to impart a sense of urgency to the them by approaching and circling next to them. They caught on, and finally left at 12:15. Tom maneuvered the boat in perfectly, and somehow we got lines to the bollards. I stuck the little coded key to the proper place on the water dispensary structure, and the water flowed from the hose…and stopped. I repositioned the key, and the water flowed, and stopped. I did this several times, and then Tom figured I was doing it wrong, so we switched roles, and he positioned the key and the water flowed…and stopped. Several times. We decided that for some reason it was just going to dispense water one liter at a time. About 12:43 a man from LSM came along and showed Tom that all you do is tap the key once and remove it, and that turns the water on. By holding the key there, we were constantly turning it on and off. And on. And off. He also told us not to worry about the 12:45 cut-off time—we wouldn’t get booted off the dock. Ahh! A little more excitement getting off the dock, almost leaving me behind, but it all worked out. The afternoon was uneventful after that. The wind had shifted so the harbor wasn’t quite as rolly, and it was a lovely night. January 23 off to Dominica.
The holidays were fun, but now we’re back on the boat!
19 January 2018
I last posted on December 15, Tom on January 10, both from Antigua. We had a wonderful sail to Deshaies, Guadeloupe, on January 17, exactly two months since our previous visit with Galen and Sue Todd. It’s a lot more crowded now, and we had to anchor uncomfortably close to other boats…one of whom we know! The world is getting smaller and smaller for us.
Since my last post, we had a busy time before leaving the boat at the Jolly Harbour Marina while we flew to Boston in December. We spent most of the time in Falmouth, writing and emailing our annual holiday news, writing checks or going online for our annual charitable giving, deciding which clothes we could take back north to leave there. One morning Tom took the laundry to Sam & Dave’s to drop it off, but they weren’t open. Since others had left bags of dirty clothes on the porch, he decided to as well. He joined me at Covent Garden, the lovely grocery store with free WiFi on their covered patio, where I was working on our holiday letter. Then he did more errands, and when we met at the dinghy, he was carrying the laundry bags. I asked, “Were they still closed?” He said they were open when he returned, and he saw our laundry sitting there, so he asked what time tomorrow it would be ready. “It’s ready now!” she said, and cheaper than we’d been paying. Some surprises are good.
We managed to get a nice sail out of our return to Jolly Harbour on the 20th, although some of it was dead downwind. We picked up a mooring, but found the marina’s WiFi signal was lousy, so when another mooring opened closer in, we moved. Much better. Tom scoped out the slip assigned to us so we’d know how to prepare our dock lines, and the next morning we moved into the marina. Lots of work involved in preparing the boat for our absence: bringing the dinghy up on the foredeck (after a much-needed scrubbing of barnacles and grass), defrosting and cleaning the freezer and refrigerator, putting away everything that normally lives on the exterior of the boat, and on and on.
Friday, December 22, we had a decent trip to Boston. Tom put on his winter jacket in the airport in Antigua—the air conditioning almost prepared us for the northern climate. But his post filled you in on that!
When I returned from Boston we spent a couple nights in Jolly Harbour, with the first day back back wasted on a migraine. Second day getting groceries, a haircut and pedicure for me, and then off to Falmouth Harbour. We anchored in the same spot Tom had been while I was in Boston, so were again able to pick up some WiFi from the Catamaran Marina. I briefly met Harriet and T.L. Linskey on Hands Across the Sea, and we invited them for drinks Sunday evening.
Hands Across the Sea is the name of their boat, but also the name of an organization they founded about eleven years ago, when they were down here and learned that the schools didn’t have libraries. Please go to their website—handsacrossthesea.net—and read about the impact they’ve made. And then DONATE! Monday I went with Harriet and Lisa Tomlinson, Hands’ Literacy Link in Antigua, to three schools to see what progress they’re making or not making. The concept of a library is alien to them, and while many administrators and teachers have welcomed the idea, others have resisted it. After all, if the children learn to read, they may we’ll leave the island… I fell in love with this program (former children’s librarian…duh!), and have been exploring ways I can continue to support it. I’ll most likely visit more schools as we continue down island.
Today, January 19, I spent some time this afternoon without a headache—a real milestone! So perhaps the prophylactic medication is taking effect. This morning I went ashore to go to the well-regarded botanical garden here. The guide book says they’ll send a shuttle for you, and there’s a sign on the dinghy dock with the phone number, but I couldn’t get through. While Tom took the trash down the street to the receptacles, I went into a restaurant Harriet told us about to inquire about dinner reservations, and the nice lady called the botanical garden for me. “Five minutes,” she said, and pulled a stool to the edge so I could watch for it. Tom came back, I reported on my progress, and he wished me well. He went off to buy milk. When he returned, I was still waiting, but that’s how it is in the Caribbean—5 minutes means half an hour. He returned to the boat. When about 45 minutes had elapsed and still no van, she called again. Well, they couldn’t contact the shuttle, so I was out of luck! Fortunately I had a hand-held VHF radio with me, so I was able to call Tom back to shore. It wasn’t meant to be, I guess.
We snorkeled to the edge of the harbor and I tried out my new full-face snorkel mask. It’s certainly easier to use than the traditional mask and separate snorkel, and doesn’t fog up. So far, though, it’s hitting the bridge of my nose wrong, so either I need to readjust how I’m wearing it, or I gave Laura the wrong measurement when she gave it to me for Christmas! Nevertheless, I’ll persevere.