01 July 2012 | Chaguaramas Bay, Trinidad and Tobago
28 June 2012 | Saltwhistle Bay, Mayreau Island
24 June 2012 | Canouan, The Grenadines
21 June 2012 | St. Vincent and the Grenadines
18 June 2012 | Martinique
15 June 2012 | Les Saintes
12 June 2012 | Deshaies, Guadeloupe
05 June 2012 | St. Barths to Guadeloupe
02 June 2012 | St. Martin, French Antilles
23 May 2012 | St. Martin, French Antilles
28 April 2012 | Francis Bay, St. John, USVI
26 April 2012 | Caneel Bay, St.John, USVI
25 April 2012 | Vieques Island
21 April 2012 | Spanish Virgin Islands
20 April 2012 | Here and there
16 April 2012 | Ponce de Leon
23 March 2012 | Palenque, DR
20 March 2012 | Salinas, DR
16 March 2012 | Bahia de las Augilas, DR
01 July 2012 | Chaguaramas Bay, Trinidad and Tobago
Rodeo is on the hard. Several things about that sentence make me feel wretched. We’re leaving her behind for nearly four months while we travel back to Canada to work. It will be an unwelcome separation, but very much a necessary one because our budget has run low and going back to Canada will give us a chance to save up for some long coveted upgrades. Nevertheless Rodeo has been a home to me for over a year and much longer to Gabe, and it is hard to imagine spending time away from her now. Time away from Rodeo will also be time off from our travels and this vagabond lifestyle we’ve come to love so much. It means adjusting back to life on land in the hustle and bustle of a city. It means being part of a stable society as opposed to our transient community of fun seeking cruisers. It means going from constant state of fluid motion to hard, solid ground. There are many benefits to going back ashore. One of the top ones is catching up with family and friends. Can’t beat that. Another one is the change of pace. Going back to work will allow us to keep a routine, something that can be difficult to maintain while moving around from place to place. Being back in civilization also means I get to take bubble baths, something I’ve been without since the last visit to my parents' house last October.
For many reasons getting hauled out in Trinidad marks an end to a chapter of our lives. It is a destination many set out from North America to reach, but for various reasons never do. We made it and we feel a sense of accomplishment in doing so. It has been a great journey and an incredible learning experience, the sort of which we’re not likely to relive. We want to continue to sail of course, but our first year cruising will always be our first. Filled with uncertainty, self doubt and fear we have made mistakes and learned from them. The lessons we’ve learned this first year will guide us through all the consecutive passages and we will certainly do a lot of things differently in the future. A lot of what we’ve been through is behind us. Also, depending on what we decide to do once we get back to the boat it may be the end of cruising in the Caribbean. If we chose to sail to Brazil directly from Trinidad it will be a short, but challenging passage with very few, if any, stops in between. This route is more difficult because of opposing currents and trade winds, but if done right could bring us to Brazil in a matter of weeks. If we chose to do the great loop, which would take us back through the Caribbean, across the Atlantic, down the west coast of Africa and back across the Atlantic again, it would be a longer but more comfortable sail with the trade winds. Regardless of our future plans we chose to bring the boat to Trinidad to keep her safe during the hurricane season and to get heaps of work done to her once we return. Leaving Rodeo here is like leaving a piece of ourselves behind. What’s even more agonizing is that we had to leave Pickle with friends in Grenada for the time being. We contemplated bringing her back to Canada with us, but Trinidad’s Department of Agriculture makes the process very difficult and we’ve been told that she may not be able to come back with us without going through a 3 month quarantine. We couldn’t bear the thought of putting her through that. We miss her more than we every imagined possible. She has been part of our crew and a part of this experience, and not having her around has left a quiet, hairless void behind. Now that the decision to go back to work for a few months has brought us to Trinidad we await our arrival in Canada with mixed emotions. There is a great deal to look forward to, but a precious lot of things we’ll miss while we’re gone.
28 June 2012 | Saltwhistle Bay, Mayreau Island
We swam with turtles again and this time there were dozens of them. We spent a day in a turtle sanctuary at Tobago Cays. The area is a cluster of small uninhabited islands, protected from the open Atlantic by a ring of reefs. We were able to spend an afternoon there before winds picked up and nasty weather chased us away in search of better shelter. When we arrived we were so eager to jump in the water I did so without bringing a camera. Big mistake. We had to swim quite a distance to get to the protected zone, so by the time we got into the turtle crowds I had no desire to go back and get it. I regret the decision now, because we swam among a massive colony of green turtles so accustomed to human presence they let us get real close. I figured I could snap a few pics the following day, which of course never happened, because we moved first thing in the morning. We had a sleepless night while swinging wildly at anchor and we knew we wouldn't be able to relax out there, where the gusts charged freely across the open water. We moved a few miles back to Saltwhistle Bay on Mayreau Island. It was no coincidence that we ended up there. Saltwhistle Bay is the very one that Gerard's boat has been named after and he could not pass up the opportunity to visit the namesake. We spent a few days on Mayreau waiting for the front to pass, during which time our friends on Katarina and Blue Kai caught up to us. It was a sweet reunion. We had been traveling separately for a month and we really missed those guys, especially the kids. As soon as we came over to their boat, Hannah and Rye went wild showing off their recently acquired skills. Hannah was now able to swim in deep water, without a life jacket. She kicked and paddled with chaotic sweeps of arms and legs, a strange combination of panic and satisfaction painted on her face. Rye, on the other hand, has been bravely jumping off the deck into the deep water, and was more than willing to showcase his abilities, over and over and over again. Rye and I practiced variations of cannon balls throughout the afternoon, until our eyes stung from the salt water.
Later that day we all met up at one of the beach bars for a reunion drink. Everyone was drinking beers, but I got ambitious and ordered a gin and tonic. And then another, and another. I should have known better, I've been there before. You can never have just one gin and tonic. It all began very innocently and then a group of young tourists from Colorado took over the bar for a birthday celebration. They had arranged for a big table and a home cooked meal by Black Boy's, the bar owner's wife. After Katarina and Blue Kai called it the night, Gerard, Gabriel and I crashed Colorado's party. We couldn't help it. They brought out their own rum punch and musical instruments, and they celebrated with infectious dynamism. We mingled, we played and danced, and I was on my best behavior until I had my fourth gin and tonic after which I enjoyed a slow climb toward a complete breakdown. At first I noticed I couldn't carry out my elaborate dance moves with any sort of fluidity, then my speech became slurred until finally I got so dizzy all I wanted to do was lay down. I asked Gabe to take me to our beached dinghy. I lay curled up inside of it while Gabe went back in to find out if Gerard was ready to go. He wasn't, but he came out to help Gabe get the dinghy in the water and then we were off, put putting back toward Rodeo. I needed my head to stop spinning and I wanted everything around me to stop moving. Naturally it wouldn't. The choppy ride home was excruciating and things got only marginally better once I was aboard Rodeo. Gabe had to go back to shore to wait for Gerard's verve to expire, leaving me slouched in the cockpit with my head hung over the cap rail. Pickle was visibly troubled by my state, mainly because I was in no shape to feed her. She made a point of complaining to Gabe about it later. Slowly, painstakingly I adorned Rodeo's hull with convulsive heaves and finally crawled into bed, relieved from my torture by deep sleep only to be woken back to it the next morning.
24 June 2012 | Canouan, The Grenadines
Having spent a week in Bequia we were eager to move ahead. We still had a few weeks before we had to be in Trinidad for the hurricane season, but we wanted to make sure we got there with time to spare. Actually, the plan to go all the way to Trinidad solidified recently, when Gabriel was offered a short term contract with a company in Ontario. Until then we planned on spending the summer in Grenada and surrounding areas, hoping to pick up some work and make a little bit of money while still enjoying the cruising lifestyle. The opportunity back in Canada, however, was just too good to pass up. It will give us a chance to make a lot of money fast, which we will use to upgrade a few things on the boat and put more towards our cruising budget for next year. Trinidad is where we are going to leave the boat on the hard to be stored for the hurricane season and later do work on, once we return from Canada. The idea of leaving the boat for 4 months is an agonizing one. We have really come to love this way of life and suddenly we are reaching the end of the line, the end of our adventure. Perhaps that’s a bit too dramatic, considering that we’ll be back in the Caribbean in a few months, though I can’t help but feel nostalgic. Reality was encroaching on our dream. We had to start thinking of arrangements for the boat, our travel and Pickle’s travel. All in due time, we still had some island hopping to enjoy before the hiatus from our hiatus. We raised the sails and steered for Canouan in the chain of St. Vincent and the Grenadine Islands, where we made an overnight stop before moving on to Tobago Cays. Once anchored Gerrard, Gabe and I made our way to shore, to explore the small village that encircles Charlestown Bay. When we were tying up the dinghy a small man with blood shot eyes staggered toward us and offered his assistance. We asked him where a good place to eat local food might be, but he only guided us into a beachfront hotel. Perhaps hoping for gratuity from the hotel dining room staff for brining people in, or more likely because he took us for the fancy kind that would frown upon a cheap meal in an alley shack. He was wrong. A cheap meal in an alley shack is exactly what we were in the mood for and we let ourselves be led by the man, who introduced himself as Mr.Williams, through the poorly lit streets of Charlestown. We could barely understand his drunken garble as he fed us tidbits about the local food and his career as a fisherman. Fishing? Now there was a language Gabe could understand. They jabbered on as we walked. The town was alive with activity. Cool evening breeze brought people out onto porches and curbside. Small bars lining the main street were filling up with loud music and swaying bodies. Mr.Williams rushed ahead of us, waving to and greeting everyone in site. People waved back and shouted his name, but we got the feeling that Mr.Williams was know by everyone in town for all the wrong reasons. We followed just the same. He first took us into a noisy bar with a deli counter, from behind which his sister was serving up bowls of pork sause and boiled breadfruit. Neither the food nor the atmosphere were appealing enough to make us stay. We apologized to Mr.Williams and his sister and asked him if there was some place else we could eat. He said something inaudible and pointed up the road. We shrugged and followed his lead. The place he brought us to was Mangrove Cafe, an open beach restaurant with a small bar and a large BBQ. The young man tending to it was leaning over a rack of pork chunks, engulfed in fragrant smoke that rose high in the air. We set down, ordered a round of beers and invited Mr.Williams to sit with us. He didn’t think twice about it. A DJ was playing reggae tunes from the corner of the restaurant, a few other tourists and many locals soon filled the place. We really enjoyed the atmosphere and commented on how we wouldn’t have stumbled on the place if it wasn’t for Mr.Williams. Our chance encounter deserved another round of beers. Besides we needed something to wash down the BBQ pork down with. We ate, we drank, we were merry and after bidding Mr.Williams goodnight we strolled back to our boats for a night of rest before departing for Tobago Cays in the morning.
A little help from our friend
21 June 2012 | St. Vincent and the Grenadines
We flew toward St. Vincent on a steady SE wind, but once we got there we were becalmed in the lee of the island. We expected as much or at least considered that possibility. What we didn’t consider was having water flood our engine. Our sails were beginning to flog in the dying wind and it was time to motor, but when we tried to put it on it turned a few times then ceased. Gabe immediately opened up the engine room to get a better look at what was happening. Judging by the engine’s behavior he concluded that following seas must have rushed inside the motor through the exhaust. It’s an incredibly rare incident, but it happens and after everything our little Yanmar has been through already it was now choking on salt water. We concluded that there was nothing to be done while under way. The motor required a flush and 3 oil changes to get it back in working order and that would have to wait until we got to Bequia. But how do we make any forward progress with no wind and no motor? The wind was coughing up brief gusts of air into the sails, but mostly we were dead in the water. Under motor power now himself, Gerard was watching Rodeo struggle forward at pitiable 1 knot/hr. Without even waiting to be asked, he called on the radio and offered to tow us the length of the island beyond which we could pick up wind and move on under sail. We accepted his offer without hesitation. There was nothing else to be done.
Saltwhistle back tracked a bit to meet us on our starboard, tow line in place. He tossed it across the narrow gap between our boats, to where I stood at the bow waiting. Once I had the line I made it fast around the bow cleat, then Gerard pulled forward and a few moments later we felt the gentle tug of the line and we felt Rodeo pick up speed. We weren’t sure if Saltwhistle could actually pull the weight of us behind, but the scheme worked, the line held and we managed to get pass the lee of St. Vincent in no time. Out in the open the wind came in steady once more and we sailed for another 5 miles towards Bequia. Port Elizabeth is a wide and deep harbour and we were fairly confident that we could enter and anchor in it without a motor, but Saltwhistle, who went ahead to scope out the anchorage would be on standby to lend a hand again, if needed. With his dinghy and 15HP outboard motor in the water he waited for us to arrive. If the wind died and we couldn’t pull into the anchorage under sail, he would pull alongside Rodeo in his dinghy and side tow us into our spot. Luckily the wind blew light and steady through the low hills surrounding Port Elizabeth and we were able to reduce sails, slow down and maneuver into the anchorage without incident. We were quite proud of ourselves for having accomplished this. Anchoring can be tricky under the best of conditions and we managed to do it without a running motor. We couldn’t have gotten there without Gerard though and we wanted to pay him back for being a pal. It also happened to be his birthday, all the more reason for a celebration, so we invited him over for supper. We caught 2 beautiful Dorado on the way and half of one ended up in a creamy caper wine sauce, served over rice with a side of fresh salad, the ingredients for which I had picked up from a street vendor back in Soufriere, St. Lucia. The rich taste of those home grown vegetables reminded me of the organic flavors that permeated produce from my grandmother’s garden. The lettuce was crisp, refreshing with a tinge of bitterness, tomatoes juicy and sweet and the green onion fragrant and sharp. It was a wonderful compliment to the mild, creamy taste of the Dorado. A meal worthy of celebrating our friend’s birthday and our camaraderie.
18 June 2012 | St. Lucia
Marigot Bay in St. Lucia greeted us and Saltwhistle in a spectacle of lush hillsides decorated with vibrant tropical flowers and posh homes. At the back of the bay lay an upscale marina complex with all imaginable amenities. Calm waters, serene surroundings and the presence of many other boats put us at ease about being in St. Lucia. From what we read the country can be rough, and instances of burglary are common. Injected with this feeling of confidence and security we moved anchor the following day to Anse la Raye. It was Friday, the day of Fish Fest in Anse la Raye, a town wide street fair that showcases local cuisine and music. This town was nothing like the bay we came from. It was shabby and grey, its residents clearly not the well-to-do folk of Marigot. We felt a bit uneasy when we first got to shore, but after we chatted with a couple of locals and guzzled a few glasses of rum punch we started to relax and really enjoy ourselves. We carried this feeling of relaxation with us back to the boat and well into the evening until we heard thumping along the hull. We paused the movie we were watching and listened. Another thump and voices came in from outside heightening all of our senses. We sprang up and flew through the companion way and into the cockpit where we saw two dark figures swimming at the side of Rodeo. We freaked. One of them had his hands on the rail and was about to pull himself up on deck. They startled us and we startled them. I don’t think they were expecting us to be on board. We started to scream at them, me in English, Gabe in Portuguese. With a confused tone in his voice one of them exclaimed that they’re just looking, but it was too late for explanations. Gabe had already called out for me to bring out the “gun” and was promising to kill them for the intrusion. The intruders scurried off at the point of our spear gun and it was then we noticed that there were four of them in total, two on each side of the boat. In just a few blurry seconds we had the motor going and were weighing anchor to get out of Anse la Raye. With his voice already hoarse and strained, Gabe continued to scream and point the spear gun at the lot of them as we turned around and pulled out of the bay. While under way back to Marigot Bay we called the coast guard and made a report of what just happened. They promptly sent a Police boat out to check on us and then to check on Gerard and Saltwhistle who stayed behind in Anse la Raye. We reunited with him the following morning and were happy to find that he had a peaceful night of rest in the same anchorage we escaped from. Our good impression of St.Lucia was now marred by our brush with the shark burglars and we wanted to get out as fast as we could. We sailed south along the coast to town of Soufriere, where we cleared out at customs then, barricaded inside our boats at anchor, we waited to depart in the morning. It is heartbreaking to have to take such precautions, but we continued to lock the boat up at night until we got to Grenada. We didn’t enjoy much of St.Lucia, which is a shame, because the island is beautiful. We set sail from there just as the sun slipped out from behind Gros and Petit Piton, sending golden streaks of lights through chalky morning haze. Heat would burn through it later in the day, but at the time everything was hushed and soft, wrapped in cotton. It looked innocent and alluring and it was hard not to admire it, but we were happy to press on for Bequia in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Grand surprises in Grande Anse d'Arlet
18 June 2012 | Martinique
After Guadeloupe we made two brief stops, one in Martinique and one in St.Lucia. Martinique’s modest, little coast towns were the perfect backdrop for days of leisurely activities. We were sluggish and unmotivated to do much in those days except snorkel in search of turtles. I had been waiting for an opportunity to swim with them and to watch them more closely under water. With the exception of Culebra in the Spanish Virgin Islands, I’ve only been able to spot them as they come up for air. Even then it’s an event that prompts shrieks of excitement out of me. Finally, though, in a quiet anchorage of Grande Anse d'Arlet we found a number of them feeding on the grassy bay bottom. Mottled gray and brown, they were hard to spot against the grass, but as they moved around we saw that there was a whole group of them. They slowly nibbled on fine blades of turf, occasionally swimming up to the surface for air. One gulp, two gulps and back down for more salad. They moved slowly and awkwardly through the water. Their bodies waddled under the surface while they beat their way forward with one front flipper then the other, though there was certain gracefulness to their efforts. Gabe and I kept grunting at each other through our snorkels, pointing out individual turtles as they came into view. I was so happy I kept bringing my hands together into soundless underwater claps. As we swam away from the turtles and back toward the boat we noticed an enormous black cloud moving through the water. A bit spooked but curious we waited while it approached. It turned out to be a school of little fish swimming through the bay like an apparition. It was made up of what must have been thousands of tiny fish swimming in unison, swerving instinctively as we swam toward and into their mass. When we dove into the depth of the school the fish dashed in opposite directions then converged back into their formation ahead, over and behind us, engulfing us in its swift current of movements. We love getting in the water to explore even in the most unassuming areas, because we never know what we’re going to find.
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