11 February 2018 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands
27 November 2017 | Medellin, Colombia
23 November 2017 | Machu Picchu, Peru
13 November 2017 | Santa Marta, Colombia
25 October 2017 | Curacao
13 November 2015 | Terrel Bay, Carriacou
13 August 2015 | Grenada
16 July 2015 | Port Luis, Grenada
18 May 2015 | Chatham Bay, Union Island
01 May 2015 | St. Lucia
14 April 2015 | Dominica
19 February 2015 | 17 57.38'N:062 54.28'W, BVI & St. Martin
01 February 2015 | 19 29.92'N:064 23.28'W, BVI
07 January 2015 | PR and Culebra
16 December 2014 | Salinas, PR
12 December 2014 | Ocean World Marina, DR
05 December 2014 | Turks & Caicos
24 November 2014 | 23 51.077'N:075 07.209'W, Georgetown to Conception
14 November 2014 | 24 26.687'N:076 47.37'W, On our way to Black Point, Great Guana Cay

Galapagos Island Highlights

11 February 2018 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands
Since we planned to keep our boat in Santa Marta till around March, we also planned some adventuring trips over land. We visited Cartegena, Medellin, and Peru in November, and Texas in December. January was spent in the marina visiting with the world arc boats (organized group of boats travelling together around the world or parts thereof). We saved out trip to the Galapagos till February mostly because the water temperature was supposed to be a bit warmer. Hmm, it was still very cold to us. The Galapagos islands are 600 nautical miles from mainland Ecuador. We flew there since we had no plans of taking our boat thru the Panama Canal (at least not yet). We spent 5 days staying on the island of Santa Cruz which is in the middle of the archipelago. We visited the Charles Darwin research center and the tortoise sanctuary. We walked all around the town of Puerto Ayora seeing Darwin finches, warblers, pelicans, egrets, marine iguanas, sea lions, beaches and lava tunnels. All of this was very interesting but did not compare to our diving experience. We heard the diving in the Galapagos was challenging and some dive sites require a minimum of 30 dives before they will allow you to go due to the strong currents. Well we have dived in strong currents before, both at Saint Lucia's Superman dive and also in Taganga Bay, just north of Santa Marta. We don't like strong current dives. You go so fast that you don't get to really see anything. We chose to dive a more relaxed dive site at Floreana, south of Santa Cruz. We went with Scuba Iguana (which we liked very much). Travelling light, we didn't take our underwater camera but our dive master took some very good photos and videos and shared them with us. We saw stingrays, turtles, the largest schools of fish ever, more species of starfish than we have ever seen. And to culminate our experience, our dive ended with us playing with sealions for about 15 minutes at the end of our second dive. WOW! FYI, the water temp of our dive was 70 degrees F and I was wearing a 7mm wetsuit. It was cold but bearable. I'll post a few to facebook and more to our blog gallery.
The second half of our trip was spent on the motor yacht Coral II. This is as close as we have come to going on a cruise. The boat had 20 guests, 2 naturalist guides and about a half dozen crew. Each day, we would go on two land or dinghy excursions at different places and two snorkeling trips. The first snorkeling trip, I forgot my mask back on the boat so I stayed in the dinghy. Ed was in and out of the water so fast that except for his wet clothes, I would have sworn he never got in. Yes it was that cold. All the other passengers, opted for wearing shorty wetsuits after the first snorkel. These folks were from cold climates. Ed and I opted to not snorkel. We didn't feel like we were missing out since we had had such an amazing dive already. Our land trips were fun. Each site we visited offered something unique, whether it be the giant tortoise we saw in the wild, or the hundreds of marine iguanas warming on the rocks, or the frolicking of sea lions nearby, or the penguins, or the blue footed boobies or the crazy looking lava flows, pahoehoe (ropy) and the aa (hurt).
We enjoyed our trip to the Galapagos and hope you enjoy some of our pictures.
To view the pictures, at the top of the blog, there is a menu (top right hand corner). Select gallery, then select the Galapagos album to see the photos and videos.

Coffee Anyone?

27 November 2017 | Medellin, Colombia
Cheryl / Cloudy and cool
It’s easy to see why Medellin is nicknamed The City of Eternal Spring. It sits in a valley with mountain peaks in all directions. We found Medellin to a first world city in a third world county. It is beautiful, trendy, and sophisticated and we can’t wait to go back and spend more time exploring Medellin and its surrounding paisa country.
We arrived in Medellin a day later than planned so we did not get to take advantage of the downtown area that gets closed to traffic on Sundays (perhaps next time). We had pre-arranged a coffee tour that was a few hours away in Concordia. Our English speaking guide, Juan, was absolutely wonderful. His enthusiasm as well as his associate’s Andres, was contagious. Our tour started with a stop at a small farm where took pictures of the view, had soursop juice and waited for the clouds to thin out at our destination. While we waited, we got to watch a local horse whisperer, remove and re-shoe a horse. I was quite impressed with his ability to keep the horse calm with all of us standing around gawking.
After the sky cleared enough, we proceeded to the coffee farm where, Juan, ground and roasted coffee for our tasting. It was delicious. According to Juan, there is an art to making the perfect cup of coffee. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the ratio of coffee to water but the water has to reach a certain temperature (just under a boiling temperature so the coffee won’t burn) before it is added to the coffee in a French press. I should have paid more attention to the details but we bought coffee, so we can practice.
After our coffee break, we climbed into the back of a dump truck and proceeded to the area where the workers were waiting with their bags of coffee berries to be tallied and loaded into the truck. It didn’t take long for the truck to be full of coffee berries. The workers get warned and they don’t get paid as much if they have too many green berries in their sacks. The best berries are the red berries. After watching this process, we took off in a smaller pickup truck to pick our own coffee berries and take more pictures. Picking the coffee berries was addicting. I didn’t want to stop, although I imagine if I had to do this for a living, it wouldn’t be so addicting. After we picked our fill, Juan and Andres, showed us the difference between the best berries and the rest. There is a small worm that eats its way inside of some of the berries and makes them not very good (Nescafe beans). It was very difficult for us to detect the worm hole but once we got back to the production area of the coffee farm, it was easy to distinguish these berries from the others. They floated. The first process after picking is to move them from the vat where they were dumped from the truck to the processing center. This was done by moving the berries in water through a pipe. The berries are loaded into a separator where the bean is separated from the outside berry. At this stage, the bean still has its husk. The beans are dried and sacked and then taken to a cooperative in Concordia where they are weighed and the quality and price are determined. From there, the coffee is shipped for further processing or to the ultimate customers. We got to see all this happening. We also got to see the coffee that the farm keeps for their own label, where it is medium roasted and packaged. Of course we had to buy some. We are now in the market for a small coffee grinder for the boat. It shouldn’t be too hard to find here in Colombia. On the way back to Medellin, we stopped and had an awesome authentic lunch locally known as bandeja paisa. It was delicious and better yet, it wasn’t a buffet!
After arriving back in Medellin to our hotel, we walked around a bit to a trendy little area that reminded us of home. There were shops and restaurants and it was all decorated for Christmas. It was like we had just arrived at Highland Village in Houston! Our time in Medellin went by way to fast, so we are planning to visit again after the New Year and spend more time exploring all that Medellin and the surrounding area has to offer. As a final note, I am thankful that Ed remembers quite a bit of Spanish that he learned so long ago. It helped in Medellin, which is the first place we have been to where finding someone who speaks English is rare. We are managing to get by although our Español es muy malo!

Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of Peru

23 November 2017 | Machu Picchu, Peru
Cheryl / Cloudy and Breathless
After doing a ton of research on how, when, and what we should see while visiting Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, this is how we decided to experience this area of Peru.
Timing: The rainy season begins in November and progressively gets worse with February being the rainiest month and also when they close Machu Picchu to tourists. With that in mind, November is also one of the months that is least crowded. That got our attention. So as soon as we arrived in Santa Marta, we began our research on getting to Machu Picchu as soon as possible in November.
Getting there: There are many options to get around in South America but the quickest way is to fly so we did. We flew to Bogota where we had a one night layover, then on to Cusco, Peru. Cusco is at an altitude of 3326m or nearly 11,000 feet. It literally takes your breath away so our first day was spent wandering around the main square and basically taking it easy. The Plaza de Armas is the center of the city with the 2nd largest cathedral in the world, churches, museums, and touts hawking their wares.
We enjoyed walking around exploring the neighborhood but two things we noticed that we don't understand why it has to be that way were: There are dogs roaming everywhere. They are very friendly and appear to pets as we would see them on porches in the evening, waiting for their owners to come home. The problem is they have no green space to take care of their business so there is a lot of dog poo on the sidewalks and streets. A LOT! The second thing that we don't understand is the day before trash collection, everyone takes their trash to central areas (corner of the streets). There are no garbage bins, so they just leave the bags on the sidewalk. It doesn't take long before the dogs tear into the bags searching for food, leaving quite a mess all around them. The trash collectors clean this mess up the next day. Seems like such a waste of effort, but maybe that is the way they feed their dogs. So while out walking, we were careful to avoid stepping in the poo.
We woke early to start our 2 day hiking tour to Machu Picchu. We were picked up at 4:30AM and rode in a small bus for 2 hours to Ollantaytambo, where we hopped on a train for an hour. We got off the train at km104 and began our hike. We hiked at a steady incline, stopping to see Incan ruins on the way. Around noonish, after passing Winay Wanay ruins, we stopped for a fabulous packed lunch that was carried up by a Peruvian porter. The ruins consisted of the urban area where there were once house clusters interconnected by a steep staircase with fountain structures (the baths), and a large agricultural area known as the terraces. Walking along this trail, you can almost see the Incan messengers running to and from Cusco to Machu Picchu carrying messages back and forth. The name Winay Wanay means forever young, which the messengers had to be to make the trek back and forth. They were definitely in "forever young" shape.
After lunch, we hiked at a relatively level pace for about an hour and a half, then it ascended steeply towards the clouds. This lasted for about 45 minutes until we arrived at the Sun Gate to Machu Picchu. Wow, breathless, exhausted and out of water (well, I was the only one of 6 out of water), we had arrived to a beautiful view of Machu Picchu. After catching our breath and taking pictures, we descended down into Machu Picchu for more views and photo ops, then hopped on a bus to Aguas Calientes where we spent the night and returned the next morning for our tour of Machu Picchu with our guide Jose.
In summary, our hike was from 11 to 14 kilometers over cobblestone steps most of the way. For us, it was the best way to experience Machu Picchu. For the more adventurous, there is a longer 4 day hike on the Incan trail, but really if you do one day, you get the gist of what it would be like to do four days and you aren't exhausted when touring Machu Picchu. Also, the idea of sleeping in a sleeping bag in a tent for 3 nights might sound fun if you're twenty, but we're not and it didn't. For those who want to see Machu Picchu without the hike, I would recommend arranging a tour in advance. They will take care of all accommodations and all you have to do is enjoy the ride.
After our tour, we hopped back on the train for 2 hours, then the bus for 2 hours till we arrived back in Cusco.
The next day, we had arranged for a private taxi tour to take us around to sites we chose. This was a great way to relax after our hike and to see some of the other sites in the Sacred Valley. We enjoyed going to the Pisac ruins and along the way, we stopped at the Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary where we got to mingle with the llamas and alpacas. The vicunas (in the llama family) are mean so they were kept at a distance. I got to go eye to eye with an Andean Condor. Their wing span is 3 meters. I think he won the staring contest and thankfully I wasn't his type, dead that is.
The only time we got rained on during our trip was when we were touring the Pisac ruins. We found shelter in the ruins until the rain stopped, then we were off to lunch and more sites. Lunch was our one big mistake. We don't typically like to eat at a buffet as we are germophobes, but at the insistence of our guide, we went to a restaurant he recommended. Later that night, one of us had lower GI issues that plagued us for the rest of our trip. The other sites we visited were the salt pans at Salinas and the Moray agricultural circles. The salt pans were pretty cool when you think about where you are (up in the mountains and there is salt, hmm). The Moray site was two large circles of terraces that the Incas used as an agricultural testing ground to see what would grow at different elevations. On the way back to our hotel, we stopped at a market where we were the only customers. It was quite nice. We got a demonstration on how the llama wool is removed and spun into thread, then dyed using plant based dyes except for the red dye which was from a parasite that lives on cactus. We also were shown some of the traditional weaving process and tools. They use a bone in the condor's wing and a bone from the llama as needles. Of course after the presentation, we were given the opportunity to purchase handmade products which we did of course, at very reasonable prices. We really weren't pressured into buying anything, unlike when we visited Cartagena where the touts wouldn't leave us alone.
The next day, while one of us was staying close to the washroom, the other decided to do some sightseeing around central Cusco including the cathedral, churches, more ruins, etc. etc.
We woke early to catch an 8:30 flight only to find out they had cancelled the flight and rescheduled us for the following day. The upside is that since we were at the airport, they provided us with a 4 star hotel (that had a wonderful bed but lousy food) and upgraded us to business class the next day. It all worked out ok as we had a nice relaxing day doing a little more open market shopping and walking around town while still staying in close proximity to a washroom.
We really enjoyed our trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu in particular and highly recommend the 2 day Inca trail. We have lots of pictures in our photo gallery so take a look.
See you in Medellin.

Hola y Bienvenidos, de Santa Marta, Colombia

13 November 2017 | Santa Marta, Colombia
Cheryl/ Ahh air conditioning at last
Hola y Bienvenidos
We arrived in Santa Marta about two weeks ago. Our passage was mostly uneventful and that’s a good thing! Our winds died sometime during the 2nd day and since we aren’t purist, we cranked up our iron jib and motor sailed. We did lose a belt on our alternator as we were approaching Cinto, the first of the five bays to the north of Santa Marta. This is the second time in our travels where Ed had to go below and replace the belt while underway. He’s got it down to a science. We were greeted with so many dolphins as we approached the bay. It was spectacular since we haven’t seen this many dolphins since we left the US Gulf Coast. We arrived into Cinto after the sun had set but we had just enough light to go in and anchor. This is something we do not like to do but we saw a powerboat go in just ahead of us and also saw other boats anchored inside so we felt reasonably safe going into this bay. It was awesome to be anchored so close to mountains. The air was cool and comfortable, like fall weather, so different from Bonaire and Curacao, which was hot, hot, and hot. After a peaceful night's rest, we slowly made our way to Santa Marta on Sunday, Oct 29th, visiting some of the other bays along the way.
We are docked at the marina in Santa Marta. This is a happening marina with lots of local powerboats and fishing boats that are in and out of the marina often. My first impression of the neighborhood left me wondering if it was a safe place. There are armed police and military personnel on the street around the marina and one of the English speaking workers in the marina office was vocal saying “we are safe here”. Why did she say that? Should we worry? Of course we will worry, I mean it’s us, Ed and Cheryl. That’s what we do. Anyway, we have ventured all around the streets of Santa Marta and feel quite safe here although we haven’t been out late at night nor will we.
We are enjoying sunset and happy hours here at the marina. Beer is cheap and good. They have a nice area to enjoy talking with other boaters and watching sunset, drinking cerveza.
We along with 2 other couples, took a bus to Cartagena and spent 3 days and nights exploring the walled city of Cartagena. We stayed in a nice boutique hotel that had a rooftop pool (more like a large Jacuzzi with cold water only) where we had happy hour watching the parrots fly by. Every evening, flocks of parrots would fly around us for about an hour. I think I enjoyed this as much as I did the sightseeing in the walled city. We also visited the Cartagena marina area, just because… It is in a very busy port area and dirty. I wouldn’t want to bring our boat here.
We took pictures of our sightseeing which you can find in the gallery.
While Ed is extending his list of boat projects to work on, I am planning where we can go and what we can see and do!
Stay tuned, Machu Picchu is beckoning us to come before it gets too rainy. Looking forward to that adventure!

Things are going south

25 October 2017 | Curacao
Cheryl / Hotter than a firecracker
I get asked by family and friends how come I don’t blog more often. Hmm, could it be that we have been revisiting the same islands up and down the Caribbean for too long and have posted all there is to see and do? No, that can’t be it. Perhaps I have just gotten complacent. We have enjoyed our travels up and down the Leeward and Windward Islands but all good things must come to an end. NOT!
We were complacent and decided to do something new and exciting and different. So we left our hurricane protected marina in Grenada and headed to Bonaire. Wow, the diving is fantastic in Bonaire. We saw green moray eels longer than I am and frogfish and seahorses and wow, the squid are so cool to watch as the gracefully swim by. Then there is the coral. So much beautiful coral as far as you can see. It truly is an amazing dive island. But alas, there is more to life than diving, but not so much in Bonaire. That is a diving/snorkeling only island. So after we got our fill of diving, we went a little further west to Curacao. We stayed at a marina and rented a car for our stay on the island and it was amazing. We hiked, swam, hiked, dove, toured, ate at amazing restaurants. The island is pretty amazing and never have I been to a friendlier place for drivers. Cars actually stop and let you enter the road or let you turn in front of them and no one gets upset. We hiked the national park on the north end of the island visiting the Blowholes and natural bridges. We saw the Hato caves which I was all set to find disappointing, I mean can it really compare to Carlsbad Caverns? Yes, it can in its own way. You will have to google the HATO caves since we were only allowed to take pictures of one small area and mine weren’t good pics. The slaves used to run away and hide out in these caves where it is pitch black and there are bats. Yikes. Some friends recommended we go to the Ostrich farm for a tour while on the island so we did. What fun. The farm has been in operation for more than 20 years and the tour was fun and informative too. Some of us were brave enough to feed the ostriches but none of us was brave enough to ride one.
When things go south, is that a bad thing? Maybe the saying is all wrong. We will certainly find out firsthand. We are embarking on one of the fifth worst passages in the world, according to the experts. We have been waiting for our weather window knowing how bad it could be and that is why we left Grenada in September and left Bonaire in October and are leaving Curacao now. So while our friends say, “what’s you hurry,’ we say we have to be ready when our window arrives, which it has. So Thursday morning, we embark on a new sailing adventure. If all goes well, we will arrive at our destination on Saturday. Where are we going? Machu Pichu, Galapagos, and other adventures, but first we will put into port at Santa Marta, Colombia. More to come soon, unless I get complacent again, but in the meantime see our recent pictures.

Season 2 Conclusion

13 November 2015 | Terrel Bay, Carriacou
After a summer that went by too fast, we are ready to begin our 3rd cruising season. But first a recap of how we spent our time this summer.

Fun things we did included water aerobics, aka, noodling, hashing (who woulda thought traipsing through the bush, sweating and tripping over tree roots would be so much fun, but it was), riding the local buses (yes this too, we thought was fun and oh so cheap), getting to know so many local folks, making new cruising friends, enjoying vacation time back in the states with family and friends, walking anywhere and everywhere, and of course Happy Hour!

Not so fun things we did or paid to have done included Ed having foot surgery in June (yes this was planned), replacing the non-skid on the boat deck (Small Change did an excellent job and this was no small feat), varnish/epoxy various teak on the boat, polishing our diesel fuel, servicing the heads, replacing the vhf antenna, as well as the usual boat chores.
Other accomplishments included making a new awning for the boat. This should help keep us cool this season. We finally got Sirius radio working. Hoping to get access to more news this season. And we think we have our internet data figured out so we don't have to get a SIM card for every island we visit. I'm testing it out now. It's called T-Mobile. Not super fast internet but not dial up slow either. We'll see how long it takes to post this.
So we officially began Season 3 of our cruising career yesterday, Nov. 12th. We cut the mooring lines (literally cut them) and motored out of Port Louis marina and sailed up island to Terrel Bay, Carriacou.
We hope you will join us as we look for new adventures this season.

The Eagle Scout, lending a helping hand to fellow cruisers who lost their boat hook while trying to grab a mooring ball in Terrel bay.
Vessel Name: Slowdown
Vessel Make/Model: Caliber LRC40
Hailing Port: Houston, TX
Crew: Ed and Cheryl Carter
About: Ed has a USCG 100 ton masters license while Cheryl has ASA certifications thru 104
Slowdown's Photos - Main
Our dive pictures are at the end of album.
63 Photos
Created 18 February 2018
Coffee, Coffee, Coffee
15 Photos
Created 3 December 2017
November 2017 trip to Machu Picchu
20 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 3 December 2017
Santa Marta, Cartagena
22 Photos
Created 13 November 2017
22 Photos
Created 25 October 2017
November 2015 - October 2016 Grenada to USVI and back to Grenada
1 Sub-Album
Created 9 December 2015
November 2014 - October 2015 Florida East Coast to Grenada
11 Sub-Albums
Created 9 December 2015
December 2013 - October 2014 Kemah, TX to Bahamas, then Florida
23 Sub-Albums
Created 17 August 2015

Who: Ed and Cheryl Carter
Port: Houston, TX