Sea you next harbor
06 August 2018
People often ask us what's the most difficult part of the cruising lifestyle. After three years our answer remains the same. Missing family and friends.
When we left the Caribbean, we said goodbye to another set of friends. Imagine sailing into a new harbor and five days later going to a birthday party ashore where we new the names of 40 new friends! That happened in Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou. We spent the better part of two years with friends we made in the Caribbean and then sailed west for the Panama Canal. This was yet another choking goodbye.
But that's not uncommon in the cruising lifestyle. Friends are made easily and one morning, up comes the anchor. Fortunately, we run into many of them down island. Now that we are on the coconut milk run from Marquesas to New Zealand, everyone is pretty much on the same track. Timing varies but everyone is hitting the same destinations. We hope to see a lot more of the friends we have made in the South Pacific.
Starting in Panama, we attended a seminar by Lattitude 38 magazine with representatives from the island groups of French Polynesia, Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand. This was informative and we exchanged boat cards with other cruisers headed for the coconut milk run. Fortunately, we have seen most of these cruisers in the four months since we left Panama.
Now we have made the jump (only 3 days) to another island group, Tuamotu, the dangerous archipelago. Again we are seeing new-found friends here. As we entered the atoll, Fakarava, we met friends, Un Mundo, exiting the lagoon. They were in radio contact with our friends, Don and Joy on Hua'Kai. We motored to Hua'Kai and they gave us anchoring information. Walter from Le Grand Blue dinghied over to say hi and tell us more about the village, especially where to meet for sundowners on shore, Paillote.
Here's a list of boats we have made friends with in the South Pacific. We have not only met these people but have shared a meal, drinks, hikes or other interaction. Sorry for the unavoidable omissions.
Hua'Kai Un Mundo Debonair
Little Wing Nehenehe Hedonism
Panache Imagination Pizza
Tummler Dr No Kefi
Lungta Heritage TaDa
Suzon Maggie Drum EnaVigo
Tribasa Cross Rayon Vert Counting Stars
Akai Ultimo Ipan Ma
Brisa Le Grand Bleu Goa
Julu The two green girl boats Frieda
Liward Hokey Pokey Reverence
We are delighted to continue sailing with our Caribbean friends:
Skabenga Ocean Maiden Sea Cloud
We are excited to be joined by other Caribbean friends headed this way:
Mandalay Flip Flops Aseka
Sans Cles Lequesta
what the Fakarava!
04 August 2018 | Frakarava, Tuamotus
this is a test to see if we can post using email...
Redemption Song and the washing machine
10 July 2018
One of my favorite slogans is “Normal is only a cycle on a washing machine.” My kids and Lisa readily agree that I'm no Maytag!
This character flaw has come in handy a few times when local people wanting money from me, that I'm not willing to give, have become belligerent. I just break into a loud rendition of Bob Marley's “Redemption Song.”
Old Pirates yes they rob I,
sold I to the merchant ship.
Minutes after they took I,
from the bottomless pit.
But my hand was made strong,
by the hand of the Almighty.
We forward in this generation,
Won't you help me sing,
these songs of freedom?
Cause all I ever had,
These songs of freedom.
The reaction is mixed. One guy on Dominica joined in singing it with me. Another said, “Yes, Bob Marley, mon!” But the desired result is always achieved, they can't get away from this crazy sailor fast enough and usually with a smile. Problem solved!
06 July 2018
Uproar spent almost two years in the Eastern Caribbean. We are often asked, “What's your favorite island?” I'll get to that but first give my general impressions of this famous cruising ground.
I consider the Eastern Caribbean to be the Lesser Antilles, These are the smaller islands east of Puerto Rico and following south to Trinidad. The chain from Anguilla to Grenada is a banana-shape, mostly lying north to south. It would fit inside Lake Michigan! This is the area we cruised. We did spend six weeks in the Virgin Islands from Culebra to Virgin Gorda. I would have to say that we are not big fans of the Virgin Islands. Culebra was delightful and a great place for a one week charter. New Found Bay on St. John is an idyllic anchorage, seldom visited. And the British Virgins have some beautiful snorkeling spots but lack local color and are quite crowded with charter boats.
Sail 100 miles east from the Virgin Islands to St. Martin or Anguilla, the north end of the banana. Here you will find a diversity of islands which give a variety of cultures, topography and anchorages within a days sail between islands. Consistent trade winds make protected anchorages on the lee side of the islands, water is warm and beautiful almost everywhere and a cruising community exists that becomes your second family.
We love it here. We could have easily spent another year or more in the, Eastern Caribbean but the South Pacific called. I am writing this from the Las Perlas islands of Panama. We are now in the Pacific Ocean and the water is cold! I never had to think about water temperature when jumping off Uproar in the Caribbean. Sure makes me think more about the beautiful islands we left behind.
Passages between islands are between 20 and 40 miles. One can sail between islands with just day hops. Strong trade winds can make these passages a bit rough but the wind is usually on the beam making for swift sailing. The wind and water are warm, getting splashed a bit is no problem. Hurricane season can be a big problem. 2017 was a very bad year for hurricanes, damaging Dominica, St. Martin, Barbuda and the Virgin Islands. Grenada and south are considered safe from hurricane damage and there is plenty of great cruising in this area during hurricane season, July through October.
There are at least a dozen countries represented in this island chain. Some are independent island nations like Dominica and some are territories of other countries like Martinique, a state of France. The short passages between islands often bring diversity in cultures that are most enjoyable. OK, I love the French islands for their food, language, infrastructure, shopping and understated friendliness. People in the formerly English islands are more outgoing and colorful with a fierce national pride. We witnessed an election in St. Lucia. What a spirited, boisterous and fun event. The battle was closely fought but without animosity. Seems they change parties every five years when the party in power fails to deliver on promises.
Now for the favorite islands as promised. Lisa and I agree, Dominica is the most beautiful. This mountainous island has rivers and waterfalls everywhere. A strenuous hiking trail runs the length of this 30 mile island in 14 segments. There are hot springs, bubbling pools, tropical rain forests and food growing everywhere. Only 70,000 people live on Dominica and they are most welcoming to strangers. The anchorages are limited to moorings in the deep waters off Roseau, the capitol. Portsmouth has a broad, sandy bay with moorings or safe holding for anchoring. Dominica is a hiker's paradise. From the Portsmouth there are many, beautiful hikes. Taxis or buses will take you to breathtaking waterfalls and mountain lakes. Food is cheap but nothing fancy. The cruiser community is alive especially during PAYS (Portsmouth Yachting Services) cruisers appreciation week. We were anchored with 200 other boats for this lively event.
Dominica received the brunt of damage from hurricane Maria. Lisa and I, along with Nicola and Laura (young artists from Martinique who had collected aid supplies) brought aid to Dominica after the hurricane. Our friend Budah from Dominica drove us around to distribute aid. The devastation was horrific and all encompassing. Dominicans seemed resilient and optimistic about their recovery. We hope this island recovers to its former beauty.
Guadeloupe is another beautiful island. It is actually a group of islands that are quite diverse. The main part of Guadeloupe consists of two, large islands joined by a bridge. Grande Terre is the older formation, fairly flat and with beautiful beaches. Bas Terre is mountainous by contrast with dense forests and picturesque seaside villages. South of Guadeloupe are Les Saintes, still part of Guadeloupe. This small ring of islands is most visited by yachts and tourists. They come here for good reason, this small ring of islands has beautiful beaches, historic forts, hilly hikes and shops. Marie Galant is a small, agricultural island, part of Guadeloupe. It is one of the older, hilly, not mountainous islands. We found it the best biking island with little traffic and French-quality roads. There are three run distilleries here powered by live steam engines. They also produce 59% alcohol Rhum Agricole! We biked to all three and bought a few bottles.
We were fortunate to be in Guadeloupe during Carnival. The small city of Bas Terre had an energetic, costumed parade we watched for hours. It was of a smaller scale than Grenada but we enjoyed it more. The local bands and dancers were truly grass roots clubs that were out, enjoying life. One troupe pulled Carla, Steve's girlfriend, out of the crowd to dance with them.
Down the chain is Martinique, also French. Martinique is one of the large yachting centers in the Caribbean. But it has some beautiful anchorages if you want something more remote. We loved driving the mountainous roads and visiting some of the Atlantic side towns. Sainte Pierre is one of the oldest towns in the Caribbean. It was destroyed by a massive volcano in 1903. There are several museums that chronicle the volcano which killed 30,000 people in a matter of minutes. One of our favorite run distilleries is a short distance away, Depaz. It is a museum of rum production, a beautiful overlook of the Caribbean and still powered by a live steam engine. We love Martinique but give the nod to Guadeloupe for its diversity of islands and more laid-back lifestyle.
Bequia gets honorable mention. It is a great harbor and village. There is a lot of ship building history and whaling history there. We enjoyed our time with Alec and Selma who run a sail loft and keep traditional boat racing alive.
Grenada has much of the beauty of Dominica and is more developed. The cruising community here is strong because Grenada is considered safe during hurricane season. Cruisers hole up here for months at a time. There are activities every day to join in. But the best part of Grenada is its smaller sister island north, Carriacou. Carriacou has only one major town, Hillsborough. Tyrrel Bay is just around the corner and a well-protected bay where cruisers hang out. There are small bars and restaurants in Tyrrel Bay and the surrounding area. We just fell in love with the place. It is partly due to the camaraderie of other cruisers we met there.
After being there for one week, we knew about 40 people who attended Joanne's birthday party at Slipway. The Slipway restaurant charged $5 per person for a grilled chicken quarter. The rest of the meal was pot luck and beer was the typical $1.20. We engaged in “noodling” water aerobics MWF and extensive hikes on other days. The local boat yard was busy repairing the wooden fishing boats built on the island. It was amazing to watch skilled craftsmen remove rotten planks, fit new ones in place, caulk, paint and launch the boat in a matter of days. When it came time to paint Uproar's bottom, I knew exactly which craftsmen I wanted working on my boat. I had the bottom done twice there (under the paint company's warrantee). They did a great job.
Carriacou does not have the dramatic topography of Dominica but has breathtaking vistas. It is surrounded by some beautiful islands with passages between. There is a variety of terrain not found on most islands. There are black sand beaches, moon rock beaches, perfect sandy beaches (Sandy Island), pastures and woodlands. We love the hiking. Scottish immigrants built famous boats in Windward several hundred years ago, a small, remote village. Their descendants mixed with the African slaves. They still build wooden boats in Windward and love to show their work with a twinkle of their green eyes. The movie “Vanishing Sail” is a must-see documentary of these people.
Carriacou has some fantastic snorkeling, especially off Sandy Island. We spent many weeks in Tyrrel Bay and would occasionally go on “vacation” sailing the 4 miles to Sandy Island for the weekend. We also loved biking on Carriacou. Traffic is not bad and the roads are OK. There are mini-stores all along the island to stop for a coke and chat. Most of all, the people of Carriacou are just the best. We found everyone hospitable in the Caribbean but really got to know local people in Carriacou. I would ride my bike and be stopped by someone I had met briefly a year ago, just to say hi. I had to stop and visit with friends everywhere. Not just to say hello but to have a bit of a conversation.
So here is the summary. Dominica is the most beautiful. The people here are welcoming and help you to enjoy their island paradise. Guadeloupe has a lot of variety in landscape and endless possibilities to explore. The French culture is a real plus for food, rum and wine. Grenada has it all but the corner of Grenada that really drew me in was Carriacou. I felt like part of the community among cruisers and locals. On balance, Carriacou is my favorite island in the Caribbean. You won't find it mentioned in any guide book. I would not suggest booking a flight to vacation there. But if you are sailing in the Caribbean and in no hurry, visit Carriacou and you will absorb its charms. Oh, and we sure enjoyed the Carriacou Regatta which we won twice!
Boeuf Savage, Manta Rays and Vanilla Beans
05 July 2018
Boeuf Savage, Manta Rays and Vanilla Beans
That sums up our day in Bay Hooumi, Nuku Hiva. Well not just that but Robben Ford is singing a kicking blues song, “Buy You a Chevrolet.” Why not a Mustang?
A few weeks ago we met “Debonair” a beautiful ketch from San Francisco sailed by Jason, Caitlin and their children, Arlo. 14 and Ulma, 11. We hung out with them in Hakahau where we enjoyed the outrigger canoe club training center. Debonair is a beautiful wooden ketch, a sister ship to the boat Caitlin and her family cruised on when she was a little girl. Look up their blog: www.ayearandaday.net
While Caitlin is a vegetarian, they told us about their encounter with Christian in Hooumi and his hunting exploits. Christian picked them up as they were hiking and later conversations led to the fact that he is an avid hunter.
Boeuf savage means wild beef. Christian and many on Nuku Hiva are hunters. These islands had hundreds of thousands of residents before the Spanish and French brought first world plagues ashore. Now there are only about 4,000 residents on Nuku Hiva and plenty of animals. Cattle have become wild for the taking, as well as wild boars and goats. Hunters have Pit Bull mix dogs to help them hunt.
We tracked Christian to his house and we were told he would return around 5 pm. Lisa and I dinghied out to Uproar from their beautiful beach and returned around 5. We found him easily. There are only about five houses here. He immediately took us to his house and brought us a big stalk of bananas. From his freezer he produced two huge hunks of boeuf savage. One was a filet and one a rump. He made it clear that it was a gift but I insisted that he take the 1,000 PF ($10) I had in my pocket. Not bad for 15 pounds of beef.
At the beach he introduced us to his wife and 1 year old daughter. Also his pack of five hunting dogs including an adorable puppy. He showed us tusk scars wild boar had inflicted on his prize hunting dogs. They were beautiful and well behaved animals.
Lisa and I packed the meat into Uproar's commodious freezer and spent the evening with Robert, French cruiser showing us his favorite spots in French Polynesia on our charts and sharing numerous bottles of wine and Wahoo for dinner.
The next morning we dinghied a few miles to Taipivai, the village that inspired Melville's Typee, a somewhat embellished account of his escape here from a tyrannical whaling boat skipper mid 1800's.
We hiked through the village to a sign we had previously seen about a vanilla bean farm. It was a steep path to the farm and we were met by a delightful lady and her five year-old daughter. She showed us a small patch of vanilla beans growing but they had a much larger patch up in the mountains. Who has ever seen the culture of these ubiquitous beans? Now we have.
Vanilla are actual an orchid plant. They first plant trees that support the vines and provide shade. Coconut husks provide mulch, orchids don't need soil. The vines grow up into the trees, about five feet tall, back down to the ground and weave about five times between ground and trees. Flowers need to be hand fertilized as the bees who do this work on Madagascar are not available in Nuku Hiva. She showed us how a sliver of bamboo can open up the pollen sack and “marry” it to the rest of the flower. If this is not done, no vanilla bean!
Well, we bought a few dried beans and enjoyed the lovely site, above the fertile valley. Next we hiked to an archaeological site of a ceremonial grounds. We had seen others but this was an un-restored site, high up in the mountain. That will get your heart pumping! Someone had groomed the weeds around the Pae Pae, stone platformsand Tikis. Everywhere in Marquesas the grounds are manicured. We even found the pit where they kept prisoners prior to human sacrifices.
Back to the dinghy and we were in for a surprise. The river we dinghied up was at low tide and quite shallow. We had to get out and drag the dinghy in the shallow spots. Unfortunately, our sandals didn't provide complete protection from the barnacles. I received a good slash on my big toe and Lisa had a cut as well. Finally we were able to motor out into the bay but the dinghy was pink with blood.
We noticed a strange disturbance in the water ahead. It didn't take long for us to recognize this as a school of Manta Rays! They were everywhere. We shut off the engine and drifted in their midst. There were dozens of them, circling and scooping up the krill they consumed. Luckily they came right up to our dinghy and we got a few photos. Nothing can compare to our delight at witnessing these gentle giants. Some were at least eight feet across! We drifted breathlessly and watched them circle around us. This was a new and impressive encounter with our fellow sea creatures.
Back on Uproar we returned to domestic cruising live. We fired up the engine and watermaker, a basic need. Reggae music on the sound system fulfilled another basic need. Boeuf savage was partially thawed and cut into eight chunks for vacuum packing except for one chunk that went into the Le Creuset pot for dinner. Carrots, onions, garlic, mushrooms, red wine, thyme and bay leaves accompanied it.
We are the only boat in this bay. I showered off the stern with little concern for protocol. Wine, stars, blues music and finally an aromatic boeuf bourgogne completed our evening. This writing is complete, time for bed.