Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Hop, Skip, and Jump Passage

This passage from St Martin to Grenada feels like a hop, skip, and jump trip
1:30 AM I am feeling reflective this morning...
The nightly east winds fills our sail and propels us gently through the flat seas. The water parts at the bow and runs down along the port and starboard side sending hundreds of glistening bits of luminescence out on the surface of our wake. Above, the sky is cloudless. To the northwest the Big Dipper is tilting down and almost touching the dark horizon. In the south the false cross and the southern cross confirms we are still on course. Off to the east the lights of landbase civilization illuminate the outlines of the islands of Mustique, Canouan, and 3 others as well as the various reef makers we are careful to avoid. A cathedral like dome of constellations hang overhead and are crystal bright as are the major planets. Makes one humble, calm, and grateful in the presence of such magnificent energy. DMYABKY
2:40 AM...The moon finally appears in the Eastern sky, a crescent yellow slice rising above the tiara of lights crowning the island below. The Milky Way is a swirl of mist dotted with dimensional glowing globes. There are no other ships out tonight, and we are the sole sailors seeing this night at this position.
3:21 AM I just found the "skip" in our trip...
Our navigational charts SHOW the semi-active new underwater volcano at 213 degrees, but our Chris Doyle guide says it is at 233 degrees and we need to be 1.5 to 5 nautical miles off of it. I see our course is set for 227 degrees--luckily we are hours away and when Dave awakes for his shift, I'll point out the hot bath we want to avoid taking.
4:38 AM Now we are headed to 216 degrees, a shift in current? Dave will be up within the hour luckily! Plenty of time to set a different course. Made it pass and not even a sign of the underwater giant.
8:33 AM We are in the waters around Grenada this morning and near the end of this passage. Where we stop today we can jump ino the water and swim. The passage started in St. Martin, with an overnight stop in Guadalupe,an equipment stop in Martinique, and a finish line of Grenada. We blew through the leeward islands as well as the windward islands only getting a taste of what is yet to come. The sailing has been fantastic, the winds and seas very kind, and Dave loves the silence of the motor.
Weather is coming early next week and we may sit it out in Grenada if we haven't met any other boaters going to Trinidad by Monday. Grenada is the kind of place where people stay for a LONG time, so much to do and see. The morning net is famous for its a la carte menu of organized activities and helpful information. They start early at 7:30 AM so we will have to set the alarm clock to listen in and get the reports. We would have loved to stay here but our insurance prefers Trinidad, we are told, so one more passage is in our future before we haul Jammin and get her ready for a summer of resting and hopefully not so much rusting as last summer/fall.
P.S. Our ham radio e-mail finally kicked in and started receiving and sending Friday night around 9PM. We appreciated catching up with all the messages and positive support sent by all of you out there.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Heading for Grenada

We officially left Martinique last night to avoid the, "Never leave port on a Friday" curse...
Friday, 5:40 PM:
We are sort of heading south.
We left Martinique this morning with a fixed Pactor Modem. A local Icom, Pactor dealer was able to find a loose wire in the cable and had me up and running last night at 6. The only problem is I have had terrible propagation and no e-mails are going out or coming in. Could be an antennae problem with the same corrosion I have been having trouble with all year. Anyway it should be working and we will keep trying to send this message out. We have loved the French Islands and hope to spend more time there next year. Not very many of the people speak English though, so ordering anything other than a beer has been sometimes a challenge. The coast of St Lucia looks amazing. We look forward to next season every time we look at those beautiful sandy beaches. We are skipping pretty much everything to make sure we don't have trouble getting to Trinidad. At least the weather looks good to get to Grenada.
Now the sort of heading south issue...
The channel between St Lucia and St Vincent has a HELLISH cross current. Under full sail I could only go 2.2 knots. My boat was pointing 150 degrees and my COG was 197. Didn't really pay much attention to it till Helen (with the setting sun in her eyes) said, "What big island is on the right of St Vincent?",oops. My chart plotters were showing St Vincent on our left and us missing the island by 8 to ten miles on the west side. Surprise to us, we were crabbing across the top of the island. Would have really been a surprise at night--no towns or lights on the north end to our knowledge. We are now going 6.5 knts and almost in the right direction. And the sun hasn't set yet. We should make Grenada some time in the afternoon. We Hope.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Adapting to Cultural Differences

Well, we have been in the French islands for a few weeks and have been disappointed with the lack of any "Happy Hour" bars or parties on boats around us. What is up here, was our reaction...then we paused and thought we are in France, we are where they drink wine, we are where wine is part of lunch and they take a 2-3 hour lunch break. Wait, they are smarter than us--their Happy Hour starts at noon and we need to get aboard this stand of thinking! So with that in mind Dave's grocery shopping list of late starts with wine,bread, cheese, and the other stuff. We are adapting to these cultural differences and finding an afternoon nap helps after lunch with wine. Another adaptation is the money exchange rate. To accommodate this difference Dave is calling the EU and US dollar a straight exchange rate. He believes he is paying $2-3 dollars for wine and $5.30 (which is roughly $7.50/gallon) for diesel. We heard gas and diesel is over $4.00 gallon in the states and thought that was high.
We are still without our ham radio, without internet, without e-mail and the local Wifi provider has been out every time we have tried his services. However, each day out at anchor we get on for less than 10 minutes at a time and with luck this will go out today, Thursday, May 26.
P.S. Dave is working on a new concept "Cruiser Trawler Extended Care". he see a wide open market for this service. More later.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Monserrat to Martinique

May 18, 2011 From Montserrat to Martinique

No volcano action, thank goodness…but no engine action, ARRUGH!

After sending the post on our night passage, the morning started but the engine wouldn't. Dave got the tools out, and four hours later he had installed an additional fuel pump and we were up and running. I had plenty of time to get pictures of the volcano while we cut cookies in the passage. The engine ran until we were entering the anchorage of Anse La Barque on the west coast of Guadeloupe. Fuel issues? We weren't sure what was up but we circled around, got it to start again and dropped anchor. This anchorage was a working man's niche and big enough for 5 small boats. We were number 5. In the morning we woke and set sail for the islands at the tip of Guadeloupe called Iles des Saintes.
As we dropped our sail, to enter the harbor of Terre-de-Haut, Iles des Saintes, we were caught between a rock and the shore when a squall hit, the motor quit again, and the rain poured sideways due to the squally winds. We do make dramatic entrances these days. We missed the rock, the other rock, the ferries, and found a place to legally drop the anchor--not breaking any laws.
Then the rainbow (figuratively speaking) appeared in the sky.
What a find! The French atmosphere, the snug harbor, the bakery, the restaurants, and Dave's birthday was off to a great start. Our neighbors were Canadian, American, and a sinking working boat. The water was crystal clear and rolly (due to the 3 ferry lines that dropped or picked up passengers every few hours) but the scenery was worth the price of the rolling. We checked the internet and Dave had received one birthday wish. The morning was off to a good start so we headed to town. We met Steve who had a loaf of French bread in hand so we knew we could ask him for food recommendations. He suggested a few places for Dave's birthday lunch. A short walk took us to one end of the town and after turning around we headed towards lunch up and over the hill. Dave ordered the smoke fish salad, I had the Greek lamb and of course a dessert. We were overlooking the bay and the sun shined all day.
Upon returning to the boat, we discovered internet was no longer working-a single side band equipment failure not within our ability to fix. We set up my laptop to take to town so we could let people know we would be in-between communications when not on land. After accomplishing this task, we met Steve's wife, Anne and other boaters-Daniell's Storey and Artic Tern. They had hiked over to the fort. Day three brought a cloud burst and while hiding from the shower we met Highheeled, a boat from Canada. The meeting ran over into lunch and a great time was had by all. We then found internet ($7.50 per hour), checked in with the family, and read all of Dave's birthday messages. Sunday we left, but we will be back next year as there was much to see and do that we missed.
The sails went up and we were headed to Le Marin, Martinique. Our course took us pass Dominica, which is incredibly gorgeous and we will be spending time there next season. The motor is working, the fuel looks good, and we are eating our way through the islands still.

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Heading to Martinique

May 24, Martinique

Hot, Hot, Hot is the name of the local internet supplier and we are feeling the HOT, HOT, HOT love of Martinique. It's 90 degrees inside the boat and the sun is shining at high noon. Dave is shopping for the fifth time in two days for treats and just asked for more money-this time its for more cheeses and rum. Dave is getting the hang of the food names and returns from each excursion needing to look up more words. Quiche for dinner served with salad, bread, cheese and fruit, to compliment two different French wines that he watched local people buy in large quantities -pretty smart move we hope.
Le Marin, Martinique is a slice of France in mood and design. Everyone is laid back but at the same time passionate about their ideas and opinions. You listen to conversations and hear the emotions rise and fall. They speak of weather, the expense of things, and that's about as far as my French gets me.
Art work abounds everywhere; no opportunity to display art is missed--even in the multicolor metal poles that run up and down the streets.
Yesterday we took the ham radio in, hopefully to be repaired, so we can once again send and receive internet emails. He said to return on Thursday-fingers are crossed. In the meantime one café has internet. Off we went this morning for croissants and espresso with an internet connection and we ended up with the pastry and coffee-no internet this morning. No reason why, just a shrug and a mention of maybe later in the day from the waitress. They also serve cold beer so we will try around 4 for a connection. (Post script: no internet, no joy, but good cold beer)
Tomorrow we will spin around the corner to one of the three beaches with exclusive hotels beyond the sand. It's been awhile since we have been able to snorkel or soak in the ocean salt. Next week we will head for Grenada and hope to meet other boats heading to Trinidad. June 15th, our departure date, is creeping closer and closer.

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The Saints to Guadeloupe

With the rising sun off our port side, we pulled anchor and left St Martin this morning. All day we have been riding on the wind and surfing down the 3-6(daytime)4-10 foot(night time) waves past various saints--St Martin, Sint Maarten, St Eusatatius, St. Kitts. The boat lunges forward, then dips down to the left and lifts up to the right. Quite a dance step we are doing with extreme dips and lifts at uneven intervals while maintaining a tilt of 15 degrees. And so, as the sun set on Nevis tonight we are headed towards Montserrat.
In about an hour or so we will be in line with the famous volcano. The course one takes keeps you out of the ash zone so your sails don't get toasted by the ashes. I have heard that you will smell the volcano well before you see it with the right wind, and tonight the wind is coming from the southwest where the activity is on the island...more later, I need to check radar, the charts, and give the horizon a visual check right now.
All is safe and sound--no ships, same waves, same wind, and the smell of Montserrat is in the air. The north end of the island is visible and contains most of the existing population as well as the new airport. The lights on shore are thick and clear so there must not be too much smoke in the air. Clouds keep covering the full moon but I am hopeful that we will get a view of the volcano when we pass...
12:40 AM I see a huge bank of lights on shore and they appear to be yellow or orange...and I just read an excerpt from my book, An Embarrassment of Mangoes, about the daily color codes used for volcanic action. Volcanic alerts are given daily by the Montserrat Volcano Observatory, ranging from green(quiet), yellow, orange(eruption possible within 24 hours), to red(eruption may begin without further warning or is in progress). I wonder what the alert was for today? Boats are advised to stay 10 miles clear, and our course is set for 12 miles. I'm going with the thought that those were indeed YELLOW lights.
1:20 AM The night sky has high wispy clouds until you look at the bottom half of the island. From the horizon up there is a large billowing cloud rolling and growing wider. Dave woke up and watched it dissipate with me. Our winds are now kicking up to 27-30 with gusts of 33. He has the main up and we are bucking a current, making only 3.8-4 knots. As time moves forward the lights on the island get dimmer, the cloud must be moving forward as well.
2 AM We are at 16 degrees 41" N, 62 degrees 26 W and I can see very little of anything. The moon has been buried into the cloud coverage, the island has dimmed to almost nothing, but the winds have picked up to 35-37 and we are reefing the sails and holding on. Yeeha!
4:40 AM O.K. Dave got drenched at least 8 times, me just 3 times. Squally winds caught us and have been swish swashing us like a washing machine for almost 3 hours. It has calmed down to 3-8 foot swells, a few seconds apart, and the wind has slowed down. We can finally get a look again at the volcano, Dave says, in about an hour when the sun rises. I'm thinking the heck with that I want some sleep without the bounce effect that lifts me off the cushion every 3-6 seconds.
Hope you all got a great night sleep, we will be catching some quality winks when we drop anchor around noon today in Guadeloupe.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

May in the Tropics

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Here the flowers are blooming, the rain is falling, the sun is shining, and the humidity is building to match the temperatures of 85-90--normal conditions in this part of the world. Yet unlike home in Oregon, things are winding down rather than up. This is the end of the season, when the businesses and shop clear stock and prepare for a slow summer. Dave took his boat repair lists and shopped like it was Christmas; the boat is one lucky lady and we are a few thousand dollars poorer. The to-do list is now 3 pages long. No, Dave is not ready to go to work…it is mostly for his return in November.
So what’s been happening since the last up-date?
We were lucky enough to meet up with Shirley and John from Solstice in St. John, USVI and spent some time getting jazzed up to follow their path and cruise in Europe in a few years. We had not seen them since 2007 in Mexico. After that we waited in St. Thomas, USVI to rendezvous
With Joan and Ted on Panchita. We had not seen them in 17 months. They arrived with Joan’s brother Craig and his wife Mary. Both visits were too short yet our paths will cross again.
What great timing—it was Carnival in St. Thomas and we made it to two of the parades. The first was the Children’s Parade with the dancers, twirlers, marching bands, and trucks loaded with super sized speakers preceding each group. We are talking 14-20 2 feet by 4 feet and bigger! The next day was the Adult Parade which started at 11 and ended at 5 PM. People parked and camped out on the parade route, bringing their grills and chairs. Some backed their truck beds up to the path and had coolers of beer and soft drinks to sell with food hot off their grills…no permits needed.
We took pictures of the participants who came in all sizes, shapes, and ages. The colorful costumes reminded us of exotic birds and the brilliant colors used in the Caribbean were everywhere. The elaborate head gear and rolling skirts were the leaders in most case announcing the arrival of groups or in some case following…perhaps they were returning from the “refreshment trucks” (that followed each group)loaded with ice, juice, booze, wine and water. Most participants were well infused with their favorite drink by the first ¼ mile as they had been waiting to start for hours in some cases. One refreshment truck was decorated as a Tiki Bar—how appropriate.
Steel drum bands performed being towed by one single truck pulling 3-4 trailers of double decked musicians—OSHA would have had a fit! Bands from other islands (that have cut CD’s) performed on truck beds and local fan club members dressed up in costumes followed the bands while dancing to the music and “refreshing” themselves. The Zulu tribe is always a crowd favorite and fierce warriors they were. Dave’s favorite is the stilt people who had to keep moving in order to not fall. It was a great day and Dave saw it all.
At 9 PM the firework show started and we were moved by the elaborate display. Some of the rockets sent our showers of light that we had never seen elsewhere. A local, named Karen, had given us special glasses that broke the lights into prisms of colors and that enhanced our experience 10 fold. Following the light show was a band festival of Calypso music that went until early in the morning. The night before was the Battle of the Contemporary Bands that went until 3 AM, and the day before that was the 4 AM to 9 ish Jump Up Music Parade of thousands grooving and singing down the waterfront—that one we missed.
With Carnival over, it was time to make our goodbyes and head out to sea. So we bit the chain, raised the anchor and traveled 105 miles to St. Martin, the French side of the island. And a miracle occurred…nothing broke or failed, a first in two years.
Today we ate French pastries, last night Happy Hour at the Sint Maarten Yacht Club, dinner on the waterfront (a four course French dinner with a Banana Rum liqueur after dessert), and tonight we are raiding the freezer to balance the food budget. A weather event arrived at 5 PM and the dark clouds gave the boat a nice bath just as Happy Hour was starting in the lagoon. So instead of socializing we are hunkered down listening to Time Life Legend Ultimate Rock Collection of 300 songs and just limin’ the evening away. Life her is a blend of French and Dutch, depending on the side of the island you are on at the time.
So where are we headed next?
We might end up stopping in Antigua, Guadeloupe, The Saints, and Martinique before landing in Grenada. We will be by passing many islands that we plan to catch on the way back up next January. Ultimately though, we will end the season in Trinidad with a haul out date of June 10th and plane reservations for June 15th back to the states. We are looking forward to seeing friends, family and solid land this summer and fall.
Hope to see you all!
Until later our best thoughts and prayers to all of you out there.