Paradise Found!

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We found paradise! Of course, this journey has taken us thousands of miles to many islands…. some of more fame and fortune than others. We have seen poverty and prosperity cohabitate on many of these countries. But, until we made it to the Grenadines, we had not appreciated the West Indies Caribbean atmosphere. We were back to island hopping, like the wonderful time spent in the Bahamas, appreciating the warm blue waters and now golden and white sand beaches.

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Palm island is situated just a morning sail South of the beautiful Tobago Cays archipegalo and within view of Union Island. April 20, (OK , OK! I’m catching up….or maybe making this trip last as long as my summer back in the USA???) we make lunchtime anchorage just off Palm on a bright afternoon. This island is actually a private resort, but will allow cruisers to come ashore, buy a beer, and enjoy the beach. So, after a brief lunch we ventured out in the dinghy for a snorkel and stop at the beach. This was nearly the most beautiful sand beach where the water dropped off quickly into a pool like environment. We lingered in the coolness, then made our way around the small island for our beach walk where we encountered resorters relaxing along the waters edge. We would make a return here several times before we exhausted the beauty.

 

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That night proved to be quite rolly at anchor. Our friends on Northbound informed us that they would be moving to Union in hopes of a day or 2 settled nights. You see there are varying degrees of “rolly” and depending on your location at an anchorage you might be making a fore and aft roll ( kinda like rocking chair motion) or the starboard-portside roll (similar to the action on a hammock in full motion). However, severe action in either direction can promote sleepless nights. There were nights that I had to prop pillows on either side to prevent from rolling into Mike.

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We hesitated making the move as we felt comfortable but showed up the next day at Union to give it a try. We were greeted by the local boat boys that are trying to “sell” their moorings (a mere $60 per night! – quite the most expensive we found anywhere-and no that didn’t include a 4 course dinner, bottle of wine, or even a couple of mangoes!); we had just planned an overnight and easily found a place to anchor outside the mooring field on our own accord. We were sort of hassled about this and made the decision we didn’t feel quite welcome and wouldn’t stay the night.

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Our plans were to obtain some fresh supplies and head out for Petite St Vincent and Cariacou in the next day or two. We were greeted by eager fisherman at the dock carrying their catch in hopes of selling to early morning customers. Just a “no thank you” and a smile, sent these kind souls off without a bother. As we approached the many establishments (t shirt shops, bakeries, and bars), we observed the concrete streets were littered with locals and cruisers with the same intent.

We made a quick trip stopping at the numerous fresh market stands trying to find cilantro (for the ceviche and fish tacos) but ended up only finding some fresh lettuce (a commodity!), tomatoes and our new favorite fruit …delicious mangoes! Our tour of the town was short-lived as the day was hot…no, it was literally scorching with little wind present to cool the skin. However accustomed to this, we made tracks back to the boat so we could pull anchor and head back to Palm Island, just a jump across the bay, and we were back on our favorite beach. We had also found a great reef for snorkeling and lobster hunting. It was see and not touch in this part of the Grenadines…no harvesting of lobsters allowed.

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It’s late morning and we have weighed anchor and set our sails for the Grenadines of Petit St Vincent and Petite Martinique. The day is spectacular for sailing, however quite a short 4 NM trip. We make our way through the Martinique channel south to Crazy Corrigan’s Crooked Passage to an anchorage situated between Petit St. Vincent and Petit Martinique. There are a few other boats here as we anchor facing the East.

IMG_0383There is a nice Caribbean breeze that keeps us cool (with the dodger open and all the hatches open) for our afternoon lunch before making a journey ashore. Again, this island is a private resort, but we are welcome to tarry along the beach, just not venture far into the resort facilities. We meet other cruiser families also making this afternoon excursion.   The following morning we have made plans to visit one of the world’s smallest island, Mopion.

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We are eager to get out to this snorkeling island and investigate this tiny speck of sand that gets the designation of island because of the permanent umbrella structure. Our gear is loaded into the dinghy, we have made radio contact with our friends on Northbound and are ready for adventure.

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We are able to anchor in shallow waters just outside the reef surrounding the island without difficulty. Snorkeling gear intact and camera ready we are overboard. The water is warm and so clear. It is quite reminiscent of the Bahamas waters we left so many months ago. The reef makes turns and twists, some so shallow I suck in my breath in hope of not scraping the coral. We all find our way through different shallow trenches observing the aquatic life below. There are many coral fishes, lobster, crabs, eel, and octopus! At first I see this body that is camouflaged against the brown and grey ocean bottom, but as I dive for a closer look it begins to move in that characteristic tentacle fluid wave. He (or quite possibly she) hides safely under the coral.

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We all find our way to the small sand island for a mid morning rest. This place is so interesting we spend the next 2 hours just exploring and swimming. The water is warm and the ocean life so interesting and abundant! Soon, our privacy is invaded by other explorers and we make tracks back to the boat for our lunch and siesta.

We spend the next morning confronting the reality that in 3 weeks we will be hauling out in Grenada. (can’t believe it!) We begin the task of unearthing all the extra clothes and some gear we have not used this winter in preparation for transport back to the states. Did we really think we would need 5 pairs of long pants, 4 heavy fleece sweatshirts, 2 jackets…including our foulies? Our intent is to pack away a few things every couple of days to keep on schedule. We know we will have our hands full those last few days de-rigging the boat and so getting a start feels good this day. Our end of day swim finds us at the Petit St. Vincent beach, feet in the warm sand, gentle sway of the ocean waters. We have an encounter with the concierge at the resort and he entices us with a lobster dinner…..4 pound lobsters..enormous creatures! We decline the price, but are encouraged that these edibles are local!

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Next up Cariacou and final destination Grenada!

Regatta Time!!!

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Saturday morning and its partly cloudy, there is a breeze out of the East (those are trade winds or “trades” as they are referred to here. It is the consistent and sometimes spirited wind that continuously flows through this region of the Caribbean). We are having coffee anticipating the 9 o’clock start of the Bequia Easter Regatta! We awake to find that the racing staff have placed the first turn bouys nearly right off the port side of the boat. Little did we know upon anchoring the day before that we would have front row seats at the start of the Regatta racing weekend!

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We see boats of all classes out at 0730 testing the wind and warming up the crew with tacks in the outer bay. By 0855 they are lined up for the first class start. Horns blast and they jockey for the wind and best position on the tack toward the first turn.

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There are usually experienced boats and locals that come every year in the various classes. It was so much fun to watch each boat pass, some making good speed and others who lose the wind or need to change course to avoid collisions. We cheered them on as they passed (some a bit closer than others) and enjoyed watching the different tactics. There was (what appeared to be) a very close call at the first turn in the cruising class, where this enormous yacht and several other smaller sailboats were trying to make the same tack. Then as they made the turn from heading into the wind, East , to heading downwind Westerly, we watched as they deployed the spinnakers (some with better precision than others). Spinnakers are huge downwind sails that literally push the boat into forward propulsion. They are usually brightly decorated very lightweight sails, not unlike a parachute. They are sometimes called “cruising-chutes”. There were several classes of sailboats that had separate starts we were able to watch all following the same course.

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The race would take them a few hours offshore and to the other 2 turns before they would head back to the finish (essentially the start line). By 12 pm we started hearing the horns blast and watched as each one came across the finish line, trying to determine if our favorites had won.

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That evening we took the dinghy in to the race headquarters with the Northbound crew, Jacques and Sheila ,to see the race results. We were invited by a race official and chap who lives on the island to stay for free rum and beer during the awards presentation. And we did just that! Maybe someday we will have our act together enough to enter in the cruising class for fun.

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Bequia is a beautiful island and we found all of the people to be extremely nice and helpful during our short stay. We would continue to make tracks the following day, Easter Sunday to Canouan, just south of Bequia.

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No Easter Bunny or hidden eggs this morning. The sunrise across the glistening water gave us reason to bear silent thanks for sacrifices, beyond which we can fathom.

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We woke to bright skies which turn to partial clouds in that reliable blue water, and the perfect sailing breeze. We were off before the 9 AM start of that days regatta races. Canouan would be a short 2-hour sail , a place where we would hope for good snorkeling. Lost Loon had a perfect sail with an average 6 knots in 12-15 knots of wind on the beam. We arrived at Charlestown Bay at high noon, bright skies and sweltering heat, like we had not experienced. (we had been told weeks ago…”it just gets warmer, then hot…I think we found it!”. We had anchored easily in 15 ft of water a bit offshore, as we heard that there were likely crimes for those taking up residence closer. We had unfortunately, had put ourselves out of the natural trade-wind. Our friends on Northbound were the first to make a move. After brief contact on the VHF after they anchored, they reassured us there was a cooling breeze.

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We were soon on our way as well. It wasn’t very far, around the coral headland about a quarter mile or so, and this time 20 ft of water, but a very little bit of breeze with the temp at 90 degrees made a huge difference. It wasn’t long before we had dinghies in the water and were headed out for snorkeling. Our ulterior motive was to find lobster, for this was one of a few of the locations in the Grenadines that we were allowed to hunt for them. We spent nearly 2 hours on our search. We found one fully inhabited lobster dwelling after another. Sometimes they were sitting 2 or 3 upon one another! The fishing rules do not allow for any breathing apparatus except snorkel, so we relied on our healthy lungs to take us 12-15 ft, with just a snare to first locate the perfect specimen, position the snare and then quickly tighten it around the carpace. We obtained only 3 or 4 that day. The water was a bit stirred up and murky (well at least that would be excuse we told ourselves). It wasn’t the prettiest reef we encountered on the trip, but with some good sailing friends we had a great time. Our afternoon took us to shore to investigate the island. We landed the dinghy at Tamarind Bay resort and made our way shore and found only a handful of staff about. It was very desolate this Easter Sunday. We decided to walk further toward the road and “into the town” but only found a few locals, some goats, and friendly stray dogs. It was mighty hot as well and since we didn’t find even a local bar open, we didn’t tarry long. However the Tamarind was a private resort (and quite exclusive from magazine advertisements we had seen), we were invited to stay and have a cocktail. We found some very comfy chairs under a palm-roofed hut, overlooking the water and watched the late afternoon sun begin to set.

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The discussion that evening was to leave the following morning for the Tobago Cays. A trip that would be less than 5 nautical miles, but a place touted as the “Bahama-waters of the West Indies”! As we were making our way back to the dinghies, we began to see resort inhabitants appear (likely from their luxurious and cool accommodations) for cocktails and dinner. We, however, retired to a cool breeze and gentle rock of the westerly swell that night.

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Tobago Cays and more of the Grenadines are next.

 

St Vincent and the Grenadines, Windlass worries, and the perfect night sail….

 

 

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After nearly 4 months at sea, we now take for granted the presence of blue peaceful waters that surround our winter home here in the Caribbean. We awaken to sounds of water lapping at the sides of the boat, dinghy motors transporting other sailors to shore for provisions or land activities, seagulls calling their cohorts in the morning fishing expeditions, or the distant cackle of a rooster. Most days we are quickly alert to the responsibilities of the day and set in motion the tasks at hand before the heat of the afternoon takes hold. Today is different as we are leaving Martinique for St Vincent and the Grenadines.

This is a cruising area that extends south from St Vincent, through the islands of Bequia, Mustique Canouan, Mayreau, Union, Palm, and Petite St Vincent (to name a few main ones).

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These are destinations we have seen in the sailing magazines touting empty sand beaches and exquisite private resorts. It is our intention to skip through to see as many as we can. When we first started our voyage in last November, this area seemed foreign to us, and so far away. Honestly we were not sure that we had enough time to arrive here this Winter. So, we are excited like Christmas morning, not only to have made it this far, but to be fortunate to see some parts of the remote Caribbean.

We have premeditated this trip over a few glasses of wine and relaxing afternoons on the beach with our new friends on the sailing vessel, Northbound, from Canada. They too, have not come this far in their previous travels and share the anticipation.

 

We are leaving Martinique at 3 pm sharp for the Grenadines. (it became quite a joke with our friends on Northbound, because Mike and I were usually ready and “chomping at the bit” 15-20 minutes before our intended departure). We have done our provisioning and unsuccessfully located propane parts. We have some difficulty with the anchor. As I am running the windlass she conks out. I try to communicate this with Mike at the helm. First, I use hand signals then speaking louder, but have to run back and reset the windlass switch below deck. This requires me to run the length of the boat, from the bow back to the cockpit and down the stairs to the nav station…and then return to the bow…(you know how it’s just faster to do it yourself?). She restarts and draws in the anchor, but stops again. This time Mike understands and resets the switch. This is frustrating and scary. The windlass is the powerhouse that releases and hauls up the anchor for us EVERYTIME we make a stop. It would be near impossible to retrieve this 25 kg Rocna anchor by hand. It is essentially a very sturdy electric winch that pays out the anchor chain. As I slowed it down, it seemed to behave better. I believe that we I had run it too continuously for the length of chain we had out. As soon as I started pausing to organize the chain in the bow locker, she worked fine. Finally, chain and anchor are secure and the bridle stowed, and we make our way on a southwest heading.   As we depart the Martinique anchorage in St Anne on this Good Friday, the sun is following its trajectory to the West and we begin our last night passage headed for Bequia. We are eager to arrive during the Easter holiday as we hope to see the Bequia Easter Regatta planned for the weekend. We have missed several Caribbean regattas (sailing races) on our travels sometimes by a day or 2.

 

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Sunset Good Friday

This overnight sail was by far the most awesome. I use that term definitively this time. In all the great twilight sails, we both agree this was the best. It was heralded by a beautiful sunset, relaxed seas, and nearly consistent winds (well at least until the early part of the next morning). By midnight we had settled into our watch schedule and had the good fortune to witness a truly “Starry, Starry Night.” The Southern Cross is a constellation that is usually only visible as one approaches the latitude of the equator. It has been made semi-famous by Jimmy Buffet and others in song. We had a longing to get a glimpse as we eased Lost Loon into these lower latitudes. I as arose from a brief subconscious state between sleep and wakefulness to take over the night-watch, Mike was excited to inform me he had found the Southern Cross (with the use of our iPad app Skyview). We spent the next few minutes waiting for the light clouds to part to see the four stars making the crucifix. It sat at a 45 degree angle along a line just above the horizon. You can be sure that we kept a watchful eye on this through the night, somewhat amazed. Our amazement was augmented by the fact that it was Good Friday.

As I took over the night watch, we had begun our sail past the island of St Lucia. (We have decided to pass by the islands of St Lucia and St Vincent at this time, leaving it for exploration on future excursions.) We were nearly 7 miles offshore, allowing enough leeway to avoid any local night traffic, I could decipher the lights of Rodney Bay, them Marigot, and finally Soufreire Bay. As we eased by Soufreire, both Petite and Grand Piton (“pee-tawn”) were evident to port with the moon casting its intermittent appearance against these well-known and quite impressive shore-side volcanic formations. We had slowed to a near 4 knots and I resisted putting the engine to work lest I break the magic of the night. With heightened awareness as one experiences during a night-time passage, I began to sense movement off to starboard (ocean side). It was out of my averted vision I could see something (or things) breaking the water. We have flying fish continually making their appearance alongside the boat and onto the deck at night so I initially thought that was what I was seeing. But as my vision sharpened, it was much larger fish…they were porpoises breaking the water in a dramatic display of frivolity. There were nearly 8 or 9 of them cresting and jumping while trying to match the speed of the boat under sail. For several minutes of shear bliss I had towering Pitons to port and flying mammals to starboard, under a perfectly moonlit night. And for a minute, I could have sworn I was hearing the theme song from the movie Chariot’s of Fire !!!  A moment I won’t soon forget.

As the porpoises returned to the open ocean, wherever they congregate, and we approached the southern tip of St Lucia headed more westerly to St Vincent the wind picked up and sails were adjusted. Within another 30 minutes, as we set our rhumb line along St Vincent the wind withered again, but this time varying between 3 and 4 knots. Adjusting the sails for the next half hour, to no avail our speed eventually dropped to 2.5 knots…essentially a standstill. I initiated the Yanmar. We would motorsail for another hour or so before the wind would pick up again and we could turn off the engine. I was retired to my bunk by then and remember feeling the gentle heel of the boat to leeward as I fell asleep again under Mike’s watch.

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By mornings light and as the coffee brewed, we had made nearly 65 miles and had the sights of the island of Bequia in the distance. We were headed to Admiralty Bay, which is a huge bay on the west and south side of the island. As the night had progressed we had kept in touch with our friends on Northbound slightly ahead of us. We lowered sails by 0830 am as we approached the bay and contacted Northbound upon our arrival and found a nice anchorage spot close to them just off Princess Margaret Bay.

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Bequia!
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Exploring ashore
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Customs House
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Local “Wildlife”

With Customs and Immigration check-in completed we relaxed with lunch and rewarding swim at the beach. Next UP REGATTA TIME!!!!

(PS Thanks for your patience….I continue to write and post…)

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Drama in the Tobago Cays!

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The clouds have moved out of  the anchorage, but there are brief moments of clouds. The wind has also picked up. It’s too windy to head out for a swim so we decide to go ashore for a hike.

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“Wait!” I say, totally surprised watching a nearby sailboat as they try to anchor. “Why is the genoa sail going out as they’re trying to anchor?” (Not a likely scenario, as sails are usually dropped or furled before making anchor.) But, sure enough we watch as the sail is releasing on its own and flapping downwind. As we watch from our dinghy we see there is only one person on deck (he was letting out the anchor) and from our vantage point in the dinghy, less than 100 yds away, we can see the confused look on his face (like “what the heck is happening?”) as he quickly brings the anchor back up. He then points to the furler line that has snapped, showing the captain at the wheel. They switch positions as the captain goes forward to try and figure out why it broke. The genoa is a big headsail, especially on this 47 ft boat and it is now snapping wildly in the wind. The sheets tied at the clew end, are snapping wildly and bound to crack someone violently that gets close, so the captain stays as low as he can going forward.

(Ok, here is where there are no pictures, camera crew was too busy…..use your imagination 🙂

The second mate is yelling something to the captain about where to go…It is then Mike and I realize that there is only one experienced sailor aboard and they need whatever assistance they can get. Trying to get this thing under control in an anchorage full of boats isn’t going to be easy. I turn to Mike and ask if he wants to try to board them. The boat is motoring slowly out of the anchorage, the only place to go, but there are scattered reefs at the entrance that must be avoided. I take over the control of the dinghy and we inch closer and closer to the sailboat, heading for the transom, the only footing that is plausible. I ease the dinghy in the shallow wake trying to match the speed of the sailboat, without going too fast to bump us off. We have to duck our heads to avoid injury as their dinghy is still hanging secure from the davits. I get Mike closer and for a split second just close enough for him to get a foot on their boat and a hand on a secure railing. I let off on the dinghy motor and float away from them. He takes over the wheel and I instantly see a look of relief on the second mate’s face. I also see a woman and 2 children aboard and they still have very concerned expressions. I hang back and watch as they motor slowly out of the anchorage, avoiding Horseshoe Reef to the north and Petite Rameau to the west.

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Aboard the sailboat, the captain is forward and trying fervently to rewind the line around the furler drum. This will allow him to then pull it out thus rolling in the sail. Given a bit of time, which always seems so desperate with mechanical malfunctions, the issue is resolved. The sailboat returns to the beautiful island reef fringed by the turquoise reef to finally anchor for the afternoon.

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Mike and I on Lost Loon had been at anchor for a day before this scenario took place. We did make it that afternoon to the top of Petit Batteau for a striking view of Horseshoe Reef anchorage. We walked back to the dinghy landing and sat for a while taking in the white sand, soft breeze and waving palms. Realizing as we had so many times on this trip how fortunate we are to see this part of the world from this vantage point.

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Tobago Cays is a small group of islands and reefs located just 5 nautical miles south of Canoun, our last anchorage. We had made the trip in a short hour the previous day. We found an abundance of turtles just under the boat and snorkeled on a small part of the reef. The best snorkeling was at a break in the reef, called dinghy pass.

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Incredible view looking south of Tobago Cays

We awoke early on another warm bright morning the day we were to leave for more of the Grenadine islands. We could see the snorkeling grounds past the boats in the anchorage. We made sure there were no early morning divers already occupying the area, leaving us a place to secure the dinghy. We postponed our coffee ritual, grabbed our gear and after negotiating some shallow water tied the dinghy to the dedicated dive buoy in 15 ft of water at the pass. The water coming in the pass had a bit of a swell to it, but once we were in the water we floated most effortlessly. We were snorkeling in beautiful gin-clear (love that term…why not vodka-clear, really?) water with an abundance of fish species by 0800! Aside from a scuba mask that now wanted to fog up on the right, causing me to have to stop and remove to clear it we enjoyed a great early morning swim. We came across a huge barracuda and a few small rays as well as numerous reef fishes. Parrots, angelfish, huge schools of the tiniest purple fish we have ever seen, puffers, and even some squirrel fish with their big red eyes peering out for dangers of the deep were on the move that morning. There were staghorn coral, huge vase-like coral and purple fans everywhere waving to us in the surge. It was a great way to start the day.

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Park Rangers getting mooring fees on our leaving day

We had plans to leave here for the island of Mayreau. We headed out the northern channel of the Tobago Cays staying north of Mayreau clearing the shallow reefs we made our approach past the idyllic beach anchorage of Salt Whistle Bay and down the western or leeward side of the island and Saline Bay.

14 Degrees N Latitude…Just a Bit Further South

We return to Guadeloupe from the US on April 8 after attending a wonderful wedding and seeing our kids again. (OK, by now y’all know were back, but now I have WIFI!!!!! So I will continue the journey…..)

We fly from Ft Lauderdale to Pointe-A-Pitre airport and arrive at 7pm. We had made arrangements at the time of our departure one week previous for a pick up. Our new friend Jordy, who runs a “location de voiture” (car rental) in Riveria Sens has agreed to provide us transport back to Lost Loon. He is on time and we are greeted with smiles, handshakes, and the traditional “faire le bise” or French cheek-kiss greeting! Oh how great it is to be back!! Our return trip takes about 1 hour and we arrive at the marina in the dark. We find the boat in great condition (aside from evidence that a pelican has perched on the mast L). We are tired and now since it is nearly 9pm the stores are closed, and we are too tired to head to a restaurant. We dine on cheese and crackers and retire in our comfortable bunk.

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We are awakened the following morning to that familiar sea breeze and the sounds of little voices in the boat that is docked next to ours. We arise and make our way to the cockpit to find 2 little boys, nearly the same age dressed in what appears to be pirate pajamas. Well, actually they are sharing one set, as one is wearing the black and white stripe shirt and the other wearing the matching pants. They are speaking French, but it is very obvious they are pretending to be pirates of their parents boat! They have a sword each and move about the deck of the boat onto the bow and up on the mainsail. They brandish their weapons as they jump off and swing down the halyards in Johnny Depp style. We watch and laugh with the parents also in their cockpit. Quite the greeting back to the Caribbean!

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The early part of the day is spent re-organizing in anticipation of the next leg of our journey to Martinique. By the afternoon, the heat is on and we decide to take a walk to cool off on the black sand beach. In the late afternoon, we walk to the market for fresh provisions and of course baguettes!

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The following day we are up early and make sure to check out of customs and pay our marina fees. As we motor out of the marina, the wind picks up and we are able to hoist the sails for a great afternoon sail. It will take us another overnight to get to Martinique, which is nearly 100 miles to the southeast. We have listened to the weather report for the morning and downloaded the GRIB files for the next 5 days to see a great weather window for the trip. We anticipate meeting up with some cruising friends on their sailboat Northbound upon our arrival.

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We have a spirited sail between the islands of Guadeloupe and finally pass the southeast part of Dominica, the next island south, by sunset. Again we plan out a tentative watch schedule for the night and settle into the sounds of water passing by the stern as the stars begin to appear.

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The seas are calm through most of the night and we are not troubled by many boats or freighters. We are lucky that we do not have to change our sail plan (the way the sails are arranged) as the wind stays at the 90 degrees to the beam of the boat all night. By morning light, we have passed nearly the entire island of Martinique as we plan on anchoring in the very south in St. Anne.

By noon we are securely anchored at 14 degrees N latitude and 60 degrees W longitude and see again the lovely red roof homes on the hillside of the bay. Despite the heat, we want to get checked into customs, so we deploy the dinghy and head for the little village. We quickly find the coffee shop to and the Customs Computer to get our Martinique papers. Once completed, we return to Lost Loon for a rest. We are back in the boat taking a cool drink and soon greeted by a visit from our friends on Northbound who want to take us to le Marin, another village, just a short ride by dinghy where there are marine shops and restaurants.

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We have a great lunch at PUNCH Bistrot with a to-die-for goat cheese salad and true paninis. After perusing the shops, we make a dash back to the boat for our swim suits and a trip to the beach. We are anchored behind several boats, but have a great view of the white sand beach of St Anne. This beach is also home to another all-inclusive Club Med resort. With the dinghy beached, we enjoy a late afternoon swim and stroll along the beach. No we are not envious of the resort-goers (however gorgeous this location is)…we have our floating resort which has taken us from one paradise to another this winter.

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It’s Palm Sunday and the plans are to hike to one of the islands most beautiful beaches. We complete morning boat chores, have coffee and discuss with our friends on the Hylass when they want to leave. We deposit ourselves and the dinghy on one of the dinghy landings and head in the direction along the shore according to our little cartoon map. The trail leads us out of the village , past a deserted resort, a beautiful do-it yourself laundry (Sidenote: I have become quite the laundry snob. Never in my life have I had to utilize public laundry so much. I look for a place with big enough machines that I’m not doing several loads, large dryers so EVERYTHING goes in together, and the machines have to be clean. Oh, if there is a fan in the laundry…that’s a plus! I have grown to appreciate having a personal laundry in my home all these years. )

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We continue our hike along the water and notice people along the water setting up tents. We stop one of the passersby and ask about camping. We are told that the weekend is just the start of the Easter week and people are getting their holiday spots set up.

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The music is playing loud and many of the locals are enjoying cool drinks in the shade of the hot day. We find out that the traditional meal for Easter in Martinique is crab! We se hundreds on our walk. They are everywhere…under the leaves, on the trail. The scurry with their watchful eyes backward and sideways.  A bit of more info I found in my search of this unique tradition can be found at AZMartinique.

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The ocean-side trail takes us nearly one hour and we arrive at Anse des Saline.

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Another expansive white sand beach…this one, however, is busy. There are kids flying kites, playing Frisbee, and families just hanging out in the shade of the tall palms that line the beach. Being a holiday, there was nary a spot for us to settle in the sand. We were relieved of the heat by a cool swim. We decide to return by road to get a feel for the landscape. WE walk along the road about 2 miles of the anticipated 5 and are stopped by the Gendarmerie (Martinique police). We are told in very good English that it is dangerous for us to walk the beach road on this day as many folks are drinking and we should be as far off the pavement as we can get. We make it back to St Anne, and along the way find fields and hills similar to parts of Wisconsin. There are goat farms and some cattle farms as well. Evening sets as arrive back at the boat.

We spend the next few days working on a few projects, looking for equipment and parts, replenishing our fresh water, and of course doing laundry.

The day of departure arrives and we need to again check out of customs, but find that on Wednesdays our little coffee shop in St Anne is closed. We must now take the dinghy to le Marin (about a 10 minute ride) and get our leaving papers. It provides us with the opportunity to stop one last time for fresh vegetables at the Leader Price grocer. It is early morning and we are also anticipating a coffee at McDonalds!! The controller on our propane system went haywire the evening before and we couldn’t make coffee on the boat. We split up as Mike also needed gasoline for the dinghy. I arrive at McDonalds at 0730, but it is closed! They don’t open until 9AM. What a bummer. Disappointed, but not out of ideas, I look around for another coffee shop…even the boulangerie-bakery doesn’t sell coffee! As the sun makes itself known to the day and I even think I would settle for cold coffee….I head over to the grocer and the employees are waiting for the doors to open at 8:00. Despite our frustration, we wait. We get our fresh produce and by the time we are through the line we figure McD’s is open. Another 5 minute walk and we are rewarded by a demitasse of Nespresso…..not exactly the big hot cup we were anticipating, but it’s caffeine at its finest! With supplies in hand we are ready to return and get the boat ready for our next trip.

 

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We are now less than a month away from taking the boat out of the water in Grenada and carefully calculate our possible stops along the way. We decide, due to time, we will skip St Lucia and St Vincent and make overnight tracks to the Grenadines.

 

Old Friends, New Friends, and another tropical paradise…Dominica

 

 

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The squall has passed ahead of us as we motor into Portsmouth, the most northerly anchorage of Prince Rupert Bay of Dominica and the waters are now flat and calm as we enter. The island, being of volcanic origin, has green mountains and valleys that reach down to white sand beaches or rocky cliffs. The bay is nearly 4 miles wide and the anchorage we see is enormous. There are sailboats and catamarans peppered along the northern part of the bay.

SONY DSCIt was a last minute decision for us to arrive here this week (mid March). Meeting up with John Kretschmer on Quetzal and his crew in Il des Saintes 3 days previous, we had a great reunion with our sailing mentor and he invited us to head south for a few days to Dominica. Since we did not have definite plans that week, (as we were headed back to the US for a brief trip the next week) we decided it would be fun and agreed to accompany them.

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Quetzal sailing to Dominica

After obtaining our customs papers in Guadeloupe we headed out of the southern islands for Dominica. We had intended to find a good wind (promised by PredictWind and the GRIB download) and enjoy a 3-hour afternoon sail. We did. We had a great 15 knot ESE wind putting us on a great line for Dominica. The water depths between many of these volcanic island plunge and there are quite often weed–lines that make good fishing. What would be the harm in putting out the fishing rod for a few hours on a beautiful Caribbean afternoon??… we were caught off guard as the reel sent off it high pitched whirring and we had a FISH ON!!

GOPR0785_MomentWe had full sails up and the first task would be to furl in the genoa to slow our speed to retrieve the fish. Our speed dropped to nearly 3.5 knots and we initiated the autopilot to keep on our rhumb line. Mike cranked on the fishing rod as an efficient deep-sea fisherman would. I monitored our progress and watched out for other boats, and retrieved the gaff and other “fish-landing” equipment. The usual conversation ensued as the fish came closer…”aw it’s a barracuda’, “no, its not, it’s a skip jack”…” a mahi”…then wait …“its, big its…a wahoo!”. We had hooked into a 5 ft wahoo and desperately wanted to land it into the boat. The 6 ft long gaff was the key. We were 30 minutes from anchoring in Dominica and Mike quickly filleted the fish as we discussed how we would manage to eat all the fish during our trip.

SONY DSCWe are initially greeted about a mile out by one of the “boat boys” asking if we need help. We had been instructed by our friend on Quetzal, who has been here many times in the past, to ask for his friend Edison. We did get a look of consternation initially when we said we were going to work with him, but he let us pass without incident. The “boat boys” as they are known are a consortium who provide assistance to cruisers as part of their job. They travel through the anchorage assisting with mooring or anchoring, retrieving water, fuel, or even specialty foods if necessary and providing security. There was a time where individuals trafficking drugs were bothersome to cruisers but this group organized into a peaceful trade group called PAYS (Portsmouth Association for Yacht Security) to fight this. Yes we are still approached by individuals on paddleboards selling mangoes, but they are harmless. Edison would help us obtain a secure mooring for $10 /night and pick us up to get checked into customs and immigration the following morning.

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Greeting Edison, our “boat boy”.

The next morning he arrived at the back of Lost Loon to pick us up for the ride to Customs. This just made the whole process seem easier as the police and customs dock was nearly a mile from the anchorage and signage was somewhat lacking. With papers in order, fees paid, our passports stamped and we had clearance. We were thankful that this island would allow us to check in and out on the same visit, thus eliminating that task before leaving in 3 days. He had also arranged a tour to part of the inland rainforest.

 

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We were soon off in a large van with our new friends from Quetzal. We travelled higher and higher into the mountains winding along the palm tree and multicolored bougainvillea lined roads seeing one magnificent lookout after the next with views of the ocean below.

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Waters were turquoise blue even from this vantage. Our first stop was a waterfall hike. Our guide spent time showing us different plants along the way that his ancestors and now his family use for different ailments. There are leaves that form an emulsification and it is used for soap, there is a plant to cure what I believe by the description is prostatitis, another for nausea and vomiting, and several others for nervousness (anxiety?). As we ventured further on the walk into the forest, we passed thick green leafy and mossy walls that were literally raining with clear fresh water.

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Driving into the tropical rainforest of Dominica

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Priceless

 

We finally arrived at our destination and took a swim in a freshwater pool just at the base of the waterfall. Once we had our fill of cool fresh water and memorable photographs were taken, we left for our next stop at the island’s own chocolate factory.

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Raw Cacoa

 

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Drying the cacoa

 

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Separation system

We were introduced to the owner who is of Dutch descent. His father had started using the cocoa plant and it “nuts” to make chocolate here in the 40’s!  The owner and our personal guide took us through the whole process. Above the separation system takes dried cacoa and grinds it up into nibs. (This actually reminded me of a Destination Imagination project I supervised when the kids were in middle school!)

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We tasted the different chocolate combinations he produced and supported his efforts by purchasing our favorites as well. He has homesteaded here in the mountains and has built beautiful gardens. We were lucky to take a tour seeing all the colorful plants in the pinks, oranges, whites and incredible scents of his labor.

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We were returned to our anchorage mid-afternoon and deposited along the beach road by a different route, seeing more of the cosmopolitan part of the island. It was bustling like any American city, children coming and going on school buses, but unlike our country we passed several family food stands. We tasted something like a vegetable pasty as we made one stop. We were escorted back to our boats by Edison who had been waiting for our return.

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The Quetzal crew left that afternoon for their overnight sail to St. Lucia and we stayed to relax in the harbor.

The following day we were using the internet at a local beach bar and met another couple on a beautiful Amel sailboat. They told us of their travels from Europe and through the Caribbean. They showed us their boat that took them on their journey. Through our discussions that day we gained insights into future travels through the islands.

 

We also shared a great hike at Fort Shirley at Cabrits National Park (right in our harbor) at the entrance to Portsmouth. The famous ” Battle of the Saints,” between the British and the French could be observed from this site on 12th April 1782. We arrived at a huge dinghy dock at the fort and found our way through the near-abandoned cruise ship customs facility to the National Park entrance. DCIM100GOPROGOPR0733.

 

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We paid our fees and took a self-guided tour. We saw remnants of a self-sufficient military installation from years gone by, cannons still standing. We hiked to a great overlook out to the western ocean.

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Leaving many parts of the island yet to see, we departed after 3 days for an afternoon sail back to Guadeloupe.

 

Martinique is to come with more down-island travels!

 

 

Guadeloupe!!!

(OK….so I am finally posting this…as we are leaving Lost Loon in Grenada 😦 tomorrow morning at 0600…but there are more blogs to come …with stops in Martinique, Dominica, Tobago Cays…..and Grenada!   Thanks for being patient!!!)

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The island of 2. This island takes on 2 characters… one of lowlands and one of mountainous volcanoes. We approached the west end of mountainous volcanoes. Our fist stop was in DeShaies (days-hay) to check into customs. However still a French holding it is under different control and immigration laws. We still found the easy computer check-in, but this time at the local t-shirt shop. Since our goal was to make another 10 miles by the end of the day we picked up a couple of croissants, a fresh baguette and were off for Riveria Sens in the southwest.

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Upon return to the vessel, which we had anchored on 35 ft of water, temporarily we found that after our scope had straightened out (that is the full length of chain we put out) we were within INCHES (or centimeters if your French) of the boat behind us. OOPS! As we landed the dinghy I jumped off, started the engine and put her in gear to avoid any potential interference. It was like a ballet. (ha ha) As Mike got aboard with dinghy safely secure, I flew to the bow to begin retrieving the anchor. It came up easily and we were off. In Mike’s words…”no harm, no foul” thank goodness! We were off for the southwest of Guadeloupe, another lesson learned.

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We sailed down the coast within a mile or 2, resting from our night passage, fishing and enjoying the scenery. We passed Pigeon Island, which is a noted Jacques Cousteau preserved marine land, making note to return when we had more time.

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We made arrival at Riveria Sens along the coast for anchoring in the late afternoon. We swam to refresh our energy and made way to shore for a walk. We found this location to be an amazing fitness area.

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It was like being transported into an Olympic Village. (no, I have never been to one, but I imagine fit muscular people who are seriously working on running, swimming, biking, and power walking) These were people of all types and sizes intent on getting exercise. We watched as the swimmers donned mask fins and snorkel to head out for 1-2 mile swim, bikers decked out in the latest Nike, Adidias and other top of the line clothing for their group rides, and then runners in THE best and brightest running shoes available to man (or woman). We exchanged “bonjours” and by the end of our afternoon walk “bonsoirs” to each one. Our walk was finished by sunset in the west looking over the calm waters of the Caribbean.

The next leg of our journey took us the following day to Il des Saintes, or “the Saintes” . This is a collection of small islands to the south of mainland Guadeloupe.

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Considered a vacation spot for mainland Guadeloupians it is truly a gem. The little village has an Caribbean feel with a French accent. The restaurants were excellent. We found we could cover most of the island by foot, careful to plan the time of day as midday it is sweltering! (mistake made day 2 when we made the 1 hr 20 minute hike to LeChameaux (the camel). A mountain on the island that has an old French look out fort. It has an elevation of 309 meters with steep switch backs on a nicely paved road. We met goats foraging for food and even named one “Bob Marley”. WE met folks of all shapes and sizes going up and down this challenging walk. We did this hike 3 times during our stay in these islands. The last venture to this beautiful look out was a challenging hike through the woods on a marked trail. It took us less time, because it was more verticle. The last few steps to the top we were literally balancing on a few outcropped rocks. Yours truly is a bit wary of heights and as I looked at the very teeny sailboats anchored below, my brain told my nerves to begin quivering. A brief moment of “what the heck am I doing here” and we were again looking at an unbelievable 360 view. My brain then questioned…..Do I really want to return the same way? Of course…why would I take the 1 hour and 20 minutes down when we could be at the bottom swimming in 30 minutes.

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Our hikes took us to several beaches on the island, mostly uninhabited during the week. On weekends we were there a few more people showed up, but they generally stayed at the resorts or in the village. It was here we found some terrific fois gras, baguettes and brie cheese. (The reason for the repeated hikes, yoga on the boat and swimming….we had calories to burn!!)

A little about baguettes. These are the traditional recipe from France. They are the long and narrow, crusty breads that come in their fresh paper bags. The people that are French living on these islands insist upon it!. The locals as well as the cruisers come to town early in the morning when the boulangeries open for the freshest of the bunch. Everyone has a baguette, and more than one! Some have several sticking out of the top of backpacks, grocery bags, and bike baskets. If one is lucky and times it right in the afternoon, some of the local grocers get a small supply of fresh baguettes to sell, and upon re-opening in the afternoon between 2 and 3 people are waiting to pick up their afternoon baguette!!

Back on mainland, Guadeloupe, with our friends Ric and Mimi from the states, we rented a car and took a tour of some of the island. Our first day too us to some rainforest waterfalls. Driving up the canyons the greenery became thicker and thicker. The tall bamboo towered into the forest canopy and the vines hung from everything as the road winded up into the mountainous region. We had our choice of walks and chose an easy hike to a beautiful clear running stream with small waterfall drops along its way. We passed a group heading down that took us to a warm volcanic pool where we took a brief rest.

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Once dressed and refreshed we decided to tackle the Premier falls. The signs said “difficile, 1 h 20 min” It was nearly noon and we felt we had plenty of time to get up and back before nightfall. We retraced our steps back to the main trail and headed vertical. We started over some crude wooden steps, then mostly rock and thick gnarly roots. As we continued it became increasingly wet, to the point that we were stepping over small little puddles and large mud slicks. There was a long stretch of relatively horizontal travel on a very nice boardwalk, however covered in chicken wire to prevent slippage. As the first hour continued we began to need hand holds on trees and roots to make a step. The air was thankfully cool, as we were getting a great workout. Walking along the trail we would get a glimpse of the mountain and seaside several miles away, and the contrast of the deep green against the turquoise blue was spectacular. We could hear the soft creaking of the little tree frogs and birds we could hear but not see. The last 15 minutes of the trail was challenging. We would take a 3 foot step up , then down 2-3 paces, then up again. By this time our feet were quite covered in mud and any clear pool of water we would try to rinse off. We were met by only 2 other parties who told us in French “C’est magnificent” and give us a thumbs-up! We got closer and could hear the rush of water. As the trail narrowed a bit it then led to a clearing alongside the mountain, and we were greeted by a nearly 1500 ft waterfall, that cascaded off the rock face off the volcanic mountain. We did not get close enough for a feel of the water, that was another 30 minute hike, but enjoyed the view from far atop a lot of the mountain canopy. What an amazing place. How incredible we thought to be able to go from our usual sea level viewpoint to above the clouds. We rested and took our obligatory “selfies” and realized we couldn’t tarry long as it was already 3:15 pm and we needed to get out of this forest by dark. We followed the same challenging path down, but this time really feeling it more in the legs as we made the vertical trek downward.

 

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Needless to say, the following day we decided to stay at sea level and investigate some of the south coast beaches. We stopped at a roadside market and had a bite to eat. When I mean roadside, I mean 5 ft from the road where cars, buses and trucks passed on their daily routes. The rotisserie chicken was delicious and the cold beers just perfect after an afternoon on the water.

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We sailed along the west coast of Guadeloupe to an anchorage near the dedicated Cousteau Underwater Park near Pigeon Island for snorkeling, beach-going and some more terrific French cuisine. The preserved park , however a bit stirred up was a beautiful snorkel. We found huge corals and fans, skates, grouper, lobster hiding in the crevices and schools of angelfish. Here we were treated to a most wonderful dinner at La Touna, a small French restaurant along the waterfront. What is most interesting was that there were top-rated restaurants at each anchorage. We were not disappointed by any meal we had in these French islands. Mike and I would return one last time to Il des Saintes for a few days before our brief trip back to the US.

We eventually left the boat in a marina near Basse-Terre on the west coast for a week to attend the wedding (described in the previous blog). Upon our return we leave Guadeloupe for Martinique!

Winter musings

 The winter musings have come true

We nurtured their soul and found a happiness 

We shed the cloak of routine and control

And accept the the rain and wind as partners who may or may not feel like dancing 
Our direction is determined by greater powers now

However the intention remains.
There is a new reliance between us

We share the joy and and travails of our dreams

This new journey transforms us

At day’s end , when the day glow fades we embrace satisfaction 
Success is now measured differently

At a distance we see where we have come

We are present in the moments and have met the future
The world appears smaller and less complex

We appreciate the simplicity of this life at each novel setting

And accept the diversity
We feel a richness in the beauty of a new world

And we are humbled in it’s vastness 

Back in the US!? Ok, just a visit……

We docked , cleaned and locked up the Lost Loon in Rivera Sens , SudAncrage Marina in Guadeloupe on a dark, rainy Tuesday morning. We were headed for a ‘vacation’ from our new life aboard to the US for a wedding. 
We have not left the boat for more than 8 hours since our boarding in November, so this was new. We took a taxi ride to Point-A-Pitre airport headed for Ft Lauderdale. The wedding would be in South Carolina , but we had some work to do before the weekend. Wait! I forgot to mention.. the first HOT shower in months. Upon our arrival at the marina, we (I mostly) was excited for a real shower, unlimited hot water, coming from a fixed shower head in a private setting. You see, for the last 4 months most of our bathing ( no…ALL of our bathing) has been done on the transom of the boat in a bathing suit, in tepid water (process being, jump in, soap up, and then rinse with the least amount of fresh water) …..unless in the unlikely event we are THE only ones in the anchorage and then…we’ll you get it. Privacy is a luxury when it comes to bathing on the back of the boat. Now if you are flying the flag of France or Germany, it is commonplace to bare all regardless of the company in the vicinity. Oui! Nudity is common on the back of these boats in the Caribbean.

We had an uneventful departure from Guadeloupe, as we were told leaving a sailboat could be problematic, but we had a round trip return ticket. As we flew eastward from the West Indies, we could see below all of the beautiful islands we passed on our way down. What took us 4 months to accomplish we were able to now cover in less than 4 hours!  Passing over the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Mona Passage, Turks and Caicos, the Exumas in the Bahamas and finally the Gulf Stream Crossing , the exact Thorny Patch to Windward,we recounted the events and boats we met along the way. 
When we departed the US on the boat, we also left our family Suburban in Georgia with all the leftovers we decided not to bring on this journey. We had parked the vehicle at the Marina where we left, covered with a tarp, waiting for our eventual return to the states and likely Wisconsin. We had planned on taking the car to North Carolina where our daughter had bought a new house, and hopefully leave it in her hands for another month. During the flight and as we left the rental car garage in Ft Lauderdale we prayed the Suburban would start. We had considered this might not be just a “pick up and go”. 

The day was hot and sunny and the marina yard was scented with warm pine needles as we pulled in and uncovered the vehicle. As we opened the door, the dome lights went on indicating an intact battery! Yeah, (did we dare smile with the least bit of joy?) we turned the key just twice and she was running. We were excited to get on the road for North Carolina another 6-7 hour drive. This is when the accident happened….I got in the driver’s seat to pull out of the parking spot and the brakes felt a bit mushy. I was reminded that likely they need to build up pressure. I was able to stop short of a tree and quickly got out asking Mike to give it a try. As he turned the wheel put it in reverse and then in drive the world turned into a slow motion movie…..as he couldn’t stop the car going less than 1 mile per hour I watched as that 2 ton vehicle made contact with our rental car’s left bumper. The plastic caved in easily and the rear taillight cracked as the Suburban came to a stop…thankfully! There were no words….had we just hit our rental vehicle with our own car? Why on earth were there no brakes? What’s this going to cost us? All questions going through our heads. Only explications murmured. Still dazed we opened the hood to see some brake fluid in the reservoir but then looked below the body and watched as this same fluid ran out onto the ground like a kid pouring syrup on his pancakes. 
We were now positioned in the middle of the entry road to the marina and blocking the parking lot and needed to get this moved so we could head out and figure who could perform some repairs. With Mike in the drivers seat and me with a huge block of wood…oh and the damaged rental, yeah,  pulled way out of reach. Mike inched the car back and forth with me ready to throw a chock block under a wheel. We achieved our goal of getting the car back into a parking spot ( without hitting other cars!!). We took a moment to go through clothes we had left to retrieve for the wedding and were off to talk with a car repair company in St Marys. They would eventually tow the car and find that there were several areas where the brake fluid was escaping. 

Out on the highway, doing 75 mph, to get to NC we had the sudden realization that however we damaged the rental car it pales in comparison to what could have been had the brakes failed on the highway. Still gives me shivers.

Our next job was to notify our insurance company and Thrift rentals of the ‘incident’. “Oh yes that’s right”, I replied, ” we hit the rental with our own personal vehicle”. I tried to avoid the entire story as much as possible. I think my insurance agent commented that she hoped it would be a better day. So, now in addition to the $1000 in repairs on the Suburban for the brake system ,which DID NOT TAKE A SCRATCH, we had a $500 deductible due. This is because the insurance company treated ” the incident” as if we hit our own car. In reality, had we hit any one of the other parked cars in the lot we would not have to pay a deductible. Just our luck I guess….this little ” vacay ” from Lost Loon was already proving to bust our sailing budget for the month. 

We continued on to North Carolina amidst traffic we had not seen in months. We also came to notice more than ever the highways littered with billboards. We were so used to an unobstructed view of the flat ocean. Traffic lights seemed longer and congested byways were frustrating. We will admit that shopping at Publix that evening was a treat. All the products were visible in English and we found a lot of our favorite and familiar products. We appreciated hearing English as a primary language. One takes for granted many of these things in our everyday living. 

The best part of our trip, I’ll admit was seeing the kids again. Chris and Jenni are expecting in June and we have sadly missed a lot of the pregnancy, that has been thankfully uneventful. We did see Kelsey’s new home as well as our second grand puppy!! I also got to see my mom and brother whom I haven’t seen since last August. We spent some beach time and relaxing time during the weekend. The wedding of Jo and Jordie Bellairs was beautiful. We like no tomorrow these few days. The ceremony took place in a small chapel on the grounds of Palmetto Bluff as well as the grande celebration afterward. It was a terrific trip, despite ‘the accident’.

We finished the trip with a few stops in Ft Lauderdale for boat parts. We found everything we needed in 3 stops. Our flight , amazingly was on time, and we were actually 30 minutes ahead of schedule upon descent. I am finishing this blog as we see Guadeloupe come into view below the plane. We are back ‘home’ on Lost Loon in a short time, unpacking, and excited for the next 6 weeks of travel until we take the boat out in Grenada and head back to Wisconsin. 

Sorry no pics…. c’est la vie!

I have more on Guadeloupe…..just wanted to keep everyone up to date….Ciao! 

C’est St. Barthelemy!

After a wonderful night in Governors Harbor on the south side of St Barthelemy, the following morning we woke to a crystal sunrise and the now common sound of distant roosters making themselves known to the world… it was just as gorgeous. With calm clear waters we both took time to have coffee and took turns on the paddleboard, exploring the shoreline. The wave crashed gently on the beautiful white sand beach, and we could hear the bray of goats on the mountainside. We spent a couple of early morning hours here before heading out to the city and port of Gustavia to check into Customs and Immigration.

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St Barths has been fought over by the British, French and Spanish through the years. It was even held by the Swedes in exchange for port rights in the 1800’s. They sold the land back to the French in 1878 , and it has remained in their hold since.

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The entrance showed us the headlands of the bay which were dotted with multitudes of red roofed homes and buildings. ( we joked the entire time here about whether this was code or if it was just the trend) . The bougainvillea was draped from every overhang in a multitude of hues…..reds, violets and whites. The Yacht mooring and anchorage was full of sailboats and mega-yachts from all over the world, lined up along the docks in Med-mooring fashion. (this is different to the traditional bow-in mooring, the sterns are moored to the dock and there is usually an anchor or mooring ball from the bow forward ). We made our way to check in with customs and immigration and found that the French have THE best system for this. (however they dont use a QWERTY keyboard and the M and A are severly displaced for us used to an English keyboard, this makes for a few typos in the process) It is a sort of do-it –yourself check –in. With our cruising papers, boat documentation and passport numbers we enter all our information then print it out for the immigration staff to review. Viola! We’re in!

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Gustavia

We made our way through this very chic town with its Cartier, Dior, Ralph Lauren, etc high-end retailers to a few smaller shops and grocery. It was here we found fresh, hot and crunchy French baguettes, delicious croissants, cheap French wines of excellent quality, pate, and the best Brie cheese! (it became our staple for the weeks we were in these French islands)

Back on Scooters!

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On the road again..

We had not ventured out on the many rental offerings for scooters at several islands since the crazy ride in Luperon, but St Barthelemy looked like the perfect location. We had made plans with our sailing friends on Desderata to tour the island the day before. With numerous beaches, few trucks and cars, and excellent highway system we decided to make a day of it.

We left Gustavia on a 125 cc scooter after the early morning rain showers had moved off to the west. It was now sunny and hot. We had plans to see each of the beautiful beaches of the island. Our first stop would be the lovely Baie de St Jean (not “saint jeen” but “sah jah”)and the little town of l’Orient (loree-ahn)  with its quaint shops in severe contrast to those in Gustavia. This was on the north part of the island and from a perch we could walk to about 100 ft overlooking the beach we could see the light blue waters and coral structure below. It was 10 AM and the beach goers were on the move. There is a very expensive resort here, where we watched assistants preparing beach beds (seriously a full size mattress with an adjustable back!) for their patrons, serving champagne and water in ice buckets! We moved on further heading south with beautiful seaside stops along the way. We made our lunch stop at a small beach place where the burgers were great and the “mahi” tartare awesome. Accompanied by a great glass of white wine and a cool walk in the sand and we were in heaven.

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beachwalk to lunch

 

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perfect lunch spot

We still had a few miles to put on before sunset and were off for the South side of the island. Here we got to see Governors Harbor from a different perspective…it was just as amazing. More from the perspective of sailing down the winding road to the beach with spectacular overlooks to the waters below. We did swim to cool off and enjoy a walk on the soft sand beach.

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St Barth’s beach in L’Orient

We had a few more beaches to “run “ by and continued back to Gustavia and then to the north to Colombier, a small secluded inlet on the North side. We watched some experienced pilots make a landing at one of the shortest runways in mountainous areas we had seen. It was a great day of seeing some spectacular landscape.

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We returned the scooters and made a hike to one of the overlooks in Gustavia that was once an ancient military instillation. We watched the sunset from here, above the city and imagined many hundreds of years ago, the government (French, British….whoever was in charge at the time) taking watch for pirates or other invaders, ready to fire the cannons at will.

We had to continue making headway sailing south, as we had friends arriving in Guadeloupe within the next week. Our plans were to head off past St Kitts and Nevis to Guadeloupe the next day. We woke to clear skies and a light breeze that promised to fill in by later in the day. Our next leg would now be over 50 miles which would require another overnight passage. Since we were quite used to this by now, we actually looked forward to open ocean sailing. It is generally easier than sailing between islands amongst the fishing pots, fishermen, and charter yachts.

We said our “goodbyes” for the last time to friends on Desderata (who were headed north back to the Virgins to meet with family) realizing that we had spent the most part of the last 2 months with them “on the go”. We would hope to see them back in the states when they returned in the summer at some point. With our exit papers in hand, most of the water tanks filled, and plenty of brie, sausassion, and baguette, Lost Loon headed out by mid afternoon for Guadeloupe.

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The evening was gorgeous as we watched the island of St Barthelemy fade into the sunset and the shadow of St Kitts and Nevis take form in the foreground. We took our typical 3-4 hours passage shifts and watched the ships passing in the night (literally). To keep awake this night I was able to listen to local Monserrat radio where they were having the Lesser Antilles high school debate finals. They debated the importance of continued tourism and international commerce (as we sail right by), as well as the importance of maintaining literacy amongst the population. The night passed quickly as we did make a few sail plan changes due to weather along the islands. By morning light, as usual, we were comforted to see the distant shores of Guadeloupe. A contrast from the arid island of St Barts and the flatlands of St Maarten , this was green, lush and mountainous.

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Next up we are a month in Guadeloupe and loving this French island and all that it has to offer!

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