Martinique travels

We are practically Martinique citizens now! Just kidding! We have actually been in the country 2 weeks!!

We arrived in St Pierre, one of the oldest french cities on the island on March 28th in the shadow of great Mount Pele.

As the story goes, the governor and a science teacher headed a committee who knew of the impending eruption of this great volcano. It had smoldered for days, giving off ash and gasses frequently. They failed to adequately warn the people fearing a mass exodus from the city and harm to the local income. On Ascension Day May 5th, 1902, the mountain let forth with an eruption that has been likened to an atomic bomb , covering the city and taking the lives of nearly 30,000 local inhabitants. The only survivors were a cobbler and a man in jail who survived because his cell faced the opposite direction of the lava flow. It is said he became a legend and finally joined the circus after his fame waned. Ships anchored in the bay were destroyed as well. People from far off cities climbed hills to see the incredible destruction.

We arrive at the dinghy dock and in typical French fashion as the St Pierre church bells are ringing 4 pm. We make our way past Rue de Victor Hugo on to the tourist office where we quickly check into customs on the computer. Our next stop is the ruins of a grand theater which is next to the ruins of a prison.

We can see throughout the city what has been left of the volcanic ruins that have not been rebuilt on.

The village was an elegant city in its day, one of the finest in the West Indies. It was a center of commerce for Rum, sugar, cocoa and spices. We see old structures that line the narrow cobblestone streets and imagine the beautifully dressed townspeople strolling to dinner or the theater.

The bougainvillea hangs from everywhere. The real voices of children calling in their native french language fill the air. For a brief moment we are transported back to French Martinique in the early 1900s.

Our stay here is 2 days because we want to have a meal at Tamaya restaurant, rated one of the best in Martinique! There are 6 tables at this small restaurant, all set with white table clothes. We are the first arrivals of the evening and it’s 7pm ( most French dining establishments don’t open until 6:30 or 7) We are greeted by one of the owners, Peggy, who thankfully speaks English. She takes our order for a bottle of wine. We peruse the menu and see her husband the chef peeking out from the kitchen .

He waves a ‘hello’. We are instructed on the specials and other menu items and she interjects her preferences. After she returns from the kitchen, we hear her story of starting the restaurant, the ups and downs of the business and sailing. She spent many a day in her life on a boat as well. Our dinner is delightful. I have dorade with vegetables and Mike has a delicious veal, all truly French… with Easter chocolate eggs from France as a kind gesture! We stroll through the lamp lit village back to the boat on a full moon night and decide to stay another day and hike.

We make our way in typical Mike and Nancy fashion ( late hot morning) to the statue of Virgin Mary. She overlooks the anchorage and the sailors coming and going. It is a nice street that takes up high above the water and has a great view of the city and Mt Pele

St Pierre, Mt Pele in background

The afternoon is spent making water and looking at the map for the next day’s short motor to Fort de France, the capital of this island.

Upon anchoring and with the engine off we can hear mass being said this Good Friday from the speakers of the Catholic Church that looms over the city. It is enchanting. The bells ring upon conclusion and we remember all the Good Friday masses we have attended, the soberness present in this beautiful bright Caribbean city anchorage.

We get reacquainted with a neighbor boat from Canada we met last year in Guadeloupe and enjoy an evening with them taking sailing and travels. We spend time along the waterfront watching the people and listening to the local music that afternoon.

Saturday morning we attempt to take a bus to the shopping center and get on the 421 instead of the 420 bus. We have been told of a great sports outlet store and enormous grocery here. When it is clear our bus isn’t going the way we intended we ask to get off and have a 3 km walk to our destination. Good thing for phones with GPS that we used to follow the bus route!!!

The shopping was magnificent. We found a real mall with clothing, jewelry and electronics stores. The Hyper U is one of the largest in the Caribbean. And being the day before Easter, it was packed with shoppers!! We like to check out the French wines… they are quiet grand and , well cheap!! The sports outlet store Decathalon we find great deals on some nice performance clothing. Coincidence, but we arrive at the bus stop to return to the boat and unbelievably the gal who spoke English and told us bus 420 was standing there, she laughed heartily when we told her of our mistake!

Easter Sunday

After being awakened by glorious church bells at sunrise we have coffee and decide to head for another anchorage along the western coast of Martinique. We check out anchorages of Anse Mitan and Anse Noir, and decide on Anse Dufour for an afternoon of snorkeling and hiking in the rain. We are amazed at all the locals on the beach for Pacques( Easter) swimming, barbecuing and dancing even in the rain!!

April 2

We chose to move anchor a few Mike’s to Anse Chaudrie. A grassy bay where we must find a spot of sand to successfully set the anchor. The snorkeling here is great, but in getting to the snorkel reef I feel I have observed to many sea snakes below for my liking. That afternoon we meet up again with fellow cruisers on the boat Tasman. They sail our sister ship a Caliber 40 as well. In fact, their boat spent the summer cuddled right next to Lost Loon in Clarkes Court Marina!!

We find some great seashore hikes here several hundred feet above the water with great views. We found another spot to snorkel this was for the hot afternoon.

That brings us to our current location at St Anne, Martinique. Currently the Mecca for hundreds of sailboats moving North and some moving South, as we are.

Will post this and get writing on that update !!

Merci d’arreter! !

Anatomy of a Great Sail…from my perspective

It has been great to be back on the water for the winter. That feeling when you have put some sail up and headed in some direction propelled by the wind with the engine off is heaven. There is a yearning for that gentle ocean lull and wind that sings through the sails that we have come to love. The clear blue skies and ocean to match or revel that becomes addicting. We have grown to adore the part of our lives on the ocean. It is however wonderful to spend time with family and friends in the Summer off-season

We are by far not as experienced as some of our acquaintances on this vast ocean, but feel that we have accumulated some liquid miles and continue to accept the lessons from the sea.

Our boat is built and outfitted for heavy ocean conditions and we like to think that we are becoming better at adjusting her to tolerate and sail these different situations. “She”, Lost Loon, teaches US as well. Nevertheless, we have developed some qualifications for a great sail.

First, we have intent. This meaning that we have a destination in mind but rarely a time frame. (This season is a bit different with guests coming aboard, time was of the essence, but it is not typically the case. For when they have come and gone we will be left to decide on the journey). We have limited our travels within the waters of the Leeward and Windward islands of the Caribbean and our eventual goal is to be in Grenada in May.

So, this means that we can travel as fast or as slow through the islands as we chose in a given time period, with the goal of exploration. We have done quite a few “overnight passages” some great and some we would rather forget, but we enjoy the daylight scenery when we can make it from anchorage to anchorage before the sun sets. However, all that being said, we are quite compelled by settled seas, good winds and the phase of a full moon to set sail!

Mike and I would agree in the nearly 2 winters here in the Caribbean we have had a handful of REALLY GREAT sails. On leaving Antigua for Guadeloupe 2 weeks ago we found such conditions. Previous to this we had time to spend with visiting friends on and around the beautiful island. We also met up with “old” cruising friends from last year for a few sweet days of boat talk and sea slang, and were fortunate in just a few days to meet new cruising couples.

We had said our temporary good-byes (as they always are for seafarers) the evening before the sail, and settled in early to preparr for our day ahead. We had not made many day sails in the last couple of weeks and were quite anxious to get back into the open water again.

In our sail plans, we usually calculate our motoring speed at 5 knots as worst conditions. We had hoped to have and were rewarded with favorable easterly trade winds for our 70-mile rhumline South from Hermitage Bay, Antigua to Deshaies, Guadeloupe.

With coffee brewing in the press, we had the trusty 25 kg Rocna anchor up and secured on a very calm morning by 0530 and had begun our daysail on an early moonless morning, still with darkness. And to demonstrate how clear these waters were, with just the light of my headlamp I had enough visibility to see the anchor coming up from 20 feet below.

We were soon quietly motoring through the anchorage as other sailing acquaintances were finishing the last of their dreams for the night.

Once we were out of the anchorage, we turned into the little bit of a 9-knot breeze to raise the mainsail for the day. We insured we had 1 reef in the sail, despite the call for 12-15 knots of wind. This decreased the footprint we would use to propel the boat in the event we found some spirited winds over the 20-knot range. The sail is sometimes difficult to raise quickly due to the presence of lines that hold up the large sailbag on the boom (aka: stack pack lazy jacks) and the batons that firm up the body of the sail get caught here from time to time. But on this day, the first sign of our good luck, the massive sail went up without a hitch. We eased off on the sheet as we fell off the wind, heading more in the direction of our destination.

We spent the next 20 minutes going further offshore to see what the winds had in store for us that morning. As much as 20 degrees and sometimes 10-15 knot differences in the wind direction and force can be found offshore. Once we had a feel for the general, and consistent direction of the wind which was more like 45 degrees off the bow of the boat, we released the giant genoa. As I cranked on the winch to pull this sail in off the starboard side of the boat, we first felt the slight surge through the water and then the gentle heel to that side as Lost Loon gained speed.

Once the diesel was turned off, we heard the familiar sounds of first gurgling and then rushing water coming off the rudder behind the boat as we gained speed. This 13-ton vessel takes a bit to get going, but within minutes we were moving at nearly 6 knots in 12 knots of wind as the first sign of daylight became apparent over the mountains of Antigua. We set the staysail, to give us just a bit more lift before we felt we had maximized Lost Loon’s potential.

We were the only vessel moving that morning and felt we owned the ocean for a time, passing anchorages of sailboats sitting or rocking calmly until others became apparent on the horizon several hours later. We moved through the crisp, salty sea now with intent to make anchorage in DeShaies, where the space can be limited, by mid-afternoon. The water made several color changes as we headed from shallow to deeper waters between the islands. The waves we had expected to be in the 4-6 foot range, barely made 1-3 feet. This allowed Lost Loon to move as swiftly as she could without the backward push of the waves or swells.

As the morning became brighter, winds increased up into the 15-17 knot range propelling the boat into the 6.5 to 7 knot sailing speed! We were two pretty happy sailors. After just 3 hours we had covered nearly 20 miles, far out-reaching the conservative 5-knot per hour speed we had anticipated! We watched as sailboats in the distance came closer and passed making their way to Antigua and the outline of Guadeloupe appeared on the horizon.

We lunched on sandwiches and cokes, enjoying the easy motion of the boat. We were able to use the autopilot steering with someone at the wheel to monitor direction and speed. We rested in shifts as Lost Loon moved up and down the waves and through the wind. Nearly half-way between the islands of Antigua and Guadeloupe, in the early afternoon, I was at the helm watching for on-coming traffic or obstructions when I immediately spied water spouting right in front of the bow. I had seen a days-worth of flying fish skirt the surface as they so gracefully can. I took a second glance, and then realized that roughly 200 feet off the bow were a couple of whales moving very slowly across our path. It wasn’t immediately obvious, as sometimes small breaking waves can look like spouts, but it was definitely a whale. This would require quick action to avoid a collision. I quickly called to Mike and simultaneously took the steering off autopilot and made a redirection to starboard enough to clear these enormous fish. We passed within 40 feet to see 2 (likely humpback) whales just enjoying the sun-drenched afternoon.  Many whales inhabit the Caribbean, finding the warm currents perfect fishing and spawning grounds. Pictures? They will forever be ingrained in our memory, as I barely had time to avoid hitting them let alone get a good picture with the camera while Mike took over the navigation.

As we continued on toward our destination, the one-dimensional grey outline of Guadeloupe slowly developed into two and three dimensions. The colors also changed from the grey to blue and hues of green and brown became apparent as the mountainous outline appeared to take shape.

Our approach to the island from the north also provided us with some nice winds to carry us close to DeShaies anchorage before starting the engine. Since we have been at this location several times we know the good places to set anchor and tried spying with the binoculars to see if “our spot” was available. It wasn’t until we were much closer that we would need to find another sandy spot.

We have worked out a procedure for taking down the sails. Once the genoa and staysail are safely furled, we wait until we have room to turn in to lighter winds and lower the main into its sailbag for the night’s rest. We can now concentrate on where to anchor. We have the advantage with an early arrival that the sun is still nearly overhead and we can see sandy spots easily. We are anchored easily today, as our luck continues. Once we have the lines tidied and equipment stowed, its time to relax, rest and watch the others of the sailing world come to find a place of rest for the evening.

It was a great day of sailing. It erases the memory of the “not-so-great” sails (with that eraser that has sat in the drawer for years…they become blurry) and so we chalk it up to experience. It is from whence we can appreciate the good days. We watch the sunset and are thankful for each one.

Sorry for the missing pictures! Must be a data problem.

Where is Lost Loon….??

Presently writing from Antigua!! The water is as turquoise and beaches as white sand as the Bahamas and the people more friendly than anywhere. We made our way on ‘the perfect day- sail’ from Deshais Guadeloupe on an early Thursday morning. We weighed anchor at 0545, per captain’s request, and had sails set nearly before the first light of sun out of the East. We had anticipated an average speed of 5-6 knots taking us then 8 or so hours to cover the 42 nautical miles to Falmouth Harbor on this island. Our winds were nearly on the beam and waves from distant seas 6-7 feet hitting the starboard quarter bow.

Once we cleared the Guadeloupe headland, Lost Loon proceeded to work her magic. Under 1 reef on the main and quite nearly full headsail , with a staysail set by sun-up we approached speeds of 7.5 knots!! Our thanks to the ocean gods for the easy seas. We enjoyed the movement and soon we were feeling the need for naps. We barely had time to rest as we were ticking off the miles and soon had sights of Antigua, while the giant island of Monserrat continued to loom to port.

In record time, we were anchored in Falmouth Harbor. A huge anchorage, it boasts many services and resort living. We were in awe of the grand international fleet of yachts at berth. A short walk to English Harbor from the dinghy dock and we were able to efficiently check in using Sea Clear and were granted a 3 month cruising permit to explore as many of the 365 beaches as we could. The customs office is located in Nelsons Dockyard, with cobblestone streets, great old stone buildings, and ancient cannons and anchors scattered about.

We made our way by sail and help of the motor in light winds the following morning to a perfect eastern anchorage by Green Island that nearly resembles any anchorage in the Bahamas or Tobago Cays. We found this an excellent spot in the settled winds to paddle board and snorkel some nice barrier reefs. There was a resort , Harmony Hill, that has an old sugar mill, ( sugar cane was a huge crop and still is is so much of the Caribbean….sugar Cane= Rum!). but it was closed and deserted, however proved to be a great place for photos. We experienced a night with infinite stars as we had little to no wind and were able to lay out watching the night sky.

Before arriving from Guadeloupe. We had made our way from the Virgin Islands. We had been there nearly a month with family and then friends. A year ago on our initial sail South, we had skipped through these islands as we had vacationed here much before. This year we spent time primarily on St John enjoying some spectacular beaches. We made several visits to Maho bay, Honeymoon bay, and Francis Bay. We also shared many of the great stops at Jost Van Dyke and Norman Island to our newcomers. By the first week of February we were waiting out high winds and seas to make our way to St Barths and ultimately Guadeloupe for a new set of crew!

When we finally found our window we had some serious seas to handle the first 24 hours to St Barths and then onto Guadeloupe we had expected and found more comfortable seas and weather. ( Fodder for another blog).

Guadeloupe brought us mixed weather, but we were able to enjoy some land based activities like Grand Anse in DeShais, The Rum factory – insect tour- animal display. Yes, that’s right….THE hugest collection of beatles I have ever seen. This would rival something at the Smithsonian!! And cause sweet dreams to turn to nightmares! Oh lest I forget the trip to the dentist!!

The story starts at a beautiful restaurant Poisson Rouge (red fish) at the Tendacayoo Spa and Resort,way up on the hillside behind Deshaies We discovered this gem of a spot one afternoon after a long hike up the Deshaies River. We curiously followed the little red fish signs up vertical roads and found a most peaceful locale for a spa and ‘habitation( french for dwelling). They had a few open air villas brightly painted and set where one could see the ocean miles below.

Ok, back to the story. Near the completion of a fabulous dinner here, Mike realized he lost a dental bridge placed 1-2 years ago. The following morning, using my best French, I was able to surprisingly negotiate a same day appointment for repair! We had obtained a nice car rental and with little difficulty located the modern dental office in the second floor of a convenience strip mall. The dentist spoke very little English, but his receptionist was able to translate well. In 20 minutes and only $75 US later the bridge was back in place and we were having our baguette et saussasion ( sausage, salami) on our way for more sightseeing. We were not questioned about insurance, we were not questioned about previous dental care or asked if we could pay up front!

Our time in Guadeloupe put us back in Rivera Sens for a night. We had just returned from the village, and were contemplating Captains hour when we noticed a sailboat approaching a mooring ball( there are only a few of them here, so it seemed unusual as most folks anchor) with a man in the water ahead of the boat! Again, quite unusual site. We waited just a moment and then sensing some difficulty here, Mike was in the dinghy and off to lend assistance. As it turns out, they had motor failure of some type, and they were trying to approach the mooring close enough for the captain to jump in and tie them up. Unfortunately the wind had its way and pushed them off. Mike put our dinghy to work and after several attempts pushed and towed them to the mooring and tied them up! He did receive a round of applause and cheers from the gallery on Lost Loon as well as an extra ration of Rum!

We were then onto Il de Saintes. One of our favorite locations south of Guadeloupe for its wine selection and boulangerie (bakery), with its great beaches and hiking.

Antigua will have us as guests for nearly 2 weeks with friends before we start heading to the SE Caribbean islands and on our way to Grenada.

Up next…… Anatomy of a great sail and more Antigua. Thanks for stopping by….. come back and send your friends!!! Love to read the comments!!

CREDITS

Quick huge thanks to the following cast and crew who have made this winter so much fun:

Dave and Leah Magnine joining us in the Virgin Islands! First sail ever!

Kelsey and Lee also in the Virgins islands who found out the fun of seeking rain shelter in a ‘cave’ on Jost Van Dyke and getting the dollar rides on the safari bus to and from the airport…the cruiser way!

Jeff Bellairs , returning crew, who brought us the life-saving Rainman watermaker and found out Michael Beans’ Rum the night before a passage just doesn’t work.

Ric and Mimi Goc joining us from California ….also returning crew… discovering one unique pool after another… the cruiser way!

Back in the Virgin Islands…a beautiful place of healing…

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North Sound, Virgin Gorda

Its been nearly a year since we were last here, and 4 months since hurricanes IRMA, MARIA, and JOSE passed through here and left devastation in their wake. These are the supposed 100-year hurricanes, and they did some significant destruction.

We knew that there was some damage and we didn’t know what to expect, (whether we could get food, fuel or water if needed, but reassured by several accounts on the internet)  We had discussed with family and friends about a place to pick them up to sail, and this is still one of the best places we have found to cruise around a few days for sailing, snorkeling, diving, beaching, and of course Rumming (is that a word?…it is now!)

We approached Virgin Gorda, the North Sound late in the afternoon. I called into Leverick Bay Marina and got an immediate response. I inquired as to whether the channels were clear and if there were any obstructions to avoid. I was told “all is clear and we are glad you are here!”. As we made the approach, we could see the destruction. The Bitter End Yacht Club was as awful as we had seen on TV, and Saba Rock nearly gone. It was like a ghost town from the Wild West, and just as eerie. There were still curtains hanging and blowing in the breeze, chairs and metal strewn up the hillside. The abandoned shorelines were littered with debris.  There were countless homes without roofs and structures that appeared to be homes with just walls standing.  Normally we would have seen 50-200 boats anchored in the entirety of Leverick Bay, but today we could count 15.

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Upon anchoring we were made aware of the sounds of chainsaws, hammers, and heavy equipment hard at work to repair the chaos. Our afternoon took us into the marina to patronize the bar. They were putting on new roofs, painting the dive shop, and repairing the electric that supplies the dock. We were among 3 other couples and families there. We had a long discussion with the bartender there about the events of hurricane Irma. He retold the story of moving boats out of the bay, preparing the marina buildings, and his own home for the storm. He told us that the only information they received on how bad the storm was to be was from information received by others from outside the island. Apparently, the notification system did not prepare them for the onslaught of 150-180 MPH winds.  We heard that they couldn’t believe that the storm lasted 6 -8 hours. Our bartender explained that with each increase in the wind speed he was certain that it couldn’t get any worse and yet it continued to build. One woman, he told us, lost her roof and was jogging down the road looking for shelter, a neighbor called to her to come into their house just as a refrigerator passed her going down the street taken by the forceful winds.  A woman, a local, sitting at the bar as well while her child swam at the marina pool, told us that the children are especially affected. She explained that they get very scared now with any approaching storm. They have lost their school, which we would eventually see on a walk we would take the next day. The school had to relocate to another school on the island and share supplies amongst double the number of students.

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Leverick Bay Marina, rebuilding. These boats are missing something very important!

 

They all recounted that the rising water came up 10-12 feet above the sea level, washing away anything left sitting around and most of the beaches in its wake. On that same walk the next day, we passed so much that was destroyed, previously million-dollar homes overlooking the beautiful Caribbean Sea. We met a couple from New York that were there for 6-week and had just had their water and electric resumed that week. They indicated they had good insurance, but pointed to neighbors that didn’t. A crude for sale sign was posted on what must have been a lovely hillside home. We saw from high above the marina fishing boats, sailboats, and commercial vessels shipwrecked on shore. There were downed utility poles and wires that were tangled to incredible masses.

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Spanish Town lettered with boats ashore

Yet, at the end of the many conversations we had, all part of the healing process after such a trauma, we heard the same words “we’re glad to be alive…we will rebuild”. It was that positive attitude that impressed us. We know that so many people are out of work in the hospitality industry, businesses literally gone, and so many that have relocated elsewhere because of having no place to live.

Our visit in the BVI’s took us in the next few days to Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda. Here we did find gasoline for the dinghy and a great food store open. Along the shore the boats that were taken out of the water to ride out the storm were sitting like dominoes, toppled over upon one another. We saw sailboats, with no masts, motoring in the bays (we suppose waiting out the season for a new rigging).

We sailed past the empty anchorage at the Baths onto Norman Island. We chose to anchor out, but found that mooring were available throughout the Bight. We witnessed the shipwrecked Willy-T’s bar as well.

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The Bight at Norman Island, as beautiful as ever
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Pristine snorkeling waters at Privateer Bay, Normal Island

 

On Jost Van Dyke, Foxy was there to greet the good number of folks who knew he would be open, but the town there is quite the mess. The old yellow church has no roof, the stained glass is missing and the beautiful gardens are gone. The dive shop and other small shops are also destroyed. We did find ice at Cool Breeze, where they were also running a bar.

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In the Virgin Islands, at St John, we had our pick of mooring balls in St Francis Bay and for an afternoon of snorkeling at Trunk Bay. Pizza-Pi is now open on Christmas Cove as well. We have found ourselves in St Thomas for the last couple of weeks to be here to pick up family and friends for a few days.

 

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Great dinner at Amalia Cafe, Charlotte Amalie!

Currently we are waiting out a big blow at Charlotte Amalie. We have found that although the cruise ships still come in 3-4 days a week, the number of cruising vessels is fewer than in years past. We were lucky to be able to get ice, great provisions, be able to find someone to replace our freezer condenser (it’s always something), and have some really great meals at restaurants that are re-opening (Café Amalia!! On the waterfront in Charlotte Amalie). We are happy to be here. The damage and destruction are sad, but the attitude of the people and the effort that is going into rebuilding is amazing. We have had to do without 4G data due to lost cellular service, but we have found free WIFI set up on parts of the islands. We see more and more charter boats every day, so hopefully the word is out. The weather is gorgeous, the water a clear turquoise, the beaches are cleaned up, and the sunsets still happen every afternoon! Oh, and the Painkillers taste as good as they ever have!

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Priceless

Christmas in St Lucia!

 

 

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A year ago we were convinced, by whatever information we had heard about St Lucia, that there may be some concern for safety to cruisers, and on our way to Grenada in April passed right by the island in the middle of the night. We were in awe of the Pitons that were illuminated by the moon that Good Friday night and continued on with concern for safety at some of the anchorages.  But, here we are 6 months later, with updated information, and day 4 in Marigot Bay and loving it. We passed the Pitons now sailing north in the morning light against the rising sun…still pretty magnificent. Marigot is a pretty small anchorage that is populated by many cruisers and charters nightly. There is a large marina and resort facility that make up most of the harbor. We have been greeted by a few of the locals in the row boats selling fruit and other services, but in no way feel safety is a problem. We have even seen a patrol boat out at night (Christmas Eve!). We had an easy check-in at customs upon our arrival and found that the marina staff and other local personnel very helpful.

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We have decided to anchor and could have spent $30 for a mooring bouy, but after our anchor was firmly set in sand we are comfortable where we are. We can swim right off the back of the boat and snorkel to some reefs.  It is a busy place as some of the cruise ships docked in Castries ( a mile away) bring boatloads of travelers to see the beautiful port, and there are the comings and goings of local fishermen and dive charters.

We are about 100 ft from the northern rocky shore lined by mangroves and palms. The landscape quickly rises to nearly 900 feet. To the north it is rainforest, to the south it is populated with villas and luxury homes. To the east we can see the massive luxury boats and sailboats moored and at dock. And to the west is the Caribbean blue sea.

Our sail here was a bit eventful. We left in 15-18 knot winds just off the quarter bow and were so glad to be on the water with the sails up and moving somewhere. Overnight we found ourselves driving straight into the wind with variable winds from 10-22 knots. The seas were a bit challenging. Initially, coming from a few directions (called confused)  and the building for a few hours to 6-10 ft , then settling by early morning. I think it was about the time we both thought of the possibility of rouge waves and made sure we were clipped in. It definitely kept us on our toes! We also had the cruise ships to tend with. They were coming out of Grenada, heading to Castries or out of Castries heading to Grenada. We both tried sleeping below for a while and when it was too rough came to the cockpit. There comes a time when sleep is so desirable that a rolling sea and rough waters don’t matter….. you have to sleep, and trust the boat…….even dreams come easily. We took our usual turns on watch and by morning light we were excited to arrive at the south end of St Lucia and the Pitons.

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Early morning arrival at the Pitons of St Lucia

Above the anchorage here in Marigot Bay is a trail. We read about the challenge and were up for it. It starts at the garden gate behind the Mango Inn and ascends quickly. We stopped at the inn to get directions and who we presumed were the owners gave us valuable information for our hike…take a stick at the garden gate and “take your time”…oh and they also told Mike to fasten the straps of his Crocs! We looked at each other, recalling an energetic and muddy hike to waterfalls in Guadeloupe last year, wondering if that was what was in store????  We passed through the garden and the gate (locked to keep the dogs in….we never saw them??). We picked out a walking stick and headed vertical right away. It was fairly easy until we came to the ropes alongside the trail set there to assist one to move from rock to root to root again. The vegetation was dense, but we were relieved that it was so shaded. As is our usual, we hike midday…the heat of the sun at its highest.  The challenge soon became hanging onto the walking stick, the Go-pro and the ropes! We ascended nearly 900 ft and were rewarded by a beautiful lookout over the harbor and the shore to the south of the inlet to Marigot Bay. We found the meditation platform and then headed to Oasis Marigot, down the trail to the west. One more stop gave us a nice rest on a handmade bamboo bench and a short rain shower provided some cooling effect. We descended through thick palms, cacti and yucca. We were lucky to be THE only ones on the trail that afternoon…all to ourselves!

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Marigot Bay Harbor

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We were ready for a swim, but needed to investigate Doolittle’s Restaurant and Bar. We heard over the loud speaker of one of the tour boats passing us in the anchorage that this was the location from which the seaside scenes from the original Dr. Doolittle film in 1967 were made. It was a cool and eclectic establishment and we decided we had intent to return, but so needed a swim and returned to the boat!

We also had a visit from the “Black Pearl”, a local day charter! Pretty ominous on arrival though!

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We spent Christmas here! With our white twinkle lights up the flag halyard we made our (now traditional) holiday dinner of homemade cheese ravioli, fresh baked bread, and salad. Between the heat in the galley and the frequent downpours..it was a challenge, but worth the trouble. Best meal yet. We called family and enjoyed Christmas over the miles.

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Traditional ravioli for Christmas Eve!
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Lost Loon, lit for Christmas!

Hope your holidays were terrific!

We keep moving north…stay in touch!

Nancy

Watchful waiting……and thanks….

 

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It has been a summer away from Lost Loon here in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. As our boat awaits our return in Grenada, we have been busy with our “land-life”.

We arrived back in the upper Midwest in mid May to await the arrival of our first grandchild in early July! We were notified of this miracle in waiting last November the day before we left Florida for the Bahamas and Caribbean waters. We have followed the pregnancy via emails and satellite phone calls.

Our family in Wisconsin welcomed us into their home with open arms. We have appreciated the hospitality and feel that the time spent has been an opportunity to get to know our family better.

We made our way to open our lake home in northern Minnesota for the summer as well. We have owned this property for nearly 20 years and have made only a few improvements over the years. We have however, promised ourselves when we get “the time” (which translated means more than short 2 ½ day weekend stays) we will make some changes. Mike will say it was the failure of the small apartment-size stove that started the renovation…I say it was just the right time. Well, as the pictures will show we have definitely transformed the cabin on the lake into a spacious summer cottage. We knocked out the original front cabin wall and opened it up to the porch. After adding windows across the screened porch and a new front door, we have a new usable space during inclement weather. We replaced the failing stove, gutted the ancient mis-matched kitchen cupboards and replaced them with a clean new cabinets…we even finally removed the old carpeting and laid fresh floors as well!

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Cabin kitchen before….
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And after!

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We spent may long days deconstructing and then reconstructing, but we still had time to get out and do some fresh-water fishing as well as just relaxing on the lake.

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In order to keep myself a licensed Physician Assistant, I decided to work a few hours a week through most of the summer. It was a great return to my former work-life and great to see some old work companions as well as patients I know very well. Much of the summer, Mike stayed at the cabin working while I put the hours in at the clinic here in Wisconsin. We were very fortunate to be able to stay with family during our return to the area. We also made ourselves “at home” in a few locations. The summer would find us traveling quite often. We even took the time one week to count the number of different beds we had stayed in during the previous month. I honestly believe we came up with 13. It was then that we became known as the vagabonds of summer!

Our travels took us to North Carolina to visit the Ransdells and  build a fence at our daughters house…for the “grand dog” Ernie.

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King Ernie

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To Annapolis for the grand US Sailboat Show…..

 

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Meeting a new sailing friend Jimmy Cornell!

Out to the far reaches of the Virginia coast to Chincoteague….

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Atlantic…feels like home

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Crabbin’
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Chincoteague wild ponies on the round-up!

…To Florida for an early Fall, warm weather respite…

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To Illinois for special family time

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Somewhere in all our travels and labors of the summer the greatest labor of all happened on July 5th. After numerous hours, our latest love, sweet Amelia arrived!

 

 

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Precious Amelia!

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As new grandparents, we are head over heelsto the moon and backand forever in love with this little baby girl. There is something very special that happens when you see your children having children. It rekindles memories of our own children as babies and toddlers. We continue to spend time remembering the sweet, funny, and touching moments. We cherish every minute spent with her and her parents as we know that we will truly miss her over the winter. Our hope lies in the reliability of frequent Internet service.

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As we watch early snowfall here in Wisconsin, (slipping and sliding on the winter roads) we realize that in 2 weeks, we will be in Grenada. We have researched extensively the conditions at the various anchorages in the Leewards. It appears that many locations are ready for cruisers and vacationers. We are anxious to resume our voyages in locations we have previously visited and new anchorages such as Antigua, St Kitts, Nevis. We are also looking to helping renovation or restoration of the islands as may be needed. Shortly, our lives will be consumed with getting Lost Loon ready for launch . Our task list continues to grow daily…we have painting, cleaning and organizing to do. When we last left her, we had removed most of the exterior equipment. …sails, wind and solar energy components…we sanded “our bottom” in preparations for painting…and minor repairs ready for completion.

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At this writing today, we give thanks for family, friends, happy babies, new houses, new boats, deer camp, good fishing, yoga, warm fires at night, beautiful sunsets, friendly farm animals, beaches, boats and the fortunate opportunity to be able to live out our dreams.

We wish you a good Thanksgiving.

May your turkey be delicious your pumpkin pie scrumptious, and your time spent with family or friends priceless.

Please come back and join us in the Caribbean!!

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What I Will Miss and Random Ramblings ….(written in Caricou)

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So, back before we had hauled out for the summer, I penned a few notes on some things that I feel we would miss on a day to day and general basis from our life on Lost Loon….

We sit in the cockpit in our usual places with a beautiful view of the Western Atlantic. The sun is setting and casting its usual crystal glow on the ripple of ocean before us with shadows cast by the surrounding clouds. There is a warm, light, easterly breeze that is so familiar now in the tropics. The sailing vessels heading here for a night’s rest are anchored now. A faint rhythm of wooden drums from the village of Tyrell Bay here in Carriacou come from shore (Seriously we would be there had we known there was a performance AND we had not spent so much of the day in the water snorkeling….now tired to death!) Its amazing to think that the only land mass west of here is Panama, several hundreds of miles, should we decide to head off in that direction (not impossible really, as we contemplate our future sailing plans). This voyage however will soon come to an end as we set Lost Loon on a cradle out of the water for the summer. We have exactly 10 days before we are off the water. It has been a fantastic voyage. I has been our dream come true.

This dream that started as a way to “just charter in the Virgin Islands” has become so much more.

As crazy as it first sounded to quit our jobs, sell the house (and many belongings), and head off into the sunset on a boat in search of a different way of life for a while, that is exactly what we did. Initially, we had thought that we might bring the boat back to the US after reaching Grenada. But after “beating into the wind” (it’s a nautical term!) for so much of the trip (getting far enough East ) we are finally enjoying the day and overnight sails with the wind on the beam or in the right direction to propel us forward efficiently (these last 3 weeks of May we have only used the engine to get on and off the anchor; otherwise we are “Sails UP”) At last calculation, we are at some 2400 miles from our jump off point in St Mary’s GA. We have stopped at some 40 islands on the way here!!

It is difficult to describe life aboard…day to day… for 5 months. We are working (navigating and setting or resetting sails) to get to the next island or anchorage. We spend time maintaining the systems and fighting the effects of wind and salt on all systems. There have been many things to fix: toilets, propane systmes, boom vang, outboard motors, wind generators…etc ( so we spend time finding parts to replace or tools to remove the parts to be replaced). We have learned to conserve water and energy on the boat, something we have taken for granted our entire lives. (sometimes spending an entire afternoon filling and transporting 6 gallon water jugs to the boat to replenish the freshwater supply…we are now contemplating a watermaker) We are more respectful of the weather and never realized that we would be so dependable on the direction and force of th wind. We have come to enjoy a dip in the ocean whenever we please (of course clean water dependent!!) We have become accustomed to being rocked to sleep most night, as well as being ready to jump out of a sound sleep to close hatches in the event of evening rain. Waking to roosters crowing from the villages, church bells sounding out the hours on the French islands, and goats braying from some distant hillside are now routine. Our favorite sound, however is that of water rushing from the stern as we have sails set and turn off the engine. (we are now able to guess the boat speed with fairly good accuracy by the sound of the water rushing at the stern!!!)

We don’t worry about squalls, we watch for them, steer clear or reef the sails and push on. We have learned a bit more conversational French (Madame you would be proud of me!) as I realize some of that learned in high school. Our time reading has been manuals on marine electricity, plumbing, and diesel systems. I have ready exactly 1 novel and 4 guidebooks on the Caribbean island travels.

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I make a list of what I will miss most….no particular order (updated note: I truly have often found myself daydreaming of each of these)

Sailing in a gentle breeze and on settled seas at night.

Waiting for sunset

Morning coffee in the cockpit watching the birds feed on the surface fish.

Making landfall at a new island

Delicious cheap (ok “inexpensive, Sheila) French wine and Brie cheese

Sunsets (all of them)

Long walks on beautiful sand beaches

Watching the stars on an overnight passage

Seeing porpoises approach and greet us in the middle of the ocean

Meeting sailing friends at the beach bar to chat about travels

Observing the other sailboats, sailing in the distance, thinking how lucky I am to be doing the same…..

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Last Days…

 

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Our last night at anchor in Grenada, (May 2) there is a calm in the warm air. Of course it’s still 84 degrees at 7 pm. We are leaving for the marina tomorrow near Clarkes Court where we take out the boat to get some serious decommissioning done before haul out.DSC01639.JPG

We had mostly cloudy skies with no sunset today….a rarity. We can hear the dogs barking ashore, the water lapping up against the stern and the dinghy that’s floating off there. There is a surf against the beach due to a bit of a swell coming in today. The boat rocks gently and then quite rolls at times putting us on guard to maintain balance as we attend to our chores.

We spent the day organizing the boat, random maintenance, and cleaning the cupboards and stove. We will be in a marina tomorrow to start the final process of closing the boat for summer.

We have been on the boat for nearly 150+ days, and feel so comfortable here. People tell us that we were lucky to have such great weather and weather windows for our first year traversing the Caribbean.

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We have covered about 2400 nautical miles in the boat since our launch in St Mary’s Georgia on November 24.

As I go about the day, I think back on how we anticipated this year of sailing, and all the preparation that went on to get us here. Our home was sold as well as 90% of our belongings. I see many gadgets ‘ from home’ that have now made their place here on the boat, and think of how much ‘stuff ‘ ( for lack of a 4 letter slang word) we have been able to do without. There are simple kitchen utensils ( seriously….we have 4 forks, knives and spoons…3 chopping and cooking knives, a set of 4 dinner plates and snack plates, a small teapot, indispensable coffee press, a set of stainless cookware and a blender used twice! I shudder to think of the stuff in boxes in Wisconsin…..that I can now do without most likely. I have lived in basically 4 pair of shorts an assortment of tanks , t-shirts and 1 of 3 swim suits. However, since we are leaving the boat in the tropics for next season, we are bringing back many of the cold weather clothes we loaded aboard in November when we left the cool temperatures in Georgia. This will fill nearly 3 suitcases!! What were we thinking? …that would take a wrong turn and find ourselves at the North or South Pole! There are hats and gloves, wool socks ( for heaven sakes!) and …..get this….long underwear!!!! In our defense, we did hear that the winter of 2015-2016 in the Bahamas was very cool and we wanted to be prepared. Moral of the story is don’t load up your Suburban with everything you own and drive it to the boat…pretend you have to bring it all back in the luggage. The good news….we now have an enormous amount of locker and closet space for other things….like spare parts.

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A sailboat takes quite a beating on the ocean, unless you sit in a marina all the time. Even at anchor this thing is in motion. So things move and settle and twist and break. And it is always the screw or washer we need but don’t have. So….the spare parts list is growing. We need replacement screws, toilet parts, special glues, and propane tank parts. There are door locks and diesel parts we must have on hand as well. There are a few marine stores located in the chain of islands, but many parts are less expensive in the US despite the import tax we will pay bringing them in compared to a lot of the local prices.

That brings me to the regular maintenance that we must do , like a home on land, to keep us afloat. ( no grass to mow, leaves to be raked or painting to be done, relief!) Much of what we will do in the next week will be regular ‘upkeep’ and ‘preventive medicine’. There is the care of the exterior hull for barnacles and such growth, fiberglass and stainless polishing. The diesel needs an oil change, the sails need washing, folding and storage out of the elements, the through-hulls ( the intentional holes in the boat we can close off) need greasing, and the list goes on. We have our lists and hope to get it all done. And one more thing…..The LEAK needs fixing.

 

Yes…we have sprung a “small “leak. Isn’t that a boaters worst nightmare?? Ours come true. ( No, Mom, there was no danger of sinking, that’s why we never said anything!) We first started noticing that the bilge pump was running intermittently about 2 months ago. It is a suction device in the sole of the boat that automatically goes on when water collects here. We initially assumed we had water from the mast collecting after some time during spring rains in Guadeloupe. The pump would go off 3-4 times daily. But it was when the thing would suddenly work every 12-17 minutes we became concerned. ( yes we timed it. If there is no other reason to wear a watch on the boat than to time the discharge of the bilge it is worth it!) oh, and it is amazing how that little slurpy motor will wake us out of a peaceful sleep, and at which time Mike would ask me the time ( it’s good to have a lighted watch as well for night sailing and bilge-timing) and then wait, wait, wait until it went off again and I would give him the interval. Anyway, as soon as the frequency increased we would open the floor boars to check the collection container….we would see less than an inch of clear water sloshing to and fro, and when enough collected it would set off our Slurpy! We were not sure the quantity and so Mike even positioned himself in the dinghy and waited for the discharge to go off and measured the quantity. We used this to determine our 24 hour output. Not worrisome, unless the bilge motor burned out !

Now the scientific part….we had to determine if this was fresh or salt water…essentially was our leak from within ( a leaky water tank) or from the millions of gallons of sea water surrounding us on a daily basis? Of course, the first option was to taste it, but being the medical mind and far from any good healthcare, I made the decision this would. It be a good first step. We poured 3 glasses; two we knew were fresh and salt water and compared these to the bilge sample….no difference. The smell was the same. And it dawned on me to spread the 3 samples on a surface in the sun. I had noticed in the last 4 months that dried salt water leaves ….SALT crystals! BINGO! The bilge was salt. We were relieved we didn’t have a breach in the fresh water system, but we now had to find the point of entry of sea water. Well, the most obvious place would be a leak through hull joint. These were all checked (numerous times) and found dry. The next place where water can enter is the point at which the propeller shaft enters the boat. Mike crawled as far back as he could to see if there was water and he didn’t see any. Now this was an issue for a couple of weeks, until we noticed that Ole Slurpy would go off at more frequent intervals after we made a transit sailing or motor-sailing. Another look at the shaft and it seemed dry. One day we pulled all kinds of equipment from storage to check for water or leaks: behind the engine, deep in the rear storage, under the pile of equipment in the extra berth to check the hot water heater. We even snorkeled under the boat to look for holes….nothing. Very Frustrating!!!! It was about 4 weeks into this waxing an waning problem that we happened to recheck the propeller shaft and something called the dripless (quite an oxymoron) or stuffing box. ( ok there indeed a mechanism in place to keep water from coming in where the shaft enters the boat and it is quite common to have to replace these every few years….our was done in 2012) Mike put his hand under it again and felt an actual drip, and as he moved this around a bit…. there it was…and dripping faster.

The good news: it was about a cup an hour and the bilge was working fine. The bad news: Mike was unable to remove this corroded thing while we were on the water,(after several hours lying flat on the good old Yanmar…it would give) it would have to wait until haul-out. It was quite funny that EVERY ONE of the cruisers we happened to mention the problem to said ‘stuffing box’ but it wasn’t for weeks we could actually prove it.

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It’s getting darker earlier as the earths trajectory changes and the longer days appear in the North. We celebrate an awesome voyage, that started as a little winter dream. We discuss what islands and anchorages we missed this year and where we want to go back and spend more time. We think of all the cruisers we were fortunate to meet, some already out of the water and back in Canada or the US. The discussion leads to ideas for different or change in equipment when we return in the Fall. Finally, we briefly consider what to do with ourselves in this new life back in the US. This means finding a place to live, besides the summer cabin in Minnesota.

The stars present themselves finally on a dark night. We hear roosters still active ashore, and reggae music in the background. We get out the iPad and the SkyView app and work on our astronomy, identifying Cancer, Gemini, Orion’s, always on the lookout again for the Southern Cross. We savor the experience.

Our work for the day finally brings fatigue and sleepy eyes. We retire to the comfortable berth with a gentle breeze still present through the overhead hatch window. We are thankful.

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Stay tuned! We have more summertime blogs to come….just belated in getting them posted!

The Spice Islands

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We made it!!  GRENADA

(April 27…thanks for hanging in there with us this summer getting these posted. Hopefully this next Winter we have better access to the WIFI and the posts come in a more timely manner)

This our final island destination on this Winter journey through the Caribbean !

We arrived from Carriacou on a terrific morning sail. We made about 30 miles in under 4.5 hours. That means we were doing some great sailing. We left the anchorage at Tyrrel Bay at 0815 and by 830 had sails up in a sweet 17 knot breeze. With a 1 reef in the sail ( which reduces the sail surface and in higher winds….which we expected….improves comfortable control of the boat) and a full Genoa, the wind lifted us to a record 8.1 knots!! ( ok, I think we hit 8.5 or 9 knots returning from the Bahamas last year as we hit the fast current in the Gulf Stream, but that was then….this is NOW!). That is cause for celebration alone. Caliber is listed by the brokers as a safe and sturdy sailing vessel, not known for speed. But she showed us this day, if given the right winds and sail she can fly!

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As we sailed south, before we started southwest to make it around the northern tip of Grenada there, we passed a few small rocky islands then an area with a submerged inactive volcano , known as Kick’em Jenny.

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The map has a 5 km radius of exclusion around this volcano in case she were to become active. We were cognizant of the restrictions and sailed outside the radius. One scary thought is that when a volcano is active and submerged, it changes the botany of water and ships sailing or motoring over such an area will sink. Also we found that the ocean floor comes up from 4000 + feet to 350 ft in this area and it causes the waters to be quite confused. With a 18-29 knot wind and a bit of an ocean swell we had a short choppy ride through the ‘ volcano waters’. We imagined that someday there would be a small …or possibly large island here. Well, 3 days later, we are doing our morning chores aboard with the radio on and we hear that according to seismic recordings done in the last week there is evidence of possible volcanic activity and subsequently they strictly enforced the  5 km exclusion zone!!

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We approach the lush mountainous island of Grenada and it reminds us of Guadeloupe, typical West Indies. Known as the Spice Island for its nutmeg, cinnamon, and tumeric. We see the steep-to shorelines and deep green color of the inland landscape. We round several bays and find our way to the major port of St George’s. It was here that a lot of the conflict happened during the coup of 1980s. Grenada was a strife ridden island that was at the time inhabited by Cubans who decided to take control of the island. Apparently, the prime minister was assassinated by his cabinet when the government fell into leftist hands. Realizing the possible problem with Cuba having 2 ports at either end of the Caribbean and then one so close to Venezuela ( petroleum rich) waters, we sent troops in to return the nation to Grenadians. We met a fellow on the beach, one afternoon,that told us that US and allied troops went through the country and tried to weed out the Cubans. They were assisted by the Grenadian who exposed their neighbors. Some locals lost their lives when found out, but at the cost of recovering control of their country. He told us of US helicopters that were shot down right in the bay we are now anchored. This was the same guy that came out to tell us the lounge chairs we stopped to sit on would cost us $10 EC ($4.50 US) per day if we wished to stay. Mike stood up (de-occupying his lounge chair) and talked to him about the history of the island.

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St George is an old city. There are high cliffs upon which rest a prison and at the other end a hospital. The Carenage is the city that sits right on the waterfront. There is also a part of this port that accepts large cargo ships which bring supplies and food from Venezuela and Europe. There are fishing and transport boats moored up 3 fold waiting to take supplies to the out islands and Carriacou. The buildings are reminiscent of an old European village with old brick and stone fronts. There is a center city full of open markets selling fruits, vegetables, clothing, and other souvenirs.

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During the week the city is bustling with traffic, but by Sunday as we made our way through nary a sole could be found. It is a family oriented society and by mid-afternoon they were on the beaches and back at the parks enjoying life.

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We arrived about 1 week prior to taking the boat out of the water. It is here that Lost Loon will wait, out of hurricane waters for us to return in November for another season. We decided that it was time to tarry as we began the process of readying the boat for haul-out. We spent most mornings cleaning and re-organizing supplies, deciding what things we would want to take back to the States and what things could remain safe for our 6 month hiatus. We would make a trip to shore to find our way to the marina where we would leave the boat. One morning we made our way to the dinghy dock, stopped at the chandlery and off across the island for Clarkes Court Marina. We figured we had about a 4 mile walk. We had great marine maps, but to find an accurate land map was nearly impossible. We did make our way to Lost Loon’s previous home at Spice Island Marina, and were lucky to get a shuttle ride to Clarkes. It was a sweltering day by the time we arrived. We were greeted by some great staff and showed around so we knew where we were headed on our approach.  As luck would have it we were able to catch a bus ride most of the way back to where we left the dinghy that morning.

WE would spend the next week and a half getting the boat ready for the BIG HAUL..cleaning and forever organizing.

Next up….decomissioning the boat for the Summer…and things I miss…a new family member (!)..summer projects.

Thanks for stopping and reading. Please find the comment section …leave your thoughts Love hearing from everyone!