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!

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.

EASTER SUNDAY

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.

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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!