Saturday, December 12, 2009

We're still here!

Well, strangely, I posted a link to Lucy the grand daughter (is that two words or one) so that my dad could easily see the pictures and I got some response from other readers even though I haven't updated this sailing blog since we decided to live in Chicago for a year.

So, just in case there ARE some readers still out there . . .

Yes, we are having a great time living in our favorite city - Chicago. Yes it was a whopping 2 degrees the other day and my face hurt walking into the 20 knot wind! Yes, I do dream of waking up on Enee Marie and having that first cup of coffee on deck and watching the sun come up.

But, also yes, I dream of taking Lucy to a ball game! Taking her for a walk. Rolling a ball to her. Playing math games with her. Seeing the dinosaurs at the Field Museum. . .

You get the idea!

So, we have busied ourselves with helping get the baby's room ready. She comes home in a couple of hours and the room is TOTALLY ready. I turned the heat up too. Sue is working at Columbia College in a fascinating program. She and her partner have 20 Head Start teachers under there collective wings. They visit their Head Start classroom while they teach and offer observations and encouragement. They meet for formal class twice a week at Columbia. In 2 years these teachers will earn a Masters degree and have kept their jobs the whole time. Neat program mostly funded by the City of Chicago - Thanks Mayor Daley!

I too have been working at Columbia teaching one section of Physics for Filmmakers. A really fun course. As much as possible we used Hollywood films as a platform for pointing out good and bad physics. It is fun teaching physics to art students! An interesting bunch.

In January I'll be doing a seminar based on my book, The Why Book of Sailing (you bought one, right?) at the Strictly Sail Show. I'm hoping to do some live demonstrations and audience participation. I just found out yesterday that I'm scheduled for 5 shows! Yikes. 1 Thursday, 1 Friday, 2 on Saturday, and 1 on Sunday. I also plan to do heavy time in the Author's Corner selling and signing books. So if you're in town Jan 28 - 31 stop in!

One of our many plans is for me to return to Enee in January of 2011 and recommissioning her. I'm saving up for a new foresail, wind vane steering, bottom paint and some other smaller items. Sue will join me in late spring and then we'll sail her (Enee not Sue!) west to the ABC's or north to Puerto Rico. Like all plans these are carved in jell-o.

Well, like my daughter's marathon running blog turned into the Lucy/pregnancy blog maybe this one mutates into the watching Lucy/dreaming of sailing blog. I do miss writing. So if you're still out there, let's have a comment!

Cheers and fair winds!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

We're Grandparents

Hey Dad and anyone else. . .

Here's a link to pictures of our new grand daughter - Lucy Jean. . . all 10 lbs 6 oz of her!!


Thursday, June 04, 2009

Last Blog Entry

And here’s why. . .

Today is our fourth anniversary of cruising. And what a long strange trip it’s been! From Chicago to Grenada we’ve covered thousands of miles (plus several hundred with tacking and Scott's steering). From the Great Lakes to the Erie Canal to the Hudson River down the ICW, on the Atlantic Ocean across to the Bahamas eventually to the Dominican Republic then onward to Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and finally to the Caribbean Islands - indeed what a long-strange-wonderful trip it’s been.

What have we discovered as a result? Living the cruising life is a very freeing experience. Probably more than we may have realized early on. We rarely look at a calendar. We lose track of the days. We get up when we want. We eat when we’re hungry. We have TIME to think about things. Time to read. Time to watch Gracie and then Mismo chatter at the gulls. Time to look at the stars. Time to plan what our next trip might be. Time to be in the moment and relish where we are and what we’ve done so far.

After some reflection we’ve realized that the freedom that we feel doesn’t have anything to do with sailing per se. It’s more like the sailing and living aboard has flipped a switch in our heads. Real freedom is more than just physically being able to go where you want when you want. Real freedom is a state of mind where you can think anything is possible. We think anything is possible (although Scott’s chances of playing in the NBA are dwindling).

Many times in our past lives we may have put ourselves in a box or a situation thinking that that was the only way things could be. This trip has brought to the forefront the idea that, as Sue is fond of saying, ‘Lots of things are possible’. Indeed. This trip should have been impossible. Little money. Little sailing experience. Lots of curiosity. Lots of time spent thinking of the ‘other’ solution.

Now on this fourth anniversary of being ‘cruisers’ we don’t feel like we necessarily are cruisers. We feel that the freedom we’ve learned via cruising allows us to think ANYTHING. . . And then maybe try it!

Here’s what we’ve thought most recently.

We are going to become grandparents in November and we had already planned to be home September - December and be around for that happy arrival. Then we thought, why not stay for the child’s first year? We both know all about various versions of child care. Sue is a professional in that field and Scott went through a lot of driving around and making deadlines with day cares etc. It’s stressful. More importantly, the best child care in the business is a few notches below family. So we think we can arrange our schedules at Columbia College where we will be teaching so that
at least one of us can be with the little tyke while the kids save money and pursue their careers. We are very excited about this next adventure. We love sailing. We love the kids! We want to do everything. We’ll try!

As to the picture above, it's ultrasound of course which makes Scott wonder if bats can see fetuses?

We are scheduled to leave Grenada on August 6th. So for the coming two months we are cleaning out Enee and re-varnishing all the bright work below. Big job but we’ve broken it up into one day projects and we’re always done in time for happy hour! This is actually kind of fun too. We’re afraid that redoing all the varnish is going to make the rather worn teak and holly decking look tired but that’s a worry for another day. Enee will be strapped down in the Spice Island Marine yard for the 16 months we’ll be in Chicago. Good people there and she’ll be well looked after. We hope to return in January of 2011 and if we can get wind vane steering rigged by then maybe head west to Bonaire. We’ll see. Plans are always etched in jello. Many things are possible!

Since we won’t be cruising for a year and a half we won’t have any new boat stories or sailing adventures to report. There might be a grand-baby blog or even a Chicago Marathon blog since Scott and Leah and Jason will be training for and running in that race in October 2010. Talk about an adventure! And Hey - how come these dates sound so big?

To our regular readers: Thanks for reading. We hope you enjoyed our travels. We sure enjoyed writing about them. We know that some of you are reading and planning your own escape from the grid in the future. Feel free to e-mail us anytime (posted in the side bar) if you have questions and we’ll make something up! The blog will stay up and there’s a search box at the top so you can search for things like 'Erie Canal'. Stuff like that.

Special thanks to my daughter, Leah and her husband Jason for visiting, for taking our mail, making calls for us, putting us up when we visit, writing Chris Parker when we are late arriving at a port, buying us a new iPod. . . I could go on and on. Leaving family was hard. Getting that kind of support was awesome.

So as we often toast - Life is good! . . . . GOOD AND SHORT!

And Enee Marie is clear.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Back in Grenada

Yes, another great sailing day! We left Tyrell Bay hoping to be able to sail to the east of the little islands to the north of Grenada (Ronde Is, Diamond Rock, Les Tantes) and then sail right by the natural rock bridge, London Bridge, on our way to Grenada's western shore. Well a fair wind indeed and we had no problem sailing 195 degrees and getting to the east of the islands. At that point Sailor Sue said, "You know if we can sail this we can probably sail down the east coast of Grenada AND it's about 7 miles closer"! Brilliant! AND we can sail and not have to motor in the lee of Grenada.

Another fine sailing day ensued. Usually this side of Grenada can be rough and windy but we had rather light conditions. We ended up by sailing the last 5 miles or so wing and wing which is always fun. So, we're back in Prickly Bay and NOT in the unmarked Coast Guard channel (shockingly they did not get the buoys in yet!). We've broken up the varnish below decks into what we consider to be one day jobs. There's about 50 of them! While Sue tackles that I'm going to finally get around to removing all the crap on this boat that no longer works or is needed: air conditioners, pumps, refrigeration from the old engine driven unit, various gauges and wires, wires, wires. Should be fun. And, of course, daily swimming and scraping of the hull.

We celebrated our arrival back to Prickly Bay by going to the Friday night 2 hour happy hour, having pizza and dancing to the steel pan music of 'It's a Wonderful World.' (A slow dance so no broken bones). Life is good --- good and short!

And finally, a Mismo picture.
Mismo says: 'There are only 2 life jackets on board and when things go to hell, I'm gettin' one!'

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sailing South

St. Lucia was as far as we intended to go north so on back south! We cleared out in Rodney Bay and then went to Wallilabou St. Vincent. The big draw here is that the bay was the location where they shot much of Pirates of the Caribbean. OK. As you enter the bay you will be approached by ‘boat boys’ who will help you get a mooring (it’s very deep) and take a line to shore to point you into the swell. Fine. But they tend to be a little annoying and you don’t know who is working together or if you pay one guy does he pay the rest of the crew or what. So, I did my usual and just gave everyone some money. I don’t have much but I’m betting that they have less.
(Photo above of taken from restaurant with Enee in background)

So it goes. They also have no problem putting boats about 8 feet apart. There is nothing here and once you look at the old sets you’re done looking at stuff. You can get your money back (20 EC) for the mooring ball if you eat at the restaurant but all the dinners are like 100 EC! Each! So after a couple beers, we just went back to the boat. This is a stop that can be skipped. (Well, ok..... it is beautiful there as this picture shows. So maybe must cruise in for a few photo opts then be on your way)

On to Bequia! We like Bequia and it was fine to be back for a few days. We had one of those sporty sails across the channel between St. Lucia and St. Vincent and flogged the headsail* pretty badly and then noticed some stitching coming out of the UV cover. This happened before and was repaired way back in Key West! We took it to Grenadines Canvas who made our wonderful sun/rain awning and they managed repairs the same day.

(Photo of Princess Margaret beach from the caves - Bequia)

Our plan now is to sail around the southwest tip of Bequia and then east to Friendship Bay on the south coast of Bequia. We had walked there on a previous visit and we think it will be a pretty anchorage even if it is a little rolly as advertised. What a great little 5 mile sail! Down wind and wing and wing to the tip of Bequia and then east and upwind to Friendship. We accidently unrolled the foresail to a new position and holy crap. . . Maybe we CAN tack this boat 90 degrees! We had more sail out than usual but not all of the sail. Close hauled the clue of the sail was just even with the upper shroud. I think in this configuration we get a decent sail shape without being overpowered. We’ve typically had more than this rolled up and I think the big ugly cylinder of unused sail along the luff makes for too much turbulence and a rotten sail shape. Nice! Of course at one point we got a sheet tangled on one of our mast steps and then I was sure that we had no engine power again and pulses went up and then back down as all was actually well.

It is a little rolly in Friendship bay but we have a pretty high tolerance for a gentle roll and that’s what this was. We rigged dinghy and found a nice piece of shallow for snorking too. Later we went ashore where there is a very high line resort. Swings at the bar instead of stools. Fun! We had a couple of rum drinks and then back to Enee.

The other reason for coming to Friendship Bay was to get some east in to get a good point of sail to Union Island the next day. Only 25 miles but we’d really like to sail it comfortably . By coming to Friendship we add 10 degrees to our course and you can feel that! So early Monday morning we head out of Friendship. The wind is on or just abaft the beam. Yes! We set the sail and off the engine. Beautiful! We are on course and sailing easily at 6 to 7 knots the whole way. One of the finest sails we’ve ever had! Almost four years of living aboard and sailing and we still get totally jazzed with this kind of day.

About 2 miles from Chatham Bay we heard a SPROING. Sue and I simultaneously scream: “FISH ON”. Yep we caught another one. First thing we did was to hove to. Haven’t done this lately and maybe never on this boat but like most boats she sits nicely hove to. For those of you who don’t do this it’s easy. You tack but just backwind the foresail. Once through the wind you let the boom out all the way and then turn the wheel to windward and lock it. That’s it. The boat will gently drift downwind and allow you to take care of what ever like reeling in your fish!
MISMO! Kiss my FISH!

Another nice little tuna (5-8 pounds maybe) or horse eye jack as they are also called. We got him aboard and put the nasty french rum in the gills and that did it. Killed him. Does the same to me! We covered him with a wet towel and once we anchored in Chatham we let him dangle in the water since we are without ice or refrigeration. I decided to cut the fillets just before we cook them.

Went ashore and had a couple of beers at Jerry’s Bar on the beach. Jerry is a great guy but so low key I’m afraid he doesn’t get much business. Back to Enee for backgammon and snacks then time to eat the fish! An excellent dinner ensued. Nothing like a great sail followed by eating the fish you caught along the way. A bottle of wine and all is well on Enee Marie.

Except. . .

Yes, we are sharing the anchorage with another party catamaran. 3 couples from Tennessee (state motto: Go Hogs!). None of them sail or know anything about it but they have a hired captain. I talked to one of the guys who snorked over by our boat. (The captain in the meantime was trying unsuccessfully to anchor their boat.) It seems one guy just graduated grad school and one other just turned 30. So, I’m thinking well, that’s pretty grown up. Wrong! Unless you call dressing up in little pirate outfits (including small plastic swords) and driving around the anchorage in the dinghy going ARGGGGG and WoOOOO WOOOO. Please head, don’t explode! They also have a women with really high pitched and annoyingly drunken horse laugh on board. This is a requirement for party boats I’ve found. Maybe they are supplied by the charter company. At one point this crew was loudly singing along with some patriotic song about being proud to be an American. I wasn’t so proud at the time. Maybe they should look up irony in the dictionary. Dictionary? I guess there is no place left on the planet to hide from rudeness. The party went on to about midnight. Perhaps the Caribbean is becoming the next Daytona, Ft. Lauderdale, CanCun. I wish the charter companies would have their captains explain about how sound travels on the water and how if they just stop and listen for a moment they would find that they are the only boat making a ruckus. Perhaps take a look at the stars? A little common courtesy perhaps? I know, that went out with 8 track tapes.
(Above photo of a 'crabby' bird which we were two of because of these bozos!)

Tomorrow I’ll walk to Clifton again. I know the way now and clear customs. We can sail the next day then the 12 miles back to Carriacou which is part of Grenada and clear back in. If the Tennessee boys are still here though we’ll head out later today.

GO HOGS! (crap. . . )

*Yes, you can go blind if you do this too much.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Day in the Cruising Life


One of those longish posts so settle in with a cup of joe. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll want to read it again!

We are sooooo ready. On Friday the 8th we got the boat ready for a 50 mile run from Bequia to Soufriere in the south west corner of St. Lucia. We decided that with the good day we were likely to get we might as well do the whole shot and skip stopping at Wallilabou in St. Vincent. So we cleared customs, took down the new awning, hauled up dinghy and motor, went through our checklist (yes we have a pre-passage making checklist. Don’t you?) and went to bed even earlier than usual. We plan to get up at 3 to make coffee and then out by 4. We don’t know how rough the passages between Bequia and St. Vincent nor the one between St. Vincent and St. Lucia might be and we’d like to arrive in daylight. It’s about a 50 mile trip and we usually hope to average at least 5 knots. Do the math.

Very light breeze so I can haul anchor without any help from the helm and Sue can stay below and stow chain as it comes in. Anchor up. . .LET’S GO! Then Sue says, “You’re not going to want to hear this but we’re not going anywhere”. It was true. I looked around. Engine is going but we’re almost dead in the water. Almost. We were drifting a little toward the little blue hulled boat behind us. Oh crap! It’s too late to raise sail. We’ll only accelerate. I got on the very tip of the bow to fend off. We may clear them. Wait. Wait. . . Yes! We clear their stern by inches. They never even woke up!

We drop the anchor and breath. What the hell is going on? I go below and look at the coupling to the prop shaft. Sue puts the boat in gear and sure enough the engine is turning but the shaft NOT. I feel around the coupling. No set screws! I feel around in the bilge and find one set screw AND the key that connects the collar to the shaft! Holy crap! Anyone who knows us from Chicago sailing days knows that this was common on Catalina Enee, our 30 footer that we left town in. In fact part of THAT boat’s checklist was for me to ‘check my nuts’ every morning to make sure they were there.

(Pause for laughter to settle down. . . )

Of course when you get a new boat you assume all the old problems were left on the old boat. Stupid. OK, This HAS to be fixed pronto. We are engine-less until then. The anchor is down but not really set. No wind now but if it comes up and we start to drift again it could mean trouble. Not to mention we’ve already cleared customs so we have to leave or check back in and pay again!

This area of the engine is fairly accessible as things go in boat repair but I do have to disconnect the exhaust hose from the engine to really get at it. That done I can see what I’m dealing with much better. The collar completely covers the key slot so the collar will have to be un-bolted from the transmission and then slid aft down the shaft until it reveals the groove for the key. Sliding the collar aft wasn’t too bad except every time I flexed the shaft in any direction sea water gushed in because we have a dripless gland (say nothing). Bilge pump seems to be able to easily keep up with this so I continue to twist the collar aft back and forth. Of course with about ⅛ inch to go it stalls and I have to use all muscle and griping tools available to get it to move any more. Finally I get the key to drop in.

Uh this has to slide forward but there will be no twisting it back and forth as now the key is engaged in both the shaft and the collar. I can see the sun is up. I’m sweating like a pig and dirty as one too. I fear that now I’ll need some sort of special device (like maybe a trained technician!) to properly slide this collar over the key and back into position. Or, perhaps a hammer and screwdriver? Yeah! That’s the ticket! Collar re-bolted to the transmission and set screws in (I had found the other one) AND wired together (they weren’t before) we’re ready to go. “Sue! Start her up”! Before she can test forward gear she shuts it down and says, “She’s not pumping water”! Oh yeah, I DID remove the exhaust hose didn’t I! NOW we’re ready. Prop shaft is turning and checklist has been amended accordingly!

It’s 0600 We’ve lost 2 hours but if we have to pick up a mooring in the dark that’s not so bad. (Soufriere ONLY has mooring balls. No anchoring).

As is our custom we raise the main to one reef and see what conditions are like in the Bequia channel between Bequia and St. Vincent. Nice wind and seas not too bad. Lets haul genny out to the uppers. Hey we can SAIL! Engine off and even with this little bit of sail out Enee is making 7+ knots and crushing the seas before her! Wheeeeee! A little more of this and we’ll be back on schedule!

Along the lee of St. Vincent of course there is no wind so we motor and main those 10-15 miles or so. We try to hug the coast and even get a little easting in before heading across the gap to St. Lucia. Of course we’re dragging our fishing lure but no bites. But wait! Dolphins off the port beam! LOTS of them and they are jumping out of the water! We think they’re happy that we’re under way. We are too! We did NOT catch one on our lure thankfully and I guess they are too smart to fall for an artificial bait.

This northern tip of St. Vincent has a reputation for high winds as the wind wraps around the volcano at the northern end. As promised, PLENTY of wind and seas are probably 6-8 feet which really isn’t too bad. AND, looks like we might be able to sail this as well. We haul out little genny again and off we go. Another sporty sail at 6-7 knots with even a brief period of 8 knots! What a ride!

We’re heeled over pretty good and some things come apart down below. The worst was the shelf of three ring binders and catalogs that have a bungy cord keeping them in place. Apparently the bungy is no longer very springy and after hearing the crash I find a pile of papers, books, charts and whatever on the deck of the companionway. Well, that’s going to be cleaned up later. No way is either of us crawling around on the deck down below in heaving seas. Onward!

We approach the south west coast of St. Lucia which is dominated by two giant pointy hills or ‘pitons’. Grosse Piton and Petite Piton respectfully. Many junior high level comments ensue about pitons and breasts as you might imagine. Sue can be soooooo immature! (All I said is, ‘Piton is French for perky.’)

The guide book shows where the mooring fields are and as we slowly come in I see no vacant mooring balls. Hmmmmm…..Then a boat boy comes out. Many places have these - some good. Some annoying. He says he’ll help me pick up a ball. I say I don’t need help and is there even a ball to get. He says yes there are two left and yes we can use him to take a line to shore to point us into the swell. All for 10 EC. OK. We drop the main and head for the mooring ball where he is waiting. A Benneteau ahead of us got one but that still leaves one. UH OH! A Moorings boat comes flying around the corner from the south and beats me to the last ball. BASTARD! We motor up to the other field but it is full as well. Oh crap. When you’ve already had a long day and even when it has mostly been a good day, you are ready to get hooked up and relax. Now its sails up and north to the next place.

The next place seems to be Marigot Bay. About 6 miles. We put up full sail AND keep the engine on. Don’t know what to expect here and it’s already late afternoon. If this doesn’t work out it’s probably on to Rodney Bay and maybe anchor in the dark. On the way 3 boats pass us into Marigot Bay. Uh oh. . . As we approach the entrance we see two of them exit the bay. I try to hail them on the radio to see if they left because it was too crowded but instead the marina at Marigot Bay answers my hail and yes they have mooring balls available. Wheee…..

Alledgedly, the British hid their entire fleet from the French (They are SO hard to trick!) back in the lagoon back in the day.

Boat boys are ready to help but I say no, I can pick up a mooring by myself. They are insistent but I decline. Marigot bay has a narrow outer part (supposedly where you can anchor but it is nearly all mooring balls) and then a lagoon of sorts for an inner part. That’s where we’re headed. We motor up to a ball and I’m ready with my boat hook. I grab the ring on top and pull. Nothing happens. Typically this ring should come up on deck so I can put a line through it. We try another one. Same thing. The boat boys are just waiting. I wave them over and they take my line and put it through the ring. OK. I give them a small tip and send them away.

What a great day! We’re tired but it’s mostly a good tired. This little lagoon is sort of pretty but dominated by a busy water taxi taking tourists back and forth to a little restaurant (which looks to be pretty high line) and the buzz of boat boys zipping about. Customs is closed so we’ll try them tomorrow. We don’t launch dinghy nor do we put up the new awning.

A guy comes over from the marina to collect the fee for the mooring. 80 EC!!!!!! Wow! (About $30 US) You’d think for that THEY’D come out and help you with your line. You’d also think that the guy coming out would have a pen or clipboard or change. No, no, and no! We provided all of that! We don’t care at this point. Interestingly, Sue asks the guy what other services we might get for our 80 EC? Oh he says. . . I could sell you some music I have! Not really what we had in mind. Perhaps a shower? Oh sure we have showers you can use.

There is one fairly loud boat of French people but they leave before we hit the rack. Ah….I’ve been up since 3 and I am going to sleep like the dead.

No, I’m not because somewhere up in the hills someone had Kareoke from hell. I mean it sounded like Yoko Ono before voice lessons . . . Which she failed! Luckily they stopped around 2AM! THEN I went to sleep. What a day.

This is our brave ship's cat NOT facing the music during a sporty sail!


It is now Tuesday the 12th. We’ve moved on north to Rodney Bay which is a huge bay and developed to look a little too much like Florida or Nasau for our tastes. On Sunday we anchored at the north end by Pigeon Island where they were having their 18th Jazz Festival featuring Patty LaBell and Chicago. Jazz? Oh well. We were anchored in a huge nest of chartered catamarans (Uh oh. . . ) but it was a festive atmosphere and lots of boat and people watching to do. We just stayed on board as we could hear the bad music easily from the boat. The exception, of course, being Chicago! Jeezus. . .how old are these guys? Anyway we could hear all the favorites, Saturday in the Park, 24 or 624, etc from the boat. I fell asleep during their set and was awoken by gun fire! What the hell! Sue gives me cheese and settles me down and explains that it’s fireworks! Nice. And being launched right from shore near the boat. Fun although Mismo did NOT approve. This was her first experience with fireworks and she liked it even less than sailing I’d guess.

We plan to stay maybe through the weekend here in Rodney Bay and then head south once again. We’ll probably move our anchorage to be nearer town on Wednesday or Thursday as we have already scoped out our restaurant for our 21st anniversary on Thursday and it’s about a half mile dinghy ride to where we are now.

Thanks for reading and all comments appreciated as usual!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Anchoring Drill

We’ve been anchored in Bequia for almost 2 weeks. It’s been gusty and rainy off and on. Mostly it’s been sunny and beautiful. We’re anchored near Princess Margaret Beach and enjoy watching all the charter boats (mostly catamarans) come and go.

Yesterday we were very excited to get our new awning. Scott went in early to pick it up. The awning maker, Avell, offered to come to the boat to help install it but Scott said not necessary. He wanted to give it a try on his own.

So we managed to strap the new material down over the boom. This awning is much bigger than our original bimini that zips onto the dodger. But wait…...the new awning isn’t covering the cockpit! That won’t work. So back to the canvas shop goes Scott to bring Avell out to help us figure this out. He showed us how to tighten the batten and stretch the lines forward to give us the shape we wanted but agreed that it wouldn’t keep rain out. We decided to add side panels that would roll up when not needed. Back to the shop to make adjustments. It will be ready later on in the day.

Well that was a little disappointing but we think it will turn out much better. So we relax for a bit, have some lunch, get ready to go back into town to do some internetting when suddenly I notice that the boat behind us is almost upon us! What the……
‘Scott, I think we’re dragging!’ He jumps up, starts the engine, and we prepare to haul anchor. How did this happen? It was a bit gusty when we tried installing the awning but we don’t think that caused us to sail off the anchor. In any event there was no doubt that we had moved and were only 6 feet or so from the other boat.

By 'other boat' I mean the nasty, rusty French boat behind us with the guy who just cannot keep his pants on! I mean plenty of Europeans will swim in the nude descretely off their stern. This guy just prances about the deck stark naked and WAVING to passers by. These two idiots are just standing on deck not saying anything. Waiting for the collision? OK, you're french and you don't speak English. . . how about HEY! or something similar. Idiots.

Ok….assume your positions. Scott begins to haul chain with the manual windlass and I stick my head and hand into the anchor locker to guide the chain down so it doesn’t castle up and get stuck. After about 200 strokes of the lever on the windlass the anchor is finally up and I run to the helm to drive. Where should we put the anchor down now? We still can’t believe that we drug after sitting there so long with no problem.

We tried setting the anchor 5 times before it held. Now when I say ‘tried’ this means Scott drops the anchor on a sandy patch. I back up the boat. Scott lets out more chain. I back up the boat. Scott yells ‘back up straight’, I yell, ‘the winds not letting me’, Scott signals to put the boat in neutral, I do. Scott dons snorkel and mask and swims over the anchor. We’re dragging here too. Back in the boat. Scott hauls chain by using the double-action ratchet lever about 200 times and I go back below to organize chain. Whew! What a drag! Finally got set near where we started but farther from shore. (Click the play button to see Scott in 'action')

The next morning we got the new and improved awning and it is awesome. We used to have to move around in the cockpit in a crouch like living in a pup tent. Now we have lots of head room, better viewing and more shade. Now we’re hoping for rain to try the whole thing with the flaps down.

We think we’re finally leaving tomorrow for Wallilabou in St. Vincent. This is where they filmed Pirates of the Caribbean and Johnny Dep is still there. Any other appearances by him since making that movie are holograms.

Finally, the required Mismo photo. She is a little miffed that her hammock (old bimini) is gone. In the meantime she is hanging out on top of the dodger pondering how to torture us in the middle of the night.

Sunday, May 03, 2009


Happy Birthday to --

Stephanie today - May 3rd


Lisa on May 9th.

Last evening a catamaran came in with a bunch of younger people on it and by younger I mean drunk college kids. For the rest of the night we heard WOOOOOOOOOOO WOOOOOOOOOO. DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUDE! F----- AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.

Wow, and we wonder why people hate Americans! I mean this party could just have well been in a hotel room in Cleveland. More disturbing is this is a captained and crewed charter aboard a catamaran named "Joy". If you see this boat coming, RUN. They anchored by us about a week ago and their anchor drug. Some captain. I noticed that the 'Y' in Joy is missing from the port side and looks like they've collided with something. As the captain of a charter boat I would think you would somewhat dig the idea of 'respect'? You just don't behave like you're in Ft. Lauderdale when you're in the West Indies. Not cool. I was embarrassed for them. They weren't up all that late (no kidding. They were pretty bombed when they arrived at sundown) it was just so upsetting to hear that kind of bad American behavior. Good news is that this is the first time we've been around really bad behavior anywhere in the Caribbean.

I stopped by the boat this morning and asked the captain if they were staying another night (I had plans to move our anchorage) and he said no. I just left it at that. Re-education of these idiots would take a high voltage device!

Today is Good Shepard Sunday. How do I know? I went to church! Yes, heathen that I am I just thought I'd see what was happening in a small, little West Indian, Catholic church. St Mary's church was built in 1829! Typical West Indian construction. Simple. Stone walls with wooden beam and trusses holding up a tin roof. White and light blue pews and white walls and beams. About 25 members on the hard wooden pews. I was hoping someone would be playing the piano but no.

Service itself was pretty standard as I understand these things but I do enjoy the lilt and rhythm in the West Indian accent. The sermon was delivered by a priest with a great big baritone too! I paid attention even! But the hymns were really LONG and sloooooooow. So, while people got up for the communion I slipped out the side door. Unfortunately this was just after the collection plate went around. Catholics always get their money!

A friendly place though (a gentleman in back kept coming to me and helping me to find the right page in the Common Book of Prayers) with old ladies all dressed up in colorful dresses and HATS! My grandma always wore a hat to church.

Perhaps we will take in a Cricket game later and then some boat projects, swim and daily scraping of the bottom. It's fun to keep up with the bottom growth. Bottom paint doesn't keep all the stuff off but does make it easy to flick it off. If you let it go the underworld will win! We have little white dots where barnacles have sucked off the bottom paint and now near the bow where there is more light we get little 'beards' of green grass growing there. But my breath holding ability continues to increase and it's one of those lessons, like a lot of them for me, that was learned the hard way. Yes, pay a lot for your bottom paint. You have to. But then keep up with the little guys that will take root anyway. Paint will last longer as long as YOU don't scrape it off!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Walk to Friendship Beach

Friendship Beach, Bequia (pronounced bek' way)

Today is May 1 which is Labor Day down here. Not too much is open so we thought we go for another walk (hike). This time we headed to the south side of the island where there is a very pretty beach called Friendship Beach. As usual, steep climb about half way and then down hill the rest. We happened upon what looks to be a pretty high end resort. Very nice bar/restaurant right down by the water. The bar ‘stools’ were little swings. Fun.

We stopped for a cold drink at a little snack shop and chatted with a very friendly lady there. Actually, just about everyone in Bequia is pretty darn friendly. Some islands you can feel a bit of a bad vibe from the locals. I think mostly those are the islands that have been totally invaded by the giant cruise ships and when they disgorge their passengers it is like an invasion. Hell, I don’t care for tbeing around that many tourists either! (No offense to any family or friends who go on giant cruise ships!) I guess some of the small cruise ships do stop here on occasion and ferry people in but not many and not often.

One of the fun things about the Caribbean is all the crazy kind of boats you see. Oh sure there is a regular progression of Beneteaus and a flock of Lagoon catamarans but there are also some real crazy rigs as well as some top of the line luxury sail boats. We went out to get some pictures of this one, Rebecca, but there’s no where to be to actually photograph it! It must be about 120 feet long, ketch rigged. This must be a 2-3 million dollar boat. The topsides as you can see are real shiny wood. Separate cockpit for helmsman away from crew and guests. The other one, Amazon, is the crazy one. I don’t think that big smokestack is still in operation but who knows? Looks like there is a solo sailor on board who always wears a kilt. I’ve seen him ashore as well but don’t know his or the boat’s story and not sure I want to!

We’ve commissioned our new awning and it should be done Monday or Tuesday. It will go from the mast to the back stay and nearly to the lifelines. It will have a loop on top to haul it up with the main halyard to give it a tent shape and a batten in the back edge to give it some shape. Can’t wait. We had a pretty hard rainstorm today and had to go hide out down below. It gets stuffy in a
hurry down there! Sue went out to put the buckets in position to collect some rain water. Picture (if you click on it) shows the water going nicely into the bucket (and dripping elsewhere too!). While scurrying around to arrange buckets in the rain (I was busy!) Sue noticed the dingy. Earlier, we had pulled it up about amidships to clear the boarding ladder for our swim. Now it was right under the scupper and water was pouring off the deck and filling the dinghy! Well, that will have to be bailed or maybe do a wash right in the dinghy! Wait if I mounted the outboard the other way round with the propeller INSIDE the dinghy. . .THIS IS GOING TO BE GREAT!

More later. . .

Hi daddy! Do you like the large print?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sunday in the Islands,

On Sunday, Sue and I decided to go for a long walk on the island. Bequia is not very big so you can walk nearly the whole island over the course of a few days. Well, it’s not very big but it is damn high! We don't know if it's the time of year or this island but there were TONS of pretty flowers. Here's some yellow ones.

But first, Sunday in the islands is my favorite day. Just like when I was a kid, EVERYTHING is closed on Sunday. Streets are quiet. People are not around or they’re just lounging on the beach. Maybe taking a kid for a walk. What a concept - a day off for everyone! I don’t think it’s possible to have a real day off in America any longer. Maybe Christmas day but even then the 7-11, etc are open. Can’t miss a day with no buying nor selling I guess. Here, nobody has much anyway so when everyone takes a day off not much changes.

We happened by a Cricket Match. A real one. Uniforms, nice equipment, stands and a scoreboard (it was 123 - 104 when we arrived). Now baseball is a slow paced game but this game looks like it is stuck in Jell-O! The bowler (pitcher) gets a pretty good workout like in baseball as he runs about 20 yards before unleashing the googlie (ball). Everyone else is standing around like right fielders in little league! When they hit the ball (googlie) it often goes by all the fielders and over the scrum for a wicket. . . Or something like that. I guess depending on the rules they start out with a game can go on for days. One GUY can bat for days as you are only out of you hit the ball, accidently let go of the bat (loggerdrop), trip over the wicket, and say something unkind about the umpire’s heritage. Yeah, an out is tough to come by. Oh, catching a fly ball works too.

After being told by a local that we were walking uphill to a dead end (we only realized the uphill part) we went another way and found ourselves on the road UP to Mount Pleasant. This is not a walk but rather a CLIMB. (about 700 feet which is over 100 fathoms!) Switch back road all the way to the top. What a great view though and well worth the climb. Going down, of course, much easier.

On Monday I had a canvas guy (well, he’s not made of canvas but rather, does canvas work.) come out to the boat to give an estimate for making a new sun/rain cover for the boat. As many of you know we like to sail with an open cockpit and so have no permanent bimini. Instead we have a small bimini that zips onto the dodger and is then brought back over the cockpit and fastened to the backstay. This is nearly 4 years old and was never properly designed. It doesn’t really cover all of the cockpit as it is too narrow allowing rain in. Now that it is old it is more of a rain catcher than a tent so we have to scurry below when it rains. Well, I scurry. If it rains when we are underway, well that’s why I sail in my bathing suit!

We’re looking for an over the boom shade that would be held up by a halyard and then lashed to mast, stays, and rail. We’ll see about the prices later today. I have another canvas guy coming out today so we’ll have to estimates/designs to compare.

While taking yesterday’s canvas guy back ashore I was describing our climb up to Mount Pleasant. He asked me who I thought designed the road. The English? No. French? No. He tells me that donkeys designed it! According to him a donkey will only walk uphill at a certain rate of climb and will keep that rate constant. He asked if I noticed that even though the road switched back and forth it is a constant incline to the top. Once the donkey’s had worn a path the road builders just followed this to build the permanent road. Nice
story but then later I started wondering what keeps the donkeys from just walking all the way around the hill in a spiral shape? What made them turn and do a switch-back? Well, there I go ruining a perfectly nice little fable. I do that a lot! Here's a donkey checking out the new road.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Tobago Cays and Beyond

Sometimes we’re slogging along making 2-3 knots. Engine is rumbling. Wind and spray in our face. Both tacks are uncomfortable. We’re not going to get there. And I wonder, “What the hell am I doing out here”? Other times we get somewhere, like today when we arrived in the Tobago Cays and I think, “This is why I came here”!

The top photo is from the top of our mast. Thanks Sue!

The Tobago Cays are part of the Grenadines and by the way if you’re looking for a place to charter and/or you’re tired of BVI, the Grenadines have that BVI property of allowing for short hops, gorgeous anchorages, and crazy blue water. We see lots of charter boats. Moorings is here of course out of Canouan, Horizon out of Grenada, and many others.

We had just spent a couple of days in Mayreau in Saline Bay. Pretty busy little anchorage. Not much here but a small town with a few bars and restaurants. We did find a few provisions - cheese, noodles, flour. Sue went farther up the hill than I did and got some great pictures looking north and south as well as a cute little church.


We also took the main down here to make some repairs to the upper sail slides. Look! Sue sews! Actually I think these upper slides/connectors broke due to operator error. This is what happens when you sit too long and don't sail. I have been frustrated at how the luff of the main would slacken after being up a short while. I'd go out and tighten the halyard but it would seem to go slack again. Finally I figured out that we were not loosening the main sheet when we hoisted the main. This causes the leach of the sail to tighten before the luff so when I crank on the halyard I begin to pull the slides away from the mast. This failure to understand how to raise my own mainsail has since been fixed! Yes, appropriate punishments were meted out.

From Saline Bay to the Tobago Cays is about four miles. See? You come in between a couple of small islands (nothing on them) and anchor or take a mooring ball between there and the reef. You can then dinghy out to the reef proper and there are orange mooring balls to tie your dinghy to. What great snorking! The huge area is littered with coral heads and all kinds of fish. The whole area is about 5 feet deep but maybe 1 foot over the coral heads. It’s a special place and there is no picture that shows the panorama of where we are now. I want to bring my daughter here because she damn well would find a way to capture this photographically!

Oh look, this is Sue’s bread! Sue has been baking a loaf of bread ever other day or so. So yummy and makes the boat smell nice (for a change!). Look, if we’re taking pictures of bread just imagine us with a grandchild! Wheeeeee.

Friday morning the sky is full of small squalls. Weather says the some could bring some gusts in the 25 knot range. Also, they may be with us for 4 or 5 days. Great. We wait while some of these little buggers move through and then take off sensing an OK window. We’d like to make Bequia today but if it turns to crap we can always turn back and tuck into Canouan which is only about 5 miles north of here. In fact I plan to hug the Canouan coast to get some north and some east in before falling off and trying to lay Bequia. This sort of works. Of course after leaving the coast of Canouan we find just about no wind so back on the motor and main. By the way the off shore report was for 20 knots north east to north today. Right. But it could be that all these squalls are disturbing the gradient wind. Whatever, looks like we’ll make Bequia unscathed.

We arrive in Bequia around 1500. Tried to anchor on the north side where it is supposed to be less rolly but the anchor wouldn't stick. Uh oh. . .Now it's a little crowded so Sue cannot leave the helm. I had to do the crank some chain - run below to drag chain aft - crank some chain - . . . repeat. Took about 3 -4 trips to get it done. From there we moved to the south side of the bay where I know it is a more sandy bottom. No problem here. No wifi either though! Our internet service, HOTHOTHOTSPOT is supposed to work in this harbor but I think we're too far out. Well that's a project for another day.

Bequia is one of the more yachty anchorages in the Caribbean without being so busy like Grenada is. You can provision here pretty well. There is a service that will bring water and fuel right to your boat and also pick up laundry and garbage if you want. There's a bookstore here and there is just about nothing rarer than a good bookstore!

Finally, while walking on the beach in Chatham bay this giant monolith appeared. It seemed to be calling me. I carefully approached and lightly touched it's surface. Was it vibrating? Did I hear something? Hmmm.....

I walked on but the next day I got the idea to use a chicken bone to perform minor surgery. Coincidence?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Union Island Death March

The day before the March...Great sailing day just knocking off the 5+ miles from Carriacou to Union Island. We had a good plan for this. Instead of coming out of Tyrell Bay on the west end of Carriacou and just trying to lay Union Island (ain’t going to happen. Bearing is about 40 degrees and even in an east wind there is the 2 knot current flowing west. ) So we ducked east along the coast of Carriacou, motor and main, and got our easting in down there where you are somewhat protected from the current. Once we got to the northern tip of Carriacou we full sailed and tried to make our way to Clifton, the main town on the eastern end of Union Island. I’ll have a separate post on what happens when you are trying to tack into a current but for now let it be said that we sailed nicely but still couldn’t lay Clifton. So, we motor the last half mile.

If you look close at the picture you can see Mismo peeking out from under my shirt. That's where she likes to ride sometimes when we are underway!

Clifton is where the customs house is and this is Friday we want to get anchored there and check in before the weekend. The bay by Clifton is unusual. It is sort of horseshoe shape due to a reef right in the middle of the bay. We came in on the western leg and stopped at a marina to take on water. The popular anchorage here is just to the west of a large reef - so between two reefs. Nice and flat water. We tried to anchor twice and couldn’t get the thing to stick. Once that happens I am out of there because even if it does stick now I’m only gong to think about the two times it wouldn’t. All night.

By the way this trying and then re-trying is a bit of an adventure with some real wind and shoals and other boats. When we weighed anchor that morning it was great. With plenty of sea room and light air, Sue can stay down in the v-berth and organize chain into the chain locker as I crank it in with my new manual windlass. When the anchor is up she comes back to the helm and drives the boat. Here in Clifton though that wasn’t completely possible. After some cranking I’d either be blown too far off the anchor to be able to haul it or we’d be getting too close to other boats. In either case Sue would have to leave the v-berth and run to the helm. This was repeated about 6 times until we finally left. Sue was so happy with all of this!

On to Chatham Bay on the west coast of Union Island! Some of you may remember that I had the pleasure of stopping here when I crewed on Fleetwing a few weeks ago. Great place. Of course we dined at ‘Shark Attack’ the nice man that grills fish and lobster and a bunch of other great food. We probably had enough food for 4 or 6 people! Understand that in Chatham bay there are no roads and no electricity. Lanterns are set out and all the food is prepared on the charcoal grill. Only 3 or 4 boats in the whole bay and just us and a table of French people at ‘Shark Attack’. A perfect end to a great day. . .not counting the anchoring!

So we didn’t check in and are technically in St. Vincent (Union Island is the most southerly island of the Grenadines which are all part of St. Vincent.) waters illegally. This is no big deal and we’ve done this before. You go in the next day and say you arrived after they were closed. It’s all cool. But, the customs house is in Clifton and we’re in Chatham bay. Now a number of people have told me that you can walk from Chatham Bay to Clifton. Seems like a long walk but I’m game. Sue’s ankle is still not 100% so she stays back while I venture off.

Now a sane man would at least glance at a map before he took off. An intelligent man would take one with. But the man that once put a spinning top on his head only to lose a hunk of flesh and hair just marches off thinking …”How hard can it be”?

Actually I had asked one of the workers the night before where the path started and he told me behind the bar at the end of the beach. Right. Well there was a path there. A rock and cactus strewn path that went straight up a hill. Good thing I had a half a grape fruit for breakfast! Holy hell! If this is the path to Clifton I’m done now! But at the top it leveled off and there was a wide dirt road. Cool. Even better! The dirt road turned into a concrete road. Wheeee…..

I came to a fork in the road. Well, it seemed to me that I’m walking toward Clifton roughly and have Chatham bay on my right and want to keep it that way so I take the right fork. I’m hoping I don’t have to double back. After a few minutes I hear a bell and a bicycle rider is coming behind me. I ask him if I’m on the way to Clifton. He nods and just points his hand straight ahead. OK, got it.

I came to a fork in the road. On the left the road doubled back on itself and headed north and maybe even west. I want to go east. The other fork, well, was not a road. It was a trail. But it seemed well marked. I decided to trust my innate sense of direction and March off into the woods. (Remember that sentence.) That is the steep-and-rock strewn-with-sharp-things-grabbing-my shirt-and-hat woods.

Actually it was a pretty hike. I could tell I was still climbing, climbing. Finally I came to an open area. I guessed I was on top of one of the large hills around here. I searched for the continuation of the trail but it was hard to find. OK, there it is. I continue on. Hey I’m going down for a change. That’s cool. Hey, there’s some boats anchored down there. What anchorage is over on this side of the island? Hmmmm…..Hey there’s a fishing boat just like in Chatham Bay. And. . . Oh no. . There’s Enee Marie! I’d been hiking for an hour and a half and I’d gotten myself back to Chatham Bay. OH man…..I’m still no where NEAR Clifton!

I hike all the way back where I chose dirt instead of concrete. Brilliant. I follow the concrete into the town of Ashton which is good as that is on the way to Clifton. Unfortunately I march right past the road to Clifton. As I pass a couple of young boys the one is quick to tell me that his island is very beautiful and there are nice walks to be had. I tell him I know and that I’d just been on one. Hmmm...just to make sure I ask him if I am indeed on my way to Clifton. NO he says and points back the way I’d come. Yeah, I missed the road by a good mile. Back I go.

Now I’m on it. The road to Clifton! This is one of those walks now where you come to a turn hoping to see city around the corner and all you see is more road. And goats. Road. Goats. More road. I’m dying.

I finally make it into town and accomplish all my missions. Checked in with customs at the air field. Got money out of the money machine. Bought some groceries (but not much cause I might be carrying it all the way back too!)

Well, there’s no way I’m hiking back. I’m pretty sure I can’t retrace my steps and not sure I’d even want to! So, I talk to a taxi driver and ask him how much to get me as close as possible to Chatham Bay. 20 Ec. . . About 8 buck. OK!

At the top where I took the dirt instead of the concrete he even shows me and easier way down rather than the rock and cactus strewn path I took up. My knee is screaming and I’m cut from nettles. My shirt is sticking to me and I’ve torn my hat. It’s noon. I’m done.

Sue spots me walking along the shore and picks me up in dinghy (which is leaking air by the way). Oh man what a GREAT swim I had once I got back on Enee. I’m still not sure how I got so screwed up but I know I’m NOT walking back to Clifton any time soon.

It's a few days later now and we are in Mayreau about 5 miles north of Union. More adventures to come! Thanks for all the comments. Keep 'em coming!