Monday, February 17, 2014

St. Lucia, Martinique & Îles des Saintes

February 17th 2014

Position 15° 52.304’ N
              61° 35.116’ W

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We cruised north from Grenada and travelled directly to St. Lucia our destination being Marigot Bay famous for where Admiral Rodney used palm fronds lashed to his fleets masts to disguise them and
Approaching St. Lucia the
Pitons are conspicuous
hid from the French. Admiral Rodney eventually defeated the French fleet and Admiral De Grasse in 1746. It is very easy to see how Rodney pulled this off as the sand spit which protrudes from
Our first night in Marigot Bay
the northern side of the bay is covered in palm trees so the fleet being strategically place behind it with their palm frond ‘dressing’ made for the perfect disguise. We spent three days in Marigot, did some hiking and enjoyed a good rest after our trip from Grenada. From Marigot we cruised up to Rodney Bay and anchored in the huge bay for a week we walked through the national park and to the fort on the northern end of the bay. In St. Lucia we met Marty and Deb Campenella who own ‘Bay Pelican’ another 42’ Kadey Krogen, in fact number 76, four on from ‘Partners’. We visited with them in the marina where they are based and were getting some repairs before cruising north to Sainte Anne’s in Martinique. We invited them to ‘Partners’ out at anchor in the bay but unfortunately they couldn’t make it. This is where we met ‘Aquarelle’ with Terry and Evelyn, they did make it for cocktails and we had a very pleasant evening with the two of them. After a short visit to St. Lucia it was time to move on, we will return to spend much more time exploring this big island. The next morning we set off at dawn for our passage to Martinique, a rough trip but we made it safely.

Martinique is the first of the French West Indies Islands we have visited with ‘Partners’. We have visited St. Bart’s while on a Caribbean cruise some years ago. This year it is our plan to spend most of the winter cruising the French islands, Martinique, Iles des Saintes, Guadeloupe, St. Bart’s and Saint Martin. Martinique is a department of France and therefore benefits from many of the things one would be familiar with in Europe, good roads, plentiful consumer goods, well stocked supermarkets and, oh, the wonderful food, wine and coffee! Thankfully a large part of the population speaks English! Lavinia does speak some French which helps; unfortunately I either didn’t pay enough attention in school or am suffering from a bad memory because I don’t. There are a lot of Frenchmen sailing the Caribbean and it seems that most of them are here! The French like the French and as unfamiliar as things generally appear foreign to us they are obviously familiar to the French. The very well stocked chandleries are full of French and German products, the grocery stores only have French items. We have not seen any familiar US or British products, none! In most of the other islands there is a mixture of British, American and European items...our conclusion is that the French do make a point of being French and do not show much tendency towards integration! Le Marin is the centre of yachting here in Martinique. If you need anything it can be found here. Any and all services are available and there is a wide choice of each. One thing which is very apparent is that the businesses here unlike Trinidad, for example, understand instant gratification; the shelves are full, no ordering here. If your heart desires it, the chances are you can get what you want in Le Marin. We had some trouble with our generator, which wouldn’t start! The local Westerbeke dealer came promptly to us in the Le Marin marina where we were able to get a berth at short notice. The diagnosis a 20 amp fuse! While we were marine bound we met three young sailors from ‘Tyke’ an ocean racer cruising sailing boat moored in front of us. They kindly invited us on board to see her and to enjoy sundowners with them. As I have said before this life is not just about freedom and travel but about all the interesting people one meets. The two men were Italian and were the crew, they had a guest crew member who had joined them for the sail north from St. Lucia to here. She was half Italian and half American, spoke perfect English, Italian and French and was pretty! Lucky guys! We left the marina and made the short trip to Sainte Anne.  

Nearby, just along the coast to the South is the small town of Saint Anne’s, a beautiful little enclave mostly unspoiled by tourism and a ‘Mecca’ for us boaters. The azure blue waters and calm anchorage beckon; the narrow streets with their friendly vendors all encourage a visit and exploration. This could be one of those places which is hard to leave...

The priorities, a boulangerie, the vegetable market, a liquor store and beautiful beach are all here. Our first trip ashore was to the beach where we found clear water and fine white sand. It is protected from the wind which allows calm water with no waves, wonderful. Along the half mile long beach are restaurants and bars, not too many just enough for a choice and easy accessibility, we floated in the perfect temperature water for an hour it was pure heaven. The saline content of the water is high and one can float very easily. Now remember that we are in early February, mid-winter for the northern hemisphere, and here we are basking in 84°F sunshine and swimming in 80° water. Our anchorage is in 17’ of clear water where we can see the mostly sandy bottom. Reefs, plus the headland of Saline, gives protection from the prevailing seas and wind, so it is calm. We woke up the next morning to new arrivals ‘Receta’ with Steve and Ann aboard also Terry and Evelyn from ‘Aquarelle’, who we had met in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, both had anchored in the bay. Our great friends Bill & Ann on board ‘Ann Louise’ had arrived back in Trinidad on the 3rd February after a visit to their home in Georgia for Christmas and New Year and were going to make an attempt, weather permitting, to ‘jump’ the 200+ miles from Chaguaramas, Trinidad to Sainte Anne’s and join us. We were really pulling for them and for the weather to stay travelable so they could get to Martinique, they made it! After the welcoming Bloody Mary’s and breakfast on board ‘Partners’ plans were made for some serious nonstop socializing. With the eight of us here, there is only one word to describe the ensuing days…fun! For the next few days we had some great gatherings. On Monday the 10th it was time for us to leave, we were sad to say our goodbyes especially to ‘Ann Louise’ as they were going south again back to St. Lucia. Due to the sale of their home they would be leaving from St. Lucia in March to return to the US for the closing. All this meant was that sadly we would be losing our travelling buddies for several months. Our plans will take us to Puerto Rico by mid-April so we can return to Florida and meet our children and grandchildren for Easter. Our goodbye to Bill and Ann included a promise to meet up again ‘somewhere’ south for hurricane season. ‘Receta’ would travel the same route as us stopping at Portsmouth on the island of Dominica and then on to Iles des Saintes and Guadeloupe so we were looking forward to their company.
Not always great weather in the Caribbean
'Receta' in Portsmouth, Dominica
Approaching Iles des Saintes
Cruise ship 'Wind Surf'
Our cruise to Dominica was a bit on the rough side with wind at a constant 25knts and seas to about 8’ - 10’. Our stabilizers helped but it was still a trip that could be over as soon as possible. After 4½ hours we were, at last, in the lee of Dominica where miraculously all went calm. After a really pleasant cruise to the northern port of Portsmouth we anchored in 30’ of water but rolled constantly because of the Atlantic swell which was curling round the north end of the island. I woke up at 02:30 and that was it…a long day ensued! Fortunately the passage from Portsmouth to Les Saintes is only 18 nm so with a slight drop in the wind and the sea from yesterday the trip was much shorter and calmer. Oh Les Saintes, these islands are picturesque to look at as one approaches and the archipelago reveals itself, upon arrival one can’t help but smile. The islands are isolated, no big aircraft come here, some tourist arrive by ferry every day from Point a Pitre, Guadeloupe so there are visitors other than cruisers. The islands, however, do cater to cruisers. The main ‘Bourg’ Terre de Haut boarders a protected bay and provides mooring balls at a very reasonable charge. We eagerly motored to our chosen ball and moored up. With the dinghy lowered and equipped with our ships papers we set off to clear in and then walk around to get the lie of the land. Boy, this cruising travelling stuff is fun! Approaching a new island and destination port is always fun and full of mystery and expectation. I used to be concerned about finding customs and immigration, where to dispose of garbage and generally gain the lay of the land...not any more; it is just the cruising life. Everything unfolds and the locals have always been helpful even in the French islands with the language barrier. Most islands will grant three months entry and some six without special request.

Les Saintes are a small cluster of islands that comprise two that are inhabited and several that are not, the whole land mass only covers 4.9 square miles so they are small. The population is about 3,000, 1,900 who live on Terre-de-Haut and the balance on Terre-de-Basse. Scooters and tiny electric cars are the transport of choice, one walks in the road and the vehicular traffic simply winds its way past and between the pedestrians. The pace of life is slow but oh how civilized. The shops all close for 2½ hours at lunch time reopen at 3 then close again around 6. The French locals like a leisurely lunch and really make the time for it. One immediately realizes that there is more to life than the daily rat race. We naturally, after only one day slipped into these ways. The first day I said to HT “let’s get a sandwich for lunch”, well sandwich shops which abound in the States don’t here, each small restaurant, and there are many, post their menu de jour on a blackboard, in beautiful hand writing, which lists the choices of the three courses available for lunch and we quickly realized a sandwich for lunch is not the 'done' thing! Dinner in the evening is another lengthy affair. An early dinner would be at 7 o’clock finishing 3 -4 hours later. The most popular time to sit down is 8.

The day after we had arrived ‘Receta’ and George and Jan on ‘Wild Cat’ sailed in. We had not met George and Jan, friends of Steve and Ann on ‘Receta’ so a cocktail evening onboard ‘Receta’ set that to rights. Great hors d'oeuvres were served courtesy of Ann, foodie extraordinaire. We meet such nice people as we cruise, we really do. On Valentine’s Day the 6 of us made a reservation at Les Petits Saintes restaurant, one of the finest in the French West Indies. We finish our outstanding, superb, wonderful etc., etc., meal at 11:30. It ended with Xavier Simon, the chef, coming to talk to

Our table
us and he was gracious enough to explain some of his techniques and ingredients. The meal was truly memorable and the presentation simply both creative and beautifully artistic. For those interested, here is a link to the Hotel and Restaurants website, they have pictures of some of their dishes... Having come from Europe where leisurely eating is more widely practiced, my ways had been amended during the 30 plus years I have lived in the USA where customs are different, so this pleasant reminder of the art of food and the way to savour it was fabulous, there is no table turn over here...

We were due to say our goodbyes to Les Saintes today but an undesirable weather report is going to keep us here for another week, oh yes! Sooo, what does this mean? Yep, more buttery croissants, delicious pastries, real bread and baguettes, tasty coffee and oh, that wonderful food. The scenery and water are pretty good too!

The anchorage at Terre-de-Haut can be a little uncomfortable at night as the wind drops and allows ones boat to sit in the small wave troughs, not bad enough to cause a loss of sleeps, however, but still a bit of a nuisance when moving around the boat, also the most uncomfortable rolling is when, with total disregard for the cruising boats in the bay, the high speed ferries speed by to the ferry dock. These boats travel at close to 30 knots and you can imagine the wake that they create, yes, glass breaking rolls ensue...thank heaven we can hear them coming and can prepare and thank goodness they don’t run at night! Iles des Saintes will definitely go down as a special place and one of our favourite destinations.

To close this entry I must pass a compliment to the French islands we have visited so far. They really have gone out of their way to accommodate the cruiser by building sturdy welcoming dinghy docks everywhere, they also provide accessible convenient garbage disposal and are the first islands we have visited that recycle, with containers for disposal on almost every street corner, bravo!

Life is good...     

Lavinia at the windward shore, Pigeon Island

We saw this Windjammer while at Marigot
When one sees the palm trees one
can just imagine Admiral Rodney
inside with this fleet

The fort at Pigeon Island, St. Lucia

Partners in Rodney Bay

Oh, the water!

Jet ski racing at St. Anne's Martinique

YT relaxing on the aft deck with a cohiba

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Spice Island

January 10th 2013

Position 12° 00.423’ N
              61° 43.792’ W

Clarkes Court Bay, Grenada

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Although we did stop briefly in Grenada, as we were travelling south to Trinidad, we did not explore as we had to move on quickly for our rendezvous in Trinidad with Anthony our eldest son. This is the beauty of what we do, we can go wherever we please and stay, most of the time, for as long as we please, so we are back! We initially cruised into Prickly Bay after a fairly pleasant passage from Chaguaramas, Trinidad. The sea swells were close to 10ft from the east, on our starboard beam, but were spaced at about 9-10sec intervals which, with our stabilizers, was okay. There was a 4ft wind chop on top of the swell which gave us an occasional nudge from time to time, all in all though not bad. We both slept during our off watch times which is a good sign. The trip was a good one and with each passage we are building our confidence back, ‘Stonewall Jackson’ has not missed a beat since we installed our day tank back in Tyrrel Bay last July/August. We have now made a trip to Trinidad, then Tobago, there and back to Trinidad, and now this one to Grenada, a total, since leaving Carriacou, of 380 NM. All were 12 – 16 hour runs so were a good test. We seem to have ‘Partners’ running well now and, after the expense and troubles in 2013, are really hoping for a worry free cruising year in 2014…we think we deserve it! There is still one issue to address which is the new battery and inverter installation; I don’t think that the Victron inverter has been programmed correctly as it is not putting out the maximum amps it is capable of, whilst charging. It, therefore, takes longer to replenish our batteries than it should. It also does not seem to charge the engine start and bow thruster battery at as fast a rate as it should. To address these concerns we are going to ask our friend and electrical engineer Alan Reynolds to check everything over for us. He lives in Grenada and will visit us after the Holidays, probably the weekend of January 11th. 

Meanwhile, we enjoyed Christmas Day in Prickly Bay and ate Christmas Dinner at the Prickly Bay 

Prickly Bay Marina
Marina restaurant, it was very good…turkey, ham, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and lots of vegetables, roast potatoes and gravy. It was a very traditional English style Christmas Dinner. The main entrée was preceded by a choice of lobster bisque or prawn cocktail, we both had the prawn cocktail which consisted of a small salad garnish, three large juicy prawns and Marie Rose sauce, a real favourite of mine. For dessert HT had red velvet cake and cream, I had a banana split, we shared! All of this was washed down with a nice Pinot Grigio and finished off with coffee. This was the first Christmas Dinner in the 22 years HT and I have known each other that she hasn’t cooked Christmas Dinner! It was also the first Christmas that we did not have family around us which was a little sad. Something all of you planning a cruising retirement need to bear in mind. Many cruisers who retain a land based home return there for the Holidays we don’t have another home, ‘Partners’ is it so our options are limited. After we arrived on Christmas Eve morning we went ashore to explore and treat ourselves to some breakfast, guess what! As we were alighting our dinghy at the dinghy dock I saw a familiar face. “Dan", the person looked at me and didn’t immediately respond, “Is your name Dan?” I asked again. He then said “Yes it is”, “Remember me?” Dan was a friend from another life over 20 years ago when I lived on the East coast of Florida in a little town called Flagler Beach. Dan and I knew each other back then but since had gone in different directions. To cut a long story short we agreed to meet on board ‘Partners’ after Christmas Dinner and catch up. Catch up we did and had a fabulous time explaining how, by pure chance, we both arrived at a dinghy dock in a remote bay in Grenada, West Indies at the same time! Amazing. Dan and Barb’s boat is ‘Another Way’ a CSY 37’. We will see them both again before we leave the Island. 

On Boxing Day we decided that the rolling in Prickly Bay was too much so we upped anchor and proceeded to cruise to calmer waters and ended up in Clarkes Court Bay just a couple of miles east, it is still rolly but not quite as bad. We relaxed and enjoyed a quiet sunset and evening enjoying the cool breeze and a Blue Moon with the traditional slice of orange. After a great Mexican salad, it definitely had a ‘kick’, we retired early and slept with the cabin hatch open so we could rest feeling

 the wonderful Caribbean Trade Winds…

Moor Mega Yachts than any other boats! 

Lite up at night
Our first day in this large open bay started with a hearty breakfast omelette to set us up for a day of exploration. We wanted to dinghy around Clarkes Court Bay and ‘get our bearings’. We set off and first went to the head of the bay and located the small grocery store and a couple of bars. We also visited Clarkes Court Marina, a small facility with docks for about 25 boats and the requisite bar restaurant. Fortuitously, while we were there the shopping bus returned with about 8 cruisers on board. We spoke to Trevor the driver who clued us in on his shopping bus schedule which we now know runs on Fridays and Saturdays. He also advised us he does Island tours for a very reasonable price and I think we will do one next week. Our next visit was to Hog Island and the much protected anchorage there. Roger’s beach bar situated on Hog Island enjoys the only sandy beach there but unfortunately is a dump with bottles cans and garbage strewn all over the place. Some people would, I am sure, argue that this is the atmosphere of the place but we didn’t like it. We retreated back into Clarkes Court Bay having decided that the water and breeze was more favourable in Clarkes Court Bay. We motored in the dinghy over to the east side of the bay again and visited Whisper Cove Marina which had a good dinghy dock and a much more inviting bar and restaurant, this could be a haunt! Having pretty much done the circumnavigation of ‘our’ bay we just had to navigate through the cut between Calivigny Island and the mainland to investigate! After carefully following the marked channel we were exposed to the vista of Le Phare Bleu Marina and resort; wow this place is beautiful there is a genuine old lightship moored to the long dock which the European owners have turned into a fine restaurant. Part of the proceeds goes towards the upkeep of the historic ship. On the mainland there is another bar and restaurant which is reasonably priced...we enjoyed lunch here and had a margarita pizza and a Carib beer each for total of EC$56, which we thought was reasonable. The staff were friendly and polite and the service impeccable. The marina also has an Immigration and Customs office for checking in and out. It also has a canvas shop and mechanical repair facility plus other services including a chiropractor, very nice! 

Dec 28th. Today was a ‘jobs’ day. HT did laundry and then we both cleaned the oily slim which had attached itself to the waterline during our stay in the dirty waters of Chaguaramas. It was stubborn and took us forever. When we had finally finished the two of us decided to carry on and scrub the exhaust stains from the transom and clean the teak swim platform. In other words we had decided to give the exterior of ‘Partners’ a spring clean. In the afternoon I replaced some of the caulking on the foredeck teak deck and one teak screw plug which had popped out. ‘Partners’ is pretty again! The rest of the day we read and relaxed enjoying our surroundings, oh, I forgot we swam and cooled off at the back of the boat in the beautiful 82°F water! We had a Thai chicken stir fry with coconut rice for dinner and some Christmas cake and brandy butter for desert, my favourite! Life is good... 

After nearly a year of cruising these beautiful islands it is easy to take things for granted. Although we have been to quite a lot of the islands once, we are planning subsequent visits this year as we move up the island chain, the first visit really does little more than familiarize one with the basic geography, a second visit reunites one with some of the familiar faces and venues but stimulates much more curiosity and many more questions. The second visit picks up from the familiarity of the first and somehow provides comfort to be more inquisitive. It is the inquisition, not in an aggressive way though, but more of a friendly delving for more, kind of way, that revels the findings and information that provide the lasting memories. The faces seen previously seem friendlier and therefore provide license to ask for more information than during the first encounter; ones memory of the places visited is stimulated to seek and probe for a little more. The second visit makes the experience more indelible and provides a much deeper understanding of the islands culture, its people and history. We have found this when both talking to and listening to other cruisers. When either we or they tell stories about the island visits the words are full of life and are more meaningful and descriptive, often personal to the local people who one becomes friends with. We have, more and more, realized the privilege of our life style where we are able to embed ourselves into the society of an island, drink and breathe the life of the islanders, become part of their unique countries. It is hard to move on sometimes, in fact many cruisers ‘swallow the anchor’, as they say, and never leave, they have found their Shangri-La…  

January 7th. Today we sorted forth in search of some fresh eggs and bread; we have found that most islands have good bread and eggs. Until now we have not taken the trip into St. George’s and the supermarkets there. We still have supplies from Trinidad and just need a few basics. Where we are is somewhat remote although about a mile ride in the dinghy and a short walk finds us the nearest bus stop. Within the bay there are a couple of local stores with some ‘bare’ essentials. There is also a meat market located at the Whisper Cove Marina run by the marina owner and his lovely wife Mary. A French Canadian couple, he a butcher by trade thus the meat market. All the produce is organic, a little expensive, but highly reliable and very good. We tied up the dinghy at the marina dinghy dock, all the marinas have welcoming dinghy docks, and walked up the steep steps and pathway to find a tidy clean dining area and well stocked bar which overlooked the small very well protected marina. 
Our Cove. We swam of the back of 'Partner' ever
day in this beautiful water.
This was definitely our kind of place…Mary greeted us and immediately made a good impression, she was delightful and friendly, she told us how she and her husband arrived in Grenada and stumbled across this broken down establishment saw the potential and realizing a demand that was not being filled, they bought the place and have stayed ever since, that was four years ago! We entered the small market and ‘Oh my’ what we found was exciting, fresh bright red tomatoes and beautiful crisp lettuce, among other enticing produce and wares. Who would have thought we could get so excited and happy over two little things. Although we didn’t need them now we found that the shop stocked a very good selection of French, German and Italian cheeses, the meat selection was fabulous too. You see our values are different now, what we used to take for granted we are now a little surprised to find. Little things make us happy…we rushed home, sat down on our back porch and ate a lettuce, tomato and cheese sandwich then once finished jumped into the water, we swam in the warm water at the back of ‘Partners’ for a while...a beautiful day. 

We enjoyed a complete island tour last week which took us the length and breadth of the island and took in two rum factories, one the oldest in Grenada which was fascinating. It is still producing but using the same steam powered cane crushing machinery used back in the early 1800’s when the 
This is Clarkes Court Rum factory and dates
from 1935. The weigh platform is the
original one and is still in use today.

Lavinia with Hard Hat!

The pictures above show inside the factory
which is all powered by steam!

Grenadian roundabout.

Left over from the American invasion.
A mud bread oven.

This water wheel provides the power
for the cane crushers. It is the original
one for the 1700's!

The sugar cane after it has been crushed.
It is used for fueling the kilns where the
rum is reduced. 
Rum fermenting...looks awful doesn't it?

HT relaxing.

A beautiful church.

Shuffling in the cocoa beans on the
drying racks.

A view from our lunch stop...
factory began. The other, River Distillery, used a water wheel to power their crushers and has been in existence since the 1700's. We had plenty of samples too! Some of the rum we don’t care for, it is like ‘white lightning’, ‘moonshine’, very harsh and throat burning, the stuff that takes ones breath away, also ones equilibrium! As the tour continued what quickly became apparent was how mountainous the island is and also how green; everywhere there is foliage of some sort. We went to Grenada’s spice gardens which we found fascinating plus they explained the islands tag, the ‘Spice Island’. Throughout the day the group sampled some of the island food too and we finished off the tour at the Grenada Chocolate factory where we sampled just a little of their chocolate…all great fun!
Jim and Tammy Ennd, cruising friends of ours, returned to Grenada after a 6 week hiatus back in the States for the Holidays. They re-launched their sailing boat ‘Sweet Chariot’ and anchored in Mount Hartman Bay, the next bay over from us. We dinghied over to the Sunday jumble sale at Secret Harbour Marina and saw ‘Sweet Chariot’, anchored in the bay. We hadn’t seen Jim and Tammy since leaving Grenada in late August when we left to cruise down to Trinidad. We approached and called out to them, in just a minute two heads appeared. They looked a little flustered and I could tell they were busy with preparation. Having had their boat on the hard for six weeks a lot has to be done to ready her again for passage, sails have to be rigged and set, all sorts of other things need checking and cleaning etc. We invited them over to ‘Partners’ when they we ready so we could catch up. They came the next day and we had a good time telling and hearing stories about both our experiences since the last time we had seen each other. We spent 4 hours talking non-stop; this life is far from a boring existence so a lot happens in four months!

173' long!

Pretty night from our aft deck.
There is always something going on here in Grenada, the southern part of the island very much caters to the cruising community. Every day the restaurants at the different bays compete for the cruiser custom. The result is fairly priced good food and usually a beer ‘come on’ deal i.e. 3 bottles for EC$10 about US$3.70. The other advantage is the choice. From where we are anchored there are four marinas and a couple of local establishments within easy dinghy distance. In the evenings more is available as most of the venues offer pick up and return transportation. Most also have music, either a group playing or a DJ. Talking of music, yesterday Le Phar Bleu Marina held a dinghy concert which was sponsored by Westerhall Rum Company and Island Water World, a marine supplier similar to West Marine. They have an old tug boat which has an open aft deck which is where the band play, alongside was a big steel barge where all the people who did not come in dinghies sat on benches. The rest of us cruisers who did come in their dinghies tied up to the floating barge and rafted back from there. Around 200 people came, the turnout was great, the weather was perfect and above all, the music performed by the group ‘Sabrina and the Navigators’ was outstanding. All this happened out in the middle of the bay. (See The Travels of Partners on Facebook for pictures) These are fun times for us, every day is a blessing we really are grateful for our good fortune of being able to enjoy these, the golden years. As I have said before you should all look forward to retirement, plan for it well, for it is the thing of the future, your time! 
The Minnie Tree!

Our perennial Santa!


 Our Christmas lights!



Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Goodbye Trinidad…

December 21st 2013

Position 10° 40.733’ N
             61° 37.937’ W

Chaguaramas, Trinidad

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Ann & Lavinia - on 'Ann Louise
picture by Bill Miller
Dec. 6th. Up extra early this morning, our friends Bill and Ann on ‘Ann Louise’ are being hauled today and we are going to help them leave the marina, take a last short cruise around the bay and then help them with lines at the haul out at Peake Yachting Services, LTD. We cast off the lines at 07:00 and cruised out into the bay. Bill wanted to run all his machinery and do a thorough check of all systems to make absolutely sure everything was working correctly before ‘Ann Louise’ was blocked off in the yard. It is good to know everything was working correctly to start with as after several months on the hard mysteriously things happen and at least this way one has a starting point! There is a lot of preparation, the watermaker needs to be pickled, and the holding tank needs flushing and cleaning with detergent and freshwater.

Me on 'Ann Louise'
picture by Bill Miller
When on the hard Bill runs his generator and engine and flushes all the salt water from the cooling system to minimize corrosion by the salt. This is super worthwhile as it considerably lengthens the life of the heat exchangers and oil coolers. An air conditioner was placed on top of the pilot house roof in one of the two ventilation hatches to provide dry cool air to the boat while just sitting. A couple of fans strategically placed ensures circulation throughout the boat. Lastly a power cord provides current to the battery charger to maintain the batteries which keep the boats services running, refrigerator, freezer, bilge pumps and fans. At Peake Yachting Services they have a small hotel and restaurant complex so those who don’t or cannot stay aboard have accommodation available. Bill & Ann chose this amenity.

Once ‘Ann Louise’ was in her parking place HT and I walked back to Crews Inn, about a mile and a half walk. Arriving back at ‘Partners’ hot and sweaty, it is still ‘summer’ here with temperatures still approaching the 90°F mark, we went inside and the first thing was to turned on the A/C…oh no! There was a problem, the A/C system relies on water being pumped through the air-conditioning unit and therefore needs a constant supply. When I check the overboard discharges there was little water coming out which indicated that there was a blockage. Unfortunately Chaguaramas harbour suffers from floating and submerged garbage which flows in and out with the tide. Obviously one of the plastic bags, which we see frequently, must have been sucked into the through hull restricting the water flow. Immediately I called Rodney McLean, our diver. Rodney was miles away, ironically having his car A/C fixed, he couldn’t come until tomorrow…okay, so we came to terms with no A/C and as an alternative decided to go for a swim instead. The swim did the trick and cooled us down. Right around 4 o’clock Bill and Ann arrived, we had invited them over once they had finished all the necessary chores on ‘Ann Louise’, so we all enjoyed a cold beer and a snack to finish off the afternoon. A good day…

Sunday 8th. HT plays Mexican Train Domino’s and Sunday is the day. At 1 o’clock she leaves for the weekly gathering of the cruiser who indulge. While the domino’s goes on I get a little time alone to watch the Sunday afternoon American Football game. Yesterday was the first weekend of the season that there has been a televised game while it was snowing. A stark reminder of where we are, still applying the sun screen in 90° weather and swimming in 84° water! This is our first year where we will have completely missed a winter of any kind. People think that living in Florida, as we both have done for over 30 years, that we don’t experience a winter. Well, we don’t in the sense of getting snow but we have had frost and usually do get a couple of cold snaps each year. Down here in the southern Caribbean summer is relentless and the humidity, although a little less now, never goes away. The Earth’s rotation will put the sun over the Tropic of Capricorn on the 21st December, the Southern Hemisphere’s mid-summer, and then will begin a slow return to being over the equator by March 21st. It will be overhead here in Trinidad on May 1st over the Tropic of Cancer June 21st and again over Trinidad on Aug 10th as it again completes its seasonal cycle returning to being directly over the Equator on September 21st. Anywhere between the two ‘tropics’, Cancer and Capricorn, have the sun directly overhead twice per year. The Caribbean enjoys constant summer with only a slight change in pressure gradients which bring the stronger winter Trade winds that the sailors look forward to and calmer summer doldrums which more suit us trawler types. Temperatures vary, both day and night, by only 4 – 5 degrees year round.

Bill & Ann flew out to Atlanta and their home in Roswell today (Dec. 9th). They returned to some cold bleak weather unfortunately, something none of us cruisers in the Caribbean are used to anymore. We made reservations for the evening of Parang at the Wheelhouse Pub on Thursday which will mark the beginning of the Christmas season here in Trinidad. Following, here in Chaguaramas, will be a charity auction and BBQ put on by the cruising community for the poor and less fortunate, which will be on Friday. Then there are several more events leading in to the week of Christmas. Trinidad celebrates the Holidays in a big way with most businesses closing down on the 20th and not re-opening until the 6th January. I think we can look forward to plenty of music, steel band and the like, between now and the New Year. Trinidadians or Trini’s turn to celebration and music easily, they are happy people by nature, they are very polite and need little excuse to dress up. Carnival is coming and it seems to me that The Christmas Holidays are a warm-up to Carnival which peeks in February. Here are some of the costumes to look forward to during Carnival time…we won’t be here!

Chris, our Watermaker service guy here in Trinidad, is coming today as we are going to change all the watermaker clear plastic hoses. Over the years, with standing water remaining in the lines, they have turned black inside! HT is adverse toward this and feels that ‘black’ mean bacteria so ‘new’ is the answer. There are about 40’ of hoses that carry the water from the membrane to the water tanks. When I looked at doing the job myself I decided that the contortions I would have to perform and the fact that the hoses disappeared into ‘dark’ holes and didn’t seem to immerge again worried me and therefore I decided Chris, the expert, would be the right choice. He said the job wouldn’t take more than an hour or two so we will see; he’ll be here in an hour! Chris was right! The hoses were all changed to a stronger reinforced type of hose and in less than two hours…total cost US$96 including all materials! HT is happy. 

Monday next sees the carpenter on-board ‘Partners’ to prepare the battery boxes for the five new Lifeline batteries which will be arriving next Wednesday from Florida. Dennis from Goodwood Marine is going to install the new Victron 3000kw inverter and its control panel, plus he will be rigging up a switch to enable the older Xantrex, we have, to remain as a redundant spare. If all goes well we should have a new inverter/charger/battery system in place by Friday the 20th. The Victron inverter/charger and control panel was purchased using Marine Warehouse as the local supplier Caribbean Marine wanted to charge US$800 more for the hardware.

Chris Parker, our weather forecaster, is telling us that there is a possibility of a slight reduction in the Trade winds beginning on the 23rd which will give us calmer seas and enable us to cruise north up to Grenada in a little less discomfort arriving Christmas Eve and in time to spend the Christmas Holidays there. We are ready to get back to cruising and swinging on our anchor in the beautiful clear blue waters. I am picturing our dinghy in the water swinging at the stern of ‘Partners’ ready to take us, once again, on missions of exploration and to take us to idyllic swimming and snorkelling sights…can’t wait. In case some of you are wondering, the weather at this time of year at these latitudes is middle to high 80°s (31°C), even 90° occasionally, during the day and mid to high 70°s(26°C) at night. The water temperature is in the low 80°s (28°C). In other words we can wear our bathing suits from morn until night and never have to worry about being cold! In fact we jump off the swimming platform several times a day to cool off!

Some of you who read this drivel may identify with this account:- 

Yes, it is that time of the year and yes, today is the day. The day I have been waiting for now for almost a year! It is the day we put up the Christmas tree and lights! Oh! You are thinking I look forward to that day too… First we couldn’t remember where the little boat sized Christmas tree was stowed, eventually after eliminating several other ‘hiding’ places we found the stash, on the starboard side of the flying bridge in the cowling locker. First, I realized that whomever placed the black garbage bag containing the tree in the locker did it in such a way that getting it out was prohibited, as all the branches now were acting as barbs! Eventually after much wiggling and reaching in, with one’s arm completely disappearing in the hole, the bag immerged. Wonderful! It contained the lights too! Ever since we decided that today was that day I have been visualizing the lights…probably mysteriously, during their almost 12 months of dormancy, several of the bulbs will have ‘gone’ thus rendering large parts of the strings to be ‘dark’. Oh and the other picture in my head is of this perfect ball of lights or should I say knot of lights. You all know, right, you carefully coil the light strings thinking you will get it right this year and make the roll which next year will be easy to unroll…wrong, it never happens. True to form this year was like all others, bulbs blown and the perfect balls of knotted lights! Lavinia did a beautiful job inside ‘Partners’ and the wreaths, old cards and Christmassy trinkets’ placed all over the boat, I mean every cabin, made for a festive aura to permeate throughout. The Christmas spirit had arrived! Wait a minute! Don’t get lulled into this festive wonderland yet, the lights haven’t come into play! In addition to interior decorations the exterior of ‘Partners’ needs her Christmas dressing. Lavinia started with gentle suggestions of how ‘we’ should arrange the lights but pretty quickly into the conversational banter Lavinia’s suggestion seem to change and the suggestion quickly turned to orders! Guys do not misunderstand your spouses ‘suggestions’ they are carved in stone and are not really negotiable! The orders are to run strings of twinkling lights around the whole flying bridge deck. Now folks remember this is not one of those cool frosty mornings with clear skies and ‘huff’ emerging with every breath, this is Chaguaramas, Trinidad where winter doesn’t exist and the temperatures have reached 88 -90°F ten out of the last fourteen days, its hot! With tie wraps in hand and Polaroid’s on up we went, the first chore to untangle the ‘balls’ and do it in such a way as not to damage any more bulbs. Stress has already set in and the Polaroid’s have already captured beads of dripping perspiration obscuring clear vision…there is no point in using ones T-shirt to wipe them as it too is laden with sweat. Soldier on fellow, get the show on the road, show her you are the man she wants you to be and not the man you have changed into over the years of marriage the two of you have endured; don’t be a ‘Grinch’, smile and impress her with your fortitude and endurance. We, together, gradually worked our way around the perimeter tie wrapping the lights to the rail and finally an hour later the job was almost complete when it was realized that we would need an extension cord. Guess what? Extension cords are stowed in the largest locker and are the farthest back and at the bottom of same…gradually I removed all the items obscuring the route to the indispensable prize, 25 minutes later I immerged, now so wet with sweat that if someone grabbed me I would be like a bar of soap and slip right through their hands. Back up top I went but without Lavinia, she had been overcome with heat and had retreated to the comfort of the air-conditioning and a nice cool drink! I finished off and made the last few adjustments and the job was finished. I climbed down the stairs to the aft deck and began to enter the salon “Stop! Don’t come in here dripping sweat all over the carpet”. “Okay”, I said. I thought about this situation for a moment, I mean a nanosecond. I wanted to get out of my dripping sweaty T-shirt and pants, get my swimming shorts on, grab a beer and go to the pool so I could cool off. I mean I was consumed with this necessity nothing was going to stop me! “Can you pass me a beer please?” “What, at this time”. It was 11:30. “Yes, I want a beer and I don’t care what time it is, I want it!” I made a dash for the bathroom quickly donned my swimming shorts, grabbed a towel and the beer, I was ready. “I’ll come with you, can you give me a minute?” What, I am thinking, now I have to wait while HT gets ready and she is nice and dry, comfortable and relaxed after her retreat to the air-conditioning some 20 minutes earlier! I waited!

I really love Christmas, all us men do, but I for one and some of you too, if you are honest, do not like the ‘putting up of the lights job’, am I right?

Enough of this frivolity… (December 21st) the inverter and five new batteries are in. We are off to the fuel dock tomorrow to fill up and should be shipshape for our passage to Grenada Monday or Tuesday. I say Monday or Tuesday as we are waiting for a final weather forecast on the sea state to make the decision. With the recent strong Trade Winds the sea swells have been in the 10’ range with an additional 4’ – 6’ of wind chop on top! There is now a moderation in the wind so we are waiting for the swells to drop down to 6’ so we don’t have quite such
an uncomfortable ride. As of today it looks like Christmas Eve will be the time we will leave giving us an overnight passage and an arrival in Prickly Bay on Christmas morning.  

The Bocas (Dragons Teeth)
Goodbye Venezuela too!
We have put in our order for some duty free liquor and wine, always a good thing! We have said our goodbyes to the great crowd of cruisers and ‘locals’ here in Trini, we have had a great time here, good work performed, and will return. Our apprehension about visiting initially due to the publicized crime statistics, in particular the murder rate, passed quickly as we saw that there is very good security on the Chaguaramas peninsular and particularly in the Crews Inn complex. The crime seems to be close to or around Port of Spain and is among gang related activities, in particular drugs. We felt free to walk the area without concern. While we have been here there was one pirate attack off the Paria Peninsular of Venezuela where a sailing boat bound for Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela was boarded in broad daylight and robbed at gunpoint. Although roughed up and pistol whipped the crew of two survived and were able to return to Trinidad. We have concern with our upcoming trip to Grenada as when we leave the Boca’s of Trinidad we will, for a while, be in waters only 6 miles from the Paria Peninsula. We are considering hugging the northern coast of Trinidad heading in an easterly direction until we feel we have put sufficient distance between us and Venezuela. There are two large gas wells just off the coast of Trinidad, the Hibiscus and the Poinsettia wells. Poinsettia is the most easterly of the two and we think we will go far enough east to clear it as we turn north towards Grenada. We’ll see.  

To close HT and I wish all of you who read this blog a Merry Christmas, a healthy and Happy New Year…

Goodbye, for this season Trinidad…Hello Grenada!
Sunrise as we enter Prickly Bay, Grenada
Prickly Bay