Monday, October 24, 2016

Four years in the Eastern Caribbean and still loving it!

October 24th 2016

Position 12° 27.480’ N
              61° 29.072’ W

Tyrrel Bay Carriacou

The trawler in the centre of the map with the dinghy behind, nearest to the beach, is 'Partners'!

Our time in Chaguaramas this year would be spent doing jobs only, not including a haul out, our antifouling paint has done well this season, mainly due to a year of longer and more frequent passages we think which keeps the ablative paint clear of slim and active. The job list includes replacing the bilge pump in the engine room, replacing the shower sump drain pump and auto switch, replacing our fuel polishing pump and installing a new scavenging pump to give us the ability to drain any water or 'bad' fuel that may be in any of the fuel tanks. It will be plumbed into the supply manifold so I will be able to select from any of the four tanks.We once did take on some dirty fuel from a fuel truck and it took us a long time and many expensive racor filters to eradicate the problem, the scavenging pump will eliminate much of  the filter changing as it will be able to eject the dirty fuel straight into a five gallon bucket prior to getting as far as the filtering system. There will be no more draining of the racor fuel bowls multiple times. We also will be fitting a new reverse osmosis high pressure pump for our water maker together with a new membrane. We have a great source here in Chaguaramas for our water maker service and he is able to rebuild our old RO pump for use as a spare. Some minor varnish work and deck cleaning will also be done. That's about it... The rest of our stay will allow us time to fly to Florida for our annual family, friends and doctor visits and upon our return to Trinidad we will rent a car for a few days to explore, shop and provision.
My youngest daughter and I

My daughters condo right on the
corner of the inlet and the beach!
We flew to Miami, Florida on the 24th September and stayed that first night in Ft. Lauderdale where we visited my youngest daughter Georgina, she kindly accommodated us in her magnificent apartment overlooking the ocean and the inlet; we could see all the cruise ships about to take their excited passengers to the Caribbean!

Our trip north to Sarasota was quick and easy, a complete contrast from the driving we had just done in Trinidad with the car we rented there. In the States it is easy to take for granted the magnificent interstate and road system. In the Caribbean one is constantly looking for potholes that will pop a tyre, it has happened to us! The contrast here is being able to travel hundred's of miles using 'cruise control' never thinking of the possibility that a pothole will ruin ones day! In Sarasota we are staying with FOJ and his wife Carol who kindly continue to make us welcome and feel like family. This year, however, we will be moving around a bit; John and Carol are travelling to China for a vacation and we will be 'moving' to other good friends Bill and Kris for our last five days here in Sarasota. After the 10th we travel to Jacksonville to see my eldest son Anthony and his fiancée Tracy whom we have not met. Our last stops will be in New Smyrna to see our great friends and fellow cruisers Bill and Ann onboard Ann-Louise their 58' Krogen, then one final visit to my youngest daughter Georgina and our granddaughters Christina (15) and Victoria (16) visiting their auntie from their native Norway. While here in Sarasota we have managed to see a number of friends and also my son Christopher, his wife and our two grandchildren Isabella (11) and Matthew (9). It is great seeing how they are maturing and it is so nice to have time for conversation face to face rather than via text messages and FaceTime. All together time is short and with annual doctor visits to attend and essential 'can't get in the Caribbean' shopping our disappointment in not being able to stay longer.

We will be returning to Trinidad on the 18th October and are looking forward to starting our fifth season in the Eastern Caribbean. When we started our cruising adventure back in February 2013 we really didn't know how long we would be doing it for, 5 years, 10 years we had no plan and still don't... We still love the 'Islands' and now feel as though we live here, we no longer view Florida, where we lived for nearly 40 years, as our home. It is strange how our mental approach to things change with time. All of you will relate, I am sure, if you have moved from one part of the country to another; how long is it before your new location becomes 'Home' and you stop referring to your previous location as 'Home'? We realize that we have passed that point... It will be hard for us to give our cruising life style up which I have said a few times before in these ramblings. We do have fun talking about the future and will probably make the transfer back to land by still living onboard but will moor 'Partners' in various marinas back in the US. We fantasize about where we will settle, having lived in Florida for so long and having experienced the mountainous islands of the eastern Caribbean, we think a home/cabin in the mountains may be the next project...we will see.

Our cruising habit now is predominantly spent enjoying much more time in the islands we really like as opposed to having the compulsion to visit every island just because it is there and is the next island up the chain. We are now totally comfortable with making multi-day passages which makes this cruising style possible. Our favourite islands are, south to north, Trinidad, Carriacou, Mayreau and the Tobago Cays, Bequia, Martinique, Dominica, Les Saintes, Antigua and Culebra. A conspicuous absence from this list, you are probably thinking, are the US and British Virgins. We still visit and do stop at some beautiful anchorages but generally we do not stay for extended periods as there are now so many charter boats which makes the area so crowded and it has become so expensive as the islands do their best to extract every last dollar from the charter customers! Mooring balls abound at US$35 per night and the areas where one can anchor are becoming fewer and fewer. St. Thomas is an exception and we do stop there for a week or two as anchoring in Charlotte Amalie is easy and Christmas Cove, Great St. James Island and Magens Bay (no charter boats) on the North side of St. Thomas are just plain beautiful.


As I write today we are in Sarasota, FL oh my, the bustle of life, the traffic, the feeling of confinement as we drive around downtown among the tall buildings, the hassle of  finding a parking spot... Sarasota has change dramatically in the last 25 years. We have been lucky to have lived here during that time, Sarasota is a gem but for how much longer? It is bordering on the transition from a small provincial town to a large city, in another five years I predict the conversion will be complete. It has reminded us both how luck we are to live the idyllic lives we do...if any of you have a dream, not necessarily a cruising adventure, whatever your dream is, do it! Don't wait too long, perhaps even to the point where you can't do it due to health issues. For many of us we think we need a little more money, need to work a little longer, just do it now or as soon as you can! Life is a one shot deal, you get one chance at it and time is our most precious commodity, don't let it run out...

Lets divert and talk for a minute, another great thing about cruising are the people...the people we meet in the islands, the locals, most all are so welcoming, usually helpful and above all seem to be a gentle people. They are not 'driven' but are rather more content and happy that life has placed them in paradise; most know it, time is different to them, they have more of it. Time has a different perception to them, usually there is no rush for anything to be done (started) lest finished which can be frustrating but once us westerners 'catch' island time it becomes easier to accept the Caribbean way of life. Things will get done but it just might take a while! Now, this is a generalization and doesn't apply to everyone everywhere. To the crew of 'Partners' we think it does apply to the people of the southern Leeward Islands and all of the Grenadines. The exceptions, to an extent, are the French Islands which are literally a part of France and their people are definitely more industrious with a pace of life that is somewhat quicker...punctuality exists here! The disease that so many cruisers 'catch' is procrastination. It is strange because most of us were taught to make decisions. I remember being told "make a decision even if it turns out to be the wrong one!". We have all come across 'mañana' well, here in the Caribbean, it is alive and well too! Obviously we cruisers react to things promptly when necessary but a non-essential task has been known to be put off! We have learnt to be flexible and be able to change direction, drop everything quickly, in favour of a fun activity or social gathering. The cruisers themselves are the biggest treasure, the cruising community is small and very soon, after arriving in the Eastern Caribbean, one will be welcomed into the fold. Remember all of us are 'living our dream' so there is instantly a common denominator, we are all, young or old, boaters, which is the other common denominator. Cruising is a great leveler, one no longer is interested in what one may have done for a living, how much money one may have etc., we are all 'just' cruisers and we accept each other for the people we are. There is no station, class, nationality...we are all simply cruisers. It is very common for complete strangers to stop by another boat in an anchorage and introduce oneself, often culminating in joining together that very evening for cocktails, the barriers of familiarity that exist in 'civvy' street don't prevail here. The camaraderie is strong, we all help each other where possible, lending a hand, a spare part, an egg or a cup of flour; kind of like life in the small village I grew up in over half a century ago in the English countryside. Having cruised in the Eastern Caribbean now for four years we have met many other cruisers almost without exception wonderful people, we have made some lasting friendships with super, special and very interesting people. I know that a good number of these friendships will sustain us for the rest of our lives...our cruising experience has been priceless but has been made all the more enjoyable and worthwhile by our island hosts and the cruisers we have met...

Here are some pictures of 'Partners' taken by our friends onboard 'Wild Cat' as we were both on passage from Bequia to Carriacou.

Can you imagine being onboard your own boat cruising these beautiful blue waters? I hope you can, maybe cruising is your dream. Just for the record and to be honest, we spent over a year living aboard preparing 'Partners' and ourselves to go cruising. We kept postponing our departure for one reason or another. When we finally cut the dock lines we thought we were 'ready' but we weren't! We may just as well have left earlier! Cruising is one of those things, like life, that you become more proficient at the longer you do it. Obviously one assumes the boat is safe and seaworthy before you go to sea but do you have all the right spare parts, do you have everything etc., etc., you won't ever be that ready! I took classes on diesel engine maintenance but it took a couple of years after we left before I became fully comfortable tackling most maintenance jobs on our Ford Lehman main engine and our Northern Lights generator. One doesn't really get to know ones boat until you are actually cruising her but that is part of the adventure! This blog is partly to record our cruising adventure and partly to, hopefully, inspires and encourage some of our readers to take the leap of faith necessary to sail away to a life of freedom and what will be, an incredible adventure!

Birds of Trinidad and Tobago
Birds of Trinidad & Tobago
Oct. 5th moving day! Today we say goodbye to our dear friends FOJ and Carol who so unselfishly open their home to us every time we return to Florida...thank you once again. "Hello" to other great long time friends Bill and Kris who are going to put up with us for a week before we drive to see and stay with our oldest son Anthony in Jacksonville. Bill and Kris have a new home on the water here in Sarasota which we hadn't seen. Wow, what a beautiful home! We hadn't seen Bill & Kris for over a year so had much to catch up on. We stayed with them for five days and for us anyway it was a great visit with wonderful meals, a fabulous outing to their yacht club for a jazz night and many fun conversations about a multitude of topics, Bill & I love to talk, the problems of the world are now sorted out!

We drove from Sarasota to Jacksonville on the 11th Oct. on the way we diverted to Flagler Beach where I used to live 26 years ago and where hurricane Matthew did severe damage to the town and to A1A which is adjacent to the ocean. Much of the road was washed away and many houses were destroyed. We drove around and saw our old house, the neighbourhood had changed a little but not much considering the time lapse, fortunately the whole street faired well in the storm. After this short nostalgic visit we continued on to Jacksonville. After an uneventful journey we arrived at my eldest son Anthony's home; that evening we met Tracy his fiancée for the first time, we couldn't be happier, what a super young lady. We spent a very special four days with them laughing, talking and hearing all about how they met, fell in love and about their lives together so far. They will be getting married in April and we will be flying back again from the Caribbean for the big day!

Oct. 15th. On the road again heading south, our destination New Smyrna Beach, FL where our great friends Bill & Ann Miller are at the moment onboard their boat Ann Louise, a 58' Kadey Krogen. We became good friends while cruising in the Greater Antilles, Bill and Ann gave us undaunting support when we were at our lowest, talking of selling Partners and giving up the cruising life which had barely started, due to a fuel delivery problem that literally stopped our one and only engine every fifteen minutes. (refer to blog entries:- The Windward's and The Windward's II for the final solution to the "air in the fuel" problem) We managed to get the engine going every time it stopped and during our trip from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico Bill and Ann stuck close by all the way as we crossed the Mona Passage. Anyway, we became great friends. Ann sadly met with a very bad accident in Les Saintes and, after emergency surgery in Guadeloupe, was flown to Atlanta, GA where more surgeries ensued and a lengthy recovery commenced. I am pleased to hear now that her treatment is almost complete after 18 months! What a journey! Sadly our visit is to be a short one as we have one more stop to see two of our granddaughters who had flown from Norway where they live, my eldest daughter married a Norwegian, to stay with their aunt my youngest daughter Georgina at her home in Ft. Lauderdale. We had a great visit with Bill and Ann and a short but wonderful reunion with our granddaughters.
Granddaughters Victoria, Christina and
daughter Georgina in Ft. Lauderdale.
All too short unfortunately and our three plus week visit is at an end. We climbed aboard the plane on the 18th for our flight back to Trinidad and our home, the good ship 'Partners'.