Thursday, November 30, 2006

James' Visit - Moonhole

From Union we went directly to Bequia. There were a lot of islands in between, the wind was up and it was a lovely sail. We had originally planned to spend time in the Tobago Cays - a group of small deserted islands protected by Horseshoe Reef. But the constant strong sun had taken its' toll on James. As a red head and very fair he's always had a problem but living on the boat made it more difficult: he had a bad case of sun poisoning. So we decided to head to a larger island and do more sightseeing. Bequia like many of these islands has a seafaring, fishing and boat building population but one thing is unique. The island has an active whaling station and by IWC agreement, local whalers can take four whales a year, although in some years they don't get any. Few people are left with the skills necessary to hunt them - a daring feat in an open sailing boat, using hand thrown harpoons. The Japanese have been active in all the Carribean islands building parks, schools etc. looking for support for their whaling interests.
We anchored in Admiralty Bay off Princess Margaret Beach (a famous visitor). On the way there we passed the homes at Moonhole and were very curious. Luckily friends had arranged a tour and we were able to join them. We traveled in two jeepneys, first on paved roads and then on a barely passable dirt path.
No - we're not on safari in Africa!
When the late American architect Tom Johnson built the first home here in 1963 under the Moonhole arch, there was no road and or good anchorage. His home grows out of the rocks without straight lines or right angles. All the homes have huge arches, fantastic views, lovely patios, and most windows are open to the elements. They are not connected to the electric lines but some homes have solar panels or wind generators.
Tom's son and his wife, Jim and Sheena Johnson, live there today and showed us around their home and the original house, now abandoned. A huge boulder fell from the arch and landed in one of the beds. Fortunately no one was there at the time. The home reminded us of the Ancient Pueblo Indian dwellings we saw at Mesa Verde, especially from the sea. Built in a series of levels with single rooms and terraces, their favorite spot was a pyramid roof under which still sits their deck chairs facing the sea.
There was quite a crowd of us on the tour
We finished the tour at the Johnson's bar with some of her famous rum punches. They have three pet turtles that roam around. They love to scratch their backs on whomever sits in the hammock. Many of us gave it a try. We wished we had a chance to see some of the other homes, but most were rented or their owners were in residence. Their are 18 in all and have the whole peninsula to themselves.
In this shot it looks like the turtle is holding someone up!
The steep path led along the cliffs and past many of
the house.
The original moon hole home under the arch with the pyramid topped
meditation space

James' Visit - Grenada to Union Island

Our son James flew into Grenada on November 13 from New York City. He lives in Brooklyn and is working at the River Cafe while he studies for the LSATs and applies to Law School. Luckily he was able to take two weeks off and sail with us north through the Grenadines. We only had full day in Grenada so we toured St. George's, had lunch at "The Nutmeg" and then swam and snorkeled off the boat in Prickely Bay. The next day we sailed up to Tyrell Bay in Carriacou. Carriacou is a Carib word meaning "island surrounded by reefs" and the following morning James, Heather and Scott had a chance to see them up close and personal. Scott did his PADI certification course here with Georg and Connie at Arawak Divers. James and I took their introductory course and did a shallow dive in the morning and then a deep dive that afternoon. We went down to 41 feet and stayed down over 40 minutes: pretty good for a first try. We both had some problems with equalizing our ear pressure but resolved it (although it was several days before Heather's ears completely cleared). The variety of fish and coral was wonderful and the time went by so quickly.
Scott joined us for the dive and we all celebrated that night with our friends from "Nereia" and "Seacycle". Jaime and Dan had their boat hauled out there and rented a great cottage nearby. They invited us over for drinks and appetizers - really dinner, there was so much. The next morning we were off again, this time to Petit St. Vincent and Petite Martinique. A squall came in half way and blocked all visability for awhile but it cleared off and the sun came out as we anchored off the PSV resort in crystal clear water. This beautiful elegant hotel has cottages scattered along the beaches with lots of privacy. If you want room service, you send a flag up your flagpole. We had a drink in the bar but decided against eating there after we looked at the prices. We weren't suffering on the boat as I'd provisioned with filet mignons for several meals (with bernaise sauce no less).
We took the dinghy over to Petite Martinique and walked around the community, very local and no tourist development at all. The inhabitants live by boatbuilding, seafaring, and fishing. In the old days, says our guide, they were also smugglers. Children were playing dominos, a variation where you slap down the domino when you play it - a lively scene. Other men were untangling fishing nets and mending them.

We sailed next over to Morpion, a low sand island with a thatch shelter that sometimes gets washed away. Actually it's amazing that it's there at all. At high tide there is almost nothing above water, but it's a beautiful spot - my photo doesn't do it justice. We snorkeled and swam there but when we tried to pull up the anchor we found it was wound around a rock and we were stuck. Scott got his air tank and hookah out and tried to go down and untangle us but the air hose wasn't long enough. He could have tried to do it using the dinghy but meanwhile good Samaratins from a nearby catamarin in full scuba gear came to our rescue and in just a few minites we were free.

Our next stop was Clifton Harbour, Union Island with a what looked like a tricky entrance surrounded by reefs. It turned out not to be that difficult as there were channel markers and the reefs themselves was very obvious in the clear water. We were all tired from too much sun (and Scott had gone through a lot diving the stuck anchor) so we went out to dinner that night at the West Indies Restaurant and had a terrific French Creole meal.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Goodbye to Crew's Inn, Trinidad

We arrived in Trinidad and tied up at the Crew's Inn Marina on June 22 and aside from our five weeks back home and two brief trips to Grenada and Tobago, it's been home to us. We sometimes feel like we're living in a condo rather than a boat!

And this condo is located in a luxury resort. Almost every morning Heather swims laps in the great pool (shown here) and Scott works out in the gym. There is a lovely restaurant called The Lighthouse where we occasionally treat ourselves to breakfast or dinner. On Thursdays, like tonight, there's a pot luck BBQ that's always fun. We bring something to grill and a dish to share. We've made so many good friends here and saying good bye is going to be very difficult. Still we hope to run into everyone in another port at another time - "down the way" as we say.

This shot shows our dock in the distance and "Scott Free" is the second boat, between a catamaran and a big power boat. Hills surround the bay and are part of a national park. This area was a huge U.S. military base during the second World War. Over 30,000 troops were stationed here. The area supports large numbers of pelicans, vultures and frigatebirds, which ride the thermals like dark kites. After her laps Heather likes to float in the pool and watch them circling overhead.

These last two shots shows the views from our stern and bow at sunset. Behind us are rows of docks and the lighthouse and in front, the harbor. A group of islands provide protection at the mouth of the bay and many boats are anchored out or moored there.
Tommorrow we will visit Customs and Immigration, check out of the Marina, fuel up nearby and then head north. It is about 85 miles to Grenada through the Boca de Monos and should take us about 14 hours at an average of 6 knots per hour (we often make better time but currents can be difficult on this trip). We will probably leave in the late afternoon and arrive in Grenada early Saturday morning. Our son James is flying into Grenada on Monday for a two week visit. We are really looking forward to seeing him!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Finishing up repairs in Trinidad

This summer has been an opportunity to accomplish many upgrades and repairs to our boat. Trinidad is known for it's wide variety of vendors and reasonable rates. We were particularity concerned about our rigging as it was over sixteen years old (the date the insurance ceases), as we hope to be crossing the Atlantic in May 2008. As soon as we arrived we had a rigging survey done by Nils at Budget Marine Rigging. Surprisingly he found cracks in our bow sprit and dinghy davits, but thought our rigging would be all right for a few years. We're heading for Panama next summer and the timing will be tight after that to be positioned for our trip west, so we decided to go ahead and replace the rigging as well. We hired Mitchel from West Coast Fabricators (photo to the right in red) to build the new bow sprit, swim ladder and dinghy davits and Nils to replace and tune the rigging. Despite having four months to accomplish this, we almost didn't complete the job in time to leave Trinidad in time to pick up our son James in Grenada next Monday. Murphy's law was in full force throughout. One hurdle after another appeared and suddenly Nils was leaving for vacation on Friday night and it was Friday. Happily swarms of workers surrounded the boat and at 6:30PM Nils shook our hand and raced to the airport - job competed.

Another great addition is new canvas work around our cockpit. We had a new bimini made, a transition piece designed that attached between the bimini and the dodger, and see through side curtains that zip to the bimini and tie down to the stays, enclosing the cockpit. This provides sun and some rain protection. The last large project was varnishing and cleaning the boat. We hired Ronnie (shown here to the left) to do most of the work but also teach Heather. We stripped, sanded and varnished the handrails, companionway, coming, cockpit table, and various sections of the interior. Then we cleaned, compounded and polished the exterior fiberglass - deck and sides. In addition, we had the sails repaired and checked, bought an inverter charger and spinnaker pole, and had new curtains made for the salon. Our retirement savings are dwindling fast but the boat looks great!

Provisioning is a constant and easy here in Trinidad. These last few weeks Heather has been shopping at various markets, including a Pricesmart (very similar to Cosco). Most cardboard boxes are then removed and the contents put in zip lock bags, labeled and then stowed away somewhere. An inventory list of contents is taped to the back of the doors or lids of the storage areas, which have all been repacked and inventoried this month. After visiting Customs and Immigration we'll be able to shop at the duty free store and purchase beer, wine and liquor at pretty reasonable prices.
At the last minute we'll make a trip to the fruit and vegetable market and buy fresh produce. Although we can restock in Grenada, it's a lot harder to do when you're at anchor - ferrying everything in and our by dinghy. After Grenada, the Grenadines are a collection of very small islands and food shopping will be minimal and expensive. We do not have a freezer so keeping fresh food for any length of time is challenging. I have meats frozen and packaged in air tight pouches, then I pack them near our cooling unit. Vegetables are trimmed and put in zip lock bags. Most root vegetables will last a month or more - green veggies are more perishable. I've become familiar with the local produce and try to use that.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Caroni Swamp Tour

The Caroni Bird Sanctuary is a reserve within a mangrove swamp covering 40 square miles. Just before sunset flocks of glowing, fire engine red birds start appearing, first by the dozens and then by the hundreds. They roost on the mangrove islands and are joined by snowy white egrets and herons. Soon it looks like a Christmas tree with white and red ornaments.
The scarlet ibis is the national bird of Trinidad and despite being a protected species since 1962, its' numbers are decreasing. They get their brilliant red plumage from their diet of crab, shrimp and snails.
Jesse had arranged a guided tour of the swamp especially for a group of our friends. Fourteen of us traveled by maxi taxi and then by boat into the swamp. We had an excellent guide and happily Jesse joined us too. We brought "sundowners" and appetizers to enjoy as we watched the scarlet ibis return to roost.

The boat followed a winding course through the mangroves. There are four different kinds here - red, white, black and buttonwood. We saw two large snakes sleeping on branchs overhead. This one woke up with all the noise and looked at us quite intently. We looked back just as fascinated (but were careful not to get too close!)

The sight of the spectacular ibis, egrets and herons flocking as the sun set created the oohs and aahs usually reserved for fireworks shows among our group. As the darkness settled in we motored our way back through the narrow mangrove channels and our adventure was over all too soon.