Virgin Islands to Grenada


May 4, 2016

Last night we flew into St. Thomas and despite having arrived two hours late into Puerto Rico, we somehow managed to catch our connecting flight on an eight passenger twin engined Cessna for the final leg from San Juan. Amazingly our luggage arrived on the same flight, an almost unheard of experience when flying United Airlines. An hour or so after we arrived at the hotel, we received a text from United alerting us to the fact that we had missed our last connection and needed to contact “Customer Service” to arrange for onward passage.

(The air-traffic controller hears a voice on the radio saying, “Control tower, control tower, what time is it?” The controller smoothly responds, “What flight is this, sir?”, to which the anonymous voice brusquely responds, “What the hell difference does it make which flight this is?”. The controller continues, “Well sir, if this is American Airlines it is two o’clock in the afternoon; however if this is KLM, it is 1400 hours. If this is United Airlines, it’s Tuesday.”)

We subsequently found our hotel in downtown Charlotte Amelie. At the hotel Annette wanted to catch up on today’s primary election results but couldn’t get the TV to operate and demanded the hotel management provide either an “on the spot” repair or another room. We got another room.

This morning we rode the ferry from Charlotte Amelie to St. John and Colin Kinsella of picked us and swept us effortlessly in his dinghy from the ferry dock to DoodleBug waiting quietly on her mooring.

Aboard DB, the “closed in” cabin was hot and humid and Annette is still suffering from the cold she had acquired from the outbound flight eleven days ago. I had the beginning of a migraine thus we decided to fire up the generator and enjoy a “catch up” nap in air-conditioned space. The generator refused to start. I wearily grabbed a meter and screwdrivers and headed forward to check the battery charge level and the various breakers. The battery voltage was fine and the breakers all looked good. Back to the control panel in the main cabin. I unscrewed the panel and jumpered across the start switch. The generator started! Blessing the diesel gods we turned the A/C on and crashed in the starboard bedroom, since the port air conditioner was not working. In late afternoon we emerged into daylight and in better physical shape. In our suitcase we were carrying an internet purchase of a new air-conditioner control board and I now changed this out for the defective control board on the port air conditioner and threw the breaker. Nothing! I metered the power input and carefully rechecked all of the connections on the wiring harness. Still nothing. Then I had the bright idea of checking the control panel to see if the unit was actually turned on. It wasn’t. This was easily rectified and we now have three working air-conditioners aboard!

The next crisis presented itself as it was now early evening and we were out of beer. We launched the dinghy, fired up the outboard and motored the few hundred yards over to the Westin hotel for an excellent supper and a six-pack from the hotel “market”.

We are back in the islands.

May 5, 2016

Dawn broke and we were already at work, stowing the dinghy, stowing the suitcases we had unpacked yesterday and checking the engines for departure. We were supposed to have received the closing documents for the sale of our Corpus Christi property yesterday evening but this had morphed into, “first thing this morning”. Our St. John mooring is temporally an hour ahead of Texas thus we dropped our mooring at 0810 hours and set course for St. Thomas and its easier access to groceries, notaries and communications. The seas were empty of other shipping, even the ferries were absent as we made our way into Charlotte Amelie harbour and anchored at 0936 hours at N 18 20.3’ W 064 55.6’ in Long Bay. There was no e-mail awaiting our internet login and a text query indicated a new document eta of 1:00 p.m. OK then, shopping!

Our first expedition was to the local supermarket where we loaded up with cases of beer and groceries. It was the usual fun loading up the dinghy and the wind was building in the anchorage making the unloading process more than normally challenging. Still no closing documents, so we headed back out for the bulk paper products, taking the “Safari Bus up country” to the top of the mountain to shop at “Cost-U-Less”. This time the shopping cart was loaded to the gills and we caught a taxi for the return trip to the dinghy dock at the Yacht Haven marina, alongside the cruise ships. By now the waves in the anchorage were even more pronounced, although they are supposed to die down later tonight. We unloaded everything, checked with FedEx for delivery transit times, discovered that St. Thomas is now magically “International” and shipments to the USA have to clear Customs. (Maybe that’s just Texas though.....) and again queried the status of the documents. The word came back that the Title company had yet to receive them from the lender. At this point the standby helicopter and motorcycle courier were cancelled. We cracked open a couple of the beers we had been cooling since this morning and settled into a reduced pace mode. This is going to be a “tomorrow” project.

We have also been monitoring the weather for a departure to the east and Sunday or Monday look promising. Of course this is perfectly normal with a five day forecast. The outer days always look great and then begin to suck as the departure window tightens. We face a 90 mile open water run from Virgin Gorda to St, Martin, directly upwind, an uncomfortable choppy prospect.

At least we will have time tonight to carefully review the closing documents in a somewhat relaxed manner before the dash to the notary service tomorrow. At sunset we get another text indicating that the long awaited documents have not yet arrived at the Title company. Nothing then today, we repeat the process tomorrow.

May 6, 2016

Friday morning and we began the day with boat chores. Annette was stowing and inventorying groceries whilst I tackled the port engine. I checked the engine anode, surprisingly in good condition and then changed the oil in the transmission. Boat transmissions are like a very simple auto transmission in that they usually only have forward, neutral and reverse but they also have some kind of hydraulic clutch and are filled with red colored “ATF” oil. Our engines live under the beds in the stern cabins, thus the challenge in servicing them is to do so without spilling dirty oil throughout the boat’s living space. I next changed the engine oil itself, plus it’s filter, before leak testing everything. It was now 9:00 a. m. and I spent the following hour on the phone with multiple insurance companies, convincing them to delay the cancellation of insurance coverage on the Corpus Christi property until next Tuesday. Still nothing heard from the Texas Title company and I turned my attention to the starboard engine to repeat the morning’s entertainment.

We did receive a text saying that the Title company had received their documents last night and their lawyer was drafting the necessary “closing” papers for us to sign and we translated this to mean, “sometime after lunch”. Annette had carefully packed and padded a suitcase containing the sculpture she had purchased from the artist Hannah in Curacao and we loaded this carefully into the dinghy. The wind was blowing strongly and we motored through rough and choppy seas to reach the Crown Bay marina in the adjacent bay where the “Mail Stop” packaging store did business. Here we were to get the artwork “double boxed”, that is packed into a cardboard box nestled in Styrofoam “peanuts” and then this box packaged similarly inside a second box. We warned the office girl that the piece was extremely heavy, weighing at least 50 pounds and she hoisted to the level of her work table before dropping it to the floor. It shattered into a dozen pieces. “Was it already broken?”, she asked, followed by, “Is it insured?”. This was like being sideswiped in Houston by an ancient and decrepit pickup truck piloted by a couple of gentlemen from way south. Not much point in bothering, really. I told the girl we would be back later with documents to notarize and would discuss the matter further at that time. “Oh, the notary isn’t working today”.

We headed back to DoodleBug and were thoroughly soaked by the time we arrived, due to the rough conditions. As two p.m. approached I texted that our window of opportunity for processing the documents today was rapidly closing and further, FedEx was closed all week-end. I immediately received a text that the documents had been e-mailed to us and after a few minutes and on the second attempt, the file downloaded. It took an hour and ten minutes to print the necessary 55 pages with several restarts and rebooting of the computer and printer. In the meantime we had called the Yacht Haven marina and possibly located another notary, identified as, “an insurance company office above the Barefoot Buddha restaurant”. We tore across the anchorage, ignoring speed limit signs and blasted our way up to the dinghy dock, scrambling over other boats and not even attempting to tie up close to the dock. After several attempts we located an insurance company office (we never discovered the restaurant) and entered their calm, air-conditioned space. We signed page after page, hoping and praying we hadn’t missed anything or made a mistake. By just after four o’clock it was done and we ripped out of the insurance office looking for a taxi.

Just opposite was such a vehicle, with the driver sleeping across the passenger bench. Feeling badly about awakening him, we demanded transit to the airport and he agreed to take us there. We still had fifty minutes to make the drop-off deadline at FedEx and I could hear Tom Hanks chanting, “tick-tock, tick-tock”.(BTW, that’s from “Castaway”) The Title company had included a printed FedEx address form / voucher but I assured Annette that they would find some reason it couldn’t be used. We neared the airport without spotting an air-freight sign and just as I was beginning to panic, we spotted the FedEx logo in the distance. Jumped out of the taxi, rushed into the office and didn’t even blink when the girl said, “That is the wrong form, it needs to be International from here”. We had made it! It was 1618 hours and we had another 42 minutes we could have casually frittered away. We staggered out of the office, walked to the terminal and grabbed a taxi back to the Yacht Haven dinghy dock. Our driver turned up a back street and then explained he needed to pick up his grand-daughter from kindergarten. We didn’t care. We are in the islands, mon.

May 7, 2016

Another early start. At 0800 hours we raised anchor and motored through the rough waters of Charlotte Amelie Bay, passing through the narrow cut of Hassel Island into Crown Bay. Here we hailed the marina on the VHF radio and were told the fuel dock was fully occupied. We bobbed around for ten minutes or so until a catamaran departed and then slid gingerly into the space it had occupied. Annette was already having a problem with the boat motion and we had yet to leave the shelter of the harbors. We topped up our tanks with fuel and drinking water and headed out to sea.

The wind was howling, the seas short, steep and choppy and our destination this morning had been to Virgin Gorda, in the British Virgin Islands, as a jumping off spot for a passage tomorrow to the French island of St. Martin. Annette was not enjoying this experience however, thus we made a rapid change of plans, heading instead to Cruz Bay, St. Johns. Cruz Bay is a “Port of Entry” to the US Virgin Islands and a source of departure documents. We anchored in shallow water just to the east of the entrance channel markers and I dinghied over to the Customs and Immigration dock. By noon we had raised anchor once more and headed over to Maho Bay to grab a mooring, tucking in close to the land to avoid the powerful winds and wind generated chop. All of this is forecast to disappear by tomorrow and we will make the 100 mile run across the Anegada Passage.

May 8, 2016

We had been carefully analyzing the various weather forecasts and last night, at just past mid-night, Maho Bay was like a mill-pond, with scarcely a ripple disturbing the waters. We dropped our mooring at 0640 hours and motored out to pass north along the coast of St. Johns, continuing between the islands of Peter and Norman. This was all sheltered cruising, with seas of less than a foot and with 8/8 ths hazy, light cloud cover. 0830 hours had us entering the Anegada Passage proper and in open waters the seas were 3 to 4 feet but without the sharp chop of yesterday.

A quiet run, just a couple of private craft passed heading west and we saw but a few flying fish, a “Tropic” bird, a Booby and a pair of Pelicans. The pelicans stayed with us a while and would fly past us, plop into the water and then gaze at us reproachfully as we passed. The process was then repeated. We have often had sea-birds fly just off our bow, to grab any small fish that might be disturbed by our movement but the pelicans didn’t seem to be actively fishing.

By late afternoon the seas had died down to 3 foot rounded humps, sort of like a marine golf course and it was very pleasant to sit and contemplate the absence of an island ahead. We were but twenty miles out before we could see the outline of St. Martin through the haze in the distance and then this too disappeared behind threatening clouds. The squall hit us at ten miles from our destination and the wind appeared from nowhere, hurling the rain at us and blanking out the radar display. Half an hour later it was gone, the decks were cleaned of the grime they had accumulated in the Virgin Islands and we motored into Marigot Bay anchoring at N 18 04.2’ W 063 05.6’ at 1827 hours, almost on the same spot we had occupied nine months ago. We launched our dinghy and found the L’Arhawak restaurant open where the waiter recognized us instantly and hugged Annette (who wouldn’t!). We are in St. Martin.

May 9, 2016

We still had a few items we need to buy for the boat and I had read that it was possible to check into St. Martin at the Budget Marine supply store. We dinghied over early this morning, armed with our boat documents and passports and sure enough, there was a computer there set up for the government website. Of course it had the “French” keyboard in order to obfuscate all of the commonly used letters and numbers and the website had been designed by a particularly malicious alien. It was fairly easy to recognize the Microsoft origin of the graphical interface and even Microsoft would not have denied their European customers of the ability to automatically sort lists into alphabetical order. Nevertheless, the United States immediately followed Uganda on the list except that the names were in French so “Etats Unis” follows “Ougande”. We waited whilst a Canadian couple ahead of us fought their way through the system and I pointed out that Canadians were all supposed to be able to speak French – after all, we watched the movie “Canadian Bacon”. This did not help. When our turn came we breezed through the setup and printed out the form. The Budget Marine girl checked our boat papers and passports and pronounced us “checked in”. Wow! Where is TSA when you need them? We are now legally here and haven’t even been groped yet.

We ate lunch at our favorite dockside restaurant and checked our e-mails and internet. The FedEx package sent Friday was delivered this morning to the Title company in Corpus Christi. Off to the supermarket then to purchase “long life” ultra-pasteurized and non-refrigerated milk, the boon of tea drinking sailors. In mid afternoon we called to check on the status of the closing on the Corpus Christi property sale. We were informed that the mortgage company wanted a hard copy of the $45 receipt for the pre-move in cleaning of the property. As it happened, the buyers showed up whilst the cleaning was ongoing and had already moved in. Was this a new Dodd Frank regulation?

We spent the balance of the afternoon chasing down engine oil filters – found them at NAPA - and transmission oil filters – no luck. A typical day really and we watched a moody and colorful sunset as the sun went down to the west of Marigot Bay.

May 10, 2016

The cast of the chicken entrails this morning indicated a possible weather window for this afternoon, thus we called Budget Marine on our sat phone to see if they were open at for business at 8:00 a.m., or in our case, for checkout. Amazingly, they answered the phone and we were soon tying up our dinghy at their dock. The manager turned on the computer for me and then I meticulously filled in all of the same information that I had completed upon our arrival, easier now since I was reading from my printed arrival document. I hit “save and print” and marched up to the register next to the printer. “Just give me five minutes”, the manager said as he was checking out a customer. Five minutes later and he turned back to me, just as the power went out. Total chaos ensued, with multiple employees dashing around grabbing battery jumper cables and leaping over piles of merchandise. Although there were batteries, chargers and inverters everywhere throughout the store, their UPS back-up system wasn’t working. We needed to “wait” for the power to come back on, whenever that might be, as their printer needed “city power” to function.

Annette asked the check-out girl if this kind of thing happened often and the girl did her “Gallic shrug” and said her credit card had been stolen that morning. Her cell phone went out just as she was trying to report the credit card loss. We decided a bar would be an appropriate place to wait and maybe we could find an internet connection. The girl suggested we avoid the bar just opposite, as she was assaulted there when she went to buy ice a few days ago.

Our trusty fall-back option was the main ferry dock Customs and Immigration office, where we met the same grumpy, miserable bugger as last time - instantly recognizable as a government employee anywhere on the planet. We offered him the printed “check-in” form generated at Budget Marine on Monday. He glanced at it and asked why we hadn’t checked in with him. As he continued to grumble that we had 24 hours to do so, I asked if what we had done by checking in at Budget Marine was legal and he indicated that it was. (We never could work out exactly what his problem was but acting dumb works everywhere). He said that he had to first check us into the country before he could issue us with exit papers and began laboriously to enter the exact same information into his computer, completely ignoring the printout I had just given him. Puzzled, I asked if he couldn’t just access the government database we had logged into when we arrived and he stated that his database was different and he wasn’t able to log into the “Budget Marine” database. After this elaborate and excruciating process, he asked if it was OK to use our boat name as a password. “Sure”, I said. He next needed a number to add to the name. I gave him a number. And a symbol. I said to use the “@” symbol. What was all this about? I asked if we could use this same information if we arrived at another French Island, such as Martinique. He said no, they use the “Budget Marine” type database we had originally used. He then wanted to prove to me that once entered in his system, we could simply log on with future visits, using the password just generated. The system rejected the just generated password. Now the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, particularly with a computer. This he did. For the next twenty minutes or so, he would enter the same password into his system and have it rejected. Somehow the computer got bored with this and printed out a departure document. We grabbed it and left, an exercise that had by now occupied just about three and a half hours.

At 1158 hours, we raised anchor and set course for the Dutch island of Statia, also know as Sint Eustatius. The sky was completely cloud covered with a few light rain pods in the distance as we motored out of Marigot Bay and turned west along the coast of St. Martin. An hour later we had cleared the southern tip of the island and were heading at 158 degrees with a course over ground of 180 degrees, indicating nearly 25 degrees of leeway to offset the wind and current. The waves were in the 3 foot range, plus the occasional 4 footer but about 60 degrees off the bow. If we had been sailing, this would have been a fun and fast “close reach”. Ahead on our starboard side was the volcanic cone of Saba, rising near vertically out of the sea. Saba is of course famous for its previous tenant the dread pirate Hiram Beaks, who’s favorite saying was, “Dead men tell no tales”. Our destination of Statia we could see directly ahead and faintly beyond that, the island of St. Kitts. On our port side were the Frigate islands and St. Barthelemy (aka St. Bart). Also on our port side was an ocean going tug towing a barge on the end of a long cable. The wonders of the AIS display showed that we were travelling some 3 knots faster than these vessels and would pass by no closer than a mile and a half.

By 1630 hours we were approaching the west coast of Statia and could see multiple large vessels ahead. The AIS again provided clues to their activity and what we were observing was an oil tanker, moored to a pipeline at the bow, with its stern being held in position by a large tug pulling at the end of a long cable. We could now see multiple oil storage tanks on the plateau above the beach and other tankers, pipelines and tugs scattered around. The chart noted that this was all happening in the middle of a designated “marine park”, with no anchoring allowed and obviously the Dutch are more pragmatic about such matters. Our destination was just off the town of Oranjestad and we picked up a mooring here at 1658 hours at N 17 28.9’ W 062 59.4’. Unlike St. Martin, there were just a handful of other yachts here. We dinghied ashore to find beer, supper and internet and were successful on all three counts. The internet provided the welcome intelligence that we had received the proceeds from the sale of our Corpus Christi property and so that is now a part of history.

Statia oil terminalStatiafriendly warning

May 11, 2016

This morning we made the pilgrimage to the harbor to check-in with Customs and Immigration and then sauntered over to the Marine Park office to pay our park fees and get information on the marine-park and the hike up to the rim of the volcano that dominates the anchorage. We learned that the “Quill National Park” contains “The Quill”, a dormant volcano that last erupted circa 400 AD, although I’m not sure how that was determined. “Quill” is a Dutch word simply meaning “pit” and the volcano is an almost classic cone shape, 2,000 feet above sea level, with the crater forming a deep pit within.

Just before noon we had unloaded our documents back aboard DoodleBug and gathered our hiking gear, consisting mainly of rain-jackets and beer. The hike was described as “shaded” and as we headed uphill this turned out to be true, with the jungle trail well cleared but providing an overhead canopy, plus a breeze that became cooler as we climbed. There were lots of lizards scurrying about in the undergrowth but I wasn’t looking for these, I was looking for crabs. Annette spotted the first couple near the summit of the walk and they were large hermit crabs, perhaps 3 to 4 inches across, bearing worn sea shells on their backs. Since there was no beach at the top of a volcano, these tiny creatures must have hauled their homes some 2,000 feet from the sea below.

On the Quill trailhermit crabtrail chickenThe cratertrail chickentrail chicken

Annette called out to me as I arrived at the summit and dropped my back-pack. She was being closely followed by a chicken, which had appeared out of thin air, so to speak. All three of us sat together, gazing in awe into the vertical depths of “the pit”. The crater is well defined and has a base some 1,000 feet below where we sat, heavily forested with tall tropical rainforest trees. It was hard to take it all in, particularly with a brightly colored chicken standing perhaps ten inches from me. It was obvious, even to us humans, what it was the chicken wanted but we had not brought snacks with us. Annette offered the chicken some of her beer which was rapidly sipped up. I was not about to get chicken spit in my beer, well cognizant of the origin of the 2015 Bird Flu epidemic; besides which, I had already drunk mine. The chicken also drank the water we provided but it was obvious that it preferred Heineken.

At the base of the mountain, we visited the cultural museum and discovered that Statia (Sint Eustatius) was the first country to recognize the sovereignty of the fledgling United States, when it returned a gun salute to the US warship, the Andrew Doria in November 1776. Surrounded by the monopolistic trade centers of the French, Spanish, British and Danish islands, the Dutch operated Statia as an open port, that is without Customs duties or fees. Some 50% of the supplies, arms and gunpowder purchased by the revolutionary USA came through Statia, a fact that the British were well aware of.

In 1780 Britain declared war on Holland and sent Admiral George Rodney to this island with a massive fleet. When they arrived, the Dutch Governor de Graaff was totally unaware that there existed a state of war between the countries and under the threat of massive force, surrendered the island. Admiral Rodney plundered all of the goods here, stripping the merchants of wealth, even to the extent of body searching each individual. He dallied for 6 months gathering the huge treasure hoard and sent a convoy back to England, escorted by several of his warships. The reason for his meticulous attention to the security of the loot was that it was to be considered a “spoil of war” and he personally would gain a large share. In September, his weakened fleet met the French fleet at the Battle of Chesapeake Bay where he was soundly defeated in a couple of hours. This sealed the fate of General Cornwallis, who was now blockaded from the sea and forced to surrender in October of 1781.

Today Statia’s economy depends upon a company that uses the island as an oil transfer and storage facility. This may now be described as “faltering”. The National government in Holland has just raised taxes on the company and the local island government has just massively raised the harbor fees. Unsurprisingly the oil transfer company did not increase its investment here last year and may be considering shutting down operations. Even the chicken would have figured that one out.

May 12, 2016

Yesterday the generator again failed to start. This is most annoying as on the previous occasion, I had “jumpered” across the “start” switch which had seemed to solve the issue. The problem was that the very same “start” switch had begun working again. I don’t like intermittent, self fixing equipment. Either break or work, there is no “try”. This time jumpering across the “start” switch made no difference. I next hot-wired across the starter solenoid and there was a loud “clunk” from the starter motor before my piece of wire fell off. I next had Annette hit the “start” switch back in the main cabin whilst I metered the wiring activating the starter solenoid. All good. I wired it all back together, hit the “start” switch again and again the generator fired up. OK as far as it goes but I really haven’t diagnosed the intermittent problem yet.

We had planned on snorkeling today as there are reportedly a couple of good spots in close proximity to our anchorage but it was drizzling rain and overcast. The rain is not the issue since you are going to get wet anyway, it’s just that the underwater visibility is so poor without sunlight above. We dinghied over to the main dock and checked out of Customs and Immigration before hiking the hill up to the post-office. Annette’s volcano hiking muscles had by now recovered and she needed St. Eustatius stamps for her grand-children bound post-cards.

By 1315 hours we were done, raised our anchor and set course for the island of St. Kitts, on a dull overcast day with 3 to 4 foot waves. As we passed the southern coast of Statia, we could look back and see the “White Wall” where the limestone seabed had been thrust upwards by the volcano and formed a spectacular south facing cliff, hundreds of feet high.

White WallBooby

As we motored, showers of flying fish would scatter before our passage and a pair of brown Boobies hovered off the flybridge and would take off after them. The Boobies did not seem to be particularly successful fishers but since they looked like healthy adults, something must be working for them.

At 1558 hours we anchored in Frigate Bay, St. Kitts at N 17 16.8’ W 062 41.4’ and dinghied ashore seeking beer and Wi-Fi from the bar at the Timothy Beach Resort, while we watched a pair of mongooses (mongeese?) running back and forth under the boardwalk.

May 13, 2016

After a comfortable night at anchor, this morning we dinghied back along the coast for some miles to check in with Customs and Immigration at the at the Port Zante Marina, located at the island capital of Basseterre. There was a cruise ship tied up at the main dock and we mingled with the passengers, forcing our way through the security cordon to reach the Customs office. In all we had to visit three different offices but all were very pleasant and polite. At the Immigration office, the lady officer was singing country and western songs as she stamped our passports and had a cable from her portable radio hooked up to a wire coat-hanger, suspended on a nail driven in the wall. At the harbor master’s office, when asked where our boat was, I vaguely jerked my head in the direction of the bay and said it was “just around the corner”, which seemed to satisfy. The marina office itself was empty but the security officer called the marina manager on his phone. When we asked about availability of a slip for a couple of days, we were told to “check back this afternoon”. There followed a hard, jolting dinghy ride back to DoodleBug. The wind had picked up and there was now a nasty, short chop to the water, demonstrating that a taxi ride to the port would have been a much better option.

That afternoon we did indeed move to a marina slip and Marvin, one of the transient marina workers, drove us over to a local fisherman’s dock to seek conch toes for Annette. When we arrived at the dock, he told us to wait in the car and to “shut up”. He would “do the talkin’ ”. He did in fact obtain nine “toes” for Annette’s collection. The “conch” is a marine gastropod mollusk that can move itself along the seafloor using a single “foot”, terminating in a brown chitinous extremity, somewhat like a large fingernail. The conch digs this “toe” into the sea bed and then hauls itself on this temporary anchor to gain a few inches of motion. The fishermen generally throw away the “toes” as well as the guts when cleaning the conch for the local seafood markets. Annette has amazed and fascinated the locals as to why she wants these and just about all of the marina workers know that she is seeking them.

Back at the marina we discovered that there was no electricity available at our slip and have been promised that an electrician will come and take a look, “tomorrow”. We gained some slip neighbors when another boat arrived at around 5:30 p.m. and they were instructed to check in with the Customs at the nearby Cruise Ship dock and then to take a taxi to the airport to check in with Immigration. The marina manager was adamant that the crew could not leave the marina premises to go shopping until their Captain had checked everyone in.

May 14, 2016

Laundry day! Annette loves to have all of her laundry washed, folded and put away and so she began her first load, running our washing machine from the inverter (house battery bank) with unlimited water from a dockside hose. The electrician did show up and stopped by to see if I had a meter he could borrow. He then disappeared again to seek stainless steel nuts for the power pedestal. When he returned, he announced that the power cords had never been pulled into that pedestal (I had guessed this from the spider webs around the sockets) and he couldn’t fix this by himself. He offered the solution of us wiring into the power outlets on the next slip down with a “hot-wired” extension, to which we concurred. We now had the luxury of air-conditioning and could also plug the washing machine into city power!

Conch toes

Later that afternoon we went on a second expedition with Marvin, seeking additional conch toes for Annette’s collection and obtained another slimy handful, rescued from the rotting mass of guts on the seashore. When the security guard cautiously asked me what she wanted them for, I responded that the reason I have been married for forty five years is that I don’t ask questions like that.

May 15, 2016

The big event this morning was to walk to a grocery store, a little over a mile away. The wonders of the internet had shown that it was one of the few establishments open on a Sunday morning. St. Kitts, like many Caribbean Islands, pretty much shuts down on Sunday.

We enjoyed a lazy day ourselves. We had set ourselves a goal of finding a man we had met here in 2009, John Coggins, formerly a resident of Tyseley, Birmingham. Many people we spoke to said they knew John “well” but hadn’t seen him in several years. On an island this size, it means he isn’t here any more.

May 16, 2016

Charles, the marina manager promised us he would be at work at 6:00 a.m. thus we prepared for a departure at this time, hoping to benefit from the lower winds, with everything stowed securely on deck, engine checks done, power cords stowed and trash dumped. At 7:10 he finally rolled up at his office, we paid our bill, dropped our mooring lines and headed out to sea.

As we motored south in the shelter of the bulk of the island, we first had to dodge a cruise ship that was docking at the port, watched closely by a little security vessel that came bobbing towards us like a terrier pup. The sky was 5/8th cloud with showers along the 3,000 foot tall mountains to the east of us, extending all the way down the island chain to Nevis. The sea had an annoying two foot chop but overall it was a pleasant run for the next hour and a half as we passed by the sea cliffs of the island of Nevis and cleared the southernmost tip, leaving the brooding rain clouds behind. Ahead we could see the island of Redonda and beyond that Montserrat, some 30 miles away. By 0920 hours we were at N 17 04.5’ W 062 35.9’ making 8.2 knots into waves in the 3 to 4 foot range. The sky still had 3/8ths. cloud cover but was otherwise sunny, a beautiful day in the Caribbean and we could see Antigua off to the port side as we passed within a mile and a half of the strange thrusting bulk of Redonda. The islet belongs to Antigua / Barbuda and looks thoroughly inaccessible with towering sea cliffs of soft volcanic ash. We dropped anchor at Little Bay, Montserrat at 1254 hours at N 16 48.1’ W 062 12.43’, just off the beach in a protected hook of land, with cliffs to the port side. Since the St. Kitts Customs and Immigration had been so rabid, we soon dinghied ashore to check in. After searching through deserted warehouses for a few minutes, we found a lady in uniform who informed us that it was a public holiday in Montserrat and it would cost an extra $120 to check in today. We could check in tomorrow morning and just pay the regular fees. Since everything was closed anyway and the afternoon wearing on, we decided to do just this but made arrangements with the taxi driver “Uncle Des” for a tour on the morrow. The appointment was made by “illegally” yelling through the fence at him. We are in Montserrat, sort of.

RedondaMontserratUsed boatlanding in Montserrat

May 17, 2016

We dinghied ashore this morning and walked over to the previously abandoned warehouse where there were now a half dozen officials in uniform, milling around outside of the building. We knew we were supposed to check in through door number “2”, the one with a large number two painted on it and was in fact the only closed door. We opened the mysterious door and entered into an empty waiting room, sporting several reception windows in the walls and watched as the various offices were filled up by the the officials who had previously been loitering outside. With an island population of around 4,500, a uniform and a job at the only port facility must be a much sought after post. It took three of the windows to “check us in” but thanks to the wonders of the internet, I had already filed all of the necessary information when we were in St. Kitts. Once we had paid our various fees, moved the receipt the several feet between the windows and were legally present, we were permitted to leave the security of the port facility and met our tour guide for the day, “Uncle Des”.

Uncle Des drove an aging Toyota van with nearly every body panel dented and a totally opaque side window for the rear seat passengers, not exactly the best option for sight seeing. Nevertheless he piloted this vehicle both cautiously and competently and so one wonders how he managed to trash his van so badly.

National Museum

Our first tour stop was to the National Museum, mostly dedicated to the memory of George Martin, the producer of the Beatles music, who founded “Air Studios Montserrat” here in 1979. Montserrat became a gathering place for all of the beautiful people and an alternate to their exclusive haven further south on Mustique (presumably George couldn’t go there because the Rolling Stones had already staked out the best home sites in the Grenadines). Uncle Des was disappointed that we didn’t know who the late George Martin was and in truth I had to look him up on the internet. Annette and I instead remember Brian Epstein as the Beatles manager, who killed himself with the traditional 1960’s drug overdose, so if you want to be remembered to posterity, better to become famous and then kill yourself. In 1989, category 4 hurricane Hugo hit Montserrat, wiping out the fledgling tourist industry and damaging some 90% of the properties. George Martin then realized why everyone else was hangin’ down south and Air Studios was permanently shut down with no attempt to make repairs. This was just as well because six years later in July 1995, there was a major eruption of the local volcano, Soufriere Hills. The pyroclastic flows from Soufriere buried the island capital of Plymouth under 40 feet of ash and mud. The airport terminal was wiped out together with the new cruise ship dock at the port. In all, about two thirds of the island is within an exclusion zone where special permission is required just to enter. Around two thirds (8,000 people) of the then population chose to emigrate, mostly to the UK.

Des drove us south towards the old capital of Plymouth and through the parts of the island that were relatively untouched by physical damage but even here, many of the properties and businesses had been abandoned. As we passed through the various parishes, Des would point out the church and type of congregation, or say that used to be a service station, or that is where the elementary school used to be.

Montserrat was established as a colony in 1628 and the founders imported white slaves from Ireland to work the plantations which, as throughout the tropics, were to grow sugar cane. Presumably the so called ‘indentured servants” did not thrive under the tropical conditions and the harsh physical labor of cane growing and were later supported by the import of African slaves. I had wondered about the use of the Shamrock symbol plus references to St. Patrick and and Irish place names on the island. As late as 1831 it was reported that the Irish Gaelic language was being commonly spoken by both black and white slaves on the island, with free intermarrying between the two groups. Today the language is English but there remains a strange mixture of pseudo Anglican churches, Irish bars and Caribbean African culture, superimposed, one on another.

school yard overgrownschool room

We stopped to visit a Seventh Day Adventist elementary school that was within the “no living” exclusion zone. The building was intact, the gardens overgrown, about eighteen inches of ash at the door thresholds and then you step down into an abandoned classroom with the desks, books on bookshelves, all in place. It was as though the owners really expected to be able to return. I felt that this was what Pompeii was truly like a couple of thousand years ago. It was not the apocalyptic destruction of a town as portrayed in school history books but the gradual acceptance that, “Hey, this isn’t going to get any better; let’s just give it up and move on.”

We passed by a geothermal project that is supposed to come on line in the near future and supplant the five diesel generators that the island is currently using to produce electricity. Near the project there were large yellow machines mining aggregate for export to neighboring islands for building material. There is no other economy. The island is totally dependent upon DFID (Department for International Development), a UK Ministry that operates somewhat like FEMA (with similar efficiencies and track record). We stopped at an overlook and gazed in awe and horror at the town of Plymouth, buried under the flow of material from the volcano whose summit was now wreathed in clouds. Another stop was at a once high end resort where weddings would be held. The reception desk stood with telephones at the ready. There were office supply catalogs and receipt books. The low voltage lighting was in place around the swimming pool whose stainless ladder descended into several feet of ash. The sea lay as before, blue and sparkling. A way of life interrupted, never to return.

swimming poolash flowash flow

We had earlier stopped at a “not for profit” organization based at the Hilltop café on Gingerbread Hill. I had asked the proprietor Clover, what the economy of the island was and she had looked at me blankly. She said there had been an attempt to bring in a hotel for tourism but that was not the type of industry they wanted and the project was shut down. She complained bitterly about the incompetence of DFID in that there had been no real attempt to rebuild the island’s infrastructure but when I asked her where the money was to come from, she was visibly confused. I had a similar conversation with “Uncle Des” and he again assumed that the mysterious, inexhaustible well of government money would solve the island’s woes. This reminded me strongly of the young aboriginal boy we met in the Australian Outback who when asked where money comes from, said confidently that it comes out of a machine in the wall near the post office. When he was asked how the money got into the machine, he explained that a man in Canberra put the money into his machine there and it comes out here. See, he knew!

May 18, 2016

Today’s log entry began last night, when at dusk we received a call on our VHF radio from the Montserrat port control. We had just enjoyed supper ashore and had stopped by the only remaining vessel in the anchorage, a 50 foot Beneteau named “My Elephant”, US flagged but claiming a home port of Delaware (amateurs!!) and crewed by four Russian Nationals. The Russians as always, were charming and perfect hosts and we had enjoyed drinking a beer with them and chatting about ocean passages and our own travels in Russia. They had crossed the Atlantic last year with the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) but had been informed by the Montserrat officialdom that they would need a visa in order to land here. (The nuclear secrets of this island need to be scrupulously protected!). They were still trapped aboard and we were now three beers down when the voice on the radio requested us to move from our anchoring spot in order to make way for an arriving freighter. There was no possible way that we were blocking this idiot from anchoring but hey, we are guests here. We raised our anchor and after discovering, to no great surprise, the balance of the bay was too deep for our meager chain length, we anchored just off the beach in the next bay over. Here the charts indicated a sea bed of “rocks” instead of “sand”, not a good place to dump a couple of thousand dollars worth of anchor and chain and we were not happy. To add to our imagined misery, we could no longer access the internet. Time to split this pop-stand!

Gotta move!

We raised our anchor at 2150 hours and set sail for Guadeloupe, some 70 miles and nine hours passage to the south. We were expecting rough conditions and tried to ensure that everything was well stowed and snugged down before we left. Raising the anchor went relatively smoothly, if indeed it was hung up on rocks, it freed itself quickly and we set of with about two thirds moon, high above the thin clouds and illuminating the waves. The electronic charts were bursting with warnings about uncharted hazards downwind of the volcano as well as lethal and toxic gases. Our land tour today had indicated none of these but nevertheless we plotted a course to take us well clear of the abandoned capital of Plymouth. For an hour and a half we headed south in a mild chop and watched the formation of rain pods on our radar, both before us and after our passage. We never did take a direct hit from the rain but we could smell the “rotten eggs” odor of sulfuric compounds from the interior of the volcano as we passed by in the darkness. All too soon, we left the wind shelter of the island, knowing that the next four hours were destined to be uncomfortable.

At just before 2 a.m. we were at N 16 21.3’ W 062 02.7’ with seas in the 4 to 5 foot range, breaking over the bow and flooding the “wing” area between the bows. This area is not well equipped with drains but DoodleBug seemed to shrug off the extra weight and ploughed on. As far as I noticed, the bilge alarm went off but once during the nine hour transit and it was likely that this was when we dumped condensate from the port air-conditioner. By the time we reached the north of Guadeloupe the waves were in the 6 to 8 foot range and it was with some relief that we felt the benefit of the shelter by the bulk of Guadeloupe to the east as we headed south along its coast. The moon set as a ruddy and squashed ball at around 3:00 a.m. and we lost this wonderful source of light and security. In return we now had the reflected shore lights from the island and as we neared open sea again to the south, dawn was breaking. One more hour of miserable crashing conditions as we fought our way “uphill” and we entered the shelter of Les Isles de Saintes, taking up a mooring at 0655 hours, just off the main port of Terre de Haut, N 15 52.1’ W 061 35.2’. We have arrived back in French territory!

May 19, 2016

This morning we rented a motor scooter and I was instantly transported back to the carefree days of my youth, when the dolly-girl du jour would be on the pillion, clinging tightly on the corners. Go-go boots and mini-skirts. No texting. No music videos! Of course today it’s electric starters and automatic transmissions but the sense of freedom is still there and most importantly, we didn’t have to walk uphill to visit Fort Napoleon. This was our first stop since it conveniently is closed to visitors in the afternoon. Pourquoi? The museum seems to have plenty of employees, plus rooms barred to entry and marked for “administration”. A steady stream of visitors poured in at 5 euros per head but the museum and grounds seem run down. Outside there are sun-bleached signs in French requesting that you not “kill” the native iguanas but apart from this environmentally correct admonition, the yard overall has a dry and neglected look. Inside the museum, the exhibits similarly sport fading signs in French. Occasionally, maybe for one in twenty, there will be a nearby translation of the information to English but no discernable pattern to this break in the francophone monopoly.

Frigate being mobbedHell's AngelIles des SaintesIles des SaintesmortarIles des Saintes

The fort itself was destroyed by British forces in 1809 and the current fort rebuilt in 1867. This was an awkward time for defensive structures as the concurrent American Civil war had seen the common use of rifled cannons, armor piercing and exploding shells. This fort was built with moats, canon-emplacements and bunkers. A curious melange of styles, as though the architects couldn’t decide whether they were to be assaulted by cross-bows or howitzers. It was named for Napoleon III, the nephew of the “real” Napoleon. The former had been elected President of France but due to term limits, couldn’t run for re-election. He then staged a coup d’etat and had himself crowned Emperor – see, all he needed was a pen and a phone.

The fort was never used in any kind of battle and instead served as a penitentiary. Even here it disappoints, no guillotine or solitary cells to hold a glowering Steve McQueen. What does not disappoint is that the fort is located on the crown of a “bluff” and does provide great views of the islets and anchorages.

We spent the balance of the day touring the island and covered just about every paved road. This is truly a beautiful location and deserves its reputation of the jewel of the French Caribbean.

May 20, 2016

The Internet was still down this morning and we have been fighting a long-distance real estate issue that was interrupted yesterday by the cessation of communications when our connection died in mid-afternoon and stayed down for the balance of the day. This morning we gave up waiting for the various bozos to reboot their server and dinghied ashore to visit an Internet café, which of course didn’t open before 9:00 a.m. At last I was able to update the navigation details and weather information, plus file a Custom’s clearance plan for tomorrow’s run to Dominica. I also that discovered that nobody had been trying to contact me for the past twenty four hours and I needn’t have fretted about potentially unanswered e-mails. We next wandered the town hitting the gift shops until we began to get hungry.

Iles des SaintesIles des Saintes

Now then, a brief cultural and geographical lecture. Sunrise and sunset in the tropics occur at around 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. respectively. Most sailors rise before dawn, when it is just becoming light at 5:00 a.m. and what is referred to as “sailor midnight” is 9:00 p.m. The relevance of this is that when we sought lunch at a restaurant ashore, we were hungry by 11:00 a.m. and had forgotten that French restaurants don’t open for lunch until 1:00 p.m. some two hours later. Similarly when we were ready for a beer and supper, the same restaurants keep their doors firmly locked until 7:00 p.m. meaning naturally that you aren’t going to see food on a plate much before 8:00 p.m. That’s our bed-time folks! The Italians do the same thing and it’s no wonder that their respective economies suck. They don’t even open the bar earlier so you might build up an inebriated appetite as you wait to be fed.

Back to the boat for “Les omelets a la DoodleBug”, with Coors Lite biere.

May 21, 2016

We dropped our mooring at 0806 hours and set course for Dominica. A sunny morning and we headed west before taking the South Pass between Terre de Bas and Terre d’en Haut. Ahead lay the islets of Grand Islet and La Coche and we took the narrow Pass de Dames, just as we did in 2009 as we were northbound on our first S/V DoodleBug. It is only two tenths of a mile between the charted reefs guarding the pass and in 2009 a rain squall helpfully obscured the hazards just as we entered the pass. Today, the rain was absent but the sun angle was so low that it was impossible to judge the water depth from the sea color. Nevertheless we again passed between the breakers without hearing grinding noises.

approaching DominicaWe were soon motoring in open waters, the waves beginning to build in height as we left the shelter of land. As we neared the island of Dominica some two hours later, we were catching six footers with the port bow, sending sheets of “green” water across the foredeck. The wind was still blowing strongly but the wave heights dropped as we entered the shelter of the island, trying to dodge what appeared to be two small fishing boats who were trying to ram us. We finally realized that these were local entrepreneurs, attempting to entice us onto a mooring and to set up local tours. We took a mooring at 1046 hours at N 15 34.9’ W 061 27.8’ off the town of Portsmouth, Dominica.

Eddison of “Eddison’s Tours” gave me a ride in his boat to the commercial dock and I walked over to what looked like an apartment building to find Customs and immigration. There had not been a visible soul since I had landed but one of the apartments had two vehicles parked outside and I chose the closest door to knock. The man within had been watching a soccer game on his TV and obviously this was his apartment. I had arrived at the correct destination however and spread my documents across his kitchen table as I filled out the forms. I mentioned that I had completed all of these documents using the SailClear website but he indicated that he only had access to his computer during working hours and today was not only the week-end but OVERTIME!! This cost me forty five bucks but I had interrupted his game after all.

Back at DoodleBug we dinghied over to the local bar restaurant to find lunch but despite the French nationality of the proprietor, the lunch was awful with bland salad and partially cooked fish. The chef had probably been deported from Guadeloupe. Next we headed into town to find an ATM since we are back in “EC” country. “EC” stands for Eastern Caribbean Dollars and they are used on all but the French Islands. The ATM we found was the wrong flavor and although it taunted me by pretending it was going to give me money, with questions as to whether I would accepts a $5.00 transaction fee or wanted a paper receipt, it blew me off at the end like Lucy snatching away the football. This was now becoming problematic since the ATM’s in St. Kitts had also refused to dispense dollars to us and although we had Euros, we were near “out” of other currencies. The wind was still howling across the anchorage as we returned to DoodleBug to sulk over our miserable lunch and pauper status.

May 22, 2016

An early start to the day as we waited to be picked up from DoodleBug for a tour of the Indian River. The tide here is three to four feet and so timing is critical to get past the entrance bar of the river. This doesn’t have anything to do with practicing law, it is simply that an incoming tide can temporarily halt the flow of river water, causing the sediment that the river has been carrying downslope to be deposited in a bank or “bar” across the mouth of the river. Boats heading up-river need to wait for high-tide to make the passage from sea to river and this was us.

Our guide, Ken, picked us up together with four fellow sailors from S/V Tumultuous Uproar and we entered the shallow waters of the river, marveling at the shoals of mullet that can tolerate the briny environment and tempt occasional forays by the local hungry barracuda. The Indian River is navigable by rowboat for about a mile from its mouth and is overhung with jungle trees and creepers. Swamp trees such as the buttressed Bloodroot Mangroves or Bwa Mang trees decorate the banks with their bizarre and alien root systems, the mud crawling with white and scarlet crabs who wave their pincers threateningly. The river has been described as a “Mini-Amazon” but it achieved fame when it was selected for scenes from “Pirates of the Caribbean”. Although Calypso’s hut was removed after shooting the movie, the local tour guides have rebuilt it on the original site used in the filming. (Calypso was the voodoo priestess played by Naomi Harris).

BitternIndian RiverCalypso's shackBlood mangrovesBlood mangroves

crabscrabspirate territoryLizardJungle flower


The turn-around point for the tour is the “Bush Bar” where the drink “Dynamite” is served. Although it is very tasty indeed, you may be sure that the alcohol content is also very high. This is a super tour and one that I could never tire of enjoying.

May 23, 2016

We had intended to set off for Martinique today but the forecast is for high winds and high seas. Instead we caught a local bus into the town center seeking an “international” ATM. The local banks just deal with Master Card and Visa where you are really getting a cash advance on your credit card, unless of course you have a local bank account. We needed a bank that was connected to the world by the “Plus” network, which could access our USA checking account and we found such at the Royal Bank of Canada. Now, flush with cash, we not only could pay the bus fare back to the hotel where we had abandoned our dinghy, we could even afford lunch! The latter was a pleasant affair, seated on a second floor balcony overlooking the narrow street below and soaking up all of the ambiance of old town Roseau, with its colonial French architecture, like a condensed and compressed New Orleans.

Roseau street viewRoseau lunchAnchorage hotel

Nearby was the tiny Dominica Museum and we toured this and learned that there is still a Carib community here on the east coast of Dominica. Columbus sailed here on his second expedition to the New world on Sunday, 3rd. November, 1493. He described Dominica as “completely covered with mountains and nary a flat spot”. Not a good option for agriculture and the island was pretty much ignored for the next couple of centuries. We were the only visitors to the museum and I asked the curator if he was from Dominica and if he could answer a question about the Dominica flag. He affirmed that he was indeed from Dominica but referred me to the tourist information office for flag questions. The tourist information was next door and not much help. The manager first acknowledged that she was a native of Dominica but suggested that I try to buy a small flag at the local market to see what the Dominica flag looks like. The flag of Dominica has a parrot on it. Not hard to work out which way up the flag should fly. Our courtesy flag that was purchased eight years ago has the parrot facing forwards, towards the flag pole on the starboard side and facing backwards on the port side. My question was simply, shouldn’t the parrot be facing forwards on both side of the flag? Looking this up on the internet hadn’t helped because they only show one side of the flag on the screen. When we related our flag dilemma to the barman back at the hotel, another native of Dominica, he just shook his head sadly when we related our struggle for parrot orientation confirmation.

Before we re-boarded our dinghy, Annette collected a sample of black volcanic sand from the hotel beach. She has discovered that there is an International Sand Collectors Society, whose motto is, ”discovering the world, grain by grain”. It costs twelve bucks annually to join this group, who also have an exchange for collected sand samples. The other well known society, the “International Sand Investigating Society” or ISIS is cheaper but they do require their members to wear dishtowels at all times.

May 24, 2016

A really slow day. The big chore for the day was clean out the fly-bridge lockers. This exhausted us so we needed to dinghy ashore and have a couple of beers at the “Anchorage Hotel” bar to recover. We are really waiting for a weather window for the run tomorrow to Martinique.

May 25, 2016

We dropped our mooring at 0630 hours and headed south down the coast of Dominica towards our next destination, the island of Martinique. For the next half hour, we leaving Dominicaleaving Dominicagazed in awe at the heavily forested and mountainous ridges of Dominica. Columbus is reputed to have crumpled up a sheet of paper to demonstrate the ruggedness of the terrain. As we cleared the land, we could look back and see the windward east coast, even more rugged than the coast we had just traversed and reportedly where the scenes were shot when Captain Jack Sparrow (aka Johnny Depp) had become King of the Cannibal tribe. As we expected, the waves in the Dominica Channel were in the four to five feet range but with rounded tops and only once or twice were we boarded. Just behind us passed several large rain pods, again leaving us dry, which was really a pity because the foredeck is covered in the scum that drained from yesterday’s clean-out of the fly-bridge lockers and it could have used a good rinse.

By 0830 hours we were in mid-channel and were buzzed by a low-flying helicopter. No obvious markings, so we couldn’t tell if it was on official business of any kind.

1000 hours we again passed into the wave shelter of land and cruised south down the equally rugged coast of Martinique. At 1138 hours we changed course to avoid some tuna holding pens, anchored a mile or so offshore. We have seen these before and they look fairly substantial, not the kind of thing you want to collide with by accident. There were two men making repairs to the fencing around the pen but they were busy and ignored us as we motored by. Just beyond the pens at “La Sechere” was a large industrial plant with multiple tall chimney stacks but no visible piles of tailings. What they are manufacturing we could not determine but we have again noticed, that the French islands alone have any kind of industrial infrastructure.

MartiniqueMartiniqueTuna cagesMartiniqueFort de France

At 1237 hours we dropped anchor beneath the walls of the fort at “Fort de France”, Martinique N 14 35.925’ W 061 04.127’ and dinghied ashore to make our clearance.

I failed to remember where we had achieved “clearance” in 2009 but we were hungry so instead headed across the road from our dinghy landing to the McDonalds. Two Big Mac’s, regular fries and regular cokes for US$18. We both agreed that this meal was amongst the the top three restaurant meals we have enjoyed since we left the USA three weeks ago. Fort de France feels like a small city after visiting the other islands. The wide boulevards are lined with stores, insurance companies, restaurants, supermarkets and the like. We used the computer at the marine supply store to report our clearance details and the marine supply store itself was awesome. It seemed to stock at least one of every possible marine related pump, motor or fitting. The other stores seem to rely on the, “We will have to order that” method of inventory which coupled with the, “Our shipment didn’t arrive today, maybe tomorrow” provide the reason our suitcases are often so heavy.

May 26, 2016

Last night the generator had died and I assumed that the intermittent bug had struck again. When I opened the bow locker this morning, yellow fluorescent liquid was splashed everywhere. This was definitely a different problem. The liquid was obviously anti-freeze coolant and as I mopped up the mess, I tried to localize the source of the leak. No obvious burst hose and the engine oil was clean, so maybe, just maybe it isn’t the cylinder head gasket. Similarly the water pump seals looked OK. I finally found the overflow hose from to the reservoir with a hole in it the size of a dime. Easy enough to replace the hose but will that fix the problem? There seems too much liquid spilled to be just a simple leak but the only way to find out, is put it all back together and see if it runs. We hit the parts supply store this morning but they didn’t sell anti-freeze and I had used up all that I had on board. Later then. We caught a taxi to the airport and rented a car for the day.

Peleeparaseismic bearingsScience centerSaint Pierre beachSaint Pierre beach

Our first destination was near the town of Saint Pierre, the “Center de Decouverte des Sciences de la Terre”. This is housed in a building that looks like a large rectangular box sitting on two towers. The building is connected to the towers by large blocks of neoprene rubber and was designed to withstand earthquakes as well as hurricane force winds. The facility was built on the flanks of the quiescent volcano “Pelee” in order to study earth sciences following the most destructive volcanic eruption of the last century. In 1902 Pelee erupted, simultaneously killing around 30,000 people, literally within seconds. At the time, little was known of volcanology, although two types of volcano had been recognized; the Hawaiian type of volcanoes that produced molten lava and those that produced ash and pumice like Pompeii. It was assumed that the threat from either of these lay in the valleys around the volcanoes and a town like St. Pierre that lay on high ground was therefore safe. As fumaroles opened belching sulfurous fumes and minor eruptions kicked out some ash, people from surrounding rural areas evacuated to St. Pierre because it was believed to be safe with its buildings constructed of stone. St. Pierre was nicknamed “Little Paris” and was the second town in France (after Versailles) to install electric street lighting. On May 8th. 1902, the side of the mountain blew out some 4 miles from the town, sending a cloud of pyroclastic ash at the hapless victims below. The ash cloud was estimated to be travelling at over 400 miles per hour with internal temperatures of 2,000 degrees F.

Popular history reports that there were two survivors of this blast although in fact there were other victims on the edges of the inferno who were horribly burned and died within hours. The most famous of the survivors was Louis-Auguste Cyparis, a felon who was imprisoned in a heavy stone dungeon for wounding a “friend” with a cutlass. He later travelled with the Barnum and Bailey circus and was deliciously lauded as a “condemned man”, awaiting execution, whom God had spared whilst wiping out all of the church goers that Sunday morning.

On 20th. May there was a second eruption, similar to the first, that wiped out 2,000 rescuers that had been poring through the wreckage that had once been St. Pierre and on August 30, a pyroclastic flow wiped out the nearby town of Morne Rouge killing another 1,000 residents. The scale of the casualties had been so horrific that governments throughout the planet became focused on learning about the origins, mechanics and science of volcanoes and their associated tsunamis.

Our auto tour took us through the town of Morne Rouge and we drove around the flanks of Pelee and wondered how people could continue to live their lives under the daily threat of extinction.

Our next destination was the Banana museum at St. Marie on the Atlantic coast. This was a fun visit that began with an information display about the 1,000 different specie of bananas and their historical origin (they originate in Malaysia) and how the Arabs helped migrate the plant to the west whilst it was independently migrating to the east. In their garden the museum had plantings of dozens of different varietals and even if the example plant was not fruit bearing at the time, there would be a cut example of the fruit laying at the foot of the plant. We learned that some varieties produce a single banana on the stalk, nearly two feet in length.

Banana museumBanana museum grounds

The Banana Museum lies in the middle of a working plantation and our drive around the island had taken us through acres and acres of banana plantations and sugar cane groves. We had been the only visitors at the “Center de Decouverte des Sciences de la Terre” and again were the only visitors at the Banana Museum, not exactly indicators of a robust tourist industry. Wikipedia reports that agriculture is some 6% of GDP with industry another 11% – mainly the mining of construction materials and a small refinery. The tourist industry provides some foreign exchange but the bulk of the island’s income is received as a hand-out from the French taxpayers.

May 27, 2016

This morning we checked out of Martinique and at 0940 hours, raised anchor and set course for St. Lucia. For the next half hour we enjoyed the shelter of the land before entering the exposed St. Lucia Channel and feeling the Atlantic waves sweeping through from the east. The next three hours we experienced four to five foot waves, just ahead of the beam and only occasionally boarding us. Ahead were showers of flying fish and we picked up a pair of Brown Boobies, who crisscrossed our bow, diving for the small fry that were disturbed by our approach. The day was three quarters cloud and we could see rain pods in the distance that did not seem to herald a lot of wind. This changed when we were some three miles out from our landfall and the wind picked up and began to howl, despite our lack of masts and fixed rigging. We increased our engine RPM’s to make the shelter of land and passed under the fortress of Pigeon Island into the St. Croix roadstead with the waves now gone but still lots of wind. The Rodney Bay Marina answered our VHF hail and at 1415 hours, we backed into a slip with the driving rain that had finally arrived just at the most inopportune moment. We are tied up at N 14 04.5’ W 060 57.0’, St. Lucia.

May 28, 2016

This morning my first task was to tackle the generator issue and I filled up the heat exchanger with anti-freeze purchased from the marine supply store. It wouldn’t start. I then spent next hour or so checking switch functionality and cleaning contacts and wiring grounds. Finally I found the least accessible connector to the starter solenoid with a bad contact, partially cleaned it and stuffed it back together. This time the generator started. I rapidly checked that there were no obvious coolant leaks but then noticed there was no cooling sea-water being ejected form the exhaust vent either. The symptoms were now beginning to make sense. I shut the unit down, discovered that the sea water impeller was completely shot and replaced it with a spare. I then attempted to clean out the heat exchanger which is presumably partially blocked as the repository of all of the fins broken off from the defective impeller but as I tried to ease off the rubber shroud around the heat exchanger, it tore. I am guessing it has been a long time since this procedure was last performed and I hastily reassembled this with the hose clamp holding the torn pieces together. The generator ran for the next thirty minutes or so before I shut it off and confirmed that seems to be operating normally. Of course we will need to buy some replacement rubber parts in order to be able to properly clean out the heat exchanger.

In the middle of this exciting project, “Vincent” had showed up and offered to wash and wax the upper decks and polish the stainless fittings. He requested a half payment for “materials” and I needed cash to cover this. I headed over to the marina ATM but it had no international connection and I next walked down the road to the nearest bank which had the same deal, local stuff only. When I asked a local man where I might find an international bank, he recommended the Scotia Bank in the nearby town of Rodney Bay. He then offered me a gift of $20 EC for the bus fare. This was an incredibly kind act by from a total stranger and the second time this has happened to me recently. The world is full of kind and decent people.

Meanwhile Annette had spent the morning catching up on laundry, and then decided she wanted to create art. The boat was pretty much covered up with drying laundry so she taped a large plastic drop cloth to the finger pier next to the boat and proceeded to create a large sunset at sea in acrylics on parchment taped to the dock. This was just about complete when it began to pour with rain and a drenched Annette was back on board with her brushes and tubes of paint but her creation still being hammered on the dock by a tropical rainstorm.

Rodney Bay dock

These rainstorms may be intense for a few minutes but rarely last long and a half hour later, we ventured forth to survey the damage. She was both surprised and delighted that the painting had survived and that the rain had added an interesting “effect”. Since her canvas was actually made from six taped together sheets of parchment, they were individually rescued and brought into the main cabin to dry. She is now plotting on how she will reproduce the spattered “look” without having to wait for rain.

May 29, 2016

Annette moved her art studio from the finger pier dock alongside DoodleBug into the main cabin where it is certainly drier. She did however leave me a spot for my computer at the navigation station and I read the news and the like whilst she “created”. I always get nervous when she tapes plastic drop cloths up throughout the interior since I have watched several episodes of “Dexter”. In late morning, Vincent showed up as promised to clean the upper deck but after a couple of hours work announced that the water had been cut off at the dock as there was a water main break on the high street. We made a quick run to grocery store, minutes before it closed, to buy tea-bags and beer, thereby warding off a double catastrophe. it was raining on and off all day, a typical Sunday in the Caribbean.

May 30, 2016

Monday and the stores here are open, thus we walked around to see if we could locate parts for our generator. We were directed to a business about a mile away and after some exploration, we did find it. This was a shipping container alongside a suburban home and inside was a mechanic working on the heat exchanger of a Northern Lights generator. He looked genuinely surprised as we entered his workplace, as though this was the first time a customer had ever found his facility. It was easy enough to explain what we wanted, since I just had to point at the unit he was working on. He asked where our boat was and our slip number. I repeated that I just needed the part and he said he would discuss this with his boss and his boss would then contact me. Needless to say we never heard from either again.

This endeavor was not entirely wasted since we found the local hardware store. Annette loves hardware stores and we wandered around admiring all the “stuff” we would like to have but which would certainly sink the boat if we hauled it all on board.

It was still heavily overcast and raining on and off and its only saving grace was that at least the rain isn’t cold. We stopped by the car rental office at the marina and it was almost a repeat of the generator repairman experience. When we walked in the door of the business and called out, a girl emerged from the rear of the store and asked, “Can I help you?” in the tone that we might have expected if we had just entered the Pope’s residence carrying a severed head. We said we wanted to rent a car and there followed a pregnant pause, until she remembered that this was a car rental company and not a front for the Medellin Cartel. She finally admitted that they did have an auto to rent and reserved a car for the morrow, copying my driver’s license so that we could complete the remaining paperwork “quickly”.

May 31, 2016

We arrived back at the car rental office this morning and although it was a different girl behind the counter, the experience was identical. The laborious, endless typing in at a computer terminal, a process that took forty minutes in spite of the absence of any other customers. Thank goodness we were in the “Express” line.

Remembering to drive on the left, we finally headed out in our Suzuki rental car, driving south along the coast road to the town of Castries. Castries is the capital of the island and nearly 40% of the island population live and work here. Castries also boasts a one-way driving system plus a near absence of road signage making navigation a challenge. We noticed a large market-place and circled the block until we found an empty parking space and pulled into it. As we gathered our belongings, I noticed a policemen staring at us with apprehension and rolled down the window to ask him if it was OK to park where we had stopped. He said that the area was reserved for mini-buses only and asked how long we wanted to stay. He agreed that an hour would be acceptable and gave us his unlikely name as, “Officer John Smith” in case of problems.

The marketplacefruits and veggiesfish marketcoal pots and basketspolice officer

The market place was fun with fish merchants selling their colorful tropical fish and vegetable stalls in a blaze of colors. Annette stopped a police captain bearing a silver tipped swagger stick and demanded a photograph with him. He cheerfully complied and we continued with our browsing of stalls selling spices, woven baskets, wood carvings and the like. This is a great market and even the trashy tourist stuff was probably manufactured somewhere in the Caribbean rather than Indonesia.

We somehow found the Folk Research Center which had an almost total absence of any exhibits. Their web-site claims to have “thousands of video clips” of St. Lucia cultural events but these must have been on a DVD in the back office. However their staff were charming and we did receive good directions for leaving town to continue our southbound journey, so it was not entirely a wasted visit.

The Folk Research centerThe exhibitsCastriesCastries

The road to the south makes tortuous switchbacks, is frequently potholed but provides exquisite views of the bays and mountains on the west side of the island. We stopped for lunch at the Hummingbird Beach Resort at Soufriere that provides a stunning view of the Pitons. The latter are a pair of volcanic plugs that rise nearly two and half thousand feet above sea level before plunging into Soufriere Bay. The area is so picturesque it is easy to forget the hazards of living in proximity to an active volcano. The Pitons themselves are considered dormant but nearby Sulphur Springs is very much an active system and besides occasionally emitting hazardous concentrations of Carbon Dioxide and Hydrogen Sulphide, also poses the risk of landslides, phreatic (steam) eruptions and boiling pools.

banana plantationThe PitonsHummingbird

None of this occurred whilst we enjoyed our sandwiches and then headed further south towards Vieux Fort, the southern tip of St. Lucia. Once we had cleared the area of the Pitons, we immediately saw evidence of large scale agriculture, mainly banana plantations. The island economy is almost 50 percent dependent upon tourism with 7% of the GDP coming from agriculture which also provides some 20% of the jobs. About 25% of the GDP is from “industry” and this seems to mainly based upon a large oil trans-shipment terminal south of Castries. I assume that like the other islands in the Caribbean, the oil being temporarily stored is derived from Venezuela. If the Venezuelans weren’t such thieves there would be almost no economic reason to build temporary storage facilities on these tropical islands exposed as they are to the risk of hurricanes. Wikipedia estimated the 2002 per capita income of the island to be $5,400 – about one seventh of the USA in the same time frame.

June 1, 2016

A slow day spent readying for sea. Annette tackled her last pile of laundry whilst I replaced the anchor light fitting. The “old” light still worked but was undersized. The bulb was smaller output than called for by international convention and the fitting too short to enable us to swap the bulb for a brighter and less power hungry LED. The “new” fitting repairs both of these defects but the marine supply store had no LED’s in stock to complete the job.

The Rodney Bay vegetable mantesting the conchher purchases

It rained on and off today and I personally will be glad to see some blue skies for a change.

June 2, 2016

We had carefully planned everything for an early departure this morning. Yesterday we had cleared from Customs and also paid the balance of our marina fees. The fuel dock wasn’t open until 8:00 a.m. but we were determined to be “first in line” and to be tied up at the fuel pumps at 7:30 a.m. Everything went smoothly, the wind wafted us off our marina slip and we backed into the fuel dock between two replica’s of Captain Jack Sparrow’s “Black Pearl”. There was nobody on the dock but Annette was able to lasso a cleat on her first attempt. Unfortunately the rope she was using was super long and the unused portion of the line fell into the water and was immediately sucked into the starboard propeller. She had another line handy and was able to again lasso the cleat and the port engine pushed the bow into the dock so that we could complete the tying up. With mask, snorkel and dive knife I was soon in the water and was able to cut the miscreant line free and unwrap it from the prop shaft. A quick shower to wash the harbor sewage from my body and by the time I was again dressed and back on deck, the fuel guys were just arriving for work and had missed the whole show.

diving on wrapped linethe line

Now with tanks bursting with diesel, at 0835 hours we dropped our lines and headed south along the west coast of St. Lucia, with its amazing scenery, verdant jungle clad ridges plunging straight into the Caribbean sea. At each bay or indentation, we could see the small towns that we had navigated by auto the previous day. From the sea, the oil transfer storage facility was huge, dwarfing those we had seen on other islands but although a pair of tugs stood at the ready, there were no tankers either loading or unloading.

St. Lucia Oil storageThe Pitons from the seaThe Bequia ferry

We passed again by the spectacular volcanic plugs of the “Pitons” and then headed into open water for the next three hours. The waves were in the four to six foot range but again, we took very little water on board and in early afternoon, we passed back into the wave shelter of St. Vincent. The brooding volcano to the east of us was Soufriere, which last erupted 1979. We had hiked its summit in 2002 and were told then that the heavily forested flanks of the volcano should be avoided by tourists because this portion of the island is the exclusive province of the St. Vincent Marijuana growers association. We followed the coast around to Kingstown Bay, remaining in shelter before heading across open water to the nearby island of Bequia, our 2008 landfall after crossing the Atlantic from the Cape Verdes off the African coast. This will be the fifth time we have visited the island and the orange painted ferry boat, “Admiral II” greeted us by rounding the tip of the Devil’s Table guarding the entrance to Admiralty Bay. The seas here are always rough and the ferry boat’s bow was plunging into the waves throwing sheets of water into the air whilst I fought the manual steering as the autopilot seemed to have decided that it felt sea-sick and had given up holding course. We avoided hitting the ferry boat and at 1700 hours we took up a mooring at N 13 00.5’ W 061 14.5’ in Port Elizabeth.

June 3, 2016

This morning began with the familiar ritual of checking in with the Customs and Immigration and then we set off to find the ATM machine and replenish our cash. I had previously searched the internet and located what was supposed to be a machine with international access but when we arrived at the reported location, there was no machine to be found. The “other” ATM at the nearby bank was local only, unless you had a Visa debit card attached to your US checking account - not exactly the safest option when travelling. When we made enquiries back at the tourist information center, we were told that the international ATM we sought had been summarily removed by its owners some six months earlier but it was suggested that the grocery store might allow us some “cash out”. We needed beer anyway and the supermarket allowed us 300 Eastern Caribbean (EC) dollars cash for a 4 percent fee when added to the price of a case of suds. $300 EC is slightly more than 100 US dollars and since the next international ATM would be four or five islands further south in Grenada, this was not going to be a viable solution.

Admiralty Bay waterfrontselling fishselling fishcoconut vendorSt. Margaret's Bay rental house

We decided to rent a car and since rental car companies accept, or rather “demand” credit card payment, cash would not be a problem here. The lady at the information center asked where we were staying and when we explained that we were on a boat in the Bay, announced that we could not rent a vehicle for “overnight” use as we had no “secure” parking. This is the fifth time we have visited Bequia since 2002 and each time we have rented wheels but the rental company we had used in the past with its waterfront office had gone out of business. If we wanted a “daytime only” rental, she could give us the local phone number of a taxi company that also rented cars.

OK then, we are pedestrians. We walked the waterfront around the bay to Princess Margaret’s Beach under the shade of the Manchineel trees. The latter are famed as the most toxic plant on earth. The sweet apples that carpeted the beach are toxic to everything that walks, crawls or flies, except allegedly a rare specie of Central American Iguana. The apples contain multiple poisons, as does the sap from the tree. If you stand beneath the tree when it rains, the drops that fall from the tree can cause acute dermatitis. If you cut it down, the sawdust can burn skin, eyes and lungs and ditto if you burn it and are exposed to the smoke. We speculated as to the evolutionary purpose of developing such a spectrum of toxins. The most famous victim of Manchineel poisoning was the conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon. He was shot in the thigh with an arrow that had been dipped in Manchineel sap and died later of his wound.

We did not eat the apples and instead sought out Mac’s pizza, home of the world famous Bequia lobster pizza. Mac sold out some years ago and today, lobster pizza was not on the menu. When we enquired, we were informed that the prime ingredient of “lobster” was out of season. Lobster season ended on April 30th. and the St. Vincent government allows the restaurants a two week’s grace period to empty their freezers, subject to a 5,000 dollar fine. We had missed by three weeks. Strike three! We slunk back aboard to sulk.

June 4, 2016

The first ferry from Bequia to St. Vincent left at 0630 hours and I was on it. It takes about an hour to make the passage to Kingstown, the capital of St. Vincent and I had determined that St. Vincent hosted a branch of Scotia Bank. The ship docked and I joined the passengers walking off the boarding ramp before the boat was even tied up to the land. A taxi driver rolled down his window to ask if I needed a cab and I jumped in and we took off through the early morning traffic to illegally double park in front of the Scotia Bank. By some miracle there was no line at the ATM, I thrust my card in the slot, punched the usual buttons and within seconds was walking out with 2,000 EC cash in my pocket. The taxi dropped me back at the same ferry I had arrived on which departed ten minutes later.

tree blossomsthe police stationlocal kidsthe graveyard

Our next task was to use our satellite phone to rent a car for the following morning. Two down! We dinghied ashore to get a pizza lunch but sadly, no lobster. After lunch we walked the back streets and lanes around Port Elizabeth and were distressed to see so many closed businesses. When we had arrived in Admiralty Bay a couple of days ago, we had seen a veritable fleet of moored and anchored vessels but had since learned that the majority of these were being stored. This is low season and the crowds had fled a month ago, probably when the lobster pizza went off the menu. These islands roll up the sidewalks around noon on Saturday and only a few beach bars remained open. We were back aboard DoodleBug when Willie showed up. Willie is a very large man who rows a diminutive wooden boat while selling his craft wares to the cruising boats in the anchorage. Annette bought necklaces from him and commented that this is the third time she has purchased items from him in the past fourteen years.

June 5, 2016

We had arranged to meet the rental lady at 0830 hours at the dinghy dock and she showed up right on time. Unfortunately, I needed a “local driver’s license”, aka a fee for $100EC, to be purchased at the Custom’s office across from the dock. The latter didn’t open until 0900 hours and so we cooled our heels until the shutters went up at the office. The next problem asserted itself when the agent announced that the driver’s license forms were in the safe and the lady who had access to the safe would be there in “five” minutes. The “five” turned out to be thirty but by 0930 hours I could legally drive on the island and we set off.

The roads on Bequia range from two lane surfaced, to one lane with turnouts, to one lane width with two strips of concrete for the tires, to just gravel and dirt. Most are single lane with steep drop offs and we were glad that we were driving on a Sunday with little or no traffic.

driving in BequiaAdmiralty Bayconch fishermenloaded treesbeach

We toured the island from the airport at the south end to the turtle sanctuary at the north end. There was a large hotel open at south facing Friendship Bay that served us a pleasant lunch and we were the only customers. When we asked the staff how many guests they had staying at the resort, they replied, “She is out by the pool”.

Firefly ruinsFirefly batsNets dryingHope Beach trail

That afternoon, we rediscovered the route to “Hope” Beach and judging by the access trail, a still seldom visited beach on the Atlantic side of the island. This will be the third time we have hiked to this beach, a palm fringed crescent of white sand between two rock ridges and each time we have found it completely deserted. On our first visit in 2002, we had carried a picnic of wine, bread and cheese and after an hour or so of bathing, Annette announced that she had always wanted to swim nude from the beach. No sooner was she in the water when a group of five people walked out of the jungle and onto the sand. Just like in the song, “She wore an itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny, bikini”, Annette was trapped in the water and had to be rescued by her husband, bravely retrieving her bikini from the beach. No wine or nude bathing on this occasion and it seemed a very long return hike, uphill from the beach to the road where we had parked the car. I think the road was shorter 14 years ago.

June 6, 2016

Monday morning and we topped up on groceries before setting sail for Tobago Cays at 0948 hours. The sky was heavily overcast and it rained in various degrees of intensity, all morning. As we motored out of Admiralty Bay, we Bequia wreck passed the wreck of a freighter on the rocks just off the west end of Bequia. The wreck looked to be fairly recent and we debated what might have occurred. The island of Mustique lay to the east of us but Mick Jagger hadn’t invited us over, thus we headed south, south west, passing down the coast of Canouan before turning to the east of Mayreau Island and anchoring behind the reef at Tobago Cays at 1315 hours, N 12 37.9’ W 061 21.3’

buying Mahi Mahi visitor Within minutes of our arrival, we had a local fisherman stop by offering to sell us a Mahi-Mahi. We did buy a portion of a fish and whilst he was cleaning it, I noticed a grackle fly out of the open doorway our cabin, a harbinger of the beggars that were to show up as soon as we sat down to eat lunch. They were clearly used to being fed from the various tour boats and although the seagulls had been very appreciative of the discarded pieces of Mahi-Mahi, this was the first time we had been chirped at by land birds while we were at sea. The grackles were fearless and left bright, raspberry red poop stains all over the boat indicating a probable diet of cactus apples now supplemented by bread and cheese.

It had finally stopped raining and we were anchored in a sea that was turquoise clear water around ten feet deep, with large turtles swimming around DoodleBug and grazing on whatever it is they were grazing upon. We launched our kayaks and headed over to a nearby small islet, riding a small wave up onto the white sand beach. We hiked a trail uphill and within about twenty yards or so, Annette discovered a large land tortoise, perhaps eighteen inches across, munching on a cactus apple and oblivious to our presence. There were all kinds of sea-birds nesting in the trees and running through the undergrowth, or clutched to the branches, were large iguanas in the three to five foot range. Annette hadn’t brought her camera with her and was grumbling about the fact effusively. I cheerfully predicted a giraffe sighting or perhaps an alien, stepping out of his flying saucer to ask for directions. This was an amazing hike and we even spotted a small shark, about three feet long, swimming along the water’s edge where we had left the kayaks.

Tobago Cays Tobago crab Tobago iguana Tobago moray

In late afternoon, the tide was near full and the waves slopping over the barrier reef made our anchorage choppy so we hauled the kayaks back on deck rather than listen to them banging about all night. Most of the other boats had been day visitors and left before dark, leaving just four other anchor lights to be seen across this wild and beautiful place.

June 7, 2016

Today we dinghied around the Tobago Cays, visiting the islets, hiking the trails, walking the beaches. Annette brought her camera (protected in a waterproof backpack) but alas, no tortoise sightings. Even the iguanas hid today and the multi-colored giants of yesterday were not to be seen. At the water’s edge, we did spot another small shark but even this was aquarium sized at around two feet long. Annette swears she will never go anywhere else on this planet without a camera.

June 8, 2016

We slowed our departure this morning so that we could see the water “color” as we exited the Tobago Cays. There are many shallows, reefs and rocks and not all are charted. We spot such obstructions by the color of the water ahead of us thus we raised our anchor at 0855 hours and motored out from behind the sheltering reef, bound for Union Island, the southernmost island in the Grenadines chain. It was about 4/8 ths cloud and sunny, with waves in the two to three feet range. A short hop to the island we could plainly see ahead of us and we took up a mooring in Clifton Harbor at 0935 hours at N 12 35.7’ W 061 24.7’.

Taxis on beachtaxi price listAnnette's conchconch discard pile

Because Union island is the last stop in the island chain, we needed to “check out” of the Grenadines in order to get departure papers, thus we dinghied ashore and walked down the airport runway to the terminal building. It is always interesting dealing with government employees, just about anywhere in the world. They have the heady combination of a small quantity of power, plus the possession of a job they can’t be fired from. Many are grateful for this, particularly in the current state of the economy but then there are the others. We stood in an empty hangar sized room about three feet away from the immigration lady whilst she played with her phone and pretended not to notice us. Finally Annette broke the silence and the lady sighed, put down her phone and began to “correct” all of the block letters I had used when filling out the form and that might have been a little fuzzy on the carbon paper copies. Really! Do today’s kids even know what carbon paper is?

June 9, 2016

We dropped our mooring at 0740 hours and set off for the island of Carriacou (pronounced “carry a coo” - not as in providing portage to a bovine) the first “port of entry” island for Grenada. Again, we could clearly see our destination and after a short hop across the open water of what is called the “Martinique Channel”, we gained the wave shelter of the west coast of Carriacou Island and anchored in Tyrell Bay at 0900 hours at position N 12 27.4’ W 061 29.3’.

A different check-in experience from the previous island as the “Customs and Immigration” office was located inside the nearby marina. The office door bore as flyer promoting discount pizza and beer night at the adjacent restaurant and the uniformed official therein was courteous and issued us a three month visa without even interrogating us as to what was the exact time we planned to leave.

We caught the local “bus” to the island capital of Hillsborough, then walked around the small town checking out the “supermarkets” (really small grocery stores), banks, credit unions, bars and gift shops. There were few if any other tourists to be seen and although Grenada depends upon the tourist industry, it seems they don’t come here. Overall there was an air of seediness and poverty here. On our return to the marina at Tyrell Bay where we had left our dinghy, the bus driver wanted to discuss the US Presidential election. As we exited the bus he loudly announced that, “The United States will cease to exist if Trump becomes president”. I tried to call the White House on the sat phone to pass on this warning but I kept getting a busy signal.

June 10, 2016

We raised anchor at 0710 hours and set course for Grenada. The were four sails ahead of us on the same route, plus a few sails behind as we all headed for the same destination. The route we were taking was not the most direct course but made a slight detour to the west. This was to avoid passing directly above the crater of the active volcano “Kick ‘em Jenny”. The volcano rises nearly 4,500 feet above the sea bed and its summit is about 600 feet below the surface. Its last burst of activity was about eleven months ago. The risk to mariners is that the volcano can emit large quantities of gas and the bubbles produced would could lower the effective density of the water creating buoyancy problems. In simple terms, we would sink. The danger exclusion zone was reported to be about a mile from the center of the cone but we gave it a little more than that and carefully watched the boats ahead of us to see if they disappeared. Exciting!

Despite having her camera at the ready, there were no clouds of steam or ash, no towering tsunami – just about 3/8 ths cloud cover and a sunny day with two to four foot wave heights. We transited the west coast of Grenada, turned east into a stiff headwind and then turned again into Prickly Bay where we took up a mooring at 1120 hours, position N 11 59.9’ W 061 45.7’. We are in Grenada and just 12 degrees above the equator.