Monday, June 29, 2009

Farewell Frank. Back to Work for the Astarte Crew

First – new pictures on the web page – there’s a new photo album started.

Last night (Sunday), Frank treated us to drinks and dinner at the Prickly Bay Marina Bar and Pizza place (thanks Frank). It was the end of a really terrific day.

We pulled up anchor and sailed to Prickly from Clark’s Court Bay. Clark’s Court is named after “Grenada’s Number One Rum” (or perhaps the rum was named after the Bay??) Frank sampled this rum last night “because he had to!” The sail from Clark’s Court to Prickly had following seas of about 4 feet and easterly wind 10-15 knots. Frank was at the helm for most of the trip and did a terrific job in tough quartering seas. Not bad for an old “stink-potter.”

We anchored and then went dinghy exploring around the new bay. After some exploring we came back and went swimming / snorkeling from Astarte to some nearby grass patches/rock ledges. There were some great little tropicals and it was a nice day to be in the water. Then it was happy hour time – thirst called and we headed to drinks and dinner. Came back to get Frank packed up, exchanged photos of the visit and finished off some beer and scotch – because as Frank would say – “room aboard Astarte is a premium.”

At 0530 on Monday morning (today), the alarm went off way too soon. Had to relaunch the dinghy (Barbara’s back on the job now that deck boy is gone) and get Frank to shore for a 0645 pick-up by Bernard. Unfortunately we saw that the flight was delayed and just watched Frank’s plane fly overhead at 1135. We all could have slept in. But after Frank was making his way to the airport for a long wait – the crew of Astarte listened to the morning radio nets (weather, coconut telegraph, local Grenada net) and then started on projects. The headsail was lowered, folded, tied and put in the dinghy and brought to the sail repair place. The propane tank was dropped off to be re-filled. The forward head shut down until our next guest and the head and V-berth remade into garage and attic yet again, And this was all before noon!

Frank was a terrific boat guest – and we think he accomplished what he wanted to – break out of his routine and experience a really different culture. Not sure he was wild about the local busses or open air fish market – but he was a good sport. Now he’s heading back to his lovely wife and three beautiful daughters – and work – and we’ll be getting Astarte ready for the next leg of her journey.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Astarte' Dances


Guest Post by Frank Willson

I've often bared witness that love begins with a simple dance. Tonight I enjoyed a wonderful evening in the late night cockpit of Astarte' experiencing one of the most amazing dances I've ever witnessed.

Barbara first explained to me that the name Astarte' was based on the Goddess of Passionate Love. Can love begin without dancing? That remains to be seen. While not a veteran of the larger boat cruising society, I've negotiated watercraft since I was six years old and know a very simple axiom; when you anchor off of the bow, the bow is the pivot. Astarte' begs to differ. Her dance begins with a slow slink back on the "snubber" which is the flexible line that supplements the anchor chain off the bow and gives the boat a little leeway through the current and waves. From there she tends to have a little fun.

Tonight I witnessed how she slowly gathers momentum towards the anchor and then will playfully allow the bow to drift with the wind, which tonight was a slow turn to port and a slight drift aft toward the back of the bay. What this afforded me was my first true glance of the "southern cross" constellation that we all know from the Crosby, Stills, and Nash song. My apologies to David, Steven, and Graham, but they simply didn't do it justice (and Michael and Barbara explained that I didn't see it in its full glory.) I was still captivated.

As the music from the Grenadian Bar echoed off the hills of the bay I couldn't help but be amazed by Astarte's dance. the peaceful playfulness of it. She gave me a glance of the Southern Cross and then returned to her bearing into the wind. I got the sense that she was toying with me and I found it delightful.

Tomorrow, weather willing, we will sail back to Prickly Bay and I will get to see how Astarte' goes from her mischievous anchorage behavior to a jog heading to the next bay. I'm very excited. However, if the weather doesn't cooperate, that will still be fine. We still might enjoy a game of dominoes at the marina with other cruisers which would also be a great snapshot into the cruising lifestyle and we'll meet some fellow cruisers flying flags off of their boats from Canada, Great Britain, South Africa, and Switzerland.

Michael and Barbara continue to be gracious hosts and wished me a good night, after a wonderful dinner, as they observed "cruisers midnight" which is much earlier than I'm used to. Through their graciousness, I was able to enjoy a nice nightcap with a wonderful lady named Astarte' and experience a night I'll never forget. Thank you.

UPDATE. Sunday we made it in to Prickly and Michael and Barbara, showing extreme lapses in judgment, let me the helm for part of the journey. An experience I'll treasure for the rest of my life. It was a fun experience that ended when Michael said, "Well! Cheated death once again. Let's head for the bar!

Flying out tomorrow and will miss two great friends and one special lady. Thank you all once again.

Friday, June 26, 2009

In a Mini-Van With 19 of My Closest Friends

Welcome to Grenada, Frank!

Frank and Barbara at Fort George

Frank Willson has arrived on the island. A little background – Lisa, Frank’s lovely wife, gave Frank a visit to Astarte in Grenada as a 20th wedding anniversary gift. She did all the planning with Tom, Frank’s cool boss, Angela, his feisty assistant and us – keeping it secret from Frank. It’s a funny gift for an anniversary – sending your spouse away (or is it, hmmm???) But he arrived on Wednesday night and after a long flight from Columbus, Ohio and some time through customs in Grenada. There he was in his bright green shirt. He was handed a Carib beer by his host and we loaded into the car.

Frank has been a friend for a lot of years –and (so far) a darn good boat guest. He did come laden with gifts of Oreos, crackers, parts, mail, “duty free” liquor, etc. For the next few days, he’ll do the posts on the log – because it’ll be fun to see the island through his eyes – we do wish the weather would get a bit better so we can get some snorkeling in.


Guest Post by Frank Willson

They called it a bus. A bus in Grenada is decidedly different than a bus in the states. First off the horn on the “bus” has a much more entertaining, catchy little tune. But from there it was a definite adjustment... more on that in a bit.

Michael and Barbara waited patiently for me as I cleared customs at Maurice Bishop Airport in Grenada. Customs went smoothly until they discovered the libations I purchased at the “Duty Free” shop in Miami (on which they promptly directed me to the side to pay “Duty” on my “Duty Free” libations). No big deal though.

The doors opened and there stood Michael, Barbara, and one of my best friends: a cold beer. Mike and Barbara had gotten friend Dave to drive us back to the anchorage in his swanky Nissan. Very nice car with one exception, it had no steering wheel! Wait a second. What the heck is doing over there? In my sheltered white-bread world, I haven’t been adventurous enough to be in a country that drives on the left side. After several heart stopping moments, I can assure you it’s not as simple as driving from the other side.

Night one was very nice. Astarte is gorgeous. The cabin is roomy and even my 6’ 3” frame can stand comfortably. Although we did laugh at Mike’s installation of what I coined “Frank Foam.” These were pieces of circular insulation that he placed in the doorways to keep me from knocking the noggin. (They’ve proved very effective as I’m as clumsy as Chevy Chase doing a President Ford impersonation.)

The first morning Michael and Barbara endured my addiction to Diet Coke. (Barbara has personally witnessed me drink approximately 1,345,603 Diet Cokes when I worked for her in the early nineties.)

After being properly caffeinated, sunscreened, AND HYDRATED (LISA), we set out into St. George’s for some sightseeing and shopping. Trip started with a dingy to the marina and then a short walk to the bus stop past a group of men with machetes (intimidating to say the least.)

The mini-van/bus pulled up and the sliding door flung open. The stereo blaring and the rhythmic horn echoed throughout the mountains Grenada. There were four people per row and 5 rows. Very tight but nothing compared to the ride home.

In town we had a great lunch at a local cafeteria. I had something called “Palau” which was a wonderfully spicy rice and chicken and a zesty coleslaw on the side (I’m sure that Grenadians have a more entertaining name for it than coleslaw.)

We hiked up to the fort where former leader Maurice Bishop was executed. We still don’t understand why they named the airport after the leader they executed but so be it. You can still see the bullet holes. A man named Paul introduced himself as one of many “historians” we met who will tell you everything about the island without being asked, and then ask for a small tip. We politely declined.

From there we bought some Red Snapper for dinner at a very cool open air fish market and some other supplies at the grocery. I got to spend my first “E.C.” the currency of the Eastern Caribbean. I discovered Mike and Barbara’s saying: “EC come… EC go…”

We headed back for dinner and a happy hour. We went to the bus station, crammed in again but this time there was a new addition. The gentleman loading the bus inserted cushions over the gaps of the seats. As we packed 20 people into a MINI-VAN we took off onto the narrow streets dodging cement trucks and people. To stop the bus you simply tap on the ceiling and the driver will stop. The problem was this large bald American guy (me) was blocking the way! Watching me pry myself out of the mini-van stop after stop had to be entertaining for the rest of the passengers. I felt like the jaws of life might be needed.

We came back, napped a bit, hit a happy hour at the marina, and came back for a wonderful dinner (of the fresh fish we bought) and a great end to my first full day on Astarte’.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Grenada - Latitude 12 Degrees North

We arrived in Grenada on Saturday after a great sail. We sailed almost the entire way from Tyrell Bay Carriacou to Prickly Bay, Grenada. There was one small point where we turned on the engine when we were in the lee of the island and had light wind. Once we arrived, we motored around the south corner, to the east and on to Prickly Bay which was very crowded and had a very large swell rolling the boats around. We decided it had been a very long day of sailing - so we headed around the corner to Mt. Hartman Bay (also known as Secret Harbour). We had to negotiate our way around some reefs to get to Mt. Hartman - but upon arrival it was nice to see very flat water.

Mt. Hartman doesn't have the services that Prickly Bay offers, so the next morning (Sunday), we decided to head back there in the hopes that the swells would have abated. We found a spot way out - but the swells grew through the day and by night - they were unbelievable. It was the worse night to date (even worse than St. Pierre). It was Sunday, and we managed to get some laundry done (have a visitor coming and needed to get those sheets washed for Frank!). We also dinghied about, took a short walk and found where things were - though everything was closed. On Monday after a bad night's sleep - we got some errands done on shore and then came back to Mt. Hartman. We did walk back to Prickly - up a few good hills - to get to Happy Hour at the Prickly Bay Marina where we met some friends for cheap beers.

Grenada (pronounced Gre-NAY-da) is a beautiful island - the last of the windward chain. It is independent, though has an interesting history. The tribes of the Arawaks and Caribs were the first inhabitants. Christopher Columbus named the island Concepcion in 1498. Spanish sailors thought the island reminded them of Andalusia, a region of southern Spain and called the island Granada - the name stuck though the British changed it to the current spelling and pronunciation.

The French and British battled for the island for 90 years, leaving a legacy of forts, cannons and French and British place names. The Treaty of Versailles (1783) ceded Grenada to the British The Brits brought in slaves and turned the island into an agricultural powerhouse with sugar, cotton, coffee, cocoa and tobacco. Emancipation came in 1834.

One of the most important dates in Grenada's history is 1843, the year that nutmeg (clandestinely taken from Dutch-occupied Indonesia) was brought to the island. In those days, the commodity was nearly as precious as gold due to its healing, preservative and flavoring qualities. Grenada's soil and climate proved to be perfect for the spice and now Grenada is the second largest supplier of nutmeg and mace (the red lacy shell that cover the nutmeg).

In 1877, Grenada became a Crown Colony. In 1974, it achieved full independence. Five year later, Maurice Bishop and his radical New Jewel Movement seized power and established a socialist/communist government. In 1983, Bishop and several of his aides were arrested and executed by a faction within his own party. The Governor General requested military intervention The United States, Jamaica and the Eastern Caribbean States responded with the now famous "rescue mission" that restored order. The island got its government back in order and since then, there has been great economic progress.

The island also works hard at preserving many of its magnificent natural resources (coral reefs, rainforests and rivers) with national parks. Tourism is a big business here.

It's changed a lot since we were here aboard "Mariah" in 2001. The development around Prickly Bay is especially noticeable - with large condo complexes. The charming little beach bars and restaurants have been taken over. But it's still a lovely island.

Tomorrow Frank Willson arrives. Today - it's boat cleaning day. We look forward to our guest.

Friday, June 19, 2009

"Good Morning." "Okay."

The various islands have many similarities as well as many differences. It seems their beginnings were similar - peaceful indigenous peoples overtaken by fiercer tribes and then the Spanish, French or English. Now many of the islands are proud of their independence and celebrate emancipation from slavery as well as previous colonizers. Though some countries remain French, British or Dutch, they are often run independently.

As we visit these islands, there are certain things that are instantly obvious to us. The friendliness and openness of the people is the first thing. Though we've never run into any outward hostility, some islands exude warmth. Dominica for example has the friendliest folks so far. They come up to you and chat; they ask if you like their country; and they are always willing to offer you help. They are one of the more recently independent islands and have a very young Prime Minister.

The French islands like Guadeloupe, though pleasant, don't come off as overly warm. They are helpful when asked for assistance - and we certainly found individuals (like Boris at the hydraulic shop) who would bend over backwards to be helpful. They rarely say hello (or Bonjour) on the street and are less inclined to make eye contact.

We're in Carriacou right now, and from the first person we came in contact with - the immigration officer - there was that special welcoming attitude. Though in crisp starched uniforms and very buttoned up, the immigration officers smiled warmly and were sincerely proud of their country. They bragged on it being the "safest" of the Caribbean islands. They shared information with enthusiasm and offered ideas on where we should go and what we should see. The people are also friendly - always saying hello. In fact, yesterday, when walking around Tyrell Bay's town, we were greeted by a vegetable lady in a little stand. Certainly she was trying to sell us her limes and papayas, but she was so friendly and funny, we stopped and chatted with her for a bit. She was a hoot. Even though we bought nothing from her - when we walked by again, she was equally warm and funny.

One thing that we enjoy about each island is their form of greeting. It's often "good morning" or "hello" - but in many islands it's simply "okay". You'll say "good morning" and they respond "okay." We have to admit that the "okay" islands are usually the friendliest! Grenada is one of them (as was Dominica).

We're still settled in Tyrell Bay on the island of Carriacou. Yesterday we walked around the little town and picked up some bread and pineapple juice. We decided to experiment with "rum punch" recipes and come up with a special "Astarte punch." We've collected some various fruit juices (and have rum on board) and we'll mix up some concoctions until we find the perfect combo. It'll sure be fun experimenting.

We had lunch out - the plate of the day…a huge meal (chicken, rice, curried vegetable, salad) for $5 (US). Over the last few days, Michael did some boat maintenance projects, Barbara did some baking and today we'll do some more projects and some snorkeling.

Tomorrow we'll head down south the Grenada and start organizing Astarte for Frank's visit.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Island Hopping

After the "mayhem" in Mayreau - the dinghy came back "home" with no damage. She now gets lassoed to the deck at night - no more midnight sails for her. In Mayreau we went ashore and did a hike (of course up hills). We stopped by a bar for a beer to cool off on the way back. There are many interesting spots on this tiny island - but few were open. It was midday on a Saturday and out of season. Sorry Jamie- "Righteous" is still on the island - but there was a rasta guy asleep on the bar - so we presumed it was closed! We later had the folks who rescued our dinghy (from "Goin South") over for sundowners. Saturday night got quite uncomfortable in Saline Bay - with a beam roll that made sleeping quite untenable. On Sunday, we got an earlier than normal start and headed to a new island - Union Island. We decided to try a "new-to-us" spot "Chatham Bay" that was described as "a great anchorage though you'll have winds shrieking from the surrounding hills. It has a beautiful beach and some great snorkeling." All of it was true.

We had a good sail to Union Island through a few squalls to the new anchorage where there were only two other boats. After two tries anchoring (and Michael diving the anchor to check it), we decided to head snorkeling around the point. This was one of the most amazing snorkeling sites we've had so far. There were so many fish it was simply breathtaking. There were schools and schools of fish in the hundreds, lots of colorful tropicals, some very active and different species of eels and even a rare "robinfish" which was something to see as it slowly "flew" across the sand - wings spread. We had to look it up when we got back to the boat (in the gifted books from Gene and Pat). Other than lots of stinging "sea lice/sea ants/jelly fish larvae" - (everyone has a different reason for the stings) it was a wonderful snorkel adventure. We saw eels actually grabbing fish as they swam by and saw the schools go crazy when birds would dive into the water after them. It was a real treat.

Along the beach in Chatham are lots of tiny local shacks that serve as bars/restaurants/gathering spots for tourists and locals. That afternoon, we dinghied to shore to a "bar" and met the famous "Shark Attack" (that's his name!). He was the first guy who started beach barbeques in the bay - before roads went there. He would have to bring everything by boat. It was successful and soon he had lots of competition. He's quite a character. He's also a self-described "artist" and insisted on showing us his wood carvings.

We had a local brew, walked the lovely beach and called it a night. We had bought a fresh snapper from a local fisherman (Michael negotiated a great price) - and enjoyed that for dinner. (Barbara created a new recipe "Snapper Inferno" (because it was so hot in the galley). It had a fresh mango/lime sauce. Yummy.

We decided to stay a second day at the same location to get another snorkel in at the same site. It was equally as terrific with lots of eels, fish, giant puffer/porcupine fish and lots of coral varieties. Michael scared up some big fish - but spearing is not allowed. Bummer. Unfortunately the stingers were still there as well. After returning to Astarte, we showered and went to Clifton - the main town and anchored off the town. Michael quickly went in to get to customs before closing - so we were properly cleared out for a Tuesday morning departure. We then both went in for a walk around the town which is nice.especially the ice cream stand. Michael had a cherry coconut and Barbara a fudge ripple - ice cream's always a treat. Plus the cones were each just $1.10 (US) - that's a deal.

The anchorage is around two reefs - you anchor behind one and in front of the other - so there is not much room and it's quite crowded with large day charter boats. With little swinging room - it's not something we particularly like - but it was predicted to be calm. But the weather weasels were wrong - huge, unpredicted, unexpected squalls came through starting about 2100 and went all night long. Lots of wind, rain and lightning made for a night of anchor watches as boats swung precariously close. One boat ahead of us ended up dragging and having to drop a second anchor. Not a fun night. At about 0730 we picked up our anchor and left to head to a new country - Grenada.

We headed the few miles away to check in at Hillsborough on the island of Carriacou - which is part of the country of Grenada. We had to both go in to clear in - as they have a new "swine flu" check - where they need to "see" all crew to make sure they look healthy and answer some health questions. After going to three places - immigration, customs then the port authority and dropping off the reams of paper they have you fill out - we were legal with two months allowed in Grenada. . . We always wonder what they do with all that paper - carbon paper is still a big commodity in the islands - everything is in triplicate with carbon.

We left Hillsborough and anchored off Sandy Island to do a quick snorkel before heading to Tyrell Bay. This is just what its name implies - a sandy island with a few palm trees. Not a nighttime anchorage - but good for a day stop and some swimming and snorkeling. This was a day where we'd anchor three times in three different locations. It's a good workout for Michael who dives each anchor to check to make sure it's set and for Barbara who does the foredeck work getting the anchor up and down.

The snorkel off the island was good - we saw two huge nurse sharks as well as some nice tropicals. Unfortunately, weather started to come in - so we had to make a quick getaway back to Astarte before it hit. After the squalls passed - we lifted anchor again (#3 for the day)- and made our way around the corner to Tyrell Bay where we are anchored. This is a place we've been to in 2001 and we enjoyed it. We were both pretty tired from the anchor watch night before as well as the three different anchorages today, clearing into the country, and the snorkel.

Called it an early night - it was a rainy night.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mayhem in Mayreau

After an incredibly nice and exhilarating sail from Bequia to Mayreau.things changed. That's the tease!

Let's start where the last entry left off. We spent Thursday night in Bequia - an island that is seven square miles and has a population of 6000. As promised - the cook got her night off! We had a few very tasty rum punches at the Whaleboner. The bar is actually made out of a giant whalebone as are the stools. The entry is an archway of two giant bones. We met several other boaters there enjoying evening libations - a Brit, several Aussies, a Kiwi and us! We had crossed paths with a few through the islands so it was nice to visit with them at length. Then we dined at a Mexican restaurant - one of the few still serving. Luckily besides Mexican cuisine, they had a tasty fresh fish special.

There are only a few dangerous things in the Caribbean: some snakes, scorpions and spiders; pirates (cab drivers and some vendors!), the manchineel tree (like poison ivy - don't stand under it in the rain), and, some parasites. But, they say the most dangerous is the rum punch. This tasty treat made in a variety of ways and available throughout the islands causes a euphoria at first - but it is addictive and with multiple refills, it will cause you to tie bad cleat hitches causing your dinghy to stray at night or in our case - it caused us to leave a pump in the dinghy when we lifted it to put on deck - something we do every nigh(lifting the dinghy not leaving a pump). More on that later! As we were lifting the dinghy on board - the pump fell out and sunk. It was dark and late - so the rescue would be attempted in morning. In the a.m., Michael dove in and found the wayward pump.

With everything ready, we raised the anchor and headed for another destination - this one, Mayreau, about 25 miles away. The sail was one of the best yet - we sailed pretty much from anchor up 'til anchor down. The only disappointment. . . "Salt Whistle Bay", where we were headed, was packed. This is a small, idyllic anchorage - but with more than 15 boats in it (mostly charter catamarans) - there was no comfortable swinging room. So we continued down the island to "Saline Bay." Here, there were six boats so we found a sandy spot and dropped the hook around 1245.

A few more boats came in as the afternoon wore on - and its always entertaining watching boats anchor. But that entertainment got bizarre after dark. A catamaran came in and came very close to boats as it was trying to find a place. It had all the wrong navigational lights on (an indication of a knucklehead!) It was steering by using its motors - not a good sign. It came very close to one boat (may have actually hit it) and then wrapped its dinghy painter (rope) into the one of its main engine propellers causing it to shut down. There were three people on board - but two people went below deck and only one was trying to run both the helm and drop the anchor. Strange. He dropped the anchor but as the boat swung around he was on top of "Goin' South" another sailboat. They hit and the catamaran wouldn't move his boat. Many words were exchanged and the wind was picking up. The other people never showed their faces on the decks to help - so it was this one guy and the crew of "Goin' South" working to keep this heavy 42 foot cat off their monohull. Finally, "Goin' South" picked up its anchor and left as the captain of the cat was not willing to move. At this point, two dinghies came over to see if they could help (our dinghy and motor were on deck). Michael jumped in with Lee from "Tranquility" aboard his dinghy and a British couple from "Bamboozle" also went to help. At this point, "Goin South" was re-anchored in the dark and the wind was really hooting. The strange part was the catamaran captain wouldn't tell anyone the boat name and he put lines over the name on the stern. Still no sign of the other two people. Not too long after everyone was back to their boats - the catamaran's dinghy loaded up with the three people and left the boat. Now, the boat still has all its navigation lights on, the salon lights and hasn't anchored properly with a snubber. But they left the boat!! Something very strange was going on.

Nobody came back for hours. The catamaran sat there with their running lights on, the anchor snubber hanging, but not connected, salon lights on and nobody on board. The wind continued to build.rain storms also started. Around midnight, the captain came back to the boat - alone. Very weird.

It was very windy and gusty; lots of roll in the anchorage, and heavy rain squalls. Barbara was up a lot checking on the weird cat (which was anchored right next to "Astarte"). That's when at about 2330, she noticed "Goin South" with its running lights on and spotlighting something out in the water. She woke Michael - and then he realized what they were spotlighting - it was OUR DINGHY! It had blown off the forward deck in the heavy gusts - and we didn't even hear it. It somehow had to lift up and blow off without its lines catching on anything or hitting the stays. That is too weird. The good news is that somehow, "Goin South" was up at the same time and saw it. Gary went and retrieved our wayward dinghy and tied it to their boat for the night.

Now, we've put the dinghy on deck like this every night since we left Georgetown in the Bahamas. It sits on the foredeck towards one side so we can get to the anchor locker if necessary and also open some hatches for ventilation. Michael lets a little air out of the dinghy so it sits lower and also won't explode in the heat of the day. How wind got under it enough to lift it off - without us hearing it - is amazing. We are so lucky - and so grateful to "Goin' South". The new evening ritual will include tying the dinghy on the deck - much like we do on passages.

This morning (Saturday), the anchorage seems quiet. Our dinghy (Air Mary) is sitting alongside "Goin South" - its cover a bit pulled off - and we'll see what other damage. The catamaran is still at anchor - snubber still off - but the lights are off. They do have a lot of hatches still open in the rain! Don't know how many on board. The wind, rain and roll will continue as a tropical wave passes over and in its wake is the unstable weather. Today was supposed to be an onshore hike and snorkeling.but maybe not.

Mayreau is supposed to be idyllic!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Latitude 13 Degrees. . . . .

Another country visited. Another flag aloft. We are now in The Grenadines (part of the country St. Vincent and the Grenadines). We’re anchored in Admiralty Bay off Port Elizabeth on the island of Bequia. The water is crystal clear. We are now well into the 13 degree latitudes. Farther south each day.

On Tuesday, we pulled anchor in Rodney Bay and had a magnificent sail down to the southern end of St. Lucia to Soufriere. We took a mooring right next to one of the two famous Pitons, Petite Piton.

The Pitons!

Petite Piton.

The beach at "magic hour".

You could smell the sulfur from the volcano/hot springs. We wanted to moor near what is called the bat caves – but there were no other boats there – and the park suggests for safety reasons you not moor there alone. We also found out it isn’t the mass exodus of bats we envisioned. So we went to the other side and called the base of the Pitons home for the night. Did a quick snorkel and saw a “garden” of garden eels growing from the bottom. These “heteroconger halis” stick their head and bodies out of the sand – like plants and sway to catch plankton. They are in large colonies – so it looked like tall grass. They are fun to watch.

In Soufriere, there is an abundance of “local business people” (aka boat boys) that come out to your boat to sell you things. We got approached early on by someone wanting to tie us to the mooring (we passed – Barbara wanted to keep up her record of 100% catches on the first try.). Then came the jewelry men – very pretty stuff made from wood, shells, coral (dead), etc. Then came the fruit Rastafarian – from whom we bought some tomatoes and limes. Then came the swimming Rasta – selling calabash bowls. Calabash is a gourd like fruit that grows on short trees – but when hollowed and dried can be used as pretty sturdy, watertight bowls. We did buy one from Gervis Pascal (the swimming rasta) – now we’re seeing how it’ll dry and store on a rocking boat! But it is quite pretty – with mahi carved into it.

Calabash bowl.

Perhaps it will end the curse of no fish for some time! Gervis told us it was good luck. It’s interesting to chat with these guys – but they are persistent and it gets old after awhile.

After a night in this absolutely beautiful spot (the Pitons are on the $50 EC bill) – we left at 0545 to make the run to Bequia. We sailed most of the way – having to motor sail just a bit when we were in the lee of St. Vincent. Between islands it is quite a romp – as the winds really shoot between the islands and the waves and currents add to the wild ride. Astarte does love to sail though. Even with reefed sails she hits 7.5 and sometimes higher! Autopilot Nigel is a good mate – steering a steady course. We still need to give Otis (the wayward wind vane) another try.

We came in and anchored near town in very clear water at about 1630. We flew the yellow flag and cleared in this morning (Thursday) with customs and immigration. We walked around the town which is really lovely with a sidewalk right along the waterfront.

The walkway.

Lorna, something to do with the driftwood you take home!

Where's Astarte?

Local Boats.

For Nina

Tonight we’re actually having “cook’s night off” and will head in for dinner in one of the many restaurants on shore. (Whaleboner and Devil’s Table both sound interesting!) We were disappointed to find that the normal Thursday night “jump up” and barbeque at the Frangipani was held on Tuesday this week – so won’t happen tonight. Bummer – we were counting on some fun dancing music (that’s why it’s called “jump up”) and b-b-que. I’m certain we’ll find a replacement.

Working our way towards Grenada and Frank’s visit on the 24th!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rescue in Rodney Bay

Before we get too settled into Rodney Bay, St. Lucia – because it would be very easy to stay here – we’ll be moving to the south end of the island. Michael is “clearing out,” getting fuel (at duty free prices after you clear out – about a 45 cent difference per imperial gallon); a bakery stop and getting more EC’s (Eastern Caribbean dollars). EC come..EC go. As Jimmy Buffett said, “It’s more fun to spend money with pictures of flowers and palm trees on it than money with pictures of green old men.”

The last few days were fun – some hiking up hills and seeing beautiful sights; some walking around town for parts (glue, oil, and hydraulic hose spare); a bit of re-provisioning and enjoying some local cuisine. We’ve had people over to Astarte and were invited out to Imagine. Last night we were quite international – having Carl and Gertrude from the Netherlands aboard as well as the Brits Sam and John. We “sundowned” until the sun was way down and the moon way up! It was a very fun evening.

There was a big rescue in the anchorage yesterday. A 10 foot by 10 foot, rusty, half-sinking barge was just drifting through the anchorage. Michael spotted it and did an announcement to the anchorage. Though that didn't seem to get any into action - he then flagged down a boat that the rust bucket was about to hit. So that guy jumped in his dinghy. We had just put our outboard and dinghy on deck or MIchael would have been out there leading the charge. Finally a few other boaters jumped in there dinghies and wrestled with it. It was a hoot to watch. One guy was a real knucklehead – pulling the barge the wrong way and into boats (this was after he wrapped his own dinghy prop with his own line). Finally Sam (female) from Imagine – politely said, “Sir, we’re trying to move it that way.” Then she untied his line. That made him mad and he scooted off hitting another dinghy along the way. But good thing Sam took charge. Girl power! After a lot of effort and three dinghies with varying powered outboards pushing the thing they got the rust heap to shore. They beached it and finally tied it to some rocks. Of course good ol' Sam had to then swim out to rescue one of the rescuers dinghy that was starting to drift away. (I think they wanted her to have a wet t-shirt - she is quite attractive). This morning, the barge was still there.

Those random floating things are scary – you think about sailing at night in the dark and there would be no way to spot this half sunk thing – but it could hole your boat if you were making good headway. Glad they tied it off. We provided some Pitons (the local brew) to the rescuers. Then ended up partying.

If all goes as planned – by late afternoon, we’ll be anchored (or mooring balled) near the bat caves in Soufriere Town. Hopefully in time to see the bats depart for the night and return in the morning.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Milestones: Four Months - 2500 plus miles

For those of you following this log – you’ve been with us now for some great adventures. You’ve been aboard the good ship Astarte now for four months since leaving St. Petersburg, Florida. We’ve traveled down the west coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico through the Florida Keys at Marathon, across the Gulf Stream and into the Bahama Banks. We’ve crossed coral banks, deep water, shallow bays and interesting passages like Tongue of the Ocean, the Mona Passage, the Anagoda Passage. We now have more than 2500 miles under the keel of Astarte and a few more in the dinghy. We’ve been to 12 countries* (including territories of the US). We’ve anchored in over 44 different spots (some a few times) – and held firmly once anchored. We’ve only gone to two marinas (one two times because of the outboard). We’ve picked up a few mooring balls as well (though all free!)

They say cruising is repairing your boat in exotic locations – and we’ve certainly done that: hydraulic hose for centerboard; dinghy patch; outboard (multiple times); forward head; aft head; stove; expansion tank; anchor snubber; VHF radio cord; barbeque grill; outboard hoist; cockpit table; lazarrette hatch etc. Barbara’s not complaining anymore about all of the spare parts Michael’s taken on board.

The best part of cruising is meeting interesting people – both on land and from other boats. We’ve had a blast with boaters from England, Australia, New Zealand, Holland, Canada, and from all over the US. We’ve eaten interesting fruits, fish and vegetables prepared in new (to us) ways. We’ve communicated in broken Spanish, French and (when rum-induced) English. Barbara’s cooked hundreds of meals on two burners (no microwave!). Gallons and gallons of water have been made and collected. There’s been bread baking and bread baking lessons. We’ve been invited aboard interesting boats for great conversations. We’ve hiked many miles and up many hills – and always tried to take that picture at that top to prove it. We’ve used three currencies (US dollars, Euros and EC’s). We’ve enjoyed visitors (with more coming!). Though on a sailboat – we’ve motored, motor-sailed and sailed through all types of winds and seas and anchored in shallow and deep water. Luckily we’ve caught, cleaned and ate four dorado and dragged a line many, many nautical miles with no joy. We’ve lived non-stop on a 42 foot by 13 foot vessel, together and we remain happily married!

It’s been a great few months. One of our goals was to visit some new anchorages and spots - several anchorages in the Bahamas, the lagoon on St. Martin, St. Barts, Guadeloupe, The Saintes. We also stopped back at some favorite “old haunts” that we experienced in 2001.

We’ve kept up the log and thank you for reading it, commenting and staying in touch with us – we love hearing from folks. There are some new photos on the photo page (all labeled finally) and you know you can always keep up on our location on the “where are we” page. We’ve added links to those pages on the blog.

Today, Sunday, Michael completed more boat projects – oil, lube and transmission fluid change and aft head repair (he worked on the forward head yesterday installing a new pump). Then we went snorkeling – though it was quite windy – so it wasn’t a great snorkel day. Still in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia…and will be here for a few days.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Rodney Bay, St. Lucia

Yesterday (Friday) was a productive day for the crew of Astarte. We went to the inflatable repair facility (multiple times) to try to find someone there – but no luck. We finally connected with a Skype call and an appointment to meet at the dock. The repair was going to be costly and they would have to put another big slit into the dinghy to repair it from the inside. We decided to wait to see if Michael’s patch would hold and save the $300 (US). We hope it’s the right call.

We dropped off the propane tank for filling (drop off in the morning – pick up in the afternoon.) We went to the chandlery and hardware store and picked up a part for the expansion tank and looked for aft deck lights. Michael continues his search for a small (inexpensive) backup outboard. We did a lot of walking in search of a “local” restaurant – not the ones in the marina. We ended up in the local “mall” at a Caribbean food court. No atmosphere but great food at a great price. We were the only non-locals eating there. Most of the cruisers/tourists were eating at the US style food court with its KFC, Subway etc. Michael had his first (of what will be many) roti of the trip. A roti is a wrap sandwich of sorts filled with a curried meat or vegetable. His was chicken with bone-in (the real way).

We then continued our walk to the grocery store – first stopping at a van that was selling fresh pineapple. We negotiated $7EC (about $3 US) for a nice ripe pineapple. When we came out of the grocery to pick it up – the Rasta guy ended up giving us two big ones for the $7EC! Such a great deal. The grocery was a good one – and we found some things we hadn’t seen in awhile. We ended the day on shore with ice cream.

Then we were invited for evening cocktails by “Imagine of Falmouth”, a British boat with Sam (she) and John aboard and had a terrific time. That nice extra pineapple we got became our snack - of course we "drunked it up" with some nice Haitian rum (thanks Richard and Rene). We met the folks from "Imagine" officially in Dominica, though we’ve seen them at various places along the way. They have crossed the Atlantic after sailing in the Canary Islands for a few years. Really nice folks that we hope to get to know better over the next months as we are both heading south. You can always tell British boats - they often name them with the "port" as part of the name - we could be Astarte of St. Petersburg!

The music last night from shore was quite loud and late – we’re certainly getting used to it. The islands love to party. Bob Marley's estate must collect big residuals - as his music is played everywhere in the islands. It was a comfortable sleeping night – smooth anchorage, good breeze all night so no bugs and it kept the boat comfortable.

Today (Saturday), Michael’s started on some boat projects (new anchor snubber requiring some splicing etc.; rehanging some boat art that has fallen and perhaps tackling the forward head!) We’ve had lots of folks stop by the boat to visit and chat. That’s the cruising life – people we’ve seen along the way and come into port always reconnect. Folks from Voyager that we did the land tour in Guadeloupe with came by; as did the folks from Rapscallion (Trudy and Dennis) and Serene (Mel and Joannie).

We may head to the National Park this afternoon. There’s a great fort (two hills!!) to climb and an interpretive center. We did the hike before and the views are magnificent.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Four Countries is Eight Days

Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique and now St. Lucia. We're moving! We'll be here for a bit as we need to get the inflatable properly repaired and there's supposed to be a good shop here. We arrived into St. Lucia around 1400 yesterday after another great sailing day. Save those fossil fuels!

We started bright and early with the anchor up and under way by 0650 from Trois Ilets in Martinique. We were even able to sail out of the Fort de France bay. Once we turned more southerly we did have to motor sail a bit in the lee of the island. Our timing was perfect for a change as we watched Martinique behind us get slammed with heavy, heavy rains. We got just an edge of the squall with a few lighter showers.

We passed Diamont - a huge rock that looks much like the Oregon coast's Haystack Rock, just a bit pointier. This rock was at one point "a ship," the H.M.S. Diamond. In 1804, when Napoleon was master of Europe, the British still controlled the seas - including the Caribbean waters. The British though, didn't have enough ships - and Diamond Rock (Diamont in French) was one location that would be perfect to station a ship. So they commissioned the rock as a ship. It was an amazing accomplishment to climb this steep, snake-infested, barren rock with cannons, food and water for men, and supplies. But they did and for 18 months, they surprised French ships coming into Martinique. Napoleon was none too pleased about this - after all it was the home of his Empress Josephine. Over time, the French liberated the a chase that ultimately led to the Battle of Trafalgar where Lord Horatio Nelson died.

We simply sailed passed the rock, with no battles on board!

As we passed the lee side of Martinique and got clear of land, as expected the seas picked up as did the wind. We had a great sail though the 5-6 foot seas were right on the beam. We were grateful for a much heavier boat than we had with Mariah. With reefed main and genoa - we hit seven knots and only really rounded up one time when the wind and waves conspired to knock us down! No joy on the fishing front again - though we were sailing at trolling speed. We even tried a different lure today and a different distance from the boat. Where are those darned fish - we need to re-fill the fridge!!!

We arrived in St. Lucia at Rodney Bay. A large open bay over a mile long, with Pigeon Island and its two hills and a fort on one side to protect the bay from the easterlies and swells. There are beautiful beaches along the inside of the bay. We anchored off Reduit Beach where the St. Lucia Yacht Club and some resorts sit. There are about 40 boats at anchor in this area. Michael cleared us in at customs for $40 EC($15US) and we connected with a few boats that we know in that are anchored nearby. As we meet more and more boats - it's always fun to reconnect with boats you've not seen for several weeks.

St. Lucia is the largest English speaking island in the windwards. It has beautiful beaches, lush mountains, rain forests and a fair amount of agriculture on the sloping ridges. There is a National Trust in the island that works hard to protect the historic sights as well as the natural environment. Much of the island is park area. During our 2001 trip, we spent some time on this island and look forward to exploring different areas this time.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

We are in the Windard Islands

Dominica was the last of the Leeward Islands and on Tuesday morning at 0430 we left Prince Rupert Bay and headed to Martinique, the largest of the Windwards. The Windwards are the southern most chain of the Eastern Caribbean Islands - the last before you get to Trinidad and South America. The British named them the "Windward Islands" because to get to these islands from their other island possessions - you had to sail to windward. Martinique, our first stop in this part of the chain, is part of France.

The sail to Martinique was like "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" (from Wind in the Willows - a favorite book of the Astarte crew). In the lee of the island of Dominica, the seas were benign and the winds light. Once we got to the end of the island and had open sea between the two islands - it was a wild sail. The seas picked up to 6 feet and the wind hooted in the low to mid 20's. We had reefed main and genoa and hit speeds in excess of 7 knots. Overpowered as we came close to Martinique we had to reef in the heady even more.

On Tuesday night we anchored off St, Pierre. This town was originally supposed to be the capital o Martinique and was known as "Paris of the East" and was the social, cultural and economic center of the island. That was until 1902. That's when Mt. Pelee, a volcano erupted and wiped out the entire city and surrounding plantations. St. Pierre was also not far from where the Europeans wiped out the last of the Carib Indians in 1658. It is said, that before the last ones died, they uttered horrible curses and asked the mountain to take its revenge. It ultimately did, over 29 thousand people died.

As we came in to anchor, we were met by a French customs dinghy with three agents on - board. They didn't board us - but obviously called in our boat name and probably realized they already checked us out in "The Saints." The anchorage is just off the town and not in a protected bay. So it was impacted by the surge - and caused a very uncomfortable night. As soon as the wind died, the surge rolled the boat throughout the night. We were happy to leave early on Wednesday morning. We left to head to Fort de France, the actual capital of Martinique and a huge shipping port. It was only about 15 miles away. We arrived and anchored off the city near the fort. The flags in the country are all flying at half staff - we're thinking it's to remember those lost on the recent Air France plane crash.

This Fort de France anchorage was also very rolly - so we decided to go into town, clear into the country. Clearing into Martinique was very easy. In fact, we did it by computer. One of which just happened to be located at a nicely stocked chandlery(boat parts store). We needed some things, most importantly a new pump for the forward head. We are already planning for our next guest. After spending some boat units we headed across the very large bay to an area called Trois Ilets. It does have "three islands" and after three tries to get the anchor to hold, we settled into a very nice, calm, flat anchorage. The anchorage we ended up in is right off a big golf course. Supposedly one of the only ones in the Caribbean where you can play golf and watch your boat. Michael spent a long time looking for the catering tent! We went into the town and roamed around.had an ice cream, picked up a baguette and came back to the boat. We were going to do cook's night off (still haven't gotten it from the Dominica leaky dinghy night) - but we were both too tired to come back after 1930 when the restaurants open.

We're leaving tomorrow morning bright and early to head to the next island - St. Lucia to get the dinghy worked on. It'll take us about 8 - 10 hours to sail there.