Gestations

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) at 1PM issued the following information for the Tropical Wave now at the southern end of the Lesser Antilles.

A 1007 mb low pressure center is analyzed along the wave near the southern Windward Islands at 11.5N 61.7W…there is a medium chance of tropical cyclone development over the next 48 hours and a high chance through 5 days.

Today’s Weather

The day saw strong winds from Grenada to St. Lucia while heavy rains fell from Grenada to South America. Parts of Trinidad had torrential rain and flash floods have occurred. Here in the boat yard in Chaguaramas, rain has stopped all outside work. Stephen and crew have a few more details to work on the deck and hull but they should be completed by the weekend. Then next week the bottom anti-foul painting will be done and we will be ready to splash the following week. The engine runs and we are just awaiting a new fuel lift pump from the States (being brought down by our cruising friend Rob) next week to button it up. The engine has been extensively worked on – new injector sleeves, injector servicing, injection pump rebuilt, new lift pump – so It should run “like a new 40 year old”.

The rain today gave us the opportunity to go through lockers that accumulate “stuff” that needs to be reviewed every once in a while. Small dumb bell weights that only adds weight to the boat will go. TV coax cable used for cable TV will go. The old chart plotter, and keyboard amp may be on the chopping block. Large paper charts from Maine to Trinidad and dozens of burgees have been deep stored. Maybe someday they will be museum pieces. Maureen has been re-stocking the galley in anticipation of cruising again. Five-year old emergency water? Dump it!

The new sails arrived in Trinidad Customs so they will be available soon. Dinghy chaps are fabricated and fitted, the sun awning for the mizen is being sewn and so we find ourselves on the final stages of cruise preparations. It is as if Kalunamoo goes into a cocoon and then through a gestation period to venture forth into the azure Caribbean seas. Like a butterfly if you like. Again.  

The current weather can also be called a gestation period for a tropical depression, then a tropical storm and then a hurricane. Although I have a hard time envisioning a tropical depression. How can you be depressed in such a “paradise”? In any event, perhaps in a few days when this wave moves hundreds of miles west it may be named and officially be born to run wild over the horizon.

The NHC predicted (guesstimated?) that 14-21 named storms would form in the Atlantic this season. Well, we do have a good month of the season to go, and storms can form through late November but, there has only been 9 so far. Only one tropical storm (not a hurricane) affected the Lesser Antilles so far this year (the average is about 2 per year). Of course, the location of any particular storm is very important. Puerto Rico and Florida can attest to that. I don’t lessen the destructiveness or consequences of any storm that may pass wherever they are. Are they getting stronger? Linger longer? More disruptive? Individually, it’s impossible to say. Collectively, time will tell. Although I think it can be safely said that the more people and developments there are, the more “targets” there are for major disruptions.

This tropical wave will move on, as all waves do. Gestations of all sorts will continue as nothing springs fully formed in the ether of life on earth. Be it storms at sea, preparations to cruise, anticipating floods or sending armies off to war, it is the mark of wisdom to take note of these gestations and act accordingly.

Back on Board and Boat Yard Work

We flew back to Trinidad, the day after Labor Day, to see how the Labor on Kalunamoo was doing. Well, it was as expected. Work tends to slow down when the owners are not around. Stephen, our contractor for the deck painting was just about finished. A few more days, touching up, buffing and cleaning up and the deck will look great. Of, course, any paint does not last indefinitely but we think this will be the last paint job that we will oversee. The new glass for the 4 large ports were replaced by Tony and Amos and the installation of the exterior frames were installed. That will also take care of the small leaks around the glass.

New Ports
Amos of Perfect Finish working on the large ports

Stephen and crew have begun on the hull where a few spots have to be refinished. The rub rail will be stripped and then either we will apply Cetol or be repainted. A new copper or stainless steel strip will be looked at next year. Eventually he will also do the antifoul bottom coat. That should bring us to the middle of October (the announced “work completion date”) when we plan to splash and go over to Crews Inn for a two week “vacation” before commencing voyage #13.

Stephen working on the hull

We carried about 75 pounds of boat parts down with us from New York (including a small amplifier for the keyboard) and checked all that through Trinidad Customs with no problem. One of the good things about Trinidad is that “boat parts” for foreign boats “in transit” are not subject to any duty or taxes. No broker is needed to clear Customs but the typical Trinidad paperwork must be filled out. The parts must also be inspected both at the airport and the port where the boat is. “Boat part” is a broad definition of anything that goes onto the boat and is not used ashore in Trinidad. Previously we brought down a keyboard which was fine. A cruiser friend brought down a bicycle to be used on the boat (when ashore). The Customs officer innocently asked if he intended to use it around the boat yard. Our friend said he might. He was charged import duty! Lesson learned – be very careful of what you say to Customs.

The new Tides main mast track and new Ullman main and jib sails have yet to arrive. The track is “stuck” in Customs due to some paper-work and broker issues (that is why we carried stuff down). Hopefully all this will be delivered before the end of September.

Besides the deck work, the work list is long. We did get things started before we left for New York: an eye was welded to the boom for the vang, the dinghy was taken to have “chaps” made, I did some rewiring of the mast and mizzen (both have been un-stepped), the compression post for the main mast was stripped and painted, and new Main and Jib sails were ordered.

We brought down a refurbished Furuno chart plotter (bought on E-Bay) for the cockpit which was really an exact drop in plug and play replacement for the old one. Plugging it in was simple but took two days to “configure” it to talk to the network with the other navigation instruments. The reconditioned Raymarine auto helm head unit worked great and we can actually read the LCD screen again!

The “new” Furuno
The holding tank removed

Simple jobs usually take a few days. Case in point was the chocker valve on the forward head. This simple “rubber duck” item prevents backflow to the toilet bowl. Two bolts are removed and the valve is easily replaced. Of course, what happen was that one bolt’s head broke off and so time was spent digging that one out. Then looking at the hoses that connect it all together, I realized it was time for their replacement. The thing with saltwater, which is used for flushing the toilet, is that it reacts with urine to form calcium deposits in the hoses. Much like the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, it builds up to form rock hard deposits which eventually (a few years) totally block any fluid flows. Sixteen feet of inch and a half of sanitation hose, various fittings and new hose clamps later, all hoses were replaced. But that was not until the cabinet holding the holding tank was partially taken apart, the holding tank removed (to gain access to one hose) and the removal of about an inch think calcium slab that was inside the tank. Oh, and the bronze elbow on the through hull had to be replaced which, as anyone who knows, is located in a compartment that only a midget can reach and an Atlas can unscrew. Thanks to Gordon on Coho (who is not a midget or Atlas), it was replaced.

Calcium buildup in the head hoses

The big engine job that Raymond (Raymond Engineering) was tasked with was to replace the four injector sleeves on the engine. He also had to replace the broken transmission cable that failed just as we were bringing Kalunamoo into the well to be hauled. I brought the new engine parts down from New York so he had to wait for us to fly in. A few days after we arrived back, he and his helpers removed the engine head and had it cleaned up. A few days later they came back on board and reassembled the engine. They only dropped one rachet into the bilge (the pit of doom) under the engine which was recovered with a long grabber claw. I’m always terrified working on the engine as anything dropped into the pit of doom stays there for eternity.

But that was not the end of the engine work. Upon reassembly there was a coolant leak. That didn’t surprise me as there is one rubber seal between the thermostat housing, block and heat exchanger that is very, very difficult to install. The first time I did it, it took days to get it right. The next time a mechanic worked on it (In Antigua, replacing the circulating pump) it took hours to get it right. This time it also took some time, but the mechanic eventually got it right. Unfortunately there was another leak found at the exhaust manifold which meant disassembling that. We are now waiting for that to be removed and worked on to fix the leak.

The exhaust manifold being removed

The next phase here is the removal of the boat cover, and re-stepping the masts, (next week) installing the new main sail track, the new mainsail, and jib. Also, a new larger winch on the mast will be installed – hauling up the main sail should be must easier – and reconnecting all the wiring and cables in the mast to the boat. After that, measurements can be taken for a new mainsail stack pack, a new sun cover for the aft deck, refinish some exterior teak and some other minor things to work on.

Most of the work, other than the painting and engine, are routine M&R stuff. Since it has been three years since we have been here, the work piles up. We have about a month and a half to finish up and then we should be good to go. In the meantime, other cruisers from around the world are here, and it is good to get together, swap sea stories or just comment on how much work must be done just to look like we lead a carefree life in Paradise. The video is the Rhythm of Work in Trinidad:

And What Shall I Do Then?

We left Kalunamoo in Trinidad and flew to New York in early June in time to attend the wake and funeral of my father. It was a hectic time. The boat was hauled and put on the hard. Masts were unstepped, a cover installed. We arranged vendors to start the multiple M&R jobs on the boat, ordered new sails, find engine parts and then, we contracted covid a week before he passed. Fortunately for me it was a relatively mild case, Maureen had even a milder case, but it still took a week after the symptoms were gone that we tested negative and were able to board a plane back to the States. We arrived in New York very early on the morning of the wake.

Dad was 101 and two months old and, by his own reckoning, was ready to move on to his next stage, rejoin his wife and continue to fish in the heavens above. With a heavy heart we gathered together and bid him farewell while retaining all the great memories of a full life and the great luck we had knowing him as our father, a relative or friend.

The Home with Mom, Grandpa and my sister circa 1950
Me, dad, and my sister cica 1955
The Home today

Since his passing, we have been busy closing family affairs with the home my parents owned in Brooklyn for 75 years. It is chock-a-block with both memories and artifacts gathered over ¾ quarters of a century. It was a bit of a time capsule. Down in the basement I found my old Erector Set from the early 50’s. Amazingly it is not rusted at all. Meanwhile, any metal on a boat seems to rust within hours. A couple of my mom’s old Hollywood Movie magazines from the 1930’s were found along with my father’s handwritten journal of every fish he caught since 1938. Old hand carved wooden shoes from the Philippines from WWII, phonograph records including an original Sun Record’s 78 of Carl Perkins singing Blue Swade Shoes, R&H Breer tray (1888-1953), tons of fishing gear, letters I wrote to my parents when I was on a training ship in Europe, and many other artifacts that only have value for the memories that stir and the times that have passed.

My dad was an avid (compulsive?) surf caster fisherman. See https://www.littoralsociety.org/blog/family-and-friends-remember-fish-tagger-bill-woodroffe

Dad at 18 (with his Model A), always with a fishing pole.

Among the piles of documents, and paperwork that was never disposed of was a clipping of “fishing humor”. It goes something like this:

A fisherman was sitting on a beach fishing when a businessman walking along the beach approached him and asked what he was doing. Obviously fishing, was the reply. But no fish, said the businessman?

The businessman then said that he should use a net to catch more fish. The fisherman replied, “And what shall I do then?”

“Well with more fish you could sell some and make some money” he replied.

“And what shall I do then?”

“Well, if you have some money, you could buy a boat and go out and catch more fish”

“And what shall I do then?”

“Well then you could sell more and have many other boats catching fish for you.”

“And what shall I do then?”

“Well, by then you will have so much money, you wouldn’t need to work at all, and you could just lie on a beach watching this beautiful water!”

To which the fisherman replied, “But that is what I’m doing now.” 

Dad at 94, still fishing.

Well, that seems to summarize how life evolves for many. The journey of our lives, the complexities that we construct, the efforts we exert, the paths we choose, have as the goal a place that doesn’t have those complexities, efforts or paths. Eventually if we are lucky and find that place, we find it filled with the artifacts and memories of that journey. And no need to ask, “and what shall I do then”.

Well, I can’t say we are at that place now, although the great work years are behind us. The work of living and cruising on a sailboat always has an answer to “and what shall I fix/mend/repair then”. The next blog, after we return to Kalunamoo will list some of the answers. And of course, there is always the search for the next beach.

Besides family affairs this summer, we managed to get together with cruisers that either came ashore after their cruising life or spend time ashore in the summer. This included the cruisers from Rum Runner, Judith Arlene, Hippocampus, Merlin, Allegro, Nada, Pandora, Star Shot and Moya Mreeya. We had road trips to Maryland, Massachusetts, Toronto, and the Adirondacks. Overall, it was an eventful summer and quite a change from life aboard in the Caribbean. In a few weeks we will return to Kalunamoo and finish up the M&R and get ready for the winter cruising season. “Winter” sounds too harsh to apply to where the temperature never drops below the 80’s during the day and the question that comes to mind often is, “and which bathing suit (if any) should I wear then”.

Trinidad

We sailed directly from Union Island to Chaguaramas in under 20 hours. In fact, we had to slow down for two hours so that we could arrive after sunrise. It was, like the many times before, an uneventful sail. The concern that many have when we say we are going to Trinidad is the fear of piracy. That fear, from events many years ago, seems to be propagated more by other islands to attract cruisers than any factual basis.

The last time, we were in Trinidad was the summer of 2019. The pandemic hit in early 2020 and Trinidad took the very cautious approach of closing its borders for almost two years. The result was that they did control the spread, but still had high number of cases. It, however, affected the cruisers who could not come for two seasons. Trinidad, unlike the other East Caribbean Islands doesn’t rely on “tourists” for the majority of their foreign exchange, but the loss of the cruising boats did have an effect on the local workers in Chaguaramas. We were concerned that when we returned, what the situation would be as far as getting boat work done.

The view from the mooring to Power Boats

What did we find when we arrived? Well, besides the pandemic procedures before entry – covid test and approval to enter – not too much has changed. These pre-arrival permissions will be eliminated next month. The entry procedure, after getting health clearance, was the usual long paperwork of Immigration and Customs. It is amazing that in today’s computerized world, multiple forms (at least a dozen) with carbon paper copies need to be filled out by hand (all with the same information) for Immigration and then Customs before you are legally entered into the country. Well at least there is no charge (unless you arrive or depart “after hours”).

We took a mooring on arrival and stayed there a few days to pull the sails down and get ready to be hauled. There was no problem arranging a haul date with Power Boats Boatyard and it was great seeing familiar faces in their office and the workers in the yard. The morning, we arranged to move from the mooring to the haul-out well was going fine until we started to back into the well. Since we have a long bowsprit we back into the well as most travel lifts are two small to position correctly unless we do. This is no problem as the boat backs to port so we actually come up perpendicular to the well and just pivot back into it in reverse.

All was well until I put it in reverse. Well actually I did put it in reverse but the transmission never got the word. Running down to the engine room revealed that the cable was broken somewhere between the cockpit control and the transmission. I could manually engage the transmission in the engine room but that would be impossible with only Maureen and me aboard. Fortunately, cruiser friends on Roxy, Allegro and Miclo 3 answered our calls for help and in short order they were out in the dinghies ready to “tug boat” us in. Rob on Miclo jumped on board to help with lines and after some maneuvering we were safely on the well. That marked the official end of our voyage 12.

Well, add the transmission cable to the list of M&R. Boats, and especially those operated 24/7 demand constant maintenance and repair. Our friend Mark on Roxy reports that everything on the boat is broken, you just don’t know it yet. You usually learn it at the most inconvenient time.

On the Travel Lift

Since we have not been in Trinidad for two years, the list of M&R is exte onesnsive. The major work will be done by contractors and vendors. That is what is good about Trinidad, there are many very good contractors and vendors and we are pleased to see most of them still here. One of the reasons is that there are many local boats in the yard, both private and small commercial ones, that supported the marine community while the borders were closed.   

So let the work begin. Of course, you have to remember this is all on island time. We have been in the yard for two weeks and are still arranging work to be done. The masts have been unstepped and the shrink wrap boat cover is in place (we look like a Conestoga Wagon) so the on-board work will soon commence. This will entail replacing four large glass windows, repairing a small section of deck, painting the deck, rewiring the mizzen mast, hull buffing, bottom painting, engine work, new main and jib sails, new aft sun canvas, new stack pack sail cover, new mainmast track, new mainmast winch, new dinghy chaps plus a bunch of interior work. And Maureen bought a new Smart TV!

The Kalunamoo Conestoga

Our “summer season” has started and the social scene with cruisers, between boat work, has been reactivated. Thursday’s pot luck dinner at the Rotti Hut, Friday’s music jam, Sunday Dominoes, local restaurants are opening and the community of cruisers helping cruisers began. Other cruisers will arrive to add to the community. Many will fly off, as we will in July and August, to spend time “back home” and return in September or later. Pandemic restrictions are still in place as the virus is definitely still around and so precautions must be taken.   

At the Wheelhouse
Friday Noght Jam

Voyage 12 covered 800 miles and 6 countries in the Eastern Caribbean. Since covid restrictions were easing it became easier to call different ports this season. We hope this will continue and we can get back to revisiting islands we haven’t been to in a few years. Until then our base is in Trinidad, which welcomes cruisers from around the world. In this sense Trinidad is the welcoming port for boats coming from their round the world voyage and the gateway to the islands of the Lesser Antilles. Since the National Hurricane Center just announced their hurricane season forecast – above average – it is also a good place to “get out of the path of hurricanes”.   

Beaches and Heading South

We love the Bahamas. We spent two seasons between the Abacos in the north and the Exumas in the south. That spans just under 400 miles of clear water, sandy beaches, small low islands, coral reefs, and some beach bars! The Eastern Caribbean, which we have spent the last 9 seasons (at least 8 months a year), spans over 400 miles. The difference in geography is amazing. Where there are dry, flat and low limestone islands in the Bahamas (all of which could be considered among a gigantic sand bar) the Caribbean chain of volcanic peaks of 3-4000 feet with lush rainforest interiors offer a stark contrast. The biggest affect of this difference is that there is more run-off from the land in the Caribbean and so the water is not quite as clear as the Bahamas. But we have to say, by shear numbers, the sandy beaches of the Bahamas beat the sandy beaches of the Eastern Caribbean.

I should clarify how we judge a beach. This is our own opinion as others have different parameters to judge a beach. The primary objective is to swim at the beach.  That is ostensibly true. But the meeting of land and water has always been attractive to us. It is both an invitation to leave the land behind and the anticipated pleasure of being immerged in the medium that comprises 60% of our body. Birds may have similar thoughts when they take to the air. There is something transcendental entering a different medium beyond the common; a natural experience bordering the mystical.  

Jacks on the Beach, Bequia

The pure beauty of the location is a concern but not the final determinator. The Caribbean islands win the pure photographic beauty over the Bahamas. But for swimming at the intersection of sand and water other factors are considered. Obviously, the water must be clear and clean. Floating seaweed, like mats of sargasso must not be present. The beach must be protected from any persistent winds and the sea itself relatively calm (no large breaking surf) and without a strong current. A clean light colored sand bottom must extend well beyond the normal swimming area before turning into a dark grassy bottom. The slope of the beach should be moderate, neither too steep to land a dinghy nor too shallow and become a mud flat. Shade trees at an appropriate distance from the water and lack of insects add to its greatness. The sand itself should be light colored and neither too coarse nor very fine. The former is hard to sit on and the latter is too powdery and difficult to wash off. I collected 17 samples of beach sand here in the Eastern Caribbean and as you can see, they do vary. Nearby by coral outcroppings for easy snorkeling is also an advantage. Beach bars, chair rentals, unsolicited vendors of all sorts detract from its greatness. 

East Caribean Beach Sands

We have not found the perfect beach but this is not to say that there are no great, nearly great or good beaches on East Caribbean Islands. All islands have candidates. Some of our “greats” are: Frances Bay, USVI; Deep Bay, Antigua; and Princess Margaret Beach, Bequia. None of these are perfect but are close to our idea of a great beach. Deep Bay, unfortunately, saw recent developments and has become less of an ideal beach.

Francis Bay USVI
Deerp Bay, Antigua
Pincess Margret Beach, Bequia

I bring up the beach issue because we are in the Grenadines, specifically Bequia. Last week we sailed a few hours south and spent a few days in Mayreau and the Tobago Cays. The Grenadines themselves are very much like the Bahamas, especially the Tobago Cays although the actual beaches are few. The abundant sand shoals are very Bahamian and look like large swimming pools.

Tobago Cays

Given that these are all islands, you don’t need to go too far to find a beach! But that combination of factors we consider, that make them “great” are few. Since life on a boat consists of more than going to great beaches, it explains why we spend more time here than in the Bahamas. But that is another issue entirely.

Dennis

While on Mayreau, we along with ROXY and ALLEGRO stopped by Dennis’ Hideaway for the afternoon and heard Dennis’ life story from Dennis himself. Born on Mayreau, one of twelve children, his mother gave him to his uncle for upbringing as his mother had little income to raise a large family. He “ran away” at age 12 to work on shrimp boats in Brazil and eventually, by the age of 18 became a captain. He worked hard and over 40 years, he captained work boats, tug boats, charter boats, helped run the boat yard on St. Thomas (Sub Base), bought land on Mayreau and built a small resort. His wish, now, is to bring his mother back to Mayreau before she dies (she lives in St. Vincent) to see all her relatives on this small island. Before we dinghied back to Kalunamoo, Dennis met us on the commercial dock where we bought some fresh caught Red Snappers, I’m sure they were relatives (the fisherman, not the fish).

Red Snappers

Like the turtle fisherman and whalers on Bequia (previous blog) and other “locals” we meet, life on the islands provides opportunities and challenges that are met in different ways by everyone. How they are met makes for some interesting characters and stories – Life at the Beach.    

Life at the Beach is not Life is a Beach. From physical isolation, limited resources and hurricanes, the art of living on the water always punctuates the idyllic. This is exactly what happened when we tied up our dinghy to the dock on Mayreau.

Anchored in Mayreau

Apparently while we were alongside the high wooden dock our new “car” got its first scratch! The fact that the dock looked like a porcupine of protruding sharp objects should have been a tip off. Maureen noticed the cut but it didn’t seem to be a problem. A few days later, however, the tube was loosing air and so a patch was in order. We were going to sail back to Bequia and so I waited to anchor there for the repair.

On the sail back we stopped at Canouan but since our “car” was out of commission we didn’t go ashore.  That was ok because after dark I noticed that Kalunamoo fell back a few boat lengths from where we anchored. I decided to reset the anchor closer to shore which we accomplished but not without some adventure. The bottom there is soft mud and so when I lifted the anchor it came up like a gigantic ball of mud. Getting it mud free, in the dark in a restricted area with other boats around was a bit of a task. Since our depth indicator was not working (see below) it added to the task. It was reset and we slept with the anchor alarm on but didn’t drag an inch. 

In Bequia the dinghy required lifting onto the foredeck, deflating the tube and cementing a patch on. Mark on Roxy helped us and a day later, after it set, it was ready to go.

Dinghy Repair

Well, that is the first of a long list of M&R items that need to be addressed when we get to Trinidad in two weeks. It has been almost three years since any major work has been done, other than “emergency generator and engine repair” on Kalunamoo. The list is extensive but includes painting the deck, unstepping both masts, some boom welding, A/C work, various pumps, canvass work, and probably new navigation electronics. The last item is necessitated by the multi display of GPS charting, radar and depth going dark in the cockpit. Of, course it is too old to “fix” and therefore we need to choose among the various options for replacement. In the meantime, the unit at the navigation station works fine and our back-up tablet can be used in the cockpit but that does not show depth. Maureen does have to call out the depth readings when anchoring from the navigation station below, and that is not ideal! New navigation instruments are all now connected like an internet on the boat. In other words, a year after you install thousands of dollars of equipment, it is out of date, a few years later no repairs are possible. Your model-T instruments belong in a museum.

Next week we sail south direct from Bequia to Trinidad. As I said, it has been almost three years since we have been there as the island was “shut down” for covid. In the meantime, we will be anchored off princess Margaret Beach, one of the “great beaches” of the islands. 

Becouya

In 1751 one of the first charts of the Bay of “Becouya” was prepared on the French naval vessel Friponne. The bay is now named Admiralty Bay. It is on the island of Bequia which is the largest island of the Grenadines, all of which is part of the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. What is interesting is that on larger charts at the time for all the Lesser Antilles, the tiny island of Bequia was indicated by name rather than the much larger island to the north: St. Vincent. Included on the chart were the settlements and even a church in what is now called Admiralty Bay. Clearly, it was an important bay to chart. There is still a church in that location.

We had a good 11-hour sail down from St. Lucia to Admiralty Bay in the typical Trade Winds of the islands. It seems that this season, the strong Trade Winds have been blowing more consistently with fewer intervals of lighter winds than in any other year that we can remember. As always, the between island jumps, in this case, St. Lucia to St. Vincent and St. Vincent to Bequia, were typical “ocean passages”. And in the last two weeks in Bequia the winds were up even in the anchorage of Admiralty Bay. Fortunately, there was no northerly swell so it wasn’t too rolly. On the Kalunamoo Guide to Anchorage Roll, it was mostly a stage 2 and occasionally a stage 3 roll.

Samuel Toka

We met up with several other cruisers that we knew ,also anchored in Admiralty Bay and enjoyed the violin performance of Samuel Toka at the Fig Tree, a day at the Plantation, Easter Mass at St. Michaels, sundowners and a beach BBQ on Princess Margaret Beach. Bequia is a wonderful little island and we have always enjoyed our visits. A few years ago, we visited the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary, a privately run “sanctuary” run by a former turtle fisherman, Orton King who turned from fishing for hawksbill turtles into protecting them from predators and extinction. Rescued from being eaten by birds when they emerge from their eggs or lost on the way to the water, he raises them to be released later. Arguably not the best way man can help nature, but the turtles have been protected and their numbers have been increasing. Of course, fishing for them (for consumption), is now outlawed. It is always fun to watch these turtles swim around the anchorage and all visitors are impressed.

Friendship Bay

This year we visited the Bequia Heritage Foundation and Whaling Museum in Friendship Bay. We went with cruiser friends from Roxy and Casa Tu. This privately funded museum and foundation had a similar start as the turtle Sanctuary. Started by locals, the foundation and museum traces the history of Bequia from the earliest inhabitants.

After major hurricane, Ivan crossed Grenada in 2004, the high seas ripped into Bequia’s eastern beaches with a vengeance. The result exposed ancient artifacts, mostly pottery fragments, which were collected by locals and eventually analyzed. It was found that the oldest pottery came from South America around 300-500 AD. It is theorized that this was the time when the migration from South America up the Lesser Antilles took place. Bequia seemed to be an important stop and supported a small settlement.

Nicola Redway and th history of Bequia

That was the beginning of the heritage Museum which reconstructs the history of the island from that time with the artifacts that are found here. The Amerindians, gave rise to various indigenous people. Then in the early 1600’s the Spanish, English and French came and put their mark on the island. The islands changed hands a few times as the Europeans fought for their respective empires. Farming, and fishing were the basis of the interest here and boat building and servicing became equally important. Since this is a small island farming and fishing wouldn’t seem enough to keep the island going for long.

Whaling goes back to the 1800’s and was practiced world-wide. The flesh, oil, and even the bones derived from whales became a lucrative trade. Whaling from shore, as it started in Nantucket, was relatively easy. When the whales headed for extinction, ships were needed to go further off shore to find them, eventually traveling from New England to the Pacific. Well, to make a long story short, read Moby Dick.

Many whale species mate and “winter” in the Caribbean (they knew this way before man invented Florida). It was therefore natural that this industry could be practiced here, and Bequia was a good location for whale hunting from shore. When whaling was internationally regulated (to prevent their extinction) Bequia, in 2013, was grandfathered in to allow 4 whales a year to be harvested to support the local population. The methods used today, totally hand rowed boats with the same manual equipment of the 1800’s, has not been changed. This is carried out from the east coast at Friendship Bay. But the local whalers, as like the turtle fisherman, realized that it was also time to protect for tomorrow rather than harvest for today, hence the establishment of the whaling museum a few years ago. When the small group of whalers do get a whale, (only 2 boats are in use and in many years they don’t get any whales), no whale products are exported and all products are used locally on the island. The money selling the products on island supports the families for a year.

Eventually St. Vincent and the Grenadines became independent of the UK and tourism became the dominate source of income. This is true of most of the islands here. But the above are examples of what  Bequia has done on its own, and with the exclusion of major “international resorts”, does make it a unique and interesting place.

That brings me back to 1751. Why was Bequia, specifically what was to be become Admiralty Bay on the west coast, charted in detail? There didn’t seem to be any economic potential of the land or sea that would interest the empires of England or France to take notice. The Heritage Museum provided the answer and it had to do with the nature of the bay. Besides being protected from the trade winds the bay itself was well suited as a carenage to careen boats and larger vessels on the sand beaches. Boats brought up at low tide on sand beaches, free of coral rocks, the boat bottom can then be scrapped clean and repaired. Also boat building on the beach and launching was possible. That, apparently, was the basis of the settlement over many years as boats were the essential vehicle to access the small islands in this area. Bequia became a center for small boat building well into the 20th century. Bob Dylan commissioned the boat Water Pearl, built on the beach here in the early 1970’s.  

In the 1930’s James Mitchell’s (Prime minister of St. Vincent, 1984 – 1996) father built and sailed the Gloria Colita, the largest wooden schooner (165’ long) in the Caribbean. It took 21 days just to pull the hull off the beach where it was built into the water. He sailed it as a cargo ship, from the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba and islands area. He was lost in 1940 when the wooden sloop was lost at sea (mysteriously) between Alabama and Cuba with a cargo of wood. James, who was born and lived on Bequia, died recently but we had a chance to meet and talk with him a few years ago here as he recalled his efforts to keep the Grenadines and in particular Bequia, “unique” in the world of tropical tourism. I think he succeeded as it is a wonderful place to connect with the past and to enjoy the present with people who have pride of place and a sense of history.

BREAKING NEWS!

In a surprise attack on a sunny afternoon a pod of marauding dolphins descended on the unsuspecting and peacefully sailing ketch Kalunamoo. It was feared that what started out as a pleasant sail could end up as horrific incident on the high seas. This occurred as the ketch with only its captain and first mate aboard sailed to the small island of Bequia off the coast of St. Vincent. This Windward Island, in the southern part of the Lesser Antilles has a long history of attacks. But even in today’s world, with all the modern navigation and communication capabilities, they still occur and fill the need to provide content for the 24/7 news cycle, not to mention the commitment to write blogs.

Early reports indicated that the ketch was surrounded by these mammalian marauders, menacing the startled crew into action that cannot be described as anything other than controlled confusion. “We were startled by the sheer audacity” reports the captain of the ketch. He reported that the first inkling that there was something amiss was the odd sighting of breaking waves off to the boat’s starboard side. In the distance, the captain explained, were “white caps” where none should have been. The wind was from the direct opposite side of the boat! “That is not normal”.

As the breaking waves moved ominously closer, the crew’s adrenaline rose to dizzying heights. Soon the first hints of what was happening appeared. Dark forms with fins piecing the surface of the water came ever closer. Lancers forcefully puncturing the interface between the bright blue sky and the deep depths of the watery abyss below, burst out from the boiling sea. These creatures, which up to this point could only be imagined, did not present themselves at first. They stealthily maneuvered closer and closer to the fast-moving boat. The hull, sensing the danger that might lurk beneath the waves, instinctively reacted to move quickly away. The sails strained to capture every bit of wind while the sheets heroically pulled the boat forward with increasing speed. But all to no avail. The boat was surrounded, there would be no escape. The creatures, seemingly pleased with the swiftness that they overtook their prey, leaped out of the abyss in a show of force. Splashing and twisting in the joy of their conquest, theirs was a dance of triumph. Was there a smile of delight that was noted as they taunted the ketch and her crew? Mocking the bow wave of the fast-moving ketch by “surfing” to their endless delight, other marauders circled and back tracked, for another run at their prey.

By this time the captain had enough wits about him to try and document the attack. “Maybe justice will be served” as verbal accounts always end up as “he said, she said”. The documentation could serve mankind well as the last remnants of an attack at sea. Or it could end up in a dusty corner of some obscure legal department’s sub-basement vault never to be seen again. But time was of the essence. The marauders would not stay long after their conquest and so photo documentation was needed quickly.

As it happened, the ubiquitous camera was down inside the dark cabin. Moving quickly in a rolling boat is not recommended by any seasoned sailor. Nonetheless, the captain did the necessary footwork and emerged from below with camera in hand. Documentation would be obtained only as the last of the marauders left the scene. Grainy photos that could be analyzed of some splashes, some fins but nothing of the drama that took place.

“There off for another conquest”, said the captain as they vanished into the abyss. Left staring at the sea’s endless rolling undulations, the ketch sailed on. Looking over his shoulder, with an eye toward the horizon for more unusual breaking waves, he only wondered what else lurked in the deep abyss of that dark and mysterious sea. “We only sail on the surface, but our imaginations are deep and oh, how they haunt us so.”

What could have turned out to be a very bad nightmare for those who sail at sea, this incident only reminds us that Breaking News is not something we can ignore. Whenever Breaking News occurs, usually about every five minutes or so, we must give thanks for the good fortune that it does not befall us. But if it does, make sure you document it well.

Three Birthdays, a Wedding, and a Funeral

We do live most of the year on Kalunamoo in the Eastern Caribbean – the Lesser Antilles – in the West Indies. That sounds exotic to many, and with comments such as “Living the Dream”, in many ways it is. We have gone to where the “weather suits my clothes”, the nights are dark, and the breeze always blows. Maureen and I never forget that we are fortunate to be able to live this way. Not, of course, that it is always idyllic. This blog testifies to that. Life is not a dream and if it were, nightmares do arise.

But for the 60 years that led up to this lifestyle, we lived a more average life of family, friends, and work. That life cannot nor do we want it, “turned off”. That is why the ability to communicate easily and fly for extended visits is important. We may not be able to attend all family and friend’s gatherings, but they are always in our hearts and minds.

And so it was, that early March was a good time to fly north. The snows would be ending, the weather a little warmer, and birthdays and a wedding were to be celebrated. And they were. This end of winter jaunt, we celebrated my dad’s 101st birthday. That was done with a lobster dinner, not the Caribbean clawless lobster, but with an honest to goodness Maine lobster. That was a treat for us also as the Caribbean lobster is fine, but the cold-water northern lobster does have an edge in flavor.

The marriage celebration, a day after my dad’s birthday was for our youngest daughter’s 2nd marriage. We wished Liz and John a long, happy and healthy life after the short outdoor ceremony and a loud music filled reception! Liz’s two children, our grandchildren, enjoyed the celebration and we are sure this Modern Family will prosper and enjoy a long life together.

We celebrated 3 other birthdays including our twin grandson’s 15th birthday, Timothy and Ryan and my own.

Mugging Calieigh, Timothy, James and Ryan

I celebrated my 74th birthday. Almost three quarters of a century! Boy that is a long time. I barely remember my first days in kindergarten. Actually, I also have a hard time remembering where I left my eyeglasses ten minutes ago. However, I do remember standing online to get the first polio shots (1954), watching the Andrea Doria sink on B/W TV (1956) and the first man to walk on the moon (1969), the day I married Maureen (1971); seen too many soldiers march off to war (1950, 60, 83, 90, 01, 14) and saw many of the 27,000+ sunsets that have occurred. I hope to see many more.

Into all lives come dark days. My sister’s husband, who was otherwise healthy, came down with a bad “cold” shortly before we flew to New York. The “bad cold” turned out to be Covid and he was hospitalized. Despite the treatments and medical procedures, his condition was on a downward trajectory. The news that he passed was never anticipated only a month before when he entered the hospital. Like a sudden storm the outcome is never certain and, in this case, hope gave way to tears and memories.

I dedicate this blog entry to John Mallon who I was introduced to as a Brooklyn guy that dragged raced cars, rode a motorcycle, wore leather jackets, looked like Al Pacino (in retrospect) but captured my sister’s heart. They lived a life together far from the stereotypical image that I just wrote. John, joined the Army, moved to New Jersey, raised two great kids, watched four grandkids grow, bought boats that he loved repairing, rebuilt their home after hurricane Sandy, played golf, plus many other memories that I could mention and definitely passed too soon. As Maureen always says, we mourn the loss but celebrate the times we shared.  

After John’s wake and funeral we will fly back to St. Lucia and rejoin Kalunamoo, continuing to “live the dream” but never forgetting the larger world we are all part of.

The World of Brooklyn, “Little Odessa”, Sheepshead Bay, a Cold Day, A Wedding!, A Birthday Cake

Living Among Visitors

This is about boat life. Boat life is different than land life in many ways and one of the major one is Visitors. I am not referring to visitors who stay aboard for a few days or even a week or two. They are like house guests and are certainly welcome aboard Kalunamoo. We may share a rather small space with them but, like most house guests, fit in to whatever routines we all enjoy. At these times, we have the opportunity to demonstrate our life aboard, the benefits, the freedoms, the adventures and even some of the difficulties. They bring a new dimension to our life and generally don’t result in mutiny or anyone forced to “walk the plank” overboard. They either admire this or depart questioning our sanity.

The other Visitors that I refer to are those who become, what land people would call, neighbors. They are those also on boats, that arrive in the same anchorage, that become Visitors again. I say again because we may have crossed paths with them previously. This could have been days, weeks, months or years ago. Unlike a stationary house on land where a neighbor change is infrequent, a change of a visiting boat happens frequently. Some may only be Visitors for a few days, some for much longer periods. Of course, living on a boat is fluid (pun intended). Not only do we have the capability to welcome new Visitors, both known and unknown, but we can change Visitors quite easily ourselves by moving on.

The interesting part of these changing Visitors is that many are fleeting cruisers. What I mean to say is that some of these boaters – cruisers if you will – “visit” much like visitors staying on our boat. They arrive here part time to enjoy the life-style and take advantage of all the pleasures that can be found here. No problem with that. In fact, it is enjoyable to spend time with people who enjoy being here. And since they have their own boat, we don’t need to worry about mutinies. Some will spend the season and then sail to their land homes and perhaps return the next. Some will venture on to other islands and some will sail around the world (maybe even for multiple times). We may see them again, or only hear about them through the Coconut Telegraph (the informal sailor’s word of mouth relay– boat by boat). Each brings a new perspective of what it means to be here and on a boat.

All of this is actually one of the main cruising activities – the social encounters; not only with other cruisers, of course, but with the local population. The longer you cruise, the more it becomes a natural way of life. And that “natural way of life” can be discerned in long term cruising and full time living aboard people. One of the identifying features is the ambition to keep moving, or not. Yes, cruising is, by definition, movement. Newly minted cruisers have an inordinate desire to move on. A few years ago, we met a couple who not only just bought their first cruising boat and seemed to be island hoping every week or so, but were headed for the Panama Canal and then, in short order, across the pacific. Well yes, life is short, and you shouldn’t delay your dreams if you have the opportunity. But on the other hand, nobody gets into heaven any easier because you loged more miles (earlier perhaps). In the end, we all go at our own pace, which for us is pretty slow, at this point. None of this is irreversible and living on land can become an acquired adaption for many former cruisers (CLOGs -Cruisers Living on the Ground).

Certainly, seeing new places and experiences is a major impetus to cruise. We like to see new places as well. But seeing old and new Visitors satisfies a part of this. The world is a big place but even in small places, there is plenty of detail that goes unnoticed. And that takes me full circle back to my comments on Visitors.

Since November, we have been keeping company with many cruisers in the Salty Dawg Rally. The pandemic travel restrictions does limit island hoping but meeting the many new cruisers with the rally was fun. After an extended stay in Antigua, we made it to Guadeloupe and then Martinique and were pleased to find long term cruisers we haven’t seen in years. Martinique seems to be a focal point at this time of the year. Even though we haven’t been here in two years, conversation resumed as if we just saw them the night before.

One of the things we have missed, in the last two years is what John on Out of Africa always organized was a braais. This is basically a backyard BBQ for neighbors. It is a BYOFB (Bring your own food and beverage – or some say F**k’n Beer). In others words, something to throw on the barbie and a dish to share. In any case, the “backyard” is the nearest beach that a grill can be mounted on some rock and some wood gathered to set a fire.

John, just back on his boat after some time in South Africa, does this on Thursdays at the Anse Tonnair beach, not far from St. Anne. Drive over with your “car” as there is plenty of free parking.

Free Parking

Since France is still in a State of Emergency large gatherings with food on the beach are not allowed. I should say a word about how the French seem to view rules and regulations. Unlike the Italians, where rules and regulations are treated like suggestions, the French are sincere in their laws. But they tend to trust people to follow them. People are shocked, SHOCKED, that no one checks to see if they are following the laws! Well, there is no problem with the braai as we were actually off the beach and kept our social distance, mostly. Other cruisers, both new and old showed up and as they say, “a good time was had by all”.

Backyard BBQ

Our time in Martinique will be short as we need to get down to St. Lucia next week and a short visit to New York. Our cruiser friends in St. Lucia have already anticipated our arrival as we make plans (and get covid tested again!) to visit another neighborhood.     

The Butterfly and Water of Gwada

After a few days in Deshaies, we sailed down the coast to Malendure near Pigeon Island and then to Pointe-a-Pitre. We make this move in consideration of the winds. Pointe-a-Pitre is in the middle of Guadeloupe, between the two butterfly “wings” of the island. That means sailing around the south end of the mountainous Basse Terre part of Guadeloupe and then north on the east side of it. Even in moderate east winds the southern point gets pretty windy due to the compression of the winds whipping around the end of the island.

This results in a direct up wind sail which is not what we like to do. This time it was not terrible but the seas were lumpy and it was a motor sail up to Pointe-a-Pitre. The reason to go there is that it is good place to base a car tour of the entire island. It is centrally located and you can drive to both the low island of Grande Terre and the mountainous Basse Terre. It is also a major city worth a look at including a modern Memorial ACT museum. The anchorage is protected from any swell but it is a commercial harbor with a large container terminal near the anchorage. But since we are currently traveling in a mini-convoy of cruisers that we know, it is a good place to arrange sundowners, restaurants, rum distilleries and just to tour around.

We had a three car caravan one day to visit the Chutes du Carbet. These are three waterfalls in line from one stream that come off La Souifriere, one of the main inactive volcanoes on the island. What makes these waterfalls interesting is that they are very tall, over 300’, and can be seen while traveling along the coast. See the green arrow on the chart to see where they are.

The lower falls

Actually, you can only see two of them from the coast as the upper one is usually in the clouds. Christopher Columbus saw these falls when he cruised here years ago and it is reported that he stopped in to fill his water tanks. The local natives apparently didn’t appreciate his arrival and chased them away. Maybe they didn’t get custom clearance or health certificates to stay or something. In any case, our hike up to see them up close (the falls) was a half hour climb but mostly on well maintained trails and walkways. The trail goes all the way to the top for those interested in hiking another two hours. I was not interested, or at least my legs were not.

Chutes du Carbet

Hike through these lush tropical forests are always amazing. I am always impressed by the size of the trees, ferns, leaves and flowers. Some of them are as big as a car (well almost).

For those interested, unlike Columbus we did fill our water tanks at the marina in Pointe-a-Pitre for $0.08 a gallon. Many cruisers these days have “water makers”. Actually, the machinery doesn’t make  any water, it just takes the salt out of the water your floating in. High pressure pumps and very fine membranes do a reverse osmosis (RO) trick to prevent the salt ions from passing thru. All well and good but the cost and maintenance is another bill that must be accounted for. I’m not against them but there is readily available shore side water (and some of it is actually RO water). Granted, we, and especially Maureen, watch our water consumption so that we don’t have to run and fill tanks less than once a month or longer (usually longer). But looking at the water falling hundreds of feet in these rain forests, emptying into the sea, one wonders about reinventing the wheel. I guess I like Criss C’s solution to fill our tanks. OTOH, we do have and used, a rain catchment system to supplement our water supply.

Dinghy Raft Up Lunch

On another day we took a dinghy trip up the Riviere Salee and had picnic lunch of French wine, cheese and bread in La Manche a Eau. among the mangroves. A good GPS chart is a good idea if you want to wander through the many channels and byways here. The area is between the two main land masses of Guadeloupe.  That is always a fun trip although the dinghy ride back to Pointe-a-Pitre is a rough sometimes wet, up wind ride across the wide harbor. Well, at least we didn’t have to sail up wind.

This water was made for Swimming

We are now in Les Saintes but will sail to Martinique tomorrow. The Butterfly island has a lot to offer but we have a time schedule to be in St Lucia by the end of February. Marie Gallant is another island here that is worth a stop but not for us now. The weather window decides when to move, so tomorrow is the day. And today a northerly swell arrived and we are in a stage 3 to 4 roll!