Reality Rallies

About 50 sailboats descended on Antigua since we arrived here three weeks ago. They were all part of the Salty Dawg Rally that left the U.S., mostly from Hampton VA, around November 1. The rally, which we participated in a number of times, brings the first wave of cruisers into Antigua and starts the winter cruising season in the islands. Our good friend Bob on PANDORA is the rally director and did a great job of organizing the rally. Along with another good friend, Lynn on ROXY, they organized daily social events for the last two weeks which culminated in a Thanksgiving Regatta (due to no wind, it was a kayak race) and a Thanksgiving Dinner at the Antigua Yacht Club. In short, it was a very busy social scene since we arrived, quite a change from the socially quite summer in St. Lucia.

At Pigeon Baech
At Indian Summer Restraunt

Happy hours, dinners, tours, jam sessions, sun downers, beach gatherings and just plain gatherings were part of our social calendar.

Jam at English Harbor

Living on a sailboat and cruising around sounds like a lonely adventure with few opportunities for social interactions. This may be the case if you are constantly sailing, as many do, around the world and spend a very limited time in port. Mostly, however, cruises spend 95% of the time in port. At those times, cruisers gather socially, intermingle with the “locals”, compare adventures, help repair or exchange repair tips, and form friendships that last from weeks to years. It also develops, excuse the pun, very fluid arrangements among cruisers. You may not meet again for months or years but somehow just pick up the friendship where they were left off.

Chicken ad Beer, Antigua Yacht Club

Two trends we have noticed over the last ten years is the popularity of rallies and the size of boats. Rallies have encouraged, and enabled people that would not ordinarily go from day sailing on the weekend to long distance, ocean going, sailing. This is good as it introduces many to this type of sailing. The downside is that long distance sailing is not the same as day sailing, in the same way that because you have a driver’s license means you can drive in the Daytona 500. Rallies do support and can assist in the transition but it still requires more than a few hours of instruction to appreciate the challenges that are faced. The fact that you may be hundreds, if not a thousand miles, from any help should give one pause before starting an off-shore cruise. But rallies also provide the structured framework of social gatherings. Social events in strange lands organized and attended by people you have come to know is a big selling point. The lonely sailor gives way to weeks of social events and is a major draw of rallies.

The other trend is toward bigger boats. Both longer and wider is the name of the game. It is not unusual to see boats and catamarans well over 50 feet sailing with a crew of two. Sometimes these are the first boats the owners have owned. Having owned sailboats for 40 years, starting with a 22’ Catalina, it amazes me how they do it. These bigger boats enable longer voyages and arguably a “safer” passage. But mostly they are more populated with family, friends and crew because they have the capacity to do so. It too, adds to the social experience of cruising or living aboard. The space offered on a large catamaran is like an apartment on the water. And not necessarily a small one. They do make great venues for sundowners and jam sessions!

Fewer pandemic restrictions are in place but island hopping is still not as easy as it was. Fully vaccinated sailors can go to other islands but PCR or quick tests are required and some additional paperwork is involved. This requires a bit of planning and restricts the unplanned and ad-hoc aspect of sailing. Once on island, masks, social distancing, curfews, and some beach restrictions may be in place, although none are really draconian. There has been some recent unrest, protests and strikes in the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique regarding the pandemic but nothing that really affected cruisers. News of a new variant is concerning but at the end of the day, we will have to live with whatever precautions should be taken while living our normal life.

Sunset in Falmouth Harbor

The reality of life, like sailing rallies, is that social events play a major part in our existence. No one is an island, as the poem said, and even on an island, or a boat, you are never far from a gathering. Or a new rum drink.   

Thalassophillia

What draws us to say we must go down to the sea again? What is it in that lonely sea and sky? Why is that restless body of water so alluring? Is it the amniotic fluid that we yearn to return to? When life was just beginning, when we were cushioned against the harsh realities that would define the rest of our lives; the warmth we became accustomed to; is it the desire to return? We breathed this sea before the cold winds announced our presence and we gave out a scream, maybe with cause.

In the early years of the 20th century, the idea of eugenics took hold and tried to explain why we are what we are. Genes were seen as the key to life, or how life manifests itself in individuals. It also provided a pathway that human-kind could follow to improve, by exercising discretion in procreation, the desired traits for the populace. Fortunately, it proved to be a false hope. In the meantime, Thalassophilla was assigned the meaning of “lover of the sea”. Excessively so. And it could be “cured”.

My own belief, if Thalassophila really exists, could be cured by experiencing a few storms at sea. If that doesn’t hit you in the head like a 2×4 nothing will. But there are other ways to the cure. It could be called the Chinese Water Torture route. It involves the mystical timing and evolution of breakdowns and boat failures that plague boat ownership. It seems failures and breakdowns occur in some predetermined time frame that only allows the next breakdown to occur after the previous one was rectified. Multiple failures happen but not as frequently as the constant drip, drip drip of failure, fix, failure, fix etc.

All this to explain our passage from St. Lucia to Antigua. After 5 months in St. Lucia for the hurricane season, we sailed north to Antigua. Note: only 2 named storms, including one hurricane, passed through the Lesser Antilles this season. Only one, Elsa, passing over St. Vincent, gave us a day of squalls with winds of 45 knots. The pandemic has really “clipped our wings (fins?)” as far as island hopping. We will remain in Antigua until January and see where we can go from here.

So, after 5 months, with M&R in St. Lucia, including the purchase of our new “car” – the ubiquitous dinghy – we took Kalunamoo for a planned 32-hour sail. We did go to Marigot Bay before this so it was not like the boat didn’t move for 5 months. It also was hauled for new bottom paint. We installed a new reefer compressor. We installed a new generator water pump. We had the stern teak damage repaired. All these were done sequentially as explained above in a “water torture” scenario.

Dominica at Sunset

The sail from St. Lucia was a sailor’s dream. Relatively strong 20-25 knot easterly winds gave Kalunamoo the energy to sail at 7 to 8 knots. Apparent wind was 60 degrees on the starboard bow and the seas were long enough for us to ride over them. No squalls, a clear dark night, and little traffic to worry about gave us a good ocean passage ride.

That was until we emerged from the wind shadow of Guadeloupe and the last leg up to Antigua. The course is now due north while the wind slacked a little. This gave us a relative wind of 45 degrees with more of the seas head on. In short, it was a motor sail for the last 6 hours of the voyage. Halfway up, Maureen and I noticed an exhaust smell inside the cabin. Sure enough, there was an exhaust leak somewhere but I could not determine from where. Not a tremendous problem, just another little drip, drip, drip of needed repair.

We dropped the hook in Freedman’s Bay, English Harbor at 10:30AM, 28 hours after leaving Rodney Bay. That was a fast run for us. We waited hours for Port Health to grant us “free pratique”. This age-old procedure prevents the spread of sicknesses from sailors arriving from foreign lands and causing a pandemic. Well, too late for that, the pandemic arrived at the airports a year ago. In any case, with negative PCR test results in hands, our CDC Vaccine card, and a completed Maritime Health Declaration, and temperature checks, we and Kalunamoo were granted “pratique” and allowed to proceed to Immigration, Customs and the Port Authority to complete the entrance procedures. We were done by 3PM. By 5PM I was ready for some sleep.

Freemans Bay, English Harbor

The exhaust turned out to be from a leaking injector seal. At least that is what I believe it is. A mechanic has been called and so another repair is in order. We will have enough time here in Antigua for this to be done. Cruising friends with the Salty Dawg Rally will arrive later this week and I am sure there will be many mentions of the drip, drip, drips on their boats.

Has this cured our Thalassophillia? Really, has anyone really been “cured” of anything or just accepted the fact that somethings just can’t be explained. In the meantime, we continue to sail on in anticipation of the inevitable next drip and hope it doesn’t cure our chosen lifestyle, as incurable as it may be.

Dr. Dolittle

St. Lucia is a beautiful island. The iconic Pitons, both Gross and Petit, are deservedly world famous and never fail to be included in tropical photographs of the Caribbean. The geography of the island has these pinnacle like mountains throughout, covered by lush vegetation. Driving on the roads, there are no “highways”, is challenging as the steep topography and hairpin turns are not for the faint of heart. We did the car tour the last time we were on the island. This year we decided to do little of that but remained, for most part, in Rodney Bay and/or the marina. Blame the pandemic for our reluctance to travel around.

We did however, after hauling the boat for a few days to get the bottom painted, sail down the coast to Marigot Bay. It’s just a little past Castries. As mentioned above the geography of St. Lucia with its old volcanoes and cones is very steep. This applies to the coastline also. Just off the coastline, the depth drops to hundreds of feet deep and you can do little to safely anchor. It’s just too deep. Rodney Bay is an exception. The other exception to the general rule is the small indents along the shoreline, almost like small fjords or bays with steep sides. Such is the case of Marigot Bay.

Half of the inner bay is home to the Marigot Bay Resort and Marina. A relatively high end resort, although St. Lucia is home to many. It is one that you can dock at. There are also moorings to be had but we were advised not to use them. The management of the resort recently changed hands and the moorings have not been “serviced” and could break loose. The resort itself is impressive, blending in well with the surrounding hills. You could do little to improve the location. The other half of the bay is lined with mangroves. All very lush, especially during the summer “rainy” season.

We took a berth at the “fuel dock”. Troy, the marina manager took our lines as we came alongside. It was one of only few slips that was available for “alongside” dockage. For the 5 days we were there, it was fine.

Since this is still the off season, the resort was not very busy. In fact, the marina complex of boutiques were mostly closed and the restaurants (pricey) were opened on a rotation basis. The pools were open and the general atmosphere was very laid back. It was a place to do little other than relax. Cruiser friends, Jim and Meryl on Kokomo and Lisa and Pierre on BioTrek were there so we did have company.

Besides the marina resort, there are other local restaurants, bars, shops and trails for those who like to climb hills. 

Maureen, Meryl, Jim

Across the bay, Doolittles, offered a free water shuttle to their beach front restaurant. The name comes from the 1967 film Dr. Dolittle where it was partly filmed. Nothing other than the name of the film is noted.

Dooittles Restaurant

Reading the history of the film (thanks Wikipedia) confirmed that the Island scenes were filmed here. Working on the way over budget film (considering the restaurant prices, I don’t doubt it) it apparently was not like working in paradise. The following is from Wikipedia:

In October 1966, scenes were later shot in Marigot BaySaint Lucia; this location was equally problematic, and problems with insects and frequent tropical storms delayed filming and left eight crew members bedridden due to vomiting, diarrhea, and high fever. The final scene with a giant snail was complicated not only by the poor design of the large prop, but because the island’s children had recently been struck by a gastrointestinal epidemic caused by freshwater snails, and mobs of angry locals threw rocks at it. Around this time, Jacobs was hospitalized after having a heart attack. Within a month, filming had fallen 39 days behind schedule in which the production crew had to decamp back to California for reshoots.

Well paradise always looks better on film. Our stay did not involve any tropical storm but we were glad we had enough netting to keep away the “no-seeums”. Did I mention half the bay (and along the marina docks) is lined with mangroves? The snails seem to be under control and the locals were nothing but very friendly. The film lost almost 11 million dollars. It did however win 5 awards including 2 Oscars and a Golden Globe award. Who knew?

We will soon leave St. Lucia and head to Antigua as the hurricane season is just about over. Our stay in Marigot was a pleasant diversion to do little and we could see visiting again, especially if their moorings are up to snuff. In Antigua we may do more than the little we did here. Hey, that sounds like a movie title – Domore!

Voyage #12

The hurricane season is not over but it looks like there are no major threats form here on out. Famous last words. Major hurricane Lenny on November 19, 1999, Hurricane Debbie October 22, 2000, and Hurricane Thomas on October 30, 2010 proves that hurricanes could affect the Eastern Caribbean late in the season. But not usually. In any case we are preparing to commence voyage #12 as soon as we depart Rodney Bay Marina in a few days.

Hauling in Rodney Bay Boatyard

At the beginning of October, we left the marina and anchored out until we hauled Kalunamoo for its annual bottom cleaning and painting. Rickey and crew do a good job of hauling us out and put us right next to Meander. Meander is our friend Wayne’s cruising boat that has been on the hard for over a year and a half. Maybe we’ll see him next year! During the 3 days on the hard, Maureen wanted to be a little more comfortable than living aboard. We have lived aboard on the hard in the past and it is not the most comfortable way to live. In Trinidad, on the hard, we have air conditioning, stairs to get on and off the boat and good showers and restrooms are available. We don’t have those creature comforts here. So, we were off to Bay Gardens Marina Haven Hotel!

Pool side

OK, it wasn’t a “resort” but it was a short walk from the boatyard, had a pool, small restaurant and air conditioning. Actually, it was just fine for the time we would be there. I only used the pool once as a “tropical wave” came through with showers and squalls for a day and I had to spend time on the boat doing “boat yard” work. Of course, the rooms had air-conditioning. Why they have air-conditioning AND a refrigerator in the room is beyond me. Whatever you want cold, just leave it next to the wide screen TV. I’m sure you could even make ice cubes there too. After setting the thermostat up to 24 C (75 F) it was more bearable but turning it off for a few hours also helped. The blankets provided for the bed were not enough but, all in all, we did enjoy the change. The staff was very friendly, and even took our temperature daily! Maybe some of their previous guests froze to death.

But the work in the boat yard was done, and Pirate did another great job scrapping, preparing and painting the bottom. I should mention something about the boat workers names.

Meander and Kalunamoo

These independent contractors have real names but they go by their “corporate persona”. “Pirate”, with one large gold earring, does bottom painting. Does a great job at a fair price. We used “Prudent” to install our reefer compressor. “Pride” was our carpenter who did the teak repair on the stern. Aldi and Josiane (I think that was their real names) did out toe rail varnishing. “Elvis” was asked to provide a quote on some port-glass replacements but never came back. I really don’t think I stepped on his Blue Swade Shoes, but who knows.

We are now back in the Marina for a few days to finalize boat preparations for voyage 12. When we leave the marina, we will be at anchor or sail down to Marigot Resort for a few days. Maureen has some dental work to complete here in Rodney Bay before we can leave St. Lucia in the first week of November. The jump to Antigua will take about 32 hours where we plan to meet-up with cruisers we know coming down from the States on the Salty Dawg Rally. After that we hope the restrictions and requirements of traveling between islands become less cumbersome or expensive and a more mobile season develops. It will be good to be able to sail around more.

As I wrote in the last blog, at time it feels like we are sitting in the bleacher seats watching life’s games. Yes, being retired, maybe that is all that is expected, especially while a pandemic encircles the world.

The cruisers, we have shared this summer season with are making plans, as we are, to move on. We will probably cross paths with some of them again, others are off to destinations far and wide. In that way, it was much like the cruisers we meet in Trinidad. Political discussions with cruisers here or via electronic means on many subjects occupied some of our time (we are never far from 24/7 news). But this blog will refrain from overt political discussions, other than opinions germane to our venue (or air conditioning) and save those for the Essay pages of this web site. In any event, a new cast of players await.

September

As the change of seasons start to take hold for the folks up north, Labor Day and the unofficial end of summer have little meaning for us. Since we are retired, the first Monday in September is not much different than the first Monday of any month. In fact, any Monday has little significance other than the start of another week. Since the weather really doesn’t change, seasons have little impact. Although this is not strictly true as the “hurricane” season, now at its height, does affect our movements. However, the pandemic has had more influence on us then the weather.

We continue to lead a quiet life here in St. Lucia. At times it feels like we are sitting in the bleacher seats of life, watching the game of life being played on a world-wide field. It’s been a year with little boat movement, the barnacles on the bottom can attest to that. During the year we did fly back to the States twice, saw family, grandkids and friends and have spent half a year in Antigua but we do miss the island hopping. The issue of our refrigeration still has not been completed as we are awaiting the new compressor. It has arrived in St. Lucia and is awaiting custom clearance. In the meantime, it has kept us at the dock although we did go out to anchor overnight to scrape the barnacles off the hull. We would have stayed out longer but the other issue was our Magic Box.

At Anchor in Rodney Bay
Local Net Fishermen

Our Magic Box, which I understand, is not unique to our boat, is a magician’s dream gimmick. Anything that ends up in this invisible box disappears forever. Or until it shows up quite unexpectedly years later. Most times I think it is not so much of a box but a gateway to another dimension. It’s a worm hole to another universe. In that case, there must be a universe that is populated by all the stuff that falls into this magic-wormhole-box and pops out in a landscape full of missing nuts, bolts, tools, single orphaned sox, sunglasses, keys and all the lost missing treasures of the universe.

Our Invisible Magic Box

In our case it was one of our cell phones, the phone we used for data only which provided fast hot spot connectivity. It was our wormhole to the internet universe with good data speed. Yes, we are not cut off entirely. The marina has relatively good Wifi and our other cellphone has data capability at limited speed. But, boy do you get hooked on good data speed for zoom and video calls!

But our Galaxy 8 fell into the Magic Box a few nights ago. While watching Netflix the marina’s power went out (not that unusual). This disrupted their Wifi and for a few minutes and I am pretty sure I tried to use the Galaxy 8 to reconnect with Netflix. I didn’t need to complete the connection, as the power came back on and all was well. The next day we moved the boat out to anchor. From there, we would use the Galaxy 8 to stay “connected” but after anchoring we couldn’t find the Galaxy 8.

The boat is not that big and so searching doesn’t take too long. It had to be inside the boat as it was never taken off the boat. The last time I definitely had the phone was the day before, ashore having breakfast (but never took it out of my pocket), and pretty certain it was on the boat after that and on board when the power went out.

We looked everywhere multiple times. We did go back to where we had breakfast and asked around but no luck. I even did a dumpster dive to pull out our bag of garbage that the marina picked up that day – no cellphone in the garbage.

My theory is that during the brief power outage the night we were watching Netflix, a power serge opened the Magic Box and the Galaxy 8 fell into it and was transported to another universe. It left no trace and no, we didn’t have “find me” app for it. My bad. But I don’t think it works in the Magic Box. We ended up getting a MiFi unit from Digicel for $60 which includes 50 Gig of data for 30 days so we are “back up to speed”.

As mentioned above the virus is still around and vaccines are here, although half the locals have the same vaccine hesitancy as everywhere. Curfews and restrictions come and go depending on the level of spread which seems like a never-ending cycle. News of new variants, like the mu variant, sounds like the start of another cycle.

Our bleacher seats have a good view of the field and the game is interesting. Some of the players are really talented while others seem to stumble at every play. Clowns dominate the spectacle, as players in left and right field never coordinate their moves. The interesting thing is that it is hard to discern the rules of the game but I suspect that most players are playing different games. Teams are outfitted with different equipment and strive for different goals while referees seem to leave the field but never stop commenting on the action. Don Mclean sung about players trying for a forward pass when the marching band refused to leave the field, must have had a vision of this.

Cruiser friend Jim on KOKOMO taking a “sight”

Cruiser friend Tim, recently arrived from his around the world sail, broke out his sextant and it was interesting to reacquaint myself to the lost art of celestial navigation. Tim and our other friend Jim took some “noon” sights out in the bay.

Jim and Tim

His cruising companion Ashley from South Africa, waiting for a visa to enter the U.S., and another round the world cruiser and his Thailand companion also waiting for a visa, an Australian ex-pat marooned here, an American couple waiting to sell their trawler and return to the U.S. are some of the others sitting on the bleaches with us. It usually makes for interesting conversations.

Ladies Thursday Lunch

We will disperse in a few months as the fall ushers in a new crop of cruisers from the north. We will find ourselves among different cruisers and hopefully be more mobile while the games continue.    

Mid-Summer

Well it’s almost Ferrogosto again. I remember writing about this date last year. We are in the same place and I realize that not much has changed. What I failed to mention was that at the latitude of St Lucia the sun is directly overhead at this time of the year. It is heading south after traveling to 23 North. We are at 14 North, and from here on out it will transit south of us until next spring. This means we shift our cockpit sunshades to the starboard side, since we are always facing east.

I thought we would be finished with most of the M&R for Kalunamoo by this time but our 26-year-old refrigeration system decided it had worked long enough. The compressor went into permanent retirement two weeks after a minor fix failed to persuade it to continue to work. I guess when your time is up, its time to go. I can understand that. I think twenty-six refrigerator years is like 80 human years. All that food that passed thru its doors, what a story it could tell! What ultimately failed was the heart of the system, the hermetic sealed compressor refused to pump. Unlike a home refrigerator, the boat’s “reefer” comes in bits and pieces spread around and is a built-in system with separate reefer and freezer compartments. Of course, the compressor section is no longer made. A replacement section was manufactured to replace it, but it is also not made anymore. The original manufacturer, Grunert, was bought by Dometic. Dometic is an older offspring of the Electrolux company. I guess it’s a family tree thing. Maybe it’s like trying to replace your grandfather who may have been disinherited. In any case, they don’t make them like that anymore. But in today’s world, anything made last month is probably out of date. Ironically, food may be the only thing that can outlive its users. Provided, of course, if it is refrigerated.

Reefr compressor

For big money, a replacement system can be had. It comes in a shiny stainless steel case to hide its pumping heart. For even bigger money the whole system can be replaced with “up to date technology” powered by solar and wind, all very environmentally friendly (Refrigeration is the largest user of energy on a sailboat). In a way, it’s like replacing grandpa with a newborn. The cost is about the same. The new technology would enable us to know the temperature inside the box to a tenth of a degree. Refrigeration like this extends food shelf life proportionally longer than the life of any of us.

Would eliminating refrigeration altogether be the ultimate environmental solution? Is there non-refrigeration alternatives? Maybe, but what about ice in that rhum punch?  Well Frederic Tudor solved that problem back in 1806. He was the first to ship ice from New England to Martinique. He had ice houses built in New England especially for this and eventually expanded his business to Cuba and to the southern U.S. His clientele, the European elite, could bear the cost (probably from the wealth of the sugar plantations they owned in the Caribbean). The ice, of course, was harvested from the frozen rivers and lakes and shipped south. Profits were tremendous, before they melted away with the advent of machine made ice. I will leave it to others to see the irony and linkage among natural ice, machine ice, and climate change.    

Slaves unloading ice in Cuba

I decided that a pump transplant was the way to go. Among other reasons, our other systems on Kalunamoo may be insulted if a whole new reefer system appeared. Who knows what jealousies might arise. Would the generator feel neglected, since it would not be needed to electrify us as much? Would the aging air conditioner, despite being used infrequently, demand the new “up to date” technology also. I shudder at what the navigation crowd would think. I haven’t dared mention the word “network” around them. They still believe their main competition is celestial navigation. The 33 year old Volvo doesn’t give a hint of any major resentments, but who really knows what the Swedes think.

So, the new compressor pump was ordered and will be on-island eventually. In the meantime, we are on a one-bag-of-ice-a-day habit plus the use of a small electric Dometic cooler to keep things cool.

A new round-about rod construction

In other news…The National Hurricane Center just upped their forecast of tropical storms for the season. By 1. The tropics have been quiet most of July after a fast start although things are heating up. Tropical waves are starting to become more intense as the peak season is now thru September…Road work in St. Lucia seemed to come to a halt just after the national elections. I mention road work as that is usually the indication that elections are imminent. The sound trucks blasting out soca and promises before elections are ubiquitous, much like tree frogs at sunset. Unlike the U.S. which has a two-year orgasmic foreplay leadup to elections, national elections here are more like hurricanes. They pop up and a week later there is a new Prime Minister. As far as road repair, either potholes are filled just before elections, or work is stopped just after. In either case life goes on. The former Prime Minister says he is proud to lead the opposition.

Sunday Dominoes

The Ladies Luncheon on Thursdays, Sunday Dominoes and bay swimming continues. We may even get out to do some day sailing and land touring. Otherwise, it’s mid-summer and the living is easy.      

Work Time

This is the age of the 28 million dollar price to ride on a used rocket that only goes 62 miles up and last 11 minutes. Spin rates decreased as Spider Tack loses its grip of MLB and more players got to first base. Half the population refused to get vaccinated and in response the virus mutates, celebrates, and goes on a country wide infection binge. Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream will not be sold in Israeli occupied territory. The Olympics start today although the smart money is on covid 19 taking home the gold.

But we are in St. Lucia in our “off season”, far from the headline news. Since returning on board after our NYC visit, we have been busy with Kalunamoo’s M&R. Although we admit, it is not all work all the time. We note that many of our cruising friends up north are enjoying the summer sailing season. Others are sailing the Med or sailing the Pacific. For many, the pandemic slowed but not stopped cruising. We are somewhat jealous but this is the time we need to keep Kalunamoo in good shape so we don’t have worry about it in the winter cruising season. Some of the M&R was not done last summer as we anticipated that it would be done in Trinidad. That didn’t happen and it will not this year either. Although Trinidad did open its borders to fully vaccinated non-nationals a few days ago, things are so fluid, we decided to do the M&R here. So, we have to do some catchup work in addition to the annual work.

Workers came aboard to strip and refinish the teak cap and hand rail. Albi and Josiane did a good job as it’s been a few years since it was last stripped. I ended up putting on an extra coat of gloss after they finished because that is the easy part.

Josiane on the hand rail

A few days after we came back on board our refrigeration kept tripping the electric breaker. This was the first serious issue with the unit since we bought the boat. I envisioned a new compressor in our future (and dealing with no refrigeration for the weeks it would take to get one) and was happily surprised that all that was needed was a new start relay. Prudent, the electrician, did a great job and we were up and running in a few hours. Unfortunately, two days ago the same problem arose. We are waiting for Prudent to return to find out what the problem is. We can go a few days before the holding plates get too warm and we lose all refrigeration. Fortunately, we are in the marina and we can get ice! Is a new compressor in our future?  

Reefer Compressor

A major cosmetic job that we wanted to get done in Trinidad was the repair of the teak trim and name board on the stern. It was damaged last year in Dominica by an unknown boat while we were ashore. The carpentry of Pride Edwin did the fine carpentry teak trim work while I got the name board back in place with rope braces, bolts and epoxy. All it needs now is a refinishing.

Name Board and Trim
Braced to bend in shape
Epoxied in place
Ready for refinishing

The anchor chain we bought in Guadeloupe last year was inexpensive. Yes, it was cheap. And guess what. You get what you pay for! It didn’t take long for the galvanizing to wear off and become a rusted mess. It just not the rust but the wear that results. The previous chain we had lasted 9 years. This chain, although not as bad as the previous one when we replaced it does show considerable wear. Compare a rusted part with new part and notice how it “stretches” due to wear of the links (this was the old chain). This “stretch” makes the chain jump out of the windlass chain wheel when raising the anchor. The total lenght of chain is 200 feet but we use only about the first 100 to anchor. We can end for end this chain and get another year or two of use, but we will be more careful the next time we replace it.

The unused chain is one the right

The list of other minor repairs and maintenance jobs kept us busy but we will have time for some “day sails” around St. Lucia once they are completed. In September or October the boat will be hauled for the annual bottom paint job.

So as billionaires blast off into space, ballplayers lose their grip, the virus dodges a quick defeat, ice cream makers make geopolitical decisions, and the Olympics lack live spectators, we carry on. We are, after all, “in retirement”. Our big adventure may be sailing 62 miles to the next port. That would take close to 10 hours. As long as the auto pilot doesn’t lose grip of the rudder, and we don’t have to make major geopolitics decision, our Olympic goal is to swim a few hundred feet and maybe see a turtle on the way. We don’t miss the spectators, although there are enough cruisers here for Sunday Dominoes and lunches. Everyone has their challenges and adventures in their own way. So maybe we should take pleasure in the fact that every time we bought from Amazon we were part of the great space exploration of the universe; or what the new meaning of sticky fingers mean; or how ice cream can change the world.      

Elsa Says Hello

It was July 2 and Maureen’s birthday. People of a certain age don’t usually make a great deal of birthdays and so ours are low keyed. Nonetheless we do note, as a recent scientific study revealed, that people who have many birthdays live longer than those who don’t have as many. Having said that I hope that the Admiral of our Fleet has many more we can celebrate together wherever we are.

Happy Birthday Maureen!

One of the ways we could have celebrated was for me to make breakfast, bring fresh flowers for the table, have a grand lunch at a restaurant with some friends and maybe a few old fashion rum punches as sundowners. Unfortunately, the only thing I could accomplish was breakfast. Elsa, a blustery visitor to our shores, arrived in the morning and hung around for most of the day.

Elsa, as you may know, was crowned Hurricane Elsa just as we were finishing our breakfast. She started to make her presence known when we woke at 5:30 AM as the winds started to pick up. The dense clouds obscured any sunrise although no rain fell for a few hours. Checking the local weather radar, the massive rain echoes were approaching Barbados. From the location and movement, it looked like the center of Elsa would pass over Barbados and head for St. Vincent. Barbados is 98 miles south-east of us, and St Vincent is 50 miles south of where we are, Rodney Bay Marina.

This storm was not a surprise visitor. For the last five days all eyes were on the mid-Tropical Atlantic. Weather forecasters and weather models were all in agreement that a significant tropical wave that came off Africa would face favorable conditions to form a strong wave or tropical storm and head west. That was exactly what happened. It sped quickly west, over 25 knots, and arrive on our doorstep as a tropical storm Elsa. It grew into Hurricane Elsa as it passed over Barbados.

By 8 AM squalls came in waves. Winds over 25 knots pushed Kalunamoo against the dock. This was expected. I removed our ramp the day before, added and adjusted dock lines to keep her farther from the dock (the south side of Kalunamoo). As the wind increased and heeled the boat the fenders protected the boat. I knew the winds would be clocking, going from North-East to East then to South East during the day so there would be less pressure against the dock as the day progressed. By 10:30 the barometer recorded its lowest pressure before starting to rise. This meant the center of Elsa was due south and would start to pull away. Sustained wind gusts to the mid 40’s (knots) made a racket as rain went horizontal. Instantaneous gusts were probably higher. The below table shows our observations during the day.

Since we were about 75 miles north of the center of the storm the strongest wind were south of here. Everything held as no damage was sustained. Heavy rains occurred here, in St. Vincent and Grenada. Landslides here killed one person in St. Lucia. We had hired a worker and his wife to varnish our teak toe rail and today he said that there was plenty of damage inland including lowsing part of his roof. The usual leaks when heavy rain occurs were noted on board but nothing like the old “leaky teaky” of yesteryear.

This was our first encounter of a named hurricane in the Caribbean. This was an early season storm, especially for this area. In the last 31 years only one other named storm crossed any East Caribbean Island earlier than Elsa. However, our close encounters with strong tropical waves and storms, here and on the East Coast, over the last 40 years were not unusual. Hurricanes were the prime reason we would go to Trinidad in the summer as it is below the “hurricane belt”. Trinidad has been closed since last year and who knows when it will open up. Nationals will be permitted in the middle of July but no word of non-nationals. In any case we chose to stay in St. Lucia as we flew to NY for 7 weeks, knowing that the marina is a relatively safe harbor during storms.

And it was. Many boats that were anchored in the bay, including commercial boats for the resorts, came into the marina the day before the storm. There was plenty of space and all were well protected. Granted that this was not a major hurricane and the winds were not at hurricane strength here, it still provided good protection. Electricity on the dock was shut off by 11:30AM until this morning.

The video is what the marina looked like during the day.

As written before hurricanes can be very destructive to these islands but there are steps that can be taken to lesson the danger. Heavy rain is sometimes more of a factor than the wind. The season has just started and no one knows where or when the next storms will form. Historically only 2 or 3 storms affect the East Caribbean during the summer season. Last year’s number of storms, 30, was a record. Only 2 were in the Eastern Caribbean. There was also a recent explanation from the National Hurricane Center that although it was a record number, modern technologies help identity more storms than ever before. It was an active season but not as active as the number of storms would suggest.

Well by late afternoon, the winds calmed down to the typical summer trades of 15 and less. Clouds and showers were still around but it was all quiet after a stormy day. Maybe Elsa came to celebrate Maureen’s birthday in a very unconventional way. What a way to say Happy Birthday Maureen!

Inter-Voyage Thoughts

Our inter-voyage time was spent in New York visiting family, friends and catching up on our doctor visits. Getting fully vaccinated combined with the lower virus levels gave us the opportunity to travel by car between Annapolis MD and Plymouth M. This included visiting other cruisers we have met while sailing and seeing them in their land-based environment. It was good to see everyone out and about after a long year of restricted movements if not out-right isolation. And it did seem like everyone was out and about! The roads always seemed jammed and the stores full!

But there was something else. Living aboard a boat for ten years certainly has its effects. Not the least of which is the altered sense of required living space and stuff. This is not surprising. It seems like a natural tendency that as we enter the work force, have families, advance in careers, we want more living space. We accumulate things, “stuff”, that almost seems organically part of us (family and relatives definitely are!). Modern living, if not our economy, is based on this. But it was strange to visit our cruising friend’s land homes for the first time. Since we only knew them while they lived on a boat, and were content to do so, their added surroundings on land seemed jarring. It added a whole new dimension to the people we know. It made obvious, the reality that in many ways people’s stuff is a reflection of who they are, who we are. This is not accidental, but mostly intentional. I don’t write this derogatorily. As we know, everything we wear, touch, own or use, defines us in certain ways. That is what advertising taught us. It may be true what my mother always told me: that we are what we eat. But it may also be true that our stuff defines who we are.   

Grand Canyon

A recent news article bemoaned the plight of the nation’s National Parks. Nearly 320 million people visited them in 2019. The population of the U.S. is about the same. https://www.livescience.com/overcrowding-us-national-parks.html

This has led to a Disney World of long lines and severe degradation of the natural environment. What you end up with are places like the Grand Canyon where the view includes helicopters buzzing overhead, donkey trains hauling their load of passengers like a long train of coal cars, hikers form worker-ant lines through the underbrush, lodges, parking lots, restrooms, roads, buses, trucks, campers, cars and small kids all add to a very un-natural experience. Or has that become the “natural” experience of getting back to nature?

They may have to pave paradise to put up bigger parking lots! What is the solution? Proposals to limit visitors by issuing entry passes for specific times, duration and activity fees are not out of the question.

The population will always increase, the planets size will not. What is needed is more National Parks. A place of unmatched beauty, accessible to all, and large enough to accommodate a hoard of visitors. A place where the sky is clear and at night the stars shine bright; where sunrises and sunsets are magnificent and the non-human inhabitants remain undisturbed in their natural environment. Where getting back to nature is what it is all about. The fact that 75% of the earth is water should give us a hint.

Welcome to the Bermuda Triangle National Park! A vast expanse of nature right at your doorstep. The area enclosed between Cape Hatteras, Key West and Bermuda can be your next National Park Adventure. It has everything to all those who want to experience what nature has to offer. No artificial roads, fences, or trails encumber the intrepid visitor. Be as free to explore as you wish!

Row the Bermuda Triangle Natioal Park for your next Adventure

It’s the place to visit anytime of the year. The warm waters will delight you in the cold of the winter. The tranquil winds of the summer, lull you with their benevolence. Want excitement and challenges? Come during hurricane season and, if you’re lucky, you can catch the beauty and power of nature at its fiercest. For those really experienced and equipped with the latest technologies, dive deep and explore the miles deep ocean floor. But you don’t need anything more than a capable kayak or raft to paddle the unreachable horizon. Climbing Mount Everest is passe now that the Bermuda Triangle is yours to conquer. Kayaking around the park has not been conquered yet! Take the kids, they’ll love the friendly dolphins that welcome you, the migratory whales that sing and the flying fish that wiz by as you connect with nature in this unspoiled National Park. Of course, there is also history to explore. Mystery and intrigue have been linked to the Bermuda triangle for years. Come, see what all the mystery is about!

While in New York we were impressed with the concern that others had for us. It was only hours after we landed at JFK, we got the first of many phone calls reminding us that our warranty on our non-existent car expired. We also were advised, by other concerned interests that our non-existent bank account was seized, our social security payment checks were placed on hold, that we might be entitled to substantial monetary awards if I had a hernia operation in the last 20 years, that someone stole my identity and committed a serious crime and I face immediate arrest and probable execution. Well, the last one never happened but the trend seemed obvious. It seems robots have taken over the phone companies.   

We are back in St. Lucia for the summer season of swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, restaurant hopping, biking, walking, shopping and hanging out with cruisers who pass through. The tropical waves that bring increased squalls pass by almost on a weekly basis now. Their progeny may develop into storms or hurricanes as they travel west. A few day sails between boat maintenance, swimming and general island living awaits. It is the “off season” but the islands are eager to see the return of the tourists to fulfill their treasury. Tourist arrivals are above “average” for this time of year as the pandemic seems under control in the U.S. Hopefully that will continue. Trinidad is actually contemplating opening their borders after being closed for over a year. Hopefully a more normal fall season will develop.

Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia

So the summer season starts. We will miss family and friends up north but not the traffic and the concerned telephone calls! And we could visit the Bermuda Triangle National Park for some adventure.    

Brown Streaks on a Blue Ocean

Voyage 11 of Kalunamoo concluded in St. Lucia this year, as it did last years, due to the constrictions on cruising during a pandemic. We did spend about a half a year in St. Lucia and half in Antigua. Sailing was very limited, but the cruising lifestyle carried on albeit in a lower key. Social distancing, masks, on again-off again curfew’s and beaches, restaurant and business closures were the rule but didn’t stop all social activities. We managed to take 5 covid tests each to facilitate our limited movements and expect at least 2 more to fly to and from NYC in the next week. Vaccines are to be included, so at the end of the day, nasal swabs, masks, shots in the arms have become routine.

But enough about that. As I wrote above, this season’s voyage was a bit short of actual sailing. Two 30 hours sails: St. Lucia to Antigua and Antigua to St. Lucia was just about it. We did sail to Barbuda from Antigua and did sail around, literally, Antigua and dropped anchor in a number of harbors. But it was good to stretch our and Kalunamoo’s sailing legs and leave Antigua. And nothing broke! Although Maureen does have a sore back that may have been aggravated from the natural “motion of the ocean” and its effects on Kalunamoo.

Video of sailing “between islands” when the winds were up to about 20 knots.

The sail down from Antigua is on the western side of three intermediate islands: Guadeloupe, Dominica and Martinique. This means that the actual sailing is a relay of ocean sailing between islands with strong trade winds interspaced with calm or variable winds on the lee side of the islands. Every four or five hours conditions change drastically. The arrival and departure on the ends of the islands also has changing wind and sea conditions that add to the mix. This makes the non-stop passage rather interesting. A video of the interisland part is here. . The conditions on this passage were almost ideal for us. Wind was slightly north of east in the 16-20 knot range with some gusts to 22. This made for a beam reach and allowed us to carry full sail. In the lee of the islands, westerly wind was not unusual, and motor sailing and sail changes were the way to go. But many ask, what do you do for 30 straight hours?

Passing Montserrant

This is also asked of our longer passages, up to 13 days from the U.S. to the Caribbean (we are not a fast boat!). The answer is, of course, sail. That in-itself, despite an auto pilot, will keep one busy. This last passage was a busy “sail” as alluded to above. But one thing I thought about was the Sargasso seaweed that is ubiquitous here. A few years ago, it was at its most prevalent but even now is substantial. One effect of this weed is to keep our trolling for fish to a very minimum. Trolling a fishing lure takes constant attention to remove the weed off the lure. Too much work! The origin, life cycle, and movements of the Sargasso weed are still not settled science, but I was struck by the brown seaweed streaks that litter the ocean. Some people look at clouds. I have looked at streaks. Do they look like rows and flows of angel’s hair? (Didn’t Joni Mitchel sing about this?). In any case, it is one thing that can be done sailing. 

The brown seaweed is a visible mar of the iridescent blue of the Caribbean water. When winds blow, and they do 99% of the time and from one direction only, the weed forms streaks many hundreds of feet long flowing in the direction of the wind. It’s a good indication of true wind direction. The weed itself grows in mats and float on the surface of the ocean. The mats can become quite large, we have seen them around 3000 square feet or more in the open ocean. They extend only an inch or so above the water and less than a foot below the surface. So the question is, how do these streaks form from mats?

It seems like a simple answer. The wind breaks up the mats and push the small pieces down wind. But why do they form streaks, like a line of soldiers off to war. Are they connected with invisible thread? No. My first thought was that the edges of the mat must break free first and would then normally float down wind one after the other. It certainly looks like that is what happens. Then when we last flew into Antigua I saw from the plane mats of weed in the ocean. It was clear that the streaks were a trail left from the mats movement and not the other way around. But in either case, that doesn’t explain why mats and the trail would travel at different speeds. If the wind breaks up the mats, all the pieces should travel together. Maybe the waves do it. But the streaks conform to the wind direction and are perpendicular to the wave train.

It turns out that Irving Langmuir, saw the seaweed lined up in the Sargasso Sea in 1927 and asked the same question. He happened to be an American physicist and formulated why. The result is now known as the Langmuir Circulation. Fluid dynamics is not my specialty, but it is interesting to learn the solution to what appears to be a simple problem. In short, the weed is pushed into these streaks by rotating tubes of water. The axis of the tubes lie together horizontally for lengths of considerable distance. The diameter of the rotating tubes can be tens of feet from the surface. Adjacent tubes rotate in opposite directions so that anything floating on the surface is pushed to the side where it meets the adjacent tube. The other tube pushes anything floating in the opposite direction. The end result is a line of floatables between the tubes, hence the streaks. This works the same for anything floating, including bubbles or garbage.

How the tubes are formed are really complicated and not fully understood but is powered by wind, wind driven waves and currents. These tubes not only result in streaks but in vertical mixing of surface water. Oddly, the tubes are generally parallel to wind flow and develop quickly. They can also intersect other tubes.

So the streaks are not really blown by the wind but by the invisible circulating water made visible by the weed. Thanks Irving. I’ll never look at streaks the same way again. And yet, there is some beauty in the abstract forms that defy interpretation of fluid dynamics.

We will spend the Hurricane Season in St. Lucia keeping an eye out for threatening weather. Hope is high for a more “normal” cruising season next November but, like the Langmuir Circulations, we may be pushed and ordered by forces we know little of or simple assumptions that we don’t know at all.