How’s that lockdown treating you? Yes, I know the feeling. I can’t stop this feeling, deep inside of me. Girl you don’t realize what you do to me.  Well B.J. Thomas must have been singing about that girl coVid, only 19 years old, but what a looker. Turns the whole world upside down.

Restless, that’s what I hear. Everybody’s talking at me, can’t hear a word they sayin’. Something about they can’t get no satisfaction. Maybe that mask is a little too tight. Well I see many are moving on up. Up to the north side. They goin’ for a better piece of the pie. Maybe its that country road calling. West Virginia? Blue Ridge Mountains?

Sailing took us away to where we always heard it could be. And it’s not far down. You understand why you came this way. Well, we got stuck in paradise as the virus closed all the doors. What else can we do but have some quality time. Been scraping and sanding, cleaning and sealing, and tossing and turning all night thinking that things just ain’t right. Should we be restless like those we know? For all we know it may be just a dream. But they are sailing on. Sail on, down the line, about a 1000 miles, don’t really want to know. But do wish them well. If I had wings like Noah’s dove, maybe we could fly.

Sometimes it’s the end of a perfect day but we never know it. There were birds in the sky, bells in the hills, and there was music all around, but do we here it now? Time has come today and my soul has been psychedelicized. There’s no place to run, so we sit on the dock of the bay, watching the tide roll away. But are we wasting time? Is that what causes restlessness?

Cold hearted orb that rules the night, although we rebrand it now as super. Can we decide which is right and which is an illusion? Or is it just a brilliant disguise? A big pizza pie? Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night. We were born to be wild, to get out on the highway, Thunder Road lies ahead, restlessness can be cured.

Gotta’ move. Gotta’ keep that big wheel turning. Rolling, rolling, rolling down that river. Start spreading the news, a brand new start, come fly with me, and fly me to the moon, we gotta’ get out of this place. 

But stop! In the name of love.

Just hold on to what we got. And if you got a nickel wouldn’t you lay your money down. Spend time on the corner and hear that happy noise. People come from miles around just to hear that sound Johnny. Up that lazy river, ain’t misbehaving, and just like Jack Horner sitin’ in the corner, don’t go nowhere and don’t care. Lazzy bones, hope the fish don’t bite. Mister nowhere man? The worlds at your command? Maybe, but I’m content ‘causs I got sunshine on a cloudy day. It feels like May, every day. What can cause that? My girl, my girl, I got my girl.

I found my thrill…   

I hope this awoke some soundtracks of recognition (although you may need to be a certain age) in these times of turmoil. Let the songs fill your days and be blessed that you can still sing in the shower, in the clothes you were born with, and with a voice that perhaps only God can appreciate.  

Turning Point

We have been in St Lucia since March 2, almost six weeks. That is not unusual as we have spent similar times on other islands. The unusual part is that since March 20th (just when the engine work was completed) virtually all destinations had been shut down to help stop the spread of the pandemic. The only destination that remains open for us is the U.S. For a number of reasons, we are not considering that at this time. But like the rest of the world, it seems like life is on hold.

St Lucia just came out of a 7 day 24 hour/day curfew with all food stores and all business, restaurants etc.. closed. After this Easter weekend we’ll see how much reopens but expect that food stores with restricted hours and some takeout food will be available. Overnight curfew is still in effect as well as no social gatherings including beaches.

As written about in the last blog, it is that veneer of everyday life that is being removed. But underneath that veneer, the base of a working civilization is being revealed. The medical system is one part of that base and is looked upon for our survival. Maureen, a retired RN, knows full well the extreme stress that these frontline heroes face every day and how it will have a lasting impact on themselves and their patients.

Other workers are also part of that base. Police, firemen, farmers, and the whole food/utility/communication industries that can’t be put on hold or easily peeled away. Add other essential support systems that are invisible and you realize that if life was peeled away and the base put on hold, at best, utter chaos would ensue.

This gives hope to many that it is an opportunity to review what we, the society in general, really desires of society. Where are our priorities; what is important to our (societies) wellbeing? The cynical will always say, don’t let a good crisis go to waste. Is this the turning point in our society or do we only hope to return to “normal”?

The last major social turning point occurred after a catastrophe. The arc of history of the ever-increasing concentration of wealth was last disrupted by WWI and II. Society needed that almost 40-year break to allow the accumulated concentration of wealth to breakdown and to convince the populace that it doesn’t need to be that way. That excess is not necessary. We can decide to have a different future. And it worked for almost 2 generations until the arc of history resumed its economic historic self. Can a few months of a world-wide pandemic be another major turning point?

Historical change stems from the interaction between, on the one hand, the short-term logic of political events and, on the other hand, the long-term logic of political ideologies. Evolving ideas are nothing, unless they lead to institutional experiments and practical demonstrations; ideas must first find their application in the heat of events, in social struggles, insurrections, and crisis. Conversely, political actors caught up in fast-moving events often have no choice but to draw on a repertoire of political and economic ideologies elaborated in the past. At times they may be able to invent new tools on the spur of the moment, but to do so takes time and a capacity for experimentation that are generally lacking” – Economist Thomas Piketty.

The virus itself is not an economic artifact but look at the economic impact. We can no longer put life on hold than to stop the sun from rising. The peeling away of life’s veneers can lay bare the structure of society. Is it what we think it can be? What we can do is act responsibly and thank those who can’t put life on hold. As far as a major turning point, it may be like the low ocean swell that, to the experienced mariner, foretells storms over the distance horizon and where long-term logic is called for.   

Thin Veneer

I have often commented on the earth’s thin atmosphere, at least the part we breathe, that contain all the storms, clouds, heat and winds that affects our lives. It is thinner, by comparison, to the thickness of an eggshell to the size of the egg. And how fragile that shell is. The thin veneer of human life is no less fragile.

We are on Kalunamoo here in the small island of St. Lucia amidst a world-wide human pandemic. Within the last two weeks, actions to stop, or at least slow down the relentless spread of the virus world-wide have focused on preventing movement and contact between people. This was inevitable since, at present, there is no way to stop it and no cure once acquired. Very much like a computer virus that shows its fangs only after the damage is done. The biological virus is only an active agent inside a living cell. It re-programs the cell to reproduce it. Unfortunately, that living cell is attached to a person that moves around, shaking hands, sneezing, breathing out and possibly shedding bits of that damaging human operating code, now known as Covid-19. Talk of the 85% of the infected people having mild to moderate consequences is of little solace to almost everyone.

Many of our cruising friends live, literally, in two worlds. Six months on a boat enjoying the pleasures of the Caribbean and 6 months (more or less) back on land in their home. This is a hard time for them as the tightening travel restrictions means that the transition from one life to the other could very well be closed. Entry and travel restrictions and conditions have been changing daily if not hourly. Since each island is independent of each other, each had different restrictions, time frames etc. This made island hopping out of here, or flying off island, a nightmare for many – ports were closing, flights were cancelled, quarantine requirements implemented. The difficulties of “getting back home” are, at this time, harder to negotiate than the actual virus and is the main topic of concern. That thin veneer of easy transportation world-wide vanishes as airplanes are mothballed and airports close. The reality of being immobile must be faced.

The situation for us, living full time aboard, is somewhat simpler, although we do spend time visiting family and friends that add up the frequent flyer miles. We hope that by the summer travel restrictions are relaxed enough to allow this. Of course, the hurricane season, is a major concern but by August or September if conditions remain as they are now, hurricanes may not be the worst thing to address.

So, the thin veneer of life is peeled away layer by layer. The glue of social interactions become like Swiss cheese, the holes expand and only essential services keep us together. Arguments can be made that the collective “we” should have been more prepared. After all, isn’t that what distinguishes us from all the other animals? We do now, what we must to avoid being a transmitter and enabler of this virus. Whether we contract it or not, we still have a responsibility not to carry it forward. All are challenged to see how we react to this peeling. I do believe that ultimately the veneer will be repaired. Humanity’s ingenuity will prevail but not without costs. It will take an unknown amount of time, which itself is a challenge, and we all will be affected. Lessons will be learned, hopefully.

So, we are staying put where we are. We are doing all we can to be physically isolated so that when it comes our way it hits a wall. St. Lucia reported 9 cases. All non-essential business are closed. The marina is open with water, electricity, Wi-Fi, security and even a limited amount of restaurant take-out food with many cruisers here. No new arrivals to the island are allowed. Our 6-week visitor’s visas are automatically extended indefinitely. We anticipate that it will be like this through at least April. We can take our dinghy to the bay for some swimming but don’t land on the beach. We keep our 6-foot distance from other cruisers here that we know as social contacts are kept to a minimum. A good time to catch up on reading, DVD’s, Wi-Fi phone calls, and practicing the keyboard. And observing clouds.

The first wisps of a new puff , lower left.

The bright blue sky is dotted with fair weather puffs of white cotton. The small Cumulus clouds streamed westward in the easterly trades. They are only about three thousand feet above me and constantly change shape, expanding and contracting in the swirling vertical drafts that spawned them. From my vantage point they first appear just east of here. Out of the blue, literally, they start as wisps of haze, steadily growing in minutes. The moist air rising vertically is invisible, but these puffs form the cotton balls trailing off to the west. The invisible steam engine puffs away all afternoon. Continuing west the cotton balls evaporate and the sky is again clear blue, oblivious to the human dilemmas below.

Family and friends, especially in the New York City area, are constantly in our thoughts and prayers. Even though health is of primary concern, the realities of jobs, economics, social connections, schooling and plans for the future cannot be dismissed out of hand. Those are the things that make up the veneer of life. In times like this, we all realize how thin that veneer is and how easily it can be disrupted.

And the Good News is that Kaluanmoo is Cricket fee!

Dock Lines

“Are those dock lines virus proof”. We believe they are, but not as effective as a saltwater barrier.

We are still tied up alongside at Rodney Bay Marina and the good news is that the engine work has been completed successfully. Followers of Kalunamoo know that we spend most of the time at anchor and only come into marinas in order to fly back to the States for visits or, as now, for repairs. But the world has changed in the 2 weeks that we have been here. Most of the East Caribbean Island have implemented either closed entries for non-nationals or implemented quarantine requirements. These have complicated sailing to different ports. We believe our plan to be in Trinidad in June is still viable despite the daily changing circumstances. Living day to day is the modus operandi.  

The new oil cooler is in!

In practice this has crimped everyone’s business as a necessity to get a handle on the whole virus pandemic. We are self-restricting travel ashore to get provisions and an occasional restaurant meal while we continue to ply our “live aboard” lifestyle. Being retired and physically isolated (as needed), the restrictions and requirements are not all that disrupting. Our planned short visit to NYC in May will not happen as the disruptions of daily life ashore multiply. For our children and grandchildren it may not be that simple. The reality of economics will be challenging. Opportunities that seem to be closing now for them will give way to future ones. The best we can wish for them is to not lose faith in their own ability to overcome the challenges they (and we) will face in life. On a very personal level, we have lived a good life and the future is with our children, and our grandchildren and our actions should be directed toward their future.

As many have wrote and said, it is a time of concerted effort by all to address the reality of a pandemic. Each will react differently emotionally, but our actions must be coordinated. In that way, isn’t that what civilization is all about? Coordination of action benefits all while coordination of our emotions leaves us open to the manipulations of the savvy. As the storm clouds appear to gather, we are hopeful that they will pass quickly and we all remain afloat.

Charter boats awaiting the next season.
Restaurants awaitng their next customers.

The resorts in these islands have begun emptying out while the whole tourist season ends prematurely. Not an usual situation in the hurricane belt, but it now is world-wide. The charter sailboats have returned to port, the marina restaurants are sparsely populated, and we sit watching the birds and fish. But we can still go swimming!                         

One of the benefits of being in the marina is the excellent wifi service. This enables free phone calls, internet connections and constant contact with the world. At anchor, we have limited availability but are never totally cut off. So the question is, when do we go back on the hook? With the constantly changing conditions we are not sure. As written above, it is on a day to day basis.


Safe at Sea

As much as we think we are leading an isolated life, a biological virus demonstrates how connected we are to almost everyone on the planet. A previous post – The Nature of Nature – commented on the sometimes at best, inconvenient, sometimes deadly, challenges Nature hands us. Since then the stakes have only grown. Are we really only six degrees of separation from everyone?

St. Lucia, population 165,000, was originally known as Lyonola by the Amerindians and Hewandorra by the Caribs. St. Lucia is the only independent country in the world named after a female saint. It is small, very picturesque, and relied on the tourist service industry for 83% of its GDP. It needs to be connected (as all East Caribbean Islands) for the continued foreign revenue that it relies on. As most of the world, it faces the challenge of isolating and limiting the coronavirus invasion. Isolation is not a permanent solution.

As our good cruising friend Bob wrote on his blog, the safest place to be in a zombie attack is on a boat. Far from shore. Zombies can’t swim. Neither, I understand, can the current virus of concern. In that we take solace, but no one can live in isolation forever, nor would we want to.

Trou Gascon, St.Lucia

Isolation is needed to slow the spread of the infection so that the medical systems are not overwhelmed. There is no greater demonstration of thinking about the “common good” than this. Our strong tradition of honoring individualism is clearly challenged when isolation – the ultimate manifestation of individualism – seems to be problematic to the majority of the population, not to mention the disruption to daily life, long term goals and desired security.

For now, we take note of the recommendations of limited social interactions, wash hands frequently, and avoid panic buying. I still can’t make the connection between toilet paper and the apocalypse. There must be some other stuff that is more important in life than toilet paper but maybe we’ve been at sea too long.

As of today, we are waiting for some engine repairs and are safely docked at the Rodney Bay Marina. Hopefully, we will complete repairs this week and be free to head south. Each day we will need to hear about the conditions in St Vincent, Grenada and Trinidad – specifically entry requirements. We expect there will be constantly changing requirements until the world situation settles. This will take some time, but we think that in the next two or three months that will happen. The lasting effects may take longer to return to “normal”, but we are confident they will. Hopefully the lessons learned will not be for naught.

Swimming Naked

According to the New York Times, the investor Warren Buffett once gave a famous warning: “It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who’s been swimming naked.” Maybe that is why many now seek what Paul Simon sang some time ago, “a time of miracles and wonder”.

Kalunamoo in Rodney Bay Marina

We are in St. Lucia on the dock at Rodney Bay Marina having some engine work done (again!). The work done in Antigua in November worked fine. That concerned the freshwater side of the engine cooling system. The saltwater side of the cooling system now needs attention. This entails cleaning out the oil cooler, heat exchanger, transmission cooling pipe and raw water pump. It sounds more complicated than it is, but it is more a preemptive work than a “fix it” problem. But it does bring up the topic of “being prepared”.

The Volvo TMD31A, heat exchanger low right.

There is no question that I like to swim naked. Literally. No, pictures will not be posted. Although living on a boat makes this eminently possible, the other sense of swimming naked – not being prepared – needs some exploring.  In that sense some people still question our chosen lifestyle. After all, we are in our (very) early ‘70’s and most people of our ilk are seeking the easy life of the sunset years. Living and cruising on a sailboat sailing foreign shores and islands is not exactly a rocking chair on a porch existence. Questions of sanity arise all the time. How are we preparing for the future?

Are we naked to the challenges that exist? We know our limitations and experience has taught us the reality of life on the water. It is not all pretty sunsets, rhum punches and naked swimming. There’s bickering, breakdowns and bailing. We keep our heads above water (mostly) and watch the world turn. We prepare for the predicted winds while a miniscule virus spreads havoc across the globe. We analyze the boat’s diesel engine’s performance, anticipating future problems, while crickets defy extermination. Our political sensibilities are confounded by a tweet.

The advantage of growing old (is there another way?) is that experiences constantly increase. And that is the best preparation of what the future will bring. It is amazing to see how many people buy big new boats and set off to circle the world. Many not having sailed offshore at all. Are they prepared or will they sail naked? Well, they must decide that themselves. They get high marks for initiative but hope they are fast learners. Then there are those who live to prepare for every eventuality and never leave the dock. Sadly, too many succumb to an eventuality not envisioned. They would never swim naked.

So, the question remains, are we prepared? The short answer is yes. The long answer is that life has to be more than being prepared, more than being worried about all eventualities, more than only taking the easy path. Humans have the ability to envision themselves beyond their own existence (as alluded to in the last post) but the Achilles Heel of that is that we can also envision our failure. That vision of failure shouldn’t discourage us in living each day in the best way we can. Can we be more prepared? There is no limit to being “prepared” but panicking never solves anything. Bottom line – wash your hands, enjoy the sunshine and sometimes swim naked.          


Only humans construct structures for Celebrations

Man is the only animal that celebrates. Or needs to. (*apologizes to Mark Twain). The operative word is need. I know of no other animal that holds celebrations. Do dogs, cats, cows, chickens celebrate annual birthdays of their offspring? Some fish, whales and turtles may return to their place of birth to spawn new offspring, but would you really consider that their way of celebrating? Do they celebrate weddings, anniversaries, good food catches? Do they build special places for celebrations. We humans must have an innate need to celebrate.

Cathedral in Fort de France, Martinique

That need, and what we celebrate, defines who we are and where we are in the social structure of our existence. Humans, therefore, look for reasons to celebrate. Every year we all celebrate our birth, the birth of our offspring, the birth of notable strangers, and sometimes the birth of technology’s smart machines. We celebrate the position of the earth in relationship with the heavens every New Years Eve. Some celebrate the sun shining between certain rocks that happens once a year. Some celebrate when the monsoon rains begin or when the crops are ready for harvest or after they are harvested. We celebrate the dates of historic hurricanes, floods, volcanoes, fires, droughts and windstorms. We celebrate weddings. We celebrate people who announce their future wedding. Some celebrate their divorce from their wedding. We celebrate those who announce their future parenthood. We celebrate promotions at work, retirement from work. Many celebrate Fridays at the end of the work week.

We even celebrate death. We mourn for our loss of a loved one, a friend, a companion. But that mourning is our showing of loss, the deceased mourn for no one. We celebrate our time with them as most humans believe they are in a far better place than we are.

How we celebrate is as varied as the reason to celebrate. I don’t need to list all the ways but the beverage, food, travel, hospitality, clothing, banking, insurance and medical industries would collapse if humans did not have a need to celebrate. From what I understand over one third of consumer spending is done in December. I need not say more.

And so it came to pass that we sailed into Fort de France Martinique the week of Carnival. The almost week-long celebration takes place before the Christian season of Lent that begins on Ash Wednesday. Of-course that season ends with the celebration of Easter.

Most of the islands here celebrate at the same time. Trinidad has the biggest, if not the most elaborate, celebration parades during this time. But Carnival also happens at other times during the year on all islands, a bow to the importance of attracting tourist dollars. Here in Martinique, like most islands, carnival is celebrated in most towns and villages. The bigger the town, the bigger the celebration. Fort de France is the capital and largest town, so it has the biggest celebrations.

Many photos of the parades were posted on Facebook and you are invited to take a gander of the revelers. We were there with a few other cruisers we know and had good reasons to celebrate, wear silly hats and masks, indulge in adult beverages, sing loudly and protect our ears form the high decibel drumming and mobile sound trucks. The marchers seemed to enjoy their work, although many were on their cell phones while marching, presumably to their friends in competing groups.

Each day of this Carnival had a different theme and color pallet. The themes had something to do with celebrating new female queens, cross dressing and gender switching, the sugar trade, body art, environmental hazards and even some French political comments. The general theme was to celebrate heartily before the fasting of the Lent season. The last day, Ash Wednesday, saw the fiery death and funeral of the devil, Vaval, and it marked the end of all the merriment. We know Vaval will reappear at some future point as humans have a tendency to revert to merriment.


But do the reasons matter? I think not. As mentioned above, humans have a need to celebrate. It is in our nature and so to celebrate is to be human. Say it is a way of giving thanks, say it is a way to remember, say it is a statement of philosophy. Say what you will, life is the ultimate celebration and maybe that is the driving force to fabricate reasons for those too blind to that idea.

We left Fort de France after Carnival and went to St. Anne. In a few days we head to St. Lucia. Yes, there are a lot of Saints here but I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of Vaval. Let the celebrations continue! 

*Mark Twain actually wrote: “Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to”       

The Nature of Nature

We sailed from the Nature Island of Dominica to the French Island of Martinique in Nature’s strong trade wind hands and seas. Winds 20 to 25 knots with a squall to 35 knots, seas to ten feet, made the passage between the islands a true “salty sailing day”. Why sail in such conditions? Doesn’t the Caribbean offer ideal sailing conditions in warm waters, gentle breezes and frequent rhum beverages? Why did two ceramic mugs fly across the cabin and smash into tiny bits? And what do crickets do for fun?

Well, in regard to the sailing conditions, we do (mostly) wait for the right “weather window” to minimize discomfort and maximize the beverages. But there are times when that window is pretty small, and a sailboat has to do what a sailboat has to do. We climbed into the cockpit at dawn to brave the angry sea. The French Island beckoned and we answered the call.

Dosen’t look too bad from here!

Why did the two mugs fly? Maureen does an excellent job of securing Kalunamoo for sea. Hatches battened down, waterline portlights dogged, keyboard stowed in the v-berth, pillows wedged into the book rack, any loose items stowed away. The cabinet doors have latches but there are times when  Kalunamoo takes a broadside swell and gravity does what the law of gravity demands: Cabinets open and two mugs escape, their demise comes swiftly after a few seconds of freedom. Nature has cruel ways to demonstrate her laws.

About crickets. As mentioned above, Dominica is known as the Nature Island, hiking trails, rainn forests, waterfalls, great diving and snorkeling sites. It is one of the last unspoiled islands in the Eastern Caribbean (although some would argue that French pastries, or rhum, could never spoil an island). But Nature, as mentioned above, is not always kind.

Our good cruising friend Carol apparently contracted Dengue Fever only last week in Dominica after a female mosquito bit her. The history of Westerners, in these islands is a story of man and women against disease. That is mostly tamed now but Carol was laid out for a week and is slowly recovering. But the lesson has been taught: humans are not the only disrupters.

It was, therefore, not too surprising that we saw a cricket aboard Kalunamoo one evening while in Dominica. Anchoring out, very few mosquitos or insects make it out to the boat. The big exception is that they could hitch a ride on our dinghy and hide among the packages or boxes bought from shore. Cardboard is banned from entering inside Kalunamoo. Maureen is good at disposing all cardboard boxes (like cereals and pasta) right at the store as she transfers the contents to plastic containers. But somehow a cricket made it inside. I successfully extinguished it’s life force with my foot and thought that was that. Until Maureen started hearing high pitched chirps. It kept her up at night.

St. Pierre

Unfortunately, I have poor hearing. Especially for high pitched chirps. It is very difficult to track down sounds you can’t hear. We purchased some glue pads that managed to capture 3 crickets, my foot (a few times), my hand, a towel and a carpet. Boy are they sticky! Maureen still heard them, and so more aggressive action was taken. Raid Bug Spray shot to likely nesting spots. On a boat that is many! My only solace is that they cannot swim out to us. A second round of French Bug Spray here in Martinique is underway as I write this.

Of course, Martinique has its own history of Nature’s malfeasance. St. Pierre where the entire population of 30,000 people died in the 1902 eruption of Mt. Pelee. The cathedral pictured below (only its first story survived) lies among old walls and foundations left from the eruption.     

The Nature of Nature is such that survival belongs to the fittest. We are bigger than those crickets so the odds are in our favor. They may be having fun now, but I’m confident we’ll be victorious. If only they were tree frogs I would hear them.        

Dominica With Friends

Dominica with Friends

“Birds of a feather…” The old expression accounting for the tendency of people to gather into flocks and travel together is no less appropriate for cruisers. The winds and seas are the initial focusing force that keeps sailors grouped; we all seek the same traveling conditions going from island to island. These conditions are not constant, and the slight variations yield eddies of opportunity to jump between islands, seek harbors of refuge or respite, or provide inspiration to travel on.

And, so it was when the window to sail south opened for us and the cruisers we knew in Les Saints in Guadeloupe sailed to Dominica. No less than eight boats that we knew ended up in Portsmouth, Dominica, some going north some going south, “…flock together”.

Dominica is one of the least “tourist developed” east Caribbean islands (and poorest in the Eastern Caribbean) and remains a true paradise for those interested in exploring a tropical island. Although we have been here a few times, it is always fun to share familiar places with cruiser friends. The Seven Seas Cruising Association, which we are members of, has a Cruising Station Host here and so we coordinated with them (the Smith’s) to gather our flock of friends for some fun and a road trip tour.

We gathered with our friends and other SSCA members at Smithy’s on a Friday afternoon. Smithy’s is owned by Toni and Jeff Smith. Toni, who is from Trinidad makes great rotis and after lunch we introduced Toni, her husband, Jeff and their two daughters to Mexican Train Dominos as we planned a road trip for the group the next day. One of the highlights of Dominica is the extensive hiking trails. This is something I miss as my hiking days are over, but I can appreciate the short walks to the more accessible interior waterfalls and rain forests. A road trip, with a driver that gives a running commentary about the island, is the next best thing and going with a group of friends is always fun. The Smith’s joined us our little road trip.

We managed to visit  Pointe Baptiste Estate in Calibishie, a chocolate “factory” – a small private home run by Alan Napier. He is the grandson of Elma Napier who immigrated from Scotland, wrote the book White Sand, and was the first woman elected to the Dominica assembly. Like many islands here, Dominica has an abundance of good land and the ability to produce many fruits and vegetables for its population but not nearly enough to be commercially exported. Grenada does exports spices and cocoa beans and has started to process the beans into chocolate. Pointe Baptiste may follow as it is the first chocolate maker in Dominica. It produces, from bean to bar, about a ton of chocolate a year. Needless-to-say, it must be considered “artisanal” but does keep people employed. Since the unemployment rate is 27%  any little bit helps. The chocolate is very good but I think Grenada has the edge.

A visit to the Emerald Pool and a refreshing dip in the cool waters was our next stop. There was plenty of water as the day offered plenty of opportunities to replenish the streams and rivers of the highlands. Well, we did have our bathing suits on!

Lunch and Trafalgar Falls were next. Thanks to the rains, the falls were in full “roar”. No opportunity to bath in the plunge pool but I would suspect that with the volume of water, it would not be that pleasant.

What was pleasant was the last stop a hot sulfur spa and spring. The warm, almost too hot springs are heated by the active volcanoes of the island. Despite being mineral rich, they did not have a strong sulfur smell as was expected. It was a very relaxing end to a day with friends sampling small parts of Dominica. In a few days the winds will dictate where we will sail to, and possible future outings together.

The Little Red Car Tour

By mid-January the strong Trade Winds abated and so we sailed south to Guadeloupe. Guadeloupe is the largest island in the east Caribbean (excluding Trinidad) and has the most varied geography. It is actually two islands “joined together at the hip”. One island is high mountains, the other flat as a pancake. They are joined together by a mangrove swamp with the River Salee running between them. All this leads to different anchorages around the island and varied experiences in each.

Two other cruiser boats that we have know for years, Moya Mreeya and Roxy joined us as we form a small flotilla heading south. We anchored in Malendure (Pigeon Island) to snorkel, Base Terre to see the city (a very rolly anchorage), Porte a Pitre for a land tour, and Les Saints to spend time in the small French seaside villages. Oasis caught up with us in Porte a Pitre and Pandora met us here in Terre-de-Haut in Les Saints. Our own little community of cruisers will be together until the winds, schedules and destinations change. So, it is with cruising here. Paths cross, but unlike ships crossing in the night, sometimes we stick together for a while.

Land tours or road trips through the interior of the islands entails renting a car for a day or two. Sometimes buses can be used but cars give us more flexibility to explore and shop at the same time. The Little Red Car Tour was one such trip from Porte a Pitre.

Roman and Olha were our companions in the car we rented for the tour around the island. Bob, Carol, Lynn and Mark (Oasis and Roxy) rented another car and followed along. The caravan of boats turned into a caravan of cars.

The rental car company only had one car for us, a small red one. Really small, really red. I think is was made in Eastern Europe, had four wheels and air conditioning – all that we needed. Roman was the designated driver of this stick shift, very small, very red car. Gasoline is very expensive in France and so it is here also (this being a Department of France). Therefore, the little red car had a little (color unknown) engine. At least we think it was a car engine. It might have been an outboard motor given the performance.

Upon signing the rental agreement, the very pleasant woman co-owner (spoke understandable English as she spent time in Chicago and San Francisco) read all the conditions and restrictions of the contract. What concerned us was that the car had to be returned “clean”. We could pay 50 Euros in advance or 60 when we returned it to pay for the cleaning. We took the chance not to pay anything and to return the car clean.

The first day we drove around Basse Terre, the mountains island. Road D25 took us over the center of the island where we stopped and took a short hike through the rain forest and another short hike to a waterfall. The lush greenery is always impressive in these forests as is the small waterfalls and plunge pools.

Olha, Lynn, Maureen, Carol… the girls on the Little Red Car Tour

The next stop was something we haven’t been to: the Maison du Café. It was located in the mountains outside of Vieux habitants and was billed as a great coffee museum amid the coffee trees. The narrow, steep and twisting road up the mountains proved a real challenge to the Little Red Car. It had a 5 speed transmission but could have used another gear between neutral and first. In any case all was well until it stalled out on a steep hair pin turn. Roman did a good job keeping it on the road and not falling off the mountain as we rolled backway to let another car pass and to get it going again. A short distance later we came to the end of the road and found no Maison du Café. We learned the place was closed, if there was any there, and so turned around and descended back to town.

The end of the road

After we stopped for lunch at shore side restaurant we were off to the Distillerie Bologne . Hours of operation in these French islands are very flexible. It was after 2PM but since they close at 5PM they were closed anyway. It did have a great view of La Solfrier, the still active volcano on the island.

La Solfrier

We continued back toward Porte a Pitre and made it back to Baie-Manhault and the big shopping mall there. We bought 2 beach chairs for Kalunamoo at Decathlon sporting goods store. They didn’t close until 8PM.

Day two of the Little Red Car Tour took us to Grande Terre, the flat island. The little Red car had a much better time on these more level roads where we made it out to Pointe des Collibrit. The cemetery at Morne-a-L’eau looks like a village of one room houses; although they were all closed and no one walked the streets. The Little Red Car fit right in.

The Distillerie Damoiseau in Bellevue was open although the big steam engine, as well as the rest of the distillery was quiet. The sampling room was open! The sugar cane to make the Rhum Vieux Agricole had another month or so to grow before they started the harvest. I guess you can say the cane fields were closed.

Swimming at St. Anne’s beautiful beach finished our tour before driving back to Port a Pitre. A stop at the large supermarket was made to stock up the boat before leaving. Finally, we stopped at a gas station to fill up and to vacuum and clean out the Little Red Car. The tourist maps that we protected the floor with were removed and disposed. Back at Porte a Pitre we returned the car where it passed the white glove test, just before they closed for the day.

Guadeloupe is a great island to explore. Our long hiking days may be over, but we still enjoy touring around, eating at the different restaurants, swimming at beautiful beaches and sharing adventures with others. Places that close early, close for lunch or are just plain closed, abound but it just adds to the adventure. This Little Red Car Tour was another that has been added to our list.