Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Anguilla - Crew View

New Crew’s View – by Andrew

Shortly after the departure of Don and Lesley from Saint Martin, we ourselves began the day sail to the next destination. The original plan was to sail to Saba, but the wind angle was such that the sail from there to the USVI would be rough on the crew. In addition to this, the first mate and boat monkey were not at all thrilled about the idea of going to a craggy rock with no beaches. After considering these factors, the captain decided to change course to Anguilla, which has “the best all around beaches” according to the travel channel. We planned only to stay the night and then sail to either St. John or St. Croix the next day… so much for that plan. While we were anchoring in Road Bay, William, the sailing instructor from the Anguillan Sailing Association, sailed up to us on a Laser (little racing sailboat, see picture) and introduced himself.

He recognized us from Antigua where we had watched his dinghy for him or something along those lines. In any case he was a nice guy and invited us to go out sailing with him on the Lasers or the Open Bic before his sailing class arrived the following morning.

That night we went into town and saw a reggae band called Hot Shot in what would become our new favorite bar on the island: the Pumphouse, which just sounds like a place to get really good and liquored up. In fact, one of the locals did just so, and went on to another bar down the street. He neglected, however, to bring along his baby daughter, who we found wandering around the parking lot across the street from the Pumphouse at 11:00 pm. Fortunately a local Rasta recognized the baby and after assuring us that Rastafarians “take care of the babies” we left the little girl in his care. Shortly after we began walking back we heard the Rasta start ripping into the father who had come back for his daughter.

True to form, my parents decided that we would revise our schedule, if it could be called that, because of how incredibly friendly the people were to us. This is in contrast to Antigua or St. Kitts where outsiders are not well liked. So we decided to stay another week and a half, during which we rented a car and visited the local bars, resorts, grocery stores, and rum factory. Life on the boat so far is not what most would imagine; we do not spend all our days idly lazing on the beach drinking rum (just some of them).

My shoulders still ache from jerry-canning water in 8 gallon tanks. And to think I almost forgot about my favorite chore: das Schleppen! No, we work for our time in paradise. We spend a lot of time provisioning, doing home school, and keeping our home in ship-shape. This did not stop me from having some fun though… it is my summer vacation after all. When we had free time, we took William up on his offer to go sailing. We all went out and sailed on 420’s, which I race back at UF, while Mom and Dad piled onto a Laser. Mom even got to go swimming too. We also got to go sailing on a Hobe cat that had a trapeze rig, which was a blast in the constantly blowing trade winds.

Phil found a dog on the beach, a stray mutt he aptly named Gypsy.

This dog would follow us around wherever we went and would even wait for us outside of places where she couldn’t go in. One night she followed us to the Pumphouse and found a pair of honeymooners (Phil and Casey) who we then started chatting with, or rather screaming to at the top of our lungs over the music. They were really good people, so Mom and Dad invited them out for a day sail to a nearby islet, Prickly Pear Cay. I’m sure they had a great time, we all did. Dad took everyone out snorkeling while mom and I stayed on the boat, made lunch and talked. We all then proceeded to enjoy rafting in the clear and surprisingly cool water. Following lunch and the exodus of the charter boats in the anchorage, we went to the beach.

It was all very picturesque. The beach was white sand, and had two palm tree surrounded beach bars, which were closed on Mondays. The real fun began when I pointed out to Phil (our Phil) that there were coconuts on these palms. He raced back to the boat to get his knife, so as to procure coconuts for our consumption. We must have looked like cavemen: I stood under the tree with a stick and would beat and club the coconuts until they fell, while Phil climbed the tree and cut them off.

On the way back, we all enjoyed PiƱa Coladas and coconut meat to reward our efforts. The only problem we had was that every time dad barked an order at “young Phil”, “older Phil” would jump thinking the captain was addressing him to pull out the headsail or sheet the main.

They were kind enough to take us out to dinner that night at the Pumphouse. While we ordered, young Phil decided to harangue the waitress with a request for “one original Pumphouse 8 ounce black angus burger with lettuce, and tomato, and caramelized onions, and French fries on the side and ketchup in a smiley face on the bun”. When he did not get the ketchup smiley face, he decided to make a smiley face after dinner on his plate with what he had not eaten. She sent him a separate check, which had a big smiley face on it.

Imagine, going from an institute of higher learning to live with these savages! I don’t even have a real bed, I get a hammock instead. It works well, but rain is a definite issue when you’re sleeping without a roof. Phil decided to try using waterproof camping blankets as a makeshift cover. His seemed to work fine, and so did mine... at first. I got soaked. Water leaked through the blanket (waterproof my ass) and diffused through the cotton in my hammock, leaving me wet on my back and front. After trying to rig mine up several times during the past week and getting wet every night, I decided that I would just have to get used to showering in bed. Yesterday, Phil decided that he didn’t want that, so he rigged up a tarp that encases the hammock, somewhat like a cocoon. I woke up to the sound of rain last night, but did not get wet, not even a drop, and I slept soundly and dryly through the night at last. Tomorrow we leave for Saint Croix, which is about 90-100 miles from Anguilla, making this crossing the longest one I’ve been on this trip, Yeehah!

Captain’s View

Anguilla is a great island and has now become our favorite. We have spent over a week on the hook enjoying the island and its super friendly people. In every aspect the locals are very caring and helpful. I asked about where to rent a car and the customs officials not only told me whom to call, but also picked up the phone and placed the call on my behalf.

We met Julius, a giant of a man standing at 6 foot 11 inches and a hand shake that felt like shaking a bunch of bananas, at the Pumphouse. He pulled Sue and I on to the dance floor and bought us a round of beers to welcome us to the island. What an amazing place.

I made a reservation to have dinner on the beach for Susan and I.

When we arrived for dinner, a beautiful table was set for two, surrounded by tiki torches and fresh picked flower bouquets. It was a nice touch and rounded out a romantic sunset dinner as soft waves lapped at the beach 20 feet from our table . . . an unforgettable evening.

As I am writing this blog entry, Susan just asked me if it is Saturday today. “No, actually its Tuesday. Pretty close” I quipped, “were you early or late?” It’s great to totally loose track of time.

Aguilla is all about the sailing. Local boats that in the 1800's smuggled rum, now race and keep the tradition alive.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Antigua, St. Martin, Saba

We left Falmouth Harbor and went over to Willoughby Bay. After the excitement at Falmouth Harbor it was nice to be the only boat in the huge bay. The guys went out to hunt/fish while I did a few loads of laundry. They returned with conch and we feasted on cracked conch for dinner. We all had forgotten how delicious conch is and how long it takes to clean and prepare it. We were fondly remembering the Bahamas and all of the fresh conch and fish that we caught there. During the evening it began raining and it poured until the next afternoon. This was unusual for us because it normally just rains for a short time and then the sun returns. It rained so much and so hard that the dinghy was filled with water so that Phil could take a bath in it! We collected rain water for cooking and doing dishes. My laundry got rinsed thoroughly by the rain, so much so that I had to re-spin it and rehang it. The benefit is that the boat is really clean! No salt spray anywhere.

We sailed to Jolly Harbour where our friends Ian and Tracy (S/V Loon) and Jim and Janice (S/V Sierra Hotel) were. Loon has been hauled out to be stored for hurricane season. Sierra Hotel (aka. Serious Hangover as Loon calls them or Suddenly Hammered as I call them) was anchored out with us. When we arrived we were excited to see that Sierra Hotel's dinghy was not at their boat meaning that we could finally play a practical joke on them that Loon and Adamo had cooked up the previous week in Falmouth Harbor. Phil dinghied over to Sierra Hotel and left a "ticket" or as they call them here a "fixed penalty" on their door. We basically fined them $1000 payable in 10 days for anchoring under the influence. He was raging mad and went to surrounding boats asking questions. After a couple of hours, Janice took a look at the ticket and saw the signature... Officer Gull Able and realized it was a joke. We got them good! That evening we all gathered for drinks on Sierra Hotel. Jim didn't want to fess up about how he took it hook, line and sinker. Ian couldn't contain himself so after enough drinks the truth finally came out. It was a late evening and we all paid for it the next day, hence our nick names for their boat.

On April 29th we had the Adamo hauled out at Jolly Harbor and set on the hard to have the bottom painted and get some repairs made to the wooden cap-rail. She remained there until May 5th. We continued to live on the boat while she sat in the yard. Those were long hot days and nights with little breeze. The first night on the hard, we had all the hatches open attempting to cool the boat down but the mosquitoes were fierce. By midnight we had been infested by the buzzing, blood-sucking vermin. We closed the hatches, and began hunting the little bastards. It was a bloodbath. Each time you nailed one with the fly swatter on the wall, it left a red splat. When the carnage was over, the interior of the boat looked like we had been in a pain-ball fight. The rest of that night we were almost mosquito free, but it was hot and steamy with the hatches closed. For the duration Doug nicknamed the boat the “Heat Hole”. The next evening, Phillip rigged mosquito nets on all the hatches. The strategy worked. Most of the mosquitoes stayed out while some cool air made it in.

Because the boat was on the hard, the only way of getting on and off was with a 12-foot ladder. This becomes a real pain during midnight runs to the restroom. The on-board head is inoperable when out of the water; so is the fridge, water heater, battery charger, generator etc...

The pace of the work was excruciatingly slow; definitely done on “island time”. And it’s understandable. The first thing you smell in the morning is “the sweet smell of ganja”. The workers wander around the boatyard dazed and in no hurry. The quality of the work leaves something to be desired as well. We spent our time supervising the progress and making sure we were not being gypsied. We had been warned that cans of bottom paint ($260 each) would disappear and the boat owners were getting only one coat of paint when they had paid for two coats. We watched as our cans of paint were open, mixed and applied, and pointed out spots that were missed during the application. We were determined to get a good job done, at the expense of being a pain in everyone’s ass. When the boat when back in the water we were satisfied that the job was done right.

Being back in the water was terrific. No mosquitoes and plenty of wind. Phil celebrated by catching a 50 lbs Tarpon.

Andrew is going to spend the summer with us on his college break. We had a week to kill in Antigua waiting for his arrival, so we sailed around the island to Nonesuch Bay. The bay is very calm since it is protected by a coral reef that protrudes from the ocean to block the waves. Yet, because it is located on the eastern end of the island, the trade winds blow without obstruction. It is a popular place for windsurfing and kite sailing. The boys took the opportunity to sail the Open Bic and explore the pristine beaches while Susan and I headed for Harmony Hall, an Italian restaurant/bar/art gallery located in an 18th century windmill overlooking the bay.

On the sail to Nonesuch Bay, Phil hooked a monster mahi mahi. He fought it to the boat. I was surprised his arms did not give out, but he was determined. The question was: what do you do next? There’s not a good place to put an almost 5 foot long fish that had plenty of fight left in him. We decided to gaff him and put him on the aft deck and try to subdue him with a couple of beach towels. Once on deck, he began thrashing. Phil almost got stabbed by the gaff while I got bit in the stomach (well more of a nick than a bite). Next thing we know is the fish is back in the water. Fortunately the hook was still in his mouth, so we gaffed him again and hauled him back on deck to try to subdue him a second time. This go around we tied a strap around his tail to help hold him down. We were successful. By the time the battle was over we had sailed nearly halfway to Guadeloupe! The fish fed us for 3 days. We also have concocted a new strategy for handling the next monster fish. A collapsing 40 gallon trashcan we have on board will give us a place to stuff the fish and keep him from getting back in the water.

While we were waiting for Andrew to come, the boys decided to build sail boats out of paint sticks, foam plates, fishing weights, sail scraps and other supplies they could find on board. Then they raced the boats against each other, tweaking them until they actually started working. Phil claimed to be the winner. After the races were over, they put the name of our boat and the blog site address and set them free in the Caribbean Sea, like a message in a bottle. It would be interesting to get a response and see how far they were able to sail.

When Andrew arrived we picked him up in Jolly Harbor. We spent one night in the marina catching up on laundry and cleaning the boat from the haul-out and giving the varnish a new top-coat. Being at a dock was a treat especially when we turned on the AC. In the harbor the air was still and the mosquitoes…well you know that story. Andrew arrived in the evening with flowing golden locks and a tan. He fit right in with our motley crew. In the morning we all went to the grocery store to provision. We filled two carts in hopes of being able to feed three teenagers for a couple of weeks! Then it was off to St. Barth to show him our favorite island which we have discovered so far.

We anchored outside the harbor in St. Barth. As usual it was very rolly. So after a poor night’s rest we moved into the harbor and anchored stern to the wall as is customary down here. We were constantly moving but it was not as bad as the rolling motion. Voila!

St. Barth was hopping with action this visit. There was a transatlantic sailing race due to finish the day we arrived. The racing boats were late by two days, so the partying went on without them. The water front was full of booths selling local artwork and a bandstand had been erected with live music that went on until the wee hours of the morning.

We cut our trip to St. Barth short because we wanted to make it back to St. Martin to meet up with our very good friends Don and Leslie. They were our neighbors when we first moved to Florida in 1992 and used to baby-sit for the boys when they were toddlers. Don and Leslie have been coming to St. Martin every year for 30 years!

We departed St. Barth at 10:00am on the 11th of May and began sailing North. On the way we stopped at Ils de Fourche for lunch and to explore the island with Andrew. After lunch it was back to business. We arrived at Mullet Bay at around 5pm.

When we saw waving arms on the beach and in the water we knew we had found our friends. We spent the next several days hanging out on the beach with them. Being a French and Dutch island, many of the women on the beach go topless. Needless to say, the boys enjoyed the “eye candy”, especially Phillip.

On our last day at the beach, there we unusually large swells, producing huge crashing waves on the beach. We all took turns riding the waves on inflatable rafts.

Mid week, we took a day sailing trip to Saba, a very small volcanic island about 24 miles from St. Martin.

The island is inhabited and has about 600 homes built into the volcanic mountain. Just like Nevis and St. Kitts a permanent cloud hovers over the peak of the island.

After sailing 50 miles, Don and Leslie were glad to be back on terra-firma.

May 14th was Susan and my 20th wedding anniversary and Doug’s 17th birthday. Don and Leslie were celebrating their 40th anniversary. We celebrated the special occasion with dinner at Pineapple Pete’s.

A few days later we said our good-byes and were off to Great Bay to refill on water and take on diesel. Last time we were in Great Bay, we were waiting out a blow, 35 knot winds. This time, the wind has died, so we are waiting on its return.