Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A visit from Omi and Opa - First Mate's View

We had a wonderful visit with Omi and Opa here in Chaguaramas Bay. The Crews Inn was the perfect hotel for them located just across the bay from our slip. They seemed to have brought the good weather with them, too. It was cooler, breezy, less humid, and it actually stopped raining for a whole day! The hotel has a large pool over looking the marina; and it is nicely landscaped. We spent one afternoon sitting by the pool while Phillip cut open coconuts to keep himself entertained.

In the mornings and evenings flocks of yellow napped amazon parrots fly over the marina squalking incessantly as they pass by.

We went to the local restaurants which was a big treat for us (thank you Omi and Opa!). The cuisine was remarkably good and quite varied as is the culture here in Trinidad. The country is a mix of Europeans, Blacks, Indians and Orientals. The cooking is a blend from each culture with a flare of tropical infusion. I have to say that we have discovered another favorite drink. The restaurant at Crews Inn makes unbelievable passion fruit martinis!

We spent time on the boat, too, motoring to a nearby cove for the day. Omi was a little apprehensive about going out on a sail boat. She was concerned that it would lean over too much for her. When we returned back to the dock at the end of the day, she said it was too bad the day was over, she was having a great time. Perhaps she's another sailor in the making.

We spent much of that day talking and cracking jokes.

Phillip took Opa fishing one morning and they were successful in bringing home fish for brunch.

One of the types of fish they caught was a hound fish. It's a long thin fish with a pointed toothy bill. They can grow up to four feet in length and are edible. When Mike cooked the hound fish we noticed that the bones were blue. We started to question whether we should eat them or not. Phil checked the saltwater fishing book again to make sure, then we took a bite. Turns out that it is a very mild tasting fish with a firm texture similar to sea bass. The "boys" were delighted with their catch!

Opa also volunteered to go fishing with him again, however, as soon as they left in the dingy the rain rolled in and soaked them to their underwear! It was a deluge! Of course we took pictures to document it all.

Yesterday, Mike went to see a Methanol production plant with his parents while the boys and I hung out at the boat catching up on some chores and watching a movie. It is so nice to be in port with air-conditioning and unlimited water! I can't seem to stress that enough, I know.

After Omi and Opa left this morning we sanded and varnished the toe rail. Yes, we are still messing with the blasted toe rail because the oil just wasn't working so well. We sail too much to keep the oil looking fresh that way. The continuous saltwater wash downs take the oil right off of the wood, so it is back to varnishing. Chores...they are never-ending!

We only have a few more days with the boys before they go back for school. I sure am going to miss them! It will be strange to only have Phillip around, but I am positive that we will not be bored!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

On the Hard by the First Mate

We hauled the boat out of the water on Monday because we had water coming into the boat via the prop shaft. So Mike ordered the seal from Denmark thinking that this was the problem. You can’t know until you pull the propeller and shaft to check it out which means an expensive haul out. Anyone who has experienced a haul out knows that it is not only expensive but also a very tense time; after all, you are taking your 60 thousand pound boat, or in our case our home, and suspending it in the air with two straps while being at the mercy of the lift operator with whom you must place all trust. This entails getting the straps into the correct position and placing 4x4 blocks under the rub rail to prevent them from breaking off and making sure that the straps are not over the small window under the boat as well as placing them so that the boat will be steady and not slide and crash to the ground.

Now, in the USA once the straps have been set, the crew must leave the vessel for obvious reasons. Here in Trinidad as well in Antigua the crew stays on the vessel and gets a topside view as the lift cruises through the yard. Once they find your spot they place struts to hold the boat upright. It always amazes me that eight stands can hold a boat upright. Finally they give you a 12 foot ladder so that you can get on and off the boat.

At this juncture everyone is a little testy. It is very hot here as I have stressed before. Being on the hard means that we have limited power (battery power which has to last throughout our stay) and we can’t open the fridge because it must stay cold for the duration of our stay without being able to re-cool it. Everyone is parched and anxious about the work ahead. Mike becomes a maniac mechanic so that we can get back in the water ASAP. Being in the yard is difficult because it is very dirty and dusty and when it rains muddy. So without a hose to wash things down we have to be careful to keep the dirt to a minimum on the boat. Personally my favorite part of being in the yard is climbing up and down the 12 foot ladder or perhaps the intense heat in the boat, or wait, it could be the mosquitoes. I just can’t decide due to delirium.

Mike began having problems almost immediately. This job was not going to be easy because to get to the seal you have to either take apart the prop (not really a great option) or drop the rudder. So the pounding began to try to remove the foot. It took two days…and guess what? In the end the rubber seal was still in good condition. The real problem was the packing; it had disintegrated inside the packing gland. Fortunately, they carry the correct sized packing here whereas we couldn’t get that in the US which is most likely why this happened in the first place. Now that we had taken apart the boat both inside and out (the access to the shaft is under the floorboards and under our bunk) we had to put everything back together. Since we had every tool that we have aboard out, the carpets and floorboards removed, mosquito nets, tarps and bedding on deck, incredibly smelly laundry piled high, cluttered counters, gritty floors from the dust, and a cranky crew, we had our work cut out for us to be able to get it together so that we could be put back in the water. First you have to get on the schedule for the lift which is a feat in itself. So Mike went to the office to be put on the list. He returned almost running to the boat and said, “We have a half hour or we will not go in today.” Well, you should see how one sentence like that can motivate the crew. Staying in the “heat hole” for one more night was not an option! Mobilized we divvied up the tasks and went to work. Phil and I painted the foot and places that had been missed in our last haul out. Mike finished putting things together inside while Doug cleaned everything off the top deck and ran to get tools that Mike hollered for. Andrew was sent on an errand to find a screw that was stripped… Mike was replacing the last screw when the lift arrived. The boat was still a wreck, but that could be taken care of when we got in a slip with electricity, air-conditioning and water.

It was a good thing that we hurried to be put in the water because we were the only one’s to be moved that day. They had to” work” on the lift. (A comforting thought after being suspended 20 feet in the air before the “work” was done.)

We are now comfortably in a slip and our view isn't too shabby either:

Air-conditioning is on. Laundry is going. Cabin is cleaned. Deck is washed. Counters are cleared. Life is GOOD! Only a couple of chores left and just in the nick of time for Omi and Opa’s visit.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Trinidad- Sue's View

After a working "holiday" if you could call it that in both Florida and South Carolina, I flew into Port Of Spain. I owe Damon and Melanie big because they endured picking me up at 3am and taking me for my return flight also at 3 am. They are REAL FRIENDS!! I spent a lot of my time in their home and even gave them what we called the Puerto Rican flu or funk. I was surprised that they let me return again for my return flight out of Orlando. My Mom and I spent "quality" time together cleaning the filthy mess that the renters left in our house. She also saved our cat Blackie Chan from the gas chamber and in doing so she now has two cats. Doug is thrilled and promises to take care of them. So I owe Mom and Daddy Eddie big, too! Seems like we owe everyone because it "takes a village" to help the homeless vagabonds. So thank you everyone. We will be forever in your debt! I also owe a big thank you to Rosanne and Wes, Ben Jansen's parents. My mom and I stayed at their house for a weekend. It was so much nicer to stay with friends than to camp out in a hotel room! While I am thanking everyone I want to thank Heidi and Kevin, (Doug's other parents), and Pat (another Jansen kid) for all of their help! We miss ya'll!

When I arrived here I was worried about clearing customs because I had all of Mike's medication with me. I also had a 64 pound box of books for Phillip's homeschooling. They were only interested in the box. So once again I got to empty all of its contents for inspection. Apparently they were looking for boat parts. So I passed. It was much easier than my St. Croix experience.

I arrived to a sparkling clean boat, a bottle of red wine and a banner welcoming me back. I think the crew missed me!

I missed them, too. I had forgotten how loud we are since I have been in homes with no kids!
It was raining and the rain continued for a week. In fact there has been only one mostly sunny day. I should not complain. It is hot here and without the rain it is really hot here, like hotter than hades. I know how hot it is because the boat is on the hard. It is 95 degrees in the cabin and the mosquitoes have had plenty of water to breed in since it is rainy season here. The fan I bought in West Marine on my trip home is a god send. It pushes the hot sticky air all over the cabin which helps, well sort of.

Mike and the boys are busy trying to fix the boat and I am here in the air conditioned Internet cafe. I haven't seen Mike this grubby in a long time. The boatyard is very dirty. I will have a lot of laundry to do when the job is done.

Meanwhile we did get invited to a pot luck. We met up with some boaters that we had sailed with on our trek down island. We also met several new people which was fun.

We are planning a trip up the Orinoco River in Venezuela where the people have limited contact with outsiders. The wildlife is supposed to be incredible, too. We have to find others who also want to go because it is so remote that if you do run into problems there will be someone there to help. We have to shop for supplies to trade with them. Phillip can't wait. They also do not speak English and speak only a little Spanish if any. So we have a list of Indian words to try to communicate with them. It will be an awesome experience. Unfortunately, the older boys will not be with us as they are flying home August 2nd. We will try to be as descriptive as Andrew in our writing!

We are hoping to have the boat repaired before Mike's parents come in on Thursday. Hopefully it will not be as rainy as well!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Trinidad - Crew's View by Andrew

Our arrival in Trinidad was spectacular. It did rain a bit before we arrived, and the water was green because of the outflow of the Orinoco River. Nevertheless, it was a sight I will never forget. The entire hillside was green.

There were no gaps in the verdure covering the slopes, not even on the vertical cliff faces. Vines hung down all around the rocks, covering them as if by a veil of green fibers. There were small beaches fringing the cliffs, and where areas were there were no beaches, the water had carved small caverns. It was very wild seeming, and tropical to boot. We could see, off in the distance, the mountains of Venezuela. All in all it was quite a spectacle. When we rounded the point into the bay, we saw what appeared to be an endless sea of white masts both in the water on moorings and docks, and out of the water on the hard. There was a place where large barges could be hauled out, and many more where a boat such as ours could be taken care of. There were just a couple of small problems: there were no open mooring buoys, and we needed to clear customs. We ran into an English couple with whom my family is acquainted, Peter and Wendy on Keesje II. They were flabbergasted that we had turned around and headed south, and were thrilled to see us again. We decided that it would be best to find the people that owned the buoys, so we pulled up to a dock to ask for some direction to the owner of the buoys.
This was where the real fun began… As we pulled up to the dock, a worker came outside to greet us. Phil hopped onto the dock to catch lines. Dad proceeded to interrogate the worker, “Can you tell us who owns these mooring balls out in the bay?” The response was a half-mumbled, half-stuttered, half-assed, incomprehensible statement. Dad asked for clarification several times before he finally was able to get a clear answer. We went to the customs dock, where dad cleared us in, Phil and I searched for the owner of the moorings, and Doug put on the sail covers. As we all did our duties, the Adamo was being scratched by an errant bolt sticking out of the fender, damaging the BRAND NEW paint job on the rub-rail. Dad was highly pissed about that, so he complained to the front desk. In the end, we stayed the night at the dock, without water or electricity, but we had full access to all of the hotel’s amenities (yes, a hotel owned the customs dock), including a pool, a gym, and washrooms. I never did get to use the gym… but Phil and I did use the pool and the washrooms, it was nice to bathe in fresh water again. After that we went out for a couple of beers with Peter and Wendy, then returned to the boat and ordered pizza. At UF, most of my sustenance consisted of pizza, but on the Adamo, I hadn’t eaten pizza in months.
The next day came bright and early. By 11:00 am we had to be moved to another dock, so dad gave me the job of finding dockage rates at all of the marinas in this bay, the rates for haul-outs, and a place to get some canvas work done. As Phil drove me around on the dinghy it rained without letup. We moved to a dock where the rate is $16 US, per day, with electricity and water included for free. When dad saw the rates, he told the crew to immediately mobilize; this was the place for us. We had to moor up to the dock stern-to, which was a ton of fun. Today was spent at the boat. We watched Forrest Gump, I put waterproofing on the canvas, and I worked for the first time since St. Croix. Dad went and got a rental car, and the plan was to go into town and get dinner. Before we left, though, the dock master told my dad that we could grab a couple of beers for ourselves on him because it was his birthday. I had half a beer left, so the two beers were for dad and Doug. The beer was in a cooler inside of a small office. Actually, it was a large shipping container that had a partition built into it. The room formed by this was the office/party room. Dad opened up the door and smoke came billowing out; do I detect the sweet smell? Dad grabbed two beers and jokingly told the guys in the jam packed room, “Hey, it smells nice in here.” They thought that it was funny; we all did. As we headed to the car, dad handed Doug the beer. I watched him as he took a sip; the expression on his face was priceless. I got the feeling as though it was not to his liking, because he gave the beer to me and said, “Here, you can have this. I don’t want it.”
When we got to town, we saw a fast food place called Wok and Roll. I told dad, who then immediately told us that tonight we were going to eat Chinese food. I can’t even remember the last time I had Chinese. The service was extraordinarily slow, or so it seemed since I was hungry. The meal I ordered, Mongolian beef, was spicy as hell; I was sweating and I could feel the heat in my ears. $164.00 for dinner, and I could only manage to eat half of it. Relax; it was TT dollars (Trinidad and Tobago’s currency). It really isn’t worth much; it’s like monopoly money and has and exchange rate of $6.00TT to $1.00US. Everything here is cheap, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m still hungry, because I only had a chicken spring roll and half of the beef. Tough shit, I guess. Right now we are about to watch “Beavis and Butthead Do America” and relax; we have a big day ahead of us tomorrow. Dad says that we are going to get up early and go explore the island. I love a good adventure.
Exploring is undoubtedly one of the best parts of island hopping, and one can get a much better feel for the island by straying off the beaten path and getting a bit lost. We began the day at 6:30 am, just after sunrise. We breakfasted on bacon and eggs; it was a hearty breakfast and we would doubtlessly need the energy for a day like this. For starters, our ride of choice was an old, beat to hell Nissan; a typical, small, piece of shit rental car. Before the trip even began, before we even got in the car, Doug said, “I would not be surprised if the bumper fell of while we were driving. This thing looks like crap.” Phil, the gypsy, was riding shotgun when we left. Before the day was over, we would all have our turn, but in the meantime it looked funny; the two big kids crammed in the back and the 14 year old in the front with dad. I still can’t get over the fact that most of the islands down here drive on the left side of the road, but even more bizarre is the fact that some of the cars have the driver’s side on the right.
So we set off, our goal being to find the road that runs along the north coast. The roads here, as we soon discovered, do not have adequate signage, and it is nearly impossible, unless you have lived here for a while, to know at any time exactly just where in the hell you are. Furthermore, as we also found out, the map that we were given with the rental car did not have the correct street names on it, further complicating matters of navigation. At one point, we turned off onto a small side-street, thinking that perhaps it led to where we wanted to go. Instead, we found a neighborhood of pastel-colored shanties with corrugated metal used in roofs and fences. The roads were fairly steep, and incredibly narrow. We passed by a group of people sitting outside of a shanty on the side of the road on the way up the hill, and they seemed surprised to see us, a group of white people with blonde hair and blue eyes. After reaching a dead end, having to go in reverse down a hill with a 50 degree slope, and go back the way we came, a member of that very group stopped us as we drove by. “What’s the word?” he asked. “We’re just driving around.” “Man, you don’t go drivin round in des holes. You jus can’t drive round here like dat. You jus go back da way ya came. Even if ya Phat, ya don’t come drivin tru des holes. Da niggas here is grimy. An ya don’t stop fa nobody here.” I came so close to just laughing at him. Who the hell did he think he was; he certainly didn’t scare me, because after a few days of not showering, I was feeling pretty “grimy” myself. He had an attitude, was full of shit, probably wanted to impress his buddies, and was definitely just trying to scare the white people. I’ve been in scarier places than that before. Dad just told him whatever and we continued our explorations.
We found what appeared to be a major road heading north to the coast, so we followed it a ways and discovered, after talking to a local, that it did not lead to the coast, but to a waterfall instead. The situation was a comedy of errors. In order to get there, however, we had to drive through a small creek. The bridge had collapsed, so now the road simply ran through the water. The bottom was rocky, and it was only a few inches deep, but we could all hear the car bottoming out as we drove. The path was not paved, and diverged into a flat, grassy road, and a sloped road made of large, loose rocks. We chose the grassy road, but found that it dead ended at a house; no waterfall today boys!

There was a concrete ditch by the side of the “road” for drainage, and as we backed of the driveway of the house, dad drove the right front wheel into it. It was almost the exact width of the wheel, and as he tried to get out of it, the back wheel also got stuck. Dad turned to the right and hit the gas, moving the front tire out of the rut, then hit the reverse, moving the back tire out as well. He was now straddling the trench, and before he had a chance to do anything else, we suddenly heard a loud “Psssssssssssssssst” and watched the front right side of the car lower. A sharp stump hidden in the knee high grass had cut though the wall of the tire. Shit. Now we had a problem. Dad decided that to prevent further damage to the car, it would be a good idea to put a stone in the trench to prop up the right front wheel as he backed up. As he backed over the rock, the wheel made it just fine. Unfortunately, the bumper didn’t. The bumper got caught on the stone and fell off but for a couple of screws on the far left side. The right side was now being dragged on the road. We scrambled to tell dad to stop the car, lest the bumper be removed entirely. When we informed dad that the bumper was dragging on the ground, he only replied by saying, “No f…ing way. You guys are shitting me right? Damn it!” He hopped out of the car, took a look at the bumper, and then pushed it back up into place. “Hmm, this isn’t the first time that this has happened to this car.” I don’t know how he could tell, but I believe him, this car was a piece of shit, and it was no surprise that something like this would happen.

While dad hooked up the bumper and replaced the flat, and after finding Phil’s sunglasses he had lost somewhere in the jungle brush, Phil and I walked up the steep gravel road in search of the waterfall. We didn’t reach it. We got tired of walking and turned around. We departed and were just about to cross the small brook when dad told me to wash off the flat tire that was now in the trunk. After rinsing the mud off of the tire, and securely replacing the tire, an SUV with large letters saying “POLICE” drove up. Two officers hopped out and immediately asked us to open our trunk. I suppose they thought we had a body in the trunk or something after seeing me close the trunk. We explained that we had just put a flat tire in the trunk, and after opening it and pushing on the tire to see that it was indeed flat, they asked to see Dad’s license and asked further questions.

Finally, they returned to their vehicle and went on their way; and I half expected them to shake us down for money.
We decided not to drive across this bridge, though there actually were tire tracks across it. Yes, those are tires filled with concrete acting as the pillars.

We spent the next thirty or so minutes driving in circles on and off the highway looking for the road that would take us to the north coast. We finally found it, but it had an altogether different name from that on the map. We followed the road into the mountains, and things began to get interesting. The road changed from asphalt to groomed concrete and became much narrower. The road also began to wind much more than earlier; the guardrail disappeared entirely. On top of this, the slope became dramatically increased, to the point where the car could just barely make it over the hills, and we could feel the transmission beginning to conch out; it was heating up to the point where we could feel the forward drive gear engaging by a jerking motion. We followed the road for quite a while, ascending into the mountains on what seemed like an insurmountable trail. We eventually reached a fork in the road, right in the middle of a samll town, and figured this would be a great place to go to the restroom, grab a Stag (local beer), and ask for directions. After doing all of these things, and after a few strange looks from the locals, we continued slowly on our way.

Driving on these hills was made only more interesting when we would encounter another car moving downhill, which usually occurred while turning a corner with a grade of 60 degrees. Just when I was beginning to think that we would forever be following the snakelike road, the car inched its way over the last turn and roared up onto the top of the mountain. Dad had to floor it to get over the hump. The car was barely moving until Dad turned of the A/C. The extra couple of horse power got us over the hill. Doug kept saying his Jeep would have been the perfect car for this ride. When we finally did reach the top, the view was incredible. There were sheer drop-offs on either side of the road, which followed the ridge on top of the mountains, and not a single guardrail in sight.
As we drove, we ran into another fork in the road. We decided to take the uphill route and discovered much to our chagrin, that it became a dead end. There was a grassy knoll here, with benches and a sign saying: Beach Trail – Length 8500 feet.
We walked a ways down the trail, though not to the beach, and took some pictures. Phil saw some ants carrying leaves, and I explained that these were leafcutter ants. The ants carry the leaf bits to their nest, where they use them as a fertilizer. They cultivate a mold that grows on the rotting leaves, and it is this mold from which they draw their subsistence.
After the hike, we returned to the car and took the other side of the fork. It took us to the North Coast road, which was much more modern, less steep, and less winding. Finally, we had reached our road. We stopped at a rest stop and bought some foods from a vendor there. I didn’t like any of it. Fortunately, we did stop for lunch a bit further down the road.
It was a small burger shack perched on a hill overlooking a postcard worthy beach packed with people and palm trees. Burgers cost $10 TT, which equals $1.67 US; damn, the exchange rate is good! After eating burgers and some of the local specialty “bake and shark”, Phil climbed the mango tree out front of the place. Then we headed back to the boat and called it a day.

Mom flew in yesterday, and boy was dad eager to get to the airport. On our way we looked for a gas station and found, after 20 minutes of fruitless searching, that there were surprisingly few on the main roads. When we finally did find one, we were greeted by a few surprises. First off, the car only held 7 or 8 gallons of gas; in fact, I’m surprised we didn’t run out the previous day. We asked the attendant to put in 7 gallons, and almost filled up the entire tank from 1/8 of a tank. In fact we had to ask him to stop. The bigger surprise came when we asked the attendant how much it would cost us: “That will be 36 dollars.” Dad asked, “US or TT?” The biggest surprise was the flat response, “TT dollars, of course.” Wow, that basically meant that gas here costs approximately $1.00 US per gallon. I suppose when one considers the fact that Trinidad is an oil producing nation, and is fairly close to Venezuela both in terms of geography and economy (i.e. lots of trade), it isn’t so shocking. But still… one dollar per gallon; when was the last time we had a price like that in the states?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dominica Cookout and Sailing South

We had planned to spend just a day in Dominica in our rush to get down to Trinidad, then we met up with Otis and Jenny from Independence. Our plans changed. They had invited us to a beach cookout the following day. With the beauty of the island and an invitation to dinner, it was just too hard to leave.

We also met the crew from Lady Franchesca who attended the cookout as well. It turned out that the cookout was in a beach front restaurant. One of the locals, Bogart, organized and cooked while the rest of us enjoyed his rum punch drinks.

One of the rasta guys we met lives in a tree. Talk about no expenses.

The morning after the cookout, we sailed 20 miles south to the Southern Tip of Dominica. We moored up and were invited to shore for the village's celebration of Fisherman's Day.

One of the bars was selling fried ballyhoo, head and all. Not to shy away from local foods, we order one and ate it. The boys thought it was gross. I thought it tasted like smelt and wasn't too bad. In any case, we were eating bait!

From the Southern tip of Dominica we planned to head to Martinique. As it turned out, the wind and waves were ideal for heading south so we sailed 3 days and 2 nights until we reached Trinidad. The boys were fantastic on the trip. We all took turns with night watches. Phillip cooked whenever we were on the lee side of an island because there were no waves.

We worked our way past Martinique, then St. Lucia, St. Vincent, the Grenadines, Grenada, Tobago and finally to Trinidad. 340 miles.

340 miles leaves a lot of time on you hands. Phil and I were picking coco seeds from a coco fruit and laid them in the sun to dry. Then they have to be roasted and ground up. After all of that, you end up with pure chocolate powder.

Andrew was chilling on the back deck.

Entering Port of Spain in Trinidad is a little tricky, due to the current from a Venezuelan river spilling into the Caribbean Sea. The water is a greenish-brown due to the river. The island is lush and green.

When we finally hit Port of Spain we were knackered (British for "damned tired"), but thrilled to have made it to South America. We saw Peter and Wendy on Keesje II. They could not believe their eyeballs when they saw us enter the anchorage. The last time we spoke with them, we were heading North. We had a beer together and swapped stories. Then it was off to bed!

Side notes:

We were surprised at the number of sailboats down here. This scene goes on 4 times longer than what is pictured below.

We miss MaMa and are glad that she will be joining us again on Sunday! Three weeks is much too long when you are used to being together 24/7.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


After a hearty eggs and toast breakfast, we pulled anchor and headed for Dominica, an independent country with 71,000 residents. Most of the island is tropical rain forest dotted with small villages on the coast and among the mountainous terrain. For the first time since our turn-around from our previous turn-around, i.e. heading south again, we had the pleasure of sailing beam reach in calm seas on a beautiful sunny day. Only 10 miles from the Saints, Dominica loomed large with it’s over 4000 foot mountain peaks.

We had heard that our friends on the catamaran Independence were in Dominica. As we rounded the point of the bay in Portsmouth, we saw them anchored in the calm waters along the edge of the national forest. It felt good to be back among the cruisers.

Dominica is known for its “boat boys”, men who paddle out to greet you and sell local fruits, arrange tours and collect your garbage. As soon as we had dropped anchor, Aluicious paddled up and offered us some passion fruit and avocados. He also informed us that the weekly market would be open the next morning at 5:00 a.m. and to get there early before the locals bought all the good stuff. Phil and I could not resist.

We arrived at 5:00 in the morning, and the vendors were already all set up. The produce selection was remarkable as were the prices: 6 star fruits 75 cents, avocados 15 cents, passion fruit 6 for 75 cents, fresh cut ripe pineapples $1.50. Phil and I loaded up on fruits and veggies and headed back to the boat for a small breakfast feast.

After breakfast, the boys and I headed for the rain forest. We followed a road out of town, then climbed a steep rocky road up the mountain into the forest.

Banana and pineapple farms were nested among the thick jungle. We wanted to see more and we cut through several banana fields heading deeper into the woods. I think we startled a local farmer as we traipsed along the edge of his field. He wanted to know if we were lost and needed a guide. I explained that we just wanted to explore on our own and asked if it would be okay for us to proceed along the edge of his field. “No problem, just don’t get lost.” With that we walked deeper into the woods.

We came upon a valley with an incline so steep we had to hold on from tree to tree to make our way down. As we descended, the babbling of a mountain stream become louder and clearer. Now we had found something cool. When we reached the stream, we found ancient cypress trees with buttressed walls of roots straddling the stream. It’s not every day you get excited about a tree, but even the boys were dully impressed.

Following the stream back to the village seamed to be a good idea at first. We gingerly made our way down the valley following the banks of our brook. We paused for a photo. Phil was about to start heading down when I saw a large boa constrictor about 3 feet ahead of him coiled up in a sunny spot on the bank. Phil flipped out: “I almost stepped on that thing.” We took a long stick, a very long stick and poked at it. He struck at the stick with a huge wide-open mouth, then slithered away into the under brush.

This seemed like a good time to change our plan. We would return back up the hill rather than follow the snake down the river. Going up that hill was a challenge, but no-one complained. We were all happy to be getting way from that snake.

Back at the banana farm, we told the famer, Philistine, about our encounter. He belly laughed and said he knew they were out there, but he didn’t want to keep us from our ”mission.” We all got a chuckle out of it.

On the way back to the boat we headed down the gravel road and found a mango tree and wild sugar cane growing along the side. We stocked up on them both and headed back triumphantly to the Adamo.

Friday, July 4, 2008

On the Move - Captains View

Andrew had mentioned to me several times that “we just need to get out of here” as we walked the mile to the local grocery store again. The crew had spent a month in St. Croix and they were ready to move on. Susan is still back in the US, so the boys and I concocted a plan to sail south as quickly as possible. The idea was to head to the Grenadines skirting the coast of the lesser Antilles on our way.

We departed St. Croix at 9:00 a.m. on July 1st and set our course on St. Kitts. Incredibly, the wind was from the East North East. We motor sailed all day heading due east. As night fall came upon us, we shut the engine down and turned slightly to the south so we could sail the rest of the night. The silence that followed a day of the diesel engine droning on was a welcome relief.

Andrew took the helm from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. My shift was from 12 to 1 a.m. Doug’s from 1 to 2. Then Andrew again from 2 to 3. Phil from 3 to 4. I took the helm at 4 a.m. for the rest of the night.

Up until 4 a.m. the winds were definitely in our favor at 23knts. I was surprised at our progress so far. Then at 4 the wind just died. The Adamo will not sail to weather in light winds. We had no choice but to fall off. Now we were heading due south, which was actually taking us further from shore. My concern was that if we got far enough out into the middle of the Caribbean Sea, the waves can build to a point where you just can’t head east anymore. With a tropical storm on the way from Africa, I most definitely did not want to get caught out in the middle of now where and no opportunity to ditch to an island for safety.

So, much to my chagrin, we restarted the engine and motor sailed east again. As the engine droned on, we set our course for Montserrat. We could see the island and it’s active volcano in the distance, but the current and the sea state made our progress painfully slow.

As we approached, the waves were coming from two directions at 90 degrees to each other. No matter which way we steered the boat, we were heading directly into oncoming waves with other waves hitting us from the side. Most uncomfortable.

When we finally made it to a spot to anchor up, there was a mooring ball with our name on it. We hooked up and the first thing out of Phil’s mouth was: “lets go diving!” So we did. An hour later we were having fresh caught ray-fingers for dinner.

I went to bed. Doug worked on his last bit of home school for the year until 12 a.m. He just wanted it to be over with. At 5:00 a.m. I fixed scramble eggs for breakfast for everyone and we were off. A quick check of the weather from our satellite system said: expect 14 to 19knts of wind. So we left with an un-reefed main sail. As we rounded the tip of Montserrat, a huge cloud from came upon us. Winds kicked up to 35knts. It was raining so hard the canvas could not keep us dry.

At the first lull in the wind, Andrew and I were on deck double reefing the main. As the wind kicked back up we were ready. The remainder of the day the winds blew between 25 to 30 and we were booking it at over 8mph into the current.

We did not reach the Saints, located just south of Guadeloupe, before night fall. Everyone aboard was dreading the upcoming unpleasantness: “anchoring in the dark.” The first anchorage was too tight. Twenty minutes later we dropped anchor in spot number two. The new chain got stuck in the locker. Phil wrestled that one free. The anchor was down, but would not hold. Then the new chain got stuck in the windlass; still needs tweaking before it will work right. The Boys pulled up the anchor by hand. Of course, it’s deep here so we had let out all 200 feet of chain. We headed to anchorage number three. Boats were all around, some with lights some without. "Great we get to pick our way through to an open spot." Finally, the anchor held and we settled in a good location.

Doug, who just wanted to go to bed, was near tears and mad. He was finish and exhausted, but had to change the sheets on his bunk because they got wet from saltwater intrusion from beating into the waves for 3 days. You know how sometimes you are so frustrated you get mad at inanimate objects. Well, he was there! He was mumbling under his breath and ripping things out of the closet trying to find the sheets. Finally when the bunk was all put together he hoped in and clocked his head on the ceiling . . . a perfect ending to a frustrating day.

Now with that said, when you wake up in the morning after a good night sleep and have a view like this:

Well, it just doesn’t seem that bad.