Wednesday, October 29, 2008


On Saturday Oct 18th we sailed the Adamo to Grenada on an overnight sail. We sailed at night to diminish the chances of thunderstorms that build during the afternoon hours. The conditions at times were near perfect with a half moon out, 15 to 20 knots of following wind and calm seas. No autopilot though, so someone had to man the helm at all times. At around 2:00am a squall line that had been looming on the horizon behind us finally caught up with us. The clouds doused the moonlight; it was pitch black out. The wind on the leading edge of the squall kicked up to 30 to 40 knots from varying directions and rain was pouring on us like out of a bucket. We reefed the headsail. The main was already reefed in anticipation of hitting a storm. The boat wanted to turn upwind with the gusts. In the total darkness it is difficult to tell the boat is turning until the sails luff and flog violently in the wind. You're eyes are fixed on the compass for orientation, though with the wind direction changing as the squall passes over you it's not a perfect solution. Fortunately there was no lightning associated with this storm. As the squall passed us by, a dead calm came over the ocean. Just as quickly as the wind had kicked up, it died down to zero. Then slowly it began to build and 15 minutes later things were back to normal. Storms like that are not scary. We know what the Adamo can handle. But it does put you on a heightened sense of alertness and it's a lot of work.

We arrived in Grenada in the morning and fixed a hearty breakfast. Having cleared customs, we spent the next several days moving from bay to bay, taking in the natural beauty of the island. Sue's mom, in the meantime, had FedExed the autopilot and a care package to us. Thanks Mom! We brought the Adamo around to St. George's in the lagoon. On the shore you could see the FedEx office with it's own dinghy dock. What service.
Clearing customs for our items was fairly easy and two days later the autopilot was installed and working again. We finally have everything put back together after our lightning strike in Venezuela. (Knock on wood or "touch wood" for you Brits)

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Haircut

Ok, so I have been flirting with a company about a Caribbean financial services job for six months. Now they want to fly me to Antigua for an interview with the future boss. A new haircut was in order. So the Adamo crew went in search of a barber or salon in St. Georges, Grenada. (more on the crossing from Tobago and other happenings in Grenada later. By the way, this could be our new favorite island. It’s starting to rival Anguilla. We love it here.)

We took the dinghy to the wharf on the Carenage to get to town from our lagoon anchorage. A local from shore started hollering at us that we would be better off tying up around the corner. When we pulled up to the sea wall, he introduced himself as “Herman, the man with the plan”. Seems like we picked up a guide for the afternoon.

We asked him about the haircut. He said he had the place to go. We followed him through main streets, then back alleys. We ended up in a barbershop that was brimming over with people. This was Friday evening and Saturday was a national holiday celebrating Independence Day. I guess everyone wanted to look good for their day off. Herman had no patience. He had us shuffling out of the packed shop before we could say “how long is the wait?” Through some more alleys, and we ended up in a second story barbershop also bustling-over with people, but the targeted stylist was free. So after a quick break we were up next.

Calvin introduced himself as I rotated to sit in the barber’s seat. I asked him if he knew how to cut straight hair. All of the other patrons were black. I don’t know much about cutting hair, but I do know that there is discernible difference between cutting tight curly hair verses flowing, straight blond hair. “Oh yes, that’s why Herman brought you here” he said.

With that, he inquired what kind of hairstyle I was looking for.
“#4 on the sides and longer on top.”

Calvin pulled out a #4 and attached it to his hair clippers. Then he started combing my hair with it from the top of my head to the ends. My hair was getting thinner but not any shorter. Sue and Phil where seated right next to me. As Kelvin turned the chair I could see their incredulous eyes looking in wonderment. I could read Sue’s thoughts: “you’re screwed.” Then she cracked a smile as she pulled out the camera to document the event. I had a few choice words running silently through my mind as well.

I turned to Calvin and asked: “are you planning to go against the grain soon?”

“Oh, yes.” He swiveled the clippers around and began shearing off the thinned straggles he had created on the sides of my head. “Well thank God” I thought, “a buzz is better than looking like I have 80 year-old thin, stringy hair” as I visualized the job offer vaporizing before my eyes.

When the sides where closely sheered, all that was left to do was to tame the mop on the top of my head. As Calvin fumbled with the five-inch long hair, I could see in the mirror he had no idea of what do to with that mane. He grasped a chunk from the middle and took the scissors to it and created a prefect reverse Mohawk. Sue’s eyes widened as I sank in the chair.

“I can still buzz the top,” the little voice in my head was saying. Then, miraculously, Calvin awkwardly bunched up the sides and made it match up with the top and the sides. I could sense his relief as he said: “how’s that?”

“Good” I said.

Then he came around with the clippers to clean up the edges. I should have jumped out of the chair, but social convention kept me seated. He trimmed the back of my neck, then brought the sadistic instrument around to the front and started to trim the front side of my sideburns . . . starting at my temple! He shaved my hairline back so that the end result was a thin sideburn leading down to my beard. Definitely an island-do.

Then he realized: what should we do with the beard? “Should I trim the beard as well.”

“Oh no, I can take care of that.” I countered quickly.

As I looked into the mirror, I wondered what will it look like, when the front side of my stubbly sideburns grow back in. Will my potential future boss stare at them wondering is that usually what his hair usually looks like, or will he understand: “Ah, he got the island do. Poor boy.”

Meanwhile, Phil was not dissuaded. “I’m next. I want the same style as my dad: short on the side and long on top” he said as he hopped in the chair.

Calvin picked up his shears and got to work. Apparently he was tired of dealing with long straight hair. So he started with the #4 right in the middle of Phil’s forehead and pushed the clippers to the top if his head. I guess that is what I get for teaching him how to go against the grain. He looked up and said: “Did you say long on top?”

Phil looked like a marine recruit ready for boot camp. Calvin then took a razorblade and trimmed his hairline to remove his widow’s peak and match his sideburns to mine. Yep, we are styling . . . Grenada style.

Post Script: Sue opted against having her hair done.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Wahoo Fishing Tobago-style

When we first arrived in Tobago, a local fisherman named Dave showed up wanting to sell some fish. He had caught a 4 pound black fin tuna and wanted to sell it for $48 TT ($8 US). It sounded like a good deal to us for sushi tuna, so we did the deal and feasted on sushi and sashimi for dinner that evening.

Dave also invited us to go on a fishing trip with him for King Fish, the local name for Wahoo. Phil and I accepted. In the morning, the weather was sunny and clear, a perfect day to catch the big one.

Fishing traditional Tobago-style is a unique proposition. Locals use 20-foot long fiberglass pirogues, with bamboo outriggers and 300 lbs test hand-lines. When a big one hits, the gloves go on and the fish is horsed into the boat by hand. Wads of fishing line lay in separate bilge compartments for each line. Dave fishes with four lines at a time. No rod and reels for these guys, no gaffs either.

Dave’s boat is meticulously maintained. Well painted, squeaky clean with a 40hp tiller Yamaha outboard that he polishes with baby oil to keep it shiny. When he catches a fish, bloodstains get washed down and wiped up immediately. I complemented him on his boat and it’s pristine condition. “It’s my livelihood” was his response. Our captain did not have a diplomatic bone in his body. Things came out gruff and direct. I guess 20 years of being out a sea alone takes its toll on your social skills.

Motoring through the bay, we dropped the lines in one at a time until our spread was laid out, three brightly colored squid lures on the surface and one down deep. As soon as we exited the sheltered waters of the bay, the sea floor dropped to 150 to 200 feet with a strong current cutting through the channel. The calm waters of our protected anchorage began to boil with large sea swells capped by current and wind-driven waves as our small pirogue rounded the point. We trolled on a plane at 10 to 12 knots. Heading into the waves was punishing and wet. Three miles later, we u-turned and headed back. Running with the wind and waves seamed almost serine after our upwind pounding. Three miles later and the loop started all over again. After four or five circuits, it became clear to me that this is hard work and shed light on Dave’s and the other fisherman’s tough demeanor.

A large silver streak cutting diagonal through the water behind us pulled me back into the here and now from my introspection. “King Fish” shouted Dave and the battle began. I took the tiller, Phil moved to the front of the boat. “Not so far” barked our captain. “He’ll lose control of the boat. Move back”. Phil moved half way back. “OK” commanded the captain. Then his attention turned to me. “Keep the boat going straight and speed up”. “Ok” I said. “Hand me that glove.” “Ok” I said.

Then it happened. The fishing line was running over my shoulder as Dave was wildly pulling in the monster fish. I decided to move on the other side of the tiller to give him more room. “What are you doing? Move back.” “Ok” I said again. The King Fish was just behind the boat. As I shifted my position back, the throttle slowed. Dave yanked the fish to the stern gunwale. “Speed up! That fish is going to hurt me if you don’t” he yelled.

As I throttled up, he horsed the crazed aqua-blue stripped monster into the bilge. “Aaarrgg” he hollered, as the battle was brought into the boat. The snapping fish had plenty of fight left in him. He was biting and thrashing violently. I glanced up at Phil to get a mental snap shot if his expression. It was excitement, joy and terror all in one.

Dave tackled the unruly snapping king fish with it’s head and razor sharp teeth inches away from his own jugular. Reaching down in the bilge, a thick burled stick emerged in Dave’s hand and began beating the fish in the top of the head. Two blows and the seaming uncontrollable flailing changed to tight seizure-like tremors.

Having subdued the fish, Dave turned to me and let me have it. “That fish could have hurt me. You have to keep the speed the same.” In my mind I knew that if the speed had remained constant, the bilge battle we had just witnessed would have remained the same. But why argue. Two minutes later, it was as if nothing had happened.

We continued our laps, up wind and waves, then back down. Over the course of the day, we landed two King Fish, four Black-fin Tuna and a Barracuda, a very good fishing day. As we entered back into our anchorage, the waters calmed and so did Dave’s excitable mood. He even cracked a smile as he leaned back on his tiller reflecting on the catch of the day.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Rain Forest of Man-of-war Bay - Tobago

Our exploration of Man-of-war Bay and the surrounding rainforest have continued.

Phil and I went on a five-hour hike up the mountain. We started out following the very steep curvy and surprisingly newly paved road to Scarborough. The humidity was at 100% as we walked into clouds of mist on our way up hill. At the crest of the mountain ridge the road forked. A breeze from the east blew over the crest and we could see the distant beaches on the lee side of the island through the mist. By now we were drenched in sweat and getting thirsty. We had not planned to be out so long.

Phil found a coconut and husked it with his pocketknife. A couple of minutes later we were drinking its water. Coconuts are nature’s canteens. I am always surprised at how much water you can actually get from them; about six to eight ounces per nut. It tastes like unsweetened, tangy water with only the aroma of coconut. It’s no pina-colada and it is certainly an acquired taste; but when you are really thirsty, it hits the spot.

We took the fork in the road that lead further up hill and hiked on. As we continued up the lush mountain we discovered an abandoned house with a very steep and muddy trail leading down through a forest of birds-of-paradise plants. The trail lead to an abandoned farm and a beautiful rocky creek. Phil caught a land crab, which we later cooked up in a crab and crawfish sherry soup.

Parrots squawked and humming birds buzzed around us as we explored and admired the rainforest flowers.

Phillip caught these parrots on camera, one of which is putting on the airbrakes when coming in for a landing on a branch.

Fruit trees were sprinkled throughout the forest. We collected avocados, limes, sour oranges, guava and coconuts. We also came across a few cows who had left landmines all over the road. “What ever you do, don’t step back” I told Phil for this shot.

We started to make our way back down the mountain to Charlottesville. In the bay we saw a new boat had arrived. It was our friends on Kejia II. By the time we reached the beach they had pulled anchor and were putting up their sails. Phil and I ran to the dinghy dock to try to catch them before they left.

As we hurried down the dock a sudden realization came over us. Our dinghy was gone. “Dam it”. We had even locked it up. The shock slowed us to a drugging walk. Our legs tired from the hike now seamed even heavier than before. As we approached the spot where we had cleated up Rubberducky, the locked cable was still attached to the piling. My eyes followed the cable looking for the frayed end where it had been hack sawed it two. It lead under the peer. We looked through the cracks between the well-worn planks and there she was, our dinghy squashed between the rising tide and the unforgiving dock. Memories of Samana and our British friends on Loon came to mind.

Fortunately, the dinghy engine had escaped the dock’s grip. It had been pushed through to the other side, underneath the concrete government peer with more clearance. We managed to slide Rubberducky our from under the dock with no damage. The 50 gallons of sea water pushed her down as we stood on the pontoons and pulled her free.

By know Kejjia II was already on the horizon. We motored back to the Adamo with our fruit bounty as Sue was on the verge of getting worried about us. We asked about Kejjia II. They had only tucked into the bay to do a quick repair to their davits. They were on the move because a potential storm was heading our way. As it turns out it never made it here though the tropical weather is very apparent: squally, hot and humid. The low last night was 85 degrees.

For relief, a routine has developed where the Adamo crew dinghies to our favorite waterfall every afternoon for cool showers in the rainforest. Even Sue has gotten into skinny-dipping in the falls. At her insistence though, the camera is always well stowed for that.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Departing Trinidad

It was a long hot summer in Chaguaramas Bay in Trinidad and we were glad to head out to continue our adventure. Chaguaramas is one of those places you go to in order to haul your boat and head home for hurricane season or hang around and get work and repairs done to the boat while you wait for the end of the storms. We did the latter and were glad to finally be moving on. I will admit that if we ever need to spend hurricane season outside of the “hurricane box”, we will be doing it elsewhere. The attitude of the locals, the flotillas of trash in the water, the air pollution and the cattiness of the “clicks” of boaters really makes it a undesirable place to spend three months waiting it out.

With all but the autopilot repaired from the lightning strike, we headed to Scotland Bay to stage for our overnight motor-sail to Tobago. This was to be our last trek heading east. It will be down hill from there back to the States. As we rounded the corner to the “boca”, the local term for inlet, a large pod of bottlenose dolphin approached the Adamo and began frolicking in the water and performing aerial acrobatic tricks the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

It was good to be sailing again, good to be heading to new islands.

We entered Scotland Bay, dropped anchor and Sue fixed an amazing pork tenderloin dinner. Our friends on L’Aventura planned to sail with us to Tobago. They had been stuck in Trinidad for three months and had missed the Orinoco river trip because they just could not get work completed. They got jerked around by a refrigerator guy for well over a month. They also had an engine rebuild. When you go cruising you often hear: “you’re living the dream”. Yep, but sometimes the dream is a nightmare. L’Aventura has had its share of those. They entered Scotland Bay and we waited for nightfall. I had purchased two Cuban cigars, one for the Adamo crew and one for the L’Aventura crew. As we sailed through the “boca” into the Caribbean Sea, we lit our stogies to celebrate our long awaited departure.

With a half moon out, light winds and a very calm sea it was looking like an easy passage. Then came the radio call an hour and a half into the trip. L’Aventura was loosing oil at an alarming rate out of the rebuilt engine. They were turning around to get it looked at by the people who did the rebuild. Yep, “living the dream!”

Our crossing was uneventful except for when Sue was at the helm and out of nowhere there was a spotlight dead ahead. The local fishermen sit in the dark out there and flash a light at you if you come close. She veered off about 100 feet away from it. It scared her to death. Fortunately, we had heard of this happening to others so we didn’t think it was pirates.

We were greeted in Tobago by a stunning sunrise and a beautiful un-crowded bay in Charlottesville. Phillip was ready to go “diving, diving, diving!” So after clearing in at immigration and customs, we hit the water. No luck spear fishing though. While we explored the bay we found fresh water rivers with waterfalls, great for showering and, Phillip being Phillip, also great for hunting.

He actually found giant crawfish and caught them using my shirt. An hour later we were eating sautéed crawdads as well as black fin tuna sushi we had purchased from a local fisherman. We were back in the saddle.