Friday, June 24, 2011

Our Six Months in Grenada - End of June 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011
The heat zaps us.  Arising this morning, I looked at our weather indicator.  Temp at 5:45 AM was 84 and the humidity on this clear day was already at 79.  No wonder we stay wet, sweaty.  Our mantra has become - If we don’t do in before 10 AM, it doesn’t get done til after 6:30 PM.  The price of electricity is high, $1.45 cents a KW hour) so we don’t keep the A/C on for the most part.  We do, however, chill the master stateroom in the evening in order to get a good night’s sleep. 
Wax candle INSIDE the boat melted down!

Entrance to Port Louis Marina from the land side

We’ve wandered about a bit this week, but still saving all our real  sight seeing for when Chase, Andy’s grandson, arrives next week.

One of the places I went was to finally take the time to explore the Port Louis Marina - a lovely place. 

Lush greenery everywhere, with colorful buildings all about.
Salt water pool - so refreshing!!

The swimming pool is lovely & overlooks the harbor.
Lots of nice boats abound

Get a load of this BIG one!

Bar/Restaurant near the pool

The outdoor restaurant

Water, water every where

We’re meeting other boaters and beginning to settle in.  Around this area are several other smaller marinas as well as a number of anchorages full of cruisers hunkered down during the hurricane season.

Catching a bus  with a group from this marina, we went to  burger night with a live band at Clark’s Court Bay Marina - fun time.

Saturday we’ve headed to a beach BBQ thrown together by a group of cruisers so we should meet lots more boaters then. 

 Boat chores and the never ending TO DO list consume some of our time.  Andy worked and worked, finally unable to find the leak coming from our hot water heater.  Giving up, we called for the local experts who, after spending a great deal of time getting the thing OUT of the boat, found a crack in the welding spewing out the water.   Andy had them add a shut off value for the cold water going into that hot water heater -- a just in case preventive measure if we ever need it.    Yeah, I know, it’s a boat.  Again, I would expect a weld to last longer than 3 years..................I wish there were a way to hold people accountable for their quality control, or rather, lack thereof. 

Helm Chair showing distress
As to boat repairs, our very expensive Pompanette helm chairs are fraying up on the fly bridge...again, only in real use for 3 years.  Guess what, seems whoever order the helm chairs ordered INTERIOR chairs for the EXTERIOR, according to Pompanette.  They aren’t meant to be outside - although ours are protected at all times by the bimini and curtains -- guess it doesn’t matter.  The manufacturer, Pompanette, will work with us, selling us replacement cushions at their cost -- still about $1,500.  Makes me furious.
The OTHER helm chair

We are still working slowly to get the boat waxed - again, always an early AM job.  We ran out of wax and the stores are out of it too until the next shipment comes in...this coming week.  Ah, life on any island is so dependent on ship deliveries!  Shopping in the grocery store late yesterday afternoon we could find nearly nothing we needed...empty shelves.  Back this morning, full up...the ship came in!  Gotta find a food boat schedule so I can be first in line for the really fresh stuff or start hike up to the local market more often.

Lots of local kids swimming off this dock ahead
 We walked part of Grand Anse Beach yesterday, touted as the prettiest beach in all of Grenada and it was very nice, with pretty tan sand and gentle waves rolling in the aqua water.

The locals are all friendly everywhere we go. always saying Hello and more.  Wandering about, we decided we can dink into here from the Marina, dropping our dingy anchor off shore to swim around.  That will be so much easier than hiking 3 miles and/or catching the local bus!
Local welcoming us, insisting we take a picture!

 The marina grounds are beautiful, full of trees and color.  The 'coa kee coa kee 'sound of the tree frogs lug me to sleep each night and the roosters on the mainland wake me up at dawn every day.

Favorite times on the boat are in the early AM with my coffee, listening to the world wake up.  In the evening, with the cooler breeze blowing and those tree frogs making a racket, sipping a glass of wine as the sun goes down. 
Watching a seagull eat a fish off our aft deck!

He ate the WHOLE thing!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Six Months in Grenada - Mid June 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

We’ve been so lazy over the past 9 days!  In hindsight, perhaps the long travel does take a bit of a toll.  For three days, I did basically nothing, barely rousing myself.  We’ve explored a tiny bit - dinking into town to clear Customs & Immigration & to see what we could see.  Ummm, Grenada has caught on and become the most expensive place to clear in.  I guess they have realized that many boaters must come here per their insurance requirements and the government has found a new way to ‘tax’.  One must pay $75 EC per month for a cruising permit (for 50') to be here.  One pays the first month (whether you stay one day or 30) and upon checkout, you are made to pay for the rest of the months you were here.  Asking around, I learned many boaters are not aware they will be ‘hit’ upon departure.  Given some of the sailor’s we met along the way, with extremely limited budgets -- translated to NO money, this will be a hardship and a bitter pill to swallow later on.  This is the only island we had to also check in with the Health Department and fill out a form swearing we were not sick. 
Government Building near Dingy Dock

We’re getting oriented & learning our way around.    Stepping off the dingy dock in Carenage Bay, we were ‘acousted’ by a young man, who welcomed us to the island and began walking with us, chatting like a magpie about the island, the people, places and customs.  Geeze, very friendly folks!  Umm, in a minute, I realized Gotcha.  We had a guide, like it or not.  He did take us to the local phone company in order for us to purchase a SIM card and minutes.  Learning our phone was dead and needed charging, we decided to wait the 30 - 45 minutes for the charge.  After all, it was air conditioned in this place and at least 100 degrees outside.  The guy would NOT leave.  We’d figured out we would be charged a bunch for his services and tried 4 times to nicely get rid of him.  We were not interested in a chaperone about the town and not in the mood due to the heat to sightsee.  FINALLY, on attempt #4, with $20 EC in hand, Andy shoved the money at him, getting him to depart, leaving us alone. 
Narrow busy streets & Andy waiting for me

Working phone in hand, we wandered about, finding the marketplace in the middle of town.  A very large marketplace, with at least a 100 vendors, all selling the same vegetables, hand made jewelry and t shirts is in the middle of town, UP the long tall hill. 

We wandered through it all, finally tiring of saying we were only looking as the vendors tried in vain to sell us something - ANYTHING.    Walking on and off the narrow sidewalks - IF any sidewalk exists, we dodged cars hurtling past, keeping me alert and scared most of the time.  Winding streets with old brick buildings, some concrete, lots of red ‘fish scale’ roofs, some run down buildings and some not, concealed for the most part, small local restaurants, small shops and I don’t know what else.  Giving up due to the heat, we made it back to the locked dingy,  grateful for the breeze as we zipped back to our boat in the Lagoon.

Fisherman cleaning his bait fish

Not much of a catch 

Little bitty restaurant

Friday, June 10, 2011

Grenada - Our arrival & Port Louis Marina

Thursday, June 9, 2011
Up at 5:30 am (that bright sun again - we can’t close the curtains to keep it out because we’d have to shut the windows to do so - thereby sleeping in a sauna), drinking coffee, washing a mountain of dishes from the fish feast the night before, as we waited for the boat boy to deliver the fresh banana bread & croissants we’d ordered from him the night before when he pulled alongside.  We checked our charts and plotted our course to Grenada.

Errrrrrr...The boat boy showed up with a large loaf of banana bread & two good sized croissants - price $49 Eastern Caribbean dollars or about $20 US!  Way overpriced in my opinion, especially when we realized the banana bread tasted like paste slightly sweetened.  Andy says he checked the price before ordering and it didn’t seem out of line.  Did we get another bait & switch????  Live and learn.   

UPDATE:  Andy, while reviewing the blog of a boater who'd completed this same trip a few years before, noticed an entry written from this same anchorage, with a similar story....HUGE price for banana bread and a bag of ice.  An argument ensued and the boat boy got most of his $$..."Mon, I go to Union Island - 5 miles away - for the bread."  Boaters BEWARE!!!

Feeling like a horse who is headed to the barn & knows it, we are very ready to be in Grenada!  We’ve loved every day, but are realizing we are tired and want to just settle in, doing not much of anything for a while. 

We’ve had many wonderful experiences over the past four months as we cruised nearly 2,000 miles from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to here.

Seeing & spending time on beautiful little island countries, making new friends among boaters like ourselves and getting to learn about different foods, different flora and fauna and learning the fascinating history of these islands from so many hard working, delightful locals has provided memories to cherish forever.

Mallfunctioning Raymarine Chart Plotter
Finally Fun exceeded our expectations  -- she took us safely in and out of too many anchorages to count; kept us safe while underway across large portions of the North Atlantic Ocean; kept us off and out of the reefs all along the way, never hiccuping or slowing us down with any kind of a major problem.  That erratic, frustrating Off/On Again RayMarine chart plotter worked perfectly all the time.   We would never have attempted this trip if it had continued its weird gremlin like malfunctions!  Frankly, I was ready to sink Finally Fun, but last summer Rick Nissen located the electrical issues just in time, saving both the boat and me (and maybe some others)  from a premature death.  

Ah ha!  Before getting there, we have one more hurdle -  to cruise past Kick ‘em Jenny safely.  An underwater, active volcano, Kick ‘em Jenny erupted in 1988 and 1989 and kicks up some nasty seas, especially when she rumbles.  Today, the safety exclusion zone is 1.5 km off as she is ‘quiet’.  When rumbling, the zone extends to 5 km.  I’m curious to peer over the water to see what I can see - most likely nothing, but one never knows.  And we thought all we had to look out for was wind, waves, sea creatures and an elusive pirate or two!  No one mentioned UNDERWATER active volcanos!!! 

Update today - Cruising past the underwater volcano, we could see nothing amiss -- only some strange currents in the area - seen because of the seaweed outlines floating about and some confused waves milling about.  Much anticipation over nothing....I say that now - exploding volcanos & tsunamis would certainly put a different perspective on my day!

UPDATE:  Later, talking to more experienced boaters, we learned that the issue with Kick em Jenny is that if she 'hiccups', the volcano makes basically a huge foaming bubble, placing your boat in this bubble and the boat cannot float - loses bouyancy because the boat is now trapped in basically gas/air and the boat immediately SINKS.  Ooops, that was NOT explained in the guidebooks!  I'm told that is why there are a number of totally intact boats sitting on the bottom in areas around these waters -- got caught in the burping bubbles!  Geeeeeeze.  

Grenada coming into view
Cruising along the coast of Grenada, we were struck by the sheer large size of the island compared to what we’ve been seeing and struck by the number of beautiful, colorful homes tucked in the mountains and cascading down to the sea - much larger structures than we are used to seeing.  This is rain forest country, with mountains nearly 3,000 feet in the air, rivers, waterfalls, lush greenery, colorful flowers and perhaps a higher level of education here compared to smaller islands. 

This island, as did all the others, battled for years between the French, the Brits, the pirates, the Carib Indians and all the rest.  I do remember when the U.S.A., along with other Eastern Caribbean nations, invaded Grenada in 1983, on the pretense of rescuing 100 American students attending Medical School here - turns out that was a sham - the real reason was to oust a socialist/communism loving tyrant from power, returning Grenada to independence and freedom. 
Coming into St. Georges, Grenada

Almost into St. George's from the Caribbean Sea

The dock master at Port Louis Marina told me that the reason this island is so well established and beautiful (when I commented on the larger beautiful homes everywhere) is because when slavery was abolished here, the only way the plantation owners could get the workers  (the slaves) to come back to work was to deed each one of them land.  Those parcels of land have been handed down now for generations, each new generation taking pride and great care to improve and maintain the home.  He said, “On the other islands you will see locals driving fancy cars and living in shacks.  Here, the home comes first and maybe a little car later”. 

Friday, June 10, 2011
St. Georges Harbor

Local boats

Inside St. Georges Harbor in the Carenage
Safely docked, stern in, bow tied to a mooring ball, at Port Louis Marina, St. Georges’s, at the southern tip of the island, we are ready to explore and chill out for the next few months!  Funny, on this long dock, only USA flagged vessels are tied up.  Then, I realized this dock has the 60 cycle current that US boats need (European boats can use 50 cycle electric), so here we are with our own countrymen - good news/bad news.

We would come to learn that while we had a good deal on monthly rates during this 'off' season, that fancy electric would kill our budget.  Dockage for our 50' was approx $682 a month.  Electric at $1.45 a kw EC or $54 cents US cost us a range from $300 US to a high of $1,200 US a month.  We sweated most of the time and did not run the a/c much, except at night, in only our sleeping cabin.  Sooo unhappy about that!  Water is 10 cents US a US gallon and we averaged a low of $110 US to a high of $236.  No water making in the marina, so yet another bill, even though for the first time since we started cruising, we now use the Marina showers every day and not our own. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Grenadines: Bequia & Mayreau

June 4, Saturday  Bequia in the Grenadines

Pulling out at 5:30 am, with some help untying our shore line and a mooring line from local fishermen that Andy flagged down, we were on our way to the Grenadines about 8 or 9 hours away.  The Grenadines, 32 islands strung along 50 miles in the Caribbean Sea, were created long ago as a result of volcanic eruptions in the larger island of Grenada. 

We will not stop in St. Vincent, the ‘capitol’ of the Grenadines as boater after boater said, “Do NOT go there; do NOT stop there’.    It seems that lovely island grows the coveted ganga - a marijuana type plant and has become an off limits type of place.   Druggy type folks abound and security has become a real issue for boaters at anchor or in town.  So, OK, I give up and will let caution lead the way here.

Speaking of marijuana - Scott from RASMUS was asking us if we noticed all that whistling back at the Pitons.  Nope, never noticed.  He said when we were all walking around the town, over and over he heard the whistle.  When he looked around he would see someone who had just whistled at him, holding up two fingers like you hold your fingers if smoking a joint.  Seems that is the universal sign - Hey, dude, want to buy some pot?  Scott said he has seen that on nearly every island.  Humm, no one has whistled at Andy and I.  Clearly, if they did, we were clueless and never noticed.  I suspect no one whistled at us - we’re not their target market! 

Another funny --  while walking last afternoon in Soufriere with Brittany & Andy, several of the local guys were hooting & cat calling at Brittany - a drop dead beautiful young blonde woman about 32 years old.  One was yelling, ‘Lady I marry you’.  Walking behind Brittany and Andy, I turned to the guys and said, “I’m her Momma. Bug OFF’.  The crowd of guys shut up instantly.  Old age and Mommas do carry some universal respect.

Bequia, Grenadines
Dropping the hook off Tony Gibbons Beach in Admiralty Bay at Bequia (pronounced BeckWay) we cleaned up and cleared in.  Our passports are running out of stamping room - every island stamps in and out!  Wandering about town, with most everything closed today and tomorrow, Sunday, we found an ice cream shop on the beach and settled in to cool off.  Not much here....We’ll see on Monday what around here.
Sweet kids welcomed us

Phew - too hot to sleep at anchor.  Once the generator is off - which means the A/C goes off - it hits high temps.  At midnight, I bailed to the fly bridge, sleeping fitfully til the rain woke me up at 5:00 AM.  I have noticed, however, one major benefit to all this moist air we now breathe - Andy is NOT snoring.  I can’t remember when he last snored.  Humm, when we get back Stateside with the drier air, maybe if I keep spraying water in his nose, it will help his dry membranes????  Worth a try for me but maybe not for Andy......Maybe he won’t notice?

Sunday, June 5, Bequia  (Pronounced BeckWay) Northern Grenadines

Model boat building is a large industry commanding high prices
 Bequia, ‘Island of the Clouds”, at about 7 square miles, is the largest island in the Grenadines with a population of 5,000 of Scottish descent.  Their history is one of whaling, trading and boat building - all of which is still an ongoing enterprise today.
A shop and a museum

We spent an hour admiring the art work

Scott in the boat shop

  Lazy day, doing nothing.  Never got off the boat.  Why are we so tired as we seem to be on vacation every day?  Catching up on boat chores, never getting ourselves cleaned up except by jumping overboard to cool off, working on the computer, with sporatic wifi, and doing laundry consumed the day.

Amazingly, this island still has an active whaling community (Feb - April for humpback whales) comprised of descendants of settlers who came from North American aboard whaling boats.  These descendants are legally allowed to take up to 2 or 4 whales a year - grandfathered in, if you will, under heritage treaties, rules and regulations, much like our First Native Indians in the NW and NW Canada.  Scots, French and slaves from Africa also were original settlers long ago.  

WHY ASK is the name of all the whaling boats
Bequia harbor

Bequia, in the Northern Grenadines, seems to be popular, with a number of boats at anchorage - although we have not seen much activity - they must be as lazy as we are!  
House & store front

Tables with jewelry, trinkets & homemade boats strung up high
The small town seems well populated with stores and services, mostly located along the waterfront.  We shall see when we go exploring tomorrow.

Monday & Tuesday, June 6 & 7, 2011
Still pretty much bone tired for some reason - it was an effort to go ashore to look around, but we did it anyway.  We found a different dingy dock, sans boat boys looking for tips to tie your dink up.  I feel nickeled and dimed to death - I hate it.  With mixed emotions, I realize folks are just looking to make money to survive around here.   I realize some are full of good information and I do enjoy meeting locals....but it gets OLD, I feel harrassed and these practices chip away at OUR cash flow.

Wandering about we found a number of shops selling the same stuff, several small grocery stores, bars & restaurants - all mostly empty.  This is the quietest town ever, meaning ‘dead’.  We are so obviously out of the season & behind schedule as we dawdle around.    All the boaters heading south out of the hurricane zone are gone - hunkered down safely in Grenada and beyond.  

Self explanatory:  Note the writing on the wall

Whalebone Bar & Restaurant (real bones)

Local beer

Bird - Name unkown
So many pretty local boats

Local Boat

Local boats in busy harbor

Loved this hand painted boat!
Deciding the local produce market was better than the stores, we entered to shop.  Getting quite an insight into ‘the ways of the market’ by one of the locals - “lady, you buy a little from each one of us’ spread our $$ around.  That I did, loading up on red peppers, PawPaw, tiny Key limes, bananas, mint unlike any I’d seen before; and a few unknown fruits.  The mystery of what I just learned was Passion Fruit was solved.  Spotting these little round apple looking things, but yellowish in color, I asked what it was.  Huh, I’d purchased a couple of these last week, cut them open, threw out the slimy looking seeds and tried to eat the rind.  Nasty.  Oops, I threw out the EDIBLE part - one eats the slimy seeds and throws out the rind.  The local Rasta got quite a kick out of me telling him what I’d done....He had me eat one properly right then and there.   Ummm, quite tasty and the seeds melt in your mouth! 

Waking up Tuesday morning, we found our friends aboard RASMUS anchored near us, having slipped in during the wee hours of the morning from Rodney Bay.  Sharing a combined effort meal aboard Finally Fun, we learned they have changed their itinerary & will now be at the same marina in Grenada as us - great! 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Pulling out early  - easy to do now, as the sun is bright and in our eyes at 5:00 am every day - we headed for Saline Bay off Mayreau (My row), the smallest of the islands along the Grenadine chain.  As we zipped along at 8 knots, blowing past Canouan and Mustique, I added them plus the Tobago Cays to the TO DO list for our return trip.  The list is getting so very long, it will take us forever to get back.   

BINGO!  Setting out the rods, we quickly had a hit and managed to land what I realized was a good sized barracuda -- nasty teeth in that mouth.   Sorry environmentalists - I let him die before getting the hook out and throwing him overboard.                

No, I did not want to hack him up for bait either....Then, totally screwing up my line, making a huge ball of tangles as I let it get away from me while trying to hang on as the boat bounced wildly in the currents and wind, something hit the other rod hard!

Fresh yellow fin tun
 Screeching loudly for Andy as my hands were full of rod and tangled line, he slowed us from 8 knots to 4 and between us, we finally were able to land a good sized yellow fin tuna!    Yippee - dinner!  Grabbing my spray bottle, I filled it with gin, quickly squirting it in the tuna’s gills till he died a happy beating a fish about the head for me! 


Having just enough time to ice the fish down, we dropped the hook in Saline Bay and waited for RASMUS to catch up to us.  Lured by the offer of a fresh tuna dinner, over the VHF, Scott graciously offered to fillet the fish for us and I’d accepted.  My way of filleting is to pretty much butcher....slinging blood and yuck everywhere.  Andy just stays out of my way!  

Saline Bay is beautiful - the tan sandy beach is lined with coconut palm trees  and the water clear as the gin I’d squired earlier at the fish.  Picture Perfect!  Swimming about, cooling off, Andy & I floated about, just relaxing.  Try as I might, I could not get deep enough to pick the sand dollars off the bottom - some 20 feet down-- there were plenty! 

Scott cleaning the fish off the back of Finally Fun
RASMUS sailed in, dropped the hook and promptly swam over to Finally Fun!  Scott got to work on the fish.  As fast as he’d cut off a hunk, Brittany had it washed off and she & I stood in the galley, popping the freshest ever sushi into our mouths.

So very good!!  In no time, sea gulls swarmed us, scooping up the morsels Scott threw overboard.  Four huge fillets later, as the guys cleaned up the cockpit and swim platform, I marinated the fish and tried to make mojotos (light rum, soda water, lime & simple syrup).  Brittany muddled the strange looking mint I’d purchased in the Bequia market- are we REALLY using mint???  Following the recipe in a bar book, we tasted our concoction.  OMG, the drink burned our throats all the way down.....Handing the drinks over to the guys to taste - both guys, eyes watering, said  “what the hell?! “ Seems I’d grabbed a bottle of 150 Proof Rum....didn’t even know there was such a thing - how did we buy that??

Watering the 2 drinks down into 4 with more soda water , simple syrup and key limes, we settled in to rest and wait for the fish to marinate.  Then, just three or four minutes skidded across the grill and that fish was perfect!  Loading our plates with the fish, caribbean rice with pigeon peas I’d made up and left over cole slaw, we feasted.  Dishes piled high in the one butt galley, we planned our itinerary to Grenada and all hit their respective sacks - pooped and full.
Rasmus as the sun sets in Saline Bay, Mayreau