1 May 2003
Lower Bay Admiralty Harbor, Bequia, St Vincent and the Grenadines WI
N 13.00 W 61.15
The Green Flash and Other Natural Phenomena
After a brisk sail we arrived in St Lucia at Rodney Bay where we found a heightened sense of security or so it seemed. The Marina was populated with an overabundance of customers officers, police and private security officers. We were well aware of the recent problems at Rodney Bay (now known throughout the cruising community as Robbery Bay), by listening to the Caribbean Safety and Security Net that broadcast on SSB 8104 MHz every morning at 1215 UTC just before the Caribbean Weather Net. Safety and Security is run by Melodye on SV (sailing vessel) Second Millennium currently anchored in Simpson Bay, St Martin. This volunteer service is an exchange of safety and security issues that effect cruisers across in the Caribbean. After the obligatory radio check and request for emergency traffic, Melodye request reports on safety and security issues and typically there is the missing dinghy or boat robbery and rarely a personal attack. This immediate notification of trouble spots alerts cruisers of harbors with security issues and therefore the information necessary to avoid same. In turn this puts a great deal of pressure on these anchorages to clean up their act or to be ostracized by the boats that they depend upon for their living. This appears to be what is happening in Rodney Bay after a month of reported thefts. Please don't misinterpret this to mean we are somehow undertaking an unsafe adventure. Let me assure you that driving to work in Indianapolis is much more dangerous in terms of personal safety. But without much to worry about it gives us something to discuss since we don't have a local newspaper.
Also on this radio net there is an exchange of information on checking in, fees, marinas, fuel availability, volcanic activity and any other query that may be deemed important. These radio nets play and important role in weather information, safety, local news and staying in contact with other boats. We are only now beginning to more fully utilize them. Our weather net however is now in jeopardy since Dave Jones, our major source of weather information , has fallen seriously ill. We wish him a speedy recovery.
On our recent passages we have been accompanied by porpoise and we have enjoyed these brief encounters. This in no way means we are attracting fish. No we are attracting mammals but edible fish continue to elude us. We are however still able to reel in a barracuda once in a while. On our next passage maybe we'll switch bait. Even though we aren't feeding ourselves, living outdoors offers many unforgotten delights. When was the last time you saw a satellite go overhead. Well, we can view them almost any night we wish.
Much of mariner lore and nautical terms are based in practicality of sailing vessels of the past. Today these phrases have lost their relevance since technology obsoletes their meaning and most have become cliques. Anyway there is a common bit of lore about seeing the green flash, I personally doubted the scientific validity of this phenomena and was skeptical of such sightings but the other night watching the sunset with rum and coke in hand we saw the tip of the sun disappear into the water and for a millisecond there it was, the green flash. And by God I saw it. From nonbeliever to believer in the flash of a millisecond of green neon. I can attest that the rum and coke had nothing to do with it, much too early. My cynicism encourages me to search for the scientific explanation which is a reaction no doubt based upon a previous business life. Possibly I don't need a scientific explanation, shouldn't I just go with the lore and become a believer. Let me think about that.
From Rodney Bay to Wallilabou in St Vincent on one of the fastest downwind sails we have ever experienced. Winds were gusting to 45 knots and in the open ocean passage we were a steady 22-25knots on the wind gauge. After we reached the point of St Vincent the wind really picked up and we saw steady 30 knots. It was almost necessary to skid Shiraz into Wallilabou and after all that fun the anchorage turned into a major disappointment . Boat boys were bothersome and now we have red marks up and down our boat as about half a dozen hung on the side of our boat looking for something we needed to buy or would give them. It was a med style anchor with 100 feet of line off the stern tied to a palm tree and the anchor out about 100 feet. The small harbor is mostly a movie set from a recent Disney production Pirates of the Caribbean staring Johnny Depp. We walked to Barrouallie to find an ATM after customs took all of our EC's claiming it was a holiday and therefore we had to pay overtime. After six miles of up and down hills, the ATM was inoperative. St Vincent's is not a stop I could recommend so we made a quick departure the next morning and traveled to the Grenadines and the mystical Bequia. It is St Vincent and the Grenadines as one nation but the disparity in life style of the indigenous people is significant. St Vincent appears more impoverished and the Grenadines seem to have learned to manage tourism better.
Bequia is only mystical to Shiraz since this is as far south as our boat has ever been and since we have owned her there has been a Bequia sticker at the navigation station goading us on.
After a week or so we think Bequia may in fact be mystical. It's the kind of place where your anchor can grow roots. The small village of Port Elizabeth that surrounds Admiralty Bay is made up of small shops focused on the boating community and a number of restaurants and bars. Our first trip in to town found a group of children from the Sunshine school accompanied by a guy named Socony the local troubadour. This open air concert was a money raiser for this school for the handicapped children of the island.
Later in the week we met Sconoy and even had a private concert with our friends Alan and Cindy. Socony played in the US for 19 years before returning to his home. His new CD will include a song with this stanza:
So while Mr. Buffett is wasting away
I'll be chillin in sweet Bequia
Living above the poverty line
And until God is ready for me
Bequia is where I'll be
Living above the poverty line
In Admiralty Bay we also ran into another acquaintance Sean O'Rourke. Sean is a retired 747 flight engineer for British Airways and a "hail-fellow-well-met" if there ever was one. We enjoy spending time with Sean when we catch up to his boat. He quickly gets involved in the local community and over a rum and ginger gives us ideas about good places to visit, bars and restaurants to frequent, and people to get to know. Sean is one of the few singlehanders out here. He sails his boat Chellers by himself which you may think is not too difficult utilizing an auto pilot but it's and anchoring and hoisting without someone at the helm that makes it hard. We watch and the singlehanders do it with ease albeit on smaller boats than Shiraz. We also use Sean as a source of information about sailing in Europe in case we ever think about going there.
We took our first scuba diving trip while in Bequia. Many of the islands are now requiring that all dives be accompanied by a local certified dive shop to protect the marine parks and marine life but the Grenadines has not yet adopted this policy. We chose to use a dive shop because we had never made a dive in salt water and it had been well over a year since we had done any diving. It was a good experience and no doubt we would have missed a great deal of the marine life without a local dive professional. Besides the colorful coral and fish we saw king fish, frogfish, spotted eels, sea horses and coral fish too numerous to list here. We look forward to more diving experiences in the weeks to come.
Mothers Day at Bequia found us at the Spring Hotel for the Sunday curry dinner. Our taxi driver Rodney who also gave us an island tour is a descendent of the Scots who settled the area. On the tour we discussed how expatriates were now moving in and buying property on the island. Everyone of them was described by there nationality. There was the German guy building a house across the road from Rodney's family homestead, the French guy who moved in next door, the Swedish guy who now owns the biggest hotel in the area, the Dutch guy who operates the old restaurant but there were no American guys or Rodney was too politically correct to mention them. Islanders are concerned that they are selling off their birthright to a bunch of foreign nationals, but of course that is the way of capitalism isn't it. Remember when Japanese were buying US landmark buildings and even our sports teams? It is a difficult question that faces most of the islands and their elected officials.
Rodney's every sentence started or ended with "my friend" and his Scottish heritage was prevalent in his accent even after six generations. He is related to many of the Scottish islanders so one needed to carefully inquire about different people or businesses on the island.
It's off to see some more of the Grenadines before we make our way to Grenada, "my friend".
14 May 2003
Horseshoe Reef, Tobago Cays, St Vicente and the Grenadines WI N 12.3584 W61.21412
After another brisk sail with winds from 22 to 30 on a beam reach, we made our way to Tobago Cays one of the most beautiful sites in the whole of the windward and leeward islands. We reefed the main sail as we approached and closely followed the directions given to us by the charts and guide book. Winding our way through breakwaters and coral heads we navigated the channel between Petit Rameau and Petit Bateau to find the bluest water and small islands dotting the reef.
The winds still blew like stink and we anchored in 15 feet of sandy bottom, a luxury we have not had for a while now. The reef protects the anchorage much as it would if we were on the lee of the nearby island of Mayreau and you can see all the way across the Atlantic. The surrounding small islands have tiny beaches and palm trees and of course one T-shirt vendor. Vendor aside they are very picturesque. With such a nice setting we are of course not alone. There are about twenty other boats but even this isn't too bad. We seem to be near the rear of the pack of the yachts making there way south for hurricane season and those that are not charter yachts are usually in and out in a day or two. The snorkeling is in a word "fabulous". The coral heads are surrounded by white sand in four to eight feet of water and you can float around and view all the sea life you want.
At Salt Whistle Bay in Mayreau, we found this picturesque little nook and anchored with a number of boats we quickly became acquainted with. Even our friend Sean upon Chellers showed up in time for dinner at Dennis' Hideaway. Jim Bloom from Valiant Lady adeptly describes such gathering as "having dinner with a group of my closest and dearest friends whom I just met.". (See picture below) This portrays the camaraderie felt in an anchorage particularly among US flagged vessels. Most of the boats we now become acquainted with are on their second or third trip up and down the Windwards and provide a good source of information about anchorages and what to expect at our next port of call. We are considered freshmen of the class of 2003 and will be until after the hurricane season.
Mayreau has only two hundred residents and one of the highlights is to climb to the top of the hill and tour the small Catholic Church at the summit. It has the most spectacular view on the island.
One crew member on Shiraz seems to miss the adventure in slackadventure, "our cat", Kitty. I use the term "our cat" to make others in our family feel guilty but it hasn't worked so far.
If you are contemplating venturing into the cruising lifestyle let me alert you to a few truisms about pets onboard. First customs can be pet unfriendly except in French islands. The French have a higher percentage of pet ownership than in the US and sometimes they take them to dinner at the local bistro. The Bahamians insist upon certification of vaccination and a ten dollar deposit made at the department of agriculture. In almost every other country that customs form inquires about pets onboard and every time we list the cat. She has been able to enter every country if she does not get off the boat and since we never visit marinas anymore this is not an option for her. If we go to Trinidad the situation may become problematic since pets must undergo a three month quarantine due to rabid bats found on the island.
Immigrations is only a small problem. To understand what the reality of the situation is you can experiment by living with your pet in your bathroom for a month or two to see how both of you like it. I mean living 7/24 in close quarters. Now fill you bath tub with boxes of cat litter since you will need to take your own along and onboard you don't have a bath tub anyway. The weather in the Caribbean is so good that cats live outside and no place sells cat litter. Think you can use sand from the beach, well check with your cat first and get ready with the clothes pin for your nose.
Now add to that some real life marine conditions. The boat can be and usually is covered with salt (we never realized how much salt but to give you an idea if you wipe you hand around the rail after a day's passage and run it down about ten feet you can actually end up with a teaspoon of salt). As a matter of fact we look forward to rain since it helps clean the boat and we don't have to use R/O (reverse osmosis) water for the job. So the cat walks around the boat while at anchor and gets salt all over her feet. She then licks herself with salty paws ingesting a great deal of salt and this causes constipation which leads to a whole array of cat acts which can create quite a mess in the morning when you get up. Now Kitty, who use to suffer from this malady, would give us fair warning with a sinister meow lasting for about a minute. It was haunting and many a morning was the first sound we heard. You knew to jump out of bed to get the cat off the carpet. After this howl she would leave the litter box, vomit on the carpeting and then proceed to find her relief somewhere on the boat and celebrate by putting skid marks all over. We worked with all type of diets to aviate this malady but to no avail. The final solution was a dab of Vaseline on her paws to act as a stool softener. This advice came from a fellow cruiser who worked as a vet and now prefers the title of taxidermists. While we are onto toilet talk let me tell you that due to the salt intake her water intake is extremely high creating a high urine output hence the strong aroma of ammonia in our converted forward berth where the litter box is located. We put the litter box in the sunshine outside whenever we are anchored allowing the sun to dry out the crystals. Living with a pet on board takes a great deal of commitment and patience but when you have had a pet for over 18 years and you decide to take up the cruising life then you go out and buy a pet life jacket and hope that she adapts to the situation.
Kitty is spending her golden years cruising the Caribbean and that sound fine but we still wonder as she sits next to the rails and looks overboard if she is contemplating jumping or just wonders where the chipmunks have gone.
30 May 2003
Lagoon at St George's, Grenada West Indies N 12.0265 W061.4483
What's in a name
It is always interesting to watch for boat names as you enter an anchorage or listen for them on the single sideband. The ocean is full of mundane names that reflect some twist on the wind, sea, marine mammal, birds or fish. There are also the obligatory hyphenated or conjunctive names which are usually made up of the children or grandchildren's names. They go something like Da-Lin standing for son David and daughter Linda. Hoards of transoms proudly display these unpronounceable symbols of guilt above the hailing port. Obscure and/or obtuse is another category from names found in Greek literature, the writings of James Joyce, Virginia Wolfe or other such authors that try and communicate the erudition level of the boat owner. Mostly we don't get it.
Here are some we have seen that we think are in some way unique and/or meaningful.
Name Owner Occasion of the name
Unplugged Eric Clampton Anchored in Antigua where Eric keeps a house
Camperdown Alan and Cindy O'Neil Named after the vessel his ancestors immigrated on
Cop Out Walt and Suzan Fuhrmann Two retired police officers from Oregon
Another Story Finnish flagged Purchased in England but that's another story
Tenacity Norm and Marge Murry Owners of Walgreen
Willie Flipit Unknown A Catamaran no doubt
Pachamama Tom and Chichi Guy Hailing Port is Indianapolis translation "Mother Earth"
We sailed to the south end of Grenada on the windward side so that we might have a steady breeze and avoid the capricious winds found on the leeward side of most islands. We made the passage with a steady 17 knots of wind and 2 knots of current culminating in 8 to 9 knot boat speed. Reaching the south end of the island we headed west sailing down wind and made our destination of St George's after a bit of motoring. It was a most pleasant sail with the seastate at about five feet and the loss of only one fishing lure. We were the only sailing vessel that we saw on the windward side that day since most boats prefer the protection from large waves afforded by a leeward passage.
Grenada is very pro American at least among the entrepreneurs. In stores and taxi's you can see pictures of George W., Colin Powell, Bill Clinton and oh yes Ronald Reagan the savior of Grenada. I have yet to see a bronze bust of RR but I know it's there somewhere. You may remember that President Reagan sent troops to Grenada to protect the lives of US citizens (medical students) and was at the same time able to oust the communist regime. US Forces entered Grenada after communists Bernard Coates executed socialists Maurice Bishop in what is referred to as "The Incident". The governments of Bishop and Coates were receiving aid from Fidel Castro who had no money himself making the then USSR the real financier. Much of the aid was in the form of military bases and airports that could be used to support another Communists outpost in the Caribbean. The well armed Cubans and some Grenadines fought fiercely and you may remember the story of the Navy Seals using a cell phone to call the Pentagon for help since their radio had been disabled.
On the hill overlooking the lagoon stands the ruins of a government building which acts as a reminder of those days back in October 1983. The building was a hotel before being conscripted to become a proletariat government office. If in fact the US had bombed the building there would be a Marriott on the property today but rather the communists torched the place as the US forces were landing to destroy documents.
Cricket was the highlight of our visit to Grenada with the West Indian team playing the visiting Australian team. The Australians are the ranking world champions having won the last two international tournaments played every four years. For the last two months the Australians have been traveling up and down the West Indies playing twenty some matches all of which were won by the Aussies. The final two were played in St George's Grenada at the Queen's Stadium and for the Grenadines it's much like hosting the super bowl. We were able to get tickets in the Posse section which is where most of the rowdies sit. The match begins at 0900 and the drinking starts shortly thereafter. The young crowd surrounding us had carried in cooler after cooler of drink and food and were ready for the all day event. I'm not certain if the seats in the shaded area were having the same hooley our seatmates were but this must be like sitting in the dog pound at a Browns football game. Flags from all the nations in the West Indies waved to support the home team and in fact there was one Taiwanese flag on a long pole. The owner didn't know what nation the flag represented but he wanted a flag to display and this was the only one he had. Several men dressed as women entertained the crowd as they plied the fans for drinks and tips. They seemed to enjoy cross dressing a bit too much.
Without trying to explain cricket which would no doubt be impossible since we know little about it, I can tell you that the West Indies team won this one day event. There are five day test matches which boggle the minds of people living outside the Commonwealth. In one day matches the teams wear colorful uniforms somewhat like US baseball teams and there are 11 men on the field when playing defense. The rules are complex but the scoring is pretty straight forward. As the drinking in the stands continued unabated and the afternoon sun was at it's hottest, the West Indies team drew closer and closer to winning the match. The bleared eyed spectators started watching the play on the field until finally the home team surpassed the Australians total score of 285 and the match was won. The victory celebration consisted of every liquid within the stadium being tossed into the air. There was in fact no alcohol left by the end of the match and even the vendors were out of beer and stout. At one point we thought there had been a cloud burst but it was the ice water left in hundreds of coolers.
Several sections stood for the entire seven and a half hours to demonstrate their support for the home team and when there was a break in the action a bank of twenty-five foot loud speakers, aimed at the Posse section, played Bob Marley tunes. Spectators of all ages danced to the music and considering the great amount of alcohol consumed only one fight broke out close to us.
It is hot in Grenada most of the time making people more thirsty. You can see people at work with a beer hidden under their desk and hey this is in a government building. Seven Day Adventists is the second most popular religion on the island and it's evident that the believers haven't made much progress toward temperance.
We are now getting things together to make an overnight passage which we haven't done for a while. We have had to buy additional electronic charts for this leg since we are at the limit of the charts that came with the boat. We are far enough south that can now clearly see the constellation Southern Cross and the boat is below the exclusion zone for hurricanes as dictated by our insurance carrier. Being below the zone does not mean that there are no hurricanes but the probability is very low and there are more available hurricane holes nearby.