Ship's Log               s/v Uliad 

June 1: 


   Having anchored in Admiralty Bay last night on the island of Bequia, we slept like babies.  Everything is quiet here.  The water is calm in the bay.  There are no reggae parties on shore until the wee hours.  No roosters at dawn.  Everything seems as laid back as can be.  The water here is the clearest we've seen since the Bahamas.  After moving regularly across rough waters and through rough neighborhoods, we've decided this is a place to sit and rest a few days.

   Bequia is a small island--5 miles from tip to tip.  Back in the day, it was a whaling station, and in fact the International Whaling Commission still allows the islanders here to take up to four whales per year in the traditional, hand-thrown harpoon fashion.  Without more regular practice, there aren't many folks left here with the skills to kill a whale, so some years go by when they don't get a single whale.  Just as well for us as I have read that butchering a whale is a pretty gory, smelly activity.

   Although we're only 10 miles from St. Vincent, the culture is definitely different here.  Bequians are proud seafarers.  No beggars pester you on your boat or in town.  There are many small shops providing yacht services: sail repair, fishing gear, marine parts, etc.  I wandered through the quiet streets, stopping at all 4 marine hardware stores.  Each has different things, but none had the specific part I was looking for. 

   Stopping at the open air vegetable market on the way back was an experience.   As soon as my body language suggests I'm looking to buy produce, 3 or 4 different Rastafarian vendors descend on me:  "Hey mon, you need some papaya?  I've got some nice papaya today."

   Another walks over, "Can you help me out and look at my oranges, mon?  I didn't get here in time and I'm the only one not in the shade today.  I give you good price." 

   I'm looking for a breadfruit--Emmett and I wanted to try baking one on the boat.  The vegetable market folks talk amongst themselves.  Nobody has breadfruit.  I spot a fat avocado and buy it.  I decide to spread the love and get a sack full of mangos from another guy.  Meanwhile Mr. Not-in-the-Shade-Today beckons me over.  Another guy near him has breadfruit so I buy one.  And as I'm finishing my transaction, he leans over with a smile to murmur, "And you want some ganja today, mon?"

  "No thanks, Mon.  Not today,"  I smile back.

   I've learned to not go overboard at the vegetable market.  There are so many ripe, fat, delicious looking fruits and vegetables that its easy to end up with a big pile of produce onboard getting ripe faster that we can eat it.  The market is also a place for locals to meet, gossip, and talk a while.  I've learned to do likewise and enjoy the conversation instead of just focusing on crossing off everything on my list. 

   With some advice from the local ganja peddler, Em and I cook up breadfruit for dinner.  It tastes much like a potato, but slightly sweeter and with a gummier texture.  Not sure I'll get Emmett to eat it again, but that's OK.  There's lots of other vegetables at the market. 




 June   3:  

   Two more kid boats pulled into the harbor yesterday.  We haven't seen High Five or Salt & Light since St. Martin, so it was fun to catch up with them.  Several of the older kids wanted to become certified scuba divers here, as a local dive shop has a good reputation for teaching.  You have to be at least 10 years old to take the Junior Diver certification class, but Dive Bequia held a trial session for everyone and Emmett was allowed to participate in the shallow water part of the class. 

   So Emmett and his friends sat through about 45 minutes of classroom instruction on the front porch of the dive shop, then tromped down to the beach to practice using scuba gear in about 4 feet of water.  Emmett was in seventh heaven to get his own scuba gear, complete with his own kid sized tank.  He swam around and made the most of what the shallow beach had to offer.  Everyone practiced clearing their masks and purging their regulators and after all that, they got a boat ride out to a shallow reef for a dive.

   Emmett had to snorkel only for this part of the dive.  8 year olds are not allowed to scuba below 6 feet.  But the instructor gave him good marks anyway and said that he did all his skills great and the only thing keeping him from scuba diving now was his age.  On the dive, the group saw a couple moray eels, a lobster, and lots of little fish.  I was pretty amazed at all the time and effort Dive Bequia put into the Discover Scuba experience...and it was all absolutely free.  Everyone old enough signed up for the full certification class, while Emmett remains extremely motivated to turn 10 as soon as possible.

Emmett Learns to Scuba Dive



 June   5:  


   Still in Bequia. After finishing his school lessons, Emmett went searching for play activities and ended up skim boarding with the boys from High Five.  For those who don't know, skim-boarding involves tossing a flat board on an incoming wave and then jumping on it to go surfing down the beach over about an inch of water.  The result is an activity very similar to what we did as kids in Minnesota--we'd find a patch of ice on the playground and run and slide over and over again.  Skim boarding is similar except the weather is nice and when you fall it is (marginally) softer on your skull.  It is surprisingly tricky to do but Em has become quite talented at it.

Emmett Skim-boarding with Brad (High Five)

   Later that day, all the boat kids helped Ethan (from Salt & Light) celebrate his 6th birthday.  His parents organized a treasure hunt which terminated at a local pizza restaurant.  A good time was had by all.

   Lest you think that MY life is all fun and games, I've actually been getting to a lot of boat projects lately.  I polished all the metal fittings on the boat, and scrubbed the hull of both Uliad and the dinghy.  The bottom paint on a sailboat is designed to prevent barnacles, seaweed, and many other kinds of sludgy organisms from growing on a hull.  But it is also designed to slowly wear away and only last about a year or so.  Well, our paint is about 15 months old now and doesn't really do a very good job any more.  Hence my need to get out a mask, fins, a scraper, and a bristle brush and go down to do battle with the green carpet of aquatic flora that is constantly trying to grow on our hull.  How nice it will be to finally pull Uliad from the water and take a pressure washer to this stuff instead of my measly brush!

   Meanwhile, Kathleen went to the spa with her friend Kathy (Someday Came) for facials.  Wait a minute, am I the only one working here? 

   All this work needs to be timed carefully.  The further south we go, the more the sun seems to broil your brain around mid-day.  We've learned to get up at dawn to get done whatever needs doing, then vegetate from about 11until 3, when it again becomes safe to leave the shade.  I understand why societies in tropical climates have invented the siesta!  The temperature is in the upper 80's in the shade every day...I'll have to try to measure what it gets to in the direct sunlight.  Hotter.  Definitely hotter. 

   At night, we've been regularly getting brief rain showers.  Just long enough to have to jump up and close the hatches.  But then it gets stuffy and the rain stops and we end up opening a few again.  After which it often rains again and we do the whole thing over again.  This also justifies that mid-day siesta. 

   Bequia has been great, both for getting some needed rest as well as getting some needed work done.  But we still have that wanderlust.  I think I'll bring up the question of when are we moving on again with Kathleen tomorrow over her morning tea.  Before I think of another boat project that needs doing.



 June  6:   

   This morning we took one last trip into town for groceries before moving on.  We found the post office, the ATM, and a little boutique where Kath could get her fill of bargain hunting.  Up the hill a block was a little barbecue joint up the hill that seemed popular with the locals.  The sign on the entrance read "The Lime Garden", while a mural inside said "The Hibiscus Bar & Grill".  We thought it was fortuitous that we could try two restaurants for the price of one so stopped for lunch.  Good smells were coming to us from the grill--which was an oil barrel cut in half with a grate thrown over the top.  

   There is usually a clear demarcation in the Caribbean between the tourist restaurants and the local ones.  The tourist restaurants usually sit on the water with a nice view.  The menu is familiar, and plentiful in its offerings of burgers, sandwiches, local lobster, and not-so-local seafood options like shrimp or calamari.  The breezy dining room is decorated, tastefully or not,  with some sort of tropical/nautical/pirate theme.

   Compare that to the local hang out which usually looks like a dive:  mismatched chairs, no decoration, a bit shabby if not downright looking about to fall over.  It's usually far enough from the waterfront that the view is of a dusty street and the ubiquitous little brown dogs that live in it.  Yet, around lunch time, this hole in the wall is packed.  And that can be for only one reason.  The food is good...and cheap.

   I knew better than to ask what's on the menu at the Lime Garden/Hibiscus Bar.  It would be chicken.  And fish.  Not "our famous finger-lickin, hot & Kickin', whoop it up barbecued chicken feast lunch special".  No.  In the usual humble way in which West Indians describe their food, our choice today was chicken or fish.  We ordered two chicken and one fish and sat back to enjoy our very cold drinks.  Emmett befriended the little brown dog who knew how to beg for table scraps.  (Why do the little brown dogs never hang around the tourist restaurants?)

    The owner came over from behind the grill with a couple of pork ribs for us to try.  (Hey! that wasn't on the menu!)  Yum.  He tells us that in season he grills lobster, too, but this time of year he cooks just for the locals.  I couldn't help myself.  I ask about the name.  He bought the place 14 months ago.  It used to be called the Lime Garden, but he was thinking of changing the name.  Yes.  If people ask, you should tell them the Hibiscus Bar and Restaurant.  He says it as if he just now made up his mind.  Suddenly this seems so Bequia that 14 months later he still hasn't gotten around to that sign.

    The food comes:  "Fish" is a fresh blackfin tuna steak grilled and covered with an onion creole sauce.  A bit overcooked, but good.  It is accompanied by rice & beans and cole slaw.  As classic a lunch plate down here as grilled cheese and fries are in diners back home.  Kathleen and Emmett's "chicken" is slow cooked, super tender and smothered in a hot/sweet/tangy barbecue sauce.  Perfectly done.  (the pork ribs were great, also)  As in St. Lucia, twangy country & western music blares from the speakers.  Since when did Rastas start listening to country?!

    After lunch we find a case of Coke and a couple other things at the grocery in town.  Passing the fruit & vegetable market on the way back to the dinghy, we couldn't help ourselves.  Friendly Rastafarians with gravity-defying bags full of hair descend to offer us whatever they've got.  We joke with them and chat.  They start peeling bananas and slicing soursop for us to try.  More mangos are thrust upon us.  Kath buys a funky bag sewn from a sack of animal feed.  We stuff it with a pineapple, a coconut, a huge bunch of bananas, and OK, fine, we'll take a couple more softball-sized mangoes.   On our way back to the dinghy I make everyone promise to choose only fruit for snacks for the next couple days.

   Nobody protests. 



 June  8:   

   We motored around the island of Bequia yesterday, planning to anchor in a place called Friendship Bay.  Despite its name, it turned out to be a rather unfriendly place.  First I had to aim between two reefs to get into the bay.  Once there, it turned out to be a dull looking spot with a thin beach and cloudy water.  Worst of all, there were big ocean swells curling around the reefs and making it feel like we were anchoring inside a washing machine.  We went right back out and never looked back.

   Only a mile or so away was Petit Nevis, a little island that really does look sort of like Nevis when you approach from the west.  Anyway, we tucked up in its lee and found a nice quiet spot which seemed far friendlier than Friendship Bay.  Ashore from our anchorage lie the ruins of an old Bequian whaling station.  The concrete ramp where the leviathans were dragged onto shore is still there, as are the enormous iron pots that they used to cook the whales' blubber down to make whale oil.  It was sobering to imagine the bloody carnage that must have once been a frequent scene here.  Now it is all stones overgrown with vines and the sound of the surf crashing on the distant beach.

Whale oil rendering equipment--Bequia

   The snorkeling is nice here, and the water is clear.  But despite a thorough search, Em and I could find no whale bones littering the ocean floor.  Large schools of minnows swim like thick clouds here and bar jacks shoot up from below to feed on them.  If you happen to be looking in the right direction, you will suddenly see a jack shoot clear out of the water, then fly in a graceful arch, wiggling his fins the whole time, then splashing down 10 feet away from where he exited.  But most of the time you just hear that terminal splash...and by the time you can turn to look, the show's over.



 June 10:  

    After a quiet couple days in Petit Nevis, we turned our bow toward Mustique. 

    Mustique...the name sounds so exotic and mysterious.  Mustique is a sort of Utopian experiment for the super-rich.  It is the ultimate gated community.  The entire island is privately owned, and managed by "The Mustique Company"--second largest employer of the entire nation of St. Vincent.  And there is only a few ways anyone can come to Mustique.  One is to convince the Mustique Company to sell you some land to build your own multi-million dollar villa.  If you do, you'll be in good company.  Homeowners here include the British Royal Family, Mick Jagger, Tommy Hilfiger, and so on.  Second, you can rent a villa here for anywhere from 4 to 40K per week.  It is also home of The Cotton House...probably one of the most upscale hotels in all the Caribbean (and believe me...there are ALOT of upscale hotels in the Caribbean).  The final way to visit Mustique is to just sail on up in your own yacht.  This is another one of those amazing places in the world that with a good sturdy sailboat like Uliad, you can just float on over and check it out.

   For all its exclusivity, Mustique is remarkably laid back and unassuming.   We pulled up in Brittania Bay and helped ourselves to a mooring ball.  Some very nice snorkeling followed and the harbor master patiently waited for us to return before motoring out to us to collect a small fee for the mooring.  After making us feel welcome, he putters off while I take a good look around.  Beautiful and enormous villas dot the hills.  I wonder who is looking down on us (literally or figuratively?) right now?  The roads are nicely paved and the common areas carefully groomed by workmen in uniform.  A short walk from the dinghy dock leads to a beach bar, a bakery, a grocery store, and two tiny boutiques.  That's it for commerce here.  Occasionally a golf cart glides by or a pedestrian hikes along the road.  Peace.  Tranquility.  Simple beauty.  This must be what a guy like Mick Jagger hungers for at the end of a concert tour.

       Although I'm sure I don't look, dress, or act like the super rich residents here, there seems to be a relaxed friendliness shared even with the uninvited yachtsman here.  It seems as if you're cool enough to know about Mustique, and capable enough to get here, then you're welcome, old chap.  Welcome to Mustique.

   The bakery turns out an incredibly good fiococcia bread and (could this be heaven??) they even have fresh cold milk in the cooler!  Hiking along a path up the hill, we find a red footed tortoise--native to Mustique.  And a peacock--definitely not native to Mustique.   Each villa on the island is set well back from the road on its own acreage.  Discreet "Private Drive" signs help us to avoid disturbing anyone's privacy.  We find the Cotton House and stop for a drink at their elegant beach bar.

Em & Steve chillin' in Mustique

   No celebrity sightings were made on our visit.  In fact, we don't see many people at all.  Both bars I visited have more staff than patrons at this time of year.  At least the service was terrific.  Hiking back toward Uliad, we passed a public library.   And perhaps this says something about our lives when the finest luxury we found on Mustique was an air conditioned public library to while away the hottest hours of the day.



 June 12:



     We ended up leaving Mustique a day earlier than planned.  A tropical wave was coming with squalls and wind so we decided to find a better protected harbor before it got to us.  In meteorological nomenclature, a tropical wave is milder than a tropical depression, which is one step below a tropical storm, which is less than a hurricane.  That is to say, a tropical wave is really not a big deal at all, being the mildest of all possible rainstorms.  The forecast was for several days of rain squalls with wind gusts of up to 30 knots...not enough to present any danger, but enough to make the seas rough and keep us confined to the boat all day.

   Our original destination was the island of Mayreau, about 15 miles south of Mustique.  We knew that several of our friends were probably in the area, so we called ahead on VHF and both Someday Came and Whisper replied that they were just off Mayreau in an area called the Tobago Cays.  So we ended up going there instead.

   The Tobago Cays consist of four small islets surrounded by a large U shaped reef.  Inside the reef lies a protected anchorage surrounded by the most beautiful shades of blue water.  The tiny islands provide picture-perfect white sand beaches and palm trees.  The sight of it all draws you like a magnet to take a swim.  And when you do, you are greeted by families of green sea turtles, trunkfish, stingrays, and all sorts of interesting sea life just roaming around doing their thing. 

Green turtle at Tobago CaysShallow coral reef scene at the Tobago CaysThe Tobago Cays

   Shortly after arrival we were invited to Whisper's farewell party--they were heading on toward Trinidad in the morning to put the boat in dry storage and fly home for the summer.  It was a sad farewell for us as they had become good friends and travel companions ever since we met in Guadeloupe.  And unlike other farewells, this one was for good.  Kristen and Hans were planning to head north to St. Martin next fall, not west like the rest of us, so we might not cross paths again. 

   After so many months of beautiful weather, a rainy day becomes a sort of exciting novelty.  We spent the day lying about, reading books and playing cards.  Secure from the ocean waves behind our reef, we could listen to the wind gusts rush through the rigging.  Dry within our boat, we could hear the rain pattering on deck.  I was tucked up in a bunk all morning reveling in womb-like security against the world outside.  With the clouds blocking out the intense sun, it was cool for once.  We dared fire up the oven to make lemon bars and home-made pizzas for supper.

   Emmett came down with a fever overnight, so he has been lying stuporous and loaded up with ibuprofen all day.  It would have made a good homeschool day if he wasn't sick.  Poor little guy.  I know he's not feeling well when he didn't even get excited about pizza!


 June 14:  

   Emmett eventually recovered from his vague viral illness.  The rainclouds eventually cleared and the sun once again illuminated all the amazing shades of blue across these waters.  Kathleen emerged to snorkel the outer reef and then watch the turtles browsing through a big salad bar of sea grasses near the boat.

  Today we sailed a short distance over to Saline Bay, where there is a wreck of a World War I gunboat lying on the bottom.  Kath and I had a nice SCUBA dive around the wreck, but we were a bit repulsed by all the garbage scattered around the bottom nearer to our anchorage.  We decided not to run the watermaker here.  We've disappointed ourselves for not being able to Scuba dive much on this trip.  Outside of his try-out class, Emmett has to be 10 years old to become a certified diver, and we haven't been very comfortable with the thought of both of us going off without him for very long.  So today's short dive close to the anchorage was a nice change.  We've resolved to find ways to do more.

   Every afternoon when we were anchored at the Tobago Cays, two charter boats would motor right up to the string of buoys protecting the turtle feeding grounds and unload a group of tourists.  After snorkeling for a few hours with the turtles, they'd roar off again and we'd have the beautiful spot to ourselves again.  Today we found out that Saline Bay is also on the agenda.  The same two boats pulled up at 9 am.  The tourists get off as instructed and snorkel and play on the beach.  A T-shirt vendor has already set out his wares and is ready for them.  Everyone looks at the submerged garbage, shops for T-shirts, and at  noon, they all climb back aboard and head off for their appointment with the Tobago Cays turtles.  By 12:15 the T-shirt vendor is packed up and gone.  It seems maddening for us to watch good people being herded around like sheep, but I guess if you're on a one week vacation to get away from your crazy, over-scheduled life back home, then maybe a carefully organized, tightly scheduled snorkel tour feels oddly comforting.



 June   15:  


    Father's Day 2008 should be a memorable one.  I often feel like the luckiest Dad in the world:  exploring new things with my family every day, having the luxury of time to watch Emmett grow, teaching him new things...  Back in my old life, I used to look forward to Father's day as a chance to sit out on the deck and, just this one day, not have to do anything.  Now every day seems to have that option if I so choose. 

    So last night we trudged up the steep hill from the anchorage to a little settlement on Mayreau and found a little restaurant called "Dennis' Hideaway".  Dennis himself was there to greet us and he and his Polish girlfriend took good care of us with drinks and food while the kids swam in the pool.  I had an early Father's Day dinner of a T-bone steak while Emmett had shrimp and Kath a green salad and pumpkin soup.  It was delicious.

    Then on the way back down the hill, Kathleen twisted her ankle in the dark.  I pulled out my doctor bag and wrapped it before sending her to bed.  A few hours later she was up with nausea and stomach cramps.  By this morning, it seemed pretty clear that she was coming down with whatever Emmett had just recovered from.  We motored over to Saltwhistle Bay where there is a very pretty little beach to explore.  We thought we could relax and recover here.

Saltwhistle Bay, Moreau, the Grenadines

    Emmett awoke with a good appetite and a smile on his face, so he seemed to finally be healthy again.  We hadn't done any home school for a while since he was sick so I thought we'd get to work on that after breakfast.  One nice thing about homeschooling is that you can set your own schedule.  Sick?  Ok. lets rest.  Sunday?  No problem!  The bad think about this is that without a set routine, Emmett sometimes seems quite surprised that we'd ask him to do school at all.  Whenever he's had a couple days in a row off, we can pretty much guarantee a little temper tantrum when we start up again.

   Today was to be one of those days.  "WHAT?!" he started moaning tearfully, "I have to do SCHOOL?!"  It was a particularly long morning with Emmett fussing his way through his lessons and my achy, irritable wife feeling alternately ignored by her husband, then agitated by her petulant son.

   By mid-afternoon I had retreated to the port side deck to finish re-caulking the teak deck seams.  I had done the starboard side back in St. Martin and was glad to finally get the port side done.  Not to mention glad to have a little peace & quiet.  After that, I suggested to Emmett we go to shore and explore.  "Why?" he asked.

   "Well, it is Father's Day," I replied, "I thought maybe we could go have some fun together."

    Tears welled up in his big, sad eyes.  "Oh Dad," he sobbed, "I forgot.  And now I'm ruining Father's Day because I don't really want to go to shore.  Could we go snorkeling instead?"   We tried but the snorkeling was pretty poor here--no fish or coral reefs, just murky water and sand.  He started getting fussy again about not wanting to go to shore, so I didn't press the issue.  Kathleen remained sprawled out in bed feeling like hell.  I brought her Tylenol and ice water and headed to shore alone.

   There at the far end of the beach I got a nice tour of the island garbage dump.  It appears that the islanders take their garbage down by the water and burn it.  Then whatever doesn't burn they just wait for the waves of the next big storm to come and wash away.  Nice.  I guess I shouldn't judge.  What else can they do on this little rock?  But I guess it does explain why we're getting so many flies on our boat. 

   I did find a nice hill to climb and look out over the Tobago Cays.  I found a nice beach to hike with two friendly dogs for companions.  I found two freshly fallen coconuts to bring back to Uliad.  As I was husking the nuts, Emmett emerged to tell me I couldn't come downstairs yet because he was working on a surprise.  After another 20 minutes he showed me the giant Happy Father's Day poster he had created and the streamers he had strung through the cabin.  I reassured him that it was a great surprise and this was an awesome Father's Day after all.  And after supper and sunset we put this long day behind us all and went to bed.

   Kathleen slept much better with my pharmacological assistance.  Emmett woke early and crawled in with us at about 6am.  Lying in bed with one arm around Kathleen, and the other around Emmett we lounged and talked and giggled.  And Kathleen reminded us all that we wouldn't have a Monday morning like this back home.  Dad would be up and charging off to the hospital.  Em would be getting ready for school.  And off we'd all go on our separate ways by now.  So we sat quietly and savored the moment, savored the luxury of time together.  In the early Monday morning hours it occurred to me--yesterday was the unusual day.  Now I've got 364 Father's Days in a row ahead of me.



 June 17:  

   This morning we took one last swim with the sea turtles, finished today's homeschooling lessons, and then set sail from the Tobago Cays to Union Island.  The trip was a short downwind hop, but there are quite a few coral reefs to wind your way around between the two points.  Coming into the town of Clifton, you can see the boats sitting happily at anchor long before you can see the broad reef that lies directly in your path between you and those happy little boats.  I remembered reading stories about little out of the way places like this where years ago, locals made a good living by salvaging what they could find from cargo ships that would wreck themselves on nearby reefs.  Some reef scavengers (so they say) would even hang false lights at night to confuse ships and help them run aground. 

Emmett Swimming with Sea Turtle

   Today's reefs are easy to detect, but we've learned to make passages like this at mid day when the sun is high.  It is always much easier to read the depths of the water when the sun is behind you, or directly overhead.  For example, here are two photos of the same view of our harbor.  The first is in the morning, the second in the afternoon.  See how the reef disappears?

Union Island reef in morningUnion island reef in late afternoon

 After rounding the long reef outside Clifton, we found it to provide good shelter from the waves outside the harbor.  We dropped anchor near "Happy Island".  This tiny lump of land was built of concrete and discarded conch shells and now lures sailors onto this reef with promises of cold beer and nice views of the sunset on its little terrace.

Happy Island

   Kathleen and I were relaxing in the cockpit where we expected the view of the sunset would be equally good.  A Moorings charter boat came round the reef and Kath started to put up her invisible force field in hopes it would keep them from anchoring too close to us.  A boat boy roared out to the charter boat and we could already imagine the dialogue that must've been going on.  "You need a mooring, Mon?  I can show you a good spot to anchor!  Just follow me!" 

   Offers like this are common down here.  They come with the expectation to be tipped for their "help".  We find them annoying.  1.  After cruising for 9 months, we can anchor or take a mooring ball pretty well without any help.  2. Their pleas are distracting at the exact moment we need to concentrate on our position, water depth, boat speed, etc. as we anchor.  and 3. The money for that "tip" could be better spent on a couple cold beers at Happy Island.

   Here in the southern Grenadines, the boat boys tend to ignore us more, and focus on the charter boats.  This particular catamaran seemed to be having trouble deciding what to do.  The conversation with the boat boy went on.  The boat boy roared off to his recommended anchor spot, but the cat went off in a different direction.  Pretty soon the charter cat had wedged himself between two closely anchored boats and managed to turn himself sideways in the wind.  His anchor started to go down, then back up.  He narrowly missed running into another boat while trying to escape from the spot...

   The boat boy was soon back at their side offering his services.  Kathleen and I were trying not to laugh or look too horrified at the scene.  Now we were really hoping they'd accept the boat boy's assistance rather than coming over in our direction to anchor.  The skipper didn't seem to know what to do next.

   As he was scratching his head and making up his mind, the boat was slowly drifting downwind.  Kath and I were telling each other that he'd better hurry up and choose or he'd drift down onto that reef in the middle of Clifton harbor.  The one that you can't see very well from here because the sun is in your eyes this time of day.  Suddenly, the boat boy is roaring back over and tossing a line to the catamaran which is now lying sideways against the reef.  "Hmm." I said to Kathleen, "I wonder if I should go help.  Our little dinghy won't be able to pull him off the reef, but if that boat boy can't pull him, he's going to need to set out anchors and kedge himself off."

   It had been an amusing little show up until now, but we started to feel bad for them.  We could see the family running around on deck and imagined their sailing vacation would soon be ruined.  I put on some shoes and jumped in the dinghy as a second local boat arrived on the scene.   Kathleen got on the VHF radio and notified Moorings that one of their charter boats was aground in Clifton and they might want to send some help. I motored over and thought I'd be the wise old salt offering some advice to the novice sailors.

   But by the time I got there, complete chaos had developed.  Another 5 local boats swarmed on the scene with everyone yelling and trying to hook more lines to pull the cat off.  Except none of these fishing boats seem to carry extra line.  I lent one and went back to Uliad for a couple more.  About 3 local boats managed to pull the cat off, but another 4 or 5 now hovered around like circling sharks.  The skipper had been elbowed away from the helm by one of the islanders.  The wife was looking panic-stricken as she tried to attach and detach lines as the locals yelled.  I wanted to tell her to look out, because I could see that it looked to me like everyone with an outboard motor in town was now lining up to get a piece of the rescue reward.  But she was already overwhelmed with all the yelling, so regretfully, I gathered my lines and went back to Uliad thinking that I would at least be one less person at the riot.

   The boat was soon anchored, and sure enough the men on the boats all started tying off to the catamaran and welcoming themselves on board.  Soon we could hear yelling as whatever the skipper offered (or didn't offer) was treated as an insult.  Now there were probably 3 boats who actually provided any useful service to this poor family, but there were probably 6 or 7 indignant people screaming for money now in the cockpit.  Now I was getting frightened.  More yelling, and finally the skipper went back down below and came out with a fist full of cash, insisting that each man must first get off his boat before getting his money.  More yelling as some drove off.  But even now one new boat showed up and still had the gall to start shouting.  He missed the whole thing but still wanted some money!

   With the sharks finally dispersing, the charter company arrived to assess the damage.  The captain wandered restlessly about the boat.  The wife and daughter were not seen on deck the rest of the night.  I imagine them curled up under pillows in the forepeak wishing they had gone to Disneyland this year. 

   After things had quieted down for a while, we went over with a plate of chocolate chip bars and told the Skipper how bad we felt for him.  He told us all about how the propellers must have fallen off and he lost steering and that's why he drifted on to the reef.  He told us how he had to give every single guy $50 just to get them off his boat.  We nodded reassuringly and recommended he and his family take a trip over to Happy Island to relax. 

   "And look out for those reefs," I wanted to tell him, "there are people who make a good living from the shipwrecks on those reefs."



 June 18:  

     It has been 68 days since our last fish.  Not for lack of trying, mind you.  Whenever we sail we're usually trailing two or three lines behind our boat.  We've changed lures.  We've trolled deeper, shallower, and in between.  We've tried various "teasers" to attract the fish.  I had finally come to conclude that there simply aren't any fish left in this part of the Caribbean.  The multitude of brightly colored fishing skiffs wherever we go would certainly imply a lot of pressure on local fish populations anywhere within reach of a Yamaha 75 horse outboard motor.  Other cruisers have had similar luck.  One long time sailor said he never catches fish until he gets to Columbia.

   So when one of those skiffs came by the boat offering to sell me one of the tuna he had caught, I finally caved in and paid for fish.  I wanted to immediately chat him up about where he caught 'em, what lures he uses, and so on.  But it turns out he was just the intermediary.  He went out and bought 5 tuna from some fisherman offshore and then came back to sell them to rich yachts for a tidy profit.

   I overpaid for the fish.  I consoled myself with the thought that at least I got him to clean it (on HIS boat) for the price.  I rationalized that, with creativity, I could get multiple meals out of this fish.  "Hey, why don't you save me the head and bones when you clean it.  That way I can make soup."

   A big smile came over his face.  "Thas' good, Mon!  I try to tell people to do dat all de time, but dey dont want to listen.  Dey jus throw away de bes part!"  He handed up a fish head with a string of bones connecting it to the tail.  It looked remarkably like something a cartoon cat would want to eat.  This was followed by two large slabs of fillet and the deal was consummated. 

   30 minutes of simmering yielded a very nice fish broth that went into our Calalloo soup.  We'll grill the fillets tomorrow night. 



 June 20:  

     The next island after Union is Carriacou. (Pronounced "carry-a-koo").  This island is part of the nation of Grenada, so we had to do the whole customs clearance thing again when we arrived yesterday afternoon.  We arrived at the anchorage of Tyrrell Bay near sundown and saw two other boats with kids right away:  High Five and Salt & Light.  Unfortunately, they were planning to sail on for the mainland of Grenada tomorrow morning.  Someday Came has also moved on to Grenada.  Seems like the fun season is over and everyone is now preoccupied with the tropical storm season, summer boat yard work, and/or heading back home.

    We have the same preoccupations.  And I can't help but notice that as these activities draw near, everyone aboard seems irritable lately.  Hauling out the boat and getting a half dozen major projects done will be stressful, and it's about time we get started.  Going back to the states should be exciting, but to be honest, it also frightens me.  What if I hate it?  How will we manage being so APART much of the time when we've grown accustomed to being so close together?  Or on the other hand, what if we love it and don't really feel like coming back to live on the boat again in the fall?  Or worse yet, what if Kath and I each come to opposite conclusions?

   As if to accentuate the need to shift gears, rain squalls and strong winds have been forecast over the next few days.  It's summer now.  Time to get to work. 

   Another downer here is news of the death of Kathleen's best friend's father.  So her thoughts are with her friend now and I think Kathleen's really wishing she was there and not here.  In a very bizarre coincidence, we woke up this morning to find a large tanker ship had come in to the harbor overnight an moored near us.  The name of the ship was "Lesley" from the port of Douglas (wherever that is).  So on the stern of the ship it read Lesley  Douglas...which was the name of Nancy's father who had just died the day before.  The symbolism of seeing the Lesley Douglas steam out to sea was not lost on us.

The Lesley Douglas ship

   Between rain showers, Emmett and I set off to see the island today.  We caught a bus into town and wandered through the streets a bit.  Carriacou reminds me alot of the Dominican Republic.  Folks smile and laugh a lot.  They live a simple, agrarian lifestyle.  Sitting on the front step, or in a little bar, and talking with friends seems to be the national pastime.

   We moved on to have lunch in a little spot called The Round House on a hill overlooking the sea.  The building is a circular cottage constructed around an old tree in the middle.  Looking at it, I fully expected the Keebler Elves to come out to serve us lunch.  Instead we were met by a smiling young lady who took our order and came back with some delicious sandwiches on fresh home made bread.  We were the only ones at the place this time of year. 

The Round House Restaurant, CarriacouInterior of the Round House

   After lunch we enjoyed a long walk through the countryside back toward town, admiring all the fruit trees and quaint little pastures and farms along the road.  Carriacou is a great island for hiking.  Not only is the traffic light and the roads good, but there is literally a rum shop located about every 50 yards down the road.  You never have to worry about being more than 20 seconds away from a cold drink or at least shelter from a passing rain shower.  I seriously thing there must be some zoning law here ensuring this.  We managed to make it back to town without needing cold refreshments.  The hike would have been murderous on a normal hot day, but with an overcast sky and a cool, misty breeze blowing, it was down right pleasant.  The winds of change are definitely blowing around here.



 June 21:  

   A couple of notable moments pulling into Tyrrel Bay that I forgot to mention:  First of all, as we were entering the harbor, or log crossed over the 5000 mile marker.  So the crew of Uliad all had a happy moment thinking with pride just how far we've come. 

   The good times weren't to last long.  We pulled into the bay and dropped anchor in a fine looking spot, only to have a crazy bald guy who looked like a 70 year old Mr. Clean come running out on his bow shouting "No, No, No!!  You can't anchor there!  I'm not happy!  I'm not happy!" 

   By now I've learned its best to avoid all distractions until the hook is well set, so I tried at first to ignore this man's unhappiness.  Kathleen was on the bow running the windlass and we both looked at each other wondering what his problem was.  So after we were set, I dinghied over to see what the deal was.  Was I anchored on his flower bed?  Was I spoiling his view of the mangrove swamp?  I tried to sort out his ranting and raving and finally got the sense that he felt we were anchored too close to him.  I looked around bewildered...we seemed to be the same distance apart as everyone else in this moderately crowded anchorage.  "Are you seriously worried that our boats might bump into each other?", I queried as I pointed to our boat some 100 feet away."

   "Well, I would never do that to you!  There is lots of room to anchor further away from here.  There are strong winds coming and I'm not happy!"  I acknowledged his unhappiness and apologized that he was so unhappy, but declined to move my boat from its perfectly reasonable location.  For the rest of the day, he came up to the cockpit to glare at us every time our boat swung 10 feet closer.

   Tired of his glaring, we set a second anchor the following morning to pull us a little farther away.  Then at sunset this evening, another boat pulled up on the other side of him.  He jumped up on deck and started waving his arms with his "I'm not happy!  I'm not happy!" routine.  Except this time there was a local boat boy guiding a charter yacht to a mooring that our unhappy neighbor was anchored close to.  So the local guy tells him that he'd better move ore else pay him the going daily rate for the mooring.  And if he was not happy with those suggestions, he could discuss it with the harbor authority.  "Well OK, I'm LEAVING.  But I'm NOT HAPPY about it!" he screams.  Meanwhile, the charter boat decides not to take the mooring after all lest they be stuck next to crazy bald guy.  He marched back to his cockpit yelling to us, "I've got you people on one side of me and you people on the other side..."

    "Sounds like you need to find a bigger ocean!" I called out as he started pulling up his anchor.  As you can imagine, he was not happy about my suggestion.

   So meanwhile, the charter boat has moved off and found a spot to anchor, so what does the unhappy jackass do but motor over right next to them and drop his anchor, adding a few more comments that we could no longer hear due to the distance, but I'm sure that he let them know that he was still not happy.

   So by now Kathleen and I had been sitting in the cockpit thoroughly enjoying the evening's entertainment.  I sipped on my rum, watched the sunset, and took pleasure in all the room we had around us now.  I was happy.  Very happy. 


 June 23:  

   Yesterday we left to sail about 25 miles to the south end of Grenada.  The forecast was for 6 foot seas and 20+ knot winds which tends to push a bit beyond the usual comfort limits of the Uliad crew.  It ended up being a fun, easy downwind sail.  I don't know if we're just getting better sea legs now, but it is certainly a whole lot easier to do downwind than upwind.  We even started talking about going all the way to Trinidad, but since we had to stop to clear out with the customs officials anyway, we decided to stay in Grenada for a bit.

   As we were coming down the coast, I heard a "Mayday" distress call on the radio.  A big 75 foot Dutch sailboat had run up onto a reef just south of where we were planning to anchor.  Although we could see nothing, it made for dramatic listening to hear the whole saga unfold.  The crew of the Dutch yacht sounded remarkably calm, considering that their multimillion dollar yacht was in the process of being destroyed.  Several yachties went out in dinghies and sounded completely panicked.  Despite dire predictions by the bystanders of "a life threatening situation" and "needing to get people off the wreck", the yacht basically bounced along with each wave and floated off relatively unharmed on the inside of the reef.  Well, they did damage their steering and have to be towed in by the coast guard.  But from a distance, you couldn't even tell the paint was scratched.  Good boat builders, those Dutch.

     Given our recent observations, you can bet that Uliad was keeping a careful watch for reefs on our approach!!   We pulled into Prickly Bay by mid afternoon and found a spot to anchor, making sure we had no unhappy neighbors.  Another happy landing!  Except the deteriorating weather offshore led to a very rolly night in Prickly Bay.  This morning we got on the radio and found Someday Came bragging about the flat calm waters and free Wi-Fi over in Mount Harmon Bay about a half mile further East.  We danced around a couple tricky reefs to get in, but were well rewarded with all that Shannon & Kathy had promised once we got here.  After homeschool we all met up and took a cab into town for lunch and a little exploring. 

   St. Georges proved to be a typical West Indian town.  Tomorrow we signed up for an island tour and I suspect we'll see another typical West Indian volcano, waterfall, plantation, and gift shop.  Do I sound jaded?  The Caribbean has been great, but it is true that in many ways, the islands are much the same.  They have the same geology, the same colonial history, the same cultural styles.  We're starting to look forward to seeing something different, if not in Trinidad, then in South America.

   Which is a shame really, because the Grenadians are definitely one of the most friendly, warm, open-to-strangers group of people that we've come across.  So tomorrow, we're taking one more island tour with an open mind and an optimistic heart. 




 June 26:  

    Emmett has declared himself the dinghy captain and is constantly wanting to drive us whenever we leave Uliad.  Soon this progressed to his requesting to drive it all by himself.  I have been countering these pleas with the smug retort, "As soon as you can start it, you can drive it".  This is partly practical...wherever he goes, he needs to start the motor to get home.  But I'll be honest, it also gives Dad one less thing to worry about.

   Well Emmett has been working at it.  Back in the Dominican Republic he couldn't even pull the starter cord a few inches.  "Keep practicing," I would encourage, "It'll help build up your muscles!  By St. Martin, he was tugging it out a foot or so, and recently he'd been "practicing" even harder.  So this morning I watched him struggling away and I made the mistake of suggesting that he put a foot up on the motor so he could really get his legs into it.  So he tried that for a couple pulls and damned if he didn't finally get it going.  Emmett jumped up and cheered loud enough for all the neighbors to hear and congratulate him.  I was fortunate enough to capture the happy moment on camera:

Emmett starts the outboard!!

    After figuring out the technique, he's getting pretty reliable at it, so now I have to let him drive by himself once and a while.  Fortunately he doesn't have many places to go. 

   Tour day turned out to be a rainy, windy day...better day for a car ride than a boat ride, we thought.  Grenada is known as "The Spice Island", and for good reason.  They produce 11 different spices here.  Not even our tour bus driver could name them all, but he did mention: nutmeg, mace, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, cocoa, bay leaves, tonka bean, and anise.  Which leaves two more...I wonder what they are?

   We were brought to the usual pretty waterfall and scenic view of the ocean-type spots.  But the most amazing place was an old nutmeg plantation.  Just stepping out of the bus, the fragrance in the air was incredible. They say that the whole island once had this unmistakable aroma of nutmeg spice.  But 4 years ago, Hurricane Ivan struck Grenada with tremendous winds.  90 percent of the homes on the island were damaged, and most of Grenada's nutmeg trees were destroyed.  It takes something like 8 years for a new nutmeg planting to begin producing fruit, so it will be a few years yet until Grenada reaches its full aroma.

  In the mean time, things are pretty slow on the nutmeg farm.  A few elderly ladies sat by windows, separating nutmeg from the mace, which is a red lacy coating of the nutmeg that is ground to make a whole different spice.  The scene reminded me of a nursing home, where elders with Alzheimer's are given baskets of laundry to fold so the comfort of a familiar activity can occupy their time.  Another old lady came and gave us the 5 minute talk on Grenada's various spices.  Like a stern school-marm, she rolled her eyes when Kathleen interrupted her lecture to whisper to another student.  I thought for sure Kathleen would end up with detention!  But an icy glance was all it took to put my wife in her place (hmm..) and the spice lesson continued.

Old lady sorting maceKathy's spice lesson--Grenada

   We were looking forward to visiting the Grenada Chocolate Factory, which produces excellent gourmet dark chocolate bars from their own organic cocoa plantation.  Unfortunately, the factory stopped giving tours, so we had to settle for a trip to a store to buy Grendada Chocolate Factory bars.  Eating one on the way home turned out to be effective consolation for missing the factory tour.



 June 27:  

   Our constant weather monitoring led us to conclude on Thursday morning that it was time to head to Trinidad that night.  I rode our folding bike over the hill to Customs and got us cleared out.  I then spent our last 100 Eastern Caribbean dollars on beer, sodas, and a People magazine (for Kathleen, I swear it!) at the market.  100 EC dollars is only $37 in US dollars, but it was still a chore to haul all that up and over the hill on a bicycle.

   We then lounged around all day before going over to Someday Came to say our goodbyes.  We've travelled with them most of the way from St. Martin to here, so we've become close companions by now.  They'll be heading on to Venezuela over the summer, and we all promised to hook up again next fall in Columbia or Panama.

   Our weather window to cross the 80 miles of open ocean to Trinidad was a tight one.  The seas were just settling down after a windy, rainy couple days.  Then another wave of tropical weather was scheduled to hit late Friday.  So we left with 20 knots of wind and 6-7 foot seas, which was far from ideal.  We had to leave before sunset so we'd have the visibility to get out and around the reefs that surround the harbor.  As a result, the first half of the voyage was pretty rough.  Kath and I traded our usual 3 hour watches on the crossing and over time the seas did calm down as predicted.  In the pre-dawn hours we started sailing past the offshore oil drilling platforms that surround Trinidad and I knew that we had just crossed back out of tropical paradise and into real world.

   Trinidad is an industrial harbor.  Every one tells us it is hot, humid, and full of crime.  It is a good place to get work done on your boat because of all the industry...and a good place to leave your boat in storage because it lies just south of the hurricane zone.  But it's probably not the place you'd go for, say a dream vacation.  So in that regard it will be a big change.

   Dawn revealed steep green hills and the earthy smell of decaying vegetation.  The seas had flattened out to a slow 3 foot roll.  The winds all but disappeared and we ended up motoring the last few miles through a channel that separates Monos Island from the mainland.  In the quiet early morning, we could see birds soaring up the steep hillsides.  It could have been a scene from Puget Sound or Alaska.  A few boats tucked back in secluded Scotland Bay seemed to beckon us to join them in the beautiful scene.  "Don't work yet...stay here and play!"

   But then, we continue on and round Delgada Point, where we are greeted with a view of derelict ships scattered about Chaguramas Bay.  Picking our way through them, we sail past shipyards and dry docks, welders and sandblasters...  Past the large ship area lies a good half dozen boat yards where yachts are arranged in neat rows like a mall parking lot.  We pass Peakes Yard where we have our appointment to get hauled out soon.

    The water has turned murky.  By the time we reach the customs dock, there is a shiny film of diesel fuel coating the inner harbor.  Yes, we have left paradise.

    After clearing in, we moved Uliad to "The Yacht Anchorage".  This is a sort of nautical cattle pen, marked by buoys, where yachts are supposed to anchor.  Except that half of the area is 60 or 70 feet deep--too deep for most any yacht to anchor.  The other half of the area is packed with mooring balls.  After several unsuccessful attempts to anchor, we end up taking a ball.  I charge off after lunch to start lining up quotes on the yard work we need on Uliad.  By late afternoon I'm drenched in sweat, rolled in dust, and sporting a mood to match.  Maybe I should have just gone to bed.  But then, there is so much constant boat traffic kicking up wakes in the water, that daytime napping seems unlikely.  So my last act of the day was to find the nicest looking marina I could find, and book us a slip starting tomorrow.  For only $45 per day, the Crew's Inn marina's calm waters, shore power, and swimming pool should be money well spent to help us keep our sanity as we transition back into the working world now. 



 June 30:  

     We're now safely moored at Crew's Inn marina.  After past mishaps, I think I finally impressed my wife with a perfect performance at docking both at the fuel dock as well as into our marina slip.  Docking continues to stress out Kathleen more than anything, but a few more times like this and she just might start liking it. 

    One thing that will help her to like docking is air conditioning.  We've got Uliad plugged in to shore power and the AC unit is happily chugging away, pumping cool dry air into the boat.  Outside is either pouring rain, or sweltering sun.  Remarkably, it is sometimes both at the same time.  The summer heat and humidity are incredible down here.  I literally went out for 15 minutes to work on deck at mid day and came back below soaked in sweat.

    Despite these harsh conditions, we're making steady progress on the chores before us:  First, we need to call and get quotes from various tradesmen on our boat projects:  painting, welding, sail repairs, and so on.  Second, we need to clean the boat inside and out and get her ready for dry storage.  (Dry being a relative term in this humidity.)   So I've been sweating away at taking down sails, coiling all the lines, cleaning & storing all the deck gear, laying up the engines, and so forth.  Kathleen is tackling the interior, which is an even bigger job.  But at least it's cool down below!    We haul the boat up on land this coming Thursday, so we should have plenty of time.  This is good because I'm needing a lot more water breaks than usual.




   So, dear readers, this concludes another month's sagas.  As our lives will be changing to one of sweat and hard work for a while, I'll probably cut back the frequency of posting for now.  Have a great summer. 

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