Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Carriacou

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Our first stop in the country of Grenada was the island of Carriacou. We anchored off Hillsborough and went in to clear customs. This was the friendliest and most helpful customs and immigration that we’ve dealt with in ages. Immigration first, across the street from the pier in the police station, then back to the pier for customs. (It turns out that there is a new customs and immigration office around the corner in Tyrrel Bay, so that is probably easier for cruisers – don’t know if they are as friendly).

carriacouIMG_5234 The real reason for this quick blog was to post this picture for my friend Will. He works in the area of saving mangroves, trading for carbon credits and looking for a true love. The crane in the photo is dredging the mangroves on the right, making room for a larger pier/bulkhead area. The white marker in the foreground says “Marine Protection Area”.

carriacuoIMG_5241  The mangroves here in Tyrrel Bay also make good boat parking spots during storms.

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When you first show up in Tyrrel Bay you are likely to be met by Simon in his leaky dinghy. He sells a number of items and offers services for cruisers. One thing he is pushing is a good deal on Chilean white and red wine. Let’s just say the white is something to stay far away from. I’m not known for my refined wine palette, but I knew just smelling it it wasn’t for me. Friends said the red was decent, but we never got to try it as it ended up in the bilge after the bottle broke during an unexpectedly rough passage. We’re told the money is going to a good cause- to buy Simon a new boat.

carriacuoDSCN2221 We anchored off Sandy Island for the day so Chris could get in her beach walk. Too rough to dive, but good swimming and beach time.

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Chris, ever the hunter-gather, did find this giant helmet conch. The resident quickly requested that he be placed back on the bottom.

carriacuoIMG_5259After we left Carriacou we headed for the small island of Ille de Ronde. Very remote with a few fishermen's skiffs and houses onshore, not much else. Good snorkeling, but a rolly night with the swells working around the end of the island.

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One thing interesting about Ronde is that the anchorage is about 5 miles east of the active underwater volcano called Kick ‘em Jenny. The volcano has erupted at least 12 times between 1939 and 2001, sometimes boiling the seas above it, and is heading toward the surface. Its gotta be time for another eruption soon.

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We left Ronde expecting an easy sail down to the NE corner of Grenada. We wanted to try snorkeling on a few of the small islands on the windward side. Above is London Bridge. You can see the arch in the rock. This is about half way between Ronde and Grenada. It may not look like it in the pic, but the winds were just howling and a strong current caused really ugly seas. As we sailed past the Green Island on NE corner the winds were 25kts and the current picked up to 3.5kts against us. There wasn’t any place that looked reasonable to anchor. So we continued on to the south end of Grenada where all the cruisers hang out. We’ll stay here for a few weeks till we take off for the passage to the Dutch Antilles, aka the ABC’s, to spend some quality time diving in Bonaire.

Paul

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

SVG

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We had a night good passage sailing down the windard side (east side) of the islands St. Lucia and St. Vincent to make a morning arrival in Admiralty Bay, on the island of Bequia. The country is St. Vincent and the Grenadines, SVG for short. We decided to bypass St. Lucia and St. Vincent because of their recent, and old ongoing, history of violent attacks on cruisers as well as the annoyance of overly aggressive boatboys.  Now it’s not that you couldn’t have a perfectly fine time, especially in St Lucia, but I just don’t see spending money in places that haven’t dealt with basic security issues over the years that cruisers have been arriving to visit. Especially, when there are plenty of close by alternatives in the Caribbean. It’s interesting to compare the crime against cruisers in Pacific Mexico to that in the Eastern Caribbean. There’s plenty of petty crime in Mexico and stolen dinghies are common enough, but you rarely hear of violence against people --- barring the violence against and between the drug gangs. In the Eastern Carib the robberies too often come along with serious injuries and death (see website Caribbean security net).

OK, enough downer talk and anti-tourist-board propaganda. Bequia, besides being a cruisers hangout, has a long history of boat building and whaling. They still whale under the aborigine exceptions to the international whaling ban, although they didn’t kill any this year.

IMsvgG_4904 First off Chris had to take me out to a high-end bar to celebrate my birthday. Here I am at the Whaleboner (that is how they spell it) bar. Note the whale vertebra as bar stools and the whale jaw bar. Only the best for Chris’ honey.

svgIMG_4988 One day, we took a ferry over from Bequia to Kingstown, St. Vincent so we could visit the botanical gardens. This armored truck came along for the ride. There are two botanical gardens on St Vincent. The Montreal Garden is up in the mountains about an hour away from Kingstown in the Mesopotamia Valley. The other is the National Botanical Garden in Kingstown, started in the 1790’s.

svgIMG_4999 The Montpelier gardens are dense, with lots of growth trying to cover the trails. It is an embarrassment of tropical flowers.

svgIMG_5107 Need to clean a bottle?

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Not sure what you do with this fruit.

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A Torch Ginger flower.

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Life of a young fern.

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As our botanist friend Diane taught us, this is a Little Boy Flower (aka Anthurium).

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This is the factory where they make the anthuriums.

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The Mesopotamia Valley below the gardens.

I would have enjoyed the trip to the two gardens more if the taxi driver and the Kingston garden’s ‘naturalist’ didn’t try to scam us. The taxi guy even got to the point of offering to call the cops as we re-negotiated the cost of the ride. No wonder the cruise ships quit coming here. I gotta say, I did enjoy the taxi drivers explanation about how the Prime Minister is into the cocaine and marijuana business and does everything he can to protect it.

svgIMG_4972 Safely back in Bequia, we took a cab out to the Old Hegg Turtle Sancturay, founded by retired fisherman Orton G. ‘Brother’ King. They don’t actually hatch the critters here. They pick them up from the beach before they hit the water after hatching and raise them for 5 years. Then let them free in the islands of SVG.  These Hawksbill turtles have some amazing navigation skills. Whatever spot they first go into the ocean is the place they will come back to to lay their eggs after they reach maturity between 10 and 25 years.

svjIMG_4987 Turtle spotting.

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A turtle spotting us.

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This guy was the only person working at the hatchery when we were there. He clearly liked the turtles and his job. He was most interesting as he explained to us how the churches only wanted our money and that Jesus doesn’t exist. He waxed on about how tough a job it was when he was drug dealer. “Toughest job in the world”... yikes. He was from the main island of St. Vincent. He says every time a crime happens on Bequia the police head for the St. Vincent boys – rounding up the usual suspects. When we were in St. Vincent we heard about the trouble the Bequia boys create.

svgIMG_4944 We stopped at a sugar plantation turned restaurant-bar. I asked this guy to explain to me how I tell which of the fruits are plantains and which are bananas. In the past I’ve been told bananas grow up, as in this pic, and plantains grow down. He  took me over to a tree and explained that the plantains come from plantain tree and the bananas from a banana tree – I’m sure he was thinking stupid tourist.

svgIMG_5114 There’s not a lot of the historical boat building going in Bequia anymore. They say Bob Dylan had his 68’wooden schooner, Water Pearl, built on the beach here. However, there is a lot of model boat building. Here’s Chris discussing with one of the Sargeant brothers their modeling operation.

svgIMG_5124 If you had the money you could purchase a whole fleet

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Another Sargeant brother working away on a model

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A J-46 model

svgDSCN2196We left Bequia and spent a few days in the Tobago Cays. Its pretty crowded with charter boats but has some decent snorkeling. The marketing people like to say it is like the Bahamas, which is true. Just 10,000 times smaller.

svgDSCN2214 Sergeant fish on the inside of the giant horseshoe reef

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I got my eye on you!

Paul

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Rebel Heart Kid Controversy

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From NPR to Fox News to the New York Times and the British Telegraph the Pacific Ocean rescue of the crew aboard Rebel Heart has made some entertainment for the worldwide news peddlers. If you haven’t heard, the basic story is that a couple, Eric and Charlotte, spent two years cruising in Mexico with their first born. While there they have a second child. They waited till the new kid was about 13 months old and headed off for a trans-Pacific crossing to the Marquesas, French Polynesia. This is one of the longest, if not the longest, passage that most cruising circumnavigators sail. Its about 3,000 miles and takes 3 to 4 weeks. The crew were reasonably prepared, although they did not have significant ocean passage experience.

When they were offshore Mexico about 900 miles the youngest child got sick. The boat also had developed some issues; the steering had problems and they were taking on water when the engine was run. Charlotte was clearly tired out after the first segment of the passage. A decision was made onboard to request outside rescue help to deal with the young child’s --or do you still say baby at 13 months -- condition.

PX*804146  These pararescuers grabbed an unscheduled C130 flight and four of them donned swim fins and jumped out into the Pacific along with a rubber raft. The baby was stabilized onboard but the decision was made that she should be evacuated to shore for further medical evaluation and treatment. A Navy frigate arrived a day later and evacuated the family and the pararescures. In the top picture you can see the wheel from Rebel Heart being passed over to the Navy rescue boat prior to Rebel Heart being scuttled.  I assume they saved the wheel as a memento – not that it is likely they they will forget about this adventure. The boat was scuttled – sunk – to avoid it becoming a hazard to navigation.

In many articles, Internet forums and blog posts and comments there have been some hard-core slamming of the family for putting their children at risk on this adventure and for abandoning the boat. When I’m on a commercial plane flight and there’s an infant within about 6 rows of me, I feel trapped and pray that the owners have appropriately drugged the child for the 3 or 4 hour journey. The last place I’d want to be is on a 3 week ocean passage on a small, bouncing sailboat with an infant. Of course, that doesn’t make it child abuse. My feeling is that when you take kids on a cruising boat it is an amazing growth opportunity for them. Life without The Mall and continuous i-connectivity. But they need to be old enough to have some sense of it. Maybe by 5 or 6 before they can really start to become part of the adventure. All parents take risks with their children. They drive them on the freeway. Some refuse to vaccinate them. Others delegate their care to outsiders. A wait of a few more years cruising closer into Mexico surely would have worked out for the better for Rebel Heart, but their decision to attempt long passages with an infant is really just a personal parenting decision, no different than the thousands of less obvious decisions that parents in suburbia make everyday. It’s not a decision I would have made, but others have. This one just turned out for the worse.

As to the abandoning of the ship. I’m sure that was a tough decision decision. The medical condition of the child was clearly beyond the state where the parents felt they could manage it. Once outside rescue help has arrived, the ball is rolling fast. The rescuers aren’t going to come out twice. The captain could have stayed with the ship and single handed the vessel the 2000 additional miles to French Polynesia, or tried to sail to windward and slogged back the 900 miles to the Mexican coast; both have been done before, but this in a boat that had reported steering and engine issues. And there would have been that small issue of not knowing how the family is doing in a time of crisis. Making the decision to abandon and scuttle the boat was probably what seemed the most reasonable at the time and it was probably pushed fairly hard by the Navy rescue team. As far as Internet facts go, it appears that the boat was uninsured, meaning they have lost their home and its contents – except the wheel – and will have to start over on land – hopefully with their family’s health intact.

Paul

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Martinique

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We left Dominica after a few days and headed down island to Martinique. We had some warranty parts being shipped from France to the marina in Le Marin at the south end of Martinique and didn’t want the package sitting around too long. First stop was the city of Sainte Pierre. Its claim to fame is that the volcano behind it erupted in 1902 and wiped out the 28,000 residents. The photo above is just after the eruption. A couple of days before the eruption the mayor made a speech letting the residents know that there was no longer a risk of eruption – at least that’s how the story goes. He was kind of right. It wasn’t the lava flow that got the town, it was the super-heated gasses that killed everyone except a prisoner locked up in the local jail. This guy later had a good career touring with the Barnum and Bailey Circus.

martinqueIMG_4822 The town is repopulated, but a little on the sleepy side. The capital was moved to Fort de France. We took a bunch of pictures of the old remains – none to be shown here as we’ve experienced some more electronics failure. The Canon zoom lens we bought at B&H camera in New York last summer is dead. Bummer.

martinqueIMG_4820 I”m not really up on my French gang tags, but we thought the art work on this beach wall in St. Pierre is pretty good.

 

martinqueIMG_4846There’s a lot of deep water diving at St. Pierre. The water is very deep till you are almost at the shore. A few days before the eruption a tsunami hit the bay and sunk a bunch of cargo ships. Most ended up in fairly deep water. Take a look at the gear in this photo. On the right is an old bronze diving helmet, on the left on the dock is a 50’s style dive suit and in the upper left is a two person hand crank air pump. These guys were doing a dive off the pier using this old equipment – I assume just because they could.

martinqueIMG_4853 A north swell really picked up overnight. We were anchored close into the beach – about 250 feet off in 17 feet of water. The swell just didn’t make staying there seem like a smart move.

martinqueIMG_4858 We headed off on a light wind sail toward Fort de France, the capital. Part the way down the wind was totally shadowed by the high mountains. We saw this red German flagged steel-hull boat doing 360’s and then saw them jumping into their dinghy. We went over to see if they were OK. Here’s me earning my sailing kharma points for towing them toward the wind. Chris censored the other photos as not blog appropriate.

martinqueIMG_4869 We spent a night in Anse Mitan across from Fort de France. The dinghy dock was untenable due to the swells and its location right up against the rocks, so we took off in the morning and continued on to St. Anne, at the bottom of the island next to the bay that had our parts. This is sunset with Martinique on the right and Diamand on the left. Sorry, no green flash.

martinqueDSCN2159 We got in a little snorkeling near the entrance to Le Marin bay. Seascape with abandoned fish trap.

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There was some great sponges. Look at the size of the one at the center bottom compared to Chris’ head.

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Not sure if this is Global Warming related, but there was an iceberg floating in the anchorage.

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Gingerbread filigree on a local building.

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And the real reason to go to any French island – fresh baguettes.

We’re off on an overnight sail to Bequia (pronounced beck-way)this afternoon.

Paul

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sailing with Foreigners

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I was reading an e-mail that Chris sent to one of her friends recently and figured it just seemed somewhat appropriate for April 1st. Here’s a long snippet.

…We've been in the eastern Caribbean, the Windward Islands, for awhile now, getting further and further away from the N. American crowd, and I've got to tell you, being among the Euros is such a trip! Paul of course is thrilled by the fact that none of the women wear tops. The highlight of the Iles de Saintes, for Paul, was the topless snorkeler. But, they don’t even wear tops while they’re sailing. We towed this young German couple’s boat a few miles the other day and the girl was topless the entire time. You know it's one thing to sunbathe with the girls hanging out there (be careful not to burn the nips!) but all together another to be working the winches! Ouch. The other day a young woman (w/two small children) who was on a French boat anchored near us (the French like to come into an anchorage, even one with plenty of room and see just how close they can anchor to the other boats) was walking around on the boat in her birthday suit. Paul is watching her, of course, and she bends over and just totally browns him out. He almost fell off the boat… ewwww. Saw another couple last night anchoring in the nude – completely starkers... explain that one to me. The German ‘'boys’ like to walk around their boats in their birthday suits all the time, especially the big boys.TMI! But I mean really, guys, do you  want those dangly things any where near the windlass??

Ok, I know I come off sounding like an American prude, but as a health care provider I think it’s my responsibility to point out the hazards involved when you sail without your safety gear… Just a public health announcement.