Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Back Home

Boy, the trip back home is a lot easier when you take a jet.

We spent our last day touring on foot and by bus around Bequia. If you ever get there, be sure to investigate Industry beach. It is a beatiful spot, as pretty as any I have found in the Caribbean so far, with lots of nice looking villas on the hillside, some of them for rent. We stopped at a restaurant "Dawns Creole Beach Bar" for refreshements and thought it was as nice as any to date.

On the the sea turtle sanctuary for a tour, then a long walk back to the boat for our last night and a meal of Barracuda. Sweet.

We left Bequia at 6:30 AM and took a ferry back to St Vincent. The old vessel was pretty much what you would expect, rough but serviceable with threadbare upholstery, minimal lifesaving equipment in view, and a smoking old deisel, but she got us there just the same. We were in teh company of many locals, mostly middle school students in their clean pressed uniforms on their way to mainland St Vincent for a better education.

From there, a LIAT flight over to San Jaun, and the rest is pretty much mainland experience. It was interesting watching the progression from rustic to polished as we headed back to the US. It was snowing in Philly when we passed through, and there is a light snow falling here as I write.
Thanks for following along. I may blog again later in the spring if I help Alan get Unabated back up north.


Back in Bequia

We are back in Bequia for the last day of the Bequia music festval, and to stage ourselves for or return to St Vincent. and on to Boston by air.

We left Clifton harbor for a short sail over to Chatham Harbor (still on Union Island). Chatham is a very quiet spot in the lee of the island with a few local beach bars and one development by outsiders. The development has the look of Herman Mouk's (sp?) play, "Dont stop the carnival" in which the protagonist had great ideas for improving the island, but is confronted by obstacle after obstacle, mostly cultural, until the projects grinds not to a halt, but to island time. Which may as well be a halt. The development has a couple of LARGE titki huts with a nice bar and upholstered lounge chairs surrounded by a dozen or so cinder block structures that are barely started. No progress at all in the weeks Dawn and Laure have been around.

We went to a local beach bar for dinner, When you arrive, the boat boys come out and solicit your business for buying their fish, lobster, or coming to their bars. If you do want to come to diner, they take your order right then, I guess that allows them to know what fish to keep, and which they are free to sell on the local market, Or maybe that tells them what they have to go catch.

No need to worry about getting frozen fish, there is no electricity on this side of the island. This particular bar is lit by LED lights off of batteries. Technology that was doubtless imported by the visiting yachts.

At Vanessa and Seckie's place, Happy hour is from 3 to 6, with all drinks half price. At 6 they go up to regular price which is OK since they become twice as large. Dawn and Laure swear that they saw print ads ad heard radio adds for a bar that offered 3 beers for $10EC and 4 for $15EC. The stupid tax takes many forms.

We snorkeled and read, and the next morning we sailed for 4 hours back to Bequia for the music festival. We just caught the end of the festival, and really enjoyed only one of the 3 acts we saw. But it was cheap and a nice scene for hanging out, and we ran into old cruising buddies from SV July Indian for pleasant conversation. The music was mostly popular, and we would have preferred local forms; they have become one and the same..

Dana has become the fishing soothsayer, She successfully predicted each of our two catches this trip. True to her second prediction, we caught a nice little barracuda on the way, and will have it for dinner tonight. You don't think of Barracuda as an eating fish, but we all like it's nice white flesh with a flavor of scallops.

More pictures will be posted on


Union Island, Clifton Harbor

For pictures, go to Dawn's blog:

We had a good, quick sail over to Union island, with strong winds well behind the beam. We had the lines out, but no bites.

Union Island is a wonderful spot. I had misgivings when I got here with regard to the kiting, but they were unfounded. It has blown 20 kts consistently since we got here. I am working on backroll transitions and making the biggest possible splash. I am in flat water for a change, and liking it. If I want surf, I just tack out a narrow, shallow channel in the reef.

The rest of the crew are enjoying a relaxing time reading a snorkeling. There were a few good finds in the book exchange at the local yacht club. (yes, there is one, and it s pretty nice..
The town is quaint and colorful, supplies are available and Dawn spotted a few lobster in a nearby reef a week ago, and we need to try to catch them.

Salt Whistle Bay

The Swedes were around for a couple of great sessions yesterday at Salt Whistle, I was sunburned and exhausted by10:30 AM. We had 20 kts of breeze and waist high kickers inside the reef, and chest high over the reef. I re-acquinted myself with backrolls and jumping on relatively flat water.

We headed off to a nice little restaurant on the hill for a nice lunch of red snapper and conch for lunch, which served as our dinner.

I waited for 4:30 to set up the kite for a sunset session. I was very disappointed when I crashed the kite hard after just a few minutes, and on relauch saw a 6" tear in the kite. On inspection, it was clear that there had been a small tear from beach trauma that opened up more on impact. I tried to fix it on the beach, but with 25 Kt winds, that wasn't going to happen. I did not think to just go get my 9 meter and continue, so the session was over.

The hell here never ends.

We retired to the boat for a very nice evening of dominoes and rum punch, and watched the monohulls sway in the swell. At this point in the game, Dana is slightly in the lead. We quit around cruisers midnight (8:30) and will continue tonight.

We spent a lot of time talking about what boat Dawn's sister and brother in law should buy to begin their planned trip south. My big conclusion after having spent more time on a Cat is: I would not do another trip here on a monohull unless I had something to dampen the rolling in these (relatively) unprotected harbors. The nights can be just too long when the northerly roll sets in. On the Cat it is not problem, the motion at harbor is very nice. I do prfer the motion of the monohull at sea, and Cats are very expensive; so I would try to find out all I could about "flopper stoppers" before I ponied up for a Cat. I have talked to mono cruisers that said it was the single most important piece of gear they carried. This morning, the crew of Unabated was exhausted, and we were well rested.

Sorry for the typos, This keyboard is skipping letters and there is no spell check.

I was up at 6:30 and patched the kite with the emerency kit I brought. I though I would do a morning session before we moved on, but the crew was read to move by 8:00. We were underway in a flash, and secure on two anchors in Clifton Harbor Union Island by 9:30. This is a great chan of Islands - Line of sight sailing like the BVIs but wihtout the annoying British Customs and immigration people.

Off to explore. BTW - I have not been able to get my email, so don't feel ingnored if you have replied without acknowledgement.

Salt Whistle Bay - Dana's new desktop image

We woke up to a pretty windy frontal system passing through. It was blowing about 25 knots and raining, and I had to be restrained from heading to the beach for some kiting.

There was some excitement in the morning when a charter boat dragged anchor and ended up on the rocks. She was holed and taking on water. Lauri quipped “Gee, it is a shame that the first boat you bought had a hole in it”, referring to the likely response of the charter company when the found out where the charterers had anchored the boat. (They were not in a location that was likely to meet with the approval of the charter company.)

In spite of the strong winds, I was shanghaied into crossing over to Salt Whistle instead of rigging the kite. It all worked out quite well though, as the wind held all afternoon, and I was able to exhaust myself trying to get back to my skill level of just a few months ago.

Herve and Gwen also sailed over, so I had some company kiting. I found out today the they are on sabbatical and bought a catamaran to cross the Atlantic and cruise the Caribbean. Later we met Alex, Caroline and Maria, who are very good kiters that pushed us to try more than we might have otherwise. This other group is here from Sweden on a chartered boat for a few weeks.

I hope they will be here tomorrow.


Tobago Cays

After fixing the mechanical challenge on Unabated, we had our dinner of Bigeye tuna, salad, rice and pigeon peas and retired contented.

The next morning, we headed out to check out the kiting spot and the local reefs, When I say local, I mean that they were right there next to the boat.

The snorkelling was very good, with sightings of a white eel, cow fish, juvenile and adult angels of the French and Grey varieties, damsels, red lipped blennys, a 5-6 foot nurse shark, lobster, etc. etc.

The kiting was pretty good too, but with weak winds, only 13-16 kts, but enough to get a session in. I did befriend a nice Frenchman, Herve and his wife Gwen. We did some downwind kiting by launching a kite, putting the kiter on a dinhgy, and delivering him out to sea for a run back.
The boat has been visited by a small parade of boat boys (I am not sure that this moniker is politically correct, but it is the accepted local term) selling their wares to the tourist. They offer bigeye and yellow fin tuna, Florida lobsters, local jewellery, tee shirt and the like. I think they can see that Cat Tales is a long-term cruiser, and not a likely buyer for their wares. They focus more on those who are her for a week, and on a vacation budget. They may have been pleasantly surprised when Dana demonstrated that we are on vacation by buying some tee shirts.

Tomorrow we head for Salt Whistle bay, a short sail to the west.


Damn Them All

Sorry for the delay, but we didn’t have the connectivity I though, so I am writing this not knowing when you will receive it. Sooooo…..

God Damn them all, I was told
We’d cruise the seas for American gold
We’d fire no guns Shed no tears
Now I’m a broken man on a Halifax pier
The last of Barrett’s privateers

Instead the brave crew of the Halifax shop “Antelope” were treated to 6 years in prison for having tried to capture an American prize. If you are interested in figuring out just what the hell I am talking about, you should find the lyrics for Stan Rogers’ “Barretts Privateers”. In fact, just try to find some Stan Rogers music to appreciate some sea chanteys; and if our experience is any indication, they should be enjoyed under an nearly full moon with rum punch followed by smuggled beef and root vegetables with christophene, a Caribbean vegetable delight.

That was our dinner song tonight, and quite a song it is. I think we need to learn all of the words by the end of the cruise. Not everyone agrees, but if I persist singing it all of the time, I think they will learn through osmosis, unless they just toss me overboard.

Our cruise is going quite a lot better than the sailors of the Antelope’s did. We headed off from St Vincent to Bequia in the company of Unabated, Alan’s boat, and a sister ship to Madness in fact and in spirit.

Bequia was very quiet and low key. We went ashore for provisions; mainly beer. We did some lovely snorkelling that featured golden spotted eels, which are really just snakes that live underwater, according to Dana. We also spotted some Moray eels that elicited pretty much the same response.

The next morning we headed over to Tobago Keys, the first kiting spot on the itinerary.
There is a saying among sailors that whenever two boats ply the same water there is a race. Our trip across from Bequia to the Tobago Keys was no exception, except that there is a strange variation on the usual theme. Each of the contestants is completely and utterly convinced that the other won the contest. Alan has a pretty convincing photo of the stern of Cat Tails, but we have not yet resolved the dispute.

I was conflicted during the “not a race” not knowing whether to cheer for the boat that I was the helming or the sister shop to my own boat. I thought that we had a good view of the stern of “Unabated” the entire trip, but while we will talk about it for years or even generations, we don’t have the ambition to determine the real answer.

One thing we know for sure, that if we eventually stumble on some fact that establishes “Unabated” as the winner, Cat Tails has the excuse that we caught a perfectly delectable Bigeye Tuna’ and had to engage in the ritual of thrashing about taking in sail, reeling in the fish, landing and bleeding him. He made a fine dinner for all.

Also, Unabated suffered a mechanical failure that might in some circles mean that she failed the contest, but as we are sailors, we do not hold this against her. It did make for some excitement when her auxiliary engine did not propel the boat forward as intended, and she had to be short tacked up a relatively narrow passage to the Tobago Keys. Alan sailed her to anchor with me running alongside in Cat Tales’ dinghy in case she needed assistance. (She did NOT), We spent a few hours sorting out the failure of a driveshaft coupling. I think this may have been frustrating for Alan, but it was good fun for me rigging a Spanish windlass to force the propeller shaft back into the boat. It was a good swim and as good as any other way to pass the time.

More about the Tobago Keys tomorrow.


Monday, January 25, 2010

In the Caribbean again! Smuggling!

I have been ashore for months, but this blog is not about that.

Dana and I are visiting our cruising friends Dawn and Lauri Corbett on Cat Tails. Cat Tails is a Fountaine Pajot 35 catamaran (it is obligatory to have a feline reference in your name if you have a cat), one of my favorites is Feline Good).

The flight down was somewhat less dramatic than our last passage, there were no mutineys on USAIR flight 1969, no aviary pirates, no flare sightings. In fact, we were bumped to first class, and spent the time doing Sudoku puzzles and napping.

There was some intrigue to keep us occupied, we were smuggling in a whole beef tenderloin in the middle of our luggage. Good beef is very hard to find down here, even the French offer a poor substitute. Dana and I rehearsed our lines; she packed that bag, and I filled out the customs forms not knowing that she had included the illicit beef...

When our time in the breech came, the customs officer had just opened and searched the baggage of the person ahead of us, and it was looking dangerous. As we put our bags up on the counter, I started acting like I did not want him to search the very large kiteboard bag (marked pro golf, so the airlines won't charge board fees). The bag was our saving grace, it was large and strange enough that it distracted him from the contraband, and he insisted on searching it instead of discovering the bovine infraction right under his nose.

In truth, we would not have felt bad at all if he had confiscated it, as we sspected strongly that it would have introduced the locals to a very good quality of beef at one of their cookouts, and they might open their borders to USDA Filet Mignon.

The flight from San Juan to St Vincent was more interesting, flying over the Spanish, US and Brititsh Virgins, then Saba, Statia, St Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat. As we flew over each, I was pasted to the window, remebering passages and tours associated with each spot.
then it was on to Terra Incognita - Guadeloupe, the Saints, Dominica, Martinique, St Lucia, and into St Vincents.

When we got to the docks via cab, we could see Cat tails right there at a mooring, and right next to it, Unabated, the sister ship to Madness belonging to Alan, who crewed with me to Bermuda.