Monday, December 23, 2013

Mustique

Mustique is a privately owned island in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.  There are less than 100 houses there, and they are owned by some pretty famous and very wealthy people.

We like visiting there -- not because of the chance to glimpse a celebrity (we never have), but because it has a world-class bar (Basil's), some interesting hikes, and a great place to go for a run (around the salt pond/lagoon).  The one downside is that you have to rent a mooring, and you have to pay for three nights even if you only stay one or two.

Normally that doesn't bother us, since three days is about right for a visit.  However, this time we were informed after tying up that there were restrictions on where visitors could go.  We could jog to the lagoon, visit the few shops, and visit Basil's (and the famous Firefly restaurant with special arrangements) but that was it.

It was explained to us that nearly all of the owners were present on the island (an unusual circumstance), and they had been offended sometime in the past when visitors took photos. 

Well, its their island, I guess, so they can make the rules.  Not very friendly, and it seriously reduced the number of visiting boats.  We thought they should have at least offered a discount on the mooring fees, since so much of the island was unavailable.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Anchoring adventures on Bequia

We had a very challenging day today in Bequia - the rode on our mooring broke while we were off the boat, and we returned from our shopping trip to find the boat in a different place than we had left it.  Some kind soul had captured her drifting in the harbor, and tied her to a different mooring.  What a surprise!

Bequia is a notoriously challenging place to anchor.  You can get the anchor down, but then drag dozens or even hundreds of feet.  Some places the sea bottom looks like a farmer's field, with long furrows everywhere.  Because of this, we chose to use a mooring this trip.  Didn't work out so well.

After the bad mooring experience, we decided we would trust our own anchor.  We had to try a couple of different locations to anchor before we could get hooked.  The first try, we just contributed to the furrow collection.  The second try, we were finally successful.  A looong way from town, but still attached firmly to the bottom.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Hash House Harriers at Momma Cannes

The Hash House Harriers is an international group (mainly British and former colonies) that organizes mad treks through beautiful scenery and challenging terrain. You can either walk or run (or a mixture of both). An important part of the experiences is the cheap beer and local foods at the party afterwards.

The chapter on Grenada is very active, and there is an event nearly every Saturday.   There are often a hundred or more participants.  We really appreciate the mix of people -- Old and young, locals and visitors, and students from the medical school.  A great chance to meet folk you wouldn't otherwise interact with.  The Hashes are held around the island, so you get to visit some rural areas and small villages.

We have joined a few times, and its lots of fun. Here are some photos from the Hash on December 7 at Momma Cannes (that's the name of a village).  This was a bit smaller crowd than usual (I think the med students are studying for finals).  The run was described as "very tough," and considering that we are still acclimating to warm temperatures, we decided to walk.  This was nice, but it must have been the shortest Hash in Grenada history, only about 35 minutes.  But the party was fun!











Before and After

Gretchen promised some photos to document the process of getting Callisto ready for launching, so here they are:

Just getting started at sorting things out:






And here's a shot after the dust had settled:





Quite a difference!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

In the Water 2013



We completed nearly all of our pre-launch to-do list, and splashed on schedule on December 2.  It is awesome to see this 30,000 pound object moved around so gracefully by the boatyard.  Our engine started with no trouble, and we slowly motored off into the harbor.

The first few hundred meters are always a bit tense, because the water is quite shallow and we worry about running aground.  After making this journey several times, you would think we’d trust the depth a bit more – but we don’t.

Out in the harbor, the first task is to find a place to anchor.  You have to be out of the traffic lane, and preferably not too far from the dinghy docks.  And of course you can’t end up too close to other boats.  Naturally, there are already dozens of boats in the harbor, all with the same objective.  We usually end up prioritizing having enough room over minimizing the dinghy ride.

There are a few commissioning activities that can only really be done after we’re in the water.  For instance, to flush the watermaker we need a lot of seawater.  This year we had a further task, which was completing the repair of our refrigerator.  This unit uses seawater to cool the condenser, so the final check out and adjustment had to wait until we launched.

We are getting into the rhythm of life aboard.  It always takes a few days to adjust to the warm temperatures, and to get used to the boat rocking in the water.  Prickly Bay is one of the rollier anchorages we spend time in.

It seems as though we always end up spending more time in Prickly Bay than we planned.  This year is no different.  We had to order a new chartplotter, and it takes more than a week to come from St. Martin.  Our old chartplotter works fine, but the joystick button broke last year.  We were disappointed to find that, even though our model first came to the market in 2009, Raymarine can no longer supply parts to repair it.  Hopefully we can get the new unit on the island and installed by the middle of next week, so we can start the northward portion of our season.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Day 2013



Thanksgiving Day, Prickly Bay Grenada

We hope that everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving has a good feast with friends and family.  We will enjoy a Thanksgiving meal at a local restaurant, along with other itinerant souls.

David has been working hard at getting all of our sun-worn teak window frames and companion way frame sanded and varnished.  This is a multi-step and multi-day process, with sticky surfaces that are hard to avoid as we try to continue other work on the boat while the varnish dries.  I have been working hard at showing him the spots he’s missed.

Today we hope to get our new battery bank installed, install new thermostats on the wind generator and perhaps put on the foresails (if the wind cooperates), and tidy up below decks.  All the cushions and mattresses are topsy turvy while we wait for the batteries, since they reside under one of the benches in the saloon and the hardware associated with them is on the bed in the foreward berth.   I hope to add a before and after photo to the blog…

Friday we will work on what we don’t get done today, plus make one of the big provisioning trips to the grocery store.  This will be the trip for everything that doesn’t need refrigeration…including things like garbage bags, TP, paper towels.  Pasta, rice, dried beans, onions, potatoes, squash, canned goods (mostly tomatoes), pickles, condiments, and of course, stocking the bar…
Our refrigeration works by using brass plates under the boat to transfer heat, so stocking the fridge and freezer has to wait until at least Monday afternoon or Tuesday next week. 

More later!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Soon!

It's less than two weeks before we leave for the season, and we are in the middle of our departure ritual.  Making lists - many lists.  What to pack? What work needs to be done on Callisto before we can launch?  Who to contact about our departure?  What to buy in the US before we head for Grenada?  Getting out the suitcases and starting to fill them up.  Printing out all the documents we need for travel arrangements, etc.

We will be spending a week in the Washington, DC, area before heading south, visiting our daughter Esther and her fiance, James Allred.  They will be married next June, and Gretchen wants to participate in some of the wedding preparations, e.g. choosing a wedding gown.  It should be a good visit.  Its also a chance for us to do some online shopping, to be delivered to her apartment so we can pick the goods up while we're there.

The weather in Switzerland has been a mix of a few sunny afternoons scattered among many gray, cold days.  At noon, the sun is so low in the sky it seems like late afternoon.  The longer days and the prospect of sun in the Caribbean seem ever more attractive.  Soon!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Thoughts Turning South

As we pass the Fall Equinox and the days are rapidly growing shorter, our thoughts are increasingly turning south.  We have decided to start our Caribbean cruising a bit earlier this year, to avoid some of the gloomy days in November and December.  That will also get Gretchen back home for an early start to the golf season next year.

This is likely to be a year of changes in our cruising pattern.  We have spent three seasons in the Eastern Caribbean now.  While we have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and been lucky to meet some wonderful people, we think we will be finding fewer new things to discover.  Its a big world, and we think its a mistake to restrict our cruising to one region, no matter how nice.

So, while nothing is ever for sure, its likely that we will move Callisto to the ABC islands (Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire) at some point during this coming season.  We have good friends who spent last winter on Bonaire, and gave us rave reviews.  It is especially known for scuba diving, and our new scuba skills makes that particularly appealing. 

From that base, we will be positioned in future years to explore Columbia, Panama, and Guatemala.  The thought of the Panama Canal is lurking out there, but that is a very big step --  once in the Pacific, the only realistic direction to sail is East.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Home At Last

At the end of the sailing season, we spent nearly three weeks visiting family in the US.  Gretchen's mother, Lois, celebrated her 80th birthday in Bath, NY.  We were really happy to be able to join her for this milestone.

Our daughter, Esther, then celebrated her graduation from the Law School at the University of Virginia.  This is an exceptionally challenging program, and we are inordinately proud of her accomplishment.  She will be working for the Citizenship and Immigration Services in Washington, DC.  She will be providing legal advice on refugee resettlement.  We were honored to be present at her graduation ceremony.

Finally, a return to home in Switzerland.  After a 25+ hour journey, we arrived tired but very happy to be home.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

End of the 2013 Sailing Season

The last week or 10 days of the sailing season is all about boat chores.  Consider the preparations that you would want to do before leaving your home unoccupied for six months.  You want the place clean when you get back, you don't want anything rotten in the pantry, you sure don't want any mildew.  So many of the chores involve cleaning.

But there are also boat-specific things to do:  putting away the sails, changing the oil in the outboard, emptying the water tanks, stowing the dinghy, putting preservative in the desalinator.  Probably the least pleasant of these is scraping/sanding/grinding off all the barnacles and other marine growth that always finds a home on the underwater metal parts - propeller, drive shaft, etc.

We start building a to-do list several weeks before we are scheduled to haul out.  We divide the list into three sections:  things that should or must be done before the boat is hauled, things better left until we are on the hard, and things that could be done any time.

Well, we finished all the pre-haul items last Thursday, just in time for our haul-out first thing Friday morning (May 3).  We've been working steadily since then, and are 80% through with the rest of the chores.

Tomorrow we will finish the list (hopefully), and then can relax for a day before heading off on Wednesday morning.

We will spend a couple of weeks with family in New York and Virginia, and then finally home to Switzerland.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sailing season is almost over....


We are back in the country of Grenada, almost to our final destination for the 2012-2013 sailing season.   Our exact location is on the island of Carriacou, moored at Sandy Island.   Sandy Island is small shoal island in a protected marine sanctuary with a limited number of moorings available.  Anchoring is not permitted.  We have wanted to stop here for the last three years, but the moorings were always full.  Yesterday we got lucky and were able to move to a mooring shortly after 7 am.   I looked online for some good photos, and was reminded that this island has changed a lot over the years, due to hurricanes.  

The sky was cloudy for most of the morning, but we were able to snorkel under clear skies in the afternoon.  It was fantastic!   A first for me was seeing a turtle under the water.  It was a hawksbill, and I would guess it was at least 5 years old, comparing it to the turtles we saw in the Bequia sanctuary.  I also had a sighting of about fifty reef squid.  They remind me of an underwater armada.  They all face the same direction and seem to be marching in lines.  

RIght now there are lots of schools of baby fish in the water, ranging in size from less than an inch to six inches.  The numbers of fish are huge (10s of thousands or more) and it is so interesting to watch how they react to us, and other fish, darting apart, together, then move on in a colorful stream or forming a large ball underwater.  Of course, where there are baby fish there a bigger fish and birds looking for a meal.  We saw mostly jacks in the water, with gulls and boobies in the air.  This morning I also saw a pelican. 

Today is very rainy and overcast, tomorrow we plan to move onto the main island of Grenada with a stop planned at another famous snorkel spot of underwater sculpture, which has recently been updated with new statues.  Then we will go to Prickly Bay and begin working on the chore list, before our haul out on the 3rd of May.
Reef squid (from Wikipedia)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary




On the island of Bequia, a retired diver and fisherman, Orton King, has dedicated his life to supporting wild populations of Hawksbill turtles.  He collects newly-hatched turtles, and raises them in captivity until they are five years old, then releases them into the wild.

Left on their own, only one in 3000 hatchlings makes it to adulthood.  Mr. King believes that as many as 15 out of every 100 turtles in his care survive in the wild.  He marks the shells by drilling two small holes, and gets many reports from cruisers and divers who have seen his turtles, some from as far away as Grenada.

We saw small turtles, about 7 months old and the size of your hand, all the way up to large ones, almost ready to be released.  Every shell has different patterns and colors, all are beautiful.

It was fantastic to see these creatures up close, and amazing how graceful they are in the water.

Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary

  video

 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Decisions, Decisions

Yesterday we made a passage from St. Lucia to the island of Bequia in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  This is one of our longer passages, more than 50 miles.

In planning the passage, one important question is "On which side of St. Vincent do we travel?"  St. Vincent is a large island with many tall mountains.  We knew from experience that traveling on the leeward (western) side of the island would mean little or no wind and extensive motoring.  We don't like to motor -- it is noisy and diesel is expensive.

The alternative is the windward (eastern) side of the island.  You have to be careful to stay well off-shore, since the wind would push you into trouble if you had an unexpected problem.  This adds a couple of miles to the journey, but worth it to avoid extended motoring.

The trouble is that, usually, the wind doesn't cooperate.  In order to take this more-easterly route, we would need to tack.  This means, not a couple of extra miles, but many extra miles.

Yesterday, though, we were in luck.  The wind was from the due east, and since our course was basically due south, we could travel without tacking.  Seemed like an ideal time to try the windward option.

Unfortunately, there is another factor to be considered.  When we started on our southward course from St. Lucia, we discovered that we were facing a very strong, adverse current.  The current had both east-to-west and south-to-north components.  We face east-to-west currents almost continuously in the Caribbean, but the south-to-north component isn't all that common.  And it was flowing at more than 3 knots!  We rarely see currents that strong.  Perhaps it was due to the new moon.

Well, time to reconsider our plan.  If we kept going down the windward side, we would be traveling at only 4 knots or so -- not fast enough to make our anchorage by dark.  We changed gears and headed for the leeward side.

On this course, the current was basically pushing us sideways.  We could compensate for that by changing our sailing angle, and maintain good average speeds.  Plus, while we were behind the island, we would be protected from the east-to-west current.  As it turned out, we even experienced a favorable north-to-south current for a few miles along the southern coast.

So, a couple of hours of motoring.  Not the end of the world and we have done it many times before.  Still, it was a relief to get around the southern end of St. Vincent, set the sails, and turn that noisy machine OFF.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Another Day, Another Waterfall

We're always looking for destinations to justify a hike, and waterfalls certainly fit the bill.  On Dominica this trip, we've visited two very different ones.

Cruisers in the Caribbean rely very heavily on cruising guides to help them through day-to-day decisions.  The most popular by far are published by a company called "Cruising Guide Publications," and two we use most heavily (Leeward Islands and Windward Islands) are authored by a man named Chris Doyle.  Chris has been doing this for decades -- our Windward Island guide is the 16th edition -- and he is very influential among both cruisers, but also among the various service providers, restaurants, and shops on the island.

Well, when Martin of "Providence," one of the boat services folks in Portsmouth, Dominica, asked us if we'd like to take a hike with Chris Doyle, it was a very immediate "Yes!"  We went to a place not well publicized, called Sherry Falls.  This is a relatively easy (35 minute), and extremely beautiful walk through the forest.  The falls are modest, maybe 25 feet high, but quite picturesque.

video

Here's a shot with Chris Doyle and Martin:



The other extreme of waterfall tourism includes several very well-known and well-visited large waterfalls.  The most popular is Trafalgar Falls, because it is easily accessible by cruise ship visitors.  Another famous one is Victoria Falls, which we visited last year.  Today we hiked to Middleham Falls.  This is the highest waterfall on Dominica, at 180 feet.  It is a much more difficult hike than Sherry Falls, but promoted enough that there is a fairly steady stream of visitors.  We saw three other groups during our two-hour hike.  Anyway, Middleham Falls is pretty spectacular:

video

As you can see, we were enjoying ourselves:


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Dominica - Portsmouth

Just a quick note before we leave for Roseau.

We have had a great week in Dominica, as usual!   We were very honored to be asked to accompany Chris Doyle (author of the definitive cruising guides for the Carribean) on a hike to a small but beautiful waterfall on Easter Sunday morning.  The hike was arranged by Martin "Providence", a very knowledgeable guide.   Two other US couples joined as well, Soul Mates from Florida and Sinbad from Michigan.  After the hike we took a small northern island tour, which included a visit to "Cold Soufriere".  Cold Soufriere is a cold volcano...in essence the gases bubbling up from the earth have come such a long way that they are completely cool by the time they surface.    We learned that Dominica is one of the youngest islands in the chain, and that is why there is still so much seismic activity here.

The second highlight of the week was a chance to go fishing with Alexis.  He is a very patient man!  I fed two fish (meaning did not set the hook) which Alexis said were almost surely kingfish, and David fed three.  Finally, I managed to hook and land (with Alexis'help) a barracuda and a jack.  The barracuda was very tasty.  I steamed it with some Adobo seasoning and lemon grass we collected on the tour with Martin.  We are assured that there is no ciguatera in Dominca so it is safe to eat reef fish and reef fish predators.  David and I both agreed that having the chance to see the shoreline up close was an added bonus.

Today we are off to Roseau, and hopefully there will be some pics in the camera to add to this post.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Nevis

Nevis, part of St. Kitts and Nevis, is a wonderful island, laid back and with very interesting terrain.  It has one of the taller mountains in the area, but also more flat areas than many islands.  St. Kitts is a cruise ship center, and we noticed that there has been an effort to get more cruise ship tourists to visit Nevis by ferry.  Good for the local economy, not so much for cruisers like us.

We took an interesting hike, and visited some ruins of an old estate.  On the way, we were directed by a trail-side sign to this very interesting tree:






It is a baobab tree, planted in 1859. An enormous trunk, as you can see.

The estate ruins were also very interesting, though completely overgrown  with vegetation and unrestored.  Here are a few shots:





This is a kettle used to boil down sugar cane juice into sugar.  It is about 8 feet in diameter.

Remains of an old steam engine, and a smaller sugar kettle.


In the 1600's, about a quarter of the non-slave population was Jewish.  Ruins of the synagogue still can be seen in the main town, and there is a Jewish cemetery, still very well-kept, near by.  We took a few photos of some of the gravestones there:


The stones are placed by visitors to acknowledge the person buried there.