Category Archives: Caribbean & Bahamas

Rushing Through the Eastern Caribbean

We’ve had a busy week, trying to enjoy as much of the Eastern Caribbean as possible, while getting to Antigua in time for Harry’s departure and Hallie’s arrival — both today.

From Barbados we sailed overnight to Prickly Bay, Grenada. I was a bit taken aback by the crowd of boats in the bay. But we found an empty mooring. And clearing in was pleasant, and there was good pizza and draft beer and showers and music and great internet. What’s not to like!? Next day we met a taxi driver who put together an island tour for us. The first stop was the Spice and Herb Garden, with a guide and straight-from-the-plant samples of everything — nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, black pepper, clove, tamarind, cacao, and plenty more that I can’t remember. Loved it! Then a hearty lunch where the locals eat, followed by a hike to a waterfall for a refreshing dip. On the way back we passed through the old downtown of St George. Everywhere we saw fresh red, yellow and green paint — the colors of Grenada — in preparation for Independence Day approaching.

The island was much prettier than Barbados, the sights more interesting, the prices lower, and my sense was that the people were more “real.” Would be nice to linger, but no time for that. In the morning we began our trek north.

Carriacou is only 30 miles away, but it was a beat to windward. It took us longer than expected, and we arrived at Tyrell Bay after dark. It looked like an easy approach on the chart, but again we were surprised by the number of boats in the anchorage. We had to thread our way among them in the moonlight to find a parking space.

In the morning we went ashore and the others found some fruit and veggies while I waited in line to clear out. Then we had another breezy beat to windward to Union Island, just 9 miles away. We enjoyed sailing past several other boats, and we enjoyed watching a much larger and very sleek boat zoom past us.

An interesting thing happened along the way. Another sailboat hailed us on the VHF radio distress channel. They had engine problems, they said, and they were having trouble sailing into the strong wind, and they asked if we would give them a tow. A tow?? This got me angry, and it took me a while to sort out why. I stayed off the radio, while Bill talked with them and basically said it wasn’t feasible for us to tow them. But if I had been clear about my reaction, I would have said this: I will of course provide whatever assistance I can in an emergency; but this is not an emergency. You are sailing okay even though you are making limited headway; you can turn downwind and head for an alternate anchorage; you can turn back to Carriacou. Trying to take you in tow is risky, and likely to turn a challenging situation into a dangerous one.

What made me angry was their putting me in the position of making a judgment call about their level of “distress,” which they should have made on their own. In the end, they turned back toward Carriacou.

We arrived at Clifton, on Union Island, late in the day, and took a mooring in the crowded harbor. Ashore I got to wait in a long line for the second time that day, to clear into St Vincent and the Grenadines. The cumbersome formalities plus the substantial fees are annoying; add a long wait and it gets old fast!

Next morning we are off to the fabled Tobago Cays — a maze of reefs and tiny islands that are (or at least were) remote and unspoiled and beautiful. Unlike 30 years ago, when Hallie and I visited, the anchorages behind the islands were packed. But there was plenty of open space on the windward side of the islands, protected only by the reef. I love behind-the-reef anchorages, and I liked this one, but it was very windy and rather bouncy.

The snorkeling here has a great reputation, but it was a bit rough to appreciate it. The more intrepid of the crew swam out to the coral heads by the reef. The rest of us still got to watch sea turtles feeding. A local came by in a boat selling T-shirts, which didn’t grab me. But he got my attention when he said he also had banana bread, which we bought. Then I asked if he couldn’t bring us a lobster dinner, too, and he said he would contact his buddy Free Willy, who would provide this service. The price tag was high, but we decided it was too good an opportunity to pass up. Willy came by later to confirm our reservation. But when our scheduled 6pm came around, no Willy. As 7pm approached, I started water for pasta, but just then a boat approached. Let’s just say that it was worth the wait, as well as the cost. Big lobsters, somehow still hot, plus baked potatoes and veggies and rice. A feast!

It would have been nice to stay in the area longer, but we had no time to spare. In the morning it was on to Bequia, where we could clear out of the Grenadines. Bequia has a huge and beautiful yacht anchorage, and yachts seem to be the primary business (only the occasional relatively small cruise ship). Easy anchoring, easy dinghying ashore, a nice boardwalk into town, the best burger I’ve had outside the USA, and excellent smoothies. The woman doing smoothies gave me a long stare. She said I look so much like her father that she thought I was him. (I have a tan, but not close to her skin color, but who knows what color her father is?) I asked about the white hair and beard. Yup, the same as her father. I didn’t think to ask her if she had a photo; I wish I had.

As dusk set in we were off again, for an overnight to Martinique. Another hard slog to windward, but at least we could make it on a single tack. We found a nice anchorage off of downtown Fort de France, and headed ashore to clear in and find croissants. Clearing in was a pleasure! You go to the marine supply store, they point you to a computer kiosk, you fill in the info, they print it out and sign it, and you’re done. No cost! No passport stamps (which I appreciated because I’m out of room in my passport)!

In the bakery a man gave me the hearty hello of an old friend. I gave him a blank stare back…and asked if he was on a yacht. No, he lives in Martinique…and he continued to insist that he knows me. Instead of walking off mystified, I wish I had had the presence of mind to ask if he also knows my daughter who makes smoothies in Bequia!

I enjoyed being in the French city, and would have liked to spend a week there. But we had six hours only, before embarking on another overnight to Antigua.

We made it late the next day, and anchored in spacious Falmouth Harbour. And then we had a full day to check in, explore ashore, gawk at the many superyachts and superduperyachts, get Harry removed from our crew list, and Skype with Hallie. There have been some stresses back home, plus a snowstorm threatening her flight out, and Hallie was looking for some understanding and support from me. But I had no space for hearing about her concerns, and I went into a rant about the crazy stresses I’d been through for the past week. I hadn’t realized how much the constant moving and dealing with the formalities and trying to keep to the schedule had got me wound tight, until I lost it on that call. And Hallie of course had no idea that I hadn’t spent the week enjoying rum punches in the sunshine by the beach. My rant was cathartic, and luckily Hallie was understanding. All ended well.

In the evening we took the long walk up to Shirley Heights. We had been told there would be music and a big barbecue there, but we were a day early. Arriving just after sunset, almost everyone else had left, and we were the only ones dining there. This worked out just fine. We enjoyed chatting with Danny, the bartender/server, and Harry treated the rest of us to a delightful celebratory meal. Beautiful view of the superyachts in the harbor below. And a pleasant walk back down to sea level after our feast.

A little story about Shirley Heights… When Hallie and I sailed to Antigua 30 years ago, before navigation was revolutionized by GPS, we approached the island in the dark. We were sailing in tandem with another boat that had radar, and they thought with radar they would be able to find the entrance to English Harbour. But the entrance was not discernible on radar, so we had a problem! The other boat made a call on the VHF radio distress channel, asking for help identifying the entrance. To my surprise the call was answered by the bar/restaurant atop Shirley Heights, adjacent to the harbour. They said they would flash the lights of the restaurant to help us locate the entrance. They did, and we got in okay. Apparently they have done this for other boats needing help as well. No longer though, as the bar no longer monitors the VHF distress channel. Of course, with GPS and a chart plotter there is no longer the need, as boats know exactly where they are (assuming the electronics are working).

Harry got to the airport; Hallie arrived on time despite the snowstorm in the Northeast, and she still loves me. The crew (now Bill, Nora, Hallie and me) had another fine dinner ashore. Tomorrow we need to make a plan to do some (relaxed) cruising!

Prickly Bay, Grenada
Prickly Bay, Grenada
Our guide at the delightful Spice and Herb Garden
Our guide at the delightful Spice and Herb Garden
Nutmeg
Nutmeg
Nutmeg (and the red part is mace)
Nutmeg (and the red part is mace)
Clove
Clove
Pineapple
Pineapple
Banana
Banana
Cacao
Cacao
Wildlife
Wildlife

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Grenada's colors are everywhere, preparing for Independence Day celebrations
Grenada’s colors are everywhere, preparing for Independence Day celebrations
Loved this decor, despite the blur
Loved this decor, despite the blur

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Hiking to the waterfall
Hiking to the waterfall
Note diver doing a back flip
Note diver doing a back flip

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St George
St George

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Working to windward, Grenada to Carriacou
Working to windward, Grenada to Carriacou
Clifton, Union Island, St Vincent & Grenadines
Clifton, Union Island, St Vincent & Grenadines
Nifty little cruise ship
Nifty little cruise ship
Some weather approaches Tobago Cays
Some weather approaches Tobago Cays

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Harry doing his homework
Harry doing his homework
Sidney offers T shirts, but we buy the banana bread, and arrange lobster dinner
Sidney offers T shirts, but we buy the banana bread, and arrange lobster dinner
Dinner, worth the wait
Dinner, worth the wait
More sailing to windward; Harry inspired us to hand steer rather than rely on the autopilot
More sailing to windward; Harry inspired us to hand steer rather than rely on the autopilot
Bequia
Bequia

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Admiralty Bay, Bequia
Admiralty Bay, Bequia

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Fort de France, Martinique
Fort de France, Martinique
Martinique
Martinique
English Harbor, Antigua
English Harbor, Antigua

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Nelson's Dockyard
Nelson’s Dockyard
Superyachts (abound) in Falmouth Habor
Superyachts (abound) in Falmouth Habor

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View from Shirley Heights
View from Shirley Heights

BPO Completion, Barbados

Well, the Blue Planet Odyssey is done. Tonight we had our completion/celebration with Jimmy Cornell (and his wife Gwenda, and a dozen or so boats in his Caribbean Odyssey that just arrived from the Canary Islands). We came away with Mount Gay Rum hats, and a brand new BPO flag (our old one is in tatters). It was fun to drink rum punches and talk with some of the other sailors. But it hit me when Carol (on Maggie) said: If we don’t see you again… Yikes! It’s hard to imagine not rendezvousing again with Maggie and Tahawus. We’ve sailed around the world together!! Oh well, we will stay in touch, but it is a sad thought that after all we’ve been through we are sailing our separate ways. I’m feeling sad about the other friends we made along the way, too — the many crews who turned back or wanted to stay in the South Pacific or had health issues or shipped their boat home or…whatever. We had a bond, and I wish they (and Luc and Jackie!) could have been here to acknowledge the completion and swap tales.

Tomorrow we depart for Grenada. Of course I will be very happy to be sailing again. Twelve days here has been a bit long. Tim and Josh changed their flights and left as quickly as they could. Tim says his knee is healing well. Josh got to fly home on his birthday, which was important to him, plus he got to attend his son’s basketball game (also important to him, and something that used to be an important factor to me).

I remained in the downtown Careenage, partly because it is convenient to have electricity and water available; partly because it makes it easier for my three new crew (Bill, Nora and Bill’s friend Harry) to come and go as they please. They haven’t “gone” much, except to a tour/tasting at the Mount Gay distillery. We’ve done some satisfying work on the boat, fixing various things that have gone bad over the past months.

I arranged an island tour for myself and the other two crews. It was pretty bad. We asked for a history lesson, but our two drivers didn’t really know the history, plus one spoke with such an accent that it was extremely difficult to understand her. And many of the places they took us had additional admission fees, which I had not expected. The people here are friendly and the area seems pretty safe, but I can’t say that the island itself is very notable. It’s all about servicing the tourists from the huge cruise ships, and second homes for rich people. One of the things I enjoyed most was going to a cricket match ($5). Barbados crushed Guyana, although I only watched Barbados bat, because I’d had enough after two hours.

We are cleared out. We are pretty well stocked (lots more marlin even after giving hunks away to the other boats). We have a destination in mind (an overnight sail away). The bridge is scheduled to open at noon to let us out. Time to start island hopping in the gorgeous Caribbean.

Cricket match at Kensington Oval
Cricket match at Kensington Oval
Tahawus joins us in the Careenage
Tahawus joins us in the Careenage
For catamarans like us it is challenging getting through the bridge into and out of the Careenage.
For catamarans like us it is challenging getting through the bridge into and out of the Careenage.

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Oldest church in Barbados; start of our island tour.
Oldest church in Barbados; start of our island tour.

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An unfortunately large part of the tour was about where the multitude of rich and famous live or visit. And checking out their yachts...
An unfortunately large part of the tour was about where the multitude of rich and famous live or visit. And checking out their yachts…
East coast of the island is pretty
East coast of the island is pretty
North end, too.
North end, too.
Exploring a sea cave
Exploring a sea cave

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Bathsheba, east coast
Bathsheba, east coast

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Back in Bridgetown, this is the "Screw Dock" -- Victorian era technology for lifting a big ship out of the water to work on the bottom.
Back in Bridgetown, this is the “Screw Dock” — Victorian era technology for lifting a big ship out of the water to work on the bottom.

And finally we have the completion/celebration/farewell party for the Blue Planet Odyssey. Lots of rum punch (with not much food…) at the Yacht Club, a pleasant mile walk along a beautiful beach. A little more about it on the Cornell Sailing web site: http://cornellsailing.com/2017/02/blue-planet-odyssey-comes-to-a-successful-end-in-barbados/

Collecting that coveted Mount Gay cap and Aventura shirt.
Collecting that coveted Mount Gay cap and Aventura shirt.
The three BPO crews. No Tim at the party, unfortunately, but including Bill and Nora.
The three BPO crews. No Tim at the party, unfortunately, but including Bill and Nora.

Arrival in Barbados

The fast conditions ended, and we did some motorsailing, but for the most part the sailing continued to be good. In the clear night sky one could see uncountable stars that most people in the modern electrified polluted world never see. I had a little sense of “home” seeing the North Star once again.

Then we caught a fish. A big fish. A “game fish” — jumping out of the water and “tail walking.” I believe he was a marlin, but please correct me if the photo says otherwise. He pulled most of the line out from our reel, so I had to tighten the drag to keep from running out. I fully expected him to break the line or free himself, but neither happened. Reeling him in was a challenge. But the real trick was what to do next. We thought it best to try to free him. With Tim tottering on the transom steps and me pulling the fish alongside the boat, we managed to get a line around his bill. Tim approached with pliers to try to pull the hook out. The pliers ended up in the deep, and Tim ended up with a puncture wound in the knee courtesy of the marlin’s bill!

The hook was not coming out while the fish was alive, which was not going to be much longer. We changed the plan — to landing the fish and having marlin fillets for a month. We got a line around his tail and hauled him up the transom steps. From bill to tail was at least as long as I am tall. I filleted him right there, and our freezer is well stocked. Plus Josh made the best fish tacos I’ve ever had!

Meanwhile Tim was doctoring his wound. It didn’t appear to be serious, but it was deep enough to penetrate inside tissues of the knee. Concerns were infection and possible damage to the knee structure. Antibiotics were administered, but Tim thought we should consult with a doctor ASAP. He tried calling on the emergency frequency on the SSB radio — something I had never done before. The result was…nothing. No response. So we emailed Jimmy Cornell to ask if he could help arrange a doctor visit immediately upon arrival (on a Saturday holiday).

We arrived the next morning. Nearly 2,000 miles in just under 11 days! We were guided to a berth at a floating dock, where it would be easy for Tim to get off/on the boat. And as soon as we cleared in with the authorities, our BPO agent drove Tim to a medical center. The consultation with the doctor was short and sweet: keep taking the antibiotics and if it gets worse rather than better then get yourself on a flight home and get medical care in the US!

We couldn’t stay at the immigration dock, but our local do-everything man Andy arranged to get the drawbridge opened, despite the holiday, so we could move into The Careenage, right downtown with easy access to everything. And he said we could tie alongside the wall, rather than the usual stern-to, to make it easy for Tim to get off/on. That arrangement is temporary, but the point is that people are going out of their way to help.

So we are in downtown Bridgetown. Buses roaring by. People walking in the park a few feet from the boat. Music blaring on Saturday night. Plus everything costs too much. Welcome to the Caribbean, I guess. I was not happy here at first. But I know by now that I usually feel this way at first at each new place. I need at least a day to adjust. Already (next day) I’m starting to like it. I’ll be here for about 12 days, switching crew, meeting with Jimmy to acknowledge the completion of the Blue Planet Odyssey, and then we’ll be off to explore the Caribbean islands.

In my last Brazil post I neglected to include this photo of our hosts at the Olinda B&B, who then came to visit us on the boat. A fond memory and a suitable parting shot to say goodbye to Brazil.
In my last Brazil post I neglected to include this photo of our hosts at the Olinda B&B, who then came to visit us on the boat. A fond memory and a suitable parting shot to say goodbye to Brazil.
Tim shows the fish we caught that provided dinner for something else before we reeled it in! Still enough for a meal aboard.
Tim shows the fish we caught that provided dinner for something else before we reeled it in! Still enough for a meal aboard.
Josh
Josh
We tried not to talk about Trump, but every discussion seemed to go in that direction, like it or not.
We tried not to talk about Trump, but every discussion seemed to go in that direction, like it or not.
Hitchhiker
Hitchhiker
Nighttime hitchhiker
Nighttime hitchhiker
Typical trade wind conditions
Typical trade wind conditions
Occasional mini-squalls
Occasional mini-squalls

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Plenty of time for contemplation...
Plenty of time for contemplation…

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My improvised hatch closure
My improvised hatch closure
One BIG fish!
One BIG fish!

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Having cleaned and bandaged his wound, Tim administers some medicine.
Having cleaned and bandaged his wound, Tim administers some medicine.
Barbados emerges under a rainbow
Barbados emerges under a rainbow
There was a big race around the island the day we arrived, including this 211 foot vessel.
There was a big race around the island the day we arrived, including this 211 foot vessel.

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Entrance to the Careenage
Entrance to the Careenage
The Careenage
The Careenage
No Regrets in the Careenage
No Regrets in the Careenage

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