The Adventures of: "SV Bella Blue"
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Friday, July 18, 2014

The Final Chapter
In looking back at my last blog entry, I see that it was written in late April, almost three months ago. That means that the details of day to day events are very foggy in my head so this narrative will be more of a recap of the major events that got us from the Bahamas to Kennebunkport, Maine where we are now.

The lion share of our last month of cruising was spent with guests aboard, Michele and Greg in late April for ten days then Matt, Heather and Rye for ten days in mid May. For our cruise with Michele and Greg we chose to head back to Conception Island via a stop at Calabash Bay on Long Island. But first, we enjoyed the last and biggest night of the Family Island Regatta in Georgetown, eating conch fritters, swilling fresh fruit daquiri’s and avoiding the loud speakers blasting drum pounding music. The sail to Long Island and then to Conception was picture perfect and we had three days of great snorkeling and another dinghy trip to the lagoon in Conception. Then we set sail and headed to the next planned stop, Rum Cay. But the wind was blowing strongly from the SE with predictions of clocking to all directions making our planned, pleasant beam reach a rough beat with the prospect of a very rolly anchorage at Rum. We decided to sail with the seas and headed to New Bight on Cat Cay. We hiked up to the highest peak in all of the Bahamas, only 206’, to see the Mount Alvernia stone monastery then moved to Old Bight where we walked the sand spits at low tide. A full size nurse shark was swimming in the shrinking channel of two ft of water and we followed him around until he tired of us and headed out to sea.
Our sail back to Georgetown was a long, windless motor but that made for a great day of sunbathing and snacking.
After Michele and Greg’s departure, we went after some beauty boat projects with an eye to making Bella Blue sparkle to sell. We took the dinghy to the beach, stripped her of her outboard and gear and scrubbed the bottom, a job that my right arm is still recovering from. Scott also spent lots of time cleaning and polishing the hull while I buffed up the stainless.
Matt, Heather and Rye arrived and after a day of play in Georgetown, including a long walk on the gorgeous Stocking Island windward beach, we set sail and headed north to explore the rest of the Exuma Islands archipelago. The first sail was in the bouncy Exuma Sound and we had a nail biter of an entrance through a narrow cut to the Exuma banks, exasperated by a sudden squall. The trick is to hit the cut at slack tide and Scott did a great job of calculating departure time and speed to hit it perfectly. Our trip and overnight stops at Lee Majors’s (where the swimming pigs are), Thunderball Cave (from the same named 007 movie), Warderick Wells, the spectacular Exuma Water Preserve and Highborne Cay were everything we could have hoped to share with our family. We snorkeled and hiked – Rye is an expert on the fish species and here he got to touch big nurse sharks and we even had one living under the boat with his two attendant remoras stuck on. Our last stop was in Nassau and while Scott attended to a favor for our boat broker with Nassau Maritime Services, the rest of us hiked over the bridge and explored the mega resort of Atlantis. Wow, what a place! Rye’s eyes flew open at the view of the lagoon filled with giant inflatable castles and houses, surrounded by waterfalls and ornate pavilions. And, the casino, what a sight. The glass sculptures are the big draw- you don’t want to miss these even if a casino is not your kind of place. Unfortunately we didn’t have room keys or wristbands to get in to see the shark tanks (complete with tube ride through them) but we did get a glimpse and they had incredible marine animals carousing behind the huge plate glass walls.
Our family left early to catch a plane the next morning and we set sail an hour later for Chub Cay, our last stop before crossing the gulfstream to Fort Lauderdale. We found a lovely little anchorage and joined 4 other boat, who’s occupants were floating near the beach with hats and beers so we joined them and tried to soak in as much good, clear turquoise water as possible in our last ocean swim for awhile. The next morning, with a clear forecast, we headed out for our overnight trip “home”. It was uneventful as our AIS showed us where all the big freighters were heading, the sea and wind were light and it was easy to regularly alter course to compensate for the strong current.
Bella Blue sailed into Fort Lauderdale early the next morning and after we secured the sails, motored to the fuel dock and filled up, we tied to the haul out dock at Playboy Marine, the same place our adventures had started in January 2012. We had made our appointment time with an hour to spare and soon, after a high pressure bottom wash, our home was sitting on stands on the blacktop. The next weeks was a whirlwind of activity. We moved into the local Sleep Inn and spent the next entire day and evening at a Dodge dealership culminating in our driving away with a brand new Ram truck. Then came the drill of packing everything in boxes, lowering the boxes by rope to the ground and moving everything up to our motel room. We raised a lot of eyebrows at the front desk as we rolled two luggage carts stacked with boxes past them for several days. Once we got the boat relatively empty and interviewed a carpenter to replace the sole (interior floor), we started the repair, replace and clean process All of the floor boards were finally removed so we had to complete these projects, plus the unpleasant job of scrubbing the bilge sections, by walking on the floor ribs (molded fiberglass grid). By now my newly messed up right arm and chronic hip problem were calling for my attention. Thank goodness Scott is so physically able…the lion share of lifting fell to him.
After eight days, Bella Blue was put back in the water with a new bottom job, polished hulls and a new cutless bearing and we motored her through the city to her new home slip right next to our boat broker’s sailboat. The next day, after final meetings with the carpenter and our boat watcher, we packed the truck, a calculated perfect fit of boxes with a homemade tarp structure and hit the road north.
I was so excited as we drove up our driveway to our new home!! Even though we had owned the house for seven years and visited our tenants annually, now it was truly ours! I felt like I was seeing it for the first time since we bought it- empty and waiting for us. The next three weeks were spent unpacking. A week after we arrived we had a deceased family friend’s complete household shipped to our garage. So, as we set up our smaller house, the garage and basement have come to look like furniture stores. My first year’s occupation will be to sell all this stuff on EBay, Craig’s List, garage sale and finally Goodwill.
My 92 yr old father and 88 yr old stepmom flew to Asheville in late June and spent four days with us and then we all drove down to Mooresville to my brother and sister-in-law, Dana and Laura’s house on Lake Norman. My other brother, Rick and wife, Sue and my niece and nephew flew in from Boise and Dana and Laura’s older daughter, son-in-law, and eight month old son, Andy drove down from Chapel Hill. The longest trip was logged by my niece Kari, who arrived from Tanzania, Africa after a leg through S. Africa, London, Toronto and Charlotte. Matt, Heather and Rye arrived as well. With seventeen people in their beautiful lake house, the party was on. It was a 4th of July to remember! Scott did a great firework show over the lake and we all spent the bulk of our time floating in the pool or out on the Waverunner or boat. Laura hired a photographer and we should soon have a whole set of family photos of us all dressed in red, white and blue!
So, to wind up this final chapter and twenty nine month narrative, we will say goodbye from beautiful Kennebunkport, Maine where we are staying with Scott’s mother to help support her as she does chemo for Multiple Myeloma. She lives at the intersection of the Kennebunk River and the Atlantic so we get our boating fix as we watch the lobster, whalewatching, and recreational boats come and go all day.

Thanks for reading and for your support!
5:15 pm pdt

Thursday, April 24, 2014

We Won’t Miss Night Sailing
But I will miss writing this blog as I realize that this will probably be the second to last blog entry and the last one in a foreign port. Bella Blue has made it to “cruiser’s central” known as Georgetown, on Great Exuma Island, in the Bahamas. And we are here in time for the biggest event in the Bahamas, the 61st Family Island Regatta, where handmade wooden boats from the central and southern Bahamian Islands all come together for a week of racing and partying. Originally, this event was started by a group of working boats to celebrate the payday at the end of the crawfish season and is now one of the biggest wooden boat races in the world. Scott and I watched as they unloaded 6 entries off the mailboat , the inter island boat that normally ferries goods around this group of islands. Some of the entries from the closer islands like Long Island, arrive under tow and VHF channel 68, the cruiser’s party line has constant updates of which boat is coming up the channel. The boats must be built in the Bahamas, wood only, cloth sails only. There are three classes in size, the longest boats 30-40’, and they have very tall masts. Meaning that the sail area is huge, meaning that they have lots of crew to hold them down. The winning skippers from previous years are regarded as demi-gods. The park area off the government dock is being transformed into a carnival of food and drink wooden shacks, many of them already open to take care of the unloading crews. We were surprised to find out that the regatta shirts were almost sold out and the races don’t even start until Wednesday.
Backing up to the Dominican Republic, where I last wrote about our own fun set of sailboat races, I must sing the praises of Los Haitises National Park. Even though the name has Haiti in it and the DR and Haiti share this island, it is all in the DR. Our two companion boats, Knot Yet and Arctic Tern, and we spent 5 days anchored in the large but secluded bay, with only one other boat in sight, as we waited out a big “norther” that was making travel towards the Bahamas impossible. Thanks to our retired park ranger/naturalist friends, Hunter and Devi on Arctic Tern, we learned that the huge mounded hills making the north coast of the bay were karst type limestone formations, covered in jungle greenery. The bottoms of the formations were so undercut that at low tide you couldn’t see what was holding them up over the water. Stalactites hung down from hollowed out shelves and jutted out from cliffs over the water and as we dinghied up each inlet, we disturbed hundreds of swallows living in the holes of the ceiling. Several rivers headed inland from the sea and we dinghied up them all, through beautiful mangrove forests to a dead end at a decrepit dock. From these tie ups, we ventured hikes to limestone caves, complete with petroglyphs and to the park’s ecolodge. The lodge had an impressive open air eating area, all built to fit into the natural beauty and there were six concrete swimming holes that were fed from natural streams. For our $2.00 per person entrance fee we were able to float around on old fashioned black inner tubes under mini waterfalls along with the small handful of guests in this secluded retreat. We even dinghied in with Devi and Hunter one evening to meet up with a young naturalist who had gotten to know Devi, an ornithologist, and had talked her into coming at night to see the very rare Ashy Face Owl. Armed with flashlights and bug spray, we followed him through the woods surrounding the Ecolodge, with our guide (a Will Smith double) doing regular and impressive owl calls. But it wasn’t to be…no sighting. So our big adventure was walking back to the dinghies, heading down the mangrove lined river and out into the bay on a moonless night with just flashlights.
After our great time in the park we decided we needed another day or two at the marina to wait for the best weather window for our overnight trip down the north coast to Luperon. We still had three other swimming pools to try out and the beautiful marina was such a bargain.
So, I mentioned night sailing. This was our second overnight with two more to go to get to Georgetown. There are many cruisers that we have met that extol the delights of plying the seas with just moon and stars over the boat but neither Scott or I are so inclined. For us, it just means broken up sleep patterns (for me, likely no sleep), sandwiches for three meals or more and worry over what may break and need attention in the dark. We consoled ourselves with the pleasant fact that we were going downwind, but, in reality, this made for new challenges. The winds had gone light, which is good for the seas, but hard to keep loose sails full and the boom from banging around in all the rolling the boat does. On several of the overnights, we were forced to take our sails down so we wouldn’t break our gooseneck (connection from mast to boom) and this meant that Scott had to go forward to remove halyards, bunch and tie sails in out to sea conditions. Bella Blue doesn’t have roller furling, making night time sail changes more challenging. I hate it when he has to go forward in the dark and even though we have auto inflating lifejackets with auto lights and harnesses hooked to lifelines, I still can so easily imagine him getting hurt or going overboard. And as he has to yell everything to me behind the wheel so I can hear, it quickly raises both our anxiety levels. Thankfully, we got through the challenges and really enjoyed having two companion boats to commiserate with on the radio.
This was our second trip to Luperon, where we famously went aground and then Scott cut open his foot two years ago. But this time, Papo, the local boaters assistant (aka boat boy) had already been called about our three incoming boats and was waiting near the narrow entrance to guide us right to moorings. Easy, peasy! Then all six of us got our outboards back on our dinghies and motored into town to clear in. In the DR, you must clear in and clear out of every DR port, which is an annoying and unpopular regulation. Also, in the DR, there are many underpaid “officials” and after you are shepherded from one to another, each with similar paperwork and no English, all asking for unexplained fees, your sleep deprived state of mind makes you edgy. Then the immigration officer, in full military dress, and his minions must be dinghied out to the boat to inspect it, looking for drugs and human cargo. Now an offering of soda or juice and a tip are de rigeur. It is always best to give Scott a little pep talk between officials to keep his perspective up and temper down.
But once we are formally re-admitted and we get a nice nap, we head into town for the fun part. As I mentioned before this is like a sleepy Mexican village, a one light town and it doesn’t work. The rough streets are filled with small motorbikes, chickens, goats and very pleasant locals. Ice cold beer is $1.00 (43 pesos) and a good lunch about $5.00. The little bakery is a delight as are the local produce shops, with balls of homemade cheese stacked by a rusty scale. The produce on this island is wonderful and we were thrilled that mangos were just becoming available. The next day, Papo arranged a van and driver to take us to the city of Puerto Plata where we went to the huge, modern La Sirena grocery store. But first we had lunch at the cafeteria upstairs, where you could choose between at least 30 entrees plus salad bar, most of which were local favorites, with beef, pork, fish and conch in all kinds of aromatic sauces and sauted local veggies. Afterwards, Scott and I filled our cart to overflowing, keeping our faster cruiser friends waiting as we knew the next shopping would be in pricey Georgetown.
We had planned to stay in Luperon longer but another good weather window was arriving for our next sail, another long overnight to the Turks and Caicos. Knot Yet left a couple of hours before us as they are a little slower and as we were getting our outboard and dinghy stowed, we got a call from them saying they were heading back as the clew of their mainsail had sheared off. Pam was so thankful that they had only gotten a few miles away and that it was during the day. They convinced us to go ahead anyway, that they would catch up with us in the Bahamas. There is a sailmaker here in Luperon that advertises every day on the net so we knew they would be taken care of. Our sail went well and we arrived 25 hours later at West Caicos, a small, mostly uninhabited island just on the edge of the shallow Caicos bank. Here we hid out, not declaring our arrival to avoid the very stiff cruising permit fee that has alienated most cruisers from visiting the Turks and Caicos. Early the next morning, after a good night’s sleep, we did a full day sail to Mayaguana, southernmost of the Bahamas.
The Bahamians take a more casual approach to the clearing in process and when Scott and Hunter dinghied in to the small settlement on a Saturday afternoon, they were told to come back on Monday at 9AM when the immigration officer returned but to feel free to enjoy the island. Abrahams Bay is a very large, reef protected bay, with shallow water the exquisite color of light turquoise, so crystal clear you can identify the fish species on the white sand from the boat deck. When the wind was moderate, we snorkeled the myriad of coralheads near the shallow reef. On one particularly windy day, we hooked up with John and Jolanda and Joho and took a guided island tour. There are only about 400 people on Mayaguana so there isn’t a lot of infrastructure to see but we had fun poking our noses into disintegrating old planes at the abandoned airstrip, climbing a government concrete tower and eating cracked conch seated on a doorstoop of the little grocery store (the restaurant only had one table with 4 chairs and it was cooking hot inside). Our driver had to call ahead to someone to pre order this lunch where we found out that the choice was cracked conch, with veggies or french fries. Darn good though!
Unfortunately, by that afternoon, when the tour was over Scott started feeling sick. For the next five days, he was plagued by an intestinal bug and felt very low. Was it the conch, something he ate in the DR or a flu bug? Hard to say. Hunter also had it , we found out a few days later, but the guys continued to participate in open air activities but we skipped a few chummy evenings together aboard each others boats. Another good weather window appeared and we did the fourth overnight trip to Concepcion Island in the central Bahamas. With light winds we did have to motor much of the way, but that is always better than too much wind at night. Scott hauled in a nice 10# blackfin tuna that I immediately cleaned and Hunter and Devi brought side dishes for a great dinner that next evening.
Concepcion Island is the poster child for that perfect deserted island you see in Corona ads. It is uninhabited, has several very long white sand beaches and, with the same stunning water color and clarity, it is absolutely breathtaking. This is our fourth visit but we had not previously had light enough wind to be able to enter the lagoon on the SW corner. We attempted it two years ago but the breaking waves across the narrow entrance and the fact that we were totally alone on the island, convinced us to turn back. This time, with our friends alongside, we half lifted our outboards and sped over the very shallow reef on plane. Once inside, you are in a calm, quiet sanctuary of pale aqua water, with mangroves and little beaches surrounding the many branches of waterway. Fast moving young turtles and rays fly past you everywhere, so much more timid than their larger adults in open water. With a keen eye to the water color changes to indicate how many feet where under you, we sped along, periodically switching to oars where there wasn’t enough. For this excursion we only had an hour as the tide was going out and our entrance would be too shallow to get over but we did return a few days later, earlier on the high tide to snorkeled a blue hole and along the mangrove roots, where all kinds of fish have found safe refuge. It was a secret place and experience to always remember.
Concepcion also has a two mile reef extending out from the west side anchorage and we dinghied out about a mile and snorkeled the reef. So much coral –the formations were beautiful….you could spends weeks and never repeat the same spot. On the social side, our old friends, Wayne and Dana on Journey, sailed in…we hadn’t seen them for over a year. Devi and I had dinghied over to all the anchored boats (there was a crowd of 11 boats here) and asked everyone to dinghy into the beach for a meet and greet, swim and happy hour. Everyone showed and lots brought food to share, including a fresh caught mahi mahi that was grilled on the sand!

Our next two stops were very pleasant daysails, the first to Calabash Bay on Long Island and then, on our own, to Salt Pond Bay further down Long Island’s coast. Devi and Hunter were feeling the pull to get back to the west coast of Florida where they will leave their listed boat and drive to Asheville so we made our goodbyes and promises to get together for a regular bridge game in NC. We cut our visit to Salt Pond Bay short as the small settlement was closing down for Easter weekend and everyone was getting ready to go to Georgetown for the Family Island Regatta. The wind was also forceast to get high with lots of rain and the south entrance to Georgetown is riddled with coral reef and rocks, so we decided to get in there beforehand. The last part of the downwind run in 20 knots, following a very tight GPS line through coral reefs on each side was more excitement than I prefer, especially with a slower sailboat right in front of us on the same line. But Scott handles the boat beautifully, leaving the smaller boat in our wake and we anchor off beautiful Sand Dollar Beach with hundreds of other cruising sailboats spread out amongst four anchorages on each side of the channel.
So here we are… getting ready for our friends, Greg and Michele’s arrival and for the start of the regatta festivities. I’m sure I will have lots to write about next month!





2:49 pm pdt

Sunday, March 23, 2014

One of Our Shortcomings…No Habla Espanol
Along with the current area cruising guide, the other two books that are always out are our “Spanish Made Easy” (not true) workbook and our Mariner’s Spanglish guide…written more to our ability and affinity. But where I tried hard with my better French in those islands, most of the effort and success at communication here in Spanish land comes from the friendly locals.
We left our easy American island life in the Virgins behind early this month after a very fun tour of St. John with my brother Rick and sister-in-law, Sue. The weather was perfect, as was the snorkeling, beach walking and starlit evenings in the cockpit spent reminiscing and playing games. Our last evening together was spent at a beach party in Honeymoon Hole on St. Thomas, an easy dinghy ride from our airport drop off anchorage.
Besides our regular refilling of tanks and food lockers, we found a canvas lady who could do a quick recover of our aft cabin mattress cover and the upholstered headboard. Just before Rick and Sue arrived, Scott had his regular love/hate check on the generator’s system and had removed the oil dipstick. Somehow he was distracted and never replaced it and when he went to fire it up, with the help of the fan going full speed behind him, sprayed a fine mist of dirty motor oil all over the cabin. We were able to clean the woodwork and vinyl headliner but no amount of detergent or engine degreaser worked on the canvas. We wrapped the headboard in plastic and covered it with a sheet for our guests but, with the boat on the market, we needed to get both recovered. Plus Scott was still not satisfied with the much reduced vibration of the engine to transmission connection so we spent several sessions bent over the diesel beast as Scott further adjusted the motor mounts.
We had an easy sail to Culebra, in the Spanish Virgins, where we took in our first movie at a tiny theater at the Dewey Library. But the seats were full cush theater seats, popcorn was available and we were riveted to the screen watching Captain Phillips. After seeing that, I had no regrets about not sailing to the more remote and needy regions of this planet. We also found the highly recommended snorkeling area in a bay north of town and it was spectacular! Towering coral formations in 25’ of clear water and a shallow plateau encrusted with colorful sea fans flowing back and forth in the light swell. Our next stop was Green Beach in Vieques, a Spanish Virgins island that was a former US military munitions training spot. But it is all cleaned up now and we had the beautiful half mile beach anchorage to ourselves. Here we came across the friendliest (actually most oblivious) sea turtle we had encountered. This one allowed us to swim side by side with it for 20 minutes and patiently endured my stroking his flipper and shell. Not that one is supposed to be touching them but I forget myself sometimes.
Our friends from Grenada, Nick and Pam on Knot Yet met up with us at Puerta Patillas, our next and first stop on Puerto Rico’s south shore. We had been urged by our good friends on Wayward Wind, now stateside, to look up Don and Janis, who bought a house here on the beach a year ago. We sent them an email the day before crossing over and within a couple hours of our arrival, they and their two guests where aboard Bella Blue for happy hour. When Knot Yet pulled in an hour later and got settled, we picked them up in our dinghy (we hadn’t seen them since October), and we all motored the hundred yards to the sand beach in front of Don and Janis’ house where they provided a wonderful spaghetti dinner for the eight of us. This friendly couple had crossed the Mona passage (from the Dominican Republic to Peurto Rico) just a week in front of us two years ago (we didn’t know them but lots of our friends did) and were hit by a 500’ ferry in the middle of the night and still well off PR in that notoriously rough passage. Their rig and mast came down but Don was able to secure the mast to the side of the boat without holing it and motor very slowly to make way. Their calls to the Coast Guard in PR brought a cutter in 20 minutes (impressive) and towed them in. Needless to say they were pretty traumatized and after spending many months in PR replacing the rig (the CG cut away their mast near the harbor entrance and later, Don and our friend Darrell on Alibi tried diving unsuccessfully to find it) they were told about a great real estate deal on the above mentioned house and decided that this was their calling instead of continuing the cruise So now, whenever cruisers come into the small anchorage in Peurta Patillas they likely will have Don and Janis dinghying over with a dinner invitation. Don even plans to build a dock so he can supply cruisers with water.
Knot Yet and we continued to Salinas, a favorite cruiser bay where we rehooked up with Hunter and Devi on Arctic Tern. The three of us then hopped along the south coast to Gilligian’s Island, a favorite weekend boaters spot, where we swam in clear channels through the mangroves and I came upon a 4” long seahorse, only the second we have ever seen in the wild. It was very exciting and all 6 of us got a chance to watch him as he stayed in place with his prehensile tail clinging to a small seaplant. Scott also found an octopus and we showed him to a few of the local vacationers who had never put on a mask. Scott even went back to the boat and gave one particularly friendly guy a mask and snorkel to keep. We have found many sets on the seabed in anchorages over the years when they blow off of boater’s cockpits. We did have rigging problem here when we tried to get the mainsail down and for the second time it caught near the top and this time Scott had to take drastic measures to pull it down. So the next morning, Hunter came over and assisted me in sending Scott up the mast where he found that the track had a small glitch in it and the sail carriage had a worn spot that caught in it. Fortunately we had a spare carriage which was easily swapped out. The guys then inspected the rest of the carriages and several others show the same wear so we are still deciding how many of these expensive parts we want to order for our friends to bring down.
The sail around the SW corner of PR was a very windy (25 knots) with corresponding bumpy seas after months of easy sailing so it added to my anxiety about our return to a slew of upcoming overnight passages as anchorages get farther apart and particularly about the Mona, our next crossing. The day before our planned trip on a great weather window, Arctic Tern decided they needed to stay behind and wait for a medical test report and a new, special order prescription for Hunter, who had a recurring condition. Knot Yet and we decided to leave as planned, and, giving them a ninety minute head start to even our boat speeds, set off early Wednesday AM. The passage went well in very light wind and seas which resulted in being comfortable but burning a lot of dinosaurs. Pam and Nick, ahead of us sighted many whales and we stared our eyeballs red as we got to the same area but didn’t see any. We haven’t seen one on this entire trip. The just past full moon lit our way, and with music playing, my night watches were pleasant enough.

On the recommendation of Knot Yet, who had been to this marina two years ago, and Moonshine, who was here a month ahead of us, we sailed to the four year old Puerto Bahia Marina in huge Samana Bay instead of our usual town anchorage. This marina is a 5 star resort, catering to the wealthy Dominicans and is working hard to gain a reputation for first class sport fishing tournaments and sailing regattas. Pam knew that there was a regatta this coming weekend as they were here the same weekend two years ago and hoped we might get in on the free three night dockage deal if we signed up for the regatta. Sure enough, the deal was still on and after we got through the customs and immigration process (4 officials in the cockpit and a boat search), caught up on some sleep, we signed up for the Saturday race. This marina, which is squeaky clean, is a different world from the real DR behind its perimeter. Here there are two infinity pools with cascading wateralls, three dockside restaurants, a huge and elegant bar and lobby, gym with the latest equipment, massage salon and amazing furnishings and artwork. We felt we were far above our pay grade! The night before the regatta there was a welcome cocktail party with free flowing DR Brugal Rum drinks, beer and appetizers.
The next morning Scott attended the skippers meeting and by noon we had left our dinghy tied in our slip and were out in the deep bay with twenty other sailboats. I have only been in one full size sailboat race, back in 1989, so my comfort level in tacking and gibing in close quarters with other boats waiting for the starting horn was about zero. Most of the competitors were other cruisers, attracted also by the free dockage, so we weren’t alone in our inexperience. But the local guys were well honed teams and took this two race regatta very seriously. I was greatly relieved when the horn went off and everyone turned to sail in the same direction. The wind was 17 knots, it was a beautiful sunny day and the bay protected from much swell. We had a lousy start but Scott is a great sailor and by the second mark we were third in sixteen (catamarans were separate). My racing instinct was all about making sure we didn’t hit anyone, even if meant coming in last (this is my home we are racing) but Scott’s competitive juices were running and with him shouting commands to me as we constantly swapped from sail trimmer to helmsman, we crossed fourth across the finish line. We had a much better start in the second race and I was feeling much more comfortable that now only 10 monohulls stayed in giving us lots more searoom before the start. We were in the lead as we rounded the first mark and kept it until we rounded to the last leg and here the wind died back and one local, lightweight racer and a Spanish boat with a crew of 7 passed us at the very last moment. Scott was beside himself but, of course, we were thrilled with Bella Blue’s performance.
After getting back to our slip, cleaning up the boat, we went to the awards ceremony, where again, the Brugal rum guy was stationed and plates of appetizers were out. Scott was pretty sure we would be “on the podium” in third place after the handicaps were figured. When the third, then second place winners were called and it wasn’t us, we realized that we were the winners. Sure enough, it was Bella Blue. We received a bottle of ice cold Moet champagne, a copper sailboat trophy and stood for lots of pictures. If only we had thought to bring our camera! Scott, who seemed puzzled at the win, went over to talk to the officials and found out that they had handicapped us as a Freedom 40, a slower design instead of a 40/40 and that is why we won. He told the second and third place winners and hands were shook all around and the records fixed but there was no announcement and we get to keep our trophy. Later that night there was a huge party under a spectacular tent on the point. Based on all the fancy banners, photographers, and incredible wedding like seating with reserved tables with chilled champagne or bottles of scotch in the centerpieces, we figured that there were some well known Dominican who’s who attending. It was a wear white event and all the cruisers did there best, but there was no competing with the fancy white apparel of the guests. The band didn’t come on till 11PM and we were already dead tired so we called it a night but had trouble sleeping as the salsa music blared until 3AM. All in all, it was the most fun and exciting, money saving deal we have ever had.
Next stop is the highly anticipated National Park across the bay where our three boats (Artic Tern caught up with us this morning) will probably head tomorrow. The weather is bad in the Bahamas so we will stay in this area before moving farther up the coast where the north swells coming down are a problem.
1:30 pm pst

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Virgin Islands Life
The Virgin Islands are probably the best known spot in the Caribbean. If you have taken an Eastern Caribbean cruise, you have probably stopped in Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas. You may have taken the ferry over to St. John to hang out on the fabulous beaches or done some partying on Jost Van Dyke. When I am asked what has been my favorite island, I never think to put one of these great places on the top of my list. But that is a mistake as there are plenty of reasons why both the USVI and BVI are the most popular places for island tourism in the world. And this goes doubly for cruisers. Here is my short list of the features of this island group.

*Most of the islands border the Sir Francis Drake Channel, making a huge protected water highway to get to island to island.
*There are fantastic anchorages everywhere, all with clean, clear water and most with well maintained moorings
*There are more good snorkeling/dive spots here than on most of the other islands put together
* Marine services are plentiful as are U.S. style provisions
*Everyone speaks English, the U.S. dollar is the currency
*Relatively inexpensive flights from the states
And for television starved cruisers that have a TV antennae and booster like us, CBS, NBC and PBS!

I mention TV as our evening lifestyle has completely changed. Instead of reading every night, except when in those lucky spots where we can get online at a moderate speed, we are now glued to local New York news, Brian Williams’ evening news and the Olympics.
We do have to run the noisy generator to watch but that is more than worth it. We have been more appreciative of our warm climate world after seeing all the snowstorm havoc in the east and of our water world beneath us as California and the southwest are drying up.
Our friends Michele and Greg were able to visit us for a day when their cruise ship stopped here. Michele works for Princess Cruiselines and she frequently has onboard assignments. We picked them up at the dock and spent the day snorkeling on Great St. James, a short dinghy ride away from the mainland of St. Thomas. There are a couple of spotted eagle rays that make the cove here their home. There is nothing we have seen as majestic as these big, slow moving rays gliding along with thin tails as long as 4’. Then, a week later, we picked up Matt, Heather and Rye at the same dock and took them on a 9 day tour of St. John and Jost Van Dyke. They have visited the Virgins many times over the years, often camping on Maho Beach in St. John so they know their way around. Rye has mastered snorkeling and we had a great time exploring the reefs and spending evenings going through the Caribbean reef fish book confirming our sightings. The famous beach on White Bay in Jost Van Dyke is party central with iconic beach bars like Soggy Dollar and One Love vying for those wet dollars. The sand is beautiful, the water turquoise and the beach goers colorful and lively. We all walked the beach for ¾ of a mile in one direction, then returned and had a fun lunch with our feet dug in the sand. Just one bay over is the other famous hotspot, Foxy’s….you have probably seen someone around sporting a Foxy’s t-shirt - I think they sell as many of these as they do rum punches and painkillers.
After our family left, we buckled down and tackled the boat project list. First came the necessary jobs. Scott replaced two broken shackles on the boom, a mainsail batten carriage, rescrewed the fiberglass bridge under the main traveler, rebuilt the head (again), and replaced the holding tank “Y” valve. Also, we did routine maintenance like the miserable job of replacing the raw water impellor and changing the oil. Our engine had also increased the noisy vibration and banging that had been plaguing us and he ascertained that we had a motor mount problem. We had a marine tech rep out and he found the problem mount, always in a near impossible place to reach, with a bolt that had come unscrewed. This was easily and cheaply repaired and we were off, back to pretty Christmas Cove. But, on the way there, our engine made even more noise so Scott did some more investigative work and found out our alignment to the drive shaft was way off. So back to Charlotte Amalie, where our same tech rep came back, and with much more effort, got the engine and shaft realigned. After a short sea trial, we were satisfied the problem was resolved and so far, it has been, knock on wood. And what was I doing all this time? Other than handing Scott tools, offering moral support, paper towels, and cleaning up, I am not much mechanical use. But I did tackle some sanding and varnishing, mindful that we would soon be putting the boat on the market. And, with this in mind, we washed and polished the hull from the dinghy and took pictures of the boat. We also did all the inside photos, accomplished by moving all of our crap from one spot to another, ending up with great pictures that make the boat look like it is unoccupied and ready to go. My brother Rick and sister-in-law Sue arrive next week for some fun time and then we will send in the listing agreement and pictures and see what happens. Boats notoriously don’t sell quickly and we don’t want to have it sitting on a dock in Florida for any longer than possible, especially during hurricane season. So best to get the ball rolling early.

Cruising friends in Grenada had told us to keep an eye out for a couple on “Arctic Tern” in the Virgins and we came across them in St. John. They are long term cruisers that are also winding down their trip and they purchased a home this last summer in Mars Hill, just a few miles from our NC home. We both hope to sell our boats and move in early this summer. So we may have friends to swap sailing stories with once we are both stranded onshore. We have also reencountered lots of sailors that we have met along the way. We got together with friends on “Moonshine” and even though they have already headed to Dominican Republic, we will catch up with them in Georgetown in the Bahamas. And, it looks like we might be able to do some of our travel north with “Knot Yet”, a couple we know from two seasons in Grenada and on our same schedule to leave here.
This last week we sailed around St. John to visit the bays on the south shore where few charter boats go. We had not been here since 1990 and I had forgotten how beautiful and peaceful it is. Salt Pond Bay has room for 6 boats and we timed our arrival to get there Sunday morning so we could hike up to Concordia, the only restaurant there, to enjoy their popular brunch. It was a great hike up through eight foot tall spiny cactus trees, flowering barrel cacti and huge kelly green aloe vera’s. One forgets that these relatively dry islands are chalk full of desert succulents. Also, there are wild deer, donkeys and mongooses lurking about. Besides the fun of enjoying a rare meal out, we had an exceptional view of Bella Blue down below in the crystal clear bay, looking like she was floating on glass. We spent the next three days in Great Lameshure Bay, one of just a handful of boats in the large inlet. This is now one of my favorite spots as the well spaced and maintained moorings kept you almost a hundreds yards from the next boat, the water is gorgeous, the snorkeling excellent (we saw more of our favorite exotic reef fish, the spotted drum, here then all of our other sightings combined) and the only manmade structure in sight was a well built dock hidden in a rocky corner. Here we tied up the dinghy and hiked well signed trails to the rugged, rocky point, to a white sand beach in adjacent Little Lameshure Bay and the ruins of a large house with sugar cane processing ovens and cauldrons. Most of St. John is a National Park and the park management keeps it pristine. Scott got his Golden Passport card when we arrived in the USVI that gives seniors a 50% discount on all U.S. National Park entry fees and this includes all the moorings on the US islands. A big bonus for us old critters!
Yesterday morning, we were up at 6AM, with the boat all set to go to sea to St. Croix which is 35 miles due south, about a six hour trip. The weather forecast was for 15-20 knots, which promised us a fast, sporty but pleasant beam reach to Christiansted. But as soon as we got out of the protected lee of St. John, the seas heaped up over 8’ and the wind became a steady 24 knots. Scott put a reef in the main, but after taking several waves over the bow and getting salt water showers in the cockpit, we decided to turn around and save ourselves and the boat some misery. Oh well, St. Croix will have to wait for a calmer weather window.
So, I will wind this missive up as I hear that Gracie Gold is about to skate her short program…so exciting! I hope all of you get the spring weather you have been waiting for, warm in the east and wet in the west. We have just shed our wetsuits but still get cold after 30 minutes of swimming in high 70 degree water. And the cool, strong trade winds seem to be warming up, I think.. I’m sure you all have been feeling sorry for us!!


1:30 pm pst

Friday, January 17, 2014

St. Martin/St. Barts and a Big Stateside Visit
Even though I took some scribbled notes with us on the plane to Florida, I never did write a blog entry and now I’m amazed to see that seven weeks have gone by. Fortunately, I did keep up my daily journal until the day we flew stateside and last night I just finished filling in all the adventures we had seeing family and friends on our four state tour. I can’t seem to remember where I set my reading glasses at any given moment so I was pleased that most of the details of the trip are still accessible in my aging brain. But I definitely need to write it all down now.
Pushing Bella Blue backwards in time from her present mooring off Caneel Bay in St. John, I picture her in the Simpson Lagoon of St. Martin or Sint Maarten as the Dutch call their half. The mast project now behind us and the skipper happy with his functioning electronics and new deck light, we dinghied to a dock in walking distance of the airport and picked up Michele and Greg. They landed right on time, but ,alas, due to the sudden closure of LAX just after their arrival the night before because of perceived gun fire in a parking garage, 2 of their 3 pcs of luggage did not. The good news was that the yummy bottles of CA wine were safely here. But, despite their claiming “no meat” on their customs form, the bad news was that 4 frozen filets (in one bag) and a tri tip in the other were AWOL. What to do now…our plan was to leave right away for St. Barts for 4-5 days while the wind was up. They had bathing suits, dive masks and sunscreen. But it seemed irresponsible and maybe even dishonest to leave these two suitcases to show up on their own and wait, unclaimed for a week. We could only imagine the drug sniffing dogs standing at attention at two smelly bags in the Caribbean heat. So we waited …and called …and e-mailed. Two more trips to the airport. The first straggler showed up the next day, tri tip still ice cold …a delicious dinner! But the last bag refused to surface for two more days and Greg bravely opened it up and made an unusual deposit in a trash can outside the airport. It sure was a great idea that finished flat.
While we were in luggage limbo, we did rent a car and drove to and toured a darling butterfly farm with hundreds of varieties flittering in an enclosed tropical garden. Then we went to the world famous Orient Beach where it would be no exaggeration to say that there are over a thousand beach lounge chairs set up with colorful pads and matching umbrellas along the sand, each color group rented by the beach bar behind it. Here, rows upon rows of tanning tourists are laid out, with drink stewards weaving between them and local women hawking beach wear, hats and jewelry parading the waterline. Thai girls offer massages and colorful sheds promote parasailing, waverunning, kite surfing and SUP adventures. We rented four lounges and two umbrellas and spent the day swimming and people watching, enjoying the interesting beachware or lack thereof on the international crowd.

I have written about St. Bart’s before but it is such a beautiful place, it deserves more mention. Of course, it is French and it is the centerpiece of the three island destination group for the rich and richer, including Antigua and St. Martin, especially in the high season of Nov through February. Ships that look like fancy, well designed cruise ships, are chartered for $100 grand or more a week and are common sights anchored outside the main harbor of Gustavia. One rarely sees the guests but the polo shirted crew are always visible, busy with spray bottles and long handled scrub brushes, keeping everything to a high polish. The largest have a helicopter on top, looking like a small Tonka toy even as we motor closely by. Or, in the case of “Le Grande Bleu”, (a 371’ ship) a 55’ sailboat on the deck by the 55’express cruiser tender! The four of us walked around town, looking at all the fancy shops, all rigged out for Christmas and perused the displayed menus of ridiculously priced dinner offerings. Then off to real (and better) living for us in wonderful Columbier Bay around the corner. Here we snorkeled the reef and swam to the perfect white beach and the next day we hiked around the north side, where the path is high above breathtaking vistas of the turquoise water breaking on shear cliffs. The last time we did this hike we saw one spotted tortoise, this time we saw two. They are very attractive with big yellow spots on their foot long shell and cute yellow padded feet. We took a swim in a little secluded cove protected by natural rocks from the windward beach surf. Then a well earned drink at a cute French café.
Our next stop was the outlying, uninhabited island of Isle Forchue where we enjoyed the clearest water for snorkeling on the trip, easily 90’ over a pristine white sand bottom and a rocky reef on each side. We saw lots of great reef fish plus a bonus of two nurse sharks swimming the reef and two huge barracudas under the boat. With the high Christmas winds abating, we now made the easy downwind sail back to St. Martin.
We sailed around the northeast corner of the island to Tintamarre, an off lying island with a reputation for great snorkeling. The long white beach was gorgeous but we were very disappointed in the opaque water, a result of high winds and a north swell. So we upanchored and slowly made our way into Orient Bay, and found a quiet place to anchor near the end of the famous beach. Here we were able to swim from the boat to the beach, a good workout and we pushed our swimming skills with some choppy water races.
Our next stop was Grand Case, a lovely little bay and town with old French world charm, (think pointed steeple church and red tile roofed houses with heavy wood shutters on old whitewashed walls). This is St. Martin’s restaurant row, with something wonderful for every budget. We had a great meal here and Michele and Greg got in some more, long swim training. Alas, their time was running out and we headed back to Marigot Bay to catch the drawbridge opening to get back into the lagoon and said our goodbyes the next day.

It is now 12/7 and we needed to be in Tortola in the British Virgin Islands to catch our St. Thomas flight on the 16th. The high winds (typical at this time of year) were back but we got lucky with a 24 hour window of lighter wind to cross the often nasty piece of water known as the Anegada Passage. But going downwind instead of upwind made a huge difference and we sailed comfortably after a 3AM departure, even after a main sheet shackle on the boom let loose when our jibe was less controlled than planned. This is the danger of downwind sailing and we had been proud of how well we had handled our downwind turns but it only took a sudden extra gust of wind to make the boom snap across, uncontrolled. Ah well, something else to attend to in St. Thomas.

We anchored for a few days in a favorite spot in Virgin Gorda, then sailed to Tortola the day before our flight to put Bella Blue on the dock. We chose this small marina on Tortola instead of the big one near the airport on St. Thomas as the holiday dockage fee had quadrupled from our last trip home from the Virgins. But we found out why this one was so much less expensive….the slips were smaller and had a finger pier on only one side meaning we would have to have lots of fenders on both sides of the boat. The swell rolled into the little bay making for lots of up and down movement of the tied boats and, most importantly, it was very difficult to safely get into the dock. I was a wreck behind the wheel as we came down the narrow channel between shallow reef and breakers on each side. Then, with little turning room, we needed to make a 90 degree turn into the last dock and then again into the narrow slip in the middle of the pack. And there was an inflatable dinghy tied to our neighbor that sat in our way. We called and called as Scott finished tying on all the fenders and docklines, trying to get a dock hand to help us. After three trips up and down the channel killing time (and my nerves), two guys showed up and Scott took the wheel and did a masterful job of nosing the dinghy out and wedging Bella Blue in. He spent the rest of the afternoon tying and retying the boat to ensure we didn’t scrape the dock or our neighbor and he had to make a last minute taxi run to a chandelry to buy another big fender. That night as we completed our packing, we felt we were out to sea, with the unsettling sight of a dock and a sailboat going up and down out of our ports. The marina itself, though, was very nice and by the time we left the next morning we were more confident that our home would be there, mostly unscathed, when we returned 26 days later.
Since many (of the few) that read this blog probably saw us, I will hastily recap our wonderful trip. We started in Venice, FL, to visit Scott’s mom. The day after we arrived, she accepted an offer on a condo she had inherited, and we helped her go through the belongings and make decisions on where and what to move or get rid of. But we had plenty of breaks to be pampered and enjoyed walks along the waterfront in the warm weather and had an early Christmas celebration. Then we flew to Asheville and moved in with Scott’s son and family. It was beautifully sunny, though cold, but a stop at our rented house there and a quick exploration of our boxed belongings in the basement produced the necessary clothing we would need for the rest of the journey. As we drove around town, I started to take ownership of the sights as this will soon by my home and I do have a need to settle down soon. We had a wonderful, traditional Christmas with Matt, Heather, Rye and Heather’s family. Rye and his two cousins reminded me of what fun a little holiday magic can create! Great food, games and walks along the river as a big family ended all too soon and we were back at the airport heading to LA.
Our friends Michele and Greg hosted us for our stay here but it seemed we spent most of our time on the road. Scott’s dad had been admitted to the hospital on Christmas Eve for complications relating to his diabetes so we spent quite a bit of our first week driving back and forth to Long Beach. Scott’s son, Sean, lives in West LA, along the route, so he accompanied us to the hospital and we got a chance to have a couple of dinners with him. Scott’s dad was moved to a local convalescent hospital, and our one visit there made us feel that he was in good hands and on the road to recovery. We also found a little time to visit friends, our old house and new owners, and our wonderful friend and realtor that saw a complicated sale through without us. We then drove up to Paso Robles to see other friends that had moved to a 100 acre ranch amongst the wineries. Got a chance to rub lots of horses’ necks and admire their long horn cows and the incredible vista, even though it was brown as California was experiencing one of the worst draughts in decades. Then we continued north to Alameda to see Scott’s brother and family. The sun was strong and unseasonable warm and we had an al fresco lunch at the Farmer’s Market, then went to our nieces basketball game. Our travel had finally caught up with us, and I caught Scott’s cold and we can only thank our friends and family for not throwing us out of their homes. We had lunch with cruising friends that had ended their sailing adventure early this last fall and had resettled in the Napa area, then we headed back south to grab a quick nights sleep and say goodbyes to Michele and Greg before our early morning flight to Seattle.
My dad and Shirley had moved from Santa Clarita to Seattle this fall and we were eager to see their new home and surrounds. Even though it rained for most of our visit, we were very impressed with the house and the great neighborhood. Shirley has the house beautifully appointed and they seem very comfortable. We were happy to spend a few quiet days, recouping our health and enjoying being together again after so many years as neighbors.
Our 8th and 9th flights got us back to St. Thomas and two taxis and a ferry got us back to Bella Blue, who we found relatively unscathed, with just a few scratches and a missing fender. The next morning, with a few provisions grabbed the night before, we left the dock and soon were bobbing on a mooring in St. John.
Thank you, family and friends, for all your hospitality and support!




6:30 am pst

St. Martin/St. Barts and a Big Stateside Visit
Even though I took some scribbled notes with us on the plane to Florida, I never did write a blog entry and now I’m amazed to see that seven weeks have gone by. Fortunately, I did keep up my daily journal until the day we flew stateside and last night I just finished filling in all the adventures we had seeing family and friends on our four state tour. I can’t seem to remember where I set my reading glasses at any given moment so I was pleased that most of the details of the trip are still accessible in my aging brain. But I definitely need to write it all down now.
Pushing Bella Blue backwards in time from her present mooring off Caneel Bay in St. John, I picture her in the Simpson Lagoon of St. Martin or Sint Maarten as the Dutch call their half. The mast project now behind us and the skipper happy with his functioning electronics and new deck light, we dinghied to a dock in walking distance of the airport and picked up Michele and Greg. They landed right on time, but ,alas, due to the sudden closure of LAX just after their arrival the night before because of perceived gun fire in a parking garage, 2 of their 3 pcs of luggage did not. The good news was that the yummy bottles of CA wine were safely here. But, despite their claiming “no meat” on their customs form, the bad news was that 4 frozen filets (in one bag) and a tri tip in the other were AWOL. What to do now…our plan was to leave right away for St. Barts for 4-5 days while the wind was up. They had bathing suits, dive masks and sunscreen. But it seemed irresponsible and maybe even dishonest to leave these two suitcases to show up on their own and wait, unclaimed for a week. We could only imagine the drug sniffing dogs standing at attention at two smelly bags in the Caribbean heat. So we waited …and called …and e-mailed. Two more trips to the airport. The first straggler showed up the next day, tri tip still ice cold …a delicious dinner! But the last bag refused to surface for two more days and Greg bravely opened it up and made an unusual deposit in a trash can outside the airport. It sure was a great idea that finished flat.
While we were in luggage limbo, we did rent a car and drove to and toured a darling butterfly farm with hundreds of varieties flittering in an enclosed tropical garden. Then we went to the world famous Orient Beach where it would be no exaggeration to say that there are over a thousand beach lounge chairs set up with colorful pads and matching umbrellas along the sand, each color group rented by the beach bar behind it. Here, rows upon rows of tanning tourists are laid out, with drink stewards weaving between them and local women hawking beach wear, hats and jewelry parading the waterline. Thai girls offer massages and colorful sheds promote parasailing, waverunning, kite surfing and SUP adventures. We rented four lounges and two umbrellas and spent the day swimming and people watching, enjoying the interesting beachware or lack thereof on the international crowd.

I have written about St. Bart’s before but it is such a beautiful place, it deserves more mention. Of course, it is French and it is the centerpiece of the three island destination group for the rich and richer, including Antigua and St. Martin, especially in the high season of Nov through February. Ships that look like fancy, well designed cruise ships, are chartered for $100 grand or more a week and are common sights anchored outside the main harbor of Gustavia. One rarely sees the guests but the polo shirted crew are always visible, busy with spray bottles and long handled scrub brushes, keeping everything to a high polish. The largest have a helicopter on top, looking like a small Tonka toy even as we motor closely by. Or, in the case of “Le Grande Bleu”, (a 371’ ship) a 55’ sailboat on the deck by the 55’express cruiser tender! The four of us walked around town, looking at all the fancy shops, all rigged out for Christmas and perused the displayed menus of ridiculously priced dinner offerings. Then off to real (and better) living for us in wonderful Columbier Bay around the corner. Here we snorkeled the reef and swam to the perfect white beach and the next day we hiked around the north side, where the path is high above breathtaking vistas of the turquoise water breaking on shear cliffs. The last time we did this hike we saw one spotted tortoise, this time we saw two. They are very attractive with big yellow spots on their foot long shell and cute yellow padded feet. We took a swim in a little secluded cove protected by natural rocks from the windward beach surf. Then a well earned drink at a cute French café.
Our next stop was the outlying, uninhabited island of Isle Forchue where we enjoyed the clearest water for snorkeling on the trip, easily 90’ over a pristine white sand bottom and a rocky reef on each side. We saw lots of great reef fish plus a bonus of two nurse sharks swimming the reef and two huge barracudas under the boat. With the high Christmas winds abating, we now made the easy downwind sail back to St. Martin.
We sailed around the northeast corner of the island to Tintamarre, an off lying island with a reputation for great snorkeling. The long white beach was gorgeous but we were very disappointed in the opaque water, a result of high winds and a north swell. So we upanchored and slowly made our way into Orient Bay, and found a quiet place to anchor near the end of the famous beach. Here we were able to swim from the boat to the beach, a good workout and we pushed our swimming skills with some choppy water races.
Our next stop was Grand Case, a lovely little bay and town with old French world charm, (think pointed steeple church and red tile roofed houses with heavy wood shutters on old whitewashed walls). This is St. Martin’s restaurant row, with something wonderful for every budget. We had a great meal here and Michele and Greg got in some more, long swim training. Alas, their time was running out and we headed back to Marigot Bay to catch the drawbridge opening to get back into the lagoon and said our goodbyes the next day.

It is now 12/7 and we needed to be in Tortola in the British Virgin Islands to catch our St. Thomas flight on the 16th. The high winds (typical at this time of year) were back but we got lucky with a 24 hour window of lighter wind to cross the often nasty piece of water known as the Anegada Passage. But going downwind instead of upwind made a huge difference and we sailed comfortably after a 3AM departure, even after a main sheet shackle on the boom let loose when our jibe was less controlled than planned. This is the danger of downwind sailing and we had been proud of how well we had handled our downwind turns but it only took a sudden extra gust of wind to make the boom snap across, uncontrolled. Ah well, something else to attend to in St. Thomas.

We anchored for a few days in a favorite spot in Virgin Gorda, then sailed to Tortola the day before our flight to put Bella Blue on the dock. We chose this small marina on Tortola instead of the big one near the airport on St. Thomas as the holiday dockage fee had quadrupled from our last trip home from the Virgins. But we found out why this one was so much less expensive….the slips were smaller and had a finger pier on only one side meaning we would have to have lots of fenders on both sides of the boat. The swell rolled into the little bay making for lots of up and down movement of the tied boats and, most importantly, it was very difficult to safely get into the dock. I was a wreck behind the wheel as we came down the narrow channel between shallow reef and breakers on each side. Then, with little turning room, we needed to make a 90 degree turn into the last dock and then again into the narrow slip in the middle of the pack. And there was an inflatable dinghy tied to our neighbor that sat in our way. We called and called as Scott finished tying on all the fenders and docklines, trying to get a dock hand to help us. After three trips up and down the channel killing time (and my nerves), two guys showed up and Scott took the wheel and did a masterful job of nosing the dinghy out and wedging Bella Blue in. He spent the rest of the afternoon tying and retying the boat to ensure we didn’t scrape the dock or our neighbor and he had to make a last minute taxi run to a chandelry to buy another big fender. That night as we completed our packing, we felt we were out to sea, with the unsettling sight of a dock and a sailboat going up and down out of our ports. The marina itself, though, was very nice and by the time we left the next morning we were more confident that our home would be there, mostly unscathed, when we returned 26 days later.
Since many (of the few) that read this blog probably saw us, I will hastily recap our wonderful trip. We started in Venice, FL, to visit Scott’s mom. The day after we arrived, she accepted an offer on a condo she had inherited, and we helped her go through the belongings and make decisions on where and what to move or get rid of. But we had plenty of breaks to be pampered and enjoyed walks along the waterfront in the warm weather and had an early Christmas celebration. Then we flew to Asheville and moved in with Scott’s son and family. It was beautifully sunny, though cold, but a stop at our rented house there and a quick exploration of our boxed belongings in the basement produced the necessary clothing we would need for the rest of the journey. As we drove around town, I started to take ownership of the sights as this will soon by my home and I do have a need to settle down soon. We had a wonderful, traditional Christmas with Matt, Heather, Rye and Heather’s family. Rye and his two cousins reminded me of what fun a little holiday magic can create! Great food, games and walks along the river as a big family ended all too soon and we were back at the airport heading to LA.
Our friends Michele and Greg hosted us for our stay here but it seemed we spent most of our time on the road. Scott’s dad had been admitted to the hospital on Christmas Eve for complications relating to his diabetes so we spent quite a bit of our first week driving back and forth to Long Beach. Scott’s son, Sean, lives in West LA, along the route, so he accompanied us to the hospital and we got a chance to have a couple of dinners with him. Scott’s dad was moved to a local convalescent hospital, and our one visit there made us feel that he was in good hands and on the road to recovery. We also found a little time to visit friends, our old house and new owners, and our wonderful friend and realtor that saw a complicated sale through without us. We then drove up to Paso Robles to see other friends that had moved to a 100 acre ranch amongst the wineries. Got a chance to rub lots of horses’ necks and admire their long horn cows and the incredible vista, even though it was brown as California was experiencing one of the worst draughts in decades. Then we continued north to Alameda to see Scott’s brother and family. The sun was strong and unseasonable warm and we had an al fresco lunch at the Farmer’s Market, then went to our nieces basketball game. Our travel had finally caught up with us, and I caught Scott’s cold and we can only thank our friends and family for not throwing us out of their homes. We had lunch with cruising friends that had ended their sailing adventure early this last fall and had resettled in the Napa area, then we headed back south to grab a quick nights sleep and say goodbyes to Michele and Greg before our early morning flight to Seattle.
My dad and Shirley had moved from Santa Clarita to Seattle this fall and we were eager to see their new home and surrounds. Even though it rained for most of our visit, we were very impressed with the house and the great neighborhood. Shirley has the house beautifully appointed and they seem very comfortable. We were happy to spend a few quiet days, recouping our health and enjoying being together again after so many years as neighbors.
Our 8th and 9th flights got us back to St. Thomas and two taxis and a ferry got us back to Bella Blue, who we found relatively unscathed, with just a few scratches and a missing fender. The next morning, with a few provisions grabbed the night before, we left the dock and soon were bobbing on a mooring in St. John.
Thank you, family and friends, for all your hospitality and support!




6:27 am pst

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Leaving the Windward Islands in Our Wake

Since I last wrote in early October, we have sailed 475 miles north and west, leaving eight major islands in our wake and are now at our temporary destination of Simpson Lagoon on the west coast of St. Maarten, on the Dutch side. Actually, we are on the dock at the riggers, with all of the wiring in our 63’mast laying out along the dock. We did the trip in twelve jumps, meaning that we only had to make a few departures in the dark but no complete overnights.  Some sailors much prefer to do this trip in one 3-1/2 day/night shot but we would rather both go to sleep at night even if it means we have to clear in and clear out of each island.  Even though it was a fast paced trip with just a few rest days taken after the longer passages, we still got in plenty of snorkeling, a hike up to the fort in The Saintes and a few happy hours on the beaches. Each time we left an island behind, we talked about the highlights of our visits there, knowing it will be a long time, if ever, that we will return.  We even hooked up with a lovely French couple for three of the sails and each entertained the other on our boats.in the evenings. And we only had one significant mechanical failure enroute.  Halfway across the Antigua Channel, in good size open Atlantic swells, our jib sheet shackle broke and Scott had to crawl up to the bow to capture the flying around piece and get the jib down and secured on the deck.  Even though he had a life jacket and a safety line attaching him to the boat, it was very nerve wracking for the first mate to watch him from behind the wheel and mentally go over all of our “what if” safety drills. On the lighter side, we came up to the cockpit one morning and I noticed a big puddle of black dirt near our huge steering wheel well.  I had just cleaned the cockpit the day before so I asked the skipper if he had boarded with dirty shoes.  Nope.  Looking down into the 12” deep well,  I saw a big, gray blob.  I pulled it out and it was a 10” long squid and the mess was his ink.  Apparently, he was jumping for his life from a predator and Bella Blue got in the way.  It was quite a leap.  Now he is in the freezer and I’m using strips of him for bait.

Our departure from Grenada was especially bittersweet.  After spending our second, four month hurricane season there, it had come to feel like home.  I took apples to all the kids at the Young Readers Program where I have been a volunteer tutor for a second season.  I will miss my young girls a lot.  I also took a bottle of wine to Sharon, the osteopath that has been working on my stiff back and hip all summer. My flexibility is greatly improved and getting around the boat is so much easier now.  But it will be a lifestyle change to do yoga style stretching every day or I will end up back where I was and I am determined not to let that happen. Scott and I will greatly miss free yoga class three times a week with all of our friends.  Scott will laugh at this when he reads it as he will tell you he hates yoga but he rarely missed a class.  And, he also had developed a lot of close relationships on the volleyball court three days a week, an activity that culminated in a very fun awards party where his team, the Dirt Bags, came in second, getting medals and a bottle of champagne. Scott’s other gift from volleyball has been a case of poison oak (chasing ball in weeds around court), which has been plaguing him for the last three weeks but is about gone now.  Today I boiled water for a super hot laundry job on all of his quarantined volleyball clothes and backpack so hopefully that is the end of it. 
The hardest goodbyes were to our closest friends on Celtic Rover and Alibi.  We hooked up with them in the Virgin Islands in June of last year to sail to Grenada and they have been our neighbors and adventure partners since then.  But they are braver than us and we left them as they prepared to head west, planning to spend Xmas in Cartagena, Columbia. But goodbyes are part of the cruiser’s life and we both felt very happy to be on the move again, looking forward to having friends visit and a trip stateside.

Before we set off to St. Martin, we took care of some needed maintenance on Bella Blue.  My wonderful husband rebuilt our head, a difficult project in a very small space. It ended up taking two days but I only had to resort to a bucket once!  We also had to replace our hot water heater and macerator pump.  The biggest project, repacking all of the electric wires/cables in the mast, still remains unfinished as we had hired a crane in Grenada to lift off the top of the mast so Scott could replace a bad cable going to our wind instruments.  But the guy hanging off the crane yanked on the bundle of wires that were wire tied and screwed to the inside of the mast, resulting in the loss of our anchor light and masthead tricolor light.  Plus our TV cable hasn’t worked in an age.  We had no more time to spend in Grenada  so now we are knee deep in this project here.  And, of course, this job has included several trips up the mast for Scott.  I don’t like having him up there but I’m getting good at handling my end of things.

We have met up with cruising friends here in St. Martin, some who left around the same time we did and some who flew home for hurricane season and left their boats here. So, until Michele and Greg arrive on Saturday for a two week cruise, we will have plenty to keep us occupied. Then, in early December, we will sail to Tortola in the British Virgins where we will leave the boat and visit family and friends in four states!. 

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

3:25 pm pst

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wow, Where Did the Summer Go?
I just checked to see when I posted the last blog update and it was August 19th.  In some ways, not a lot has happened but in other ways, our lives have had some big changes. The biggest change is that we no longer own the Santa Clarita house.  Escrow closed on October 2nd and we are now free from a big mortgage, monthly red ink and property management hassles.  With new computer apps like “SignX” and one trip to the US embassy here in Grenada, we were able to get through the reams of disclosures and get it sold without coming stateside.  Also, our longtime friend and realtor, Terrie Conway, filled in for our absence and did an outstanding job seeing the deal through.
As I mentioned in the last blog, my dad and stepmom have also sold their Santa Clarita home, moved to the Seattle area and are now moved into their new home since mid September.  Now Shirley is close by to her two daughters and grandkids which is wonderful.
Bella Blue is still on her same mooring in Mt. Hartman Bay on the south coast of Grenada, along with 40 other boats.  Coupled with 4 adjacent anchorages, this area compromises the home for over 200 cruising sailboats, providing a mostly safe area to wait out hurricane season.  So far, the weather has been very benign (and HOT!). There is a tropical depression out in the Atlantic right now that we are all paying close attention to but it probably (and hopefully) will steer  north of us as it becomes a major storm. So we wile away our days flitting from various social activities like yoga, volleyball, dinghy drifts, 2:1 pizza night, hamburger night and happy hours on each other’s boats.  Scott also is the leader of the Secret Harbor Swim Club and they swim ½ mile every morning (except Sunday) at 6:30AM.  I enjoy this time by stretching out and having our small bunk to myself.  He and two friends also participated in a full day of Hobie beach catamaran match races and, of course, we joined lots of sailors who were glued to the big screen at the bar watching the 34th America’s Cup and the amazing outcome.
  It is also the time for boat maintenance and we have had our share of repairs to do.  Scott has come up with some ingenious methods for fixing our very tempermental generator and a leaking hot water heater by using a marine caulking to seal the leaks and corroded metal.  We have a head rebuild and wind instrument replacement project waiting in the wings.  Fortunately, Bella Blue does not have much exterior teak, so unlike most of the other cruisers, we have not spent much time varnishing but there will be several days of sanding and varnishing coming up.  Just waiting for some cooler days.
The highlight of our last month was our sister-in-law, Laura’s, second two week visit.  This time we mostly stayed put here and enjoyed the local amenities.  But we did get away to Carriacou , a smaller Grenadian island a day’s sail north of here.  With extremely settled weather, we spent one night at a new anchorage off little Isle de Ronde and had great snorkeling in the pristine, clear water. Then we sailed to our favorite Grenadian anchorage, Sandy Island, where we had the best snorkeling experience of our trip.  This is always a great spot (protected national park), with lots of varieties of colorful reef fish and beautiful coral formations, with a postcard perfect white sand beach with palm trees in the background.  This time, we were happened to hit an influx of literally millions of small silver fish (silversides) that swam in immense schools like Southern California freeway interchanges, each freeway having identical fish of the same size.  As you swam through them, their density blocked our view of the reef or sand bottom, only 3-7’ below us.  Amongst these small 1-3” fish swam huge 5’ tarpon, surprising us as they broke free of the masses of silversides.  Along the sides of the freeways where watchful barracudas and above us pelicans dive bombed the water.  It was exhilarating!  The next day we went out again and this time Laura ventured out much further on the reef and found herself alone as a 6’ nurse shark swam under her.  She heard us shouting “tarpon”, located us and high tailed it back…safety in numbers! We told her that nurse sharks were harmless (unless you are a nurse, of course) but here eyes were very big in her dive mask.
Our trip to Carriacou coincided with the weekly Grenada hash, which is a vigorous walk, run through the island interior.  Normally they take place on the Grenada mainland but this one was in Carriacou.  After going to an osteopath for the last 8 weeks to free up a very stiff hip and lower back, I felt up to the challenge of a  4 mile jungle hike and Laura and Scott were game.  Over 150 participants were bused to the windward side of the island where we started with an hour clean up of the beach.  Then we watched as the Hash committee went through a few protocols, like picking up an unsuspecting participant that made the mistake of coming in new running shoes. She was carried to the center of the throng, one of her shoes was removed, filled with warm beer and she had a choice of drinking from the shoe or having it poured over her. After much anguish, she selected the latter.  As hash “virgins” (first timers) we also got our initiation at the end of the hash as we were awarded certificates and then thoroughly sprayed with warm beer.  Fortunately, there was plenty of cold beer, grilled chicken, reggae band and a beautiful beach for swimming to offset this indignity!  We were thoroughly exhausted but happy with our adventure.
On our way back to the south coast of Grenada, we stopped at the Moliniere Underwater Statue Park and showed Laura the creations on the seabed which I have written about in past blogs. Later that week, Laura and I went to a cooking class that became more of a cooking party due to the fun loving group that attended but we learned how to make palau and sweet potato pie.
There have been some security problems here in Grenada as there is in any of islands and these last few weeks there has been a spate of dinghy thefts and a couple of burglaries on unoccupied boats.  But nothing could have prepared us for the news that came over the VHF radio last Thursday night at 8:30PM.  Scott is a stickler for monitoring two stations in case there is a call for help in the night.  The long range station picked up a call from our local, cruiser funded rescue boat “Rescue l”.  They had picked up a distress call from a sailboat off Union Island, in a remote anchorage north of Carriacou.  Three 15 yr old local boys, one armed with a machete, attacked a cruising couple while they dined in their cockpit.  The skipper defended his boat and somehow the attacker swung at his wife and sliced her face through her mouth and cheek, doing major damage.  The skipper was also minor cuts and he inflicted a stab wound on the attacker with a kitchen knife.  The attackers swam away and now the skipper, after calling out for help, decide to motor full bore to the larger town in Carriacou, about 40 minutes away instead of going the 3 miles to the very small town of Clifton in Union Island to get medical aid for his wife who was bleeding profusely.  Rescue l called out for a doctor to pick up the radio and when no doctor called, Laura, a registered nurse, called and was able to give very precise first aid advice to the skipper for his wife.  Laura also called them on their cell phone to talk to the wife and keep her calm but unfortunately the woman was unable to hold the phone as she tried to keep pressure on her injuries on a fast moving, rolling sailboat.  It was a harrowing hour as we, and everyone that had their long distance radio channel on, listened to all the emergency service posturing as the sailboat slowly made its way to the city dock where ambulance, police and cruisers were waiting.  I’m glad to report that she survived, was stitched up and flown to Grenada’s St. George’s Hospital and has since been released.  The three boys have been apprehended and are in a St. Vincent jail.  We still are missing major parts of the story but will get those on Thursday night as the thankful couple is hosting a cruisers security forum at a restaurant in town to discuss how to make sure everyone has the tools and knowledge  to help them avoid a similar horrific experience.  It will be a packed event, I’m sure.  We were very proud of Laura’s much needed participation and expertise and wish she was here to meet her patient.
Back to a much better subject now.  Laura is a lobster lover and she became a regular customer of the fishermen that come around when they have fish and shellfish for sale.
She showed me how to tear off the tails and clean them and we had grilled lobster for at least 4 meals, including lobster pizza.  Be sure to check out the great big “bug” picture.
Just three more weeks for us here in Grenada then we make our final journey north to pick up friends, Greg and Michele, in St. Martin. For Thanksgiving. Then in mid December we will make a big stateside visit for three weeks, stopping in FL, NC, CA and WA while our boat sits in a slip in Tortola, BVI.   Hope to see you all then!
 
 
 
 
8:32 am pdt

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Floating Family Vacation
I gave Scott a gold star yesterday for smooth dinghy operation when we returned to the boat after a two mile journey back from another bay with me holding aloft a plastic bag with 12 eggs. We now are buying most of our meat and poultry from a local, inland butcher that delivers weekly to the adjacent marina and he has really fresh, huge eggs but I still haven’t trained myself to bring our plastic egg crate along with the cooler.  Just another fun challenge of living without a car!
The interior of Bella Blue has turned into a very messy office as we enter the world of escrow.  We are both very, very happy that our tenants agreed to let us list the house early and that a buyer showed up just four days after we signed the listing. So our favorite tool on the boat now is this cheap little trusty photocopier/scanner that has kept up with all the voluminous pile of disclosure nonsense that accompanies the sale.  We have been told (in theory) that we will be able to use a notary at the U.S. embassy here in Grenada for the grant deed.  There isn’t another U.S. embassy around other than Barbados or the Virgin Islands so we are lucky to be in the right place.  It feels a little weird to not have a proper leavetaking of the house before it changes hands, especially since we spent 21 years there and put so much time and effort into remodeling it.  But we certainly made great use of it so I have no regrets there.  Hopefully, the tenants will leave in a timely manner and leave the house in the great condition that they have kept it. 
The highlight of our floating life since our last blog has been the adventures we shared with daughter in law, Heather and grandson, Rye.  They arrived in early August for a 10 day tour of Grenada and the southern Grenadines.  Their first day coincided with the annual summer Dinghy concert, so we piled the dinghy with picnic fare and cushions and joined another 50 dinghies all tied up to a floating barge in the middle of an adjacent bay. There was a lot of chop on the water so it was a very bouncy ordeal and the band started a record two hours late (bad even by island time) so Rye wasn’t very impressed but we finally caught the spirit once the music got going full tilt.  We did leave early though, no small feat of threading our boat out of the dinghy jam. The next morning we set sail north to Sandy Island off Carriacou, about 35 miles north to catch the last day of the Carriacou Regata.  After catching a nice tuna on the way, we were thwarted in making our approach to the last available mooring by the throngs of racing sailboats.  It is bad form to cut through the race, so we went around a back way then had to turn back where we finally got in through the front.  But it was well worth the effort as we had front row seats on the deck as sailboats of many classes tacked and gybed in front of us and the down winders hauled up their colorful spinnakers.  Add that to glistening turquoise water and the white sand and palm trees of Sandy Island and you have a lovely slice of paradise!
The next morning ,we cleared out of Grenada (Carriacou is part of Grenada), sailed to Union Island where Heather, Rye and I checked our the charming town of Clifton and the nurse shark pool while Gramps walked to the airport to clear us into St. Vincent. Then we hoisted sail and had a squally sail to Tobago Cays, where we anchored late that afternoon.  I have written much about the Tobago Cays as they constitute the prettiest anchorage in the Eastern Caribbean combined with some of the best snorkeling.  The winds were very light, which is ideal for surface snorkeling and we delighted in showing our family the many green turtles grazing over the grassfields and the myriad of fish on the crystal clear reefs. Rye couldn’t wait to share all the fish species he saw and our reef fish guide was open multiple times every day.  He has an amazing memory and attention to detail and I marvel at the things he notices!  We even saw a full size nurse shark dozing under a coral head, paying us no attention as we got within a foot to take pictures.
After two days of water fun with the wildlife, we sailed back to Union Island, cleared out and headed back to Sandy Island for more snorkeling. We got caught on the beach in a wet, windy squall so we took shelter under some palm trees where we raced hermit crabs on a plywood table while we waited it out.  The inner island is covered with these cute guys, each with a unique stolen shell home, making them ideal to tell apart.  But we finally had to run for it, and row like crazy to get the dinghy off the beach far enough to start the outboard.  Then we headed back south to our “home”mooring with a lunch stop at the Moliniere Statue Park on the west coast of Grenada.  I wrote about this park last summer and was pleased to see a brand new offering … a ring of 16 adult figures holding hands, just like the ring of children that now has a few fallen children and a lot of sponge attachements to the heads, as designed.  The new offering showed all the attention to detail in the multi ethnic faces.  The other statues include a mermaid, a praying man, a man at a desk with a typewriter, a table set with dishes, mayan masks, a field of sleeping (or dead?) people and a standing woman.  And we saw a large school of squid, a new entry into Rye’s catalog of fish sightings.
After arriving back at our mooring, we scheduled a taxi to take us and our friends to the 7 Sisters waterfalls the next day.  The eight of us stopped at the Grand Anse rainforest visitors center then headed up to the road to the first two falls.  Here we got walking sticks and a 12 year old guide and started an adventurous hike down to them.  We quickly found out that the sticks and the guide were indispensible.  The path was very slippery red mud and rock going steeply downhill and every step had to be calculated for us seniors. It made mom a little nervous to see Rye and the guide way up front.  Then we forded a stream that had slippery rocks poorly placed for stepping stones and our guide had to assist all of us across.  But the dual waterfall was beautiful and several of us swam in the cool, fresh water with Gramps, as usual, getting as close under the falling cascade as possible.  After a sandwich picnic on the rocks, we had a much easier time climbing back out and except for Rye falling and scraping his leg, we all arrived at the taxi in one piece.
Our last day together coincided with the culmination of a month of Carnival celebration here in Grenada and we shared a full bus with other cruisers to attend the parade.  Our bus passed people on the sides of the road and piled in trucks, covered with paint and motor oil from the Jouvie celebration that had started at 4AM.  Just seeing the huge quantity of trash being “plowed” from the side of the road told the story of the whole island party that had taken place.  We found great seats on a wall near the start of the parade but once again it started two hours late and we are all getting grumpy after sitting in the very hot sun.  But finally it got going and the unbelievable color of all the Las Vegas style outfits helped revive our spirits.  It was excessively loud though and we finally opted to walk down to the Port Louis marina for a quiet and shady place to sit down and enjoy a cold drink.  Heather took Rye to swim in the pool and he was a new man after that!
The next morning we made our farewells at the airport and were back at the boat as their American Airline plane flew over us, on time!  We had a wonderful time with them both!!
So now we are back to regular routines.  I’m focused on fixing my stiff hip and back and will see an osteopath weekly until I can loosen up years of chronic muscle compensation.  This includes going to yoga three mornings a week.  Scott also goes to yoga and he also started an early morning swim club and swims a half mile at 6:30 AM with 3 others.  I enjoy this time by spreading out and enjoying the whole v-berth to myself.  I like to do my swimming laps in the heat of the afternoon.  Scott was also playing volleyball but it has been hard on his knee so he will put that on hold. Two nights ago we organized a “near full moon” evening dinghy raft up and float.  Ten dinghies tied up with us and we had a ball sharing appetizers and drifting on a very light wind night.
For those who know my dad and stepmom, we were very surprised when they announced that they were moving to Washington State to be close to Shirley’s daughters.  They have lived in Friendly Valley for the last 16 years, just down the road from us.  Their house also sold in a few days and Shirley’s son will be driving them to live with her daughter while they shop for their next home.  So now our family is even more spread around the corners of the country but I am glad that they will be close to family members.
12:16 pm pdt

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Back to Grenada for Season 2
Nope, no new island discoveries were made by Bella Blue these last 6 weeks.  But now we know where the best places are in the SE Caribbean and where we should be by this time of year.  Instead of hanging out in the beautiful Grenadines after Greg and Michele left on June 1st, we decided to head straight for the south coast of Grenada where we could meet up with our cruising friends, reprovision easier and hang out in our “adopted” home base.  And sure enough, even though it was very early in the new hurricane season, our friends on Celtic Rover and Alibi pulled in just one day after we arrived.  And other friends on Nanook ll were still here, having fallen in love with Grenada and not left.  This time, we decided to sign up for a monthly mooring, which was cheap for early committal, so now we can come and go without losing our great spot.
If you have read our blog from last summer, you will not need us to repeat our daily regime but suffice it to say that yoga, water aerobics, walks, cruiser grocery shopping busses, boat repair and bottom cleaning, cockpit laundry, 2 for 1 pizza and cruiser hamburger night fairly round out our day to day lives.
We did have one troubling and time sensitive breakdown to deal with, though.  Just a few days before we were scheduled to sail back to St. Vincent (3 day sails away), the wind finally died down enough for me to hoist Scott to the top of the mast ( well, only 52’ of the total 63’) to see why our jib was so hard to haul up on our last sail here.  It was an obvious problem from his view from the bosun’s chair.  The jib halyard (rope that holds up the sail) enters the mast through a curved metal plated that is riveted to the front of the  mast with 22 stainless steel rivets.  There is a square opening in it that secures the jib halyard sheave (pulley).  The lower lip of this opening was pulled away from the plate and the sheave was hanging out, just one sail away from breaking.  It would have been an ugly mess out to sea with our jib falling over the side and tangling our rig. It took a total of 4 days and 7 trips up the mast for Scott to unscrew the plate, have a new one made, putty in the holes in the mast, replace the sheave and re-rivet the plate.  His arms were very sore from the riveting and his legs from wrapping around the mast.  But he did a masterful job and we were able to upanchor early the next day and make it to St. Vincent by midday 3 days later to pick up my brother and sister in law that evening.
Dana and Laura had the weather gods on their side and we had picture perfect weather and light to moderate winds for easy sailing on the turquoise waters of the Grenadines.  After spending a day enjoying the view from the top on Fort Duvenette and discovering an old block ruin, as Laura said” straight out of Indiana Jones” complete with lots of hanging and flying bats and then some great snorkeling, we sailed to Bequia.  They got a chance to barter with the local produce ladies, snorkel another great spot and hike around to see the beautiful tropical flowers and fruit trees.  Then a wonderful dinner out overlooking the bay for an early celebration of my upcoming (ugh!) 60th birthday.  This was only the start of the ongoing birthday celebration they had planned for me.  Next stop was the famous Tobago Cays, part of the national park, where pristine coral reefs host lots of huge Hawksbill turtles, stingrays and the exceptional and scarce eagle ray.  That night, before dinner in the cockpit they dragged out every imaginable 60th birthday decoration, including hat, glasses, banner, pin, horn, tablecloth and banner! Wow, and there is still more to come.  We made a short sail to Salt Whistle Bay on Mayreau where we hung out on the gorgeous beach, drank wicked rum punches and floated in the warm sea.  Sadly, Dana could only spare a week from work so we dropped him off in Union Island to catch a short flight back to St. Vincent.  He still had to fly the next morning to Barbados to catch a flight back to Charlotte.  Union Island is probably the only island where you can get off the dinghy at the dock and walk with suitcases to the airport, passing lots of sheep and goats on the way.  We hung out with him until his flight was called (no more then 10 people at the airport) and felt awfully sorry that he couldn’t stay.  From there, the three of us headed to a favorite anchorage between Petit St. Vincent and Petit Martinique, where we refilled Bella Blue’s water tank the next morning, before heading back to the Tobago Cays.  The next morning we got an unpleasant surprise as the weather report showed that a tropical storm (Chantal) had formed SE of us, an unusual event this early in hurricane season.  Scott studied the potential paths with St. Vincent in the “watch” area and decided that there was no safe anchorage in the Grenadines if the storm should stay easterly. So we immediately upanchored with Scott making an announcement over our loudspeaker to other sailors in the anchorage and we hightailed it to Union Island to clear out of the country and make the 8 hour sail to the south coast of Grenada.  Fortunately, we had good wind to push us south at 7-8 knots most of the way, and pulled in to our home base just before dusk after having a pod of dolphins on our bow for awhile and catching a nice rainbow runner (small tuna). Chantal did take the standard WNW route and passed through the eastern Caribbean north of St. Lucia but we knew we had done the prudent thing. 
Laura was perfectly happy with the change in itinerary and we were relieved that LIAT had a flight to Barbados that she could catch so we wouldn’t have to sail back to St. Vincent  almost immediately.  The next day she made me “queen” for the day and set up the cockpit and gave me a full body massage, foot sanding and pedicure along with cooking the meals.  She got a chance to meet our friends, check out some neighboring bays, go dancing at cruiser’s hamburger night and help us host happy hour on Bella Blue with a riotous card game called Crimes Against Humanity that had everyone side splitting with laughter.  We ended her trip with a day long land tour of Grenada which included a swim under a waterfall, trip to the rainforest, a cocoa processing plant and a rum factory.  Her flight out of Grenada on LIAT (Leave Island Any Time) left 3 hours late and she just made her connection.  There is only one flight to Charlotte per week out of Barbados.  We sure had a great time with them both!
So here we are, back on our mooring.  The wind has died and it is HOT! Now that we are staying put until daughter in law Heather and grandson Rye arrive on August 3rd. I have made an appointment with an osteopath to figure out a therapy course for my aching back and hip, a chronic problem that is getting worse and interfering with my enjoyment of paradise.  Hopefully, she can help.  Scott is doing great and is doing an awesome job of keeping our floating home in tip top shape.
11:22 am pdt

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Rick takes off!

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Sue and Rick join us for a "Bella Blue" Selfie

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Heather and Rye Chillin in the Virgin Islands

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Goodby Dear Friends

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Celebrating the Completion of Our 1st Hash

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Best Friends Until Dinner Time

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Cooking Class with Omega and Friends

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Pirates!!

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An early surprise birthday party

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Petit Tabac, one of 5 uninhabited islands in the Tabago Cays

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Getting your hair in cornrows in Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau

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Laura and Scott in Bequia

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Private Island

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Dana and Scott cracking up about?

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Traditional Bella Blue Stern HangOut

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Checkin' in with the market ladies

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Home delivered fresh produce

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Hot Tubbing in St. Lucia

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Looking over Petite Piton

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Limin' in Bequie

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Unique to Martinique: A Yoles Rondes Under Way

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Restored windmill that can still crush cane

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Scott with his little ancestor

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Approaching Saba

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Jolly Beach, Antigua

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Rye is ready to hit the water

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Bella Blue at sunset

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The girls' favorite pastime

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Michele and Greg on Barbuda

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A Swinging Beach Bar

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Home cooking on Bella Blue

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Kim snorkeling off Sandy Island

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Petit St. Vincent before weather

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Kim and Mt Airey School kids

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Circle of kids underwater sculpture

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Off to see underwater statues

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Day trip to underwater park

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Kim with her new best buddy

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Monuments on Sandy Island

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Wayward Wind as we pass the "Pitons"

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Rafted-Up in Marigot Bay

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Oh so many little birdies

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Tuesday at the Soggy Dollar Bar

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Sailing to windward in light air, north of St Thomas

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Sailing in a Virgin Islands morning

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sea planes on Volleyball Beach, Stocking Island

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Rye, Kim & Scott on sandbar

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sandbar near Redshanks, Great Exuma

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Scott feeding Piglet

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Here We Come!

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Wardrick Wells

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Warderick Wells Harbor Sandbar 50ft from Bella Blue