ST LUCIA AND SOUTH

July 12, 2014

posted from Mt. Hartman Bay, Grenada

BIRDING ST. LUCIA

At the end of our last post we had put Dave on a bus to the airport at Vieux Fort.  It was great to have him along for the passages south from Antigua, but it was really nice to finally have the boat to ourselves.

St. Lucia hasn’t changed much.  One of the things you can always count on is the vegetable guy.  He has expanded his business by growing herbs on the top of his boat.

A visit from the fruit and vegetable boat

A visit from the fruit and vegetable boat

We relaxed a bit and looked around for some bird watching and hiking opportunities.  There is always the hike up to Fort Shirley at the north end of the anchorage.  You get a great view of Rodney Bay and there are always interesting birds.

Will he grow up to be a big shot?  A man of high caliber?

Will he grow up to be a big shot? A man of high caliber?

View of Rodney Bay from Fort Shirley

View of Rodney Bay from Fort Shirley

Bare eyed robin

Bare eyed robin

We also found that there are some nature preserves around the island.  The first we discovered was the Union Nature Trail just a couple short bus rides from Rodney Bay.  The trail is relatively short, but much of it is along the side of a ridge so you are close to the tops of the trees growing on the slope below and that’s where the birds hang out.

Adelaides Warbler

Adelaides Warbler

Lizard

Lizard

Peewee

St. Lucia Peewee

The next park we visited was the Millet Nature Trail.  We wanted to get there early, so we shared a taxi with Bruce on Wild Matilda for the forty five minute ride into the interior of the island.  There we met our guide who led us through the park and helped us find and identify various birds.  The goal was to see parrots and we did see a few, but they flew fairly high and far away. The one time they flew fairly close Bruce got a good picture of them, but Jackie and I were still working our way up the trail.

Freshwater crabs were all along the trail

Freshwater crabs were all along the trail

Mangrove Cuckoo

Mangrove Cuckoo

Saint Lucia parrots

Saint Lucia parrots (picture by Bruce)

The next big outing was to Maria Isle just outside of Vieux Fort.  Again we shared a taxi with Bruce and also Rowena and Richard on Galene for the ride to the other end of the island.  We met our guide at a small fishing harbor where he had arranged for a local pirogue to take us to the island.  At first look it appeared that we would have to traverse some serious surf, but our captain took us along shore behind the reef and then stayed in the lee of the island for the last stretch.  We hiked to a few vantage points and spent lots of time watching the birds soar off the cliffs in the high winds that constantly buffeted the island.

Our transportation to Maria Isle

Our transportation to Maria Isle

Caribbean Martins landing on the cliffs

Caribbean Martins flying near the cliffs

An inland marsh we visited after Maria Isle

An inland marsh we visited after Maria Isle

Birders in action

Birders in action

One evening we decided to sit up on the bow and relax.  I spotted something on the bow pulpit.  It was a brown boobie looking for a place to spend the night.  It got tired of the camera flash and eventually left.

Why go on bird watching hikes when they land on your boat?

Why go on bird watching hikes when they land on your boat?

We later met some people who had the same thing happen and thought it was pretty cool until the next morning when they discovered the messy bird droppings.

MARIGOT BAY

We saw some favorable weather coming and decided to head south.  The next island is St. Vincent.  We have heard enough about people being hassled by boat boys, problems with customs, and boat break-ins that we have always skipped St. Vincent.  This makes for a long trip, so we moved about eight miles south to Marigot Bay.  That brings the trip down to about sixty miles.

Marigot is essentially two small bays with a relatively narrow passage between them.  The holding and private moorings in the outer bay are pretty sketchy so we picked up marina mooring in the inner harbor.  That gives us access to the marina facilities (the showers).  A small boat came by advertising a restaurant that features live jazz in the evenings.  We caught a water taxi there after dinner and listened to a really great jazz pianist.

BEQUIA

We were off at first light the next morning.  We plan our passages at five knots so we were looking at a possible twelve hour trip and we wanted to be anchored before dark.  The winds were favorable and currents not bad.  We even sailed most of the way down the lee side of St. Vincent and kept moving well enough that we were anchored in Bequia well before dark.

We dodge some squalls on the way to Bequia

We dodge some squalls on the way to Bequia

We like Bequia because the town is small and quaint with a couple nice beaches and lots of restaurants.  There is a beach where you can find lots of sea glass and some nice snorkeling near where we anchor.

Yellow Tube Sponges

Yellow Tube Sponges

Sand Diver

Sand Diver

Trumpet fish

Trumpet fish

Smooth Trunkfish

Smooth Trunkfish

Sharp tail Eel

Sharp tail Eel

Banded Butterfly fish

Banded Butterfly fish

Bearded Fireworms and remains of a sea urchin

Bearded Fireworms and remains of a sea urchin

 

Bequia is known for model boat builders and we stopped at one of the shops to take a look.  They build some very nice, but very expensive models.

Boats in various stages of completion at the model building shop

Boats in various stages of completion at the model building shop

Just a few of the many beautiful model boats

Just a few of the many beautiful model boats

Bequia also has an interesting variety full size boats built locally.

Locally built racing sailboats

Locally built racing sailboats

Many island beaches are a study in interesting watercraft

Many island beaches are a study in interesting watercraft

Local workboats

Local workboats

The second day in Bequia we stopped at a restaurant/beach bar at the far end of the beach where we were anchored.  They had a bunch of temporary tables and seats set up on the beach.  We soon found out that a French sailing rally of thirty five boats was due in the next day.  Sure enough, early in the afternoon boats began pouring into the bay.  Now we know how the English commanders on these islands felt when the French fleet appeared on the horizon.

With that many boats coming in we knew that everyone would anchor close and they certainly did.  I have to admit, though, that they generally did a good job of fitting their boats into some pretty small spaces.  They had their party at the restaurant and were back on their boats relatively early.  Then at dawn the next morning they pulled there anchors up and headed out.

MAYREAU

We left Bequia for the Grenadine Islands – the group of islands between St. Vincent and Carriacou.  The trip is short, so we got a leisurely start rather than our usual crack of dawn departures.  We had talked about going to Tobago Cays and spending a couple days, but once we got out there we started discussing other options including checking out at Union Island and going to Carriacou.  We discarded this idea because of our relatively late start and light winds that kept our speed down.  We finally decided to go to Saline Bay, Mayreau.

We have been taking pictures of birds while sailing as long as it isn’t too rough.  We spotted these birds along the way and got some shots.  Jackie posted the pictures on Birding Aboard.  Here is her post:

Sailing from Bequia south we kept seeing these white tailed birds, often skimming the water, barely visible as the seemingly flew between the waves. We finally snapped an identifiable picture just north of Mayreau.  Unfortunately it was difficult to get a really good picture, the birds are flying fast, and we are sailing fast.

White morph of red-footed boobie

Dark morph of the white-tailed red-footed booby

More of the rare boobys

More of the rare boobys

Here is the response she got:

Nice! These are white-tailed dark morph Red-footed Booby. This species is among the most polymorphic seabirds with respect to plumage color.

Three main adult plumage types are recognized (brown or dark, white-tailed brown and white morph) with many intergrades such as white-headed and white-tailed brown, black-tailed white morph and golden white morph to add to the confusion. The latter two species are restricted in range as they may only breed on the Galapagos and Christmas Island.

Great documentation

I think it’s’ pretty cool that Jackie found some birds not known to frequent this part of the world!

We anchored in Saline Bay, Mayreau.  We had been rocked badly by a ferry last time we were in here, so we anchored well away from the path to the dock.  We had plenty of time so we did some exploring and found some fairly good snorkeling at the south end of the bay.

Blue Tang juvenile (l) Bluehead juvenile (r)

Blue Tang juvenile (yellow fish on left) Bluehead juvenile (yellow stripe on right)

The next morning we sailed the few miles to Clifton, Union Island and checked out of St. Vincent.  This is always an interesting process because we don’t trust the local moorings and we always seem to have trouble finding a good spot to anchor.  This time was no exception, so I stayed on the boat in case we dragged and Jackie took the dinghy in to check out.  She found customs in town, but then she had to go to the airport to clear out with immigration.

CARRIACOU

The next stop was Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou, an easy sail from Union Island.  We used to have to anchor at Hillsborough to clear in and then sail around to Tyrrel Bay, but there is now a Customs and Immigration office in Tyrrel Bay.

Approaching Carriacou

Approaching Carriacou

Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou

Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou

We met up with our friends Bob and Debbie on Chimayo, who we hadn’t seen since they were in Antigua in 2013.  Debbie told Jackie about  drum lessons given on the beach each day by a local guy named Bongo (aka Zulu).  She tried it out and liked it and showed quite an aptitude for traditional drumming, so yes, we now have a drum on board.

Drum lessons on the beach

Drum lessons on the beach

 

Jackie checks out a drum

Jackie checks out a drum

One of our favorite things to do in Carriacou is to take a bus most of the way up the west side of the island and then walk around the north side to Windward on the northeast side.  We started walking the dirt road and a fellow in an old Land Rover stopped to say hello.  He was Dario, from KIDO, a wildlife conservation and wildlife education group.  He took us to their facility – a modest but beautiful home converted for group education.  They are involved heavily in protecting and rescuing sea turtles.

KIDO conservation group

KIDO conservation group

We also visited the bird sanctuary at Petit Carenage and Windward, where they make boats on the beach.  We didn’t see much in the way of interesting birds, but we did get a good view of some wrecks off the north coast and some interesting things on the trail.

Humming bird

Humming bird

Carriacou crab

Carriacou crab

Cow in mangroves

Cow in mangroves

Boat being built on beach

Boat being built on beach in Windward, Carriacou

Boat being battered on beach

Boat being battered on beach

NC HURRICANES

This item chronologically belongs in the next post, but it’s best to cover it now.  We left Antigua and headed south for Grenada without a real schedule.  The only driving concern is that our insurance doesn’t cover us for named storms during hurricane season unless we are below 13 degrees latitude – the southern end of the harbor in Bequia.  We like to stop and enjoy the islands as we go, which causes us to run behind schedule.  This isn’t a big worry because we can do an overnight sail and get out of the hurricane box.  That doesn’t guarantee that we will avoid a storm, it just means we are insured.

 

Sailing from St. Lucia to Carriacou

Sailing from St. Lucia to Carriacou

So we are where we need to be, but we do have a little history with hurricanes since we started this trip.  When we headed south in 2009 we spent a few days in Southport, NC waiting for the rainy edge of Hurricane Ida to clear out.  In 2011 we had Compass Rose in Oriental, NC and Hurricane Irene came right over us.  Last year we built a house near Wilmington, NC and guess what?  Hurricane Arthur just made a close pass.  Do you see something in common here?  NC.

 

Hurricane Arthur visits North Carolina

Hurricane Arthur visits North Carolina. Our house is by the red arrow

 

 

Next: Back home in Grenada

MORE SOUTHBOUND, MORE FUN

May 31, 2014

posted from Rodney Bay, St. Lucia

SOUTH TO DOMINICA

We finally got Compass Rose back together and sailed for Portsmouth, Dominica, some twenty miles to the south.  We had a good wind angle and relatively mild seas.  The trip went well and we arrived in Dominica without incident – quite a relief after our sail to Les Saintes.  One of the River Guides met us as we approached the bay and led us to a nice sandy spot to drop the anchor.

We have always liked Dominica, but we have not spent much time there since our first visit in 2010.  We arranged for a tour of the northern part of the island.  Our driver, Winston, was pretty knowledgeable about the island’s history.  We stopped just outside of Portsmouth to visit an agricultural exhibition where we saw a lot of interesting plants, fruits and vegetables.

Winston (left) took us to an agricultural exhibition

Winston (left) took us to an agricultural exhibition

Some other notable sites he took us to were the Emerald Pool, and the Kalinago reservation.

Jackie at the emerald pool

Jackie at the emerald pool

The Kalinago, better known as the Caribs, have a reservation on Dominica’s east coast.  Part of it is set up as historical site where you can see aspects of traditional Kalinago life.

Kalinago traditional building made with modern materials

Kalinago traditional building made with modern materials

Traditional Kalinago boat

Traditional Kalinago boat

Heads DSC_1995

One sculpture for each of the elected chiefs

We also saw some beautiful views of Dominica.

Dominica's coastline

Dominica’s coastline

Dominica's mountains

Dominica’s mountains

And not to be forgotten, there was the restaurant where we had lunch while listening to Frank Sinatra’s greatest hits.

The next day we dinghied to Cabrits Park and walked around Fort Shirley.  The lower part of the fort is nicely restored and there are many ruins of old buildings and gun emplacements in the hills.

View of Prince Rupert Bay from Fort Shirley

View of Prince Rupert Bay from Fort Shirley

We also saw some crabs and a snake as we walked through the woods.

 

Dead land crab

Land crab was somebody’s lunch

The only snake we have seen since we sailed south

The only snake we have seen since we sailed south

Hermit crab

One of many hermit crabs in the park

 

Just another rainbow in Portsmouth

Just another rainbow in Portsmouth

We looked ahead to the weather and decided to do the eighteen mile run to Roseau, the biggest city in Dominica and the jumping off point for the crossing to Martinique.  It was an easy trip.  We sailed, motored, and motorsailed as the wind dictated. We tried to raise Sea Cat on the radio so we could take one of his moorings, but he never answered.  We picked up a mooring and figured that the owner would eventually stop by to collect the fee.  No one ever did, but the area is pretty rolly so we rocked back and forth most of the night.

Déjà Vu All Over Again

The next morning we motored out of Roseau.  The wind started to fill in wrapping around the island and coming north.  We worked out way out to get a sailing angle and found plenty of breeze.  We found ourselves riding a south flowing current and picking up at least an extra knot over the bottom.  The current ran headlong into the waves that were building on the shallows at the south end of the island, so the seas got lumpy and confused.

Compass Rose crashed along under reefed main at more than eight knots over ground.  The seas settled a little as we got away from land and the wind settled in to a good angle.  Just when it looked like we would have a fast, albeit wet trip, we heard a familiar noise and watched the bow sprit pop up and the jib slacken.

We had been through this drill before.  We dropped sails, stabilized the rig with spare halyards, and started motoring back against the strong current and through the confused waves.  I looked over the bow and saw that the bracket that holds the lower end of the bobstay had failed.

All spring Jackie and I had talked about spending more time in Dominica this year, but this wasn’t what we had in mind.

Pancho, a boatboy greeted us as we arrived back in Roseau and took us to one of his moorings near the Anchorage Hotel.  We told him about the problem and he recommended a welder and could arrange for transportation to the welding shop.

Dave and I got to work getting the bracket off.  I replaced the bolts that hold the bracket on while we were in the boatyard so I knew the process.  First we had to get all the chain out of the anchor locker so we could get to the bolts.  Dave laid down in the vee berth and got a wrench on the nuts while I sat in the dinghy holding onto the boat in the swell with one hand while unscrewing the bolt with the other.  The lower bolt hole is just a couple inches above the waterline, so I had to quickly put some caulk in the hole and shove the bolt back in to keep the water out.

Spreading 190 feet of chain on deck

Spreading 190 feet of chain on deck

Broken bobstay bracket

Broken bobstay bracket

The crack in the bow gets bigger

The crack in the bow gets bigger from the stress of holding the rig up without the bobstay

ISLAND TOUR II

We contact Pancho and talk to him about getting a ride to the welding shop.  The price is outrageous.  The he suggests we take a half day tour of the southern part of the island that includes dropping the part off at the welding shop and picking it up at the end of the tour.  The price is reasonable for a half day tour and he throws in the mooring rental for free.  We go for it.

Pancho picks us up early the next morning and takes us to shore where we meet Kelvin (sp?) our driver.  He takes us through town to the weld shop where I discuss the job with the welder.  He doesn’t have stock thick enough to replicate the part, but he will weld it back together and add reinforcements.  We agree to a price – not cheap, but we need the part and it has to be strong.

We hop in the van and head off into the hills of southern Dominica.  Our first stop is Titou Gorge.  There were two waterfalls separated by a very narrow gorge.  A small dam was constructed at the top of the second falls and the water diverted through a wooden pipeline – think of a very long barrel – to a hydropower plant.

Wooden pipeline diverts water to power plant

Wooden pipeline diverts water to power plant

The pool created backs up through the gorge to the base of the upper waterfall.  We swam in the water impoundment – it’s always a novelty for us to swim in fresh water.  But the coolest part was to swim into the gorge.  It is very narrow and has high walls so it feels like a cave.

Looking into Titou Gorge

Looking into Titou Gorge

We ended the swim by sitting under a small waterfall that comes from a hot spring.

 

Taking a warm spring shower

Taking a warm spring shower

Our next stop was Trafalgar Falls.  This is actually two waterfalls next to each other, and despite their proximity, they have separate water sources.  The hike down to the falls was easy and quite nice and the view of the falls was stunning.

From there we went back to the welding shop to pick up the part.  The welder had found a discarded piece of metal that was the right size, cut off the broken piece and welded in the new piece.  It was a much better fix and I was much happier with the solution despite the higher price tag.

We head back to the boat stopping at the fish market for some fresh tuna and mahi mahi, and then dropping Jackie off at the vegetable market so she could shop and then take a bus back to the boat.

Dave and I put the boat back together.  It’s a lot of fun hanging onto a bouncing dinghy while trying to tighten bolts and caulk the fitting.  The wrench and caulking gun spend more time underwater than above, but we managed.   The caulking looked perfect when we left the boat yard – now it looks like someone closed their eyes and put it on with a spatula.  Little Rosie is once more whole and ready.

MARTINIQUE BOUND

Once again we set out for St. Pierre, Martinique, some thirty five miles away.  The wind and waves are a bit milder, although it’s still windy and bumpy.  After two rigging failures so recently, I don’t think any of us really breathe easily until we drop anchor.

St. Pierre is a little town along the edge of the sea.  In the early 1900s it was considered the “Paris of the Caribbean”.  Then a volcano wiped out the town killing all but two people.  Some buildings use walls that survived the volcano, so there is a mix of building style in some spots.

We arrived too late to check in, but figured we could do rest and do it the next day.  The next day is my birthday.  It’s also Emancipation Day and there is a small carnival on the waterfront.  We dinghied in only to find that no one is allowed to tie up to the town dock or land a dinghy on the beach within 300 meters of the dock.  Eventually some other cruisers land their dinghies on the beach near us and the land owners look OK with it, so we do the same.  We visit the carnival, but it is small and few people are there in the heat of mid-afternoon.

We went back to the boat and spot some fishermen landing their boat by the beach.  They set up a portable fish cleaning table and proceed to unload a yellow fin tuna that is almost as big as the boat.  The boat in the picture is just the tender they use to get to their mooring, but the fishing boat wasn’t all that much bigger than the fish.

This was one big tuna!

This was one big tuna!

That evening the activity in town began to heat up.  We were already tucked in on the boat, so we stayed put, but we had a ringside seat for the great fireworks display on the waterfront.

CHEEKI RAFIKI

I’ve been trying to figure out how to deal with this topic, but I finally decided to cover it about the time we became aware of it. We heard that a boat was lost in the Atlantic.  Cheeki Rafiki, a Beneteau 40.7 that competed in Antigua Sailing Week this year and won their class, was lost with all hands.  She was returning to the UK and the crew called in that she was taking on water.  Evidently she lost her keel and capsized.  The US Navy reports that there is no sign of life on board and that the life raft was not deployed.  It is now pretty certain that the four crew, Paul Gosling, James Male, Steve Warren, and Andrew Bridge, could not have survived this long in the sea.

Cheeki Rafiki winning her class at Antigua Sailing Week (photo by Tim Wright)

Cheeki Rafiki winning her class at Antigua Sailing Week (photo by Tim Wright)

Capsized hull missing keel

Capsized hull missing keel

While we did not know the crew, we competed in the same regatta with them.  In light of the issues we have had recently this strikes close to home.  Things don’t always go as planned.

GRAND ANSE d’ ARLET

The next day we ran down the coast to Grand Anse d’Arlet, another little vacation town.  We would be in the lee of the island and the wind and waves should be relatively mellow.  We expected a little jump in the wind as we passed the mouth of the bay at Fort De France.  We left St. Pierre, hoisted sail, and started motorsailing and then sailing down the coast.  The wind blew up into the high teens and twenties and stayed there all the way to Grand Anse d’Arlet.  It was not the semi-lazy trip we expected.

We motored into the bay and found that the planned moorings were now a fact.  We had always anchored towards the south side of the bay near the town dock, but the only moorings available were on the north side of the bay.  It turned out this was the rolly part.

We went into town and walked around and eventually had dinner in a nice little resort/restaurant on the beach.

The next morning Jackie took the dinghy and scouted the southern moorings, but none were available.  We did see a number of boats anchored inside the edge and just outside the mooring field.  We dropped our mooring and anchored just outside the mooring field near the middle of the bay.  It was much calmer there.

We went snorkeling that afternoon on the south side of the bay.  It was a pleasant surprise.  There was a lot of live coral and quite a variety of fish.  I was sorry I didn’t take the camera.

SAINT LUCIA

The weather looked good the next day and we made the twenty seven mile passage to St Lucia.  Martinique is the eastern-most of the islands we frequent, so you would think we would get a break on wind direction when sailing south to St. Lucia.  This is not the case in that we are going from the wide part of Martinique to the narrow part of St. Lucia and have to make easting the whole way.  The trip was a little less windy and rough than a lot have been this year, but the wind direction and westward setting current prevented us from sailing the rhumbline during the first part of the trip.  Luckily we got a little lift from the wind and the current moderated some as we neared St. Lucia.  We made landfall just south of the anchorage and tacked into the Rodney Bay.

Modern navigation

Modern navigation

 

Dave and I take turns steering

Dave and I take turns steering

We tried to anchor south of the channel off Reduit Beach, but found poor holding and our chain went under a couple large rocks.  We moved north of the channel off Gros Islet and sunk the anchor in nicely.   We got ourselves checked in and they told us we didn’t have to do anything special to get Dave off our crew list.

It has been great having Dave on board.  He is an easy guest and a great help when sailing – especially when things go wrong.

Which brings us to the end of this phase of our cruise.  Dave was able to arrange a flight out of the main airport near Vieux Fort at the other end of the island.  The Vieux Fort anchorage has a poor reputation for security and is an upwind slog once you round the bottom of the island, so we check options for getting Dave to the airport from Rodney Bay.  Taxi fare is about $80 US.  The bus to Castries is $2.50 EC (less than a dollar US) and the bus from there to the airport is about another $5.00 EC.  This is a no-brainer.

We get up early and catch the bus with Dave.  This is his first real experience on a Caribbean bus.  We have taken the bus to Castries and from there to Soufriere, so we know that there is no central bus terminal - each bus route has its own little terminal (sometimes just a side street).  We ask directions and start our trek which eventually takes us to the other side of town.

We find the buses to Vieux Fort, verify that it will stop at the airport, and put Dave aboard.  He will be on his own for the rest of the trip.  Now we know how parents feel the first time they put their kids on the school bus.  We restrain ourselves from pinning a note on his shirt telling where he needs to go.  The bus pulls out, we wave, Dave is gone.

 

We put Dave on the bus to Vieux Fort

We put Dave on the bus to Vieux Fort

For the first time in about five weeks Jackie and I are alone on the boat.

Next: More St. Lucia

SOUTHBOUND

May 18, 2014

posted from Portsmouth, Dominica

Usually there is more time between posts but I’m caught up and there is a relatively long story to tell, so here goes…

GUADELOUPE BOUND

The racing was over, all the guests had left except Dave, Compass Rose was ready for sea.  It was time to leave Antigua and begin sailing south.

The first hop was from Falmouth Harbour, Antigua to Deshais, Guadeloupe.  The trip is a little over forty miles almost due south.  We kept going back and forth over which day to go to get the best weather.  We had actually cleared out stating our intention to go the following day, but when we got back to the boat we realized we had no need to stay.

We did the final bits to ready Compass Rose for sea, raised the anchor, and hoisted sails.  We got out of Falmouth Harbour and found the wind to be a bit lighter than we had expected, but we pressed on.  It eventually filled in, but we had to sail pretty high to keep from being pushed off course by the prevailing current and our speed was less than we hoped for.  Dave was at the helm and stayed there keeping us on the wind – a bit difficult in light wind.

 

Dave at the helm

Dave at the helm

The helming paid off by putting us in a good position to take advantage of a favorable wind shift towards the end of the sail.  Unfortunately the late start and the low wind speed caused us to come into Deshais after dark for the second time this year.  We managed to find a good spot in the anchorage, run up the yellow flag, and settle in for the night.

MARCHING INTO LES SAINTES

We got up the next morning, had a leisurely breakfast, and headed south for Les Saintes, a group of islands just south of Guadeloupe.  The trip took us down the leeward side of the island, which can be an interesting trip because the high mountains effect the wind.  We have actually sailed at another boat that was on the same tack as us, so the wind was hitting each of us from opposite directions.  We sailed, motored, and motor sailed as needed to reach the south end of Guadeloupe.

As we cleared the island, the wind and waves settled in from just south of east.  We couldn’t sail southeast to get directly to Les Saintes so we just did the best we could and planned to tack back in the lee of the islands.

Rosie rolled along well under autopilot, but I took the helm when we decided to tack.  Jackie released one sheet and Dave hauled in the other while I steered us through the wind.  We had just settled in on the other tack with the boat sailing nicely When a noise came from the front and the duckbill popped up.

(The duckbill is a piece of wood about three feet long that sticks out in front of the boat like a small bow sprit.  The forestay attaches to it and holds the jib and keeps the mast from falling over backwards.)

This was very bad.  If the duckbill let go the main mast would fall down.  I got the boat into the wind to take the load out of the sails and started the motor while Dave and Jackie rolled in the jib.  Jackie took over on the helm while Dave and I got the main sail down and stabilized the mast to the front of the boat with a spare halyard.  We then motored slowly into the wind and waves and picked up a mooring off Terre de Haute, the main town in Les Saintes.

It turned out that the wire in the bobstay broke.  This is a heavy wire that holds the duckbill down, thus counteracting the force of the forestay.  We were stranded in Les Saintes until we could replace this part.

The bobstay turnbuckle hangs down, the rest of the bobstay is in the water at the front of the boat

The bobstay turnbuckle hangs down, the rest of the bobstay is in the water at the front of the boat

IMG_0631

The duckbill has pulled up from the front of the boat

The old bobstay

The old bobstay

We began trying to track down someone who could make a new bobstay for us.  Remember that this is a French island – most people do not speak English.  This would require the proper fittings and a machine to swage the wire into the fittings.  We found a sailmaker on the island who thought he might be able to point us in the right direction, but when he saw the parts he realized no one on the island had tools big enough for what we needed.  He recommended a company in Pointe a Pitre on the Guadeloupe mainland.  We tried contacting them, but had no luck.  We did, however contact another rigger there who could make a new bobstay while we waited.

POINTE A PITRE ODESSEY

The adventure begins.  We have to figure out how to take the ferry to Trois Rivieres, rent a car and drive to Pointe a Pitre, have the part made, and return.  We get some info and early the next morning we catch the 6:45 AM ferry for the ride to Trois Rivieres.   The sailmaker assured us that there were two rental car companies on the dock in Trois rivieres, but one had no cars left and the woman at the other only spoke French.  We never figured out whether she was out of cars or just wouldn’t try to rent a car when the deal couldn’t be completed in a common language.

We talked to someone from the ferry company and he told us where we could catch a bus.  It was a ten minute walk up a steep hill to the next town.  Once there we happened upon a woman who spoke no English, but was going to Pointe a Pitre – just follow her. The bus comes and we get on.  We ride a short distance, get off, and run for another bus.  Our leader gets on and gets right back off.  The bus is a local, not an express.  We wait a few minutes and catch the express to Pointe a Pitre.

We’ve been to Pointe a Pitre before, so the rest is easy.  We catch a taxi to the marina, find the rigger and show him what we need.  He can make it – be back at 12:30.  We head for the chandlery and grocery stores to get some supplies, then grab some lunch.  We return about 12:15 and find the rigger starting to drive his wife to the airport.  We misunderstood the time.  He gives us the part, we pay him, and we head for downtown Pointe a Pitre.

We don’t find a taxi, so we get on a local bus.  Unfortunately the bus driver is going off shift and we have to wait for the next driver.  Finally the bus takes us downtown and we walk to the main bus terminal.  We know we need a bus that goes beyond Trois Rivieres and after asking around another bus driver directs us to the lane for that bus.  The bus arrives and we show the note with our destination to the bus driver.  He says oui and off we go.

We begin to realize something is not right.  The bus is making a lot more stops than it did in the morning.  We are on the local!  Our tickets say the ferry leaves at 3:45, the bus is moving slow, the clock is moving fast, and it’s a long swim from Trois Rivieres to Les Saintes.

We are sweating a lot more than usual for a warm Caribbean afternoon.

The bus finally drops us off at our stop, but we still have to get a local bus.  We wait.  Jackie starts hitchhiking.  The bus comes and the driver seems to understand where we need to go.  The street through town is one way, so the driver has to drop us off a few hundred yards from where we were picked up in the morning.  We start walking down the hill with time to spare.

We come to a little snackette where we can see the ferry dock.  We decide we have enough time to split two beers among the three of us before we have to board the ferry.  The cold beer tastes especially good after the fast hike down the hill.  We finish the beer and walk to the dock.

There is no ferry.  We had originally been told that the ferry left at 4:45, but our tickets said 3:45.  People are slowly wandering in to the area and some are sitting down and placing orders at another snackette next to the dock.  We finally join them. Dave and I have more cold beers.  Jackie has to find out what the tall green drinks are on many other tables.  After playing 20 questions and pointing at a lot of glasses on tables she finds it’s cold Crème de Menthe and water.  Very refreshing.

We board the ferry relaxed and refreshed.  We grab the three driest (a relative term) seats on the open upper deck and enjoy the view as we speed back to Les Saintes.

Jackie is happy to be on the ferry in Trois Rivieres

Jackie is happy to be on the ferry in Trois Rivieres

Less than seasoned travelers at the beginning of the ride are well salted by the end

Less than seasoned travelers at the beginning of the ride are well salted by the end

Part of the mooring field at Terre de Haute

Part of the mooring field at Terre de Haute

The next day is boatwork and wash day.  Jackie and Sherpa Dave take the laundry in while I start working on Compass Rose.  The fuel filter needs changing, batteries need topping up, and I install a new bilge pump float switch.  Dave and Jackie return and we install the new bobstay and put new backing washers behind the bolts that hold on the duckbill.  Then we tighten all the rigging that we loosened to get the duckbill in place.  Little Rosie is once again ready.

Compass Rose moored near the "Ship House"

Compass Rose moored near the “Ship House”

It wasn’t all work in Les Saintes.  We hiked around a little and ate French food.  We visited with Bruce and Carol on Wild Matilda and kept bumping into Rob and Ellen on Miclo III, and Anna and Hakan on Unicorn, and a few others.  The Triskell Cup Regatta passed through and we got to say hello (but not much more) to Steve on Hotel California Too.  And to cap things off, the French Navy rotated two ships through just as we were leaving.

We have to sail past a French aircraft carrier on the way out of Les Saintes

We have to sail past a French aircraft carrier on the way out of Les Saintes

We are off to Dominica.

Next: The land of Parrots and Rainbows.

 

OFF TO THE RACES

May 12, 2014

posted from Les Saintes, Guadeloupe

ANTIGUA CLASSIC YACHT REGATTA

One of the biggest events on the Caribbean sailing calendar is the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta.  We had an uneventful trip around the corner of the island to Falmouth Harbour.  I started looking around for a boat to sail on.  I sailed on Gaucho last year, but their boat was for sale and I really didn’t expect to see them back.  Earlier in the year I talked to Leonard from Saudade about crewing and he was for it if he was still in Antigua.  As luck would have it Gaucho didn’t show and Saudade was gone.

I walked the dock on the morning of the first race and found a spot on Ocean Nomad, a Carriacou sloop.  These are traditional wooden vessels a little over 40 feet in length and originally designed to carry cargo.  They are built largely by eye on the beach in Windward, Carriacou.

It turned out that Ocean Nomad is normally used for day charters in Antigua but was chartered for the regatta. The deal was put together  at the last minute because the crew were flying in to sail on another boat, but it left before the regatta started.  The boat was Saudade, so I guess I was destined to sail with this group one way or another.

Ocean Nomad at the dock

Ocean Nomad at the dock

Ocean Nomad at speed

Ocean Nomad at speed

The crew turned out to be a great bunch of people.  We sailed hard, had a lot of fun on the water, and eventually finished fifth.

I got a couple turns at the helm.  She sailed like a big dinghy

I got a couple turns at the helm. She sailed like a big dinghy

My favorite day of racing was a course out and back twice. Our fleet was one of the first off, so we got to see the rest of the fleet coming at us and often chasing us down from behind.

Classics racing in earnest (photo by Margaret Richardson)

Classics racing in earnest (photo by Margaret Richardson)

Another classic (photo by Margaret Richardson)

Another classic (photo by Margaret Richardson)

 

The Ocean Nomad crew

The Ocean Nomad crew

ANTIGUA SAILING WEEK

Another one of the premier events on the Caribbean sailing calendar is Antigua Sailing Week.  Classics ends on Tuesday and the Sailing Week feeder race from Guadeloupe is on Friday, so there isn’t much of a breather.  Overnight the classic yachts disappear and Falmouth and English fill with modern boats.  Some are pure racers, some are cruisers, and some are charters.

Once again I was scheduled to crew on Peter Morris’ Frers 43, Jaguar, but as with Classics things didn’t go as planned.  Peter and a delivery crew that included my brother Dave, and friends from DC Bob and Dee were to sail the boat from its berth in Trinidad to Bequia for the Easter Regatta.  They would then sail to Guadeloupe for the feeder race to Antigua.  The boat would do Sailing Week and then return to Trinidad.  Crew would join or leave the boat at various points along the way.  Bob’s wife, Terry, would fly into Antigua and she and I were to try to find a ride to Guadeloupe for the feeder race.  Once we were all in Antigua, Bob, Terry, and Dave would stay with Jackie and I on Compass Rose.

The trip started well, but while leading the first race in Bequia the rudder broke off.  The captain and crew managed to keep the boat off the rocks long enough to get a tow.  Peter arranged to have an emergency rudder made and took the boat to Grenada where a new rudder would be installed.

Jaguar's broken rudder post

Jaguar’s broken rudder post

As you can imagine this had a huge impact on everyone’s plans.  Terry had to decide whether to fly to Antigua before Bob knew what the situation would be with Jaguar.  Bob helped sail the boat to Grenada and then caught a flight to Antigua.  Dave and Dee found a ride on Merengue, a crewed charter.

 

Dave at the wheel of Merengue.  He claims the autopilot failed, but we think he just likes to steer

Dave at the wheel of Merengue. He claims the autopilot failed, but we think he just likes to steer

Terry and I started looking for boats for us and got hooked up with Hobart, a Bavaria 42 Match.  The owner, Rainer, wanted to do a long term charter, but couldn’t arrange for a boat, so he bought Hobart.  He, his wife Renata, and their daughter Alina sailed the boat to the Caribbean, did some cruising, and then stopped in Antigua for Sailing Week.  They were joined by the twins, Michael and Christian, their girlfriends Maria and Angie, and friend Franz.  They were looking for a grinder and foredeck person and Terry and I volunteered.  We practiced Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.

Merengue arrived late Thursday night and since I was practicing Friday morning Jackie met their captain and crew at Customs and Immigration to get Dave and Dee transferred to our crew list.  The entire Merengue crew was there. Only the captain (or his agent) is supposed to go to shore before the boat and crew are checked in and Immigration decided to hold them to the rule.  They waited for hours to get processed and for Customs to search the boat – another unusual move.  Eventually all were free to go.

The Merengue crew waiting at Customs and Immigration

The Merengue crew waiting at Customs and Immigration

We practiced again Friday afternoon and Dave came along with us. I was inventing new ways to screw up spinnaker launches and drops, but we kept things sorted out.

Friday night was the Mount Gay Rum Red Hat Party where you could turn in the tickets you got for buying rum drinks during the previous weeks for Mount Gay Race hats and other goodies. Bob flew in from Grenada that afternoon and took a taxi to the party. Everyone was finally together on the island.

Saturday was the race around Antigua. We were in the first fleet off and were the second boat until we were about three quarters of the way around, when the bigger boats finally started catching us. We kept most boats behind us, but corrected to sixth place on handicapped time.

three quarters of the way around the island ICAP Leopard finally catches us

three quarters of the way around the island ICAP Leopard finally catches us

Around the buoy racing started on Sunday and continued through Friday, with Wednesday off.  Not knowing what crew he would pick up in Antigua, Rainer had our boat rated to use nothing larger than the #2 headsail.  Despite not using our largest genoa we still rated the fastest boat in our fleet.  That meant we had to finish in front of all the boats in our class and by enough margin that they wouldn’t beat us on corrected time.

The racing was tough and the wind was a bit light the first three days, so we couldn’t sail upwind very well with the small sail and gave up ground to the other boats.  We made a lot of it back going downwind, but not enough for any high finishes.  We had more wind on the last two days and that evened things up quite a bit.  We crossed the finish line in 5, 3, 4, 4, 3, 2, 3 positions for the races but never got higher than third on corrected time.  We had a lot of fun racing and saw some old Jaguar crew who were racing against us on Legacy, a Trini boat.

Crossing with Legacy

Crossing with Legacy

Hobart threads the needle

Hobart threads the needle

Getting the spinnaker ready to launch

Getting the spinnaker ready to launch – that’s me on the pointy end

Preparing the spinnaker - that's me almost in the water

Preparing the spinnaker – that’s me almost in the water

Out on the rail

Out on the rail

You will notice in the last three pictures that I’m the one wandering around out on the foredeck a.k.a. “adventure land” and when sitting on the rail I’m the first one in line to take the wave.  Brother Dave is farther aft kibitzing with the ladies.  Most of the time when I looked aft I would see Michael calmly steering the boat with a perfect poker face no matter what was going on around us.  The exception was when I would get soaked by a wave and he would get this little grin on his face and shrug his shoulders.

I didn't always get the big spinnaker up the right way around

I didn’t always get the big spinnaker up with the writing in the right direction

Flying the blue reaching spinnaker

Flying the blue reaching spinnaker – prettier and looks right either way

 

We get third on thursday!

We get third on Thursday!

 

Hobart crew

Hobart crew

I can’t say enough about the crew.  Everyone tried hard.  Mistakes were corrected and we moved forward.  We all wanted to go fast AND have fun.

So what was everyone else doing?  Part way through the week Bob found a ride on Cricket, a Benateau 35. We’ve met  Sandy and he is suppossed to be a good skipper, and we know other people who have crewed on the boat in the past and had a good time and Bob wasn’t disappointed.

Jackie and Dee have high standards.  Would they settle for your average forty foot race boat?  No way!  They hooked a ride on the Volvo 60, Cuba Libre.  Yes, this is a little smaller than Hotel California Too, the SC 70 Jackie did the Around Antigua race on a couple years ago, but she wanted something a bit sportier for the buoy racing.

Cuba Libre

Cuba Libre

Sailing Week is not just bashing around a race course.  There were evening parties and the lay day events at the beach.  We loved the lay day because it gave us a chance to rest our tired and battered bodies.

A restful day at the beach

The Legacy and Hobart crews team up for a restful day at the beach

We spent quiet evenings trying to gain back our strength.

The Carib girls stop by to suggest a brand of beer...

The Carib girls stop by to suggest a brand of beer…

...do you think it worked?

…do you think it worked?

Sailing week finally ended and people eventually found flights back to the US.  A calm descended over the Compass Rose crew.  Compass Rose had been in and around Antigua for over a year.  We spent some time in nearby islands, but we had spent the end of last cruising season and most of this season in Antigua.  It was time.  Dave, Jackie, and I prepared for our next move south.

Next: Marching into Les Saintes

Barbuda

April 16, 2014

posted from Falmouth Harbour, Antigua

(remember that you can right-click on pictures and open them in a new tab to see them full size.)

GUADELOUPE TO ANTIGUA

If you remember from our last post, we sailed southeast from St. Kitts to Guadeloupe so we could get a wind angle to sail north to Antigua.  After a few days in Deshais, we took advantage of a nice weather forecast to sail north to Jolly Harbour on Antigua’s west coast. Three other boats that we know, Just Imagine, Never Bored, and Viking Angel all left at about the same time, but headed for Falmouth Harbour on Antigua’s south coast.

We had to motor for an hour to clear the north end of Guadeloupe, but then the wind filled in from just aft the beam. The seas were quite calm at first, built to only about four feet between the islands, and then dropped as we approached Antigua, so it was a great sail.

With the wind and waves on the beam we had an outstanding sail from Guadeloupe to Antigua

With the wind and waves on the beam we had an outstanding sail from Guadeloupe to Antigua

Partway between the islands we spotted fins breaking the surface. We got a quick look at five pilot whales. They swam next to the boat, but slower than we were sailing and we quickly left them behind.

We get a brief visit from some pilot whales

We get a brief visit from some pilot whales

The approach to Antigua is easy. You keep the reef at the southwest end of the island to starboard and sail on up the island. We were in the shallows past the reef and got a hit on the lure we were dragging. We pulled the fish in and soon saw that it was a baracuda. There are two problems with baracudas – they are likely to have ciguatera poisoning from eating reef fish and they have big, ugly teeth between you and the lure you want to retrieve. It took a bit to get control of the fish and get the hook loose, but we did it.

JOLLY HARBOUR

We are getting to like the Jolly Harbour anchorage in that we can slide up to near the front of the crowd and find a shallow spot to anchor. We stayed out there for a couple days, but a swell came up that got all the boats rolling and we moved to the inner harbor and picked up a mooring for a few more days.

One day we hiked out the peninsula that separates Jolly Harbour from Five Islands Bay. The route took us through gated community that surrounds the inner part of Jolly Harbour.

Typical street scene in the village at Jolly Harbour

Typical street scene in the village at Jolly Harbour

 

There's more than one way to catch a crab

There’s more than one way to catch a crab

SPAINISH POINT, BARBUDA

Barbuda is Antigua’s sister island to the north. We have wanted to go there, but never had the right weather at the right time. We saw a window coming up when we were in Guadeloupe and we also met some friends who had the same plan. They came around to Five Islands the day before we were to leave, so we coordinated with them over the VHF radio.

Five Islands is just to the north, so we raised anchor about a half hour before the other group was to leave with the hope that we would meet them as they started out. They all started a bit late so we motored slowly out in front of the group giving them a chance to catch up.  The wind filled in just as they were catching up to us.

We initially took a conservative course that would take us west of Codrington Shoals, but after some discussion we joined Bill and Coleen on Dolce Vita, Tom and Leslie on Farhaven, and Rob and Ellen on Miclo III on a new course between Codrington Shoals and Dodington Bank and save us a couple miles of motoring into the wind at the end of the trip. Chuck and Barb on the trawler Tusen Takk II stayed on the more westward course.

Dolce Vita sailing to Barbuda

Dolce Vita sailing to Barbuda

 

Tuesen Tak II cruises smoothly

Tuesen Tak II cruises smoothly

The line began to run off our fishing reel as we entered the mile wide passage between the shallows. Jackie eased the main and then helped me land a two foot long rainbow runner.

We catch a tasty rainbow runner

We catch a tasty rainbow runner

By the time we had the fish on board and stowed we were the last of the armada entering the Spanish Point anchorage. We were concerned there wouldn’t be enough room for the eight boats in our fleet plus the four or five others already there, but we found a spot among the coral with no problem.

This is probably one of the bigger groups of boats to be in this anchorage at one time and was certainly the largest “organized” group we ever sailed with. In addition to the boats already mentioned there were the cats: Robin and Cheryl on Just Imagine, Chris and Sheila on Never Bored, Morris and Elizabeth on the other ketch, Viking Angel, and Sandy and Kim who were already in the anchorage on Kewayden.

The Armada anchored at Spanish Point, Barbuda

The Armada anchored at Spanish Point, Barbuda

ABOUT BARBUDA

Barbuda is a low island. The highest point is about 125 ft. It is very dry and the small population is mostly clustered around Codrington. Donkeys and horses roam freely about the island. It has long, deserted beaches and beautiful aqua water. It’s a lot like what you dream about when you start cruising. The Codrington family leased the island from England starting in 1685. They used the island as a hunting preserve and kept slaves to raise cattle and root vegetables.

When emancipation came, the slaves stayed on the island and continued to live in the cooperative way that they had been. There are so few people that they use whatever land they need – no land is actually owned by anyone. And although Barbuda was forced to join Antigua when the islands became independent from England, Barbuda has kept somewhat apart. They like their way of life and have resisted almost all commercial developement, even going so far as to push a resort developer’s office trailer and equipment over the cliff into the ocean, thus stopping the project.

STUFF WE DID IN BARBUDA

The weather started to pipe up and promised to remain so for five or six days, so most of us were here for the duration. The exceptions were Kewayden leaving for Antigua after a couple days, and the trawler Bodacious arriving with guests. I will talk about some of the highlights rather than go into a day by day narrative of the activities. The group is very active and have done hikes, snorkeling, and island tour, and happy hours on some of the larger boats.

Happy Hour

Happy Hour

We snorkeled in a few different places in the anchorage and on the east coast.  We spotted a few of these crabs hiding in the sand near our boat.

Lots of little crabs were hiding in the sandy bottom near our boat

Lots of little crabs were hiding in the sandy bottom near our boat

Snorkeling

Snorkeling

The King Helmet was wandering around the “kiddy pool”, a shallow area on the Atlantic side that was well shielded from the waves and warmed by the sun.

King Helmet

King Helmet

While snorkeling behind a reef on the Atlantic side I spotted the stingray (top) buried in the sand and then the other one (bottom) nearby.

I saw these two southern stingrays near the beach

I saw these two southern stingrays near the beach

There are a couple sink holes and many caves on the island. We visited some on both hikes and the tour.

Looking down into the sinkhole

Looking down into the sinkhole

At the bottom of the sinkhole

At the bottom of the sinkhole

Cave we hiked to on the first day

Cave we hiked to on the first day

Chris climbs up in a cave we visited on our tour

Chris climbs up in a cave we visited on our tour

Barbuda’s coastline is a mixture of coral, rock, and beaches. The east coast gets the brunt of the Atlantic’s wind and waves, so much of it is rocky. But in between are beaches protected by coral. Unfortunately the onshore wind and waves deposit a lot of flotsam and jetsam on the beaches. Some are a virtual trash dump, but others remain clear and pristine.

Here we are on Barbuda's Atlantic coast

Here we are on Barbuda’s Atlantic coast

 

Much of Barbuda's Atlantic coast is very rugged in contrast to the beaches on the Caribbean coast

Much of Barbuda’s Atlantic coast is very rugged in contrast to the beaches on the Caribbean coast

Parts of Barbuda's Atlantic coast collects trash washed ashore by waves

Parts of Barbuda’s Atlantic coast collects trash washed ashore by waves

 

The Caribbean beaches (west side) are long and beautiful

The Caribbean beaches (west side) are long and beautiful

We also arranged for a trip to the Frigate Bird colony, one of the largest in the world. The trip started with a taxi ride to Codrington and then a boat ride to the colony. As you approach you see that the sky is filled with frigate birds. As you get closer you see that the mangroves are filled with roosting and nesting frigate birds.

Just a small part of the frigate bird colony

Just a small part of the frigate bird colony

The most interesting birds were the fuzzy headed chicks and the males advertising for mates by inflating their red neck pouches.

Male frigate bird displaying his inflatable throat pouch

Male frigate bird displaying his inflatable throat pouch

 

Frigate bird family (l to ) Mom, Chick, Dad

Frigate bird family (l to ) Mom, Chick, Dad

Typical fuzzy frigate bird chick

Typical fuzzy frigate bird chick

RETURN TO ANTIGUA

The plan was to be in Antigua for the Classic Regatta and when a weather window came we took it.  We had a nice sail with small  seas and the wind on the beam.  As we approached Antigua we got a hit on our fishing line and pulled in what we think is a Bonito.

We caught this Bonito on the way back to Antigua

We caught this Bonito on the way back to Antigua

We anchored in Jolly Harbour so we could do some reprovisioning.

This concluded our Leeward Island cruise that we reported in the last few posts.  We started in Antigua and cruised to  Nevis, St. Kitts, sailed past Montserrat on the way to Guadeloupe, and returned to Antigua.  We then sailed to Barbuda and back to Antigua.

We sailed from Antigua to Nevis to St. Kitts to Guadeloupe to Antigua to Barbuda and back to Antigua

We sailed from Antigua to Nevis to St. Kitts to Guadeloupe to Antigua to Barbuda and back to Antigua

We will stay in Antigua for the Classic Regatta and Sailing Week, and then start the trip south to Grenada.

NEXT: ANTIGUA CLASSIC REGATTA

Three Island Tour

March 29, 2014

posted from Jolly Harbour, Antigua

JOLLY HARBOUR

It was time.  We motored out of English Harbour and sailed around the southwest corner of Antigua to Jolly Harbour.  This was a relatively short cruise that gave us a chance to make sure we had the boat rigged right and that all systems were working.  The trip was uneventful and only a couple small items needed attention.  We anchored in about 7 feet of water – always an interesting experience because Compass Rose draws just under five feet.

Jolly Harbour has easy access to a fancy and expensive food store where we can get items not available in the local island stores.  It also is home to the main Budget Marine store on the island, so last minute items were easy to get.  We also discovered a couple good bird watching ponds on that side of the island.  One is in easy walking distance and the other is off the bus route.  We spent parts of a few days visiting these areas.  The nearby pond was good, but the one farther away had only a couple birds – a letdown from last spring when it was teeming with birds.  We also took a bus and taxi to a salt pond on the north side of the island and saw lots of birds there.

VAMOOSE SKEDADDLES

Cruising life is full of hellos and goodbyes as boats move from harbor to harbor and island to island, but the goodbyes are usually just until your paths cross again.  Unfortunately some of the goodbyes are because someone is quitting cruising.  This time it was our friends Dave and Nancy on Vamoose.   Dave set sail solo for the US and we have been tracking him via Single Sideband Radio and reporting his progress to Nancy. We are going to miss them a lot.

Dave sails Vamoose past Nevis on his way north

Dave sails Vamoose past Nevis on his way north

GOODBYE ANTIGUA

After about a week in Jolly Harbour we had all our provisioning done, got the weather we were waiting for, and headed west towards Nevis and St. Kitts.  The forecast was for relatively light winds and calm seas.  There was supposed to be a swell coming in from the north, but it never amounted to much.  We started early and motored for a few hours until the wind filled in.  The wind came up from directly astern pretty much as expected.  Compass Rose doesn’t like the wind directly aft, so we pointed a bit north and aimed for the cut between the islands.  This was a longer sail than going around the south end of Nevis, but we sailed a lot faster.

After all this time we still know what to do with those big white things on the boat

After all this time we still know what to do with those big white things on the boat

We did a little  bird watching along the way.  The most interesting was the frigate bird. He was trying to scoop some small fish who were jumping out of the water to try to escape some bigger fish.  This is a tricky operation because a frigate bird cannot take off from the water.

Frigate bird trying to scoop up fish

Frigate bird trying to scoop up fish

I hope the frigate bird did better than me.

THREE STRIKES, THREE OUTS

Things got interesting in another way after we got the sails up.  I was in the middle of doing something with the sails when the line began spooling off the bigger fishing pole but by the time I got to the pole, the fish was gone.

A little later the line began spooling off the smaller pole.  I ran back and grabbed the pole and cranked in some drag to stop the line.  Then I cranked in some more drag.  Then more drag.  The line kept spooling off in bursts and there was nothing I could do to stop it.  I looked out behind the boat and saw a sailfish jump! I looked at the reel and the line kept running out in spurts.  Soon I could see the spool, the all that was left was one loop and the knot.  Then the line broke.  The sailfish put on quite a display jumping behind the boat as we sailed away.  It was probably for the better, because we would have a terrible time trying to land and deal with a five foot sailfish.

The line started spooling out a third time as we approached the narrows.  I got the rod, put in some drag and started reeling the fish in.  This one was much smaller and more manageable and he mostly skimmed on top of the water as I pulled him in.  Then just as I got him close to the boat I lost him.  I pulled the line and lure aboard and found that one of the hooks had broken off – probably when the first fish struck.

Lure missing hook, reel missing line

Lure missing hook, reel missing line

HELLO NEVIS

We found our way between the islands and down to Charlestown.  Our information was that all the anchorages in Nevis had been converted to mooring fields, so we grabbed a mooring, put the dinghy together and went in to town.  We just caught Customs, Immigration, and the Port Captain before they went home for the day.  We found out that the mooring we were on was private, so we moved up the coast to Pinney’s Beach and picked up an official mooring, one of the last left in mooring field. This group of moorings are in the shadow of the volcano.  We got some spectacular sunsets to the west as the nearly full moon rose over the volcano to the east.  We got one of the best green flashes we have ever seen.

Moonrise over the volcano

Moonrise and frigate bird over the volcano

Sunset

Sunset

Cruise ship at sundown

Cruise ship on the horizon

Our first day on Nevis we took a tour with a taxi driver we met on the dock.  He “scratches the guitar” under the name Watusi, and is sometimes referred to as Bird Man, but his friends seem to call him Dave.  He made me look short and heavy.  He is into holistic stuff and claims that the crumbling masonry in old buildings on the island is good to rub into your skin.

Exfoliation by mortar

Exfoliation by mortar

When we got back to the boat we decided to move to a mooring closer to town.  It was a lot more convenient, but just as rolly.

GOLDEN ROCK

The next day we took a bus to Golden Rock, an old sugar plantation now run as a restaurant and guest house.  There is a road and trail that leads up one of the mountains into the rain forest.  We thought it would be a good place to see some different birds and it would be much cooler hiking than what we usually get on the islands. Golden Rock itself is beautiful.  There are beautiful flowers, guest rooms, and a nice restaurant, not to mention birds, caterpillars, and monkeys.

Frangipani caterpillar turns into a big, brown moth

Frangipani caterpillar loves the leaves of the frangipani tree and turns into a big, brown moth

Find the monkey

Find the monkey

Resting poolside at Golden Rock

Resting poolside at Golden Rock

The hike is a road that goes up the mountain to support a water pipeline.  The first part is paved and goes through a small settlement.  Then it turns to gravel, and finally just rocks.  The pipeline brings rainwater from the mountain top down to cisterns.

Goat herd we saw on the road

Goat herd we saw on the road

Pipeline brings water down the mountain from the rain forest

Pipeline brings water down the mountain from the rain forest

Unfortunately we didn’t have a lot of luck with birds that day.

BOTANICAL GARDENS

The next day we took a bus to some botanical gardens.  So here is where you get a break from all the bird pictures and get to see some beautiful flowers.  Unfortunately I don’t know the name of many of them.

Bananaquit

Blue flowers

It turns out five bees were leaning on shovels watching one gather nectar

It turns out five bees were leaning on shovels watching one gather nectar

bird

Interesting yellow and orange leaf

Black bird

Pink flowers

Humming bird

Yellow flowers

Humming bird

Pink flowers

Humming bird

Pink and green flowers

ST KITTS

We tried three different moorings in Nevis, but all rolled.  We motored up the coast to check out some of the other mooring fields, but in the end we sailed over to St. Kitts.  We picked Majors Bay on the south end of St. Kitts facing Nevis.  It looked well protected.  We motored into the bay and realized that one of the terminals for the car ferry between Nevis and St. Kitts is in the bay.  We anchored and waited to see what the ferry would do.  As it turned out we were well out of his way and he created very little wake, so we stayed for a couple days to get a chance to explore the south end of the island.

Ferry under full moon in Majors Bay

Ferry under full moon in Majors Bay

Nevis mooring ball that escaped to Majors Bay, St. Kitts

Nevis mooring ball that escaped to Majors Bay, St. Kitts

BASSETERRE, ST KITTS

We moved to Port Zante Marina in Basseterre, St. Kitts.  Basseterre is the biggest town in St. Kitts and Nevis.  The marina is next to the cruise ship port, which is  full of duty free stores and houses customs and immigration, so it is the best place to stay when you need to clear out of the country.

The cruise ships looked huge

The cruise ships looked huge

Port Zante Marina with more working fishing boats than cruising yachts

Port Zante Marina with more working fishing boats than cruising yachts

The big city is convenient because there are grocery stores nearby and it’s an easy walk to the bus terminal.  We took advantage of the local buses to visit a couple tourist attractions and a restaurant along the coast. The first place we visited was Brimstone Hill, site of one of the oldest and most well preserved forts in the Caribbean.  It was improved over the years and became known as the Gibralter of the Caribbean.  We got off the bus and started to walk up to the fort.  A van came down from the fort, picked up some people, and then stopped for us.  It was the employee shuttle and they gave us a ride to the fort, some 800 feet above sea level.  

Jackie and I at the fort with Statia (St. Eustatius) in the background

Jackie and I at the fort with Statia (St. Eustatius) in the background

Just a small part of Fort George, Brimstone Hill

Just a small part of Fort George, Brimstone Hill

The next day we took the bus to the Clay Villa, an old plantation and the only one on St. Kitts that did not use slave labor.  It is owned by a woman who is a direct descendant of a Caribe, the native tribe that inhabited St. Kitts when Columbus discovered the island.  We got there early and did some birding around the grounds before the tour.  The tour was of the old plantation house and its gardens.

Lizard

Lizard

Rare white winged pigeon

Rare white winged pigeon

BIRDING WITH PERCY

We spent our last day in St. Kitts birding with a local bird watcher named Percy.  He took us around to many of his favorite spots and we saw fifty different species that day.

GUADELOUPE

We had a good time in St. Kitts, but the wind was coming a bit north and that would be good for our sail from St. Kitts to Deshais, Guadeloupe.  This trip would be about eighty miles and could easily take fourteen hours.  We had planned to move to Nevis and start from there, but we had trouble catching anyone in the marina office so we could pay our bill.  Also, the customs officer was having trouble printing out our clearance so he let me leave his office and he brought it to the boat.

We left the marina at 3:45 AM and motored southeast past Nevis.  The wind finally filled in and we had a pretty good but bumpy sail to Montserrat.  We expected the seas and wind to calm down a bit behind the island, but both wrapped around the south end of the island and we had to motor directly into them.  At times we were down below three knots trying to push through the wind and waves.  The only good thing about it was that we got a great view of the lava flows from the volcano.

West lava flow

West lava flow

Southwest lava flow

Southwest lava flow

The wind and waves came back to a more normal direction when we cleared the south end of the island.  The wind picked up and we flew to Deshais.  We arrived about 8 pm, some 16 hours after we started, and anchored in the dark.

The next day we cleared in and rested.

MORE FLOWERS

Deshais is a little seaside tourist town.  It has some restaurants, some souvenir shops (one hosts the customs and immigration computer), and a couple grocery stores.  Just outside of town at the top of a long steep hill there is a very nice botanical garden.  Naturally we hiked up to visit it.    There were lots of interesting trees and flowers and of course a few birds.

Banyon tree drops shoots from its limbs which take root

Banyon tree drops shoots from its limbs which take root

Flamingos sleeping

Flamingos sleeping

 

Flamingo looking for insects under a rock

Flamingo looking for insects under a rock

Purple-throated Carib

Purple-throated Carib

Sun shining through the leaves

Sun shining through the leaves

Red flowers

Red flowers

More flowers

More flowers

Let's see..put in 50 cents...food comes out the tube..WAIT!! I FORGOT THE CUP!!

Let’s see..put in 50 cents…food comes out the tube..WAIT!! I FORGOT THE CUP!!

 

Blue flower

Blue flower

Kapok tree

Kapok tree

NEXT: RETURN TO ANTIGUA (Where there are no botanical gardens)

 

Laid Back in Antigua (Sort of)

March 5, 2014

published from Ordinance Bay, English Harbour, Antigua

I don’t seem to be able to blog as fast as things happen, so this post keeps growing and may be getting a little disjointed.  Here we go.

BOAT WORK

After a boat work semi-marathon we launched Compass Rose on January 22.  Since then we have split our time between relaxing, hiking, hanging out with friends, and – of course – more boat work.

The work encompasses all aspects of the boat.  Some items are improvements like making an awning for the aft cabin hatch to keep out rain or moving the shower sump to a more accessible location and replacing the float switch; some are maintenance like touching up the rusty spots on the engine or oiling all the padlocks that we use to secure items on deck; and some are repairs or replacements of parts that have failed, such as the fresh water pump, the anchor snubber,  and the watermaker.  Sometimes I tell people I would be happy if I could just fix things faster than they break.

One of the more involved problems was with our portable Honda generator, which we use when running power tools and the sewing machine.  We were doing a few days of sewing projects and the Honda ran fine one day and wouldn’t start the next.  I tried everything, but no luck.  It seemed like the compression was low.  I did a little research online and found that the motor has very tight tolerances in the valve guides and that if you run old fuel it can leave deposits that will cause the intake valve to stick open.  I dug in and sure enough, the valve was stuck.  Luckily I was able to grab it with vice grips and work it loose.

Performing surgery on Mr. Honda

Performing surgery on Mr. Honda

We have done a few hikes into the middle ground – the peninsula between English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour, and along the coast up to the flagpole near Freeman’s Bay on the southeast side of English Harbour.  We have coordinated some of the hikes with local boating events – finishes of more of the Talisker Whiskey Challenge transatlantic rowboats and the Antigua Superyacht races.

ROWBOATS

We walked out to Fort Berkeley to watch one of the rowboats come in – and got rained on as we walked back.

Fort Berkely and English Harbour as seen from the flagpole

Fort Berkeley and English Harbour as seen from the flagpole

Coastline where the sailboat ran aground (see previous blog entry)

Coastline where the sailboat ran aground (see previous blog entry)

Not everything stops when rowers finish.  Here we see Mannix cruising in his water taxi and a couple divers are helping the big yachts with their anchors.

Another transatlantic rowboat finishes

Another transatlantic rowboat finishes

These guys had the good fortune to arrive mid-morning when they could see and lots of people were about to welcome them.  A couple boats arrived in the wee hours of the morning.

This pair arrived around dinner time and had only a small reception

This pair arrived around dinner time and had only a small reception

One team still remains to finish.  The two women team – Inspirational Friends - had to have a new rudder dropped off to them and after 90 days still have 757 miles to go.

SUPERYACHTS

The Antigua Superyacht Challenge is a three day semi-pursuit race.  In a pure pursuit race each boat is assigned a start time based on its handicap with the slowest boat starting first.  If the handicaps are perfect and all boats are sailed equally well, they will theoretically finish at the same time.  To avoid a pileup at the finish, the organizers started the boats at three minute intervals.  As it turned out, the finish was pretty exciting on the final day.  Here is a quick description from the Superyacht Challenge Antigua blog:

“126′ Schooner, Gloria finished the regatta in style scoring their second bullet to elevate the team into third overall, but only just, Gloria was tied on points with 180′ Hoek designed ketch, Marie. Gloria took the podium place ahead of Marie by virtue of two first places in the regatta.

Gloria getting cruising around before the race

Gloria getting cruising around before the race

182′ Dykstra Schooner, Adela was runner up to Gloria in Race 4, assuring the the Adela team of second place overall, just a point ahead of both Marie and Gloria. In the last race, Adela beat Unfurled by just 2 seconds after time correction. Significantly if Unfurled had beaten Adela, the 112′ sloop would have tied for an overall victory for the regatta. However, the overall winner of the 4th edition of the Superyacht Challenge Antigua was the 102′ Ketch, Marama by a single point from Unfurled.”
Adela on a spinnaker run

Adela on a spinnaker run

Marie hard on the wind

Marie hard on the wind

Just another day at the office

Just another day at the office

Marama going onto the marine railway.  The diver is Fire, the fellow who hauled and launched Compass Rose

Marama going onto the marine railway before the race. The diver is Fire, the fellow who hauled and launched Compass Rose

AROUND THE ANCHORAGE
Each anchorage on each island has its own character.  English Harbour can be thought of as three areas: Freeman’s Bay, the outer anchorage off Galleon Beach; the middle area with Slipway Marina and Boatyard and Nelson’s Dockyard Marina on either side; and the lagoon anchorages consisting of Tank Bay and Ordnance Bay.
We are at the edge of Ordnance Bay, which along with Tank Bay are homes to liveaboards who will probably never move their boats and abandoned boats.  We ended up here because Freeman’s Bay was too crowded when we launched.
Some boats are here to stay

Some boats are here to stay

Anchor too close to the mouth of either bay and the park people will tell you to move.  They seem to like to do this late in the day, so you have little daylight left to find a new spot.

Quite a contrast to our neighbors on either side of us

Quite a contrast between our neighbors on either side of us

Freeman’s Bay is the main cruiser anchorage, although there are a few more or less permanently anchored boats there.  This is a nice anchorage except that when the wind goes light or swirls and/or the tide changes the boats can swing in different directions relative to each other.  And just to make it more interesting, just today they moved one navigation marker a couple boat lengths into the anchorage, thus widening the channel and reducing the anchoring space.
On the lighter side, we do see a lot of interesting craft in the anchorage.
Zebra boat in Ordinance Bay

Zebra boat in Ordinance Bay

We see a wide range of vessels

We see a wide range of vessels

Commuting to work.  This thing actually folds.

Commuting to work. This thing actually folds.

How would you think this guy makes a living?  The boat never moves.

How would you think this guy makes a living? The boat never moves.  (double-click on the picture to blow it up and you will see the boat’s name is Daily Bread)

Reality check

Reality check (sailboat is named Illusion, the dinghy is named Reality)

Jackie paddling back from her afternoon swim with the ladies

Jackie paddling back from her afternoon swim with the ladies

HIKES

We do a bit of hiking in the hills around Antigua’s south coast.  It’s a combination of bird watching, exercise, and just doing something different.  We often start our middle ground hikes by walking past this old rainwater catchment.

Rainwater catchments like this are common on the islands.  This one seems to feed a shade tree car wash operation

Rainwater catchments like this are common on the islands. This one seems to feed a shade tree car wash operation

Jackie hiking

Jackie hiking

We haven’t seen too many interesting birds this year, but the goats are out in abundance. On one of our first hikes this year we came across a baby goat that was young enough to be showing an umbilical cord. It had no fear of humans and walked right up to me.

Goats.  They are all over the Middle Ground

Goats. They are all over the Middle Ground

Flower in the sun

Flower in the sun we saw on a hike

Enjoying a little coconut water on the beach after a long, hot hike

Enjoying a little coconut water on the beach after a long, hot hike

BIRDS

I mentioned that we have not seen many interesting birds this year, but the birds we do see have kept life interesting.  We are still getting visited by Bananaquits flying into the boat and there always seems to be a frigate bird nearby.

Frigate bird soaring over the anchorage

Frigate bird soaring over the anchorage

But the most entertaining are the pelicans feeding.  The fly around the anchorage and go into a steep dive when the spot a fish.  Just as they are about to hit the water they tuck in their wings.  There is a huge splash and the bird bobs back up and either swallows a fish or takes off to look for another one.

Pelican cruising

Pelican cruising

The pelicans love to roost on the local boats

The pelicans love to roost on the local boats

This is what a pelican looks like as it dives into the water to catch a fish

This is what a pelican looks like as it dives into the water to catch a fish

MONTSERRAT
When Jimmy Buffet sings, “I don’t  know where I’m a gonna go when the volcano blows” think “Montserrat”.  This island is just to the southeast of Antigua.  We have sailed past it twice – both times at night – and we could smell the sulphur each time.  The volcano has had three major eruptions since the early 90′s.  The last was just a couple months before we sailed by the first time on 2010.
We have always wanted to visit the island, but the lava from one eruption filled in the old harbor.  The new harbor has little anchoring space and a reputation for being rolly so we decided to fly over.  Our friends Jack and Bobbi from Moonrise joined us for the trip.
The plane was pretty small.  Eight seats and two engines.  An airport employee escorted the four of us and our three fellow passengers across the tarmac to the plane.  When we got there one of the other passengers decided to lead us in prayer and it was pretty clear he wasn’t getting on the plane until we complied.
The guy led us in prayer BEFORE he found out who the copilot was

A fellow passenger  led us in prayer BEFORE he found out who the copilot was

We took off and turned south which took us right over English and Falmouth Harbours.

Flying over English Harbour and the edge of Falmouth Harbour.  Compass Rose is by the red arrow

Flying over English Harbour and the edge of Falmouth Harbour. Compass Rose is by the red arrow

The flight to Montserrat went quickly and we got some great views of the island.
Approaching Montserrat

Approaching Montserrat

East side of the volcano

East side of the volcano

Our guide met us at the airport and took us to a trail in the rain forest where the Montserrat Oriole is known to hang out.  They were there, but they stayed in the tops of the trees and were very hard to see.
The elusive Montserrat Oriole

The elusive Montserrat Oriole

Despite the difficulty in bird watching, hiking in the rain forest was a refreshing change from the arid and mostly shadeless south coast of Antigua.
From there we worked our way to the south end of the island to see the volcano.  Our guide took us to the observation center where we saw a really good movie on the history of the volcano eruptions.  The eruptions impacted the most densely inhabited parts of the island.  Many people left the island because there was nowhere for them to live.  Our guide has lived on Montserrat all his life and he lost his home to the volcano as did most people.
Jack and Bobbi from Moonrise pose with us at the observation center with the volcano in the background

Jack and Bobbi from Moonrise pose with us at the observation center with the volcano in the background

The island has various exclusion zones.  The main one includes the old capitol city of Plymouth and can only be entered by scientists.  The next one was closed until a couple years ago and is now only open during the day.  People can live in the next zone, but must be ready to evacuate within 24 hours.
Much of Plymouth was destroyed outright, but many buildings still stand and some are largely untouched except for ash.  Unfortunately no one can live in the exclusion zones because of the uncertainty of whether or not the volcano will erupt again.
Plymouth was largely wiped out by the volcano

Plymouth was largely wiped out by the volcano

Some buildings are relatively untouched, but many are buried in ash

Some buildings are relatively untouched, but many are buried in ash

The flight back was almost as interesting as the flight over.  We passed over Jolly Harbour and got a good look at the Five Islands area.
NEXT?
Will our heroes ever get out of Antigua?  Stay tuned.

Whirlwind

January 24, 2014

Posted from English Harbour, Antigua

WILMINGTON

We flew from Morocco to Wilmington, NC and visited our new house.  It was essentially done – just waiting for them to screen in the back porch -  or as they call it here: the “Lanai.”

The new house

The new house

Obviously we need help decorating

Obviously we need help decorating

ST. LOUIS

Then it was on to St. Louis to spend Thanksgiving with our niece, Nancy, and her family.  It was cold – much colder than Morocco or even Wilmington for that matter.  The visit was great.  Thanksgiving was fun and filling, we decorated for Christmas, and we went to the zoo to see the Christmas lights.

Jackie having some quality time with Sumer

Jackie having some quality time with Sumer

Smiling for the camera

Smiling for the camera

Aren't they cute?

Aren’t they cute?

Willow models her new hat

Willow models her new hat

Putting the angel on the tree

Putting the angel on the tree

WILMINGTON – AGAIN

We returned to Wilmington after Thanksgiving and spent a little more time in the house and see how the screened in porch turned out.

The porch is screened in

The porch is screened in

DC

Early December found us driving to Washington, DC.  We spent a couple days with our friends Bob and Terri, then I flew to Antigua and Jackie started a round of visiting friends in the northern VA/DC area and family in Michigan.

ANTIGUA

It was nice to get back to the tropics after all the winter weather in the US, but it was strange being here by myself – especially with the mob of people in town for the Charter Boat Show.  I thought it would get a bit lonely, but I started bumping into people who I knew. Everyone’s boat was in the water at either English Harbour or Falmouth Harbour.

View of the Charter Boat Show beyond Slipway boat yard

View of Slipway boatyard (foreground left) and the Charter Boat Show (back and right)

Unexpected visitor on the boat

Unexpected visitor on the boat.  At least he stayed outside – the bullfinch flew in.

Compass Rose

Compass Rose

I commissioned the dinghy so I could get back and forth between the boatyard and Nelson’s Dockyard.  From the Dockyard I could get to stores and restaurants.  I could also visit friends anchored in English Harbour.  Unfortunately the dinghy was leaking water, so I had to pump it out a couple times a day until I could take it our of service long enough to patch it.  It took two tries.

For the most part Compass Rose survived the six month layup pretty well.  The big problems were that the fresh water pump was locked up and I discovered a propane leak when I made coffee one morning.  Luckily we had a spare pump so I could get water out of the tanks and we had a spare pressure regulator for the propane, so I could cook on the boat.  I also found that the cutlass bearing was worn out, and there was no replacement of the proper size on the island.

There were also quite a few small things that either stopped working or needed repair or maintenance, or just needed to be made better.  I spent three weeks getting the boat ready to launch.  I also had to arrange for a survey because the insurance company wants one at least every five years.  Then I flew back to the US for the holidays.

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

The trip to Antigua was about 12 hours of waiting in airports or flying.  The trip back had an overnight stay in Toronto.  The weather had been bad the day I arrived and many flights were cancelled.  The next morning the airport was a zoo with people whose flights were cancelled trying to rebook.  It took so long to check in that I would have missed my flight if it hadn’t been delayed.

Jackie met me at the Cleveland airport and we went to my mom’s.  We got to spend Christmas eve opening presents with my siblings, their kids, and even one grand nephew.  The ongoing background entertainment was having the NORAD Santa tracker going on the TV so we could keep track of when Santa would officially arrive.

Big kid - little kid

Big kid – little kid

Eighty eight years old and one phone is not enough

Eighty eight years old and one phone is not enough

We also spent an evening with some old friends who I worked with and paddled whitewater with when I got out of college.  I hadn’t seen them in twenty years or more, but it was like it had been just yesterday.

Old friends

Old friends.  Joe, Eric, Joan, JoAnne, Kim, MaryAnne, John, and Dave

From there we drove to Michigan to visit Jackie’s family.  She has enough siblings that we can spend a long time visiting them without ever overstaying our welcome at any one place.  We had an early New Year’s gathering with quite a few of the family and then fireworks in the evening. We started back for Wilmington via Ohio, but the roads were so bad we bailed out at another of Jackie’s brother’s houses.  The weather was much better the next day and we eventually arrived in Wilmington.

BACK TO THE ISLANDS

We did a quick stop in Wilmington to swap winter clothes for shorts, t-shirts, and bathing suits and then we hopped a plane for Antigua.  There is nothing like stepping out of the plane and walking down the steps (no wimpy jetway here) into the warm, humid, palm-treed environment – especially when you just left feet of snow and sub-freezing temperatures.

We spent a week in a local hotel while we got Compass Rose ready to launch.  It was nice if you didn’t mind the music from the Improve Rasta Shack next door.  The info sheet in the hotel room said that you should contact the management if the music didn’t stop by 3 AM.  A week passed and our reservation was used up, but we still weren’t ready to launch, so we moved aboard.

The surveyor had looked at the bottom of the boat while we were away and gave us a list of things to check – none of which were on our to-do list.  I was going to list all the things we did to the boat, but it would have been too long.

We found a couple interesting things in the boatyard when we got back.  The first was that the motor mount bracket for our outboard broke.  We usually mount the motor on the inside of the rail where it is supported by the deck.  Luckily it didn’t fall off.

Dinghy motor mount bracket fails

Dinghy motor mount bracket fails

The other interesting thing was that a boat sailing up from Trinidad crashed on the rocks just outside English Harbour.  The single-handed captain was asleep below when the boat sailed into the rocks.

This is what happens when you fall asleep

This is what happens when you fall asleep

Life in the boat yard wasn’t to0 bad.  We got a lot done and met some nice people.  We also had a little excitement in the harbour.  The Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge is a rowing race from the Canary Islands to English Harbour and three teams finished while we were here.

Each team is raising money for a charity.  Team Locura was first in the open class and first to finish.  The two rowers raised money for the Generous Hearts Foundation, a foundation set-up in Romania to aid on improving the living conditions of orphaned children

The first of the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge boats finishes

The first of the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge boats finishes

The second boat in, Atlantic Polo Team, consists of four guys who have been professional sportsmen and horsemen for at least 10 yrs. Their charity is Right to Play.

This is what you look like at over 40 days at sea in a row boat

This is what you look like at over 40 days at sea in a row boat

The third team in, Row2Recovery, consists of two amputee soldiers who rowed across the Atlantic alongside two able-bodied comrades, to raise money for HELP FOR HEROES who work tirelessly to improve the lives of injured service personnel and their Families.  They arrived a little after dark which made for some fantastic photos and pyrotechnics.

Third team finishes at night.

Third team finishes at night.

Crewed by wounded vets.

Crewed by two amputees and two able bodied comrades to raise money to help wounded vets and their families.

What kept you going? Knowing my wife would be at the dock to meet me - and the smell of beer

The reporter asked, “What kept you going?” The answer was essentially: Knowing my wife would be at the dock to meet me – and the smell of beer

LAUNCH

Finally everything we had to do was done and we were ready to launch.  The work list had been exhaustive and exhausting.  We couldn’t ‘wait to get in the water and get the anchor down.

We wanted to fill the water tank, but there was no water in the yard, so after they put Compass Rose on the trailer, they moved her through the yard to another water supply.  Then they ran the trailer into the water and waited while I checked for any leaks.  Then I tried to start the engine and nothing happened.  I swapped in the spare starter and when I was hooking up the wires I found one I couldn’t account for.  It is the ground for the starter relay and I forgot to reconnect it after I worked on the water pump a few days earlier.  Once ALL the wires were connected the engine started right up.

It was late when we launched and by the time we got out to Freemans Bay all the spots were gone, so we had to move into Ordinance Bay and anchor there – just across from Nelson’s Dockyard.

Our view of Nelson's Dockyard Marina

Our view of Nelson’s Dockyard Marina

foreground - Tank Bay, Ordinance Bay in back.  Compass Rose is the second boat from the right

foreground – Tank Bay, Ordinance Bay in back. Compass Rose is the second boat from the right

View from the anchorage

Our first sunset in the anchorage

SIGHTS AROUND THE ANCHORAGE

Check out the guy in the little boat

Check out the guy in the little skiff – He lives on the boat behind him

Just another visitor to Compass Rose

Just another visitor to Compass Rose

You know you have been in the mangroves too long when they start growing out of your boat

You know you have been in the mangroves too long when they start growing out of your boat

Hummingbird we saw in the Middle Ground between English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour

Hummingbird we saw in the Middle Ground between English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour

NEXT – LIFE AFLOAT

Going Transatlantic

January 10, 2014

posted from The Anchorage Inn, English Harbour, Antigua.

We have been building a house in North Carolina.  Our builder kept telling us that we should leave town when our house got to the drywall stage because there would be nothing but dust everywhere.  We took the suggestion to heart and not only got out of town – we left the continent.

By plane.

Jackie and Mohammed, our guide, outside Rick's Cafe in Casablanca

Jackie and Mohammed, our guide, outside Rick’s Cafe, Casablanca, Morocco

No, it’s not the Ricks Café from the movie, but we still had to go, because as Louis Renault said in Casablanca, “Everybody comes to Rick’s.”

So here we are in Morocco.  We got a good deal on a last minute tour.

I originally was going to walk you through the tour place by place, but I think it will be better to talk about aspects of the country.

There could easily be twice as much text in this post and I had a terrible time culling the 2000 or so photographs down to what I included.  Here is the story:

We had an overnight flight to Casablanca, met our guide and our fellow travelers, and started the whirlwind tour.  We travelled from Casablanca to Rabat, the capital city.  From there it was on to Meknes and then Fez (the city, not the hat). After Fez, we passed through the Atlas Mountains to Erfoud.  We spent a couple nights on the edge of the Sahara Desert, and then visited Tineghir, Marrakech, and Essaouira.

MOROCCO IS A MUSLIM COUNTRY

Let there be no doubt, Morocco is a Muslim country.  Everywhere you look you will see a mosque.  More that that, five times a day they broadcast the Call to Prayer from every mosque.  In older times, each call was repeated four times – once from each side of the mosque.  Now the call is prerecorded and can be heard in any place of any real population.  It never ceased to be a somewhat unreal experience because it was so pervasive and because of the tone of the announcement.  Our guide even had an app on his smart phone to give the call to prayer at the appropriate times each day.

One of our first stops of note was the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca.  It is the largest mosque in Morocco and the only one in the country that can be entered by non-Muslims.

Hassan II mosque

Hassan II mosque in Casablanca

Inside the mosque

Inside the mosque

This amazing structure was our introduction to Moroccan architecture.

Mosques have separate areas for men and women to cleanse themselves before prayer and separate areas for actual prayer.

You can't wear shoes in a mosque

You can’t wear shoes in a mosque

Local buildings may be old or in ill-repair, but you will still see a well-kept mosque

Local buildings may be old or in ill-repair, but you will still see a well-kept mosque

PEOPLE

The people of Morocco were generally friendly and helpful.  Most are Muslims, but they are more relaxed in their attitudes than in many other countries.  We saw a lot of women wearing non-traditional dress, but almost all had some sort of covering for their hair.  Every once in a while we would see a woman in traditional dress covered head to foot with only her eyes showing.  The next picture is a good example of the range of women’s dress.  The one after shows a couple women in the plaza in very conservative attire.

There was a wide variety of dress among Moroccan women

There was a wide variety of dress among Moroccan women

In the next picture it looks like the woman in western dress is considering getting her hand decorated with henna which creates a tattoo-like design that can last up to a few weeks.  It was hard to tell how many women stay with the very traditional dress, because they would be most likely to seldom venture out into public.

Women in the market plaza wearing very conservative dress

Women in the market plaza wearing very conservative dress doing business with a woman in Western attire

We also found the people to be fairly tolerant of other activities such as drinking alcohol.  Our first night in Rabat our guide took us to a to dinner, but we stopped at a local bar on the way.  A couple days before we went to the desert we stopped at a local store for provisions.  The store was about the same size as the average convenient store here.  There was a separate room that had a good selection of beer, wine, and liquor.  We found that about half of the time a restaurant would serve  alcohol.

But not all locals turned their heads when we did something wrong.  Just as our guide was telling us that it is not allowed to photograph policemen, even at a distance, one our fellow tourists who had wandered off to take a picture was being politely told the same thing by one of the gendarmes.

Oops

Oops

We met a lot of people, but mostly interacted with our guides.  Mohammed, our guide, did a great job.  He was interesting, informative, and had a sense of humor, all while keeping us together – a bit like herding cats.  Her he is in one of his lighter moments guide demonstrating that the cork tree nut is edible – although mostly used for animal feed.

Our guide Mohammed.

Our guide Mohammed.

Earlier I mentioned that Mohammed had an app on his phone to call him to prayer.  He had to do his job as our guide so he couldn’t always observe the call to prayer, but sometimes when we were settled – like in the middle of lunch – he would excuse himself and find a secluded place to pray.

We also had a few local guides for specific historic sites or to shepherd us through a medina.  This was our guide in Tineghir.

Our guide in the town

Our guide in the Tineghir

Roadside vendor

Roadside vendor

Woman cooking traditional flatbread in a wood fired oven

Woman cooking traditional flatbread in a wood fired oven

Local women going about daily life

Local women going about daily life

It was common for us to see men sitting at small roadside cafes, but never any women.

Men relaxing at a cafe

Men relaxing at a cafe

Just one of the many street musicians we encountered.

Just one of the many street musicians we encountered.

Woman in traditional dress waiting for her son to ride back?

Woman in traditional dress waiting for her son to ride back?

Our travel company provides some support to a school in Morocco. We stopped there to visit and have lunch.  A couple students shared a table with us.  One was rather quiet, but the other was fun to talk to.  We even had a geography lesson using a couple big wall maps in the lunch room.

Lunch with student

Fellow traveler, Betty, Jackie, student Lhoussaine and I after lunch

Some businessmen start young.  This fellow would let you pose for pictures holding his baby fox – for a small fee, of course.

Young boy with a baby fox.  You can pay to have your picture taken holding the fox.

Young boy with a baby fox. You can pay to have your picture taken holding the fox. Correction – our friend Ellen tells us this is a Fennec fox and never grows any larger. They are thought to be the precursors to chihuahuas.

 

 

GOVERNMENT

Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament.  The king, King Mohammed VI, has broad powers and has ongoing programs to make sure all households have electricity and that school is available to all.  The king has palaces in all the major cities and towns, but the primary Royal Palace is in Rabat.  We visited the Royal Palace , but there are no tours for visitors, so we could only look from the outside.

Main entrance to the Royal Palace.  The king isn't in.

Main entrance to the Royal Palace. The king isn’t in.

ANTIQUITIES

There are many ancient sites in Morocco and we visited a few on the trip.  One site included the Chellah necropolis from the 14th century and the Andalusian Gardens.

Chellah, a 14th century Merind necropolis

Chellah, a 14th century Merind necropolis

Hassan Tower

Hassan Tower

We saw the Hassan tower, an unfinished mosque built mostly in the 12th century.

On the way to Fez we stopped at the Roman city of Volubis.  This is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of the best-preserved Roman archaeological sites in North Africa.

 Roman ruins


Roman ruins

Original Roman mosaic floor

Original Roman mosaic floor

Jackie looks on while the guide explains the olive press

Jackie looks on while the guide explains the olive press

Roman columns

Roman columns

In Tineghir we visited an old mosque and religious school that is no longer being used but is being slowly restored.

Former mosque and religious school

Former mosque and religious school

Mausoleum Mohammad V is a modern structure, but it sits on the site of a mosque that was destroyed by an earthquake in 1755.  The tower, floor, and parts of the roof support column remain.

Plaza by king's tomb

Columns that supported the roof of the mosque

Long ago they dug aquaducts to bring water from the mountains to the plains.  How do you keep a straight line while digging underground?  Every so often you dig a well. In this picture you can see the rope hanging down to the bucket.

Ancient underground aquaduct

Ancient underground aquaduct

MEDINAS AND SOUKS

Welcome to the marketplace

On the way to a party with a lampshade on his head? Welcome to the souk

Everywhere you go, you have to buy things.  The towns and cities have areas that we would find typical – streets with shops along them.  But the two traditional places where goods are sold are medinas and souks.  Strictly speaking, a medina is an old city.  They are usually walled and filled with narrow streets.  Many streets are lined with shops.  Souks are open air markets or commercial quarters.  Souks often begin outside cities or towns, but can eventually be walled and become part of a town.  The souk might be the commercial part of a Medina.  Thus the distinction can blur – at least to this western observer.

Marrakech has a large market plaza outside the souk

Marrakech has a large market plaza outside the medina

Snake charming in the marketplace in Marrakesh

There is a lot to see in the marketplace in Marrakesh

Many vendors had a lot of inventory

Many vendors had a lot of inventory

We visited quite a few market plazas and they were quite interesting, but they were nothing like the souks in the Medinas.

Every older city has marketplace, or souk.  These are the older portion of the city enclosed within walls.  They are streets lined with stall after stall of goods.  Some are quite open and others are very narrow and maze-like.  Many are covered over so you find yourself in an enclosed maze.

In the souq in Marakesh

In the souk in Marrakesh

Inside the souk you can find almost anything.  In some souks will find similar shops in the same area, but in others they are completely mixed.  Some are large and open, others a little narrow rooms.  And everyone is ready to deal.  “For you a special price”

Spices for sale in the souq

Spices for sale in the souk

They sell everything in the souq.....

They sell everything in the souk…..

...everything

…everything

Some souks are old and dingy – others are more open and well lit.

Typical view in the souq

Typical view in the souk

Sometimes the souks were narrow and crowded and you had to dodge delivery animals and vehicles

Sometimes the souks were narrow and crowded and you had to dodge delivery animals and vehicles

Some souks are restricted to foot traffic although that includes push carts and donkeys.  Other souks are open to vehicles and in those you have to be careful of fast moving scooters and motorcycles.

We toured the large souks in Fez and Marrakech.  Our guides were careful not to lose us in these mazes.  At the end of our trip we returned to Marrakech and stayed in a riad in the edge of the souk.  The people at the riad gave us a map and armed with that and a compass we managed to find our way through the souk to the plaza and back.

SPECIALTY PRODUCTS

We constantly passed rows of shops in very small towns and in the cities.   Some were retail establishments, but most were manufacturing, fabrication, or repair establishments.

Typical storefronts

Typical storefronts

We typically passed by places like those in the picture above, but we conveniently stopped at some places that produced local specialty items.  And even more conveniently most accepted credit cards.

On the way to the Sahara Desert we stopped a place that made furniture and art objects out of rocks with embedded fossils.  They were quite beautiful.

A table made with stones containing fossils

A table made with stones containing fossils

After that we visited a rug factory. Local women made rugs on hand looms. We were served tea and shown rugs that were for sale.

Rug factory hand loom

Rug hand loom

We were served tea at the rug factory

We were served tea and then shown rugs for purchase

We stopped at a place that made leather goods from scratch.  They started with hides and ended with very nice leather clothing and articles.  I didn’t get any pictures of the merchandise, but I did get some shots of the leather tanning vats.

Vats for processing hides into leather

Vats for processing hides into leather

In Fez we visited a ceramics shop where they made a wide variety of items.

A potter shapes what appears will be the top to a tagine - a covered serving dish

A potter shapes what appears will be the top to a tagine – a covered serving dish

All ceramics are decorated freehand

All ceramics are decorated freehand…

picture 2

…with a practiced eye…

picture3

…and attention to detail

We watched quite a few artisans decorating the pottery.  They drew simple lines like these – straight and smooth – and repeated identical patterns on piece after piece, all by hand.

A table that looks like this...

A table that looks like this…

It was quite interesting to see how some things were made.  For example, the table pictured above was made face down as shown in the picture below.

...is made by placing the colored pieces face down and pouring the grout around them

…is made by placing the colored pieces face down and pouring the grout around them

We stopped in a textile shop where they did very nice needlework and beautiful weaving.

Women doing needlework

Women doing needlework

Samples in a textile shop

Samples in a textile shop

Not a product, but more of a service, decorating the body with henna is a popular addition to a woman’s outfit.  One evening we went to the home of a woman who creates this body art.  She paints it on and the customer dries it under a lamp into a hard crust.  The next day the customer cleans off the henna and the result is a temporary tattoo.

Jackie gets a henna tattoo

Jackie gets a henna tattoo

These tattoos are generally used for decoration, but they are also part of a bride’s preparation for her wedding.  The groom has to be her servant as long as the henna lasts – as much a two weeks if good quality henna is used.

The finished product

The finished product

Jackie removed the crust to find a rather pale design on her hand.  We were a bit disappointed that it wasn’t a bit darker.

ARGAN OIL

Although argan (pronounced like the gas “argon”) oil is a specialty product it merits its own section.  It is used as a cosmetic and as a food product.  Argan nuts are harvested, the shells cracked open and the meat is ground to release the oil.  We visited a coop where the oil was processed and sold.  This was one of the few places where we felt we could get the pure oil.  The oil in the souks was often cut with other substances.

Even tourists get to grind the argan nuts

Even tourists get to grind the argan nuts

Some livestock – notably goats – like argan nuts.  They eat the nuts, but do not break the shells, but the shells soften as they pass through the goats.  We have been told that people collect and process these nuts to produce oil.

Yes, goats climb trees to eat argan nuts

Yes, goats climb trees to eat argan nuts

I saw this with my own eyes on the way to and from Essaouira.

THE SAHARA DESERT

We spent two nights in the Sahara desert in the tour company’s camp.  The  terrain has areas of hard packed dirt and areas of massive sand dunes.  We travelled by camel and 4-wheel drive SUVs.

Resting up for caravan duty

Resting up for caravan duty

Jackie the camel jockey

Jackie the camel jockey

Sometimes 4-wheel drive is not enough.  I am the second butt from the left.

Sometimes 4-wheel drive is not enough. I am the second butt from the left.

Our tent in the desert

Our tent in the desert

The first morning we got up early to watch the sunrise. It was nice.

Sunrise

Sunrise

To the west we saw camels on the ridge of the high dunes.

Camels silhouetted against the sky

Camels silhouetted against the sky

Sunsets were pretty cool, too.

Sundown behind the dunes

Sundown behind the dunes

Sand dunes

Sand dunes outside our camp

We visited a nomad family.

Nomad tent

Nomad tent

Nomad woman and her daughter host the tourists

Nomad woman and her daughter host the tourists

You can't even leave the nomad camp without checking out the trinkets for sale

You can’t leave the nomad camp without checking out the trinkets for sale

Jackie tries on some headgear

Jackie tries on some headgear

More nomads

More nomads

We also visited a small farm irrigated with water pumped to the surface with pump powered by solar panels.

Solar powered water pump for irrigation

Solar powered water pump for irrigation

Young children man the "gift shop" at the farm

Young children man the “gift shop” at the farm

IRRIGATION

We left the Sahara and passed through the Atlas Mountains.  We passed a small river that has been dammed up.  The impoundment is used to generate hydroelectric power and then the water downstream is used for irrigation.

A man made lake used for irrigation and hydroelectric power

A man made lake used for irrigation and hydroelectric power

Our next stop was the town of Tineghir.  This city is built around a small river.  The land along the river bank is fertile and much of the water is used for irrigation.  The result is a green strip of dense farmland through the valley.

Water cascades into this gorge and is channeled off for irrigation throughout the valley

Water cascades into this gorge and is channeled off for irrigation throughout the valley.

It's amazing what a little irrigation will do.

It’s amazing what a little irrigation will do.

Crops being raised in the valley

Crops being raised in the valley

LANDSCAPES

Morocco has a very dry climate.  Except in the heart of a city, earthy tones of brown and red and pink and yellow dominate.  But when you look closely you can often see a light undergrowth of green tinting the landscape.  Despite the arid environment, small grasses and shrubs find a way to grow.

landscape

Rolling hills were common

Sheep grazing in the desert

Sheep grazing in the desert

Much of the land was flat or rolling hills

Much of the land was cultivated

The Atlas Mountains were impressive.

View of the local countryside

Atlas Mountains

Mountains tower over a fertile strip in a river valley.

The view from our hotel room

The view from our hotel room

Sometimes the green in the landscape was quite amazing

landscape

Lush green in a dry land

But more landscapes were like the next one where a faint hint of green could be seen in the pinks and browns.

Adobe, brick, and concrete blend into the surroundings

Adobe, brick, and concrete blend into the surroundings

The roads through the Atlas Mountains were twisty – and sometimes exciting.

One of the many winding roads we encountered passing through the Atlas Mountains

One of the many winding roads we encountered passing through the Atlas Mountains

We actually encountered some roads more impressive than the one above.

landscape

More rolling hills

We would see planted fields where we least expected them.

We would see planted fields where we least expected them.

OLIVES

No one serves a meal in Morocco without olives – yes, that includes breakfast.  Olive trees grow everywhere. People use ladders and special small, rake-like tools to pull the olives off the trees.  Olives ripen in the sun, so olives in the middle of the tree ripen more slowly than olives on the outside.  A single olive tree can have a variety of olives.

Olives in the market

Olives in the market

Harvesting olives

Harvesting olives

Olive picking tool.  All these olives came from the same tree

Olive picking tool. All these olives came from the same tree

TRANSPORTATION

We travelled by tour bus most of the time, and by four-by-four and camel in the desert.  The most common form of local transportation was the scooter.

Everyone rides scooters

Everyone rides scooters

We saw a few of these livestock trucks.

Sort of like those double decker tour buses except they are for livestock

Sort of like those double decker tour buses except they are for livestock

Typical donkey drawn cart made from car axles and wheels

Typical donkey drawn cart made from car axles and wheels

Horse drawn carriage we toured Marrakesh

Horse drawn carriage that we rode. Not exactly the Marrakesh Express

Luckily these carriages do not operate at high speeds

Luckily these carriages do not operate at high speeds

It was entertaining to see what people would carry on their vehicles.

Who needs a pickup truck?

No wonder you don’t see any U-Haul franchises in Morocco

But the most interesting vehicle we saw was this hand powered tricycle.  Evidently the rider has a problem with his legs, so he rigged up this tricycle with a hand crank using bicycle sprockets and pedals.

Hand powered tricycle

Hand powered tricycle

ESSAOUIRA

Our tour ended in Marrakech.  We said farewell to our guide and fellow tourists and got on a bus to Essaouira, a seacoast town a few hours ride from Marrakech.  The bus ride was uneventful.  Someone met us when we got off.  We were sort of expecting a taxi, but we weren’t sure because our riad was in the souk and cars usually can’t travel there.  The fellow who met us piled our bags in a hand drawn two-wheeled cart and set off into the streets of the walled city.

Cart and motorcycle

Cart like the porter’s and motorcycle

This souk was more open and had wider streets than most we had visited and soon we were at the door of the riad. The road in the following picture is typical for this souk although some were wider and some were very narrow.

Typical road in the souk

Typical road in the souk

This was the third riad we stayed in and similar to the previous ones.  It had four floors of with the common rooms on the ground floor and bedrooms on the rest.  In the center was a nice little courtyard and there was a small patio/dining area on the roof.

The rooftop where we ate breakfast each morning

The rooftop where we ate breakfast each morning

View of the sea from the riad rooftop

View of the sea from the riad rooftop

The riad was very nice inside.

The riad courtyard

The riad courtyard

Our room in the riad

Our room in the riad

We walked through the souk to the sea wall.  The view was impressive in many respects.  The seawall and fortifications were quite substantial and the coast looked so rocky that you wouldn’t think canons would be needed,  But even more memorable was the relentless wind.

Old fortification along the seawall

Old fortification along the seawall

The coastline outside the fort was very rough

The coastline outside the fort was very rough

We walked out of the fort into the harbor area where we found many small fishing boats like the blue ones in the picture below as well as larger fishing boats.

Just some of the many small fishing boats in the harbor

Just some of the many small fishing boats in the harbor

There were many large fishing boats in the harbor as well

There were many large fishing boats in the harbor as well

Boats were built in the harbor.

Wooden boats at different stages of construction

Wooden boats at different stages of construction

Boats are floated onto frames and dragged up the ramp for repair

Old boats are floated onto frames and dragged up the ramp for repair

We also found a few cruising boats and met a couple who had recently arrived from Europe.

We met a pair of cruisers who worked their way down from Europe

Inna and Nikolche on their boat, Nikita

Hopefully we will see them again in the Caribbean.

We walked around the harbor and came to a magnificent beach.  Once through the surf the water was pretty flat and the steady wind made a great place for wind surfing and kite surfing.

The amazing beach was home to wind surfers and kite surfers

The amazing beach was home to wind surfers and kite surfers

We met a British couple who were staying in the riad.  They had heard of an interesting market and we thought it would be fun to go.  We talked with the riad owner about it and his description didn’t quite match what we were expecting, but we thought it sounded like fun.  He arranged for a taxi and off we went.

We drove out into the country and he dropped us off in a little village.  We arranged to meet him at the same spot a couple hours later.

We wandered into the market area – sort of a free form souk.  The people were wall to wall and at first we were going against the flow like salmon swimming upstream.  We obviously didn’t look like locals and we were the only foreigners there.  Other than a couple guys walking around selling cheap jewelry no one seemed to pay us any attention.  After a short time we realized that outside of our group there were only a couple women in the souk.  We spent almost two hours wandering around.  It was probably the closest we got to a pure, non-tourist experience on our trip.  Finally we met the taxi driver at the appointed place and drove back to  Essaouira.

After marching along on a guided tour for so long it was nice to have had a couple days to just relax.  The porter took our bags to the bus station and as we were about to check our bags we realized that we had left our passports in the safe in the riad.  We had fifteen minutes until the bus would depart, so Jackie waited in line while I ran back to the riad.  I found my way with only minor hesitation and was there in five minutes.  The owner ran up to our third floor room and brought down our passports.  He offered to go back to the bus station with me on his bicycle, but I told him he didn’t need to.

I started running back, but I had time to spare so I stopped and walked a couple times.  I went out through the city gate only to realize that I missed a turn somewhere and had to run around the outside of part of the town.  I arrived at what we thought was the departure time only to find out it was the boarding time and I had another fifteen minutes to cool off after my morning exercise.

We spent the next night in Marrakech, flew to Casablanca, and then back to the US.

A FEW ODD PICTURES

Storks are common in Marrakesh

Storks are common in Marrakesh

Wardrobe adjustment

Wardrobe adjustment

Mosque at dusk

Mosque at dusk

COMMUNICATION
It’s funny how signs translate from one language to another.

Hotel Rehab?

Are you checking in?

?

?

This must be the end of the post

Because it’s the end of the post

Summer Vacation 2

October 26, 2013

posted from Washington, DC

So what have we been doing this summer?

Building a House

We have been building a house near Wilmington, NC.  It has taken a lot of energy, but it is well underway now.

Front of house

Front of house

Back of house

Back of house

And to answer the question we always get – the boat stays in the Caribbean.

Sailing
You don’t have to be in the Caribbean to go sailing.  We visited our friends, Bob and Terry, in DC quite a bit this summer while our house was being built.  The most recent visit coincided with the Annapolis Sailboat Show and the Good Old Boat Regatta.  We sailed in the regatta every year when we had a boat on the Bay, so it was great to do it again this year on their boat, China Rose.  We didn’t exactly win, but we had a great sail.

China Rose beating to windward in the Good Old Boat Regatta

China Rose beating to windward in the Good Old Boat Regatta

The China Rose crew (l to r) Karen, Bob, Jeff, Terry, and Jackie

The China Rose crew (l to r) Karen, Bob, Jeff, Terry, and Jackie

We also had a chance to sail with them a couple more times while we were in town.

Thanks to the government shutdown our other friend, Bob, had plenty of time to go sailing.  So I got a chance to see his newly acquired Saga 43, Phaeton, and go for a sail.  Not a lot of wind, but still a nice day on the water.

Phaeton in her slip

Phaeton in her slip

Birding

We took a few days and went to Cape May, NJ for some bird watching.  This is fall migration and the birds heading south get funneled down the east coast and stop at Cape May to rest before flying across the Delaware Bay.  Here are a few birds we saw.

Black-throated blue warbler

Black-throated blue warbler

Downey woodpecker

Downey woodpecker

Unidentified Raptor

Unidentified Raptor

 

Pair of ducks

Pair of ducks

Warbler

Warbler

Wigeon

Wigeon

Yes, there is such a thing as a yellow-bellied sap sucker

Yes, there is such a thing as a yellow-bellied sap sucker

Shots just for fun

Spider in web

Spider in web

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

Sunsets

Sunset

Sunset

Another sunset

Another sunset

I wanted to add a little more but we are out of time. The next adventure starts today

Stay tuned……


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