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“Sailed Off To Antigua…

May 13, 2013

…it took her three days on a boat.”  from Fins by Jimmy Buffett.

(posted from Les Saintes, Guadeloupe)

One of the worst things you can have on a cruising boat is a schedule.  It forces you to sail at times or in ways that you might not want.  We had a friend flying in to Antigua and we had been waiting in Martinique for the weather to settle and the northerly swell to diminish.  Once the weather looked good we had to make tracks so we wouldn’t get held up along the way.

St. Pierre

Well, that’s what we did – from Martinique.  But first we started with a short hop (32 miles) around from the south side of the island to the northwest corner and anchored in St. Pierre for the night.  This is a cute little town with an unprotected anchorage, so we only stop there in settled weather.  Someday we need to spend more than one night.

The anchorage is a narrow shelf parallel to the beach.  We got there early enough in the afternoon to find what we considered to be a good spot.  Six or eight boats came in after we did and we watched them all wander around and try their luck.  One boat anchored and dragged a couple times and finally moved to another part of the anchorage.  Late in the afternoon the wind dropped and got kind of funky and we found ourselves way too close to another boat, so just before dark we moved up a bit and reset the anchor.

Dominica

We got up early the next morning for the 56 mile trip to Portsmouth, Dominica.  We had a good sail up to Dominica and most of the way along the lee side of the island.  We had a fuel system clog just outside of Portsmouth.  Evidently there is still some stuff in the port side tank – the one that has hardly been used since we topped it off in St. Marrten about a year ago.

We anchored in Portsmouth, a harbor at the northwest part of the island and the jumping of place for Guadeloupe.  This is a big anchorage with lots of room and generally good holding.  While we were anchored there Randy and Diane from Sinbad stopped by.  We last saw them in Antigua about a year ago, just before the set out for Bonaire.

Guadeloupe

We thought we might stay in Portsmouth while I sorted out the fuel system, but the glob must have come loose and dropped off the fuel pickup in the tank. We could run on the other tank for a long time, so we decided to head out for Guadeloupe.  It’s about a fifty mile run from Portsmouth to Deshais.  In the past we have split this into two shorter days, but we wanted to make it in one shot to take advantage of the good weather.  Again we had a pretty good sail, but we didn’t quite make Deshais.  We stopped at the the anchorage by Pigeon Island in the Jacques Cousteau Marine Park – about a 42 mile trip.

We anchored at the park once before for an afternoon to do some snorkeling, but didn’t stay overnight.  We got the hook set in about twenty feet of water.  Shortly after we got there the wind went around 180 degrees.  We went for a swim and checked the anchor.  It had turned 90 degrees and was holding.  Then the anchorage got rolly.  One boat put out a stern anchor to keep them into the waves, but we didn’t have room to do that.

Antigua

The trip from Pigeon Island, Guadeloupe, to Falmouth Harbour, Antigua, is 51 miles.  We got an early start and had a spirited sail.  We tried to anchor and finally got the hook to hold.  I dove on the anchor and found that only the tip had dug in, so we raised the hook and moved to a different spot.

Including our trip around Martinique we travelled about 180 miles in four days and averaged a little under 5.7 knots from anchor up to anchor down.

Sailing to Guadeloupe - we spent most of three days like this between islands

Sailing to Guadeloupe – we spent most of three days like this between islands

Playing Tourist

The dash north was over and we could relax.  We got the laundry done and did some shopping to restock the galley just in time for our friend Andrea to arrive for a couple weeks on the boat.  We picked her up in Falmouth Harbour and then explored some anchorages.  We visited Jolly Harbour, Deep Bay, Great Bird Island, and Jumby Bay.

In Jolly Harbour we arranged for an island tour by land.  The island tour was a lot of fun.  Our driver, Rodney, was quite interesting and knowledgeable.  Among the places he took us was a the ruins of an old rum factory.  One of the two windmills used to crush sugar cane was well restored.

Windmill used to crush sugar cane at the rum factory

Windmill used to crush sugar cane at the rum factory

One of the fun spots we visited was the Devil’s Bridge on the northeast corner of the island.  Jackie and I vacationed in Antigua about ten years ago and we could walk to the Devil’s Bridge from the resort.

Devil's Bridge

Devil’s Bridge

The view of the Atlantic Ocean rolling in from the east and Nonsuch Bay to the south was still impressive.  There were more tourists than in the past and there were vendors selling touristy stuff.

Jackie and Andrea take advantage of a shopping opportunity

Jackie and Andrea take advantage of a shopping opportunity

Great Bird Island was another nostalgic stop for us.  We had taken a trip from the resort to the island for a picnic, snorkeling, and hiking.  The things we always remember are the great picture we got of a Tropicbird and looking down from the top of the island at a cruising yacht at anchor.  We picked up one of the few moorings available and visited the island.  It was just as we remembered.

Tropicbird flying over Great Bird Island

Tropicbird flying over Great Bird Island

View of OUR cruising boat from atop Great Bird Island

View of OUR cruising boat from atop Great Bird Island

This is what the chart plotter showed after we picked up the mooring ball - not very confidence inspiring

This is what the chart plotter showed after we picked up the mooring ball – not very confidence inspiring

Hermit crab thinks out of the shell

Hermit crab thinks outside the shell

Bird Island lizard

Bird Island lizard

ANTIGUA CLASSIC REGATTA

Andrea left just before the start of the Classic Regatta.  The regatta features an amazing array of classic yachts that enter the races and is attended by many modern superyachts like The Maltese Falcon.

The Maltese Falcon's masts look like some kind of modern art

The Maltese Falcon’s masts look like some kind of modern art

Last year we watched the regatta from hills on the south coast and from friends’ boats.  This year I asked around a little and got a crew position on Gaucho, a 36 ton, fifty foot, double-ended ketch.  The boat was designed by Manual Campos, one of two pioneers of yacht design in Argentina (the other was German Frers) and built in 1943.  The boat has been the home for the current owners, John and Roni for nearly 30 years.

Gaucho before a race

Gaucho before a race with main reefed and genoa furled.

The four days of racing started off with a bang – actually many bangs.  We saw winds in the high twenties and some fairly lumpy seas.

Gaff rigged classic yacht

Gaff rigged classic yacht

Another classic clawing working to weahter

Another classic working to weather

Classic schooner crashing through the waves

Classic double-ender crashing through the waves

Five of these beautiful classic yachts broke masts – three mizzens (although one boat cleared the wreckage and finished second), a main topmast (they re-rigged the gaff and raced the next day), and a main mast.  Gaucho came through almost unscathed – we only blew up a block.

Blue Peter's mast splintered

Blue Peter’s mast splintered

The weather gradually calmed down as the week progressed, so no more boats had major failures.  Crewing on Gaucho was fun. I even got to steer for about an hour during which I managed to get past Old Bob – something the skipper had been working at all morning.  Steering with the tiller was a challenge because waves could hit the boat hard enough to launch you across the cockpit.

Eric (in red) at Gaucho's tiller chasing Old Bob

Eric (in red) at Gaucho’s tiller chasing Old Bob

Old Bob

Old Bob

Of course people watching the races from very large catamarans have fun, too.

Happy race watchers

Happy race watchers

Antigua Race Week

Antigua Race Week starts less than a week after the Classic Regatta ends.  There is barely enough time to catch your breath.  Like last year I caught a ride on Hotel California Too down to Deshais, Guadeloupe, to join Jaguar for the feeder race to Antigua.  We had a good race back, but Hotel California Too won overall.  The next day we had a practice with the whole crew together for the first time.

Peter gets interviewed just after we arrive from Guadeloupe:

(right click on the link and select open in new window to save your spot on this page)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLTTslf6guk&list=FLEKCVa0lWpgjvVcUaLNQ-_A&index=11

Racing started the next day.  We started slow at first and then started pushing Scarlet Oyster (a boat thought to have a chance at winning the regatta overall) and Caccia alla Volpe, the eventual winner of our class.  We ended with two firsts, one second, three thirds, and a fourth which got us third in class for the regatta. Not bad considering that in one race we got a third despite having to restart because we were over the line early.  We even managed a sixth in the race we dropped despite having to go back and fetch a crewman who fell off.

Our scores helped bump Scarlet Oyster to second in class for the week.   This was especially gratifying in that Scarlet Oyster failed to give way on a port – starboard situation and we had to crash tack and then they had our protest disallowed on a technicality.

Jaguar leading Scarlet Oyster

Jaguar leading Scarlet Oyster

Spinnaker launch

Spinnaker launch

We get a lot of time in the Day 3 video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao9iQzaqmGc&list=FLEKCVa0lWpgjvVcUaLNQ-_A&index=6

You see us at 18 seconds: putting up blue and white spinnaker – pole topping lift shackle fails,

35 seconds: sailing with red (Scarlet Oyster) and dark blue (Wings) boats

1 minute: more sailing with red (Scarlet Oyster) and dark blue (Wings) boats

Winding Down

After a month of catching up with old friends, having a guest on board, and sailing in two regattas, we finally had a chance to breathe.  We found a couple nice pond/marsh areas with lots of different birds and other interesting critters.  At one point we stumble into a nesting area.  The nests are on the ground so we had to carefully leave as to not step on any eggs.  Here are pictures from our various hikes in Antigua.

New born baby goat greets us

New born baby goat greets us

Where's the kid?

Where’s the kid?

Local guy fishing with a cast net

Local guy fishing with a cast net

Hummingbird

Hummingbird

Another lizard

Another lizard

Roosting frigate bird watches another bird fly by

Roosting frigate bird watches another bird fly by

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Yellow Crowned Night Heron

Yellow Crowned Night Heron

Least Tern with fish dinner

Least Tern with fish dinner

Black Neck Stilt

Black Neck Stilt

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Next: Gone to Guadeloupe

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Sometimes You Gotta Stop and Smell the Cheese

March 28, 2013

posted from Falmouth Harbour, Antigua

LE MARIN/ST. ANNE

On Thursday, March 7, we left Rodney Bay and headed north to Le Marin, Martinique. The sail was nice and easy with calm seas and wind on the beam. Our log shows it took five hours to cover the twenty six miles. In reality we probably spent half an hour motoring around the crowded anchorage looking for a spot. We finally found a spot behind The Dove – the same boat we were anchored behind in Rodney Bay.

We have stopped in Martinique several times, but this is our first visit to the St. Ann/Le Marin area. The towns are on a long inlet on the south side of Martinique. At the mouth of the inlet you pass the village of St. Anne. The anchorage looked a bit crowded, but nice. We continued on into Le Marin. The first impression of Le Marin is that there must be a thousand sailboats there. There are a few reefs and shallows to beware of, but they are easy to miss – just don’t go where there are no boats.

Chart of St. Ann/Le Marin (depth in meters)

Chart of St. Ann/Le Marin (depth in meters)

We settled in, commissioned the dinghy, and went to shore to check in. Clearing in was simple as it always is in the French islands.

SHOPPING

Le Marin is known for two things – the vast array of boat related stores and services, and the good provisioning at the three large grocery stores and many smaller shops. We discovered lots of $5 US bottles of wine and a bin of 50% off cheese that was all great.

CRUISER CENTRAL

We came to Le Marin because we heard it was nice. We stayed because there are no well protected anchorages on our next few jumps north and we needed somewhere to hide from the north swell that was coming in. It turned out a lot of people had the same idea. Everywhere we went in Le Marin we bumped into someone we knew.

The first day in we started walking by the shops around the bay and bumped into Don and Olga Casey (Richard Corey). They are quite familiar with the area and gave us a quick intro to what is where.

Every couple of days we bumped into John and Julia (Mary Ann II).

As mentioned earlier, we anchored behind The Dove (Larry) which led to being invited to a party with about six other boats on Never Bored (Chris and Sheila).

Again walking around town we bumped into – and had lunch with – Peter and Anne (Spice of Life) who introduced us to fellow cruisers Wade and Diane (Joana)

BIG NIGHT OUT

We are usually back on the boat by dark, but one night we went out to eat. The plan started a sundowners with Don and Olga, but turned into dinner at Ti Toques with two other couples. Also joining us were Ann and Steve (Receta) and Marilyn and Martin (Rocking Horse). Just to make things interesting we split up the couples and alternated boy/girl. It was a lot of fun and the food was quite good.

(left to right) Ann, Don,  Marilyn, Steve, Eric, Olga, Martin, Jackie

(left to right) Ann, Don, Marilyn, Steve, Eric, Olga, Martin, Jackie

Jackie demonstrates here knowledge of French chopsticks

Jackie demonstrates here knowledge of French chopsticks

French food

French food

Don tries to keep his desert out of Ann's reach

Don tries to keep his desert out of Ann’s reach – she of course claims she only wants the recipe

HIKING

We went for a few hikes in and around Le Marin and St. Anne. The first was a hike up a mountain on the far side of the bay. We didn’t really know it was going to be a mountain until we found the little fishing harbor and saw what was ahead. We made it most of the way up before we turned back. There were beautiful views of Le Marin and St. Anne.

Fishing village dock where we left the dink while we climbed the mountain

Fishing village dock where we left the dink while we climbed the mountain

Saint Anne

Saint Anne

Le Marin

Le Marin

Another day we rendezvoused with The Dove and Never Bored in St. Ann and walked around to Saline Bay on the south side of Martinique.

The big excursion was renting a car and driving up to the Caravelle Peninsula. We hiked around the park and spoted quite a few birds, but the coup de gras was a white-breasted thrasher – a bird that only can be found in Martinique and St. Lucia. There are believed to be only 150 pairs. We also visited the ruins of Chateau Dubuc, an old sugar plantation. On the way back to Le Marin we stopped at Habitacion Clement, and old rhum distillary.

No, in France it is rhum agricole – a somewhat nasty type of rum. It is best used for making ti punch. Three parts rum, one part cane syrup, and half a lime makes a really nice little cocktail.

CONFUSED

There are always maintenance issues on the boat. We had a scare when we found that the refrigerator wasn’t very cold. It turns out it wouldn’t run. The investigation begins.  I had a long explanation, but it will put most of you to sleep.  Suffice it to say that the the reefer wouldn’t run because the batteries were too low despite the charge controller showing them as charged.

After checking all kinds of things I noticed the fuse holder for the input from the charge controller to the house batteries was – how else can I say it – fused! This fuse is to protect the wiring from too much current but only the fuse is supposed to melt. All I can figure is that there was corrosion in the fuse holder and a short occured between the fuse connections, thus bypassing the fuse.  No fuse, no charge going into the batteries.

Fused holder

Fused holder

I replaced the fuse holder and fuse and the charging system was back up. Running the engine for a couple hours brought the batteries back up to a reasonable level. But why did the charge controller think the batteries were charged? I can only guess that in the absence of a connection to the house bank, the controller was picking up the voltage from the starting battery which was topped up and assumed it represented the whole system.

RIVER TRIP

We read in a guide book that there was a canal that ran through the mangroves and ended up at a shopping area.  We spotted such a canal and checked it out.  At the beginning of the canal was an egret roost with a couple of different species and lots of juveniles.

Egret roost

Egret roost

We worked out way up the canal, which was quite scenic, but was blocked at the far end by overgrown mangroves.  Just as we started bach we encountered a group of kids kayaking.  We let them pass and started back watching for birds.  They overtook us again on the way out.

Mangrove canal

Mangrove canal

Kayakers cool off after leaving the canal

Kayakers cool off after leaving the canal

TALL COLD ONE LESSON

So what’s the best beer value in the islands?  That is a survey I’m still conducting, but there are little tricks you need to look for.  Size can be deceiving.  For example, in the picture the Corona is 12 oz., the Carib is 330 ml., and the Piton is 255 ml.  Taller does not equal more.

Tallest cold one is not always the best deal

Tallest cold one is not always the best deal

START ‘EM YOUNG

French juicebox

French juicebox

Birds

Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds

Mangrove Cuckoo

Mangrove Cuckoo

Sing it out!

Sing it out!

Next: Fins

Northbound

March 17, 2013

posted from Le Marin, Martinique

SWEET GRENADINES

Carriacou was a lot of fun, but it was time to move on. We had been watching the weather and trying to decide how far north to go in our first jump. The last two times we went north we stopped in the Tobago Keys for a few days, but this time we decided to skip them. With the natural progression of Carriacou – Union Island (just long enough to check in) – Tobago Keys – Bequia out of sync, we had to get creative. The forecast was slowly changing – we woke up to intermittant rain showers. We set sail for Clifton, Union Island to check into St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The wind angle and current between the islands kept pushing us off course, so we finally opted for the small anchorage behind Frigate Island.

We settled in, got the dink in the water, and headed into Ashton where we could catch a bus to Clifton. We then caught a bus and received a warm greeting from one of the passengers. We got to Clifton just before noon and not wanting to pay overtime we looked for a spot for lunch. We went into a likely place and found that they were serving only one item – goat soup. We weren’t sure about it – we actually left and came back in. The people were very congenial and the soup was good.

We stopped at the customs office in town, but the officer was eating lunch and suggested we go to the airport. It’s not a bad walk, so off we went. I went into customs and checked in, but when I paid the fees they charged me $35 EC overtime because it was still during the lunch hour. The really silly part is we then had to wait for the immigration officer to come back from lunch to complete our paperwork. We walked back to Ashton just for the exercise.
We checked the weather and decided to head out the next day to Mayreau. We had trash to get rid of, so we took a quick ride in to the dock.

We never stay long in Union Island.  The first time we stopped there we were turned off by an aggressive guy on the dock and the general lack of anything happening in the town.  Since then we just stay long enough to check in or out.  This time was different.  The towns were lively and the people were nice and friendly.  Maybe next time we will stay a little longer.

SALINE BAY, MAYREAU

The trip to Mayreau was easy. It was only five and a half miles. We motored the first couple miles into the wind until we could get a clear shot. We were lazy, so we unfurled the jib and hoisted the mizzen instead of the main. We had a smooth sail across to Saline Bay and anchored about 100 yards off the beach taking care to stay away from the ferry dock. This was another new anchorage for us. It has a very nice beach that is pretty deserted unless a cruise ship comes in.

Saline Bay, Mayreau

Saline Bay, Mayreau

Eventually the ferry came in from the north, visited the dock, and then headed out to the south. It was all pretty uneventful other than a small wake. Then later in the day the ferry returned from the south and came in right behind us. This time they passed close by and were leaving a pretty big wake – big enough to toss Little Rosie around quite a bit.

This day charter boat anchored shortly after we got up

This day charter boat anchored shortly after we got up

A small cruise ship anchored off the bay.  We left before they swarmed ashore

A small cruise ship anchored off the bay. We left before they swarmed ashore

ADMIRALTY BAY, BEQUIA

We were up early the next morning and headed north for Bequia. Again, the wind was in a favorable direction and not too strong. We made the 28.5 mile trip in almost exactly five hours.

The sail to Bequia was spirited, but smooth

The sail to Bequia was spirited, but smooth

We settled in off Princess Margaret Beach within swimming distance of a rocky area where we usually see interesting things. We weren’t disappointed this time. We saw number of cool fish, but the best of all was when Jackie spotted an octopus. I had recently found an octopus in Carriacou, but it was pretty shy. This one put on quite a show for us.

Cute little coral

Cute little coral

Juvinile Queen Angelfish (blue)

Juvenile Queen Angelfish (blue)

Banded Butterflyfish

Banded Butterflyfish

Whitespotted Filefish

Whitespotted Filefish

Octopus enclosing sea urchin

Octopus enclosing sea urchin

RODNEY BAY, ST LUCIA

We weren’t sure how long we would stay in Bequia but a few days later the weather looked like it might get uncooperative, so on March 4 we got up early and headed for St. Lucia. This is a long trip because we bypass the island of St. Vincent. We left at about the same time as a bunch of other boats and had great wind and small waves.

Sailing with other boats at the south end of St. Vincent

Sailing with other boats at the south end of St. Vincent

Smooth sailing

Smooth sailing

Happy Crew

Happy Crew

We had orginally talked about cutting the trip a little short and stopping at Marigot Bay, but we had made good time and were getting nice wind on the lee side of St. Lucia, so we continued to Rodney Bay. The 71 mile trip took about 11 hours – most of which was sailing.

Sunset in St. Lucia - sort of a red flash instead of green

Sunset in St. Lucia – sort of a red flash instead of green

NEXT: MARTINIQUE (think cheap wine and good cheese)

It’s About Sailing

March 3, 2013

posted from Admiralty Bay, Bequia

FAST TIMES (SORT OF)

We are through the holiday season and life has settled down a little, but we still manage to stay busy.  In addition to the typical music and cruiser events there have been a few races in Grenada.  The first was match races on small Hobie Cats hosted by the Le Phare Bleu Yacht Club.  This was a well attended fun event.  Unfortunately the wind didn’t cooperate – especially in the starting area.  Often one of each pair of competitors would find a small wind hole and get stuck at the start and the other would get an insurmountable lead.  I was in the first pair to race and had the dubious honor of being the first to get stuck in the wind hole.  I did manage make up most of the time and make a respectable showing, but I was the first to be eliminated.  Of course I was the first to the beer concession so it wasn’t all bad.

Searching for wind

Searching for wind

MORE FAST TIMES

The match races were followed by the Grenada Sailing Week (keelboats) and the Grenada Sailing Festival (traditional island workboats).  These two races used to be part of the same event, but they split last year.  The work boat final races fall on the lay day in the middle of the sailing week event.

We went to the work boat races last time we were here and they are a must see.  The boats are not very hi-tech, but they are very colorful.

Some boats are more hi-tech than others

Some boats are more hi-tech than others

The boats are very colorful

The boats are very colorful

The boats start just off the beach – barely beyond the surf line.  One or two guys hold the boat and jump in when the start signal is given.  This gets pretty interesting – especially when repairs and adjustments are in progress.

This guy gets dragged trying to fix the boat at the start

This guy gets dragged trying to fix the boat at the start

The races stayed pretty close to the beach, so they were easy to watch.  The races are among teams from all over Grenada and its outer islands, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.  The big winners were the guys from Woburn, the area in the bay next to us.  They won two classes, finished second in another class, and took the overall win.

Lots of serious racing

Lots of serious racing

Grenada Sailing Week, the big boat regatta had four days of fleet racing in four different classes.  I was able to trim mainsheet on Jaguar, the boat I raced on in Antigua last spring.  The boat is a Frers 43 owned by Peter Morris and based in Trinidad. Our friend, Bob Starboard, flew to Trinidad from Washington, DC, to help deliver the boat to Grenada and stayed on Compass Rose during the races.  Fellow cruiser Ray McTear of C Drifter  also did the delivery, and another cruiser, Steve from Summer Love, crewed with us, too.  We entered the Cruising I class, which allowed double headsails, but no spinnakers.  We had a great time.

Most of the racing was in the protected bay off Grand Anse Beach, but one day we went to the south coast where it was windy and lumpy.  Jackie and Steve’s wife, Donna, walked out to Prickley Point to watch and take pictures.

Jaguar downwind with double headsails

Jaguar downwind with double headsails

Jaguar clawing her way to windward

Jaguar clawing her way to windward

Eric, Peter, and Bob

Eric, Peter, and Bob

By the end of the twelve race regatta, Jaguar had two seconds and ten firsts.  She won her class three of four days and overall for the regatta.

IT FINALLY HAPPENED!

It seemed like we had been in Grenada forever, but finally on February 9th we dropped the mooring, topped up the fuel tanks and sailed out of Mt. Hartman Bay.  We had a scary moment when we tried to top up the starboard fuel tank – it only took a gallon.  We collect water on that side of the deck and I feared that some – actually a lot –  had seeped past the O-ring in the diesel deck filler.  I checked the vlave positions and our fuel records and found to our great relief that we had used almost no fuel out of that tank since we filled it up almost a year ago in St. Maarten.  I had switched to that tank recently and used a little fuel to charge the batteries on a cloudy day, so we knew we weren’t sucking any water off the bottom of the tank.

We had a pleasant sail around the SW corner of Greneda and up past St. Georges to Flamingo Bay.  This is a delightful little bay that I had stayed in when my brother-in-law and I sailed down from Carriacou, but it was a first for Jackie.  The next day we sailed north to Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou.  The seas were relatively small, but the wind angle could have been better, but after a couple tacks we arrived in Tyrrel Bay.

CARRIACOU CARNIVAL!

The next morning Jackie spotted a Facebook entry from Debby on Chimayo posted at 3 AM saying they were off to J’ouvert, a traditional Carnival event.  We had completely forgotton that we had arrived in time for Carnival.  They weren’t in Tyrrel Bay (which had been uncharacteristically rolly) so we headed around to their favorite haunt at Sandy Island.  Sure enough, there was Chimayo. We grabbed a mooring and dinghied across the channel to Off The Hook on Paradise Beach.  Sure enough, there were Debbie and Bob.  They were tired and somewhat painted, but having a great time.

We all caught a ride into Hillsboro that afternoon to see the Carnival festivities.   We got back late, but successfully launched the dinchy in the surf and negotiated the ride back across the channel into the wind and the waves.  The next morning we got up fairly early and made our way to Brunswick, a little crossroads on the way to town, to see part of the Shakespeare competition.  A contestants in “Shakespearean” costumes pair off and recite speeches from the Shakespeare play selected for that year.  When one person makes an error the other calls him on it and takes over.  Sometimes “violence” breaks out and the pair beat each other on their reinforced capes with flexible rods.  It is quite a spectacle.

Shakespeare contestands face off

Shakespeare contestands face off

There was even a competition for youngsters and some really got into it

There was even a competition for youngsters and some really got into it

We then made our way to town to see the Shakespeare final and the last parade of Carnival.  Carriacou is a small island, so the parade is much smaller than in Grenada, but the participants put a lot of effort into it and sport some very nice costumes.  And to make up for the shortness of the parade some of the groups do as many as three laps around town.

Fancy costume includes cell phone holder

Fancy costume includes cell phone holder

CarnSpeakers

Like any other carnival, there was plenty of loud music

Carn0481

Cruisers watch the parade go by

Carn0498

There were youngsters accompanying some groups

Carn0516

Everyone was taking pictures

CarnKIM

Kim from Da Big Fish in Grenada shows off one of the fabulous costumes

CarnOpener

Bob uses a piece of metal in his shoe to open a beer

ANOTHER TYPE OF CARNIVAL

The dust had barely settled when another type of carnival took place – elections.  They seem to take their politics pretty seriously in Carriacou.  Lots of people wore green shirts in support of the opposition party.  Very few wore the red shirts of the incumbent party.  When all was said and done, the greens took the prime minister position and ALL the representative seats.

Fuzzy Flheary or Nimrod?  You decide

Fuzzy Fleary or Nimrod? You decide

L’ESTERRE JUNIOR SAILING

Bob and Debbie have spent most of the time since the beginning of hurricane season in Carriacou.  They have become very involved with the L’esterre Junior Sailing Club.  They conduct most of the saturday sailing activities including having the kids police the beach, rig the boats and put them away at the end of the day.  They also make certain the kids get a lunch, as many of the families are poor.

View across L'esterre Bay to Sandy Island from Off The Hook

View across L’esterre Bay to Sandy Island from Off The Hook

Rigging a boat. Old sails, wooden spars, but the boats sail

Rigging a boat. Old sails, wooden spars, but the boats sail

Rigging the boats and launching off the beach

Rigging the boats and launching off the beach

The club has eight boats at their disposal and this is the first time they have all been in working in order at the same time thanks to Bob’s repair skills and help from members of the community.

Bob and Debbie take a short break after the boats are launched

Bob and Debbie take a short break after the boats are launched

TYRREL BAY

We spent about two weeks anchored in Tyrrel Bay.  We did some snorkeling around the boat and along the edge of the mangroves.  Here are some of the things we saw around town and in the water.

Brain coral

Brain coral

WhiteSpotFile-Orange

White spotted file fish in orange phase

SeaCucumber

Sea cucumber

Octopus

Octopus

Lobster

Curious lobster peek out of their lair

Fluke

Fluke from one of the many mooring anchors around our boat. Our anchor chain would hook on this one once in a while

Fish

unidentified fish

WestIndSeaEgg

West Indian sea egg

Head0541

A common item in an uncommon place

Black Beach on the east side of the island

Black Beach on the east side of the island

Cow mooring

Cow mooring

Test 1: Find the lizard

Test 1: Find the lizard

Test 2: Find the frog.

Test 2: Find the frog.

Test 3: find the "s"

Test 3: find the “s”

Test 2: find the sheep

Test 4: find the hidden sheep

Beach in Tyrrel Bay

Beach in Tyrrel Bay

Part of the town of Harvey Vale, Tyrrel Bay

Part of the town of Harvey Vale, Tyrrel Bay

Flower

Flower seen on our hike

Another flower seen on our hike

Another flower seen on our hike

Tods? And just how new is that vendor's market?

Tods? And just how new is that vendor’s market?

Isn't that the kind of thing you really want to say?

Isn’t that the kind of thing you really want to say?

OTHER BLOGS

My brother, Dave, retired just over a year ago.  He is a bit of an adventurous type, so no sitting at home hooking rugs for him.  For example, he and I sailed Compass Rose from St. Thomas, USVI to Moorehead City, NC., and he has crossed (and crossed back) all the Great Lakes except Superior on Hobie Cats – often solo.

He has set off to ride a unicycle from California to Florida.  He is doing this just to do it, but he is looking for donations to research on ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He has started a blog: http://unicyclingsailor.com . I suggested that we compare distance traveled by the time we put Compas Rose up for hurricane season.  Why not follow along.

Our friend, Joan, is driving the support vehicle.  She also has a blog at: http://wanderthirstjoan.com/  so you can get two perspectives of the same trip and find out what a support driver does while waiting for the rider.

NEXT: SWEET GRENADINES

‘Tis The Season

January 19, 2013

Posted from Mt. Hartman Bay, Grenada

10th Dinghy Concert

Time has just flown by.  The holidays have come and gone and it has just been a blur, but the fun started even before them.  In mid-december Le Phare Bleu Resort and Marina held the 1oth dinghy concert in Clarks Court Bay.  They anchor a tugboat to use as the stage and flank it with a bar and a sailboat.  Then all the dinghys tie on.

The music was by the pan band Wizards.  They were great.  There is a video on YouTube – right-click and open in a new tab.  ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaDutbubxUU ).  At about 54 seconds into the video you will see Jackie (purple top) and me (red hat) dancing in our dinghy in the upper middle-left portion of the screen.

Wizards playing at the 10th Dinghy Concert

Wizards playing at the 10th Dinghy Concert

 
Tiller, Sparky, and their faithful master, Jerry groove to the tunes

Tiller, Sparky, and their faithful master, Jerry groove to the tunes

Commodore’s Visit

Just before Christmas Pat Ewing, owner of Dickerson 40 Velamore and Commodore of the Dickerson Association, contacted us to say he would be in Grenada for a boat charter.  His schedule was pretty tight, but he, his son Sam, and their friend, Joel, managed to stop by for a short visit on Christmas eve afternoon.

(front) Sam and Pat Ewing (back) Joel and Jackie

(front) Sam and Pat Ewing (back) Joel and Jackie

Holiday Spirit

Just before Christmas our friends Bob and Debby on Chimayo came down from Carriacou for a visit.  They are very active in the L’esterre Junior Sailing Club and Jackie had picked up some hats for the kids when she was in the states.

Sailing elves of Carriacou
Sailing elves of Carriacou

Some of these kids sailed in the regatta we volunteered for.

The marinas and cruiser-oriented restaurants all have activities scheduled, so you have to choose carefully.  We had Christmas dinner at Clarks Court Bay Marina, just a ten minute dinghy ride around the point.  This was a potluck with turkey and ham provided by Clarks Court.  We just ate ourselves silly.

Conversation after Christmas dinner at Clarks Court Bay Marina

Conversation after Christmas dinner at Clarks Court Bay Marina

New Year’s Eve – or Old Year’s Night as they call it here – posed a big challenge as there were great events planned for a lot of places.  We elected a three stage approach.  First: dinner, dancing, and GMT (Grenwich Mean Time) New Year at Da Big Fish.  We are four hours behind Grenwich, so we celebrated New Year at 8pm followed by dancing.

We then hopped on the bus and went to Clark’s Court Bay Marina where we left our dinghy.  The crowd there was pretty small, due in a large part to the strong rains off and on much of the day.    Luckily the band was good and we took over the dance floor.  We celebrated New Years at local midnight and danced a bit more.  We needed a break and the rain had stopped so we headed back towards our boat.  We planned to stop at Roger’s Beach Bar on Hog Island, where some friends were going to hold a jam session, but the place was pretty empty because of the rain, and we were tired so we went home.

11th Dinghy Concert

We were barely into 2013  when Le Phare Bleu held another dinghy concert.  Playing were “The Grenada Chocolate Recipes” who were actually 2/3 of “Madison Violet” the group that played at the first dinghy concert plus Deiter from Le Phare Bleu.  They were excellant.

Check out the reserved seating in the upper left

Check out the reserved seating in the upper left

Check out the special seating available in the upper left corner

Special courier delivering beers from the bar on the barge

You can see a song from the concert on YouTube – right-click and open in a new tab: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMhDe-tfUOs

Island Tour

We went on an island tour conducted by our friend, George.  We have done a couple tours in the past and the typical tour takes you to a rum distillery, a nutmeg processing plant, a waterfall, and a few other interesting sights.  The tour was on a Sunday and the rum distillery was not operating, but the doors were open.  Another group arrived at the same time, so their guide, Cutty, gave us the tour.   He did a good job, but we were all disappointed at the end because there were no staff there to give free samples.

Cane juice fermenting prior to distillation

Cane juice fermenting prior to distillation

Forlorn looks becuase there are no rum samples

So near yet so far.  Forlorn looks becuase the free rum samples are locked away

Another fun stop was in Grand Etang where among other things, you can see the Mona Monkeys.  A couple of whistles and a banana can start a good show.  You can get a great photo op if you hold the banana where the monkey can’t get away with it immediately.

A fellow cruiser finds a friend

A fellow cruiser finds a friend

Monkey chasing Jackie - and her bananas - across the parking lot

Monkey chasing Jackie – and her bananas – across the parking lot

The next stop was Grenville, the second largest city in Grenada.  We visited the fish market and got some nice, fresh tuna.

Grenville - second largest city in Grenada

Grenville – second largest city in Grenada

Jackie supervises cleaning of our tuna

Jackie supervises cleaning of our tuna

Selling "firewater" - do you think he got it straight from the pump?

Selling “firewater” – do you think he got it straight from the pump?

(Not so) Old Paint

December was supposed to be the start of the dry season, but it rained from mid-December until well into January.  Despite this I have been able to make a lot of progress on painting the cabin.  The project has had a few setbacks, but in general it is coming along well and nears completion as of this writing.

Another coat of paint goes on the aft cabin

Another coat of paint goes on the aft cabin

Painting supplies

Painting supplies

Sunsets

Mt Hartman Bay has hills on both the east and west sides, so we never really see the sun come up or go down, but we do get some great effects from the sun shining on the clouds at the end of the day.

Mount Hartman Bay sunset

Mount Hartman Bay sunset

Another Mount Hartman Bay sunset

Another Mount Hartman Bay sunset

Sights Around the Bays

Fire up the grill for hamburger night at Clark's Court

Fire up the grill for hamburger night at Clark’s Court

Locals rowing through Mt Hartman Bay

Locals rowing through Mt Hartman Bay

More Locals cruising through Mt Hartman Bay

More Locals cruising through Mt Hartman Bay

Donna from Summer Love standing on Prickley Point

Donna from Summer Love standing on Prickley Point

Red Flower

A Red Flower we spotted on our tour

Next: Another tour and a regatta

Back in Grenada

December 1, 2012

posted from Mt. Hartman Bay, Grenada

It’s hard to believe that we have been back in Mt. Hartman Bay, Grenada, for almost two months.  It was a big change from Peru. For example, everyone here speaks English. OK, OK, so it’s a British or Irish or South African or Texan or Caribbean Island version of English.  Or it’s spoken with a French or German or Scandinavian or Italian or Icelandic accent.  We still understand it.  Or at least most of it.  At least the exchange rate from the US dollar to the Eastern Caribbean dollar is about the same as the Peruvian Sol, so we don’t have to adjust our monetary thinking.  It’s warm and humid here – the Peruvian jungle was similar, but the rest of the country was dry and either hot or cold – and high enough to be short on oxygen.

We spent about seven months here two years ago, and then a month here at the beginning of this summer, so we know the place pretty well, but it took a while for us to catch up on all the new people who came here this year.  Now that we are getting back in the groove the hurricane season is over and lots of people are leaving.  Jackie will visit the states for a couple weeks and then return about a week into December. Then if the boat projects are done and the weather cooperates, we may head up island – or we may stay for the holidays.

Jackie joins the ladies for morning water aerobics

Wakeoarding – a new sport in the anchorage – only seemed to last one day

Travel Fun

Our return to Grenada was like a comedy of errors.  Jackie had originally planned to return to the US, but changed her mind.  She was not able to get on the same flight I was on, but we would arrive in Grenada within an hour of each other.  Then a couple days before my flight, the company I booked through sent me an email that LIAT no longer stops in Grenada.  The solution was to fly from Trinidad to St. Lucia, stay overnight at my expense, and take the LIAT flight from St. Lucia the next morning.  St. Lucia is expensive so I asked the company for alternatives.  They gave me the option to stay in Trinidad and fly to Grenada the next morning on Caribbean Airlines.  This was a less expensive option, but in either case Jackie would arrive in Grenada a day before me.  She did what any sensible person would do and booked a room on the beach in Grenada.

Little Rosie

We left Compass Rose on a mooring owned by George of Survival Anchorage.  He checked the boat daily and opened her up once a week, so there was very little mold growing inside. 

George helps a neighbor get ready to drop the mooring

But leaving systems idle isn’t good for them and a couple days after we returned the starter quit working.  When we first got to Grenada I found a broken hose clamp on the engine and the dripping sea water caused corrosion inside the starter.  Luckily we have a spare and I was able to get the starter repaired pretty cheaply.  We also found that the bottom paint hadn’t been very effective and we had barnacles and interesting weed growing on the bottom of the boat.

Our propellor hosts its own little ecosystem

We also found that we had new close friends.  Mike, Christie, and Shane anchored near us while we were gone.  They didn’t realize we were on a mooring and when the wind shifted they got really close.  They watched the boats as they wandered around near each other but they never got close enough that they felt they had to move.  Not to long before they left, the wind and tide conspired to swing the boats close enough that I was able to reach out and touch their flag as they swung by.

Moonshine just off our bow, but not quite close enough for us to use their grill

Shane is nineteen and just finished his home schooling.  He is a regular at the Sunday jam session at Whisper Cove Marina, so his parents held his graduation party there.

Shane, the graduate (far left) and some of his fellow cruiser kids

Regatta

As a result of a conversation between Ginny at Clarkes Court Marina and Ellen of Boldly Go, a regatta for junior sailors was organized.  A friend mentioned us to Ellen and we got volunteered to help out.  Jackie raised and lowered flags on the committee boat to start the races while I patrolled the course as a safety boat.  There were three classes of boats – Optimists, Mosquitos (similar to an Optimist), and Lasers.  The kids all seemed to have a great time and there was some really good racing.  The three Lasers started the last race tied in points, so the race winner would with the class.  The finish was very close.

The start of an Optimist class race

Just one of the many big smiles we saw that day

Halloween

Halloween came to Grenada.  The first sign was the fleet of dinghies full of kids in costumes trick-or-treating around the anchorage.  After handing out goodies we went to shore and caught the shuttle to Da Big Fish for their Haloween dinner.  The food was good, the costumes fun, and the music was good as always.

Trick-or-treat by dinghy

Dave and Linda from Wayward Wind, and no, he’s not wearing a Ted Turner mask

Music

The common thing among most events we attend is music.  There is a wealth of talent in the crusing community as well as among the Grenadians.  As mentioned, the music was good at the Halloween dinner with Baracuda and Gilfey teaming up for most of the evening.  We have seen these two play separately many times, but I think this is the first time we have seen them play together.  I’m sure there are people who will argue that these are two of the top three guitarists in Grenada.

(L) Baracuda, (R) Gilfie

Baracuda is Italian and sings rock with a slight accent.  He has a broad repertoire, but he really shines when he tosses in some soulfull Italian in the middle of a Bob Marley tune.  Or he can roll into Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore”.  It actually works better than you would expect.  He often plays just over the hill at the Tiki Bar and his warm up act is a local pan band.  He recently played at Secret Harbour, the marina here in Mt. Hartman Bay, and drew a big crowd.

Jackie and Babbie (of Compechano) dancing to Baracuda

Some of our neighbors in the anchorage

Gilfey is an Icelander who rocks.  He usually plays with Jomo, a local singer.  His play list is eclectic and amazing.  We listened to him one night when someone requested a song he had heard him do previously by a particular artist, so he started the set with Jethro Tull’s “Thick as a brick” and “Locomotive breath”.  He has some favorites that he almost always plays, but a good portion of his performances are things you have never heard him do before.

One of the big surprises is Tony on the vessel Ragin’ Cajun.  He plays fiddle and mandolin.  He has been showing up at most of the jam sessions and has started sitting in with Gilfey for some of his gigs.  Watching and listening while he plays the fiddle is awesome.  He plays a mean “Hotel California” and seems to be able to pick up any tune, but he really shines when he launches into a real fiddle tune.  And when he’s not sawing at the fiddle he picking at his mandolin. 

A few of the best nights out have been at local events.  The first was a jam and poetry session at the museum in St. George’s.  There were a few poets, but the real show was the combination of cruisers and locals that came together to put out an amazing sound.  Various musicians and singers would roll in and out of the group, but the music just got better.

Cruisers and locals jammin' at the museum

Cruisers and locals jammin’ at the museum

Donald Best is a local violinist and singer who is only the second Grenadian to be accepted to a prestigious music school in Boston.  He has been raising money for tuition by performing around the island.  A group of us went to a performance at the Spice Basket where a whole raft of local talent took turns putting on an incredible show.  With only a couple exceptions, these performers don’t do gigs at the local cruiser hangouts, so this is the only time we would get to see them and it was a real treat.

Another night we took a bus to Tivoli, a town north of Grenville to see what was thought to be a drum concert.  As it turned out it was a local event that happens every couple of weeks.  It started after hurrican Ivan came through and devastated the island.  With no electricity, the people got together and held drum dances to keep their dance and drum heritage alive.  They have added in games for the kids and the whole event is like a big block party set to the beat of local drums.

Dancing to the drums

Dancing to the drums

Let the limbo begin

Let the limbo begin

Finally, I have to mention Rogers Beach Bar on Hog Island.  Sunday afternoon is like a picnic on the beach – often with a local band – and it is unique because it is attended by locals and cruisers.  But tuesday evening has become jam session. We just saw Ray on guitar, Tony on fiddle and mandolin, another fellow on acoustic guitar, and a fourth guy on bongos and five gallon plastic diesel jug.

So it almost doesn’t matter what day it is, you can usually find one of these guys or groups rocking out.

It Seems Like Only Yesterday…

It’s hard to belive, but Jackie, Little Rosie, and I have just started our fourth year of cruising.

 

0kiss

Life is good

More Peru

November 4, 2012

posted from Mount Hartman Bay, Grenada

This is the second posting about our trip to Peru. It has taken a long time to go through the more than one thousand pictures we took during the trip. I am going to try to keep it short and talk about the places indivdually rather than as a travelogue.

Pisac

We took one of the local buses from Urubumba to Pisac.  Some of these buses seem like old tour buses that were too worn out for tourists and were put into service for the locals.  We traveled for a couple hours for under five Sols each.  We stopped in all the little towns along the way.  At a couple stops locals got on to sell food and drinks.

Pisac has to big attractions: the market and the Inca ruins.  The market is big on normal days, but it is huge on market days.  We arrived on a regular day.  Our hotel was one of the few places that didn’t provide breakfast, so the next day – a sunday – we got up and started off in search of coffee and food.  We were wandering around at the edge of the plaza where they were setting up the market when a man with a small child stopped and asked us if we were looking for breakfast.  We are always a little wary when approached like that, but it turned out he owned a small restaurant about a block away and he was on his way to open up.  We followed him and soon were enjoying some hot coffee and a nice breakfast.

L-market on a non-market day. R-market day overflow into what was a road the day before.

Restaraunt owner and his daughter

After breakfast we caught a taxi to the ruins.  The site is huge with ruins at least five locations.  One area was the temple area, another the fortress, and others were living spaces.  Most of the hill/mountainsides were terraced for crops.

Entrance to park – living areas

The fine stone work indicates a temple area

Bird watching bench?

Some of the terraces – you can see the valley floor in the background

   

More living areas and terraces

L-we walked down these steep terraces to get down to the town. R-typical steps built into the terrace walls. No, we did not try them

Manu – the Jungle

We took a break from the chilly, dry high desert  climate and booked a ten day trip in the jungle.  It was a shock to enter into the hot, damp climate.  We traveled for a day and a half by bus to get to the jungle and a day by bus to get back to Cusco.  The rest of the time we traveled the rivers in fifty foot long canoes.  They were only seven feet wide and were powered by sixty horsepower outboards.  We usually stayed in small, two room huts – two people to a room.  Restrooms were usually in a separate building.

(L) one of the river boats (R) raft we used to birdwatch at a pond

Our guides made the most of the time available.  When on the bus, we would stop and walk parts of the road where there were good birds and plants to see.  When on the river the guides were constantly on the lookout for birds, caimen – like an alligator – monkeys, and other interesting things.  At our destinations we went on nature hikes at all times of the day except during the heat of early afternoon.  Hikes times included before breakfast for general viewing and after dinner to see nocturnal critters like insects, spiders, and frogs.  We even spotted and owl one night.

(L) Jackie and I try on some local clothes (R) Our tour bus to the jungle looked perfectly at home in a third world country

(L) One of the many frogs we saw on our night walks (R) A caiman – like an alligator

A coupl;e of the many monkeys we saw in the jungle

Hey mister talleymon talley me bananas

(L) Tarantula hiding in the end of a handrail (R) Butterflies

(L) “Stinky bird” (R) National bird, Cock of the Rock

Puno – Lake Titicaca

Jackie and I splurged and took a fancy tour bus to Puno, home of Lake Titicaca, which forms part of the border between Peru and Bolivia.  It is famous for its claim to be the highest (over 12,000 feet) navigable body of water in the world and because some of the local people live on floating islands made of reeds.  The roots of the reeds are constantly drowned and dried by changing water levels in the lake.  Eventually the roots dry out enough to float the reeds.  Large chunks of reeds are cut free and then attached to other sections to form Islands.  Most of the people living on the islands now make their living from tourism, but there are still about sixty people scratching out a living in the traditional manner.

The Inka Express

The mayor shows us a small sample of the reed island

The boats are typically very colorful

These ladies sang to us. Yes it’s touristy, but it is still very interesting

The waterfront – you can see the boat we took a ride on

The navigable body of water claim is based on the launch of the Yavari in the 1800s.  It was a steel gunboat bought from England to patrol the lake.

Yavari, the first of a few large ships to navigate Lake Titicaca

Colca Canyon

 One of the few tours we took was to Colca Canyon to see the condors.  The tour was based out of Arequipa – known as the “white city” because it was founded by spainards and because most of the buildings are built using a white stone.

Plaza in Arequipa, the “White City”

Our tour left Arequipa early in the morning and traveled over the mountains to Chivay.  We went through a pass that was 4910 meters high. That’s 16109 feet – just over three miles above sea level.  You could get short of breath just thinking about doing something.  The next day we got up early and took the tour bus to Colca Canyon.

  The “best” viewing spots were taken, but we found a spot along the fence off to one side.  Colca Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world and is very narrow at this point.  As the day warms and the air currents begin to rise out of the gorge the condors take off and ride the thermals up.  We found that many started from our side of the observation area and we could see them coming up from a good distance away.  They eventually reached our level and flew right by us as them moved along the valley.

L-we reach the snow line. R-Jackie puts the finishing touch on our cairn

Vicuna along the side of the road

Colca Valley on the way to Colca Canyon

Condor viewpoint, Colca Canyon

Condor soaring over the canyon

Adult male condor

Up close and personal

Nazca

We spent a couple days in Nazca, which is famous for the Nazca Lines – huge designs scrapped out of the desert floor.  The best way to see them is by small plane – it’s a great ride.

The hummingbird – one of the more famous of the Nazca Line figures

We also had a short tour of a few of the local sights.  The most amazing are the Nazca wells.  They are the access points for the underground aquaduct system that the Nazcas created.  The water allowed them to grow crops and survive in this desert.

Wells built to access the underground aquaducts

Locals grow cactus because the mold that grows on the leaves makes an excellent dye

Paracas
Paracas is a seaside town.  You expect water birds at the shore, but the number of pelicans there is amazing.

Pelicans performing for food

Pelicans in a feeding frenzy

I know there are birds here somewhere

It’s interesting because it is in the desert. We took a boat tour to the offshore islands that are the home for gulls, sea lions, and penguins.  Periodically, the government opens the islands to harvest the guano.

Sea lions hanging out on the rocks

Birds on the guano islands

We walked the shoreline hoping to find pink flamigos.  We eventually spotted them near a beach across the bay.  But our walk was not fruitless – we saw lots of shore birds and also jelly fish that had washed ashore.

Birds and jellyfish along the shore

So we take a taxi to the park and head down the trail to the shore where we saw the flamingos.  Little did we know……

End of the road. L-flamingos are the pink dots, R-flamingos, camera at full zoom

Lima

Our last stop was Lima, Peru’s capitol city.  We spent a few days wandering around the Miraflores area and visited a mall built into the side of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  While there we took a trip to a park in the city center that has a lot of cool fountains.

A nice example of the many fountains

This fountain is like a big maze. Different parts turn on and off so you can get in and out while staying relatively dry

We also took a bus tour that was nothing special except that it stopped at a museum of Incan and pre-Incan pottery.  There was some amazing stuff there.

a great example of Incan pottery

Misc Pix

Flowers in the hotel courtyard in Pisac

L-they have different signs for llamas, alpacas, and vicuna. R-gas company sign – what do you think they feed those llamas?

Hot Moto, three on a bike that barely holds one, using a stick to hold up the electric wires so the pirate float can get under, betting on the cuy

¿Que Pasa?

September 16, 2012

(posted from Cusco, Peru)

Sorry for the long wait, but we have been very busy studying and traveling, and we have had few good internet connections.

Ferry Tales

Jackie and I took a few days to visit Wilmington, NC to look at houses.  No, we didn’t buy a house, but as part of our stay there we took a ferry down and across the Cape Fear River to Southport. The ferry follows part of the route we took on the way south in 2009.  That portion of the trip was rainy and foggy and it was one of the rare times when we used the chart program on the computer to make sure we stayed on course. The weather for the ferry ride was warm and clear – much different than when we came through on Compass Rose.

South of the Equator

Jackie and I have been talking about visiting Peru.  Well, here we are.  We had a couple days of craziness in DC-Northern VA getting clothes and shots for the trip, but finally we were ready to go.

Jackie had found some cheap plane tickets.  We left Dulles Airport (Washington area) late in the evening and flew to Toronto.  We stayed overnight and caught an early flight to Bogota, Colombia.  After a few hour layover we flew to Lima, Peru.  The flight arrived late in the evening.  We spent our second night in a hotel and caught a plane to Cusco, Peru, the next morning.  The elapsed time was about 36 hours from DC to Cusco.  Despite the two hotel stays, we spent a lot less than the next cheapest flight.

Cusco, Peru

The first two weeks of our trip were devoted to learning Spanish.  We were signed up for lessons, room, and board at the Amauta school in Cusco.  We arrived on a friday, but they didn’t have a room available because students were still there from the previous week, so they put us up in a nearby hostel. 

The hostel, Wara Wara, was recently opened by a young couple, Viviano and Michael, who both speak English pretty well.  Wara Wara is very nice and we felt more like we were visiting family than renting a room.  Cusco is in a small valley in the Andes mountains.  The hostel is on a hillside and we had a great view of the mountains around us and the city below. 

Sacsaywaman

Some would say that the view leaves you breathless, but at 11,000+ feet above sea level, it’s more likely the lack of oxygen in the air.  We started a course of pills before we left the US to prevent us from gettng sick from the altitude, but they can’t put more oxygen in the air. 

We were looking for something to do, so our hosts suggested visiting Sacsaywaman, some nearby Incan ruins.  Sacsaywaman (sometimes mispronounced “sexy woman”) is at the top of the mountain above the hostel.  We managed to hike up there without passing  out, but we took a lot of breaks.

The most obvious features of Sacsaywaman are three walls built one above another along the edge of a high plain.  The walls are not straight – each is made of many short walls going in and out.  Cusco was founded by the Incas and was designed in the shape of a Puma.  When seen from above, the walls form the teeth of the Puma. 

Sexy woman standing in front of some of the Puma’s teeth at Sacsaywaman

The Spaniards conquered the Incas in the late 1500s.  They took the smaller stones from the tops of the walls and from Incan buildings nearby and used them for construction in Cusco. Next to the site is the white Christ – a copy of the statue that overlooks Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

White Christ to the left – Sacsaywaman to the right

Can You Say “Frio”

On sunday we moved into our room in Amauta’s Residence 2, just up the hill from the school proper and the primary residence.  There are only five or six rooms in our residence and most have their own banyos (bathrooms) so we don’t have to share as they do in Residence 1.  

We also have a small kitchen almost outside our room so we can have hot coffee during the day and mate (coca tea) anytime.  Having hot drinks available is very nice because despite being near the equator, this is winter and the altitude and lack of heat in the buildings makes for some cold nights.  The first Spanish word that most people learn here is “frio” – cold! We find ourselves wearing as many layers of clothing as we can until about lunchtime when the sun warms the air enough to peel down to a shirt or tee shirt.  By late afternoon we are adding layers back on as the sun drops.

Cruising Cusco

Amauta is a couple hundred yards up the hill from Plaza de Armas – the main square in in Cusco.  The square has a large fountain in the middle and two large churches on separate sides.  One church is actually the cathedral which includes two smaller churches.  Cusco has over 30 churches, most of which the Spanish built on sites sacred to the Incas.

Plaza de Armas

 Most of the streets in Cusco are narrow and steep, and paved with bricks or cobble stones.

Looking down the hill past Amauta towards the Plaza de Armas. This is one of the wider back streets.

The cathedral (left) and another church (right) are on the north and east sides of the Plaza de Armas

The square and the surrounding streets are filled with restaurants, stores, and hostels.  Restaurants serve a lot of local, Mexican, and Italian food (including pizza), and vary a lot in size and presumed quality.  There are even a McDonalds and a KFC (one each).  Most restaurants let you order ala carte, but the best deal is usually to pick from a “menu.” 

Menus are a package deal where you can select one each from a selection of food groups.  The groups are usually a soup and a main course, but can also include appetizers, desserts, and drinks.  There is one set price no matter what you select.  Prices usually range from 10 to 20 Soles.  One US Dollar = 2.61 Soles, so we can often have dinner for less than $10 US each. 

Much of Cusco is built on old Inca walls. They are easy to spot because they lean into the building by design.  The better quality walls have irregularly shaped stones so carefully fitted together that they do not need mortar and you cannot slide a piece of paper between them. The Incas usually only built one level high, so you often see buildings were Incan walls provide the first floor and are topped with colonial Spanish walls.

Back to School

We start school on monday morning.  We get breakfast at the school along with our fellow students.  We find that most are under thirty, female, and from Europe, Canada, and the US.  We do meet a few people closer to our own age.

Jackie and I are scheduled for two 2-hour sessions each morning.  We work with two instructors – one for each session.  There are just the two of us with the instructor and we are at about the same level, so it works out well. Class is held in the small dining area outside our room, which is very convenient.

By noon our heads are full.  We go back to the main building for lunch and then into town to sightsee, shop or visit a museum. 

Cusco Native Art Center

We had to buy a Boleto Turistico – a tourist ticket to get into Sacsaywaman.  It was pricy, but included three other Inca ruins near Cusco, quite a few museums in Cusco, and three Inca sites in the Sacred Valley.  One of the first places we went was the Cusco Native Arts Center where they demonstrate native dances.  At least five or six dance troupes performed – all with different dances and traditional costumes.

Traditional dance demonstration at the Cusco Native Art Center

Studying in the Sacred Valley

Amauta has a few locations – one is in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.  It includes three meals a day (instead of the two we are getting in Cusco), transportation to the school, and a few excursions – at no extra charge.   And the altitude is lower, so it is warmer during the day and there is more oxygen.  We sign up to go there for our second week of instruction. 

Sunday morning we meet outside the school with our bags packed.  Surprisingly, Washington, one of the cooks who speaks no English, is our trip leader.  (We find that he does a great job of getting us to and from the school and taking care of our needs.)  He arranges for a couple taxis to take us to the bus terminal.  We get into one of the local buses – a bit like an old tour bus – and in no time it’s packed.  Off we go to Urubamba.  People standing in the aisle leaned on me most of the way, but at least no onebrought any livestock.

Yes, the curve is as close as it looks and yes, we passed the van

We arrive in the bus station in Urubamba and switch from the big bus to a “combi” – essentially a van.  Like in Grenada, the rule is cram everyone in that you can, but combis have baskets on the roof for luggage and other sundrie items too big for your lap.

Can you pick out the Spanish students

Carrying stuff on the top of the bus can be interesting and entertaining.

(left) This package came out of the roof rack halfway between Olantytambo and Yanahuara – the bus driver saw it and kept driving. (r) The pile of fur in the rooftop carrier is a live, unhappy, sheep

We arrive at the school in Yanahuara.  There are eight students, two instructors, the caretaker couple and their daughter, and Washington.  The school is a nice little facility.  The rooms are in round buildings with one room on each floor.

(l) rooms, (r) courtyard and main building

There is no internet here, but there is a small internet cafe and a couple small stores around the corner.  There is also a very nice hotel up the road where you can use their computers or wifi if you buy a drink.  Unfortunately a beer and a glass of wine can set you back $30 (soles).  Eventually we start sitting on the steps of the building across the road and using their wifi.

Field Trips

Classes are from about 8 to noon and 4 to 8pm.  We request and get morning classes.  This schedule leaves the afternoon free for field trips.  Our first trip is to the Inca ruins at Olantaytambo.  You need a Baleto Turistico to get in so all but one other student skip the trip to save money.   Our ticket has expired, but they let us in anyway.

The ruins cover much of a mountainside.  There are some dwellings at the bottom and the top, but most of the mountainside is terraces for crops.  It is an amazing sight.  We climb the stairs and wander through the ruins.  It is the first Inca city that we have seen on the trip and it is very impressive.  Across the valley we see three groups of ruins on the mountainside.  In a later visit to Olantaytambo our hostel owner shows us the path up to them so we eventually got to explore an area most people never get to.

One of the most impressive things about the ruins is that the Incas diverted water from springs and rivers to provide water for irrigation and daily needs.  

Left side of the main part of the ruins

One of the many places where water is diverted for bathing and clothes washing

Looking up from the village square at the ruins we climb to on a later visit

Looking across the valley at the main ruins

The other field trip we went on was  to the salinarias, a huge network of salt evaporation ponds on a mountainside near the school.  A salt lake feeds the area and workers divert the flow to fill the ponds.  Eventually the water evaporates leaving the salt to be collected.

Looking down at the salt ponds

Mom gets ready to haul a load of salt up the hill while her child looks around

Misc. Photos

I’m skipping through some things because there is so much to cover.  Here are some things I couldn’t leave out.

The Incas were amazing builders.  They could fit stones together amazingly close if they wanted.  Here is an example of a wall from the Temple of the Sun in Cusco that was later built on by the Spainards.

The smooth, lower wall is Incan, the upper wall is Spanish from the colonial period

Jackie and I went on a bird watching hike up to the Salineria.  On the way back we passed two kids “sledding.” At first they both rode down the hill on an old car bumper, then the boy tried to slide down on a piece of corrugated steel.

Sledding down a dusty hill on some corrugated metal (l) and on a car bumper (r)

The first week we were in Cusco it seemed we couldn’t go anywhere without running into a religious procession.  Evidently this is not uncommon, but they really went all out because the Assumption was approaching.  Each procession consisted of dancers in traditional costume, a group of men carrying a statue from their church (a very heavy statue), and a small band.  They also liked to shoot off a lot of fireworks, too.

Carrying a statue in a religious procession

There is also a certain amount of wildlife to be seen.  I check out a llama when we visit Sacsaywaman.  Llamas can be found all around the square in Cusco and at popular tourist sites.  For a few soles you can get your picture taken with a llama and either an old Kechan woman or a young girl.

Llamas can be found wherever there are tourists; Alpacas can only be found on menus

 Moving On

We finished our week of Spanish lessons in the Sacred Valley and decided it was time to take a break from school and do some sightseeing.   The first step was to get a ride to Olantytambo.  It turns out the school caretaker is a mototaxi driver by day and is more than willing to take us.  We find out the price is about 5 times what it would be on a combi (25 soles – just under $10), but we figure it will be fun. 

The front half of a mototaxi is a motorcycle with a small engine (125-150 cc). The back half has two wheels, a seat for 2, and a small lugage platform on the back.  they are designed for in-town use and have a top speed of about 25-30 mph. On the open road other vehicles fly by.

Halfway to the destination, the driver stopped to adjust one of the rear brakes

We arrive OK, but the hotel didn’t quite get our room reservation settled, so they booked us into another more expensive place at the same rate.  We stay the night and the next morning hop a train to Aguas Calientes.

Train station at Olantytambo

The train runs along the Urubamba river and the scenery is beautiful.  We make a stop along the way and this local woman came down to the train to sell some flowers.

Flower lady

In Aguas Calientes we check in to our hotel, buy a bus ticket for the next day, and explore the town.  The next morning we are up and gone by 5, but the line for the bus is already forming.  Soon the buses sart running and we climb the mountain to….

Machu Picchu

Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often referred to as the “City of the Incas”, it is perhaps the most familiar icon of the Inca world.  Although known locally, it was never found by the Spainish and was unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham.  We get off the bus, queue up, and walk in.  We have a guide book and info from The Lonley Planet.  We follow their suggestion and climb up to the guard house.  As we crested the rise, this is what we saw:

A picture is worth 1000 words. Machu Picchu

We sit and watch the sun come up.  The view is amazing as Machu Picchu goes from shadow to daylight.  The city is perched on the flat top of a mountain.  There is only one way in without scaling the mountain.  It’s no wonder that the Spainiards never found the city.

We spend four hours walking around the ruins.  Manyof the structures have been rebuilt, but it’s still amazing that they have lasted over 500 years.  We visited the Sacred Square.  One one side is the main temple.  You can see it is collapsing, but this is because the ground underneath is sinking.  Across the square is the Temple of Three Windows.  This was one of the clues that led Hiram Bingham to identify the city.   On top of the hill beyond the Main Temple is Intihuatana, a pillar carved out of the rock to measure the sun’s position.

Sacred Square. (l) MainTemple, (r) Temple of Three Windows

The construction of the city was interesting.  Here we see a building’s roof tied on to a stone jutting out of the wall.

Typical construction – the roof is tied on to a stone built into the wall

A view of the living area of the city. The round building at the far right is the Temple of the Sun

Looking east over the “Industrial Zone”

We were there

Next: We visit more ruins

Vacation

July 25, 2012

posted from Alexandria, VA

After months and months of cruising the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean it was time for a vacation. Jackie flew back to the States and did a short road trip with one of her girlfriends while I did some work on the boat.

ST. LOUIS

In the beginning of July we rendezvoused in St. Louis to spend a few days with our neice, Nancy, her husband, Cory, and their daughters Sumer and Willow. Activities included going to Sumer’s riding lesson and taking her to Grant’s Farm.

Sumer’s riding lesson

Sumer discovers goats feed on more than just milk

Sumer on horseback again with Jackie looking on

With temps around 100, the girls find indoor activities to occupy their time. (Note: the tropics were 20 degrees cooler)

The girls work on enhancing their beauty.

And what would a trip to St. Louis be without a trip to the arch.

Cory, Jackie, and Sumer look out a window at the top of the arch

TAWAS STATE PARK, MICHIGAN

Too soon our visit ended and we travelled to Michigan for Jackie’s family’s annual camping vacation at Tawas State Park.  The campground is on a penninsula that separates Tawas Bay from Lake Huron.  The bay is shallow and tends to be warmer and calmer than the lake, so cooler days were spent in the bay and warmer ones on the Lake Huron beach.

The family gathers around the fire ring

(L) Jackie looks for birds. (M) Butterfly. (R) Oriole on vacation from Baltimore

Jet ski runs aground in shallow Tawas Bay

Bill plays with the kids in the lake

Kids playing on the beach

OCEAN CITY, NJ

We spent a week hanging with Jackie’s family and camping at Tawas.  The next week was scheduled to share a house with my family just a few blocks from the beach in Ocean City, NJ.  This vacation a regular event that we revived this year after a nine year pause.

“Beach house” slept 24 with room to spare

The front porch was the favorite place for everyone to gather, but only the living room a.k.a the internet cafe, had wifi.

Random relatives gathered on the front porch

The logical progression was from the porch to the 2.5 mile long boardwalk.

Early morning on the boardwalk

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Brother Dave fixes his unicycle as his grandson Reid looks on

Then of course there is the beach.

The ladies pause for a photo before heading for the beach

Surfer dude, Reid

Mom has been going to Ocean City off and on for a long time.  At 86 she is not quite spry enough to cruise the boardwalk like she once did, so we rented a couple buggies and took her for a ride complete with unicycle escort.

Mom and the oldsters show the youngsters the way around the boardwalk

Unicycle escort – siblings Dave, Suzi, and Katie

VIRGINIA
The trip to the state started with family visits and vacations, but ended with a stop in Virginia for our annual medical checkups. This process becomes very hectic, but we did get in a couple short visits with friends. I even managed a few hours on the Chesapeake Bay with a friend, his daughter, and a friend of hers.

Grace, Bob, and Marissa sailing on the Chesapeake

NEXT: suprise…..

South to Grenada

July 17, 2012

Posted from Ocean City, NJ

BEQUIA

We had a great sail from St. Lucia to Bequia.  The wind stayed steady and we only had to motor for about an hour while passing St. Vincent.  We only stayed in Bequia a couple days before heading south to the Tobago Cays. 

The trip to Tobago Cays was good although we were a little concerned about having a squall come through while entering the Cays.  Luckily the weather blew through before we got there.

TOBAGO CAYS

The Tobago Cays consist of a few reefs to windward and a couple islands to leeward.  We dropped the anchor in the sandy bottom and settled in for a couple days of hiking and snorkeling.

Compass Rose anchored in Tobago Cays

You can land your dinghy on a beach and look for iguanas on the island or swim with turtles.

Dinghy landing beach

We dinghied over to the island and hiked around looking for iguanas.  There are plenty to see if you look carefully.

Some iguanas are easy to see…

…and some are not

There is an area roped off where the turtles like to feed.  We went snorkeling there and saw as many as four turtles at one time.

Jackie swims with the turtles

We saw this boxfish while looking for turtles

Sometimes the wildlife comes to visit us like this brown boobie (yes that is really a type of bird).

Brown Boobie perched on the mizzen mast

CARRIACOU

We got up early and made the short jaunt from Tobago Cays to Union Island where we had to check out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  The holding was so bad there that I stayed on the boat while Jackie went in to clear us out of the country.

Then it was another short hop to Hillsborough, Carriacou were we checked into Grenada.  We needed to pay an entry fee, but the Grenada immigration officer didn’t have change so he checked us in and told me to come back later when I had change.  I got change when I cleared through Customs and walked back across the street to pay my debt. 

We finished the day with a short sail around the bottom of the island to Tyrell Bay.

GRENADA

The weather was holding so we only stayed in Tyrell Bay for a couple days.  The wind and seas were very favorable so we decided to sail down the windward side of Grenada.  This kept us in the wind the whole way down instead of losing the wind behind the mountains when sailing down the leeward side of the island.

The seas were a little bumpy at times, but the trip when very well.  Not only did the wind cooperate, but we got a favorable current, too.   By mid-afternoon we were anchored in Mt. Hartman Bay, Grenada.

Good old Mt. Hartman Bay where boats drift in odd directions when the wind dies

After a 15 month absence, it was good to be back in Mt. Hartman Bay.  We were able to anchor near our favorite spot on the NE side of the bay.  As we came in we saw old friends from our last visit and new friends that we had met up-island.

New and old friends at Secret Harbor Marina

Jackie headed back to the US soon after arriving in Grenada, but we did have a chance to visit a beach where the  endangered Leatherback turtles lay their eggs in the sand.  They dig holes deep in the sand at night to avoid predators who eat the eggs.  We got lucky because we saw new hatchlings crawl to the water and swim away and a mother turtle lay her eggs.  The pictures are dark because we were not allowed to use flash.

The mother turtle’s tail is to the upper left. The eggs are to the right

Jackie pets the mother turtle

Next: Vacation