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"Gone Cruising" with Bill & Shirley Martin, and their dog Saylor

The Sailing Blog of At Ease


Saw the ship rigged schooner that was the school ship in White Squall. Attractive wooden ship… does mostly day sails out of Rodney Bay but we also saw her in Bequia. Beautiful ship.


After all the visiting, boat to boat, and all the wonderful meals ashore in Bequia, we were ready for a break. On Christmas, we stayed aboard. I lazed the day, reading and watching movies on television, reaping the benefits of recent between boat trades, while Shirley performed magic yet again in the galley. It was another wonderful, traditional holiday meal with roast turkey, dressing, and all the fixins.

With regrets, we pulled up the anchor and departed Admiralty Bay, Bequia, a truly wonderful place much enjoyed, for Rodney Bay, St Lucia on the 28th, departing about 0300. This is a 70 NM trip and we wanted to arrive in good daylight so the early departure was a must. It was indeed a black night. Many of the boats anchored around us had lights on… some did not. One boat had on their emergency strobe. The radar, scaled down to very short range, did pick out all the boats but maneuvering in and among them was still a bit tense. Once out in the main channel we relaxed, got up the sails, and settled in for the trip north.

We traveled north with s/v PASSION, a Morgan Out Island 41' crewed by Don and Marsha, and enjoyed the relatively rare "buddy boating" and opportunity to chat on the radio during the night.

Conditions varied depending on sheltering land masses. In the lee of an island, even a few miles off shore, the trade winds will generally be less but more gusty. Between the islands, stronger winds, strong currents and confused seas are the norm. We had sustained winds of about 20 kts, gusts up to mid to high 20's, and generally 6-8' seas, all from the ENE. AT EASE was active but manageable. Had we fallen off our rhumb line we could have sailed but that would have left us a thrashing run to the east when we arrived off St Lucia so we opted to motor sail much of the trip.

Just off St Lucia I noticed some bursts of spray, rolling bodies and broken water a few hundred yards off our port beam. It appeared to be either a large group of dolphin or a couple of whales... there were two distinct blows. Both Shirley and I watched this as it moved down our port side and had about given up when suddenly both whales sounded, flinging their tails abruptly into the air in an impressive display of synchrony. They really should give some warning before presenting such a strikingly photogenic moment.

The arrival was uneventful. We motored in to the inner lagoon and tied up at Rodney Bay Marina, our first marina stay since St Maartin some six months ago. Very professional dock hands and dock master. Lovely time… so nice we extended our stay through New Year's.

This is a rather urban island, complete with malls and resorts and cruise ships and all the tourist-related businesses to separate money from sunburned bodies. We did take a taxi tour of the island, visiting the Pitons, a natural park area, and the steaming and bubbling volcano which is now mostly a hot sulfur spring with evidence of relatively recent mud eruptions. More interesting to me were the ruins, some restored, of the old British fort on Pigeon Island, protecting the entrance into Rodney Bay. There is the typical stone redoubt on the hill top but also some remaining 18th Century buildings on the lower levels. The old officer quarters has been partially redone and now houses the museum. There is a wonderful, rustic restaurant on the beach overlooking Rodney Bay, and a marvelous English pub in the restored basement of the officer quarters. Original stone walls and arches, very low ceilings (average height then was 5'2") and exposed beams lent a wonderful quality to it all. We celebrated New Years here, both dinner at the restaurant, lamb stew, memorable for its profusion of roaches running across our feet as we sat on the outdoor deck, and later drinks at the Captain's Cellar where we played darts and had a great visit with its colorful English owner.

Well past our bedtime, about 2230, we returned to the boat and napped until midnight when we watched fireworks. Our location allowed us to see three different displays, all using beautiful Rodney Bay as a backdrop. Our friends on PASSION sounded the New Year on their conch horn… we had to rely on a more conventional horn, but sound we did. Then to sleep, perchance to dream, under this beautiful tropical sky, dense with stars, and bathed in cool, dry air that made snuggling under a sheet a delight.

A belated Merry Christmas photo from Bill & Shirley aboard At Ease!


Stayed aboard for a wonderful, traditional meal prepared by Shirley… turkey and all the trimmings. A lazy day of movies and reading and digesting and enjoying the holiday alone. Our social life here has been very active with visits here and there and many enjoyable outings on the beach.



Christmas Eve dinner ashore at the Frangiapani Hotel. Beautiful location, good steak meal, and dancing later to live music from a local band. We had earlier turned the island via pickup "taxi" and seen the Whaling Mueseum and Turtle Sanctuary and other points of interest.

Great evening celebrating, once again with crews from BONNY LYNN (Earl and Bonnie), HONEY (Dave and Cindy), and PASSION (Don and Marsha). Our stay here had included numerous outings with all, and numerous visits to one another's' boats for sundowners and conversation. We also did a taxi tour of the island, out to the Turtle Sanctuary, and around to Friendship Bay to look at the beaches and resort hotel there. This included a brief stop at the Whaling Museum, really a room in a local house with a few pictures and artifacts residual from Bequia's whaling history.

BONNY LYNN is a 57' topsail schooner from Maine and is in the charter business. She's a beautiful, modern steel ship but built in a very traditional style with a truly impressive sail potential. She charters from Maine in the summer, the Caribbean in the winter.

HONEY is a 45' steel sloop, newly purchased by Earl and Cindy in Trinidad and now making her way back to the US.


Snorkeled off of Moonhole, Bequia. Weird rock houses into wall of steep cliffs but pretty water. Lots of rocks, some coral. Pretty fish.


While in Admiralty Bay, Bequia, Shirley and I rescued a wind surfer, a Swiss woman visiting (chartering?) aboard an anchored boat. She was bikini clad, sitting on her board with no floatation, already at the mouth of the harbor channel and outbound with the tide and wind, apparently underway to Panama. We passed somewhat near her in the dinghy while on our way to another boat for cocktails. She made no signal at all, certainly none of distress, but just looked done in. I asked her, actually three times if she needed assistance, even turned and went back to satisfy myself she was okay, and got garbled answers that she was waiting for others from the boat she was on to come and get her, but also said there was no one on the boat… all ashore.

We took her under tow, later transferred her to the dinghy and towed the board and sail, in to the anchorage where she surprised us by not being able to identify the boat she was visiting apart from its flag (British) and the number of masts. We motored around among the 70-100 boats, searching out British flags on two-masted vessels and finally found a likely looking one where we dropped her off.

Later, we went back to the boat and spoke with the embarrassed captain who said she had been aboard one day, had misrepresented her skills, and had not told him she was going off on her own. He seemed more than a bit "put out" with his guest and graciously offered to buy us a beer in appreciation. We took a rain check but I had to wonder… if a Swiss woman in a bikini is worth two beers, how much would a similarly attired Swedish masseuse, or a Spanish dancer, be worth?


On Saturday, we came north from Tobago Cays to Admiralty Bay on Bequia. What a wonderful sail! We had a marvelous 15-20 kt wind from the east, largely on the beam with some backing to the ENE as we moved along the 24 NM track. Seas were from the NE in the 4-6' range with a comfortable long swell apart from a few confused areas created by the inter-island channel currents. Bright sun, blue skies and a few scattered rain squalls off in the distance made it all the more beautiful.

We rigged a reef in the main, actually that's the normal state down here, and rolled out both the headsails, then just kicked back in the cockpit and let the autopilot do the work. Boat speeds over ground were in the 5-6 kt range throughout the trip. The boat's motion is always more natural under sail than with the engine so the ride was comfortable… a real delight to all concerned. Even Saylor abandoned her "foul weather position" down in the well of the cockpit and stood on the foredeck watching the world go by for part of the morning.

We decided to bypass Mustique, off to the east of our route but well within visible range, because of its notoriously expensive and somewhat inhospitable reputation. Mooring or anchoring in its harbor has a fee of $20 US the first night and $12 US thereafter. Ashore, prices are very high indeed. One has to think it is a deliberate attempt to keep away many boaters such as ourselves. Mustique is known as a vacation haven for the very wealthy who apparently require a good deal of exclusivity. Some "do" Mustique in an effort to catch a glimpse of a celebrity. I'm afraid we would not recognize most celebrities without a program or guide so suspect we would be wasting our time.

On the other hand, Bequia is absolutely delightful. Admiralty Bay is very large and well protected by high ground all around. It is filling slowly with cruisers and charter boats, including some beautiful schooners and at least one a square sailed schooner . The hills are forested, but don't seem especially jungled, and steep, falling off to white sand beaches and beautiful light blue water over a sandy bottom. The beaches have the requisite palm trees swaying in the breeze just to remind us we are in paradise. The village, Port Elizabeth, lines the bottom of the Bay and moves back up the surrounding hills enough where one just knows each house has a spectacular view. There is a commercial pier used by ferries and inter-island steamers, and a number of dinghy docks sponsored by various local businesses; a hotel, restaurants, bars and dive shops. Curving along the very edge of the beach is a little walk way, sometimes only a path on the beach, which is shaded by trees or flowering shrubs and which is the primary access to the various businesses around the harbor.

One is struck by how clean and neatly arranged it all seems. The businesses are colorful, the people openly friendly and attractive, and there is less sense of poverty, less intensity and intrusiveness in salesmanship, than is evident on so many other islands. We went out for drinks and dinner and to meet other cruisers ashore. The bistros along the beach are open to the air, and to the spectacular sunsets, well appointed and comfortable. Prices were probably about the same as the US but certainly cheaper than Florida and other "resort" locations. The quality of food and service was excellent… more a European standard. Some live music by quite good local groups provides a pleasant background to conversation without the fierce competition among various bars with amplifiers found so often elsewhere. Perhaps most telling… customers certainly included cruisers and tourists, mostly Europeans, but also included significant numbers of Bequians and their families out for the evening. The blending of all seemed quite effortless.

Bequia has a strong maritime tradition. Whaling brought many people to this island way back when and many stayed. Traditions continue, even some whaling. At least one of the bars used huge whale bones for a fence and arched gateway, and the bar is built with whalebone. They build their own sailing vessels, typically single masted with gaff sail rigs, ranging in size from small fishing boats under 20' up to schooners as large as 130'. There are still commercial sailing vessels plying these waters hauling cargo between the islands. There are numbers of local boats drawn up on the beach, obviously actively used, and we happened to see a local race of some of the smaller boats launching from the beach and flying down the harbor rigged wing on wing then turning to beat home tack on tack. They seem overpowered but under control from the large crews scrambling to counter the pronounced heeling in the gusty air.

There is a tradition locally for celebrating Christmas, called Nine Mornings, which involves very active partying as well as very early (0400) morning Christmas caroling. Now I don't think this is folks getting up at 0400 to sing… I think this is the end of the party the night before. Apparently the festivities move from location to location over the nine days, and maybe there are some theme differences each day, but I get the sense that the partying is pretty well the same. This is all much past our bedtime, although we did stay up until 2130 last night.

All in all, we love Bequia… certainly among our favorite places. We will stay here over Christmas, do some touring ashore, and then move on north.


Tobago Cays… truly a paradise! We are anchored just inside a crescent reef protecting us from the Atlantic and easily marked by the consistent line of foamy breakers. Around us are several islets with elevations of 20-30 feet in places but mostly just white sandy beaches and scrub, mangrove-like brush, with palms standing over all. We're anchored into the wind, almost due east, with 15-20 kts of trade wind cooling the boat and producing beau coup energy, but with only the most gentle of boat movements, rocked by a loving mother-sea, in these surprisingly calm waters. Simon and Garfunkel are serenading us on the stereo, happy hour has been declared, and all is right with the world.

The entire area of the Cays probably includes some 1500 meters square and there are something like 20-30 boats anchored at any time, 80% charter boats, lots of Germans and French, a few British and Yanks, and there is no sense of being crowded at all. The water is every bit as clear and sparkling as in the Bahamas and the reefs are stunning with alternating patches of brightly colorful coral and clean, white sand. Standing tall in the cockpit, one can maneuver around the coral and onto the sand beds, to anchor. We had a wonderful swim, snorkeling over the coral, drifting with the current and towing our dinghy along with us. There are abundant fish, not only the large reef fish, but a profusion of small, brightly colored tropical fish. Everything from grouper to lobster to see, all protected so no harvesting please. It really is like snorkeling in an aquarium with the fan, brain and staghorn coral, and more exotic coral species I don't know, up close and personal. Both of us have smallish abrasions to prove it.

"Boat boys", locals with wooden fishing boats and outboards who can, or at least do, fish these protected waters (we can't), are in and out of the anchorage selling freshly caught fish and lobster, produce and fresh bread, daily. They're not intrusive… just actively selling a service. But it isn't cheap! We cruisers tend to think the charter boats have inflated prices. The vendors want essentially US prices for fish and lobster. We cruisers want Trinidad costs. I suspect we are the ones that are unrealistic.

Saylor, our erstwhile crew dog, has had her run on the beach again today. She charges ashore, does donuts in the sand, rolls until covered in sand, then charges into the surf to refresh. We tried to play "fetch" but she is either rusty or extraordinarily proprietary… sticks, once acquired, never came back. Tomorrow, she'll lay around all day, recovering. We probably will too. We will read… she will sleep and hope that someone will show up that wants to rub on her.

Christmas looms on the horizon. Cruisers down here congregate either at Martinique or Bequia for the holiday. We're going to struggle with another tropical Christmas, with no real access to the shopping frenzy associated with the holiday. We do hope to find some boats/crews we know in Bequia… seems like Christmas needs friends if not family. If we strike out there, we will move on to Martinique and hope we find kindred souls there. Many of the folks we have cruised on and off with have moved on west, toward the Canal, with Pacific stars in their eyes. But there are those heading back north, at their own paces, and we just have to hope we'll cross rhumb lines soon as we make our individual decisions about traveling weather, islands to visit, where to linger, and do we really feel like sailing today.12/10/2002 We motored out of Hillsborough, Carriacou to Petite Martinique where a promise of cheap(er) fuel beckoned. This was a 10 NM motor around the northern end of Carriacou against foul wind but with smaller seas. Even Saylor, our salty crew dog, felt comfortable enough to stand on the foredeck until we turned due east and the spray started coming aboard. Fueling was relatively uneventful with a T-pier in deep water and with prevalent wind holding us off. It's hard for me to call fuel at $2.32 per gallon US cheap but there you have it. We departed to motor around some offshore reefs and shoals, then turned north to run into Clifton, Union Island, part of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Entering this harbor was trickier. There are a couple of markers showing the entrance but the reefs are obvious in good visibility. There is even a reef through the middle of the harbor, well marked by a local freight hauler laying on its side, that separates the two anchorages. This is a "major" day charter market with large cats predominating, and a commercial pier where inter-island steamers offload consumer cargo. The day charter boats are in and out throughout the day and move rapidly through the tightly packed boats, mostly on moorings. Many of the moorings are marked by floating gallon jugs of one variety or another. Some are available, many are private (for charter boats).

As we turned to enter the harbor, a 20 foot outboard, typical fishing boats here, came charging out with the pilot yelling and waving. We thought at first we were threatening his nets but the real motivation was to lead us to a mooring (or sell us fish, ice, lobster, and probably a t-shirt or two). He buzzed around and across our bow, aggressively ignoring our calls that we would anchor, leaving us only to go pester another cruiser coming in with a square rigger and underpowered diesel. I know he appreciated the attention. This was our first real exposure to the very aggressive "boat boys" which will proliferate from here north.

We had towed the dink, sans engine, over this short trip but dropping the engine onto our dink, in this wave-tossed harbor, was pretty active. The harbor is only protected by a reef. It breaks the ocean swells but not the wind and there is enough fetch to create a confused pattern of white caps in the harbor. I went ashore to clear in, filled out the usual set of official forms overseen by officious and uniformed functionaries, and was informed I would have to check in my shotgun. I resisted… I had no intention of heading back south to clear out before leaving St Vincent waters. I was prepared to just depart but surprisingly we found room for compromise. The senior officer accompanied me back to the boat (and got more than a little wet from spray), and attached a seal (numbered nylon band) through the open receiver so the weapon would be disabled while in their waters. How nice of him!

Exploring ashore, we found a more cosmopolitan community than expected. The French influence is surprising and produces wonderful breads and cheese as well as good French wines. There are a number of restaurants but even more markets selling a good variety of food, and the now expected stalls selling fresh produce. Prices are higher than we would like. The large number of charter boat customers has apparently been inflationary.

We're having a bit of a lull in the weather. For the last few days we have had to turn on equipment and turn off the wind generator to manage the high charging levels of energy going into our batteries. The wind is laying a bit… down to 20 kts and maybe down to 15 kts by tomorrow. We'll take advantage of that to move out to Tobago Cays. The reefs and water there are reportedly beautiful but protected from the open Atlantic only by low reefs. They should be manageable now with the reduced trades. If not, there is a sheltered harbor within miles… and another wonderful restaurant awaiting.


We motored out of Hillsborough, Carriacou to Petite Martinique where a promise of cheap(er) fuel beckoned. This was a 10 NM motor around the northern end of Carriacou against foul wind but with smaller seas. Even Saylor, our salty crew dog, felt comfortable enough to stand on the foredeck until we turned due east and the spray started coming aboard. Fueling was relatively uneventful with a T-pier in deep water and with prevalent wind holding us off. It's hard for me to call fuel at $2.32 per gallon US cheap but there you have it. We departed to motor around some offshore reefs and shoals, then turned north to run into Clifton, Union Island, part of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Entering this harbor was trickier. There are a couple of markers showing the entrance but the reefs are obvious in good visibility. There is even a reef through the middle of the harbor, well marked by a local freight hauler laying on its side, that separates the two anchorages. This is a "major" day charter market with large cats predominating, and a commercial pier where inter-island steamers offload consumer cargo. The day charter boats are in and out throughout the day and move rapidly through the tightly packed boats, mostly on moorings. Many of the moorings are marked by floating gallon jugs of one variety or another. Some are available, many are private (for charter boats).

As we turned to enter the harbor, a 20 foot outboard, typical fishing boats here, came charging out with the pilot yelling and waving. We thought at first we were threatening his nets but the real motivation was to lead us to a mooring (or sell us fish, ice, lobster, and probably a t-shirt or two). He buzzed around and across our bow, aggressively ignoring our calls that we would anchor, leaving us only to go pester another cruiser coming in with a square rigger and underpowered diesel. I know he appreciated the attention. This was our first real exposure to the very aggressive "boat boys" which will proliferate from here north.

We had towed the dink, sans engine, over this short trip but dropping the engine onto our dink, in this wave-tossed harbor, was pretty active. The harbor is only protected by a reef. It breaks the ocean swells but not the wind and there is enough fetch to create a confused pattern of white caps in the harbor. I went ashore to clear in, filled out the usual set of official forms overseen by officious and uniformed functionaries, and was informed I would have to check in my shotgun. I resisted… I had no intention of heading back south to clear out before leaving St Vincent waters. I was prepared to just depart but surprisingly we found room for compromise. The senior officer accompanied me back to the boat (and got more than a little wet from spray), and attached a seal (numbered nylon band) through the open receiver so the weapon would be disabled while in their waters. How nice of him!

Exploring ashore, we found a more cosmopolitan community than expected. The French influence is surprising and produces wonderful breads and cheese as well as good French wines. There are a number of restaurants but even more markets selling a good variety of food, and the now expected stalls selling fresh produce. Prices are higher than we would like. The large number of charter boat customers has apparently been inflationary.

We're having a bit of a lull in the weather. For the last few days we have had to turn on equipment and turn off the wind generator to manage the high charging levels of energy going into our batteries. The wind is laying a bit… down to 20 kts and maybe down to 15 kts by tomorrow. We'll take advantage of that to move out to Tobago Cays. The reefs and water there are reportedly beautiful but protected from the open Atlantic only by low reefs. They should be manageable now with the reduced trades. If not, there is a sheltered harbor within miles… and another wonderful restaurant awaiting.

Web Posted December 9th, 2002

We departed Prickly Bay, Grenada on the 5th, and motorsailed up the west coast before jumping off across the channel between Grenada and Carriacou. The route took us probably over the site of an underwater volcano, Kick-Em Jenny, which has been inactive since 1989. Weather conditions are seasonally normal. This is the time of the "Christmas Winds", a higher than normal trade wind that blows 20-25 kts, up to 30 kts, generally from the E or ENE. Most travel up and down on the west coast to take advantage of the lee of the islands, but moving across the channels between islands gets plum boisterous, with wind and waves and swell and currents, under essentially all conditions.

We were not able to clear out of Grenada until 0930… I had to wait for the Customs Officer to return my shotgun before I could leave. That pushed us a bit, time wise. For our trip, an 8 hour run, we had to contend with a wind more from the NE, with relative speeds in the 25-30 kt range, and somewhat confused seas given the prevalent swells and the wind-generated waves. We wanted to sail but the wind was just too close to the rhumb line. To fall off and sail, tacking back and forth, would have taken too much time and we would have had an after dark arrival in Carriacou. Entering unknown anchorages, through reefs and shoals, is not a pleasant activity once that sun is down. Southbound boats, mainly charter boats, had a spirited down wind sail and were really tearing by. We, on the other hand, had a reef in the main and were banging and crashing, keeping a plume of spray over the boat, both huddled under the dodger as sheets of rather cold water crashed against the canopy. Even with the pitching, bucking deck all day long, it was a wonderful ride but one did have to hang on. Once we had the ETA pinned down a little more accurately we were able to back off the speed and make the ride a bit less athletic.

The amount of water that came aboard was considerable and the force on the foredeck must have been impressive. After our arrival, I went forward and noticed one of our dorades, a large stainless steel ventilator, had literally unscrewed itself from the dorade box and was lying loose on the deck. Once, on an earlier trip, the water coming aboard had unscrewed the top from a water jerry can and them filled the upright can with sea water. As usual, AT EASE took it all in stride and gave us a great ride. The autopilot and navigational system performed well. We monitored instruments, and watched the beautiful scenery… the water, flying fish, porpoise, passing boats and the distant island.

We arrived at Hillsborough, Carriacou and got the anchor down less than 15 minutes before it was too dark to see. The next day we moved around to Tyrrel Bay, a more popular anchorage for cruisers, where we anchored again off of the Yacht Club. Like many of the Yacht Clubs down here, it is really just a business, but a business that is especially gracious to transient cruisers providing a dinghy dock, convivial bar and nice restaurant.

Carriacou, an island just north of Grenada, is as different from Grenada as Tobago is different from Trinidad. The sailing guidebook describes it as an island with "over a hundred rum shops and only one gas station." The anchorages are pleasant, flanked with both sand beaches and rocky faces, with offshore reefs for diving and snorkeling. The hills are lush and green but not nearly as high as the mountains of Grenada. The people are actively friendly and eagerly developing their tourist economy. Prices are higher than expected… charter boats and their vacationer crews seem to have been inflationary. Cruisers are much tighter with the dollar. A local fisherman pulled along side to offer fresh limes, oysters or lobsters but all at stateside prices. For example, he wanted $6 US a pound for lobster.

This is the peak of the charter season and charter boats are numerous everywhere one turns. They are conspicuous by their bare hulls… no extra jerry cans of fuel or water and no radar or wind generators. Many do have a few solar panels, probably just to keep the batteries topped off while awaiting charters. They pull into the anchorages in the early afternoons, drop anchors hither and yon, frequently on top of other boats already anchored, then flock ashore to eat and drink in the local bistros. They are obviously having a ball… and why shouldn't they. Both the island and surrounding water easily qualify as paradise.

We have explored ashore and will do some exploring by dinghy today. I have some chores… need to grease the windlass and get my scuba tank refilled. There is a French restaurant ashore that has a good reputation. Then we return to Hillsborough, clear out of Grenada waters, and move on into islands controlled by St Vincent.

Web Posted November 20th, 2002

AT EASE is moving again and how delightful it feels. We're off to Tobago. The 80 NM distance really is just too long for a day and most avoid arriving at strange harbors in the dark, so we planned an overnight trip. We departed Chaguaramas, Trinidad about 1400 on Monday and motored along Trinidad's north coast until we could turn to directly cross Galleon Passage, the 20 or so mile channel between Trinidad and Tobago. All this was into a brisk 15-20 kt wind and 5-7' seas, all directly on our nose as we moved east. I did use the staysail just to stabilize the boat and reduce some of the rolling but it was really just a motor trip, about a mile off the coast to minimize the adverse current. The Equatorial Current is quite strong in these waters, anywhere from 1.5-4 kts, and can make for some very uncomfortable passages but we really had a delightful trip. The waves, really more swell, were of the long interval, Atlantic variety and made for a nice motion most of the time. The autopilot managed all the tricky steering that the current demanded, and the radar did a pretty good job keeping watch... but only pretty good. Fishing is a significant part of the economy for both Trinidad's north coast and for Tobago and the boats were out.

These boats are open, high prowl, wooden boats of 20-25' length, powered by outboards. They have little radar signature, no lights unless they shine a flashlight when one approaches dangerously near, and are invisible much of the time down in the trough of the swells anyway. They make a watch demanding when within a mile or so of shore. I can only imagine how terrified they must be at the close misses… but then maybe not.

We intended to clear in to Immigrations and Customs at Scarborough harbor, on the south coast of Tobago, but when we arrived about 0800 the next morning, we found the anchorage there really unsafe with what felt like a solid rock bottom and too much commercial activity. We got some unsolicited help from the Coast Guard pier, one person yelling directions and gesturing wildly, but not understandably. Shirley asked him to call on VHF radio but he replied "Nah man… the receiver don't work." Yeah… that's their Coast Guard. I tried twice to get a good anchor down but just felt, and could even hear, growls from the chain as it drug across the bottom. We drug until it grabbed something but wouldn't take much load before it wanted to slip again. We dared to drop the dinghy to quickly go ashore and clear in. Next discovery… no dinghy dock. We had to walk several blocks around the harbor to the appropriate offices and this through a community which seemed very much like the frantic exploit-the-tourist sort of environment one finds in places like Nassau. We changed our minds. Back to the boat, up anchor, and off to Man of War Bay and Charlottesville, on the extreme NE point of the island. Again, to minimize contrary current and seas, we went to the north coast and stayed within a mile or so of shore and motored using only a staysail for stability.

Man of War Bay is a beautiful crescent bay, deep and protected from anything other than a north wind, surrounded by the same sort of very steep, heavily jungled elevations found in northern Trinidad. The Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) is active this far north of the equator and the wet air turns to clouds as it rises to these elevations so the trees seem to be wrapped in streams of wispy clouds moving along the heights. Nestled into one end of the bay is Charlottesville, a small community of no more than a couple of thousand, maybe less, who live mostly by seine net fishing in the Bay and near offshore waters. I understand they put spotters in the hills who note feeding clusters of fish and then direct the boats to surround them with nets. The waterfront is fringed with small shops or stands, each selling produce or fish or whatever, and the typical bars with loud mixes of calypso and rap music. The community has no bank and only one gas station. Today... no gas. Today... a town wide shortage of currency for change.

The water is clear again and I understand the snorkeling and diving is excellent all along the coast with rocks and reefs and coral and abundant fish. It is all quite beautiful with the colorful houses in amongst the thick foliage, the palm trees adding their bit of exotica, and the dozen or so international cruising yachts riding at anchor in the aqua water. We feel renewed.

Bill and Shirley

Charlottesville, Tobago, WI (West Indies)

Web Posted November 21st, 2002

Clearing in to Immigration and Customs here in Charlotteville is a story itself. I always feel some pressure when clearing in simply because bureaucrats are pretty arbitrary and have frightening power to complicate one's life. They usually make a big thing out of reporting to their offices as soon as possible after arrival. This is complicated here because Trinidad and Tobago require firearms to be surrendered ashore for the duration of one's stay.

It's a rainy, cloudy morning with intermittent squalls. We drop the dinghy, mount the motor, grab our papers, don foul weather coats and head for the town pier to search out the authorities in their lairs. I chose not to bring our shotgun. I thought wandering around the community obviously armed was just a bit provocative and perhaps after I knew where I was going I could go more directly with less spectacle.

At the head of the pier was the first of two large signs demanding visiting vessels "report forthwith" to Customs and Immigration. We asked a young lady on shore for directions and she walked with us a block or so until she could point out the building. It was in an old post office building, just next to the police station, and immediately across from the fine new library which is the community's most modern, and air conditioned, building. It was already 0930. Opening hours are posted… 0800-1600. No one was there. I checked with the police station where the desk officer asked us to wait there as someone would come. Then he leaned out the door and yelled for someone to go get "the man" for the yachties. We waited about 45 minutes and then the Customs man arrived. He was dressed in a tee shirt and slacks but was obviously official as he carried a small brief case. One would have to assume that his night of drinking had only just terminated. To be charitable, we could say he was confused. I must have told him 20 times what time we had arrived. He seemed to stare at our papers but obviously wasn't reading them as he asked over and over for the very information they contained. He called the Immigration officer at his home to tell him he had people waiting. The Immigration officer just had him fill in a log book for him and had him tell us he (Immigration) would do the rest when we cleared out.

Customs man then told us it was all done and to leave. I reported that I had a firearm on board and wanted to bring it in. He became animated… asked a rapid series of questions about what kind of weapon and that it had to be declared… wanted the serial number and make and such and was adamant in telling me it should be on the document I submitted. I moved along side him, pointed to where it was all entered and, as quietly as possible, said "You mean like this".

I fetched the gun. He became even more animated. I repeatedly pointed out where the serial number was imprinted, where the manufacturer was identified and the model number. I helped him count the ammo several times. It was a struggle to keep him from making incorrect entries… several times I had to say "Sir, you're about to write down incorrect information." We finally finished and I got the gun back in the case. We had to carry it to the police station where it would be locked up until our departure. We had to wait for the rain to stop. It didn't. I finally got Shirley's umbrella, she was across the street in the library browsing, and he carried that for the trip to the police station where we did it all again.

Now, with receipt in hand, and all documents duly stamped and signed with official flourish, I assumed it was over. Not so! Mr Customs needed my umbrella to walk an additional half block to a raucous neighborhood bar already doing an active pre-lunch business on this rainy day.

Bill & Shirley, Tobago

Web Posted November 7th, 2002

We are ready to leave, but apparently not yet. We departed Trinidad on Thursday evening (in a heavy rain squall) and immediately had problems with electronics which had me down below troubleshooting wire for 30 minutes or so. After that (now it is deep black) we slipped between a couple of small islands and entered the Caribbean basin where long Atlantic swells from the NE rolled us through about 50 degrees. We motor sailed NW in 15 kts with 5-6' seas, dodging heavy commercial traffic with the aid of our radar, until about 2100 when a bang occurred and the autopilot stopped responding (broken mounting bracken on the drive motor). I deployed the Monitor self steering wind vane and we continued. Around 2200, while dodging an especially intrusive freighter, I discovered I couldn't turn to starboard. Unwilling to simply give up on half the world, we explored the netherworld down below and around our steering quadrant. Behold, the autopilot motor and drive were adrift and, with sharp edges on the broken mount, it was threatening a thru hull hose and our radar cable... also jamming against a bulkhead and preventing starboard turns. We freed that and established a watch so we could prevent further steering jams. A bit of duct tape sort of held it all together. We had emptied the lazarette locker and piled the mass of miscellaneous gear here and there in order to be able to open an aft inspection port and watch the broken drive as it danced around.

It didn't take long to make the decision to return to Trinidad... about 20-25 Nm. We had the steering under control, sort of, but didn't really want to get into any tight situations where rapid or dramatic steering would be needed. It seemed more prudent to return than continue toward Venezuela. Returning meant running into a 15 kt wind, 6 foot seas and a 1-2 kt adverse current. It took longer but we slipped back in between the islands and around to our old anchorage in Carenage Bay, just east of Chaguaramas, and got the hook down by 0300.

Repairs will be simple... just fabrication of a stainless steel (versus aluminum) plate for mounting the autopilot. I found I need to clean my raw water strainer also as the engine began to heat up if we ran it over 2200 RPM. That shouldn't be a surprise... a neighbor has to clean his generator strainer every week in these waters. Lots of stuff growing down there.

However, even after repairs, we are not likely to try for Margarita or Venezuela again. The last folks back told us that petty crime is now so bad that the 170 or so boats in Margarita are taking extraordinary security measures. Outboards are taken off, lifted and locked on the boat, dinghy's are then lifted and locked separately. Everything has to be taken out of the dinghy and off the boat's exposed decks and taken below to be locked up. Even shoes or sandals left in the dinghy will be stolen. The problem is overwhelming. There is simply too much expensive "stuff" exposed on a sailboat's deck to every get everything secure and then it is only as secure as a lock. Folks are going to stainless steel locks and large diameter chains. The authorities seem to have just given up. Even ashore, folks carry only copies of ID and passports, no jewelry or watches, no cameras, limited cash and no credit cards. And Margarita is considered "much safer' then the mainland!

We ask ourselves why would we want to go there? The folks who return to tell us about the precautions necessary typically end their tales with "You'll love it there." I can only assume they believe the low prices justify the increased risks. Not us! Not now! That's just not what we came out here for. There are risks everywhere and we accept that, but the situation in Venezuela now is just bizarre.

I think we will get everything shipshape, then wander off to Grenada, maybe Tobago, and wait out the rest of the hurricane season there before heading on up the islands. No real hurry... still some potential for storms during November.

Web Posted October 28th, 2002

Shirley and I joined a large group and went to the finals of the International Pan (steel) Band Competition. It was delightful… but way too long. The finals involved eight bands, each playing two pieces, one being calypso or island music and the other being classical. We heard bands trying everything from Romeo and Juliet to American in Paris. I thought I would have to take a book to deal with the boredom but was actually pretty entertained. It did go on and on… from seven to about one in the morning.

We made a decision… we're leaving Tuesday (the 29th) to sail to Los Testigos, then to Margarita, both offshore island's of Venezuela. Our stay here in Trinidad has actually been very nice with opportunities to get all sorts of boat projects completed and also plenty of things to do ashore. Yesterday we disassembled the salon hatch and frame, replace broken hinges, and rebedded the beast with a black bedding compound that gets on everything. That should be the last of the projects which impacted our seaworthiness.

The social life among the cruisers is very active… one has to make a conscious decision to stay on the boat and do nothing just to get a night off. The restaurants ashore are actually very good and very inexpensive, and the transportation system, the Maxi-taxi's (vans), make it easy to move about safely. Tomorrow, along with three other boat crews, we will do a bit of Americana… brunch at the Hilton in downtown Port of Spain. That will be our Bon Voyage Party.

Crime really hasn't been much of a problem here. There has been one mugging on the main street just outside of one boatyard, and reports of a dinghy missing here or there, but given the concentration of boats (hence potential targets) that has been little indeed. Both Shirley and I are a bit worried about Venezuela, even the offshore islands which are supposedly safer, but the fact is that quite a few boats go there and only a few are victims. I suppose it's all about probabilities. We've adapted to typical precautions… things to "harden the target" and make it more difficult for thieves. We hoist the dinghy and outboard every night and have chain and steel cable to secure everything with locks. We have air horns, flare guns, pepper spray and clubs below deck, and we have a dog who will certainly greet anyone boarding, day or night. She refuses to bark… I think she sees this as immature… but we believe the sound of her greeting, her wagging tail banging into deck fixtures, will wake us up.

AT EASE is in wonderful shape, but new equipment and systems will need sea trials to work out the bugs which seem to be inevitable. I've rewired my GPS-Computer-Autopilot so that I can drive the boat and computer from either GPS and can drive the autopilot directly from either GPS without the computer. This was all to build in more redundancy in our critical systems. Lots of wire… lots of terminals… lots of opportunities for something to work loose. At least I know where the likely culprits will be hiding now.

I haven't written much lately. There has been little to talk about other than maintenance issues and how exciting can all that be to anyone other than a dedicated boater. Maybe once underway there will be more interesting things to share.

We love hearing from you guys…

Web Posted October 23rd, 2002

We moved about 8 NM out from Chaguaramas to and island called Chacachacare, home of an abandoned Leper Colony that is being rather quickly eaten up by encroaching jungle. The colony was abandoned in 1984 after a cure for leprosy was discovered. It would appear that folks ate lunch one day and then just got up an left... everything. The old buildings have been looted some, I'm sure, but there remain old steel or iron beds and springs, mouldy mattresses, tables and such. There are medical records and old X-rays here and there. The roads and paths of the old village, even those covered in asphalt, are very difficult to identify now given the jungle and a machete is a handy aid to exploration. The only inhabitants of the island are the two Trinidadian Coast Guardsmen who stand watch at the lighthouse on the island's crest.

Like northern Trinidad, this island has very steep slopes, with here up to 800 feet of elevation, and is all densely jungled. We've walked the only maintained road up to the lighthouse for a spectacular view of both Trinidad and Venezuela which is only 7 NM away. We have explored the village pier and store area, the old generator building which produced island electricity, and various administrative and living areas. Many of the patients lived in duplexes of poured concrete set in niches carved out of the steep hills. They generally have pillars somewhere on the houses compensating for the lack of level ground. Water supplies seem limited to cisterns. The nuns lived on one side of the bay in three rather prominent houses. Local legend has it they ran the place like drill instructors and had one semi-mutiny by the patients at one point. There are several doctor's homes on the other side of the bay. One doctor's home, the most prominent and attractive, has been shot up pretty bad indoors, apparently by shotguns and buckshot. I suspect some military exercise rather than vandals given the number of rounds expended, pattern of shots, and the expensive ammo used. There just aren't the good ole boys with pickups and shotguns here that one would find in South Arkansas.

There is a large, crescent-shaped bay which opens to the south and within the bay are numerous inlets providing for relatively isolated anchorages. The bottom is rocky or coral covered and drops off of narrow shelves of 10-16 feet to depths of up to 100 feet even very close to shore. This is the best swimming and snorkeling we've had for some time. Some folks drop one anchor over the shelf and tie a stern line ashore. We opted for a single anchor, a Fortress, with some chain and then nylon rode, 250 feet total given then different depths. That leads to a pretty good swing as the wind backs, a daily event as the thermal convection marches through, but with one anchor we do swing to the wind and the boat is more comfortable. A boat accompanying us had to spend most of yesterday retrieving their anchor chain from around and under various rock or coral bottom obstructions, at depths from 18' to about 40'. We broke out my SCUBA gear and used pretty well the full tank of air before we finally got the anchor up and moved him into better water. AT EASE seems to be swinging well to the full rode so I think we are not fouled... won't know for sure until I lift all that up in the next couple of days.

We'll move back to Chaguaramas, Trinidad for a week or so before clearing out for Margarita, and island off the coast of Venezuela. Trinidad has been difficult to leave... there is so much going on. We still have to attend a (steel) pan band concert, the finals of an island wide competition, this coming weekend. The range of orchestral sounds a good band is capable of producing is truly amazing. We're expecting to hear everything from jazz through classical and, of course, calypso. Another factor driving or extended stay here is the need to stay south of 11 degrees latitude until the end of the hurricane season and the limited options that allows for travel. Everything interesting to the south is very far... 700 NM to Suriname and 1200 Nm just to the northern border of Brazil. The only thing immediately west is Venezuela and the domestic crime and political instability are pretty off putting. Crime there is rampant and is becoming even more common on the offshore islands where cruisers have felt safer heretofore. That is not a particularly attractive incentive to visit.

But we will be leaving Trinidad soon... there are parts of paradise that do beckon and we are indeed restless and eager to travel again. Even the short trip from Chaguaramas to Chacachacare was exciting. Just to be under sail again, and to have AT EASE electronics up and running, and to know we are still seaworthy, was delightful. Of course I did have to quickly repair some 12 volt wiring to get everything running again, but that's what sea trials are all about, isn't it?

Bill and Shirley


Chacachacare, Trinidad, West Indies

Web Posted August 11th, 2002

We decided on another interval on the hard (in a boatyard) so selected the Power Boats Yard in Chaguaramas and were hauled on Thursday, the 8th. There are several issues. I needed to replace some thru hull fittings that were showing signs of corrosion and weeping, and Shirley wanted some help with stripping the teak and buffing/waxing the hull.

In the course of preparing for hauling, I also discovered that the boat's bottom was absolutely covered with barnacles. The prop was so covered I couldn't even generate enough energy to move the boat and had to dive and clean the prop before anything else. Sailors among you will also appreciate that the anchor chain itself, for the 10-15' immediately under the surface, also had such rich barnacle growth that I had over an inch of shell to scrape off as I hauled in the anchor. That was four weeks growth. Scraped off the hull, they made a significant pile of shells on the shore. Even then, the little white circles, calcium rings where they had adhered to the bottom, are so numerous on the bottom the affect is just staggering.

The Interlux CSC antifouling paint that worked so well in the Bahamas and on the east coast absolutely has failed this far down. Granted, Trinidad waters are notorious for their luxuriant barnacle growth, among the worst in the world, but the paint just has done nothing. So added to the boatyard list… new bottom paint to inhibit barnacle growth.

There is a paint, outlawed in the US, that will likely do the job and that's what I will have applied. Even to apply it to my bottom I will have to apply a primer to seal the bottom paint already present, then put on a couple of coats of the new product, Micron 44. It's the tin additive that makes it effective and has led to its being outlawed in the States.

I am also having the shaft of our 45 lb CQR anchor straightened… it was bent retrieving it from rocks in the Dominican Republic. I had anticipated that would baffle folks but apparently was done very easily. I accused the Trinidadian mechanic of just bending the blasted thing across his knee. He had it back that quickly.

A Chinese gentleman, who came with good recommendations from a friend, showed up to dismantle and rebuild and lubricate my winches… very reasonable it seemed. As part of his sales pitch, he had pictures of himself dismantling and rebuilding various winches, all on his kitchen table. Okay, one more item.

I will need an out of the water survey, a close inspection of the boat by a qualified, independent surveyor, before I renew the boat's insurance in January, so will go ahead and get that done here also.

I know to avoid "Boatyard Creep". That's the process of adding to one's work list, over and over, because it is just so reasonable and relatively easy, apart from the money involved, to get things done in a setting where services are so clustered. Sort of like going to Walmart and leaving with a shopping cart full when all you thought you would buy was light bulbs. But knowing to avoid boatyard creep, and then avoiding those impulsive decisions, is something else.

I made the mistake of talking to a German who manufactures and sells Echo water makers here. Pretty convincing fellow. Off the shelf components, modular assembly and 8 gals per hour with 19 amps of power. Cheaper than most water makers but still a major investment. Our existing unit makes only 1 gal per hour at a cost of 5 amps, and I think it may be approaching the end of its productive life. The pump housing is pretty corroded. We use about 5 gallons a day without working very hard at conserving, and carry 120 gallons so usually have plenty of water. However, to make our needs, and then some, in only one hour seems a bit like luxury. Next thing you know we'll be taking fresh water showers more than once a week. I think I will have the water maker installed.

Enough… I told the boat yard folks I would be here a week or less. I think now I will likely be here more than that. "No problem", they said in their West Indian best, all for a fee of course.

A comment on languages. Trinidadians speak English, probably better English than many of the other ostensibly "English" islands of the West Indies. Yet to consider this West Indian "English" and American "English" the same language is just bizarre. The only thing that makes it manageable is the tolerance displayed by all when the inevitable "What?", or "Huh?", response leads to a need to say it all again, sometimes over and over, until some combination of language, inflection, gesture or even plaintive moan produces an approximate guess as to meaning. The opportunities for misunderstanding are rife. The opportunities for goodwill in the face of adversity are even more plentiful. Somehow, it all works.

Boat yards are uncomfortable. The restrooms are a distance away and the boat's head is not functional outside of the water. Because the boat is setting on stands, and boat yards tend to be built in sheltered areas, the wind is unlikely to cooperate by blowing down the long axis, hence cooling the boat, as it does when anchored out. It is hot… humid… dusty… miserable. This is the general rule.

Air conditioning can be rented. Let's see… how long will it take me to make that decision? "There's a problem", they say, "we only rent air conditioners if you are staying for 10 days or longer."

"What might it cost if I did stay 10 days, or just paid for 10 days?"

"Oh… that might be as much as $25 dollars", they said.

If we skipped lunch, if Shirley did her Bubbles dance while I passed a hat, and if I didn't buy that new Makita grinder I've had my eyes on, I think we just might make it.

Here I sit, typing away, with an air conditioner blowing so cold I'm thinking about a sweater, obviously running the risk of a serious chill, while Shirley is out on a day's tour of swamps and jungle riding in a boat with a bunch of other cruisers, swatting mosquitoes and maybe trying on Dengue Fever.

Does she appreciate the sacrifices I make for her?

Web Posted August 2nd, 2002

Around Trinidad, the water is a dark green… black mixed in with the aqua marine of the ocean. Scooped up, it is a weak tea, not truly dirty but neither is it the pristine, the starkly clear quality of the island waters along the way. The Orinoco River, that huge land-based power that must easily rival the Mississippi, whose complex delta is over a hundred miles south, still colors the ocean with its brush and body.

The mournful song of the wind, singing high then low, embracing, caressing the mast and rigging, while creaks and pings and slaps and bumps sound their own rhythm in accompaniment as AT EASE swoops and settles in the ever marching swells sweeping into the Carenage Bay, Trinidad anchorage on this southeasterly wind.

At anchor in Trinidad, looking east to the mid morning sun as the clouds build and billow over and around the green jungled hills, and wisps of fog and rain are clearly seen in the higher valleys, and it all marches inevitably west, this daily rain, to cross the bay, to splash and splatter on the anchored boats, all with their awnings and curtains and canvas, and faces looking out of hatches as the boats swing to the sudden wind.

Walking along the road, from place to place, careful not to look at the honking maxi cabs else they will think you want them to stop, recognizing other cruisers by their uniforms…tans, the wide brimmed sun hats, sandals and the ubiquitous backpacks, and their brightly colored bags from marine stores. Making eye contact and smiling, even saying hello to kindred souls, some of whom speak English but all of whom speak boat.

The Dinghy Dock, whether in the Bahamas, St Martin, Gernada or Trinidad, probably around the world, crowded with its confused mass of hard dinks, soft dinks, apparently abandoned and water filled dinks, and Caribe RIBs by the numbers, with short tethers, and long tethers all twisted and crossed and confused tethers, all pitching and thumping one another, as another dink arrives to play "bumper car", nosing in and among, to reach the dock and add to the congestion. "All ways room for one more", someone calls. They're right.

The Beach/Marina Tiki Bar, magically duplicated ahead of us, always there before us and open for business, and always the same with its small bottles of local beer, its coterie of dedicated, mostly grizzled, sun-dried cruisers of indeterminate age and sometimes gender, with an eager stereo playing something energetic, usually too loud, and the hopeful, the transient, the explorers pausing in their search to see if here there might be something different.

White plastic bags, tops dancing in the wind, and boxes, and bundles and cans and bottles and veggies and loafs of bread, and jugs of water and fuel, all heaped and crowding the dinghy dock, and all proclaiming another cruiser leaving for the next port. A window, weather-wise, to the world, beckons.

A forest of masts, dipping and dancing, rolling and waving, with wind generators twirling, and solar panels flashing… colorful flags of places only imagined announce and proclaim… and dinghies dash here and there on madcap errands, twisting with long white tails within the anchorage. Another dawn lights up a bay where cruisers pause to meet.

Lunch time, and hot and sweaty, entering Joe's Pizza, run by an Italian, populated with Trinidadian Indians, and European-American wanderers, eager for the spicy, cheesy treats of sandwiches and pizzas, Mexican beer and Diet Coke, but asking "Please, may I sit by the fan." What joy!

A daily ritual, the Trinidad Coast Guard Patrol Boat, on their every four hour ferry run to change the shift at offshore oil rigs, this time pausing alongside AT EASE, at anchor, to not miss the foredeck show, one Shirley (AKA Bubbles) soaping down and hosing down, a somewhat clothed body, with salt water. Tis the only time the Coast Guard hasn't rocked us with their wake.

A dinghy, on the beach and flipped for cleaning, engine leaning against a wall, each encased, a half inch deep in places, in barnacle-armor, a mere three weeks submerged. Off the beach, a parade of dinghies, each slowing in turn, with crew's sad smiles and empathic shaking of heads, and a few with all too cheerful and smugly vicious, "Have a nice day!"

Web Posted August 1st, 2002

All is well with my man, boat, and dog, and it is as hot and humid as Arkansas on the boat. When there is a breeze on this trade windless island, we are fairly cool, but when the wind quits blowing, we are steamy. It sounds terrible, but really isn't so bad. I had my first air conditioning in 1987 after starting to college and remember well those torrid days of canning vegetables without the benefit of cold air. Now instead of canning, I spend the hot of the day laid out on the fore peak with a good book and a cold bottle of water wearing as little clothing as possible but mindful of boats with children aboard. Sometimes a nap even sneaks up on me. When even the lightest of breezes fails, I join Bill below to hug the fan.

We caught a maxi taxi for the short ride into Chaguaramas Monday to check me back into immigration. On the mile or less walk back we were greeted by workers who had pulled their trucks in the shade for a brief mid day nap and by several Indians who were swimming and fishing on the banks of the bay. One couldn't really call the shoreline beaches. The water here is dark and white sand beaches are nonexistent. The shoreline is filled with litter that is later carried to sea by rains.

When we returned to Chaguaramas later that night for dinner with friends, probably 25 or more vehicles lined the short span of shoreline, and Indian families were swimming and fishing. Most Indians cheerfully returned our greetings, and one group even put on a playful display of banter with each other for our benefit.

Yesterday we caught Jesse James, famous among the cruisers, for a free maxi taxi ride into Port of Spain to shop at Shop Smart. Jesse, a young man expecting his first child, is truly an entrepreneur who manages a fleet of taxis for the cruisers. He arranges tours, for which he is paid, and free trips to Shop Smart, alias Sam's, and to the IGA. He does not charge for these trips and seems to have an arrangement where the store gives him a percentage of money spent. Jesse's system of managing all the cruisers and their groceries must have taken a while to work out. He announces the Shop Smart trip on the local cruiser's net prior to the day of leaving. Cruisers who want to shop call Jesse on the VHF and arrange to be picked up at their various marinas.

At 9:30 in the morning Jesse arrived at TTSA with two vans (the number of vans depends on the number of cruisers), and dropped us off at Shop Smart. Going through the cashier's counter, we were asked for our membership card, as you would be at Sam's Club. The password was, "I'm with Jesse". The cashier noted something in a small notebook, took our money and pointed us to a place to borrow a marker to note our boat name on our bags. Other cruisers encouraged us to count our bags because they would be delivered by another van to the appropriate marina. Following lunch at the store, with shopping carts parked around us, a driver asked for the cruisers tickets for checking at the exit. After our tickets returned, we mounted the taxi for the trip back to the marina where we waited in the shade at the pavilion until the packages were delivered. Cruisers lined up to carry the bags to tables where they were arranged by boat name. Jesse, not of the West, had done it again.

We boarded our dinghy last night and motored through lumpy seas to join other cruisers at the marina for a showing of "Shipping News" on TV. Because we were barely on time for the movie, the white plastic lawn chairs were all taken under the open pavilion so we raided the adjoining bar for chairs. The volume on the T.V. couldn't compete with the music and laughter from the bar so we moved our chairs toward front, ocean side. Two cruisers did their best with the sound, and the movie commenced with a notice running continually across the bottom of the screen that this movie was for demo only and could not be copied or sold. As the movie progressed, and I was caught up in the plot, I soon paid less attention to the warning, the music and laughter in the bar, and the racket of a child's toy on rough concrete. At times the sounds of the night broke through my concentration, but foremost I was aware of the sound of ocean waves racing to shore, reminding me once again that we are living the life others dream of.

Stay cool and in touch.


Web Posted July 21st, 2002

The conventional wisdom here is that one must keep after contractors and watch them closely in order to get work done and done in a quality fashion. Those who leave their boats, and a long work order with contractors, and then fly home are frequently very disappointed on return. My experience is that folks don't seem to do what they said they were going to do, when they said they would do it. Clocks, and calendars, run on Island Time… sometimes also known as CEST (Caribbean Energy Saving Time). I have two small jobs… to replace some leaky teak and to sew anti-chafe on my mainsail.

I have managed to get them to come to the anchored boat with me providing the dinghy taxi services. They, of course, want me tied up along side in the marina. This is to avoid the possibly five minutes of time lost in their busy schedule. Remember they are on CEST. I explained… I am anchored and the hook is securely down, it would take me close to an hour to pull and clean the chain of its malodorous growth and mud, then I would have to single handedly maneuver into the marina, position along the pier and tie myself off (a great opportunity to screw up and tear something asunder), wait until they were done and then maneuver back out to re-anchor, hoping the anchor would securely set yet again. It's a difficult decision, but I think I'd still rather have them come to me.

The sail folks were going to come and going to come, each time they agreed to call me on the radio if they couldn't, and each time nothing happened. Finally, the man who was supposed to arrive at 1400 did arrive at 1620 to visually view my sail deployed so he could know where to put the anti-chafe patches to protect it from the shrouds. We then took the sail down, pulled out the battens, and he packed it off to the loft for repair. I said my sad goodbyes to the sail, picture a single tear creeping down a sun wrinkled cheek, not knowing when I might ever see yon sail again.

Yesterday morning, promptly at 1000, after previously being told by email to expect him next Monday, but then being told by VHF radio to expect him at 1000, the woodworker, a gentleman by the name of Sterling, actually arrived. He quickly built a template of the deck teak to be replaced, took a sample of the teak so he could duplicate it, and away he went to build the pad for installation on the following day. Wow! Pretty fast really… if it had happened, but of course it didn't. I was standing by as directed at 1000 on the dock, near the cable TV at the dockside bar. The only thing I saw moving was the Dow Jones Industrial Average… heading down, down, down. By 1100 I had returned to my boat. By 1130 I got a call on the radio. Sterling will now be expected on Monday… again at 1000. Right… an appointment it is… but definitely done in pencil.

I must be bored. After taking off hardware so they can get to the teak I answered another cruiser's radio call for help with his computer. Wouldn't boot after he had installed some new software. Of course he had a bootleg copy of Windows 98 operating system, in Flemish, which he had to translate for me as we worked. We finally played around with a crash disk and got in his hard drive and deleted some troubling files, including the new software he had installed that caused the crash, made some room on a crowded drive, then had to reinstall Windows 98. Turned into a 4.5 hour exercise. I'm remembering my drill instructor warned me against volunteering, but even he thought I was a slow learner.

So back to the boat, rummaging among the bookshelves for that as yet unread volume, and even considering reading a mystery before I found Wilbur Smith and his view of ancient Egypt… that will keep me on the edge of the old settee for some days. Here comes the weekend and (shudder visible but groan suppressed) the loud, THE LOUD, hard rock band from the bayside pavilion.

Web Posted July 19, 2002

What an interesting country, this Trinidad, a product of importations of agricultural workers from several different eras. First the Europeans who battled each other for possession from the original South American natives, then African slaves, then large numbers of Indians, then Orientals, apparently largely Chinese. Each of these groups has blended over the years and the product is a handsome people, generally open and friendly and where all ethnic groups seem relatively well represented in government and business. One gets the feeling that the Indians are more numerous… not only from the original levies of workers imported but also from their subsequent efforts to bring over members of extended family. The country seems quite tolerant of different groups, different religions, and even of us nomadic sailors. English is the official language but it is clearly a West Indies English and one has to work to sort out the accents and dialects of the different cultural groups which are obvious. I've been struck by the efforts of the newscasters on local television to enunciate in an exaggerated fashion, hence minimizing dialect and accents.

There is a Trinidad Coast Guard Station on the southern side of this bay, with several boats tied up but apparently only one patrol boat which regularly operates, passing within 20'-30' of AT EASE at anchor. This boat, probably a 60 footer, makes about six round trips daily around the point into Chaguaramas with a deck load of young men, mostly in mufti. Shirley came close to figuring it out… they must be relaying shifts of sailors back and forth to the main harbor/ I later learned they ferry workers out to the offshore oil platforms near the harbor. The Coast Guard has found a way to make a few bucks by operating their ferry service.

Other typical water sounds abound. Cruiser dinghies motoring in and out of the marina off of which we are anchored and the sounds of the boat and rigging and even some hammering and banging from a somewhat distant boatyard around the bay. Just inland from this bay, the land climbs steeply into heavily forested hills rising several hundred feet up. In this jungled area, howler monkeys rule. One can't hear them from the boat, or when near the heavily traveled highway just ashore, but a short walk inland, up a forest road, usually is sufficient. There is a Trinidadian military base inland from here and yesterday I awoke to distant sounds of small arms from a firing range.

And now the weekend is upon us again, along with those weekend only sounds… that penetrating whine of those damn jet skis suddenly arises, always interspersed with the full-throated rumble of idling or roaring ego boats, the ones with the big, exposed chrome plated engine blocks and intentionally inadequate mufflers, 40' long with two seats and bows as pointed as the heads of the drivers. That's not the worst.

To the west, the very back of this bay, there is some sort of bar/restaurant open only on weekends which starts the live music about five on Friday, takes a break Saturday morning from 0430 to about noon, then fires up again until 0200-0300 or so (finally fell asleep) Sunday, then fires up again on Sunday afternoon and night as well. Picture amperage that could cause California brownouts and speakers whose atmospheric pressure disturbances are felt in the ship's hull. Trinidadians, of course, as cruisers, all real cruisers, go to sleep pretty soon after the sun sets.

Saylor and I survived the weekend, worn but fit… but I do understand now why the Trinidadian Custom's insists that all cruisers surrender firearms while in local waters.

Web Posted July 16, 2002

Woke up today to a faint howling in the rigging and a return of the familiar trade winds… blowing 8-12 kts out of the east but a bit gusty rather than that reliable, ever present force we have come to love. The Trades are not as consistent a force here in Trinidad. I suppose that's why hurricanes don't wander down here either. Yet, we do miss these marvelous winds that do so much to make life pleasant, even in the tropics.

The winds ventilate the boat, drying and freshening, fighting the humidity and helping to fight the moisture which collects on all things salty or exposed to salt. The winds dry and cool the skin so that even in this 85'ish degree heat, one feels cool, or at least cooler. The winds drive away the insects, both the mosquitoes and the even more pesky gnats which are somewhat bigger than the "no see ums" of the Gulf Coast but whose bite is reminiscent nevertheless.

Finally, the Trades drive that big fan on the stern, that marvelous wind generator now back in place, and I have the simple, yet immense joy of seeing the amp meter flashing bigger numbers as energy is produced… as electricity flows. Of course solar energy is nice as well, but for the really big numbers on that amp meter, therefore the really big joy, we need wind. With electricity, we have all those tools and toys that make day to day life so much more pleasant… fans, television, movies, computers, water makers, radios and email to name a few. Without, or with minimal electricity, we manage quite well doing more reading and visiting and napping and swimming and such. Now that I think about it, all that electricity may be a distraction from what we came here looking for, but I do love the distractions too, and would feel much more out of touch with those we care about if we didn't have email especially.

We track our friends on other boats using long distance radio and email, keeping in touch as they wander different ports and islands on different schedules. We share experiences and information and frequently make decisions to go somewhere, or skip somewhere, based on that information. We arrange meetings and then are able to look forward to those rendezvous and to friendships revisited. We are able to stay in touch with our friends and family from "home" using email, to hopefully share some of our experiences and to eagerly, hungrily, devour bits and pieces of news and views from those who we miss… and who we wish were with us.

I guess we want both the electricity and the simplicity. Greedy, us Americans… or at least those Americans finding a home in AT EASE.

Web Posted July 14th, 2002

Shirley's in Arkansas. What a change that makes in the feel of the boat and through the course of the day. We are confined aboard in such close quarters and we do together so many of the things we do off the boat… it all feels odd without her.

My sprained ankle is recovering. It is still tender and throbs if I am on my feet for long, and seems to do better with a bandage if I have to move about much. However, I can get about as needed. I am trying to avoid unnecessary time on the foot, trying to hurry recovery time, so have not really been doing much ashore, neither shopping nor exploring.

I did walk in to the KISS manufacturing plant here, really just a store front sort of building, and took them my wind generator for repair. They jumped right on it and two days later had checked it all out, gave me a new propeller hub and new blades, and thanked me for choosing a KISS. Doug, the developer/manufacturer/owner, is every bit as gracious and helpful as his reputation proclaims, and clearly went out of his way to make me a satisfied owner. It's really nice to get such service and support for an item as important to us cruisers. I could have used some help in reinstalling the unit. It is weighty and was awkward to stand perched on the stern rail, one leg hooked around the generator mast to hang on, while carefully running wire and threading the housing on its base, holding everything over my head, and all the while avoiding falling in the water. Now if we can just get some wind…

There are so many marine services here that it seems wasteful to just sit and do nothing while Shirley is gone. I talked to some carpentry folks about replacing/rebedding some teak and recaulking some of my cabin top teak, and talked to a sail loft about putting some anti-chafe patches on my main where the sail batten pockets and the sail rub against the shrouds when sailing downwind. That all seems worthwhile and is easy enough done. Not sure yet how much each will cost but the fact they can get on it as quickly as they can suggests they aren't very busy.

I haven't met many of the other cruisers… they seem to stay pretty much to themselves. Those in the marinas, or on the hard, seem to be involved with one another and I haven't really found a cruiser's hangout that I like myself, or that doesn't involve some walking on my part. The van/taxis here are certainly reasonable, but I just prefer walking as a rule, both for the exercise and out of orneriness, I suppose. I did go ashore for Friday's Happy Hour at the local Tikki Bar. There I ran into Doug (of KISS generator fame) and an American expat who operates several long line fishing supply stores here in the islands. It was interesting to hear their accounts of living and working here in the islands.

The cruisers here have their own morning VHF radio net which includes folks identifying items they want to sell. Now selling is not kosher given Custom regulations and local law, so there is always the caveat that only "barter" is permitted and that only between foreign flagged vessels. I offered our Dahon folding bike over this radio net, indicating that I would trade for three horses, two women… one if a hard worker…, and a future draft pick". No takers so far but when folks ask me what sort of response I have received, I tell them I had one but thought the horses were pretty feeble and turned them down.

The bike is an instrument of torture. Storing the damned thing, or moving it around in the boat, is a pain with it's bumps and corners and extensions and such that hang on everything else. Getting it out into the dinghy is awkward. Riding it is agony! I've ridden bikes various times in my life and for extended periods, once in the last few years. I like bikes… or at least used to. However, when one doesn't ride often the necessary muscles are simply not up to the periodic demand and they complain so exuberantly. Between the burning pain of temporarily over-extended muscle tissue and the rubbery, tremulous legs so evident when I get off the monster, I wonder if walking, even crawling, wouldn't be preferable. For cruisers, I think bikes must be like exercise machines… lots of used one's available for a song. I may just abandon this monster. Not quite sure how I'm going to stable and feed those horses but they have to be easier to manage and live with than this bike.

Web Posted July 9th, 2002

The St Georges Yacht Club had a four day Regatta from July 4-8 and we were enlisted as crew aboard Footloose, a 45' Morgan crewed by Cap'n Ron and Joanne. Actually there were four couples aboard so we had plenty of deck hands and rail meat. The four races were all offshore off Grand Anise, a crescent beach with some rocky, volcanic protrusions stretching about 10 NM along Grenada's SW coast. We were exposed to both typical trades (15-20 kts) and daily squalls with rain and varying amounts of wind. Interesting racing, and an opportunity to see different approaches to sail management among the various cruisers aboard and participating in the race. We managed to win our division in spite of a collision around a contested buoy (glad it wasn't our boat) and a violent squall which struck just a few miles from the finish on the last day. This squall came roaring offshore with winds sustaining in the 35-45 kt range and reaching 50 kts during one exciting period, the whole thing lasting about 45 minutes, or maybe it was two hours. Not quite a knock down but we did have the lower rail and deck underwater until we could get some sail off. We managed to avoid serious injuries but "boat bites" abounded (abrasions and bruising), and one sprained ankle, blossomed among the dauntless crew.

We rushed back to Prickly Bay both to assure ourselves that AT EASE had not left without us and to prepare to depart for Trinidad. It is an 85 NM jaunt, about 185 degrees magnetic, to Chaguaramas from Prickly Bay. To arrive during business hours, hence avoid overtime fees at Trinidad Customs, we departed about 1900 and motor sailed overnight, arriving about 1000 to tie up at the Customs dock and go through the bureaucratic shuffle of clearing in.

It really was a pleasant crossing. Recent weather has been quite squally with higher winds and seas but we happened upon a window of very comfortable weather. Winds were 10-15 kts mostly, from the east, and seas were 2'-4' up to 3'-5', about as good as it gets. We motor sailed with main and staysail, not because of the weather, but because we wanted to make a tank of water with our water maker and needed the electrical power. We picked up a few ships on radar, nothing approaching closely, and saw a brilliantly lit natural gas platform which loomed up like a small city with all its lights and structure.

The approach into Trinidad is striking. The mountainous, heavily forested terrain rises sharply from the sea and rounding the eastern end of the islands puts one into relatively narrow passes inside of small, rocky islands… these passes are called the Mouth of the Dragon because of the strong diagonal currents and conflicted wave action between ocean swell and tidal current. We could see the greasy slick on the surface of the water from the strong current and could feel AT EASE squirm and shimmy as she powered through.

Rounding back east into Chaguaramas, we motored into a huge, deep bay, largely protected by steeply pitched but small outlying islands. The harbor is commercial and busy. This was a large US antisubmarine base during WW II, about 30,000 based here, and included ship facilities as well as seaplane ramps and airfields. Some of that structure has been used since, but there is a good deal of new construction also. Large cable laying ships, general cargo ships and tankers abound, some commercial fishermen, and a veritable forest of masts from all the sail boats both at anchor and ashore for work or storage. Over the past 10-15 years this area has become a major cruising yacht terminus, as many as a thousand boats during the peak of the season, and has the richest cluster of marine services, boatyards, and suppliers probably in the entire Caribbean. Prices, once outrageously cheap, have been rising steadily and now may be more like Miami for many services, but the availability is enticing, especially for such hard to get staples as teak. We'll get our pesky wind generator, built here, repaired and will get some leaky teak on our cabin top replaced. Other than that, AT EASE is in pretty good condition.

We're eager to get ashore and explore. Thus far we have only been ashore to take care of various business issues. There are van/taxis, here called maxi-cabs, which charge $2 TT ($6 TT to a dollar) to ride to the various services and malls. We're only a mile or so from most of the marine services but the humidity here is awesome and not conducive to walking. June through August is the rainy season here. Typically, by 1000 daily, rain clouds build over the island and dump anywhere from misty rain to tropical downpours. We've dug out our umbrella but in fact the rain is a bit refreshing given the heat. However, immediately after the rain the humidity is so great that one is almost instantly soaked with perspiration in place of the cooling rain. Not much choice, all in all. One tends to stay wet.

First impressions of Trinidad… the land is mountainous and lushly green. The people are attractive and seem overall friendly, and speak that British accented West Indies English, with "No Problem" attitude evident. The restaurants are inexpensive and attractive with interesting décor, open to the outside with large louvered panels for outside walls, tables with sparkling white linen and with service that is much more European than up-island typical. Specialty shops abound in clusters, much like small malls, and one can pretty well get whatever is wanted and at prices ranging from inexpensive to about what one would pay in the US. Groceries are a bit more expensive and the range is more limited… some US brands but lots of South American and British labels also. Beef is expensive and what passes for steak here is pretty unappealing, at least in the stores.

Shirley flies home tomorrow so I will do some local exploring myself and visit with other cruisers. Guess I'll just have to sit around and talk about boats and sailing. Oh well!

Web Posted July 8th, 2002


Lunch of "Fish n' Chips" sitting on a second-story veranda of the old Officer's Quarters, built in the early 1800's, overlooking Nelson's Dockyard in English Harbor, Antigua. Trade winds blowing so strong the placemats and napkins had to be anchored with silverware and drinks to hold them in place. A picture showing Eric Hiscock's boat anchored just off here in the 1950's.

A Grenada rum distillery, built in 1785 when the US itself was barely viable, with a waterwheel still powering the cane grinders and with individuals still manually stoking the boilers with dried, crushed, cane… other's ladling the scum off the top of vats of cane syrup and manually cranking pumps that brought the distilled rum up out of stone vats to put in bottles, each 150 proof clear rum. In one window, a one piece, carved wooden shovel (handle and blade) lay as a relic but one could see people doing obviously what people had done 200 years before while energizing this production.

Misty peaks of steep-sided mountains, shrouded by almost perpetual rains, sharply plummeting to the volcanic, crater lake below, fringed by palm and bamboo, backed by lush green hardwoods and all the verdant mass of tropical rainforest. On a wooden rail fence, a ripe banana, left as an offering to the monkeys who playfully exploit humans come to marvel at the Grenada highland vistas.

A plantation house, built in the 1800's, about 1200' above the northern coast of Grenada, with vista to the north of the Grenadines over rough and tumble Conception Beach, named by Columbus, and to the northwest the sharp cleft where the last of the Island's Caribes leapt to their deaths rather than accept capture and enslavement by Europeans.

Lunch, again! An Indian Roti (sandwich, pastry and meat pie with curry) to eat while overlooking a harbor at St Georges, Grenada, where much of the West Indian fleet careened at one time or another and where the surrounding buildings, including our noble balcony, are largely built of the then surplus stone ballast these ships hauled from their various European homes.

Noon, and 6-8' waves rolling up from the stern quarter, the tops breaking off in the 20-25 kt wind, turning brighter green as the sun penetrates, and strikingly beautiful against the deep, purplish blue of the thousands of feet deep sea. One after another, the long interval waves march up to AT EASE, lifts her, stern first and then bow, rolls her as the crest passes beneath, and sighing, marches on to the next horizon as AT EASE slides down into the trough, riding her bed of white bubble and foam. Flying fish catch the eye as they soar impossibly long distances just above the waves, glitteringly silver.

Puzzling black stains on lower sail and cabin top… Fragments of something now dried and indistinguishable in the early morning light. Aha! Squid blown airborne in spray and breaking wave, alarmed and discharging ink, stuck briefly to the sail and then bounced off as AT EASE rolls, to lie dying and drying on the deck.

Sunset, clouds billowing high and glowing in orange, plum and scarlet dress, low to the west and high to the east, crowning the slate of lower clouds, the lighter gray of the sea and the black, sharp outline of houses, rocks and waving palms along a crescent beach.

Two in the morning with a squall, gusting over 30 kts and rolling us side to side, spreading out on the bed to counter the roll, awake but struggling to stay asleep, while rain pounds the deck and canvas snaps and rattles overhead. Air billows around the rain skirts in our hatch hoods… cool and pleasant breath against sweat-moistened skin.

An afternoon, lounging one in the cockpit and one on a settee, gentle rocking in gusty air, cool in shade and pleasantly lost in pages of imagination, with nothing more to do than breathe and be, only aware later of how pleasant and enjoyable this little can be.

Web Posted June 24th, 2002

We took a tour yesterday, actually about 10 hours, motoring with others in a van/bus up around the western shore, across the northern shore and back diagonally across the heart of the island and through the mountainous rain forest of the hinterland. We started with a plan but route and decisions were more flexible than that. A casual question from Shirley, "What is a typical breakfast here", resulted in a sudden stop and our guide purchased salt fish sandwiches, each in coconut bread pitas, for our treat. That was rather quickly followed, by popular request, by a stop for drinks.

We toured a plantation, well up in the mountainous interior, up narrow, twisting and unbelievably steep lanes, overhung by the rich jungle growth on one side and dizzyingly steep drops, maybe hundreds of feet, to rocky streams on the other, up roads seemingly large enough only for one vehicle but where drivers managed over and over to turn these near collisions into a friendly wave. Thank goodness for the popularity, almost universal, of small Japanese vehicles on these islands.

The plantation work buildings dated from the late 1700's but had been patched and maintained so were now a mix of the oldest and newest, but all starkly functional. Local workers proudly demonstrated what they did to harvest and prepare the nutmeg and cocoa for sale, all of it very labor intensive with but the simplest of tools. Tucked up on these steep hillsides, almost hidden by jungle, were ramshackle houses, small and large, mostly wood with tin roofs, open to the air, deteriorating but clearly lived in. Ladies upright beneath their bundles and baskets supported on their heads, walking the up and down paths, brilliant burst of color in the lush green.

We rode along the coast, on a highway now being built, to replace the one washed away in a storm surge some two years ago, past schools built by grants from Taiwan, from Canada, Venezuela and others. We saw new houses, poured concrete but with ornate railing around large verandas, each perched on concrete pillars and reached by high, steep steps. We went through fishing villages, with their small wooden boats anchored offshore and beyond the strong surf. And where ever we went, we saw people. Children and adults, and old and young, out talking and walking and doing and interacting and, almost always, smiling.

Lunch was atop a smallish mountain, about 1200'. Tallest peaks on the island are about 2500'. We ate on a veranda of a plantation home built in the late 1700's, with a view unsurpassed of Grenada's northern coast. From there, we could see the cliff where the last of the Island's Caribe Indians had leapt to their death rather than accept enslavement by the encroaching Europeans. They weren't simply innocent victims, however, having already enslaved and eaten the Arawaks who were here before.

We toured a rum distillery that still produces rum as it did in 1785 when first built. Well, there is probably a bit more iron/steel machinery… huge geared wheels turning now metal grinders to crush the cane. But the energy for this machinery comes from a still active water wheel that ducts natural river water and diverts it along a aqueduct to the wheel. By hand, and with long handled tampers, the fire, in a stone and tile chamber, is fueled by chopped wood and dried, crushed cane. One man, soaking wet with sweat and not pausing a moment for such as us. Inside, the four containers collecting the cane syrup, boiling away, moving from vat to vat, each a purer product, with one man stirring and one ladling scum-like something off the top. The last vat led to the boiler, then the evaporators and then the cooling condenser until it flowed into stone tanks where it was held until bottling. We had a taste, of course. None of this smooth, silky rum of commercial taste… No Sir! This fiery, clear liquid, 75% alcohol, hit my sinuses more than my throat. They thoughtfully provided a water chaser… Thank you, madam!

The rain forest and the mountains must be taken together. As rain forest go, this was a bit immature. A hurricane in 1955, the last to hit the island, had so damaged the trees and forest that hardwood plants were imported from Jamaica for replanting. These are now large but have not really developed a canopy so characteristic of rain forests. More typical jungle fare, ferns, vines, various palm and thousands of banana trees, coconut palms, spice trees (nutmeg, cinnamon, all spice), and tropical fruit trees, are abundant and verdant. The slopes are almost unbelievably steep and irregular, and the peaks are sharp and prominent, the taller seemingly always shrouded in mists and cloud. There are streams plunging down rocky beds, several waterfalls that are just beautiful, and deep pools of clear, cold water. Several old volcanic craters have resulted in small lakes, viewed from high up on the rims and each strikingly beautiful with its bright blue water and deep, green border.

This is so different from my memory of jungles… food is so abundant. People here harvest and eat bananas, breadfruit, coconuts, greens, roots, and various fruits. There is ample fresh water, collected and made available throughout the island. We had sample after sample of fruit, rich juices and such as we traveled about.

Dusk and home, for us, was a trip across the spine of the Island, through the second largest city (Grenville) where everyone was gathering, the streets were jammed with old and young, beset on all sides by Caribbean colors and Calypso sounds, for Friday night out on the town. We skirted the capitol (St Georges) and went out to our Prickly Bay home in time for Happy Hour at the Tikki Bar, a meal of BBQ cooked over split 55 gal drums, while we listened to a steel band, 10' away, hammering driving rhythms into our very morrow.

When we finally retrieved the dinghy and motored out in the velvety night to our anchorage, we were ready for AT EASE to gently rock us to sleep… and she did.

Web Posted June 18th, 2002

We departed Antigua's English Harbor on June 8, about 1600, and headed for Monserrat. I mentioned that cruisers had told us about visible lava flows at night… no such luck. The island's southern half is evacuated and the residents on the northern end, those die hard's who resisted evacuation, must really suffer from the smoke, ash and smell. From our perspective, the island was heavily shrouded in steam, or smoke or dust and we could barely even make out the elevation's profile from five miles off shore.

We cleared out announcing our destination as either Guadeloupe or Martinique, both French ports. Conditions were somewhat challenging… winds sustained at 20 with higher gusts, waves 5'-7', sometimes 6'-8', and all on the nose again as we made easting. After the first 50 NM we were able to swing to the SSW and picked up a beam wind and beam seas. Rolling was pretty challenging when out of the lee of the islands but we decided to keep on going past both French islands and proceed on to Grenada, a trip of 340 NM… four days and three nights.

The weather forecast was for relatively unstable conditions as we approached Grenada and that's pretty well what we saw. Lots of squalls which showed up sharply on the radar but really weren't worth trying to avoid. Wind lines in the squalls were less than 30 kts… usually in the high 20's. I set a reef in the main and alternated between the big yankee, and the smaller staysail on the bow as wind conditions varied. AT EASE performed beautifully and really tamed those waves but she does get a bit wet in the cockpit from water shipped onto the bow and running down the deck and from spray flung skyward as her cutwater bangs the waves. The dodger protected us from the spray and the waves aboard weren't that significant, we didn't even put in hatch boards to protect the companion way, but made the trip pretty wet and uncomfortable for Saylor. We finally put her below on our low side settee, our sea bunk, where she seemed to rest better. However, this created some competition between the off watch crew and Saylor, both wanting to use the lion's share of the sea bunk. We worked it out without obvious hard feelings but Saylor was really glad to finally make port and the closer to land we got the more excited she became.

On the last evening, somewhere off Bequia, I looked out to see dolphins leaping through the wave crests, and actually flinging themselves straight up as if trying to outdo one another in elevation achieved. I know one reached at least 10'. The pod, probably 30 or more, all headed immediately for our bow and did runs out as far as 100 yds before turning and running back. There's simply no doubt they were glad to see us, and were playfully showing off for the pretty sailboat. They hung around for something like 15-20 minutes then got bored and moved on. What a show!

We have found single overnight trips tiring. While we alternate watches, the broken patterns of sleep leaves one feeling pretty tired the next day. Being out for longer intervals is actually better. The second night one is so tired that sleep quality is improved, even though still broken. By the third day/night we are more into the routine and just function better. Still, this was a tiring trip. The boat's movement requires lots of positional adjustments and bracing, muscle activity which is trying. We were glad to get into port. Offshore Grenada, heading for the south coast, we had squall after squall march off the island and bang us about with wind and rain. Even entering Prickly Bay, our anchorage, we were hit by a rain line so dense that visibility was pretty well lost. In rain that heavy, the radar has to be tuned to filter out the rain and this increases the likelihood of missing a weak target… not what I wanted to do entering a strange anchorage. I was preparing to do some circles waiting for a break to get into this somewhat crowded anchorage, but the rain parted just at the bay entrance so we dumped sail and motored on in.

The harbor is surrounded on two sides by steep hills, with many very nice houses overlooking the anchorage. At the end of the bay, a white sand, crescent beach is fringed with coconut palms. There is a marina and boatyard here so marine services are available. Further, taxi drivers hang around just at the dinghy dock so transportation into St George, the biggest city, shouldn't be a problem. This beautiful location is about ¾ mile from the international airport on Point Salines, and ½ mile from the True Blue Medical School, both of these being the targets of our 1983 military incursion here. Remember pictures of the "rescued" students.

The local folks we have met so far have been very friendly and helpful, speaking the West Indies version of the King's English. We felt the folks on Antigua were indifferent at best, down right rude at worse. What a pleasant change.

Web Posted June 16th, 2002

We left about 0900 today for an overnight jaunt to Antigua, about 80 NM away. This was again heading ESE so more motor sailing. Well we did want to get some hours on the newly rebuilt engine. Conditions were good, winds about 15-20 kts and seas 4'-6'. The ship traffic in this area is relatively heavy so we kept the radar on pretty well all the time to allow us to evaluate their course and to steer to avoid too much closure. We usually don't try to call on the radio anymore… just don't find people on watch or maybe just don't find English speakers who want to talk on the radio.

Antigua is a large island with a history of good agricultural production prior to independence. I understand now most agriculture is grazing with lots of goats and a few cattle. There are a number of good harbors and several cities and a good road network serving the entire island. Like we have found on so many islands, there is a semi-official bus service, really just vans, that go from city to city on a frequent schedule and these are very inexpensive. Taxi's are quite dear… the tourists industry is now the major industry on the island and the tourists, mostly English, seem quite willing to pay exorbitant fees for such services. We took a bus across the island to pick up a part at a marine store. The ride was another of those memorable experiences… horn blaring, middle of the road, high speed and narrow roads. Each stop, announced when a rider yelled out "Bus Stop!", required those near the door to get out, allow the folks in the back to depart, and then reboard. It's all done with good humor. We were the only non-islanders on the trip both ways. I think we were a damper on the crowd's interaction.

Overall, we have found the English Harbor area beautiful. We are now out of season so many services and businesses are either closed or doing very reduced hours. The hotels still seem to have quite a few tourists flying in, but boaters are now further south as a general rule. This is considered a hurricane hole with boats tying up in the mangroves and mud. However, most insurance companies want boats to be further south. English Harbor is the home of the Admiralty Dockyard, now called Nelson's Dockyard, which was active from the 1700's through much of the 1800's. Nelson did command here at one time. The various buildings, gray stone construction, include service buildings for the dockyard and transient housing for officers, mostly, maybe a few enlisted who lived ashore while their ships were being serviced. An Englishman came here sometime after WWII and, pretty well single handedly, started the sailboat charter business. He is somewhat legendary hereabouts and his influence, and a lot of his money, resulted in restoration of much of the dockyard into functional buildings and businesses. Nelson's Dockyard was the highlight of our trip.

The down side… the people were difficult to indifferent at best, and downright rude on occasion. Remember I said that tourism was the major industry. They definitely have their hands out and there are fees for this and that, even for anchored boats… a $2 per person per day fee for garbage disposal which one had to carry about a ¼ mile to deposit is a good example. We did find some exceptions and they were certainly appreciated. However, over and over when we tried to make eye contact and to greet folks with a smile and a "good day", we were met with flat expressions, few replies and eye contact avoided. The epitome was one lady we met while walking on the sidewalk… about six feet away she dropped her head, began shaking her head as if saying no, and literally shut her eyes as she passed us.

We did meet some cruisers here, mostly English, and were invited to both a beach party and, later, to join a group acting much like a Royal Navy Auxiliary, who meet daily to have a ritual toast to the Queen and to ships at sea. Sort of a nautical Rotary Club. We also met the author, an American, of Rums of the Caribbean. Nice guy… lost his boat on a reef while entering the harbor here last year but is back again in another boat. I know you're wondering about his attentiveness entering the harbor last year… and probably suspect rum had something to do with it all.

Web Posted June 9th, 2002

We crossed to St Barths (or St Barts) from St Maarten yesterday, motoring all the way heading SE into a SE wind of 10 kts and a 2-4' confused sea. With our newly rebuilt engine, I changed engine RPM every 30 minutes, usually by a few hundred, and both up and down. Everything seemed to work appropriately. Before departure, I dived using our hooka arrangement to clean the prop and noted we needed to replace the prop shaft zinc. Cleaning the prop took care of some vibration I noted when the engine was in gear. I checked the engine after arrival, about 4 hours motoring, and did not see any leaks or problems. Seems we ended up with a good diesel after the rebuild.

Approaching St Barths one sees prominent and steep hills, up to 150 meters high, mostly covered with scrub trees and brush but with some switchback roads and impressively large vacation homes of the rich and famous nestled among the peaks. One is supposed to call ahead, via radio, and secure permission to enter the harbor, but this is island culture and both port captain and the security folks were off on their two hour lunch break so we came on in and anchored just below the old fort (Fort Oscar) guarding the harbor. This is the more upscale destination of Caribbean tourists, not all that easy to reach except by small aircraft, inter island ferry or private yacht. The island is under French control, with French police and military visible, if not at lunch. The harbor is relatively sheltered except from the W and NW, and strictly regulated with a 3 kt speed limit on boats and dinghies. Clearing in was relatively straight forward, with a small fee to anchor just outside the inner harbor but still protected from the swell.

This was a first Caribbean experience with unisex toilets and showers. The port provides both in a long, narrow room with individual, private stalls for either shower or toilet, but the areas immediately outside the stalls are unisex. No one seems to think this is odd… and actually with our experience, neither do we.

The inner harbor is "U" shaped with Med (stern to wall) mooring along the sea wall and close rows of moored vessels in the center. Fees are higher the closer in one wishes to be. From the water front, land rises sharply and buildings become much more sparse, while near the water there are picturesque, colorful buildings, many now businesses, and these reflect the high dollar atmosphere of the island. It is another "duty free" port so there are the top designer name clothes, big dollar jewelry and watches, and restaurants reflecting the range of French colonial rule and France itself. Because this island was historically also ruled by Sweden, there is a Scandinavian flavor in the community. We understand that it is a preferred vacation destination for the more affluent from both Europe and the US… Jimmy Buffet's sometimes presence is often mentioned, and the restaurant which inspired "Cheeseburger in Paradise" (Le Select) is actually one of the least expensive, most casual of gathering places along the harbor. We enjoyed the ambiance, and the cheeseburgers, although these were somewhat pedestrian in comparison to our rather elevated expectations.

The water is very clear and over a sandy bottom. . The boat's bottom is dirty… Simpson Bay is another of those harbors rich in nutrients so the underwater growth is luxuriant. With the ablative bottom paint on the boat, the crud does come off with light scrapping, even the barnacles. However, there is a lot of bottom to scrape… I used a full tank of air and literally was sucking the last breathes when I finished locking down the new prop shaft zinc. No problem… there are dive shops at various places in the harbor and I will refill the tank before departing.

We're leaving here tomorrow afternoon, on our way to English Harbor, Antigua, about an 80 NM jaunt which we will do overnight with ETA around noon. While tempted to skip this area and move further south quickly, this island and harbor has an interesting history. It was once commanded by a young Captain Horatio Nelson, the Lord Nelson of history, and his old Admiralty dockyards have been restored, at least somewhat, by the English colonial rule and this Lord Nelson should feel comfortable striding in the footsteps of the Lord Nelson, after all.

Web Posted June 6th, 2002

We put the newly rebuilt engine, plus new water pump and fuel uptake pump, and a new exhaust elbow, back in the boat on Friday and Saturday, and moved out to anchorage in Simson Lagoon off of La Palapas and just below a prominent knob of a hill called Witch's Tit on the chart. After three tries with the Danforth anchor, which kept slipping on the grassy bottom, we dumped the CQR anchor, which looks exactly like a plow, and locked down nicely. It's pleasant to be back at anchor and have the trade winds blowing down the length of the boat and through these marvelous hatch hoods that Shirley made.

Today we ran across to the French side to lay in a store of French cheeses and breads… superb quality and very cheap. Add a few bottles of wine, French of course, some fresh vegetables and eggs and such, and we are ready to get underway yet again. I had the local version of a bacon cheeseburger for lunch which was quite tasty and Shirley had a Greek salad which looked marvelous. I wonder how Saylor will like her French dog food?

The French love dogs… they carry or walk them wherever they go. Dogs are pleasantly underfoot on the piers, in the restaurants and in the stores. All seem well behaved and none are intrusive or especially curious. This contrast interestingly with the English who have a reputation for loving dogs but whose immigration policy seems to see them as a threat just slightly less serious than nuclear material.

The engine runs smoothly and seems even quieter but there is some noticeable vibration felt through the deck and wheel and which was not evident before. Engine alignment seems good so we're not sure what the vibration is all about… we'll get that cleared up before departing for sea. Probably will have to dive and clean the prop.

The new solar panel adds greatly to our energy independence… we seem to be producing about 5-7 amps hourly, reliably, during the day.

I've mounted one more Caframo fan below to contend with the increasing temperatures as we move south. We still think that these are without doubt the best of the 12 volt fans, producing buckets of moving air for about an amp of energy, and they are quiet.

We plan to leave here for St Barts tomorrow, to sample one of Jimmy Buffet's cheeseburgers in paradise, and then either return here briefly (if the engine needs more attention) or to depart from there directly to Guadalupe. I suppose we do need to move, hurricane season and all, but what a lovely island this has been. We shall miss it!

Web Posted June 5th, 2002

(From St. Marteen/St. Martin)

There is a Yanmar dealer here… one who has a very good reputation among cruisers for diesel service. I'm taking advantage of that to have the diesel rebuilt. Both Shirley and I are tired of breathing exhaust fumes, especially fumes heavily laden with burned oil. They pulled the engine today. Shirley and I had to remove the hard dodger as our part of the operation. The task of disconnecting everything internally and lifting out the engine was done about as slickly, as professionally, as possible and we should get the engine back in about a week. Although I had not noticed any excessive vibration, we did discover two broken motor mounts so will replace all four. This is also a good time to inspect all hoses and clamps and such and to replace as necessary.

I finished installing another 80 watt solar panel on the new "arch" I installed between the two small equipment masts (radar and wind generator) on the stern. There is a fabricator here who has been very helpful and who willingly cut metal so I could construct custom brackets for not only the new panel but also for the two panels I have on my cockpit side rails. I feel more confident that the mounting is now robust enough to withstand heavy weather conditions. Shirley seems more satisfied with the esthetics of the installation.

The B&G instrument package we have aboard, a Hornet 4, gives me wind speed and direction, data that is displayed both at the navigation station below and in the cockpit. It is an old unit, probably original with the boat, and is creating some problems. Wind speed is not always accurately reflected, and that is important data, and now wind direction is inaccurate. I spent about $1500 two years ago to have it repaired and probably should have simply replaced the unit then but that is much clearer now with hindsight. A local technician looked it over and replaced the PC board on the mast head unit and the unit worked but lost calibration in about a week. I cleaned all the contacts and recalibrated… works now... not sure how long.

The list of major equipment failures and replacements over the last two years is getting pretty long. New electronic autopilot (twice), new radar, new mainsail, new refrigeration, new alternator, new electrical monitoring system, new voltage regulator, new batteries (twice), new starter, new galley stove, replacement of the wind generator, and now an engine rebuild. We've gotten a new, larger dinghy and a new, larger outboard motor also. Shirley has sewn a new Sunbrella sail cover and hatch hoods. We've put on a new hard dodger. Now it looks like new wind instrumentation may be necessary.. Not cheap, this sailing lifestyle, when one insists on having the full range of equipment, but then it really isn't unreasonably expensive either when one considers the comparative costs of housing and transportation and other living expenses when living ashore.

It is possible to sail with less. No instruments… just read the wind by feel and by the look of the sea and sails. No radar… just keep a good lookout. No engine… after all it is a sailboat. No electrical system… use lanterns and oil lamps. No autopilot… someone is on watch anyway and they can steer. No refrigeration… just select foods that will keep. No water maker… just wait for the rain and conserve otherwise. No plumbing or head… buckets could manage instead. Use paper charts… get rid of those GPS's and computers. After all, we have a compass. Forget about the SSB radio and email, use snail mail instead.

One could do all that, and some really do. Many compromise and do without some things but insist on others. The range of boats out here, and the range of equipment aboard, is striking. But we feel quality of life and the safety of the boat, and its crew, are greatly enhanced by such equipment and the expense is well worth it.

Web Posted May 27th, 2002

What a lovely island, this St Martin (French) or Sint Maarten (Neatherlands). Seven miles long, mostly French, with a central lagoon easily large enough for the hundreds of boats here and which allows easy dinghy access to either of the two distinct cultures. We have dinghied across to the French side, which has a decidedly more European flavor about it, and which is also more glitzy, more tourist driven, but still managing that small French village quality which is so attractive. There are attractive sidewalk cafés, restaurants, bakeries and, of course, tee shirt shops. As the whole island is duty free, there are the expected jewelry stores, camera shops, high-ticket clothing stores, liquor stores and such. But this just doesn't have the tawdry, neon, vulgar quality of south Florida or Nassau, or the cutsey flavor of the British and American Virgins. Both sides seem relatively safe with no more than the run of the mill sort of crime with which all communities seem afflicted.

The Dutch side seems more commercial along the waterfront with an extensive seawall, Med Mooring of yachts, boat yards and marinas and all the associated marine industries. Inland the streets are narrow and housing and businesses interspersed, and development seems more of a hodgepodge than any planned evolution.

I was told that the movie "Speed II", certainly less than memorable as a movie, was filmed here. I always wondered what island they used. The island scenes were certainly the most attractive.

While there are Dutch speakers here, and obviously French on both sides, most folks seem able to manage English and there seem to be a large number of Americans and British who live here, many on their boats but numerous others ashore. I've spoken to several who are adamant in affirming their intention to stay here. Money could be confusing and probably is for the retailers, what with Euros, EC's (Eastern Caribbean), Francs and Guilders as well as US, but they happily accept all and even give change in the currency tendered.

Eating out is relatively expensive here. However, the quality and variety of food is excellent and a real temptation, especially given the easy access via dinghy to just about anywhere we want to go. We had a wonderful Indian meal last night, Shirley had chicken cooked in a yogurt and coconut sauce and I had roast goat in a rich and spicy brown sauce, both served with rice and Indian bread (nan). We ended up paying about $20 each, which is probably about as cheap as one can eat out at night. Lunch is generally somewhat less expensive which is, of course, why so many cruisers choose lunch for their big meal ashore. We both enjoy fresh French baguettes, soft French cheeses and fruit and wine for a meal, and these are readily accessible and not so very expensive.



A close call today! We had been managing on solar power alone but with some overcast skies the last couple of days our batteries were low. I started the engine to charge the batteries and casually glanced around, while the engine was still at low RPM, to make sure we weren't moving. I increased RPM and went below… moments later I heard a call from a passing boater in his dinghy. We were in gear and rapidly moving down on his boat, anchored nearby. I quickly reversed the transmission and stopped the boat but had run well up on my anchor and had even overtaken his boat. While we had about 15' separation, that was a close call, a frightening experience, and a reminder how even momentary inattention can really be serious.

After adrenaline had dissipated and breathing was back to normal the other boater and I talked a bit about the experience. He was understanding and tolerant enough not to up his anchor and flee for safer haven elsewhere in the lagoon. I am now older, and wiser, and hopefully more careful a cruising sailor.

Bill and Shirley


Simpson Bay, St Martin

Web Posted May 14th, 2002

We departed Navy Station Roosevelt Roads about 0930 05/10/02 generally enroute to St Martin (Sint Maarten) but sensitive to weather conditions at the same time. The route is generally east and right into the 20 kt wind, of course, Although seas were only in the 3-5' range, they were building and the ride was wet and "a bit of a bash" as the Brits among us might say. Overnight wind was forecast to build to 25 kts with higher seas the longer the blow continued. We decided to go into Cruz Bay, St Johns, American Virgin Islands but approaching darkness argued against that so we diverted into Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas instead, arriving at dark and motoring into a crowed anchorage with the help of our new radar which performed wonderfully.

This brings back pleasant memories of our trip here about 10 years ago with the Braden's and Hixson's, still recalled by Shirley and I as one of the really great experiences of our life. Charlotte Amalie is a beautiful harbor with steeply rising, deeply green hills (when does a hill become a mountain?), and hillside homes and condos, as well as large resorts, thickly sprinkled amongst the vegetation. Roads are narrow, sharply curved and even switch-backs to get up the sides of these impressive slopes. Two huge cruise ships were tied up at the West Indies Quay on the harbors eastern side, near the marina, and numerous private yachts, mostly sailboats, are anchored for about a 100 yds back and into the harbor. The western side has a few clusters of anchored boats but stays clear because of the ferry traffic in and out and the twin engine sea planes that land and leave probably 10 times a day.

These cruise ships are awesome… nine decks above the main deck, 4 more to the waterline, and who knows how many below the waterline but still able to maneuver on their own in these crowded areas using stern propulsion and the four thrusters on each side of the bow. They back up and turn like sports cars.

This is a tourist town, chocked full of duty free shops with the riches of the world beautifully displayed and maybe even some of them are good buys. Shirley and I went ashore to wander marine stores, of course, and buy some more replacements and spares. The Budget Marine store here is only a couple of blocks from the waterfront and one has to take advantage of that kind of accessibility. I bought a new bilge pump for the forward bilge (the old one losing power and volume), a new manual pump for the head holding tank (old one had a small hole in the diaphragm), and another 12 volt fan, a Caframo which we think is the best, by far, on the market. As we were in port for Mother's Day, we celebrated with a superb brunch at the Marriott Resort here, Frenchman's Reef, a feast we won't soon forget. The twisting, turning taxi ride was breathtaking, mostly because of the scenery high on the hills, but also because of the narrow and busy highways. The resort was beautiful, plush and resplendent with conspicuous wealth from one supposes everywhere. The assortment of foods, each a culinary delight, presented quite a challenge to our quickly faltering appetites. It was all so special, we probably should have paid rather than slipping out the side door the way we did.

For now, we're comfortable riding at anchor, just a slight swell to rock us to sleep, and will probably leave sometime tomorrow or the day following to move around between St Thomas and St John's to stay overnight in Hawks Nest Bay, then on to the British Virgins and/or St Martin depending on the weather.

Web Posted May 6th, 2002

Woe is us! The bane of cruising, without a doubt, is the frustration of being stuck somewhere awaiting mail and or parts and/or for some service. I suspect the base frustration is that we have such little control over what is transpiring.

We've been dealing with maintenance problems which are probably reasonable given the demands we place on the boat and it's systems. Knowing what problems could result down the road, what with customs duties and difficulty with importing parts, we decided to get as much done here in Puerto Rico as possible and came back into Roosevelt Roads Navy Station to tie up at their service dock. We do have power and water, and a rental car to use on base, so we can access the base's amenities for shopping and recreation.

I started to disassemble the wind generator, anticipating I would have to replace bearings. Nope, not that simple. First, I couldn't get the propeller assembly off and this should have been simple. To get a purchase, I had to essentially de-install the unit. Undoing wiring, taking the housing off the mast, taking off all three blades and then taking the unit to a shop here on base to borrow a BIG wrench. We used a four foot long pipe wrench to break the propeller hub loose. Okay, now off with the facing and there was the problem. A magnet had come off the rotor, jamming against the stator and twisting the stator within its housing. I suspect the shaft is bent. The bearing seemed fine. I called the manufacturer in Trinidad, three times, each time speaking to the fellow who, I suspect, swept the front stoop and who, each time, told me to call back as the boss was out. He finally gave me an address for shipping. Okay, still under warranty, so shipped the whole thing off to Trinidad to be rebuilt… the FedEx fee was really monstrous. Then I get an urgent email telling me that without certain codes and magic words on the label Trinidad's customs folks would assess further huge fees and delays. Called the FedEx folks who got on the computer and inserted magic words and codes on to the label and, in spite of my lack of confidence, that worked. I have the unit back now… still some problems but should be able to move on to Trinidad and have them finally resolved there.

My radar has been acting up as well and when I tried to use it during my last approach and entry into Roosevelt Roads it failed to transmit. Okay, break out the troubleshooting guide and start tracking down the problems. Wiring, probably. But while checking out the wiring, it becomes more and more obvious that the cable shielding, at least, has deteriorated badly over the 15 or so years the unit has been installed and shielding is pretty critical to good radar performance. I already knew I had some problems with that from the increasing "noise" on the screen and the need to fine tune over and over. A call to Raytheon pretty well confirmed my feelings… four generations old and not really worth much in the way of repair. Time to upgrade radar. I called the same folks who installed my autopilot and arranged for them to install a new unit, then called West Marine and ordered a unit to be sent here via FedEx. Okay… waiting on parts.

Finally, the radar arrived and two days later I head out to the gate to clear the installers through the high level of security present… they were only 90 minutes late. Back to the boat and quickly start the installation. Oops! The old cable is somehow locked into the mast, cable ties or a bind of some sort, and defies our efforts to manhandle it out. I refused to even consider going to a yard to have the mast unstepped (taken down). Now what? Okay, let's put up another short mast off the stern to mount the antenna, a 90" mast on the port stern to match the mast on the starboard stern where the wind generator is housed. Makes sense… but another order this time to Edson for mast assembly, and careful measurements for fabricating the custom fittings necessary to mate this with my stern. Oh yes, another week of waiting for parts, I thought, but that has now turned into three weeks and is pushing beyond even that. Still waiting.

I mentioned the "on base" rental car. These are pretty worn "fleet" cars purchased from somewhere after their functional life is near the end. My first one had a good air conditioner, a pleasant treat, but badly worn brakes that screamed in protest at every use. Replaced that with one that has excellent brakes, but no functional air conditioner. Oh well, still gives us access to shopping and video rental here on base and we have caught up on most of the latest movies missed over the last two years. We also have access to such delights as pizza and even internet access… so what if the car doubles as a sauna?

While waiting for everything else to fall into place, Shirley noticed leaking water around the base of the marine toilet… the one I rebuilt about three months ago. I took the toilet apart again, always a pleasant prospect, to find small cracks in the molded plastic base, also new only three months ago. Out comes the Drimel to open those cracks a bit, and Marine Tex, a two-part putty which will adhere to anything and cures hard as… well, at least as hard as fiberglass. After putting it all back together, and you have to picture the bending, twisting, squatting and contorted posture which made all that possible, did it work? Come on… you know better than that! "Oh gosh durn", said Bill, who decided that it was time to go to bed. Awake within hours, with visions of plumbing diagrams running through my head, I popped up about 0330 to check my work. Sure enough, I had left a hose loose. "Seems fixed now", but he has said that before.

While waiting, we have been doing other projects. Shirley has our sail making sewing machine out making a new sail cover out of sun-resistant material. I get to put fasteners into the canvas. While we have the sewing machine out, and have plenty of sun-resistant canvas, we will reinforce some abrasion points on the headsails and restitch some popped seams. I've had to repair hot water plumbing, replace a worn gasket, by twisting and contorting down in some cabinetry, free some seized hardware fixtures (dissimilar metal corrosion), and do some scrubbing to get rid of rust stains on the stainless (Yeah, right!) steel. We've been cleaning the external teak a bit at a time, letting most of it go back to natural to reduce the work load some. I've moved some equipment around on the stern pulpit to make room for the new radar mount. I've run some internal wiring behind some woodwork and to the new radar so that my cockpit GPS and radar can talk to one another. But all that being said, there has still been plenty of time to read and catch up on those movies. Not so bad.

We're having a good time. We meet other sailors, or locals, just about everywhere we go and that has been a very positive part of the experience for both of us. We were invited for dinner to the home of CDR Daly Baty, the XO of the Atlantic Fleet Tactical Weapons Facility, the control for the Vieques ranges, and he also gave us a tour of their headquarters. This is the home of Special Operations Command-South, since they left Panama, so the marina is full of young Special Forces types, some of whom have already been to Afghanistan and have returned. Makes me wish I was a young Marine again. Plus, there are a group of crusty old Caribbean sailors who have been in these waters for years and years and use the Navy Station marina as their home base. It's been nice talking to them. It really has been okay to be here, but frustratingly difficult to get the parts I ordered. Hopefully we will have everything in the next few days and can get on with our trip south.

Web Posted April 9th, 2002

We have some things pending in the Roosevelt Roads area that will require us to come back in a week or so, but decided to take advantage of the rich cruising area and go out to Culebra (25 NM) for a few days. The trip out was another motoring excursion directly into the easterly trades (15-18 kts relative) with steep whitecaps breaking against the bow so we shipped plenty of spray and a few white water waves aboard. Bashing into the trades is just a tough way to make distance but to the east we go. We went into Culebra's main harbor and anchored behind the reef at Dakity Harbor which is right at the mouth of the larger bay which shelters Dewy, the only real community on the island. It's a 1-2 mile dinghy ride into Dewey from Dakity but worth it. The anchorage, which has free moorings provided by Department of Natural Resources, is immediately behind a reef which breaks the surface and builds impressive surf, and is backed by the island proper with rising vegetation covered hills and a sandy beach. One can see St Thomas on the eastern horizon, Vieques on the southern and PR proper back to the west. The moorings are not well positioned, being right on the eastern sandy shelf which is shoal. As long as winds are typical, no problem, especially for power boats. With any swing to the south or north, one is put right on the shelf. You might ask how I would know that. Well, there wasn't much boat action the next morning when we woke up… and I could see a few more inches of bottom paint.

The Island is characterized by rolling hills up to 200-300 feet with relatively little flat ground. Shores are mixed with attractive beaches and offshore reefs and rocky cliffs. We ran to shore to check out the community. There are a number of Guest Houses (small hotels rather than B&B's), one small resort hotel, a number of small restaurants and bars and specialty (art, shirts, diving, etc) shops , a relatively well stocked market and a small marine/builder's supply store. Residents are served by a ferry to PR and there is an airfield with scheduled service. While the majority of folks are native Puerto Ricans, there is an increasing population of US expats living here. We met a couple from Long Island who have just completed their home here and anticipate moving in when they retire the end of the year.

There are several islets, numerous reefs and many exposed, large rocks in the area around Culebra and we decided to head to the outlying areas, more isolated anchorages, to avoid the large number of local sport fishermen and power boats that run out from PR for the weekends. Shirley dove to see how we were setting on the bottom and then I put out the Fortress anchor as a kedge. Between the primary winch and the engine, we worked off the shelve and got underway.

Isla Culebrita, just around the eastern side of Culebra, has a deep horseshoe anchorage under a lighthouse, is surrounded by shallow or exposed reefs, and has a snorkeling area known as "the Jacuzzi", one assumes because of the currents around the rocks. We moved in and picked up another mooring ball, again in and amongst local weekend boaters enjoying the beach. This made for a noisy day and evening but by Sunday evening they were heading home both to prepare for their week and, I suspect, to avoid some incoming weather. A front has been slowly working down through the Bahamas and moving east and has now generated high NE winds (20-25 kts with higher gusts in squalls), and higher seas (8-10') for the next several days throughout the Bahamas, PR and the Virgins. We stayed in the anchorage which became lively with some whitecaps and swells working in around the reefs. Looking out to sea, we can see reefs on the left and right with breaking surf and several large rocks with cliff faces upon which the breakers are pretty impressive. Shirley and I put a second line on the mooring buoy and ran it aft to swing the boat a bit to flatten out the swells but boat action is still pretty active.

We will likely have to depart and return to PR before this blow lays but should have winds and seas on the stern so it should be an exciting run. Right now, we anticipate getting underway tomorrow morning for a 25 NM run back across Vieques Sound to Puerto del Rey, just outside of Fajardo, PR. We're hoping for an opportunity to celebrate or upcoming anniversary ashore so will challenge the weather… if it doesn't become worse.

Wear and tear on the boat continues… an inevitable cost of day to day living and the work load which the boat has to assume in these more challenging conditions. My wind generator (remember how much we like our electric toys), which earlier wasn't working, I fixed (short in the electric brake system). Now it is frozen. Folks tell me this is a simple replacement of bearings which should be available through a NAPA store. I haven't found much simple about boat maintenance to this point but maybe there really is a Santa Claus. I've had our new propane range apart again to reset a thermocoupler as one burner would not stay lit. The manufacturer is sending me a spare thermocoupler as this one may be going bad. There is something seriously wrong with my television antenna… it seems to receive Spanish-speaking stations more clearly than those where M'erikan is the language de jeur.

Bill and Shirley Martin


Isla Culebrita, Spanish Virgins, PR

Web Posted April 1st, 2002

We departed Esperanza about 0800 on the 24th for the short hop down the coast to Isla Chiva, a Navy recreational beach just east of their Blue Beach exercise area. On the way we steamed past Red Beach, an area that I have landed on multiple times and have enjoyed diving off of as well. Before entering into the restricted Navy area, we called Vieques Range Control on the VHF radio and were assured the range was "cold" until the following week. Boats are free to use the immediate offshore and beach areas under "cold" conditions, but are cautioned not to move inland because of danger from unexploded ordinance. We were the only boat anchored in this beautiful bay and had the protective fringe of reef and crescent sandy beach all to ourselves. There was a pretty good swell rolling in from the SE but we salty sailors rigged a spring off the anchor chain and, with some experimenting, managed to swing the bow around to minimize the rolly conditions.

We not only had wonderful snorkeling but Saylor got to get ashore for a romp on the beach and inland into the tough, grassy and brush-covered land backing the beach. Lots to explore for her, but she came home with sand burrs aplenty, including enough tucked in to her feet and legs that she was limping. A sharp pair of scissors took care of that problem.

Diving on the shallow reef was a mixed bag. We saw colorful fish and some live coral recovering, but much of the reef was sand silted and covered with broken, dead coral… casualties of the last hurricane to hit here. I carried my Hawaiian Sling (spear) and took a couple of shots at medium sized grouper but missed. Pretty hard to get close enough as they are very wary and have so much structure to duck and dodge among… that and the fact that I'm a lousy shot.

On the 26th we rounded the eastern end of Vieques and hoisted sail for a day long, westerly run back down the northern coast to cross Vieques Sound and enter Roosevelt Roads Navy Base. Both Shirley and I broke out in huge smiles to be sailing again without that rumbling engine banging away. Wind declined during the day from 15 kts to less than 10 kts but we sailed downwind with a following swell rolling us through 15 degrees or so. I did pole out the headsail and rigged a preventer on the main to protect from accidental gybe. As calm as the seas were (2'-4') the fore deck was still active enough to make managing the whisker pole all the job I wanted. Can't imagine putting out that big thing in any kind of significant sea state.

Roosevelt Roads has a marina for active and retired military but this is at the back end of a relatively large, sometimes very active Navy port, and a large naval airbase. With the close of US bases in Panama, there is now a large population of Army, Special Forces and even Air Force mixed in with the Navy and Marines. Entry is controlled. I had to contact the marina, file a float plan and get a number, which I then used to contact port control and request permission to enter the port. No problem… permission granted. We sailed into the turning area, dropped sails, and motored over to pick up a mooring ball just outside of the marina. It's nice to be back on a military base. I rented a car (on base use only) as base facilities are spread out. First things first… I got a haircut and feel civilized again. Runs to the Exchange, Commissary and to the Animal Clinic (heart pills for Saylor) and the boat was provisioned again. We picked up a packet of mail from the States and Shirley got started with a dentist to repair a broken and painful tooth. There's a dive shop… laundry got done… propane and fuel are available… clubs and restaurants… kinda nice for a change.

We'll be here until the dental work is completed, a week or so, and until Shirley recovers from a spell of back pain, then plan to revisit the Spanish Virgins (Culebra) and then either on to the US/British Virgins or straight down to the Dutch/French island of St Martins.

We had a chat with a retired Navy couple on a 47' Vagabond sailboat (s/v Drogheda). They have lived in the Caribbean for the last five years but are now bound for the States. They did provide a good briefing regarding life in Trinidad and Venezuela, minimizing the reports of rampant theft especially in Venezuela but also emphasizing the need to take reasonable precautions. They did, however, spend a good deal of time in secure marinas. Guess we'll deal with all that when we get there.

Bill and Shirley Martin


Roosevelt Roads, PR

Web Posted March 31st, 2002

Anchor up at 0001 to depart Salinas, PR harbor enroute to Vieques, PR, an island about 10 NM off the eastern end of PR and one of the two Spanish Virgin Islands. We departed at such an early hour to take advantage of the reduced trade winds and steep, associated seas which are so much more a factor during daylight hours. The trades build from sunrise on, sometimes taking until 1000, sometimes full blast by 0800, but always more pronounced during the day. Heading east, one heads directly into the wind and sea, sometimes complicated by swells from a different direction. We've been heading east now since we left the Turks and Caicos and are ready to get into those balmy sailing conditions with beam trade winds, so characteristic of the Windward and Leeward Islands. Not quite there yet!

As we departed the harbor and were maneuvering to our offshore route, a radar target separated from shore and rapidly overhauled from astern. Couldn't see a thing until this unlighted boat, Coast Guard or Police, passed within 25' and then made a big sweeping turn back inshore. Not sure what I did to warrant the look over… maybe just departing at such an ungodly hour.

The run down the coast was uneventful, all done with sails down and engine at max cruising. In calm seas we can motor about 6.8-7.0 kts. With winds of 15-20 kts relative on the nose and seas in the typical 3-5 or 4-6 range, speeds will drop to mid 4's with some series of waves backing us down to the low 3 kt range. Lots of spray generated by these conditions, but our cockpit is relatively dry and protected by the dodger and, when it blows over the top, the awning.

By about 0830 we had covered the 47 NM and anchored off the western end of Vieques, an area known as Green Beach. Vieques, as I suspect you know, is quite controversial now. About 2/3 of the island has been owned by the Navy and used for air, ship and ground live fire, and for amphibious and naval training, since WW II. I've landed there numerous times both with Marine infantry and later while with Recon teams. Now at least some Puerto Rican residents, and a few of the significant number of US retirees now living there, are protesting the Navy's use of the island and demonstrating to force the Navy to leave. I believe the US has announced a willingness to do this over the next several years.

Green Beach has about the calmest waters we have seen. There is a prominent hill providing wind shadow of the beach area and the anchorage is absolutely slick. A white sandy bottom and crystal clear water make this a great place for some underwater maintenance. First, Shirley and I snorkeled some nearby reefs. Then I rigged the hooka line and went under to scrape the mass of small barnacles off the bottom. These are clearly the result of lingering in the nutrient rich waters of Luperon (DR) harbor for too long. Vegetation had blown off during passages, as expected, but there were dense patches of barnacles, each half the diameter of a pencil or smaller, located all over the rudder, on the trailing 2-3' of the hull and on the leading 1-2' of the bow, all down to the bottom of the keel. Barnacles grew elsewhere but no where as dense as in the pockets above. They came off easy enough but did take direct effort. Glad I got them before they had grown larger and more affixed.

The next day (3/23/02), we motored the 10 NM around to Esperanza, a community outside of the Navy area, and took up a mooring ball, but not without incident. The charts showed 10-12' of water toward the eastern side of the bay (or intended anchorage), but the reality was more like 4-5' over a broken, rocky and old coral bottom. I draw 5'6". Guess what happened? I tend to slow down to a creep when entering new harbors so was exposed to more a series of grinding bumps than an abrupt halt as the bottom touched and bounced. I turned toward deeper water and began moving west as a moored boat called on the radio to state the obvious ("Hey… it's shallow over there!"). I did a quick dive on the keel which had only a few more grooves and scratches… no real damage. We got the motor on the dink and stopped by on our way into town to thank them for their call, and got a brief on local conditions from an American couple running a sail chartering business from Puerto Rico.

Ashore, it was a typical PR community with generally smallish houses, small businesses, all tucked up close to the street and in various stages of orderliness and repair. Lots of traffic cruised the streets and a surprising number of tourists staying at hotels on the island and enjoying the beaches and restaurants, walked there and about in various stages of undress and sunburn. We stopped at a local dive shop to fill my depleted tank (believe I may need to get a second for the boat), and discovered a retired SEAL who owned the shop. We chatted for awhile about mutual acquaintances while I got more information about local conditions on the island. We ended up taking an after dark tour of one of the local bioluminescent bays… one person sea kayaks out and a swim in the bay. Every agitation of the water, paddle or swimmer or fish, produced a glowing halo as the very small organisms gave off their burst of light. Pretty incredible experience, all in all. We've seen bioluminescence at sea from time to time in the boat's wake, and not infrequently when we flush the toilet (pretty surprising when half asleep in the middle of the night). But have not seen the density of luminescence present in these now protected bays.

Bill and Shirley Martin


Esperanza, PR

Web Posted March 22th, 2002

We motor-sailed up the coast last night to arrive at 0830 off the western end of Vieques here in the Spanish Virgins. Mostly tired now and looking forward to sleeping this morning but also excited about what will be a multi-day excursion to various anchorages around the islands. Beautiful beaches and water again... white sand and coral bottom, 15' of absolutely clear water and anchored 40 yds off a white sand, crescent beach fringed with coconut palms. Not bad.

Bill and Shirley


Vieques, PR

Web Posted March 19th, 2002

We completed installation of our new autopilot on Friday and left that afternoon to sail about 10 NM out and offshore to a small island and park where we spent the weekend. A tournament at the Ponce Yacht Club and the St Pat holiday promised a wild and noisy time in the harbor so we fled to quieter quarters. Saylor accompanied us ashore on Sunday for a trek up to the old colonial Spanish lighthouse about 214' ASL via a relatively primitive path through the scrub and up over rock. We enjoyed a marvelous meal with John and Christine, a British couple who we had enjoyed drinks and dinner with while still in Ponce, and who had also sailed out to the park.

On Monday morning, predawn actually, we motored back to Ponce to pick up a final mail packet and then left immediately for Salinas, PR down the coast some 20-30 NM. This was a motor trip through head winds up to the low 20's and seas largely 6' or less but very steep and short interval so it was a smashing, frothy bangfest which had only one saving grace… it was an excellent test of the hardiness of the autopilot. Performed beautifully. It really does reduce the workload dramatically to be spared the absolute attention which the wheel demands in challenging conditions. The Monitor is also a worthy crew member, one we have grown to love in the roughest conditions, but nothing manages a precise course like the electronic autopilots with their own computer and when mated to a GPS.

Salinas is a crowed anchorage with boats heading south and those heading north. We were hailed by another double-ender sailboat whose crew was headed back to Ohio after having completed their circumnavigation over the last four years. They rounded via the Beagle Channel, rather than Cape Horn, and dismissed this as a "protected passage" not like the real challenge of the Horn. They ended up in the same restaurant as us and we swapped some stories… wish we had more time to pick their brains and learn from their experiences. There must be fifty boats here, anchored or in the marina, all cruisers and all with experiences to inspire and fire the imagination. We hope we will meet them all over the next few days we plan to spend here before moving on to the Spanish Virgins. Shirley will spend at least a day cruising the island with a cruiser from s/v Footloose. I will spend a day just enjoying Salinas and it's very own marine store with stainless steel and filters and shackles and braided line and stuff that I obviously need.

Bill and Shirley


Salinas, PR

Web Posted March 9th, 2002

S/v AT EASE is still anchored off of the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club, waiting on installation of a new below decks autopilot. For the sailors among you, we chose the Raytheon ST6001 with Type 400 Core Pack and T2S Linear Drive. The delay involves fabrication of a base to mount the linear drive down there in the deep, dark and damp spaces abaft the engine where the steering quadrant lives its greasy life.

Ponce's charms are fading. The community, like so many, has its beach and harbor area (Playa de Ponce), and a several miles inland commercial city. Further, since it is American in a real sense, there are bypasses and highways and new shopping centers which are supplanting the old Spanish plaza and Mercado (marketplace) of the city center. Bottom line… it takes a taxi to get anywhere and to get back. Bummer!

We did take a trip ashore to visit the Caribe Mall, a huge shopping center, for a meal and a movie, as well as some basic mall-crawling. The movie had Spanish subtitles, a bit disconcerting, but was enjoyable nevertheless. The meal was at a Sizzler… guess we just needed an America fix before we start cruising again.

We are a quarter mile off from the ferry landing and seaside boardwalk which is lined with a series of small restaurants and bars. Beginning Friday night and continuing through Sunday night (actually wee hours of Monday), these all broadcast very loud Latin music and are apparently jammed with revelers who display remarkable enthusiasm and endurance until 0300-0400 in the mornings. Using fans for white noise makers on the boat helps us sleep but still doesn't mask the exuberant and driving rhythms. Monday's are pretty quiet. We are told by others that down island weekends are just as intense and that "Recovery Days" off have become institutionalized following official holidays. I think we must be getting too old and certainly don't want to be here for another weekend.

Hopefully, we will be moving again and perhaps by Friday if all goes well. If not, early next week. On to the Spanish Virgins (Culebra and Vieques) for a return to small anchorages and less urbanized surroundings.

Bill and Shirley


Ponce, PR

Web Posted March 1st, 2002

Along with the crew of s/v Footloose (Ron and Joann), we caught a taxi for the ride into Mayaquez to clear in through US Customs and Immigration. This was a 15-20 minute ride, along highways and with vistas similar to anywhere in the US, although all signs were in Spanish, to the industrial port area (for Immigrations), and then to a Customs House dating from 1922. Clearing in was a matter of filling out paper and presenting passports and ship's documentation. They did, of course, affirm that I had purchased the $25 Custom's decal for the current year… that user's fee seemed to be pretty important whereas what the ship carried was of little interest or attention. Bureaucrats will be bureaucrats in whatever language. I was specifically told to call and check in with Customs each time I moved from port to port in Puerto Rico. "Why" , I asked? "That's what we do here", she said. When I asked about moving to or from the US Virgin Islands, she suggested this was complicated but really depended on the mood of the Custom's agent on duty. Wow… what personal power!

Part of the planned trip to Mayaquez was a stop at a mall which would rival any I know of in the US. In fact, it was a US mall, including a Walmart, with everything in Spanish. We feasted on good ole US junk food (a Wendy's), then wandered through Sears and Penny's making the same unnecessary purchases we might have made even in Little Rock. With a final run through a supermarket we returned to Boqueron and our respective boats.

We discussed plans with our friends… they wanted to wait there while getting their SSB radio repaired. We wanted to move on to Ponce, around the southern coast, to get started on installing a new below deck autopilot. We planned to eat dinner ashore together with s/v Footloose's crew on the following day and then depart at dark for a 50 NM overnight run along the coast to Ponce.

On Saturday, March the 2nd, we upped anchor at 1830 and motorsailed around Capo Rojo and along a rocky and low southern coast with one town after another and a surprisingly dense pattern of lights visible from the sea. Within a short distance inland, large mountains rose to heights of several thousand feet, each with its own pattern of small to medium sized communities and their own light displays. Pretty impressive. Puerto Rico is about 100 or so NM long, 40 NM across and has about four million residents, the majority of whom live in the San Juan region in the NE. Ponce is the second largest city and is a large commercial port.

The trip into Ponce was more a chore than a pleasure. Water depth varies along the southern shore and there are enough rocks and obstacles inshore that navigation has to be relatively exact. This had me motoring directly into the wind so my mainsail could not really draw air and could not stabilize the boat. The waves, also right on the nose, were not large, 3-5' but were "bumpy" and short enough in interval that the boat was smashing through rather than rising over. All this drove the speed down to the low 4 kt range through much of the night, somewhat higher as conditions calmed toward morning. We did have enough air moving over the boat to use our wind vane steering but it failed to steer even after several tries. It wasn't until Shirley asked me to check the dinghy, we had chosen to tow it for this short coastal trip, that I discovered our tow line had fouled the vane's paddle and this was pulling the boat off course. Quick fix and suddenly we had an autopilot again.

We arrived at the sea buoy off Ponce at about 0330 and turned in through the main shipping channel. The background of city lights was confusing, as usual, and the navigation lights just get lost in all that confusion. It is ironic that one uses the electronic charts to select and monitor course over ground and this precision is what allows one to pick out the correct red and green lights. Left on our own, without the electronic aid of the GPS and computer, I suspect I would be trying to use street lights or brake lights on cars or who knows what other red and green lights ashore to lead me into the harbor. We didn't see the yacht club inlet, off to the right immediately after entering the harbor, until past the entrance, and we were tired as well, so we went on into the designated small boat anchorage laying off the old Custom's House further in and dropped anchor. When we awoke around 0900, we upped anchor and moved around to the Yacht Club and anchored again in about 30' of water and what seems to be good holding. There are probably 30 other boats anchored off the several piers of the rather elaborate and expensive Yacht Club. They sell Club privileges for $5 a day per person which provides dinghy access and security as well as amenities.

Exploring ashore requires a taxi ride for several miles inland to the main plaza and the colonial city center. We shared this with friends from m/v Hali Kai who were anchored nearby. There is a visitor's center and 11 separate museums linked by a free trolley service. We spent about two hours taking a tour of the City's history museum, a delightful time with an eager and entertaining bilingual guide who filled us in on current political issues on the island. Roughly equal factions want to either (a) continue status as a US territory (really a Commonwealth), or (b) to become the 51st state. Only a small faction, about 8%, want independence. A resident of Puerto Rico pays no US taxes and there is no island sale's tax, no property taxes, and no other local taxes. However, there is an island income tax which is the same as the US income tax rate. Taxes collected stay on the island. US funds received amount to about 19 billion US dollars annually. Puerto Ricans are US citizens but can not vote in Federal elections (unless they live and work in the US and then pay US taxes) and have no elected representatives or senators in Congress. he made living in Puerto Rico sound pretty attractive. Mean winter temperatures of 85 degrees are definitely nice. Summer temperatures of 95-100 degrees are not really all that different from Arkansas. Prices are comparable to US mainland prices. I'm not sure about property costs.

A final note about US Customs… Shirley and I accompanied friends who cleared in here rather than Boqueron. The senior agent here is a warm, eager and service oriented fellow who went out of his way to make the process pleasant. When I raised questions about the different information given by different Custom's agents, he frowned, acknowledged there was not enough consistency among agents or offices and that Custom's was working on this problem, and told me that of course I did not have to clear in at each port. "You're a US citizen and a US flagged vessel… you're home", he said. Felt kinda nice, all in all.

Bill and Shirley Martin


Ponce, PR

Web Posted February 27th, 2002

February 27 is the Independence Day for the Dominican Republic and a national day of Carnival with costumed revelers, street parties and booth after booth of vendors. We had looked forwarded to participating in spite of the fact that one of the local dockside entrepreneurs, ever present locals who sell or contract for fuel, propane, tours, taxis, etc…, had told us it was mostly for children in this city. So much for plans…

A weather break occurred, somewhat suddenly, when a strong cold front dissipated and left a weather window for crossing the Mona Passage. This body of water has some of the same mystique as that earned by Cape Hatteras and the Gulf Stream. Opposing winds and currents, combined with constricted flow and contrasting depths, leads to turbulent waters with large sea states. But now it would appear that a 2-3 day interval of low to moderate winds and moderate swells from the northeast, with conveniently long wave periods, would allow a comfortable passage although motoring or motorsailing was probably necessary. My monitoring of daily weather faxes, listening to the Caribbean Maritime Net and its weather report, and talking to David Jones and his weather analysis all seemed to agree. "Delay not a moment" seemed to be the call for the day. Anchor chains could be heard grumbling. Another cruiser, Ron and Joann on s/v FOOTLOOSE, had moved across the bay about 5 NM to a national park to anchor overnight but after we discussed the weather on the VHF, we agreed that now was the time. They came a running to follow us out.

I quickly dropped the dinghy and mounted the engine (engines are detached and hoisted and dinghy's raised from the water nightly here to deter theft), and ran into the Commandencia (Naval Authority) to get clearance to depart the port and country. After the usual exercises in creative communications, we managed the correct forms (or at least some forms) and I left. Back to the boat to hoist the motor and dinghy for ocean passage, then up anchor. Well, really more like haul in three feet of chain, use deck wash and brush to get most, but not all, mud off, then repeat process until 150' of chain was onboard. Underway and only 1000. Pretty early start all things considered.

We motorsailed out across Samana Bay, through the numerous whale watching excursion boats, and headed for Capo Engano, the very easternmost tip of the DR. We did see one whale blowing and broaching from a distance and watched all the excursion boats running to close the creatures who were only trying to breed, or so we were told. Can't be good for their disposition, all that attention. Wish we had seen more and from a closer perspective… but not too close. Those sperm whales are sorta big, don't you know.

We dodged driftnets, or long lines, not sure which, set within a couple of miles offshore off Capo Engano and headed out into the Mona to round Hourglass Shoals, where particularly rough sea conditions are typical, then turned SE to cross to Buqueron, PR. By dark we were alongside the shoals, still motorsailing, and Shirley had landed a 15 lb Dolphin which she was cheerfully carving down in the galley. At midnight, we turned outside of the shoals and shut down the engine to sail with a 10 kt beam wind in very comfortable seas of 2-4'. A brilliant, huge full moon lit the world and put the sea to shining in all its glory. With the wind vane self steering device, the Monitor, now nicknamed Monty, doing all the work, watch standing involved checking the radar periodically, tweaking sail trim as the wind backed, and drinking in all that splendor. This ranks as one of the truly memorable sails in open sea we have had. In the middle of the Mona, and the middle of the night, we encountered a west bound cruiser returning from the lower Caribbean. While we chatted about how we would meet ("Port to Port", we agreed), we both could not help but rave about the quality of the night and the special experience of being alone on the sea, crews carried onward by these wonderful sailing vessels, our homes, themselves so in tune with the rhythms of the waves and wind. Just magic.

Even daylight did not break the spell. The wind picked up as expected in the trades but the now 15 kts on the beam did not build any significant seas and the run on in to Boqueron was at speeds up to and even above 7 kts. We were almost, but not quite, sorry to move into the protected harbor and turn into the wind to furl and drop sails and put AT EASE onto her anchor to rest. We did 155 NM in 26 hrs and didn't make much effort to push hard. Today, every cruiser who came in to port has a big smile on their face. Tomorrow we will taxi into Mayaquez to visit both US Immigration and Customs, to clear back into the US, but for tonight, the grateful crew of AT EASE will join her in a quite sleep, rocking in the gentle swells of this protected harbor.

Bill and Shirley


Boqueron, PR

Web Posted February 22nd, 2002

On Feb 22, at about 1600, we started to pull up the anchor and clean the chain in preparation for getting underway from Luperon early on the 23rd. Cleaning is necessary. The water of Luperon harbor is rich in nutrients and the marine growth is phenomenal on boat bottoms and anchor rhodes… even in just two weeks. Further, we are back in country which really has dirt, hence mud, and this stinking mess clings to the anchor chain and takes a good blasting and scrubbing to keep the aromatic mess out of the chain locker. We moved out of the inner harbor, to what is known as the outer, or Pinzon Harbor, which is named after one of Columbus' captains who lingered here for some trading with the natives during the first voyage. With daylight, we cranked in the anchor again and headed out.

The drill on the DR's northern coast is to hug in tight, within half a mile of shore, to avoid the contrary easterly tradewinds and the long fetch with wave action coming from the east. In 10-15 kts, gusting to 20 knots, we motorsailed east until about 1500 when the wind suddenly built to 25 kts, gusts to 30 kts, and the seas rose sharply. This was just west of Cape Francis Viejo. Rounding capes is rough with more trade wind and wave exposure and also the "cape effect" which produces confused and turbulent seas… in this wind we opted to move in for anchor at Rio San Juan, a small fishing village, where we would stay until midnight to re-evaluate. At sundown, as we were anchoring, we got a call from a west bound boat who reported 34 kts sustained offshore. Lots of swell creeping into the anchorage so I rigged a spring to the anchor chain and cranked the bow around almost 090 degrees to the wind to change boat movement from a roll to a mild pitch. At midnight, I got up to check the boat… howling wind overhead and 15-18 kts even in the lee of the land mass. "Nope", he said, "not tonight." At dawn I was up again checking conditions. Looked about the same. Five other boats had come in at various times during the night and one reported 40 kts about 0300. He simply was not able to round the Cape in those conditions.

We all sat around until the 0830 weather net came on the SSB when we found a cold front, expected to dissipate west of us, had intensified and had a threatening squall line proceeding it by as much as 50-100 NM. All this weather was coming from the N-NW and there is no sheltering lee from these conditions on the northern coast. For protection, we would have to cover about 90 NM and round the Capo Samana and back west into Samana harbor. The recommendation of the weather forecaster, David Jones (HF 8104.0 USB) was to round that pesky cape and run for Samana post haste. We had a quick VHF conference call among the anchored boats and all agreed to sally forth. My 45 lb CQR anchor had locked in and among some coral in about 15' of water. I was in too much hurry to dive and free the beast so used the 30,000 lbs of the boat to bang it free. Hard to believe, but I now have a 10 degree bend in the shaft of that hefty anchor… lots of iron in that monster.

Time was of the essence… we set main (with one reef) and yankee for the run around the Cape and, with motor, were quickly up to 7.5-8 kts overground. Wave action was turbulent but manageable and winds initially of 15-20 kts dropped to 15 kts once around the Cape and moving down the coast. They stayed 15 kts until about 1700 when they started to drop to 10 kts for the turn around Capo Samana, then 5 kts for the westerly run to harbor. Of course my filter problems are not yet over and I had to replace Racors yet again while enroute but that trusty ole engine just banged away and kept us moving at 5+ kts even when wind and seas were opposed. As we approached the harbor, s/v FOOTLOOSE, a Morgan 43', that had anchored some three hours earlier called to advise us of a bay just outside the harbor which seemed suitable for overnight pausing. At midnight, I eased in beside FOOTLOOSE, using electronic charts and the radar to position myself less than ¼ NM offshore, and dropped anchor. A tired crew snuggled down until daylight for a comfortable, largely motionless sleep.

By morning, as we each got up, the four or five boats in the bay upped anchor and moved into the harbor to anchor again in soft, very soft, mud. I set the CQR twice before I got a reasonable hold and then watched it for several hours before I was satisfied. An Austrian catamaran next to me sort of fumed and fussed thinking I was close (you know how those Germans want their Liebenraum), and he was displeased that I had out 150' of chain in 30' of water. His 100' led to a shorter swing and, being a Cat, it wanted to sail on its anchor anyway. I suggested his 3:1 anchor ratio was marginal and he should put out some more. Impasse! We really didn't swing that close to one another but his comfort level finally led to his dumping a second anchor to reduce his swing. Okay by me… Peace (again) in our time.

A closing note on Samana. This is an isolated community with limited access overland with the rest of the Dominican Republic but it is still a relatively affluent and attractive community with friendly people. The surrounding terrain is magnificent… has been described as the Bora Bora of the Caribbean… with steep sided and sharply pointed mountains rising quickly from shore to significant elevations, all covered with lush vegetation and thick groves of palm trees. Absolutely beautiful vistas. Across the bay, about 5 nm, there is a national park where, we are told, there are fiords in and among these steep mountains and jungled terrain. In surrounding hills are waterfalls accessible by burro and guide, up steep and narrow rocky trails, each being described as a little hidden paradise, personal sized. Ashore, there is a beautiful promenade along the coast, flanked with heavy traffic of the ubiquitous Yamaha motorcycles and Korean trucks, with clusters of motorcycle rickshaws, the latter eager to carry the easily identifiable cruisers into the hinterland to savor these natural treasures. Stuck again awaiting weather… Drats!

Bill and Shirley


Samana, DR

Web Posted February 6th, 2002

We left Port Nelson, Rum Cay in the Bahamas on the 3rd and motorsailed, yet again, southeast generally on our way to Luperon, Dominican Republic. Winds were at or less than 10 kts and dead foul of our intended course and not significant enough to justify running away from our rhumb line to gain a sailing advantage, especially as the forecast was for very light airs on the following day. It was another beautiful day with long, Atlantic rollers of 4'-6', the deep (sometimes three mile deep) blue of the Atlantic and the bright blue of the clear sky and tropical sun. The boat's motion was really less active and uncomfortable than it had been in the notoriously rolly anchorage off Rum Cay.

We settled into watch standing relatively early, managing the progressively more inadequate electric autopilot, a Raytheon ST4000+, by using the wind vane steering (the Monitor). That autopilot is going to have to be replaced as it simply isn't robust enough. While not really recommended for motoring because of the turbulence coming off the prop, we've found the Monitor effective if we have as much as 10 kts relative wind coming over the deck. Neither Shirley nor I can manage steering by hand for very long before we start to hallucinate from boredom and suffer from sore backs and necks. Staring at the compass just won't allow one to do anything else, including just looking at the lovely scenery as it flows by.

We sailed past both Samana and Mayuguani and, about midnight, transited the Ragged Passage between the Acklins Islands and West Plana, popping back out into the more open Atlantic. This course change to the south produced a favorable wind angle so we killed the engine and broke out all sails. For about 20 NM through the night we were able to sail, although boat speed was typically 3-4 kts, down into the 2's before I lost steerage and had to again motor. It was during this time that a medium sized cruise ship overtook us, through the island passage actually, and like a small city ablaze with light after light, moved along side and then ahead. We seemed to have plenty of separation, but being bored and in the middle of the night, I gave them a holler on the VHF. Well, a very British voice promptly answered… perhaps bored as well. Once we agreed that our courses would not conflict, we exchanged vessel names and where bound. I have always wondered about the strength of our radar return and so inquired. He assured me he could see us "for miles and miles." Good news for our side!

The sky was just astounding. The air was so clear and without lights to interfere, the stars were so brilliant, so plentiful and so very prominent. The filmy, cloud-like flow of the Milky Way was very visible. I was struck with how very bright, and so much larger were some of the stars from the mass. It just didn't look like the same sky. It's so easy to see how sailors of yore found the stars so reassuring and constant, such a beacon in their fluid and ever changing world below. Having to change a dirty fuel filter at 0400, a smelly and dirty job certainly, wasn't at all sufficient to spoil such a magical night at sea.

With daylight, we had a greasy flat, mildly heaving sea with no air and the world heated up quickly. We really have not been aware of how very hot that direct sunlight is as we have been consistently blessed with winds 10-20 kts pretty well all the time. Without the wind, that sun gets hot quickly. Out came the awning and we all went looking for shade. Motoring along, I downloaded the days weather faxes and read that a front dropping down on us was to intensify tomorrow producing winds of about 20 kts from the north and seas up to 11'. As we would then be approaching the Dominican Republic's northern coast, I had visions of trying to make landfall while being pushed quickly ashore by such conditions. The 20 kts of wind didn't seem too intimidating, but picture those 11' waves coming into shallow, coastal water and rising up as the bottom shoals. Nope! Course changed and off to the Turks and Caicos were we, to ride out the weather and explore ashore. We crossed the island's protective reef and motored into sheltered Sapadillo Bay, just south of Providenciales at dark. Sailboats already in the anchorage saw us coming and called on the VHF to assure us that the bottom held at least 8' of water, even at the low tide. Although there was a current of about a knot, the anchor bit well into the sandy bottom. Dinner time… the last of that Mahi Mahi Shirley caught some time back… and a protected, calm anchorage. Let her blow… we're ready.

Bill and Shirley


Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

Web Posted February 2nd, 2002

We had another marvelous sail over from San Salvador on Sunday. The wind held steady from the ESE at 15 kts and our course was SW through a 3-4' sea with the Monitor driving and both of us relaxing. Perfect weather and arrived in good light to pick our way past the reef and through the coral heads into the bay. We've joined the 8-10 other boats either at anchor or in the marina. This is a typical jumping-off place for the move on south toward Puerto Rico and the Virgins.

Now, we've been setting at anchor here in Port Nelson, Rum Cay, Bahamas waiting for mail for five days with at least one more day ahead of us before we know. While the cruising lifestyle can and does offer much freedom and flexibility in schedule and location, there are still some significant ties that bind one to shore. Some bills still cannot be paid via credit card or bank draft and some important papers, particularly those tax kinds of things, are mail dependent… hence, so are we. Mail to the Bahamas is always iffy. Last year, in Georgetown, we were able to have mail forwarded in packets via FedEx without going through Bahamian mail. Out here among the outer islands, no such luck. Our mail was forwarded via UPS to Nassau, probably arriving the next day, but then goes into the Bahamian mail system where there is no possibility of tracing. Customs, now more than ever before, goes over the mail in their own fashion. Then the mail must await the scheduled mailboat service to the various islands and once a week service is the only option for delivery of mail and groceries and people and anything else for that matter. Miss that departure by an hour and it's another week at least before delivery is possible. We're waiting!

Along with everyone else, we've been following its progress on VHF radio and know it left San Salvador this morning. Not surprisingly, this is a topic of considerable interest on an island. Local entertainment today has centered around the mailboat's arrival (we just watched her steam in) and diagnosing a cruiser (French Canadian) who apparently either has gall bladder problems or appendicitis. After much discussion among residents and cruisers on the VHF, a cruising nurse and retired radiologist (or a veterinarian… who knows?) who lives here sometimes, made that diagnosis. Weather did not permit a flight off the island today, or at least the pilot didn't want to fly because of recurrent squalls, but a private plane has agreed to fly them to Georgetown tomorrow for further flight to Miami, or to San Salvador for further flight to Nassau.

It has been an interesting island to explore. Sumner Point Marina is a budding resort and has developed a reputation for fine dining… a reputation which is still intact we are glad to report. They are building some condo's which they hope will attract tourist and divers to this area. Diving is reportedly spectacular in multiple locations. I have been reluctant to use the air in my one tank as it is very difficult to find locations to fill the tank and I may need it for boat work or repair. Rental tanks are easier to find but these tie one to some shore base. Snorkeling, however, has been wonderful just about anywhere we hit the water. Reefs are plentiful, accessible and colorful with live coral and quite a few fish. There is a wreck of an old British warship, their first steam, screw-driven warship, just offshore and in only 30' of water but it is largely gone now apart from main shaft, drive shaft and anchor chain.

The wind has been howling these last few days at 20 kts with some gusts up to 28 kts recorded so far. Seas are up to 9' but are the longer Atlantic rollers so not as wild to ride. That's all a bit on the high side for traveling on south but is still doable with a reef in the main and less headsail, and we probably would be moving if we had the mail. The anchorage is notorious for swell and we are anchored relatively far out in the bay to avoid bugs and get plenty of wind so the ride has been active. With one anchor out, and with a spring line aft to the anchor chain, we can swing the bow to meet either wind or swell depending on which is the most irritating. That changes from time to time but the ride has not been really uncomfortable. Even Saylor has gotten her sea legs generally organized and goes forward to the foredeck to do her thing… but she's anxious enough that she does like one of us to come along as a cheering section (and clean up crew). The upside of all the wind and sun is that we haven't run the engine for power in days and days. The wind generator and solar panels have been carrying everything and we have had power to spare. Lots of movies on the VCR and even games on the computers.

Ashore, the community is relatively typical Bahamian out island but with some local twists. This island has been settled since the late18th century and was a major source of salt for the American Colonies and nascent United States. That industry didn't really die out until early 20th century. In the early 1900's there were up to 400-500 living here in several settlements, in a largely agricultural economy with pineapples and sisal the big exports. Hurricanes during this time trashed the Island and led to out migration and that continues for the young as there is really no job base here now. Tourism is beginning with the local marina but that is largely staffed with young Americans. There are a few American retirees living on the Island at least part of the year.

Housing is typically concrete block construction and relatively small, one would guess 3-4 rooms, brightly painted in pastels and distributed in strips along the numerous roads. The road system, apparently left over from more populous times, is crushed coral and narrow but extensive. The countryside is rocky, thin soiled, gently rolling with elevations probably not more that 50 or so feet, all covered with a tough, waist to shoulder high brush which makes any agriculture difficult. Where practiced, it tends to be more slash and burn in smallish patches here and there rather than cultivated fields. Folks are friendly and eager to chat. We learned about a walled area… it is the new cemetery which is only a couple of hundred years old… contrasted with the old cemetery which is 350 years old. The walls are piled, flat stones, maybe a foot or so thick and 3-4 feet high, all left over from the slave days when most of these islands were partitioned off with such walls. We've seen them over and over again. I understand they are still called "margins" and are the most obvious signs of the old plantations and estates, and abundance of slave labor, to survive. There are several small stores of the country store variety, several small restaurants offering good Bahamian food although there may only be one couple there as customers. The restaurants are also bars with limited drink supplies but with cable television for a taste of classic Americana. One we stopped at yesterday, just to get out of the sun you understand, had a wonderful fine sand floor in the bar side and, under the same roof, a poured concrete floor with tiles on the restaurant side. All of this is open to the air so cruisers learn to eat their meals and do their drinking/socializing during the day. At night the bugs rule!

Shirley has made bread! Hot and just out of the oven… opened a new package of Irish butter. Not sure if it will last until dinner tonight.

Bill and Shirley

Port Nelson, Rum Cay, Bahamas

Web Posted January 28th, 2002

We went ashore today to tour the museum, located in the old administrative headquarters for the island and in one of the older buildings. The bottom floor was two cells, the old island jail. The top floor had two rooms… one an outer office and then the office proper for the island commissioner. This was the courthouse, post office and whatever as well as an administrative office. All had been converted into a museum, with the help of archeologists from the Univ. of Arizona, a joint effort by youth from 11 countries who traveled in the Bahamas, and by a grant from a UN development commission. The result was a dusty, unkempt and under-visited product with a mix of highly professional displays of artifacts (mostly Lucayan) by the archeologists and pretty amateurish displays, I suspect by locals. The register suggested that the visitors immediately prior to us were three months ago, a reporter from a Bahamian news organization out of Freeport. Old Columbus doesn't get much respect around here. Even the monuments dispersed about the island were all built by other countries, commemorating their ties to the Columbus expedition.

A walk into the community to a local store did result in a few grocery items, some replenishment of fishing line stores, and more of a look at the housing and community layout. The bottom line, as is true in just about every other Bahamian island we have seen… it looks like the last investment in infrastructure took place prior to the British pulling out, I think in the 1980's. The narrow streets are breaking up in a number of places, especially the shoulders. There is a litter of old vehicles, utensils, appliances and larger, apparently industrial junk, as well as the apparently inevitable litter of paper, food containers and drink cans and bottles. Yards, even those with extensive plantings and flowers, are pretty unkempt. Houses are small, with abandoned and collapsed homes interspersed among the currently inhabited homes. Most homes are missing roof shingles from who knows what storm and more than a few have obvious signs of rot and collapsing roof sections from neglect and leaks secondary to the loss of shingles. This includes both homes and churches. The marinas are pretty minimal with simple pilings and seawalls in little coves blasted out of the island's rock. The municipal pier, as we have seen in place after place, is rusted and collapsed so the mail boat drops it's ferry ramp onto a rough rock ledge in what is referred to as the municipal marina. These are signs of long standing poverty and neglect, and are certainly not secondary to the closing of the posh and trendy resort (Club Med) in the last three months.

There are many vehicles present, both of the obviously old and abused variety, and of relatively new, and obviously expensive variety, both English and American (really Japanese). Here I have seen no bicycles or scooters, which to me would make so much sense on such an island.

And what an island… the deep water of the Atlantic and Exuma Sound come right up to the shores where the transition from deep, deep blue to turquoise and aqua is sudden and striking. In these absolutely clear shallows there are numerous reefs and offshore underwater walls that make the diving and snorkeling so marvelous. The prevalent weather is moderate… today about 80 degrees with a cooling breeze of 10 kts so there is no sense of heat. We're sitting under a high pressure system, the typical weather pattern, which leaves such an expanse of clear blue sky and bright sun that even a grouch like me just has to feel better to be alive and outdoors.

The people we have talked to or met on the streets seem universally friendly. They move out of doors on the weekends and in the evenings to gather in small groups to talk and visit and seem open to being approached by these obvious strangers. The gentleman who showed us through the Island's museum, Clifford Fernander, talked about the lack of any criminal problems during his youth and states there is little crime now but he did offer that universal lament that the younger generation displayed no respect, played music too loud and had parties too wild. As a child, he said, any adult would discipline any errant child and this discipline would have been supported by the parents. Today, he added, to do so would lead to the parents seeking you out with threats and possible mayhem.

A little more about this remarkable man, Clifford Fernander. He claims he is the only Knight of Columbus on the island, and one of the few Kiwanis. I'm not sure of his occupation, apart from the fact that he works in a local marina. However, he has managed to be a guest of the Italian government in Genoa, commemorating Columbus' voyage, in the Dominican Republic when Columbus's grave was moved from the cathedral to the current monstrous lighthouse/cross, and as a Kiwanis member, to Taipei for an international conference. Pretty well traveled, this fellow. Wish I had his skills in finding sponsors.

Bill and Shirley


Cockburn Town, San Salvador, Bahamas

Web Posted January 26th, 2002

Our dinghy exploring into the tidal creeks of Conception was well worth the effort. Easing across the reefs and sand bar at high tide, we motored and paddled up the creek into very clear water, generally shallow with a white sandy bottom but with some deep, dark blue holes. We saw a few turtles swimming, a barracuda and a nurse shark and a few colorful fish. The barracuda was hovering within a couple of feet of Shirley who was snorkeling when she noticed it. Surprise, surprise! The conch were plentiful up on the flats. Later, snorkeling off the reefs, we saw some huge coral, some as deep as 40-50' and some within 10' of the surface. There were grouper, parrotfish and angelfish along with the more colorful horde of small coral fish. We saw one turtle in among the rocks watching us carefully and a couple of tuna came up to check Shirley out. Good snorkeling but not the best we've seen. We've sure enjoyed our dinghy which gives us the range to get out and explore more distant areas and reefs.

We departed Conception Island Friday morning (1/25/02) and sailed, the magic word, sailed across the 40 NM trip to San Salvador, arriving at 1630. The passage is deep water, thousands of feet deep, so water color is an intense, deep blue with incredibly white caps and foam as the boat moves through the water. We had clear, bright skies and a 10-15 kt SE wind allowing boat speeds averaging 5 kts with the monitor driving beautifully. A light current setting to the NW was easily manageable. Although this area is in the main shipping route we saw only two container ships and both politely passed across the bow and at a distance not arousing too much adrenalin.

We moved in near the municipal pier at Cockburn Town, the main community on San Salvador, to anchor in 10' of water very close into shore. The gradient along this coast is astounding. We were within a quarter mile of shore and our depth finder, which reads to about 600', could find no bottom. As a result, even smallish wave action or swells build quickly into something uncomfortable along the shore. We tried to quell the swell-driven roll by putting a spring on the anchor chain, running this back to our headsail winch and cranking the stern around until the bow pointed into the swell rather than the wind. Worked great until we developed a current, along with everything else, which pushed us away from the wind. Too many variables to contend with so we just went to sleep.

We did go ashore earlier, armed with information from the cruising guide which recommended restaurants and night spots for entertainment. The information was badly out of date. The island's economy has been dominated by Club Med which had a 300 bed resort on the island. It has closed, maybe another casualty of 9/11, and the entire island is suffering. The restaurants recommended were closed by 1800 and/or no longer served the advertised meals We did find a bar open by walking down the coastal road and lucked out. The bartender called around and found us a restaurant that would feed us and one of the patrons volunteered to drive us to the location which was about 3.5 miles away. Further, the owner of the restaurant agreed to drive us back to the town landing after our dinner. In addition, the gentleman offering to drive us also had worked as a tour guide for the island and, over drinks, gladly gave us an articulate and informative history. He also happens to have a key to the island museum, which apparently opens by appointment, and agreed to meet us today for a personal tour. Lots of Columbus information, and some archeological digs on the island have reported artifacts from the Columbus era including a coin dated to 1492.

Plans now are to leave here tomorrow (Sunday) to move to Rum Cay, a distance of about 30 NM. Should be another good sail. There is one settlement on the island, Port Nelson, about 60 people we understand, something like 10 telephones and no street addresses. Understandably, everyone knows where everyone else lives so why bother with addresses. We'll visit ashore there, hopefully pick up some forwarded mail, and then shove off for Mayaguana down past Crooked Island and Samana.

Bill and Shirley


Cockburn Town, San Salvador, Bahamas

Web Posted January 24th, 2002

To avoid an increasing swell, we moved from New Bight, across the bay to anchor in the lee of Cat Island's southern tip and stayed there overnight. That night I could stand on deck and see the bottom clearly, although we had only a quarter moon for illumination. I was impressed. This truly is beautiful, clear water.

The following day, we moved into Hawk's Nest Marina and Resort to fuel, get my scuba take recharged, and to eat at their restaurant… the site has received good reviews within the cruising community. They deserve the good reviews. The managers and staff, largely young American couples, with a young French couple as the divers, greeted us warmly and went out of their way to make us feel at home. The hospitality starts at the water's edge with their air conditioned dockside bar which has satellite TV and a fully stocked bar which operates on the honor system. Fix your own drinks and write it down on the clip board. Darts and a pool table provided indoor diversion if the spectacular outdoor scenery and activities were not to one's liking. The resort has it's own air strip and is popular among private pilots flying from the US. There are slips for boats, mostly sport fisherman. They gave Saylor carte blanche and she quickly made herself at home, cultivating new friends wherever she goes, as usual. Dinner is by reservation only, as is typical in the islands. They only prepare that food which is to be served. In this case, we did get to choose among two entrees and selected New Zealand rack of lamb… it was superb. This ranks as one of the two really memorable meals we've had at restaurants in the Bahamas. After dinner we chatted with some other guests, mostly US but one English couple, while Saylor found the tile floor cool and to her liking. She quickly adopted her "teak rug" mode. The following morning, as we prepared to get underway, Saylor did not answer muster. Shirley found her, back up at the dining room and bar, again stretched out on the floor just in case somebody wanted to rub on her.

We departed for Conception Island about 1000, Jan 22, 2002 and had a pleasant sail in 15 kt ESE wind and 4' seas, about 25 degrees off the rhumb line, until time and distance demanding we do something more direct in order to arrive before dark. Down came the headsails, on went the engine, and wind and wave on the bow we crashed and banged on in. One other sail boat appeared, coming from our starboard and on a collision course. Only two boats visible in the whole ocean and we had a traffic jam requiring me finally to slow sharply to let them pass ahead.

We both hooked fish… mine easily broke the relatively light line, 17 lb, on my reel in spite of my efforts to play the fish. Shirley landed a mahi-mahi (dolphin), probably 30 lbs and 40" long. Guess what we had for dinner?

Arriving at West Bay, Conception Island, we found 11 other boats already in the anchorage. We dropped sail and motored in among them, dodging the numerous coral heads, until we found room to anchor ourselves. Timing couldn't have been better. We could just see the coral heads in the water. Five minutes later, there wasn't enough light.

Overnight we were treated to 15-18 kts ESE, moving to more E this morning, but the boat is sheltered by the lee of the island and the gentle rocking is quite restful and relaxing. The air is cool… almost too cool. Our wind generator is busily producing electricity which is always appreciated. Our day's schedule includes dinghy exploring into the island's tidal creek and along the reefs, hopefully followed by snorkeling the reefs if the current isn't too bad.

Bill & Shirley

s/v At Ease

Web Posted January 19th, 2002

At about midnight, as we approached the southern tip of Eleuthera, East End, we decided to anchor overnight at a beach and resort area built specifically for the Princess Line cruise ships. Waves and wind had built as we moved south and before leaving the lea of Eleuthera, exposed to the Atlantic proper, we decided to wait for morning. The beach was well lighted so we moved in to shallow offshore water and dropped the hook. The swell from the Atlantic, creeping around behind the island, was significant and the boat was rolling badly so sleep was broken. About 0530 we got a call on the radio from the beach facility advising us that a cruise ship was due in and we may be in the way. We were anchored in 16'… they anchor in 80'… we were okay. But they did anchor behind us and within 30 minutes had boats in the water running a service to and from the beach where passengers started to party, apparently immediately after the first Bloody Mary. Customs came out by 0700 to make sure we had cleared into the Bahamas. Hard to get much rest around there so we left.

Offshore it was a beautiful transit past Little San Salvador and on to Cat Island, which used to be called San Salvador, and which is not to be confused with contemporary San Salvador where the "official" Columbus Memorial is located. Cat Island also claims to be Columbus' original landfall. Well, it was around here somewhere. The water, thousands of feet deep offshore, was as deep a blue as you can imagine. Seas were no more than 2' and wind was a very manageable 10-15 kts… all right on the nose. I'm sure that the bow sprit doubles as a wane vane invariably pointing right down the throat of incoming breezes. Motor sailing, we approached the island (Cat), moved on to it's western bank where water shoaled to about 15-20', and moved inland on the lookout for reported coral heads near the surface. We anchored off a small community (no more than a hundred or so) and stayed overnight. Today, we moved on to the administrative and apparently main community on the island, New Bight, were we anchored again off of a crescent, white sand beach and small community tucked back among the palm and pine trees fringing the shore. A foray ashore was to explore and seek out a local bakery and store. We found a store but no bakery.

This is an interesting island with friendly but obviously poor residents whose homes are located immediately adjacent the narrow hard surface road. The houses are small… stone and concrete plaster. Only rarely does one see multiple stories and frankly most appear to be one room. Plumbing and electricity may not be all that universal either. A local tradition is to abandon houses when the last of the generation die… some "harvesting of stones from these "memorials" occurs. Therefore, there are shells of former houses everywhere, really small squares of 10'12', some smaller still, made of stones and shell or concrete plaster. One can only guess at the age but they are obviously old and there are no signs of wiring or plumbing or even multiple rooms in most of these shells. There are plantation ruins here dating to the American revolution when loyalist fled to these Bahamas. One ruined great house lies just ashore and was reportedly burned during a slave rebellion of that or somewhat later era. The family owning that plantation is still present on the island and owns one of the smallish resorts which seem to be the primary cash crop of the island. There are numerous cars and trucks, many obviously ridden hard over the years but some surprisingly expensive and apparently well cared for. Cars make more sense here given the 40 mile length of the island. This area was reportedly active during the Bahamas drug running years so maybe some of that wealth is still evident here and there.

The several "resorts" are smallish, maybe accommodations for up to 20 guests at the most, and feature beautiful beaches, Bahamian dining and one assumes adequate libations for proper hydration. There is no charter fishing to speak of... those coming here must be looking for the very personal attention one gets at these resorts. Dining requires consultation with the chef in advance to determine their mood and what entries might be available and when this will be served. There are three cruisers, apart from us, in the Bay... maybe a few more in the one marina down around the point. Any other visitors would have had to arrive via air (charter). I suspect very few tourist are on the island. It is a bit early in their season. Most cruisers do the Exumas early in the year and return northward along this route in April and May. Not for the first time in my life I seem to be going against the flow in choosing to move south along this route at this time.

Saylor had a wonderful run on the beautiful, wide beach. This was her first unleashed frolic in months and months… into the water and surf and up to the beach to roll over and over in the sand. What a mess! She took some hosing down after we got back to the boat.

Bill and Shirley


The Bight, Cat Island, Bahamas

Web Posted January 18th, 2002

The evening spent in Spanish Wells was pleasant but pretty low key. We met a couple of brothers, both in their 50's I suppose, and both retired, who were on an extended vacation in a big, go-fast sport fisherman, having left North Carolina some weeks earlier. They were wandering the Bahamas, fishing, talking and obviously having a ball just being together. However, the opportunities for conversation with strangers is always appealing out here and we ended up chatting both before Shirley and I went to dinner and afterwards when we gathered on our boat. The gregariousness of boaters does seem to contradict the independence and individualism also characteristic of cruisers, but the two traits can go together. Cruisers eagerly come together if locations are shared, willingly part company and go separate ways, yet are thrilled when once again, sometimes by chance, locations are again shared. This apparent contradiction truly is a big part of what makes the cruising lifestyle so attractive and rewarding.

Dinner was a reminder that we are back in the islands. The restaurant was a small affair, a converted house, with half a dozen tables, none occupied. The two ladies there were gracious hostesses, offering a simple menu with such eye stoppers as Jalapeno Chickenburger sandwich and, of course, cracked conch (my choice). Shirley, ever inquisitive, asked what such a sandwich was composed of and received this helpful response… "Well, jalapeno peppers on a chickenburger." 'Nuff said. For my side dishes, I had my choice of the inevitable macaroni and cheese, and peas and rice. To my surprise, I could also select rice and mushrooms. "I'll try that, said I." Hostess was back in only minutes to report that there indeed was no available rice and mushrooms… would peas and rice be to my liking? I should have seen that one coming.

We did get to chat with the younger of the two hostesses about life on the island. She is a high school senior, one of seven left in her class, and is looking forward to graduating but has no intention of leaving the island of less than 2000 people. The sense of community is so obvious that signs and handbills posted here and there, can get by without giving last names (as in "John and Jane are thinking about starting a school transportation service… if interested call."). A local custom is to marry young, girls typically mid to later teens, and everyone on the island is invited to the weddings. Boys, and men, who tend to drop out of school about 14-16 years old, typically go fishing (lobsters) during the four month season during which they may make up to $40,000. Consequently, there are few men on the island during the season… just women and children. Must be somewhat like the old whaling communities of New England. Fishing, rather than tourism, is the industry here and this is a contrast to the rest of the Bahamas where there is surprisingly little commercial fishing apart from guiding those tourista's about.

Final comments on the island's culture. The original settlement was from the colonies and, like a distressingly large number of communities, was the result of shipwreck on the surrounding reefs followed by hardship and decimation. They, unlike many other hopeful settlers, stayed. Later they were visited by John Wesley and his brother who were enroot to the colonies. He must have been a busy beaver during his stay as the entire island converted to Methodism and apparently remains so today… the rest of the Bahamas follows the English tradition of Anglican faith. These folks have their own accents and it takes some getting used to being, I suppose, a mix of English, West Indian and American. This is a relatively prosperous island and community made up of folks who are happy and proud in proclaiming "I was born and raised here and intend to stay here". Streets are narrow and homes, typically cinder block and smallish but brightly painted, are immediately adjacent. Cars, and there are plenty for an island you can walk around in 30 minutes, are both smallish American and English. There are a significant number of motor scooters and a few golf carts. Interestingly, very few bicycles.

We left Spanish Wells about 1000, January 17, 2002 after fueling and replenishing water and pondering the weather for a bit. A course change was decided upon. Rather than go to the east of Eleuthera, we opted to go down the western coast. Eleuthera is 100 NM long, generally only about two NM wide, and has essentially no access along its eastern shore and is exposed to big water, big weather the entire route. There are some thunderstorms building in that direction. Safer on the banks with some protection afforded by the island's bulk. The shallow, white sandy bottom here ranges from 10-20 feet deep generally and requires some meandering to avoid shoaling areas. The water is a bright blue to bluish green and, typically, remarkably clear. Fishing lines are out!

Departing, we motor sailed the six miles or so to Current Cut, a narrow pass between Eleuthera and Current Island which is part of the spine of reefs and cays running from New Providence (Nassau) to the northern part of Eleuthera. The cut is a dog leg bending around shoals and banks but seems well charted. However, one scale of the Explorer charts gives one set of soundings, another a different set. I chose the wrong set, of course, Murphy's Law not being repealed as of this writing. We bounced and bumped a couple of times over some apparent sand ridges formed by the current and then were free and running yet again. The wind, 8-10 kts true, had clocked from east to southeast, on our nose of course, and in came the headsail and staysail. We left the main up for a bit of added power and for the stabilizing effect but rumble, rumble the motor drives on. One advantage, I suppose, is we have all the electricity we want this way and the watermaker and radar are both up and working. Now we're on the long southeasterly run down toward Powell's Point and East End where we will move out into the unprotected Exuma Sound.

Bill and Shirley

Web Posted January 16th, 2002

Last night we sailed NE across the Grand Bahama Bank, went through the Northwest Rocks Channel and into the Tongue of the Ocean… from 15-20' crystal clear water to 2500' water in less than a half mile. The channel is a serious choke point for shipping moving out of Exuma Sound, up from Nassau, and into the Northwest Channel leading to the Straits of Florida. As we came through a "mail boat" (inter-island packet) was transiting and insisted that the sail boat ahead of me, and s/v At Ease as well, pass "Green to Green" even though he was snuggly tucked against the northern side of the channel and right against the channel light itself. Immediately beyond the light was a shoal of 6' or less. The sailboat agreed to this… I argued for a Port to Port meeting. He insisted. I turned 90 degrees and moved off to the south into deeper water and gave him all the room he wanted. By this time two other steamers were lined up for the transit. We negotiated a Port to Port without incident and hurried off into deeper and wider water to avoid this high traffic area. The rest of the night was one of those marvelous memories of a clear, star filled night, with shooting stars aplenty, 15 kts of wind from the north and a wonderful sail through seas just rowdy enough to rock the boat, add a bit of frothy white to the so deeply blue water, and whisper encouragement as they rushed alongside. The Monitor self steering vane steered while we took turns watching and sleeping and snacking. Shirley honed her already significant sail trimming skills and took on the Monitor as well adjusting until we were holding a course within 5 degrees swing and averaging pretty true. Apart from a few ships, mostly cruise ships, in the distance, we had the Tongue of the Ocean to ourselves.

We arrived at noon at Yacht Haven Marina, Spanish Wells, Eleuthera (Bahamas) to clear in through Customs, take on fuel and tarry overnight to see the sights. We decided to divert a bit from our direct route to Puerto Rico for fuel and, since we plan on stopping at least at the Columbus Memorial on San Salvador Island, Custom's clearance was mandatory. This will give us more options and may actually trigger more stops at islands we missed last year (Rum, Conception, Long, etc…). The entrance is between two smallish islands, creatively named Egg Cay and Little Egg Cay, then inside the bay along the series of barrier islands protecting northern Eleuthera. Spanish Wells, an island itself, is attractive in the approaches. An apparently well protected bay lies just to the east (Royal Island) and is known as a hurricane hole. Less than 2000 live here in colorful pastel houses along the shore and the probably 20-30' elevation of the island. Motor scooters seem a common form of transportation. Only one bar in town and maybe a couple of restaurants. Very friendly folks (so far). Hope Customs is a painless process.

Bill and Shirley Martin


Web Posted January 15th, 2002

Arrived 1100 at South Riding Rocks after overnight passage from Key West. Choppy now and rougher last night in the stream with 6', winds from the SE at 10-15 kts fading as the night wore on. Typical night dodging freighters/tankers... probably 8-10, only one of which responded to a radio call. Just not sure anybody stands watch on those things but maybe just speak no English apart from that needed to call for a pilot when they get to a port. Now 10 kts relative across deck and motor sailing with all working sail up. Clear and relatively hot/muggy. Overtook a New Orleans boat, s/v Shady Lady as we came up on the Bahamas Banks.

Pos 25 13.384 N 079 09.941 W. Speed over ground 7.1 kts. Course 72 deg M Seas a choppy 2' and wind at 8-10 kts from SE. Barometer steady with high pressure clouds visible.

Bill and Shirley


Web Posted January 5th, 2002

We're starting the new year off with ambitious plans. For months now we've not been sure what we might do, apart from head south in the winter. We assumed we would return to the Bahamas and are pretty sure we want to return to the Chesapeake Bay area next year, so we want to stay within range of the Chesapeake next spring. Shirley adds into the equation that she would prefer not going back to the places we have been. Could be she didn't enjoy volleyball in Georgetown as much as I... but maybe she's really more adventurous after all. She's looking for a longer passage in open sea.

Okay, it's finally evolved (rather than been decided) that we will head for the Spanish/American/British Virgins. The route laid out takes us across to the Bahamas and across the Bank to the Northwest Providence Channel, thence by the Berry's and out of the Bahamas north of Eleuthera. From there, it's southeast off Cat Island, Conception, San Salvador (maybe a stop to check out the Columbus Memorial), Rum Cay and Long Island and out of the Bahamas with (maybe) nary a stop. Weather will obviously influence this. Then it's past Mayaguana and through the Turks and Caicos and on to Luperon, Dominican Republic. From here on it gets more familiar for me. Down the coast of DomRep and through the Mona Passage to the leeward of Puerto Rico and on to Vieques and Culebra, the Spanish Virgins. As a recovering Marine I've invaded Vieques so often that I feel a certain ownership by dint of conquest, so believe we may tarry there a bit enjoying the ambience and maybe getting a few live fire exercises as a floor show. I remember the area as having some of the most beautiful beaches and reefs I had ever seen. Wonder how they will look in today's perspective.

Then on to the Virgins. We'll reprovision at Roosevelt Roads, a US Navy base in Puerto Rico, and then cross over to Charlotte Amalie (briefly), to St Johns (longer) and then into the British Virgins for a tour of those wondrous, magical, marvelous places we stopped when chartering in this area with our friends the Braden's and Hixson's... now that was a trip.

Now there's the rub... what then? The windward islands are there exposed to our plunder, or the other way around, and the well marked, island by island route, on to Trinidad beckons onward as an interlude while the hurricanos blow and blow. Our will it be back to the Great Walmart and the Chesapeake for more questing, quaffing and quantity? Oh goodness... maybe we don't really have plans.

A Keys vignette... I was picking up a used stove for a friend in Marathon, just north of Key West. It was a typical Keys sort of business (made decorative license plates out of a store front in a strip mall) and a typical Keys sort of businessman (hairy, multiple visible tattoos, etc...). When I arrived, two customers, or kibitzers, were there just chatting and such. He- customer was a dockers and polo shirt, loafers sort of guy, clean cut and all. She was a typical Keys sort of lady... 50'ish, lots of hair, multiple visible tattoos and such. They left together but she came back in a short while. She was eager to show us the card the clean cut fella gave her.. promising various rather personal services including, but not limited to, sensual dominance, bondage, loving discipline... well you get the idea. Now he was the clean cut guy! So much for judging by appearances. However, she did keep the card.

Bill and Shirley


Key West, but off in the next week weather permitting.

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