Snow Birds Fly North

Trip Start Aug 01, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Grenada  ,
Thursday, May 17, 2007

We enjoy checking out the national flags flying on the boats around us. Mostly we see US, French, German, Canada and Italian flags. Occasionally we'll see New Zealand, Austria, Turkey, Brazil and Australia. There are some that we can't recognize and believe them to be state flags of other nations.

Other obvious signs of live aboard cruisers are the "flags" of colorful clothing hanging around the boats for each one's laundry day. This is just a part of life as we live it now. When it's our turn for clean clothes, I load a bucket with fresh water (never salt water as it is nearly impossible to rinse out) and detergent. I stuff as many pieces as will properly soak and leave the lot overnight. In the morning, using another bucket, I go through each piece and scrub where needed before using more fresh water to rinse. It's great for the cuticles. It takes quite a bit of water this way and if we're not sure of how much we have left, we catch rainwater for the task or we simply continue to wear our bathing suits until we're sure we have enough water. The first time I tried to skimp on rinse water, I ended up having to wash everything all over again as it all smelled like it had been rinsed in sweat.

After Mayreau, we took a short hop to the other side of that island to the Tobago Cays. This bit of heaven had the most spectacular snorkeling we've yet encountered. Ringing the small islands are coral reefs which lie around five feet below the surface at high tide. We were able to float close up and personal and saw many new types of fish as well as many that we are now very familiar with. The water was clean and clear and with no crowd of other snorkelers. The fish were abundant and we often found ourselves in the middle of schools of fishes, both large and small.

After a morning's snorkel at one place, Chris wanted to get out of the sun, but I wanted to do a bit more. I swam from the boat toward shore and explored the shoal there. I discovered a new fish that was so incredible. It was about two feet long and flat like a flounder, but it had eyes on both sides of its head. On the top of its head was one long, skinny horn-like protrusion. It was light tan colored with pale blue spots. I watched for a while and then moved on. When I was heading back to the boat, I saw my mystery fish once again. As I looked at the fish, I knew he was looking back at me because I could see his large googly-eyes moving around. Since he hadn't seemed to move much, I called out to Chris to come and see it too. We stayed in the Cays for three wonderful days before continuing on south.

Our short stay at Union Island was mostly as an official check-out island. We needed to visit the Customs office to indicate our next stop and do the paper work to clear. Nearly all the islands need to be officially entered and exited through Customs and or Immigration. It's a bit of a bother, but many of these islands are independent countries, which naturally add to the charm and adventure of sailing in this part of the world.
After Union, we sailed to Carriacou (Carry-a-coo). After a difficult time trying to get our anchor to set, we headed a bit farther south on the island to another bay. We had much better holding in Tyrell Bay. Since we landed on a Friday evening after Customs hours, we were not legally allowed to go to shore until we cleared on Monday. Not a problem, we stocked up our library of books on Union Island. Most places which cater to yachties have some sort of book exchange which we take advantage of whenever possible. When we went to the Customs office in Carriacou, we had to take a bus because of the bad anchor-holding at the first bay. This Custom's officer was by far the friendliest we've met. He asked if we'd be there through Friday. I wondered what that was all about and how much extra it might cost us and answered with a wary, "probably". He said "Great!" there was a barbeque and he wanted to invite us to attend.

We ended up only staying a few days before heading to our last stop, Grenada (Grin-nay-dah). Last stop, you say? For this leg of the adventure, we will be taking a bit of a breather and will put Quest on the hard for hurricane season. We will be flying home to Juneau (via a short stay with family in the Seattle area) on May 18.

We arrived in Grenada early enough to get our bearings and to realize that we would like to explore this beautifully friendly island more when we get back. We still enjoy our little walking expeditions, but the temperatures here now are in the mid to high 80s and dehydration is a major concern.
Occasionally we spring for a bus ride which costs between $1 - 4 depending on distance. A magazine we picked up at a tourist office said that if you seek authenticity and close contact with local people, this was the way to go. These mini-busses do tend to get a bit cozy. The magazine also promised "breathtaking vehicular audacity" Without a doubt! But definitely a preferred mode of over-land-travel for us.

The tourist magazine described this roundabout as: "state-of-the-art, fully adjustable roundabout" but it was not well received by the residents. Shortly after it was set up, it was adorned with a dead rat and thereby earned its name, 'Dead Rat Roundabout'".

Cruising as a way of life has come a long way with the availability of internet accessibility and more advanced navigation tools. Generally speaking, navigating in the Caribbean is so easy that you can be lulled to overlook the hazards that are really there. One case in point was as we entered La Marin Bay on the island of Martinique. The bay is keyhole-shaped with the added twist of a reef in the middle of the narrow throat entrance. In clear weather, the shoreline and the reef are easily visible. But, as we entered that bay, a black rain squall enveloped us in rain so heavy that we could barely see the bow of our boat. Fortunately, we had a few minutes warning as the squall approached. Chris immediately turned on the radar, asked me to get my rain coat on and double checked our exact position with our GPS computer map plotter and depth sounder. We turned on the radar to make sure that we didn't hit any 1) other boats or 2) land. Our depth sounder told us how much spare room we had beneath our keel. I went on the foredeck to be triple-sure, and we made our way in without any problems.
As this point we had four different methods of tracking our position. We slowed down to about 2 knots and crept through the narrow entrance to the harbor without visually seeing it. This one incident illustrates the necessity of constant vigilance and always having multiple tools ready to guide a safe passage.

We also listen to the "Safety and Security" net on the single sideband radio most mornings. This is moderated by a woman who keeps track of cruisers and safety issues in the Caribbean. We also pay for a weather guru's service which entitles us to call him any morning and ask for a local forecast with sea conditions before we head out anywhere. Before this fellow gives the weather, he asks if there is any "emergency or priority" traffic. Being so far from home, a concern for me is that we will be out of touch during an emergency. I gave our daughter the weather guy's phone number (in Florida) in case of emergencies, hoping that she'd never have to use it. One morning (when we didn't actually listen to the radio), we got a knock on the hull. A gentleman from a neighboring boat said that we had an emergency message to call our daughter. My heart was in my throat as we prepared to go ashore to get in touch with Jessie. We had to purchase on-line time and then, using our computer, log on to "Skype". We discovered Skype when we were in the Canary Islands, a service which allows a person to make phone calls through their computer. Fortunately no one was hurt or sick and we were able to take care of matters quickly. Cruisers look after each other and we're so glad to be part of a community like that.

In the Caribbean there is a method for cruisers to be in contact with other cruisers just to keep in touch using their SSB radios. Each morning between 0800 and 0815 (just before the Safety and Security net and the Weather guy's report) boats hail each other. After they make contact, they switch to other channels to have their chat. To call another boat, the protocol is to say the name of the boat you are calling three times, followed by your boat name two times. Such as: "Another Boat, Another Boat, Another Boat: Quest, Quest" We get familiar with other boat names and enjoy the creativity some people have in naming their boats. One of our favorites was a boat which hailed from New York with the name "Mast Transit". We've heard "For Play", "Secret of Life", "Alleluia" and "Quietly". Wouldn't it be fun if those boat owners wanted to get in touch with each other? It would sound like this: "Secret of Life, Secret of Life, Secret of Life: For Play, For Play" and then "For Play, For Play, For Play: Alleluia, Alleluia" and then "Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia: Quietly, Quietly".

With that, I'll sign off until January. Over and Out.
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questmiller on

re: Congratulations
Thank you, it's been a wonderful adventure so far. Soon I will post something from our land home, Juneau Alaska.

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