31 January 2016

Holiday Season in Barbados - All about the people

Those red blossoming trees are poinsettias - better than Loblaws!  You know Christmas is coming when they grow that big!
Relative to our isolation in port after port in Brazil, our experience in Barbados was nonstop conviviality.  Even before arriving, Peter Douglas, a previous acquaintance through our sailor children, secured the use of one of two mooring balls at Port St Charles for our use and, because it was not available immediately upon our arrival, invited us to stay at his private dock in the lovely condo development.

Within minutes of our arrival, Peter arrived in his dinghy to guide us to the required officials and then to his home.  He and his wife, Dale, assisted us in tying up and treated us to dinner at the yacht club.  Apart from Trinidad, an arrival at a foreign port had never been so easy or so welcoming.  The Douglases opened their home to us - we could not flush, or drain our dish water or even our tooth brushing water into the lagoon.  The rules are strict to protect their sealife which we fully appreciate so, of course, we complied.  We tramped through their house for all ablutions….plus laundry!  We washed Milly, inside and out, with their water supply to ready her for our children’s visit.  So exciting!  

We rented a car - for three weeks! - and picked Em and Gid up at the airport.  A military band played at the gate to welcome them.  Emily, our darling daughter, finally got to meet her namesake, Milly.  And I think she approved.  We had a few day sails, one with the Douglases who kindly oriented us to the local bays.  Gid was very game. Being his first time living on a sailboat, we were concerned that he enjoy it or else the two might not come as often.  I think we managed.  At least, he said he would come again!
Cherry Hill Road overlooking the east side coast - wild and wonderful

A hike along that east side - having a good time

On the way back to Mill, stopped for freshly picked coconuts.  This guy climbed with alacrity!

R & R

Taking charge...sort of.
Tom, our son, arrived on the 23rd.  He is a get-up-and-go guy, always busy.  We did our best to please with a daysail on the 24th, two attempts at spear-fishing - unsuccessful, we have to figure that out - a meal or two out.  He jumped off the boom, slung over the water but was disappointed that we didn’t follow.  After a beer or two, we declined.  Wisdom comes with age!
Tom, with the Finn physique at a trailhead on the very edge of the cliff to the sea

A popular Christmas gift that simulates workouts at high altitude!

Diving off boom

Off cockpit roof

and trying to catch a wave
The Douglases kindly hosted us for Christmas Eve dinner.  The kids went out to a Bajan club and came home by TomTom at 2 a.m.  We went to a Bajan hotel on the wild and wooly east coast for Christmas creole brunch and a rum tasting back on Milly with hotdogs for Christmas dinner??  I was still full from brunch.
Christmas on Milly.  Not quite the tree that we used to have but pretty sweet just the same.

Tummies full.  Merry Christmas!
We had a wonderful Christmas, stockings and all.  It was sad to say good-bye to the kids and internet is still a challenge which makes communication tough.  We hope they will come back to visit soon and often.
Harrison Caves - amazing place

The crapper at St. Nicholas Abbey - Peter and Rob used to live with a Crapper which made it all the more fun.

Serendipitously, arrived in Bridgetown for Independence Day parade.  The school children who watched and joined on at the end of the parade.  Each class had a different uniform - all pristine, colourful and seemed to be worn with pride.

The parade watched from a balcony on high

Oops.  Unbeknownst to us, as we got in TomTom the parade morphed onto the water.  Fireworks almost caught us broadside before we figured we should stay tied up for awhile.

One thousand year old baobab tree with 60' circumference trunk.  Theory is that the seed travelled across the Atlantic from West Africa.  Nature always puts us in our place.

Carlisle Bay beautiful beach.

Peter trying his best to catch a wave to no avail while I did yoga on the beach for the first time.
Anne and Rob, our dear friends who visited in Angra dos Reis, Brazil came again to celebrate New Year’s with us and a week of sightseeing in Barbados.  Only one daysail and anchoring in Bridgetown but lots of trips by car.  We had a great week with them and hope they will make Milly an R&R visit at least twice a year.
R & R on Milly

Anne at her favourite sailing post watching the flying fish.

And then there were two days spent at Rabbit Hill, a small Bajan estate on the east side overlooking the Atlantic and all it’s tumult.  It’s owned by Tom and Connie, friends from Stony Lake who will soon be joining us on Milly.  Tom came to Port St Charles bearing gifts of homemade banana bread and a grocery bag full of little limes.  He picked us up for a day visit, hike, tour and lunch on our second day.  Fantastic host, lovely curry and so fun to see his enthusiasm for his beautiful garden. We loved the east side and hiked and lunched again with the Mackenzie’s who were renting Rabbit Hill.
A rudimentary shelter for the hill folk on our hike with Tom.

The walls were a little more sophisticated but still primitive shelter.  A man came out to greet us on our hike past his home with a big smile, dressed in loincloth.

View from the top of the cliff.  Legend has it that a guy who found out that his wife had a lover, rode of the cliff on his horse.  Poor horse.

Thanks, Tom.  We had a great day with you.
All in all, Barbados was a unique and exceptional experience for us because of the people who greeted us, hosted us and visited us.  Thanks, everyone!  We loved your company and hospitality... and Barbados.
View from our anchorage at Port St Charles.

Good-bye, Port St Charles.
Huge waves off the north point of Barbados.  Tom would have loved them.

21 January 2016

Upwind Passage to Barbados

Leaving Clark's Court Bay, Grenada at sunrise
Ever since returning to Milly, the fellow cruisers we met from Trinidad to Grenada implied with a disbelieving expression or told us outright that we were crazy to sail to Barbados for Christmas.  It’s an upwind passage that most sailors avoid.  The vast majority of cruisers who arrive at the island have come from the west - that is, Barbados is the first port of call after crossing the Atlantic hailing from the Canaries or Cape Verde.  Compared to these trans-ocean sailors and relative to our months upwind travelling the coast of Brazil, Peter and I were determined to believe that a 36 hour sail to Barbados would be within our capabilities but perhaps, depending on wind and swell, not all that comfortable.  As the day of departure crept toward us and the number of cruisers questioning our sanity multiplied - to the point of suggesting that we should pay for the kids flights to Grenada instead of making the passage - my trepidation increased.  But our kids had chosen this island as our Christmas meeting point and come hell or high water - hopefully neither - we were going to get there.

The 144 NM (as the crow flies) with a 15 knot trade wind on the beam - perfect - would normally take about 15-16 hours.  We figured this upwind course in the forecast light winds would take 36 hours.  We planned to head south toward Tobago on the first tack to get a better angle to Barbados, perhaps only one more long tack if all went well.  The wind was forecast as light (8-12knots) and so we hoped the swell and waves would be smaller and more comfortable, or as comfortable as an upwind passage across open ocean can be.

We left at 6:00 a.m. thinking that we would make Port St Charles harbour before dark the following day.

Remarkably, the forecast was accurate, the wind was light, the swells manageable.  The sail was unremarkable.  We made Port St Charles in 32 hours.  No sweat, no problem - although Milly was still salt-coated with a total of 198 NM actually sailed.  But compared to the southern coast of Brazil, this was a snap.
At our generous friends' private dock in the lagoon at Port St Charles.
And Barbados was well worth the upwind jog.  So to all sailors who are reluctant to sail the upwind trip, pick your time and go - it’s great.  Or, if you must sail downwind, arrive via an Atlantic circuit or, better yet, a circumnavigation.  You’ll be happy with the visit.  More on Barbados to come.
Port St Charles Yacht Club - Our Christmas port of call

12 January 2016

Sweet Grenada

Hello, Prickly Bay, Grenada
We have had a wonderful time in Grenada.  If we did not have plans to come back, I would be very sad to leave.  But next hurricane season will see Milly’s return, at least for a few weeks.

We left Scotland Bay, Trinidad at about 21:00 under a full moon and clear skies.  The sail was lovely and uneventful.  Only two ships were sighted, both on my watch and, of course, on collision course.  One we passed behind and the other, a bit more nail-biting, we passed in front of by about 1.5 NM.  Never feels good to see the huge bow bearing down on our little boat.  Two NM does not seem very far at all.  All went well and the excitement definitely kept me alert.  

St Georges Carenage
Police direct traffic complete with white gloves.
Grenada is a beautiful island.  Green, mountainous, cliffs interrupted with small but pretty beaches.  The south coast of the island is guarded by coral reefs and has numerous bays which offer diverse anchorages.  Grenadadians are friendly, kind and helpful. Many of the small walls and terraces are painted with the Grenada flag colours and pride of place is obvious in the tidiness and cleanliness of their private and public places.  Very little garbage anywhere, a relief after our experience in Trini anchorages.  It has been successful in finding a happy balance between authentic cultural appeal and having services and comforts that make it a very easy place to spend a few weeks.

Some highlights:

Meeting up with owners of four other Antares boats for dinner and some or others over the two weeks.  We exchanged our boats’ ups and downs and adjustments, where to go, where we’d been etc. etc. 
Antares s/v Blue heading up islands

Two hashes.  These were new to us, introduced by Jason and Gail of Two Fish fame.  They are walks or runs on routes set up weekly by the hash heads who must have military backgrounds as sergeant majors!  Great fun, taking us to neighbourhoods and jungles we would never have found or explored on our own.  The first was a sweaty affair.  Up steep, muddy hills - hands holding onto vines to keep from tumbling - and down the same - ski side-stepping necessary.  The last 500 meters was down a river, not on the banks but in the river.  The thigh height bath was a relief.  Hashes are international apparently.  Barbados has one and we will do our best to attend.
Hash antics.  New shoes? Clean enough to drink a beer out of.  New to the hash? Sprayed with a can of beer at the end.  Luckily, we were forewarned and kept our newby status quiet.

The hoards heading up
The end.  Phew!  Good fun!
The buses.  There is a very efficient system of “buses” which are the size of cargo vans in Canada converted to passenger vehicles with five rows of seats plus folding booster seats at the end of each row.  Locals are packed in.  Buses do not leave their initial location at the St George bus station until it is full.  Full does not mean one person to seat - a three person bench seat is packed with five.  Our one hour trip across island Peter and I took to see a waterfall was reminiscent of the childhood game of sardines.  I was beside the window - a privileged position usually.  I sat with my torso turned sideways - there wasn’t enough room for my great girth.  Peter sat beside me, compressed as small as possible, with a tiny school girl at his other side.  She was squished beside a rather large high school boy.  Both students were in spic and span school uniforms.  The girls usually had white blouses with coloured skirts or jumpers.  There hair was particularly neat, up in buns or braids and held in place with white ribbons tied in little bows.  The fifth in our row was the “conductor”.  It is the conductor’s job to gather the fare, usually $1US or $2 US for this longer trip, to stop the bus by banging on the ceiling and to shout out the window at possible passengers walking on the side of the road.  If a passenger wants to get off or on, the bus screeches to a halt - the brakes get a very good workout - the conductor opens the door and leaps out as the bus is still moving, and the passenger scrambles on and tries to sit down before  the bus screams off again. 
No room for error in this parking spot.
At our destination, after a bus ride and a hike over hill and dale.
Music is loud, ubiquitous and, at this time of year, loaded with Christmas pop interrupted by the occasional Christian sermon.  The roads, especially through the less travelled steep interior, are one and a half lanes travelled as two.  There are no guardrails only vegetation and steep drops to rock and ocean below.  Through the villages, for deluges of rain or sanitation??, there are square concrete ditches - a meter deep and a meter wide - that act as a curb equivalent only in the earthward direction.  In other words, the roads are intimidating enough that we didn’t unpack our bikes and the bus rides were scenic and efficient while careening around the corners, narrowly missing the abyss of a ditch all while listening to seasonal jingles and swaying as one with whoever we were wedged against.  Now this is travelling!  For a short time, we were locals.
Unfortunately, Tanty Sherms was closed so we missed out on the soulfood.

Strict dresscode.  Especially liked "no pants below buttocks allowed", "no half-naked bodies allowed", and "no see-through clothing that reveals underwear allowed".  We had to go home to change - kidding!

Goats keep the cemetery manicured.

Chinese hospital ship provides free medical care in the islands.
We will be back, Grenada!  Looking forward to more hiking, music, food, friendly faces and…adventures on buses..
Stocking up on drawers full of frozen delicacies for Christmas festivities at a French Canadian butcher/restaurant/bar/marina in Grenada.  Small world.


Now Christmas is coming and we are off to meet our children in Barbados - upwind.
Got to be good luck!

A "dinghy concert" with live music in the middle of a bay.

Until next time, Grenada!
We will be back, Grenada!  Looking forward to more hiking, music, food, friendly faces and…adventures on buses.