23 April 2016

Back Home to Milly

Milly, ready for her stay at dock.
A new page in the adventures of Milly.  After a visit home, I realized that occasional posts that cover only the places we have been is frustrating, not only to me, but to anyone following the blog.  Beginning today, I hope to blog more often so that I can cover places and life aboard which, to some, is just as interesting.  Because I am an island behind, Dominica, a wonderful adventure with Maxine and Don, will have to wait.  When I do get around to it, it will be out of chronological order.  To those linear thinkers out there, I hope that is acceptable.  Note that I "hope" to blog more often.  This most dependent and limited by terrible internet connections and, secondarily - usually - my own lack of energy.  It's nice to blame it on the internet.
The clan.  Only missing our boy, Tom.
As I mentioned, Peter and I had a week long visit to Toronto.  It was a whirlwind of greetings with family and friends - lovely - banking business - a relief - and taxes - a bore.  A week was not long enough to see everyone or to complete all business but we were happy and ready to come home to Milly.

Milly was docked at a large marina in Rodney Bay, St Lucia.  We had spent three days cleaning and readying her for her stay without us.  The bilge pump and a leaking hot water pipe were fixed so she wouldn’t sink and the salt that had not been thoroughly rinsed during five months of sailing was washed away.  All surfaces were wiped inside to cut down on the moisture related to salt to only that of the 99% humidity weather.  We left her in great shape and returned to find her stinking hot but healthy.

Day one home:
Two loads of laundry.  Jeans, socks and deck shoes cleaned and put away until next trip north.  We are back in shorts, t-shirts and flipflops.  When that is too hot, bathing suits.

Outdoor checks of lockers.  Another freshwater rinse - when we get to a marina, we rinse every day just for the fun of it and because we can.  Dinghy back in action.

Restocking the cupboards.  Before we left, I tried to use up a bit of our stores.  With two guests arriving in a few days, upon our return it was time to restock. 
Here’s how grocery shopping works:

  • Take an inventory of what’s missing or what’s needed.  Basically, the same as home only the places to look are a bit different.  I have six plastic bins, one wine crate, one bag, three cupboards, one fridge, one freezer and several spaces beside the bins where I keep food.  Most is catalogued but some is not and requires a look.
  • Dinghy to dock closest to grocery store.  The dock here is very handy to the store.  In some places, there is no dock and we have to beach the dinghy.  In others, the store is a long trudge a way from the dock which is okay when bags are empty but a slog when bags are laden.
    When we are lucky, a local comes out to the boats.  In Rodney Bay, Gregory is the man.  This pic was taken when we were at anchor but he found us in the marina.  He says that the produce comes from his mother's garden.  Whether or not this is entirely true - the lettuce looks amazing - it sure beats the grocery store

    So laden that it looks like a big wave could send the produce floating away.
  • Shop, keeping in mind that all items must be packed into two backpacks, one cooler bag and four hand grocery bags all of which we try to remember to take with us.  On this trip, I forgot $$ which, of course, was unacceptable.  Peter had to dinghy back to boat while I shopped.
  • Return to boat.  This requires each person lugging one backpack and carrying two shopping bags.  One of us also carries a large cooler bag across shoulder and chest.
  • Unpack.  All frozen items immediately put in our freezer which is about a meter deep with three baskets, one on top of another.  I try to keep my written inventory up to date so I know which basket to go to for what item.  The freezer is a power sucker so it is key to open it for as little time as possible.  Knowing where items are prior to opening is essential so the initial packing has to be organized and recorded.  
  • Any cardboard packaging is discarded before entering the saloon.  This may be cruiser-lore but rumour has it the cockroaches lay their eggs in the glue of cardboard packaging.  Lore or not, we do not want any varmints on Milly and so out goes the cardboard.  
    We'll be eating a lot of fruit!  Washed, rinsed and ready for drying.
  • All produce is dunked in salt water.  As we are now in a marina lagoon, I do not dunk in the sea.  It is probably dirtier than the fruit.  Today, I washed in soap and water and rinsed with fresh.  A drop or two of bleach probably would have been a good idea.  At the vast majority of anchorages, I swish in salt water so that any lurking infestations will explode from osmosis.  I then rinse and thoroughly dry.  Finally, I put away - most produce can go in our baskets.  Some is refrigerated.  There is a science of what veg can be stored with which fruit.  Apples, for example, go bad if stored with onions. 
    A big provisioning will have many more cans.  

    Each bin has it's own tally of what goes in and what comes out.

  • All cans are washed and dried in soapy water, labelled and then stored either in the pantry or under the settee where they are catalogued.  
Done! One basket from Uruguay, one from Dominica and one from Gregory.
All is then complete.  Depending on the extent of the provisioning, it has taken several hours.  Of course, after all that work, I am very reluctant to eat anything.

20 April 2016

The Emerald and Ash Isle

The harbour at Montserrat.  
The people of Montserrat are trying so hard to recover from a series of volcanic eruptions over the last 20 years or so.  There is a new tiny development composed on three or four bars and eateries near the port and only beach, to welcome the very occasional “adventure” cruiselines and a scant handful of yachties and taxis to take these few on a tour of the island.  The tiny port is really only a small indent on the lee side of the eruption-safe northern tip of the island, just around the headland from the full Atlantic force.  It’s windy and rolly.   The locals are incredibly friendly, helpful and accommodating - they invited us to encourage our friends to visit.

On our way by, we actually sailed in the exclusion zone.  A no-no but we go where the wind takes us.  Here the emerald is clearly demarcated from the ash.  The ash on the right was the airport.  The ash on the left was a village that was completely swept into the ocean adding several hundred meters of "land"mass to the island.  The smoke in the middle is actually rising from the hot spot of the current flows.

The north end of the island is beautiful - few beaches but mountainous and, indeed, emerald.  Celebrations of St Patrick’s Day rank second in the world and last a week.

Beneath the locals’ ebullience was a sad interior which became apparent when speaking of the “crisis” or “tragedy”.  The pain was clear and the tone was hushed.  And a visit to the southern third of the island revealed why. 

Peter and I rented a car to do our own tour of the island.  The owner of the rental picked us up, drove us 30 minutes to the airport to get a local licence, proudly pointing out the sites as he drove, then took us another 20 minutes to his home/office to pick up the car, and then led us to his favourite restaurant and then to the hardware store at our request.  The entire rental process took at least a couple of hours of his time for about US$40 for which he was very grateful.
View from the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.  In the distance is the volcano.  Between the observatory and the volcano is the exclusion zone including home's, businesses and farms, all abandoned and off limits.  The helicopter is now the only business left for researchers and tourists.  Driving through the zone that was available to us was eery.  Only the occasional car or taxi with tourist, or dump truck carrying ash to the port shared the roads that were overgrown and potholed.

Definitely awe-inspiring.  The peak was, unfortunately, under cloud while we were there but the smoke and devastation were clear.

The capitol, Plymouth, is completely covered by ash and mud.  Those buildings that were high enough are abandoned and now falling apart and covered with growth.  Seemed like Armageddon.  So very sad.

We made our way up incredibly steep narrow roads that became even slimmer as we climbed.  The Montserrat Volcano Observatory was awesome in the true sense.  The volcano happened to be in cloud - not unusual - but we could see smoke rising from the hot spots in the gullies even below the cloud line.  An amazing video showed the lively and, seemingly, thriving scene in the capital, Plymouth, before the devastating series of eruptions in the 1990’s lined up against the same valley with buildings totally buried in ash and mud.  Although much of the city is off limits except by special permit, for obvious reasons, we were able to take our car through the still abandoned “Exclusion Zone”.  An abandoned hotel on a ridge with pool, hallways and dining room full of mud offered a view, once spectacular, of city and sea.  Now, a wasteland.  So very sad.
The ash is everywhere.

Plymouth, a thriving capitol in the 1980's, was evacuated early because of scientific prediction of eruption so that very few lives were lost. 

A hike on the second day, also in the Exclusion Zone, driving on roads left to degrade, gave us a vantage of the airport that had been swept into the sea by mud, lava and ash.  Scary.
View of the airport land from our hike in beautiful mountains and emerald growth.
It was a sad visit.  The industry on the island now revolves around the event which has rocked the inhabitants.  Ash is their only export and tourism is based on viewing the apocalyptic devastation and volcano. The power of nature can be cruel.