Land Cruisers Part II

We are back in Grenada after our 3 months sojourn in the UK, Antwerp and Amsterdam. We owe a big thanks to our pals Charlotte and James for letting us base out of their lovely riverside flat in Inverness while in Scotland.  

Gorgeous view of the River Ness from the apartment in Inverness

Gorgeous view of the River Ness from the apartment in Inverness

We really have to pay it forward with the cruising community after Charlotte and James’ generosity and Julie and Ken introducing us to the housesitting service that let us stay abroad for so long without breaking the bank (and letting Mary get her dog fix – and cat and chicken fix). 

We left England to spend a considerable amount of time in Scotland, starting off with a bang in Edinburgh.  Arriving just in time for the Fringe Festival, lauded as the world’s largest arts festival.  Everyone should head there for it at least once.  You can walk around the historic city and drop into a comedy show, theatrical, music, film, or any number of other performances whenever they strike your fancy.  

Next up was a trip to the highland capital city of Inverness.  The Scotland highlands reminds us of Tahoe with conifer-covered hills and mountains and open countryside.  Except here there is the odd abandoned castle off in the distance.  We’ve seen enough old castles and manors to last a lifetime, but we love learning about the history and occupants of each one.  The Scotland National Trust does a great job of preserving the history as well as the buildings.  And to Pete’s delight the Whisky trail led him to single malt Scotch heaven.

When we finished with our house sits, we set off to explore the western shore of northern Scotland.  Driving the North Coast 500 was a trip on the beautiful open roads.  Just be sure to bring your cojones because the roads are narrow, often even single track, and twisty with blind corners.  Oh, and with sheep roaming free.  The roads and weather were so gorgeous Pete wished he was back on the Ducati.  We made it all way round from Loch Ness up to John O’Groats (we had to go there just because of that name) and then back to Inverness to catch our breath.

Our trip didn’t end here, but our camera did.  Sadly hundreds of photos were lost to the technology gods.  So you’ll have to imagine and hopefully see for yourself one day the exciting city of Glasgow, Northern England, Wales, Antwerp and Amsterdam.  Here are a few snaps from the phone. 

It was the perfect break from 3 years on the boat and definitely a much needed change of scenery, proving to us that one can even get tired of tropical islands and variety is indeed the spice of life.  Bring on Season #4…

Taking It To The Streets

We’ve seen a lot of street art in our travels over the last few years.  It has run the gamut from heavy political statements from oppressed peoples to pure whimsy.  We’ve admired and taken a number of photos of these eye catching pieces, but can’t say we always quite got it.  

We are sure they tell a story but without being clued in all we could do is admire it.  In the US, I think we viewed graffiti as vandalism and not necessarily art.  So it was a great treat to take the Alternative Art Tour while in London and learn a bit about street art from an actual street artist.  Our guide took us around the Spitalfields area of London showing us a number of different works by artists from around the world, all plastered illegally or with permission of the property owner in public spaces.  Some of them were amazingly detailed for a piece that might exist for only a matter of days before it’s removed by the authorities or painted over by another artist.

 There is quite a bit of planning that goes into a good piece, including avoiding capture by cops or the ubiquitous CCTV cameras that seem to record every aspect of outdoor life these days.  img_20160812_151553127

The artist who did this little sculpture above stuck on a post is known to wear a worker’s fluorescent vest and use a ladder in broad daylight, as impersonating a public worker may be the best way to avoid detection.  Some artists are very secretive and are not interested in personal publicity, which adds to the mystery and attraction of that artist’s work.  Hearing all this from a participant in this underground world was hugely illuminating.  We highly recommend taking this unique tour to anyone visiting London, and then perhaps you’ll see the graffiti in your hometown in a new light.

Land Crusiers

We are in the UK taking a break from the boat (and the heat) in Grenada.  We will be here for about 3 months and to make it affordable we are house/pet sitting for people who are away on vacation.  It is a wonderful way to experience a country, allowing the spirit of the place to seep in and avoiding the pressure to be on the tourist superhighway – which, in our experience leads to museum fatigue, information overload and the occasional argument with Google maps and each other.  

After a few days in London, our first gig was for a charming couple in rural Hampshire.  Living in a lovely old country home and taking care of two sweet old cocker spaniels was a glorious way to start. Funny thing was they went Greece to have a sailing vacation, so we felt as though we had switched lives for a week.  

We especially like England’s tradition of public footpaths, byways and bridleways, which preserve the public’s right of access across private lands, complete with stiles to allow human and dog to get over fences without letting livestock escape.  Wish we had such paths in the US. 

After Hampshire, we were off to a charming village in Buckinghamshire and then back for more city life in London.

Anyway, just a short note to let y’all know what we are up to. Cheerio for now.

Grenada or Bust

Our goal for this sailing season was to get to Grenada, far enough south to be safely out of danger from summer and fall hurricanes. Then to put the boat to bed for a while. And that’s what we’ve done.

After making a beeline overnight run from Martinique directly to the Grenadian island of Carriacou, we slowed down a bit to enjoy these charming tropical isles. IMG_0431.JPGGrenada has got it right. Without a giant tourist infrastructure and without subsidy from a European country that views it as a vacation playground, Grenada maintains a fairly high standard of living on its own. Agriculture vies with low-key tourism to keep the local economy humming. The many cruisers about are not an insignificant part either, and the country caters to them as well as any other island we’ve been to.

Carriacou is a small island with a big protected bay lined with a few mellow bars and restaurants. It’s a perfect cruiser hangout and we stuck around for a week resting up from our sprint through the islands. IMG_0433.JPGWe’ll see the ones we missed on our way back up. Here we had great pizza and tried our first lionfish meal (for our non-boatie friends, lion fish is a voracious invasive species that is decimating Caribbean coral reefs because it eats everything and nothing eats it – so these islands do everything they can to limit its expansion). If you see lion fish on the menu, give it a try.  Click here to learn more about lionfish.  Here we also tried mangrove oysters for the first time. IMG_0434.JPGThey are thin and slimy and Mary thinks they were the cause of a stomach bug I suffered from a few weeks later. They don’t hold a candle to Oysterponds Shellfish Co. oysters, but it was worth it to listen to Warrior’s views on life on a small island. Warrior is the guy who picks them and sells them.  He told me he needed to sell some oysters to get a little money to celebrate Father’s Day with his girlfriend and her husband – go figure.

From Carriacou it was onto the grand anchorage at St. George’s on Grenada proper. It’s a giant open roadstead with easy access to St. George’s harbor and the Carenage.

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St George’s Carenage

You can get everything you need in this charming old town or a short wacky bus ride away. After stocking up on groceries and precious boat parts from Island Water World, we moved around to the south side where a number of bays knife into the island. This is where most of the cruisers hang out and is where we stayed while we prepped the boat for its slumber. Luckily, we arrived with time to meet old cruising buddies Susan & Roger from Second Wind and Thomas for The Cat.  With them we did an island tour with the famous Cutty and enjoyed a few dives before we had to get to work.

 

Who knew it was such a chore to leave a boat? We didn’t, since we haven’t left the boat for any significant time in over the last three years. How strange to contemplate that. But we had a plan and it meant putting the boat “on the hard,” as sailors say, for a stretch. So for a week, we worked our fingers to the bone cleaning, repairing, taking down sails and closing down boat systems. Finally, after one last back-breaking day we finished and, after packing the few pairs of long pants we have and digging out a few pairs of socks, the next day we jumped on a flight to the UK. We were going for maximum culture shock.

Neko strapped down

Neko safely strapped down in the yard taking a much need rest.

Ding Dong the Easting’s Done

We are celebrating reaching the farthest east we’ll get this season. There are generally two ways to get from the US east coast to the eastern Caribbean. One is to leave the US and sail straight east and then south to the islands. This avoids sailing directly into the trade winds, which down south blow from the east day and night and drag the waves with them. Leaving from the US allows you to skirt them. The other way is to go south through the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean islands, heading east in little jumps.

Eastward Ho

Eastward Ho

This is called the Thorny Path, because each step along the way is going into the prevailing winds and seas … and this is not fun for the cruising sailor. You end up using the motor a lot. The boat is often covered in salt and the bucking and bouncing will drive you to drink. So it is with a lot of relief that we’ve reached the lovely island of Martinique, after which our course is west of south all the way to Grenada, our destination this summer.

We left the US Virgin Islands and sailed directly to the oddly bifurcated island of St. Martin/Sint Maarten. It’s half French and half Dutch – actually the French side is a little

French wine, Dutch gin how about 2 Canadians and an American with a good ol' brew

French, Dutch, how about 2 Canadians and an American drinking Dominican beer.

bigger because they say it was divided by giving a Frenchman and a Dutchman a bottle of wine and gin respectively and setting them across the island to meet up in the middle. Because the Frenchman was able to hold his liquor better, he carved out more land for the French. Anyway it’s the perfect island for the boater.

St Martin beach (French side)

St Martin beach (French side)

The efficient Dutch have every boat part and service you might want on their side, all available duty free to promote the boating industry.   The French side, of course, makes available the things in life that no true French person will live without – good wine, cheese, baguettes and produce. What a treat to come home with a fresh baguette every day. As we would come to see and love, the French do not forego any of their customary pleasures merely because they are living on a tropical island instead of the motherland.  To see some more photos click here.  To top it all off, we caught up with old cruising pals and spent several weeks together celebrating Carnival, Mary’s birthday and anything else we could think of.  Even watching planes land.

Entertained by the landing planes just barely missing the beach goers.

Mary's birthday shot

Mary’s birthday shot

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After a month of boat jobs and island living, it was time to move on. Do you get the theme of these late season blogs – keep moving south to get out of the hurricane zone for the summer.  But first we needed to stop and restock our haute couture cruise wear because our next up was to be St. Barth’s, the playground of the rich and famous. Another cheese and baguette laden island with beautiful Europeans playing in the sun. For us, though, the anchorage was quite rolly and, since we had been there before, we only stayed a few days.

Reminding us that life is not just a wine and cheese party, St. Kitts and Nevis, two islands that are thriving under self rule, reintroduced us to the rasta way of life.  Here the Rastafarian influence starts to exert itself and the smell of ganga is everywhere on the streets and the chill One Love attitude prevails. Goat curry, rum punch and exotic fruits are the order of the day here.   Who needs Hamilton tickets for Broadway? We went to the source and visited his birthplace right here in Nevis.

Montserrat

Montserrat

After St. Kitts & Nevis, we couldn’t resist the call back to France by way of Guadeloupe and Îles des Saintes. We bypassed Montserrat, and its brooding volcano which we’ll visit on our way back. But it’s yellow smoke and sulfurous smell even 4 miles out was unmistakeable. Volcanoes are the name of the game down here.

We say some islands are dog islands and some are cat islands, but Guadeloupe delighted us by being a chicken and goat island.

The island’s charms did not stop with barnyard animals roaming the beach.  Guadeloupe and its sister islands of Îles des Saintes have a je ne sais quoi above and below the sea making it hard to resist, and why would you want to.

“Boat boys” are men who greet boaters as they arrive and offer all sorts of services, sometimes being too aggressive and sometimes even playing both sides of the security racket, if you get our meaning.

Our pal Providence.

Our pal Providence.

The guys on Dominica have done something unique, which we wholeheartedly support. The “boat boys” got together to organize and regularize their services. They stomped out crime against cruisers and offer moorings, ice, fuel, BBQs and other services, as well as land tours of the lush Dominican interior. They really are pleasant to deal with and make you feel quite welcome in Portsmouth, their main focus.

After getting muddy in Dominica, we returned to France by way of Martinique.  The quaint little town of St. Pierre is where the entire 30,000 person population, save two, was wiped out by a volcanic eruption in 1902. The only survivors were a prisoner in jail saved by the massively thick double walls of his cell and a cobbler high on a hill.

remains of the historic 800 seat theatre destroyed by the eruption.

remains of the historic 800 seat theatre destroyed by the eruption.

The prisioner and survivor Cyparis, saved by the thickness of his cell’s walls.

The prisioner and survivor Cyparis, saved by the thickness of his cell’s walls.

The little museum dedicated to the eruption is interesting, as are the many walls and ruins left in town from the old town. Apart from these few relics, every thing in this town was destroyed. The museum shows a stack of drinking glasses fused together and melted down into mush, a pile of nails from a hardware store that were forged into a single mass by the heat of the volcano and porcelain dishes, usually impervious to heat, that were melted by the blast. The 4,583 ft volcano is still there looming over the town as a constant reminder.  So what do you do when a volcano looms large?  You hike to the top of course.  Or high enough.   Mt Peleé was quite a trek up and up and up.   It was 90° and sunny at the bottom and 60°, foggy and windy by the time we reached the second refuge.  A tough one but well worth the effort for the experience, vista and opportunity to meet several locals doing the hike, one young girl climbing barefoot.  We all had to pull back on the complaining after seeing that.

Click here for more Martinique photos.

 

It may seem like we are romping through the Caribbean … because we are.  Its July when we are writing this, hurricane season is underway, and we need to be south to avoid any risk.  Next season we plan to visit the islands we skipped and return to the ones we loved.

Los Estados Unidos

From the Dominican Republic we transited the dreaded Mona Passage without incident and landed at Puerto Rico. 

Samana Sunset

A clear sunset for our departure.  (thanks for the photo, Bruce)

We loved Puerto Rico because it has that friendly, laid-back Latin culture that we have grown to love, but since it is part of the US, clearing in is easy (just a phone call with local boater option) and provisioning was a snap.    We would have stayed longer but because the season is getting late and we needed to get south we blew through the area with only enough stops to whet our appetites for a return trip next season.   We saw a bit of the mainland and some of the beautiful offshore islands – the Spanish Virgin Islands of Vieques and Culebra.  The Spanish Virgins are beautiful lush islands where the birds and iguanas far outnumber humans.  We can’t wait to return.

We did take a bit of time to explore, stopping at the El Yunque Cloud Forest and the lavish St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort and, of course, exploring the beautifully preserved Old San Juan.  

Sticking with the US, we jumped from the Spanish Virgins to the U.S. Virgin islands of St. Thomas and St. John.  St. Thomas is quite populous and we were able to catch up with our nephew Nick who was living there temporarily.  

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Nick sailing us over to Christmas Cove for a day of snorkeling.

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Pizza π boat in Christmas Cove anchorage. Just dinghy up to their pick up window.

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Sea plane runway right behind our boat.

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These cruise ships are huge

After a few days of loud, busy Charlotte Amalie, the capital of St. Thomas, we were ready for a little solitude.  And its easily found not far away in St. John, of which over 60% is national park lad.  Anchorages are undeveloped, uncrowded and beautiful. The water is clear and full of life.  This is why we do this.  

But the season is wearing on and we had to continue our journey south and east, so we were soon off to the French and Dutch islands for a little European flair.  

Haiti

We took a side trip to Haiti from the Turks & Caicos. New friends, Ben and Chloe, wonderful people we met in Providenciales, run Caicu Naniki travel agency and specialize in trips to Haiti. Earlier we debated sailing the boat to Haiti around its western edge and underneath to get to the Dominican Republic. Although it is said to be a calmer route, it is significantly longer than sailing directly from the Turks & Caicos to the northern shore of the Dominican Republic bypassing Haiti altogether. That, together with the fact that our boat would not be insured while in Haiti, drove us to choose the latter route. So we were really glad to get an opportunity to go to Haiti anyway. It was just a short trip for 3 nights but it felt like being transported to another world and time. 

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Living large in our private jet to Haiti, okay okay, so maybe it wasn’t a lear jet but we were the only passengers.

Haiti is a beautiful, mountainous country. It is little developed and as the plane swooped in we saw green hills as far as the eye could see. The people of Haiti are quite special, particularly given the hardships of their life.

Stunning to look at, they stand tall and look you in the eye when addressing you. They have a sweet, slightly shy personality and are always willing to help out. Every wave or “bonjour” is met with a smile and a return salutation. They speak a version of creole that is completely unintelligible to us, but also speak French and quite a few speak English. So communication was not really a problem, especially since Charlotte and James speak some French.

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Colorful loto kiosks everywhere

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Colorful dress

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Colorful music

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Colorful kids

We were picked up by Dominique, who served as our ever-patient guide and driver. She is a dentist by training and has many and varied interests, but took time out of her busy days to help us. She seems to know everything about Haiti and we couldn’t have done this trip without her.

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Dominique the only smart one who took a ride up the steep hill to the Citadel.

Their lives are very hard, however. The country is the poorest in the western hemisphere. There are none of the comforts that we take for granted back home. Refuse collection is a problem and the people live amidst appalling amounts of waste.

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The UN and various NGO’s are there, but it is not clear what they are doing. The locals call them “turistas” because they can most often be found at the nicer resorts having a grand time. We don’t know the facts, but did see UN soldiers staying, drinking and eating at our beach resort. However, we did see them patrolling the street also. We just think the country needs better aid in terms of major systems – water, sewer, garbage collection, security, etc. DSC_1770

We stayed around Cap Hatien, the northern capital. We did not travel to Port au Prince, the capital as it is quite a way south and west. We did travel to the Citadel, built by 20,000 laborers from 1804 to 1820. It’s quite impressive, considering that the sovereign “Republic of Haiti” was established on January 1, 1804 as the first independent nation of Latin America and the Caribbean, the second republic in the Americas, the only nation in the western hemisphere to have defeated three European superpowers (Britain, France and Spain), and the only nation in the world established as a result of a successful slave revolt. Henri Christophe, emperor of the newly free country’s northern half, decided it needed forts to defend itself from the French and enemies to the south, and the Citadel is the centerpiece of it. It’s a magnificent fort and seems truly impregnable. It is well preserved, including the many armaments scattered about.

DSC_1556Most of our pictures have a small caption embedded in them. But this simple picture has a story that we have to tell. There was smoke and the sound of drumming coming from this little settlement. Danny, our guide at the Citadel – well not really a guide, but a guy who attached himself to us and through persistence proved valuable to us – informed us that it is voodoo being practiced. He told us that one time a man brought his cow to the voodoo priest to be sacrificed. The priest told the man to do it himself. The man thought he was stabbing the cow with a machete but he was really stabbing himself. He was under a spell and thought he had a cow with him when he was actually alone. It was a creepy story.

 

Anyway, Cap Hatien is a feast for the eyes. We could not get enough of just looking around at the city, its citizens and scenery. We took about a billion photos and thought we’d share some with you.

We all need to learn how to balance like these lovely ladies.

Bahamian Rhapsody…

… well, maybe not so much.  It seems the El Nino weather pattern has had an impact on the Bahamas.  We were so looking forward to its clear waters and white sand beaches and connecting with other cruisers.

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Bahamian waters on a rare calm day

We did have that, but it was sandwiched in between waiting out the wind and rain from cold fronts.  Now, we are not Bahamas experts but it seems to us that Mother Nature has been a little harsher than usual on the Bahamas this year.  In the winter, low pressure systems routinely roll off the US coast going west to east.  These can push cold fronts into the Bahamas, which bring stronger winds and rain and cold (cold for us, not for you poor sods in the snow) weather.

 

They cause the wind to swing around the compass  and, because the Bahamas (at least in the Exumas chain) has a dearth of places to anchor to avoid west winds, require boaters to scramble around for a place to hide when the winds come from the west.  You see, it is a little uncomfortable to be anchored face into a wind that has a long distance to blow across the water.  This allows waves to build up which results in an unpleasant motion and can be dangerous if too extreme.  Much better to have an island blocking the wind in front of you.  So, each time the wind shifts around, it becomes a scramble to find a place with a new island in front of you.  And then when the wind settles back into the east, you can go about your normal boating activities.  Normally, as winter progresses, these cold fronts become fewer and weaker, resulting in more sunshine and less of this  weather strategizing. However, this year we were treated to a mild November and part of December and then in January the cold fronts kept on comin’ and the wind kept on swingin’ and the boaters kept on dancin’.  For us it got a little tiresome.  So here we sit writing this entry from the Turks & Caicos, which is just south enough to have a somewhat different weather pattern.  It will change more as we keep moving south.

So how to sum up our trip through the entire Bahamas archipelago in one blog post (I know, I know, we are way overdue)?  It’ll be to give you a quick run through the highlights of the trip (the lowlights were hit in the last post Gale!).  

We arrived at Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos, the northernmost stretch of islands.  Here we had good weather (before winter began) and enjoyed our time with Mike & Holly and Rob and Rose from R&R Kedger.  

We next transited to Eleuthera, which is a long island on the eastern outskirts of the Bahamas.  We saw very few other cruisers and it is mostly a non-touristy island.  This is the home of the famous pink sand beaches.  We were pleasantly surprised that in fact they really were pink and even better there was not a soul on them.  

From Eleuthera, we crossed over to the Exumas chain of islands – the holy grail of Bahamas cruising.  

The Exumas consist of over 300 small cays strung together on a chain about 130 miles long.  The centerpiece is the wonderful 22 mile long Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, where no taking of sea life is permitted.  Here all manner of creatures can be seen and approached because they have not developed a fear of humans.  It’s a truly wonderful experience to dive into the water and see a small Seargent Major fish swim up to your goggles to check you out just like you were planning to do to him.  Without those hunter and hunted instincts, you almost seem like equals.  The snorkeling is fantastic in the Exumas, complete with underwater caves right out of a movie (literally, in the case of the Thunderball Grotto, which featured in two James Bond movies, “Thunderball” and “Never Say Never Again”.

At the southern end of the Exumas is the cruiser mecca of Georgetown.  This is where so many cruising dreams hit their end.  There are literally hundreds of boats here and many never leave and a lot stay here for the entire season.  

Georgetown dinghy dock

Crowded Georgetown dinghy dock (photo by R&R)

These cruisers are done seeing new places and faces, and are living a watery life in a stationery spot (well, almost stationery – they do a sort of mini mass-migration every time one of the aforementioned fronts come through from one side of the big bay to the other to avoid the wind).  We chose to anchor in the middle and just ride it all out.  If you have faith in your anchoring gear, 25 knots of wind driven waves is no big deal.  Many of these folks were affected by the Exumas Derecho and it is understandable that they would be gun shy.

Well, we were not huge fans of Georgetown (evindenced by our lack of photos of the area).  Its true the boaters there could not be nicer, but its just not our cup of tea.  Our boat buddy Charlotte says we are not cruisers, but travelers – more interested in seeing new places than staying in one place for too long – and I think she is right.  After a couple of weeks in Georgetown, we were ready to move on.  

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Familiar faces we always love seeing. James, Charlotte, Rob & Rose.

We left Georgetown and made our way to Clarencetown, a stunning little anchorage on Long Island.  We were again sitting in an anchorage waiting for a front to pass by – it was threatening 25 knot winds from the north for a day or so.  We thought why just cower here and wait.  Like everyone else, we were a little gun shy from the big winds of a few weeks ago.

However, if it blows hard we would have rocks and other boaters around us.  If there is anything we learned from the derecho, it is that being anchored where there are things to hit or be hit by is not a good idea.  So we jumped off ahead of the cold front and used its big winds to drive us 200 miles to the Turks & Caicos.  We figured at sea at least we’d have a way to fight back if Mother Nature got tough with us.  In the end, we had a great sail with a lot of wind behind us and made great time.  The front passed by us and pushed our boatspeed up to 11 knots until the wind left us and we ghosted into Providenciales.  We crossed its tricky bar and got into a marina for the first time in 3 1/2 months.  It felt good to be able to just relax and forget about the weather for a bit.

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Turks & Caicos

Bahamas Bound

Season 3 starts with our longest passage to date – Deltaville, Va at the bottom of the Rapahannock River to the Abacos Islands, Bahamas.

4.5 days/800nm.  Thankfully, we had the help of our friends Mike and Holly to make watches easier and days more entertaining.

Our planned route involved heading out the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay, hugging the coast until below Cape Hatteras and then making a left turn and heading about 100 miles offshore to cross the Gulf Stream.  You don’t want to linger in the Gulf Stream because it rushes north and if the wind opposes it you get big ugly seas.   Also, if you are heading south, as we were, you need to get out of it because it just keeps trying to push you back north.  So we got across in one piece and turned south for the Bahamas.

Eventually, the air and water warmed and we swapped the sweatshirts and long pants for shorts and T shirts.  The fish started biting and all was good.  We safely landed at Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos Islands of Bahamas completing our longest passage to date and immediately began enjoying the warm, clear water.   We were also greeted by Rob & Rose on R&R Kedger who had set sail from Moorehead, NC and with whom we kept in contact via SSB throughout our passage.  Big kudos to R&R for doing their passage doublehanded.

The locals in the Abacos are laid back and friendly and the pace is is deliberate and slow.  We are back on island time, and loving it.

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Lucy

Dear Reader, please indulge us this little tribute to our dog Lucy, who left us in Deltaville, Virginia before we departed for the Bahamas.  We will return to our regularly scheduled blogging in the next post.

Holly's lucy photo

She chose us; we didn’t really choose her.   On vacation Mary has a habit of saving a bit of dinner for strays that inevitably haunt the pretty places. In Belize, she saved some fish for the many local cats we saw. But after dinner, they were gone. All we saw were three mangy dogs apparently living under an old upturned boat. All three came out to take the scraps, but only one continued on with us. Lucy followed at a safe distance and as we sat on the porch of our rented house she crept up and took a scratch from Mary.  Once she felt safe with us, she curled up in Mary’s lap and slept the sleep of the dead. It was clear she had not been able to let down her guard like this and just sleep in a long time. Her trust was touching and right then I knew she was ours.

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Early days in Belize

We got her back to NYC and she had every disease in the book, including heartworm and Lyme disease.   I often say that what we spent to fix her up would have allowed us to buy 10 purebreds, but there really was no question we would do whatever was needed.  She recovered and thrived.  It seems mutts are more resilient that way, and there was no muttier mutt than Lucy. She was an island dog descended from a long line of indistinguishable canines.  In Belize they call them potlickers, and lick a pot she could. Even though she spent only one year surviving on her own and had 14 other well-fed years with us, she lived for her next meal. It was her reason for being. She had an internal clock that knew her 4 pm dinner was coming down to the minute. That clock corrected for daylight savings time within a day.   You couldn’t deny her treats. She was so earnest about it, like begging was her job and she was dedicated to it. She was indifferent to playing fetch, acted bored at a dog run, and wasn’t much of a guard dog, but when it came to finagling food from a human, she was an expert.  Kids were easy targets as they always dropped food and found it a funny game to feed her.  Now, Mary will confess that she was the main cause of this begging, but I know she just couldn’t resist those big sad brown eyes pleading for a treat.  IMAG0001

And Lucy would eat anything. We didn’t bother noting the things she liked. She liked just about everything. It was far easier to note what she wouldn’t eat – bananas and citrus were about it. She had odd tastes too. Cut open a red pepper in the kitchen and she would smell it from wherever she was and come around.

Bark Bar

Lucy enjoying a drink at the Bark Bar.

She actually got excited about it. She’d eat a green pepper too but for some reason they weren’t nearly as good as a red pepper. In her later years she learned about fresh coconut water. To her it was like the elixir of youth. Even though a senior dog, a bowl of coconut water would have her jumping about and playing like a puppy .DSCN3144

She was an adaptable dog. It didn’t matter what we did or where we went, as long as she was with us. From her humble beginnings on the island, she ended up a well-travelled pooch. She lived in NYC and spent weekends on Long Island. She accompanied us on vacations all over the place. When we moved to San Francisco she rode out there with us in the car and watched the scenery go by.  She romped in the snow and tiptoed in the surf, climbed mountain trails and navigated city streets. She loved going for hikes. Not much for bushwacking, she would always find a trail and had to be in the lead. Sometimes at a fork she would look back asking which way to go and sometimes she just chose one and marched on as if it were completely obvious. If the humans didn’t follow her, she’d have to run back and find out what went wrong.

For a dog that grew up on an island, she was surprisingly afraid of water at first. She wouldn’t go near the surf. When we first tried to take her on the boat, she noticed the water between the boards of the dock and froze in fear. She even avoided puddles on city streets. It took a long time to coax her to swim. Eventually, she would do it in water without waves and into which she could wade. She was no crazy lab belly flopping and chasing balls. But for all that, she was a great boat dog.

She never got seasick and when we were moving she would just find a comfortable spot to lie until we got where we were going. When we started sailing long distances, one of our greatest triumphs was when she learned to do her business on a mat we made for the purpose.   Once she figured it out, she took to it like it was what every dog did naturally.   We’d hear her trotting up there on her own before breakfast each day.

She got old though, like all dogs do. She had arthritis in her back legs and walked with a stiff-legged gait that caused her head to bob. Her teeth decayed and some fell out but that didn’t diminish her one true love- eating. She could barely hear and lost the sight in one eye. But through it all, she never complained. I know dogs can’t complain, but what I mean is that she maintained her cheerful personality each day. As long as she had her humans with her and got her two square meals, she could endure anything. To me that is a lesson we can all learn from. Don’t dwell on the bad stuff; enjoy the time you have with the ones you love.IMG_8622Eventually, cancer got her and her body gave out and we had to give her up. But we will never let her go. We still get up in the morning and look for her in her bed, and it’s a little heartbreaking to realize she is not with us anymore.

We hope you’ll enjoy this video celebrating Lucy’s many 2 and 4 legged friends, her travels and our wonderful life with her.