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.  

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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.

 

Southern Hospitality

Dateline Charleston, SC: First order of business is to clarify that even though we are back in the US and closer to our old stomping grounds, we are not done with this adventure yet. One of our original goals had been to sail back to the NY area to meet up with family and friends, and we are very excited to be doing that. But it is not the end of this journey. I think when that time comes we will just feel it and it is not here yet. So, we are taking this opportunity to visit favorite places and, perhaps more exciting, to visit parts of the US one or both of us have never seen. We may be domestic, but many places are still foreign to us.

Lovely homes line the Charleston Battery

Lovely homes line the Charleston Battery.

Another benefit is that family and friends are closer at hand for quick visits. They aren’t burdened with trying to cram their week’s vacation into our wildly unpredictable schedule. Pete’s brother Matt was first to arrive for a 4th of July/Brothers Malloy visit during our stop in Charleston, SC.

Brothers Malloy lineup

The Brothers Malloy.

Returning crewmember Chris was able to bring his whole family, giving us the chance to meet our new niece Sophia.

Pete convinced Emma they could run through the fountain without getting wet.

Pete convinced Emma they could run through the fountain without getting wet.

and....

and….

Emma learning not to trust Uncle Pete

Emma learning not to trust Uncle Pete.

We even caught back up again with fellow cruisers Rob and Rose, who we’ve sailed off and on with since Pacific Mexico.

We love seeing our boat buddies Rob and Rose  arrive to share in the fun.

Now the party can start.

We arrived in Charleston to a harbor buzzing with Coast Guard and police boats.   We later learned it was security for President Obama who was giving the eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of 5 church members shot to death at the Emanuel A.M.E. church.

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It was truly inspirational to see the families and the city of Charleston rising above and forgiving, persevering and seeking light from such a dark and repulsive act.

These uplifting banners were found throughout town.

These uplifting banners were found throughout town.

AME church note

AME church flowers

Hundreds of flowers line the front of the church.

AME hydrant

Charleston is dripping with charm and history and bacon fat (the food is delicious but geez have they met a dish they haven’t merged with a pig part).   Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t let that stop us and we ate and ate and ate. Hell, who doesn’t love a homemade biscuit or eating catfish for breakfast?

You know how I know I’m getting older, no not that it is harder to lose weight from all those biscuits or recover from a hangover, it is I’m going on a walking tour or taking a corny carriage ride and, gasp, enjoying it.

Carriage ride

All aboard the middle age express.

yes of course I worried about the horse.

Yes, of course I worried about the horse.

Where once I scoffed at guides leading me around with a group of other camera toting gawkers, I now find them a perfect way to get the lay of the land and god forbid learn a thing or two. Afterwards we can tackle the city on our own, seeing it at our pace and once again being too cool for guide books. Humidity be damned, we walked and walked (remember we ate a lot of biscuits) soaking in the gorgeous architecture, landscapes and everything else the low country had to offer.

Southern hospitality wasn’t just for us, Charleston is one of the dog friendliest towns we’ve been to and Lucy was welcomed almost everywhere we went.

Some of the best houses were down these alley streets

Some of the best houses were down these alley streets.

Lucy riding into town.

Lucy riding into town via the marina’s courtesy shuttle…now that is first class.

Caught red handed (or mouthed) Pete and Lucy sampling hot sauces

Caught red handed (or mouthed) Pete and Lucy sampling hot sauces.

Lucy found a new house for us.

Lucy found a new house for us.

But it’s not only about horses and dogs, we had another raccoon incident.  This little guy somehow found his way onto the our dock, and was caught by Lucy actually trying to climb up our water hose to get on the boat.  Since the dock is long and far from the shore, he was certainly not where he belonged.

Wanna be crew

Wanna be crew.

The marina called the critter catcher who scooped him up and we were sad because we know where wayward raccoons go (and not to a big farm out in the country).  But we later saw some commotion on the dock and heard that the little guy opened his cage and got out.  But not to be deterred, the critter catcher caught him again.  However, this guy was determined and once again opened his cage and escaped.  This time he scampered into the marsh and the catcher said he would not go after him a third time.  So here’s to a determined little guy.  May he live long and prosper.

He sure is cute

He sure is cute.

Note to cruisers: The Charleston City Marina was full of some of the most helpful folks we’ve met. They welcomed us and Lucy with open arms and dog biscuits. They provide a free shuttle service into town yet it is walkable if desired. If you are in the anchorage it is a quick dinghy ride to the marina’s dinghy dock.   If you do go into the marina and they assign you to the Megadock be sure to request the inside. When those summer storms roll in the boats tied to the outside were getting tossed around like corks.

Here comes the rain again

Here comes the rain again.