Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Prom night!
see below for the update.
Fort de France, Martinique is a big city by Caribbean standards. The first person we talked to was the Customs lady, originally from Ontario.

We anchored by the fort itself, and had a great view of at least a part of the city, and no view of the industrial areas or the container piers around on the other side of the fort. We were rather close to the ferry docks, which seems to be the standard for anchorages in the Caribbean, and bobbled and rolled when they came and went. Three other Canadian boats near us, two from Quebec, and Raft, from Midland, Ontario. The Customs lady had been to summer camp for several years in Midland, so they had lots to chat about.

Had a blast wandering around FdeF. Randy was the soul of patience, and I was able to supplement the desperate pile of faded and stained Frenchy's clothes that I've been wearing when "clothing optional" is not an option. We went into one of many lingerie stores, and here's me, flipping through one of the many racks of matched sets, completely lost with the European sizing. The salesperson, a young woman about 6'2", enormous, asks in French if she can help. Randy tries to translate measurements into both centimetres and French, but after some gesticulation, she just reached over and felt my breasts, one after the other, then walked over to a rack, and flipped through until I indicated a set I liked. She walked over and slapped them on the countertop, and was a bit surprised that I wanted to try on the bra. Also purchased (different store) a new brass hinge for the cockpit table to replace a broken one, and paid about 10 Euros for the thing. We hadn't been able to use the table for a couple of weeks, so we figured it was a necessary expense.

Had lunch at Lina's, a wonderful sandwich with wonderful red wine (we've figured out that you have to chill red wine to the right temperature. Red wine is not meant to be drunk at 30 degrees C), and watched the soccer. Everywhere, there's soccer.

When we got back to the boat with our haul, I tried stuff on for Randy, and noted that the teeny snazzy underwear that went with the bra was a size XL. Now there's a confidence buster. Then Randy replaced the broken hinge on the cockpit table, closed up the table, and the other hinge broke. Situation normal.

We shifted across the bay to Anse a L'Ane, which seems to be sort of a weekend spot/suburb for the big town. The entertainment for the afternoon was watching the kids jumping off the wharf, and listening to the irregular roars and shouts from a beach bar: more soccer. The little ferries came and went, and everytime they pulled into the dock, the boys on the dock would cease jumping from the end of the dock, run onto the ferry, up to the roof, and leap off with loud whoops.

It was overcast and showery, so for a change of scene, we moved over to the next bay, Anse Mitan. Just after we anchored, a fellow in a dinghy came alongside and said that they were coming with their big schooner to pick up a little mooring ahead of us, and we would have to move. No problem. The schooner was a huge, ugly, hogged, bodged affair for daytrippers that we'd seen across the bay. Randy has trained me well, and I was able to discuss with him quietly all the reasons it was an abomination. I also noted that the mate in the dinghy had a very bad ponytail held in place with a pink scrunchy. He probably looked up at me and thought, en francaise, "does she know that there's a grease stain on the front of that ugly pea green top?"

Next day, we sailed across to St. Lucia. A grey, grey, grey day, a very confused swell and chop, and occasional heavy rain. There are always compensations, and today, it was dozens and dozens of small porpoises leaping about, flipping high out of the water, walking on their tails, and swimming along in beautifully sychronized groups.

We headed into the lagoon at Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, to get out of the swell, to check in and line up fuel and water for the next day. First person to greet us was Gregory the Fruitman in his little boat with a very rickety awning flying dozens of flags. We bought six mangoes and a pineapple for a couple of dollars, and picked up another scratch on the topsides. Next was John, in his brightly painted little boat with an enormous Bob Marley flag flying from the stern. John was very, very, mellow, I mean really mellow, and he and I had a nice chat. He told me about some of the boat ladies that really liked him, and maybe I might really like him, and I mentioned that I had a captain of my own (who came on deck at that moment) and John backed down in his mellow way, and we bought a woven palm basket from him. We saw John the next day, and it being offseason, he hadn't sold anything all day and he looked beat and terribly skinny, although still mellow. We gave him a sandwich and a beer and he told us how he used to run tours in a bigger boat, taking tourists down the coast, and back up in time for the sunset. He seems less able now, although still a young man. Too much ganja is my guess. He was going home to share the sandwich with his dog. We did enjoy talking with John and Gregory (tomatoes and avocado the next day), and John taught me to do a proper Rasta handshake.

Chris Doyle's guide indicated that the best pizza place in the island was just around the corner, so we opted for dinner ashore and it was great. Upstairs from the restaurant there was a fitness club, so we scarfed our pizza to the sounds of a heavy bass beat and the thumping of feet and the sadistic barking of the aerobics instructor. Back at the dock, a young woman, all tarted up, stopped me, "Excuussee meee! I just want to have a small coffee here? Can you give me 6 dollars?" Um, no. The next afternoon, the same young woman spotted Randy alone at the dinghy dock waiting for me to get back from the bakery, and, in her wet tshirt, said "Excuussee meee! Would you like to have a massage later?" Entrepreneurial tart. We left the lagoon that afternoon, and anchored out in the bay, just out of the sphere of the Sandals Resort.

Randy here. Cocktail hour, and we're sipping the usual rum concoction, and we spied a typical yellow plastic kayak from the resort, manned by an East Indian couple. We were hoping that they weren't on their honeymoon.They seemed to be having a lively discussion about how to turn the kayak around. They'd blown downwind from the resort, and were now in a panic state about how to get back. First, there were loud cries from the woman everytime the man tried to wield his paddle, then they were both paddling in unison, backwards, with the most tentative strokes imaginable, just moving inches per stroke. Sue suggested that she'd seen more torque applied to a spoon in a tub of ice cream. For the next fifteen minutes, they paddled this way, and were just holding their own, backwards, against the trade wind. At this point, Sue said "maybe you should go over and offer to tow them back, or instruct them, or something," when eureka, the light bulb came on, and they both started paddling on the same side, and the bow came round into the wind. After that, it was the drill sargeant voice of the woman in the bow, "Left, Right, Left, Right, Left, Right" with the occasional "Right, Right" when she felt they were off course. Why we need rum at this time of day. So we went ashore to Jambe de Bois (wooden leg) for snacks and wifi, and the best book swap we've run into so far.

Headed down to the Pitons at the south end of the island. The most amazing peaks, shooting straight out of the ocean, covered with green, wreathed with clouds. We picked up a mooring at the base of the northern, highest piton, and the small reef at the base was in about 8 feet of water, we were within 15 feet of the reef and in 60 feet of water, and if you spit a cherry pit off the south side of the boat, it would sink in about 300-400 feet of dark water. SB had a couple of good snorkels at the base of the piton, but picked up something stingy on the arms on the way back to the boat. Swimmers on Aldora on a mooring just behind us had the same problem, both of them also doing the crawl. Vinegar and alcohol (applied externally) stopped the stinging right away.
Rolly bloody spot, so we shifted in the morning to moorings between the pitons, again, spectacular. No anchoring allowed in this area since it's a reserve, and no fishing either, not that we'd be much of a threat these days. Hung out for another day, then booted across to Bequia (say it BeckWay, and you'll fit in), the northernmost of the Grenadines. Yesterday, we had the pleasure of watching two traditional Bequia two-bow (double enders) boats racing. Each had a crew of about 6, and they flew.

But we have arrived at some sort of carnival time. The very worst part of modern technology is the ability to amplify shitty music. All we hear is DUM DA DUM DUM, DUM DA DUM DUM, AND REPEAT. Endlessly. We're a mile away from the centre of town, and you can still feel the noise vibrating in your chest. Last night, the music went until about 3:50 am, and then there was a Jump Up that started at 4 am and wound down at about 8 am, when we decided to get up and eat breakfast. Shopping in town this morning, we noticed clumps of bodies lolling on benches under trees, vodka bottles still in use, covered with white mud or paint. The place came alive again (DUM DA DUM DUM, DUM DA DUM DUM) in the afternoon, and is still rocking.

Tuesday, and town has quieted down. We walked up hill and down dale all the way out to the turtle hatchery, and were so well rewarded with a lovely talk with Brother King. As a young man, he used to fish and take turtles, and for the last 11 years, he's now 68, he's been working hard to try to give the endangered turtles a chance. He watches and guards the nests of eggs, collects as many babies as he can, and raises them until they're about five years old and then releases them. Without his help, a baby turtle has about 1 in 3,000 chance of making it to adulthood (it takes 25 years for the females to be old enough to lay eggs), and Brother King's rate is about 50 out of 100. He's released 880 turtles to date. He was particularly concerned because this year, about 3/4 of the way into the egg-laying season, he's only found one nest of eggs. His focus is on educating the young people in Bequia. The adults see turtles, and turtle eggs, as food, and he's counting on getting the young people educated about how the turtles are disappearing. What an interesting man. Self-taught, dedicated, passionate, he works with his turtles every day by himself, with help from his grandchildren. Guess what the baby turtles eat? Brunswick Sardines.

Very interesting day, very long walk, then very expensive laundry in the afternoon.

Next post, I hope to have a picture of prom night: Tom in a suit, and Molly, who is, according to Tom (a most truthful boy), "the prettiest creature to grace the earth." This has nothing to do with cruising in the Caribbean, but everthing to do with being a mother cruising in the Caribbean.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

We're in St. Lucia, having a great time. Here's the pics that go with the last post. More news to come soon.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Hey Tom, here's an update that's not boring: rough weather, gear failure, torrential rain!

Left you last in Jolly Harbour. Condos and boo-tiques and easily the worst "hardware" store we've ever seen. It was like someone spent a couple hundred bucks at a Dollar Store, and chucked it onto shelves. And they wanted EC$5 (US $2) to swap your book for another crappy paperback. Robbery. There was, however, a great supermarket and a great wine and booze store and we bought really good English Harbour Antiguan 5-year-old rum. Then we topped up with diesel and water, and motored around to English Harbour to have a look at the restoration of Nelson's Dockyard.

Picture yourself in 1785 or thereabouts (you don't smell good, and your dress whites need laundering in a big way), and you're sailing into harbour in Antigua past a small fort at the entrance. Then you round the corner and there's a wonderful village of stone buildings that house all the services and stuff needed to keep you and the British navy fleet ready and willing to trounce the French at a moment's notice. It's so Horatio Hornblower. You can almost picture the winsome lassies lining the dock. Then you come ashore and the dream collapses. Tourist tat, t-shirts and shot glasses made in China. No Horatio t-shirts, unfortunately. There was a small museum with some interesting artifacts, and a great bar and several restaurants in the old buildings. Most places were closed though, as this is way past the high season. We did manage to find a place for Randy to get a real haircut (and paid a real price too). A lovely little salon with a lovely American lady who cut his hair, trimmed his ears, eyebrows, nosehair, mustache and beard, and gave his head and shoulders a massage for good measure. I hardly recognized him. I've been promised the same treatment on our way north, whenever that will be. Although my ears don't need trimming. Not sure about the beard.

Important business taken care of, we checked out with Customs and the Harbourmaster, and had a beer and chatted with the American fellas at the next table. We had a walk around and surveyed the possibilities of getting a meal before 8 pm, and decided to go back to the boat for bbq steak and salad, and to bed. Early.
Next day, the plan was to leave early and sail -- with hopes for a beam reach -- to Guadeloupe. Underway by 7 am, and we were thumping along in 20-25 knots of wind as soon as we exited the harbour. Not quite the beam reach that was promised, but at least 60 degrees off the bow, which is terrific by our current standards, and maintaining about 7.5 knots with the jib, reefed main and mizzen up. But along with really good speed, we were pounding through 6-10 foot swells that were way too close together. I was green, so I went below to lie on the settee, conveniently on the lee side, and was contemplating how much trouble it would be to go and throw up in the head, when I heard Randy say "Shit. I've lost the steering." Or something to that effect.

The wheel she spun round, but the rudder didn't turn. The first thing we ascertained was that the boat was still sailing quite nicely. There were a few moments to think. Then a few moments to dismantle the binnacle to look for the problem. A moment or two for the mate to barf discretely, then the nasty suspicion came over Randy that the steering shaft was broken.

Like the cavalry to the rescue, out comes the emergency tiller. (Thank you Peter Tanner of Blue Rocks. He built it and hand-delivered it to the boat the day we left Lunenburg. Take all your metalwork business to Pete Tanner -- Standfast Fittings, Blue Rocks). Randy had to take the wooden wheel off so there was room to manouevre, and for some reason there was only about five degrees of movement either way, but we had some control, so we came about, at 7 knots, and headed back to English Harbour. We were about 9 miles out, so Randy rigged lines to help take the pressure off the tiller, and still going about 7 knots, we blasted back in about an hour and a half. I only barfed three more times. At some point on the trip back, the silverware drawer with all the sharp knives came shooting out across the cabin and sprayed its contents all over the cabin sole, and the next time I went below (to barf), I also had to wrestle the companionway ladder back into place -- we were heeling so far that it lifted out of the slots that hold it in place.

We had a fairly straight shot coming in the harbour to anchor, or re-anchor, so it was just a matter of not barfing long enough to drop the main (all over the deck), motor slowly through the anchored boats and drop the hook, with Randy man-handling the tiller. Of course, the anchor dragged the first time, and we had to try again. We congratulated each other on an exciting morning that ended with me taking a Gravol and going to sleep, and Randy having a rum, stowing the sails, then tearing the steering gear apart. All before 10 am.
Good news is that the shaft wasn't broken, but the bevel gear that turns the shaft had worked loose (bolt backed out) and everything had dropped out the bottom, which also explains why there was such restricted movement for the emergency tiller. Two hours later, it was all back together and working fine. Nothing to this sailing life! It's a breeze! I went back to bed at 6:30 pm and slept the clock around.

We did the trip to Deshaies on Guadaloupe again the next day, with no drama. Seas were still 6-10 for about half the trip, but we did eventually get the beam reach. It's terrific sailing when it's warm. A big slap of spray comes over the side and you get soaked, but it's cooling, and after the first one you're so salty it doesn't matter. It does get tedious trying to clean the spray off the sunglasses. I was wiping my aged Serengetis for the tenth time, and they gently broke apart in two pieces. With a lens in each hand, I though, this is the only gear failure that will happen today. I had a backup pair of cheapies.

Deshaies (Dey-Hay) is a very pretty town, or so I'm told. Randy went ashore to try and clear in (Saturday) and I stayed aboard to clean and defrost the fridge, and turtle-watch. Randy was back soon with bread, water, lamb and wine, but hadn't found the gendarmes so couldn't check in. So we noted that Deshaies is one place we'd like to return to (river tour with freshwater pool, and botanical gardens) and we headed down the lee of Guadeloupe to Basse-Terre (the capitol of Guadeloupe, also the name of this part of the island, also the name of the capitol of St. Kitts, and probably in use in a dozen or so other places...). Great sail down the shore -- wind a bit flukey, but the water was flat as a board. Great fishing conditions. Didn't get a bite all day. Tried the yellow bird, the green squid, and a pink thing we call Darrel (apologies to Mr. Pink). Nothing.

Around noon the wind coming off the land turned into the wind coming off the sea, and we just tacked and carried on. Just before Basse-Terre, the wind started to honk. We took the jib in when we saw the wind coming, and the mizzen shortly after, and then we motored into 25-40 knots that was screaming around the end of the island. Very exciting. Very dehydrating. Douanes (Customs) also closed up tight in Basse-Terre, so we bought groceries, back to the boat, and we'll hope to be able to clear into Dominica on Monday. Rolly night, with the added delights of loud Euro-Calypso-Soca music from shore. Everything with a fast 4/4 beat. It came to me at about 2 am that you could also polka to this stuff.

Early start for Dominica. Great sail, close-hauled, but relatively flat sea, and great fishing conditions. No fish to report. Fabulous heavy shower once we anchored, and the salty boat is clean again. Albert greeted us as soon as we headed for the anchorage, and he's taking Randy into Customs and we'll sort out a river tour with him in the next day or so. "Boat Boys" are a feature in these islands -- Albert is a middle-aged "boy" and he's a certified guide with a decent boat and a very pleasant manner. There was also a spaced-out fella who paddled out on a surfboard. He was wearing boxers, a pair of shorts around his thighs, women's Chinese bedroom slippers, and a black plastic bag wrapped around his head. We declined his services, and he hung around scratching for a bit, then paddled away. Also certifiable.

We're glad to be hanging out in Dominica for a while to rest and get some chores done. We've been travelling just over eight months, through 14 states, 14 countries, 46 islands (54, if you count islands in the US), and sailed or motored approximately 4,275 miles. Much of it at a walking pace. Wonder how far we've walked carrying groceries. I wish I'd counted laundromats and grocery stores.

We were supposed to do a tour of the Indian River today, but it started raining before dawn, and the whole island and anchorage is just one squall after another. Randy bailed the dinghy after breakfast, and I used the fresh water to scrub the cabin sole and scrub out the shower sump. Disgusting job. Randy says he can think of more disgusting jobs.

By early-afternoon, the dinghy had been bailed again, and the runoff from the rivers was starting to turn the bay brown. By mid-afternoon, the whole bay was brown, and there were hundreds, then thousands of coconuts floating by, first toward the beach, then later, back out to the ocean. We watched palm fronds drift by, hunks of wood, plastic bottles, lots of bits of vegetation, and a dust pan. Early in the afternoon, someone was collecting coconuts on the beach and tossing them into a wheeled cart. Rain, and more rain. By suppertime the rain had lessened, a heavy swell starts coming in, and the boats are every which way, rolling and rolling. The local guys got together and started pulling out their launches. A bad sign? Then, it's a deluge of flying ants all over the boat. We had to shut the companionway doors.

After a long wet day, we had a great supper - lamb with wine sauce and curried couscous. I served Randy a plateful, then happened to look out the back door as I served my plate, and noted that the boat next to us was about to collide with our stern. Fended that off, then we took turns while we ate to see where it was going next. Some things you never have to worry about on land. But then we never get Jehovah's Witnesses on the doorstep.

Weather cleared, and we did our tour of the river this morning. The water in the river was still cloudy from the heavy rain, but the vegetation and the whole sense of being in surroundings that are so different in every way was both fascinating and somehow restful. Land crabs everywhere. Stunning trees, vines everywhere, termites, green everything, and an iguana way up in a tree waving around over our heads. Albert knows lots about everything Dominican in terms of flora and fauna, and we had a most pleasant chat while he rowed us up and back down the river at a perfectly leisurely pace. He said that the flying ants are called rain bugs. A rose by any other name...

Slow sail south to Roseau, the capital city of Dominica. We had a walk around town today, picked up a few groceries, had lunch with a bunch of men watching the World Cup. England was playing Trinidad. The chat, the hooting, the endless coaching from the sidelines -- it's the same the world over, just different languages, different pubs, different kinds of beer.

We really liked what we saw of Dominica. It's a beautiful island and we want to explore it more on the way back. Off to Martinique tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

We're into June, and there's a part of me that knows that I should be home digging and chopping and weeding in the garden. Instead, I'm enjoying a beautiful morning in the Port Zante Marina in St. Kitts.

Had a great stay in Marigot -- I could have spent several more days there just eating croissants and trying new French wines -- but after a very long dinghy ride over to Budget Marine for this and that (they don't bother to stock anything other than serious boat bits, no dishes, no fripperies, no clothing or shoes to speak of) we stopped at Shrimpy's for, yes, shrimp. They have a book exchange, and I traded a stack of good books for some well-used and not very good books. I think a person could do very well if they picked the right island and the right spot and opened a second-hand book shop and stocked it with decent reading. I may have said this before, but cruisers' book swaps accumulate the worst awful sort of trashy, dog-eared beach books.

Left Marigot in the morning and headed around the north end of the island hoping to get a better slant to maybe sail this sailboat to St. Barth, but it was not to be. Another beat to windward. Shortly after we left, the jib started inexplicably sagging and whuffling, and it was quickly noted (and soundly cursed) that the halyard had let go. We got it rolled in, a miserable bunchy wrap it was too, and proceeded to the rolly rolly harbour at Gustavia. Pretty island, beautiful town, but once Randy had checked us in with Customs, we headed back the way we came and anchored in Anse de Colombier. Checking in at Customs took a while, because the staff were all watching France and Mexico play soccer on the big screen TV. France scored, and then they attended to our papers.

Anse de Colombier has a beautiful beach, huge cliffs, a lovely hike to an isolated village on top of the hill, and the water is full of turtles. Okay, not full, but you can sit on deck and eat your lunch and spot four or five in an hour. The area around St. Barth is a nature reserve, no fishing, and they have patrol boats that keep an eye on things. There are lots of European charterers on Sunsail cats, and several cruisers, also mostly European, although an American on the charter boat next to us dinghied over to ask about Nancy Dawson, and declared it "the prettiest thing he'd ever seen."

Next morning our first piece of business was sorting out the jib. This sort of thing is best done on a windless day, preferably at the dock, but it can also be accomplished on a very breezy day in an anchorage with a gentle roll. We unfurled and dropped the sail, and chased lines and billowing bits as we sailed around the anchor and finally got it scrunched on deck. Randy sorted out the halyards while I made one of about four trips to the head before he hauled me up the mast. Up I went with the halyard in tow, alternately trying to help haul myself up using the main halyard, and clutching the mast with sweaty legs and arms to keep from swinging with the roll of the boat. Halfway up, I had serious qualms, but he kept hauling, and I was soon past the spreaders and clutching my way up to the masthead (52 feet above the water). One of the rollers was missing, but I got the halyard led over the remaining one, and then alerted the capt. that I was done ("OKAY, GET ME DOWN"). Mid-way down, I was able to wrestle the camera out of my pocket and take a quick photo. Then we reattached the sail in the rollerfurling track, hauled it up, and then had to haul it down and repeat the process to free the main halyard. Then we had a beer, and a walk on the beach and up the hill and a lovely swim and snorkel.

Next day we motored back over to Gustavia for a walk around town. The anchorage is very pretty -- the water is clear and there's starfish scattered all over the sandy bottom -- but it's unprotected for the most part, and the boats are pitching and rolling all the time. Not a bad place if you've got one of those 60-foot catamarans, but we leaped off the boat and headed for town immediately. Town was deader than a doornail: Sunday, off-season, and French Mothers' Day to boot. We found one restaurant open and paid way too much for a really nice lunch. Back to the boat, back to Anse de Colombier, and off to St. Kitts the next morning (another thrash to windward, in case you're wondering).

The anchorage at Basseterre on the south side of St. Kitts is not good - rolly and exposed - so the marina was the best option. Water, electricity and fabulous showers (and a lot of dust from nearby construction), and Charlie the young dockmaster is a really nice guy. The slips are just piles that you tie up to, and ever since our first experience with this set-up in Alligator Creek, I've figured it was a nasty way to secure a boat.

Six of us arranged with a local taxi driver, George "Smile on Me" Baker, for a tour of the island, which was great. It included an hour-long traipse through the rainforest with Bill, and he described the many teas and medicines they make from the local trees and bushes. I came back to the boat with a big bunch of soursop leaves, which, when dried and made into tea, will help me sleep. Perhaps if I wasn't so sweaty and bugged by no-see-ums, I might sleep anyway, but I'll try anything. The tour also included lunch at an interesting place in Cayon. We drove through little winding streets up a hill and stopped in front of a sort of cafe with dirty white plastic chairs. George led us inside, right back to the kitchen, where the menu was recited by a young man presiding over huge aluminum pots and pans. It was a strange and stodgy lunch - big hunks of boiled potatoes, pumpkin, breadfruit, carrots, along with fungi (sort of a big lump of polenta-like stuff), salt cod, beef ribs (greenish yellow), and a blob of pinkish stuff made from bananas. Lunch for the two of us, with two beers, was about EC $20, or about $8 US. But it was really weird. And there was a TV in the corner, a colour TV, and the colours were pink and purple.

Later that evening as we were walking in town, we heard someone calling to us, and it was the young man from the restaurant. He'd recognized us, and stopped to say hello again. He was in town for "the dominoes," and mentioned that if we were to come for lunch tomorrow, he was serving something really good. Nice fella, if not a great cook, and isn't nice to be someplace so far from home and have someone greet you on the street and stop to chat.

We had a great time on our last night in St. Kitts. Torontonians Marcus and Marie-Helene from Paanga invited everyone to a potluck on the dock, and besides us, and the folks from Vixen and Southern Mist, there was a Nico and Wilma from the Netherlands with their two smart and friendly teenagers, Mike and Joe. The background entertainment came from a big revival meeting onshore next to the marina. Lots of music, lots of Praise the Lord, and as Randy notes, lots of intense rhetoric from several preachers. On the dock, there was great food, and we blathered on like old friends and didn't get to bed until 10:30.

Across to Nevis (birthplace of George "Smile on Me" Baker) was just a short hop, 11 miles, and another rolly harbour. We checked in and out with Customs in Charlestown, had a walk around and a guava icecream. There's a bookstore here! Lots of romance novels with exceedingly attractive black couples on the covers, but also a selection of V.S. Naipaul novels. I bought two. We decided to shift to a less rolly spot, and on the way up to Tamarind Bay, we felt a soft whump, the engine revs dropped for a second, and then we felt our speed drop. Nothing seemed amiss with the engine, so I went overside with the snorkel when we dropped anchor, and fished a big chunk of heavy plastic off the prop. All boat problems should be just that easy to sort out. No cursing, no vertigo, no expense.

Two nights in Tamarind Bay, second night on a free mooring, and key lime pie at the Gallipot restaurant. Snorkelling in the afternoon was interesting. The water isn't all that clear, lots of leaves and bits of vegetation, but we saw a snake eel, or eel snake, I forget which, a fabulous juvenile French Angelfish, a poisonous worm, a huge pufferfish, and a bunch of other stuff. Picked up a bunch of shells snorkelling in two feet of water off the beach, which was mostly black volcanic sand, and hot as blazes.

Speaking of volcanic, our next stop: Monserrat. The volcano erupted about two weeks ago, again, and vented 55,000 feet into the air, but when we slogged our way into the anchorage on the north shore today, there was only a hazy cloud to be seen over the south part of the island. Tiring slog from Nevis -- 9 hours of banging to windward, again, and the boat and the boat people were crusted with salt. I flopped into the water for a swim when we got here.

Overnight in Monserrat, then we headed into another beat to windward to get to Antigua. We did sail for about an hour before the wind went from 20-25 to 10, and rounded up to be bang on the nose. By the time we got to Jolly Harbour in Antigua, it was gusting to 35 and we were so salty we crunched. Whitsunday holiday, so we picked up a mooring and after a sunset that disappeared into gray haze, were treated to a fabulous downpour around suppertime. Boat is clean again, ready to receive spray when we head around to tour Nelson's Dockyard tomorrow. Probably heading out to Guadeloupe on Thursday morning.

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