Saturday, July 29, 2006

On the hard at Grenada Marine in St. David's.

On Tuesday, we waved goodbye to Amanzi and Mange Toute in the lagoon at St. George's, and headed out to sail around to St. David's -- quick trip we figured, about 10 miles, with a quick stop at Prickly Bay to pick up the bottom paint at Budget Marine. Got the paint, and then it was chop, chop, chop, blow, blow, blow, rain, rain, rain, etc. I'd just about completely forgotten about this aspect of sailing (the sailing part) after a couple of weeks lounging in the lagoon. We were averaging about two knots, and our fancy electronics told us that the last couple of miles would take an eternity, and probably land us in St. David's after dark, so we ducked into Clark's Court Bay and sat out the heavy rain there.

Over to the marina by 8 am, and then we had to wait several hours to haul while they used the lift to do some prop work on another boat. Then out we come, and what a mess poor Nancy has been wallowing in. Dirty, dirty bottom. Yard guys do a quick once-over with wide scrapers, then the pressure wash, then into the stands. By cocktail hour, we'd scraped the rest of the goop and barnacles off and we called it quits for the day.
The yard crew are very helpful, and there's a little Island Waterworld store that's been very useful. Otherwise, the facilities are rustic. There's one really nice toilet seat over in the bathroom building. I suspect they gave it a coat of Awlgrip over at the paint shop. That's the high point of the toilet/shower/laundry report.

That was Wednesday, and today is Saturday. How time flies when you're on the hard. It flies like a cloud of mosquitoes. Slow and painful. Sanding, scrubbing, painting -- one undercoat has been applied (silver, very elegant) -- and as soon as the yard guys arrive to help shift the jackstands, the rest of the bottom paint will go on. Except it's raining. Started just after I finished washing all the towels and clothes by hand in a bucket and hanging them all over the boat. In Grenada, this rain shower is called the extra rinse. Wringing out towels is good for your upper arms. (Hint: wrap the wet towel around a stay and twist like crazy.)

While waiting for the rain to stop, Randy has replaced the packing in the stuffing box around the propellor shaft. Who knew a man could bend that way. The prop has been scraped, sanded, shined up and greased. Crumbly zinc has been replaced. There's still a list a page long of other bits to deal with. SB will be emptying the anchor locker and end-for-ending the chain.

The bottom paint is an interesting colour. It's been dubbed "Romantic Rasberry."

So it's 90 degrees, no breeze, 100 percent humidity, and we've just run out of Muskol. Bugs are targeting insteps, thighs and elbows today, just for a switch from ankles, shins and shoulders. Randy says "is it beer time yet?" It's 9:38, and we've been at it since 7, so ya, it's beer time.

Splashdown is scheduled for Monday.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Lots of good stuff to report. Grenada is beautiful, an easy place to slow down the pace. Relaxed? We're practically comatose. We're in St. George's, anchored in the Lagoon (burbs), round the corner from the Carenage (downtown), and there's free wifi, and it works most of the time. We have downloaded Skype and a bought a headset, and we can communicate verbally with family and friends via computer with reasonable success and do it very cheaply. To call a Halifax phone from our computer is about 2 cents a minute, and it's free to call computer to computer -- It's close to brilliant. (I passed a telephone booth today and I just walked on by, no fluctuation of pulse or blood pressure. No urge to pick it up, just in case!) There's a Scotiabank here, right on the corner of Halifax Street. There's a Halifax Harbour, about 5 miles north of here, just a dent in the coast. There's a grocery store with a dinghy dock about two minutes away, ditto for Island Waterworld, a hardware store, the yacht club (showers, laundry), and the bus service to anywhere else is sublime. Shiny red 15-passenger vans go by all the time, honking like madmen at potential riders, and if you give them a nod or raise your hand, they haul over and pick you up. For $2EC, about 80 cents, you go as far down the road as you want, deafened by a wild assortment of music for the duration of the trip.

Our first walk around town was last Sunday, and being a deeply Christian place, everything was shut up except for the churches. The old stone churches lost their roofs and were heavily damaged by Hurricane Ivan -- so were about 90 percent of the homes -- so you hear the music and the high-energy preaching from unlikely places. The second floor of a big store downtown was rocking with praise as we walked by, and at street level, an elderly and very inebriated couple slumped in a doorway managed to raise their hands and wave them in the air to the sound of the hymns. Another mellow fella, Herman, offered to take us on a tour of the island. Given that it took him three tries to write his phone number on a piece of paper, we put him off. On regular weekdays, the place hops. It's a busy harbour, a prosperous town, and yes, at certain times of the day, there's gridlock.

We watched the World Cup at the Tropicana Club (more exotic than it sounds - I got a lot of bug bites) with a bunch of other cruisers: four boats from Italy, three from France (or French islands), a bunch of Canadians, and an assortment of Brits, Germans, Americans and a lot of locals. Very exciting game. The Italians in the group were over the moon.

The St. George's market is a treat. They're geared to the local regular fruit-and-veg-buying public, but they're quick to leap on a foreigner and peddle souvenir baskets of spices. "Come over here baby and talk to me! I'm warm and friendly!" Bought a bag of nutmeg from her. I figured I'd deflect one of the ladies over to Randy, suggesting she speak to him about spices cause he's the cook. She looks waaaay down her nose at me, nice trick, given that she was 5 foot nothing in platform sandals, and I'm rather more than that in my flip flops. "And what do YOU do?" she barks, "You give him good nookie, girl?" So of course, we had to purchase two spice necklaces from her. The staff at Sobey's should try this.

The lady at the bookstore let us know which local paper we should buy, and then filled us in on the story behind the arrest featured on page one - "teacher arrested for murder of wife." She knew them both and she had that man tried and sentenced well before the paper hit her front stoop. Small town, close-knit community, and we heard all the details.

Update on the laid-back dog population. I should have mentioned that they wake up when the sun goes down, and they bark all night. Not as many goats here, but the chickens are a constant. Even the urban roosters start at 3 am.

There's a place in the Carenage called something like the Greatest Little Liquor Store... also an agricultural supply store. Bird seed and wine, one-stop-shopping. We bought Chilean Cab-Merlot by the case for just over $3 bucks a bottle. The world has gone mad.

The Spiers family on Aldora left for Bonaire several days ago, but I helped Dave set up a blog before he left ( From there, they're headed home to work for three months, then back to the boat. We also said goodbye to the folks on Paanga yesterday, Marcus and Marjolijne (not Mary-Helene as I was spelling it) -- they're headed to a marina to haul the boat and back to Canada for a bit. We had the neighbours over for a drink on Saturday: the Paangans, Kim and David from Amanzi (Toronto), Stewart and Tara on Mange Tout (UK), and Joe, Patricia and their three-year-old son Marvin from Switzerland. That's a big party for this boat. Marvin took his parents home at his bedtime, but the rest of us cranked up the iPod and danced the floorboards loose. Great fun, lovely bunch of people, lots of laughing.

Now back to work. Randy is making his daily trip to Island Water World (like the Binnacle, he should be on a first-name basis with all the staff in another day or so). I should do the dishes. We still haven't decide whether to haul out here or in Carriacou, but we have to do it soon. After a week and a half, we're growing barnacles on the anchor chain, and we know that there's gooseneck barnacles on the hull, along with all manner of other growing things. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Friday, July 07, 2006

We left Bequia with a new canopy for the cockpit. Local sailmakers Alick and his wife Selma came out and did some measurements and gave us an estimate, and by the next morning, they were back snipping and fitting and in the afternoon, we had the finished product. (We're looking forward to seeing Alick and Selma again -- Alick is the current champion of the Carriacou Regatta, and we're hoping to catch this year's races in about a month's time.) The new canopy looks so much better than the canvas job I put together in Georgetown. It did the trick for several months, but it got so mildewed and ratty. I could tell that Randy was getting to the point where he'd rather fry in the cockpit than put that mess on view. Nancy looks very spiffy again. In case anyone is waiting for a varnish update, we've decided that the rails look just fine without. Bare teak is very appealing for so many reasons, although the many boat fellas who come to offer their varnishing skills seem to think otherwise. The spooly things on the taffrail have been sanded and have a coat of white primer.

Before we left Bequia, we had a great evening with a bunch of cruisers for a potluck party on the beach -- it rained, so we retired to the convenient cave at the end of the beach. It was like a Nova Scotia party with everyone crowded in the kitchen, only it was dark and sandy. Good fun. We also had a pizza night with the sailors from Aldora (John, Kerri, and their three kids, Dave, Sam and Sally), and the Paangans - Markus and Mary-Helene. That morning I'd trecked to the Cable and Wireless office to buy a phone card so I could talk to Anna who is finally out of the woods after planting trees in northern Ontario. The phone card was $40EC for 9, count em, 9 minutes. They assured me that the phone booth by the pizza restaurant was the best bet. Clever ploy. "Card invalid." I tried four other phone booths, in the dark, before and after dinner, and the best I could get was a voice in Spanish telling me the number was not in service. Tried again the next morning, and finally got through, but I'd missed her.

Next stop, Mayreaux. Maybe there's a phone booth there. Good crossing with a rough bit in the middle. Paanga was ahead of us and called to tell me to take my Stugeron, which I did, instantly. Beautiful little bay at Mayreaux, surrounded by a lovely beach with palms. We went ashore and asked the man on the beach about a phone. He shook his head, and said "if you want to make a collect call you can do it from my house," which was right on the beach, but I had visions of a double-digit call to Anna's dad's house, and said thanks, but we'd better try for a phone booth. And, after all, I still had the phone card, which theoretically, should still work on Mayreaux. He thought there was a phone booth in town, but noted, "it's uphill." Uphill both ways. So steep, it reminded me of of the very worst bits of Sackville Street, only it went on and on and up and up. Then we hit the summit, beautiful view, then we plummeted into town, past beckoning cold beer, down to the payphone, which was so dead it had become invisible to all inhabitants. They didn't even know that it was there because it had no useful function, probably never had. Useless piece of crap. I'm over it now.

Back up the hill in the 90 degree heat, with the beautiful view. Halfway up, we fell in with Jerome, and had a chat about the geography. He told us that he does the hill everyday and doesn't think about it. He suggested we stop for a cold drink somewhere. I wonder if they've had boat people expire just short of the summit? They haven't had electricity for that long, and Jerome told us there's only 12 or 13 cars on the island, and for all of that, and probably because of that, it's a lovely place. We panted our way to the top of the hill, bid Jerome goodbye, sauntered down the other side, and SB continued right into the perfect clear cool water off the beach and had a brilliant float while my face regained its normal colour.

It was Canada Day, and we celebrated ashore with the folks from Raft, Aldora and Paanga. As we beached the dinghy, there was a small group of locals with a motor boat anchored just off the beach, and I could hear the song "Let's Change Partners and Dance." Unbelievable. I called over "Is that Fred Astaire you're listening to?" and a big, big man in a teeny little bathing suit, huge grey beard and bushy hair, perked right up and called back "You like my music!" I gave him a big thumbs up. For the next hour, from the terrific little beach bar we could hear Billy Holiday, Judy Garland, a string of oldies. It was such a treat. While I was enjoying the music, Markus and the three kids from Aldora were bashing coconuts to bits and bringing the edible and drinkable bits to the table. Sally also brought a crab from the beach, but he was not happy about joining the party, and ended up hiding under Ross's seat. Terrific day, except for the phone disappointments.

Next stop, Tobago Cays. You'd think the Tobago Cays would be near Trinidad and Tobago, but no. No phones, no habitation of any kind, but there were boat boys trying to sell us fish caught illegally on the reefs. Tempting, but no. Lots of boats here tucked in behind the reefs. The snorkelling wasn't great because the water was so churned up from the wind and the waves, but it's a beautiful place nonetheless. We had lunch on Aldora, then they headed back to Mayreaux, and the next day, we all headed toward Union Island.

Union was just a quick stop to check out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and I had hopes that I might be able to FIND A PHONE, and use up the remaining six minutes on the phone card that I'd paid so much for. The payphone at the marina was toast. So it's down the road to the airport to find Customs, and I'm positive that there'll be a working phone at an airport. Two phones, both dirty and dead. Back down the road to the internet place, $5EC for 20 minutes, and a couple of quick emails to explain the lack of phone communication. Just for extreme kicks, I asked at the restaurant at the marina if there were any working payphones in the vicinity, and explained about my card. The man there said that the card wouldn't work even if I could find a working phone, even though we were still in the bailiwick of the same cable and wireless company. "Oh, we just don't have the special machines it takes to use those cards." Enough said. I will speak no more about phones. At least not in this update. No laundry news either. Still have a grease stain on my green top.

From Union, a quick sail to Carriacou, check in with Customs at Hillsborough, then a quick motor around the corner to Tyrell Bay to drop the hook for almost a week. Tyrell Bay is very restful. Not much going on in this little village. There's a couple of small grocery stores, with nothing much to eat on the shelves, a long beach, a few bars and restaurants. Great pizza cooked by a local lady, served by a young Frenchman at an Italian restaurant. Soccer, of course. Simon will sell you a case of Chilean wine from his little boat (about $6 per bottle, about half what we pay for the same stuff at home), Roberto paddles by with mangrove oysters, and will open them for you and is happy to stay and have a drink of rum while he does it. It's quiet, pleasant, and the people are friendly. They're working hard to build new houses and continue clean up from the hurricanes of the last couple of years. No garbage in the streets here.

We took the bus back into Hillsborough, about 3 miles away, to get some groceries. The buses are great -- minivans with kids going to school, ladies going to church, people going to work. Pre-teen girls have some things in common wherever they live. We were charmed and entertained by their banter with every kid we drove by. Everyone says 'good morning everyone' when they get on, and everyone answers back politely. Even the little kids. The bus stops anywhere you like, just holler out, or bang on the ceiling and he hits the brakes. The driver also honks at everyone he knows, and floors it between the speed bumps on the concrete roads. Half the time you're going hell-bent for leather, and then you're creeping over a speed bump on a turn. Good thing he never forgets where they are.

We had a lovely hike up one of the hills on the south side to Cassada Bay. Lots of goats and a defunct hotel with a great view. We cracked a beer, ate cashews, and enjoyed the view, then hiked back down again. On the way back, a possey of little boys was sitting beside the road eating berries from a tree. "Seely berries" they told us, and asked if we wanted to try them. They tasted like raspberries. Nice, nice little boys.

A note about tropical dogs: very laid back. They all have their gonads, for one thing. They lie down most of the time. It's hot. You walk by, they raise their heads, maybe. Cats, ditto. Sprawled across the entrance to the grocery store. You walk in, they look up, go back to sleep.

Tyrell Bay also has a small boatyard with a travelift and reasonable prices. For you sailors, the cost for our boat would be $292 to haul and launch, block and pressure wash. Five days free on the hard then $16 a day thereafter.Labour to sand, prep and paint the bottom would be $168 (all given in US$). Of course paint is extra and really is the most expensive item, the best tropical anti-fouling going for $225 a gallon. All in all, not a bad deal. We are also looking at yards in Grenada and Venezuela since Trinidad seems to be fully booked ever since Ivan hit Grenada two years ago, the first in 50 years, and now the insurance companies have deemed it too high a risk. However, hurricanes are not unknown in Trinidad either and with about 3000 boats there right now, you can imagine what if.... At least here there are mangrove swamps to poke into for reasonable protection.

We've met nice boat people here -- Tyrell Bay liveaboards Rick and Sue on Panacea (he runs the wifi, and loaned us a headset so we could phone home from our computer using Skype); Tom and Leslie, from Cornwall UK, on Kobbe, who loaned us great information on Venezuela; and Philip, Lisa and their kids Leah and Josh, from Ottawa, on 'Triumph of Hope'. Leah, Josh and Lisa came over and I helped them set up a blog this morning. Have a look and leave a comment!- it's at, and 12-year-old Leah got her first posting up today.

We're off to Grenada in the morning (Saturday, July 8), and we're looking forward to all the retail joys of St. Georges.

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