Monday, November 26, 2007

Rainy, chilly, squally morning in Antigua. I got up an put on a long-sleeved shirt. It almost feels like a Monday in November. Except I don't have to drink my coffee in the dark and put on a winter coat and winter boots and walk to work in two inches of slush and then come home in the dark.

Celebrated my 49th birthday with high school friends Gord and Marj. That's what makes you feel old, realizing that you've known people for over 30 years. They sort of look the same, which helps, except Gord doesn't wear the leather cord around his neck (he accessorizes with the lawyerly blackberry) and Marj's blonde hair is about a foot and a half shorter than it used to be. And in high school, we didn't have long conversations about our eyeglasses prescriptions. We seem to drink more wine than beer these days, and after really good meals (which are now important to us) we go to bed a lot earlier than we used to. It's less dramatic. But then, we're living on a boat in the Caribbean, so there's been progress.

There were some really good meals while they were here, including two evenings at Trappas in English Harbour. Really yummy. There were a couple of nice sails, to Deep Bay for a swim and a hike up to Fort Barrington. The fort is surrounded by goats, and everywhere you walk, there's drifts of goat poop, which happily is more like rabbit poop than dog poop. The benefit of a vegetarian diet. Great view from the top. Marj had a great turtle sighting on the sail around to Falmouth Harbour.

We're really enjoying the new outboard. Randy calls it Yammy. I'm still revelling in its excellent reliability -- I won't start calling it names until it gets cranky. The motor almost makes us forget that the dinghy itself is an aged, leaky vehicle. I've been driving it daily, and I just LOVE it -- the way it starts first pull, the snug and confident way it clicks into gear, the unbroken nature of all its moving parts. I no longer feel dependent on Randy to drive me to the store.

The rowboat has been up on the davits for a week or so while we were sailing around with Gord and Marj, and one afternoon Randy glanced over to note that one of the lifting eyes in the bottom had come loose. The plywood square that it was screwed into had delaminated and let go, so that was another small repair job. We'd had trouble lifting it up anyway. In spite of various machinations, it always tipped over completely sideways until it was hauled up high enough to balance it from the deck. We're trying a different combination of lifting eyes this time to see if we can sort that out. Fascinating, eh wot?

Next job is the annual overhaul of the leaky head. When it stops raining, we'll go hunt down a chunk of plywood to replace the base which is starting to act a bit spongy. Nothing like a toilet that rocks slightly when you pump the handle, and constantly leaks seawater into the shower pump. One wants to feel more confident about one's important appliances!

It's turning into a completely rainy day here, and we're collecting free water for our tank. There, that should wrap up a typical Brown update. I've mentioned weather, food, three different kinds of poop, and discussed the toilet. Laundry update coming soon!

Monday, November 19, 2007

It's butterfly season in Antigua. Every morning, thousands of pale yellow butterflies start to flitter across the surface of the water, usually from west to east. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, and look closely, you can see them just above the surface of the water. They peter out some during the day, and only once has one landed on the boat to offer us a good look (hanging upside down over the rail to see the one-inch critter resting on the underside of the life sling strap). Randy thinks they're probably cabbage butterflies.

We've had a busy week, really. On Monday, we went into immigration and the Port Authority in English Harbour to renew our cruising permit and get our stay extended. The former was pretty easy, the latter involved two or three officials in crisp uniforms filling out forms, longhand, and several whispered consultations behind the counter. The forms finally filled out, and it takes about a half an hour, we're ready to depart, which is when we find out that we have to take these forms and go to the main office in St. John and present them there. Another consulation, and they direct us to go on Wednesday.

(Phil at the grocery store mentioned that his barber is next door to immigration, and there are some days that he won't go to his barber because of the crowds lined up outside the immigration office.)

Wednesday, we take the bus at about 8:30 am, and get to the office just after 9. Up the long staircase to meet the guard at the door. The door is covered with notices about what's allowed, and what's not allowed: No tank tops, no spaghetti straps, no bare midriffs, no short shorts, no bare feet, no excessively dirty shoes, etc. He looks us over, glances into the main office, then sends us back down the stairs to wait at the bottom. He will call us when a seat is available. We feel cowed already.

When we finally get the call, we go into the main office, attractively decorated with bunting in the national colours, where more notices tell us No Eating, No Drinking, No Chewing Gum, Please Turn Off All Cellular Phones, and BE QUIET. There are maybe 36 chairs in three very tight rows, facing the windows where the immigration officers sit. Over the next three hours, we deduce the secret system of the chairs. Whenever the person at the right end of the front row is called up to a window, that's the cue for everyone in the front one and half rows to stand up, and shift along to fill in the empty row at the front. When you get finished with the immigration officer, you rejoin your fellow sweaty chair dwellers and their patient and silent babies, but you sit in the other half of the middle row, which then moves in the reverse, peeling the last person off the back left of the back row, when another exhausted applicant is called to the cashier's window to pay for whatever service they have received. You quickly get annoyed with newcomers who sit in the wrong place and screw up the system. The guard from the door will sometimes stick his head in and bark at someone to sit somewhere else.

There were several other offices off to the sides of the room complete with their own waiting chairs, but in three hours I didn't manage to figure out what the system was for sorting the wretched people over there.
There are computer monitors covered with dust covers at each station, but no computers in view. All the forms are written out in careful script in longhand. Receipts, which repeat most of the information on the forms, are also done by hand. There are lots and lots of filing cabinets. I noted with some annoyance that all of the immigration officers were chewing gum, and most had cells phones somewhere close by.

The woman in front of me was reading a book called "Seductions Exposed" by Dr. Gary Somebody, and I read quite a bit of it over her shoulder. It was a litany of sorry tales involving adultery and prostitution, and men making the wrong "soul connections" through fornicating with women, which would always lead to a shattered soul that only God could fix. It was pretty steamy stuff for the immigration office. On Randy's right, we listened to a young man trying to chat up an attractive young woman. We think he regretted it. Over the next half hour we heard all about her life in Christ.

We bolted down the stairs just after 12 with our papers in hand, and headed for the closest rum punch, which happened to be by the cruise ship dock. Frying pan, fire situation, but we were blithering at this point.

The rum punches were restorative, and we're ordering a burger when I notice a guy at the bar who looks a whole lot like the guy from the Harbour Lights Club in Grenada. We had a fabulous evening there more than a year ago with a bunch of other cruisers, dancing to the dulcet tones of maybe the only jazz combo in the lower Caribbean. So I dither a bit, then, channelling the Newfoundland spirit of Kim Saunders, I go on over and say hello. Yup, it's him, and he's so glad to see someone "from Grenada" that he buys us a beer and we chat for a while and get caught up. Turns out he's visiting his sons in Antigua, and the Harbour Lights is closed (it's now a government office, more's the pity). Norris was coming to Falmouth on Friday with a friend, and he invited us to meet them at Temo's Bar, which we did, and met several more Antiguans and ex-pats. So I'm glad I spoke up and said hello.

Today, we tidy up the boat - company from Ottawa arrives today (but they're staying ashore at a villa and maybe we'll get to use the washer!!!) and learn to drive our new car. The aged and much reviled (by sb) Suzuki croaked and died, so we finally bit the bullet and bought a new Yamaha 8hp. I think we're calling this my birthday present. And it only took a week to be delivered -- a miracle of efficiency, really, particularly since we were the first customers for the new Yamaha dealer. The fella who runs the water taxi recommended Yamaha, saying "they go putt, putt, putt, they not leave you nowhere." The Suzuki, which we also thought about deep-sixing, we ended up donating to Greg Outboard, who did a great job of fixing it up last time.The rowboat is still my favourite mode of travel, but I'm looking forward to having a much better relationship with this new motor. The rubber dinghy still gets no respect, and it looks even worse with the new motor attached, but hey, one major purchase per millenium.

Monday, November 12, 2007

After what seemed like weeks and weeks on the dock in Jolly Harbour, we finally got to the point where the captain looked around and said, "Okay, that's good enough, let's go sailing." Whooeee.

Paid our bill at the marina first, always considered good form, and we were relieved when we got the total. The guys in the yard had been so helpful in lots of ways - when I finished painting Marjorie, they came by with the half-ton and loaded her up and drove to the dock and helped us launch her.

We'd been parked on the face dock, and we'd been warned late in our stay by the couple next door that we'd be dinged double for the privilege. But maybe because it was still off-season we only paid the regular rate, and we got a good
deal on the use of the travel lift for putting the masts in (probably because we did the rigging ourselves). So it cost a pile, but it was very fair and we
got great service. And the pool was nice, the couple of times I got to use it.

Cranked up the motor, raised the main, and true to form, the wind was just about on the nose when we got out of the harbour. But it was a beautiful day, so we motorsailed around to Falmouth Harbour in about two hours. I was so thrilled to be back on the water that as soon as we hit the bounding main, I fell asleep.

Compared to Antigua Race Week in April when we were here last, Falmouth Harbour is deadsville in early November. There's maybe a dozen small sailboats and only a couple of megayachts. The docks are nearly empty. But we've got a great parking spot, good wifi reception, and when the wind dies down in the evening, lots of no-see-ums. Phil at the Dockside Grocery gave us big hugs, and Mavis (Mavis Laundry) was on the dock, as usual, and was happy to see us back. No chips, no decent meat at the store, but peanuts are good protein.

Now that we've been sailing once, we figured we'd better hunker down and do more hot, sticky, dirty work on the boat. There's company coming next week (Gord and Marj from Ottawa), and ND will be looking great, or at least a lot less tired.

The bases of the winches, the cockpit, the binnacle and parts of the head have been painted, and we still have to do the cabin top. When Randy removed the cockpit gratings, he discovered a stowaway. We have a gecko. I think that's probably not a reason to stand on a chair and scream like a girl, but I have contacted my nephew, who is an expert on these things, to find out if they have any nasty habits that I should worry about. I think they just eat bugs, and that's a-okay with me. Pig out. Chow down. I hope he likes ants. I nearly broke a rib bent double under the cockpit table trying to see where he was so I wouldn't paint him into a corner. More bug news: I took one of our mermaids off the wall to readjust it, and inside of her coconut head were two papery wasp's nests. Old, abandoned, but ew. Now we have a gecko. Everything will be alright.

Randy has been locker diving and finally excised the effing Espar furnace and chucked it in the dumpster. There were thoughts about deep-sixing it, but environmental concerns beat out the vengeance vote. Really, it's just an inanimate object. Really inanimate, always bloody was, especially when we were freezing cold and soaking wet. (See blogs from Oct/Nov 2005). Ah well, dat finish now. Anyone want to buy a hairdryer extension tube for an Espar furnace? Only used once!

All the last bits of Cetol on the teak decks have been scraped off. Randy has sanded and varnished and sanded and varnished, and pretty soon, he's going to attack the rails. It's interesting, whenever you get out the varnish, somebody will come by and say "how come you don't use Cetol?" I think Randy would rather paint the whole shebang than use Cetol - when he does get around to varnishing, he's a real snob about it. I also think that this massive home improvement push is all about being around for Antigua Race Week in 2008. If he starts making noises about polishing brass, there may be trouble. I'm not even sure we have that much brass, either that or it's just not looking like brass...

In other news, Randy's son Ian has finished the yacht crew courses in Ft. Lauderdale and is looking for a position as a deckhand. If anyone knows of a likely spot, let us know. He's a terrific cook, and a whiz of a mechanic, and he's ready to travel.

Friday, November 02, 2007

It's a quiet Friday night in Jolly Harbour, and we're wondering if the winds of Hurricane Noel are starting to howl in Nova Scotia yet. Here we are, checking the weather a couple of times a day to make sure nothing is coming our way, and all of a sudden, we're wondering if everything is secure in Port Maitland. Perhaps it will all quiet down some before it gets there -- we hope. Randy is reminded of reports that state "the storm passed land and went harmlessly out to sea" -- except for all the poor buggers on ships out at sea.
While our families in NS are battening down the hatches, we're piling on the bug spray. We've been alongside the dock for two weeks and we're just about ready to shove off. After days and days of chewing away at the lists of jobs, Nancy is starting to look really spiffy. Randy spends part of every day walking back and forth to Budget Marine (aka Bludgeon Marine, Bodge-it Marine), and as I mature, he deems it okay to give me the responsibility to paint things. Usually, he paints things, because I'm not so good at it, but apparently, if you paint a few acres worth of complicated bits and pieces, you eventually get better at it. I'm still covered with splatters by the end of the day, and he still cleans brushes, because after painting, I don't have enough energy to clean to HIS satisfaction, but whatever, everything attached to the boat has a coat or three of paint. We've been called the prettiest boat on B Dock by the Horizon charter boat guys.

Marjorie, our rowboat, looks fab. Pale yellow interior this time around (Budget Marine didn't have off-white - dat finish), and all the black and white redone. The swim ladder is off-white, the inside of the dorade vents are scarlet, a nice bit of snazz, and the oars for Marjorie and the boat hook are blinding, shining white. It all looks so clean and well maintained. What a unique show of boatiness.

The masts are gleaming with another four coats of varnish, and the booms were taken down to bare wood for the first time and have six coats. More to come. Peeling varnish off is very much like popping bubble wrap - very therapeutic in a weird way. Next, the teak caprails. Sanding, sanding, more sanding, then varnishing. This probably won't happen until we've moved somewhere else. If you waited to get to the end of the jobs list before you moved the boat, you'd be stuck to the bottom in no time.

I went up the mizzen and the main today to re-tape the spreader boots. If this was a union shop, I'd have a case for demanding two new pairs of shoes (that's the deal, one new pair of shoes per trip up a mast), but as it's not, I'm figuring that it's a goodwill gesture on my part to keep it to one pair of shoes. Plus, there's no place to put anything else unless I throw something out, and I need the ratty old flipflops for a few more dirty jobs.
I did make the trip into St. John's earlier this week. Missed my girlfriends, but did manage to get new pillows and new underwear. I forget the name of the store where I bought the underwear, but the logo on the shopping bag said something like "We gon kill you with clothes."

See below for photos of us working on our tans.

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