Friday, May 23, 2008

I've just checked the weather in NS. Maybe we should wait until July to come home?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

We're sitting in the cockpit in the dark, waiting for the full moon to rise, listening to the frogs and crickets and other critters singing ashore. Once in a while a big fish or a ray will jump near the boat. Who needs tv.

Last weekend, we spent a few days in Green Island (on the southeast corner) and had some great hikes and swims, then back to Falmouth Harbour. It's suddenly off-season: we counted only two dozen boats in the harbour, instead of the 100-200 that we're used to dodging. In all this peace and quiet, I celebrated my 25th Mothers' Day with a champagne breakfast and calls to my old babies.

We had high hopes for fresh fish on our final sail from Falmouth to Jolly Harbour. We even sailed outside Cades Reef to maximize our time in deep water. At one point, Randy spotted a splash in the water ahead and we figured it was fish feeding, so we headed that way. Fish would have been nice, but what we got was even nicer -- a pod of porpoises (aka bottle-nosed dolphins) - about two dozen or more, big ones, little ones, and all just having a whale of a time surfing on our bow wave. Usually, the visit just lasts a minute or two, but this group stayed for long enough for me to go aft to get the camera, take a million blurry photos, and then relieve Randy at the wheel so he could go sit on the bowsprit and watch them too. They're so beautiful and they have so much fun.

This is our final week afloat. We took the main, the staysail and the mizzen off today, flaked and bagged them ondeck, and I'm told that I'm to get up early tomorrow to take the jib off before the breeze picks up. We're anchored in the outer harbour still, so I'm rowing twice a day, over to the beaches - one on the north side, one on the south, and one on the east - the best shelling beaches we've found in the W.I. Randy can watch me from the boat while he varnishes. He's been doing a lot of that.

This year has been different than our first two years -- we really slowed down and spent a lot more time on maintenance. It was time - we needed a rest from moving around so much, and the boat needed attention, and now she looks great. We're not sure about plans for next year -- Do we enter Nancy Dawson in Antigua Classics? go to Cuba? back to Grenada? Venezuela? We got to know Antigua a lot better this year, and it started to feel like home base -- we did get back to St. Barths, St. Martin, St. Kitts, Guadeloupe, the Saintes, and we visited Anguilla, Monserrat and Barbuda for the first time. Who has more fun than us?

Work will pick up tomorrow as we start to tear the boat apart. Cleaning and chucking. Next blog will be photos of our Toronto reunion with Kim and David (Amanzi) and Tara and Stewart (Mange Tout) who are flying in from the UK. All the photos fit to print that is. I've come to realize that pictures that you take of people dancing, like pictures of dolphins, just don't seem to quite catch the spirit of the moment. Live and learn. I'm thankful I've got a digital camera, or we'd go broke. I'll post lots more photos when we get a better signal.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Are you thinking about cruising? looking for a beautiful boat? Until Nancy Dawson comes up for sale, try this one:
Chris Parker (weather guru) put out an special advisory regarding Monserrat a couple of days ago. Apparently the volcano has shown more activity in the last week or so than it has in the last two years, and there's potential for another major "event." (See

Good thing we visited Monserrat LAST week.

Rather than go through the brutal and expensive procedure of going into St. John and sitting around the Immigration office for three hours (and spend $300EC) to get an extension, we decided to take a trip to Monserrat, do some fishing and a tour, and come back the next day. It was a terrific sail over, with Nancy averaging about 7 knots - full sail, beam reach, and we got there in time for lunch. The customs and immigration people were nice and happy to have us visit, and the taxi drivers are very keen to provide service. There's not much going on in Monserrat in terms of tourism these days.

Our taxi driver, George Christian, took us directly to the Monserrat Volcano Observatory. He was in a bit of a hurry so that we'd make it in time for the 2:45 showing of the movie, but on the way he pointed out grocery stores, pharmacies, the hardware store, etc. I think he was anxious to show us that Monserrat is still functioning. We arrived in time for the movie, although we were the only people there, which makes me wonder if they would have let us see it if we missed the 2:45 showtime. The movie was pretty amazing - lots of footage of the various eruptions and explosions that have been going on since 1995.

Then George took us for a drive to see the effects of all those events. He drove down a hill and the road disappeared into a river of ash and rock. There had been a river, and a bridge, and the mud and ash from the volcano just flowed through the valley and filled it in. People continue to drive across the solid river of ash, except when it rains heavily, and a river of mud starts to flow. Someone has even planted a couple of reflectors in the ash so drivers can keep to the track that runs across to the rest of the road on the other side.
It was a really hot day, and the dust was incredible. George rolled up the windows and turned on the AC only when we crossed the dust river, to try to keep the dust out of his van. There was footage in the movie of the city of Plymouth with ash falling like fine snow, and all the people were wearing masks. Respiratory illnesses have been and continue to be a big problem. The only useful result is that there's a small industry built up around cleaning the ash and selling it off-island for making concrete. Otherwise, the dust is just a daily fact of life. Imagine trying to hang out laundry.

George warned us that we had a bit of a hike to get to the top of the lookout hill. It was the steepest road I've ever walked. San Francisco is a bit of a slope compared to this. I was sliding backwards out of my sandals. Once we got to the top, we had a clear view of the western slope of the volcano, and the devastation of the relatively flat plane that was once the capitol city. George pointed out the steeple of a church. The church itself is buried under 40 feet of ash and mud. It's like a Caribbean Pompeii. Only the roofs of the larger buildings indicate where there was once a city of 5,000 people.

On the way back over the dust river road, we stopped to look at a house that had been beside the original river. The first floor was full of mud, and there was just enough room in the second floor rooms to stand upright and walk around. All over the island, there are expensive homes and resorts, all abandoned. Roofs fall in, plants, or dust, fill in the cracks, depending on the proximity to the volcano. The golf course, needless to say, is toast.

It was like seeing an island that's still being made. In the last 13 years, it's changed shape several times, the coastline is continually changing, and the people of Monserrat are continuing to try to rebuild their communities where the volcano is least likely to destroy them again. The ash dome in the crater is once again up to something like 1,000 feet above the original rim.

Hot, dusty and tired, we headed back to the dock. George stopped and picked us some mangoes, and then asked, "Would anyone like a cold drink?" He stopped at Ram's supermarket, after driving by his house (I think it's officially part of the tour - he's just painted it a brilliant turquoise) and we drove the rest of the way back to the boat guzzling the best ice-cold bottles of Heinekin that I've ever tasted. It drove the dust from the throat for sure. There's something about drinking beer in a moving vehicle (a taxi at that, and the driver's having one too) that reminds you that you're not in Canada. Except for maybe Cape Breton. And parts of northern Ontario... and New Brunswick. In my experience.

A great sail back to Antigua the next day. Fishing stats for two days: 4 fish hooked and then escaped. Finally figured out that it was the fault of the weenie hook on the new lure - it kept bending. We're assuming that we just lost barracuda, but we know the lure works, so I've upgraded the hook to a big mother, and we'll hope for tunatunatuna someday soon.

We met up with Ann and Dennis on Kyeta, and PJ and Tom on Conch'd Out, and we've been anchored between Redhead and Rabbit Islands in the north sound for the last couple of days. I've been snorkelling with them, and after some hunting, we found a patch of conch. Big ConchFest on ND: conch ceviche, cracked conch, conch fritters.

Three weeks until we haul. We'll be watching the volcano from the safety of Antigua, just 20 miles away until we get working too hard to lift our heads. See below for photos (click on them to make them bigger).

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