Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Birthday champagne, etc

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Birthday is over, and I find myself grateful in many ways. It was a really nice day, starting with the champagne breakfast, lovely omelette, backgammon, etc. I got lots of emails and calls, and felt feted. Excellent service all day from the Capt. The only complete washout was the trip to the beach in the afternoon to play washers. There's no tide to speak of, and there's no wide strip of hard sand, so when you pitch your washers into the coffee can (approximating the logistics of the Real Game Played in Port Maitland), they bloody disappear in the soft sand, and you have to get a metal detector to score your round. So no go for washers in Antigua, at least not at Pigeon Beach.

My dad called from Port Maitland in the morning and played happy birthday on the piano, and when I told him we were going to play washers on the beach in the afternoon, he said "That's a terrible thing to say to a man who's up to his knees in snow."

Followed up the minor beach disappointment with a swim, then back to the boat to ablute and dress up for dinner at Trappas. Just as the wine bottle was arriving at the table, the neighbourhood was plunged into darkness. I fished our MEC all-round dinghy flashlight out of my bag so the waitress could uncork the wine. At a table nearby, a family with three very young kids was dealing with "waaaaa" at the sudden darkness. The chef went out back and started the generator, and the lights came on to cheers, and we all enjoyed our first courses to the sound of the roar of the generator. Half-hour later, someone hollered, "lights are back" and the chef went out and turned off the generator. First his wife went over to the table with the little people, with a flashlight, and said, "It's going to be dark again for a minute!" They were charmed by her prescience, and there were no wails when the lights went out again briefly when they switched from the generator to "real" power.

Lovely meal. I had cajun mahi-mahi. Sure sign that the mantle of maturity has landed if Sue's having fish.

We're getting ready to leave Antigua. We've spent so much time in Falmouth Harbour over the last year, and it's always nice to arrive, and good to get moving again and leave. There's liveaboard family on a pretty boat, and we can hear their two little boys chattering in the early mornings. One morning they were calling to the dolpins (porpoises) swimming by, and another morning we heard one of them calling to his mother "He got pee on the deck!!"

One of our fondest hopes before we left was to find a reasonable second-hand inflatible to replace Old Soggy, and we decided to get a 9.5 hardbottomed AB that had seen better days, but maybe would keep us dryer. It had been slightly refurbished, but after two days, we took it back. It held air, but wouldn't keep the water out. In fact, it was storing quite a bit of sea water in the hard bottom. So our old Achilles is back dangling from the starboard rail. Sigh. Maybe we'll find something in Martinique. First, a visit to Guadeloupe - we've never stopped in Pointe a Pitre, so we'll go there - and back to the Saintes for a revisit, then on to Dominica.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I'm tempted to say what a busy time we're having. But then I got to thinking, today (Saturday) we had a nice breakfast, got soaked in the dinghy going to Falmouth, chatted with a guy about used dinghies, bought a bag of groceries (Mrs. Bailey is still really sour), ice cream at Sweet T's, a walk to the beach and a swim, then picked up a load of laundry at Sam and Dave's ($25EC for one wash and dry, and I think they ironed Randy's shirts, for those of you following the laundry issues) and a bag of ice. So, a tough day.

Our last few days in Jolly Harbour we got the masts in, the booms and the sails on. Dennis from Kyeta came over and cranked Randy up the mast and we now have a wind generator!!!! It's fab. We like to run below when it's gusty and see how much electricity we're making. I have plans for a hairdryer, a dustbuster, an air conditioner, a Black and Decker tooth flosser, and maybe one of those massaging foot bath things. My birthday's coming up, after all.

Maybe an electric ant zapper would be good. Is there such a thing? More fairly disgusting discoveries: I emptied the locker in the head where we keep the towels when we discovered that the anti-syphon valve, which is intimately connected to the head (aka toilet), had been spraying, um, stuff, all over the towels. For days. We only had to throw out three towels, and the rest went to Sam and Dave's laundry for treatment. The locker was also full of small piles of dead ants. The DIY blood-pressure cuff was also in there in a plastic bag, and wasn't wet, but it was jammed solid with dead ants. The velcro on the cuff was matted with them, and inside the battery compartment it was a dead red ant mosh pit. If anyone has an explanation for this, I'd be interested to hear it. Also, there were some ants in the bed. Not good. They're gone now. Baygone.

My favourite shell beaches around the outer bay at Jolly are still lovely, although my shell collecting has been restricted - space, irritation level, etc - so I'm only bringing home exceptional specimens. I'm branching out into collecting sticks. Randy's over the moon. So I'm wandering along the beach slapping at no-see-ums and looking for something exceptional, and I see a pair of sunglasses wound around with grass and gunk and half buried in sand. For a lark (glasses are always wrecked by sand), I pulled them out, rinsed them off, and thought, hey, they don't look too bad. Back at the boat, we cleaned them up, and barring a few minor scratches, we're happy with our new Serengetis. Whatever they use for anti-scratch coating works some good.

Departed Jolly Harbour on Thursday ready for a nice sail or motor down the coast to Falmouth Harbour, and after about an hour, a huge black squall shows up, things get ominously dark, the wind starts to honk and the water to chop, chop, chop. The capt responds positively to a suggestion that we could pull into Carlisle Bay "for lunch." The squall sort of cleared off and we motored around no problem, nobody barfed, but I was reminded about the stupid part of cruising, ONE of the stupid parts - the weather.

Falmouth Harbour is really pretty empty, the regulars remain in place, and there's just a few big boys at the docks. We anchored in our usual spot, sorted out the boat and poured a drink. Moments later, Pete, the woman on Galatea, anchored just behind us (70' yawl, M class, 1898), is waving her arms and hollering "I HAVE A FIRE."

Randy leaps up and starts moving and giving instructions - we've never got the motor on the dinghy with such speed. I made a ding in the new varnish on the rails with the prop while I was flinging it into the dinghy. This is the only time I will be forgiven for this. I grab the handheld VHF (fully charged! wind generator!) all the fire extinguishers I can lay my hands on, chuck them in the dinghy, untie the painter, and Randy zooms off to the rescue.

Pete had come back to her boat moments before and seen smoke in the engine room and hit it with their dry chemical extinguisher before she hollered for help, and when Randy got there, he went around and disconnected all the batteries and turned off all the master switches. She didn't have a functioning radio - they'd been struck by lightning and were in the process of having the boat rewired, so she used our hand-held and called up more help from the big yachts close by while Randy was below.

(I'm listening to the exchanges on our VHF on 68, and in the middle of it, the inevitable radio bitch comes on and barks "Please change channels." I nearly caught fire myself. Unbelievable.)

In the meantime, after watching Randy zoom off, and not knowing the extent of the danger, I decide to holler to the French catamaran on the other side of us to see if they can help. "She has a fire on her boat!!!" and I pointed to Galatea, "Can you help?" Well of course they leap into action, but not only is their motor not on their dinghy, but they're both stark naked. He makes it over to Galatea about the same time as some lads from Fleurtje (170' schooner), who arrive with extinguishers big enough to calm everyone down. Then the Antigua Barbuda Search and Rescue boat arrived, and a lot of guys stood around on deck chatting for a bit. Turns out that Pete had put out the fire with her first extinguisher, and Randy had killed any chance of any other electrical problems. It was a short in the solar panel wiring and everything seems to be okay. Quite a flurry of excitement for a bit.

Randy said that her cat was lying on the cabin sole as calm as could be during all the action.

And the French couple are still naked all the time.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Some photos from the last week. Champagne brunch with Ann and Dennis to celebrate Obama's victory, a trip to the market in St. John's and Sue goes up the mizzen to attach the triatic stay.

Monday, November 03, 2008

I'm trying to figure out the least offensive way of saying how hot it is here, without trying to make it sound like I'm looking for sympathy, because I know some of you will shut down the computer in disgust, and crawl under the blankets and weep, and I don't want that.

It's hot, and it's beautiful, but we're hanging on a mooring in Jolly Harbour with no masts, so nothing to which we can attach the awning or the rain catcher, and as a result, the boat is hot as balls, and the only way to get out of the sun is to stay below stationed in front of a fan, sneak into the pool, or go to the grocery store. Hard to get much done in the middle of the day.

We were glad to see that there's not much damage to be seen from Hurricane Omar -- some trees and bushed flattened in the hillsides, but the rest of the mess has been mostly cleaned up. There's still some evidence of where rivers of muck invaded some of the villas, but mostly, everything is green and lush looking.

We had most of a week staying in a nice villa (showers, good bed, laundry, most mod cons although strangely there were no elements in the oven), and spent the days working on the boat in the yard: painting the bottom, cleaning, and killing ants mostly. Ants love our boat. Two boats over, no ants. Can't figure out why.

The three gallons of bottom paint is one of our single biggest expenditures every year, and this year it was an even larger chunk. Randy came back from Budget with his eyes all goggly, so I just said I didn't want to know.

The boat was filthy - teak decks were grimy, the cabin was covered with gray grot, and the interior was dusty, a bit mouldy, and competely disorganized. When you get here and look at how you left the boat, you wonder What Were We Thinking? It's one thing to lower the outboard into the cabin for storage, it's another exercize altogether to lift it out again. The whole process of tearing things apart and cleaning before you put the boat up, then trying to reestablish order and cleaning all the things you cleaned before...it's all a bit discouraging. Add ants, and you find that you're mighty glad that rum is so much cheaper here.

Price check: I went over to Budget Marine to get a replacement head for our deck brush, and nearly plotzed - $60EC, for a thing that's just a scrub brush with a screw hole for a handle. That's about $30 Cdn. Pulleeezzzz. So I scrubbed the decks with a jive scrub brush (dollar store) on my hands and knees and felt so righteous.
Prices for everything seem higher this year, but it could just be us getting acclimatized again. We're a bit sensitive to the fact that our dollar just doesn't have the oomph it had last year, so even if the prices are the same, we're less glib about peeling off bills for boring crap like a new head for the deck brush.

My rowboat is in the water and I just rowed a pile of groceries back to the boat, and the other dinghy is still a ratty, spongy, ugly, soggy piece of misery, but the motor is great. There was a moment, several moments actually, of disgust when the second pull on the starter cord failed to start the engine, and the starter cord refused to recoil. The lovely fella from the Yamaha dealer drove out the next day, and scratched his head a bit, then took the motor out of gear and the cord snapped back into place. We all had a laugh. Ha ha ha ha. He kindly oiled and lubed the engine, and adjusted a slightly sticky choke valve thingy, and went on his merry way. Not broken AND still under warrantee!

The big boat went in the water on Friday, sans masts, and Randy put a coat of varnish on the masts yesterday, and is in the middle of applying the next coat and I note with disgust a fairly heavy rainshower has just begun. I imagine I can hear him cursing all the way from the yard to the boat.... Once he gets through the varnishing, then he'll attack the exciting process of mounting the new wind generator that we've been carting around since last spring. By early next week we'll be pretty much sorted out, and then we can figure out where to go. In the meantime, I expect him along shortly for a cold beer while his pock-marked varnish job dries... There are mighty compensations for these minor frustrations.

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