Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What the bat did to the banana.

Marigot Bay, St. Lucia, before the boat boys wake up.

Pitons, on the way south to St. Vincent.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

No bar fights to report, but we have had psychic readings, and our first intruder aboard. No laundry to tell you about.

We got a lot accomplished in St. Lucia, most of it being of the handing-wads-of-money-to-other-people sort. Nancy D is at the stage where four years of cruising is taking its toll, and we're starting to have to replace and repair. The dinghy upgrades I told you about last time, and the next big splash-out was new chain. We'd replaced the gypsy on the windlass in Martinique, hoping that the problem was a worn gypsy, but we finally clued in that our chain had stretched, and was never going to haul itself properly over the gypsy ever, ever again. Over to Island Water World to squeeze the VISA.

Next amusing issue was getting rid of the old chain. Rusty, stretched, but hey, we are loathe to chuck anything out that may have value. The fella at IWW said he'd be happy to take it - he'd try to sell it, but mostly he said it comes in handy when a hurricane looms, and people come to him desperate for ways to secure their boats. So the old chain may have a higher purpose yet. And the new chain, new gypsy, working great. Smooth like butter.

(Transferring 300 lbs of old chain in our dinghy meant that I ended up walking around the grocery store with soaking wet shorts. Lots of cruisers walk around looking like they've just wet themselves, and we've learned to do it with aplomb. Still beats wet socks in leaky boots at 20 below.).

Picked up some Important Bits of Information from a gentleman on the street who made charming small-talk, grasped our palms, told our fortunes (brief fortunes), then asked for money. I was going to suggest if he'd had a closer look at our palms, he would have known there wasn't much coming his way but the change in my pocket. But now we know that the Capt will live til 102, that he has a lot of lucky numbers, I think a couple of them are 17 and 33 (we couldn't remember the rest) and that I should never leave him. Also, that I'm accident prone, but I'll never have an accident. (Did he just see all the bruises on my legs?)

Took the bus into Castries (not nearly as nifty as St. John's in Antigua) and did very little shopping, although there's a huge market. We were looking for fresh meat, but were disappointed. Lots of frozen snerds and chicken feet. Saw a sign at a roadside eatery: "Still Jerking After All These Years." A taximan approached us and tried to sell us an island tour, but when we told him we were buying groceries and taking the bus, he said, You take the bus? and then shook our hands and let us go. You get some respect for doing things the island way.

Lovely sail down the lee of St. Lucia to Marigot Bay. Beautiful place, crammed with moorings and boat boys trying to tie you to moorings that will bring you into contact with various of your neighbours when the wind shifts. We finally ended up tied to an iffy mooring way back in the mangroves, and resigned ourselves to a night of sweltering with bugs. Good wifi though, so we swatted bugs (non-biting, very unusual!) and called everyone on Skype, and retired to the berth early, ready for departure at dawn for Bequia. It wasn't too hot, but we had the mosquito net curtain in place over the hatch and the door to the main cabin.

I'm in some sort of extended menopausal crappy sleep pattern, so when I was roused at 5:30 with coffee I was pretty bleary. Looking like the wrath of god, with a tan. It was still dark, but Randy put a light on so I could drink and dress, and that's when he noticed the blodges of brown on the cabin sides. And the floor. Do you think we had a bird in here last night? Or a bat? Arrggghh. We'd seen bats swooping around in the evening, and we figured that one had come aboard, couldn't get out, and messed himself and the boat in the process.

Moments later, we heard a new flappy/whirring noise under the companionway ladder, but we couldn't find the bat. So we left anyway.

Around 8, I'm getting hungry, and I remembered that there was a lovely ripe banana, perfect for queasy, early morning eating. Randy passed it up to me, and said Well THAT doesn't look very appetizing. About half of it was pecked and shredded and where it wasn't gone, it was black goo. Before I threw it overboard, we realized what the bat had been doing, and then, stuffed with my banana, he squitted it out while flying around the boat.

Now, I'm a (very little) bit like Sigourney Weaver in Aliens - you know this Thing is on your ship, you just don't know where. Could be another blog in that.

Now we're in Bequia - had a lovely sail down from St. Lucia, past the Pitons just after sunrise, down the coast of St. Vincent (just waved, didn't stop) and into Admiralty Bay in time for rum. Alick the sailmaker has restitched our dodger and added a couple of strategic grommets in our raincatcher, and Randy's done some painting inside the boat. I offered to help, but he would rather I didn't touch a paintbrush on the boat - house? okay, but boat? he'd rather do it himself. Fine.

Spent a happy time eating our favourite nutmeg icecream and watching a man and a young boy playing in the water by the beach. The dad was giving expert commentary with every throw and catch (or miss) and it was all about Manchester United. Sounded like actually commentary, very entertaining, all the players names and different plays, and one half-full water bottle getting chucked about. He got tired of it before the little boy did, and went back to his chair for a smoke, and we watched the little guy dawdle back up the beach talking to himself: "Manchester United, once again, Kings of Europe, Kings of the World, but most IM-POR-TANT-LY!!! KINGS of the GALAXY!"

It's so nice here that we think we'll hang around and catch some of the music festival on the weekend. I doubt I can post photos, so photos will likely follow in a couple of days.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tropical life continues, with its charms and challenges. I wake every night at about three am (after nearly seven solid hours of sleep), scratching phantom and real bites, and then dozing off about five to dream of ants in the bed. We're still battling ants. I'm into the third tube of French ant poison, chockablock full of warnings that I can't decipher, and the ants are definitely on the decline. Or maybe incline - they seem to surface to die. Every trip to the head, I look up and wipe a dozen dying ants off the ceiling. You can just leave them there, but they tend to drop off onto your toothbrush, the toilet paper, the toilet seat.

Really, life aboard can be disgusting. But mostly, it's okay.

We're still in St. Lucia, and we spent three days in the marina for a couple of reasons. Uno, we decided to get our dinghy repaired. We've been looking for a better used dinghy, but the dinghy fella here, expat Brit named Francis, nice chap with wild white hair, showed us what he had on offer, and it was sort of what we had, only slightly better. So we opted for the devil we knew, and three days later, Francis's lovely lads returned our dinghy, only with a proper floor, 22 leaks patched in the bottom, transom expoxied, and proper "rowlocks" installed.

The three nights at the dock were smashing. We did all those jobs that require piles of fresh water (laundry! scrubbing grotty corners and scouring sinks) and electricity (vacuuming! I used my hairdryer! etc!) and enjoyed stepping on and off the boat and walking to the grocery store. Second reason for hanging at the marina was to rest my sproinged back. Combo outboard-lifting/anchoring injury. Ice and ibu and marina life for a couple of days seem to have sorted things out. I still make old-person noises when I move around in the morning, but perhaps that's a permanent thing.

Day two at the dock the Bickersons arrived at the slip next door after a trans-Atlantic crossing, and proceeded to clean their boat from stem to stern while letting everyone in earshot know just how bloody sick of each other they were after 16 days at sea. Politely. Passive-aggressively. There's no missing all this when they're only a dozen feet away. After a few hours and some heavy eye-rolling on our parts, Randy and I made sure to embrace and kiss and murmur a sweet nothing or two when we passed on deck at our various pursuits. It's performance art, really.

Speaking of, and I've spoken of it before, the evening anchoring festivities are rich in anecdote here in St. Lucia. I hate to make vast generalizations about nationalities, but here goes. There is one nation that is known for their great sailors and great racers, for good reason. But perhaps all their training has been about speed and tactics on the move, and at the end of the day, they return to the marina? Or to European harbours that are clotted with boats? Because when they sail into a Caribbean anchorage, they find the two boats that are anchored fairly close together, and they try to slide into the narrow space in between, or just in front. Never fails.

Randy sees a boat (or four) coming in at sunset, and he says Ah, yes, zee black boat, head for zee black boat and anchor zere, eet eez such a nice boat, and we want to be so close to zee black boat. And lo, it comes to pass. Rodney Bay is a huge harbour, could easily handle four or five hundred boats, and wherever there's a clump of about a dozen boats, that's where these guys will head.

And then there's the boats that seem to have a policy of putting out 60 feet of chain, never mind the depth or the wind or the swinging space or the complete failure of their anchor to hold after six attempts. How do they keep on cruising, day after day, week after week, living with this kind of frustration? If it took us two or three hours to park and re-park the boat everytime, I'd be a single woman living in a furnished apartment drinking cooking sherry and banging the salt off my boots. As Randy says, those guys need to read the book again or buy a Winnabago.

But that's just a few boats - there's lots of competent people on a variety of boats from an incredible number of places - lots of Scandinavians here just now - and lots and lots of Canadians. An American aquaintance remarked on the large number of Canadian boats and wondered why so many. Well, we know why, don't we?

The winds are continuing to honk, and our next hop south won't likely be until the weekend or next week. In the meantime, we have Lots To Do. On New Year's Day, we finished our champagne and sent in our preliminary entry form for Antigua Classics Yacht Regatta. Didn't think much of it, until a white-bearded guy showed up here on the dock a couple of evenings ago, and said HI, I'm Kenny Coombs. He runs the show at the regatta, and he just happened to be delivering a boat and was overnighting in St. Lucia and noticed Nancy D and remembered our entry form. So he came aboard for a rum and gave us his approval on the spot. I'm so glad I'd taken the laundry off the life lines and cleaned the chip bags off the deck.

So there's lists being made and added to, and they're mostly about varnish and cleaning. Great news is that our friends from Cowes, Tara and Stewart, aka the Touters (from Mange Toute) are coming to crew for us. One of the things that now occupies my head in the hours between 3 and 5 am (when I'm not killing phantom ants or scratching mosquito bites) is our crew uniforms. Wouldn't it be great if we could all wear Nova Scotia tartan kilts? How to pull this off is a bit of a head-scratcher, so if anyone has any ideas, LET ME KNOW.

If you too want to get all excited about the regatta, all the info is here:

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Catching up with photos. We're in St. Lucia getting the dinghy repaired. It will take an extra day. Apparently they found 15 leaks, then tested it again and found 7 more. Remarkable that we were staying to follow, maybe tomorrow.

Rosemary (Balder), Michelle (Tarantela, from Dartmouth!), Michelle (Mi Amante) - Christmas Eve on Nancy D.

Christmas morning - French cider - like fizzy apple juice with a kick. We decided that we preferred plain champagne.

Having a beer at the laundromat.

My scintillating laundry partner.

Odd neighbours in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia. Maltese Falcon and Unicorn.

Pigeon Island, really big hill, taken from the smaller hill, which we did actually climb.

Rodney Bay

St. Lucia, looking south.

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