Sunday, February 28, 2010

Blog below, finally. More photos tomorrow.

Sunday, February 28 (my mother's birthday)

We feel a bit like we've been on holidays, which is ridiculous, I know. It's a vacation sort of place, as opposed to some other places that are a bit fraught in terms of rough passages and poverty and garbage everywhere and locking things up always. Here, the next beautiful bay is close by, the National Park moorings are easy, the water is clean and the snorkelling is lovely. Live coral, lots of fish in most places. There's good food to buy. People are pleasant and friendly (I don't miss the fabulous disinterest of the ladies at the Epicurian in Antigua. I seem to judge all others by the rock-bottom standard they set). It feels like some of the best bits of America, only in the Caribbean. Wouldn't it be nice to have a bit of Canada, also in the Caribbean. It was gratifying to chat with some Americans on the beach the other day and to hear that "Canadians are cleaning up at the Olympics." Go Canada.

We've stopped at Leinster Bay a couple of times and snorkelled Waterlemon Cay. The first night there Randy and I sat in the cockpit after dark, and after a few frantic seconds when I batted away at a moth the size of my hand, we saw a gigantic falling star that lasted for ages and finally disappeared behind a hill. Probably burning garbage falling out of the sky. But so romantic.

Then the breeze disappears and the no-see-ums appear, and I counted 35 bug bites on my legs in the morning. And that's after slathering with bucket-o-deet. The next night I tried skin-so-soft, and they liked that just as well. Wee bastards.

Francis Bay is lovely as well, and calm (a respite from aerobic sleeping in Charlotte Amalie). So calm, that when the wind drops out at night, and the currents start nudging the boat around we wake up to the sound of the mooring ball banging on the side of the boat. Sounds like the neighbour's teenager playing basketball on the side of the house, and it will make you just as crazy. It can be remedied by going on deck naked in the starlight and hauling on the barnacle and slime-covered pennant until the mooring ball pops out from under the bobstay. Then prop the pennant line over the bowsprit and go wash the goo off your hands and go back to sleep. (Better than calling the police about the noisy neighbours and then lying there fuming.)

A couple of days ago, there was a boat next to us at cocktail hour, a charter boat, four guys, loud music, not to our taste. At one point, they waved, and I waved, and hollered, it's a bit loud!, and lo, one of them went below and turned the music off. So civilized. I am reminded of the musical evenings in Dominica that go on until 6am, shaking your ribcage the whole while. But then, I'm reminded of Dominica's other charms, and I'm over it.

We're in Coral Bay, anchored. Last week we hiked over to Coral Bay from Leinster Bay. Lovely walk, the first bit of it, then it got seriously vertical going up over the hill, then on the other side, we were doing the little old lady steps as we tried not to skid down the gravelly hill on the other side. Treated ourselves to beer and burgers at Skinny Legs Bar and Grill (no discount for having skinny legs, I asked), and took the bus back. Which was nice, except that the bus only goes so far (but only costs a buck), and we still had to walk down a steep and long hill, about another 2 miles, to get to Leinster Bay and the boat. There was a smoothie shack at the top of the hill, so we figured a fruit smoothie would be an energy booster for the rest of the walk. Then the fella said, "would you like RUM in that?" Of course we would like rum in that.

Still, when we got back to the boat, our butts were draggin. And the next day, after all that vertical hiking, up and down, our butts were groaning. Took another two days before we could move without making those grunt/oof/oww noises.

Then, off we go hiking again. Brown's Bay, and some interesting ruins (see photos). We had to part the hanging tree roots dangling around our ears to explore, and yes, I found more shards of blue willow pottery. It's ubiquitous.

We've hiked lots of trails, mostly because for $2.95, you can buy an excellent hiking map from the National Park Office. The whole island of St. John is lousy with trails and beautiful views and ruins and beaches. We hiked from Salt Pond to Drunken Bay, and a windward beach that's populated with people fashioned out of coral rubble and coconut shells and all manner of other beach detritus. It's fabulous. We saw it through the binoculars today from the water when we motored around to Coral Bay, and it looks like there's dozens of skeletons sitting around on the rocks.

Michelle and Charlie have been wandering around in the same vicinity for the last couple of weeks, and it's been great to have people to snorkel with. Rendevous Bay was really stupendous - it's not on the list of places that the charter boats congregate, so it was just us, and wonderful live coral, and squid! first time I've ever seen squid! They line up in a perfect row and watch you. With their bums or their heads, I couldn't quite figure out. And an octopus, and lots and lots of fish. Big stuff, small stuff, garish, lurid, bizarre, beautiful. We flick through the reef fish books after and are agog at the diversity of species. No garbage, lots of life. The people here and the National Park Service are doing something right.

Also Michelle did something right yesterday when she responded fast to a weak "Help!" and rescued a blue and exhausted snorkeler who was hanging on a mooring ball. Got her into the dinghy, stabilized and reassured, and delivered her to shore safely with help from another boater. Then Charlie and Michelle came to Nancy Dawson and we gave MIchelle rum. She done good.

Yesterday in Salt Pond, I putzed around the boat with my snorkel and was kind of disappointed: sand, rocks, weeds, until I saw a ray, and then a big turtle chowing down under the boat. I waited for him to surface and swam after him like crazy and he was hugely tolerant while I took a bunch of pictures. Turtles are gorgeous. This morning in Salt Pond, we headed out to the rocks in the middle of the bay, and were batted around in the chop as we swam around an incredibly colourful collection of corals and gorgonians (soft corals). I took lots of pictures, and I'll try to load lots and a movie when we get good wifi. Wifi has been sketchy, but after all that I've just told you, it would be churlish to complain.

Weather update: no significant rain for ages. Michelle and I looked back at our boats from the beach yesterday. Mi Amante had the water catcher up, but all the hatches open. Nancy Dawson - no water catcher, but all the hatches shut. Optimists? Pessimists? Confused? We laughed, and went on our hike. It didn't rain.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Some photos from the last week or so. Blog to follow soon!
This is Anne and Alan from Freya of Clyde - we spent Christmas with them in Verro Beach in 2005.

Beach and forest bugs. Most often, two are attached and then one drags the other all over the place. Odd plan.

No further comment necessary. Great cheeseburgers here in Coral Bay.

Leinster Bay and Waterlemon Cay. Lovely anchorage, great snorkelling, starting point for several hikes.

Capt refers to the map. We never got lost.

Lizards everywhere.

Ruins at Brown's Bay - all the dangley bits are air roots from the trees.

A well, beautifully rocked in, very deep.

The innards of a defunct termite nest.

Nice rock steps over a trunk on the hike to Brown's Bay.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Some photos from Charlotte Amalie last week.

Fabled 99 steps. The steps up Citadel Hill in Halifax? 123. Can't scare me.

What is an amber waterfall? Is there a second largest amber waterfall?

From the top of the steps.

I wondered if the dog was big enough to get out the hole at the bottom of the door.

Dumb Bread. Who knew.


Michelle, Charlie, Randy, staying out of duty free stores.

Current location - Leinster Bay. Great anchorage. This shot from the mizzen spreaders (fixed the wind generator and the spreader boots.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Blog update already posted below! (which will explain the photos) but this is Kevin, second owner of the Rozinante that Randy built in Halifax. A real bit of serendipity, meeting up with him.

Hiking with Michelle and Charlie on St. John, USVI

Francis Bay

Painkiller, ashore in Trellis Bay at the Loose Mongoose very soon after I returned!

Wicked games at Anna and Andy's with Sam and Keli

The teacher, in the teaching place

In Port Maitland, cozied up in front of the stove.

Big feed of haddock!

Tom driving us to PM. Shitty driving, glad he was driving and not me. I'm out of practice. I can still clutch the doorhandle with white knuckles however. Like driving a bike, you never lose the knack.

Our place in the snow. Looks nice, but better in August I think.
Monday, February 1st.
Travel. Broadens the mind. Then it gets so broad, it explodes and makes a mess.
Two weeks ago, it was Tortola, Antigua, St. Martin, Philadelphia, Toronto, Halifax. Yesterday, it was Toronto (jammed with seething masses of humanity at 4 am), Charlotte, Charlotte again, St. Martin, and today I'm waiting to fly to Tortola.

As an itinerary, it's not too bad for someone who decides that they need to get home in a hurry for a visit, but with all those stops, the potential for mess-ups increases exponentially. My bag, however, has faithfully arrived when and where I have, and for this I am very grateful. But yesterday, something went wrong with the US Airways plane about an hour out of Charlotte, and we turned around and went back to get it fixed. Bit of a stomach twister, that one, but nothing bad happened. Just irritating stuff. Like lunch vouchers for $5 that you had to wait in line for. For 30 minutes. And nothing to purchase for $5. I don't think you can get a bottle of water and a newspaper for $5 in most airports.

I decided not to stand in line for the meager voucher, and went to the closest food place, and got a turkey bacon panini that had no bacon, and was served on rye bread. Also a beer, for which I had to show ID. I said, "I'm 51 years old?" but she pointed to the sign that said "we ID all patrons." I'll bet she hates her stupid job. I couldn't bring myself to complain about the bacon-free pseudo panini. She was up to her ears in disgruntle from all the passengers on our flight.

I missed my connecting flight out of St. Martin, so US Airways came up with cab vouchers, more paltry meal vouchers, and a night at the Sonesta Maho. Better than sleeping on the beach by a looooong shot. But $10 didn't cover half of the tired buffet which is all there was for dinner, and the Sonesta Maho, no dopes, put me in a room close to the thumpy music disco. After being awake for 19 hours, who cares.

St. Martin airport, nearly deserted, 8:30 am. LIAT lady checked me in on the first flight to Tortola, no trouble. Security, passport check, no problem. Departure boards list my Tortola flight as going to Antigua, at a gate about 1/2 mile from the gate I was told. I've got lots of time, so I sauntered over to the other gate and asked what's up with that.

"Oh, the boards are all wrong. You must follow the boarding card." Very matter of fact. Back to the original gate, where the screen at the desk announces this is the flight to St. Thomas. I ask if I'm in the right place to go to Tortola. "Oh, the boards are all wrong, we ask them to change it, but they don't." She calls us to board, so we all line up for a few minutes, then she tells us to sit down again. We're waiting for other passengers. (I can tell her where they are, they're a half-mile away waiting at the wrong gate.)

This happens twice. Then we're told to line up "over there." Then a uniformed fella from another airline comes over and says "What flight?" and we all respond, Tortola. He says, you're not supposed to stand here, this is "our" spot. Eventually, we got on the plane and Randy was waiting for me in Tortola.

Re-entering the Caribbean is always a bit of an adjustment. Had very necessary time with family and a few friends, but it was bitter cold in Toronto, and I was overwhelmingly glad to get back to the boat.

Feb 6. All is well, we're in the USVI anchored at Christmas Cove. Michelle and Charlie are also here. After we anchored, this pretty little boat sailed in and anchored under sail. The next morning, we had both wandered around in the current, and were getting pretty close, and the fella, Kevin, and Randy have a chat before we shift over. Turns out he's the guy that bought Randy's Rozinante. He came over yesterday for a beer. Small World. And his monther's maiden name was Susan Brown.

Feb 8. Rolling in Charlotte Amalie, and the boat is wandering around in the dark and the whole anchorage is weird, boats pointing every which way. Current, no wind, swell. Not so comfortable. But we had a great sail from Francis Bay here today, and just after we anchored, more serendipity, we get a call on the radio from Anne on Freya of Clyde. We met them Christmas Eve in Verro Beach, 2005, and this is the first time our paths have crossed again. Spent a lovely evening with them. Now we'll roll and do anchor watches until the place sorts itself out!

Now I'm going to try to post photos......

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