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May 2011

Eight Helpful People in Guadeloupe

 

One Local Boat

One Local Boat at Deshaies

 

 

In the previous episode, EW and I had tried to travel by bus to Pointe a Pitre or “P a P” as it’s abbreviated on the busses, but were stymied by a one day “slow down.”  The Brits here may like Guadeloupe but they don’t have a lot of respect for the French.  To a person, every Brit who heard our story said, “The French! They are always on strike.” Now we know.

Here in Guadeloupe, the French are nearly always helpful and courteous, as evidenced by the wonderful locals we met on our P a P Adventure.

1. The Professor. When stuck in Sainte Rose the first day, EW approached a white gentleman, who turned out to be a retired professor who speaks some English. At the time , he had no idea there was a slow down by the bus drivers, but he gave us his phone number and suggested we call him that evening and he’d let us know if we would be able to reach P a P the next day. Nicolas proved to be a great help. Yes, the bus system would be fully operational. He also had called someone about marine facilities in P a P and told me, “When you get to the bus station, take a taxi to Bas du Fort. Did you understand me?” Well, I understood the taxi, but didn’t quite get the name he had said, so he repeated it twice and spelled it. “Do you understand? Repeat it back to me.” I did understand and promised to that we would take a taxi to Bas du Fort, where he said they had a good marina and the ladies in the office spoke English.

2. The Young Bus Driver.  The next morning, EW and I set off from the boat determined to only ride a large busMy Favorite Rooster Crowing that declared it served Pointe a Pirtre and Deshaies, and not take a little bus to Sainte Rose. However, evidently very few of the large busses actually pass between Sainte Rose and Deshaies. At least, that is what we inferred from the driver of the first small bus that stopped. This young man in a baseball cap spoke no English,but he and one passenger were very expressive in letting us know that we must ride a small bus and change to a larger one in Sainte Rose. With eyebrows raised, EW and I looked at each other and agreed to take the little bus. We climbed into the rear seat and off we went once again to Sainte Rose. These small busses are more like family vans that seat 9 comfortably and 11 squished in. They stop at each bus stop, tooting their horn just before arriving so that folks waiting will know a bus is coming. Twice we’ve been on one of these that has gone off the route to deliver someone directly to their door. Most are very well maintained and have little printers to provide a receipt for the $2 EU fee. One was much older and did not.

The drive to Sainte Rose is a beautiful climb through the foothills, past colorful, well cared for homes andCattle in Guadeloupe languid cattle tethered in the fields, with ocean views to the north. Many of the homes have a metal roof, reminiscent of those red barn roofs in rural Maine. Here they come in red, blue, and green and compliment the colorfully painted houses. Riding through Guadeloupe is a treat. Our young bus driver not only drove us through town to the appropriate bus stop, he also confirmed with the driver that this bus would indeed leave shortly for P a P.  This ride took us through small towns and sugar cane fields, stopping frequently for passengers.

3. The Guy at the Depot.  When we arrived at the Bus Station (pronounced Boos State) we saw no taxis, and the office was locked, but we were determined to do exactly as Nicolas had instructed.  A young man (again with very little English) asked if he could help. We said we wanted a taxi to Bas du Fort and he loped off with a gesture that we should follow. Again, EW and I shrugged a “why not?” and hurried to keep up with him. He led us thorough an enticing market and along two city blocks. The area definitely seemed safe, but the day was very hot and we did not want to walk all the way to the marina. Suddenly, we saw a bank of taxis, and our guide went to one of the drivers and gave us over to him, explaining our destination. EW shook our young friend’s hand - and provide a private tip, which he didn’t seem to expect at all. The taxi driver took us directly to the Bas du Fort, where we easily found the office.

4. Agnes from Tennessee via Brazil. While we waited to speak with the clerks, an attractive animated sailor (we could just tell she was a sailor) was getting directions to the large waterfall in Guadeloupe. This chute is on our list, so we shamelessly eavesdropped on her conversation. She also heard us request the locations of the chandleries and hardware stores. As we were walking through the parking lot, Agnes stopped and offered us a lift to a shop where she knew the owner spoke excellent English. Agnes is spending time on the boat alone as her husband is in Europe on business. She’s bored (and a bit lonely) so decided to rent a car and take herself on a jaunt to the chute. Her husband called while we were with her and she laughingly said to him, “I’m so lonely I’m picking up strange Americans to be my friends.”   Then she handed me the phone and told him to “Meet Barbara.” Agnes did not depart for her trip until she believed we were on the right track.

5. The Guy at the Bus Stop Unfortunately, we should have kept Agnes. None of the stores had the hose we needed or any of the things on our want list. No worries, I thought. The cruising guide (which I had brought with us) identified two other stores less than a mile away and indicated both of them would have more items for sale. Then we found out that those stores had moved to the other side of the bay, a drive of over 6 miles. We left the marina and looked for a taxi. How hard could that be? Hard. It didn’t help that we tried to flag down three different vehicles that had lights on the top as taxis do. Each of these vehicles had two people in them and I actually followed one through a parking lot so we could grab the cab when the passenger got off. But they drove right though the parking lot and exited. Three sightings later and I realized the signs on top said: Auto Ecole.  We know them as Driver’s Education vehiclesI’d been trying to flag down three different  white knuckled student drivers. So we walked to the bus stop, where the bus driver was talking to yet another guy who hangs out at bus stops. That gentleman spoke enough English to get us to understand that we could take this bus back to the bus station (Boos State) and take a different bus to the other side of the bay.

6. Taxi Driver.  As we rode this bus into a more gentrified section of the city we decided to get off at a taxi stand to save time. Our bus driver hailed a taxi for us and we had a rather frustrating conversation with the driver about our destination. He knew that section of town, but did not know where either store was located and was reluctant to take us there. Once we convinced him to please “just drive” and we arrived in that neighborhood we understood his reluctance. The marine stores had moved to a commercial area of wholesale companies and lumber yards. There are no sidewalks and the section is spread out for a number of miles. EW and I began to read the signs with care and spotted both marine stores immediately. Our driver dropped us right at the door.

7. Young Lady at the Bus Stop Having finally secured our precious hose, EW and I walked (under my protest) back toward the city, arriving after 40 hot minutes at a round-about with bus stops on three different corners.. We had lost all sense of direction, and waited at the wrong stop for a half hour. Finally we hailed a bus driver and asked about the next bus to Deshaies. He communicated that we must cross the street (four lanes with a median) and wait for a bus going in the other direction, and he immediately realized that the bus pulling in was indeed going to Deshaies. He tooted his horn and yelled at the driver while we made our way laughing and thanking everyone (stopped cars, the other bus driver, etc.) to the correct side of the road. A young lady had also crossed the street with us, but she didn’t want to go to Deshaies. I was smiling and effusive as I greeted the driver, who wouldn’t let us on board. Yes, his bus was going to Deshaies, but we weren’t welcome on it. He was very stern. The young lady was as nonplussed as I and asked him a question, beginning respectfully with “Monsieur”; I’m not sure what he said to her, but was stern and it was clear we weren’t going to take that bus. The bus wasn’t full, so we assume that he didn’t like our skin color, or our attitude. Maybe he thought the dash across traffic suggested an imperious nature. We did not get on the bus. The young lady, who spoke little  English, still expressed surprise and remorse. We enjoyed her company until her bus arrived.

8. Two Ladies – One in Cool White Pants We waited for over thirty minutes as numerous buses arrived from Saint Rose and Deshaies on the other side of the street, but did not reappear at our stop going the other way. We indulged in watching the people of Guadeloupe. Two women began walking in our direction, and EW actually mentioned first, “Look at those pants! They are cool.”“ They were. They were white pants with very full legs in a light but opaque fabric – perfect for this hot climate, and they looked wonderful on her. As the ladies walked past, they could tell we were talking about them, so I indicated that I thought her pants were “Tres bien” – even “magnifique”. She laughed and blushed and thanked me. Then they asked where we were going and told us we were at the wrong stop. They escorted us to the third stop in the area and made sure to ask others waiting there if it was the right location. We thanked them, and they resumed their walk. A bus for Deshaies arrived less than 15 minutes later.

This is a beautiful country with friendly, helpful people who are fortunately so expressive that they can communicate when we need help. We were two white English speaking strangers on a French island and we had a marvelous experience. The next day we did boat work and EW repaired our engine. Finding the part took two days, and it was worth it.


Memorial Day, God Moments, and Family

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Memorial Day is big in my family. When I was growing up my folks ordered plants for the concrete pots on the family grave sites. We'd travel to Athens, Maine for my Dad's family and Farmington, Maine to plant flowers for my mother's family. Frequently, we'd spend time in Farmington seeking the stone of one of our anscestors. Beginning in junior high and continuning through high school, I marched with the band every Memorial Day. We were a consolidated school district and six towns had Memorial Day services, so the junior high would march in three towns and the high school band in the other three - swapping towns every year. As my folks aged, EW and I would travel to Athens and Farmington in their place and some of my best memories are the couple of years I was able to coordinate those visits to the cemetery with those of my cousins and my aunt. As we got more involved in the boat and EW began to work on weekends, I did not travel to their graves as often, but my mom and dad and others who have passed remain in my heart.

Here we sit on the hook in Deshaies, Guadeloupe and this morning a Facebook entry by one of my cousins moved me to tears. I love what her minister said about God Moments. Fran is certainly one of those people who create God Moments for others. To her credit, I know that she felt this adventure was a God Moment for her, as well. Here's Fran's message to me for Memorial Day. 

Best wishes to all and please, watch a parade for me on Monday and water some flowers on a grave this week. It counts.

Hello, thinking of you on Memorial Weekend. We have had a 68 year old student minister who asks us to look for the God moments in each day. I had more than my share today and it involves you. I said Barb must be thinking of going to the cemetery but cannot. So as it happens Ken and I happened to be going through Athens today. We were on our second three day (more like 48 hours) part of our 40th Anniversary trip. Ken's Mom has been very ill and we were not comfortable going far so this part of our trip took us to E. Millinocket and Greenville.

Coming home I said wouldn't it be nice if we visit the Huff lot for Barb. Ken did his version of eye rolling and reminded me we had tried this once before and hadn't even found the cemetery. I plowed right ahead; now I had technology on my side. I will call Barb's sister. Try getting the free 411 operator to understand Pat's last name. Well it worked but they weren't answering. So to my new GPS and only one cemetery comes up in Athens. (I found out later there were 3.) The road name was different than "Lena" knew but after our first pass by she found the cemetery for us. Then the non-eye roll again.

Ken: Do you know how many stones there are here?

Fran: But it is quite new and see how many old ones plus I remembered it is on top of a hill.

Ken: And why would I trust your directions? (Barb here: Ken says this with love – some exasperation, but love. I know Ken.)

I see a man about my age 50+ lbs overweight with no shirt mowing. I follow him for a while. Too noisy to hear me. Stand almost in front of him. He shuts down the mower and stops. You have to know we have had about a week + of rain. Grass is very tall and he is trying very hard to get the grass cut before Memorial.

Mower: Huff- which one there are about 30 here? Marguerite sounds familiar. Where is it?

Fran: On a hill.

Mower takes me to about three other Huffs on a hill. I apologize for disturbing him and offer to look on my own.

Mower: But I really want to help you. We don't even have a chart. By now he has put his shirt on and is moving at a good clip over the cemetery saying Marguerite I remember her, I think I helped bury her.

I look up and there is your folks’ gravesite. He insists on waving and yelling to Ken to bring him to the grave before he leaves. As if a slightly hard of hearing person 10 rows away could hear him. Someone had left a very nice window box of flowers. I went to the car. Picture 80+ and we still have winter jeans on wandering all over the cemetery.

Fran: Take a drink fast. Ken Double non-eye rolling and I grab his bottle and mine and empty them in the window box. Now for all the hay on the graves from grass being so long when mowed. Well Ken just happened to have purchased a new rake on our trip. So back I go up the hill and rake. Ken: So what are you going to do with the grass?Fran: How about in the woods? (Barb here: We always put the dead flowers and grass in the woods. Their site is pretty close to the woods. ) He agreed and then we left to go to a convenience store to get some water.

Later, Ken: Good night.

Fran: I will be a minute just writing to Barb.

Ken:  You aren't telling her everything are you?

Fran: Of course! We all have our adventures... 

One more moment from today, a man whose 86 year old Dad who has had a stroke came up as he couldn't find his grandfather’s grave that his Dad had sent him to find.

New man: Do you work here or are you tending a special grave?

Fran A special one but if you stand in front of the mower over there.........

Love, Fran.

Hi EW

 


Cruising Etiquette

Walking through Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbor last week, we ran into a cruising couple we’d first met at the Seven Seas Cruising Association Gam in Maine. We’d seen them again in Georgetown, and now we’re both heading south for hurricane season. They were anchored in Falmouth Harbor and let us know that cruising friends of theirs were anchored near us in English Harbor. We all met up in Guadeloupe on Sunday and FoxSea invited the crews of La Luna and Celebration over “for drinks” last night.

We immediately accepted, and I offered to bring an appetizer of some sort. As EW and I were getting ready to head over in our dinghy, I asked him, “What do we do about drinks? When we met those cruisers in Nassau, they brought their own to the gathering.” “I remember that,” EW said. “I’m not sure what’s the right thing to do.” We decided to waffle. The food went into the Officiant bag and mixings for Cuba Libras went into the red tote bag. EW asked me to, “Bring the topic up for discussion, tonight.”

When we got on board FoxSea, the crew of Celebration was in the cockpit, clearly drinking from traveling mugs. “Hand up the red bag, please, Stew.” As I made our drinks (with ice and glasses from FoxSea) I told them of our discussion.

Vicky and Bob have been active in the SSCA for years and she told me that long distance cruisers have a system. “When invited to drinks, brink your own drink and a food to share and take your garbage with you when you leave.”  This makes sense and allows us to gather more often, and in greater numbers, without causing a burden on any cruiser. We had a great evening and got to know and enjoy these four people who will be our neighbors this summer – and we learned more about how to be good neighbors in this new lifestyle.

Just so you know that we contributed to their knowledge base, Lynn from Celebration asked about my laundry blog post and how the ammonia works. Vicky provided the testimony as she had washed two loads “"my” way that morning. “It works great!” she said.

I love cruising.

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  The view from FoxSea’s port side: north shore of Deshaies Harbor, Guadeloupe.


Adventure or Debacle in Guadeloupe

NOTE: I apologize for all miss-spelled French words in the following document. I took 3 years of high school German, and two semesters of college Spanish. As you will see, EW and I are not prepared for the French islands of the Eastern Caribbean.

Pointe a Pitre Day One 5-24-2011 1-06-25 PM

We arrived in Deshaies Guadeloupe on Sunday evening after a mostly beautiful sail from Antigua, a distance of 40 plus miles. The wind died as we neared the Guadeloupe shore and the engine over heated yet again. This time EW knew it was a hose that he had repaired earlier. A new hose is on the chandlery list, but while at sea EW ably applied Atomic Tape to the burst hose and we powered the last mile to the anchorage.

Deshaies (pronounced Day-ay) is a charming town on the northwest shore of Guadeloupe. There are no chandleries, but you can get outstanding baguettes and pan du chocolate. Oh my. Guadeloupe is a “Department” of France, few speak English, but every person is as helpful as they can be. We should be here with Lynnelle, Amy, or Dora, and we must purchase “French for Cruisers”, but in the meantime we are muddling through with – except for today.

According to The 2008-2009 Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands, Guadeloupe has “an efficient and inexpensive bus system”.  It would take about two and a half hours to ride the bus from Deshaies to Pointe a Pitre, where there is a chandlery, marinas, and all manner of boating equipment and services. “Let’s take the bus to Pointe a Pitre,” I said. “It’ll be an adventure. We’ll get the part on Tuesday, you can install it on Wednesday and we can head south to other parts of Guadeloupe.” EW agreed, so we got up early because the cruising guide also said “Daily life begins … at the boulangerie/patisserie Amandine which opens at 6:30. You can sit at a little table on the street sipping coffee and eating croissants .. while watching the town wake up.” On Monday I was told where to find the bus stop and that the bus left for Porte a Pitre at 8:15. (Actually he said, “Eight .. ah cinqua cinqua cinqua” – holding his hand up to show five fingers, three times. “ Ah,” I said, “Eight-fifteen!” Perfect.

Well, not quite.                                                                

 

Pointe a Pitre Day One 1 5-24-2011 6-39-09 AMAmandine is no longer open, but we did have wonderful grilled baguette sandwiches and coffee, followed by petite pan du chocolate.

EW looks like he really needed that cup of coffee.

 

Pointe a Pitre Day One 1.5 5-24-2011 6-51-45 AM           We each ordered a second cup.

After a leisurely breakfast during which I learned how to say “How are you?” and “Have a good day”, we made our way to the bus stop, next to the Catholic Church. Pointe a Pitre Day One 3 5-24-2011 7-23-16 AM

I had used my very limited French to greet those who had passed by our café and had complimented one lady on her dress. She reappeared  to take a bus and tried to help us, but we didn’t understand what she was saying until it was too late. “No bus Pointe a Pitre” actually was her way of saying “You can’t get the’ah from he’ah” – today anyway.

According to what we can determine from our very limited French, and many gestures accompanying limited English by lots of people, the big buses are having a one day slow-down and this is the day. Shortly after the lovely lady got on her small bus to a nearby town, another small bus pulled up and he said that we could get to Pointe a Pitre, so we paid him $4.00 EU and hopped aboard. It was a delightful drive to Ste Rose, a larger town than Deshaies, on the northern coast of Guadeloupe. We arrived there, in love with Guadeloupe, our driver, and this beautiful day – and there we stayed. We spent about 3 hours trying to find a bus to Pointe a Pitre – or someone who spoke English who could give us information. One retired professor tried very hard and has offered to find a car for us tomorrow. An assistant manager at the local bank let us know that there were no marine stores in Ste. Rose. All of the folks at the bus stop and all the drivers in the five large busses, parked on the main street tried to let us know that the buses were on strike or on a slow down. We weren’t going to get to Pointe a Pitre today.

I enjoyed the day and probably drove EW crazy. I love Guadeloupe – the people, the flowers, the attempts to help – the walk through the cemetery. Pointe a Pitre Day One 4 5-24-2011 11-30-55 AM We’re cruising – one day won’t make a difference, but we did need information. So we went into an Internet shop where we could rent time on a computer. Did you know that European computers have different keyboards? I had no idea, but it makes sense as their alphabet has a whole lot of little symbols that we don’t use. What did not make sense to me is that the “A” and the “Q” were swapped as were a few other latters. BqrbAtSeq does not have the same ring to it. The @ sign is paired with the 0 on the top row and can be accessed only with the ALT key. While that top row does contain numerals, you have to use the shift key to access them and are better off using the ten-key at the right of the keyboard.

I went on Google, and Twitter to 1) Determine whether this was really a one day slow down  and 2) try to find a rental car. One of my Twitter pals did a search for me and neither of us could find any news report about the slow down/strike. (The bus drivers need better PR for this plan to work.) My Twitter friends also gave me advice on the @ sign and one re-tweeted a note I’d sent to a local person who evidently wasn’t on Twitter when I was. That whole episode delighted me as well. EW glowered in a chair by the door, but at least the store was air-conditioned.

So, we quit for the day at 1:00 and took a large Deshaies-to-Pointe a Pitre-Bus (no kidding) back to Deshaies. According to what we think the driver said, we’ll be able to make the full trip tomorrow. EW has sufficiently recovered his sense of humor to make an attempt – but I’m going in to Deshaies after 4:30 PM today when Le Pelican is open again to have that helpful English-speaking gentleman assist me in finding out the real truth. No small busses for us tomorrow, we’ll only get aboard a large bus that says “P a P”.   EW believed that  the driver deceived us this morning; I think he believed we’d be able to take small hops to Pointe a Pitre, just as we did to Ste Rose. We just don’t know the country or speak the language and could have ended up anywhere – or in Pointe a Pitre with no way back over the mountains to La Luna.

So debacle or adventure? I’m going with adventure. This country is beautiful, the food is delicious, and the people friendly. We are ignorant, friendly foreigners and have to bend a bit. Today St. Rose – tomorrow Pointe a Pitre!

Au revoir!


Postcards from Antigua

Good morning!  We leave Antigua for Guadalupe today, as we start to head south for hurricane season. While in Antigua, EW and I took 4 of the 5 hikes available out of English Harbor. This is a beautiful island country.

Barb Overlooking English Harbor 5-5-2011 9-30-26 AM

We hiked from English Harbor to Falmouth Harbor along a shore trail. The point behind me is the entrance to English Harbor. One of those boats out there is ours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blooming Cactus from Afar 5-5-2011 9-18-37 AMWhen our friend Amy visited, she noticed a yellow bloom on the distant hillsides, and was interested in seeing one up close. She would love the hikes we took in English Harbor for many reasons. I took about 20 photos of the plant in her honor, so Amy – these are for you!

 

Blooming Cactus Again 5-5-2011 9-27-05 AM

 

 

 

  Here’s a close up of the flower. These are Agave plants or century plants. They look like a giant aloe near the ground and only bloom once – then they die.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blooming Cactus 1 5-5-2011 9-13-21 AM

 

 

Here’s a whole agave plant, nearing the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Officient Bag with Blooming Cactus 5-5-2011 9-27-47 AM

 

 

 

And of course, here is the Officiant Bag with a young Agave bloom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We saw beautiful boats in English and Falmouth Harbors …

 

Classic Boats in English Harbor 5-5-2011 9-17-11 AMand others that were interesting.

 

Zebra Boat Antigua 5-5-2011 9-09-36 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EW Enjoying English Harbor 5-5-2011 9-26-06 AM

 

 

In case you are wondering, EW is having a good time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love the colors of Antigua.

Flowering Shrub 5-7-2011 2-55-50 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                      Heck .. I just love Antigua. We’ll be back next year.

 

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So, How Are Things With You?

Girlfriends 7-10-2010 6-02-11 AM

 

“We’ve got to talk.” That was the subject line in an email I sent to a dear friend, today.  She’s a busy woman, and I wanted to set up a time when I could call her via SKYPE. I’d been getting some news about her life via her daughter’s Facebook updates and passed on from EW who exchanges emails with my friend’s husband.  My friend and I were college roommates freshman year and have remained friends for life, so we are absolutely thrilled that our husbands get along, but I’d like to hear some of the news first-hand. Plus, when we talk, I get more information such as the rest of the story, things the guys don’t consider important.

Being a Dear Friend Forever she immediately emailed and said, “I know! We do have to talk.” and gave me times she’d be near a phone over the next few days.  But she also said, “I’m reading the blog so I feel we’re in touch ”  We get that a lot. When in the company of our friends and family we have been known to listen and ask questions. We enjoy talking with people – not to people.

Friends and family read the blog and know where we are and how we’re doing, so they feel connected.  “Favorite”, AKA Mo, EW’s son and my wonderful bonus son has evidently been very busy and recently sent an email telling us that he owes us an email. We knew that. If he weren’t able to read about us on the blog and know we were doing just fine, he’d be in touch more. He’s satisfied that we’re safe and happy, and we believe that he is as well and we know that he has had a very busy six months.

So what’s my point? If it weren’t for the blog, I think more Dear Friends and Family would email us more, because the best way to find out about someone else is to send a bit of news about yourself and ask them what’s up. I truly want to know. I’m starved for information, dying to know what’s going on, thirsty for a gab fest. Can we talk? If not, comment on the post or better yet, send me an email. What’s happening in your life? How did finals go? How’s the new job/recovery from surgery/move? How are things? How’s the dog? Any new baby photos? Where are you going on vacation? How’s the new employee working out?

I suspect other travelers, whether by boat, RV, or plane, have the same issue. We all want to hear from those we love and care for. You know how things are with us – heck the whole world could know if they wanted to. We’d like to know how things are with you. We’ve got to talk.


Laundry at Sea

NOTE: This post is dedicated to my Twitter friend and Maniac, @bexmith who got me thinking about laundry when we had a Twitter exchange one day. It began when she tweeted  the following:

“The phrase is not all intensive purposes. Just so you know.”

A few of us found this funny and started a conversation going to show how witty we were. We decided that “All Intensive Purposes” was a great name for an organic cleaner that would take could be used for anything from washing your dog to brushing your teeth.

It was funny at the time. Since @bexmith has visited the boat and likes to hear how we live – this one’s for her.

 

You know you’re from Maine when your 5-gallon Home Depot bucket has duct tape on it to repair a crack.Laundry Home Depot Bucket 5-13-2011 10-42-09 AM (That works, by the way.)

You know you’re a cruiser when you do your laundry in that bucket.  Laundry in the Bucket 5-16-2011 11-07-24 AM

While heading down the US coast from Maine, I did our laundry at laundromats (or the very occasional marina) from New Jersey through St. Thomas. The cleanest facility was  Ida’s at Black Point in the Bahamas. The one in the worst condition was on Main Street in Atlantic Harbor, New Jersey. Twice during the last six months I spoiled myself and EW by having the laundry done (and folded) by an attendant. I don’t know where they learn to fold but I need lessons – especially since we left the iron with Goodwill.) In some areas, even do-it-yourself laundromats are expensive, and in other areas laundromats of any kind don’t exist. Such are the joys of anchoring out. In Antigua, the sheets and towels were done on shore, but I did our clothes in the bucket, a system I’ve been perfecting since the Bahamas.

While in Nassau, we met a cruising couple who were heading north, to swallow the anchor after over 25 years of cruising around the world. I’d like to have talked with them for three days with a tape recording running, but was able to glean good information during drinks on board one evening. Somehow the discussion turned to laundry and I was stunned to learn that she had an  automatic washing machine similar to this Avanti model.  They’ve had two or three of them over the years, upgrading to a slightly larger one when the old one fails. They call it “the guest” as it is stored on the berth in the forward cabin; when the admiral wants to do laundry, the captain puts “the guest” in the cockpit and laundry gets done. The machine is filled via a hose to one of the faucets and is drained down the cockpit scuppers. These boaters also had a water maker and a generator, and both were needed for regular use of “the guest”.

We didn’t have a generator until recently and we still don’t make water, so EW was glad to hear that I had no desire to purchase our own “guest” right away. In fact, the storage of said unit would be a challenge for me as EW’s guitar is “the guest” and I’m not inclined to add any more clutter to the forward cabin. I’m embarrassed to say that a few years ago, friends gave us a hand washer that they’d no use for, which I kept it in the storage locker until we set sail, but did not bring with us. My bad. It just seemed … inconvenient, hard to store, too much work … really what was I thinking? For my sins, I’m doing laundry in a bucket.

The experienced cruising couple told me they use non-sudsy ammonia for laundry detergent aboard. They wash their clothes in the machine, the spin dry gets most of the moisture out, then they hang the laundry on the boat and let it air dry. Non-sudsy ammonia allows them to wash and not rinse, saving time and precious water. After some experimentation I’ve found a system that works for us.

1. Choose a day when no rain squalls are expected. (You’d be surprised how often I’ve gotten this wrong.) A breeze is good, but too much wind will whip the clothes off the line. I lost a towel that way.

2. Select two loads of laundry and separate them into “clean” dirty and “dirty” dirty. (We’re saving water here.)

3. Carefully inspect the laundry for stains, then treat said stains with nail brush and whatever you use for stains. I use an organic cleaning product that seems to work as well as anything else. Rinse much of the stain product out of the clothes.

4. Fill bucket 1/2 way and add about 1/3 cup ammonia. Plop the clothes in and stir with a boat hook. (Here’s the lazy part.) I just let them soak for a few hours. NOTE: if you let them soak together too long darker colors will bleed on the lighter ones they are packed next to. (I learned that the hard way, too.)

5.  Let’s discuss wringing. When I was a child my mom had a wringer washer. I don’t remember it much, but I do remember being about 4 years old when they purchased an “automatic” washing machine so she’d never have to use the wringer again. She was thrilled. Now I’d be thrilled to have an old fashion wringer, something I wished we’d purchased before leaving the states. (Really, I’d be thrilled to have that crank washer I gave away, Laundry hand wringing 5-16-2011 3-03-39 PMbut a wringer would make me happy, as well.) Since neither is available at this time, I’ve resorted to the “Mary and Barbara Wringing Method for Sweaters”. Mary, one of my roommates in college, and I had a lot of colorful, hand wash only sweaters. We would wash them in the sink, then wrap each sweater in a plush towel, put the bundle on the rug and stamp on it until the moisture from the sweater was absorbed by the towel. It worked great. On La Luna, I have a plethora of cham-like cloth purchased at a number of boat shows. They are great for drying dogs, so --- once the clothes have soaked for the proscribed amount of time, I remove one item at a time, wring it by hand and wrap it in a cham-wow-like cloth, then I stamp on it. The clean item no longer drips and I hang it on the line, wring out the cham-thing and tackle the next item. Works great. Laundry Feet Two 5-16-2011 3-04-45 PM

6.  A word about laundry on the line. Hanging laundry on your boat is forbidden when on the dock in most marinas. Since we anchor out, I’m not restricted by anything except my own good taste and nice manners. I will rig a clothes line on the foredeck from mast to forestay and neatly hang my laundry with clothespins. I take them down as soon as everything is dry. EW rigged up a nifty retractable indoor line in the forward cabin where I hang our under garments. Whether one is on a sailboat or living in a million dollar home on shore, I don’t think he or she needs to look at my clean underwear so I draw the line at hanging our drawers and my bras on deck.

Laundry on the line 5-16-2011 1-57-09 PM

7. Now, back to the bucket. Once the first load has been wrung out and hung up, I place the “dirty” dirty clothes in the bucket, add a bit more water and ammonia and let ‘em soak until the first load is dry.

If I stay of top of the laundry I can do this every 5 or 6 days – less often if we’re living in swimsuits – and not be over-burdened by the job. When dry, everything smells clean and feels great – no ammonia odor lingers at all. We haven’t been kicked out of restaurants or off of neighboring boats, so I’m pretty sure we don’t stink. 

If I have the opportunity to get another hand washer, I’ll probably do so as I suspect that agitation is a good thing, and it would provide for more upper body exercise. In the meantime, our Mainah’s Home Depot bucket works just fine.


15 Easy Steps to Defrost a Boat Freezer in Paradise

 

Does anyone get excited about defrosting the freezer? I never did and was delighted with our frost free freezer/fridge combo in the Home By the Sea. (Confession, when we bought the house we called it Love Nest by the Sea. Really.) When we moved aboard La Luna, I remembered the “old” days of defrosting a freezer and believed that the chore had to be as difficult as possible and take as long as possible, so I made that happen. Here’s the process: 

1. Remove all food items from the freezer and take them to a friend’s house or to the boatyard freezerFull Freezer 3-16-2010 8-52-10 AM for safe storage. After all, the job is going to take hours. Here’s my friend Lynnelle’s freezer, used once when she was out of town. I had to remove two bottles of vodka to make room for my stuff.

2. Remove all of the food from the fridge, throw out the old, exclaim over the number of jars that are half full of substance, and store all of it in two coolers, with ice because it’s going to take hours to defrost the freezer and you don’t want anything to spoil.

3. Turn the system off. That’s done with the flick of a button. Easiest part of the job.

4. Place a bowl of warm water in the freezer.

5. Wait for frost to melt and do something useful while waiting such as clean out the fridge side.

6. Get tired of the frost not melting and pour warm water over the frost, creating ice, which will melt eventually.

7. Bail out the bottom of the freezer so that it doesn’t overflow as the ice melts and pour more warm water over the ice to help it melt.

8. Pry large chunks of ice off the front of the holding plate – carefully. Suggested tool is a plastic scraper. I used a table knife but don’t tell anyone.

9. Mop up water from galley sole (floor to you landlubbers) as the falling ice has caused the water in the bottom of the freezer to splash out.

10-12, 13-15, and 16-18 Repeat steps 7, 8 and 9 for two to three or more hours. Ice will have formed on the back of the holding plate where no scraper or table knife can reach it. It’s also difficult or nearly impossible to pour warm water on that area. Try anyway.

18. Once the back of the holding plate is finally free of frost and ice, bail out the bottom of the freezer for the final time, clean the freezer and spray Pam or wipe a small layer of oil on the holding plate – this helps you pry off the ice next time.

19. Turn on the system.

20. Return the cold goods to the fridge side.

21. Hours or a day later, go get your frozen stuff and place it in the now cold and clean freezer. (Make sure you put Lynnelle’s vodka back in her freezer.)

Yeah, that was fun. Of course, when I did this, we lived on the dock with easier access to a freezer. (I have really good friends) and a couple of coolers. Now, I’m traveling where I don’t know anyone on shore,Freezer insulated bags 5-16-2011 12-30-51 PM and we only have one smallish soft-sided cooler and two of those large, cheap, hot/cold bags you get at the grocery store. The old system wasn’t going to cut it at sea, yet I didn’t know of another way. I hate defrosting the freezer, therefore it must be difficult, therefore I hate it. It’s a vicious cycle. It didn’t help that a marine refrigeration expert told me that I should probably defrost every four to six weeks. Like that was going to happen.

Well, yeah, it was. We’ve been experimenting with how to better insulate our system (there’s a postFreezer Full Ice 5-16-2011 8-45-24 AM coming about that) but even with improvements, we find that the freezer gets mighty frosty in this warm climate. When the frost is thick, the system isn’t efficient and eventually, both sides get warmer. Warm is not a good quality for a freezer or refrigerator. I was discussing this in the Bahamas with some of our cruising buddies and found out that aboard two of the boats, the guys handle the defrosting. They entered into the task with fewer negative expectations than I had, and with some knowledge that I had missed somewhere. I’d heard of folks using a hair dryer to warm and melt the ice and I’d tried it on the dock but found it frustrating and cumbersome as I could not leave the hairdryer running and walk away.

These boaters use a fan, a normal household fan normally used to cool our persons on a hot day. Last summer, one of our neighbors in Harpswell had told me that she used a fan to defrost the small chest freezer on her powerboat. I didn’t yet understand how it could work and never pursued it, but now I needed to know, so I went online for a little research: why does ice melt faster with a fan? I still don’t know.  I found out that ice melts quicker in room temperature water than in air – though one article mentioned that if you hung an ice cube in the air in front of a fan it would melt faster. (Who thinks of this stuff?)  Other articles discussed the steps for defrosting home and marine freezers pretty much as I described above, though they make it sound easier. (They lie, I speak the truth.) None of them used a fan. My mom had to defrost the freezer when I was growing up and she didn’t use a fan, either.

Today, I used a fan. Since we purchased “Jenny” our beloved Honda generator, I can run AC stuff whenFreezer Fan at Work 5-16-2011 8-56-19 AM EW charges the boat. This morning, I requested that he get Jenny up and running because I had plans for her – big plans. I have learned that I can leave the food in the fridge side (we’ve pared way back on the numbers of stuff in jars this year) and clean the fridge on another day. The computer fan that circulates cold air from the freezer to fridge still sends cold/cool air to the fridge side as I defrost, so though the temperature gets a bit warmer than I normally would like, it isn’t dangerous and will cool down when the system is restarted.

Here is today’s process.

1. Remove all food items from the freezer and pack in the blue soft-sided bag, along with any ice and some of the cold packs used for picnics. Enclose filled blue bag into large hot/cold bag for added insulation.

2. Turn the system off.

3. Place the household fan (thanking Neptune that I brought it along for the trip – and remembered where it’s stored) over the freezer, blowing down onto the ice, and walk away.

4. Work on the computer or clean something.

5. Check the progress in an hour and exclaim over how much ice has melted. Bail out the bottom of the freezer, removing large chunks of ice as well.

6. Reposition the fan and go back to something else.

7 & 8, 9 &10. Repeat steps 5 and 6 one or two more times, positioning the fan where it will do the most good. When pointing it down the back of the holding plate, it easily melts the ice that has been so hard to reach. 

11. Wipe up the water spilled on the sole. (It’s going to happen. Deal.)

12. Once the holding plate is free of frost and ice, bail out the bottom of the freezer for the final time, clean the freezer, and spray Pam or wipe a small layer of oil on the holding plate – this helps the melted ice fall off in chunks the next time.

13. Turn on the system.

14. Return the still frozen items to the freezer.

Not only does this method have fewer actual steps, those steps require less of my time as the fan is doing the work I used to attempt with the butter knife, and – this is big and --- the whole process took less than 4 hours from start to finish. Since this is no longer a job I dread, I’ll do it more often and bet I can “get ‘er done” in 3 hours or less, with only about an hour or so of active time. Under these conditions, I can easily defrost every four to six weeks.

You proof-readers will realize that the new way only has 14 steps. Here’s step 15:

15. Make a gin and tonic with the bag of partially thawed ice cubes. Waste not, want not.

 

 

 

 

 


Books from Maine and Hands Across the Sea

Books On Board 5-11-2011 2-02-50 PM We love to read. One of the attractions of La Luna is how much space there was for books and EW created more by adding higher fiddle rails to two shelves. When I was young, my folks didn’t have a lot of money, still my mom read to me, I visited the library weekly, and often was able to purchase paperbacks from Scholastic Books.  The children in the Eastern Caribbean communities have not had those advantages, but one sailing couple has begun to change that. 

In the months before leaving Maine, I read an article on-line about cruising sailors who donate children’s books to libraries in the Caribbean. The ladies in my book club attended our wonderful Bon Voyage/25th Anniversary party and donated money for children’s books. In my typical full steam ahead mode, I didn’t find out what group handled the donations, what books were needed, or how to donate. Kathy and I simply went to the bookstore with a fist full of cash and had a ball. We bought books to read aloud, such as Chicka Chicka Boom Boom; and early chapter books about sports and dance, and non-fiction books about the human body, the sea, and more. Of course we included two books from Maine, I Met a Moose in Maine One Day and Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee (one of my favorites).

We bought as many books as we could, and then EW and I packed them into a large tote, stowed them in a dry Books for Bolans 5-11-2011 6-38-55 AM spot and left Maine – with no idea at all how to find the right home for these books. Friends had heard that  paper was expensive in the islands and we also had many 8 1/2 by 11 lined pads for the schools.  Along the way from Maine to Antigua the book tote moved from the forward berth to the locker to the pilot berth and occasionally EW would say, “What are you going to do with these books?” “I’m going to find someplace that needs them and donate them,” I said.

While on shore in Jolly Harbor during our first week in Antigua we met two young women who are Peace Corps volunteers. When I mentioned the books, they looked at each other and exclaimed, “Ryan!”  A Peace Corps volunteer from Cleveland, Ryan is helping the elementary school in Bolans create a library. “He needs children’s books!”  So the ladies introduced me to Ryan via email, and I contacted him when I got into English Harbor. I told him I’d find a ride back to his side of the island before we left here, but had not yet done anything about it when we found ourselves anchored near a catamaran named “Hands Across the Sea”.

We were on deck enjoying the evening – EW more than I as he was beating me at Gin Rummy – when our neighbor jumped in for a swim. She swam near shore for exercise, then swam over to chat with us while she treaded water. We introduced ourselves and asked about her boat’s name. “It’s a charity my husband and I run from the boat. We provide children’s books to schools and libraries.”  Harriet and T.L. Linskey spent five years sailing in the Pacific early in their marriage, then returned to civilization and corporate positions. When they decided to return to cruising they wanted to develop an organization that could help people in the Eastern Caribbean. As Harriet explained, “We weren’t sure what was needed so we formed the non-profit with a broad mission statement and sailed down for the winter.  During the first year here we realized that literacy would be our mission.” When they returned to their home port in the Northeast that summer, they tightened the mission statement for the non-profit and began to raise funds for books.

Now, each year the Linskeys sail the Caribbean, snorkeling, hiking, eating, and enjoying the islands as we do. During their time here, they also help construct library shelves and reading chairs, and meet with their “adopted” schools and libraries to find out what will be needed next year. Then they sail back to the Northeast and spend some of their summer meeting with donors, networking, raising funds and ordering books. Their October newsletter announced that Hands Across the Sea had packed and sent 25 pallets of books  and teaching resources in 59 boxes to the "adopted" schools and libraries of Hands Across the Sea's 2010 Caribbean Literacy and School Support (CLASS) program. That’s a lot of books. My tote bag seemed like a paltry offering.

As we talked that evening, Harriet mentioned that she had secured a taxi for the following day to visit five schools in Antigua, including the Bolans school where Ryan is volunteering. Of course I invited myself along and Harriet graciously agreed. We arrived at the first school in time for morning assembly, where the uniformed youngsters recited their school creed, prayers, and sang their school song and national anthem. From there we went to Bolans and met Ryan, the principal, Mrs. Joseph, and the remedial reading teacher, Mrs. Tong. Ryan hasBolans Group with Harriet 5-11-2011 9-59-39 AM been organizing the books they have on hand, creating shelves, painting the library, and reading with the kindergarten classes. Mrs. Joseph and Mrs. Tong learned more about Hands Across the Sea, and agreed to partner with Harriet by providing contact information and taking responsibility for receiving the books when they arrive on the island.  At left, are Ryan, Mrs. Tong, Mrs. Joseph and Harriet.

All were very gracious when I presented my little tote bag of books. “They’re new!” said Ryan. “Well, yes.  I realize now I could have gotten more books if we’d gone to a library sale,” I said. “Oh, these are wonderful! Chica Chica Boom Boom is a great book.” said Mrs. Tong. EW and I also had some no longer needed computer equipment for the school and Ryan was very appreciative of that. Two of the youngest students came in looking for Ryan and one immediately saw The Truck Book. I have a feeling Ryan will be reading that one to them very soon. Group at Bolans 5-11-2011 9-58-37 AM

Later that afternoon, Harriet, EW and I met in the water and treaded and talked. (Harriet says that way we get exercise, cool off, and have time to chat. Bet she can’t do that in board meetings in Massachusetts.) She said that one of the challenges in raising funds is that folks don’t believe there’s a need here. The general tourist flies down, goes to resorts and restaurants and doesn’t understand that these islands are almost totally reliant on tourism dollars. They have few resources, lower literacy, and a low standard of living. According to one website I found, teachers make about $15,000.00 EC, which is less than $6000.00 US; Harriet said they are expected to pay for most of their classroom resources out of their salary. From our experience, the people of the Eastern Caribbean are hard working, friendly, intelligent and creative. Helping them provide better education for their youth could help these countries attract or build businesses down the road. Helping any country provide better education for their young people seems to be a good investment. I told Ryan at Bolans school that I’d try to raise more funds for books for the library there. We encourage you to donate to Hands Across the Sea, There’s a link on that page to tell you how to send books or supplies to them, as well.


Dirty Dancing at a Lime in Shirley Heights

 

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The view in the mist from the Lookout at Shirley Heights.  Our boat is anchored in English Harbor, the body of water to the left. The small bays in the middle are the inner bays of English Harbor. The body of water between them and the mountain is Falmouth Harbor.

 

 

 

 

 

Oh my.

Left – Left – Left – Right – Right – Right – Right – Forward—Forward—Forward—Back—Back--Back was one thing, but Dime—Quarter—Dollar—Dollar—Dollar was something else entirely. EW was stunned. Appalled even.

I was relieved that I’d refused to be one of the “three lovely ladies” the singer requested join him from the audience. EW suggested I go on up, but after spending the past two hours listening to the music and watching the tourists, I realized that my brand of loveliness and willingness were not those sought on stage.

On Sundays at the Shirley Heights Lookout in English Harbor, they host a “Lime”.  According to the Urban Dictionary, in this case “lime” originated in Trinidad and means:

a (v) hanging out/socializing in an informal relaxing environment, especially with friends, for example at a party, or on the beach.

(n) an event at which liming takes place, e.g. a party. A gathering of people engaged in activities associated with liming. Often qualified using an adjective e.g. big lime.

(v) We liming on the beach today

(n) That party going to turn out be a big lime.

Steel Band 5-8-2011 3-56-42 PM We’ve been in the Bahamas and Caribbean since December 25th and I still hadn’t heard a live steel band so when we saw that the lime on Sundays always begins with a steel band, I knew what I wanted to do on Mother’s Day. I put on my dress, we took the dingy ashore and easily found the trail up to the lookout, figuring to take the road back down after dark.  According to the sources on the web, the steel band would play from 4 to 7 followed by a live band that played rock and roll and Caribbean favorites, and we’d be able to purchase rum punches and a local meal. Sounded great.

A review on line from a tourist who had attended as part of a package tour had been lukewarm on the event, “Unless you like steel band music”. Well, D’uh! He did express disappointment that it wasn’t a truly mixed crowd; make no mistake about it, this “Lime” is produced for the tourists and relatively few locals attend. I already knew that was the case because I have cracked the code in Antigua. If a fee is expressed in US dollars, that means that locals rarely, if ever, partake of said item or event. For example, it costs $10 US to do a load of laundry at the Nelson Dockyard. I assure you that no local person ever takes his or her laundry there. It’s a good place, and the fee is reasonable to us, but locals don’t go there.

The steel band playing that night was exceptional, they are the A.M.P. Halycyon Steel Orchestra and are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. You can hear and see them on YouTube in a number of videos, including one from the 2008 Moods of Pan Festival.  There were about a hundred people when we arrived, scattered over the grounds. (That’s the photo above.) Shortly afterward, taxi vans dropped off folks from resorts in Antigua, and it became an evening of listening to music and watching people. One local that EW and I called RastaMan had been dancing alone near the band for some time before a tourist joined him. They both could dance, but they had moves that would make my mother blush. Having watched Dirty Dancing and just a teeny bit of Dancing with the Stars, I had seen some of these moves, but in a routine, not over and over and over again, as we witnessed at Shirley Heights.

We chatted with tourists, and felt superior to them as we were on our own on a boat and not being herded like sheep from one event to another. This isn’t fair, I know, but we have not developed a favorable impression of the average US or even European tourist on a cruise or in a all-inclusive resort. There’s definitely a “What happens in the islands, stays in the islands” mentality and some people aren’t satisfied no matter what.  I was checking out the bar when a van pulled up and one woman walked inside and sat at a table. “What are you doing, Caroline?” her husband asked. “I’m sitting down. There’s nothing going on out there.” Let’s see, amazing view, even on a cloudy night, outstanding local music, lots of people to ogle. Nope, nothing going on out there at all. The people watching alone was worth the trip. There were many young or youngish or young at heart ladies in revealing outfits and very high shoes – on a mountainside and on a uneven stone terrace, mind you; and a lot of young and young-ish or young at heart men who wore long sleeved oxford shirts with shorts and kept unbuttoning their shirts as the night wore on. Ooooh. Chest hair – or not. There was cleavage, upper and lower, but not a six pack in sight.

We danced, we laughed, we loved the music and spoke with folks who knew the band, we ate and Steel Band II 5-8-2011 5-55-33 PM drank and had a ball. When the steel band stopped at 7, there was a smooth transition to the next band, which had already set up on a nearby stage. The lead singer evidently has a lot of experience with tourists who’ve been drinking rum punches for the past two hours. He encouraged the conga line, allowed the ladies in the high heels to dance on stage with him and even held the microphone for one who sings worse than I do.

Then he began to teach us some Caribbean dances. The first one was that simple left right front back thing. The little jumps to the front were difficult as we were going up a slight incline on the said uneven stones, but we remained unfazed and unscathed. Then he decided to teach us the dollar song and EW suggested I go on stage. Uh, no. Thank you, but no. Whew. Let’s just say “Show me the money!” was a part of this song. Nickel to the left, dime to the right, and dollar dollar dollar.EW was astonished and I turned to him and said, “Are you as happy as I am that I didn’t go up there?” He was. 

The lady who had danced the duo version of the dollar song with the Rastaman was the best on stage as well. She really can dance. At one point in the evening she danced with a young man who was an exceptional dancer. They danced to a Latin rhythm, she wore a red tank top and short flirty skirt (totally appropriate outfit – looked great on her) and he had on a large red white and blue baseball cap, baggy shirt, flip-flops and (no kidding) his computer in a messenger bag across his back. He could dance circles around every other man there and they were a delight to watch. But she like the dollar dance better, I think, and went back to Rastaman later on.

I’m not sure whether EW and I are getting old, or just isolated by not having TV  and by missing whole seasons of first run movies. If this kind of dancing is prevalent back in the states, we’re going to be very out of step. In the meantime, we hope to attend real limes – over the summer when the local islands host band competitions. I’ll let you know about the new steps we learn there. Maybe. What happens in the islands may stay in the islands.