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April 2014

Jailhouse Rock

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We hauled the boat  the day after we reached Sint Maarten

It’s been a very good experience. This is a well-known marina, we are pleased with the crew; the office manager is brilliant, and the new supervisor seems to be an excellent manager.

Having said all of that, we quickly learned that they are in transition, so we have to make some allowances. Since EW and I normally have good attitudes, and since we understand how boatyards work, this hasn’t been a huge problem for us, but it’s made for a few interesting boatyard moments. As long as the work is done in a timely fashion and correctly, we can live with that.

Good thing.

P1000140For all you non-boaters or non-live-aboards, here’s the thing about hauling out: You can use no on-board drains of any kind. That means that you can’t use any sink or head. (Unless you have a composting head, which is reason number 5 for getting one. But I digress.)  If you can’t use a sink, you have to go off the boat to brush your teeth, dump used dish water into a bucket for burial in the bushes, and walk to a shore facility to do your business.

The first time we hauled La Luna after moving aboard, EW chose a commercial marina near our boatyard in Maine, with no input from me. That was the last time he made that mistake. There were no facilities there. None. The one head was in the office and locked from 5 PM to 8 AM. We had to use the rest room in the gas station/convenience store across the street. We had to drive back to our home marina for our morning showers. This lasted two weeks and I was not pleased.

After that, I have always confirmed that any boatyard has a working head and showers available 24/7. In every instance until this particular moment in haul-out time, those facilities have been in the boatyard. In St. Lucia, the buildings were hurricane damaged, had spongy floors, and no privacy in the ladies’ shower. But they were cleaned at least twice a day. As we have found on most Caribbean islands, the boat yard was surrounded by a tall fence and security guards were posted at all entry points 24/7. I felt quite safe making my way down the ladder, through the stored boats, and to the brightly lit “Woman Room” any time, day or night.

In Trinidad, there was barbed wire atop the fence, the usual security guards at the gates, and others roaming about the property. We were farther from the heads and showers, but quickly learned that the guards were watching out for us. As I began my late night walk, one guard or another would emerge from the shadows and wave to me, so I didn’t get spooked by their presence. That yard had a long line of unisex water closets. Most of them contained a toilet and a sink with a mirror. The last four simply held a shower, hooks, and a small changing area. This was the most efficient system I’ve seen.Again, they were cleaned twice a day.

Here, we are again in a locked yard surrounded by a tall fence. The difference is, we are locked in.

Really.

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The security guards, stay on the outside of the only gate. They are responsible for the boatyard, the docks, and the parking lot. When the boatyard is open for business – from 8 to 5  on weekdays – we can pass through the office. The rest of the time, we must get a guard to unlock the gate. Imagine this. I climb down the ladder to use the facilities and I go to the corner of the fence nearest the parking lot so that I can call to B, or M, or Mr. D. in order for one of them to meet me at the gate and unlock the chain.

Really.

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Like I imagine one finds in jail, It’s easier to get in than out, because when we are “on the outside” we can simply track down a guard and ask to be returned to the pen. When we are on the inside we are at their mercy. They are efficient, friendly, and quick – in the Caribbean fashion of quick.

OH! And the facilities are uni-sex and we must use quarters to get into the toilets or the shower rooms. The showers require .50 for one minute of cool water.

I’m actually OK with the whole quarter thing, and that outstanding office manager had been clear about it prior to our arrival. I get a kick out of this sign though. P1000204Remember, we are in Sint Maarten, the Dutch side of this lovely island. The other side is French. We are no longer in the U.S. Still, this is the sign in the head.

So the quarter thing is mildly annoying but expected, but the whole locked in jail thing was definitely  a surprise. One morning, EW and I were standing at the gate trying to get someone’s attention. He wanted to find a tin cup to run along the rails; I wanted to take the ladder from the boat,  and “go over the roof” and “break out of this joint”.  We could have made it. There’s a utility  hut on the other side which would make it easy  to reach the ground.

The hull has been polished. The bottom has been sanded and primed. We will ultimately escape via the water, much more comfortably than those folks who tried to escape from Alcatraz.  In the meantime, anyone have a tin cup we can borrow?

P.S.  On Sunday,  one of our guards evidently had to use the facilities about the same time as we did. I had just left the building and EW was washing his hands when we heard, “Mister. Mister.” The security guard opened his stall door far enough to hand EW the key.

No! Not really.

<Wink>


Chutes and Ladders

P1000117We finally left the Virgin Islands after wearing out our welcome with dear friends on S/V Kookaburra and S/V Two Much Fun. I understand how they felt – how many times can you say good-bye? On one of our last days, Jaime wore a shirt she had been gifted by one of the power yachts she had serviced. The ship is M/V Go, so the shirt simply has the word “Go” on the front.

Subtle.

We were determined to get underway, but not quite ready for the Anagoda passage, so we tacked to St. John in an easterly breeze and picked up a national park mooring. We had a lovely, relaxing Sunday evening and Monday, before setting sail to Sint Maarten on Monday evening.

We should have left sooner. It’s always a crap shoot. Is the weather prediction spot on? Or off by a few knots or a few degrees? Will we be tacking all the way Philipsburg, or will we get a favorable breeze and a straight shot? It mattered, because we’ve agreed not to enter unknown harbors in the dark and we had never entered Philipsburg.

I hate one or two nighters – those short over-night hops that don’t let you get into a sleep/wake rhythm. I took the second night watch from midnight to 6AM,  and didn’t sleep at all from 6PM to midnight, so I pulled an all-nighter. It didn’t kill me.

We started along a tacking pattern I’d established. Ten miles south of the rum line, turn, ten miles north of the rum line. An more than ten miles put us too far off course in a wind change. Any less was a pain in the butt. Of course the wind shifted. One southeasterly tack became more south or even southwest and our actual next tack point was miles to the west of the planned point, closer to our last southern tack point than to the one we wanted.  Twelve hours later, the wind shifted again, and we began heading more easterly than north or south. Sailing is like that.

Thinking about it while tired, I decided that sailing to windward is like that old board game, Chutes and Ladders.

Did you play it? Mom played it with me and I played it with nieces and nephews and kids I baby-sat. (Daddy did not play Chutes and Ladders and started teaching me Cribbage when I was 7 or so.)

When playing Chutes and Ladders, you start at the southwest corner (or lower left corner) of the game board and work your way north and east (or up to the right) to the northeast corner (or upper right finish line).

For this trip, I plotted a course with tacks and we worked to make good from mostly west to east, tacking northeast and southeast along the way.

Chutes and Ladders 

So you roll your dice (or plan your route) and you move forward the required number of spaces. If you land on a ladder, you “climb” up it to a space closer to the winning corner.

We sailed, to the southeast, and  then northeast – hopefully getting closer to Sint Maartin. Sometimes, we caught a favorable breeze and were “lifted” (that’s a sailing term) up the ladder closer to our goal.

In Chutes and Ladders, you can also land on a chute or slide, that will send you right back down one or more levels closer to the starting line.

We sailed, and tacked, and sometimes ended up sailing back closer to our prior tack point than we wanted to.

Four people can play Chutes and Ladders at once, and someone will be the first to the top and win the game.

We weren’t racing, so we were going to win, because all we had to do was make it to Sint Maarten. Which we did – at 9:00 PM.

Chutes and ladders 2That’s after dark, and we had a choice: 1. hover at sea until daylight; or 2. enter Simpson Bay in the dark, anchor, get some sleep, and sail to Philipsburg in the morning.

Simpson Bay has a wide opening with no obstructions except for Pelican Key. There is a marked channel (not shown accurately on this chart) and would be a whole lot of boats at anchor in the safe anchor zone to the right of the channel. If it was too crowded, we could opt to anchor in slightly deeper water to the left of the channel.  EW had to rely on my memory of Simpson Bay, but agreed to try anchoring there in the dark.

It was perfect. I marked our turn into the bay, marked where I thought we’d anchor and took her slowly in under power with EW on the foredeck. We slipped between a large blue yacht and a large catamaran, pulled ahead into the wind, dropped the hook, and waited for her to grab.

There were definitely more chutes than ladders on this sail, but we won the game. Safely anchored in Sint Maarten.

Life is good.

NOTE: The photo at the top was taken at the 6:00 AM change of watch.


Hi! Fiddle-Dee-Dee! The Cruising Life for Me

P4080235La Luna sailed!  And we remembered how! 

Right now, we’re back on our (sold) mooring and glad the new owner doesn’t need it until May, but last week EW and I returned to the cruising life.P4080240

  • We plotted a course to our destination – St. Croix
  • We prepared the boat and dropped the mooring line
  • We sailed for 6 or 7 hours
  • We dropped the hook in a totally new (to us) harbor
  • We played tourist, and stayed for three days
  • We hauled the anchor and sailed back, successfully handling one small squall with 40+ knot gusts

I liked all of it, even if I was a tad sea-sick on the way down.

We. Be. Cruisers.

I like being a cruiser, and being married to a cruiser. Most of all, I like being married to a cruiser who likes to play tourist. We enjoyed St. Croix, were we were the consummate tourists for two days. (On the third we did boat projects.)

Having arrived before sundown, we simply relaxed on board the first night, but did call friends and former cruisers Martha and Peter who now have a home on St. Croix. They still have their boat, the S/V Lightheart, which Peter charters, and they’ve added a new family member of the standard poodle variety. Calypso is a joy and beautiful and much deserving of love and praise. (She told me to say that, but it’s all true.) We met Martha and Peter in Grenada and they have an amazing story to tell, including the re-emergence of Captains Courageous, Martha’s personal and professional development classes held at sea on the boat. They very nicely invited us to dinner on our first full day in St. Croix and we were delighted to spend time with them.

Earlier that day, we played tourist in Christiansted, a charming town on the water with actual public dinghy tie-up facilities. (Do NOT get me started talking about St. Thomas.) Here are a few things we saw:

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At left, a street view in the morning light.

Above, EW looking at the former Lutheran church, conveniently located across the street from where those pious types held their slave auctions.

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At left, a view from the fort. This cannon is not exactly aimed at La Luna, but it’s close enough.  The fort was ideally situated to provide excellent coastal protection. Still the Danes surrendered to the British not once, but twice.

 

 

 

 

 

For Day Two we  had a list of four places we wanted to visit on the island, and they all would all require a motorized wheeled vehicle. We could have hired a taxi, rented a car, rented a jeep, or rented a motor scooter.

Guess which one EW wanted to do?

Yep.

And since I love EW, I went along – white knuckled all the way.

Confession: Ever since I saw a Vespa ad somewhere when I was 9 or 10, I’ve always imagined myself wearing a full skirt and scooting along with a smile on my face.

Sort of like this ….. or like this.

Note that the lack of helmet didn’t bother me then.

 

 This is how we looked for real:

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Our four tourist goals were as follows:

  1. Travel to Point Udall and see the place where the sun rises first in the US – since it edged out Maine when the US purchased St. Croix in 1917.
  2. Visit the Botanical Gardens.
  3. Visit Frederiksted and the beaches on the west end.
  4. Give (non-alcolhic) beer to the pigs at the Domino Club in the rain forest, where we could eat lunch. (I did wonder whether lunch was ever a former beer-drinking pig, but wasn’t going to ask.)

First, we had to choose a scooter from the many  on display. Pic-04102014-008I wanted the nifty orange one, so they hauled it out front for EW’s safety and security check. The horn didn’t work, so the orange one was rejected. The seat on the red one wasn’t secure. The young man helping us said that once EW sat on it “It wouldn’t go anywhere”, but (maybe because he had also offered to sell us some weed) EW didn’t believe him. We can’t remember what was wrong with the black one, but the pretty blue one was just right! It only had 230 miles on it and no one had dropped it. In fact, it was the only one that hadn’t been dropped.

I wasn’t getting a good feeling about this.

Our camera had stopped reading the card, so we got directions to Office Max to purchase a new card. That took over an hour as the camera still didn’t work so we went through the mall looking for a disposable. At that point I suggested we bag Point Udall since we weren’t going to get a photo. Our list was down to three items before we got started. We headed west on Route 70, a two lane road with posted speeds of 35-45. I kind of got comfortable on the bike. Kind of.

EW would stop at lights, rev the engine (such as it was) and ask folks one lane over “Are we bad?”

We were so not bad. We looked like grandparents on a blue scooter.

The botanical gardens were an excellent stop and we highly recommend it. They aren’t the most spectacular gardens we’ve seen, but they are on an old plantation with much history thrown into the mix.

Our sprits were up as we were one for two and on our way to Frederiksted. We missed it. The map clearly showed a T in the road at which we were supposed to turn right. There is no T. We kept going and ended up doubled back on Route 66 – a four lane highway with posted speeds of 60 mph. I was not happy, but EW liked the thought of driving Route 66 on a bike. (Get your kicks on Route 6 – 6.)

By the time EW figured out we were going east we were also nearly out of gas as none of the scooters had more than a 1/2 tank in them. We pulled into the Home Depot parking lot to get the map out of the storage bin under the seat and three young men offered their help. EW asked them if we “looked bad”. They didn’t respond, to that question, but drove very slowly on the highway so that we could keep up. They drove so slowly that EW had to apply the brakes so we didn’t rear end them. Clearly we did not “look bad”. We looked like grandparents on a motor scooter.

Ten minutes after we began to follow them, they led us to a gas station that was right across the street from Office Max! We’d gone in a circle. The young men suggested we get back on 66, but I didn’t like that road at all, and we were hungry, so we decided to go east on 70 again and take 69 into the rain forest to get to Club Domino for a late lunch. Fifty percent is a good average in baseball. Back in the country on 70, EW pulled over next to a produce truck and asked an old gentleman for directions. In St. Croix, everyone gives excellent directions. Good thing.

This man had been sitting up against a tree, but he stood up to talk with us. He was probably in his late 70’s, had checkerboard teeth and major indigestion. Each sentence was punctuated with burps and much rumbling from his abdomen, but he was very clear about where to turn right off of 70, and when to take the left turn into the rain forest. And he laughed when he playfully punched EW on the shoulder and said, “You goin’ to feed beer to dem pigs, ain’t you?”

Oh yeah, we were bad.

So we followed his directions exactly, and came to road construction. The flagger took one look at us, spoke into her radio, and waved us through. Here’s something that doesn’t happen on the mainland: the front end loader around the corner simply stopped for a minute and they waved us under the arm, between the cab and the bucket. Oh yeah, we were bad.

Up over the little mountain, down the other side, and there it was, Club Domino, just where the old gentleman had said. But it was curiously quiet. The few people there were loading big foil covered food trays into a van. “I’m sorry, we are closed today,” one lady said. I laughed so hard I could barely breathe. Once I recovered, I said, “I thought you were always open.”

“We are open 364 days a year. The only day we close is for the Taste of St. Croix and that’s today.”

Seriously.

I asked where we could go for lunch and a tour on this bike and we got directions to head up over the mountain road (oh joy) and to the north end of the island where we followed the coastline back to town. Along the way we had slices of pizza beside the Caribbean Sea, and shared stories with other tourists who had gotten lost on the island looking for the T in the road to get to Frederiksted. Seriously.

Confession time: I back-seat drove pretty much all the way. “There’s a curve up here.” “Look out for that pothole” punctuated with “You are doing a great job, Honey.” and a few gasps and exclamations. My last boyfriend with a bike had a sissy bar for me and a real helmet. This blue scooter did not feel safe at all, but we returned it with 3/4 of a tank of gas and no scratches. EW really did do a good job.

We crossed one thing off our list (two if you count EW’s desire to rent a scooter), laughed, loved, and were bad to the bone.

I love this cruising life.