Social Media can be a beautiful tool. Last week, EW and I were tagged in a Facebook post from our dear friend and former cruiser, Peter Bonta. Peter is EW’s guitar guru. We met him and LeeAnn during our first season in Grenada, nearly five years ago, and found new friends-for-life.
They sold their boat and are now living in Italy. (How cool is that?) Due to the miracle that is Facebook, Peter forwarded a post by a musician friend of his, David Watt Besley, announcing a private home concert in St. Augustine. And, due to the magic that is synchronicity, EW knew the host of the concert: Scott Sweet, a musician and luthier who had fixed EW’s guitar pick-up. (This is not a truck that looks like a guitar but a port to allow his guitar to be amplified.)
EW called Scott, got the particulars on the concert, and invited a few of our friends to join us. Kirsten, who had attended the Flager guitar class with EW, and Don and Betty-Ann, former cruisers who are now very interesting CLODS here on the river, all jumped at the chance for this limited seating event. Don and Betty-Ann kindly invited the three of us to dingy to their dock and ride to the show with them. (EW repeatedly assured them that they were invited because he knew they liked hearing new music,not because he was angling for a ride. Betty-Ann smiled, winked, and said, “Oh, suuure,” a phrase only a southern lady can pull off with the right inflection and timing.)
What an amazing evening. Scott had made chili, moved out most of the living room furniture, and set up chairs for 30 or so folks. We all brought snacks to share and our own libation—just like a boat party—and then we were enthralled by three songwriters performing in turn for three hours. St. Augustine is an amazing town. As Don said, after talking with Barry, an outstanding local artist who attended, “You just never know where you will meet someone with incredible talent, here in St. Augustine.” (That’s especially rich when you know that Don is a phenomenal architect.) I nodded sagely at his words, thinking, “Um, you are an incredible talent.”
David Watt Besley, formerly from Virginia where he knew Peter, now lives here in St. Augustine, with his wife Theresa. He performs regularly in town on and on Anastasia Island. Check out “Hopeless Romantic” on YouTube. (I couldn’t get it to link here.) It’s a beautiful song and one he performed that night.
David had invited two songwriter friends from Georgia, Jefferson Ross and Levi Lowery, to join him for this home concert and a public event later in the week. They enthralled us in turn with excellent, surprising, touching, witty, and highly intelligent songs—none of which we’d ever heard. It was a magical evening. We listened to some of their music the following morning (as they had sold CDs at the show) and suggest you check them out. Levi Lowrey has a strong website with four or five music videos allowing you to sample his songs. Jefferson Ross has a great website, too, and is currently offering :The Dogwood Cats” as a sample song.
When we introduced ourselves to David, he was delighted to hear that Peter had sent us, and edified Peter during the show. Now, I’ve friended David on Facebook, so important information doesn’t have to travel through Italy to reach us back here.
The next morning, as EW and I talked about the event, the word “magic” was uttered by one of us. Regular readers and anyone foolish enough to ask about our favorite harbor will know that we frequently refer to the Azores as magical. Perhaps the magic has followed us here or has been with us all along. Perhaps we just have to make sure we pay attention, opt to try the unknown, and expect to find talented people and magical moments here in St. Augustine….or anywhere we drop the hook.
I have an excellent sense of direction, except on islands—and sometimes in Panama. When the full moon rose one night in Linton Bay I was nonplussed for a moment, thinking it was rising from the west. On the Caribbean side, Panama has a snaking, curving coast, so the mountains on the mainland are south of us. On the chart, we are anchored west of Isla Grande under that big messy red dot. Our cruising ground in the Guna Yala are inside the messy red circle.
This anchorage/marina is the shortest distance from the Guna Yala where one may take a bus or taxi to Colon or Panama City. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. It means it’s possible. A bit closer to Colon is the town of Portabelo, where one can anchor and go ashore and catch the bus. There are pluses and minuses for anchoring in Portabelo: On the plus side, it’s on the regular bus route and more buses go between Colon, Sabinitas, and Portobelo than go to the end of the line. We anchored at Linton Bay Marina, which is close to the end of the bus line and offers fewer buses. Also on the plus side for Portabelo, there area a couple of hardware stores, a few small groceries, an excellent Panamanian bakery, a good fruit and vegetable vendor, and Captain Jack’s, the cruisers’ hangout. On the minus side, we have been told not to leave our dinghy ashore overnight, and Portobelo, surrounded by mountains, makes its own weather. It may rain nearly every day in Panama during the rainy season, but it always rains in Portobelo. Also, bad thunderstorms occur more frequently there than they do where we opted to anchor. I will put up with quite a bit of inconvenience to avoid severe lightning.
This cruising life is a trade off.
The big trade off is that end of the bus line thing. Affectionately known as “chicken buses” these old, retired, US school buses are often pimped out with graphics and giant versions of those bicycle handle bar streamers we all used to have in my youth. In addition, they have generally taken out the last two seats to allow for large backpacks, bicycles, and groceries, and they have installed pipes along the ceiling so folks standing have something to hold. To say folks are squeezed in would be an understatement. “How tightly are passengers squeezed together?” you might ask. On his last run back from Colon, EW was squished into the window by a rather large woman on the aisle, who was being pressed herself by someone standing in the aisle. At the end of the trip, EW’s elbow had been rubbed raw on the window molding. Trips to Colon will take about two hours and are never comfortable—though that’s our only injury thus far.
Still, for weeks, one or the other of us would plan a “quick trip” to Colon. One in which we’d scoot in to pick up something that had been ordered or repaired, with the intention of getting on—if not the next bus back, the one after that. It never happens. And—since the buses to “Laguaria”—the end of the line don’t run during the afternoon, if one misses the last mid-day bus, one waits until 3:30 to begin the trek. If one is burdened with groceries, a case of beer, or two alternators, it is best to go to the dingy bus station so that said heavy things can be easily loaded into the back of the bus, and so that you are sure to get a seat.
We usually try to catch the 6:10 bus at the marina going toward the end of the line so that we have seats when the school kids get on at that end. On my “quick trip” I opted to leave at 7:10, and shared a seat with a cruiser from Columbia, who speaks some English. As we entered the last stop before turning back towards Colon, the bus was waved over by the police, who boarded and walked down the aisles. I’m not sure what they expected to achieve, but gathered that two German tourists had been robbed and the police were trying to find the culprits. We sat on the hot bus for 45 minutes, after which the driver returned and we resumed our regularly scheduled program.
It took me well over two hours to get to Colon that day, but my task was quick and easy and I opted to catch the return bus near the Quarto Altos Mall. Every seat was taken except for one full, two-person seat which had two small bags of items sitting all alone. One woman conveyed that I could take it, but I understood she had been holding the seat for someone. I left the groceries in the seat until a gentleman sat next to me and I had to take them up. This kind of ticked me off. This is the only time I’ve been on the bus without having to hold groceries or boat parts or an alternator and there I was, holding someone else’s stuff.
People got on. People got off. The man next to me got off and someone else got on. In the meantime, I’d use my phone to translate, “These are not my things,” which brought smiles to three ladies in my area, but no relief. Finally, one young woman with a small boy in her arms indicated I should do…something. At first I thought those were her packages, but no, the three ladies had been watching for a moment to get me into another seat, and she wanted me to move next to her quickly “rapidamente” before the school kids got on at the next stop. The bags belonged to the first lady, who was saving a seat for her two school-age sons. Evidently this is Panama’s version of picking up the kids from school.
In addition, the three ladies had paid attention to me when I mentioned my destination as Puerto Lindo, and my young seat mate conveyed that this bus did not go through to the end, but stopped in Portobelo and turned around. “No problemo.” I said, followed by “Gracias.” I hopped off in Portobelo, helping my seat mate with her own packages, while she carried her baby down the cramped isles. There, I waited for a bus to the end of the line. I had left for my quick trip at 7:00 AM. I arrived in Colon after 9:30 and completed my one mission there in just 20 minutes. Still, I didn’t get back to the marina until 4:00 PM
Proving once again, that there is no such thing as a quick trip to Colon.
It seems everyone wants to know about our plans for hurricane season. We certainly have been sitting here too long, and we are both anxious to move on, so … see that big ship?
Just kidding. Unlike many other boats leaving St. Thomas this year, we will be powered by our sails. In the meantime we have watched over eight transport ships load boats destined for Europe or the US. It must be an amazing feeling to watch your “baby” and your home be hauled out of the water and strapped onto a ship.
We aren’t heading back to the states or Europe yet, and will instead sail to the Western Caribbean. We’d decided our destination when we changed our plans last year, opting to sail back to the Caribbean instead of heading to Brazil and Argentina. We still wanted to sail and explore new places and there are reasons the Western Caribbean appeals to us:
Friends: Keith and Jaime from S/V Kookaburra are there and we would love to spend more time with them. They are waiting for us in the San Blas and we plan to cruise those islands together through hurricane season and venture to other cruising grounds after the season.
It’s on “the list”. Please understand “the list” is rather fluid. (So fluid that it isn’t capitalized; it’s “the list”, not “The List”.) There are a lot of places we’d like to see, but neither of us want to circumnavigate, so we’re looking at places on “the list” in or near our comfort zone: EW wants to visit pyramids in Mexico; we’d both love to help someone else traverse the Panama Canal again; and there are other things on “the list” in and near the Western Caribbean.
More friends. Alice and Steve, Vicky and Bob, Gretchen and Michael, and Bill and JoAnne are all currently in the Western Caribbean – or their boats are and they’ll return after the season. We plan to be in touch via Facebook and sail to an anchorage near each of them at some point in time.
So are we ready?
Well, not yet. We’re waiting for one Sailrite order and for new credit cards which were sent to the old address. As soon as those cards arrive at our Green Cove Springs mail drop, we will have everything waiting there packed up and sent here.
In the meantime, we need to provision. The sail over to the San Blas should only take 8-10 days, and we’re going straight there, so it would be easy provisioning--- if things were available in those islands. Jaime’s message listed fewer than 20 products sold in the only store. At the end of the list, she said, “Notice there is no etc.” She did say they sell fresh fruits and vegetables delivered via small boats. We’ll purchase and stow enough provisions to last at least six weeks by which point Jaime and Keith will teach us, guide us, and show us the way to Panama City for the next round of provisioning.
In the meantime, we are picking up some things they need—items as diverse as fake ice tea and a new generator; stowing things we need; and getting stuff done on-line while we have the Choice program. Once I can figure out the technology, our cell phone will provide Wi-Fi while we’re in Panama.
Summer has arrived in St. Thomas. The days are hotter, there is less wind, and more humidity. We aren’t used to it, complain to each other daily, and remind each other, “It’ll be worse in Panama”. How’s that for positive thinking? We will be much closer to the equator. I plan to write in the morning, jump overboard for an exercise swim/snorkel, and then tackle boat projects in the afternoon. We’ll eat lighter meals, consisting of fresh fish caught by EW (no pressure there), and the fruits and veggies Jaime assures me are available weekly from the Guna (formerly known as the Kuna Indians).
EW has a bunch of boat projects of his own, and has armed himself with various guitar instructional books and videos. By November we two and La Luna will be in better shape, more published, and more musically adept. (Well, EW will be more musically adept.)
(Jaime and Keith, if you are reading this, please be assured we will take time to sail to other islands and to explore with you. All work and no play make for exceedingly dull blog posts and articles.)
Now you know the plan. Remember: it’s fluid, like the list.
For now, I have to complete the tasks which should have been finished weeks ago, and EW has to push me out of my hunkered down mode. For some reason, leaving any spot (except Georgetown in the Bahamas) is difficult for me. That first step is hard. Once we are off and on our way, I’m good.
NOTE: Did you catch “Guna” instead of “Kuna”? According to Jaime there is no “K” in the Guna language so they changed the way their name appears other languages. When I went to check on that, I learned we won’t actually be in the San Blas, either. According to Wikipedia we are going to visit Guna Yala:
Guna Yala, formerly known as San Blas, is an indigenous province in northeast Panama (Official Gazette of Panama). Guna Yala is home to the indigenous group known as the Gunas. Its capital is El Porvenir. It is bounded on the north by the Caribbean Sea, on the south by the Darién Province and Embera-Wounaan, on the east by Colombia and on the west by the province of Colón.
The Guna Yala is in red on this map. My funky blue arrows show both ends of the Panama Canal.
There are still folks who are surprised to hear we didn’t head south to Brazil and Argentina, and others who have commented that I seemed to have finally rediscovered my sense of humor.
Thank the universe for both things. So far, the Rest of the Story has only been shared with a few special friends. (Weren’t they lucky to get dumped on? They all unfailingly provided love and support and that is why they are special friends.)
I had mentioned to someone that “Seventeen things went wrong or broke during the crossing.” A curious person, (or sadistic) he wanted the list. I may or may not provide it, but let’s start with Number One:
When we left Sint Maarten the second time, we had a few uninvited guests. Many of their progeny remained on board for the entire trip, across the Atlantic, through the Azores, into the Canaries, and back across to Guadeloupe. At first we weren’t sure what we had. Well, at first I was in denial, because our guests were invisible and only bothered EW. “Sure, Honey, I understand,” she says with an eye roll. The short version of the story is we (probably EW) brought sand fleas on board. In addition to being invisible, they are stealth biters, we never saw them and we never felt them. EW is allergic to them. EW had been allergic to them for years and he is even more sensitive now. The tasty and rare and fragile flower known as EW can be brought low by sand fleas and it isn’t funny. (Well, again, it was kind of funny on the way to the Azores, before we harbored colonies and when EW was only getting bit every so often. (I received two bites. All year. Just two.)
In the Azores, we relied on a pharmacist who spoke English to read the labels on pesticides to help us chose the best one. (In the Azores, fleas are “pulgas” One is “pulga” No one ever has one flea.) Since we had no sand on the boat, our guests burrowed down in the bed. Since we slept in the main salon underway and moved the bedding to the master stateroom once we arrived in the Azores, we had colonies in both cabins. Oh joy.
We would spray the boat down, close the boat, take the bedding to shore to launder it, spend the day seeing the sites and go back to scrub the counters and restore the bed. Every couple of weeks. This kept them to a manageable level, but we knew we weren’t killing the eggs. EW’s reaction got worse, I was still persona non grata to the beasts, and he was supplying sustenance to more and more of them, which all happily copulated (or whatever it is that fleas do) and produced still more. Still, it was uncomfortable and a pain in the neck, but not horrible ------- until we crossed back to the Caribbean.
On the crossing, someone is always sleeping or resting in the bed, or on his or her way to the bed after dining or completing a few chores. And we certainly couldn’t get off the boat to let the poison do it’s thing. So, we grew more fleas on EW’s blood. And EW developed greater allergies to the bites, and some bites got infected. I nipped that problem in the bud by using my Mom’s tried and true remedy: soaking affected area in salted water so hot you cry for your Mommy. Works every time with shallow infected scrapes, cuts, and bites. This is not a remedy promoted by EW’s mom, so he therefore thinks I’m a sadistic B!$#h. Tough S^&t. When bites in his ears prevented him from hearing, a hot wash cloth reduced the swelling. When he couldn’t see out of one eye, a hot wash cloth returned his vision. (See the swelling in his right hand, above.)
As you may imagine, this was not fun. We’ve always enjoyed that line, “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” This is also true about captains who are miserable with real pain, discomfort, swelling, and itching. EW wasn’t happy, we had other issues (remember 17 things) and it was not a fun crossing. (To be fair, remember that I had an infected tooth and was battling galley issues. We were not examples of favorite crew, and this was not a happy boat.) Once we arrived in Guadeloupe, our first order of business was to get EW medical treatment and to find an exterminator. I had worried about the second part all the way across the Atlantic.
Would the exterminator come to us on anchor?
If not, what would happen if we are in a slip and an exterminator came down the dock to our boat? (I wouldn’t want to be tied next to a boat that was getting rid of something nasty.)
How many applications would it take? I knew we’d need at least three if not four treatments over the course of weeks.
How much would this cost? We had 15 other issues to fix. (One of those 17 items was a family issue and beyond our control.)
Fortunately, I found the French word for exterminator, looked them up in the Yellow Pages, and found one who spoke English. On New Year’s Eve, Thiery met us in the parking lot and discussed the issue. After phone conversations and texts he had already decided that, because of those four questions, we should tackle the project ourselves. He sold us the product, directed me to their American website so I would know and understand it’s use and the safety procedures, and drove us to his favorite hardware store where he helped us purchase a pump sprayer, suits, goggles, and gloves. For the next two weeks, we would stow hard stuff, tape the cupboards in the galley, don our gear and spray the whole boat: cushions, mattress, under the bunks, and the storage areas under them down to the bilge. Afterward, we’d go on deck, strip off the jumpsuits and shower on deck. (Though we were in France, we opted for old swimsuits under the Tivek.) Then we would dress in the cockpit (France) and head off for a full day of sightseeing or shopping in Jarry. After which we would return and clean the boat. (Jarry, an “industrial park” outside of Pointe au Pitre had a store for everything. The first day, we took the dinghy through the canal. The photo at the top shows the canal.)
We didn’t feel we could take a slip, visit other boaters, or have the refrigeration guy on board until the guests were under control. So, for the first two weeks in Guadeloupe we were isolated, and still using a small cooler for refrigeration. (It was shortly after the worst of this was over that good friends Lynn and Ken from Silverheels III sailed into town to rescue us from ourselves.)We found an excellent physician, who examined and tested EW and confirmed that we had sand fleas and that he was allergic. Medicine helped. I replaced the pillows, and ultimately we ditched the salon cushions. EW was no longer getting bitten in bed, but would get chewed up while dining or reading or watching a movie in the main salon. Still, while in Guadeloupe we treated the boat every two to three weeks to kill all fleas and eggs. We were successful.
How’s he doing? Well, there’s good news and bad news. For the good, he never gets bit on the boat, but we are still in the Caribbean and there are sand fleas. Whenever he leaves the boat he sprays repellent on his body, and a travel can of the stuff goes with us for long trips, swimming, etc. On the bad side of the equation, for EW, Fleas Happen, and when they do, he is very harshly affected. In fact, a couple of weeks ago he had to visit a doctor and learned that bites on his legs will cause allergic reactions (like hives) on other parts of his body (such as the top of his head). We will not be leaving here without an Epi pen.
And that, Boys and Girls, is the rest of the story of our Endurance Crossing, and one of the reasons we elected not to travel farther south. We needed to be closer to friends, family, and help. If we put those 17 things in order of occurrence, enough of them caused problems in the Azores or happened in the Canaries so that we knew we had to head for the Caribbean. The flea situation was just Number One in our early warning system. The other 10 or so things that happened during the crossing let us know we had made the right decision.
We've decided that making a crossing or undertaking a long passage is like reefing. Just as good sailors reef early and often, good sailors also must be sure of the boat and the crew before undertaking a rigorous trip. We don’t regret going at all, and would do it again. Nor do we regret making it a much smaller Atlantic Circle. Good decisions will keep us sailing and looking forward to the next adventure.
For our second unplanned Edouard lay day in Sao Miguel, we decided to visit Sete Cidades, described in our tour book as “a crater with a 12km parameter where one can find twin lakes, the Green Lake and the Blue Lake.” There is a legend about the lakes (of course) and the love of a princess and shepherd boy. When she told the shepherd that her father had forbid the romance, they cried so much that their tears formed two beautiful lakes, one green, for the Princess's eyes were green, and the other blue, for the shepherd's eyes were blue.
(I like this legend because nothing is mentioned of them plunging to their deaths in despair, so I can imagine he later married the daughter of a cattleman and therefore prospered (we haven’t seen sheep here) and that she married a prince and lived happily ever after.)
I had checked in with the tourism office to confirm that the bus schedule for Sunday, so when the bus was late, we weren’t worried. We were able to reassure three travelers from the Washington D.C. area, J, L, and E. The ladies, L and E work together and love to travel; they were joined this time by J, who had gone to college with L and who also is a traveler.
We chatted at the bus stop. They had arrived from Boston the previous day and this hike was part of their planed adventure on the islands of Sao Miguel and Pico.
They are all three energetic hikers and their guidebook showed the hike starting from the town of Set Cidades. Our map showed a start out of town, near the aqueduct. After a half hour of wandering the small town, taking photos of the lake, and looking for the path to the start of the hike, I suggested that the whole trip may be a tad too long to get us back to the bus in time. L said that she usually completes every walk much faster than the books say it will take. My experience in the Azores has been that I am much slower than the maps indicate. They graciously agreed to stay with us and share a taxi. EW found a van taxi driver who agreed to take us to the start of the trail for 3 Euro each. For. The. Win. (That space between where the bus dropped us off and the aqueduct was about 5 kilometers straight up a busy road., and all of us were pleased with our decision to taxi to the start.)
That’s J, L, EW, and E – below.
The lakes are an important water source for the island. Here are remains of the old aqueduct.
This is the Azores.
There were cows.
Including some trees that looked ominous.
Can you say earth quake zone?
This was a medium difficulty trail – according to the map. There were very steep parts up, and very steep parts down, but the whole trail was on a dirt road. Some folks drove the whole trail. Pikers.
And there were glorious views.
It became apparent that this hike offered a special photo opportunity for one of our D.C. travelers. L’s holiday cards always feature a photo of her taken on her travels. Traveling friends vie to have their photo chosen. J and E were on it.
I took a few, but I mostly took photos of the process. Here’s a tip from L: In the sun, close your eyes and have the photographer count to 3. On 3, open and smile. If you and the photographer are well-timed, your eyes will be open for the shot.
E graciously took my camera for a photo of EW and me.
I only allowed myself special hydrangea photos. These flowers are still interesting after they’ve passed.
My favorite view.
There were viewpoints or “miradouros” on paths off the road. At the top of one I took the photo at left, and started singing, “The hills are alive, with the sound of music.” (It’s a generational thing. And a girl thing. L & E got it.)
We learned about J, L, and E and they learned about us. (They don’t blog, so I am protecting their privacy. They know I do and these photos are authorized.) We liked and enjoyed each of them, laughed and teased each other, and EW and I were delighted they had let us invade their party.
Near the end of the day, L found out that I never got “Seinfeld”. She expressed relief that she hadn’t known that earlier. (Apparently the day might not have been as pleasant.) Shortly afterward, I found out she doesn’t like chocolate and expressed a similar thought.
I am submitting this entry for her holiday card.
Because …. cow.
Here’s my favorite shot of EW.
After a very steep descent on loose gravel (not my favorite part of the trail), we arrived back in the village, in time to wander a bit more, have a couple of beers, play with a puppy, and catch the bus for home.
Mainahs and others who live in tourist areas can relate to this guy – working on his roof, while we enjoy the beautiful sights of his island.
Seriously? All last summer I haunted this NOAA website, worried about Hurricanes in St. Thomas – and now we’re stalked by Edouard?
Grrr. While we adore the Azores (you probably figured that out, already) the locals have continually apologized for the unseasonable rainy weather, and we are once again stuck in a marina waiting out wind and waves. Or that’s what I thought yesterday. In reality, we may get some wind on Monday, but not only of the 34 knot variety – no hurricane strength -- and there’s only 5% chance of that. EW and I are ready to be off the dock so we’ll be sailing a few miles down the coast to Franca do Campo. We can anchor in that bay, near the marina there and scoot into there if we need to. We’re getting good at that in the Azores.
This anchorage has been on my top ten list since we planned to cruise these islands. There is a little islet near the town (see left). One anchors just outside on a day stop and swims or rows in to “the best natural swimming hole in the Azores”. How can we miss it? The plan is to finally leave the marina in the city today or tomorrow, anchor off the town and visit the little island on Saturday. Then, depending on the weather, we will tour a bit on that end of the island before heading to Santa Maria – the last of the Azorean islands for this cruise.
While here in Sao Miguel, EW and I took the minibus (0.35 Euro per person) to the big grocery store where we can get things like real mozzarella and parmesan cheese, motor oil for La Luna, and salad dressing. (They don’t use salad dressing in the Azores, offering oil and vinegar with every salad made.) In honor of EW’s 50th reunion and the Bills trouncing of the Dolphins, we had decided to have Buffalo Chicken Wings and for that one needs blue cheese dressing. It wasn’t good blue cheese dressing, but the wings were great. (We served them with carrots and cucumbers, because they don’t usually have celery here, either.)
Oh, hey! You haven’t heard about my most recent blond moment. It’s a biggie. Our American neighbors asked us how close we were to our 90 day limit, and how we were going to handle it. I, however was clueless. “What 90 day limit?” It seems that almost all of the EU countries, including Portugal, are part of the Schengen Agreement. They allow Americans and others to visit without a visa for 90 days in a six month period. I thought we had 180 days in the EU. Turns out we have 90, ending on October 4th. Oops. Evidently, this is a fairly new issue and one that I missed because I was relying on research undertaken when we planned to cross in 2013. Big oops.
We think we may be able to get a 90 day extension. Three immigration officers told us we could, but won’t do it until we are within a few days of our October 4 deadline. Fingers crossed that we can get this done in Santa Maria (if Edouard allows us to go there) or the Canaries. We’ve decided not to worry about it. We will absolutely meet with immigration and talk with them as not doing anything will result in higher penalties. Part of the issue, of course, is that we crossed Morocco, Senegal, and Gambia off the cruising route, which would have given us time outside of the EU. In reality, we just liked the Azores too much to leave until we were done.
While we were wandering side streets looking for the immigration office, I saw a guard sitting inside a small doorway at City Hall. (That’s City Hall, above.) The guard’s post was the entrance to the bell tower and one can climb to the top at no charge. How cool is that? Even better, they play organ music with speakers at every level. Creepy.
Yes, EW did say, “Sanctuary! Sanctuary!”
The stairs freaked me out as the stone slabs had broken at the edges creating open risers. I’m used to that for Maine porches and camp steps, not so much when climbing a stone tower accompanied by creepy organ music. I kept waiting for them to collapse. The last bit of the climb was inside a tiny circular stairway – so tiny that EW’s backpack and he nearly didn’t fit. The view was awesome! This is the marina, looking toward where we will sail next; just around this point for a distance of 12 miles.
Even in the Azores’ most populated island and largest city, we are still very close to country, pastures, and cows.
And finally, in this potpourri of a post. I cut EW’s hair today for the third time since we left Maine in 2010. The first time, I used scissors only and cut his hair on the beach in the Bahamas. The second time, at his express request, I used the clippers he had purchased when left alone in a mall in Puerto Rico. It was horrible. I wrote a post about it, and Favorite visited shortly afterward. He looked at his dad, he looked at me, and he said, “The photos didn’t do this haircut justice. It’s the worst haircut I’ve ever seen.”
EW is a brave man and he agreed that I should try again, using scissors for the cut and the trimmer just for his neck. This is not a horrible cut, though I hope to do better next time. There was one issue however. The electric clippers look harmless and as I was doing his neck I thought I’d just touch up a long spot in the back.
It didn’t help that I laughed so hard I cried. So glad this man is a good sport. Except for the spot, he likes the cut OK.
So, we’re off to Franca du Campo.
And then to Santa Maria. We’ll let you know if we end up in an Azorean jail.
This blog is now two islands behind but I’m working to catch up. The islands are addictive, though the Azores are not perfect.
Right now we are anchored in off of Graciosa the second smallest island in the Azores. There is a very small marina, almost full of the local fishing boats, but we don’t want to stay in marinas anyway. The anchorage was rolly when we arrived on Friday, but nothing we didn’t see in Prickly Bay, Grenada. Unfortunately this is the summer of “unsettled weather” as one European sailor said. Two of this island’s major attractions are small mountaintops and the views from them. We have west winds and low clouds; there are no views.
We also are having trouble with the outboard. We stayed in Angra in order for a highly recommended company to fix it; had to wait for parts, the highly recommended owner went on vacation; and the mice played. The motor was returned with the new part, but not fixed. EW almost blew a gasket. A different employee solved that problem, admirably.
Unfortunately he also didn’t check everything. We got to Graciosa, hunkered down for the night, and took the dinghy ashore on Saturday to check in and wander the town. When we returned to the dinghy it wouldn’t start. So I rowed. (EW’s right elbow is bothering him so I try to do some of the things that inflame it – like rowing. And I like to row the dinghy, when the motor is up and I’m alone. With a load in it, this inflatable sucker rows like an old iron tub.) Once I rounded the break wall, I was rowing into the wind and the current was pushing me beyond La Luna. That is not a good thing.
Ultimately two small pleasure boats came to our rescue and the first to arrived towed us to La Luna. The next morning, EW worked to see whether he could find the problem. He found the symptom: the spark plugs get gooped up after 15 to 20 minutes of use. He now has all 6 plugs available out and cleans them after each use. We take tools in to shore so he can change the plugs and clean things up, and he must repeat the cycle after every ride. I’ll not be taking the dinghy alone until it’s really fixed, but we’ll get to see Graciosa – that’s the main thing.
On our Saturday visit, we stopped by a little café and ordered “cheese toast” their translation for a grilled cheese sandwich. These were made with the local cheese – every island seems to have their own, all different and all delicious. There was a gentleman alone at the table next to us and a couple came and sat on his other side. We assumed they were Portuguese and gave everyone a cheery “Boa Tarde.” They smiled, replied in kind, and greeted each other in English.
Not just English but clearly New England accented English! You know I jumped in! Eddie now lives in California, but his family emigrated to Massachusetts when he was eight. He drops his “r’s” with the rest of us. Al and Olga are from the Lowell area. Al was born here, too. We all chatted about New England, accents, the Azores, and their families until Al and Olga had to leave. On their way out, they paid our lunch tab to welcome us to the island. Sweet!
We stayed and chatted with Eddie, who is a hoot. He now lives in California and is a retired construction worker. He and his two adult sons are fixing up a property he bought here on the island. When we had wandered one end of the town before lunch, I had been a bit dismayed to see so many “for sale” signs on run-down structures, and thought that this island my be having tougher times than the others. Eddie told us that the tough times were in the 70’s and 80’s when the Portuguese dictator wouldn’t allow people to leave and there were 15000 residents here. Now there are just over 5000 and according to Eddie, “If you want to make money, there is opportunity here. Folks do OK.”
He gave us directions to the restaurant with the best fish stew, a Graciosa specialty. After lunch we wandered the town, rowed to the boat, was rescued, and spent the evening marveling at the Azores once again.
These islands aren’t perfect, but they are magic.
At right, stairway art next to stairs to the top of the break wall in the marina. How cool is that?
Below, La Luna at anchor. That sunset the first night was off our stern.
AND the best thing about this anchorage? I have the WIFI antenna up and I’m on line on the boat. I love Graciosa!
For our First Way of Christmas, my True Love and I … viewed a IC 24 Sailboat Regatta.
Not really a Christmas event, but always held in December, Charlotte Amalie hosted the Carlos Aguilar Match Race for these modified J-24s. EW and I had notice the race on Friday as we were riding the safari bus to run errands and agreed to take a break from boat chores to view the race the next day. That makes it a Christmas Moment. Among the competitors was a young man from Maine, Chris Poole. EW and I had never seen match racing like this, and were delighted that the organizers had erected stadium seating and provided commentary. The boats raced in pairs, first crossing the line in the wrong direction to begin the pre-start, maneuvering for the best starting position by chasing each other in the “playground”, the large area in the bay behind the starting line. They performed 360s, held each other against the wall, and, sailed backwards – all in an attempt to have the better start. The course was confined to Charlotte Amalie Harbor – outside of the anchorage area, but inside the sea plane landing and take-off zone. Oh my.
Above: Luffing, to actually go backwards on purpose. The rules state that they may not hit each other and they may not hit the committee boat. It’s a test of wills and boat handling.
That sea plane behind these two competitors took off a few minutes later. These two had hugged the wall as far as they could. The lighter boat had the dark one pinned. Legal and good tactics.
Best view from shore that I’ve ever had for a sailboat race. There were up to three pairs racing on the same course. Don’t hit anyone, and beat your one opponent. Judges for each racing pair followed closely in inflatables.
For our Second Way of Christmas, my True Love and I … enjoyed the lighted boat parade.
We had attended last year as well. This year, we were anchored off of Water Island, so took the dinghy to Crown Bay and the safari bus to town and back. We met up with fellow cruisers, particularly Jeff and Sandy from S/V Magic Inspiration. We had cocktails followed by ice cream cones, and then sat on the wall, and watched the boats circle a few times. Afterward, we walked up to the “Miracle on Main Street”, a night when the shops are open late, no cars are allowed, and various bands perform.
We returned to Tickles at Crown Bay to hear the announcement of the winners for the parade. First place when to the Pump Out Boat with the giant Santa. There’s a joke there somewhere, but I don’t want to come up with it.
Second place went to this pirate ship—in addition to all the lights – they had a scantily clad crew in the rigging. Of course -- Christmas wenches.
In town on Main Street – we enjoyed the music and certain dancers. This lady pictured below right requested a Latin favorite from a popular blues band. She enjoyed it, and had a lot of interesting moves. Her partner was a good sport.
The couple above stunned us. First, they were dressed like 1970 hippies; secondly, they were superb dancers; thirdly, he never looked at her when they were apart, but looked down and off to the side; and finally, when they were together, he hugged her very tightly, with one arm around her neck and his hand in her armpit. He always kissed her forehead when we pulled her close in this tight embrace. I could have watched them all night, but after one song, they joined their friends and disappeared into the crowd.
No celebration in the Caribbean is complete without a steel drum band.
For our Third Way of Christmas, my True Love and I … visited with cruising friends.
This has been a wonderfully social season for us as we’ve met up again with Carl and Carrie, formerly from S/V Sanctuary, now from La Creole, and with Jamie and Keith on S/V Kookaburra. Diana, from S/V One White Tree and I spent an afternoon shopping for stocking stuffers, laughing, and meeting folks along the way. Diana says I can start a conversation with anyone. Doesn’t everyone?. Later that week, along with the crew from S/V Ainulindalë, we had happy hour aboard S/V One White Tree meeting their guests, as well as Kirk and Donna’s daughter and son-in-law. Also during December we had dinner with Lynn and Eric from S/V Amarula, with Phil and and Karel from S/V Tahani Li, and with Peter and LeeAnn from S/V Two Much Fun. And so on and so on!
For our Fourth Way of Christmas, my True Love and I … – well really just I – Cleaned and Decorated the Boat.
I don’t know what I was thinking when I decided to host two events just about 12 hours apart, but it was great fun. First, I cleaned, and then I decorated La Luna. We have a tree on the mast, stockings hung on port lights, and a tree top angel sitting in the corner perched on a conch shell. EW says I can have any Christmas decorations I want, as long as they fit in one plastic shoe box. That works. I even have room for the holiday fabric we use for wrapping the presents. More about that later.
For our Fifth Way of Christmas, my True Love and I … hosted Peter, LeeAnn, and our Maine friend Calvin for Christmas Eve.
EW had wanted me to make Chicken Scaparello for Peter and LeeAnn. No pressure for a wasp from Maine to make an Italian meal for an Italian. No pressure at all. LeeAnn made a beautiful chocolate pie, EW made rum drinks, and the evening and meal were each a success. During happy hour, LeeAnn perused one of EW’s favorite cookbooks, Little Italy, by David Ruggerio. The recipe is on page 51.
For our Sixth Way of Christmas, my True Love and I … arose at 5:15 on Christmas morning to dinghy in to the Challenge of the Carols.
We had thoroughly enjoyed the event in 2011, although to gain his participation, I had to bribe EW with the promise of bacon. You can read about it in my All at Sea article, published in December of this year. Thanks to the article, we had more cruisers interested in attending and I offered brunch – with bacon – to those who joined us. Lynn and Eric, Karel and Phil, and Calvin, all rallied in dinghies at quarter to six for the ride into Elephant Bay. Peter and LeeAnn met us a bit later in the morning. It was a much more festive, and well-attended event this year. Locals in the know wore red, but in our group, only Eric and Lynn were appropriately dressed.
Calvin seemed to enjoy the morning, but he didn’t like saltfish. He earned his bacon.
Here’s our crew, Lynn, Philip, EW, Peter, Karel and Calvin sitting on the right. Eric and LeeAnn were both watching their respective dogs, keeping them off to the side – away from loud speakers and the squealing pig.
Here are some of the many ways to wear red at the Challenge of the Carols:
Too Cute for Words
Comfortably. Eric and Lynn with Chui and Scrumpy. Walk of Shame Pirate Wench
The music was OK, the crowd was fun to watch and welcoming, and the final performers – the Hapless, Hopeless Carolers were hilarious. This group is known for performing a skit/song, featuring well-know locals who get “roped in”. This year, they acted out a Caribbean folk or urban tale about a policeman stealing a hog. This was performed to Feliz Navidad, with the refrain of, “De police teef me hog.” I’ll never hear the original the same way again.
Incidentally, the two “policemen” had real guns in their holsters, one was a drill and one a staple gun.
For our Seventh Way of Christmas, my True Love and I … hosted brunch with bacon on Christmas morning.
Peter and LeeAnn had plans for Christmas a deux, but the rest of our morning gang returned to La Luna for brunch, mimosas, screwdrivers, and tequila sunrises. Oh my. We had a ball. We ate very well with the addition of truly good fruit cake from Lynn and Eric, and an excellent fruit platter from Karel and Phil. We were having so much fun, that I had to kick them off the boat at one so we could get ready for Christmas Dinner with Jeff and Barb.
For our Eighth Way of Christmas, my True Love and I … took a nap/ran the generator.
As we were saying our last “Merry Christmas” to the morning gang, Jeff called to let us know he’d pick us up at three. We had plenty of time to get ready, so EW started Jenny, the Honda Generator, took a shower, and then took a nap. I cleaned up a bit, took a shower and proceeded to get beautiful. This included wearing my lovely cotton night dress over my bra and panties, and sporting four large blue Velcro curlers in my hair. TMI, I know, but it sets you up for what comes next. EW was snoring lightly in the aft cabin when Jenny ran out of gas. I can take care of that, started up the companionway, and popped back down into the cabin as I remembered my get-beautiful outfit. I looked in on EW who, though he was sleeping right under the generator, didn’t realize it had stopped. Knowing he was tired, I didn’t want to wake him, so I decided to go for it and popped back up on deck. I immediately to realized that the Kon Tiki, the second ugliest day party boat in St. Thomas, was a few boat lengths to our stern, with a full compliment of tourists on board. I popped back down to see if EW had awakened. No dice. Oh, what the heck! There are probably folks in the Midwest, showing their Caribbean Christmas photos, and laughing at the blond on the deck of her sailboat in night gown and curlers on Christmas afternoon. All I can say to you people, is “I get to live here!” So there.
For our Ninth Way of Christmas, my True Love and I … dined, wined, and holidayed at the very well-decorated Chez Hart.
We ate, we drank, we exchanged presents and sea stories with Jeff, Barb Hart the First, and their island friends. Plus we loved on Hunter, sweetest dog on the island. It was a marvelous evening.
Chef Jeff roasted a turkey, barbequed a beef roast, made gravy, stuffing, four pies, mashed potatoes, and other fixings. We ate like kings and queens.
For our Tenth Way of Christmas, my True Loveand I … spoke with family and friends back home.
It brought tears to my eyes. I also received a personal video of CC, Marc and Jenn’s baby daughter,smiling and cooing, and being brilliant. We enjoyed many Facebook greetings and photos from family and friends back home, and from cruising friends anchored in other ports. We felt very loved.
For our Eleventh Way of Christmas, my True Love and I … opened our stockings on Boxing Day.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were just too busy. On the 26th, we slept until we were done, cleaned up the boat, had breakfast, and spent time leisurely opening our presents. We don’t buy big gifts, just fill a stocking for each other, wrapping each gift individually – in reusable fabric. A few days before Christmas, EW was locked in the master stateroom, wrapping my presents, when he asked, “Where’s the scotch tape?” I replied that we don’t use tape with fabric wrap. He indignantly informed me that a lot of the fabric had “globs” of tape on it from last year. “Yes,” I said. “Those are the presents you wrapped.” He did a good job this year. A few presents had one piece of tape to hold the fabric while he tied the knots. He also used all of the red cord we had in the box. My favorite technique is truly unique to EW. One of my presents was a package of color coded Velcro wraps, and he used two of them as ribbons to hold two of my presents together. Smart, cute, and useful – that’s my EW.
For our Twelfth Way of Christmas, my True Love and I … walked up the hill to a light and music show.
Water Island residents have a lot of get-together events, including a pot luck on the beach for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. While on a walk on the 27th, I perused the notices on the bulletin board and found out that one family offered a light and music show every evening from the 21st through to the night of Three Kings. EW had worked with Jeff all day, so when I picked him up I told him we were going to join Ross and Diana on Water Island for a short, uphill walk to the show. He was tired, but a swim and dinner revived him and he’s a good sport. The twenty minute production was well worth it, and a fitting end to our holiday celebrations in 2012.
EW particularly liked the photo at left. He said it reminded him of Disney and magic.
It wasn’t planned – I was just playing with the camera trying to get a photo of the lights. Sometimes that’s when things work out the best.
We planned to go cruising and we are. We couldn’t begin to imagine all of the magical moments we’ve experienced over the past two-plus years.
We wish you and your loved ones wonderful, magical moments in 2013.
UPDATE. Since this post was written, Donnell wait-listed for a year, spent the winter in Boston and Philidelphia -- so we know he can hack the cold and snow -- and recieved a scholarship for tuition from the country of Grenada. Still needs a place to stay for the school year as Berklee doesn't offer scholarships to first year students. He has a place to land for a few weeks with cruisers who are currently tied to a dock in Boston, but their boat doesn't have a second stateroom and will get tight when the weather turns cold. This does give Donnell some breathing room and provides him with the opportunity to meet with people who may be able to offer him a room. Please use my email to contact Donnell -- email@example.com. Thank you for your help.
Cruisers know what it means to work toward a dream, and many of us know the joy and struggle of helping our children achieve their own dreams. The cruisers in Grenada have had the opportunity to meet a young man with big dreams and the ability and opportunity to achieve them. Donnell Best is a young singer and violinist who has been accepted to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He’s going to need some help to make that happen.
Early in the summer, Donnell had a fundraising concert at the Spice Basket in St. Georges, and a number of cruisers attended. They were taken with Donnell’s talents, and began to introduce him to the rest of us.
Donnell sat in with the Algy and the group for the First Friday Jazz and Poetry Jam at the Museum. He stood on stage and requested back-up from the drummer and bassist. “What do you want us to play?” they asked. “I’ll follow you,” he said. “So how about something in ‘G’?” the bass player replied as he started in. Donnell nodded and proceeded to blow us away.
Donnell also sat in with the cruisers at a jam session at Whisper Cove, ably joining in with songs he’d never heard before. As you can see in this video of Brown Eyed Girl, led by Chris from Troubadour, Donnell quickly got the hang of it.
A week later, Donnell pulled together a special concert at Secret Harbor Marina, where he was joined by his brothers and other young musicians who formed a band, perfected numbers, and entertained us for an evening.
There was a lot of buzz after that night. Cruisers recognized a dream, and talent and wanted to help Donnell – but there were also many rumors, and a concern that cruisers can’t provide the kind of funds he needs. We wanted to help – but we weren’t sure how. I decided to go to the source, Donnell’s violin teacher, Beth Wolfe, who graciously gave me a couple of hours of her time and told me a bit of her story and her dreams, and more about Donnell.
Donnell parents are farmers here in Grenada. They raised smart, ambitious, children and shared a love of music with them. Donnell embraced music and sought more. At the age of 14, he and two friends walked into Beth’s music school, Island Violin and asked her to teach them how to play. She laughingly calls them the “Three Musketeers”. Donnell excelled from the beginning. Now, six years later, he works with Beth and teaches and mentors the younger students. He also has a vocal teacher on the island. Along the way, he earned an Associates’ degree in science at the local college. Donnell’s parents wanted him to go on to attend the medical school here in Grenada, and he could have done so, but his dream is make a living with his music, and then to give back to Grenada.
When a student applies for a performance curriculum, he or she must participate in the normal college application process and must also audition in his or her talents. Donnell applied late in the year and auditioned in Philadelphia in January, and was accepted to study both vocal and violin. His married sister lives in Philadelphia, making it easier and cheaper for him to meet with representatives from Berklee when they traveled to that city. Unfortunately, the late audition meant that he was not eligible for scholarships for the fall semester of 2012. On the plus side, enough credits (24) from Donnell’s two year degree will be accepted by Berklee to allow Donnell to graduate in only three years.
Tuition at Berklee is $30,000 a year. The U.S. Government estimates that his living expenses will be $33,000 in addition to the tuition. ($30,000 for expenses and $3000 for the mandatory laptop he must purchase through the school prior to attending.) That’s important because US immigration policy requires foreign students to have the funds for the full year before they start school. The cruisers’ grapevine at first thought that Donnell needed $90,000, expenses plus $30,000. That’s wrong. He needs $63,000 – for the first year and that can include in- kind contributions, such as room and board. His sister and her husband have pledged to pay for Donnell’s food during his three years at Berklee.
Beth and others are talking with ministers from the government of Grenada, asking them for help with his expenses. Donnell has decided to defer his acceptance until the spring term, giving him more time to raise the funds, and will most likely audition a second time in Boston in order to seek scholarships from the school. He can also take two courses on-line and will complete them over the next few months. Many of the funds raised so far have gone to application fees, fees to defer until the spring, fees for the two classes, and travel costs. There is a major-fund raising concert planned for early autumn.
But more needs to be done. So, what can the cruisers do?
Help him find a place to live, close to Berklee. Those of us who have met Donnell have been tremendously impressed with his sense of humor, work ethic, personality, and drive. I urge anyone who knows a family in Boston who has room and who would enjoy hosting this unique exchange student to get to know Donnell and to contact that family in Boston. Donnell will visit the area later this year and can meet with prospective hosts. His sister and brother-in-law will contribute for his food. We who’ve met him would like to see him welcomed in a home that can assist him in learning how to negotiate a large city in the U.S. This is going to be quite a change. He’s independent and strong and determined, but he’s also a young man grounded by his family. He doesn’t need new parents, but would, I think, welcome and respect new mentors.
Fundraise – with flair and power. Face it, most of us don’t have large disposable incomes. We’ve sold our homes to enjoy this lifestyle. Heck, most of us are spending our children’s inheritance. So, who do you know? Who can you think of who might want to contribute to Donnell’s education fund. Better yet? Do you know anyone who might want to start a scholarship fund for outstanding students in Grenada or the Caribbean? It occurred to me that there are a number of successful entertainers from this region. I’d love to convince them to start a scholarship to help others succeed. I even went so far as to trade one jar of EW’s super chunky peanut butter for research regarding entertainers from the Caribbean. Josh, one of two brothers sailing with their parents aboard s/v Liberty, did a great job. After hearing Donnell’s concert at Secret Harbor Josh expanded the search to include those who play electric violin. He immediately dinghied to the boat to deliver the list and to acquire the jar of peanut butter. I’ve included the list at the end of this post.
Spread the word. This is going out on my blog – with a push on the various cruisers’ Facebook pages. Feel free to copy/paraphrase/link this to your blog and Facebook pages. Plagiarize me. Help us get the word out about Donnell, who one person called “Granada’s Kirani James of the arts”. (Kirani earned Grenada's first Olympic Gold Medal when we won the 400 meter run at the 2012 Olympics.)
Use your contacts. One lady who attended the Secret Harbor concert has a relative who works in a private school helping students through their college application process. She’s offered to contact him to help Beth and Donnell reach the right people and take the right steps in seeking a scholarship at Berklee. Who do you know who can help?
Use your networking/creative thinking skills. It occurred to Beth and me, that there are many more wealthy people who vacation in Grenada in the winter. (Go figure.) That’s when big yachts, cruise ships, and winter only sailors show up at Port Louis, stay in the resorts, or arrive on cruise ships. Heck, someone said that Mick Jagger once rented the entire La Luna resort. How can we tap into that for Donnell? Also – for those of you not cruising who are reading this post. Who do you know? Do you know someone on the list below? Do you know someone who has an interest in music and the Caribbean?
Why? Why are we doing this? Why would you want to help? Why are many of us determined to see Donnell attend Berklee in January of 2013?
First of all, EW and I were blown away by his talent and by his manner. He’s simply a lovely young man. (One who would hate being called “lovely”.)
It’s also one way of giving back to this marvelous country. We didn’t volunteer with the reading program last year. (I’m just not that patient.) Nor have we volunteered at the local animal shelter. (I’d hate to leave the puppies there.) I believe that helping an outstanding, hard-working student will help others set goals and can perhaps be a springboard to establishing scholarships for other students in the future. Like many Caribbean countries, this one is struggling. Young men, in particular, are not excelling in school. Recent newspaper articles expressed concern that there are few career jobs for the 800 recent graduates from the local college. Here’s a young man who has beaten the odds, who has nurtured and expanded his talents, who soaks up knowledge like a sponge, and who has continued to uphold his family’s values
We’d like to see him achieve his dreams. How can you help? Who do you know with a home in Boston? Do you know someone who knows someone on Josh’s List?
Josh’s List (It’s a good one. Definitely worth the jar of peanut butter.)
Modern Popular Artists from the Caribbean
Sean Kingston, Jamaica
Wyclef Jean, Haiti
Nicki Manaj, Trinidad
Ricky Martin, Puerto Rico
Others Who Might Be Able to Support Donnell (Josh said that most of these play electric violins.)
Soozie Tyrell, Violinist for Bruce Springsteen
Mark Wood, Violinist (Heavy Metal, Julliard trained)
David Garret, Violinist (Australian, played on “Dancing with the Stars”)
Linzie Stoppard and Benn Lee, Violinists with the band Fuse
Natalie Stovall, Violinst (Grad of Berklee, plays rock ‘n roll)
You can see why I needed help with this list. "Modern" evidently means folks I don't know. I had heard of Nicky Minaj, but totally messed up her last name when I was talking Josh into this assignment. He laughed at me. Nick, another cruiser who is my age, surprised me by informing me that Nicki's name is pronounced just like "menage a trois". I'll never get it wrong again.
Now, stick and ball games have not been my strong suit. In neighborhood pick-up softball games, I played far outfield, and had few (if any) hits, and never, ever scored. During my freshman year at university, I took tennis for a quarter and didn’t treat it with the reverence the instructor required. She would frequently “forget” something in her office and ask that I retrieve it just to get me off the court. Regardless, when some cruisers from Britain announced they would set up a cruisers’ cricket game, I quickly signed my name and EW’s to the roster. We had attended a cricket match a few weeks ago and it seemed to be a much more relaxed game than softball. I knew that the cruisers used tennis balls that are taped with blue masking tape to provide a softer ball with the right amount of play. Cricket bats are much wider than baseball bats so I have a much better chance of hitting the ball – and in cricket, all you really have to do is protect the wicket. If I could do that successfully for 12 pitches, than I wouldn’t disgrace myself at bat. The Aussies who had taken us to the match had very generously spent time teaching us the basics of the game, so I even had an idea of how things work.
There’s a great description and excellent diagrams and photos of the field on Wikipedia. But allow me to provide the essentials – keeping in mind that the rules of our game were eased to help the American and Danish players.
Cricket is actually played on a large round field, traditionally with a huge hemp hope outlining the boundaries. In the center of this circle is the pitch with two “wickets”. In a short game (there are cricket games that last for 5 days) each team is at bat once, and can remain at bat for hours. The batters’ primary objective is to protect the wicket. There are two batters on the field all the time – both from the same team. The bowler, or the person from the opposing team who pitches the ball, bowls first from one side than moves and pitches to the other hitter.
I’m not sure how this works in real games. In our game, each batter received 12 pitches if he or she didn’t get out. Each bowler pitched 6 times from one end and then walked to the other end of the pitch to bowl from the other direction. If the batters hadn’t run, then the bowler would be pitching to a new batter, but if one of us had made a short hit and run for a point, then the bowler would pitch to the same batter from a different direction. (This isn’t as confusing as it sounds. Really.) So, when I went out to the pitch to bat, my goal was to stay for the full 12 pitches, protect the wicket and run if I or my batting team-mate hit the ball.
The rectangular photo of a real pitch above was stolen from Wikipedia. Here is our pitch and wicket: beer crates with plastic bottles on top. The bottles have a bit of water in them. If they get knocked over, the batter is out. This can occur by the bowler hitting the wicket with the ball, by the batter hitting or running into the wicket, or by the fielders throwing the ball toward the wicket to get the runners out.
The bowler tries to knock the wicket over when he throws the ball. Batters must protect the wicket. Batters cannot protect the wicket with their legs, or really with their bodies at all – but we weren’t called out if a ball hit our legs in this friendly game. (It didn’t hurt much either and the bruise is quite small.)
Remember that rope? We had boundaries in a more rectangular field. If a ball is hit over that rope (or our boundaries) without touching the ground inside, the batting team earns 6 points. If the ball rolls over the rope, they earn 4 points. They don’t have to actually run to earn those points. But if the batter hits the ball and thinks he (or she) can run to make points, then (s)he runs to the other wicket and the other batter on the same team must run to the opposite wicket.
Our teams were made up of 8 or so (depending on whether the children were in or throwing a Frisbee to the corgis). We were fairly distributed by kids, women, those who grew up playing cricket, those who played baseball, and those like me who were in for comic relief. We were barefoot, in crocs, boating sandals, or sneakers. We wore floppy hats, drank beer while we played and laughed a lot. Those with bad knees could opt for a child to run for them. Said child was caught turning in circles instead of paying attention to the play, but it was all in good fun.
Both EW and the youngster missed these pitches. The kid did hit one that protected the wicket. EW did not.
He did, however make a good defensive play when his team wasn’t pitching.
I did not.
But … wait for it .. I scored! I scored, I scored, I scored!
I was so excited. I don’t think I’ve ever scored in softball. Here’s the deal. When you run, you have to get “inside the crease” – the safe zone for the batter. It’s depicted by a white line on the professional field in the first photo. Here’s what’s hard for Americans to remember. When you run you KEEP holding the bat. In fact, if you are running from one wicket to the other and your bat crosses the line for the crease as the opposing team knocks the wicket -- you are safe – even if your body is still outside the crease.
I understood that. I understood that I could be called out even if my opponent was the one who hit the ball. I was ready to run at all times when I was in the crease and I held my bat out as if I were preparing for a sword fight. “On guard!” I was crouched, on the balls of my feet and ready to RUN! When I was the batter, I was ready to hit and run, if the ball went far enough to give us time.
And I did it. I hit the ball, and it went into the outfield (inside the boundaries) and I shouted “RUN!” to my batting team-mate Erling, and we ran, and we scored a point. If we could have run back again, we’d have scored two. We won the game 37 to 33 so my point wasn’t crucial, but we won and I helped because I SCORED!
Yes, EW and I had a blast. Yes, we are going to play again. We’re even going to go into Clark’s Cove Marina and borrow the equipment to practice catching. I caught one ball during the pre-game warm up because it hit my upper chest and bounced softly into my hands. (Picture that. It didn’t hurt.)
This is a very civilized cricket game. Bob from Clark’s Court Marina, keeps the field mowed and brings up chairs, a small tent, and a very large cooler filled with beer, water, and sodas. There are two score keepers, Helen from Iguana who keeps count of the pitches and overs and score and Ricki, another cruiser, who keeps score of those who purchase a drink. We pay at the bar after the game. Ricki’s husband Colin was the very able umpire. Before the game, I bought him a beer and batted my baby blues at him. Not saying that helped, but it didn’t hurt.
Nick at the wicket and Eric – one of the bowlers
Cocoa, the boatyard dog.
EW showing the problem with American’s and cricket. We keep holding the bat over our shoulder – while the ball generally comes in below our knees.
These three (and one older son not pictured here) are from England. They’ve gone around the world. This six year old boy and his older brother has circumnavigated and crossed the Atlantic twice. They are great kids. Their dad hits four and six pointers.
The photos of above of EW at bat and of the youngster at bat were taken by Jacques from s/v Panache, using my camera. I was actively playing outfield and had to pay attention to the ball.
These four photos were taken by Jacques and Annet on their camera. They were kind to email them to me for this blog – and for posterity. After all, I scored! (Note that EW is running after his team mate made a hit, but he is no longer carrying the bat. That’s a bad thing as in …. You’rrrrr OUT!)
Finally, I’m not sure how they relax after a game in Jolly Old Britain, but here we enjoy pot luck and karaoke at Clark’s Cove Marina. Here is EW with his MoJo working.
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