Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bonaire


We are really enjoying Bonaire.  The water is crystal clear and there is a great feel to the city.  We can snorkel right off the boat.  Bonaire is surrounded by a marine park so there are fish everywhere. There is no anchoring allowed so we are on a mooring that was only $150 for 14 days, quite reasonable. The island is what we sailors call steep to , which means that the bottom drops off very quickly from the shore.  We are moored within a 100 meters of shore, and yesterday we snorkelled along a reef along the shoreline and it had moray eels, tangs, butterfly fish, a beautiful trumpetfish, crazy goatfish using their spiky things to dig on the bottom , nudibranches galore and so much more, it was terrific.  
We went to a talk on sea turtles last night, it was great, very informative . They have tagged them here, getting a 200 pound turtle in a small boat and applying the GPS tag is quite the chore, as you can imagine. They have data of where all the turtles have gone, and their tracks were amazing. All the way up to Cuba and all over the Caribbean basin. The presenter also told us where we could see hundreds of them popping up to breathe as they feed. 

Yesterday walking along the esplanade we saw some young men practising water polo.  I have never seen that before in the ocean. I suppose that makes sense here, why use a pool when you have unlimited warm water to practice in. Interestingly the coach was a woman. We have set up our diving while on the island.  Bonaire is all about diving, they have lots of sites all over the island. The shop we visited had a unique set up.  You were given a sheet and everything you rent is recorded on the sheet, you have to do a set up dive to ensure your equipment fits and the weights you have are correct. Then you can use the equipment as much or as little as you want. They have a spot for you to keep your stuff which is locked with a combination lock , that is so you can return your equipment after hours if you choose to dive on your own. A lot of the dives are just off the steep to shore so you could get in your car and zoom off to whatever site you wanted to go. We will have to be very careful not to overspend here. 
 Bonaire is a part of the Netherlands which is evident in some of the architecture here. They chose to not be associated with the other two Netherlands Antilles and have the U.S. dollar as their currency . There are also signs that there are factions on the island that do not want any help from the Dutch.  We here Dutch, English and a lot of Spanish spoken.  Quite a few of the stores we have been in have had Spanish speaking staff, I would assume from either Venezuela or Columbia, I guess Panama may be a candidate as well. My Spanish is way better than my Dutch, which is non-existent. 
We are hoping to take an island tour tomorrow.  There will be a smaller cruise ship in and they will speak English.  The day I asked about the tours, they were all being given in German. Yesterday there were two big ships in and it was interesting watching the one that had been behind manoeuvre to get out. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Heading West

I feel as if we are on the last leg of our decade long journey. At the moment we are sailing between Martinique and Bonaire, the first of the ABC Islands. They belong to the Netherlands and are referred to as the Netherlands Antilles. They are located north of the Venezuelan coast and west of the Windward Islands of the Caribbean, such as Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, st. Vincent, etc. 
We spent a total of two weeks in Carriacou, enjoying the small town feel of the island and the anchorage. We had the sun screening I had sewn for the bimini in 2013 replaced as it had started to deteriorate. The new screening offers much better shade but not as much air flow as the old stuff. 
We visited the boat building community of Windward on Carriacou and found this unfinished large boat in the yard.  There was no one working on it but it was great to see that the traditional skills were still in use. 
There were a number of smaller craft to see, all of them exhibited the rather flat bottom that seems to be this island's style. The bright colours are another feature of Carriacou boats. We went on this trip with Carleton and Aggie a couple we met who were from Florida, they have been living on their boat full time for the last four years. 
We needed to reprovision for the next three months, so we headed north to Martinique to do some serious grocery shopping. I knew the stores there and it does not cost anything to enter Martinique so off we went.  It took us 36 hours to go about 125 miles, we were hard on the wind the whole way and had to tack the last 20 nm into Fort de France. We met up with the young German couple we had for dinner at Christmas, it was great to see them again. Most of our time in Martinique was spent shopping and hauling the stuff back to the boat. There was a good weather window two days after we got there so we left.  We are almost half way to Bonaire now. There is only 1250 nm left until we get to Golfito, Costa Rica and complete our circumnavigation. I have told myself to live in the present and let the future take care of itself. It is hard not to run scenarios about what will happen when we get back to Canada in my head. There are lots of wonderful things to see and do between here and there and I intend to enjoy them all. 
A gorgeous red sky in Fort de France. 
A group of drummers practicing for "Carnival " . They we awesome and went on for hours.  They must have been exhausted when they were finished. The fellow in the middle is the conductor, he had a whistle and would blow it to indicate a tempo or rhythm change. 


Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Back in the water

This is Edwin the yard master toggling the controls on the new travel lift. The lift in went off without a hitch, it was just three days late.  Another boat was lifted out just after us and it was put in such a position that we could not be lifted in until after he was moved.  This boat had their bottom painted by the yard and they power sanded the bottom, whereas we just wet sanded ours when it was in the sling. As a result we finished a day before the other boat was done and due to the weekend we had to live on the hard for three extra nights. I was vexed every time I had to climb up and down the ladder to go to the bathroom on the weekend. 
I used the time to paint the quarter berth lockers and their lids.  It was a challenge to find a clean flat spot on the boat to do it.  I had them laid out on the bow and then the fellow that we had been waiting all week to come and fix a connection for our lifelines finally showed up, so I had t move them, this worked and they are hidden under cushions so a perfect paint job was not required. 
There was a wooden boat being worked on in the yard by local boat builders.  They were fairly young guys and they were willing to explain to me what was going on. This is mahogany that is grown in the area that has been used to replace wood that was spongy. Watching them meticulously measure them cut and join the wood was a pleasure. 

We went for a walk up a very steep hill then along the ridge on top of the yard.  The boat facing the marine office with the red bottom is the one blocking us in. Cat's-Paw IV is facing the camera perpendicular to the red bottomed boat.  The colourful boat is a local fishing boat, what great colours. 
We are going to explore the island for the next few days. There is a luncheon planned to raise money for a local boy who was burned. We are going to attend, on Friday, with another couple and go and visit the boat building community on the other side of the island at the same time. 

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Life on the hard


Think renovations, think messy, think about having no working toilet, that is life on the hard. Usually while you are on the hard it is a mad rush to get everything done that you can while you are out of the water, so all the tools you need are left out and Voila, a mess. That big white bag on the right of the picture holds our at times indispensable flopped stopper.  It usually lives under a cushion at the back, but I needed the coveralls which we under the flopped stopper so out it came and it was time to paint so it did not get put back.  Barry is much better at putting stuff away than I am, good training I guess, not that my Mom didn't try, I will get around to putting stuff away just after I am sure I do not need it anymore. 

We put two coats of black paint on her yesterday, now she looks like a mean machine! We just have to move the chock stands and put two coats on where they were. The only thing is we ordered four cans of paint and they not got three in. We tried really hard to squeeze the rollers so we could do it all with three cans, we used 1 3/4 cans on the first coat and 1 1/4 cans  on the second coat but we still need to redo the water later ne, the leading edges, and under the chocks so we need the fourth can.  It may have shown up yesterday but the woman at the office said she would come and tell us if it came so I imagine we will have to wait another day for the paint.  $&#%€<¥
View from the deck towards the office and the facilities, so near, yet so far. 

Update: the paint came in, let the fun continue. We splash tomorrow afternoon. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

St. Nicholas Abbey

I really wanted to visit St. Nicholas Abbey. It was a sugar plantation back in the day and the home that was built on the estate is only one of three remaining examples of Jacobean architecture in the new world. 
It actually never was an Abbey, one of the mistresses of the estate named it after the parish where she lived, St. Nicholas and the place where she was married, Bath Abbey.  There were conducted tours of the house and the out buildings. The present owners have converted the sugar mill into, you guessed it a rum distillery. The tour include fascinating facts about the house and the furnishings, as well as the history of ownership . Included was a free rum punch as they gave you a sales pitch about the types of rum available from their distillery. I inquired in the shop and a bottle of the rum that had been aged for 18 years would cost $170.00 USD!! We also got to see a movie of the plantations  and scenes from Bridgetown that was taken in 1935 by one of the owners. All the women wore hats in the movie, it was considered unseemly to have a bare head when you were outside in public. 
This is an original lazy boy! It was great, it had a slide up table that came out of the arm for having your tea on, there was a reading light as well as a stand to hold your newspaper, the bottom came out to rest your feet on and the back declined so that you could sleep in it.  The tour guide maintained that the only reason to get out of the chair during no the day was to use the washroom. In the 1700's women were not allowed to own property, so when the plantation became the property of a daughter, her husband's began mysteriously dying.  She went through three husbands and eventually the estate was passed on to her son. I guess she REALLY wanted it to stay in her family! 
Most tourists when they arrive here either come by taxi, tour bus or hired car. We, being the thrifty sailors we are decided to take the local bus.  Getting around the island by bus is not difficult, figuring out how to do it is a big problem. The internet site has a list of destinations and schedules, but no map. Often the destination of the bus is not a large town and they have quaint names like Pie Corner and Stag Hill, which I had a difficult time finding on a map. ANYWAY, after waiting for an hour and a quarter we got on a bus that was not to our destination, but we had been assured by a passenger that we could take a mini van from Speightstown, where we had been before to St. Nicholas Abbey.  So, we did, on the mini van we informed the driver that e wanted to get out at the Abbey. We saw several signs indicating the road to the Abbey so we reminded the driver, he just grunted. Then we stopped by a field with a track running through it and he said just walk down there and you will get there. Sure enough after a lovely stroll through the field we came in the back way and this was our first impression of the estate. 
The current owner is an architect and has an office on the property but does not live in the house.  He purchased to preserve it and turn it into a top notch tourist attraction. You are allowed to sit on the antique furniture which I found quite astounding, but the upper floor is off limits because the stairs are not capable of sustaining the use they would get from everyday wear and tear of thousands of people a year tromping up and down them. 
There was a lovely herb garden just outside the house and mature mahogany trees grew on the property. We saw one woman sitting on a bench enjoying the peace and quiet reading a book. There were guinea fowl running about the estate and we saw a land tortoise waddling by one of the barns. 


Monday, January 23, 2017

What's Happening in the Barbados

This week was race week in the Barbados. There were three days of sailboat races around the buoys and then on the fourth race day they sailed around the island.  We had great fun watching them from our unique vantage point about a kilometre from the start line. One of the marks were within 400 meters of the boat so we got some great views of some pretty fancy boats. We tuned into the race starter's frequency on the VHF so we could figure when the classes were starting.  Some classes had very few boats in the race so we did not see the intricate starts that we have witnessed in the past.  From here, they race to Antigua, 
Close quarters around the buoys, from a distance when they are closing on the marks it looks like a collision is inevitable. 
Popping the spinnakers on the down wind leg. 
This very classic beauty came roaring across the finish line of the round the island race with every possible sail pulling. It was a beautiful site to behold. 
This trimaran would zoom down the course at amazing speeds. Here she is furling in her head sail as she prepares to tack back up to the start line.  She only participated in the round the island race and started at least an hour after all the other boats had left and finished well in advance of any other contender. 
The other fascinating thing for me is the training taking place in the water for a different sport.  It is for the sport of kings, horse racing. There is a track just south of town and they race once every two weeks.  To train the horses they bring them down tin the water and swim them around a few boats before returning to the stables. 
At first the horses are led into the water and splashed to cool them off.  Then they are encouraged to go into the deeper water and their trainers splash the salt water on their heads. Eventually with some encouragement they start swimming, on the way out the trainers stay ahead of them guiding them along and nice they are allowed to head back to shore the guys hang on to their withers and get towed along.  The horses snorts as the extend themselves as they are swimming back are quite audible throughout the anchorage. 
Our newest computer developed a horrible problem with the LED screen so we are waiting for the parts to be shipped here to fix it.  The computer should be ready for pick up at the end of the week. We have decided to head to Grenada after that to haul out and paint the bottom.  It is a spot we have been before and we really enjoyed it so we are looking forward to returning their. 


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Exploring Barbados

This is the view of the wharf as you enter the canal that leads into the centre of Bridgetown. We dinghy in and tie up just under the first bridge. 
It is a very historic spot with the former parliament buildings just opposite where we land the dock Nagy. 
Tourism is king in the Barbados and we have to run the gauntlet of the taxi drivers when we head into town. We are perceived as cruise ship customers and are constantly asked are you going back to the ship, do you need a taxi? We had a chance to head up the western edge of the island to day and explore a spot called Speightstown. We took a $2 bus instead of a $50 taxi, it was a very noisy ride with music running in the background but a very annoying disc jockey hollering at the top of his lungs rap lyrics or promotional jingles, we must be getting old. 
Once we got to Speightstown we headed to the beach and came across this sign as we wandered along. I think it would go great with the bison crossing sign Barry got from the Dept. Of Highways in the NWT. 
We discovered this mural on the side of a building after a fellow who repeatedly tried to sell us a newspaper, and had no luck directed us down a narrow pathway between two buildings. It hits on some highlights of Barbados history and depicts a famous cave on the island. 
This is a typical Bajun home. It is pretty tiny, very colourfully painted and there is not a lot of space between it and the neighbor. 
As we tried to find our way back t the highway to catch the bus back to Bridgetown we came upon a track meet, or a field day.  Youngsters were standing with their classmates, being cajoled by their teachers and they were cheering the on the runners. Here is the leader of the race we watched, she is headed into the finish line in fine form. 
We were a day late to visit the St. Patrick's Parish flower and garden show but managed to see some of the exhibits before they were totally dismantled. The women who were tidying up the church were kind enough to let us take some pictures of the gorgeous floral displays.
We visited the Barbados Yacht Club yesterday and they are very welcoming to boats that have crossed the Atlantic. They allowed us to have a one week membership, we are given a number and we can charge, food, drinks and merchandise during that time.  The best part is that they have a great library and can exchange the paperbacks we have been reading since leaving the Canaries for new ones. I was getting a tad desperate as I saw my choices for new novels diminishing rapidly. 
Our lap top computer we bought in Florida, has developed a wonky LED screen.  We took it in to be repaired, so we will stay here until that issue is resolved. Then we will head for whatever Caribbean Island gives us the cheapest rate for getting the boat hauled.  We have not painted the bottom since we left Canada and going down the ICW we scraped a lot of painted off the keel.  It is time for new paint.  At the moment Grenada is winning the price war but we have a few more quotes to come back to us.