Monday, April 24, 2017

1980 (21) - Crisis # 2

Tropic Moon with a new paint job

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

The second crisis came because Ed decided we would do the work on the boat bottom ourselves, instead of hiring the yard.  (Money concerns – it had only been nine months since our last expensive haul out.)  Since Ed couldn't stand up for any length of time, that left me to paint the bottom of the boat.  In all honesty, I didn't believe I could do the job - not to mention the fact I certainly didn't want to do it!  I came really close to resigning my crew position and deserting the ship.

Tropic Moon’s bottom, the part of the hull below the waterline, was about 40 feet long and six feet high.  Counting both sides that made quite a bit of area.  The yard did a preliminary scraping when they hauled the boat, but there was always more marine life that had to be scrubbed and sanded off.  The boat's hull curved in to a narrow keel.  To do the lower half of the bottom, I had to work squatting down or kneeling. 

Our first week out was during a heat wave (temperatures 90-100 degrees, and no wind, but plenty of bugs).  I'd be working with a hose in one hand and scrub brush in the other, covered with tiny biting bugs, dripping sweat mixed with bottom paint and dirt, and standing or kneeling in the mud formed from the running water.  When I'd stop for a rest, Ed would take over and work on the lower parts, since he was okay as long as he stayed on his hands and knees.  It really is true, though, that you can adjust to almost anything.  On the second day, when I was on the second side of the hull, my spirits picked up considerably.

Fish Tale, a small art quilt, by Jean Baardsen

Ed had indicated spots on the hull, adding up to about 10% of the bottom area, that had to be sanded down to bare steel, and patched with epoxy.  The sanding, patching, and sanding the patches, spread over a couple more days.  Then the patched areas had to be built up with a layer of primer and four layers of our orange undercoat.  We had a weird looking polka-dot bottom!  I could get through two coats of orange per day.  I finally got to the satisfying part - painting on the red antifouling, which was the finishing coat.  I painted the antifouling on each side of the boat in a day, and was rather pleased with the final appearance.  Several of the yardmen came up to compliment me on my work.

On our first day out of the water, the yard had used their crane to pull out our main mast.  It was set on sawhorses off in one corner of the boatyard.  We hired a carpenter to cut out the rotted section and scarf in a new piece of wood.  He'd come by for a couple hours in the evening when it was cooler, and he was done with the job in a few days. 

Fish Tale.  Detail.  All fish, fans, etc., were machine embroidered.

Ed also hired the yard to pull the propeller shaft out of the boat.  (Water leaked into our steel hull every time we motored.  On the passage from St. Maarten to Tortola, when we motored for fourteen hours, Ed had pumped salt water out of the bilge three times.)  Nanny Cay's "prop expert," Roy, was assigned to the job.  A week later, he still hadn't gotten the shaft out.  Sometimes we'd have as many as six fellows swarming over the boat, apparently trying to help (or maybe just standing around watching me paint).  I got the assurance from the yard foreman we were only paying for Roy.  After trying large hammers, wheel pullers and acetylene torches, everyone concerned admitted defeat, as the coupling to the engine refused to come off the propeller shaft. 

Ed was left with two choices - put everything back the way it was (and live with the leaks), or get a whole new propeller shaft.  Ed (by pure luck) heard about a new machinist on the island, Michael Masters.  Mike, (by even purer luck), had an 8-foot length of 2" bronze shafting he had salvaged from another boat.  That may not sound like a big deal, but when you understand that was probably the only piece of shafting usable on our boat in all the Virgin Islands; that we had tried to call a company in Puerto Rico, but couldn't get a phone number because the operator had never heard of it; and trying to air freight anything from Puerto Rico to the British Virgin Islands either took one afternoon, or six months (usually the latter), well, we just couldn't believe our luck!  Ed took a hacksaw to the old shaft, and got it out of the boat.  Mike spent a week machining the new shaft to adapt it to Tropic Moon's unorthodox innards, and we were back in business.

Haul out – to be continued….

Sunday, April 23, 2017

1980 (20) - Crisis #1

Brown Landscape - Art Quilt by Jean Baardsen

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

Our first crisis came when Ed's physical condition deteriorated significantly.  I suppose this is as good a time as any to present Ed's "medical opinion" as to the source of his problems.  He felt that during our several-day trip in December from St. Maarten to Antigua, when he'd been on the wheel for extended periods of time, and had been rather careless of his sitting position, he had abraded the casing on the sciatic nerve on the right side of his body.  This is where the nerve passes through a small opening in the muscles in the hip.  He reached this conclusion (and it was several months in the forming), based on talks with his Dad, some problems his brother once had, visits to a chiropractor on Tortola, and a study of Gray's Anatomy.  He never did see a medical doctor or get an x-ray.

We also understood there are two types of nerves, one taking messages to the muscles, and the other returning pain signals to the brain.  For all the months since Christmas, Ed hadn't had much muscular control in his right leg.  When lying on his back, he hadn’t been able to lift his leg more than six inches.  Coinciding with our haul out at Nanny Cay, Ed started getting feeling back in the leg muscles, and the pain was excruciating.  In fact, the pain was so bad that when I learned of an American "bone doctor" on the island, Ed agreed to see him.

Fabric Postcard, 4" x 6" - Jean Baardsen

The “bone doctors” were two chiropractors.  They both examined Ed, and agreed they couldn't determine the source of the problem - but did offer several possible causes.  The more professional of the two chiropractors explained about the opening in the hip muscles where the nerves pass through.  The other one, among his many guesses, suggested muscular dystrophy or multiple scleroses.  The chiropractors wanted Ed to get an x-ray, but the only machine on Tortola was broken, and Ed was in no shape to travel to St. Thomas. 

Ed saw these men for five "adjustments."  He had so little muscular control, both the pelvic bone and the hipbone could move around loosely.  The chiropractor would pop the pelvic bone back into place, but by the time that Ed got back to the boat, and climbed the steep ladder to the deck, it would have popped out again.  Ed learned to pop it back in by himself, while lying on his back.  One interesting aspect of Ed's recovery was that the muscles "came back" one at a time, starting at the bottom of his leg, and working upward.  Each muscle pained him for several days, and then he'd have a day or so of relative comfort before the next one would act up.  I have no idea how many muscles there are in a leg, but this went on for weeks.

Friday, April 21, 2017

1980 (19) - Future Plans

Dolphins.  Polymer Clay with Silver Charm.  Jean Baardsen

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

Ed and I had been talking about leaving the Caribbean and sailing Tropic Moon up to the States.  A passage from the Virgin Islands to New York would have taken us two-three weeks.  The optimum months for making this passage were May and June – sandwiched between winter in the States, and Hurricane Season in the islands.  We were already looking at the end of May, as we sat in St. Maarten.

Ed decided it was time to replace the front stay, which is a wire that runs from the bow of the boat to the top of the main mast.  We attached the wooden bosun’s chair (looked like a swing seat) to the main halyard.  I used a winch to crank Ed up the mast.  While he was up there, he discovered a large section of wood rot, and the beginnings of delamination in the mast.  We realized we’d have to have that taken care of before heading to the States.  As we’d probably been sailing around that way for a while, we chose to continue on to the Virgin Islands, and have the work done there.

We ended up staying in St. Maarten for almost two weeks.  We left there on May 23rd to do an overnight sail to Tortola, another 100-mile trip.  What should have been a pleasant downwind run turned out to be a real drag of a sail.  There was very little wind.  We spent the first 14 hours crawling along, averaging about two knots.  Around 4:00 a.m., after the wind died completely, we started the engine and motored for the next 14 hours.  With no breeze, the sun that day was unmercifully hot.  Because we were traveling downwind, we were breathing nauseating fumes from the exhaust. 

When we reached the Virgin Islands, everything looked so crowded to us because it was almost a year since we had seen that many islands grouped so closely together.  Several boats wended their ways up and down the Sir Francis Drake Channel.  It felt like coming home.

After clearing customs in the British Virgin Islands, we contacted Tortola Yacht Services where we had hauled Tropic Moon the previous year.  We wanted to have the mast pulled out of the boat and repaired.  They couldn't help us because their crane was broken.  We then called Nanny Cay Yacht Services, which is also on Tortola, and scheduled a haul-out date with them.  Since we had to wait for the rotted section of the mast to be repaired, Ed decided to haul the boat to pull out the propeller shaft, where we had a leak.  And as long as we were going to do all that, we figured we might as well patch and paint the bottom, and weld on our new zinc anodes. 

I was really pleased we ended up at Nanny Cay.  They had far superior living facilities than Tortola Yacht Services, which - in those days - had virtually none.  Nanny Cay had a small short-order restaurant where we ate all our dinners, a gourmet grocery where I could pick up bread, cheese and salad fixings, a Laundromat where they did my laundry for me, and really beautiful bathroom and shower facilities.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

1980 (18) - St. Maarten

Collaged postcard.  Hand-painted silk.  4" x 6"  by Jean Baardsen

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

Mother’s Day had fallen on the weekend we were in Antigua.  On Saturday, we went to the Cable & Wireless building to call our mothers.  For one thing, I wanted to check on my sister, Lynn.  She’d been due to have a baby two days before.  I knew my Mom was planning to help her, so I put the call through to my sister’s home in Virginia.  Reaching my Mom, I learned that Lynn had delivered her second son, Danny, on the day he was due. 

Now for a bit of back-story.  In 1960, when I was in the 7th grade, and Lynn was in the 5th grade, my father, a sergeant in the Air Force, was transferred to Selfridge Air Force Base in Mt. Clemens, Michigan.  When we moved there, base housing wasn’t available, and we looked for a house in town.  We rented a house owned by Dorothy and Bill Noellert – whom I’ll now refer to as Bill (1).  They had three children – Sunnie, Bill (2), and Ray.  Dorothy was pregnant with their fourth child.  Liking my sister’s name, they called the new baby girl, Lynn – now referred to as Lynn (2).  Our families were close, but little did anyone imagine that when we grew up, my sister, Lynn (1), would marry their son, Bill (2).  That made Lynn (1) sister-in-law to Sunnie, Ray, and Lynn (2).  When Lynn (1) and Bill (2) were expecting their first child, Bill (1) died of a heart attack.  Thus, they decided to name their first son, Bill (3). 

Palm Trees.  Digital Art by Jean Baardsen

Now back to May 1980.  During the course of the conversation with my Mom, she mentioned that Lynn’s mother-in-law, Dorothy, and Lynn’s sister-in-law, Lynn (2), were visiting Sunnie in St. Maarten.  Yes, the Sunnie who visited us in Grenada, and whom I’d worked with at International Supply during our stop in St. Maarten the year before.  Dorothy and Lynn would be in St. Maarten for most of the next week.  After that, they’d be flying to Virginia to visit Lynn (1), Bill (2), Bill (3), and newborn, Danny.  My parents would still be at my sister’s house.  (Okay, I’ll drop the numbers…)

I told my Mom I was sorry we weren’t going to be able to meet up with Dorothy and Lynn.  We wouldn’t reach St. Maarten in time, since we were planning to stop at St. Barths first.  Back on the boat, Ed and I decided it would be fun to buzz straight up to St. Maarten to see them.  That way, when they reached Virginia, they’d be able to tell my Mom they’d seen Tropic Moon and us.  We had bought Tropic Moon in Grenada in 1978, and had yet to leave the islands, so none of our family had seen our boat.

We left Antigua on May 11th at 6:00 p.m., and reached Philipsburg, St. Maarten, at noon the next day.  We had another uneventful sail; I was starting to feel quite optimistic about the whole sailing business.  Once on shore, we walked to International Supply, where we surprised Sunnie.  We also saw James, Sunnie’s boyfriend (and future husband).  James’ parents owned a vacation home on St. Maarten.  While Sunnie and James usually lived on Sunnie’s houseboat, they were spending that week with Dorothy and Lynn at the villa in the hills.  Sunnie called Dorothy to say she was bringing us home for dinner, and James invited us to stay for the night.

When the family wasn’t using the villa, it was rented out to vacationers.  The house came with two cars, and a maid.  It was high in the hills, overlooking vistas of bays and ocean, with the island of St. Barths visible off to the south.  The house was beautiful – a long, one-story building, with ocean views from the living room, kitchen, and the three bedrooms.  A balcony ran along the ocean side of the living room.  A swimming pool was located in a secluded garden area off the end of the house.  Backing the living room and the hall was an outdoor shuffleboard court.  There was an indoor rec room with billiard table, and a cupboard full of games.  The living room had a stereo, a record collection, and four large bookcases filled with a variety of reading material.  All the rooms were furnished in rattan and bamboo.  There was an oriental rug in the living room, and ceiling fans in all the rooms.  The kitchen was decorated with three-foot tall ceramic animals perched above the cupboards. 

Fabric postcard, 4" x 6", Hand-painted silk, by Jean Baardsen

Dorothy and Lynn wanted to see Tropic Moon, so we invited them for lunch the next day.  Sunnie, who was bopping back and forth from work to provide chauffeur service, took us to the dock in the morning.  Dorothy and Lynn liked our boat, but the very (very!) gentle rocking at anchor bothered them.  They both got queasy, but wanted to stick it out – and even managed to eat lunch.  They were very glad to get back on shore again. 

Dorothy’s comment to me:  “I can’t believe how well you’ve adjusted to this life!”
Loose translation:  I can’t understand how you can live like this!  (So much for a good report to my Mom…)

Sunnie showed up, and we barreled back through the hills to the house.  Ed had decided to stay on Tropic Moon, but I wanted another night in the villa.  Sunnie dropped us off at the house and went back to work.  Dorothy and Lynn napped through the afternoon to sleep off their seasickness, and I had the house to myself.  I accepted a delivery of chlorine for the swimming pool, did the breakfast dishes, which we’d left in the sink, then stretched out on a chaise lounge.  I chose a John D. MacDonald mystery from the bookshelf.  One could really get used to living like that all the time.

(2017 Update:  Bill (3) turns 40 this year.  He and his wife, Cate, have two young sons.  Happily, neither of the boys is named Bill.)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

1980 (17) - Pirates?!?

Pirate Ship.  Art quilt by Jean Baardsen

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

After settling in at Deep Bay, we spent a day resting up for our 100-mile, overnight passage from Antigua, north to St. Maarten.  In the middle of the afternoon, we were startled out of our bunks by loud pounding on our steel hull.  We came up on deck to find three men climbing on board.  (A definite no-no; you never board another boat without permission.)  My first thought was that we’d been caught by Customs.  We had decided to save a little money by stopping at Antigua illegally, and not clearing in.  Considering the grubby appearance of these three middle-aged men, my first thought should have been that they were pirates, and that we were being hijacked - but I never worried about stuff like that.  

Ed was by the ladder, trying to stop the lead man from coming on board, but this man gently pushed Ed back to the cockpit, while he unwrapped something rolled up in a newspaper.  My second thought was that he was going to try to sell us a fish.  These men probably hadn't waited for an invitation, because they wouldn't have understood us anyway, as they only spoke Spanish.  With Ed still attempting to protest, the first man reached the cockpit table, and unrolled the newspaper to reveal a chart. 

I said, "They probably just want information on where to anchor in St. John's Harbor."  We had had trouble over the location of the anchorage the first time we had taken Tropic Moon into the harbor.  Expecting to see a chart of Antigua, I was surprised to see a chart that covered the whole Caribbean Sea. 

The first man, with many smiles, pointed at the chart, and then pointed toward land.

"San Marteen?" 

We just looked at him, then pointed at the island and said, "Antigua." 

He frowned, pointed again and said, "San Marteen?" 

We responded, "No, Antigua!" and pointed to it on the chart. 

He looked to his two friends, who had also gathered in the cockpit, "Antigua!"  They all frowned over the chart. 

Ed's four years of high school Spanish came in handy when the leader asked him, "Where is San Marteen?"

Ed pointed to the northwest and said, "Cien milas" (100 miles).  That brought a lot of muttering, and one man with a straw hat nodded in an ‘I told you so’ manner.  

The three men were from a large, ancient-looking motor yacht named Dona Concepcion, which they’d anchored near us.  We gathered, through sign language, pointing at the chart, and hesitant Spanish, that they were traveling from Puerto Rico to Venezuela.  They had wanted to make a stop at St. Maarten.  They explained they’d been north of Anguilla early that morning.  As St. Maarten is south of Anguilla, they had motored for three hours out into the Atlantic, then turned southwest and traveled the rest of the day, till they found themselves at what turned out to be Antigua.  

The man asked Ed how many miles it was from Anguilla to St. Maarten.  They all looked rather pained when Ed said it was only five miles - you could see from one island to the other.  They obviously couldn't read the chart, and had no idea of the relative distances between the islands.  Ed tried to explain that one degree on the chart equaled 60 miles.  They all nodded, but didn't really seem to understand. 

Then one man uncovered our compass, and asked for the reading to St. Maarten.  Ed told him, and he carefully wrote down the number Ed was saying.  Then he asked the compass direction from Saba (another island) to St. Maarten, and Ed showed him how to read it off the chart.  Again the blank nodding, because he next asked for the reading from St. Maarten to Saba, which, of course, was the opposite number on the compass from the Saba-to-St. Maarten direction. 

The man tried explaining something to Ed, but Ed couldn't follow his Spanish.  The man wrote "Japan" on his paper.  I looked at it, and said it looked like Japan.  Ed said, yes, but he didn't get the connection.  I suggested, "What about that big fleet of Japanese fishing boats in St. Maarten?"  Ed tried "fishing boats" in Spanish, and got smiles and nods of agreement.  

Pirate Ship.  Detail

Our visitors sat around in discussion for quite a while, finally getting up to leave.  We had told them we were sailing to St. Maarten that night.  I said to Ed, it was a wonder they weren't going to try to follow us.  Ed said they’d discussed it, but decided they were too tired, as they'd been traveling since the previous day. 

As the men were shoving off in their dinghy, I waved, making use of my limited Spanish vocabulary, "Adios!" 

Grinning, they replied, "MaƱana! San Marteen!" 

Since they couldn't understand me anyway, I called out, "We'll be there, but I doubt if you will!" 

Dona Concepcion did show up in St. Maarten two days later, and anchored near the Japanese fishing fleet at the entrance of the harbor.  

Monday, April 10, 2017

1980 (16) - Mail Stop in Antigua

Waiting for the Bus.  Art quilt by Jean Baardsen

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

We had intended to make our mail stop in Antigua a short one, yet I was surprised when we managed to keep it down to four days.  We put in at St. John's Harbor, Antigua's capital, which is about halfway up the western coast.  Our main order of business was to get across the island to English Harbor, and collect our mail. (It was May, but we still had some Christmas mail waiting.) I was all set to go by myself till Ed started writing out a long list of marine supplies, including six feet of wood for new battens.  These items were to be purchased at the English Harbor marine store, and brought back on the bus.  With such a sizable list, I wanted Ed to go with me, but he wasn't sure he could make the trip.  We decided we would both walk the quarter-mile to the bus stop, and if Ed were still okay, he would go with me to English Harbor.  His leg gave out about halfway to the bus stop, and I went on alone.  He later told me he had stopped six times on the way back to the boat.  

Waiting for the Bus.  Detail

I really enjoyed taking the cross-island bus - it was always an experience.  There was no way to get lost, so long as you stayed on the bus.  The two ends of the line were the open market in St. John's, and English Harbor at the other end.  The buses were a major means of transportation for many of the local people.  The taxi drivers advised tourists against taking a bus, claiming that people often brought livestock, like chickens or goats, on the bus with them.  Of course, the main reason for their advice was self-serving.  A round trip ride from English Harbor to St. John's cost $20.00 by taxi, whereas it was only $1.00 by bus!  The closest thing to livestock I ever traveled with was a tub of fish.  I did once grab a van at English Harbor that was carrying a load of lumber.  Before we went on to St. John's, we drove up into the hills to a construction site to unload the wood. 


Most of the "buses" were old school buses or vans, that had lived out their better days in the States or Britain, and had been resurrected for this cross-island run.  An individual owned each bus, so there was no schedule.  When you wanted to leave St. John's, you wandered around the market area asking "English Harbor?" till someone flagged you on board.  Then you patiently waited till the driver had enough customers to make the run worth his while.  The buses stopped anytime someone yelled, "Stop!"  You could tell people didn't like to walk any further than necessary; often the bus would just be groaning its way forward again when someone else would yell "Stop!"  Typical delays: the driver wanted to say hello to someone he knew; a woman had the bus wait at a gas station while she had a jerry can filled with kerosene; the engine broke down.  I took one bus from English Harbor to St. John's that broke down three times on the way.  The passengers groaned and moaned each time we stopped, and cheered loudly when we were going again.

Waiting for the Bus.  Detail.

After my successful trip to English Harbor, we moved Tropic Moon out of St. John’s Harbor, and around the point to Deep Bay.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

1980 (15) - Ocean Sunset - a Poem

Photo taken at sea from Tropic Moon


The bright orange ball
In the sky will fall,
And drop slowly toward the sea.
Meanwhile all around
There's naught to be found,
But the endless water round me.

The sun shouldn't set,
Well, at least, not yet,
Bringing the coming of night.
For I'm filled with fears
As light disappears,
And sit alone with my fright.

When the sun has sunk,
I long for my bunk,
And the comforting escape of sleep.
Then darkness sets in,
And the stars begin
To populate the sky like sheep.

And I gaze above
With feelings of love,
At the diamond-studded sky.
Then think of the dread
That just filled my head,
And I kiss my fears good-bye.

Jean Baardsen
Yacht Tropic Moon

Thursday, April 6, 2017

1980 (14) - Heading North

Night Sail.  Art Quilt by Jean Baardsen

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

It was time to head north again.  I had been a little (??) apprehensive about the sail to Antigua, because it was going to take us two days and nights.  I'd never gotten fond of the long passages.  The trip was, if anything, anticlimactic.  We left Bequia May 6th, at 8:00 a.m., and were anchored at Sandy Island, Antigua by 10:00 a.m. on May 8th, having covered 220 miles.  Our standard procedure was for Ed and I to alternate watches, two hours on and two hours off.  On a long sail, we made an entry in the log each time we came off watch, usually just noting the time and mileage, with an occasional comment.  The sum total of comments for our 50-hour trip to Antigua read as follows:

St. Lucia Channel
Abeam Pitons
Off St. Lucia
In the middle of nowhere (guess who wrote that one?)
Off Dominica
Becalmed
Ditto
Almost abeam Les Saintes
Abeam Guadeloupe
Passing Montserrat
Abeam Antigua 

The most interesting parts of the day on passage are dawn and dusk.  I got a little nervous as night closed in on us.  I found myself straining to continue to make out the horizon ahead, or the island to starboard, as all subsided into inky darkness.  I would take a deep breath, adjust my mind to the blindness, and tune in to watching for distant lights to indicate the possibility of approaching ships.  I felt I kept a more careful night watch than Ed.  They say that from the time you spot a ship on the horizon, till that ship reaches your boat, would be about fifteen minutes.  Not very long if you have to take evasive action.  My recurring childhood nightmare was of being in the water at night, with a large black hull bearing down on me.  I decided that if that were ever going to happen, it wasn’t going to be on my watch.  (Famous last words…)

Night Sail.  Detail.

The more perceptive readers among you, well aware that Ed could hardly walk, might wonder what the hell we were doing on a 50-hour sail, standing two-hour watches.  The simple fact was that Ed learned to sail laying down.  With a cushion propping up his head, Ed stretched out along one side of the cockpit, and handled the wheel with one hand.  Since he couldn't see the compass from that position, he followed John Masefield's advice and used "a star to steer her by."  Here’s the first stanza from "Sea Fever."  The poem didn't mean much to me when I was a landlubber, but it means quite a bit now.  

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking. 

Dawn breaking on that last day was especially sweet because we had been approaching the south shore of Antigua in the dark.  We could see a smattering of lights along the coast, but as Antigua didn't go in much for lighthouses, there was nothing to indicate the western edge of the island.  But, just in time, dawn first sketched the dim outline of the island, and then filled in the details with mountain peaks, beaches and palm trees - a familiar, and very welcome sight. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

1980 (13) - Bequia Revisited

Postcard - The National Bird of St. Vincent

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

After our three-day stopover in St. Lucia, we bypassed St. Vincent and sailed to the island of Bequia, 55 miles south of St. Lucia.  We left at 7:00 a.m. and arrived in Bequia at 8:00 p.m.  We had anticipated entering the harbor in the dark.  We felt confident doing this because we were familiar with Admiralty Bay from our stop there the previous year, when we’d been heading north with Tony and Joyce.  We anchored Tropic Moon after my unsuccessful attempt at running down a buoy.  Ed had pointed out two lights ahead of us, and told me to aim in that direction.  I incorrectly assumed that both lights were on shore.  After a bit, Ed signaled me to turn a little more to starboard and, when I did, we slipped past the large, lighted buoy that I hadn't realized was there….


In bed that night, I woke up around 1:00 a.m.  A little voice said, "Why don't you go take a look outside?"  It was common practice, if one of us got up during the night, to pop our head out the hatch and take a look around.  I tried snuggling deeper into my pillow but the voice seemed insistent, so I sleepily started out of my bunk.  I was startled to see Ed fly off his bunk, head for the companionway, and dash up on deck.  Our anchor had dragged, and we were quickly drifting out of the harbor.  Tropic Moon had managed to pass three sailboats, without hitting any of them.  We had open water till we either went out to sea, or ended up on the rocky coast we would have had to bypass.  I started the engine, Ed pulled up the anchor, and we motored back into the bay to reset it. 

It was an exceptionally windy night and, as we saw the next morning by the positions of the boats, we weren't the only ones who had dragged.  I thought it rather curious that I had woken with a feeling that something might be wrong.  I asked Ed what signaled him, because he knew before we got on deck that we’d dragged.  He said the sound of the water was different.  It was lapping against the side of the hull, meaning that we were crosswise to the wind, rather than pointing into it - as you do when you're safely anchored.  His antennae were working well that night. 


Bequia, a small island, is the northernmost of the Grenadines, a 50-mile chain of islands belonging to St. Vincent.  Bequia's official flag is the flag of St. Vincent.  The unofficial flag of Bequia (above) features three black waves, which stand for the Bequia Channel, the Caribbean Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean, as well as a black humpback whale, Bequia's main icon.

Bequia was one of the few inhabited Grenadines.  The town of Port Elizabeth in Admiralty Bay was the center of the island's population.  We’d wander down one road, and a couple branch streets, and we'd have covered Port Elizabeth.  The combination Police Station/Post Office also housed Customs and Immigration.  Tourist shops, grocery stores, a church, a bank, and a gas station lined the main street.  I was pleased with the "supermarket" which seemed very well stocked with several items, like peanut butter, that I hadn't been able to buy in the French islands.  

Postcard - Friendship Rose

While at the store, I asked for bread.  I was told the boat wasn’t in yet.  All bread and baked goods came from St. Vincent, five miles north of Bequia.  The food arrived, along with other supplies, six days a week, on a native trading schooner, Friendship Rose.  The bread was usually unloaded around 3:30 p.m.  The mob scene at the store was unreal.  I got caught in it my first day, and was trapped in a crush of about twenty people, all grabbing for the bread.  Taken with the mood of the crowd, I overbought by about three loaves.  Most of it molded before we could eat it.  That didn’t happen again, because I discovered that if I came in at 4:00 p.m., there was still plenty of bread left.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

1980 (12) - St. Lucia

The Pitons, St. Lucia - Internet photo.

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

The next morning, with a favorable wind, we again headed for St. Lucia.  Tropic Moon was pointed southwest, with a southeast wind.  We had a beautiful beam reach, doing the 25 miles in 4-1/2 hours.  We sailed to Castries, the capital of St. Lucia.  Our anchorage was outside of town at the St. Lucia Yacht Services in Vigie Cove.  It was a Friday afternoon, so we hurried by taxi into Castries to take care of our business.  When a boat plans to stay at an island less than 72 hours, it can be cleared in and out of customs at the same time. 

Our afternoon in Castries was a good example of what it was like to take Ed anywhere.  By the time we finished at Customs, Ed was already limping.  We went a block down the street to American Express.  Ed plopped in a chair to massage his leg, while I took care of getting more travelers checks.  We then walked a couple blocks to a large department store.  I was picking out Mother’s Day cards; when I looked around, Ed was on the floor.  We moved to the book section, shopping for paperbacks, and did our selecting with Ed scanning the lower shelves from the floor.

The next stop was the supermarket.  I left Ed sitting on the front steps, writing out the Mother’s Day cards, while I did the shopping.  When I came out of the store, I piled the groceries around Ed.  He waited there while I walked to the post office.  I got there just after it closed, but ran into a helpful postal employee.  He told me about a stamp machine in the wall, and explained that 50 cents in local stamps would send a letter, airmail, to the States.  I fed quarters (EC currency) into the stamp machine – and emptied it.  I ended up with only two stamps – enough to mail one card.  The man came up to me, and I told him my problem.  I had two Mother’s Day cards to mail, one to my mother, and one to my mother-in-law, and could only mail one.  Which one should I send?  He threw up his hands, as if indicating this was a problem too difficult even for Solomon.  I opted to mail the card to my mother-in-law.  I explained I was on a sailboat leaving the island.  I asked him if he’d post the other card for me on Monday.  I gave him the card, and the fifty cents.  (Both Moms received their cards.) 

I headed back to Ed, and babysat the groceries, while he hobbled across the street to a hardware store.  A taxi driver had his eye on us.  When Ed came out of the store, we took the taxi back to Vigie Cove.

The motor yacht, Kalizma (Elizabeth Taylor’s old boat), was also anchored in Vigie Cove.  We talked with Sam, the boat’s agent.  We asked about Jonathan, Kalizma’s first mate, whom we’d known in Grenada.  Sam told us that Jonathan had died in a scuba diving accident, at the Pitons, on Easter Sunday.  Altogether, I think we heard three different versions of Jonathan’s death, but it seems he dove with only half a tank of air, and ran out.  He either suffocated, or had a heart attack, or maybe both go together.  As Sam said, the women were all crying - Jonathan was quite the lady’s man.  Jonathan’s body was sent to Trinidad, to be cremated, but then the government in Trinidad refused to release the ashes.  We gathered that the Trinidad folk didn’t like white South Africans, and claimed there was some problem with the passport….  A couple months later, we heard that Sam was still faring, unsuccessfully, in getting Jonathan’s ashes back from Trinidad.

Postcard

The only stop, other than Castries, that we had planned for St. Lucia was a visit to the Pitons.  We sailed there the next day.  The Pitons are a famous tourist attraction.  They’re a pair of impressive mountains, nearly 2700 feet high.  They seem to rise almost vertically when you’re close under them.  The bay, Anse de Piton, is tucked between the two peaks.  The water in the bay is very deep.  The method of anchoring is to go up close to the shore, drop the anchor, and swing the boat around, backing in, to tie a stern line to a palm tree on shore.  Some local kids were earning money by taking stern lines and tying them to palm trees.  We had two helpful young fellows who, when asked, provided their own version of Jonathan’s death.

Normally, Anse de Piton would have been packed with sailboats, anchored side by side.  But, as it was race week up north in Antigua, there were a total of three boats there that night.  Winds howled eerily down the mountain and through the bay.  I was very uncomfortable there.  While standing on deck that night, I felt like someone was looking over my shoulder.  I quickly turned, but only saw the dark mountain looming above me.  Perhaps it was the thought of Jonathan dying there that had me spooked.  I was very glad to leave the next morning.  We took several slides of the Pitons, but none of them came out.  The battery on our light meter also died at the Pitons.  Those were the only pictures from our travels that we lost.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

1980 (11) - Trying to Leave Martinique

Postcard

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

When we were ready to leave Fort de France, Ed decided he wanted to sail out of the anchorage.  I wasn't keen on the idea because, although we were at the head of the pack and could sail forward, there were an awful lot of people around to see us if we made a goof.  My objection duly noted, Ed raised the mainsail and mizzen, and went forward to the anchor.  My job was to put Tropic Moon where Ed wanted her.  For example, I'd pull in on the main sheet, the sail would fill with wind, and the boat would move forward, allowing Ed to pull in on the anchor rope.  (Note:  Tropic Moon didn't have an anchor winch - not even a manual one.)  Once the bow was over the anchor, I worked the main sheet, pulling the boom from side to side, pointing the sail in line with the wind.  This kept the sail luffing - and not pulling us forward.

When Ed had the anchor up, he came back to adjust the sails.  I took the wheel, and we fell off to starboard, sailing past the anchored boats.  Once out of the anchorage, we turned to starboard again, raised the jib sail, and headed westward for five miles to the entrance of Fort de France bay.  Outside the mouth of the bay, we pointed south, towards St. Lucia, and into the teeth of a S-SE wind.  It was a beautiful day for a sail, the blues of the ocean and sky rivaling each other in intensity, puffy white clouds floating by above.  We spotted a pair of shiny black whales.  They were between us and the island, and were having what looked like a great time, shooting out from the water, and diving back in.

We just wondered where the ever-dependable (HA!) northeast trade winds were, and why the wind was coming from the south.  Despite Tropic Moon's best efforts, we gradually drifted westward, taking us away from the line to St. Lucia.  After a few hours of sailing, it became apparent that the head wind would keep us from reaching St. Lucia during daylight.  We decided to put in at Ste. Anne for the night.  Ed started the engine, and we motor-sailed eastward, along the southern coast of Martinique.  It was our day for wildlife.  About a dozen dolphins joined us, frolicking alongside the boat.

Nothing ever topped the joy of dolphins swimming near the boat!

On reaching Ste. Anne, we decided to anchor off the beach.  I was at the wheel, while Ed was on the cabin top, furling the mainsail.  He wasn't paying any attention to where I was going.  While I was well aware of shallow areas to be avoided, I had thought I was clear of them.  I wasn't, and we came to an abrupt halt - a really strange feeling on a sailboat.  Since I'd been going slowly, there wasn't even a jarring motion; we just stopped.  I pulled the gearshift into neutral.  Ed told me to put it in reverse, with full power.  Tropic Moon pulled off, but the stern bore to the right, and we backed onto another shoal.  I put the boat in forward, with the wheel over to port, and we drove away, leaving a murky underwater cloud.  It did occur to us that, had we taken a taxi from Ste. Anne to Fort de France in the first place to clear customs, we could have avoided all this extra time and effort!

Monday, March 27, 2017

1980 (10) - A Boat Named Lyra

The anchorage at Fort de France, Martinique.  Internet photo

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

On April 21st, we sailed from Ste. Anne to Fort de France, to clear customs to leave Martinique.  While we were in Fort de France, a boat named Lyra arrived.  We had been anchored near Lyra for about a month in St. Maarten, but had only met Sandra and Leo when we were leaving the island. The day after Lyra arrived in Martinique, I invited them over to Tropic Moon for drinks. 

Sandra’s first comment, when she climbed on board, was to mention that the boat people in Martinique must be really lonely.  While they were still putting down their anchor, a boat they didn’t know invited them over for drinks.  Then some people on a powerboat extended a dinner invitation, to follow after Sandra and Leo had drinks with us.  Rather than be cool about it, and say I’d just wanted to see them again, I started telling them they wouldn’t believe how lonely I’d been.  I missed having a conversation with someone who spoke English.

Sandra and Leo were from Montreal (where he was in electronics, and she was a psychologist).  In 3-1/2 years, they had sailed Lyra as far south as Martinique.  We had finally met someone who traveled as slow as us….  Whenever Leo and Sandra were running low on funds, they stopped and worked.  They’d spent eight months in Puerto Rico, where Leo had a carpentry job.  They had just been in St. Barths (a French island) for four months, while Sandra worked in a boutique.  They’re bilingual in French and English; Leo also speaks Dutch, as he was originally from Holland.  While in St. Barths, Leo rewired a house for a man who collected solar panels.  Leo took one in payment for that job, so Lyra, like us, charged with solar energy. 

We bonded with Sandra and Leo.  We talked about the loneliness, the boredom, and the alienation from the life back home – as well as the many good parts of the cruising life.  We talked about politics, and religion, and not having children.  We both had some funny stories on that last one.  The people of the islands placed a high importance on having children.  We were frequently asked if we had kids.  I told one taxi driver that no, I didn’t have children, and didn’t want any.  He snapped back that I’d better not let my husband hear me talking like that!  He mellowed, and then waxed eloquent, after I asked him if he had kids.  He described his little daughter to me, obviously the prettiest and brightest child there ever was!  Large families were popular.  My “vegetable lady” in Grenada, and my “laundry lady” in Antigua each had ten children.

I asked Sandra how she answered the question.  She said she’d given up trying to explain about birth control pills.  She just shrugged her shoulders.  Sandra and Leo had spent four months in Haiti, probably the poorest island in the Caribbean.  While the Haitians were the poorest people they’d ever met, they were also the happiest and, in Sandra and Leo’s opinions, the most beautiful, physically, of all the islanders they’d seen.  Children and family were very important on Haiti.  Because Lyra stayed there several months, they became well known to the local people.  There was general concern that Sandra and Leo didn’t have children.  Leo said that after several months in the Bahamas, he had lost a lot of weight, and was skin and bones by the time they reached Haiti.  People looked at Sandra, and looked at Leo, and decided he was the one with the problem.  Several people approached him to offer potions to help him out!  Even the immigration officer was concerned, and told Sandra there were good doctors on the island who dealt with those types of problems.

Having company on a boat was a far cry from having company in a house.  We had to think about weather, and other environmental considerations.  The anchorage at Fort de France had the tendency to be very rolly, and this night was one of the worst.  All the boats in the harbor were rocking heavily from side to side.  We were sitting in our cockpit when the people on the powerboat, who had invited Sandra and Leo for dinner, came by in their dingy.  They said they had to cancel, because it was too rough to cook.  Our new friends were disappointed, so I invited them to stay and have dinner with us.  They accepted.  Ed, who was thinking a little more clearly than me (too much rum & coke), asked me what I planned on fixing.  I said, not to worry, and headed down below.  I quickly realized how difficult it was going to be to cook, despite the gimballed stove.  It was too late for my company quiche, which takes an hour to bake.  I decided on a tuna, macaroni, and cucumber salad.  The only part needing cooking was the macaroni.  With French bread, a cake I’d baked earlier, and the bottle of wine Lyra had planned on taking to the powerboat, we managed fine.

Friday, March 24, 2017

1980 (9) - Bourg Ste. Anne, Martinique

Diamond Rock (small bump on left) at sunset.  Taken from Bourg Ste. Anne

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

All the churches in the French islands ring their church bells, tolling the hours.  In Fort de France there were two churches within hearing distance, plus a noon siren, as well as our own marine clock, which chimed ships bells.  No two ever sounded at the same time, making the changing of the hour rather noticeable.  On Easter Sunday, at 10:00 a.m., I thought I heard the church bell chime eleven times.  I listened more carefully at 11:00 a.m., and counted twelve bells.  I mentioned this to Ed, and he, (not being one to fool around), glanced across the water to the clock on the church steeple, to verify Fort de France was, indeed, one hour ahead us.  We realized the island had gone on daylight savings time, but decided not to change our clocks, and to live in our very own time zone. 

Ste. Anne's Chapel

We didn't hear any church bells in Anse d'Arlet.  When we reached Ste. Anne, we were surprised to find their church on Tropic Moon time.  We decided it was some sort of independent move on their part.  Some time later, a Martinique student solved our time zone mystery.  We learned that for the first time in ages (maybe forever?), Europe had decided to go on daylight savings time.  Martinique, being a Department of France, had followed suit.  When the clocks were set ahead and everyone had to get up an hour earlier, the students weren't too happy about it.  After a week of protests, and student demonstrations, the government had returned the island to Atlantic Standard Time.

The Calvary is at the top of the hill

Ste. Anne was a small, pleasant village, and the people were friendly.  A beautiful Calvary, with stone monuments, climbs the steep hill behind Ste. Anne's church.  The Calvary formed the Stations of the Cross, marking the fourteen steps on Christ's journey to his death.  There were stone steps, and gradual inclines, zigzagging between the Stations, as they wound their way up the hill.  My Catholic upbringing came in handy, because I could explain to Ed the background behind the religious statues and monuments.  I told Ed that people are supposed to stop and pray at each Station, and what they pray for is the strength to make it up to the next one!  That wasn't such a joke in Ed's case.  Because of his pains, he stopped several times to stretch out on the walls, to relieve the cramps in his leg.  It was the week after Easter, and each marble monument was covered with partially burned candles. 

Station of the Cross, with burned candles

The view from the top of the Calvary was magnificent; you could see miles of island and seas in several directions.  The beauty was enhanced by the contrast between the white marbles and stone steps, and the bright reds, oranges and purples of the bougainvillea and flamboyant trees.  I had brought the camera along and took several pictures, including some of a miniature Tropic Moon floating far below us.

The view from the Calvary.  Tropic Moon is the second boat out.
Diamond Rock is the small bump on the horizon.

We moved the boat again, this time to the mile-long beach to the north of Ste. Anne.  The beach was lovely, and usually deserted.  It was part of a park and campground; cars paid a fee to come into the area.  I walked in and out several times with no one paying me any attention.  When Sunday came around, our beach really sprang to life.  Cars and buses arrived in the park, disgorging crowds of people onto the beaches.  Wind surfers and sunfish zipped across the water, making colorful patchwork against the blue green of the sea.  Tropic Moon became the tacking buoy in a sailboat race, giving us a grandstand view.  Snorkelers risked life and limb, finning their ways facedown through all the activity; some trailed bright balloons as warnings to the boaters.  Music and laughter wafted out to us across the water.

Three young women swam out to Tropic Moon, and were complimenting Ed on his "pretty boat."  I came on deck and invited them aboard.  They told us they were French language exchange students from Wellesley, Massachusetts.  They were highly flattered when we mistook them for Wellesley College students.  They explained they were mere "enfants" from the high school.  The young women were part of a coed group of fifteen exchange students.  They were at the beach with the fifteen Martinique students who had visited them in Wellesley a few weeks before.  Over the course of the day about twenty of the thirty young people visited Tropic Moon.  It was fun at first, but we did get a little tired of answering the same questions over and over.  One of the young women asked our ages, and I told her we were in our thirties.  It was a little disconcerting when she replied, "So are my parents"!  They enjoyed being on the boat, were very polite, and apologized for imposing on us (which they weren't, really).  Most asked to dive off the bow (the highest point of Tropic Moon's deck), when they headed back to the beach.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

1980 (8) - Health Problems

Ed in his pareu - bought at Ste. Anne, Martinique

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

During our fourteen years on Tropic Moon, receiving mail from home was an ongoing challenge – especially in the islands.  When we decided we’d be staying in Martinique for a while, we’d given our family a ‘Poste Restante’ (General Delivery) address for Fort de France.  We had our mail addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Edward Baardsen. 

The guardian of Poste Restante was ‘tres formidable.’  When I tried to collect our mail – though I had both of our passports with me – all I got was a slew of French in my direction.  I finally caught the word ‘Monsieur,’ and called Ed over.  He’d been waiting by the door.  That made her happy, and she gave us our mail.  You see, my name, ‘Jean,’ wasn’t written in the address….  The same lady was usually at the window.  After a while, she was getting to know us, and came really close to smiling.  We only checked the mail twice a week, so as not to antagonize her.

Post Office, Fort de France.  Photo from the Internet

Ed had started having some pain in his lower back while we were home over Christmas.  When we were back in Antigua, he decided to see if he was better by trying to touch his toes.  Somewhere along the way, he did some serious damage.  For about a week in Antigua, he could barely get out of his bed.  Ed rigged up a pulley system, with a rope noose, at the foot of his berth.  He would put his foot in the loop, and pull on the rope to lift his leg, putting some traction on it.  After a certain height, he wasn’t able to straighten out his leg.  He was also having problems if he sat up too long.  We weren’t able to imagine what was causing the problems. 

Though Ed would improve for a while, the pains returned, affecting different areas in his back and legs.  While in the Saints, he was getting cramps in his right leg.  Not one to let a little pain stop him, he and I hiked over hill and dale, into town and back.  Ed even climbed the local mountain, Le Chameau (by himself, it was too steep for me).  By Martinique Ed was in worse shape, and could only walk a short distance before getting shooting pains down his leg.  He finally quit going into town, except for the mail, as the post office was just down the street from the dinghy pier. 

Map, Martinique

We left Fort de France after three weeks, and sailed to Anse d'Arlet, a bay on the southwest corner of Martinique, where we stayed for almost a week.  From there, we decided to go the Bourg Ste. Anne, a small village on the south coast of the island.  It took us seven hours to sail from Anse d'Arlet to Ste. Anne.  I was getting rather tired toward the end of the day.  We’d been traveling to windward, tacking several times to avoid the shallows near the coast.  Ed was in one of his "sailing purist" moods, and didn't want to start the engine to motor in.  It appeared to me we’d need at least a couple more tacks to reach the village.  So I suggested we anchor off a beach.  Long, curving beaches graced either side of the town.  Ed asked, “Which one?" I pointed straight ahead, and said, "That one!"  I didn't want to face even one more tack.  We anchored off the beach, and then sat through two days of heavy rains.  When the weather cleared, we motored over to anchor off the village of Ste. Anne.