Monday, May 22, 2017

1981 (1) - Iles des Saintes Encore

Acrylic Painting, 16" x 20",  Street Scene, in the Iles des Saintes.

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

After the holidays, we continued living in Maya Cove.  Staying in one place for a while meant more boat work, and Ed decided to have a new stainless steel bow pulpit made for Tropic Moon.  Ed went to Mike Masters, at Nautool Machine, Ltd.  Mike had fashioned our new propeller shaft, as well as constructing the support structure for Ulysses, our wind vane.  Ed lent a hand with the bow pulpit; he’d long had an interest in learning machining and welding.  Ed offered to work full-time for Mike, like for a year.  Mike turned Ed down because he wanted to hire a master machinist.  Mike flew up to Canada to interview some people.  Ed was disappointed but, in any case, we needed to make another run south.

The photo that provided inspiration for the painting.
I substituted flowers for the laundry on the fence.

In March 1980, when we were cruising down island, we met William and Katherine Slater.  They were vacationing at the Hotel Bois Joli in the Iles des Saintes.  (Perhaps you remember my writing of "quiche, Vivaldi and stars"?)  We had kept in touch with the Slaters, and were aware that they were returning to the Hotel Bois Joli for spring break this March.  In their last two letters, they’d mentioned they’d like to see us again.  We decided to make the passage down to the Saintes to rendezvous with them. 

View of the town.  Note small airport runway in the right of the picture.

We planned to sail direct from Tortola to the Saintes, and anticipated a long trip of about four days, since a good part of the passage would be beating to windward.  It was about 225 seagull miles in distance.  I guess you could say we lucked out (at least, in my opinion!), because we left Tortola early morning in a calm.  We decided to motor due east toward St. Maarten, to get as much easting as possible out of the way before the wind returned. 

Fourteen hours later ... when we were only two hours shy of St. Maarten, where we had decided to put in for the night rather than continue motoring, the wind finally picked up.  We raised the sails, fell off to starboard to fill them, and headed S-SE along the island chain, directly toward the Saintes.  We were becalmed again in the lee of Guadeloupe (we always got becalmed in the lee of that island), and spent a good part of our second night motoring.  We arrived in the Saintes, which are just south of Guadeloupe, at 9:00 a.m., only 50 hours and 250 miles after leaving Tortola.  As a matter of fact, the only tacking we did on the passage was in our approach to the Saintes. 

A poster I made from a photo taken from
the veranda at the Hotel Bois Joli.

We had anticipated having a day to settle in, and clean up the boat before William and Katherine arrived.  As we were dropping our anchor, the small hotel ferry passed us on its way to town - with them aboard.  All four of us waved and called out greetings.  I had horrid misgivings that we'd arrived at the end of their vacation, instead of the beginning, and imagined we'd have to wait till afternoon for them to return to the hotel to find out. But in less than an hour I heard a pounding on our hull and looked down from the deck to see William afloat below.  He came aboard.  We learned they'd just arrived that morning - and would stay for ten days.  William was so excited to see us that once they had finished picking up food in town for a picnic lunch, he left Katherine trailing behind, and hurried on foot over the hills back to the hotel.  He quickly changed, and swam out to the boat.  Katherine showed up about a half hour later. 

Street Scene.  Detail.

Our ten days together passed quickly.  Someone (usually William) went into town each day to buy food for lunch.  Picnic lunches on the beach included French bread, pate, tomatoes and bananas.  We all went into town on Mardi Gras Day to watch the island’s small parade.  Twice they came to Tropic Moon for dinner.  The first time, I fixed chicken cacciatore on macaroni, a salad, French bread, and an apple pie.  The second time I cooked French onion soup and eggplant quiche, with a salad, and banana bread for dessert.  Other nights, we enjoyed dinners with them at the hotel.  It was fun to share their vacation with them - sailing one of the hotel's sunfish around the bay, swimming, and studiously working on our tans.  William called it a fantasy time.  Both he and Katherine hated heading back to their university teaching jobs, and the winter weather around Toronto.

Friday, May 19, 2017

1980 (32) - Christmas in the Cove

Snoopy's got all the presents wrapped!

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

We were happy to be heading back to Maya Cove for the holiday season.  Perhaps because boat people are far from family, and what used to be called home, everyone joined together in their celebrating.  We shared parties, dinners, and gallons of rum punch.

Christmas Eve, Dana and Evelyn, who lived in a house overlooking the anchorage, invited the Cove people up to their home for a party.  Their house was beautiful – and what a view!  The islands lining the Sir Francis Drake Channel stretched in both directions, surrounded by miles of unbroken sea.  The road up the hill to their house was so steep; Dana provided taxi service – in his Land Rover, with 4-wheel drive, in first gear.  I still held my breath! 

About 25 people were at the party.  Dana and Evelyn served drinks, and everyone else brought food.  Gerry, on Travel, and I, each made two quiches so there would be some for everyone.  There were other main dishes, salads, and deserts.  It was a lively, friendly evening.  When we got together with boat people, we seemed to share a sense of fellowship I never experienced at any land-based cocktail party.
Tropic Moon's Christmas Tree

I had decided we should have a Christmas tree on Tropic Moon, and crocheted one out of green yarn.  It stands about two feet tall.  I decorated it with strings of seed beads, and hung small shells and other beads.  I used techniques I’d learned at a sculpture crochet workshop I’d taken in Ann Arbor.

Christmas week involved lots of visiting back and forth among the boats.  A couple we’d met at the party – Ray and Mary Jo on Runaway – came by one day.  They had two kingfish they’d just bought from a fisherman, and invited us for dinner.  They marinated the fillets, wrapped them in foil with sautéed onion and garlic, and then cooked them on their grill.  Yum!

Our Christmas tree on the cockpit table.  Ulysses is at the stern.

On New Year’s Day, Runaway and another sailboat, Catspaw, rafted their boats together, and held an “Open Boat.”  Gail and Walt on Catspaw served Hot Rum Toddies, and Runaway provided colder drinks.  We munched on Christmas pastries and Mary Jo’s home baked bread.  When evening came, the cocktail party types headed home.  Ed helped Ray set up the aerial for his color TV.  Those of us left on the boats settled in for some serious football watching, as St. Thomas was broadcasting the Rose Bowl. 

Everyone quickly learned I’d gone to grad school at University of Michigan.  I had the gang cheering for the Wolverines - all except for one fellow named Chuck who had attended college somewhere in the state of Washington.  Chuck got very quiet during the second half of the game.  During the proceedings, Gail emerged from her galley with a large pot of steaming chili and another pot of cooked macaroni.  Mary Jo came up with loaf after loaf of delicious beer bread, the good food sustaining us through the excitement of the game.  Having Michigan finally win the Rose Bowl was, for me, the perfect ending to a special holiday season.

Kermit and Friends

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

1980 (31) - Kathy and Bill

Kathy took this photo from the dinghy,
as Ed was taking our friends back to shore.

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

Our haul out at the beginning of December was utterly pleasant compared with the one in June, since Ed was able to work on the boat this time.  We found another hole in the hull – we sanded through solid rust.  A welder put in a new plate of steel.  Our antifouling paint had failed not long after our last haul out, so we put on two coasts of antifouling this time.  We were launched again after only one week.  We sailed directly to Caneel Bay on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Kathy and Bill arrived the next day.  Good friends from Ann Arbor, Michigan, they’d decided to meet up with us in the islands.  For some reason (go figure…), they opted to stay at a luxurious resort, rather than rough it on Tropic Moon.  Their room at the Caneel Bay Resort overlooked the bay where we anchored.  They treated us to dinner one night at the hotel’s restaurant.  It felt like we’d only been apart for a couple weeks, rather than a couple years, as we quickly got reacquainted.  For the four of us to get in step for the week together, Kathy and Bill slowed down the pace of their lifestyle, and we speeded up ours.

Caneel Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.  Internet photo.

We swam, and snorkeled, and one day we hiked into the town of Cruz Bay.  We took Kathy and Bill on two sails.  The first was to Leinster Bay, where we hiked to the Annaberg Sugar Mill.  The second sail was to Great St. James Island, at the east end of St. Thomas, with a snorkeling stop at Christmas Cove.  While they enjoyed the sailing, Bill preferred to be in the water.  There was some great snorkeling in the little bays between Caneel and Hawksnest Bay. 

Caneel Bay Sunset

We were returning from our second day sail, and were off Caneel Bay, when the Coast Guard ship hailed us.  We were approached by a launch with three crew.  As they came alongside, one man said, “Prepare to receive a boarding party.”  The Coast Guard can only cite you for violations while you’re “operating a vessel,” which was why they boarded us while we were underway. 

Two men climbed on Tropic Moon.  It was mostly an inspection, though I'm sure they had their eye out for drugs.  While we didn’t get written citations, we did get written warnings.  The two charges cited were that our horn wasn’t operable, and that we didn’t have a sticker (10” x 12”) declaring that it was a $5000 fine to dump oil overboard.  One man gave us an oil sticker to post.

Annaberg Sugar Mill.  Postcard.

Right after we were boarded, it started to rain.  Ed and one guy were below, leaving the other guard on deck with Bill, Kathy and me.  Bill was at the wheel, but the wind was fluky, and he was having problems.  I told the Coast Guard fellow we’d been planning on going in to the bay to anchor.  He gave his permission, so I started the engine and we motored in. 

I decided to try anchoring Tropic Moon myself, since I’d watched Ed do it hundreds of times.  I left Bill at the wheel, while I went forward to take down the genoa and the mainsail.  Then I had Bill motor to what looked like a good spot.  I signaled him to idle in neutral, with the bow pointing into the wind, and I dumped the anchor overboard and fed out the chain and rope.  The next step was for Bill to put the engine in reverse, to see if the anchor was holding.  The whole operation went very smoothly.  Kathy was duly impressed!  It was the first time I’d ever taken down the sails, or anchored the boat, and one of the first times I’d done something without Ed’s supervision.

Caneel Bay Beach Lounge.  Internet photo.

After Bill and Kathy headed back to winter in Michigan, we returned to the British Virgin Islands.  We had a great sail from Caneel Bay back to Road Town.  We had all sails up, including the genny.  We hit 10 knots a few times, but were mostly doing 8-9 knots – really flying!  (Our normal speed was 5-6 knots.)  What a difference a clean bottom makes….  We covered the 23 miles in a little over three hours. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

1980 (30) - St. Barths

Dunescape.  An art quilt.  43" x 53"

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

An overnight sail from Antigua took us north to the island of St. Barths.  So many cruising people we met praised St. Barths to the sky.  Since we’d found it pleasant during a previous three-day visit, we decided to spend a few more days there.  Whatever mystique this small French island held for others continued to elude us.  But then, if everyone had the same favorite island, there would be a rather lopsided distribution of boats through the Caribbean.  I’ve seen more than one puzzled expression when I list Antigua as my favorite.

St. Barths.  Postcard.  

One morning we rowed in to Gustavia, St. Barths only town.  In about an hour, we’d seen all there was to see in the shops.  Ed then proposed we hike across the island.  While that idea would normally intimidate me, I’d seen, on the chart, that St. Barths was very narrow in the middle (only 1-1/2 miles across).  The hills didn’t look too imposing, so we headed up one of the roads leaving town.  The winding road wove back and forth up the hill, so cars wouldn’t have too steep a climb.  While we meandered our way upward, we would glance back to see the picturesque Gustavia, with its red-roofed buildings, forming three sides of the rectangular harbor basin. 

Once in the hills, we began watching for the miniature airport we’d seen pictured on one of my postcards.  We knew we were getting close when a small plane literally flew through the trees ahead of us.  When we came to the opening, we were at the top of a steep hill.  We gazed down to see a short runway running from the bottom of the hill, to the sea beyond.  While standing there, we heard a “whoosh” behind us and turned to see a small plane climbing the hill.  We ducked as it went overhead.  It swept down the hill, touched down on the runway and came to a stop, just yards before it would have plopped into the sea.  We saw several landings, mostly thanks to one two-seater that was doing practice touchdowns.  And I ducked every single time, as the planes seemed to top the hill at such a low altitude.

Low-flying aircraft.  Internet photo

Since I liked to have incentive to go along with my exercise, and I’d read in our cruising book that there were restaurants ringing the bay below us, I told Ed I’d continue on in exchange for a lunch out.  We walked down the hill (with nervous glances over my shoulder for low-flying craft).  We continued along a road with the runway on one side, and fields, and an above-ground cemetery on the other side.  We returned to sea level at Baie St. Jean.  We left the road to walk on the beach for its entire length, checking out all the restaurants and reading the posted menus.  We settled on one called the “Beach Club” and enjoyed delicious fish dinners.  After the exercise, and the filling lunch, I wanted to be instantaneously transported back to the boat and my bunk for a nap.  Unfortunately, the only choice was to hike back.  Since we had less cause to dawdle, we were relaxing on Tropic Moon by mid-afternoon.

Dunescape.  Detail.  I used yarns, lace, and feathers in this quilt.
Our four days in St. Barths were followed by a week in St. Maarten, where we visited with Sunnie.  Adhering to our time schedule (yes, we actually had one), we headed “home” to the British Virgin Islands.  An overnight sail returned us to Tortola in time for our haul out at Nanny Cay Boatyard on December 1st.

Friday, May 12, 2017

1980 (29) - Nevis to Antigua

Scrimshaw pendant by Jill White.  Just over one inch tall.

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

In daylight we found ourselves anchored well out from the town of Charlestown, but as we only intended to stay long enough to repair our gear and rest up, we didn't bother moving in closer to shore.  We had stopped at Nevis the previous year when we had our problems on the passage from St. Maarten to Antigua.  I told Ed, since fate kept dropping me off at Nevis, sometime I really ought to go ashore and see the island.  (I never did.)  While Ed did repairs, I spent the first day cleaning up the boat, drying out clothes, and cooking.  I had trouble eating on the trip because of the heavy motion; I had subsisted on chocolate cookies.  Not having had a regular meal in three days, I was half-starved.  I made a mushroom quiche for lunch, chicken cacciatore for dinner, and snacked on everything in sight the rest of the day.

I took to studying the chart, and measured the distance between our anchorage on Nevis, and English Harbour on Antigua.  It was 50 seagull miles (that's in, "as the seagull flies," since I doubted they had crows in the Caribbean).  We would be continuing on a windward beat.  I'd worked out a formula for determining how many miles Tropic Moon would have to sail to cover a certain number of seagull miles, when traveling to windward.  I took the number of sea gull miles, in this case 50, and multiplied it by 2-1/2, which gave me 125 Tropic Moon miles.  Dividing 125 miles by our average 5 miles/hour, that would give us a sailing time of 25 hours from Nevis to Antigua. 

I presented my figures to the captain, who, in truth, did scoff a bit, but who agreed to an overnight sail, with a departure time of 2:00 p.m. the next day.  We had the anchor up, and were leaving the harbor on Nevis at 2:30 p.m.  We anchored the following afternoon in English Harbour at 3:30 p.m., 25 hours later.  Actually, I was a little surprised myself that it worked out that well.  We covered 134 miles, motoring for the last few hours through the strong currents off Antigua's southern coast.  Our "two day" trip from Tortola to Antigua ended up being four days and three nights of sailing, with a two-day stop at Nevis, and a distance covered of almost 400 miles.

The people on Aspen Leaf (back in Maya Cove), had asked us to keep an eye out for friends of theirs, on a boat called Different Drummer.  Bruce and Roxie weren’t sure where we’d see them, but thought it was about the time when Different Drummer would be moving from St. Maarten, where they spent the summer, to Antigua, where they were planning on spending the winter.  We entered English Harbour about a half hour behind a smaller sailboat we’d noticed traveling ahead of us.  When we anchored in the outer bay to await the Customs and Immigration Officers, we saw that the little boat was Different Drummer.  They also had their yellow quarantine flag raised to request clearance.  As the Customs dinghy wasn’t operating, the Customs officers were hitching around the harbor.  When they were finished on Different Drummer, David brought them over to Tropic Moon.  I introduced myself, mentioned the Aspen Leaf people, and invited them over for drinks the next night.

David and Jill White were from England.  They’d sailed Different Drummer, which was only 28 feet long, across the Atlantic.  They hoped to stay in the Caribbean, and were partially supporting themselves with Jill’s scrimshaw work.  Jill had studied the craft with a Portuguese artist they’d met when passing through the Azores.  Scrimshaw is fine etching done on the ivory of whales’ teeth.  It’s an old and beautiful craft that reached its peak during the 18th and 19th centuries at the hands of the men who crewed and worked America’s whaling ships.  David cut the cross sectional slices from the large teeth and polished them.  Jill carved extremely detailed designs with a very fine knife, and colored in the pictures with inks.  I purchased a pretty pendant showing one of the native fishing sloops popular in the islands.  (See photo above.)

We spent a week in English Harbour, visiting with people, and watching the ongoing restoration of Nelson’s Dockyard.  One day we took the bus into St. John to do some shopping.  We devoted a couple days to sanding and varnishing what seems to be (when we’re working on it), an endless amount of teak woodwork.  That project finished, it was time to head north again.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

1980 (28) - Tortola to Nevis

Two Toucans.  An art quilt.  The bodies are from
a black velvet bolero jacket.  The flowers are
cut from thrift store blouses.

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

We had decided to get the rougher upwind part of our trip out of the way first, by sailing directly from Tortola to Antigua.  That would leave us with more pleasant reaches or downwind sails when heading back north to St. Barths, St. Maarten and then west to Tortola.  Ulysses really proved his worth on the upwind part of the trip.  We spent almost no time at the wheel.  That left us with not much to do on our watches except keeping a lookout for other ships.  I would find myself talking to Ulysses, urging him to keep up the good work.  I much preferred sitting around slightly bored, rather than putting out the effort of steering the boat through the heavy seas.

Two Toucans.  Detail.

Leaving Tortola, we beat upwind for two days and nights.  On the third day figured we were about 50 miles off Nevis, and would put in there that night.  During the afternoon, on one of my watches, the halyard on the mizzen sail broke and the top of the sail came loose.  Ed came up on deck and managed to get the sail down.  He tried to lower the wire halyard too, but it got caught on something.  While Ed was working on the end of the mizzen boom, leaning out over the stern, he looked down into the water and noticed we had company.  A large fish was traveling along in the vortex formed behind our stern.  The sleek fish, about 7-8 feet long, looked green through the water.  Ed was peering down at the fish and joked, "Dinner!"  I told Ed, "Don't fall off; he's probably looking at you and thinking the same thing."  The fish stayed with us for several hours. 

Ed went back to work on the mizzen.  He rigged a temporary topping lift so he could use the topping lift rope as a temporary halyard for the mizzen sail.  He got the mizzen up again.  With the extra wires and ropes hanging from it, and with a sloppy double reef in the mainsail because of the strong winds, we looked a rather shabby affair.

Two Toucans.  Detail.

After sixty hours of sailing, we started the engine to motorsail to Nevis.  Ed was speeding up the engine; I leaned over the stern to make sure water was coming out of the exhaust pipe.  Instead, I saw billowing black smoke.  I made some incoherent noises, which Ed correctly interpreted to mean, "throttle down."  Then he went below to look for the problem.  A hose on the cooling system had popped off, and the bilge was filling with water.  Ed shut down the engine, so the pipe would cool, and he could reattach the hose.  By then we had taken down our sails, so we had no forward motion, and the sun was dropping in the sky. 

We finally restarted the engine and finished motoring to Nevis, but it was after dark when we arrived.  We found ourselves approaching a harbor we didn't know well, and approaching it from an unfamiliar direction.  I dug out our spot light - which we'd never had cause to use.  I had it plugged in and ready when we came closer in to shore.  We had our depth sounder on, and were constantly checking it to insure we were staying in sufficiently deep waters.  We headed for the lights of Charlestown.  When the depth sounder read 25 feet and, using the spotlight, we were able to make out a couple other boats, we dropped our anchor.  We left our stern light on overnight, just in case there were other late night arrivals.

Monday, May 8, 2017

1980 (27) - Party Time

All That Jazz.  A small art quilt.

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

While we were in Maya Cove at the end of October, preparing for our down-island trip, a party was being planned for November 1st – the night before we were scheduled to leave.  Roger (from Born Free) was organizing a dinner that was intended as a Bon Voyage party for Ben and Janet, on Amiga, and Bruce and Roxie, on Aspen Leaf.  Both couples were leaving their boats in Maya Cove, and flying to the States for the winter months.  Since we happened to be leaving for Antigua the next morning, we got included in the goodbyes.  To stretch one party a little further, it also became a “welcome home” for Evelyn and Dana.  Their boat, Andante, was anchored in Maya Cove, but they lived in a beautiful home high on the hillside overlooking the harbor.  They had just returned (by plane) from a month visiting boat friends on the island of Fiji in the western Pacific.

During the afternoon, I made my usual passage food – high-energy chocolate cookies.  The recipe included cocoa powder, peanut butter, oats, raisins, nuts, and sugar.  I subsisted on these cookies during rough passages.  While Ed was spooning them on waxed paper, I started in on some gingerbread.  I decided to bake the gingerbread in paper cupcake cups, for individual servings.  The cookies hadn’t smelled while cooking, but the gingerbread in the oven really put out quite an aroma! 

People were running around in their dinghies, planning for the evening’s party.  The folks from Aspen Leaf had been on Amiga – which was anchored right behind us.  Bruce and Roxie came by to tell me I was driving Janet crazy with the smell of gingerbread.  The cupcakes had just come out of the oven, so I offered them some.  Roxie said no, because of her diet, and Bruce said no, probably out of politeness.  I think he was sorry later when he saw me handing out cupcakes.  I rowed our dinghy to take two cupcakes to Amiga for Janet and Ben.  Two more went to George and Ruth on Easterly, and another couple cupcakes for Jerry and Martin on Travel.  It was fun to share my baking and see people enjoy it.

The Virgin Queen is still going strong!  Internet photo.

The party that night was held at the Virgin Queen in Road Town.  About twenty people were at the dinner; we met several people for the first time.  We were introduced to Fritz Seyfarth, who sailed single-handed.  He wrote sailing articles for magazines, and had published a book called Tales of the Caribbean.  Ben and Janet had told us about him.  They claimed he lived with a black cloud over his head, like a cartoon character.  Fritz was certainly the only person we’d met who’d been run down by a freighter and was still around to talk about it!

I found the book on amazon...

Fritz had been sailing from Florida to the Virgin Islands, and was off the Bahamas.  It was daylight, and he was down below fixing his breakfast when a freighter ran into him.  He knew they saw him, because someone on the stern was looking down as the ship went past.  They may not have known they hit him; in any case, they didn’t stop.  Fritz put out a mayday call, but didn’t think anyone heard him.  He was fortunate some people who knew him picked up his call in St. Thomas.  They sent the Coast Guard out looking for him.  His boat, Tumbleweed, had been badly damaged.  When a squall came through, his mast feel.  He lost the antenna to his radio, and wasn’t able to send out any more messages for help.  His wooden hull had been damaged.  He spent the next three days pumping out the boat, trying to keep it afloat.  He was close to abandoning Tumbleweed, and taking to his dinghy, when the Coast Guard found him.  They towed the boat down to St. Thomas.  Fritz still has Tumbleweed.  He’s had it hauled, and done lots of work on it, but it still leaks so much, it frequently needs pumping to stay afloat.

People at the dinner asked when we were leaving for Antigua.  I said, six a.m., unless we’re too hung over to go!  I was up at six the next morning, but it was raining, and there wasn’t any wind, so I just crawled back into bed.  We did leave at 7:30 a.m., and Jerry on Travel, Fritz on Tumbleweed, and Roger from Born Free, were all on deck to wave us off.

Friday, May 5, 2017

1980 (26) - Ulysses

The metal structure to hold Ulysses

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

During the summer months, Ed had put his time to good use designing and building a self-steering system for the boat.  He had priced the type he was interested in at $3000, and that's when he decided to make his own.  He got together with Mike Masters, the machinist who had made our new propeller shaft.  They built and welded together the steel framework that bolted on to the stern.  Mike cut the gears Ed had designed, and Ed made a wind vane from blue sailcloth, for the top of the apparatus, as well as building a small rudder that hung down into the water behind our main rudder.  I christened the contraption Ulysses, named after the Greek fellow who had lived the Odyssey in Homer's epic work.  My dictionary defined odyssey as:  "a long wandering usually marked by many changes of fortune."  I thought that sounded rather appropriate.... 

Ulysses, our wind vane, hard at work.  The other contraption was
our Seagull dinghy engine.  You can just see a dolphin in the water.

Ulysses turned out to be a gem when we were beating to windward, and something of a help when we were on a reach, or sailing downwind.  To use the self-steering, we'd adjust Tropic Moon's sails, tie off the wheel, then tighten a nut on Ulysses, and he'd take over.  His small "sail" pointed into the wind, and moved with each wind change, changing the angle of the small rudder.  That was enough to change Tropic Moon's course; the sails would refill when they started to luff.  Ulysses was better than a third crew member.  We didn't have to feed him, and he made very little noise (just a little squeaking now and then).

We were tied to a dock (Newport, RI).  Ulysses was pointed off to the side, into the wind.

With the end of Hurricane Season, we started thinking about doing some more-active cruising, and decided to spend the month of November traveling down island.  We were in the mood for a change of scene, and longer sails than you could find in the Virgins Islands.  Plus, we wanted to give Ulysses a good sea trial. 
My last shot featuring Ulysses.  Taken in Gibraltar, many years later.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

1980 (25) - Maya Cove

Tropic Moon anchored in Maya Cove, Tortola, British Virgin Islands

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

We sailed back to the British Virgins and settled in at a gorgeous anchorage on Tortola called Maya Cove.  What we found there was a “boat suburbia."  About a dozen cruising boats were there, more or less permanently, and we were welcomed into a friendly community.  It reminded me of the suburbs because two of the men had jobs in Road Town, and commuted together to work, as well as dropping off three of the "boat kids" at their school.  The women kept the "cars" (dinghies), and watched for their husbands at lunchtime and at night so they could go to the dock to pick them up. 

Maya Cove was surrounded by land on three sides, with a very long reef forming the fourth side.  Entering the Cove at one end of the reef, we tucked ourselves in at the other end, near to where the reef met the land. When the wind blew from either the north or east, as it usually did, we'd be behind all the other boats.  If the wind blew from the southwest, all the boats would swing on anchor, and we'd be at the head of the pack.  Sitting in the cockpit, we could either look at the other boats, or look out across the reef to where we had a view of the Sir Francis Drake Channel and the islands lining the far side.  Our view included the end of Virgin Gorda, Round Rock, Ginger Island, Cooper Island, Salt Island, Dead Man's Chest, Peter Island, a wee bit of Norman Island, and Flanagan Island.  Even the names of the islands were picturesque! 

View across the Sir Francis Drake Channel, British Virgin Islands

Cruising has a lot to do with boats and sailing and seeing different places, but it’s also about the people - brief acquaintanceship, getting together for a drink and swapping cruising tales; really hitting it off with someone and spending what time you have together, knowing you probably won't meet again; friendships that are formed in a short time but grow with other encounters and develop into lasting relationships.  Several other sailboats were calling Maya Cove "home," and we made lots of new friends. 

Besides seeing Jerry and Martin on Travel, we got acquainted with Born Free’s crew – Roger, Norma, and their 14-year-old daughter, Diana.  Roger was an artist and had set up business in the British Virgin Islands, selling his paintings to charterers and other tourists.  Among the other residents of Maya Cove were George and Ruth on Easterly.  They were the old timers in the harbor, probably well into their sixties.  They were from Maine, and had been living in the Caribbean for ten years.  Whereas we spent a couple months at an island, if George and Ruth liked a place, they stayed for a couple years.  They still did quite a bit of sailing, especially when one or more of their ten grandchildren decided to pay them a visit.

Maya Cove - Internet Photo

We invited another couple, Ben and Janet, from Amiga, over for drinks one night.  Ben was excited to learn he and Ed were both Dartmouth College alumni.  He proceeded to name every other Dartmouth alumnus he’d met in the islands.  It turned out to be quite a few!  Ben had graduated fifteen years ahead of Ed.  He and Janet had been cruising for about seven years.  They were getting tired of the lifestyle, and had left Amiga and flew home the previous winter.  They decided they weren’t ready to go “cold turkey,” and just move back to the States.  They were dividing their time between land and sea.  Ben and Janet were in the process of getting ready to leave Amiga again for the winter, for six months of visiting and winter skiing.

Monday, May 1, 2017

1980 (24) - Admiral Lucille

Red Sky At Night.  Hand-painted silk.  Art Quilt by Jean Baardsen

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

One Sunday in late September, we sailed from Road Town, Tortola, to Cooper Island, across the Sir Francis Drake Channel.  We enjoyed the clean water, and did some snorkeling.  I saw two beautiful pink jellyfish.  Ed scraped Tropic Moon’s bottom, diving with a snorkel.  I rowed ashore so I could clean the marine growth off the dinghy’s bottom.  Both were in bad shape after several weeks in Road Town.

We met Ted and Lucille while we were at Cooper Island.  We visited back and forth.  We had them over for lunch one day, and they had us for drinks another night.  Lucille was an interesting young woman.  After listening to her stories, I told Ed he really ought to appreciate me.  Lucille refused to do any boat work; she wouldn’t handle the wheel when they sailed.  They had been in the Bahamas for six months, and then sailed back to Florida to restock provisions.  Ted then did a 9-1/2 day passage from Florida to Puerto Rico – by himself.  Lucille was afraid of the passages.  She flew home to Ontario, and then flew to Puerto Rico to join Ted.

Ted and Lucille had a marvelously large, inflatable dinghy that seemed half the size of their sailboat, Capricious.  Lucille, in her tiny bikini, long, blond hair flying out behind her, would take me speeding around the anchorage.  She'd get the dinghy on a plane, skimming over the surface of the water.  When she and I were alone – no guys – she explained her method for avoiding the varnishing work.  The first time Ted had asked for her assistance, Lucille sanded across the grain, instead of with it.  That was the last time Ted asked.  Hmm…  

Red Sky At Night.  Detail.

Lucille told me she had no interest in being the captain on Capricious.  She said she preferred to be the Admiral – she sat around and admired.  Admittedly, I’d never met anyone like her.  One result of our encounter was that I wrote another poem….


I am the mate
Of the Tropic Moon,
But the captain I’ll never be.
It’s a job I would shun,
It wouldn’t be fun,
Such responsibility.

But I found the position
For which I’ve a yen
The day we met Ted and Lucille.
With open jaw
I listened with awe.
Surely this lady’s not real!

She’ll not do the sanding,
She’ll not do the varnish,
A paintbrush she will not touch.
Oh, it seemed to me
As I listened to her,
That she didn’t do very much.

“My Ted is the captain,
Of that there’s no question.
It’s a position I wouldn’t desire.
For I have it best,
I’m the Admiral, you see.
I sit around and admire!”

I was filled with envy
For Admiral Lucille,
And I’m very sorry to say,
I’d trade my Ed
For Captain Ted,
Any old sunny day.

Oh, it would be fun,
At least for a while,
To sit around and admire.
But as Ed was quick
To point out to me –
There are plenty of mates for hire.

And so, Lucille,
I’ll serve as mate
And to my duties be true.
But I’m wont to say,
If I had my way,
I’d be an Admiral like you.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

1980 (23) - Recovery

Parrot Bay - an art quilt by Jean Baardsen

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

We spent most of the month of July anchored in Road Town, living rather quietly, since Ed couldn't leave the boat.  In the middle of the month a tropical wave passed through.  While a tropical wave is not as bad as a tropical storm, which isn't as bad as a hurricane, it's still lousy weather, with heavy winds and driving rain.  We had to put out a second anchor during the worst of the storm.  Ed, with his back problems, had trouble setting it.  We were only too well aware that Hurricane Season was upon us, and that we would have problems securing the boat if a trip to Hurricane Hole became a necessity. 

Ed had assured me that once the muscle pains in his back eased, it would be the end of his problems.  He’d said the same thing when the pains were in his hip area, but this time he was right; he finally started moving around the boat again.  We left Road Town on July 25th and stopped for a few days at St. Francis Bay on St. John.  The improvement came rapidly.  Ed was once again pacing the deck for exercise and rowing the dinghy into shore - his first time off the boat in 35 days!  From that point on, he steadily improved, walked normally again, and could go for miles at a time.   

Parrot Bay - Detail

Courtesy of our cruising lifestyle, I faced my own “health challenge” – finding an ongoing supply of birth control pills….  Since St. Thomas belongs to the United States, I went ashore in Charlotte Amalie one day, hoping to locate a Family Planning clinic.  I went to the Legislature building, looking for a phone book.  I wanted a number for Planned Parenthood, but didn’t find it listed.  A man working there offered to help me.  He introduced himself as the special assistant to the head of the Senate.  He called around, and found the location for Family Planning.  He ended up driving me there himself!  I think he just wanted to get out of the office for a while.

I made an appointment, and returned on that day.  When I reached Family Planning, I was told the clinic was being held in Frenchtown, which was across town from where I was.  I drove over with three black women.  It turned out they were the nurse (driving), the doctor, and the receptionist.  I carried the black bag!  We opened the clinic, where there were a few other women waiting.  The doctor proceeded to throw a fit.  The water was off – again!  She was yelling about how unsanitary it was for her to examine women without being able to wash her hands in between.  No kidding!  There was a water cooler at the clinic.  The doctor would take a cup of water to use with each patient.  I was glad I was the second patient.  I had the exam, and got six months of birth control pills.  Even that took some talking.  Three months of pills was the limit they were allowed to hand out at one time. 

Parrot Bay - Detail

July 28th was Hurricane Supplication Day in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  It's when everyone gets the day off from work to supplicate the gods for safekeeping from the hurricanes.  One week later Hurricane Allan (the worst of the century, topping the previous year's Hurricane David) blew into the Caribbean.  Someone in the Virgin Islands must have prayed effectively, because Hurricane Allan stayed well to the south of the Virgins, merely causing bad squalls in our area.  To be on the safe side, we motored over to Hurricane Hole on St. John.  We secured Tropic Moon with three anchors, and three lines to shore.  While there, taking advantage of the calm waters, we worked from the dinghy and painted the second half of the topsides.  Compared with the previous year, very few boats bothered to take the trouble to leave their regular anchorages.

While in Hurricane Hole, we ran into some people we’d met briefly in Antigua in February.  Jerry and Martin were living on a sailboat, Travel.  In May they’d decided to sail to the Chesapeake Bay, by way of Bermuda.  Bermuda is 600 miles due north of the Virgin Islands.  They liked Bermuda and stayed for five weeks.  While there, they learned that Martin could have a job on Tortola as a mechanic with a bare-boat charter company – so they sailed straight back to the Virgins.  I was somewhat aghast at the thought of sailing 1200 miles of open water, and ending up right back where you’d started.  Martin and Jerry were from England.  They’d crossed the Atlantic three times, so it wasn’t anything to them.  They told us they were staying semi-permanently at Maya Cove, on Tortola.  We said we’d look them up.

Waiting out Hurricane Season, we spent August through October cruising the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.  It was a relaxing time, and a nice change not having to face any new islands, with the attendant problems of locating food, water, and marine supplies.  Our sailing was measured in terms of a few hours, rather than a few days.  After spending our second summer in the Virgins, we knew the islands well enough that we seldom took out a chart.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

1980 (22) - Still Hauled Out

Marty Macaw.  An art quilt by Jean Baardsen.

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

Since I had finished the bottom work, and the carpenter was done with the mast, the next job I was "assigned" was sanding and painting our 45-foot stick.  The mast was on sawhorses, in a distant corner of the boatyard.  I'd work over there by myself.  The first step was sanding the mast, and then I was ready to paint.  I opened the can of white paint, stirred it up, and poured some in a bucket.  I started at the foot of the mast.  I found the paint was going on fairly thickly, so I would brush it really well to avoid getting drips.  I had painted about half the mast when I decided to quit for the day.  Looking over my work, I discovered the paint had slowly sagged, and there were drips everywhere.  Since the paint had already started to set, there wasn't anything I could do about it. 

When I told Ed, he said I should have known to thin the paint.  Actually, I hadn't known that, since I hadn't had to thin the antifouling paint.  The next day I thinned the paint and covered the second half of the mast.  I did a really good job on the part that was going to be too high to see anyway.  With the mast again upright in the boat, the drips ran sideways, from front to back.  I planned to tell people a really strong wind had come through, right after I had finished painting…. 

Marty Macaw - Detail

After that job, I tried to keep a low profile, but Ed suggested that since we needed to paint the topsides, I could start that project while we were still hauled out.  He wanted me to sand, patch and paint for six inches above the waterline, as well as the area under the stern, so that we could finish the job when we were back in the water.  Since that area of the boat was above the level where I could reach, I had a fellow from the next boat help me set up scaffolding; I would wobble my way around with sand paper, epoxy and paint. 

Ed's father, Bernt Baardsen, had been holding airline tickets to fly down to Tortola on the off chance we might need him to crew with us up to the States.  By then I was sure we weren't going to be making the trip, but Ed was holding off his decision in hopes of a miraculous recovery.  When that didn't happen, Bernt came down anyway to give us a hand with some of the boat work.  He arrived the day we were being launched, getting to the yard as the boat was being lowered into the water, and jumped aboard.  While he was with us, he and I sanded and painted the starboard side of the topsides, working from the dinghy.  He also did some carpentry work for Ed.  We even got in a little sailing, and spent a few days at the Bitter End on Virgin Gorda. 

This shot is to give you an idea of Marty's size.  He greeted people
at my solo exhibit of forty art quilts, held at Myrtle Beach in 2004.

Since Ed's parents were so worried about him, we had thought his Dad's coming down would help ease their minds.  If anything, seeing Ed made things even worse.  By the time Bernt arrived, the pains had moved through Ed's leg and were in the muscles in the hip area.  Ed could still limp around, but couldn't sit up through a meal.  And, of course, no amount of persuasion would convince Ed to seek further medical attention. 

Bernt went home after ten days, probably more upset than when he’d come down.  Ed had me write in my next letter that he felt his parents should have had more faith in his judgment.  (Heaven only knows why!)  And since I was including that little gem, I decided it wasn't the appropriate time to mention that the day after Bernt left, the muscle pains moved from Ed's hip area to his lower back; he couldn't take the pressure of any amount of standing or sitting.  He was flat on his back - and would be for the next three weeks.

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….