Tuesday, January 31, 2017

1979 (11) - Passage to Antigua

Charlestown, Nevis

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

After we had filled up on fuel and water, deciding it was too late to leave for Antigua, we anchored in the bay about 4:00 p.m.  But Ed stayed up by the bow, gazing seaward, and I knew he wanted to leave.  (You should never start a long sail when you're already tired.)  Ed claimed we would reach Antigua, which is about 100 miles S-SE of St. Maarten, by noon the next day.  Ed hauled up the anchor again and we left. 

That night we hit rough seas and strong winds.  I kept vomiting and couldn't keep anything down, even water.  We were over-canvassed, but I doubt we realized it at the time, through lack of experience.  The lee rail was often in the water.  We had our genoa up, and during the night the metal strip to which the genoa's sheet block is attached ripped off, leaving the sail flapping wildly.  Ed had to go forward on deck to do temporary repairs.  It was difficult to do any work and hang on at the same time, as the motion of the boat was violent. 

When dawn came we had hoped to be able to spot Antigua, but a study of the chart showed that we were still over fifty miles away.  With winds from an unfavorable direction, we knew we wouldn't make it by nightfall.  In the early morning we were hit by a squall.  After the squall Ed went forward, changed the genoa for our smaller jib, and reefed down the mainsail.  I suppose there’s always some compensation; the most beautiful rainbow I have ever seen followed the squall.  It reminded me of what young kids produce when they’re told to draw a picture of a rainbow.  They might take their crayons and draw an arc from one side of the paper to the other, putting in each stripe of color, and having the rainbow dominate the picture.  I imagine a teacher would say "nice rainbow," but think rainbows don't really look like that.  Well, we saw one, and it was huge, arching through the sky with both legs in the water.  Each stripe of color distinct from its neighbor.  We just sat and stared at it until it faded away.


Off to the west and downwind of us was the island of Nevis.  We decided to put in there for the night.  Ed went down below to read the chart, and came back up to say that Nevis was fifteen miles away, and we could be in by early afternoon.  It turned out Ed misread the chart.  It was two miles/inch rather than one mile/inch.  We also had to go around to the lee side of the island to reach the port of Charlestown.  Instead of fifteen miles, it became fifty.  With the help of the engine, we just made it in at sunset. 

The seas by Nevis were unsettled, and the boat had to be steered carefully so that each wave could be taken at a slight angle.  While I was at the wheel, one wave hit us on the beam, and splashed over the boat with such force, I was knocked off from the wheel, and fell into the cockpit.  It was the one time on the trip I hadn't hooked on my safety harness, and I was quick to relatch it.  So many waves hit the boat; we were drenched, and coated with salt.  Ed's eyebrows were white with an accumulated salt crust.

Nevis, while offering up rough seas off its windward coast, captured our attention with its beauty.  Nevis is a volcanic island; the extinct volcano, with its head in the clouds, dominates the landscape.  We were motor sailing around the southern part of the island, which appeared uninhabited, and was really beautiful with its green fields, deserted sugar mills, and rough coastline dominated by the volcano in the background. 

The results of our being knocked about were evident below deck, especially in the forward cabin, where almost everything had gotten loose, most ending up on the floor.  Before leaving St. Maarten, I had purchased some postage stamps representing several of the islands, and had pasted them on sheets of writing paper.  I put these sheets on my clipboard, underneath more writing paper and envelopes, and placed the clipboard with several other items on a shelf over the head of my bunk.  It was difficult getting into the forward cabin.  The hook holding the door open had let go, and the door had slammed shut.  A pair of scissors, which had fallen from one of the shelves, was jammed under the doorframe.  I found one of the pages of stamps on the floor, looking like someone had taken it in his hands, and crumpled it into a ball.  My Snoopy was on top of a heap on the floor, and I thought I heard him muttering something about jumping ship at the next port.

The most unpleasant surprise was discovering our fresh water tanks had been contaminated with salt water.  There’s an inverted U-shaped pipe underneath the starboard rail, which acts as an air vent to our water tanks.  Our starboard rail had been underwater for long enough that salt water had siphoned into the tanks.  And that, in case you didn't get the implication, was our drinking water.  We carry a 5-gallon plastic jerry can in the cockpit with extra water, but the jerry can had fallen over during the trip, cracked, and all the water had leaked out.  We went from about 125 gallons of fresh water to zero gallons awfully fast.  As we had just filled the tanks in St. Maarten, we had that much water to hand pump out of the tanks before we could refill them in Antigua.  The water in the tanks was still potable, though quite brackish.  For five days we drank Coca Cola and grapefruit juice.

We stayed at Nevis for two days, and then took a day to sail south to Montserrat.  We moored overnight in a deserted bay near the northern tip of the island.  The following day we again headed windward toward Antigua, and at the end of a very long day, put in at Curtain Bluff Bay on Antigua's southern coast.  The following morning we motored east for three hours to reach English Harbour, our destination on Antigua.  And, what had started out as a "we'll get there by noon tomorrow" trip, ended up being a weeklong journey instead.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

1979 (10) - St. Maarten - Part 2

Me, in St. Maarten.  I was wearing my Bitter End Yacht Club t-shirt.

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

Hanging around St. Maarten started to get old.  When Sunnie offered me a temporary job, I went to work for International Supply.  The company is a huge auto parts store, similar to the Western Auto’s back home.  A frantic sales counter served customers who stood around holding mufflers, tail pipes, and the like.  It was the only place in the Caribbean I’d seen that actually bustled.  

My first assignment was putting together their six-month paint order.  I also set up a cross reference system of part numbers for different manufacturers of exhaust systems, labeled stock, wrote up orders, and performed other tasks that were reminiscent of my library days.  As I was out of practice at working, I made it through five days, then took a three-day weekend, worked two more days, and haven’t been back for almost a week.  International Supply is starting five days of inventory, and I’m sure I can make myself useful updating their card system.  I got $30/day, and an employee discount at International Supply.

Mermaid of Carriacou

While waiting in St. Maarten, we took a three-day trip to sail to St. Barts, a French island about twelve miles south of St. Maarten.  Thanks to the prevailing winds, it was six hours over - and three hours back.  Our little trip gave us the opportunity to practice leaving and entering a harbor under sail, a good thing to know when your engine is less than reliable.  We did fine, which means we didn't run into any other boats.  While in St. Barts, we visited the stores and finished our Christmas shopping.  We had heard that the people there speak English, but the truth was, they spoke English about as well as I spoke French - vaguely.  I conducted the whole transaction in a bakery in French, which may sound good, but we ended up with turnovers stuffed with vegetables, instead of fruit.  It never occurred to me to ask what was inside of them. 

Post card from St. Barts

The engine parts never did arrive from England and, after a month, we finally gave up on them.  We left Sunnie's address with the post office in case the parts showed up.  We also cabled England again, asking them to initiate a trace, and to send replacements to Ed's parents' address in New York.  By that point, we had spent $100 on a $10 part, and still had nothing to show for it.  Sometimes things go that way.  We had made airline reservations to fly Stateside for the holidays, leaving Antigua on December 17th.  With only two weeks left to reach Antigua, and make arrangements for securing the boat, we figured that it was time to be on our way.

Church in St. Maarten

The day we planned to leave St. Maarten, we motored into Bobby's Marina for fuel and water.  We had a little trouble going in, as we had to drop an anchor off our bow, and back up between two other boats, to tie our stern to the dock.  Tropic Moon has a thing about going backwards - she won't if she can avoid it.  The wind was from astern, and we were trying to fend off from the two neighboring boats, which happened to be unoccupied.  A fellow came along the dock and caught our stern line to tie us off.  The docking rope slipped out of the cleat, came up against the wooden support for the dinghy engine, and started ripping off the wooden post.  We had Tropic Moon pulling one way, and this fellow on the dock pulling the other way. 

Ed reached in to grab the rope to put it back in the cleat.  In doing so, he managed to cut his finger open on a screw.  We got Tropic Moon secured, and Ed went below before I saw what had happened.  He bled all over cushion, deck and cockpit, and down below he sprayed the head with blood - it was on the toilet, sink, walls and mirror.  We did a little tourniquet on his finger, and used a Band-Aid to tape the ends together, which had received a long L-shaped cut.  The only way I can describe how bad the cut was, is to say that Ed almost went to the hospital for stitches (he has no use for doctors or hospitals), but then changed his mind.  I should have gone in for a sedative.  We filled up on fuel and water, rested awhile, and decided it was too late to leave for Antigua.  At 4:00 p.m., we reanchored in the bay.

Friday, January 27, 2017

1979 (9) - St. Maarten

Anchorage at Philipsburg, St. Maarten

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

We left Virgin Gorda October 11th, at 7:00 a.m., and arrived in St. Maarten the next night at 9:00 p.m. - after 38 long hours of sailing.  St. Maarten is 80 miles to the east of Virgin Gorda and, as there's generally a steady wind out of the east, it’s impossible to sail in anything resembling a direct path.  We had strong winds and were able to travel at 5-6 knots the whole way.  But, with all the tacking we did, we actually sailed 200 miles to cover the 80 miles distance between the two islands.  It took far longer than expected, as we had planned on arriving in daylight.  Rather than spend another night at sea, we decided to try entering the harbor in the dark. 

Through the afternoon, as we made our slow progress toward the island, we compared the coastal features with the chart and picked out what appeared to be Philipsburg, the capital, and a port of entry.  I still wasn't overly confident that we'd even found St. Maarten.  I mean, how does one really know?  They don't put up signs or anything.  (Note:  This was way before GPS, and we didn’t have satellite navigation.  Our navigation tools consisted of a sextant, for sun sights, the compass, and the knot meter.)  When darkness fell, we could see a flashing light that verified our position.  Once near land, we dropped the sails and motored into the bay.  We couldn't make out any anchorage, as it was very dark, so when we were past the mouth of the harbor, we just dropped the anchor right there, left our stern light on, and collapsed into bed.  The next morning we raised the anchor and motored over to the other yachts to join the flock.

When we left Road Town for Virgin Gorda, after not sailing for a month, I felt that everything I had learned came together.  I had more confidence in what I was doing.  When we left Virgin Gorda to sail to St. Maarten, rather than staying at the wheel as usual, I went forward to attach halyards and jib sheets.  I raised the sails myself for the first time.  And, although we were alone on this 38-hour sail, I felt things went well, and I held up my end of the watches.  That is, until Friday morning, when we sighted St. Maarten about 25 miles away, dead into the wind.  We were making very little progress in the right direction.  I wanted to start the engine, and motor straight in, rather than face another day, and possibly another night, at sea.  The captain (a sailing purist), refused to discuss the matter.  I was furious, resigning my crew position.  I told the captain he could sail his own f***ing boat, and went below for several hours.  I made up for it later by coming on the wheel at 2:30 in the afternoon, and staying on till 9:00 when we finally anchored the boat.

L'Escargot, a restaurant in Philipsburg

October 20, 1979
St. Maarten, part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is a country on the southern part of a Caribbean island shared with Saint Martin, a French overseas collectivity. Its natural features span lagoons, beaches and salt pans. The capital, Philipsburg, has cobblestone streets and colorful, colonial-style buildings lining the Front Street shopping area. The port is a popular cruise-ship stop.

Sunnie (our friend from Ann Arbor, who had visited us in Grenada), worked for International Supply on St. Maarten.  Our mail was being sent to International Supply, and we were anxious to collect it.  On Monday, we tried to call IS from the phone company, but couldn’t get through.  Learning that IS was only a mile away, we walked over, where we found that Sunnie was on Antigua.  We were told she’d be back on Wednesday.  Since the phones still weren’t working, we walked over a second time.  We learned that when Sunnie flew in that morning, she hadn’t had picture ID with her landing papers.  She got kicked off the island!  She had to get on another plane, and fly back to Antigua.  While we were in the office, the phone rang.  We heard Bob say, “Hi, Sunnie, just a minute.”  Bob handed the phone to me, and I gave Sunnie quite a surprise.  (International calls were going through, but not local ones.  Go figure.)  Sunnie finally made it back to St. Maarten on Friday.

The Hustler, Arawak Motors, Antigua

After Sunnie straightened things out with immigration, she planned to go back to Antigua for another month.  Bob, who owned International Supply, had several companies on St. Maarten and Antigua, including Arawak, on Antigua.  Arawak is an automobile manufacturing company that makes the Hustler, a car with a fiberglass body.  Sunnie was managing the car company.  Arawak was turning out two cars a week, and wanted to increase production to six-ten cars per week.  Sunnie told us there was a big market for the Hustler in the Caribbean.  The car was good at climbing mountains and crossing rough terrain.  The car rental agencies in the islands liked to buy them. 

St. Maarten is a duty free port, with lots of nice shops.  We spent most of a day wandering through the stores.  My favorite was Thimbles & Things, which had imported needlepoint canvases from all over the world.  We were surprised to learn that Thimbles & Things is one of the companies Bob owns.

Thimbles & Things, Philipsburg, St. Maarten

October 29, 1979
The week after we arrived at St. Maarten, we took Sunnie and two of her friends, James and Joanie, out sailing.  James runs the fiberglass part of the auto company, and Joanie manages Thimbles & Things.  There was almost no wind for sailing.  After three hours, we weren’t very far out of the harbor.  We ended up going to the next bay, and anchoring there to go swimming.  I had fixed a lunch of Gazpacho, with cheese and rolls.  Sunnie brought a case of Heineken and a cooler of ice.

It was one of those classic situations where we had to be back by a certain time because James had a plane to catch.  Ed said, don't worry; we'll just start the engine and motor back.  Though the starter motor was sounding a little sick, the engine did get going, and we returned to Philipsburg on time.  I still haven't figured out why it worked when we needed it, because that was the last time the engine started.

Ed tried the engine again in the evening, and nothing happened except a click.  He took the starter motor apart and found myriad problems - rusted-out brushes, a broken tooth on the pinion gear, disintegrated insulation and insulating tape.  We weren’t able to find the parts we needed on St. Maarten.  Bob checked when he flew to Antigua, even visiting junkyards, with no luck.  Ed sent a cable to the place in England where we’d gotten engine parts before, and order replacements for the brushes and the pinion gear.  We cabled money from the British Barclays on St. Maarten.  What with cables, and shipping costs, we were paying $80 for a $10 part.  Ed’s hoping the parts will arrive this week.

As we generated our own power by running the engine to charge the batteries, no starter motor meant no engine, no power, and no lights at night.  It got dark at 6:00 p.m.  Cooking by kerosene lamp may evoke images of old-time sailors, but roughing it was never my idea of a good time.  Besides, if you don't have sufficient light in the galley, the cockroaches come out to forage, and I worried about one ending up in the dinner.  Though we probably wouldn't have noticed; it was too dark to see what we were eating.

We were without power for two weeks while Ed tried everything he could think of to get the engine going.  Tropic Moon has a 52-hp diesel engine that sits like a large green monster below the saloon floor.  Ed tried starting the engine manually by attaching a pulley system and rope to the flywheel, and pulling on the rope.  When it didn't work from inside the saloon, he threaded the pulley system through the hatch in the saloon roof.  Ed hung onto the rope, and jumped off the main boom, with continued negative results.  Our last attempts involved ropes threaded from the engine, out the hatch, up to the bow, with Ed and I running (sort of) along the deck hauling on the rope.  No go, and very embarrassing.  Someone, seeing all the ropes and pulleys and strange goings-on, asked Ed what he was building.  Ed then took a few days and rebuilt the starter motor, insulating all the coils, and using the broken pinion gear.  It was still too inefficient to start the engine by itself, but a combination of the weak starter motor and the pulley system finally did the trick. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

1979 (8) - Haul Out

Me, smiling once the work on Tropic Moon was finished.

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

Newsletter, September, 1979
When we returned to Tortola, we scheduled a haul-out at the Moorings.  I had been dreading the haul out (bad memories from Grenada).  This time, we were out of the water for 1-1/2 weeks.  The least pleasant aspect of the haul out were the blood thirsty mosquitoes, which invaded Tropic Moon at night.  Coating our bodies with Off and 6-12, and spraying the boat with Shelltox and Baygon, did little to dissuade them.  The second worst hassle was not being able to use the toilet on the boat.  The office restrooms were only available during the day.  At night I used a bucket.  I tried a plastic cup, but after getting my foot one night, I switched to a larger target.

The Moorings is a business through which people charter boats - either bare boat or with crew.  The Moorings also has a hotel, restaurant, swimming pool, and really nice shower rooms, which we were able to use.  Hot showers!!!  When Ed's folks visited in May, they spent the last two nights of their visit at the Sheraton.  We used the shower in their room.  Noting that one exception, these were our first hot showers since leaving the States last November (ten months ago), and our first showers of any temperature, since leaving Grenada in April.  No, we don't smell; we take baths in the sea.  Technique:  jump in the water and swim around; climb out and soap up, including shampoo for hair; jump back in and rinse off; climb back out and pour one pint of fresh water over head to rinse salt from hair.  Did you think we lived in comfort and luxury down here?  Huh!

Second only to hot showers, I also got a good deal of pleasure from visiting with people again.  I met lots of "yachties" around the yard, including Marilyn, who recently flew down from California.  She hooked up with John, to cruise for the next year on his boat.  It sounded like she hadn't known John for too long, so I asked.  She told me, "Well, I've been down here a week, which means I've know John for almost a month."

I guess you would say Marilyn is the adventurous type.  Working in restaurants to earn money, she spent two years in Idaho for the skiing, and a year in Hawaii for the surfing.  She had a plane ticket to England, and had been ready to leave for that island to "look around" when she met John.  She decided living on a sailboat was a more interesting option.  Marilyn doesn't know how to sail, and she can't cook.  She said John's friends wondered why he had brought her along.  Perhaps his friends have been out to sea for so long they can't remember?  I suggested the word "companionship," which Marilyn thought was a good one.

I've rattled on about our haul out without mentioning Tropic Moon.  We spent the week trying to forget we owned a boat, at least this one.  While I did my visiting, went shopping, and used the swimming pool, Ed buried his head in The Agony and the Ecstasy, coming up for air and meals, and the occasional word with the yard people.  That's a bit of an exaggeration, but we were disappointed to find the hull rusted through in a few more places.  We had a welder working on Tropic Moon for two days.  Ed would like to have large areas of the hull replaced, but he said this welder wasn't up to the task.  The welding was followed by days of sanding, and coat after coat of paint.

At the shipyard in Grenada, they were only able to haul one boat out at a time.  The boat sat on the lift platform.  There was pressure to get the work done quickly, as there was a high day charge, and other boats waiting to haul.  Here at the Moorings, they have a Tami-Lift.  The Tami-Lift lowers two belts into the water; the boat is pulled over the belts, and lifted into the air.  The whole lift is on wheels, so they just drive off with the boat, and prop it up with wooden supports.

The Tami-Lift.  Ed is riding in the cockpit.

While in Hurricane Hole, we had made the acquaintance of a British chap, Mike, who was a captain on one of the 50-foot Gulfstars available for charter through the Moorings.  When we met Mike, he was rowing past Tropic Moon in his dinghy.  He stopped to say hello, and discuss steel hulls.  I invited him on board, but he was on his way to another boat, and he just kept working the oars to keep abreast of our boat while we talked.  The wind was rather strong - it was between hurricanes - and Mike would occasionally get blown past us, but would row back, and pick up in mid-sentence.  He visited us again during our haul-out.  When he mentioned he had worked as an engineer in England for ten years, he and Ed swapped engineer stories.

Charter guests often purchase food for their vacation through the Moorings, and usually leave the leftovers on board.  If everyone bought a jar of peanut butter, but used the open jar, by the end of the charter season there would be a lot of unopened jars of peanut butter.  Mike hated peanut butter, was cleaning out the boat, and offered us a few jars.  By the time he had finished, we ended up with three large cartons of food, including eight jars of Skippy crunchy peanut butter, five jars of instant tea, five jars of dry roasted nuts, and ketchup, mustard, salad dressings, soy sauce, olives, canned fruits and vegetables.  Quite a haul!  Ed was lowering the largest carton down to me in the saloon when the bottom gave out and bottles and cans covered the floor.  A cockroach dashed out, attempting an escape, but I caught him and beat him to death with one of my fifteen newly acquired rolls of toilet paper.

September 25, 1979
We're anchored in Road Harbor.  It's great to be back in the water - though we almost got run over yesterday!  A freighter towed a large native boat, about sixty feet long, into the harbor.  The native boat was set loose to anchor.  Their engine wasn't working.  They didn't drop their anchor soon enough, and were coming straight at our side.  Luckily, we were on deck.  Ed hurried to start the engine and drove forward to get out of their way.  They ended up anchored right behind us, but, before long, their anchor dragged, and they got tangled up with the boat behind them.  Eventually, the freighter came back to get them.  This time, the native boat was towed across the harbor, where they re-anchored.  Ed recognized the boat as Golden Promise, one that used to come in to Grenada.  I remember the boat because it had the neatest green parrot living aboard.

Once back in the water, we spent our time recovering from the cost of the haul-out, and went to work on the outside varnish.  Tropic Moon looked really spiffy when we finished, especially with her name repainted on the transom.  Instead of small red letters, Tropic Moon was spelled out in 6" dark blue letters with "Ann Arbor, MI" added underneath, so people could tell where we came from.

Ed, working on our boat name.

With the boat finally in shape, I took a day for laundry and grocery shopping, stowed everything, declared myself ready to leave, and that night came down with a bad head cold.  I passed the cold on to Ed, and I developed stomach flu and fever that lasted for several days.  We were out of commission for a week; I was ready to go home to my mother.  But, when I'm sick enough to want to go home, I'm too sick to travel, so I just stayed in bed and suffered none too quietly.  After going through two hurricanes, a haul-out, and illness, one did begin to wonder what the point was of living on a boat.

Then we got up one morning to fresh breezes and a cobalt blue sky, and decided the day to leave Tortola had finally arrived.  We raised the mainsail and mizzen, put up the big genoa, and headed out of Road Harbor on a port tack.  We zipped across the Sir Francis Drake Channel on a line that would have taken us right into one of the chalets at the Peter Island Yacht Club.  At Peter Island, a change to starboard tack sent us back to Tortola, working our way up its southern coast to Beef Island.  Another tack and we again headed across the channel, this time towards Cooper Island.  We felt like we were flying, the knot meter occasionally passing eight knots (it lied, with about 15% inflation, but was very good for morale).

The winds held as we again switched to starboard tack, heading north past Beef Island.  We traveled up the west coast of Virgin Gorda, the North Sound on Virgin Gorda being our destination.  As we approached some small islands called The Dogs, we considered tacking around them, but decided to go through the middle.  Leaving West Dog to port, we sailed between Great Dog and George Dog, and then skirted the Seal Dogs.  We started the engine as a safety measure as we passed through the Dogs, and never had I seen islands up that close from a moving sailboat.  Continuing to beat in the same direction, we sailed well away from Virgin Gorda before tacking and heading for the entrance to North Sound.  It's an interesting entrance, with Mosquito Rock and the extensive Colquhoun Reef to starboard, and Prickly Pear Island and Cactus Reef to port.  We again started the engine, and, with all sail up, and the knot meter hovering around eight knots, we dashed between the reefs.  Ed stood in the bow, practicing eyeball navigation, with me at the wheel, following his cryptic hand signals.

Our five-hour sail ended as we crossed the big bay to our anchorage at the Bitter End Yacht Club.  We picked up one of their mooring buoys, saving Ed from dropping the anchor, and settled down in the middle of paradise.  One can become a little jaded by the beauty of the islands, after living in the Caribbean for almost a year, but I was entranced with Bitter End.  The North Sound is about 2-1/2 miles long by one mile wide, belted with dark green mountainous islands.  The Bitter End was really isolated - no roads went there - the only approach at that time being by boat.  The Bitter End had the beauty of the islands, the isolation that "gets you away from it all," a nice resort, great restaurant, and access to all kinds of water sports.

We went into the Bitter End for dinner one night.  Ed had lobster in a white wine sauce, and I had my lobster in garlic butter.  We had pumpkin soup, salad bar, rice, West Indian veggies, and home baked bread with the meal.  Dessert was a delicious key lime pie.  We visited again the next night for drinks.  Ed, with a lack of imagination, enjoyed a frozen pina colada, while I, at the recommendation of the waiter, had an Ice Cream Golden Cadillac.  The drink included ice cream, Creme de Cacao, and Galliano.  Even though it's off-season, the Bitter End is always busy.  Every night the fifteen moorings were in use, with other boats anchored around the bay.

One of the nicer aspects of cruising is running into people you've met before.  When you first make someone's acquaintance, you have a casual chat, learn a little about the people, and talk about cruising and boats.  When you meet them again, it's like being reunited with long-lost friends.  We first met Bruce and Jennifer in Grenada on their boat, La Buse.  They're from South Africa.  They occasionally work to support their travels and, while in Grenada, they were hired to fly to Miami to deliver a power boat down to Grenada.  After being marooned for months on an out-of-the-way island in the Bahamas, waiting for engine parts, they reached St. Thomas the same week we arrived there from Grenada.

I bumped into Jennifer on the dock.  They told us they planned on continuing to Grenada, delivering the power boat, and picking up La Buse.  Their plan was to return directly to the Virgin Islands.  That was in early May.  Last week, while we sat at the Bitter End, we were very pleased to see La Buse sail into the bay, and pick up a mooring near us.  Bruce and Jennifer were finishing an overnight crossing from St. Maarten, having finally made their way up from Grenada, where they'd ended up spending another five months.  Bruce is hoping to get work at a shipyard in St. Thomas.  Maybe we'll see them again next spring....

Sunday, January 22, 2017

1979 (7) - Hurricanes

Hurricane Hole

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

We spent our first hurricane season in the Virgin Islands.  It's a time when people keep a careful ear tuned to the weather reports.  With plenty of warning of a major hurricane making its way across the Atlantic, we left Tortola in the British Virgin Islands to sail to Hurricane Hole on St. John in the U.S. Virgins.  Hurricane Hole, divinely designed with yachts and hurricanes in mind, goes well inland with several small, narrow inlets.  There are no beaches in the inlets.  The deep water goes right up to the shores, which quickly climb into hills covered with cacti, and footed with mangrove trees.  Because of the protection afforded by the bay, the water stays calm; seas and waves are little problem.  Boats need only safeguard themselves against the strong winds, which some people felt were intensified by a funneling effect through the inlets.

We awaited our first hurricane with justifiable nervousness.  Hurricane David, reported on hourly over the radio, was being billed as "the worst hurricane of the century."  Yachts arrived from all the nearby islands.  We estimated over 100 boats sharing the anchorage with us.  On arriving at Hurricane Hole, we followed the example of those who had gotten there before us.  We picked a spot close in to the shore in one of the inlets.  We set out three anchors, as well as a couple of "tree anchors" (commonly known as "lines to shore").  The bay looked like giant spiders had invaded, spinning great white webs, trapping the boats with strands that ran to the shores, and every which way through the water.

There were times when I felt it a rather ominous place, especially when Ed went into shore by dinghy to set our tree anchors, and disappeared into the bushes for what seemed an eternity.  Once he stepped on a spiny sea urchin that imbedded two of its quills into Ed's ankle.  We followed some advice we had heard, and treated it with a home remedy - urine.  Despite dire warnings, his foot didn't swell, and gave him very little pain.  Another time Ed returned to the boat with his back covered with scratches.  I asked him if he had met some wild woman in the bushes.  He attributed the scratches to a run-in with a cactus.

Hurricane David passed 110 miles south of us with winds at the storm center of 150 mph.  We had gales in our area with winds of 70-80 mph.  David was due to be its closest to us at 2:00 a.m. - naturally it would be in the middle of the night - so we stood watches during the night to make sure we didn't drag anchor, or get into any other trouble.  I stayed up till midnight, alternating between two good viewing spots, and eating a bag of Hershey's chocolate kisses to help keep me awake.  Ed got up at midnight and stood watch till 5:30 a.m.

With David moving off to the west, everyone tuned in to the weather station for an 'all clear' - only to learn that Hurricane Frederick was on his way.  We all stayed put, did some visiting between boats, and waited expectantly for our second hurricane in less than two weeks.  Hurricane Frederick did most of its damage as it passed over St. Maarten.  Philipsburg, the capital of St. Maarten, is a long, narrow town of three streets, bordered in front by Great Bay, the principal anchorage, and in the rear by the Great Salt Pond.  During Frederick the two bodies of water merged, flooding out Philipsburg with water, mud and sewage.  The situation was worsened by the fact that the Salt Pond was the local garbage dump with landfill as an aim, and all the garbage moved back into town.

Sunnie, a friend from home in Ann Arbor, who had visited us in Grenada, was living and working on St. Maarten at the time of Frederick.  She later told us how she and a friend, Joanie, abandoned the houseboat where she lived, and moved up to a house in the hills belonging to a fellow named James.  In the middle of the night, at the height of the hurricane, after several Bloody Marys, when the electricity and water had both stopped working, they decided to test the phone lines and called James, who was in Antigua.  The phone connection was excellent (a rare occurrence), they passed out after the call, and James stayed awake the rest of the night worrying about them.

Hurricane Frederick, by the time it reached the Virgins - while it apparently went by right overhead - was a weakening storm that got degraded from "hurricane" to "tropical storm."  It was carrying 65 mph winds.  Balancing the strength and distance of David, with the nearness and lesser strength of Frederick, they both had pretty much the same effect on us.  We had gales with heavy gusting winds, the storms themselves followed by a couple days of torrential rains.

Kalizma (the fancy motor yacht we knew in Grenada), showed up at Hurricane Hole.  Kalizma had to stay out in the larger bay because she took up so much room.  We monitored the doings around the anchorage by listening to our VHF radio.  Kalizma had more trouble with the winds where she was.  She was also having trouble with one of her engines, which she had kept running to avoid putting too much stress on her anchors.  She left after David; we don't know where she was for Frederick.  The only damage we heard about was one boat, Arabelle, who must have broken free.  She was across the bay on the rocks, a total wreck.  She went during David.

When the last of the bad weather had passed, we took a day to dry out before returning to Tortola.  Tropic Moon looked like a floating laundry with carpeting draped over the cockpit table and wheel, foul weather gear swinging from the mizzen boom, and towels and clothing pinned to the safety lines.  It was a relief to be able to open ports and hatches again, and air and dry out the boat after being cooped up for so many days.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

1979 (6) - British Virgin Islands

Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands

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

We had survived the hustle and bustle of commercial St. Thomas, relished the peaceful quiet of St. John's national park, and then fell in love when we reached Tortola.  Tortola is the largest of the British Virgin Islands, and is about fifteen miles long.  Back in 1979, it was still a sleepy little place.  If I ever pictured an "outpost of the British Empire," Tortola was the kind of place I would have envisioned - slow moving, easy-going, friendly, and a little seedy.  It was a tropical landscape looking out onto blue sea, with dignified black policemen in their tailored uniforms and white helmets, a British flag flying from the post office, and land rovers cruising through the streets.

After anchoring Tropic Moon in Road Harbor, Ed and I rowed in to shore and walked to the town square to clear Customs and Immigration.  From the center of town a road, Main Street, runs in either direction, with marinas at both ends, and several stores along the way.  After wandering around the classier marinas at the opposite end of Main Street, we passed back through the town square to find a steel band performing there for the passersby.  Not being on our way anywhere in particular, we sat down on the pavement and listened for about an hour.  A steel band is comprised of what look like oil drums, with the shortest barrels producing the highest notes.  We enjoyed the music, as we hadn't heard much of it since leaving Grenada.

We happened, quite by chance, to visit Tortola at the time of the annual BVI Festival.  We overheard several people talking about a parade on Monday.  When Monday came, we rowed in during the late morning, both of us guessing that an island parade wouldn't start before noon.  We reach the street to find lots of people milling around.  I stopped one person to ask when the parade was supposed to start, and was told 10:00 a.m.

"Did we miss it"?

"No, it will probably start around one o'clock."

We had drinks at the Pub, waited a while until our curiosity got the better of us, and headed off in the direction from which the parade was supposed to come.  We found the parade organizing itself around the next corner. 

We did see a parade - a really nice one - and, as a matter of fact, we saw it four times.  We wandered through it at its point of origin.  When it finally gathered itself together to head toward town, we walked back to the Pub and watched the parade slowly, very slowly, pass by.  Then we decided to walk into town, less than a mile distant, to see what was happening there, and we saw the whole parade for the third time as we overtook and passed it.  What we found in town were a lot of people patiently waiting for the parade.  We made a stop at the ice cream stand, then found a spot in the shade to watch it again.  Most of the parade had passed the town square by 3:00 p.m. when we finally headed back to the marina.

The parade had the usual beauty queens, as well as cowboys, Indians, baton twirlers and bands.  The marching Indians were great, wearing lots of war paint and long braids, looking fierce, and doing a war dance that must have been straight out of Peter Pan.  There were some beautiful butterflies, the larger ones having layer upon layer of net wings in magnificent colors, two with costumes so wide they took the full width of the two-lane street.  There was also a group of women dressed in oriental costume who did their routines with large lacy fans. 

Mocko Jumbie

Interspersed between most of the groups was a truck bearing a steel band. All of the paraders danced or performed to the music.  Then there were the Hopper's Boppers, which I suppose I could best describe as male and female go-go dancers with a West Indian beat.  The dance we've seen done to the steel band music was something of a shuffle, moving forward, leading with the pelvis, with hands raised and opened near the head.  We also saw our first Mocko Jumbie.  These are the West Indians who perform on stilts about fifteen feet in the air.  It's amazing to see them walking on those stilts, but it was unbelievable to watch them dancing up there.  Their costumes were bright silk outfits with long pants that covered most of the stilts.

As this was a festival for the people, many spectators joined in with the dancing, kids rode on the fenders of trucks, and people ran through the streets offering cold drinks to the paraders.  And everyone moved with a beat that came partly from the music, but I think, also, partly from the heat of the bright tropical sun.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

1979 (5) - St. John

Sunset from Caneel Bay, St. John

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

August 1979
After Ed's parents flew home, we spent a couple months anchored in the same spot in St. Thomas Harbor.  We accomplished quite a bit on the boat, working on the paint, chipping the rusty scuppers, varnishing all the teak on the outside of the boat, replacing the alternator, and doing some "interior decorating" in the form of new carpeting and bedspreads.  They were a peaceful two months, but finally the work was done and we were getting the urge to go sailing.  One day we hauled up a rather murky anchor and headed out of the harbor for the very first sail by ourselves.  It was hard to believe we'd been living on Tropic Moon for eight months and this was the first time we'd sailed her without anyone else aboard!

During the next two weeks, we explored the small island of St. John.  St. John is one of the U.S. Virgins, and most of the island is a national park.  The island was beautiful and wild and very sparsely populated.  Our first anchorage was at Hawksnest Bay.  We had a book picturing the Virgin Island anchorages (courtesy of Tony who missed it when he packed to go home), and I looked up Hawksnest Bay.  I knew that it would be a bad anchorage because, although it was pictured with a big anchor, the bay wasn't discussed in the text of the book.  My other clue as to what it would be like is that Ed had a penchant for picking rolling anchorages, and, sure enough, this was one of them.

View from Leinster Bay, St. John

With the wind holding the boat in one direction and the swell rolling in against our beam, Tropic Moon rocked from side to side.  Things fell off counters.  The remedy (partial at best) was to set both bow and stern anchors and point the bow into the swell.  Then the boat more resembled a rocking horse, rather than a drunken sailor, and I'll take the rocking horse over the sailor any day.  It's a kind of seesaw effect - the ends of the boat move up and down while the center stays stationary, making comfortable places of the galley and saloon, which are amidships.  Sitting out in the cockpit eating dinner was another story - we went up and down, up and down....

Despite the rolling, we stayed for three days at Hawksnest.  It was a spectacular bay, fringed by five sandy beaches.  The water was clear and nice for swimming, and we found some interesting coral for snorkeling.  It was a busy place during the day with people coming by car through the park to the beaches, and boats coming in to anchor.  But, by sunset, all the people would go home and, thanks to the rolling, all the boats except us would leave to find other overnight anchorages.  We'd have the whole beautiful bay to ourselves.  The quiet and the total darkness were in great contrast to St. Thomas where, in the middle of the night, we could still read the clock on the wall by the lights from the city.

View from St. Francis Bay, St. John

When we decided to move again, we simply motored around the corner to the next inlet, Trunk Bay.  This was definitely only a day stop - the rolling was so bad it made Hawksnest Bay look calm by comparison.  Trunk Bay was a popular day stop because it's the sight of an underwater trail - our first experience with this phenomenon.  People snorkel the trail.  There were signposts underwater explaining the different types of coral.  My favorite sign was the one that read, "End of Trail."  There I was, floating facedown in the water.  I looked around because I never actually saw a trail, only a bunch of signposts.  The coral off to the side was impressive.  I spent most of my time off the trail looking at the fish swimming among the coral formations.  Their intense colors, their size, and their faces fascinated me.  Some fish swam right up next to me, but would dart away when I reached out to touch them.  The only species you had to watch out for was a large, white-bellied fish, Genus Tourist.  They tended not to know where they were going, and could bump into you.

We left Trunk Bay to motor around another corner to a very good anchorage at St. Francis Bay.  The trouble with good anchorages is that everyone goes there.  The bay, besides being crowded with sailboats, was invaded by a fleet of noisy powerboats with hordes of people aboard.

Annaberg Sugar Mill, St. John

When we had chartered in the Virgins Islands on Fine Feather, in 1976, we had anchored one night in Leinster Bay on St. John.  We had hiked to the ruins of the Annaberg Sugar Mill.  This time, we found a sign that said we could also get to the mill from our anchorage at St. Francis Bay, by following a 1/4-mile trail that led out to the main road. The sign neglected to mention that once we reached the main road, we would still have to walk a mile uphill before reaching the turnoff for the mill.  After navigating a muddy trail, and gingerly making our way past the cows that were blocking the path, we hit the main road.  We hiked along, eventually passing a tourist bus that was stopped by the side of the road.  The busload of people were standing around, admiring the scenery, and drinking large cold drinks.  I was very tempted to try and bum a drink.  The bus was obviously going to the mill, as that was the only place the road went.

The bus passed us as we were climbing the last hill.  We arrived as the passengers were disembarking, and Ed spotted a fellow who had worked down the hall from him at Ford Motor Company!  I asked which one, but Ed wouldn't tell me because he said he couldn't remember the man's name.  Likely story from an antisocial hermit crab!  I decided I wanted to meet these people.  I knew the man couldn't possibly recognize Ed with his full beard, bushy hair, and tattered shorts.  So we joined the tourists, half-listening to the guide, and carrying on the argument in an undertone.  We walked ahead to the lookout at the top of the hill.  I shed a few tears (ineffectual).  I threatened to go up to each man and ask him if he worked at Ford.  Ed was getting angry, and I was working on a good pout when the group reached our spot.  A woman approached Ed, asking him to take a picture of her and her husband.  When Ed was returning the camera, he asked, "Are you the Lovelace's from Detroit?"  I got to meet them after all.  We had a nice chat through the rest of the tour.  They even took a picture of us.

We stood and waved as everyone climbed back on the bus.  As Ed turned and headed back up to the ruins, the tour guide looked at us, pointed down the hill, and said, "Home is that way."  I gave him a big smile.  I'm sure people wonder about us as we wander around with no vehicle, no group of people, and no guide.  We then had the ruins to ourselves, with the exception of one workman with a shovel, who was cleaning the cow dung off the trails.  Cows obviously have no respect for historic sites.

St. Francis Bay was followed by a few days at Leinster Bay.  Though it was, once again, only a short hop from our last anchorage, we felt like sailing.  We went by way of a circumnavigation of Jost Van Dyke, a large island to the north of St. John.  It was an eight-hour trip, and we anchored in Leinster Bay just before dark.  In two weeks, we had managed to work our way around about a quarter of the small island of St. John.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

1979 (4) - St. Thomas

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

While Tony and Joyce were sorry to see the trip end, I was admittedly overjoyed to reach St. Thomas, and have the chance to settle in one area for an indefinite period of time.  We had planned to have Ed's parents visit sometime during the month of May, and we called them the day after our arrival.  We were more than a little surprised to hear they were holding reservations, and would be down the following day.  What with the suddenness of the trip's end, we hadn't even begun to set the boat to rights.  We spent a frantic day cleaning Tropic Moon, changing beds, washing clothes at the Laundromat, and stocking the boat with food and beverages.  Since Tropic Moon was at anchor, we ferried ourselves back and forth in the fiberglass dinghy.  We had to rely on our rowing skills, since we didn’t have a dinghy engine.

Ed's parents were with us for ten days.  We spent that time cruising the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.  The Virgin Islands are grouped closely together, with short sails from anchorage to anchorage.  After our recent experiences coming up the island chain, it was pleasant to cruise in protected waters around these beautiful islands.  After leaving St. Thomas, we visited Caneel Bay on St. John.  Our anchorages in the British Virgin Islands included Cooper Island, The Baths on Virgin Gorda, Road Harbor at Tortola, and Jost Van Dyke.

Angelina Lauro

When we entered the harbor of Charlotte Amalie, it would have been hard to miss the burned out hulk of a cruise ship near the main wharf.  We learned the ship was the Angelina Lauro.  On March 30th, the ship was berthed in St. Thomas when a fire broke out in her aft galley.  It spread rapidly.  The crew wasn’t able to contain the fire, and soon flames roared high from her top decks.  The vast majority of her passengers and crew were ashore when the fire broke out.  All those still on board managed to disembark safely.

Most of the ships in port were on the final day of their seven day Caribbean cruise, having started from San Juan. As a result, passengers from the Angelina Lauro were divided into groups between the various ships in port, and were taken aboard for an overnight voyage back to San Juan.  Most of Angelina’s passengers had been ashore in shorts and tops, and had lost all their belongings in the fire.  The Sun Princess took 400 of Angelina’s passengers, and provided them with a buffet dinner, and a continental breakfast the next morning before they disembarked in San Juan.  From Puerto Rico, they were flown home to the States.

The Angelina Lauro was declared a total loss.  She remained dockside for months. A number of attempts were made to tow her away from the wharf.  These failed, mostly due to the massive weight of the water that had been pumped into the ship to douse the fire.  She ended up sitting on the shallow bottom, listing to port.
The anchorage at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas

June 4, 1979

We are comfortably settled in St. Thomas.  We’re anchored off the Sheraton Marina.  I spoke with someone in the office.  They’ll be happy to receive mail for us, even though we’re not docked at the marina.  They’ll hold the mail for three months, in case we go off for a while.  The Sheraton shows movies on Sunday nights.  A week ago we saw ‘The Adventurers,’ with Ernest Borgnine and Candice Bergen.  It was funny to watch.  The movie was made for a wide screen.  The hotel showed it on a home movie screen.  All the people were tall and skinny, and the cars looked like they belonged in cartoons.  We went in again last night, but they ended up not showing a movie, thanks to a power outage on the island.  People were hanging out of the hotel windows because there wasn’t any air conditioning.  Anyway, it wasn’t a wasted trip since we had dinner at McDonald’s, where, for some reason, they still had power.

We invested in a new alternator.  Ours kept overheating; it smelled like we were burning down the boat!  Ed spent hours working on it.  He had to make a new bracketing system, since the new alternator is a different size from the old one.

Some barges arrived from Sweden to start work on the Angelina Lauro.  We can’t tell what, if any, progress is being made.

June 11, 1979

Charlie’s Angels and the Love Boat are going to be filming a joint two-hour episode here on St. Thomas!  Part of the show will be filmed in town, and part will be filmed on the Pacific Princess, a cruise ship that stops at St. Thomas.  This cruise ship is a sister ship to the Sun Princess I went on in Grenada.  The other day, when we were taking care of the boat registration at the Commerce Department, I saw a sign saying they were auditioning for extras for Charlie’s Angels.  I went in and applied.  I doubt I’ll be called – I said I just wanted to be a body in the background.  They’ll be filming the end of this week.  Maybe we’ll see an “Angel.”

We had a bad storm on Saturday that lasted about half an hour.  The winds were unbelievable.  We were glad we had two anchors out.  We held our ground, though several boats didn’t.  Two boats not far from us started banging into each other.  There wasn’t anyone on either of them.  We saw a boat drag, running into another boat.  One sailboat broke a spreader off the mast, trying to get untangled.  Several boats pulled up anchor and motored out of the harbor to get out of the way.  Scary!

St. Thomas Harbor anchorage

June 26, 1979

Well, I didn’t get called for Charlie’s Angels, but I talked to a lady who did get called.  She’s an older woman whose husband runs the electronics shop at the marina.  She was hired to be a passenger on the cruise ship.  She was told to dress elegantly, and wear high heels.  She would be filmed walking down the gangplank.  She said she walked up and down that gangplank for 2-1/2 hours!  She got to meet the Angels.  It’s possible Tropic Moon may be in the show.  We saw a helicopter flying around the harbor, filming. 

More tugs and barges with large cranes have arrived from Sweden to work on Angelina Lauro.  They pulled up her anchor a couple days ago.  They were working late last night, with big spotlights shining on the ship.  Ed heard on the radio that she’s to be re-floated, and then towed to Taiwan to be cut up for salvage.

I got Ed off the boat Sunday night to go to Pizza Hut.  It was the first time he’d been to shore in a week.  I’ve gone in three times for laundry and grocery shopping.  The wind has been strong, making rowing to shore difficult.  It discourages me from going in without a good reason.  Rowing back to the boat is much easier.  One day I took the dinghy in to shore to scrape the bottom.  Lots of seaweed and stuff was growing there.  Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a parallel universe.  While I was working on the dinghy, a man came by – with a horse – and they both went swimming.

July 8, 1979

My sewing machine is now operational.  Ed installed the converter that changes the boat’s 12 volts into 120 volts.  We just plug the cord into this box, and flip a switch.  Besides the sewing machine, it’s also been used for the soldering iron and the electric drill.  In Grenada we had shore power, which isn’t an option when you’re anchored.  We’re going to be making sail covers as soon as we get organized.  We’re buying new carpeting for the forward and aft cabins.  It’s fun to do small decorating projects.  I want to hang a needlepoint picture I had brought down from the States.  I have to figure out a way to secure it to the bulkhead so it stays in place when we sail.  The problems of having a movable home!

Progress continues on the Angelina Lauro.  She is almost erect now; they're still pumping water out of her.  The radio informs us a tug will be coming for her on July 11th.  Then the tug will be picking up another wreck in Venezuela that is also being towed to Taiwan for scrap.  That should be some funny-looking trio, crossing the Pacific Ocean.
Me, in one of the shopping alleys in Charlotte Amalie

July 20, 1979

I thought we were ready to leave St. Thomas, but Tuesday we heard Tropical Storm Claudette was on her way.  We set out two more anchors and waited.  Almost nothing happened here, except for rough waters in the harbor.  It rained most of Wednesday.  Well, that’s three down – Ana, Bob, and Claudette.  So far, no problems for us.

Before we leave Charlotte Amalie, we have to go in to the marina dock to fill up with fuel and water.  That makes me a little nervous.  It will be the first time we go in to a dock by ourselves.  This reminds me of when we left Grenada.  Ed was at the wheel, Joyce was on board, and Tony and I were on the dock, casting off the lines.  Ed called us to get on the boat.  Tony did, but I froze.  Tropic Moon got about four feet from the dock.  I would have had to jump, catch onto the boat, and pull myself aboard.  I didn’t have the nerve to try.  Ed was pretty pissed.  He had to drive back into the boat slip to pick me up.  Stumpy came over from his boat.  He held the bow, and helped me climb aboard.  It was rather embarrassing. 


Friday, January 13, 2017

1979 (3) - First Cruise

Our first cruise took us from Grenada, north to the U.S. Virgin Islands
To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

Grenada, April 13, 1979

Tony and Joyce were due yesterday, but called a couple days ago to say they will arrive Monday, the 16th.  We were pleased, because we can use the extra couple days to finish a million odds and ends, and maybe to relax a little.  Ed’s working on equipment like the depth sounder, and getting the radio hooked up.  Hopefully, we will leave here on the 18th.  I was so tired last night.  After we had some crackers and cheese, with Pina Coladas, I passed out about 7:00 p.m. and slept for twelve hours.

Tuesday was Sam’s last day, as all the big jobs are done.  We gave him the propane stove we had removed from the boat.  It was both a going-away present and to thank him for his help.  We also gave him Ed’s wooden trunk, which had been traveling around with Ed for thirteen years.  Wonder where it might travel to now? 

We have our VHF radio hooked up, and it works fine.  We’ve used it to speak to a few people.  The life raft is stowed on the aft deck, the sails are in the peak, and I’m anxious to get going!!  I’ll try to mail postcards while we’re traveling.  The EC money is used through most of the Caribbean, but we’ll have to get stamps at each island, as they’re all different countries.  When we get to the Virgin Islands, we’ll be back to American dollars.

Postcard, Grenada, April 18, 1979

Tony and Joyce arrived on Monday.  We went for a sail yesterday, then anchored at the beach and went swimming.  Today we will do our last food shopping, and probably leave Grenada tomorrow.  Tropic Moon sailed well, and is looking really good!  Tony cooked a delicious eggplant casserole for dinner last night, and is talking about eggs and hash browns for breakfast this morning.

Newsletter, May 17, 1979

We made our first adjustment from the work-a-day world to a work-on-the-boat life, and after 5-1/2 months in Grenada, we were more than ready to make a further welcome adjustment to the cruising lifestyle.  The whole concept of "cruising" was new to us.  For example, we had little idea of how long it took to travel from island to island, or, more importantly, that when we reached a new anchorage, we wouldn't be overly eager to rush on to the next one.  Combine that with a preconceived notion that we wanted to spend the summer in the Virgin Islands and you have our rationale for racing through the Caribbean in three weeks.  We had contacted friends from Ann Arbor, Tony and Joyce, invited them to fly to Grenada, and told them that we'd drop them off in St. Thomas in time to fly home at the end of their three weeks of vacation.

We started the trip, which was to cover 650 miles, fairly leisurely.  We left Grenada on April 19th and spent our first night at the island of Carriacou, just north of Grenada.  From there we sailed to Union Island to clear Customs to enter the Grenadines, a 50-mile-long chain of small, lovely islands.  We spent a night at Palm Island, and then sailed into the Tobago Cays.  The Tobago Cays are really beautiful.  They're a group of uninhabited islands with lots of reefs and white sandy beaches.  There were a few other yachts there, but as there are several areas in which to anchor, it was far from crowded.  We enjoyed the swimming and snorkeling in the area.

By chance, we anchored next to a boat, Aquarian Mistress, that we had met in Grenada.  We invited Tony and Paula over for drinks and dinner.  Our Tony was chef for the evening, and he fixed fried rice using a couple of conchs which Tony and Paula had caught.  Conch proved to be a lot of work to prepare.  First, the fellows broke open the shells and wrestled out the conch, which was still alive.  Then they cut off its eyes and legs and any other protruding parts.  Next they beat it to death, using a hammer.  If the conch isn't pounded well, it chews like shoe leather.  And after you've tortured the poor mollusk, you have a piece of meat with very little flavor.  On its own, not worth the bother, but useful in dishes like chowder or fritters.

After a couple nights in the Tobago Cays, both boats were ready to sail on to Bequia, one of the larger islands of the Grenadines.  We decided to sail in company with Aquarian Mistress.  The boats were very well matched in terms of speed, arriving in Bequia at virtually the same time, after a 7-hour sail.  There are two major bays on Bequia, Friendship Bay and Admiralty Bay.  After failing to consult the cruising book carefully enough, we mistakenly chose to go to Friendship Bay.  The town, stores and restaurants were all on the other side of the island.  As it was too late to go around the island, we stayed in Friendship Bay for the night.  It was an uncomfortable, rolling anchorage, so we decided to move nearer to the shore, where we set two anchors (bow and stern).  No one measured the depth of the water, and we soon found ourselves hitting bottom.  Things got worse as we tried to correct the situation, but we finally got ourselves free again.  It was after dark, and rather scary.  Less than a week out, and already aground!

We met another boat, Osprey, in Friendship Bay.  The family was also from Ann Arbor.  Osprey had just completed a 2-1/2 year circumnavigation.  One other boat came into the bay that night, a charter boat with charterers from Ann Arbor.  Of the four boats anchored there that night, Ann Arbor was represented on three of them.

We had a couple hours of sailing the next day to get around Bequia to Admiralty Bay where we spent the next three days.  The town is small, but looked good to us, as it was a chance to restock fresh food.  Small boats with young boys came out to the yachts with things to sell.  Joyce bought a pretty piece of coral from one boat.  One "vegetable" boat sold me fresh eggplant and tomatoes.  They also offered laundry services, which we declined; such services usually end up costing a small fortune.

We woke up in Bequia one morning to find everything inside and outside the boat covered with ash from the St. Vincent volcano, which had erupted during the night.  I hated to think of what it was like on St. Vincent, as we were about twenty miles south of the volcano.  What a mess!  First, we swept up the ash, then reversed the bilge pump, connected a hose, and washed down the boat.  All the other yachts in the harbor were busy with the same type of activity.

By the end of our stay in Bequia, 1-1/2 weeks of our 3-week total had evaporated into the tropical air.  Knowing we would have to bypass many of the islands, and having Martinique on our "must see" list, we left Bequia and the Grenadines to sail to Martinique on what would be our first overnight sail.  Leaving Bequia at about four in the afternoon, we arrived in Martinique about noon the next day.  My first overnight sail terrified me.  I got a bit hysterical when we ran out of wind, and Ed refused to turn on the engine.  I found it frightening to be "out there" in the dark.  Still, the trip went well, and we even arrived at the time Ed had estimated.

We reached Martinique on a Friday and stayed till the following Tuesday.  We anchored at Fort de France, a very cosmopolitan city be Caribbean standards.  Only French is spoken on Martinique, and I had fun with my feeble efforts.  Tony and Joyce also know some French so we managed fine.  We ate dinner out twice, my favorite being a place where I had cheese fondue.  My dessert consisted of two large crepes filled with ice cream, smothered in a chocolate and almond sauce, and topped with fresh whipped cream. 

The last leg of our trip was direct from Martinique to St. Thomas.  We left Fort de France on a Tuesday evening and didn't reach St. Thomas till Saturday morning.  We were out of sight of land the whole time.  We worked on watches 24 hours/day, four hours on, four hours off.  Ed and I stood watches together, as did Tony and Joyce. 

Three and a half days out.  You picture a sailboat zipping along through the water.  Only for the first day, and then we ran out of wind - becalmed!  Now you picture a boat sitting still in the water.  Not really!  Becalmed is one of the worst misnomers I've ever run into, as the situation is anything but calm.  When there's no wind, there's usually still a sea, which tosses the boat from side to side, and sometimes pitches it in what seems like all directions at once.  It was impossible to move through the boat without hanging on.  And the noise!  Hoping for a breeze, through lack of experience, we left the sails up without sheeting in the booms.  The booms crashed back and forth, halyards slapped, blocks were jarred up and down, banging on the deck.  Things were knocking around inside the boat, and the noise and movement just didn't stop.  And on top of it all, we weren't going anywhere!

I think those early sails set a pattern for how I would feel about future passages.  I was tired, sick, and frightened.  I found the passage long, boring and totally exhausting.  I seemed to be the only one who felt that way - the other three were enjoying themselves.  I, on the other hand, was suffering from feelings of claustrophobia.  I found that being out on a sailboat far from land, especially when you're not making any progress, and YOU CAN'T GET OFF, made me panic and feel trapped.  Ed thought I was nuts.  Luckily, I was asleep through much of the trip - off and on watch - I actually fell asleep once standing at the wheel.  I usually managed to avoid thinking too much about where I was and what I was doing. 

Ah, you say, but the wind finally came back, and all was well.  No, the wind didn't come back.  After sitting in one spot for a day, Ed finally relented, turned on the engine, and we motored over 100 miles.  We found a little wind again up near the Virgins.

One of my memories of the trip concerns the apricot pie filling.  The can had been opened at dinner, but not used, and the filling was stored in a plastic bowl with tight-fitting lid, on a counter (with rail), in the galley - a place that had been a good stowage spot up till that point.  It was 1:00 a.m.; Ed and I had gone off watch at midnight.  We were asleep when the wind died.  I woke to hear something flying across the galley.  We got up to find apricot goo spread through the hall, and into the head, where the floor is made of wooden slats - through which the filling had oozed.  It was just about impossible to clean up, partly because it was so sticky, and partly because Tropic Moon was lurching from side to side.  We cleaned up what we could, but didn't take up the head floor till we were in port again, at which time Ed had to use a putty knife to chip off the remaining dried-up filling.  During the clean up, I was in the galley when the gingerbread, in its corning ware baking dish, took off across the room.  I managed to catch it as it passed over the sink.

Ed and I were on the "dawn watch" and a little after daylight one morning about twenty dolphins joined Tropic Moon and stayed with us, frolicking around, for about five minutes.  That was a joyful sight.  The next morning, dawn watch again, a large fin passed right by the boat.  It was a whale, traveling with some friends.  I guess it had come in close to take a look at us.  Ed estimated it at about twenty feet long.  And lastly, on one of our night watches, I had just given the wheel back to Ed, and was settling down in the cockpit, when something went "flap" and landed in my lap.  I accused Ed of throwing something at me.  He was laughing, and said it was a flying fish.  I was madly trying to get it out of my foul weather jacket, where it was jumping around.  It was about six inches long.  I saved it to show our friends when they came on watch.

Tony and Joyce enjoyed the trip, and hated to see it end.  Entering the large port of Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas was a bittersweet experience for them.  We had arrived in St. Thomas on a Saturday morning, and their plane was scheduled to leave at 1:00 that afternoon!  Goodbyes were hurried as our three weeks together ended.