Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Back in Grenada

Tristan and Cathy looking good in the Tobago Cays.

Its been a busy time on Idyll Island since our last update. After saying “so long” to Derek’s brother et famille, we picked up our good friend Dave Reay and spent a few days sailing with him to St. Thomas, where he caught his flight back to Victoria to spend the summer on his BC boat. Once he had left, we started working through the list of projects and repairs that had been in hiatus while we had friends and family aboard for the previous few months.

We picked up another 2 solar panels (total of 650 watts now) so that we can be pretty much engine free while at anchor; we repaired our starboard alternator (again) and watermaker (again), bought ourselves a liferaft, just in case our unsinkable boat isn’t; got our shortwave (SSB) radio fixed so that we can now talk as well as listen, installed an automatic identification system (AIS) so that we can see who those ships are at night and which way they’re going, installed a Crew Overboard alarm system (Raymarine Lifetag), shipped in a sewing machine and material for Cathy to make covers for our cockpit cushions, and we finally succumbed and bought ourselves a TV/DVD unit. Not to mention the 6 cases (or was it 7?) of wine, case of rum and oh, some food too. We were thinking that this was going to be our last stop where we could buy many things we couldn’t get “down island” or if available, only at piratical prices. While in St. Thomas we had a couple of farewell get-togethers with our friends Bruce and Laura on Amaryllis. We probably won’t see them again before we head west. That’s the hard part of cruising….

So after a couple of weeks emptying our bank account while watching Idyll Island sink lower and lower on her lines, the weather finally settled down to where we could head east. It wasn’t like we planned to go to Sint Maarten, the only place with more services and shopping than St. Thomas at even better prices, the wind gods just kind of sucked us in… So again, we went into project/acquisition mode and modified our helm seat to swing out of the way when at anchor (makes way more room for partying in the cockpit), installed a raised maple paneled ceiling in the galley (to give Derek enough headroom to do the dishes without whining quite so much – probably the most expensive inch ever), had the salon table and chart table refinished ( a bit of a saga…), and found a reeeally great rum (El Dorado from Guyana) at a reeeeally great price, so stocked up on that to make us feel better about spending so much money on other stuff. We also met up with our friends Chris and Kelly on “Verna Breeze” and Jen and Jay on “Rum Runner”. Some good evenings sampling rums and wines. Based on Chris and Jay’s recommendations we also bought a cool little black box that plugs into our newly purchased TV and allows us to play just about anything, and Chris gave us a great deal on his 750 GB hard drive fully loaded with 100+ movies. Now we have even more excuses not to do boat work!

Idyll Island at the dock in St. Maarten for a few upgrades.

Our new swing-away helm seat. FKG Rigging did a great job. You can't see the cool custom rod holder they also made up for us.

The new raised maple ceiling in the galley. A bit of an ordeal to get it in, but Derek now doesn't have to do his Quasimodo impersonation to work in the galley.

We finally got out of St. Maarten, with poor old Idyll Island sitting even lower in the water, but her crew happy if significantly poorer. We had only just enough time to get to St. Lucia to meet our son Tristan who was flying in to spend 12 days with us. One of our stops was Montserrat, with its active volcano. It was there that we discovered a leaking (pouring) cooling manifold on the starboard engine. Thankfully, being a catamaran we have built in redundancy and can operate on one engine. We were able to call Island Water World in St. Lucia, and they were happy to order in a new manifold to be there when we arrived. We did have a good tour of Montserrat and saw how the islanders are working to rebuild their country after the devastating eruptions destroyed half their already small island, including burying the capital city in volcanic ash.

Portsmouth, ex capital city of Montserrat, buried in ash. The image is a bit fuzzy because it was taken through a long telephoto as you aren't allowed anywhere near the area due to the real risk of more pyroclastic eruptions.

The Montserrat International Airport. Also ex. Buried in ash.

On the way to St. Lucia, we stopped at Fort de France, Martinique for a day, mostly for Derek to gorge on French pastries!

Between Martinique and St. Lucia, we sailed through a squall with winds to 30 knots. It hit us before we realized that it would have been a good idea to reef the sails, so we ran down wind in front of it for half an hour, surfing along at 10-11 knots under full sail. A bit sketchy and a reminder to reef early. We dropped anchor in Rodney Bay St. Lucia the day before Tristan was to arrive. We had spent too much time in St. Lucia last year getting our watermaker fixed the first of many times. But everyone was very friendly and helpful and made us feel welcome. And the jet skiis were far less obnoxious than last year. Jon at Regis Elecronics provided some very good advice on our again-not-working-very-well watermaker. No, not to throw it overboard -with Jon’s advice, Derek was able to fix a sticking brush in the feed pump and stop an air leak. Finally, our watermaker seems to be working as it should! On Saturday (June 20th), Tristan arrived. It was so great to see him – Christmas in Bonaire was the last time. Derek spent the following day (Father’s Day) installing the new cooling manifold while Tristan slept off his jet lag, then we celebrated with a fantastic sparerib dinner that Cathy made for us in her new pressure cooker. The following day we set sail for Bequia and the Tobago Cays.

Caught a nice Wahoo along the way. Put up a decent fight, but succumbed quickly to the overproof rum once we had him on the gaff!

Then the butchering starts. Blood everywhere with these fast warm water fish. Took about an hour to fillet this guy. Well worth it though as the meat is very tasty without any "fishiness" at all.

It was great to finally be sailing with the wind on our beam, it seems like we have been bashing to windward for most of the last 6 months. The boat goes faster, quieter and more smoothly - just like in the brochures. We checked into Bequia, a very sleepy little town, with not much in the way of anything. Many of the restaurants and bars were closed (including our old hang-out from 13 years ago, the Green Boley). Normal end-of-the-season slow down, exacerbated by the impact of the ailing global economy. We quickly headed for the Tobago Cays, just a few hours south.

Tristan taking a bath on the trampoline!

A pod of dolphins off St. Lucia, must have been over 50 and they were way to busy herding their dinner to pay any attention to us!

We dropped anchor in 7’ of crystal clear water with nothing but a reef between ourselves and Africa (and we had a layer of Sahara dust all over the boat to prove it). For the next 5 days we snorkeled with turtles and rays (eagle rays swimming right off the back of the boat and turtles everywhere), explored the reef and little islands and just hung out and relaxed. We had a few squalls blow through, but the holding is about perfect and our anchor just dug in further. We had a good visit with Walter, “the Face of the Tobago Cays”. We first met Walter 13 years ago, when he delivered ice to us every day so that our friend Mike could have his beer really cold.

Tristan, jumping for joy at being back in the Tobago Cays!

Walter, de Man.

Cathy and Derek hangin' out in the Tobago Cays....

Tristan's old water-polo coach would be happy to see that Tristan can keep up with a turtle! They actually swim pretty darned fast when they want to.

The water is so clear its like flying.

Tristan up a tree

Sweet nectar!

Laughing gulls having a good time. They are amazing flyers, though in their eagerness to grab food out of the air before anyone else gets it, they sometimes crash into each other.

After a great time in what Tristan describes as his favourite place in the whole world, the weather forecast suggested it was time to leave the Tobago Cays and get ourselves to Grenada. We pulled in to Prickly Bay and dropped the hook just inside the reef. Checking in with Customs the following day proved to be a bit more complex than last year. In an attempt to prevent the spread of swine flu, instead of just the skipper going ashore to the Prickly Bay office, everybody on board is required to get on public transportation and travel into the capital of St. Georges. Seems like a good way to ensure maximum exposure!

We celebrated Canada Day quietly sipping cold beers, swimming, listening to Tristan play the guitar, then a bottle of champagne on board and a great Chinese meal at Choo Light, a short walk down the road in the tropical evening. We wrapped it up with a couple of episodes of Trailer Park Boys. What could be more Canadian, eh?!

We walked over to Mt. Hartman Bay, to see the anchorage where we spent 6 weeks back in 1996. The docks are still in use but the reort was damaged in hurricane Ivan 4-5 years ago and has been left vacant since. The bush is slowly reclaiming it, though we heard that there are plans to rebuild.

On July 3rd we were up at 0400 to get Tristan on his plane. He finally had an uneventful trip back to Victoria! He is now home trying to earn enough money to cover his portion of next year’s expenses for his second year in the Environmental Technology program at Camosun College. We continue to be very proud of how he is pulling it all together on his own, while his parents cavort about on the oceans.

Tristan playing "I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane". We are always sad to see him go.

For a change, we don’t have any critical boat projects to do, so we are free to move on whenever the weather looks right. For the past several days we have had a series of tropical waves moving through, bringing winds to 40 knots (over 70 kph) and torrential, though short-lived, downpours. At the same time its 32d Celsius and the hatches have to be closed. Funny, but nobody back home ever sounds very sympathetic… Next week the weather is supposed to settle down and we’ll likely be on our way to Bonaire via the Venezuelan off-shore islands of Blanquilla, Los Roques, Les Aves. We are looking forward to getting back to the fabulour diving in Bonaire….