Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More ATM problems; this time not mine, thank goodness!

June 23, 2007  Saturday

On Thursday we sent our laundry in to be done.  It is just too inexpensive here to bother to do it yourself  ---– 3 loads of laundry, washed, dried and folded for $9 and same-day service.  Not worth running our generator and washing machine for 3 hours and using up our laundry products at that price; plus it provides a job for a local person.

Bill and Carol Langolois on S/V HOPE came over to visit Thursday night.  We last saw them in Isle des Saintes.  They did a straight sail to here from the Saintes instead of visiting the southern islands like we did.  Bill and Carol do not like it here in Isla Margarita and plan to leave for Bonaire soon.  They plan to spend the hurricane season in the marina in Bonaire so we will see them again in August.

On Friday we did the Sigo shopping trip again.  This time we bought something.  Bill got a few cases of Polar beer ($6.33 per case) and I got 400 days of thyroid medication for only $17.05 plus one month of Premarin for $6.84.  The farmacia should have more Premarin next week so I plan to buy a years supply.  We also plan to check on the tablet form of the drug that Bill takes for his Crohnn’s Disease.  I already checked and they don’t have the capsule form of this drug but we are hopeful that they will sell the tablet form.  It would save a lot of money since Bill now pays about $2200 for a 6-month supply of the capsule drug.  If the tablets work just as well then we could save a lot of money.

There have been well-publicized news articles of the various food shortages in Venezuela.  There are supposed to be shortages of meat, chicken, eggs, sugar and rice because the government set prices are so low that the supermarkets don’t stock these products and you are forced to buy them off the black market.  Well, these shortages are really no big deal at all from what we have seen so far.  The Sigo supermarket did not have eggs on either of our visits this week but that was not a real inconvenience to us.  They were short on chicken breasts on our first visit but the refrigerated cases were full of chicken breasts on our second visit.  We saw no shortages of sugar or rice on either visit.  Gossip abounds but isn’t always true.  We had another great lunch of arepitas (wonderful little things made from rice flour and stuffed with small amount of mild cheese and fried), plantains, various squashes cooked with tomatoes, and Bill had a chicken breast.  We don’t know how they cook the plantain pieces, but these taste wonderful---almost like a desert.

On the local cruiser net on the VHF radio on Friday someone said that they had been ripped off this week for over $7,000 after they used their ATM card at the shopping mall.  Someone had attached a card swiping device on the ATM machine.  These people swiped their card and then inserted the card into the ATM.  Apparently someone then watched or video recorded them entering their PIN on the keypad.  At the end of the day the bad guys return and remove the card swiper device and they have all the info they need to use that debit card.  This is not what happened to us in Grenada because we would never swipe our card prior to entering it into the ATM machine.  Different island; different thieves; same results.

Friday night we had dinner with several other cruising couples at a very nice local seafood restaurant.  The meals were great and just as nice as any restaurant back in Houston.  The reason for this dinner was to say goodbye to Paul and Karen on DREAMWEAVER.  They were leaving for Puerto La Cruz, where they will put their boat into the marina and then take off for a month-long trip to Peru.  Hope they enjoy Cusco and Machu Pichu as much as we did.

Today it is hot as blazes!  Guess it is just the higher humidity because the temperature inside the boat is still at 83.8F, which felt cool all week but feels very warm today.  A tropical wave passed through the area this morning and raised the humidity level to “not pleasant.”  We thought about taking a taxi to the fancy shopping mall, but neither of us is in a shopping mood.

June 25, 2007  Monday

Last night we had a nice steak and baked potatoes dinner with Gary & Linda on RAINBOW RIDER, a Lagoon 410 catamaran.  Another couple was there whose company we really enjoyed but I don’t know their names and cannot pronounce the name of their boat.  They are following the same path that we plan so we certainly will meet up again along the way.  All 3 of our boats are covered by the same insurance company and we had a lot of discussion about the coverage provided and restrictions for Colombia.  Seems that each of them were told different information about Colombia coverage than we were told last October by the same guy at the insurance agency, yet all 3 of our policies contain the same verbiage.  We had been told that we must purchase a 30-day rider which would provide normal insurance coverage in Colombian waters with the exception of theft.  Theft is excluded while in Colombian waters.  This rider costs $200 for each 30 day period.  Gary was quoted $1600 for the Colombian waters rider.  Quite a difference!   The other guy was simply told that he was allowed to go to Cartagena but there was no mention of any additional rider or cost.  So now we are all confused about going to Cartagena.  Guess we will be calling the insurance agent again soon for clarification.

Today we again made the Sigo supermarket run in the free bus.  Continued our stocking up on cases of Polar beer that Bill likes so much.  It is easier to transport 3-4 cases each trip rather than buying 20 cases at once and bringing that stack of beer back to the boat in the dinghy.  The anchorage here in Porlamar can be a bit rolly at times and getting boxes and beer cases from the bouncing dinghy to the rolling boat stern steps can be quite a balancing act.

Tonight we had people over to our boat for a Texas happy hour.  There are 2 other boats of Texans nearby and we have become friends with them.  And another boat has a hailing port of Corpus Christi, although they are not really Texans.  But we invited them anyway.  I fixed (a Texan expression) margaritas, quesadillas and guacamole and we put our large Texas flag on the stern of the boat in place of the usual US flag.   As usual when people get together for sundowners, the happy hour lasted well into the evening.  Jaime & Dan on NERIA (from Houston) and Ken & Cathy on CHILL (from The Woodlands) will be leaving tomorrow morning to start toward Puerto La Cruz with a few stops at a couple of islands along the way.  Gary & Linda on RAINBOW RIDER plan to leave in a few days. 

There was a great deal of discussion today amongst many of the cruisers.  There are 2 boats in the anchorage who have been cruising in Venezuela for up to 5 years.  The people on both of these boats claim that it is not necessary to clear in and out as you travel between ports.  This has convinced a few new people that they can do this so they do not plan to clear out of Isla Margarita when they go to Puerto La Cruz.  This is totally opposite from the information provided in the sailing guides and does not agree with what the clearing agents tell you.  So tonight I checked every website I could find about clearance procedures in Venezuela.  Every single piece of information that I could find states exactly the same as the sailing guides and the clearance agents.  You are supposed to clear with Immigration at the first port of your arrival in Venezuela.  You obtain a cruising permit which is good for 6 months.  You then clear in with Customs and the Port Captain.  When you leave the first port, you do not clear out with Immigration but you are required to clear out with Customs and the Port Captain.  Then you clear in with Customs and the Port Captain at the next port.  The Port Captains are each in charge of a state in Venezuela and are only located in the major port of each state.  You are required to clear in and out of each state as you travel around Venezuelan waters.  At your final port you are required to also clear out with Immigration as well as Customs and the Port Captain.  This clears you out of the country; the cruising permit is relinquished and you receive the final clearance paper (zarpe) which allows you to clear into the next country. 

Venezuela is not the only country where you are required to clear in and out of major ports or states or departments.  It gives the country a better way to track your movements around their country as also provides the country with more fees collected, providing more jobs.  Also usually presents the opportunity for more bribes.  Point is, this is not all that unusual a process.  For example, Russia does the same thing.  And the Maldives require you to obtain permission (permits) before going to any port other than the one where you clear into the country.  I asked one boat who plans to travel around Venezuela without clearing in and out of each port to send me an email after they clear out of the country and let me know how it went.  We plan to follow the rules.

We are waiting on a DHL shipment of the correct line for our mainsail outhaul.  We ordered it from Amel in Guadeloupe last Monday.  Of course, the shipment went to Puerto Rico by mistake; but Bill talked to DHL this afternoon and they said the shipment should arrive here in a few days.  We tracked the shipment online late tonight and saw that it is now in Port of Spain, Trinidad.  At least it is getting closer to Isla Margarita.  You just gotta love international overnight/priority shipping.  Seems it rarely goes smoothly.

June 27, 2007  Wednesday

Yesterday we took a taxi to SAMBIL.  SAMBIL is a huge, very modern, very nice shopping mall.  Lots of people watching.  Bill thoroughly enjoyed admiring the overly-amply-endowed yung Venezuelan women.  (Plastic surgery supposedly is very inexpensive here and it is obvious that most women take full advantage of this low cost surgery.)  Very nice stores but priced higher than we are accustomed to paying.  For example, there is a Liz Claiborne store in this mall.  A simple woman’s shirt cost $100 and up, and this is in duty-free Isla Margarita.  It would cost minimum 11% higher on the mainland.  Liz Claiborne is one of my favorite brands of casual clothing.  I normally pay about $60-$75 for a simple shirt in department stores in Houston.   We were surprised at how many US brand stores are in the SAMBIL mall. 

The main reason we went to this mall is the cinema multiplex where they are supposed to show latest release US movies in English with Spanish subtitles.  We haven’t seen a movie since last July in Trinidad so this appealed to us.  Actually, just sitting in the cold air-conditioning for a few hours appealed to us.  There was a lousy choice of movies.  They were mostly horror type films or murder stuff; definitely not my type of movie.  The remaining choices were Spiderman 3, Shrek 3 or Pirates of the Caribbean 3.  We decided on the Piratas.  However, when I tried to purchase tickets the cashier was kind enough to tell me that “Piratas es solo en espanol.”  Well…..that just won’t work for us.  So, in the end – no movie for us.

But I had very good sushi for lunch and we found another package of thyroid medication (for $2.31 for a 50-day supply--- wow; what a deal compared to high US prices!).

Back on the boat in the afternoon and I enjoyed sitting in the shade of the cockpit and watching the birds while Bill messed around on the computer.  The large pelicans here often fly in formation.  We call them squadrons.  Twenty to thirty birds will line up single file and fly back and forth through the anchorage.  They will fly only about a foot off the water and glide long distances without flapping their wings.  A pilot tells me that they are using the resistance of being so close to the water to assist in their flight so that they rarely need to flap their wings.  It is entertaining to watch them patrol through the anchorage in this fashion.

The Venezuelan pangas are also entertaining.  These boats look so graceful with their curved high prows cutting through the water.  The pangas are made from wood and are constructed without any patterns or printed designs.  The designs for these boats are simply in the memories of the men constructing them.  The pangas can be anywhere from 12 to 45 feet long, although most of the ones we have seen are in the range of 20-25 feet.  These little boats are very distinctive and the curved very high prows cut through the waves quite efficiently.  They can be pretty fast depending on the size of the outboard.  I love watching them motor around. 

As of this afternoon our DHL shipment is being held on the Venezuelan mainland for “clearing delay.”  Good thing we weren’t in a hurry to receive this rope.  And thanks to Kristina we have received the claim forms for the recent ATM fraud in Grenada.  The deadline to get this completed claim form back to the bank is tomorrow.  So guess we will be relying on Kristina once again to handle this for us because we cannot find a functioning fax machine here in Porlamar.  We can get it scanned and email it to Kristina this afternoon and hopefully she can print it and fax it to the bank tomorrow.  Thank goodness we have reliable people back home to help us when we need it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Clearing in VZ & a few “Juanisms”

Note May 28, 2013:  Crime has gotten very bad and we would not visit VZ today.

June 20, 2007  Wednesday

It is so nice to be here in Porlamar out in the anchorage rather than in Trinidad in a hot marina.  There are constant pleasant breezes and even though it is 83F inside the boat, we are comfortable.  It would be unbearable in Trinidad this time of year in a marina with no hint of air movement.  We prefer leaving the boat open rather than being cooped up inside with the air conditioners running. 

Yesterday we used Juan Baro at Marina Juan as our agent and cleared in without incident,.  This involves bringing in the boat documentation, last clearance paper (zarpe) and our passports at 9:00 a.m.  Juan handles all the paperwork and gets it to the appropriate offices.  At 3:30 p.m. the captain goes back to Marina Juan and is driven the short distance to the Immigration and Customs office, where their identification is confirmed and all papers are signed.  The captain’s thumbprint is taken and recorded on the paperwork.  Then you go back to Marina Juan at 5:30 p.m. to pick up the completed documents.  At least that was the process last September and was supposed to be the process when we arrived this week.

However, officials from both Immigration and Customs arrived at Marina Juan yesterday afternoon and wanted to meet with Juan just as the 5 captains of our flotilla arrived to pick up their completed documents.  So we sat around and the guys drank 33 cent Polar beers while we waited for Juan to finish meeting with the officials.  They were at a table within 15 feet of us, but we could not understand any of the conversation because their Spanish was so rapid.  But from the hand gesturing and facial expressions and body language it appeared that Juan was not a happy camper. 

After about an hour and a half the officials delared the meeting concluded and left.  Juan then called each of the captains into his office and distributed the final clearance documents.  We were the last ones officially cleared in.  Of course, they again switched names of the captain on our forms and put Bill as the captain instead of me.  But I signed my name over Bill’s printed name and they took my thumbprint and confirmed my identification.  They also indicated that we are on a catamaran with one mast instead of a monohull ketch with two masts.  Language barriers and not worth trying to get corrected on the clearance papers.  Maybe they can get it right when we clear out.

We also learned the purpose of the meeting with the officials.  They are changing the clearance process.  Not sure how this will affect Juan’s services as clearance agent.  Starting tomorrow the Customs and Immigration officers will visit to inspect you and your boat before you are allowed to do the paperwork to clear in.  They plan to visit the boats in the anchorage around 2:00 p.m. each day.  We probably will have to do this procedure whenever we clear out of Isla Margarita.  No one wants to deal with this hassle; but in all honesty, it makes perfect sense to us.  After all, you could easily smuggle people around the way it is handled now.  This way they will confirm exactly who is on each boat when it arrives and leaves.  However, it also presents another opportunity for bribery.  Juan told us that if the officials try to collect any money from us when they inspect the boat when we clear out that we should not pay anything and to call him immediately.

Which brings us to the topic of “Juanisms.”  Here are 3 Juanisms:
  1. You are either the hunter or the prey
  2. Manana does not mean tomorrow
  3. In Venezuela, to be completely legal you must also be illegal

Juan has lived in VZ for many years but he used to be a sailor and has been all over the world.  He speaks English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.  He is a socialist politically.  And he is somewhat of a character.  He had several things to impress upon the cruisers when we cleared in.  The most important of which is about hunters.

Every morning some people wake up and say to themselves “what am I going to eat today?”  Those people are the hunters.  Think about what a hunter does; his senses are heightened and he is aware of every detail of his surroundings.  He does not let his guard down and assume a false sense of safety.  Well, there are people who hunt like this every day; their survival depends on it.  And they will look for the easiest prey: the prey who has assumed a false sense of safety and that is not paying attention to the details of his surroundings.  So, you decide for yourself whether you will be the prey or if you will maintain heightened senses like the hunter.  Juan said that if you think about those times in your life that you had “bad luck” and misfortune found you that those are also the times that you did not act like the hunter.  Get complacent and you will be the prey.

Juan also explained the definition of “manana.”  All these years we thought it meant tomorrow.  That is what the Spanish-English dictionaries will tell you.  Not true.  Here in Venezuela, manana means “definitely not today.”  So when someone tells you that something will happen manana it does not mean that it will happen tomorrow; it simply means that it definitely will not happen today.

The third Juanism of: “in Venezuela, in order to be completely legal you must also be illegal” can be explained with an example.  In Venezuela the citizens are required to carry identify cards.  These identity cards have a photograph and thumbprint.  When a person goes into the government office to obtain his identity card, he is given a piece of paper saying that he has applied for the identity card.  There is no telling how long it will take to receive the identity card.  So, a man is stopped by the police and asked to present his identity card.  The man shows the police officer his receipt showing that he has applied for the identity card.  The police officer gets angry and says why are you showing me this piece of paper.  The law says that you must carry your identity card, not a piece of paper.  It is illegal for you to carry this piece of paper.  The man explains that in order to get the identity card without waiting he would have had to pay a bribe.  It is illegal to bribe a government worker.  So he is being legal by not bribing the government worker.  In order to be legal and carry his identity card immediately, then he would have to be illegal and bribe the government worker.  (Sounds kind of like Catch-22, doesn’t it?)

Today we took the free bus into the Sigo shopping center.  This was just a reconnaissance trip, not a real shopping trip.  All the people from the 5 boats who came over in our little flotilla from Grenada last Sunday night went on this shipping trip.  One thing has struck me really funny lately.  It started in Grenada.  Suddenly we are the experienced cruisers and others are looking to us for answers to their questions.  We have only been out here just over a year.  And we are the experienced cruisers with all the answers????  I guess we seemed just as clueless last year as some of these people seem to us this year.  The ones who came to Margarita are not clueless, just unfamiliar with this new-to-them area.  But a few of the people we met in Grenada were totally clueless.  Made us wonder how in the world they made it this far south without someone leading them around.  One woman in particular seemed to know nothing.  She could not hear right and did not wear a hearing aid and misconstrued almost everything said to her or around her.   She asked me dozens of questions but couldn’t seem to grasp the answers.  Poor lady really needs to get a hearing aid.

Yesterday we had diesel delivered to the boat for a whopping 32 cents per gallon.  With government controlled prices on fuels and meats, Venezuela is a most economical place for cruisers.  Labor rates in the boatyards and marina rates are far less than elsewhere in the Caribbean.  The quality of work is good.  Only problem is that you must bring your own materials because there are shortages in VZ.  They also have periodic shortages of various foods.  Nothing serious but sometimes inconvenient for the locals.  We also learned yesterday that VZ has a new flag.  It looks like the same flag but they have added one more star.  We have the older flag with 7 stars arched across the center.  The new flag looks exactly the same except there are 8 stars arched across the center.  Supposedly the Customs officers will fine you if you are flying the older flag.  No one has visited our boat yet to complain about our flag, but if we see a new 8-star flag in a store we will buy one.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Turtle Watch in Grenada; sailed to Isla Margarita

……..okay; now it’s later.  So, let’s talk about the Turtle Watch first so that things stay chronological.

The tour guide was Cuddy again.  He picked us up at 7:00 p.m. and then we made a swing by the Grenada Yacht Club to pick up a few more people.  Then it was a long ride up to the northeastern tip of Grenada on twisty little roads that made the trip seem even longer than it actually was in distance.  This is the largest beach in Grenada and where the turtles prefer to lay their eggs.  Funny thing, we know of 4 places in the Caribbean (Trinidad, Grenada, Bequia and Culebra) where turtles return year after year to lay their eggs; and all 4 of these beaches are on the northern sides of the respective islands.  We have no idea why they prefer the northern sides of these islands.  Just a turtle thing, I guess.

It was quite dark when we finally arrived at the northern beach about 9:30 p.m.  There was no ambient lighting anywhere nearby and no traces of any civilization, so the beach was quite dark on this moonless, cloudy night.  Luck was with us!  A turtle had recently ascended and had selected her spot where she was struggling to dig the deep hole where she would lay her eggs.  This was turtle number 712 to land on this beach so far this year.  Last year they only recorded about half that number for the entire year.  While we were on the beach, turtle number 713 arrived and ascended less than 100 feet away from turtle number 712.  One of the researchers later told me that numbers 714 and 715 also ascended while we were there, but they didn’t want to tell everyone because these 2 turtles were much farther down the beach and they didn’t want to deal with a large group of tourists tromping out there.  You are not allowed to use a regular flashlight but we had brought our red flashlight and that is allowed.  Since it was a dark, cloudy night and we had only a couple of red flashlights, it wasn’t possible to take proper photos.  Sorry.

So, “our” turtle was number 712.  And she was huge!  The researchers measured her first with lasers and then with old-fashioned measuring tapes.  Her shell was 169.3 cm long and 116.4 cm wide; that translates to almost 5 ft 7 in long and almost 4 ft wide.  We have never seen turtles this large in the wild but know others who have encountered them.  She was a leatherback and had been previously tagged, so they scanned her head tag and left rear flipper tag.  Her right rear flipper had been severely damaged by a shark and just a sliver of flipper remained, and she was struggling to dig the hole where she would lay her eggs.  The predominant predators of turtles are humans (fishing industry) and sharks. 

These turtles ascend from the sea and then walk up almost to the vegetation line.  They use their undersides and their flippers to select a spot in the sand that will provide the appropriate moisture content to incubate their eggs.  Then they start to dig --- and they dig and dig and dig and dig.  It can take them hours to dig a hole deep enough, which is about the depth of an adult man’s outstretched arm.  They stretch out their flippers to extend as far down as possible; and, as you can imagine, on a turtle this size the flippers are pretty darn big – probably 2 ft long and 18-inches wide.  The flipper is inserted down in the hole vertically; then she curls the flipper and scoops up the sand.  The sand-filled flipper is then brought up to ground level and she disperses it around the hole she is digging.  Her head and fore-flippers remain up out of the hole while the rear of her shell and her rear flippers descend somewhat.  The finished hole is deep but not wide and her rear flippers then rest on each side of the hole.  Now it is time to lay the eggs.

She positioned her rear end over the hole and started rhythmic breathing.  It was kind of cool to hear the turtle breathing like that.  She did not seem disturbed at all by all the people around her, although the researchers did have us all stand well away from her head.  One of the researchers donned latex gloves and lay down on the sand.  He extended his arm and caught all the turtle eggs in his hand.  He showed us several handfuls of eggs but his primary purpose was to count the eggs.  Turtle number 712 (she really should have been given a name!) produced a total of 97 fertilized or yolk eggs and 47 unfertilized eggs.  Obviously, only the fertilized eggs will hatch.  The unfertilized eggs are about 10% of the size of the fertilized eggs.  The purpose of the unfertilized eggs is to assist in maintaining proper moisture content inside the hole.  The eggs are not rigid like a bird’s egg; they are pliable and will absorb moisture from surrounding sand as needed for their incubation.  Still, only about 45% of the fertilized eggs will hatch.  Not a high survival rate!

The eggs and future hatchlings are now on their own.  The female turtle fills the hole with sand after laying her eggs.  She then spends about 20 to 30 minutes spreading the sand and camouflaging the area.  She then descends back into the sea and will not return to this beach to lay eggs again for the next 2 or 3 years.   The researchers have learned a lot by tagging these turtles but there is still a great deal they do not know.  They do know that the males never return to land; only the females return and that is only to lay their eggs.  They do not know if the turtles mate for life or simply mate once or if they mate repeatedly.  There is a lot more research to be done.  And this is obviously not a well-funded area of research. 

The figure for survival is astounding!  Many hatchlings die before they even enter the sea or shortly after they enter the sea.  The tiny turtles are preyed upon by many types of sea birds and they are also eaten by various fish and sharks.  Only one egg in a thousand produces a turtle that survives to adulthood.  With statistics like that it is a wonder that there are any sea turtles alive at all.

We got back to the boat around 1:00 a.m. which is a late night for a cruiser.  Interesting tour and we would recommend it.  Again, sorry we couldn’t get any decent photos.

Sunday morning we learned that 4 other boats were leaving for Isla Margarita.  These people had originally planned to leave Tuesday night and we were hoping to travel with them, but the weather predictions had changed and another tropical wave was due in on Tuesday.  Tonight there was a weather window between tropical waves so it was a good time for that passage.  So we opted to head to Margarita with the rest of the group.  We should have waited in Grenada until we got all the claim form paperwork sorted out for my recent ATM fraud problem, but we decided that we could sit there for weeks waiting on the bank paperwork.   

The smallest boat left Prickly Bay, Grenada, about 11:00 a.m. and the next largest left between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m.  We started out of the harbor an hour later and immediately turned around and re-anchored.  Yesterday we had replaced our mainsail outhaul because Bill had noticed that it was badly frayed due to chafing.  He brought a sample of the line to Budget Marine and purchased replacement line.  It was supposed to be the same diameter line and also supposed to be the non-stretch type of line.  Budget Marine screwed up on both counts, but we did not know this until we tried to put out the mainsail.  That new outhaul stretched immediately and also went down into the winch----it was the stretchy type line and also was too small a diameter.  When not in use it appeared to be the same diameter as our original non-stretch line, but as soon as pressure from the sail was applied then the line would lengthen and diameter would reduce.  This would slip in the winch.  So, back to the harbor to re-anchor and find a solution.

We searched through our locker of spare lines and found some line that would suffice for the time being, and Bill made another outhaul line and whipped the ends into place.  This line is also too stretchy but it is better than what Budget Marine sold us yesterday.  We again pulled anchor, put out the sails and left Prickly Bay about 3:15 p.m.  It was motor sailing for about a half-hour through the worst of the “washing machine” effect on the south side of Grenada, then we had a fantastic sail all the way to Isla Margarita.  Waters off the southwestern end of Grenada are shallow and the equatorial current causes waves to set-up in that area.  It is not a pleasant area in which to sail or even to motor.  Once past that area and into deeper water, it was just fantastic.

This is what we signed up for!!! We had about 18 hours sailing with 18-20 knots true wind off our port stern quarter with following seas.  Sailing just does not get any better!  We were sailing flat and fast.  The equatorial current was in our favor, causing our SOG (speed over ground) to be 9.6 knots or higher for most of the passage.  We maintained this great speed until near Isla Margarita when the winds died way down and our SOG slowed to only 4 knots.  This caused our total trip average speed to be only 7.8 knots, but that is still a good average speed for any passage.  We had the genoa poled out and preventers on both the main and the mizzen.  This enabled us to stay true to our course and sail the entire way.  All the other boats in our little flotilla had to motor sail the entire way because they did not have a spinnaker pole or preventers.  Actually, one boat motored the entire way with no sails because it is a trawler and has no sails.  Surprisingly to us, even the 44-ft Lagoon catamaran could not hold this downwind course and had to motor sail, and only averaged slightly more than 6 knots, compared to our 7.8 knots.  And this is the type sailing that catamarans where supposed to excel.

Even though the others had left several hours earlier than us and motor sailed the whole way, we still arrived in Isla Margarita at the same time.  And the smallest boat (a Baba 35) had left 4 ½ hours before us; motor sailed the entire way; and still did not arrive until an hour after us.

Bill again did not sleep well on this passage, but he did manage to sleep about 4 hours total; so that is a big improvement for him. 

As we approached Isla Margarita we heard Rick Johnston on S/V PANACEA on the VHF radio.  Rick and Sue beat us here!  They arrived last week from St. Martin where they had a lot of boat work done preparing their boat for a circumnavigation.  They came over for sundowners this evening and we learned that their plans are similar to ours, except that they might spend a year doing the western Caribbean before transiting the Panama Canal.  At any rate, we will certainly meet up again along the way.  We might even be doing the Curacao/Aruba to Cartagena passage about the same time.  It would be great to have a buddy boat for that passage.

We spent all of today on the boat, cleaning up and resting after staying up most of last night.  Tomorrow we officially clear into Venezuela.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Quick update

Sunday afternoon, June 17, 2007:

Don`t have a good internet connection right now so cannot write much.  We did the turtle watch last night.... would recommend to anyone contemplating such.....decided to leave this afternoon to sail overnight to Isla Margarita, Venezuela, accompanied by 5 other boats --- we have our own flotilla!  We sail faster than the others (including the 44 ft Lagoon Catamaran and the 46 ft trawler power boat.  so we are leaving about 3 hours later than the rest of our little flotilla.  Will see if any of the photos of the turtles are visible and will update website  after we reach Margarita; probably won`t have internet access until at least Tuesday.

Everyone wish us fair winds and calm seas!  We are doing this trip between tropical waves; didn`t want to wait for the next one to pass through the SE Caribbean before leaving Grenada.  This passage is only about 140 miles but it does go through lots of VZ fishing territory so we will be dodging fishermen all night; most of whom do not show any lights at night.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lovely island tour

June 14, 2007  Thursday

Today we took a tour of the island of Grenada.  Had a nice air-conditioned van and there were 9 of us on this tour – all cruisers.  We had not met any of these folks previously.  We had the same tour guide/driver that we had last year when we went to the Fishermen’s Birthday celebration in Gouyave.  He is a nice man and knows his island thoroughly.

First we visited a fort that overlooked St. George’s, the capital city of Grenada.  Actually there were 2 forts right next to one another.  One had been British and the other had been French.  The French fort was the larger of the two and also was better preserved.  Strange thing is that the name of the French fort was Fort Frederick, which does not sound at all French to us.  Grenada now uses Fort Frederick for water storage.  The lower levels of the fort are made into cisterns which are connected by pipes to the city water system.  Since the city is lower elevation than the fort, this assists in providing water pressure to the city water system; sort of a natural water tower since it is on top of a mountain and the city is down near sea level.

We saw several churches scattered about the island.  Many still had evidence of storm damage from Hurricane Ivan back in 2004.  Some churches had been totally destroyed in that hurricane and it appeared that no church on this island survived unscathed.  Hurricane Ivan killed 40 people on Grenada, and this is not a densely populated island. 

In 1955 Grenada was struck by Hurricane Janet.  They received assistance from many countries.  Venezuela constructed many small houses and shipped them to Grenada.  These became known as Janet Houses, and they are still found all over Grenada and people are still living in them.  Now, these are very tiny “houses” – basically one room with a roof.  Guess what.  The tiny wooden Janet Houses survived Hurricane Ivan better than any other structures on Grenada.  These basic wooden structures were 49 years old when they survived a Category 4 or 5 hurricane!  The 49-year-old tin roofs weren’t even blown off!  That is most impressive.

Many countries have donated or assisted by building things on Grenada, and not just because of hurricanes.  We saw bridges built by Taiwan, Japan and France.  We saw schools built by Canada, Great Britain and the United States.  The cricket stadium was built by the Chinese.  There are bridges, buildings, churches and schools spread out all over Grenada which have been built by assistance or donations from countries all over the world.  However, Japan insisted that Grenada agree to vote to allow Japan to continue whaling in exchange for building the bridge.  I asked Cuddy how many years Grenada has to vote to support whaling in exchange for Japan building the bridge and he believes that this agreement goes on forever.  Extortion???  Japan should be ashamed to force a poor country to support this controversial commercial enterprise in exchange for receiving a bridge that was needed to complete the roadway down the length of the island.  They should have either built the bridge with no stipulations or they should have stayed out of it altogether.  Grenada is divided into 4 parishes and each is separated by a river, so they did need quite a few bridges built and they really could not afford to build these bridges without outside financial assistance.

The views from the mountains were spectacular even on a rainy day like today.  Cuddy, our tour guide, stopped many times and explained the trees and plants growing alongside the roads.  Grenada is known as the spice island and literally everything grows here.  We saw cinnamon trees, nutmeg trees, cocoa trees and the very strange cocoa nuts, various kinds of banana plants, passion fruit plants (gorgeous flowers), lemon trees, lime trees, mandarin orange trees, starfruit or carombola trees, chin-up trees (fruit looks like tiny limes but is sweet tasting), trumpet plants, ginger plants, sandpaper trees (covered with very, very pretty long white flowers), cashew trees, wild lemon grass, almond trees and we can’t remember what else.  We saw so many different trees, nuts, fruits, plants, bushes and vines that it is impossible to remember them all.  For example, the leaves of one tree are used to scent cosmetics and soaps; but we can’t remember the name of that tree.  It had a very distinct smell.  Too much to absorb in one day.

Grand Etang is a large park in a rainforest area of the mountaintop.  There are waterfalls and crater lakes at Grand Etang.  Unfortunately, when we reached that area it was raining heavily; so we did not hike to the crater lake or waterfall as planned.  But we did catch a glimpse of the crater lake through the trees.  We also missed the monkeys because of the rain; but after my experience with monkeys in the Amazon Jungle last September, I really did not care that we missed seeing wild monkeys today.   The rain stopped and we were able to visit Annandale Falls, where there were beautiful plants and flowers and one small waterfall.  There were 2 guys who jumped from the top of the cliff along the side of the waterfall and landed in the pool beneath it.  Not that far of a jump but certainly higher than we would have attempted.  Hey, anything to make a buck from the tourists. 

The town of Grenville was our lunch stop for the day.  We enjoyed a true Caribbean meal: Bill selected jerk fish (which was quite spicy) and I opted for barbequed chicken.  These were served with callaloo (sort of like a spinach or turnip greens), yellow rice cooked with carrots and peas and onions and other tasty things, steamed pumpkin, yams (which are very dry and coarse textured), cooked green banana and dasheen (a Caribbean version of a potato which neither of us likes).  This was a much larger meal that we normally eat mid-day, but since there was so much food we could pick and choose what we thought tasted good and ignore the rest. 

Next stop was the Belmont Estate, which is a very ecologically friendly cocoa plantation and processing plant.  The grounds are beautiful and everything is run from huge solar panels.  We were shown a display of various fruits and nuts that are grown locally and each was explained to us.  Again, too much to absorb in one visit.  They gave us samples of cocoa tea, which looked like normal hot cocoa or hot chocolate; except it is watery instead of milky or creamy.  Tasted okay; but I prefer instant Swiss Miss, thank you very much.  They also gave us samples of Grenada Chocolate.  They make a 71% semi-sweet dark chocolate bar, as well as a 60% semi-sweet dark chocolate bar.  We have been hearing from other cruisers for a year now about how great these chocolate bars taste.  Well, they really are pretty darn good.  Bill bought one of the 71% and 5 of the 60% bars.  Each bar is about 7-inches long and 4-inches wide and ¼-inch thick.  These should last us awhile and really satisfy that craving when you want a bite of very good chocolate and nothing else will do.

The bugs starting biting me while we were inside the processing building of the chocolate plant.  And they didn’t stop for the rest of the afternoon.  Our next stop was the Rivers Rum factory.  We had a tour of the production facility starting with the water wheel that is used to crush the sugar cane.  This rum factory has been in operation since 1785 and is still using the same water wheel, powered by water from a nearby river that they divert to a channel leading to the wheel.  While standing down near the sugar cane residue that is discarded after the cane is crushed, the bugs again began biting me.  So I had to leave the tour and go sit in the van.  This meant that I missed the rest of the tour and missed the rum tasting – which I was all too glad to miss!  Rivers Rum makes a 69 volume rum and a 75 volume rum.  You can not board an airplane with the 75 volume rum!  Apparently it is a fire hazard.  So, of course, this is the rum that Bill chose to taste.  He said it tasted exactly like gasoline.  He claims to remember what gasoline tastes like from his teenage days of siphoning gas from one car to another and getting mouthfuls of gasoline.  I imagine once you have tasted gasoline that it isn’t something that you forget.  Bill chose not to purchase a bottle of Rivers Rum.  BTW, the rum factory tour guide made a point of saying more than once that it takes 12 days to make a batch of rum.  So that tells you right off the bat that this is not the quality of rum that has been aged 23 years.

Later we stopped at a beach next to a resort.  This was in St. David’s Parish.  As I said earlier, Grenada is divided into 4 parishes, which would be sort of like counties in the states.  Each parish has one or more parliamentary representative, depending on the population of the particular parish.  One parish is so thickly populated that it has 4 representatives.  Anyway, this particular beach in St. David’s Parish is Cuddy’s favorite beach on the island.  Seems that back in 1971 the owners of the resort blocked off the beach to make it private for their guests.  This upset the locals so much that they got the resort owner and tied him to a big almond tree down near the beach.  After their protest, a law was passed that designated all beaches in Grenada as being public.  A resort can be built on the beach, but that beach must remain open for use by the public.

The residents of St. David’s Parish were the instigators of each of the 3 revolutions that Grenada has endured.  I may have these dates wrong, but I believe Cuddy said that the revolutions occurred in 1795, 1955 and 1971.  The funny thing is that each of these 3 revolutions happened on March 12 and started in St. David’s.  Why did they choose March 12 as the day to overthrow governments each time they were fed up with the status quo?

The final stop on our tour was a roadside beer joint.  This was a tiny one-room place; except that it wasn’t even a real room.  Just partial walls and thatch roof with benches made from branches tied together.

Then we were dropped off in the parking lot at Prickly Bay Marina where we had left our dinghy this morning.  We met a couple we know having dinner in the restaurant there, so we visited awhile and ordered a pizza to go.  

Oh yeah, good news from our bank today.  They have deposited the $953.04 back into our checking account that was stolen by the ATM/debit card fraud earlier this week.  We still must file the paper claim form as soon as we receive it, but they have already returned our money.   We talked to the other cruisers in the van today about this problem.  Of the 6 couples we talked to today, 5 of us have had money fraudulently deducted from our banking accounts through ATM theft.  Wow!  It really is getting common.  Lucky our problem was caught so quickly.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

My ATM card got cloned at main RBTT bank in St. Georges! Happens often down here!

June 11, 2007  Monday

The pool party at the resort yesterday afternoon was fun; a welcome nice change of pace for all of us in attendance who are more accustomed to beaches than swimming pools.  Don’t know how Ed and Linda lucked into such a sweet gig of dog sitting at a luxury resort and free use of all the resort facilities for a month.  Also worked out quite advantageously for them, as they decided to have their boat hauled out for the annual bottom job here in Grenada while they are staying in the resort.  How nice for them.

Bill volunteered to help with dock lines for ALLEULIA! when they hauled out early this morning.  It is much easier when there are 3 people aboard --- one to drive the boat and one to handle the port dock lines and one to handle the starboard dock lines.  The third person isn’t necessary because one person can handle all 4 dock lines by running back and forth across the boat, but having a third person certainly does make the process easier and faster.  Again, Gary on ELLUSIVE acted as wingman in his dinghy, just in case a gust of wind might throw the boat around as she is entering the slipway between those high concrete sides.  None of us likes putting our boat in between 2 high walls of concrete.

Now we are off to do the FedEx & Customs dance; the paperwork was delivered to the boatyard this morning.  Next on the agenda for today is to find a bank that can sell us some US cash.  We will need US dollars while we are in Venezuela.  As those who read our logs from last October know, it is unwise to use a credit card or an ATM card anywhere in VZ.  So we need to replenish our supply of US cash while here in Grenada.  Hopefully there is still some US cash left in the banks from the last cruise ship that visited St. George’s.  If we are unable to find US cash, then our provisioning in VZ won’t take very long! 

While we are downtown I want to shop for gifts/trade items for the Kuna natives in the San Blas Islands.  So far all we have found are a few packages of crayons and one package of construction paper to give the little kids.  Saw a package of watercolors in the mall last week priced about $8 USD and a package of 6 balloons priced about $10 USD, but we refused to pay those exorbitant prices.  Also want to find sewing needles for the Kuna women and fishing hooks for the men.  I already have a nice selection of reading glasses to give them, thanks to the 99 cent store in Houston.  But, knowing us, we will get downtown today and get really hot and decide to just forget about doing anything except what is absolutely necessary right now.

June 12, 2007  Tuesday

This morning Bill went back into town to get more EC cash at the ATM and exchange it for US dollars.  And my ATM card wouldn’t work; got a message to call our bank.  Bill came back to the boat so we could call the bank.  This is when we learned that my debit card had been cloned yesterday.  Within 5 minutes of our using the card at the ATM at the main downtown location of the RBTT bank, my card had been cloned and used an another RBTT ATM machine at the downtown bus terminal.  Five minutes later it was used at another RBTT branch ATM in St. George’s.  About 10 minutes after that transaction, the cloned card (or another cloned card) was used for a $655 purchase at a Target store in San Diego, California.  Then the card was attempted to be used for 3 more purchases in San Diego, but our bank had already put a hold on the card.  They must have a good computer program for fraud detection because the bank had stopped my card within 25 minutes of us making the last legitimate transaction.  Talk about fast reaction time!

Now the paperwork hassles will begin.  Getting the 2 fraudulent ATM withdrawals reimbursed won’t be a problem because each ATM transaction is video recorded and it is obviously not us making those 2 transactions.  Our bank said the money will be deposited back into our account no later than tomorrow.  But we will have to file a claim regarding the purchase at Target in San Diego.  The bank cannot email us the claim form; it must be mailed to our address in Houston.  So for now we must wait in Grenada for that claim form to be received in Houston; then we will have to figure out a way to get it to us here in Grenada.  We are hoping that either Trey or Kristina has the capability at their jobs to scan this form and email it to us.  Otherwise, we will have to pay and wait for another FedEx international shipment.  Either way, we need to take care of this matter before leaving Grenada because we can’t do anything about it once we reach Venezuela.  My new replacement ATM card is also being mailed to our address in Houston, but we don’t need that immediately.  We can wait and have that FedEx’d to Bonaire.  

We planned to stay in Grenada until the weather improves anyway, so this isn’t too great an inconvenience.  And we will take the opportunity to do an island tour and a turtle watch tour.  There are worse places to be stuck for a week or two.  At least in Grenada there are things to do.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Grenada charges 37% duty if you have something shipped here!

June 10, 2007  Sunday
Prickly Bay, Grenada

BEBE was splashed at the boatyard on Friday afternoon as scheduled.  Spice Island Marine Service did a great job; what a difference from our “haul-out from hell” at Independent Boat Yard in St. Thomas last year.  This time everything was done exactly right and on schedule.  Pleasure doing business at SIMS and we would recommend them to anyone contemplating a haul-out in the West Indies

The only “problem” that we encountered had nothing to do with the boatyard.  We purchased another 80 feet of high-tension anchor chain.  We plan to use this to extend our current chain to a total of just over 300 feet because we will be anchoring in deeper waters if we go to the South Pacific next year.  ACCO makes a single chain link that connects two sections of anchor chain.  It has 2 little rivets that you pound in with a hammer to secure the connection.  We needed one 10mm single chain link connector, but there is not one to be found on Grenada.  Every chandlery is out of stock on this particular size.  They have the 8mm and the 12mm, but no 10mm.  We cannot substitute a 12mm connector link because that would jam in the anchor windlass gypsy.  Budget Marine showed that they were supposed to have received 10 of these connectors in their container shipment received last week.  But after searching through all the boxes received, it was decided that these were backordered with no definite delivery date provided.  So, for now we have stored the new 80-ft section of chain in the deck locker near the bow where we store our 2 secondary anchors and rodes.  Maybe we can find the correct chain connector link in Isla Margarita (doubt it) or in Cartagena (doubt that too) or in Panama (probably).

Yesterday we took the bus to the Lagoon Road and did more boat-stuff shopping.  Found a wonderful 24V oscillating fan, which we will use to replace the stainless steel 24V trucker’s fan we brought down from Houston last year.  The original fan is making noise and is expected to die at any time.  This new fan puts out so much air that we will try to go back and buy a couple more to have for spares.  BEBE has 9 fans built-in.  We had mounted the trucker’s fan onto an old cutting board and attached a long electrical cord.  We can move this fan all over the boat and down into the engine room to provide extra ventilation whenever working in the heat.  We also sometimes use it in our aft cabin when the weather is exceptionally hot or if it is raining and we cannot open the hatch or ports.  This new little oscillating fan puts out much more air than any of the Hella fans or the old trucker’s fan.  This little thing is a keeper.

Ed and Linda on DREAMTIME have lucked into a sweet deal.  They are anchored in front of a resort here at Prickly Bay, and they became friends with the owner of the resort.  The owner went home to the states for the month of June, and Ed and Linda are dog-sitting for him.  They have been given a hotel room at the resort (although they prefer to sleep on their own boat instead).  They are hosting a pool party for a select group of their cruiser friends this afternoon and we are invited.  This should be fun.  I have missed lounging around a swimming pool. 

We invited another guy over for dinner tonight.  His wife has gone back to the states for a month to visit the kids and grandkids, so he is on his boat alone doing the bachelor thing.  Thought he might enjoy a home cooked meal. 

We are waiting for a FedEx shipment of Bill’s prescription medication that should arrive in Grenada early this week, so we should be able to pick it up by Wednesday – hopefully.  Receiving packages in a foreign country is much different than back in the states.  FedEx will deliver a waybill and a copy of the invoice covering the contents of the package.  This will be delivered to the boatyard since it was the only land address that we could utilize in Grenada.  Then we will pick up this paperwork from the boatyard office and take it to the nearest Customs office which happens to be on the opposite side of Prickly Bay from the boatyard.  Customs will verify our boat documentation and our clearance papers into Grenada.  I will complete a form stating that the contents of the FedEx package will be coming aboard our boat and will be leaving Grenada bound for Venezuela.  We get the paperwork stamped by the Customs officer and take another dinghy ride back across Prickly Bay to the boatyard.  We tie off our dinghy and walk about ½ mile to catch a bus to the FedEx office in downtown St. George’s.  There we will spend at least an hour (if we are lucky—could be a lot longer) collecting our package and paying Customs fees for it.   Then catch another bus back, walk a ½ mile to the boatyard and collect our dinghy.  And all this time the FedEx website will show that our package was delivered on the day and time that they delivered the waybill to the boatyard office.  Tracking international packages online is a joke; you cannot believe anything. 

BTW, Grenada charges duty of 37%!!!!  The Customs officers both at the Prickly Bay location and at the FedEx office both told us that the duty will not be collected on Bill’s scripts but that we will have to pay some customs fee----supposedly it won’t be much, but neither Customs officer could tell us how much “not much” will be.  So we arrange for the invoice accompanying the FedEx package to state a lower value than the $2200 that this script actually costs.  Unfortunately, the medication that Bill takes daily to control his ulcers is not available down here.  We have not found it anywhere except in the USA.  The same drug is available in tablet form everywhere that we have visited, but Bill’s doctor wants him to take this drug in capsule form.  So we are stuck with getting a 6-month supply shipped to us twice a year.  Thanks to John, Helene, Trey and Aaron back in Texas for dealing with this for us.  Don’t know what we would do without their help.

Once we receive this FedEx shipment there will be no reason for us to remain in Grenada.  It should be a nice overnight sail to Los Testigos from Grenada.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Haul out at Spice Island

June 4, 2007  Monday

Gary from ELUSIVE and Tito from ALLEULIA! volunteered to assist us in getting BEBE into the slipway at the boatyard this morning.  Tito offered to toss lines to the dockhands and Gary offered to use his dinghy to help fend us away from the shallow areas and rocks in case of gusting wind.  Just as we were pulling up the anchor I looked at the slipway and noticed that another boat had jumped in ahead of us!  We had a reservation for 8:00 a.m. and were supposed to be the first boat hauled today.   While we were finishing getting the anchor up at 7:40 a.m., Garry zipped down to the slipway to talk to the people on the other boat.  Turned out that they claimed to also have a reservation for 8:00 a.m. this morning.  Uh, oh.  Somebody made an error.

When we got closer to the slipway it was obvious how this error could have happened – the name on that boat was BABE.   Sounds and looks an awful lot like our name of BEBE.  Now what are the chances of two boats making a reservation for 8:00 a.m. on the same morning at the same boatyard and the boat names are almost identical?  I hailed Spice Island Marine to find out what was going on.   They were totally confused and promised to get back to me as soon as they figured it out.  In the meantime, BABE would be hauled first since she was already in the slipway.  So we circled the anchorage for almost an hour until it was our turn. 
The water depth is exceptionally shallow all around the slipway and there really was not adequate space for us to remain in the area of the slipway awaiting our turn.

Our wonderful bow thruster handled the tight turns wonderfully and it turned out that we didn’t require Gary’s help in his dinghy, but we very much appreciated his offer of assistance and his waiting nearby just in case he was needed to fend us off the concrete docks in case of gusting winds.   Tito handed off the lines on the windward side to the dockhands; then he climbed down into Gary’s dinghy and they both returned to their boats.  Thanks guys. 

Then Judy went up to the boatyard office to set up the work orders, etc.; and to find out what the screw-up on the reservation.  Turned out that it was exactly what we thought as soon as we saw the name of the other boat.  We had made a reservation first.  The other boat was being delivered to the boatyard by a delivery crew; the owners had already left Grenada.  The delivery crew had understood from the owners that they had a reservation for haul-out this morning at 8:00 a.m..  When BABE called in to reserve a haul-out, the office clerk has checked her calendar and saw that BEBE was already slotted for that date and time; so she confirmed their reservation.  An understandable error, but truly weird!

This little screw-up for the first haul-out of the day caused the boatyard to be backed-up all day long.  That travel lift was busy all day long, one boat right after another.  This boatyard is very busy right now.  But they seem to be doing a good job of handling all the business.  Our boat had been pressure washed, wet-sanded, boot stripe taped off, the prop had been cleaned and they were half-way through applying the first coat of bottom paint by the time we left the boatyard at 2:30 this afternoon.  We are impressed!  This is far better service than we received in St. Thomas last year.

Jerry and Sally on TI AMO gave us a ride over to the Cool Runnings Apartments, where we had reservations.  Jerry and Sally have rented a car for a couple of days so they were nice enough to give us a lift.  Bill told the office manager that he wanted to see our room before we checked in.  Good thing that Bill did this – because he said there was no way we were staying there!  It reeked of mildew smell.  So we lugged our bags back to the boatyard (not very far) and sent to De Big Fish for a cold drink, where we again ran into Jerry and Sally.  They suggested another place called KiKi Apartments where they had stayed for several months while having major work done on their boat a couple of years ago.  Judy found a pay phone and got a reservation.  Then Jerry and Sally gave us a ride to KiKi.  This is more like it!  Same price as Cool Runnings but much nicer.  Television and air conditioning, 2-bedroom apartment.  It is a longer walk to the boatyard but worth it.  So, thanks to Jerry and Sally for recommending the KiKi Apartments.

BTW, we are glad that we bought our bottom paint in St. Martin.  We paid about $840 for a pail which is approximately 5 gallons.  Here in Grenada the same paint if $223 per gallon, so we saved a couple of hundred dollars.

June 6, 2007  Wednesday
Bill’s 60th Birthday!

Yep, this is one of the “big” ones!  Bill is 60 years old today.  Actually, the bigger birthday will be his 62nd because then he can start to collect Social Security.  I caught him making an ugly face the other day while he was watching another boat doing something odd in the anchorage and I told him to never make that face again because it made him look like a bewildered old man.  He said that sometimes he feels like a bewildered old man, but he agreed to try to avoid the expression that makes him look that way.  I’m certainly not ready for him to become old.  We are both still too physically active to start looking and acting like old people (old being a relative term).

BEBE is scheduled to splash at 1:00 p.m. Friday.  She would be splashing tomorrow except that it is a holiday:  Corpus Christus Day, a day the Grenadian people consider good for planting trees. 

This haul-out has gone very smoothly.  We were about an hour late getting lifted on Monday morning, but by the end of that day the first coat of bottom paint was complete and the hull had been hand-washed and the prop was all shiny. 

On Tuesday the second coat of bottom paint was applied and the hull was waxed and buffed.  They even waxed and buffed the brown rub rail without us having to even ask.  They discovered a few tiny marks in the hull white gel coat and those were repaired.  I noticed a few bubble looking areas near the bottom of the keel and got concerned.  I pressed on one and out popped some water.  Uh, oh; this could be really bad!  They ground down and found that it was just a few drops of water that got covered over with bottom paint.  There was not problem with the keel and they did not even disturb the epoxy layer that coats our cast iron keel.  They re-applied the two coats of bottom paint to those areas that were ground down. 

Today they painted the third coat of bottom paint around the water line and rudder and keel, and they waxed again right around the boot stripe.  This was done at our request in hopes that it will help somewhat with the problem of slime that attaches to that area so very quickly.  Cleaning the waterline weekly is a tiresome chore.

While the painters, Miguel and Jonathon, did their job, Bill also had Jean Ives at the machinist shop in the boatyard do some work.  Jean removed our windlass gypsy because the key was slightly askew.  Then he fabricated a new key.  That was reassembled this afternoon.  While this work was being done, Bill reversed our anchor chain.  He turned it around so that the end that was attached to the anchor is now the bitter end inside the anchor locker.  This puts the clean, almost unused section of chain at the end with the anchor and the most-used end of the chain where it will likely never be let out all the way. 

We also purchased more anchor chain so that we now have a little more than 300 feet on our primary WASI Buegel anchor.  The only thing that we are missing is the connector link for the chain.   Both Island Water World and Budget Marine carry the 10mm connector link for joining sections of chain, but both are out of stock at the moment.  Budget Marine supposedly received 10 of these connector links on a shipment yesterday, but they haven’t found them yet.  They are supposed to be in one of the many, many boxes that were in the container that was emptied into their storeroom yesterday.  Who knows how long it will take them to find this one small box, which is inside some larger box.  We desperately want to have this link before we splash Friday because we would like to have Jean Ives spot weld it once the taps are splayed into place.  It is not necessary to have these spot welded, but we would like to have it done if at all possible.

Once we get back into the water then we must vacuum the entire interior of the boat.  We are placed in the yard directly downwind from a cement factory.  There are piles of sand and concrete powder right behind the fence directly in front of us.  The winds have blown steadily and now every nook and cranny and crevice of our boat is gritty with concrete dust.  We will need to do a major clean-up inside the boat once we are back out on the water and away from this flying crap.

Bill was exhausted by the time we walked the 1.2 mile back to the apartment in the heat late this afternoon.  But he got a much-needed hot shower and is taking a short rest.  I will wake him up in a few minutes and we will walk down the road to the True Blue Resort for what we hope will be a nice birthday dinner.  I did manage to buy a Rocky Road cake for him today when I went into town to get my hair cut.  We have no oven in this apartment, just a stove top and a microwave and toaster oven; and we sent both of our propane tanks on the boat in for refills; so I could not bake him his favorite chocolate cake for his birthday this year.  A store-bought cake will have to suffice.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Perfect work on the new bimini modifications made in Carriacou

Prickly Bay, Grenada
June 2, 2007  Saturday
Prickly Bay, Grenada
11.59.852N; 061.45.745W           Sailed 40 NM

At about 8:30 this morning Bill started cleaning the anchor chain as it was slowly raised.   We did not want that dirty, stinking mess down in our anchor locker.  So Bill stood on the bow with a bucket of soapy water and a scrub brush and scrubbed down the chain in 3-ft sections as we slowly raised it.  This got the attention of Andy at In Stitches and he came zooming out in his dinghy with the final bimini pieces.  Maybe he was afraid that we had decided to leave without waiting for the final pieces – and that we were trying to skip out on paying his bill!  Actually, he was just joking with us about that.  Turns out that the only person who has ever not paid his bill was a local politician.  Figures.

The side panels fit perfectly.  We think we will very much enjoy having this additional shade.  Plus we hope that it will help keep at least some of the mosquitoes and flies out.  There are lots of gaps and spaces that could not be fit tightly due to those silly things called running rigging, winches, and cleats that are required on sailboats, as well as the mizzen mast.  I hope to find several yards of bridal veil netting to crumple to fill those gaps for those few times that insects really are annoying.  Total cost for the altering the bimini extension and making 4 side shade panels that zip together and 2 heavier mesh rear shade panels was about $1,000 USD, including labor and materials.  We think that was a very reasonable price, plus we had the convenience of dealing with people who spoke English so there was no language barrier. 

We had cleared Tyrrel Bay and were on our way south by 9:45 a.m.  Winds varied all day between 22 knots and 30 knots; seas were the 7-ft to 9-ft as predicted; light squalls were visible most of the day but only a couple managed to aim their drops on us.  All sails were triple reefed.  When current was against us our boat speed would drop down to as low as 4 knots; but at other times our boat speed was over 8 knots.  At one point Bill changed the genoa to be only double reefed instead of triple reefed – and our boat speed shot up to over 9 knots!  That was a bit too fast!  Since we were not in that big of a hurry to reach Grenada, we soon took in the genoa back to being triple reefed.  It was a very enjoyable sail.  Even when we reached the bottom of Grenada and took in the sails and motored the final few miles directly into the waves and wind, it wasn’t nearly as bad as we had expected. 

We anchored and soon found it was too rolly to stay there.  So we pulled anchor and set down again farther back, closer to Spice Island Marine.  It is much calmer here.  ALLEULIA! and ELUSIVE are anchored nearby.

One nice thing we have discovered about the new bimini side and rear shade panels.  For some reason they help create more breeze through the boat and in the cockpit.  That is a nice surprise.
BTW, the Texas flag that John brought us in February is now shredded.  These flags simply do not last very long.  And I had triple stitched that flag for reinforcement before we ever put it up.  And our SSCA blue Associate burgee is also shredded.  Don’t want to buy another blue one and pay for international shipping because we are in the process of being sponsored for Commodore status.  If we pass approval then we will be buying a red Commodore burgee in 4 months.  Hoping I can find a fabric store on Grenada where some blue fabric can be purchased for repairs.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Waiting for bimini shade modifications to be made

May 30, 2007  Wednesday

Caught a “taxi” over to Hillsborough so we could max out both of our ATM cards again.  Figure we will need EC cash to pay for the bimini modifications when they are finished.  The ride over there and back was on a somewhat different route than we went the last time, so we saw a bit more of the island.  Funny, one part pretty much looks just like any other part.  Walked around a bit but Bill’s toe didn’t feel up to a long walk.  Didn’t do much else today.  Made more granola; I have modified granola recipes and have settled on one that Bill enjoys.   Also have learned to make our own yogurt but I am not yet satisfied with it and need additional experimentation in yogurt production.  First I need to find a sealable glass container because our plastic containers are truly not suitable for making yogurt.

May 31, 2007  Thursday

Another Make & Mend day:  do the laundry and make some water; clean the boat.  Routine weekly chores.

A few days ago we made a reservation for Shelter Bay Marina in Panama for December 10 through January 10.  A friend with a boat just like ours stayed there a few months ago and said it was very nice and a secure place to leave your boat for a trip home.  Then we bought airline tickets home to Houston from Panama.   So we should be home for the holidays!  We will arrive in Houston on the evening of December 19 and depart the morning of January 9.  Talk about planning in advance!  Now if Mother Nature will only cooperate.  This is all totally dependent on the weather, a/k/a hurricane season.  Bill said that guess this means we are really going to Panama.  I reminded him that anything that can be done can also be undone.  Nothing in our itinerary or schedule is carved in stone.

This put me on a search of Continental airlines and its partners.  Bill still has several hundred thousand OnePass miles with Continental.  I found that we can fly home from Cairns, Australia, for 240,000  miles plus $200.  Not sure we would want to leave our boat as far north as Cairns during the typhoon season; but KLM is a partner with Continental, and KLM services Sydney.  We cannot get any information about the KLM flights using reward travel miles; it would involve a telephone call and it is way too early to get into that.  But it is remotely possible that we could again fly home for Christmas holidays 2009.  That makes Bill feel a little better about heading off to the South Pacific.  He is concerned about being so far away from family for such a long period.  I think he had it in his mind that we would not be able to go home again until we reach the Med. 

Thinking about Panama has put us both in the mood to further research the passage to Cartagena and then the San Blas Islands.  Then that got me to researching further into the South Pacific.  There is so much that you have to plan in advance that it boggles our minds a bit.  Visas for French Polynesia, requests to Ecuador for permission to travel to the Galapagos Islands,  more malaria prophylaxis,  verify health cards are up-to-date, find and reserve a place to do a quick last-minute haul-out to clean the bottom and prop before heading out in Pacific, find  and buy foul-weather suits for colder climate, sea boots or waterproof shoes/boots for cold weather, remember to pick-up some cold-weather clothes and shoes from our stash in John’s attic when we visit Houston in December (REALLY hard to think about that stuff in this heat!), find more courtesy flags for the various countries we will visit in Pacific, etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum.  Not to mention the spare parts lists to review and the provisioning lists. 

We will do major provisioning in Isla Margarita in July.  That will take us through the San Blas Islands; then we will do major provisioning again in Panama City in February after we transit the canal.  That will require a lot of thought and advance planning; but we have been warned how terribly expensive everything is in the South Pacific, so you do need to stock as much as possible while in Panama.  But you don’t want too much because New Zealand is exceptionally restrictive about what they will allow you to bring into their country.  They come out to your boat and take away all fresh or frozen meats and all cheese (even canned) and a whole litany of other food items.  They even take your vacuum cleaner bags!  And they check your shoes for any dirt.  They are very serious about not letting destructive parasites into their country.  So you need to stock your provisions in Panama to last until New Zealand, and you want to arrive in New Zealand with your cupboards and freezers bare.

A single chicken in the South Pacific can cost $20 USD – YIKES!!!  And a dozen eggs often costs $12-$15.  Beer in Tahiti runs $10 per can.  Prices like these give you an example of why it is important to provision correctly in Panama City.

And this cruising thing is supposed to be care-free!

Of course, all this advance thinking and planning could be for nothing.  Bill could change his mind again and we might end up somewhere else.  My mind is already made up about going to the Pacific.  I can’t believe we would have sold our house and everything to move aboard this boat and then just sit in the Caribbean the entire time we live aboard.  But we are in this together and if one of us doesn’t want to do something then we won’t do it.

June 1, 2007  Friday

Weather forecast for Sunday is for sustained winds of 25 knots with gusts 35 knots and 10-foot seas. Yeehah!!  What a ride down to Grenada that would be!  Especially since the final 5 miles would be directly into the wind and waves.  Thank goodness that Bill has been pressuring Petra to finish our bimini shade panels as quickly as possible. 

Petra and Andy brought the panels out to our boat late this afternoon for a final fitting.  Andy installed the turnbuckles that were needed to hold the panels down nice and snug, and Petra did final measurements for the last zippers.  They said these would be delivered tomorrow morning about 9:00 a.m.  We will then immediately leave to sail down to Grenada; praying that we arrive before the worst of the wave arrives.  Weather forecast for Saturday is for winds of 22 knots and the wind chop component of seas to be 7-foot.   That should be lively enough!