Saturday, June 25, 2016

BeBe summer school and Le Phare Bleu Marina

Damien in pool at Le Phare Bleu Marina.
S/V BeBe is the center boat in background.
It is that time of year again -- time for grandchildren to spend part of their summer vacation aboard BeBe.  This summer we are hosting Elisabeth again (a/k/a BeBe) and also her younger brother Damien.  Elisabeth has spent many summers in exotic locations aboard BeBe; this is her normal summer activity.  Damien has visited us aboard BeBe in Australia at age 5 weeks; Greece at age 2; Turkey at age 4; and Spain at age 6.  This is first visit with us on the boat without his parents.  With his older sister being with him, he should be fine for the couple of months he will be away from his parents.  

This time away also allows the parents to move from the rental house back into their home with 2 fewer kids underfoot.  Their home was deeply flooded last year and then flooded again in April this year with about a foot of water inside the home. The city of Houston has been working on drainage improvements and during that construction the region has suffered several bouts of flooding.  The unfinished drainage construction has exacerbated the flooding in certain areas of the city.  A sad situation for thousands of homeowners.  Repairs were delayed by both FEMA and the city of Houston (even though their home was insured for flood damage), but FINALLY the home is being repaired and they have begun moving certain items this week.  Hopefully, the home repairs will be finished by the time we fly to Houston with Elisabeth and Damien in early August.
Sign language lesson

Elisabeth and Damien arrived on a Friday night at the airport in Grenada.  We had remained anchored in the mouth of Mt. Hartman Bay awaiting their arrival.  We remained there for over a week so that they could attend a sign language lesson presented by the grandfather of a deaf teenage girl who was spending the summer aboard with her grandparents.  Elisabeth and I also took one of the shopping vans to the supermarket one day, so she saw a bit of the island; Damien remained on board with Bill.

Damien eating a double banana.  Two bananas
had grown inside one peeling.  Strange!
One day we went 'exploring' in the dinghy to allow the kids to see the beach at Hog Island.  And over into Woburn Bay (a/k/a Clarke Court's Bay).  We wanted to dinghy all the way to Le Phare Bleu Marina to check it out but winds were too strong and we wimped out before rounding that final bend with waves splashing into the dinghy.  

On Sundays there is a pool party and barbeque hosted by Secret Harbour Marina in Mt. Hartman Bay.  We thought the kids would want to go to that and spend the afternoon in the pool, but we could not pry them off the boat that day.  We had walked up to the pool the day before to show them where it would be held and neither kid wanted to walk back up that hill to go swimming.  Oh well.  It is their summer holiday; let them do what they enjoy most of the time.

Happy 7th Birthday to Damien!
Damien celebrated his 7th birthday on 18 June with a chocolate cake with chocolate icing -- his favorite for the moment.  We have seen no toy stores since arriving in the Caribbean so gifts from his grandparents were a bit atypical but he was happy with what we gave him.  Kids this age are easily pleased when led not to expect too much.  A puzzle, some swim arm bands for the pool in Trinidad, a LED card-light, an enormous birthday card and a large piece of organic chocolate grown and produced right here on Grenada -- all made him a happy boy for the day.

Chowing down on birthday cake
We pulled anchor, motored over to Secret Harbour Marina and filled the diesel tank, and then motored east to Le Phare Bleu Marina.  Damien was ecstatic to finally be able to go right next to the 'sunken pirate ship' (crane on a barge) on the reef as we exited Mt. Hartman Bay via the east channel.  He was disappointed that there were no skeletons visible.  I have no idea where he got that idea.   I was pleased that Damien did not get seasick during the 4 mile trip over to Le Phare Bleu Marina.   First time we have been here.  There were 2 red markers and 1 green marker missing in the entrance channel.  But between the illustration in the sailing guide of where the markers should be and identifying the remaining markers, entrance between the reefs was easy.  Our electronic charts were correct.

Calivigny Island resort as seen from the deck of S/V BeBe while
docked at Le Phare Bleu Marina.  Nice view, huh!
There is a constant surge into this bay as in all the bays on the southern side of Grenada, but the outlying reefs break it up somewhat.  We requested to be docked stern-to with bow pointed out to sea.  This causes the boat to hobby-horse but there is no rolling so it is a comfortable motion.  Bill dug out those expensive 'springs' that we purchased to use in the Med winters and we are quite happy being docked here  in Le Phare Bleu.  In fact, if we had not already confirmed berthing with Crews Inn in Trinidad and already purchased flights home from Trinidad, then I would be happy spending hurricane season right here in Le Phare Bleu.  It is isolated from the regular cruiser community but the facilities here are nicer than in any of the other more popular bays.  I would be content to stay here but would never leave the boat in the water while we fly home in August.  Whereas, we have no qualms whatsoever leaving the boat in the water unattended in Trinidad in August.   That 90 miles father south makes a big difference in statistical probability of storms.   Grenada statistically now is over 2 1/2 years OVERDUE for a storm.  We would be very uncomfortable leaving a boat here unattended during hurricane season, even with guardinage.

Swedish Light Ship (used where impossible or
too costly to build lighthouse)
On rear of ship outside the bar

Le Phare Bleu Marina has a Swedish lightship secured next to the dock.  This lightship was manufactured in the early 1900s and the steam engine still works!  

Damien on bow of lightship on the bar deck level.

The interior deck has been modified and now houses the toilets and shower facilities for marina guests, as well as a complete kitchen serving a bar which also serves snacks.  Rather a cool ship.

Interior deck for video and book selections
also for toilets and showers

Inside the ship there are shelves and shelves of DVDs which can be checked out from the hotel office.  We have checked out minimum 2 children's movies daily while here.  A good way for Damien to relax after swimming in the pool, while his sister does school work on the computer.  WiFi service here is free and is the best we have had since arriving in the Caribbean, so we are encouraging her to get as much of that online school work completed as possible since who knows how good the WiFi service will be in Trinidad.

Elisabeth on deck of the light ship

The little tug boat

The little tug boat on the left is used for dinghy concerts.  Musicians and equipment are loaded on the back of it beneath a canopy and it anchors in the bay in front of Le Phare Bleu Marina.  Cruisers come in their dinghies and raft up to listen to the concerts.  The first concert of this season will be on Sunday just about the time we plan to depart for the overnight passage to Trinidad.

This little tug also participates in another interesting activity.  In The Netherlands there is a chocolate company which is totally green.  They use the last sailing cargo ship in the world to transport cocoa which is organically grown in Grenada.  It is then manufactured into chocolate in a 'green' plant in The Netherlands.  That sailing cargo ship has no engine.  When it calls into port in Grenada, this tiny tug boat brings the sailing ship into port and back out.  I do not know how the port docking is handled once that sailing ship reaches Europe.
Looking at Le Phare Bleu hotel from the lightship.
The swimming pool is behind the wooden fence.

Damien going up the mast.
There is a small mini-market on-site where freshly baked bread is sold daily, except Sundays.  We have emptied their shelves of all fresh veggies and fruits.  I also have bought all the frozen chicken.  There is no frozen meat left in the store except for a couple boxes of hamburger patties (but no hamburger buns).  Meals aboard BeBe are becoming a bit inventive this weekend, to say the least, and the freezer meat supply has dwindled.  Tomorrow we will sail overnight to Trinidad.  Weather looks as good as it could get for this trip -- winds from 80 degrees at 14-16 knots.  It really does not get any better than that!  Thank goodness there is a supermarket on premises at Crews Inn because we need some fresh produce.  I do hope that supermarket is still there and still open for business.

Check out the smile on that face!
Not afraid at all.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Grenada past and present

We first visited Grenada  in late January/early February 1984 shortly after the 'invasion' by the USA in October 1983 in response to the Cuban 'invasion.' And what we were told by local people then was very different from what we had read in the American press and seen on American TV. The people we met in Grenada stated they were very thankful that the USA had come to their aid. They said what Maurice Bishop did was more like a coup in that he was attempting to take personal control of the government and that he requested Cuba to assist him. Other locals told us that it was not just Cubans in Grenada but lots of Russians. One guy was certain it was Russians because they commandeered his own home to quarter some Russian officer, forcing his family out into the street.

Today, one might hear a very different opinion from some of the Grenadians.   Recently we hired a taxi for a major provisioning trip and that taxi driver expressed a different opinion than we heard from locals back in 1984.  This man hails from Dominica; he married a woman from Grenada; and now calls Grenada home.  He did not live on Grenada during the time of the Cuban invasion and American rescue.  But in his view the Cubans did not invade Grenada because he said they were invited.  Well...technically...yes.  The Cubans were invited by Maurice Bishop to assist him in the overthrow of the system of government which then existed for Grenada.  The majority of the people of Grenada did not invite the Cubans to their island and the majority of the citizens of Grenada did not want Maurice Bishop to change their form of government to communism.  That is the basic reason that Maurice Bishop was murdered during this invasion by his fellow Grenadians.

Another well-known cruiser happened to be in Grenada during the time of that invasion and shortly thereafter.  Most cruisers and people who wish to begin cruising are familiar with the Hacking Family blog site for S/V Ocelot.  
Here is a link to what SuenJon Hacking wrote about their experiences in Grenada around the time of the Cuban invasion:

Browse around on their blog site.  They are some of the most knowledgeable and well-traveled cruisers in the world.  I found her insights about Grenada at that time to be interesting.  There is a wealth of information on their blog site.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Down to Grenada

Tyrrell Bay on Carriacou was temporary home for BeBe for over 2 weeks before we upped anchor and sailed down the leeward side of Grenada.  Cannot say we did much while at Carriacou other than chill out and play Mexican Train dominoes a few times with other cruisers.  It has been a very long time since we have enjoyed that activity.  

One of the women we met playing dominoes said they were done with cruising.  They were leaving their boat at anchor in Tyrrell Bay and flying home; her husband would return in January and bring their boat back to the USA where it will be sold.  She said that she had promised her husband 4 years of cruising and was glad to be done with it.  Wow!  I find that attitude disappointing.  How enjoyable could cruising have been for the husband when the wife was openly stating to strangers that she did not like this lifestyle and had endured it only to fulfill her verbal commitment to her spouse.  Seems like that would have a negative bearing on everything experienced by both of them during those 4 years cruising.  My sympathies to the husband.  If both partners do not want to be living on a boat and sailing around, it cannot be an enjoyable experience for either partner.  I am thankful that Bill and I each enjoy what we are doing. Otherwise, we would not be out here.

The second part of what this woman said also disturbed me.  Leaving your boat at anchor or on a mooring unattended during hurricane season?  And the government of Grenada and Carriacou allow this?  Well, yes they do.  I find that shocking.  Trinidad will not allow anyone to leave the country and leave their boat at anchor or on a mooring.  Trinidad requires that the boat be stored in a secured boatyard if the owner leaves the country.  That makes total sense to me. There are many boats left unattended at anchor or on moorings in Tyrrell Bay.  Supposedly, there are 3 local men who can be contracted to 'look after' a boat when the owner leaves the country.  If a storm warning for this area is posted, then those boats must be moved into the mangroves.  The mangroves are part of a national park and boats can no longer be stored there; boats are only allowed inside the mangroves during a posted storm warning.  Once such a storm warning was posted and only 1 of the local men who contract to look after these unattended boats was on the island.  He had to move 34 boats into the mangroves.  All by himself.  In one day.  That had to have been one tough job!

We watched these 3 men check on an unattended boat moored next to us.  When they returned to shore, a side port on that boat inadvertently was left open.  Ten days later, that side port was still open.  It rained several times daily during that period -- the wet season has started early this year.  That boat now will be filled with mold and mildew.  Can you imagine leaving your boat like this!

Windshield screens
Andy still owns and runs the shop In Stitches in Tyrrell Bay.  We had Sunbrella shade panels made by his shop 10 years ago.  These zip onto the sides and aft portions of our bimini and provide excellent protection from the strong sun of these latitudes.  These shade panels have held up surprisingly well.  We wanted to have sun screens made to cover the windshield panels while anchored or moored.  The plexiglass windshields were replaced in early 2014 and we thought covering these while anchored or moored might extend the life of the new panels.  UV causes plexiglass to craze -- tiny starbursts appear inside the plexiglass.  Eventually those tiny starbursts cloud visibility and the only solution is to replace the plexiglass.  This also happens to hatch lenses and sideport or sidelight lenses.

Andy measured and constructed the 2 windshield panels that we wanted.  These fit well and are easy to put in place and remove.  Only time will tell if this mesh will afford protection from UV damage.  But I already like the way these windshield screens reduce the glare into the cockpit, yet we can still see out of the starboard windshield through the mesh.  The port windshield is left open except when raining, and the mesh screen panel on it also helps reduce glare.
View when sailing down western side of Grenada.
Can still see out through the
screens!  That is a nice

After waiting a few days for delivery of these new windshield screens, we finally tore ourselves away from Tyrrell Bay and sailed south to Grenada.  Some insurance companies allow boats to remain as far north as Carriacou, but our insurance company requires us to be in the southern half of Grenada.  So it was past time to get on down there as hurricane season officially began on 1 June.  We had notified the insurance company that we were within 20 miles of the required line and that we would be there within 4 days, and that was okay with them.  It is unheard of to have a major storm this far south in the Caribbean this early in hurricane season.  Both we and the insurance company knew that there was zero statistical likelihood of a storm here now.

The first sculptures placed in this underwater park.  These statues
represent and honor the African slaves brought to Grenada.

We enjoyed another beautiful sail down to Grenada.  This time we decided to stop in one of the small bays on the western side of the island since there was no hurry to get to the southern side.  We picked up a park mooring at Moliniere Point near the underwater sculpture park.

Heavy marine growth and coral have changed
the original statues.  

The first statues placed here have deteriorated badly.  The photo above was taken from Google images.  It was taken not long after these statues were placed.  Today the marine growth has changed these greatly, as shown in the photo on right.

Quite a few more statues have been added to this underwater park.  I think there are over 65 statues down there today.  Our underwater camera has a dead battery, so no photos from me; but here is a link to more information, photos and videos:

Mouliniere Pt.

Full rainbow west of Grenada

Winds were still from ENE so there was a bit of swell in this mooring field.  Seas looked perfectly flat and calm but still enough swell to roll our boat all night long, although not too uncomfortable.  
Many military ships from many nations here in
Grenada for exercises.

The next morning as we motored past St. George's, the main city of Grenada, it was a pleasure to see the US Coast Guard Cutter Umberto Hernandez at the cruise ship dock. The Hernandez is down here for multi-national military training exercises.  So much for all those sailors and cruisers who insist that the USCG does not visit this area.  Bill and I know better.  We saw USCG vessels between Grenada and Trinidad in 2006 and 2007.  I imagine that the current upheaval in Venezuela might have played a small part in decided to hold these exercises in this location at this time.

Participating in these exercises, according to what we have listened to on the VHF radio, are:
USA--Cutter Umberto Hernandez
USA--another USCG cutter but do not remember that name

USA--US Army vessel Aldi (when did we start having US Army vessels again?)
France--one large warship, cannot understand the name because do not speak French
France--Guyana Patrol Boat Antibo
Canada--Canadian Warship #704, a/k/a Warship Shawinigan (conducting live firing)
St. Kitts small boat
Dominica small boat
air support or monitoring, heard but not self-identified.

Moored inside True Blue Bay.  How can it look so calm
and roll the boats so much!

Beautiful view looking SW from True Blue Bay

Rounding the SW tip of Grenada puts one directly into the prevailing wind and current.  The northern side of that point is calm and the southern side usually is quite lively.  Today was the norm.  It was a bouncy, slow and wet ride to True Blue Bay where we picked up a mooring.  Plan was to stay on this mooring for a week as 2 of our grandchildren arrive this week and there is a swimming pool at True Blue Marina.  Plus, it is the closest bay to the airport.  However, after 2 nights and days of incessant rolling Bill decided it was too much and that we would move to Mt. Hartman Bay.  True Blue Marina accommodated us by refunding the pre-paid mooring fee for the week, and we motored over to Mt. Hartman Bay.

Those white surface wavelets indicate reefs.  Those
reefs break up the swell entering bay.

Winds were strong and seas kind of high so we opted not to attempt the entrance to Mr. Hartman Bay from the western side.  Took us probably an extra hour to motor to the eastern entrance and between the reefs.  Once inside the reefs this bay is calm and serene, even during 20 to 30 kt winds.  We anchored in a spot favored by a fellow Amel owner who has been in Greneda a lot over the past 5 years.  And are we ever thankful to him for this local knowledge!  This spot is perfect.  The more protected areas deeper into the bay experience squirrel-ly wind.  Those boats twirl in all directions, all willy-nilly.  Many are on moorings and those boats swing differently than the boats on anchor.  We are very glad to not be in among those twirling boats.  We are isolated and that is perfect for us.

Winds swirl and twirl in every direction in
Mt. Hartman Bay

Yesterday we took a taxi to Spiceland Mall for a major provisioning to stock up on foods the grandkids might eat.  They arrive tomorrow night.  

I managed to get these photos uploaded courtesy of free WiFi provided by Island Water World which covers Mt. Hartman Bay.  And also courtesy of a clear sunny day which allowed the solar panels to fully charge the batteries and I could use the inverter to power my laptop with the dead battery.