Friday, August 19, 2016

33-34. Happy Birthday, Abby Singer

    Celebrating our third year with Abby.
    Pic from our first day aboard 3 years ago on our maiden voyage home with Abby.
If you had told me three years ago, when my hubby talked me into spending almost twice our budget on a sailboat when we'd never even sailed before, that I would be living on her full time now for over seven months and traveling all through the Caribbean, I would have laughed in your face!  But our life is one adventure after another so I guess I shouldn't be surprised, just really grateful.  
So, Happy Birthday, Abby!

We’ve had an action packed week!  
3 islands, new anchoring scenarios (including a drag), bucket list experiences, lots of marine life and mosquitos - lots and lots of mosquitos!  
Although we were sad to leave our new friends in Rodney Bay, the beautiful amenities at Marigot Bay and Capella Marina quickly eased the pain :)
    Girls in their natural environment - they wish!
We spent our days relaxing by our private pool (not really private but we were the only ones there :) 
    Our dnghy access to the pool.
And spent our evenings watching the Caribbean Olympic coverage.  It is exciting to recognize so many foreign flags and feel a connection to the island athletes, as well as our American competitors.
We made new friends aboard Warvall.
    The girls made a Lego cube tower.
Even though Rodney Bay has lots of amenities, Marigot Bay has the beauty!
   That's Abby in the center of the pic.
It is a palm tree lined cove where the original Dr Doolittle was filmed.  Beautiful little restaurants and the kindest marina staff we’ve found.  When we asked for a recommend on where to watch the Olympics they quickly had staff turn on the outdoor tv at an already closed restaraunt just for us, pretty great customer service!  
We didn't want to leave but the Pitons were calling our names.
    My goofy girls with the Pitons as our backdrop.
At many anchorages we have had “boat boys” approach the boat.  They are usually there to "help" you pick up a mooring ball for a small fee.  Some have fruit or fish they are selling, others want to sell their services as guides to local attractions and a few are just begging for a hand out.  But nothing could prepare us for the aggressive behavior of the boat boys at Soufriere, St Lucia!  Two small boats sped out to meet us before we were in the cut.  They took turns zigging in front of our boat at full speed.  Meanwhile, we have our sails up and have to turn on the engine and drop our sails to be ready to avoid them if necessary.  They were yelling back and forth at each other and paid no attention to us telling them both we wouldn't need their services.  We stayed polite for the first 20-30 minutes of their pursuit but it took being pretty forceful to get them to leave us alone.  We spent an hour just motoring around the bay, looking at all our options before deciding to drop the hook in front of the Hummingbird and one of the locals grabbed a line tied to our stern (back of the boat) to tie to a tree on shore.
This sounds if-y and we’ve never tied to shore before but it is pretty common this far south.  It freaked us out a bit to be in 100+ feet of water and approaching shore when you sail over the shelf floor and the depth jumps to 40 feet and decreasing rapidly!  We quickly drop the anchor then put her in reverse to swing her bum around and now we are probably 20’ from shore where everyone is swimming and having fun watching us.  It proved to be very comfortable but as night fell we found out why we were the only ones there.  The karaoke blasting until 3am might have been enough to keep away others but that wasn't our issue.  As the sun went down, out came the mosquitos in force!  There was no escaping them and we know all the scary diseases they can be carrying onboard with them.  I slept completely under the sheet with my visor on to make a tent over my face.  We all got eaten up but Paige took the worst of it.
    Talk about winning the bad parent award!
We woke early to move away from the bugs and with the heavy, overcast skies, had the entire snorkeling area to ourselves!
    Quite the view!
We saw lots of fish, some great swim throughs and the largest patch of fire coral I’ve ever seen.
After seeing all we could underwater, we settled in between the Pitons to enjoy the sunset.
It was amazing.
It felt like the horizon stretched on forever and glowed an amazing red long after the sun went down!  

Andrew checked hiking Petit Piton off his bucket list while the girls and I waited for him safe at sea level.  You’re not “officially” supposed to climb it but he had no trouble finding a guide willing to take him up.
    His guide even hiked with no shoes!
With rain falling sporadically and the last summit a bit sketchy, Andrew's guide did not want to continue, but Andrew would not be deterred.  And the reward was great!  While at the summit the clouds broke and gave him spectacular views in all directions!
Having accomplished what we came for and not feeling particularly comfortable in Soufriere because of reports of crime, etc, it was time to move south.  

To break up our longer sail to Bequia, we decided to Q flag it in St Vincent, which means flying our quarantine flag, not being able to go ashore and not checking in to St Vincent.  We found ourselves in a similar situation as at the Hummingbird with depths of 100+ feet until within 50’ of shore where they immediately jump to less than 20’.  Dropping our anchor was no problem.  But waking at 3am to find the winds gusting to 30 knots and us dragging right off the shelf so now our 50lb anchor and 100’ of chain are just dangling in the depths below the boat, not securing us to anything, was much more excitement than one would usually like to wake to.  Needless to say we were up repeatedly through the night to double and triple check our holding.  The sun wouldn't rise fast enough for us to pull anchor and be done with that night!
But Bequia was a beautiful respit from our crazy.  The girls always love when we leave before they’re up so they only have a few hours of passage left when the wake.  We had a beautiful sail and multiple pods of dolphins visit us; we haven't seen dolphins since our passage to Puerto Rico.
    Dolphins swim right under the bow.

We even entered the harbor under sail only which can get a bit tricky with current and wind adding to the excitement.  But with the help of a friendly local, we found the perfect spot to anchor in white sand under the clear turquoise water, reminiscent of the Bahamas.
We loved our time in Bequia.  The people were friendly and welcoming.  Visiting in off-season was nice because we hear it is a mad house when all the tourists and charter boats are in port.  We found a few great places to watch the Olympics and enjoy some great food, Bequia Marina and Maria’s Cafe.  
    Andrew was securing the boat in this.
    While we watched this :)
And enjoyed the highly recommended Mac's Pizza.
But most importantly, we got to do laundry!  Trust me when I tell you, on land we took for granted the convenience of washing whatever whenever!  We have not done laundry since Guateloupe, before I went back to FL, we were all down to the last sets of essentials and it is really sad when you compare smells on the shirts to pick the least stinky.  But no worries, after six loads, every item onboard is fresh and clean thanks to the help of my girls!  We even cleaned Abby’s hull.  So we are clean all around.  
    Sky scrubbing the rudder.

Things learned aboard this week:
Just being reminded, there is good everywhere!  Even in the sketchy areas where the reviews warn of theft and boat boardings, we have found wonderful people.  We try not to frequent places where safety is an issue but we also aren't guided by fear.  If we have to visit somewhere a little shady, we use wisdom to not make ourselves a target.  But even among the begging and aggression of some, we always meet those who are genuinely ready to help.  Soufriere, which is notorious for theft and a recommended "no stop" had one of the nicest customs officers I've worked with.  And St Vincent, also with a bad rap, had people on shore waving us off as we approached a shallow shoal and the guy on the paddle board selling fruit tried to recommend a safer place to anchor.  Had we heeded his advice we may have avoided dragging - live and learn.

    Love some sour sop for breakfast!  ;)

We are heading into the Tobago Cays, islands we never knew existed until a few months ago, which is really cool to discover new parts of our world.  Can't wait to tell you how it goes.

35 - 36. Look At Those Digits!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

31-32. It's Not Rio…But It’s Pretty Awesome!

Many of you know our ultimate goal on this trip was making it to Rio for the Olympics.  Getting a later start than we had originally planned and having way too much fun on our journey south meant too much ground to cover and too little time to get there.  For a very long time now I’ve been holding out hope that we would just leave the boat somewhere and travel to Brazil anyway but after much consideration that proved to be very cost prohibitive.  So here we are in St Lucia instead and when it comes down to it, it may have worked out for the better.  (That’s not to say there weren't a few tears while watching the opening ceremonies on a screen instead of feeling the boom of the fireworks firsthand.)  But after those few moments of disappointment, I could look around at the faces of my fam and feel the thankfulness overflowing in my heart.  We are having an amazing journey to places we may never see again and making relationships with people who have changed our lives forever.  So we will gladly cheer on Team USA from various tiki bars in the southern Caribbean!

Now to recap the adventures of the last two weeks :)
Before leaving Dominica we bought some fresh tuna from a street vendor.
Looks a bit shady, right?  But you can't get more fresh than swimming a few hours before it hits your stomach and it made the most amazing sushi!

Our sail to Martinique had some rain,
some sun,
some fishing
and some fun!

We anchored in St Pierre, a beautiful little French town on the northwest coast of Martinique.
    Can't beat the view from my galley port! -St Pierre, Martinique
The locals host an amazing produce market every day and even more vendors on the weekend.  We bought local cucumbers, lettuce, tomato, green beans, carrot, avocado, peppers, lime, and some spice packs of chili powder, curry and a mix we used in a great chicken and rice dish.  I can't believe we didn't take any pics of the market but I think I was too busy supervising Andrew’s negotiating, French numbers are not his strength ;)
St Pierre is not far from the Canal des Esclaves / Canal de Beauregard and was on Andrew’s list of “must sees”!
The canal was built by slaves to bring water from the mountains down to the coastal towns for plantations and distilleries.
Work on the canal began in 1772, taking 17 years to complete and it was used as a water source up until 1956.
Words will not be able to do it justice and I’m not sure the pictures even depict how extraordinary a feat it must have been to build, bringing rocks up the mountain on their back, with sheer faces to work on and fall off!
But the views are unparalleled!
    Resorting to selfies to prove I'm here too!
The hike is fairly simple.
A slow and steady incline but flat easy path along the cap of the canal wall.
A fear of heights might have been challenging but you know I live with dare devils.
The top of the canal wall is 18-24” wide and sometimes the only place to stand on the sheer mountainside.
We hiked for 1.5 hrs to the falls at the start of the canal
where we could jump into the very cool pool at the base of the falls for a bit of refreshment before heading back down the mountain.  
There is a beautiful little restaurant about 20 minutes from the top where we enjoyed/ inhaled a vanilla creme brûlée, chocolate creme brûlée and coconut flan so fast that I didn't have a chance to snap a picture!
It was the perfect day for a hike
with bright sunshine, the occasional sprinkle to cool us off
and we made it back to the boat just before sundown.
We loved our stay in St Pierre but needed to make it further south.  Once the dinghy was hauled and secured we remembered we needed some ballyhoo for fishing bait so Sky offered to swim ashore to get it at the market.
The locals thought she was so cute that they gave her the ballyhoo for free.

    Pulling into Fort de France, Martinique.
Fort de France is a large city with a beautiful park on the bay.  
    Abby is anchored just above Paige.
We played, enjoyed McDonald’s fries and free wifi and had some great provisioning at a proper grocery store before heading on to St Lucia.
    Local kids training for the sailing races that were the following weekend.

The first and probably most popular bay on the north of St Lucia is Rodney Bay.
The shores are lined with resorts and restaurants.  Legend says the British hid their entire fleet here from the pursuing French by tucking into the bay and tying palm fronds to their masts.  It is a great hurricane hole with lots of amenities close by.  We enjoyed tying up to the dock for a few days of A/C and were pleasantly surprised to meet a new kid boat, Time Chaser.
    Girls with Time Chaser crew.
The girls have been missing friends since parting ways with our buddies Aqua Vida and Take Two!  They disappeared to the pool with their new friends while Andrew got us checked in and I got us settled in.  Having an Island Water World marine supply within walking distance is pricey, yet productive and Andrew can always find a new project.  It’s even better when he can find good local help to handle one project while he works on another!
Andrew tackled a new refrigeration system while Vision refinished all our teak hand rails and trim.
He worked tirelessly for 2.5 days, to get done in time for us to leave in good weather, and had a smile on his face the entire time.  He even introduced Andrew to a new fruit, sweetsop, and gave us the biggest mango we’ve ever seen!
It wasn't all hard work though.  We took Time Chaser out on the Hobie cats for Andrew to do a little sailing instruction while the kids had one of their own to go crazy on!
The girls and I snuck away for a movie night.
     Secret Life of Pets!  Note the cows in front of the theatre.
And we had a great night of Indian food with our friends from Alley Cat.
    My crazies working on their best Zoolander looks.
We haven't gotten to experience much of St Lucia’s natural beauty yet but we are enjoying ourselves and can see why some people stop here and don't even continue south.

Things learned aboard this week:
Having a destination is important but experiencing the journey is what life is all about!  Had we not planned on Rio, we could very easily still be at our home dock in Jax, working on various boat projects.  Having a goal/ deadline is what got us off the dock and for that I am thankful.  But I would not sacrifice the places we’ve been, the things we’ve learned or the people we’ve met over the past 7 months to be in the Olympic village right now; and I think that says a lot because I really wanted to be there!  So don't get so caught up in pushing through to the end result that you miss out on the awesome that is happening right here and now.  As my friend Tanya says, “Take a cookie when the plate is passed” because you may not get this opportunity again!

We are getting our first taste of the beauty that is to come in St Lucia.  We’ll keep you posted!

33 & 34. Happy Birthday, Abby Singer