Sunday, March 30, 2014

Tobago Cays, Grenadines


With strong northeast winds approaching we decided the best anchorage to hunker down in would be the Tobago Cays.  I had been looking forward to this anchorage for MONTHS now.  Everything I read talked about how amazingly beautiful it is.  And it is beautiful.  But, it’s only a handful of small islands, all within close distance of each other.  This small little piece of heaven is often compared to the beauty of the Exuma Islands in the Bahamas, which consists of over 100 little islands, so this was tiny in comparison.  But definitely beautiful. 


The winds were blowing when we showed up, but it wasn’t too bad.  David dropped the kids and Melinda at a beach behind our anchored boat to play for a few hours.  Later he would share that while they enjoyed the beach it was not easy access for the tender to drop them off or pick them up.  Transporting by boat is just not as easy as a car sometimes.  The catch is—you can’t get too these places by car anyway, so I guess a little trouble is worth it.  I took a few photos and enjoyed the beauty around us before deciding I would swim to the reef about a quarter mile east of us to see the water scenery. 



I had a great swim.  The wind provided extra exercise for me, but shortly after jumping in I saw a large puffer fish.  I love puffer fish, they have the friendliest eyes and are just so pretty.  A few feet further I saw a stingray swimming ahead, so I followed it and it lead me to a rocky patch with 5 other sting rays swimming around or resting in the sand.  Six rays all together.  I had to stop a while and enjoy that sight.  I reached the inner reef a good swim later and enjoyed lots of fish, corals, and sponges as I swam along the reef.  As I headed back to the boat from a different direction I continued to pass an occasional sting ray along my way.  I saw a total of 11 in my one hour swim.  Fantastic!


David had picked the kids up from the beach with Melinda and we arrived back at the boat to get Alex up from his nap, shower and start dinner.   It rained quite a bit that night after sunset, which made David happy—the boat was getting a good rinse.  The wind blew all night and we rocked a little, but it wasn’t terribly bad at all.



The next day, Saturday we did house chores in the morning, and just after lunch we all decided we would attempt to land the dinghy at the beach in front of us to see the turtles eating in the grassy water area there.  We did not know what we were in for.  The wind was still blowing like crazy, so getting into the tender was a feat in itself as it rocked up and down next to the boat.  So david decided to use the little tender, but that was just as difficult to get in and out of, but it is an inflatable and not as damaging to have rocking up and down next to the boat.  It is small so we took 2 trips to get us all to the beach.  On the first trip we realized how hard it was to beach the dinghy, and as the kids and I stepped onto the sand it was stinging us from the force of the wind.  The kids hurried to a small patch of beach hidden behind a hill out of the windy area and had fun playing there.  Calvin was charged with keeping and eye on Matthew, while we ran back to to the boat for the second trip of passengers.  Once everyone was out of the dinghy David attempted to drag it up on shore, but it was quite heavy.  So he thought maybe we would just anchor it off shore, so we tried that, which meant for him to get to shore he would have to get wet, and he hadn’t worn his swim suit.  But such is life.  A wet pair of shorts isn’t sooo bad.  But if you know my husband, it’s a big deal. 



A group of us headed out to snorkel thru the grass area looking for turtles.  They were easy to find and we saw half a dozen during our little swim.  After a bit I noticed David standing with the dinghy in the water, so I went in to find out what was going on, and with it just so windy, the dinghy was not staying put.  So we gathered up the kids and crammed all of in the little boat and head back in one trip.  Clamoring back on the boat in the bouncing waves to shower and clean up.  That night we made a peach cobbler and invited our neighbors on sailboat Seabatical (we’d met them at church in St. Lucia), over for dessert, but after looking at the howling wind and waves, they opted to resist the cobbler for fear that they would be soaked before reaching our boat.  Understandable.  They did ask if we wanted to get together in the morning for church.  That sounded like a great idea so we planned to see them then.

Sunday dawned with much less wind and chop on the water.  We held a short primary lesson and singing time before our new friends on Seabatical arrived for Sacrament meeting.  Promptly at 10 am, they arrived and we joined together for our first ever sacrament meeting on RCabin.  The couple who lives on Seabatical had friends visiting with them for a couple of weeks from the states.  And the husband visiting is a Stake President in Florida so he presided over our meeting.  The sacrament was blessed and passed, followed by a few talks and a musical number.  It was a beautiful Sabbath morning. 

That afternoon the kids played games and watched a movie.  No one wanted to join me for a snorkel, and it was still too windy to head to the beach.  So my wonderful husband joined me for a short snorkel out on the reef.  We enjoyed seeing the large schools of blue tang.  I also saw a nurse shark off in the distance, but it was gone by the time David looked in that direction. 

Everything we read talked about how isolated this little group of islands is and that cell service and internet were not to be found here.  Well we did have cell service, not that we use anything but text messages while out of the country, and David was also able to get us internet access from one of the islands about 5 miles away.  It is amazing what you can do with the right technology in our time.


The next morning we decided to head on to Mayreau island only a couple of miles away.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Admiralty Bay, Bequia, Grenadines

We pulled out of the Pitons to start our journey south at 7am.  We were excited to leave St. Lucia behind and head on to new waters and see more beauty.  We were hoping for less wind, but it was more windy than the day the before. I am sure all the sailboats loved the wind.  There were several out sailing, headed the same direction as us, south.  Not too much later, we neared the end of St. Lucia and started to feel the brunt of the waves coming around the island.  The channel between St. Lucia and St. Vincent is about 25 miles, and would take us 4 hours to cross.  Quickly the kids started feeling sick and Dramamine was passed around.  Even little Alexander climbed in his high chair to have a stable place to sit. It was a good place for him and made it easy to clean up when he threw up.  Shortly after that I took him down to bed for a morning nap, and he happily laid down and went to sleep thru the rocking waves.



Poor Benjamin had been sick 2 days before, and I had hoped he was over it, but the mixture of still being sick and the rough waves sent him over and he threw up the most.  Poor kid.  He survived and did well despite his upset stomach.  He even took a nap for awhile which I know helped him thru the crossing.  Nearing St. Vincent, just a few miles away, the waters turned even rougher and the waves rocked us hard a few times.  I admit, I am not looking forward to those few miles when we turn to head north.  Luckily it was only a couple miles and soon we were behind St. Vincent and the waves subsided. 

We were passing by St. Vincent due to safety concerns, heading to the nearby Grenadine island of Bequia (pronounced beck-way).  In route down the coast of St. Vincent we could see smoke over the water a few miles ahead.  We listened to the VHF and heard a large commercial ship radio the St. Vincent Coast Guard in regards to the fire and should they divert to help.  The Coast Guard responded that they were not yet on scene, if the ship would divert to help.  Before the ship reached the fire, the Coast Guard radio’d that the ship could cancel their diversion that help had arrived on scene.  We didn’t hear anymore about the fire and when we reached the area, the smoke had cleared and nothing was left to be seen.  A day later, our nanny Melinda found an online article about what had happened.  The fire was from a boat that was engulfed in flames and later sunk.  A burned man was found floating nearby, his life raft not deployed properly.  He was found by a dive boat and pronounced dead at the hospital.  It appears his boat exploded, but they are unsure as to what caused the explosion.  They only found documents in the wreckage for him, so they believe he was alone, fortunately.  Weird that all that happened and when we approached the area, an hour or so later, nothing was left to show of it.

At the south end of St. Vincent I worried the short 5 mile channel to Bequia would be as rough as the north end, but luckily it was only windy, not too bad on the waves.  This is where we were greeted in the wind by a man in a small dinghy taking pictures of us as we approached the island.

As we headed into the large bay, there were several places to anchor and lots of boats at anchor.  We looked across to the south end and recognized another motor vessel that looked a little familiar.  As we got closer we knew for sure that it was another boat we had met last year.  A nice couple on board who have shared great info about different islands with us.  Fun to run into them again, a year later.  We anchored nearby, close to 2 beautiful beaches.  After clearing into St. Vincent and the Grenadines, David put the raft out the back of the boat for the kids to swim off of for a bit while we prepared dinner.



The anchorage was calm until we sat down to dinner, and then a swell started making its way in, making us roll just a bit.  It wasn’t bad, but can get tiresome after awhile.  The next morning as boats started clearing out, we decided to move further in the bay hoping to lessen the swell some.  After moving it was calm again, so we hoped we’d gotten out of the swell.  but it returned later around dinner again.  It is possible timed with the tide.  After the kids finished their school work, we headed to the nearby beach for the afternoon.  Benjamin and Isabel had been feeling sick again, so they stayed with dad and hung out on the boat for the afternoon, while Alex slept.  David was able to get a few projects done.  One of them was to get the dog ramp hooked back up to the swim steps, so Jessie could go for a daily swim.  She loves being in the water!



The next morning both Benjamin and Isabel were still not feeling well, so we cancelled our island tour.  We had been planning to rent a car and drive around Bequia and see a few sites.  But with 2 sick ones we decided to not do it.  Strong North East winds were approaching later in the day so we decided to head out from Bequia that morning, instead of the afternoon.  It was off to find a better anchorage for North East winds and swell.



Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines



Just a mile or 2 away from the Port Elizabeth Harbor, Admiralty Bay Anchorage, we were met by a man in a small inflatable dingy with his camera in hand.  A local here approaches boats as they are making their way to the anchorage and takes photos of them.  Sailboats probably look great with their sails full of wind, heeled over as they head toward the bay.  All the islands we have been too, and this is the first time we have encountered a local taking action photos of the boats.  What a great idea!



The next morning, Kenmore came by the boat with an 8x10 in a frame and a USB stick for us to view all the photos.  He had a price sheet printed up and said to view the files and he’d come back in an hour.  The files were all watermarked and low res so he wasn’t leaving his final product with us yet.  It was a nice low pressure sale.  It was fun to have in action shots of RCabin, and towing the tender, so I purchased the digital copies, and he gave us the unframed print for free. 





Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Anchoring between the Pitons, St. Lucia

We are stocked with food for a couple weeks, things are mostly put away, and the important boat parts seem to be working, so that means it is time for us to head out!  Our first stop is a one night stop between the beautiful Pitons of St. Lucia.


When  you come to St. Lucia, visiting the Pitons is a must.  They are 2 huge green covered volcanic mountains rising out of the waters on the Western Coast of St. Lucia, near the town of Soufriere.  We had seen them in our driving tour of St. Lucia last year, but it was beautiful to view them from the water front now.  This stop also put us in a good position for an early start to cross all the way to the Grenadines, an 8 hour sail away. IMG_4035IMG_4028

Since we were in the lee of the St. Lucia, the 2.5 hour trip down to the Pitons, was calm and beautiful.  With the island blocking the big waves, we were left with not much, so it was a great start to our trip out.  The kids enjoyed playing on the fly bridge while we drove, since it was easy to move around on the calm waters.  


We’d been on the boat at this point for almost a week, and while the kids had gone to the pool at the marina, we had not yet been to a beach, so as we pull into the anchorage and the kids see the beach, they all start screaming about how they have to go to the beach.  It was getting later in the afternoon, and a short beach trip sounded fun, but we still had to find a mooring ball, which there were none available.  The Pitons are part of the Marine Park, and we had made a reservation for a mooring ball the day before, but trying to reach the park to ask about it over the VHF became difficult.  Finally we made the expensive cell phone call to reach them and they informed us that someone new took our reservation and our boat was not quite big enough for a reservation, so if there are no balls, then we would have to try to anchor.  The problem with that is it is over 100 feet deep until you are practically on shore, near the rocks.  The park ranger came out to show us a good spot to anchor, but it left us swinging very close to an old, falling apart cement dock.  As we were sitting there deciding what to do, because we couldn’t stay in that spot, a boat near us, left the mooring they were on to sail off.  Yeah!  We quickly picked up our anchor and headed to the mooring before another incoming boat came to take it.  A short while later we saw 2 other moorings open up from boats leaving at the end of day.  I guess they wanted to be somewhere else for the night, or were making night crossings.  We felt very blessed to be on a mooring.  Although it was now 5pm, and I should be making dinner, I couldn’t resist a short trip to the  beach.  So we all quickly jumped into bathing suits, and into the tender and off to the beach.  While there our nanny, Melinda, looked up where the recent bachelor finale had been filmed, and sure enough we were lounging and digging in the sand of the beach resort where they had filmed and stayed.  She thought it was great! 


After an hour, our beach play time was up.  The kids had so much fun.  Both Matthew and Alex loved the sand and water.  It was a surprise to us, because last year Matthew did not like going to the beach, so we enjoyed watching him dig in the sand and swim his heart out in the water.  We headed back to the boat for showers, and a quick spaghetti dinner before bed.  We enjoyed the sunset while cooking dinner and found a sailing cruise ship circling the pitons anchorage as the sun went down. 


Monday, March 24, 2014

Winter 2013-2014

Its been a busy winter for us this year.  We thought we would be enjoying it from a nice warm place, but instead we were home in Idaho.  The kids loved it.  They loved playing with their friends day after day.  And they loved the snow.  It snowed a ton this year, so it was a good winter to be home.  The kids built snow forts and had snow battles, and generally played in the snow every day.  The kids loved it which was good for me, because I was stuck in bed, terribly sick most of the winter.  We are expecting baby #7, a little girl, and that first trimester was difficult for me this time around.  Glad to have those few months over.

Finally after 8 months, David decided, maybe he should fly out and see what’s going on with the boat after all.  I had suggested it a few times, but he had no interest until the amount of possible repairs started climbing and climbing, and we thought maybe we should move the boat to a different, more capable boatyard.  So he came out to the boat, expecting to stay 7-10 days, and was there for 3 weeks.  The repairs needed were not nearly what the yard had us thinking.  So it was good he came out to inspect.  So with the needed repairs done, it just meant, paint and finish the bottom and get her back in the water.  But here in the islands, work sometimes takes much much longer.  And the mess ups with the work quality just kept mounting.  So 3 weeks later, David fired the yard, and hired a sub contractor to finish the painting needed.  He left St. Lucia, to fly home,  with the promise of the sub to have the work done and the boat in the water in 10 days time.  11 days later the boat was in the water and docked at the marina.  Good for us, because we were flying in the next day, kids, dog, and all, and I was not staying on a boat on the hard. 

The last few days have been spent unpacking, stocking supplies and food, and checking out the systems and fixing what is needed to get us underway.  Hopefully, with good weather, we will leave St Lucia and head south to the Grenadines in a day or two.

In an attempt to make a quick run to the market, David pulled our little motor scooter off the boat, onto the dock.  He was making sure it would stay running and revved the engine up, as he usually does…  except this time the scooter came off its kickstand, and lurched into the water next to the dock.  Woops!  It sank to the bottom 16 feet below, while David stripped off his clothes and jumped in to save the floating foam seat.  After a couple of days sitting in the salt water, David decided to give it to the sub who painted the boat.  He was happy to have a friend fetch the scooter from its depths and accept the salt watered scooter in exchange for his tip.  We rarely used the scooter, and it came free with the boat when we purchased it, so we were able to laugh off this experience. 


We were lucky to find a new nanny on such short notice to travel with us for the next few months.  She is the friend of the last nanny we hired, who was hoping to spend the fall with us on the boat, until the repairs kept us home for fall.  Our new nanny is Melinda, and she is from Utah. She has been great with the kids and is excited for the adventures that lie ahead. 

We were quite the circus in flying to the boat this time.  Not only did it take us a long time to get here, we ended up bringing our 80 lbs dog on the airplane with us.  We had hoped to check her as baggage, but if the weather is warmer than 85 degrees at any airport you fly thru, than they won’t allow animals to travel.  And for that day, the weather in St. Lucia was 85 degrees.  So we put on her service animal vest and brought her on the airplane.  She did really well, just curled up under the seats of the little 2 kids and laid down for each flight.  But getting on and off the airplanes and walking thru the airports, 6 kids and a dog, we looked like quite a show.