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Lounging on Long Island, Bahamas

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Frank caught a beautiful bull Mahi on our way to Emerald Cay Marina.

After our Sail to the Sun Rally friends left from New Providence, Frank and I spent the day provisioning and trying to buy a few things only available from a large city like Nassau.  I had thought the ongoing search for the elusive red filter for my GoPro was completed in Nassau when I bought a very nice red lens cover and GoPro adapter from a dive shop. 

However, much to my dismay, the adaptor they sold me does not fit my GoPro 4**, so once again I do not have the correct equipment to get beautiful underwater pictures….. which I find very frustrating!  Not bringing my GoPro into town was a really dumb move on my part and the result is that I have a beautiful red lens just staring at me, waiting to allow me to share fabulous underwater pictures, and I can’t get it to fit my GoPro!Long Island-19

Gratuitous sunset photo.

Speaking of big cities, Frank and I spent more than 30 years living in Dallas, Texas which is truly a large city with a population of 1.258 million as of 2013.  It is a very different experience here in the Bahamas when we visit various Islands and find them sparsely populated yet boasting of many “towns.”

Our visit to Long Island really drove home how incredibly different this new lifestyle is for us.

Physically, Long Island is large island by Bahamian standards. It is approximately 80 miles long and the width ranges from 3/4 of a mile to 4 miles, for a total of 230 square miles; yet Long Island has a total population of only 3,094 as of 2010!  The people who live here do not gather into small cities, but are spread among many small villages usually where their ancestors settled long ago.  Even well known towns have very few residents, like Clarence Town, the capital, which boasts a population of only 86 folks!

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A modest monument to Columbus.

Long Island was originally called Yuma by the indians who settled there and later was named Fernandina by Christopher Columbus.  After the American Revolution, many Americans from the Carolinas moved to Long Island and tried to recreate their plantations but the cotton crops didn’t last long and only ruins of those homes remain.  Today farming is still important on Long Island but the planting is “pot farming.”  My understanding is that soil accumulates in holes in the limestone and it is in these holes that most planting is done.  I admire the tenacity of these people and how well they use the resources of their island.

Regardless of the relatively small population, Long Island has a lot to offer, so Laurie and Ken of s/v Mauna Kea and ourselves, rented a car and set out to explore. Car rentals are on a 24 hour basis and we could pick up the car at any time.  We decide to begin our tour at noon and explore the south part of Long Island one day and the north part the next.

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Laurie inspects the details.

Our first stop was right on the road where a local man is in the process of building his sailboat in preparation for the upcoming Long Island Regatta.  This regatta is raced by locals who make and sail their Bahamian Sloops. 

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As soon as we stepped out of the car and began looking at the boat, two residents came over to chat and tell us all about the boat.  Apparently their son is building this boat and has been working on it for two weeks.  We were amazed by how much he had accomplished in so little time!  He must work quickly though as the race is the end of May!

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The pool and buildings at Flying Fish Marina are great.

Our next stop was Clarence Town, population 86.  There is a very large marina in Clarence Town called Flying Fish.  Flying Fish Marina was completely renovated and reopened in October 2016 after damage from hurricane Joaquin. 

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The exterior of Fr. Jerome’s Catholic Church

Clarence Town also boasts two churches designed and build by Father Jerome.  Father Jerome was born in England in 1876. He began studying architecture then changed to theology and was ordained  in the Church of England.  Father Jerome patterned his approach to religion after St. Francis of Assisi and later converted to Catholicism.  Prior to his conversion to Catholicism, Father Jerome had designed and build an anglican church in Clarence Town.  After his conversion, he wanted to build a larger, catholic church and did so on the highest available point in Clarence Town. Though he is best known  best for the Hermitage on Cat Island, Father Jerome also built and repaired churches as far away as Australia.  All told it is said that Fr. Jerome built five churches on Long Island. We visited the two largest ones in Clarence Town.

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The church was locked, but my GoPro rendered a nice pic through the keyhole!

Churches seem to be the preponderance of buildings on Long Island behind residences! The one below is said to be the oldest Spanish church on Long Island.

The Spanish influence is visible in the beautiful arches. 

Perhaps the most beautiful stop during our exploration of the southern side of Long was Dean’s Blue Hole.  This hole, where the world free diving competition is held, is said to be 660 feet deep with a cavern that extends 4,000 feet laterally once you get to the bottom.

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Dean’s Blue Hole from above.

Yeah, we don’t have any pictures of the 4,000 foot cavern!! But here is a stunning view from above.

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A protected bay, perfect for kiting.

Guana Cay was another pretty stop and Frank was quick to observe the kiting potential of this bay.  For you kiters, Frank definitely kept his eye on the wind and later in the week managed to get in a bit of kiting here.

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Hamilton Cave

Long Island has many caves that were once used by ancient residents as dwellings or places to hide during hurricanes.  We sought out Leonard, an older gentleman whose family has owned Hamilton Cave for many generations, to give us a guided tour.  Leonard had many stories about the history of the cave and pointed out five different types of bats that live there…. Laurie and I were NOT thrilled when some of those bats swooped down toward our heads!

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Sunset was approaching so we turned toward Chez Pierre, a well known restaurant on Long Island. Like every place we visited off of the main road, Chez Pierre was found down a long, rocky, pot-holed road that meandered several miles without any signage to reassure first time visitors.  We did manage to find Chez Pierre and had a fabulous Italian meal?? Yep, Italian at Chez Pierre!

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The picture isn’t great but the food was!

Pierre was the waiter, chef and check out person, so he was a busy man.  The bar was self serve and on the honor system which was unique and fun.  We highly recommend Chez Pierre if ever you visit Long Island.

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Locally grown produce and homemade breads.

Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 8 am to noon.  We arrived at 8:30 but already most of the produce was gone.

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Sarah displays her woven goods.

Straw and sisal work is common on most islands in the Bahamas.  You will find straw markets and stands in front of homes where locals sell everything from purses to placemats to hats and baskets. 

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Sarah’s sample board.

Sarah, at the Farmer’s Market, had a wonderful display of items and she had a poster of the various plaits available.  This is the first time I was able to see all the weaves used and I found it interesting.

The boating community at Thompson Bay, Long Island has to be one of the finest I have encountered.  The boaters and the Long Islanders have developed a wonderful relationship in which both recognize the positive skills each brings.  The people of Long Island are kind and welcoming and clearly enjoy the boating community.  The boaters are very aware of the needs of the islanders and contribute tangibly to those needs.

Most recently, there was a push to bring trees to Long Island to donate to the islanders.  After hurricane Joaquin, boaters brought much needed supplies and food to Long Island and helped rebuild many damaged buildings.  In fact, the day before we arrived, a group of boaters volunteered and replaced the roof on a home.

The relationship between the boaters and islanders seems unique and wonderful to me.  I can certainly understand why so many sailors return to the area every year.  This is the first time I have seen island life and boat life completely intertwined and it was truly beautiful to see.

Lest you think we are neglecting Captain, let me assure you that she goes with us on most of our escapades.  Here she is enjoying the pool and view at Latitudes on Great Exuma Island.

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**For those who own GoPros, apparently their is the standard underwater housing and the “diving” housing.  We have the regular underwater housing and the attachment I bought was for a diving housing.  

With A Little Help From My Friends…

 

musical-notes.pngLike the lyrics from this Beatles song, I got by with a little help from my friends.  I would not have been able to complete the cleaning out and moving process without several friends lending hands for the physical process and offering support for the mental adjustments.

Thank you, thank you to my dear friends who stepped in and saved my sanity and allowed me to meet the deadline of selling our house!

walesWales Court – SOLD!

Of course, the process of moving out after 20 years was fraught with conflicting emotions, but one feeling that doesn’t vacillate is the relief that communication is so easy and universal these days. The knowledge that I can keep in touch with my family and friends, wherever we are in the world, is what allows me to make this commitment to a totally different lifestyle.

This year, living on LIB while we still owned our land home, I always knew in the back of my mind that I had a bail out plan if cruising didn’t work for me. With the house sold, I feel a little untethered and I wonder how it will affect my attitude.  Will I be more committed to cruising or will I have a slight sense of unease because now I am truly “all in?”

Frank is at peace with the house sale and completely satisfied with boat life.  Thankfully, our sons are very supportive of our decision; so that is 75% of the family in good shape…. I’m confident I will be happy too, it’s just the finality that is hard to accept.

But enough of the emotions, let’s talk about what we are doing on LIB!

For a variety of reasons, we have been at a dock in the Annapolis area for several weeks.  So we are using the time to knock a few items off the To Do List.

Recently we completed a project that I think will make a nice improvement, though it is a little difficult to describe. (And probably of NO interest to non-boaters.)

We have had an issue with rain coming in from the sun deck and the helm station down into the cockpit. This resulted in a very wet cockpit which restricted our use of that area.

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The Helia cockpit ~ Fountaine Pajot photograph

The cockpit is sort of the equivalent of a covered porch and it practically doubles the living area on our boat, so when it is too wet to use, our space is significantly reduced!

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Fountaine Pajot designed the boat with a very small drain under the step where the sun deck meets the step to the helm, but the opening between the step and deck was much too small to be effective.

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We modified the step to slide it further away from the sun deck so rain water can efficiently drain below the step.

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When we removed the step, in addition to its’ being filthy, we found the drain holes were much too small. In the picture above, the drain holes are just outside of the center white portion and are hard to distinguish from a regular screw hole.

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First we cleaned the area under the step, then we enlarged the drain holes significantly.

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Water ran out of these holes onto the helm platform.

FP’s design was to have the water drain from under the step, down the ladder support and out through these small holes onto the foot of the helm station.  We didn’t like having the water drain near our feet at the helm station, so we put our heads together to design a different place for the water to exit the step supports.

Our solution was to create a way channel the rain water all the way to the well in the floor of the cockpit and out into the ocean.

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So we eliminated the drain holes in the supports and added a metal extension to the stair supports that would be below the fiberglass.  

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Once the ladder was in place, we add a hose to the bottom of each ladder support. 

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Our access point was the speaker above the refrigerator.  Next we angled the hoses along the side of the refrigerator and down toward the floor of the cockpit.

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Frank shimmied into this tiny place so he could reach the other end of the hoses and attached them to the plastic fittings we added to the drain well in the cockpit.

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We tested our work using a hose and here is a picture of the water flowing from the sundeck, down through the ladder supports, through the plastic hose and out through the drain well. From here the water falls into the ocean.

We are pleased with the aesthetics of the modification and are happy our cockpit will stay dry when it rains.

When your permanent residence qualifies as a “tiny house” it’s important to maximize all of your space and this project will certainly increase how often we can comfortably use our cockpit.

Sailing Strangers Become Lifelong Friends

One of my greatest concerns about leaving our hometown and moving onto our boat was leaving friends behind.  I knew we would keep in touch with family and I certainly hoped we would stay connected with friends.  But how would we make new friends while constantly on the move?

As much as my husband and I love each other, we want and “need” other people in our lives and not just virtually!

While contemplating a cruising lifestyle, I asked cruising women I met how they made friends and if they were lonely.  They assured me that friendships would come, but I was skeptical.

After nine months afloat, I can assure those concerned about making friends while on the move that strangers quickly become friends in this cruising lifestyle. In fact, friendships are formed much faster and more easily “out here” than on land.  We have thought about this phenomenon and have decided that there are several reasons that sailing strangers rapidly transform into longterm friends.

The obvious reason cruisers quickly make friends with one another is the common interest of sailing. Everyone knows that common interests are an excellent basis for friendship. Conversation topics are easy to come by as everyone can contribute to subjects like “where have you been,” “what kind of XYZ do you carry on board,” “where are you heading next,” “do you happen to know how to repair ABC?” and other live aboard topics. And if those don’t start a conversation, just ask a cruiser which anchor he has and why he chose it. A lively conversation is sure to follow. (You might not care, but an opinion will be had!)

Another factor is interdependence.  Much like land neighbors of long ago, cruisers are likely to borrow from fellow cruisers since getting to a grocery or marine supply store can be arduous.  These days on land, stores are so convenient that we tended to simply drive to the store and buy what we needed rather than disturb a neighbor. Not so on a boat.

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Sunset in Christmas Cove, USVI.

In December 2014, we were anchored in Christmas Cove, USVI when our dog, Captain, stepped on sea urchin.  The poor puppy had spines protruding from her front paws.  The internet remedy included soaking her paws in white vinegar which we didn’t have. Buying vinegar would have meant a dinghy ride, a long walk or taxi ride to the store and then reversing those steps to get back to the boat.  Probably about a 3 hour process and it was getting dark so going to the store was time consuming and unsafe.

Since we really needed the vinegar, my son, Clayton, and I hopped in the dinghy and asked neighboring boaters if they had any vinegar we could borrow. Happily, Jody and Peter, on sailing vessel Mary Christine, had vinegar and graciously gave us some.  To this day we are in contact with Jody and Peter via their blog, our blog and messaging.  While we were in the BVIs this May,  Jody and Peter pulled up to the anchorage where we were already anchored.  This was an unexpected meeting and we immediately hopped in our dinghy and motored over to visit with them.

Peter and Jody provide day cruises in the BVI.  I highly recommend them if you are looking for a day adventure on a sail boat in the British Virgin Islands.

Cruising in foreign places often means being in remote areas with few resources if something on your boat breaks. While most live aboard sailors carry a lot of spare parts and tools, often a neighboring boater can offer advice about a problem because he or she has already experienced it.  Or perhaps the job requires the one tool you don’t have.  A neighbor is always happy to lend his tools. If the repair is labor intensive and another pair of hands would help, fellow boaters are willing to step up.

While we were in Pointe-a-Pitra, Guadeloupe, our boat neighbors, Kristie, Rich and Tyler on Sail Pending needed to fix their davit.  Frank happened to have material and tools onboard LIB which significantly reduced the repair time and cost for the davit.

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Tyler supervises Frank and Rich

Back on land, Sail Pending would have called a repair person or driven to the hardware store for said materials.  Out here, neighbors extend a hand or a tool, and friendships are formed by lending aid.  Kristie expressed her appreciation with homemade cinnamon rolls which were delicious and a rare treat for us!

Wouldn’t it be weird if tomorrow while you were running errands, you saw the same person in two different parking lots, so you walked over and said hello to that person?  Well, while sailing, if we see the same boat in two different anchorages, we often make a point of going over to say hello.  Kinda strange right?

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Tobago Cays, where we first met Katahdin

We met Cathy and Larry of Katahdin this way. We had admired their boat when it was anchored in Jumby Bay, Antigua. Perhaps 300 miles south of there, Katahdin happened to anchor next to us in the Tobago Cays, so Frank stopped by their boat and complimented them on Katahdin’s lines and beautiful maintenance. That evening Cathy and Larry joined us for sundowners.

I guess it is a little different, but since cruisers are transients, they usually don’t have a circle of friends nearby so there is an openness to friendship that is less common on land where neighbors are longterm and friendships remain the same for years on end.

Take that idea of making friends out of strangers in an anchorage one step further…. while lending a hand or discussing anchors, one boat crew will probably ask where the other is heading next and if their paths are similar, the two boats might just agree to sail in tandem to the next anchorage, or two or three! A “buddy boat” has been found.

Buddy boats sail from anchorage to anchorage together as long as their plans align. They might spend a week or two or perhaps months in tandem.  Then, just as easily as they joined itineraries, one or the other might decide to head out in an independent direction.

Sailing is well represented by special interest groups on-line and this has become a resource for information and friendships.  We have met several sailors because we read their blog or they read ours.  Our very first “sailing friends” were a direct result of mutual blog reading.

We met David and Amy of Starry Horizons way back in 2013 when they were ordering their Helia and we had our Helia in charter. Our first meeting was before Fountaine Pajot had finished building Starry Horizons!  We keep up with David and Amy’s adventures and have met with them five different times – two on land and three in anchorages.  Our meeting places have been as varied as Ft. Worth, Dallas, the US Virgin Islands, St. Martin and St. Lucia!  One time we sailed within half a nautical mile of Starry Horizons near Antigua but our schedules precluded a meeting.  Instead we had a nice chat on the VHF radio as we sailed in opposite directions.

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Starry Horizons anchored to starboard.

David and Amy are literally young enough to be our children, but sailing erodes age barriers and we consider these two our very dear friends!

Which leads me to age. The range of ages for the sailors we consider friends is much more broad than the ages of our friends on land. It isn’t that we cannot relate to an equally wide range of ages on land, it is that we simply tended to interact within a more narrow age group. I’m not sure what causes the age barrier to callapse in sailing, but removing it has widened our friendship experiences and enlarged the pool for friendships.

Similarly, financials are less defining among boaters. Small boats or large, we all share the same “neighborhoods” and similar systems on our boats.  Big yachts or minimalist cruisers, each have unique yet overlapping experiences which allow them to  contribute to conversations about favorite anchorages, preferred electronics, upcoming weather patterns, etc.

One afternoon while avoiding my next boat project in Puerto Rico, I received a message on Facebook from a fellow Texan I had never met. Renee assured me she wasn’t a secret stalker, but she and her husband were nearby in Puerto Rico and wondered if we wanted to meet for dinner….

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Palmas del Mar Marina, where Alegria and LIB shared many dinners

Frank and I were new to cruising at that time and a little surprised by the invitation but we are SO glad we accepted.  Renee and Dave of Alegria have become some of our favorite cruisers.  We ended up moving to “their” marina in PR and we have been fast friends ever since.  We make it a point to see them any chance we can; like when we altered our route back to the US and added a stop in the BVIs so we could hang out with Alegria and revisit our favorite haunts from charter days.

I could wax on about new friends and how we have met, but rather than bore you with the stories, I will list the factors we believe contribute to quick camaraderie between cruisers:

  1. a common interest
  2. reduced access to goods creates interdependence
  3. making repairs without hired experts encourages cooperation
  4. lack of  repair shops or local parts encourages asking for help
  5. boats generally travel with only a few people on board, so we all seek out friends
  6. limited internet so you can’t just “Google” answers, instead seek advice from others
  7. comfort in numbers and sharing experiences encourages “buddy boating”
  8. random introductions are considered normal not odd
  9. age and financial means are not a barrier

Of course this list is not complete and I would love to know what other factors you believe allows strangers to become fast friends when cruising.  Or maybe you disagree completely? Feel free to share your thoughts.

In essence, cruising recreates a neighborliness that has been lost on land where independence and immediacy are sometimes more valued than creating friendships.

This is not a condemnation of “land life,” but an observation of how living on a boat and living at a slower pace has, in our opinion, recreated the neighborliness of a past generation.

 

Back in the US, Back in the US, Back in the USA!

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Old Glory was a welcome sight.

The picture isn’t very good, but the sight of the American Flag flying at Fort Macon by the Beaufort Inlet, N.C. was a grand welcome to the end of our crossing from the Bahamas to the U.S.

We have been out of U.S. territory for six months and off of the mainland for almost nine months. I was ready to be “home.” The contrast of Beaufort and the Caribbean is stark. That is not to say one is “better” than the other, but being back in our home country and enjoying the culture we grew up with is certainly agreeable!

Arriving for the Independence Holiday weekend accentuated the patriotic feeling of our return and gave us the chance to truly celebrate being American.

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American pride dotted the Beaufort neighborhoods

Beaufort is a darling town that feels almost Mayberry-esque.  For those too young to understand this reference, it feels old fashioned; it feels small town; and being American is a statement of pride.

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Alluring homes along Taylor Creek

The homes along Taylor Creek are very well maintained and the creek is a busy boating lane. Although we saw some very nice homes scattered throughout the Caribbean, the equitable, manicured waterfront and neighborhood homes here in Beaufort were a pleasant change.

We chose to rent a slip at the Beaufort City Docks and the experience has been excellent. The folks here are incredibly nice and very accommodating. In addition to great slips, free wifi, free water and consistently available electricity, Beaufort City Docks offers a free loaner car which we happily borrowed for provisioning.

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Rocking a 1995 wagon!

I felt like I was 12 years old again riding around in this old station wagon. I wanted to sit on the tailgate while Frank was driving like we used to do when we were young….but I’m quite certain we would have received a few tickets for that!

I had friends tell me that when we got back to the States and went to the grocery we would be overwhelmed. I wouldn’t say we were overwhelmed, but we bought WAY more than usual because we were so happy to find such rarities as seedless grapes, cherries, peaches and other fruits and veggies.  The plethora of options was delightful and hard to resist!

We Americans are spoiled by the plenty – and I kind of like it.

The neighboring boaters here are amazingly friendly. We have visited with many people and marvel at how open everyone seems.  One couple, Sue and Michael, had stopped on the docks for a few minutes before heading out to Carrot Island to meet friends. They kindly invited us to meet them, so we packed some snacks, grabbed Captain and headed over in Day Tripper.

Wow, boat picnic-ing is a popular activity for the 4th of July weekend! Just for fun we scouted out the scene before meeting Sue, Mike and their friends. We have not had to deal with tides and currents while sailing the Caribbean, so it has been interesting to see how the locals use those tides to their advantage. When the tide goes out, several sand bars appear and these become day stops/party spots for local boaters.

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One small section of day boaters and a lot of flags.

We completely enjoyed hanging on the beach with our new friends and hope to meet up with them later in the year when we begin working our way down the ICW. They will be back from their Caribbean charter and we want to hear all about it.

As one would expect of a patriotic small town, there was a July 4th parade. I loved watching the locals call out greetings from the sidelines to paraders.

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Pirates are big in Beaufort.

The wreck of Blackbeard’s ship was found near the entrance to Beaufort Inlet, so pirates play a major part in Beaufort celebrations and themes.

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Captain did not appreciate the large costumes or the skeleton on the bike!

I loved seeing these sweet, little kids jabbering away as they walked behind the large form of the pirate and the skeleton riding a tricycle. If you look, you can see two firecrackers walking down the street in front of the big pirate.

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Main Street (Front Street) is right off the docks.

Beaufort also is home to Shackleford Island where wild horses still roam today. This sanctuary is directly across Taylor Creek from our bow. Wild ponies roam the island undisturbed, eating the tender grass and drinking from fresh water lakes.

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A younger me would have tried to catch and tame one of these horses.

Frank and I toured Beaufort on our bikes. We had a great time coasting around without a bit of worry about traffic or road rage. The spokes on Frank’s wheel seem to be having issues as a couple of them broke. But my super handy hubby knows how to fix a broken spoke if he has spare spokes. Beaufort Bikes to the rescue!USA-8

Steve sold Frank the spokes and allowed him to work in the shade by the garage

Steve, the owner of Beaufort Bicycles, arrived here over a decade ago in a boat. He was thinking about returning to land and found the people in Beaufort the nicest he had every encountered. So, he bought a house, set up a bike business and has been here every since.  He is a great guy and if you need anything while visiting Beaufort, he will happily help.

Recently Linda and Kevin contacted us via this blog and shared with us their love of sailing and told us they are buying a Helia! One conversation led to another which eventually led to them agreeing to drive to Beaufort to share drinks and dinner with us. Linda and I hit it off immediately and not long into our conversation, we realized we both grew up in St. Louis, MO. Then things got really weird…. turns out, Linda and I both graduated from the same all girls, Catholic high school! (Though she is TEN years younger than I am.)  YEP, low and behold, we two St. Joseph’s Academy grads have found each other through sailing.  What are the chances?!

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Frank and Kevin with two (St. Joe) Angels!

If you are interested in chartering a brand new Helia, Counting Stars will be available this fall!

I write this blog primarily because I enjoy it but also so we will have a journal of some sort whenever this adventure concludes. I have learned from my past that I am not a ‘scrapbooker’ and I stink at putting together paper journals. This electronic medium is a bit time consuming when we have slow internet, but I like to think that if someone is interested in the cruising lifestyle, they can get a little feel for it from our blog. Finally, I write so our family has an idea of what we are doing and where we are.

I never imagined that other people might reach out and contact us because of something they had read in this blog.  I am very flattered just knowing that someone is reading what I have written and I am thrilled that we have actually met a few people because of this blog.

SO, if you have the inclination, we would very much like to hear from our “readers out there.” You are welcome to ask questions about sailing, our boat or whatever piques your curiosity.

Before I get this question several times over….. yes, Captain does go to the bathroom on the boat. We have a piece of astro turf she uses – but she doesn’t like it and much prefers real ground!

Thanks for reading! We would love to hear from you…

Adventures Moving South and East on Guadeloupe

Having enjoyed Deshaies several times, we thought we should visit a few other towns in Guadeloupe.

After leaving Deshaies, we sailed to Point a Pitre which is the largest city on Guadeloupe. We found it an excellent place to stock up on items necessary for “boat projects,” especially at UShip where we found all sorts of French items for our French catamaran. I even found the cute little blue “courtesy” lights that gently illuminate the cockpit at night. Finding these little lights was difficult, but getting into the spots I need to replace them will be even more challenging!

Point a Pitre was a little too big city for our tastes, though taking the bus, walking the city and seeing high rise buildings was an interesting change from everywhere we have been since leaving Puerto Rico in November 2015.  

I did enjoy seeing the kids learning to sail. This is a common activity in the larger Caribbean cities and it always makes me smile when I see them.

St. Fra-3Look how they weave through anchored boats!
St. Fra-4A line is attached to all the boats if the kids need to be “rounded up.”

We ended up staying in Point a Pitre for five nights because we spent so much time planning projects, buying the items for up-coming projects and getting two pressing projects finished. We replaced our lost antenna (vital for VHF and AIS communication) and installed Iridium Go! which will allow us to access weather information while off shore as well as text with family when in the middle of the Atlantic.

St. Fra-2The white dome is our Iridium Go! and the antenna is waaaay at the top.

St. Fra-1Eye-spliced the Dyneema lifelines ourselves. 🙂

We also replaced our top lifeline wire with Dyneema line.  It has excellent strength and it won’t make rust spots when drying our clothing!

The highlight of our time in PaP was meeting up with Sail Pending and Escape Claws again. We shared sundowners one evening and Kristie made delicious homemade cinnamon rolls the morning the guys worked on fixing Sail Pending’s davit. YUM! I hope Kristie will share her recipe…

St. FraFrank, Tyler and Rich working on Sail Pending’s davit.

Once we left PaP, we went to St. Anne which is a darling town. We felt like we were in a small part of France and enjoyed walking the streets and browsing the patisseries.  However, the anchorage was very rocky from the incoming swell, so we only stayed one night. The boat was moving too much to even take pictures!

St. Fra-5Entering the marina in St. Francois

Our next stop was St. Francois. This seldom mentioned anchorage was fabulous. It has a very nice marina with many shops, restaurants and a grocery, a fishing dock where you can buy fresh fish and a beautiful anchorage that is very popular with local people. 

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The folks at St. Francois know how to enjoy the water and this area was a mecca of activity without being overwhelming.  We saw kite boarders, windsurfers, skydivers, jet skiers and plenty of boaters.

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Six parachuters in this picture.

We loved St. Francios and stayed three nights soaking up the clear shallow water and excellent scenery.  We were entertained by the three boats near us where a bachelor party weekend occurred.  These guys had a great time with lots of laughter and silliness and we enjoyed watching their antics.

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Three boats full of Frenchmen for a long weekend. Sounds like Dr. Sues!

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The groom perhaps?

Among other activities, these guys rented water jet shoes and everyone took a turn.  Some were quick learners and others provided some pretty funny falls. I don’t know the significance of the shark costume, but it was hysterical to watch!

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We decided that St. Francis has the original “Reef Bar!” 

You can see in this picture that a boat comes out and sets up tables, umbrellas, music, food and drink. Initially we thought this was just a one time event for the bachelor party, but apparently this company is quite busy as they set up private parties three times while we were there.

Sail Pending arrived and anchored right behind us, so we “had” to go out to dinner with them. We had a great time at dinner in one of the restaurants in the marina.  Good food and excellent company!

Next we set sail for Iles de la Petite-Terre; two uninhabited islands a mere 9 nm southeast of St. Francois. These beautiful little islands are a marine park where the only building is a light house first built in 1840. Marine biologists live in a tent near the light house while studying the habitat.

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I think the French sign said this was the first lighthouse in Guadeloupe

About a mile prior to the entrance to Iles de la Petite-Terre, we saw a whale! We hadn’t even thought about seeing a whale and were delighted by the sight. Unfortunately, the only picture I got is so bad it reminds me of one of the grainy “Nessy” the Loch Ness Monster pictures so I’m not posting it.

Walking on Petite Terre we saw a variety of terrane in a short period including dramatic cliffs, flat beaches and lush vegetation.

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A pretty tidal pool.

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My studly hubby under a canopy of leaves.

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This iguana thinks he is all that!

Petite Terre had some of the best snorkeling we have seen. Frank pulled Captain in the floating chair and we snorkeled for about 90 minutes.  Then we were hailed by a park ranger…. apparently we had entered a protected, no swimming area. OOOPPPPS!  No wonder the snorkeling was SO good.

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“Orange” you glad I showed you this one? 

This is the brightest crab I have seen, though I admit I know next to nothing about crabs. I don’t even eat them.

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Dory might be in there, but I didn’t see Nemo.

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The lobster were huge and plentiful.

The lobster were so big I thought they might eat us! Seriously, some of them were so big that the foreleg before the first joint was about eight inches alone! I was afraid to get very close as I had no idea how far the their pinchers would reach.

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This lobster was waiting for me to come close and he was going to drag me into his rock cave.

Frank and I both would have like to stay in Petite Terre several nights, but weather dictated that we depart for Martinique before the winds turned south.  After just one night and two days we had to pull up anchor and leave these stunning islands. I sincerely hope we get to come back.

Captain was happy to leave though because dogs are not allowed on the island and she much prefers grass or sand to the boat deck for her business!

Spiffy-do! LIB Gets New Cloth and a Polish

Not to state the obvious, but boats in charter, especially popular models like the Helia, get used a lot by many different people. As a result, LIB has seen a good amount of traffic and has been handled by a wide variety of captains.

Frank and I did many things to “de-charterize” LIB in September, October and November last  year, and we have been very happy with our efforts.

One thing we really debated about was new sails. Charter boat sails get raised and lowered very often, especially in the BVIs where a sail might be just an hour or two. We believe this high usage and variety of captains resulted in some extra stretch in LIB’s sails. While we knew we could keep our original sails, we began researching sail makers early in 2015 when we went to the Chicago Boat Show.

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Rolling up the old sails.

All of the major sailmakers were represented at the show, so it was a convenient way to compare the different materials and begin to get comfortable with what we wanted if we chose to buy new sails. Since we were still more than six months away from moving on LIB, we weren’t there to make decisions, which was good because we walked away from the show dissatisfied with the information we had received.

What we definitely learned was that sails for warm weather climates and high UV exposure needed different consideration than those used in more northern areas.  We decided we  wanted to find a representative who knew the needs of warm weather sailing and whom we felt listened to our specific wants and needs.

Frank did a lot of reading and we spoke to a variety of sailmakers in the Caribbean. It wasn’t until we met Andrew Dove with North Sails, Antigua that we found the combination of sailmaker, sail material, service and personality that met our requirements.

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New sails in the bag.

We were looking for sails that would perform a bit better than our original ones. Since sails tend to stretch and loose shape over time, we specifically wanted to find sails with a flat degradation curve i.e., sails loose shape and performance over time, we wanted to find sails that maintained performance for several years not sails that lost performance quickly initially, then maintained that reduced level of performance over the life of the sails.

We also wanted the loft representative to come on board LIB, make specific measurements for our boat, explain his sail plan model and sail with us after delivery to teach us the best way to use the new sails.

Once we met with Andrew and began discussing what we wanted and hoped for in new sails, Frank and I were immediately comfortable with the idea of having North Sails craft new cloth for LIB.

December 2015 we placed an order with North Sails and this week we have taken delivery of our new 3Di sails.

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On goes the jib.

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Andrew takes a close look at the main sail.

The sails look very different from our original sails both in shape, stretch and color. If yesterday’s test sail is an accurate indication, we believe we will be able to head about 7 degrees higher into the wind. During the test, the wind varied between 6 and 13 knots. It was mostly light and swirly but we managed to sail at almost half of wind speed on a 42 degree port tack. With our previous sails, in similar conditions, we would probably have sailed at 48 or 50 degrees. We are very pleased with the improved performance.

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Frank and Andrew during our test sail

Using the feedback from our sail yesterday, we are making some minor adjustments so we can tighten the main halyard a bit more. I think we will be very happy with our new sails.

Taking a hint from Starry Horizons, Frank moved the lazy lines for our sail pack to the outside of our spreaders. The result is that the bag opening is wider when unzipped and our main sail can move up and down more easily without getting involved in the lazy lines.

We still have our original sail stack-pack as new ones are quite pricey and this one does an adequate job. I like the gray sail color with the cushions material I so painstakingly chose, so  I would like to replace the tan stack-pack for a silver/gray one. This would make the color of the sails, stack-pack and cushions work together well.  I might have to wait a bit for that change though.

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Gray main and red spinnaker – not bad.

Two additional pretties for LIB were refinishing the teak on the cockpit floor and refinishing the cockpit table.

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I like the rich tones of this sealer.

Our teak floor had worn down a bit and the grout was slightly more raised than the teak giving parts of it an uneven feel. We had the teak professionally sanded and the caulk replaced in a few spots. Then Frank and I applied a tinted sealer.  The darker color makes the floor a bit hot on the tootsies at times, but we really like the look.

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The table looks and feels much nicer.

We use our cockpit table for most meals and plenty of projects, so it gets a ton of use. TMM did a good job of keeping the table charter ready by using cetol since it is such a durable finish.  We found the cetol to be a bit soft and sticky, so we wanted to have the table stripped and varnished.

Tejean, a wood worker in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, spent days sanding and varnishing the table. His effort made a huge difference and we love the way the table looks now.

Hopefully these few projects will be the end of any major ones for a while. It’s time to get some time in with our new sails before we head back to the States in a few weeks.

 

 

 

Spotlight ~ Elk and Lions Found in Carriacou?!

After dropping our guests in Hillsborough, Carriacou, Frank and I spent some time relaxing and reorganizing LIB. We strolled the streets in Hillsborough, bought some groceries, wandered into different places and simply recharged our batteries.

One stop we made was at the Deefer Dive Shop on the main street, north of the ferry dock. We were most impressed with all the staff at Deefer, especially when we learned of their efforts to combat lionfish and restore the elkhorn coral on local reefs.

Deefer has a few biologists on staff and they, along with others, have started an elkhorn nursery about 20 feet below the water off of Sandy Island. They are growing elkhorn, then transplanting it in an attempt to revitalize the reefs.

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The Deefer crew are also trying to combat the spread of lionfish.  These beautiful fish are actually quite threatening. They have up to 18 dorsal fins that are sharp as needles and deliver poison.  The sting is very painful to humans and can cause nausea and breathing problems, though it is rarely fatal.

Lionfish are native to Indo-Pacific but have become a problem in the Atlantic Ocean. They prey on smaller fish and shrimp and have very few predators. As a result, lionfish are spreading rapidly and are negatively affecting reef life.

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Lionfish; exotic but harmful ~ Image from Flylife Magazine

About once a week, Deefer Dive conducts a lionfish hunt and Frank was able to go on this dive. Lionfish do not move much and are easy to spear, but care must be taken when removing them from the spear so the diver doesn’t get stung.

Deefer Diving is working to create pressure on the lionfish around Carriacou by educating fisherman about how to kill and safely capture the lionfish and by encouraging restaurants to serve lionfish on the menu. Finally, Deefer supports free demonstrations of how to make jewelry from lionfish and encourages local artists to sell the jewelry.

Frank and I went on a two tank dive trip with Deefer and saw schools of fish, several sting rays, lobster and eels. We also saw the underwater elkhorn nursery and a few of the dreaded lionfish. The diving was some of the best we have seen in the Caribbean and it was encouraging see some healthy reefs.

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Newbie lionfish hunters on the loose.

Here is the shirt I bought at Deefer Diving. You can see from my shirt that Deefer is working with Caribbean Reef Buddy, an organization that works with local communities on coral reef and marine conservation projects.  Frank and I have jumped on the bandwagon and hope to do some lionfish hunting on our own if we can manage to get a spear.

We left Hillsborough and went around the corner to Tyrrel Bay which is a popular harbor in Carriacou. Tyrrel is a large, well protected bay that is crowded with boats, many of which appear to be neglected or even abandoned.  Although Tyrrel Bay is the more popular anchorage, I preferred Hillsborough for on-shore exploring.

However, one of the best meals we have had in the Caribbean was at The Lazy Turtle in Tyrrel Bay. I had a fabulous pizza: plenty of cheese and tomato sauce, which is often lacking in pizza down here.  Ironically, LIONFISH  was the special of the evening when we ate at The Lazy Turtle.  Frank decided to try the speial. We were skeptical, but the fish had an excellent flavor and texture.  It was served in a rosemary and honey sauce and every last bite was eaten.

Our time in Carriacou was all about rest as we were pretty tired after two solid weeks of kiteboarding. But after a few days, the wind was beginning to look “kite-able” again, so we decided to leave Carriacou and head north toward Union Island.

Trick or Treat! In March???

Yes, I know it is March and I am months from Halloween, but it struck me the other day that provisioning (buying food) feels a lot like going trick or treating.

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Entering Clifton after docking the dinghy.

I do not dress up, but I do bring my own bags to carry my “loot” back to the boat and I do go from place to place to see what goodies are available.

So far my favorite place to find groceries has been Clifton on Union Island. The main street is sometimes sleepy and almost deserted. Other days it is teeming with locals and visitors alike. Now, when I say teeming, please don’t think New York! But do imagine a good number of people walking the streets, perusing shelves in various shops and enjoying beverages in shady cafes along a dusty road.

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A quiet day on main street in Clifton.

We have provisioned in Clifton three different times and a pattern has developed. First I make a bee-line to Captain Gourmet. This tiny (by US standards) shop is a combination cafe and grocery that caters to the foreigners. I stop in here and scan the refrigerated area for hard to find treats. The last two visits, the freezer has been broken so I chat with the lady at the counter to determine what gems she has hidden in the storeroom freezer. We have scored unusual things here like pork tenderloin and turkey sausage and aerosol whipped cream!

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Love this lilac color!

The folks at Captain Gourmet are super helpful and after I pay for my items, they let me leave them in the refrigeration until I have completed my other shopping.

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It looks small by US standards, but Captain Gourmet has a lot to offer. Isn’t it cute?

Next we visit ALL of the groceries along the main street, which is about six different places. While items on the shelves at each grocery are often the same, each store has it’s own vibe and a few unique items. One place might be very clean and open, but has relatively few items. Still, I enjoy the clean environment and always buy something in the clean stores when possible.

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Kash & Kerry is clean and the proprietor is very sweet.

Another place is dark and very dusty. They have a bit of everything, from used clothing and appliances to canned goods and children’s games. I feel a bit claustrophobic in here, but sometimes it has some unusual dry good that I really want.

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You have to look up, down and all around!

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This same store also sells “home goods.”

The grocery stores are where we buy canned goods, boxed goods, dry goods and occasionally some cheese or dried fruit, like raisins. But we never buy produce in these stores. Fresh produce is bought from the stands, which are our final stop.

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Produce stands in Clifton.

Here in Clifton there is a dirt square with about eight different vendors.  Initially I was uncomfortable with this area because as I approached people would try to steer me to one vendor or the other. I didn’t like feeling pressured to buy from just one stand. Even if one stand has everything we want, I always try to buy a little from each person so we spread around our support.

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An artist’s palate of color.

On days when they have restocked the produce, the stalls are an artist’s palate of greens, reds and yellows hanging in flimsy mesh bags.

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This feels like a step back in time.

With the produce vendors, just like in Captain Gourmet, it is often the secret, hidden areas that offer treasures. We have learned to ask for what we are hoping to find because not everything is displayed. Fresh green beans are a rare and wonderful find and we have been lucky to buy them a couple of times here in Clifton. They were never in sight but when we asked, like magic, a bag of fresh beans was pulled up from the back of the stand.

We have also learned that if we ask one vendor if she has a particular item and she doesn’t have it, she is likely to tell us nobody has those here.  I asked for green limes and was told, “They are out of season. No place you can find those here.”  But as we made our rounds and asked each vendor, low and behold we found them just two stalls away.

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Score on the limes!

Green limes are especially difficult to find and often you have to negotiate to buy just green ones and not have yellow ones included.

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Star Fruit

The veggies and fruit we buy are certainly different than back in Texas but we are learning to appreciate some new flavors. One really pretty fruit that I had not seen back home is Star Fruit. It is a bit sweet with a texture that is a cross between an apple and a banana. When sliced, star fruit makes a beautiful presentation.

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These beauties dress up any plate.

So, next time you pop into Tom Thumb or Kroger and find everything you want clearly displayed, regardless of the season, think of us “trick or treating” our way through several stores and stalls.

Happy shopping!

 

One Fine Trip

Written by: Ltjg. An Young, USNR ret

In the spring of 2015, Frank invited a few of us to come to the Caribbean on a kiting trip on Let It Be. That was their first mistake. Mary Grace then asked me to write a guest blog of the trip. That was their second mistake. So here we go.

I joined Captain Frank, Executive Officer Mary Grace and the Hunter and Captain, Let it Be’s crew, in Vieux Fort, St. Lucia on February 3rd, 2016. After unpacking, we went paddle boarding at sunset. This was the start of something special.

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The next morning we got underway for a leisurely sail down to St. Vincent. We had the main and jib full and Frank put up the big red spinnaker. I am sure we looked like a post card for the first few hours with winds in the 20+ range.

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Frank and I were laying on the tramp and saw a storm in the distance. I proceeded to explain bearing drift to Frank that we used in the Navy and how the storm will roll down the port side. Fifteen minutes later we were in 28 knot winds and Frank and Hunter were furiously taking the spinnaker down. The winds went to 30 and in went a reef and the jib came down. Eventually the winds went to 35+ and we were rocking and rolling. So much for my Navy experience.

We arrived in Blue Lagoon in St. Vincent and Frank registered us with immigration. Hunter, Mary Grace and I went to town for some cash and to see what it looked like. Walking home we uncovered a jewel of a restaurant called the Driftwood. The views were wonderful and the food, drink and atmosphere were great. We would highly recommend it.

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We departed Blue Lagoon  and spent the next two weeks going around the Grenadines kiting and exploring.

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The first week was the Stich’s and myself. Blaine and Jeff joined after a week. We kited in Frigate Bay (Ashton) and Clifton on Union Island and Salt Whistle Bay in Mayreau. The wind blew like stink (a technical  kiting term). I kited 12 of 14 days and Jeff and Blaine seven of seven. Each place was spectacular with different water.

Frigate Bay

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Frigate was flat water behind an isthmus that stuck out from Ashton. The anchorage was calm and the water smooth for Hunter to show off his magic. 

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While I tried to show up Hunter, he was just a tad better than I.

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Ashton was pretty and the water was beautiful. Not all was kiting believe it or not. We went to town and took a hike up the hills.

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Clifton

Next was on to Clifton and the JT Pro Kite Center. Again the wind blew and conditions were great with flat water and Blaine and Jeff took advantage.

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Jeff

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Blaine

But Frank won the prize. He did a 1 1/2 back roll. We are unable to show the whole thing because back rolls are supposed to be one or two revolutions, and because he was our host we didn’t want to embarrass him. Great try Frank!!!

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Clifton was fun. It had a great kite scene with the JT Pro Kite center and a cute town. Frank, Mary Grace and I had a great time provisioning  there with the little stores and the people were extremely friendly and helpful. We looked and looked but couldn’t find the Kroger or Walmart. We had dinner at the Yatch Club and it was really nice. But as you can see from the above, the water color was spectacular and flat. It got crowded and was a tight alley between the reef and the boats so if you fell you could get drug into the boats so it was a bit hairy. All in all a great place, but third on the Young scale of kiting we did. And who can forget Happy Island, a bar out in the middle of the anchorage.

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Mayreau

And then there was Salt Whistle Bay! Without a doubt number 1 on the Young scale and I think most of us would agree. It was beautiful. There were almost no other kiter’s. It was great ocean riding with 1 – 2 foot waves to play in. I think all of our ocean riding improved. it is an isthmus on the north side of Mayreau with a protected anchorage on one side and the small waves on the other. You landed the dingy and walk 100 feet to the ocean. Really cool and what a great place. It was unbelievable. See for yourself.

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We had a beach Bar – B – Que one night which was good food and fun. Mary Grace and I took a walk halfway to town when we encountered some French people who said it was Sunday and all the shops were closed. Who knew it was Sunday? We did encounter a classic Catholic church which was really fun. I snorkeled a bit and Captain had some great swims to shore. For me, it was the highlight of the trip and if you ever get a chance to go there , don’t pass it up. Salt Whistle Bay was wonderful!

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Underway was as much fun as kiting. Just sailing in open water with no noise and great friends was really the coolest thing about the trip. I can’t say enough about  sailing and how much fun it was. Everything about the trip was a great and fun experience. Here is just some of the experiences.

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Sadly we had to leave. There was no getting around it. Frank and Mary Grace said they were sad, but I doubt it. We were running out of Gin and Coconut Rum and so we had to say our good bye’s.

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It has been almost 50 years since I cruised the Caribbean. The first time was on a World War II destroyer, the USS Dyess. The second time was on Let It Be.

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I think I prefer Let It Be. I can’t thank Frank and Mary Grace enough for the opportunity to do this. Along with everything else it was such a pleasure to meet Hunter and Captain. I have been home now for three days and am just now starting to get rested. I have never kited so much in my life nor kept quite as busy.

I suspect this is way too long, but be sure I shortened it considerably from expressing the gratitude I feel to the Stich’s for their hospitality.

Thanks again!!

Ltjg. Al Young USNR ret.

AL – thank you so much for this guest post! It is great to see the trip from your perspective. We so enjoyed having you aboard and look forward to your next visit. A special thank you for being our first guest to agree to write a blog.  I am sure it is a nice change for readers to see a different writing style. And I love the collage of photos!

mgs

Kiting – Again and Again and Again…

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Al, Jeff, Blane and Frank

Next up for LIB was the arrival of two more kiting buddies of Frank’s; Blaine and Jeff.  It was simply a blast having five kiteboarding fiends on LIB for a week. 

I will say this, as a host, assuming the wind is good, kiters are easy to have as guests! Here are the things we needed to provide:

  1. Good wind.
  2. A launching/landing location.
  3. Transportation to and from the launch area.
  4. Food, water, alcohol and a place to sleep – not necessarily in that order.

No need to worry about what the islands had to offer, these guys were focused on kiting every day. Fortunately the wind was strong enough for them to kite A LOT.  While Al was on LIB, he was able to kite 12 out of 14 days.  Jeff and Blaine were here for a week and they kited every day.

Even with all that time on the water, it was hard for these guys to stop at sunset!

I think I took five million pictures and 99.5% of them were kite pics.  (All kiting pics are posted at the end of this blog.) 

Here’s a peek into last week on LIB:

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Glad we chose a fairly large dinghy.

In this picture, I am taking the guys to shore at Salt Whistle Bay. Captain is along for a grass break and Hunter wisely decided to wait for the next shuttle to shore.

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Can you guess where they are?

We anchored in the bay at Salt Whistle, then the guys walked to the windward side for some kiting in the waves. Apparently it was a great place to practice ocean riding because the waves were pretty consistently spaced apart.

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Blaine and Al kite while Frank plays Rescue Ranger in the dinghy.

On days when the wind was light, someone would hang on LIB or shore with the dinghy available in case a rider was unable to gain enough power to go upwind. Frank rescued several folks but none of them were part of the LIB group.

Frank, Jeff and Al power napping between sets.

I’m not going to say life on LIB is hard, but I will tell you these guys managed to wear themselves out.  These three all crashed while Blaine experimented with bread recipes because my loafs were not browning or rising well. Turns out my recently purchased flour was “off” somehow, thus the taste was less than yummy.  New flour was opened and Blaine tweaked the Basic White Bread recipe so it would brown in our (not so great) oven.

It’s very nice to have a guest on board who just happens to own a food company! Thank you to Blaine of Bridgford Foods for sharing your expertise!

The last day we had a quick sail from Clifton, Union Island to Hillsborough, Carriacou. It was an easy sail and a restful way to finish the trip before taking everyone to catch the ferry to Grenada.

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Frank, Jeff and Blaine at the helm as we sail to Carriacou.

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Al and Captain enjoy the view while underway.

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Hunter prepares his board for packing.

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A little puppy time before Hunter leaves.

We are really lucky that Hunter was able to spend several weeks with us.  He and Clayton have grown up on boats so having another experienced and capable person on board has been very nice. The fact that H is fun, easy to have and willing to help makes it that much more enjoyable to have him with us.  This mom’s heart was very sad to see him leave. But I sincerely hope that he and his brother will manage to visit us very soon!

And now, on to the kiting pictures….

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Jeff and Blaine in Ashton, Union Island.

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Al scooting along.

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Jeff is catching some air in Clifton.

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Frank demos a grab.

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Blaine and Jeff share a five on the fly.

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Hunter mid-trick spotting the water.

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Hunter with Frank in pursuit in Clifton.

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Al boosting in Ashton.

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Blaine’s signature move.

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Jeff gets some height in Ashton.

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Blaine – using a plane in the boost contest is cheating!

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Hunter unhooked, mid spin, handle pass.

Let It Be seems oddly quiet with just Frank, Captain and I on board.  A few of my girlfriends were scheduled to arrive in a week, but several family matters came up and we had to postpone their visit.  I’m pretty sad about the delay, but hopeful that they will find another time to visit.

For the moment we plan on hanging around Carriacou, Union Island, the Tobago Cays, etc.  This is a beautiful area and there is more available than kiting, so we will have to explore a bit.

If you have favorite places or activities in this are, we would love to hear your suggestions!

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