Dominica: Where nature is king and queen

Well, here we are, still in Dominca after a week, the longest we have stayed during our three visits to the island.  The last time we were here was for a short visit following hurricane Maria that devastated the island, stripping nearly everything green and leaving the mountains looking more like New England in February than the lush tropical island that it is.

So, here we are again, two years later, and what a transformation there has been.   While the forest, that covers 75% of the island still has many dead trees poking up above the new growth, the island forests have substantially recovered from the horrible damage that Maria, the category 5 hurricane, wrought.

A few days ago, Brenda and I, along with a dozen of our closest cruisers friends, hired a driver to take us around the island.  Our destinations included, a tiny family run chocolate factory, a beautiful waterfall with a perfect swimming hole in the heart of the mountain rainforest, a dip in a family run hot spring and a terrific lunch overlooking a river and yet another waterfall.

It’s not hard to find waterfalls in Dominica as we were told that the island boasts some 365 rivers, one for every day of the year.   Funny, how that magic “365” number works, Antigua supposedly has the same number of beaches.  A coincidence?

Whatever the number of rivers, the island is beautiful and what a day it was.

Our first stop, after about an hour in the bus from Falmouth, winding our way around switchback to switchback high up into the rain forest, finally arriving at this tiny “factory” tucked in among the trees with a beautiful view of the ocean in the distance. This little family run business makes terrific chocolate, all of which is sold here on the island. a total of 2,000 lbs per year, in many creative flavors.

Interestingly, the higher percentage of cocoa that is in the bars, the less sweet it is with the balance of ingredients primarily cane sugar making up the difference.  So, chocolate labeled 100% cocoa is bitter and not sweet at all and milk chocolate having the largest percentage of sugar. They grow cocoa beans and coffee on the property.  This is what a raw cocoa seed pod looks like.  The white soft material is sweet and covers the cocoa beans, each pod has a cluster of beans inside. The wet raw beans are put into these wooden bins, covered with banana leaves where they are left to ferment for a several days.  The beans are then separated from any liquid from the fermentation and spread to dry on open racks. The dry but still raw beans are about 1/2″ long and already smell like chocolate. Then the beans are roasted in a special oven at, I think, 250 degrees F. While the process is fairly primitive, it is carefully controlled by modern equipment.  I wonder if the “emergency stop” button sets off an alarm meant to keep someone from eating too much chocolate?  Hmm…After roasting the beans are roughly cracked to separate the outer hull from the meat of the bean. Then they are put into this machine, where air is blown into the pipe, the force of air carrying the lighter husks up and away, separating, as you might say, “The wheat from the chaff”.  It’s simple and ingenious and effective.   The “good” stuff, which is heavier, falls into the black bin and the “chaff” goes up the tube and down into the white bucket. Next the “cleaned” beans are ground into a rough paste by rollers that turn around in the bucket.  At this point, they really smell like chocolate.An additional step puts the chocolate into an even finer grinder/roller that smooths things out into a very smooth paste.   Finally, depending on the particular flavor that is planned, they mix in the appropriate amount of cane sugar and any flavoring that might be needed, like ginger or hot pepper, two examples.   Then the mixture is poured into molds to harden, prior to packaging and labeling.  They produce many flavors and we tried nearly all of them.  Hungry for more? Unless you are in Dominca, or good friends with Brenda, your’e out of luck as their product is only available on the island.   Of course, you too can take a tour as they happily welcome visitors. This chocolate is very much “home made” as the father/daughter owners have actually built a home above the “factory” where she lives with her boyfriend.    I was quite taken by the design of the house and tropical woods used in the construction, wood that was cut from trees knocked down during the hurricane.

The wood, and I understand that it goes by it’s local name of the Galba Tree, and looks a lot like mahogany, if a bit heavier.  While he didn’t mention it to me, it seems that this tree is fairly rare.  I purchased two 4′ long boards from him.  It’s not quite enough to make a table from but perhaps I can make some cutting boards out of the pieces.  It’s a beautiful wood. After hearing of my interest in the wood and how he built his home, I was invited up to take a look inside.   It was like visiting an enchanted tree house in the forest. A very nice functional kitchen.  And a spectacular view of the ocean in the distance.  What a wonderful spot.  If you ever get an opportunity to visit, I recommend you  do.  A small business living off of the land and yet respectful of the forest which sort of sums up things here in Dominca, the nature island.

But wait, there’s more!

From there we headed deeper into the rain forest, winding our way, switchback to switchback, to visit what is locally known as The Emerald Pool, a swimming hole deep in the wilderness and yet still accessible with a short walk on a well groomed path.  I am always struck by the lush plants of all kinds.  This tree ern “fiddle head” is much larger than it looks, the thickness of a broom handle.  The path to the pool meanders a short distance past rapids to an observation area and then you are there. The water, while not “martini” cold, will make you catch your breath when you dip in, is a lot cooler than the surrounding air as it thunders down into the pool.

You have to be careful not to get to close to the falling water as it packs quite a punch during it’s 40′ drop and will drive you under.  Here I am, close but just far out into the pool.  The noise was deafening. Maureen, can you hear me now?  What?My friend Bill, looked like he was thinking about auditioning for a part in Pirates of the Caribbean, much of which was filmed on the island.  Unlike many of the cruisers on the French boats, Bill is wearing a bathing suit.  At least I think he is.  Bill?  Hard to tell…As you would expect, where there are mountains and lots of water, there is hydro power.  This setup, with a large pipe running vertically down a cliff, powers a small turbine generator.  And, with some 300″ of rainfall each year, there is a constant supply of water to run the turbines.
Unfortunately, in spite of the abundant sunshine, wind and water, only about 1/4 of the energy produced on Dominica is renewable.  Hopefully, this will increase in the coming years.

Our stop for lunch was a remarkable spot perched on the side of a ravine, just down the hill a bit from the Pool.  The food was quite good and the view even better. In the distance you can see the double exit spouts from the hydro generator.  Ok, so our last stop of the day, and by this time we had driven around 3/4 of the island, was a natural hot spring.   The charming spot was run by a local family and tapped into naturally hot springs.  The island has a number of active volcanoes and what they call “boiling lakes” where the water coming out of the ground is so hot, it boils.

The water was muddy and warm, but fortunately, not boiling. There were three pools, each progressively smaller, and each with water that was a bit hotter but still a good temperature for a tropical mountain soak.   As we were up in the mountains, where the air was cooler, it felt good to be in the warm water.   You can see the spout that is pouring warm/hot water into the pool.  The water was almost to hot to touch and quite murky.   I didn’t want to think to hard about what sort of “bugs” might be growing in the pool.  However, the pools were not crowded and had a good amount of water flowing into them so I guess it was ok.   No odd skin lesions yet…  Bill, Maureen?  Any boils breaking out?  Brenda?All and all, we had a wonderful day and even though we were visiting some of the most popular spots on the islands, they weren’t crowded.  No surprise on an island with only about 600 hotel rooms.

We won’t be heading south to Martinique for a few more days, still hoping for a break in the strong winds.  In the mean time, we will be spending time with our cruising buddies and in a day or two will visit a reservation where the descendants of the once mighty Carib Indians live.

These people, once known as fierce warriors, are now known for their beautiful baskets and other hand crafts and it will be fun to see how they practice these skills.  Brenda purchased a particularly exquisite example of one of these baskets a few days ago and wrote about that and other observations about the cruising lifestyle and our visit to Dominica.  It’s worth reading so click here.

I expect that we will both have plenty more to say after we spend another day touring Dominica, where the love of nature is indeed King and Queen.

 

Pinned in Dominica.

It’s a beautiful day here in Dominica with bright sun that just peeked out following a parade of rain squalls beginning overnight.  This view, and it is impressive, to say the least, was completely obscured by rain and fog until a few moments ago.

As this illustrates, In Dominica, with some parts of the island getting 300″ of ran each year, we are securely within the “islands that kiss the clouds”.  This harbor, Portsmouth Dominica, is on the very north west part of the island and while it is wide open to the west, like most harbors in the Windwards, it is wonderfully protected from the strong trade winds and waves and as the wind comes out of the east for about 99% of the time.

Dominica isn’t highly developed like so many islands with only a small tourist trade.  With the exception of cruiser ships that visit, the island only has about 600 hotel rooms as so many were wiped out in the hurricane a few years ago.

For those who visit however, the island has beautiful rain forests and we were told 365 rivers.  There are also many miles of well maintained hiking trails to explore.  It’s a beautiful country.

While this island is not on the radar of your general tourist, it is very popular with cruisers and here in Portsmouth harbor there are dozens of boats visiting at any point during the season.

I will say that the locals are very focused on cruisers and do a lot to encourage them to visit.  Years ago this was not a spot that many visited but a group of locals got together and formed PAYS, the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security and now the harbor is one of the safest in the Caribbean.   They organize tours and twice a week host barbecue parties with all you can eat chicken and rum punch.  They also host a week long event Yachtie Appreciation Week.

Our run from Les Saintes was a VERY bumpy 25 mile run on a very close reach, with with plenty of spray flying over the decks.  Not Brenda’s favorite!

We had decided to leave come to Portsmouth as we learned that the trade winds would be peaking near 30kts for perhaps a week or longer and we, along with a half dozen other boats that we are “buddy boating” with decided that it was time to move on, so here we are.

Yesterday we spent the day ashore with a dozen of our cruiser buddies to go on a tour of the island, something that we had not done before.  It included a visit to a tiny family run chocolate factory, a hot spring as well as a swim at the bottom of a waterfall, aptly named The Emerald Pool.  I’ll be writing about all that in the next day or two.  It was a great day.  I even was able to purchase a few tropical hardwood boards cut from trees that came down in the hurricane from the owner of the chocolate factory.

We have also enjoyed time at a local restaurant run by a couple that split their time between Texas and here in Dominica.  Co-owner, Toni makes terrific rotis, a sort of Caribbean burrito with chicken and potatoes wrapped in a tortilla.  The actual recipe can vary a lot and sometimes the chicken inside includes bones and all.  I’m here to say that they were great.  No bones.

The day before we headed here a bunch of our cruiser friends met on the beach in Les Saintes for a pot luck cookout.  Everyone brought something to share.  Our contribution, purchased at one of the terrific groceries on the island, were delicate little lamb tenderloins.   Brenda made a wonderful marinade for them and they were quite a hit hot off the grill.

This is the group of cruisers that we are traveling with.  It does seem that cruisers tend to move around as a sort of flock. And, speaking of “flocks”, I spied this growing family when I visited the local bakery to pick up come baguettes the other day.  I can’t imagine chickens wandering around a restaurant in the US.  And, of course, where there a chicks, there are roosters.  The views along the beach are very colorful  with homes and boats are painted bright, happy colors.
Nearly every morning, beautiful sunrises.  
We see flags from many countries.  Do you know where this one is from?  Flags that are black and white are very rare.   I believe that only two countries have flags that are this color.   Double gold stars if you know the name of both countries or, and this is a hint, the flag of a region of a particular country. A few days ago, I went ashore to check out the tiny town here in Dominica and was impressed with the locally made baskets.  In the interest of full disclosure, I was also looking for ice cream.  Success on both counts.  Brenda and I returned to the shop the next day.  She ended up buying an exquisitely made one at another store.  Along with all that she does, Brenda is also a very accomplished basket maker.

Brenda liked this tiny shop on the beach.  That makes at least three Brenda’s in Dominica as I ran into a fellow cruiser a few days ago also named Brenda. Anyway, I expect that we will be here in Dominica for at least a week the trades are up and it’s even rougher in the ocean than it was when we arrived here from Les Saintes, with seas running at nearly 10′.  When the weather router, Chris Parker, describes conditions as “very salty”, Brenda, in particular, feel that it’s best to stay put.

I guess that’s about it for now so stay tuned for more scintillating details from Pandora and her crew as we make the best of things while we are pinned down by the trades.

And, yes, it’s a beautiful day here in Dominica.

France, France and, well, baguettes.

We have entered our second “week in France”, first in Deshais and now in Les Saints, both a part of Guadeloupe, the first island to the south from Antigua.

Brenda and I visited France, the one “across the Pond” back in September, when we flew, not sailed, across the Atlantic, rented cars and moved from hotel to hotel for two weeks including a week with our son Christopher and his partner Melody.  It was a great trip and while we were “in France” it’s a lot different than being “in France” aboard Pandora now.

Now that we are “in France” again, our schedule is pretty loose with no deadlines to speak of except perhaps keeping a wary eye on the weather so we don’t end up having to move south when the wind and seas are up.  So far, it’s been very calm and we are enjoying the tranquility, warm water and balmy temperatures.

Each day is much the same as the one before with a leisurely start to the day with morning starting at sunrise, coffee and a baguette or croissant followed by a look at the news in the US, depressing, with all the wrangling in Washington.  After that, Brenda generally knits, weaves or works on her book and sometimes practices here new ukulele, which she hopes to master, somewhat, by the end of the season.  I think that she is making great progress although she doesn’t see it that way.   Most days, we fit in a morning swim before getting serious about our chores, such as they are and usually an afternoon swim and perhaps another before dinner.  Of course, it takes more than a few laps around Pandora to work off that morning croissant.

Our cockpit looks a bit like a greenhouse including a few tiny orchids that we smuggled into Antigua, buried deep in our luggage.  They love it here, like we do, and have burst into bloom. Pandora’s hard dodger can be a bit hot when the winds are calm which is almost never and offers a welcome respite from the strong tropical sunshine.    Brenda took this shot, while I made coffee down below, as we made our way south along the west coast of Guadeloupe on our way to Les Saints the other day.   In the lee of the island the waters are very calm and the wind, not so much. The view of Deshais from our stern shows how tiny the cove really is, with a lone sailboat just peaking out,  more of an indent, than a harbor. And the mountains of Guadeloupe in the morning haze to the south were beautiful.  Here in Les Saintes we spend some time most days hunting for groceries, a rewarding effort as there is a remarkable selection of wonderful French food to choose from, and many places to purchase fresh bread and terrific cheeses.  Of course, who can resist a nice little rose wine for less than ten euros.   In the US these shops would bill themselves as “gourmet” but here high quality is just expected.

And, speaking of great food, today we purchased a bag of Lamb Chops from New Zealand.  Some of our cruising friends are planing a beach cookout and we will bring them along to toss on the grill.

This tiny cluster of islands are very popular with tourists from France who fly directly to Guadeloupe and take the short ferry ride here.  When the ferries arrive each morning they disgorge hundreds of tourists that turn the tiny village from sleepy to bustling in moments, only to melt away as they take shuttles to the inns and hotels scattered throughout the island.The waterfront is so charming with a very convenient dock to pull up our dink. The waterfront looks like a tiny little village on the Mediterranean. Every view better than the last. The mural on this building near the town landing says it well. There are plenty of reasonably priced places to enjoy a terrific French meal.  Last evening we went out for dinner with our friends Mark and Lynn from Roxy and had an amazing dinner of fois gras and lamb chops.  Yum.

Fresh food is abundant here and some of the homes have lush gardens. Papayas so big you could never finish even one. Our first stop after leaving Antigua, before Les Saintes was Deshais, a tiny fishing village on the Northwest coast of Guadeloupe.  The harbor can be pretty rolly with a wrap-around swell and the swell was up when we arrived.  Fortunately, the swell dropped after a day and made for a pleasant visit.

The town, more of a village, and smaller than the town here in Les Saintes, is very quaint, a sort of French shabby chic.The town dock can be a bit tricky when the surf is on, as it was during our visit so we took our dink down the little canal on the Deshais river.   We were told that the week before we arrived the waves were breaking at the mouth of this canal. The swell in the harbor can be so bad that they have to remove the top of the dock to keep it from blowing off with the waves crashing against the shore.   Even when it’s calm, the town dock can be a bit of a challenge to land on. You can walk a short distance up the river and swim in one of the small pools between the cascades on the river, more of a stream, actually.  The water is a bit milky and I expect that is because the water leaches out of limestone springs.    As it is coming directly down from the mountains I doubt it’s polluted.  After this I went in for a swim.  It was chilly but what a change of pace.  Fresh Water!The main street in town is lined with colorful restaurants and shops. We had a terrific meal, French of course, here with some cruiser friends. Each restaurant is more charming than the next.   This particular one is featured in the TV series, Death in Paradise.  Buildings on the waterfront are beaten up from time to time in storms.  I guess this one hasn’t been repaired quite yet.  Fishing is a big part of what goes on in Deshais and every evening and into the early morning before dawn we were rocking and rolling as the fisherman headed out and returned with their days catch.
And, of course, where there are fish there are pelicans looking to find a way to prove that their “mouth can hold more than their belly can.”   I was just happy that they weren’t killing time waiting for their next meal aboard Pandora.Brenda and I spent a day with some friends from a boat Billy Ruffin and toured the nearby botanical gardens, one of the best in the Caribbean.  The view from the visitors center is first rate.
They have a large collection of koi that are always ready for a handout. All of these fish, and there are hundreds of them, are up to two feet long.  While the gardens are mostly focused on plants, there are a number of birds to enjoy including these beautiful parrots that live in a large open air aviary that you can enter and see up close. And who doesn’t like flamingos?This big macaw, seeming to challenge “what you lookin at?” And, of course, lots of plants and flowers, far too many to show here. These puffy flowers show up before the leaves on this tree.  They are 10′ puffs of pink against a perfect blue sky. I love the contrast of the red roofs, a signature style here, against the clear blue tropical sky and even bluer ocean. From the edge of the property, a view of the boats in the harbor.   That’s Pandora, third from the right. Pandora up close. So here we are in Les Saintes, one of our favorite spots to spend time.  We’ve taken a mooring for a week but it looks like we may have to make a run to Martinique soon as the winds are likely to pick up quite a bit and we need to be there or in St Lucia in a few weeks when we hope that the new compressor for our fridge will arrive and none too soon as it’s sounding worse each day.  I sure hope that it doesn’t give up the ghost before the new one arrives.

For now, however, there’s plenty of great food to keep our fridge, as long as the compressor holds up, well stocked.  It’s great to be back in France again.

Can I have another baguette?  Why not…

A walk in the woods, Guadeloupe

We are still here in Deshais, Guadeloupe and this morning were visited by a turtle that has been keeping us company over the last few days.  He’s/She’s about 18″ long. There is a bit of a swell coming into the harbor so we had a somewhat rolly night but the sun is out and it’s a beautiful day.

I am in a little cafe as I write this and spied this little heron as I came ashore.  Yesterday Brenda and I rented a car with some new cruising friends and toured the island of Guadeloupe.   We had lunch in an excellent French restaurant along the way and visited a rum distillery but the highlight of the day was a hike into the rainforest to view Les Chutes de Carbet a spectacular double waterfall with a total combined vertical drop of nearly 600′.

To get there we drove up an impossibly winding narrow road with dozens of switchbacks along the way, some so narrow that two approaching cars could not pass at the same time.   Once we arrived at the entrance to the park, we noticed a number of emergency vehicles lined up.  It wasn’t until later that we saw someone being carried out on a stretcher.  She had obviously fallen somewhere on the trail.   I’ll admit that did give all of us pause and I was extra careful along the way. Near the parking area was an overlook to give us an idea of what we were going to see, the spectacular double falls in the distance. The path we took was labeled as easy and was very well maintained with pavers and wooden walkways the entire way.  However, because of the constant wet from rain and mist, it was still slippery. Everywhere you turned, something was growing, from tiny moss and ferns to trees hundreds of feet tall. It seemed like every branch had something growing on it. Some of the ferns were 40′ tall with fronds that stretched 8′.The path followed the stream up to the falls. The top of the mountain, some 4,000′ tall, was shrouded in clouds and mist. After walking up and down, down and up, we arrived at the overlook with the water crashing down from the lower falls in the distance.   What a view.
There was a little bird looking at us, perhaps hoping for a handout. I am always on the lookout for orchids and didn’t see any.  That’s not unusual as they generally grow high up in the forest canopy, hundreds of feet up where the light is bright but hard to see from the forest floor.

However, a few days ago, I went for a short hike near the harbor and did see some vanilla orchid vines.  They were not in flower but I am pretty sure that ‘s what they are.  This particular species grows pretty close to sea level, not high up in the mountains.   The vines can grow hundreds of feet long and are the source of “vanilla beans”.  The island mountains are so steep and there is only a single road that runs around the perimeter of the island, with what seems like hundreds of switchbacks and winding curves that follow the coastline.   Driving these roads can get tiring after a while as it’s more like a slalom course where going more than 30 kph is tough.

Along the way we visited a distillery, billed as the Musee du Rhum.   It was a bit odd, I’ll admit, to be tasting their wares at 10:00 in the morning. A charming building. Including a mix of new and old.  I swear that I only had a tiny taste.As a museum, they had a very eclectic mix of stuff in their collection.    A number of ship models including such unrelated designs as a Mississippi steamer, Christoper Columbus’s ships and, well, an odd mix.  Along with some life size dinosaur models, both outside and in, they had a huge collection of bugs in frames. Tiny ones all lined up behind glass. Butterflies of all kinds. And lots that I’d hate running into at night. Some bigger than you’d want to imagine, about 12″ long.  To make matters worse, they are the sort that flies, I expect. Of course, everyone’s favorites, horned beetles. Ask yourself, what museum is complete without a collection of sand, all carefully labeled?After the tour of the collection, all I could think of was someone saying “what in the world are we going to do with Dad’s collections?  Have a tag sale?  No, wait, let’s open a museum! Any better ideas?”

Anyway, it was a wonderful, if long, day and a great way to get a feel for what Guadeloupe has to offer.

And, now we have replenished our rum stores aboard Pandora.  Yum.

That and a walk in the woods.  Perfect.

Captain Nat’s last schooner, the Mary Rose

In the summer of 1926, when he was 78 years old, Captain Nat Herreshoff launched what would be his last schooner, the 64′ on deck, Mary Rose.

What sweet lines if the word “sweet” applies to such a powerful sailing yacht. And even more beautiful under a full press of sails.
Mary Rose has had a number of owners over the years including Hugh Hefner, who used her as a set for a 1959 issue of Playboy.  She was called Gallant at that time. Mary Rose is very likely in way better shape these days than the “bunnies” that spent time aboard her nearly 60 years ago.

There have been some bad moments in her past as she was badly damaged in the hurricane of 1938.  Fortunately,  she was rebuilt to sail another day, unlike so many yachts that were lost in that terrible storm. Today she lives a somewhat less exciting life full time in English Harbor, Antigua where I spent time aboard with her owner Gerald.   I had been admiring Mary Rose for a number of years as she swung on her mooring off of the Admiral’s Inn and had wondered how I might get aboard for a look. As luck would have it, Gerald is a member of the Royal Navy Tot Club of Antigua and Barbuda, a group that I am a member of and have written of many times.   

I approached Gerald and we spent some time talking about his schooner and fortunately he agreed to host me for a tour.   We set a time to meet.  I was thrilled.

As we approached, her “royal” pedigree shows with the graceful curve of her bow. Gerald keeps here in Antigua full time and stores her, during the hurricane season, in what might be best described as concrete bunker designed to withstand hurricane force winds.   It is in her cocoon that a long list of off-season chores are done to keep her looking new as she prepares to enter her second century.

So, where should I begin?

Perhaps a good place to start is in the cockpit with her lovely wheel and binnacle.    Note the nod to the modern, her lovely brass lamp has been refitted with an LED bulb.
And the original builders plaque commemorating her as design #954.How about these beveled port lights, original of course. And, as you would expect, beautiful deck hatches, worthy of any proper yacht.  Her hardware, and it’s all original, has been refurbished over the years. The goose neck, with it’s interesting vertical bar is worth noting.  When the sail is hoisted, the boom raises up to the top of the slide. Gerald was proud to show me the recent scarf joints on the boom where there had been some decay.  It was beautifully done with perfect hairline glue lines. Everywhere lovely leather covers for shell blocks and covering whatever hardware might mar the decks, varnish or paint. I was taken by what must have been a very innovative piece of hardware on her mast track to hoist the storm sail. One departure from the original designed to make here easier to sail short handed, was the addition of a boom-kin.  Of course, Gerald consulted with experts at the Herreshoff museum in Bristol RI where he sits on the board of directors.   It’s a lovely addition and surely Capt Nat, always the innovator himself, would have approved.  This change made it possible to remove one of the two sets of running backstays, an important simplification. And, on the pointy end. As you head down below.  What a banister and the classic “Herreshoff interior” white panels with varnished wood trim.
Wonderful glazing on the interior cabinets  in the main salon. And a commemorative print when she was launched way back when.   However, no sign of that 1959 cover shot. A very nice, functional galley.  Of course, with the modern conveniences of generator and refrigeration to keep things civilized when cruising.
It’s clear from the stuff stored in the forepeak that she is a yacht that is used and not some sort of static museum piece. Beautiful restored hardware in the two heads complete with modern heads. A very nice master cabin although I expect it is a bit stuffy in the tropical climate. All and all, Mary Rose is a proper yacht with a caring owner and it is clear that he is committed to bringing her into her second century in grand style.

The very last schooner launched by the Wizard himself.

If you are interested in learning more about this remarkable yacht, check out her website from which I borrowed some of the photos in this post documenting her early history.

I am told that there are some great videos on YouTube but they appear to be blocked here in Guadeloupe.

“Isn’t this place just so French.”

After more than three weeks in Antigua we headed off to Deshaies, Guadaloupe yesterday,  a bumpy and fast 50 mile run south to the next island.    This tiny harbor is a popular spot with cruisers and yet, when the wind is up, can be a tricky place to anchor, with winds that can really whip down off of the mountains overlooking the harbor.

It can also be quite unpleasant with a nasty wrap-around swell that can make it really rolly.   Aren’t I making it sound just so great?

In fact, the town dock can be so bumpy that the decking is sometimes removed to keep it from being blown off by the waves.   When I went in to clear Pandora yesterday I found the dock “topless” only an open framework and no deck to walk on.  I had to find another way ashore.

The clearing in process here is such a contrast to Antigua with it’s multiple stops and  fees, just so English.   Here you just visit a local T-shirt shop, fill out a one page form on a PC and you’re done.  As a point of comparison, when I checked Pandora out of Antigua the bill for two months in the harbor, not counting mooring fees, came to $250US.  These fees were in addition to our mooring and dockage fees.  By contrast, my fees yesterday, clearing into Guadeloupe came to a total of $4 Euro.   “Nope, we don’t charge a lot.  Just go buy some of our French wine and cigarettes.  What you don’t smoke.  It’s never too late to start!”

Anyway, we are here in Deshaies and it’s lovely. The village is impossibly charming with a little French bakery and loads of, you guessed it, French restaurants to choose from.   As we got here fairly late yesterday, we ate aboard and enjoyed a bottle of rose, some French cheese and cured meats that I purchased in a charming little shop.  Yum!  No, make that Triple Yum.The harbor can be crowded and arriving late in the day we had to anchor fairly far out in 40′ of water.  It was a bit rolly but this morning we were able to move in closer and it’s much more settled.  At 25′ deep you can clearly see the bottom.  Schools of pilchards or sardines, swim around the boat as well as dolphins and turtles.  It’s quite a spot.  Sorry, no photos.  Have you ever tried to take a photo of a dolphin or turtle.  Good luck catching them at the perfect moment.

Oh yeah, it’s wash day.  Well at least the whites that I hand washed in a mix of ammonia and water.  It works very well and brightens up dingy grey items a bit.
There isn’t much wind right now as the trades are low which is a good time to visit.  Interestingly, while the trades are always from the east, this harbor has an onshore light westerly wind, a sort of Station Wagon effect, where the wind blows over the mountains and curls around 180 degrees in the lee of the island.

This means that when you approach an island that is mountainous the wind will abruptly shift 180 degrees within a few miles, an odd experience.

We will likely be here for a few days or longer and then may head back to Antigua to await the arrival of our new compressor for the fridge.  The old one is still working but I fear that each day may be it’s last.  Fingers crossed that the new one will be ready to ship before the old one is kaput.

Not sure about our next destination, Antigua or somewhere to the south, but getting the new compressor unit installed will be fairly easy in Antigua as opposed to somewhere else where I don’t have any contacts.    I guess that will depend on how long it takes till the new unit is ready to ship as I don’t want to spend all season in Antigua, as nice as it is.

If we do head back to Antigua we are looking forward to a reception like this that greeted a recent arrival from the Talisker’s Whisky Atlantic Challenge rowing race. “Welcome back, Bob and Brenda.  We are so happy you are back!  We missed you so much!”They would be waving American flags, I’d expect.   “Here they come!  I see them coming into the harbor.  Yes, It’s Pandora, I see them, both Bob and Brenda are aboard!  YES!!!”“No wait, it’s only a little rowboat.”Never mind.   For now, it’s great to be somewhere that is “just so French”.  Can I have another baguette?

The world’s toughest row.

There are plenty of ways to get from one place to another and sailing, at least for me, is probably about the roughest way to get from one place to another that I’d consider.

When I head out from Essex each fall to make my run to Antigua I rely on the wind to keep me moving along and when it’s dead, on comes the motor.  Even with that and all the comforts aboard Pandora, sometimes it feels, well, hard.

On our run south this year there were moments on the 11 day run that were pretty discouraging with adverse winds or no wind at all and there were times when I didn’t think that we would ever get there.

And, once we and other in the fleet arrived here in Antigua we were pretty proud of ourselves, doing something that most sailors never do, a run of 1,500 miles in a small boat.

However, there are some that are driven to do things the REALLY HARD WAY and those teams that compete in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challange rowing race from the Canary Islands to Antigua have elevated “hard” to another level.

These hearty souls, and there are over 30 teams this year, row the entire 3,000 miles from the Canary islands all the way here to English Harbor Antigua, a really long way.

The teams that left the Canary Islands back in early December have begun arriving in English Harbor after weeks at sea and it’s clearly been cause for celebration as they step on land for the first time after so much time at sea.  The crowd, friends and family are on hand to welcome them and what a welcome it has been.

Yesterday, I was on hand to see several of the crews come into the harbor, serenaded by horns from the nearby mega-yachts and onlookers cheering them into the harbor. The guys on this boat, and there were four aboard, really looked excited to be here. A few days ago, a three man team arrived, brothers.   It was quite moving to see them greeted by family and friends. And there were speeches all around.   They were justifiably proud of what they had accomplished.   The MC asked them what the most memorable moment was on the trip and they talked about how a butterfly flew by their boat, following a gale, more than 1,500 miles from anything.  We have had birds land on board Pandora many times, often more than 500 miles from shore,.  Amazing stamina for a tiny insect, flying so far.

A little later, another boat, this time, a two man team, arrived.   They came into view as they neared the dock. I can only imagine  how emotional it must have been for them to arrive after so long at sea and under such tough conditions. These guys were clearly happy with their accomplishment.  I wonder if they were this “buff” at the beginning of their trip.  Probably, but now “super buff” and very happy to be “home”.  Seeing the teams greet family was quite moving.  Most were overcome by emotion as soon as they stepped on the dock,  reunited with loved ones, wives and babies that they had not seen for months. Every moment of each team’s arrival was captured from every angle.
These boats are all nearly identical, only longer or shorter depending on the number of rowing stations.    I am told that some of the boats are shipped home after the race and some sold here in Antigua.  I doubt that they are used more than once by many individual teams.  “Hey guys, that was fun, wana row back?”

These are pretty high tech boats but they still have to be rowed, and rowed and rowed…According to the official site, some facts…

  • Each team will row in excess of 1.5 million oar strokes over a race.

  • Rowers will row for 2 hours, and sleep for 2 hours, constantly, 24 hours a day.

  • More people have climbed Everest than rowed an ocean.

  • The waves the rowers will experience can measure up to 20ft high.

  • There are two safety yachts supporting the teams as they cross the ocean. In the 2013 race, one yacht traveled a massive 9000nm!

  • The 2013 winning Team Locura arrived in Antigua with a blue marlin beak pierced through the hull of the boat.

  • In the 2016 race, solo rower Daryl Farmer arrived in Antigua after 96 days, rowing without a rudder to steer with for nearly 1200miles/40 days.

  • Each rower needs to aim to consume 2.6 gallons of of water per day.

  • Rowers burn in excess of 5,000 calories per day.

  • There is no toilet on board – rowers use a bucket!

  •  Each rower loses nearly 30lbs crossing the Atlantic

Ok, so this is the course.  Looks simple enough.   Not…This short video gives a good feel for what the arrival was like and highlights from some of the races.  There is no doubt about it, this is indeed “The Worlds Toughest Row”.

Nope, not for me and surely not Brenda.  Imagine that one, will you?

We will just stick with this view from Pandora’s cozy cockpit.   How many rainbows can you see in a single day?  Come to Antigua and find out for yourself.

Oh yeah, the fridge is stable for now and a new compressor is on order.  I expect to have it by mid February.  Hope the old one doesn’t finally give up the ghost.

Off to Guadeloupe in a few days with friends.

 

Life in Antigua. Brutish and short or luxurious?

It’s been very windy for the last few days with gusts in the 40s, conditions that are not uncommon during January when the Caribbean are in the clutches of the “Christmas Winds”.   However, unlike the Bahamas that suffer from clocking winds when a cold front comes through, the winds here are reliably from the east so there is no need to move from place to place as the weather changes.  And, again, unlike the Bahamas, when a cold front pushes south and brings very strong winds to the Bahamas, here it causes the trade winds to relax, something that we hope to see in a few days.   And, as Wednesday is Brenda’s birthday, a little less wind will be welcomed by the birthday girl.

My friend Bill on Kalunamoo contacted me yesterday to see if we’d be interested in moving south with them next week when the winds subside a bit.  However, that’s not in the cards for us, just yet.

And that’s because, in addition to holding onto our hats in the wind, I am still messing around with some important repairs, most notably still unresolved compressor issues for our fridge/freezer.  Just getting someone out to look at the unit has proven to be difficult and at last estimate, it could take as long as another month to resolve the problem which makes the delay in moving due to the high winds, pale by comparison with repair issues.   For now, we have to watch our battery level like a hawk as the compressor really labors and chokes if the voltage isn’t up to snuff, at 90% or better of full charge which means that in spite of abundant sunshine, I am still running our Honda generator every day which I am sure brings joy to our neighbors in the anchorage.

The refrigeration guys told me that once we order a new unit, and that won’t happen until I meet with them early this coming week, it might be three weeks until the unit is even shipped from the US.  There are some options that I hope can speed this up but it’s going to be at least two weeks, I’d guess until things are resolved and we are free to move away from here.

The watermaker is happily now mostly mended and I can at least operate it in manual mode as the “computer” that normally controls the unit doesn’t work.  Unfortunately, the fix that would surely solve the problem will cost at least one boat dollar, a bit rich for my blood at the moment with the pending fridge repair so, for now, I am content to open a few valves, toggle some switches and make water the “old fashioned way”.  Old fashioned or not, I am still in awe that our prized watermaker can magically turn salt water into fresh at the “push of a button” or now, at the push of several buttons, throwing of valves and switches.

However, there may be help to bring us back to the “one click” machine option as the watermaker guy still has some ideas for a simpler fix for less than a boat dollar.  I’ll know more about that soon, I hope.

And, now for something completely different.  I decided to try some of the fruits that are common here like star and passion fruits, types that aren’t readily available in the US but are grown here in abundance.  Star fruit is supposed to taste a lot like apple, which is true, but the one I tasted left me unimpressed.

Another fruit that I decided to try was passion fruit.  It looks like a smallish overripe apple, sort of dried out and spotty brown.  Inside the pulpy rind is a filling of soft stuff with black seeds that look to me more like frog eggs than anything else.  The seeds and soft fruit are a bit sour and I was told to mix it with yogurt, which I did.  They tasted much better than this sounds.   The bad news, I now know, is that they have what might be called, to put it delicately, a “lubricating effect” and my stomach etc have been in full revolt for two days now.  Not fun and I guess that I am sort of sworn off on trying unfamiliar tropical fruit for the time being.

However, prior to the recent effects of the passion fruit taking full control, Brenda and I took part, along with some other cruisers, in a tour, put on by the Parks Department, of some of the old ruins along a ridge on the bluff above the dockyard, where many British troops were housed when Nelson’s Dockyard was in operation.

Our docent, Dr Murphy, is very knowledgeable about the history of the island and as a trained archaeologist, was able to make history come alive for us.  He spoke of the life led by those in the British navy when they were stationed here.  Based on what he said, that life was brutish and short, with a fatality rate upwards of 70% per year due to yellow fever, heat stroke and many other illnesses.

It sounded horrible.  But, like those of us that were participating in “Rum in the Ruins”, they had rum.  And, it seems that rum was about all that they had and they had plenty of rum every day, enough to keep them lubricated enough to take the edge off of their miserable life.   I can only imagine what it must have been like to wake up every morning with a raging hangover and have to march in formation with heavy wool uniforms on in the tropical heat.  “Please, please, Captain can I have another rum punch.”

Dr. Murphy even dressed the part.  It’s hard to imagine living in this hot climate dressed in so many layers.   Note the rum punch, issued to us all to “get in the mood” as it were.   I have heard him speak in the past and he was as entertaining as I remembered.  High up on the ridge, overlooking the dockyard, the strong winds were really whipping.  Seeing the tall grass swaying in the breeze was beautiful. He talked about the history of some of the building, each with their own story. His description of the ruins and life in that era gave us a good feel for what life must have been like here so many years ago. I’ve mentioned this in a past post, but from the bluff, you could see Eric Clapton’s compound way down below. After the tour, just as it was getting dark, our group headed back to town.  Interestingly, here in the Caribbean, dusk is very short and sunset to pitch dark is quick, perhaps about 30 minutes.  Not a lot of twilight in these parts.

In the growing twilight, we went for a walk on the docks to see the mega yachts.  Now that the holiday parties in nearby St Barths are over, the marinas are nearly full, with one yacht more spectacular than the next.   It’s interesting to see the dozens of crew that work on these huge boats as they head out for an evening of bar hopping.  It’s easy to guess who is crew as they are all very young and very fit.   I guess that only “beautiful people” need apply.

One of the first we passed on the dock is the 300′ Phoenix.  She sports a huge sculpture of her namesake on her bow.  Check this link to see some remarkable photos of her.   Note that the wood expanse under the stairs isn’t the dock, it’s her sun-deck.
Phoenix 2 was launched for Jan Kulczyk in 2010, then the richest guy in Poland, for a reported $160,000,000.  Unfortunately, under the category of “you can’t take it with you”, Jan died in 2015 at the tender age of 65.  It was reported that he died of complications of surgery.  I believe that Phoenix is now for the use of his family.

Seeing a lineup of these yachts in the twilight is something to behold. Hard to believe that one person can amass enough wealth to afford one of these.  Imagine paying for such a yacht along with a full time staff of some 30 crew.

And, some yachts are so big and have to move around so much stuff and so many toys, that the owners purchase another “shadow yacht” to follow the “mother yacht” around from place to place.  The yacht on the left in this photo is such a vessel, aptly named Garcon as in “Garcon, please fetch my (whatever)”, submarine, sailboat, tender, toys, chopper, whatever.  And speaking of chopper, note the one secured to her upper deck.  Obviously it just wouldn’t be right to clutter up your yacht with an ugly chopper. This recent addition to the relentless need to “keep up with the Joneses” world of the uber-rich has only happened in the last few years but I am sure that you will agree that if you were forced to cram all your stuff into a single yacht it would be quite annoying.  “Garson, can you PLEASE get Dimitri’s chopper off of the sundeck?  I’d like to work on my tan.”

Besides, with only a single yacht it would have to be so ginormous that you wouldn’t be able to get it into your favorite harbors, so it just makes sense to have two.  To keep the cost down, your floating “garage” could have much more spartan conditions than the real yacht.  And, you could hire a cook instead of a chef, to feed the crew, which would be a big savings as well, right?

So that’s why everyone knows that it’s just plain less expensive to have a yacht and a shadow ship, than to have a single yacht that can handle all your stuff.  Check out this site that describes the “why” and see if you agree. 

And speaking of mother yachts, I wrote about EOS, owned by Barry Diller and his wife Diane Von Ferstenburg in my last post.  Up close, on the right, she definitely looks the part of luxury. Across the dock is Phoenix which is so much larger in displacement in spite of being about the same length. Everywhere you look, something more expensive looking than you’d expect.  How about these boarding ladders and most with a intercom to announce yourself.  “Can I trouble you for a bit of Grey Poupon?”  “No, go away!”I guess that’s it for now and as I continue to recover from my ill advised sampling out of the local fruits, I expect that the crew and owners on these huge yachts of wealth know better.

Besides, like those miserable British navy guys, no matter how miserable you get, a Tot of rum will make things seem right.

Yes, life here was once brutish and short but now…not so much, especially for those fortunate enough to have a mega-yacht or better yet, a second one to fit all their stuff.

Don’t forget, Brenda’s birthday is coming up soon.  January 15th.  Just sayin…

Break Out Another Thousand

Some say that a boat is nothing more than a “hole in the water into which you pour money”.  Or, perhaps to put it another way, “Break Out Another Thousand”.

Another basic truth is that the worse thing you can do to a boat is to not use it.  The longer it sits, the more stuff that doesn’t work when you “turn it on” again.

I’d also say that when I make long passages that lots of stuff breaks.  So there you have it, don’t use the boat and stuff breaks and use it and, well, stuff breaks.

So, it’s B.O.A.T., however you look at it.

Leaving Pandora for 5 weeks, while a great idea as we had a wonderful time visiting family, has made for a bit of a stressful “homecoming”, with a litany of stuff that now needs to be fixed.

Not to put too fine a point on it but let me count the ways/thousands…

Starter battery.   I pulled out the engine start battery last spring to have it load tested to be sure that it was OK and it was declared fine.  However, after sitting on the mooring for a month, nothing happened when I turned over the key.  It took me several hours to diagnose the problem as the voltage showed at a full 12.5 or better. However, after exhausting every other explanation, I suddenly remembered that I had to test it with a load to tell and I had Brenda engage the starter with the key, and discovered that it read only 6V while the starter was drawing power.  Oops, Dead Battery!  New battery problem solved.  Wasn’t that easy?

I’m still messing with the mainsail which was damaged on the way south and it’s back aboard Pandora but we are still ironing out some of the finer details which should be resolved today.

The best thing that Pandora tossed our way while we were away was that the refrigeration compressor has developed some major problems and while it’s still working, it’s drawing huge amounts of power when it first starts up and is making a lot of noise so I feel pressure to fix the problem before it finally gives up the ghost for good, or bad, as it were.  Imagine a G&T without ice.  Perish the thought!

I have had some tech folks aboard and now know that the bearings in the compressor are going bad which is why it draws so much power and is so loud.   I am hoping that I will be able to do a swap out of the compressor and still use the holding plates and electronics to run both the fridge and freezer.  I still think that’s possible but the details will become clear in the next few days, I hope.  For sure, B.O.A.T. will continue be the word of the day.

And, there is always the pain of ongoing maintenance to keep me on my toes.  After 5 weeks on a mooring in English Harbor, Pandora was sporting quite a “community” of little creatures growing on her hull, a healthy mix of slime and gunk that took me about 90 minutes to rub off.  It was amusing to see all the reef fish that hovered around for a snack while I scraped the hull.  Good news!  After all that exertion I was pretty sure that I burned off enough calories to treat myself to a coconut ice cream, a full half pint.  Of course, I had to eat it all at once as it was melting in the tropical heat, right?

And, there are always little mysteries to contend with, like why my wind instruments didn’t work when I turned them back on the other day and now they do.  Go figure.

Oh well, it’s a boat…B.O.A.T.

Along with the many cruising boats anchored in the harbor, I always enjoy watching the comings and goings of the MEGA Yachts and there are plenty of them here, that’s for sure.  And, in spite of the MEGA-DEEP pockets that the owners have, I am sure that even they have moments when they say WOW! that was expensive, B.O.A.H.T, Break out another hundred thousand.

And, speaking of the big kids, this is the view from Pandora of the marinas.   Perhaps B.O.A.M.  Break out another million indeed!  Note the three masted schooner on the right in the picture below.  As a point of scale, the motor yachts to her left are each well over 100′ long.   She is EOS, one of the largest sailing yachts in the world, at over 300′.   She’s so large that they had to bring her into the harbor backwards, in the dark, because she is too large to turn around in the basin.   She’s owned by Barry Diller, creator of Fox News and his wife, fashion designer Diane von Furstenburg.  Talk about a power couple.  B.O.A.M..

Interestingly, here in the same harbor, are Athena and Maltese Falcon, two other boats in the list of largest sailing yachts.   And, the good news for you is that both Athena and the Falcon are available for charter.  All you have to do is B.O.A.H.M.A.L. Break Out A Half Million At Least, and one of these can be yours, well yours for a week anyway…

Sorry, but Barry and Diane don’t charter EOS, the Power Couple that they are.  Interestingly, when EOS was launched, unlike most other megayachts that are written about extensively, she was not featured in any megayacht magazines so nobody really knows what she looks like inside.  Anyone that works on one of these yachts, or is involved in their construction, generally has to sign a Non Disclosure document.

In the other mega marina, is a yacht, along with Athena, that sports her own helicopter.   B.O.M.M.A.M, Break Out Many Millions And Millions…I guess that the big question is why do we spend so much time, MONEY and energy on boats when they cause such heartache.

Perhaps it’s because of views like this that greet us when we sit and have coffee in the morning.   Sorry Barry and Diane, our view is the same as yours. And, as if this view isn’t spectacular enough, I expect that a passing shower will show up in the next hour or so and leave a beautiful double rainbow in it’s wake.

And, to be on the beach having lunch at a lovely waterside cafe with Pandora nearby riding comfortably on her anchor.  Break out another thousand?  I’d prefer not to think about all that, I’ll just enjoy the view.

I do so hope that my fridge doesn’t crap out.  I’d hate for the ice to melt.  That would indeed be tragic.

I guess it’s time to B.O.A.T..  Well, perhaps just one more time.

Fireworks, beautiful yachts and rotted food.

Well, after spending last winter home Brenda and I are back aboard Pandora in “warmer climes” for our 7th winter season afloat.  We arrived here in Antigua on the afternoon of New Year’s eve and I have to say that it is nice to be back.  We enjoyed a wonderful if crazy expensive New Year’s eve dinner at the Admiral’s Inn, which proved to be a very nice way to settle back into our time aboard Pandora.  This was the view from Pandora’s cockpit this morning.  Unlike up north, the length of the days in the winter aren’t much different than the summer, perhaps only one hour shorter so at 06:30 the sun is already up. The normally strong trade winds have been light which has made sleeping a bit tough as it’s pretty warm down below in the evenings, without a cooling breeze.  But, what a beautiful view of the still waters in the early morning light. And a view of the Admiral’s Inn and the beautiful classic schooner, Mary Rose, to our stern, glowing.  The pillars to the left once formed the base for the Georgian era sail loft that served Lord Nelson’s navy when this harbor was England’s base of operations for the Caribbean or West Indies.   The British fought hard to keep control of what is still perhaps the best harbor in the Caribbean. And,  here’s Pandora behind Mary Rose out in front of the Inn.   What a spot. Brenda and I have been taking advantage of the light winds to enjoy a “cocktail cruise” in the harbor each evening.   Daily cruises like these have been a part of our boating life for 40 years now.  It’s a wonderful way to end the day.  Once the trades kick back in, probably next week, our tradition will be put on hold until things settle down again.  But for now, seeing a sunset like this, at the mouth of the harbor, with Montserrat in the distance, and the waves breaking on the shore, is the perfect accompaniment to a gin and tonic. Of course, what better way to ring in the new year after a wonderful dinner at the Inn than with fireworks in a tropical setting, viewed from a comfortable chair on Pandora’s bow?  To see the “rocket’s red glare” over the iconic Nelson’s Dockyard is something to behold. Even without the light show, the nightly view of the yachts from Pandora’s deck is beautiful.  This photo, a bit blurry in the dark, doesn’t do the view justice. In spite of the impressive array of yachts, the harbor is actually fairly empty as most of the really big yachts left town to celebrate the New Year in nearby St Barths, the most exclusive island in the Caribbean and the winter playground of billionaires, all jockeying to show off their wealth.  I am told that many boats will return to Antigua in the next week as the holidays wind down.

St Barths revelers or not, there’s still plenty of impressive hardware here in Antigua.   How about this yacht, small by local standards at 100′, but clearly one that fits in the “go fast” category. I’d say that she’s sort of a speedboat crossed with a chrome and glass man-pad.  It’s hard to see in this photo but she, “he?” sports two huge 5-6′ diameter, many bladed props that look like they mean business.  No swimming off the stern while the engine is running.  Or, if the owner is thinking about turning in the “little woman” for a newer model, “Honey, how about a dip off the stern before we head out.  You go ahead, I’ll be down in a moment.  I just need to check out something up in the cockpit.”

Go fast or not, I prefer the sailing yachts and there are plenty to choose from if you have the coin and most are so big that even the 1% crowd need not apply.  How about this beautiful schooner?I had to get special permission from the guard on the dock to get close to her.  Fortunately, I knew the guard, Shirley so she just waived me by.   Guarding aboard this one was a “yacht yard guard dog” following my every move, sitting on one of her huge winches, perhaps a favorite perch.  Or was it a guard dog bed?  Only he knows. While Antigua is clearly the playgroup of the uber-wealthy, there are also some beautiful, if less exotic boats to enjoy like this lovely Carriacou sloop heading out for a day sail. Today I walked over to nearby Falmouth to see what sort of huge yachts were there.  While the marina isn’t even close to full, it has an amazing array of hardware.  This dink, a bit fancier than our own “Hope” suggests something about the “mother ship”.  And, speaking of Mother ships, how about this one?And she’s complete with plenty of “toys” including this 800hp tender.  I wonder how fast she goes?  Too fast for me in any sort of seaway, I expect, where she would surely launch herself from wave top to wave top.  And of course there’s always the iconic Maltese Falcon, with her unique Dyna Rig square sails.  She was built for a Venture Capital guy, Tom Perkins, now deceased and is now in full time charter.   She can be yours and yours alone for a cool half million per week.  Check out some amazing photos here. Not cool enough for you?  Perhaps one of these.  And, ask yourself, what does someone who has enough money to afford a boat like Here Comes The Sun, do to “keep up the Joneses”?   You can charter her for about $1.5 million per week.  Of course, that’s plus expenses, fuel tips and the like.  Get details here about her and all y0u get.  And, don’t forget that the tips will be for the 25 crew and you wouldn’t want any of them to feel left out. And with “Sun” you can also opt to charter a “shadow yacht”.  The aptly named Pink Shadow will be there to carry all the toys you’ll need.  The concept, as I understand it, is that by using a shadow yacht, you can go with a Mother ship that is smaller than you might otherwise require.  Of course, shadow or not, Here Comes The Sun is still a bit girl at 300′.  Going this route allows you to save room aboard and put all those bulky toys on a separate boat, ship, yacht, or whatever you want to call it that can follow you around like a little pink puppy.  Catch a gander at the crane that Lil Pink sports?Getting back into the “mere mortals” category, here’s Maiden, the racing yacht that carried the first all woman crew around the world in a Whitbread race in the late 80s.  We saw a movie about that voyage at the Antigua Yacht Club last night and met the current crew, ladies again, of course, who are sailing Maiden around the world to raise awareness for women and sailing.  I’ve seen the movie “Maiden” once already and was even more moved this time than last.  You should check it out.  It’s a remarkable story about her skipper Tracy Edwards from England who, against all odds, finally was able to find financial support for the yacht, did remarkably well and ultimately was named Yachtsman of the Year, the first such recognition ever for a woman.   Maiden will be open for tours here in Antigua  in a few days and I look forward to writing more about this remarkable boat and her story.
And, of course where there is one race boat, there’s bound to be others.  Right next to Maiden, is a state of the art sled.  Big difference in the look of speeders now. And now, for a bit about the reality of “yachting for the regular folks”, that’s us.  They say that cruising is nothing much more than boat repair in exotic places and our personal experience would confirm that statement.

In past years, when we left Pandora for a few weeks, we’ve left the freezer running to avoid tossing the food left over from the passage south.  As I have never totally trusted our compressor, I have always arranged for someone to watch her and especially her fridge while we are away.

That has worked well for us until now as I got a call from our “guy” a few days before we returned to Antigua to let me know that he had found the fridge turned off and the content of the freezer quite warm.

I have been concerned about the unit for some time now as it seems to be making more noise than it had in the past and has also been drawing more power, a sure sign that there is something wrong.

So, we returned to Pandora on New Year’s Eve and opened the fridge to find a whole mess of re-frozen but completely rotted food.  It had clearly been off and on for some time before the problem was discovered and the breaker switched back on.  YUCK!  What a mess.

I emptied all of the food and filled two plastic trash bags with a revolting mix of semi-frozen pork, chicken and ground beef.    I then flushed out the freezer with hot water and bleach, removing, as best as I could, the slime if not the remaining smell.  I have dealt with this sort of problem in the past and believe that what’s left of the smell with finally go away in time.

What won’t “go away” is the fact that the compressor isn’t happy and will now have to be replaced.  I wasn’t sure about that fact until I was visited by a tech today who inspected the unit.  I’m not surprised but had hoped to forestall a replacement until I was home next summer when I could do my homework and pick the unit that was best.   Anyway, I’ll not bore you with the details except to say that the fridge and freezer are currently working if not very efficiently and I’ll be keeping a careful eye on things to be sure that the batteries are kept up to snuff while we wait for a verdict on what’s involved in replacing the unit with a new compressor or worse.  I am hopeful that we will find something that is a bit more efficient than what’s on there now.   Fingers crossed.

We have a parade of tradesmen coming by Pandora this week, first to re-install the mainsail that had been damaged on the way south this fall.  It turns out that in addition to some repairs, I needed a few relatively minor adjustments to how the sail was attached to the goose-neck to get the sail to set in a way that wasn’t going to put a strain on any of the fittings.   One problem in particular, is that I had not attached the clew of the sail to the goose-neck properly in the past, with it pulled to tightly to the mast.  It’s now offset somewhat and looks much better  when the sail is up, a minor but important change that should help things hold together better. The guys were aboard for way longer than expected and I can’t wait to get the bill. So there you have it, boat repair for the “little people” in exotic places and plenty of the “other half” on hand to remind us just how little we, or at least our bank accounts, are.

Having said that, I was talking to a member of the crew from one of the huge yachts yesterday who told me that he thought that us cruiser types probably have more fun than the crew on mega-yachts have any day.

All and all, I am happy to be back aboard Pandora and look forward to getting everything repaired before something else breaks.  Hopefully not to soon.

Yes, it’s nice to be back, rotten food and all, but I really want to go sailing and soon.