Monthly Archives: March 2023

Clouds worth sharing and home again.

It’s a bittersweet day as I sit here in Falmouth Harbor, Antigau, where we began our winter of cruising a few months ago as tomorrow Brenda an I fly home to CT and our “land home”.

It’s been nearly two weeks since my last post but with our friends Peter and Jane aboard with every day busy sightseeing or moving to yet another island, there has hardly been time to write.

I have to say that I am looking forward to being back on land and getting our home and gardens up and running again after a long winters rest.  The daffodils should be in bloom unless the deer haven’t nipped them down to the ground.  I planted dozens last fall so, fingers crossed.

Peter and Jane were with us for nearly two weeks as we moved Pandora north from St Lucia to Antigua, about 200 miles, visiting St Lucia, Martinique, Dominica, Les Saintes and Guadeloupe along the way.   I will admit that it sometimes felt like a forced march as we moved nearly every day and the winds were pretty strong, and from north of east, so we were constantly close-reaching when making our way between islands in the ocean swells.

Brenda did pretty well but yesterday she was uncomfortable as we slogged our way the last 50 miles from Guadeloupe, hit by three squalls that brought gusty winds and very confused seas.

It was good to be back in the calm of Falmouth Harbor.  And, speaking of Antigua, after a winter of moving from island to island and paying generally $5 or less to clear into every new country, I had forgotten how expensive it is to arrive in Antigua when I was presented with a bill for $150 in English Harbor yesterday.

Having said that, I still think that Antigua is the best place to make landfall to begin or end a season of cruising the Caribbean.   And, when things break someone to put things right is just a phone call away.  Unfortunately, on that score, I have an engine guy coming out today to look at my dodgy engine cooling system.  Fingers crossed that the “fix” won’t be too expensive.

I’ll admit that it is particularly galling that the problem, salt water getting into the fresh water cooling system, is exactly what I paid more than $500 to “fix” at the Deltaville Boat Yard last summer, as part of that horrific and ridiculously expensive upgrade to my battery system that went so badly.

If you ever consider leaving your boat in Deltaville there are plenty of yards that do good work.   Deltaville Boat Yard, where I had such a bad experience, generally does good work.  And, you are likely to be happy if you don’t want to hear from them regularly, have months to wait for them to complete the job and are willing to give them a blank checkbook.  Enough said about that I guess.

After a few weeks at home, I will be returning to Antigua to begin my run north with Pandora at the beginning of May, complete with a planned stop in Bermuda.

Being home will be nice as getting things done is always a lot easier on land but I will surely miss the beautiful sunsets and ever changing clouds like this shot that I took in Les Saintes, a lovely island archipelago on the south end of Guadeloupe. And, speaking of clouds, I have written often of the Cloud Appreciation Society and their daily “clouds”, photos of clouds chosen from photos submitted by their nearly 60,000 members.   I have submitted many of my own photos over the last few years and am always thrilled when one is chosen to “publish” when they send it out to all their members.

Happily, a few days ago my photo was sent out, a shot that I  took in the mountains of Dominica when we walked down into an extinct volcano to see some Sulphur vents.  I’m not sure but think that this photo is the 5th or 6th of mine that they have used.  Pretty neat and thrilling to see when it happens.

This spot was high in the mountains and the landscape was made up of giant tree ferns bathed in near constant mist from the clouds that form over the tops of the “islands that kiss the clouds”.

Along with publishing photos, sent to members every day, they provide detailed descriptions of what the photos document.  So, here’s my photo and what they had to say about it.

“Nicknamed ’The Nature Island’ of the Caribbean, Dominica lies in the West Indies and boasts mountainous rainforests abundant with plants and animals. They also host a fair few clouds, like these Stratus spotted by Bob Osborn (Member 54,749), who tells us the island’s mountain peaks are almost always shrouded in clouds. These, Bob explains, ‘keep everything lush, including the giant tree ferns that are abundant here.’ But the flow of nourishment is a two-way street. Not only do the clouds help maintain the forests, but the forests in turn contribute to the formation of the clouds. Trees in rainforests introduce moisture into the air through the process of transpiration. This is the tree equivalent of sweating, when moisture evaporates from their leaves to help keep them cool. The moist air rises and can cool enough to condense into cloud. In time, the clouds release rain and hand their moisture back to the trees, creating a self-sustaining ecosystem in which land and sky support one another. “

So, here we are, heading home again, and for the 9th time in 11 years, I will soon be bringing Pandora back north for the summer.

I’m already thinking about projects that I will do aboard her this summer and hope that we will have some time to do a bit of cruising in New England.  Perhaps we might get really lucky and get our oldest granddaughter Tori aboard so we can introduce her to Pandora.  One can always hope…

Yes, heading home soon and a cloud worth sharing.  Check and check…

Stand by as there is more to come.  And, with Starlink aboard Pandora, my posts on passage should even include photos, of clouds no doubt…

It’s nearly a wrap on winter 2022-23.

Well, here we are, in Rodney Bay St Lucia where we will meet our friends Peter and Jane for a ten day visit as we make our way back to Antigua.   In the next slip over is Kalunamoo, our good friends Bill and Maureen, who we have been buddy boating for over a decade now, having met them during our very first run down the ICW back in 2012.

Never in my wildest dreams that year, new to the whole cruising thing, that I’d be writing from St Lucia today.  Another thing that I would never have imagined would be Starlink giving us broadband internet at speeds that are sometimes faster than cable at home.  Back in 2012 we did have cell phones but coverage has been a perpetual problem for us both in the US and in the islands.

Here’s the semi-permanent install up on the aft portion of the solar panel.  As you may recall, that installation exercise nearly cost me a few fingers when I forgot to turn off the wind generator and it clipped my hand.  Nasty and really bl0ody.  I still have ‘t been able to get the blood out of the bimini canvas or the chaps on the dink that were spattered.

Well, three weeks later my hand is mostly healed and I can go swimming again.  However, I will carry some impressive scars to remind myself of how lucky I am.  On the bright side, if anyone ever calls Brenda and asks “does your husband have any scars or unique identifying features?”  Never, mind…Perhaps I need to get a tattoo.

It’s hard to believe that we are less than two weeks away from returning to the US.  I will admit that I am excited about getting things going again at home with the gardens and summer projects.

We have our friends Peter and Jane meeting us here in St Lucia tomorrow which sort of signals the end of the season.  We plan to tour the island on Wednesday and then begin to make our way back to Antigua where we will fly home with them on April 1st.

Mid May I’ll head back to Antigua to get Pandora ready to make the run home to CT with a week long stop in Bermuda.  It’s hard to believe that it’s been about 3o years since I was last in Bermuda when I helped a fellow Norwalk Yacht Club member bring his boat back to Norwalk after running in the Bermuda race.    I’ll admit that it all seems like a thousand years ago.

Our run with Peter and Jane will probably end up feeling a bit like a club cruise, or forced march, as we have a hard date to be back in Antigua.  The primary problem is that it continues to be quite windy with a few mild days tossed in for good measure.

We are flexible to an extent on where we will be stopping  but do need to be in Antigua in time for our flight on the 1st so keeping a close eye on the weather will be important.  Sporty isn’t all that much fun and this season has mostly been all about sporty, with one notable exception when we made our way here last week.

All and all, it’s been a fairly easy season, setting aside nearly cutting off a few fingers, as we haven’t covered very much distance at all, handing out in most places we have visited until the anchor chain was beginning to get a bit slimy.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than a decade since that first run down the ICW and here we are.

It’s worth noting that we were here in this marina, and with Kalunamoo, when the pandemic hit and locked everything down.

The good news is that things are generally back to normal.  But one way or the other, we will be heading home soon and putting a wrap on this season.

I guess it’s time to begin making plans for the summer before the “honey-do” list gets too long.





Ya Ya bar and a bottle of rum.

It’s been a week since my mishap with the wind generator and I am feeling much better, thankyou.   The cuts are beginning to itch and I am very much looking forward to getting the stiches out, supposedly on Tuesday.

The last few days have been uncharacteristically still with almost no wind to keep things cool.  Happily, it does cool down quite a bit at night so sleeping isn’t a problem.

We moved into La Marin to be closer to shopping and less exposed to the small chop in St Anne,  There are also a good number of places to eat out and renting a car there is also quite easy.

To that point, we took a day to drive around the island and visit some distilleries with our friends Lynn and Mark on Roxy on Wednesday.   I have been on the hunt for some interesting rums for some friends and our travels did not disappoint.

In particular, I enjoy Clement, a great place to visit.  This short video, also featured on their website, captures the spirit, pun intended, of Martinique.Since the pandemic, like so many businesses that had to close, they took advantage of the shutdown to remodel their tasting room.   Unlike similar businesses in the US that charge for tastings, at most distilleries in the islands, you can try as many as you wish.  And, because taxation on spirits in the islands is so much different than in the US, prices at the liquor store are considerably less here.  For about $25-$50 you can get a very nice bottle of 10 year old rum and a very decent rum is in the teens.

You can tell from the face of the building that this place is something special.  Stainless cladding. The tasting room at Clement is impressive with their product dramatically displayed. This selection is just their basic product.   Pretty good anyway and about $15 a bottle. And the better stuff.  Want to spend $1,000 a bottle, that’s possible but probably not necessary.  This was a particularly dramatic display in a tall stairwell. Upon closer inspection, reflected in mirrors on the bottom of each shelf. These bottles show off the various colors of their rums.If you want to purchase product, and everyone does, they will store your purchases while you tour the sculpture gardens.  We’ve been here before but it’s always worth another look.  Quite dramatic and huge sculptures.And a reminder that this place has been in business for a long time.  Very tropical.And now onto another topic.

Many of us, should I say “of a certain age” struggle to get in and out of the dink, even when we haven’t had much rum to drink.  At the junction of water and land, there are generally docks, often questionable.  Some have high ladders and others are just plain sketchy with splintered boards that we have to crawl onto.

This has been a source of great frustration for Brenda who in addition to hating the whole “spectator sport” of watching her navigate from dink to dock and back again judges a town by the quality of the docks.  And, she is not alone as so many of us aren’t quite as spry as we once were.

Enter the Ya Ya bar.

Last week we were climbing, not all that gracefully, out onto yet another dock and as Brenda got up onto her feet, a woman nearby said, “you should get one of these for your dink” pointing to a bar that has been installed on theirs.   Her husband, who had a bad stroke a while back, needed a way to steady himself in the dink so they had a bar installed to help him get in and out.  She then pointed to a nearby shop, Inoxalu.  The business is owned by a very nice German couple.  The husband Kai, is soft spoken and extremely precise in his work.  It was clear that he thinks hard to make sure that form follows function.  He took time with Brenda in the dink to make measurements so it was the right height to help her and also to find a way to secure the structure to the dink without needing to drill any holes through the hull.

I think that he did a masterful job of putting it all together.

We had the bar installed on the starboard side of the dink as that’s the side that we always pull up to our transom when entering the dink from Pandora. It straddles the seat so it’s a good backrest to help Brenda feel more secure when we are blasting along over the choppy water in the harbor. As we did not want him to bolt the bar directly through the bottom of the boat so  he fabricated some very nice fittings for the pipe to go into.   This is the aft fitting and the pipe can easily be unbolted and removed. The forward outboard fitting is also bolted into a ridge running down the bottom of the dink.And there is a third leg that bolts onto a ridge aft of the forward fuel tank to give the whole structure rigidity.  The bar is very sold and does not wiggle at all.   It works exactly as advertised and Brenda is already finding that it makes getting in and out of the dink much easier.

She even has a name of it and christened it “My Ya Ya Bar”.  And for those of  you that are not aware the names of such things, this is her takeoff of “Granny Bar” the braces that stand on either side of a mast for you to lean up against when it’s rough.  Oh yeah, to be clear, Ya Ya is what our grandchildren call her if you are wondering were in the world that came from.

So there you have it, in one day we became the proud recipients of “A Ya Ya bar and a bottle of rum…” with apologies to pirates everywhere. as we toured the island and waited for the work on our dink to be completed.

And to make things even better, Brenda likes it.   And that’s good.

The absolute worst boat bite of all time.

It’s a beautiful day here in St Ann Martinique.  It’s one of the largest anchorages in the Caribbean and it’s nice to be somewhere where there is plenty of room to anchor.  And, it’s not rolly!

This is a wide open and lovely spot and I can’t help but begin this post with a view of the full moon setting early this morning when I was sitting in the cockpit reading a book at O-dark-30, a few hours before dawn.   It was a beautiful sight.Even better close up. Somehow one of the best parts of cruising is watching the sky and trying to see interesting shapes in the clouds.   I think that this one looks a lot like a dragon on patrol. And speaking of setting full moons.  How about this sunset?  It’s hard to beat a view like this as the sun drops to the horizon. And the illusive green flash which isn’t all that uncommon here in the Caribbean when the horizon is clear. As I have mentioned in an earlier post, we badly bent our anchor trying to Anchor in Fort de France but here it’s easy with plenty of room all around us.  Happily, the shank has been straightened and the anchor is as good as new.

Tomorrow we will be leaving our dink in nearby La Marin to have a “granny bar” or in this case a “YaYa bar” installed to make it easier for Brenda, AKA, YaYa, to get in and out of the dink.   When we were at a dock in La Marin last week a women watched Brenda as she crawled out of the dink, like everyone of a certain age does including yours truly.  She pointed out that her husband, who had a severe stroke, now had a terrific handhold in their dink that made it possible for him to get in and out fairly easily in spite of being partially paralyzed on the left half of his body.

As luck would have it, the shop that made the bar 0n their dink was nearby and was actually the same one that fixed our anchor, so YaYa bar, here we come!  Tomorrow!

As we have to leave the dink for the day we have rented a car to tour the island.  Can you say Rum Distilleries?

Martinique is home to some great distilleries and it’s great fun to visit them and do a bit of tasting.   I’ll report on what I learn.

And, speaking of learning.  As of today, after three months aboard we have finally completed the “mostly permanent” installation of our Starlink satellite antenna.

Since January we had it perched on deck while we were at anchor and then dwon below when we were underway.  Deciding where to mount it was a real challenge but I finally figured it out.

It actually took me an entire sweaty day to snake the cable from the navigation station down below, all the way to the stern.  And, it wasn’t until I was able to source a robust fishing rod holder and install it on the back of the davits, that I had a spot to put the antenna.

Here’s how it looks.  Pretty spiffy and it should stay fairly high above the salt spray on passage.  We’ll see how that goes.   It is an “RV” unit but not necessarily marine.  But, there are plenty of these installed on boats now so fingers crossed. Note that it is installed on the port side of the arch.  That’s important as the prevailing winds are from the east and that means that the sun generally tracks on the starboard, south, side of the boat which means that the antenna doesn’t shade the solar panel below it.

Note that the antenna is mounted behind the wind generator. That’s an important distinction and I learned the hard way that carbon fiber wind generator blades do not mix well with flesh.

A few days ago when I was installing the bracket for the antenna on the arch I had turned off the wind generator while I was working up on the arch installing the bracket.   However, and it’s a BIG HOWEVER, I turned it back on when I was working below and forgot to engage the break again before going back up on the arch to work.

I have mentioned that the unit is pretty quiet and while it was whirring away, spinning REALLY F*****G FAST, I lifted my hand and in a fraction of a second the blades sliced open my hand, splattering blood everywhere including in my dink that was trailing 10′ behind the boat.

In a fraction of a second, my hand was mangled and bleeding like nothing like I have ever seen.  Thick, alarmingly red blood splattered everywhere.  It looked terrible.   Oh boy, did it hurt!

I was able to climb down from the arch and count my fingers.  All accounted for…

I called out to Brenda and we applied pressure on the “wounds” and did our best to stop the bleeding.    A LOT OF BLOOD!  It’s amazing how much a cut, no make that multiple cuts, can bleed.

Anyway, we cleaned up a bit and applied a pressure bandage, and headed ashore in the dink.  After trying to find a cab with no luck, we ended up taking a bus to the hospital in a nearby town and after waiting about an hour a doctor showed up.  Two or three hours later I was finally in the examining room.

She was very competent and spent an hour cleaning me up and stitching my wounds.  Let me tell you, it wasn’t fun but she did a very good job.

If you have a weak stomach, stop here….

This may look nasty but it’s downright beautiful compared to what I arrived at the hospital looking like.  The blades hit me so hard that even my palm is bruised from the force of impact on the back of my hand.  No swimming for me for the next ten days.  I’ll tell you that I feel like I have a guardian angel watching over me as it could have been a lot worse,  WAY LOT WORSE!  At least I still have all my fingers, no numb spots and everything still works just fine if a bit puffy.  And, in the dark of night my mind wanders and I imagine just HOW BAD it could have been.

I have written a lot about my wind generator and solar panels and let me tell you, I still like looking at them but from now on, it’s look but don’t touch, even by accident.

Well, a few days later it still hurts but not nearly as much and I am more than a little thankful that it wasn’t a lot worse.

I can say with confidence that this is without question the absolute worst “boat bite” I have ever had and way worse than the recent one on my left shin and my big toe but that’s another story.

But, it was still a lovely sunrise today after the moon went down. Oh yeah, and about all that spilling blood thing…

Brenda was not amused…