November 2007 Letter

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Happy Birthday to me!  It's hard to believe I'm 60 years old (on December 1).  Mike is only a few weeks behind me (on December 27), so he too will be 60 before the month is over.  We don't feel 60.  Well, actually, some days we feel like we're at least 80!  Anyway, it feels odd to think of being 60 years old.

We're in Antigua.  We've been here a week now and it appears we may need to stay a few more days.  We're trying to get our radar repaired.  Our radar stopped working and is giving us a message "Antenna is not rotating".  Things are not looking good though.  The technician went up our mast to take a look at the dome.  While he was up there, he dropped one of the screws on the dome cover into the ocean.  Nice.  After confirming that power is being sent to the unit, he suspects we may need a new circuit board.  We're waiting for a price from Raymarine.  It would have to be Fed Ex'd.  And we still don't know if that will resolve the issue.  Sigh.

This past month was spent cruising north up the island chain from Grenada.  When we left Grenada, we went to Tyrell Bay, Carriacou for a few days.   I tried to start a new exercise program since I gained a few pounds this summer in California.  I did laps around the boat, while Mike cleaned the bottom of the hull.  We hiked up Chapeau Carre, elevation 954 feet.  My goal was to walk or swim everyday.  I started out good, but this past week in Antigua, I haven't done anything!  I've been working on editing my movie of this summer's vacation with the grandkids.  Once I get started on a computer project like that, I don't come up for air until it's done!

After Carriacou, we sailed to Clifton Harbor, Union Island for an overnight.  We had to walk to Customs and Immigration which is at the small airport right next to the anchorage.  On our way, we had to walk around a small aircraft which had crashed through the fence at the end of the runway a few weeks before.  It was still just sitting there, half way on the sidewalk!  That evening, we took our dinghy to Jante's Happy Island for sunset drinks.  The island IS the bar.  The whole island is made entirely of conch shells from the old days of harvesting conch.  The enterprising fellow who built the bar created the island with all those shells.  It was very cool.

The next morning we sailed to Saline Bay, Mayreau.  It was so nice there!  We were the only boat in the bay.  There was a beautiful long white sand beach.  We snorkeled the reef that afternoon, barbequed chicken for dinner, and star gazed while listening to music that evening.  The next day a large cruise ship arrived and unloaded hundreds of tourists on the beach.  Suddenly our private paradise was turned into Coney Island!  We hiked over to the other side of the island (for exercise) and then snorkeled again.

Next we sailed to Canouan.  The hiking there was beautiful.  We really wanted to see the northern part of the island, which is entirely owned by a private resort, but we couldn't get past security.  We hiked up a very steep road only to be turned away at the main gate.  It was still a nice walk to the windward side of the island which had a fantastic view.  We found a local market and bought some provisions.  Later we returned to the Tamarind waterfront resort with our computer, had a drink on the patio and got a wifi connection to check email and call home.

We spent two nights in Canouan, then sailed to Admiralty Bay, Bequia.  The winds averaged 20 knots, and we had to dodge several squalls.  It only took a few hours to sail the 20 miles, but the squalls are nerve wracking.  They come on fast and you see them coming.  We quickly reef the sails, the wind picks up suddenly and it starts raining, then the wind hits hard and it starts pouring rain.  It usually only lasts about 15 to 20 minutes, then it's gone.  We reset the sails, wipe the water off the cockpit cushions, and go on our way.  We enjoyed several days in Bequia.  In fact, we even took an island tour with a local tour guide/taxi.  Is was not the usual crowded, hot, sweaty, minivan tour that we have experienced on other islands.  This tour was only us in the back of a jeep-style truck.  Open air, but with a covered canopy top to shade the sun.  Our tour guide was a lot of fun, stopping along the road to pick local fruit for us, taking us to the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary, and stopping to tour the Old Fort Villa Estate.

Our next stop was Marigot Bay, St. Lucia.  It was a long, all-day sail to get there.  We arrived just at sunset, having spent the day dodging squalls in high winds.  The most exciting part of the day was seeing whales!  I didn't have my camera in the cockpit because I didn't want it to get wet.  And I didn't want to miss watching the whales to go get it.  So ... no pictures of whales.  They weren't very close, but it was still wonderful to see.  We paid for a mooring in St. Lucia because it was getting dark and we didn't want to mess with anchoring.  We only wanted to spend the night to get some sleep. 

We left the next morning for another all day sail, this time to St. Pierre, Martinique.  We got hit with 2 squalls and sailed in winds above 20 knots all day.  Arrived in St. Pierre at 4 p.m.  St. Pierre is quite lovely.  We really like it here.  Over the next few days, we took a long hike in the beautiful hills of this island, and spent many hours in the local pub/internet cafe which had an upstairs patio balcony.  We toured the museum, walked around town, and photographed some of the ruins from a devastating volcanic eruption that completely wiped out the city in 1902, killing 30,000 people.  Today, St. Pierre's population is 5,000.  Post-disaster buildings have been built onto old structures, so many new buildings share at least one wall with the past.  The Saturday morning market was great and we bought fresh tuna which we cooked for dinner.  I would highly recommend visiting St. Pierre to other cruisers.  This town has a wonderful vibe.  We stayed for 4 days and hated to leave, but the weather is behind us and we had to push on.  We need to reach St. Martin by mid-December.

We had another long sail to reach Les Saintes, near Guadeloupe.  We didn't want to take a chance of arriving after dark, so we set sail at 4 a.m.  It's a good thing we left that early because we barely made it before dark.  The sun was just setting as we dropped the anchor.  It was a hard day's sail.  We got hammered by squalls 4 times.  And, something else really frightening happened.  We were close reaching on a starboard tack which had us heeling pretty strong.  In situations like that, it's a good idea to close the downside sink thru-hulls.  We've mopped up water in the heads because of this in the past, and should know better.  But I forgot to close the thru-hull in the aft portside head.  Halfway through the day I remembered that I forgot, so Mike went below to check it out.  Just as he was hollering up to me that we had a lot of water in there, he suddenly yelled "FIRE!".  It was the minute he got down there that the water washed up over the electrical outlet.  What timing.  Sparks flew and a blow torch of fire shot out of the wall.  It fried the socket and blackened the area around the outlet.  It also blackened and melted a plastic box of kleenex that I had on the sink.  Mike grabbed the fire extinguisher, but it only lasted a few seconds.  We turned off the main switch for the outlets, checked our other electronics and tried to get our heart rates back to normal.  After dropping our anchor at a small uninhabited island in Les Saintes, Mike removed the "fried" socket and taped the wires until we can replace the socket.  Considering how devastating that little incident might have been, I'm surprised that we were able to have such an enjoyable evening.  But we did!  It was beautiful in the anchorage.  We had drinks, listened to oldies and just enjoyed being there.

Relaxed at anchor at Les Saintes for 2 nights, then got a 4 a.m. start to Antigua.  But this time it wasn't early enough to get us there before dark.  We had no wind at all for most of the day.  When the wind finally came, it was 20 knots right on the nose!  So we motored the whole time.  We even tried fishing again (no luck).  We arrived in Jolly Harbour at 7 p.m. dropping our anchor outside the entrance to the harbor in a familiar area.  The next morning, we put the dinghy in the water and went to check in at Customs.  They insisted that we bring Aquila to their dock so they could see her.  So we dinghied back to the boat, weighed anchor and motored into the harbor.  The Customs dock is a short, low, old wooden dock and it's not the easiest to get a boat as big as Aquila into.  Unfortunately, we misjudged our approach, scraped the dock coming in, and got a nasty scratch on our blue hull.  Sheesh.  At least it didn't go through to white.  Maybe it will rub out somewhat.  I just can't worry about that stuff anymore.  A scratch seems so insignificant compared to our radar problem right now.  Now that's important.

The next day we sailed around to Falmouth Harbour, Antigua.  A week of rainy, squally weather with strong northerly swells was coming and we felt that we would be more comfortable tucked into Falmouth.  So, we've been here doing chores and mostly staying on board because of the rain, which comes and goes all day.  Mike replaced the hoses in the forward head and did maintenance on the engines.  He also relaxed, read a lot of books, and took naps.  I've done some laundry, using the sunny periods to dry clothes on the lifelines.  But mostly, I've been on the computer working with my video editing software.  I got a new editing program so I had to get through the learning curve.  Now I'm on a roll, creating a movie of our month-long summer road trip with our grandkids. 

Yesterday, we took our computer to the Mad Mongoose Bar to check email and call home.  They have free wifi, free electricity, and cheap drinks.  Mike saw a sign that said your meal is free on your birthday, so he wants to bring me back on Dec. 1.  Hey! Spare no expense on the one you love, baby!  While I was talking to Kimberly on Skype, a 7.3 earthquake hit Dominica, the island next to us.  I couldn't believe how long it lasted!  The building was shaking and that rumbling sound was loud.  The bartenders were trying to hold the bottles on the shelves, and all the rest of us were walking back and forth trying to figure out where to go!  Being a native of California, I've been through many earthquakes, but you never get used to it.  I freaked out my daughter because I said "Oh my God, earthquake! Oh my gosh, oh my gosh!  It's a big one!"  Then we got disconnected.  Bad time for Skype to drop a call!  Anyway, I quickly redialed to let her know everything was fine and we resumed our conversation.  Can't wait to see her in less than a month.  They fly in to St. Martin the day after Christmas.

And now the BIG NEWS (save the best for last!) ... Keni's pregnant!  Kailyn will become a big sister next June.  We are so excited!  This will be our 5th grandchild and we are absolutely delighted.  Sean, Keni and Kailyn will be out to visit us in February when we reach Key West, Florida.  Very much looking forward to seeing them.  Congratulations Sean and Keni!  (Is it appropriate to congratulate people for conceiving?)  Sounds right to me!  Way to go!

Fair Winds to All!  (Click here to see this month's Photo Album)

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