Monday, March 10, 2008

Who’s peeking out from under the stairway, calling a name that’s lighter than air,

Who’s bending down to give me a rainbow….everyone knows it’s…

Guadeloupe is little piece of France plunked right down in the middle of the Caribbean Islands. It has a personality distinctly French and both Jim and I agree; it is our favorite Island.

We first made landfall on this epicurean Mecca, at an anchorage off of a small fishing village called Deshaies (pronounced day hey, like HEY…how’s your DAY? Or got any HAY toDAY?) The cruising guide we use describes Deshaies as a delightful anchorage with great French restaurants and good holding; which means your anchor will not drag, which means you won’t wake up in the middle of the night, look our your portal (window) and see right into the portal of a boat that used to be 100 yards behind you. Our Northern Virginia readers are used to looking out their windows and into the windows of their neighbors. It’s not nearly as acceptable for this to happen on boats. The guide also mentions in passing that the anchorage has one little quirk caused by the position of the hills behind the village. They form a saddle which funnels the wind blowing over the north eastern part of the island right through Deshaies. I bet if I look up Deshaies in a French dictionary, I’ll find that it means windy as a sombitch, as in, Got any HAY toDAY? Hell no, it all blew away. For as windy as it was, the cruising guide should have gone into a bit more detail. We had no idea what was in store for us.

Another reason Jim and I love the French islands is that they LOVE dogs. Unlike the British islands, where rumor has it, they make pies out of them. Remember Sweeney Todd? He started with cats then moved to dogs and he was British. I think I’ve adequately made my point. So, with the dogs in the dinghy, and a light but suspiciously increasing September breeze blowing, Jim and I headed for “the cute fishing village” in search of an authentic French meal served in a restaurant where we would have no problem dining with our dogs.

Because it was September, a month fraught with hurricane possibilities, and every other sane sailor was way further south than we were, almost all of the restaurants in Deshaies were closed. We did happen upon a place that looked inviting. I asked the hostess in my most proficient French if we could dine with our dogs. She replied in a French that was both spoken quickly and with a Caribbean accent that her establishment did not, under any circumstances, cook dog; and that I might find a British island more to my liking. Sheepishly I explained that we just wanted to eat WITH our dogs not with our dogs covered in a beure blanc sauce. Her manner improved remarkably and we were seated at a table on a terrace overlooking the bay. She lit the candle on our table which promptly blew out, handed us our menus, lit the candle again, asked if we wanted still or sparkling water and then lit the candle one more time. My but that wind is really picking up!

The restaurant must have had seating for at least 100 people but Jim and I were the only ones dining. In spite of the windy conditions, we had a delightful meal while enjoying both a great bottle of French wine and the company of our dogs. We paid our bill, got back into the dinghy and I swear, without turning on our outboard engine, were blown the 600 feet back to our boat.

Sleeping that night was cool, cool, cool. Sleeping that night was loud, loud, loud. Man did that wind howl through our ringing, our hatch (skylight) and our nerves. It wasn’t until the next morning when we realized we had anchored in the windiest spot of a windy anchorage. We moved the boat, got a respite from the wind and thoroughly enjoyed the next two days in Deshaies.

We were in Antigua before Deshaies and in St. Barts before that. Jim usually takes care of checking us through customs and immigration when we arrive and before we leave an island. In St. Barts, I thought I’d give him a hand with the checking out. He usually seems a little bit frustrated when he gets back from the Customs and Immigration office so I figured since we were on a French Island and I did speak some French, this would be a good opportunity to score some points with Jimmy. We had pulled Eyes of the World up to the Custom’s dock in Gustavia and were filling up with water in preparation for our sail to Antigua. With the boat documents in hand, I headed for the Customs office. I had all of the immigration documents and the passports out and in hand when I stepped up to the counter. I’ve watched too many boat captains get reprimanded at the Customs counter when they start digging through their backpack looking for their documents. So, with my papers all in order, I exclaimed in my best French, “We are ready to go.” To which the Customs man said, “I am so happy for you.” While that wasn’t the response I expected, I decided to run with it. “Thank you for your kind thoughts, how much do we owe you?” At that point, he seemed to lighten up and said something like “Eight Euro.” I offered him the money and the boat documents. He took the cash but wasn’t interested in the boat docs. I commented that when we checked in, we told him that our next port of call would be Guadeloupe but that we had changed our mind and were heading to Antigua. “Do you need to change that on the boat’s papers?” I asked. “Non”, was his short but direct reply. “Do I need a receipt or do you need to stamp our passports”, I asked? Again with the “Non”. Being the record keeper on the boat, I managed to get him to stamp the Customs receipt with some official looking stamp and then had him sign it as well. He wasn’t keen on either task; however, I do like to keep things in order so I insisted.

I proudly informed Jim that Customs and Immigration had all been taken care of and we were cleared to leave. Off we sailed to the British island of Antigua. After a very nice overnight sail, we navigated Eyes into Jolly Harbour, Antigua. The first step after arriving in a new country is to visit Customs and Immigration and clear in. Up until this point, we had only cleared into one French island, one Dutch island and then another French island. Antigua was our first British island and we were kind of expecting the same procedure. Nope. The first thing we were told was that we needed to go to an internet café, pay to hire a computer, go to a website and fill out a form online. Then we were to pay to have that form printed and bring it back to Customs. Apparently, the people of Antigua are trying to rid the island of a pesky little thing called penmanship. The immigration office had forms, they had computers, they had staff and they only had us as customers…oops…troublemakers.

Like the un-pushy Americans we strive to be, we dutifully headed to the internet café, tugged on the door and almost dislocated a shoulder. It was 10:30 in the morning, the sign said the place opened at 9:00 and the sign on the door said OPEN. Hmmm. I understood the French signs in St. Maarten and St. Barts….what were these English Islands up to? Thinking that it was a time zone thing and that factored in with the Island time thing might mean that a place that says it will be open and in fact says that it IS open, might be opening soon. We waited an hour outside the closed OPEN café until we finally gave up and went back to Customs. To our surprise, the place was packed…with the same two Customs officers sitting in front of the same two computers doing god knows what (AOL chatroom…IMing important government business with someone with the screen name jnkindatrnk). I put on my best please-oh-please-god-help-me face and proceeded to start the mind control. I knew that I had to convince one of these two guys to use their government computers to do a little government work. It took me 10 minutes (impressive!) to convince the first guy to help me. It took him 30 minutes to convince swngindafrntporch (his AOL screen name) to stop chatting with jnkindatrnk and let him use the ONE computer in the immigration office actually hooked up to the internet to do a little immigrating.

Soooo, with the forms finally printed, we head to Customs where we are asked for our exit documents from our last port of call, St. Barts. With all the flourish of one who knows with confidence that the hard times are over, I produce the stamped and signed receipt I insisted on (and at this point I need to add how proud I was of myself for asking for the signed and stamped lifesaving document) from the Customs man in Gustavia. The Customs man in Antigua, and I kid you not, looked at the paper and said, “This is a receipt for water.” Drat. Foiled again.

Upon closer examination, the French word l’eau did appear many times on the official Customs document I had secured, but in my defense, we are a sailing vessel traveling on de l’eau.
It took me 45 minutes of pleading to convince the Customs man that while I thought I was checking out, the Customs guy in St. Barths thought I was just paying for my water. Back to the French books for me. I tell you all this because when we finally left Antigua and sailed to the windy village of Deshaies, we had to check into Customs. I knew better than to take on this task myself, however, I did go to the Customs office with Jim so I could provide moral support if needed. But lo and behold, we were back in France where the dogs are loved, the winds are strong and you can check into to Customs with a note you wrote yourself upon which you forged your parents signature saying you had permission to enter the country. They smile, stamp your passport and let you in. They even have candy on the counter. God I LOVE France.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Auld Langsyne

When you think about where you’d like to spend your New Years Eve, what comes to mind? I’ve certainly had years that involved being around way too many people. However, in the end I’d always want to be with Rick. I also like to be in the thick of things as well, so I could amend that by saying Rick and a party.

This year was again a new experience for me. We sailed from Chatham Bay to Clifton, the main harbor on Union Island. We spent one night here to get some additional groceries and have a look around the town. It was a very pleasant town and everyone was very friendly.

The harbor is protected by a reef to the east. There are two small islands within the reef. The first is Green Cay and the second is Happy Island. Green Cay doesn’t have much on it other than crabs, palm trees and the occasional Cocker Spaniel. Happy Island is just a bar. I’m not kidding. The entire island is a bar and you can only access it via your dinghy. Everyone there certainly seemed happy – we observed from a distance.

The next day we left for the Tobago Cays. When you’ve spent so much time in the Caribbean, you start to realize that the names of places don’t always give you information on where they are. For example, you might expect the Tobago Cays (pronounced keys) to be near Tobago. But they are actually part of the Grenadines and are nearly 100 miles north of Tobago. I guess in the scheme of things, they are close – but it can cause confusion for family and friends when we tell them where we are.

The Tobago Cays are described as “serene anchorages in gin-clear turquoise waters, good holding on sandy bottoms, scenic coral reefs, all caressed by the constant trade winds.” I’d describe the water as vodka-clear, but despite that small change they lived up to the description. They are protected by a reef to the east which is unlike most anchorages that have an island to block the wind and seas. This allows for beautiful sunrises and a clear view into the Atlantic while the seas are very calm.

We had a quite New Years Eve with Chris and Margit in this beautiful anchorage. We departed on New Years Day for a short sail to Petite St. Vincent and spent the night there. The following day, we made our way to Carriacou, which is an island that is north of and part of Grenada.

(written in February)
We ended up spending quite a long time in Grenada, but have decided it was our second favorite island save Guadeloupe. Will write more to detail what has happened since that time.

Keep the comments coming. Don't be shy.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Ogling the Caribbean from the "Eyes Of The World" by a Chain Flaker in Training

Jim's Comment: Another guest blog from my Uncle Steve

VHF Radio: "Eyes of the World, Eyes of the World switch 14"

My first adventure in the Lesser Antilles began when my America Eagle ATR72 TURBOPROP (travelling panache to give the illusion of experience) flight from San Juan landed in front of a solitary building that looked very much like Aunt Pearl’s cinder block house in the mountains of south central Pennsylvania. So this is Melville Hall (the name of the airport in Dominica) I thought.

I then arranged with Fred (I dunno, short for Freddo?) my taxi driver to take me to the police station in Portsmouth explaining to Fred that I wasn’t a parole violator or otherwise wanted but instead my nephew had instructed me to meet him there as the easiest destination in Portsmouth that could be described without a chance of confusion.

This trip of an hour that required crossing the mountainous northern neck of Dominica from west to east allowed me to view the beautiful natural beauty of Dominica

The Sisserou Parrot, probably the oldest species of Amazon parrot in the world, is protected and it is found only in Dominica.

The plant honored as the National Flower is a wild one known scientifically as Sabina Carinalis, commonly known as Carib Wood or Bois Caribe, it was legislated as the National Flower in 1978.

and at the same time the devastation wrought by hurricane Dean, the third most intense Atlantic hurricane (tropical cyclone in the Caribbean) ever to make landfall.

It also gave me a perspective of the poverty of the island that does not have the beaches that are so necessary to develop the beach resorts that attract so many tourists’ dollars to the Caribbean.

Interestingly in spite of its poverty the Dominicans (the people of Dominica not the Republic nor the order) have an excellent longevity.

"To us, she is the oldest person in the World, Elizabeth "Pampo" Israel, Born: January 27, 1875!"

Arriving in Portsmouth my expectations based on the many different Portsmouths I have visited in the English speaking world were let down to find a very third world looking town. (But then again Dominica is Creole French speaking.) Fred pulled up to the police station, which as far as I was concerned could have just as well been a bar, and there was Jim sitting outside.

Jim’s timing introduced one of the many skills of Jim and Rick had honed on the sea and on the land in the Caribbean, i.e. being able to calculate the timing of a series of events which could easily be interrupted by all kinds of variables, such as the weather, inefficiency, animals on the road etc.

Jim then with a fluidity of motion (which also became typical of so many series of actions that Jim and Rick performed from sailing to cooking to cleaning out the plumbing [the most fluid of all], gave me a hug, took my bags, pointed me in a direction to walk with him to the dingy, lowered himself in the dingy, positioned the dingy so I could lower my bags and then myself into the dingy (at the best angle to prevent me from falling in the water in despite my clumsiness), start the outboard, head for the Eyes, position the dingy so that I could step onto the Eyes and lift my bags to me. All of the above actions involving the dingy introduced me to a very important dimension of the sailing life, that being the “dingy.” As a result I am contemplating making my fame and fortune by writing (after more dingy research) the definitive book on dingydom,

especially since I have been told that my idiosyncrasies are well suited for such a topic. For intellectual property protection reasons I am putting Jim, Rick, Margit and Chris on notice of my intentions to also cover “dogs in dingydom.” (Margit and Chris are the extremely talented and charming friends of Jim and Rick who are sailing their own single-aluminum- hull [sailing penache to give the illusion of experience])

Once on Eyes my trip in Dominica paced that of Sue’s as she has described it in her blog and picks up again in Martinique.

Sue’s and Sam’s last day on the Eyes was spent in St. Pierre which was destroyed by Mont Pelée’s infamous eruption in 1902 in the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th Century when the eruption caused about 26,000 to 36,000 casualties in St Pierre including people from neighboring villages who had taken refuge in the supposedly safe city, except for one man, a prisoner by the name of Louis-Auguste Sylbaris who was protected by the walls of his solitary confinement (how’s that for irony or maybe masonry), who survived. He later toured the world with the Barnum and Bailey Circus.
So naturally Jim, Rick, Sue, Sam, Margit, Chris and I decided to risk the wrath of the volcanic god of Mont Pelée by climbing the last 1,000 feet of altitude of the Mont. Even though such risk may have been satiated by his emotional outburst of over ninety years ago, the risk may have been exacerbated by Chris, Margit, Sue and Sam picking carrots growing from its slopes which could have been considered by said god tantamount to pulling ear hair out of his ear. (It’s this ear hair thing which tipped the scale in favor of my designating the deity as male rather than a female). By the way, the carrots ended up into the best carrot soup I have ever had and was prepared by Margit.

However after about climbing about 400 feet of altitude towards the peak we ran into a somewhat bedraggled French speaking hiker coming down the Mont who gesticulated that he had tried to get to the peak but was frustrated by a “you can’t see your hand in front of your face” and “it was very cold up there” gestures, so we turned around so as to eat carrots another day.

The next day after visiting Fort de France, Martinique’s largest city and capital- Jim, Margit and I drove Sue and Sam to the airport outside of St. Pierre for their return to the U.S. Driving to and from the environs of Fort de France (as well as St. Pierre) I was impressed that if I didn’t know better I could have easily been outside any small prosperous city in many countries (you could tell by the Costco store).

The contrast between the third world of culture Dominica and the first world culture of Martinique presented the familiar tension between the close to the earth simplicity of the third world and the modernity of the first world. The contrast was heightened by the fact that Dominica and Martinique and neighboring islands no more than twenty-six miles apart.

The modernity and wealth of Martinique was exemplified by the trip to the Galleria in Le Lamentin outside of St. Pierre by Jim, Rick and I for a typical upscale experience of grocery shopping (exemplified by fashionably dressed customers, e.g. women shopping in high heels),

compared to the open market buy what’s available experience in Dominica and a breadth of selection in the Martinique grocery store from foie gras to designer clothes.

Back on the Eyes I encountered trouble with my head (not as in headache but as in my bowl runneth over).

Sue mentioned that I love telling the story thereby co-opting me from telling it here but also saving you from the scatological details.

Suffice it to say that I was on one hand admiring of Jim’s and Rick’s efforts, as they each took turns of forty-five minutes to an hour in the water at night with a flashlight in their mouth trying to snake out the plumbing blow out valves at the water line of the Eyes as they treaded water with their legs with nothing to hold on to and with the best prospect of their labors being a shower of black water. But on the other hand I was trepidacious that my turn was coming next. Finally Rick decided to take the plumbing in the head apart and clean up the mess afterwards.

So you think sailing is romantic. It should be noted that it seemed that either Jim or Rick or both were involved in an arduous or complex job of maintenance every day I was on the Eyes. In performing such maintenance each seemed to be fully knowledgeable and competent to take the Eyes completely apart and put it together again. All of this in addition to their sailing and cooking skills while participating in their state-side businesses and being excellent hosts at the same time. For me of all the wonder I beheld on the trip, this was the most memorable.

This sentiment brings me prematurely to end my description of my wonderful, beautiful and adventurous sailing trip on the Eyes because of all the beauty, adventure and good times that occurred until the trip ended, the above sentiment is the salient note to end with.

I departed the Eyes leaving something behind (which evidently is yet to be found) so as to have an excuse to return to the “world of the Eyes.”

VHF Radio: "Switching back to Channel 16"

“Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world,
The heart has its beaches, its homeland and thoughts of its own.
Wake now, discover that you are the song that the mornin brings,
But the heart has its seasons, its evenins and songs of its own.“
(Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter - 1973)

Friday, January 4, 2008

You Put Da Lime In the Coconut

Jim's Comment: This is the promised blog from my Aunt with whom we had an incredibly good time in November. Thanks, Sue!

The two weeks I spent in November 2007 aboard Eyes of the World in the company of the skippers, Jim and Rick, my dear sister-in-law Sam, and my husband Steve, are deeply etched in my consciousness.

How’s that for an intro?

I’d like to make this a pitch for anyone who has the chance to visit them – do it! In my many years of life (64, to be precise), I’ve very rarely experienced such a welcoming, attentive and considerate pair of hosts. It takes a lot to make me totally comfortable and able to let loose – it happened on Eyes for those wonderful fourteen days.

Images: the strong helping hands offered to the landlubber, boarding and alighting from various vessels; the excitement of casting off and setting sail for the next destination – with Jim and Rick totally in charge of our fate (my job was to secure the wine bottles and hold onto the dogs); the absolute freedom and exhilaration of sailing silently and peacefully over the bounding main ( I have a new appreciation for that term, by the way, but scopolamine patches took care of it); the cozy and comfortable accommodations with framed photographs of family so appropriately placed in our cabins, and even in the head; snorkeling with guys who have their knowledge and appreciation of the reefs and sea floor honed to perfection – and can dive 20’ down without a thought, to bring to the surface a wonderful critter we surface-snorkelers would never otherwise see; climbing a trail on Goat Island in Les Saintes with Chris and Margit, sweating all the way but marveling in the sights and the history; the market in Dominica and “Big Man” who found his match in Steve; the joy of spontaneous hugs and laughter (encouraged by mysterious rum drinks) and tropical rainstorms on the Indian River cruise; sleeping on the nets with Sam, with or without rain showers, [batten the hatches!], watching the passage of Orion and the incredible swath of the Milky Way; exploring Martinique on our own – our brave hosts driving, finding an abandoned carrot patch halfway up cloudy Mount Pelee, followed by a wonderful lunch in a restaurant by the sea; the history of the Caribbean! Oh my – “concise” the book was not, but for a totally left-brained person such as me, learning of the tragedies of these islands was essential. The monument of the shackled hands said it all. I could go on and on with the images – the photos don’t begin to tell the tale.

And there are a very few regrets:

(1) Despite our careful use of toilet paper (OK: two women, two weeks, only ½
roll!!!), we apparently left Eyes with a clogged holding tank. Steve witnessed
the amazing clearing of the same after Sam and I left, and loves telling the
story. Into the briny deep went our heroes, in the dark, checking valves,
disconnecting pipes, shoving hands into tanks…ok, maybe no more detail is
needed. They fixed it, of course – as they kept all of the complex systems on
Eyes going (see Rick’s previous blow-by-blow accounts on this blog).

(2) Wish I’d learned how to sail – oops, just remembered the instruction I received from the guys – how tightly I held onto the wheel and watched the compass and GPS – then came back up from a trip to the head to find autopilot doing a much more competent job than I had, thank you very much.

(3) Wish I’d conveyed more emphatically to Jim and Rick how much I enjoyed those 14 days.
Summary: the ease of daily life on Eyes with Jim & Rick. Let me repeat that: the EASE. So rare, so wonderful. Thank you, my dears. As our Governator says, “We’ll be back!”

Love, Sue (Jim’s aunt)(She married them)(and is very proud of that)

Comment from Jim: The "Coconut" song became a nightly even during which everyone sang and raised their hands in the air.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Silent Night

Seth and Lesley flew back to the bitter cold north on December 15th. Their arrival back into DC was delayed by a snow storm! Oh, I’d glad to be down here this time of year! We may have to deal with rain and high winds, but we don’t see much ice and snow.

We set sail for St. Vincent on December 18th. The winds and rain we’d been seeing had calmed a bit and the sea was ready for us to make the 38 nautical mile sail to Wallilabou Bay. So we said good bye to the Pitons of St. Lucia. I wondered whether we’d see them again.

We arrived in Wallilabou Bay without incident, but the sail over had some exciting times. We ran into several 30 knot squalls which helped us become more comfortable with our boat in these winds. The weather forecast had told us of these squalls and we’d prepared by putting one reef in the main sail, which you may recall means we don’t have the entire main sail up. Eyes of the World handled each of the squalls with ease and delivered us to our destination happy and healthy.

Wallilabou Bay was one of the main sights for the filming of “Pirates of the Caribbean” a few years back. The sets are still up, although not in the best of shape. One of the main houses has been converted into a hotel and restaurant. It was a nice place to stop for the night.

The next morning, still under clouds and covered with rain, we decided to sail to Blue Lagoon near the southern end of St. Vincent. There is a marina there and we needed to clean out the boat and get fuel before sailing into the Grenadines. We spent a few days in the Marina and it was nice to be on land again.

We’d planned on spending Christmas on the island of Bequia, 8 miles south of Blue Lagoon. Leaving St. Vincent behind us, we arrived in Bequia’s Friendship Bay later the same day. The anchorage here was very nice, but a bit rolly. It was the 22nd of December, so we decided to press on to Union Island’s Chatham Bay to spend Christmas.
The sail down to Union Island was gorgeous – one of the best we’d had. Additionally, Chatham Bay was just fantastic with a well protected anchorage, snorkeling just off the boat and a long sandy beach for running the dogs and taking walks.

Our Christmas was unlike any I’ve had so far in my life. The night before, Margit made us Christmas Eve dinner on Lucky Star. Living up to her usual yet amazing standards, we had:

Starter: Smoked salmon canapés
Amuse Bouche: Fried green mango slices with balsamic reduction
Salad: Asparagus cucumber boat with St. Lucian Piton limes
Main course: Margret duck breast, potato gratin and crème de cassis foam
Desert: Mince meat pie with ginger cream

Read that again. Sounds like dinner at a 5-star restaurant, no? Well, it was a Lucky Star restaurant and it was a wonderful evening.

Christmas Day consisted of a lazy morning reading and watching the birds eat the bait fish. It doesn’t seem to bother the pelicans too much when the brown booby steals what fish it can directly from his mouth. The girls and I could watch this for hours. When we finally got going, we joined Chris and Margit for a two-hour snorkel just off the back of our boats. We were swimming among thousands of these bait fish, seeing their world now directly. I so wanted to see the pelican splash down right in the middle of them. After a small lunch, in anticipation of the upcoming dinner, we read a bit and might have dozed off for a bit.

Christmas dinner was just as good as the night before, perhaps better. Margit, once again, whipped up a meal worthy of any critic’s rating. I might mention that her galley, like ours, is much smaller than even the smallest kitchen in the US. Not to mention the availability of the food, veggies, etc. The menu for that evening included:

Starter: Foie Gras direct from Paris
Main course: Leg of lamb with roasted vegetables
Desert: Apple tart made from scratch - remember the size of the galley

It may have been a bit sad to be so far away from family and friends in the US, but we had such a good time (and good meals) with Margit, Chris, Jackie, Cooper and Coco. It was another night to remember aboard Eyes of the World.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

The Pitons on St. Lucia inspired me to use this title. They are two of the highest most dramatic peaks in the Caribbean. This was the next stop down the island chain for us. But wait, I get ahead of myself.

Rick returned from his short trip to the states on Monday, December 3rd. We had our friends Seth and Lesley arriving on the 8th in St. Lucia so we needed to get a move on to ensure we’d be there when they arrived.

We departed La Marin, Martinique on December 5th and said good bye to the last of the French islands in the Caribbean chain; at least for a few months. The sail to St. Lucia was just over 21 nautical miles and the weather was forecasted to be good for the passage.

During the sail, we noticed some squall activity heading in the direction of St. Lucia. As the line developed, a small funnel cloud formed over the north end of St. Lucia which was a very eerie sight. We were glad not to be there and able to observe the cloud from afar. We did run through a few showers, but did not have any high winds which was very nice.

Rick had his fishing line out, but didn’t get anything on this trip. Thus far, the only fish he’s landed was the mahi mahi on our sail to Dominica from Les Iles des Saintes, Guadeloupe.

St. Lucia is one of the prettiest islands that we’ve seen. It’s the second largest of the Windward Islands. For those unfamiliar with the Windward Islands, they run from Martinique down to Grenada. They are called “windward” because when the English settled these islands, they had to sail into the wind to get to them. The direction from which the wind is blowing is called Windward. Therefore, these became known as the Windward Islands.

Now, the Leeward Islands start with Anguilla and extend to Dominica, just north of Martinique. Presumably that would mean that you’d sail with the wind to get to them. However, it seems that we’re always sailing into the wind no matter what. Murphy’s Law, I suppose. That’s your educational lesson for today. Oh, and for those who are wondering which island is the largest in the Windwards…it’s Martinique.

We arrived in Rodney Bay in the afternoon and found a very nice spot to anchor. Chris and I went ashore to clear in and I was again on the search for a new SIM card for our cellular phone. We’ve been getting new SIM cards on each island because it allows us to call back to the US much more economically than using the satellite phone or land lines.

We moved the boat the following day down to Marigot Bay. On the sail down, we ran across the Queen Mary II! She was quite a sight and we were right up on her outside of Castries.

Marigot Bay was perfect for us because it was very calm and would allow us to install the new internet antenna I’d ordered. Rick brought it back with him on his trip. The new antenna allows us to pick up signals from a greater distance. The antenna needed to be mounted to the top of the mast, then a CAT-6 cable run down the mast and through the boat to our internal router. Talk about a job! With Seth and Lesley just a day away, our boat appeared a disaster area. We did manage in the end to get the antenna installed and operating properly. It took three of us to get the job done and Chris very generously helped us out.

Seth and Lesley arrived right on time and Rick and I were at the airport to greet them. We had a great time with them while they were here, even though Seth had to work during the day. We anchored near the Pitons which are an icon of the Caribbean. We really couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful spot. The snorkeling, diving and hiking were terrific.

Seth and Lesley enjoyed their time on Eyes of the World just as much as we enjoyed having them. While it was sad to see them go, Rick and I were excited to continue our journey south to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

That’s it for this update. I hope all is well with you and yours – and we hope everyone has a fantastic holiday season!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Deck The Halls

As many of you now know, Rick flew back to the US for his annual store annual Christmas party. His arrival at the party was a surprise even to his staff.

My uncle Steve had left just a few days prior to Rick going back. The picture below is of us in front of the HMS Diamond Rock. Like many Caribbean islands, Martinique changed hands between the British and French many, many times. During one battle, they elected to make this rock part of her majesty's fleet.

While Rick returned to the US, I stayed back with the dogs in Martinique. And also as many of you know, I love to decorate for the Holidays. So what did I do, you ask? Shop of course!

I would describe the shopping on Martinique as some of the best I’ve seen in the Caribbean. Martinique is like Guadeloupe inasmuch as it is also a Department of France, meaning it is like our states in the USA. The culture of the French islands is more similar to that of France than the former British (now independent) islands. Martinique has superstores that have nearly everything you could need. Both Margit and Chris joined me on a search for the perfect decorations that would fit on a 41 foot catamaran.

We went to all of these superstores on the island: Cora, Carrefore and Euromarche. We even tried the Home-Depot equivalent Mr. Bricolage. Christmas in the islands is not as much in-your-face as we are in the US. For example, the decorations did not even appear on the scene until just after Thanksgiving. I know, hard to believe.

I wasn’t having much luck on our quest for holiday cheer. I was also shopping for a 220V power washer at the same time. What’s that you say? Why? Well, while Rick was gone I also did some heavy cleaning on Eyes of the World and saw Jon Jill next to us using a power washer to make his job easier. Besides, do I really need a reason to purchase power tools?

Chris spotted the shopping center. He saw a small bricolage (French for hardware store) in a strip mall so we pulled over. Margit waited in the car because it was cool and we didn’t want to turn off the A/C. The bricolage didn’t have the power washer, but the strip mall also had a small specialty store for knickknacks. We figured, what the heck, let’s check it out.

This was one of those stores that assaults your senses when you enter. Kind of like a Body Shop or L’Occtaine. There were so many different smells and there was so much stuff crammed into this 100 sq meter store that I nearly did a u-turn and walked out as fast as we went it. However, with Chris just behind me I didn’t want to appear so shallow. I started looking around, trying to clear my mind of the overload to my nose and eyes.

Margit showed up a few moments later, deciding to give up the cool in favor of some good shopping finds. She spotted them first… Thank god she was there; I’d already given up on finding anything among all the stuff. But I’m happy to report that we have two Christmas trees, a strand of lights and some other decorations this year!