Thursday, July 10, 2014

One week left of the adventure

Sunset over Prickly Bay, Grenada
Dana and I are in the final stages preparing ourselves, and Eventyr, for the end of our sailing adventure together. We’re anchored in Prickly Bay, Grenada, where we’ve been since our arrival from Trinidad almost two weeks ago. Tomorrow, we raise the anchor and motor a couple bays over to Le Phare Bleu Marina, where we’ve stayed before. After a couple days of cleaning, packing, and engine work, we’ll motor a couple more bays over to Grenada Marine, where Eventyr will be hauled out of the water and placed on jack stands for hurricane season. She’s for sale, so when we leave her next Wednesday, it will probably be our final goodbye.

In my last blog, I mentioned that we were about to sail from Trinidad to Grenada, and the weather didn’t look great, but was only worsening in the days to come. We had to leave. Well, as is the case with adventures, we got more than we bargained for. It was as if Mother Nature was giving us a clear message that we’re done with this sailing trip. After rounding the coast of Trinidad, with Venezuela looming to the west, we unfurled our jib, killed the engine and commenced sailing. Although the seas were quite choppy and we were heeled far over, we felt alright and settled in for our 82-mile, overnight trip. We even had a current in our favor and were cruising along at over 7 knots.

Leaving Chaguaramas, Trinidad under cloudy skies
Our fair sailing was not to last. After about 3 hours and 16 miles off the coast of Trinidad, our jib started flapping wildly. Upon examination, we realized that the metal ring at the clew of the sail, which holds the line (jib sheet), had ripped clean off the sail. The treads had worn over time and sun exposure, and finally gave up the ghost. There was no fix we could do underway. After a brief conference, we decided to turn on the engine, roll up the jib and motor sail the remaining 65 miles with just our mainsail. Motor sailing was what we’re used to, anyway, since we’ve had to motor sail all our previous long, overnight trips. We had plenty of diesel and the engine had been running well, so we weren’t concerned. I was able to get the jib mostly rolled in and secured, but a couple wraps were too high for me to reach and destined to flap the entire rest of the sail. Oh well, I knew I could secure it once we got to a calm anchorage in Grenada.

Losing the jib was bad enough, but about an hour later, our autopilot malfunctioned and we could not get it working again. The autopilot steers for us and keeps us on course, so the person on watch just has to make occasional checks. Without an autopilot, we had to hand steer the entire night, vigilantly watching the compass and chartplotter to stay on course. It was getting dark and we were in for 15 more hours of this.

And then came the squalls. About every half hour during the pitch-black night, the rain would start and the shrieking winds would follow. The seas grew in size and we felt like we were in a washing machine. Neither of us went down below, except for quick trips for the rest of the trip. When not at the helm, we tried our best to rest in the pitching and rolling cockpit, covering ourselves in a soaking wet beach towel in a vain attempt to stay warm. The rester was also at the ready to loosen the mainsail every time the wind really kicked up and heeled us over.

For the first time during the entire adventure, I felt scared. Not terrified, but generally unsettled. If the engine were to fail while 40 miles out to sea with only a mainsail, in pitch black rough seas, we would be in real trouble. Lucky for us, the engine motored strongly along the rest of the trip, and as dawn broke and I could see the ocean around us, I felt much better.  By that point, our speed had slowed to less than 4 knots and the final leg of the trip felt like forever. We couldn’t see sweet Grenada until we were within 6 or 7 miles of her shores due to haze. What a welcome sight! Upon anchoring at 9:30 am we fell asleep and slept until dark.

Securing the jib once in the calm of Prickly Bay
But don’t get me wrong. The sail from Trinidad to Grenada was not all bad. At points during the night when the rains had temporarily passed, while lying on the cockpit bench staring upward around the bimini, the stars were amazing. I could see the southern cross, the big dipper, and the swirl of galaxies. I also saw the little phosphorescent creatures in our wake one last time. When the sun rose, I caught glimpses of the familiar sight of flying fish shooting out of the water. Unfortunately, it was too rough for them and every flight smacked them directly in the face of a steep wave after only a couple feet. I’ll miss these experiences.

We had another positive experience during the passage. We crossed paths with one other sailboat during the 19-hour sail. It was before dark soon after we lost our jib but before we lost our autopilot. The crazy captain was flying full sails (not reefed at all), and the boat looked fast. After breaking out the binoculars, we gleaned that it was Jaguar. That’s the boat on which Hanna crewed at the Bequia Regatta when their rudder fell off back in April. We radioed, and captain Peter was happy to talk to us. He inquired about our flapping jib and we assured him we were ok. They were coming from Grenada, where their rudder was replaced and were nearing the end of the crossing. We were just getting started and in for quite a night.

Back in Grenada, things have been great. Being on Eventyr at a calm anchorage, you almost forget about those grueling crossings. Between boat chores, we’ve been engaging in as many activities as we can. We watched world cup with other cruisers from all over the world.  We went to cooking classes, learning to make local dishes. We spent a day at the beautiful Grand Anse beach. We went to a fourth of July beach party, attended by more Europeans than Americans. We did a hash in the jungle. We attended a concert on a barge in the middle of a bay where dinghies rafted up to listen to the music. It’s been a blast.

Beach day at Grand Anse Beach
Fourth of July Party with more Europeans than Americans
Dinghy Concert
Dana passing out beers to the rafted-up dinghies
And even more importantly, we ran into friends, both old and new. We met Will, Cheryl, and Bentley (their Jack Russell Terrier) on Varua in Turks and Caicos in January, and we later crossed paths with them in the Bahamas. Will sold us our outboard after we lost our first to the ocean. He was a real lifesaver. Varua is currently on a mooring ball just a few hundred yards from us, having arrived in Grenada several days before us. We’ve gotten to spend a lot of time together over the past week. Cheryl had to fly back to the states for a while, but Will and Bentley have been keeping Dana and I company.

Bentley on Eventyr
In a much more unlikely meeting, we ran into a sailing friend from 11 years ago. As I mentioned in a previous blog, Dana, our friend Chris, and I chartered a boat in the Mediterranean called Emily Morgan in 2003. The boat was since sold, and we coincidentally saw Emily Morgan up in St. Martin several months ago. Well, the other day at yoga, Dana was shocked to see the Emily Morgan’s former captain, Richard behind her doing downward dog. Richard was the greatest charter captain ever, and we had such a wonderful time with him back then. He had even joked that he could take Dana and I out into international waters and marry us, under maritime law. We had only been dating a few months at that point and didn’t take him up on the offer. We attempted to book the Emily Morgan for our Honeymoon in the British Virgin Islands back in 2008, but Richard was in England with the boat at that time.

Richard, Sam (first mate), me, and Chris in Balearic Islands of Spain, 2003
Richard is now chartering the 112-year-old, 80-foot, wooden schooner Coral of Cowes. You can even charter it yourself if you want! After catching up, he invited us for afternoon tea. With a good friend of his (and former cook on Emily Morgan) who lives in Grenada, a cool newlywed couple from England on their honeymoon, and one of his crew Katie, we sat down for a lovely time with fine china, cucumber sandwiches, cakes, and of course, rum. It was great spending time with Richard again, and we sincerely hope our paths cross again.

Tea time on Coral of Cowes
Coral of Cowes in Prickly Bay
Richard and Dana 
Richard bought our folding bikes!

Tonight, we're invited for dinner and sundowner drinks on a neighbor’s sailboat, and tomorrow we’re off to the marina. After leaving Grenada, we’ll spend ten days in Costa Rica with Dana’s dad to ease our transition back to the real world. Our apartment in Old City is lined up and Dana’s already been busy ordering furniture and scheduling internet instillation. In no time, we’ll be back to our former selves, although I think some aspects of our selves will have changed forever after this adventure.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Goodbye to Trinidad and a brief visit to the States

Dana lounging by the pool at Crews Inn Marina in Trinidad
Our time in Trinidad is coming to a close. Tomorrow, Dana and I throw off our dock lines from Crews Inn Marina and sail the 80 miles north overnight to Grenada. This will be our last major sail of the adventure. The weather looks iffy for this crossing, but it's only predicted to deteriorate after tomorrow, so it's now or never. We're probably in for one last bit of drama before this chapter of our lives comes to a close, but what else would we expect?

Trinidad has been wonderful, thanks in no small part to our amazing hosts Jordan, Alicia, Alex, and Austin. They invited Dana and I along to hashes, ultimate frisbee, world cup viewings, beach outings and numerous limes. They even joined us in Eventyr's cockpit for cocktails one evening. We met them at a crossroads in their lives. Jordan took a new job at an international school in Anguilla after teaching in Trinidad the past four years and will be leaving shortly. Alicia will join him as soon as she's done with her residency. Alex and Austin are also leaving, moving back to Toronto. Last night Dana and I got to bid Jordan farewell along with the scores of friends he made here in Trinidad. I think we'll all miss this lovely island.

Playing ultimate in Port of Spain, Trinidad with Jordan and Alicia
Jordan's going away lime
Trinidad was not the only place Dana and I have been hanging out during the past week. Over the weekend, we flew to San Francisco for my cousin Derek's wedding. It was our first visit back to the U.S. (excluding Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) since sailing away from Fort Lauderdale back in December. My brother Erik and Mom were also in San Francisco for the event. Although it was weird to be away from Eventyr and the adventure, it was nice to see family, sleep in a king size bed and experience some cooler temperatures.

My cousin Derek and his wife Meagan are cut from the same cloth as Dana and me. They live on their boat Miller Time 2 at a marina in Marin County. Derek's dad, my uncle John, has his sailboat Prima Donna in the same marina as Derek and Meagan. Derek grew up sailing and crewed with my Dad on my his tiny sailboat, Ladre during one of his attempts to sail from Connecticut to Bermuda. Uncle John also sailed Ladre, helping deliver her from Philly to New York a few years ago. Derek and Meagan's wedding reception was fittingly at the San Francisco Yacht Club and the attire was nautical. The Meyers really know how to party and we all had way too much fun. For their honeymoon, Derek and Meagan are chartering a sailboat to spend ten days in the British Virgin Islands. That's the same honeymoon Dana and I had, only we didn't know how to sail back then, and had a hire a captain. Derek and Meagan don't need any such assistance when it comes to sailing.
Derek, Meagan, and I at the San Francisco Yacht Club
Happy couple knows how to party!
Derek and Meagan on their boat Miller Time 2
Dana and Uncle John on his sailboat Prima Donna
In addition to partying with the Meyers, Dana, Mom, Erik, and I got to do some hiking in the beautiful countryside nearby. We marveled at Giant Sequoia and Redwoods while hiking though the shady and cool forests. It was quite a change from hiking through the hot, sweaty jungles in Trinidad just a few days earlier. We also got to meet up with my childhood friend Dan, who now lives in San Francisco with his wife Brooke, and their baby Mona. It was great to see them enjoying their life on the West Coast. Dana and I only spent four days in San Francisco but felt like we got to see and do so much!

I think I found our next apartment
Erik the tree hugger
Descending into Muir Woods. Seems like it could be a scene from Jurassic Park
Enjoying the amazing scenery post hike on Panoramic Highway
So, tomorrow we set sail for Grenada, our final island before returning to the real world. We spent most of the month of May in Grenada and it will be nice return to familiar places and faces. The end of the adventure seems very real. We scheduled Eventyr to be hauled out of the water on July 13 for storage and we fly away from her July 17. We get to spend some time with Dana's Dad in Costa Rica before returning to Philly, but we may never see Eventyr again. She is officially for sale and hopefully someone will love her as much as we have over the past year since she came into our lives. Our final couple weeks will be full of activities getting ready to move back home and put our home for the last eight months in proper order to sell. Maybe we'll fit in some fun as well :-)

For sale

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Trinidad, furthest south island of the adventure

Biking though the Bamboo Cathedral in Chaguaramas, Trinidad
Here we sit in Chaguaramas, Trinidad at 10 degrees north latitude. We're only 15 miles from the Venezuela, South American border, and not too far from the equator. This is as far south as Eventyr will sail under our watch.

Since my last post and the departure of our New Haven friends, Dana and I went through a short depression before pulling ourselves together and shaking the "missing friends" blues. We ended up staying in Tobago another nine days after their departure. Soon after Otis, Jon, and Beth left, we met the neighbors anchored next to us, Karsten and Julia. They arrived on their steel hull sailboat from Germany via Turkey, Cape Verde, and Brazil. Their route was far different than ours, involving completely unique experiences (e.g. crossing the Atlantic Ocean). We're similar age, which is rare among cruisers, and spent much of the week hanging out. We watched world cup together, went to the Sunday School party, shared dinghy rides, went out for dinners, and had each other over for cocktails on our respective boats. It was a blast and we were sad to say goodbye when we up-anchored and sailed to Trinidad. Hopefully we can keep in touch.

Toasting with Karsten and Julia
Aside from hanging out with Karsten and Julia, Dana and I accomplished a lot in our last days on Tobago. Aside from boring tasks such as laundry, filling water, diesel and gas, and scrubbing the algae off Eventyr's waterline, we made some time for fun. One day, we rented a car and hiked to a waterfall we had all to ourselves. Another day, we paid for a touristy glass bottom boat ride involving a good deal of rum. We also took a ride over to Mount Irvine Bay to say goodbye to our friend Eamon. All in all, it was a great time in Tobago.

Twin Rivers Waterfall, Tobago
Glass bottom boat picking us up right off Eventyr
Limin' in the Nylon Pool
Seemed advisable after a couple rum drinks
Our 61-mile, 12 hour sail to Trinidad on Dana's birthday was relatively uneventful. We sailed with the wind, waves and current, so finally had a more comfortable ride. We were able to sail the entire way, saving diesel. Some large dolphins swam with us for a bit, which really made the time fly. And, within 15 miles of our destination, I caught a decent sized Mahi Mahi, which was a lot of fun (aside from cleaning up the mess later). Once we picked up a mooring in Chaguaramas, I grilled Dana her birthday Mahi and we listened to a CD of soca hits Karsten and Julia gave her as a present. It was a great day.

Dolphins off the port bow with Trinidad in the background 
Dana's birthday Mahi
We were excited to arrive in Trinidad because back in Bequia during the Easter Regatta, we met several folks who live here. They crewed with Hanna on Jaguar and were a ton of fun. Immediately upon arriving in Chaguaramas and contacting Jordan, he invited us to a pool party the next day and to stay in the comfort of his home that night. Dana and I were not ones to argue, as a non-rocking, swelteringly hot bed has been hard to come by the past 6 months.

Jordan and Austin, who crewed on Jaguar, teach at international schools here in Trinidad, and Alicia, Jordan's girlfriend, is in her residency for dentistry. Alex, Austin's wife who also crewed on Jaguar, works as a management consultant. Dana and I met the group in Bequia and they were all at the pool party along with other friends they know through hashing and ultimate frisbee. It was a super fun group and soon the party devolved into people taking turns diving into the pool catching frisbees.

Jordan showing off for the ladies
Alex laying out
Something I've been excited about since before I left on this trip was being in a foreign country during World Cup. Americans have little interest in soccer, but elsewhere in the world, people go crazy for football. Trinidad is no exception. After running in a hash through the streets of Trinidad last night with Jordan and Alicia, we retired to a bar to watch the USA, Ghana match. It was fantastic to see our boys win and to watch the reaction of all the other bar patrons. I can't wait for the next game!

Getting ready for the Trinidad Hash House Harriers run with Jordan and Alicia 
And we're off! 
On Thursday, Dana and I travel to San Francisco for my cousin Derek's wedding before heading back to Trinidad. This will be our first time back in the states since the beginning of December, so I imagine it's going to be a bit weird. We can't wait, however, because we'll get to see many family members during the trip. After returning to Trinidad, we'll wait for settled weather and sail the 80 miles back up to Grenada, which will be our last stop on the adventure. T minus one month until we fly away from Eventyr forever.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Limin' in Tobago with New Haven friends

Limin' on Eventyr with the New Haven crew in Tobago
Limin’ (pronounced like priming but without the g) is a term used by locals in Trinidad and Tobago to describe the act of relaxing and hanging out with friends. Dana, Beth, Jon, Otis, and I did a lot of limin’ over the past week. Beth, Otis, and Jon are my longest held friends, having limed together since nursery school. Although they now live in Brooklyn, Long Beach, CA, and New Haven, they made the long trip to Tobago to lime with Dana and I down here. In addition to limin,’ we hiked through rainforest, swam by a waterfall, snorkeled, surfed, sailed, swam at beautiful beaches, stood in a sandy patch of waist-deep water  within a reef about a mile from shore, toured the entire island via minivan driven by Dana, fished, mountain biked, and swam from Eventyr. We fit a lot into the past week.

But before I get to our tales of adventure in Tobago, I have to tell you about the miserable trip Dana and I endured getting here from Grenada. Few cruising sailors come to Tobago because it's pretty far east, meaning you have to beat into the wind and waves to get here from basically any starting point. Dana and I were aware of our potentially horrible sail and tried to pick a decent weather window. No luck. Winds were predicted to be 20-25 knots every day and night for the 10 days prior to our friends’ arrival.

We left Le Phare Bleu marina in Grenada on a Saturday afternoon at 4 pm. The close to 80 mile trip was too far to make it in one daylight stretch, so we decided to go overnight and get to Tobago in the morning. The seas were so rough even within the first mile of our departure that I could hardly raise the mainsail without being thrown overboard. With the assistance of the motor we blasted out into the dusk, smashing into wave after wave. As night fell we were averaging less than 4 knots (mph), which is basically equivalent to a leisurely walk. Our speed never improved and the supposed 15 hour trip ended up taking 20 hours. Overnight, Dana became seasick for the first time, repeatedly tossing her ginger cookies over the rail into the ocean and was unable to take her full shifts at the helm. I was so exhausted from the hours of white knuckle gripping to stay in one place despite the violent rolling and pitching that I could hardly keep my eyes open by sunrise.

Dana already miserable at the helm in heavy seas at sunset with no land in sight
To add insult to injury, once the sun rose, rain squalls moved in. Downpours soaked us while intense winds pushed us over and slowed our progress even more. Seeing land was a welcomed sight but did not seem to come soon enough. Once the rains mostly passed, we got what I considered a good omen. A pigeon, blown several miles out to sea by the strong winds, landed on our foredeck. We gave the little guy a ride all the way to within a couple hundred yards from shore. We watched him battle the wind the last little bit and disappear into the palm trees.

A stowaway

Our reward for the beating we voluntarily endured was arriving at the gem of an island, Tobago. Our first anchorage was off the white sand, palm tree lined Pigeon Point beach. No complaints here! We needed a whole day to recover from our traumatic overnight voyage. Although Eventyr held up famously, her crew were spent.

Pigeon Point
Pigeon Point dock
Otis arrived first out of the group and spent Monday night aboard Eventyr. We immediately commenced swimming, fishing, and having a cocktail or two. Otis slid into boat life easily. He works for California Fish and Wildlife and dives and fishes as part of his job. We were happy to have him aboard and we were all excited for Beth and Jon to arrive on their flight from NYC the next day.

A nice float off Eventyr right off the airplane
Otis enjoying a boat ride to his villa
After a night with Otis aboard, we sailed over to Grafton Bay, a bit up the coast, where the three reserved a villa at Black Rock Dreams. We dropped anchor right off the beach from the villa and dinghied to shore. Jon and Beth were a little late. Everything happens late here in the Caribbean, which we chock up to "island time." When Jon and Beth arrived, we celebrated a bit before Dana and I retired to Eventyr for a rolly night of sleep. We were the only sailboat anchored in the bay, likely because it is known to be quite exposed to the swells resulting in rocking back and forth wildly all day and night. Oh well, it was worth it to be so close to the newly arrived trio!

Eventyr off the beach. Picture taken from the balcony at Black Rock Dreams
Sunset from the Balcony at Black Rock Dreams
New Haven crew limin' at the villa
Walking the beach at Grafton Bay by the Villa. Go Queen B!
After a day at the beach to relax and get into the holiday vibe, we scheduled an island tour. Eamon, our tour guide, quickly became our good friend, and we ended up hanging out with him the next several days and nights. The tour included a long hike through the rainforest where we saw mot mot birds (the national bird), hummingbirds, butterflies, a black racer snake and numerous species of flowering plants and trees. It was beautiful and Eamon was genuinely excited by the natural world. His excitement peaked when he spotted a tree boa. He promptly climbed up the tree and grabbed the snake to get a better look. Jon assisted in the capture and the snake seemed quite perturbed, showing his fangs toward both Jon and Eamon. We were enthralled to see a wild boa so close. Beth kept her distance. We ended the day with a nice sunset swim in a pool under a small waterfall.
Hiking though the palms and bamboo forest
The whole crew in front of a waterfall
Eamon in rapture holding a tree boa, giddy as can be
"Cannon ball!"
The next couple days were spent surfing, snorkeling, and hanging out at the beach and pool. Dana and I moved Eventyr to different bays on almost a daily basis in search of a calmer anchorage. No luck. However, Beth got to come for a boat ride, which despite the rough conditions, she seemed to enjoy. Our evenings were spent limin' at various locales with the different friendly Tobagans we met.

Paddling out toward the break 
Otis trying out Dad's board
Limin' like a boss with Eamon and George
When Sunday arrived, we were prepared for the party of a lifetime. Every Sunday, locals and tourists alike converge on Buccoo Bay for "Sunday School." Sunday School is an all night party with local food, soca music, steel drum orchestras, and copious amounts of rum. We ate flying fish, drank our fill of Carib and Stag beers, and danced to soca and reggae music. The next day we were slow to get started, but we bid a fond farewell to Beth, who had to leave that afternoon.

New Haven crew enjoying Sunday School
Jon and Otis moved aboard Eventyr for their final two nights in Tobago. We did some fishing, both day and night in addition to our normal routine of snorkeling and swimming off the boat. We caught a couple fish including a kingfish. I even speared a parrot fish during a snorkel trip, which we promptly ate. Our fishing did not quite provide enough sustenance for the group so we stopped at a fish market and got some of the freshest and most reasonably priced mahi mahi Jon and Otis ever had. We had a delicious grilled dinner aboard Eventyr that night.

Sea Robin?
Kingfish Otis caught yesterday. Dana and my dinner tonight!
The last full day with Jon and Otis we sailed to our current anchorage and had a fun and frisky two-hour, downwind sail through relatively large seas. Otis reeled in a nice kingfish along the way. After anchoring, Dana headed to the beach and the boys met up with Eamon for an intense 4-hour mountain bike trip. It's not a bike trip we'll soon forget. Eamon was a professional mountain biker at one point and is incredibly skilled. Two of his hard core friends joined us and Jon, Otis, and I felt pretty mediocre. None of us have done any serious mountain biking in years, although we used to ride together quite a bit back in the day. The ride with Eamon went through residential neighborhoods, backyards, golf courses, jungles, roads, and beaches. At one point we were flying through dense ferns, palm trees and then mangroves on a single track trail. It felt like mountain biking through Jurassic park! We were all exhausted by the end.

Exhausted post mountain bike trip
Dana and I said goodbye to Jon and Otis this morning. We hope they had fun. I know we did! 

So what's next? Who knows? We'll eventually head to Trinidad and then back to Grenada before visiting Dana's dad in Costa Rica and then returning to Philly, but we don't have much of a schedule. I think we'll definitely spend some more time enjoying the beauty of Tobago before rushing off.