Friday, April 18, 2014

Grenadines and a major decision about the future of the adventure

Decisions, decisions
Greetings from Bequia, Grenadines and the Mount Gay Rum Easter Regatta. Much has transpired since our Philly friends left us in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, and Dana and I have had to make an adventure-changing decision. Needless to say, it's been quite a week.

Last week, we finished our stay at the Rodney Bay Marina. We stayed 11 days in the marina, which is longer than we've stayed in one place since we left Philadelphia. The reason for our extended stay was eight coats of varnish on Eventyr's exterior teak. She looks better than the day we first stepped aboard. Although Dana, Hanna, and I put on four of the coats, Vision and Meshena deserve all the credit. They stripped and sanded all the woodwork down to bare teak and did the first three and final coat. They are true professionals and we really appreciate the work they did. As a side bonus, they're awesome people and we had a ton of fun hanging out with them. Vision went out of his way to show us his island of St. Lucia and made us feel like family. One day, when Dana, Hanna, and I were waiting for the minibus (public bus) to take us to the main town of Castries, Vision waved us down. He took us in his car down to Castries where he brought us to the best local juice shop, brought me to a local barber shop, and took us on a tour of the central market. He even helped us pick out a CD, Jah Cure, which we've been enjoying since.

Meshena, Vision, Hanna, Dana, and I at Rodney Bay Marina
Our final night in Rodney Bay was crazy. It was one of those unexpected nights that you can't predict. It was Friday night and our plan was to go back to the Friday night street party at Gros Islet where Michael was pick-pocketed the week prior. The night took a turn, however, after having a few drinks at the marina bar with Archie and then meeting Matt. We met Archie previously in Martinique when we were both clearing out of customs. His boat, Janey, is a beautiful Tartan and he is originally from St. Lucia. Matt, a contractor from New York, joined up with us and invited us on his boat,  Carried Away, over on the mega yacht dock. Carried Away is a large, comfortable, well appointed, and air conditioned power boat. We were jealous of Matt's amazing amenities, but in the cruising world, we're all just boaters. Matt invited us on his tender, and instead of heading to the street party, we motored over to dinner in the sand at an amazing upscale restaurant on the other side of the bay. After an incredible dinner of fresh seafood, we dinghied on, with no particular destination in mind. Somehow, we ended up pulling up to the dock of a large house in the bay pumping loud dance music. Hanna was quick off the tender to ask the owner, "is this a club?" He responded, "No, but you're welcome to come in." The owner, Cuthbert was integral in the building the Rodney Bay Marina, and treated us to drinks, music, and a history of the island. Hanna, Dana, Matt, Archie, and I ended the evening for a nightcap on Eventyr after a couple hours at Cuthbert's colorful house. We've since run into Archie in Bequia, where he is crewing on a race boat in the regatta.

Everything, however, comes to an end at some point, and we had to leave Rodney Bay to continue our journey southbound. Lucky for us, we planned to stay in a nearby bay that night, so we didn't have far to sail. Also, Vision happened to live in that town and invited us for a "Rasta dinner." We motored out of Rodney Bay, recounting the fun times we had with our friends just a few days earlier as we raised the main and turned southward. We were all in agreement that we were ready for a change of location after a great stay. No point in overstaying your welcome.

After a lovely sail on a fast beam reach through relatively calm seas, we pulled into Marigot Bay about ten miles south of Rodney bay toward the end of the day. Marigot Bay is a special place and we enjoyed one of our favorite sunsets on Eventyr in a while. The bay is a calm, mangrove-lined lagoon, with a spit of sand and palm trees blocking the open ocean. The sun sets directly behind the palm trees, making for a postcard-worthy photo op. After the sunset, we headed to Vision's house up the hill. His house is a humble two-room dwelling on stilts with a tin roof over looking the valley. His friends Michelle and Ziza were hanging out as well. We sat on the floor, drank wine, and enjoyed Vision's "one pot" stew of millet, pumpkin, and local flora and spices. It was delicious and the company was fabulous. Ziza insisted on calling me Tommy, and I was cool with it. With my boyish haircut and bright primary colored shirt, I think I fit a schoolboy name like Tommy (no offense Tommy T). Our hosts smoked copious amounts of "natural trees," and Ziza and Michelle loved chatting with Hanna and Dana about life, love, and current affairs. the night was full of laughter and toasting. Vision drove Hanna, Dana and I back down to the bay, and we rowed back to Eventyr in the perfectly calm bay. It was a night we won't soon forget.

Marigot Bay
Vision in his home doing dishes 
Me, Ziza, Dana, Hanna, Michelle, and Vision

Sailing out of Marigot Bay
After clearing out of St. Lucia customs in Marigot Bay the next day, we took off for the Pitons. As you may recall, we hiked the Gros Piton with the Philly crew while they were here. What we learned while there was that cruisers can anchor between the Pitons and take in a dramatic view. We couldn't resist. Upon securing a mooring in the deep bay, we set up a guide for a hike up the Petit Piton the next morning. It's called Petit Piton, but it's actually much steeper and more treacherous than the taller Gros Piton we already hiked. Piton Pete, who collects mooring fees, promised to pick us up the next morning at 7 am with a guide (his son) to hike the mountain. He referred to Gros Piton as "the ladies piton," and Petit Piton as "the men's piton."

Petit Piton on the left, Gros on the right
The next morning we were picked up bright and early and dropped at the beach to start our hike. from the beach to the summit was over 2700 feet. Our 18-year-old guide, Naheem, promptly removed his flip flops and guided us up the rocky slope barefoot. The hike was like nothing I've done before. Virtually the entire climb required both hands pulling yourself up with roots, rocks, dirt, or fixed ropes. The view from the top made it all worthwhile. The small summit provided a 360 degree view of St. Lucia.

Trailhead to Petit Piton
Barefoot Naheem giving Hanna some suggestion
Are you sure this is safe?
Don't worry about the drop!
Peak! Gros Piton across the way. Our anchorage in between 
Soufriere, St. Lucia, in the background. Long way down!
Enjoying the view
After a grueling decent involving tons of backward down-climbing, we made it back to the beach. It took about four hours round trip, so it was only noon. The only reasonable thing to do was to dinghy over to the exclusive Sugar Beach Resort for cocktails and pool time. We took advantage of the facilities until they realized we weren't actually guests and kicked us out to the public beach. Oh well. We retired to Eventyr and slept more soundly than ever, despite howling winds that screamed down the valley between the two Pitons.

Evening cocktail at Sugar Beach between pitons
Sugar Beach pool with Gros Piton backdrop (before getting kicked out)
From St. Lucia, we left early for an all day sail to St. Vincent on a relatively uncomfortable point of sail. Dana and I were grateful to be sailing with the motor off, burning no diesel, after months of motor sailing in to the wind and waves. We were warned that St. Vincent is dangerous, but other cruisers suggested we stay at the small fishing village in Cumberland Bay. It was the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, and I donned my shirt from last year in honor. We arrived in Cumberland Bay late in the afternoon and learned a totally new way to anchor. We dropped the anchor a couple hundred feet off shore, fell back on it, and then a local guy grabbed a stern line and tied the back of our boat to a pole on shore. He then came back and rowed us in to a local restaurant for a delicious dinner of mojitos and fresh Queen Fish. The only problem came upon our return to Eventyr. After boarding Charlie's small, Rasta colored boat, our laughing and joking almost caused us to capsize. Dana and I got thoroughly soaked. The next morning, Charlie said it was one of the funniest things he'd seen in a while. I don't think he would have been as jovial if the boat had been fully turned!

FaceTime in paradise
Boston Strong in Cumberland Bay, St. Vincent
Leaving Cumberland Bay, we motor sailed in light and unfavorable winds to our current location, Bequia. Bequia is the first island of the Grenadines and a major sailing destination. The beach is lined with beach bars, marine supply stores, and locals selling various knick knacks. By pure luck, we're here for their annual Mount Gay Easter Regatta, which started today. Hanna, immediately upon spying the official red Mount Gay Regatta caps, declared that she "needed" one. The problem was, the only way to get one was to participate. Within minutes, Hanna had not only signed up to volunteer, but had been picked up as crew on Jaguar, the boat that was expected to win the most competitive class. Jaguar is a 41-foot, carbon fiber sailboat built for one thing…to win races. Hanna was in for the ride of her life.

Hanna, joining Trinidad's Jaguar, heading out for a practice sail

Jaguar preparing for the Bequia Regatta
I am currently typing this at the first of several days of regatta parties. Hanna just arrived several hours after the race finished, and not triumphantly, as expected. Jaguar was in the lead, heading out into the open ocean with large seas on a day of higher than normal winds. At some point, a noise like an explosion sounded from the rear of the boat and Jaguar violently lurched, almost sending a couple of the 13 crew into the drink. Hanna was actually under water when Jaguar crashed over to its most extreme heel. One of the crew just recounted to me that she saw something float by just after the loud bang, which she thought was a surfboard. The debris turned out to be Jaguar's rudder. Without a rudder, a sailboat has no control over its steering. Jaguar was rescued after some mild panic and aimless floating and was eventually towed back to Admiralty Bay in Bequia, where I currently sit. Good thing there were many salty crew aboard, who knew just what to do in such an emergency. Along the slow journey back to Admiralty Bay, three tow lines broke and one tow boat's engine overheated. Hanna was happy to make it back in one piece. And she wonders why Dana and I aren't into competitive sailboat racing!!!???

We will stay the next few days in Admiralty Bay, anchored off a beautiful beach, before heading further south to the rest of the Grenadines and Grenada. We are having yet more work done on Eventyr to make her look even more pristine. Why all this work done on Eventyr during the midst of our adventure? Well, I mentioned earlier that Dana and I made a major decision about the adventure. What we've decided is to end adventure in Grenada or Trinidad and sell Eventyr.

This decision has been months in the making and very heart-wrenching. Since we first told other cruisers of our route back to Philly, they were consistently concerned about our plan to pass through Venezuela to get to Aruba and Central America. We brushed it off as fear-mongering at first, but recently did some serious research. Turns out Venezuela is extremely unstable in the past few months. Several cruising sailors have been boarded, beaten and robbed miles off shore of even the most remote islands. To avoid Venezuela would mean a 500-mile open ocean journey. Dana and I are not on board for piracy or 500-mile open ocean crossings. The other option is to head back north, but that means traversing the Caribbean during hurricane season. Very few sailors take that path. Our remaining option is to spend the remainder of our time taking it easy in the last few islands of the eastern Caribbean, which are below the hurricane zone.

The spirit of the adventure has always been travel and seeing new places. Sitting in one place does not really count. So, we made the call to see the rest of what we can and head back to Philly earlier than planned. We'll put Eventyr in storage down here and then decide whether we want to sell her here, or have a delivery captain bring her back to the states where she could bring more money. We'll see.

In the meanwhile, we'll be extremely sad to see Hanna leave in the next week or so, but she has to go back to real life too. My mom will be flying in to join us as the end of the month in Grenada and Dana and I are super excited to have her aboard. We feel terrible that we're not able to meet my cousin Casey in Aruba like we planned, but I guess things happen. We also won't be able to sail to Costa Rica to visit Dana's dad, but we'll probably fly over to visit. We still have a couple months left of the adventure and plan to make the best of it. Looks like things won't be getting any less exciting any time soon!

9 comments:

  1. So excited to be joining you soon. Your pictures, once again, are incredible!
    Mom

    ReplyDelete
  2. No matter how you end your adventure-the adventures you have had are amazing! Your experience is so wonderful-kudos to you both for making a dream a reality. Enjoy your time! :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sad to read, but happy to know that you'll be safe. And Hooray - I made the blog. I feel like a celebrity. Can't wait to see you in person and have many drinks while recounting all of the adventures that didn't make the blog. Love you both and Hi to Hanna (: Casey

    ReplyDelete
  4. We'll miss you! Can't wait to catch up over a drink!!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Your blog has taken me on an exciting journey, thanks for bringing us along!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Glad you're following along! Can't wait to see you back in philly in just a few months. Hope all is well back home.

    ReplyDelete