May 14

Dominica!

We came to Dominica in February, 2018, five months after the tiny island was ravaged by hurricane Maria. Dominica is a poor country and evidence of the destruction was everywhere. Many houses still had tarps on the roof to keep the rain out and much of the electricity service hadn’t been restored.

Hurricane Damage

Washed Out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we talked to the islanders we asked about their experience during the storm. Maria had grown in strength very rapidly. The storm went from a category one to a category five the day before it hit. The people took shelter wherever they could, many taking refuge in their homes, most of these weren’t constructed to survive in 200+ mph winds. Typical of their tales was that of Osborne, owner of the Green Bar, a tiny establishment located in Portsmouth, on Prince Rupert Bay where we anchored. Osborne was at home with his two teen-aged daughters during the night of the storm. With the winds shrieking and debris crashing against the side of their house the roof blew off. Everyone in the house was terrified. They were too exposed where they were and going elsewhere was out of the question. With all the debris in the air anyone who

local dude

ventured outside would be battered and killed. Osborne pried up a couple of floorboards of his pier and beam house and told his daughters to climb down into the crawl space. One daughter didn’t want to go down at first but Osborne convinced her to climb down where they spent the final hours of the storm under the house with the crabs that live down there. The next morning everyone came out to see the destruction. Dominica is a lush tropical island covered by verdant, green forests. It’s the kind of a place where if you stick a broomstick in the ground it will grow but that morning there wasn’t a leaf left on a tree. Debris was everywhere and most of the bridges, which there were many, were washed out making travel across the island impossible. Most of the houses had corrugated metal roofs that had blown off in the storm. Electrical service and all communicated was out. The people survived as best they could until help arrived. Five months after the storm both the island and the people are still recovering. A shortage of building materials and labor meant that there were still many damaged structures waiting to be renovated. Some people had left the island in the aftermath of the storm and hadn’t returned but those there had a can do attitude that they’d do what had to be done to claw their way back.

Some cruisers had avoided the island after the storm but we wanted to go support the people in their recovery efforts by spending money at the local businesses taking tours, eating at restaurants and shopping at the local groceries and markets. We had also brought a large parcel to donate filled with clothes, sheets, towels and kitchen items. We arrived during Criuser’s Appreciation Week, an annual event put on by the PAYS, Portsmouth Area Yacht Services group. PAYS is a group of “boat boys” who provide moorings, security and tours to boaters. Over a hundred boats had gathered in Prince Rupert Bay for the event and we were fortunate enough to be there with old friends John and Ellie Wheeler on SV Serenety who we had crossed the Pacific with back in 2003 as well as some new friends, a pair of English boats, Dan of SV Eschaton and Tony and Hazel of SV Longbow who had just arrived from England via the Canary Islands weeks before. Dan, who is a veteran of a dozen Atlantic crossings and has spent many years cruising the Eastern Caribbean was the ring leader. He favors the out of the way local places no tourist would ever dare go and led us on many happy adventures. One of the spots that he led us to was the Green Bar which may be the ultimate dive bar. There’s no sign or really any indication that it’s not just a house from the street. When we arrived the electricity service hadn’t been restored so Dan lent the owner, Osborne, who we discussed earlier, his portable generator so that he could open the bar. Calling it a bar may be a stretch. Osborne has a rickety table and some folding chairs that he sets up on the front porch when someone shows up and sells beer from what was the living room of the house. We spent several enjoyable evenings there sipping a cold beer watching the world go by from the front porch talking with Osborne.

The holding in the bay isn’t the greatest so PAYS as well as several others installed moorings so boats wouldn’t drag. We took a mooring run by Alexis, a “boat boy” who is actually a very impressive young man. We arranged multiple tours through Alexis who was also our guide on the Indian River tour. We spent a couple of days being driven around the island, seeing the devastation, the natural beauty of the island and swimming in waterfalls. One of the waterfalls (Titou Gorge) was used in the filming of one of the Pirates of the Caribbean films and we swam up through narrow walls to the waterfall. The scenery was spectacular. 

Alexis

Alexis on the Indian River tour

Roadside shopping

tourist stuff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our way home it began to rain and a landslide blocked the road. We waited a couple of hours for it to be cleared enough for us to pass. We also also spent a day touring the Kalinago area of the island. The Kalinago were formerly known as Caribs, a name that was given to them by the Spanish, who have returned to their historical name. We saw a group of native dancers, distributed some care packages and toured the restored Kalinago village.

Robin in Titu Gorge

Nice waterfall

The waterfalls were big fun

During our stay there Mike, John and Tony went on a Lion fish hunt and came back with 25 Lion fish for a PAYS Lion fish dinner. We also went to the legendary PAYS Sunday Night Barbeque. It’s gained legendary status because it comes with all you can drink rum punch. Its the kind of drink that goes down like kool aid but pack a serious wallop. Fortunately we had been forewarned and took it easy on the rum.

Lionfish

Sunday Night Barbeque

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before we left Mike and Tony spent a day as volunteer trail clearers on a National Park trail that was blocked by trees downed during the storm. They spent the day whacking away at the underbrush as others used chain saws to cut through large trees that had fallen across the trails.

Mike chopping the undergrowth

Apr 07

Martinique

We left Les Saintes, a small island group just south of Guadeloupe and headed for Martinique. We passed Dominica knowing we would spend much time there in the near future and were in a hurry to meet up with our friends John and Ellie of SV Serenity who were waiting on the southern end of Martinique for our arrival. The plan was to meet up with them and cruise together like we did in Mexico and the South Pacific.

After a squally, shifty day of sailing and motor sailing we arrived Saint Pierre, Martinique well after dark which we normally avoid doing. We dropped our sails and slowly entered the anchorage. We found what we thought would be a good spot and dropped the anchor. Morning light showed us that it was indeed a great spot under Mt Pelee. The customs computer is in a French restaurant so after clearing into the country we had the most wonderful lunch. The French really do good meals!

Robin at the ruins of the theater in St Pierre

Mt. Pelee looms over the town of Saint Pierre with the top usually in the clouds. The verdant green of the slopes and tranquil, tropical atmosphere make it hard to envision the scene the day Pele exploded. The eruption was much like the one at Mt St Helens and a cloud of glowing embers and poisonous gas roared down the slopes and over the town. It was March 8, 1902 when St Pierre had a population around 30,000 and was called the Paris of the Caribbean. We wandered around the town, explored the remains of a church, a grand theater and a prison and read the reports of what the volcano eruption had done. We read that the volcanic explosion released more energy than an atomic bomb. There were only two survivors: a cobbler and an imprisoned, convicted murderer. Twelve ships in the bay were destroyed at anchor. We couldn’t even imagine what it must have been like on that fateful day!

Nice walk up and tour of the Depaz Distillery near St Pierre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mike with Diamond Rock in the background

From St Pierre we motor sailed down the lee of the island to St Anne a large, well protected bay on the southern end of Martinique. Along the way we passed Diamond Rock which was fortified by the Royal Navy and commissioned as the HMS Diamond Rock during the Napoleonic wars. Diamond rock is impressive and imagining the sailors hauling cannons up the side makes one marvel at the ingenuity and toughness of the sailors of that era.

We were amazed by the number of masts we saw as we entered the St Anne Anchorage and even more shocked to see even more in nearby Le Marin, but no worries as the anchorage was huge with plenty of room to anchor. We found a deep enough spot for Mermaid in the sand and dropped the hook. The beaches were beautiful white sand lined with palm trees just like a post card! Even better, there were big french grocery stores stocked with French wines, cheeses and yogurt and boulangeries with baguettes to die for and pain chocolate that melt in your mouth.

St Anne anchorage

St Anne Bay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the great things about cruising is the awesome people you meet. We first met John and Ellie of the Seattle based SV Serenety way back in 2003 when they were on Adios and we were both getting ready to head to the South Pacific. We crossed paths again in Mexico in 2013, again last year in Antigua and had another reunion in St Anne. We spent many an hour with them taking hikes, touring the island or sipping a sundowner.

John and Ellie of SV Serenity at Habitation Clement

We had a cool tour of the island in a rental car with John at the wheel and Mike navigating. We toured the Habitation Clement, a historic but still working Rum distillery with excellent information on how the distilled rum back in the day and a nice tasting room where we sampled the product. Had a nice lunch at a local place named Kai Nono in Le Francois where we enjoyed the accras, a fried and fluffy fritter made from salted fish and flour that is everywhere on Martinique. Kai Nono served theirs with a vinegary, mouth watering sauce that the waiter said was simply called creole sauce. The French West Indies way is to take your time over lunch and not wanting to upset local customs we savored our fish entree and wine and finished the meal with ice cream.

We joined the Ocean Cruising Club in 2017 and we’re so glad we did because we’ve met so many great people through the club. With the hundreds of cruising boats in St Anne / Le Marin there were many OCC members including a pair of English boats that arrived after sailing single handed from the Canary Islands while we were there. Dan of Escaton knew all the local spots and had us quaffing a beer and munching on accras in a small cafe set up in an ally before heading over to a local barbeque spot with outdoor seating.

St Anne ally

Robin at a St Anne BBQ joint

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dingy parking for a St Anne pot luck

With so many cruisers in the area there were many events that we joined in on. The weekly pot luck on the beach that was called a brai by the South African who organized it and a dingy raft up where we shared appetizers and watched the sunset were great and Robin even made it in for the ladies lunch one week.

dingy raft up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During much of our time there the trades were howling. It blew 25 knots with higher gusts most of our time in St Anne. This led to a few boats dragging and since we were in the back of the anchorage the wind waves made it a wet ride to get to shore in the dingy. We spent a lot of time reading and doing boat chores. One day

Yoles heading to the top mark.

were were entertained by a Yole regatta. Yoles are traditional open water sailboats that were used for fishing back in the day. Around 35 feet long they have a canoe shaped hull with poles sticking out sides that the crew climbs out on to balance the boat under sail. Another day we shared a cup of tea with Frank and Mandy of Infinity B while Frank helped Mike clean out the carburetor of the outboard. Mike took advantage of the opportunity to perfect his Ti Punch recipe, well maybe not perfect because Robin says more practice is needed. Ti Punch is the local drink in the French West Indies. It’s a shot of Rhum Agricole, a raw rum produced in the area, some simple syrup and lime juice. It was very fiery when we tried it in the restaurants but we tried using a vanilla flavored simple syrup and pouring it over ice and viola! It was transformed into a cool, refreshing drink that was perfect for sipping while watching the sun go down.

Serenity in a squall

Mike and Frank cleaning the outboard’s carburetor

Great hiking trails near St Anne

battle of the titans

Feb 14

Guadalupe – Fish and Flowers and Birds, Oh My!

We upped anchor and headed out of Falmouth Harbor, Antigua early in the morning headed for Deshais, Guadalupe. It was a glorious day with moderate trade winds from the north east and a gentle swell. Mermaid was in fine form plowing through the azure Caribbean at eight and a half knots with the apparent wind at 70 degrees.

 

 

 

Our first Ti Punch

Arriving at the crowded anchorage at Deshais mid day we found a nice spot to drop the hook and celebrated the passage with a landfall drink. Guadalupe is part of the French West Indies and the island has a very distinct French flavor. After checking in we headed for a seaside cafe and ordered a Ti Punch, the local drink made from the very strong Rhum Agricole distilled on the French islands, simple syrup and a squeeze of lime. That evening we returned to the same restaurant for a meal straight out of a sit com. Our server was a local girl who was obviously new to the job. We were seated at a seaside table and as she served our drinks the tray they had been on went over the railing into the ocean. She spoke only french so we ordered with

Mike sipping a ti punch

some difficulty as our French is laughably poor and while we were waiting she spilled a large tray of drinks on a customer at the next table. As they were cleaning up a brief but intense squall hit. We were protected by the awnings that lined the restaurant. However, one of the awnings at the other end wasn’t set properly and Robin spotted it and predicted that the awning couldn’t hold the large amount of water that was collecting in it. She was right. A minute later it came crashing down releasing a deluge of water that thankfully missed the people sitting nearby but left the floor very wet. One of the waiters was wearing a pair of shoes that were very slippery on the wet floor. It was quite entertaining watching him slide around the corners carrying trays of food and drink.

We visited the Botanical Gardens with Bob and Carol of SV Oasis the following morning. The gardens were well laid out with some spectacular foliage and flowers. The highlight was a visit to the aviary where you purchased a small cup of nectar to feed the flock of very willing lorikeets.

Green Heron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robin with her new toy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’d been looking forward to snorkeling at Pigeon Island. Mermaid was anchored nearby and we had several nice snorkels. There were a lot of nice reef fish but the coral was somewhat disappointing so we moved down

A Coney, a relative of a grouper.

to a Anse la Barque to wait out a couple of days of strong trades. The coral was better for snorkeling in this anchorage.

When the weather broke we headed down to a group of islands at the southern end of Guadalupe known as Le Saints. We rounded the tip of Guadalupe with a squall packing 30 knot winds and big, ugly wind waves. Deciding we didn’t want to be in the Saints that bad we doubled back and dropped the hook for a couple of hours until the squall passed and the seas calmed down. Later we had a nice sail down to Terre Haught in the Le Saints where we grabbed a mooring for the night.

Feb 05

Camp Nonna

Robin flew to Juneau to spend the holidays with the grandkids. 

Kaash Sledding

Stacy and Frank were busy with work and theater so Nonna got to spend lots of quality time with the kiddos. Lots of cookies were baked as well as some delicious meals. Autumn and Kaash enjoyed painting wrapping paper, science experiments, ice skating and lots of play time. They saw the new Star Wars movie, visited Santa Clause. Snow angels were made and sledding was fun.

Painting Wrapping Paper

Autumn loves to ice skate

 

Snow Angels

Christmas Morning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blowing Bubbles and Watching Them Freeze

Visiting Santa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star Wars

This was Robins first time to spend these holidays with the kids and thoroughly enjoyed the time. The weather was really, really cold!

Feb 03

Back in Antigua

We flew back to Antigua and stayed in the same “villa” near the Jolly Harbor Yard where Mermaid was hauled out. The unit we rented may be called a villa by the locals but it’s not what comes to mind when we use the term. It did have Air conditioning, good internet and was clean so we were very happy to not be staying aboard in the yard where it can be warm at night and buggy.

 

 

We had the lower ports in Mermaid’s hull pulled before we left Antigua and it was time to re-seat them. She is an old gal and we didn’t know if this had ever been done and it seemed like a good time to do this job.

Sonny working on the lower ports

This trip we rented a golf cart to take us back and forth to Mermaid. We also enjoyed the cart to do a little exploring and provisioning. Ports back in, new packing gland and a little touch up on bottom paint and Mermaid was ready to float again. We launched her and moved to a slip to paint new non-skid (Kiwi Grip), get her sails back on, provision and get her ready to go sailing. It was hot and raining so we were very happy to be in a marina with the air conditioning blasting while getting her ready.

Cutting Mermaid free of her hurricane moorings.

Jolly Harbor Fantastic Crew!

 

Robin helping Jessie with Kiwi Grip

It’s fresh water…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We departed the slip, loaded some diesel and headed out to the anchorage. What a great feeling to be at anchor again! We swam, snorkeled, made water and enjoyed a few sunsets. We declared a couple of days of lay days… no boat chores.

We moved up to Falmouth Harbor and anchored away from all the other boats and under our friend’s house on the hill. We realized why the other boats weren’t anchoring on that side of the bay a couple of days later when a swell rolled in making for a rolly night! We moved over to the town side and happily anchored in flat water. We enjoyed watching the sea turtles in the bay, exploring Falmouth and English Harbor and meeting new friends anchored nearby. Our friends Al and Maggie had an OCC gathering on their boat before we all went in to Antigua Yacht Club for a full on Thanksgiving dinner. A good time was had by all!

There is a fun organization called the TOT Club in Antigua and we were invited by some cruiser members to a TOT. We accepted and promptly went back to Mermaid to search the internet for info on what a TOT is… It turned out to be an old British Naval Tradition that this club carries on every evening. After the British navy discontinued the tradition of the daily rum ration back in the 1970s, the tradition was kept alive by the Tot club. Each evening they read a passage about British naval history that occurred on that day and dispense the traditional tot of rum. We wanted to know how much rum a tot was before heading in and discovered that it was half a gill. That didn’t help much but we finally found that it was around two ounces. Participating in the tot with the mostly British crowd was great fun and we came back for a few more tots before we hoisted anchor.

Mike and Ian with tot in hand

Enjoying a Tot at the Copper and Lumber in English Harbor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our friends Richie and Claudia came to Antigua and found lots of yard work needed which made for a great weekend. We worked in the yard, swam in the pool, enjoyed their amazing view and ate and drank. They also had us up to the house for Robin’s birthday which was spectacular. Friends of theirs from the UK visited so we all went for a day sail on Mermaid, anchored in Carlisle Bay for lunch and a swim before returning to Falmouth.

Claudia and Mike taking in the view from “Cherry Hill Manor”

Thanks for the nice birthday gift Claudia!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Claudia & Richie cooking aboard Mermaid

 

 

 

New friends Bob and Carol on SV Oasis arranged to rent a car one day to provision so we jumped in on the opportunity. We toured the island a bit, had lunch and provisioned at a big grocery. Also had a nice hike out to English Harbor then back over the hill to Pigeon Beach in Falmouth.

Grinding the coffee

 

The evenings in Falmouth were full of music and fun so one night Mike packed his harmonicas and we headed into town. We found a bar called the Lime with an open mike night and Mike joined in. They played a couple of blues songs he sounded great. We will go back there again! Another musical venue famous in Falmouth we had not seen yet had to be visited.

 

 

 

We piled six of us in Richie and Claudia’s little vehicle and headed to Shirley Heights to hear the steel drum band. As we arrived a squall with lots of rain moved over and no one seemed to mind. Some crowded under awnings and most just enjoyed the rain. We were treated to an amazing sunset, great music by both the steel drum band and the band that followed and good fun with friends.

In preparing Mermaid to depart we noticed a bit (a big bit) of growth on the anchor chain and decided to pull some chain up and scrub it off. Good thing we did because there was a lot of growth. It is amazing how much growth the anchor chain acquires when one is in one spot for a month or more!

 

 

 

We checked out of the country in Falmouth, stowed the dink on the boat and prepped for departure to Guadalupe. As Mike was on the bow getting the anchor up and Robin at the helm a big dolphin jumped around the boat which we saw as a good omen and headed to sea… South.

Sunset from Shirley Heights

Falmouth Harbor sunset

Dec 02

WHAT WE DID ON OUR SUMMER VACATION…

Antigua gets quite hot during the summer months and is in the “hurricane belt” so we decided that somewhere else was the place to be. We put Mermaid on the hard in Jolly Harbor and flew to Grenada for a few weeks R&R before flying to Alaska. We spent a month in Juneau sightseeing and enjoying Stacy, Frank, Autumn and Kaash. Lots of hiking, playing with the grand kids and enjoying the cooler weather.

We flew to Italy where we skippered a LeBoat charter with friends in the Venice Canal for a week and toured Rome, Florence, Sienna and more with Jessamine. It was shocking how packed Venice was but it was still great to see all the history and we even took a gondola ride.

  

Finally it was time to go to Holland! The plan was to find and purchase a boat to cruise the canals and rivers of Europe. We had been doing lots of research on canal boats. We’d been speaking with a broker in Rotterdam as well as talking with friends who own canal boats and reading everything we could get our hands on about buying a boat keeping it in the Netherlands.

 

We spent a week in Rotterdam before moving to Utrecht, which was a more central Holland location and allowed us to view boats all over the Netherlands. We used the fantastic train system in the Netherlands to get around and also traveled by bus and even rented a car one day. We fell in love with Holland and its people. The language on the other hand was a tough one for us… kinda like choking on lots of consonants. Fortunately almost everyone there speaks English!

Its official, we are crazy! We bought another boat! We found a Marak 1060 that fit our wish list in Roremond, down in the southern part of the country between Germany and Belgium. She is a 35 ft, steel canal boat with two staterooms, a nice size bathroom with a full shower. It has two steering stations (one inside and one outside) and isn’t too big, tall or deep. This is important for transiting shallow waters with low bridges.

 

We took the train and made two “big haul” trips to IKEA for all the necessities like linens, dishes, etc. Then the former owner took us shopping in his camper (which we filled!) to buy odds & ends as well as bicycles and even took us to Germany to purchase liquor because it was much cheaper there.

 Back aboard Compagnon (the name the boat came with) we got everything washed and put away and took off for an adventure. We first went to a nearby lake and tied up to the side where we stayed for three wonderful nights. We couldn’t figure out why so many people were naked and wondered if it was a European thing, but on a walk we translated a sign that said Nude Beach. It all made so much sense after that! We met new friends, ate and drank while having a funny time trying to translate their German to figure out what they were saying. Finally some friends of theirs showed up, speaking English and the evening was a great one.

We spent a week or so in a marina in the town of Roremond. We just couldn’t seem to tear ourselves away because it was such a lovely place. Finally we decided it was time to see more of Holland. Mike’s brother David and our friend Kathy were coming to join us in Utrecht so we headed that way.

 We learned to navigate the rivers, canals, locks and bridges sometimes having to take down our mast, bimini and even windshields to fit under some of the bridges. Every town was a little different from the one before and very special in its own way! It was amazing passing some of the buildings, churches and bridges that were centuries old. There was so much history at every turn of the river. The windmills (old and new) were quite fascinating and it was odd to be traveling on the water that was higher than many of the homes and buildings. And, the boats! Some of the boats were just beautiful! Oh, and did we mention the weather? It was perfect for the most part. Lovely and warm during the day and nice and cool at night.

David and Kathy had scheduled a visit and we decided that Utrecht was a great place to start their time. We had spent a week in Utrecht while searching for a boat and loved the town with its beautiful sites and history so we headed that way. We headed north on the Maas river and on the way we went through many beautiful little villages and even spent one night anchored in a lake. We got many strange looks and found out that most people never anchor but we are cruisers and that’s what we do best. From there we passed through a short canal to Nijmegen, which is on the Waal River, a distributary of the Rhine. On the Waal we moored for a couple of nights in the public marina in the shadow of the famous bridge that the 82nd airborne captured during Operation Market Garden. We navigated down the Waal for around 20 miles going with a three knot current but conditions were far from ideal. There was intermittent rain, constant barge traffic and a 15 to 20 knot wind blowing opposite the current setting up a nasty chop (not great for a boat basically shaped like a shoe box). Mike watched the barge traffic looking forward and Robin called the traffic overtaking us from behind. We were quite relieved to reach the lock for the canal that would take us up to Utrecht and get off that busy, rolling river!

We arrived in Utrecht and got a lovely box mooring (basically stern tie to a dock with two bowlines and spring lines on pylons) in town. The weather, which had been warm and sunny until this point, was becoming cooler and cooler. We got laundry done, provisioned and went to the train station to meet David and Kathy. We spent a couple of days in Utrecht touring the city. Then it was off on further adventures.

 

We took on water at the public dock and headed through the city under some very short bridges. We knew that we’d only have a couple of inches of space to pass under the bridges but what we didn’t count on was that the bridges were arches and the height listed on charts is the center part of the bridge. One of the bridges made an S shaped curve making it hard to stay under the highest part of the bridge. We made it under on only because David and Robin used their hands overhead to guide Compagnon right down the middle. We decided to remove the bimini and windshield for bridges of that height. Learning curve was getting less steep, maybe…

 

We stopped for the night in Odewater and were lucky enough to tie up at the last available tie in town. Long ago Odewater was the site of several witch trials. It sounds silly now but to discover if the accused was a witch the women were weighed. If they were too heavy to fly a broom, they were set free. Not surprisingly, no witches were ever found. We decided it was a good thing to be fat back then. We wandered through the town discovering the history, visiting a couple of pubs and returned to Compagnon for the evening.

We set out the following day for Gouda. As we made our way down the Lek we came up to an area where they were dredging the river and as we got near the engine came to a very sudden stop and died. The tug had lost a two-inch mooring line and our prop found it. We drifted to the bank where David and Robin jumped off with lines to hold her. The tug captain told us we needed to go to the other side so we explained the situation. He pushed us across while phoning his boss and David hopped off and tied us up. The only thing to do was go in the water, which was cold, thick, and dark (we were by the dredge). Compagnon doesn’t have dive gear because no one would ever go in the water. Mike went over the back with our new bread knife because it was sharp and serrated. After diving under Compagnon several times he was able to cut the huge line off our prop and jumped into a hot shower. About this time the boss showed up and was amazed that Mike had taken care of the situation. He asked who Mike was and when David told him that Mike was the owner it confused the boss. He assumed we were chartering Compagnon because she is a Dutch boat and we are Americans. We all had a good laugh. Mike had some hot coffee and we continued along our way. The weather had gotten even cooler, windy and rained off and on.

When we reached Gouda we found the lock to get to the city moorings in town from the Lek was closed until mid-January. No worries. We went past the town through several locks and came in the other side. Gouda is famous for the cheese of the same name. In the past all the farmers brought their cheese to Gouda where it was weighed in the town center and sold in an open-air market. We discovered that we Americans have been mispronouncing it. We had always said Goo-da but it turns out that in Holland they say Khow-da. Who knew? We toured museums, cathedrals and ate cheese fondue. David and Kathy departed by train and we decided to spend another night in Gouda. It turns out that the bridges and locks in Gouda do not operate on Sunday so we decided to stay another day since we were too tall to pass under. Then the rains came… we spent a few more days in Gouda which gave us a chance to contact marinas to find a winter home for Compagnon and explore the town a bit more. They had a lovely market in the square and even had livestock being shown and sold. Finally the rains passed, the bridges and locks were open and it was time to move on. We backtracked back to Utrecht and turned north to cruise down the Vecht. We stopped in Broukelin, which is the city Brooklyn, NY was named after when New York was still New Amsterdam. Compagnon passed through the original Broukelin Bridge and found a lovely spot to tie up and wandered through the town. We realized that our prescriptions were going to run out soon. They had been issued on the Dutch side in St Maarten and that area had been destroyed by a hurricane. We took them to a pharmacy that told us we needed to visit the doctor. We walked into the doctor’s office were we found no appointment was needed, prescription written and no charge! Back to the pharmacy where they agreed to fill for six months since we didn’t know if we would be able to fill in the Caribbean for a while. The prescriptions cost about ¼ of what they did in St Maarten, which was less than ½ of what they were in Panama, which was a huge discount, compared to the USA.

We left Broukelin and headed further down the Vecht stopping along the way in front of a restaurant called Charlie’s American Diner… how could we pass that up?! We met an Australian couple who had been spending summers here for several years. We enjoyed a good burger, cold beer and learned much from our new friends.

We bid our new friends farewell and headed on to Weesp Yacht Club and a nice end tie. The Yacht Club was very welcoming and it was a busy day for them. It was the end of the season with Opti regattas for all ages followed by… not a bbq… but crepes, how Dutch. We were able to get lots of laundry and shopping done as well as touring Weesp. We decided to leave Compagnon on the hard in a marina in Weesp and now had some time to kill since we weren’t going further this season. We backtracked a bit to a spot outside of town we had seen and thought would be nice to visit. From there we had some good bicycle adventures. A cat from a nearby house came by the boat each morning and night but we had nothing to feed it and tried butter. Cats love butter or at least this cat did! It decided to hop aboard but we ran it off. We don’t need a pet aboard.

We returned to Weesp and began getting Compagnon ready for winter, which by the way was much easier than getting Mermaid ready for summer! We vacuum packed all the clothes, linens and towels. We ate and drank what provisions we had left; got Compagnon cleaned and enjoyed our vantage point near the lifting bridges. The later in the season it got the cooler the weather became and we really enjoyed our central heat aboard! Our entertainment was watching the charter boats navigate the lifting bridge, we watched a few hit it, one run aground and even one man overboard trying to push off. Fortunately only egos were hurt. Our last preparation for hauling out for the winter was to fuel up so down river to Muiden we went. We got diesel from a dock right under a big castle and decided that might be our first stop next season. We hauled Compagnon and checked into a hotel for a few nights. Since this is our first experience winterizing a boat and a powerboat at that we decided to hire a mechanic to do the job while we watched and learned. There will be a couple of jobs to have done before our return. Our huge rope woven around a big cable that runs around the hull had broken. The cable inside of it had rusted through and isn’t fixable so will have to be replaced. Also, when the boat came out of the water we saw to our shock that our bottom paint had fallen off! It seems that primer may not have been applied. So… new bottom paint will have to be put on before we return.

The EU has this thing called Schengen (which basically means that as Americans we can only spend 90 days in a six month period in the EU), which meant it was time to leave our Compagnon. We took a fast train from Amsterdam to Paris, spent one night and flew to Los Angeles for a week. It was about $1000 each less to fly from Paris to LA then Antigua than it would have been to fly from Amsterdam to Antigua… and, we got to spend some time in LA before returning to Mermaid.

Jun 07

Antigua

Jolly Harbor Sunset

Antigua is steeped in sailing history. Back in the 1700s the British and French fought it out firing big cannons at each other from close range in the waters nearby. The Brits had the winning hand and the old English traditions left an indelible mark on Antigua from Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbor to the numerous cricket fields dotting the island. Antigua’s main crop was sugar cane and many slaves were brought onto the island to work the crops. The descendants of those slaves now make up a large majority of the population and unlike some other Caribbean islands, where racism simmers just under the surface, we found Antiguans very friendly and open. Almost everyone we met had a smile on their face and was eager to share their island with us.

 

Robin relaxes on a secluded beach near Jolly Harbor

Mermaid spent the majority of her time at anchor in Jolly Harbor where we ran into several old friends. John and Ellie Wheeler of SV Serenity who we met back in 2003 when we sailed from Mexico to the Marquesas were there as well as Jeff and Melody Christensen formerly of SV Double Diamond who met several years ago in Mexico. Jolly Harbor is a well protected anchorage with a nice marina and lots of bars and restaurants as well as a good grocery store so it was a great base to operate from. It was also served by the small local buses and we used them to get around the island. We also anchored in Hermatage Bay where the movie Wendy was being

Mike on a dingy adventure in Five Islands Harbor

filmed. We thought that a boat had gone on the rocks where they were filming but it turned out to be just a set as the next day it was gone. Jeff and Melody were visiting friends at their stunning house overlooking Falmouth Harbor and we were graciously invited over to spectate during the Antigua Classic Regatta and Antigua Race Week. Claudia and Richie were fantastic hosts and had some wonderful times at what Mike dubbed Cherry Hill Manor. One morning during the Classic Regatta our hosts, Claudia had Pavoratti’s Nessun Dorma blasting as we sat outside sipping champagne watching the start of the race. Fantastic!  Who knew that yacht racing and opera could go together but the majesty of the music as the old, classic boats hoisted sails and started the race was magic.

Mike and Robin at Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbor

John and Ellie brought us our new Ocean Cruising Club burgee

Robin mugs as Lord Nelson

Antigua tail lights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun group at Cherry Hill Manor

Addix during the Antigua Classic

Robin showing off the view from Cherry Hill Manor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cherry Hill Manor pool at night

Hanging in the pool at Cherry Hill Manor

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pool was cool!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just after a jibe

Robin on the rail

During Antigua Race Week we sailed in the Round the Island race on Hotel California Too, a Santa Cruz 70. It was a ton of fun, a great sail and even ended up on the podium, taking third in the race. The crew had never sailed together until we rolled out the jib about two minutes before the start. It was blowing 17 to 20 knots and we didn’t have a small jib so we were a bit overpowered going upwind. We ended up breaking three jib sheets on the beat around the southeast corner of the island and lost some time but once we rounded the corner we were zipping by boats on the reach up the windward side of the island. Across the top of the island we poled out the jib and did quite well going downwind. There were large orange marks that had to be rounded to keep everyone out of the shallow water and reefs near shore and we had a map showing where they were but there were no GPS coordinates and finding them was a challenge as there weren’t many boats in front of us. Heading down the leeward side we weren’t sure where the next mark was when Mike spotted a pair of boats heading back towards us. We spotted the mark as they rounded it and were on our way. After the race we headed back to Cherry Hill Manor for a lovely apres sail around the pool. 

Skipper Steve relaxing after the race

It was a fun crew

Dining al fresco at Cherry Hill

Robin and Claudia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robin limin

Our intention was to take Mermaid down to Grenada and haul out for hurricane season but Antigua had great skilled workers and good haul out facilities so we decided to haul out there. We rented a small condo within walking distance of the yard. It was very basic but more than sufficient for us and we jokingly dubbed it the villa. Mike and Robin spent many days sweating to get Mermaid ready to leave for the season. We started off with a page long list but slowly ticked off the items until everything was ship shape. We’d head down to the boat in the morning, have lunch at Linda’s, who served up very tasty and economical island fare. Robin’s favorite was the chicken roti. Roti is a West Indes dish that has a curry inside a tortilla like roti skin. Delicious. The condo had an extra bedroom so we talked Mike’s brother David Stout and our friend Kathy came for a visit. We had a ton o’ fun touring the island, contesting the Big Two and Mexican Train world championships and voyaging out for snorkel and sail on a tourist boat. Big Fun. 

Mike checking out the mill house of an old sugar plantation

We rode the bus to get around but the driving wasn’t always the greatest

David and Kathy

Robin spotted a Peacock Flounder on Cades reef

May 31

Lovin’ St. Barts

St. Barts is different from many other islands in the Caribbean in that it’s language, cuisine and culture are distinctly French. Because there were no plantations on St. Barts few slaves were brought in and so today the reggae and rasta culture seen on other Eastern Caribbean islands is largely absent. St. Barts seems to be a bit of St Tropez teleported to the Caribbean.

Mermaid’s visit to St. Barts was a memorable one. We started out enjoying the natural beauty and nice snorkeling of Isle Fourchue then moved over to Anse a Coulmbier. Both of these are National Parks with moorings installed to protect the sea grass. The sea grass is a favorite food of sea turtles and they were abundant at Coulmbier. Robin spotted a couple feeding quite near the boat one afternoon and we jumped in and swam with them for some time. Tres cool!!

The turtles were way cool!!

Robin at Isle Fourchue

Mike swimming with the turtles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isle Fourchue sunset

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We rented a car one day and took a drive around the island. Driving on St. Barts is a trip because most of the roads are very narrow and there’s almost no place to park. You might think that a sidewalk is a good place to walk but on St. Bart’s if you have a sidewalk there’s a real good chance that it will look like a parking place the locals. Cars pulled up over the curb and parked on the sidewalk are the norm. The the song Atour du Roche by Jimmy Buffett has long been one of Mike’s favorites. Its about a small hotel, well not really a hotel more like a patio bar with bad wiring and funky rooms near Lorient that Jimmy owned back in the 80s. The place hasn’t been opened for years. As Jimmy says “The gendarmes finally closed the place and the fire did the rest” but when Robin and I drove down that little road by Lorient we got a photo of what’s left on that little hill. The song is written as a remembrance of the “the old St Barth” but we think that it still captures the island’s vibe. Here’s a link if if you want to give it a listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1q3FalWnTI

Robin takes in the view

That little hill near Lorient

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After heading back to St. Maarten for the Cruising Outpost party and the Heineken Regatta, we returned back to St. Barts to find Richard and Donna of Petit Profligate anchored in Gustavia harbor. They’ve been spending part of every year on St. Barts for decades and introduced us to several local characters. One of them was David Wegman, a local artist who’s been living in a room over the Le Select bar for around thirty years. Another character of note we got to know was Randy West. Randy was a boat captain for many years and penned an interesting book titled “A Sunny Place for Shady Characters: Tales from St. Barts Le Select Bar”. The local hangout was the Le Select bar. Gustavia has many spendy shops and restaurants but the Le Select goes against the trend. It’s a tiny bar with reasonable prices and almost all the seating in an outdoor, tree shaded patio. There’s also a small hamburger stand that was the inspiration for Jimmy Buffet’s Cheeseburger in Paradise. It changed hands many years ago however and the burgers, well, let’s just say that they live on their reputation. The Le Select is a great people watching spot. Robin decided that it has some of the best people watching on the planet!

Gustavia Harbor

Mike having a cheeseburger in paradise

Mike blowing the harp at an after hours jam session at Eddie’s restaurant.

Robin having sushi with Richard and Donna

 

 

David Wegman jammin at Le Select

Mike and David Wegman with the decoupage we purchased.

Jam session at Le Select

Mike and Richard hanging at Le Select

Robin and Richard at Le Select

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bucket Regatta, an annual event open to invited yachts 100 feet or over was held while we were there and it was a spectacle. Richard graciously invited us out on Ti Profligate a couple of days to go out and spectate and watching the big boats out sailing was awesome. The mega yachts were packed in at the wharf in Gustavia and lined up in the anchorage outside. During the regatta the anchorage was beyond packed and it was entertaining to watch some of the anchoring maneuvers, except when they would anchor on top of Mermaid which happened often. The Maltese Falcon, one of the largest privately owned yachts in the world was anchored not far behind us and one evening they unfurled a sail and showed a movie on it.

The 298 foot Maltese Falcon beating to weather

Robin and a couple of guys from the band

Insane Indian brass band at Le Select. What they lacked in talent they made up for in enthusiasm.

Varsovie’s skull and crossbones sails

The J class yachts Topaz and Lionheart

A J Class yacht and a hobie cat

Eleana of London. under full sail.

It takes a big crew to sail the 180 foot gaff rigged schooner Elena of London

May 31

Back to Sint Maarten

The Cruising Outpost Cruiser’s party, Carnival and the Heineken Regatta beckoned so we headed back to Sint Maarten and anchored in the lagoon. First up was Carnival. It was held in the afternoon in Marigot over on the french side. Robin and I dingied over in the morning and showed up early on the parade route to get a good spot. We ended up with a great spot, right in front near the judges stand. It was worth the wait. The people watching was cool and the parade was long and colorful and a few of the groups had confetti cannons go off right on front of us. After the parade was over we had a nice lunch at a french bistro on the waterfront.

a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen

The spectacle of Carnival on St. Martin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main man, none other than Mr. Bob Bitchen himself along with Jody arrived a couple of days before the big Cruising Outpost Cruiser’s party. The first afternoon we all headed to the Sint Maarten Yacht Club for happy hour. The club is located adjacent to the lift bridge that connects the lagoon to the ocean and we were just in time for the afternoon bridge opening. They can’t say no if you don’t ask so Robin went over and asked the Bridge operator if she could operate the bridge. To her surprise he said OK! Robin headed into the control booth and assisted in getting the boats through including Limitless, a 316 foot megayacht owned by Les Waxner, founder of the Limited and Victoria’s Secret. “Only Robin could get away with that” Jody observed as Robin came back with a big smile on her face.

Bob Bitchin

Robin ready to lift the bridge

Limitless passing out of the lagoon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cruiser’s party at the Buccaneer beach bar on Simpson Bay lagoon was a big hit. Cruiser’s packed in, the beer flowed, the band was rocking and the pizzas were tasty.

Bob admiring the artwork

The Cruiser’s Party

Women Who Sail gathering

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The annual Heineken Regatta is a serious sailing event but also a lot of fun hence the regatta motto Serious Fun! Boats and crews flocked in from the US and Europe to participate. It was an impressive fleet led by a group of three Volvo 70s. We spectated the first couple of days with Robin going out on a photo boat on the first day. In the evenings we attended some of the legendary Heineken Regatta parties. Robin got an invite to go out on Monster Project, one of the Volvo 70s on the final day of the Regatta and had a phenomenal sail. Monster Project sliced through the waves upwind and blasted downwind hitting over 25 knots on one leg. The final party was epic. The place was packed and the joint was jumping to a great lineup of bands headlined by UB40.

Planing with the kite up.

The racing was competitive

Monster Project beating to the weather mark.

Monster Project crew

Robin at the big party

Jamming

Spectators at Sint Maarten Yacht Club

  With the regatta in the rear view mirror we stocked up on provisions and waited for good weather to head down island for more adventures.

Apr 04

Anguilla – The laid back Isle

Anguilla is only a short hop from Saint Martin where Mermaid had been anchored for a few weeks but it’s a big change in culture. St Martin is hustle and bustle with cruise ships and big jet planes dropping off loads tourists daily. Anguilla has it’s share of tourism but it comes in a much more laid back atmosphere. We left Simpson Bay mid morning and had a fantastic sail over to Road Bay in Anguilla. We went ashore to clear in but were met at the door by the Immigration lady saying that the customs man had to go home sick. She invited us to enjoy the island that evening and come back in the morning. No problem for us but there was another couple on a charter boat who insisted that they be allowed to clear in and out as they planned to leave early the next morning. We headed over to a nearby beach bar for a cold beer and they were still discussing it when we were heading back to the dingy. When we headed in the next morning the Immigration Lady greeted us a bit coolly. She told us that the couple argued until the customs man came back from his sick bed to process them. We let her know that we just showed up at the same time as the other boat and we weren’t with them. Things proceed much more happily after that.

Anguilla was quiet, peaceful and friendly. We spent most of our time chillaxing, hiking and walking the gorgeous beaches. Our biggest outing was hiring a taxi for an island tour where we saw the island through the driver’s eyes. Our favorite place ashore was the Pump House, a bar and restaurant in the building that in past times served as, you guessed it, a pumping station for the now closed salt works. Great burger, drinks and friendly service.

We had to cut our stay short when a large, north swell was predicted to moved in and make the exposed anchorage uncomfortable.

Our taxi driver relaxes while we explore the beach

Our taxi driver relaxes while we explore the beach

Mermaid in Road Bay

Mermaid in Road Bay

Robin loved the beaches

Robin loved the beaches

great place to sit and watch the world go by

great place to sit and watch the world go by

Road Bay

Road Bay

Hiking up to the Road Bay overlook

Hiking up to the Road Bay overlook

Ahhhh

Ahhhh