Monday, January 28, 2013

St. Kitts Adventures (and a new video)

Tomorrow we wrap up a wonderful week in St. Kitts at the marina and head out for a few days of coast cruising the southern part of the island and Nevis (pronounced Nee-vis, as we learned).  After that, depending on wind, we'll head to our next island.

The weather has of course been beautiful here and we both agree that so far, this is our favorite island.  The people are truly friendly and the atmosphere grabs hold of you and makes you feel welcome everywhere.

The first day, we settled in, met Wayne, who is the most helpful person around.  He took our laundry and directed us to the offices to check in.  We didn't have local currency, and with 5 cruise ships in, ALL the local ATMs were out of service, but Chris finally tracked down a working one and we paid our fees.  Our marina check in went well, with a couple of local croissant bakers sharing their wares...the ham and cheese filled one was delicious.  We dined at the Ballahoo restaurant, over looking the Circus square, a cute town center with a clock tower in the middle of the roundabout.

The next day we broke out our folding bikes for the first time since NC, and rode 14 miles round trip to Brimstone Hill Fortress, a world heritage site with the ruins and partially reconstructed fort from the 1700s.  This island was controlled by both French and British at the same time then, and the fort came to fame when the French stormed up the quite steep hill and overwhelmed the British.  It's the second largest fort in the islands, second to one I think in Haiti. We had lunch at the snack bar, choosing the club sandwich, which we were surprised to find out included ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and a fried egg...combined with the locally bottled juice, it was surprisingly quite yummy.  On the way down, we caught sight of the elusive monkeys that run rampant on the island, they are pretty shy though and we couldn't get a good picture.  It was unnerving to know that they were undoubtedly watching us.  The chicken wing trailer just down the street from the boat provided a tasty dinner, complete with sweet potato fries and several unique dipping sauces like citrus lime and and mango.

The following day we took it easy, walked a bit around town, relaxed, and ate pizza.  Then on Friday, we succumbed to the tourist in us and took the scenic railway tour on the the narrow gauge railroad that runs along the entire east side of the island.  The trains were used to move sugar cane from the fields to the factories, but after the last sugar factory closed in 2005, they turned it over to tourism.  Free drinks and great views along the ride made for a most enjoyable trip.  We were lucky enough to be in the very last car, all the way in back.  When we got back in the late afternoon, we were hungry and sought out one of the many street vendors just outside the marina gate.  The gyro and chicken roti were phenomenal...we have kept looking for the stand for another sample, but haven't seen him since.

Saturday we puttered around the boat, Chris did some maintenance and we laid out our plans for overland travel.  Our credit cards took a hit this week with flights to Paris, Johannesburg, Sydney, and finally back to Trinidad.  We made reservations for storing the boat and for our Europe car rental.  The safari trip details are just about worked out, and we are getting excited for the next legs of this grand adventure, but are happy that we still have 5 more months to explore the Caribbean.  Friday night is big in St. Kitts, everyone gets paid and are glad the weekend has arrived and the main street outside the marina is party central.  Lots of street food venders, bar shacks and people just looking to take a load off and relax.  The music went well into the night, but we listened from the boat, safe from the mosquitoes that have incited the hunter in Chris.  Dinner was bbq chicken cooked right there on the street...grilled chicken never tasted so good.

Sunday we ponied up and took a taxi to the west end of the island to hike Mt. Liamuiga...previously named Mt. Misery.  It was not an easy hike, but well marked, albeit wet from the previous night's rain.  The top was shrouded in mist and reeked from the sulphur lake inside the volcano crater, but we had a great time.  We were starving when we got back and ended up eating chinese food...this port of call has undone all of our recent good eating habits it seems!

Today we got a late start, but were surprisingly productive, did some hand laundry, which dried in about 45 minutes in the sun.  Filled the water tanks, waxed the starboard side of the boat (Chris had done the other side earlier in the week) and cleaned both interior and exterior of the boat.  Tomorrow morning we'll restock provisions and we'll be all set for another couple of weeks of self sufficiency!

PS. We had previously discovered an issue with our marine toilet, i.e. the uric acid in our pee was slowly calcifying the hoses and valves, slowly constricting the ability for effluent to flow through.  This entire experience felt as odd as a Stanley Kubric film, so we got inspired again...check out the "videos" link above, or go directly there at this link...

An HDR photo of the crater showing the vegetation and the sulphur lake at the bottom.  Quite a view.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Saba and St. Eustatias

   We spent the past 5 or 6 days exploring the Dutch Indian islands of Saba ("Say-Bah") and St. Eustatias ("Stay-Sha").  As described in the editorial below from a couple days ago, the sea conditions were not very enjoyable...not really rough, but just annoying enough to make us roll all day and night, for 7 days, from gunwale to gunwale.  Not awesome for relaxation.

  However, the islands were pretty cool.  Saba was too rough to go ashore, but we did manage to get in the water and snorkel.  We saw about 10 sea turtles and tons of fish and lobsters.  The water was unbelievably clear, even for Caribbean standards. Saba is well off the beaten track for tourists, so we were the only visiting boat on the island for a while.

   The neighbor island of St. Eustatias is also off the cruising track, so we were only one of two or three boats on the whole island over the weekend.  The island has a big fuel refinery, so there were plenty of tugs and oil tankers, but no tourists, which was great.  We got some really inexpensive food and supplies from the Chinese Mini-Market and did a great hike to the top of Mount Mazinga, otherwise known as "The Quill."  The hike was to the crater rim of a dormant volcano, and the views were great.

  Today we arrived in St. Kitts (St. Christopher), which is very beautiful from the sea.  We are doing our monthly marina visit to top off on water, groceries, and to clean the boat, but since the marina only charges 50 cents per foot for the night (about 15 dollars for us), we decided to splurge and spend four nights in the marina, with access to wifi, running water showers, and flushing toilets - ah the sweet lap of luxury!

  Here are a few pictures of our latest trips, when bandwidth improves we'll post full versions of them on Flickr, under "Pictures" above.  Should be done in a couple days, latest.

 We caught a big Dorado (Mahi Mahi) along the way.
Checking out the view from the top of a barren island.
 Kellee posing on the crater rim of Mount Mazinga on Statia.
 This feral chicken came up to us while Kellee was posing.  The chicken decided to pose too, so we took it's picture.  I can't say I've ever seen a chicken on a volcano before.
 St. Eustatias had a fort on it, which was restored a few years ago and has some great views and artifacts.
On the hike down we got hit by some rain, but luckily the local vegetation was big enough to shelter under.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

On Seasickness...

  By Chris

   There are those who get seasick, and those who say they don't.  The problem is, people automatically equate "seasick" with "puking."  That couldn't be further from the truth.  I know many fine sailors who never puke or turn any shade of green when the seas get up.  It's not that they are liars, it's just that they are uninformed.

  Humans are not meant to stir the waters of the world's great oceans. Originally designed for arboreal life, we descended to the savannah a couple million years ago, started hunting, speaking, and gradually grew bigger brains.  Around 50,000 years ago, anatomically modern humans departed Africa, most likely by crossing the southern portion of the Red Sea (when sea levels were much lower due to glaciation).  And thus began our love-hate relationship with the sea, an environment we were clearly not designed for.

  I've been traditionally "seasick" several times.  I guess I'm proud to say it doesn't happen often. In fact I can recall each time I puked in 9 years at sea.  There was the time on POLAR SEA in 35 foot rollers just north of Antarctica.  There was the time on ALEX HALEY in the Gulf of Alaska in winter while trailing the fishing fleet.  There was the time on DORADO getting airborne off 14 foot waves near the Lost Coast of California while our sewage system backed up onto the deck.  And there was the time on JEFFERSON ISLAND when we were getting battered by the steep seas of the Gulf of Maine in February (although I attribute that more to Jon Larson's serving eggs and sausage for dinner on our way out to the search and rescue case).

  However, seasickness is not just puking.  It's a spectrum of behavioral and physical differences that remind us of our ancient past on the plains of Africa.  As soon as we go down to the sea on ships, our inner ears start speaking to our brains, providing data inputs that say "something's wrong!!"  As  sea conditions worsen, or the time exposed to them increases, the human body starts to show signs of wear.

   Chief among them are fatigue and malaise, followed by dehydration and limited cognitive response, then nausea, vomiting, and a general wish to leave the world of the living.  I've seen the spectrum in my shipmates over the years, and I'm just glad that I was not the guy we had to airlift of ALEX HALEY for unrelenting seasickness - after he had been stuck in sickbay for 2 weeks barfing his intestines out.

   Luckily, time tends to dull the body's response to the stimulus and most people get over it quickly, including the crew of NAVIGATOR.  However, the past couple days near the Dutch island of Saba have reminded me of the nefarious side of the's ability to turn me into a raging lunatic.

   My shipmates on EAGLE may have caught a glimpse of the banged up clothes locker above my computer station...the banged up portion was caused by my fist repeatedly colliding with it in my frustration of trying to work on my computer in gunwale to gunwale 45 degree rolls.  The ceaseless rolling of that cursed vessel would interrupt me as I tried to send emails or coordinate port events...left...right...left...right...for hours, days, and weeks on end.  After a while, I just couldn't take any more, and my clothes locker got a new impact crater.

   As we sat aboard NAVIGATOR in the "lee" of Saba, a 3000 foot high island with no harbors, we rolled...and rolled...and rolled.  I could feel the rage building.  There was no sleep. Instead it was a fitful night spent wedged into a corner trying to find some relief.  Lay one way and it felt like an endless ride on the pirate ship at the amusement park.  Turn the other way and I changed venues to the teacup ride.  Head aft into the cockpit and I was on the trampoline getting launched. The foc'sle was a dunk tank, taking green water over the anchor! Luckily I didn't rage against any inanimate objects this time - just noted a good reminder of how seasickness can manifest itself in a variety of ways.

  So, we cut our visit to Saba short and are now in the lee of St. Eustatius, in the Dutch West Indies...named for the Christian martyr who was tempted by his God on a sea voyage.  Thankfully, the rolling is much diminished.

Rage Against the Potatoes.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

St. Barth

The weather has finally abated.  A week of strong trades followed directly by a gnarly north swell has had us hunkered down since we arrived in St. Barts almost two weeks ago.  We looked but did not find a decent surf break within walking/swimming distance, but I'm sure the North Atlantic will spin up more swell before the winter ends.  After our pleasant stay in Anse de Columbier, we made a pit stop in Gustavia for showers, water and groceries...and a fresh baguette of course, then headed back to Ile de Forchue.  Definitely the coolest island of the trip so far, totally uninhabited, and a great spot for some night photography.  Unfortunately, the first night the swell was so big, we couldn't land the dinghy, but that didn't stop Chris from swimming ashore with the gopro to capture some neat sun movement time lapse footage while Kellee lounged in the sun and read, she's up to almost 100 books read on the trip.

Last night we packed up chili and homemade bread and ate dinner ashore as the sun went down, then spent a couple of hours taking pictures.  This morning we got up a bit late after watching some Downton Abbey on the computer, so we opted to spend one more night in Gustavia before heading out to Saba.  We'll grab showers and some more provisions and finish up our list of "what to look up on the internet when we have a connection" and sail the 30 miles to Saba tomorrow.  Saba is seldom visited because it has no harbor, but it's a 4600' high rock with some unspoiled reef surrounding it, so we figure it will be worth the wait, we'll see.  We are still finalizing our plans for the hurricane season and will be sure to post our tentative schedule when we decide...and we can do that without worrying about opsec! After Saba is Eustatia, followed by St. Kitts/Nevis.  We don't expect to have internet until St. Kitts, so we'll have lots to update in a week or two.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

St. Barth

Quick hello from St. Barth while we dodge raindrops and try to hold onto a stolen wifi signal...we are holed up in Anse de Columbier, a secluded, protected bay, only accessible by boat or mile long hike along the cliff.  St. Barth is a picturesque island, but we can't afford to do much here.  We've been taking lots of pictures, Chris has been experimenting with some night sky exposures, see below. we'll post more pictures when we have better signal.  we rented a four-wheeler and toured the island, there are some VERY nice houses here!  the wind has made it difficult to do much, but we still swim, carefully launch the dinghy and go ashore.  The wind kicks up the sand and it gets everywhere, but it's supposed to let up this weekend and we'll reprovision in the town of Gustavia, and then (weather permitting) start making our way to Saba, with a stop at Ile' Forchue, which we think means "the fork" since that's how it's shaped.  We stopped there on our way here, it's a neat, uninhabited island with trails all over it, and awesome views.  It used to be overrun with goats, so there is little vegetation, but the goats are gone and it's easy to walk around.  Privately owned, but there is no infrastructure, the owners are okay with sailors taking a stroll.  I write this from the lobby of a super swanky hotel, we definitely don't look like guests, but they haven't kicked us out yet, better make tracks before they get on to us! Au revoir!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Our Early 2013 Schedule

Wow - over 100 page views on our blog today's almost like some people are back at work and wishing they were somewhere else!

Well, if you want to get away, feel free to come and meet us in the Caribbean! Here is our latest estimate of where we will be for the next few months:

Early January - St Barts (France)
Mid January - Saba and Statia (Ned Antilles)
Late January - St. Kitts and Nevis

Early February - Montserrat and Antigua
Mid February - Montserrat and Antigua
Lat February - Guadeloupe (France)

Early March - Guadeloupe (France)
Mid March - Guadeloupe (France)
Late March - Dominica

After that is kind of up in the air.

Hope those New Year's resolutions are going well...Happy New Year!