Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The First Guests of the Season Arrive

Al arranged Francis to pick us up to go to the airport, to wait for the two young ladies. One of them, Aida is the daughter of our dear friends Christina and Bahadir. She lives in New York, USA; the other is her friend Carolina, who is based in Den Haag, Netherlands. They both work for the United Nations, and spend most of their time in war zones like Afghanistan, Darfur, Sudan etc., etc. They had worked together in the past, and wished to see each other for a mini vacation. All they wanted was a place warm to unwind and do nothing. Ruyam II looked as the perfect place, and we were delighted.

We went to the airport around the modified landing time, but ended up waiting more than an hour for their arrival. At last people started to trickle out, but Aida was not coming out. After some time Al s cell phone chimed. I heard him saying just Ruyam II and Port Louis. Apparently the Grenada Customs Officer asked Aida where she was going to stay. When she mentioned the boat, what is the name, where is it located? After some discussions with the officer, they were able to call Al.

It was a breeze after they came out. The airport is not too far from the marina, so we got there in no time, and they got settled. 

The marina is quite modern, since it is operated by Camper & Nicholson, a well-known name in the field all around the world. The marina in Cesme, Turkey along with many others elsewhere belongs to them. The facilities are impressive; girls especially liked the showers, which I have to admit were the best I have ever seen so far.

Next morning we returned to our place to anchor. The water looks pristine, but could be a little polluted from the debris floating away from the shore east of us or from the boats near us. The sea so vast and the current so strong at all times, I hope the impurities were dissipating by the time they reached us. 

I do my aquatic exercises every day (without immersing my face).  The girls mostly did the same. I urged them not to swim far away from the boat because of the strong currents, and they complied, thankfully. All they wanted to do was to get a tan without burning, so they were careful with their sun blocks, but spent most of their time on the trampoline, chattering away mostly in Spanish. Aida learned Spanish from her mother, and Carolina is from Colombia. 

After lazing around for a couple of days, they were ready for a bit of sailing, so we sailed up to Guayave (pronounced Guave), located at close to the northern edge of the west coast, but could not anchor there for lunch. We were headed for the small beach, close to the fishing boats at the Guayave bay, but another catamaran in front of us attracted our attention and told us by vigorous body language that we should not go there. We could not understand why, but we complied. This was our second unsuccessful attempt to get to Guayave, the first was in last April, when we had a rental car. We went very close, but could not find the detour for the short stretch in the main road washed away recently. I am determined to get there one day, rain or shine!

Aida helped me undertaking captain’s orders while under sail, and I hope they had a good time. Carolina was a bit ticked off when both Al and I insisted on everyone wearing PDF s (life jacket). She was only off the hook when she promised to sit at the cock-pit and not move around. Carolina is a fearless dare-devil, and looked at me with surprise when I exhibited caution. She made fun of me a lot. I guess the work she does for UN kind of requires a sense of adventure and brashness, but I think she brinks on the reckless side a bit. I was impressed by Aida’s more down to earth and reasonable courage coming from confidence in herself. I have to give it to them that they did not argue with me, and endured my misgivings politely, realizing that any shadow of a risk bothered me, due to my sense of responsibility. Anyway, we were back at our spot early in the afternoon, and we all jumped into the water immediately.

Fort Louis Marina

We were expecting our two guests on the 17th, so we made arrangements to stay that night at the marina, for easy access. The day before we went to the marina to see where to dock, talked to the dock master, and reserved our spot, which was a long dock in front of the office, and close to the parking lot, very convenient to unload the luggage etc. 

Saturday morning Al fired up the engines around 9:00 am, I weighed anchor after half an hour and we slowly proceeded towards the dock. Murphy’s Law never fails; the dock which had been deserted for the whole time was halfway occupied by a yacht, docked from its starboard.  We were prepared for the port side, so Al turned around in the limited space, and slowly approached the dock. Luckily two deck hands were waiting, and received the lines to pull us in. My anxiety level increases every time we dock and I have a sigh of relief after we get tied up. However, this time breathing became impossible, since the boat behind us was constantly belching carbon monoxide on us. As we were docked back to back, their idling engine was sending its fumes directly onto me while sitting at the cock-pit, our living space. After a short discussion with the owners, Al learned that the captain was working on the engine room, and they had to run the engine for the generator to keep the air-conditioning. The lady of the house promised Al to turn the engine off shortly. They turned out to be very nice people, notwithstanding my first impression!

We got the water hooked up, and started heavy duty clean-up. When we find shore water we get crazy, and wash and re-wash every corner of the boat. This was the second big cleaning attempt, to get our bot ready for our guests.

My new gadget

Yesterday (Saturday, November 10th), I tried my water-proof miniature IPod while swimming/doing water exercises. I took up aqua-fitness routines after our traffic accident at the end of last summer in Turkey, when a vertebrate on my spine was cracked.  Last season on the boat, I did as much as I could on my own, but the exercises become tedious and boring without music. 

It occurred to me to check the internet when I was in Hamilton, Ontario visiting my daughter, to see if a water proof music recorder existed. It did; the creation of Apple of course, coupled with WaterFi ear-phones, also water tight. However, it can only be purchased from the US, through the web; none of the stores carry it in Canada, they do not even know about it.  So my daughter bought it on line for me, and got it sent to my son’s post office box in Ogdensburg, N.Y. He regularly buys things on line from US, and drives to the small town at the edge of the US border to pick them up. It is only an hour away from Ottawa, and one pays the GST tax at the customs. It is much easier than getting something delivered by post from US, since the cost doubles from brokerage fees, delivery fees etc. In summer three of us made the trip together to get my IPod. 

Unfortunately it only plays ITunes, fed by an Apple computer. Thankfully my daughter had bought a Mac, despite all Al’s protests, so she was able to record the rhythms and tunes I like for dancing. I was quite excited about the prospect of dancing in water, but was not sure that the small thing would work. I tell you, it is amazing, and staying in water for longer than an hour is no problem, if only Al can entertain himself with his smart phone (not IPhone mind you, a Samsung). Anyway, I love my gadget, and can’t think of anything more fun, since I love dancing, but can never find the kind of music I like at the establishments. They start late anyway; we have no energy left to dance at those hours anymore. Dancing in the sea suits me fine. I also like the privacy of the whole experience. Now I will think of my children every time I listen to it.

I also have to mention my other purchase back in Ottawa, which proved to be amazing. I was looking just for a pair of wet-shoes at the “Sail” store at Train Yards right before we started back, but they were sold out, since the season was over in Canada. The salesman showed me a pair of walking shoes made of a new material, a soft plastic, that looked like a thick mesh, with solid hard bottom, which he thought could be worn in water. I found it very comfortable and decided to buy it. They are black with pink and lime green stripes and ties. They look a bit odd for me to wear and I hate plastic shoes, it is always leather for me all the way when it comes to shoes. However, on the boat, all the deck shoes I tried proved to be uncomfortable or too hot to wear.  Anyway, first time I tried this pair was on the way to La Sagesse. I thought it would be practical not to carry a second pair of wet-shoes during the long walk. 

I found it incredible that plastic shoes, worn without socks, could be so comfortable for walking; no burning or pinched feet walking on dusty, uneven terrain! Equally amazing is the fact that they are also awesome on deck, exposed long hours to heat. Lastly, they are great in water as well. Kudos to materials engineers and scientists, who worked on its development! 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Life at St George’s

We are anchored at the mid-point between the Port Louis Marina located in the lagoon around the corner, and the Grande Anse beach, where all the expensive resorts are lined up. It is a very large and clean beach, a much protected tourist area. We had been there before and enjoyed swimming in the mostly shallow water. 

At the same time, the cruise terminal at the north end of the bay is in plain view, exciting for us, since watching the cruise boats is our major entertainment. We also can see the huge tankers and merchant ships coming into the base of the lagoon and docking. It is incredible how those big things maneuver in the confined space of the inlet and edge onto the side.  I have the utmost respect for their captains!

For us, all the bases are covered, water/gas/laundry at the marina, beach/bar at Grande Anse, minutes away by dinghy at either side and free WiFi at the Sea Port bar at the dinghy dock. 

We are set for the season, the only down side is that I cannot make Al walk anywhere. If we have to go downtown or to the shopping centres at Grande Anse at the opposite end, we can take the minibuses running in either direction steps away from the dinghy dock. This year, our exercise is to come from swimming and sailing. Since we do not have to go anywhere, sailing is going to be fun, whenever we feel like it; and not for very long distances. We really feel blessed, no stress, no rush, just fun! We are also expecting more guests this year, who will provide the entertainment for us.

The weather in Grenada is a little different than the other islands we had seen. It is always very humid and hot, but fickle, very unpredictable. All of a sudden it starts raining buckets for a few minutes, and then completely clears. The winds, although not very strong, blow from different directions at random times, and provide the much needed respite from the heat. The boats turn around and around, every time we look up, we face a different part of the coast line. Living on water is amazing, especially in this hot climate. 

We decided that living on land is harder, and we feel more at home on the boat than at our condo in Ottawa. We hope to continue this lifestyle as long as our health co-operates.

Monday, November 12, 2012

At Last, Sailing (actually motoring) Away

Friday morning rain or shine, we decided to take off. Early in the morning we got ready, studied the chart, and made the route. I wrote down all the bearings on the turns, and the mileage, which reduces my anxiety, and Al opened the sail bag and got the sails ready, and fired up the engines at 8:15 am. I tended to the ropes, and shortly thereafter we started. 

The bay is facing south and quite narrow because of high reefs at both sides, but the path is well marked. While Al was steering, I was busy coiling the lines and collecting the fenders. The wind was quite strong, and we started hitting the waves, which were almost perpendicular on our port side. Then something flew off and came crashing down the fore-deck, odd shaped aluminum shards and broken pieces of the plastic cylinder got strewn around. Al declared that it was one of the radar reflectors, tied above the spreader. I thought it was not a good omen to have a mishap at the very beginning of our trip, but hey, we moved on.

We had to go about a mile south in order to clear the many fingers of small hills reaching down into the ocean, creating deep bays along the southern coast, where most of the marinas are located. The points closer to the western edge are longer, so our route was slightly south-west. After turning towards west, we got the wind on our back, which significantly improved our comfort. But the waves were relentless, and the sky dark as can be during the day, with storm cells forming occasionally.  Al thought of setting the sails, but I was not up to it. We have six more months to try the new halyard.

I was concerned with the twin peaks of rocks just above the water level, a little south of Prickly point, which are called The Porpoises on our way, so our route came down to its south, and then turned north west towards Pointe Saline, the westernmost point, turning around the Glover Island to its south, rather than cutting through the channel.
Of course Al humours me when I make my ultra conservative routes, then sometimes cuts corners, relying on the two GPS equipment and his smart phone.  This time, when we approached the island, he suggested taking the channel, cautioning me that I should not get excited when I saw 12 feet of water under us. Since the weather was not co-operating, I did not want to lengthen the trip by insisting on the longer route, so we cut across, but went as far west as the way point given in the chart to clear the hazards for the entrance to Martin’s Bay at the mouth of the St George’s harbour.

After reaching the lee of the island, coming to the bay was a breeze. I prepared the anchor, and we set it at 19 ft., among 25-30 boats already there. I spotted some heads (swimmers!) in the water around the boats, a good sign about the quality of water. In all marinas, and some crowded bays, people do not swim close to the boats, since holding tanks are not heard of.  We are located at the west side of the island, close to the north end of  large bay with small protrusions at the south and north edges.  I hope this place will be protected from the Christmas winds in the dead of winter.

 Other than that, it is open sea as far away as eyes can see! Sun tumbles into water directly in front of us. My favorite sight. I prefer the calm of early evenings, and love to watch the sun-set, and the awesome colors it creates. One of these days I want to paint one such sight.