Voyage of Ubi
Teague Bay, St. Croix
Tinker on Sleeping on the High Seas
Los Testigos, Venezuela
Pompatar, Margarita, Venezuela
Boca Del Rio, Margarita
My Other Existence
Puerto Santa, Venezuela
San Francisco, Venezuela
Port of Spain, Trinidad
Power Boats, Trinidad
Store Bay, Tobago
Bon Accord Lagoon, Tobago
St. Georges, Greneda
Union Island, Grenadines
Young Island, St. Vincent
Wallilabou, St. Vincent
Soufriere, St. Lucia
Rodney Bay, St. Lucia
Anse Martin, Martinique
Terre D'en Haut, The Saints
Bas Du Fort, Guadeloupe
Terre D'en Haut, The Saints
English Harbor, Antigua
Some City, Montserrat
Another City, Nevis
Gustavia, St. Barts
Marigot, St. Martin
Road Bay, Anguila
Gustavia, St. Barts
Teague Bay, St. Croix
The following occurs during an extended Caribbean cruise in 1991.
The full name of my sailboat is Ubi Libertas; but I usually shorten it to Ubi. I lived on Ubi for a year and a half before the trip began. When I bought her, she was called Isis of Tortola. I changed the name because, while it is considered bad luck to rename a ship, I felt that it was worse luck for a bachelor to live on a ship named after a (among other things) fertility goddess. Ubi Libertas is Latin for "Where there is Freedom;" it is also the first half of my family motto. (The motto ends with "Ibi Patria" meaning "there is my home." The name is an awkward pun in that "Ubi" is a Freedom 40.
Thus, my journey could be translated into "Voyage of Where." As I explored various "where's" (places) from both internal and external perspectives (often inseparable), the title is appropriate.
In these pages you will find my perspectives and feelings. Hopefully I do not need to say that they should not be taken as the last word in anything. There are no magic formulas here. I don't have any to offer.
Occasionally there will be a philosophical discussion of some kind; these thoughts did not occur on the given day. Various experiences of the day recall previous thoughts. Since these thoughts are complex and often conflicting, I rewrote on many different days. I consider it a sign of sane mind to be able to hold mutually conflicting thoughts comfortably. There are conflicting truths. While I have tried hard, I'm still not happy with my sections on philosophy. They feel static and dead. As life is a process, my beliefs change and adapt to circumstances. Because my writing can not "live," I seriously considered removing the philosophy sections. The only reason that I have left them is that they help to clarify my thinking.
Each person must make their own way; to follow another's "path" is not productive and dangerous. There are no paths. There are no maps. There are no ways. At best thoughts and observations from other travelers can serve as a travel guide. Just as you can not put your foot in the same river twice, rules of life are never completely valid because circumstances and people change. Making your own way is harder but there really is no option. The results are worth it.
While I am willing to share, ultimately this log is for me.
Ixlan or bust.
Love to all.
Teague Bay, St. Croix, Monday, April 15, 1991
Hopefully this will the last I write while "home" for some time. Home is currently the St. Croix Yacht Club where Ubi is moored.
The first stop of my journey will be Greneda. The chart places Greneda 380 miles away from St. Croix (where I currently live). With the usual winds, the trip should be a nice broad reach. Greneda bills itself as the island of spice. It also has waterfalls. While I love water of all kinds, I have a special fondness for fresh water. Perhaps because it is the kind of water that I see the least (and it doesn't leave you salty). Accompanying me for the first part of the trip is "Tinker Bell" (Roberta Riggs) a friend and fellow member of the St. Croix yacht club.
The following paragraph is a quote from a fax that Tinker sent while on the trip:
"I have great admiration for Mr. Balch`s Freedom 40 yacht. It's not only wonderfully designed, but Charles has trained himself to handle everything alone -- and that's a big job on a 40 foot sailing yacht. I hope to flatter myself that I have been of some assistance in a blue water crossing. The interior design of the Freedom is great -- a forward, mid and rear cabin with a galley, settee and nav station in the mid. C. gave me a choice of accommodations in either forward or mid. C. sleeps in the aft cabin."
Today was spent in preparation. I was jokingly accused of holding a private yard sale on club property when we emptied EVERYTHING off the boat on to the dock for a good cleaning and a reorganization. I was assisted in my last minute cleaning by Conny and Tinker. Once everything was removed, I hosed the interior down to give us a good clean start.
I'm a bit confused. I'm very ready to go. But I'm going to miss my friends in St. Croix. Particularly Connie. Connie and I have had a great time living together on the boat these last few weeks. It's very rare for me to be able to put up with anyone for more than a week. It also feels a bit ruthless of me to be telling her that she has to get off (kind of like making her walk the plank). Typical universal tease, just when I convince myself that I need to do something alone, my decision gets tested. I'm sure that there will be many times that I question my decision. Except for her cat, Connie would be my first choice for a full time companion. I'm glad Connie is going off to college. It's a good decision for her.
This trip has so many special meanings for me and I'm not going to risk any of the magic. I'm about to do a medicine walk. I'm not even sure I know what I want to learn. Like so many other things I've done, I'm just going to follow my intuition. Sometimes I think that following those subtle signals is the most important thing. Perhaps learning isn't important at all.
Open Ocean, Tuesday, April 16
I topped of the tanks (300 gallons of water and 75 gallons of diesel with a five gallon reserve of diesel and a six gallon reserve of water) then stopped at Buck Island to clean the bottom. (Cleaning the growth from a boats bottom increases its speed through the water).
We left Buck Island four PM Tuesday afternoon under full sail. The engine read 489 hours and the log 1281 miles. Two dinghies are lashed to the deck. Our ability to get both dinghies aboard was one of my last concerns. It has turned out to be relatively easy. But at some point I'm going to have to come up with a better method of securing them. What I have now resembles a cross between a spider's web and rat's nest. Not the sort of thing you untie in an emergency and I don't like clutter.
We saw a couple of sea turtles as we passed Buck and Tinker said that it was a good sign. About 10 miles out the weather increased till a reef in the sail. The winds were over 40 knots and seas distressingly high and getting higher. It was very tough going but we were so eager to START that we elected to go on. (Later I talked to some other cruisers who had left St. Croix at the same time. They said that had once sailed in a tropical storm and that the weather we experienced was worse.) Reefing got rid of most of the weather helm and I turned over the nasty job of steering to the autopilot. At dusk, after Tinker went down below to contemplate the wisdom of being on a boat in rough weather, I put another reef in the sails. Shortly after that, the Autopilot made some very unhealthy clicking noises and died.
The death of the autopilot was particularly distressing. I had planned on "Auto" taking over during the tough and long parts of this cruise. Shortly after Auto died a large shark swam by with the classic fin out of the water. I elected not to take THAT as a sign. For the rest of the way to Greneda we will have to use the "poor man's autopilot." This means locking the steering wheel and hoping that boat is balanced enough to stay relatively on course. Unfortunately, the worse the conditions are, the less balanced the boat. Which means that the less you want to be outside, the more you have to be there.
Another quote from Tinker:
"Wild and woolly night with lots of goblins screaming in the rigging; we motorsailed in hopes that any place else had to be better than where we were. Spent most of the night trying just to keep logic from becoming hysteria (that's Tinker talking folks - I sincerely believe Charlie`s got it more together)."
Because I thought that it was to rough for Tinker, I stood watch by myself for the first night. This gave me plenty of occasion to think about being in a fiberglass shell that was shaking like you would an egg before making an omelet. I also thought about how, if this egg broke, the water was literally miles deep and land was much farther away than I could possibly swim. If we broke up, the pieces would never be found. I knew that there was an in shore small craft warning. Somehow I thought all the waves would magically disappear once we got off shore. Very sloppy thinking that could have gotten us both killed.
In the worry department, I had some advantage on Tinker; I've worked and lived on Ubi for the last year and have tested her in harsher conditions than we were experiencing now (though not nearly for so long).
Instead of just worrying, I spent most of my time trying to figure out how to ease boat tension where I could. This was very difficult because the jobs that I wanted to do often involved substantial danger of falling over. Falling off the boat at night with Tinker below would be certain and slow death. Part of the reason that I took the watch for the entire night was that I'm not yet sure I trust Tinker to make the correct decisions should the shit hit the fan and, if the shit hits the deck (broken mast), I want it to be me that it hits. (Actually, I prefer to do most boat jobs - I know what I can do and how I want things done).
It was tough going. The starboard beam of the boat was constantly submerged and minor currents were running through the cockpit before draining into the (thankfully very large) scuppers. It was very long night. It was kind of like trying to climb up a waterfall during an earthquake. Well not exactly, this water was salty.
At one point Tinker came up with a very bloody face. The boat had jumped so much that she was thrown into the ceiling of her bunk. Tinker is going to wear that scar for a long time. Even though we have been out for only about four hours and have STARTED, I considered going back and waiting for better weather. Both Tinker and I broke the ground rules I had established for this trip - we left during a small craft warning. I have plenty of time to wait and it is foolish to fight mother nature.
Sometime during the first night, I reconsidered my desires to live and travel on a small boat. Being tossed around for hours on end really brought the mortality of this body home. I think the two main reasons that I kept going were the belief that the weather was better ahead and the impossibility of returning to St. Croix in the dark. (St. Croix is surrounded by reefs and we had a new moon).
Towards the end of the night conditions improved a little, but, thankfully, my attitude improved a lot.
Wednesday 17, April
Took stock this morning. During the night waves swept the deck clear of everything that wasn't well lashed down. We lost two coolers, a cockpit cushion, and the barbecue was barely holding on with a twisted lid. The cockpit looked better without the old and tired cushion and I will throw the other one away as soon as I find a receptacle. The dinghies didn't budge. We are somewhere in the middle of the Caribbean Sea with no sight of land. (I don't expect to see land for a while.) I am completely drenched and haven't slept or had my foul weather gear off since we left. The sea is still big, bouncy and chopped-up. We are constantly drenched and trying to convince each other that the weather IS REALLY IMPROVING.
The weather did improve. By afternoon the wind was brisk (about 25 knots), but only spray and the tip of an occasional rogue wave were coming aboard.
"We passed Aves Island about lunch time and caught 2 beautiful tuna -- had the freshest Sushi with all the fixings. (C: I thought real hard about pulling in for lunch but am not sure what nation owns the place of if there is a place to drop a hook.) Late afternoon we also nabbed 2 huge Dorado but mine got away... Captain made a great hot and spicy stew with dolphin and every imaginable spice. The remains sit in a pressure cooker on the gimbaled stove at an outrageous angle. We'll have the same thing for dinner tonight."
About two in the morning I had to turn the motor off because an exhaust hose fitting gave up the ghost. Water and diesel exhaust were flowing into the boat. I was specially concerned because the problem occurred during Tinker's watch. She just doesn't know the boat. When I start my watch, my first action is to check the bilge, while underway, I check it hourly.
On this occasion, after much pumping, I knew there was a PROBLEM. There was a LOT of pumping so I had plenty of time to think. I knew my through hulls were good because I had checked them carefully before leaving. The two most likely sources of water were large waves breaking over the side and heeling the boat to much. Could Tinker have heeled the boat to much and brought on a lot of water over the side? No, that would have woken me up. Yesterday, we took on only a small fraction of the water that I was having to deal with and the waves were much worse. Was there any other source of water? The big clue was the diesel smoke I could smell. When the engine is on, a flow of sea water is pumped through a heat exchanger in my radiator to keep things cool; this water leaves the boat through the exhaust. If there were a break or disconnection in the exhaust line, the sea water in the exhaust system could slowly fill the boat. It only took a few moments with a flashlight to find the problem spot.
A fitting connecting two pieces of exhaust hose had dissolved. I remember the mechanic who installed the engine pointing to the fitting with pride and saying that it was a fire engine hose coupler. "Very expensive but very good" he said. At the time, I wondered why anyone would ever want a quick disconnect on their exhaust. I still do. (I expect the fitting was the only one he could find of that size.) The fitting was of aluminum and brass; hot sea water and diesel exhaust proved an effective method of destroying the silly thing.
Turning the engine off provided a temporary fix. But we were pointing into the wind against heavy seas and, with the engine off, are only doing about 3-4 knots. At that speed it will take an extra couple of days to get to Greneda. We never got the anticipated broad reach. (People we met who left the Virgins a few days after us did - they also got calm water. Once again stupid of me to fight the weather.)
Our running light burned out sometime during the night. I think its because it was shaken so much.
Tinker on Sleeping on the High Seas
The forward cabin is very much like a trampoline when you're hard on the wind -- every bow swell throws you onto the cabin top. As the Captain, C. Balch has a little womb in the after cabin and when my watch is completed his area is so dry and warm and he is so sound asleep that I have to beat on his cabin top to remind him of his watch.
C: - partially UNTRUE - The forward cabin is the driest place on the boat. The aft cabin was sopping from the first night on. To get in, I had to open the door directly into spray and "green" water. (To add to my "joy," every bit of my clothing was in a bag directly below the hatch). Crawling into a sopping bed in drenched foul weather gear doesn't help to keep things dry either. It wasn't worth taking off the gear because everything was wet anyway and each minute of precious rest was to be hoarded. I'm amazed at how well Tinker held up. I know many people who would have insisted on being airlifted out.
About sleep. Imagine trying to sleep on a roller coaster, now add rain, NOW imagine doing it after standing watch alone the first night. I'm amazed that all Tinker had to do was bang on the hatch to wake me - I would have expected something along the lines of a large stick. There are no good spots to sleep on a boat experiencing high seas.
Georgetown, Greneda, Thursday, April 17
The water was calm enough for me to brave the engine compartment and, through some very creative engineering (we couldn't exactly go out and get parts), I got the exhaust line fixed.
Captain says that we'll come charging into St. Georges, Greneda in the morning like the white knights that we are. I hope so. Lots of squalls and the rain that goes with them tonight but the waves were reasonable. I'm getting my sea legs back again -- its all so strange -- deja vu -- on a different boat. I'll be interested in my feelings about Grenada revisited tomorrow.
We don't have any fancy navigation equipment aboard. My main tools are a log to tell us how far we've traveled, a compass and maps. As backup I have Radio Direction Finder (RDF) and a sextant. As navigator, I've been worried about my dead reckoning skills. When navigating by dead reckoning, you figure out where the boat is and what course to steer by calculating the true course of the boat (affected by wind direction, currents, and magnetic variation) and its speed. This is the first time that I've ever been on a boat more than a day away from land. Tinker's lack of navigation skills is legendary. I understand the theory but this is a pretty tough test.
Last night I proved my (lack of) ability to handle a sextant. It was tough conditions. There were high seas and the sky was cloudy. I made three sites. One was impossible, the other two put us hundreds of miles from where I was pretty sure we were. It looks like I'm lucky to even spell sextant.
Fortunately, for my piece of mind, my dead reckoning skills were confirmed by passing right next to Aves island on the second day. However Aves was the only land we could expect to see until Greneda and we saw it on the first third of the trip. At that time, we were being thrown around a lot. It could be that, instead of my holding our course against all odds, the sea may have corrected my wrong course.
By my reckoning, we should have seen Greneda around midnight (I expected to arrive around eight). Our vision was blocked by many lines of squalls on the ocean. About one in the morning, with no Greneda in sight, I decided to try the RDF (THANK YOU JERRY BOURNE). Grenada's beacon was about where I expected it. But where was Grenada? I was beginning to wonder if perhaps the other possibility of my RDF reading was true; was Greneda behind us? If so, next stop Venezuela and me without a visa. Ouch.
About four in the morning the last squall passed and in the distance we could see lights. They might be boats, Greneda, or some other island. Both of us refused to go below until the Greneda issue was resolved. As the night slowly gave way to morning, we could be pretty sure that the lights were an island. But which one? By six it was definitely Greneda and by nine we were at anchor in the Georgetown lagoon. It seems that Grenadians don't leave a lot of lights burning in their homes or on their streets like we do in the Virgins. My midnight prediction would have been wrong even if squalls had not been in the way. But we were exactly where I thought we were. Whew. There were times when I thought seriously about buying a GPS. (Electronic navigation equipment that always tells you exactly where you are.)
The trip took us a total of 65 hours and according to our log we covered 412 nautical miles (the chart says its 380 miles as the gull flies) for an average speed of 6.3 knots (5.8 if your a gull). This was pretty good speed since we were pounding into the waves the whole way. The engine reads 488.9 hours. (488.9 - 432.9 = 56 engine hours). We consumed a total of about 50 gallons of diesel. This gives about .9 miles to the gallon at cruising speed. Thus, with a tank size of 75 gallons and a five gallon reserve, the boat carries enough fuel for about 90 hours of cruising. Assuming that we can cruise from 5 to 6 knots (in fair seas), Ubi has an "engine alone" range of 450 to 540 miles. In really rough weather, against the waves, we could expect to do about 4 knots so the range would be 360 miles. In perfect seas, seven knots would be a reasonable estimate for a range of 630 miles. I am comfortable with these numbers.
Our recent trip was by far the longest I plan to take in one hop this summer. It's nice to know that we have both sails and engine. I plan to use the engine when beating and sail the rest of the time. Purist might only sail but I am out here to have fun.
In Georgetown lagoon, the boat is so steady that it felt like it was on blocks. There are a number of boats in the harbor but none so close as to be a worry. The lagoon is surrounded by a road with a bit of traffic so nude showers in the cockpit are out (I did see a few people on other boats taking showers A' Natural - it was fun to watch the women).
I got the barbecue's lid twisted back into shape and there was enough ice left in the below decks boxes for us to have cocktails for several days. Now I remember why I like sailing so much. All our troubles are fading away and I'm someplace NEW!
I spent a few hours getting the boat presentable (thank you Jan and Roy for the Greneda flag) then went for a short dingy ride to customs. Customs could not have been much easier. After a pleasant chat with Francis, the custom's official, we we're charged one dollar EC (current exchange is 1 dollar US to 2.68 dollars EC). Customs being our first stop, we didn't have any EC on us. Francis said not to worry, "just bring it by latter" (which we did).
Town was also just a dingy ride away and we both made big talk of our bar plans (after Mr. Tub's Wild Ride for three days we felt we'd earned a few). However, drinking was in moderate quantities. We were both tired.
Ah! Civilization. After telling a number of street vendors that we didn't need our wash done, a taxi ride or any other local services, we ended up buying all kinds of goodies in the local store. Fresh food such as veggies were very cheap and some spices were extremely cheap. They have some very interesting products - ever tried nutmeg syrup? We bought some. It turned out to be the secret ingredient in the local rum punch. Very good. We also got some ginger wine which was not so good.
Some sort of frenzy is created when money goes so far and all sorts of new and wonderful things are available. I love to try new types of food.
Tomorrow we're off to see the local market and I may visit a waterfall after that. Perhaps I'll even ride it down. Five months of this may not be long enough. But no more sailing in rough weather. I mean it!
Saturday, April 20
Tinker went off to explore and I stayed aboard to rearrange and clean. I found a dead flying fish on deck under some of Tink's dingy stuff. (Deflatable dinghies require all sorts of odd pieces and such). The fish looked like it had been there for some time. Probably came aboard during that first night from hell.
Storage of books is an issue. Normally I carry a lot of books, but with five months away from "civilization" ahead of me, I am carrying a lot more. I'm not sure what I would do if I didn't get my daily read. Tinker and I have come up with some good ideas for additional book shelves. But for now, much of the space that I created by throwing away and rearranging before the trip is used up by books. When we haul out and supplies are cheap, I hope to build new shelves. I also have some ideas for covering various openings. I am very pleased with the way that the boat is looking.
I spent the afternoon exploring. This involved a bit of walking. I walked a few miles into town. Actually I was prepared to take a cab, but I didn't see one. Yesterday I had to tell at least 20 people that I did not want a taxi ride, today no one asked. Probably because it's the weekend.
I enjoyed the walk so much that I resolved to walk whenever possible. Everyone had a kind word and walking was a perfect pace to see everything. I think people relate better to a walking person. It's kind of hard to have an interaction with some one sitting in the back of a taxi. But, more than that, all the locals are walking too. It's a great equalizer. It also helps to be alone. When I'm with someone else, I'm not as eager to look for company.
The above paragraph reminds me of a wonderful experience in Virgin Gorda. Karen and I took my trusted rowing dingy over to a bar that looked like Hemmingway might have lived there. The bar was on it's own little island and thus separated from a minor tourist complex that had grown up across the channel. At any rate, once there, our bartender (who was cleaning fish out back) commented that he had seen our approach and was glad to see that someone still used a proper rowing dingy. Most boaters have very expensive and overpowered inflatable dinghies. They go whizzing everywhere at full throttle. Serious accidents happen all the time. At any rate, our use of the rowing dingy made us "just folks" in the eyes of this native (or at least gave him an opening conversation topic).
We ended up inviting him for cocktails on the boat and gave him some of the excess fish that we had caught that day. He responded by taking us across the bay to his cousin's restaurant. We feasted for next to nothing on wonderful food. We then went on to another cousin's establishment where every other drink was on the house. Both spots were very local. Everyone loved us and we them. All because I rowed. Walking is almost as good as rowing. But it's hard to row down a street.
Greneda has tourist traps.
When tourist are involved, there is a terrible tendency to make every place look like ever other place. Having seen more than one such "tourist" place, I have no need or desire to see more. Like prime time TV, they never offend (or excite). While they may educate, excite or even amuse, the primary purpose of tourist traps is to separate tourists from their money. As such they tend to evolve into a world wide sameness.
Part of the problem is the persons who work in the traps. A person can only deal with certain number of people over a given span before all persons begin to look the same. It's difficult to open your heart, interact with, and be everyone's friend. Particularly after you've run into a few bad apples. Thus it's unfair to expect a person working in a trap to be "real."
I only want to meet real people. Part of my strategy is to get away from the crowd and meet people who haven't become numb to outsiders. Happily, to many local persons, tourist are just something that they have heard of and occasional seen. If you can manage to find the spots were the locals hang out, people are excited to talk to you and find out what the fuss is about.
Buffet said, "Down to the Banana Republics. Down to the tropical sun. None of the natives are buying any second hand American dreams." Unfortunately some of the natives have bought in. I want native dreams, native life, native fun. I'm very good at having fun but like to learn new methods and outlooks.
I want to meet people who live in their traditional life styles. Not some lifestyle that has been adapted to (literally) cater to the masses. Tourists (crowds of any kind) have a way of sucking all the distinction out of an area. Of course, it's essential to have good humor and sincere respect for the local life style. I hope I'm never called upon to eat a bug, or that, if I am, I do it correctly.
I went on to visit the open air market. We still had plenty of supplies on the boat so I was a tourist and not a consumer. Everyone was very eager to sell me something. There were lots of people who would obviously benefit from a sale. After my thoughts on beggars, I felt a little strange about not buying. Here, I am a wealthy man. The people at the market were trying to make an honest living and I could painlessly help by buying their produce. But there was nothing I wanted. I won't purchase something I don't want or need.
Sometimes I wonder who elected me the world's saviour? Maybe I'm not elected. Do I want the job? Just what is in the job description? I suspect that the hours suck. What are the obligations involved with living on this planet? Do those obligations apply to me?
After visiting the market, I hiked up to the fort. All Caribbean islands seem to have forts that were once used to prevent hostiles (pirates or other governments) from unwelcome entry. As to be expected, the fort, which sits at the top of a small hill, had an incredible view. The sea was like glass. Even though nothing serious happened on our trip over, as a matter of principal, I regret that we did not wait a few days before leaving. I need to learn when to be eager and when to wait.
I kept looking at the rum shops (every other house seems to be a very modest local bar) as I walked back to the dingy. I would have liked to stop by one, but at that moment, I was feeling out of place. I want to be just folks - not some source of badly needed dollars. I would happily spend more money if it were considered no big thing. On the other hand it's tourist traps and beggars that I have trouble with - not rum shops.
Acceptance in a rum shop is gained though an entirely different sort of coin than money (although buying a few rounds doesn't hurt). Rum shops are always cheap but VERY local. In them, you gain acceptance by having the proper balance of respect, joy and sharing.
I'm trying to come terms with beggars. Children and grown men approach me and ask for a few dollars; I have yet to see a woman beg. I read in one of my travel guides that, on many of these islands, a little boy hitting up a few tourist for a buck or two can make more money that a grown man does. It's not that I mind giving up an occasional buck so much that the guides suggest (and I agree) that it can ruin a work ethic when begging pays so well.
A related concern is over paying for jobs and materials. It is poor form to say "Wow! That's cheap." It is best not to have a major impact on the economy IE the Sierra club says "leave nothing but footprints" and the Seven Seas Association says "leave no wake." I consider myself a tourist in all places and have no desire to make any more change than the creation of a pleasant memory.
As I walked along the waterfront. One man followed me and kept calling me "captain" and said that he needed a few dollars (actually it turned out to be more like 15) so that he could buy fuel to check his fish traps. He explained that the contents would be destroyed if he didn't get to them. His "rap" strongly affected me. I could imagine myself unable to do some necessary boat project because of a lack of funds. His teeth were bleeding.
I still said no. I wasn't entirely sure that he actually had a boat and I worried that, if I established myself as a source of funds, that the whole world would be my friend. That's not the sort of friends I want. In retrospect I wish I had given him the 15 and insisted that I accompany him to check the traps. If he actually had a boat, it would have been a great adventure and I would have probably got more than my monies worth just in fish/lobster.
A number of people claiming some association to the sea and minor problems have approached me. I think that beggars have learned that there is bond of mutual assistance between people who live and work on boats. I hate to see that bond abused (and therefore eroded).
It's interesting that I only find beggars in the major population areas. Outside of town, people are as "poor" or poorer but they don't ask for money. It could be that outside of town people have different values and needs. They aren't hungry, there is a roof over their heads, they have friends and they have beliefs. In some ways they are richer than many millionaires. If they can't afford a color TV or that fancy food item, no one else they know can either. Town creates artificial needs. I need to think more on what people (and I) really need.
I write and think a lot about money. Sometimes it makes me feel cheap. I suppose that, in many ways, I am cheap. Money is a limited resource for me. I want to get as much bang for my buck as I possible can. In this case the bang I am looking for is joy. While not an absolute rule, I have noted that I tend to have the most fun when spending the least money. I think that this is because a budget forces a sense of values and encourages me to be creative. On the other hand this boat and the computer I am writing on (as well as many of my other possessions/toys) were not cheap. Just the cost of the computer could easily feed and clothe me for a year in some of the places that I am going.
I try to think about what else a given amount of money can buy before I spend it. In example, usually I'd rather have five new CDs and invite a group of friends over for a very good dinner than to spend a hundred dollars or so on a meal for two in a restaurant. I'd rather save my money for a long trip such as I am now having, than to spend it all on a few short trips.
Money is a useful icon. Money allows for a universal valuing system. We don't pay for goods or services unless we feel that they are "worth" it. We buy things whose price is below or equal to the value we place upon them. As a society and a world, we place a value on everything. Despite cliches to the contrary, money can and does buy love. Frivolous purchases may indicate a frivolous sense of values.
I am fascinated by the value that society places on occupations. The amount a person earns can be considered their value to society. A rock star is more valuable than the president. Drug dealers and garbage collectors are more valued than teachers. Newspapers are more valuable than forests.
There is a mystical side to money. Some cultures had two monetary systems. One type of money for physical goods and one for interpersonal exchanges. In these cultures, the line between the two was very distinct. There was no exchange rate. You got the spiritual coin for acts of kindness and payed it for acts of kindness or to get out of the consequences of an antisocial act. If you had enough spiritual coin, you could even "buy" out of the consequences of killing a man. I think that a major problem with our culture is that we try to make the same monetary system perform both tasks. This lack of spiritual coin demeans acts of kindness and gestures of respect to the physical.
We have no accepted universal goals.
Sunday, April 21
Tinker did a lot of cooking today. It's amazing that we still have ice, but, even so, we have a lot of food that needs to be consumed soon. I hope to find some people to invite over for dinner. Tuna, Dolphin or Chicken anyone? We got lots of wonderful spices so dig in.
In the afternoon, I rowed across the harbor (about a mile) and began to explore town. There wasn't much in the way of commerce to see. Greneda completely shuts down on Sunday, Saturday afternoon, and from 12 to 2 the rest of the time. It's a nice pace.
As nothing much was going on, I went for a walk. A friendly hello came from a particularly dark and seedy looking rum shop (my favorite kind) but I elected to continue my adventures. I walked out of town then stopped to look at a cemetery. The people were buried above the ground, like the do in New Orleans. In New Orleans they do it because the water table is just below ground level and you can't dig a very deep hole without it filling with water. I don't know why it is the custom here. Perhaps the ground is too hard to dig? The tombstones were very crude; often a slab of concrete (never marble, sometimes wood) with a short, hand-painted message. There was not much organization as to how they graves were arranged and everything was overgrown and weedy. It almost looked like a children's graveyard in that all the plots were short (about four feet long). I usually have some sort of feeling when I go into a graveyard but this one left me unaffected.
I continued my walk through the hills by the sea and on to Halifax harbor (about 10 miles). Everyone I passed had a kind word or gesture to exchange. The country is very green and beautiful. The people seem healthy and happy.
On my way back through town, I stopped by the rum shop that I had seen earlier. It was a small one room place with crude wood furniture and peeling walls. Similar to preservation hall in New Orleans but much smaller. I literally caught the owner with his pants down. Emil was on the john and had the door open so that he could see what was going on - I didn't see him wash his hands when he left. While the owner was getting his act together, a very old man tried to help me out (along with a few tables he seemed part of the furnishings). There was no one else in the one room shop. Emil shushed the old man away (politely).
I ordered a rum and coke. There were three bottles of rum on the wall and I decided to try "Iron Jack" because it looked the darkest. Emil (I never got the old man's name because he wandered back to sit in a chair at the far side of the room) very carefully used a funnel to fill a small bottle (about twice the size of the ones they use on airplanes) with my chosen rum. He then handed me the bottle, a bottle of Coke (they have the old fashion coke bottles here), and a glass (he had about 20 glasses by the sink - none of them matched or looked clean). No ice was available. It was exactly my kind of place.
After a bit of rum and coke, I noticed a jug wine bottle full of various roots and spices. I asked about it and even the old man's eyes got big. It was cane rum and I was told that it would give me "stamina." I've had cane rum in a few rum shops in the Virgins. It's terrible stuff but locals always seem impressed when you drink it (they think its a strong aphrodisiac). I had to ask three times but eventually I was allowed to purchase a large shot. Emil wanted to make sure that I had a women aboard the boat! The shot lead to a little rum tasting. The tasting culminated with Emil pulling a bottle from below the bar. Local shine. I'd never had rum shine before. This was made by Rastas in the bush. Very illegal. Tasted like most shine I've had - strong and otherwise not very impressive. I don't think the rum would have done much for my "stamina" either way but lack of "stamina" has never been a concern of mine. Quite the contrary.
About this time a couple of OLD ladies came in. They had left their teeth elsewhere. One of them was from St. Lucia and very proud of it. She kept on borrowing my coke bottle and trying to get me to buy her a drink. She seemed to think she was sexually irresistible. Or maybe she was just having a bit of fun with a young gringo. When she heard that I'd had some cane rum, she laughed hysterically and literally reached up inside my shorts! I wasn't wearing any underwear so she copped a good feel. I moved a bit away and she bragged for the next half hour that she had given me a "hard on." She was having so much fun that, I saw no reason to correct her. I was having fun too. In fact, I would have bought her a drink but I was scared that she would grab again or, worse, follow me home. When I was ready to go, I bought Emil a drink. The whole bill was 10 EC. Good cheap fun. Not clean but cheap.
A few thoughts on tipping. I bought Emil's drink as a tip. As owner, the tip was effective. They don't expect tips in most places outside of the US - unless Americans have taught bad habits. I feel that this is proper. In most restaurants, the expense is far more than the value of the food. While the cost includes ambiance and preparation, I don't like it when I am then expected to pay an additional portion of the meal's "value" for the service. The price usually seems high enough that the owner can pay the help.
If the help does add value, they have earned a tip. But just to deliver plates and pick them up is not worth the incredible amounts of money many waiters/waitresses have come to expect.
Because it is customary, when and where I go out, I usually tip well. I understand that many persons make their living off tips and not the wages earned. However I have known many bartenders and waiters (waitresses) that earn more than I do in a day. Is their job more valuable than mine? There is something about the whole process that bothers me. It has the feel of something that has gotten out of hand. I prefer coffee houses (and rum shops) where tipping is not expected and people really get a chance to talk (or not, if that is what they prefer).
As I was rowing my dingy home, I noticed a floating bar with a number of continentals and was soon part of pretty good party. Sensing a bit of tension (I was odd man out as they were all tourist off a very large cruiseship/sailboat), I bought a round for the table. Particularly in the Caribbean, where you get a lot of people who wash up with no means of support, it puts people at ease to show that your solvent. Since people often buy drinks in return or, at least, the party loosens up, I've rarely come out short from buying a round.
We had drinks for a bit and I was invited back to their ship. Fantome, one of the Windjammer line, had something like 80 guests, many of whom had just arrived. It was not crowded. No one noticed that I was not supposed to be there. At one point I met the captain (Max) and informed him of my visitor status. He did not seem concerned. I enjoyed a number of rum punches and some very good hors d'oeuvres until the ship was ready for dinner. While I was invited for dinner, I elected to go back to Ubi. One of my new found friends, George, decided to come along.
George, Tinker and I had cocktails and listened to Bruce Springsteen (George's selection). George invited Tinker to see the ship but Tinker fell in trying to get in the dingy so that plan was scratched. (Tinker falls in every couple of days). I gave George a ride back in my dingy as Tinker's outboard wouldn't start (later I figured out that it was out of gas). Once there, I watched the onboard limbo show then went for a little row.
The harbor was so calm and peaceful that I just laid my head back and let the dingy drift for an age. A magic moment.
Monday, April 23
We visited the Venezuelan embassy this morning.
We had a bit of fun with taxi drivers as we got off our dingy. Several got into to a bidding war. Ronny won; he was not the lowest but he seemed the nicest. The embassy was a pleasant surprise. We had been told to expect all sorts of heavy duty fees and hassles but the grand total was 10.80 (EC) for the both of us. This covers us for six months (found out later it was for a year for us and three months for the boat). However, it did not cover entry fees or the cost of several required passport photos (18 EC). We are supposed to check in tomorrow at twelve to get our documents. We probably won't make it as we have agreed to a bargain tour of the island tomorrow with Ronny. Things should hold at the embassy until Wednesday.
I stopped by the division of tourism and picked up some stats on the island (I plan to write something or other up). I also visited a new rum shop. This one had somewhat of fisherman feel (Dad would love it) and was on the corner of the lagoon that we are living in. I really love the way they serve. I had a few small bottles and did a lot of reading. A good day.
I am beginning to get a bit lonely. I'd like someone of the opposite sex who is of similar age and interests to talk to. And I'd really like to get laid. I know from experience that the first feeling will grow and the second diminish. Both processes will take weeks to months. Tinker is fine to have aboard but she is not what I'm looking for in either category. There is so much here that I would like to share with the right person. I wish that I could afford to bring someone or that I knew someone who could afford to come with me for the whole trip.
Actually expenses are turning out to be much lower than I had anticipated. If we live like locals, it looks like I could afford to bring someone along for the whole trip next time. There will be a next time. I still can't decide whether I enjoy being alone more than I would enjoy a full time companion.
Tuesday, April 23
We still have fresh food and ice from St. Croix. My inside ice chests are much better that I thought.
I crashed early last night and was up very early. I was looking forward to our tour. After a good breakfast, we were off to meet Ronny and see the things on our lists. We had carefully read all the travel guides as well as local publications. We might as well not have bothered to create lists, Ronny had his own agenda.
The tour reminded me of a time I rode a horse on a tourist ranch in Colorado. I wanted to go off and see the little side trails and the other side of the hill. The horse knew what the proper trail was and wasn't about to let a green rider tell him where to go (the horse won). Ronny was much the same way. He knew where tourists were supposed to go and it was very difficult to get him to deviate. Our first stop was Annendale Falls. The waterfall would have been gorgeous if it didn't have a cement landing and a swarm of tourists wearing sensible street shoes. Not the sort of place where you shuck off all your clothes and commune with the local nature gods.
On the way back, Ronny was accused by the local comptroller of not trying to get us into the attached tourist shop. I was called upon to inform Ronny's accuser that yes, Ronny had invited us into the trap but that we had declined. I said so in so many words, particularly including my feelings about tourist traps. A group of native boys applauded me and called me "Eril Flynn." (where's a good chandelier when you need it?)
I hoped that my support and our obvious desires would give Ronny a clue but he kept trying to take us to various tourist traps. We always declined and explained no. Things were getting strange for all concerned. Not only were we not Ronny's usual bird but he was probably sour about the lack of kick backs. Many tourist places give taxi drivers a few bucks a head for delivering paying customers. This of course affects a "guides" decisions about local "attractions." I wanted to go to the sort of place that would never think of kickbacks. A neighborhood bar kind of place. I like to eat and drink where the locals eat. It's usually the best food. Please don't put me in some place that caters to bozos who traveled 10,000 miles to insist upon hamburgers just like they make in the "Good ol' U. S. of A." (unless I'm in Texas) then complain about how boring the food is. I don't want to meet the native serving burgers or the bozo eating them.
Things seemed to loosen up a bit when I got Ronny into a rum shop after he accidently parked next to it. We shared a bit of cane rum. Unfortunately, Ronny considered himself a true tour guide professional and wasn't easily deviated from the program. Ronny knew that we were tourists and there are places that tourists had to go.
He rallied from the rum shop by dumping us into the nutmeg "spice factory." Literally hundreds of tourists were swarming all over this storehouse (no processing was occurring that I could see). Nutmeg was stacked up to the 70 foot ceiling. Hard to imagine that people could use that much nutmeg. We saw everything worth seeing in about 30 seconds. Tinker and I left in mid tour. Later, Ronny made the mistake of pointing out a Carib factory. We forced him to stop. While there, Ronny tried hard to act like he was running the show but it was obvious to all that he'd never been in the place before. Perhaps Ronny avoids the other places because he does not have an "in" there? The tour was great. We bought some Carib and a couple of burlap sacks that I hoped would work as anchor bags (they didn't).
Ronny didn't even try to protest when we made him stop at the rum distillery (home of Iron Jack). Another great tour. They mix water and molasses about half and half, ferment for a week then use a steam heated still. The "good stuff" gets aged for about six months. We had a bit of a tasting. Pretty green.
A couple of other traps were briefly examined.
We also stopped by great Anse beach to see if it was a spot we'd like to go to. Ronny informed us that Great Anse was the most beautiful beach in the Caribbean. It seemed nice enough but I couldn't help laughing that all the beaches in the Caribbean were "the most beautiful."
The biggest surprise of the day was when we got back. Tinker and I believed that we had bargained for 75 EC the day before. Ronny informed us that he had agreed to 75 US! Several of our travel guides had mentioned that this was a classic ploy for skinning tourist (deals made in EC get switched to US). What a way to complete the tourist experience! Safety first. We gave him 200 EC (about 75 US) and a piece of our mind.
Greneda is beautiful (US Virgins really should have a bottle deposit like Greneda). I love the weather in the high altitude areas and am looking forward to a hike. But from now on I take the bus which is cheaper and probably more fun!
Wednesday, April 24
I went to the Chamber of Industry and Commerce and had a nice chat with Mrs. Brown. She was helpful but did not have a lot to say.
I used the public transportation both ways. It was easy, fast, and fun. I asked around a bit and Ronny's 200 EC rate may have been reasonable for that sort of thing. I'm not so mad at Ronny anymore but it's the bus from now on.
Tinker and I had cocktails with the last of the ice today. We ran out of desire for cocktails before we ran out of ice. The remaining ice was gone by morning.
I cooked beans for the first time. It took just over an hour in the pressure cooker and they were perfect. Then again, I always like my own cooking. Tinker and I both seem to prefer our own cooking. This is leading to some interesting races to cook meal in the evening.
Thursday, April 25
I took the bus up to Grand Etang rain forest (3 EC) then hiked up, over and down to Concord. No one else was on the trail. This was not real surprising; it was a tough trail.
Perhaps it's sour grapes but I was glad I hadn't brought along a friend. I'm never sure what to do when someone starts wailing that they can't go on or, worse, tries and then falls off a cliff or something. Perhaps it's a bad way to think of friends. Realistic though.
It seems that I often drag people into situations in which they are not comfortable. I remember taking a friend on a hike to the Reef Bay waterfalls in St. John. The hike is about two hours both ways. The second part is uphill. This gal was ready to kill me by the time we got back. At one point she seriously asked me to carry her. I'd rather go alone. But it would be great to have some one along today who desired the experience and was in shape for it. Karen is seldom happy on the boat. In both cases I am more than just comfortable. I am very happy (except that there is someone around who is not).
Today's hike was not a trail for the timid. The trail guide said to cut a walking staff. I think it helped. It was easily the worst "trail" I have been on and competitive with some cliffs I've climbed. Everything was muddy and slippery. Many times I was going up or down slippery near-vertical faces. Other times the path narrowed to a foot or so with heavy duty cliffs on both sides. While much of the trail was an obstacle course, there were some very easy spots as well. I never really felt endangered. But there were times that I was very challenged.
Part of my challenge was to stay clean. I did a number of maneuvers to avoid mud. I ended up with one hand muddy and both tennis shoes muddy up to the shoe laces. Later I talked to some people who had done the trail and they were very impressed that I wasn't covered with the stuff.
The forest was beautiful. The air crisp and, at spots, bits of cloud blew through. Nearby cliffs were wind sculpted. I didn't see any bugs or monkeys. (They have wild monkeys here). It's the sort of place where I expected to have Frodo, Bilbo or Thoreau walk along side for a bit. Perhaps they did.
Concord falls are at the end of the Mt. Etang trail. You can also reach the lower fall by road from the "town" of Concord. There are three falls. I went to the upper one first. The upper fall was incredible. I had it to myself. The falls fall for several hundred feet and are three quarters surrounded by cliffs that are green and full of growth. I shucked off my clothes, watched butterflies dance for close to an hour then communed with the local nature deities. Perfect.
The lower fall is about a 30 minute walk from the upper. Most of the trail is through a nutmeg plantation. There is a pleasant little tourist shop (not trap) attached to the lower falls. (I'm not totally against tourist establishments. I am totally against unthinking interactions.) It's obvious that they don't see a lot of traffic. There were several local boys diving into the pool when I showed up. They and a couple of workers were the only persons around other than myself. Everyone but the boys and myself was involved with nutmeg prep. I got to see how mace and nutmeg are dried and learned a few recipes. Much more was going on than at the nutmeg "factory."
I did a few dives from the cliffs then laid back to sun myself on a rock. The local rum punches are very good. They make them different here than back in the Virgins. They use a bit of lemon, nutmeg syrup, rum and some water (they had ice). What a great life.
One of the ladies who worked at the plantation handed me a small notebook. The first page was a short note from her pastor soliciting money for "the harvest." The rest of the pages were notations of contributions. I gave 5 EC. Somehow I felt a bit better about the beggars in town.
The hike from the lower fall to the nearest road with bus service is about a half hour. There are increasingly more people as you go down. I can't believe that I had that magic time at the upper fall when there are so many people so close. Everyone was very friendly and said hello. I caught a bus within moments of getting to the road. 2 EC back to George Town.
Friday, April 26
The local market provided some good fresh veggies and I checked on the autopilot. It seems to have made it back to Puerto Rico which means that we should have it Monday (Federal Express is closed on the weekend). I'm getting antsy. Did a lot of reading today.
Around evening I decided to try the new recipe for rum punch. I substituted orange for lemon juice because I didn't feel like squeezing a bunch of lemons. Substituting Cruzan for the local rotgut was a big improvement. I had about three and woke up around two in the morning. All my clothes on were on and I don't remember going to bed. My dinner was untouched up on deck and looking pretty soggy. The punch was very good but I think I'll treat it with a bit more respect next time. Or use smaller glasses.
I have some personal rules about drinking on the boat. Only a small drink or two is permitted while under away and none at all if it's tough going. Others are allowed to drink as they (s)will. Usually I don't drink much anyway but I will occasionally allow myself to get a bit plastered if I think that the boat is in a safe place.
Saturday, April 28
We decided to head over to Great Anse today. Tinker did some early shopping and, in preparation for our departure, I pulled up one of our two anchors. Both proved to be very muddy.
Tinker brought me back a present; a book called Castaways. The book is about a couple who purposely spend close to a year as castaways on a Polynesian island. They bring limited supplies and have very different attitudes. It's also a May-December sort of relationship. She (the author) is younger and will not have sex with the older man who arranged the trip because she does not find him desirable. She went on the trip because it sounded exciting and loved it. I think that there may be some sort of message here. She ends up leaving the guy.
Before we left, we spent some time at the Greneda Yacht Club. It was a bit disappointed that Tinker "rediscovered" things that I had told her earlier about the club. This has happened several times now. Our rum supply is also depleting at a rapid rate. Many evening conversations are quickly forgotten. I know that my memory is exceptional but I hate repeating a whole conversation because someone has forgotten it. It makes me feel like the original conversation was not appreciated.
Great Anse was good for a change in scenery. The holding was good. On shore several people told me that the local somebody or other doesn't like boats anchored off the beach. Several boats back in the lagoon had reported being asked to leave as well. With our red sails up, we haven't exactly snuck in and, as we are the only boat on the beach, nobody could overlook us. I assume that either we're so gorgeous that we haven't been asked to leave or that all authority figures are taking the day off. Right now, even though there's some motion, I'm very glad to be in clean water and will have to be asked to leave before I will go.
I met George (from Fantome) on the beach. While talking to him, a local started to bother an obvious tourist nearby. She was easy to notice as she was wearing a one piece suit that read "I heart sex." and her blond hair was corn rolled like Bo Derrick.
A hero was needed to save this damsel in distress. I walked up and said "Honey, are you ready to go back to our room?" Very Zen. It's a trick I've used on other rescues and it would have been the perfect escape from the obnoxious and pushy local buck except that she didn't speak much English. She could not feed me a correct line back. Like a shark, the local sensed her tension and redoubled his attack (I wouldn't grace his actions by calling them an attempt at picking her up. Most Caribbean men seem to have a "Me Tarzan, you Jane." approach. I suppose the women are supposed to be overwhelmed by their masculinity. I've never met a woman I respected who was anything but amused, bothered, or scared.) I stayed for a bit but thought her distress was a bit worse with two unknowns suddenly sitting on her chair. I walked out of the buck's eyesight and signaled "Problem?" She responded "YES!"
If zen does not work, perhaps Tao? Several gentle gambits to remove the buck (including the subtle "Give up, you lose.") failed. When in ultimate doubt, think Sufi. An invitation for cocktails at the local hotel bar was understood and left the buck on the beach. (He probably could not have afforded the drinks.)
I didn't know it, but she was also heading for the nest. Her parents were at the bar (I'd guess her age at about 16). They were from Austria. No one spoke much English and my German is very rusty. They bought me several rounds of drinks for "rescuing" their daughter. Not the traditional hero's reward but appropriate. I invited them all to go sailing tomorrow. George too.
When I got back to Ubi Tinker was soaking all the veggies in a bowl of water. I asked her why. She said it was to make them crisper and to wash off pesticides. I mentioned that they had seemed pretty crisp when I bought them and that pesticides were selected for their tendency not to wash off. It was even more shocking to learn that she was soaking the veggies in salt water. (I do applaud her efforts to save on fresh water). As might be expected, they turned to a sort of limp goo within the hour. I'm not sure what to do about Tinker. There are many times that I'm certain I'd rather be alone. Then again, I might just find something (or some one) else to complain about.
Sunday, April 28
Corporal Roberts of the Grenada Coast Guard came by about six in the morning to tell us that boats are not allowed to stay at Great Anse beach. He was very nice about it and said that we could stay until ten. (I had arranged to pick up the day's crew around 10). He did take down a whole bunch of information, but was not concerned enough to come aboard and check the (correct) numbers I gave him. I was proud that I was dressed and compis at that hour. Since I have moved on the boat, I almost always up very early. I was also proud that I sensed his boat as it approached. I always seem to know when another boat is about.
I get the feeling that someone with a bit of clout in government has decided they don't like yachties on the beach. I mentioned to C. Roberts that, while we would leave, none of our guides or information that we had seen posted locally had indicated that we were not allowed to stay off the beach. He seemed a bit embarrassed about this and said there was "a new law" for which they had just had a meeting. He did mention that they were worried about yachts dumping trash and sewage. C. Roberts was also impressed with my age. He said I was "young." I treasure the comment as I hit 30 in a few months.
I intend to write a letter commending C. Roberts. Not only was he very nice but developing a reputation as someone who writes letters about public officials (good and bad) to their superiors can't hurt.
There are a few yachts out there dumping trash but, the way some people talk about yachts, you'd think that we raided garbage cans to throw the contents over the side. Most everyone on yachts seems very careful about trash (fisherman are a very different story) but flushing is a problem. I've yet to see a facility for pumping out a holding tank. Then again, I'd bet that all the hotels on the beach dump directly into the bay. They do in the Virgins. As long as there is a good water flow, I don't think sewage is a real problem. It would take a lot of people to equal one good whale shit.
I was reading one of Doyle's cruising guide this afternoon and he suggested that it was OK to throw trash out on the high seas but that now that anchorages were getting crowded it was time to stop throwing those Heiniken bottles over. Maybe yachties are not as pure as I thought. The only thing I allow over are things like old lettuce leaves and bad bread. We are well loved by turtles and fish everywhere. I don't even throw organics over in places that don't have much water flow (such as St. Georges' Harbor) or where the stuff is likely to be seen by anyone before it is consumed. Doyle suggested that not even a bottle cap go over in harbor. I'm way ahead of him.
Leaving Great Anse was not a problem. We were planning to go for a sail at 10 anyway and there is not much point in spending another night. While things were calm, the wind and waves were crossed. We ended up with swell athwartships (from the side) all night. It was a gentle swell but the boat rocked. The lagoon is much nicer for sleeping. With luck we have only one more night in Greneda anyway.
The morning cruise was interesting. George failed to show. Mom decided not to come as well. So we took Alexandria and Rudy (papa). Alexandria was wearing another cutsy/sexy outfit. Dad loved the sail and I let him take the wheel for a bit but Alexandria got queasy so we dropped them off after only a couple of hours. We all had a lot of fun trying to talk to each other. I think it was a good conversation.
Hopefully, this is Ubi's last night in the lagoon. I can see why people don't like mud bottoms. It took me three tries and two anchors to get the hooks to stick. Once hooked, I considered heading back to the beach and getting a few more beers off Dad but decided that I'd rather stay aboard and read. I ended up cleaning the engine.
Monday, April 29
The autopilot failed to show today. Typical island foolishness. See the fax I sent today for more information.
Tinker continues to find new ways to kill vegetables. Her new game is to cut the tops off garlic cloves (the whole bunch not just singles). I didn't trust my voice to be level enough to ask why. T. made spaghetti tonight. After she was done she asked me to doctor up the sauce. I did a miserable job. It may not be my fault though; I think I was set up. I wish that I'd tasted it before I started.
I saw someone walking down the street wearing my old "Becket III, Damn Glad to meet you!" T-shirt. I'd given it and some other clothes away because they didn't fit anymore. The Becket shirt was tough to give up. It felt like I was giving up a part of my life. However, seeing this rasta with my old favorite on gave me an ear to ear grin on my face for the rest of the day. It's the perfect fate for it. I hope someday that someone from Becket III will see the shirt and wonder how it got there. I still have the wonderful memories but have lost some more baggage.
Robert, from the next boat over (Line Up), stopped by for cocktails and then invited us over for same. They are neighbors in more ways than one. It turns out that Line Up is from Coral Bay, St. John. Captain Dick looked a little like a slimmer trimmer Santa. He was great fun and always laughing. Robert was from San Francisco and aside from a few to many "Oh Wow" type comments was also fun. Elizibeth joined in for a bit of chat but soon went back to prep work for varnishing. She seemed nice. But I know that it is tough to deal with a drinking crowd when your sober (we were tipsy and very much enjoying our own good humor). We were drinking my new rum punch recipe. Pow! We are all off to see Concord Falls tomorrow.
Los Testigos, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30
It turns out that my autopilot had arrived yesterday. It wasn't with the rest of the stuff because I had specified general delivery. Particularly amusing. The "island style" delivery turned out well because I got a chance to meet Elizibeth, Robert and Dick. Robert is jumping ship but Elizibeth and Dick are going to follow us to Los Testigos tonight. They have a GPS so we'll be able to know where we are. I estimate that we will arrive early morning. We leave at eight.
Robert, Elizibeth and I went to the Concord falls this afternoon. They were still wonderful. There is supposed to be a third fall. I asked around and confirmed the rumor. I'm told that I'll need a guide to find the third fall. Next time I'm here, I'm going to look. Some boaties who had been to both told me about a place called Seven Falls that is supposed to be even better than Concord Falls. It's also supposed to be a very tough climb to get there. They suggested that I bring a rope.
We cleared customs at 4:30. Got stuck with an overtime charge of 30 EC. Oh well. Next time I do it first thing in the morning.
Once under way, the autopilot immediately failed. I couldn't get enough belt tension. It made for a long night of sailing. Next time I reef right away. Not reefing in time is a major problem. I think that I may just raise the sails reefed in the future. Then again it's not hard to reef. I get a bit scared moving around the boat in high seas. Many times Tinker is below and even if she were aboard I doubt her ability to come around and get me should I fall. Strangely, I do reef when I am alone. I also worry that it was while putting in a reef that Tinker got thrown into the roof. I can't communicate everything that the boat is going to do. She'll have that scar for a long time.
Wednesday, May 1
We arrived at Los Testigos at 8:30 AM. We lost Dick and company on the way over but picked up another boat. Sometime during the night, I confused the new boat, Quaker Lady, for Dick's boat. Just before sunrise (6 am) I called the Dick to ask where we were and got the lady. They said that they had no navigation equipment either and had been following me. Great. About 20 minutes later, as the sun rose, we saw the Testigos in the mists. Whew. I'm beginning to trust my navigation skills.
Hopefully I fixed Auto today. Tinker thinks that it's not working because it's so hard to steer the boat. She thinks it's hard to steer because the steering is going but I think that we were just having a lot of weather helm because we're not reefing quick enough. I lubed and looked things over on general principals. A full steering check requires that the cables be removed. Very messy and something I want to do when there is knowledgeable help and tools available. Lubing did improve the steering and Auto seems much happier.
"Customs" in Los Testigos was great. They didn't speak English and my Spanish is iffy. Very nice folks. It's not really customs. They just let you know that its OK to stay for the day. (I later learned that we could have requested a one week permit in Greneda). But it's not hard to stay longer. The easiest gambit is to keep an old and rusted engine part and claim a mechanical failure. After all was done, I pulled out a bottle of rum. They declined but with smiles.
Tinker traded a bottle of rum and a few oranges for a couple of lobsters. Both were small, female and had recently had the eggs scraped off. We ate them anyway. Shit.
I set the alarm for 11:30 PM so as to prep the boat for a midnightish departure. It took about an hour to get the sails ready, pull the dingy up and make sure that everything was secure. I'm developing a real love/hate relationship with Tink's dink. Grabbing a heavy, greasy outboard in the dark with light chop and moving it to the outboard rack is time consuming and low on my list of preferred things to do. The dink is great to have around in harbor though.
We left at about 12:30 with both sails reefed. Reefing proved to be the wrong bet as the wind was very low. The waves were light as well. We left the engine running at about 1400 RPMs and did about 5-6 knots by the log. Seems like the way to go. I had planned on a compass course of 246 magnetic but the wind convinced me to go for 220. Later in the evening, when the wind died completely, I did 270 for a bit to compensate. I don't like using an engine so much on a sailboat but it sure is a convenience. The guides say that most people don't do much sailing around Venezuela. I understand why.
The moon is nearly full. With calm seas and the wind behind us life could not be more wonderful. A pod of porpoise joined me for about half an hour during my first watch. I'd never seen porpoise in the moonlight before. Beautiful.
Pompatar, Margarita, Venezuela, Thursday, March 2
Once again my dead reckoning skills were right on. We arrived about 9:00.
We had a great first day. My first impression was how cheap things were. One dollar trades for 52 to 54 Bolivars depending on where you go. The bakery in the small town we are staying in exchanges at a rate of 52. It's not like Santa Domingo where the best price is from money exchangers on the street; here, you go to the bank. I spent a lot of money proving how cheap things were.
A bus ride is 16 cents. Bottom paint sells for about 49 bucks a gallon. (I ended buying the $100 a gallon stuff in Trinidad because it is much nastier). Diesel is 20 cents a gallon. Beers are 24-50 cents (10 ounce beers). Rum drinks are about a buck but they use freshly made fruit juices. A good steak dinner is about four bucks. Fish is cheaper. They have a wide variety of local seafood including oysters, clams, shrimp and all the usual fish. With these prices, it's hard to believe that this is a tourist center. I can't wait to check the "off the beaten path" prices. My Spanish is improving.
I got a four dollar haircut today. I had a minor problem from inability to speak the language. The gal who cut my hair asked me a question (in Spanish) I replied "pakito" (small). I thought she was asking how hair much I wanted taken off. I think she was asking how long I wanted my hair. It's a good haircut. Short but good.
I checked out the fare to St. Croix so as to attend graduation ceremonies. The round trip fare from Margarita to San Juan is about 340 dollars. Not bad but, when I think about my cruising budget and all the extra expenses (flights to and around the Virgins, meals, taxis), I just can't justify it. Graduation ceremonies aren't that important. I'd rather fly someone out to see me. Ceremonies of any kind are interesting but why go to ones I've seen before when I can get to see so many new ones here? The biggest motivators are that it is my own graduation and, as an instructor, I'm expected to attend. Checking on Vitamin Sea is very important also, but I think that can wait as well. Once I'm in Venezuela proper or back in the West Indies, I will travel back (if needed). It's not just the money. I'm reluctant to leave Ubi in a strange port. Tinker would not be able to handle all the emergencies that I could. And I'm having fun.
I spent the day going everywhere. I met lots of nice people and saw a couple of interesting sights but nothing spectacular. Tomorrow is some sort of local festival (so is Saturday). That should be fun. I also want to check out a number of the bars along the beach. They look like the ones they have in Grand Case St. Martin.
We had big plans to go in and have dinner tonight but we ended up with a liquid meal after we invited the Glenn and Ruth from Quaker Lady and Fernando and Mary-Ann, a couple from a Freedom 30, for cocktails. Both Fernando and I had Freedom literature that the other had not seen. We exchanged info.
Friday, March 3
As today is a local holiday, there was not much open in Pompatar. (Actually, even on a good day there is not much open in Pompatar. Porlamar is the big city.) I found out that the holiday is for "Christ the Sailor." We went to Porlamar in the morning with Dick and Elizibeth. I tried to get some money changed but they would not accept my VISA at the bank without a passport. There was no problem exchanging US cash.
There was a bit of adventure in finding a place to send faxes. We ended up using the hotel Bella Vista (I learned later that the Flamingo hotel in Pompatar had both sending and receiving fax facilities). The phone system is terrible and the secretary couldn't get through to Karen's machine. We left with a promise that she would keep trying till six. I found out later that she did get through. The price was good, about 60 Bs and we were told not to pay until the faxes got through. We still have not had opportunity to receive faxes. I hope that no one is chomping at the bit to come visit.
We found a great spot on the beach for lunch. It was just a table with some buckets of oysters and such but our "cook" opened oysters for us as we watched (I suspect that if we watched long enough we would see him go out in the surf and catch the little darlings). We ate all the raw oysters and mussels the four of us wanted for 100 Bs. I found a very small pearl in one of my oysters. It had the real pearl sheen unlike the black pearls I have found in Louisiana oysters. I put it in my wallet and could not find it later. Beers where cheap too.
Dick and Elizibeth met some locals as they were trying to find out where to get a battery for their boat. The locals included the brothers Armando and Manual, Manual's girlfriend and her son and a women I can't quite figure how she fits in. I think she's related to somebody. I met them in the evening when I went to check out Dick's electrical system. He had one of those fancy "quick chargers" which had a faulty gauge. He was also spending to little time charging. At any rate, we figured the proper charging times and settings. I hope that he'll be able to get it all working but I don't think that he will. Dick is a lot of fun but I don't think that he is quite up to boat maintenance. He really believes batteries charge in 20 minutes. The whole crew of them took off from St. John without even filling up the water tanks! Very different from my extensive double checking and redundant systems.
However they seem to be doing just fine. And I've seen boats that are in better shape than mine so it's all a continuum. When the shit hits the fan even the best boat may be lost. Proper maintenance provides a margin of error and, for me, easier sleep.
Our new local friends ended up as our guides for dinner. First they took us to a very posh spot. Why does everyone assume that you want to "do the Ritz" when you go out? Local spots are much more fun. Even though the "Ritz" prices were reasonable, I asked that we be taken to another spot. I didn't travel across the big bad seas to be served by suits. We went to another spot that was better. But I was looking for the local equivalent of a "dirt on the floor" and "begging dogs" kind of place. Something like Tashas in St. Thomas. This also translates to very cheap which is important. My budget is not unlimited and I must plan for emergencies. So far I'm being pretty good; I'm actually spending less than I do at home.
It ends up being more expensive to have Tinker along. We eat out a lot at expensive restaurants and food goes to waste on the boat. It would have been cheaper to bring someone that had little or no money and insisting that we only eat aboard or go to the very cheap (but fun) restaurants. Usually it's cheaper and more fun to have a few folks over than it is to eat out.
During our meal, I spoke with Armando and he said that there were steak places that sold steak by the kilo. That sounds like my kind of place. I never did see one of those places. Our local friends ate and drank well. We Americans had some very good pieces of meat but didn't order all the fancy drinks. The bill, including tip, for eight people was about 60 US. Dick and Elizibeth had not brought enough money (they had said that they were going to treat everyone) so I ended up with about a third of the tab. Even so, the meal was good and the company was great.
Saturday, May 4
I took our native friends out sailing. Dick and Elizibeth also came along. We planned on a nine start but didn't get going until about eleven. Just like home. Our planned destination was the island of Coche which is about 15 miles away.
Plenty of provisions were provided including three cases of beer, bottles of wine and bottles of rum. Also fresh fruit and sandwich fixings. We didn't need to touch the boat stores. Manual almost fell over and Armando jumped in after a cup. There were some tense moments as I made him aware of the fishing lines, then waited for him to get out of the way of them. We got him and the cup back without puncture wounds from the lures. (He left the cup on the boat and I later threw it away). It would have been easier recover the cup without a person attached. I guess he was just feeling frisky. I can't blame him, but I did give him a short lecture on jumping out of boats without notifying the captain first.
The wind was over thirty knots but the seas where calm. Even so we had a few cases of "mal de mar" (sea sickness) aboard. I asked that people just feed the fish over the side but Latin honor insisted upon use of the head. Most of it went into the head. We almost got to Coche (which is supposed to have one of the world's largest salt flats) but I decided that fighting wind and current back was going to be a big job. I was right. With only the aft sail up and reefed, the boat handled well. But fighting back against current, waves and wind took us much of the afternoon. I used the iron jenny full out but only did about five knots. Watching another forty plus sail boat try three times and eventually give up on a point that we cleared with relative ease made me feel somewhat better about our relatively poor performance to wind. Thank god for large engines!
My talks with the locals have lead to some more thoughts on money. Armando and Manual spent some time in the states about ten years ago when the Bolivar was very strong against the dollar. (Essentially the reverse of what it is now). At that time many Venezuelan's would go to the states to enjoy the strength of the Bolivar. Even so, it must be difficult to come to grips with "rich Americans" and other Europeans who can easily afford local goods. (This is obviously not true for imported goods but Venezuela is big enough to manufacture much of its own goods.) One perspective is that Armando has to work about a day for a tire for his car (a locally manufactured item). I also work a day for a tire in St. Croix. However the money I earn in less than a day in St. Croix buys four tires here.
There are relative values. I am reminded of something that Augusto told me when he bought his house. He mentioned that the money he was spending on his house in St. Thomas would buy a castle with its own island in Chile. Unfortunately he could not earn as much money in Chile.
They pay 30% interest rates here. Tinker heard this and wanted to put a bunch of money in the bank. I'm not sure that she understood my explanation that the money is not insured and that, with local inflation, the money is probably earning less spending power than money at 6% in America. Balance.
It is tough to be in such wonderful places and surrounded by beautiful women. Particularly in Latin countries, blonds are often the center of attention. It would be very easy to "pick someone up." But I don't want to get laid by someone who views the act as a handle on me and a ticket to America where the streets are paved with gold. I also don't trust anybody who, knowing that I was transient, would go to bed with me on the first "date." While I have plenty of desire, it is more than balanced by a fear of disease.
Liz, Tinker and I had dinner at a restaurant on the beach. After my talk with Armando, I was bit embarrassed to be eating at the most expensive spot in town but it is was still inexpensive by my standards. Armando joined us. He was obviously mooning over Liz who had been coming on to every man on the boat all day. Armando was getting special treatment though. Armando and Liz ending up going "dancing," despite an invitation to join them, I explored town and Tinker went back to the boat.
It's amazing how clothes really make a difference. Tinker said that Liz could not go out dancing dressed as she was. So she and Liz changed clothes in the bathroom. Liz had been wearing (in Tinker's words) a "fuck me" sort of jump suit. In Tinker's clothes I found her more attractive. I feel bad for Dick who is a bit miffed but he knew what Liz considered fun before he left. You can't expect people to change just cause you want them to. Liz stiffed me for her portion of the meal. Again. Good bye Liz.
The local festival was pretty much just like any other happy crowd except that they were doing a lot Maringe (Latin dancing). Little kids were always ready to take empty beer cans. They get a Bolivar plus from recycling each can. That is a substantial recycling incentive. I had great fun watching the dancing and people at the festival.
Later I learned that Armando and Liz hung out in a smoke filled room with a bunch of teenagers and super loud music until they developed enough dutch courage for sex. I think that they would have had much more fun if they had just gone straight to it. They certainly wouldn't have been as tired or smelly. Mating rituals are weird. There was no doubt in anyone's mind when they went off how the night would end up.
What follows are some of my current thoughts/beliefs on relationships. They are subject to change. Don't expect any radical revelations. I (think I) am somewhat normal in regards to relationships. Then again, probably the greatest reason that I am "normal" in relationships is that I find it easier that way. Not because I have any strong motivation or inner feelings to join the crowd.
If I have any great failing in relationships it is that I love to easily (and perhaps to often). I am very comfortable by myself and do not go out of my way to create a relationship. However, when something clicks, I want to make the most of it. Sometimes this creates a problem for me in that my partner may expect more from me than I meant. I love doing all the wonderful giving and caring things. On the other hand, I have not spent time with anyone that I was not willing to spend a lot of time with since I was a teenager.
Real love is most important. Sex, security, continuing a family line and such all are nothing compared to love. Why bother with a relationship where there is no love? Why stop one when there is?
The process of creating a friendship/relationship is very awkward for me. But I think that, if both persons are going to experience the essence of the other without preconceptions, it must be awkward. It is unfair to have any expectations. "Friendship" occurs when two people have known each long enough to develop a mutual trust through shared experiences (many shared experiences). This occurs despite their differences. When I talk about my tendencies below they are just that. I can't expect to follow any rule or pattern for the rest of life (since that is a rule it is probably wrong).
There must be some reason to form a bond in the beginning, sometimes I wonder if any two people might become friends if they shared enough space and time together. Perhaps all relationships start by chance. Or maybe we meet who we "need" to. It doesn't matter. Once that first hurdle has been passed, I have been blessed with a number of good friends. And a few incredible ones. Most of these people remain friends. I believe that this is so because I don't hold a friend/lover so closely that we both can't grow. I believe in truth between friends. I'm beginning to have some doubts about truth between lovers though.
I hope that I get over this feeling. While I revel in honesty, it seems to make some people feel bad. I don't feel slighted when the person I'm with notices that someone else is cute (I would feel bad if they decided to leave with that person). I like hearing about my loves' past (and present) loves. It makes me feel good to know they are healthy, human and happy. I have learned that the opposite is not always true. Several of my most important past lovers "taught" me that they would rather not know. I think that's one of the reasons that I could never fully commit (although I still love them). How can dishonesty be encouraged?
I don't want to give the impression that I am some sort of over sexed, chauvinistic pig. When I compare myself to other single people that I know, I find (and don't care) that my "numbers" are low. I certainly expect my love to feel free to do anything that would make her happy. Perhaps I'm even worse though, I won't sleep with someone that I wouldn't sleep with twice. In other words, if I "sleep around" its going to be with someone that I really care about. I would hope that my partner would be the same way. I don't expect whole hearted encouragement or even agreement for these feelings (but would like it), just understanding.
Lust is different from friendship but it is a great way to get things started.
Sex is a mixed blessing. Sex adds to the awkwardness of friendships by increasing the chance of improper expectations. The amount of commitment and obligation that sex creates varies tremendously among people and over time. Sex increases the danger of hurt. The possibility of hurt is balanced by the increased joy and communication that sex makes possible. I love sex. Sex with truth is best. I have been hurt. I'd happily do it again.
Modern relationship rituals could use some serious review. Courting at movies, dances and parties, where it is often impossible to talk, is not a good start on a deep relationship. Sometimes I wonder if a deep relationship is the goal. Once a relationship has started, hanging around watching TV and such only serves to keep our inner selves private. Why do people have a "relationships" if they don't want to relate?
It seems that most people don't want to share themselves - they may simply want a bit of security and warmth without any hassles. Except for sex, they would probably be happier with a dog. I know I'd rather stay home and read a book or, even better, talk with friends than go someplace with people and not communicate.
Possibly I have the wrong expectations for relationships. Perhaps a superficial, uncommunicative, easy alliance is the "proper" mode for a relationship. If so, then count me out. Personally, I'd rather have no relationship than a "dead" one.
The following discussion focuses on women's responses to men (my primary interest) but I believe that, with some modification, it holds true in reverse. People seem attracted to nasty people. I have noted that in the dating game, if I come on nasty and mean, I get a lot more response than if I am closer to my gentle and caring nature (I've got a bit of nasty and mean in me too but probably even more selfishness). Wonderful women have confided in me terrible things that past boy friends have done to them but were unable to explain why they didn't just leave when the unwelcome behavior started (or, worse, when it became a pattern). They would actively hate this person, feel degraded and used but continue the relationship. Sometimes for years. I would leave in a heart beat. I don't think these women stayed because they felt that they couldn't find better elsewhere. At the same time it seems very easy to ignore or leave a "nice" guy.
These observations are tough on me because I want to be the nice guy and to have a good and lasting relationship. My ideal is a partner in exploring life. These desires sometimes seem to be at odds with reality. I am unwilling to maintain a relationship if the price is being nasty.
Perhaps nice women like nasty men because at least something is happening. Relationships need to do something - even if that something is end. There is plenty enough excitement when serious growth work is occurring.
My ideal partner would have to live their own life in addition to sharing the life and work of the relationship. Because my life is a thing of joy and I often have a strong idea as to where I'm heading, some people have tried to live their lives in replication of mine or for me. Sometime later they blame me because things are not working (for them). I'd rather avoid the whole process. Particularly in relationships, I will not be the only leader. (I should add that while I am often strongly heading in some direction, the direction often changes).
Getting to know someone takes work. There are plenty of hassles and pains involved in sharing (and accommodating) beliefs, needs and desires. There is also a joy that can be reached in no other way. Our culture does not promote that kind of effort. I suspect that, as a culture, we are unable to change this. I certainly don't want the hassles involved in trying to change the way some one else acts. It's not my job. Fortunately we are all enculturated to varying degrees many of us to lesser degrees.
Our cultural emphasis on monogamy is another example of wanting to keep things easy. Monogamy is not a natural tendency. A bit of monogamy and polygamy is built into all of us. Failure to deal with our polygamous desires brings many relationships to grief. Blind monogamy keeps relationships simple at the expense of real understandings. Polygamous tendencies are natural; a vigorous relationship should not only handle them but grow by them. This does not mean that they necessarily have to be followed or that people have to sleep around. Just that the feelings (and their ramifications) must be discussed.
However, I have found that I really desire to play with someone new every once in a while. I am not talking about a new person every night, that act seems to occur when someone is trying to prove a point and, because you can't communicate with any depth "one night stands" (no pun intended) are really not that much fun. I have no need to prove myself by filling my score card. It's more like once a year. I can suppress these polygamous urges if I am actively with someone who would be hurt by my outside experience.
Being prevented from enjoying anything that does not harm someone else or myself is a source of resentment. Resentment deteriorates a relationship. Therefore, it seems to me, exclusive, monogamous relationships are not as deep as those that allow for a bit of exploring by both partners. The actions required to blindly suppress polygamous tendencies (and other failures to communicate) are a major source of problems in many relationships.
Continuity is important. There are important and tender feelings that come from living so closely with a person that you understand those many little things that add up to a holistic wonderfulness. To develop that sort of bond requires a lot of mutual focus on each other. Unrestricted polygamy prevents that focus. As noted above, I would rather be monogamous or alone than not have a good core relationship.
There are other problems with polygamy. In fact, since I became sexually active (fifteen), I've felt that monogamy or abstinence were generally easier and more enjoyable. Even the gods got in trouble for frolicking. But frolicking is so much fun. There have been times in my life when I've lead a very loose life style. My friends were loose as well. We had a lot of fun but a few of use got too involved (possessive) or not involved enough and got hurt. Proper balance requires constant attention and communication. Maybe polygamy is only something that works for the young.
I did not leave my frolicking life style out of fear of disease (I never got one), a desire for monogamous commitment, or worry about creating an unwanted pregnancy. I left it because people were getting hurt. I am very empathic. Someone else's hurt might as well be my own.
I am very committed to my friends and, as an act of friendship and because it was important to someone else, I have been monogamous. Despite my other inclinations, I don't find monogamy particularly a burden. Actually, it makes things easier (less feelings of hurt from the other person). However having things "easy" is not one of my major personal goals. Growth is my major goal. After that comes love.
I can understand intellectually why people get hurt in relationships but the reasons for those hurts are foreign to me. The closest I come to jealousy are feelings of loss and loneliness when someone I'd like to be with is with someone else. I feel degraded when a lover sleeps with someone I feel is not up to what I think their standards should be. I don't sleep with people who I can not respect. In fact, my standing rule is not sleep with someone unless I feel that I'd be willing to spend a substantial amount of time with them.
It is difficult for me to find sexual partners. While I am attractive and know how to talk to people, I am very picky and very bad at sexual clues. In part, this is because I don't really understand what other people think of sex. I have no trouble detecting the desire but I don't know what the desire means. Usually, I literally have to be told. I also fear rejection. I'd rather not ask than be told "no."
Another reason I find few new partners is that when I have a partner(s) that satisfies me, I have little inclination to look elsewhere.
I think that part of the difference that I feel about relationships is the relative importance that I place on myself. I am the most important person. I assume and hope that other people feel the same way. It's not that I don't love and cherish others. There are some circumstances in which I could easily give up my life for others. My life but not my joy or thoughts. I know that there is joy, caring and learning after death so death doesn't scare me. I will not give up my joy for anyone.
Giving up my joy often does not create joy for the other person. Usually the opposite occurs. We are all obligated to feel as good as we possibly can. Well thought out joy does not involve hurt to another.
Good love feels wonderful for everyone!
It's not easy to describe me. I keep changing my mind about what is important.
My primary goals are to learn and live in joy. In that order. I manage to find joy and knowledge in most experiences. A secondary goal is to share the great joy I have in life. I still have trouble understanding why joy is easy for me and seemingly not so for others...
I don't want to guide or direct. I want to share. I have been blessed. But I am nothing special. When they accept it, everyone is blessed.
My inner thoughts are wordless - everything I know has been translated into my own thinking medium. Everything I communicate must be translated out.
I have been driven to understand. I have read, meditated and tried to believe many religions and philosophies. I have spoken with many people about what is important to them. I have communed with various non-physical beings and with other beings who have very different physical natures and needs. This gathering of outlooks has often left me considerably confused or behaving oddly until I got all the details worked out and expanded my outlook to include what I learned. In many cases, it was necessary to try out a way of life in order to learn what wisdom there was in it. In other words I have found that sometimes when I focus on living one way of life it is difficult to communicate with people who are focused on a different set of experiences. I have trained myself to thinking from a large number outlooks. Even more importantly I have begun to find the common ground in which these apparently different outlooks.
My actions and beliefs are inseparable and I am equally willing to change either. I embrace change. The only constants I am slow to alter are love and joy.
More than being eager to change my beliefs and outlooks, I have reached a point where I am trying not to have any beliefs and to work from a universal outlook. I believe (ha) that there are no absolutes. No rules. Logic, intuition and faith guide my actions. Life is a complex frolic requiring a lot of attention and a lot of responsibility. One of my biggest obligations is to communicate with people by the methods that they best understand. To do this, I have to understand each persons unique set of outlooks. As mentioned above, I collect outlooks the way some people collect stamps.
Truth is very important to me. While some people say that there are things that they would rather not know about, one of the few things that makes me angry is a lie or an important omission. Some friends have told me that they would rather be lied to than know some truths. It is an outlook that I am trying to learn.
Perhaps I have so much trouble with lies because I am trying so hard to make a coherent whole out of the universe. Lies make this difficult. (As I write I begin to understand that lies are also part of the pattern).
I have been given substantial abilities to perceive. Most of my ordinary senses (sight, touch, taste, hearing) are much better than normal (for reasons unknown to me, I often have some trouble with smell). In addition to the ordinary senses I am capable of perceiving many types of energy patterns. Sometimes these do translate well into this consensus reality. Thought is an example. I not "hear" thoughts as words as in the popular view of ESP. Perhaps this is because I don't think in words. I can't tell you a secret number but I can tell the general pattern of a person's thoughts.
My inner and outer worlds are open to scrutiny. Any action, observation, opinion, feeling or belief that I am unable to share is unacceptable and changed. This does not mean that I bare my soul to everyone but that I am open and candid with anyone that asks. My desire to communicate is sometimes thwarted by a lack of ability. Words are awkward and limited things.
I am not capable of sharing all my worlds. Sometimes I lack the ability to communicate or the person I am talking to lacks the ability (or desire) to understand. On a one-on-one basis, using non-verbal methods, I am capable of taking some persons along to some of my worlds that are not accessible through words. But not always and never to all my worlds.
My soul is from elsewhere. I am not of this planet. I exit from this (wonderful) body and visit my other "body" on at least a daily basis. The physics of my other home are somewhat different than here but a good description would be to describe my other body as crystalline. Physically it is essentially indestructible. My other home base makes it easy for me to dismiss fears that are very common for most people here. I know that I am just visiting here. Death is a semi-permanent return but not a complete ending.
I have been on this planet several times before. Both were during times of enlightened change. Both times I lead a comfortable and joyful life. I did a bit of unimportant teaching and a lot of learning, I expect to do so again. I am a working tourist.
I am truly blessed (as are so many others). So many day-to-day problems don't concern me. I can do anything that I want. (Although the choosing often means that I can not choose something else). I have optimized my life for my current goals. Except for the lack of an ideal partner(s), there is nothing internal and little external that I would change.
It could be that my lack of partner is to promote growth that I would not otherwise pursue; if such is true, I hope that I grow enough soon. However, intuitively, since about the age of 12, I have known that I will not meet my mate until I am about 35. I do wish that there were some way to speed things up.
My current lack of a perfect partner may be the result of an inability to focus on what she would be like. My perfect mate would be able to hold her own or better in a conversation with me on a variety of topics. She should be able to support herself (as I do) emotionally, physically and intellectually. She needs to be (as all my girlfriends have been) drop-dead gorgeous.
I don't expect her to be perfect; but there should be enough of a balanced head start that we could both work towards perfection. That's an important one. She has to NEED to work. I really don't care much in which direction the need is pointed but high motivation and a desire for personal perfection is critical. My ideal relationship involves a lot of work.
She also needs to like me. Sometimes I wonder why someone good enough to meet my standards would be capable of loving me. Sometimes I wonder if the person I am looking for exists. A few persons have come close.
When I'm in a good relationship, it is difficult to consider moving on. But how can you meet someone new while committed to someone else? Perhaps that's the root of jealousy. Knowing that things are not perfect, I can understand a fear that your partner is going to leave before you are ready for them to.
Love is most important. I have experienced love and it's hard to keep looking afterwards. There are many times when I've considered making a final commitment, such as marriage, to Karen or Diana (if they would have me). My times with them were wonderful.
Sunday, May 5
Today, in return for the sail yesterday, we had "breakfast" with our native friends. Food wasn't served till about two. However there were plenty of snacks and drinks. The house was small by U.S. standards. Three rooms: a bedroom, bathroom and living room. They get their water by truck and have to carry it in buckets. (Even for the toilet). The land is very dry and the yard was red clay. Although it was a bit stark, the house was clean and well built. Much comment was made about how my boat was bigger and that it had a flush toilet! I spent most of the day playing Kadima (paddle ball) with Pepe, the four year old son of Manuel's girlfriend. Neither of us knew more than a few words in the others language.
Manual says his girlfriend's mother has rooms (with working bathrooms) for rent in Porlamar. Six bucks a day and I bet you can get a break for weekly or monthly rents. (I later found rooms that were even cheaper on Coche). They are reputed to be a little small by our standards but who travels to stay in their room? The price is right. Manual would be hurt if he did not have opportunity to drive us around should we visit. He works for: ServyProagro, phone (02) 924644-924712. His girlfriend Ina's number is (095) 612617 and he can be reached by fax at (02) 924309. Armando's phone in Puerto La Cruz is 081-761273 (call from 3 - 5).
We got back around seven and I elected to stay on shore and do some exploring. In my adventures I met Carlos from Colombia who showed me around town then back me to his apartment to meet his nine-month pregnant wife and look at his wedding pictures. It's amazing how people are taking me into their homes. A couple of beers and I resumed my explorations. Getting back from Carlos' apartment without Carlos proved a minor problem. I ended up walking down a number of back streets in a poorer portion of town. It was well after dark. Those people who made any note of my presence did so with a smile and "buenos noches."
One particularly strong memory from my walk was of a boy talking intently with a girl. They were on opposite sides of a fence gate. He was obviously aching and had his hand partially up her shirt sleeve in such a manner that it was as if he had his hand in her pants. She was obviously interested as well. I imagined that her parents did not mind them talking as long as they stayed on opposite sides of the gate. Young and painful love (lust). Such fire. It's been years since I fell in lust. That whole long rap on relationships and I did not use the word lust. I must be getting old.
I had a good but late dinner at a local Chicken place that I had been wanting to check out. Three beers and a full plate for 175 Bs.
Monday, May 6
Tinker took the clothes in to be washed. We are developing quite a reputation as boating central. About 20 people stopped for a quick chat this morning.
My greatest priority was to see if the fax that I had sent on Friday had gotten through. It had. Unfortunately the return fax number that I used is out of order. Oh well. I suspect that many people worry if they don't hear from me. They way I see it, either I'm dead or I'm not. If I'm not dead then everything is fine and, if I am dead, everything is fine too. No problem.
It was close to noon by the time we had checked on the fax. Business, except for restaurants, shut down from 12 to 2 in Margarita. Since we were close and had a wait ahead of us, we went to "El Chipe," Glenn's favorite restaurant, we were not impressed. Very expensive. I would have preferred oysters (perhaps another pearl) and beer on the beach.
The faxes had gone off. We spent the rest of the afternoon gathering supplies for a potluck this evening. Both Tinker and I love to entertain. We bought primero meat, the best that they have for general consumption at 240 Bs a kilo. That works out to [(240 Bs/K / 52 Bs/$) / 2.2 lb/K] 2.10 $/lb. We bought two kilos of meat and a case of beer. Beer is five dollars a case from the local store. The beers are slightly larger than pony size (about 10 ounces) but they give you a case of 36. Ice is a dollar for a huge bag. The bag is easily four bags of the type I pay $1.50 for in St. Croix.
I get an amazing thrill from being able to use the bus system. It's as if I have accomplished something very important. I suddenly am enabled to go anywhere, anytime. Seven league boots couldn't be better.
The party was a great success. Ruth baked a couple of pies and everyone else brought some kind of salad. We made a large care package for a local boatie who was injured and still had plenty of food left over the next day. I also inherited some steak knives and forks. After the party, we had a great time playing with the stereo. Ferdinand, Mary Ann, Tinker, Lars, Hostfeldt (Ole) and myself danced and sang along to some good ol' rock-n-roll (they liked late sixties stuff like the Animals). (Lars latter sent me a Janis Joplin disk that he felt I had to have in my collection).
Lars took Liz off for a bit of action. Liz seems to be having a lot of fun but I'm glad I'm not part of the crowd. I think that there is something painful about her "conquests." I feel no lust for her. The party did not break up till sometime around three AM. I'm glad I have interior speakers because we were CRANKING it. The batteries were still healthy despite lights and what not. Lars and Ole say that I must visit them if I ever go to Denmark. Their addresses are:
Tuesday, May 8
There was only about 15 minutes worth of clean up left over from the party. Boaties are great. I also sprayed the deck down a couple of times during the party so as to get rid of the sand. The sand here is very fine and seems to track everywhere. The sand is the only thing I'm not going to miss about Margarita. I didn't even get a chance to write this morning as we had several more guests and I ended up going to visit a boat that had recently hauled in Trinidad.
The boat from Trinidad had two adults (John and Patricia) and two persons in their late teens (Mathew and Emily). They have been cruising for years. Everyone seemed happy. They liked Trinidad and gave me many helpful suggestions. I met some other people later in the day who confirmed their opinions and added to the suggestion pool.
We did some more shopping today. We went to the central market which is essentially an average sized grocery store. Some things were cheap others were more than we would pay in the USVI (most of these were US brands). We also went back to the panaderia where we had purchased our meat the day before. This time I let the butcher do what he wanted to in the first place. He sliced the meat real thin. It was much better. We special ordered some Filet Minion.
I got a great hammock for 30 bucks (its a wedding hammock) and a cooler to replace the ones that I lost on the way down.
Wednesday, May 8
Another day in Margarita Ville. Tinker bought the perfect basket to use as the cover for a cockpit light. I used it as an excuse to rewire the deck sockets (a job that I had been planning to do). I really like the new light. Now I want to get some fids so that I've got extra table space on deck. I have already made a cable so that I can have the computer on deck (it also works for the book light).
We had a party with the filet mignon (it was an extra buck a kilo). John and family showed as well as some Scandinavian folks. One was an unlucky fellow whose boat had been hit by a couple of fisherman's kids who were out for a joy ride. Amazingly the kids are trying to make things right. The major problem is to find the proper materials. Another Scandinavian couple came by as well. Camilia who is part of the couple, is close to my age and very attractive. I think that hers is a relationship of convenience. Camilia wants to cruise. It's to bad that she is cruising with some older man that has a smaller boat. I know a comfortable boat where she would be very welcome. It's really to bad that they are headed out tomorrow. I thinking about how much I would like to have a girlfriend cruising with me, I am not as self contained as I thought.
I am not interested in sex with Tinker. I am surprised with myself to discover that age effects me (her eldest child is more than 10 years older than me). I feel no lust for Tinker. I'm sure that I could perform but that is not the point.
Thursday, May 9
I had a quite an adventure shopping today. My first bus transfer. I wanted to fill one of the gas cylinders. Gary our local connection for most everything (at a price) said that he couldn't get them to fill bottles of my size because they are too small (they usually last me at least a month - unless I'm barbecuing a lot). So it was off to the gas store (Vengas). Gary suggested taking a taxi both ways but I was ready for adventure and wanted to save some dollars. It often seems that Gary likes to inject the maximum possible boatie money into the local economy.
I took a bus into town then wandered around with my bottle trying to explain that I wanted to fill it. I think in the future I will sit down with a Spanish dictionary and write out my desires. I kept acting like I was trying to blow up the tank like a balloon. Eventually someone caught on and pointed me in the right direction. I took a taxi out to the spot as I was certain that figuring which bus to take was beyond me. My savior gave the taxi driver all the instructions. I managed to get to the gas place about five minutes before twelve but siesta had already started.
Siesta meant that I had to cool my heals for a couple of hours (I thought that I had been very lucky to find the place and wasn't about to try a round trip back). Vengas is in the middle of nowhere. This nowhere happened to be very hot and dry. There were no restaurants or stores. Just lots of dry scrub and an occasional building. A good place for industry. In my search for shade, I found a cock fight ring about fifty feet off the road and behind some bushes. It was a circular area of about 20 feet in diameter with a very smooth wall about 2 feet high. The floor was of dirt with tufts of feathers here and there. There was a concrete bench surrounding the ring that I spent over an hour on. The ring was one of the best pieces of construction that I had seen since coming to Margarita. It was obviously important.
Sitting still can be a treat. I saw some local birds in the bush. There were a couple of interesting orange ones.
I am often very sensitive to pain and other strong emotions that have occurred related to an object or place. Despite the gory events that the ring must often contain, the spot was very peaceful. It is room for thought that no such emanations lingered here. Perhaps the excitement of the spectators and the victory of the winning cock drowns out the pain and death of the loser. Maybe chickens just don't feel that much. While I have no desire to see the ring put to its intended use, a good quiet moment makes the day and I appreciated the spot.
Back at Vengas they filled my gas bottle for 35 Bs. They wanted 50 Bs but as they could not make change for my 500 B note and they accepted my change (I got a receipt for 300 Bs so it may have been an unauthorized deal). Nice folks. I picked up the laundry that I had dropped off the day before on the way in. Everything (Lacross shirts too) was ironed and very clean. 200 Bs. Gary charges much more for much worse service. I wish I could get that kind of deal at home.
Obtaining doweling for a boat project proved the greatest adventure of the day. It's hard to describe doweling when you don't speak the language. I spent some time talking to the local hardware people (life is a charade) and after bringing me axe handles and other useful things that I didn't need, they gave me a note and directed me around the corner to a furniture maker. Even with a note, there was more charades but I finally got my point across. The owner (I think he was the owner) pulled out a piece of wood that would have been perfect except that it was square. I charaded some more. No problemo. He simply used a rasp and some sandpaper. My square peg was now ready for the round hole. Perfect.
He would not accept money so I brought him and his helper a beer. He took pride in his actions and I was honored that he did not charge. It is amazing how easily he created what I needed from the materials at hand. I could picture myself passing over hundreds of pieces of wood at home that would work (with some adjustment) in search for a round piece of doweling. I hope that I can take these lessons to heart.
Carlos, my Colombian friend, came by while I was installing the doweling (it became the rod that supports a curtain in front of Tinker's sleep area). He stayed for a beer and wanted to trade Tinker a bicycle for her binoculars. She declined. Carlos is fun.
In the evening, Tinker and I spent close to an hour playing with lights on either side of her curtain. We are both delighted. It's amazing how small changes make a big difference. I've wanted a good curtain for the forward cabin since I bought the boat. I finally have one. It's all the more important because Tinker needs some privacy. I'm inspired to accomplish more projects.
Coche, Venezuela, Friday, May 10
We went to Coche today. It was a short hop of about 20 miles so I'm not going to bother with all the statistics. I was bit worried when the engine made some clicking noises (sign of a low battery) when I tried to start it using the house batteries. Switching to the engine battery fixed things. It's been a while since I brought the house batteries down that low. Their state was understandable as I had not charged since the last party and two people use a lot of juice. But the gauge said that the house batteries should have been up to the task. I ran the engine a bit stopped it and started it again with no problems. Tomorrow I will check my wiring. It could be that the engine simply stopped at a high compression point. I hope so. We powered to Coche.
Taking on fuel and water at the local dock was a trick. It was obviously designed for much larger boats. The bottom of the dock was above my deck. I had visions of my whole boat getting stuck under this concrete dock the way dinghies sometimes do under a peer. Fortunately the wind was off the dock and we managed to tie off in such a way that the boat never came close to touching. The process of tying off (including my worries) was obviously old stuff to the dockmaster. No Problemo. The dockmaster threw us the diesel and water lines. Once I got the feel of things, it was fun. Seven bucks (350 Bs) topped everything off. We had a minor mishap as we left the dock. Tinker's dink crawled up on top of mine and dunked it. My dink was upside down and underwater. I had to crawl out on Tink's dink before I could right it. All this as we slowly drifted towards a shoal that I couldn't avoid till my dingy was de-swamped. I would have destroyed my dink to tow it underwater. All went well except that I lost a pair of shoes that I had left in the dink. So it goes.
I was talking to someone yesterday who said that it is bad luck to start a trip on a Friday. I think I believe it.
We arrived at Coche around 2 PM. Anchoring was bit of a problem. The wind was blowing about 30 knots and the Danforth just wouldn't stick. With the addition of the Bruce we stuck. I'm glad that there are only a couple of other boats in this very large bay. We dragged for a couple of hundred feet. I think that it's a clay-sand bottom. If I'm right, pulling the hooks is going to be royal pain.
After a large lunch, I went in to explore. I walked about three miles on the beach and saw a bunch of nice shells but none that I had to have. Shells and other trophies tend to come aboard, stay underfoot for a month or so then go over the side. It's easier just to leave them in the first place.
The jellyfish are very different from any that I have ever seen before. They are pea-green, slightly transparent and about the size and shape a papaya. There tentacles make it look like worms are crawling out of one end.
The sight of salt drying is fascinating (Coche is the world's second largest producer of sea salt). There is a lot of red that I think is the result of some kind of Algae. It could be a concentration of some sort of minerals.
When I got back Tinker was a bit drunk. It's very tough for me to take her when she's drunk. For one thing she keeps repeating questions. Tonight's questions were "Tomorrow will you take me into see the island?" and "Let's go very early, OK?" She didn't ask them in any order that I could figure and sometimes asked the same twice in a row. She also has this habit of saying things like "This is WONDERFUL." The last word and sometimes the whole sentence is said in a very high squeaky voice like you might use on a two year old that doesn't want to eat his string beans. Even the two year old knows that saying it doesn't make it true and that such a phrase probably means just the opposite. Perhaps I'm conditioned but when Tink starts telling me how wonderful things are, I want to hide in the dingy. I am very capable of deciding what is and is not wonderful.
Worse than poor conversation is how she treats food and other consumables. By my standards, Tinker grew up (and is) rich. She seems to have trouble with the concept of waste. To see her cook is to watch two meals get wasted for every one that she produces and she does nothing to preserve the life of the cooking instruments (I'm not sure how she got the pressure cooker's lid on the way I found it today). Perhaps because she lives in a large house with refrigeration and lots of people, she creates great gobs of various things. I often find piles of vegetables that have died from slash wounds in the morning. Tonight she peeled an avocado sliced it to bits and THEN asked me if I wanted some. I was still full from lunch - she also left the top of the mayonnaise jar open when she went to sleep. It's all small stuff but I'm not used to it. In her defense, we are not going to go hungry and it is difficult to learn how to live on a boat, particularly a boat without refrigeration. Like anchoring and everything else, I would be happier to do it all myself. However I know that Tinker feels that need to contribute and food is the least dangerous area.
I must admit that I am overly sensitive on the issue of waste. I try to make my possessions last forever and to consume all the food that I purchase. I suspect that it's wasteful consumption that has given Americans such a bad name in many places. Tinker is reasonably good with our fresh water which she appreciates is in limited supply. I worry about the amount of wash that she does though. She is still not as careful as she could be.
Boca Del Rio, Margarita, Saturday, May 11
Tinker threw away a bunch of avocado (except for a bit that fell on the floor) this morning. Partially out of anger I worked on this log for three hours before I decided that it was time to go to shore.
We got to shore around nine and walked to town. The local ferry had just come in and there were a few trucks selling groceries out the back. It looks like they come over on the ferry and sell groceries for the day then head back to Margarita. I bought a bag of beans (magic beans?). We saw some interesting buildings and not much else. We did stop for a beer at a hotel that was wonderfully secluded. Don't go here for the nightlife but the room are 200 Bs a day.
We left Coche about noon and arrived at Boca Del Rio around three. A local guide showed up to "help us avoid the shoal." The story (in Spanish) was that a boat ran aground yesterday. Sure. I think that I would have been fine on the approach I had chosen but I appreciated the local knowledge (and the sales technique). After "guiding us in" Lucas (pronounced luca) came aboard for a beer and we commissioned him to act as our guide tomorrow through the mangroves and on to the beach. 400 Bs for the day. Maybe we did need help this afternoon. (Later I took a dingy ride and after looking things over must agree that our chart was off. You can't judge water depths visually here like you can in the VI).
What a small world. After we were settled in, John Everson showed up. He wanted to exchange some $s for Bs. We shared a few beers and swapped tales. After a bit, he asked me my last name. "I sold your father my first boat!" he says. He remembered Mom as the sailor in the family. He also had heard a rumor that Dad had reefed Bella for the insurance money (I've heard this rumor before - the boat did end up on a reef. Dad says it was an accident.). I gave an alternative explanation involving poor maintenance leading to no engine at a time when an engine was critical. He asked that I give Mom his best next time I communicated with her.
Camelia and Chris showed up in the afternoon. They weren't very happy with the island they had just left. Like Coche, it was too windy. We all agreed that the spot we are in seems perfect. There is practically no wind or waves. We are far enough from civilization not to hear it but close enough to get to it. Our guide did explain that we should be worried about people stealing our oars. I'm not to worried as mine are cabled in.
Sunday, May 12
Camilia and Chris joined us for our tour through the mangroves. It was great. Many turns and twisty passages. There were no bugs and the view was incredible. I quickly lost the path but I think it's just a matter of keeping track of which way is North. I really want to give it a go by myself in one of our dinghies tomorrow. Probably Tinker's as there is a lot of ground to cover and she has an outboard.
The beach was great. It was about 30 kilometers long and the surf comes directly in. It's not the sort of place in which you'd anchor off shore. We were dropped off at a local landing with tourist complex attached. It was obviously off season -- there were many more chairs and tables than there were people. It is possible to harvest several types of clams in the waves just off shore. Chris, Camelia and I quickly filled a bucket. I tried a few raw. They were good but they needed a little more time to purge the sand. Chris figured out the best method for opening the shell. Take a Polar can's pop top (I suppose other beer cans will do) and sneak it in the crack of the shell while it is open. The shell closes immediately, but, by twisting the pop top you get enough leverage to open the shell. We talked about all the ways we would prepare them tonight but ended up deciding manyanna would be a good clam day.
I should note the curse of Margarita. No one has any fingernails left. Polar beer is usually served in cans and while they have those environmentally sound pop tops, they are hard to open. Everyone looses their fingernails. I know people who carry small knives just to open cans.
I took a long walk by myself on the beach. There were millions (really) of the colorful clam shells and a few other species along the beach. It's the sort of place where you wear shoes. It was great to have some alone time. I got back just in time for lunch. It was overpriced but very good. Actually not that overpriced if you consider that we were in the middle of nowhere.
The ride back from the beach was much more direct. I'm sure that I can duplicate it. Even so, I really want to give the maze proper a try.
Once back to the boat, I took a fresh water rinse and crashed for a few hours. Later, I put the hammock up and settled to some serious reading. A good afternoon.
I went over to Camelia and Chris' boat a little after dark and enjoyed a beer and a bit of food. We talked about anchoring. You would have to have been a boatie to enjoy the conversation but we had great fun. Later, when I came back, Tinker informed that she had heard Camilia's life story and that T. felt that the two of us had a lot in common. She also said that Camilia is not happy with Chris. Tinker hears a lot of life stories. I'm not sure just what to believe. The level of the rum bottle was a bit down.
By way of good night, Tinker told me that she had squeezed the last of the lime into the bilge. She said that she thought it would make the bilge smell better (currently a non-existent problem). I believe that she considered the use of lime a preemptive strike as she took her first shower in the head this afternoon. Understandably, Tinker does not like taking showers in the cockpit and we have arranged the solar shower to reach into the head. I said that the arrangement would be fine unless the bilge started to smell. Perhaps she doesn't understand that organic matter decomposing is what makes bilges smell bad. I asked her to refrain from putting anything but shower water into the bilge in the future. Earlier we had bought some borax to help make the bilge smell better. She kept adding it almost daily. We weren't taking on any water. I suspect that I have a couple of inches at the bottom of the bilge now. A life time supply.
Tinker is trying to be helpful. She has a heart of gold and the best of intentions. I suppose that I can live with excessive water use and an occasional squeeze of fruit juice in the bilge won't hurt things. Perhaps she really will play matchmaker. I could forgive a whole lot for a bit of time with Camelia.
Right before bed I checked the bilge. There wasn't much water but I must admit that I have a smelly bilge. But you have to pull up the floor boards and smell things to notice. (Later Tinker told me that the results of the Mal de Mar had been washed into the bilge). There hasn't been enough time for Tinker's shower to make a difference. I'll let showers go on for a bit and think about this. Perhaps a flow of water will improve things.
Monday, May 13
Camelia, Chris, Tinker and I visited the local town by dingy this morning. I have gotten into the habit of locking up when I leave. Perhaps It's not needed but it would really ruin a period of time to have a major rip off. I have never locked the boat in the VI. But several reports of theft here have made me more careful.
Town was great. Several people came out of their stores to welcome us to Margarita. Several school girls made appreciative noises in my direction. It's always nice to be appreciated. We got various supplies very inexpensively. You'd think that the further you got away from population centers the more expensive things would be but the opposite was true here. I particularly liked a sort of mild salsa and plan to stock up on it tomorrow.
Tinker went off exploring the mangroves in her dingy and came back with very little gas. She had become a bit worried about getting back and does not plan to go alone again. We went together and found a couple of nice spots but they were not as good as the ones the guide showed us. I had no problem finding my way around but had to be very careful as we were almost out of gas and it was a long row home. I did find an interesting spot less than a mile (the limit that I can comfortably row) from the boat. Tomorrow I plan to visit.
I cooked up the clams that we caught yesterday. They were a little salty but very good. I think part of the problem is that I used a bit of salt water to steam them. Next time I'll just use fresh water. 24 hours of soaking removed almost all the grit. Camelia and Chris came over to join us for clams and we stayed up pretty late talking. It's a great feeling to be in the middle of nowhere with a few friends.
Tuesday, May 14
Tinker went off to town and I had most of the day to myself. I wrote a few postcards and John stopped by on his way to Porlamar to see if I needed anything. Thanks for mailing the cards John. A couple of days ago I noticed that I have begun to develop a bit of a belly. To much good food and beer. Yesterday I started to exercise and today I spent much of my time reading and stretching out. I really should do some things off the boat list but I just don't seem to be motivated. I came up with an easy task just so I could strike it off. There are a few more tasks that I can easily do but I am really enjoying this alone time. I think that it's been about two months since I've been alone on the boat for this long. I need to commune with myself often. When Tinker get's back I I'll start my projects.
When Tinker came back, I cleaned the bottom. There was this weird growth that looked something like steel wool except that it was white (actually it's some sort of worm tube). The stuff was close to an inch thick in places and covered much of the hull. I noticed similar (but not as thick) growth on the dinghies when I pulled them out of Greneda harbor. Spooky stuff but it came off reasonably easy. I think it's worms that have been giving me false readings from the depth sounder and log. I cleaned both. We'll see on the next leg if they work more reliably.
If you bother at all, read the following with skepticism.
My understandings are holistic. I have spent a great deal of time reaching my understandings. many of my understandings involve areas outside the physical and/or mental realms. These are the only realms that words can describe. Because of this, it is impossible to describe the whole of what I believe. The following only sketches out an outline of my understandings.
My understandings are constantly changing. I hesitate to share the current ones because I know, from past experience, that they will change and/or become unimportant. I would not like to focus attention on a worthless topic.
Remember, as you read this, that it is dangerous to follow in someone else's footsteps. However there is wisdom in learning about the thoughts and experiences of others. We all encounter similar obstacles. It is an important and difficult distinction.
THERE ARE NO PATHS.
No spiritual path.
No correct path.
No wrong path.
You must make your own way. Anyone who says that they can guide you is wrong. Again an important distinction: by creating the proper environment, some people can help promote learning. You must be critical and guide yourself. You must do the work. No one can do it for you. Another important distinction is that every person you encounter has something to offer. Really. Every person. If you are encountering the wrong sort of person, you had better figure out what you have to learn quick. The lessons of the universe get progressively tougher. The smart person avoids the "hard knock on the knuckles" (often more like a whack on the head with a baseball bat) by learning quickly.
PAY ATTENTION TO ALL THINGS.
These thoughts do not matter. Read them critically. They will probably do more obfuscate than to illuminate. The issues are, at best, worthless. The most you can get out of the following is to agree with me to forget about these topics. The truly important understandings can not be written and perhaps not even communicated.
For me, now, there is just doing. In the doing there is room for discussion of beliefs. Proper doing requires a background of understandings.
Thought may be grouped into four major areas: intuition, spirit, logic and heart. Intuition is the ability to make leaps of understanding. To know what could not be known from the available facts. It is sometimes wrong. Spirit is both a force and source of information. It supplies a drive to grow and a connection other kinds of existence. Logic is the ability to analyze and compare. Heart is emotion. It is through heart that we get our ultimate values. Heart may be broken down into the emotions created (or encouraged) by our physical bodies and feelings that go beyond mind and body.
All of these groups work together and it is a personal ambition of mine to make them a seamless whole. However I'm not sure if I am supposed to do this or even if it is possible. For really tough questions I use all of these forms of thought singly then as subgroups and finally as a whole. All four areas must be satisfied. While different processes are more or less useful at times, I live my day to day life using all of them. Each helps and supports the other.
I believe that one of my greatest strengths is my ability to totally focus my attention/energy in any area. (I am also able to do this with the mussels of my physical body - by focusing all my energy I sometimes give the impression that I am much stronger than I am.) Thus, while I started with abilities that were not radically different from the abilities of others, I can "supercharge" any of these areas to give me superior ability. Supercharging has given me some interesting strengths. Some sort of balance between these areas is the best way to stay most of the time and most people have developed a fixed balance that they live within. Any fixed balance is inappropriate in some situations. Some people deal with this by avoiding new situations, others by ignoring the fact that they are in a situation requiring a different approach. However the ability to adapt is not the reality. My current focus on process is an attempt to be always correctly balanced.
Process is more important to me than beliefs. What I mean by process is difficult to describe. Process is interaction. Process is how I respond day-to-day and moment-by-moment. After years of cluttering my head with all sorts of philosophies and belief systems, I am no longer concerned about them. I don't have to think about them. I don't have to judge my every action against a complex belief system. I have also moved my focus from many of the flashier aspects of energy work.
This does not mean that I have given up these areas forever. I have collected techniques, information and understandings. Now I need to learn to live with them before I go on. I use by beliefs and abilities on a daily basis. Some fine tuning and thinking will occur as I become integrated. After integration? I will learn more (then integrate it). It never stops.
Don't look to me for hard and fast, crystal clear answers. I don't believe that they exist. I know some great questions though. Our eternal purpose is to grow. If there were ultimate answers, someday we would be done. It doesn't matter how fast or slow we work; it doesn't matter how much you know or what you can do. Compared to the infinite that is possible, we are all the same. And we are never done.
It is interesting to think about what I mean by "I." The I that is writing is transient. While there is continuity, it is certainly not the I that I was when I was born. I will be very different in ten years. While self is eternal, we all change and become new persons.
Consciousness and self are only partially contained in the body. Expect to lose the "I" part after death. We all do. I am very pleased with the current me but expect to change in directions that I can not anticipate (or I would change now).
I do not change in response to pressure. I have never met and do not expect to meet a person who had it "all" worked out. Perfection is not possible. Paradoxically, I believe our ultimate goal is to strive for perfection. We must all make our own decisions.
Of all the things there are to do and think about, we each choose a small subset. When a person "teaches," they are teaching about their focus/action area which may be very different from the area that you are working on. If it is a good area for you, that other person has helped. If you misuse or misunderstand another's guidance, then it slows you down. As sins go, this is not so bad.
Actually nothing is bad. Nothing can be done to stop growth. While there are no "wrong" growth directions, some are "better" than others.
Teaching does not exist. Teaching is a very egotistical and false word. At best a person can help to promote learning.
There is a rhythm to learning. The natural order of learning is to intuitively understand (and act properly) in an area without knowledge. Then something is learned (usually from an external source). This learning destroys the intuitive process by creating an imbalance. We can not forget what we have learned and what we have learned is not complete. We are forced to complete a long and difficult process of learning a great deal so as to have a complete picture. At some point, all the pieces of the picture meld to form an intuitive understanding that allows for continued process.
This never stops. The spiral is a good analogy. When traveling in a spiral, you return close to the place from which you have come but always a little further out or in. In growth terms, ultimately, it does not matter which way you travel (in or out).
Zen and Sufi stories are often aimed at trying to describe this learning so as to give up learning. What is the sound of one hand clapping? A slap in the face? The woosh of air? Nothing? There are many "correct" answers but the best answer is to give up the question and act. That does not mean that the answer is to give up the question and act. You have to beyond the question and act - not just say that the answer to the question is action.
See? When you know a little, it is very easy to confuse yourself.
There are things worth knowing and there is trivia that obscures and hinders understanding. The enlightened mind is focused on the distinction.
My Other Existence
I must admit another bias to my thoughts. I know that after lifes exists because I have visited mine and spoken with others in their after lives. Many times. In fact I feel more similarity to non-physical entities than I do to physical ones. I am certainly just visiting this planet and I "phone home" often.
The following are some of my thoughts on what I currently think of as trivia. Yumm.
Consider predetermination. If we are just a bunch of chemicals bouncing around according to rules that can be understood and therefor having no free will, everything I write (in fact every action) is somewhat moot. I spent a lot of time on predeterminism and worked out a very complex set of understandings. Maybe they are true. Maybe not.
The gist of it is easy. If the world is predetermined, then so are my actions and efforts. No worry. If not, then my actions make a difference (assuming there is some sort of purpose of end result to worked towards). Logically I'll never know.
Intuitively and spiritually my final conclusion was that both possibilities were true. ALL possibilities occur. This creates an infinite number of worlds in each instant that each spawn an infinite number of worlds in the next instant. EVERYTHING happens. I've even had some success in melding with my other selves in those branch universes.
That was a very interesting experiment in that some of us had learned things that others had not. We travel at different time rates as well. It was possible to communicate and I learned a lot but, in the process of tuning in, my individual existence got a bit hazy. This is not necessarily bad but I elected to discontinue exploring that path as I am enjoying being me. Perhaps after this body is gone, I will work on melding with my other selves a bit more. At any rate, having come to a logical conclusion (or delusion), I no longer worry about predetermination. While I may make all possible choices, this existence has only one past. I do my best to make sure that it is the right one. Emotionally I know that my actions and decisions are important.
Along these lines, I have had a little exercise for the last 10 years or so that may be of interest. If something "bad" happens, I travel a bit back in time and warn myself not to make the action leading up to the bad result. So far I have had premonitions but nothing bad has happened. Perhaps my plan is working? The amusing thing to me is that I'll never know. Next problem please.
Why are We Here?
If decisions are important then there must be a reason why they are important. Is there a reason why we are here and, if so what?
I know the answer but I'm not going to tell you.
Just kidding. Unfortunately I was kidding more about knowing the answer than the not going to tell you part. Again I started with all sorts of ideas and worked my way to some sort of answer that lets me forget about the question. In the following I try to recreate the process that I followed.
My discussion on a predetermined verses random world does nothing towards inferring a meaning to life. In either type of universe (predetermined or free choice) life could be just a chance bunch of chemical reactions. Emotions and feelings might just be incidental to maintaining those reactions. Even the afterlife and higher planes might be just a fluke.
If there was not a purpose from the beginning, then somewhere along the way a purpose to life may have been adopted (if so, is it the "correct one?). The world would be a much sadder place if there was no purpose. Intuitively I feel that there is a purpose and have looked for it. In finding it, I may have created one for myself. There may be as many purposes as there are entities that ask the question. I am happy to have a purpose(s).
Back to my answer and how I got it. I approached the question by trying to figure how it all began. I figured that, if I could figure how things began, maybe I could figure out why they began (if there is a why) from there it would be relatively easy to figure out what (if anything) I'm supposed to do in the big scheme. (I seem to get my "ifs" and parentheses wholesale when I'm writing about philosophy).
OK. First things first. The origin. Big bang or act of god? Both have the problem of assuming that something was there before it all began. This leads to an infinite regression. Who created god and who created the whatever that created god and so on? Or how did the primal particle that spawned the universe come into existence? If it takes the collapse of a previous universe to create that primal particle then where did that universe come from? The best I could come up with is that either things have always been and always will be or that, if things once were not, the sheer "loneliness" of it all brought the universe and/or god into existence. I've tried very hard and my mind just can't comprehend infinity (or nothing) and I distrust those people who say they can. Give it a try sometime. Imagine the largest space you can. Include time in both directions. Include energy and other universes with different rules. Include beings of pure energy and beings composed of stuff that isn't here. Now look for the boundaries of your imagination. Extend those. Find the new boundaries, extend those. Its best to do this at night when you want to go to sleep. Words don't cover it.
Back to the beginning. I can't know what the beginning was. So strike that part of my plan to figure out what the meaning of life is.
If I can't look at the beginning, I can at least look at the present and try to infer the past. What is going on now? How did it get this way? Where does it lead? Perhaps by looking at the process (remember process it's important), I can figure out the purpose. Or, if there is not a purpose, at least help things along to wherever they are going.
That's where I sit now. Looking at how things work and how they hold together trying to figure out what is helpful to the overall pattern (or if there is an overall pattern).
Wednesday, May 15
Tinker decided to leave today. I'm not entirely sure why but I think that it may have had something to do with the dropping stock market. God bless the Dow. She mentioned a number of reasons for leaving (the only one that had anything to do with me or Ubi was that she was used to going at a faster pace - Hey, it's my way or the highway.)
I still like Tinker (a good trick after a month on a 40' boat) but I was glad to see her go. She was probably glad to be away from me as well. I'm really looking forward to some time to myself. I spent the day after she left cleaning. Washing her presence away. It worked. I feel gloriously alone.
The folks off Dancer and I went to visit John's boat (Gaucho) for cocktails this evening. Gaucho is incredible. She was built over 60 years ago in Argentina. Gaucho has the only hanging table that I've ever seen on a boat. She has much more room than Ubi and has a wonderful feel as well. I would be incredibly envious but I have all the room I need and I don't want a wood boat. I spent the night reading.
Thursday, May 16
This morning I tried to call Karen to wish her happy birthday but you can't make international phone calls here. Oh well.
Dancer's, Gaucho's and Ubi's folks went to the beach today. I wanted to use up the gas so I'm not carrying it around). It was a good trip. I remembered the route without any problems. My strainer did not work in catching clams but using a mesh bag was much easier then a bucket. [I'm listening to Joan Armatrading's song "Me Myself" right now. God I'm happy.]
After the day at the beach, I deflated the Tinker's dingy and stored it. It will be nice to have a backup but I'm glad I don't have to deal with the everyday hassles of two dinghies anymore.
Camelia came by to say good-bye. We had a great chat about why she was not happy with Chris. I observed that Chris (who is substantially older) is living a fantasy and not responding to her as her. The ironic thing is that Camelia really likes Chris but she is going to leave him because he is not dealing with her. Then again Camelia is still looking for a night in shining armor (shining amour too). Lot's of luck to both of them. They are good people. Sometimes I think that it really is to bad that there are so few easy answers. The average joy would be increased. Then again, when you figure out "real" answers, the joy is almost unbearable. Perhaps it is all worth while. I often content myself with the knowledge that I am happy. Anybody else can be as well. It's just a matter of choice.
Pompatar, Margarita, Friday, May 17
I woke up about six and was on my way to Pompatar by seven. I had some trouble with the dingy and, since the water was like glass, ended up towing it. John was also heading back tp Pompatar and got a half hour lead on me. I ended up passing him on the way and was there for about four hours before he showed up. Thank Perkins for large engines.
I went to Porlamar to wish Karen happy birthday a day late. It was great to hear from her and even better to hear her news. Willie W. gave up on Vitamin Sea. Some person named Gary is living on her now. Karen likes the guy which is a good enough reference for me. I told Karen that if she sees Gary, to tell him that he is welcome to stay as long as he maintains her and pays appropriate fees. I'm so happy to have Vitamin Sea back. There is a line of people who want to buy her but I'm going to hold off and fix her up. Instead of money, I'd rather just have friends stay on her. Kind of like a guest cottage for Ubi.
I also leaned that Willie and Angela are going to be showing up for a couple of weeks starting the 11th next month. That's less than three weeks away. It doesn't seem like a very long time. I may abridge my Gulf of Parria plans and haul sooner. I want to be sure that everything is what it can be when my Bro sees Ubi! I can already tell that I'll be back this way so there's no point in seeing everything this time. I think I need to treat this vacation more like a smorgasbord. Put a little of everything on my plate and go back for seconds of the stuff that I really love next time. Everyday things get better.
Puerto Santa, Venezuela, Saturday May 18
It's hard to believe that I've been out sailing a whole month. It seems shorter. Today was GREAT. I woke up at six and was under way by 6:30 for the Venezuela coast. That included putting the dingy aboard. I've figured out a new method that is "no fuss, no muss" method that takes less than five minutes. Well a little muss; I need a good piece of canvas to put over the rail. No such thing is aboard so I am using a towel. The towel doesn't like it.
I've got to remember to stop and think before acting. It really pays. The seas were a little higher than they were for my trip up from Boca Del Rio. But the rollers were long and slow. The only "equipment failure that I experienced was the loss of a couple of glasses of ice tea that I wasn't watching closely enough. There was no spray and the waves decreased close to the coast. It was certainly a power kind day. (With fuel so cheap and the winds/current against you all the time, Venezuela is a power kind of place.) My batteries are loving this trip. I do feel a little guilty for not being a "serious" sailor. But I'm out to have the maximum fun possible. Whatever Works.
The major excitement for the day was a long drizzle that dropped visibility to about half a mile or less. The decks were left clean but, for awhile, I had seriously considered going way off the coast and heading for Porto Pardo (another 70 miles / 12 hours). Navigating in strange waters with no visibility brings my mortality to front. However, by dead reckoning, I knew that I must be close, none of my three charts showed any problems anywhere off the coast, and, to be on the safe side, I wanted to take on fuel; so I slowed way down and watched the depth gauge. Sure enough as the rain broke there was Puerto Santa. Just where I expected it to be. I felt a little cheated that there was no rainbow but was on shore by three.
Puerto Santo is a little fishing village and smaller than the village next to Boca De Rio. While everyone is friendly, I think I like I Boca better. I think it has something to do with Santo being a SERIOUS fishing village. I was something of a novelty in Boca.
The fun local game here is to share what little English the locals know. I got lots of "Hello"s (as opposed to Hola, Buenos XXX, or simply Buen that I have been hearing elsewhere). Lots of local kids approached to ask (in perfect English) "What time is it?" I'm pretty sure that they didn't understand my answer. I have not heard so much English since I came to Venezuela.
A short walk was all it took to see town. As usual there were lots of little hole-in-the-wall stores and the Venezuelan local bar equivalent. A store where the locals hang around outside (your not allowed to drink in the store but the patio or street is fine). I've seen bunches of these and stopped in a few. They are kind of fun.
I watched a great sunset as I listened to the "Romantico" CD that I purchased in Porlamar (Ricardo Montaner: Un Toque De Misterio). It's a good disk. I really like foreign music.
For a variety of reasons, I briefly considered leaving in the early AM this morning. (The water is very calm; I want to get to the exciting places in Venezuela and have time to hang in the yard before Willie and Angela show up; and I've seen enough small towns now). The deciding factors to stay were that I'd feel safer with a bit more fuel and I'm not that rushed. I've been moving pretty fast for the last couple of days. A day of rest (and writing) will be nice. Besides it looks like a wild bus ride to the next town. The five miles or so of road between Puerto Santa and the nearest city are the only roads that I saw along the coast. The roads look like they are holding on to the cliffs by their fingernails. I hope that the driver goes fast. Wheee! I think that I'm beginning to like busses almost as much as waterfalls.
I don't think that I'm going to make Angel falls of the Andes this trip. I look forward to trying them over Christmas break.
Sunday, May 19
I forgot that today was going to be Sunday. They don't sell fuel on Sunday. I spent most of the day lounging and working on the boat. Much more lounging than working.
I had set the alarm for a two AM departure. But when I woke up, looked over the weather, and thought about my fuel level, I went back to sleep. It would really be wise to have full tank. I'm sure that it had nothing to do with the hour.
Monday, May 20,
Filling the tank was a minor adventure. I made about six trips in the dingy. Each time I had to do a little gymnastic manoeuvre to get up on the fuel dock (the local fisherman were most amused and appreciative). It was a tough dock. There was a small cloud of medium sized fishing vessels (about the size of Ubi) around it but they all took a great pains to avoid touching the dock as it was a concrete deck with pieces of rebar sticking out in places. This made for a large spider web of lines with many boats stuck like flys. Even if there had been room, it was much safer to row in.
The dock master was very nice. He appreciated that I had to make a number of trips and just kept a running total of my purchase (25 gallons of diesel for $7). Water was free. The only problem was that there was only one fuel pump so he couldn't keep it open just for me. (That cloud of fishing vessels was there for a reason.) I would do this kip (a gymnastic term for using the weight of your legs to flip upwards) up on dock, fill my water jugs and then wait for about half an hour while the current boat finished filling. Many of the boats took on incredible amounts of fuel as it is very lucrative to go up smuggle it into Greneda. I would fill up my little "can" and go back to Ubi. I repeated the process five times. I enjoyed looking at the boats.
After filling the tank, I went into town to use up most of the rest of my Bs. I kept a few for Christmas presents for my younger siblings. I bought a bunch of can goods that I don't need (I think that I must have food for close to a year aboard now).
I also bought some new dishes and cutlery. It's my $10 dining set. Much nicer than the plastic and mismatched stuff that I have been using but I don't know if it will pass the Mom test. Mom once threatened to disown me for wearing a polyester blend shirt. (Maybe it was the colors?) I think that she will like this stuff. It's good heavy china. At least I think it's china - I'm not sure what china means. At any rate it's not plastic. The plates and bowls are white with a nice blue trim. The forks and knives have wood handles. I forgot to buy spoons. If they don't pass the test, they can be a Christmas present or something.
I've been parked right next to an ice factory. Since fuel (energy) is so cheap here, like many other things, ice is very cheap as well. The didn't sell cubes but were willing to give me a quarter of the 150 lb blocks that the usually sell for a buck. It was an adventure getting the block back to the boat. Remember the dock? It was much to high to lower the block (which was just a block - no bag, no handles) on to the boat. I finally got the block out to the boat by bringing the dingy around to a local beach.
I had dinner on Gaucho. John borrowed my diesel jug but didn't get a chance to fill his tanks. He arranged to bring my jug back to me in San Francisco. As planned earlier I left at two in the morning.
Tuesday, May 21
It was a great night to be alive. A pod of dolphin joined me and I spent a magical hour watching them leave tracers in the phosphorous as they swam around me.
Most of the day was calm but by afternoon the seas got a little tough (this is a pattern that I have observed in Venezuela - it seems to be great from 8 pm to 3 pm). Along the way, I caught four fish then stopped fishing. I was happy to be off the ocean when I got to San Francisco about five. Even at the worst point, it was still a dry trip but those long slow rollers had the boat dancing. San Francisco is a wonderful anchorage. The hills go straight up for thousands of feet and covered with dense green tropical forest. It was also very calm (a good trick considering that the waves were like on the way here). I anchored in 40 feet of water, had a good stiff drink, ate a fish then went straight to sleep.
San Francisco, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 22
I lazed a good deal (usually lazing means reading but sometimes it just means snoozing; today I did both). Did a few boat projects (from now on DFBP) then went exploring.
My first adventure was to take the dingy around the harbor. I found a small cave that was half in and half out of the water. that wasn't mentioned in any of the guides. It was just big enough to bring the dingy in - I couldn't row. It was about a hundred feet deep and very dark. Thoughts of pirates, smugglers and other desperados filled my head as I took the dingy in. About two thirds of the way back as the light was beginning to fail something fell into the dink! My heart and body almost went in separate directions. Intellectually I know of no animal that attacks by dropping from the ceiling, but I played to much D&D in college. I can name a number of (mythological) critters who like to hang on the roofs of caves so as to do nasty things to those who pass below. I got the dingy out as fast as I could, all the while hearing something scrambling around on the bottom as if to correct the earlier miss. My feet where on the seat when I finally broke out into the light. It was just a rock crab. I went back in and finished exploring. Neat cave!
Along shore there is a very small river that winds down to the beach. There are supposed to be jaguars, poisonous snakes, monkeys and exotic birds here. By now fearless, I went up the stream bed in pursuit. No luck. I did see some wonderful butterflies and some scratch marks on trees that were probably made by jaguars. I was very happy to find a very small waterfall to go with the very small river and had a great soak and commune with the local spirits. The spirits here are much wilder than any I have encountered before. Closer to elementals and not very communicative. Perhaps it is because they meet so few people?
Thursday, May 23
I'm ready to go. I spent the day reading and writing. I would have left today but decided to wait for Gaucho who has my jerry jug of fuel. I will go to Trinidad tomorrow no matter what.
Port of Spain, Trinidad, Friday, May 24
Guacho never showed up. I powered up to Trinidad. I left about seven and arrived by two. It was hard into wind, waves and current but dry. Customs was not bad. Again, I had been lead to believe that it was going to be horror. There were a number of forms to fill out in quadruplicate but they gave me carbon paper (something I often don't get in the British Virgins). Customs felt that I was carrying a bit more liquor than I would use for personal consumption. Ha. To make matters worse, I wasn't quite sure what all I had but my guesses were enough to bring the official on to the boat. I think that he really just wanted to see the boat more than anything else. He almost balked when he saw the dingy, but with encouragement from me, he came aboard. I made him wash the bottom of his shoes but they were not the hobnailed boots that I had been warned. We counted the bottles that I could find (I'm sure that a serious search would find more) and put about two thirds into one locker which he "sealed." While the seal and all look serious, he only sealed one side so I can get in and out of the locker. It's kind of fun.
I connected with Al. He is in love (again) and seems very happy. We are going to have lunch tomorrow.
Currently I'm spending big bucks (15 dollars a day) to stay in a slip at the Trinidad yacht Club. It's already paid off in information. I've also met some party people. After many days of contemplating my navel, I'm ready to get out and party. I stayed up till about two last night. The party started on the boat but we responded to invitations (via bullhorn) from the bar to join them. This is not a quite anchorage. I love it.
Saturday, May 25
Met Al in Port of Spain today. We walked around lot and, while the city seems nice enough, it is like most large cities I have been in (except that the food was real cheap). The other great bargain is fabric. I am going to buy a bunch of fabric and foam rubber while I am here. I'm not sure that I'm going to have it installed professionally. At least not until I get back to St. Croix. It looks like I'm not going to have the time.
I've been thinking more about my schedule. There is a lot I want to see and Tobago is reputed to be a tough haul. I will probably go there before Willie and Angela arrive and save them the tough stuff. Then we can go to Grenada and or the Grenadines about a week into their trip.
I went over to Power Boat Association to check out the cost and facilities for hauling out. It all looks good and I have made arrangements for hauling on Monday morning.
The folks that partied with me last night decided that they wanted a "Boy's night out." This means that the four guys that have girlfriends were "allowed" to go out and party with "just the guys." I was invited along. Our chief aim was to drink lot's of beer and ACT wild, we all confided that we had no intentions of picking anybody up... I know I meant it and I think they did too. I did get to do a bit of dancing. We went to a disco called Bedrock. It was done in a somewhat Flintstones theme.
The last time I went to a disco was about four years ago in St. Thomas and I think that I have only been in about three since I got out of high school (I went a lot in high school). So while I am not very experienced in judging discos, Bedrock was the nicest disco I have ever seen. While the music was played at body shaking volumes, the sound system was very good and I enjoyed myself. Some of the women were very beautiful. There are a number of different ethnic cultures here and some of the combinations are incredible. My friends and myself were the only blonds in the place though.
I got adopted by a group of three girls with a sort of Indian look. Two were gorgeous. It was bad luck that the not-so-gorgeous one told the other two that she wanted me. I could easily have taken the ugly one home but all I wanted to do was dance. I prefer to dance with beautiful woman. Besides that she was a klutz. It was a familiar theme, her friends, in deference to her, only danced a few times with me. I found a few other dance partners then had to go outside (alone by choice) as the music was getting to loud.
Trinidad is a late night place. The disco didn't even begin to hop till about one and was going full force when we left around three. We had arrived about ten and things were very dead. No one wanted to be first to dance so the floor was completely empty until people were so crowded around it that I think some got on the floor because there was no place left to stand.
Again I pondered the wisdom of traveling alone. I really wanted someone who knew how to dance with me as the music was very good (until the dance floor got crowded at which time they started to play very loud disco). I wanted some one I wanted to take home.
Over all the experience reinforced my decision that I do not intend to "meet" someone on this trip.
I got home around four.
Sunday, May 26
While I got up about seven, I limed for most of the day. Highlight of the day was a walk to the local grocery store. Venezuela stores are much smaller but have better meat and veggies. However, the spices at this store were plentiful and cheap (I think that it is the East Indian influence). It is actually cheaper to eat out that to buy local produce. Al says that the local street markets are the best way to go. I saw a few from the bus as I rode by and I suspect that he is right.
Power Boats, Trinidad
Monday, May 27 - June 14
All of the haul out and other boat work are going to be included in one section. It all melded together and there is not much pointing out what got done when.
The yard was great. The management was very friendly and conscientious. Alan, whom I've hired to work on my hull got the job done on time. The haul and hull bill came out to about $1,200 US for labor and materials. That includes hauling out, five days lay time, sanding the bottom, filling in the scratches, painting the bottom, touching up the topsides, and waxing the topsides. I also had them strip my rudder because it had some blistering. A good deal. I was told that I could do a bit better in terms of labor costs (it is possible to hire local labor for about 5-10 US a day) but I am satisfied. I think that Alan did a quality job. Local labor knows what side of the sandpaper to use and probably wouldn't cut themselves with a screwdriver but I prefer a contractor who really knows what they are doing. They are all hard workers.
The wood work was another $1,500. But I had a lot done. I had a new wishbones, a new bathroom floor, teak slats for the cockpit, leaves for the cockpit table and a new door for the aft cabin. The only problem with the work is that it makes the old wood look bad. I'm going to have to strip it all when I get back to St. Croix. I've started to use a new type of finish called Deks Olle. I think it looks better than raw wood. Nevy Booze and his crew did all the work. A great guy. He went way beyond the job and took me home for dinner gave me rides to town and introduced me to his family and friends.
I revarnished the boat's interior and did all the usual maintenance checks. See the "Ubi do" list for a list of work that was done. No surprises.
Everything took longer than I expected. I'm glad that I did my haul early.
One of my favorite memories of this time is the local fisherman. Everyone in the yard hangs out at the yard restaurant. An inexpensive burger shack that does serve other food. I often "indulged" in their five dollar steak dinner. The fisherman thought it was the funniest thing in the world that I like Bonita and happily traded fish for cold beer. I ate well.
Friday, June 15
I finished up many of those last minute touches today. The cushions arrived at 5 pm. Willie and Angela arrived at 11:30 but it took several hours for them to clear customs. We stayed up till after three talking. I'm glad they are here.
Saturday, June 16
I started the day with big ambitions but ended up a bit more realistic. I had wanted to go to town, clear customs and do some last minute shopping. Instead we ended up going to the market. This puts our departure to Tobago off by a day but there is no rush. It also saves some custom fees. Another great reason for guests is that we can shop for many different types of food. By myself, food spoils.
We limed on the boat for most of the afternoon until my buddy David showed up. At a cocktail party at another friend's house David had offered us a ride in his power boat to look at the scarlet Ibis (the same bird I tried to see in Margarita). It was a good ride and (in typical Trinidad style) we consumed a lot of Caribs (the local beer). We also consumed a bit of local rum. David's boat is a fast performance speedboat and it was exciting to go zooming through the mangroves. We were probably doing close to fifty miles an hour and could almost touch the sides of the tunnel formed by trees on either side of the boat.
We slowed way down when we got close to the birds and eventually "parked" about half a mile away by purposely running lightly aground on a muddy bottom. The birds are really scarlet. No one knew where they spent their day but they all rest on the same bush at night. The tree ended up looking very red. Almost like an apple tree. More like one of those make believe trees you see in commercials for children's breakfast cereal. We had to stay a bit off (so as not to disturb the birds) but Tinker's binoculars provided a good view.
The time was more notable for the very good company than the birds. I am blessed that so many people are sharing there time with me and that there are so many wonderful things to see.
Sunday, June 16
Nevy, David and company (David's two daughters, Nevy's wife and sister in law, and a friend of Nevy's who didn't speak English) went sailing with us today. As usual, our Trinidad friends provided incredible provisions. We had flying fish filets, ham sandwiches, bountiful drinks and all the great company you could want.
We went to Boca sin Entrada (mouth without an entrance). It was a "to die for" little bay barely large enough for one boat. We had to put the bow anchors on a very shallow shelf. Willie swam both our anchors out. But wait. That's not all. We also had to tie the stern of the boat off. Willie wrapped a stern line around his waist; swam over to a cliff; climbed up to an overhanging tree; tied off the rope; gave a Tarzan yell and dove into the water. For an encore he caught a large lobster. (Angela, as a proper fisherman's wife, found the lobster and then called her man over to do the hunting). It's great to have the "Bro" here.
I'm going to miss my Trinidad friends.
Store Bay, Tobago, Monday - Tuesday, June 17-18
These two days belong together. A very busy time. Angela and I went in to town to pick up last minute supplies. I took Angela with me to experience clearing out procedures. I had been wondering if it is just me who was not bothered by government procedures or if they were really not that bad. Angela thought that it was all a bit silly but that it wasn't that much work. I didn't find it all that silly. Probably I'm just dull. Actually any excuse to meet new people is fine by me. It was bit more work than I'm used to - I was carrying a new set of anchor chain. That stuff is heavy.
Last minute good-byes took so long that it was nearly dark before the boat was ready to go. We had planned to spend the early evening in a local bay but, by the time I got to the spot, it was to dark for me to feel safe anchoring. We elected to punch on through.
It was a long night (they always are). I would describe the trip as moderately rough. We got occasional spray but nothing real bad. Willie and I took turns steering while Angela pretended to sleep. (The autopilot was ill once again. I think that there is a design problem.)
We arrived at Tobago customs at eight in the morning. We were a little sloppy pulling up the dock but I've been much worse and seen far worse. No real problem but Willie and I like things to be smooth and perfect. The sloppy job was a result unclear instructions on my part. I had gotten a bit spoiled. Willie is very good on boats. Willie and I usually have good non-verbal communication; many jobs just happen without my having to ask. However, on this morning, we were both tired and communication just wasn't happening.
Mr. Johnson, a customs official, was waiting for me when we finished docking. He drove me to the various government offices that I "needed" to visit. It all took less than half an hour. Everyone was very nice and there was no charge.
We were anchored in Store Bay by ten in the morning. The boat was ship shape by eleven. Cocktails happened shortly after. Sabrina, a friend from power boats that had cruised over earlier, joined us for cocktails. Her trip had not been nearly so good as ours. They took several days to get here, had not made it all the way to Scarborough bay, and were having a bit of trouble with customs. Sabrina had been very sick the whole way. She had given up on boat life and was staying at a local hotel with her father. After cocktails, Willie, Angela and I went to Mrs. Esmes, a restaurant that had been recommended to by folks in Trinidad. It was a hole-in-the-wall sort of place that served some very good local food. After a large lunch we were very sleepy. We were all so sleepy that a wave managed to catch us as we took the dingy off the beach. Willie and I poured the water out of the dingy and we made it back without further mishap. We slept for the rest of the afternoon after which Willie went for a dive and I headed for shore. Willie and Angela spent the evening alone on the boat. I usually make no errors on the boat. It's bothering me that I've made mistakes with the Bro aboard. His opinion counts and I feel that I'm giving the wrong impression.
Sabrina and company treated me to a dinner of Red Snapper. After dinner Sabrina and I stayed up talking till after one. Sabrina is my kind of person (smart, bubbly, and not hard to look at) and we have developed a friendship. She shares a lot of my "new age" beliefs and has traveled and read widely. Sabrina is also very much in love with her "guy back home," so there was no question of anything physical. Our conversation quality may have been improved because we both knew that there would be no physical contact. Sometimes the physical stuff does get in the way (but I always think about it). I was very happy to have a good conversation. It was a great evening and I'm sure that Willie and Angela enjoyed the alone time.
Wednesday, June 19
UGH! I saw my first live cockroach aboard the boat today. I tore up floorboards and such but couldn't find the bastard (I hope it was a male bastard). I'm not sure if the little devil came aboard while I was up on blocks in the yard, with the local veggies, or in one of the cardboard boxes that I have been leaving around. Damn. Damn. Damn. Time to get on the anti-insect war path.
We wandered around on shore for a bit and did some shopping. I ordered some custom sandals for less than $15 US. I'll get them tomorrow. I also bought the first bikini bathing suit I've had since high school. For some reason, since that time, every girl I have dated since has not wanted me to wear one. In my vanity, I think that it is because they think I would look to good and they didn't want me distracted by an appreciative audience. At any rate, Angela, who has no vested interest, helped me to pick one out. She said it looked good.
In the afternoon, we pulled around the corner to a sheltered lagoon. There was a bit of a local fete (party) going on at the beach. I slammed a few beers to catch up and went in with Willie and Angela. Willie and Angela danced a bit and couple of native girls invited me over to their boat for drinks. (Could it have been my new suit)? We ended up drinking most of the afternoon and then the girls wanted to learn how to swim. I've always been amazed that so many people who live on islands don't know how to swim.
I'm beginning to understand why so many natives never learn to swim. We had been slamming drinks all day and "learning to swim" was a polite excuse to do some heavy petting. The girls would have to be held up as they lay on there bellies and worked on their swimming motions. It did not take me long to figure that proper native "style" required strategic hand placement. Now and then one would hold me up to see "how I moved my hands." We were not the only people "learning to swim." The girls would get tired of a teacher and switch. I don't think my ability to swim is what made me popular. Including myself, there were four guys to "teach" six girls how to swim. As I said before, I think I know why the natives never learn to swim. If the learning process is so fun, why bother to finish the lessons?
Angela cooked a great meal with a large Red Snapper and lobster that Willie caught. I had drunk to much with the ladies (part of the lesson plan) but managed to stay awake till about five minutes before dinner was ready. Willie said that he tried to wake me up about three times. The final time he informs me that I told him that I sat up, looked him in the eyes, and said "I'll have the one that's not cooked yet." Since I knew that Angela was cooking our single fish in the oven I was obviously free associating. But maybe not. Willie says that I laid back down, then sat up again in a few moments and said "There's logic to that." I don't remember either statement and can't figure out what the logic was. They left me sleeping.
I'm drinking much more than usual. I think that it is in part because the Bro is aboard and I don't have to stay as alert since I know that there is another person around who can deal with emergencies. After a bout like today, I sometimes worry about my drinking. But I only get blazed when it is safe to do so, don't do it so often that my health is remotely in danger, am not doing it to escape any unpleasant feeling, and have a lot of fun doing it. We are here to have fun aren't we?
This lagoon is a great place.
Bon Accord Lagoon, Tobago, Thursday, June 20
Willie and Angela did some shopping/exploring while I cleared us out. Once again customs was no problem. I left a letter of appreciation that I think was appreciated.
We left Bon Accord about 4 pm. The tide was a bit lower than I liked but we had no problems. However, the autopilot simply died. I opened it up and found the same worn gear that I have found before. This time, after replacing the gear, the motor would not even turn on. I have no idea what is wrong and will have to send it back. (Later checked the wiring - I discovered that it had corroded; no problem).
Willie and I took turns sailing and we made great time. We were doing 7.5 to 8.5 knots the whole way on a broad reach. The boat stayed dry and it was a beautiful sail. I had been planning on a slightly slower pace so we arrived in Greneda much sooner than had planned. I had planned to check into Prickly bay and stay at Hog Island but we went to St. Georges because I felt safe about coming there in the dark.
St. Georges, Greneda, Friday June 21
We arrived in St. Georges at about 5 in the morning and, after making sure that the boat was anchored properly, took a nap before visiting customs. Francis was not in the office so I had to deal with his office mate. He is among the grumpiest men alive. Probably in the top ten. He was not at all pleased to be taken away from his movie (Beach Blanket Bingo). Apparently he was also not pleased that all my paperwork was in order either. But, in the end, all he could do was sign me in and take my one dollar EC. It is permitted to check in and out in Greneda if you plan to stay less than three days. I asked to check out at the same time. Grumpy was not pleased with this idea. He told me to come back the next day and do my paperwork then. It may be that I was keeping him from his movie or it may be that he (and I) knew that, if I came on Saturday, I would have to pay overtime.
It is common knowledge that customs officers pocket there overtime charges. I knew better than to argue at that time and left with plans to return.
I gave Willie and Angela instruction on how to get to Concord falls, then did some shopping and went back to the ship. I lazed for a bit in the hammock then decided to do some boat projects. Bad plan. I should never have left the hammock.
A lesson that I learned while working in convalescent homes is that, whatever your attitude is, it will be reflected back. In a convalescent home this makes for some literally shitty evenings. This rule of life can also create a lot of fun (and other things) if you broadcast correctly. But on this afternoon, I was a bit grumpy myself. (It might have had something to do with staying up all night steering.)
The worst fiascoes occurred while I was working on the engine. I dropped my socket wrench into the bilge below the engine which is not accessible. It was the only wrench I had capable of tightening my fan belt. Then I butchered the oil filter and spilled oil all over the engine compartment AND my brand new teak decking. Big black oily spots on teak did nothing to improve my mood. I knew that, if I left it laying there, Willie and Angela would come back and track it all over the boat before they saw it.
Problem was that this was about 3:40 and customs starts charging overtime at four. I cleaned up in a mad rush and rowed into shore with a few minutes to spare. I then rowed back to the boat and got the paperwork that I had forgotten the first time and rowed in again. I entered Customs neck and neck with the stroke of four. My watch said I made it, Grumpy's watch said I was in overtime city. It was a moot point. I planned to leave early the next day and was willing to pay.
I told Grumpy that I had changed plans. Could I have my exit papers now? Grumpy actually smiled, did my paperwork and said "No charge." Was this the same Grumpy I knew? I thanked "Smilely" and told him that he had just made my day. I picked up a couple of faxes and then headed back to the boat. Once there, I sat down; corrected my attitude; and thought a bit about my problems. A bit of sandpaper removed the worst on the spots and a magnet got the wrench back.
Willie and Angela arrived a bit later very excited to have seen the falls. A local boat invited us over for cocktails and then we went back to our boat for guests that we had invited earlier. We had met Johnny and Gija (sp?) in town. They had a two month old and I thought the two couples might want to exchange war stories. It turns out that they are form Cariacou, the island that we are going to next. They gave us a bit of advice and what not.
The three of us went to dinner at a place called Mommas. They keep bringing out little dishes with all sorts native food until you claim defeat. The food was very good and very local. I was a bit taken back by the price (about $25 US per person). But, as a one-time indulgence, I was glad we did it. Willie and Angela got the tab. I don't think that there are any really great restaurants in Grenada.
Saturday, June 22
We had planned on leaving very early in the morning but through one thing and another did not leave till about noon. The biggest time consumer was the eight trips we had to make to top off the fuel and water tanks. I am glad that we now have full tanks.
I didn't listen to any of the advice that I was given about how to get from Greneda to Carriacou. We ended up way out at sea with daylight failing. It was a very nice sail though. No problem as the moon was good. We felt our way into harbor and dropped the hook at what looked like the first good spot.
Carriacou, Grenadines, Sunday, June 23
Willie and Angela were proper crew and got the boat together while I worked on the log. It's great to have things cleaned and sail covers on. It's the sort of thing that makes me more eager to take the covers off in the first place.
Willie went off for a dive and I went off to explore the market. A local cab was waiting for me as I got off the beach. First he wanted 20 EC to take me to the market. "Too much," I said. Next we discussed 20 EC to take me to the market and back. I was working on 15, a price that I would consider reasonable, when I noticed a bunch of guys really carrying on in the local rum shop. One guy (I later learned his name was "Brother" - every local that I meet in the islands seems to have real name and a nickname. They live by their nicknames.) was pretending to cut another's head off with a machete. Both were waving their hands to say "no." While I (correctly) suspected that cabs were rare, I took the advice of my "friends" across the street.
I was informed that the cab driver was a bad man and that I did not want to ride with him. I was redirected to walk up the hill to a local who sells veggies out of his house. Crabbo had limited selection but all was very good and at very reasonable rates. He is also the local police officer during the week. Shopping done I walked back and joined the folks at the rum shop. I ended up spending most of the afternoon drinking. I bought rounds, they bought rounds. We all had big fun. It was as if I was among old friends. The morning's bill was a whopping 14 EC (about $5).
Later I wandered off to see the shops along the rest of the bay. Nothing looked so interesting as my rum shop. I had lunch in the "French" restaurant. French because it is two French men that own it. I had a salad that was very good.
At the far end of the beach I found the ribs of a wood sailboat. The boat was huge and the ribs were massive. Easily about 80 feet. It looked like the rib cage of a whale. It made me stop and wonder if I might, for my next boat, buy just the framework of one of these traditional wooden sloops and do the outside in glass. That combination would be incredibly strong and last forever. The amount of room that I would have down below would be incredible. It's a nice dream.
Later in the day Willie and Angela retraced my footsteps with me. Angela stopped to do some dancing and Willie and I hung in the rum shop. A lot of hard drinking and checkers. They play by different rules. Pieces can only move forward but can jump in both directions; a king can move as far in any diagonal direction as it wants; and, if you don't "eat" (take) a piece, you lose the piece that could have jumped. Brother turned out to be one the island's checker masters. I lost to him twice.
Monday, June 24
I finally installed florescent lighting in the cabin. It looks good. Willie got the other dingy together and went spearfishing with Brother. He got a bunch of small ones. Angela went shopping in town.
Gaucho showed up today and we invited John and company for dinner. John brought my diesel and jerry jug back. I hear that it was a good dinner. I had a couple of stiff drinks and fell asleep before it all started. I've got to stop missing dinner.
Tuesday, June 25
We went out for a little sail today. Later, Willie cooked dinner. He barbecued chicken and fish bones. The chicken was very good. Apparently he had some trouble with my barbecue. I was not present when he started it up; when I got back, the barbecue had tin foil in all the holes and several boards to keep the wind off. I'm not real happy with the barbecue either.
We had great dinner conversation. Life, the universe and everything. Life is certainly a process of growth and improvement.
Another memorable event happened at happy hour. I've been stopping by at the end of the day for brews at the local "boatyard." It's really a one boat rail. Cats, dogs and kids are all over the place. Classical music drifts down from the trees. A really great spot. The event that I found so memorable was that it took about five minutes for the bartender, a local and myself to figure out what day of the week it was. I'm glad to be experiencing a pace where that happens. (In this log, I check the date from the previous day but don't think about it much). We also had some interesting discussions about charter boats and boat rescues.
The locals resent it when another person assist a boat that has run aground. They feel that a boat in trouble offers them an opportunity to earn some extra bucks. Cruisers feel that, particularly if no one was there helping, anybody should save another boat in trouble. Most cruisers do not expect more than a thank you for giving assistance. I could not help but wondering if the rapid disappearance of buoys around these islands is that the locals don't want the reefs buoyied as this would cut into profits.
Everybody agreed that the rules are different for charter boats and everyone had tales to tell of terrible things that charter boats have done. Charter boats usually have the wrong attitude. If you make a mistake, you acknowledge it and try to fix it. (Most) charter folks like to ignore that they caused a problem at all. In fact, given opportunity they will just sneak away or say that it wasn't their fault. Charter folks don't really seem to want to experience the local life style. In fact, they usually act like assholes. There are, of course, exceptions.
Wednesday, June 26
I spent the early morning writing a bunch of letters. I don't know why I hate writing letters so much. Maybe it's because it feels like a monologue and not a communication. Willie, Angela and I went to town in the mid morning. Willie and Angela went on a dive in the afternoon.
Hillsborough is a one street town. The houses were in good shape but not something you would expect to see in Architectural Digest. The people were all very nice. We stopped for a draft beer in a pub that looked out of place after all the rum shops that we had been going to. It looked like someone had transplanted an upscale bar from New York. The place had about five people in it. They turned to be employees and owners. They were not pleased that I insisted upon knowing the price before I ordered. but that's the way of the islands.
Customs on to St. Vincent and the rest of the Grenadines was quick, easy and free. The custom's official did say that I could pay him "if I want." It's like he wanted to do a bit of graft but wasn't quite sure how. I told I'd bring him back a beer if it was convenient. It was not.
W&A went for a dive and brought back a bunch of small fish and some stories of the big ones that got away. We cooked them and some others that John caught in his trap as a going away dinner party. It might also have been a birthday party for me as Angela baked a cake. Another great party. Perhaps I should be bored of all this?
I love the new leaves on my cockpit table.
I watched my drinking this time (I was embarrassed about drinking to much and falling asleep the other day). This has occurred a few times over the last year. I think that my over drinking occurs for a couple of reasons: I forget to eat for the day and I can't drink as much as I used to. I also get very thirsty and, since I can't taste alcohol, end up drinking a bunch of power drinks. I'm not happy that the situation has happened more than once but it will probably happen again. It does not happen when I think that any special or focused effort will be required of me (such as anchoring).
Thursday, June 27
I got up around four to make sure that W&A met their taxi. There were no problems at this end. I hung around till about eleven but did not hear anything. No news is good news. I went back to the boat did a major clean up and reclaimed my bedroom. After sleeping on the new foam from Trinidad, I am spoiled and will have to replace the aft foam as well.
I also resumed my exercises. Because I use the poop deck, I had not exercised since W&A came aboard. I was pleased that I could still do a hundred sit ups and that I was reasonably limber. I only did 35 push-ups though. I have to work on those. Maybe some reps will bring those up to a hundred as well.
I got the boat shipshape for traveling and then went to Union island. I caught about a six pound Barracuda on the way over. It's great to be able to keep these fish here. In the Virgins, it is not a good idea to eat a number of different types of fish (including Barracuda) as they are likely to have ciguatera (fish poisoning). For some reason, as you head South, ciguatera is no longer a problem.
Sure enough all the buoys in Clifton were gone. Clifton is a one street town but I don't like the atmosphere. The anchorage is packed. I ended up dropping my hook in about thirty feet of water with my stern about 50 feet from a reef. There are reefs everywhere. The people in the city were not as friendly as I have grown used to. Customs was a pain. It started well. I went to the first of two offices and only had to wait a short while. My paperwork was done quickly and with no hassles. Before leaving, I checked on where I was supposed to go next (even though I read it in my guide) and asked if all was done. On to the finish line.
I had a longish wait at the next office but had brought a book so it was no big thing. When I got to the front of the line, I was told that I needed additional paperwork. I got a bit angry and informed the officer that I was told at the last place that I was complete. He insisted that I needed additional work. I asked that he call ahead and confirm what I needed. He said "Don't worry, they will be there." I followed my rule of not arguing with officials and made the (about one mile) walk back to the first office. The first official repeated that I was complete and called the second to tell him so. I apologized to officer number one for walking in angry (while I did not use any foul language on the second visit, it was obvious that I would accept no nonsense). After I walked back, officer number two was very quick to finish me up with the original paperwork. I was very good and did not say a word.
I invited one of the locals over for cocktails in the PM. We had a couple and talked about the local waters. He did not really have a lot to say. The biggest topics of interest were that "the French people have such a bad attitude that they give all the boaties a bad name" and his method of dealing with the boat boys. In a number of anchorages, boat boys come out and try to sell all sorts things of services. They are very persistent and can be a real pain. They come out in dinghies that would scratch a battleship, get in the way, and are often opportunistic thieves. However, if they are not to busy stealing dinghies, they can be a good source of fresh veggies and such. Richard's method of getting rid of them is to say (in heavy local dialect). "Mon, you doen no me? I live here."
I fried the Barracuda for dinner. It was very good.
Union Island, Grenadines, Friday, June 28
I left Union Island around eight. I had as bit of excitement as I left. A couple locals came out in a fast skiff and started yelling at me. I had already maneuvered my boat through the tricky reefs that surround the island so I knew that they were not trying to be helpful. (As noted above, most natives would rather see you hit the reef anyway). I turned off the stereo so we could talk.
They wanted me to pay for last nights meal. Apparently some other blond guy had "forgotten" to bring money on the previous evening and had promised to pay in the morning. I looked enough like the guy that the native was sure that I was running out on a tab. I had noticed the guy heading in to shore with his wife (I think she was a wife) and child as I left so I had a bit of info to work with. When the native asked to see my wife I explained that I was alone on the boat. I also explained that I had eaten on the boat and that he was looking for a different guy. The native got very angry. I got angry right back. Eventually I said that it was a tough and time consuming job for me to come back. If he was so sure that I was the man who owed money, would he put his money where his mouth was. I offered to bet him fifty dollars. If I was the man who owed, I would pay him fifty plus what I owed. If I was not the man, he had to pay me 50. This did nothing to improve his mood. But I stood my ground. Eventually he went away.
Except to clear customs, I have no intention of ever returning to Union.
I went on to Canouan and caught a Bonita along the way. Canouan is another great island that is hard to spell. The harbor was very calm and the holding very good. It was the first time since I left St. Croix that I felt safe sleeping with just a lunch hook.
After some minor boat work, I walked the island. It did not take long to see the entire island. Everyone was all polite smiles. I stopped at the only place that was open for cold beer. It was the local hotel. Beer was 4.20 EC and very cold. I had one then went back to the boat to read. Beers (and everything else) are getting more expensive.
About four in the afternoon, some natives came by to sell me lobster. Two girls and a guy. I told them that I was not in the market for lobster but that I had some extra fish that they could have. They ended up coming aboard for cocktails. A buddy of theirs was running on the beach and they called him over too. We played lots of reggae and Cyndi Lauper (they liked Cyndi in Venezuela too). They were all planning to go to the carnival in St. Vincent and asked if I wanted to come. I said "no" because I did not think it was safe for the boat (or me). Alwyn ended up giving me six lobsters. Not so impressive as it sounds because they were all small and lobster was out of season.
Not that I expected to see any officials, but if I did, the applicable fines could make them some very expensive lobsters. As they were still alive, I planned to release them as soon as my guests were gone. As the afternoon became evening, the girls insisted upon cooking them for me. I guess that sometimes you just have to relax and enjoy it.
As soon as my local friends left, I was off to the only other boat in the harbor for a round of yet more cocktails and dinner. Life could be tougher.
Canouan, Grenadines, Saturday, June 29
I have arrived at Mustique. Mustique was supposed to be one of the high points of my adventure. It's really off to good start. First they have free moorings. The opportunity to skip pulling up an anchor will bring me back again. I went in to (again the only) bar that was open. Basils. Basils bar is famous throughout the islands. Many people told me that I would get no further than this bar. The beer was 5.20 EC and cold. I kept looking to meet Mick but was told that he was not currently on the island. Oh well. Karen would probably kill for an autograph.
I had a couple brews then met some "locals." A married a couple and female friend. There are about fifty estates on the Mustique and one of my new friend's grandmother owns one of them. There are no "regular" houses. (People like Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Princess Grace own others). I was given a tour of the island then we went back up to the estate for some serious drinking and pool loafing. This is the very good life. I ended up having dinner with them and the servants (who kept very tastefully in the background). I could get used to this. We plan to go for a sail tomorrow then horseback riding in the afternoon.
Mustique be good.
Mustique, Grenadines, Sunday, June 30
My buddies and I went for a sail. Back to Canouan. There was a spot that the natives had told me was very good and I wanted to check it out. It was good. A nice beach to ourselves. I never did get around to horseback riding but I'll be back again.
I had dinner at the "Fisher House" again. The meal was great but the conversation was even better. Sanford, the young man (my age), whose grandmother owns the place never bothered to finish school. He is one the finest scholars that I have met. In my profession it can be a humble reminder that the standard academic path is only one of the options. I'd like to believe that I did not need the reminding. Sanford is one hell of a guy. He gave me free run of the estate.
I can't believe that I deserve all of this. But I don't mind.
I'm leaving tomorrow to meet Mom in Bequia.
Bequia, Grenadines, Monday, July 1
OK. I admit sensory overload. Wow. Great. I just have to sketch in for a while.
Just when you think things could not get better. If Mom had not rented out a room, I would have stayed in Mustique. But Bequia called. I feel so rich. I have a bar tab and a room (all on Mom). I can look out from my terrace and see my boat.
Even better, I had not realized when I got the room but I cut a really good deal. Apparently the hotel has what it calls the "the girls dorm." When Mom arranged for her room, they naturally put her in it. They were ready to give me a "better" room until I explained that I sleep better if I can wake up and see my boat. I haven't slept in a place with coed bathrooms since college.
Shit happens. But apparently not to me.
Tuesday, July 2
Not a big day. Perhaps the only thing more dangerous than a reef is a free and unlimited bar tab. I'm giving them days to quit.
Wednesday, July 3
I called Mom to wish her happy birthday. We both agreed that we are sorry that she is not here. Mom sounded good. She asked that I walk to the top of Mount Pleasant and wish her a happy birthday. I did so. It was a nice walk but I did not have the mystical experience that Mom said she had there 15 years ago. I suspect that my "mystical" experiences are going to happen in Dominica.
I met a man with my birthday today. (Something must have been in the air). I have always been interested in meeting people who share my birthday. I have met a few but never met someone who has the same year. But, in an odd sort of way, he was the closest. He was born in 1916, I was born in 1961 (mine reads the same upside down).
Mustique, Grenadines, Thursday, July 4
These past days have been a string of cocktails in the shade and meeting people. A gentle sliding existence.
I went back to Mustique today. Someone was on my "favorite" mooring so I took one that was near by. Sanford was waiting for me at Basils. We had a few cold ones and met some fans. A very naive middle America type couple walked in. They were the kind of people that deserve to be lead astray. When they asked who we were, I explained that I was Sanford's manager and that he had just finished recording his second album. Making it up together as we went along, Sanford and I explained that the name of the band was "Sanford Sanford" and that the first album was called "The Edge of the Lip" and the second "Redundant Again."
Later Sanford got a beer out of the deal. I went up to the estate for dinner and ended up spending the night. I slept better than at the Frangipani in Bequia.
Friday, July 5
What happened to this day? I know that I must have done something but it is all a blur...
Saturday, July 6
My new friends and I went out for a "sail." We ended up dropping the mooring; powering around the corner; deciding it was to rough to anchor or sail; and coming back to the mooring. Not an epic journey. I did get switch to my favorite mooring upon our return. There was plenty of good food and grog so the afternoon was not ruined.
In the evening, we went to a local house party. There are just a few public servants in Mustique. They were all there: the doctor, the policeman, the engineer and two dive instructors filled the list. There were also plenty of kids, dogs and spouses running around. It was a great party with great food. I don't think that I've been to a party with multiple types of hors d'oeuvres in a long time. I felt very welcome.
Sunday, July 7
Sanford and company left this afternoon. I spent the day with them and then went back to the boat to clean up. Our time was divided between the estate and a beach party with the locals described above. One of the dive instructors invited me up to her house for "dinner" but I decided that I would rather be alone for a bit.
It is interesting that the name of the estate is the Fisher House. The fish is an ancient religious symbol. I have now met a man with my birthday (year reversed) and been accepted into the Fisher house. Perhaps these are signs and portents as my birthday approaches? Probably I'm just reaching.
Young Island, St. Vincent, Monday, July 8
What a great sail over. I woke up; did my exercises; cleared my tab at Basil's (only $29 US for four days - I know I bought more rounds than that); raised the sails and left. Simple and clean. I didn't even bother to turn the engine on. It was great fun to sail through all the moored boats. (I later ran into some folks who had watched me leave - they were impressed).
Once I got off the island and into fair breezes, Ubi blasted off. 7.5 to better than 9 knots the whole way to St. Vincent. The chop was coming from two directions but it was just large enough to make things exciting (I got some spray and a couple of waves over the side). I could not have been happier.
I liked the way keeping a tab at Basil's bar worked out so well that I immediately started one in St. Vincent. I'm now able to charge my drinks at the Lime-n-Pub. It's somewhat of a local spot and I have been invited on a boat to see the falls tomorrow. I was torn between them and the volcano so I guess I see the falls.
I stopped by Young Island on my way home and ran into a an acquaintance from Bequia. It turns out that he runs the place and was good for a free meal. For dessert we had lots of great conversation (political flavor). My head was buzzing with the joy of it all as I went back to sleep on Ubi.
Life is very good.
Tuesday, July 9
My new found buddy ended up having to host a dive trip and could not take me to the falls. We have tentatively rescheduled for Thursday. By the time this was worked out, it was to late to go to the volcano so I went into town to do some shopping. I still like to ride busses.
Small world. While in town, I met Bo and Teresa Miller on the street. They were supposed to catch up with me but we had not communicated and I had given up on seeing them. They did not know that I was on island either. We went back to the boat.
While we were sitting on the boat, a local named Leo stopped by. He is an elderly man who makes his living rowing people to various snorkeling sites. Leo has the look of a man who has spent to much time in rum shops. He joined us for a cocktail and we made plans to have dinner together. (Another sign? - Leo is one of my birthsigns).
After Leo left, T&B elected to eat dinner at the Lime instead of chancing the local experience. I sat with them for a while and had a bit of the pizza (just in case Leo's place was not palatable). It was the first "normal" food that I've had in months. Not completely normal as it had fish on it. Fish pizza is good. I went on to find Leo and my dinner.
Leo lead me down the street through a poorer section of town. After a couple of turns I saw a house with a couple of red lights outside and smiled. (It reminded me of the whore houses that are all over the Virgins - I always have a chuckle as I drive past them). I wasn't sure that I wanted to keep smiling when it turned out that this was our destination. I have had drinks in a whore house but I wasn't sure that it was the kind of place I wanted to eat in. It turns out that the red lights were to indicate that this house was different from other houses on the street. We walked into a half finished and empty house. The upper floor had no roof and was obviously under construction. On the lower floor there was a rough bar and some tables for eating. The place was empty. We had to yell a bit to get someone to serve us. Teclar came in from somewhere out back. She served us a great meal of chicken and rice. It ended up being 20 EC for the both of us (including a very generous tip). Actually I left a good tip because I did not want to have change on my 20. I was ready to go back to the ship. I did stop by the Lime-n where T&B were just finishing up. They payed three times what I did. Both of us had meals for two. Eating local is the way.
Wallilabou, St. Vincent, Wednesday, July 10
I cleared my various bills on Young Island and waited at Basil's Too for T&B to show up. They showed up during my first cup of tea. We left about eleven. Along the way, we made a brief detour at the local charter boat company to pick up fuel and water. We had to pull up stern to. With great pride, I can say that we did the operation perfectly. I hopped on to the dock, got the prices and hopped off. Too expensive. Thanks anyway. We cast off our lines and left. I feel a great sense of pride in my abilities and freedom that I can perform a tricky docking manoeuvre and then leave casually.
It was a great sail down to Wallilabou. On the way we ran into a large pod of porpoise. It may have been the largest pod that I have run into yet. There were at least a thousand. Unfortunately they were very skittish. And with very good reason. As we watched, a native boat equipped with a harpoon gun, made a power run on them. As we watched in horror (you can't even eat porpoise), they zoomed into the midst of the pod. Boom the harpoon gun went off. A miss thank god. I'm not sure what I would have done if they had killed one. Rammed them like the good folks on the Rainbow Warrior do?
Wallilabou was my first experience with boat boys. They were waiting far offshore for us to come in. Thanks to Ubi's overly large engine, I managed to dodge them. Many a boat boy came up later and said "Man you boat be fast!" We grabbed one of the free Wallilabou Anchorage moorings and rowed the line into shore where I attached it to a tree. My first official line to shore. (I did one in Trinidad but that was temporary. I plan to be here for days. For historical purposes, my first tree was a Tamarind. Tamarind is a very sour fruit with beautiful seeds. It is used to make worschechire (sp?) sauce. I'm not sure if there is a deeper significance. Probably not.
The boat boys were not nearly so bad as I thought they would be. I had heard a number of horror stories. Perhaps they recognized that Ubi is a different boat and subject to different rules. We quickly established a rapport. I bought a bunch of avocado at a very good rate. We were scarcely bothered otherwise. Occasionally they came by to offer another "great deal." All was very friendly...
In the evening, we went ashore for food and grog. We had a few drinks at the Anchorage Bar then headed over to the other bar, Ashton's. At Ashton's, we all had chicken dinner for a grand total of 30 EC. During dinner, Ashton, the owner, offered us a ride to Soufrie, the local volcano. The catch was that we had to be ready at five in the morning.
Ashton is a larger than life kind of person. I think that he could out wrestle a gorilla. At the same time, I'm not sure that he would hurt a fly. I have met few people as happy. He glows with vitality. Apparently he has done a bit of everything and still does much of it. He has been a local senator, runs a major construction company, has sailed around a bit, is building guest cottages and runs his restaurant (including cooking). Just to make sure that there was something that he had not done, I asked him if he had ever been a jet fighter pilot (no).
Thursday, July 11
We made role call by getting up at four. The sun still had hours before it rose. A few cups of tea put us right and we met our ride about ten before five.
What a ride. It took over an hour (we had no idea that we were putting Ashton out so much). We were traveling through mountainous rain forest for most of the way. Bo and I were in the back of the truck and got a great view of the unveiling of the St. Vincent country side as the sun rose and the mists cleared. We also caught occasional glimpses of the sea crashing against the cliffs and boats in perfectly calm bays. The roads were rough, the jungle wild, and we felt that we were really on the start of an adventure. Once there was enough light for people to be seen, passersby would wave and say hello. We finally went as far as a truck could go. People showed a friendly curiosity as to our mission. I felt that we (white folks) were a rare sight. It somehow reminded me of the experience that a friend of mine had in Africa. As a member of the Peace Corps he was sent to a country whose name I can't remember. Once there he had been amazed out how friendly the people were. It seems that the only white people they ever saw were ones that had come to help them. They had high expectations. People here weren't expecting us to feed the masses (but then again the masses didn't look very hungry) but they had obviously had few, if any, bad experiences.
We had about 12 miles and 4,000 feet to climb before we got to the volcano. Along the way we were joined for short periods of time by a variety of persons who happened to be going the same way. First a fisherman walked with us to the beach, then a farmer walked with us a bit until we got on the slopes of the volcano. Each person showed us a bit of the trail. (Still looking for signs & portents, I noticed that a carpenter, a fisherman and a farmer showed us the way - very biblical).
The walk up the volcano was tough but we all managed. The volcano itself was incredible. It is hard to imagine the scale from the rim. We sat on the rim trying to catch our breath as the 60 mile an hour winds funnelled by the volcano threatened to lift and throw us off the very thin edge.
I walked a bit around the rim and found a rope down to the crater. Having found the rope, there was but one thing to do. It ended up being a much deeper decent than I thought it would be. In the crater there were sulfurous steam vents. I found a large patch of them and sat in the middle. It was about as warm as a sauna. Maybe a bit warmer. But this was outside with a brisk wind going. As virgins were in short supply, I left a perfect mango that I had found on the way up as an offering to the volcano gods. A steam jet caught me and I got a hot foot for my efforts.
I meditated three times in the crater. It was on the third try that I managed to contact the volcano spirit. "He" was very different from other spirits (including mountains) that I have talked to. Its essence is a powerful balance. A literal mountain was raised by the pressure of the forces below. These forces are contained by a relatively thin cap. When that cap breaks through, it does so with incredible force. However, all this did not seem real important to the volcano spirit. Actually he was sort of a dull spirit and not concerned with much more than being. (I almost went back to get my Mango). Perhaps volcano spirits are short lived and "he" just had not had time to develop. I'd like to visit again after an eruption and see if I meet the same entity.
About a half hour before I left the crater began to fill with clouds until there was almost no visibility. I was glad to have this perspective. It exciting to be inside a volcano with clouds for company. I later learned that nine out of ten people who make the hike never get to see anything because of the clouds. Perhaps our early start was a good idea. I met Bo and Teresa and the edge.
It was a tough trip up the rope then a very long walk down the mountain. We stopped as soon as we were in the forest (and blocked from the wind) to lighten our pack of a bottle of champagne. Champagne offerings were made to the spirits of the volcano, wind, forest, sun and moon. (Moon got included because we thought there was going to be a solar eclipse. Apparently the eclipse did not happen in this part of the world.) It was a long trip back down the volcano (12 miles each way 4,000 foot elevation). By the time we got "back to the ship," we were tired puppies. Fortunately we had planned ahead by making reservations. Ashton was ready with a great meal of barbecued fish. (Considering that we had been to a volcano, it had to be barbecue.)
I had to show him a bit of sulfur that I had picked to prove to him that I had climbed down into the crater.
I slept very well...
Friday, July 12
Today was a day to lime on the boat. Since liming made us easy targets, we got a lot of local produce. We now have avocados, mangos (that we picked on the volcano), guavas, passion fruit and bananas. We got lots of offers but I held out for a good price. One of the local boat boys wanted to make a few extra dollars. He kept bringing stuff to the boat and saying "Don't worry about the price." We got enough veggies to fill a bushel basket for 20 EC.
I checked us out of customs. St. Lucia tomorrow.
Our last night in Wallilabou was highlighted by yet another great meal at Ashton's. I presented him with a St. Croix Yacht Club burgee. I brought three of them on this trip and this is the first time that I have felt inclined to offer one. Ashton appreciated that this was a special thing I was giving him. It was the first burgee that Ashton had received. In many bars throughout the islands, there are literally hundreds of burgees that have been left by visiting yachtsmen. I told Ashton about this and said that I was proud to be his first.
Soufriere, St. Lucia, Saturday, July 13
We sailed to St. Lucia today. I had intended to go to Vieux Fort but the wind, current and waves convinced me that Soufriere bay would be a better idea. Soufriere Bay was going to be my second stop on the island anyway. I told Dave that we would be in Vieux Fort; I hope that the change in plans is not going to mess him up to much. (Dave Yocum is supposed to visit soon).
It was a tough sail. I've been in worse but it's not the sort of thing that I want to do to much of. The wind was howling and I reefed the sails. Even so, or perhaps because of reefing, I blew a few seams. It's the sort of problem that tells you that you were not handling the boat correctly. As boat handling reminders go, it was pretty gentle. I could restitch the sails myself but there is a sail loft in Rodney Bay that will have the proper equipment and expertise.
Anchoring was a bit of a problem. I'm beginning to see why people dislike the boat boys so much. They get in the way then expect to be paid for it. We anchored where we were directed to (always listen to local knowledge) and were told that the anchor was holding "very good man (can I have my ten EC)." Like Wallilabou, you put a bow anchor out, then tie the stern to a tree. Except in Wallilabou they provide moorings. It's kind of scenic the way all the boats get lined up perpendicular to the beach with about thirty feet of space between them. Unfortunately the routine requires that you get a bit closer to the beach and other boats than I would like. Our neighbors told a tale of a boat that had almost ended up on the beach the night before. Their anchor had dragged. It only takes a little slack before you have room to brush against the other boats.
After anchoring, I waited about a hour and, as things still looked good, went in to town to clear customs and have dinner. Bo and Teresa came with me. They do not have a customs office in this harbor so we got a temporary permit from the police station. The permit is only good for 24 hours. The two police officers were also named Charles (portent?). We got along very well. After some negotiation it was agreed that, although it was against the rules, I could stay until Monday. I will have to produce a broken engine part if another official gives me problems. This is no problem. I have kept a couple of broken parts on hand since Los Testigos for situations such as these...
We went on to have an incredible meal. Dolphin Alexander. All very fresh. The meal was served in courses. It was all very elegant and comfortable. It was also a bit more than Ashton's but not much. The meal for three, including tip, was 112 EC ($42).
I got back to the boat to discover that we had dragged a bit. (How come I wasn't terribly surprised). One of our neighbors had come aboard and tightened up our anchor line to keep us from running up on the beach or bumping. I rearranged our lines and put out a second anchor. I'm not looking forward to bringing up those anchors. In the midst of all this a local showed up and wanted to "help." He got in the way more than he helped. I wanted to take my anchor out but could not as he was where I needed to be. I ended up letting him take the anchor out. Later, he expected to be paid. In addition, it turns out that he borrowed the dingy and outboard from one of the boats next to us. The second anchor did the trick and we had no further problems.
Monday, July 14
We were not the only ones to have problems during the night. I noticed that one of the other boats was on to the town dock in the morning. I'm pretty sure that means they had problems. It did not look like a comfortable place to spend the night. I felt for them. Moving a boat in the middle of the night is no fun.
Our other "neighbor" was finishing their charter and offered their remaining provisions. They were gratefully accepted. What a mother load! There remaining provisions filled five large canvas bags. (Were they planning on crossing the pond?). I'm not sure whether the charter company over provisioned in hopes of getting lots of goodies when they returned or they did their own shopping. They gave me a month's worth of food. Lots of expensive goodies too. I'm going to talk to charter boats more often. We gave them some of the incredible amounts of fresh fruits that we had accumulated. (I'll bet that, if the charter company over provisioned on purpose, they will not be happy with the trade).
I called the yacht club and it turns out that Dave could not make it because of some function at the yacht club. He says that he'll come up after my birthday.
I spent a quiet midday on the boat as Teresa and Bo went exploring. A bit later in the day I hiked up to the "Volcano." I can't remember the actual word that the guide used to describe it but the technical term is something like "Caldron." The smell was a lot like the Soufrie Volcano steam vents Soufriere but the resemblance ended there. The St. Lucia Soufriere advertises itself as the world's only drive up volcano. Lot's of school kids and such were running about. There was no crater. Instead I got to look at bubbling volcanic springs. There was a history of people falling through the ground close to the springs (not everyone fell the Carib Indians used to use these springs to cook their brother Arawaks - took about 10 minutes to get well done) so I took the better part of valor and looked on from a distance of about 40 feet.
As a result of minerals to boring to mention, the water in the springs is black. A couple of hundred yards from the springs the run off is barely cool enough to get in. While it was reputed to have medicinal qualities, I declined a chance at a cure for gout. Perhaps, if I had gout, it would have been another story.
I walked on to the hot waterfall. I took a "short cut" that my volcano guide had told me about. It involved walking through a lot of forest and backyards of people who live in the forest. I saw my first out house on this trip. Just a one holer. There was a pile of leaves for wiping. I also narrowly missed getting beaned by a bread fruit that chose my passing as a good moment to fall. Eventually I got off the forest path and on to the road up to the falls. A small sign directed me on to another path. I made a slight error in following this path and ended up in the stream much to early. The two foot drop that I first saw did not fit the description of the fall "high enough to give you a massage" that my volcano guide had told me about. Having seen the end of the creek, I figured that the "real" fall must be above me. So I started up the creek bed. I quickly figured out that the creek bed was not the right path. I think it was the number of spider webs that I ran into that gave it away. Instead of trying to find the right path I elected to follow the stream up.
"Follow the creak" was a game I used to play back in Mississippi. Following this creek, I experienced the same sense of adventure that I used to enjoy as a kid, except in Mississippi the streams are flat. Here I was climbing up the creak (yes a warm creak). It got a little tricky going up the algae covered rocks while trying not to run into spider webs. I got messy the way my mother used to hate.
I saw another thing that I had never seen before (the first was a warm creak). The second was a weeping coconut tree. Water was streaming from the top. The roots of the tree were in the creak. Having recently seen the sulfur springs bubbling up, I could not help but wonder if the tree had somehow stuck a root into a high pressure spring. I'm not sure why the tree was weeping but it was something interesting to think about and the tree seemed healthy.
The falls were worth the journey (actually the journey was worthwhile on it's own). It was my first warm shower in about four months. The water was clear, clean and tasted good. The falls were not grandiose but I really enjoyed them.
I got back in time to watch the evening's anchoring antics. As a "seasoned professional," I could sit back with my drink, enjoy the sunset and not worry. This evenings antics were particularly worth watching. Four boats filled with women did a raft up. It was a great view. As I was unable to come up with any sort of excuse to visit, I just enjoyed the view. They were also flying a French flag. I figured that I couldn't talk to them anyway.
Teresa, Bo and I ended the day with a good local meal at another local spot.
Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, Wednesday, July 15
I started my day with a visit to the King Louie the 16th mineral baths. There is a certificate from a French physician dated 18 something or other saying that the water is medicinal. Thinking back, I think that it was my first bath in about 10 years. Hot showers and baths in the same day, what is becoming of me? I checked in at the gate and was told that someone would show me around once I got to the bath area. There was no one in the bath area so I had the run of the botanical gardens and the bath house for about an hour.
Kings live pretty good. After enjoying the gardens, I looked over all the baths and selected the best. It was in an old stone building covered with moss. A great spot. I soaked in the waters until I achieved prune hood. I know that your not supposed to take medicine unless you need it but I think that this was an exception. Way to go Louie!
We popped over from Soufrie bay to Rodney Bay. There was not enough wind to bother with sails but the sea was perfectly calm. I took advantage of the sea conditions to hug the coast. The view was great but the fishing was not. I haven't caught a fish in weeks.
My first stop was in the Rodney Bay Marina. It's a nice enough place but feels a bit "resorty." I guess I shouldn't complain, I chose this spot because I was ready to be around some crowds for a bit. In fact, as we were coming in I asked to be assigned a slip in the "Party Section." I was informed that no such thing existed. However, for some reason, we were given a slip far away from the rest of the boats.
As I write, I'm listening to Linda Rondstat's Latest CD (Cry like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind), enjoying the sunset and cocktail. Teresa and Bo are off on some adventure. I love my life.
After Teresa and Bo got back, we went off to try some of the restaurants mentioned in our guides. We went to a variety of them but none of the menus looked very exciting. Finally, nestled amongst the formica and facades, we found a little hut that served up some great rotis. So much for guides.
Thursday, July 16
I went to the capital of St. Lucia, Castries, to collect information on the island and have a look around. The people were nice enough but I was not very impressed. The place literally smelled.
No sooner had I gotten back to the boat and settled in than two of those four boats I'd seen in Soufrie showed up. They were assigned the two berths next to me. After three months "on the road," I thought that I'd died and gone to heaven. It turns out that they were on some dive, sail, learn French adventure/school. They were all American. I could talk to them. Unfortunately they ranged in age from 14 to 17. Still they improved the view.
They were all very excited about hearing some music after the couple of weeks that they had been out and we had an impromptu party. At one point, there were 12 girls and myself on the boat. "Water. Water everywhere. And nary a drop to drink." The ratio slowly changed as their curfew (yes curfew) approached. I ended up with three aboard plus a couple of guys from another. The boys were both about 20, drinking to much, and trying too hard to make points. The girls were not impressed. Once they were officially in trouble anyway a couple of the girls had a drink (even though I was drinking and the bottles were out, they had not touched alcohol). Every once in a while on of the chaperones would stick his head out of the hatch of the boat next to us and tell the girls that they had to go back on their boat right now. He was ignored. We continued to party till about two in the morning.
One of those strange situations where I'm not quite sure how to act occurred shortly after I had gone to bed. About two in the morning, one of the girls crawled in to join me. What does one do when a cute 17 year old crawls in to bed with you and wants to snuggle? 17 is plenty legal in the these parts but I still thought it best to send her back.
Anse Martin, Martinique, Friday, July 17
I had planned to go to Martinique on this day anyway but I must admit that I changed my first port of call to coincide with the bevy of Jailbait that I had met the day before. Teresa and Bo parted ways with me. They are flying off to see the Grenadines. While they were very good company, I'm looking forward to having some time to myself. I'll probably be alone until my birthday.
It was a great sail to Martinique. A broad reach in calm seas with medium winds. Ubi did about eight knots the whole way. Even though I had no sleep the night before, I really enjoyed myself.
I like Martinique. It's great to sit in a cafe and read. Much of my remaining trip is going to be in French islands known for their cafe sitting. Good ting. I must have looked like a local or something because women kept on asking me questions. I wish I spoke French. I've got no idea what they were asking. Perhaps they were just trying to tell me that I was sitting next to poison ivy or something equally stupid.
The antics of the previous evening had not become public and the girls joined me for a couple glasses of Kir. We had a good talk (the bedroom antics were not discussed) and I walked them back to their rooms for curfew. My visitor of the night before wanted to join me again. We made arrangements that she was to evade her chaperones and meet me by a certain time. She never made it. I was relieved, amused and disappointed. She leaves tomorrow morning for home so that chapter of the trip is closed.
Saturday, July 18
I took the ferry over to Fort de France and cleared in and out of customs then walked around the town a bit. It's a good town. Even the markets were clean. The people were all smiling. All I could do was share smiles; I still wish that I spoke French (and Spanish).
Sitting here now, I think that I prefer the small and uncluttered anchorages. I'm in a crowd of several hundred boats. I meet more people when there is five to ten boats. These large numbers tend to make everything less personal. An occasional bit of solitude is also desirable.
Looking back on Martinique, I sat about in cafes, read and felt good about life. Actually a very good time. Cafes remind me of coffee houses. If I had to pick one place to spend the rest of my life it would be a shady table at a coffee house. (I'd expect lots of good books and interesting people to wander by).
Roseau, Dominica, Friday, July 19
What a day! Both Ubi and I deserve pats on the back. I started the day by finally meeting my exercise goals. I started a set of exercises that I plan to continue for some time about a month ago. I had hoped to reach my goals before my birthday. I made it with just a few days to spare. For historical purposes I do a 100 sit ups, stretch out, do a 100 push ups then go for a short swim to get the sweat off. It takes less than 20 minutes and leaves me feeling great.
My next accomplishment was to do a solo "stern to" for the first time in my life. When I first got Ubi just coming along side a dock was a major problem. Now that is an easy routine. Today I had to drop my forward anchor (with the proper length of line) then back up between two other boats, then tie a stern line to the dock. Too little line and I wouldn't reach the dock. Too much and I would plow into it. It was all very smooth. Thanks Ubi. Acting on an earlier tip, I had registered the boat as a charter boat. There was no extra charge and charter status qualified me for a substantial discount (30%) at the fuel dock.
Even with so much going right before I left, the best part of the day was the sail to Dominica. I was surfing down the waves. I probably averaged 10 knots but I did clock a speed of better than 12 knots. Cowabunga!
I ended my day at dusk by grabbing one of the Anchorage Hotels moorings. The Anchorage hotel is about as far as you can get from Roseau proper and still be in Roseau. It is a lone hotel that sits among some of greenest and steepest hills I have seen on this trip. Its about four miles from the town proper. The bartender said that it would be OK for the evening but that I would probably have to move in the morning. Good enough. I had dinner at the hotel. Watched the stars for a bit then went to sleep after my second shooting star (I had no need for more wishes).
Saturday, July 20
Ubi and I went over to the customs end of the bay and cleared in. There was a 15 EC overtime charge because it was Saturday but the lady was nice. While on the civilized end of town, I went on to the market. Things are a bit spread out in Roseau; the market was still a short bus ride away. I got bread, guavas, carrots, limes and bananas. My mornings will be accompanied with tropical breakfasts. Fresh fruit for breakfast is a treat that I seldom indulge in the Virgins. It's amazing what is cheap and what is not. I'm spoiling myself.
Back to the Anchorage, I laid two anchors out and did the proper palm tree tie up. Except the "palm tree" was a bit of pipe provided by the hotel. I got close enough to the hotel to carry on a conversation in a normal tone of voice with people in the bar. I managed to do it all myself without bothering to many boat boys. A great afternoon was spent traveling between the hotel and boat.
Once I was settled, I watched the anchoring antics of late comers. I am in the perfect and most coveted spot. The hotel pier protects my port side from late comers who anchor awkwardly. Fortunately the person who took the starboard slot showed a very conservative bent. Perhaps he was too conservative. If you were a bit crazy you might try to get between us. There are lots of crazies out in this part of the world. Many of them have boats. My starboard neighbor is certainly improving the view. As best I cen tell from a distance it is a family of four. Half the family is daughters.
I have developed a method of keeping people from anchoring to close. I blast the stereo. People who would think nothing of squeezing in between two boats that they are sure to bump into will swerve to avoid my noise. I guess those years of training in psychology weren't wasted. Nena Cheri has also finally found a use. Nena was sent to me by accident and it was easier to keep her than to send her back - I suppose that someday I will find someone who is fond of her music.
Still later I was "interupted" with a visit from a young lady. She actually swam out to me! I must be broadcasting something. (I wish I knew what). Louise was cute, blond, about my age, and staying by herself on the island. Unfortunately something seemed a bit off. I felt like I was talking to shadow of a person. Worse than drugs, I think she's on one of those false paths. (The seductive kind that seems to offer all sorts of benefits that end up being illusion). We talked about TM. She was impressed by it. I consider it kindergarten. Dangerous kindergarten. Beware the man who tells you how to live. Particularly if he's asking for money. I do admit that TM is marginally useful, but so is everything else.
I spent happy hour on Neeleen, the neighboring boat. It was a family of four. Mom (Karen) is confined to a wheel chair but she and dad have been cruising for the last seven years or so. Way to go mom! The daughters (Karen and RoseAnn) appear to be about my age. They have just a couple more days left on their two week visit before they fly back to California.
I do appear to have an embarrassment of riches (not that I think that I'll get "anywhere"). I've been thinking a lot about women lately and here they are. On of the things that I have come to realize is that I need a bit of romance before I get interested in sex. Since it is unlikely that I will get a chance to experience romance, I can "relax" with the understanding that I am not going to get laid by a stranger. The thought is comforting in an odd way.
I had dinner at the Anchorage again. A table of three invited me over to join them for a drink. As you might expect by now, the third person at their table was the daughter of the other two. I wish I knew what I did. I'd do it some more... Pappa and Momma were very German. The big friendly kind. The young fraulein was also of grand bovine dimensions. The kind that lives with her parents forever.
Sunday, July 21
I spent the first half of the day doing boat projects. I finished up on some varnishing that I had been intending to do since I left Trinidad. I also stitched a small section of the sail that had blown on the way down from Martinique.
The Anchorage turned out to be a great spot to sit and write while I was waiting for the varnish to dry. The day was spent between boat drinks, writing and reading.
Sometime during the afternoon another boat pulled between me and my starboard neighbor. They claimed to be locals and to know what they were doing. But for the next few days Neeleen and I had to worry or adjust our own boats while they swung towards us.
Neeleen has a companion boat that has been with them since St. Martin. Terri and Ursala are that happy couple that are doing a good job of learning to sail. They joined me on Neeleen for happy hour. I brought along a bottle of wine that I'd picked up in Martinique because it had a provocative label. The bottle had been the topic of conversation the evening before. I also brought a big bowl of Guacamole with crackers. The avocados were left from St. Vincent.
Neeleen always hosts the evening cocktails because of Mom. While we had barely talked the night before, RoseAnn and I got along very well. So well that she came back to my boat for an extended happy hour. We talked till close till midnight. A foot massage lead to an incredible romp in bed. It had been three months for me and I did not let her sleep till it was about five and she had to sneak back on her boat. It was all rather frantic. She lost a bikini top and a diamond ear ring in the process. (I later found them). God she's sweet. I think that our conversation met my romantic requirements of yesterday. Who cares? Some moments are just to perfect to let thinking get in the way (although we did cover the disease/birth control questions). I'm in lust.
Monday July 22
I'd planned big adventures but hung around in case RoseAnn could get back from her morning tour in time for us to see a secluded waterfall together. That fell through. I did go to town and look things over. Terri hurt his head yesterday while exploring Trafagalar falls. I found a T-shirt that read "I survived Trafagalar Falls" and bought it for him. I also visited that Chamber of Commerce and the government office of statistics. I'm collecting some good info. It was hard to keep thought of RoseAnn at bay.
RoseAnn's mom was feeling ill so cocktails were on Terri and Ursala's boat. The shirt was a big hit. RoseAnn had dinner on her boat then joined me. We had very good conversation and even better sex. RoseAnn likes to carry on a conversation in bed. It took me a little getting used to but I like it. I'm not going to record the details but we talked about all sorts of interesting and important things. The sorts of things that you share with a lover. Things that made me feel like I knew her.
Among the things that we talked about were kids. Not our kids, it wasn't one of those "meet someone and get married the next day" sorts of conversations. At one point, after we had discussed how professional ethics kept me from going to bed with my students, RoseAnn said that she felt bad for my students. I didn't pursue her reasons for saying it. (We were having a lot of fun at the time and conversation was soon far from both of our minds). It was very magic to meet someone who loves/lusts as hard as I do and who does it with eyes not only open but looking. It was the best of all possible birthday presents. I strongly hope (and plan) that our paths will cross again.
I took RoseAnn back to her boat about two.
Tuesday, July 23
Happy Birthday to me!
I'd meant to wake up and say good-by to RoseAnn but was just to tired. I think that I'll have to write.
I went to see Trafagalar Falls, I had been a bit worried in that they are on every tourist's lists of places to see. I got to within a mile of the falls by bus. (Taxis get you to within a half mile). Fortunately few people come equipped with a bathing suit and a desire to climb a bunch of slippery rocks. I had trouble believing it but everyone stopped at a platform that was some distance from the falls. I had the upper and lower pool to myself. Between the upper and lower pool hot springs join the fun. Thus the lower pool is heated on one side and cool on the other. I had great fun sitting under the hot water as it cascaded off the rocks. My birthday massage. The upper pool was secluded enough for me to take off my suit. It was great fun to swim in this pool as water was dropping hundreds of feet into it. There were so many bubbles that it was like swimming in champagne.
I walked the five miles back to town. A few people stopped and asked if I'd like a ride but I was feeling to good about my situation to accept. It was a great hike through rain forests. There was almost a constant sprinkle. The perfect environment for walking. I really am blessed.
Back at the Anchorage I had two faxes. Karen and Dave. Both talked about visiting on the upcoming weekend. Karen's fax was a bit racy. Dave already had reservations. When last I talked to Karen, she had been talking about coming for the month of August. I wrote a fax back saying that, if she still was planning on a month, that she might as well come down but that, if (as I was reading between the lines) she was just planning on the weekend, she should hold off till Dave was gone. I got a less racy fax back saying that would be the plan. I think that neither of us know what we want from our relationship. I hope that there will always be some love there.
I opened my other birthday present at sunset (meeting RoseAnn was the first - thank you universe). Mom had sent me a portable watercoloring set. It was the perfect gift. Mom knows that I love complicated toys (half the fun is taking them apart - which probably says something about the way that I live my life). I also have decided not to take pictures on this trip. My memory usually is better. Since I can't paint anyway, watercolors are an acceptable memory device.
It was a good birthday. Nothing profound, but I've decided that the truly profound things are the everyday things. I celebrate life.
Wednesday July 24
Today was another big adventure. All the guides and numerous locals told me that, if I was going to see the Carib Village, I had to take a cab. So of course I decided that I could do it on my own.
It was a long haul. But I think that I would not trade my adventures for cab ride. I really got a feel for the place. I also met some interesting people.
Normally I would not have gone to the village because I figure that people have better things to do than be a tourist attraction. Or, if they don't, I'd rather not see them anyway. A friend of mine in St. Croix is married to the chief's daughter and asked that I visit his brother-in-law and pick up some tobacco for his wife. With a good reason at hand I was more than willing to go for a visit.
Except that the people looked a bit Mayan, the village looked like any other group of houses that I've seen along the road. A bit remote and a bit more focus on agriculture but these are both things that you would expect in Dominica.
Terre D'en Haut, The Saints, Thursday, July 25
I had great fun sailing off my anchorage, and did not even turn the engine on. My trip to the Saints was a close reach the whole way. I made reasonable time but I wished that the autopilot was working so that I could relax for a bit.
Terre D'en Haut seems more like a postcard than a city. 90% of the buildings are intriguing restaurants or cafes. Perhaps as a result of the competition, the prices were very reasonable. The town is immaculately clean and the buildings all have interesting (quaint) architecture. There are two town squares, not bad for a place that you walk across in 20 minutes. There were couples and kids everywhere. The animals were all healthy and obviously loved. It's hard to believe this place is real.
I had dinner a pizzeria that was literally on the waters edge. You could reach out your hand and drop crumbs for the fish. I had a smoked fish and cream pizza. It was a house specialty and very good. I can tell that I am on a French island.
This is the sort of place that would really like to share with someone.
Bas Du Fort, Guadeloupe, Friday, July 26
Whew. I just motored to Bas Du Fort. The wind and waves were against me the whole way. Not fun but it was only a few hours.
I got to the Marina that I told Dave to expect me in around one. I was very proud of my docking. I single handily backed her into her slip. It was a tight squeeze.
I spent the remainder of the day checking out shops and writing.
Dave showed up around 11 PM and had no problem finding the boat. We stayed up till one talking. He also brought me a stack of mail about two feet high. I can't wait to dig into it.
Saturday, July 27
Dave and I walked into the nearby town and did some exploring. As you might expect, there were some great cafes.
Dave and I had a bit of trouble getting ice today. We couldn't figure out how to ask for it. Later when we thought that we had learned the name for it we learned that we were wrong. It became a running gag.
In the afternoon, we moved the boat in front of a bridge that is supposed to open early in the morning (5:30). We spent the evening watching the full moon rise over the city and drinking rum. I've never really had a chance to talk to Dave. He really knows himself and I learned a lot.
Terre D'en Haut, The Saints, Sunday, July 28
I got up and five and by 5:20 we were doing lazy circles waiting for the bridge to open. By 6:30 we decided that it was not going to open. We both decided that waiting another day was not a good idea and decided to go to Antigua the long way. The sail was great but a couple hours into it we the Saints looked like a good intermediate stop. Dave and I walked the town, did cafes and in general had a good time.
English Harbor, Antigua, Monday, July 29
What a great a sail! Dave and I had the wind behind our backs the whole way. We were going fast and smooth. Unfortunately we arrived after dark. I'm getting relatively good at this but was a bit worried since Antigua is famous for it's reefs. We tried to get some one on the radio but there was no answer. Eventually, despite having no navigational lights on shore (the chart had shown three) I felt my way (with the depth sounder, not by touch!) into a small bay.
Tuesday, July 30
"Our" bay turns out to be a wonderful spot. Big sandy beaches and palm trees. We had missed English harbor by only a few miles and were there before 10. English harbor looks great. Dave and I went into town to check things out. Carnival was in progress but it and town looked a bit seedy and I was not very impressed. I sent some flowers to RoseAnn. Dave and I spent most of the day trying to decide who had the coldest beer in English Harbor.
For evening fun, we seriously considered steeling the local yacht club's burgee but went out to a local bar called Dougie's instead. I got Doug Allen a T-shirt.
Wednesday, July 31
Said good-bye to Dave today. I had planned to leave as well but have been persuaded by some of the folks I've met to stay one more day to check out the local yacht club's Thursday afternoon race.
Thursday, August 1
The race was a bit of fun. I had met a couple of girls in the bar the day before (the major consideration in my decision to stay for another day) and was additionally joined by a local couple from a neighboring boat. They have a great penalty system for racing here. You get penalized five minutes for every breast left exposed on the boat. (I suffered through with out penalty). We lost the race and missed the party afterwards because we were having so much fun. A great day.
The two girls are on vacation and want to go sailing with me for a week. I explained that they would have to get off the boat in a week because Karen is coming to see me. Not the sort of thing you say when your trying to pick up some one but that is not my plan. I'm beginning to want company again.
Some City, Montserrat, Friday, August 2
Island of the "Black Irish." Apparently the "real" Irish left about a century ago but left a bit of culture. Everything was called Irish this and Emerald that. The local tailor makes kilts - I almost hung around to have one made. I've always wanted a kilt.
The local yacht club invited us in for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres but overall I was not impressed. The French do a better island (and much better table). The anchorage was very rolly.
Another City, Nevis, Saturday, August 3
This was a much better spot. The anchorage was perfect and they were in the middle of carnival. We have agreed that the girls are my body guards (they both have martial arts training). My guards flanked me as we explored the island. I have been getting a bottle of rum from each island for a "rums of the Caribbean" party. Nevis does not make rum officially but I got some of the local shine. It smells like it would remove varnish.
Gustavia, St. Barts, Sunday, August 4
The "island a day" blitz is over. We sailed over fifty miles today and are now back in the French islands. The French know how to do an island. I elected to go stern to the wharf (Mediterranean style). I'm now good enough where this is the last time that I pat myself on the back for great boating skills. I made a tough job look easy. The girls looked confused when I asked them to hold a bumper between the boat and any vessel that I should get close to. Thank god they did not have to practice their dubious skills.
Several days later I got a great compliment from the boat I pulled up next to. They said that I looked like Tarzan and that it were "as if the boat and I were one." High praise.
Monday, August 5
I've been bad. Normally I keep up with the log on a daily basis but it's been a week since I've written in. (The previous few entries are very short because they are rushed and from memory). To much fun I guess. Also keeping up this log is getting old. When I started, it was all new and worth writing about. Dare I say it but it's really become "just another perfect day in paradise." It took a high point to get me writing again...
I'm writing tonight because I just saw a sunset so beautiful that it made me cry. Tears were flowing down my cheeks and my heart was full of love for this world. It was the first time that I'm sure that I've seen the green flash. (Seeing the green flash had become a major goal). The world conspired to make things perfect. I had a couple of hours to myself, the anchorage was perfect and life has been all that it should be. I can't begin to describe what made the heavens worth crying over but it is worthwhile to backtrack a bit and paint this image in a bit more detail.
I met a couple of girls in a bar in Antigua and they decided that a week's sail would be lots of fun. This is our third island. As I sailed in through the boats off St. Barts, with two beautiful naked women, I could not help but think of my grandfather. Two memories actually. The first was of myself when I was a kid. Long before I was sexually active "Big Charlie" used to love watching (with binoculars) me with young girls skinny dipping out in my canoe in front of his beach house. He would always kid me afterwards.
A few years ago, when he had grown old and unable to take his boat out, I showed him pictures of my boat. He cried. I then showed him pictures of Karen on the boat and he laughed. As the result of a stroke, he was unable to speak but he pointed to Karen's legs and laughed. Then he cried again. There are some experiences that define and complete a man's life. My grandfather confirmed that I was becoming complete. I cried too.
I'm sure he would appreciate the joy that I felt as I performed the difficult and impressive task of sailing through a fleet of anchored boats in an anchorage that I had never been to before in a boat that is everything that I have ever wanted. A joy that was increased by two lovely ladies who improved the view (and impressed the audience). Numerous people approached me later to say that it was what yachting is all about. Looking good and feeling proud in St. Barts.
Tuesday, August 6
I rented a skooter and looked over the island today. The French have some beautiful beaches but I like their cafes better. I'm glad that I did the tour. Next time I won't have to. There will be a next time, I still have one task left undone here. I want to eat a cheeseburger at La Select. It is the burger that is reputed to have inspired Buffet's Cheeseburger in Paradise song. I promised myself that the first burger I would eat on this trip would be at La Select. It's a promise that has led me to a number of great native dishes.
There are two parties arranged for tonight. One is with the boat next door. I ran into the guys off it last night and we agreed to have a cocktail hour(s). In his broken English, one of our neighbors explained that he was a musician and said that he would bring his guitar.
The girls went off on their own last night and have heard about a surprise party for SOMEBODY. The schedule works out that we can go to both parties. Life has been worse. I suspect that I'll enjoy the first party better than the first. I think that it will have a lot of soul. The girls have arranged for me to meet some of the beautiful people.
We never did get to the guitar but it was a pleasant sit-around-and-have-a-few-drinks kind of afternoon. One of the guys was very nervous because he was to see his girlfriend later that evening for the first time in six months. I learned later that she had gotten engaged to someone else. Tough luck.
The girl's party was even worse than I had imagined it would be. I left after about three minutes. It reminded me of the English student parties I used to go to when I was in college. They always consisted of a bunch of people dressed very weird trying to convince each other that they were artists. This was similar except that they were trying to convince each other that they were beautiful people.
Tricia has decided to take a room for a couple of days. I'm glad to have her off the boat. While the girls look good, they are some of the worst guests that I have ever had. They have not cleaned a dish or bought any supplies. I have not heard three words from them that I would consider intelligent. Tricia thinks that she is going to be the next great writer and walks around telling people how they are going to be in her book. Debbie is to confused to know what she is. They both smoke like chimneys and one of my firsts task of the day is to clean the ashes off the deck. Thankfully they have not smoked downstairs. Yet. There only redeeming graces are that conversations with them give me insight to a type of person I thought was a figment of Hollywood's imagination. They are also easy to look at and the Leo in me likes the image of sailing around with two good looking women who are quick to take their clothes off. I wouldn't sleep with either one if you payed me.
Marigot, St. Martin, Wednesday, August 7
It was a great sail over from St. Barts. A run the whole way. I passed "Wild Card," Fatty Goodlander's ship, on the way in. It was the first boat that I have known from the Virgins since I started this trip. Again it was great to come sailing in to harbor with a couple of naked babes on deck. We sailed through the fleet and dropped anchor right in front of customs. I know that it's showboating but I love it. It's amazing what I'll do for the sake of image.
Customs was no problem. Just to see if anybody really read those silly forms I described the girls as my bodyguards on the custom's form. Nobody noticed. After customs I brought the boat around into the lagoon. The bridge only opens twice a day but it is the calmest spot to anchor.
I faxed in to St. Thomas so as to get some idea when Karen was flying in. She says not till Friday evening so I have no excuse not to let the girls stay on till Friday morning. This had been fun but I am really ready to get them off my boat. They have to be off the boat when Karen arrives. In fact there had better be no sign of them. While there has been no physical interaction (if for no other reason than I will not kiss a girl who smokes) and Karen and I officially broke up months before I left on my trip (again), Karen is the kind of person who gets very jealous. And, while our relationship is not easily defined, it is very important to me. I did tell Karen about RoseAnn.
Thursday, August 8
I found a soda can full of ashes down below this morning. It was all I could do not to yell. I can't wait till these debs from hell get off the boat. I really wanted to do a major clean up today in anticipation of Karen's arrival but decided that it would be pointless while the "hamsters" are still aboard. I have taken to calling the girls hamsters in my mind. Hamsters are kind of cute but, like all rodents, they make little messes everywhere. In particular Tricia writes in spiral bound notebooks which Debbie then rewrites. This process creates numerous confetti sized pieces of paper as the sheets are torn out from the notebooks.
Friday, August 9
I was very happy to help the girls get off the boat this morning. I was amazed at how much stuff they carry. It was five large suitcases. What were they expecting? To move out here for the rest of their lives? They had been trying to find a boat to carry them back to Antigua for the last few days but could find no one. In a way, I am glad. If asked, I could not have given them a good referral. They had thought to stay a few more days in Marigot but made a last minute decision to go back to Antigua today. This decision was a great relief to me. The last thing I needed on seeing Karen for the first time in months is to have two cuties walk up and introduce themselves. I'm sure that they would have thought themselves capable of handling the situation. I'm sure that they would have been wrong.
I spent a couple of hours cleaning up the boat. I had thought that it would take much longer. Back in town there was a bit of confusion over a car that I had reserved. They had given it to some one else. No one had a car. I settled for a scooter. Actually skooters are my favorite way to travel in St. Martin but I had wanted everything to be perfect for Karen. Skooters are not a class act and Karen expects class.
I did a bit of shopping but had plenty of time to be nervous about the upcoming meeting. I have not seen Karen in four months. Our relationship defies definition but "two flames rubbing up against each other" is a good start. For a variety of reasons, we both know that we will never marry. In fact, an exclusive relationship is out of the question. For a long time we have seen each other for a weekend every month or so.
At first I was angry that Karen was only coming for the weekend then I was glad that it was for such a limited time. Our relationship has gone through so many gyrations and moods it is hard to tell what is going to happen. Or how things will be. There had been many lonely moments that I wished she was with me over the last months. On introspection, perhaps I just wanted someone (not necessarily Karen) to be with?
I need not have worried. That old magic clicked the moment I saw Karen at the airport. To add to the humor of the situation, it started to rain and I had to explain that we were on a skooter for the weekend. The rain problem was solved by going to the airport bar. Neither of us has ever minded a few cocktails.
Saturday, August 10
This is the first morning of the trip that I have woken with some one in my bed. It is a good feeling. We celebrated with one those fabulous breakfasts that I have come to enjoy so much. Paté, cheese, fresh fruit and champagne. For the afternoon we took the skooter to a favorite beach spot of mine. Karen agreed that it was among the most beautiful that she had seen. In the afternoon we went out to Grand Case to check things out. Karen decided that she likes traveling by skooter (or she was being polite).
We had dinner in my favorite cafe. Lafayette. The waiter/bartender/cook does not speak any English and my French is worse than my Spanish but he plays the most incredible English music. Karen and I were continually impressed by the selection. My ability to order was not so impressive. I thought that the special of the evening was paté. I ordered a plate for us to share. It turned out to be duck. We got a plate of cheese to go along with it and had a great meal. Karen was very amused when I took a nibble off one of the selections and told her to avoid eating my experiment straight. It was butter.
Sunday, August 11
Another fabulous breakfast then we went to see Phillipsburg on the Dutch side of the island. (St. Martin is divided into a Dutch and French side. There are no customs or check points, just some markers on the road to let you know which nationality your in.) It's a cute town but there's not a whole lot to see. We went into the local branch of the Green House which is much nicer than the "meat market," St. Thomas version. Dan, one of the owners and the general manager, was there. I had met him years before at a party but he did not remember me. No big loss.
Monday, August 12
Karen could not find one of her bags this morning. I had a lot of expensive stuff lying about and it was all still in plane sight. I can't imagine someone steeling a cloth bag when there are so many other goodies about. We gave the boat a good search but could not find it. I hope that it will show up when I get back to St. Croix and empty all the extra stuff that I have accumulated on this trip. It turned out that it was stolen. The only other thing that I discovered missing is a hip bag that had the water coloring set my mother had given me for my birthday. I've had things stolen when I'm around Karen a number of times now. I'm beginning to suspect a deeper meaning.
There was the usual confusion at the airport and I was glad that I had hung around to facilitate Karen's departure. She gets very frustrated by those things. I generally find bureaucracy amusing and never view them as worse than a challenge.
I spent the rest of the day relaxing.
Tuesday, August 13
Another day to relax and write.
Road Bay, Anguila, Wednesday, August 14
Doyle was wrong again. I've been cruising according to Doyle for most of this trip. I have the charts for all the islands but haven't bothered to bring them out for most of them. Doyle's guide is good. But one mistake was enough. He was wrong about what time the Marigot bridge opened in the evening but some locals corrected me and there was no problem. He was also wrong about what time the bridge opened in the morning. Same fix.
Anguila was so close that I decided that I would just power over. It took just a bit over two hours to get to Road bay and the batteries had just finished charging when I arrived. There was no wind. I'm glad I motored.
Customs was painless but boring. Actually that's a good description of the island. Next time I come this way I'm going to head for the outer keys. Road Bay is a loss. Not bad just not good. Blah. Then again, I've seen so much over the last months that I'm very spoiled.
Ubi and I enjoyed a good sunset.
Gustavia, St. Barts, Thursday, August 15
I left Anguila early in the morning under full sail. My first stop was Phillipsburg, St. Maarten. This is the Dutch side of the island and they have a fuel dock. Ubi has not had fuel or water in some time. I ended up needing about 40 gallons of fuel and a 150 gallons of water. Not bad for over a month of cruising. Particularly cruising with hamsters. I didn't mention it but they had an endearing habit of taking long bubbly nude showers. The floor show was actually their only redeeming grace.
I looked around town for a place to get some Dutch Guilders (the local currency - I've been collecting samples for my little brothers) but everybody was using dollars. I did get my passport stamped even though this is only a lunch stop.
While fueling up a couple of young guys from Amsterdam hitched a ride. They are backpacking through the Caribbean. It must take a bit of courage to make that first step and I was happy to help them out with a ride to St. Barts. I did check to make sure that they had passports and return tickets. As the wind was right on our nose, I elected to power up.
I anchored at my usual spot on the wharf. It was a perfect job. Exactly how I had planned it on my previous trip. I was about 20 feet off the dock with four lines attached to the dock. The space between me and the other boats was perfect.
My hitchhikers wanted to go about and look around while I was getting the boat cleaned up. They had not shown up when I was ready to clear customs so I did not bother to list them. The French islands are pretty lax.
I ate dinner at La Pirate, the restaurant that the guy who owns the boat next to me manages. It was a good dinner.
Friday, August 16
I spent the day just hanging out till Karen showed up. We then walked around a bit and ended up spending most of our time at La Select. La Select is an open air cafe in the heart of Gustavia (if Gustavia is big enough to have a heart). It has the best atmosphere on the island and is a lot of fun.
I'd wanted to have dinner in one of the good restaurants but, by the time we were ready to go out, everything was closed. I think that there was some sort of holiday. We ended up having dinner at La Pirate which was the only place open. Not a bad choice but I would like to have tried something new.
Saturday, August 17
We had another of those great champagne breakfasts that I have grown so fond of. Cheese, Paté, bread and champagne. Perfect.
After breakfast we went to La Select for the mid afternoon.
When I got back to the boat I was horrified to see that a French person on a large power boat had slipped between me and one of the neighboring boats. He had to untie one of my dock lines to do it. That takes a lot of nerve. I told him that he was in a terrible place and that he would have to move. He said that everything was fine. It was here that I made my biggest mistake of the trip. I should have left. I was right and in the best spot on the wharf but safety would best have been served by leaving.
Fortunately (unfortunately?) Karen and I were aboard when the afternoon winds kicked up. My anchor began to drag. This caused Ubi to pound against the powerboat and the concrete wharf behind her. I had to leave. There were a number of people on the dock and I had them untie my boat so that I could leave. We would have been fine but I was to busy watching what the people on the dock lines and the boat next to me were doing to watch Karen.
Without telling me, Karen started to pull in the anchor line. If she had asked, I would have told her that the anchor line was the least of my worries and that I wanted her to pull in dock lines of fend off the nearby boat. As it was she made the classic mistake of standing in the coils of the line as she brought it in. As Ubi swung around the slack that she had pulled in was rapidly let out again. Her foot was caught in a knot.
Note: Karen has read this and says that she does not remember pulling in the anchor line. She remembers holding on to a bumper to fend off the boat next to us. That is certainly what I had asked her to do. But there is no way that anchor line could have come up on deck without her pulling on it. Karen says that she thinks that Ubi hates her. There is certainly some weird energy (recall the thefts which have occured on shore as well) but I don't think it's a matter of the Ubi (which is certainly capable of feeling) hating Karen.
Ubi is 14 tons with a lot of freeboard (wind area). The wind was blowing about 30 knots. The force that was pulling on Karen's leg was incredible. She started to scream as her leg was being literally torn off. I abandoned the controls to ran forward and see what was happening. My full strength was not enough to create slack needed to get her foot out the knot (I can press 500 pounds with either leg and have bumped a Volkswagon around). Some of the hardest words I ever said were when I told Karen that I had to go back to the controls. I did not have time to explain but, if I had not gone back to the controls and eased the tension on the line, Karen's foot would have been torn off.
Luckily shortly after I got to the controls someone made it out from shore and cut the anchor line. As it was Karen was very badly hurt and Ubi could barely move from all the lines that had fouled her while I tried to attend to Karen. If I had known what the problem was when I ran forward the first time, I would have grabbed a knife.
Fortunately she did suffer the full classic fate of amputation that so often results from that kind of accident. Quick action and my over sized anchor lines made a difference. I limped Ubi out to another anchorage and slapped together a new anchoring system. While diving to make sure that everything was working I removed a ball of lines the size of my head from the propeller. It was amazing that the boat could move at all. Usually even a small line is enough to foul the propeller and strand Ubi. A strand that size should have ripped the shaft of its isolating mount. If that had happened, Karen would have lost her foot. Ubi did the impossible.
I rowed close to a mile to get back to Gustavia and got a ride the hospital. I could not find anyone at the hospital so I started trying doors until I found Karen. The had left her alone in a freezing room with barely any clothes on. She was nearly in a state of shock. I left the door open and turned off the air conditioner and helped her with her breathing for the next hour as we waited for the doctor to arrive. Fortunately, in the French hospital system, the nurses are empowered to give pain shots.
Karen and I did a few tests and determined that blood was still circulating and that she had feeling in her foot so that there was no nerve damage. Thank god. That line had squeezed down to the bone and had pulled with enough force to lift a small automobile.
The doctor finally arrived and took X-rays that confirmed that nothing was broken. He gave her some additional shots and we elected to have Karen spend the night in the hospital. Sometime during his examination, I began to feel weird in my stomach and my vision developed spots. I was going into shock! I have had numerous injuries, a shark attack and other normally frightening experiences but have never reacted this way. I hate being responsible for some one else's safety. I went back to the boat but could not sleep as the scene and Karen's screams kept echoing through my mind.
Open Ocean, Sunday, August 18
I was moving around the boat before dawn finding Karen's things. I made another big search and could not find the pink bag of Karen's that had disappeared last weekend. I could not find my hip bag that had disappeared at the same time either. I believe that they are gone.
I also did some prep to get Ubi ready for the sail to St. Croix. It would be ideal to leave about 11 PM but I have decided that I'm leaving St. Barts as soon as I can. To many bad memories right now.
Another epic row into town and I found Karen up and looking a little better. We both agreed that getting her to St. Thomas was the top priority. I went off to see if there were any flights. Finding a phone was a chore but eventually I found one to discover that the one carrier was not yet open. I went back to the hospital and we decided to go to the airport and see what was happening. Luckily a taxi driver was visiting family at the hospital and we got a ride right away. I had to carry Karen to his van.
Once we got to the airport I had to carry Karen to the bathroom as the drive and pain medicine had made her woozy. While she was in the bathroom I arranged a flight with the now open carrier. The flight left in about 15 minutes. They provided a wheelchair and I rolled Karen out to the plane. It was a very small plane (seats four - including the pilot) but Karen managed to worm her way aboard.
I left to call Jay - Karen's friend in St. Thomas. I ended up jogging most of the way back to Gustavia as there were no Taxis and what little traffic there was did not seem interested in picking up a man with wild eyes who was badly in need of a shave. I managed to get back to Gustavia (and a phone) in time to call Jay and have him meet Karen at the airport.
My plan was to dive a bit for my anchor then get out of St. Barts. Normally I would not have been looking forward to a 15 - 20 hour sail with no autopilot but I was on such an adrenaline rush that I just wanted to get out of there. It was time for this trip to be over.
I got ready to dive on the anchor but was informed by one of the bystanders that the port captain had rescued my anchor for me. I went to the port office to discover that it was closed for a local holiday. Hoping that the police might be able to let me in I went there to discover that they were closed too. I had to many bad experiences already to leave that anchor behind. I could see it laying next to a bunch of buoys and such through a locked gate. Despite being surrounded by a large crowd of French speaking strangers I tried to get into the port office by climbing over the gate. There was not enough gap between the gate and the ceiling for me to squeeze through. I wandered around a bit and kept coming back to look at my anchor. Eventually I noticed that there was a gap in the roof above my anchor. I went around to the side of the building and hopped up on to the roof and then down into the room with my anchor (adrenaline is wonderful stuff). I got my anchor and rowed out to the boat. By eleven I was on my way back to St. Croix where I planned to leave the boat so that I could give Karen my undivided attention.
Ubi and I were not on good terms when I started the trip. I just wasn't sure that she was a safe, fun, home anymore. The experience with Karen had really shaken me. At one point during that first night, I had seriously considered selling her. While long and occasionally tough, the trip back was just what we needed to get back together. A big Marlin swam beside the boat for a bit with it's fin in the air - this was the first time that I had seen one of these fish in the water. Not much later a small pod of porpoise joined me and entertained me with flips through the air. This was what being on the sea was all about.
I realized that while Ubi is more good than bad. She is also a big powerful tool that must be treated with respect and care. Like the ocean, it would be impossible to fight with her. But, by moving with her, a whole world and a life time of wonderful experiences are possible. I am here to learn how to move with the world. Ubi is a good place to continue.
Teague Bay, St. Croix, Monday, August 19
I arrived at St Croix at two in the morning. While the moon was pretty good, the lights on shore looked a little different than I had remembered. I decided that the best thing to do was to sit out and make lazy circles until dawn. I probably could have made it to Buck island, dropped my hook and had a nap but it was kind of nice to have those last moments before my journey was over.
I came in with the sunrise.
The engine log reads 757 hours. I started with 489 hours so I used the engine for 268 hours or about a couple hours a day. That's a lot of engine time and most of it was powering to Greneda, then up from Margarita to Tobago. Much of the rest of it was the hour or so that Ubi needs to charge her batteries every couple of days.
The millage log reads 3094 miles. I started with 1281 miles so I traveled 1831 miles. That's about the distance to New York or about 15 miles a day. The number is probably a few hundred miles short as my log was occasionally fouled and not recording.
It was a great trip. I will not say that it was the trip of a life time because I expect that my life will continue to be full of wonderful journeys. These are memories that I will always cherish.
Ixtlan or bust!
Love to all.
Charles V. Balch
University of the Virgin Islands
St. Thomas, VI 00802-9990
Voice (340) 693-1310
Fax (340) 693-1311
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