Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Lovely Tobago Cays...

After a short jaunt from Bequia, we ended up hanging in the Tobago Cays for a couple of days.  Let me start by saying that these Cays are very similar to the Bahamas.  I mean this from a aesthetic, topographical perspective, where they are small low lying islands with crystal clear aquamarine water rich with coral.   Seeing it made me miss Bahamas so much, making me regretful that I took the amazing diving and marine life for granted at the time.  We never realized that the water visibility and coral of the rest of the Caribbean would be so lacking compared to the Bahamas.  Frank and I often long for the months we spent spearfishing, foraging, alone on deserted islands, and getting back to our primal roots.  There really hasn't been anything else like it since as the islands of the Caribbean are highly trafficked by cruisers, cruise ships, and tourists alike, and it's so rare to ever be alone by yourself in an anchorage.  

With that being said, I can say that the Tobago Cays are  beautiful with coral that was semi-comparable to the Bahamas.  I say this because a lot of the reefs here, sadly, are starting to die.  With Horseshoe Reef surrounding the cays,  spanning miles long, most of the coral is starting to be overgrown with algae, which is really sad as I can only imagine just how incredible it was when it was teaming with colorful, vivid, live corals.  I suppose it has to do with the amount of tourism here, with charter boats and cruisers every where you turn.   The really remote areas, where Frank and spent weeks without seeing single boat in the Bahamas, were always rich with different coral as well as a diverse variety of  fish.  Anyhow, I say this from a purely speculative point of view, I'm obviously not a marine biologist, so I really have no damn clue as to why all the coral is dying.  

Nonetheless, we really enjoyed our time here.  Though we weren't able to spearfish, as the cays are part of a protected marine park, we still spent our days free diving the reef, swimming with sea turtles, and exploring all the little islands.  The diving visibility is amazing and the reef is so tall that that you were surrounded by reef even in 40+ft of water.  Frank spotted a Hammerhead bigger than our dinghy, during one of our excursions,  just skimming along in 5 feet of water.  Though it would've scared the shit out of me, I am jealous that I didn't get to see it as I was busy exploring another part of the reef.  I have never spotted a Hammerhead before, and when I imagine big scary sharks, Hammerheads always seem to make an appearance next to the Great Whites, so they're definitely on my bucket list.  It was a pretty cool place to anchor your boat in as well, since the cays are protected from the seas by Horseshoe Reef, you feel like you're just anchored smack in the middle of the ocean with tiny little islands surrounding you (along with the million other boats).  All in all, very well worth the $10EC per person per day they charge you to stay.    

Petit Tabac...
…little island where they filmed a scene in Pirates of the Caribbean
Cool cairns off the end of the beach
Boats everywhere :(
Hi MoMo...
Proud parents
Baby reef sharks...
Just swimming in the shallows on shore
Sea Turtles everywhere….
This was awesome…it's called a Sea Robin...
…also known as Flying Gunard.  Looks like a butterfly!
Stingray about to bury himself
I love these little cactus flowers
Sun set in the cays...
Full moon shot at the bow

Monday, July 25, 2016


After leaving St Lucia, we spent a couple days in Bequia as well as a couple in Tobago Cays.  Since we were rushing to get to Grenada for our scheduled haul out , we didn't really get to spend as much time as I wanted to in either place.    Bequia is a lovely little island, with easy accessibility to some fresh produce and decent pizza (we went to the Bequia Plantation Hotel and really enjoyed the brick oven pizza there).  The locals are very friendly and from what I saw the energy there is great, unlike in St Lucia where the energy is, I guess you could say, a little more desperate…understandably so considering the economic state it's in.  If you plan on spending any amount of time in the Tobago Cays, Bequia would be the spot to provision until you hit Grenada.  It has the basic fresh fruits (such as mango, soursop, and papaya) and vegetables (such as cucumbers, cabbage, and carrots) that you would need at relatively reasonable prices.  We didn't really do much in those couple of days except provision and check out some nearby beaches and reefs. 

During the brief time we had in Bequia, we also met our new found cruiser friends that, like us, happen to be obsessed with Hans Christians.   They live aboard their Hans Christian 38 Mark II named Lyric, and have spent the past 2 years cruising the eastern Caribbean after deciding to leave their corporate lives.  They bought their boat in St Thomas over two years ago and have not looked back since.  I've decided since that people who obsess over Hans Christians are a little crazy, just like us, and I think that that's alright by me ….Shout out to Karen and Brad…you have a lovely boat and it's been fun hanging with you so far!   Anyhow, I'm sorry I'm very uninspired to write lately, so I'll leave you with some photos and hopefully they can depict the laid back energy that this lovely island exudes…

Church in town
Houses along the hillsides
Taxi anyone?
Walkway along the water into town
Lots of rain showers everyday….

Friday, July 15, 2016

St Lucia

With the passage from Iles de Saintes to St Lucia being the last night sail of this trip, I thought I'd make an ode to night sailing as this is something I haven't really talked much about.  What can I say about it  except that it's a bit of a love-hate relationship.   When I first started out on this journey, the very thought of a night sail initially always filled me with anxiety and fear.   Though this is one of the most magical aspects of sailing, I think most people can agree that there is something inherently frightening about sailing through the night.  I guess it is natural to fear the dark, as this is something that has primordially existed in us since we were little kids.  How many of you remember dreading the moment your parents shut the lights off at night, preparing to fight the ghosts lurking in the corner, and creating monsters out of shadows?  Being on the ocean is similar to that feeling, because as it is already it makes you feel small and insignificant.  Couple that with the being in the dark in the middle of nowhere, and that familiar childhood feeling of vulnerability is once again revisited, only now you can't alleviate it by crawling into your mom and dad's bed.  After over a year of passage-making (can you believe it's already been that long?), night sails still inspire a bit of fear, though I have grown used to them and have even learned to love them.  Depending on the conditions, night sails can either be completely meditative and transformative, or they can be terrifying and exhausting.  Since I'm sure it's obvious to you how it can be terrifying during shitty conditions, I'll talk about the good side of night sailing...

I find that it is often times during my night watches that I have had the most profound epiphanies about life.  Something about sitting in the cockpit, by yourself, with nothing but the sound of the wind and the waves and the company of the stars and moon, that sets your mind into this meditative state.  You feel very alone in these moments, and the feeling like you are bonding with some greater force, in this case the ocean, is truly remarkable.  I'm not religious in any way, but in these moments, I can understand how this spiritual feeling can be overwhelming for a lot of people, and why people tend to embrace this "higher power."  Especially when it's calm, and its so dark out that you can hardly tell the difference between the sky and the ocean, and all you can see in the distance are the stars in the sky and the green trail of phosphorescence, and the air is filled with that familiar sweet salty smell, these moments are transcendent.  You wonder how it's possible for everything to be so magnificent, and you feel grateful to be alive to be a part of this perfection.  

This feeling is with you throughout the night, and you feel high and giddy until stage 2 of the night watch sets in, which is sleep deprivation.  This, for me as a self-diagnosed narcoleptic, is the most challenging part of night sailing.  Frank and I have developed a watch schedule where we are on for 2 hours and then off for 2 hours.  Between the hours of 2am-6am, I find, is the most difficult part of the night.  You don't think it would be exhausting just sitting around pondering the meaning of life and scanning the horizon for other boats, but it really is...and the quietness of the night coupled with the rhythmic bouncing of Moitessier slicing through the waves makes staying awake that much harder.  I find it helps to have a podcast or a movie on at this time, just to keep your mind from wandering into dreamworld and nodding off.  Having snacks or hot chocolate really helps too, as for some reason, aside from being sleepy, night watches also make me voraciously hungry.  I'm often grateful when I wake up to my watch to have Frank hand me over a steaming mug of hot chocolate or peppermint tea  (yes, you wouldn't think that would be satisfying in the tropics, but night watches are breezy and can often chill you to the bones).  

With that being said, the passage to St Lucia started off as anxiety filled as the direction of the steep  6 ft waves and the 20 kt winds made for a pretty uncomfortable ride.  It thankfully calmed down for the second part of the night, so we were able to enjoy our final night sail of this journey.  We arrived early morning in Marigot bay and picked up a mooring ball at Capella Resort and Marina.  After spending a couple days living in luxury and enjoying world class facilities, such hot showers and lounging by the pool (note: you get to use the resort if you pick up a ball), we moved on to the Pitons, where we spent one night just taking in the grand view.  This was really a highlight of the trip, and it's a shame that we didn't feel comfortable leaving the boat and exploring the island more.  We keep reading about high crime in St Lucia, with boardings and dinghy thefts.  It's not surprising, as it seems it is a poverty stricken country with high rates of unemployment.  After having a long conversation with a really nice local at Soufriere Bay that approached Frank while I was at the Customs office clearing out, we discover that most of the money that is made through tourism is not reinvested into the country.  From what we gather, most of the big resorts are owned by the foreigners, so a lot of that money goes out of the country and the locals only receive a tiny trickle of what is made off of the beauty of their island.  Most of the citizens of the island can only make money off of what little they can sell to the tourists, be it fruit or handmade goods.  It seems to be dog eat dog, with people struggling to feed their families, so it's no wonder the amount of crime here. And though there is fresh tropical fruit growing everywhere, most of it falls on private property, and so there is a strong sense of ownership and divide between the haves and have-nots. You can clearly sense the desperation as the "boat boys" here are pretty aggressive about making money off of you from the moment you approach the mooring field.  We got a taste of it when we were hassled by these young boys on a dinghy that followed us from Soufriere bay to the pitons, offering fish, services, fruit, and insisting that they help with our mooring ball.  And even though we politely declined them a few times, they still continued to harass us until we tipped them for "helping" us with our mooring ball, which was essentially them handing us the line.  They then insisted that we pay for their fuel and which at that point, we stood our ground and refused out of principle as we were a bit exasperated by their aggressiveness and did not want to come off seeming like suckers, thereby targeting ourselves.  Anyhow, we spent one night moored between the pitons.  We even got to check out the little marine preserve off of the resort there, that offered really nice snorkeling with beautiful coral and large yellowtails that teased us knowing that we couldn't spear them.  All in all, definitely worth the stop as the pitons truly are a breathtaking sight...

Lovely Marigot Bay
Enjoying Capella Bay Resort…
Hanging out by the pool.
Exploring the reefs right outside Marigot Bay...
Beautiful coral here
Amazing sunsets too!
Approaching the grand pitons...
A rare shot of both me and Frank free diving 
Beautiful coral here too
Leaving the pitons on a rainy morning...