Monday, April 19, 2010

Granada to Puerto Rico

NOTE: Somehow I got ahead of myself last week. Here is what should have been posted.

Sick At Sea
11/2/92 Lat. N  W 66 07.0' Off Shore

The sail from Trinidad to Grenada was eventless. I suppose that was what was wrong with it. A sailor needs to have something traumatic happen before he has a really good sea story. Just to say “we had an eventless trip” will bore everyone to death.

At Grenada we filled our water tanks and prepared for a voyage direct from the island to St. Thomas, USVI. The night before leaving, we went to a movie, and then enjoyed a Chinese dinner.

As the sun started to clear the night sky we headed out the channel for the open sea. I did not feel too well, but thought I would be better after another cup of coffee. As we got farther from shore I became sick to my stomach. Sea Sickness? I really didn’t think so. The only times I felt the least bit sick was when we are in big storms and I stop concentrating on my charting in the cabin. Then thinks can become bad.

By after noon I had it all: nausea, fever and diarrhea. I could hardly move. We discussed going back, but I declined to do so. It was, or so I judged, food poisoning from last night’s dinner. But why did not Judy have the same thing.

I made it though my watch and Judy shooed me off to bed. I had not been in bed for two hours when Judy got me up.

“Ames the engine does not want to run.”

Just the thing I wanted to hear in my condition. Our engine has a transmission that we have to cool every eight hours by running the engine. I could have installed a shaft brake on it, but I didn’t want to spend the money. The engine did not run so I had to get up to check out the problem.

After checking out everything, I saw I had turned on our starboard tank, when the port tank was full. There is only one return line to the tanks and it goes to the port tank. Since it was full the fuel could not flow.

I took the top off the port and starboard tanks and we shifted the fuel by using a cup measure and a bucket. I changed the tanks so just the port tank was being used, and flopped back into bed.

The next afternoon I was feeling better and was able to give Judy a much needed rest. That night we dodged the cruise ships, which would leave an island port and sail far out to sea and back so they would not have to pay the high docking fees. Normally, for them the trip between islands would be a matter of an hour. I guess their passengers thought it was a long way between harbors.

By the next morning we were passing between St. Croix and St. Johns.

Taxi Drivers

11/5/92 Lat. N  W 66 07.0' St. Thomas, USVI

After anchoring we went ashore to change some money, we had no US currency left, and to clear into the US. The lines were long at the money changing bank near the cruise ship dock. It was very late by the time we were able to change the money and I had to clear in by five. If not we would have to stay here an extra day.

While Judy returned to the boat, I took a taxi for the Customs office several miles down the quay. As usual I settled with the driver for five dollars to take me there. It was a high price, but not bad for St. Thomas.

We had gone a block and he saw three Japanese tourists. He stopped.

“Where you go, mon,”

“We want to see the other side of the island,” one replied in broken English.

“Get in,” he tells them, knowing he can get a huge fare from these guys, and then he looks at me. “Get out. You can take a bus.”

I was speechless, and angry. I was being dumped. “What?”

“I said get out, Mon, and don’t slam the door.” The cars in the Caribbean and South America are made with very light weight doors and the get out of line easily.

I got out and slammed the door as hard as I could. He was cussing and swearing as he drove off.

I caught a bus and arrived at the office with less than a minute to spare. I was lucky, a good natured officer, had me fill out a form and then stamped our passports.

“They Did Not Give Me Any Charts.”

11/6/93 Isla Palominos, Puerto Rico

The next morning we were off down wind past Culebra Island. The wind was blowing between fifteen and twenty knots. I was nervous about a reef that had a narrow opening. I searched for the passage, but it was only at the last minute did I spot it two hundred yards off my starboard.

I wrenched the helm over and plowed through the opening at about six knots. On the other side we altered course for Isla Palominos, were we anchored for the night. We went ashore for a walk on this little island, getting our feet wet in the clean white sand. When we returned to Butterfly a thirty-foot sailboat was anchored next to us.

We dinged to their boat to say hello and found a very nice young couple aboard. They had chartered the boat for a week and this was their first night. He asked me if I thought they needed a chart.

I thought about the reef and the difficult entrance we had made earlier and which I could not have done without a chart, and then asked him what charts he had on board. He handed me a street map of Puerto Rico which showed some of the islands nearby. Luckily he had not gone any further because he was right on the edge of a long reef.

We invited them over for desert that night, and I showed him the reefs all around the area. He turned pale.

“They didn’t give me any charts. I don’t even have dividers or parallel rules.”

“Perhaps you might go back and buy some.”

“It’s a long way back,” he said.

“We’ll go back,” his wife said giving my chart another look.

“I guess we will. I appreciate your help.”

We left early the next morning bound for San Juan, and work again.

Monday, April 12, 2010


I want to aspologize for the long delay between postings. I have finally caught up with my self having sailed through some of life's squalls. Ames

10/15/92 Lat. N 10 38.8’  W 61 32.5' Trinidad


My friends talked me into coming here three weeks ago. They were having a great time. Trinidad is only an overnight sail from Grenada, so we decided to come.

A lot of the cruisers are staying at the Trinidad Yacht Club, which offers real docks. They rent air conditioners, hire people to work on their boats, play bridge every afternoon, and walk a block for pizza or groceries. It seems too American for my tastes. We could not afford, nor was there room, for us to dock at the club. The anchorage is open and very rough when the wind blows, and it blows every afternoon.

You have to pay to land your dingy. For some it was heaven, especially for the women, but I had gone cruising to see different cultures, not find "Little America."

However, Trinidad has a great zoo. Well, maybe the zoo does not match up with the zoos in the States, but the lion cage is extraordinary. It was a little threatening to see them so close. To help people feel safe there was a plaque:

"This glass is made of bullet-proof glass. The lions cannot break
through: see the demonstration above."

Above this sign was a square of glass that had been shot at with a rifle. The glass was still OK, except for the starring effect of the impact of the bullet.

"All right," I thought. "That seems safe enough."

I went back to the glass and noticed some scratches on the inside where the lions had attempted to get out. The scratches looked deep, but it was hard tell from the outside. I stood there for a moment savoring the danger. Then a lion roared. I quickly withdrew to visit some of the other animals.

We're leaving tomorrow. I'm glad I saw the zoo, but . . .

San Juan, Puerto Rico
02/15/93 Lat. N 18 27.8'  W 66 07.0' San Juan, Puerto Rico

I Thought I Left It Here!

We had been in Puerto Rico for about two months while I worked to build up our cruising kitty. For a while we thought we would have to stop cruising and sell the boat, as we had experienced some major financial setbacks in the U.S. This job, which was to last for six months, would help us pull out of the slump if Uncle Sam didn't take it all for taxes.

We picked up a mooring at a marina at the eastern end of San Juan Harbor. Normally we would have anchored, but we knew we would be leaving the boat alone a lot and felt more secure on a mooring. The dock was close to $400 a month, and we couldn't afford that and be able to take care of our other obligations. The mooring was inexpensive though.

It was a good place to be moored. Within walking distance was a grocery store and it was just a short dingy or bus ride to Old San Juan. I took a bus to work, but it took almost two hours one way. I got to know something of the people that way.

Every morning at 0600 I would row the hard dingy (Judy got the inflatable with engine) to the marina and head for work.

On this particular day, Judy was in Michigan visiting our daughter, who was ill, so I was batching it. As the sun was going down I got into my dingy to row out to the boat. As I came around the end of the pier I looked around for Butterfly.

I always enjoyed this first sight of the boat after a long day at work. It reminded me what I was working for. She would be sitting at the mooring, her image rippling in the small waves of the harbor, the setting sun's rosy glow reflecting on her masts. It was beauty and serenity combined.

My heart always skipped a beat as I rounded the pier.

This time my heart stopped beating completely.

Butterfly was not hanging onto the mooring. There was no reflection on the water, no sunlight on the masts.

There was no Butterfly at all.

Trying not to panic, I rowed faster to the spot where she should have been.

“I know I left her here,” I said, rather stupidly. “Perhaps she dragged the mooring in the afternoon wind.”

I looked down the bay, but didn't spot her. I rowed through the other boats anchored there.
There were people on one of them, but I couldn't bring myself to ask them:

“Have you seen my boat? I've lost it.” How could anyone lose a fifty-foot boat? No, I'd look around some more.

Could it be stolen? Maybe, but where is the mooring buoy? No one would steal the buoy. They would leave it behind. So it wasn't stolen and it hadn't drifted down the bay.

I rowed back to where I had left it that morning.

Maybe she sank and took the buoy down with her? I looked into the water to see if I could see her on the bottom. “Impossible, stupid,” I scolded myself. “The water here is only 25 feet deep. Your masts would be sticking out of the water.”

“Where are you?” I asked myself again, while the dingy drifted over the empty space usually occupied by Butterfly's reflection.

There was only one more place to look. I rowed along the marina's docks, and with great relief, spotted her tied up in a slip. It was a great relief, but I was curious . . . and angry. Who moved my boat?

I climbed on board but could find nothing wrong. Why had they moved her here? Where was the mooring buoy? I asked around the dock, but no one could tell me anything.

The marina was locked up tight for the night. The next morning I delayed going to work until the manager arrived.

“Why did you move my boat into a slip?”

"We decided we wanted to pull the mooring and service it,” came the calm reply.

“But why didn't you tell me? I about had a heart attack last night.”

“Well, we didn't think about it and we weren't sure where you were.”

“My work address and phone number is on the contract form. I can't afford slip fees. When are you going to put the buoy back?”

“In a few weeks, maybe a month. Meanwhile, I'll tell you what. You can have the slip at the mooring price. Will that be OK with you?”

“Well, OK,” I replied. In fact, it would be a great deal for us.

“Oh uh, how long will you be here?” he asked as an after thought.

“Until June,” I replied.

“Oh,” manager said, his face screwed up in thought. “That's almost five months from now.”

“Yeah, that's about right.”

Each month thereafter he would ask me, “When are you planning to leave?” They still hadn't replaced that mooring when we pulled out, five months later.

Monday, February 8, 2010

7/10/92 Islas de los Testigos, Venezuela

Early the next morning we set off in our dingy to the nearest shore. The beach was sandy and being of the lee side of the Island, there was little wave action to hinder a dry landing. We stood on the shore and wondered what was missing. It was the silence.

Generally there would be taxi drivers wanting to give us a tour, but here just silence. The reason for this was simple. No roads, no town and no taxis.

Near where we beached out dingy was a huge sand dune which must have been over a hundred feet high. I have seen movies about the desert and the actors would climb the dunes as if they were on Park Avenue, New York. The hike up the dune just about did me in. I think maybe those actors had stairs under a thin covering of sand. But the trip was worth it as the Caribbean Sea in is hues of greens and blues spread out before us.

We scrambled and slid down the seaward side to a long wide white sandy beach. The beach was married by the thousands of plastic containers swept in by the sea as it tried to rid itself of the trash thrown overboard by careless mariners.

What caught our eye was the multitude of fresh tracks on the beach. We looked more closely and decided they must be sea turtle tracks made when coming to shore in the night to lay their eggs.

Several hours later they sky began cloud up and the breeze strengthened. A squall was coming, and since we did not want to get drenched, we got enough courage to surmount the dune.
Soon after we returned to Butterfly the wind gusted up to a full fledged storm with thirty-five plus knots of wind. The boat healed in the gusts and this time felt we were lucky to be anchored behind a reef.

The next morning it was still blowing and I became worried about food. Judy says I’m generally worried about food, but we were out of everything except two packages of unknown freeze dried stuff we bought in Dutch St. Martin’s (the labeling was in Dutch), a can of tomato paste, and the last of our box of Rice Crispies.

How could this happen? Bad planning. We had not known a storm would delay us. Next time I’ll be sure we have at least a week’s worth of food for a overnight trip.

We ate cereal in the morning. I went fishing in the lee of the reef and caught a small something, which we ate for lunch. That night we opened the strange bags of freeze dried food. I emptied one bag of lumpy gray dust into a pan of water, and to my delight it turned into a beef stroganoff. The other bag turned into something else that we never identified, but which tasted good anyway. Before going to bed I prayed the storm would be gone by morning so we could continue to Margareta.

My prayers were answered with a bright sunny day and only fifteen to twenty knots of wind. Judy had discovered some sardines we had missed in the bottom of a food locker. We hauled anchor, and after we were jogging along at five knots with jib and mizzen, we had them for breakfast.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Granada to Venezuela


6/28/92 Lat. N 12 00.O'  W61 46.8' Prickly Bay, Grenada

One thing I hate is the difficult and very messy job of painting Butterfly's bottom. It is also an expensive proposition. I am tired of it, but we should be finished in a few days. At least the weather is cooperating.

I feel safe at last. For the last several months I have been trying to get down this way to get out of the possible hurricanes that come along between June and November. My insurance says that I must pay a fifty percent deductible if I lose my boat up island in this season. Here, I am covered with a ten percent deductible, which I can live with.

Judy's been unhappy that we moved down the islands so fast. I'm unhappy I wasted so much time in the U.S. Virgin islands. No matter. Here we are, and we have seen a lot of interesting people and islands. However, I've fallen in love with Grenada: St. George, a quaint English town, and Hog Island where everyone gathers for a potluck on Sundays.

Los Testigos
7/6/92 (I lost track of LL and Long) Islas de los Testigos, Venezuela

Having finished the bottom paint job, we decided to continue on to Isla Margareta, Venezuela. We were low on canned goods and had heard via the cruising grape vine that these staples were cheaper in Venezuela.

The plan was to leave at sundown and sail all night (I generally figured a speed of five knots when planning) which should bring us to Los Testigos, a group of islands fifty miles east of Isla Margareta, alter dawn. There are very strong currents around the islands and I did not care to thread them at night. We would spend a day at the Testigos and then head on to Margareta the following day.

That was our plan, but “the best laid plans …”

We had celebrated Independence Day on Hog Island where the English cruisers put on a skit about the revolutionary war in which they won, while we put on a skit where the English were hung in effigy. Great fun and much, too much to drink. When my head stopped aching the next day we made ready for sea.

We left at six in the evening and the light wind gave us a speed of four knots. That was all right as it would get is in later in the morning. After the sun went down the breeze increased until it was blowing twenty knots and I reefed the main sail. The wind continued to increase and the flashes of lightening from thunder storms off our port quarter warned me to take in all the mainsail.

That did not slow our speed very much. I reefed the mizzen. Now it was raining so hard I could not see the binnacle. I could feel the islands coming towards me; we were going too fast. My five knot plan was not going to work.

By three in the morning we were surrounded by lightening and very heavy winds. I went blow to check the GPS for our position, but it refused to give up its information. This had happened to us before a few times, but usually after an hour, or at most and hour and a half, it would resume doing its job.

My last position plus dead reckoning placed us about ten miles from the islands and it was still two hours before dawn. I headed the boat on a course dividing the current’s and the wind’s direction, turned on the engine and motor sailed, attempting to maintain my position.

I was getting more wet from sweating over the dire possibilities than from the driving rain. My eyes burned from staring in the direction of the islands, trying to catch a glimpse of them in the lightening. We were going to be wreaked on their rocky coast.

When I wasn’t looking for islands in the wet blackness, I was running up and down the companionway ladder, hoping that the GPS would start working again.

Meanwhile, Judy took the helm. It was much too rough for our auto pilot in such close quarters, and she is a much better helmsperson than I. More than that, she remains calm because she erroneously trusts me.

It’s five in the morning and still pitch dark. The GPS still refuses to work after an hour and a half. It has never been out this long before. Just as the light began to lighten the clouds, the darned machine hiccupped back to life and I had a good position.

We were only two miles from the nearest island.

For the next two hours we weaved through these small islands with their currents sucking us toward one point or another. Even though the wind was still in the twenty knot area, I had to start the engine to pull us away from a ragged point.

At last we reached the anchorage and dropped our anchor and snubbed it down. I did not even look at the view; I just went below for a much deserved sleep.

Three Brothers
7/8/92 Islas de Los Testigos

After resting a few hours, we lowered the dingy and cross the channel to another island were the police were said to have an office. The guide books said we must check in here, although it is not a customs port.

Getting across the channel was difficult as the current was running faster than our little four horsepower outboard. In the heaviest part of the current we thought that we might miss the island entirely and we did not even want to think about what would happen if our engine quit on us.

After checking in we motored over to a commercial fishing boat anchored there and asked them if they could spare some ice. Although we just wanted out cups filled, they presented us with a bucket filled to the brim.

I told them in Spanish that we would not be able to make the crossing to bring their bucket back becaue I was afraid of the fast current.

“No bother,” they replied in their language. “We will come over and pick it up later.”

“That’s a good idea.” Judy was ecstatic about getting her hands of that much ice. “Why don’t you cover over for dessert and coffee tonight? You can get your pail then; about seven?”

We place the ice carefully in the bottom of the dingy and made our way back to the boat. We had ice tea and cold beer, but by the time dinner was over, the ice was gone. Judy made a gingerbread cake, a cruising staple, and some coffee for when our guests should arrive.

The three men were on Latin time so they arrived an hour late. But it didn’t matter as we had a good time trying to communicate in Spanish, while they attempted English.

“Where is your home?” one asked us.

“Do you like sailing?” They didn’t give us time to answer.

“Where are you going?” questioned the third.

After attempting to answer their questions, we wanted to know anbout them. They turned out to bee three brothers who own their fifty-five foot trawler. They fished for tuna or anything else that got into their nets.

“Do you live on your boat?” Judy queried as she passed out more ginger bread.

“No,” said the eldest. “We live in Isla Margareta.”

“Do you live together?” She asked.

They looked at one another and laughed and said, “No, we do not live “juntos,” but we do live in the same house.”

Judy had used the wrong word. “Juntos” means together, as in you all live “together,” but in colloquial Spanish of the area, it meant did they sleep together. When we discovered our gaff we joined in the laughter.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Was That A Volcano?
6/13/92 Lat. N 12 20.0  W 62 36.8' Near Kick'em Jenny, Grenada

All was going along fine. We were having a great sail on almost a beam reach and eating up the miles from Carricau, where we had entered Grenada, on our way to the big island of Grenada. This would be our stopping point for a time. The waves were three feet high and not giving us much trouble. The Cruising Guide said to watch out for heavy currents and warned us that southeast of Kick'em Jenney, near The Sisters Rocks, there was an underwater volcano that had erupted now and again.

I knew we wouldn't have any trouble. The day was too great, sunny, with scattered clouds. Wind was from the east at twenty knots. What could be better?

My log reads that at ten-forty we experienced "steep breaking waves," which was an understatement. Without warning we found ourselves in nine-foot chop. They came three at a time. They lifted the boat up and dashed it back into the water as if attempting to throw us all the way to the bottom of the ocean. It was like a great hand grabbing the boat and shaking it with all its might. It was indescribable and unnerving.

All I could do was fall off every two minutes when a set of these monsters came along. Forty minutes later the sea was back as it was before, but I wasn't…nor was Judy.

"Was that a volcano erupting?" she asked me, her face pale.

"I don't know," I replied. "We were at least ten miles away from The Sisters."

"What was it?"

"Perhaps it was just a counter current or tidal rip; something like that."
But deep down inside I wondered if it really had been a volcano erupting.

Life In The Lagoon
6/14/92 N 12 00.O' W 61 46.8' St. George’s, Grenada

Getting into the lagoon was not easy because of the shallow water at the entrance, but one inside the bottom remained fairly the same depth. Our main problem was to find a resting place amongst the multitude of boats anchored here. Ketches, sloops, cutters and cruising catamarans all snuggled together.

I surveyed the harbor and noticed some burnt out buildings on a ridge to the west. Probably, I thought, part of the destruction of when we invaded the island in late 1983 under President Reagan. There had been a bloody coup and a friend of Fidel Castro became dictator. Under the guise that U.S. students in Granada were in danger we sent in the marines. My thoughts were disrupted by Judy.

“Ames, am I having hallucinations or is that a grocery store over there?”

I grabbed the binoculars to see that she was talking about. It was hard obtain fresh meat on the way down here. You could generally find a frozen (many times over) chicken; one who was too old to outrun the butcher. We had been relegated to mostly a vegetarian diet, although I got fancy with cooking Southern Fried Spam, a delicacy the crew did not enjoy.

Through the lenses I saw a medium sized building with a dingy dock in front of it.

“That does look like a grocery store.” I refocused the instrument. “Yes! Indeed! That is definitely a supermarket.”

“Get the dingy down. Hurry. We might have some meat tonight.”

“I was planning to have meat. I was going to cook my specialty: County Fried Spam.”

“If you do, I’ll jump ship. Hurry! Let’s see what they have.”

We dinged over found the store was fairly complete, having a large choice of meats. We bought some steak, potatoes, and a six pack of Carib, and headed back to the boat. On our way we stopped at the boat of one of our cruising friends we had not seen in months.

“I am afraid,” he said, “you will have to lock up your boat at night here. There have been a series of thefts. The guy sneaks aboard, steals what he can find and leaves before you wake up. Otherwise it is a very charming island.”

We discussed other cruising friends and where they were and where they were headed for a half an hour. But most on my mind were the steaks, what I would do with them on the BBQ, and the meal we would have this night. At the same time,I was shocked that we would have to lock the boat at night.

The next morning, we headed in the dingy to the other lagoon where the city of St. George’s sat with a great gray fortress looming over it. As we entered the harbor Judy turned to me.

“There is another one.”

“Another one what?”

“Another supermarket. Let’s go and see what they have for sale. We can dock our dingy right in front.” Judy was so excited I thought she would fall out of the boat.

As we tied up the dingy a half dozen taxi drivers converged on us offering us a tour of the island. But Judy only wanted to tour the grocery store.

The Real Story Of The Mystery Volcano
6/18/92 N 12 00.O' W
61 46.8' Prickly Bay, Grenada

One morning, Judy and I went into town to the see the central market. I stopped at a little stand where a knurly old woman, in a ragged black dress and long gray hair, was selling herbs.

“I can see you need my help.” This question was directed to Judy.

“What do you mean?”

The old woman slowly looked at me and then at Judy. “I have special herbs for the lazy man.”

“I’m not lazy,” I stated, feeling very defensive. How dare this woman whom I had never seen before make such accusations. The wrinkled face and her penetrating eyes were focused on me for a minute. Then she turned back to my wife.

“There herbs will help you with a lazy man at night.” She grinned and her only tooth stood out like a beacon at night. “You know, the man who would rather sleep than…”

After a moment I understood her insinuation and I began to blush. Judy just laughed and said in a loud voice,

“How much are they?”

I ducked into a small bar to get out of the sun and my embarrassment while my wife continued her shopping. It was really just an excuse to quench my thirst with a Carib beer. This "bar" was a shack that could hold maybe four or five people.
Besides the bartender, whose chocolate face had a crooked smile, and me, there was one other person attempting to cool off. We balanced, rather than sat, on rickety stools.

He was a toothless old fisherman, his face wrinkled like a piece of balled up foil from a candy bar. He gave off the air of a fisherman; he smelled like fish.
We got to talking and I told him of my experience near Kick'em Jenny.

He smiled a toothless smile, which wrinkled his face so much that his eyes almost disappeared.

"Mon, dat is interestink. A long tale," said he, "it makes me thirst."
I bought him a beer.

"Yes mon, dat dangerous place, dat Kick'em Jenny. She have volcano, you know."

"I had heard that," I said.

"But you neber hear how dat same volcano hate the ships. No you neber heard of dat now, did you?" He took a long pull on the beer, almost emptying the bottle.

"The volcano hates ships?"

"Dat right mon. She chase de ships. When I was a young boy, I go to sea. Working on a little brigantine called the Marylee. She go up and down islands from Trinidad to Antigua and back. A good ship she was, but dat volcano hate her. We usually pass way to leeward of Kick'em Jenny, but there was times when we got close, 'cause we was late or somethin' and jus' about every time we have troubles. We have waves like you and break rigging, or we got dead calm and we goes in circles. Dead calm when ‘afore the wind be twenty-five knots, mon. It were sompin’ strange, mon. I no like dat place.” He finished his beer and I bought us another round.

"But one time, the las' time dat Marylee sailed. De waves bad, mon. The Cap'n, he knows we don't like that place, but he decides he hafe to get close. I thin' he like tempt the devil, mon. That's what, tempt de old devil hisself, mon! But we went anyway, too close and dat volcano knew it was we. The wind died down and all the sudden there was a roarin'. Made one hell of a noise, mon. To starboard we sees the huge tower of fire coming right at us. De cap'n calls to tack, and we sure wanted to tack, but we barely had way on and it took us long time. The ship moved out of de way of dat fire for a space, but the fire changed its course to follow us. We was barely doing three knots, and dat der fire coming close all de time.

"Ole Sam, de cook, he got down on his knees and prayed to he God, and any other gods he know, to save us.

"De Cap'n he yells for us to tack again, dis time we did a little faster. You know, mon, when the devil is chasen' you, you move real fas'.” (he chuckled, which sounded like a rumble in his chest) and then finished his second beer. He slammed the bottle down to get my attention, and I bought him another).

“Well, dat fire disappeared and we all were feeling better, when der was a hissing noise, which sounded like it came from under de boat. In our wake, the sea bubbles up and it smell like eggs left too long in de sun. Smell bad, mon. And then, a cable length behind us the bubbling turned into another tongue of fire. Now we all on deck praying, but not the Cap'n. He shake his hand at dat debil. He say he goin' to get away.

"Just then de wind pick up and we move out from there.

"When the Marylee get to Trinidad, we drop de anchor off Port au Prince. De Cap'n go to his cabin. Hour later, I went to get our orders for unloading. I knock on de door, but no answer. I open it just a little and de Cap'n is on bed, asleep I t'ink. But no…he were dead, and his hair had turned white. He neber got away from dat devil at all. No mon. De devil got he at last.

"Dat ship never sail again. No one would work her with de devil aboard."
He took another long swig of his beer.

"You lucky mon, dat de devil not get you too!" he said with a grin

Monday, January 11, 2010


H.M.S. Diamond Rock
5/20/92 Lat. N 14 35.3' W 61 4.5' Ft. de France, Martinique, France

Martinique is a beautiful island but our experience in Guadalupe had spoiled it for us. Early the next morning we raised our anchor and bid fare well to the French Islands. As we headed south along the coast toward San Lucia, we passed a small island named Diamond Rock, which lay off the coast of Martinique. Roughly pyramid shaped, it gained its place in maritime history in 1802.

The British, who were fighting Napoleon in France, were attempting to blockade Martinique with its excellent harbor at Fort de France. Being short of ships, Vice Admiral Sir Samuel Hood sent a crew with some twenty four and eighteen pound cannons, powder, and provisions to the top of this island and named it "H.M.S. Sloop Diamond Rock." This "ship" was extremely successful in surprising French ships as they sailed through the pass between St. Lucia and Martinique. For 18 months they held the island until a French fleet captured it.

I first read about the rock in a fictional account some years before, but did not realize it was taken from actual history. Passing it, we could still see what looked like pock marks where the French shelling had blasted the island. It must have been quite a feat to get the cannons up to the top, 570 feet above the water.

Shark Bait
5/21/92 Lat. N 14 6.0'  W 60 57.2' Rodney Bay, St. Lucia

The day became wet and breezy. We had to fall off our course each time a squall hit us, which was about once an hour, and the current between the islands pushed us to the west. By the time we were off Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, we were several miles west of the harbor. We tacked about and started dodging fish trap "buoys," clear plastic Pepsi Cola bottles. We were hard on the wind and making good time when the boat suddenly slowed and I heard a knocking on the bottom.

We had caught ourselves a fish trap. Our prop freewheels when we go over three knots and a fish buoy had wrapped around the shaft. The thumping was from the Pepsi Cola bottle.

I put the boat in irons, dropped the sail, and went overboard to cut the fish trap off. I say this as if it was nothing . . .you know, just "jump overboard." The truth of the matter is that I was scared to death. We have snorkeled a lot along the shore and reefs, but here we were two miles offshore with hundreds of feet of water under our keel. Who knows what strange creatures lurk down there?

I have watched National Geographic shark documentaries on TV, and what I have missed my brother-in-law has kindly put on tape and sent me. But in these films the people put on stainless steel mesh so that if a shark bites it won't hurt them too much. I don't have a dive suit made of stainless steel mesh.

The other sea animal I don't like is a jellyfish. I know that if I get stung I can put meat tenderizer on the sting, but I've been stung before, and really don't like the experience, meat tenderizer or not. So you have to know that I was not crazy about jumping in.

I looked 360 around the boat, looking for a telltale sign of the "triangular fin" or jellyfish in the water. I wondered if we could sail into shallow water before I did this…in fact, maybe I could find someone else who would do it for me if I was able to anchor.

"Are you about ready?" asked Judy.

"Yeh, sure," I mumbled, not wanting her to know how chicken I was. "Oh, I can't find my snorkel."

"Here it is," she said, being too helpful. "You were sitting on it." She always accuses me of sitting on things. She is usually right.

"I need some gloves," I said, trying to stall.

"Here they are. You are so brave to do this."

I puffed out my chest and swaggered to the lifeline gate.

"Oh, it's nothing. Part of cruising, you know."

I jumped in and swam around to the stern of the boat. Dipping my head under water, I saw that the fish trap was very tangled in the prop. The drift of the boat and the air in the buoy bottles made it impossible to untangle. I would have to cut it off.

I had grabbed hold of the rudder to steady myself as I checked the situation and when I surfaced for air found that I had cut my hand on barnacles in various places. Blood was streaming into the water.

Now everyone knows that blood attracts sharks, and the last thing I wanted to do was to become bait for them. I decided I would have to hurry, and get the job done before they arrived.

I grabbed my knife and slashed away at the yellow polyurethane cords holding the floats to the traps. I looked around, searching for gray shapes swimming near me–the kind with large teeth. I didn't see any, but when the lines parted I sprinted back on board anyway.

As I stepped on the deck Judy asked me,

"Did you have any trouble, Honey?"

"No, everything went smooth," I said, looking at the bleeding cuts on my hands and arms.

"If you like being shark bait," I thought to myself.

French Are Very Friendly People
5/22/92 Lat. N 14 6.0'  W 60 57.2' Castries, Rodney Bay, St. Lucia

When we finally reached our anchorage it was getting dark and a mile out we could hear the music emanating from the resorts on the beach. Since the bay was huge and well protected, we anchored almost a mile from the general outside anchorage.

(There are two anchorages here: one well protected inside and behind the beach, the other outside off the beach hotels.)

That night the music blasted at us, and we were glad we had not gone closer to shore. Since no one was anchored around us, I slept peacefully.

When I arose the next morning, I made a cup of coffee and went on deck to relieve myself as a proper captain should. When I looked around I saw we were surrounded by French boats. There was one about one foot off our bow (how surprised was I? They were French, after all) and one on either side of us, just a few feet away.

I suppose I should be thankful they were quiet in their anchoring, but I was angry. On either side of us was about a mile of anchoring room. In front of us was another mile of space. Why did these people have to anchor right on top of us? I woke Judy and we hauled anchor, threaded our way around the boats and moved to the close outside anchorage. At least we had a private breakfast.

5/23/92 Lat. N 14 6.0'  W 60 57.2' Castries, Rodney Bay, St. Lucia

The management of the Yacht Club at Castries was very kind and welcoming. They let all cruisers, whether anchored outside or tied to one of their slips, use their facilities at no charge. There was a fresh water swimming pool where most of us gathered in the evening to swim, salute the sun going down, or just yarn.

The skippers drank beer, teased one another and passed vital information.

“I heard it’s dangerous to take a taxi to SoufriĆ©re by one’s self.” Gary, always clean shaven, wearing creased shorts, had a center cockpit ketch and tended to be conservative when it came to adventuring. “I heard that some of the drivers strand or rob you. If we go, we’ll go with a tour group.”

“That is too expensive for me. I’ll chance a taxi.” This was Bill, a laid back cruiser with a full black beard and mischievous eyes, who was on the first step on a world cruise with his wife, Gina. He sailed a seaworthy double ended, thirty-two foot sloop.

“Anybody know anything about Marigot Bay?” I asked. “We might stop there on the way south.”

“I heard it was crowded, but very smooth water. Well protected though.”

“Jim’s right. But you have to watch that you go in with high tide if you carry much draft.” Gary said and took a long swig on his beer. “God, I love the beer here.”

“How much is ‘much’?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Seven foot, maybe.”

I draw seven and a half foot so I’ll watch the tides.

The women discussed where the best native fabrics, curios and dresses could be
found at the market in town. I think that for them this is the best part of cruising.

We stayed in San Lucia for several weeks, touring, shopping, and just lazing around the pool with our old and new friends. I felt a certain pressure to continue down island, as we had an appointment for a haul out in Grenada in a few weeks. Also, according to my boat insurance policy, if I’m not below the thirteenth latitude North by July 1, I’ll have to pay fifty per cent on all damages.

Still, Judy wanted to stay longer and I procrastinated, because I enjoyed the relaxed companionship.

When I felt I could wait no more I hired two native skin divers to clean my fouled bottom, then hauled anchor and headed to Margot Bay.

Monday, November 16, 2009


5/18/92 Lat. 15 16.8' W 61 24.3' Reseau, Dominica

"According to the net . . ."

At 7:30 am, island time, all boats that have a single sideband radio turn to 6215 Mhz, and listen to the traffic between cruising boats.

I listen for "Butterfly, Butterfly . . .Nona Rosa," which means that the boat NONA ROSA, on her way across the Atlantic, is trying to reach me. And although I hear from other boats, I receive no word from her.

That’s pretty usual for my radio, still trying to recover from the soaking it took on the way to Bermuda. In St. Thomas a captain of a sailboat who made money by repairing electronics did a fair job. Yet I knew it would never be the same, it just did not have the range.

I did receive some interesting news:

In St. Martin they discovered a French boat leaving the harbor towing three dinghies behind it. The police, wonders of wonders, stopped it and found six more folded up inside. Cruisers can rest easier in Marigot Bay now.

Word comes that Guadalupe is stopping U.S. boats that are not documented and fining them. The fine is hefty too, one thousand Francs. They do not want U.S. Registered boats in their waters. We were lucky, and the officials at Dieheis admitted our crew but not our boat. I'm a bit worried about Martinique. Will we have trouble there? I can't afford a fine. So I radio a friend, in Fort de France to check out the situation for me. I really need to go there, as it is a mail stop.

There is a lot of discussion about Venezuela.

"I heard the state department is telling people not to go to Venezuela," says one man.

"I don't know. We were there last year and it was fine. Got my whole boat and bottom painted for $300," replies his friend.

"They do a good job?"

"As good as the States."

"Sure would like to go there, but I won't if it’s dangerous."

I also get a call from a friend in Bequia, who tells me he received word through another boat that Nona Rosa had made it safely as far as Bermuda. Good news!

I'm the independent type and a loner — as long as I have a working radio and a great crew like Judy.

5/19/92 Lat. N 14 35.3'  W 61 4.5' Ft. de France, Martinique,France

Anything To Get Mail

Mail has become very important since I've started cruising. I can't afford to make too many phone calls to the States, so I have to rely on the mail for news of our daughters and the rest of my family. And it's not easy to get mail.

It has to be sent to an address in the States, Judy's father who lives in Wyoming, and he mails it to predetermined place. If all works out, we are at the port at the same time as our mail.

When we get a packet of letters, we savor it for several days.

It had been set up for our next mail to arrive in Fort De France, Martinique, by May 15. However, word was out that even Martinique was giving U.S. boats troubles. So I was frightened to go there. If we wanted our mail, we had to.

What a dilemma.

I decided to go anyway, claim a mechanical problem and ask for the courtesy of the port. I spent hours last night thumbing through the French/English dictionary to see how to say I was having troubles with my stuffing box.

Early in the morning we went to the Immigration and Customs office. There I stammered and stuttered in French trying to explain the situation.

"You are having difficulties with your boat?" said the official in perfect English, and a huge smile on his face.

"Yes sir," I replied, "I had not intended to stop here, but I would like to stay only twenty-four hours to make repairs. Can you clear me in and out at the same time?"

"No problem," he said and started stamping our papers. As he did this I felt relief and more than a little foolish. I knew that the officer knew I was lying, and probably I would have had no problem had I just entered normally. After thanking him, we left in search of the American Express office to see if our mail was there.

The people on the island were very helpful, but we had difficulty understanding the directions they gave us waving their arms and pointing fingers. In order to get our bearings we had to stop at all the little bakeries we discovered to taste the great French pastry. Judy said she was happy we couldn't stay longer as we would probably get fat just trying to find places.

When we arrived at the American Express office, we found that it would not open for another fifteen minutes. This meant we had to eat more cream filled goodies. Drat!

Our mail was here. It is hard to describe the feeling I have when I get mail. Elation and fear. That's as near as I can put it. Elation if there are letters from family and friends, fear if there is bad news or huge bills.

This batch, which we took to a restaurant to read, had both. The family was doing fine, and no one was sick. However, there was news that my supply of money was beginning to run short. That was frightening. Guess I'll have to figure some way to earn some more.