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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

December 25, 2012-Merry Christmas

Pirate's Bay.

As we sit at anchor in Clifton Harbor, Union Island, in the Caribbean, listening to Christmas Carols on our stereo and enjoying this holiday we reflect on the previous year.

Some water has passed under our keel since Christmas 2011, when we celebrated the holiday with friends aboard their yacht in Simon’s Town, South Africa.

In January, with other good friends aboard, we sailed to Namibia and saw the desert.

And then the four of us set out across the South Atlantic, from the cold and foggy Namibian coast to the tropical shores of Brazil, 3200 nautical miles, with a stop at lovely but remote St. Helena Island. What a sail we had!

After a stay in Brazil, struggling with the Portuguese language, we ventured North, across the Equator again, to Trinidad, in the Caribbean, where we stayed for the six months of hurricane season, working on the boat, making friends with other cruisers, and doing a few local races.

Now we are cruising Windward Islands of the Caribbean chain, on our way to Antigua for Sailing Week in April, and other destinations in 2013, probably Cartagena, Columbia for next hurricane season.

Al together we have sailed about 5800 nautical miles since last Christmas.

Back home among the normal folks our family continues to do well.

Our kids are healthy as are all their offspring who are all getting bigger. The oldest grandkids are all turning into fine adults. My, how the family grows.

Brother and sisters talk to us frequently on the phone and send pictures to us of all their grand and great grandchildren and their families are also all growing and thriving.

So it is a good Christmas Season for us, (better if we were there) and we are looking forward to the New Year. We hope all is well with you too.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Union Island

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

December 22, 2012-Hectic Day at Union Isl;and

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Clifton Harbor, Union Island.

It was a wet and squally day on Friday when we sailed up from Grenada to Carriacou but we started early and managed the 32 miles easy enough and got the hook down in Tyrrel Bay in the late afternoon with little mishap except a torn headsail which was a consequence of my own rough handling. After that we were tired and just cooked a meal and settled down in the salon.

Saturday, on the other hand, was a full day.

We were keen to get on to the Grenadines; Union Island was only 10 miles to windward of Tyrrel Bay, and we had a lot ahead of us if we were going to do it that day: repair the sail, inflate the dingy, go to town to check out, back to the boat, stow the dingy, and then a 10 mile beat in a fresh breeze.

It seemed like a lot.

But then Simon came around in his battered little skiff and offered to take me to town and back, which saved the work of inflating and then stowing the dingy and I jumped at that.

By 12:00 I was back on board Wings with our passports stamped and our papers in hand and in an hour I had sewed a new luff tape on the head of the #4 and by 1:30 we were weighing the anchor.

The beat to Union Island, even with a foul tide, was uneventful and we did it in a little over two hours and dropped the jib and tacked through the reefs into Clifton Harbor looking for some shelter in which to drop the main.

There wasn’t any. Besides, as we bore off into the channel the main filled and we were soon doing 6 knots into a blind alley of a harbor filled with anchored and moored boats, to say nothing of several reefs in the middle of it all, which wasn’t what we had in mind when we started this trip.

Judy thought I knew what I was doing but actually it was turning into somewhat of a predicament. I needed a spot to turn around or to head up into and drop the sail and there wasn’t one. The spectators watching from anchored boats must have been wondering how this was going to turn out and I was too.

Then there was a guy in a yellow speed boat, a local boat boy, motoring right alongside yelling at me. I couldn’t hear for sure what he was saying or even pay much attention to him but I figured he was trying to sell me a mooring which is the last thing I needed right then as THERE ARE NO BRAKES ON THIS THING!

The boat boy, along with his yelling, started gesturing at the main, like, “Get that thing down man.”

“I’m trying. We’re a little short handed here, you know?”

Geez, we had our hands full for a few minutes.

And then I spotted a gap in the moored boats to windward and I punched up into it and Judy pulled down the sail, successfully thank God because there was no second chance, but she then had to stand on the sail to keep it from blowing over the side leaving me to deal with either anchoring or getting a line to the boat boy who continued to maintain that the holding here was impossible and we needed to take a mooring.

“Right, give me a break already.”

The next fun event happened as we tried to pick up the mooring. The boat boy was standing in his speedboat holding Wings in his left hand and holding the line from the mooring buoy in his right hand but he couldn’t hand it to me, the breeze was too strong. Besides almost being pulled into two pieces he’s worried about his hat blowing off, and he yelled at Judy, on the helm, “Please missus, bring the boat forward a little, HEY! DON’T PUT IT IN REVERSE!”

“Relax guy” I said, “she knows what she is doing; she just needs to get the prop unfolded.”

Before his arms got pulled out Judy found forward gear and motored far enough ahead for me to get the line out of his hand and aboard and tied to the bollard on the foredeck and he went off to fetch his hat.

Probably there are other days that will be this hectic and other ports in the Caribbean filled with reefs and where the wind blows in unabated but we haven’t seen them yet and we don’t need to.

Are we ready for a drink?

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Judy Relaxes.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Union Island

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December 17, 2012-A Turn around Grenada

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Storm at the North Shore.

I would not have believed when we set out on Wednesday in a rented car to go around Grenada that we could make as many wrong turns as we did. We hit them all.

Not that it made much difference; Grenada is a small island. Even with our wrong turns we got to all of our destinations on time, although if we hadn’t gotten directions from locals a couple of times we might not have. For example when we were going up this one road which simply got worse and worse until it was just two ruts going up a hillside and Judy thought we should turn back but the guidebook said that the road was scenic even if it wasn’t very good so I thought we should keep going. Then we encountered a guy walking down the road, a rasta man with dreadlocks down to the middle of his back and a huge machete slung across his shoulder. I stopped and rolled down the window, “Is this the road to Windsor?” I asked.

“No man, this road goes to Bubbling Springs. You gotta go back down and turn left at the bridge, then right at the…” The rest was lost on me, but we went down, and eventually we found Windsor.

Another time three school girls gave us the scoop, “Yes, the fishing village of Gouyave is this way.”

“Thank you.” Zoom.

So in this manner we found our way and wound up at our hotel on Grenada’s north coast in time for cocktails. Success!

And just in time to see a big storm roll in.

Right as night fell the wind started to howl, the waves kicked up, and rain soon followed. We had our wine on the deck overlooking the passage to the Grenadines and watched the fury of the wind and waves. They told us at the hotel that this was the worst they’d seen since Hurricane Ivan. Boy, were we glad we were not sailing to Carriacou that night, although we saw two boats out there that were. I think they had a rough night. Instead the bartender shuttered the doors and served us an excellent dinner inside while the rain beat on the window panes.

Later that night we retired to our cottage on the beach and left the doors wide open. We felt the wind on our faces and listened to the crashing surf, the wildly swaying palm trees, and the rain on our veranda roof, all from our four poster bed. It was pretty fantastic.

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Grenada Woman.

Thursday morning the storm was over and we continued on our drive, hit all the tourist spots, and got back to Wings by dark.

Could you say we’ve done Grenada?

Well, in a sort of cursory way, yes, and it was great.

Next we head to Carriacou.

Click here to see more of our road trip.

Click here to see more shots of the storm at the Hotel at Petite Anse

Click here to see some more Grenadian people.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Grenada


Tuesday, December 04, 2012

November 27, 2012-Night Passage to Prickly Bay

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Anchored in Hog Island Bay, Grenada.

The first night at sea after a period at anchor is the same; the sea always reminds us of what happens if we aren’t exactly ready, if everything isn’t properly stowed, and in general, lets us know it’s still boss. Here we were, the first night out, charging along powered up and driving on a fresh breeze with the wind just ahead of the beam, seeing sevens and eights, waves splashing onto the foredeck, the vane working hard and then there was enough of a side roll to throw some gear loose below deck. I heard it fall then I heard Judy moving around below picking up the items which had gone adrift.

I guess we weren't all that prepared.

We left Man of War Bay at dusk headed for Prickly Bay, Grenada, and by nightfall we were on this fast reach with the full main eased out and the small jib pulling strongly and I was sitting in the cockpit behind the dodger, taking one of my first watches at sea after a while, and honestly, I would have been happier with a little less wind. I just wanted things to be mellow.

Instead I got squalls, the first one rolled through around eight o’clock, darkening the sky, and suddenly the wind was 24.5 knots true. The boat speed shot up.

There was a groan from the winch drum as the turns of the main sheet shifted under the increased force. The boat rolled hard on a big wave and we threatened to round up and then the rig shook as the sail luffed violently.

I bore off and we accelerated and I wondered if the wind was going to continue to increase or if it would moderate? The black cloud overhead didn’t look particularly big but sometimes these things get a life of their own and just keep growing once they get started. I didn’t want the fuss of having to put a reef in, maybe in the midst of a pouring rain and howling breeze. I just wanted it easy but you don’t always get to choose.

Fortunately the squall passed, the wind went back to eighteen, and I came back up to our previous course. I settled down a little. This night would pass.

But now I was keeping a closer watch on the sky; there could be more of these squalls and Ruth and Angus, who just arrived in Man of War Bay earlier today, reported a violent previous night of 45 knot winds and heavy rain.

We didn’t get that; our squalls were moderate and short, and in fact, with the full moon, it was a glorious night of sailing, fast and wet, and with just enough of an edge on to keep us on our toes.

By morning we were easing our way into Prickly Bay.

Click here for a few more photos from Hog Island Bay and Whisper Cove Marina Bar, Grenada

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Hog Island, Grenada

December 8, updated for typo

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