Crossing to Colombia

Goodbye beautiful Haiti
Goodbye beautiful Haiti
Getting to Colombia was our biggest nut to crack. The Caribbean Sea is known for relentless high winds and seas, and this would be our first venture to a truly foreign land. Bill and I had sailed to the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Dominican Republic decades ago, but had not ventured further south. I can’t tell you how many hours we stared at the Pilot Charts (statistical data on wind and wave conditions by month) and talked with people who had sailed here before. The clear message was that the winds would blow at least 25 knots and the seas would be at least eight feet. These conditions are nothing new to us or to Alembic, but we were concerned about traveling three days straight and being overwhelmed if the conditions piped up. The Christmas Winds, we learned, were notorious for escalating to fifty knots and thirty foot seas, and could begin any time in December.

Chris Parker, our single sideband weatherman, had advised us to hang tight before moving south of the Windward Passage (the body of water between Cuba and Haiti) so we tucked in to Haiti for five days. We experienced almost zero wind in our protected anchorages there while the Caribbean Sea roared just south of us. Once we had the okay from Chris, we said our goodbyes, raised the anchor and headed due south. Within three miles, our zero winds turned to twenty and the seas were confused as we tried different sail arrangements. Up with the mainsail, two reefs; out with the genoa, roll it back in halfway for a smaller sail; up with the mizzen, reef that too; up with the inner jib; down with the mizzen. Finally, we settled with the double reefed main, inner jib, and a genoa that we could use as a throttle. We rolled it out when our speed went down and in when our speed was uncomfortably fast. We tried to sail Alembic under eight knots because more than that just caused more crashing into the seas.

Soon, we settled into a nice routine of watches. Bill and I traded being in charge every two hours. This allowed for plenty of off watch time to try to sleep, cook, and navigate. Alembic was fabulous. I highly recommend this boat to anyone. She seemed to relish the wind and rolled gently with each wave that passed under her keel. A beam reach (wind directly on the side of the boat) is the perfect angle and this was the position the entire three days. When larger waves approached at a rate of about once every half hour, we were showered with a spray that soaked the entire boat except the area under the dodger. So we hunkered down in the two corners of this dodger while the autopilot steered. When we ventured out further in the cockpit to adjust sails and search the horizon for any other vessels, we risked getting drenched.

Once in a while, a huge set of rollers would arrive and Alembic tipped to port and starboard, scooping seawater with her gunwales. These rivers of water roared down the length of the boat, spilling overboard as she rolled, and draining final contents down the scuppers. Certain that water was making its way below, I kept checking for leaks. As water rushed past the seven ports (windows) on each side, I was pleasantly surprised to find only a few drips onto our stove, a few more onto a wooden cabinet, and a few more onto a shelf where we keep hats. Zero water made its way to any electronics or cushions, which are damaged by salt.

Knowing Alembic was handling these conditions like a champ, we assessed our own safety and comfort. Unfortunately, there was no moon during our passage, so it was “dark as a pocket” as Bill kept saying, by 6:30 pm each night. You could feel the rhythm of the ocean but see nothing, and mother nature likes to throw new beats in now and then. At one point, during my watch in the dark, a huge wave happened to crest just as it reached us, and dumped an enormous bucket of water into the cockpit. Now this bucket was the size of the biggest dump truck load imaginable. It roared over our dodger and bimini and submerged the wheel momentarily. The aft companionway (steps down to the aft cabin) had a door in place, but the wall of water pressed so hard and allowed a few gallons to spray through the seals, soaking everything below. Luckily this only happened once. This put my level of comfort on edge for a bit, but I soon realized that this was a fluke and would probably not happen again. Luckily it didn’t.

To be safe, Bill and I always wear our inflatable PFD’s and connect a tether from these to pad eyes in the cockpit. When we need to venture out of the cockpit to adjust sails or perform other tasks, we clip our tether to a jackline. This is a long piece of webbing that runs the length of the boat. We have one to starboard and one to port. Often, this connection to the boat seems overkill, but imagine one weird wave coming by, just as I’m out on the bow. If I slip and fall overboard, Bill would have a hard time turning this boat around and finding me in the seas.

Settling in to our routine, we found that this trip was much less worrisome than we had envisioned, weather-wise. What was more alarming than the wind or seas, were the ships we had to navigate around. This area is like a super highway for tankers, cruise ships, and tugs. Again, true to Bill’s nature, we were well prepared. We had purchased a new VHF just before leaving Maine, which is equipped with AIS. This is a system, somewhat like Radar, which shows you where the ships are within a fifty miles radius. We have radar, so this may seem redundant. However, Radar falls short on several counts. First, we rarely used radar because it drains our batteries quickly with its huge power consumption, and second, it only gives us a spot on the horizon. AIS identifies the ship with its name, location, course, and time and location of nearest point to us. For example, it will say that the closest point of approach may be 2.5 miles in 34 minutes. Of course, when the calculated closest distance is less than a mile, we alter course, or contact the ship by radio and come up with a plan to pass safely. I have radioed many of these ships in the night and they are happy to talk and even alter course for us. They often see us as a tiny blip on their radar screen, but have no idea of our vessel type, course, speed, or anything else. We do not transmit an AIS signal at this point. We may consider adding transmitting, in addition to receiving, AIS data.

During our third night out, our AIS system indicated that there was a ship towing cables that were six miles long! Our radar certainly would never have picked this up. I called the ship to see if the cables were submerged, and if we could sail over them. He said they were seismic cables on the surface and we needed to steer around them. He also indicated that there was a chase boat (a tug) staying at the end. This boat was not showing up on AIS or Radar with the current weather conditions, so speaking to this Captain was a life saver! We altered course significantly to avoid any issues, and gave thanks for our AIS yet again.

Happy and tired our third morning
Happy and tired our third morning
After this encounter, our sail began to ease in every way. The sun rose, shedding light on our world which was surprisingly calm! The seas had eased to a very settled state, unlike what we had expected. Everyone had told us that the coast of Colombia would be wild with crazy seas coming from winds whipping from the enormous mountains of the coast. This was not the case. Our strongest winds, over thirty knots, were one hundred miles north of the coast, and now, at fifty miles out, we were experiencing our lightest winds of the trip, about twenty knots. I stared at the horizon for hours, creating mountains in my mind out of the cloudy skies.
Land Ho!  Colombia!
Land Ho! Colombia!
Finally we see the coast of Colombia
Finally we see the coast of Colombia
I told Bill “this feels like Maine in the fog!” because I couldn’t see land through the haze. Finally, at about eight miles offshore, the huge mountains appeared, and our hearts leapt. We had arrived!

Our fancy marina
Our fancy marina
Feels like New York City!
Feels like New York City!
After this point, we sailed easily into the harbor. Two kind men in a large inflatable escorted us to our dock and helped us tie up. This was a first; never before had anyone ever escorted us into a marina. I knew right away that I would like Colombia.

Dialing Susan to Haiti

How do you help a struggling community? The first step is to listen carefully to the voices of the individuals. Ask the right questions, consider the responses, and continue to ask questions until you get the real story. Then get the story out there to people who can make a difference.

Imagine a woman who knows how to ask the important questions. Now, envision this woman teaching 93 teenagers to ask these questions. You can see the impact. This woman is my dear friend Susan. She has been doing this year after year. Training students to become documentarians. They create the most heartfelt portraits of real people who struggle. The students develop compassion, curiosity, writing skills, videography talent, and editing skills to produce professional quality documentaries to share the message of need.

Susan, please come, with your young scholars, to Haiti. They have stories to get out to the world. Haitian voices have not been heard. People are afraid to come to Haiti because the loudest message is that of violence. During my five day stay I only witnessed gentle kindness, gifts delivered to my boat every fifteen minutes, smiling faces of young and old, curiosity about my travels and my boat, skilled craftsmanship in building boats from felled trees and scraps of fabric, expert sailing and paddling skills among the very young and very old, gardening efforts in the bone dry dirt, and an ability to last days without food.

I tried to capture the essence of the community of Ile a Vache in photos.

A view from the hill.  Alembic sits mid photo
A view from the hill. Alembic sits mid photo

Cruisers have told me to avoid taking photos of people, so most are of the village. One enterprising man had transformed his home into a resort for visiting tourists.

Jerome's contact.  Come visit!
Jerome’s contact. Come visit!
Lovely curtains for a door to your room
Lovely curtains for a door to your room
Dining Room
Dining Room
Front Entry
Front Entry
Where the Creole meals are created
Where the Creole meals are created
Living Room
Living Room
New rooms under construction
New rooms under construction
A toilet and shower.  Unusual for this community
A toilet and shower. Unusual for this community

This was the only effort toward tourism, sanitation, and connection to the world wide web that I witnessed in the village. My tour guides were teenagers

My tour guide wants to be an engineer
My tour guide wants to be an engineer

and certainly did not show me all of the local developments.

Popular shared areas in the village were the playground, the church, and the boat yard where they constructed dugout canoes and more elaborate water craft, all without electricity or modern tools. Also noteworthy, were the street lights. While the island had no general electricity, there were many solar panels to power the street lights.

Playground
Playground
Solar Panels for Street Lights
Solar Panels for Street Lights
Beautifully handcrafted boats
Beautifully handcrafted boats
Church
Church

A few foreigners have come to this island to build establishments and locals have benefitted vaguely from the jobs and tourism. One French man came decades ago to build the Port Morgan Resort. Strolling through this resort, I met the proprietor, but encountered zero customers. Another woman came to help children and opened an orphanage. While this facility was too far away for me to visit on foot, I have heard that she continues her efforts with minimally funded success.

The landscape and access to the ocean is second to none, which begs the question: why can’t this island become a thriving tourist attraction? How can this community help itself? Most locals have inadequate food, no sanitary facilities, and cannot read or write. While I don’t want to inflict my ideals on any individual, I witnessed too many people begging for food, boat supplies, clothing, and revealing to me that they are barely surviving. I wish I could wave a magic wand and bring some ease to this lovely region.

Please, Susan, you are the magic wand. Please come to this lovely place, with your eager young people, to listen to their stories, and show the world how much they have to offer. Thank you for considering.

Coming to Haiti

Haiti wasn’t even on our itinerary. But here we are! And loving it! We left George Town on Monday for a glorious sail out of the harbor and into the Atlantic. The wind was right on the beam, which is ideal, and fifteen knots in strength. Alembic seemed to be rejoicing with us to be back out to sea again. The Hog Cay Cut was surprisingly simple to pass. Many cruisers told us that it was too shallow, and the charts showed spots that were only 2.5 feet. Yes, we draw five feet, but those soundings are for average low tide. High tide this day was extra high, about 3.5 feet above the charted depths. So we planned our trip around this time. The other option, sailing north of Long Island, would add 100 miles to our trip.

We caught a Barracuda soon after passing through the Hog Cay cut
We caught a Barracuda soon after passing through the Hog Cay cut

Since the grocery store closed at 11am the previous day, and we missed this, we had to shop the day of departure. This set us back a bit, arriving at the cut almost two hours after high tide. The ebb was running swiftly, confirming that we missed the high tide, but the most shallow report from our trusted depth sounder was 6.9 feet. Yay!! We were on our way!

The rest of the day was blissful.

Perfect sailing conditions
Perfect sailing conditions

Our autopilot steers, so we just sit back and enjoy. Trimming sails every so often, making meals, eating, and fishing kept us busy, but certainly didn’t wear us out. We had considered stopping in Great Inagua for a rest, but no resting was necessary, so we kept on sailing, right into the Windward Passage, between Cuba and Haiti.

I need to learn how to photograph night shots.  I chatted on the VHF with this cruise ship
I need to learn how to photograph night shots. I chatted on the VHF with this cruise ship

Listening to Chris Parker, our weatherman on SSB, we decided that proceeding southward after the Windward Passage wouldn’t be the best idea. The first day or two would be fine, but the third day would be a wild ride, according to the weather gods. So, what to do? Our ideas of stopping in the Turks and Caicos or Great Inagua were no longer an option, Cuba may need some preplanning, and Haiti… We never really had considered Haiti a possible stopping point.

Approaching Haiti from the North
Approaching Haiti from the North
The Mizzen taking a rest
The Mizzen taking a rest

Luckily, I married a Man with a Plan. Bill always researches. Anything. Anywhere. He had read up about several spots in Haiti as emergency landings if we were having issues. The first place, Anse D’Hainault, was an anchorage on the western end of the Tiburon Peninsula, and the second place, Ile a Vache, was an island around the corner, further south then east.

Just before seeing the Green Flash
Just before seeing the Green Flash
Just after the Green Flash.  I never quite catch the Green in a photo
Just after the Green Flash. I never quite catch the Green in a photo

We decided we would check out the first on our way south, since it was on our course. The sun had set (with the magical Green Flash) two hours prior, leaving us with zero visibility in the moonless night. We decided to skip this place because there was not a single nautical marker or boat showing anchor lights. We were not keen on being the only boat in an anchorage. Carrying on, we sailed blissfully in very light wind and almost zero waves. As we rounded the corner of the peninsula, the winds began to pick up, with waves to match. Soon we were in large confused seas (waves coming from several directions and colliding with each other) with, again, no visibility. Staring into the blackness, we let our ears help us see. We heard voices nearby; sailors in dugout canoes with no lights, and also heard crashing surf everywhere.

Maybe we were tired from three days offshore, maybe we were worried because our trusty GPS was about to go blank (it doesn’t cover this area of Haiti and our mediocre iPhone App Navionics would be our only chart),

Garmin
Our GPS is about to go blank.  See the screen turn off just in front of our boat’s current position?!

 

maybe we were allowing stories of unsafe Haitian shores to invade our brains. We panicked. For the first time ever, Bill and I were scared. Scared that Alembic would be dashed onto rocks by a wave, or that we would hit one of these many small unlit fishing boats, or… we needed to do something fast. We turned around.

Bill’s thoughts were dramatic: “Let’s go to Jamaica! Or Panama! And skip Colombia all together” Mine were simpler: “Let’s go back to Anse D’Hainault which is situated in the shadow of the wind, so calm and peaceful” We began to think clearly again, once we were headed west in this strong east wind. The ride downwind is always surprisingly peaceful, compared to trying to sail right into the wind. We motored around the corner again, headed north, and dropped anchor in the harbor at 11:30 pm, having no idea what it really looked like. Sleep came quickly this night.

Waking at 6, as usual, to listen to Chris Parker’s forecast, I slipped my head out of the hatch to see our new digs. The harbor was a perfect semi circle, large enough for one hundred boats, and we were the only boat anchored here. There were plenty of other boats, either meandering about the harbor, or laying on the beach, waiting for someone to drag them into the sea. Every boat was a dugout canoe. Boys and men were paddling or sailing their craft skillfully. Each boat had a gallon jug with the top cut off; perfect for bailing. I couldn’t figure out if the water entered the boats over the low gunwales, or through leaks in the hull. Either way, they required constant bailing.

As soon as my head rose above the cabin trunk, the parade of visitors began. How nice of them to allow us to sleep before their visits! The first boat had two young men paddling and bailing. I was under the false impression that my French would allow us to communicate with the Haitians who speak Creole. I struggled to understand a word of their welcoming speech. When two more canoes joined the first, I thought Great! These young kids will translate. I find that young children often speak more clearly than adults. Well, my French and the children’s eagerness helped, but the confused communication continued throughout the day. Hand gestures, laughter, repeating many phrases, and persistence all played a part in the steady stream of back and forth. We never left the boat because we were not checked in through immigration or customs, so they came to us.

While the exchanges of heartfelt thoughts were much more valuable than the exchanges of goods, here is a list of the give and take of goods:

Les Cadeaux
Les Cadeaux

We received four lobsters, one large mackerel, a gigantic pile of plantains, two oranges, one huge avocado, one mango, a grocery bag brimming over with sugar cane, many candles, and home made soap. The items we gave were twelve dollars, an old dive mask, two slices of bread, a cup of our tap water, five pens, one pencil, twenty pages of paper, and two spools of thread with a needle in each. Now if anyone was doing any accounting, the day didn’t end up fairly. Some people received more than they gave, and vice versa, but all seemed happy. Not one Haitian haggled with our offerings. They happily accepted whatever we gave them in exchange for the “cadeau” they brought to us. The only disappointments were when we refused many “gifts”. We just couldn’t take more fish, lobster, and coconuts. And we didn’t accept any invitations for trips with them. One young man came to the boat four times, trying to get me to go to visit with his Mom. He desperately wanted us to connect. I encouraged him to bring her to Alembic, but he explained that she didn’t swim, and that “she would die”. Bill also refused many offers to join the young men on fishing expeditions. I already regret our refusals. We were just not ready to leave Alembic unattended, or to leave each other in this foreign land.

Photographing the Haitians is generally not welcomed, according to other cruisers’ opinions, so the images of the day are safely tacked in my brain, not my photo albums. Impressions that stand out are: The tiny canoe with three children, the youngest being naked. The thirty something man who launched into a dramatic story, even placing tears in his eyes with dips of his finger to the sea, about his dad having heart problems and his needing money but the story had so many conflicting pieces of information. The boy who stood in his canoe trying in vain to ask me to tie a knot in the bag of paper and he finally pointed down to the canoe which was brim full of water. He just wanted to get the paper to shore dry! The same boy asking me to write my name and Bill’s name on a paper, then refusing to write his own but insisting I write it as he repeated: J. Gerome. He didn’t spell it out, nor did he verify that I spelled it correctly. At age 17, he could not write his name. The man and his son who had a dive mask that was so old and worn out that the plastic looked like it had melted right down to the flat piece of glass. How they could use this was a mystery to me. The “potty beach” where we could see a steady stream of people come to squat, some with buckets, some without. The young man who clung to an empty bottle as floatation for hours as he bobbed around Alembic, chanting, singing, speaking, but never engaging us in conversation or answering any of our questions. The grown boy who had a fishing line stuck in his teeth. He was paddling, bailing, and fishing, all at the same time and two hands were not enough, so he employed his teeth. It must have been lodged there quite securely, as he never attempted to remove it, even when he talked.

As the day drew to a close, I was filled with awe for these people. Everyone was kind, friendly, and eager to meet us. I wondered how often cruisers dropped anchor here. When I asked this question to several visitors, I received inconsistent answers.

So many more questions are pounding in my head, but they cannot be answered with words, so I have to be patient and allow my wonder and understanding to grow quietly. Why are there no girls above age 9 in the boats? Are there adequate jobs for people here? What percentage of people read? Write? Teach? Do people here have hope for their and their children’s future? Where is the violence that you always hear about in Haiti? Has anyone explained the reasons for better sanitary conditions? Does this matter? The list goes on and on…

One huge hope for me on this journey is to blur the lines between Us and Them. I have a goal of becoming one with foreigners from many countries. Residing in Haiti for less than 24 hours now makes me realize that the line between us has only become more established, not less. I have more questions than I ever did. I have more pity than I ever did. How can I move toward a better frame of mind, where acceptance is natural, and we can learn from and enjoy each other? Without judging. Or trying to “fix it”? I hope to move toward this goal steadily. We shall see…

Lindsay Has Arrived!

Written November 29, but posted December 11 when we finally got wifi!

There is no greater joy than to see the smiling face of your child. She may be 23, and not a child anymore, but she will always pull my heartstrings like no one else. Ok, Kenny and Erica will do the same, and Jenna too.

We ran to each other when she stepped off her plane and onto the tarmac. The ancient security guard shouted “Get Back! We will send her right back to the US”. There was a fence between us, and we couldn’t even talk through the fence. Torture.

Finally, she emerged from the Customs area of the airport and we could hug and begin our mile a minute chatter to catch up on everything we missed in the two months apart. Even though we text regularly, there is nothing like face to face blabbering.

We adventured in the stormy weather every day
We adventured in the stormy weather every day

Luckily, Lindsay is a great sport. Learning that we may have fifty knot winds that night and that the boat might sound like a helicopter while we try to sleep, and that we may not be able to sail, or snorkel, or go anywhere, didn’t really bother her. She is always up for an adventure.

The Water Taxi guys were great!
The Water Taxi guys were great!

We had a great ride back to Alembic on the water taxi. Our dinghy probably would have flipped in the wild winds so we opted to splurge for the ten buck ride. We laughed the whole way across the harbor with these local guys!

True to her promise, Lindsay slept well, with only one late night excursion on deck to stop a rope from flailing above her berth. It sounded like an erratic drumbeat that wouldn’t stop. Once that was quieted, she was back to sleep. A few hours later, she woke again to find her berth soaking wet. The hatch above her head was open a bit and the driving rain pelted in. How she slept through that soaking is beyond me! Many people don’t fare so well on a noisy, wet boat in a storm with winds up to fifty knots.

After watching the wind speed indicator hover around 38 knots and the seas curl around the south end of our island, causing Alembic to rock fitfully, we decided to venture off in our dinghy. Who cares if we got soaked; we needed to stretch our legs! We hiked across Stocking Island to the windward shore where the waves pounded the beach. We got a bit lost, trying to follow overgrown trails, but found our way again.

Taking a rest during a hike
Taking a rest during a hike
Beautiful palm fronds
Beautiful palm fronds
Lindsay has always loved hermit crabs
Lindsay has always loved hermit crabs
This plant reminded me of the man eating plant in Little Shop of Horrors!!
This plant reminded me of the man eating plant in Little Shop of Horrors!!
Poisonwood was everywhere.  Either we are not allergic, or we got lucky, and never developed the rash.
Poisonwood was everywhere. Either we are not allergic, or we got lucky, and never developed the rash.
Playful cats at Chat N Chill
Playful cats at Chat N Chill

We headed to Chat n Chill for Conch Fritters and a cold drink.

We stayed at ChatNChill till the sun set
We stayed at ChatNChill till the sun set

Here we met many people we have gotten to know this week. Friends on Zippadeedodah welcomed us to their table in the Tiki Hut. They proceeded to tell us endless stories of their antics on boats and in foreign lands, validating Lindsay’s understanding that cruisers are game for anything. Realizing that this day was Thanksgiving, we all hatched the plan to take the water taxi to GeorgeTown and splurge on a dinner and dance night out. The food was decent, but the music was excellent. Calypso tunes played by Nigel and his band were perfect for dancing. Lindsay was spun around the dance floor all night by several people. An older local took turns with every woman present and really got the party started. Then our taxi driver arrived and showed her a few moves. Lastly, a young man she had met on the plane showed Lindsay how to swing quickly and gracefully for hours.

Friday proved to be the sunniest day of Lindsay’s visit. We hiked on the northern end of Stocking Island and ran into Lindsay’s friend Emily from Northeastern.

Belizian friends know how to party!
Belizian friends know how to party!
Emily and Lindsay take a leap
Emily and Lindsay take a leap
Enjoying the only sunny day of Lindsay's visit at Hamburg Beach
Enjoying the only sunny day of Lindsay’s visit at Hamburg Beach

Emily was with her family and close friends, all Belizean. They were a hoot and filled us with great stories of Belize, making us look forward to this country more than ever.

Saturday was rainy again, but we hiked anyway. Bill had a bruised foot, and Lindsay and I had blisters from sand grinding at our skin, but we were all determined to leave no trail on this island unexplored. Satisfied we had walked every inch of the wonderful trail system, we headed to St Francis. This is an establishment which caters to the cruisers. Saturday is Cheeseburger in Paradise from 2pm on. Bahamians start early. Lindsay’s new friend Katie from her flight in was there with her family.

for Rick
We met Ric and Sherry, friends of Rick and Amy

Ric and Sherry, friends of UVM friends, were there and we finally connected in person. People we had played volleyball with last Sunday were there. A great afternoon for all.

Lindsay’s flight was Sunday at 2, so we had to make the best of every moment remaining. We motored over to Kidd Cove to be closer to town.

These dolphins were so friendly
These dolphins were so friendly

As soon as we dropped anchor, dolphins came into view. We jumped right in! Amazing! They allowed us to frolic with them for a long time. They seemed to enjoy us and somersaulted exuberantly within arm’s length. Their bodies were blubbery smooth to touch, and their endless squeaky chatter was spectacular. Finally, sufficiently exhausted, we got into the dingy and rode over to a snorkel spot.

Lindsay snorkeling
Lindsay snorkeling

Unfortunately, this was a let down, as the fifty knot winds, three nights in a row, caused the reef to be cloudy.

Showered and ready to fly, Lindsay had one last adventure. We explored George Town as a ghost town.

Lindsay took it slow to call the cats out of their hiding places
Lindsay took it slow to call the cats out of their hiding places
Lindsay shared her drinking water with the Library cats
Lindsay shared her drinking water with the Library cats

The liveliest place was the Library, where the cats greeted us, hoping we had food. We learned that everyone celebrates on Sunday and shuts down all of the stores and straw markets. I was disappointed that Lindsay couldn’t pick out a treasure to take home, but knowing Lindsay, this was not a priority at all.

Saying GoodBye at the airport was sad, but we all have things to do which require our parting. Lindsay’s final flight would put her in Boston two hours before her med school lab begins, and we have preparations for our departure from George Town the next day.

Thanks Lindsay, for helping us to see that stormy weather for four straight days does not mean you have to stop playing! We love you and look forward to many more adventures together.

Georgetown AKA Chicken Harbor

Written Nov 22, posted Dec 11 when I finally got wifi!

We have arrived. Georgetown is the end of the road for so many people. To go further south takes a certain amount of ambition. They call the islands further south the Out Islands. This is truer than ever this year. Just beyond Georgetown you find the islands which were so hard hit by Joaquin. The hurricane hovered over Rum Cay, Long Island, Crooked Island and the Acklins, for days, destroying many homes and businesses. We met a man today who has property on Rum Cay. Every home lost its roof, the mail boat doesn’t come because there is no dock to tie to, and the vegetation was demolished. He is raising fruit trees here in Georgetown and is imploring anyone heading that way to bring a tree. He hopes to bring sweetness back to his home.

Excellent Hurricane holes in the basins on Stocking Island
Excellent Hurricane holes in the basins on Stocking Island

Another reason people don’t go further is because this is such a safe anchorage with endless beauty, community or tranquility (you choose), and activities to keep you entertained for months. We first dropped anchor in Kidd’s Cove, right in the heart of Georgetown.

Heading out of the tunnel, leaving Lake Victoria
Heading out of the tunnel, leaving Lake Victoria
Lake Victoria
Lake Victoria

Taking our dinghy under the bridge into Lake Victoria was amusing. Once tied up in there, you can walk all around town. Groceries, hardware store, straw market, and an ice cream shop caught our attention. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, boutiques, and dive shops as well. A thriving community of sailors who are passing through or staying all winter, charter boat crews entertaining guests, local folks, and vacationers who choose to stay ashore all mingle together in harmony here.

Grateful for an opportunity to be with kids!
Grateful for an opportunity to be with kids!

One cruiser organized tutoring at the school in town. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity! The children were eager for the attention, and the teachers were pleased with the positive influence it was having on the children’s ability to read.

Peace and Plenty is probably the oldest and most popular stop in the town of Georgetown and Chat n Chill is the hotspot across the harbor on Stocking Island. A one mile dinghy ride yesterday gave us a chance to check out this new hotspot by ourselves. The season has not really started yet, as most boats are still in Florida or further north in the Bahamas. We hear that the season kicks into high gear sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas and is booming all winter and well into spring. We have arrived early because we are eager to move further south toward the Western Caribbean.

We chose to anchor at SandDollar Beach because the basins were too crowded.  Here we had plenty of space
We chose to anchor at SandDollar Beach because the basins were too crowded. Here we had plenty of space

Stocking Island has developed significantly since we were last here in 1988. At that time, there was no electricity or running water on the island; it was just a fun place to play volleyball on the beach and have picnics with other cruisers. Seventeen years ago, Chat n Chill opened and capitalized on the volleyball and picnic idea. Now they have signs “the Chat is free, but you pay for the Chill” No more BYOB. Yesterday was almost deserted, but today, Sunday, was a mob scene! People filled the water taxis and any boat they could find to get here. This is the one day that this beach is bumping. They call it Pig Roast Sunday, but people are here for much more than the food. We played volleyball with about twenty other cruisers for hours, while families frolicked on the swings, teens challenged themselves to the slack lines, flirtatious masses drank cocktails from plastic cups while standing waist deep in water, and everyone mingled with an air of kinship.

So many stories…Older couples returning here to winter on their old floating hulks. They just leave the boats, fly home for the summer, and return for a new season each November. Young couples trying out the boating lifestyle. Many people traveling on huge catamarans, orchestrating their busy schedule of visiting guests. Charter captains entertaining their new cycle of customers. Locals who long to leave to see the US joke with the cruisers and ask for passage off of their island. The community is wonderful and helps each other regularly. One boat got tossed up on the beach in Joaquinn, and every day people helped dig it out.

The hole left behind when trawler Marie Antoine finally got out
The hole left behind when trawler Marie Antoine finally got out
Finally trawler Marie Antoine is floating and out of her hole!
Finally trawler Marie Antoine is floating and out of her hole!

Finally, on an especially high tide, it floated! Curiously, I didn’t meet a single person who was heading further south. As we were saying our good byes, most folks ended with “See you next week” and will be here for many weeks to come. Sadly, we will not.