Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bequia

Please note that I've gone back to WEBSHOTS as a way of showing the majority of our photographs. It still takes too long to upload them to the site and any suggestions as to a better site would be greatfully received. In the meantime I've posted the most recent pictures on Webshots, click on the link at the side.
We're back in Bequia, on board Moondancer - we've provisioned for the week, cleaned half of her bottom (we'll do the rest today), the St. Vincent coffee is brewing (its very good coffee) and I can sit around our cabin half dressed as the only person who'll see me is my husband - and he doesn't mind. We really like Bequia - to be more accurate I should say that we really like Admiralty Bay in Bequia, because quite honestly we've seen little else. We have what we need here - a quiet anchorage which is mostly very comfortable - NOT rolly as it has been for the past couple of days. The water is usually very clear and the snorkelling and diving are excellent. The little town has a few good supermarkets and there's alot of fresh produce to be had. Who could ask for anything more? It only takes an hour and a half to get here from St. Vincent, so when we are not working for Barefoot we bring Moondancer across. When we finish cleaning the bottom of the boat we are going on a tour of Bequia, there is a particular place that we always see when sailing past it out on the western peninsula called Moon Hole. Its seems to be a mostly abandoned development which was built in the 60's. (see webshots for pics) The story we've heard is that a wealthy American wanted to build his own little city, so using the local stone and cement made with the local sand he built this little community, some of which is in a cave with a hole in the top. The moon (when there is one) shines through that hole onto the little town centre. From the water it looks alot like a primitive village in a Star Wars film set.  Apparently after a few years the buildings started to crumble, but some of the 'resort' is open and rooms can be rented. So even though it looks completely abandoned we've heard that some people still live there. We sailed past it at night about a week ago and there were no lights - or moon that night on that night.   see www.moonholecompany.com

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Having just looked at this site for the first time in months I realise how time has flown by since the last entry. We've been very busy since we left Antigua. We spent a bit of time in Sint Maarten where we tried out for a week with Tradewinds, a charter club where we would be operating their catamarans as Captain and Chef - I thought I could be that Chef person until I actually saw the job in action. Though we liked the company I knew that I would not be happy in that job. In early May we heard of a charter company/sailing school further south in St. Vincent who needed instructors. Looking back on my records I found that we had applied to them when we first arrived in the Caribbean with no response, but the school director of that time was leaving and our timing now was right on. They asked us to come down to them as soon as possible, we did and we've been working regularly since we arrived. To be more accurate I should say that Tony has been working since we arrived, and I have been going along as a 'clingon'. Tony's RYA/MCA qualifications were cross/certified to the ASA - American Sailing Association while we were up in Antigua. I've been observing the course and learning my route while waiting for my cross certification to come through which should happen quite soon now. The courses we teach are 1 week long, liveaboard courses at the end of which some students will have certification to charter a sailboat as the skipper. Depends on how much sailing experience they have already accumulated or will before they attempt to charter. And this part of the Caribben is very different to the Leeward Islands up north - I would say this is definitely a frontier, or the frontier of the Caribbean - a few miles further down in Grenada where it is supposedly 'hurricane free' is the holding area for the Caribbean liveaboard cruisers who will all be sailing back up when the hurricane season is over. The 'route' we have to work in is pretty much anywhere in St. Vincent and the Grenadines which are under the St. Vincent flag. i.e. Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Mayreau, and Union which includes Tobago Cays which are justifiably famous. In Tobago Cays we can swim with turtles who are free to go wherever they wish, and we are anchored behind a reef which is between the anchorage and the wild blue yonder - the Atlantic Ocean. And from the anchorage we can see Jack Sparrow Island on World's End Reef.
Most of the students who come to learn to sail also want to have a Caribbean holiday living on a boat on the water which makes our job alot of fun, as that's what we are basically all about - living and having fun on the water - not to mention being appreciated for the knowledge we have accumulated over the past 40 odd thousand miles. I've been in a bit of a quandry as to how to keep up this blogsite when most of what we are doing these days doesn't have much to do with MoondancerX. Plus, I want to write a blog for the Barefoot blogsite and keep the Barefoot facebook page up to date. So I'm blending them together. I'll post the MoondancerX blog with our current news and give the post to James, our boss at Barefoot and he can choose to include it on the Barefoot blog. Back dating a bit now - our sail down to the Grenadines from Antigua was gruelling - and very slow, not due to lack of wind - of which there was tons, but due to a current running against us at about 2 - 3 knots. Being new to the area all we had for information were charts which show very strong currents coming through the channels between islands, but its local knowledge which tells us what those currents do once through the gaps. Also the effect that the moon's cycle has on that current. As sailors of course we know that the moon effects tides, and as the tides are minimal in the Caribbean sea we did not expect that effect to be so great. Anyway, as a result of the slow progress we made we did stop in a couple of times on Guadeloupe and Martinique which were very comforting shelter from the sometimes 40 knots of wind battering us along the coast. Once here we were piloted over the reef into the Blue Lagoon which is home to Barefoot and a couple of other charter companies. Its a bit of a rolly anchorage as the wind and seas just over the reef are very 'active'. There's certainly no shortage of wind in this part of the world, as many of our students discover in short order. Whether they know it at the time of booking their course or realise it pretty much on their first day out on a Barefoot yacht, they've come to the right place to learn to sail with lots of wind. Those students who have already taken a couple of courses on lakes at home are really put to the test, and thanks to modern sea sickness technology; i.e. the patch, we have not had to deal with the dreaded mal de mare too often. The first couple we taught came from Louisiana to do an Advanced course, Janna and Linus. They keep their own traditional sailboat on an almost inland lake in Louisiana, where they may find sailing very tame from now on. From them we learned of a TV show about people who make a living killing aligators in a swamp. Yuk!
The next group were newlyweds, Emily and Charlie from Texas aswell as Bill from New York. Bill had already done some sailing at home, and left with the 'hook' deeply embedded; talking of owning his own boat and keeping it in a charter fleet.
The Kansas group; Rick and Kay and their friends Jim and Sally brought us news of another sport that I have absolutely no desire to try, but respect anyone who're still pushing themselves hard in their 60's. Rick and Jim are both cavers and Jim still plays hockey.
Then Caroline and Nathan from New York and Dave from Ottawa. Dave, who we called our 'winchman' because he is obviously very strong found sleeping in his bunk too clostrophobic so he decided to sleep outside in the cockpit. He became the butt of our jokes because nothing seemed to wake him up except of course the nightly rain. He'd get up, bring all of his bedding below and wait 5 minutes, then go back and set it all up again. But anything else going on around him didn't seem to disturb him at all.
Last week we met the family Quadrelli. From Switzerland via Brazil and Italy. Marco and Carmen and their 2 sons, Lorenzo and Matteo. They booked this holiday a year ago and started studying. The idea was that they would all learn to sail in the first week and then charter a boat and go sailing for another week on their own. That's where they are now - sailing on their own. Carmen copied the text books and pasted them all over their kitchen cupboards for a whole year, so they had all been living and breathing this sailing holiday - which definitely paid off. Marco passed with flying colors. Lorenzo will make an excellent first mate to Marco, and Carmen and Matteo are both very enthusiastic to help them. Marco's days as a champion windsurfer and pilot certainly helped alot.
Living together with these groups of people from such varied walks of life and different parts of the world adds alot to our sailing experience, and I am often amazed by how much they learn in a short time, plus the exchange of stories certainly adds alot of colour to our lives and in some cases we bond with these people. 24 hours a day living in about 300 sq ft, sharing our food, our shower (which is the boat's transom), our dinghy and our stories - we get to know each other pretty quickly. As I write we are at anchor in Bequia with a healthy northeast wind lifting the water to a sideways swell (yuk) and bringing over squall after squall - enough rain yesterday to actually have a real shower - didn't even have to use any sea water. There are still many cruisers and charter guests around us. Its strange because it feels a bit like winter with the grey skies and voluminous clouds, but its still very warm and humid. Another country's weather system to learn.