Captain's Log, Stardate:5/12/03
Hello to All:
Just a quick report on the last third of our winter's cruise. It was both uneventful and wonderful at the same time.
It was an easy sail to Antigua from St. Martin but a little tougher to get to Barbuda, about 15 NM N of Antigua. Mary, her sister Teri, John, and I arrived in Barbuda at "that time of the week," that is, Saturday night when my duty as Captain is getting the Admiral to church on time. There is only one place to land a dinghy near the major Barbudan city of Codrington, population ~2,000. The anchorage was horrible and the dock area had earth moving equipment kicking up sand that blew downwind toward Escape Cay. We nonetheless got the dinghy tied up to the dock and went into town in quest of a Catholic Church. It should have been easy to find since everyone there speaks English but alas, every denomination was represented except Catholic. This could, like many things in life, be blamed on a woman, in this case, Anne Boleyn, the woman that precipitated King Henry VIII's schism with the Pope. As a result, we got to see what an Anglican Church looked like. When we returned to the dock, the sand blowing off the pier fell right into the dinghy and had accumulated to about 1.5" deep. What a mess. Just another "sh'y day in paradise," as yachties like to say.
Back to Antigua and then straight south for 40 NM to Deshaies (pronounced "Day Hay'") in Guadeloupe. From there we slowly cruised down the West Coast of Guadeloupe, around the southwestern tip, and on up the inside of the "butterfly's wings" to Point á Pitré pronounced "Point ah Pete." After Teri and John left, Mary and I spent three weeks having work done on the boat and touring Guadeloupe along with the beautiful "Iles des Saintes."
All the hours I spent trying to speak a little Spanish meant nothing here. Guadeloupe, like all the French West Indies, is not just a French Colony but is truly a department of France, complete with baguettes, gendarmes, and Euros as the currency. Sometimes, when trying to order a part from a local shopkeeper, I would start explaining what I needed only to be interrupted with, "I'm sorry, I don't speak English." I know that most of the world believes in these definitions: "Trilingual," you speak three languages, "Bilingual," you speak two, and "American," you speak only one language. So I attempted to stamp out that perception by replying to the shopkeeper, "Hablas Espanol?" Good for combating stereotypes; bad for getting what you need in the French West Indies.
If you need cash in Guadeloupe, you have to earn it. My method: Pass through the doors of the main bank in PP, see the long lines and pick one. Ask the people in the back of the line if this is the one for exchanging money. Realize none of them speak English and even fewer speak Spanish. So brandish some US currency point to the money, then point to the teller's window and pantomime a question mark. Get a "Oui, oui" from each of the three people paying attention to you. Stand in line for 45 minutes. When finally at the window, listen to Madame Teller speak rapidly in French while pointing to another long line 33 feet (sorry, 10 meters) away. Fight back a tear and move to the back of the other line. When you finally get the cash, you feel like you've earned it . . . a second time. At least the air-conditioning brings the temp down to 80 degrees F.
Luckily, Mary and I we were not punished by America's failure to follow the French in escaping the unpleasantries of going to war. The only reminder that there was a war about to start was a man passing out antiwar leaflets at the entrance to a shopping mall. I took one, saw what it was, and then said to him, "We'll see how you feel about going to war after a terrorist bombs Notré Dame on Sunday morning or the Eiffel Tower." His response made more sense to me than any antiwar protester in the US, "Je ne parla pas Anglais."
With no crew signed on for the next leg to Martinique, Mary and I decided to skip it and sail directly to Barbados where friends we met in Greece were to fly in from London and join us for the passage to Tobago. The 225 mile passage to Barbados took 31 hr. with the wind mostly on the beam. Very pleasant.
Barbados was a nice surprise for us. The marina at Port St. Charles supplied us with a wireless modem which allowed us to surf the net at about 56K right from the navigation station on the boat. With the technology of N. America and the climate of the Caribbean--or is Barbados in the SW North Atlantic?--who could ask for more? Before our guests arrived, a man who was admiring Escape Cay invited us to his swanky condo near the marina (rumored to cost over $5,000,000). During the conversation, he mentioned he was leaving the next morning to go back to London. The next morning, about a half hour after his scheduled departure, a loud roar brought me out into the cockpit just in time to see the Concord clawing for altitude for one of its last flights to London. What a beautiful sight! And what a shame to think the noble but costly program will be discontinued the end of May. I guess any of our trips to Europe from now on will have to be subsonic, as have all our flights in the past. Nor, I suppose, can we be too upset with the loss of the Concorde when most of our travel is at 10 mph or less.
During our final passage from Tobago to Trinidad, we saw a strange, dark object in the water ahead. As we got closer, we could see it was a huge leather back turtle . . . dead. Whether it was killed by natural causes or a boat's propeller, we could not say.
We rented a car in Trinidad to get around. My rule has always been not to drive anywhere in Trinidad without three people in the car: The driver, a navigator, and a reminder. The reminder's job is to remind the driver to "keep left." With no guests on board and Mary working hard to clean the boat for our partners due to arrive April 28, I violated my own rule and drove alone with disastrous results! I had parked at Crews Inn to hit the ATM machine located there. After getting the maximum allowed, I walked back to the car carefully counting it to make sure the machine didn't make an error. I got into the car deep in thought about why it was we could only get money out of the machine once per day and what my next stop would be now that I had a fresh allotment of cash. I started to fasten my seat belt ("you know, it's the LAW") and only then became shocked to find the steering wheel missing! I had heard of hub caps, tires, and what have you being stolen before but never a steering wheel! Being the quick-witted and perceptive person I am, I immediately noticed a steering wheel just like the stolen one . . . in front of the passenger's seat. I merely had to exit the left seat, walk around the car and get into the right seat. Not so serious. The "disaster" was that there were three Trinidadians happily observing this, one of the worst ignominies of my life.
Mary and I were happy to arrive back in MN on May 1 looking forward to a summer on dry land, although of late, it hasn't been so dry.
Hope all is well with you and your family!
~~~~_/)Lee~~~~~~~~~~_/)_/)~_/)_/)~~_/)~~~~_/) and Mary