Captain's Log, Stardate:

5/12/02

Arrived Minnesota!

Hello to All:

I bought a bottle of "Simply Sleep" sleeping pills before our transatlantic crossing. In reading the warnings on the bottle, I noticed the caveat, "May cause drowsiness." So, desiring to be at least as smart as the attorney responsible for that disclaimer, please be advised the following "may cause drowsiness."

Our last episode ended with having our dinghy stolen but returned the next day sans outboard motor. We have since replaced that and have had three more crews join us. Derek and Christine came into Margarita and we sailed to beautiful and isolated Isla Blanquilla. While there, we were awakened one morning by fishermen setting out their nets near our boat. They caught a lot of good sized fish called "rainbow runners" and we paid $1.24 for one that was still flopping around. At least, that's what we paid for the bottle of rum the fisherman suggested we use in trade. Afterward, I saw him passing the bottle amongst his friends . . . at 9:15 A.M.! From what I can recall, it works pretty much the same way on the lakes in Minnesota.

Then Wayne and Dara joined us for the long slog back to windward in order to return to Trinidad. It was about this time that President Hugo Chavez "resigned" (we were told) and then miraculously returned to power a couple days later. Even Nixon couldn't do that! Our biggest concern was getting fuel and groceries. Most stores closed in honor of the anti-Chavez strike. One big one still remained open however so we thought we would re-provision quickly before they were all closed. We found it packed with people with the same idea apparently. All 21 checkout lanes were open and there were long lines behind each one!

The wind clocked to the NNE for a while so we left Isla Margarita at midnight for Trinidad. We actually managed to beat our way back to Los Testigos, using the engine only for the last two hours. A few days later, we left Testigos at 7 a.m. for Trinidad. An hour and a half later, we landed a 35 LB Wahoo! (We caught it on a red and white diving Rapala.) Mary makes a nice marinade (learned from Claudia on an earlier cruise) and everyone ate their fill of fresh fish. As we entered the harbor in Chaguaramas, Trinidad, a few dolphins came out to greet us.

Then, on April 20, Ralph, Brenda, Rich, and Chris all joined us for another shot at one of my favorite islands, Tobago. The winds are usually fairly strong (sometimes VERY strong) in the winter but taper off toward summer. Hence, on the day of our departure, we had only 10-13 kts so decided to motor along the North coast of Trinidad for 45 miles and then head north for the final 20 miles to the South coast of Tobago. This got us to Tobago faster than our previous method (sail first to Grenada, Carriacou, then to Tobago for a total of 116 miles). Although motoring against 13 knots is no fun (the boat climbs one wave and then crashes down into the next), we got a very nice consolation prize; we saw giant sea turtles! About 20 of them floated by, some really close to the boat over a period of about an hour. These "leatherbacks" are the largest species of turtles. About this time of the year, they close in on Trinidad and Tobago and crawl up onto the beaches in the moonlight to lay their eggs even though there are homes and commercial enterprises nearby.

As we neared Tobago, we caught another wahoo (on the same lure), this time a mere 8-10 LBs but enough to give the six of us two meals. This really took the pressure off the beef steaks in our freezer.

Subsequently, we leisurely cruised up the West coast of Tobago to Speyside (around the corner on the top) stopping at such obscure places as Buccoo Reef, Castara Bay, Charlotteville, Speyside, and Pigeon Point. We all felt the snorkeling was best at Speyside with ample coral, a hundred species of fish, and clear/warm water (84 F). Rich and Chris left us at Pigeon Point so the four remaining non-mutineers left the SW point of Tobago for Chaguaramas in Trinidad. We instantly hoisted the spinnaker in 10-13 kts of following wind for our much deserved downward sleigh ride. Faced with a choice of giving us a wonderful spinnaker ride downwind in return for all the dues we had paid beating and motoring to windward, Neptune was left with two options: 1) Lower the speed of the wind to 0-8 kts making the run excruciatingly slow or 2) Increasing the wind to a level higher than we've had in the last 4 months making it a challenging ordeal to get the spinnaker down with out blowing it out . . . again. He chose the latter and, after a three hour photo op under the multicolored spinnaker, Mary and I found ourselves out on deck wrestling with the "sock" in 25 kts of true wind while Ralph and Brenda worked the lines from the cockpit. But, we hit 11 kts of sustained boat speed first so we truly were "whooshing."

Thinking the excitement was all over, we relaxed under reefed main and jib when the fishing line went spewing out for the third time on the Tobago passage. Ralph hauled in a 21 LB yellowfin tuna while I gaffed it after which, Mary anesthetized it with Venezuelan rum (sprayed in the gills). It strikes me as interesting that whether we get our fish directly from the sea or indirectly from fisherman, we have to use rum in the process. While getting ready to fillet out the tuna, Mary gave the universal signal for everyone to run up to the bows, "Dolphins!" Sure enough, first one or two, then four, then a dozen or more large dark gray dolphins were frolicking in the bow waves just a few feet directly below us! Several times we saw a pair jump completely out of the water not unlike those at Sea World. You know how it is when you come home from work and your dog greets you with a wagging tail? It's like that with the dolphins even though they never met you before. They have to be the most amazing animals on earth!

So ended our last passage for the season. Since March 17, 2001, Escape Cay had taken us from France to Tunisia, Malta, Greece, Italy, back to France, then Spain, Gibraltar, Casablanca, Canary Islands, across the Atlantic to St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Trinidad, Grenada, Tobago, Venezuela, and back to Trinidad and Tobago. It was all wonderful but we are now eager to come back to Minnesota (on May 5) since we feel confident the snow storm of a few days ago will have been the last of the season!

We want to thank you for all the encouraging words and being right there in the cockpit with us. Perhaps you can join us next year for a spell. Where we will cruise then? Right now we have no idea but will keep you posted. Hope all is well with you and your family!

This will be Escape Cay signing off for the summer. Over and out.