Technically speaking, 1/2 the Batten-Bowman fleet sank last night. The nautically inclined, may
be aware that to qualify as an Admiral, you must command more than one ship. Our admirable Admiral has full command of Eaux Vives plus T/T Eaux Vives - our much abused inflatable dinghy. It is the latter vessel which slipped (partially) beneath the waves. Now that I have your attention, the back story.
We have been puttering around the Grenadines as we negotiate with the insurance company for a reasonably priced policy, finish a series of small boat tasks and enjoy Bequia and the Tobago Cays. The Tobago Cays are the national park of SVG and are basically a few uninhabited islands and a great reef facing the Atlantic. The rum burning scene in Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed there. The first of the wet season "tropical waves" was marching west from its birthplace in the Sahara and the few feet of fragile reef between us and the Atlantic did not seem a good place to ride the squalls and thunder showers associated with the wave's arrival. We have never really been in Grenada except for short visits to the fuel dock and restaurants in Petite Martinique, a dinghy ride across the channel from Petite St. Vincent, the southernmost island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We were ready for a new country so we sailed down to the island of Carriacou to check in to the tri-island country of Grenada (Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique). Check-in at Hillsborough was a suitably daft affair. A somewhat handicapped youth greeted us at the dock offering to watch our dinghy. This usually falls a little to close to extortion for us to go along with but in this case it seemed more like a reasonable way for the boy to support himself and so we agreed. Plus, the dock was a concrete landing attached to the commercial pier and exposed to the swell. His older, rotund companion seemed handicapped only by over familiarity with the insides of the many Grenada rum shops which seem to make up the bulk of the businesses on main street. He told us we were to go to the police station after lunch when they opened and do our immigration clearance there and then come back to the building at the foot of the dock to clear with customs. Fine. We found a fine little restaurant overlooking the harbor and had a typical west Indian lunch and reported to immigration.
Immigration was busy with another customer and the officer finally looked up with a questioning glance. "We're here to check in", said I. Unmistakable storm clouds crossed his face. "Good afternoon", said his august self, rather sternly. Oops. Pushy American. No politeness. Brusque. In a hurry. Wrong. We managed to get back on the right foot by passing some pleasantries, having our own pen handy and not having to look too disorganized getting the clearance from SVG and our passports. Next stop: the customs shed. Quite a few people milling around and some official looking guy standing behind a desk. Piles of goods in the warehouse section and wooden steps going upstairs and a small office opposite the most approachable looking fellow. After suitable pleasantries were exchanged, we were asked for four copies of our crew list. Our crew is us, Lance, the Captain, ship's agent, and ship's owner and Susie, the Admiral, chief cook, lass of the windlass and port winch wench. As impressive as this all might be, we had no four copies of our crew list. Perhaps that fellow in the office has one, try there. Okay. Short wait while master of an interisland ferry explains why some of his crew is getting off here, some got on here and so he doesn't have papers and we are at the front of the line. Pleasantries. Query: "Do you have a crew list form?". 'Who sent you here? No. Try that fellow over there." Yup. The first guy.
A lounger had some blank forms and some carbon paper (only 2 $EC) and from there on we got on like gang busters with the fellow at the desk. Next stop; the cashiers upstairs. Upstairs was air conditioned! They too quickly took our money, issued a receipt and sent us downstairs. To the guy with no crew list forms. He asked a few questions, filled out a form and sent us back to the first guy. He looked at the small pile of papers, kept some, gave us some and sent us one our way with a very heartfelt wish to enjoy our stay. Back at the dock, the boy watching our dinghy was no where to be found. His older companion wanted money for telling us where to clear in and wouldn't agree to share the couple of bucks we had to pay for the not visible watcher and the very visible fount of information for the visiting cruiser. No big problems. All very languidly done in the heat and humidity. Very laid back - but strange.
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Tyrell Bay is just around the corner from Hillsborough and is well protected and with good holding in 12 feet of sandy bottom. There is a floating machine shop that you can tie up to if you need machining or welding, a fine haul out and boat yard and a "yacht club". The rest of the bay seems to be one long road lined on the shore side with assorted closed businesses alternating with rum shops. This is the boat yard where Tony Johnson sailed Maverick into the slings when his hull began to split in two halves at the end of his Atlantic crossing. They remember him well. We wanted to get Dominique, the welder to weld a crack in the spreader but his generator was busted and then it was to windy for Nolan, the rigger, to climb our mast and pull it out for him to work on it. When finally the winds calmed and Nolan rowed out to our boat, he climbed the mast and said we shouldn't worry about the spreader. Note the verb: climbed. Like a coconut tree. Hand and feet up the mast, sit on the spreader and hop back down in a twinkling. The people of Carriacou are famous for having retained their ship building skills and, as his advice was costing him a job, we decided to take it and to use our time to fix leaking ports, a rusty bucket and our dinghy. The ports are much better and need only some silicon rubber (not available on Carriacou) to fix in the new seals I brought from home. The bucket now has a fine rope worked handle and the rusting remains of its old handle lie on the bottom of the bay The dinghy almost decided to join them.
The problem of working on your dinghy while at anchor is: where to do it. The patch glue needs to dry for 48 hours and your dinghy is the only way you have of getting back to the boat. Two years ago, we patched a hole on an isolated sandy beach in a nearly deserted anchorage on St. John, simply swimming to it from the boat. Here, there are probably 30 boats at anchor and there are a number of people whose fortunes were not improved by hurricane Ivan and for whom our dinghy and outboard would represent a substantial increase in their annual income We decided to invert the dinghy using the dinghy davits, then hoist the bow of the dinghy onto the swim platform and apply the glue and patch in the comfort of home. It all worked reasonably well, but this morning I discovered the dinghy hanging by its bow, twisted on its side hanging down from the rear starboard tube which was the only part not completely deflated. There are few sights sadder than a deflated inflatable hanging down in the sea from your transom. I swam under the dingy with the pump hose and put it in the port side tube and we got enough air in that the dinghy was merely awash, right side up and hanging from its bow still on the swim platform. The newly refurbished bucket proved its worth bailing enough water out that the seas did not actually break over the dinghy transom. Finished bailing. Hoisted dinghy. Had coffee. Had breakfast.
Watching your dinghy imitating a submarine does not the start of a fine day make. Confined to quarters until the dinghy patch dried, it was hot and we had some great fears that the dinghy had committed suicide when it turned turtle and went down. Without a dinghy, we are basically trapped. Eaux Vives sails well, but we don't move her on a whim. Think of the reluctance you might have to actually move if moving required battening down every item in your house and then subjecting it to a major earthquake. Repeat. Turn 15 degrees out of plum. Shake some more. Great fun if you are going for a real sail but a major pain if you just need to run out for milk. Plus, a dinghy is expensive. Over 2 boat units or $2,000.00. Wondering about an emergency trip to Venezuela, land of the only currency worth less than the dollar and place where the best dinghies are built. Not our best day.
14/05/05 Admiralty Bay, Bequia
We did not kill our faithful dinghy! The patch held and, after the requisite 48 hours, we hoisted T/T Eaux Vives and prepared set out for Bequia, first stop on the way home for the summer. We got underway at 6:15 as the sun was just rising. Since the dinghy still held air, all we had to do was drink our coffee, hoist anchor and raise sail. Conditions were brilliant. Some shade clouds. Calm seas. Winds from south of east 10 to 15 knots and course north east. We caught a tuna just off Union Island and picked up a fine email from Judy Bowman which reminded us that today Emma, our brilliant daughter, is getting her Master's Degree from UCB and hosting a party at Hillegass House. We arrived at the point between Princess Margaret beach and lower beach by 1:30, at least a couple of hours before expected due to the perfect sailing conditions. We had ice cream at the Frangipani and got checked into St. Vincent and the Grenadines without a hitch. We got a baguette fresh out of the oven and snorkeled the reef from the boat. The sun set and we ate (very fresh) tuna poached on the grill with onion, garlic, Creole sauce and butter with (very fresh) baguette and a side of christophene, carrots and a fine salad. Cruising has its downs. But it sure has its ups.