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 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

2 Rastas, an Old Man and the Sea
This journal is a log of all the messages from Susie & Lance. For pictures, please see the Gallery.
January 22 , 2006: Tyrell Bay, Cariacou, Grenada
We sailed rather rapidly down to Tyrell Bay from St. Lucia as the weather was good and we had discovered from the radio nets that we had a lot of friends here. We left early in the morning (it was still dark) and got very little sailing in. Mostly we motor sailed down the lee side of St. Lucia and then down the windward side of St. Vincent. We finally had some pleasant sailing crossing the Bequia channel to the small island of Bequia (part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines). The next morning the wind was up and the seas were still down and we decided we deserved a good sail. Such a one it was. We flew downwind along the long southern ridge of Admiralty Bay, wing on wing and then smartly headed up for a broad reach to the south on the Caribbean side of all the Grenadines. 7.1 knots average anchor to anchor as we dropped under sail in Tyrell Bay.

All that nautical talk is covering the fact that the engine overheated. We had to anchor under sail because the impeller was, once again, toast. Fortunately, Susie noticed the engine temperature rising early and no further harm was done. We had a new impeller in before sunset and were able to run the engine to generate power and refrigeration that night. The next day, we moved up (under motor) into the bay behind "Tiger Lily II" (Denis and Arleen of the "happy whale" fame) and next to "New Passages" (Greg and Carol who weathered Ivan and passed radio traffic throughout ). We then realized that 2nd Millennium (John and Melodye of the Caribbean Safety and Security Net) was forward off the port side. As time has gone on, we've met the friends of these friends and just sort of settled into our little floating village. "La Vie Dansante" (Rick and Sue, a.k.a. "Wireless") have established wireless internet here in the bay and Eaux Vives with birthday celebrantscharge a very reasonable rate for internet delivered to the boat. "Sirius Endeavour" (Don and Ellen) has some serious walkers on board and we have joined in some very pleasant walks. The high point for me in all this socializing has been the birthday party thrown aboard "Eaux Vives" featuring Susie's famous chocolate brownies and 12 guests. Eaux Vives held up under the weight of 14 adults and looked mighty fine trailing 7 dinghies from her lee side. We did not attempt candles however as it has been blowing hard. Nothing was lost but a few nachos which blew away and a grand time was had by all.

In denial of my advanced age, I chose to go out with some local fisherman the next day. In nearly every island we see these intrepid fisherman racing about, spray flying, in homemade wooden boats, inevitably with the pilot steering with one hand and bailing with the other and one or two helpers standing along the centerline holding on to the painter. I had gotten curious as to what they did and decided I wanted to go along one day and see what it was like.

It is wild. Definitely not USCG compliant. The boats are generally called pirogues by the yachties and are made of wood, painted bright colors and range in size from 15 to 30 feet long. Aurea is bright yellow on the outside and red on deck and inside. It is shaped roughly like an old fashioned speed boat with a small forward deck and a big open area behind. Powered by a 40 HP Yamaha and with a very flat hull it gets right up and goes in flat water. Its owner, Jonathan, had been rowing it around the anchorage selling lobster and oysters every evening. We were suspicious of the oysters and not enamored of lobster and so hadn't done much business. Apparently, we weren't the only cheapskates as Jonathan was rowing because he didn't have gas money. I asked if I could come along with him fishing and it turns out that he doesn't actually fish but rather lets out the boat to others in a typically complicated Island business. The others have the nets and they take his boat out in the morning and he sells some of the catch in the afternoon.

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We left only about 1 1/2 hours after the agreed upon time. Vaughn, a slim, good looking Rasta, was at theFishing boat in Carriacou helm andhis helper, a more friendly and talkative fellow, took the painter. We dropped Jonathan off at the beach and took off around the southern point at 20 knots. This is fine in the lee of the island where the seas are calm but spine crushing when you get out in bigger seas. We went several miles south and west and by some complicated navigational process ended up finding a float marking the end of one of their lobster nets. I can't understand their English when Vaughn and his helper speak to each other in patios but finding the spot seems to involve checking sight lines on the various islands and the shape of the seas in the currents that sweep down the west of Carriacou.

The nets are about 4 feet wide and well over a 100 feet long. One edge is weighted and the other edge has floats and at one end there is a long line running to the surface and a float marking its spot. The whole apparatus is anchored by several cinder blocks. Between them, Vaughn and his helper had four nets. Each one had to be hand hauled up from the bottom 120 feet below along with the coral, rocks, cinder blocks and weights. As you haul them up, you must clear them of all the bits of coral, fish and lobster stuck in them and pile the whole net, its line and cinder blocks in the bilge. Fish and lobster are also cast in the bilge. We got all four nets up with a catch of 6 lobster and a dozen fish and then went off to look for a new spot to set them that would bring better luck. Normally, the nets are lifted and reset once a day weather permitting. When we got them set, we came across some other fishermen who were tied up to a very weedy, slimy float. Much West Indian hilarity went on quite possibly herbally enhanced. We started hauling in this new net and even with the three of us pulling with all our strength and our mighty Yamaha revving and pulling we could not budge it from the bottom. Some West Indian dickering went on amidst the general hilarity and suddenly we are colliding with the other boat. The seas are probably 6 feet and the boats passing like elevators inches from each other. I was directed to put out fenders and all of a sudden one of the other fishermen steps aboard our boat! At this point we are nearly awash, the bottom is full of fish, squeaking and scrabbling lobster, nylon line, floats, beer cans and net and we are rocking gunnel to gunnel in the seas. Unlike my companions who were laughing and joking, I was unable to keep on my feet in the mix of sea water, nylon and fish sloshing around and just tried to brace myself where directed and pull when told. The four of us managed to get the net up and discovered that it had caught two enormous wooden fish traps and a great deal of large coral chunks. The other fellow took the fish traps with him back to his boat. It turned out the net belonged tothe helper who had lost it over a month ago. The deal that they struck was our helper could keep the fish and the traps if they would help us bring the net up. This deal is not as harsh as it sounds as the fish traps are 6' x 4' x 2.5' and there was no room at all left aboard Aurea to hold the fish traps.

Since I could neither find nor keep my footing, I did my best to hold myself down to the bench so my butt wouldn't slap when we crashed down off the waves on the ride back. I was given a snapper for my troubles and Susie made a wonderful fish soup. I was bone tired and butt bruised but I now understand why the fishermen are all so buff and we have definitely eliminated fishing as a mid life career choice. Too much work. Plus, I've been told they lost 13 fishermen last year from this island as the failure of their single engine means a quite likely fatal trip to Honduras. Not a job for the faint of heart or soft of hand.

It is Wednesday 26th and the winds have come down slightly. One lively night saw winds of 20 - 30 knots with a gust recorded to 40. This morning I heard that several ferry runs between Barbados and Trinidad were canceled as they encountered seas of 18 feet. Today through Friday is supposed to be good so we are going to take the bus into Hillsborough and check out. We will then sail around Cariacou to Petite Martinique where there is a fuel dock and fill up with diesel and water. We'll anchor behind the reef there and in the morning bash up to Bequia. We expect Sarah and Quincy to hop from Barbados where they landed to St. Vincent and then take the ferry across the Bequia channel where we will meet them. Our general plan is to noodle around the Grenadines seeing Bequia, Mayreau, Union Island and a stint at the Tobago Cays then back down here and on to Grenada for a return hop to Barbados and home. Great short sails wonderful snorkeling and lots of beautiful palm fringed islands: Eaux Vives!

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