Monday, January 30, 2012

Sail Fast, Live Slow

Set sail from Bequia to St. V today. Tomorrow I go home. Clean the boat when we got in and had lunch. I am now ASA 101 and 103 certified, which is one of the goals I had come here to pursue. My hotel room overlooks Blue lagoon and the ocean past that. I smoked a Cuban cigar, watched the sun set and rum. I am no longer moving, which is an odd feeling. My bed stays in one place, and the lapping of the ways against the hull no longer lulls me to sleep. Tomorrow I board a plane and head back to winter, civilization and responsibility. I will leave behind a lifestyle I have grown to adore. I learned to skipper, sail, navigate and take care of a 44 foot sailboat and crew. I learned more about photography, which I hope you enjoyed. (Find me on facebook for the whole album.) I learned to once again fall in love with the stars, music and the sea.

Above all I learned to sail fast, live slow.

Boat Drinks


Salt Whistle to Bequia. Close hauled the whole way. 5 hours of 8 foot waves. Felt like a marathon. Found some abandoned homes on the South of Admiralty. Anchored in the bay and read A Pirate looks at 50. Scott and I had been making Jimmy Buffett's Boat Drink jokes the whole day so he obliged with the song over the speaker system as the sun went down along with the drinks. On shore I had my best meal yet at the Gingerbread Restaurant. (No idea why, but that was the style of the architecture.) I had shrimp sauteed in garlic and chardonnay with a drink I asked the bartender to make in honor of our ship's name. Wine an rum cake followed. Sleeping on deck tonight.

Southern Cross


2:57 am

Woke up before the 3am alarm. Glasses on, stumbled upon deck. Find Sagittarius, and Scorpio-old friends of mine. The clouds clear-to the lower right a reason to “remember just why I cam this way…The Southern Cross!”

Written by Crosby Still Nash Young, my favorite version comes from the Mayor of Margarittaville:

Got out of town on a boat for the Southern Islands

Sailing to reach before a following sea

She was makin' for the Trades on the outside

And the downhill run to Papeete
Off the wind on this heading lie the Marquesas

We got eighty feet of waterline, nicely making way

In a noisy bar in Avalon I tried to call you

But on a midnight watch I realized why twice you ran away
Think about how many times I have fallen

Spirits are using me, larger voices callin'

What heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten

I have been around the world looking for that woman girl
Who knows love can endure

And you know it will

And you know it will
When you see the Southern Cross for the first time

You understand now why you came this way

‘Cause the truth you might be runnin' from is so small

But it's as big as the promise, the promise of a coming day
So I'm sailing for tomorrow, my dreams are a dyin'

And my love is an anchor tied to you, tied with a silver chain

I have my ship and all her flags are a flyin'

She is all I have left and music is her name
Think about how many times I have fallen

Spirits are using me, larger voices callin'

What heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten

I have been around the world lookin' for that woman girl
Who knows love can endure

And you know it will

lAnd you know it will
So we cheated and we lied and we tested

And we never failed to fail, it was the easiest thing to do

You will survive being bested, somebody fine will come along

Make me forget about loving you and the Southern Cross

Later that day:

Left Union for Mayeau and Salt Whistle Bay. I stay on the foredeck long enough to get into some real water and sing the ode to the constellation I had witnessed a few hours before. The wind was blowing and the waves were rocking against the hull meaning only the Ocean heard my song. The cross was fun, with lots of man over board drills. Made it Salt Whistle Bay and went swimming. I ended up swimming from the boat to the shore and back, loaded up after passing my 103 test and hiked into town. Went into a Rastafarian bar owned by a named Robert Righteous. He hung out with our crew and an English couple for an hour before making dinner (so we were starving by the time the food came.) I slipped out during the conversation to run up to a church and shoot the stars. One got a real idea of how small we are looking at the vast blue sea under stars from atop the hill. After we finally finished our food, margaritas (way too much tequila, but in a good way) rum punches and beer we made our way back to Andato. Owen and I ferried the others back and then hit the beach again, achieving my favorite shot of the trip:

Nothin' but a breeze


6:15pm Sitting on a mountain top while the sun bids adieu to the Caribbean. An hour ago I had rum and our boat played Bob Marley’s “No, woman, no cry” as we gently rocked in the bay. I watched the sun start to set and the stars start to come out.

Got to shoot stars tonight on a beach. I am getting up in a few hours for the Southern Cross.

Practiced man overboard and points of sail stuff today. Got mom her vanilla. Finally found a tourist shop in the town we left Dad off in-but it lacked postcards. I wonder where he is now? He would have loved the stars before the moon washed them out. Definitely will need to come here in the summer for the Milky Way.

“Jimmy, I wish you would take me
Where the grass is greener
I really couldn't say where it may be
Somewhere up high on a mountain top
Or down by the deep blue sea”

-Nothin’ but a breeze

Laid back and Cay wasted


two rum punches and a hairoun into the evening at writing-

Morning started with ride to Baradol, a small island in the Cays. We did the white sandy beach on a deserted isle thing. Scott, Dad and I hiked a bit and found iguanas which would give Godzilla a fright. The water was a dreamy blue color

We snorkeled out to the reef protecting the cays and swam through coral fields teeming with wildlife. On the swim back to the boat I had to stop and let a school of 100 black fish the size of basketballs swim through. I felt like I was at a stoplight in Finding Nemo. We picked Dad up off the island and headed through a channel past all the catamarans and saw the Royal Clipper as we came around the leeward side of an island. We headed to sea to practicing tacking and jibing. Dad’s seasickness got the best of him so Scott and I took him to Union Island and he will make his way back to Wisconsin. It was great having him along. I don’t know how many more times we will get to spend together. Now I am alone abroad. Again.

We made fish for dinner which superb. There is a bar at the head of the harbor-made of conch shells and cement. The younger guys all went for rum punch where we were solicited for prostitution and local agrarian products. I think. Saw a shooting star. I continue my Caribbean adventures minus one Weller.

Party at the end of the world


Looking at the chart I see a reef titled World’s End Reef. We will be going by there to get to the Tobago Cays. After leaving Bequia, we encountered super rough seas which put Dad out of commission, and sailed for four hours to the Tobago Cays where we are anchored now. I got to listen to Jimmy underway, many of my favorite songs played while I took the helm. Zac Brown also lamented about having his toes in the water while the waves pounded over our bow. Once we anchored I snorkeled in that light blue water so adoring in post cards (haven’t found any yet for sale yet.) I saw some green back turtles and manta rays swimming around Andato. Ended the day watching the moon come up from under the shrouds by the bow with Orion and the Pleiades over head. A magical day.

Take me to the water


Woke up this morning and headed to the boat. Her name is Andato, and she is a 44 foot Gib’Sea, probably older than I am. Lacking the modern cruising amenities (furling main/ electric winches-though we do having a furling jib, but we will be attaching and running up an older style, non furling one) means we will learn lots! I took the American Sailing Association 101 test (Basic Keelboat) and got 7 wrong, meaning I passed. So did Dad, which I was rather worried about because he had been super busy and not been able to study much. At 1:48 pm we “got out of town on a boat to the southern islands on a reach for following seas.” Fins up!

We made it across the channel to Bequia, the largest island of the Grenadines. Dad steered and I set the jib. Now I am sitting on the bow under a full moon among 50 ships- the mast head lights also look like stars. Dinner was lobster quesadillas at a bar in Port Elizabeth where I had more Hairoun. Tomorrow we sail for 4 hours South and will again practice anchoring and points of sail. I am absorbing and understanding the information from the classes very well.

There were big waves today, ocean rollers coming in from Africa. Gear and Dad holding up well. Still surprised by the lack of tourists, really only yatchies. Excited for our sail tomorrow!

Yo ho, Yo ho a Pirate's life for me


I had breakfast by the sea, and then we drove for a few hours through towns and villages along the coast. The area was gorgeous and the people were all smiles. They look different than those from TnT. Lots of men were walking down the roads, with dreadlocks. Many of them also had backpacks and machetes, meaning they were tending to the country’s GDP in the mountains. As we drive I am in the backseat, meaning it is hard to take photographs.

Our driver is named Phyllis and has lived in St. Vincent all her life. She has a wonderful jovial way of speaking, wishing friends a “blessed day.” I notice as she greats other women they both use the term “mon” which I assumed was only meant for males as an accented way of saying “man.”

We make it to Dark View falls where we ventured between the low and high falls after crossing river a few times. On the way back we stopped at Wallibou, the dilapidated set location for much of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. It lacked few interesting things for tourists, but did have a bar with rum (naturally I indulged in the local specialty of rum punch.) It was still awesome to see the place where some of my favorite movies have been shot.

There are few Americans on St. Vincent, apparently they congregate in the southern Grenadines, away from things (like people, and presumably the law.) A Jimmy Buffett book once warned not to question the histories of American’s met in the Banana republics which is fine as other than the Barefoot staff I haven’t seen any. Actually I haven’t seen really any tourists, although there is a cruise ship in port. The tourist infrastructure is also lacking; I haven’t witnessed a t shirt or postcard for sale. Tomorrow I go sailing!

St. Vincent, Grenada, oh I want to take you...


When we made it to the Grenadines I immediately got fresh fish and a local brew called Hairoun (great stuff, much like what Landshark Lager tries to be.)

In our flat we met our neighbors who offered us dinner and drinks. They worked at Barefoot, the school we were learning sailing from. Chris was the director and Scott would be our teacher for the week. The weather is gorgeous, around 80 degrees with strong easterly winds (the reason this area is so wonderful for sailing.) We learned that the coast guard doesn’t work (the boat is currently beached) so other sailors provide the rescue, and that roughly 50% of the GDP comes from marijuana. This also means anyone attempting to get anything done must do so before noon as people are either drunk, high, or napping. Seems like a perfect pirate hideaway.

Down the the Banana Republics

The following blogs were translated from my journal as my technology failed and I had to use traditional pen and notebook.


“Until you got here, I was the only white guy in line” My father and I were in a vary cold Toronto airport, waiting to check into a Caribbean Airlines flight. Due to the oddness that is Expedia, we were on separate flights, but eventually wound our way to the Windward West Indies with a brief stop in Trinidad. The people there were mostly a color and mix I had not ever seen before and were exotically intriguing. I knew I was in a developing country as the first thing I saw in the Trinidad customs line was “whitening cream,” which was repulsively popular in the Arab Gulf states I travelled in. (It makes ones skin allegedly look lighter, but ends up looking like a sad paste.) There was also a large amount of Nescafe for sale.

My gear has been holding up well. In Chicago and Toronto I could have quickly made the earlier flights due to only using a carry on.

As the sun came up over Port of Spain I walked outside of the airport, into a tiki bar and traffic, on the other side of the road.

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