Friday, May 29, 2009

Mom's Trophy Trout

While Kate and I were off in the Caribbean Grandma Lois was here with her sister, Aunt Carla, for a little vacation with Elizabeth. Unfortunately, aunt Carla had to leave early but grandma was able to stay a couple extra days after we returned from our trip which made for a great opportunity to get out an have a little fun in the Colorado outdoors. It was a bit of a cloudy / rainy day that was threatening thunder storms in the afternoon so we decided that instead of hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park we would take advantage of the weather and go to the famous Cheesman Canyon and do some hiking and fishing. Being closer to home we would also be able to get in and get out before the t-storms hit. Once we reached the river we spotted a nice pool with no one in it and several fish working. We scrambled down from the elevated trail and were carefull not to spook these highly educated and skiddish fish. Once geared up I pointed mom off in the right direction and you can't imagine my surprise when she pulled this beast out of the river! I am still in shock! Well done mom!
Of course no fish likes being out of water... particularly the biggest, baddest one in the river! You gotta love the expression on Grandma's face!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sailing Vacation - St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Kate and I had been looking forward to this vacation for a very long time and it was absolutely fantastic! After taking a red eye flight out of Denver and a few stops though Atlanta, Puerto Rico (don't eat at the Subway in Puerto Rico by the way - unless you like you sandwich extra hairy) and then being extorted for "excess" baggage on the local inter island Liat Airlines we finally made it to beautiful St. Vincent where we would spend the night and pick up our yacht in the morning and set out for our nine days of island hopping.

Our first day started off with breakfast and the beautiful views in the pictures above which was followed by a frightening chart briefing showing us all of the less than ideal navigational markers in the area combined with shallow coral reefs that sailors seem to hit on a regular basis and nothing anywhere close to a Coast Guard around which certainly caught our attention. Then it was off to the grocery to pick up the provisions for the trip and back to do the boat inspection and take care of the final paperwork before we set sail which truth be told was rather dramatic (for future reference we do not recommend Barefoot Yacht Charters as a charter company). We eventually got everything together and stowed away and set sail for a beautiful little island called Mustique - about 17 miles or a 3 hour sail. The sail was across open seas where the waves started off the coast of Africa and had the entire width of the Atlantic to build. Kate was a little green until she got her sea legs back but was pretty good from there.

Mustique is a private island mostly made up of cottages owned by the Rich and Famous, a small settlement of locals, one beach bar / restaurant (Basil's - which has some fantastic food - the Lobster was phenomenal), the Upscale Cotton House which we didn't get around to visiting, and another amazing place called the Firefly which sits on top of the hill overlooking the anchorage with some of the most incredible sunset views.

It was here that we met Mike and Nicola a hilariously entertaining English couple who bought a custom build high performance yacht from Germany (47 ft) and had it shipped by freighter to the British Virgin Islands where they then picked it up and have been sailing in the Caribbean for the last several months... and oh yeah... have never done much sailing previously and recently started dating one another... We had a few drinks with them at the Firefly and later shared a fun dinner down at Basil's on the beach. We got a kick out Mike and his head lamp with "Disco Mode" and his stories about his secret love for a Spanish deck hand. After all of the chaos that morning getting off and running, it was a great relief to share a few laughs with a really fun couple. We wish them well in their voyage!
With the boat rocking all night in Mustique we figured out why sailors love rum so much. It turns out that in certain anchorages such as Brittany Bay in Mustique where the swells come from one direction and the wind from another, the boat points into the wind and takes the swells on the beam thus rocking back and fourth all night long making sleeping rather difficult - unless of course you have had an appropriate dose or rum.

So after a night with little sleep rocking back and fourth we set off for Salt Whistle Bay on the little island of Mayreau. Population appox. 350. Needless to say we did not have a sufficent dose of rum prior to turning in for the evening.

Salt Whistle Bay is unbeleavably picturesque. It was as if we were anchored in a postcard. The beaches are increadable as were the sunsets.
Unfortunately the bay where we anchored had an outbreak of stinging jellyfish so swimming was out. Apperently this only happens a couple days of the year and we just got really unlucky. We did get some snorkeling in on the windward side of the island the next morning which was protected by a reef a few hundred yards off the beach but had a steady supply of jelly-free water as the waves came crashing in from the Atlantic. We met a really nice British couple where were staying at the resort in Salt Whistle Bay. The funny part was that five days later when we were in Petite St Vincent (PSV) having lunch, who did we meet at the resturant but the same couple! They were staying for a few more days at the resort on PSV. And ofcourse they were the only people we saw the next day when we were on a little dinghy ride. I wonder if they thought we were following them or something.
Next Stop: Tobago Cays

The Tobago Cays are a small group of uninhabited islands closely grouped together and protected by a huge barrier reef that blocks the ocean swell. The area inside the reef has been designated as a marine park and there is a very cool sea turtle sanctuary off one of the islands. There are huge sea turtles everywhere you look! Another island offers a nice little hike to its summit for some scenic panoramas of the area.
The Tobago Cays were fantastic! The snorkeling was very good with a nice variety of sea life especially considering how shallow it was there. We could stand up just about everywhere we snorkeled and we were completely shocked at how much there was to see. The visability was very good as were the colors since we were so shallow. Our Hike was also a lot of fun getting to see a little bit of the island wildlife, and the best part is that everything was within an easy dingy ride. Another wonderful attribute of the Tobago Cays is the steady unobstructed wind which kept the boat cool inside during the hot afternoons which provided a fantastic opportunity for an afternoon nap. Boat naps are heavenly, especially with a nice breeze in a calm anchorage! We quickly made the afternoon nap a part of our daily routine. I would have to rate the Tobago Cays as one of the best places I have been for a quality boat nap although Salt Whistle Bay would be up there too.We also celebrated Kate's birthday in the Cays! One of the beauties of the Cays is the serenity of it all. No dirty beach bars, no restaurants, no gas dock, no resorts... its just you, nature, and a few other yachts. This meant that all meals were prepared on board for the two days we were there. Here is one of our fine breakfasts - scrambled eggs and hash!
In the mornings a guy named Walter comes over from Union Island, not too far away, and delivers his wife's fresh baked banana bread. What a nice little treat out in the middle of nowhere!

So while we were on our boat, the Lady Di, we started to notice a few problems which were looking like it wasn't taken care of very well and were starting to get a little concerning. We had some problems with the steering; there was way too much slop in the wheel and a wave might come by an turn the rudder on you and the next thing you know the boat is heading off in a different direction without having turned the wheel... slightly problematic and the boat would go all over the place like a drunken sailor, which of course became the boat's new name. Then, a hose fitting fell off and one of our fresh water tanks wich then emptied into the bilge - we lost half of our fresh water supply in one day. Then, the Drunken Sailor's windless decided it didn't want to work anymore. The windless is basically an electric winch used to pick up the anchor that is attached to the boat via a rather substantial chain making an instrumental tool for using the anchor, which by the way was needed every night we were there... And oh, parts from the rigging started falling off the mainsail in the middle of the night. We are still baffeled over where it all came from. So we called the charter company and after some discussion on how the boat needed some rather significant repairs, they agreed to deliver us a new boat. Thank goodness! If you want the true boat ownership experience, you need to charter from Barefoot Yachts. It offers the total boat ownership experience . . . a boat in need of constant repair while on vacation!

Before we could pick up the new boat we had to first stop off at Union Island to pick up some more provisions and get some great sailing in on the way. The boats do have refrigeration systems in them but they only work when the engine is running (which we ran for about 2 hours a day) and thus only keep things cool, not frozen. Union Island is an interesting place. The down town consists mainly of a handful of grocery stores and bars with the occasional gift shop and fruit stand - not much else. We had to go to just about every grocery store to get everything what we needed, mostly bottled drinking water and some kind of meat to grill out for dinner for the next couple of nights. Once provisioned we headed up to Canuan to meet the guys from the charter company to exchange boats. The two local guys who delivered the boat were hilarious. They caught a barricuda while sailing to Canauan and had it filleted and ready for dinner by the time we switched our baggage from one boat to the other. Once switched over to the new boat we headed back to Mayreau to make for a nice sail the next day down to the southern most islands in the Grenadines.

While in Mayreau for the night we headed up into the settlement for a drink. We dropped into Dennis' Hideaway which is supposed to be THE place to be on Mayreau and found ourselves to be the only ones there. Dennis, the owner, dropped by and had a drink with us and chatted for about 45 minutes. He had just brought back some fresh red snapper for the fisherman down at the beach and was about to cook it for his dinner and offered for us to join him and his new girlfriend from Poland. How can you pass that up? So fresh Red Snapper, fries, and a salad we had prepared by Dennis himself, and it was wonderful!

In the morning we got up early and headed south for Petit St. Vincent and Petit Martinique. The two islands are right next to each other just south of Union Island. We anchored at Petit St. Vincent (PSV) and went ashore for lunch. PSV is a small private island that is one of the Caribean's finest resorts. It just so happens that they don't mind if the yachties come ashore and enjoy thier resturant. So we made reservations and headed over for the lunch beffet. It wasn't cheap but we sure got our money's worth! We pigged out! Now this is the look of a happy First Mate after some serious grazing at the super ritzy resort!

After lunch we dingyed over to Petit Martinique.
The picture here of main street pretty much says it all. . . then headed back for a nice boat nap - PSV is another great anchorage for a boat nap - calm and breezy! Then it was time for a nice walk on one of the most beautify beaches we've have ever seen. The beach was no kidding 2 miles of the most beautiful sand with no one around with a perfect sunset. It was incredible. The beaches in the Grenadines are like nothing we've ever seen before.

It seemed like the majority of the people that charter boats in the Grenadines are French. You can always tell they are french by the Speedos... i just don't get it... and of course we ran into French people everywhere! One funny French story that we can't help but mention. We were coming back from the beach on PSV when our dinghy ran out of gas. At the time, we had just motored past a huge catamaran (to include it's own chef and crew) chartered by about 8 French folks who were sitting on the deck of the boat in their white fluffy bathroabs. As Jan tried to get the motor started we drifted past their boat and they just kind of stared at us. So not to drift too far into the ocean, we finally just got out the paddles and paddled our way back to our boat. The boat occupants just stared at us like we were the craziest people in the world. Jan and I were laughing the entire time!
Here is our boat anchored out in front of PSV with Petit Martinique in the background.

On our way out of PSV we had a rainy day with a couple of windows of opportuinity to head in to a little island called Mopion. Its a small sand island off of PSV. There is literally nothing there except a small grass hut and a can opener. The weather deserteness of the island made for some fun pictures.

The New Boat: Grand Soleil 43

While this isn't the end of the journey it makes a good place to highligh our fancy new boat, "Maxine."
The teak decks were a very nice touch!
I have always been a fan of a huge wheel on a sailboat!Of course living in a confined space that tips 30 or 40 degrees to either side everytime you go anywhere makes for a difficult place to keep tidy. Here is Kate right after breakfast... as you can see there is quite a bit of space down below...
And the messy forward berth, it was actually a pretty nice big bed.

This boat was a huge improvement over the last boat! Lesson learned, go with the newer boats at the charter company. This boat also sailed MUCH better.

Back to the trip... after leaving the southern Grenadines we headed back up to Union Island for a nice night in Chatham Bay. Chatham Bay is a great secluded anchorage, there wasn't anything there except a Rasta beach bar and a handfull of other boats.
The next morning we woke up early and headed up towards the island of Bequia (pronounced "Beck-way") which was the beginning of our journey home. We had probably the best sail of our trip on this leg. It was about a 16 mile sail from Union Island to Bequia on a close reach, far enough that we couldn't see Bequai over the horizon when we started out. We plotted a course and programmed it into the autopilot and off we went! The flying fish were everywhere and were very entertaining for our journey.

Bequia is a great island, a nice little mix of paradise and civilization. The harbor (aka parking lot) while we were there was full of boats, by far the busiest harbor that we had been to. There are fun little restaurants and even a place for Kate to get some homemade mango ice cream. The waterfront is all connected by a nice little walkway which conveniently connects the dingy docks to the downtown area.After a wonderful vacation sailing the islands it was time to get things packed up for one last night ashore and get back to our sweet Elizabeth. What a relaxing and much needed vacation! We will definately be back!