Celebrating The Holidays On Antigua

We had come to spend the holidays on Antigua for one reason, Nelson’s Dockyard’s annual Christmas Day champagne party . Our friends Jeff and Di first told us about the event, while we were all still in Grenada. Champagne, sunshine and cruising friends?!? I was immediately sold.

Shortly after we settled into Falmouth Harbour, Howard went into the water…possibly an attempt at a holiday bath? At our latest count, he’d been in the water six times, in four countries.

Scott trimmed Sea Life in her holiday finest, we snapped a Christmas photo and were ready for the holidays to begin.

On Christmas Day, we walked over to the Nelson’s Dockyard to meet our friends. A crowd of people were already gathering in the midday sun when we arrived.

Under a huge tent, a large, old wooden dinghy was filled with champagne bottles on ice. The process was simple: buy a bottle, and grab some cups for sharing. Prices ranged from $15.00 usd, up to $95.00 a bottle, with proceeds going toward the fight against breast cancer.

I’d brought along two insulated drink thermoses, with a splash of mango juice in each one. I divided my champagne between the two, and voila!…chilled mimosas ready to go! Scott, not being a champagne drinker, had come armed with his own thermoses, filled with vodka and Orangina; let the merriment begin!

As we walked the grounds, I snapped some photos of some people in their holiday garb.

An odd-looking boat was on display, outside one of the buildings. We went for a closer look, and learned that James “Tiny” Little had used it to row 3,000 miles from the Canary Islands to Antigua, in 2005.

Little left the Canaries in January, and arrived on Antigua four months later…looking much lighter. Notice his interesting, daily schedule.

We spent the day in the company of good friends, enjoying the champagne, sunshine….and silliness.

Di and I posed for a photos with one of the many Santas in attendance. This particular Santa was sitting by a case of Heineken beer; it must have been a stressful Christmas Eve.

Our friend Ian was a dancing machine, performing a one-man show as the band played nearby.

Eventually, he took his moves closer to the band, dancing with several partners.

And he still had energy left to take his wife, Manuela, for a twirl as well.

It was a great Christmas Day.

Next up, New Year’s Eve., and our friend Karen (our official cruising visitor), flew in to celebrate with us. As we prepared her room, Howard firmly claimed the pull-down bunk. We thought she wouldn’t mind sharing with him, and officially made them roommates.

Steady rain poured the entire morning of Karen’s arrival, so I sent Scott to the dinghy dock armed with a raincoat for her, and trash bags for her luggage. Thankfully, by the time Scott picked her up at the dock, the rain had stopped.

We spent the first part of our evening up at Shirley Heights. A reggae band played, the crowd was festive, and the view was beautiful.

Karen broke her flip flop on the historical site’s uneven surface, but not to fear…”MacGyver” got right to work with his knife and some cocktail straws. In no time…presto!, she was back in business.

As the night grew later, we left Shirley Heights, and made our way back down the hill to Nelson’s Dockyard, where a large crowd was gathering for the countdown to midnight, and continued our celebration.

As a DJ played music for the crowd, Ian shared some dance move tips with Scott, who caught on pretty well.

Before we knew it, midnight arrived, and 2018 was ushered in with cheers and a colorful fireworks display.

Our journey back to Sea Life was full of acrobatics. Scott fell on the uneven sidewalk, and rolled his way into some nearby grass, and shockingly came up unscathed. I fell soon after, but did not roll, and instead came up with one of my toes bent sideways. A friendly local gave me a  hand off the ground, asking….”Do you people need help?”

We arrived at the dock, where Karen promptly fell into the dinghy. After managing to all acrobats seated, and the motor started, we sped off and ran over a bouy. As he cut away the tangled mass of line from the prop, Scott barked at Karen and me to row. Eventually, we made it back to Sea Life without further issue, and safely climbed aboard. Maybe a bit too much celebrating.

On New Year’s Day, Karen and I spent the afternoon at Boom, a nearby restaurant with a pool on site. We walked the drive leading up to the property, past colorful tropical plants and flowers, and settled into a poolside daybed.

We enjoyed lunch, drinks and some pool time, before making our way back to Scott, who’d spent the day napping.

On Karen’s final day, she and I walked the street leading to Nelson’s Dockyard, chatting with locals and perusing shops as we went.

When we were all shopped out, the two of us made our way out of the dockyard, but not before getting a final glimpse of Boom across the water, while trying not to disturb one of the resident iguanas.

We took a short cab ride to nearby Papa’s for some lunch, before she left for the airport. Scott arrived at the waterfront restaurant by dinghy, with Karen’s bags in tow.

We enjoyed a relaxing lunch, said goodbye to our friend and put her into a cab, bound for the airport.

It had been a wonderful Antigua holiday, as we spent time with cruising friends, and our good friend from home. We wonder what 2018 has in store for the crew of Sea Life?? Here are more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

On to Antigua

From Deshaies, it was just a short day’s ride to Antigua, where we would celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Scott caught a mahi along the way, but it broke free just as he was preparing to scoop it into the cockpit…skunked again.

He reset the lines, and went back to..ahem…”fishing.”

We planned to anchor in Falmouth Harbour for the holidays, but first headed for Jolly Harbour, further north. Falmouth is part of a national park, and boats are charged daily anchoring fees, in addition to clearance fees, when checking in. Clearing in at Jolly Harbour would save us the anchoring fees, and there was also a large grocery store across the street from the dinghy dock. Our plan was to clear in, hit the grocery store and then immediately continue on to Falmouth Harbour. The winds were predicted to increase in the next day or so, and we wanted to be in place when they did.

Scott had used Sea Clear, an online service offered in many of the Eastern Caribbean islands, that allowed him to fill out our clearance paperwork ahead of time. In most islands we’ve visited, officials are quite happy with this system, as it saves time, and avoids having to decipher handwritten forms. As has happened several times before, Scott was waived to the front of the line, past cruisers who hadn’t pre-cleared. Howard wasn’t an issue for the officials, and Scott soon returned to the boat.

Next up…groceries. On our way across the street to the store, we said hello to the many cats who have made a home in the large, abandoned casino building along the waterfront. They came in all colors, and had usually slanted eyes.

Most were pretty timid, except this guy, who took a liking to Scott.

The Epicurean grocery store at Jolly Harbour was large, stocked with good produce and had many familiar items. Behind it was a home store, run by the same company.. one stop shopping.

The bag boys were happy to help wheel our many bags, bottles and cases across the street and onto the dinghy dock, a service that was well worth the tip.

With a full dinghy, we headed back through the marina, and were reminded that Christmas was just around the corner.

Back at the boat, we unloaded our provisions, raised anchor and left Jolly Harbour to head for Falmouth.

Along the way, we passed some large houses on the cliffs above the shoreline. You could definitely smell the money on this island.

Just two hours later, we made the turn into Falmouth Harbour, and were smacked in the face by a mass of fiberglass and stainless.

The marina was at the back of the harbour, but the huge wall of yachts was visible clear across the large bay.

Scott was trying to focus on navigating, while eyeballing the unusual boats at anchor, as we made our way further into the harbour.

I snapped photos as we traveled closer to the mass of behemoths. My head was on a swivel, as I shouted to Scott, “Good Lord, look at that!”

And, s@#t!, do you see that one?!?” It was so much to take in, that I completely missed our friends, Jeff and Di, waving to us as we went by them.

Howard was intrigued as well.

In the 1700s, it was hard to find secure ports that were easily defensible, with immediate access to the trade winds. Falmouth and nearby English Harbour, side by side and almost touching at the closest point, met all these requirements.

In the early eighteenth century, the British Royal Navy recognized the strategic importance of English Harbour for protecting ships from hurricanes, and its position at the south of the island for monitoring French naval activity. Throughout the century, the dockyard grew in importance, as it was the only harbour in the Eastern Caribbean large enough for safe, naval ship repairs.

From 1784 through 1787, Horatio Nelson, was sent to Antigua to enforce British laws in the colonies (Considered a British hero, he was noted for his inspirational leadership, superb grasp of strategy and unconventional tactics, which together resulted in a number of decisive British naval victories). During his time on the island, work was begun on the English Harbour Dockyard, and was completed, looking much as it does today, by 1789.

The Dockyard was abandoned by the Royal Navy in 1889, and by 1947, it was in ruins. A massive restoration began in 1949, and the area was turned into a beautiful, but functional monument. When complete, the area was renamed Nelson’s Dockyard in honor of the years Nelson spent in Antigua, and in 2016, it was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. I found this small photo online, that offers a good overview of the property.

Today, the restored buildings in Nelson’s Dockyard house hotels, restaurants and businesses, and both harbours are part of Antigua’s National Parks Authority.

 

 

Not only is it Antigua’s yachting capital, but English Harbour is also a major Caribbean yachting center and destination.

 

The harbours attract hundreds of cruising yachts each year. English Harbour is more scenic, but small, with less room for boats at anchor, and has become the Caribbean’s main base for beautiful, sailing superyachts. Falmouth Harbour is considerably larger, surrounded by hills and offers more facilities than English Harbour. Because of this, it’s favored by most charter yachts, superyachts and larger cruising yachts. With more room to anchor, an easy ride to shore and many conveniences within easy walking distance, we chose to anchor in Falmouth as well (located at the top of this online photo).

There were three grocery stores not far from the dinghy dock, as well as several restaurants on the marina grounds. The short stretch of road between Falmouth and English harbour was lined with many more restaurants and shops.

 

High up on a hill above Nelson’s Dockyard, Shirley Heights is a restored military lookout and gun battery. The military complex, within a short distance of the Dockyard, is not named after the fairer sex, but after Sir Thomas Shirley, Governor of the Leeward Islands, who strengthened Antigua’s defenses in 1781. At approximately 490 feet, it offers amazing views of English and Falmouth Harbours below. The buildings on site have been adapted to function as a restaurant and bar, and it hosts a famous, Sunday evening sunset party each week.

We hopped in a taxi with our friend, David Smylie, and headed up the hill for drinks and sunset views, arriving to music in the air, and a crowd full of people.

We wandered over to the nearby picnic grounds, which allowed more open views of the harbours below.

As the  sun set, English Harbour and Falmouth Harbours lit up below us. We looked forward to spending the upcoming holidays in this historic and beautiful place.

Here are more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

Our Time In The Grenadine Islands

The Grenadines islands lie between the islands of Saint Vincent to the north and Grenada to the south. The islands north of the Martinique Channel belong to Saint Vincent, and the those south of the channel belong to Grenada.

St. Vincent, and its neighboring islands make up their own Caribbean nation, but Neither Saint Vincent nor Grenada are Grenadine islands. There are 32 islands and cays that make up Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Nine of which are inhabited, including the mainland Saint Vincent.

(You’ll notice in the photo below, that when we visited Petite St. Vincent before clearing out of Grenada, we were actually in the waters of St. Vincent and the Grenadines…oops.)

Unfortunately, crime (including violent crime) against cruisers anchoring off St. Vincent has become quite an issue, so we chose to anchor off Union Island, and clear in there instead. The island was much safer, and it was a shorter journey from Carriacou, where we’d cleared out of Grenada.

While Scott headed to shore, I eyeballed the cool-looking bar behind us, and the gorgeous water. Sadly, we didn’t get to visit the bar.

Scott made a quick, easy visit to customs and immigration, then we headed around to the back side of Union Island, anchoring in Chatham Bay. The area was scenic and peaceful, with only a very small resort and three local bar/restaurants lining the beach.

As soon as we were settled, Scott loaded up the dinghy with fishing and snorkeling gear, and headed out to explore the bay, while Howard enjoyed some quiet time on the bow.

In the afternoon, we visited two of the three small beach bars on shore for happy hour. Seki and Vanessa run Sunset Cove, the “largest” bar/restaurant, and we enjoyed time chatting with them while the sun set.

We lingered one more day in Chatham, before raising anchor and heading around the corner to the Tobago Cays. The area is a popular spot for both cruising and charter boats, so the anchorages were quite crowded. We poked around a bit, and finally found a some space behind a reef, with a bit of room to breath.

Scott climbed to the top of one of the nearby cays, which offered good views of the many boats at anchor below (including Sea Life, of course), and the surrounding reef. Along the way, he took notice of how arid the small island was; quite a change from the lush landscape of Grenada.

After several days, we continued on to the island of Bequia (pronounced Bek-way). Along the way, we noticed an old, sunken freighter, and some houses that seemed to be built right into a rocky coast.

We entered the harbor at Bequia just in time, as it seemed Howard was tired of traveling. The forecast called for a fairly decent north swell, so Scott chose to drop anchor at the north end of the harbor. It was definitely the right call, as those anchored to the south, off of the beach, spent their days rolling like hobby-horses when the swell arrived.

We made our way to shore, past colorful houses in the hills surrounding the harbor, and tied to the town dock, sharing it with a “passenger pod” from one of the two small cruise ships at anchor behind us.

Restaurants, shops, produce stands and grocery stores make up the few blocks that are “downtown” Bequia.

At the edge of town, the shoreline is full of restaurants, bars and small hotels, accessed by a narrow, winding cement path at the water’s edge. Passing oncoming pedestrians can be challenging, and at high tide, wet feet can’t be avoided.

The symbol of a blue whale was visible throughout Bequia. At the Whaleboner, we sat along a bar trimmed in the rib bone of a whale, and in stools made from vertebrae.

During our stay, we enjoyed the island’s unique and quirky sights.

The small, quiet harbor was relaxing, even with small cruise ships often in town. We spent time with other cruising friends, and waited for better weather to continue north.

Howard and Scott had begun a nightly ritual of watching fish. Scott lowers our led fish light into the water, and he and Howard wait to see what comes calling. Large tarpon, needlefish, minnows, crabs and small squid and eels are regularly attracted to the light, and Howard watches them all intently. Wanting to give Howard some “paws on” interaction, Scott filled a Tupperware container with water, and scooped up a few minnows.

Howard immediately went to work, oblivious to the water as he pawed at the tiny fish. It wasn’t long before he managed to flip one out onto the cockpit floor, so Scott filled the container with more water, in hopes of making the fish more challenging to catch.

Undeterred, Howard just got wetter, as he flipped the minnows out  just as quickly. Before Scott realized it, Howard had brought one inside, swallowed his freshly caught snack, and went back for more. Much to the chagrin of both boys, I put a quick stop to minnow-smorgasbord. We’d just gotten Howard’s innards calmed down, and I wasn’t about to risk another possible go-round.

On one of our last evenings on the island, we visited Fernando’s Hideaway, a small restaurant located on top of a hill outside of town. We hopped into the bed of a pick up truck (aka, a Caribbean taxi) for the short ride to Fernando’s, traveling along wide cement roads, that were in terrific condition. As we climbed higher, the wider roads gave way to more narrow, local routes, and we eventually turned into a driveway…we had arrived.

As is popular in the Caribbean, Fernando’s Hideaway is run out of Fernando’s house. Off of the restaurant’s kitchen, there is a deck with just a few tables, surrounded by a canopy of trees, flowers and vines. Candles set into empty flour bags gave the tables a warm glow, and tree frogs provided fitting dinner music.

Our dinner was fantastic, and we weren’t the only ones who though so. The walls of the restroom were lined with accolades from young diners.

Once everyone had been served, Fernando came out to the deck for a break, settling into a chair just behind our table. We struck up a conversation, and learned that he’d spent most of his life as a cook on container ships, traveling all over the world before coming back to Bequia. Each day, Fernando makes everything himself, from the delicious goat water (soup), to the savory local snapper and greens, down to the scrumptious lemon bars we had for dessert. We left with happy, full bellies, and great memories of our hideaway evening.

The weather had finally settled enough for us to move on, so it was time to say goodbye to Bequia, and the Grenadines, and continue north. Our next stop, the island of Guadeloupe. Here are more photos of our time in the Grenadine Islands.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Our Last Days In Grenada

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By the end of September, Howard was well on the mend, so we felt ok about going home. We first said another goodbye, this time to our friends Nick and Lori-Anne, who were flying back to the U.S. Parting ways with friends is definitely one of the worst parts about cruising.

As I mentioned, it was Scott’s first visit back to the U.S. in two years. Once the boat was settled in a slip at Port Louis Marina, we flew home and ran him around like mad, spending time with family, visiting friends, old neighbors and the gang at Hendersons Marina.

Scott arrived back to a very needy cat. Howard had a hard time in our absence, and consequently, so did our incredibly great friends who fed him while we were both away. In addition to the weeks in and out of the clinic, we haven’t left Howard for more than two nights since we first brought him home. He was glad to see his Dad.

I stayed on for several more weeks at home, spending more time with friends, and stuffing myself with fresh produce! All of these fall veggies are available to us in the Caribbean, but they’re just not the same quality.

I spent time with my sister and brother-in-law, in their neighborhood of Eastport, just across Spa Creek from Annapolis, where many of the houses were decked out for Halloween.

I was also lucky enough to be home for the 20th annual “Slaughter Across the Water,” a tug-of-war match stretching between downtown Annapolis and the Eastport peninsula; that’s a tug, across the water.

The “friendly” competition began in 1998, when the residents of Eastport got fed up with a Public Works Department project that closed the bridge leading into Eastport from Annapolis. Over “a couple of pints and a some scribblings on cocktail napkins,” the Maritime Republic of Eastport was born. The newly-born MRE then proposed a tug-of-war to the townspeople of Annapolis, and a yearly tradition began.

Every year since, on the first Saturday in November, an 1,800-foot rope, half solid yellow and half yellow and black, is spooled out across Spa Creek, and carefully piled onto the deck of a boat that marks the center line. (Not being able to be on both sides of the tug, or on the water, I borrowed some online photos)

Competitors pulled in seven different match-ups, with money raised going to local charities and philanthropic causes; this year’s Slaughter Across The Water resulted in a Eastport taking the event, winning four out of the seven tugs. The event has become a day-long festival with music, crafts and a chili cook-off.

In mid November, I flew back to Grenada. Scott had moved Sea Life from the marina, and was now out in the anchorage off of St. Georges harbour. Once I had unpacked, we planned a short visit to Petite St. Vincent, one of Grenada’s nearby out islands, before clearing out of the country to head north.

We mad a last minute grocery run to Foodland, located on the carenage. Conveniently, they have a dinghy dock right across the street.

As I mentioned earlier, produce can be challenging in the Caribbean. Check out these tiny heads of cauliflower and cabbage, that Scott can comfortably hold in one hand. The cabbage is marked in Eastern Caribbean dollars, which equals roughly $1.20 usd.

We headed back to the boat, to unload our groceries. As we drove away, something strange caught our eye just beside the dock. We had walked right by this man, asleep across the rocks.

The next day we made the short trip over to Petite St. Vincent. I’d come back with a “travel bed” for Howard. The soft sides allow him to snuggle in, and keep him from moving less while we’re underway. It was a warm day, so a cold sports towel was in order.

Before long, we arrived at Petite St. Vincent, a private island with an exclusive resort.

The water colors were gorgeous, and we were able to anchor off to ourselves, not having had this much room around us in months. We soon had a visit from a yellow footed booby, who spent some down time on one of the paravanes.

The next day, we set off in the dinghy to explore the coastline, and get a peak at the resort, which spread’s out across the island.

Back at our anchorage, we now had a neighbor…a rather large neighbor.

Eager for some more clear water time, Scott took the dinghy out for some snorkeling and underwater exploration. Spear fishing was illegal in the area, but he couldn’t resist the urge for dinner when he came across some lobster. He bashed the poor things to death with the dinghy oar (hence, not using a spear or “official” fishing device), bringing back a speckled and a slipper lobster. Slipper lobsters are creepy, and look like giant pill bugs.

The entire island of Petite St. Vincent is private, but lowly cruisers are allowed to visit the resort’s beach bar, so we cleaned ourselves up and headed to shore for cocktails. We relaxed and enjoyed our drinks, looking back at Sea Life, with her big buddy, out at anchor.

At $15.00 usd a cocktail, one round was all our budget could afford, so we headed back as the sun began to set.

The next morning, we would head for Carriacou, Grenada’s nearest out island, to clear out. It was time to head north. First stop, the Grendine Islands. Here are more photos of our last days on Grenada.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

Howard Battles Urinary Issues

Sometime after Carnival, I noticed that Howard was going in and out of his litter box much more than usual, with no result. Not passing urine is a major concern for anyone, animal or human, so after almost 24 hours I called the nearby veterinary clinic, associated with St. George’s University, to tell them that we were on the way. We packed Howard into his “travel house,” and dinghied over to Prickly Bay Marina, where a man named Bernard was always waiting in his taxi for a fare.

We arrived at the clinic, checked in and prepared to wait, since we hadn’t made an appointment. Almost immediately, a vet came out to talk with us, and when she confirmed that Howard hadn’t passed urine, took us back to a room for an exam. Now unfortunately, Howard is not the best patient; in fact, he’s a terrible patient…lots of hissing and growling. So much so that there’s a “Caution” sticker on his file at our home vet back in Baltimore. There wasn’t much need for an exam it seems, as the vet quickly decided to keep Howard, and catheterize him. Ugh. Howard would be catheterized for at least two days, so we were sent home, and told that we were welcome to visit the following day.

The next afternoon, we took the dinghy over to Budget Marine’s dock, and made the quick, but hot walk to see Howard. The road leading to the clinic doesn’t get a breath of breeze, and in the middle of the day, it’s definitely “hot-sun walking.” (As a local said to Scott, with respect, while passing him on the road in Grenada, during peak heat hours; Scott received a fist bump, for his hot-sun walking).

We arrived, wiped off the sweat and cooled down in the air conditioning for a bit, before someone came to escort us back to see our cat. As soon as he heard my voice, Howard chirped, and perked up. He had a catheter tube coming out of his penis, that was taped to his tail. An iv tube was taped to his front leg, and there was a cone around his neck so he couldn’t chew at any of the tubes.

The preferred treatment for a urinary blockage is to place a catheter for three days, while giving a drug that relaxes ureter. Unfortunately, the clinic didn’t have the drug in stock, and there was none on the island; so instead, Howard was given Valium in his iv, along with a painkiller. Despite being a bit loopy, he was happy to see us.

By day two, Howard had enough of wires and tubes. He managed to get the cone off, and remove both the iv and catheter. He had to be put back under sedation to reinsert everything, and an additional sedative was added to his iv meds. With the addition of the third drug  in the mix, we noticed that Howard was much more mellow, and not as responsive at our next visit..

Everything looked great after three days, so the vet removed everything and waited for Howard to pee on his own. He couldn’t, so another catheter had to be inserted. When they sedated Howard, they found some mucus blocking his ureter. It was physically flushed out, a second catheter and iv were inserted, and an additional calming/sedative drug was added to his iv meds.

By the time we visited on day seven, Howard was almost completely unresponsive. He had so many drugs in him, and had been sedated so many times, I cannot believe he wasn’t drooling on himself. His condition had me in tears, and the vet on the case decided to cut him off of all the drugs, and send him home with us.

Back on board the boat, Howard was a mess for the next 30 hours. He had several bouts of what we thought must be his body detoxing the drugs. His temperature shot up, and he moaned as he was breathing. We laid him on an ice pack that was wrapped in a towel, and covered him with towels soaked in ice water, while a fan blew on him.

When he began to growl while in the litter box, I realized that we may have to take him back to the clinic. The thought of Howard having to start that whole process over again turned my stomach, but he needed help. We broke down and decided to go back to the clinic, which thankfully is staffed 24-7.

With no idea how to get a cab after midnight, Scott headed over to Prickly Bay Marina in the dinghy. As luck would have it, there was a Meriweather vs. “Someone-I-don’t-know” fight going on, so the tiki bar was open later than usual. Scott informed the bartender that we had a vet emergency, and asked if there was a cab in the area. She immediately came from behind the bar, and went into the crowd to talk to a man who immediately went to get his van to take us. Scott explained that I was still on the boat with our cat, and he agreed to wait (Again, Grenadians, the friendliest people ever).

During all of this, the heavens had opened, and Scott came back to the boat soaked and dripping wet. We loaded Howard into his carrier, and went to the dock..in the still-pouring rain. The van took me to the clinic, while Scott went back to get dry clothes and raincoats. He then motored the dinghy to the far side of the bay, and walked to meet me.

Once the vet arrived (he too was out watching the fight), he had me hold Howard, so that he could feel his bladder. It was full, and as he felt it, urine leaked out. Realizing the Howard wasn’t completely blocked, the vet manually emptied the bladder (much pressing and squeezing). Howard was very angry, and growling, but quiet off and on, as I think he realized the doctor was relieving his pressure.

As I continued to hold Howard, the vet was able to do an ultrasound of the bladder. Satisfied that there were no crystals or stones, he opted to put Howard on anti-inflammatory pills for five days, and sent him home, not wanting to re-start the drowsy-drug carousel. Scott and I were both thrilled, and headed back to the boat with our cat.

Unfortunately, Howard still wasn’t able to pass urine, and was also still growling when in the litter box. We had to again return to the clinic, where they inserted another catheter and iv. We felt so bad for our boy, that he didn’t understand what was going on. It broke my heart that he went to sleep, and woke up with a catheter and iv back in. We visited every day, and Howard would just want me to rub and scratch his head and face, especially the area where the cone lay against his neck.

I cannot say enough about the veterinarians and staff who helped us. The clinic was large, clean and bright, with all the facilities you’d expect in the U.S. Howard was in a cage located in the main treatment area, where people were near him all day. They all just wanted to pet and love Howard, but he was not having it. It made me so sad, as I’m sure he’d have felt a lot better getting love and attention all day, and not just during our visits.

After several more days, the doctors again felt sure that there were no crystals or stones in Howard’s bladder, but sent his urine out for further testing, just to be sure. We again brought Howard back to the boat; however, if he blocked again, we’d be facing the fact that there was a good chance that surgery was in his immediate future. The procedure involves cutting off the penis, and changing the route of the urethra, so he would urinate like a female cat (they have a shorter, and more wide urethra), allowing any stones or crystals to pass through. The recovery is challenging, and the risk of recurring urinary infections is high…oh joy.

Because Howard was so wobbly and loopy (20 mgs of Valium per dose!), we were now on round the clock shifts, so one of us could constantly be with him. We’d follow him back and forth, from the couch to the litter box, checking for progress, and all surfaces in the saloon were now covered with trash bags and towels, to keep up with the dribbling of urine.

The clinic contacted us to say that Howard’s urine test showed an angry infection, most likely due to the several catheters that had been inserted and removed. We were given an antibiotic, and hoped for improvement.

The clinic was still unable to get the preferred drug for relaxing Howard’s ureter, so I contacted my vet back in Baltimore, who ordered it for us. I then contacted our friend, Christine, to see if she would mind picking up the drug and shipping it to us. She immediately left her desk at work, went to the vet and then straight to Fed Ex…a life saver! The package was scheduled for a three- day delivery, but the coming weekend meant a delay for picking it up in Grenada.

Worried that Howard may block again before the drug arrived on the island, Scott and I reluctantly decided to take our poor cat back to the clinic, so he’d be on site, just in case. It meant another catheter and iv for Howard, and this time he wasn’t in the main area, but down the hall in a room by himself. While it may have been more quiet for Howard, there was no way the staff could keep a good eye on him there.

The first day we arrived to visit, Howard’s bedding was wet, as he’d obviously leaked urine on it. Most of the staff were too scared to go into the cage, so Scott and I changed the wet blankets out for dry ones.

The next day, in addition to being wet, the bedding also had poop on it. Sigh….we again cleaned his cage. During our visit, we noticed that whenever Howard was in the litter box, he would arch his neck, mouth wide open and move his head side to side. After passing only a few drops, he’d come out and lay on his side. His whole body would curl up, and he’d release a small puddle of urine onto the bedding. We were obviously upset by this, and alerted the staff, who told us that it was a reaction to the pain of the urinary infection….hmmm.

We arrived on day three to a pitiful sight. In addition to urine, and poop, there was blood on Howard’s bedding….blood?!? We managed to flag someone into the room, who told us that Howard had again managed to get his iv out (the fourth time, for Houdini Howard), and it had bled for awhile, before they’d noticed and replaced it. I brought to their attention that his current iv paw was very swollen, and we helped to re-tape it. Our poor cat now had parts of all four paws shaved, from so many ivs. Howard’s mood was so depressed that he just lay in my lap with his eyes closed. It was time to take him home, I’d risk a blockage.

Back on board, Howard was still doing the strange head wobble, open-mouth thing while in the box, and curling his body to release urine while laying on his side after. Scott recorded video if this, and took it to the clinic for the vets to see. They were immediately concerned, and Scott was told that Howard was having seizures. I was more than miffed upon hearing this news, as we’d tried to call their attention to it previously. Scott came home with an anti-seizure med.

We were now dealing with constipation, due to all the drugs and sedation. We took Howard in for an x-ray, that showed he was full of poop..which I’d already tried to explain. The vet administered an enema, which Howard didn’t release, and suggested we take him home where he’d be more comfortable. We also came away with some laxative, to keep things moving.

We made the ten minute walk back to the dinghy, with Howard in his carrier, and then headed for the boat. Just as we were tying to the swim platform, Howard became very agitated, so I got him on board, out of the carrier and to the litter box as fast as I could, with a trail of liquid poop behind me. I left him to finish in peace, and cleaned up the poop trail….poor animal.

The muscle relaxer drug arrived, taking the number of meds that Howard was getting to SEVEN: anti-imflammatory, Valium, painkiller, antibiotic, anti-seizure, laxative and the muscle relaxer (most all causing drowsiness). Because poor Howard was so drowsy, we were able to administer the barrage of meds with little trouble.

We were still on round the clock watch, keeping an eye on the litter box, and making sure that Howard wouldn’t hurt himself. The poor animal just wanted to feel normal, and would wobble to the door of the saloon, wanting to go outside. I would carry him out into the cockpit, and we’d look at the water, his head laying over my arm.

Soon, the vet was ready to begin weaning Howard off most of the meds, which we were thrilled about. Over the next several weeks, we whittled down, until Howard was only getting the muscle relaxer twice a day. His mood, and balance improved, and although not completely normal, he was passing much more urine each day.

We had a trip home scheduled, that had to be postponed three times. It was to be Scott’s first trip home in two years, but there was no way we could leave Howard in someone else’s care while he was so sick.

After seven weeks of hell for all three of us, Howard was thankfully doing much better, and began to wander out to the cockpit on his own, to look for fish, nap and oversee boat projects.

Notice the “poodle paws”

He even began to feel good enough to climb onto his dinghy “jungle gym.”

We could finally breath easier, but I still felt terrible for all our poor cat had been through. Scott tells me that Howard is young and tough, and won’t remember this, once he’s back to his old self. I hope it’s true.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

Dink-zilla

We purchased our inflatable dinghy and motor fifteen years ago. They have served us well, but the motor has given Scott ongoing carburetor issues the entire time. Having grown weary of constant fiddling and repairs, Scott decided to break down and buy a new dinghy motor while we were in Grenada.

We brought out brand new motor home, but Scott didn’t want to get rid of the old one….grrrr. His “plan” was to sell it, but I reminded him how much he hates selling things, how little he’d get for the well used, much jerry-rigged motor, and and how mad he would be by the end of the process. I told him to just get rid of the poor thing, but it continued to sit up on the flybridge.

That is, until one day when Scott was enjoying some afternoon cocktails, with too much idle time. While up on the flybridge, he looked at that old motor, and the wheels in his head began to turn. If one 3.3 was good, TWO 3.3s were better…and faster. It was time to get to work.

To support the weight of both motors, Scott screwed a piece of wood onto the transom of the dinghy, giving the mounting surface more room and more stability.

While Scott did this, Howard made sure all was well in the lazarette.

Once the motors were in place, Scott used pvc pipe, to allow him to steer both motors as one.

With that, the job complete, and “Dink-zilla” was born.

Now it was time for a test drive. As usual in this situation, I was summoned to take photo and video documentation of the testing. Both motors started up, and Scott stopped to enjoy the sheer sound of the two powerful 3.3s at work. Then away he went.

With speed still well below most other dinghy motors, but at mach five for ours, Scott happily raced through the Prickly Bay anchorage:

Once testing was complete, it was time to sit back and admire his work.

 

We still use one motor most often. But occasionally, when Scott wants to make time getting somewhere, or we have a heavy load on board, number two comes out, and we’re off and running.

Why put two 3.3 motors on a dinghy? Scott will tell you, “Because I can.” I’d tell you, “Because we can’t have enough “redneck” on board Sea Life.

Here are a few more Dink-zilla photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Cruising Life On Grenada

Spending four months of hurricane season in Grenada allowed us a chance to really get a feel for the island, and all it had to offer. Howard settled right in, seeming to know that we were going to linger for awhile. He enjoyed cockpit naps and “laundry” naps, kept an eye  out for fish and happily dried the ice machine when it was through running.

Every inch of the anchorages in Grenada’s southern bays were full of cruisers. Most were here for hurricane season, but there were also many who stay year round. The boat yards were equally as crowded, as some owners hauled out to have work done, and others traveled home.

With so many cruisers on the island, there were endless options to fill time. At any given day, you could opt for yoga, tai chi, dominoes or poker. We were moored in Prickly Bay, and the marina there hosted free movie nights, Friday evening steel drum and dance bands and their famous Bingo night.

Just a short walk from Prickly Bay, the West Indies Beer Company hosted a weekly open jam night, that was always well attended. The music was always great…singing, not always as good, but a fun evening out just the same.

Houses of all shapes, colors and styles lined the hills around us, and Budget Marine (the Eastern Caribbean’s answer to West Marine) was just a shorty dinghy ride away. Scott was eager to peruse the shelves, but came away with sticker shock; the EC is much pricier than the western side!

From Budget Marine’s dinghy dock, it was an easy walk to the Container Park, a food truck complex of sorts, with containers housing various food choices instead of trucks. The group of hodgepodge containers offered paninis, coffee drinks, ice cream, burgers, Thai and Mexican food and many other options. We enjoyed brunch and bloody marys with friends, and visited during evening hours as well.

St. Georges University is located just down the road, and as a result, many small bars, restaurants and food stands line the street leading to the Container Park.

There were many shopping options for us on Grenada. Not far away was an Ace Hardware, and also CK’s, a bulk grocery store. Further down the road was Spiceland Mall, which housed a home goods-type store, a large IGA grocery store, as well as other shops and a small eatery.

Which leads me to how we get to said stores…the local buses. On Grenada, as on many Caribbean islands, public buses are actually mini vans, and 90 cents USD, will get you a ride anywhere on the island. In addition to the driver, each bus has a “conductor.” This person sits behind the passenger, near the sliding side door, and it’s his job to fill the bus and collect money, while the driver drives.

Buses in Grenada are privately owned, and have interesting names that are proudly displayed across the windshield: Humble Thy Self, Scare Dem, Nothing Yet, etc. The more fares they can squeeze in, the more money they’ll make, so conductors constantly scan the roadsides for possible passengers (There are bus stops throughout the island, but unlike the U.S., passengers can get on and off at will). With keen eagle eyes,  they’ll noticing you long before you even come near a bus stop, or start to look for a bus; don’t’ worry about catching a bus on Grenada, it’ll “catch” you.

With half their body hanging out the open side door, conductors will whistle, or call out “Bus, Bus, Bus!!” to get your attention. At times, we were only going a short distance, and chose to walk instead of ride, having to politely wave off the many honks and shouts to get on board. On a particularly cloudy day, after waived off our I-don’t-know-how-many-ith bus, the driver responded: Sure?…..it’s gonna rae-een!

In order to pick up as many passengers as possible, buses often deviate from their set route. A bus will often detour up into to hillside neighborhood, or back up a side street to pick up a fare; sudden, sharp braking is regular, and so is backing up….on main roads. While the buses race to try and get as many fares on board as possible, it does not diminish their politeness. They will patiently wait for a passenger, no matter the age, to to get on the bus, even backing up to shorten the walk. Local children ride the buses to and from school, and conductors will see them safely to the far side of the street when getting off.

A bus inGrenada is a 14 passenger mini van, with an additional row of fold-down, jump seats. They make full use of every inch of interior space, stuffing us in like sardines. People are expected to sit on the gap between the permanent seat and the jump seat (not comfy), and also on a fold-down seat between the driver and passenger. We’ve also seen people sit next to the sliding door, facing backwards, on a hump that extends out from under the passenger seat.

And air conditioning?? The driver most often runs it for himself, while the rest of us gasp for any breeze that comes in through the open windows (I borrowed these bus photos online, as I was always too hot, crammed in or holding on for dear life to think about my camera). Reggae or dance music is played at vibrating decibels, perhaps to try and distract you from the heat.

Whatever you’re carrying with you cannot take up valuable seat space. Shopping bags are jammed in front of you on the floor, stacked up to your nose if necessary. This proposed quite a problem for Scott, as the distance to the back of the seat in front of him was so short, he had to ride with his knees to his chest.

A knock on the tin roof or side wall of the bus signals that you want to get off. This request is relayed by the conductor, because there’s no way for the driver to hear your knock over the volume of the rolling dance party. Once your signal  is received, the bus may jerk to a stop, let you off further down the road…or at the next bus stop. The sardine can-packed bus will, more often than not, have to unload like clowns at the circus to let you off, before reloading and continuing on.

As I have mentioned before, local Grenadians were the most incredibly friendly and welcoming people we’ve interacted with on our entire adventure to date. They appreciated the cruisers’ presence on the island, and the business opportunities that it afforded…in a positive way. Instead of trying to take advantage of the boaters, they truly wanted us to enjoy their island, including and mingling with the cruisers at bars, restaurants, events and gatherings.

This is especially true for a group of  bus drivers who play a huge part in providing cruisers with transportation for specific needs and special events. Like the buses, these drivers all use colorful nicknames, such as Shademan and Christ Child. Five days a week, these men offer shopping buses, making pickups at the various marinas, and then stopping at Ace Hardware, CK’s Discount Store, an ATM machine and the IGA.

Shademan is amazing with the cruisers. He’s on the net every morning, announcing what trips or services are offered for that day, and the rest of the week. We rode with him to see the pan orchestra practice, and costume making, and he also ferried us back and forth to the various parades during carnival.

Shademan also offers a Saturday shopping bus that goes into St. Georges, for the weekly market. We hopped on one Saturday, interested to see the market, and a bit of downtown. Our first stop was the Merry Baker, located on the grounds of the Port Louis Marina. We were either too early, or too late, as the shelves were nearly empty. However, being one of the first ones out of the van, I managed to get the last loaf of ciabatta bread…score one for me!

It was a clear, blue-sky morning, and the buildings across the bay were bright and colorful, as we made our way around the carenage.

We arrived downtown, where Shademan dropped us off for 90 minutes of shopping. The open market and many street stalls covered several blocks.

In addition to stalls, many people had set up shop on the sidewalks, or along the side of the road, selling produce and other goods.

We came across a man selling fresh coconut water, who was very popular…and handy with a  machete! Waiting patiently, behind piles of coconuts, people brought along their own bottles and jugs for filling.

In addition to the many planned events and gatherings, we made our own fun. A group of us who were moored in Prickly Bay decided to do a dinghy bar crawl, visiting places in the nearby bays around the corner.

Nimrods rum shop was especially fun. In addition to rum and beer, this tiny bar also sold fresh bread, boxed milk and some local vegetables…a one stop shop!

We ended our crawl at Le Phare Bleu, sponsor of the dinghy concert we attended. The really cool-looking Lightship Bar was closed, so we opted for drinks in restaurant.

After a fun day with friends, Scott and I headed back to Prickly Bay, wanting to get around the corner and out of open water, while there was still some light left.

We sadly said goodbye to our Aussie friends, Mark and Deb, who left us just after Carnival. They had their catamaran, Kefi, hauled out for two months, and were headed home to Australia for a visit. Upon their return, they would head for the Western Caribbean, and the Panama Canal, while we planned to head north.

From our mooring in Prickly Bay, we  had decent views of the solar eclipse in August, and even though the anchorage was crowded, sunrises and clear, white, puffy cloud days were still scenic.

So that’s a peek into cruiser life on Grenada. Here are more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Hey Don, Thanks For Going Easy On Us!

With Tropical Storm Don predicted to make a direct hit on Grenada, we prepared for 60 knot winds (always prepare for the worst). Scott secured loose things on the flybridge, stripped the canvas off of our bimini (canvas that shades the flybridge driving station), took the window covers off, removed our flags and stowed our extra solar panels (more on those later).

He tied an additional line to the mooring ball; readied our anchors in case we needed to drop them; put our large fenders in the cockpit, making them available in case another boat broke from it’s mooring and drug toward us; brought in our flopper-stoppers (large plates that hang from the paravanes, and reduce rolling at anchor…greatly reduce); and raised the paravanes, to reduced risk of another boat hitting them, making us more maneuverable through the anchorage should we need to move in a hurry.

While we were preparing the boat, the island of Grenada was preparing as well. One of the local radio stations broadcasted storm preparation information, and we heard the local Red Cross and Coast Guard making contact with each other over the vhf radio.

Businesses were required to close at 3pm, and we were very surprised to hear that public water and sewer were to be turned off at 7pm! Here’s a posting from the National Water and Sewerage Authority, with some interesting information:

ADVISORY – NAWASA TO SWITCH OFF ALL WATER SYSTEMS ON TUESDAY JULY 18TH, 2017

The National Water and Sewerage Authority (NAWASA) wishes to advise the general public that following a meeting of its Disaster Preparedness Committee, the following decisions were made:

– ALL WATER SYSTEMS will be switched off later this evening. A timeline will be provided once an update on Tropical Storm DON is received from NaDMA.

– Once our systems are switched off, consumers island wide will have their service interrupted WITHOUT A DEFINED RESTORATION TIME.

– An analysis of ALL water systems will be conducted by our engineering team on Wednesday July 19th and restoration will commence thereafter.

The Authority implores on the general public the need to:

• Collect and store water in clean, non-corrosive and mostly tightly covered containers both in and out of your refrigerator. To increase shelf life of water, group bottles in dark plastic trash bags to keep light out.

• Store enough water for each member of your family and pet. week.Have at least a minimum of three days supply, of thirty-five gallons per person, per day for domestic use. OUR MAIN ADVISORY – Water collection and storage to last minimum of three days and a maximum of 1 week.

• Store water in bath tubs, drums, pails and buckets for flushing of toilet, washing and general cleaning.

• Shut off water tanks and individual property connections. Your water can be shut off at either the outlet valve or the water meter. Everyone in your home should know where these are located.

NAWASA apologises for the inconveniences likely to be caused by this decision, but advises that this precautionary measure is necessary to safe guard our infrastructure and is in the best interest of the consumers we serve.

 

When our preparations were complete, we spent the rest of the day checking various online sites for updates on Don, and just waited, along with everyone else in the bay. Scott had a pre-Don cocktail, and Howard kept watch for fish.

Watching for fish can be tiring. Sometimes  you have to lay down on the job.

We were getting reports that Don was speeding up, but the eye was collapsing, and that wind speed predictions had dropped a bit; all good news.

As the day wore on, the winds died completely, and by early evening the bay was lake-like.  We watched the barometer drop on our weather station, and considered this the calm before the storm. The bay was noticeably less crowded, as many chose to hunker down in marinas or other island locations.

By sunset, Don was predicted to only cause us an hour’s worth of havoc, and at a much lower intensity. We began to get a decent swell coming into the bay, and readied for our 60 minutes of storm drama.

Instead, Don fell apart as it passed twenty miles south of us. We watched the radar updates online, and by 10 or 11pm, the storm, now reduced to a tropical wave, had officially passed us by without incident.There had been no wind to speak of, and we only received a quarter inch of rain.

The incoming swell lingered on though, and we continued to roll around for hours. Rolling back and forth (actually, Sea Life tends to lumber back and forth, as opposed to rolling) wasn’t as irritating as the noise from one of our paravane cables rubbing along a mast wire; the metal scraping sound was maddening. Realizing that Don was now a non-event, Scott lowered our paravanes and put the floppers back in the water….ahhhh.

So, Don fizzled out, thank goodness, and we dodged a tropical bullet. I’d like to believe that this was our one and only scare for the season, but we’ve learned all too well on this journey that Mother Nature is fickle.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

Our Final Push To Grenada

After an easy overnight, we approached Carriacou (pronounced Carri-a-coo) just after dawn. The island belongs to Grenada, and we planned to clear into the country here.

As usual, there were interesting sights along the way: interesting rock islands, and a waterfront house that caught Scott’s eye.

In the early morning hours, we made the turn into Tyrell Bay anchorage. The large bay was full of boats, boats and more boats…I counted 82! We definitely weren’t in Kansas (aka, the Western Caribbean) anymore.

Once we were anchored, Scott made his way over to nearby Tyrell Bay Marina, where the customs and immigration offices were located. He arrived just as they were scheduled to open, but there was no sign of the customs officer. Thirty minutes later, the young officer showed up, and let Scott and several other cruisers inside.

Apparently, he’d been at a party the night before, not getting home until the wee hours, and consequently had a late morning start. Scott, having learned much patience with customs and immigration in the Western Caribbean, just smiled, nodded and waited to be called on. There is an online service in place for several of the Eastern Caribbean islands, called Sea Clear. Clearance forms can be complete online before arriving, saving time when in the office. Customs officials like it, as they spend much less time deciphering handwriting.

Not all cruisers use this service, and end up having to fill out the lengthy forms by hand before getting their turn. As a result, Scott has ruffled feathers more than once, by being waived to the front of the line. Sea Clear, and Scott’s patient attitude, has made for quick and friendly clearance on several Eastern Caribbean islands.

Back to Carriacou…the immigration officer must have been at the same party, and must have stayed even later, as he never showed up at all! Once the customs officer finished his paperwork, he did the immigration clearance for Scott as well, and we were official in Grenada.

To celebrate, we headed to shore for lunch at the Lazy Turtle. In addition to other items, pizza was on the menu, and was billed the “best in the Caribbean.”

The pizza was far from the best in the Caribbean, but it fit the bill for lunch, and views back out at the crowded anchorage were good. Soon, the afternoon sun had us changing locations, over to some funky, wooden tables in the shade. After lunch, we spent time wandering the island a bit, then returned to Sea Life for an early night.

The next morning, we raised anchor and continued toward Grenada. We made one last stop at Rhonde Island, also owned by Grenada, for a few quiet nights at anchor.

There anchorage has room for only four or five boats, a nice change from 82! We enjoyed the quiet, space and Scott got some exploring in.

 

 

 

From Rhonde Island, it was just a day trip to Grenada. We passed more interesting rock islands, and Scott put some lines in the water hoping for a nibble; unfortunately, he got skunked again.

Moving down the west cost of the island, we passed the capital city of St. Georges, and the remains of Fort George.

 

 

 

 

We passed several types of interesting boats in St. Georges anchorage, and the large Sandals LaSource Grenada, before turning east, to head along the south coast.

An hour or so later we made our final turn, into Prickly Bay.  Again, this large bay was full of boats. There wasn’t enough room to lay out a proper amount of anchor chain, so we chose to grab one of the marina’s mooring balls.

 

We’d made it to our hurricane season home. Howard checked out his new surroundings, and we settled in.

Here are more photos of our final push to Grenada.

 

 

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Bon Jour, Saint Pierre, Martinique!!

After a month in Virginia, Mom was healing like a champ in rehab, and Dad had food in the freezer. It was time for me to head back to St. Thomas, where Scott and I would point Sea Life toward Grenada, where Sea Life would spend hurricane season.

Soon after I returned, the wind forecast was favorable for an almost three day leg to Martinique (a hop, skip and a jump, after the hellish 6.5 days from Cartagena to Puerto Rico…ugh!). After two over-nights, and zeroing in on hour 50, we caught sight of the beautiful, volcanic island.

We made our way down the coast, admiring the steep, deep green slopes, dotted with small villages and bright green fields.

Our destination was the small town of Saint Pierre, not far down Martinique’s west side. I found this great geographical map online, marking Saint Pierre, and also showing how  mountainous the island is.

Image result for map of martinique

We approached the quiet town, and anchored at the south end. Local children played in the sand on shore, and we had views of Mt Pele in the distance. In the evenings, the sounds of tree frogs in the hills just off shore was music to our ears. It was relaxing, peaceful and beautiful.

Howard immediately liked Saint Pierre, heading outside as soon as the motor shut off.

He and Scott spend time relaxing on the side deck, taking in the sights and “smells,”

 

Scott enjoyed a celebratory, end-of-passage/arriving-at-a-new-island cocktail, while Howard enjoyed a post-passage scratch on the dock lines hanging nearby.

Knowing that this doesn’t thrill Scott, Howard will look back, to see if there’s a reprimand coming.

Later, there was play time on Howard’s “jungle gym,” aka our inflatable dinghy. For one reason or another, and always on passages, the dinghy get’s stored on the side deck, and Howard cannot resist jumping up on it.

It is free for cruising boats to clear in and out of the French-owned islands…big plus; cheap wine, bread and pastries…even BIGGER plus! There are usually several locations on the islands (stores and shops) who have a computer on site, and cruisers just have to enter their boat information, etc. and click “print” for clearance papers. There is even an option of clearing in an out at the same time, if you enter your expected date of departure.

The morning after arriving, we went to a local restaurant  just a block from the town dinghy dock,  to use the clearance computer. With the online form in French, the obvious language barrier made filling in our information a bit challenging at times, but the owner happily helped us. He spoke English, and helped me better pronounce a few key phrases (most important: Please forgive me, I’m just learning, and my French is horrible!), and served us cold, Lorraine beer while we finished our check in form.

Now that we were official, it was time to wander through town a bit.

Scott was also thrilled to once again be able to buy Orangina (still another French island plus), which he’s come to love.

We learned that Saint Pierre used to be known as the “Paris of the Caribbean,” and was culturally and economically the most important city on the island. Unfortunately, this town has taken quite a beating over time.

A hurricane pummeled Martinique in 1780. Known as “The Great Hurricane,” it produced a storm surge of 25 feet, which inundated the city, destroying all houses and killing 9,000 people. The devastating storm is the deadliest Atlantic Hurricane on record. Between 20,000 and 22,000 people died throughout the Lesser Antilles Islands, when the storm passed through them from October 10th–16th of that year. Specifics on the hurricane’s track and strength are unknown, because the official Atlantic Hurricane database only goes back as far a 1851.

The town was destroyed again in 1902. when the volcano Mount Pelée erupted. It’s destruction dubbed the Mount Pele Eruption the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th century. The eruption killed approximately 30,000 people with a pyroclastic flow (a dense collection of fragments and gases, which is much more dangerous than a lava flow).

Mount Pelée sent a cloud of super-heated gas and dust racing toward the city. Within a single minute, the 1,075 degree pressure wave flattened nearly every building in the city of St. Pierre. Anyone unlucky enough to be in its way would have instantly caught fire and burned to death. Even those in shelters suffocated, as the super-heated wave burned up the oxygen and replaced it with deadly gases; lungs were incinerated from the inside, with even a single breath (gross).

 The deadly eruption completely destroyed the city of Saint-Pierre (which was, at that time, the largest city on the island), within minutes. Approximately 30,000 people were killed instantly; the entire population of the town, as well as people from neighboring villages who had taken refuge there for safety. The city burned for days afterward.

Before:

After:

Apparently, there was considerable eruptive activity in the two weeks prior to the fatal blast, but since pyroclastic flow was not yet understood, the danger was thought to be from lava flows. It was believed the lava would be stopped by two valleys between the volcano and the city.

The main eruption left only two survivors in the direct path of the flow: a prisoner in a poorly ventilated, dungeon-like jail cell, and a man living on the edge of the city, who escaped with severe burns.

Mount Pele is currently in a dormant state, but is registering seismic activity.

The city of Saint-Pierre was never fully restored to its former self. However, it is now referred to as a city of art and history.  There were many reminders of the eruption’s damage, as we walked the streets.

 

The cathedral in town was rebuilt after Mount Pele’s destruction, and the “new” cathedral looks much different.  Only its lower floor, spared by the pyroclastic flow, was preserved in the reconstruction.

The large cathedral was undergoing a current reconstruction when we visited.

We walked along an upper road, and came to the remains of the Theater of San Pierre.

Able to seat 800 people, we read that it was often booked to capacity, with plays ranging from classical to vaudeville, as well as operas. On evenings when there were productions, the stairs and entrance railings were crowded with vendors, selling oranges, pistachios and sweets. The theater also hosted political meetings, and even balls during carnival time.

Due to economic reasons, the theater was closed, just a year before the Mount Pele eruption. The staircase is still pretty well intact, offering views back out to the Caribbean, but not much remains of the great theater’s interior.

On the other side of the theater wall, and down the hill, are remains of the prison, and it’s cells.

On May 7, 1902, a day before the Mount Pele eruption, Louis Sylbaris, the town troublemaker, ended up in solitary confinement here. Since all records were destroyed, and all witnesses killed by the eruption, what Louis was being imprisoned for is a matter of speculation. He later said it was because of a fight, but the cell he was in would have been where someone accused of a more serious crime, such as murder, may have been held.

Trapped in his cell when the volcano erupted, Sylbaris felt the intense heat from the 1,000-plus degree pressure wave, as ash came flying in through the tiny slot in the door. Suffering from burns and desperate to cool down, he urinated on his clothes and stuffed them into the opening. It was just enough to save him, and four days later, rescuers freed him.

Having survived the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th century, Sylbaris became a celebrity, and toured the world with the Barnum & Bailey Circus. He was billed as “The only living object that survived in the ‘Silent City of Death.'” While the eruption was doomsday for the town of St Pierre, it may have been Loius Sylbaris’ savior.

We made our way back to the high road in town, to an overlook area with views of the sea. Fisherman cast lines off the docks below, to the north, and Sea Life was contently at anchor to the south.

Immediately below us…more of Mount Pele’s devastation.

Maritime commerce increased through the eighteenth century, and by the mid-century,  seven eighths of all the island’s trade came through St. Pierre, as well as that of St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, Dominica and Grenada. With such a high volume of commercial activity, there was a great need for warehouses and shops along the waterfront. As a result, Quartier du Figuier was developed.

Scott and I went down some steep, steep steps, to the road below, to get a closer look at the remains of the buildings.

Warehouses along the Quartier du Figuier held merchandise that had just been loaded off of ships, and also goods waiting to be loaded. Shops stocked items that ships traveling through may need, such as ropes, hoists, anchors, etc. Most of the buildings had upper stories, which were used for residences.

With a full day of wandering behind us, we stopped for a pizza to go, and enjoyed cold Lorraine beer while it cooked. Then it was back to Sea Life, traveling along the historic town’s shoreline, as we made our way in the dinghy.

Tomorrow’s plan…..a day of rum! Here are many more photos, of our stay in Saint Pierre.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”