Thursday, December 2, 2010

Just nutz...

 The constantly changing weather has been driving me batty. It has been truly difficult to get the masts done. Forecasts are only accurate out past the day and sometimes they change in an hour from sunny for the next two days to expect a half inch of rain by noon! Normally I would be much more easygoing about this sort of thing, but I said I would do the varnish on the masts and I am really feeling bad about not getting them done.

I finally had a good shiny day and had to go for it. I was really proud of one of the best varnishing jobs I had put down yet. Never mind that it was in winds gusting from 8 to 15. I had to really hang onto my brush up there. The waves were hopping the boat all over the place and I felt like a tether ball swinging around at times. But, I pulled it off and got down to the deck right before dark. It felt good.

It rained about 30 minutes later (fairly hard too). The next morning I got up hoping it had time to skin over, but instead found a surface with more craters than the moon. It was what it was. I had to give it a day to cure up a bit and sanded it all back down.

A few days later another lucky weather break came in and I managed to put down another semi-decent shiny coat. Best of all it didn't rain today. All should be good tomorrow!

Richard and Lani(owners of the boat) have since returned and I am winding up my stay down here. Unfortunately, I ran out of time to get the other mast even started. He will just have to hire that one out I guess, or I will have to fly back down here and do it. I'll wait till it gets a bit drier in the season.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The tour continued....

Our little tour group from the other day finished out the day seeing some of the major flavors of Grenada. One such stop was a Nutmeg weigh station. It was barely operational these days, but it was still used. This particular stop once employed about 150 people. Now, thanks to Ivan, there are only 15 and we saw about six of them sitting at a table playing cards. The farmers would drop off their product here and the nutmeg(and mace) is dried out for a while in long trays, eventually shelled, sorted, bagged and shipped of to the rest of the world. Grenada was one of two major suppliers of nutmeg to the world. In 2004 Hurricane Ivan (a cat 3 storm) wiped out about 90% of the nutmeg trees here on the island. Since it takes so long for the new trees to grow and produce, the crop has yet to come back.

Throughout the island are other reminders of Hurricane Ivan. Hundreds of houses like this are all over the place. Owners simply left and never came back. Our guide says someone still probably owns them, and in some cases the original occupants have died and the families do not want to bother with the house.

A spontaneous stop was a little roadside shack called Mark's. Mark must have been our guide's brother-in-law or something but he seemed to know everyone anyway. Mark makes his own Spiced Rum and really good rummy punch and serves it up right there on the street side bar. We all had a great time hanging out and tasting his samples. I think also he enjoyed the group because he gave us the bottle we were sampling from for the road. 

Next was a Cocoa Plantation of Belmont Estate. Hurricane Ivan also wiped out most of the cocoa crop on the island but this plantation still survives partly because it is one of the oldest and largest. The cocoa bean comes out of the fruit is actually white and kinda slimy. All these are tossed into bins and allowed to ferment for about a week getting turned every couple of days. The slimy coating comes off and the beans turn rich brown. This is when the cocoa develops most of it's rich flavor. 

Then the beans move outside to be dried in the sun on long carts for about another week. Workers frequently walk through the beans, shuffling their feet to break up beans stuck together and evenly dry the whole tray.   Everything is on rollers (even the huge roof) so it all is rolled under covers for a unexpected passing squalls. They process some of this cocoa into their own chocolate bars. Grenadian chocolate has a reputation of being some of the best in the world.

By some coincidence our tour started with a visit to a rum distillery (we sampled), stopped at a midpoint for some more samples (Marks), and pretty much ended with a tour of another distillery. River Antione Rum Distillery (est 1785) is the oldest on the island and still uses sugar cane from it's own fields to make it's rum. The key feature of this distillery is the huge water wheel that they still use to grind up the cane and press out the sugar water. They use some of the leftover dried cane to fire the boilers, but out guide said they are moving away from that because it just burns too fast. They use wood now and what bits of cane they don't burn is returned back to the fields as compost.
Yes- we sampled here too. Our tour van was indeed a very fun bus that day.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Courage, Sun & Fertility

  • Red represents the fervor of the people, their courage and vitality - their burning aspiration to be free. The red border indicates the dedication of the Grenadians to preserve harmony and unity of spirit.
  • Gold / Yellow is the color wisdom, the sunshine of the islands in the sun, and the warmth and friendliness of the people of Grenada.
  • Green symbolizes the fertility of the land, the lush vegetation and the islands' agriculture.
  • The Seven Gold Stars represent the seven parishes and the hopes, aspirations and ideas upon which the nation was founded.
  • The Nutmeg symbolizes the island's reputation as the Isle of Spice. Grenada is the world's second-largest producer of nutmeg, after Indonesia.
Many of the houses here are a mix of really[really] nice, on well kept grounds and manucured estates. These are mostly owned(but not always) by foreigners which are primarily retirees from other countries. I have been running into quite a few of these people lately and their stories all seem to be the same... they love it here and would never move back. Some share the year with their "other home" and frequently hop back and forth between the two.

The more common houses are shanty boxes, very simple but functional, may or may not have glass in the windows, and dirt roads going straight up to their pathways leading to their front doors. Pretty much everything is built up on stilts mainly because there is typically about one foot of topsoil then you find a big rock (this IS a volcanic island).  Some of these stilted houses are up at SCARY heights above ground(I'm not sure why). The supports are commonly about 12x12 concrete and have NO shear in any direction. Earthquakes are very slight and not an issue(according to our guide- Michael).
 This is just a cool old bus a local fixed up for dragging tourists around. Grenada is a frequent stop for most of the large cruise lines. When one is in port it is tough to get around in town due to the extra traffic. I heard on our morning "cruiser's net" that FOUR are expected in port tomorrow.

St. George is the island's capitol and is quite a happening place. Things are packed pretty tight down there. In the background up on the hill is Fort George. I should try to get over there if I have time before I have to leave.

 It doesn't take more than a few turns to get you out of town into the more spread out part of the population. The roads are narrow, sometimes very steep and feature some very quick and tight turns. Our driver said most of these roads were originally made for donkey carts and never intended for two way traffic. They drive on the left here (which was strange getting used to) and the seemingly crazy antics of or taxi/guide meshed right in with the others. Drivers constantly tap on the horn it's not just because they are so friendly here but it's all part of how they communicate. There are codes for rounding blind corners, passing requests, answering back, as well as the occasional "hey mon" to someone walking at the side. It's quite amazing how it all works out.

The roads are constantly dotted with the occasional house half snuggled into the greenery, but then the road eventually leads to hidden communities tucked into valleys.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Still Up on the Ropes!

It's quite staggering how the days sometimes start out. I am learning this in no way reflects on how the rest of the day pans out at all. Yesterday it was the most calm and boring sunrise of yet and I had high hopes of great things getting done. After a normal glance upwind showed no pending doom, I hoisted myself halfway up the foremast to where I left off the day before. 

I had about 30 minutes then sprinkles turned my dust making skills into a bunch of mud smears. I had full intentions of just staying up and weathering the sprinkle until I turned around.  Judging by the fact that I couldn't see the end of the bay I decided this was no minor cloud passing over! I just had enough time to speed drop to the deck(which was kinda fun and I hope someone was watching) and run around to close down all the skylights. I marveled at the fury for a while and was trying to figure where in the world this came from when it stopped. That was it? Nope... the showers came back about 20 mins later. This sequence went on for a half day making it pretty much impossible to get any work done. There would be an hour break and things would start drying off so I'd gear up again and PSSSSHHHHT! The others around on the dock were blaming me for the rain since they noted it started every time I tried to go up the mast again. I'm starting to get the idea that when the forecast calls for 30% chance of showers that means it will rain for 30% of the day! (but only in 5 minute increments).

This was not the case today. A totally insane /explosive sunrise greeted my half open eyelids and tho I had doubts, I got to work anyway. It turns out it would have been an awesome day to do some varnishing. There was only a slight sprinkle in the morning and that was all. It WOULD have been awesome for varnishing but I was not ready. I am about a day off I guess, but I did manage to get to the bottom of the foremast so I'm ready for it now. I sure need a couple more of those please!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hanging around

If it rains during the night I usually start off the day wiping off leftover drops off the cap rails and waterways. It keeps the varnish from spotting and some say the droplets are actually like little lenses that can burn the varnish in the direct harsh sunlight of the Caribbean. I don't think the optics are quite right, but I will wipe them off just the same (I'll have to study that more). Since it rains every night I've been real busy in the mornings. It really started to piss me off one morning when it rained again right after I wiped the whole boat down... twice. Then it cleared up blue sky and everything(grrrrr...). The weather out here is tricky. That's why the forecast is typically around 50%. You have to read this as "It may rain, or not. We really don't know".

Otherwise- I've been hanging around alot... literally. It was time to take on the spars project. The big sticks in the middle of the boat that point skyward. When Astor came through Antigua(back in April) they decided to strip the masts all the way down and start over. This hasn't been done since they first bought the boat 22 years ago and it was time. The masts are the only job they do not do themselves and hired a couple of locals to do the work. In my opinion they did mostly a mediocre job at best. In all fairness since they stripped all the way down to the wood, it kind of woke up the grain. There is alot of that to deal with as well as their rough start/stops with the brush.

It's not really obvious from a distance, but when you look close or run a hand over it -wow. I have been on the foremast for two days sanding down the brush strokes and runs and I am only about 2/3 the way down.  In the pics I lightly sanded a section to pronounce the effect even more. Then I took a pic of a section after I've worked on it a bit. Now we have baby bottom smooooth. There are a few dings and battle scars in the wood that I can't get out and some of the grain is still a bit frisky but it's as good as it gets for now.

The tricky part of the next phase is timing the re-coat of the varnish. If rain happens to catch me in the middle of a coat, or before it skins over it would be bad(like start over bad). We'll see how lucky I get.

After all this, then I get to transfer my climbing rig over and do the main (it's a bit taller). But hey, my office has a heck of a view!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It was Sunday

Yesterday I posted with *just* enough time to prepare for the evening event. I dove into the galley and whipped up a one-pot wonder of red beans and rice(with a chopped up sausage) for my contribution into the "pot-luck" event. I changed my shirt just as it was finishing up and it turned out perfect. Turns out that one of the others made almost exactly the same thing! It was pretty funny and at least everybody had enough to go around(it was good). The night rolled into a karaoki event and was pretty fun. There were actually some really good voices there but most of those vids are best left for personal memories and not brought up ever again. No, I wasn't NEAR drunk enough to take the mic. (We'll see about next week)

I was followed home from the "Oasis" by a rather cute brunette named Lulu. She was bold, and in quite a flirty mood. She came aboard without permission and roamed around deck for a while. I stepped her to the dock a couple of times but really wanted company and had no problems hopping back aboard. I had to draw the line when she wanted below and this time I scooped her up and walked her back to the end of the dock. She was not amused, and I left her sitting there silhouetted by the light just like a Bogart movie. Yes- I should have been a better host, but I didn't want any trouble. By chance we passed on the path the next morning and she didn't want anything to do with me and ran off. Sheesh. Females.... I got the feeling she only wanted my leftovers anyway. (She was quite fond of a good scratch behind the ears)

I poked my head out from the hatch this morning and was greeted by some fairly ugly dark clouds that looked like they were headed my way. Instead of the big projects I was prepping for, I gathered up the various clutter off the decks, snugged up the dock lines and prepared for a little downpour. It blew pretty good, I could see rain around me, but never got me wet here. Instead, I spent the day on little projects around the boat, caught up on the winches, and spend the afternoon watching the world from behind a book and a rummer.

WTH, it's Sunday. We'll see what it looks like tomorrow.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Chasing the Teak Thing

For the past couple of days I've been waking up in a very familiar bunk, but due to its very nature it has a habit of not necessarily being in the same place as one leaves it. After 15 hours of transit, 4500 miles and 4 time zones I finally caught up with it.

Today I found it in Grenada- Clarks Court Bay Marina to be exact. (yes- I had to look it up too)

My commute went perfectly as planned. Other than not getting enough sleep on the plane, all exchanges of transport went without hiccup. Finally arriving at my destination(well after dark) the boat was thoughtfully lit up nicely so I had no problem finding it. Unpacking, I had originally thought my bags were rifled somewhere along the line and a few key baubles were removed by someone that helped themselves, but all items have turned up in one corner of my luggage or another. My faith in the baggage handlers has been restored.

I am currently busy finding my way around down here. It takes a bit to actually settle in and learn how it all works. Today I jumped aboard the weekly bus into town. Not that I needed anything just yet but I wanted to get a grip on where everything was. I did manage to pick up some limes for my rummers and a few other things tho. We're all good.

Don't fool yourself for one minute thinking this is some sort of cushy kick-back lounge platform kind of deal. I have resumed my duties as XO of all-things-needing-varnish-up-high(that don't really matter), as well as "swabbe that makes things shiny". It's not an easy gig.
Today (after the bus cruise social event) I worked on the shady side of the boat until it wasn't shady any longer. I managed to kill three rags and only caught up on 2 of the 6 winch drums.

Filbert was pleased with this shine. (You can't tell from this pic but his tail is wagging.)

As the weather back home is rapidly heading into chilly winter conditions, know that today here it was well into the mid 80's, with about a 5-8 kt breeze blowing in from the SE. It's very humid tho. The kind of humidity that has a person constantly in some state between drippy, sweaty or just an average sticky. I figured out that the people move slower down here just because it is harder to move through the air. I suppose one could try swimming movements but you'd look pretty goofy.

Once you get over the gecko-like ability to pick up napkins just by touching them, you have to also remember to keep an eye out for a certain mosquito that can KILL YOU! (HEY NOW- THIS was NOT in the brochure!!!!). Yes- here in the caribbean they have a version like West Nile but it is called Dengue. No worries, I got my spray... and a lighter (in case I see one of the little bastards).

This particular marina is off the main path and known as fairly quiet. A few nights during the week they feature bonus events for the marina tenants and anchored out cruisers. After this post I am off to "fish & chips" nite up at the cantina in an attempt to plug into the network a bit more. There will be beer. Check back often for updates.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Way Out

The pace of the first half of the trip out has been quite intense. Not by need, but I was just in the mood to pass some interstate under the tires. That’s my kind of driving. I got all the way to Flagstaff before the eyelids started getting too weighty so I pulled off at a stop to close the eyelids for a bit. That plan worked until the truck cooled off and I woke up FREEZING!!!! It must have been about 35 degrees outside. The only way to warm up was to start it all up, so it was time to get rolling again.

It was starting to get light again and that made it far more entertaining as the interstate/americana passed by the outside. I just can’t get enough of the changing contours, random oddities, and all the neat stuff out here. The first half of this trip will go fast. If I stopped at everything I see, it’ll take weeks to get there.

It wasn’t too long until I found myself all the way into Oklahoma City. My clear skies were now randomly spritzing and going into heavy rain and thunderstorms. I was spending too much time looking at the lightning instead of the road so I took the next off ramp to watch the storm pass. I nested amongst an aluminum forest of light standard in a Wal-Mart parking lot for extra protection and watched the amazing show out the windshield and listened to the rain pounding on the roof of the truck. It was a good time for another nap anyway. Five hours later I woke up and all was clear.

The "Rest Area-2200" tour has been quite interesting. We all know CA has a few basic rest stops scattered around, and this trip I found the entire fleet on the 40 in Arizona was closed. I wonder if they were hacked from budget cuts? Farther East I go the better they get. There are also different classes of rest areas that offer varying degrees of services. The lowest of the scale are Picnic Areas and that’s about all they are(a few tables and some might be covered) . The higher end of these are Welcome Centers. These are usually the first rest area right when you cross a state border. They can just about be classed as parks. They are usually manned during daylight hours and offer up advise on what their state has to offer. It’s a nice break to pull into some of these. (This particular one even has Wifi).

A last marathon push today brought me through Little Rock, Memphis, Birmingham, and I currently sit on the border of Georgia with some time to burn. Time for a quick update and another nap. Normally, I’d check into a room but a friend insisted I swing by his house instead. (thanks Andre). If I continued on I’d be there around midnight and I’d rather not get his whole house up. I’ll bug out of here around four and bang on his door for breakfast instead.

Then to unpack and prep the boat...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

55 to the 91 to the 15 to 40.

Continue for about 2200 miles. Heading through AZ, NM, TX, OK, AR, MS, TN, MS, AL, and ending up in Georgia.

I loaded with munchies, hooked up the wagon, loaded fresh tunes in the iPod, kicked the tires and put fuel in the hole. Within the hour I think I'm out.

What am I delivering? Boat #45(no name yet).

I'll be checking in when I sniff out some wifi at the stops. There is some interesting weather between here and there, but that just makes things fun.

The tracker is active and can be seen here
if that doesn't work right for you, cut and paste the following link to a new page on your browser.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Assignment: Convexity

Convexity - 2006 Nordhavn 47

First look from online sales photo.

Mission Objective: (If you should accept it) Meet up with the boat in San Diego and run the boat up to San Francisco.

Time: You should show up Saturday Feb 13(ummmm... honeeeeey?), for departure Sunday. Should take about 5 days if the weather and waves treat you right. If not- find a hole somewhere and wait it out.

Crew: 2 of 2 Plus-> you will be accompanied by the two new owners. (yes- I'm the Gilligan)

Response: WTH!?!?!? Whadya mean IF I SHOULD ACCEPT IT?

I'll report in if I get a chance. Else followup later.