Asking Directions in French

I remember quite clearly the first time I asked for directions in French. I was a sophomore in high school, visiting Quebec with some friends of my parents, Peter and Linda. Linda is French Canadian, and we had struck up a bilingual friendship the previous year when they had come to visit us in Florida. I had taken one year of high school French in a part of the country where a large segment of the population speaks Spanish. As is often the case, one small decision—like which language class to take—leads one down a long and surprising path.

We were in a restaurant in the old city, and I asked for directions to the ladies’ room. Evidently, my ability to ask basic questions surpassed my ability to comprehend the answers, as the hostess responded with a long and very fast explanation involving only a few words of which I caught—something about “stairs” and “to the right.” Too proud to admit my ignorance, I smiled and thanked her and went looking for some “escaliers.” (I eventually found les toilettes.)

Peter and Linda lived in a rural village 20 minutes south of Middlebury, Vermont and that summer visit whetted my appetite for both language immersion and, coincidentally, Middlebury College. Two years later, I found myself conversing awkwardly at the French table in the Middlebury Chateau Language Café, out of my league with students who had had four years of French in prep school and a score of 5 on the French AP exam. Beyond French I and II with my Egyptian teacher, Madame Assaad, at my public high school, the only speaking practice I had had was with the Quebecois on my summer trip and Haitian refugees in my hometown. But after 2 years and a semester abroad at Middlebury’s Paris campus as well as many fun weekends in Montreal, I had even begun to dream in French—the holy grail of language-learners.

After Middlebury, my opportunities for language practice were only occasional, but often essential. I worked for several years as a teacher in an Atlanta-area public school where my training at Middlebury and my ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification were quite helpful. The school was about 80% non-native-English-speakers. Translators for parent-teacher interactions were hard to come by, especially for the Vietnamese students, but lucky for me, and thanks to French colonialism, many of the Vietnamese parents had grown up speaking French in school, so I was able to help find common ground with a group of people who often felt alienated in their new country.

Twenty years have passed since I first asked for directions in French, and though I don’t get many chances to practice, the French language is deeply embedded in my memory. After sailing from Dominica, we anchored near the village of Saint Pierre in Martinique. Jay and I had to locate the café in which to fill out the customs paperwork, the Digicel store to buy a SIM card so we could have internet access, and a bank to withdraw some cash in Euros. A few days later, we took Le Petit Train Tour, which runs all over Saint Pierre, describing its former opulence and showing its devastation by Mt. Pelée; because the tour was in French, I had to act as real-time tour translator for the kids. Somehow, despite twenty years of vocabulary loss and imperfect grammar, I navigated all of these tasks in French, and also found the three things I’d been looking forward to in Martinique: le vin, le pain and le fromage! We even made friends with a French family anchored in Fort-de-France. These experiences make me feel so grateful for Middlebury’s immersion program and the gift of a second tongue. I hope the exposure to French and Spanish in the Caribbean will do for our kids what a visit to Quebec once did for me.

St Pierre, Martinique

Grenada Taxi Tour 

Last week we went on a taxi tour of Grenada. The first stop was Concord Falls. It was a waterfall about 55 feet high. There were stepping stones across the pool below, and then there was another waterfall below that. I am looking forward to swimming there another time.

Concord Falls

Then we went to the nutmeg factory. They process and prepare nutmeg for shipping all over the world.

Nutmeg Processing Plant

Next, we went to the Jouvay Chocolate company. We saw how they sort, roast, grind, melt, and mix chocolate. We got free samples; my favorite was the 60% dark chocolate. We also stopped at Carib’s Leap where the natives jumped off a cliff rather than becoming captives of the French.

Carib's Leap

Last, we saw how they make rum the traditional way at Rivers Rum Distillery. The vats of fermenting cane juice were disgusting!

Antique Equipment

Vats of Fermenting Cane Juice

Rivers Rum Distillery

Finally, we drove back to St. George’s through the Grand Etang Rain Forest, but we did not see any of the Mona Monkeys that live there. It was a long day!

Geography Report: Martinique

MartiniqueMapFlag

Basic Facts

Capital: Fort-de-France
People/Customs: An estimated 400,000 people live on Martinique.
Language: French
Climate: In the winter the high is around 81°, the low, 72°. In the summer, the high is 86°, the low, 77°. Hurricane season (rainy season) is from June to November.
Food/Farming: Sugar cane, bananas and pineapples are the leading crops. “Rhum Agricole” is distilled from sugar cane juice for local use and export.
Government: Martinique is an Overseas Territory of France and is represented in parliament by 4 deputies and 2 senators.
Currency: Euros are used in Martinique.
Art/Music/Culture: French and Creole/African influences affect food, language, art, music and culture. The food is French-style cooking, altered to use tropical fruits and vegetables.

History

Columbus sighted Martinique in 1493, and sometime later French settlers established a fort there. The Caribs fought against the French but were exterminated by 1660. In 1636 King Louis the XIII authorized the transportation of slaves to work on the sugar plantations. From 1794 to 1815, England had control of the island during the French Revolution. French took back Martinique after the Revolution in a time of stability. The capital of the island, often called “the Paris of the Caribbean,” was St. Pierre until 1902, when Mount Pelée erupted and destroyed St. Pierre and killed 30,000 people. Fort-de-France was made the permanent capital. St. Pierre was rebuilt but never returned to its former state. In 1946 Martinique became an Overseas Department of France, and in 1974 it was promoted to a Region of France. Today it is a major tourist destination for French-speaking people.

Land forms/Flora and Fauna

Martinique is a volcanic island with an area of 1,080 square kilometers and its highest point is 1,397 meters above sea level. Most of the island is covered in rainforest. Anoles, snakes, and opossums are common; among the endangered species are the Martinique Trembler, the White-breasted Trembler and the White-breasted Thresher.

Things to do

In St. Pierre, take a walking tour or Petit Train Tour (if you speak French) of the old city and ruins, visit the volcano museum to see artifacts from the eruption of Mt. Pelée, or hike the aqueduct built by slaves. Go to the beach, zoo, or Botanical Gardens in Le Cabret. In Fort de France, there are shops, parks, a library, and an old fort. There are traditional sailboat races, “La Rond Des Yoles,” as part of Bastille day celebrations in July. In St. Anne, there are beautiful beaches, water sports and a floating water fun park. Eating is a major attraction in Martinique—go to ice cream shops, crêpe stands, patisseries and boulangeries (for pastries and bread), and shops with cheese, wine, and chocolate.

Bibliography

Bendure, Glenda and Ned Friary. “Martinique.” Lonely Planet Guide to the Eastern Caribbean, 2nd Edition. 1998: Lonely Planet, Hawthorn, Australia.

Taking the Heat

It is hot in Grenada. Hot, hot, HOT!  At mid-morning, with the door and windows closed, the temperature in the cabin would be around 99 degrees Fahrenheit. A good breeze brings the temperature within tolerable limits. At anchor, the trade winds provide a consistent source of…well, wind. However, tied to a dock in Port Louis Marina, the breeze is both blocked by a mountain and hitting us at the wrong angle. Cooking only compounds the problem. Unless you were born in the tropics, or the Sahara Desert, you will be unable to function efficiently.

We are pretty tough. Six years ago, we survived a summer in Boot Key Harbor, baked by the relentless sun and besieged by the relentless mosquitoes. We lived through that by spending the heat of the day lounging on the trampolines under a shade tent, doing nothing. Needful to say, now we’re older and have school and chores to do, so lounging all day is no longer a viable solution to our little problem. The frustrating thing is that we do have air conditioners capable of bringing the temperature below 85 degrees, and shore power is available. It’s just very, very expensive; 62 cents per kilowatt hour may not sound like much, but it adds up. We could run the generator all day, but that doesn’t bring the cost down much, and it’s annoying.

Despite the various roadblocks, we are winning the battle against the summer heat. Here are some of our strategies:

  1. Shade awnings. We have four large mesh awnings stretched over the cabin top and foredeck by fiberglass broomsticks, and held taut by a complex web of small-diameter lines. It may seem low-tech, but it really helps lower the temperature.
  2. Ice cream. Every week, when mom goes to the store down the road, she brings back a 1-gallon bucket of ice cream (along with the other groceries, of course). This doesn’t directly help keep the cabin cool, but it raises morale while temporarily lowering the body temperature.
  3. Breeze Boosters. This is a special type of wind scoop that does not require the constant use of a halyard for suspension. We have four, and position them over the bedroom hatches in an attempt to funnel whatever wind there might be in to the boat.
  4. Going to the pool. As a general thing, I do not like pools, and this marina’s pool is no exception. However, sometimes it’s just too hot to object, even if the water is lukewarm, cloudy, and feels like you are swimming in lubricating oil.
  5. A/C. We typically run the generator from 7 to 11 PM, to make water and power, so we also run the air conditioners. This counteracts the added heat from mom cooking dinner, and allows us to go to bed nice and cool (I like my room at a balmy 70 degrees Fahrenheit). We close up the boat, and keep it closed even when the A/C goes off, trying to keep the cold in.
  6. The poor man’s A/C. Take cold shower. Turn on fan. That simple.

If all these methods fail, a visit to the air conditioned marina bathroom, grocery store, or taxi tour will provide some relief until the sun goes down. In the tropics, you have to learn to take the heat.

Geography Report: Dominica

DominicaMapFlag

Basic Facts

Capital: Roseau
People/Customs: Population is around 71,000, with one third residing in the capital. There are about 3000 native Caribs living in the Calingo reservation area.
Language: English (Locals also use a French Patois when speaking to each other.)
Climate: In the winter the high is around 81°, the low, 72°. In the summer, the high is 86°, the low, 77°. Hurricane Season is from June to November.
Food/Farming: bananas, coconuts, spices, coffee, cacao, citrus, cucumbers, melons, and a variety of tropical fruits are grown for export as well as local use. There is a coconut processing plant on the island which produces oil for cooking and cosmetics.
Government: Dominica is an independent republic within the British Commonwealth.
Currency: East Caribbean Dollar
Art/Music/Culture: Holidays are New Year’s Day, Carnival, Good Friday, Easter Monday, May Day, Whit Monday, August Monday (Emancipation Day), Independence Day, Community Service Day, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. The culture is influenced by the French islands to the north and south.

History

Columbus named the island Dominica in 1493 because he first sighted the island on a Sunday, and in Italian Doménica means Sunday. The Spaniards took little notice of Dominica because there was no gold and the natives defended their island fiercely. In 1635 France attempted to colonize Dominica, but were thwarted by the Caribs. The French and British agreed to leave the island to the natives in 1660, but the French settlers from Guadeloupe and Martinique secretly established coffee plantations on the north end of Dominica. In the 1720’s a French governor came to take official control of the island. For the rest of the 18th century the British and French fought over Dominica until the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763, officially giving the island to the British. The Europeans imported slaves from Africa to work the land until emancipation in 1834. Dominica became an associated state in 1967, and in 1978 it gained independence as a republic within British Commonwealth. The economy is now based largely on agriculture and tourism, with the natural beauty of the island a large draw for those who love hiking, waterfalls, and snorkeling/diving.

Land Forms/Flora and Fauna

Dominica is 190 square miles, and has the highest mountains in the eastern Caribbean. Morne Diablotin is 4747 feet high and attracts the rain that creates the 200 rivers on the island. Dominica also has the highest concentration of live volcanoes. Dominica has many tropical rainforest birds and animals, including the “mountain chicken,” a large frog considered to be a delicacy by the locals. Most of Dominica is unspoiled wilderness, earning it the nickname, “the Nature Island.”

Things to do

Hike 16 miles to the largest boiling lake in the world (heated by the magma chambers below), take a river tour and go to the rainforest café, visit waterfalls, and hike or snorkel in Cabrits National Park and visit the old fort. Champagne reef to the south has underwater volcanic vents which create bubbles in the water, as well as warm sulfur springs in Soufriere Bay popular with bathers.

Bibliography

Bendure, Glenda and Ned Friary. “Dominica.” Lonely Planet Guide to the Eastern Caribbean, 2nd Edition. 1998: Lonely Planet, Hawthorn, Australia.

Boat Boys

Picture this: you’re sailing into a harbor of an island nation you’ve never visited before, after a rough day at sea, furling sails, starting engines, and preparing bridles for anchoring or mooring, and a small, multi-colored, wooden fishing boat comes roaring towards you. He comes alarmingly close, does a swift U-turn, then starts shouting at you in heavily-accented English. The first time this happens, you feel a little freaked out…are these the famous Pirates of the Caribbean? But by your third or fourth island with a welcoming committee, you begin to grow savvy, then you get a little jaded. Eventually, you learn to wave, ask the name of the captain, and tell him to come back after you’re anchored, and no, you do not need assistance. Really, no. No, thank you. (No, dammit!)

These are the Boat Boys. Enterprising, opportunistic, and insistent, they are like humane-society pets: one look at those sad eyes and you can’t figure out which one to take home and which one to leave behind. It doesn’t matter how many carved-coconut bracelets you have bought, how many soursops, sugar-apples, and bananas you already have going soft in your fruit bowl, there will always be one more Boat Boy calling your name: “Hey, lady! Nice lady!” “Madame, I have something for you.” “My friend, take a look at what I brought you today!” “Fresh fish!” “Fresh fruit!” “Fresh bread!”

Tropical Fruit

They come in crafts of all sizes and materials: cast-off paddleboards, patched inflatables, locally-built pirogues with fast outboards, leaky rowboats with two-by-fours for oars. Some of them are Rastafari, and go by names like “Warrior” and “Culture.” Others have nicknames like “Beans” (as in “full of”) and “Skipper.” Others are regular guys, just trying to survive and support themselves and their families, like Justin, who works the charter boats to earn enough money to buy his daughters’ school uniforms. Some of them, like Titus, have traveled the world and come back to their island-homes, and others have never been to the island a stone’s throw away. Some of them, like “Lawrence of Arabia,” are part of a boat-boy association, a way of sharing the wealth and taking turns welcoming boats. Occasionally, they are obnoxious and get in the way while you are trying to anchor, or actually bump into your boat, or continue their sales pitch after you’ve said “no thank you.” A few are little better than beggars.

Indian River, Dominica

You pay them too much and they throw in extra produce “as a gift” and they invariably ask for a cold drink, a beer if you have one, or soda or juice if you don’t. They’ll take your garbage for a small fee (you should refuse because you don’t know where that trash will end up), and they’ll sometimes ask if you have used items you’re ready to part with, clothes in good condition, shoes, or household goods.  All of them are trying to make an honest living, something that can be hard on an island in the tourist off-season, or a place hard-hit by a natural disaster, or a village with a high-unemployment rate. They are often relying on multiple revenue streams—picking up odd jobs, fishing, or operating as a water-taxi in addition to selling fruit or hand-made crafts. It is what they are not doing that strikes me as important: stealing, begging, or selling drugs.

You can send them away, and they will reluctantly paddle or motor to the next boat, or you can look at their wares. But if you seem even slightly sympathetic, watch out! They can smell a sucker from the next harbor. There is another thing you can do: sit down on your stern, hold their dock lines, and talk. You will often find them to be floating philosophers.

Some of them are at the beginning of their careers, like Ivan and Derrick. These two half-brothers are seventeen, just graduated from high school in Soufriere, St. Lucia. They come in their older brother’s boat, offering to help us with our mooring lines, asking if we need fish or a taxi or a hiking guide. We tell them we are interested in hiking the Pitons, but we need to discuss it with the kids, to come back in an hour. (This strategy works well with pushy salesmen.) In the meantime, we ask the park ranger who comes to take our mooring-ball fee, what does he think about these two boat boys? Are they ok? Is the price they are asking too high? He says they’re good kids, and we might pay more to hire an official park guide because we would also have to pay a driver to get to the trailhead, instead of going by boat and starting on the beach. They seem perfect for our plan: Derrick can take Eli and Aaron up Petit Piton and Ivan can hike Gros with the rest of us. We arrange it when they come back, bearing fresh bread.

They come the next morning at seven to fetch us. They hike in bare feet. They’re quiet, and seem a little shy around our family. I ask lots of questions as I huff and puff up the mountain, curious about their life on the island. Ivan had a chance to go to university, but isn’t ready to go yet. He would rather get paid to hike than go to school, or fish, or farm. After the hike, we offer frozen lemonade and agree to buy some fish their older brother has caught, and invite them to come for fish tacos. We are surprised when they agree. Dinner is subdued, nothing revelatory, but companionable. We talk about career options on the island, because we just can’t believe these two young guys have no other options than to be boat boys. By paying them, we are supporting this idea. I ask what a “good job” on the island would be. Derrick says, predictably, “Doctor.”  I ask if they could travel, where would they go? Ivan says, unpredictably, “Miami.” They leave our family dinner to go to a Carnival celebration somewhere on the island, and we leave the next morning.

A couple weeks later, while anchored in Tyrell Bay, Carriacou, a man in an ancient rowboat knocks on the side of our boat. Despite the fact that I am the family sucker, I also happen to be the family ambassador, so I always get sent out to talk to the boat boys. And I always come back in with fruits or vegetables, or bracelets, or fish, or bread, or wine, and always a new story. I had just bought limes from a produce stand in Clifton (Union Island in the Grenadines), but Warrior has a bucket of limes and nothing else. He has dark skin, gray hair, and the clearest blue eyes I’ve ever seen on a black man. It gives him an otherworldly look. He offers to take our garbage, but I say no. I bring him a cold drink and buy some limes anyway. I sit down to talk with him. He is incredulous that we have five children on a boat. He says in forty years as a boat boy, he has never met someone traveling with five children. I drag all five kids out on deck and introduce them, and give him a boat card with all our names on it.

I ask him about his years visiting boats. He tells me about the first boat he paddled out to, when he was just fourteen, and its recent return to Carriacou. He tells me about what he does to earn a living, and how he has traveled in years when the money was good, most recently to Grenada for Carnival. I tell him about leaving Atlanta, about rejecting suburban American life for a simpler life on a boat. He asks me what I think about life. I say every day is a gift to unwrap. He says a woman told him once that “life is what you make it.” But he completely rejects this philosophy as he understands it. He says you don’t have power to make anything, but to find it and then do with it what you can. Perhaps it is just semantics, but I think I understand what he is saying. He insists, “Life is not what you make it…it’s how you get it.” He gives examples of historical figures who tried to bend things to their wills but in the end were unsuccessful, like Maurice Bishop in the Grenada Revolution. Ultimately, we don’t have control over circumstances (in Maurice’s case, the treachery of comrades), but over our attitudes, and our willingness to work.

He has more to say, but the sun is sinking into the sea, and he sees that I need to get back to my family. He offers to stop by again, with more produce, and I say I would be happy to talk again if we are still here. I ask if I can take his picture, and shake his weathered hand. As he paddles away, I suddenly think of Ivan and Derrick, and wonder if they will still be doing this in forty years. And I am in no place to judge—maybe this is as good a life as any, taking each day as you find it, interacting with people, offering a service, giving and receiving, and getting out of it what you can.

Warrior, Carriacou

Our Trip in a Nutshell: the Log of Take Two

Following the wise advice of my friend Kimberly (s/v Ally Cat), I have been keeping a good record of our trip on my calendar. For those who know me, you know this means actually writing with a pencil on a paper calendar in an old-fashioned Day-Timer. The self-same Day-Timer I accidentally dropped overboard about a month ago and had to swim after. I then used a fan and the tropical sun to dry the pages. I can see you shaking your heads right now! But I managed to save it all, including the names and addresses of every person I have ever met, and my entire boat- and business-card collection. So, before any more drowning accidents can occur, I have decided to digitize and save this record for posterity in the Eternal Cloud. You may not care about every day of our voyage, but now that we sit in a safe harbor in St. George’s, Grenada, I’m enjoying a look back at every mile! Somehow, even with all the sailing days and outings, we managed to get some school and work done, too, though, looking at the calendar, I’m not sure how.

March in the Bahamas

3 Take Two leaves Marathon.
4 Sail from Florida Keys to Chub Cay, Berry Islands.
5 Check into the Bahamas at Chub Cay.
6 Sail from Chub Cay to Highbourne Cay, Exumas. Saw 11.5 kts speed using Code Zero.
7 Anchored in Allen’s Cay, picked up internet from Highbourne cell tower for Jay’s work.
8 Leaf Cay Beach Day (with a zillion iguanas).
9 Cold Front, lots of wind. Anchorage rolly.
10 Lunch date and groceries with Jay at Exuma Café in Highbourne Cay Marina.
11 Allen’s Cay, waiting for weather.
12 Allen’s Cay to Norman’s Cay. Beach Fire and S’Mores.
13 Met up with Jeff and Kelly on s/v Tiger Sea. Drinks/snacks on Take Two.
14 Snorkel Wax Cay Cut.
15 Land and Sea Park, Shroud Cay. Kayak to the beach with Rachel and Sarah.
16 Hike on Hawksbill Cay.
17 Hike on Warderick Wells. Met the crew of s/v Abby Singer.
18 Snorkel near Warderick Wells. Giant lobster—protected in Land and Sea Park.
19 Snake Island near Cambridge Cay. Beautiful sunset kayak.
20 Compass Cay. Swam in Rachel’s Bubble Bath, snorkeled Rocky Dundas.
21 Pipe Creek, Thomas and Joe Cays.
22 Pipe Creek, waiting for weather. Eli gets giant lobster.
23 Anchor at Robinson Island, near Sampson Cay.
24 Lunch date with Jay at Staniel Cay Yacht Club and groceries at Isle’s General.
25 Motor-sail to Black Point, Great Guana. Pizza at Lorraine’s with s/v Abby Singer.
26 Laundry and haircut at Ida’s. Swimming with Paige and Sky from Abby Singer.
27 Easter Sunday, Gethsemane Baptist with crew of Abby Singer. Lunch and swim.
28 Easter Monday, beach party with locals from Black Point Settlement.
29 Sail to Little Farmer’s. Drinks at Ty’s Sunset Bar and Grill.
30 Lunch date with Jay at Ocean Cabin and groceries.
31 Rudder Cay. Snorkel with mermaid and piano, and staghorn reef at Musha Cay.

April in Puerto Rico

1 Sail to Georgetown. Sam catches Mahi!
2 Meet up with s/v Ally Cat. Fish tacos on Take Two.
3 Hike up Monument Hill with Andrew and Sky. Rachel on Ally Cat with Kimberly.
4 Beach Fire with s/v Ally Cat and s/v Abby Singer.
5 Mom’s morning out at Exuma Market.
6 Notes on Caribbean, s/v Ally Cat. Music @ St. Francis. Jay’s birthday—burgers & brownies.
7 Set sail for Puerto Rico, pass Rum Cay.
8 Passage to Puerto Rico.
9 Passage to Puerto Rico.
10 Passage to Puerto Rico.
11 Passage to Puerto Rico—rough night, sailing south using cold front.
12 Passage to Puerto Rico—bioluminescence and calm seas.
13 Last day of passage, motoring over calm seas. Anchor near Fajardo.
14 Check in at Palmas del Mar Yacht Club and Customs and Immigration.
15 Mary flies into San Juan for a visit. Rent car and go to COSTCO in Caguas.
16 Hike in El Yunque National Park, swim in La Mina river falls.
17 Casa Bacardi tour, San Juan.
18 Shopping in Caguas.
19 Visit to Old San Juan with Mary, El Morro fort and tram tour. Lunch at Barrachina.
20 Rio Camuy Cave Park tour. Drive over Cordillera Central.
21 Mary flies out of San Juan. Lunch date with Jay at El Pescadero.
22 COSTCO (again).
23 Pool day at the Yacht Club.
24 Palmas del Mar. Catch up on school and work.
25 Palmas del Mar. Laundry day.
26 Palmas del Mar. Dinner with s/v Renewal.
27 Palmas del Mar. Date night with Jay at Italian Café.
28 Palmas del Mar. Catch up on school and work.
29 Palmas del Mar. Rain.
30 Palmas del Mar. Rain. Met Lara and Jaime, engineer at Arecibo.
31 Palmas del Mar. Rain.

May in the Virgin Islands

1 Palmas del Mar. Rain.
2 Rachel’s birthday. Cake with crew of s/v Dingo d’Isles.
3 Sarah’s birthday. Date with just Sarah at the Italian Café.
4 Rent a car to drive to Fajardo to meet up with girls from Abby Singer & Renewal.
5 Left Palmas del Mar. Motor upwind to Vieques. Kayak in Bio-Bay after sunset.
6 Sail to St. Thomas. Anchor near Charlotte Amalie.
7 Sail to St. John. Hawksnest Bay.
8 Hawksnest Bay, St. John.
9 Beach day with s/v Abby Singer at Hawksnest Bay. Dinner on Take Two.
10 Sail to Jost Van Dyke. Check in to BVI.
11 Met up with Ralph and Kathy from s/v Simplicity.
12 Little Jost Van Dyke, Bubbly Pool and Sandy Spit.
13 Cane Garden Bay, Tortola. Painkillers at Tony’s Welcome Bar and ice cream for kids.
14 Sail to Privateer Bay, Norman Island. Kayak, snorkel caves.
15 Norman Island. Snorkel at the Indians. Dinner with s/v Abby Singer on Take Two.
16 Great Harbor, Peter Island. Deep anchorage—used 150 ft. of chain + 100 ft. of rode.
17 Road Harbor, Tortola. Groceries, Digicel, and talk to Doyle Sailmakers.
18 Sail to Little Harbor, Peter Island. Wake boarding.
19 Jib to Doyle for repairs. Motor to Salt Island.
20 Hike on Salt Island. Snorkel wreck of the RMS Rhone w s/v Abby Singer.
21 Motor to Virgin Gorda. Anchor near the Baths.
22 Breakfast on Take Two and fun at the Baths with s/v Abby Singer.
23 Savannah Bay, Virgin Gorda. Nudists! Hang out with s/v Abby Singer.
24 Beach in the AM, downwind sail to Brandywine Bay, Tortola in the PM.
25 Road Town, Tortola. Doyle Sailmakers measure cockpit for enclosure and return jib.
26 Sail to North Sound Virgin Gorda, Prickly Pear Island. More nudists.
27 Dinner on Take Two with s/v Abby Singer. Cuban night!
28 Sail to Anegada. Saw 10 kts of boat speed with reefed main and jib.
29 Beach day on Anegada. Parents’ night out at Neptune’s Treasure w/ Abby Singer.
30 Anegada Beach Club with s/v Abby Singer.
31 Anegada Beach Club. Andrew gives Eli and Aaron kiteboard lessons.

June in the Leeward Islands

1 Sail from Anegada to Road Town for dodger install. Jay broke pinky toe.
2 Sail from Brandywine Bay, Tortola to Gorda Sound.
3 Virgin Gorda safari truck with s/v Abby Singer. Dinner at Rada’s (roti).
4 Leverick Bay, dinner with s/v Abby Singer. Thai night!
5 Sail to Tortola. Dinner date with Jay at the Last Resort, Trellis Bay.
6 Road Bay to finish cockpit enclosure installation. Night in Benure’s Bay, Norman Island.
8 Lee Bay, Camanoe Island to Gorda Sound. Parent’s night at Saba Rock/Bitter End.
9 Check out of BVI in Gun Creek. Fuel at Leverick Bay and sunset drinks at Jumbie’s.
10 Anegada passage. Motorsail in the afternoon.
11 Arrive Anguilla 8AM. Check in at customs and immigration. Ray’s Beach Bar in the PM.
12 Took Rachel to the beach at Sandy Ground. Johnno’s for drinks.
13 Drive around Anguilla by rental car. Family dinner out at Ripples.
14 Meads Bay beach day. Lunch at Blanchard’s Beach Shack. Groceries. Dinner at Veya.
15 Sail from Anguilla to Statia.
16 Check in at Statia. Hike the Quill with the kids. Ice cream at Mazinga’s.
17 Sail to St. Kitts and Nevis. Check in at Basse-Terre. Sail to Nevis.
18 Tour of Nevis by taxi.
19 Beach day. Meet crew of s/v Katta3.
20 Turtle Time with Jay, Nevis. Dinner on Take Two with s/v Katta3.
21 Down day, rain. Sunset on the beach with Anders and Katta and ukulele.
22 Check out of Nevis. Lunch date with Jay at Golden Rock. Groceries. Dinner on Katta3.
23 Attempted sail to Montserrat. Turned around. Back in Nevis.
24 Swedish Midsummer with Anders and Katta.
25 Family dinner with crew s/v of Katta3 at Turtle Time.
26 Sail to Montserrat.
27 Meet up with s/v Abby Singer and s/v Vidorra. Taxi tour with Moose. Burger night.
28 Sail around Montserrat to Five Islands, Antigua.
29 Check in at Jolly Harbour. Groceries. Burgers on Take Two with s/v Abby Singer.
30 Jolly Harbour. Sunset drinks and appetizers with s/v Abby Singer.

July in the Windward Islands

1 Jolly Harbour. Dessert and game night with s/v Abby Singer.
2 Rent a car. Devil’s Bridge and Betty’s Hope Sugar Mill.
3 Tour Nelson’s Dockyard with s/v Abby Singer.
4 Beach Day: Carlisle, Turner’s and Darkwood. Floating Island of Fun.
5 Jolly Harbour. Afternoon swim & snacks with s/v Abby Singer. Date night at Al Porto.
6 Kids at sailing camp with crew of Abby Singer.
7 Sail to Pigeon Island, Guadeloupe.
8 Sail to Dominica. Check in.
9 Indian River Tour with Lawrence. Snorkel near Cabrits.
10 Hike to Fort Shirley, Cabrits National Park. Meet s/v Masim’s.
11 Hike to Boiling Lake, Morne Trois Pitons National Park, Dominica.
12 Groceries AM. Snorkel in Soufriere, Champagne Reef, Bubble Beach Bar PM.
13 Sail to Martinique. Check in at St. Pierre. Digicel.
14 Anchor at Le Carbet. Sea glass beach hunt.
15 Field trip to St. Pierre. Petit Train Tour, Volcano Museum. Groceries. Letibonum date.
16 Fort de France. Meet up with s/v Masim’s. Rachel jumps from high dive!
17 Fort de France. Shopping. Sailbaot races. Swimming. Appetizers/wine w/ Eric and Magalie.
18 St. Anne. Family lunch at Le Paille Coco. Floating Island of fun.
19 St. Anne. Groceries AM. Beach day (by dinghy). Sunset drinks with Jay at La Dunette.
20 Sail to St. Lucia, Rodney Bay.
21 Check in. Hardware store& Digicel AM. Marigot Bay PM. Rainforest Hideaway date.
22 Pool day and lunch at Capella resort with Rachel and Sarah. Haircut. Move to Pitons.
23 Between the Pitons. Hike up Gros. Eli & Aaron up Petit. Ivan and Derrick for dinner.
24 Snorkel Ratchet Point. Check out in Soufriere. Sugar Beach Resort, Hobie sailing.
25 Sail from St. Lucia to Bequia, skipping St. Vincent.
26 Check in. Groceries AM. Taxi tour/whaling museum PM. Drinks on s/v Marlin del Ray.
27 Eli’s birthday. Dive Bequia AM. Tony Gibbons Beach PM. Dinner w/ Eli at L’Auberge.
28 Downwind sail to Tobago Cays. Snorkeling and Beach @ Jamesby. Greg & Maribel PM.
29 Union Island. Check out of Grenadines. Lunch Date with Jay at Big City Grill. Produce.
30 Carriacou, check in to Grenada. Afternoon sail to Moliniere Bay.
31 Snorkel Underwater Sculpture Garden. Check in to Port Louis Marina PM.

August in Grenada

1 Port Louis, St. George’s, Grenada. Drinks with Jay at Victory Bar.
2 19th Anniversary, dinner with Jay at YOLO sushi bar.
3 Walk to FoodLand for Groceries and Merry Baker for bread. Pool in the PM.
4 Port Louis, St. George’s, Grenada. School and pool.
5 Port Louis, St. George’s, Grenada. FoodLand for Groceries.
6 Port Louis, St. George’s, Grenada. School and pool.
7 Port Louis, St. George’s, Grenada. Work on blog…
8 CARNIVAL! Jay leaves for Atlanta 4:30AM.

The Hike Up Gros Piton

In St. Lucia, Mom, Dad, Sarah, Rachel, and I hiked up Gros Piton (peak on the right) while Eli and Aaron climbed Petit Piton (peak on the left).

The Pitons, St Lucia

It was maybe the longest and steepest hike in Sam history. It was steeper than the Quill, but took about the same amount of time. Also this hike had log stairs, which made it harder.

Gros Piton Hike, St Lucia

At the halfway point, we stopped for granola bars. Meanwhile, I saw a bird spying on us in case we dropped any food, so I held out my hand with some granola crumbs in it and the bird hopped down and ate out of my hand.

Bird in the Hand, Gros Piton Hike, St Lucia

It took about two and a half hours to get to the top of the mountain, but getting down was the hard part, because it was raining and the stairs were slippery. I was pretty sore from the hike, but the view was well worth it.

Gros Piton Hike, St Lucia

Ti Piton, Gros Piton Hike, St Lucia

Geography Report: Antigua and Barbuda

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Basic Facts

Capital: St. John, Antigua
People/Customs: The population on Antigua is approximately 65,000, on Barbuda, 1200. About 90% of the population are of African descent, but there are also British and Portuguese roots on the islands.
Language: English
Climate: In the Winter the high is around 81°, the low, 72°. In the Summer, the high is 86°, the low, 77°. Hurricane Season is from June to November.
Food/Farming: There are local fishermen in the waters around Antigua and Barbuda, and banana trees are grown. Due to the plentiful mangoes, a mango festival is held every summer.
Government: Antigua and Barbuda are an independent nation inside the British Commonwealth and have a Prime Minister.
Currency: Antigua and Barbuda use the East Caribbean Dollar.
Art/Music/Culture: Cricket is the most commonly played sport here, and Calypso and Reggae are popular musical styles.

History

Columbus sighted this island in 1493 and named it after a church in Seville, Spain. The British colonized Antigua and grew indigo and tobacco. In 1674 Christopher Codrington established Betty’s Hope, where one still can go to see how sugar cane was processed. Slaves were imported from Africa for work on the plantations and rum distilleries. Barbuda was used mainly for farming food for the slaves. Several fortifications were built around Antigua. The British used Antigua for careening and repairing ships, starting in the 1740’s. Horatio Nelson served a few years in English Harbour; a museum at Nelson’s Dockyard commemorates his time there. By the end of the 18th century the demand for sugar dropped and the economy crashed. Slavery was ended in 1834, and the sugar plantations have been left inoperable since. In 1967 Antigua became an Associated State of the United Kingdom. It won its full independence in 1981. Tourism is now the island’s main industry, with many sailing regattas attracting a large international crowd.

Land forms/Flora and Fauna

One of Antigua’s interesting land forms is a natural bridge, Devil’s Bridge, caused by tides and wave action. The island is volcanic, 108 square miles, and 1319 feet high at the topmost point. Open plains and scrublands are abundant. Antigua also has many white sand beaches, popular with tourists.

Things to do

Kiteboarding, Devil’s Bridge, “365 beaches, one for each day of the year” including the popular Darkwood Beach, Five Islands Harbour, Sailboat Racing, Jungle Zip-line tour, Nelson’s Dockyard and Shirley Heights, Betty’s Hope, Snorkeling, Frigate Bird Sanctuary on Barbuda.

Bibliography

Bendure, Glenda and Ned Friary. “Antigua and Barbuda.” Lonely Planet Guide to the Eastern Caribbean, 2nd Edition. 1998: Lonely Planet, Hawthorn, Australia.

Geography Report: Montserrat

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Basic Facts

Capital: Plymouth
People/Customs: There are currently around 4000 to 5000 inhabitants living on Montserrat. Most are descendants of African slaves, though there are also some Irish (it is sometimes called the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean).
Language: English, sometimes with an Irish accent.
Climate: In the winter the average low is 70°, the average high is 83°. In the summer, the average low is 74°, and the high is 88°. Average annual rainfall is 59 inches. Hurricane season is from June to November.
Food/Farming: Very little produce is now grown on Montserrat because the damage from volcanic eruptions was so severe.
Government: Montserrat is a British Crown Colony managed by a Governor representing the Queen. He supervises the executive council and the legislative council. The economy relies mainly on tourism.
Currency: East Caribbean Dollar.
Art/Music/Culture: George Martin, music publisher for the Beatles, founded a recording studio, called Air Studios, so that famous musicians could come to Monserrat to unwind. After the 1997 eruption, Elton John, Sting, Paul McCartney, and Eric Clapton staged a fund-raising concert in London, raising over $1.5 million for housing and relocation in Montserrat. Holidays celebrated are New Year’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Labor Day, Whit Monday, Queen’s Birthday, August Monday (Emancipation Day), Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and Festival Day.

History

When Columbus first sighted this island in 1493, he named it Montserrat because the terrain reminded him of the Monastery of Montserrat near Barcelona, Spain. The first settlers here were Irish Catholics moving away from Protestant rule on St. Kitts. In 1632 more immigrants arrived from the New World Colonies and Europe. Sugar cane was thriving, but the managers of plantations needed more workers, so over the next century they imported thousands of African slaves. A slave-based economy developed on Montserrat as on the other British territories in the West Indies. When slavery was abolished in 1834, most of the plantations were abandoned. Some were taken over by small farmers who planted lime trees, but eventually deteriorated. Britain had had almost continuous control of Montserrat, except for a while in 1665, when France made a bid for the Island, but the Treaty of Paris gave it to Britain permanently. Montserrat has remained a Crown Colony since.

Land forms/Flora and Fauna

One of the defining features of Montserrat is a volcano that dominates the whole southern half of the island. The Soufrière Hills volcano erupted in July of 1995, causing the inhabitants of the capital city, Plymouth, to evacuate the most populated area on the island. Salem became the temporary capital while ash was shoveled off the buildings. Volcanologists from the United States and the United Kingdom provided information on where it would be safe to live. The temptation of rich volcanic soil lured farmers into exclusion zones, and when the volcano erupted a second time, 19 people were killed. Over 50 were air-lifted by helicopters to hospitals in Guadeloupe and Martinique. Even the Montserrat Volcano Observatory had to be moved to a safer location. Then, in August 1997, the Soufrière Hills volcano came to life a third time, covering Plymouth in pyroclastic flow, burning and destroying around 80󠇯 percent of the buildings. The capital will probably never be safe again.

The Flora of Monserrat includes rainforests, fern forests, and of course, lots and lots of mango trees. The animals on this island are mainly comprised of iguanas, agouti, crapaud frogs, 7 kinds of bats, and many species of tropical birds.

Things to do

Visit the MVO (Monserrat Volcano Observatory), take a taxi tour of the island to view the destruction from the volcano, go to the beach or go snorkeling.

Bibliography

Bendure, Glenda and Ned Friary. “Montserrat.” Lonely Planet Guide to the Eastern Caribbean, 2nd Edition. 1998: Lonely Planet, Hawthorn, Australia.