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Her Vital Statistics
January 2016 -- Website Update: DoodleBug has been "reloaded" and has made the transition from rental boat to cruising boat. I have moved all of the 2015 "blog" to "trip logs" which you can accessing by clicking the catamaran picture to the right. No pictures yet but I'll get to them eventually.
January 2016 -- Website Update: We have bid Australia a sad farewell for a while and our Toyota Coaster RV HAS BEEN SOLD!!! Thank You Ray at Koolah Kampers!! (see www.koolahkampers.com.au). I have re-ordered the daily entries into time order, moved the trip-logs to a new page and ADDED PICTURES!!. You will find the link to the right (click on the white bus picture).
The logs of our sailing circumnavigation were moved down a level and you will find the link to the right (click on the S/V DoodleBug picture to get to the "old" web-site).
We have also "cleaned up" the sailing logs and reformatted them into .epub files, so that they may be downloaded and read at your convenience on an iPad or Kindle reader as "e-books". Because there are about 6,000 embedded photos in the original website, I needed to split the log of the cruise into 18 "volumes". To date, I have tested these eBook files on both a "Kindle Fire" and an "iPad3". Click right on the "books" icon to access the files for download.
July 9 - July 15, 2016
This week was the annual chore known as “the boat insurance renewal challenge”. The insurer requires you to outline your cruising plans for the next twelve months and this necessitates you actually having some intentions, or at the very least, creating the fiction of some goals. Then they require a detailed hurricane plan. This is trickier because they want specifics on items such as the thickness of mooring lines and the contact information on the party claimed to be looking after the boat when the owner is absent. If you fabricate this information, they could deny the claim in the event of a mishap. This year however, no inspection or survey of the vessel was demanded. The latter would have involved considerable expense as well as the aggravation of finding an appropriately licensed surveyor, plus arranging for a haul-out so that the hull could be inspected. A typical boat inspection can easily cost as much as the annual insurance premium.
On Saturday we again signed up for the “HASH” (see previous posts if you don’t know what this is) and headed “downtown” St. George’s to their national stadium where a couple of hundred hashers stood around chatting and visiting. This was a diverse group (a heavily overused word that means entirely different things to different people), ranging from those carrying babes in backpacks through ancient people like us. I have no idea how many nationalities were represented but conversations were ongoing around us in French, German, Spanish and Dutch plus the local patois of Grenada Creole. There were dogs on leashes and dogs running free, families with children and some very serious looking lycra-clad running types. The organizers had scoured the crowd looking for “virgins” (people who had never “hashed” before), particularly those with new running shoes. The victims had a single shoe confiscated and were invited to stand in front of the podium where the hash leader explained that the shoes needed to be tested before they could be allowed on the course. On this particular day there were three young Grenadian girls who looked on with initial puzzlement and then shock as a bottle of beer was poured into each shoe to test them for “leaks” followed by the admonition to “drink it or wear it”.
The hash course ran from the stadium, across a park and then near vertically up a steep muddy hillside towards the prison perched atop Richmond Hill. If the steep slope wasn’t muddy enough from the recent rains, the single file passage of a couple of hundred hashers guaranteed that the “hike” was a muddy scramble, pulling on any branch or twig that might possibly bear weight. We had taken a couple of one inch diameter dowels (used for flying Annette’s kites) to use as hiking sticks and these turned out to be invaluable as they could be thrust into the mud to act as anchors or jammed between trees for handholds. For a time we followed a less than athletic Venezuelan lady who had been told that this would be a pleasant walk. She was now perched high on a muddy hillside with a line of people both ahead and behind her, struggling to get up a hold-less slope whilst muttering dire imprecations in Spanish. At one point she was straddled across a log when she toppled backwards and slid headfirst down the hill until arrested by a tree-stump. Annette helped to her feet while quizzing her. “Are you broken, are you bleeding?” A shaken negative and Annette assured her, “You have both earrings, you’re OK”. This was a tough “hike” needing more upper-body work than footwork and the clumsy folks were easily identified by the amount of mud on their clothing and bodies.
That night it rained heavily across Grenada putting nearly four inches of water into our dinghy. I can only imagine what that hash would have been like either during or just after such a rain.
Our current plans call for us to cruise in the Caribbean next year and since we had now settled the insurance issue, we decided we will park DoodleBug “on the hard” next month and spend late summer in Santa Fe. We are still expecting our generator to be replaced next week at Clarkes Boat yard, located a couple of bays east of where we are now. Just finding dock space to enable the generator to be craned out of its locker has been a problem and similarly catamaran lift capability and storage space is hard to find. We did eventually make arrangements to be lifted at the same boat yard a few weeks after the generator swap-out.
July 2 - July 8, 2016
In the morning we generally listen to a “cruiser’s radio net” that begins at 0730 hours and generally runs for 45 minutes or so. The “net” is run by volunteers and after the call for “emergencies” medical or otherwise, begins with a marine weather forecast. I usually don’t pay much attention to this because I have already researched this a couple of hours earlier but this particular morning the local weather report gave the humidity at 94%. Wow! I used to think that Houston was humid.
Annette has been producing more paintings and is currently experimenting with “minimalist art”. I don’t pretend to understand but I do know that her version involved painting with a brush made from rubber bands and she is constructing another brush using dog hair. I mentioned that using the whole dog would be more efficient but this suggestion was “brushed off”.
Yesterday we participated in the Grenada Hash House Harriers event known as a “HASH”. For the uninitiated, the concept of a HASH was founded in 1937 by Albert Gispert, an English chartered accountant who had been transferred by his employer to Malaya and is based upon the centuries old game of “Fox and Hounds”. The Malaysian authorities required that organizations be registered with the government and since Albert’s buddies typically ate at the Selangor club, not famous for the quality of its food and derogatorily referred to by the members as the “hash house”, his club was registered as the “Hash House Harriers”. “Hash” clubs are scattered all around the globe and the reader will likely find one in whatever town they are resident.
The “Fox” is given a start of some number of minutes and takes off into the bush / jungle laying a trail of shredded paper (or flour as we experienced in Micronesia). The Fox can set false trails that terminate in an “X” and when branching trails are experienced, it takes some casting around by the “Hounds” to find the correct trail. It is debatable whether the the point of the game is to catch the “Fox” or simply to to imbibe a large quantity of beer and get a little exercise in the process. To arrive with the lead “Hounds” it is usually not necessary to be the swiftest runner since the lead harriers will be searching for the trail markers and backing up when they are lost. The “lost”parties yell out, “Are You?” and when the trail markers are spotted, the lead “Hounds” yell, “On! On!”. Annette and I stayed up with the main body of the group until we found a trail split with an arrow sending the “runners” in one direction and the “walkers” in an another. The walkers thinned out in the thick brush and we were alone, having to find our own trail markers instead of following the mob and enjoying the scenery. There was a short section where the runners rejoined the trail we were following and then a second trail split that almost all of the other “walkers” missed. Now we were truly alone with no sound of shouts either ahead or behind us. We were also both ready for a beer as the trail wound on and on through dense undergrowth and several times we had to cast around in wide circles to pick it up again. We would have likely shortcut back to the terminus of the run if we hadn’t been so thoroughly lost. As it was we just continued to follow the clumps of shredded paper in the fading light. We came upon a steep road under construction and the workers halted the operation of their diggers and the like to allow us to pass down the steep muddy incline beside their idling equipment. We weren’t the last people to arrive at the finish but not too many folks were behind us. We felt superior however in that we may have been the only “walkers” to have followed the “correct” trail, due of course to our superior aboriginal tracking skills derived in part from watching old Crocodile Dundee flicks.
Wednesday was “shopping bus day” where a special bus is laid on to take shoppers on a swing through banks, supermarkets, pharmacies and the like for about US$5 per head. As we waited for the bus, Les and Louise of S/V Bali walked by and invited us to join them on a private bus charter to visit the Grenada chocolate factory (www.grenadachocolate.com). We hastily swapped out our shopping bags for cameras and headed off up the west coast of the island to the village of Hermitage. Here we toured the only chocolate manufacturing facility in a cocoa producing country.
The facility was a surprise in that this was a real manufacturing operation tucked away in a tiny village off the main drag. Chocolate manufacture is a complex process – here I am talking about “real” chocolate, not that brown waxy crap that Cadbury’s and Hershey sell. We began our tour by visiting the sheds where the cocoa beans are “fermented” before being dried, roasted and ground. The various machines for the processing of the dried beans were a curious melange of vintages and origins. Some were made in the USA but there were also ancient Italian and British devices that might have originated in a museum. In spite of the age of the equipment, the whole set-up looked very businesslike, well laid out and obviously a source of pride to the local community. Of course we tasted the chocolate and declared it to be excellent. A really interesting tour.
Later I was looking on the internet and discovered that the enterprise was begun in 1999 by owner and founder Mott Green with the note that he was formerly “David Friedman”. Huh? This bore further investigation. Mott Green was the son of Staten Island physicians who decided to cast aside his life of privilege, dropped out of college and became an anarchist / squatter / environmentalist in the early 90’s and who nevertheless was able to afford to move to Grenada, build himself a hut somewhere and equip the latter with sufficient solar power to run his stereo system. The internet reports that Ella Fitzgerald was on his playlist. He and friends put together the machinery and had all shipped to Grenada to set up operations. The business was supposedly financially in the black after a mere 14 years of operations, a few months before his accidental death of electrocution whilst repairing some solar powered equipment. I learned that the Grenada chocolate is the darling of the environmental industry with all sorts of international awards and a documentary narrated by Susan Sarandon underway at the time of his demise. He was just 47 when he was killed and with his business finally beginning to take off.
The week ended with a truly spectacular fireworks display at the marina. The display was allegedly for a private birthday party for the American Ambassador to Grenada but the State Department website gives the ambassador’s birthday in October. Maybe they really wanted to celebrate on the 4th. but were hunkered down behind sandbags and S.W.A.T. teams that day. We are tied up on the dock here at Prickly Bay and the fireworks were being launched from inside the marina grounds about 40 yards from our fly-bridge where we were sitting, beers in hand. I researched “fireworks displays” to see what they might cost for a private party ($3K and up) and discovered all of the lengthy permitting rules as well as the admonition that the firing point must be at least 50 yards from any people or structure. Apparently this particular rule is not applicable to Grenada.
June 25 - July 1, 2016
The Brexit vote was last week on the 23rd. so the bulk of the week’s international “news” consisted of cloned articles echoing the same speculations of possible repercussions. That and the European soccer championship pretty much wrapped up the outside world. This is the first time we have stayed aboard our boat during hurricane season and interacted with the cruising community. In past years i.e. with the previous “DoodleBug”, if we were parking the boat somewhere during hurricane / cyclone season, we had left the boat and returned to the USA for a few months to take the kettle off the stove and let the cat out.
We gave up our rental car after the first week and have been riding the local “buses”. These are mostly Toyota vans that manage to cram 19 people inside, with five rows of seats including the driver. The bench seats will each seat three people but the port armrest folds down to create “space” for a fourth person. Of course there is no way you can exit these vehicles unless the folks sitting on the “fold down” seats get out of the van first. To add to the overall ambience of the experience, they never use air-conditioning and they play rap music at truly ear shattering volume levels that the famous rock band “Disaster Area” would be proud of. The driver usually has a partner who handles the cash (2.50 EC dollars per trip – just over 90 cents US) and acts as a spotter for potential riders. They do have a route and there is a number on the front of the van designating the route but this is more for guidance rather than a rule. The spotter would notice us coming out of a store and yell across the road at us, “Number one?”. With an affirmative wave they would then hold up traffic so that we could cross the highway and board. Pretty neat really.
We continue to take care of a few boat chores and as the list whittles down, we have the boat in about as good a shape as it’s going to get on the anniversary of its purchase. Annette has begun painting again and has a large 36” by 48” canvas under construction that I have already titled, “Chagos Sunset”. I have offered it to sale to curious by-passers for a discount price of $18,000 but haven’t had any takers yet.
My last “major” upgrade was to swap out the 40 ampere battery charger for a new 100 ampere unit. In its previous life, renters would run the 9 kW generator just about non-stop during the period of their charter and the 40 ampere unit drawing a mere half of a kilowatt, acted as a sort of trickle charger to the batteries. We added 600 watts of solar charging last August that on most days provides sufficient juice for lighting and to run the three refrigerator / freezers we operate. We only use the generator for air-conditioning and also to boost the batteries after a couple of cloudy days have impacted the solar output. What had irritated us was the use of only one eighteenth of the generating capacity to perform this function while burning generator diesel and we were about to rectify this with the new unit. I knew this would not be a simple swap-out with just a couple of wires involved. The battery charger is connected to the house batteries via a giant fuse buried behind intimidating cables. In addition it is also wired to the engine starter batteries and is “paralleled” to the solar array which kicks out a not inconsequential amount of power delivered at 36 volts. The swap out job began with disconnecting all of the house battery terminals from their respective batteries, removing the in-line fuses in the engine compartments to isolate the the engine starter batteries and similarly isolating the six solar panels by removing their fuses. The work-space for the charger is tiny and involved considerable contortion and a whole lot of cursing. Four hours later it was all installed and re-connected. I threw the input power breaker to the new charger and watched the monitor as it began to churn out nearly 90 amperes of charging power. My elation lasted about sixty seconds when the breaker popped. I knew this might happen and just hoped to get lucky. The respective manuals claim a recommended 6 ampere input breaker for the “old” unit and a 16 ampere breaker for the “new” one. This would be a “tomorrow” project.
The following morning I opened up the A/C power panel and found the installed battery charger breaker is rated at 10 amperes. Sitting next to it was a “spare” breaker, unused, already wired in and rated at 15 amperes. Sometimes you do get lucky! I swapped the output wires and powered up the new charger. It ran and produced lots of power until I shut is down a few hours later to let the solar panels do their work.
June 18 - June 24, 2016
Last week we had moved from a mooring onto a slip at the marina dock. This means we not only had a viable internet connection but “on demand” city power for air conditioning! Our generator could also provide this power but requires diesel fuel to make it hum and unfortunately, when the air conditioner cycles “off”, the unloaded generator has more of a death rattle than a “hum”. We decided to take this opportunity to call around to see what a new generator might cost. We also slowly attacked our “to do” list of boat chores, the chores you put off because you either don’t want to do them, or they are remarkably tedious. We finally found a replacement LED anchor light bulb that fits the socket and in addition replaced more of our interior lighting with low power draw LED’s. I also tackled the chore of calibrating the refrigerator thermostat. It’s particular crime is that it is too cold and there are few more spirit crushing events we suffer in this life than discovering your beer is frozen and won’t come out of the can.
We checked around on the price of anchor chain and discovered the best deal, on this island at least, was at the Budget Marine store across the bay. This meant we could drop the “old” chain into the dinghy, motor it across the bay to Budget and they in turn swapped this for new anchor chain to be loaded again into our dinghy. Removing the old chain had been entertaining in that the “boat” end of the chain was spliced into a length of nylon rode that I needed Annette to cut with a dive knife. I was underneath the catamaran at the time of cutting, holding the dinghy in place whilst the “old” chain lay in swathes on the floor around my feet. The last time I asked Annette to cut a perfectly good line was during a 2004 emergency and she couldn’t bring herself to do it until too late. Again she needed multiple affirmations that it really needed to be done in this decidedly non-emergency application. In the event, it was very hard to cut, thereby indicating we really need a sharper knife for emergency line cutting.
I had serviced the windlass and taken the chain gypsy over to Budget to ensure that the new chain was really going to fit but it was still a huge relief when the new chain was sucked up from the dinghy into the boat and the anchor re-attached. I looked up the internet on how to make the chain to nylon rode splice and with the help of a non-frozen beer was able to make this splice myself instead of hiring someone to do this for me as I have in the past. The advantage of this splice over the typical “mixed rode” application is that my work is safely buried under 300 feet of chain so my workmanship is nigh impossible to criticize.
We took this opportunity to donate the old 45 pound anchor that was on the boat when we took possession, as well as its 145 feet of chain. We now have an 88 pound “self setting” anchor on 300 feet of chain, enabling us to anchor just about anywhere in the world we might want to go. Typically sailors use a “5 to 1” rule that the anchor chain deployed should be at least 5 times the water depth. To complicate this, the anchor and windlass are mounted five feet above the surface of the water so that in 20 feet of water, we would actually need 125 feet of chain to anchor safely, about what we carried previously. The new set-up will allow us to anchor in nearly 60 feet of water.
We did make a deal to buy a new generator and will hang on this dock for the full month whilst it is shipped from the manufacturer.
June 11 - June 17, 2016
We decided to spend at least a week at Prickly Bay, Grenada to “regroup”, catch up on boat chores and see the island.
Our first step beyond the act of renting a car was to set out to investigate various boat storage options, thus we found ourselves in the island capital, downtown St. George’s, trapped in their one way street system. Several of the the narrow streets were unlabeled as to the direction of traffic flow and in the absence of parked cars as an indicator, it was easy to find oneself on a one way street, headed against the oncoming traffic. More by accident than design, we found ourselves in the close proximity of Fort George, the citadel that overlooks the town and its harbors. We pulled into the parking lot at the fort and discovered it is currently used a a training academy for the Grenada police force. The policemen who were loitering on the sidewalk indicated that it would be fine for us to explore the facility and we wandered around the old fort with it’s ancient rusting cannons and its sweeping view of St. George. The courtyard where we had entered bore a memorial tablet to Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and his cabinet members who had been shot during a coup. I then realized that I knew little about Grenada other than the fact that US Marines had invaded in 1983.
Grenada was occupied by Carib Indians from the South American mainland who displaced the earlier occupants, collectively referred to as Arawak Indians. The Caribs were fierce fighters and wiped out early attempts at European colonization until the French managed to gain a fortified foothold on the island in 1649. The driving force for colonization was again the production of sugar cane for the manufacture of alcohol and as in other places, the local Caribs were unsatisfactory as a source of labor and thus replaced by African slave labor. The discovery and implementation of northern latitude sugar beet agriculture in the mid-1700’s wiped out the Caribbean cane industry and the Grenada plantations similarly collapsed. The British and French squabbled back and forth over the island until 1783 when the island became British once more. Once the economic requirement for slaves had evaporated, slavery was abolished in 1834 but unlike other islands where the former slaves were essentially abandoned to fend for themselves, nutmeg had been introduced here in 1843 and the island had become a global source of the spice.
In 1974 Grenada became independent of Britain with a Parliamentary system of governance. This lasted 5 years before a military coup put a Marxist group in control. They held power for the next four years until they fell out amongst themselves and began shooting each other. The Cubans had begun extending the runway in Grenada for all of the tourists who naturally flock to islands run by a bunch of armed thugs but Reagan believed that the Cubans, as surrogates for their masters the Soviets, intended to use Grenada to project military power throughout the Caribbean. Reagan organized a military incursion backed by US troops which the association of kleptocrats, dictators and psychopaths called the “United Nations” roundly denounced. The Grenada military and their Cuban allies were swiftly defeated, the US troops departed a few weeks later and a democratic government restored with elections in 1984.
Today the economy is described as 11% agriculture and 20% industry. The island still is a large exporter of the spices nutmeg and mace and there is also some degree of manufacturing. I noticed that Wikipedia has a chart showing the breakdown of exports and an astonishing 8% of export is claimed to be household quality toilet paper. The balance of the economy is tourism and services. The GDP per capita of over $14,000 certainly explains the overall look of prosperity of the island compared to some of the other places we have visited.