Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What a Difference a Day Makes!

What a difference a day makes.

I had a drastic lifestyle change in the 24 hours from 9:00 p.m. on Friday to 9:00 p.m. on Saturday. I went from sitting on the rooftop at my luxury high-rise in the Financial District in Manhattan, to sitting on a boat of the coast of Culebra a small Caribbean island.

It all started with a March 29th text from Lizz.

Lizz: Dude… any interest in coming down to the Caribbean and sailing back to the states w/ us?

It took me a few days to sort out the details, but I had a ticket from JFK to San Juan Puerto Rico for April 26th within a week and sorted out work to allow for about a month on Cielo. Friday I moved into my new apartment in the financial district and had a small get together with friends and took off for an early flight to San Juan.

Kevin and Lizz met me at the airport and we ran some errands in San Juan before jumping on an hour-long ferry to Culebra – a small island off the cost of PR. When we were in the dingy on the way out to Cielo, it was pouring rain, so we were completely soaked by the time we boarded the boat.

We met a cool couple from L.A. – Eric and Priscilla – in the best pizza joint in Culebra and they joined us on our trip to Culebrita. On our way to Culebrita, Kevin caught a tuna. Culebrita is an uninhabited island with a killer beach. We all spent the day snorkeling, throwing frisbee and drinking beers on the beach. For dinner we ate the tuna that Kevin caught in a delicious sauce. There is something very primal about catching something from the sea and eating it that night… I promise it tastes better.

That evening Eric and Priscilla went to bed and we stayed up to watch the worst George Clooney movie of all time… The Perfect Storm. This is a film that had the potential to insight fear in a group of people that will be sailing the Atlantic for an extended period, such as the crew on Cielo… but fortunately for us the poor writing/acting made it more comical than fearful. The cool thing about watching the movie is that we were on a boat in a storm… so we were in a full sensory experience viewing of The Perfect Storm, including the rocking boat, lighting flashes and thunder.

Life on the boat is slow and ultimately relaxing… I am making the adjustment, but what a difference a day makes!

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Grenadines

Two days ago we arrived in St. Croix so we're now officially back in US territory. We covered the 370 miles from Union Island in 53 hours, and Cielo had her fastest 24 hours of sailing yet (averaging over 7 knots and traveling nearly 180 miles). Prior to heading north, we had spent two weeks in the Grenadines, the chain of small islands between St. Vincent and Grenada. It's beautiful there, and we were lucky to be able to spend ample time swimming, hiking and making new friends over many sunset happy hours. We thought we'd do another photo essay of sorts, and let the pictures speak for themselves.


All of the cruisers we met had raved about Bequia and when we arrived, it was clear to see why. There are wonderful beaches, good restaurants, friendly people and good hiking. We were able to take in a bit of all of it and even managed to put in a little work on the boat, spending one afternoon scrubbing 5 months of grime off of our dinghy.


Mustique is the only of the Grenadines that we visited where we didn't get any pictures. The reason is that we arrived right before sunset and left the next morning before the sun came up. The anchorage was just that miserable and rocky. However, anyone thinking about visiting by land should check out the Firefly hotel where we treated ourselves to an amazing evening of dinner and drinks: http://www.mustiquefirefly.com


We took a beautiful hike around this island and got lots of great views. We also got sore butts from all of the steep hills we had to climb to get around the island.


We anchored in Salt Whistle Bay and it was gorgeous. Palm trees, clear water, beach front bar, the whole nine yards. We anchored so close to the beach we were able to swim in for an afternoon cocktail. Kevin also spent time perfecting his coconut hunting and gathering technique. He now has a machete and everything. Don't think I'll ever drink coconut water from a can again!

The Tobago Cays

The Tobago Cays are a group of uninhabited islands in the southern Grenadines, each no more than a square mile in total . Parts of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie were filmed here and it's easy to see why. Except for the sailboats at anchor, there's little to suggest whether it's the 1800's or the 21st century. Nothing but palm trees, white sand beaches and aqua-marine water for as far as the eye can see.

Union Island

The last stop in our travels south, we anchored in Union Island for two nights. Kevin finally found a goat to cuddle with and we also found a bar called Happy Island created out of a pile of conch shells out on the middle of the reef that surrounds Clifton Harbor, the main anchorage.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Moving On Down

Herewith, highlights from the last week, spent in St. Lucia and in Bequia (pronounced beck-way), part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (don't feel bad, a year ago we didn't know where it was either).

St. Lucia - Rodney Bay

To be quite honest, we weren't big fans of St. Lucia overall - of course to be fair, we spent the majority of our time there at one anchorage - Rodney Bay - which can't accurately be used to assess the entire island. Rodney Bay was touristy (a Sandals Resort and cruise ships galore), it was under construction (both the dredging of the channel and the building of cookie-cutter vacation "dream homes"), and there were apparent tensions between locals and visitors (the first island where we really felt that vibe). The bottom line is that after 5 days, we were anxious to move on. Luckily, we decided to anchor for a night at the Pitons, two monstrous peaks at the south end of the island before we sailed on to Bequia.

St Lucia - The Pitons

We could use every explicative in the book to describe how steep and tall these peaks were, and how sore our butts were the days after we hiked them, but hopefully the pictures will do them justice. We actually only hiked about 3/4 of the way up Petite Piton (ironically, the taller of the two peaks) as we only had enough $EC in our pockets to pay our guide for a portion of the trip - but we still managed about 600 of the 750 meters of the climb (for those of you not on metric...silly Americans...that's about 1950 out of 2450 ft). Our guide for this trek was a local St. Lucian who had the distinction of being the first to accost us when we arrived at the start of the trail. Keyston stood a whopping 5' and minus his dreadlocks, may have been outweighed by our basset hound Annabelle. As we started the climb, we were a bit unsure about our decision to hire a guide at all (we hadn't used one for any of our hikes to date) and to hire this guide in particular, what with his pungent odor and frequent stops to call out "BLESSING", which he did anytime we got anything from a view to a mild breeze. As we scrambled higher grabbing roots and rocks, it became clear that a guide for this particular hike was well warranted. Keyston also turned out to be super nice and much less gnarley than the shoeless and toothless guides we encountered with other groups on our way up. Honestly, who, other than a mountain goat, climbs a 2500 foot mountain with NO SHOES??

Can we eat it? (or...Food, glorious food)

Since arriving in the Caribbean, we've been seeking out opportunities to try new foods--most of which we've really enjoyed. In the last few days, three instances of something new stand out: the first was the eating of the first loaf of bread ever baked by Cielo's captain and first-mate. I know it doesn't sound that daunting, but considering that the dough of the first loaf resembled wallpaper paste in color and consistency, we were pleased that the second attempt was edible, and some may even say, tasty. Next, we sampled what I like to refer to as snot-fruit, since that's sort of its consistency. Other people in the Caribbean call it Sour sop or Guanabana and despite its off putting appearance (the outside looks like green spiky alien spawn) and consistency (snotty), it's actually rather yummy...sort of like a sour apple Jolly Rancher. Finally, on the trip from St. Lucia to Bequia, we ended our fish-catching cold streak and landed a nice-sized barracuda. We've heard from others that barracuda has deliciously firm white flesh, but have read that barracuda can carry the neurotoxin ciguatera, which can cause attractive side-effects like numbness and debilitating gastrointestinal problems. We decided that since the potential for a good dinner was high and the potential for poisoning low, we'd go ahead and eat it. Minus the post-consumption fear, it was really, really good and neither of us was the least bit sick.

Blame it on the rain

Though the rainy season doesn't start officially down in the Caribbean until June, it seems that "April showers" are the norm down here. We've been increasingly below decks or inside bars watching hours of rain drench the islands. This rain has been a great excuse to catch up on our movie collection and attend to our taxes, which is another sad reality heralded by April.

From here we'll head further down the Grenadines chain, and will decide in the next week how far south we'll go before turning around and sailing north.