Thursday, October 22, 2009


Here are a few more moments from the logs of ‘Beach House’, loosely linked by feathers, fins, and furry friends.

Charleston, South Carolina, is one of our favourite stops along the Intracoastal Waterway. It’s a great city for walking, with its architectural charm and sense of history at every turn.

Every evening at sundown, thousands of little birds swarmed up from the trees on shore and took a breather on every available surface. They use Charleston as a place to gather themselves on their migration south. Much like we did.
These four guys got lucky for a few moments before Geoff realized they were using ‘Beach House’ as more than a rest stop. Apparently they feast on red berries that time of year, and – well – you can guess the outcome. The captain started snapping the lifelines every time the poor birds tried to land on us. But then who needs red polka dot decks.

We never tire of dolphin sightings, but these playful creatures seem to be camera shy. They come to play - you get out the camera - the dolphins move on. Many of our cruising friends have great dolphin pictures. We don’t, but this is one of our better shots. We were looking for a place to anchor in Dragon’s Point, just across the waterway from Melbourne in Florida.
There are wonderful stories about dolphins herding surfers away from sharks, so when this dolphin and his buddies swam around ‘Beach House’ for a few minutes, were they trying to tell us something?

Just a few miles further down the ICW in Florida is Vero Beach, known to cruisers as Velcro Beach, simply because you get stuck. It’s hard to leave the safe harbour, the great laundry and showers at the marina, the big solid dinghy dock, and the free bus service to all kinds of shopping. We caught up with good friends from Ontario there. Meet Kim and Cindy, part of the crew from ‘Clarity’. Kim is driving.
Kim and her family adopted Cindy in 2003 in the Bahamas. These Bahamian potcakes are basically mutts, but they’re smart, playful, and loyal. The locals would feed stray dogs the food caked on the bottom of cooking pots, hence the name ‘potcake’.

Pelicans are unexpectedly graceful for such awkward-looking birds. They fly with elegance, then crash dive for fish, beak first, from 20-30 feet off the water. Surely their little brains suffer.
Beside a pub in Vero Beach, this specimen was making a statement about the sign he’s sitting on. To put words in that big beak of his - “You don’t have to rent a jet ski to see me – I’m right here posing for you.”

Two of his friends were lying low ……
…… waiting at the back door of the restaurant for fish scraps, rather than catch their own. Cheeky boys.

Speaking of catching fish, we’ve yet to catch an edible one. We were having one of our best sails of the year on the way to Allen’s Cay in the Exumas, traveling at perfect trolling speed on spectacular turquoise water - and - bingo.
But wait. Rats. Our only lure seems to be a barracuda lure. This catch of the day was a moderate two feet long. The only way to retrieve the lure was to sacrifice some cheap gin, poured straight into his maw. At least he died happy and became part of the great circle of life – probably an appetizer for a shark. And it’s a good thing he didn’t expect tonic with his gin, ‘cause he wasn’t gonna get it.

Locals in the islands do eat barracuda – the smaller ones are not as likely to have the potentially deadly toxin ciguatera. A restaurant on Great Exuma Island had barracuda on the menu with the warning – “Eat at own risk”. Not for me, thanks, but Geoff tried barracuda fresh from a local fishing boat in Provo and pronounced it delicious.

A few months ago, we were asked if this cruise and the islands had met our expectations. Interesting question and interesting answer as it turns out. Our first reaction to the question was that we didn’t start out with any preconceived ideas, but then found ourselves saying that the Dominican Republic was most like what we had expected, less developed. So much for no preconceived ideas. Guess we had a picture in our head after all.

Here’s rush hour on the road to Santa Domingo in the DR.
This is not an unusual sight. Horses, cows, goats, donkeys – some are being herded home and some just wander the streets. Traffic has no choice but to wait. The locals don’t complain and we rather enjoyed it.

On a walk just outside of Luperon in the DR, we encountered these guys. I was a little hesitant as we passed them, expecting an angry bull to charge us.
You’re probably way ahead of me. They couldn’t have cared less. Island animals don’t waste any energy – it’s too hot.

This lovely lounge lizard was sunning on the dinghy dock in Salinas, Puerto Rico. Those deck planks are about five inches wide.
Salinas was our favourite stop in Puerto Rico. It’s another cruiser-friendly place with easy access to everything. We rented a car for a few days to find help for a computer problem. While we had wheels, we did some serious reprovisioning and a little touring.

Getting rid of boat trash in the islands can sometimes be a challenge. Just off the public dinghy dock in Port Elizabeth, Bequia, behind a commercial building, there’s a dumpster, making for easy garbage disposal. But apparently there should be a ‘Please Don’t Feed the Animals’ sign.
This little guy found something good. Don’t want to know the details.

We loved our time in Bequia for all kinds of reasons – a safe anchorage, great cruising friends nearby, and yet another clean, quaint place for walking. Bequia is also home to a turtle sanctuary. We did the tour with a dozen other cruisers and weren’t disappointed.

Our good friends, Ray and Genna from ‘Nighthawk’, were on the tour.

Everywhere she goes, Genna finds puppies and little dogs to befriend. They love her almost as much as we do.

It was Ray who taught us how to tell the difference between sheep and goats. Tail up – goat, tail down – sheep. Both animals are everywhere throughout the islands and not always easy to tell apart. Because of the heat, sheep here don’t need a coat, don’t grow one, and therefore can look like goats. But not if you know the difference. Everybody loves Raymond.

This family on Union Island amused us.
Mom is tethered, but the kids don’t need to be – they’re sticking close to lunch.

 And this goat on Petite Martinique needs an elastic tether, though I suppose the bungee effect could be a problem.
We can’t see the difference, but maybe the grass is greener over there.

And here in Carriacou are some of those sheep without woolen coats - no shearing required..
Lamb chops anyone?

When we first arrived in Clarke’s Court Bay here in Grenada, Mamma’s third litter of seven puppies was five weeks old.

All but three have been adopted out. Here are the three boys left.
At four months, they’re not quite puppies anymore, but they still haven’t grown into those paws. If we’re here any longer we may have to adopt one. Could happen.

 And of course we can’t sign off on an entry linked by animals without acknowledging the best animals of all – party animals. Here are a few shots of a great group celebrating Ray and Genna’s 28th anniversary a few weeks ago at Le Phare Bleu. We take our good times very seriously.
Ray, Genna, Pat, Kitty, Don

Carol, Charles, Gary

Ray, Kitty, Don, Geoff, Carol

Pat, Ray, Kitty

 Ray and Genna. Twenty eight years happy. Nice.

Monday, October 12, 2009


When your 6’4” baby boy is escorted through the arrivals door at the airport by a 6’7” customs officer, a parent’s first thought is “Oh my god. What has he done?”
So quick hugs and kisses, then the formalities with authority. It was simple enough. When asked where he’d be staying in Grenada, Bil answered that he was visiting his parents on their boat. And of course he knew the name of the boat. All good. But he didn’t know where ‘Beach House’ was anchored, and immigration needed to know, hence the escort out to us for the answer. Phew. No cuffs, no jail, no delay. Let the week begin.

We planned a quiet day for Bil’s first full day in Grenada – a bus ride to St. George’s to meet friends for lunch at one of our favourite spots on Lagoon Road.
Bill has the local style down – shades, t-shirt, bathing suit, sandals.

Here’s the ‘welcome’ sign at our restaurant of choice.

The HorniBaboon is a great venue with good local food and unexpectedly decent burgers and fries.

Here are father and son at the entrance to the HorniBaboon, bonding at the Carib tree.

Next night we took Bil for happy hour at Le Phare Bleu, just a dinghy ride around the corner from our anchorage.
Bil is giving the callaloo fritters his glare of approval.

Wednesday was the big tour day. We'd waited for Bil’s visit before touring, so we were all pumped. Jim and Wendy from ‘Merengue’ and Ray and Genna from ‘Nighthawk’ joined us for the day – a great group.

There are many beautiful waterfalls in Grenada, some requiring a hike to get to them, but since we had multiple stops to make, our tour guide took us to the Concord Waterfall, no hike required.

Bil did the fresh water swim at the base of the waterfall. It was a typically sweltering day, so he didn’t stay all that refreshed for long.

At the top of the stairs that lead to and from the waterfall……

…… is the expected tourist row with food, drinks, and trinkets for sale.

Here’s Bil shopping ……
…… and finding a shark’s tooth necklace to his liking, so Mom
is reaching into her purse for the cash. Gotta get the lad a souvenir.

Next stop was The Spice Factory. Our guide was excellent – informative, patient, and quite funny in her quiet way. She’s got a great eye roll.

She showed us the island spices in their raw state ……

…. then cut them open and let us smell and taste where appropriate.
Cocoa beans, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, bay leaves, to name just a few – a colourful and intoxicating experience.

This is Michael Williams, our tour guide and driver for the day ……

…… showing Bil how easy it is to balance a basket of spices on your head. I don’t think Bil is buying the ‘easy’ part.

After another half hour drive through Grenada’s beautiful countryside, we arrived at Petite Anse for lunch. This is a colonial-style cottage-resort and restaurant on the north shore of the island, opened this past March by a couple of Brit cruisers who came to Grenada two and a half years ago and stayed.

The food was outstanding, the site was beautiful, and the scenery from the restaurant balcony was breathtaking.

All of us would have been quite happy to wile away the afternoon right there on the balcony, looking north toward Carriacou, sipping one more drink, but there was more to see.

 In French, 'sauter' means ‘to jump’. The town of Sauteurs on the upper east coast of Grenada has a place in island history.

Bil is standing at the edge of the precipice -
– well, at the ‘mom-approved’ edge.

Next stop was the Rivers Rum Distillery – the last place in the Caribbean where rum is made in the age-old way with the original equipment built over 200 years ago.

We were fortunate again to have a delightful guide for this tour. Here’s Patsy doing her thing, while Bil and Jim take pictures in the background.

This was typical of the tour – there are so many photo-op moments in this ancient distillery. Patsy was patient, surely used to people wandering around taking pictures while she’s trying to do her job.

The smell throughout is sickly sweet. And this last view of rum-to-be in one of the last steps before distilling? Could put you off rum.

But apparently not for long.
Here’s the elegant tasting room. The large orange container is ready and waiting, full of water.
Rivers Rum Distillery puts out 80,000 bottles of rum a year, but there are only three choices. The Rum Punch is red and quite sweet, although it’s only rum and lemon juice. The middle rum is 69% alcohol by volume – 138 proof.

But wait. Royale on the right is their most famous rum – 75% alcohol by volume. Yes - a mere 150 proof.
Patsy doesn’t ‘recommend’ starting with the 150 proof, but she does say that if you’ve come to the Rivers Rum Distillery, this is what you’ve come for, so why start with a lesser rum. Okay.

There’s about half a shot in that glass.
The men tell me that tossing it back is best.

Jeez. Best at burning the back of my throat. Thanks guys. That’s water in the other glass and I couldn’t get it down fast enough. I believe I may have won ‘face of the day’.

Our drive home took us through the Grand Etang Forest Reserve with a stop at Grand Etang Lake. Our guide, Michael Williams, is telling us about the damage done by Hurricane Ivan throughout the rain forest and about the continuing regrowth.

He had many stories and was very entertaining, but the best part of this stop was the cool fresh air coming off the lake. It was the coolest we’ve felt in months. I’ve no doubt that’s why Michael chose this spot for his longest talk. The whole day was excellent, the highlight of the week – good company, great sites, and a charming guide.

Friday night we took Bil to the weekly street party in Gouyave, a small fishing town about 15 miles north of St. George’s.
Two streets in Gouyave are closed to traffic for the evening and vendors set up their kiosks, selling fish prepared in every imaginable way.

There are fish fritters, tuna kabobs, fish lasagna, lobsters, fish spring rolls, and sides of plantain fries, corn bread, and more. Much more. And of course you can get something to drink. Bil is getting the rum rundown from one of his new rasta friends at the rum tent.

He's decided on Old Grog and apparently doesn’t want to share.

On Saturday we took the bus to Grand Anse Beach, one of the most famous in Grenada. This two mile sweep of white sand is the hub of the island’s hotel industry, but you don’t really see that. Strict laws prohibit any building higher than the tallest coconut tree.
Once again, Bil didn’t seem to have any trouble relaxing. Island life seems to agree with him.

The rest of Bil’s week? Shopping, more visiting with cruising friends, snorkeling, watching a big-time cricket match, sleep, and more sleep. He had a good week and we had a better week. “It don’t get better than this.”

Here’s one last shot of the Captain and the Kid at Le Phare Bleu on pizza night.

And here are a few websites with further information for inquiring minds.

I’m including the website for Barefoot Man as well because this blog entry title is one of his song titles. His music is silly, irreverent, and fun. “It don’t get better than this.”

Bye, Bil !!!