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Awesome Caribbean Sailing Venture Trip Journal
Day 1 - Live from San Juan!
We are safely arrived in PR! We have just enjoyed a fabulous meal from
Frisky's family here in a nearby town. I am a bit full due to having to
finish several of the boys’ plates, so generous were the portions, but hey,
I am here to serve.
Our adventure was filled with bumps and curiosities, starting with a
certain adult who was LATE to the airport, but he shall remain nameless
(ahem, Fretz, ahem). However, a bit of fancy footwork by Bob had Eric
zip ahead of the 30-minute line of waiters, whee! An early breakfast
crisis was averted, as the local greasy spoon opened up with 10 minutes
to spare (feeding stations being somewhat sparse in the old DTW
terminal). The boys ALMOST learned a hard lesson in airport security
when their breakfast scouts heading down the gate area tiptoed past the
security line, a warning from Bob came too late for Andy and Neale, who
were one foot past the warning track. They would have had to go all the
way back around through security again, but the grim faced visage of the
security guard was softened by our sharp uniforms, plus we had Seth bat
his big eyelashes at her, and all was well!!
Flight from DTW to FL was uneventful (except for two visits from the gate
agent to count us off and name us, very odd, must be special scout
treatment), as was our connection. We had actually walked four gates
into the airport before realizing our departure gate was back behind us
right next to our arrival gate! When we tried for boarding passes, we
found that all our entries said Ian, and our seats were row zero. Hmmm,
but again, intrepid problem solver Bob got things straightened out.
There was a bit of drama as one lady voiced some objections to a certain
scout who, in her tactless and loud report to the leaders, needed a fresh
shirt. Once I swapped seats, (my Paul Sebastian cologne never
disappoints!) I noted an overwhelming tide of fragrance from her, so
perhaps she was just easily olfactorily offended (I thought of pointing out
the irony of her own nasal impact, but decided against it).
Once in San Juan, we proceeded to the Thrifty rental, had a long
argument with a clerk about a sneaky "mandatory" fee, with other renters
joining our complaint, but no riot ensued, and they did give us a pretty
good deal. Seth said he saw a cockroach as big as his head, but we
remain skeptical... Killian says it was a fly.
It seems a certain adult FORGOT HIS DRIVERS LICENSE (ahem, Fretz,
ahem), so we are all in a nice minivan, and at least I don't have to drive,
So, now I am told I must quit my typing, so we can drive out to old San
Juan, and see if we can't misplace some of these annoying.. Oops, I mean,
we'll take in some sights and visit what Bob assures us is the birthplace of
the Pina Colada. We'll be up early tomorrow for our big customs
adventure, and then a flight to our final destination.
Gotta run, AFN YIS,
Day 2 Begins!
Well, I am up early, in the extreme moistness, to report on lacunae from
yesterday's report and to update you on our evening exploits.
I forgot two key items yesterday - puke and Pantsless Killian. It seems
that the boys really would prefer that you know that my seat back pocket
on one flight had been pre-loaded by the previous passenger, ewwww (I
know, but they felt you should know). Second, Killian, having taken me
up on my offer to spray his pants with bug repellent, left them hanging in
Bob's basement, thus providing us with an excuse to include the mall on
our sightseeing last night. I can reliably report that
a) Killian is a very thorough shopper
b) Seth has an extremely tiny bladder
c) Nathan REALLY likes sweets (had to pry him away from the soft serve
d) Neale is a good cat herder
e) Andy is very patient
f) The mall is sort of like watching Spanish soap opera, everything is so
familiar, but the language is off, ha!
After our mall run, and getting chased out of Pretzel Co for eating too
many samples, we did a tour of old San Juan in the rain and the dark. I
can reliably report that this tourism strategy, while non-standard, has
two principal benefits:
1 - Plenty of parking
2 - NO CROWDS!
Picture taking suffered a bit, but Killian did his best to capture lighting
storms over the fort. We did not get too wet. AH, the weather research
team is here and wants the Internet, so I must finish up. Later that night,
we crashed a loud birthday party on the street; Neale was loving the local
music. We also succeeded (by random chance) in finding the plaque
outside the bar where the Pina Colada was invented. Pictures were of
course taken. The boys felt the Pina Coladas were a bit weak for the
money... (KIDDING!). OH, and our van got a flat and we had the boys up
until midnight learning how to change a tire! Yes indeed, a TEACHABLE
MOMENT! Fun galore here in Venture land, more when we can get to
Day 2 Update – July 20
Our drive to airport was uneventful, except for Bob taking a shine to the
Puerto Rican method of lane usage. Even our escort exclaimed, "You
drive like a local". He was pleased, his passengers? Not so much. But we
are fine : )
‘Twas a long, long long, long LOOONNNNNGGGGG plane ride (s) to go
from PR to St V. Suffice to say it was too many planes, legs, debarkings,
recustoms-ing, fill this out, sit and sweat, where's the plane, "island time,
mon, it be here soon", for proper description. The youths caused some
raised eyebrows at each stop when they kept asking to run down the
stairs and touch the ground at each island, so they could meet Bob's
standard of saying they had "been there".
At one stop, Killian took a chance on a local dish called a "roti" and this
spicy curry meat/potato pie is now his holy grail. We again got
"inventoried" more than once on flights, and our scout shirts got us no
shortage of interesting conversations (count was 12, I think), plus a fun
meeting some scouts from Tinidad who were flying to a jambo, in UK?
Best line was coming through Barbados (I think) when the lady looked me
up and down, checked out the boys, and said "what are you, army or
something?” When we said No, Boy Scouts, she had a laugh. I guess I
need to relax my stance or something.
We arrived in St. V tiny airport in the dark. No Ian "doc" Darnell, no boat
charter people. Nathan used up the last of his energy climbing walls and
rolling the grass. Neale struggled with a tidal wave of uncertainty and
problems, and got us back on plan. Eventually Ian showed up 30 min
later, and really, if you think about it having two parties one from MI and
one from CA, travel that far and link up 30 min apart, pretty amazing.
Charter place was dead quiet on arrival, turns out there was some
confusion on their end with our date change. Undaunted by our lack of
sleep-aboard options, We suffered through a tough night in a hotel on
the beach, but everyone else was too tired to do anything, so the only
midnight pool and beach goer was yours truly. Sadly, few bikinis’ out at
And thus the grand travel adventure ended, so the main show could
Day 3 Update – July 21
The day dawns clear and bright. A lovely breakfast on the veranda
overlooking the bay and charter docks gives way to a flurry of activity as
the boys move aboard their training boat, and the adults and Andy take
over the Pok Ma Hom, our charter boat. All our training pays off with a
smooth and thorough move-aboard. Seth, Killian, Ian and I had fun
cruising with a local taxi man for shopping, and we did quite well. Local
bananas only a dime a pound, but only five bananas left, mon! Good
thing, or the adult boat would have been having banana everything!
We departed after noon, the boys having elected for another meal on the
veranda, eating what? ROTI of course. A few of them could not manage
to down the whole thing; it was a shame to waste that food, if only
someone large and hungry could have helped th... Oh, wait, right, I did
finish all their plates, assisted by none other than li'l Nathan (who clearly
fuels his spastic energy with plenty of food!)
As the adult boat pulled out, the two crewmen they gave us to raise sail
and get us out of the harbor managed to over-tighten the main, and
BOOM, our main was blown into two pieces. After a quite pow-wow with
fellow skipper Bob and engineer Ian, we determined that having a sail
blown into two pieces would probably provide a certain decrease in
mobility, and we humbly requested a new one. ha. In all seriousness,
they took us right back in and had a new sail rigged in two hours (no
mean feat with the boom-roller-furling main). We then left post-haste to
chase the boys boat as they went out to sea. Our first destination was
Bequia, an easy sail to an island in sight, made without incident. We
pulled into the very full harbor and there was no good anchorage left. We
tried (the boys counted and cheered and photographed) OVER TEN TIMES
to anchor but dragged every time, so we paid to moor. The boys were
busy with sailing instruction and tests, they all passed round one with
We did a shared meal on the transom barbeque grill; it was wonderful to
have everyone around the table in the fading light (gets dark here
EARLY!), playing Jimmy Buffet on the iPod/radio, watching the sunset, and
then a glorious moonrise from behind the island. I hope (and rather do
think) that the boys understand the exceptional nature of these
moments! We played a bit illuminating the mountain and the boys boat
with Bob's new "One MEEEEEEL-ion" Candlepower lantern. Ian dropped
the spatula overboard while grilling, but a metal spoon works well, we
found! The boys all took the opportunity to use our head because, as
they Machiavelian-ly noted, "hey, why stink up OUR head?"
The evening closed with me sleeping on deck, Andy relaxing with his
book, and Bob snoring contentedly in his cabin (I bought some chocolate
chip cookies for him). I was awakened and driven below by the 2am
rainstorm, but it was no big deal.
Day 4 Update – July 22
I awoke at dawn and swam some laps around the boats, much to the
curiosity of the other boaters. Apparently this sort of AM exercise
violates a Carrib cruising ethic!! The boys boat awoke and joined me. I
offered them a race back to the adult boat, and they had FLIPPERS ON,
but still, only Nathan made a game of it. tsk tsk! : ) They then assisted
with Operation Spatula Recovery, which resulted in the successful return
of a slightly rustier spatula.
The boys then sprinted out ahead of us again, nixing our plans for town
visit. We did get a visit from the "bread man", who sells banana bread
from his boat. They boys also bought some, but for $5 EC less than us,
such shrewd businessmen! We had a longer sail today, and Andy did
great at the helm, logging over two hours and landing us dead center on
the target island. We had to clip in and reduce sail for a squall, but again,
the training made it all easy. We all elected to experience the squall "au
natural" or "sans raingear", which was kind of fun.
The adult boat initially moored behind the WRONG boat full of young
men, causing amusement for our boys and annoyance for the
harbormaster. We are moored now at a beautiful post-card anchorage in
MUSTIQUE, a largely private island. The boys were topside on their boat,
doing a manly anchoring drill when a 50 ft catamaran pulled in with all
sorts of bikini clad French girls. And weren't they so disappointed when
they moored right next to us!! We have told them they have to get at
least one email address for pen pals!! (We’ll see if they pull it off, we do
have the French phrase books, after all!)
We all spent about two hours snorkeling, the reef and coral is not much
here (maybe the overboard discharge??), but the fish were great. Seth
finally learned how to clear his mask, after I stopped putting my thumb
over his snorkel. Nathan dived with me to investigate a huge mysterious
bottom fish (turned out to be a big palm frond!) Killian was our
designated dinghy operator, and loved it. Neale had to dive to retrieve
the dinghy anchor, but that was no big deal. We are really having a great
We then hit Basil’s bar (the only bar) at the harbor, and all knocked back
some tasty (if small) chocolate milk shakes. MMMMMM. It doesn't get
too much better than this!! We then explored the island a bit and found
this little public library with some terminals, and thus these updates were
We plan another dinner together tonight, more sailing tests for the boys,
and then more sailing tomorrow. Weather is fantastic, if hot and humid,
of course. We are doing REALLY well, the boys are tearing through their
certifications, can you imagine they may all be CERTIFIED bareboat
charter SKIPPERS in two days???!!! Man, that is really something! Now, if
they take you all sailing, will you call them "skipper", ha ha !!
Well, Bob and Ian have shoved off, having tired of my incessant typing,
but I played the "parent card" to keep typing, as I know how much I would
want these updates (and I do enjoy cranking them out!!) I must now go
try to find them at the bar (ahem, more MILKSHAKES, people!) If I miss
the dinghy, I will have a LONG swim!!
We should be back in St. V for a day in the next day or two, and can
probably update there. Until then, rest assured, things are going
SUPERBLY, and the boys are doing AWESOME!
Yours in Sailing,
Day 4 Coda!
So, after our last update, I returned to find the adults quaffing milkshakes
in the setting sun at Basil's bar, and the youths returning in a dinghy
demanding to know why we were late for dinner. Tsk tsk, hard to control
these adults sometimes! We gathered on the boy's boat for another grill
session, and Neale "the Cajun chef" took care of our Kielbasa for us (read
"blackened kielbasa"). But hey, if you're not going to cook it yourself, you
get what you deserve!! : ) (his second one was just fine). We also learned
that if you start cooking potatoes at the same time as everything else, the
potatoes end up being for breakfast!! heh.
MOMENT OF THE DAY - we are doing our usual Venture Debrief, where
we all share frank and honest goods and bads from the day. Neale
offered a strong concern that the instructor was just taking it easy on
them, because they had not had any fire drills, sinking drills, etc!! Keep
in mind there are no such drills in the actual qualification, this was all
just extra stuff Bob and I did to them in training to get them ready to be
real sailors. The instructor was, of course, confused, but took it in stride.
Day 5 Dawns!
We departed beautiful Mustique around 8, chasing the boys as usual.
They all are well into their 103 qualifications. They may all be done by
tonight! Today's sail was a longer leg, but we were blessed with 10+ kt
winds and following seas. We literally set the sails and WENT. With Andy
"Speedy" Smilie on our helm, we chased the "On Holiday Again" down to
Mayreau. (a small and again beautiful island near the Tobago Cays. We
are planning a two-day visit to the Cays later, so we did not want to
repeat (plus all those boats aground on the reef are intimidating!). Plus,
there is a wonderful picturesque church on the mountaintop here,
overlooks the whole cays (great photo!). So tomorrow we will attend
services before heading out. Anyway, Mayreaux has several anchorages,
we chose a small lagoon, and with the surf breaking on a beach just on
the reverse of the lagoon beach, and some hotel huts just visible in the
jungle growth. The boats here anchor literally one on top the other, so
we watch with amusement, and wonder what sort of carnage will occur if
the wind shifts! At this anchorage, we have a new feature, a boat of
Caribbean cruisers who are less devoted to clothing, shall we say. The
boys are amused, but really quite mature about it! (And they are quite a
bit away, anyhow!)
I put the squeeze on the boys to all utter "I love you, Mom", so you can
consider that sentiment delivered : )
Here are the snippets they each felt should be delivered:
-Neale chased a "seahorse" that turned out to be a fish, which turned out
to be a weed.
-Nathan is a confirmed "radio mumbler" and I have to train him that
"Over and Out" is not a legitimate radio term (too many WW2 movies, I
-Killian continues to insist on absorbing local culture, this time he went
for the unknown drink on the menu, and reports that "Mauby" is quite
tasty, close to ginger ale.
-Seth ordered a "malt", thinking it was a chocolate malt, but it turned out
to have ingredients of malt, hops, water, etc. I explained with
amusement that he was drinking what amounted to near-beer, and we
are now enjoying teasing him for his heavy drinking! Neither he, nor
anyone else, will be ordering that again, not very tasty.
So, as of now, we are in the basement of a little bar on the hill of
Mayreau, getting ready to head back. So I must depart, much as I would
like to continue typing. But surely some adventures, large and small,
must remain untold, or you shall have nothing to grill them about upon
their return!! There is picture taking and journaling aplenty going on. As
long as we don't shrivel up and disappear from dehydration, we'll be fine
(I have NEVER sweat so much in my LIFE!) But chugging up the hills,
dripping sweat, is made so much easier by the mockery of my favorite
sprite and companion, Nathan, who repeats my statements back to me,
dramatic breathing included!! AH, I have an additional moment, due to a
rain squall, so I type on!
Tomorrow is a long haul back to Bequia and the banana bread man, to
get us in position for a noon return to St. V, where we will consolidate
boats, welcome aboard our fellow skippers, and see where they want to
go. As Bob said today, "we have to get the boys back, so we don't have
to do so much work!" It will be a long day into the wind, and our small
crews will certainly earn their supper!!
July 23rd (Day 5) Coda
At Mayreau, Neale organized a B-Ball game against some locals, and that
went really well. We had a scurvy looking dog following us around;
Nathan calls him "the dog of doom". We had a nice night at anchor,
dinner together, and our first "tough" debrief, as the lads began to really
work on team/interpersonal issues (these boats are small places to live,
in some ways!) But they all handle these things very maturely, in my
estimation! Tomorrow is our big sail back to Bequia to get us in position
for a quick run to St. Vincent and ending the "instruction" phase, getting
to the 'adventure" phase!
Today was our big sail north, into the wind, always a long day!
I noted on my morning swim that the boys boat had drifted over the reef,
and was about 1 ft from grounding; They had her underway in less than 2
minutes, VERY professional response. I like what I am seeing from these
We started on a lighter note, with services at the local Catholic Church, at
the very highest point overlooking the cays. Beautiful location, fun
service, with new accents, local personalities, two guitars, and a sort of
musical revival at the end, with hand slapping and aisle dancing!
We then headed out to sea, and we had our next big encounter with the
local weather. As we later heard from locals on land, the gusts were 50
to 60 kts. Frankly, we were caught a bit off guard, as this squall line had
no major rain component. Bob and I had already reefed down quite a bit,
and were just starting the motor to reef more when she hit. It was high
drama let me tell you, and both our boat and the boys took an extreme
roll. Neither of us laid our rig in the water (the true measure of failure in
such situations!), and all is now well. At one point we were hove-to with
a double reef [i.e., set up with both sails opposite each other, should be
stopped. –Ed], and still making 5 knots!!! The lads will certainly have
tales to tell, that is for sure, and if that is the toughest weather we see, I
think we'd all be FINE with that!! As we got righted, we tried to call the
boys boat (they were about a mile to leeward), but as Killian later told us
"when I heard your warning on the radio, I was straddling the chart table
sideways, with my hands on both bilge pump switches, watching a
waterfall come out of the aft head... so I was too busy to say "thanks
It turned out that the boy's boat got pushed a bit further out than us, and
had a smaller engine, so could not make the angle to Bequia, thus we
proceeded to St. V! We arrived early and scouted out a good anchorage,
and they arrived right as dusk was falling. They executed a smart double
anchor rig in the dark (again, impressive!) and we then took them by
dinghy to a nearby cove that had an ecology resort and the only
restaurant willing to stay open for us!! We had a DANDY (but pricey!)
meal prepared local style, and Seth entertained us by squealing every
time a bug landed on him! We then started back to our boats in the
moonlight, but our dinghy motor died, and luckily a friendly local was
helping guide us so he gave us a tow. All in all, QUITE A DAY, and we
shall sleep in tomorrow! 'Twas a stern test, and the lads passed with
On the 25th, we slept in, had a late breakfast, and motored down to
Barefoot Charters in Blue Lagoon, while Richard the instructor had the
boys finish up their tests. They all passed in the high 90's on all tests,
passed all skills without error (and survived the toughest weather hit the
instructor said he had ever dealt with during a class!). Bravo boys!!
Richard the instructor was initially VERY skeptical that four young teens
could complete in four days what he routinely takes 2 weeks to teach
adults. He is now a Venture believer!!
Neale opted for a four-hour turn around, and to my disbelieving eyes,
they pulled it off in 3 and a half! All food shopping done, laundry, clear
out one boat, consolidate to the other, planning and go! Wow! We ended
up across the channel in Bequia again. Ian and Andy and I made an ice
run, and of course I made sure it was at an Internet café where we could
get banana smoothies. (That is just between us, the rest of the crew does
not know about that, shhhh!). [Who would I tell?? –Ed.] We navigated back
to the boat in the dark, guided by Nathan's grill fire pyre. Tomorrow we
rise and sail further south than before, to arrive at Tobago Cays, which
appears to be quite a paradise! No communications there, but you'll hear
from us again soon!
Our transit to the Tobago Cays started with an early departure from
Bequia. We have transitioned to "venture mode" where the adults do
much less and the responsibility for success sits (sometimes
uncomfortably) on the boys. Today's skipper was Seth, and he ran a
nearly perfect departure checklist, and we had a great jaunt down to the
south. A somewhat technical entrance into the cays was the cause for
much clenching and sweating and tongue biting for Bob and Eric, but the
lads brought her in just fine, with one unexplained loop the loop on the
way into the channel, but we'll forgive that!
We anchored in the BEAUTIFUL blue water, surrounded by reefs and three
small deserted islands. There are about 30 other boats here, all sail. It is
just indescribably cool; hopefully the pictures do it justice! Look up
Tobago Cays online, and we were right there in the center lagoon! The
lads elected for a quick run around the reef in our NEW dinghy, to better
focus our next day's snorkeling expeditions! We had a tidal wave of
"human spam", where essentially, "the mall comes to you!” Andy was the
one diligent shopper, while the rest could not be bothered, but they all
decided later they wanted the shirt that Andy got!! I am sure there will be
We continue to wonder at what power source fuel's Nathan's manic
activity. The young man has cooked every dinner so far (with some help),
partly because he just surges forward and does it, but also because he
seems to not notice the greenhouse-like galley conditions. I tried to help
him this evening, but about halfway through, he ejected me from his
galley because I was "ewww, all sweaty!"
Andy and Seth both took the plunge with snorkeling, despite having
some reservations. A good team approach and brave effort! All agreed
the reef was way cool, and the fish descriptions went on and on! We
dined late, and anticipate a full day tomorrow of more snorkeling and
A full day today in the Cays! I was punished for eating cereal too early,
since it was to be a cooked breakfast, but I deserved my fate! (I like to
rise early to swim). We did a 2 hours multi-site drift snorkel over about
half the reef area near us. FANTASTIC. We chased two-foot blue
iridescent parrotfish around the coral, saw cool crabs and anemones, and
on and on. The underwater cameras were a-clickin!!
We then returned to the boat, washed off, and took the dinghy on a 25
minute ride to a small low island outside the reef. Petit Tabac was
another site for Pirates of the Caribbean, [Petit Tabac is the "deserted
island" that Captain Jack & Elizabeth get marooned on near the end
of the movie. -Ed.] and we explored it for about an hour as well as had
a nice lunch. Killian was bothered by bugs, so I tossed him one of my
DEET wipes. We found that 50% DEET on the fingers makes sandwiches
taste bad and makes your tongue go numb!! Andy found some cool
hermit crabs and smashed open some coconuts. Neale ALMOST put
Killan’s camera in the sea when he "found the ledge" while wading! We all
got plenty sun, mon!!! So far, though, no real burns, which is good.
Later that evening, we tried to make a salad with some local vegetable
that Ian had selected, but it was CALLALOO LEAF, which, if we had
bothered to check the guidebook (who knew it covered VEGGIES as well
as ports) anyway, the book says "eating this raw is like eating raw
fiberglass". Three choking members of the crew agree!! Ick. Thus,
chicken Caesar salad become teriyaki chicken with rice, under the skillful
guidance of Chef Nathan (Clearly, the Patel's are missing an opportunity
to rent him out in the catering trade!!). We even had COBBLER, which was
a big hit. Killian licked his plate clean, an extra plate clean, and then
licked THE TIN, and then PEELED THE EDGE OF THE TIN to get the last bit
of tasty goodness!! : )
We slept under a clear star filled sky, after having some astronomy chats
from Bob, with our bellies full! These Cays are really SOMETHING, and
you can see why they are so popular!!! Tomorrow we head out to Union
Island, to clear immigration, and then head to our Grenada adventure.
Neale the "busier than a one legged man in a butt kicking contest"
planner has confirmed a host of activities for us, so we are sure to have
fun there. May be a day or two until more updates, but until then, rest
assured we doing great!
Well, today we made a timely and well-run exit through the Cays. There
was some discussion of using the faster Southern exit, but the boats
aground and the warnings in the guidebook were enough to convince the
lads that "prudent seamanship" demanded the longer northern path. And
we're ALL ABOUT prudent seamanship on the sailing vessel Poch Ma Hon!
We then made a short run down to Union Island, debarked skipper Bob to
do some administrative kung fu on the bureaucrats and get us cleared,
and we spent a nice few hours doing another turnaround, shopping and
loading water. Neale had to deal with some pushy "harbor leeches" and
did just fine. Skipper Killian then got us underway, and the crosswind
almost had us leaving line handler Ian on the dock, but we recovered just
fine and got him onboard! We then headed down towards Petit
Martinique (PM) for the night (an immigration loophole allows us to
remain in limbo pending arrival in Grenada). We made a point to stop for
lunch at Mopion, a little puddle of sand on which someone erected a little
gazebo. We all sat on a blanket, on this truly deserted islet, quite fun. At
one point in our difficult dinghy passage through the reef, Seth insisted
he could pull us in, and the water was not too deep. As we watched him
disappear below the dinghy, his depth perception came into question! He
did serve as an effective tow-er once we made it to shallower water.
Nathan and I did our good turn by emptying out the gross little garbage
can in the gazebo.
We then proceeded to PM, and had a bit of an anchoring adventure. We
are truly backing off and letting the lads run the show, which can
sometimes be tough, but they are getting it! We enjoyed another fine
meal together on the lido deck, and will base our plans tomorrow on the
passage of this latest "Tropical wave". We hope to get to Carriacou and
process in through immigration, then shift down to Grenada and several
days of fun with local scouts there.
Well, we finally had a rainless nite, not that I got much sleep. Between
late nights, rain, and early sunrise, I feel like I am back in my Navy days,
but my enthusiasm for these reports remains UNDIMMED! : )
Today we bopped on over to Carriacou to process into Grenada. We were
there early, but had a long anchorage. In two hours we dropped the hook
thrice (normally a 10 min process), and there was much frustration, but
we got it done. But the road to true independence from adult meddling
has a few bumps, and it is what Venture is all about. Once anchored, Bob
cleared us through immigration and customs, and we launched a town
exploratory. This is more of a party island, with a huge set of speakers
on the dock pumping out tunes.
The adults ducked into an ATM booth (partly for AC, partly to encourage
the lads to head out on their own). We then ended up down the strip at a
restaurant called Callaloo by the Sea (not kidding!). There we had THE
BEST BANANA SMOOTHIES IN THE WORLD. Neale and Nathan hiked to the
top of some nearby mountains (too much sweating for me!!), and once
back on the boat, we had an evening swim, where Neale and I swam to
the beach, and found a large variety of starfish, the most interesting of
which we brought back to the boat for others to see. Seth refused to get
close to the scary man-eating beasts : )
For dinner, Nathan hit a home run, first serving up HOME MADE (boat
made?) Salsa from local produce (we took that stuff out like we were
piranhas!), and then STEAK dinner with a big salad. Clearly this trip is
setting some irreproducible and heretofore unknown highs in culinary
excellence, (not that we adults are complaining!).
Sadly, I must report that some after dinner horseplay resulted in Neale
having a "gravity incident" and popping his chin pretty well while going
overboard. Seth (one of the perpetrators), was first into the water to
assist him. Given our high level of medical training, this was an "infield
grounder", but still not pleasant for Neale. A sore jaw and small cut were
not critical, but worthy of a doctor's evaluation, just to be sure. The team
did well handling the situation, Andy stepped up big navigating the
dinghy in to the dock in the dark to drop off the medical trip-takers, and
then returning solo. Nathan, Killian and I took so long to clean up and
get ready to go in, that by the time we reboarded Andy's taxi service, the
medical team was already returned to the dock!
Neale had two stitches in his chin, and the medical team had gone to the
new clinic which was coincidentally having a grand opening night, so
every room they went to had dignitaries and hors de'ourves, but no docs!!
So, they got fed first, ha! We then journeyed back to Callaloo by the sea,
for more of THE BEST BANANA SMOOTHIES IN THE WORLD!
Then we poured Neale into his rack and we all went to sleep with the
sounds of beach parties and BBQs wafting over us.
Today was a day of lots of oatmeal going down, and lots of oatmeal
coming up. Allow me to elaborate...
We were up EARLY for our 40nm run to Grenada. Skipper Nathan had
stayed up late planning to make sure it happened (the issue was very
much in doubt, but they pulled it off). For breakfast, Seth cooked up a
bucket of oatmeal big enough to feed a village (he swears it was just 9
portions by directions)! We all choked down several PINTS of cooked
oatmeal, Andy took nearly 3 hrs to finish his share, but finish he did! Seth
took the easy way out, tossing his oatmeal only 1 hr into our open ocean
run. Seems the seas were a bit heavy and SOMEONE forgot his Scop
Patch! (Bet he remembers his next one!). Bob hit him with every seasick
remedy we had onboard, Ginger, electro-impulse bands, etc. He did
eventually recover enough to do some time on the helm in the PM. Neale
also exhibited a variety of colors. We continue to struggle with our roller
furling main, but seem to have finally worked out a system that helps us
get it set with some degree of timeliness. I'll post a bonus treat later, the
lyrics to the song we have for the sail.
Our run was long and brisk, until we were in the lee of Grenada. We were
hours ahead of Nathan's conservative plan, to everyone's surprise and
happiness. We had a watch going, so we could get some extra sleep.
Skipper Nathan and I were the only ones to stay up the whole time (and
what a joy it was, to have so MUCH uninterrupted time to enjoy his
company and uniquely off the wall patter!!!) ; )
We arrived in harbor in the early PM, and the lads had to navigate in on
their own. Seth did well with the "red buoy maze", as did navigators
Killian and Neale. At the Grenada Yacht Club, they had to execute a "med
moor" with a vicious crosswind. NOT FUN. (like backing your car into a
narrow spot, on ice, with a big wind pushing you sideways, and also
having to grab a line to hold your front end steady as you back up) Seth
did a great spin in front of the berth (only 4 ft room on either side!), but
the wind (which he had accounted for) suddenly died, (arrgh!!) and our
angle was all off. We waved off, tried again, and hit it spot on. I
congratulated Seth on his fine helm work, but he felt the whole thing was
a bit too much stress. Perhaps in time it will take on a rosier glow in his
memory : )!
We did dinner up at the club on the veranda, with some Methodists who
were having a potluck fundraiser. VERY tasty! Even just looking around
the club and the nearby hills, you can see all kinds of hurricane damage. I
enjoyed the bar's unlimited stock of TING (a Trinidad-ian grapefruit
beverage), which I had been waxing rhapsodic about (and searching
unsuccessfully for) since Puerto Rico. The lads had actually found it first
in Carriacou, and bought me one (such thoughtful fellows!). They also
have become fellow TING enthusiasts! It seems it is not available as far
north as I previously experienced, but regardless, we have it now, and
"Dat's a good TING, mon!"
I finally got a chance to rig my hammock up on the bow and try it out,
but with the tarp over me, and no breeze, I was soaked in sweat in
minutes. I then flopped down on the deck for relief, noting little Nathan
had decided to risk sleeping under the tarp too (me personally, if I were
that size, I would not be brave enough to sleep underneath someone my
size, but he is an adventurer!). It was amusing to lie there sweating,
seeing him back there wrapped up in his bedding like a little "pig in a
blanket" (you know, those little hors d'oeurve thingies?)
Anyway, because I rigged the tarp, of course it never rained, and several
LOUD parties on shore provided us with free (and gradually less welcome)
tunes into the wee hours. (Seems we have arrived on what amounts to
their 4th of July weekend, so no shortage of partying!)
Today dawned cloudy, so it looked like it might rain on the big dive
expedition that Neale arranged last night. (no mean feat to arrange a
dive trip with nearly everything closed for the weekend, bravo!)
We were up early (again!!) to head to church. An attempt to serve
oatmeal was shouted down. I had gotten the name of the local church
(sadly the cathedral on the hill had been wiped out), and Seth had gotten
directions (sort of). We decided to hike.... and hike.... and hike.... but
luckily a local bus (microbus) driver, inspired by either the divine or the
dollar, pulled over, reversed his route, and took us the remaining MILES
to the church, arriving right as the service started. I am not sure if Seth
realizes how close he was to a keelhauling, heh!
Upon our return, the divers headed down the coast a few miles, while
Andy and I stayed to do some logistics. While washing everyone else's
underpants is not glamorous work, it must be done, and we were
rewarded when another local group arrived to set up a Sunday brunch!
(yessss! I knew skipping breakfast was a good idea!) SO we dined and
washed and dried and folded, while the skies unloaded rain like I have
NEVER seen. Literally as if the sky was falling.
The divers trained in the pool and classroom in the AM, ate their lunch,
and then headed out for a dandy supervised dive on some coral and a
wreck. Somehow there were no underwater cameras (we're still working
on that attention to detail thing), but it was a grand adventure by all
accounts. Seth saw the "really big fish" he has been worrying about, but
was pleased to note its lack of interest in consuming him.
Andy and I then headed off to hike the town and had a grand time. He
gamely followed me all the way up to the highest cliff with the old fort.
As we walked through the old harbor, you could literally feel the ghosts
of 300 yrs of sailors walking with you. We went up roads so narrow that
if Nathan stood with his feet on one side and fell forward, I swear he'd hit
his head on the other side! As we groaned to a halt at the entrance to the
old fort, dripping in sweat, we realized it was occupied, as a base for
training Grenadan police (interesting!) They allow the public in, so we
had a fun self-guided tour. Lots of old cannons, and a mortar (not often
seen). On our walk, as in the fort complex, destruction was still evident.
We at one point realized we were looking into barracks rooms that had
been abandoned, with boots and books still floating on the floor,
uniforms still in the locker! We saw no less the THREE huge stone
churches, all occupying various heights, and all pounded into
decrepitude. Very sad. The views were, as Andy said repeatedly, Aww-
sommme! I noted that clearly the business to be in these days is tarp
sales or roof contracting! Everywhere you turn, there is rebuilding going
on, but still SO much to do!
It began to rain on us during our descent to the harbor, and we took
refuge in a well air-conditioned ATM booth. I figured since I did a
withdrawal, we were entitled to stay in there until someone else wanted
to use it. No one came, so we enjoyed an hour of cooling and drying and
conversation as the rain eased. I now know quite a bit about Mr. Smillie,
including the colors and dispositions of all his cats, which he misses
(along with his family!!) It was a bit odd to sit behind this glass case,
while the occasional chicken peeked in! We tried to hit the Internet cafe
(said it was open 2-6 on sun), but it never opened. We needed some
hydration too, as I swear I lose a gallon an hour sometimes!
We grabbed a cab back to GYC in time to beat the divers home. We all
then waited for our local scout guests. Elisha St. Louis, essentially the
National Director of Grenadan scouting, and local scout leader Mr. Biran
hung out with us for several hours. I am not sure the boys realized what
an honor that was, but they had interesting conversations, and it seems
our next few days will be quite full of adventure! Our dinner was another
Nathan special, grilled chicken with local jerk marinade, boat-made
mashed potatoes with cheese, and a huge salad. Excellent! A bit of
trouble with running out of charcoal and under-done-ness was easily
overlooked due to the quality of the meal overall. We have had to invoke
a rule about getting others involved in the galley, because while Nathan is
doing so exceptionally well, it is not fair to leave this task to him every
day. Sigh, the many little wrinkles of team dynamics! Still, now the others
have a nice high standard to shoot for with their meals!
The evening was still noisy, with multiple parties going late. We pretty
much all slept on deck, except Seth, who was in the forward cabin.
Apparently he did not like my stinky feet hanging near or down his air
hatch, because my feet smelled of lilac due (I believe) to his using air
freshener on them?? We'll have to talk about that....
Tomorrow is a later start (whew), and perhaps another try with the
oatmeal, but I rather doubt it! Should be a fun day of touring the island!
Oh yeah, how's this for a fresh hot and tasty update! The sweat of
today's activity still dribbles down my arms as I type this! You'd have to
be here with us to get the news any hotter off the virtual presses!!
First a coda on yesterday, the 31st. I left out a hilarious local round of
"who's on first", as on the dive boat, the dive master kept doing a muster
(the better to avoid the awkward "leaving a diver adrift in the sea" thing),
and he called out Nathan (Nay-ten?), who said yes, then called out Seth
"Set?", to which no one replied because Seth thought he was asking
Nathan (I mean, Nay-ten) if he was SET to go. Then Bob yelled at Seth to
respond, who was mightily confused, and then the dive master started
AGAIN, and so on. Not sure how many times this went on, but you have
to admit it is funny! So now, during the day, I periodically holler "Hey, are
you Set?". This joins "Nevah Give Up, Mon!" and "WHERE is my SUPER
Suit?" on our list of trip sayings.
Now, lest I be accused of running on Island Time, I shall proceed
posthaste to recount the day’s events!
We (well, I) rose with the sun, went for a run (much to the amusement of
the locals, who, apparently, had never seen the actual Pillsbury doughboy
engaged in such speedy movement!), and then had a nice LONG COLD
shower. I returned to the boat, and Bob was up, so I got dressed, we
chatted about our upcoming LONG (super long) haul (possibly) to
Martinique, and then hit the PC terminal (thus today's earlier flood of
updates!). The lads rested until after 9, got rolling at 9:45 to meet our
Grenadian hosts at 10. Apparently, Oatmeal was voted down again.
Neale somehow fails to understand what the problem is, quite amusing.
Our hosts were Mr. Damani Brizan (whose name I misspelled yesterday,
sorry!), and four scouts, and two parents, plus our crew. We shoehorned
EVERYONE into a Toyota microbus (astounding, I know), and we
proceeded to tour the island. First stop, Anondale Falls, a picturesque
waterfall, complete with local bathers. We were trying to get Neale to
jump, and he said he would, if someone else did. A local took him up on
it, and climbed to the top of the cliff and bombs away! Neale then
begged off due to something about "wearing too much cotton", which we
all found to be less than satisfactory, but given his boo-boo and
questionable track record with gravity lately, it seemed best to give him a
pass! The local then requested a fee for his service, and in the end, the
boys decided that was the right course.
We then went to Grande Etang nature preserve, a 20-acre lake in the
center of the mountains in the middle of the island. We had a
WONDERFUL local lunch and some juice that got Seth into paroxysms of
delight. He memorized the recipe, and I suppose he will try to make it.
Just imagine a liquid SKITTLE and you have the right idea. (SUGAR
RULES!) Then all the scouts took a hike, literally, up the mountainside for
a great view. Nathan of course did not miss his opportunity to be at my
side, peppering me with patter "hey, is this harder than your Navy stuff??
Why are you breathing so hard???" etc. We eventually came to a high
point, got some nice pix, and then the Grenadian scouts said let's RUN
down. So they were off, and initially we all just stared. Ian declared that
was not his cup of tea, but Seth and I rose to the challenge, and off we
scampered. I am happy to report I finished only a few yards behind him,
AND I was carrying his pack (what happened to respect for the elderly, I
The rest of the Venture 8 guys walked in a bit later, not nearly as sweaty!
We then drove to a neat fort (Fort Frederick) and explored it. It had lots
of dank scary catacombs and stuff, you would never find that open in a
US park but it was cool. Seth actually joined me in exploring the rat
tunnel, and I later climbed an odd looking ladder to go into a small
opening (egged on by the crowd), but then got stuck because the narrow
window was just a portal into the ceiling of a large gallery, and I could
not go forward, and Ian and Nathan were pestering me to move. I
eventually extricated myself, but I am sure there are plenty of photos of
my butt sticking out of the side of the fort!
IT was a truly great day, with great hosts, and lots of interesting
conversation. They will be coming out sailing with us tomorrow, which
will be great!
We are now returned to the GYC, and I shall dutifully document this
evening's events tomorrow with a Coda, as usual. Seth and Nathan are
now demanding that I play Puerto Rico with them (a board game I love
and brought with me. I know Jamie and Don are proud of me! : ) And of
course, I have to now ask the large thin mop-top who is looking over my
shoulder.... "Are you SET?"
He says yes! See ya!
August 1st BONUS
Here, as promised, the full unexpurgated lyrics to everyone's FAVORITE
ditty, "The Roller Furling Main" (sung to the tune of "Walking in a Winter
Wonderland", with spirit and gusto!)
"Raise the Main!!", yells the skipper
And we're alllll, feelin' chipper
CHORUS: The Curses they fly!
As time rolls on by!
Struggling with the Roller Furling Main!!
Heave Around! on our first try
Say a prayer to the blue sky
Second time, is no better
and our nerrrrrves start to fetter
Halfway out, on number three
Then it jams, tight as can be
Hope for success, on number four
we just can't take - it any more
Send someone up, to ride the boom
'Cause were about, out of sea room
Now we're all feel-in' like the grinch
Skipper sayyyys, "Let's use the winch"
So the sailllll, is now extended
But all our en-ergy's expended
August 1st Coda
We played some games for a pleasant hour or two. Nathan was most
excited to nearly beat me at Puerto Rico in only his second game (he
learns quickly, this evil one!), and he and Seth did beat Killian and me at a
card game called "Mille Bornes" (thousand miles). OF course, Nathan was
gracious in his victory... ; )
We did have a longer evening than planned due to our toughest debrief
yet. It seems that some joking (which we do a lot of) had been wearing
thin on one crewmate without our knowledge, and when a related prank
went awry, there were some hurt feelings. Dealing with these team
dynamic and life lesson issues is perhaps the most challenging part of
these trips, and in the end, air was cleared, communication improved,
and we moved forward. Living in these cramped quarters really puts
pressure on us all to "be the best person we can be", and frankly they are
all solid young men of good faith and friendship, so I have no doubt this
particular issue is settled.
We spend much of our time at night in the dark, because our boat's
battery is quite beastly. It held charges poorly even months ago on the
adult trip, and for us it is now down in the single digit voltages! AND our
shore power cable has a French adapter that does not fit here, argh! I
had a charger on the batteries all day, but they died back to 10V almost
immediately. Well, we'll just have to make the best of it - we all have
headlamps! : )
As today ended, I was resting lazily in a battered fiberglass dinghy,
perched on it's side in the sand, filled with flowers like a planter on the
I gazed west into a setting sun, casting glorious color through the sky
and along miles of gold sand beach, a few locals packing up for the day,
my belly full of local BBQ, watching all our scouts frolic in the ocean with
about a dozen Grenada Venture scouts. Truly, a moment that will be
remembered for a lifetime! (BTW, it seems that Seth is a good launching
platform for diving, Nathan can run very fast to avoid being taken into
the sea, Andy finds the bay very much to his liking, and Neale and Killian
can toss folks (and be tossed) relatively far!)
But enough of this in medias res stuff, let's begin at the beginning! We
rose, sluggishly, at 7:30, to prepare for our big day sail with our previous
day's hosts. We wished to repay them well for their fine hospitality!
Skipper Seth drove the departure checklist, as some early morning
shoppers dinghy'd across the cove to the store. We welcomed aboard
five Grenadan scouts, and the boys briefed them on the boat and
lifejackets, and got us underway. The lads did a fine job bringing her out
to sea, ever closer to being ready for independent operation! For the first
half hour, our guests, all first time sailors, sort of sat nervously in the
cockpit, helping with the occasional line. We had some guest helmsmen,
which was fun. But then they discovered our favorite pastime, DINGHY
SURFING! That was a riotous success! As we tacked and jibed our way
down to the airport point, to have a jet fly over us, our guests seemingly
could not get enough of being towed! We then headed over to a small
bay with some snorkel options for a SUMPTUOUS lunch that was 50%
cookies and cakes. The lads had been busy baking, and Nathan's
brownies were a hit, but best of all was Neale's special "marble cake with
mint chocolate chip frosting"! (Apparently his first cake?) Nothing like a
walk off grand slam at your first at-bat, eh?) Anyway, EVERYONE enjoyed
the lunch, well, except for our guest Max, who was down with what we
like to call Dawson's Disease (seasick!). Dr. Bob gave him some Ginger
and other remedies, but what eventually worked was some rest time at
anchor, a bit of bread, and the promise of getting to drive the dinghy!!!
We then headed back to port, and when we again attempted our difficult
med moor with an even harsher cross wind, helmsman Neale tried
repeatedly to bring her in, but could not (no shame, conditions as hard as
any I have experienced). Then Bob took a shot, and did manage to catch
the mooring buoy, but got no further. So then I was called in, and while
trying to remedy the situation, I managed to be too confident and was
served a giant helping of humble pie as I fouled our prop with another
boat's mooring lines and we drifted back into an embarrassing mess just
off the bows of several bemused boats. Bob's timely emergency anchor
dropping saved my bacon.
I'll be frank and say this was quite a frustrating moment for me. The
crew was magnificent in it's support of our recovery operations. We
convened a crew meeting, assessed priorities and options, and they
literally flew into action. We dove on under to see the situation, Killian
dug down into the bowels of the boat to get to the stuffing tube for
possible manual spinning, Andy and Neale rigged the Dinghy, Seth kept
everyone topside in order, and step by step we got ourselves free. All fast
but razor sharp, no questions, no nonsense, just pure execution. Nathan
got to play tugboat with the dinghy, a key aid for us, and he LOVED IT.
Since we were safely (if embarrassingly) at rest, I asked our guests if they
would like to be dinghy'd ashore, or stay for more drama. To a man they
cheered "MORE DRAMA!!" ha ha.
Using precise coordination, we fell off to leeward, slipped the moor,
retrieved the anchor, and got things set, and tried again, this time with
me at the helm from the start. My first shot was not quite right, so we
tried again. On try 2, I hit the balance point against the wind too well,
and when I wanted the bow to fall off (an excess of which had been our
problem all day), it would not. We crabbed backwards and with some
fancy fender work by Andy and our guests, we avoided any contact.
Neale and Ian handled dock lines, Bob and Killian did the mooring, and
Nathan "kept on tuggin'"! It was tremendously inspiring to me to have
such a crackerjack team to bail me out of the mess I had made.
So, in the end, we were successfully moored, but were an hour behind
schedule and late for our beach BBQ. We quickly set the boat up for the
night, showered, and hopped in the local microbus fleet to the beach.
Our daysail guests accompanied us.
During our cleanup of the boat, the guess what the adults discovered,
buried in the rear of an after storage locker.... A large half full tin of
oatmeal!! Not sure how this oatmeal thing will play out, but it sure is
At the beach BBQ, we again met Mr. St. Louis and his son who is a key
Venture leader, and Grenada's newly established first Venture team. We
shared stories of youth and scouting and trips. They seemed fascinated
with our tales of ice climbing and quinzees. They are a co-ed group, and
some of their girls had an odd habit of asking each scout if they could
assess their toughness by socking them in the gut (ahh, the odd rituals of
flirting youth!). Ian opted out, most of the others bravely took their shot,
but Neale (aka "abs of steele Neale") really impressed the girls, with the
solid "thunk" and lack of flinching. Others were brought over to witness
his solidity. He endured his trial with gentlemanly grace, and I bet he is
happy he did all those situps!
Getting home was an adventure as we had to break up into small groups
to squeeze into the very full island minibuses (where the motto is "Get in
Mon!, there is ALWAYS room for one more!"). Seth complained that he had
no seat on his ride, and felt awkward with his butt in someone's face for
the whole ride. All part of experiencing the island culture mon!
We had a late but not ridiculously late night, as the crew plotted their
remaining days. It appears that the long run the Martinique is off the
table, just too far and time consuming. It appears we will now focus on
more sailing and cultural activities.
Some other random thoughts from today... The Grenadian scouts just
showed up with no adults, to spend the day with essentially strangers. A
very different approach down here! It was also amazing to me that our
guests were not strong swimmers, some not even swimmers, and they
had not been snorkeling before!!
So, for tomorrow, we appear to be on a Citizenship in the World kick, and
plan to visit the embassy and other agencies, along with some other
possible events with the local scouts.
So, that is the news for August 2nd! Have a fine day!
Today dawned sunny and humid, as expected. Today was to be full of
Citizenship in the World adventures, but was a bit less organized than
would ideally be the case (planning skills and dealing with bureaucracies
are part of the Venture 8 total training package : ) ). However, we did get
in a visit to the U.S. Embassy, no doubt assisted by the fact that the
recently retired consular officer there was named Bob Fretz, ha ha!
We did more laundry in the AM, and when lunchtime came, the lads
announced they were too busy planning and trying to set up meetings to
have lunch (the open can of Pringles on the counter offered perhaps
another conclusion). Thus, the adults launched an emergency food run,
lest they starve, with Ian capably guiding us to the island's KFC, ha! At
this KFC, you can have any combo you want, as long as it is number 2 or
In the afternoon, as we headed to the embassy, Ian had the boys,
particularly Seth, all worked up about embassy protocol, and had them
convinced they needed to do that hand-swooshing deep bow (like you
see in French courts, etc). Luckily, they saw through the ruse eventually!
Really, this day was a borderline "burn day" where the main focus was on
catching our breath and planning. To that end, our plans are shaping up.
Another day in Grenada is on the schedule, and then a series of sails back
up to St. Vincent, and a day or two checking out the North side of that
island. At various points, the boys took some naps, but also continue to
trade "rogue wave" harassment. Seth got a dozing Andy with one
topside, but Andy waited patiently until Seth later laid down in his rack
and then "sploosh", payback time. : ) All in good fun!
One interesting thing from today was a series of chance suggestions that
ended up getting us (it seems) a meeting tomorrow with the Head of
State of Grenada (the equivalent of pulling into England and getting an
appointment with the Queen). So, tomorrow, our little crew will be
(hopefully) meeting with Sir Daniel (who is also the titular "Chief Scout",
much like President Bush is for BSA). I think with our additional protocol
training, and some pills for Nathan, we'll do just fine. ; )
Speaking of Nathan, since he was barred from the kitchen, he has now
decided to become a fisherman. He discovered a somewhat decrepit
paddle wrapped with line and a hook in our stern locker, and with Seth
dutifully headed out in the lagoon to try to catch some of the fish we see
swimming by. Their lack of success had less to do with enthusiasm (of
which there was much), than their choice of bait (first raw, then cooked
sausage). In any case, the fish of the lagoon are safe, from us at least
(but perhaps not from high cholesterol).
Our dinner was a delicious one-pot meal of Sausage Jambalaya a la
Killian. Nicely seasoned, with some local Jerk overtones, plenty of
veggies. Dessert was skipped because we were all too full, but I still
dream of Neale's mint cake... ; ) Having tasted the joys of home baking,
the lads have purchased any number of desserts in their food run today,
so we shall not lack for calories in the coming week!!! (Now, if we can
just avoid putting the pina colada icing on the chocolate cake, all will be
A solid night of sleep awaits (surely to be interrupted by at least some
rain), and then a day of protocol and service projects. I'll hope to get one
more update out before we depart, and then we might be back to longer
pauses between news, depending on where we go and what we find.
Nevah Give Up, Mon!
Short update today – we’re in a hurry and the keyboard here is nuts.
The 4th dawned to the sound of breaking glass, as Bob, woken from
slumber by evil flies up the nostrils, did battle with them with his hat.
Sadly, the hat contained his glasses! Thus, his specs join my boat shoe,
and Seth's ditty bag as things we have donated to King Neptune : )
I am happy to report that our visit with the Governor General went
swimmingly! Sadly, an incident with Nathan trying to body surf through
the xray scanner security machine will require him to stay behind in
Grenada for a while, but we are optimistic that we can retrieve him at
some point.... No, really, they all did great, and Sir Daniel, a lifetime
scouter, traded great stories with us. Perhaps Killian presages a career in
foreign service with his questions on how does one get to be Governor
After our visit, we toured the town, had lunch, and got ready for our
service project. That afternoon, we sweated like beasts as we mowed and
hacked to clear the yard of the local overgrown medical clinic. The sight
of Neale wielding a cutlass (machete) was not to be missed! We did some
good work there!
A tasty dinner of tacos was enjoyed by all, as was a great night's sleep.
I'll stop here and try to get in one more update before we have to go
(sending this from Union Island).
We are presently at a short stopover in Union Island, so I must be brief.
Today we rose early to depart, but had to wait for the GYC office to open
so we could pay our bills and fuel up. The lads' first opportunity to run
the whole show went down with mixed reviews. It is always hard to fully
"let go", and also hard to let them live through their choices. Suffice to
say, some choices of course and propulsion gave us a long tough ride,
took out everyone who was not wearing a patch (and all but one of those
too!). For the first time in 20 years on the sea, I heaved over the side. It
was a LONG tough day for all of us, but much was learned.
We ended up at anchor in Tyrell bay on Carriacou, and the adults hit the
shore for an odd dinner (they came to our boat to taxi us in, but the
service ended once we hit the chairs), while the lads regrouped for
tomorrow. It's a slow and difficult business, this becoming a seasoned
mariner thing! But they have yet to flinch from a challenge and I am sure
there will be steady progress!
I hear tell that Mayreau is our next stop, and there is a cafe there in a
basement, so hopefully you'll hear from us tomorrow. ; ) If not, rest
assured we are still doing well, and miss you all.
August 6th - A Phoenix Rises!
Yeah, verily, the updates flow again! You may have thought the
weather did us in, but nay, Earl has been most kind to us! You may
have thought the lads ran amok and set us adrift, or that we were
underwater somewhere, but again, nay, they have done quite well. I
apologize for the long delay, but please understand that getting info
out requires a complex chain of conditions to be satisfied:
a) be at an island
b) island has town
c) town has PC somewhere
d) PC is working
e) PC has internet connection
f) Internet connection is up
g) place with working PC with internet is OPEN
h) no one else is using the PC
i) I can actually get an hour ashore with no other immediate obligation
As has clearly been the case, one cannot count on this chain be
completed very often!
ANYWAY, when we last left our intrepid youths, they had just about
succeeded in killing their adults with a 10-hour motor into pounding
seas. However, they regrouped and the next day under Skipper
Killian, they executed a double jog from Carriacou to Union Island, and
then on to Mayreaux, in fine fashion. Good teamwork was in play, as
at one point there was some frustration going head to wind to raise
sails, and amidst the agitation, Andy, sitting quietly behind the fray
simply held out his arm to starboard and said firmly, "The wind... is...
THAT.. way!". Spot on! Interesting to see their growing skills in play,
in this still very new and demanding environment. The shift to "no
adult help unless you are running aground" still gets them rattled at
times. We did a quick food shop in Union, then on to Mayreaux and a
different bay from last visit.
This bay was, IMHO, THE BEST!! We had the end of the bay to
ourselves, a neat reef rock area to snorkel on (the most interesting so
far!), and a cool beach prepped for tourist use (but only from Nov to
May). Like exploring a deserted resort. We saw sea snakes, eels, I
found a molted lobster, etc. We tried to do some boom swinging and
diving, but Neale felt the whole thing was a bit too risky and we waved
off. Nathan will have to get his Pirates of the Caribbean moment some
other way. We haggled for some fresh fish in Union, and the lads
grilled up a fine dose of snapper for us, along with a bucket of salad
and some samosas appetizers. Having this dinner in this grand bay,
with the sun setting behind us was TRULY FANTASTIC. But I get
ahead of myself...
It seems we lost or damaged all our pencils and mechanical pencils, so
Nathan and I were dispatched to hike into town for pencils. He did a
fine job running up and down to the stores while I guarded his seat at
the bar (no sense in TWO of us getting all sweaty, now was there?).
Imagine my pride as we later sat sipping Cokes, and the bar lady asks,
"is he your son?" ; ) (though, why my son would be calling me "Mr.
Fretz" is an open question).
We later had some tasty Seth brownies. Nathan was sent out in the
dinghy because he is the only one who can get our little 5hp motor to
plane the dinghy so the drain plug will work! Bob managed to smash
his toe badly on the water pump foot pedal (bitter irony, as he lectures
constantly on wearing shoes, and had only taken his off to come up for
snorkel!!!). Tomorrow we have a long haul, perhaps all the way to St.
Vincent. Oh, and lest you think the lads aren't still up to some tricks -
what do you suppose we found in the grill when we took it out of the
locker to use it tonight? Yes, three gruesome pieces of half cooked
chicken covered with puffball mold, ewwwww!
Today's long run to St. Vincent began with a slow sweaty walk up to
our favorite chapel on the hill in Mayreaux. Much the same as we
experienced last time, and we made sure to get a photo of the "no cow
parking" sign on the gate! I had my best morning swim so far in the
still fantastic bay. Everyone seems to sleep in better than me, but I
think they are missing out! : ) I ate some fresh coconut from the
We then did essentially an 8 hour close-hauled run, never actually
deciding to tack (and turns out we did not need to!) It turns out that
Bob's toe is broken, and is now well buddy taped. Poor Bob. On our
long jaunt to St. V, we risked our still tenuous batteries to play some
W-O-L-D (their name for my iPod radio). Tunes were enjoyed by all
(well, except for when I played the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald)!
We ended up executing a wacky stern to shore anchorage in Walliabou
Bay, site of the town set for Pirates movie. Many parts of set still up,
most amusing!! We ended up tying together EVERY line we had
onboard to reach the shore, just barely! Many "spammers" here, and
Andy bought a necklace, while I bought and filleted a fresh pineapple
(Nathan, apparently has never had fresh pineapple?). When the lads
got a taste of the sugary delight, it disappeared in a flash (sadly, only
one to be bought). The spammers apparently decided I must the man
in charge (probably my do-rag and terminator shades) and called me
the "ganga man"(not that we bought any!!)
We had a nice dinner on the grill, after which Ian dropped it in the
drink, giving me something to do with my morning tomorrow! Ian and
I also did a quick run around the town (such as it is), but really only
one restaurant. Funny to get behind the set buildings and see the
fiberglass, etc. Looks very real and antiquated from the bay side!
Looks like a quiet night tonight, and then the next few days exploring
up and down the coast.
Today we sail for the Falls! But first, a hike to the Falls! (Seems we
have falls on the mind!) A team of four headed off to see a local
smaller waterfall just up the road while we prepped to head north and
see Baliene Falls. Bob and I had a nice continental breakfast at the
restaurant with Andy. I enjoyed another great swim around the
Pirates bay, and did find and retrieve the grill (I love these diving
Under the watchful eye of skipper Neale we sailed briskly north and
then stood well off the bay (we have re-emphasized caution in
unfamiliar harbors and bays, but perhaps a 1.5nm standoff is TOO
careful?) In any case, safety first! : ) Seth was not feeling well, and
Andy thought the rock clambering might be a bit much, so they and
Bob motored offshore for 2 hrs, while we dingy'd in and hiked to the
falls. They were FANTASTIC (I know, I am overusing the word, but
really, so much of what we are encountering merits superlatives!). We
frolicked for an hour in this fantastic freshwater pool; all but me (size
impaired) climbed up a ways under the falls and then jumped. We ate
lunch in a light rain, which was irrelevant to us given our swimming!
We then returned to the boat, and headed down to Chateaubellaire,
where we executed an "extreme anchorage", and skipper Neale had us
anchored in 30ft, backed to within two boat lengths of a rocky shore,
and then tied up stern to a palm tree (after much brave dinghy and
rock scrambling by Ian and Andy!). Even the catamarans (which
normally show off by going shallower than the sloops) declined to try
our method, standing further off. I swear it looked like we were
aground, but it was very cool!! Andy combed the shore rocks for
coconuts (the trees were everywhere), and I ripped a few open (good
Andy was also thorough in his review of the catamarans while
searching for coconuts, and dutifully reported back to me how many
ladies were on each of the French cats!
A short shopping trip to the meager stores yielded only a few items,
but fresh eggs were nice. However, I asked Nathan to guard them in
his shirt pocket for the short dingy ride, and one broke, which then led
to an interesting "solution" of baking two cakes to "use them up".
Thus, not one but two cakes followed our tasty dinner! (we saved
some for breakfast). Killian made some impromptu and very tasty
icing, even grating some fresh coconut! Seth is still not feeling well, bit
of a fever, but resting well and under close care from Dr. Bob. We are
using strict quarantine to ensure we don't have a crew wipeout. An
earlier minor sore throat passed from Nathan to Ian seems to have
been stopped there. Tomorrow, we meet with local scouts to climb the
volcano, Mt. Sourfriere! Should be a grand adventure. I am trying to
find a way out of it, but it looks like I'll be going (long near vertical
ascents are not my strong suit!). But, with enough cake, a man can
Before turning in tonight, an enterprising long distance spammer
paddled out on his surfboard to try to sell us stuff. He did "give us
permission" to use his anchorage, but told us we were unsafe where
we were, and "why did we not anchor like the other boats". Ha ha. I
say in 30 ft at 5-1-chain rode, you are much better off hooked at two
points, but only time will tell!!
Today, we climb!!!
After a rushed breakfast of cereal and cake, all but Bob, Andy, and
Seth head out to climb Mt. Soufriere volcano. It seems we are out of
practice with backpacking hike prep, so we leave the boat in a bit of a
mess. But Bob and Andy take care of us, and Seth who feels better
but not good enough to hike.
We met up with a patrol of local scouts, including one cub, carrying
very little, and one wearing sandals! Based on the Smith report from
the pre-trip, we are all heavily loaded with water, I am carrying a
gallon and a half, plus a kilo of lunchmeat! We did about an hour over
rolling hills and an impressive black sand beach to reach a dry gully
and begin our ascent. About 30 min of this intriguing route (some
gully walls scoured 12 ft into the rock), we break up and out into
heavy growth. The path winds from cool dark shade, to blistering sun
(I pop my sunglasses up and down endlessly). The local scouts go
fast, our scouts barely keep up, and I struggle almost immediately.
Trail was truly a chore, a 6 inch mud or rock track, mostly obscured in
brush and weeds, inclines of up to 60 degrees, long stretches of 45...
Sometimes drops of up to 80 degrees on both sides, dramatic views
but scary! I can monitor my heart rate by the thundering in my skull
(spiking to 190+), and at rest breaks, Nathan asks "did you get rained
on?" because of the steady drip drip drip running off my clothes. By
the halfway point, I have downed a full gallon of water. The lads are
faring much better, managing their water well (dang young
Up and up we go, through the local Marijuana Growers Association,
seeing small huts on nearby ridges, and fellow "hikers" with odd
sprayer backpacks, heading down other trails. They seem friendly
enough. The lads ask me what marijuana looks like (how refreshing
that they don't know!) By the time we hit our first of several false
summits, I am prepared to give up and let the crew go on, as my pace
is quite slow, but Ian won't give up on me. Blessedly, the skies open
up, we get DRENCHED, and my heat management problem is solved.
I gross out the lads by stripping off my shirt, and using it to gather
water to wring out and drink. Another 30 minutes and I stagger to the
edge of the crater and collapse, while the lads enjoy the view and dine
next to my comatose body, periodically assessing my consciousness by
poking me with a stick (I knew that first aid training would pay off!).
At this point, it is explained to me that the adults who did this climb
before and indicated it intensity and water demands, used THE OTHER
SIDE of the mountain, which is the Easier and normal side. In fact,
the guidebooks explicitly say NOT to use the side we did, OH NOW
YOU TELL ME!! : ) ! There is some discussion of hiking around the
crater to meet the Trinidad scouts who used the normal trail. The
crater is easily 5km around. I declare my intent to inflict grievous
bodily harm anyone who tries to make me go anywhere but downhill.
We stay put. Several lads generously share their water with me. I am
near two Gallons of intake, and still no, ahem, throughput, shall we
say. The crater is impressive, with a huge dome in the middle,
steaming of sulfur. View down to the sea is dramatic as well! Many
pictures are taken. The local scouts pick a bit of "Sourfriere Tree" a
sort of small pine-like fern that grows only on the rim.
After I can muster enough energy to sit up and eat, we decide to head
down. The local scouts say (as we have seen before) "come on, let's
RUN down!", and off they went. An hour later (took four hours to
ascend), we find them near the bottom of the gully, 30ft up in a
mango tree, sending down fresh fruit. Neale deems the fresh from the
tree mango as THE BEST!!! On our way down, we met a very friendly
fellow with one big tooth (his eyes are oddly bloodshot, not sure if the
lads key on this!), and a cow and calf (how they got up on their
narrow ridge, I will NEVER know!). Ian and I both strain our knees
badly, but he has a large bottle of ibuprofen, so we'll be fine!!
At the far end of the beautiful black sand beach there is a stream that
rushes into the sea. We stagger to it and collapse into the restorative
pools, almost breathtakingly refreshing after our ordeal. Our local
friends join in the frolic. Ian experiments with the rip current in the
sea/stream juncture. Eventually Neale forces us to get out, so we can
make our meeting with the local scout executive. We hike home past
a ramshackle bar; I enter and buy a big round of sodas for all hands,
ahhhhh! No TING, but Hairoun Bitter Lemon is an adequate
substitute. It appears I may survive after all! Neale thanks me for not
having a heart attack. Killian and Nathan continue to give me water
(is it kindness, or just that they don't want to carry it?) ; )
We set up our meeting for tomorrow in Kingstown, and return to our
boat, finding Andy has collected more coconuts, and Seth has gone
diving and collected a dozen beautiful, but fragile, sand dollars. By
bedtime, half have broken, but perhaps he'll get one home intact! It
also appears that despite hours of charging with the engine, our
batteries have crossed that electrochemical point where they will not
charge, and have become a resistor. All our boat systems have failed,
no pumps, no lights, no radio, no instruments. Unfazed, the lads
make plans for tomorrow's reposition to Kingstown. WE DON'T NEED
NO STINKING BATTERIES! "Nevah Give Up, Mon!" We have a hobo
diner, using up the last of our supplies. We sleep again in our radical
anchorage, again under a rainless sky. We get braver and don't rig
tarps or even the bimini, sleeping on deck under dazzling star filled
skies, watching shooting stars, thinking deep thoughts and solving the
world's problems while the forest animals serenade us. Clearly, we
are slipping into the crusty crusing sailor mode, an amusing lot are
A grand adventure near the end of a grand trip! We can see the finish
line, and it inspires both excitement and sadness...
Well, today is our last day at sea, and it provides no shortage of
challenge. Skipper Neale has to get us underway from our extreme
anchorage; the boat engine barely starts (looks like the engine battery
is going too, though it is supposedly isolated). No instruments, all "old
fashioned" navigation, just the challenge for Navigator Extraordinaire
Killian. Nathan flits all over the boat making ready to depart, Seth
chips in but is still not 100%, Andy rigs the dinghy, and soon we are
underway. We have a tight timeline to meet scouts in Kingstown, and
we raise sail but motor as well. Neale ruminates carefully on our
battery situation, and decides that rather than face a dead engine in
Kingstown harbor tomorrow, we had better proceed to mooring in
Barefoot's lagoon, so we will have no trouble ending our charter. A
difficult but mature decision. This makes us a bit late to meet the
scouts, who give up and leave, but the Scouting commissioner does
come back and gives us a personal tour in his vehicle. Such wonderful
low-key friendship here!! We tour a local fort (Fort Charlotte) and the
Botanical Gardens (hundreds of years old!). We have a SUPERB lunch
at a local rooftop restaurant. Killian forgoes the ROTI, for a fish
burger, how odd! Ian does a double ROTI, (I am on call if he can't
finish). Seems we are all a bit calorie deprived after yesterday!!! I
find that my first, second, and third choice are all unavailable, so I
select a burger.
The lads each order pie or a banana split too, yum! Nathan ALMOST
tips up his dish to drain the last melted ice cream, but my grimace
stops him (but man, it had to be tempting!) We then tour the local
scout HQ, turns out it was just up the hill from the airport entrance we
sat in when we started this adventure weeks ago!! We then head over
to a local school to meet with a troop from Trinidad. This was a
wonderful experience, they had a mix of cubs through Ventures, and
they focus on airmanship (like the old Air Scouts the US used to have).
Neale is working these contacts like a pro. When the folks he has
been chatting with on the phone for weeks finally meet him, they say
"I thought you would be older". Our Venture emphasis on the lads as
"in charge" seems to create no shortage of raised eyebrows. We are
asked if we are all Venture scouts, and say yes, and they point at
Nathan and say "even the baby?". Nathan just smiles : ). [They seem
to have a much bigger, older, and differentiated Venture program].
We sat in on a lifesaving class, they treated us to cold drinks, we
traded gifts of patches (ours was for Polar Bear camping, which
required some explaining!), and they gave us an African chanting
salute, which we were taught how to properly return. The adults
chatted about scouting matters large and small while the lads stayed
in the school exchanging emails. Seems they were quite popular with
the female Venture scouts!
A truly wonderful experience, and perhaps we will see our new friends
in Michigan some day so we can repay their hospitality!
Back at the ranch, Seth was feeling still better, and studying for his
105 test, as the lads want to try to go one level higher on their
certifications. We ate some snacks at Barefoot's restaurant, and then
the lads prepared a carbo-meal of spaghetti and rice. Huge pots. No
breakfast for me tomorrow!! We pre-packed a bit and slept again on
deck, hoping for another clear night. More chatting on the foredeck
into the wee hours. A fine group of friends we have here.
This will be our last night on board. Tomorrow will be checking in the
boat, taking 105 test, and shifting to hotel for final cleanup, and big
dinner debrief. The following day will be a marathon 20 hr transit
home to you all. Wish us luck with our many stopovers and
connections. Our initial airline is LIAT (which we believe stands for
"Leave Island Any Time"). I will try to fire off updates if possible after
this, but we are in endgame.
SEE YOU SOON, Families and Friends! We miss you and love you!
Our final day is done. I type this from the hotel we are staying at as
the office closes. We had an easy turn in on the boat, but it seems my
prop tangling adventure is going to cost us some $, sigh. The lads all
took their 105 test, but did not feel that confident about it. We'll get
the scores in a day or two, I bet they did fine. We then moved to our
hotel, and had lonnnnng showers. A fine dinner and debrief ensued, at
which Seth, Killian and I tried the Bananas Flambe, but poor Nathan
was deemed "too small" to be served. Dang!
'Twas a fine and thoughtful debrief, and we rightly congratulated this
young and mostly first-time Venture crew on pulling off a huge
international trip that had NO prior groundwork or precedent to work
with, which also required mastering a large and complex skill set.
Superb work all around, and I am sure the stories and photos will keep
you entertained for a long time to come!
We'll see you all tomorrow, for now it is sleepy time, as we have a
With love from StV&G, it has been my pleasure to serve!
-Eric Fretz, semi-official scribe of the Venture 8 crew.