Friday, September 26, 2014

Flashback Blog: Antigua Classics Regatta

September, 2014: Poor Rene had to stay in Antigua all by his lonesome for 2 1/2 weeks last March/April while Stacy went back to the U.S. for a family visit. He managed to do a ton of boat projects, but didn't have a lot of fun by himself. At least he had Antigua's famous regattas to look forward to, which began a few days after Stacy returned.

April 2014
So have you ever wandered along the docks of your local marina, or maybe paged through a glossy sailing magazine, and had your mouth water at a gorgeous old wooden boat? Not just any old boat, but one that's been lovingly cared for, to the point that every inch of the varnish gleams? Multiply that by 50-100 boats, and you have Antigua's Classics Regatta.
"The Classics" happens every April, and is potentially more famous for its dock-walking and parties than for the racing itself. Spectators are welcome to wander along the docks, admiring the beautiful yachts, and with Mount Gay Rum as the primary sponsor, you know there'll be a few parties.

The races typically started around 10:30am each morning, when we'd either hike to a vantage point or go out in the dinghy to get up close and personal. The dinghy ride was by far the favorite, as it allowed us to get some terrific pictures of the yachts warming up before their starting gun.
Each evening began at the Panerai Watches booth, where we got free bubblies and saw some incredible footage of the day's races. (Those camera-drones are perfect for events like these!) From there it was on to the Mount Gay event, which often included food, souvenir booths, and live music...and ALWAYS included rum drinks. :-)

Classics Week was soon followed by Sailing Week, where romance and history was replaced by high-performance hulls and LOTS of money. We'd been warned that Sailing Week had a completely different feel to Classics Week ("Classics vs. Plastics", as some friends said), and it wasn't just about the style of boats.
On the plus side, Rene managed to get over 20 baseball caps at the Mount Gay Red Cap party (gifts for our famileeeee!!) We'll definitely be going back to Classics next year. Save the dates: April 16-21, 2015

In between races, we managed to see some of Antigua's more touristy spots. Nelson's Dockyard is a cultural heritage site and National park in English Harbour, Antigua, which was a popular port in the 1700s and 1800s. After being abandoned by the Royal Navy in 1889, Nelson's Dockyard was restored to it's former glory in the 1950s and was opened to the public as a tourist site and marina.
Today you can visit the historic buildings, cannons, and remnants of the 1797 sail loft as you admire the visiting yachts. You can also hike from the Dockyard along trails to the rest of the park, where you'll get some amazing vantage points of Antigua and the surrounding islands.

We also found - surprise, surprise! - a few great spots for food and drinks. We'd had a big surprise a few days after Stacy returned from the States when we learned that our friend, Harry (S/V Ulysses Blue) was in town to captain a motor yacht across the Atlantic. We hadn't seen him since Sint Maarten the year before, so we decided to catch up with him and meet some of his crew-mates over dinner. Club Sushi, located over the Antigua Yacht Club, boasted an all-you-can-eat sushi night for 80 ECs (about $30 US). While this might not seem like a big deal to those of you living in the U.S., we'd only seen decent sushi on three or four islands in the entire Caribbean.
Our last sushi was in St. Thomas two years ago, so we were long overdue. With nine of us at the table, we ordered enough sushi to fill a four-foot wooden canoe...and that was only the first round! We were thrilled to get to visit with Harry and see the latest pics of his wife and daughters (more great boat kids!), and hope to see them in person again one of these days.

We discovered yet another gem on Antigua, thanks to Susie on Spirited Lady. We'd been looking for a place to celebrate Stacy's birthday, and Susie had recommended Catherine's Cafe Plage. (FYI, Catherine's is also the top-rated restaurant on Antigua, per Trip Advisor and other sites.) You know we love our good food and wines, but this put some of our favorite Caribbean restaurants to shame. From tuna tartare and steak carpaccio starters to our lamb chop and lobster risotto mains, the food and wine was better than anything we'd had since leaving Houston...and that's saying something!
Set on Antigua's Pigeon Beach in Falmouth Harbor, Catherine's Cafe balanced an elegant setting with a casually-dressed staff; since we don't keep a lot of "resort wear" on board, we appreciated being able to enjoy a fantastic meal without worrying about a strict dress code! Catherine's staff was friendly, warm, and attentive, with welcoming hugs going out to the many returning patrons as well as us newbies. There'll definitely be a return trip when we attend the Classics next year!

Best of all, Antigua gave us an opportunity to spend some quality time with friends Pat and Darnell on Island Dream. We've been cruising with them for nearly three years and knew Antigua would be where we said goodbye as they headed for Puerto Rico and points west while we sailed south to Grenada. We've already been making plans for a reunion sometime next year and hope we can all make it happen. Love and miss you, P&D!

Feel free to enjoy more photos of the races and dockside (click to view).

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Liebster Award!

September 9, 2014

Woo hoo!  Our blog has been nominated for the Liebster Award by Deana and Troy of S/V Storyville! When Deana told me she'd nominated our blog, I was surprised and honored. As she said, it sounded awfully prestigious! In truth? Not so much...turns out that it's more of a chain letter in the blogging world. :-)  Here's what we have to do:

(1) Thank the person who nominated us and link back to their page.
(2) Answer the 10 questions they have asked and publish the post.
(3) Nominate 10 up-and-coming blogs and ask them 10 questions.

So, a big thank you (and as always, even bigger hugs!) to Deana and Troy for the nomination. I'm afraid I don't follow any up-and-coming blogs (my internet's barely good enough to update my own blog!), but we'll deal with that later. Let's do this...

Deana's questions for us:

(1) Where are you now?

We're spending our second hurricane season in Grenada. We've come back to Saga Cove in Clarkes Court Bay, where we have constant trade winds, little fetch, and are surrounded by great friends. As an added bonus, it's an easy dinghy ride to Fort Jeudi beach, where we often meet our Grenadian family for beach BBQs.

(2) What are your cruising goals (if any) for the future?

We tend to be on the slow end of the cruising spectrum. Some cruisers get bored easily if they aren't picking up anchor and moving to a new spot every few days/weeks. Others spend enough time on each island to do some serious exploring, knowing they won't be passing through again. In our case, we plan to go back and forth between the Virgin Islands and Grenada for at least two more years (H-season in Grenada, the rest of the time up-island). We love the people (both locals and cruisers) and the diversity in terms of sights, activities, and shopping (FOOD!) throughout these islands; why hurry through if we don't have to? Maybe someday we'll start heading west to Columbia, the San Blas Islands, and Guatemala, but for now we love returning to our favorite and familiar spots.

(3) What would you tell someone who is dreaming of cruising about how to make it happen?

Although Rene and I don't have kids, I've heard people say, "don't wait until you can AFFORD children to have them." I guess you can say the same thing about cruising: Don't wait until you think you have enough money to cut the dock lines, since there's no "set amount" for doing this. Cruisers have all sorts of budgets: some live on $1,000 US per month, others budget for $3,000 or more. Some people have $30K boats while others are a half-million and up. What's right for you? What are the things you can or cannot live with? If you really want to get out here and cruise, the first step (IMHO) is to charter a boat. See if you and your partner can live together 24 hours a day in a cramped space for a week or more. If you can do that without killing each other, come up with a 3-5 year plan. Institute "boat rule", meaning you don't buy anything (cars, furniture, big-screen televisions) that you can't bring on the boat. Whenever you get frustrated that you can't buy that latest gadget that everyone else has, remember what you're working towards. You won't give those things a second thought the first time you get to watch dolphins dance in front of your bow.

(4) What is one thing you have learned from living this lifestyle?

Less really is more. I don't miss the big house. Rene doesn't miss his Corvette...okay, not very often! We absolutely do NOT miss the sensory overload that comes from being "connected" 24/7. (Try spending a week without cable TV, 24-hour news, and Facebook. You'd be amazed how less stressed-out you are.) We make our own water thanks to our Spectra watermaker, and get nearly all of our power from solar panels and a wind generator. Basically, we live in a 200-square-foot apartment with a 360-degree waterfront view. If we ever decide to leave the boat, it'll likely be to move into an even smaller an RV.

(5) What is your favorite thing about cruising?

Having the freedom to explore a part of the world so few people get to see, and building friendships with our fellow cruisers and the locals we meet. There are so many amazing places down here, and for the most part, people are welcoming and eager to lend a hand. Of course we miss our friends and family back in the U.S. and Europe, but we've learned to rely on each other and our cruising family in ways that we never did living on land...whether for social time and moral support or for something we don't have on board. When you don't have easy access to grocery or hardware stores, borrowing a spare part or a couple of eggs from your neighbor really comes in handy!

(6) What is your least favorite thing about cruising?

That's a tough one, because there really isn't anything I don't like about cruising. I guess I miss being able to get just about anything I want the way I can in the U.S., whether it's a boat part, flip flops, or celery seeds (try getting THOSE in Grenada!) In the islands, we have to find a shipper, work with an agent to go through Customs, and pay sometimes exorbitant fees in duty. We tend to binge-buy anytime we're visiting family in the States or if someone comes down to see us. When heading south, always plan for an extra suitcase.

(7) Do you look forward to, or dread overnight crossings? Tell us why.

I used to hate them and avoided them whenever possible. For one thing, we left Texas with two cats on board. Even with a full enclosure, there were places where they could get out or water could get in. A rogue wave once crashed through the cockpit off the west coast of Florida, nearly washing our calico overboard. Rene managed to grab a handful of fur, but it scared us. Overnight crossings are sometimes necessary, and are typically less exhausting than a series of back-to-back daylight trips if you're trying to quickly cover some distance between islands. Still, I can't say I look forward to them.

(8) With this traveling lifestyle, we get exposed to wide variety of cuisines. Do you enjoy trying, eating, and cooking with "local" foods, and if so, what is your favorite so far? Share your recipe.

Absolutely! I love to cook, and not having to work has certainly afforded me more time to experiment in the galley. The Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, and Grenada are all lush islands with more fresh produce than you can imagine; farmers markets have allowed us to stock up on local fruits and veggies for a fraction of what it would cost in the U.S. An avocado for under $1? 20 mangoes for $3? Today's catch of yellow-fin tuna or mahi mahi for $3/lb? No problem! Plus, as we both love Mexican food, I've found a number of local items that substitute perfectly for their American counterparts: chadon beni = cilantro; gheera = cumin on steroids; breadfruit = potatoes (especially in potato salad...yum!)

Our Grenadian family has had us try opossum, iguana, and armadillo. I'm not a huge fan, but Nesta's and Virginia's sauces can make just about anything taste good! We love our family's oildowns (made with curry, coconut milk, breadfruit, callaloo, and chicken/pork parts) and fish broth (a thinner fish stew), and are absolutely addicted to rotis (think Indian curry wrapped in a tortilla). Roti skin recipes are passed down through generations, and unfortunately take a lot more patience than I have. An easier dish to make is curried lentils; I got one recipe from Riva and her daughter, Ivy, on S/V Three Belles; another recipe came from my pressure cooker cookbook. My version is a blend of the two recipes, plus some extra TLC of my own. A Carriacou friend says it tastes just like he makes it. Now THAT'S a compliment!

Curried Lentils

This recipe is for the pressure cooker, which allows for less cooking time and propane usage...a must-have on boats! It can also be made in a normal pot; just follow cooking times on the package for lentils. If you prefer a vegetarian version, omit the meat and use vegetable stock.

2 tbsp oil
1 sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef, chicken, or turkey
3 carrots, peeled & chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped (include leaves if possible)
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
2 tbsp chopped cilantro or 1 tbsp chopped chadon beni
2 tbsp curry powder, or more to taste
2 cups lentils, rinsed
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup coconut milk
1 can diced tomatoes, plus their juice
hot sauce to taste
salt & pepper to taste

Optional: a few dashes of green seasoning and 1 tbsp curry paste at end

Heat oil in pressure cooker; saute onion, garlic, and ground meat til meat is no longer pink. Add carrots, celery, potatoes, cilantro, and curry powder; cook for 2 minutes to mix flavors. Add lentils, stock, and coconut milk. Lock the lid in place and cook at high pressure for 6 minutes.

Quick release the pressure and remove lid. Add can of diced tomatoes (with juice), plus hot sauce and salt/pepper to taste. I like to add green seasoning and a spoonful of curry paste to give it a stronger flavor. (Curry paste will stick to the bottom of the pan under pressure, so don't add til the end.)

Note: there are many versions of green seasoning sauce, but most include cilantro/chadon beni, peppers, garlic, onions, and thyme. You can often find bottles (e.g. Goya, Adobe, Badia) in Mexican or Caribbean markets.

(9) Can you tell us one of your favorite cruising stories?

We were anchored in Weems Creek in Annapolis, MD, in August, 2010. It was completely dark and a squall had just come through. I was cleaning up after dinner, and Rene saw something out of the salon window through the rain. "Hang on to something - we're about to get hit!" Another boat was dragging, and they were heading right for us. Fortunately it was a soft landing, and we ran topside to grab fenders to put between us. They tossed us their lines, and we managed to get them rafted up to us to wait out the storm. At some point, the wife apologized for having to "meet all of us this way". It took me a minute to realize that she was wearing only panties, and her husband was completely naked! We'd been so busy trying to get them secured that we hadn't even noticed. Oops! They re-anchored once the wind died down, and sadly, we had to decline their offer of thank-you Bloody Mary's the next morning (we were leaving early for Baltimore). A few months later in the Bahamas, an unknown voice hailed us on the VHF radio; when we couldn't figure out who it was, he gave us a hint: "We still owe you Bloody Mary's!"

(10) If asked to give a random piece of advice about this lifestyle to anyone, what would it be?

Believe it or not, this lifestyle really isn't for everyone. Cruising isn't just like a travel magazine cover. Yes, we spend plenty of time anchored off of beautiful beaches and hiking through rain forests, and yes, we enjoy lots of happy hours with our fellow cruisers. But we also slog through hours of ten-foot seas (even though the forecast said six feet), and the rain usually starts just as Rene is getting ready to anchor. At two in the morning, that container ship that's as long as a football field WILL feel like it's way too close to you, even if it's a mile away. Things will break, and it'll be a pain in the backside getting replacement parts. Two common cruiser sayings are "cruising = fixing things in exotic places", and "BOAT stands for 'Break Out Another Thousand'". All that said, if you're open to new experiences and new cultures, and you aren't emotionally attached to all of your "stuff", cruising can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

So that's it for my novel. That was actually pretty fun! Now for my questions... yes, a few of them will be familiar to those of you who've done this already...

(1) Where are you now? Or if you're not already on a boat, where would you like to travel to?

(2) What has surprised you most about cruising? In other words, what did you least expect when you began?

(3) Where are your favorite cruising grounds so far?

(4) If you had the funds and space for it, name one "frivolous" thing that you wish you could have on your boat. Alternatively, what are you glad that you kept, even though others said you'd never use?

(5) This Sailing Lifestyle has obviously been a dream turned reality for all of us out here doing this. But if you could have another dream, another "thing" you would want to do... what would it be?

(6) When buying a boat, cruisers must decide on a monohull vs. a catamaran. How did you decide, and are you happy with your decision?

(7) What do you miss the most (come on, there must be something!) about living on land?

(8) With this traveling lifestyle we get exposed to wide variety of cuisines. Do you enjoy trying, eating, and cooking with "local" foods, and if so, what is your favorite so far? Share your recipe!

(9) Cruising couples generally spend a lot more time together than do couples on land, in much more confined spaces. What advice for "living in harmony on a boat" would you give to couples thinking about cruising?

(10) What would you tell someone who is dreaming of cruising about how to make it happen?

And now, for my nominees. I definitely don't follow 10 blogs, and some of these people may not even blog... but I'd love to see responses from the following boats. If you don't have a blog, you can always post it on Facebook. :-)

M/V Motivator
S/V Secret Smile
S/V Another Way
S/V Three Sheets
S/V Alternate Latitude
S/V Guiding Light

Monday, September 8, 2014

Flashback Blog: 2014 Sint Maarten Heineken Regatta

September 2014: Okay, I know I just dedicated the last blog post to our friends and boat-guests, Geoie & Sarah, but this flashback seems appropriate for them as well since they're thinking of joining us for the Heineken Regatta next March. Just look at everything you have to look forward to!

March 6 - 9, 2014

Welcome to the 34th Annual St. Maarten Heineken Regatta! Most of you know that we were in St. Maarten last year at this time enjoying our first Heineken Regatta. As much as we enjoyed attending the parties as spectators, it paled in comparison to actually being IN the regatta.
This time, friends Lisa and Dave on Ke 'Ola Kai invited us to race with them in the "Lottery" (aka cruiser) class on their floating home. Although we'd raced aboard Rowdy in Kemah for three years prior to cutting the docklines, we'd gotten out of practice as blue-water cruisers.
Tacking under pressure? Jibing? Making the mark? Huh?? No problem...for a chance to see the race up close and personal, we were definitely up to the challenge!

Our first day of racing began in Simpson Bay, where we motored from the lagoon, through the bridge, and out into the bay itself. Since contestants also get points for team spirit, Lisa dressed us all up in Hawaiian sarongs, hula skirts, flower leis, and even a ukelele. We had a blast, and managed to get two out of four points. It's a start...

After a beautiful day on the water from Simpson Bay to Philipsburg, a minor catastrophe struck a third of a mile from the finish line: our jib (headsail) tore at the top of the mast, leaving our sail flapping around in 20 knots of wind. We'd been heading straight for the rocks in preparation for a tack, and quickly found ourselves having to turn on the engine to maneuver away from shore. Unfortunately, that's an immediate disqualification for the day...and we were SO close. Crap!!

Day #2 saw a much better performance from our Ke 'Ola Kai crew. We had some gorgeous sailing between Simpson Bay and Marigot Bay, and nearly got to see the interior of a massive racing catamaran (known as "gun boats") that was heading straight for us. As the rules of racing go, we had right of way...which typically means that another boat will wait until the last possible minute to change course. Talk about not having any breathing room! The day certainly got our heart rates up, and it was worth it...we came in first in our class!

Our final race day took us from Marigot back down to Simpson Bay. Winds were squirrely at times, and some boats looked like they weren't moving at all. Still, we got to see some gorgeous spinnakers as we rounded the island, and did some fancy footwork passing between other boats. All in all, we got 6th place for the three-day race...not too shabby considering we got a DNF on day one!

In addition to race days, there were, of course, the nightly Heineken festivities...and do these racers know how to party! From the Mount Gay party at the Soggy Dollar bar to the dance-off at Port de Plaisance marina to the street parties in Marigot and Phillipsburg, the Heineken was flowing and the people-watching was fantastic.
I honestly don't know how they do it - we decided it was much easier to be spectators than to be racers AND partiers. Does that make us OLD???

Once the regatta was over, we had one more thing to celebrate: Rene's birthday! We spent another year at Skipjack's enjoying their fabulous seafood dishes with great friends. Now we're off to Antigua to continue our Regatta hopping...Classics Week, here we come!

Save the dates: Sint Maarten Heineken Regatta 2015: Wednesday, March 4 - Sunday, March 8

A huge thank you to Susan on Genesis, Jolanda on JoHo, and Lisa on Ke 'Ola Kai for sharing their beautiful pictures. To see more of their great work, please click here.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Welcome to Grenada, Geoie & Sarah!

Saturday, July 19 - Saturday, July 26, 2014

Yes, we're having flashbacks! Thanks to a bout with Dengue Fever (DEC-JAN), some incredibly lousy internet in Sint Maarten and Antigua (FEB-APR), and way too much fun as usual, we're once again a bit behind in our blogging...okay, make that EIGHT months behind! Granted, friends Lisa on Ke 'Ola Kai and Deana on Storyville posted such great blogs earlier in the year that they managed to cover pretty much everything we did. Rather than try to re-cap all of our adventures in one massive, sleep-inducing entry, we'll post a few "flashback" blogs of the highlights over the next few weeks. In the meantime, enjoy!

Woo hoo! We're finally having friends come stay with us on Pipe! It's been two and a half long years since Geoie and Sarah last visited us on the boat. They spent a week with us in the British Virgin Islands, having made a last-minute itinerary change thanks to the Christmas winds; no one had told us it would be so difficult to get from the BVIs to Sint Maarten in March! We likely ended up having even more fun in the BVIs than we would've in Sint offense to our favorite provisioning and party stop, but the BVIs offer a lot more sailing opportunities.

Anyway, since Geoie and Sarah's 2012 visit ended up being the last time we'd had visitors, the guest stateroom (a.k.a. the garage) needed some serious TLC. We got it cleaned up just in time for their late night arrival, and planned to make a quick run up to Carriacou the following morning. Fate had other plans for us, however, thanks to an over-zealous customs agent who decided the boat parts Geoie was bringing us would NOT be allowed into the country without some serious duty payments. Crap! Customs didn't even give Geoie his suitcase back that night, so he and Sarah arrived on the boat with the clothes on their backs, swim suits in their carry on, and little else. After 24 hours of high blood pressures, a second run to the airport, and some serious aggravation, we got their luggage aboard Pipe...just no boat parts. Oh, well...

Monday morning we made the 30-mile run up to Carriacou, where we anchored near friends LA and Susan on Genesis. Geoie had met them in the Bahamas a few years prior, and they were eager to see him again and meet Sarah. We hadn't even seen them ourselves since Sint Maarten back in March, so we were pretty excited, too! We dropped the dink in the water for a quick happy hour at Sherwin's Lambi Queen, and finished the night with chicken enchiladas and a bit too much Zaya rum. (Yep, THAT we were able to get back from customs!)

Tuesday, we spent an incredible day touring with Sherwin in his fast boat. Besides doing a terrific job of welcoming visitors to the Lambi Queen bar and restaurant, he also does trips to the Grenadines and beach BBQs at gorgeous White Island. We'd planned to do two days with him, but our delay made us change our plans. Fortunately, we still managed to get Geoie and Sarah up to the Grenadines. First stop: Palm Island!

Palm Island is a gorgeous 135-acre island just off Union Island. Its golden-sand beaches are home to an exclusive resort, and the palm trees along the beach have plenty of signs reminding us lesser folk that we aren't worthy! Even with the "hotel guests ONLY" signs everywhere, we managed to enjoy the crystal blue waters as much as any guest could have. Twenty minutes later, we were pounding through the surf again to our next destination, the Tobago Cays.

The Tobago Cays are still one of our favorite spots in the Caribbean. You can snorkel coral reefs in the protected marine park, where parrot fish, blue tangs, trunks, and a host of other fish grow to massive sizes. You might be lucky enough to spot a stingray swimming along the sandy bottom, and can almost certainly see turtles feeding on the grassy patches. Even if you don't feel like going into the water, the turtles are constantly popping their heads up to catch a few breaths before disappearing again. We had an added treat on this trip when Sherwin's crew, Daniel and Cordell, led us up to the top of Baradal to watch the iguanas scurry around and see beautiful vistas from each side of the island.

Our lunch stop was on nearby Petit Bateau, where we feasted on fresh mahi mahi, chicken, ribs, curried lambi (conch), salads, rice, garlic baked potatoes, plantains, and much more. We lazed in the water for a post-lunch swim, and were soon taking our full bellies and rum punches four miles across the water to Saltwhistle Bay, Mayreau. If you've never seen Saltwhistle Bay, just think of any Caribbean travel magazine cover: a perfect crescent-shaped beach with soft golden sand, palm trees swaying in the breeze, local women selling sarongs and tourist t-shirts, and of course...a beach bar called "the bar just before the jungle". We anchored off the beach and visited with Sherwin in the water while the rest of the crew wandered off to check out the more touristy offerings. Did we mention Sherwin's boat doubled as a swim-up bar?!

Our final stop of the day was Happy Island in Clifton, Union Island. Happy Island opened about 12 years ago, when its industrious owners decided to build a party bar on a giant mound of conch shells. It's a great little spot, with plenty of cold drinks and acrobatic kite boarders for entertainment. (That's Geoie high-fiving the kite surfer in the picture!) We partied the afternoon away with great friends, and managed to get back to Carriacou just after sunset.
A huge thank-you to Sherwin for giving us such a fantastic day. We never could've made it to all of those stops in the big boat in the time we had with Geoie and Sarah. This was the perfect alternative! FYI...If you're ever in the Grenadines/Carriacou/Grenada area, you can organize a trip with him through Simply Carriacou. Otherwise, just go visit him at Lambi Queen and say hi for us.

After a lazy Wednesday swimming in the surf and dinner with Genesis and Sherwin on Pipe, we had a gorgeous, calm, and...uhhh...SLOW sail back to St. Georges, Grenada. Winds were under 10 knots, meaning Pipe managed a whopping 3-4 knots most of the way...but we were SAILING!! Ultimately we turned on the engine to arrive in daylight, and enjoyed a quiet night on board to rest up for Friday's big event: an island tour of Grenada with Cutty.

We'd heard that Cutty pretty much did the best tour on Grenada...and our friends really didn't exaggerate. Stops included the Goyave Nutmeg Processing Plant, Leaper's Hill, the Grenadian Chocolate Factory, Belvedere Estates (for a quick trip to buy chocolate bars), Rivers Rum Distillery (lunch and tour), a drive through Grenville, a stop in Grand Etang park for a view of Crater Lake and play-time with monkeys, and finally...a walk down to Annendale Falls. Whew! We had an incredible time, and were completely wiped out by the time we got back to the boat. Geoie and Sarah definitely didn't stay long enough, but we hope they had a fantastic time while they were here. We know we certainly did, and look forward to seeing them (we hope) in St. Maarten next year. Til next time...

Like these pictures? Enjoy more here.

Flashback Blog: Why We Love Sint Maarten/St. Martin

February - March, 2014

September 1, 2014: No, we haven't suddenly left Grenada in the middle of hurricane season! This is the first of a few "flashback blogs" that we'll post as we try to get our site up to date. Looking at the photos from earlier this year sure make us miss our cruising friends who've sailed off in different directions. Hope to see you soon!

Yep, we know we've said it before, but we LOVE Sint Maarten! We always manage to have a fantastic time in this island of dual personalities, and this year was no exception. If anything, we found all new reasons to love this beautiful island: hiking, sailing in the Heineken Regatta, TWO Mardi Gras celebrations... With all that activity, we needed a bit of down-time!

First, though, there were those hikes...

You may have noticed that Rene and I aren't exactly the first ones jumping off the boat in search of a good walking trail. :-)  Fortunately, we had other boats in Simpson Bay who were much more inspired than ourselves; Jo and John from Out of Africa and Mark from Sea Life organized a number of hikes around beautiful St. Martin. Our first hike was to Paradise Peak, where we were dropped off at what we thought was the trail head.
We started down one trail, decided we were heading the wrong way, and sent a scout to find the right one. We started on the new trail, saw some gorgeous views of all sides of the island...only to discover we were on the wrong trail again. After returning to our first trail, we ended up at the private resort of Loterie Farm...meaning we'd taken yet another wrong turn! It ended up being a comedy of errors, but we certainly saw some gorgeous scenery.

Not to be dissuaded by our first expedition, we joined the hiking group again at Des Froussards on the French side. We enjoyed a spectacular walk that began at Anse Marcel and wound through cactus-filled trails to a beach; it then circled around and up a hill to a road that ran alongside a garbage dump (John and Mark take us to the best places!), and finally ended in Cul-de-Sac Bay. Somehow we always get a lot more exercise with Out of Africa and Sea Life in the anchorage. They're such a good influence on us...we're going to miss them!

And now for the highlights of that "down time"...
  • Girls' day out to Sarafina bakery and Marigot mall
  • Cruiser potluck at the new Pink Iguana, a 100-year-old tug-turned-bar in Simpson Bay
  • Watching the planes land over the beach at Maho Bay
  • Rene's birthday dinner at Skipjacks
  • Thursday wine tasting at Corks & Screws; we hear this location has since closed down, but they're supposedly doing wine and/or wine & food tastings somewhere else. Something to find out next March...
  • Bratwurst grill night at Bavaria German restaurant
  • Watching the big boys at Palapa Marina
  • And of course...SHAWARMA at Little Jerusalem!!!