Dominica: The Nature Island

Graham and I sailed overnight directly to Dominica from Antigua.  We sailed overnight so as to arrive around noon.  When we do this Graham takes the early watch and I take over around midnight or later.  It was generally a smooth sail down with the wind on the beam although sailing past Guadeloupe is unpredictable.  The wind shifted and died and then came back.  We arrived in Portsmouth around 11 AM and we were immediately contacted by the PAYS Yacht Helpers as we approached the Prince Rupert Bay.  Our friends on Patronus recommended we use Providence (Martin) and since we planned to take our tours with the Porters on Evenstar we decided to ask for the same helper.  The yacht helpers provide a range of services to visiting yachts.  They provide security, arrange tours, scuba dives, laundry, and more.  Martin even does a cooking class where you can learn about preparing native dishes using the local produce.

The Porters arrived after us for change and we worked with Martin to arrange a tour of the north part of the island.  It rained quite a bit over several days prior to the tour and there was some rain throughout our tour.  We drove up into the interior of the island and through a pass into the Morne Aux Diables.  We hiked to the Cold Soufriere: volcanic gas seeps through the water source but the water is cold not hot like most volcanic springs.  From there we went on to several of the sights on the Atlantic side of the island which included several of the on location sites where Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3 were filmed.

Graham and I at one of the Pirates of the Caribbean sites

We had a fabulous lunch of local specialties on the beach in Calibishie and then went on to visit the Caribe Indian Reservation which is one of the few places where the native Caribe Indians still live in larger numbers.  Later that day we visited the Emerald Pool which is a beautiful waterfall and pool surrounded by rainforest.

Emerald Pool

The scenery in Dominica is some of the most stunning we have seen anywhere in the Caribbean.  The lush rainforest is a stark contrast to the BVIs and the Northern Leeward Islands which are very dry.  Fruits and vegetables are grown everywhere and many grow wild.  The farm fields here are nothing like in the midwest where I grew up.  Many of these fields look like you would need mountain climbing gear to harvest your crops.  Our guide, Dylan, showed us six different types of bay leaves.  These leaves are cooked and distilled into a variety of different flavorings and scents.  One is used to create the lemony citronella scent used in the candles and lamp oils that help to repel insects.

Another highlight of our visit was a trip up the Indian River in Portsmouth.  Martin, our Yacht Helper, conducted this tour himself.  At first the river was open and sunny.  Later it felt as though we were tunneling into the rain-forest.  One of the famous sights on the river is Tia Dalma’s aka Calypso Cottage, a site from the Pirates of the Caribbean.  It was used in the haunting scene at the end of “Dead Man’s Chest” where the surviving crew of the Black Pearl, minus Captain Jack, paddle up the river.  In this scene it is nighttime and there are hundreds of extras standing on the shore or waist deep in the water holding lamps and candles.

Tia Dalma's Cottage form "Dead Man's Chest"-notice the Bloodwood Mangrove trees

The river is a National Park so the use of engines is not permitted.  Martin paddled us his boat and at the same time gave us a lesson on the plants and wildlife we were seeing.  I really thought the Bloodwood Mangroves that you can see at the edge of the river are really cool.  They almost look as if they could walk on their roots.

Martin our Yacht Helper and river guide shows us a freshwater crab

On our second auto tour we visited the Chaudiere Pool and the Red Rocks.  The Chaudiere pool was a bit of a hike as portions of the road had washed out.  The current at the pool was much stronger than normal due to the rains.  It took us a little while but we finally got up the nerve to jump off the cliffs into the pool.  The upwelling current pushes you to the surface and to the side so you have to be ready to grab on to the rocks.

Chaudeire Pool

We had a nice lunch with the Porters and then topped it off with a visit to the Red Rocks.  This rock formation looks a bit like Mars from one angle.  However, the dramatic views of the coast remind you that we are on planet earth.

Lunch on the beach with the Porters

Red rocks on the Atlantic coast of Dominica

Our final days in Dominica were pleasant yet bittersweet.  We have been traveling with the Porters on Evenstar since August of 2012.  We started hanging out while we were in Maine and we have spent lots of good times together.  Graham, Danielle, and Will have become good friends.  From here the Porters continue south toward Grenada and Panama, while we head north toward the BVIs and then home to Virginia.  We will miss them. Fair winds and following seas.

 

Amy has to go home

Some unhappy news.  Amy, our spiritual leader, cruise ship social director, awesome wife, and supermom had to leave us in St. Martin and return to the US for back surgery.  Amy flew back from St. Martin and was in to see a specialist shortly after her return.  She needed a spinal fusion which is serious surgery which requires a 3-6 month recovery.  Her surgery was successful although the recovery has been slow and painful.  Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers!

 

We miss you Amy!!!!!!

It is hard to know what to do in a situation like this.  Amy suggested that Graham and I continue to cruise as we only have a few more months before we have to return to the real world.  We also didn’t really want to leave our boat here to return to the states so the best thing is to just keep on cruising and return with the Salty Dawg Rally this Spring.

St. Martin No Excuses

I have been lazy about updating the blog.  We have been somewhat busy.  Really I have just been lazy, so no excuses.  We were in St. Martin from January 20th to March 15th.  St. Martin is such a perfect spot for cruisers.  We met another couple on a Baba 35 “Play Actor” who spend most of the winter anchored in the Lagoon.  It is easy to see why:  good French Food, lots of boat services, great pricing on boat stuff (no duty), good swap meets, events for the kids, easy to anchor, and a workboat that brings water fuel and fresh bread right to you boat.  In Marigot, Shrimpy’s is the most cruiser friendly laundry anywhere.  Mike the owner of Shrimpy’s also runs one of the best cruiser nets we have encountered. (Channel 14 at 7AM)

Shrimpy's Laundry, the most cruiser friendly laundry anywhere

Even the grocery stores are cruiser friendly!

We took care of a number of maintenance issues that we had been saving up for St. Martin.  Our faithful dinghy started giving us problems.  The engine was replaced in Annapolis.  The two-stroke Evenrude 15 horsepower, that served us faithfully through a whole year in the Bahamas and up and down the eastern seaboard picked the worst possible time to quit, so we bought a new Mercury 9.9 four stroke.  Then in the BVIs our dinghy wouldn’t hold air.  So we held off until St. Martin and got a new IAB 9VL.

This is the new dinghy we purchased here at a very good price.

It was a little smaller and a lot lighter than the previous dinghy.  We added a few modifications that made it a better fit for our dinghy davits and then added a fuel filter with a clear bowl so you can see fuel problems.  I know it sounds like overkill to have a fuel filter for your dinghy.  But, this really helps a lot when you have a low emission four stroke.

Fuel filter helps out a lot.

We also worked on the diesel engine.  The water pump had developed a weeping leak and the engine was running a little hot.  The fine folks at Simpson Bay Diesel rescued us.  They helped us rebuild the water pump with parts from our used spares and flushed the heat exchanger.  There was a bunch of  broken zincs clogging up the exchanger!  Later on I replaced the generator belt.

There was a variety of other repairs that kept us busy.  I replaced the forward navigation lights, the Y-valve on the head, and took care of several little electrical problems.  All in all we got a lot done and at prices that seemed as good as or better than back in the States.

We had fun too.  Graham and I celebrated birthdays.  We had a gift of mad money that we had to promise to use to splurge.  We made new friends and we caught up with old friends from the Salty Dawg Rally.  We were also in town for the Heineken Regatta.

Sunset over the lagoon. St. Martin holds many great memories.

Dive! Dive! Dive!

Graham and I have done four dives since we arrived in the BVIs.  We did two dives right after we arrived in the North Sound of Virgin Gorda.  The dive shop was part of the Bitter End Yacht Club complex.  However, it is a separate business.  The first dive location was Rhino Hole, named for the eerie sounds made by the waves in a blowhole nearby.  The dive site had an underwater mooring, which allows the dive company to keep the site a secret and to offer an exclusive dive.  The underwater mooring means that one of the dive guides has to dive off the boat and find the mooring in order to secure the dive boat.  A task made easier by an accurate GPS.

It was a great dive.  We descended to 70 feet for the first part of the dive and then we gradually worked our way around the cove and ending at about 35 feet.  We saw a really cool turtle as well as fish like Black Durgin, Barracuda, Blue Tang, and lots of Yellowtail Snapper.

Blue Tang

This Barracuda hung with us for most of the dive

Angelfish

 

 

Our second dive was  the invisibles which were two coral towers just below the surface.  Rhino Hole and the Invisibles are at the North End of Virgin Gorda in open water, so entering and exiting the water is made more difficult by the rolly conditions .  I was very proud of the way Graham handled these two dives.  He handled the rolly conditions just fine and he stuck close to the divemaster throughout both dives.  Graham was so anxious to get started on his second dive that he forgot we had to have a one hour surface interval so that we can dive safely.  He was starting to put on his gear when the divemaster reminded him we still had more than a half an hour to go.  This dive had some beautiful Angelfish as well as Grouper and more Black Durgin.

Ben and Kay of Sunchaser Scuba really did a great job of guiding these two trips.  They are excellent Divemasters and Instructors and they really pamper you.  We dropped off our gear on the dive dock and went to tie up to the dinghy dock.  By the time we got back to the dive dock about 5 minutes later our gear was already all set up for us.  These folks are really some of the best in the business.

At the beginning of January we dove the Wreck of the Rhone, a really brilliant dive site just south and west of Salt Island.  It has a really interesting historical background which Wikipedia does a good job of explaining at : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Rhone .  Suffice it to say she was deemed “unsinkable”, which of course meant she was doomed!

Here are Graham’s comments on the dive:

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Yesterday we dove the Wreck of the Rhone which sunk in 1867.  I was just telling my mom something really cool which is that when you attain neutral buoyancy, if you take your regulator out of your mouth (no, you can’t breathe underwater without it) then if you blow bubbles in a certain way, they float up to the surface in a ring shape like Bilbo Baggins’s smoke ring in Lord of the Rings.  I saw a lot of different kind of fish like angelfish and a turtle and an octopus.  On the second dive my dad ran through his air quickly so I was with the guide a lot of the time.  There is a sign that tells about the wreck and it is underwater which is very cool.  This was the deepest dive I have done so far with a maximum depth of 83.2 feet.  I have now done 14 dives.

********

We saw an octopus on our first dive as well as some Porcupine Puffer Fish.  The wreck is really brilliant and most Dive Companies do two dives on the site because the wreck is large and spread out.  On our first dive we penetrated the wreck for a short time.  It was spooky when you consider that 123 souls met their fate in this ship.  As Graham mentioned I had some trouble on the second dive and really burned through my air quickly.  I missed a couple of the interesting parts of the wreck.  That’s how it goes sometimes.

Underwater marker for the wreck

Can you see the octopus?

 

Swimming through the wreck

Graham inside the wreck of the Rhone

 

In Between

OK so we have been really bad about updating our blog.  Now we are caught in a dilemma.  How do we bring everyone up to speed on the time “In Between” while at the same time we start posting some current entries on our life right now.  The answer is this “In Between” blog post.  We will post our adventures here and we will update it at the same time we work on our new blog posts.  This way everything stays in order and we don’t feel obligated to write everything in order.

We left Southwest Harbor, Maine on September 10.  We loved Maine.  However, it was already starting to get chilly.  Short summers are the standard here.  We left during very pleasant sailing conditions.  Unfortunately the winds continued to build throughout the evening and after midnight we were seeing winds at 30-35 knots.  It was fast sailing but uncomfortable and Amy and I shortened our watches to just 2 hours because we were getting tired so quickly.   By noon on the 11th winds were back to a moderate 15 knots and the wind continued to get lighter and lighter.  We motored most of the rest of the way to the Cape Cod Canal and we timed our arrival with a turn in the current so that we had favorable currents through the canal.  We picked up a mooring in Onset Bay and got some rest.

On September 13th we departed Onset Bay pretty early and in a favorable current heading for Block Island.  However, this time the wind filled in pretty much on the nose and as the day wore on it was clear that we weren’t going to make it to Block Island until very late.  This is where it pays to be flexible.  We decided to skip Block Island and head straight to Long Island which was really where we wanted to end up.  This meant that we could sail rather than motor as our course was not as directly upwind as Block Island.  It was a beautiful night’s sail and we arrived at Three Mile Harbor, Long Island at about 0800.  We anchored toward the south end of this well protected harbor.  We had been looking forward to visiting our good friend and Graham’s godmother, Alyssa, and finally meeting her partner Lisa.  The bonus: visiting them at their cottage in the Hampton’s away from the hustle and bustle of New York City.

Visiting Alyssa and Lisa in the Hamptons

Alyssa and Lisa were awesome hosts.  We had great food and wine as well as the opportunity to pick some of our own vegetables at the local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm a short distance away from the cottage.  Graham and I discovered ground cherries.  I made salsa verde with fresh picked tomatillos and peppers.  We had a great time and we were sorry our time together was so short.

Acadia’s Carriage Roads

I am indebted to my friends Jon and Sharon for introducing me to the carriage roads in Acadia National Park.  Most everyone knows I love to ride bikes.  My friend Jon encouraged me to rent a bike and explore the carriage roads.  My friend Sharon loaned me her book, Mr. Rockefeller’s Roads: The Untold Story of Acadia’s Carriage Roads and Their CreatorSo I read the book and then went for a ride.  The book was written by John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s granddaughter who is a landscape architect.  She started doing research for a graduate school project and ended up writing an intriguing book about the development of Acadia National Park as well as the roads.  While I knew that Rockefeller was a major financial contributor to the park, I had no idea how hands on he was in the development of the roads.  He worked directly with the crews who built the roads and spent a great deal of time picking scenic routes through the park.  You can read a short history of the carriage roads on the National Park Services website.

I packed a lunch, rented a bike, and loaded it on the special bike shuttle run by the Island Explorer Bus service.  I started out at the Eagle Lake Entrance to the roads and rode first up to Aunt Betty’s Pond.  I have two wonderful Aunt Bettys so it seemed a great way to start.  Generally I followed the Around Mountain Road which is a longer loop.  It is very scenic and it included crossing several of the beautiful stone bridges.  I had lunch at the waterfall bridge.  I finished the day with a trip down the western side of Jordon’s Pond and Eagle Lake. The roads are engineered to blend in with the Park’s natural beauty.  Even the drainage for the roads is blended carefully into the surroundings.  I probably wouldn’t have noticed how subtle this work was if I hadn’t read Sharon’s book.  The gradual grades make for pleasant uphill climbs and easy downhill runs.

Hemlock Bridge

 

A view of the Western Way from the Carriage Road

I can help but think about the foresight of people like Dorr and Rockefeller who recognized the natural beauty of Mt. Desert Island and took action to preserve it for the public at large and for future generations.  Their thoughtful philanthropy has created a truly unique experience for any visitor to Acadia.

OUR WEEK WITH OUR NEW FRIEND, SHARON

Our good friend Dana from Alexandria sent us an email introducing us to his best gal pal, Sharon, who lives in Maine.  We made the connection and we had no idea just how much we were getting in Sharon.  She has lived here forever, is an artist, a builder, a custom furniture maker, a caretaker, a professional skier, a sailor, a woman who knows a lot about all aspects of Maine and, in fact, beyond.  She is the quintessential tour guide and we totally scored by having her in our court.  Thank you Dana.  Sharon has ferried us all over Mount Desert (pronounced dessert) Island, particularly Acadia, and beyond, taking the backroads and showing us the Maine that the tourists don’t get to see.  On our first day with Sharon we went to Thuya Gardens and Lodge near where we were moored in Northeast Harbor.

In the Thuya Gardens

Utterly spectacular.  Then she took us to the nearby Asticou Azalea Garden which stood in stark contrast to the first.  This place was entirely green, lush with moss and low hanging trees and a frog pond and stepping stones to cross.  It must be fabulous when the azaleas are in bloom.

Asticou Azalea Garden

We lunched at the bakery with the crazy good donuts and then drove to the peak of Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain on the US Atlantic coast.  Stunning 360 degree view of Acadia. Thank you Sharon for a great day.

On top of Cadillac Mountain: Matt,Graham, Amy, and Sharon

The next day we moved up to Somesville and anchored in the blowy, windy anchorage of Somes Harbor and stayed aboard to watch the anchor all day.  That night Sharon came to Troubadour for Matt’s homemade pizza.  She loved the woodwork and brought us more fabulous books and magazines on Maine and Acadia National Park to study.

View from Somes Harbor looking back down Somes Sound

The next day we met up at the Somes dock at noon and off we went to climb Beech Mountain to Fire Tower.

Beech Mountain Summit

Matt and Graham took the steeper but shorter hike and Amy and Sharon took the less steep, but longer path.  Wow.  A workout either way but well worth the view once you got to the top.  Incredible views on the way of Long Pond.

 

Long Pond

Because she is a local and so well connected, Sharon took us so many places that we would never have seen without her.  She showed us a home she is working on which was right on the water.  It is very small but has a million dollar view and the windows she installed are big enough to hand the kayaks through.  We took another hike at Wonder Land to a rocky beach with an incredible view.  It was almost unreal; we wanted to pinch ourselves to know that the beauty was not a painting.  Sharon described the different foliage and fed us rosehips.  Graham said they tasted like a tomato and a pepper had a baby.

After that we had a quick trip to Sharon’s estate to pack a picnic dinner.  She has a barn which she built where she keeps her studio.  There is everything in the world you can imagine in there.  She is truly a jack of all trades and a master of many.  Her home is next door, painted in the same comforting yellow.  Windows everywhere, and books, and art and marbles, and clocks, and colored glass fired onto copper.  Somehow your senses are completely tantalized by being there yet not overloaded.  Sharon made crab salad sandwiches and packed the sweetest peaches we had ever tasted for dessert and off we went to a her friends’ cabin for a sunset picnic.  This place was so off the beaten path that we would never, ever have seen it, much less had the privilege of going inside.  We enjoyed our feast on the deck at sunset – couldn’t have asked to a better end to the day.

Sunset on the deck

But it didn’t end there!  Earlier in the week, we decided we would like to see Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None at the local theater.  Knowing it would cost $60, it was going to be a special treat.  Just one more thing that was amazing about Sharon is that she had 18 free tickets to the show compliments of a friend so we ended a great day with a great whodunnit that was enjoyed by all.

 

CHATEAUBRIAND FOR BREAKFAST

Our first guest blog!  From Jamie:

I took to the sea for 4 days as a 4th class mariner on a 40 ft boat named troubadour with a family whose name is fit for the sea.

(really six days but 6 doesn’t fit by 2 with this 4 theme I’m working)

The Gillman family reunion complete, we launched from annapolis, kissed by lynn, who thankfully skipped busting the champagne bottle since it warn’t inaugural and a waste of champagne. We cut east from the naval academy and north up under the spans of the bay bridge. I had been an overer many times but was a virginal underer. Then a hot path up the chesapeake past lord baltimore hon’s namesake and anchored down where the bohemian river turns to bay for one hot night.

By morning it cooled. We upanchored and started a nonstop squiggled 76 hour line towards block island. In marinerese; a passage.

We cut through the chesapeake and delaware canal which was planned with the blessing of ben franklin in 1788. When completed in 1824, it reduced the sea travel distance  between philly and balmore hon by 300 miles and saved us probably an extra day or two at sea.  Hats off to our engineering ancestors.

You can just see Jamie's head on the bow as Troubadour passes through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal

At canals end, we turned right on to the delaware river and waited for river to turn to bay to turn to ocean, or, fresh to salty.  12 hours later that all had happened.

Wind power and nuclear power in contrast on the Delaware River

But so did day turn to night. Poor tiny troubadour sneakin around leviathan tankers chuggin ill gotten goo towards the philadelphia refineries.

Still we harrowed through and watch turned to sleep and morning brought by chart, not chance, atlantic city, tiny, portside.

The day motored on and watch swung back and newbies at the helm, in their inaugural concert, had a boating lesson from a crab chasing rainbows and a bad onboard teacher. Still we survived and then a minefield of buoys, an indoor rainstorm, and day turned to night and watch to sleep.

Waves lapped. Hours rolled, and a gentle sea heaved us northward.

Morning brought the radared promise of long island as a thick fog reminded us of our human vulnerability, and made us appreciate capt ahab’s less technological skills.

Mattie at helm, mother and child asleep, and 4th class seaman on bow, we picked through the soup to have block island burst forth from the fog a quarter mile from harbor. All hail capt matt. Destination dead on. (Child joined 4th class seaman on bow for the presentation of the island while mother joined capt the same in cockpit)

we splurged for electricity and showers, lunched like royalty, and patted down for a guaranteed cool night.  Block island fulfilling its quaint promise.

A million ahoys to the gillmans of troubadour- Matt amy and graham.

Notwithstanding, it being hot as bleep for a good portion, it was for me, a lifetime memory; confirming yet again our blessed friendship and its connection to the sea.

(As provoked by interesting boyfriend turned father turned husband with dreams enough for all of us)

Jamie

PS to the casual reader we did not have chateaubriand for breakfast. It is simply an authors license.

BACK TO THE BEGINNING…..

From Cambridge, we sailed to Annapolis where it all began.  This is where we purchased Troubadour and lived on her last fall until we sailed to Hampton.  On our way there we heard several shout outs from the Coastguard.  As you may know, there are three levels of threat and they are, in ascending order:

1)      SECURITE, SECURITE, SECURITE

2)      PAN PAN

3)      MAYDAY

Normally we hear “SECURITE” messages all day long but we heard quite a few “PAN PAN” messages on this trip.  Then we came across a situation ourselves.  We sailed up onto a smaller craft, a Flying Scott sailboat, which was swamped with water.  Two men were aboard and we circled them several times asking if they needed help but they couldn’t hear us over the wind and our engine.  At first we tried to tow the boat, hoping that the bailers might drain the boat.  Ultimately, Troubadour is not much of a tow boat and we hoped a power boat would come along and take over.  Not only would it be faster for them but we were on a schedule to get to Annapolis.  Finally, they decided the boat should be abandoned and come aboard Troubadour.  We tossed them a line and they followed it in the water to our boat while Graham got the ladder ready.  They were shivering pretty badly by the time they were resting in our cockpit because they had been in the water awhile.  Not a whole lot of body fat on these guys either to keep them comfy.  Matt reported the abandoned craft to the CoastGuard and we took them to shore.  We found out a few days later that they did recover the boat but that it had drifted five miles.

Finally to Annapolis, we met up with our friend, Jamie there for his fourth visit to us during our travels.  We returned to Davis Pub for their crab dip and then anchored out for what we thought was the hottest night on record.  Little did we know what the next night would bring.  Now I will let Jamie take over, for he is a far better writer than I.

 

CHESAPEAKE BAY FOUNDATION’S KAREN NOONAN ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION CENTER


The Karen Noonan Center

While spending a week with Matt’s family in Cambridge, MD, Matt, Amy and Graham took a trip over to the Karen Noonan Center, established for Amy’s high school friend.  Once one of the great Chesapeake hunting lodges, the Karen Noonan Center was completely renovated in 1995 to create an environmentally sound, state-of-the-art residential  and educational center.   Unfortunately, Jessie Marsh, overseer of the centers and longtime friend of Karen’s friends, had only just left for the weekend.  We were sorry to have missed him as he is always a great part of the trip for Karen’s friends.  The two people who currently run the Center, Captain Shawn and eBay (real name Elyssa; we told her about our Alyssa and pointed her out in the group picture of Karen’s friends hanging in the office) gave us a warm welcome, telling us we are family there.  We spent a while talking with Capt. Shawn who actually lives in Cambridge near the marina where we docked our boat for a couple of weeks.  He asked us all about living on a boat indicating that he and his wife are interested in doing the same.  He said he liked to poke around the marina and look at the boats and, in fact, was admiring our boat, Troubadour, that very morning.

The view toward Fishing Bay

The group of science teachers that was there for the week, were out on kayaks.  We were invited to join them for a sunset paddle but declined as we had been there several times before and just wanted to touch base.  We walked the halls of Karen’s house looking at every wall hanging, spending extra time on the art shared from the artists at Holy Child.  As always, being at the Center leaves one feeling buoyed by hope.  CBF does a superb job in its education of children and adults alike.

The Karen N a custom built shallow water jet boat.

Graham on the deck at the Karen Noonan Center

Matt, Amy, Graham in front of the Karen Noonan Center