Sunday, June 29, 2014

I Can See South America From My Boat

June 24, 2014

Said in my best Sarah Palin voice!  Hee hee.  But seriously, we did see South America as we sailed into the Boco De Monos cut between western tip of Trinidad and the Trinidadian island of Monos. I didn't realize just how close Venezuela was.  Gulp!   FYI - Currently Venezuela is a no go zone for cruisers because it is not safe.  Hopefully that will change in the near future as many of our seasoned cruising friends have wonderful tales of the days gone past when it was safe to cruise Venezuela.
The crushing guide says Trinidad is more like South America than the Caribbean.  We have only been here one day but we can already see why.  It has a different look, feel, pulse, etc.....  One interesting discovery is the huge India population here.  Actually, I guess they are Trinidadian but with India heritage. This can be traced back to the days just after the slavery trade was abolished. Indentured servants from India were brought in to work.  This gives current day Trinidad a big dose of Indian culture that is reflected in the people, religion, foods and language.

Stay tuned for more as we start to explore this diverse and interesting country.   

Latitude N10.40'41 Longitude W061.38'06

June 24, 2014

This is the furthest south we've been on this side of the world.  And we got here on our own keel!  I can remember back in November 2013 when I was first checking into the Coconut Telegraph on SSB radio.  I would hear boats checking in from Chaguaramas Trinidad.  In my mind it just seemed so far away and now here we sit.

FYI - Chaguaramas is pronounced "Shaguaramas".

Now for the numbers - In 2014 we have visited 12 nations, 18 islands and sailed 935.6 nautical miles. But the numbers aren't really the focus.  The journey is and we have had some terrific adventures.
Oh.....we can see the Southern Cross very clearly in the night sky.  Always Kewl!  

Grenada to Trinidad Sail

June 23rd

We departed at 22:30 (10:30pm).  The tough part was getting out of the Prickly Bay anchorage. With a sliver of a moon that didn't rise until nearly sun up, it was very dark steering around anchored and moored boats, some with anchor lights and some without.  Starting a passage like this can be so dis-orienting.  Sv Sonic Boom followed us out.  Soon both boats had sails raised and were romping along in 16 knots wind sustained, gusts to 20.  The seas were lumpy.  Sv Honey Rdyer was running with an 80% main and reefed headsail.  Sv Sonic Boom had all sails a flying and keeping up quite nicely, even passing us at one point in the middle of the night.  Sv Honey Ryder saw speeds of over 8 knots surfing the waves.   This continued until the middle of the night when we were hit by a strong counter current.  This knocked both boats back to under 5 knots speed - 2 and 3 knots at times.  Ugh!

Our only traffic was a crossing situation with a cargo ship in the middle of the night....why are these always in the middle of the night!  They didn't respond to Tom's first hail on the VHF radio.  They did respond when I hailed them.  FYI - big  cargo ships and such seem to respond favorably when a female voice hails them!  Unlike the other gigantic ships we have encountered in the past that speed along at alarming rates, this one didn't seem to be in any hurry.  We altered course and went behind him and even then we nearing sailed up on his stern as he had turned to starboard and seemed to be creeping along.

By morning's first light we could see the oil rig Hibiscus off in the distance and multiple, multiple oilfield support ships on AIS.  This was one of the reasons we left Grenada at 22:30 so we would pass this portion of our trip in daylight.  A pod of 25 or so dolphins decided to use sv Honey Ryder as a strategic fish hunting tool, dodging this way and that all around us after their breakfast.  We opted for PB and J breakfast sandwiches as we watched them.  These dolphins were small, medium grey with spots and short, stubby tails.  

"Hey honey.  I think we better reef.....look up ahead.  I think there is a squall coming."  This was my wake up call during a morning nap.  I sat up and turned to see a fast advancing squall.  We just got the headsail reefed when it hit big time with strong winds and torrential rain.  Tom called Paul on the VHF "Paul you might want to reef there is a squall headed your way."  FYI -In our humble opinion - dodger and Bimini are vital on a cruising boat!  After the squall the sun came out and our speeds climbed above 5 knots again.
The coastline of Trinidad was obscured in the haze of the day but we finally spotted it.  Big seas accompanied as we neared.  We took a couple of really big waves that hit up and over the dodger and bimini.  Have I told you how much I love, love, love our dodger and Bimini!!!!!  

We furled the main and motored through the narrow cut between the western coast of Trinidad and the Trinidadian island of  Mono Island.  It was beautiful in the cut with high hills tumbling steeply into the sea on each side and the hidden anchorage of Scotland Bay.  The winds swirled a bit so we went ahead furled the jib and motored around the corner and into Chaguaramas Bay 16 hours after departing Prickly Bay Grenada.  
Special note- This was our first time to truly buddy boat.  We have to applaud Paul on Sv Sonic Boom of an outstanding sail.  With no autopilot and no bimini he is one tough, salty sailor, literally!!!!

Tom's in a Pickle

June 22, 2014
Mixing up the pickling agent

No, that's not right.  Tom's pickled?  No, that's not right either.  Tom's pickling?  That's it!  

Well if that is the case, you might be saying why isn't this posting on the Beyond Burgoo food blog tab vs here?   Simple, Tom isn't pickling food.  He's pickling the watermaker membrane.
Circulating the pickling agent through the watermaker
Anytime you are not going to use your watermaker for an extended periods of time, it needs to be pickled to preserve the membrane.  These membranes are very expensive (isn't everything on a yacht) so pickling it allows us to continue using it next season and the next and so on.  
The pickling solution circulated for 30 mins.
Since we will be leaving the boat in Trinidad for hurricane season, the membrane need to be pickled. Reports are that the water Chaguaramas Bay is very, very dirty.  This is not good for watermakers. Therefore Tom has been nothing short of a watermarking fool these past 3 days, making as much as possible before pickling the watermaker today.  No more ROH2O after today.  First he did a fresh water flush of the pump.  Then he let the pickling solution circulate through the watermaker for 30 mins.  That was it.  

FYI - The above picture is of the tank fill hose he made up.  We don't currently have a way to directly pipe the water that is made into our tanks.  Instead, Tom uses the above to feed the freshly made water directly into our tanks using the deck fill opening.  A simple, easy solution that is working just fine.  I don't think I have shown this and I thought it might be helpful to others.    

Last Night in Grenada

June 21,2014
Prickly Bay anchorage with marina in the background
It is time to say Farewell to another island.  We have barely scratched the surface but the small taste we have gotten of Grenada tells us we will definitely be back for more.
This also means Farewell to good cruising friends and new cruising friends.  Sv Endorfin II had us over for a farewell happy hour and surprised us with a gift of Nib-A-Licious chocolate from The Grenada Chocolate Company.  Yum.  Thanks guys.

We couldn't resist heading ashore one last time to the tiki bar at Prickly Bay for live music.  Three different musical acts where playing that night.  A hip-hop group was performing when we arrived. While that is not my favorite type of music, I could appreciate the talent of the young men rapping.  One guy even did a test of his rapping skills.  He picked a lovely, young girl (of course) from the audience. When he pointed at her, she would say a single random word.  He would rap about it rhyming and finding a way to flow into the next random word.  It was tough but he did a good job.
Sabrina and The Navigators
The main reason we went ashore was to hear Sabrina and The Navigators.  Yes, you heard right.  They are a very popular local band.  And very good.  They have even played in Europe.  A few cruisers got up and danced.  Towards the end of their set they played a slow song.  Sharon off Sv Hoofbeats, Diane of Sv Endofin II and me found ourselves sitting there without our guys....they had wondered off to the bar.  So we decided to each grab one of the very young hip-hop guys that performed prior to Sabrina and The Navigators.  Luckily we caught them so off guard that they couldn't put up a fight.  There were four total but only three of us sailing girls so the forth hip-hopper wasted no time and immediately started taking pics on his smartphone and then with a 35 mm camera of his buddies slow dancing with the old, white sailing chicks.  I asked my dance partner if he was embarrassed.  He said he wasn't but I think he was.  We visited as we danced.  He works during the day at a regular job and then at night works on his hip-hop either practicing or performing.  He was a very nice and polite young man.  It was a hoot.

We didn't stay for the last band as we needed to get some sleep.  We are sailing from Grenada to Trinidad Sunday night.  

Many, many yachts are already there.  A few set sail Saturday night and a few more this evening.  We are going to buddy boat with our friend Paul on sv Sonic Boom.  His is a singlehander.  The 84 miles to Trini are a bit tougher for him as a solo sailor.  For route planning purposes I always use 5 knots of speed.  I do the route planning on our iPad using Garmin Bluecharts.  It works really well. We hope that we do better  than 5 knots but generally the start and end of a passage is slower so an average of 5 knots tells us the worst case scenario.  84 nautical miles at 5 knots is approx 16 hours.  We know we want to arrive during daylight hours so it's really just a matter of when during the day and then calculate backwards.   We have decided to depart at 2200 or 10pm.  This means only 7 hours of night sailing vs 11 and puts us sailing by two big oil rigs that are in between Grenada and Trinidad at first light vs night time with all the ships traffic an oil rig involves. 

Why are so many cruisers in Trinidad?  Hurricane season.  While Grenada is technically south of the hurricane belt for insurance purposes, it has been hit by a rare hurricane or two and hit hard.  Trinidad is just that much further south that hurricanes are very, very, very rare there.  Because of this fact an entire yachting industry has developed.  This in turn means goods, services, parts, and skilled craftsmen that can do all the things that need to be done on a yacht.  Sv Honey Ryder is in need a little tender loving care and she will be getting it in Trinidad.  The lists have started and they are long.  Have I mentioned that boat maintenance never, ever stops!  We will be doing a few items when we first get there.  Most of these items revolve around prepping Sv Honey Ryder for our departure.  Sad, I know!  We will be leaving her  in Trinidad while we fly back to the states to attend to business and see family and friends. However, she will be under the very watchful eye of caretaker who will be boat sitting in our absence.  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Spice Necklace

I first learned about the Grenada spice necklaces from fellow cruiser Ann Vanderhoof's book "Spice Necklace."   FYI - terrific read.

I was so thrilled to find a woman selling them when we were on our island tour.  I purchased three.  I have one hanging up in the boat.  It smells so good with all the various spices.

Grenada Island Tour - River Run Rum Distillery

June 16th, 2014
Our tour guide Winfield

After a delicious buffet lunch of traditional island food:  bbq chicken and fish, breadfruit, green figs, plantains, rice and peas, mac and cheese, coleslaw, and fruit juice.....we toured River Run Rum factory. What?  Another rum factory tour?  Yes.  As I have mentioned before, rum has a very deep and troubling history that is part of each and every island in the Caribbean.  Just like each island is different, each island's rum story is different.  In fact, each rum distillery history is unique.
Original water wheel

Unlike most of the current day rum factories in the Caribbean, River Run produces rum pretty much the same was as they did back in 1785 when the factory was founded.  Many Caribbean rum factories use molasses in modern times to make the rum.  River run still uses 100% sugar cane from their surrounding cane fields as well as from local farmers around the island.  They employ 90 local workers.  
Sugar cane bundles directly from the cane fields

The original water wheel is still used to power the cane press.  The water comes from a dammed lake through a sluice.
Water wheel turns the gears that power the press

Crushed cane is dried in the sun and becomes bagasse.  This is the fuel that feeds the fire for boiling the cane juice.  Any leftover bagasse is turned into mulch and used in the cane fields as fertilizer.
Feeding the press - most dangerous job in the factory

Cane juice flowing out of the press
The juice is drained off gravity, while bits are scooped out and then it flows through a screen and is funneled into the main building.
Filtering through a screen

Flowing into main building

The cane juice is ladled through a series of copper basins and boiled in the last one.
Copper basins
Once the correct sugar concentration is reached the liquid is put in a tank for cooling and the yeast process starts.  From there it's pumped into concrete fermentation tanks
Concrete fermentation tanks
After several days, the rum is ready for distillation.  They use wood here from the surrounding grounds because it burns hotter than the bagasse.


A hydrometer tells them when the correct level of alcohol has been reached.

It is then hand scooped into Igloo coolers which are used at the ONE hand bottling station.
Igloo coolers used for bottling

The ONE bottler

The final product is a very, very, very strong rum.  I am talking SUPER strong.  So strong that it cannot be taking on an airplane because it has so much alcohol and is too flammable.  Therefore they make a second type of rum that is basically the strong rum with distilled water added so that it can be legally taken onto an airplane.  Make no mistake, this rum is still very strong as well.
Taste tester Diane

Did I mentioned River Run is HIGHLY flammable?

Winfield says they don't export because they aren't able to keep up with local demand.  Hum?  I question that this is the full story.  River Run is very much the working mans rum being local, cheap and strong.
It was an interesting tour to see the original process using actual sugar cane.  The rum itself?  Um.....pretty rough stuff.    

Grenada Island Tour - The Grenada Chocolate Company

June 16th, 2014
Where the magic happens
Basically a CHOCOLATE factory tour.  Oh yes we did!  "Oompa loompa doomptey doo. I've got a perfect puzzle for you.  Oompa loompa doomptey doo.  If you are wise, you'll listen to me."
Cocoa tree with pods

Early in the tour Cutty stopped to show us a cocoa tree with cocoa bean pods.
New shoot on a cocoa tree
He broke one open and let us suck the sweet, white...stuff that encases each cocoa bean.  We spit out the actual cocoa bean as they are very bitter raw.
Cocoa bean pod with the sweet, white stuff

Then Cutty took us to The Grenada Chocolate Company.  From their web site - "The Grenada Chocolate Company Ltd. was founded in 1999 with the idea of creating an Organic Cocoa Farmers' and Chocolate-Makers Cooperative.  We produce high quality Organic dark chocolate in Grenada with our world famous cocoa beans.  Our factory is nestled in lush cocoa groves in Grenada's pristine rainforest."
Edmond -One of three founders.  Sadly the only one left alive
Despite it being lunch time, the owner Edmond graciously took the time to walk us through each step in the chocolate making process.
Cocoa bean roaster
We could actually smell the chocolate before we even stepped foot in the factory.  It was wonderful.
Nib sorter - cracked shells are shed here

Nib machine again

This is a small operation but Edmond said they are doing very well.  You can buy in local stores (IGA and Foodland) and online for US, EU, UK and international customers.

I did listen closely to Edmond but I really can't remember all the steps.  I had chocolate on a big part of my brain so the recollection part was greatly reduced.  Sorry.

Did I mention that the smell was.....divine!

The equipment was impressive.
Smilo - Instant Cocoa from The Grenada Chocolate Company
Hand crafted care is taken in each step.  The finished chocolate bars are hand wrapped.
Love this logo Ron is sporting - Lann and I bought tank tops with this logo.  I have it on now.

They use solar panels to power the machines.
Solar powered
More from their web site "The original impetus and principle of our cooperative company is to revolutionize the cocoa-chocolate system that typically keeps cocoa production separate from chocolate-making and therefore takes advantage of cocoa farmers.  We believe that the cocoa farmers should benefit as much as the chocolate-makers."
They have won many awards.  I would encourage you to take a look at the full story on their web site.  It's pretty impressive.  Additionally I have some links below that might interest you as well.

Molten Green
Nothing Like Chocolate

And YES, we did get to sample all the dark chocolate at the end of the tour.  Luxuriously dark chocolate in four different levels of cocoa 60%, 71%, 82%, 100% and Nib-A-Licious (nibs -pieces of local cocoa beans in 60% chocolate) as well as a Sea Salt with 60% bar.  YUM!!!!!!!!

*The bars are not cheap but so worth the extra cost now that we have seen the process and understand all that they are trying to accomplish.

Grenada Island Tour - Nutmeg

June 16th, 2014
Right nutmeg ready for harvest, left still in progress

Grenada truly is the spice island.  Nutmeg is the king of the island spices.  Grenada is the second largest producer of nutmeg in the world.
Red is the Mace.  Brown is the nut.
A rare hurricane ravaged Grenada in 2004.  Remember, Grenada is technically out of the hurricane belt.  Hurricane Ivan did a huge amount of damage on Grenada which included destroying the majority of the nutmeg crop and trees.  Hurricane Jennie arrived on the heels of Ivan and all but completed the job on the remaining nutmeg.
Sorting nutmegs brought in by local farmers
Grenada has an island Co-Op for the nutmeg industry.  There are 16 nutmeg stations all over the island that act as processing centers for the nutmeg.
Red is mace, yellow is dried mace, shelled nutmeg nuts on the right
The island farmers bring their nutmeg crop into any of these stations where their nuts are sorted, weighed and then they are paid.
Drying racks
The nutmegs are put on racks to dry.
Showing us the raking/turning process

During drying the nuts must be turned (raked) daily.  I forget how many weeks they dry.
Nutmegs drying
After Ivan and Jennie, it has taken a long time for the trees to recover.  Currently only 6 (I think) of the 16 processing centers are open.  

Racks and racks of drying nutmeg

Bags of nutmegs

Production is still less than 1/2 of what it used to be before Ivan.

However each year yields are up over the previous year.  As Cutty drove us around the island he would point out "broken nutmeg trees" and "not broken nutmeg trees" as they say on the island.
Sorting area

Ric pretending to sort

Sorting station
After the nutmegs are dried, they are cracked and sorted.  Women do the sorting.  Not all nuts are cracked.  The bulk of exported nutmegs is cracked and only the nut is shipped.  Most nutmegs sold in Grenada are whole - un-cracked.
Grading area
The nutmeg is put into water for grading.  This is also a women's job.  Those that sink have more oil and are Grade A.  Those that float have less oil and therefore are Grade B.  They are quick dried and put into BIG 150 lbs for shipping.
Retired nutmeg worker but still gives tours
This was a very interesting stop.  Additionally we all came away with our pockets full of wonderful smelling Nutmeg.  NO, we didn't steal.  Our tour guide gave us each huge handfuls and whispered us to put "them in our pockets" with a wink.  He handed me a cracked nut as well and I spent the rest of the day smelling it.  SO good.  I have been thinking of cracking some more and putting them in the pockets of our foulies as they are smelling.... foulie, VERY foulie!  Maybe that would help.