HEADING BACK SOUTH TO TRINIDAD, VIA BEQUIA AND GRENADA
Friday 5 MAY 2017 SAIL ST ANNE, MARTINIQUE TO RODNEY BAY, ST LUCIA
All checked out on Thursday, Barbara (the dinghy) on deck and strapped down, ready to go.
But today the weather’s horrid! Overcast, frequent squalls, heavy rain. Ugh! Delay. Go tomorrow?
By 1pm though its better, some blue, no more squalls, wind moderated but SE’ly. GO!
Faff of a start though, messed up raising the mainsail by turning into wind too early and heading into shoal waters, then there’s another boat coming at me, oh messy, then after rounding up twice finally get it up with one reef in, then the topping lift wraps itself round the windgenerator. Groan. Clearly I’ve forgotten how to do this.
Finally settled down, with Pinball making good time with 6.5 - 7.0 knots SOG. A scraped hull and no dinghy to tow have made a big difference. Seas a bit wild to start with, settle down, but as St Lucia neared they progressively worsened with a cross-swell or something, just really lumpy. Lots of Catamarans going the other way, draped in bronzed flesh. Just 4 hours later and we’re entering Rodney Bay..in daylight! Not many at anchor either, half a dozen. Meal, then crash at 8pm with the thought that I might, might go tomoz early at 4am without checking into Customs. Bad boy.
Saturday 6 May 2017 TO VIEUX FORT, ST LUCIA
Didn’t go at 4am, overslept. Replan for a 10am departure…and hope Customs aren’t on the prowl. They do have a boat.
No one goes to Vieux Fort - southern most tip of St Lucia - anymore, since the murder of a yacht Captain there 3 years ago. I know I shouldn’t either, but if I don’t stop somewhere I’ll get no sleep, and thats dangerous too. I figure if I pitch up at dusk, and leave before dawn, I should be ok.
Missed yesterdays forecast, and can’t read today’s!
But then, as so often when sailing, I had a lovely day tripping along in flat water, no clothes, good winds up until the Pitons, dolphins playing all around the boat. Very nice. The Pitons were hard work as always, wind all over the place, then none at all, then increasingly on the nose. But I had allowed for this on the timings; eight hours to do the 30 miles..should be fine. In fact, it did work out ok, but only just, arriving at the grim, even menacingly industrial area of Vieux Fort as the sun set. I anchored close to where I had anchored in the past, but it didn’t save me. By 8pm we were dragging; a lot! Not far astern were hidden rocks.
Memories of that terrible black night in Turks and Caicos when the anchored dragged and I nearly, so nearly lost Pinball came flooding back. I was scared half to death then, and scared now. But the anchor came up ok, Pinball ‘blew off’ the wind to head in the right direction for once, i.e. away from the anchorage, and I considered the options; have another go at anchoring, or carry on through the night for Bequia? At first, driven by a mix of fear and relief, I was inclined to just keep going, glad to be leaving this horrid place. But then there would be no sleep; how would I cope? I turned back, dropped the hook further towards the town, and waited.
Sunday 7 May 2017 ST LUCIA TO BEQUIA, THE GRENADINES
You cannot experience an anchor dragging at night and then sleep well. Up every hour or so, there was always the niggling worry especially here where the boat is subject to wild scary blasts of gale force intensity that last for perhaps just a few seconds, but keep on coming all night. But at least I got some sleep.
The alarm went off at 0415, and we were on our way as the first streaks of dawn lit the sky at 0500, so happy to be leaving this cursed place, and promising never to return.
The wind was unusually benign for this patch of water - so often a maelstrom of wind and water - and the seas moderate or even slight at times. A mile or two off to starboard I watched one, two, three, then four fast pirogues smashing their way south through the seas, fishermen I guess, paralleling my course.
An hour of so later on I was sitting in the cockpit and happened to glance behind. There, shockingly, was one of those pirogues I’d seen coming right past my stern with two men in foul’ies looking very intently at Pinball. I gave a wave, not out of any sense of camaraderie as these men were menacing, but as a test. There was no returning wave initially, a warning sign, but then, almost reluctantly, one raised a hand. They were checking me out. Frightened now, I look around for the others, who by now were past and heading away to the east at speed. They were working as a group, a pack, and this itself was unusual and a warning sign. I had only ever seen pirogues on their own, checking their traps or just fishing. Clearly, they were all in contact with each other by radio, and had sent one of their kind to have a look at me. They would have seen the nice new looking dinghy on Pinball’s foredeck, and they would have seen my two outboard motors on the stern rail, one brand new. Would they be coming back?
As soon as they were clear, I was down in the cabin, hiding the computer, iPhone, hand held radio, satphone, and handheld GPS, then padlocking the dinghy to the foredeck, and retrieving the new security bars out from their stowage ready to fit. I was running scared. Four pirogues, thats eight men, probably armed with machetes or worse, and me a sitting duck. My defences; a set of bars over the companionway, a flare gun, Argentinian short sword and a radio. I had the DSC VHF radio set up to auto transmit a position and act of piracy at the press of a button. But who would answer?
St Lucia had no patrols, nor St Vincent where I was headed. The only possible response might be Martinique, some 60 miles North, three hours away at 20 knots, and thats if they pick up the message at that range. It was broad daylight, and I was visible from miles away. Those pirogues came from Vieux Fort where, just 3 years ago, a cruiser was boarded and the Skipper murdered. The men under suspicion for it will probably walk free, the widow believes.
As the hours passed, the tension slowly diminished. St Lucia faded into the mist, St Vincent grew in dark prominence. I had a choice; turn right 30 degrees and sail down the lee side in flat water, and suffer the vagaries of wind the mountainous island produced: or carry straight on and put up with the sea state, which by now had become less than pleasant.
I carried on, but feeling slightly seasick in this rolling swell from the port quarter. I figured this a more direct and quicker route. Lunch was put on hold.
Then the dolphins were back! I went forward to sit on the dinghy, feet on the fenders, and iPhone in hand to video them. Perfect! They were very playful today, coming powering in inside a wave to shoot under the bow and round again for another go, often in groups of three or four. I video’d until the phone ran out of memory. Later, I found in absolute disgust that for some reason it was all out of focus. What I’ve never quite understood is how little effort these wonderful creatures seem to need to achieve prodigious speed, barrelling along like grey torpedoes, often turning sideways to have a look at Pinball’s occupant, or giving the occasional side-slap with the tail as a look-at-me, or if you’re lucky, spectacular leaps right out of the water.
The further down the East coast of St Vincent we got, the more the wind veered until we were almost downwind - not the easiest points of sailing unless rigged for downwind work. The rolling worsened, the boom had to be tied with a preventer to stop it crashing across the deck, and the genoa rolled away as it had become useless. Never mind. Once done, peace reigned. The motion improved, and lunch reappeared.
I was below when Cheeky Finch arrived in the cockpit. I watched as he helped himself to some water droplets sticking to the sides left over from some rain. Carefully I regained the cockpit seat, but he was not put off by my presence one bit, and watched as he disappeared into the cabin to have a good look round there too. I threw him breadcrumbs from lunch, which he took in his stride, before trying out the crew’s bunk, then mine, had a good look underneath a piled T-shirt, then up onto the cooker. He really liked standing knuckle deep in sausage fat in the frying pan and went back several times, but soon discovered the downside when afterwards trying to balance on the slippery crash pole in front. After that I couldn’t find him, and assumed he’d gone, after all we were only a couple of miles from St Vincent’s lush greenery. But an hour or so later he reappeared down in cabin, and despite its fairly severe rolling, seemed to prefer it. I have no idea where he’d been in the interim. Cheeky finally left with a nod, standing right next to me on the coaming for a minute or two updating his satnav, when just a few hundred yards from Bequia’s dark foliage. I wished him well, and welcome back anytime, but doubt he heard me
Bequia, to which I have had the pleasure of visiting several times, was as usual full of boats both anchored and on moorings. Last time it had been in company with Les and Louise on BALI, who had kindly organised a mooring in advance of our arrival.
As before, I called up the maitre d’ of mooring buoys - ‘DeeDee’ - on VHF. No answer. Well it was a Sunday. Ok, well I’ll go grab myself a mooring buoy anyway, and use my wonderful hook-on-a-boathook kit that lets you grab the ring on a buoy whilst standing on the bow. It fell apart in my hands, the staples corroded through. Right. Anchor.
Anchoring here had been problematic in the past. Early decision, drop the hook furthest from the crowd, not far from the entrance to Admiralty Bay, and be the furthest out again. Perfect.
No anchor dragging, as I’d made sure it was set in a nice sandy patch. Benefits? A beautiful view over the stern at the bay’s entrance and the sea, with no boats to block it. Downside? Well, none really. A bit further from the centre of town but that just meant a good excuse to get Barbara up on the plane and have fun.
It was 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Customs shut at 6. Being Sunday they will charge extra ‘overtime’, over doubling the cost. It would take over an hour to get the dinghy off the foredeck and the outboard motor on the back. I was tired. Go tomorrow.
Monday 8 May 2017 BEQUIA
Bed last night at 8pm, up at 6am, refreshed. Dinghy safely in the water ready to go by 8am. Customs open in the old Colonial waterfront building that also houses Immigration and a Post Office, at 0830. Forms filled out in triplicate and presented to the bulky well dressed Customs man, who is meticulously polite. When did you arrive he asks. I tell him. What time? Oh, about dusk I say. What time he asks again. Well, must have been about 5.30 I lie. He knows I’m lying of course, but says nothing. No overtime charge. Just $35 XCD, about £12.
I go for breakfast upstairs at Maria’s just down the walkway overlooking the harbour and order an ‘English Breakfast’ and coffee from the the blank faced girl behind the counter. But first I ask what you get. After considerable, pained thought, she replies ‘everything’.
After 45 minutes pleasantly spent watching the world go by and plugged into wifi, she approaches and asks, I think, how I want my eggs, and then whether bacon or sausage. Can’t have both. Easy over then, and bacon. Happy to be here, I ask how she is today. She’s fine. I say well you don't look very happy, and she gives a crooked smile.
The eggs were solid, toast crunchy and mean, accompanied by jam and some cream in pots, as was a mound of dark brown beans.. How pleasant to be here.
From my position at the front of the balcony I watched the same slender dark beauty I had noticed before, leisurely laying out her wares on a trolley and table over the road, trinkets, beads, earrings, colourful woollen caps hung on a line, whilst her young son perhaps eight years old came and went. It took an hour, performed without pleasure, before sitting beneath a sun umbrella to knit some more caps. A loud-mouthed male, long shorts barely resisting gravity, came and went, a bullying influence to all with his maleness. This was the market place, the meeting place, the place to get the money from the tourists, the taxi rank and the promenade.
A group of Americans, no doubt off a charter boat, strolled through, led by an aggressive-faced male in ridiculous fashion white shades, baseball cap wrong way round and bare-chested to show off his muscle. No matter that this semi nudity is not appreciated by Caribbean peoples who are usually Catholic. He’s American right? Does what he likes. Wanna make something of it? He is followed by another male amongst the crowd, a flabbier version, matching shades, also topless, Beta male. If I had a body like his, I’d wear a shirt. Maybe a bra too. How the locals must hate..
A bit later the one with the body is to be seen staggering down the front carrying not one but four huge bags of ice, to be used to cool the beer they’re going to drink on their capacious catamaran. That would completely fill my fridge, with a bag left over.
Back on the boat, its tidy up time, rebuild a home, fiddle about, then a snorkel into shore to sit in the shallows for a while before returning for a wonderful, gorgeous hot shower starkers in the cockpit, using a whole sun-warmed bagful of rainwater. Plenty more where that came from.
Friday, 12 May 2017 TOBAGO CAYS
Good sail down yesterday, arriving midday, dozen boats here in this popular tourist trap, intercepted by a boatboy ‘hi i’m ROMEO!’ Tobago Cays is renown for its snorkeling fun, green turtles, and attendants
Bit knackered, had a doze, soup for lunch, just sat and watched. I needed to chill.
Woken at 2am by the anchor alarm, but it was just the boat swinging. We had gone right round almost to South at one point.
Next day I’m agonizing over what to do; get Barbara down? Or just swim? Stay today or go after lunch before ‘overtime’ starts for the weekend in Customs at Union Island? Also I am very snappy with myself.
In the end, after faffing for hours, I got togged up in flippers, goggles, no weights, snorkel, and video cam in waterproof case. Swam from the boat to the island, and actually saw more than I thought I would - quite a few green turtles munching away at the sea grass, occasionally coming up for a gulp of air: millions of krill; and some funny, inquisitive triangular fish, silver and black, came and had a look at me. No one else was swimming, just people dinghy-ing around, getting out on the beaches. There was a grockle boat at the edge of the turtle area with a couple plus the boatman standing in it hoping to see something. They saw me. I saw them. Video’d them. Well I thought I had, but when I got back to watch it all, there was only ONE of the six or eight sequences I took that recorded. For the others, the camera just didn’t switch on when i hit the switch. I was VERY pissed off about this, as I did NOT have the time to do it all again as I needed to leave for Union Island to get cleared out, before the weekend and overtime charges.
So left just after midday, took the Southern Channel, no probs, but its not obvious at all, you do need GPS to know when to turn for Union. The seas in Union Channel?.. were horrendous! Pinball was rolling through a massive 90 degrees all the way with a big beam sea coming in. Thought about anchoring off Palm Island, which lay about half a mile away from the difficult reef lined anchorage at Union, but in the end dismissed it, as what would I do if there was a problem with Barbara’s engine? Drove into Union at speed looking ‘confident’ to put off the boat boys a bit, but still had one trying to get me to go down the northern channel, which I resisted and just carried on. Picked a spot behind some charter cats, but it was nearly 12m deep there so binned that and carried on round the corner through all the boats and dropped the hook behind the small red boat I had followed in - a family boat it turns out. Just as I’m running out the anchor, the boat right behind starts pulling up theirs, by hand, by the hand of a lady no less, so had to stop running out chain or we’d have been rather close. But it all worked out ok. Then ‘Tiger’ arrives in his big wooden boat with a 75hp donkey on the back, and asks if I want a taxi in. How much? Thinks for a while; $30EC. This would save me the hassle of launching then recovering Barbara, about two hours work. Deal! Asks me if I have any split pins, and was going to get them when he tells me Customs closes at 3pm, i.e. in 25 minutes, so I quickly get sorted and jump in.
When I get to Customs, I’m told Immigration isn’t there. Have to go to the Airport. It was the same pipe cleaner thin old guy hunched at one of his three desks I remember from a previous visit, a jocular old fellah who I could barely understand. He always had to ask me a question two or three times..
So walk up a meandering pathway requiring frequents checks with locals to ascertain the way, saw a pleasant lady Immigration official and then back. Tried to change a $100 bill, several attempts, last successful in a tiny shop. Then back to Tiger - who surprisingly was still there - and Pinball. Gave him his money and four split pins.
Then the weather started closing in, wind up, light rain. Frequent checks on dragging. No probs so far.
The anchor held, good as I’m very close in and surrounded by boats. Up at 0600 and busied getting ready for sea. By 0630 the anchor chain was coming up nicely, but then notice this big black cloud approaching. Is it a good idea to be setting off into that! No it wasn’t. So ran all the chain back out again and went below to make a cup of tea. Hearing a clunk, followed by another neither of which I recognised, I went back to the bow and put the snubber back on the chain, thinking that was the problem. It wasn’t. Whilst there, I noticed that all the boats had now swung round through at least 40 degrees driven by the increasing wind strength and a sharp veer in direction. Well thats interesting, oh no it isn’t. The depth gauge, seconds ago a healthy 3.5 metres, now indicated 1.3metres; we were bumping along the bottom, quite possible on rock as there were plenty of big black boulders underneath. Start engine, heart pounding, drive pinball - still anchored from the bow - away from this dangerous shoal, watching the depth gauge slowly increase until clear, autopilot on, SLOW AHEAD, leave the cockpit and walk, not run, to the bow and start winding in the chain which, having motored over the anchor, now lay behind. At such an acute angle it didn't want to come up in a hurry, but got it up in the end. We are now getting very close to a large white catamaran on a mooring beside us. Back to the cockpit, can’t move the steering wheel, damn!!! Ah its the bloody autopilot still engaged, disconnect on the handheld, hard a starboard, now full reverse, more, Jeez that was close. Steer Pinball through the gap between the catamaran and equally expensive looking 50’ German sloop alongside, reflecting that IF I hadn’t recently cut the rubber off the throttle handle to allow full reverse revs movement, we would have hit. And IF I hadn’t repaired the handheld Autopilot control, we would have hit.
I hadn’t liked the Union Island anchorage last time, and still don’t. The anchorage is unusually on the windward side of the island, inside a protecting reef, with another nasty little reef right in the middle of the windswept haven. But if you want to experience the Tobago Cays, you will have to clear out with Customs in Union.
Away from Union, it was a mild, pleasant, gentle sailing day, with winds generally around 15 knots, and a current that seemed to favour Pinball all the way down the lee side of the Grenadines, Carriacou and Grenada. Quelle joie! And an almost level boat too! Usually I leave the mizzen down when on a Port tack as it tends to interfere with the wind generator’s airflow, but with these gentle winds the windgen wasn’t doing much anyway, so after a while I raised full sail with the tough little mizzen - and gained over half a knot straight away, which I hadn’t quite expected.
Grenada, the largest island in the group, affected the wind the most of course, alternating between fierce squally willy wallies and nothing. Engine start. Engine stop. Dead ahead showing on AIS was a working ship doing less that 2 knots, so assumed it was anchored. It wasn’t. It really was moving around at 2 knots. We shot under its bow doing a good 6.5kts in one of the heavy gusts, and on reflection I should really have gone round the back.
At the southern tip of Grenada - Point Saline - it was a turn due East straight into wind for a couple of miles, so rolled away the genoa, kept the main and mizzen up, and zigzagged under power motor sailing against a pretty stiff Easterly, until reaching Prickly Bay, with dozens and dozens of yachts anchored or on moorings, finally dropping anchor well clear of others.
Sunday 14 May 2017
Launched the dinghy and went in about 11am to clear in with Customs. Note on the door, ‘back very soon’ waited a while. Not back soon. Went for a coffee and sat at a table where I could keep surveillance on Customs. Just caught a glimpse of movement. Cleared in, cost a massive $90 EC!
Spent the day on wifi, researching flights.
Dark on return to PW.
Very strong winds, in gusts overnight. Mizzen up and set to Starboard to keep the wind from getting underneath Barbara and ‘flying’ her, as she was hauled out of the water Starboard side abeam the mast for security.
Monday, 15 May 2017
Terrific blasts coming through every minute. Overcast. Not nice weather for crossing to Trinidad. Delayed to Tuesday.
Tuesday 16 May 2017 SAIL GRENADA FOR TRINIDAD
I am more than usually nervous. Since arrival in Prickly Bay, the wind has howled day and night - particularly night - such that I left the mizzen sail hoisted to stabilise yawing, and protect Barbara when lifted out at night as it yaws Pinball sufficiently off the wind to stop gusts getting underneath Barbara hanging alongside, and flipping her. And the rolling… never ending. Not been like this before.
Went into the excellent cruisers area at the marina, and had a look at the weather. Surprisingly, in a change since yesterday, the quite strong winds, 20kts average, were due to ease after midnight to 15kts. This encouraged me a lot, and I cleared out with Customs accordingly, then wolfed a Club Sarni and ordered a pizza to take with me.
Leaving at 1600, the seastate was stilll fairly wild actually, with a very short sharp sea coming in so PW was pitching and nodding away. But once clear of the shallows, it did settle down to a more rhythmic bashing. At first we made good time, over 5kts SOG, which I couldn’t quite explain as, far as I knew, we were heading into a 1-2kt NW running current.
Wednesday 17 May 2017 TRINIDAD AGAIN
Not a fast crossing, 19 hours. Perfect coming alongside at Custom Quay, kissed it! Shame no one was looking or cared. Then fouled it all up later trying to come alongside the fuel dock at Power Boats, with wind and tide blowing Pinball off. My frantic gesticulations finally persuaded the recalcitrant fat one to take my bow line off the rail and do something with it before I drifted right off, then tried the same with his assistant, Dr Cool, 6’3” of perfection, by hurling the stern line at him. Neither of them were wildly impressed with this disrespectful treatment by a ‘whitey’, but after a suitable lag period starting hauling me back. At some stage - remember, no sleep for 36 hours - one of them started shouting at me whilst lifting the wind vane steering vane up out of the way, as there was a danger of it hitting the dock and bending. Whilst sorting this out, there was a bit of a crunch as Pinball showed what its Rocna anchor can do sticking out on the bow as a battering ram. Fat Boy was even more grumpy about this.
‘You must go to Customs’ he ordered as I clambered off. ‘I’ve been.’ Then you must take your yellow ‘Q’ flag down he retorted. ‘Yes, I will,’ I replied. ‘You must take it down now’ he went on. I went and took it down.
This is the trouble with sailing. You do an overnight, then have to deal with the most uncompromising, difficult, monosyllabic officials, remember whole swathes of dates - Immigration wanted places and dates for my whole trip since January - all on no sleep. Snot fair.
Saturday 20 May 2017
Get the bike out, oil the front brake, pump up the tyres, get it usable. Then round to the Crews Inn side to get some minutes on my TT phone - shop shut but got some from the food shop, with the girl putting them on my phone for me as I don't know how. Buy a few things.
Go to Peakes just before closing - 2pm - and buy three white tarpaulins. These are the best. One for the bow, one for aft of the mast, and one to cover the new dinghy.
Scrape the hull to get rid of the hanging bits.
Sunday 21 May 2017
Up early. Rigged my huge green bucket hanging aft off the mizzen boom, filled it with water, and ran the Tahatsu outboard for a few minutes in the bucket to clear out the salt prior to stowing it. Tried the same with the smaller Suzuki, but big fuel leak when I turned the fuel on, so just hand pulled it a dozen times to get some clean water through it. Then stowed them in the starboard quarter berth space. This took most of the morning. Bacon sarnie for lunch again. Removed the wind vane steering assembly aft and stowed it. Went and found a spare frame, ran out all the anchor chain and hung it on the frame under the bow. Removed all the lines from the main mast that weren’t going to be needed whilst in storage.
Monday, 22 May 2017
Up at 5 again.
Down to the carpenter with the top board of two that fit in the companionway, to have two slots cut to fit the new, far stronger security fitting. Then hang around Power Boat’s entrance, waiting for the pick up at 11am by the hire car people, as their handy Chaguaramas office is no longer. Also hanging around waiting is a couple I recognise from one of the boats. I think its the boat with ‘I’d rather be stuck on a boat than stuck in an office’ actually painted all pretty on the side rails. Someone shows up, but its for them. Then a shout; the pick up is for me too, all of us.
I guessed from their accents they were Scandinavian; they were Swedish. We talked a bit, they’d had a paint job last year, on the insurance, after their boat dragged and got smashed up whilst visiting Customs in Tobago in Scarborough Bay (‘dont ever go to Scarborough!’). Then Brexit (‘it will cost UK I think. But no one knows…’)
At the block building in blue along the Great Western Avenue we swopped assistants as there was a problem with their desire for just one day’s hire. I got the girl with the half inch stick-on finger nails, who dealt with me boot faced like they all are, cracking now and then with some determined goading from me. Credit card: driving licence: sign here, here, here, here and here, put your PIN number in: walk round the white Datsun, much used, the way I like it: to open the boot you have to push this like this.
Nearly out of petrol, I pulled in to the service station in the run down shanty town of Carentilles, stopping short to first find out which side the filler is on. Two lanky local boys appeared, then disappeared, reappearing when I finally made the pump. One starts cleaning my clean windscreen; I tell the other lank to put in 25 litres of Super. He nods towards the blacked out pay booth, to pay first. I speak at the blackness, not knowing if there is a human being the other side. Nothing happens. I try again, and get my Debit card out. This did the trick, as the secret sliding window on my left shot up and by bending to waist height managed to see the third member of the team through the hole. The sight of my card was too much. ‘No credit cards…NO CREDIT CARDS’ he wailed, increasingly agitated. I paid in cash, $90xcd, about £10. Lanky I give $10 tip. Back in the car the windscreen washing starts again. ‘Another $10’. So these guys have nothing, no good jobs, just scrape a living, somehow.
Tuesday, 23 May 2017 FINAL PREPS FOR LAY UP.
Emerging from Tim’s this morning, couldn't find the car in the huge subterranean car park so walked out, round, and back in down the entrance I knew. I had emerged from the lift at the wrong level, I realised. Dick
Pm: fitting covers. Not exactly racing ahead. 5pm, still got the main cover to do. Its hot. Having another break..!
Wednesday 24 May 2017 LAST MINUTE CONTRACT
A long day. At Tim’s last night, drive back to the boat around 8am. Main cover fitted, bimini dissembled. Whilst doing this, a long thin guy in a red overall got chatting..a painter. Two hours later I’m signed up with him to repaint the topsides, plus the horrid job of stripping all the paint from the hull below the waterline. Pleasant, genuine, likeable, worked in PowerBoats 27 years, and illiterate, I write the contract out for him. Payment is through the office.
Thursday, 25 May 2017 UA 1459 FLIGHT TO TEXAS! - HOUSTON
35 minutes to the Airport! I am well early, having allowed for the more usual horrendous traffic. Glad I wasn’t going the other way, which was clogged and solid despite the freshness of the hour. Parked the hire car and went looking for someone to give it to, which proved to be the EconoCar Office in Arrivals. Met by the usual bluntness and poker faces that EconoCar clearly train into their staff. A petite, pretty Indian girl came back out with me to inspect the car, a few seconds glance good enough, writing her report on my paperwork. Go back and they will give you your deposit back she says.
‘You owe me some money’ I suggest to the fierce creature sitting fiddling with a clipboard.. She looks annoyed. ‘Wait for the girl to come back’ she says.
‘Well she said you would give me my deposit back’ I counter. ‘She’s moving the car’.
Now thoroughly annoyed. Gets up in a great huff. ‘Card?’ I have to ask her for the number, as I have two.
I trundle out of the barren Arrivals, along the road as the pavements are all work-not-in-progress, and into Departures, I presume, as there is no sign, to join a small queue for the United flight. At the desk there’s a departure form to fill in, taking time. He wants to know where I’ll be staying in Texas, and the information is punched into his computer. Have I an ESTA? No I have a visa. Do I have a bag to process? Yes I do. Am I aware that I will have to pay for it? Yes I am. That will be $25US. Thankyou. Boarding card. Next. The queue has grown considerably.
Breakfast amongst the fast food outlets seemed unattractive, but then noticed a ‘Breakfast Platter’ advertised, and though not expecting anything to write home about, it was quite passable.
Time for the security bit.
Stripped of everything metallic, I still set the alarm off. A bag search revealed the bottle of fine French wine I was taking for my friends in Dallas, carefully travelled by sea from the sunny French island of Martinique, where I had spent a pleasant three months on my old yacht, and before that from La France herself, The lanky Trinidadian security man inspected it carefully, turning it upside down and watching intensely. I was politely informed that I was only allowed to bring fluids of 150cc, and that this bottle vastly exceeded that amount. I should have put it in my heavy luggage in the hold, he told me apologetically. Mortified, I began to prepare myself for our imminent parting, when behind me in the queue an airline Captain interjected. ‘Would you like me to take it for you?’ he offered, with a smile. I had just met Captain Geir, Boeing 737 Captain and Skipper of Flight UA 1459. Consternation reigned with the security staff. My lanky inquisitor had retired to a small desk in the corner, together with my passport, and opened an enormous Ledger filled with hand written entries. Whilst Captain Geir and I chatted about my own stunted mini-career as an airline pilot, my man made painfully slow progress with an entry in The Ledger presumably about this security ‘incident’.
‘United’ is a budget airline, so you buy your meals, but tea, coffee and some soft drinks are ‘complementary’. I was wondering how they coped with payment, as surely they had enough to do without money changing . But, of course, this is America. A quick swipe of your card Sir, and you’re done. The breakfast menu looked good, and even though I’d just had one, decided on a Chicken Wrap to be stowed away for lunchtime.
‘We don't have Chicken Wraps’ the Amazonian hostess informed me, and reeled off what they did have, but as I couldn’t hear a word, had to dig out the menu from the chair-back again and let her point. Swipe. Thankyou. You’re welcome.
Later the smiling Captain Geir came down the isle specially to remind me to stop at the cabin on the way out to collect my bottle. I suggested he might be German with a name like Geir, but no, Norwegian he tells me, still smiling. I attempt to impress with a quick squirt of Norwegian back at him, which I think he recognised. Or maybe not. Maybe he just has a Norwegian surname and has never seen a fjord. But I like Captains who smile. A Captain should smile. Its shows confidence, and a Captain should be confident.
SAILING PERIOD: 24 DEC 2016 - 17 MAY 2017
SEA MILES SAILED THIS SEASON: 630nm
ISLANDS VISITED: GRENADA, BEQUIA, ST LUCIA, MARTINIQUE, UNION ISLAND,TRINIDAD
CREWS: MARIAN & KATE (TRINIDAD TO GRENADA)
COLIN TATTERSALL (GRENADA TO ST LUCIA)
BEST BITS: MARIAN, KATE & COLIN’s COMPANY.
SAILING IN COMPANY WITH LES & LOUISE ON BALI.
BEST ANCHORAGES: ANSE MITAN & ST ANNES, MARTINIQUE.
WORST BITS: 1ST ATTEMPT AT CROSSING TRINIDAD TO GRENADA, WITH MARIAN AND KATE
OVERALL WINNER: THE SEA
NEXT ENTRY WILL BE EARLY 2018.