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Date: 07 Feb 2014 14:45:00
Title: Season Seven - The Plan

January 6, 2014 - February 3, 2014

Hmmmm… it seems sort of silly and trivial to be typing up a plan for the season that does not include an ocean crossing, navigation of a difficult coastline or even a visit to an obscure country.  On the other hand, taking Harmonie home is kind of exciting - for us anyway.  Home as in the US, not Sodus Bay, Lake Ontario.  No, we've decided Harmonie is too much of a saltwater cruiser to ever force her bulk into the small (but still quaint and lovely!) freshwater ports of Lake Ontario again.  Besides, it's cold up there!  Instead, we'll stick to the East Coast and go as far north as Baltimore.  Well, maybe Baltimore.  We haven't completely decided yet.

So, the plan.
Yes, The Plan.  We'll launch Harmonie in Grenada, stay a bit in Prickly Bay, and then head north.
It's easy for us to say we are going to do this bit, since it's already been done.  We arrived in Grenada on January 6 after three flight cancelations, lots of delays, two unplanned overnight stays, a bus trip, and unexpected flights to Panama City and Trinidad.  What a nightmare!  All was forgotten though after our luggage (carrying bunches of boat parts) miraculously appeared in the Grenada airport a mere twenty minutes after we did (it traveled a direct route from Miami, whereas we took the more circular and scenic route from Miami to Panama to Trinidad to Grenada).  Still breathing giant sighs of relief, we found our taxi driver patiently waiting for us, armed with the papers needed for boat parts customs clearance.  Forty minutes later, after a bumpy ride through the dark, curvy roads of Grenada, we were sitting in the lovely warm and humid air surrounded by the sounds of tree frogs and surf, with a glass of white wine in our hands and a perfectly seared fresh tuna steak on the table in front of us at the cheap (a relative term in the Caribbean) and cheerful beach resort we chose to stay in for our first two nights in Grenada.  Ahhhhhhh, yes!  The Caribbean.

What followed was two weeks of boat work.  The boatyard did the worst of it, Don did the rest, and I did relatively little.  All in all, a good plan.  We arrived to find Harmonie in fine shape.  A big relief as we had never left her for so long (seven months).  There were no insect infestations, no water damage or leaks and no exploded cans of food - always a good sign (although there was a bit of excitement when the first can of tonic semi-exploded into a fountain of fizz when opened).  The yard workers had completely sanded down the bottom, removing all layers of bottom paint accumulated over the years (or at least we hope they did, since we didn't actually see the bottom at that point), and applied the four layers of primer epoxy necessary before the application of four layers of Coppercoat bottom paint.  We decided to essentially gold-plate the bottom this year with Coppercoat since the research says it should last as long as ten years, if applied properly.  Assuming that's true, the savings in haul-outs and bottom paint not needed in future years will make up for the mountain of cash paid this year.  The application was tricky.  The layers of Coppercoat must be applied wet-on-tacky, and the entire surface must not be exposed to water for at least 48 hours after painting.  This is slightly problematic while living on a boat in a boatyard in rainy Grenada.  The yard guys constructed a skirt of polyethylene around the hull to keep the rain from dripping down, and also attached a hose to the bilge pump outlet to keep the water we used aboard from streaming down the bottom.  While all this was going on, Don methodically checked all systems and installed all the pieces and parts carried down in our luggage as well as the bigger pieces and parts shipped down separately.  I polished the cockpit.  It looks darn good after two weeks of sporadic effort.

We launched with little fanfare on January 21, stayed one night on a rolly mooring near the boatyard, and sailed (mostly motored) a big 7 miles west from Grenada Marine in St. David's Bay to Prickly Bay.  A planned 7-day stay turned into 11 days as we swung around on anchor watching new and old world sailing boater friends arrive from points southeast (Africa), and northeast (Europe).  There was Taipan (Australians) and Contrails (American) and Sunflower (American).  Taipan having just arrived from Africa via St. Helena, Contrails from Africa via Trinidad last season and Sunflower from Africa last June.  Mr. Curly (British, and last seen by us in the Indian Ocean's Chagos) arrived from Africa after spending a season in Brazil.  Silver Fern (New Zealand) and Summer Wind (American) just arrived from the Mediterranean via the Canary Islands.  So, we couldn't leave Prickly for points north before properly meeting and greeting everyone, and in one case, celebrating Australia Day (think July 4th) in one marathon session aboard Taipan.  After last year's dearth of boater friends in the Caribbean, we were thrilled to be socializing nearly every night.  That's not to say boat work wasn't accomplished at the same time, of course.  Never fear, Don methodically checked all the systems that couldn't be checked while on land (generator, water maker, instruments, etc.), installed the rest of the pieces of parts, not the least of which were new membranes for the water maker (which is at this very moment happily converting lots of liters of salt water into fresh).  And I did…hmmm, what did I do?  Can't remember, but I'm sure it was important.

Last Saturday (February 1), the wind quieted some, turned a little east, and we peeled ourselves away from cruiser's heaven in Prickly Bay and pointed north into the wind.  At the moment, we are anchored in Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou, which is part of Grenada.  Later today we'll clear out, and tomorrow morning we'll press on to the north to Bequia (part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines) in what will hopefully be lighter winds.  Hopefully lighter, because sailing into the wind is never our favorite thing to do, and we don't enjoy bashing to windward between the islands as we battle north.  Once we reach St. Lucia, however, all will be lovely as the islands further north from there are positioned just enough to the west to make sailing with the prevailing northeast trades a pleasant experience.

Back to the plan.
For the rest of February, March and April, we plan to continue north, island hopping from Carriacou to Bequia to St. Lucia to haven't-decided-yet to the Virgin Islands.  From the Virgin Islands, we'll sail to the Turks and Caicos and on to the Bahamas.  Late April, should find us in Ft. Lauderdale - the first time in US waters (not counting the Virgin Islands) for Harmonie since November of 2007.  We'll then continue on up the Florida coast, stopping for sure in Fort Pierce or Vero Beach to visit Don's mom, then on to Georgia and South Carolina and North Carolina.  After Charleston, the Chesapeake will be the next stop.  We'll probably go as far north as Baltimore.

In September, we've been invited to join John and Sue on Storyteller in the Malaysian part of Borneo, and spend about a month with them cruising that area before flying back to the US and getting Harmonie ready to make the trip south again in November.  We have decided to postpone our plans to re-enter the Pacific until early 2016, so tentatively, the plan for Season Eight is to sail south from the Chesapeake to the Bahamas or Florida (or elsewhere?), and then sail north again for the summer of 2015.

That's the plan.  Subject to change, as always.

A thing of beauty.
Hull polished.  Bottom painted.  There used to be a narrow white stripe between the bottom paint and the orange boot stripe, but after seven years of scrubbing that persistently marine-life-green stained white stripe, Don decided it was time for it to go.  So, a bit like an older fellow hiking his pants up dangerously close to his armpits, Harmonie now sports bottom paint up to her boot stripe.

Oh, and I should also point out that no one fell off the ladder.  Even after dwelling high and dry for twelve days and nights.  It was probably a good thing we decided to employ a pee bucket (which doubles as a normal bucket under normal circumstances) for nighttime use.  In retrospect, the pee bucket was way more enticing than the boatyard bathrooms.  Besides, Don volunteered to empty the bucket every morning, so who could complain?

Our birds-eye boatyard view from Harmonie's bow.

Aha! Boater friends.
We knew they were hiding somewhere around here in the Caribbean.  We just couldn't find any last year.  This is Kathie and Dave from American boat Sunflower - last seen by us in Thailand, 2012.  Funny how things work out.  Sunflower arrived in Grenada last June (after we had already left for home), and was hauled out and parked right next to Harmonie, which is where we found her upon our return.

There's always that moment of slight anxiety when the boat is lowered into the water, and hopefully, floats (and stays that way).  It did.  And slight anxiety again after the lift operators remove the slings and Don shifts the engine into forward, when hopefully, the boat moves forward (as opposed to backward).  It did.  Yes!  All this after Don had removed, disassembled and reassembled the complex feathering prop, which resembles a Chinese jigsaw puzzle.  Not that I've ever seen a Chinese jigsaw puzzle, let alone put one together, but you get the idea.  Of course, there was that one time in Langkawi, Malaysia when Don shifted the engine into forward and we went backward - mind you, there was massive jet lag and sweating involved during prop reassembly, so in all fairness, blame couldn't really be placed.  Anyway, at the time, the Malaysians laughed, but I'm not so sure we would have gotten the same reaction in Grenada.

More in a bit.


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