March 3 - May 31, 2005

This update covers the period March 3 - May 31, 2005. "The "Stowaway" section reports on some events that happened later in this period -- we'll return to a more chronological reporting after that section.

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The Stowaway

Or

"When Harry Met Ken and Beth"

It started the way most disasters do, with a bit of innocent stupidity. Since we were going to sail away from Rodney Bay, St. Lucia the next day, we took our garbage ashore in the dinghy. But instead of taking it right to the dumpster, we decided to go off and have dinner first. Turned out that while we were having dinner in the restaurant, Harry was having dinner in our dinghy.

When we came back to get the garbage we noticed a hole in the plastic bag, but we didn't think anything of it -- just got torn on something. Ken got the dinghy ready while Beth walked to the dumpster. Harry couldn't get out of the dinghy, because Ken was there, so he stowed away amongst the gear in the bottom of our little inflatable boat. Actually, from his point of view, he was kidnapped.

Dinghy hoisted We motored back to Eagle's Wings and hoisted the dinghy alongside as we normally do -- harder to steal, and keeps the bottom clean. Then we went to bed.

About 2:30 that morning, Beth thought she heard a burglar in the main cabin, and Ken jumped out of bed dressed in his usual "repel boarders" outfit -- butt naked except for a flare gun and a dive knife.

There was nobody in the main cabin, but Beth thought she heard something rustling in the aft cabin, so we lit it up with our flashlight, and there he was.

  Harry checking out his new home  

He was actually cute, in a raffish way. Not your slimey sewer rat, but nice and furry, and looking quite comfortable in our seaberth. But you have to understand that a rat on a sailboat is a very bad thing. Rats' teeth grow constantly and fast, so rats need to gnaw the way we need to cut our fingernails. On whatever comes to hand (or paw) -- like your electrical wiring, or your plumbing hoses, or your fuel hoses. So we had a major problem here.

(Aside: There's a true story about the German 48th Panzer Division during the battle of Stalingrad. The crews used straw to insulate their tanks against the Russian winter. But the straw attracted field mice, who gnawed the insulation off the engine wiring. So, when the crisis came, less than half of the tanks could move and the division got there too little and too late. Ken was thinking about those tanks while he looked at Harry.)

Harry was right out in the open, quite unconcerned about us. He'd obviously never had a problem with people in his former home. But Ken looked at the flare gun and dive knife and realized they probably weren't the right weapons for this job. It's one thing to risk setting a fire while fighting with a human intruder. But it might be a little hard to explain to the insurance company why we burned the boat up to keep a rat from eating the wiring.

Ken thought longingly about the fine .22 rifle that he threw overboard last month. But he has to admit that a .22 probably isn't the right way to deal with rodents inside the boat. Oh, for a pellet pistol!

Ken wearing his battle face Anyway, it took about five minutes to get better weapons -- an 18 inch length of fuel hose that made a very nice thwack, and a rubber mallet. On further consideration, Ken also put on some shorts. He wasn't sure that Harry would fight fair.

Then we started taking gear out of the aft cabin, to deprive Harry of cover. There was a lot of stuff in there, so we filled the galley and the passageways in the main salon with piles of gear. We got occasional glimpses of Harry, but he was getting more cautious by the minute. Anyway, we finally got down to one remaining duffle bag. At this point Beth suggested that we should go into the cabin and close the door. But Ken wasn't too sure about that. And besides, with the two of us standing in the doorway, Harry wouldn't try to come that way. He'd cower in the farthest corner, right?

So we picked up the duffle bag. No Harry. Maybe under the mattress? So Ken picked the mattress, and out came Harry.

He didn't hesitate for a second. Made a head fake for the far corner, then came right at the door. Ken took a swing with the hose, missed, and Harry was gone. Out in the main salon, which was stacked with huge piles of assorted gear. It was now 3:00 a.m.

We closed the door to the forward cabin and started putting gear back into the aft cabin. About 3:15 a.m. we flushed Harry again. This time he jumped into a pile of stuff on the starboard settee. We carefully removed all the stuff. No Harry.

So Ken pulled the back cushion off the settee, just in time to see Harry disappearing through a tiny opening into the locker under the settee. We opened the settee locker and started piling more gear in the main cabin. Finally we had the locker down to one spare fitting wrapped in ensolite. Ken picked it up. No Harry.

We saw a small nook where the back of the locker sloped up toward the water tank. There was a package of spare parts stuffed in there, and no room for anything else, but Ken removed the package, just in case. Out slid Harry, looking sort of exasperated. He ducked under the ensolite in the bottom of the locker, and Ken gave it three for four good hits with the rubber mallet. Then he picked up the ensolite, ready to declare victory.

Ken in action. Beth was in too much of hurry to get the picture centered. Ken whacking away at a spot where he thought Harry was hiding

Harry was there, all right, but he wasn't ready to quit. Unarmed, trapped at the bottom of a locker, out-numbered two to one, confronted by a hammer-wielding giant who out-weighed him by maybe 300 to one, Harry attacked. He jumped four feet straight up, landing on Ken's chest. This charge elicited exactly the tough sailor reaction that Harry expected -- Ken jumped another four feet straight up and yelled "arrrrggggh!". Harry didn't bite -- the attack was purely for psychological effect. Shock and awe.

By the time Ken scraped himself off the ceiling Harry was gone -- back into the piles of stuff that now littered the main salon.

It was now about 3:30 a.m., and we went back to taking gear out of the main salon. We flushed Harry one more time, in the "U" - shaped alcove under the salon table. There was no way out of there, except up onto the settee. So with Beth watching the settee, Ken crouched down and removed all the stuff under the table, finally getting down to just one computer case. Teeth clenched, hammer at the ready, Ken pulled the case out. No Harry. It was 4:00 a.m.

We went into the forward cabin, closed the door and went to bed.

Harry's calling cards

The next day we got ready to head south along the coast of St. Lucia, trying not to imagine Harry chewing on our wiring. As we put the dinghy down in the water for towing, we found Harry's calling cards right next to the dinghy. So it was pretty clear how he got on board.

Then we hoisted the sail. And guess who dropped out of the sail folds as we pulled the halyard up? Seems like Harry had gone back on deck after we went to sleep. He evidently wanted to get away from us as much as we wanted to get away from him. Poor guy, how was he to know that his new hiding place was going to get hauled 70 feet in the air?

A folded sail makes a great hiding place, but it doesn't work so well when it's flying. The folded sail was Harry's hideout for a little while

Well, we thought we had him. We closed the companionway hatch, and there was no way back into the boat. Even the dorade vents have screens. We now had a three hour passage to find him. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

We searched the deck slowly and methodically, fuel hose and hammer in hand. We picked up the kayak. We pulled the hanked-on trysail out of its bag. We checked under all the canvas hatch covers. We looked amongst the coiled lines. We looked in the pilothouse. We looked inside the boom. We looked around the fenders on the transom. We looked in the barbeque oven. We even got out the fiber optic scope and looked in the scuppers that drain the cockpit. No Harry.

Ken peering in boom for Harry Ken checking out scupper with fiber optic scope

We found lots of rat turds, here and there on deck. Seems that rats have one flaw in their stealth technology -- they can't go anywhere without leaving evidence. If Julius Cesear had been a rat he would have said "vini, vidi, dumpi" But Harry had vanished again. This is when we gave him his name. Harry, as in Houdini.

(We decided that it was "Harry", because the consequences of "Harriett" were too awful to contemplate. We figure that lady rats are always pregnant. Actually Beth thought that Harry's behavior when we first saw him in the aft cabin looked an awful lot like nesting, but Ken didn't want to admit that a girl could beat him in a fair fight.)

That night we slept in a totally sealed boat, which is pretty awful in the tropics. But we didn't dare leave a hatch open, since Harry just had to be somewhere on deck, enjoying the cool breezes. What's wrong with this picture?

The irony about this situation was that there was lots of room for a win-win negotiated solution. Harry couldn't have been much happier than we were. We gladly would have given him safe passage anywhere he wanted to go (we would draw the line at somebody else's boat -- but after his experience with us, that probably wouldn't have been his first choice). We would have given him a year's worth of any food he wanted. We would have gone out and bought him caviar, if he wanted it.

Hell, we would have offered him a permanent crew position if he would just agree to a few simple rules -- use a litter box, chew on what we give him, and eat his own food. Ken would have signed him up in a minute -- he was completely in awe of this guy's resourceful courage and competence. Harry was just really good at what he did. He could get into all those tight places we can't go, and man, would he make a good watch rat. No burglar would stand a chance. But all this shows the importance of learning foreign languages. Harry didn't speak "people" and we didn't speak "rat", so we had to fight to the death. Preferably his.

Anyway, since the prospects for a negotiated settlement seemed bleak, and since we had been utterly defeated in hand to hand combat, we decided to use weapons of mass destruction. Specifically, chemical weapons. We figured we weren't bound by the Geneva convention, since we didn't think Harry had signed it.

Three flavors of rat poison. Three different flavors of rat poisons

 

Large rat traps We also got lots of booby traps. These things are scary. They'll break your hand if you let them.

 

Glue traps. Very, very sticky. Sticky rat traps

 

Sticky trap ready to catch some rats You need to tie the glue traps down, or else a rat will drag them around. We thought the "no parking" sign was appropriate. And it wouldn't deter Harry, since he was pretty much of a rebel.

Then we made a bad mistake -- we opened a small hatch over the galley for cooking, and forgot to close it. When we got back to the boat with all of our new weaponry, we had to face the prospect that Harry was inside again. So we covered the boat with traps and poison, inside and out.

The only problem with all of these traps and poisons is that they rely on the rat to do something stupid. That might have worked on us, but we don't think that Harry ever made mistakes.

Anyway, we found a small bite taken out of an (unpoisoned) pear, but no evidence that Harry ever touched any of our other offerings. Pear after being nibbled on by Harry

About this time Beth noticed another turd on the dinghy pontoon when she got back into the dinghy after a trip ashore. She swears the turd hadn't been there in the morning.

So the days went by, and days turned into weeks, and we didn't see hide nor turd of Harry. Beth laboriously inspected all of our food and moved it into (relatively) ratproof storage containers and lockers. As far as we could tell Harry never ate anything after that pear, which he could have eaten his first night on the boat. Maybe he ate some poison and died, but this is the tropics. A dead animal as big as a rat would stink to high heaven. (We remember the time a squirrel fell into our chimney and died -- no mistaking that smell.) So we don't think Harry is on board anymore, dead or alive.

Ken thinks that Harry must have fallen or jumped off the boat that day we saw him on deck. Maybe he just decided to take his chances with the sharks rather than hang around the maniac with the hammer.

(Captain Jim, a professional sailor on S/V "Archangel", watched Beth put away a very large steak dinner followed by a huge piece of chocolate cake in St. Thomas. Hearing the story about Harry, he commented that it wasn't Ken with the hammer that Harry was worried about. It was Beth following around behind with a knife and fork!)

Beth thinks that Harry found his way back onto the dinghy, left a last calling card, and went ashore when she tied up.

One way or another, we both prefer to think that Harry made it back to shore and is happily chasing girl rats and eating all kinds of great leftover food. If anybody deserved to make it, he did.

New Department: Weird Boat Tool of the Month

We're starting a new feature -- the weird tool deparment. This month we feature the fiber optic scope, a long flexible cable, a lens, and a battery operated light. It allows you to see into tight spaces and around corners. Very useful from time to time. Ken displaying fiber optic scope

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March 3 - March 15, 2005

At the end of our last update we had just left the British Virgin Islands, headed back to St. Thomas to provision for a multi-day passage south to Dominica. Our friend Bob Russ, who had visited us in Newport last October, would join us for the passage and exploration of Dominica.

Before picking up Bob, we met up with some new friends from Virgin Gorda while we were moored at Caneel Bay. Mo and Jo ("MoJo" for short) are a daughter and mother duo. We were impressed with Mo's poise (she's 11 going on 25!).

Chatting with Mo and Jo at Caneel Bay

MoJo have been cruising together for years. Their previous boat (a catamaran) was destroyed by a large powerboat in a "hit and run" accident during a storm. The powerboat wasn't insured but MoJo got a favorable judgement in court and they now own the powerboat! It will be auctioned off soon and they hope to get another catamaran.

Mo says their current boat, "EasyGo", a Beneteau 35, is too "tubular."

Preparations for Sea

We raced to get prepared for our journey south. We created a computerized inventory of our entire food supply and we attached sheets listing the contents of each locker to each locker door. We finally know exactly what we have and where it is (comes in handy when you try to cook dinner!).

We also created another computerized inventory of our medical supplies. Our original inventory got toasted in Newport Harbor, along with the computer it was on, when Beth dropped it overboard last year. Its taken almost 6 months to finally recreate the list.

After provisioning, cooking, getting diesel, and stowing everything, we were ready to go. The winds had lightened up considerably and the air temperature really soared. The hot, steamy conditions were more like what we had expected (with a bit of dread) in the tropics.

Even though we complain about the muggy weather, we were glad we were still down here as opposed to up north. The weatherfax on the right shows a huge Atlantic storm that was packing over 50 knot winds!

That's a map of the entire Atlantic. This storm extended from Michigan to Great Britain, and from Greenland to Florida.

But not to St. Thomas!

Weatherfax of giant Atlantic storm

March 16 - March 18, 2005

Bob with Ken and Beth at restaurant We linked up with Bob Russ in St. Thomas. Bob is a very close friend from Ken's college days, and we have all shared many adventures. Putting Bob and Ken together usually leads to some crazy undertaking.

We set sail with Bob for Dominica under beautiful skies and moderate winds. The conditions were almost ideal for most of the trip and we were able to sail (as opposed to motor) almost the entire route.

The conditions were also perfect for throwing out our trolling lines and we weren't disappointed.

Much to our surprise, our first hit was a huge white marlin. These fish get up to 8 feet long and 170 lbs. The marlin put on a spectacular show as it repeatedly tail walked and soared into the air. He just wouldn't quit.

Huge white marlin snared on our line

Finally, when we got him close to the boat, he dived underneath, wrapped the line around the rudder, and broke free. The guys were disappointed but Beth was relieved. She didn't really want the guys wrestling with that sword on the marlin's face.

Of course, he was probably less of a threat than the toothy monster we'll show you at the end of this update.

With the adrenaline still pumping from the marlin, we tried again and were soon rewarded with two tuna.

Landing our first tuna Landing second tuna

 

Subduing tuna with alcohol Squirting the tuna's gills with alcohol quickly subdued it, making it easier to handle.

 

The tuna were a perfect size -- we got several meals out of each of the fish and we had room in the freezer for all of the extra meat.

Beth cooked them up blackened, with a currant sauce. Spectacular! Particularly for a sailboat on a passage!

Getting tuna ready for fileting

 

Ken fileting tuna Ken fileting the fish. Fortunately the stern extension lends itself to messy jobs.

During our trip down to Dominica, we were never out of sight of land for very long, as we passed down the island chain.

Montserrat looked ominous in the distance. The island had a major volcanic eruption in 1995 and still smolders. We smelled sulfur as we sailed by. The island now has only 4500 people living there (as opposed to 11,000 before the volcano blew). The other inhabitants left for safer places. Montserrat in the mist

 

Guadelopue in the distance Each island has its own history, language, and enchantments. We were sorry we didn't have time to stop at Guadeloupe -- it looked very enticing in the distance. (French food!)

 

We arrived near Portsmouth, Dominica about midnight and "hove to" until the next morning. The mountainous terrain was gorgeous and wild. The rainforests covering the mountains get up to 300 inches of rain per year.

Beautiful shoreline of Dominica

Because of it's wild terrain, Dominica has relatively little European influence. The Carib Indians were able to hold off the Spanish, English, French, and Dutch for years, and the small group of Caribs living on the East coast of Dominica are the only surviving Native Americans in the Eastern Caribbean.

Dominica also has a history of successful slave rebellions. The rebels, called "Maroons" fought a protracted guerilla war against the Europeans, again aided by the impassible terrain.

Altogether a tough, wild place.

Dominica's undeveloped character attracts sailboats but few large cruise ships. The ships we saw in Portsmouth were all tall-ship sailing vessels.

Cruise ship Sea Cloud II Graceful 5-masted ship in Portsmouth, Dominica

March 18 - March 21, 2005

Once we were snug in the anchorage at Portsmouth we set off to explore. With Bob on board, we found our activity level ratcheted up exponentially! We packed an incredible amount in a few days -- hiking, exploring, and/or snorkeling every day. (When Bob finally left we did pretty much nothing for a few days to recover.)

Fort Shirley

Of course, with a fort nearby, the guys made a visit there a top priority.

Bob and Ken admiring large cannon at Fort Shirley Bob and Ken were in their glory checking out all of the cannons strewn about the grounds.

 

There's nothing like a heap of military hardware to put Ken in an amorous mood. Ken and Beth in amorous moment

There were more natural attractions as well.

Bob getting close-up of termites Bob had a great time getting close-ups of termites and other wildlife.

Termite nest (left below) with busy termites (below right):

Termite nest along trail to Fort Shirley Termites swarming

Bob also got some great pictures of birds we'd never seen before arriving in the Caribbean (Antillean Crested Hummingbird below left) and Lesser Antillean Bullfinch below right):

Antillean Crested Hummingbird in midflight Lesser Antillean Bullfinch

Small lizzards darted along the path and in nearby trees.

Tiny lizzard Lizzard trying to look inconspicuous

 

Huge buttress tree The trees on Dominica were imposing and very tall with buttress-like support systems. Some of the trees had elaborate root structures.   Beth dwarfed by roots of tree

 

Morne Diablontin across bay Looking across Prince Rupert Bay from Fort Shirley toward the forbidding Morne Diablontin -- a mountain we hoped to climb during our visit.

 

The anchorage in Prince Rupert Bay at Portsmouth from Fort Shirley. Beth and Ken at Fort Shirley, looking over Prince Rupert Bay

Boat Helpers

Dominica gave us our first experience with locals who make a business of servicing visiting boats. (The standard term for these guys is "boat boys," but most of them haven't been boys for a while, and the phrase makes us uncomfortable. Guess we are too PC.)

As soon as you anchor (and sometimes even before the hook is down), an industrious local will zoom up in a boat and offer to handle any needs you have (transportation, guides for trips, etc...). We hooked up with one of the guys (Jeffrey on Sea Bird) for our stay. He arranged guides for two hikes, snorkeling, and a river trip. He also helped us negotiate customs when we first arrived.

Many of the helpers have banded together into an association, setting standards to make the boater's interaction with the helpers more positive (we heard it used to be common for 5 or 6 would-be boat helpers to swarm around an incoming boat -- all shouting at once to get the boater's business). Now they get together and set prices. The technical term is "cartel."

Syndicate Falls Hike

Towering trees with tarzan vines Our guided hike to Syndicate Falls was our first excursion into a tropical rain forest. The forest was very dense and lush.

The flowers were spectacular along the trail.

Beautiful red flower Another beautiful red flower

 

But even beauty can be deceiving. Our guide told us to beware of these nettles -- they look harmless but can cause a great deal of pain if you come in contact with them. Nasty nettles

 

Flowering banana plant The hike took us past active plantations, where we saw an abundance of bananas. It turns out there are many variety of bananas -- some considered fruit and others (like plantains) are starchy and are used as a vegetable. Our guide liberated some "wild" bananas for us and we enjoyed their sweet flavor.

 

We were rewarded with gorgeous Syndicate Falls at the end of the trail. Syndicate Falls

 

Ken and Bob cooling off in Syndicate Falls After the hot hike, Ken and Bob cooled off in a pool at the base of the falls. Given Beth's past history of mishaps, she decided her feet and the slippery rocks had best not meet.

 

Our guide, Ken, enjoying the view of the waterfall.

 

Our guide, Ken, for the Syndicate Falls hike

Ken (guide) later told another guide that we were a very nice family -- mother, father, and son! When we heard about this, we tracked Ken (guide) down and forced him to tell us who was father and who was son. Ken (guide) thought that Ken (Cone) was Bob and Beth's son!

Ken Cone has been giving everyone a hard time about this ever since.

Bob, Beth, and Ken at Syndicate Falls Bob, Beth, and Ken enjoying the falls.

Morne Diablontin Hike

All three of us had done a lot of hiking in the Sierras of California in days gone by, including some very tough rock scrambling and snow climbing. But the hike up Morne Diablontin was as hard as anything we had ever attempted.

The trail wound up through the rainforest and became wetter and muddier as we went along. There were long sections where you couldn't hike on rocks or ground, but had to climb through trees! It was an extremely challenging hike and we were too busy hanging on to take many pictures.

As we progressed up the trail, the rainy, misty environment obscured the views most of the time. But when the cloulds cleared, even for a moment, the views were breathtaking. View on way up to top of Morne Diablontin

 

Bob, Beth and Ken at summit of Diablontin We took a nice break at the summit of Diablontin.

 

Our guides James (his nickname is 007) in the foreground and Ronald (left) were very helpful getting us up and down the mountain. James was constantly checking to make sure Beth was able to get over large boulders and through the trees. Guides Ronald and James with Beth and Ken at summit

We were covered in mud up to our thighs.

Ken showing off muddy pants and boots Bob admiring Beth's muddy boots

 

Descending Morne Diablontin The trip down the mountain took even longer than the trip up! Beth tried to take a short cut by sliding down a boulder, leaving some skin behind.

 

As we descended the mountain, we spotted the Portsmouth anchorage (left) peeking through the clouds. View on way down Morne Diablontin

We were pretty exhausted after the trip and looked forward to taking a few days off from hiking.

Indian River Trip

Our last guided excursion was a trip up the Indian River, which runs into Portsmouth Harbor. We were joined by fellow cruisers, Gordon and Susan (originally from Scotland but now are U.S. citizens). Their boat, "Suhaila", was anchored near ours.

Martin, our Indian River guide, rowing us up the river Martin rowed us up the Indian River, pointing out local flora and fauna.

 

We spotted this white-crowned night heron, trying to look inconspicuous along the shore. White crowned night heron

 

Tangled roots along Indian River The roots along the shore wove graceful, wavy patterns.

At the end of the river trail, Martin took us ashore for a short hike where we saw some interesting plants.

Flytrap-like plant This flower looked like a fireworks burst

After our strenuous trip up wild Diablontin, the Indian River was a bit anti-climactic. The trip is advertised heavily in cruising guides and the locals compete fiercely for customers -- even standing by the road exhorting passerbys to take the trip -- but we felt it was overrated. However, given our low energy level after Diablontin, it was a nice break.

Boat Helpers Revisited

The normal practice is for your boat helper to keep a running tab of the charges you incur. We made the mistake of not negotiating the charges for each service upfront. We relied on the expected fees listed in our cruising guide and when we got the final bill, we found that our helper was asking almost double the listed charges for most of the services.

At the time, we weren't sure if we were being gouged or if the prices were just wrong in the guide. It turned out that Chris Doyle, author of the guidebooks -- the most famous and widely used guidebooks to the Eastern Caribbean -- was anchored nearby, and Jeffery went over and brought Chris to our boat. (Chris feels a bit of responsibility for Jeffrey -- he's known him since he was a kid paddling out to boats on a surfboard. Jeffrey told us that one day Chris told him he would make him famous -- which he did by featuring him in his cruising guide.)

Chris turned out to be very nice and not put out. He basically confirmed that the prices Jeffrey quoted were more accurate than what was in the guide. He told us that costs had really gone up -- it costs about $80,000 to import the vans the helpers use for carting us around the islands. And spare parts are also extremely expensive. The weak dollar and soaring fuel costs didn't help either.

We felt a bit like the blowhard in Annie Hall who expounds at length about Marshall McLuhan's work until Woody Allen pulls McLuhan out from behind the drapes. McLuhan tells the blowhard that he's a dope and doesn't understand his work at all.

Anyway, we felt better that at least we were paying the going rate (as opposed to being fleeced) and paid our bill.

Michael transporting our laundry and garbage Soon after we arrived in Dominica, a local named Michael (left) paddled up to our boat and offered his sister's laundry services. Michael is not part of the polished boat helper association, but was very persistent. Here he is paddling away on his surfboard with our laundry (4 loads) and a sack of garbage. Fortunately we had drybags for the laundry. The laundry came back very clean and neatly folded, though a little smokey smelling (there was a good-sized bonfire blazing on the beach where the laundry was hanging).

Our take on boat helpers is that they really do save you a lot of time trying to arrange things -- but they aren't cheap anymore. In the future, we will be more careful to negotiate and pay for each service as we go.

Inside Portsmouth

When we weren't busy hiking or snorkeling, we did take some time to check out the town of Portsmouth. We were impressed with the friendliness and industriousness of the community.

Island Politics

Dominica has been independent of Britain since 1967, and was about to have an election when we were there. We saw lots of enthusiasm for island politics, and people were very outgoing in their displays of support (or non-support) for the two parties (red and blue).

The big campaign issue was whether or not to build an international airport. The blue candidate argued that it would help the island's economy, while the red candidate thought it would leave the country with too much debt. Ken was blown away. He thinks that this is exactly the kind of issue that politics should focus on, and only wishes that U.S. politics were that mature after our 200 year head start over Dominica.

Most of the locals in Portsmouth supported the red party. A big rally was planned in the capital of Roseau and scores of young people dressed in red t-shirts piled into vehicles of all descriptions for the trip south.

Even some of the local wrecks in the harbor were dressed up with flags to support the red party. Wrecked ship flying red flags

 

Effigy of the blue party hung from a pole On the otherhand, an effigy of the blue party's candidate was swinging from a telephone pole. This was starting to look like U.S. politics after all!

Fishing Off the Beach

While some of the locals are trying make a business out of the tourism-related services, others farm on the local plantations or fish in the bay and surrounding waters. We spotted these fishermen hauling in their net off the beach near downtown Portsmouth.

Local fishermen pulling in their net off the beach Fishermen working the nets off the beach

Market Day

We were fortunate to be in town for the farmer's market early one morning.

Farmer showing his produce on market day The town was a beehive of activity on market day. Vegetables, fruit, fish, grains, and fish could all be had at great prices.

 

Small tables packed the open air market building and the streets outside, each tended by "Mom and Pop" farmers. Checking out produce at Portsmouth farmers market

 

Bob and Beth smelling nutmeg Dominica grows spices and fruit, and we bought fresh nutmeg, coconuts, and exotic fruits whose names we don't even know (since the vendors spoke a dialect we couldn't follow).

You can also get fresh fish from the local fishermen. Here a fisherman is cutting a large slab from a huge marlin.

Sawing slab from Marlin for customer Fisherman with large slab of Marlin for customer

Boat Wrecks

Portsmouth had its share of abandoned, wrecked boats left over from the last major hurricane about ten years ago. Imagine having one of these things wash up on your waterfront property and then sit there in perpetuity!

Boat wreck along shore of Portsmouth Another large wrecked boat off Portsmouth

March 22 - March 27, 2005

After Bob left, we spent several days recovering. We slipped back into our familiar mode of fixing things that were broke.

Broken drawer One of the large drawers under the bed in our forward cabin had broken -- the plastic tabs connecting the facing plate to the drawer had sheared off and it was impossible to open the drawer. (These drawers are built to be incredibly light. This is the downside.)

 

Using the tools at hand, Ken improvised a work bench and fabricated some inner supports for the drawer. Fabricating repair for broken drawer

 

Repaired drawer The repaired drawer is far stronger than the original construction.

We've had persistent problems with clogged water intakes. The islands seem to shed alot of debris (needle grass in particular). We are constantly cleaning strainers.

Main water intake strainer clogged with debris Genset strainer clogged with needle grass

The strainers don't seem to be of a fine enough mess to capture the debris -- some of the needles and other crud got through to the heat exchanger.

Ken displaying his sewing handiwork Ken decided to go on the offensive and make a finer mesh strainer than he could insert into the genset strainer. Beth was impressed he didn't stick himself handsewing.

 

We also had problems with crud collecting in this water intake. It's a bad design, installed aftermarket. A 1.5 inch seacock that necks down to a 5/8 hose. So weed gets stuck in the wide part. Seacock for genset

 

Debris removed from seacock fitting Ken had to do major surgery to remove the seacock fitting in order to check for debris. He wasn't surprised to see a mass of needles stuck inside the seacock. He's planning a modification to our installation to make cleaning the seacock an easier undertaking.

A little bit of work goes a long way and we were ready to enjoy the island again. We moved down the coast a few miles to Mero, to kayak on the Layou river.

Launching kayak from boat Ken is launching our tandem kayak, getting ready to set out on our big kayak adventure.

 

Our "kayaking" trip turned mostly into a hiking trip. The river was too shallow and we were constantly getting stuck. We got about a 1/2 mile up the river before we admitted defeat and turned back. Attempting to kayak up Layou River

March 28 - March 29, 2005

Aquarius blasting through the waves to Martinique While anchored in Mero, Dominica, we met a cruising couple, Franz and Christine of S/V "Aquarius". We both took off for Martinique and had a wild ride crossing the channel between Dominica and Martinique in 25 knots of wind. "Aquarius" is pictured to the left.

The winds got stronger and the waves bigger as we approached the headlands of Martinique -- conditions that would be uncomfortable in a smaller boat-- and we were cranking along at about ten knots. We thought we were doing pretty good until we spotted this small boat with an odd square sail blasting along (see small boat to the right in the picture below). It turns out this boat was participating in an inter-island race (chase boat on the left). They were going about as fast as we were. We later learned these boats are "Yoles" -- essentially a 30 foot open, wooden canoe with a sail that is a big tradition among the islanders. The sailors hang over the sides on long bamboo poles to keep the boat upright. Hairy.

  Yole racing toward Martinique

We spent 2 nights in St. Pierre at the north end of Martinique.

St. Pierre used to be a large, thriving town, until it was wiped out in 1902 when Mt. Pele (pictured here) erupted. Mount Pele looming over St. Pierre

St. Pierre's entire population of 30,000 people died when the volcano blew. Two people survived -- a cobbler who was in his basement and a notorius criminal who was in a stone cell.

View of the harbor at St. Pierre from the ruins of the city The town is rather eerie, with ruins everywhere. Even the new buildings incorporate the old foundations.

 

Eagle's Wings, viewed through the ruined arches of a building that was destroyed in 1902. Eagle's Wings framed by ruins

 

Fishermen setting their nets in the harbor of St Pierre Fishing is a major livelihood and we saw a variety of techniques used to catch fish.

This fisherman is serious about keeping the sun off:

Fisherman well protected from the sun Fisherman moving to new fishing spot

March 30 - May 4, 2005

We moved down the coast to Marin at the southern tip of Martinique and ended up staying almost 5 weeks! We spent the whole time working on boat projects, although we did emerge once in a while for a nice dinner.

When a friend emailed to ask us what Martinique looked like, we replied "it looks like the inside of our boat." But we got a LOT done.

Our favorite place was a small restaurant (La Rose des Vents) run by a husband and wife team. The husband is pictured here in the black shirt and the other guys work at the restaurant. We always had delightful dishes there. And the owner always gave us large glasses of cognac for free! Beth could barely tolerate sticking her tongue in the drink, so Ken felt obliged to drink both. Beth with staff at LaRosedesVents

Marin also has a very active music scene and we enjoyed the local Caribbean jazz scene on many evenings. We struggled not knowing French well, but many of the tradespeople could speak English well enough that we got by. This is probably the longest stretch we've worked on the boat since we left Waukegan. We thoroughly enjoyed spending so much time in Marin.

The classic definition of cruising is "Working on your boat in exotic locations." Here's a partial list of projects we or others worked on:

Deck Awnings

Eagle's Wings with new deck covers We found a great local sail loft/canvas maker (Herve at Incidences) to build deck awnings for us. These have made a big difference in keeping the boat cool. Also, we now can leave some of the hatches open even during a rainstorm.

Boat Speedo Replacement

Somewhere between St. Thomas and Dominica we lost our boat speed readout from our instruments. We still had the GPS which told us speed, but the onboard speedo allows the instruments to calculate the true wind speed and direction (compensating for the boat's movement.)

Cracked speedo housing Turns out the housing for the speedo was cracked, so we bought a replacement (and a spare!).

Of course, the speedo is in the most inaccessible place in the forepeak (sail locker). We had to remove EVERYTHING from the sail locker, including all of the spare anchors, to get at the speedo which was under the floor panels. We had all sorts of gear on deck for weeks and we looked like some of those other boats we used to laugh at.

The speedo replacement made a particularly horrible mess. The wiring for the speedo ran the entire length of the boat, under lockers and cabinets, so everything had to come out. Running new wire for speedo replacement

The speedo project gave us an opportunity to do some things in the forepeak that would have been impossible with all of the stuff in there. Ken rationalized our spare anchor chain, allowing us to shackle on another 100 feet if we need to. He also installed a new wash down pump, a new windlass motor, new hoses for our sanitation system, and rebedded the windlass.

New Windlass Motor

New windlass motor Our old windlass motor had some seawater damage -- it still worked but Ken decided to swap out the old one with our new spare. This project turned out to be a lot of work because the terminals on the new motor were too close together -- causing the wires to cross one another.

 

Ken filed down the lugs, but that still didn't give enough clearance between connectors. So he used nuts to stagger the heights of the lugs. Pretty nifty! Staggered lug heights on windlass motor

Sanitation Hose Replacement

The forward head plugged up, and being the curious creatures we are, we decided to take a look inside the hoses of our sanitation system. Wow, were we in for a shocker! The crud buildup had reduced the inside diameter from 1 1/2" to about 1/2! No wonder we were getting plugs.

So, we bit the bullet and replaced all of the sanitation hoses for both heads. This is definitely not a fun job.

As the official Small Person on board, Beth got elected to squeeze into the small space under the aft shower to replace the hose. The space is about 8" high (after removal of the water hose in the foreground) and 30" deep. She had to wedge all the way back to the bulkhead to replace the sanitation hose.

Very small space under cabinet in head Forbidding looking space under cabinet

 

Beth wedged into very confined quarters Here's Beth wedged under the cabinet. It was so tight she couldn't move her head or arms once she was in. Fortunately, Ken was around to pull her out.

Watermaker Issues

Our watermaker was the one system on the boat that seemed to run flawlessly (we have a Spectra CT-300 unit). But you do have to change filters periodically to keep it running efficiently. Ken couldn't get the housings off to change the filters. He'd had some of the filters off earlier in our trip, but now they all were frozen in place.

After breaking the plastic wrench which came with our system, Ken resorted to drastic measures -- disassembling the filter installation, putting the housing in a vise, and using a strap wrench to get the housing loose. Using strap wrench to remove filter housing

Mast Inspection/Windex Maintenance

We'd noticed that our wind speed instrument wasn't recording low speeds, so Beth went up the mast to retrieve it.

Beth in climbing gear, ready for ascent up mast We found that a climbing harness works better than a typical bosun's chair for going up the mast. The harness is much safer, since you can't easily fall out of it.

 

Beth is retrieving our wind instrument from the top of the mast. We took it to a local B&G dealer and he lubricated it and tested it out for us. Beth at the top of the mast

Radar Enhancements

We had replaced our Furuno radar head in Newport with the spare we carried on board. After talking with the local Furuno dealer, he thought that we were having an overheating problem. Our radar head is mounted in a closed aluminum box and gets no ventilation.

Ken cutting vents for radar housing Ken cut openings for three vents in the radar cabinet. He also installed a small fan that comes on whenever the radar is turned on. We had the dealer test both of our radar units and also had him install leads for a loud alarm (allows us to hear a louder alarm if a target approaches too close).

 

The new vents and fan should be a huge improvement over our original installation. Finished vent installation for radar

Autopilot Upgrades

Upgrading autopilot components We'd been carrying around some upgrades for our autopilot since we left Waukegan, and Beth installed a new compass (which has a gyro feature) and a new rudder control sensor (shielded to avoid unwanted interference). We've noticed a dramatic improvement in the autopilot's performance (responds much quicker than it used to).

Gossiping Instruments

For months Beth had wanted to get all of the instruments to communicate with each other. We've got a GPS, B&G instruments, autopilot, radar, VHF radio, SSB, and a computer (that could be used either below at the nav station or in the pilothouse).

When the instruments talk to each other, the radar can display a mark where the next waypoint should be, the autopilot can get waypoints from the computer, the autopilot can steer to the wind signal from the B&G, the radios can include our GPS location in a distress signal, and lots of other cool things can happen.

To make all this work, Beth needed to install a "multiplexor" which collects data from all of the instruments and re-distributes it (in a format called "NMEA").

Coming up with this diagram took along time and gave Beth a big headache (she wasn't used to straining her brain so hard).

Wiring scheme for instruments

There was a big mess of wires for several days and it took a long time to test everything to make sure it was all working.

Rewiring instruments Testing instrument setup

 

NMEA output from GPS

Beth would sit and stare for hours at screens like the one in this picture. If you can read this stuff, Ken thinks there's something wrong with you.

Miraculously it all worked! Our instruments now do more talking than the United Nations.

Fuel Polishing System

Meanwhile, Ken was busy with his kind of projects -- the ones that are dirty, greasy, smelly, and useful, but don't require higher math.

Ken had purchased components for a fuel polishing system for our diesel supply before we left last year and we've been carting them around for months.

Most diesel engine failures are caused by dirty fuel -- fungus and bacteria love diesel, particularly if there is a little water from condensation mixed in. When the bugs die, they leave a thick sludge on the bottom of the tank. Normally this stuff stays below the fuel pickup for the engine (which is above the tank bottom). But if you get into rough seas the crud gets mixed up in the good fuel, the filter clogs and the engine fails -- usually in the worst possible storm conditions, when you really need it.

Since all the systems on EW ultimately depend on diesel (except the sails!), Ken was determined not to have this problem. Filtering the fuel early and often -- through a very effective filter -- provides the best defense.

Here's our Gulf Coast filter. It stands about 2.5 feet tall, uses a roll of Bounty papertowels as a filter element, and can filter 30 gal per hour.

Ken designed the system to draw from sump drains at the bottom of each fuel tank and return squeaky clean fuel to the top.

(The blue hose wrapped around the filter housing is an emergency spare.)

Ken with fuel polishing system and Bounty filter

 

Newly fabricated brackets for fuel polishing valves Ken painstakingly carved brackets to ensure the valves could be properly supported and secured.

Since he got this system going, Ken has been happily filtering all the fuel once or twice a week. Ken loves systems that can do lots of work while he sits around and reads a book. (Ken hastens to assure Beth that she's not in that category.)

Hair Maintenance

In addition to boat projects/maintenance, WE needed tending to as well. We both desperately needed haircuts (especially Beth).

Below Beth is displaying her "Bride of Frankenstein" hairdo. Ken doesn't have as much hair to get long, but it did need cutting.

  Beth with big hair Ken's long hair doesn't look too bad, but it still needed cutting

We took turns cutting each other's hair. You sure have to have a lot of trust in the other person!

Ken doing major surgery on Beth's hair Its a simple job to cut Ken's hair -- mostly using electric clippers

Ken's hair deposits (below left) pale next to Beth's (below right). We now know where all of the chocolate Beth eats goes -- right to her head!

Ken's hair leavings Beth's abundant hair deposits

We were both satisfied with the results and it sure was a heck of a lot cooler.

Ken sporting new hairdo Beth with new hairdo

Laundry Day

We'd been lucky to have had access to reasonably priced laundromats -- until we got to Martinique. Beth was shocked at the high cost of doing laundry and she rebelled -- no way was she going to pay $8/load for laundry.

We had gotten a small blow-up swimming pool to do laundry in a pinch and we tried it out. It turned out to be too awkward to use -- took forever to blow it up and there was no drain. Sure did hold alot of laundry, though. Child's swimming pool converted to laundromat

 

Time honored technique of doing laundry in a bucket The next attempt was to use a bucket. That worked fine for clothes, but sheets were another matter. Our current plan now is to do clothes in a bucket and save the sheets (we have lots of changes) until we find a cheap laundromat.

Creative Cooking

Our stay in Martinique also allowed Beth some time to branch out with recipes using the breakmaker. She used the machine to make dough for pizza:

Getting ready to knead pizza dough Attempting to fling pizza dough in the air Assembling pizza

 

Ken has been pretty bemused by Beth's budding cooking abilities. Homemade bread. A three-course meal featuring blackened tuna with currant sauce (on an open water passage!) Pizza from scratch. Asparagus with sun dried tomatoes and pine nuts!

How to put this delicately -- Ken didn't marry Beth for her cooking. So this astonishing display of creativity is a great, unexpected benefit of cruising.

Ken is very happy, if somewhat fatter.

Pizza ready to eat

Local Wildlife

Although we had our noses to the grindstone most of the time we were in Marin, we did stick our heads out of the cockpit once in a while.

Water snake slithering near out boat We were rather startled to see this water snake swimming near out boat. Fortunately for us (and him), he didn't try to come aboard.

 

We also spotted this cruiser taking a siesta on his boat in a nearby boatyard . Funny thing, though -- we'd see him in the same position almost everytime we walked through the boatyard.

Seems like the wrong name for this boat.

Restless owner being restful

Racing in Marin

Ever since we saw our first Yole race (on our approach to Martinique), we've been fascinated by the sport. It turns out that Marin has a very active group of Yole racers (young and old alike) and we saw lots of boats racing (even through the anchorage) on many days.

Sometimes the entire crew will be outside the boat, hanging on those long bamboo poles. Reminds us of racing catamarans, except at least we had trapeze harnesses.

Yole racing Young people learning to race

 

Yole racing Yole racing

 

Racing through the anchorage Dragging Yole onto beach

What People Will Do To Avoid Sailing Their Boats

It's getting time to leave the Caribbean, unless you want to end up like one of the many wrecks we've shown you. You would think the obvious way to move a sailboat would be to sail it, right?

Here's another way:

Transport ship with almost full payload The large Swan sailboat in the foreground is waiting to go aboard the partially submerged transport ship in the background.

Here's a sequence showing the Swan actually getting into the transport ship.

Swan getting into position to motor onto transport ship We couldn't believe there'd be room for this huge Swan -- we watched in amazement as it motored toward the transport ship.

The Swan making its move to board.

Swan making approach to board transport ship Swan beginning entry onto transport ship

 

Swan along with many other boats loaded onto transport ship Amazingly the Swan fit! Here she is all snug aboard the transport ship. Someone must have spent alot of time working out the floor plan.

 

Transport ship shedding ballast Then we watched the transport ship slowly blow her ballast tanks and surface like a submarine.

 

The boats on board are tied into jack stands, which are then welded to the ship. Transport ship ready to steam away

 

Sailboat on top of cargo ship Here's yet another form of boat transport -- atop a cargo ship. Looks pretty precarious.

May 5 - May 13, 2005

We knew we should probably start heading north, but we couldn't resist sneaking a few days in St. Lucia, the next island south.

Small barracuda caught between Martininque and St. Lucia Ken immediately set our fishing lines for the short trip to St. Lucia. We caught a small barracuda but being cautious, we threw him back. Barracuda are infamous for carrying ciguatera, a toxic poison that in severe cases can lead to paralysis and death

St. Lucia

We really enjoyed St. Lucia and wished we had more time to spend. Our first few days were spent anchored out in Rodney Bay, a popular destination for boats. We were very impressed with the friendliness of the people wherever we went.

Over the years, the French and English really duked it out over St. Lucia. Rodney Bay is a great natural harbor that provided good protection for fleets that took refuge there.

Fort at Pigeon Island The fort at the top of the hill of Pigeon Island at the north part of the bay was the scene for many battles.

 

We felt we had been transported back to the 18th century when this square rigger slipped by us one morning. Old brig setting sail

 

Old and new ships on the horizon The old style square rigger on the left makes an interesting contrast with the more modern approach to sailboat design on the right.

 

As in Dominica, some locals come to your boat, hawking their wares (often fruits and vegetables). Here the fruit boat is visiting this charter boat and all the charterers climbed onboard the fruit boat for a picture! We waited for it to sink but it managed to stay afloat. Fruit boat with charterers

 

Fruit boat trying to sell wares to swimmer Here the fruit guy was trying to interest this swimmer in his offerings.

Pitons

A colleague of Ken's had just returned from a visit to the Piton area of St. Lucia and encouraged us to check it out. We sailed down the coast to Soufriere where the Pitons are located. The landscape was spectacular and we were looking forward to doing some snorkeling. Approaching the Pitons

The Pitons and surrounding waters are located in a marine park so anchoring is prohibited. The park service does provide moorings for boats. We were a bit taken aback when we found a local sitting at the mooring with his boat. He gave us the mooring line and then demanded 20 EC, (which translates to about $8 US) as a payment for the service! We hadn't needed his help in the first place, and we had an angry exchange before we paid him to go away. One of the most unpleasant interactions we've had. Next time we will say no to the help.

Soaking Wet at Dinner

We did get in some snorkeling, but then decided to move north again. We moved up the coast to a little mooring field at Anse Cochan. There reputedly was a good restaurant on shore and that evening we ventured ashore. Unfortunately, there were no docks so we had to land the dinghy in the surf. It took several tries, and we got soaked from head to toe. By the time we got near the restaurant we were covered with sand as well. We stopped at a little creek to wash off our shoes and pants.

When we arrived at the restaurant, we discovered it was a fancy place with a dress code. (In the Caribbean?) The wait staff took pity on us and was very welcoming. They found a place for us outside on the patio. It was a good thing the patio had wooden furniture (rather than the nice cloth chairs of the inside restaurant) so our wet clothes didn't mess up the furniture.

May 14 - May 17, 2005

Martinique Revisited

After leaving St. Lucia, we sailed back to Marin, Martinique for an evening.

The next day we set off north along the Martinique coast. We had great winds and sailed through the cut between Diamond Rock (pictured here) and the mainland. Approaching cut between Martinique and Diamond Rock

May 18 - May 19, 2005

Our plans for moving north were very fluid at this point. We could either try to work our way by island hopping, or make a big push back to the Virgin Islands. When we learned that our friend, Mitch and his wife, Robin could see us in St. Croix, we decided to head there. We had aborted an attempt to visit them earlier in the year and this would be our last chance to see them this year.

We expected very light winds for our trip. We had to motor most of the first 24 hours, as the wind was less than 4 knots. Placid water in the Caribbean Sea

 

Waterspout in distance The weather was very unsettled that first day, and at one point this waterspout headed our way (in middle of picture -- you may want to view large version of this picture). A waterspout is a small tornado on the water. It never got close to us, but it sure looked ominous!

 

Here the spout is retracting and you can just see the top of it as it recedes into the clouds toward the right side of the picture. Waterspout receding into clouds

 

Flying spinnaker in light air The weather settled down and we were able to fly our spinnaker for a few hours.

And of course we put out the fishing lines. These waters seem to be lousy with barracuda -- that's all we caught -- and we had five in all during this trip (all of which we let go).

The first barracuda we caught put up a good fight for a while and then just went limp. We were pretty shocked when we pulled it aboard to find just the head! Something big had gotten hold of it. Barracuda head

 

Large barracuda on line A little while later, we had another fish on the line and we could tell this was a whopper barracuda.

 

Yikes! This guy had some serious looking teeth. Ken is contemplating how he's going to get the lure out without losing some fingers. Large barracuda near boat

Ken used some very long needle nose pliers to wrestle the hook loose -- which he did after several attempts. The barracuda quickly swam away.

Trying to remove hook from barracuda Using long pliers to remove hook

May 20 - May 21, 2005

St. Croix

We arrived at St. Croix in the middle of the night, so we hove to until the next morning and then made our way into Christiansted Harbor.

We had a great time visiting with Mitch and Robin. We thought St. Croix was much nicer than St. Thomas -- an undiscovered gem. Mitch and Robin being happy on St. Croix

 

Bottle garden in St. Croix Our friends drove us around the island and we got a good feel for the place. We passed by this bottle garden -- pretty ingenious use for old bottles and Raid cans!

Several boats were anchored near us and we motored over to one of our neighbors, Wayne and Beth (on "Novatrix") to say hi.

Wayne and Beth planned to stay a while in St. Croix to do more extensive touring. We were sorry we didn't have more time to get to know them better. With Wayne and Beth from Novatrix

May 22 - May 24, 2005

We couldn't stay long in St. Croix, as we wanted to rendezvous with our friend, Jim (from Waukegan, IL) who had traveled to St. Thomas to help deliver a boat to the Chesapeake. The boat, "Archangel", a beautiful Hylas, was being crewed by the owner and his wife (Fran and Angela), our friend Jim, and another crewmember, a professional sailor also named Jim.

Beth with Jim from Waukegan It sure was great to see Jim Moran, a familiar face from our days in Waukegan Harbor.

 

Even though they were getting underway the next morning, the whole crew (along with Davis, a boating neighbor) came over to our boat for drinks. Angela brought along some delicious mushroom delicacies. Friends visiting from Archangel

 

Archangel getting underway for the Chesapeake "Archangel" came over for a farewell visit the next morning. They were just beginning a 1400 mile journey to the Chesapeake.

May 25 - May 31, 2005

After our friends got underway, we weighed anchor and motored over to Charlotte Amalie. We seem to be drawn there like a magnet. With nearby laundries, internet access, grocery stores, and boat chandleries, we had everything we needed to get ready for our own push north.

Moving On

We're planning to continue our trek back the States for the hurricane season very soon. Our route is a bit uncertain, but we think we'll visit Puerto Rico first and then decide where to go next. We've got several alternatives but a lot will depend on the weather. Our goal is to get to the Chesapeake. Our friends from "Archangel" recommended a yard there where we can get the boat hauled for bottom painting. We also have a short list of projects, some of which can only be done with the boat out of the water.

Then we plan to rent a car and drive home to visit our families and hopefully see some friends, too. We sure do miss everyone!