Monday 21 July 2014

Las Perlas to Galápagos

March 5th-11th 2015

𝟘 ⁰. 𝟘𝟘'. 𝟘𝟘" 
𝒞𝓇ℴ𝓈𝓈𝒾𝓃ℊ 𝓉𝒽ℯ ℰ𝓆𝓊𝒶𝓉ℴ𝓇,  ℳ𝒶𝓇𝒸𝒽 𝟙𝟘, 𝟚𝟘𝟙𝟝

We left Las Perlas Islands in Panama on March 5th, and arrived in San Cristobal, Galápagos on March 11, after having celebrated our crossing the equator the day before. We had pretty good winds for most of the crossing, until we arrived at the equator on March 10th, where, typically, the wind just died. We didn’t let the lack of wind dampen our spirits as we celebrated our crossing from the North to the Southern Hemisphere. We asked Neptune for permission to cross, Mark made a touching  toast and then we all had a quick dip, swimming on the line that divides our dear planet in two, it was a moment to cherish and celebrate ! The sun went down over the horizon, looking bigger than we had ever seen it before.

Our instruments show the moment we crossed.

From "slimy pollywogs" to "trusty shellbacks"! We become sons and daughters of Neptune

The SV Amelie Crew at 0⁰ 00' 00''

Friday 11 July 2014

Week 14 The Grenadines

Friday July 11th 2014

We have been on a “Reconnaissance Mission” in the Grenadines this week, scoping out Carriacou, Union and Mayreau Islands before our guests arrive.

The Grenadines, located between St Vincent and Grenada, are a small group of Islands with crystal clear waters and a multitude of reefs. We had been told that the water was SO clear here, that you could see the bottom even when anchored at 30 + feet,well, we just had to go and check it out for ourselves!

The Grenadines

We pulled anchor from our comfortable spot in St Georges, Grenada on Saturday July 5th, said:  " See you soon! ", to our friends and sailed North.  On our way, we sailed just to the West of “Kick’Em Jenny” a very active underwater volcano, so active in fact, that there is a restriction “no sail” zone a couple of miles around it. I kept my eyes out for bubbles at the surface but, had no luck in spotting it !

We stopped in at Carriacou island for our first night. We arrived in time for dinner and since we did not have to clear customs (because Carriacou is still part of Grenada) we decided to go on shore to eat. 

As we dinghied up to the jetty, we could hear some loud, happy sounds coming from the   road next to the beach. As we got closer we saw that there was some sort of street party going on. There was a man with a microphone acting as “Master of Ceremonies”, and a crowd of onlookers: a mixture of young and old, local and visitors, which were gathered around an area, the MC was calling out : “Ok, now we need a white guy, are there any white guys who will volunteer?” As we got closer we could see what all the commotion was about : at the centre of the crowd was a table and two chairs and an arm wrestling competition was on its way, between a “white guy” and a “local guy”. It was pretty funny to witness all the excitement this generated, as the “MC” egged them on.The people were all cheering and enjoying themselves, as one would, during a hockey game in overtime. After the arm wrestling game,a friendly tug of war  was quickly organized, where everyone was invited to join. Mark did his part of course as we watched and cheered. This, of course, was all happening in the middle of the street, as a few drivers of cars and trucks patiently waited for their turn to go, once the tug of war was over.

"White Guys" Side of Tug of War

We then headed to the the back of a little building from which people were emerging with bowls of  tasty smelling “stew”. Mark got himself a serving and, just before walking away he asked : "So what is this made with ?”, he was told  that the stew was made with none other than turtle meat! So we only got the ONE bowl as neither Meghan or I would eat it ! (They are Meghan’s favourite animal !). Mark did tell us that in its sauce, Turtle tasted, surprisingly, like lamb, huh,who would of thought ?!

Street Party Carriacou

Turtle Curry

We enjoyed Carriacou and stayed for a couple of days. On the second day taking  Recess (the dinghy) on a VERY rough ride -my butt still hurts as I write this- to a great little island simply called “Sandy Island” which is one of those idyllic, pristine, tiny islands you imagine being marooned on, with nothing more than sand and a few palm trees. The reef just beside this island made for very good snorkelling. 

Our next stop was Union Island, were we were to clear into the Grenadines. When we arrived on land, on a Tuesday at 2 pm, we found everything closed, even the customs and immigrations office. We were directed to walk to the airport, which luckily was only 10 minutes away, so that we could “clear in” there. It turns out that it was “Carnival Tuesday”, a day of rest for everyone after two weeks of partying at Carnival....we understood completely: having lived in Calgary were The Stampede takes over the town for two weeks and work is put on the” back burner” for awhile.

So we missed Carnaval, but we know that we will have an opportunity to experience  one in Grenada in August.

When we entered the tight little anchorage at Clifton (Union Island) , all we could say was “WOW!” The colours of the water and the surrounding reefs were just breath-taking, and a photograph could, sadly, never do it justice, still, we took a few shots nevertheless.

Clifton Bay Area, Union Island

We had heard of a tiny “man-made island” whose base was made entirely from Conch Shells. This Island has been aptly christened “Happy Island” and we went to have a look  after dinner. Happy Island is, I am happy to report, indeed a very happy place ! It houses a small bar (complete with an enclosed disco dance floor), a tiny sandy beach , four palm trees and is the home of our very gracious host/bartender. We found out that, with reservations, one could also have dinner on Happy Island, and so we will plan for that on our next visit!

Happy on Happy Island !

Happy Island on a blustery day

The winds have been strong this week (averaging 25 knots), and so we decided to take shelter on the other side of Union Island, at the quiet and lovely Chatam Bay where we enjoyed serenity and beauty. It was a thrill to sit on deck and watch the turtles popping their heads out, all over ... I was trying to capture them on film with Meg’s help, but they are so darn fast, it ended up sounding like this: “ Oh .....there’s one!”  .....CLIC … "Oops, it went down"…."Oh.. THERE !” ...CLIC … " Darn it..”….."Mom -over there !”....CLIC  …"Oh that one is too far away"….."Mark can you get me the zoom lens ?” ... “Oh there ! "  ...CLIC…"Nope,....missed it !”...... Meghan made the comment that trying to get a photo of the turtles was like  playing a game of “WACK A MOLE”! Without any actual “wacking”  or stuffed animal prize at the end of course.

With Patience I did manage to “WACK”  a few in the end. Such beautiful creatures, so cute, and NOT AT ALL  looking like dinner !  

What did end up being dinner, however,  was CONCH !  Locally known as “LAMBI”, we have had the pleasure to eat conch before, in the form of conch fritters:  A popular and delicious appetizer. We did enjoy being given a demonstration of how conch meat is extracted from the shell and how it is prepared to ensure that there be no “rubberiness”

It all started when Tim, the cook, arrived on the beach just after we had landed, and he threw four “freshly picked” conch shells right at our feet, and then Tony “Bollhead”, the owner of the restaurant, was kind enough to do the demonstration for us right on the spot !  First he took his machete to cut the tip of the shell, he then stuck a knife into this newly made hole to “persuade” the large muscle to “let go” he then reached in the front of the conch with his fingers to pull it out, it as still pulsating when Tony  put it down on the sand, and he told us that it could stay alive until tomorrow, if needed. Tim, the cook, then took the time to explain to Mark how to “pound the meat until it becomes very thin” and to “NEVER add salt.!”, to ensure its tenderness. I have to tell you, Tim knows his stuff, because the lambi that he prepared for us was, by far, the most tender and tasty we have had !

Freshly picked Conch

"Conch Removal " Demonstration
Two extracted Conch ready to prepare for cooking

The dance floor on Happy Island

Today we arrived in Mayreau Island, just "next door" to Union. We took shelter in Saline Bay as a storm was brewing. In between downpours, we decided to take a walk up to the village. During our walk we had the real pleasure of meeting some true gems of the Mayreau population. First there was the lovely owner of a restaurant who gave us shelter when the rain started again. We had a lovely chat about his island and had a drink.

Catholic Church Mayreau Island

Next, while we were on a quest for bread we met John Roake. This well spoken, genuine man, who was taught by cambridge lecturers, used to be a teacher, and  is now the justice of the peace. He has also opened a preschool and gives help to students with special needs. John is also a peace promoting representative of the Grenadines to the world. He has received letters, awards and recognition for his work from many Presidents/Prime Ministers from around the world, from Queen ElizabethII and members of her family and the Pope too !  He was happy to speak to us, as he helped us buy bread from his father-in-law, as he spoke passionately about his quest for promotion of peace around the world, recently his work has been with Chinese & Japanese governments opening communication with North Korea. He gave us a brief history of his people on the island (from slavery to today). He humbly asked if we had any books on history to share with him and we promised him that we would bring him some soon.

We then walked up to a cute little Catholic church (which was not only beautiful to see but also gave us shelter from the next rain storm). There we met Joseph who, like everyone else here, warmly welcomed us to his island before giving us some thoughtful words of wisdom about safety/theft prevention while we travel. Our last stop in the village happened as we walked by a very cool looking Rasta Cafe and met with Robert, the owner. Robert is clearly a  man who lives his life  with open arms, everyday, and he has so much love to give to all and any person he meets. He welcomed us in to his "Zion" where he and a few others were about to start a "jamin' session" with drums and guitar. We sat and listened for a while, had a drink, took in the eclectic collection of history all over the walls (kids learned about Martin Luther King) and when we left, Meghan gave Robert one of her bracelets with the "Liberation Colours" (Green, Yellow, Red)…and he was so over joyed and moved by her gesture that he gave her a big hug.

The very cool Rasta Cafe- where we met Robert

We then walked up to a cute little Catholic church (which was not only beautiful to see but also gave us shelter from the next rain storm). There we met Joseph who, like everyone else here, warmly welcomed us to his island before giving us some thoughtful words of wisdom about safety/theft prevention while we travel. Our last stop in the village happened as we walked by a very cool looking Rasta Cafe and met with Robert, the owner. Robert is clearly a  man who lives his life  with open arms, everyday, and he has so much love to give to all and any person he meets. He welcomed us in to his "Zion" where he and a few others were about to start a "jamin' session" with drums and guitar. We sat and listened for a while, had a drink, took in the eclectic collection of history all over the walls (kids learned about Martin Luther King) and when we left, Meghan gave Robert one of her bracelets with the "Liberation Colours" (Green, Yellow, Red), and he was so over joyed and moved by her gesture that he gave her a big hug.

As we walked back to the dinghy, we were all smiles, slightly damp, but radiating happiness and optimistic energy from all of our positive encounters on this Island.  Just goes to show that it is not all about beautiful beaches and scenery, it is more about meeting wonderful people who so generously share their time and life stories with us.In next weeks blog we hope to tell you about the Tobago Cays, where we are headed next.



Mangrove Carriacou



Clifton, Union Island


Happy on Happy Island

Chatham Bay, Union Island

Flying Fish

Storm Brewing- Saline Bay-Mayreau Island

One of many father--daughter chess games


Meghan on Amelie (written in July 2014) There was one island in the Grenadines that really “opened up my eyes” and that was Mayreau. We took a short walk to find town and we were saying to each other while we were walking that we needed bread and somehow someone overheard us and told us to go to the house across from him. We knocked on the door but there was no answer so he came over and opened the door for us (he said it was his father-in-law’s house). He asked us where we were from and we said Canada. Apparently, he had done a research on Canada in high school and he started telling us all about how he had to know all the great lakes, the territories and the provinces. He then started talking about how later he had become a peacemaker for the Grenadines and he represented all his people and reported what they said. He also has received many letters from:  many famous people including Queen Elizabeth! He sold us the bread and then added that he was very interested in history books so if we had any we didn’t want, he would like that a lot. We said that we definitely had at least one then we walked away feeling in awe that we met such an interesting person! 

We walked a little bit more and then found a really cool looking bar where the whole restaurant was painted with the liberation colours (red, yellow and green) and there was the sound of drums coming from inside! We walked in and there were about 6 people playing instruments (mostly drums). We sat down and when you looked all around you, there were flags everywhere and there was not one corner of the restaurant that was not painted red, yellow or green! Comments of the restaurant were written all over the walls and in a small room at the back I could see a small camping bed which is where the store owner probably slept! The drummers played many songs which they probably just made up! It was not a very fancy restaurant and it didn’t look like they had a lot of money but when you looked at them, they had built a very nice community and they were very happy with their life! When we left the restaurant, I gave the owner Robert one of my Rainbow Loom bracelets (one of my liberation coloured ones) and I have never had someone more thankful for a bracelet than he was! When we got back on the boat, we (or at least I did) had a whole different perspective of how life can and should be lived even when you have almost nothing!

Finally, after months of talking about it, we made it to the beautiful Tobago Cays (another island in the Grenadines)! I had always been saying that I really wanted to go to the Bahamas but I don’t think I need to anymore because the water is beautiful enough for me here! It is crystal clear even in 20 feet of water and to just describe swimming in it, it really was just like swimming in the sky! 

Tobago Cays

Magnificent Tobago Keys

The moment we got there, we had heard about the sea turtle watching area so we dingheyed right over to the beach next to the watching area. If you are ever looking for a good place to snorkel, Tobago Cays is the number 1 place to go (at least in my opinion)! Anyways, we were snorkelling at the turtle watching area and I was alone for some odd reason and I was thinking to myself: “Hey! Wouldn’t it be cool if I saw a turtle when I was all alone! It would a memory of a lifetime like when mom swam with a sea lion!”. So I kept snorkelling and then I found a box fish and then I looked to the side of it and there is a sea turtle right there grazing on some seagrass! I was so in awe that I just could not speak or move! Ok, obviously I couldn’t speak because I was underwater but I was so surprised I thought I was dreaming! It was so interesting to watch it eat because sometimes it would accidentally eat sand along with the seagrass and so it would spit the sand out! I would also follow it when it swam up to the surface and then I’d pop my head up just in time to see it’s too! Swimming with the turtle reminded me of when I was younger and I got to feed and pet squirrels because I felt like a princess and you can call me “kiddish” but I really felt like the Little Mermaid swimming with that turtle! While swimming back to the boat, me and my mom saw a ray and the moment it started digging about 6 box fish came around it and we saw that a couple of times so we think that they have a symbiotic relationship! 

We also explored one of the little islands (the Tobago Cays are really just a marine park surrounded by inhabited islands) which had a nice beach that especially Matthew, our “big fish” loved! My parents and I discovered (while Matthew swam in happiness!) a really nice view up the hill of the island. I was literally looking down at at least 10 different shades of blue in the water all scattered everywhere to make the beautiful water even more beautifu! If we had that kind of view on our boat, we would never have to worry about hitting reefs! Hopefully these pictures will give you a better idea and feeling of the magnificent Tobago Cays!

Just chilling!



After the Tobago Cays, we sailed back down to Grenada! On our first night, we decided to go see our friends on sailing vessel Rafiki to tell them we were back! The two girls (who are 10 and 12) said they had volunteered to work at the local SPCA (an animal rescue center) walking the puppies there! They then asked me if I wanted to come with them the next day to help them! As you can imagine saying no to this opportunity is definitely not an option in my world! When we got there the next day, they gave us a short walk through of the center which was quite small considering that I have only been to the SPCA of Calgary where each dog/cat/bunny has their own kennel but in this SPCA they only had dogs and cats and only had one 3 kennels so 2 small ones for the cats and 1 big one for the dogs. They still had all the necessary medicine and had a nice vet station. 

One of many visits to Grenada's SPCA

When we got to the dog kennel (which was outside) all the dogs and puppies were so excited to see us (as you can imagine) and it was hard to pick which one to walk because I knew they all wanted to! I wanted to walk one that looked like it wasn’t chosen very often so I almost chose a very sad looking pit bull named Blaze but later found out that he was a very aggressive dog that had been abused and shouldn't be walked by a volunteer. I ended up finding a really cute boy puppy in the corner who had the absolute cutest face! He was scared of me at first and did not want to come out of the kennel but he eventually did after a lot of my encouragement! The nickname I gave him was Mr. Handsome and he seemed quite satisfied with it! 

He was a very playful, energetic and fearless puppy! We took them to a park behind the SPCA and we had to go down quite a steep hill. I didn’t think he’d be able to do it but in the end, it was me that had more trouble doing it! Everyone who owns a puppy says they are a lot of work and I did not believe that until I took a puppy out for a walk! By the end, I felt like I had ran a marathon! I found it incredible how much energy he had and I might now think twice about ever getting a puppy! I did have the time of my life though rolling around in the grass with them! After we dropped the puppies back off, we got to hold little tiny kittens no bigger than my hand! They were quite scared at first being outside of their kennel but you rocked them for a little while (just like a baby) and they were calm! Here are some pictures of the adorable animals we played with!

Cruising friends


Thursday 3 July 2014

Week 13 : Grenada

day July 3rd 2014 

So what's cooking in Grenada???  

More like WHO is cooking, and the answer would be: Marie-Claude that's' who ! On Thursday Marie-Claude and Ingrid (from Rafiki) decided to join in on a Grenadian "Cooking Class". It turned out to be more of a "cooking demonstration", fuelled with plenty of rum punch and a chance to taste the finished product at the end. Our Hostesses/Cooks : Omega and Esther, had plenty of banter between them, like something from "Abbott and Costello”, and they kept us giggling while we  tried to keep up with the recipe. We left with a full tummy, a light head and a recipe to try at home !  They made Turmeric Chicken and Esther shared her "Special Seasoning" recipe, which can be used as a marinade. Try it if you dare !

M-C takes a Grenadian cooking class

Omega and Esther 
Esthers' Special Seasoning (Marinade)

A couple of weeks ago, while on tour with Cutty, we had a chance to see where Turmeric came from. It is the root of a plant which is dried and grated into a fine powder, to make one of my favourite spices!

The root that gives us Turmeric 


Canada Day : 

Meanwhile, a few of us Canadians got together for a pot luck pic nic on the beach on Tuesday to celebrate Canada Day together. This lead into an impromptu soccer game which was witnessed by a few of the locals and, if nothing else, left no doubt as to why Canada did not make it to the World Cup !  The nice part about playing soccer on a beach is that at any given time any player could yell out “ Water Break” and within seconds all players were found floating in the sea, swapping cruising stories, until someone reminded us to get back in the game.

Canada Day treats !

Canada day on Grande Anse Beach, Grenada

Canada Day with fellow canucks !

St George. We took a walk around the picturesque capital of St George with some friends. We visited the spice market as well as the fish and meat markets. The meat market especially had me raising my eyebrows and breathing through my mouth. We then walked up to get a better view of the bay and walked through an interesting  cemetery. 

In St George's harbour, we also got to see the Windjammer "Mandalay". I found out later that Mandalay is truly a historic tall ship. It is a 236-foot barkentine built in 1923. It was used by Columbia University  and evidence gathered on her voyages confirmed the theory of the continental drift. It is now used for sailing tours around the Caribbean. Look up: Windjammer Sailing Adventures. They have a great reputation for legendary holidays.

Swimming with the Statues !

Another fun thing we found ot do was to snokel off Dragon Bay/Moliniere Point on the West Coast, where the Worlds' First Underwater Gallery is located. This is called the Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park. It was so much fun to swim around and try to find all the statues which were displayed here. Although we did not manage to find them ALL, it was an exciting scavenger hunt just the same !  Some of the statues looked quite eerie as we came upon them in their silent underwater home, some had acquired marine growth which gave them an even more peculiar look !  


Underwater statues park, Grenada

Praying man

Joys of riding the bus

Taking the local bus has been a great eye opening experience for us. The  overcrowded minivans with loud music blaring, are quickly filled with laughter and comradery between the driver and the local passengers,inside jokes flying way over our heads which leave us smiling, wishing we were in the know, these buses are, in my humble opinion,the very model of efficiency for public transport, buses drive by, every few minutes, they are very affordable and will stop where ever you are when you wave them down (who needs a bus stop?), and  they are filled to capacity, passengers help the driver and are all on the lookout or potential passengers and give a gentle tap when they want off, and, just when you think buses have reached maximum capacity, folding seats and extra cushions are pulled out to fit “just a few more”. Canada and the rest of the “developped world” could learn a thing or two from Grenada. I am not sure if people from Canada would be ready to give up their comfort and respect of their “personal space”,but  the entertainment alone would more than make up for it I am sure !

The ubiquitous buses of Grenada

River Antoine Distillery : 

Meghan has asked me to tell you a little bit about the River Antoine Rum Distillery. This is the oldest running rum distillery in Grenada, since 1785 and it is still running as it was way back then, they even still use a water wheel to crush the sugar cane. It is a very intersting place to visit, but the rum is not everyone's cup of tea, they make a very strong, 70% proof rum which will temporarily stun your senses! No wonder it is not legal to fly with this stuff ! (Anyone who wishes to buy this needs to get the watered down version to be able to board their flight.)

River Antoine Rum Distillery

Sugar cane 

River Antoine Distillery

Matthew playing the tambourine with the band-Fish Friday

Goat heads, St George's Market

Meg eating a "water lemon" (like passion fruit)

Tambourine Meg at Fish Friday

Drums at Fish Friday

Cuban Relic Planes left from the Grenada Invasion of 1983
Mark having a look at the Relic Cuban Planes

Fun with morning balls

Marie-Claude Turns 45

One of the many goats we encounter on our walks

The Carenage

The St George Tunnel

Meg getting braids on the beach

The Carenage

The Carenage in St Georges

Port Louis Marina

Crabs for sale

Cemetery with a view, St George

The Mandalay

View of St Georges and Port Louis

Windy day in the National Park