Saturday 27 September 2014

Week 26: Dinghy's Day Out !

Have you seen this dinghy ?

Saturday September 27th 2014

I did wonder when I heard Mark running around on deck at 3:00 am, talking to himself on Monday morning, what’s he up to ?? When  I pulled myself  out of bed, stepped on to the deck and saw him scanning the dark waters with our spotlight. I could already guess what had happened. 

Is the dinghy gone?" I asked with a knot in my throat. Yup !

On the ONE night when we did not lock it, and the ONE night when Mark was not sleeping in the cockpit, someone had taken Recess !!!  

Mark explained that he had heard something and looking out the window he could not see the dinghy, he had gone on deck and pulled on the thick yellow painter* (the rope that attaches the dinghy to the boat) he ended up with a blunt end of the rope where it has been cut, probably just minutes before !!!

Mark explained that he had heard something and looking out the window he could not see the dinghy, he had gone on deck and pulled on the thick yellow painter* (the rope that attaches the dinghy to the boat) he ended up with a blunt end of the rope where it has been cut, probably just minutes before !!!

Mark holding the painter where it was cut by the thief

So there we were, sitting on deck in the dark moonless night with our heads in our hands,  thinking “What now !?”  We kept scanning the ink black horizon but nothing was moving. We put a call on the radio to warn our cruising neighbours to lock their dinghies, in case the thieves were after more than one prize that night. Next, we called the Coast Guard/Police and when the second question they asked Mark was: “How old are you?” ( What’s your name?” being the first.) I  started to have doubts about whether these guys, were really going to  be much help to us.

After pondering our new situation, we went back to bed, trying no to worry too much.

The next morning, when  the “daily cruisers’ net” came over the radio, Ch 66, we announced our loss. We also posted a photo of Recess on the Grenada Cruisers FB Page, knowing full well that the most likely scenario was that Recess was already on its way to neighbouring islands such as Trinidad, St Vincent or Carriacou (because that is what everybody told us), they said: “Forget about it, you won't find it, it is long gone” and having heard this before,we believed them. The cruising community gave us great support, offering us rides or their extra dinghy, extra outboard engine and lots of moral support. Luckily, Mark had bought a spare dinghy a month before, so we were not stuck on board without a way to shore !

After school we asked our favourite taxi driver (Phillip aka “Bionic Man” on account of his reconstructed knee), to take us to the police station to file a report. Then we stopped to get a few groceries and took a tour around St Georges Carenage and Fisherman’s wharf to see if we could not spot Recess, just in case. Our dinghy is very bright yellow (not very common as most are grey), and easy to spot at a distance, we had always though this might be a deterrent to thieves.

As we were driving back from town, a message came over FB, that the dinghy had been found, without its engine, and that it had been returned to AmelieIV !  WHAT ?!?!  We could hardly believe it !

When we got back to the bay, we found out that it was a couple from Montreal, whom we had never met, that had taken it upon themselves to go look for Recess in the bay where they were anchored ( the bay next to ours). As they scanned the bays’ quiet areas, they spotted something yellow in the mangroves. Upon closer examination, they discovered Recess, upside down in the bushes about 50 feet from the water. They solicited the help of some other fellow cruisers (friends of ours) to retrieve it. Once they got it flipped over, they found that the engine was gone, but the gas tank,one oar, and other belongings were still in it!  (It was thought that the thieves took the outboard off for quick sale and were maybe thinking of coming back later to get the rest!) These wonderful people then towed our dinghy back to us, and waited onboard Amelie for our return !

Louise and Denis, two Canadians with huge hearts

We were so delighted to have our dinghy back, even without her outboard, it would reduce the replacement cost considerably !  We were so grateful to our new friends Denis and Louise and thanked them as best we could ! There is truly an incredible community of cruisers here in Grenada, all looking after one another ! I told Denis that if ever he should be looking for work, he might want to apply as the Chief of Police in Grenada !!! Needless to say, we have now re-secured our outboard-less Recess with it's heavy chain and lock again, and Mark went back to sleeping in the cockpit, spotlight at the ready! 

That very night, our radio (which we leave on in case of emergency) sprung to life at around 12:30 am, we could hear people talking, calling in a flurry of activity, which, eventually, pulled me from my slumber.  I got up to find out what was going on. Mark, who had been listening from the start, filled me in:  A boat in the next bay had been boarded by an individual!  Unbeknownst to him,  the lady of the boat was in the cockpit reading. She surprised the intruder who then swiftly jumped into the water. Her husband got the spotlight while she hailed everyone over the radio trying to wake as many cruisers as possible. People started to come out to help in their dinghies, by then the individual had swam to a nearby boat where his “partner in crime” had been gesticulating feverishly for him to hurry up!!!  They were held in the spot light and surrounded by the other dinghies until the Coast Guard showed up (in about 10 minutes). The two would-be thieves were taken away in hand cuffs, telling everyone that they had done nothing wrong, that they had  simply been fishing!  The outboard on the intruders boat was a 15HP Yamaha Enduro, like the one we had lost the previous night, but it turns out that it was not ours, but we have been assured that the individuals will be investigated to see if they were connected to our incident. 

It has been 6 days since all this has happened and we are no closer at finding our missing outboard. We hold very little hope to get it back and will be preparing an insurance claim in the next week. It sounds like the process will be a frustrating one, as these things are: Just getting a copy of the police statement (needed for the claim) is going to take 3-6 weeks ! 

I would like to end by saying that despite everything you have read in this blog, we still believe that Grenada is a very safe place to be, the occurrence of boarding and theft are relatively rare. People in Grenada are just as upset as we are to hear that these events are happening on their island by a very small minority of misguided individuals. The boat which was boarded has been vigilant in insuring that due process will be followed for the criminals involved in their case (and perhaps ours), but it has not been easy for them, as there seem to be a few differences between our Canadian criminal investigation and legal system  and the one here In Grenada. We hope that everything gets sorted out for them soon !

We feel that ours is a good story with a happy ending. We will be able to replace the outboard engine, without too much hassle, and we have learned an important lesson about “opportunistic crime”. To never let our guard down, to never leave our dinghy or other valuables unlocked, no matter how safe and “at home” we feel ! 

What else have we been doing this week ?

Last Saturday morning, Meg and MC happily joined a group of cruisers who volunteer  at “Mt Airy  Young Readers Program”. A program which promotes reading skills in Grenadian elementary students. At a friend of mine’s suggestions, I brought Chloe (the puppet) along with me, for the kids enjoyment. As always she was a real kid-magnet ( I wish I knew her secret!), and a big hit with adults and students alike ! Chloe’s Big debut led to us being invited to perform our play “Oh ! Canada!”, for the young cruisers book club which happens every Friday. It was also Meg’s debut of the play in front of a live audience and she did exceptionally well, and was duly praised by the audience after the performance !  We will be moving to our new location to start the deck work early next week. (St George in the lagoon). It is going to be an intensive three weeks, but we will seek to make the best of it....there are still many stimulating things to learn about here in Grenada, and the capital  is a great place to start the discovery process from.

We will let you know what we discover.

P.S. THANK YOU for all the words of encouragement that you sent us after last week's post. It helped us more than you can imagine ! You really are a great bunch ! 

Our puppet presentation at the Mt Airy Young Readers Program

Meg did a great job playing Chloe the puppet

Our puppets were very well received 

Saturday 20 September 2014

Is this where things start to fall apart ?!?

The stripped decks on Amelie's foredeck

More stripped decks

day September 20th 2014

 ***Warning :  If you are looking for a happy-go-lucky blog, do not read any further! Instead go to any of our previous blogs, and just skip this one.

However for those of you who have been secretly cursing us and wishing our blogs would  stop being so freakishly happy all the time, rejoice !  This one’s for you ! 

Have you ever had that experience of someone coming into your home to do a small job, just a routine maintenance, and then they go: Whoa, lady, I hate to be the one to tell you this but, you have the worst case of__(Insert your worst house renovation story here: like “termites”, “black mold”etc..) _ that I have ever seen, um, this is going to cost you, alot more than we'd talked about! ”

You have ? Us too, just a few days ago in fact. Our new reality is that we will most likely NOT be able to leave Grenada for quite a few MONTHS now, and we are going to have to move OFF AMELIE  for at least a couple of weeks (maybe more), and this is going to have a MAJOR impact on the travel budget.

We hope that this is just a bump in the road, but as I write this today it feels more like an abyss has just opened up on this cool highway we had been cruising on, and we’ve had to hit the brakes pretty abruptly !

“So, what’s up ?” , you ask. Well, if you have been keeping up with the blog you already know that, last week, Cpt. Mark had tackled the decks on Amelie. Wanting to remove the layer of faux teak and and have it painted instead....He and a local guy had been working on removing the Nu teak stuff for two full days, scraping away the glue and sanding everything down to get back to the original layer. Things had been going well enough...and Mark had found some good contacts to get the job done in a few week.He was finally feeling optimistic about it on Monday. But when I returned from an errand later that same evening, Mark was waiting for me, standing on deck & looking very grim. My first thought was that Hurricane Matthew might have gotten himself in trouble somehow, but no, Mark did not waste any time to tell me the news: His worst fears about the decks were becoming a reality !  There is water in between the layers of fiberglass on the decks! Mark says that they feel spongy in many spots...which would mean that the wood underneath the fiberglass could have water damage. This in turn means that we need to sand down all of the layers of fiber glass, & replace the wood where needed and re do all those spots. The original deck resurfacing plan of sanding some cracks out of the gel coat, gel coat repairs and putting anti-skid on, wasn't going to work.  The original brown gel coat that Amel used to simulate the teak has debonded extensively from the white gel coat underneath, so is a much more extensive repair than expected.  The gel coat on the side decks will have to be sanded off basically down to the fiberglass, faired, then re-gel coated or epoxied and Awlgrip'd.  Yup, it’s bad, really bad and its going to cost, alot of money and keep us here for another few months at least ! 

Mark also delivered the news that the family will not be able to stay on board while these major repairs are done. The boat will have to be tarped over, and closed up. Having to live on land again after our two weeks in August was NOT in the plan or the budget. And after nearly three months in the same place at a time when we were just getting our engines revved up, excited about the prospect of new adventures and sights to see, the new reality of not being able to go anywhere and perhaps skipping some of our planned destinations is a hard pill to swallow.

"It’s okay" I tell myself over and over,"breathe!" In through the nose, out through the mouth. There has GOT to be a way to get our head around this .

First step :Denial “Are you sure Mark? Can it be ANYTHING else ?” “Can those blue/green spongy spots you have uncovered be something else ?  Algae ? No ?”  Ok.

Next step: Anger (at oneself) 

Kicking oneself over and over and getting stuck in the “Should-a, could-a, would-a s”

Mark had worried about these decks from the very beginning, he had a gut feeling these were going to cause us trouble from the start, he had often voiced his opinion, MC tended to keep optimistic without fully understanding the impact if his worst fears were to be realised, like today. He is now saying : “I should-a followed my gut....

Why did we not check this earlier ?  We ‘should-a’ had  the decks looked after while the boat was on the hard for 7 months last year !! We ‘could-a’ had this all resolved earlier. Why did we spend so much money on that other stuff ??? 

Then comes:Disappointment, worry, anxiety.

What does this mean for our travel plans ?  What about our budget ?  Can we go on ? What do we need to sacrifice ? How will we afford to live another few weeks/month on land ? What about the people we wanted to meet up with later this fall? Is this where everything starts falling apart?

Next step : Readjusting our thinking:

Like my favourite spiritual teacher, Eckart Tolle, likes to say:

 “Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose”

I keep reminding myself of this, as we focus on what to do next,as well as asking; how to get around or work through this one ?

Here's what we need to do: Stop getting so upset about this, give our collective head a shake, stop kicking ourselves, stop looking back ad trying to change what has already been done and keep our eyes and minds FIRMLY forward ! We need to work out what we need to do now, how to best deal with this new situation and remember to be grateful for the things we do have.So we started by having a chat with the kids, (well, with Meg really- Matthew got to play a little longer on his ipad that evening). Explaining to her what was going on, why our plans needed to change. We tried to involve her in the decision making (where are we going to stay, how we have to adapt our plans, how this was going to affect her and Mathew) She had trouble initially, but is putting on a brave face and trying to see the positive side of things as she puts her wants aside. 

In desperate times, misery loves company, or more like : “Inspiration from other peoples’ triumph over misery”. In other word: We seek encouragement by reminding one another of other peoples’ misfortunes. People we’ve met on this journey who have pulled themselves out of a few holes.

Like the lovely family we met last month. They bought the boat, got it all ready, and within the first week, the boat hit a reef and SUNK, yeah that’s right , SUNK ! Three kids on board, everyone is fine but the boats and all their stuff was LOST. Did they pack up and go home ? Nope, they bought another boat and kept on going, living the dream, then, a few month later,(while in Grenada) they were boarded and robbed while they were sleeping, again, no one was hurt, but they lost laptop computers, ipads, phones. What did they do ? They shook it off and kept on sailing.   (My heroes!)

Good friends of ours, bought the boat in Florida, drove down from Canada,  got everything ready over a few months, and just before they were about to go: their boat was vandalized one night and they had to put their plans on hold, for a few MONTHS. No one as hurt but it was an unplanned, large expense and frustrating delay, did they give up on their dream?  Nope ! They kept on going, they are sailing now !

Other friends of ours, crossed the Atlantic, arrived in the Caribbean where they sailed with their two children, they had a plan to backpack throughout South America during the hurricane season, less than 2 weeks before their departure for Peru they had an engine FIRE onboard, lots of damage, did they give up their dream ?  Nope, they kept their chins up, cleaned up the damage as best they could, got the boat ready for hurricane season and went on an adventure of a lifetime to South America. They are now back onboard, in Grenada with memories of their South American adventure to cherish for a lifetime. 

Story after story which have really helped us to focus on what’s important. We all know S*%t happens, and, so what ? So what are we going to do ? Do we quit, pack up and go home ? Hell no ! Not today anyways. We are not ready to trow in the towel yet folks!

Is this an IQ test? I hope not!

Ok, feeling a bit better, so I’ll keep going: This must just be a test, of course! This must be a test of our tenacity & our will power! 

Seriously though : Come on ! We didn't hit a reef, we are not sinking, no one is hurt, we are all healthy, we did not loose the boat, we need to stay the course, just adapt it a little , learn to adjust to the new conditions and sail on!

Last step, Moving forward: Kidding aside, in my experience with these things, I find that when we are at the beginning of a crisis, it is really hard to see the solutions all we see is the problem and the domino effect of all the consequences that will follow, all the bad stuff is at the surface, it feels like there is no hope, and everything is just, yuk! Then as time goes by, either more problems emerge or solutions start to take shape, start to materialize, sometimes where we least expect it. But until then, we will not let ourselves get caught up in what we could have done, should have done or how things could have been different if we only had. 

 “The past has no power over the present”  (Eckart Tolle)

or if, like Meg, you prefer someone more hip and happening : 

The past is in the past”  (Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen”)

Since I am now resorting to inspiring quotes to get us through this, here is another one from Eckart T.  that  I’l be practicing :

What ever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it, always work with it, not against it ! ”

Ok, here goes :  “ I chose to have the decks (gelcoat) replaced!" It will be a great learning experience AND we get to rid ourselves of our least favourite Amel "feature", the faux teak decks!   AMELIE will look so amazing when this is all said and done! (BTW I still think that she is still the best darn boat for us, she just needs a little TLC right now)

“I chose to stay a while longer in Grenada” It a great place after all, with great provisions and internet and makes the Field part of the Environmental  Unit (Science Gr7) MUCH easier to teach !  (yeeha!) Ok, there is a lot of value to all this stuff Eckart speaks of, but  we have to be honest : Listening to Jack Johnson tunes and having a sip of rum sure helps too ! Phew, we feel better, thanks for sticking with us through this one! I will add a few photos of other things we have been doing this week, to keep our ind off of our troubles. 



Mt Carmel Falls, Grenada

Meg enjoying a cool shower, Mt Carmel falls

Matt and Meg at Mt Carmel Falls

Le Phare Bleu Marina, Grenada

HobieCat Race day at Phare Bleu Marina

Mark and Matthew racing Hobie Cats 

Mark and Matt, Meg and René neck and neck at the start line

And they're off !

Rounding the first mark, still a tight race!

Mark and Matthew on the final stretch to take the win

Meg and René coming in to the finish line

Meg takes the tiller, w/Mike,  

Meg thanking Mike

Editor's note (aka Cpt Mark):  Interim update since this was drafted early last week.  While investigating numerous resources to help resurface the decks, Mark stumbled across a company here that has the knowledge, space, materials and craftsmen available to start in about a week!  15 minutes into the discussion with Nicolas at X-Marine it was evident that he had seen this issue on Amels before, was not interested in a Band-Aid fix, takes tremendous pride in his work, had a solid and practical plan, plus the cost estimate didn't knock him out (just wince a bit)!  Their references have checked out very well, and we should be moving to their dock (where we can stay aboard for pretty much all the work) late next week and hopefully be done by the end of October, so our departure will only be a few weeks behind schedule, hopefully.         

It will also allow Mark to get some other minor projects completed much easier than planned.  


How will the 4Ms handle these new challenges, how will this affect their plans ? 



It’s a mystery !  Stay tuned as we keep you posted over the coming weeks!

Saturday 13 September 2014

Week 24 Safety Demonstration

...where everybody knows your name.'

Saturday September 13th 2014

Grenada is a place where Caribbean and World Cruisers alike all seem to converge to, at some point or another. Some come to wait for hurricane season to end, others stop in on their way towards South and Central America, so it has been a very social time for us, we have met tons of people, locals and cruisers alike.

It has been especially great that have met so many cruising families. You might be surprised to know how many people are doing this with their kids !  Wonderful friendships have been made; we share ideas, travel plans and good times together. Come October/November the exodus of cruisers will start and as we all go our separate ways we will have to say: “Goodbye, Good luck and Hope to See You Again Someday” ! We ourselves will be leaving to go further on our adventure, better prepared (boat wise, provision wise,knowledge wise) to see new and exciting places ! More on that at the end of the blog.

Safety First !

Thursday Sept 11th was an exciting day in Prickly Bay (Southern Grenada) !  The day started as usual, with school (Yay!) and some volleyball (Meg) and wake boarding (Matthew) practice on the beach, but the real fun started when we all gathered at the marina at 15:00 where the (27!) cruising kids were given some safety demonstrations. First off was radio operation (which- not surprisingly- ALL the kids, even the 4 year olds, already had some experience with !) The demonstration was useful nevertheless as it reminded the kids (and some adults) of proper etiquette and hailing techniques, as well as how to place the all important MAYDAY call and EPIRB information.  By the way, did you know that MAY DAY comes from the French: “ Venez M’AIDER!” (Come and help me)/ Yup, please, feel free to use this’ tidbit’  of knowledge to impress your friends and colleagues at your next social gathering. You are welcome !

Anyways, lets get back on topic: Radio operation was followed by a ride in the COAST GUARD BOAT !!!  I am not sure who was more excited about this one, but I’d put money on the adults being the ones who were the most giddy (me included) ! We got to ride really REALLY fast (35+ knots and AIR..are you kidding me!!! ), lights flashing , sirens blaring, it was a wild ride that I am sure no one is going to forget , especially not the non participating cruisers who were sitting on their boats trying to enjoy a peaceful sunset meal as we flew by, yeeeee hahahahaha ! What a rush that was, really!! Way more fun than I had anticipated ! 

No photos were taken while on the ride, because the coast guards asked us not to take any shots inside the cabin, and because I was too busy HOLDING ON for dear life !

After the 900 horse power ride, one of the kids asked if they could use this boat to go tubing !


Afterwards, the kids learned about life vests (PFDs) and jumped into the water to swim to a “liferaft” ! Well, okay, it was not actually a “liferaft”, but it was meant to be a liferaft, and the kids were promised a liferaft, but, it so happens that our liferaft (our old one which we had donated for the exercise) had not been serviced since 1992 or so (and hence, why we were donating it). Being so old,we weren’t sure exactly that it would deploy, but we thought we’d give it a go, and, well, it was all VERY exciting at first when, with 27 pairs of eager eyes glued on him, Cpt. Mark commenced the countdown to launch the raft: “3-2-1...And... down went the raft, into the water, and there was a valiant effort made on the rafts part; It did go “POP”  as it tried to push its way out of its soft sided valise, but then, (sigh) that was all she wrote. We got the: “No hope, raft is dead” call from one of the “Rescue One” operators.Yup, there was a big-ole tear in one of the seams. The liferaft had to be quickly replaced by one of the two floating doughnuts operated by Prickly Bay Marina, thanks to a quick thinking Darren (the marina manager and organizer of the safety events). So the kids still got to swim out to a “liferaft” and work as a team as they hoisted one another into the raft.Mark did get to show the kids all of the neat “goodies” that come in a life raft, so all in all it was a great exercise ! 


We hear a "pop"

Wait a second....

..and so kids, this is WHY you get your parents to service your life raft !

Cptn. Mark displays the LifeRaft Supplies
Mark sharing the stale crackers from the old liferaft food reserve. Those look, um….yummy ?


The alternate "life raft"

Wow, that is one fun looking life raft!

Kids helping kids….Team work at its best !

Meg is IN !

The event ended with A BANG (or ten) at sunset as a flotilla of dinghies went back out into the bay, to light off FLARES !  All under the watchful eye of the coastguards, (Who stood by, from a distance-probably shaking their heads as they watched).  A volunteer cruiser lit off flare after flare”, “star flares”, “rocket flares”, “smoke flares”, “orange flares”, “red flares”.The kids sure got an up close and personal “show”. Now, to be honest: I am not entirely sure that my safety instructor, Cpt. Eric Hill* (See Part 1, Volume 1 of our Safety at Sea Blog), would have approved of the way that this last exercise was conducted. No safety goggles or gloves in sight, however, in the end, all flares were shot down wind, as they should have been and no one was hurt, and everyone left understanding how loud and BRIGHT flares can be !

I remember hearing him say something like: " Holy &#$t this is bright!

*Bright* smiles from the spectators  😉

Latest Boat Project: The decks !

Having pondered about this for a long, long time, Cpt. Mark decided that it was time to replace the decks, this could be compared to having all of your laminate flooring ripped out in your house..while you still live there, except that it is only our outdoor floors which are affected. Cpt Mark is doing this immense project in stages, starting with Amelie's Port side. The plan is to have all the “faux teak” (called Nu-Teak) removed, the decks sanded and repaired and then anti skid paint applied instead. (Paint which will be light coloured for the comfort of our over heated feet!!) This project is an ambitious one and we all (especially Cptn Mark) will be VERY grateful once it is completed, in about a month or so, we hope!

So ? Where to next? Ah, the million dollar question! As we start to see the end of the hurricane season approach, this question has been more and more on our minds lately (and on some of yours too it seems). We have been back and forth about this and it finally became clear that, with our time table,  it only makes sense to stay South and sail West. So: once we get an “all clear” from the weather man, and after our obligatory northern stop In Martinique (which, from thispoint on, shall be referred to as: the 'Rum Run'), we will surely be found sailing in the vicinity of the ABCs. (That is; Aruba, Bonair and Curaçao- although NOT in that order!) We hear that the diving is exceptional there !

Then, by November we will be very excited to set sail for SOUTH AMERICA, yeah Baby! Starting with Columbia which we hope to visit during Christmas and where we hope to catch up with one of Mark’s fellow Mahina Crew Members who lives there. After Columbia, it will be the idyllic San Blas Islands which we have heard so much about, followed by Panama and then, we are taking about, a plane ride to PERU, Where we look forward to being able to show the kids Machu Picchu, (I can hardly contain my excitement about this one !!)

 and other wonders of this country!!!  We will try to see and do as much as we can cram in a two week land based trip,  which is all we are willing to leave Amelie. We will ensure that she will be safely docked in a marina of good reputation, of course. 

So, that’s the PLAN folks, but remember, when one is sailing one needs to always stay flexible and go with the flow, “all plans are made in sand at low tide, so where we actually end up going to, could be a very different story, indeed, but we will keep you posted !

Stay safe out there kids ! AMELIE IV- OUT !   

Meg doing a demonstration on how to make a radio call