Trigger Fish and Fishing Bats

Trigger Fish

After spending a fun-filled week in Tyrell Bay we returned to Sandy Island and were astonished to find that our most favorite, as well as everyone else’s favorite, mooring was open. Life is good.

Getting ready to swim to shore I was dangling my feet off our swim platform and felt a very painful stab on my ankle. I caught a glimpse of the culprit – a trigger fish darting to the underside of Ice Floe. As many times as I put my hand or foot into the water, the fish darted out in attack-mode. I took a couple of photos from above the water.

My attempts to get a shot under water were met with immediate and swift attacks and many failed shots save these below that I managed to get before he/she banged headlong into the camera.

Silly triggerfish

There are 40 varieties of triggerfish and most are strikingly beautiful.

George and I have observed many over the years, but this is the first time we observed the characteristic aggressive behavior they are known for. Generally, it is felt to be associated with their defense of a breeding territory. This territory is conical from the bottom to the top so it is advised that if being attacked you move horizontally, rather than vertically.

Fishing Bats

One evening George was lifting our dinghy for the night. It had gotten quite dark and he had his headlamp on. As the light shined over the water he caught a glimpse of something large flying over the surface of the water. He called me to the bow and we both watched as several darted back and forth presumably scooping up the many small fry that frequently jump from the water. At the time we knew of no night fishing birds, and the flight pattern was typically bat-like so we immediately Googled “fishing bats”

It was a challenge getting a photo of the nasty triggerfish, but it was impossible to get my own of the Greater Bulldog Fishing Bat we observed that night – so I borrowed one from the internet.

They are decidedly not cute and if that is not enough, they are a very large bat. Their bodies are just shy 5 inches in length and they have a wingspan that can exceed 2 feet. They use echolocation to detect water ripples made by the fish and use the pouch between their legs to scoop the fish up and their sharp claws to catch and cling to it. They are found from Mexico to Northern Argentina and also most Caribbean islands.

We have been living in Grenada since December 5th, 2019 and rarely a day goes by that we do not observe or learn something new.

Hiking Carriacou – Paradise Beach Loop

George and I just finished a lovely lunch of lambi (conch) fritters and salad at Paradise Beach Club and are hanging out here for the balance of the day. George is reading and working on reconciling our credit card bills, Duhkxy is harassing crabs, and I am attempting to write this post.

Once Duhkxy hits a beach, he is digging up and chasing ghost crabs. They are nearly invisible on the sand if they remain still. After unearthing them, he LOVES to chase them and he will bark and prance around them if they don’t run.

They are called ghost crabs because, if they remain still, it is difficult to see them.

In the absence of Hashes on Carriacou, we decided to make it a tradition to take a mid-morning hike each Sunday. We start out and end at Paradise Beach Club in time for a delicious late brunch.

We were recently introduced to an app (wikiloc, for wiki location) that allows you to input routes you take and to insert photos taken along the way. Your route is then visible on the app for anyone else using it and you have access to any others that have been put in the app.

This is the trail we loaded https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/paradise-beach-loop-64152484
A trail that has been created in the app can be used by others. You can click on any location along a trail to see where you are, post or view photos of points along the trail (flags), and see elevations and distance.

The trail shown above is the one we created in wikiloc from our first Sunday hike. We actually started and ended at the red point with a black square (we forgot to activate the app until we reached the green triangle point). Starting at the Red Point (Paradise Beach Club) we turned left on the road to Hillsboro. This road is fairly busy and certainly not a highlight of this loop trail. It is almost flat and passes quickly. At the blue dot, we turned on to a quiet road for a short distance until we reached the intersection, Six Roads. From Six Roads the trail becomes a dirt road where we encountered roaming goats, new vegetation, trees with giant oval calabash-like fruit a very large immature soursop orchard, a hillside covered in Caribbean pumpkin patch, a beautiful bird we had not seen before, and the shell of a large turtle. We often observe new wildlife on our walks and do our best to identify them when back on the boat.

One with, one without tether. Neither secured to anything. Goats are pervasive, requiring any home or garden or farm be fenced.
Most likely Bitter Gourd (aka Balsam Pear and Bitter Melon), renowned for medicinal purposes. The Chinese type is lighter green, with bumpy, smooth skin (although still quite bumpy compared to a cucumber), while the Indian variety is darker green, much rougher in texture (even somewhat spiky) and with pronounced tapering ends. 

These large oval or round “fruits” grow from the trunks or larger stems of Calabash trees. When they dry, they are brown and hollow and often used to make pretty bowls.

This massive Soursop orchard is young and not yet producing many fruits. Soursop is a heavenly tasting fruit that lives up to its description of having combined flavors of banana, apple, and pineapple. It makes a wonderful juice, jam, and smoothy (personal experience)

Pumpkins (or very large squashes) are a staple in the Caribbean diet. There are many varieties. Patches are often, like this one, rambling vines on a hillside requiring little maintainance. They are delicious!!

Mangrove cuckoo
Shell of a Caribbean Land Turtle aka Red-Footed Tortoise

The Red-Footed tortoise is indigenous to South America and was introduced (or re-introduced?) to Grenada and a couple of nearby islands after hurricane Ivan.

By Bjoertvedt – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23889050
Graveyard we encountered along the way
The most papayas we have seen on one tree by 100 fold.

After a short gentle climb an overlook facing north provides a Glimpse of Hillsboro with Union Island (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) in the background. Travel restrictions due to Covid 19 have thwarted our plans to travel there. We plan to head there soon after we return next year.

Union Island is frequently the first destination for sailors leaving Grenada for St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

As we continued the ridge there are views of the southern waters of Carriacou.

The hike continues west along the backside of the hill, views of the southern side of Carriacou Island overlooking Tyrell Bay emerge.

Property with beautiful overlook and a giant Ceiba Tree
Another property looking towards Harvey Vale and Tyrell Bay.
Overlook of Tyrell Bay, a very much used anchorage in Carriacou.

Continuing and descending northern views are of L’Esterre Bay (including the Marine Preserve and Sandy Island).

Sandy Island off Carriacou, Grenada
Homes above Paradise Beach overlooking L’Esterre Bay and Sandy Island

The loop ends at Paradise Beach Club, where we began.

Don’t miss your chance to visit Paradise Beach Club where you can “Put your toes in the sand, and a drink in your hand” to quote Allison, the restaurant’s proprietor. On Wednesday’s join “Sip and Paint” to add the name of your sailing vessel to the wall (Allison provides paint, brushes, and wood).
Sunsetting behind “The Sisters”

Sea Birds in Grenada

Duhkxyland – Jan-2021

We visited Duhkxyland for the first time since 2019, when this destination served as Duhkxy’s imaginary personal beach. As dogs often do, he perked up as we approached and gleefully swam ashore to re-acquaint himself. While visiting, I caught a glimpse of bright red and immediately recognized a pair of the distinctive American Oystercatchers.

We first became acquainted with this interesting seabird while traveling down the Inter-Coastal Waterway (ICW) on the east coast of the United States on our way to the Bahamas. We have since seen them on several locations in Grenada. On the ICW we saw small groups, but in Grenada, we have only observed solitary pairs.

Their massive beaks are known to be powerful enough to open large molluscs such as clams and oysters.

Our observations of this beautiful bird led to the answer for a question we had been pondering for some time. What was eating chitons and leaving large numbers of their carcasses around the saltwater ponds on Sandy Island?

Chiton adhere to rocks in tidal zones with amazing tenacity

Their protective shell is composed of eight articulated sections that facilitates their movement and their ability to curl up like an armadillo when under threat.

Chiton carcasses
American oystercatcher caught “red-handed” with a chiton in its beak. The chiton has curled up in an effort to protect its vulnerable soft underside.

As noted previously the seabirds we are observing now (January) are quite different from those that entertained us during March though May last year. As of today, (January 25, 2021), the laughing gulls have not yet appeared and the numbers of terns and boobies are quite low. There are many more pelicans, however, and we have seen several shorebirds we did not see during our visit last year.

Pelican
Wilson’s Plover
Sanderling (Sandpiper)
Yellow-crowned night heron (this photo taken near runoff ditches in Grenada)

The rainy season is coming to an end with rarely more than a few short sprinkles a day. Air temperature has been a bit on the cooler side – may even drop below 80 degrees on occasion. We are enjoying the dryer, cooler weather, and the constant breeze – It was a hot, still, and humid summer.

On January 23rd, 8 new cases of Covid 19 were identified, bringing the total to 147, sadly, with one fatality. There have been no infections found, to date, on Carriacou, the Grenadian island that includes Sandy Island. Thorough contact tracing and quarantines have kept the spread to a minimum and few restrictions other than the requirements of wearing a mask before entering a store and a 10:00pm curfew are in effect.

We love the texts and photos we get from family members and friends – keep them coming. We will be home this spring.

Living in the Moment

The year 2020 will be remembered for a litany of events we could not have imagined. Our decision to remain in Grenada for its entirety offered the opportunity to live completely removed from the pain and suffering around the world.

Our personal lives oscillate minute by minute, day by day, month by month, between the opportunity of “Living in the Moment” and the depths of despair for our fellow humans, the world, and our country. How is it that we remain so personally protected amid such suffering? Our hearts break at the thought of how much has been damaged and lost.

New Beginnings

Today is January 19th. The inauguration of the 46th president of the United States will take place tomorrow. Vaccines to protect the world from Covid 19 are being manufactured and distributed. It truly is the beginning of the end of this nightmare.

Living in the Moment

Our interest in the lives and habits of hermit crabs on Sandy Island has not waned. We have written previously about these beautiful and interesting creatures Footprints in the Sand on Sandy Island. We continue to learn more.

Hermit crabs need fresh water and carry a supply around within their shells. After a rain they generally appear much earlier in the day and you may see them replenishing their supply from vegetation and objects that have accumulated it.

Two hermit crabs accessing water after a rain from a coconut shell

Hermit crabs are the primary reason almost all coconuts found on the ground in Sandy Island have holes in them and are eaten out. It is remarkable that they can tear through the thick outer hull and into the coconut inside. No doubt, the coconut water, in addition to the meat, provides additional motivation for the crabs, especially during the dry season.

We never saw them without the holes and thought it unlikely they could work fast enough to always get to them before we visited the island (at least once, and often twice a day). We knew the hermit crabs can climb the trees. We have seen them apparently sheltering in the burlap-like material that is wrapped around the trees towards the top.

We were fairly certain the crabs must drill and eat out the coconuts while they were still on the tree. We went in search of hermit crabs eating coconuts up in the trees.

First, let us confirm that there are many hermit crabs in the coconut trees. Once we started looking we found them climbing the trees and eating the coconut flowers, as well as the immature coconuts.

And they can climb pretty fast.

Hermit crab climbing coconut tree

And we also saw immature coconuts still in the tree that had already been eaten out.

This concludes our chapter of Living in the Moment – “Mystery of the Lack of Mature Coconuts on Sandy Island” – SOLVED.

2021 Déjà Vu?

Back to Sandy Island

We returned to Sandy Island shortly after a new outbreak of Covid 19 cases were reported on the main island of Grenada. Overnight, Grenada went from being categorized as low risk, to high risk; the immediate consequence of which, was that restrictions put in place for visitors from Grenada, made travel between island nations no longer feasible. If the outbreak was not quickly controlled, travel restrictions between Grenada’s own islands (Grenada, Carriacou, Petite Martinique) could also be put in place. In the event we need to stay put for a prolonged period of time, Sandy Island off the coast of Carriacou is where we needed to be.

At first sight, we were reminded of the beauty of Carriacou, Sandy Island, and the waters between these two islands. These waters are part of a protected marine preserve (Sandy Island Oyster Bed Marine Park).

Moored off Sandy Island during Covid 19 lockdown (March-June, 2019)

Sandy Island and the Marine Park Have Much to Reveal

During our prior stay at Sandy Island (March through June, 2020) the skies were constantly full of seabirds. Initially, flocks of laughing gulls, shortly joined by Brown Boobies, Royal Terns, and small flocks of pelicans. Mixed groups fed upon enormous schools of young fish. These fish were continually assaulted from below the water, as well. Small groups of jacks would arrive like torpedos in formation attacking and gorging themselves on the young fish. Feathered predators would simultaneously attack the disorganized schools until, they too, had their fill.

Having now arrived at the end of December, we found large flocks of pelicans, no gulls, and, on occasion, small numbers of boobies and terns. The jacks and other fish predators are extremely active. We are entertained from sunup to sundown with what appears to be a small underwater explosion followed by a larger plume of the small fish launching themselves in the air.

In addition, individual jacks and occasional barracuda fly out of the water with such force they land 20-30 feet beyond. The most beautiful behavior we enjoy is when schools of small fish, presumably startled by a perceived threat, emerge in unison, fly a short distance, and upon re-entering the water, startle fish from the same school ahead of them who launch themselves, repeating what appears and sounds like small waterfalls over and over again. We have observed this behavior before, both here near Sandy Island and in other locals, but never as often, with schools of fish so large, and the repetitive waves.

Boobies are demonstrating a different fishing behavior. We have routinely seen them fly straight down, fold their wings, and like olympian divers, plunge into the water without disturbing the surface. Moments later they bob to the surface like a cork. We now see them skimming the surface of the water while retrieving a snack. On occasion, they sit upon the top of the water with their heads under water eating fish in conjunction with the assault of the fish from below.

Flora and Fauna on Sandy Island

The island’s hermit crabs that had almost entirely moved underground when we left Sandy Island last June, were now more apparent; but nowhere near the population seen previously. Duhkxy was delighted to find that the white ghost crabs that build burrows at the water’s edge remained plentiful.

Referred to as Ghost Crab – Aptly named as they are virtually invisible when remaining still on the sand.

He has become more persistent and accomplished in his pursuit of them. Guided by smell, he digs following the tunnel entrance until he unearths the crab. When he gets one out, he delights in chasing them. His play is invariably brief as they are amazingly fast and nearly invisible when they stop moving. In addition, they head for the water and can bury themselves in the sand within a second in wet sand. On occasion, one takes a stand, refusing to move. Duhkxy will bark and howl in dismay which translates to “Cmon, play with me.”

Duhkxy digging for a Ghost crab.
Duhkxy has startled this Lined Shore Crab (aka Striped Sea Crab) who decided to stand his ground.

The Sandy Island rats have not revealed themselves, thus far. Perhaps they have moved on (who knows where or how) or Duhkxy has been too busy terrorizing the crabs to hunt for rats and flush them out.

The island vegetation is lush as it is now nearing the end of the rainy season. We enjoy observing blooms and seed pods that were not here earlier.

While examining the sea grapes for hermit crab activity we spotted several beautiful spiders (Yellow and Black Garden Spiders) and what we believed to be egg casings.

Several days later our suspicians were confirmed as one of the egg casings had released hundreds of newborn spiders. The following day they had all dispersed.

Sandy Island itself, had also changed. The beaches are frequently transformed depending on storms, and are now wide and shallow in slope. We often observe many small fish in a line at the last reach of the waves, having been left to die on the beach to the delight of the ghost crabs.

We are sharing this idyllic spot with as many as 24 sailing vessels in comparison to the few (2-5) during the 3 month lockdown earlier in the year. Our coveted mooring that we learned some sailors refer to as Ice Floe’s mooring, is occupied. We find it desirable, as it is the closest to a beautiful shallow reef perfect for snorkeling, as well as to the beach for us to swim ashore without the need to launch our dinghy.

We are safe, our days are full, interesting, and pass all too quickly. We miss home and our family and friends and hope to return in April. 2020 has been a year bearing no resemblance to one we have known or might have imagined. The human suffering weighs heavily and our hopes for 2021, are for Americans like ourselves who have thus far been spared the worst of 2020, to open our eyes and take action to alleviate this suffering and to address its causes.

May this new year be the beginning of the best and most well spent year of our lives.

A Hike from Grenada Marine

My brother and sister and I spent a great deal of time over the many recent months in a three-way text chat. Margaret and I could vent, and Michael would regale us with his humor. We were in the middle of such a chat and I needed to break off. Our fresh fruit and vegetable stores were decidedly weak so I texted my brother and sister “Off on a Hike to find some fruit.” Margaret texted back “Are you two reduced to foraging for food again?” Michael responded “I don’t think she means traipsing through the jungle.” Well actually…..

Grenada Marine

Grenada Marine

Grenada Marine is a nice quiet marina that has recently made some significant improvements, but one of them is not, a decision to no longer permit some food vendors (mobile bakery and seafood, in particular) inside the gates. There is a very nice restaurant, but sailors are a stingy lot and eat relatively few meals out.

Cruiser’s Reef Restaurant

Our hike for Fresh Produce

George, my better half, recalled a fruit and vegetable stand that was only two mountains and a couple of miles away so off we went. Largely unbeknownst to me, as I have an exactly zero sense of direction, George strayed a bit here and there to take in a few other sites he was interested in checking out.

The yellow line is the track of the hike we embarked on to purchase food from “nearby” fruit stands

The hike was absolutely delightful. Along the way we got a look at the progress being made on the construction of the Six Senses Luxury Hotel Resort to the west of La Sagesse Bay while Duhkxy played hide and seek in the tall grass.

We also passed through a region of farmland that had sufficient water resources from a large stream to supply an irrigation system. There were thriving fields of “local spinach”, cherry tomatoes, lettuce and seasoning peppers (in order below).

As well as many fruit-bearing trees.

Key Lime

Soursop trees with maturing fruit, and buds.

Soursop fruit – opening buds, below

Trees bearing a local nut called almond. We purchased a bottle of these nuts at one of the fruit stands – they are less than a fifth the size of the almonds you are most likely familiar with and do taste quite a bit like an almond.

Local nut called almond.

A couple of cows and some beautiful flowers we have not seen before – a special plus for residing and cruising in Grenada during seasons we have not been here for previously.

Lastly, we stocked up on passion fruit, oranges, grapefruit, bananas, avocado, mangoes, coconuts, cucumbers, pumpkin, “almonds”, peppers, cabbage, ginger, and sorrel. It was a successful and thoroughly interesting day.

A Recent Sample of Michael’s humor for your entertainment (spoiler, not flattering with respect to our soon to be ex-President).

Trump reportedly considering sending Melania on an extended tour of campaign-like rallies, promoting hs current conspiracy theory of extensive voter fraud. Confidantes and advisors hint that this is part of a well laid plan that the President has outlined to reverse the election results in his favor. When asked for comment on these rumors, Melania replied “Well laid? Well, I guess there is always a first time.”

Grenada Hash

Grenada Hash

The Grenada Hash is not a local culinary dish or mood enhancer.  It stems from a long history of Hashes, first imagined and initiated by a group of British soldiers in Malaysia in 1938, who were looking for a fun way to stay fit without foregoing their penchant for beer.  The playful slogan for this Hash Club, and subsequent Hash Clubs is:

Some seasoned hashers sport tank tops featuring the sport’s slogan.

A trail is created by a club member referred to as a Hare and and the Hash is on. The Hares, in our experience, take devilish delight in creating trails through challenging terrain and incorporating false trails.  The concept took some time to catch on, with the interruption of World War II, but today there are almost 2000 chapters all over the world.  

The first Hash in Grenada was held in 1985, and with limited interruptions is held on each Saturday.  The Grenada Hash Club is purportedly one of the largest in the World with 150-300 regular participants http://grenadahash.com.  This season the Hashes, which ordinarily occur on each Saturday in Grenada, were interrupted for several months while restrictions on gatherings were in effect to stem the spread of Covid 19.  A handful of long devoted hashers were so despondent on Saturdays that they formed an interim Bird Watchers Club until the Hash started up again on September 26.

The Grenada Hash, garners a lot of participation.

Prior to the Hash beginning, members of the Hash Club circulate throughout the participants looking for those sporting new sneakers or running shoes.  These may be confiscated in the guise of testing their integrity for the rigorous trail. (SPOILER: The true reason is for a customary ceremony that entails the unsuspecting, unfortunate, owner drinking beer from the shoe.)

Separate Hash trails are laid out for Runners and Walkers.  Some Hashes include two walker trails – one easier and / or shorter than the other.  The trails are identified by periodic deposits of shredded paper (in Grenada) or flour.  You must be vigilant to ensure you keep track of these markings as there are false trails that can lead you astray. There are invariably some parts that are steep, some wet and muddy, and some bushwhacking. More often than not there are some remnants of shoes that fell apart.

George and I participated in our first Hash on Saturday, January 23rd, 2020.  It was Grenada Hash Number 1122 and was laid out by the Hash Hare “Sex Problem”.  As first-time Hashers we were referred to as Virgins.  Before each Hash begins, all Virgins are called to the front of the crowd for instructions (mostly lies and obfuscations).  You are also informed that at the end of the Hash Virgins will be reconvened for a short ceremony to commemorate your loss of your Virginity and receive your certificate. You will want to make sure you show up for this fun ceremony. One Hash in which we participated had an extra closing ceremony for a pair of Hashers who had just received their official nicknames and another for two dedicated Hashers who had announced their intent to get married.

Dogs are welcome and when the University is in session, many Vets in training bring theirs along. All the dogs must stay on a leash and are very well behaved.

Many doges participate, particularly when the Vet Students are on island.

The dogs are even better behaved at the end of the Hash (see below).

Of the eight Hashes we have participated in so far, my favorite brought us through an interior part of Grenada with large and small farms and homes with vegetable gardens and/or vegetable and fruit plants tucked in wherever there was a bit of room.

Each Hash is different and they are all fun. They offer you some great exercise while you are introduced to parts of Grenada you might not otherwise see and people you might not otherwise meet.

Celebrating Biden’s Victory in Grenada

If you could see it through others’ eyes

As the United States Presidential election approached, conversations in Grenada frequently strayed into opinions about the candidates, and speculation about who would prevail. We have not met many American cruisers who support Trump, although they do exist. When we spoke with a like-minded American, various outrages were voiced and then someone would suggest the unpleasant topic be dropped. The most interesting discussions were those with Grenadian citizens and people visiting from countries other than the US.

The electoral college was a frequent topic when speaking with non-Americans, and many people were incredulous that the presidential election would not be decided by the popular vote. My explanation was that the electoral college was intended to give a fair share of voice to each state. Many would concede that they could understand some value to the process, but still far preferred their country’s use of the popular vote as the sole determinant.

As to the candidates and who would win – the great majority of non-Americans thought Trump to be without morals and foolish. They were confounded by his continued popularity in the Unites States and judged the US harshly, as a result. A disappointing number of opinions shared were that Trump would win. Disappointing, in that the view expressed was a condemnation the intelligence and morality of Americans.

Ice Floe and we are back in the water

Ice Floe was returned to the water bright and early November 2nd and we spent most of the day stowing things we brought back from our apartment, and otherwise getting her ready to sail. To be truthful, George spent most of the day in this pursuit. I made contributions when I could tear myself away from the pre-election news and texting with my brother and sister.

George and I slept well on the boat on the eve of the election with near certainty that Biden would win. The following day and for the balance of the week I was consumed by the need to follow the frequent changes in who was ahead in key states, and fretful over how close the vote was turning out in key states.

Saturday – The Grenada Hash and a new president is elected.

George and I hopped on the bus taking us to the Grenada Hash (a rigorous run or walk through the hilly interior of Grenada) with light hearts as shortly before, the results in Pennsylvania had just been called for Biden, thereby securing his successful run for president. We completed the Hash, and if not for a very steep slope toward the end, we would, for once, not have come in last. George had tied Duhkxy’s leash to a stump at the top of the incline that helped getting down the embankment and those that followed were pleased to use it, as well.

We took the bus back to Whisper Cove for a lovely dinner to celebrate the outcome of the election. We could not help but notice a young woman (American), who we learned is a full-time cruiser, dressed in such a way as to leave no doubt to the joy she felt in Biden’s election.

The lovely, lively, delicious, restaurant at Whisper Cove Marina

As we shared our happiness at the outcome of the election I mentioned that I had told George we would not put up a new American flag at Ice Floe’s stern until we had a new president. The young woman said she had made the same pronouncement to her shipmate.

We saw no cheering crowds, no dancing in the street, fireworks, or other displays of celebrations. Just a quiet sigh of reiief, a joyous sense of hope, shared by a couple of Americans who found themselves in Grenada for this historic election, It was more than enough,

Cassis

09-August-2017

We left off on our last update in the Pourquerolles on June 27.  Early the next morning we headed out to Cassis.

We visited Cassis briefly on our sail with Marilla and Mitch from La Grande Motte to Nice to pick up Allison, Mike, Riley, and Tristan in. Marilla described Cassis as the quintessential French seaside village.  We all wanted to return there for a more relaxed visit. 

Cassis, viewed from the eastern bluff we hiked up to explore a restored 14th century castle.

Confused Seas

Along the way, the winds picked up to 25 knots with gusts up to 30 knots and consistent 5-6 foot waves amid “confused seas”.  You may recall, when we sailed in the English Channel from Cherbourg to Le Havre, we described that there was no pattern to the waves that assailed us from multiple directions.  As such, waves will periodically merge with one or more waves and with little warning, you can get a really big wave.  This is referred to as “confused seas” and this type of disruption in wave pattern arises when tidal changes / current clashes with wind;  when waves reflect back off land masses;  when there are leftover waves from winds in a previous direction;  and likely lots of other factors.  Our experience in the Mediterranean is they are pretty much the norm unless it is dead calm.

We described the Channel sail as topsy turvy – this sail to Cassis, was more of a roller coaster; and once, when both a gust of wind AND a rogue wave conspired to give us a thrill, we were indeed thrilled! It was COLD, too.

COLD and rough passage to Cassis

George brought us in closer to land where it was a bit calmer and we motor-sailed the balance of the way to Cassis. 

Cassis

We spent 3 lovely days in Cassis.  Riley and Tristan braved the chilly waters below a seawall with waves crashing over it.   Riley stuck it out for a great big wave. 

Restored, 14th Century Castle – currently a hotel, The Chateau Cassis.

Jousting Competition

We enjoyed a close up view of a type of jousting on boats.  Until this time we were left to wonder what these odd boats with long ramps out the stern were.  Most seaside villages had a number of them and we learned that towns have periodic competitions.  We were observing what we think were lessons/practice.

First photo – competing boats approach each other, with combatants on ramp, armed with long poles and a wooden box strapped to their chests. The box is the target and has divisions in it to capture the opponents pole. Second photo – combatants engage with the objective of forcing their opponent into the water. Third photo – Gentleman in the yellow shorts leans to far in effort to unseat opponent – the best that could be achieved is both men being knocked into the water. Final photo – gentleman in the black shorts, having maintained his steady perch, wins the contest.

Market day

We were lucky to be in Cassis on Market Day.  All villages of a reasonable size have an open air market one or two days a week.  They can vary in how large they are and what is for sale.  Often, it is a combination of fresh (in season, local) vegetables and fruits; cheeses, fresh meat and seafood, eggs, dried sausages, rotisserie meats, olives, olive oil and tapenade, bread, clothing, occasionally a “euro” stand with hundreds of different items for 1 euro, some crafts like soap, or jewelry, and pretty much anything someone wants to sell who is willing to rent a booth.  They are always lively, colorful and fun to peruse.

The produce is of the highest quality at prices not dissimilar to the village store or supermarket.  The produce in supermarkets, for that matter, is also of exceptional quality – in season, local – and the fruit, consistently DELICIOUS.

Massif des Calanques

A short boat ride from Cassis, are the Massif des Calanques.  These white limestone cliffs have deep fissures similar to fjords. This area is part of the 10th French National Park.

The water was frigid, but Allison and Riley swam to the shore.  Tristan was kind of pushed in and had barely touched the water when he levitated up and scrambled onto Allison, protesting loudly.  He decided to pass on swimming, as did the rest of us. Water temperatures in Cassis in June are historically a bit less than 70 degrees F.

They were rewarded for their bravery when they arrived at a small, secluded, albeit nude beach. The people on the beach did not appear to be delighted that clothed people had arrived. Riley and Allison were not delighted either, but balked at getting back in the frigid water. Mitch and Marilla rescued them with the paddleboards.

Tube ride

Mike and George took Riley and Tristan for a bumpy ride.  Marilla went later but, according to George, she is a lard ass and he could not get the dinghy on a plane.  

Back in the beautiful town of Cassis, Riley was  rewarded with the puppy dog she fell in love with and she named her Cassis.  

And then, all too soon, it was time to start heading back towards Nice.

First stop, St. Mandrier

The first evening the old folks did some necessary tasks, including finding a burger place for dinner, while the younguns walked a trail that included an  exercise course (so sorry to miss it). 

The following day in St. Mandrier we (including Tristan) swam off the pebble beach.  It was COLD, but I expect a few degrees warmer than in the deep waters of the calanques.  There was a steep bank into the water and between that, the rocks, and some waves, I found it relatively easy to get in (I fell).  George and Mike were last in (inching in is the worst!!).

We all climbed a hill to an old fort that had no access but did afford a beautiful view. 

Marilla and Mitch pitched in to finish the masks Tristan had been working on for a family picture.  Is it just me or do Marilla and Mitch look like they are copying off of Tristan?   

We enjoyed one of the best dinners of our trip at a restaurant Mitch and Marilla picked out.  Fabulous duck, carpaccio de boeuf…  We had previously dropped off a cake for a belated (Mitch) and early (Marilla) birthday celebration.  Sadly, Riley was not feeling well and she and Allison left early to get a good nights sleep so we took the cake back to the boat and saved some for Riley.

Birthday cake for Mitch (late) and Marilla (early).

All too quickly, we were back on our way the next day, dropping Marilla and Mitch off in Toulon to catch a train to Nice for their flight home.

Goodbye Marilla and Mitch

Allison, Mike, Riley and Tristan stayed on for another week with us stopping at La Lavendou, St. Tropez, and Antibes.

How did we become sailors?

Interestingly, it all began one Christmas. For over 20 years our Christmas Day tradition consisted of doing absolutely nothing other than opening and playing with presents, eating lots of our favorite foods and snacks, almost all of which had been prepared the day before or brought by Santa, and napping. We cherished this day, that like no other, we lived almost entirely “in the moment”, without distraction of chores, work, or any outside influences.

As Christmas of 2007 approached, our younger daughter, Marilla voiced her feeling that Christmas was no longer fun. Our older daughter, Allison, and her husband Mike now had two families they shared Christmas traditions with and the truth is, George and I had been feeling guilty knowing we were no longer enjoying the holiday as we once had.

We began looking for a vacation we could enjoy during the Christmas Holiday, excluding Christmas Day, itself. We knew we wanted to go somewhere in the tropics with warm turquoise waters and beautiful. beaches. Our search led us to an adventure in the Exumas where we rented a houseboat. George’s Mom and Dad had a large houseboat that had left us with indelible pleasant memories of lazy summers on the Long Island Sound. We knew it would be a perfect vacation to share with them.

This three generation vacation included George’s Mom and Dad, our two daughters, our son-in-law, and George and myself. It remains one of the most enjoyable family vacations we have ever had and set us on a path we did not recognize at the time.

Several years later we decided it was time to take a second houseboat vacation. Sadly, we discovered that the Bahama houseboat business had folded. We could find no other houseboat rentals offered on open water in the tropics. Our fruitless search for a perfect houseboat vacation led us to advertisements to rent sailboats. Hmmm.

We appreciated the slow, almost silent manner in which canoes transported us across lakes and along rivers. Canoeing complemented our interest in observing nature without leaving footprints. We felt certain we would love sailing. Our son-in-law was becoming quite interested in sailing and was taking lessons. We decided to take sailing lessons and get certified to bareboat charter a catamaran. The idea was not far fetched as George had grown up boating and was (is) very knowledgeable about boating and the sea. We completed xxxxxxxxxx and, while I barely passed the exam, George got a perfect score and was pre-qualified to Captain a catamaran under a wide range of conditions / locations.

Our younger daughter left for college and our weekends were now our own. Soon-after we were proud owners of a pre-owned Flying Scot that we could trailor to the north end of the Chesapeake – just two hours away. We also got busy planning our next family vacation that would now be a four generation vacation in the Virgin Islands on a catamaran.

Our home in Pennsylvania was not close to any significant body of water and with our children’s busy schedules we never considered owning a boat other than canoes and kayaks. Looking back I can see a number of influences that collectively moved us in the direction of sailing.

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