Counting Down to Homeward Bound

My spirit is soaring between the sweet anticipation of going home and the bittersweet enjoyment of an incredible experience coming to an end.  We have been in the Caribbean since December 5th, 2019 – initially trapped by Covid, and subsequently waiting for a relatively safe time to fly home.

Our sailing has been constrained to Grenada for the past year when the travel between Caribbean islands became too restrictive and/or expensive to temp us.  This change of events provided us with a previously rare experience to connect more fully with fellow sailors and Grenadians. 

Serenaded by Grenadian on the Shimmy Shack porch
Our great friend and lockdown companion, Herbert on a hike to the Seven Sisters Waterfalls
Lea and Roland on a group hike to the sinking graves organized by Peter and Sally
Michele and Glen on our first dinghy drift

We experienced the changing seasons accompanied by the coming and going of birds, flowering plants, weather, seasonal fruit and vegetables and island traditions and holidays.

Laughing gulls were nowhere to be seen in Carriacou from late December, 2020 until arriving in droves on March 11, 2021

We watched a lovely gesture started by Allison at Paradise Beach Club in creating a row of signs depicting boat names for her dedicated customers during lockdown, expand subsequently into a decorative wall documenting the many boats passing through. Sailors are invited on Wednesdays for Allison’s trademark “Sip and Paint”. Allison supplies the wood and the paint.

Wall of artwork documenting visiting sailboats and tourists at Paradise Beach Club

We have hiked many of the well-worn trails and some less traveled by; the two below, detailed in earlier posts.

Hiking Carriacou – Paradise Beach Club Route

A Hike from Grenada Marine

One of the best consequences of living here for more than a year has been our growing friendship with a French Canadian couple, Sophie and Richard. They introduced us to Train Dominoes and we play with them and many other devotees as much as possible. It combines the elements of chance and skill such that even a novice may sometimes do well.

The beginning “trains” of seven players. On this occasion, George was in last place half way through and wound up winning. When more than seven come to play, additional tables are set up and the highest and lowest scoring players switch tables at specified rounds of the games.

We recently booked flights home May 7th.  While counting the days until we can see our loved ones again, we are packing in as much fun as possible.  We recently sailed from Carriacou to Grenada and have been bay-hopping between St. David’s, Prickly Bay, Woburn Bay (aka Clark’s Ct. Bay), and now Port Louis. Each bay/marina is distinctly different and, in each, it was fun reconnecting with friends who were likewise moving from time to time.

The sails between these bays are short hops and sometimes we make a day of it by sailing way out into the 1000+ feet deep water while fishing.  Other than quite a few barracuda earlier in our stay, I haven’t been enjoying much luck. I never get completely discourage; One of my frequent statements is “You can’t catch a fish if you are not fishing”.

Fishing has been a challenge recently as the sargassum is getting prevalent. On our trip from St.David’s to Prickly Bay we sailed way out and spent a great deal,of time pulling in lines that had snagged huge burdens of weed.  With the boat sailing at 7 knots and rolling over 6 foot waves, it is hard work to bring the lines in.  I persevered and was rewarded.

While pulling in a line I suspected had weed on it, two large mahi jumped out of the water and landed 10 or more feet away, each in an arch from the opposite directions toward the middle of the stern.  At the instant they re-entered the water, one hit the line i was bringing in.  As we troll unmanned lines, this is an infrequent thrill.  I reeled her in and she was a lively acrobat; jumping and diving in her attempts to throw the hook.  We got her in and subdued with vodka and only then discovered we had a second mahi on our other line.  Both were a nice size (~ 30 inches).  It just doesn’t get any better than that!!

A monster
Mahi are beautiful fish
Mahi Sashimi with toasted sesame seeds, and a drizzle of sauce composed of soy sauce, toasted sesame seed oil and wasbi – YUM

We are down to the last two fillets that we will enjoy blackened one evening with the blackening seasoning my brother Michael introduced us to. I already have my hopes set on our sail in the next couple of days to Carriacou. I am certain I’ll have luck on this 6 hour passage.

Under Lockdown Moored off Sandy Island, Carriacou, Grenada

Our mooring off Sandy Island, Cariacou, Grenada has served as our home from the day we checked into Grenada on March 18th.  We could not have asked for a more ideal location to quarantine as the course of Covod-19 unfolds.

At any one time, we had as few as 3 other boats as neighbors, and as many as 7.  Some came and went and came back again.  There was no place we would prefer to quarantine so we remained.

We have been provided with a service to secure groceries, as we are not permitted on land in Cariacou.  We place our order with Alison, a proprieter of the Paradise Beach Club restaurant on Cariacou.  The restaurant is closed, but Alison oversees efforts to ensure cruisers are provisioned.  Cariacou receives its groceries from Grenada (the big island) and there is no way to know what will be available on a given day.  Alison stands in lines with people in masks keeping 6 feet apart, sometimes for hours.  She has invariably brought us as many of the items we requested as possible, and does a great job of substituting when necessary.  We eat well – never better than on the occasions a blue marlin has been caught.

Things to do while moored off Sandy Island – Underwater

You may think that remaining on a boat such a long time in one place would be tedious, but we are never bored.  There is a very lovely reef within swimming distance from Ice Floe and our snorkeling has rewarded us with views of frightening moray eels, a small yellow snake head peeking out of a hole, slipper and caribbean lobsters, two types of sting rays (yellow and southern) a spotted eagle ray, a host of vibrant corals and other sea invertebrates and many species of fish.  Every visit reveals something new and we never get tired of snorkeling on the reef and along the island shoreline.

We often catch glimpses of fish backed into a crevice like this one that is either a spotted burrfish or a porcupine fish.    They look a bit like ET with their big eyes and wide mouth.  When they are threatened they blow up into a big fat ball with spikes sticking out.  It is hard to get a photo because you need to dive down and they usually back further into their hole.
This fish is likely the same type as the one above, but not the same fish.  This was my third attempt to get a photo – very proud of myself.
Glasseye Snapper
This is the West Indian Sea Egg, a very common type of sea urchin.  They have the curious habit of collecting seagrass and small shells.  Sea urchins are part of the broader category of sea creatures Echinoderms.  Echinoderms include starfish, brittle stars and feather stars and sand dollars.
French grunt fish swimming near what I believe is Smooth Star Coral
Juvenile Mahoghany Snapper
Blue Tang
Identifying coral is difficult as their color may vary depending on what algae grow inside the coral polyp.  Relying more on shape of the total colony and the individual polyps, my best guess is that this is a Great Star Coral.  Those, in very shallow water, which this one is, tend to collect green symbiotic algae.
The blue dotted fish is a juvenile yellowtail damselfish.  The Yellowish tan coral in the background is a type of fire coral.  The red is likely a sponge.
School of French grunts
Trumpet fish
George
Southern Ray

Above the water

While sitting in our cockpit, we have been surrounded every day by the heartless slaughter of small and juvenile fish.  We see large fish as they decimate the huge schools of tiny and young fish.  We have observed a progression of the type of predators, as well as the seabirds who take advantage of the disorganized fish that come too close to the surface.

Underwater predators

Underwater predators we have observed include redfin needle fish, barracuda, and jacks.  It is common for the predators to launch themselves from the water, especially in the initial attack.  At times this is a single predator – they may fly straight up in a tight arc or cross an amazing distance.  Sometimes groups of predators come by in what looks like an underwater airplane configuration.  They will suddenly erupt just above the surface.  We believe all of these tactics help them disorganize their prey making them easier to catch.

School of horse eye jacks

Predators from above

Above water predators have included terns, laughing gulls, brown-footed boobies, and pelicans.  They continually keep a watch and when the fish strike, the birds are right behind them.

Royal Tern
Laughing gull
Brown footed Boobies
Pelican

 The prey

The innocent prey are generally schools of silversides or young fish.  The predators have varied over the weeks – most recently the horse eye jack, perhaps as some of the prey has grown from half inch to several inches.

A school of silversides just below the surface of the water
An enormous, dense, school of silversides we swam through while snorkeling

The play unfolds

Jacks, erupting at the surface of a school of prey
Several laughing gulls are next on the scene of carnage
Birds assail from above as jack (center bottom) attacks from below
This scene plays out dozens of times a day

Initially Duhkxy reacted to every loud splash from the attacking predators.  As he has grown accustomed to the behavior, he reserves his barking to instances when he becomes bored or the attack is particularly loud and close to the boat.

Duhkxy maintains vigil.

Watching the birds can reveal some behaviors you cannot imagine.  Have you ever seen a seagull stand on the head of a pelican?  WE HAVE, many times.  After a pelican catches a fish, it also takes in a large amount of seawater.  Before swallowing, the pelican allows the water to drain out of its pouch.  In this interval, gulls hang around and often stand on the pelican hoping they can snatch some of the catch.

We often watch laughing gulls stand on top of a pelican’s head immediately after the pelican catches a fish

Many larger birds of prey routinely steal fish right out of the mouths of others.  We have observed that here, with frigate birds taking fish from boobies.  In other locals, we have seen eagles and osprey do the same.  We wonder if this is the main way frigate birds satiate their hunger as we routinely see them soaring above but have only rarely seen them catch a fish.

Our neighbors entertain us with their water activities.  Some paddle board, some kite sail, some kayak, and once, we watched a cruiser successfully use his hammock as a sail for his kayak.  He had a little better luck than Marilla when she tried this in the Boundary Waters.

Marilla, in Boundary Waters (1989)

At the end of day, we sit in the cockpit and watch the sun go down.  No two sunsets are the same.  Each is a peaceful, end of day, experience.

Our loved ones and humanity as a whole are never far from our thoughts.  Stay well.