Category Archives: sailing

A few days in Iles de Saintes

We sailed to the archipelago of the Saintes that are just south of Gaudeloupe, about five days ago and have spent time in a couple of different anchorages among these idyllic islands.   It’s no lie that the farther south you go the more pristine the islands become!  For the past several days we’ve been on a mooring off this charming village on the island of Terre de Haut.

The town is nestled into the shoreline with mountains rising up all around it.

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There are several markets and boulangeries, so we’ve been able to buy French cheeses and olives and plenty of baguettes!  There are wonderful restaurants as well.  As with most of the villages we’ve visited, the church tower dominates the skyline.

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Typical island structures are brightly painted homes with a bit of gingerbread trim.

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3-26-17a 030 Just above the village is one of the highest points of the island, so naturally that was a good choice for a fort.  It is Forte Napoleon and it has been very well preserved and houses a museum.  Yesterday we rented a golf cart with fellow cruisers Corey and Dale aboard Hi Flite, to visit the fort and tour the rest of this small island.

Here is the dry moat that used to protect the outer walls of the fortress. The inner castle is dated 1867.

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The museum that is housed in the inner castle has very little information on the fortress itself, and focuses on island history instead.  I would like to know a lot more about this fortress so I’ll look into it when I can.  Meanwhile, although the building is barely more than 150 years old, the techniques used to build this impressive structure are much older.

The grounds within the keep.

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I can’t resist windows and doorways and views from both–

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–especially this view through a narrow gun slit that looks across the way into another narrow window.

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Here are some of the interior rooms now used for displays.  This is the hearth in the kitchen.

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The grounds were beautifully kept, and there is now a project underway to create a botanical garden of ancient native plants.  Here is one flowering tree.

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There were plenty of bromeliads and epiphyte orchids with large bulbs and very long flower spikes.  Bob thinks they are encyclias, but we could not find any nursery personnel to answer our questions.

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The views from the fortress covered most of the shoreline of Terre de Haut.  It would have been easy to defend this island from this vantage point.  Here we are looking down into the mooring field where Pandora sits off the village of Bourg des Saintes.

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The rest of the day we drove along all the roads we could find through island.  Terre de Haut is ringed with beautiful beaches. Here is our chariot of the day.

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We had lunch on a vibrantly colored pink and green patio cafe overlooking this beach.

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We stopped along the road to take this panorama. You can click on it to ‘biggify.’

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We ended the day with a collection of driftwood and sponges from the beaches for me, which I hope will help my friend Mary create some beach themed centerpieces for our upcoming bobbin lace retreat.  Corey got a great cache of sea glass, and we both picked up a few shells and sea urchins.  We returned tired and happy, and got together for sundowners with Carol and Bob from Oasis, who left this morning to sail to Dominica. We hope to follow them tomorrow.  It was a very full day of sightseeing that left us wanting to know more about the history of this place, but well sated in beach combing and good food.

 

 

 

Antigua to Guadeloupe, from English Charm to French Shabby Chic

We left Antigua more than a week ago, and I have not had internet until now.  Bob has had better luck than with that than I have.  Isn’t that weird??  He’ll be sitting next to me able to get email and write a blog post while my computer will not connect.  The mysteries of cyberspace…. especially the mystery that his ancient clunker of a PC works so much better than my moderately middle ages Macbook.  Hmmm…

Guadeloupe is the most beautiful island I have ever seen!  Some of our cruising friends have told me that Antigua is the beginning of the ‘real’ Caribbean, and that every island gets more and more beautiful as you head south.  I really cannot imagine that.  We spent almost a week in the small harbor of Deshaies (pronounced DAY ‘Eh–reminds me of a certain Caribbean song made famous by Harry Belafonte…how about you?) on the northwestern coast of Guadeloupe, and I was thoroughly enamored of the charming seaside village.  As we sailed in the mountains rose up all around us and a tiny bit of shoreline was dotted with colorful buildings, all with red roofs.  The scene was dominated by a white tower with a red roof that rose above all the other buildings.  No surprise that it is the Catholic church for the village.  We had arrived back in the land of baguettes and wonderful vegetables!

But before I talk about Guadeloupe, I should finish up with our last days in Antigua.  We rented a car to take Chris to the airport, so after we said our tearful goodbyes (for my part certainly), we took the rest of the day to explore parts of the island we could not get to on foot.

Betty’s Hope is a well known tourist attraction.  At some point in Antigua’s past there were about 600 stone windmills on the island, used to power the processing of sugar cane into sugar.  All these windmills were built by the hard labor of slaves and oxen.  There are still about a hundred windmills in various stages of decay on the island, but two at Betty’s Hope are beautiful examples. One has been restored to working order and is used to demonstrate grinding the cane on certain occasions.  While we were not there on one of those occasions, it was still very impressive to see the windmills.  Just to move the arms to face into the wind requires a lot of manpower and oxen power.

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Betty’s Hope was named for the daughter of the landowner.  I was disappointed to learn this.  I had hoped that the name was in honor of a slave woman, possibly the wife, mother, aunt, grandmother of several of the men who had built these windmills.  Well, so much for my romantic notions about the history of this place.  What on earth was this Betty hoping for?  A big sugar yield to make her family wealthier than they already were?  I can imagine so many more interesting hopes for a Betty who lived and worked the land with her family than for the real Betty.  Still, I bet there is some pretty interesting history here.  I would know more if we had internet!

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Betty’s hope is now home to a large herd of goats, which Bob and I enjoyed most of all!  There were lots of kids frolicking, even some newborns.  Baby goats are about as cute as babies get! Our new baby granddaughter, Tori, would have enjoyed them too!

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We have been so entertained by all the goats on Antigua.  There is large solar farm in the middle of the island where we saw goats eating the weeds around the panels.  This is their day job. Late in the afternoon the goats somehow know it’s time to go home.  They head out with no shepherd to guide them.  They know the way.

Bob and Chris encountered this mother and kid heading home after a day out.  Bob said the kid whined the whole time he and Chris were behind them.  Makes you wonder if kids complain about the long trip home, or the heat of the day, or even the two creepy humans following them, just like our kids might. The goat mother bore it without comment.

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And speaking of kids, here is a scene from our last full day with Christopher before he headed back to his new home in San Francisco.  We took a cab up to Shirley Heights, right outside of English Harbour.  It’s a great place to watch the sunset, and every Sunday hundreds of people show up to do just that.

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With a view like this, you can see how popular it would be–

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–especially at sunset.

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Back to the day that Chris left– at the end of the day we drove out to the northeastern corner of the island to see something called “Devil’s Bridge.”  I had no idea what this might be, and so I was pretty awestruck to see this natural wonder.  It doesn’t look like it will last much longer, but that’s just conjecture on my part. Maybe it’s been in this almost crumbled state for a century already.  I know that people walk across this bridge, but I certainly wasn’t going to try it.  Bob didn’t either!

When we returned our rental car to a parking lot in Falmouth just around sunset, and I was feeling a bit sorry for myself to return to Pandora sans Christopher, we found that the local liquor store was having a tasting of French wines hosted by a French importer who lives on St. Martin.  It was a very nice distraction to an evening I was dreading!  All in all a wonderful last day on Antigua.

The next day we sailed about 50 miles to the pretty harbor of Deshaies on Guadeloupe.  Here is a bit of what we do when we have a long day at sea.  Bob fishes!  This time I was quite lucky that he caught a small tuna!  It’s no fun at all when he catches a king mackerel, and hardly fun when he catches a giant mahi mahi because we have to deal with a very large fish on a rather small boat!  This tuna was perfect for our appetites and our size boat!

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I worked on my orange linen sweater while we were underway, which sometimes includes winding a ball of yarn (Shibui linen) on the steering wheel.

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At mid-afternoon we arrived in Deshaies.  It was wonderful to be back in the land of French food.  There are plenty of tourists here, but also a big fleet of local fisherman.  The next morning we were given a first hand view of fishing with a purse seine right behind Pandora.

First the men dropped the net in a wide circle between Pandora and the boat behind us.  One of the crew jumped overboard wearing his shorts and t-shirt and snorkeling gear.  Perhaps he was checking on how the net was laying before the rest of the crew began drawing in the purse.  3-22-17b 006

As the crew began to draw in the circle of net at the water’s surface, the diver stayed at the opening.  We are guessing that by being there, he discourages any fish from trying to escape at the opening of the net.

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The crew began drawing in both the perimeter of the net on the surface as well as the purse at the bottom to trap the fish.  As the net closed more I could tell that this was very hard work. In fact, once both the top and bottom of the net was closed, the diver got back on board to help pull it in.

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There is a pelican inside the net, helping himself to a bit of the catch.

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It was a good catch! My friend Maureen (Kalunamoo) told me that these fish get fried in strips and served like French fries.  I have not seen this yet in any restaurants. But, when we were ashore yesterday, we came back to our dinghy to find several pelicans diving right around the dinghy dock and three dead fish in our dinghy, just like the fish in the net.  There must have been a school of them being chased by larger fish and some jumped right into our dingy to escape certain death from the big fish– only to find themselves stuck in our dinghy.  Out of the fire and into the frying pan, as the saying goes….

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Experienced cruisers in this area, including Bill and Maureen from Kalunamoo, have told us that once you get to Antigua the islands just get more and more beautiful as you head south.  It’s hard for me to imagine this!  Both Antigua and Guadeloupe are so charming and scenic and dramatic with their ancient volcanic mountains–how can it get better?  I guess I will have to wait and see.

Pinned down in Falmouth, Antigua

We are back in Falmouth Harbor on Antigua, which is only a short walk to the very pretty English Harbor where the ambience of 18th c. British naval history is well preserved.  We are back here because Bob decided to call in the professionals to whack the mole that is playing havoc with our SSB.  It turns out that the mole won this round; the SSB is dead.  At the moment there are no new ones available for shipment from the US, so we wait.

Meanwhile, to bide time, Bob met a rigger name Bishop yesterday, and after watching him make some soft shackles, Bob asked if he would be willing to teach us how to do it.  They made a date for Bob to bring Bishop out to Pandora right after work.  I thought I’d stay out of their way (not that easy on a boat!), but Bob thought I’d enjoy learning along with him.  And he was right!  A soft shackle is a bit of rigging that is one of the strongest things ever….way stronger than a typical shackle.  What a little bit of wonder–and Bishop is a good teacher!

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First you make the splice, then with the two ends that come out of the splice you make a knot that ends up looking a bit like a small Turk’s head.

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I practiced this little bit of splicing and knot tying about five times yesterday to make sure I learned it.  Today I’m not so sure I can do it again–I’d better keep practicing.  I’m fascinated by it!  I think there must be some wonderful use for this in kumihimo.  I have lots of time to ponder this, and then I can try a few ideas when I get home.

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While we are back here in Falmouth for repairs and waiting out some strong weather, we went to dinner Sunday night at the beautiful Pillars resort.  I did get my G&T under the canopy in the garden that overlooks English Harbor.  It’s even prettier at dusk!

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There was a bougainvillea that had been trimmed into small shrub right near my leg, and a little hummingbird was flitting all around it.  He was not in the least concerned about my proximity.  He has a little crested head and from certain angles his crest is a brilliant, tropical green.  What a sight!

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As dusk fell we began to hear very sharp tweets from what we thought were little birds that were starting to settle down for the night in the trees above us.  But instead of settling down, the tweets became louder and more like sharp shrieks.  It turns out there are lots of big tree frogs here that are quite loud.  I’m glad we can’t hear them out on Pandora.  There’s no sleeping when these things are calling.

After dinner we took a walk around English Harbor…as pretty at night as it is during the day.

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Today is very unsettled with passing squalls that disrupt the bright blue skies and puffy white clouds that are sailing by in these high winds.  The squalls darken the whole sky and send down horizontal deluges of water.  In the midst of the quickly changing weather we happened to see a rainbow right behind Pandora!  I have never seen both ends of a rainbow before!  What a thrill!  Shouldn’t there be two pots of gold?

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P.S. It’s now afternoon.  I have answered emails and made two two soft shackles for practice. Bob went ashore to consult with Arrougoo, our electronics repair guy, and while there he went to the rigger and bought some finer spectra ‘dyneemo’ line for me to try.

Both of these were supposed to be bracelets, but as you can see I made some miscalculations on measuring the materials for the first one.  It is way to small for a bracelet, yet too big for a ring.  Voila!  A belt for Louis the sailor mouse.  He really wanted a nautical belt.  So, now I know that I must measure 4x’s the length of what the finished item should be. I now also know that the knot is called a stopper knot.  Here is the first bracelet, along with little Louis and his new belt.

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Photos of English Harbor, Antigua

Those of you who know me know that I love taking photos of doors and windows, especially if they are festooned with lace or flowers or vines.  That’s the first thing I want to see whenever we go ashore.  I’ve seen a good deal of lace curtains blowing in open windows over the past week.

We had to get out of St. Barths earlier than we would have liked due to strong westerly winds that made the harbor quite unpleasant.  Before we left a number of boats had already dragged anchor, and two in particular had tangled their anchors and lines with other boats.  This took place in the very dark hours after midnight when these types of calamities always choose to happen.  Murhpy’s Law on boats, don’t know you.

The pre-dawn departure to sail to Antigua that day was no fun, although I’m certain that Bob enjoyed it, especially the part when several of the Caribbean 600 contenders crossed our path–flying spinnakers no less.

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At one point during the journey, when I was fighting a moderate case of mal de mer, I could hear all the cans and jars in our pantry crashing back and forth, and the pots in pans in the cabinets doing the same.  Can you imagine taking your house out in to the elements and letting your possessions get bashed around for a few hours every few days?  That’s one of the main reasons that sailing is an endless game of ‘whack a mole.’  Everything keeps getting bashed about until it breaks.

Anyway, we are safe and sound in Antigua now, and here are some scenes from English Harbor. Lord Nelson was here for a number of years, and these buildings were here then as well. There is a small but well curated museum dedicated to Lord Nelson, that we enjoyed–no photos this time.

We had lunch in this historic building that is now a hotel and restaurant, and were underwhelmed by our meal after a couple of weeks of food in the French islands.  However, I think that English food is unfairly maligned–we just had a bout of bad luck.  I’m sure we’ll have other great meals ashore here….we just didn’t pick the best place yesterday–charming spot though!

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English Harbor is charming, isn’t it?–although life here in the 18th century certainly had a dark side. On one of the placards at the Nelson Museum I read that 40,000 English soldiers died on this island (over how many years?–the placard didn’t say) from minor things like heat stroke and similar maladies, often brought on from wearing layers of wool clothing in a tropical climate.  I couldn’t help think about the women and their corsets and their own layers of undergarments.   This is part of the customs and immigration offices, where we checked in.

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The quaint building on the left is still in use as sail loft.  I don’t know how long it has been in use because there is an even older site where a sail loft used to be.  Next door is the even quainter building, with its whitewashed walls, cedar roof and pretty blue shutters. It is a shop full of carved wooden fish and turtles for sale and a good amount of pottery.  The fish were very tempting, but we didn’t buy one.  How to choose?

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These columns used to support a building that housed another sail loft, in use during Nelson’s time.  Now the columns have been restored to enhance a beautiful garden setting for a local resort and restaurant.  I’m definitely giving this place a try in the next few days. I am confident the meal will be as memorable as the setting….

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…starting with cocktails right here!  I will have to have something thoroughly English, like a Pimm’s Cup or a G&T.  Bring it on!

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With our friends Maureen and Bill (from Kalunamoo), we walked out to one of the promontories on this end of the island.  There are a couple of defunct cannon here from the distant past when this harbor needed protection.  I wonder if this tree was sapling back then.

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Walking back into the village I caught our friends and Bob stopping along a beautiful walled garden.

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Yesterday we moved to Nonsuch Bay, and today has been a day of household chores.  Bob has been busy ‘whacking’ the SSB mole, with no success, and I did two loads of laundry.  In this climate the first load dried, flapping in the breeze on our makeshift laundry line at the back of our cockpit, by the time the second load was finished.  I do love having a washing machine onboard….one less thing to search for on shore.

Now that the laundry is done I think I will spend a little time on embroidery while sitting on the shady side of the cockpit.

Issues in Paradise…or the Ying and Yang of Life

Boaters have all kinds of sayings and phrases for the life we lead aboard.  We know that non-boating people think we’ve sailed off into the sunset on gentle breezes, blowing from just the right direction….like that popular song by Chris Cross.  Here are some of the things that sailors know to be true:

–that Murphy’s Law reigns more supreme on the seas than on land.  If something can go wrong, it will definitely go wrong–and in spades.
–that one year spent cruising on a boat puts the equivalent of 10 years of wear and tear on a boat that is used for weekends and short vacations of coastal sailing.
–Life on board is an endless series of boat repairs in exotic places.
–Life onboard is a strenuous game of ‘Whack a Mole.’  (What’s this, you ask?  check here for a good description)

So I will start this post with some lovely photos of our current paradise, Grand Case, St. Martin. This is the dinghy dock where we come ashore.  It’s not always this peaceful, but aren’t we lucky that this was a perfect day?

This is the sunset we viewed over margueritas on the deck of a beach bar.  I know, you are thinking, SEE?  Just what you’ve been saying all along….

When you get ashore in Grand Case, you are greeted by a charming French seaside town.  Lots of restaurants and shops.

–not to mention tropical gardens enhancing such lovely buildings.

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Even the trash is exotic.

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The pretty Catholic church in the center of town.

The beach is as charming as the village–all those colorful umbrellas remind me of  beaches on the Mediterranean.

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For luxury, you can’t do better than eating in one of the French restaurants along the waterfront.  For Valentine’s Day dinner we chose Ocean 82.  They even make their own flavored rum with vanilla (grown nearby), caramel, and ginger.  I really must give this a try–flavoring rum, that is– when I return home.

It was a beautiful location for watching the sunset, with rain on the horizon, while eating a terrific dinner with our good friends from Kalunamoo!  See the rain shower in the distance?

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I have had a great time ashore in Grand Case.  Here’s some of my swag.  There is a quaint housewares shop call MerSea with wonderful designs from Denmark.  I could not resist the bird fabric used for the travel bag….and our new live aboard, Louis!

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Isn’t Louis adorable in his sailor garb?  He comes with his own bunk with mattress, pillow and blanket.  He is making his way into our affections.  Eventually he will live with Tori, but for now he is having some sailing adventures with us!

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Another incredible bonus of being here is having sting rays and turtles swim right around our boat.  At this time of year there is also the possibility of seeing humpback whales with their calves.  We have been treated to the first two, but haven’t seen any whales yet.

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What you don’t see is that there is often quite a swell coming through the anchorage, so only the hardiest sailors–like Bob– find this a quiet anchorage. I am not part of that club.  And while my photo of dinghy dock was taken on a  peaceful evening, the waves are often crashing on the beach where the dinghy dock juts out into the bay.  That means that you will be landing and taking off from a dock where your dinghy is bouncing wildly as you try to get your supplies just purchased and your self into the boat without too much ill effect.  Being ashore is definitely luxurious but getting there and leaving again is dicey.

Now shall we move on to the repairs we now need in this exotic place.  We’ve only been down here for two weeks, and this is the list of what has been damaged or died from the harsh elements of sea life:
–Damage to main sail during 4-day gale as Bob sailed to BVI, being repaired at sail loft on shore.
–Broken batten on sail, which could not be repaired, so awaiting new batten being flown in from Boston, delayed due to winter storms in New England
–VHF radio with very light signal
–Non-functioning SSB, diagnosed by local electronics guy but not solved at all–nada.
–Dead windlass (that’s the thing that picks up the 100 or more feet of anchor chain which no one human can continue to do by hand day after day.  This is a BIG deal.  Looks like we need to buy a new one.  At least this is in stock in the local chandlery.

And I have suffered a little damage myself, but no hope of repairs until I return home.  The block and tackle on the dinghy davits hit me in the mouth about a week ago.  I was looking the other way, then turned my face right into it!  I was also talking…no surprise….so I got it right in the mouth, on my two front teeth.  I have a chipped front tooth now.  Then a few days later I was doing something in the kitchen so simple that I cannot even describe–just leaning over the counter trying to find something in our deep freezer.  We have very high fiddles on our counters to keep things from rolling off on to the floor in a seaway. Around here you can have a seaway in the anchorage, and that’s what happened.  Somehow I was thrown off balance a bit and the big fiddle bruised my rib.  Now that’s a fun injury, isn’t it?

These are the very big projects facing Bob right now.  We cannot leave until each of these has been addressed and corrected.  So, we may not get out of here for some time to come.  Yes, it’s lovely here, and I’d rather be here than on Pandora in New England right now (though warm and snug in my house is a strong contender).  We are certainly NOT gliding along from island to island on a zephyr, drinking our umbrella drinks.  In fact, although we get to experience such dramatic scenery and wildlife,  and interesting cultures on our travels, living aboard is still very much like living on land.  Each day brings its own demands and challenges, and in fact, procrastinating on boat chores has somewhat bigger consequences than neglecting chores at home.  Boat has more challenges for sure than my cushy land life, but it does have its rewards. One of those is magnificent views.

2-17-17a 021 I don’t expect much sympathy!

More photos, less words…

This year’s trip started with a revisit to a romantic hotel we stayed in 31 years ago.  Where did the time go?  In some ways it definitely feels like a different lifetime ago, but I am stumped at where all that went…so quickly! It’s still a very romantic spot, and dinner here was quite wonderful.  30 years on, I am even more appreciative of a stunning setting and excellent food.

The road in front of the Sugar Mill runs along the coast and looks north to Jost Van Dyke.  Last time that didn’t mean much to me, but this time we visited that island shortly after our evening here, so now I know a little about Jost Van Dyke.

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We made sure we got here in time to enjoy the sunset, which is beautiful from this lovely Victorian porch with cushioned settees for relaxing.  It was very relaxing.  To mark the occasion I had a Pimm’s Cup to remind me of spring evenings in England with my dear friend Lesley.

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The dining room is just as I remember….the stone walls of the old mill yet open air to the ocean.  That’s me at the back of the room on the right, deciding what to have for dinner!

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The Sugar Mill does not show up in any of the guide books we’ve got with us, which is rather baffling.  It is listed in “Romantic Inns of the World,” but that might not be the place you’d look if you were researching where to stay on Tortola.  Anyway, clearly they are doing something very right.  We would have loved to see the owners from 30 years ago, Jeff and Jinx Morgan, who wrote for “Gourmet Magazine” for many years.  We missed them by only a year or two.  I hope that they are well, wherever they are these days.

We are now in St. Martin/St. Maarten which is new territory for me.  The island is a range of tall volcanic mountains, some so steep that there are no roads and no inhabitants up those slopes.  Part French and part Dutch, there is lots to see and do, and two rather different cultures to enjoy.

Here we are at the top of one of the highest points.  We drove partway up with our rental car, then walked the rest of the way.  Our friend Bill took this photo which looks idyllic.  You cannot tell there is a gale blowing up there, and we were afraid to go any closer to the edge for fear we’d be blown right off!

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Aren’t these pretty?  The petals are so like an oncidium orchid that flutter in the breeze, but those long stamens are definitely NOT an orchid. These flowers come in yellow and orange, and my favorite here, a blend of the two!  They grow on a somewhat shrubby plant that has leaves similar to a maiden hair fern.  I would love to have a plant onboard, even a red geranium.  So far, I have not found a nursery where I can buy something green. My friends aboard other boats suggest I get over this.  If I get a plant it will just be taken away when we enter a different island nation.  Sad face….

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Along that road to the top of the mountain were some very impressive villas, and some houses that looked like they’d been built by hands that did not know much about building a house!  I think some of these diy houses were hideouts for people who no longer wished to be known.

Along with wild goats and chickens that roam the roadsides, here there are also wild cows.  They do not cross the road quite as quickly as goats or chickens.   

On our way down we stopped at a large park called Loterie Farm.  It is preserve for wild monkeys, iguanas, and had a maze of zip lines for use in getting a wonderful view of the flora and fauna from some thrilling heights.  That is a bit too much of a thrill for me, but I enjoyed seeing the views from the tree house style tapas bar, where I had a tropical drink with a salad and a crab cake.  Far more sedate than zip lining!

I was happy to enjoy the restaurant views, rather than experience them from the tree tops on a zip line!

Next time it would be fun to rent this tree top cabana near the pool.

We ended the day at the beach right near Princess Juliana Airport, where some of those adventurous zip lining people line up at the end of the runway to be blown off their feet whenever a jumbo jet lands or takes off.  There is no end to the risk taking you can experience on St. Martin.  I’m happy to watch from the safety of the nearby bar, thank you.

 

 

 

Traveling with Friends

It is early February, and I am writing from Simpson Bay Lagoon on St. Martin in the Caribbean.  We are later this year in slipping our moorings in New England and moving aboard Pandora.  Lots of things contributed to the delay, but we are here now, anchored near some dear sailing friends who are introducing us to others who will become friends as the months and years pass.

After entering this harbor on the first bridge opening this morning, we anchored near the ketch Kalunamoo, whose owners are friends who took us under their wings five years ago to lead us through the Bahamas on our first trip down there.  Now they will surely be our tour guides though the Windward and Leeward Islands.  We see each other each summer when our boats are back in north Atlantic waters, but this is our first winter rendevous in three years.  It’s so comfortable being together again by water.

Before I left home another dear friend, one I’ve known as a weaver and land-based friend, sent me her map of St. Martin.  She and her family spent a couple of weeks here only a month ago, and she wanted to share with me a map highlighted with the things they enjoyed doing, the restaurants they visited, the boat excursions they took.

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Now that I’m here and am beginning to get my bearings, it’s wonderful to see the places she visited and know that I will follow in her footsteps.  It’s going to be a fun part of this trip, finally visiting places that some of my friends have been before, even if they traveled very differently than Bob and I are doing.  It should help me feel less isolated this year than I have in the past–especially last year, in Cuba.  That was a wonderful trip in many ways, but it was also the most isolated place I have ever been, since at the time, the US allowed no communications with Cuba.

We left home a week ago, and already I get daily photos of my new granddaughter, the Tiny Super Moon named Tori.  She is such a joy to both Bob and me.  He still gets teary every time he sees a new photo of her.  I get the lightest feeling in my chest….such happiness!  Here she is beginning to celebrate her 2nd month birthday, although she won’t actually be 2 months old for another week!  I guess it was a great photo op for her parents. 1-IMG_0293 Before I left I tried my hand at a bit of embroidery that I found on Facebook.  It’s astounding to me what I stumble on perusing fb.  I’m glad to know this technique–I think it will come in handy for all kinds of projects.  I embroidered this little onesie as a practice, and clearly I need more practice.  But I’ll get it eventually.  I’ll do some spring colored onesies in this technique soon.  Hmmm….no photo.  Where did it go?

I have started a little sailor sweater for Tori.  It is one I made a few years back for my niece.  It’s a design by Debbie Bliss and uses her soft eco cotton.  This time I am using a soft green/blue color that I call faded robin’s egg, with cream.  I love it.  I’m still stumped by what I feel is a bad design for the collar.  Sorry Ms. Bliss, especially since I love your designs! It’s the focal point of the sweater and I still cannot make peace with wrong side of striped garter stitch showing.  For my niece I knitted the collar in a single color.  I am debating what to do for this version.  I have time to decide.

After 4 days in the BVI, making very quick visits to West End, Jost Van Dyke, and Bitter End on Virgin Gorda, we have made the long, 100-mile passage to St. Martin.  The weather has been challenging for the past month (since before I got here), and our weather router suggested that it is quite UNlikely that there will be a good time to head east for the next several weeks.  So we took the lesser of bad weather days to slog eastward yesterday.  It took us 15 hours to travel 100 miles, in fairly rough conditions.  They were very rough for me, but nothing like what Bob and his crew endured getting down to the BVI.  I was very sick for the full 15 hours.  We anchored out in Grand Case Bay on St. Martin, which I understand can be very lovely in calmer weather.  Last night there was quite a swell rolling in there that kept us rolling side to side.  We entered Simpson Bay Lagoon on the first bridge opening this morning….not a moment too soon.

We have reconnected with our good friends and will join them for dinner tonight at a Middle Eastern restaurant called Little Jerusalem, where we will start to meet people we’ve heard of many times through various groups, and whom we’ve spoken to on the radio.  The beginning of new friendships.  I wonder if I’ll meet a knitter or a weaver.  You never know.

As Summer Wanes

It’s Labor Day, the first truly chilly morning of the season, and I LOVE it!  There will be a few more days of summer heat before we hit the equinox, but summer is winding down.  I can feel it in the air and see it in the trees.  In spite of hurricane Hermine heading northward, I feel autumn coming.

The month of August has hurtled by me.  I had lots and lots of doctor appointments, and in between them, I tried to very hard to enjoy one workshop on ec0-dyeing and as many days of weaving and lace making as I could manage.  Looking back, I feel fairly productive!

If you haven’t tried Eco-dyeing, give it a whirl!  There is nothing like unwrapping a scarf or fabric to find some lovely imprints of leaves and flowers.  If your first attempt doesn’t suit your taste just put the fabric/scarf away and try it again on another day.  That’s what I’m doing this morning as I write this.  I have a 1-yard length of lightweight linen and one silk scarf steaming.  I used the rinse and spin cycle of my washing machine to re-wet them, and I just collected a few leaves on my morning walk:  one small branch of Japanese maple with about a dozen leaves on it, some golden rod fronds with buds ready to open rather than in bloom, and a few fronds of sumac.

When I got home I spread out my damp linen fabric and silk scarf and placed my plant materials on half of each length of fabric or scarf, because I will fold the other half over to cover the plant material.  To the things I gathered on my walk I added a few gems from my garden.  Today I am trying tall ferns that I hope are ostrich ferns, since I read that those work well in eco-deying.  I have a few dark purple oxalis leaves, some purple cranesbill flowers as well as leaves, some coleus leaves, and one small spray of red flowers from a dragon wing begonia.  As I write this I realized I meant to to pick some hyacinth bean leaves and flowers.  The leaves of the purple hyacinth vine have such dark veining, it might work very well in this technique. Drat!  My fabric is already in the steamer.

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Here are a couple of sites that I found very helpful in trying this technique.  Sherry Harr did her doctoral thesis at Kansas State University on various textile dyeing techniques, and her article is quite thorough.  There are several blogs where the authors have documented their plants and techniques rather well.  Take a look at Threadborne and Obovate Designs.

In mid-August a few people from my local area guild got together and shared lots of plant material and had a go on our various fabrics and scarves.  None of us had ever done this before, but we shared the internet info we found, and a couple of us had talked to others who had taken a workshop with Amelia Poole, whose work in this technique is stunning.

With a bit of info and a LOT of enthusiasm, we plunged ahead.  We were quite lucky to have the use of Kate’s wonderful weaving/dyeing studio for this project.  Here you can see how we layered the tubes of fabric with sticks to keep them from touching.  To make the steamer there are some rocks and sticks at the bottom of the pan to keep the tubes of fabrics above the water level.

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The taller tubes of fabric went in this make-shift steamer.

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After 30 minutes of steaming and a little time cooling down, our tubes came out of the pot.

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Unwrapping and hanging our scarves and fabric to dry on a rack. We were pretty thrilled with our results.

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My first scarf turned out better than the other things I tried that day.

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Look at the imprint from this giant dahlia.

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I hope to compile a list of the plants and flowers that work best for me.  Some things leave behind wonderful colors, but the imprint is just a blob.  I’m more interested in the things that leave an actual impression of the leaf or flower.  So far, this is my list of A plants and flowers:

Japanese maple leaves–great leaf definition
coleus leaves–faint leaf definition and pastel colors, lovely on silk
golden rod–great definition for leaves and flowers
purple oxalis–great definition
black hollyhock flowers–a wonderful, deep purple ‘blob’
cranesbill, purple–nicely shaped ‘blob’ somewhat recognizable as a flower silhouette

One of the perks of visiting the studios and houses of other weavers, is seeing the lovely details in their living and work spaces.  Weavers usually have such a eye for beauty.

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It was a glorious day for our project.

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Fast forward to the beginning of September, and on this stunning weekend I spent a wonderful day at the monthly meeting of bobbin lace makers in Connecticut.  You can find us here.

We met outside in a member’s garden under a canopy of billowing, striped canvas.  Her terrace was surrounded by flowers–black-eyed Susans, phlox, and other late season bloomers, with a view of her large vegetable garden nearby, and in the distance her bee hives.  She made an English cream tea for us that we had to share with the bees. Her tables were covered with vintage white on white embroidered cloths, topped with vintage linen tea towels that commemorated Queen Elizabeth’s reign–going back as far as her silver jubilee.  I think we all felt a bit regal.

I hope Mary won’t mind that I shared this photo.  Her expression is a mirror of how much we were all looking forward to having these treats!

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Our hostess made Earl Grey tea biscuits dipped in chocolate that were off the charts!

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On top of this wonderful tea we all actually spent time making lace, too!

This is also the weekend of the Haddam Neck Fair.  Late summer is the time for all kinds of festivals that celebrate farming and animal husbandry.  I have never been to this particular fair before, and it was a wonder.

First there were the animals.  We watched a draft horse pulling contest, visited the goats and sheep, cows, chickens and rabbits.  The textile displays were very small, but I met a woman on the fair committee, doing a spinning demonstration, and she hopes to grow the textile area of the fair in coming years.

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Look at this beautiful Dorset sheep.  Her new fleece growing back was as thick as felt and she loved attention.

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Multi-colored Jacobs.

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Seeing all the awards for best sheep or cow, all the way down to best cakes, and cupcakes, best flower arrangements, and best single flowers, or best zucchini, made Bob exclaim, “No one can possibly doubt humans’ need to compete!”  Along a row of bud vases that showcased individual marigolds, the judges had written such poetic comments as: “As beautiful as a sexy, 1940s film star!”  And, one a rose that no longer had a single petal left, “A stunner!  Well done!”

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I particularly like this arrangement of succulents in a well used frame. Clearly the judges did too.

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Some whimsical flower arrangements.  There were lots of categories for flower arrangements, and these were two in the category inspired by food.  A tray of floral cupcakes!

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And a slice of mum cake!IMG_2593 The same kind of judges’ comments showed up on all the individual vegetables, from tomatoes to summer squash, to cucumbers.  If you can grow it or make it, you can compete with others at some local fair!

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It was a beautiful day, and it was quite lovely to see how much care and attention can go into growing a zucchini or a marigold!

Sadly, the textile area could not hold a candle to the livestock or the flowers and veggies.  Maybe that will change in the future.  All it will take are a few textile people who want to compete!

The day is getting away from me, and I should turn my attention to Archie’s book and to that never-ending boundweave project.

I’ll end with a recap of what I learned today.  The tall ferns in my garden must not be ostrich ferns since they left no color.  I did add some hyacinth bean vine, both leaves a clusters of flowers buds, but they also left no color or imprint.

Clusters of purple verbena flowers are interesting–they turn turquoise!

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And signet marigolds left an interesting imprint.  The red stripes turned black.

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And speaking of flowers, I have to share one last image.  The well known, oft-photographed field of sunflowers on the north fork of Long Island.  Bob and I sailed to Sag Harbor and stayed for almost a week back in the middle of the month.  Even when compared to an amazing dinner at the American Hotel, and wine tastings along the North Fork, seeing this field was the highlight of that trip!

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Now to work!

 

 

 

 

 

Farewell to Cuba with a Surprise Stowaway

Our final day in Cuba – Pandora on the dock at Marina Hemingway. Isn’t it a lovely spot? Most days were a bit too hot, but our last day was picture perfect.

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We made plans to meet with a number of our new cruising friends for a goodbye drink—Anne and Christian aboard Tidom (France), Lars aboard Luna (Norwway), and the Trudel family (Silvain, Natali, Romane, Elisa, and Victor) aboard Masqueret (Quebec), and Addison and Pat aboard Three Penny Opera (Ontario). Some of us made plans to walk into Jaimanitas for dinner at a paladar that has a great reputation.

Jaimanitas has a section that is done in Gaudi-style mosaics, and it is a wonderfully colorful place. The mosaicist lives in the neighborhood and continues his homage to Gaudi with ongoing projects.

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The paladar was also wonderful. I did not get the name, shame on me! Beautiful ambience, room after room of open air seating and terrific food. Our two best meals of the trip took place here and at the paladar in Old Havana—Paladar los Mercederes.

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Early the next morning (April 29), we rose at 5.30 to head to the Guarda Frontera office to check out of Cuba. Bob took this photo of my exit interview with the Guarda Frontera before they warned him that photos are not permitted.

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What a sight to see the sunrise over Havana as we headed north for Florida in the early morning.  The odd shaped tower that gets a bit wider at the top on the right side of the photo is part of the sprawling Russian Embassy.

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It was a rough crossing, and I did not fare well. I had about 30 hours of mal de mer on the journey to Ft. Lauderdale, and that meant that poor Bob had to stay awake and do all the navigating during the trip. He was really tired when we finally arrived.

A couple of hours after leaving we noticed a snowy egret flying very close to us. He was very far from shore and was clearly getting tired. He made quite a few attempts to land, but he was having a lot of trouble landing onboard, both because he feet are not made for perching and the wind was quite strong.

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He tried several times to land on the lifelines near the stern of our boat, and he attempted to land on the dinghy up in davits a few times.

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Finally he made a successful landing up on the traveler, on the windward side. He stayed with us for the entire day, and luckily we stayed on the same starboard tack for most of the day. Whenever Bob adjusted the traveler or the sails the egret got very nervous, but he did not fly away. I felt terrible for him.

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Later, just a short time before sunset, we needed to tack to head up the coast of Florida. We knew it would startle our Cuban stowaway into taking flight, but we hoped he would return once the boat settled into its new course. The egret took flight and appeared to head right back for Cuba. He never even looked back. It was getting dark, and now Cuba was more than 60 miles away. As a wading bird, egrets cannot land on water. We had already watched him try to land and flounder a bit as he struggled to ascend again.

I had imagined that this bird, like all birds, must have some inborn navigation sense, and I thought there’d be a good chance that this bird knew we were sailing northeast. He might not know that there would be land to the northeast, but I was hoping he’d want to stick with us to find out. Certainly it would have been an easy trip for him if he could make peace with confined so close to us. But he headed right back to Cuba once we frightened him by changing tack. I was heartbroken by this. He had almost no chance of making it all the way back.

And speaking of stowaways…. as we left Marina Hemingway and entered the Straits of Florida, we heard the power yacht that had cleared out of Cuba just before we did, call Marina Hemingway to report what they thought were two boats in trouble:  a small fishing boat far offshore, and a small sailboat.  The sailor immediately answered the call to say that he was not in trouble.  No info on the fishing boat–most likely because they didn’t have a radio.  We saw a large Guarda Frontera cutter (possibly an ex-US Coast Guard cutter?) come out from the harbor to check things out.  Look at the gun on the bow!

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Moments later a bright red Donzi-type speed boat joined the cutter and both boats circled the small sailboat for quite some time.  The sailboat lowered its sails and drifted as the two Guarda Frontera vessels checked things out.  In the end, both Guarda Frontera boats went back to the harbor, which means they never did check out the report of a fishing boat in trouble.  Hmmm….

Clearing in with Customs and Immigration in Ft. Lauderdale was quite an experience. With the quickly changing rules about US citizens visiting Cuba, no one really knows what the procedure should be right now. We expected to be visited by the health department and immigration to check for stowaways and rum and cigars, and any forbidden food items in our fridge/freezer. When Bob called to find out where we should go, he was given numerous phone numbers and no one at the other end of the line at any of these numbers knew what to do with us! In fact one phone number gave us nothing but a recorded message saying that this office is now officially closed and no one would be checking messages henceforth! 24 hours after arriving we got a phone call from one of our previously called contacts asking us to present ourselves at the immigration office at the ship terminal. We only needed to present ourselves, not Pandora, so we rented a car to get there, which allowed us the ability to do some shopping and dining afterward. When we arrived they did not look at all the papers we brought with us— such as our Commerce Dept. form that allowed us to sail Pandora to Cuba. They only looked at our passports, and asked us if we had a good time in Cuba.

You bet! It has been an unbelievable experience!

Basket Man

Yesterday may have been our last day to visit Old Havana, and I’m so glad I didn’t know it then because I would have felt a need to rush about more. Luckily we had a relaxing day and enjoyed some kind of holiday celebration that was happening.

We are trying to figure out the best ‘weather window’ for leaving Cuba. We knew we’d get the window some time this week, and now it looks like tomorrow is the day. So, here is our loose game plan. The winds are opposing the gulf stream a good deal of the time right now, but for the next couple of days those winds are pretty mild from pre-dawn until midday. So we will leave early in the morning, and sail in the gulf stream until the afternoon, when hopefully we will be near Key Largo. At that point we’ll head toward shore, out of the stream, and sail near the Florida coast until early the next morning when the winds die down again. We’ll head back into the Gulf Stream to Ft. Lauderdale, where we hope to clear in. By doing this we get a boost of speed from the northbound currents in the Gulf Stream while the opposing winds are mild, and when those opposing winds are stronger during the afternoon and evenings, we’ll slip out of the stream into the calmer waters outside the stream. I’m sure I’ll be sick, but hopefully less so than during some of our passages this winter.

The US Coast Guard sent us an email the other day (right after Bob had just composed a message to them) to ask if we were still on schedule for returning to the US by May 1. Bob responded, and we are hoping to hear back on whether we can clear in to Ft. Lauderdale. I have my fingers crossed about this because it will be more convenient for us to arrive in Ft. Lauderdale than in Miami. My flight home is Tuesday morning, out of Ft. Lauderdale.

Bob has just heard that the no-anchoring bill in Florida will indeed go into effect on May 1, so our plans for arriving in Ft. Lauderdale have to be adjusted. We will go to Miami instead, not a first choice for either of us. I guess we will rent a car to get to my Ft. Lauderdale flight. That’s boat life for you….you can make all the plans you want, even at the last minute, when you think you’ve got everything in hand, but the powers that be just laugh and laugh.

Yesterday we went back into Old Havana to look for the headquarters of the Women’s Federation for Handwork. Over the weekend we found the retail shop where the garments are sold, but the workshop where women take courses and make things for the shop is closed on the weekends. Yesterday we had a bit of a run around trying to find the workshop. When we did find it, we learned that all the ‘professores’ were gone since classes only take place in the mornings, while we arrived in the early afternoon. Maybe it’s just my imagination, and a leftover feeling from my visit to the workshop in Santiago, but I got the distinct impression that there would be complications trying to get anyone to see me. Yesterday I got to speak to a custodian and a language teacher, but when I asked for a ‘manager’ they both responded that ‘this was not possible.’ After meeting the open and generous women on the Paseo del Prada, and sharing such an excitement for handwork in spite of our communication barriers, I just couldn’t muster enough energy at this point to care if I met the administrators of this federation. I don’t think their goals are quite the same as mine. Admittedly I do not have the ‘whole picture,’ but from my limited perspective I believe their goal is to promote traditional clothing and make a successful business training women to keep these techniques alive and make the garments ‘saleable.’ It is a business venture that needs to succeed, and I hope it does succeed because that just makes handwork more valuable to everyone. But my mission is to meet women who love handwork and want to share what they do. I found that in spades with the group of women who surround Adriana Martinez.

It was some kind of holiday yesterday, but I never understood what! Several people wished us a ‘happy holiday,’ and museums were open in Old Havana that had been closed during our previous visits. While we were in the ceramic museum, I asked our guide what holiday was being celebrated, and she replied that it was the national holiday for ceramics. Bob and I are not at all sure we understood this properly. All kinds of museums were open that have been closed during our previous visits…maybe the holiday was really about Cuban heritage. Anyway, our guide still maintained that it was a ceramics holiday.

The ceramic museum was in the home of an historic ceramic artist who had a workshop and shop on the ground floor and living quarters for his family on the upper floor. The building was from the late 19th century with a central courtyard, and it made a wonderful museum for a history of Cuban ceramic artists. Each room featured a different time period of artists’ works. The courtyard was devoted to vessels and large figures.

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Our guide understood enough English for me to tell her that one of my good friends is a ceramics artist who does large figures in terracotta. I took these photos for her.

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Somehow in our conversation it came about that our guide loves to knit. She took us to the entrance of the employees lounge and asked us to be very quiet since her boss was in there. She went in and came back moments later with a little bag of her knitting. It was the same ecru cotton floss type thread that the women on Paseo del Prada were using to crochet and make lace. I wonder where they get this material. Our guide told us she’d like to knit all day long, but can only find a few minutes here and there during her breaks at work. She said she never gets any time to knit at home because she has to cook and take care of her family. Sound familiar?

There were so many places open for touring or for business that had not been open all weekend long. It was a festive day, and there women dressed in traditional costumes on many street corners. You could take a photo of there for $5 CUC, which seemed a bit dear to us. Near the end of the day, Bob managed a discreet photo from a distance.

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One of the places that had been closed over the weekend was a perfumerie. We had looked through the windows of this museum/shop and admired the antique brass containers used for distilling fragrances, the wonderful colonial furniture and display cabinets, and the glass apothercary jars that held the fragrances. I was thrilled to get into this shop to see things at close range! Bob took some photos while I smelled the fragrances and bought a ceramic jar of violetta for myself and lavender for my sister.

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Every store has a beautiful courtyard since they are housed in historic buildings. This is the courtyard of the perfumeria.  Bob and I had been admiring the stained glass every time we walked by this building over the weekend.

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In the late afternoon yesterday, Bob and I happened upon a young man making baskets from palm fronds. In his large basket he had a number of exquisite, small items made from the fronds….birds, and a little house with a cricket on top.

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He was easy to talk to and knew enough English that we could communicate quite well. As Bob and I were marveling at the fineness of these tiny basket creations, he offered me one of his ‘birds.’ It appeard that he was giving me a gift, but I wasn’t entirely sure. Here again was someone offering a gift and letting fate take his generosity where it would. I put the bird back in his large basket and asked him for the little house with a cricket on top. Buying that took a bit more time and frustration than we’d anticipated! First, Bob could not find his money, and as he searched we had the sickening feeling that maybe we’d lost all our money. After a few heartstopping minutes he did find his stash of money, but then we did not have exact change to buy the little cricket. The basket maker could not make change for us. So Bob went in to the local bar to ask for change, but they did not have it either. Then the basket maker left his spot to go buy a beer which would give him change. (You can walk about the streets in Havana with alcohol). He came back smiling, and yet he still did not have the necessary change! In the end, laughing, he accepted somewhat less than his price, and he still handed me the little bird as a gift.

Bob and I went to dinner with my little house with cricket and my birdie sitting on the table before us as a quirky centerpiece. We kept admiring both these baskets, and I decided I had to have another little house with cricket as a present. I hoped we’d still find our basket maker on the street where we left him by the time we left the restaurant—which was a beautiful courtyard that had once been a print shop.

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Restaurant Imprenta:

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When we got back to the spot where we’d seen the basket maker, the other street artists had just finished packing up their wares and were headed home. Likely the basket maker would soon be doing the same. But we’d gotten there just in time to ask if we could watch him make a little house with cricket on top, and he seemed happy to oblige even though he still had one already made. It took about 20 minutes for him to make, and we had a wonderful conversation with him as he worked.

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He started with two long palm fronds and crossed the fronds (north/south/east/west) over each other in the middle of the frond lengths. Starting with the ends that taper down to points, he began to fold each frond over the other in a consecutive direction. Since the fronds were tapering down to their outer ends the little box he was making got smaller and smaller, tapering like the fronds themselves. This made the roof of the house.

 

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Then he went back to the other half of the fronds that led to the base of where they’d been cut from the tree, and he made the same consecutive folds for making a square. This made the house itself. Very clever. He cut some frond strips to insert into the box for doors and windows.

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The exquisite litte cricket!

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As he worked we talked…. He loves to make baskets and these little figures are things he ‘invents’ himself. He is always thinking of ways to make some kind of little structure or animal out of the traditional basket making techniques that he uses to make regular baskets. He took out his phone and showed us photos of his baskets. If he’d had any of these with him I would have bought some too! He does careful work that results in beautiful baskets!

I told him that I sometimes make baskets too, but not from palm fronds since there are no palm trees where I live. Bob took my phone and began showing photos of my weaving and bobbin lace since he could not find any photos of my baskets. When Bob showed a photo of my tatting the basketmaker’s face lit up and he said his wife does this! I asked if his wife also does crochet and ‘tejer,’ and of course he said yes! He said she loves these techniques and loves to work with her hands. We had a little discussion of how it feels to let our hands work the repetitive motions of these crafts while our minds are free to ponder. Making things with our hands allows our brains time to contemplate many things.   He also told me he plays the piano and the violin. Someday he’d like to have a cello. He loves the cello most of all.

After giving me the little house with cricket he’d just made, he asked if I’d like him to make a snake. Naturally I said yes. I was curious to see what other techniques might be used to make these little figures, and the snake involved a different kind of manipulation of the fronds. When he finished he gave me that too. He really was most generous!

The only downside of our visit with him happened when a woman stopped for a moment to watch while he was making little cricket on top of the house for me. He offered her the one that was already completed. When he told her the price ($3 CUC) she said, “Big city prices….no thank you!” and walked away. We were all stunned. Yes, there are vendors who have high prices for things and who expect you to bargain, but these are mostly vendors who sell things that they have bought to sell. The artists we’ve encountered sell their work for very little, and I cannot imagine haggling with them. Perhaps I’m wrong about this, but how can you expect to pay even less for such an exquisite concoction of creativity? $3 Cuc for 20 minutes of work? Also, as a craftsman myself, I have stood in my own booths over the years and overheard people say that handwoven items are too expensive—that you can buy something just like it in a store for far less.

Well, you cannot buy a little basket woven house with a tiny cricket on top in any store that I know of. I was disappointed in this exchange. It would have been better for her to acknowledge what a little gem he’d just handed her, but that she could not spare the money at this time. It’s such a sad commentary that she felt she had to devalue his work in order to get away.

During all our cab trips to and from Old Havana we drive through modern Havana, including Embassy Row.  The US Embassy is newly opened and has never been on the avenue where all the other embassies are.  Most of the embassies are in historic colonial buildings and are quite a sight.  The Russian Embassy is the exception, although it too is quite a sight!  It is an wonderful example of Soviet architecture.

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Tonight we’ll have drinks around the pool here in Marina Hemingway with some of the other cruisers we’ve met in the last few weeks, along with Lars whom we met as we arrived in Cuba two months ago.  Some of us will walk to a local Spanish restaruant in the nearby town (Jaimentio?–something like that) to have a final dinner together.  Then is farewell to Havana and to Cuba.  It’s been great, but home is beckoning.  Bienvenidos Florida by this time on Friday!