Tag Archives: sailing

Work in Challenging Conditions

We are having a rip-snorting winter season in the Caribbean. I would prefer a gentle season, but there is no bargaining with Mother Nature. Actually, I know this weather is not her fault. It’s humanity’s fault, so I am partly to blame. I won’t go into the weather here, but you can see some pretty frightening images and videos on my husband’s recent post on SailPandora. We moved to the mooring field in Les Saintes one day before this storm hit, and it was a good choice for staying safe.

Not many days have been calm enough for weaving onboard, but I am trying. I brought so many projects onboard, and I feel compelled to make progress and even finish a few of them. If I finish two tapestries I won’t have to cart the looms home with me when I fly home in April. That’s a pretty strong reason to get them done!

I am trying my hand at wedge weave, and I started this project back in July under the tutelage of Connie Lippert at the NEWS conference in Worcester, Massachusetts. For some reason my brain gets confused on which direction the wedges travel and when to continue on the diagonal or move across the warp to create a horizontal section. I may have unwoven almost as much as I’ve woven, and I don’t seem any closer to making sense of the angles. Old age? I hope not!

During the July class I added the little gold rectangle woven in Gobelins style. While onboard I wanted to add a more complex bit of Gobelins style, so I wove the square that has a couple of shapes inside it.

Here is the one glorious day when I was able to weave in the fresh air in Pandora’s cockpit.

I have consulted Connie a couple of times along the way recently. Being outside the US makes me feel a bit disconnected which can also make me wonder if I’ve taken a detour away from where I need to go to acquire some skills at wedge weave. I’ve had an impulse to add a circle to the wedge weave. I pondered this, wondering if I’d have to weave an easier shape, like a square, in order to put the circle inside it. But that is not what I envisioned. I wanted a circle with the wedges abutting the edges of the circle. Connie thought I should give it a try.

I now have my circle!…but, my wedges are going in opposite directions. I’m not sure what will happen when the wedges meet above the circle. These wedges are confusing me!

In other news I’ve made some wonderful textile purchases. Bob and I took a day trip with friends while in Dominica, to visit the private lands owned by the Kalinago nation. They are not the original inhabitants of Dominica, but they certainly predate the European settlers. The European explorers named these people the Caribe. Naturally, they prefer the name they call themselves, Kalinago. Bob and I have visited here in past years. I’m intrigued by their lifestyle which makes such good use of plant life for food, remedies, and building materials. They are well known for their baskets, and this is my third time to collect more of their beautiful baskets, which are made from a reed like plant. They condition the reeds in different ways to give color the material. To make black they bury the reeds in a pit where the minerals in the soil darkens the reed. Our friend Bill got this photo of Bob and me trying to decide what to take with us.

Here we are sitting in the shade of the beautiful community where the Kalinago live. Oops! Actually, this is another day we spent together in Deshaies, Guadeloupe! We are with Bill and Maureen from Kalunamoo.

And since I’m adding photos from other days, here is one of my favorites with a number of our sailing friends who gathered for dinner that night.

On several visits to Dominica I’ve had my photo taken in front of a vendor’s stall called “Brenda’s Craft Shop.” This year I got meet Brenda! I bought a finely crocheted wrap skirt to give as a present. I can’t show you because it’s to be a surprise for a dear friend.

I tried my hand at an unfinished embroidery project I brought with me this year. On some days I simply could not line up the needle with the place I needed to insert it because of the rolling waves coming into our anchorage. It was daunting, and I often felt I might become crosss-eyed, but now I am happy to report that this project is finished! At home I hope to try my hand at framing an embroidery myself. This embroidery design is from an English company called Melbury Hill. They have some coordinating designs that go with these bluebells, but for now I need to stick to weaving those two tapestries.

As I write this we are on a mooring in the small archipelago of islands at the bottom of Guadeloupe. The main island is called Terre de Haute, and it has a charming village that entices many French visitors who arrive multiple times a day by ferry from Guadeloupe. There are some wonderful shops and many restaurants.

I must be getting tougher, or perhaps just more determined (desperate?) as I age. I am working on days I could never have worked in previous years. It’s good, and bad, in equal measures. I hope I will be taking a home a number of finished items in April.

Scenes

It’s been a challenging couple of weeks in this part of the Caribbean, with lots of wind and lots of rocking and rolling. I have not been able to weave or knit, and sometimes not even able to read! Luckily I have a long queue of audio books that I often neglect. I was able to close my eyes and listen to a relatively new book, Stolen, recently published in English. It’s written by Swedish author Ann-Helen Staestadius and translated into English by Rachel Wilson Broyles. When I went to find the link I saw that it will soon be a Netflix film. It was good on a number of levels and it helped me pass the time. I am not a patient person when it comes to waiting out bad weather in order to get some work done! Basically, I am not patient when waiting for anything! It’s odd because whenever I demonstrate any kind of fiber work, people always say that they’d never have the patience to do any of that. Well, there are plenty of things I have no patience for doing! Waiting is just one of them!

My mood has gotten darker as each day passed with no way to work on any of the projects I brought onboard this year. Poor Bob. For two days, in Ste. Pierre, the rolling was so violent that we had to lock our cabinets and drawers so that the things inside, bashing against the cabinets doors in one direction, then bashing against the hull, and back again, would not come flying out of the cabinets. We’ve had that happen on passage in the past. One of our drawers once came flying out of its cabinet in the galley, sending forks and spoons and knives flying. We had not noticed that drawer when locking down everything before a passage. These are things we prepare for when we are sailing. This is the first time we’ve had to batten down our cabinets while at anchor.

But, on the bright side, we’ve had some beautiful sunsets. In the Caribbean it’s a tradition to blow your conch shell right after the sun falls below the horizon. Don’t have one? That’s a priority when you spend time in this part of the world. Bob got his during our first winter in the Bahamas. It’s nice tenor conch. Smaller conchs have higher pitches; bigger conchs have a lower pitch.

Since color on different monitors is so varied, I wonder if the green flash will look green on other devices than my own! I hope some of you will weigh in on what you see.

Back in Dominica, we took a tour of parts of the island with our friends from sailing vessels Kalunamoo and Roxy. It was an interesting day. I have always enjoyed taking photos of loved ones taking photos, as you may have noticed over the years. Here is Lynn from Roxy taking a photo in the foreground, as I took the same photo. Maureen and Bill from Kalunamoo are in the front, followed by Bob and Mark (from Roxy.) We’ve been cruising friends for more than a decade at this point.

This is the coast line we visited on the Atlantic side of Dominica.

The hard, smooth coastline here is hardened clay.

There is a rather interesting stairway carved into the rock. I can’t imagine it’s natural, but what do I know? Not much! Mark could not resist climbing down these steps. I was holding my breath too tightly to take a photo, and he got back up safely.

After Dominica we sailed to Ste. Pierre, and somehow managed to spend two nights there, which is where we had the worst rolling we’ve ever experienced. We decided to escape to Fort de France for the beginning of Carnival, but the anchorage was too crowded for us, and it was pretty roll-y there as well. We tried to anchor six times, and in the process bent our stainless steel spade anchor. That will cost a pretty penny to replace, and until we get to Le Marin to do that we have to be pretty careful about anchoring. So, we headed across the bay to Trois Islet. It’s been windy, but the three islands and shallow waters have lowered the waves to a chop. This is the village of Trois Islet–quite charming. This is the Saturday open air market in village square.

When Bob writes his next post there will be some stunning photos of the Martinique Yolo regatta which took place here in Trois Islet, as well as great photos of Carnival in Fort de France. We took the ferry there for Sunday’s festivities. Today is the last day of Carnival, but I’m happy to stay aboard. Our friends from Kalunamoo and Roxy have gone to see the last day’s parade.

And on Pandora, small things are happening. Our little unidentified succulent plant is making babies on the edges of its leaves. Can you see them on one of the inner leaves, to the right of center? Quite fascinating!

And here is my almost non-existent progress on my “Amphora” sweater from Purl Soho. It’s only grown about 3″ in length on the body, below the sleeve stitches that are waiting on spare needles. Slow and steady….can you see the swirls that create the increasing shape of the yoke? That’s what drew me to knit this design! You might have to ‘bigify’ this image to see the swirls.

When we get to Ste. Anne, the harbor should be reliably calm. Fingers crossed. In the meantime, we may stop at Anse d’Arlet for a night or two. I hope it will be calmer than where we’ve been the past two weeks.

News from home: the wonderful volunteers in TWiNE (Tapestry Weavers in New England) have been hard at work toward an exhibition of members’ works that will open on April 1, the day I fly home. I hope to get there shortly after the opening! If you’re in the area around Leverett, Massachusetts, I hope you will visit this exhibit.

So…although there hasn’t been a lot work accomplished here over the past weeks, there have been quite a few good scenes. Hopefully there can both from now on into March.

Working Remotely in Remote Places

A couple of weeks ago Rebecca Mezoff’s email newsletter mentioned that since she traditionally works at home, when she works ‘remotely’ it means that she has traveled somewhere. It’s the first time that I realized I work remotely every winter. Many people think Bob and I are on vacation when he sails south for the winter, but it’s really our ‘other’ home. We live our every day lives, full of chores and responsibilities, from our 2nd home, which happens to float. I always bring ‘work’ with me, and am often disappointed that I’m missing some vital color for a tapestry, or a particular size of knitting needle, or some other item that derails for my plans for work. At my first home I can quickly go online and replace almost anything I’m missing within days. That is never the case here. This is a view from Shirley Fort overlooking Portsmouth Harbor. Pandora is out there!

We are in Dominica now, and have been moored in Portsmouth for the past four days. Bob’s sailing group has arranged for an impressive number of outings on this island, known as ‘the nature island.’ Most of Dominica is rain forest. Most of the hikes here involve hiring a guide. Perhaps the most intensive hike on this island is called the ‘hike to the boiling lakes.’ This hike, which I have not done and Bob regrets not doing, takes people to the edge of the volcanic caldera where the sulfur lakes are literally boiling. It’s not easy getting up to those heights, and this week’s trip was particularly hard for the hikers because it rained most of each day in heavy downpours, which made the paths and rocks quite slippery in addition to being quite steep. The hikers walked along the steep rock walls of three caldera that looked down into the boiling lakes.

From Wikipedia: The Boiling Lake is a flooded fumarole located in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a World Heritage Site on the island of Dominica. The lake, located 6.5 miles (10.5 km) east of Dominica’s capital Roseau, is filled with bubbling greyish-blue water that is usually enveloped in a cloud of vapour. The Boiling Lake is approximately 200 to 250 feet (60 to 75 m) across and is the second-largest hot lake in the world after Frying Pan Lake, located in Waimangu Valley near RotoruaNew Zealand.

In the rainforest people clear small plots to grow all kinds of veg and fruit, and the rest of the West Indies is indebted to Dominica when the supply boat arrives in the other islands carrying produce grown here. They even grown coffee here in the higher elevations. The melons and bananas are unbelievable! I’d forgotten what non-GMO avocados taste like, and these bring back memories of the first avocados I ever tried, as a teenager, years before Haas avocados had been developed. I’m a big fan of the real ones now. And, as it happens, there are numerous varieties of avocados. We’re about to try some that are quite tiny. The one thing I cannot find–and don’t even seem to know how to ask for–is cilantro! There is an herb grown on some of the islands called “chadon beni” that’s pronounced more like “shadow benny.” It does not look anything like cilantro, but it tastes like it! It roots easily, so I was able to grow my own the only year I found some to buy.

I know that some cultures call cilantro ‘coriander,’ which is what I call the seeds of the cilantro plants. At the local Saturday market here in Portsmouth, I tried asking for cilantro, coriander, and ‘shadow benny,’ but I got no hits. I even had an image of chadon beni open on my phone for clarification. The only response I got was an offer of some flat leafed parsley! Oh well. I can’t make the guacamole of my dreams, but I am enjoying eating avocados in other ways, including the way I first ate them in junior high school, with canned tuna salad stuffed into the place where the pit was removed in the big avocados! And when you root one of these avocado plants you will get fruit on your tree, unlike Haas, which are sterile. I am making do quite well with a healthy, rooted Caribbean version of basil which is growing like it’s on steroids.

The Saturday Market in Portsmouth, Dominica

The entire Caribbean is a colorful world, as Bob captured in the fishing fleet on the dock.

At the moment I am licking my emotional wounds that I have a major set back on my Caribbean ‘postcard’ tapestry. I don’t have any white or cream weft yarn to weave the iconic church in Deshaies, Guadeloupe. I have other options, you know, necessity being the mother of all mislaid plans. I can weave a different scene from Guadeloupe to eliminate this church entirely. I’m feeling a bit negative about that since drawing the rough cartoon was quite an effort for me, with no option to resize some of my images with a printer, or even stopping into a Staples store for help. In the end I have four pieces of paper glued together to create my cartoon, and it has angel fish and turtles swimming around the postcard of the church. I just continue ‘to sleep on’ the idea of tossing out this idea.

So I’ve turned to my current sweater in progress, a design by Ainur Berkimbayeva for Purl Soho called “Amphora Pullover.” It is a top/down sweater with fun increases through the neck and shoulders that create swirls. Quite attractive on the model! Now that I have put the sleeve stitches on holders and am about to continue on the body only, I am going to test some ideas of continuing some of the swirls to create a swing style body. I can never just knit a design as instructed. Patterns are jumping off places for adding our creativity to a garment! I hope my idea works.

The “Amphora Pullover” by Ainur Berkimbeyeva for Purl Soho.

Looks like I have an opportunity to start my own small business here in Dominica!

During the past week I have been challenged by an exceptional idea that is currently keeping me awake at night, with all kinds of possibilities running wild through my mind. If you don’t know me, you may not know that I have recently begun teaching tapestry at a non-profit organization in Connecticut that is near and dear to my heart. The organization is Hartford Artisans, and their mission statement is what captured my attention: The Hartford Artisans Weaving Center is committed to being a welcoming, accessible community that actively works to create a kinder and more equitable world for everyone. Our diverse community unites people from different backgrounds and experiences to learn from each other and uncover their own unique skills. We challenge assumptions about disabilities and aging and show that everyone deserves an opportunity for creative expression. We recognize we have a responsibility not only to open our doors wider, but also to understand and work to change the racial and gender inequities that hurt us all. 

The director of this organization recently got a letter from a blind weaver in the Southwest, asking if there were any audio sources for learning to weave tapestry. I have done a preliminary search and found nothing. Yet there is one weaver out there who wants to do this. There is, or was, a weaver at the Artisan Center who wove a tapestry that hangs on display in the hallway. I don’t know whether that weaver is still with the Center, but if so, I’d like to her/him. The piece is more texturally interesting and is not based on imagery. It has striking merits. As we all know, there is no one way to describe or view tapestry, and no one correct way to achieve an idea. While I was thinking through ideas, Bob googled textured tape to see if there is a tape that has bumps or some kind of measurement device done in texture rather than in visual marks. By Jove! There is! I thought about how to describe the process of making an Archie Brennan copper pipe loom without any visuals, how to describe the seine twine I’d recommend for the first few warps, and at some point, how to describe various techniques. I thought about describing the warping process in words only. Are you now thinking too? If so, I hope you’ll get in touch. Creativity should be accessible to all people, and it falls to some of us to make this happen. In the meantime, I’m going to proceed, hopefully talking to some of the visually impaired artisans about what kind of instructions make the most sense to them. I am hopeful.

I’m looking forward to getting back to my ‘real’ home, my first home, where I can be more connected and less remote! I’m halfway there: six weeks to go! And it will be almost time to garden again.

species cosmos in bloom against a wall in Portsmouth, Dominica

Weights and Measures Onboard

Here is my working space onboard. In yacht parlance it’s called the main saloon (I have always pronounced that ‘salon’), and it is the main living space down below on Pandora. It is connected to a small galley, and there is an aft cabin toward the stern, and a ‘main stateroom’ forward of this room. That’s a glamorous phrase for where we sleep. It doesn’t seem ‘stately’ at all.! I am very good at making a huge mess of our limited living space. We had a couple of days of calm conditions in Deshaies, and I took good advantage of it to finish the first part of this tapestry that I started in May of 2020–more than 2 1/2 years ago. My heart has not been in it, perhaps because of some bad memories of that year. The odd thing is, when I sit down and work on it, I enjoy it. Go figure.

Now I am ready to slide the woven section partially around to the back of the loom in order to keep weaving. I hope to do that today, when I finish this post. The conditions in Les Saintes are not nearly as calm as they were in Deshaies, and that is why I have not gotten back to work on this piece. I’ve been lucky to knit, which was only once. Otherwise, I’m just trying to keep my balance onboard!

Weights and measures have factored rather significantly over the past few weeks. First I attempted to weight the merino/silk top I was spinning because I wanted to have an equal amount of singles spun on each bobbin in order to have equal amounts to ply together into finished yarn. Have you ever tried to weight something on a boat? The gentle, and not so gentle, up and down movements on a boat raises havoc with a scale. On the scale the read out for my merino/silk to cycled up and down by about 10 grams. I usually just try to pick the number in the middle. When baking a cake it’s far more important to get it right! Here was my guess for baking a quiche. It was not perfect, but we certainly thought it was good.

I also wanted to measure the length of that newly spun and plied yarn. Luckily Bob found PVC pipe at a hardware store just outside Falmouth, Antigua, and he made one that has a central arm of 18″. The yarn winds four times around that central core, for a total of 2 yards per single go ’round. I was able to measure that my merino/silk skein is 840 yards, plus or minus probably 10%. I can’t measure this accurately until I get home. Winding on a niddy noddy, or anything else, depends on the tension you use to wind. Too tight, and you’ve got quite a bit less yardage than you think. It’s hard to wind too loosely because of the nature of this repeated action. In general, we all tend to get tighter and tighter even when we are trying to avoid that. I took my time and tried to ‘stay loose.’ We’ll see.

This niddy noddy absolutely will not come apart, even though it is not glued. I wonder if that is due to the heat and humidity of the tropics. I padded one of the arms with a folded napkin, hoping that would give me some ‘wiggle room’ to get the yarn off when I finished winding. It worked.

We’ve been in Les Saintes for three days. The conditions here are rough, but the place is scenic. You can’t have everything. Below is a chart that our good friend aboard Kalunamoo created to measure of how UNcomfortable the ‘harbors’ down here can be. Most places are not harbors at all, simply coves or bays in which you can throw down your anchor, but there is no protection from the sea conditions. In Antigua, we were in real harbors, both in Falmouth and English Harbour. That’s a great way to start a winter of sailing, and really quite a come down for the rest of the trip. Deshaies, Guadeloupe is between a 3 and a 4 on Bill’s chart. In Les Saintes, we rarely get a mooring ball right near the village on our arrival, so we have to spend at least one night anchored between the islands of this archipelago. The roll conditions are consistently between stage 5 and stage 7. It’s awful. One night while I was sleeping a book jumped right off the shelf above me and clobbered me in the head! It was a rude awakening. The next morning I discovered that my glasses came down with the book, and I had fairly mangled them by tossing and turning all night on top of them. Bill Woodroffe writes a great blog about the lifestyle of living on a boat here.

Luckily we only spent one night on anchor, and early the next morning we were ready to head closer to shore in the village (Haute de Terre) to grab a mooring from anyone who was heading out. We were on a mooring by 7am.

One thing I measure while we are traveling aboard each winter is the home ports of all the boats that are anchored or moored nearby us. Antigua had a predominance of Union Jacks, in all the varieties that signify the colonies and protectorates of the UK. There were some number of French flagged boats, as well as Canadian, and Norwegian/Swedish/Danish, with only a few Dutch flagged boats. I saw a few Swiss and German boats in the mix. The past decade of sailing in the Caribbean has honed my flag recognition abilities. In the French islands, the French flags outnumber the British, as do the Scandinavian boats. I’m used to looking up the variations of the Union Jack when I’m curious about exactly where some of these boats call home. Yesterday I saw a variation on the Norwegian flag that caught my eye. It is currently the most beautiful flag I have seen!

I know it’s hard to see the detail on the flag. It was waving in a fairly strong breeze, as I attempted to catch it mostly open. It’s a Norwegian flag with a triple swallow tail, something I’ve never seen before. Usually swallow tail flags are associated with yacht clubs. This flag is the ensign of the Royal Norwegian Yacht Club. It’s a beauty, even though the boat is not.

The beautiful center crown and IVI design was Haakon II’s royal emblem, which he granted for use to yacht club members starting in 1906. This image shows a standard flag. The triple swallow tail has the two red points and center blue point with a narrow white outline. This image is from wikipedia.

Identifying the flags of countries in all the places we visit keeps me entertained. In these islands not many natives speak English, so using my almost non-existent French keeps me on my toes, and is something I am attempting to improve–therefore, another form of measurement. Food words are somewhat easier than everything else, since I have a moderate familiarity (and love) for French food! Everything outside of food is quite a challenge for me!

Bob measures more things than I do. He’s constantly tracking how much electricity we have made with our solar panels and wind generator, and when we are motoring, how much power the engine made. He weighs that constantly against our usage. We now have a star link gadget for the internet and that is big energy guzzler. We need to make hot water for showers, we need to make that water (!), and we need lights at night and energy to run our gas stove to cook. It all adds up, and Bob spends a lot time measuring the input and output of energy. He says he enjoys living off the grid. I say give me a light switch and instant access to heat and electricity. It’s quite a process to start cooking on Pandora, not to mention taking a shower or any of the many things we want to do daily. I am not an ‘off the grid’ kind of girl.

Here are some scenes from Haute de Terre, in Les Saintes. This was the view from our table at breakfast this morning.

Pandora is out in the distance. She’s light grey and just forward of the bow of the boat in the foreground

How about a close up?

Pandora has a light grey hull, in the distance, just forward of the bow of the boat in the foreground.

This is an idyllic place, and it would be perfect without the wind and the rolling conditions. Photographs are also a measurement of sorts. We take the ones we love, and sometimes we share them. Au revoir for now.

New Place, New View

We are approaching the last weekend in January, which means I’ve now been a live aboard for a whole month. In some ways it seems longer than that, in other ways less than a month. We have been in the small village of Deshaies (pronounced Day’ay) on Guadeloupe for several days. It is a charming place, if a bit run down. The shabbiness lends itself to chic-ness here. Very French Mediterranean here, in an ‘every man’ sort of way. Although, there is one big yacht that anchored behind us last night. They played some very loud music for less than 5 minutes (thank heaven!), and then turned on these amazing blue lights just as the moon was setting in the West. Those blue lights cast a huge aura around us.

One of the highlights of a visit to Deshaies is the botanical garden that is just outside the village, up a steep hill. Every year at the garden is slightly different. This year the heavier rains have made the place look close to perfect. Even the flamingos have benefitted. Last year we worried that they might not live another year.

There is also an aviary full of parrots.

After walking the gardens, where Bob took a lot of wonderful close-up shots, we had lunch with friends, Lynn and Mark, at the scenic restaurant.

Along the way, Lynn took some photos of us.

On our last morning in Falmouth, Bob walked to the hardware store to by a length of PVC pipe so he could make me a niddy noddy that would allow me to wind a skein of the yarn I had spun and plied on my little Nano 2 e-spinner. The niddy noddy will not come apart, so I thought I’d better pad one leg of it with a napkin to help me get the yarn off when I finished winding.

It worked well! I now have 840 yards of 2-ply lace weight merino/silk blend. I love it!

I’ve been looking for ideas for a short ruana to utilitze this yarn. This will be a lightweight fabric, using stash of my handspun waiting at home, added to this skein, and perhaps some merino/silk zephyr in dark blue. I may weave with zephyr that I have on hand in a lighter, sort of “Wedgewood” blue. This is one image I found online that I rather liked. I will sew the side seams closed on mine, and I simply must have a braid to embellish the neckline. I have also seen (somewhere!) sleeves added to a ruana. I’m intriuged by that. I’ll have to do some sampling.

Now that we’re here in Deshaies I have got a photo of the church that identifies this village for me, and which I’ve wanted to add to my Caribbean tapestry. I took the photo this morning. I will be finishing up on an octopus and a few fish before I tackle my view of Guadeloupe by weaving this charming church. Of course, I need to eliminate all the clutter in the foreground and show the full height of the mountain behind. Poetic license.

I need a photo of myself (horrors!) for an upcoming date on Textiles and Tea. I sent in a photo of me holding the Archie book, in which I was actually hiding behind the book. HGA rejected that, so I’m faced with getting another photo. Bob took this one this morning. I hope it will work. I’m still trying to hide, this time behind my loom, but it’s less obvious.

That’s the news from here. Bring on February, when we’ll head down island to Dominica and Martinique. Before that lies Les Saintes at the southern end of Guadeloupe, which we would never miss.

Views of the New Venue

Like many people, my work space is my living space onboard. I’ve posted plenty of photos over the years of projects underway in the main saloon or cockpit of Pandora when she herself is not underway! I cannot work when we are sailing, only when we are anchored or at a dock.

Here’s a look at how I manage my projects onboard. This is where most of my supplies are stored. This 3-shelf cabinet extends back further than I can illustrate in a photo. This year it is holding three knitting projects–the hot water bottle cover and two sweaters– my little Nano 2 e-spinner plus merino/silk fiber to spin, a rather large supply of tapestry yarn for weaving as well as another pile linen yarns for experimenting on a new tapestry design, and various tools. I have two copper pipe frame looms onboard, and they are stored in the hanging locker that holds Bob’s clothes. They couldn’t possible fit in my hanging locker, and luckily Bob is a very good sport about my need for equipment and stash!

On the bottom right of this photo there is a folded maple contraption that is my new tapestry stand! I have great expectations that this will make weaving onboard more comfortable. There will photos in the future.

Here are two little gems that hold tools. The first is a wonderful woven envelope by Lucienne Coifman (of rep weave fame), who is a member of my weaving guild. I have a number of small items from her that she makes from samples. Her hand finishing is exquisite.

There is a embroidered loop for the button similar to the loops that hold the scissors in the next photo. Lucienne’s finishing work is equal to her fine weaving.

Then I have this small tin full of handy tools.

This is the best small tool kit I’ve ever owned. It even has a ridiculously tiny pair of scissors. Can you see them? On the upper right of the tin, with pink handles. You can see that there is a tape measure, a needle gauge and various needles, along with a small crochet hook for picking up dropped stitches (although I never pick up stitches that way). What you can’t see are various stitch markers.

Having extra knitting needles onboard along with tools is worth far more than their tiny weight and size. Ellen, who started the knitting group, has given me a little envelope of dental floss threaders which will get added to this tin.

We’ve also had a change in venue for two days last week, which merits showing. Life onboard can get pretty small. I’ve always called it “Living small, with a big view.” Back in November when all of the sailboats that rallied together arrived in English Harbour, the national parks administration here threw a celebratory dinner to commemorate the arrival of so many sailboats. You can see some great photos of this on Bob’s blog. At that event the Minister of Tourism gave Bob the gift of a two-night stay at the historic Copper and Lumber Inn that is part of Nelson’s Dockyard. It’s a place where the Tot Club meets weekly, and this is a photo I took when Bob invited the fleet of our boats to be guests at a tot.

Tots take place in the courtyard of the Inn. I have only been up on the balcony once, last year, to get a similar photo before the tot ceremony began. This year it was a thrill to actually get to stay in this beautiful, historic spot.

There were three large double windows, which had stunning views. In the previous photo the drapes are drawn because the light completely washed out the interior. But of course the views were the best part!

Copper and Lumber is particularly beautiful at night. Above the entrance are the three windows of our room.

And back on Pandora, we have some new views this year. I brought one Christmas ornament from home since I wasn’t ready to give up the holiday when we came back here.

We also found orchids for sale at the local market! We could not resist getting one since we left our little family of phalaenopses and a paphiopedilum at home in the care of Melody and Chris.

I’ll close with a video Bob took of how my little Nano 2 spins. I am enjoying it, and I’m using the time to think about how to proceed with the tapestry experiment I want to try. Soon.

Life onboard is well underway this year. I hope it will be productive.

Mother Nature Always Has the Final Say

The pre-modern world is still very much on my mind after seeing that ancient, worn piton and imagining the fearsome sea monster it would have seemed to an ancient sailor. Lately I’ve been thinking how ridiculously removed I am from nature in the modern world. I turn up our heat, turn down our air conditioning without a thought, I store our food in near perfect conditions in our freezer and fridge–even on a boat! I mostly leave home in the cocoon of my little mini cooper, so that there is not much weather that keeps me confined at home. Anyone who camps or lives on a boat knows that weather rules everything we do.

This morning, while having breakfast at a cafe right on the dock in English Harbour, Antigua, we all felt the wind gather speed. One person at every table jumped up to run back to boats to close hatches so our beds would not get wet in the coming squall. Meanwhile, we all continued to sit at our dockside tables, out in the weather, rain or no.

On our sail back to Antigua from St. Lucia we experienced a moment of epic nature that has stayed with me over the past two weeks or so. The low angled light of morning is perfect for watching flying fish jump out of the water as the keel of Pandora slices through their fishy schools. It’s amazing to watch them leap out of the water, their winged fins flapping furiously. In that perfect light their fins sparkle like diamonds and remind me of what fairie wings might look like, similar to a dragon fly’s wings, but entirely white. I’ve never seen a dragon fly with white wings. Some of these fish can fly so far, it is quite remarkable, like skipping stones made of faceted diamonds. I spent a lovely hour watching them glide above the water as Pandora’s bow sliced through the waves. Shortly after the fish started flying we were visited from above by several brown boobies. I thought they were gannets, but I’ve now found out better.

There was such a symmetry between watching the fish glide through the air, skimming over the surface of the indigo water, while birds glided high above us and swooped down so close to our bow and our sails. Those birds are great navigators maneuvering so close to Pandora. I wished I could see in all directions at once to follow the swooping birds and keep an eye on the flying fish. It was not possible. I saw that Bob had our camera out, trying to follow the exciting trail of just one bird.

If only Bob had gotten a photo that showed how close these birds got to us. They are so agile. In this photo you can see the blurry outline of our forestay.

I don’t think I do anything as hard as what the boobies and flying fish were doing as I watched. All that work for a such a small meal of fish with very little meat and so many tiny bones. And all that work for such tiny fish to fight for life–avoiding the giant boat hull lumbering at them, escaping from the depths to be attacked from above. What a hard life!

This has been an exciting season for experiencing nature’s extremes. The cruisers down here have all noted how much windier it’s been this year. Almost all of us have been visited by porpoise on our voyages, and several cruisers have seen whales. Bob and I think we saw a whale breach…in the far, far distance. No photo.

Bob is currently writing about his extreme experiences racing in the Classic Yacht Regatta aboard Columbia. That was extreme sailing! Everyday a few of the crew were swept down the deck by the force of the waves crashing over the bulwarks. The experienced crew were well versed in grabbing people as they slid by. Bob got tossed down the deck on the first day of sailing and was caught by a crewman who apologized for getting so ‘personal.’ Bob was thankful to be grabbed. A friend of ours got swept away on the 2nd day — not overboard, but he did have his pants ripped off entirely, and he got a nasty rope burn down his chest (and etc.) from the line he was desperately clinging to as he made that voyage down the deck.

One of the professional photographers sent these two images to Bob. No one is in charge at all, except the force of nature!

I can’t even tell where the bulwark is in this photo!

The islands of the West Indies are extreme in the best and worst that nature offers, although nature doesn’t make judgments like that. Nature just is. There are volcanic mountains and remains of pitons, rainforests, incredibly blue waters, skies and rainbows, and hurricanes. And when things go down it’s on a different scale entirely than when I decide to head home in my car, park in the garage, and get inside my house for comfort. Safety isn’t even on my radar. I just want to be warm and dry!

And thinking of home, we head home in three days. On Sunday night I’ll sleep in my cloud bed, and when the sun rises on Monday, I’ll be outside checking my gardens. With a little luck my flower boxes might hold miniature daffodils and grape hyacinths. The daffs at the top of our hill might be starting to bloom. I have to start preparing for Easter the things I want to share with our NYC kids and our grandchildren in Maryland. We have a short tour of the Eastern seaboard to take within a week of getting home. It’s all pretty exciting to this weary, and reluctant, sailor.

Earlier this week I looked at a few years’ worth of garden pictures, missing home, but also getting psyched for the return. I found this photo of a bouquet of my first rose of the season, with other spring flowers, from a few years ago–hellebore, tulips, bleeding hearts. I’m looking forward to all of these!

Ever the goal seeker, I have to make an accounting of the projects I have finished during the Caribbean season. I finished that blue sweater, knitted sideways, from cuff to cuff, more than a month ago. I have finished the orange vest, but cannot bring myself to put it on for a photo. For one thing, it really needs wet finishing to complete the look of the knitted lace. And I don’t have the proper clothing to set off this pretty vest! Some time ago I finished a Nanucket basket vase that needs a bit sanding and a coat of varnish at home. Not a bad showing for four months away from home.

The bigger news is that I have completed everything I can do down here on my small tapestry. I now realize that I love embellishing things! The last time I added ‘bling’ to a tapestry was in 2015, when the Wednesday Group made portraits on chop stick warps that Archie made for each of us. I did a triptych of Greek characters: Artemis, Theseus, and the Minotaur. The best part of that project was thinking up non-woven ‘accessories’ to add to the weaving. Now, I am having the same fun embellishing my current small tapestry. I’ve added needle weaving and knitting so far. At home I will make a length of kumihimo in a pattern I know that uses three colors and looks a bit like snake skin. There are slits in this tapestry, and I plan to thread the braids through various slits.

And one final thought on nature. My friend Stephanie on Hero took a photo of this sign we both saw during our time together in St. Lucia. So true.

Homeward bound, back to modern life.

Disconnected

Every year Bob and I are promised better connectivity in the islands, with promotions from various internet providers. I think I have finally given up hope! This year takes the cake! Moments after getting onboard my iPhone got the ‘black screen of death.’ I googled how to solve this, but without being able to back up my 10,000+ photos and various other things, I decided to leave that job to a professional…and that means waiting until we return home.

So we bought the least expensive android we could find at the Digicel store in Ste. Rosa, Guadeloupe. We were promised that a certain Digicel plan would give us 70 gigs of data for about $40 (US) a month. We could add more, 10 gigs at a time for about $10, and we could pay by automatic payment. The service would work in all the islands from Antigua to Grenada. Sounds good, doesn’t it? We fell for it! So it came as quite a surprise when the phone turned itself off about a month later. In the settings it showed that we paid for the next month, so we didn’t think it was a payment issue. After that we saw the payment on our Visa account. For the next month the phone did not work. We had no hotspot, and Bob’s google fi phone did not have enough data to use for a hotspot. We eventually went to a large marina in St. Lucia where wifi is included with dockage, but of course the service did not reach a single boat on any of the docks, except before 7am. What fun!

Are you thinking we should be less tied to our electronics? Well, sure. But when you live onboard you need more connectivity than if we were just on a two-week vacation. We want to talk to our kids and grandkids, we want to read the news, we want to write blogposts. Bob has managed to keep up his blog because he can take his computer ashore and use wifi there. My computer is now old enough that it needs to be plugged in at all times to work, and I can’t do that ashore on any island except Antigua due to the type of electrical outlets. We left there in January! When we were on the dock in Marigot, St. Lucia, I had electricity onboard, but no wifi. Now we are in Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia, and I have both electricity and wifi. At long last!

I’ll stop whining now and move on. We’ve met new friends this year, cruisers who are on their first Caribbean journey. I can tell already that some of these newbies will become long term friends. There are still no weavers who’ve crossed my path, but I have been able to keep in touch with some of my weaving friends at home. In reality I’ve been able to keep in touch more this year than previous years, so some of my ranting above is not fair!

SEA MONSTERS

When we sailed from Martinique to St. Lucia, earlier in March, it was a ‘sporty’ sail. I was seasick and unable to move from my spot on the leeward side of the cockpit. We passed an ancient piton at the southern tip of Martinique that sent my brain to thoughts Scylla and Charybdis from Homer’s Odyssey. The piton we passed is quite small compared to others in this area, well worn and likely much older. As we passed it I was able to see three sides of the rock, and on each side of that rock there was what looked like a fearsome face etched into it. I could not possibly get up from my perch to get good photos, so I got out my cheap phone and did my best through the glass of our protective windows in the cockpit. This is the third side, as we were passing our last view of this piton. I was too sick to make sure the horizon was straight, and since I took this on an android, when all my other ‘toys’ are apple products, I don’t know how to edit this image to straighten that horizon. At any rate, maybe it’s better crooked, since it evokes my extreme state of off-balance!

Can’t you feel the fear some long ago sailors must have experienced as they passed this piton in a gale with angry seas and black skies and wind all around them? It brought these ancient sea-monster stories to life for me. I was so happy to tuck into Marigot Bay after this rather short, but sickening sail. And I’ve been thinking about sea-monster stories since this day.

RESORT LIFE ON ST. LUCIA

While in Marigot we were visited daily by a little Lesser Antillean Bullfinch. He was a cheeky little bird, very used to people and boats. He had no fear of flying down below through our small companion way, and he was not easily shooed out of our cabin! He seemed to know which boats had bananas, so Bob started leaving a half bananasfor him out in the cockpit each day. It was not a good idea because he became a constant pest. If there wasn’t a banana waiting for him outside he’d come below and take a look around.

While trying to chase him out of our cabin he ducked into our ‘stateroom’, aka bedroom. I wish he’d given me time to make the bed before I took this photo!

St. Lucia is a gorgeous island, known for its lushness, its high volcanic mountains, and two striking pitons down in the southern part of the island. Pitons are the leftover cones from ancient volcanos. Here is a view of the two famous pitons (Petite Piton on the front and the larger Gross Piton in the back–I know! The one in the back looks smaller from this vantage point) with the sprawling capitol city of Soufriere just to the north.

Stopping along the roadside to capture shots of the pitons. The roads seems greatly repaired since our last visit pre-pandemic. We were locked down in St. Lucia when the pandemic started, in March of 2020, but we were confined to Pandora, so we did not visit this area that year.

You cannot visit this area with a snap of yourself with pitons in the background!

On each of our visits to this part of St. Lucia we stop for lunch at a beautiful resort called Ladera. It’s at a high elevation with terrific views of the pitons right at eye level. The food and wine is just perfect in this setting!

There is a new game in town, which is a thrill for me. The Rabot Estate that grows cocoa for export, including to supply Hotel Chocolate in the UK, has opened a showroom and bar/restaurant facilities, just down the road from Ladera. They opened two years ago, just as all the islands of the West Indies locked down. Lucikly, now business is taking off, and luckily we were able to participate in their growing success! If you’ve never had Hotel Chocolate, you should! There are some shops in the US (look online). My dear friend Leslie sent me my first taste for Christmas last year. I’m hooked!

Here are just a few temptations on display!

These displays were inside 40′ shipping containers lined up inside a giant tent. It was sleek–very modern. There was a full container of beauty products made with cocoa butter. Here is my favorite purchase from the day.

We almost opened this bottle last night, but decided it would be great share with Chris and Melody over Easter.

This is the resort at Marigot where we’ve spent the past two weeks indulging in pool time, great food and time with friends. I even visited the spa–twice.

Being tied to a dock for two weeks gave us the ability to run our air conditioning, which allowed me to knit my wool vest and work on my tapestry in cool comfort. This “Con Alma” vest is now much further along, above the arm scythes.

One day I tried weaving at the pool, but it was challenging! The wind is always blowing, and at this stage of life, my eyes struggle to see when the back light is so intense!

I finished my Nantucket basket vase! Well, the base and the top rim need sanding and then the whole thing can be varnished. That will happen at home, in Bob’s woodworking shop. (And hopefully, he’ll do those jobs for me.)

After spending so much time in French islands where there are many boulangeries serving up baguettes, I have finally mixed up some sourdough starter. I made the batch with a new friend, Oana, from a giant catamaran that is currently docked in Marigot, and will soon head back to Portugal. Oana found it interesting to be delving into sourdough at this stage of life (a few years younger than I am), when during her childhood in Poland, sourdough bread was the only bread available. What goes around comes around.

There will be a sourdough boule later today, just in time for our overnight voyage back to Antigua starting tomorrow morning.

I’m very glad to be connected to the world today. Life needn’t revolve around connectivity, but sometimes it’s good to be in touch. I’ll be home 14 days from today. New England spring is calling to me!

Do You Need a Sweater?

Bob asks me this almost every day during the winter when we are in the Caribbean. I answer that I always need a sweater, but that it’s too hot! He is teasing me about all the knitting I do while onboard. I finished my Purl Soho “Cuff to Cuff” sweater about a week ago and have been waiting for milder temperatures in the evenings in order to put the sweater on to take some photos. The almost perfect evening came about two days ago.

I don’t have a desire to wear this sweater again until I am home! It is comfortable, although not so much in 80+ degrees. I think I will enjoy it in the milder April weather at home in Connecticut. I looked at the little thumbnails on our camera and declared that we were done with photos. When I saw the images afterward I realized that there are still a number of locking stitch markers pinned to various places where I was noting the shaping. Ugh! Just my luck! It’s just too hot to retake the photos!

Here is a detail of the side shaping I did. It starts with side slits, then the side seam tapers up to the armhole through the use of short rows. You see the stitche marker I used to keep track of the center underarm. Oh well!

I have been thinking about a collar, but for the moment I’m just going to move on to other projects. I will have the option to add a collar, but in my experience, once I start wearing something I rarely continue to tweak at the design. I brought along a vest pattern and yarn from Kate Davies Designs. The pattern is “Con Alma.” I love the color she knitted for the images on her website–a happy orange that reminds me of the center of a daffodil! I will add a different kind of side shaping for this design. The yarn has wonderful bits of other bright colors, in its tweediness. The yarn is “Milarrochy” which makes me think “Milarkey,” so that is what I call it. The color is ‘Asphodel.” It is knit in the round from the bottom up. Instead of steeking, the pattern is knit back and forth from the armholes upward to the neck. I am enjoying knitting the lace details on the center front.

We are in a small ‘anse’ which means ‘cove’ in French, or perhaps in French creole. I need to check on that (French). The small village is called Grande Anse d’Arlet, and it is somewhat south of Fort de France. There is no hint of Carnivale here, just what we hoped! There are no ferries to rock the harbor every half hour, no drumming, no parades. There is a long beach to walk and some beach cafes. The mountains in the background are dramatic, but not so high as Mt. Pelee, so we don’t get constant rain showers as we did in St. Pierre. We are anchored somewhat to the right of that pier coming out from the beach, although we are not in this image that I got off the internet!

Grande Anse d’Arlet is the blue dot on this map, although the village is name is missing. As you can see, we have moved directly south of the festivities in Fort de France.

I’ve been drawing designs for my next small tapestry. That’s a bit of a challenge–always is. I dread drawing and then after several false attempts I begin to enjoy it, as I get closer to something almost worthwhile. I wish I’d brought some colored pencils, just to get a sense of color and depth. There’s always something missing onboard.

I am ready to weave, but no definite image yet. I want this finished so I can bring it home in my suitcase as a small textile, not as a cumbersome copper loom! So time is short. If my drawing skills were better I’d be weaving already. Meanwhile, in only a month I might be able to wear sweaters again! With luck, I’ll have two new choices in my wardrobe.

In the Background

There’s a background to every part of our lives, isn’t there? We’re focused on things, but plenty of other stuff is whirling outside of our field of focus. I am on the final rows of my Purl Soho “Cuff to Cuff” sweater in a shade of Mediterranean blue that I love. It conjures up memories of my time in Greece from almost 50 years ago, and it also is the shade of many shutters and trim on Caribbean houses. I wanted to change the silhouette of the design by adding shape to the side seams. My first attempt was a failure!–although I thought it was so clever. I picked up and knitted stitches all around the front and back side seams, and then did double decreases (sl1, k2tog, psso) at the center stitch of the underarm. I did this for 30 rows, and it did not do what I expected. So much knitting, and then I tried it on and sighed. Not good at all! I needed to sleep on that small debacle for a night, then luckily the next morning I woke up ready to get down to another possibility. I ripped it out quickly, and the 2nd idea went much more speedily and looks much better. I did short rows that tapered up to the point of the underarm. It only took about 22 rows, and because of the short rows the number of stitches overall was less than the first attempt. I tried it on and liked the look!

This is the background in which I’ve been knitting. At the point of this photo Bob and I were leaving the tiny villages sprinkled throughout Les Saintes and heading for St. Pierre, Martinique, the home of the infamous volcano Mt. Pelee.

A few more days down the road (uh…sea) finds us now anchored in Fort de France, the capitol of Martinique since Mt. Pelee erupted in 1902, and destroyed St. Pierre (we spent almost a week there). Fort de France is both historic and modern. We are anchored right near the 17th fort of St. Louis. It was started in 1683, and finished in 1710. Bob and friends keep quoting the French from “Mounty Python’s Search for the Holy Grail.” Hmmm….

When we go ashore to the dinghy dock we are in a large park where people gather with their children to use the playground equipment, or they gather at the beach–that tiny strip of sand in the far left foreground– for swimming.

There is a gazebo in the park where drummers gather in a drumming circle every day. We can hear the percussion onboard Pandora, all evening and into the wee hours in our sleep. I think these sessions are practice for Carnivale that starts tomorrow.

I have mixed emotions about being here during Carnivale. Two years ago, this is where we were were, amidst thousands of revelers, when we learned that the world was about to shut down. We sailed south to St. Lucia when all the Windward and Leeward islands closed their borders. If we’d known this would happen, we would have sailed north to Antigua. But we couldn’t know. It took us about a month to get north to Antigua, when the border there opened for a brief 3 days, and then another two months or so to get to the USVI and then to Florida. These are not good memories for me, so being here gives me a certain level of angst. In spite of French curfews here of 11pm, newly extended from 8pm in mid-February, it seems like Carnivale will be just as crowded and chaotic as past years. Will the revelry go on until about 4am, as in past years? I’d rather get out of here to some of the remote coastal villages.

Down here we live with scattered rain showers, especially if we are near islands with rainforest, and showers always mean rainbows. Bob has about a thousand photos of rainbows, just from this year.

Our friends on Hero, Stephanie and Jim, took a photo of a rainbow encircling Pandora. You’d think that might bring us a bit luck, but if that’s true, what we got was a bit of bad luck. Bob lost his wallet in the big city of Fort de France. We don’t know if he lost it on land which could be very bad…. or if it possibly fell out of his pocket while we were in the dinghy. If it’s lying at the bottom of the harbor we are not so worried.

And we thought for certain that this photo, also taken by our Hero friends, with the end of the rainbow right on Pandora, would bring us luck finding Bob’s wallet or a pot of gold. We’d take either. No luck for us! Note the double rainbow which is also a frequent occurrence everywhere in the Caribbean.

So we lurch ahead. Bob has no driver’s license now, no credit cards, no ATM card, and no medical cards. We lost the cash we had, about $200 in euros and a little US cash. It’s inconvenient for sure. Yesterday Bob asked at a hotel if we could have a small package sent by DHL, but the concierge emphatically said, “NO!”–even wagging her finger at him and looking angry at the suggestion. These are trying times for being a stranger in a strange land. I don’t fault the hotel at all for not wanting mail from anyone not staying there. The banks here are only ATMs, with no actual human employees. We’re not in Kansas anymore. My ATM card and credit cards are all the same accounts as Bob’s, so it’s still a dicey situation, but we are going to use them until we can’t. Bob checks our visa account every day to see if there are any charges not made by us. I guess we’ll be holding our breath until May, when he gets home. Although I’ll get home in April, I can’t cancel cards that he needs to use!

That’s all the news from here that’s fit to print, with a bit of background beauty thrown in for fun. It’s a beautiful backdrop to my many concerns and worries at the moment.