Tag Archives: sailing

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.

Reality Check

For the past couple of weeks I have been consumed with hearing from folks who’ve just received copies of Archie Brennan’s autobiography/memoir. I’ve been holding my breath on the copies sent to far away places, like Australia, and also following those in the US who pre-ordered the book at Schiffer Publishing and at Amazon. All is going well. It seems like a lot of people have ordered. I sure hope the publisher thinks sales are going well.

Meanwhile, real life continues. Bob and I are spending the winter onboard our sailboat Pandora, after an 18 month hiatus due to the pandemic. This year we will not visit quite as many places in the Eastern Caribbean due to rising cases on some islands. In spite of our best efforts to stay safe, we have been in Guadeloupe now for a week and learned that this island’s Covid cases have been rising dramatically. We first landed in Guadeloupe at a small village on the northeastern coast called Deshaies (pronounced DEH’ eh, or DAY’ A for those who love diphthongs!). I wasn’t particularly worried there because the village is so small. There is an 8pm curfew all over the island these days, so restaurants close up around 7:45 so everyone can get home. We ate a few lunches out because of that, and we did some touring in the area during the daytime.

One day we took a shuttle bus to the nearby botanical gardens that we visit every time we are Deshaies. Luckily the shuttle bus was empty except for the driver and us. One of the highlights of the gardens is their restaurant. Our friend Tom, aboard Rally Point, joined us for the day.

Of course, the main highlight of the gardens are the gardens!…and the birds! They have a wonderful array of parrots in the gardens, both in an aviary well are out in the open (perhaps their wings are clipped). There is also a fenced in area of flamingos. This year the flamingos have great color.

We are staying more connected to our cruising friends this winter, traveling together to different ports. Is this because we all missed each other last year? I’m not sure, but so far we have stayed in a traveling clump. Since the evening curfew makes dinner a bit challenging we have enjoyed a few lunches with our friends. I love this spot in Deshaies called La Mahina. It’s painted white with Mediterranean blue trim and has such lovely views out the unglazed windows!

A few days ago we sailed to Pointe de Pitre, the capitol of Guadeloupe. We’ve never been to this port before for two reasons. It’s a huge port, and it’s industrial. On one side of Pandora we look at a lovely shoreline with only one dwelling and a mountain in the background; to the other side we see a busy port with cranes and containers and ships loading and unloading. The city of Pointe de Pitre is quite large. It’s not our best choice, but we are trying to be careful!

The highlight of Pointe de Pitre is the river that divides the two islands that make up the island nation of Guadeloupe. It’s a navigable river for most smaller vessels, but the two bridges that span the river are no longer operable as draw bridges, so that has closed off travel on this river. The chart below shows the Riviere Salle is in the middle of the two wings of the butterfly that make up Guadeloupe. There is a red triangle showing the entrance to the river where we began our journey.

Cruising sailors can still take their dinghies along this river, along with paddle boarders, kayakers, and small power boats. Luckily the local coast guard patrols these waters to keep speeds down. During our visit up the river, the coast guard stopped two jet skis who were speeding past us.

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We made a day of exploring Riviere Salee with couples from three other boats in our group. The river and the small canals and byways along this river reminded us of so many places. Traveling through mangroves we remembered our winter in Cuba, yet some of the byways actually looked like lakes in the Adirondacks on a summer day. It’s a beautiful area.


As we explored a number of small byways, I was intrigued with the sky and mountains in the distance. It was a wonderful experience! In the middle of the day, we stopped in a larger open space to tie all our dinghies together at the bows, which made sort of a 4-petaled sunflower raft-up. We opened our picnic lunches and relaxed and talked.

It’s quite a contrast to explore these little tributaries off the river and yet be anchored in such a big industrial harbor. Getting back to our boats in the large harbor during the afternoon strong winds was no simple feat. That’s the thing about living the simple life–there is always a price to pay for the good times. Sometimes that price is pretty high.

I’ve been trying to turn my attention to projects. I’m on the last leg (no, really the last arm) of a sweater I’m excited to finish. It’s quite a simple design, from Purl Soho, that is knit from cuff to cuff. In past sweaters of this design I have knit the entire sweater in one piece, but this design is knit in two pieces: a front that is cuff to cuff, and a back cuff to cuff. The two pieces get put together by picking up stitches along the selvedges and doing a 3-needle bind off. Doing this 3-needle bind off gives a smart edge to the seams which you can see in the photo below. I am going to add a long gusset to the side seams, using a technique from one of Vivan Hoxbro’s designs from years back. I don’t remember the name of that knitted jacket, but I enjoyed the clever way she joined the center back. I will pick up stitches at the side seams and do a double decrease at the underarm every other row until I get the A-line shape I want. This has been a slow project because it’s all just garter stitch…ad infinitum. But the finishing details could make it a quite a lovely design. I hope so!

End To End Pullover | Purl Soho

The color I’m using is a slightly different blue than shown here. It’s more blue, less green, but still a warm sort of barely turquoise. I’m almost to the last sleeve which should go quickly.

I’ve made progress on the basket, but it’s still not done. I probably have two more sessions of weaving to finish it. I’m saving that indulgence for a perfect day. It’s so enjoyable to weave a basket!

If I don’t make a plan for a small tapestry soon I’ll be lugging my frame loom home empty! I don’t want to do that! It was hard to get all my supplies onboard this year because I didn’t do it before Bob left to sail to Antigua. I didn’t want to decide what to bring so long before I’d actually be here. But packing two large suitcases of supplies, and schlepping them through JFK twice (due to flight cancellation) was SO not fun. I need to make good use of the supplies I lugged all the way here and with such inconvenience! Wish me luck.

This is my reality right now: living in a tropical paradise, with a good dose of hard work. Today I am doing laundry which will hang out on our clothes line in the cockpit. I know I’m lucky to have a washing machine onboard. Without that, laundry is quite a big chore that I might enjoy describing someday…but not today. I will knit and try to conjure something for dinner on our tiny stove that is now having problems. Bob worries that if I cook too long our last solenoid on our propane tank will melt, making cooking even harder to do. He installed the last spare solenoid a couple of weeks ago, and hasn’t been able to buy more spare solenoids in any of the chandleries along our route this winter. He’s hoping for luck in Martinique, or we may be relegated to cold meals! Fingers crossed. It’s time to hang out the laundry.

On Passage: My first journey of 1,000+ miles, mostly all in one go

Our long passage home began on Monday, so this is Day 5, and it has gone better than I expected. I’ll never be a sailor, but Bob sure is. If you ever have to go on a long voyage against your will, I highly recommend Bob as your captain and Chris Parker as your weather router. You cannot do better!

Day 1: (Monday, May 4) We left Caneel Bay, St. John, at 1pm. We were wallowing a bit in following seas with the wind directly behind us. I got out my sketch book/notebook to jot down a few impressions of each day, and on this day I noted that I was having a hard time writing. I was worried that writing would make me seasick, so I kept it rather short. By 5pm we had left the Virgin Islands behind us. By 10pm we could lights on Culebra and we could see Puerto Rico faintly in the distance. There were big swaths of sargasso everywhere, and a big clump of it was tangled on the rudder of our windvane. There were big, dark squall clouds all around us, and from 2am – 5am we sailed through a number of them. Seeing big squall formations on radar was was intimidating for me. We also saw one ship in the dead of night. My anxiety level was high. I was no help at standing watch since I kept falling asleep–a sure sign of mild seasickness!

Day 2: (Tuesday, May 5) Low wind, wallowing in following seas. I was looking forward to seeing Puerto Rico, but during the day I could not see any of it. Our course took us from about 25 miles off the coast to 40 miles off the coast. During the morning we sailed over the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean, the Puerto Rico Trench. It’s over 27,000 feet deep there, which is more than 5 miles deep. Just a bit further west is the Old Bahamas Channel that has some of the shallowest shoals I’d ever imagine to find in the middle of the ocean. What a strange world! Our view was 360 degrees of water. It is a deep indigo color verging on purple, like what we see all through the deep waters of the Caribbean. When night fell we had non-stop squalls, especially from midnight ’til 8am. I slept through most of this, leaving all the work to Bob for a second night in a row.

Day 3: (Wednesday, May 6) Squalls. Uncomfortable! Are they ever going to stop? On the one hand, the winds have been light, and seas are down. I told Chris Parker I wanted a flat sail home. I wanted to feel like we were just sailing across a lake. He’s done a great job of finding those conditions for us. If only the squalls would stop! Bob has always said that he finds Day 2 of a passage to be the hardest. On Day 2 he often wonders how he will endure the entire trip. For me, that day came today, on Day 3. I struggled with a sense of feeling imprisoned in a small space with a view of a vast seascape which was not at all soothing. The Dominican Republic was to our left, but we could not see it, even at night. I was fairly depressed this day, unable to pass the time reading or knitting. I have a few audio books, and it was helpful to recline in one of our adjustable cockpit chairs with my eyes closed, listening.

During the night we had a parade of ships, likely due to being in the vicinity of the Mona Passage and Windward Passage. I don’t know why I hardly ever see a ship during the day; then they all seem to pass by us during the night. It’s stressful. On the positive side, I was able to stand a 2-hour watch so that Bob could sleep. Progress!

We are traveling during the time of a full moon, which does make for a a few moments of excitement in that otherwise endless view of water and more water. The nights have been overcast due to the squally weather, but the moon has been a lovely gem.

Here is the moon setting, no longer silver but a stunning golden orb from the rising sun.

The water in the foreground is a perfect study in calm seas. Bob took a close up for me.

Day 4: (Thursday, May 7) We’ve now gone more than 350 miles. There has been no sight of land, which is rather depressing. I had hoped to see some of the Dominican Republic, and maybe even a bit of Haiti. Still following winds directly behind us, but calmer seas so that we are not wallowing today. I can read!– and I actually spent a good deal of the day knitting!

We learned that bad weather is headed our way. A cold front is forming that will bring near tropical storm weather right to our route home. Our weather router is urging everyone in our flotilla to get shelter on the southernmost island in the Bahamas, Great Inagua. The Bahamas is closed to boating traffic at the moment, even for boats seeking shelter, so our shoreside volunteers in the Salty Dawg organization did some terrific work in getting our homeward bound flotilla boats permission to land at Matthew Town on Great Inagua for as many days as we need to avoid the bad weather. We cannot check in to the Bahamas, or go ashore, but we can anchor and wait out the storm. We could not have managed this individually, so help from these volunteers is priceless. They are working hard to get us safely home. What a relief.

The night was challenging for me. There were squalls all around us with violent lightning on both sides of the boat. I stood two watches this evening, so Bob got more sleep than he’s had in three days. It was frightful to me. Like desert mirages and visions in the fog, after a while I began to see things in the haze. The radar showed that there were two boats that would soon cross our paths, all of us headed to shelter in Great Inagua. As hard as I looked into the gloaming to find their running lights, I could not see them. I saw all kinds of other things instead! I saw various ships and strange lights, and I heard ominous sounds. After 3 1/2 hours, I could not stand the stress any longer, so I woke Bob to take my place.

Today is Day 5. (Friday, May 8) We have sailed 537 miles, which is close to half the way to Florida. This has now become the longest passage I have made. It’s seems like a great time to take a break, but this is not the break I’d like to have. There are no harbors on Great Inagua; boats simply pull up to the shoreline and anchor. The Bahamas is notorious for ‘clocking’ winds, which means that every few days the wind direction shifts around the entire compass. We arrived here with westerly winds which is the worst direction for anchoring here, as you’ll see on the map. In westerly winds this is called anchoring on a lee shore, which means if your anchor drags you’ll drift right onto a shore that will be a challenge to get off since the wind is pinning you on that lee shore. Not good! The winds are slowly shifting eastward, but the westerly ocean swell will continue to roll us about. We are now facing northeast, with northwest waves rocking us sideways. It will be hard to sleep tonight. As I often say about sailing, “out of the fire and into the frying pan.” I wish this weren’t always the case.

And here we are newly anchored off Matthew Town on Great Inagua. This is the memorable Bahamian blue one finds in about 20 feet of water. Stunning.

We have been granted permission to anchor in either Matthew Town, where we currently are, or in Man of War Bay, just north of Matthew Town. You can see neither of these locations is protected. The wind is gradually shifting to the east, but the waves continue rolling in from the west. It feels just like our first two days of wallowing in following seas. Ugh.

We cannot go ashore here, but I should mention that there is a big salt pond on the island, where Morton Salt makes their sea salt. On the map you can see this salt pond right at the lower left hand corner, just inland of South Bay. There is a gate that can be opened to flood the pond with sea water. Then the tropical sun causes the water to evaporate and leaves behind the salt. It’s terrifically hot here. I can imagine turning into a block of salt myself. I am so ready for some temperate New England weather!

There is also a protected flamingo rookery here. We won’t be seeing any flamingos on this visit, since we cannot go ashore. I guess I’m happy to be here. It’s uncomfortable, but it has to be better than riding out a tropical storm.

From the Washington Post. The largest breeding colony of West Indian flamingos .

I’ll close with this photo of Sailor Bob, ever ready to take on a long journey and make the best of whatever conditions Mother Nature throws at him. He’s hoisting the “Q” flag (for quarantine) and the giant Salty Dawg rally banner. Do you see that threatening black cloud above us? That’s another squall in the making. Bob is not worried about it. He set the anchor well and now intends to open a cold beer and get some well deserved R&R. As he sat down to enjoy himself, he got a wonderful air show of a US Coast Guard helicopter landing on the airstrip in Matthew Town. I was so tempted to hail them on the radio and ask for a ride home!

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Departure

The time has finally come! While I haven’t had nearly as much experience with long passages as Bob has, this is what I always encounter: We provision and wait for the weather window. Our provisions grow low in the waiting so we provision again. We wait again. On and on. Inevitably, we get the word to “GO!” now, right when we need to provision again! The waiting is a killer. I feel like I’ve been holding my breath for ages, and feeling anxious. By the time we really do ‘GO!,’ I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted now. So, naturally, it’s time to go. And wouldn’t you know, we need fuel in our extra jerry cans and we are a little low on fresh food.

I put a scopolamine patch on last night hoping to stave off any seasickness ahead of time. Fingers crossed. It should take us about 7 days to get to the Lake Worth inlet on mid-coast Florida. We could not get a marina reservation in Fort Pierce because they are already full. But some of those boats will be heading north as soon as mild spring weather arrives in the North Atlantic, so hopefully we won’t have to wait too long.

The closer I get to home, the more excited I’m getting for projects. Temptations arrive in my inbox daily. This winter I stumbled on KDD designs, a site with so many interesting facets–poetry and writing, knitwear design, even yarn from local sheep (in Scotland), where that yarn is also spun and dyed locally. It’s not local to me, but it’s in my DNA to need and want textile-y things from Scotland.

I’m in love with this amazing color of orange! I’ve loved the color orange for years, although I do not have a favorite color. The color of this yarn, with the little bits of other colors in it, is a show stopper for me. The teal is wonderful too, but that orange! Oh my!

I’m ready to start knitting this vest, also designed by Kate Davies (of KDD)! It’s called “Con Alma,” after the Dizzy Gillespie recording from the early 60s. Temptations are wonderful things, aren’t they? I put a kit for the project in my shopping cart, without giving it more than two seconds’ thought. Sadly, this yarn is already sold out. Sigh…. I hope I can order it soon, so that it will be winging its to me as I wing (hopefully) my way home.

I’m enjoying the possibility of what other sea creatures will work their way up the warp on my current tapestry. Sea turtles and rays for certain. Maybe a couple more ‘post card’ moments. I have to start drawing soon because the next creature will get added before the octopus is finished. Adding any more ‘post card’ images might involve weaving buildings again. The church tower in Deshaies, Guadeloupe (pronounced Day/A) is such an iconic landmark. Tempted for sure, but I should know better.

So, it’s time to leave, and here I sit. Am I stalling? Probably. Bob has taken the dinghy into the nearest town to fill the last couple of our jerry cans so we can have enough fuel to add to our tanks as the trip wears on. Supposedly there will be so little wind between here and Florida that we’ll have to motor a good deal of the time. As long the seas are flat, I’ll be very happy to motor, thank you!

So to pass the time ’til Bob returns, I will forge ahead on my Wrist to Wrist sweater from Purl Soho. Great color, isn’t it? But it’s not orange.

I hope I can knit during our passage home. I have a couple of audio books to listen to when I stand watch in the middle of the night. I am praying I can do that this time. It’s all Bob requires of help, so he can get a little sleep. A week without sleep is a long time. Off we go! Shortly I hope I’ll walk through the side door on our porch, and have a good cry of joy to be back. Welcome home!

Plan C, D, E…etc.

All we do these days is make plans for getting home before the hurricane season starts down here. I was going to write about these plans, but they are mutating too fast for me, faster than shifting sand trickling through my fingers. We’ve now gone well beyond Plan C, D, and E. I started this while we were still in Antigua, but now nothing from that post is relevant. Lots has changed, but nothing really has.

We left Antigua last week, on Thursday, to sail through the night to St. John, in the USVI. We arrived on Friday afternoon. My medications are waiting for me in Red Hook, and Bob is taking the ferry there now to get them, as I write this. We tried to make landfall there on Friday afternoon, but it was so rough in the harbor that I did not think I could handle Pandora while Bob picked up the mooring lines. We have been in Caneel Bay on St. John since then.

I was frightfully sick on the passage here, and that has given me quite a concern about making the much longer passage home. People love to tell me that everyone gets better after three days at sea. I’m sure that’s true most of the time. But what about those three days? How is Bob supposed to get through three long days without help? The 2-night trip to Antigua in early March was a terrible burden on him. He had no help from me at any point on that trip. And it happened again on the way here. I’ve been sailing with him for 45 years now. We’ve made some long passages and we’ve covered a lot of ground between Maine and Florida on the east coast of the US, and on to the Bahamas. I don’t just get mildly sick; I get incapacitated-ly sick. It’s a risk to have me onboard. That is weighing pretty heavily on me. (I have a huge stock of different seasickness meds, trust me!)

The day we sailed to St. John, capital of Antigua,–not the island where we are now– to clear out, we saw this ship carrier in the harbor. You cannot imagine how much I wanted this to be our plan! Just take Pandora to Newport, and let us go! The cost of $20,000 to take her was a bit sobering. Still, I was tempted. Bob was not.

Here you can see boats lining up to wait their turn in the crane. Too bad Pandora couldn’t get on line.

The stress of worrying about this is taking its toll. I feel I am burden onboard, but no one else can get down here to help Bob. What to do? We talk to our weather router off an on over the months we are down here. Last week when Bob told him how sick I was with the following seas on our way here, he suggested that we consider the ‘northern route’ home, which would take us far out to sea, east of the Bahamas to make a straight shot to the Carolinas or even all the way to Connecticut. This route has more easterly winds and would put the wind and sea state coming across the middle of our boat, which is called a beam reach. This is the route Bob always takes each year. But that terrifies me. It’s so far from anything. Once again this morning we called the Venerable Chris Weather Router to ask if there was a way to get home in flat seas. This may be a possibility. The ‘southern route’ would take us north of Hispaniola (DR and Haiti) and into the Old Bahamas Channel. The winds and waves would be from behind, my least favorite direction, but if we pick a window when there is very little wind, the sea state should be flat. We’d have to motor most of the way to Florida. Horrors to real sailors like Bob, but that sounds pretty nice to me. Bob is in favor of doing whatever makes me less fearful. He is on a hunt for some diesel cans so we can carry extra fuel. Wouldn’t you know that all those sailors who sheltered here before we arrived bought up all the diesel cans at every store within walking distance in both Red Hook and St. John. I’m amazed that any of these chandleries are still open. (But that is another story)

In my distress over how I’m going to get home, I have returned to some of my projects that were so boring to me weeks ago. Now I relish anything that will take my mind off what lays ahead. On my small tapestry I have finally made it past the pillars in English Harbor. Really, I have no business weaving buildings. I need to imprint that on all my bobbins–No Architecture!! Now I’ve started the octopus that wraps around the little postcard scene of Nelson’s Dockyard, so I’m having considerably more fun.

I’ve joined in a couple of Rebecca Mezoff’s “Change the Shed” get togethers on youtube through live streaming. It’s been one of the best diversions I’ve been able to find. I weave my own tapestry while she weaves and talks to the weavers who send her questions or comments through live text messages. It’s fun. Lately I haven’t had enough connectivity to do it, and I miss it!

St John has some nice distractions too. There are lots of turtles here, and they are not nearly as shy as most sea turtles. One of them checks us out throughout each day. We must be sitting on top of his favorite patch of turtle grass. In fact, in Caneel Bay you may not anchor because anchors and chain tear up the grass that is so necessary to the turtles. There are moorings here, and now that the island is a bet less crowded, we were lucky to get one.

Our mooring is just off the beach of a derelict resort that was started by the Rockefeller family back in the 50s. It made it through all those decades and then was destroyed in 2017, by Hurricane Irma. Now, only 2 1/2 years later, it looks like it’s been out of commission for many years, not just a few. A local resident told us that the property’s 99-year lease will be up in two more years. There’s a rumor that a big resort company has bought the resort and will rebuild when the lease runs out.

The view from Pandora right now is quite spectacular. It’s hard to imagine that you can have tough decisions ahead and a hard trip home while sitting in such a place.

It took me a full day to get over the trip here, but as you can see, I am relaxing while I can, before we have to head out again.

I am working on a sweater design that Purl Soho offers on their website, called End to End Pullover. The yarn is also theirs, called Linen Quill. It is a blend of merino, alpaca, and linen. It is about the weight and grist of Shetland jumper weight, but so luscious due to the alpaca, and heathery, due to the linen. I’m enjoying the feel of it, and the Caribbean blue, even though the knitting has grown boring. I am almost half done.

I’m not sure that I use my nostepinne correctly, but I wanted to knit from a center pull ball. I have to drape the skein on our navigation chair, which is a bit too small. Of course at home I make balls with a ball winder and it goes at least 10 times faster.

My balls always turn out like eggs!

And I am baking and cooking, like everyone else on the planet right now. Even though I have a pound of yeast in the freezer onboard, I miss making sourdough. I thought I’d find out what wild yeast in the Caribbean would be like. It’s very healthy! It must love the salt air and warm temperatures. Playing with sourdough also has been a little ray of contentment during my worrisome days.

And the best balm for my fearful days has been the connection with friends who are checking on me daily. It’s been so therapeutic for me to know that friends are thinking of me. Somehow that is always such a sweet surprise! –to hear that people take the time to think about me when their own lives have a full share of worries. I feel wrapped in the love of people who are routing for Bob and me to have a safe trip home. Thank you immensely!

Carnivale….it’s all about the textiles and the smiles

Carnivale started yesterday afternoon in Fort de France, and will continue through Ash Wednesday. The schedule of events is complex and interesting — everything from children dressed up as little devils on ‘Red Day’ to ‘Unilikely Couples’ on Wedding Day. I think Ash Wednesday is a Black and Red day, when a relic of King Vaval, the devil, will be paraded around and then symbolically buried for the start of Lent.

The parade on Saturday was like a pre-game event. It began with locals carrying colorful umbrellas and walking/dancing to loud drumming. It got us all in the mood!

Two years ago we were here in February, but it was not yet Carnivale. People were getting ready, though. The fabric store wares were spilling out into the street, and the fabrics were all garish, glittery yardages geared for making the most outlandish costumes.

I happened to wade/paw my way through the bolts to the back of one particular store, where I found beautiful printed linens from France. I hope to find a similar treasure this year….. I did not remember where the shop is located, but I have now managed to stumble on it twice, and lose it again. I hope I can find it one more time tomorrow morning when the shops will be open only for the morning. No pressure!

Some of the bystanders in yesterday’s opening parade were as interesting as the participants! Perhaps this little lady bug will be part of the childrens “red day.” I saw this gold sequined fabric in a number of shops.

Face painting extraordinaire!

Drumming factors heavily in these parades, and for several days prior we heard various groups practicing. It’s hard not to get in the mood when these wonderful rhythms are pulsing and vibrating through the city!

There were costumed dancers to accompany every drum corps (do you think that’s what they call themselves? Nah….), and plenty of spectators joined in the dancing too. Tutus came in all colors, sizes, and lengths.

There were queens of every conceivable type. I think this lovely woman must be queen of Fort de France for Carnivale.

The Coconut Queen….actually, I believe her banner reads Dauphine for next year’s Queen of Fort de France. Madras is the traditional fabric for all these islands.

There were lots of other queens too…. here is a tiny bride. Perhaps her ‘dauphine’ title suggest that she will be a bride in some future Carnivale….perhaps in 3 more years. I wonder if they pick these queens so long ahead of time so there is plenty of time to make these incredible dresses. I’m just conjecturing.

In the realm of beauty queens there were quite a few categories. I believe this beauty’s sash reads “queen of the north.” What beautiful young women, all. And the dress…it has hand drawn images, carefully placed

I’m not sure what this woman represented, but what a great costume!

Not all the women were young. Here’s a woman of a certain age, looking elegant as ever. I could not read all of her sash– perhaps queen mother of St. Lucia.

There were two children’s groups. One had children dressed in stereotypical Native American costumes–although this photo of the first row does not show that as well as the next several rows of chidlren– riding tiny ponies. They were adorable. Comically, they were followed by several older children carrying shovels and a one large garbage can in case of droppings.

The cutest children’s group was a drum corps. They seem to be elementary school aged children. Some played lengths of large bamboo while others played bongos and small drums. Their headdresses were the most fun! Can you see the bongos on their heads?

Even better than wearing a bongo on your head might be wearing a cage with a parrot inside! Do you think the kids quarreled over got to wear the caged birds? Do you think moms and grandmoms had fun making these? — though I certainly don’t want to assume that only women could make these fun accessories. Some men could have had a hand in these great headdresses!

Then there was a group I have dubbed The Grandmothers. Enjoy their ageless beauty, and most of all, their grace! I wish I could show you how they danced their way down the street.

And my favorite, the Queen Mother of Fort de France.

Tomorrow, Shrove Sunday, is the beginning of the true celebrations. It’s the day for all colors. And it’s King Vaval who will be buried on Ash Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday are called the ‘fat days,’ Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras. Who knew? Here is a rather clumsy Google translation of the day:

The Shrove Sunday is the first day of the carnival celebration. This day is open to all follies and everyone puts on the disguise of their choice. A richness and a creativity are mixed then in the various parades, thanks to the freedom left to each one, to show his imagination. This day is characterized precisely by the variety of colors. It is also the day when King Vaval, a giant puppet made for weeks, will be presented in total secrecy. He will take the lead in the procession and will be promoted until Ash Wednesday.

I’m looking forward to it!

A Lovely Day in Cocoa

I continue to marvel at how lovely the Christmas season can be in the tropics!  Bob and I took a walk together through the more historic residential area of Cocoa, the major style being bungalow from the early 20th century…..my favorite!

Nice modern addition to this classic bungalow, although I do wonder how hot that glass enclosure gets in the summer!

There were also quite a few more traditional looking Spanish inspired houses. Most of these houses had historic plaques.

Palm trees and Christmas decorations….it does work!

I wonder if this lovely shade of blue was chosen to match the flowering vine on their arbor.

Christmas with orange trees, bougainvillea, hibiscus, and lots of little lizards skittering across our path wherever we walked!

I capped off the day by visiting Knit and Stitch again to sit with the other knitters and work on my Ann Jacket.  What a lovely spot!  On top of being in a community of knitters, I learned that one of the women who works in the shop, Barbara,  is an avid weaver  and reps Schacht products for the store.  One of the other shop women, Ann, seems to have done some weaving herself, so I felt that I had found some wonderful connections here.  Thank you!

As if this wasn’t enough of a perfect day, we spent the evening on board Meltemi (a Catalina 42′) with Jeff and Susan, while they taught us a popular Bahamian cruisers’ domino game called “Mexican Train.”  (I shudder at how un-PC this name is!) I never knew there are dominoes with 12 spots on them!  I was terrible at understanding all the little dots on these tiles!

 Today we are headed to Melbourne….not Australia.  Before this trip I didn’t know there was a Melbourne in Florida.  It seems that wherever the English went they used place names from home.  Makes for a very confusing world!

Day 86, December 5: Cocoa to Melbourne

Knitting My Way through Life!

The past two days we have awakened to temperatures in the 30s!  Sweater weather!  We will be leaving Charleston today and heading ever more southward…. St. Mary’s, Georgia, by Thanksgiving!

I have come to the rather deflating realization that my Ann Jacket will not be finished by Thanksgiving.  Even if I had been knitting during the past week, which I haven’t, I still would not have finished it.  Sigh…

Before I took a hiatus from knitting in order to spend my days sightseeing in Charleston, I took a break from knitting the final body panel in order to knit the front left onto the back at sides and shoulders.  Once again, Vivian Hoxbro’s clever ideas kept me quite enthralled!  The way the shoulder knits together even includes an angle at the neck edge in spite of the fact that both body pieces were simple rectangles.  Brilliant!

This is really a terrible photo….the shoulder connection is not tapered as it appears here.  It’s just they way Bob is holding it.  And you can’t see how the front neck edge is tapered in spite of the front body panel being a rectangle.  Trust me, it’s ingenious!

I plan to spend some time today working on that final body panel, the right front, since we’ll be heading out of here shortly.  We’re not certain where we’ll stop at the end of the day.  Most likely a secluded place, which will be a rather nice change from being on a dock in a big city like Charleston….

I’ll end with a fun song I stumbled on a few a weeks ago.  I’d better warn you it will stick in your head for days…. but it’s catchy!

Ending the trip with a Bang!

My last few days in Maine will be spent riding out what remains of hurricane Irene when she hits these shores.  Hopefully she will be spent by the time she arrives, but everyone has to be prepared for the worst!

We are in a small island harbor called Pulpit Rock in Penobscot Bay. There is a big rock formation at the mouth of this natural harbor that does look a bit like a pulpit.  More than looking like a podium this rock is famous for having a 200+ year old osprey nest at the pinnacle of the pulpit.

Our preparations for the storm are almost complete.  We have two anchors out to keep us from swinging when the winds increase, all the sails are furled and lashed down, loose items have all been stored below.  The larder is well stocked so I intend to cook some comfort food today, perhaps an egg/veggie/cheese timbale, onion soup, and warm homemade chocolate pudding!

Chocolate Pudding from Cook's Illustrated

Thank heave there is a good internet signal because I got the chocolate pudding recipe from this month’s Cook’s Illustrated!

 

 

Also on my agenda after we have finished our storm preparations, is watching a couple of good spinning DVDs I have on board while doing some spinning! I have Margaret Stove’s “Spinning for Lace” and Judith McKenzie’s “A Spinner’s Toolbox,” both from Interweave Press!

Handpainted cotton roving "Phoenix Garden"

And in my large bin of toys I have some handpainted cotton roving from Girl Meets Spindle in a colorway called “Phoenix Garden.”  Now doesn’t this sound like a good plan for riding out a tropical storm?

So I’m hoping that wherever you are you are safe and dry, and doing something fibery on this stormy weekend.

Knitting and Fabric Shops in Coastal Maine

Several of our usual ports have surprised me with wonderful knitting and fabric shops!  Our ‘guest room’ is quickly filling up with my treasures!

Bath: Halcyon (the photo on their homepage is that Ecobaby sailor pattern! Ha!)  I have to admit that I’ve never been to Halcyon by

Halcyon Yarn

boat, but I have been going by car for 15 years.  You could get there by boat if you wanted to go that far up the Kennebec River and brave its challenging currents.  In all the years I’ve driven over that bridge I’ve never actually seen a sailboat moored in the river near Bath.  That’s not to say no sailboats ever go, just that I haven’t seen them on my yearly visit.  And what can I say about Halcyon, other than it is a weaver’s and knitter’s Mecca, not to mention spinners, rug hookers, crocheters, braiders, felters, etc…etc… If you do anything related to fiber, this is a great resource! Halcyon is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.  I had a wonderful shopping spree there!

Boothbay Harbor:  You need a car to get to Onboard Fabrics, but it is really worth it!  It’s a barn on Rte 127 (and their address is Edgecomb but my point of view is the harbor where a sailing seamstress might disembark), not far off Rte. 1 on the way to

On Board Fabrics, near Boothbay Harbor

Boothbay Harbor.  They have lots of nautical fabrics, inweights from upholstery to cotton lawn.  This year I bought fabrics to make aprons for gifts.  No sewing machine on board Pandora, so these projects will have to wait ’til I get home (meanwhile, my husband does have his sailrite sewing machine on board…but it will only sew heavy canvas and sail materials!).

 

Rockland: Quilt Divas.  They have fabric and yarn!  And the selections for both are great!  It is walking distance from the harbor

Quilt Divas in Rockland also has a large selection of yarn and knitting books

for us sailors!  I bought the Debbie Bliss “Ecobaby” book here as well as the yarn for the sailor sweater that is currently challenging me to re-design the collar!  I also bought more fabric for aprons here.  Now I’m going to make a lot of aprons for gifts!

 

 

 

Camden: The Cashmere Goat is new this year, in a good location right in the center of town (what used to be a shoe store).  The shop

'The Cashmere Goat in Camden

is not yet full, but they do have some wonderful yarns.  I bought Manos del Uruguay’s “Serena” (kettle dyed, 60% baby alpaca, 40% pima cotton) in a handpainted colorway (#9796) of watery blues and greens.  I’m going to knit a lace shawl from one of the free patterns at Interweave Knits

 

Belfast: Sock Heaven.  This yarn store has been in business for about 10 years now, but I haven’t been to Belfast in about 15 years,

Heavenly Socks in Belfast

so it is new to me! There is an entire wall of yarns produced in Maine, including Hope Spinnery and Done Roving. My big score here was Louet “KidLin”(49% linen, 35% kid mohair, 16% nylon) which I’ve been hoping to find during all my yarn store hunting.  It was hard to choose a color for Louet’s “Cia” Pattern, but I finally settled on “Mexican Orange,” a fun blend of gold and warm pink.

There is also a beautiful fabric store on High St. in Belfast.  I did not note the name yesterday, but I hope to go back today to spend more time there.  I will take a photo and get the name!

 

Other places.  I’ve been to the guild shop in the center of Blue Hill, as well as the yarn shop slightly out of town that has since gone out of busines (sigh…), and I’ve been to Shirley’s Yarns in Hancock (where I bought Dale microfiber years ago for a tank top I never finished because it was so unflattering on me!). Now I understand there are two shops in Blue Hill that I may not know: Blue Hill Yarn shop on Ellsworth Rd. and  String Theory on Beach Hill Rd.  I don’t know if we’ll get to Blue Hill this year, but now I hope so! And a google search shows two promising shops on Mt. Desert, one in Southwest Harbor (Lilac Lily Yarn Shop) and one in Bar Harbor (Bee’s, Inc.), so I hope to visit both of these since we are on our way there for the weekend.

I am putting aside the Debbie Bliss sailor sweater for the moment.  This is quite a disappointment to me, but I do want to give some thought to that collar.  The knitters on Ravelry did not have any solutions that appealed to me, so I will take a look in my library of knitting design books when I return home in September.

Here is my next knitting project, Louet’s “Cia.”

Louet's "Cia"

Louet's KidLin Mexican Orange

First I will finish my own design that uses Tess Designer Yarns’ micofiber ribbon.  I’ll be writing up that pattern to share here and on Ravelry.  It’s a very simple pattern, and I’m almost finished!