Upstate New York

Renting a car in New York City seemed like a dumb idea, with the suppressed rage of my fellow drivers bubbling very close to the surface. The pedestrians seemed even more dangerous. So we caught the subway to Grand Central Station to get a little further out of town. Grand Central Station was pretty spectacular as far as train station go, with beautiful high stone ceilings and the directions and train numbers carved for ever in marble. We missed our train due to the huge scale of the place, but for a change I had secretly left a large time margin, and the next would get us there in time. Our destination was over the Tappan Zee bridge, at Tarrytown.

IMG_0055Tarrytown is a cutesy little town on the Hudson river right next to Sleep Hollow, of Headless Horseman fame. When I was eight or nine years old, we lived in Half Moon Lane. Reputedly the little path next to the house was where Ebenezer was chased by the headless horseman. The house hadn’t changed ! Lovely views of the Hudson River.

The main destination was the autumn forests of Bear Mountain and the Catskills. The colours were as beautiful as remembered. In order to get them out of the car to play amongst the leaves we stopped at a tree adventure place, where they were sent on an obstacle course high in the trees. They were responsible for clipping themselves on and off the safety clips, balancing on logs and ladders, and onto zip-lines.

 

Niagara was next on the agenda, which necessitated a very long drive across the state. We arrived at night fall, delayed by a grilling from the Canadian Immigration about why we were choosing to stay only one night in Canada. His grumpiness wasn’t the hassle of clearing us in , it was his disappointment that tourists don’t stay longer in their beautiful country. He would have been even more annoyed if he had seen us at our hotel, where we discovered that the Four Seasons Sheraton we had been led to by Janine’s Google Maps was in the wrong country. Ten minutes later we were knocking on the door of US immigration to let us back in over the border to get to Four Seasons USA. We carefully avoided eye contact with Canadian immigration.

There was a moment in the carpark of Niagara Falls, the Great Fudge Stand-off. Janine had planned the kids to choose and share some enormous blocks of fudge. Unfortunately when you start with “You can choose your 1 kg block of fudge…” they aren’t likely to remember much of what was said after that…. and so we spent a very tense half an hour in the car, with threats of fudge going in the bin, till agreements were made. We haven’t fully recovered.

The drive across New York State was long, ( about 400 miles ! ) and Niagara falls was impressive, but spoiled by the huge metropolis around it. Not the wisest route-planning. Still we saw some beautiful rural landscapes on the way back, and most importantly – snow ! a brief flurry as the temperature dived from 17 degrees to -5 Celsius. The next few days in NYC were torture.

 

 

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Leaving Mahia

We got into the groove in the last few weeks in Grenada. A cycle of home-schooling torture, boat maintenance, and rums and coke. The kids were happy, with good WiFi and other kids to play with, (or to mope with, as teens do). It was good for a few weeks, but soon we felt we needed to do something to get out of Trailer Park Life. Chris and H from Fille de Joi (loosely in English:  Slapper) were our lifeline. Chris very kindly lent me his surfboards while he returned to Europe to compete in some sailing races.

Surfing was such a treat. The wind and swell that were starting to turn our idyllic anchorage at Secret Harbour into a washing machine were occasionally appearing as small but fun surf in Prickly Bay. (This was probably why many called it Sickly Bay). Ben caught a few and looked good, and Tom and his bestie Harry were unstoppable. It was a very shallow reef, but no one got more than the occasional scratch. One day we had surf that was shoulder-high. How the boats anchored there toughed it out I have no idea.

Fortunately there was an opportunity to break up the pattern with a couple trips up north to Caricau. In our last weeks we had a pending buyer’s inspection but managed to get up to Saline Island and Sandy Cay. Sandy Cay is a small strip of coral and sand with seven moorings, and some great views of the sunset. I convinced the boys to come over and collect driftwood and cook sausages on a beach fire for dinner. They resisted mightily but actually had fun. This is the kind of stuff I would have liked to do every night. Perhaps the islands of the Pacific or the Indian Ocean are the last refuges of this kind of beach behaviour, the rest of the world is getting too crowded.

A week or so later we met with Chris, H, Harry and Lillie, to do the same, and it was much more fun. A local Grenadian couple sold us massive lobsters, which we cooked with garlic butter. Ben tried some and said it was the best thing he’d ever tasted, “sweeter than chicken” but wouldn’t risk more than two mouthfuls. (the last lobster we bought off a skiff nearly killed us – not surprising as it was up a river in Luperon, DR).

Saline Island was pretty special: the two boats, crystal clear water, surf around the corner, white sand, coral, lobsters, and our own castle. We found some lobsters hiding, they looked massive, but when pulled out the water they shrunk immediately to the size of prawns. Strange.

The goodbyes and the last sail home to Secret Harbour made us a bit melancholy. Our usual Mahi-Mahi spot rewarded us again to cheer us up. (It’s about 5 miles south of the underwater volcano spot “Danger zone- forbidden” about level with the top of Grenada).

We had just enough time, four days at the dock at Secret Harbour, to decommission the boat. Day one to unload the boat (12 trolley trips).  The next day was cleaning, and a quick toilet hose replacement and re-bed a genoa turning block, etc etc blah blah. The last two days was spent packing, distributing toys and food and ‘stuff’ to other boats and the Dominica Appeal, with the last evening saved for a relaxing Drinks and Dinners with Drakkar, Pierina, Naihani, Sea Monkey, Utopia, Neptune and Totem.

I suddenly didn’t want to go home.

 

 

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Hanging

During this time Max has made friends with a gang of kids from various boats sitting out the Hurricane Season, such as Utopia, Totem, Neptune, Flip Flops and so on.  He has been meeting them each afternoon,  loitering and ignoring parents as teenagers do. He actually volunteered to go on a walk and  joined them on a visit to the Seven Sisters Waterfall, which was great fun!

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While we have been feeling very safe and snug in Grenada, we’ve been aware of the devastation caused by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.  We feel  for all those affected. The locals have been the hardest hit, and many people will not be able to live as they did for decades to come, and deserve all the help they can get. We have also come across a few cruisers who have lost everything they own in these catastrophic storms.  Most of the boats destroyed would have been unattended and in supposedly safe havens, but some people either could not move, or bet on being missed, and they lost their homes. Some of the towns and bars we visited have been totally destroyed, and it will be many years before these islands get back on their feet again.  The local cruising community is rallying together to help out by sending food, fuel, clothing, water, and whilst everything helps, it will also take many millions of $$$.

Last week we took part in Grenada’s 1000th Hash House Harrier run, where all the proceeds of the event were going to the island of Dominica. Dominica started off pretty poor, and is now pretty much destroyed.  The boys and Janine planned to do the 2 km walk, but ended up doing run number 3 which was 4km. Pete set off on the 6 km run (although after a wrong turn that turned into a 8 km slog through the mud). We all still arrived back at roughly the same time.

The Kokoda trail and Tough Mudder are a doddle compared to the steepness and mud and bamboo of this Hash. There were lots of tears, complaints, and lost children, and that was all from the regular members, not us.  We had joined up with fellow aussies Vanessa (from Neptune) and Gold Coasters Andrew and Karen (from Utopia 2), and team Totem and their tribe!

 

It was an incredibly muddy event, and quite challenging for us all. After a few beers and some Oil Stew and fried chicken and listening to the very loud Soca, it all felt better.

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Safe and snug in Grenada

Well, it’s been quite a while since I’ve done a blog post!  We’ve settled very quickly into ‘hurricane season in Grenada’ mode, joining hundreds of other cruisers who sit the season out on the south coast of the island.  Life is pretty simple, wake up, breakfast, boat school, play on the beach or at the nearby kid friendly resort, sunset drinks (not often actually watching the sunset however), dinner, movie, audiobooks (kids), bed,………repeat.

There are dozens of inlets and bays that offer various protection from the weather, depending on wind and swell direction, and our favourite hangout is called Secret Harbour.  Newly renovated, the marina/bar has very comfy lounges, and the kids gather each day around 2pm to play on the volley ball courts, or swim in the pool.  With the kids occupied, Pete and I have had some time to relax, and also start preparing the boat for sale.  It’s hard to believe that our adventure is coming to an end!

 

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View from the bar, overlooking Secret Harbour.  Tom and a few friends played with an army set!

We’ve had plenty of catch ups with our friends from Drakkar, Peurina, Nahannie and Itchy Foot.  For a week, whilst we were all anchored behind Hog Island, the kids all met on the island each afternoon where they built a cubby and generally had a great time exploring on their own.

 

It was great to squeeze all families on to a single boat for drinks at the end of the day, here is everyone aboard the catamaran Drakkar….

A few days later we repeated the event on Mahia, so far this is the record number of people we have managed to squeeze on board.

We were so happy to meet up again with our friends the Drapers, who we first met in Nanny Cay months ago.  Helen, Lilly and Harry joined us on an island tour where we visited a nutmeg factory, chocolate factory, the famous Carib’s leap and the Royal Mount Carmel Falls.

Getting the nutmeg tour – apparently Granada produces 1/3 of the worlds Nutmeg.  THe smell in the factory was amazing.

Next stop – cocoa plantation and chocolate factory……

At Carib’s Leap on the very north of Granada, another very sad tale of the horrific things that happened in the past.

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Final stop for the day was the Mount Carmel Falls, where the boys were keen to slide down the waterfalls. Our taxi driver told us this was great fun, it was something our guide had done since he was a young boy.  Janine was wary, but the boys were desperate to do it, and so Pete was sent to first test the slide for danger. Janine swam out into the pool and announced it very deep. Unfortunately she didn’t swim right up to the landing spot, and after whooshing down the chute, Pete found that the rock platform under it was only 12 inches deep. He was not impressed by both Janine and the Taxi Drivers reassurance that it had looked very safe to them, and perhaps Pete should have sprung outwards a bit more at the last second. Unfortunately Pete had forgotten to bring his rocket boosters. He could hardly walk with two bruised heels and a very bruised bum.

 

 

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Prickly Bay – Grenada (2nd try)

Prickly Bay at last….and this post with photo’s (somehow version posted last night was missing most of the pics! – oops). Continue reading

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Mystical Mustique

After leaving Union Island late in the morning, we had a smooth sail north to Mustique, a privately owned island about 17 miles just south of St Vincents. Continue reading

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Mayreau, Tobago Cays and Union Island

In usual Pete fashion, he had managed to find us amazing accommodation for 3 nights at Salt Whistle Bay on the Grenadine Island of Mayreau.  We also were the first guests in 8 years for the newly opened resort!  Continue reading

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