Monday, June 27, 2011

MMMMM Otherwise Known as V

15:12 AST

Sometime today at around this time, my blog will be visited for the 5000th time. Check your watch because it might be you. There is a little counter at the bottom of the main blog page where you may see the number. I was thinking of bringing home some Caribbean Rum for the lucky subscriber but he/she may be living in Hong Kong for all I know, or our sibblings will intentionally log on the last 9 times so they can win it. Nothing wrong with that. Regardless, I am astounded at the number, even though 1000 of the log-ons are probably our mothers. I enjoy writing it and really appreciate the interest in this crazy life we’ve chosen. 

It is fitting that this is the haul-out entry and last of the sailing season, at least on Alberta Crewed. She is now perched atop some blocks and stands in a dusty boatyard. All went well through the haul out process. These docks move several boats out of the water every day and are efficient and well organized all the way down the line. One boat is pulled away on a giant flatbed while a second sits in the sling for a wash and a third waits her turn just outside the chute. We were parked in our summer stall within an hour of leaving the marina.

We are staying on the boat until we leave and I already miss the rocking of the sea. These boatyards are odd looking places with hundreds of empty vessels leaning precariously on skinny, spider leg-like stands. Push one boat over and it looks like a nasty game of nautical dominoes would ensue. Although we have watched friends frantically prepare their boats for storage, we have had the luxury of time to get things ready. This is particularly helpful now because Mr. Social has been invited out to dinner three times this week. We are also blessed with a new boat so while our neighbours are hauling out transmissions and watermakers and repainting their entire hulls, we are doing minor work and cleaning. We have our eye on the Windward Islands of the Caribbean so are doing everything we can now to be ready to head north in the fall. In the meantime, it’s back to the apparent anarchy of the north and this time it’s the Calgary Stampede. This world-famous rodeo is our version of Carnival and the only difference I see is in the type of costumes. It is equally as raucous and excessive.

I no longer think of our trip to Canada as going home because Alberta Crewed is just as much our home and actually more luxurious than our cabin. I am however looking forward to spending time with family and friends, watching the sandhill cranes and white-tailed deer in our field, and enjoying the long Alberta evenings. In no time we will be back aboard and abroad. In the meantime, Alberta Crewed can enjoy a much deserved rest after taking good care of us. Ciao for now.

Unless it froze at 5000, you can drop that bottle of rum off at Kansas City, MO on your way back north! ;) Been following your blog for a while and I'm going to miss it as Alberta Crewed is out of the water. Hurry Back!

Patrick Roberts

PS. Here's a screen shot for you to mark the occasion.
42887010@N00/5879874258/in/photostream" rel="nofollow">
Monday, June 27, 2011 - 11:58 PM
Correct link hopefully this one works for you. 42887010@N00/5879874258/" rel="nofollow">
Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 12:00 AM
Looking forward to seeing you! Will save a few mosquitoes for you - Prairie tropical wildlife. Try not to yawn too hard! Safe travels back.
Marcy & Gerry
Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 10:22 AM
Laurie, Craig,

Thanks for the entertainment!! Will miss reading you for some time, enjoy your ...what "holidays?"...not sure now which is which!! Cheers, Santiago
Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 11:06 AM
Hello Craig and Laurie lCant wait to see you both. Ted is looking forward to a taste of the good stuff. anne and Ted
Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 08:19 PM
Nice going, Patrick! Thanks for taking the photo. Got a great shot of #5000.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011 - 11:10 PM
Laurie and Craig ,shall miss the blog and the wonderful stories and pictures of your adventures. I am off to the "Hill" to celebrate Canada Day here in Ottawa. Maybe see William and Kate !
Looking forward to seeing you in Alberta ( I arrive Aug.9th )
Friday, July 1, 2011 - 08:54 AM
Oliver - NH USA
We look forward to your return. Your blogs are a great inspiration and much enjoyed. Keep up the good work.
Friday, July 1, 2011 - 05:41 PM
Thanks for all your words...i was dreaming awake while i was reading your travel blog...
I'm a big fan of Antares 44i...i have no experience in sailing, but its a passion i'll intend to develop, and maybe..someday...i can share my own experience with those who love the sea.
If by chance in one of your's future destination you pass near Europe..please come to Portugal and visit will love it.
Best Regards.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Twister Olympics

One of the major jobs in getting ready to store our boat is to remove all of the sails. Taking down the main sail (the one that goes up the mast) went relatively smoothly and we took it up to a sail repair loft for minor patchups from the 3000 mile starboard tack along the coast of Brazil. This means that the wind was coming from the same direction for three weeks, the starboard or right side, and the sail ended up with some wearing where it chafed on the batten pockets (battens are long thin fiberglass strips spanning horizontally along the sail to give the sail some structure). We got smart and used the main halyard, the rope used to raise the sail, as an electronic lift to take the 120 pound sailbag off of the boat. I was the lift operator, pushing the button on the winch to raise and lower the halyard, while Craig directed the bag onto the dock and into a cart. 
The forward sails were a bit trickier. The screecher was the largest one we had up, and folding it was like playing an extreme game of Twister. It is too large to spread out on the deck to begin with, so we had to leave it in a pile while we began folding. Think of accordian-folding a triangular napkin like a fan and that is what we were trying to do with a 50x20 foot sheet of mylar. This beautiful sail is what we use in light winds as it has a huge area and is made of light material. We were pretty smug about folding it, having watched the sail repair guys fold our mainsail in a jiffy. We started by each of us standing at opposite ends of the sail base, putting a foot on a corner, the other foot where we wanted the fold, and folding the sail over our feet at the fold. Move the first foot forward once the fold is done, place the other foot under the next fold, and voila! Everything was fine and dandy until the wind came up, hence the commencement of Extreme Twister. Because of the light material, the giant sail started ballooning and floating up so our hands and feet went flying as we tried to place them strategically to keep it down. Mylar fabric is as slippery as oil on a garbage bag and I lost the game when I threw my whole body onto the sail to avoid liftoff and ended up sliding into the middle of our perfect folds. I almost gave up but Craig salvaged the giant fan with me inside and we eventually got it into the bag. I’m sure we got a standing ovation from our dock neighbours for this gold medal performance. That was enough for one day so we headed to the pool for a break.

We continue to enjoy firefly watching at the Bamboo Cathedral pathway. Last week we walked to the top through the bamboo archways where a cold-war looking satellite dish sits rusting among decaying tin buildings. Our Peake’s BBQ friends Vicki and Porter came with us, and Vicki and I briefly posed at the base of this daunting structure, hoping not to be beamed up to a hovering Russian spaceship. As always, the walk down after sunset was breathtaking as thousands of insects lit up the trail with florescent sparks. It was a calm evening and several bats swooped down around us, adding to the mystique of the showers of light. 

We haul out tomorrow morning so will enjoy our last afternoon at the pool, topped by the ever exciting Peake’s BBQ this evening. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Verte, Verde, et Groen

Mallika, Deep, Craig and I ventured out of the marina this week, making a two hour drive to Nariva Swamp in the southeast part of the island. There we met two guides who spent the morning leading us through this natural area that is filled with hundreds of birds, and teeming lush, jungled forest surrounded by a low-lying, marshy wetland. Mukesh is an ornithologist we had met at the Asa Wright Nature Centre and Francis is a botanist with the Trinidad Department of Agriculture. It poured buckets of rain which sent the howler monkeys to protected thickets and although we couldn’t see them, we could hear their growls echo across the swamp. Mukesh and Francis were apologetic that we weren’t able to see the monkeys, as if they had forgotten to text our schedule to the Red Howlers. I reassured Mukesh that we were grateful for our experience and fascinated with the jungle regardless of who would or would not show up. The rain would be another lens to see this beautiful area through and Mukesh and Francis patiently pointed out and described dozens of plant, bird, and insect species. 
Gall wasp eggs in the leaves

Giant sandbox tree
Philosophers argue about whether human beings’ abilities to use language the way we do is enabling or a hinderance to our ability to develop and express ourselves and describe the world. Common thought would support language as an indicator of higher levels of thinking. I found language, at least my English, to be completely inadequate to describe the jungle we were walking through. The rain brought out the green. Green. How many ways are there to describe the colour green? Mint, olive, kahki, and emerald describe the green of something else. None of these could do justice to the colours I saw as we sloshed along the muddy trail of the grassy swamp and into thick forest. These greens were shimmering, sprouting, elegant, majestic, and delicate. The origin of the word green is groeni, to grow, so perhaps I’ll just leave it at that. The jungle was simply growing.

Welche Sprache sprechen wir?
I met Petra from Holland at the second cruisers’ barbeque and potluck we attended last week. The cruisers’ bbq/potluck circuit could be a full time vocation and this one was over at Peake’s boat yard where we will be hauling out next week. You bring your own meat for the charcoal bbq and one other dish to share. I have tried to bring something local, experimenting with cold stir-fried Dasheen Bush (a thick stemmed, chard-like leafy vegetable) with hot peppers and spices. No one has died eating it yet, although someone just told me that this is actually possible if not cooked correctly. It looks like I’m going to have to find another boring but safer casserole recipe.

Our first BBQ/potluck was with our U.S. neighbours here at the dock, and was lovely and quiet with an early finish. The Peake’s bbq was with the Europeans who are anchored out in the bay. It was well attended, much noisier, and lasted late into the evening. Petra is a fit 60+ with sharp, short snow-white hair that contrasts against her wind blown brown skin. She looks like she could could climb Mount Everest tomorrow, carrying me on her back, all the while providing a detailed account of the social and economic reforms of the 12th century Nepalese Malla Dynasty. She has jumped with gusto into local Trini life, and attends a different church service every Sunday just to see what’s going on around the island. All the Europeans looked as healthy as Petra and seemed to have an insatiable curiosity about the world. Petra introduced herself by bounding into the conversation I was having with three other cruisers, and asking in German, “Welche Sprache sprechen wir?” (What language are we speaking?) We looked at her blankly so she answered herself, “Ah, English,” and came down to our mono-lingual level, switching to perfect English like she was changing a channel on TV. She and her husband then had a discussion about my name, which is not common in other languages and seems difficult to pronounce with so many vowels and the dreaded r. In latin languages, I get “Lay-owry, “Lowree”, or “Lairwee”. Petra and her husband spelled it out, said it perfectly several times and much to my delight, declared it to be Dutch. I have always wanted to be from Holland and although I’m quite sure my parents didn’t have The Netherlands in mind when they named me, I’m relieved to finally be an unofficial member of the Orange clan. This will provide some challenges because I’m going to have to get into shape and learn 5 or 6 more languages before I can apply for citizenship so I may just have to make do with the name. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the food and the stories.
Et tu, Canada?
Just a final note to let everyone know that the end-of-the-world is indeed in sight. It is not global warming, war, nor the economy that signaled the end. According to the American and European cruisers, it’s the fact that Vancouver could have the kind of riots it had over a hockey game. Our foreign friends looked to us for some kind of explanation and reassurance as they watched the violence and destruction covered with great consternation on international newscasts. “We expect South Africa, Italy, or even Detroit to burn their cities down over a game, but not Vancouver!” “Riots in Canada? Impossible!” The Americans announced that it was the Anarchists, as if this is a hired and organized group of outsider marauders that travel the planet looking for trouble. One even whispered to me, “It must be foreigners,” as she frantically tried to restore order to her world. It seems Canadians have, or had, a reputation for holding higher standards of behaviour. I sense we are looked upon as a quietly-kind and reliable country that has free health care, fresh air, low crime, and good education. We just don’t have a Stanley Cup.

We don't have a Stanley Cup but today we celebrate St.Jean Baptiste! I remember that ungodly hot summer you and Craig came to visit in Montreal .
Happy St.Jean Baptiste Day !
Friday, June 24, 2011 - 07:40 AM
Loved your commentary on the Vancouver post game fiasco, Laurie, and yep....still awaiting the Cup's return to more appropriate soil - hopefully Edmonton's turf in a few years! I've really enjoyed reading your blog (kudos for your excellent writing style and terrific pics) as I continue my withdrawl from the cruising life, awaiting next cruising season in six months. Today (June 27) is haul-out day for your splendid Alberta Crewed so sure hope that goes well for you and Craig. I know how hard and how much prep is involved in storing one's boat and remain VERY grateful for all the help that Craig extended to me so graciously to help with my oversights in some storage details when I left afLOAT on the hard last month. Looking forward to a rendezvous with you guys this summer! 
Safe travels home!
Terry and Beverlee Loat

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What's in a name?

In Trinidad we are an anomaly having sailed from the south. It is difficult sailing from here along the Brazilian coast going south, therefore Trinidad usually ends up being the last stop for people coming from the north. Although we can see Venezuela from our deck, we are a little nervous about sailing there given the stories of instability. Fellow cruisers are curious about our boat and why it was built in Argentina, as well as our experiences sailing from there. We field questions about safety in Brazil (not at all a problem for us), weather and currents (as always something to keep on top of), and general cruising conditions (phenomenal). 
The daily parade of sailboats from other Caribbean islands to the storage yards here continues. Some cruisers pull into the docks for a day or two and are gone immediately after their boats are on the hard, frantically catching flights back to North America. Alberta Crewed rocks gently at the dock amidst this frenzy. We have at least been able to help fellow cruisers with repairs and equipment preparations, as well as driving them around in Hero Car for last minute parts and papers. We are getting to know different boats, their inner workings, and the do’s and don’ts of leaving one’s boat in a yard. More importantly, we laugh with, learn from, and enjoy exploring the island with our new neighbours. Craig is reveling in his newly acquired Mr. Social status, quite an amusing title I imagine for those of you who are used to the more reserved Craig. We count on at least two hours at the pool because Chatty Cathy will inevitably meet someone new and talk for hours. 
It is interesting to see the names of boats and what they may tell about their owners or journeys. Animals, constellations, and plays-on-words are common; sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. I’ve just come across our early lists of potential boat names (Sea Miner for Craig the miner or play on C Minor for me the musician; Snow Leopard because we are snow birds living on a cat and we like the animal; Uncia which is latin for Snow Leopard because it was taken). It took us several months to find a name because we have registered Alberta Crewed in Canada, specifically the port of Edmonton, Alberta. In Canada, there cannot be more than one boat with the same name in the entire country so finding an original name is a challenge. Canadians often comment on our port of choice with Edmonton as land locked as Phoenix, Arizona or Mendoza, Argentina. Edmonton’s port status may have come about with its geographical location as a gateway to the north. We were surprised a few weeks ago when another Edmonton-registered boat, afLOAT, tied up in front of us. Terry’s last name is Loat so his boat’s name is perfect. and his dinghy is The Loat Boat. Our New Brunswick acquaintances wanted to name their boat Fog Ducker for their maritime roots but were vetoed by family. We quite liked it. Other interesting boat names we’ve seen include this one which we can only assume means something significant in Portuguese but have yet to find anyone who knows:

Not sure what this one is about:

This monster cruise ship anchored so close to us in Brazil that we could hear the hourly activity announcements from the cruise deck:

She is part of the Costa Cruise Lines organization and her name seems appropriate:

Alberta Crewed’s double meaning is lost on our non-Canadian friends but has met our criteria well because it tells of where we are from, is easy to say on the radio, and does not seem to mean anything offensive in another language. Cruisers will often call one another by their boat names (went to the movies with Cinnamon Teal; had dinner with Cat Tails; Zeebeest is coming on the hike) so I guess Fog Ducker might be problematic after a few drinks at Happy Hour. We are really glad that we are Alberta Crewed.

Love this entry ... your stories are interesting as well as entertaining..I see a book ...always wanted to be an agent :) See you soon
Sunday, June 19, 2011 - 08:44 AM
Mary Margaret
Hi Laurie and Craig,

We have been having such rotten weather here in NL so your blog entries- exuding sunshine and warmth- are a nice escape for me, if I can't be there with you in person! I actually wore my winter coat this morning with Seamus and Katy outside. Yes, it is mid June. Sheesh. We are expecting some heavy rain today, but it's been foggy, damp, cool, and dreary for days and days and days.

Really miss you. Looking forward to more postings from Trinidad! Will you be able to watch the women's world cup? Will it garner much attention there? It starts on the 26th. We head to PEI in early July.

Let's skype soon. Seamus is really growing!

MS from St. J's

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hero Car

This is the main highway to the north part of the island of Trinidad. Note the “guard rails”. I can’t believe that we didn’t leave our entire exhaust system in the potholes that nearly swallowed Hero Car, our little rented Nissan. We bumped and swerved for several hours along this harrowing route that rewarded us with breathtaking views and a tour of the Asa Wright Nature Centre. The Centre is a former coffee and cocoa plantation estate that was designated as a research and conservation site in 1967. We were mesmerized by the number, colour, and adaptation of the birds, plants, and insects. For example, the leafcutter ant lives in a one-queen colony of up to 8 million where there are various castes of ants with specific jobs. The “majors” are the largest and carry leaf cuttings 20 times their weight while piggy-backing a “minim” or smaller ant. The little ant acts as a defense against the phorid fly that will attack the major and lay its eggs in the ant’s head, killing the ant. It really is a jungle out there. We watched long lines of moving leaves crawl up steep banks into garbage-can sized mounded nests at the bases of trees. The queen can live for 35 years and when she dies, the entire colony dies. 

I’ve been having acupuncture treatments on my wrist by an excellent therapist and fellow sailor, Mallika, from Holland. Mallika and her partner Deep arrived from Brazil a few weeks ago where they had landed after their Atlantic Ocean crossing from the Canary Islands. Mallika and Deep joined us for our up-island day trip to the nature centre and north island beaches. The four of us sat on the observation deck at the Centre and reveled in the sights and sounds of hummingbirds, toucans, green and purple honeycreepers, and tiger lizards among the ginger flowers and nutmeg trees of the forest. 

Ginger Flower

It took us another hour to bump along 8 km to Brasso Seco village where we picnicked under a palapa and searched for waterfalls. Craig is a water magnet, dousing himself in any pipe or pool to cool off.

Craig has been fighting ear infections from swimming and has a good supply of antibiotics and ear cleaning solutions. We have learned that this is a common and chronic cruising ailment and have met several cruisers who are walking around in painful ear-plugged fogs. It seems to come with tropical water territory and ends up dominating conversations when we all get together: vinegar to water ratios, to peroxide or not, oil or no oil. Such are the trials and tribulations of sailing. We have otherwise been very healthy and have an extensive pharmaceutical supply on board, thanks to the advice and support of our world travelling doctor and dentist.
Who’s at the helm?
This week, Iggy the green Iguana ended up on our boat during a heavy rainstorm. He is usually around the pool but we figure he was washed into the harbour during the rain and crawled onto our transom (stairs at the back of each hull). He is a great swimmer and can jump high and far, scaring off the smaller lizards. He hung around the helm while Craig was cleaning the stainless and decided our boom would make a good home after crawling under the mast cover. Craig shooed him out with a broom and he leapt onto the dock. See for more info. Love the colour.