Thursday, February 24, 2011

Shirlee's time ashore in Portland, Oregon

On Saturday, January 29, John took me to the airport to catch my flight to Portland to visit family for a few weeks. My flight (flights, actually) was pretty interesting. Flying over the Caribbean was beautiful. I tried to recognize various islands, but really I couldn’t. And I was kind of surprised how long it took: four hours to Miami, where I cleared customs and immigration and changed planes for a flight to San Francisco. Of course, when we sail the Caribbean, it will take us more than four weeks, but we’ll be stopping along the way.

I wasn’t looking forward to the leg from Miami to San Francisco. For one thing, the flight was full, and I was stuck in a middle seat because American Airlines wouldn’t allow their own agents in Barbados to book me in any of the available window seats. When I started talking with the people on either side of me, though, I didn’t mind so much. They were really interesting. The man who was on the aisle is a naturalist and tour guide from Sonoma County who is into hula hooping and is collecting videos of himself hooping all over the world. The young woman who was by the window is a chef. Of course, with chef nephew Joel in mind, I had some questions for her. As we chatted, I learned that she had been on Top Chef. (No, that was definitely not the first thing she told me; I pried it out of her). I neglected to get their names, but with what I had learned about them, they were easy to find on the Internet. Click the links to meet my temporary neighbors:

Michael Ellis, hooping on Mt. Kilimanjaro and Casey Thompson, a Top Chef favorite

That was the good part of the flight. Not good was a medical emergency (a passenger had an epileptic seizure) that sent us back to Orlando. The passenger is all right (a doctor on board confirmed that long before we turned back to land), but I missed my connecting flight to Portland. The American agents at the airport had me re-booked on a United flight before I even landed, so that was a relief, but it was a very long day by the time I landed in Portland at 12:30 a.m. the next day. Impressions of American Airlines: flight attendants need emergency medical training (they panicked), ticket agents are great, and the pilots do good landings. (The return flights were much worse and might have been unbearable if a former colleague hadn't given me upgrades for the long legs. Thanks, Joey!)

Despite the late hour, my mom and sister, Sydney, met me at the airport, and we had a nice visit on the way back to Mom' house. Sydney and her husband, Mike, live just down the street, and the “kids,” Jennifer and Joel, visit regularly, so I got to spend quite a bit of time with everyone. I discovered that I had lost some weight in the two years I'd been gone, but they did their best to correct that, and we visited some really nice restaurants and coffee shops while I was there and also at some old favorites. Plus, I met John's folks and sister and some other friends at various restaurants. To help me remember them all, here's a list (and I probably still forgot a few):

We didn't just eat; we also visited the Chinese Garden. It was my first time, and I was really impressed. And we were lucky to have dry weather that day. In fact, the whole three weeks were relatively dry with only a little rain and one day with snow. Some days the weather was beautiful, albeit a bit cooler than I've been used to. The day Mom, Sydney and I went wine-tasting was one of the pretty ones. We mostly went to places that were new to me—Colene Clemens, Lenné, Red Ridge Farms, and a shared tasting room in Newberg called Dark Horse or Medici—but also stopped by Domaine Douhin so Sydney could get another bottle of her favorite Chardonnay.

Portland Classical Chinese Garden

Beautiful day in the wine country

Wine-tasting at Colene Clemens

Art at Lenné

Then there was the shopping. Most of that I did online sitting in Mom's living room. We needed a few things for the boat (mostly documents) that are easier to get when you have a domestic U.S. address. I really needed a new laptop, and Mike was kind enough to go shopping with me for one. And there were some other mostly necessary things to pick up. One thing I was thinking about was a smaller, simpler camera that I could use, but I didn't need to buy one because Mom has loaned me hers. She had never used it, but I put it to work immediately. My friends on Facebook are probably tired of seeing all the family photos, so I won't trouble the rest of the world with all of them.

When I wasn't shopping or eating, I spent some time helping Mom and Sydney with computer stuff (which I really enjoy) and looking for a job (without success, so far). Of course, I also watched some TV (the Super Bowl was while I was there) and did a little reading, but there really wasn't a lot of time for that. Mom and I did go to see one movie, The King's Speech, which was great, and watched a few others at home.

All in all, it was a busy, fun and productive visit. I'm glad to be back on the boat with John and Märzen here in Grenada, where it's raining but warm, but I'm also glad to know it won't be so long before the next time I see my family. And I'm looking forward to doing some sailing in the Caribbean while I continue to look for a job.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Exploring Grenada

Time flies when you're having fun, and there's a lot to catch up with. I'm visiting family and friends in Portland, Oregon, right now, but John and Märzen stayed behind in Grenada on Solstice. John sent me photos, though, for this post about Grenada.

After we dropped the sail on our approach to the anchorage at Prickly Bay, Grenada, we were wondering how we were going to find our friends among all the boats anchored there. Luckily, Avocette was anchored just across from the Prickly Bay Marina, and Chris and Roy pointed out an available spot right next to them. Great!

Grenada makes clearing in and out as easy as possible by locating their customs and immigration offices where most of the boats go, and that includes Prickly Bay. On our way into the office we spotted Jinja coming up the channel to the anchorage, and on our way back to the boat, we saw Free Spirit. We knew that at least three boats full of friends were where we were. Later we also found Transcendence and learned that Alua was just a couple of bays over at Clarks Court Marina. Our first night was a Friday, and there was a steel band and a rock band both playing at the Prickly Bay Marina. Alua came over, and we had a mini-reunion of the boats who had left Mindelo together. It was difficult to be heard over the bands, but it was fun anyway.

During our two and a half years in Europe, we were often by ourselves. The cruiser-camaraderie of Grenada was very welcome. There's even a cruiser net on VHF Channel 68 six mornings a week where social events, restaurant specials, and “treasures of the bilge” to buy or sell are announced—and also the weather. What a treat!

From our base in Prickly Bay, Jinja quickly arranged a tour of the island. Jinja didn't plan to stay too long in Grenada since they'll be heading back across the Atlantic at the end of the season and have many miles to cover and islands to see before then. Free Spirit joined us, and we had a lovely day. Besides the beautiful island views, we visited a nutmeg co-op, a waterfall, a cocoa estate, a rum distillery, and ate local specialties for lunch.

View of St. George

The Carenage at St. George

Concord falls

Shirlee at the waterfall

Fishermen at work

Osprey hunting

Water power at River Antoine Distillery

Still from Louisville, KY

Cocoa drying at Belmont Estate

During the following week before my flight to Portland, we continued to relax, socialize, and explore. Too soon it was time for Avocette, who had picked up guest crew/friend Sue, to move on. Then Jinja left too. When I flew over the bay, Free Spirit and Transcendence were still there.

Peter and Nelly of Alua helped John move Solstice to a Med-moor slip at the Grenada Yacht Club the following week. From the photos that John posted on Facebook, it looks like they had a beautiful day for it.

Sailboat race between Prickly Bay and Grenada Yacht Club

Sunset at the Grenada Yacht Club

I'll be in Portland for another week before I fly back to the warmth of Grenada.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Atlantic Crossing Revisited

During the passage we crossed paths with the sailing yacht Alua. They took some pictures and video of us, and we also got some pictures and video of them. This photo op took place on January 4th near the midway point between Africa and Barbados. We were 1,145 miles east of Barbados and 1,277 miles west of Dakar, Africa.

Solstice sailing wing on wing

Video of Alua