Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Carnival in Carriacou

The Grenadian Independence Day festival
As part of the ceremony, the local kids made the design of the Grenadian flag

Everyone dressed in the flag's colors... big and small!

Puppet Show on Begonia
These amazing puppets wer emade by hand by Ana, from TROTAMAR

And representing....  ta-da-dad-da!   Montserrat!  Barbados! Trinidad and Tobago! Antigua y Barbuda!

Carriacou, Grenada -  The country of Grenada is comprised of three separate islands:  Grenada, Carriacou and Little Martinique.  We cannot seem to leave this beautiful set of islands, but after spending three weeks on the island of Grenada we finally budged to visit Carriacou just in time for Carnival! 

Grenada was not only beautiful scenery-wise, but a great place to "decompress" after the Atlantic crossing.  I don't think any of us were ready nor eager to get up and running and sailing again so quickly so we really had three weeks of living there as locals, not tourists.  Again, homeschooling in the morning and some sort of activity in the afternoon, whether it was going to the supermarket, hanging out with some new friends we met along the way, or engaging in a pretty competitive volleyball tournament which lasted about 4 days!

In between all this, Sebastian took a side trip to Trinidad to take care of some business at the Argentinian Embassy, and look for parts there.  Turns out the Embassy stuff was completed, but it seems impossible to find the propellers we need now, so we are having some friends bring them from the US when they come to visit.  It is just so much easier and cheaper getting things form the US instead of dealing with import taxes and things getting caught up in customs here, etc.  So, the idea of hauling out in Grenada to replace the props and repaint the bottom of the boat will have to wait until later.  It only took us about two weeks to sort that out!

I have been studying to keep my RE license current and trying to find a way to take the exams somewhere in the Carribbean so I don't have to fly back to the States.  You might think it is difficult to concentrate when we are "on vacation," but the truth is, we do not look at it as a vacation at all.... it is just an alternative way of living and we have to take care of all the same stuff everyone else does:  paying bills, property taxes, supermarket, fixing the boat, cleaning, washing clothes, etc.  It was nice for us to be in one place for so long and just regroup.  I find that I personally need this once in a while and enjoy just vegging.

In this islands we have met up again with cruisers we've met in other parts of the world and our new friends are some cruisers from Spain.  One couple in particular has a little girl Benjie's age, so there have been sleepovers back and forth between boats, as well as with another little boy from Canada.  The kids have a blast and together they are more and more challenged when it comes to swimming and trying new things in the water.  When one kids sees the others jumping off a high ledge, then they all want to try it, or swim between the boats, or dive/snorkel for things from the bottom of the ocean.  And all the parents collectively have a role in teaching the kids something new and different. It's good for all around.

Yesterday was the Children's Carnival here on the island, so all four of these kids participated in a parade with the local children where they each dressed up representing a different Carribbean island and danced to the Carribbeaan beats!  you should see some of these little local kids move.... boy can they dance!  Sofia and Benjie were thrilled, and these events of course, make the kids feel more part of the entire experience, rather than just an outsider.

NEXT STOP:  Union Island in St. Vincent & the Grenadines

Los tres mosqueteros!

Our animal lover

If not an artist or a clothes-designer... Sofia will be a veterinarian!

This is why we have not had strawberries in over a year
The Spaniards know how to have a good time!
Iza, Ricardo and Andre

Sofia and Laia swimming from TROTAMAR to BEGONIA....

Getting closer.... "Mom, we just stopped by to say hi!"

With Samaya and Ana after arriving in Carriacou

Sometimes the randomest connections are the best!

Well, they have to keep the restaurant clean somehow!
That's Sofia about to jump off the bimini....

.... mid-air....
...and, she made it!

There's Benjito mid-air
More carnival scenes

New friends

Monday, February 6, 2012

We're Ba-ack!

Prickly Bay, Grenada – Grenada is bad for my knuckles.  You may wonder why I say this, but until you have experienced riding in a public bus here, you won’t know what I mean!  My knuckles and hands ache because I am holding on so hard and closing my eyes as we go 80 miles per hour around blind corners through the winding roads!  Of course this is an exaggeration, but seriously folks, can’t you just slow down a little?
On a more serious note, the island is beautiful and we have really been enjoying our stay here anchored in Prickly Bay.  We came here to haul our boat out, and have been spending our days getting up and running on internet, getting a SIM card for our phone (yes, we finally have a phone – at least for here) and making calls to order parts.  All this is not so easy in paradise, so we are taking it in stride, spending our mornings back on the homeschool schedule and afternoons taking care of business.  It is amazing how many little things have piled up back home (and thanks again to Kate for taking care of all our mail and sending us email updates).  Grenada has been about “cleaning house,” getting things in order and doing a little sight-seeing as well.
You may remember the US involvement back in 1983, when a coup d’etat forced Maurice Bishop (a revolutionary who assumed the presidency without an election himself a few years before) out of power and executed him and his cabinet.  This military involvement was actually the first for the US since the Vietnam War and although Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were buddies, she apparently was very disappointed in Reagan and actually wrote him a letter on the eve of our invasion to tell him so.  The UN as well as the rest of the international community was also not thrilled.  A US presence was maintained for five years thereafter!  Pictures we’ve seen show tanks and troops walking all along the main streets where we have been spending our time these days. 
The Grenadians seem to have appreciated the involvement and revere Maurice Bishop as a great leader, even changing the name of the newer airport in his honor.  We visited the fort where his execution took place and were astonished to still see bullet holes and other proof of that terrible day.  February 7 is the Grenadian Independence Day (they became independent from Britain in 1974) and red, yellow and green flags and banners are all over town.  The big celebration is to be held at the local stadium and we will be sure not to miss that!
Some other highlights here in Grenada have been meeting some expats who we’ve spent some great moments with on a day sail to Hog Island as well meeting up again with some boats we’ve hung out with on and off since Las Palmas.  We did visit some great waterfalls up in the mountains where there is a rainforest and the kids had a good lesson on the plants and animals that live in that habitat, before hiking and swimming in the falls.
It has been nice to be able to be in the Americas again after the two-week Atlantic crossing.  Many people have seen Sebastian’s previous posting upon our arrival and have asked what my thoughts were.  I thank Sebastian for being such a good captain and sailing us safely here; thank Juliano for helping out so much going above and beyond on many occasions (like when once I was not feeling well and he went below and changed my sheets when they had been splashed with sea water!) and the kiddies?  Well they are just precious and kept themselves busy playing, playing, playing.  I am very glad we did this as a family (+ one!) as the feeling of accomplishment is huge.  I am not sure the kids realize now, but one day they will hopefully feel empowered that they participated in this adventure.
Some have asked my perspective on the crossing after Sebas posted his previous blog… I have to admit, I did not feel 100% for much of the trip, but was very thankful for the good weather and relatively calm seas.  I always had extreme confidence in Sebastian’s capabilities and he knew exactly what to do in every situation.  Knowing that I might not feel like being upright and cooking, I cooked about a week’s-worth of meals before leaving and that plus the fish the guys caught kept us going for a good while.  Still I think we all lost some weight since we were eating smaller portions. 
During the days we would take turns napping and spending our time surprisingly independently:  Sebastian was hooked on Sudoku, Juliano read a ton… and even though I am usually an avid reader, I was surprised that instead, my vice was Solitaire!  I wish I could say we did a ton of official homeschooling, but the kids kept themselves so busy on their own coloring, making up games, and using the fantastic educational apps on the iPad, it was a pleasure.
I got a kick out of watching the two guys and getting a taste of all the testosterone floating around.  Sebastian and Juliano, in typical male style, made a competition out of everything! Neither of them were speaking English to each other but the dialog would be translated to, “Dude, I bet you can’t do X number of push-ups in a minute!” or “Dude, I bet I can catch a bigger fish than you!” or “Dude, let’s see if you can jump off the bow of the boat when we’re in motion and grab onto the line on the back!” (only with no wind, of course).  Also, the guys were thrilled – I mean, thrilled - to have caught such great fish, and spent a lot of the day contemplating knots for the hooks, how to cook the next big one, and strategies for bringing them in.  Me, Tarzan!  All this certainly kept me entertained.
And when they were speaking English to each other, it was only under one tense situation when the Spanish and Portuguese was just not working!  These two languages are so similar under normal circumstances, but nautical terms and certain Argentinian phrases in Spanish do not translate well, so there was pulling of a line instead of releasing one and the Captain, known for his immense patience, ended up yelling in English!  “Listen to me!  I said PULL!”  No hard feelings though!
We had left Mindelo with two other boats, at the exact same time.  It is amazing, however, that after a couple of hours, even though we all are going in the same direction towards the same destination, that we would soon not be able to see each other.  We set up a time for radio chats between the three boats once a day, and since the other boats had children also, the kids even got into talking.  Every day we would give each other our positions and we all were tracking each other and engaging in friendly competition between boats:  who caught what size fish, which saw the first boat or other sign of life, etc.
We had two additional radio nets going on, which were nice to break up the day.  One was between all the cruisers who were crossing the Atlantic at the same time:  some leaving from the Canaries, some from Cape Verde and going to Brazil, or Barbados or Grenada, etc.  Each boat would take turns hosting the net, which was actually more of a “roll call” - a check that everyone was OK and would report their positions, etc.
At night we would listen to Alejandro, from Buenos Aires, who hosts his daily radio net with Spanish speaking sailors.  The sailors here are not necessarily crossing the Atlantic, they could be anywhere, but Alejandro gave us priority since we were the only participants during that time who were crossing.  He has a software that allows him to plot our trip and give us important weather information on any big systems we should avoid, etc.  Luckily, as I said, we had great weather all the way.  Sebas posted a video on YouTube “Crossing Atlantic on Begonia,” if you would like to see what it was like the day we were arriving to Barbados.
The arrival in Barbados was wonderful.  We were all itching to get off the boat by that time, and after doing all the necessary paperwork to check in and anchoring in the bay, all five of us jumped off the boat and swam to shore!!!!  How wonderful to stretch our legs and feel the sand under our toes!
Bridgetown is the capital there and where we spent most of our time.  Lots of big cruise ships arrive here, so there is a lot of business focused on tourism from this outlet versus services geared toward cruisers like us.  Nothing wrong with that, but whenever there was a big cruise ship in port, you could bet there would be jet-skis and banana boats and all other recreational water sports going on all around your boat!
Sebastian caught the finals of the intra-island cricket championship, we did take a bus to the other side of the island to explore some other parts, but most of the time we spent decompressing on the boat: Cleaning it, doing laundry, getting groceries (fresh – but very expensive - fruit and veggies! YES!).  The kids played and we had a good time reuniting again with others.
I chuckle to think that during this time living on a sailboat and cruising around, we have seen quite a bit of sea life.  So, now sometimes when we see a pack of dolphins or turtles, Sofia and Benjamin barely look up, and I feel like it takes more and more to impress them these days.  So in Barbados I look out the window and see the most amazing thing!  HORSES!!!!  Horses swimming in the water right next to our boat!!!  They are polo horses trained every day by swimming from shore about 2 miles out into the deep water and 2 miles back!  That surely got the kids’ attention and I cannot imagine how we could ever top it!
One of the highlights in Bridgetown was visiting the synagogue that they claim is the oldest one in the Americas (although the one in St. Thomas claims the same thing).  There are tombstones written in old Spanish and Portuguese of the marranos  - descendants of the Jews who were forced out of Spain and Portugal as a result of the Inquisition - who had died there. There was an amazing museum attached to the synagogue that explained in great interactive and audio-visual detail the history of the Jews in Barbados.  The Jews, who at one time numbered in the hundreds on the island, were instrumental in the progress of the island starting the sugar cane industry here, since they had already been in northeastern Brazil for a time doing the same thing for years.  Today there are only 80 Jews in the island, and there is a lot of pride in maintaining the synagogue.  The kids enjoyed the display on spices where they pressed a button and a whiff of a spice would come out and you then had to guess what it was.
Another Barbados Fun Fact was that George Washington lived on the island for a short period of time before the American Revolution accompanying his sick brother who was seeking better weather.  George contracted small pox here.   Local lore claims this experience then made him immune to this disease which was the biggest killer during the revolution, allowing to survive and well, the rest is history!  Barbados was the only place outside of the US he ever visited.  During this time, Bridgetown was one of the most important cities in the Americas.
We are still learning many things on our journey, although we now feel like we are in the homestretch.  It won’t be long until we are back in the US in our previous routine so we are drinking up every last drop we can of the places we visit.
NEXT STOP:  Trinidad, a 70-mile sail to pick up some boat parts and to do some inexpensive provisioning.

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FOUNTAINE PAJOT ATHENA 38 CATAMARAN FOR SALE – After our wonderful experience, BEGONIA is ready for its next sailing family – with or without children!  Please contact sebastiankoziura@hotmail.com for more information.
Inside the synagogue in Bridgetown.  Beautiful!

A marrano tombstone in old Portugues

Inside the Mikveh, the bath for Jewish women after giving birth and after menses. 
Kids looking inside the Mikveh
The horses preparing for their daily swim
... and there they are swimming! 
Grenada is known as the Spice Island.  Learning about nutmeg at the spice market in St. George's.
Very colorful markets
Taking a break while walking up the hill to the Fort in St. George's
The view of the Carenage in St. George's from the fort.
Armed with walking sticks, we're ready to conquer the hike to the falls.
... alittle steep at times....


The kids always happy to swim.

Warming up on a rock.