17 April 2017

Return to France via London - and Maggie May Gets Painted!

On the way back from Grenada to France, our flight stopped in London.
So we spent an extra day or two.
 - I wanted to see the David Hockney exhibition, and we booked tickets to "Motown". 
It feels so - busy and urban - after Grenada!
LOVE his colors! Of course I would.
Both are excellent - and I love being in London. 
But - even with a strong dollar and a weak pound, it's pricey.

Back in France, it feels so good to see Maggie May again! 
I'm surprised how - familiar it feels, and how comfortable.

And: Spring is happening! 
Flowers fill the spaces between the vineyard rows, birds chirp and the air smells of fruit blossoms. 
The leaves are just coming out. 

I forgot how invigorating spring could be! 
It feels energetic and fresh. 

As the summer season is approaching, we get a new mooring spot - 
behind the bridge and out of the way of the summer rental boats.
 I like it. 
But - we buy some extra fenders "bumpers". Just in case.
A lot of the rental boat drivers are beginners - as we well know.

Mikey, Iris and Erik judge the tunnel as Kilian drives our rental boat. 3 years ago.

Now, we're heading off to the US to get our long-stay visas for France. 
And maybe do taxes and get the New Mexico house ready for the summer house sitters. 

While we're gone, Jose is going to finish painting the upper portions of the boat.
 (He painted the hull while we were in the shipyard, up "on the hard".)

 It looks pretty good - but close up, the paint needs work. 
(Here's an in-progress pic of the paint job - )

...during the paint job...
Inside, however - looks surprisingly spiffy. 

But the best part of all is just - being able to BE on the boat. 
On the canal. With a small glass of wine.

15 April 2017

Grenada - Windward Side

Cabier Beach, Grenada. Our apartment is on the left.
Here in the Caribbean - far south - things are pretty slow. 
We spent a month (!) renting a house on the "busy" part of the island.

Not very busy, really.
Then - we moved east - to the windward side.

No cities. Few towns.
Bumpy dusty muddy roads. 
Goats. Chickens. Pigs. Enthusiastic roosters.

(I drew a LOT of little things in my journals-)
Jungles of plantain, papaya, coconut, mango, breadfruit trees.
Everything grows here. And the flowers -!
Beaches without a soul around. (ok, maybe a few iguanas.)

We found a place to stay at Cabier Beach - and we stayed a month.
It's pretty remote - and just right.
Pretty soon, it felt like home.

Weighing scales used at the local "green" market.
The parrots, the turtles, the monkeys, the zoo keeper (!), and the people who live and work here - 
they begin to know us and we know them.
 It's a mix of French, German and English - and some sort of local Creole.
And Bruno - he's French and runs a restaurant right here. Ah.

It's relaxed. We make driftwood sculptures on the beach. 
Chase crabs to see if we can pet them. (It embarrasses them, I'm sure-) 
Take beach walks.

Enjoy torrential downpours and spectacular moonsets.
Even take part in a "hash run" - a weekly event with a lot of  people, music, noise, color.
Good local beer and BBQ chicken. 
(they happen all over the world, apparently - try it! It's fun.)

It's the sort of place that - when a visitor comes to eat at the restaurant, we all wind up talking, and sharing stories, and we leave with promises of meeting again, somewhere else in the world, somewhere in the future.

Our local store.

We draw. Play music. Feed the macaw. Walk. 
Discuss local politics and neighbors with people who live there.

The fellow who rents us our car turns out to be the local doctor. 
When Stan has a sinus infection, the doctor / car rental guy makes a house call. 
Then goes to the pharmacy to pick up the prescriptions! All for $30. 
(Since they don't pay him much, he has a small car rental business on the side.)

Grenada isn't glitzy. It's real friendly.
It's a regular place, not a "destination".
Most tourists only visit one small corner of the island.

Turns out - it's a great place to spend the winter. 

11 February 2017

Steel Drums and "Oil Down" - in Grenada

Everyone was talking about "Ail Dung". 
-I had NO idea what to make of it. 

Turns out, it's "Oil Down", Grenada's national dish. 
In fact - it's a whole happening. 

It's Independence Day on the "Island of Spice" - it's time to enjoy "Oil Down".
Everyone is decorated in Grenada's national colors, red, yellow and green.

The sidewalks are freshly painted.
Stores play national songs all week - "Three Islands, One Nation".  

Grenada became independent in 1974 - it was a French colony and a British colony.
Many names are still French -  Morne Rouge, L'Anse aux Epines. Petit Martinique. 

(Some are a curious blend of French and English - like "Lower La Tante".) 

 The British Queen is still on the currency, the Eastern Caribbean dollar. 
She's a lot younger in these pictures -
The best place for the "Oil Down" is on the beach. 
It's a whole day affair.

Everyone helps. The pot is HUGE. And heavy.

These guys were VERY excited to tell me about their "Oil Down"!
Made with plantains, yams, pumpkin, breadfruit, taro leaves,
salt fish and salt pork, turmeric and coconut milk - and anything else local - cooked "down" so the "oil" of the coconut infuses the other ingredients. 
There's a lot of beach space for everyone.
As it cooks, kids play in the water. Boys play soccer and cricket. Moms watch babies, men hang out . It's colorful and the atmosphere is fun. People are friendly.

Visitors enjoy celebrating on the beach, too.
In the evening, trucks pass our house. 
They're filled with steel pan bands, playing island music from the back of the truck.

So, with a small glass of rum punch - we sit on our balcony and join in the celebration.

Happy Independence Day, Grenada!

05 February 2017

From French Canal Barge to Sailboat in the Grenadines

Somehow, this doesn't look - or feel - like France. 
It's not. But this is kind of where it all started.

We're sailing in the Tobago Cays. 
The Grenadines.
Tiny islands. Amazing colors. 
Sea turtles. Eagle rays. Dolphins. 
A trail of starfish leads us back to the boat after a snorkeling expedition. 

 We find a sailboat, a 57' catamaran, that needs another couple on it. 
We volunteer. 

With Isabelle, the French chef, and Frédéric, the captain. 
We don't even have to do the sailing - or the cooking - ourselves. 
Three others, a couple from England and one Swiss, complete our crew.

It's very windy - 25 knots - but oh, the colors of the water!

We visit Carriacou. Saltwhistle Bay, Mayreau. Mopion. Union Island. Eat lobster on Petit Bateau. 
Petit Tabac. Petit St. Vincent. Everything very "petit". 

Between my feet and that white beach are sea turtles. And fat starfish. 

 After a sandy salty week, we return to our rented house in Grenada, where we've been since mid January. Feels almost like home by now. 

Grenada. Spice Islands.
Near the end of the chain of Caribbean islands. 
Closer to Venezuela than to Miami.  

Originally, a few years back, we thought we'd wind up buying and living on a sailboat. 

Two years ago, we began seriously learning about boats. 
We read. Practiced knots. Took training courses. 
We passed numerous exams, and got our licenses for bareboat chartering and coastal cruising, inland waterways, monohull, catamarans, and probably a couple of others. 

We hold licenses from the UK, the US, from Ireland, France, and from the EU. 
Countless books and hours of work. 
Not that it really meant we knew what we were doing - by any means. 

We spent time on boats in Thailand, in Greece, in France, in Myanmar, in Laos, Indonesia, and all over the Caribbean.  I counted 50 islands we'd visited in the Caribbean alone! 

(See where Grenada is on the map? WAY south.)

But: At one point, we realized living on a sailboat, even a catamaran, isn't for us. 
And the idea of dealing with hurricane season - that just made the decision easier. 

So we began to look at canal boats in Europe. 

We considered over 500 boats (!), mostly online. 
Once in France, we inspected 30 boats from the inside, and eliminated another 30 from the outside. 
I made spreadsheets. And lists. And - you know the rest of the story.

When I was a kid, we lived in the Virgin Islands. 

Once, I was invited to a friend's birthday party on her parents' boat. 
I was probably in first grade. 

I remember being SO impressed! 
That memory has stuck with me over the years. 
I don't think I could swim yet, but man, I wanted to jump off that boat with the other kids. 

So I did. Jumped off the boat (still a favorite thing to do-) and started swimming. 

That's when it all started.