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Where most cruisers don’t go

Certainly I’m not the first to stop here but we are the only one visiting now when all the other more sanitized touristy anchorages are packed with cruisers. The entrance to Laborie in the swell that we have looks impossible from outside passing by with waves breaking all over way offshore on the shoals all the way right into the entrance to this little fishing harbor. Harbor is a big word for this little place which is just a beachside with a small pier of 150 feet or less in very shallow water. We dropped our hook in just 15 feet onto the sandy bottom and on both sides of us within 150 feet are breaking waves. I love breaking waves, just watching them but off our stern the waves breaking on the reef are surfable. Three young locals paddled out to ride them. The allure was too great for me not to join them but not on a surfboard (I don’t have one here) but with my fins. A good hearty swim out from the boat to where the waves are peaking, I get to watch and feel the action up close. Waiting for that big set, I position myself or so I think until I’m caught inside some breakers. That’s always true no matter how big the swells are there will be that occasional BIG set that is twice the average or more. Patiently I wait my wave and drop in a good six footer for a great bodysurfing peel to the right.

On shore the town is authentic St Lucian fishing village. Ponga-style fishing boats pulled up on the sandy beach in front of little huts where each fisherman keeps his gear. In the evening when the fishermen return we walked along the beach looking for fish to buy for dinner. All the fishermen were complaining about the school of dolphins messing up their catch today so fish was slim pickins. We bought two small tuna for dinner.

The rest of the village is fun to walk through with a bakery, a market and almost every other door a miniature beer joint and one sizeable joint called the Bamboo Cafe owned by local Captain Kent who seems to command what is successful in town. Kent has a catamaran too and takes tourists bused in from resorts out for day cruises.

Overall a great spot except not for the weak in the knees because the rolling waves keep our cat a rockin’ all day and night. Not a problem for us, Andrew and I. Yes, it’s back to just Andrew and I exploring the warm waters meandering our way back home to California. We’ll keep in touch with highlights (I just wish I could share more phots with you and I will but only when we join the sanitized cruising community in their marinas with all the amenities – except for WiFi that bores me to death).

Brian
Captain of the INNcredible Sea Lodge

 
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Santa Does Christmas in Anse La Raye

Marigot Bay

Marigot Bay

Sailing back from Martinique on Christmas eve day made me think of where I need to be for Christmas. Marigot Bay is touted as the best there is in St. Lucia in the sailing guide books. So we headed into this well protected rainforested harbor. Gorgeous and crowded with sailboats and yachts from 30 feet to over a hundred. Clean, tidy, all the amenities including three restaurants Marigot Bay is everything they say it is but it’s not for me. I just don’t feel right in most marinas. They’re too sanitized and more importantly totally removed from the local communities. I don’t travel to faraway places and then go to a resort or marina that insulates me from the local communities. I want interface. I want  experience. I want to see how others live. And being Christmas time with my white beard and all I wanted to bring a little joy to as many children as possible.

So on Christmas eve in Marigot Bay, Andrew drove me around in our dinghy from boat to boat wherever children were to give them little treats ( lollipops, candy canes, gummy bears). These sailing children were enthusiastic, well-mannered and very appreciative that Santa (Papa Noel) stopped by with a treat, more forthe santa experience than the modest piece of candy – maybe it was the candy). That being done, I wanted to do way more. During the day I asked about a boys home and contacted the Sisters at Holy Family Home for Boys to offer our help, a visit from Santa with some treats for every one. But the Sister said that all the boys were gone for the holiday. They find them homes that will temporarily take them in for a couple nights over Christmas to be part of their family. What a great idea.

We left Marigot Bay mid-day Christmas in search of another place. We sailed into a nearby fishing village where not a single other sailboat was to be found in a small bay whose village has almost nothing to offer tourists. Anse La Raye is a village of local St Lucians living crowded right next to each other in small sea shanties, some without all their walls.Some decent well-kept tiny houses but most were leaning every which way and nearly falling over. yet the palette of colors brightened up the neighborhoods with a lot of character. But therein live lots of kids. And that’s where Santa needs to go. So Santa packed his pouch with lots of treats, put on his Irish (green with a shamrock embroidered) Santa Hat and wire-rimmed glasses and headed in from INNcredible Sea Lodge, just anchored and swinging in the middle of their bay, to meet all the children. Some playing on the beach saw Santa coming and started yelling. A middle-aged man at the pier met us and immediately offered to help bring us around the village knowing exactly what I wanted to do. What a godsend to enter their ghetto where no white man lives and have an escort to show us the village and meet every child in it. We walked every street, every alley, every muddy path and trail stopping at every house where children live. And we did this barefoot just like our local guide over sand, pavement rocks and mud for 2-3 miles throughout  this fishing village. I met so many children I had to dinghy back out to the INNcredible to refill my pouch with more treats.

We made each others Christmas day. The children were excited, the adults loved seeing Santa too. The children ran down the streets, came out the doors of their shacks, giggled and look bewildered that an old white man with a big white beard was here giving them a treat. Everybody knows the stories of Santa Claus but this little fishing village is a long way from the North Pole. Hopefully this wasn’t the first time Santa actually came to Anse La Raye, but if it was the memory will last quite a while. I know I will remember the warm welcomes, the happy faces, the giggles and laughs but I’m sorry to say that one little girl didn’t no what to make of me and ran away screaming  around down the next street as the adults were all laughing and every one was having a wonderful Christmas day.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Brian

Captain of the INNcredible Sea Lodge

 
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Martinique

before the colonizing of the Caribbean this island, Madinina as known by the Caribes, was called the island of flowers. Napolean’s sweetheart Josephine came from here.

The French influence is all around including those wonderful crusty baguettes.

The French influence is all around including those wonderful crusty baguettes. Saturday’s farmers market in St Pierre yielded some excellent veggies, fruits and spices which we’ll continue to enjoy for some time. Real cinnamon bark is nothing like what we know as cinnamon. Rhum (aka Rum) is plentiful and with at least twenty different local bottlings. French flags fly as does Martinique’s. The Euro, like the homeland is their money yet all their neighboring islands use the EC, the Eastern Caribbean dollar – a real pain in the ass.

From St. Pierre, after diving numerous wrecks from that 1902 volcanic explosion, we sailed to Case Pilote which turned out to be a fantastic all-to-ourselves anchorage with great snorkeling right off the boat. Up early today we set sail for our next stop – Grande Anse. Sailing into a perfect crescent shape bay lined with lush rain forests cascading down the mountains right to the water’s edge.

INNcredible Sea Lodge

At the head of the bay was a sandy beach lined with little houses and places to eat and a couple shops. The snorkeling is good here too but especially for Turtles who munch on the sea grass. Large turtles, sea snakes, star fish, conch and much more. We’re on a mooring ball among about 60 other sailboats from all over.

Listening to Van Morrison’s greatest Hits, its time to prepare some fresh Conch collected from snorkeling.

 

Mark

Mark Pilkington

With first light tomorrow we sail for St Lucia to get Mark and Gaynor so they can catch their Christmas eve flight home. No ferries were running and all flights from Martinique were full so by sail was there only way home. Soon the INNcredible Sea Lodge will be quiet with just Captain and first mate.

 

 

 

Brian

Captain of the INNcredible Seal Lodge

 
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The Adventure continues…

After fixing the faulty block for the gennaker halyard with a better design and better quality block, one important addition to the INNcredible Sea Lodge remained to accomplish – the dive compressor. Shipped all the way from California to St. Lucia, this compressor which can operate electrically with the INNcredibles generator is finally on board and wired for operation. its mission is to refill scuba tanks with high quality compressed air. That way we can dive anywhere any time. Tomorrow we’re going to dive some wrecks that were sunk during the eruption of Mt. Pele in 1902 here in St. Pierre, Martinique.

Sailing here today was on close-haul and sometimes a broad reach 44 nm from Rodney Bay to St. Pierre, home of Mt. Pele, a verdent green magnificent  towering volcano who blew its top in 1902 destroying much of the town and killing 30,000. Martinique is French speaking and in culture Creole.

Its great to be back roaming the open seas.

Brian

Captain of the INNcredible Sea Lodge

 

 
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Land Ho!

Land Ho! that cry at first site of land came in the dark of the night where actually the glow of distant lights extends the viewing by many miles. This is not good if you have any children on board because it creates a perception that we’ll be there in a short while when the opposite is the only truth. So with the kid in some of my crew the ever annoying, “Our we there yet” or “How much longer” is enough to make a Captain think of shortening his crew list. But I persevered and sailed on. Actually motored on ironically after 16 blustery days at sea because the last day becalmed. After an entire day of sailing patiently at 4-6 knots with the sails flopping on every large wave passing sideways, for the sake of the boat, its sails and our sanity, down came the sails and on revved one of our 54 HP diesels to propel us at a happy 6.5 knots.

There was beauty and fun in that last gorgeous day on the big Atlantic. When we decided to drop the sails we turned into the wind (as required in such a task) and when complete with sail flaked and tucked in its lazy bag, we all took a swim. Now this conclusion was a no brainer for me, the walrus that I am, and I was the first overboard. Mark followed as did First Mate Andrew with a bit of reluctance. The conversation that ensued previous to our stopping centered around the sea monsters, serpents and unknown creatures that must lie beneath in such deep waters way out in the Atlantic ocean just waiting for some poor thoughtless soul to dive overboard to take an innocent dip. So the others had not only hesitation but resolve to stay on the boat. Of course that wasn’t the case for our young crazy sailor from Maine, Bret. And by then I had been floating in the water holding onto the floating safety line we threw out with a buoy on its end being dragged along at 3 knots having the time of my life in 86 degree water. The others had done their swim in lightning speed in less than 2 minutes and were back onboard wandering if I was to shortly become bait for that unknown beneath the sea. As time went by and  I still existed out there in the ocean the boys jumped in again and out. Now it was time for them to jeer and poke at the only two holdouts to not make the plunged. Finally our ‘I don’t like water’ crew member from Adventure Connections jumped overboard, not because he couldn’t take the jeering but because he knew he would regret missing that opportunity of a lifetime. Congratulations Nate. Not to be the only pulled our swimming star into the water without any further hesitation, Emily and everyone enjoyed their swim (or plunged in and out) in the deepest water they’d ever swam in with a sense of accomplishment. I was still hanging on being pulled along with my face in the water (small mask on) looking in hopes to see one of those deep Atlantic sea monsters. The crew had to coax me back in the boat and reluctantly I did. A highlight of the crossing was marked off by all.

So we did reach land in the middle of the darkest night and crossed the finish line at 0430 to the fan fare of a couple of night duty ARC workers who actually made us feel special. After we blindly meandered our way past the finish line through a maze of anchored boats, many without any anchor lights on, we found the narrow entrance to the marina and tucked the big wide INNcredible Sea Lodge into its berth stern in (backwards). Tided up, engines off, the little welcoming committee was there dockside in the wee hours to greet us, welcome us, congratulate us and pass to each of us a rum punch and gift basket of St. Lucian fruits and their Chairman’s reserve bottle of rum. Group pictures onboard followed by that first step on land. Actually the dock, as most floating ones do, moved a lot like the boat so the sensation of solid mother earth was waiting for us at the end of the dock. The sudden lack of motion was dizzying and although it was good to stretch the legs in long steps no sudden calm became us and we retreated back to our cozy rock-a-by life on the boat for a few winks before the sun rose.

How we fared in the big scheme of competition was yet to be determined as more than 60 boats remain crossing the Atlantic , some 600 miles out still. But we have no hidden ridiculous thoughts that we need be at the awards ceremony to stage ourselves to collect any award other than we did it with the absolute lowest number of sailing experience years combined of a crew. For example, our mentors (who we never saw once while crossing) had the combined crew experience of five lifetimes plus their sixth crew with probably more years than any of us for an estimated total of over 250 years of combined sailing experience onboard. Our combined years of sailing experience for all six crew members totals less than 30. So I proposed that the sailing judges divide all scores by the number of years of sailing experience on each boat for the real results of achievement. Maybe we should stay for those awards ceremony. That’s okay we’ll miss it any way and be back out there exploring the hidden gems of the Caribbean.

All crew have touched land, tyed one on yesterday, and we’re accounted for when we arrived, but are all passed out on the boat now safely at dock. Happy, yes. Healthy? we’ll see how they feel when they wake.

 
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Stars, stars and more stars

The moon rose a few days ago just before the sun so at night there is no moon and dark is really dark. But the stars are so many and so bright and last night the starry sky was alive with action. ‘Shooting Stars’ were flying everywhere about 10 per minute for hours. These incoming bits burning up as they enter earth’s atmosphere are of course not falling stars, thank god, but meteors and in such profusion is called a meteor shower. And if one doesn’t burn up completely and actually lands on the earth its remains are called a meteorite and since there is no land out here we had our ears out for any loud splashes.

Without newspaper delivery, no bars on the cell phone, no WiFi to search the internet we have no way of knowing if this meteor shower was predicted or has a name. We don’t know if the Mayan calendar followers are talking world’s end or what. Time to tune in the shortwave radio. Bits of noise here and there, a garble, an eerie sound like a spaceship is landing and then out of nowhere is the clear voice of a storyteller. But this storyteller seems a little mean. His voice is elevated and occasionally yelling. he’s telling all to repent, the end is near. I wonder if he sees what I see looking into the heavens this starry night. Probably not because I know I’ve heard this same story before. Hell, he might not even be live, could be a recording – a virtual nightmare. I turn the radio off. Who cares if this meteor shower was predicted, has a name or has something to do with the end of the Mayan calendar – these ‘shooting stars’ are mesmerizing and entertaining all by themselves as we sail through this big starry sky tonight.

As the day begins this morning the winds have softened to under 10 knots and we are gliding along at a monohull’s snail pace of 4-5 knots. And at this speed our over-optimistic ETA slows way down but just as I say this the wind has freshened to 11 and we’ve added a knot. So our ETA is ‘up in the air’ but may end up in the wee morning hours of the 15th.

The crew will be working on their suntans again today. Sure I’ll still feed them even though there just lying around napping, chatting and know over the shortwave radio I’ve tuned in our first real radio station LOVE out of Barbados and its Christmas music Reggae-style even the commercials. It’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas – the water is 85.4 degrees and we can’t wait to jump in real soon.

Brian

Captain of the INNcredible Sea Lodge

 
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Excitement grows on the INNcredible Sea Lodge

No land in sight yet. Of course not we’re 220 nm out but the excitement amongst the crew grows by the hour. The excitement to get there has a bucket full of reasons, not all of which are found in each crew member’s bucket. ‘To get it over with’ is hardly number 10 on the list and why would it be – a moment in time that will be cherished by all here for the rest of our lives. And as time goes by the discomforts (which can’t be many short of a long shower) will be long forgotten and only the good will prevail in our memories. Almost universally number one reason of excitement in getting there is to swim,snorkel and dive in the gorgeous 85 degree sky blue water. Nate might be the only hold out on the water love affair. Life on a vegetarian boat ( with a bit of seafood) didn’t seem to leave anyone with an insatiable craving for that big steak except maybe Nate. One thing that one will look back and appreciate is the peace that existing without internet, phone, TV, nightly news, etc. affords.

For everyone except Andrew and I the Atlantic crossing is the Big event and they’ll be home for Christmas. For Andrew and I the INNcredible Journey will hit its halfway mark about 5,000 miles from where we started in Les Sables France in June 2012 and about 5,000 miles to go heading for home in California in May 2013.

The excitement is growing on board and we’re moving up in the rankings making headway on a number of boats. There’s still a whole lot of water between us and St Lucia and the winds should hold in their NE direction but may slow a bit. ETA could be 40 hours from now.

Andrew created a treat for all of us last night – Pizza, homemade dough, sauce and creative toppings. I made ripe banana, date, walnut oat muffin this morning as we looked out at a beautiful rainbow arcing from within a lone cumulus cloud in an otherwise sunny clear sky. I wish I could send pictures but not over a Satellite phone but I’ll catch up with pictures soon.

Brian

Captain of the Inncredible Sea Lodge

All crew happy, healthy, well-fed and accounted for.

 
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200 mile days – that’s truckin’

Until you experience it you won’t know how fast moving 200 miles a day sailing in a 13 ton catamaran feels. A 18 wheel truck running downhill with no brakes is close but without being scared half to death that you’re about to crash. There’s no worries at all, this freight train is on a track shared by no one, this 18 wheeler is barreling down a highway without toll gates, stop signs or on ramps. So we sit back, relax, even in the pitch black of night, and marvel at this massive sailing house cutting, sliding, gliding through the sea simply propelled by the wind.

Luckily the wind is blowing in the perfect direction now, and has been, for this will be the third day  of strong easterly trade winds. First Mate Andrew Starr a couple days ago creatively set the running rigging up to establish a wing-on-wing that captures downwind sailing perfectly. Normally the spinnaker would be hoisted with DDW but since our halyard was getting chaffed through way up the mast we had to abandon flying our spinnaker or Big Blue, our gennaker. Wing-on-wing is letting the main sail forward on the starboard side and the jib flying out to the port side creating a wide-open V to scoop the wind blowing directly behind us and pushing us forward at speeds from 7-15 knots. Of course the 11-15 knots come when the random timing of the swells passing underneath us peak perfectly behind and in sync so the INNcredible Sea Lodge catches a wave for an accelerated drop down the wave’s face, surfing and there’s nothing virtual about it – just pure excitement.

Just two and a half days ago we were 900 nautical miles from St. Lucia, now 60 hours later we are only 405 nm away. What’s our ETA? Do the math. We’re doin the Tradewind Boogie.

Cabbage keeps, as do potatoes and onions without refrigeration and that’s a beautiful thing on day 14. So you can guess what’s for dinner – Ireland’s staple farmhouse one pot dish called Colcannon.

Between the new parade of whales rocketing by much of yesterday and the boat speed over 8 knots, fishing was not to be part of day 14.

All crew is happy, healthy, fed and accounted for as we wrap up Day 14 crossing the Atlantic. Water temp is 84.5F.

Brian

Captain of the Inncredible Sea Lodge

 
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Sea Monsters and the end of the Earth

Out here bounding over the bounding ocean for 12 days now looking out over the vastness of same, I can only begin to imagine what the ancient mariners believed. Sea serpents, sea monsters, Neptune, those bold forceful weathered faces blowing from each cardinal direction were real beliefs or maybe just fantasies for the storytellers to entertain the landlubbers. But no one had been round the world to even think the world was anything but flat. After all how can one imagine that water could stay put if it wasn’t flat. Spill water on a table and it runs down to the lowest end and then falls off the end, in this case the table, the earth. How frightening! But how could one be assured the Earth was round?

I believe the Earth is round but I’ve never been round it…..yet. I believe because others have done it and lived to tell the tale.Those ancient mariners had guts just to go beyond the sight of land. The great navigators during the Age of Discovery had bits of new science and calculation that the Earth must be round despite what the church said and demanded that one believe. My hats off to all those over the ages that tested the waters and pushed the limits of imagination all under sail to discover not only that the world is round but there is a lot of us living all over it too.

No, I have not seen any sea monsters in this monster of a sea. But I marvel how all this water can stay put on the outside edge of a globe spinning around every 24 hours rotating rapidly around the sun with the moon spinning around tugging on our water trying to pull it away twice each day. Its amazing especially when you’re out here with the curved horizon dropping off in a circle of directions filled with bouncing water everywhere. I believe it because I see it and its working so don’t worry, the Earth is working just fine.

Here on the INNcredible Sea Lodge we have 699 nm to go on this leg of the INNcredible journey as of 2100 12/10/12. All crew is full on Nate’s noodles with carmelized onions, pine nuts and olive oil topped with Romano, olives and chopped tomatoes, happy, healthy and accounted for – I counted 6 including the captain (me).

Brian

Captain of the Inncredible Sea Lodge

 
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At times it was almost like a stampede (a whale of an exaggeration)

Yesterday I reported our wonderful close encounters in the morning with a whale or several whales. At first most on board were quick to say that the same whale is just playing with us, doubling back to swim by and have fun diving under the boat, staying with us as we sail forward at 6+ knots toward the Caribbean. I didn’t think so. My thought was the whale was headed for its winter home and had only so much energy and wouldn’t be so foolish to waste too much doubling back just to entertain us. I thought we had found the path, the expressway to their respective winter calving grounds. We’d look out portside then starboard, sometimes scanning the distance out toward the horizon but would never see any whale activity except right near the INNcredible. This continued all day until the dark rendered it impossible to see them even if they did surface right next to us.

At times it was almost like a stampede (a whale of an exaggeration), more like a parade of whales in twos, threes constantly coming in from behind surfing toward us mostly on starboard. Some would roll over as if to position their eye so they could get a good look at us on board. I would always wave back to let them know we acknowledged them with great excitement and admiration. Most of the visuals were the whales 5-20 feet below the surface but with the water so clear that was no an impediment. We would catch site of them 100 yards to our rear and watch them approach. Their black bodies were brightly accented with their white side fins and when they rolled their bright white bellies. They would surface now and again going every which way. Some would come up face first exposing their big smiles and eye. Others more often would do the more classic up enough to show their back and overall length. We used the boat length as our yard stick as they breached right next to us. These whales ranged from 12-30 feet.

So for at least 12 hours this parade of Pilots marched right by, each saying hi in its own way. We definitely were right in the parade line because we never saw any whales outside our 50 feet to either side of the boat. We thought maybe they liked our music, the vibration of which would radiate from the hulls. Either the Chieftain’s The Wide World Over album or Bob Marley’s Greatest Hits was their favorite. In the night another saliboat came near and communicated over radio with us but said they never saw any whales where they were yesterday. How strange, we saw a hundred or more.

To start the day yesterday, I put a pot of Pinto beans to soak and then pressure cook. While that was on its way I mixed and kneaded a couple loaves of bread, set off to rise, made corn bread muffins, baked the bread and by then the beans were ready to enjoy with the cornbread. No fish yesterday because all the endless whales kept them away.

Crew is well fed, happy, healthy and all accounted for (still 6 of us on board).

Brian

Captain of the Inncredible Sea Lodge

 
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