maanantai 10. lokakuuta 2011

October 7th 2011

On The Move Again

08º 13.945' N, 59º 00.894' W

Contrary to what I wrote in my last blog entry, we did not leave next week after all but a week later. There were several reasons for the delay such as getting our outboard repaired, receiving a refurbished SSB radio from the US, and both of us recovering from a nasty flu which, according to the locals, was brought to the island by the Chinese.

So far during our travels, for some reason or other, we have never considered ourselves as being members of any international sailing community. Normally, we have always been in a hurry, coming or going and never staying in one place for more than a few days. But this time we stayed for a total of five weeks, and during that time we felt as if becoming part of the local sailing community. And it was a good feeling!

The day before we left, we went on a sightseeing tour with another sailing couple, Chris and Geoff. We rented a car and, coming from Australia, Geoff was chosen to be the driver since, as in Trinidad, they too drive on the wrong side of the road. We left early Sunday morning and drove along the north coast of the island and then headed south over a mountain ridge to reach the Asa Wright Nature Centre, located in the middle of the rainforest. There we spent the rest of the day watching and photographing hummingbirds, honeycreepers, woodpeckers, etc. And although it was raining for the better part of the day which prevented us from going on a tour with a local naturalist, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It is a grand venue for bird watching and one of the places I would definitely return to if only possible.

On Monday, October the 3rd, we eventually weighed anchor. First, we motored to Peak's Boat Yard where Sarema was hauled out for about an hour to replace the ice propeller with a regular one. Then off we went to Customs and Immigration on the other side of the bay to check us out of the country, and then finally to the fuel dock to fill our tanks with diesel and water. There Pekka noticed that our wind instrument was not functioning and that the autopilot was not working properly either. So we ended up staying tied up to the fuel dock till early Tuesday morning by which time Pekka had managed to fix the autopilot so that we could continue our journey.

While still in the Gulf of Paria, sailing was good and we even managed to catch a fish. We could not identify the species but as it looked very edible, we had it for lunch. After going through the Serpent's Mouth, we were forced to tack continuously for two days due to headwinds and a counter current. After trial and error, we discovered that we should stay at about ten metre depth to avoid the current which improved our situation considerably. We still have to tack every now and then and also try to avoid hitting any of the dozens of wrecks submerged near the shore. But despite these downsides and the fact that we are making very slow progress at the moment, we are extremely happy and excited to be on the move again. Yesterday, while sailing past the Orinoco Delta in Venezuela, we were listening to Enya's Orinoco Flow and joined in the chorus to our hearts' content: 'Sail away, sail away, sail away...!'

Leaving the Caribbean waters behind marks the end of this blog. We have opened a new blog that will cover the rest of our circumnavigation, at

tiistai 20. syyskuuta 2011

20th September 2011

Still in Trinidad

We have now been here for more than three weeks, and the boat project is gradually coming to an end. As usual, Pekka has been very hard-working and, among numerous other things, he has rebuilt the whole fore cabin. So, after more than ten years at sea, we finally have a double bed!

The Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago decided to continue the country's State of Emergency for the next three months but fortunately the curfew was cut down (now 11 pm – 4 am). This enabled us to go on a wildlife tour to Caroni Swamp which is a huge mangrove swamp just east of Port of Spain. We spent several hours on a river boat slowly motoring through winding channels in the mangrove forest that is home to blue herons, cattle, great, and snowy egrets, caymans, tree boas and, above all, the national bird of Trinidad and Tobago, the luminous scarlet ibis. Great things are always worth waiting for!

We are going to stay here till next week, but then it is time to continue our voyage!

torstai 1. syyskuuta 2011

September 1st 2011

Black and White, TandT

Yesterday, the beautiful twin-islands of Trinidad and Tobago celebrated their 49th Independence Day without any fireworks and by blocking the main roads leading to popular beaches on the north side of Trinidad, thus causing traffic jams that left hundreds of families in their cars for hours.

Tomorrow, the country's House of Representatives will meet to debate whether or not the state of emergency and curfew should be extended. We are keeping our fingers crossed (and thumbs up as well, as we do in Finland) that at least the curfew hours would be adjusted, if not lifted altogether. Going on a tour and finding ourselves on the road with a broken engine is not something we want to experience under the circumstances.

That is why, brown pelicans and black vultures are the only things we have seen of the island's abundant wildlife so far. But we live in hope!

lauantai 27. elokuuta 2011

August 27th 2011

Carenage Bay, Trinidad and Tobago

10º 40.807’ N, 61º 37.258’ W

When considering where to proceed from Grenada, Venezuela came up as one alternative but as we heard all kinds of rumours about the country's security situation, we opted for Trinidad and Tobago instead. We left Prickly Bay on the 24th around 3 p.m. and arrived in Chaguaramas, Trinidad, the following morning just after nine. After checking in the country, we learned that there was a state of emergency in Trinidad and Tobago, and that the entire country was under curfew from 9 p.m. till 5 a.m.

According to the officials, the state of emergency was declared in order to stop a crisis which could have led to a major loss of life.
“There was an immediate threat and endangerment of public safety. Innocent citizens could have lost their lives had we not declared a state of emergency and taken swift and immediate action", the country's Attorney General has said. “When the state of emergency was declared, it was in response to intelligence received from the security agencies which we cannot share with the population but which I can assure you averted a crisis.”
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said that she was not worried at this time about the international image of the country after the declaration of a state of emergency and curfew restrictions across the country. “For those who speak about concerns for foreign image, I say I am more concerned by the images of my people dying, of mothers crying, of innocent citizens living in fear, of orphaned children Those are the images that concern me right here in our land, Trinidad and Tobago".

It seems that the main reason for declaring the state of emergency and curfew is crime and drug-related crime in particular. The police are raiding crime hot spots all over the islands and arresting people by the dozen every day.
Personally, we feel quite safe and secure with the country's police and security forces arresting all the criminals. Life seems to go on as normal except that shops and restaurants close already at 6 p.m. and the sittings of the House of Representatives start already at 10 a.m. to allow the members of the Parliament and staff to get home before the 9 p.m. curfew.

Although war on crime is in the limelight, there is something developing on other fronts too as the union leaders say the Government would “stop at nothing” to get to them, and that they are ready to be arrested in this time of suspended constitutional rights.
“We have a government that we cannot trust and we suspect strongly that many of us may be detained and arrested and that is a price we have to pay", told Oilfield Workers' Trade Union President General Ancel Roget.
“No form of industrial action can be taken during a state of emergency”, said National Security Minister John Sandy earlier this week. “It has been brought to our attention that there is an element of industrial unrest emanating out of Petrotrin and the Waterfront refineries, and I want to remind all those people that the law affecting state of emergencies and industrial unrest is quite clear". Despite the warning, workers at Petrotrin's refinery “downed tools” yesterday.

At the moment, our only concern is whether or not the curfew could prevent us from exploring Trinidad's wildlife. The curfew will stay in force at least till next Friday but hopefully this time next week we'll be free to start roaming the country's national parks and nature centres.
(the photos were taken in St. Vincent and the Grenadines)

perjantai 19. elokuuta 2011

August 19th 2011

Prickly Bay, Grenada
11º 59.848’ N, 61º 45.833’ W

Back At Sea!

On the 5th of August, Riitta and boat-dog Latte arrived in Martinique where Pekka had been anxiously waiting for the return of the rest of the crew for more than a week already. While Riitta had spent the past three plus months holidaying in Europe, Sarema's Captain had been working so hard on the boat that he had diminished to almost non-existence (Pekka had lost more than ten kilos = 22 lbs)!
We spent the following three days anchored in Le Marin to allow the jet-lag to pass and, as we had decided to take it easy, our next stop was St. Anne, less than a mile from Le Marin. Next morning we set sail for St. Lucia and while crossing the channel between Martinique and St. Lucia we were accompanied by dolphins on three different occasions, which was absolutely fantastic. It was as if they had come to welcome us back to the seas.

Later in the afternoon, we moored in Marigot Bay, St. Lucia, and the next day continued to Admiralty Bay, Bequia, where we took fuel and checked both in and out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines at the same time. However, we did stop at Tobago Cays on our way to Grenada, perhaps a bit illegally but we dutifully paid the Marine Park fees. There we spent two marvellous days snorkelling, lizard spotting,

and swimming with sea turtles.

We are now back in Prickly Bay, Grenada, where Pekka continues working on the boat, and Riitta and Latte (with her thick winter hair!) are doing their best to adapt once again to the intensive heat of the tropical sun.

lauantai 23. huhtikuuta 2011

April 10th 2011

Future Sailing Plans

When Sarema is ready, hopefully by the end of July, we are not going to sail through the Panama Canal after all ( Instead, we'll first head south along the east coast of South America, then cross the South Atlantic on our way to the Cape of Good Hope, and eventually sail

So, till August, we wish you all FAIR WINDS AND FOLLOWING SEAS!

lauantai 9. huhtikuuta 2011

April 9th 2011

Back in Martinique

We have had a somewhat frustrating experience with the local airport and other authorities in Grenada. Less than a month ago, I emailed the Ministry of Agriculture of Grenada to find out if I needed a special permit for Latte as we were supposed to fly back home from Grenada which is a rabies-free country. I sent them a second email a week later as there was no reply to my first message. There was no reply to my second message either. After our friends had gone back to Finland, I spent three afternoons at a travel agency called 'Going Places' which seemed to be unable to take us, Latte and I, any place. My intention was to take a British Airways flight via London to Portugal but I was told that the ONLY person at the airport certified by British Airways to load pets into the cargo hold, was on a vacation! As Going Places was unable to take us to Europe, I emailed British Airways direct and explained them my predicament in detail. They replied that I should contact a faceless BA organisation called World Cargo and try to sort things out through them. HELLO!!!

So, on the fourth day, I went to the airport and talked to a supervisor there who promised to sort things out and email me the result the following day. On the fifth day, I received an email, not from the supervisor but from Going Places, stating that the airport had informed them that the only authorised person was still on a vacation and, therefore, Latte could not be boarded. On the sixth day, I went back to the travel agency and asked them to book us a flight to Martinique aboard Liat which is a local, island hopping airline. At this point (but not before!), I was told that I needed to fill in a form giving all the relevant information about the dog, and it would then be faxed to Barbados' Chief Veterinarian who would or would not give us permission to fly out from Grenada. After spending the whole morning at Going Places and waiting for the form to be faxed from the airport, I was told that the airport's fax machine was out of order. Honestly, I do not know what is going on at the so-called International Airport in Grenada but whatever it is, it surely does not promote the local tourist industry!

Now, that left us with only two options, either to stay in Grenada forever or to sail back to Martinique. And here we are, in Le Marin, after two days of sailing, with plane tickets for both Riitta and Latte to Portugal via Paris. And it took us only about twenty minutes to get them (Thank you, AirFrance!). But as we all know, life is not fair and the world is anything but just, which is the case also here: tomorrow, Riitta will fly to Europe with Latte to spend time with family and friends, whereas Pekka, Sarema's hard-working captain, must sail single-handed back to Tyrrell Bay, Carriacou, Grenada, where Sarema is going to be hauled out and the hard work will begin.

April 1st 2011

Prickly Bay, Grenada

Ever since we arrived in the Tropics, you may have detected a somewhat unenthusiastic approach to my reporting (that is why, I am so grateful to Marion for her contribution to this blog!). One reason is that even as I write this, at least a hundred other Caribbean blogs are being written by our sailing neighbours and personally, I have very little to add to the subject. Another reason is that, although the locals are extremely friendly and helpful, and the islands are lush and beautiful with picturesque white sand beaches and turquoise waters, this just isn't our cup of tea, so to speak.

Our main reason for being here is to restore our good boat Sarema to her pre-Arctic glory and when the work is done, we'll continue our journey. But first Latte and Riitta have to get back to Europe so that Pekka can start working on the boat.

maanantai 28. maaliskuuta 2011

March 28th 2011

The original inhabitants of Union Island were Amerindians who had immigrated there from South America as early as 5400 BC, and remained on the island until the 1750's when the Europeans arrived. But a 1778 report states that the population of Union Island was only comprised of sixteen Europeans (ten French and six English) and a total of 430 African slaves. What had happened to the Amerindian population, the report fails to reveal.

We anchored in Clifton Harbour and then went downtown to buy some fresh fruit and vegetables, and to enjoy a delicious lambi roti, a pie filled with conch meat, potatoes and spicy sauce, for lunch. In the evening, just before sunset, we dinghied to Happy Island, a bar and restaurant built on the nearby coral reef, for a rum punch.
The next day we checked out and continued to Petite St. Vincent where we spent an exceptionally rainy day followed by a restless night as the strong current kept tossing and turning the boat.

After unhurried breakfast, we set sail to Carriacou which is Grenada's middle island both in size and location, the third and northern/westernmost island being Petite Martinique. Carriacou, “the land of reefs”, is believed to have gotten its name from the Carib Indians. The island is known for the Big Drum Dance, a traditional African dance still performed on special occasions such as the launching of a new vessel, or when a tombstone is erected on the grave of a relative.

In the afternoon, we dropped anchor in Tyrrell Bay where Sarema will eventually be hauled out. We took a bus to Hillsborough, the island's capital, to take care of the formalities but, as only the Immigration Office was open, we had to return to the boat our mission only half-accomplished.
A local fisherman, or should I say oysterman, sold us a few dozen mangrove oysters which some of us enjoyed with grapefruit juice. The next day, the same fisherman, or should I say this time the lobsterman, brought us two BIG lobsters. This was a nice surprise since we had thought the lobster season was over, as it already was in St. Lucia.

On the 24th of March, we headed for Prickly Bay, Grenada. We decided to sail along the Atlantic side of the island as the winds there were more favourable for us. This was our longest leg for several weeks, and we thoroughly enjoyed it!

Grenada is know as the Caribbean Island of Spice as there are more spices per square mile than in any other place on the planet. Grenada produces one third of the world's nutmeg supply, and other spices include cloves, cinnamon, mace, ginger, bay leaf, cardamom, and turmeric.

We took a tour of the capital, St. George's, on foot and were pleasantly surprised to see how well the town had been restored since our former visit. In 2004, Grenada was hit by Hurricane Ivan which devastated the entire island. In 2005, when we visited St. George's, it looked as if the whole town was covered with blue tarpaulin, there were only a few poles left of the Lagoon marina, and the shore was dotted with shipwrecks. Now, the town was as if nothing had ever happened, and a grand new marina had been built in the Lagoon.

On the 26th, our friends flew back to Finland, and this signified the end of the holiday season for Sarema's crew, too. From now on, it is going to be work, work, work as we'll start ordering and buying the materials, products, and spare parts required for Sarema's renovation that will commence in Tyrrell Bay Haul-Out, Carriacou, within the next couple of weeks.

maanantai 21. maaliskuuta 2011

March 21st 2011

There were fewer boats in Admiralty Bay than last time, and we found a good anchorage near the beach. While in Bequia, we followed pretty much the same procedure as with Marion and Marty, i.e. had scrumptious pizza at Mac's, bought vegetables from the market, and Oili and Jouko went on a guided tour of the island and to see the turtle sanctuary, in particular.

On the 18th, we sailed to Tobago Cays. The lagoon was now crowded as the weather was picture-perfect with blue skies and gentle winds. We spent two glorious days hawksbill turtle watching, snorkeling, underwater photographing, and spotting iguanas on the nearby islands.

As our schedule was not yet pressing but gradually getting tighter, on Sunday, we continued to Union Island to check out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

keskiviikko 16. maaliskuuta 2011

March 15th 2011

After bidding farewell to Marion and Marty, we sailed via Rodney Bay to Martinique where, on Saturday the 5th, we dropped anchor in the muddy bay in front of Le Marin. We had left our SSB radio that received but did not transmit, in a workshop there about two months ago, and we thought the radio would be ready by now.

But when Pekka went to collect it, he was told that the radio was almost ready and he should come back later in the afternoon. We spent almost a week at the anchorage during which time we developed the following, somewhat peculiar routine: in the morning, Pekka went to the workshop to collect the radio which was almost ready and was asked to come back later in the afternoon and, in the afternoon, Pekka again went to the workshop to collect the radio which was almost ready and was asked to come back the following morning, the following morning Pekka went to the workshop.... etc. This continued until we were forced to leave the island on the 10th and sail back to St. Lucia to meet our Finnish friends who flew there from Grenada. The men in the workshop promised to send the radio to Carriacou where Sarema will be hauled out, by some sailing boat on her way down south.

Despite the fruitless SSB radio routine, we actually enjoyed our stay as it was the Carnival Week with colourful parades and Caribbean music played everywhere. And when the 24-hour hullabaloo was too much for us, we sought refuge in a quiet waterway in the midst of mangroves, inhabited by fish and crab and its entrance guarded by a flock of cattle egrets.

With Oili and Jouko on board, we started from Rodney Bay our unhurried voyage towards Grenada where we should be by March 26th when they will be flying back to Finland. We spent one night in both Marigot and Piton Bay and then sailed to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

When approaching Cumberland Bay, there was again Kenny waiting for us and he helped tie our line to a palm tree. The beach was full of happy villagers who were clearly having a day off. This time we had dinner at Joseph's Restaurant, delicious tuna with rice and potato salad. We also gave him the Finnish flag we had promised last time we were there with Marion and Marty. After a hilarious night at the neighbouring bar with the locals, we continued the following morning to Admiralty Bay, Bequia.

tiistai 8. maaliskuuta 2011

March 3rd 2011

Hello from Marion and Marty Owen, residents of Kodiak Island, Alaska. We are guest-blogging at the invitation of Riitta and Pekka. It all began when they sent us their email announcing they had crossed the Arctic Circle (hooray!), thereby officially completing the Northwest Passage. “Meet us in the Caribbean!” they said.

That was last September, and with our dinner cruise season winding down, the onions and carrots pulled from the garden, and an Alaska winter staring us in the face, we joyfully accepted. We agreed to rendezvous in Saint Lucia, the largest of the English speaking Windward isles, a sub-group of islands within the West Indies.

So on Tuesday, February 21, 2011 we landed at the main airport at the isle's southern end near Veiux Port. Stepping off the jet, we felt like two snowflakes touching hot pavement. Trust me, there is no way you can fully prepare for such a radical change in environment.

Little did we know, Riitta and Pekka thought our flight had landed on the north end of the island and were travelling by cab as fast as the driver dared go along dark, winding roads to meet up with us. Meanwhile, after several unsuccessful attempts to contact them by cell phone, a local tour guide stepped up to offer assistance. Do you suppose our long pants, socks and shoes gave us away?

“My name is Chris. I will buy some minutes for my mobile. You can make an international call then.” Pulling a St. Lucia phone book from his car, Chris, a husky, gentle giant of a guy, located the country code for Finland, dialed the number. In seconds Marty was talking with Pekka. This was the first of many examples of warm, Caribbean hospitality...

We continued driving north and then west around the island, toward Rodney Bay, where their sailing vessel, Sarema, is anchored. Rodney Bay is over a mile long. At the northern end, a causeway connects Pigeon Island to the mainland (St. Lucia). The bay provides protection of vessels of all shapes and sizes from around the world. As one sailor's guide described the area: “In the old days, when Europeans used to entertain themselves by sailing around in wooden boats taking pot-shots at each other, Pigeon Island was the main base for the British Navy.”

These days, Rodney Bay Marina is a busy place, a juxtaposition of coconut palms and large, private homes, shops, boatyards, defunct and prosperous restaurants, bars, steel drum music, lively cafes and colorful storefronts.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The morning dawned partly cloudy and breezy. Aboard Sarema, we enjoyed a lovely breakfast of cheeses, sliced meats, hard-boiled eggs, pineapple juice and coffee. We double-checked our list of pre-sailing priorities which included laundry, groceries, a Wi-Fi internet connection, and the customs office, and then piled into the dingy to buzz into town. As Pekka and Marty set off to the customs office to check out and get passports stamped, Riitta and I, with her laptop loaded in the backpack, sauntered over to Jambe de Bois, a combination bar, boutique and cyber-coffee shop.

We also stocked up at the local supermarket, where we found ourselves in the land of giant carrots, earthy-brown yams, and freezer cases full of frozen chicken. Seafood and chicken are the proteins of choice.

While navigating our way to the checkout stand, we received an unexpected lesson in St. Lucia history: A tall shelving unit displayed an eclectic assortment of goods: bottles of hot sauce and syrups, coconuts, bottled water, bananas, spices and Piton Beer (more on that later). Two national flags flanked a yellow poster at the top proudly declaring, “Happy Independence: Local Made Items.”

February 22 marked the 30-year anniversary of St. Lucia's independence from Britain, after a tug-of-war between two colonial powers: Changing hands 14 times between French and British rule.

Here is a quick look at St. Lucia:

Motto: “The Land, The People, The Light”
Capital: Castries
Area: 238 square miles
Population (2009): 173,765

Back at Sarema, Latte, the loyal boat dog, greeted us warmly and together we waited for the Sparkle Laundry skiff (boat) to deliver freshly-washed and (hopefully) folded clothes.

Sparkle Laundry however, was proceeded by another delivery.

“Ah, there is Mango Man!” said Riitta. Just then, a yellow motorboat, decked out with dozens of national flags waving in the breeze, approached Sarema. There were so many flags, banners and pennants, it looked like a giant decorator crab. Rolling and pitching, the skiff approached the port side. Baskets, cardboard boxes and milk crates packed with bananas, tomatoes, mangoes—a rainbow of fruits and vegetables—came into view, followed by the skipper. Marty handed him $20 EC's (Eastern Caribbean dollars) in exchange for an assortment of fresh, tropical produce—the likes of which we never experience in our grocery stores back home.

Before stowing the fruity gems however, Pekka carefully washed each one. “You don’t want to bring any cockroach eggs on board. That’s why we take our shoes off, too.” Thus began 10 days of “feet freedom.” Later on in the trip, Marty declared, “I’ve seen more of my feet in the past few days than I’ve seen in years!”

Back to our trip...the basic sailing plan was to island-hop our way south to Tobago Cays (pronounced like ”keys”) where excellent snorkelling awaited us.

After our exchange with Mango Man, Sparkle Laundry finally delivered two bags of clothes. Riitta smiled as we brought them aboard because they sometimes have a tough time keeping track of whose laundry belongs to whom.

Chores completed, we weighed anchor and departed Rodney Bay, turning SSW after passing Barrel of Reef, a low-lying rock and the southern entrance to the bay. Thankfully, the sea breeze tempered the 85-degree air. Shorts and bathing suits had long since replaced our jeans, sweatshirts and random thoughts of blizzards.

Three hours later we tied up to a mooring buoy at the base of steep-to cliffs near the town of Souffriere.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In the morning we woke up to gentle rolling and voices coming from other vessels. No anchoring is allowed in this area, according to the Soufriere Marine Management Area, or SMMA ( which oversees the extensive underwater diving and snorkelling region. Needless to say, all we had to do was don a mask, snorkel and fins and step off the stern platform to discover a beautiful underwater park of waving fan corals, brain corals, and a kaleidoscope of tropical fish.

A marine sanctuary below, there was a sanctuary of sorts above as well. A few hundred yards away, a narrow slit in the rocks was home to thousands of fruit bats. “I take you to a buoy not too close to the bat cave. The smell is like rotten eggs,” said Chili, the young “boat boy” who escorted us to our mooring buoy in his boat called the “Feel Good.”

Tuesday night we had made arrangements with Chili to hire a guide to take us around the sites around Soufriere and the Pitons, two volcanic “plugs” [mountains] that rise abruptly from the sea. St. Lucia's biggest tourist attraction, Soufriere, is a special place, and it turned out to be one of our favorites. We later learned that Oprah calls the area “one of the five must-see places in the world.” Its natural features of sandy beaches, mountains, friendly people, rainforest and waterfalls has been the backdrop of many movies. In 2004, the area was designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Our guide met us at the dock. “Call me Porgie, as in 'Georgie, Porgie, Puddin' in Pie'.” We hopped into the well-used, but very functional van and drove off, with Porgie calling out points of interest. We wound our way up the mountainside, driving on the left side of the road, enroute to the sulphur springs. (The name 'Soufriere' is a French term meaning “sulphur in the air”.)

We asked Porgie about the landslides, fallen trees and potholes in the road. “Hurricane Tomas [October 29, 2010] did a lot of damage,” he said. “Not the wind, but lots of rain.” During our second visit to Soufriere, another guide shared his account of what happened during the hurricane:”

“I was standing in my house, holding my 2-year old son. Water up to my knees and rushing outside like a river. I thought it was my last day on earth. I lost my car, everything but my house. But all is good; once I have the breath of life when I wake up in the morning. To be honest, I believe in God.”

At the sulphur springs “pools” Marty and I dipped into the mineralized water while Riitta talked with Porgie.

Later, she shared some of Porgie's hopes and dreams. “He wants to own his own boat, get married someday, but he also wants to go to university and specialize in the visitor industry,” she said. “He's good with people and has a pleasant personality... maybe he'll achieve his goal.”

Porgie was the ultimate guide, helping us locate local fruits and vegetables such as dasheen, a potato-like root crop, and locally-grown yams. To find the goodies, Porgie led us around town on foot, in and out of back alleys to visit farmers tending a table or booth.

“Do you know everybody in this town?” We asked Porgie.

“Oh, yes,” he smiled. And with that, he escorted us back to the beach to meet up with Chili, who took us back to Sarema.

We weighed anchor around noon. About an hour later, under sail, the Pitons came into view. We toasted the magnificent peaks and our new friends in Soufriere with a round of Piton beer.

Next stop: Cumberland Bay on the island of St. Vincent, known for its 3,000 foot volcanoes and Botanical Gardens, the oldest in the western hemisphere. We’re told it was here that Captain Bligh brought the breadfruit tree after the mutiny on the Bounty fiasco.

At 7 p.m. we arrived in Cumberland Bay, halfway down the west side of St. Vincent, “an island of towering mountains, craggy peaks and dramatic precipices,” says one sailing guide. I for one was glad to be in calm water, having learned after years of working aboard research ships and ocean-going tugs, that I am a much better outdoor sailor than an indoor one. We didn't see a lot of the passing landscape either, since the sky was leaden with dark clouds and rain (“It’s a rainforest,” reminds Pekka), and at 13 degrees north latitude, sunset occurs around 6 o'clock.

While writing these notes a couple days later, I happened to glance down at my feet. In the tropical heat and high humidity they are so puffy I barely recognize them as my own. “My toes look like little sausages,” I groaned. Soon we were all comparing appendages, like pregnant women showing off their bellies.

Though we were escorted into the bay by a “boat boy”, Pekka and Riitta had been in Cumberland Bay before (the last time was about five years ago) and knew the routine for tying up. Kenny, the boat boy, shouted instructions to Pekka, at the helm, and Riitta, at the anchor. With our stern to the beach, Kenny told Riitta to let the anchor go. Pekka then handed Kenny a line from the stern and off he went to secure us to the beach.

After a few adjustments, Pekka shut down the engine and we were soon dining on grilled turkey sausages, yams, salad and wine. The constellation Orion smiled at us from the heavens while a chorus of tree frogs and steel drum music serenaded us from shore. The acrid-sweet smell of charcoal fires added to the evening's ambience.

Orion the Hunter is one of my favorite constellations, featuring the three stars of Orion's belt, plus Rigel, Bellatrix and Betelgeuse, the red star.

Do you know how to find the brightest star in the sky? First of all, the brightest star is Sirius, which is twice the size of our own sun. To find Sirius, locate the three stars in Orion’s belt, then follow them downward to Sirius. You can’t miss it.

Ursa Major, the Big Dipper which points to the North Star, is another favorite. These are my celestial navigation friends. When I worked on research ships as a licensed Third Mate I was very fortunate to work with quartermasters and mates who had sailed during WWII and were willing to pass along many of the old ways of navigating. To scribe a tiny triangle on a chart, the result of reducing a sight from three different stars, was like learning one of the wonders of the world. People who rely solely on GPS don't know what they are missing...

One more thing...I recently learned something very interesting about astronomy. The scientific knowledge of the ancient rishis (in India) was very great and the Hindus were far advanced in astronomy. An article in East-West (Feb.1934) said that as early as 3100 B.C. they already knew about the movement of planetary bodies in our solar system, the earth's spherical form, the law of gravitation and even the reflected light of the moon—facts that did not dawn in the Western world until the time of Copernicus and Newton.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Breakfast under sunny skies, consisted of cheeses, bread, zucchini slices, lettuce, mustard and coffee. And to think that two weeks ago, I was in Anchorage, Alaska, photographing snowflakes under a microscope. Air temperature: 15 degrees F.

A small boat pulled up alongside. “Fresh tuna! You like fresh tuna?” Riitta leaned over the rail to negotiate and for $50 EC we had ourselves a beautiful tuna fish, which passed Latte’s canine inspection.

Just as we settled down to another cup of coffee, a young man paddling a surfboard appeared. “My name is Tyrone. I can clean your fish for you.” Though usually very willing to support the local economy, Pekka declined, preferring to clean his own fish.

That wasn’t the end of it though. Pekka and Riitta are quite understanding and generous, and didn’t wish for him to leave empty handed. Riitta gave Tyrone a couple t-shirts and a length of mosquito netting.

Later, another skiff appeared. This time it was an older man named Joseph who stopped by Sarema for a visit with old friends.

“We have met Joseph several times between 2003 and 2005,” Riitta said. “He lives in a small house and has a restaurant, Joseph's Bar and Restaurant, located right on the beach. He comes to our boat to ask if we would like to have dinner. We usually say yes so he knows he has at least two customers. Then he goes fishing, or sends someone else out to catch the fish. We usually have rice, fish and vegetables. Very basic, but very good.”

We watched Joseph row back to shore in his 8-foot, double-ender wooden skiff. You could tell the vessel had been customized to suit his needs: Wooden pegs served as oarlocks and between the pegs, on each side, the sole from a rubber sandal was tacked on to the wood, preventing the back and forth action of the oar from wearing into the wood rail.

After dishes, Riitta announced, “Let's hike to the village.” So, Marty, Riitta and I climbed into the dingy and hand-over-handed our way along the stern line to the beach. We walked along the shoreline, waved to Joseph and turned to follow a well-worn footpath which took us inland and up into a green valley. We passed gardens of tobacco, eggplant, pumpkin and corn.

I liked Cumberland Bay. Coconut trees lined the shore and the hillsides surrounding the bay were dappled with fields of banana, papaya and pineapple, plus a sprinkling of modest homes. It felt friendly and appeared unspoiled by tourism, though you could tell that “the times they are a changin’” as the community shifts from a subsistence-based economy to a cash-based one. I'm sure many people would say the locals are unsophisticated, even poor. And the town may appear that way on the outside, but the residents seemed rich in many ways, as we would soon learn.

After wading across a stream of crystal clear water we met up with Tyrone, who was also on his way to the village. We asked him lots of questions about local plants, the hydro-electric power plant, the weather, you name it.

The path soon turned into a paved road. Official-looking trucks and small vans sped by as we strolled through a tight collection of brightly-colored homes with fenced-in yards and gardens, a health clinic and a school. In a roadside bar, men and women watched a cricket game on TV.

We crossed a steel bridge and started down a dirt road which paralleled a wood-stave water pipe. “I bet it leads to the power station,” said Marty. Marty refilled his water bottle from a small jet of water gushing from the pipe. How fortunate that the community has hydro power and doesn't depend on deliveries of diesel fuel.

A woman carrying leafy greens and a bucket of potatoes caught up with us. “Is this the way back to the beach?” we asked her.

“Yes, yes, no problem. When you reach the fence, go right and follow that path around the hydro station.” The hydro station was nestled in a lovely valley setting of pineapple fields, coconut palms, bananas, wildflowers...

We stopped for a few moments as the woman checked on her pigs, penned up in a covered enclosure. She owned property up the road, complete with goats, chickens and an extensive garden. I had a feeling she was well off.

“My son is working in Canada, building furniture and cabinets,” she said. “But it is too cold, so he is coming home soon. He lives right there, pointing to an unfinished concrete block house. “He will finish it when he gets back.”

She smiled and lifted the bucket onto her head with a quick, arching movement of her arm and took leave of us.

Further down the path, we met another woman balancing a sack of cabbages on her head and a carrying a bucket of green tomatoes. She wore a bright green shirt and a red and black plaid skirt. She graciously allowed me to take her picture. I felt honored and humbled at the same time, and sent her a silent blessing as we continued on our way.

We re-crossed the river and picked up the original footpath, passing goats and cows along the way. We found Joseph near the beach and asked him if he'd mind letting our line go when it was time to get underway.

“No problem. Just yell for me when time. And when you come back, I will make a package [dinner] for you.” We walked along the beach, laughing as we saw the sign for wireless internet service painted on a small, concrete jetty.

When it came time to leave, we signalled Joseph to let our line go. As I watched him slowly and haltingly make his way down the sandy beach, I understood why he spent so much time each day in his little boat. I felt a little sad, yet quite enriched for having crossed the gentle man's path.

We departed Cumberland Bay around 11 A.M. and sailed south for 15 miles, arriving in Admiralty Bay on the west side of Bequia Island, part of the country of St. Vincent-Grenadines. Flying fish skipped along the wave tops. Riitta was hoping to spot a humpback whale, but no luck. Speaking of whales, Bequia used to be an active whaling station, though thankfully, the tradition is dying out.

As Sarema entered Admiralty Bay we passed a cruise ship while inter-island ferries and coastal cargo ships busied the harbor, filled with a hundred or more yachts. Small tenders [boats] offering all kinds of services to yachters such as water, diesel, ice, groceries and laundry services buzzed around the bay. Hmmm, I didn't have the same warm and enchanted feeling as I did in Cumberland Bay, though the sign hanging in the customs office shined a positive light on my attitude.

Our visit was not a touristy-leisurely one since we had things to do. Our list consisted of checking in with the customs office, buying some produce, and locating a WiFi-friendly cafe. Oh, and we had a special task: Find some rum-raisin ice cream. Mission accomplished on all counts, we motored back to Sarema, just before darkness fell.

Friday, February 25, 2011

We departed right after breakfast in order to make the 30-mile trip to our southernmost destination, the Tobago Cays, before dark. It was a wonderful sail: a strong Nor'easterly and sunny skies. I could see why people enjoy the sailing life. We made good time, anchoring up in daylight.

Tobago Cays is a collection of coral reefs in the southern Grenadines. The approach is quite tricky though, and not something you want to attempt at night. The water was clear and turquoise blue, like blue of a glacier. Several hawksbill turtles surfaced to breathe near the boat. The wind was too strong to venture out to the main reef though. Pekka was not to be detoured however. Pekka, Marty and I (Riitta had the sniffles) grabbed snorkel gear and skiffed to a nearby island. Lucky us--even in shallow water, we came across more turtles, schools of fish and a couple sting rays.

We went to bed early, hoping for a change in the weather.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Winds of 25 to 35 knots with driving rain buffeted Sarema all night. The clothes we’d hung out to dry last night were wetter than before. It was too nasty for snorkelling so we spent the day on board, reading, grazing on good food, napping, and blogging. After lunch, Pekka grated fresh coconut, or copra, into a bowl using a metal scraper that looked like a giant spoon on one end. The spoon end was serrated all the way around... perfect for shredding pulp from a coconut half.

Then he packed a clean towel with the copra and squeezed it until milk trickled into a bowl. Later we dined on coconut-curry chicken—the real thing. When we first came on board Sarema, Riitta said, “It will be like camping.” Marty declared later, “It's more like 'gourmet' camping!”

Sunday, February 27, 2011

We departed Tobago Cays at 9 A.M. arriving at 5 P.M. at Admiralty Bay - eight hours of tacking back and forth into a 30 to 35-knot headwind. Now I understand why some people might NOT enjoy sailing. Still, we made the best of it. Besides, it's not what life dishes out to you so much as how you react to it. (On the grand scheme of being at sea, the weather wasn’t THAT rough--the largest seas I've ever experienced was during a typhoon which generatede 50 to 60 foot waves). We enjoyed the sunshine, dabbed on more suntan lotion, watched for Tropicbirds and whales, nibbled on homemade banana bread (delivered in Tobago Cays), napped and told stories. Latte wore her favorite life jacket.

During the trip I developed a healthy respect and appreciation for products, such as suntan lotion, that are made especially for children. “They have less chemicals,” explained Riitta. Good to remember.

We went ashore to find the pizzeria that Pekka and Riitta remembered as the one that served a wonderful lobster pizza...

Monday, February 28, 2011

This morning we enjoyed coffee and leftover pizza for breakfast. Marty politely avoided the anchovy slices. We took on some fuel and purchased bottled water, wooden clothespins, rum, and fruit juice from a boat boy. Then we went ashore to check emails (Riitta and Pekka smiled at photos of their grandkids), buy fresh wheat bread, bananas and pineapple and--you guessed it--ice cream.

With engine work to do, Pekka returned to Sarema while Riitta, Marty and I hired a taxi-guide to show us around the island of Bequia for a couple hours. Our favorite spot was the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary. There we met Orton G. King who has spent most of each day since August 1995 tending his precious and endangered hawksbill turtles which are raised from infancy and re-released into the wild.

In addition to a cash donation, we bought t-shirts to further support the sanctuary.

We departed Admiralty Bay at 9 P.M. after a savory dinner of grilled chicken, onions, red peppers and potatoes. The plan was to sail all night and arrive in Piton Bay and anchor up between the two prominent peaks, sometime in the late morning. As luck would have it, we were greeted by more headwinds which made for a long night of tacking. I was impressed with Riitta and Pekka’s skills and agility as they adjusted sails and made their way around a slippery deck. It was like watching a choreographed dance...

After a brief nap braced against the galley table, I climbed the ladderway into the cockpit where I found Riitta on watch. “You should have a look,” she said. “The Alaska stars are out.”

I poked my head through the blue canvas awning and there, dead ahead, was the Big Dipper, upside down, as if spilling her “contents” into the ocean. It was a moonless night, so the sky was awash with layer upon layer of stars. So, so beautiful. Even in Kodiak, Alaska, which is fairly free of light pollution, you can't see so many stars. Perhaps I'll return someday with my big camera and tripod, to do some night photography. (Just before leaving on this trip I spent a couple hours in the boatyard photographing fishing vessels under a star-studded sky).

Before retreating back into the cabin I happened to glance down at the waves churning against the hull.

“Wow, stars in the water!” I thought.

Phosphorescence sparkles lit up the water a la green and white. I thought of the time years ago, while standing in the bow observation chamber on the NOAA Ship Oceanographer. It was night time, and we were steaming from Hawaii south to the equator to deploy deep-sea moorings. In the chamber, some two fathoms below the surface and fitted with viewing ports, we watched in awe as dolphins dipped and darted around the bow of the ship, the outlines of their bodies lit up by green phosphorescence. Every so often, the ship's bow would lift up in a swell to reveal the night sky filled with stars. I’ll never forget that night...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

We finally tied up to a mooring in Piton Bay at 11:30 in the morning. We were all pretty tired, but Riitta had her sights set on cooking bacon and eggs for breakfast. (In case you think the meal excessively protein, we had nibbled on fresh papaya and mangoes during the night cruise). Then, a nap, which found Marty snoring within minutes...

Nothing like a good snorkelling session to follow a nap, right?

Pekka whipped up a fine dinner of pasta, salad and pineapple. Would that be red wine or white? Cold beer or coffee?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Since Marty and I were scheduled to leave on Thursday, I was grateful to wake to blue skies. After breakfast we took the skiff around the base of Piton mountain back to Soufriere. We tracked down Chili to arrange for tomorrow’s ride to the airport, checked out with the authorities, bought a few groceries and celebrated with a round of ice cream. Lunch followed in a waterfront restaurant where we ordered “Rotis”, a sort of Caribbean wrap. I made a mental note to develop a similar signature dish for our dinner cruises.

The docks were buzzing with activity as boats-for-hire offloaded scores of passengers from nearby hotels and motels. As we skiffed back to Sarema, the beachfront neighbourhoods passed by. It was a kaleidoscope for the senses: colorful clothes hanging out to dry, red, yellow and blue-hulled boats bobbing in the waves, dogs barking, cars beeping, kids running around... I tried to take it all in.

Back at the boat, we prepped for one last dip underwater: Another layer of suntan lotion. Check. Mask, snorkel and fins. Check. Underwater camera. Check. The four of us then hopped into the dingy to snorkel among the boulders and rocks at the base of Piton mountain. We saw barrel-like sponges, the size of 55-gallon drums, and parrotfish.

Before returning to Sarema, I had one last project to complete: To draw a snow crystal (or a sand-flake, as Riitta called it) in the sand.

Later on, an afternoon shower developed into a rainbow - a perfect accent to a lovely day.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

As Chili’s boat, the Feel Good, pulled away from Sarema with Marty and I on board, we waved to Pekka, Riitta and Latte. We looked back again and blew kisses. How could we ever express our heartfelt appreciation and love for sharing their world with us, except to say that we look forward to crossing paths with them again...perhaps in Alaska.

We boarded an American Airlines jet to begin the journey back to Kodiak: Marty to resume his job as harbormaster and me to plant a garden and teach photography classes at Kodiak College; and for both of us to prepare for a busy B&B and dinner cruise season.

Thanks for visiting this blog. To you, the reader, we extend the invitation, “Meet us in Alaska!”

Cheers and blessings to you,

Marion and Marty Owen

1223 W Kouskov
Kodiak, AK 99615