Too Many Drummers.com
Journal 1 - The Land Downunder
Journal 2 - Indonesia
Journal 3 - Singapore & Malaysia
Journal 4 - Thailand 1
Journal 5 - Thailand 2
Journal 6 - Indian Ocean
Journal 7 - Red Sea
Journal 8 - Egypt
Journal 9 - Suez to Israel to Petra
Journal 10 - Turkey
Journal 11 - Greece & Italy
Journal 12 -
Balearics, Gibraltar, Canaries
Journal 13 -
Canaries to Cape Verde to Atlantic
Journal 14 - Barbados to
Journal 15 - Trinidad
Journal 16 - Bahamas DC-3 Plane Wreck
Journal 17 - 34 Things I've Learned in 33,000 Miles
BARBADOS TO GRENADA
We have a large world map in the main salon of Exit Only that we use to
follow our progress across the globe. 12 years ago, someone (probably Mom)
cut out a 2-inch tall picture of a Privilege 39 (that’s our boat) from a
brochure and stuck it on the map. Every time we complete another leg of the
trip we move the little boat another few inches. It’s hard to believe we’re
coming up on 2 years since we left Australia. Time is flying.
Barbados lies nearly 100 miles upwind of the Caribbean island chain. For
those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, traveling “upwind” (or “to
windward”) means you are heading your boat in the direction the wind is
coming from. Since wind determines wave size and direction, whenever you
travel to windward you have to bash against the waves as you go. Most people
don’t like going to windward so Barbados isn’t a popular cruising
destination, but for those of us arriving from the Atlantic it is perfect.
It was awesome to pull into Bridgetown, Barbados and declare another ocean
crossing victory. Morgan did a fantastic job of crewing and we all enjoyed
having him along for the ride from Gibraltar. Alas, family beckoned him back
to the frozen tundra of Canada. Exit Only soon became a three man crew once
again. But not for long because…..Sarah visits!
Sarah flew down from Kentucky to spend a few days reacquainting with the
yachtie lifestyle. A few highlights of her visit and our subsequent island
1. Taking the minibus up the coast - I don’t know how so many cars
got onto an island as small as Barbados, but the roads are absolutely packed
with traffic. Fortunately public transport is a viable way to get around the
island as long as you pack a g-suit to keep yourself from blacking out as
the bus exceeds the laws of physics. Oh, and bring ear plugs.
2. Snorkeling the wrecks off the main beach - Someone had the awesome
idea to sink three small tugboats in about 30 feet of water off the main
beach. The local fish moved in and turned the ghostly wrecks into artificial
reefs. Some of the coolest snorkeling ever.
3. Weekend Market - The Caribbean soft sell technique was a welcome
change from the guerilla fruit and veggie markets we‘ve grown accustomed to.
Bajan (that’s what Barbados natives are called) vendors don’t take it
personally if you don’t buy from them and no one tried to overcharge us.
The economy is buoyed on the never ending parade of cruise ships and the
cash they bring in. Everything except for the weekend fruit market is
expensive. One restaurant tried to sell us a rotisserie chicken for $16 US.
Not a cheap place. We were soon ready to move on.
Until we arrived in the Caribbean my concept of cruising was based around
crossing oceans. Blue water cruising requires good seamanship and a healthy
respect for the power of the elements. You might survive without either of
those traits, but I’m not going to sail with you.
In contrast, the Caribbean is one of the easiest cruising destinations I’ve
seen. The islands are close enough to make a day hop and still have time to
swim before the sun sets at a new anchorage. I never knew such a cool
cruising ground existed so close to the US.
As we neared Bequia on a pleasant downwind skid from Barbados, sailboats
materialized out of squalls in all directions. It was our first encounter
with the Caribbean charter yacht industry.
How did we know they were charter boats?
1. The boats were charging directly into 15 foot waves.
2. They were under full sail in +30 knots of wind and squally weather
3. They were close enough to shore to cast a shadow on land.
4. No one acts like that if they own their boat. It costs way too
much to fix things.
For those who don’t know, “chartering“ means “renting a boat“. There are two
kinds of yacht charter: bareboat and captained. On the bareboat route you
are responsible for captaining and running the boat by yourself. Otherwise
you can hire an experienced charter captain to run the vessel for you.
Chartering rocks. It’s the way to go if you want to cruise for a week or so
without the financial responsibility of owning and maintaining a sailboat.
But within the full-time cruising community charter boats have a well-earned
reputation for extremely bad seamanship. Caribbean cruising is inescapably
intertwined with the charter industry so you’ll hear me mention charter
yachts frequently in this journal entry.
We arrived in Admiralty Bay, Bequia during high season. We dropped anchor in
the back of the bay and spent the next two weeks watching yachts drag
through the crowded anchorage.
A Quick Lesson in Anchoring Politics
Good anchoring is a mixture of common sense and smart gear choices. If you
have good anchor tackle and drop in an intelligent place (one where you
don’t endanger your boat or anyone else), you’re good to go. Unfortunately
there are tons of people who haven’t figured this out yet. In an attempt to
save money and weight they buy too small of an anchor for their boat size
(almost all charter boats are underpowered in the anchor department).
Frequently those people compound disaster by anchoring directly upwind of
someone else, ensuring that when then their overmatched anchor fails they
will careen into their downwind victim of choice.
Squally weather turned Admiralty Bay into a demolition derby. Wind bullets
exceeding 30 knots shot through the anchorage, punishing insufficient anchor
tackle. The head of the bay became an increasingly dangerous place as more
yachts crowded in to escape the stormy conditions.
The yachtie community was quick to hail any yachts over the VHF radio who
they suspected of dragging. Conversations went something like this:
Concerned Yachtie: “Dragging Boat, Dragging Boat…this
is Concerned Yachtie. Do you copy?”
Dragging Boat: “………”
Concerned Yachtie: “Dragging Boat, Dragging Boat…I am directly behind
you and you are dragging into me. Do you COPY?”
Dragging Boat: “………”
Concerned Yachtie: “Does anyone out here know where the captain of
Dragging Boat is?”
Other Yachtie: “Concerned Yachtie, this is Other Yachtie. I saw Dragging
Boat’s captain playing dominos at the restaurant 20 minutes ago.”
Concerned Yachtie: “Thanks for that, Other Yachtie. So he‘s not on board
Other Yachtie: “That’s a roger. I talked to him for five minutes and he
said he’s got an oboe lesson this afternoon.”
Concerned Yachtie: “AAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”
Friday the 13th
We didn’t realize the date until it was too late to batten down the hatches.
By the morning of Friday the 13th the squally weather in Bequia
was beginning to subside. At 9 am I was in the forward compartment of the
port hull when Exit Only gave an almighty shudder and groan. The whole boat
jerked again, but I was already running upstairs to see what happened.
The immediate horizon was filled with a scene straight out of every
cruiser’s nightmare: a 115 megayacht rammed our port bow.
I’m not going to go into great detail about the incident because the
megayacht’s crew were really cool and handled everything professionally
(which was no small achievement in the face of how ballistic dad, mom, and I
went). To make a long story short, they paid for the damage. Fortunately we
were spared any structural damage to the fiberglass although our stainless
steel bow pulpit needs to be completely replaced. We tried to get the work
done in Trinidad but none of the stainless places could fit us in during the
Carnival rush. Thus Exit Only remains slightly disfigured as we ply the
Caribbean waters with one mangled pulpit.
On the plus side our extremely visible battle scars keep other yachts wary
of anchoring too close to us.
The Tobago Cays lie just south of St. Vincent in the Grenadines. It is the
most famous and popular anchorage in the area, but also the coolest. The
Cays are the first place we’ve been where I could jump in from the boat and
swim with sea turtles.
The turtles don’t seem to mind the company. They happily munch away on
seaweed while snorkeling tourists “ooh” and “aaah” above them. If they feel
threatened, a simple twist of a fin is enough to launch them into submarine
Twice, I got close enough to rub a turtle‘s shell. The first time my new
friend didn’t respond except to quicken his pace. The second time the turtle
whipped around to give me a reptilian equivalent of “you want a piece of me,
It’s amazing how quickly you can back away from an annoyed
sea turtle when you are really motivated. They are much less cute when their
beak is heading towards your abdomen.
Looks Like a Chase to the Death to Me
On our second day in the Tobago Cays a small charter boat crewed by a German
couple anchored next to us. They were too close so we decided to pull up our
anchor and move, which proved to be a good thing in the havoc that was to
Early the next morning, a large green sailboat in front of us raised their
mainsail and prepared to raise anchor (I’m still not sure why people raise
their mainsail first. The problem with trying to sail through a crowded
anchorage is that you can’t stop quickly and your ability to maneuver is
extremely limited. It’s probably handy if your engine dies, I suppose.).
I happened to be on deck to watch the drama unfold as the green boat lost
control and plowed into the bow of the little German charter yacht. Both
yacht crews stood helplessly as the green vessel dragged inexorably down the
length of their victim.
And then the amazing thing happened…..the green boat just kept going.
To be more precise, the captain of the green boat shrugged to the horrified
Germans and kept right on sailing.
There are a few accepted ways for victims of a nautical hit-and-run to
1. Numbly watch the collision and ensuing getaway, then calmly survey
the damage. Make a phone call to the charter company to let them know and
request instructions. This is what the ice-water-cool German guy did.
2. Shriek your rage at the sky and shake your fist at your departing
foe. Load all cannons to rake his mizzen with a broadside (whatever that
3. Don an eye patch, buy a parrot, and invest in puffy-sleeved white
shirts. Devote the remainder of your life to plundering the Caribbean, one
green sailboat at a time.
4. Raise anchor and follow the green boat until he tires or you die
(at which point you continue to dog their wake on a ghost ship). Bring the
shrugger to justice with the resolve of a hungry leech.
We nearly moved to Grenada in 1984. I didn’t know it at the time, but mom
and dad strongly considered returning to the Caribbean after a couple years
in Saudi. In the end nothing came of the job opportunity and we lived in
Riyadh for many more years of adventure…our visit to Grenada was an
interesting glimpse down the other Trouser Leg of Possibility. We got a
chance to see what our life would have been like had we moved.
The differences between Grenada and Riyadh can be neatly summed up in one
OK, there are a few other differences. Grenada is an island. It has miles of
rugged coastline and a proud collection of steep rainforest peaks. It’s
capital, St. George’s, is hailed by many a guidebook as “the most beautiful
town in the Caribbean”.
St. George’s Lagoon
We spent one night in a marvelous little yacht lagoon at St. George’s. We
would have stayed longer but for two reasons:
a) little to no wind made the lagoon extremely hot
b) we woke up to find muddy footprints in our cockpit left by a would-be cat
burglar who visited us in the night (good thing we don’t have any pets….hah,
bet he was disappointed).
When we went around the lagoon to warn other boats about our nocturnal
visitor we learned that this was the third consecutive night of attempted
boat theft. In fact, two nights previously a yachtie spotted someone
swimming through the anchorage on a floating buoy at 3 am. He raised the
alarm but the culprit got away.
Fortunately the burglar didn’t find anything worth taking when he visited
Plastic Rocket Sled of Doom
Before we left St. George’s, dad bought mom something she’s been eying for
years: a kayak. We’ve been looking at them all through the trip but never
found one small enough to fit comfortably on our deck until we stumbled
across one at a chandlery in Grenada. It's called a "Ripper" and it's awesome.
Seeking a more secure anchorage, we ducked around the southern tip of
Grenada and into Prickly Bay. To my everlasting delight, Prickly Bay
features at surf break at it’s mouth. Just the place to put
our new kayak through it’s paces.
It’s always a little unnerving the first time you visit an unfamiliar surf break.
I was extra cautious because I was alone and didn’t want to flip over and get
sucked out to sea by current. I’d never surfed a kayak before and wasn’t
entirely sure how this was going to work....fortunately for me the kayak knew
what to do.
I quickly discovered that wave kayaking is much easier than surfing. All you
have to do to catch a wave is point the boat in the right direction, start
paddling, and scream.
The real challenge is getting back out through the surf once you’ve ridden a
wave in. You can easily dive under a wave with a surfboard, but kayaking
offers no such option. It’s all about timing, gritting your teeth, and
charging the whitewater. Oh yeah, and screaming.
Testing a charter boat to destruction
Turtle sanctuary in Bequia
Do. Not. Drop. Dad's. Camera.
Fire dept. kitted out with 2 new Defenders
Putting the Ripper through it's paces