Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday, again.

This is the finish line of the week. Normally a happy occasion. Unfortunately, the Barco crew is making a sad trip to Tampa/St Pete; A person close to the Spousal Unit had the worst news possible on late Tuesday afternoon. A twelve year old child had been in an accident and did not make it back home.

There is nothing a person can say to mitigate the incredible grief. An entire industry in Florida has reacted, showering a shattered family with well wishes and sympathy. This is a credit to the bright youngster and the well regarded father and mother.

There will be an unscheduled trip and RON (Aviation term for remain overnight) in support of the funeral and bereaved family.

I just cannot imagine the depth of agony and feeling of loss.

Stay safe out there.

Barco Out.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sorry about the delay in return; Wednesday Edition

Ok, my bad. I have been slacking on this blog, and I know that there are nice readers who tune in daily for whatever I happen to be typing.

Last on the big trip story; We are in Guadeloupe, partying with Pierre Louis and others on our sailboats. I will return to that later...

Today is a a brief description of a decent weekend on the St Johns River. After the last post we cleaned up and packed an overnight bag. The Barco was going to be occupied, one way or another. The weather was getting cooler, and the grey clouds looked a bit ominous. No matter; A day on the boat beats a day in front of the tv.

Arrived at the boat about 1300, loaded up and untied lines. The boat was readied, fuel and fluids checked and decidedly prepared, we were. Started motors and pulled out with a Northerly wind pushing us off the dock. I managed to not hit any pilings and we were underway by 1400.

We passed NAS Jax and I decided to do a pass by of the Navy Jax Yacht Club, I knew they were preparing for the Change of Command to be held at 1900. I noticed some scurrying about but did not try to contact them. They would have tried to talk us into pulling in and joining the festivities. The winds were beginning to pick up and I decided to just pass by and head South.

This is an eagle that was actively hunting fish. He had just grabbed a skate, which turned out to be too large to carry. The skate broke free in flight and did a tumble crash into the water. Note the clouds.

We cleared out of the marina bound for either Collee Cove or Six Mile Creek. This would mean either anchoring or a dock, depending what the winds were doing.

Once again, we were practically alone on the river. There were maybe three other boats on the river, and they were sailboats enjoying the steady breeze. I was feeling a little envious, but I was in an enclosed flybridge and was not feeling any of the wind.

I was reading a little Florida history, and got this little tidbit about William Bartram, famous for exploring the St Johns river in 1775 of whom the Hwy 13 road is named "Bartram Trail". Interesting person, he was known to the Timucuan Indians as "Puc-Puggy", which meant 'Flower Hunter'. Bartram owned a plantation between Six Mile Creek and the East bank of the St Johns River. Too cool!

Puc-Puggy muddied his boots in this swamp! Trying always to be close to history, yes we am.

When we reached Green Cove Springs, we revelled in the clear skies that had opened for us. Funny how the weather will do this on the St Johns River, it will be overcast at Jacksonville but get twenty miles down range and it is a new day.

This is a look behind us:

We arrived as sun was setting and tied up at Outback Crab Shack finding an almost empty dock for our travels. The beautiful sunset was in the trees as a pair of couples walked by and looked us over curiously, but left us alone save one brave soul who had to ask what we were up to.

"Here for Dinner..."

Walked the 25 yard stretch to the restaurant, checked in and ordered. Two pounds of crab and a dozen oysters for SWWBO, while I had a burger and fries. Add the bar tab (another 25 bucks) and we did the whole experience for about 75 bucks. Not bad considering if we had docked at the St Augustine City Marina we would have been clipped for $80.00 just for dockage!

Returned to a warm boat where we started up the generator for heat and had a quick bottle of Montand for starlit nightcaps. We secured the genny and commenced snooze operations at 2100. We left a quarter bottle of bubbly up on deck, a most satisfactory Saturday night out on the town!

Reveille was promptly at the crack of 0730, a pot of coffee was started while we took in lines off the dock. Underway precisely at 0800, with the Spousal Unit undocking us with skill. We headed out to a sunshiny river while I was below making belgian waffles on the Presto Waffle Iron.

Here is a view from the flybridge of the River and the Shands (Green Cove Springs) Bridge;

As we traveled North, with a Southerly breeze following, the clouds started piling up and the weather began to look disagreeable. Our dock was getting a vicious little cross wind but I was determined to dock with one approach. I came in with our nose pointing about 45 degrees to the right and crabbing, but we managed to not hit any pilings. As soon as the port stern spring line was secured I straightened up the boat with a tiny goose on the starboard throttle.

We looked like experts, there. If only for a second.

Great weekend.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I loves a Saturday!

Saturday morning... Especially sunny Saturday mornings are my favorite time of the week. So much hope for doing cool things, fun stuff like cleaning the house, pressure washing the drive way and maybe clearing the dense clutter from the garage.

Except that we are going to the Barco, instead. I think boating has to happen because the weather is here, I wish I was beautiful.

Went to the Wine Warehouse on Edgewood, yesterday. They had some Montand bubbly for $8.99 a bottle so I felt the urge to spend $114.00 for a case. Good stuff, and it travels well from France. We like to have a bottle while bubbling in the jacuzzi and it is priced right.

As I was collecting up some bottles I heard a familiar voice calling from the front door. I squinted into the glare and saw my Mom coming in. It wasn't a mistake. My Mom was actually coming in and she caught me grabbing bottles of firewater.

In trouble, again!

I bought Mom a few bottles of wine for her stash so it was lucky for both of us. She got to see me for a moment and I got the pleasure of saving her a few bucks. It's what I do, right?

Got the bubbly home and cooked up some beautiful steaks for Spousal Unit, which we ate with great gusto along with a 2003 Chateauneuf De Pape. Dessert was tv with a bottle of the Montand.

Taps was at 9:00 PM.

We will do a couple laps around the neighborhood and head out to the bateau for some river cruising. Maybe we will anchor someplace cozy and hopefully be able to watch the stars.

Saturdays are awesome!

The only way this could possibly be better would be if the Roadrunner show was on and I could be over at Mom's having french toast!

Have a wonderful weekend!

It is 1045, the clouds shot in and obscured the sun. We did our laps and noticed the clouds thickening. I guess I jinxed it by being so happy about the weather.

We are still going to the boat. Hah!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Off to Dominica

After having fun in Martinique, we felt the need to cross some more islands off the list.

Before we were able to leave, there had been some real big winds and choppy seas. Our anchors were dug in well, so I spent an entire day just getting the anchors pulled up.

Most boats have a device called a windlass, it uses mechanical strength to wind up the chain and rope on the anchor rode. We only had the Mk 1 Mod 0 Me to pull them up. The first anchor came up so easily, I found that it had not been holding anything. The second anchor, the one I almost carelessly tossed over the side was the one doing the actual holding. In fact, I could not pull it up. I tied the line to the forward cleat and tried to use the mass of the Wildebeest to break it free.


I didn't want to cut the anchor free. It was a "Fortress 37", and these things run about $300.00. No way would I just toss that away.

There was swimming to be done; I donned my fins and mask and dove. The anchor was too deep for me to freedive, so I had to use a boat hook and grab the line which was on the bottom. I couldn't even see the anchor.

The line was grabbed up, I passed the line to SWWBO, and we pulled the line along until I found the obstruction. A coral head. I dived back into the water and grabbed the other side and cut the line at the head. We pulled the anchor back aboard and got underway for a fuel stop at the Fort De France downtown. After fuel and water we went back and re anchored without incident.

Reveille was held at 0400, we pulled the anchor up and left Anse a L'ane for good. We set sail and headed North for Dominica.

There are no natural harbors, so we hoped to anchor in the last small indentation on the North end. It was a beautiful day to sail and we saw some puffer fish, a sleeping whale and the ever present dolphins. It was a great six hour sail!

We anchored off the Northwest end, by Portsmouth. We were one of the two or three boats there. The holding was so-so, due to all the sand having been scoured out of the harbor the year before by hurricane Lenny.

It took a couple of attempts, but we finally got the hook embedded and I went ashore to sign in. There was a plan to go ashore again at 0900 for a trip to the parrot park up in the mountains. Nice island, wouldn't mind returning, but the weather made us make an unscheduled departure.

Returning aboard from the check in process, we barbecued some chicken and had a couple bottles of wine with dinner. We watched the beautiful sun set behind us and we played cribbage until about 2100.

About 0300, we were awakened by the worst rolling we had ever done at anchor. It was like a hundred power boats were flying through the anchorage, tossing incredible wakes which seemed like they were going to capsize us!

The wind shifted from the normal East to an abnormal Southwest, which brought swells and rolly seas. We tried to just sleep through it but it was no use. We tried to pull up the anchor, but it was jammed in some rocks. Not again!

I muscled it and finally used the weight of the boat to yank that hook back up. Running forward, I managed to grab the line and anchor before we got dug in again. The anchor was bent, ruined on the blades. I actually wrecked a danforth anchor!

We secured our gear, and with no planning we headed South with a following sea. It looked like either Point A Pitre (center of the butterfly shape island) or Basse Terre, the Southwest side of the landmass.

It was pretty choppy as we tried to figure out the destination. As we passed Isle de Saints, the water settled down and the day cleared to the normal warm and sunny state.

The fun meter had slipped a little, but we were still enjoying the event.

We snuck into a little cove with a marina. There was no one to answer our radio hails on channel 16, so in we went. There was one berth open, I boldly pulled in and tied up. This meant we had to go bow first and secure to the dock and I had to swim (yuck!) another line to a mooring ball behind us. It was a modified Med Moor. We secured ourselves and I had to put some adapters on our power cable and finally we were secured and for the first time in months, we had electrical power.

Remarkably, we found ourselves on a Saturday in a marina and there was absolutely no one about!

About six hours later, a young man walked up and asked if we spoke Anglais. He introduced himself as the owner of the boat next to us on the left, his name is "Pierre-Louis D'amoiseau".

I gladly shook this friendly hand and we asked if we were ok being docked in that spot. He replied to the affirmative, "Should be no problem, shecky inn day after tomorrow..."

He went onboard his boat and made a scene of cleaning and scrubbing, but finally he succumbed to his curiosity and came over to ask where we had come from. We offered him cool beer and invited him aboard for wine and cheese. It got brutal, as we had a little boat party on the spot!

We made quite a mess and listened to Jimmy Buffett and Bob Marley to the wee hours.

Pierre kept trying to decline the offer of food and wine, but he failed.

He is an insurance office owner in Basse Terre, and he insisted on being our host in Guadeloupe for the duration of our visit.

Wonderful friend, and we are still in contact.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

New book out by Tim Dorsey

I sent Tim (I met him last year in a smoky bar, that makes us friends, right???) a couple pictures from the Hontoon trip and a link to this blog. He replied that Serge A. Storms would visit Hontoon, someday.

So I got that going for me, which is good.

Here is Tim Dorsey pitching his latest book;

I already have a copy reserved at Amazon. Steal one from the library, ok? Serge would approve.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Interesting things by my parked truck

These granite markers were just delivered to the business next door. I happened to be walking to my truck and I had to step over the stone monuments, and I casually looked down and recognized immediately the names. So I took a couple quick pics with my trusty phone camera.

I do not know the destination of these simple carved stones. Maybe the NAS or perhaps the new National Cemetery up by the airport.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Martinique Experience

Another view of the little island, hoping to see the Green Flash

We finally cleared in to Customs about five days after we arrived. The entire population was engrossed in Mardi Gras, so no business (except the business of party) was engaged in. There was about six trips across the Bay on ferry to accomplish this deal, but we got very well versed in ferry operations.

One afternoon, we got off the ferry at Anse Mitan. They had some really nice stores that catered to the sailboat crows. There weer a number of watering holes, so there was a bit of imbibing, maybe three. It was now 7:00 PM, and we thought we would head back.

The last ferry for Anse a L'ane left at 6:15. Hmmpf. Well, it was a three mile boat ride, so how far can it be to walk? There was a mountain in the way, it was in reality about a seven or eight mile hike.

We looked for a cab. The cab line was completely vacant, at 7:10 pm! WTF???? We entered a restaurant and tried to get the owner to call us a taxicab. Finally, we decided to just have dinner at this restaurant as long as the owner would call us a cab to get us home.

There was a wonderful seafood menu and we dined on some incredible dishes, to include blood sausage. First time for everything! The meal came to a close about 9:00 pm and we asked the charming owner to call a cab, since she speeka-da-lanwadge, and all that.

After three phone calls, the nice lady was stunned to find out that cabs did not run from 6:00 pm on! She was floored with embarrassment while I jokingly said that this was probably a way to get cheapskate boaters to sit for wonderful meals.

Since our hostess was as surprised as us she called for her 17 year old model quality daughter to get their personal auto and run these Americans home. Our charming driver spoke impeccable American English and she casually chatted about Martinique on the fifteen minute drive to Anse a L'ane. She mentioned that her mom never took this kind of care of her customers, so we must be someone important...

When we arrived I offered to pay for gas and her time; she gave us a little flip of the hand as a salute/declination, laughed, and thanked us for coming out to the restaurant, especially as far as we had traveled!

Our dinghy was resting at the dock where we left it and we climbed aboard, fired up the trusty Evinrude and putted into the darkness. Did I say I was really enjoying Martinique???

Out in Fort de France, the main city, we ran into American cruisers everywhere. Once, we were in some obscure pub near the big church square, went upstairs and in the darkness ran into the crew of "Dolphin". Dolphin's skipper was a retired Marine whom we had met in Bequia. It was not the last time we ran into these folks.

Note: I last ran into "Dolphin" at NAS Jacksonville, about a year and a half ago.
(Summer 2008) Small world, indeed.

Here is a view from the water of a Fat Tuesday Parade in Fort De France

Monday, January 11, 2010

Off to see the lizard; Destination: Martinique

So, underway we were, and it was late afternoon. We felt the bumpy seas in between Bequia and St Vincent, but by sunset the winds had reduced to about ten knots from the East, and the seas were quite smooth. The headsail was the only sail up for safety in the night and we were moving at five knots, which is our planning speed for passages.

There was a pasta dinner and I stayed on watch until about 2330, when I could not keep my eyes open. I gave the helm to the Spousal Unit and I relaxed on the port side cockpit trying to catch some sleep.

Sometime around 0245, I heard a worried call from herself;
"There's a bright light, it's a ship, and it's bearing down on us!!!"

I shot upright, still asleep and mumbled something like, "Huh?"

She rapidly replied, "There's a ship and it's coming down on us!"

I fumbled with my salt smeared glasses and wiped the sea gunk from my eyes and tried to focus. "Where?"

"Over THERE!"

I looked twice, since I trust that she does indeed see a ship.

"That's the moon". I tried to sound as cool as possible. Like Chester the Cheesy Cheetah.

"Oh... it popped up suddenly, I thought it was a search light."

I laid back down and promptly fell asleep. It seemed like two minutes later, she woke me up to take the watch. Thirty minutes feels like two minutes when you are tired to the bone.

The Autohelm 4000 was on the wheel, calling to me like a siren, begging me to engage her to steer the boat. Wildebeest was halfway down the coast of St Lucia, we had a beautiful full moon on our starboard, lighting the smooth ocean with a light glow. I could see no lights in the water, so I did engage that self steering, and I liked it!

I leaned back against the main sheet winch so I could prop my self up in what appeared to be an upright ready position, and snuck in some two minute cat naps which I punctuated with looking around the horizon for five minutes. No boats? Good. Close eyes.

There never was a time where I felt so comfortable and confident at night in an ocean. This was sailing. Too cool!

30 minutes prior to sunrise, I awoke the relief and went below for a proper couple hour sleep.

Our first overnight passage in the Caribbean, it was indeed all that everyone had ever described.

The approach to Martinique took longer than expected, Fort de France is tucked way up in a safe bay. We directed ourselves to Anse Mitan, and looked for room in the anchorage. There was none. Packed like sardines, they were. A quick motor to Anse A' L'ane was taken and we tucked into the Western part of the anchoring area, just clear of the ferry lane. It took two tries and we got our CQR into the rocky bottom. We dropped our lunch hook using the dinghy, on a 90 degree angle off of the main anchor.

We then dinghied ashore to catch the ferry for Fort De France, intending to check in with Customs and Immigration.

Wasted trip. Customs was closed for Mardi Gras. And the next day and the next. Good thing we are honest citizens!

Anse A L'ane is on the lower center and has a pier stuck in the middle of a half moon shaped harbor;

View Larger Map

Zoom in. It is a sweet little harbor.

If you look on the harbor to the upper right, Anse Mitan, you can see the many little boats anchored in that bay. Way too crowded for me. Anse A L'ane is more exposed to winds, but I like the ease of dinghying to shore. Did I mention the beach with French Tourists? It seems that Anse A L'ane is a popular vacation stop for French families to get away. Le Nid Tropicale being a low cost cottage resort with two restaurants. Half Lobster with Steak cost about $30.00 at the posh restaurant. Burgers and fries served at the beach side cafe. Fun!

Here is a view of Anse a L'ane, looking to the West; Wildebeest is the second boat from the right and you get a view of that little island.

We watched many sunsets in that direction and actually got to see the illusive "Green Flash" many times.

Too bad while walking the beach, I never noticed any of the ladies baking daily in the sun. I was always walking with the Spousal Unit, so there were no other ladies to be noticed by moi while we performed our daily store run.

The food; Gosh. Outstanding!!! After chicken grilled chicken, we were ready for some good food. Even the canned food was superior to the plain fare of Bequia.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I hope you don't mind another video

I have done another post with the arrival to Martinique, but there is some difficulty in finding more than one or two photo's, I know that there are more hiding somewhere in this nest we call home.

Having made that excuse, I have here some entertainment that hopefully will keep you reader's engaged;

chumann1 on You Tube has made a kite-cam and recorded himself sailing a Dana 24 (I think his boat is really cool!) Chumann1 rocks!

Was that not a wonderful video?

The weather is still too cold for much activity other than staying inside. We spent the night on Barco, the heaters did a fine job of keeping us comfortable and we enjoyed a couple cups of hot java in the warm salon.

I sit here at the Mac with a Mally cat trying to snooze on my shoulder. Have a great week!

Friday, January 8, 2010

I like Ray Stevens, too!

This has gone viral, but I like it so I'm posting it...

Ray Stevens is a guilty pleasure for many, especially at county fairs. Hope you like it, too.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Back to the present, for now

I had to be at a sales meeting this morning, and we were lectured and cheerleaded by three different sales persons, exhorting us to sell more auto, life and health policies. Huzzah!

No problem with the motivation; I need to keep my job so I can afford the fun things I have acquired and maintain all of it in working condition. Add the cold weather and my mind began to drift to another place...

Not the Caribbean.

Many years ago, I was at this place in Brunswick, Maine. Actually, we were trucked a few miles past there, I don't really remember.

But I do remember sitting in a small place, about two feet by four feet, freezing, and listening to this poem;

Rudyard Kipling

We're foot-slog-slog-slog-sloggin' over Africa -
Foot-foot-foot-foot-sloggin' over Africa -
(Boots-boots-boots-boots-movin' up an' down again!)
There's no discharge in the war!

Seven-six-eleven-five-nine-an'-twenty mile to-day -
Four-eleven-seventeen-thirty-two the day before -
(Boots-boots-boots-boots-movin' up an' down again!)
There's no discharge in the war!

Don't-don't-don't-don't-look at what's in front of you.
(Boots-boots-boots-boots-movin' up an' down again)
Men-men-men-men-men go mad with watchin' em,
An' there's no discharge in the war!

Try-try-try-try-to think o' something different -
Oh-my-God-keep-me from goin' lunatic!
(Boots-boots-boots-boots-movin' up an' down again!)
There's no discharge in the war!

Count-count-count-count-the bullets in the bandoliers.
If-your-eyes-drop-they will get atop o' you!
(Boots-boots-boots-boots-movin' up an' down again) -
There's no discharge in the war!

We-can-stick-out-'unger, thirst, an' weariness,
But-not-not-not-not the chronic sight of 'em -
Boot-boots-boots-boots-movin' up an' down again,
An' there's no discharge in the war!

'Taint-so-bad-by-day because o' company,
But night-brings-long-strings-o' forty thousand million
Boots-boots-boots-boots-movin' up an' down again.
There's no discharge in the war!

I-'ave-marched-six-weeks in 'Ell an' certify
It-is-not-fire-devils, dark, or anything,
But boots-boots-boots-boots-movin' up an' down again,
An' there's no discharge in the war!

Over and over.

The recorded version is much more descriptive.

Sometimes I feel like one of the Vonnegut characters described in "Slaughterhouse Five". That sales deal was not uncomfortable in any way, I just got bored and unhinged from the present. Boots-boots-boots...

Those that know, know!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Back to Bequia

We spent so long in Bequia that our flag was shredded.

The routine was standardized and set before long, and days turned into weeks and weeks to months.

One cool break was the Spousal Unit's Mom decided to drop into Bequia for a visit. The real nice surprise was that Sister of Spousal Unit snuck along without letting anyone (besides me) know she would be there.

On the visit day arrival, we took the St Vincent Ferry to the big island and stayed at a hotel, enjoying the amenities (like hot water, long showers, etc.). The flight came in about 1400 (2:00 PM), so we had time for some shopping and a hair cut for me.

Haircut story; We found a barber shop, but it was as prehistoric as can be. They did have one set of electric clippers, but the barber was young and did not really have much experience with non-kinky hair. I was happy to let him give me a Marine Corps styled "high and tight". The problem was really about the razor he used to shave the edges.

That's right. One of these;

He held the inside of the blade and slid it against my skin. Thankfully, I only had about four nicks. I paid about five bucks U.S. and got the heck out of there.

As I walked down the block with my girl, a youngish gent started calling for us from a block away, dodging and running by people as he gestured and motioned for us to stop.

He arrives panting and breathing hard, stops, stands straight up and says, "Welcome to St Vincent, Mon! "A pleasure to have you here!", sticks out hand for handshake.


I say, "Thanks, what do you want?"

"A dollar", says my new friend.

"Okay, why?"

"President Mitchell says that we St Vincent and Grenadians need to be especially welcoming of all tourists, because they will bring money!" Says our erstwhile host.

Who can argue with that, hmm?

I spent the next half hour reliving the scene from 1964's film, "Hard Days Night". Literally, we had to dodge aggressive beggars and panhandlers until we could get back to the hotel restaurant. It seems that tourism was way down that year, due to some earlier unpleasantness. A pale face was relatively rare in that town so people who lived locally got a little pushy because incomes were down.

Digression time;

This from the Hartford Press
Threats to Jurors in Murder Trial of White Couple
From Rick Halperin, 2 August 1997
ST. VINCENT - A missing handgun, telephone threats to jurors and the seamier side of life for some millionaire yachters in the Caribbean highlight the trial of a white American couple accused of murdering a black boatman.

West Virginians James and Penny Fletcher could hang if they're found guilty. The case has put St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the international spotlight. Not everyone is comfortable with it.

Many locals, known as "Vincys," were enraged by U.S. television reports they felt painted their island as corrupt and incapable of giving the Fletchers a fair trial under a justice system inherited from British colonizers.

Prime Minister James Mitchell - who was urged by President Clinton to ensure the Fletchers got "due process" - recently toured the United States to counter the negative publicity. No one listened, he complained.

"If I were to die tonight I would not make the CNN news," he said late Thursday. "They are not interested in our opinion."

The trial, which began Monday, is the talk of Kingstown. Residents drop what they're doing to hear the latest radio updates and discuss them.

Small crowds gather outside the old stone courthouse, with many offering support to Fletcher's parents, Robert and Kae, as they stoically take seats on the courtroom's wooden benches.

The trial's cast adds to its interest. The prime minister's chief political rival, Ralph Gonsalves, is Jim Fletcher's attorney. Prosecutor Karl Hudson-Phillips was the leading prosecutor in murder trials for the 1983 assassination of Grenada's premier, Maurice Bishop, and his Cabinet.

The victim, Jerome "Jolly" Joseph, was a popular 30-year-old boat taxi driver in Bequia, a northern Grenadine island popular with yachtsmen.

Then there are the accused: James, a 50-year-old former Huntington, W.Va., mining company executive, and his 3rd wife, Penny, 35. The wealthy couple sailed into a storm of controversy in Bequia on their yacht, the Carefree, in August 1996.

In early October, Joseph's body was found floating off Bequia with a .22-caliber bullet through the heart. He had last been seen 3 days earlier, ferrying the Fletchers to their yacht.

The Fletchers had registered a .22-caliber handgun when they arrived in St. Vincent. The gun has never been found. The couple claimed a deckhand, Benedict Redhead, stole it when he left his job in August.

But 2 witnesses have testified that Mrs. Fletcher boasted about shooting a gun only 4 days before Joseph disappeared. Others said the Fletchers tried to escape by sailing away.

"The guilty flee," Hudson-Phillips said.

Defense attorneys suggest the Fletchers were leaving to avoid an angry crowd. Locals had shouted "Murderers!" at their yacht when Joseph's boat was found abandoned, 2 bullets inside it.

Redhead the deckhand added to the drama Friday. He denied taking the gun and claimed he once caught Mrs. Fletcher hugging Joseph aboard the Carefree.

When he confronted Mrs. Fletcher, he said, she started screaming, accusing him of trying to rape her. Redhead said he left, fearing he would be shot. Redhead also said he saw Mrs. Fletcher throw a gun at her husband on several occasions.

Jurors haven't been allowed to hear locals' accounts of the Fletchers' hard-drinking ways and public brawls. In a crucial ruling, Eastern Caribbean High Court Judge Dunbar Cenac refused to allow testimony about threats Mrs. Fletcher allegedly made against blacks or a bar fight she instigated.

The trial nearly collapsed Thursday after 2 of the 12 jurors received telephone threats.

"I know where you're working. I know where you're living. ... If you know what's good for you, you will free the Fletchers," 1 juror was told by a man with a foreign accent, according to Hudson-Phillips. The 2nd threat came from someone with a local accent.

"Certain external forces are operating on this trial in order to bludgeon" justice, the prosecutor said. He called for a mistrial - which would postpone everything until the next court session in October.

The judge refused, but warned that if there were further attempts to tamper with the jury, he would have "no hesitation" stopping the trial.

That's one thing almost nobody wants, including U.S. authorities, who are closely watching the case. They don't want a prolonged trial to jeopardize their "good working relationship" with Mitchell's government, including efforts to combat drug trafficking.

Mrs. Fletcher's health is a concern. She has fainted several times during her confinement in a century-old prison, and has been treated for a possible pre-cancerous condition.

Each morning, the Fletchers sit inside a small, wooden defendants' dock, facing the jury and a portrait of the queen. Mrs. Fletcher hunches up against her husband, who drapes an arm around her shoulder. The courtroom interludes are the longest they have been together in months.

"How are the folks back home? Are they with us?" Fletcher asked reporters Thursday.

Rick Halperin

Note: Jolly Joseph's boat was used by his surviving brother, who brought freshly baked bread out to our boat, every morning. We felt very awkward, being an American boat.

Digression Off.

Before sailing to the Caribbean, this case had been scrutinized and thoroughly discussed (gossiped) in the Sailboat Cruising community. Everybody had an opinion and were divided as to innocence and guilt. The Wildebeest Crew chatted with the taxi-boat drivers in Bequia about this and we leaned towards the locals on this case, but we don't know the real facts other than the fact that visitors to St Vincent were staying away. Bequia, on the other hand, was still thriving.

1400 came and we got a taxi to the airport where the Spousal Unit had a grand reunion with her Mom and sister. Off to the ferry and away to Bequia!

An hour or so later, we collected up our still present dinghy and motored out to the Wildebeest.

I will post photos (when I find them!) as an update.

Mom and Sister had a great time and we all had fun doing the island on our own feet. There were coconuts out at Industry Bay, a visit to the Flintstones at Moon Hole, and we took a nice cruise around the island sailing in the warm spring breezes. After about ten days, the guests went home and we had to ponder our status as cruisers.

One morning, while enjoying "elevenses" at the Office Bar, Bill Sadler asked the group if it was time to appoint two new Directors to the board. Herself and I were nominated to join the Board as full resident members, to enjoy all the benefits of such membership.

We were honored, in a back handed kind of way. It had been about ten weeks and we had seen everything Bequia had, and more. Bill had been making quiet offers to the Spousal Unit to consider working in Blind Rehabilitation at the island medical center... to be voluntary at first, but maybe, if grants were found as a paid employee.

It was a nice thing to imagine, us helping the very poor, but would that keep our fridge stocked with food? Not to mention $16.00 U.S. for a case of cokes or $24.00 for a case of Hairoun beer.

Green Tea:

We needed about $150.00 a month for beverages on our boat and food was double that.

A job that paid money was needed now, our credit card debt was now about $3K and it was looking like our expenses were hovering at $2K per month and we enjoyed an excellent lifestyle. But the debt would be due, soon, so planning would enable us to be ready.

Bill was unsure of any time line leading to employment on an island that has no jobs other than B.S. art and macrame kiosks.

We decided to depart within the week, so we declined the generous offer to have our names printed on the Board of Directors.

There was a loading of fuel and water on the 'Beest. We held 210 gallons in two water tanks. The water seller claimed we held 260 gallons. And he wanted money for that quantity. I'm not sure if we got gouged for diesel, but I was sure unhappy for being cheated on water. If they wanted an extra $20, why not ask for it? Whatever. This ain't America and nothing is fair in a land where they live in tin huts without water or electricity.

The morning of our departure, we woke up at the crack of eight, due to the two nights of "farewell parties" held in our honor at the New York bar and the Frangipani. There was a knocking on our hull, and it was Red Pants.

"Hey, get up! They got a whale at Petit Nevis, and they are holding an island wide "Jump Up" and whale barbecue, it'll be great!!!"

Bequia is one of the few places who still collect whales on this planet, but they do it the old fashioned way with row boats and human powered harpoons. It gives the whale a fighting chance to either get away, or go down fighting with tremendous risk of the hunter losing his life.

I thought quickly... Wouldn't it be totally cool to be able to say that I have eaten whale meat? I heard it tastes like manatee, only more fishy. We had checked out officially from the Grenadines, and if the Customs Officer catches us, we could be liable to pay (at minimum) reentry fees. Maybe a fine, depends on how they are feeling that day.

Sorry Paul, we are out of here. Good bye, good luck, and enjoy the party!

And with that we were heading to Martinique. The journey would take about 36 hours and for the first time, I felt no nervousness about our sailing. Our boat was working (and had been!) perfectly, and there had been no problems since the bilge pump failed on the way to St Lucia. What a wonderful thing to be heading North in beautiful weather!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Annum!

Christmas is a fuzzy memory and New Years began with a mild pop. There was a great dinner with music at the club, and the funny thing I noticed was that I was quite ready to call it a night by 2230. Roger, Janice and the Spousal Unit insisted that we stay up and watch the partying until at least 0030. Such are the duties I must endure...

Start learning how to date checks with "2010".

The holidays are finally over and all can now return to the toil of regular life. Our guests, Roger and Janice, left for Panama on Saturday so we had a quiet Sunday to regain our bearings for Monday.

Not so fast... Mom's house had a minor plumbing emergency, so we had to reschedule her birthday brunch. Not to be out done, we had a pipe over our bedroom decide that it couldn't handle pressure. So water leaked out and soaked through the ceiling and we had to figure out how to shut off water at midnight. Now we have half the house on "waterhours", which is a Navy misnomer meaning, "No Water, Mon". This means a long walk to the heads and showers of the guest wing of our home. Could be worse!

This morning will require me to schedule a plumber to uncluck this situation.

It is 29°F outside, so no morning jaunt around the ol' neighborhood. There was a return to the gym for our morning exercise where we reacquainted ourselves with our nice rowing machine and stairmaster. I feel a bit awake, finally, and warmth is returning to the bones and extremities as blood carries the energy generated by our motions.

I hope all five readers have a prosperous new year, and let's pull together to make America great!