Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Day Blessings

Thanksgiving’s past have always found us thankful to gather with family and friends and share a delicious meal while giving thanks for all the abundance around us.  For most American’s it is not only a time to reflect upon our past history when the Pilgrims and Native Americans gathered together peacefully to share in the bounty surrounding them but also a time to give thanks for all our freedoms we are so fortunate to have and often take for granted. When you are cruising to foreign lands, especially third-world countries, you quickly appreciate everything it means to be an American and say thanks to all those who fought to preserve those freedoms

During most of our early years we gathered with my extended family, my mom or my dad’s side of the family or occasionally all together.  A couple years we shared Thanksgiving with Walter’s sister, Cindy, at their home in Gig Harbor.  While Christa was in college and dating Nash, we spent a couple Thanksgivings up on Cape Cod near Quissett and experienced a huge gathering of extended family and friends complete with Proclamation Reading from the Governor, a long table seating 45+ people, and a square dance/ho-down following the amazing feast! Our last couple of Thanksgiving’s in the Seattle area we were thankful to share with Brad & Ashley & family at Ashley's parents home.  No matter where you are,  among family or friends it is always a special occasion for heartfelt thankfulness and a counting of our blessings. Our last Thanksgiving was in Oriental, North Carolina with ironically, a British cruising family.

One of our favorite traditions through the years was to hold hands around the table and have each person say what they are most thankful for.  Health, happiness, prosperity, love of family, blessing of good friends all ring true of how fortunate we all are.

This will be our second Thanksgiving away from family. Even though we are not together with our family they are in our hearts and we miss them dearly but know we will have visits ahead with good times to share.

We were fortunate here in Grenada that Clark's Court Bay Marina was sponsoring a Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner for the American cruisers, but everyone was welcome.  We met up with our friends on Escape Velocity, Marce and Jack (who ironically were sitting a couple tables over from us at Oriental last year but we hadn't met them yet) and shared a table together.  The marina supplied the turkey and gravy and did a wonderful job decorating and organizing the many delicious dishes brought by all the cruisers.  Lots of traditional dishes and many new dishes to try.  One large table was dedicated to desserts alone.   The word "abundance" certainly comes to mind.  There were well over 50 people gathered and after everyone had all they could eat there was still more food to be shared. 

Since we were the last table "called up," we worried there wouldn't be any food left. We were wrong. (Thanks to Marce Schulz for the great photos.)

That's what's known as a full mouth smile.

It was so nice to see all the cruisers enjoying themselves and we had a wonderful time sharing Thanksgiving with our good friends Jack and Marce and the abundance that the cruising life offers.

We wish you all a belated but very Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fun in the Sun with T & A

In between selling their business and having twin grandchildren, our long term friends Anni and Trygve Johnson finally got a window of time to come visit us in Grenada. We picked them up at the airport at 8:30 pm, along with the derigeur box of spare parts for the boat and headed back to the dock. Packing them, their luggage, and our spare parts into the dingy and finding our boat in the dark took a little effort, but it was great to see them again.

Anni and Tryg have been lifelong friends. Meryl and Anni met when they were training to be Pan Am stewardesses. Over the years we’ve done a lot of traveling, hiking, and camping together and it was nice to have them all to ourselves for a week. Tryg had invited us on sailing charters to the BVIs when we were in our twenties; we were young, energetic, and daring then. Today we’re just older and wiser. Tryg and Anni also graciously hosted me off and on for over 6 months while I worked on Flying Cloud at Tryg’s Largo, Florida factory in 2011.

When you have visitors you are impelled to deep clean the boat. This means moving all your junk from the guest cabin to various cubby holes around the boat. For an hour the boat looked like the photos in the “Buy a Taswell” brochure. Since Meryl was still recovering from a very nasty upper/lower respiratory infection she’d had for over a month, I had yeoman duty as tour guide for the first few days.

Built in 1894 the Sendall Tunnel wasn't designed with wide mini vans and trucks in mind.

We survived walking through the dangerous Sendall Tunnel which connects the downtown section of St. George's to the Carenage.

On Monday the 11th I took Anni and Tryg into St. George’s to explore the town. The bus driver, overhearing our conversation, suggested we get off the bus at the top of the hill versus getting off at the bottom and walking up the steep streets. Made sense to us. Saw some great vistas from the cemetery overlooking St. George’s and then walked down the winding street to the waterfront where we visited the Fish Market. Next was the art gallery district where we saw the famous batik shop and other art galleries.

Visiting the batik shop in St. George's.

We walked around the mini harbor called the Carenage where all the fishing boats are tied up and ended up at the Grenada Yacht Club for a very leisurely lunch. Next was a visit to the Merry Baker for peanut butter cookies, then we dropped Anni off at Fidel’s artisans store while Tryg and I looked at all the gorgeous yachts at Port Louis Marina. Later that night was ½ price pizza at Prickly Bay Marina where we ran into the usual crowd of cruising friends.

Clement Baptise explains Grenadian history to Anni and Tryg.

On Tuesday we did an historical tour with local guide Clement Baptise, who gave a stirring rendition of the American invasion of Grenada by the US in 1983. Clement had been an army officer then and was one of a handful of Grenadian troops assigned to guard Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and his cabinet members who were under house arrest at the hilltop Fort St. Louis in downtown St. George’s. Clement describe an armored car with machine guns blazing coming up the hill followed by hundreds of Cuban and other troops who were after Bishop. His men were given the choice of dying or disappearing, and the latter seemed the best course of action at the time. Clement showed us other points of interest from the US invasion and brought history to life for us.

Grenada is probably the only country in the world where you find this graffiti on the walls.
At that time Grenada was very close to becoming another Cuba. Hundreds of Cuban troops were already in the country and supposedly thousands of Russian troops were scheduled to arrive. I’m sure this gave US President Reagan and Britain’s Prime Minister Margret Thatcher apoplexy, hence the US invasion under the guise of “rescuing US medical students” at St. George’s Medical School.
Other stops on the tour included a nutmeg packing station, a drive through the rain forest, and a stop at Annandale Waterfall.

Later that night was Trivia Night at Prickly Bay Marina. Anni is a ringer for Trivia and I have always wanted to have her on my team. We were hoping to join a larger team, but all of a sudden the game started so the three of us became Team Flying Cloud. The questions were hard, as usual, but between the three of us we seemed to cobble together the answers. You write your answers on a sheet of paper and give it to another team to score, much like grade school. After reading the other team’s answers we felt we had a fighting chance at winning a prize. They announced the results starting from worse to best (there were over 15 teams of up to 10 people each competing) and we still hadn’t been called. Turned out we tied for third. When Daren, the Prickly Bay manager, brought Anni up for the award presentation he admonished the other team for being beaten by a measly team of three.  Anni collected a bottle of rum punch as our prize.

Thursday was cooking class at True Blue Resort. As usual Ester and Omega were in rare form cooking up one of my favorite Grenadian dishes, chicken roti. It was hard sneaking up to get second servings with everyone looking.

Annie with one of the somewhat famous "Mona Monkeys."

Making chocolate is surprisingly simply, just crush up the beans, add a little sugar, refine and filter the paste, then press into bars.
The entire output of The Grenadian Chocolate Factory is produced by one person who flows the hot liquid chocolate from the yellow hose into small molds that are stored on the wooden racks to cool.
On Friday, we did a “round the island tour” with Cutty. This one included lots of flora and fauna, including seeing the famous Mona Monkeys at Lake Etang Park, the Grenada Chocolate Factory, and lunch and a tour at the River Antoine Rum Brewery where the sugar cane crushing mill is run by a 17th century water wheel which Cutty magically got running just for our visit. Learning my lesson from my first tour I wisely stayed away from the 150-proof rum they offered.

At 150+ proof you do not want to chug this stuff.

Lunch at La Phare Bleu.

Fairly “tourist-ed out” by Sunday we decided to go over to La Phare Bleu for a wonderful lunch. I was explaining to Tryg and Anni how great the series Breaking Bad was (which I had just finished) when the guy at the next table chimed in his agreement. Got to talking with them and turns out they owned Escape, the sister Antares 44 to Field Trip and were good friends with Mark and Sara. Small world. Spent the rest of the day lazing by the pool at the resort and doing nothing. A perfect day.

Our last activity before saying good-by to Annie and Tryg was a rousing game of Screw your Buddy.  Being the gracious host I planned to lose to my guests but had an amazing run of hands with lots of 3’s (a 3 in this game allows you to quickly void suits) allowing me to win the last five games. So much for being the gracious host.

Thanks for visiting Flying Cloud, hope your enjoyed your stay.

Got up at 6:00 am to take T & A into the dock for their flight back to Florida. Hard to say good by to such great friends, but I have the feeling we’ll be able to entice them back again.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Girls Day Out...

Inga, who moved to Grenada 25 years ago from Germany, put together a Ladies Day outing for anyone wanting to join in on the fun. She is quite involved in organizing island tours, wine tasting events, dinghy drifts, and jumbo sales for boaters wanting to get rid of stuff they no longer need.

Not remembering the last time I got together with a large group of ladies I decided this outing would be fun, reminiscent of a typical lay-over back in the good ole Pan Am flying days. Best part, our transportation charge was only 15 EC which is approx. $5.50 US.  I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet some new faces and spend the day off the boat with some good company.

Our van driver was Cutty, who we really liked from a previous island tour.  Our first destination was a local t-shirt factory.  I am kind of off cotton right now in the tropics because it absorbs too much moisture from your body and leaves you dripping with sweat.  None the less, fourteen of us descended on this small t-shirt shop looking for the perfect item.  I decided the grandkids had enough t-shirts already and just watched the action.

We finally finished up and headed down to the van for the best part!  Vee, a very sweet gal from Austria had brought along some champagne and orange juice and started serving us all “mimosas”.  Definitely reminding me of some of our bus rides from the airport to the hotel way back when...  Anyway, they were delicious and got us all in a party mood.

 We laughed all the way to our next shopping destination, Art Fabrik, the batik factory, and two other shops with nice souviners nearby.  I had already visited the upstairs area of the Fabrik shop with my sister where we saw how batik is created.  I decided to order a turtle scoop neck top in pretty blues hoping they could make it before we leave at the end of October.  Everyone enjoyed the shop and wandered to the other two shops as well.

Our next and final stop was The Aquarium.  Some of us actually thought we were going to an aquarium where we would see the dolphins and other sea-life and then have lunch.  Much to our delight it is a fabulous restaurant down on the beach, well hidden from most of the local traffic scene.  We all sat around a large table overlooking the harbor and placed our orders as a nice breeze blew through.  I was thinking, “Hmmm I could certainly get used to this!”  The menu was lovely and I ordered a pumpkin squash soup followed by a wonderful seafood dish. A couple ladies ordered Chocolate by Death with 14 forks and around and around the table it went with each of us savoring a little taste without all the  calories.

After lunch a small group of ladies went for a nice swim and relaxed in the water.  They had clean showers and a place to change.  We didn't want it to end but Cutty, our driver kept eying his watch so we knew it was time to head back.  What a great day -- sign me up again!