January 2008

Learning to kite boardImagine you are learning to wakeboard behind a boat.  At the same time, imagine that you must also learn to drive the boat.  It’s bad enough that you are dragging behind the boat with the board on your feet, trying to keep your head out of the water, but to drive the boat, you don’t have a regular throttle control and a steering wheel; you have a control stick with four lines on it.  You have never driven like this before.  When you pull a little too far on one of the lines, the boat accelerates, pulling you out of the water and dragging you quickly forward for 20 to 30 yards until you can pull on the other line to get it slowed down. Of course during this time you have been pulled out of your board and you have to direct the boat to drag you back through the water to where your board is so you can start again.  This boat however doesn’t go into the wind so you have to drag sideways to the wind back and forth, angling your body to get back slightly upwind to where the board is so you can start again.  John had this wonderful experience in St. Lucia, in mid-January where he was learning to  kite surf (also called kite boarding).

At the beginning of the month, we welcomed 2008 in Trinidad.  On New Year’s Day we helped host a Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) gathering with other cruisers.  We had about 45 cruisers bring a dish to share for lunch and talk about their sailing experiences.  Several of the cruisers had crossed at least one ocean and a few and circumnavigated.

CallalooAnn grew up in rural Georgia, and a New Year’s tradition is to eat black-eyed peas and collard greens on New Year’s Day.  According to folklore, the black-eyed peas will bring you luck and the collard greens will bring you money in the New Year.   We need both luck and money in our cruising lifestyle, so Ann didn’t want to tempt our fate.  We found black-eyed peas in the Trinidad grocery store, but no collard greens.  Ann decided to substitute calaloo for collard greens for our New Year’s Day meal.  Calaloo is a leafy green vegetable that looks like an “elephant ear” plant, but tastes similar to a collard green when cooked.  We have enjoyed cooking and eating the popular and inexpensive vegetable while in the Southern Caribbean.  Based on the recent stock market performance, perhaps the calaloo was a poor substitute to guarantee money in the New Year!


Mexico carnival costumes


Trinidad carnival is probably the largest carnival party in the Caribbean.  There is much money and effort put into celebrating carnival in Trinidad.  Before we left Trinidad, we had an opportunity to see some of the carnival preparations and get a better understanding of all the carnival activities.  Trinidad uses carnival to display the many talents and creativity on the island.  There are competitions for the best Calypso performer, the best steel drum (pan) band, the best masquerade (mas) band, the best masquerade king, and the best masquerade queen.  Every age group is involved in some carnival activity.


John poses with Mexico-theme carnival costumes

African carnival costumesThe masquerade (mas) bands are large groups organized around a specific theme each year.  We visited three mas band camps preparing for carnival with themes of Nautical, African and Mexican.  The band members don’t play musical instruments, but are dressed in the themed costumes and participate in parades.  Each mas band also has a queen and king outfitted in large elaborate costumes often on wheels that will stretch from one side of the street to the other.  Small mas bands will have about 800 members, while the larger bands will have up to 2000 members.  The members are dressed in a variety of costumes designed to represent the theme of the mas band.  For females, think about small bikinis covered in beads and sequins and large feathered headdresses. To become a member of a mas band, you must pay a fee which includes the costume and all the food and drink you would want during the parades.  The fees range from an equivalent of $275 to $500 U.S. dollars per person.  Locals who participate tell us they save up their money throughout the year to participate in carnival.

Africa-theme carnival costumes

Steel drum player


After visiting the mas camps, we visited several steel drum (pan) yards where the bands were practicing for the upcoming Carnival competitions.  Some steel pan bands are smaller, with small sponsors and operating on a small budget.  Other bands are larger with wealthy corporations as sponsors and well built pan yards (outdoor practice facilities).   Several bands include all age groups from an 8 year old to grandpa and males and females.  They practice several hours every night in preparation for Carnival and all members are required at the practice sessions into the late hours, even younger children in school.  Hanging out or “liming” at the pan yards during these practice sessions is a popular activity leading up to carnival.

John missed the Trinidad carnival costumes, since we started traveling north in early January.  After a quick stop in the Tobago Cays and the Grenadines, we arrived in St. Lucia so John could take kite boarding lessons.



Young steel drum (pan) player

We anchored in Rodney Bay at the north end of St. Lucia so we could be close to a kite surfing school we found on the internet.  We walked across to the east side of the island and met with the twenty-five year old female instructor, and made an appointment for a lesson the next day.  When we went back however we found that she had fractured her rib kite surfing and would not be able to teach for weeks.  Not being overly intelligent, John still wanted to learn kite surfing.  So each day we took a two hour bus ride down to the southern end of St. Lucia, a three hour kite surfing lesson and then a two hour bus ride back.  We haven’t been doing that much physical activity so it was easy to understand why John slept well those nights.  Kite surfing is fun but very physically challenging to learn.  After nine hours of dragging behind the kite through the water with no board, John was actually up and riding on the board but his rides were lasting a few seconds at best.  More practice will be needed.

Kite boardingUp on the board










He's actually on top of the water!

Board on.  Kite ready for take-off

SunshadesBetween all the fun, we sometimes manage to get a few projects completed while we are traveling around and seeing the sites.  Our cockpit is the “outdoor room” on our boat where we spend many hours each day when we are anchored and always when we are sailing.  Beginning in mid-day, there is a lot of sun in the cockpit and it is often too sunny and hot for us to enjoy while we are at anchor.  After months and months of contemplating, Ann finally made sunshades for the cockpit.  The sunshades are made from white mesh fabric allowing us to see out, but shading the area from direct sun.  Now we can enjoy the cockpit at any time.

In late January we sailed north to Martinique.  Martinique is owned by France and has the highest per capita income of any of the Caribbean islands.  We rented a car and toured the island with our Canadian friends on Kardia.  The island is very clean and two-thirds of the island is designated as protected park land.  There are acres and acres of banana trees and sugar cane.  There are 11 rum distilleries on Martinique, and they use only sugar cane grown on this island to make their rum.  Many of the other islands we have visited import sugar cane molasses to make their rum.

Our new sunshades

Like Trinidad, Martinique also celebrates carnival in early February and we plan to experience a French Carnival in  Martinique before we continue to travel north.