Pig Roast and Bachata in Guavate

Another epic St Valentine’s weekend.

Beautiful Perto Rican girl dancing Bachata

Beautiful Puertorican girl dancing Bachata

There is a unique place in Puerto Rico and probably in the entire world named Guavate, a small mountain village where every Sunday a great crowd gathers. As early as 11 a.m. people from all corners of the island start to arrive blocking the road. Traffic, cars, people, musing booming, even in rainy weather. If you by any chance find yourself there, you might wonder what is this madness about? The answer is: it’s about the pigs.

.

.

But we didn’t get there by chance. Our cruising friends whom we met for the first time in Ponce 6 months ago brought us here. “Would you like to experience some local culture: authentic music and food?”, wrote to us Greg and Michele, who have spent lots of time in Puerto Rico and know very well where, when, and what is happening. Of course we would like it! Sunday around noon they picked us up with a rental car at the ferry pier in Fajardo and after an hour and half long drive we got to Guavate, not far from Carite Forest Reserve.

Traffic, people, madness in Guavate

Traffic, people, madness in Guavate

Since forever the locals come to Guavate to feast on traditional pig roast. On both sides of the street there are dozens of small restaurants Lechoneras, where piglets are being roasted slowly on Sundays. In the two biggest restaurants El Rancho Nuevo  (The New Ranch) and El Rancho Original (The Original Ranch) there is a large dancing space where people dance under the sounds of merengue, salsa and bachata. The live music is deafening, there is no breaks. This is the spot where Anthony Bourdain, of No Reservations and Andrew Zimmern from Bizzare Foods on the TravelChannel came to sample the best of Puerto Rico.

.

.

The Puertorican people like to organize family activities in the weekends. Everywhere on the island on beaches, parks and in restaurants they celebrate the end of the week without any other special occasion. The parties always include lots of food, drinks, loud music and dancing all day and all night. But in Guavate the situation is out of control.

.

Bachata

We arrived around 2 p.m. It was raining, but no one seemed to notice. The roadside restaurants were already packed with people, 99% locals. We took our spots on a long line for food. While we were waiting, we watched a pig slowly getting roasted. Maya was appalled. “I saw a pig, half pig (the butt half) and I felt vegetarian. So I pretty much just ate a little portion of rice.”

.

.

Besides pork, we had choice of many traditional Puertorican side dishes: juicy boiled yucca with a hint of garlic, yellow sweep potatoes, creamy and not too sweet, two types of fried plantains, yellow rice with black beans, blood sausages, and more. Everything was delicious and the price per portion was 8-9 US$, which included 3-4 side dishes and a beer. For 27 US$ we stuffed ourselves and we had one portion left for dinner (Maya’s portion).

We got a few Styrofoam boxes loaded with food and we made our own portions at the table.

We got a few Styrofoam boxes loaded with food and we made our own portions at the table.

After we lifted our satisfied faces from the dishes we gave up trying to have a conversation with our friends in the pauses between songs, and the only thing left to do was dancing.

Mira dancing with the local talent. This woman had some heartbreaking rear parts and she was not afraid to use them...

Mira dancing with the local talent. This woman had some heartbreaking rear parts and she was not afraid to use them…

Only Maya didn’t enjoy it. In her composition the next day she wrote:

I myself personally hate crowds and loud music. I felt lost and confused. Everything became a blur. The music was blasting as if I was standing under a rocket launching to space. As Greg said, my teeth started vibrating. A lot of people were dancing and so would I if the music was my type. I felt like shooting myself. But I liked the fact that normal people could have fun once in a while. I also liked the nice long car ride with a purple Gatorade in the middle, and the conversations we had with Greg and Michele. Amazing people.

Greg, Michele, Ivo and Maya at the table in Guavate

Greg, Michele, Ivo and Maya at the table in Guavate

But if you ask me, I would stay in Guavate and dance until the last song… For me this was the most authentic, the most fun, awesome experience in Puerto Rico. If you prefer to mix with the locals and not to see any other tourists, if the Latin American rhythms make your blood boil, if you like pork roast and are curious to try traditional local delicacies at very low prices, and if you have only one day to visit the island, you must choose Sunday (even if it’s raining) and go to Guavate.

Live music and dances in Guavate

Live music and dances in Guavate

 Michele and Mira dancing

Michele and Mira dancing

Share

How We Got Our New Kayak

Some time ago I wrote about the advantages of the simple kayak, explaining that the kayak for us is not just for fun or for sport, but it is also a clean, silent, shallow-drought alternative to the dinghy, capable even of pulling the catamaran, when needed.

Everyone loves the kayak

Everyone loves the kayak

When our 15-years-old kayak Agent Orange cracked because of the UV damage and old age, it became clear that we needed a new kayak. Just then the guys from KayakShop.BG decided to give us a kayak! We started selling this new kayak which was in Bulgaria, in order to be able to buy one here in Puerto Rico with the money from the sale (because to send a kayak by mail is a bit complicated).

Only a few days later, someone bought the kayak! So now we got a new one- Agent Orange Junior.

Ivo and Junior

Ivo and Junior

A random guy we met on the street helped us to bring the new kayak from the shop 10km away on top of his old car for $20

.

.

But the not-so-random guy who bought the kayak back in Bulgaria turned out to be a legend, holding a world record for moto-paraplannerism.

photo: DeltaClub.bg

photo: DeltaClub.bg

There are many articles and TV shows featuring Venelin Staikov and his sky adventures.

Copyright: Ognyan Stefanov

Copyright: Ognyan Stefanov

But this is not all. Venelin Staikov is also an engineer and the owner of a company Solar Home distributing solar installations for hoes and businesses in Bulgaria. His own house is off the grid using entirely solar energy.

Here is what you may read on Solar Home website:

We are a young company, established in 2012, that specializes in design, construction, and maintenance of photovoltaic systems. We partner with leading international suppliers of equipment, that make no compromise with the quality of modules, inverters, and components. Our photovoltaic systems ensure a reliable electricity production for over 25 years with minimal maintenance.
Photovoltaic energy is already a cost-effective alternative to traditional energy sources, leaving a negligible environmental footprint. Staking on it, you effectively minimize your electricity expenses, besides helping protect the environment.
In Solar Home Engineering, our goal is to provide innovative energy solutions for households and entrepreneurs. We work to ensure the profitability of your investments and therefore our priority is to be flexible in pricing to both corporate and end customers. Considering the needs, budget and requirements of each client, we prepare and execute the optimal project, providing the desired results.
Due to the depletion of fossil fuels globally, the price of electricity from conventional sources is trending upward. On the other hand, photovoltaic energy is getting increasingly used, finding its wider application in households and industry, while its price steadily decreases.
Our team is available to answer all your questions and provide additional information. Contact us to get the most efficient and effective option prepared according to your specific needs.
We are a young company, established in 2012, that specializes in design, construction, and maintenance of photovoltaic systems. We partner with leading international suppliers of equipment, that make no compromise with the quality of modules, inverters, and components. Our photovoltaic systems ensure a reliable electricity production for over 25 years with minimal maintenance.
Photovoltaic energy is already a cost-effective alternative to traditional energy sources, leaving a negligible environmental footprint. Staking on it, you effectively minimize your electricity expenses, besides helping protect the environment.
In Solar Home Engineering, our goal is to provide innovative energy solutions for households and entrepreneurs. We work to ensure the profitability of your investments and therefore our priority is to be flexible in pricing to both corporate and end customers. Considering the needs, budget and requirements of each client, we prepare and execute the optimal project, providing the desired results.
Due to the depletion of fossil fuels globally, the price of electricity from conventional sources is trending upward. On the other hand, photovoltaic energy is getting increasingly used, finding its wider application in households and industry, while its price steadily decreases.
Our team is available to answer all your questions and provide additional information. Contact us to get the most efficient and effective option prepared according to your specific needs.
.

.

Thus, we got our new kayak, we met a legendary person who also shares our passion for solar energy and we made  friends with the guys at KayakShop.BG, without whom none of this would happen.

KayakShop.BG

KayakShop.BG

Thank you once again Velin Kerimov, Ivan Ivanov and Peter “The Vision” at KayakShop.BG!

Share

Kayak Expedition to Rio Fajardo

The anchorage in Fajardo on the east side of Puerto Rico is situated inside a river delta. Today for the first time we went on a short river expedition with our NEW kayak- stronger, bigger, lighter.

F01

After only about 10 minutes of paddling we entered the river Rio Fajardo, which flows slowly on the edge of a small fishermen village.

F02

Sudden cries of herons and panicking waterhens disturbed the stillness of this place. A fisherman was fishing.

F03

Huge green iguanas lurked in the branches of trees hanging over the river.

F04

A heron who thought himself very beautiful was admiring his own reflection in the brown river waters.

F05

But what we liked the most was the cleanness of this place- not a single piece of garbage floating on the surface of the river or stuck in the grass near the shores, even thought the river passes through a residential area.

F06

Share

Father Jerome’s Via Dolorosa

Giving Back

As travelers we are fortunate enough to be able to learn about foreign cultures, geographies, and histories, to visit the most beautiful natural sites and tourist attractions, to enjoy local arts, foods and entertainments, to meet many interesting people, and generally to have lots of fun and good time everywhere we go. But I started asking myself how can we give back to a place we are visiting, a place we are taking so much from? Is spending money (for food, transportation, accommodation, and other necessities) enough to support local economies and to make us, travelers, feel we are not exploiting a place and its people? And what if we don’t spend much money for anything when we travel, as in our case? We live on a boat always anchored out for free, don’t use fuel as we sail using the wind, we have solar panels to produce electricity and a watermaker to produce freshwater. We do our washing by hand, we fish a lot and make our own food with products we bought back form the US or the cheapest local ones, and we don’t need any new cloths, cell phones, furniture, cars. Well, there are many different ways to get involve and give back to places and peoples. Each one of us can figure such ways according to what is needed and what we are able to do. We figured, helping local people and cleaning polluted places is the best way to give back. Thus, everywhere we go we offer our help.

Father Jerome’s Via Dolorosa

DSC_9890

We are travelers. The World is our address; the Sea our permanent residency. ‘Our Home is where the Boat is’, a sign hangs in the galley of our catamaran. We don’t spend much time in one place: we sail farther. We are driven by a need like an unquenchable thirst, like a curse, to find out what lies beyond the horizon. Yet, sometimes we pause. Sometimes we climb a ridge and look from the top of a mountain to see where we have come from and where we are going.

The distance between Little San Salvador and Cat Island is 34 nautical miles. We sail all day. It’s already dark when we drop anchor in the vast anchorage on the west lee side of the island.

The next day we grab a bottle of water and take to the hills. As we climb the 206-foot tall Mount Alvernia on Cat Island, the highest land elevation in all of the 700 Bahamian islands, I tell this story to my children:

Once upon a time there was an old hermit, a most unusual man, who lived alone in a stone home he built atop a hill. You might imagine that he was a very small man, maybe a midget, about four feet tall, for his house, which still crowns the hill, is so tiny. Everything in it: his sleeping quarters furnished with nothing but a simple plank bed taking up most of the space, the cloister with only three miniature columns leading to a guestroom where no more than one or two guests could fit, the little bell tower, and the chapel with its single pew where one must bend in order to fit through the door, resemble a child-size castle on top of a tiny mountain where a tiny person dwelled. But you know what? The resident of this place was in fact a very tall person, slender, with white beard and sad eyes, wearing a grey robe with a hood. Why do you suppose he built for himself such a small dwelling?

We keep going. It is a short but steep trek to the peak of Mount Alvernia. Visitors from all over the world come here not only to climb the Everest of the Bahamas, but also as a pilgrimage to Father Jerome’s final masterpiece: the Hermitage which he designed and built singlehandedly and where he spent the last 17 years of his life in solitude, as a poor person dedicated to seeking God through prayer, charity, and seclusion from society.

 

.

.

Born John Cyril Hawes in 1876 in England, he studied architecture and theology. At age 21 he was already a practicing building designer. At age 27 he became an Anglican priest. In 1909 John Hawes joined a mission in the Bahamas to restore local churches damaged by a great hurricane. After repairing various churches and building a few new ones, the architect-priest left the Bahamas and didn’t return until 1939, almost thirty years later. During that time he traveled to the United States where he converted to Roman Catholicism, then spent a few years as a homeless person and a wanderer traveling across North America by foot and even working as a laborer on the Canadian Pacific Railways, and then he sailed to Rome and was ordained a priest after two years of studies at The Beda College. He was then commissioned to go to Australia both as an outback missionary and a cathedral architect. He spent many years in Western Australia designing and building various churches, cathedrals, and chapels. In 1937, as recognition for his important work as a missionary priest and church builder, he received the papal title, monsignor. When he came back to Cat Island in the Bahamas he was an old man of 63. Everyone called him Father Jerome.

We reach the summit. The view from the top is spectacular. We see the entire Cat Island below: an evergreen scrubby mass of low tropical vegetation with small colorful houses strewn along the west coast bathed in crystal sunlight. The placid emerald-green waters of the sea to the west are calm and warm, home of coral gardens and fish. The roaring Atlantic to the east stretching all the way to Africa is deep, purple, mysterious. Up here the wind which never rests carries the songs of insects and birds, and the muffled prayers of an old hermit. Up here, inside the one-man monastery with its massive medieval-looking stone walls, we, atheists, feel the presence of the old hermit: a sudden nostalgic sensation of profound spirituality and awe.

Hermitage on Mount Alvernia

Hermitage on Mount Alvernia

The grey stones of the walls constructed over the limestone dome of the hill following its curves in perfect harmony with the natural surroundings, and the white cupolas bright in the sun against the blue sky are perfect as a renaissance painting. Except for the cone-shaped dome of the belltower which is broken and crooked, a huge gash like a wound gaping on one side.

 

Kirk Burrows

Kirk Burrows

“What happened?” I ask a man mixing cement on the grass in front of the hermitage, rocks, sand, buckets, and instruments scattered about. Another man is working up on the tower.

“A lightning strike it. There is a metal bell inside, so the lightning come and BAM, strike it! About a month ago. Worst damage ever since the hermitage was built”, he explains.

Cedric Wilson, a building contractor with over 45 years of experience specializing in church restoration, and Kirk Burrows, both Cat Islanders, are commissioned by the local Catholic Church to repair the damaged belltower.

.

.

We offer to help and they gladly accept.

“You see, we have to bring everything up here by hand, there is no other way”, Cedric explains.

Cedric Wilson

Cedric Wilson

We begin working the next day. A fellow sailor, Ben Rusi, also joins our little brigade.

Every morning for about a week, we walk from the anchorage to the foot of Mount Alvernia where we find construction materials waiting for us to be hauled up. As we walk the narrow steep rocky path carrying buckets of sand and water, wooden planks and iron rods, I can’t help thinking of Father Jerome building the hermitage all by himself, stone by stone.

Kirk and Ivo mixing cement.

Kirk and Ivo mixing cement.

There, all along the path from the foot to the top of the hill, set among shadowy trees, he has placed large concrete bas-reliefs representing various Stations of the Cross, imaging Jesus carrying his cross on the way to his crucifixion along the Via Dolorosa: the Way of Suffering. The analogy is inevitable: Jesus struggling with the cross, Father Jerome building the hermitage, Cedric and Kirk fixing it, and now us too being part of it.

Ivo along "the Path of Suffering"

Ivo along “the Path of Suffering”

After a few days, the belltower is fixed, and we celebrate with a small picnic on the terrace of a closed-down restaurant on the beach. Cedric brings tomatoes from his garden, homemade citrus juice, and a big pot of thick chicken and potato soup his wife cooked for us. The bread I made in the morning is on us. The chicken soup is hot and rich and so tasty, it enters our list of Best Foods we Ever Had. We enjoy the food and the stories Cedric and Kirk share with us in the orange-and-blue afternoon on the beach.

At the end, the reward we receive for our hard labors, for our time spent helping those in need, is the ultimate one: it is the feeling of moral uplifting and spiritual inspiration achievable only through acts of selflessness and charity. It is the lesson that Father Jerome and his humble yet charming last dwelling taught our children: to enjoy life one doesn’t need a big house but a big heart.

Through our efforts to help repair the belltower we became forever connected to Father Jerome and his Hermitage, to the past and the present of Mount Alvernia, to the people of Cat Island, and to the history of the Bahamas.

Cat Islanders who told us stories and facts about Father Jerome

Deacon Andrew Burrows

One Saturday night last December there was a big storm. When the lightning hit, everything went black. The lights went down. The next day we found out that the belltower got struck. It is an act of Nature. It is also a wake-up call. Everyone uses the Hermitage, we have pictures of the Hermitage printed on Cat Island brochures to attract tourists. The Hermitage as a cultural and historical heritage is a resource we are using, but nobody maintains it. Yes, the lightning can be interpreted as a wake up call, to bring attention.

He had a bell placed at the bottom of the hill. When people needed him they rang the bell and he would come down. He gave clothes, food, helped everyone as much as possible. People came to him from Monday to Friday when they needed him. He preached the gospel but would help everyone regardless of their religion.

Father Jerome died on a June 26th. I was born June 26th.

Deaco Burrows in front of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church designed and built by Father Jerome.

Deaco Burrows in front of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church designed and built by Father Jerome.

Poompey

We have more churches than people in this town. Everyone wants to build their own church. Father Jerome built 5 churches on Cat Island and Long Island alone. But the Hermitage is where he lived for 17 years and he is buried up there too.

Poompey

Poompey

Paula Thurston

My mother, Katleen Thurston, used to take care of Father Jerome. She used to clean and cook and wash clothes for him. She was about thirty then, married, but she couldn’t have children. One day father Jerome put his hand on her shoulder and talked to her in Latin and blessed her. And told her, you will have a daughter. And that was me. I was blessed by Father Jerome. My mother didn’t have anymore children.

One morning, after it rained all night, my mother found him lying on the ground there. He fell down and hurt himself. It’s very steep and the rocks get slippery after rain. She found him and called people from the village and they called the C-plane. and they took him to Nassau, to the hospital. He returned after that but was not the same man. He died shortly after this incident.

Gladys McKenzie

I don’t know how old I am, I don’t remember. But I remember Father Jerome. Sure, I remember him. He was a nice man. He is buried under a rock in the ground, right there up on the hill. When he died I was a young woman. We all went to the funeral. Now everyone comes here and takes my picture, because I remember him. (She loughs.)

Gladys McKenzie, around 90-years-old

Gladys McKenzie, around 90-years-old

Share

We ♥ Sushi

On the way to Puerto Rico…

Ivo caught a fish Иво хванал риба

Ivo caught a fish

Mira prepared it with curry

∼∼∼

.

.

A few hours later….

∼∼∼

Ivo caught a fish Иво хванал риба

Ivo caught another fish, same as the first one

And Mira made some Japanese improvisations…

∼∼∼

.

.

Do you know any good recipes for this kind of dark-red-meat fish (Little Tuni)? Please, share them with us!

∼∼∼

 Fish aftermath

Fish aftermath

 

Share

A Woman Who Sails

This article has first appeared in February 2015 issue 233 of Caribbean Compass. You can find it on-line on pages 26-27.

 

Bev Cory aboard S/V Aseka

Bev Cory aboard S/V Aseka

A Woman Who Sails

by Mira Nencheva

After a few hours of uneventful sailing from Antigua to Guadeloupe, we arrive in Deshaies, the first bay on the northwest side of the island. We are excited to find our sailing buddies, Caryn and Mel aboard S/V Passages already there. Deshaies is a small charming fishermen village with a few restaurants along the shore, souvenir shops and a small boulangerie offering delicious French baguettes and pastries. We are greeted by the monotonous song of the bells from the bell tower of the small church etched against the dark evergreen mountain.

Desaies

Desaies

After checking-in, we decide to do a little river exploration and hike to a small waterfall not far from the village with our friends Mel and Caryn. We invite the crews of the two other boats in the anchorage, Mark and Tina aboard S/V Rainbow and Bev aboard S/V Aseka to come along. We are now an impressive group of cruisers walking through the forest looking for a waterfall.

Cruisers on a waterfall expedition

Cruisers on a waterfall expedition

Soon it is nothing but giant trees, roots like snakes, extravagant ferns and black butterflies. The morning sunlight can only pierce tiny shafts of white light through the holes of the forest roof disturbing the heavy humid shade of the canopy above. Trees and rocks and muck and more roots and the hush sound of the small river gurgling down among grey boulders covered with eternal moss. There are crabs rushing back to their dark holes in the soft ground, paranoid little lizards hiding behind branches, and further in the distance, a small pond with green tranquil water inviting us for a few minutes of chill-down.

Cruisiers in the pond

Cruisiers in the pond

The hike proves longer and harder than we have expected. Almost everyone is wearing flip-flops, as we thought it’s going to be a few minutes’ walk in the park. Instead, we are jumping over huge slippery boulders inside the stream for over an hour and still no waterfall. We start getting worried. Are we on the right path (if this can be called a path)? Frankly, I am also worried for our friends. What if someone trips over a slippery rock and breaks a leg? Mel is helping Caryn, Tina has Mark for assistance, and Ivo is taking care of Maya and me at the most difficult places: across boulders, fallen trees and fast-running water. But Bev, in her fifties, is on her own the entire time. Yet it doesn’t look like she needs any assistance at all. Cheerful, she skips form rock to rock with great energy, chatting with us all the time.

Mel and Caryn

Mel helping Caryn

– Bev, how come you are sailing around alone? I am curious.
– I just wanted to go sailing, that’s it. I have been sailing for 35 years now. It’s my life.

Bev

Bev

Beverly Cory-Bev was born in Auckland, New Zealand. Her father was a Construction Engineer and his job meant constantly moving from place to place, with the entire family. Bev went to 21 different schools in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, England, and Algeria by the time she was 19. She got used to traveling and she enjoyed the errant ways of her family; it became natural to her.

– One day, when I was 19, an old boyfriend I used to surf with, took me sailing. It turned out it’s a racing yacht and we went out racing! Suddenly I was pulling lines, cranking winches, packing a spinnaker. The crew thought I had experience. But I have never been on a sailboat before, I told them. The captain looked at me, I will never forget this moment, and said: You will. Next thing you know, I dumped the boyfriend, quit my job, and went sailing on an old Dutchman’s boat who needed a crew. He taught me everything about sailing. I was doing what I wanted to do.

After years of cruising around Australia, New Zealand, United States and the Caribbean, after two boats: one 36 Van de Stadt, which she built and one Tayana 37, and after a couple of lousy husbands (“My mum told me I wasn’t good at it – so don’t do it again (the husband thing)!”), Bev is now cruising alone on Aseka, a 2005 Maxim 380 catamaran built in Durbin. The design of the boat is ideal for singlehandling. All lines come in the cockpit so Bev can adjust the sails and reef easily while at the helm. She can also drop and lift anchor all by herself with the help of a windlass controlled from the cockpit.

– Lifting the anchor is the riskiest procedure, since I have to also flake the chain. I tend to stay clear of other boats when anchoring, so I don’t drift down on them as I clear my anchor.
I wait to be clear of boats when I hoist the sails.
I reef early.

So far, she hasn’t had any troubles sailing singlehanded and visiting places alone, but she needs to be extra careful. There are places where she won’t walk around alone, and places she prefers to sail to with crew, like Columbia, where Bev is heading soon.

– My longest solo passage was from Puerto Rico to Bonaire, 60 hours. At night I would sleep for 15 minutes, wake up, check everything, and sleep for 15 more minutes.

Sometimes, Bev invites friends or friends of friends to help with the longer and more difficult passages, but most of the time she prefers sailing alone.

Inside S/V Aseka

Inside S/V Aseka

– You do get used to being by yourself. I prefer not to have to rely on other people. Others don’t care about the boat like I do, It’s my life. When I have people over, they act as if they are on a holiday and it’s a big party. But this is not a charter boat and I am not their servant. They come to crew and they have to cover their expenses.

When Bev was 21, for 2 years she crewed on a private 3 masted square rigger Brigantine with 10 sails- the foremast alone had 27 lines. Traditionally rigged, there were no winches, just block and tackle. They sailed New Zealand then across to Australia. She was the sailing master, in charge of deck and sails.

When she was 23, Bev worked for 2 years as a deckhand on a prawn (shrimp) boat. She was the only woman on a commercial fishing vessel in that fleet. It took the other boats six months to accept her, constantly watching her.

– But when they finally did accept me I had so many big brothers it was ridiculous.
You do some crazy things when you are 20…

This included driving mining trucks in a uranium mine and being the first woman in Australia to work on an oil rig as a radio operator, which she did on and off for 2 years.

Later, Bev became ERP analyst setting up software systems for copper and gold mines throughout Australia, the Pacific, and Africa. She worked and lived in The Congo, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Zambia, and South Africa. When she wasn’t working she went backpacking.

But sailing was always what she wanted to do. She bought S/V Aseka when she was working in Burkina Faso. The name means ‘to prosper’ in the local Burkinable language.

– People think I am ‘strange’ for sailing solo. My mother thinks I am crazy. I think it’s crazier when inexperienced males try to tell me what to do.
You are asking me what the hardest thing is for a singlehanded cruising woman like me. The hardest thing is not having someone to go diving with.

.

.

Finally we hear the muffled voice of a waterfall. The sound grows loud and heavy as if the fall is coming down for us. It’s a small cascade hidden in a canyon behind black rocks that rise suddenly, covered with abundant tropical vegetation. The long painful hike was worth it. We scramble through a deep pool and after one last vertical climb we reach the place where the water rushes down from its rock walls with great force and determination. We shower under its might holding on to our shorts.

Bev enjoying the small waterfall near Deshais

Bev enjoying the small waterfall near Deshais

I start thinking. I imagine myself alone on our boat, adjusting the sails, pulling the lines, reefing, dropping and lifting anchor while steering, fixing the engine… I am not too good with driving a dinghy by myself, let alone a boat. I have always relied on my husband for the more technical and physically challenging parts. I have always been just a “deck hand”, never the “sailing master”. I feel ashamed.

I admire Bev and she inspires me to learn more about our own boat, about sailing and navigating; to get more involved with the entire process of sailing.

If Bev can do it, I can do it. All women can.

Bev aboard S/V Aseka

Bev aboard S/V Aseka

 

 

You can see what TheLifeNomadik are doing and follow them on Facebook at The Life Nomadik

Other articles by Mira Nencheva published in Caribbean Compass (read on-line):

Three Reasons Why Not to Sail to Barbuda – issue 230 November, 2014 –  p.16-19 (front cover photo)

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger: One Year After the Attack  –  issue 230, November, 2014 – p. 26-27

Saba The Impossible Island – issue 231, December, 2014 – p.21-23

My School is Not a Building, by Maya – issue 231, December, 2014 – p.32

Dominica: Many Rivers to Cross  – issue 232, January, 2015 – p.21-23

Trinidad is Definitely for the Birds – issue 233, February, 2015 – p.21-22

A Woman Who Sails – issue 233, February, 2015 – p.26-27

Share

Run Barbados

.

.

Ivo and Mel have been running in the mornings 2-3 times a week since we started cruising together with S/V Passages in Guadeloupe in August 2014. Keeping in shape is harder when living on a boat, as movement is restricted and one needs to be very determined and disciplined in order to remain active and healthy. But Ivo and Mel have not been jogging merely to keep in shape. They have been training. You see, Mel is an experienced marathon runner participating in 50 to 90 km marathons in African deserts and all over the world and he gave Ivo a great incentive for more serious running. So here we are sailing together from island to island, Ivo and Mel running up and down the hills everywhere.

Ivo and Mel running in Trinidad

Ivo and Mel running in Trinidad

One morning in Grenada, after a few weeks of this intensive training, Ivo had the most terrible dream, a horrible nightmare.

– We were running Mel and I, in a 25 kilometer marathon in Barbados and I was almost dead from exhaustion, but Mel was pulling me and dragging me by the hand, telling me: ”Come on Ivo, you can do it!” Then I woke up.

We laughed at the absurdity of the nightmare.
After Grenada we sail to Trinidad and spend there a couple of weeks, then on to Tobago. In Tobago we wait for favorable winds to cross north to Barbados, an island Ivo has been dreaming to visit since he was a kid, even though the weather hasn’t allow us to do so for a while. But the wind finally turns slightly from east-southeast and the two boats set sail for Barbados.

We are in Barbados!

We are in Barbados!

After one night and one day of joyful sailing, close to wind but at least not tacking, we arrive in Bridgetown, the main port of the island that stands alone on the edge of the Atlantic.
Barbados is an island 12 by 14 miles formed by the collision of two geological plates and volcanic eruptions, which makes it a unique land formation isolated from the rest of the Caribbean islands 90 NM to the east from St Vincent.
Once populated by Arawak and Carib Indians, who sailed the dangerous sea currents around Trinidad in their small dug-out canoes, Barbados remained unnoticed by Columbus and for a while was spared the great euphoria of the New World, until Portuguese sailors discovered the island en route to Brazil. They named it Barbados- “The Bearded Ones” after the bushy fig trees that grew on the island.
But the first ones to claim it were the English in 1625, when Captain John Powell landed on its shores. In 1639 the colonists established a House of Assembly in Jamestown making Barbados the third Parliamentary Democracy in the world. Followed the plantation period, as everywhere else in the Caribbean and the Americas. Three hundred years later slavery was abolished and in 1966 Barbados became an independent country, member of the Commonwealth with strong British tradition and heritage.

Bridgetown

Bridgetown

In Bridgetown port we are greeted by the customs and immigration officials who seem very nice, very welcoming and very relaxed people. The checking in procedures take some time as we have to wait for the customs people to show up, then we listen to the immigration officer’s many interesting stories, and then we have to fill by hand a bunch of documents, crew lists, and declarations. Which is what we cruisers do best. I’m not complaining.
Next, we sail from Bridgetown Port to the anchorage in front of Pebbles Beach- our new home for the next few days. It’s a rolly anchorage, even for us on the catamaran.

.

.

The next day we walk around the town with Caryn and Mel admiring the canal surrounded by old colonial buildings, checking out some impressive duty-free shopping centers, and the guys sign up for an epic run. Ivo’s dream is about to come true!

.

.

There is an organized marathon event every year in Barbados and we have arrived just in time for the Saturday 10-kilometer run. It’s all a very peculiar coincidence.

Run Barbados 2014

Run Barbados 2014

Run Barbados started in 1983 and since then has hosted world rated runners including runners form Africa, England, United States, the Caribbean every year. The event spans over three days with various distance runs: the POWERade Fun Mile and International Friendship Run on Friday, POWERade 10k and 3k runs on Saturday, half marathon (22.5km) and Run Barbados 5k on Sunday.
Our guys sign up for the Saturday 10k run. The organization of the event is beyond belief impeccable and the turnout is fantastic- hundreds of participants from around the world. Streets are blocked, police cars are stationed, reporters are awaiting, cameras are rolling. The signal is given and the herd of over three hundred runners charge Bay Street heading all the way to Spring Gardens Hwy and back.

.

.

After only about half an hour the first runner crosses the finish line. Mel arrives after about 40 minutes, and Ivo is 10 minutes behind him. A truly proud moment.

Ivo and Mel

Ivo and Mel

Ivo has just become “the fastest Bulgarian in Barbados”. We celebrate with free fruits and Powerrade drinks on the beach.

Ivo after the Run

Ivo after the Run

The next days in Barbados we spend visiting some of the tourist attractions this unique island has to offer: the famous and very popular Harrison’s cave, the not-so-famous full with cockroaches, spiders and centipedes Cole’s cave, and beautiful Bathsheeba- a fishermen village on the east side with stunning rocky shoreline and beaches, famous among surfers.

Share

Tobago

.

.

Tobago is the smaller of the two main islands that make up the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It is located in the southern Caribbean, northeast of the island of Trinidad and southeast of Grenada, outside the hurricane belt. Tobago has a land area of 300 km² and is approximately 40 km long and 10 km wide.

 

.

.

.

.

Sailing to Tobago from Trinidad proves slower than we expected, heading northeast, very close to wind. We have calculated that if we leave on Thursday in the afternoon from Chacachacare and sail all night we should arrive in time on Friday and check-in before 4 p.m., as we thought there will be an overtime charge for late checking-in if we arrive after 4 p.m. or on the weekend. We are not sure if the overtime charge is 100 $US per boat, or per person, but it is an amount of money we would rather avoid paying. But we are sailing too slow and it looks like we will be late.

Maya aboard Fata Morgana

Maya aboard Fata Morgana

Our friends on S/V Passages, Mel and Caryn, who have been with us every day for the past 4 months and sailing about a mile behind us, agree on the VHF radio that we don’t have many options. We have to motor-sail the last 16 miles if we want to make it on time. The fuel will cost not more than 5$. Yet, Ivo doesn’t like the idea of motoring. A dark cloud of shame and misery envelopes him. Finally he tells me: “Do what you want…” Like an old dictator defeated by circumstances, yet proud, he cannot make the shameful decision and give the order. He wants me to do it. I turn on the engines. He sits alone on the bow of the boat, the farthest point away from the unbearable sound of the propellers, bursting from inside.It has been over one year now since we motored for so long, and it was because of a storm.

We get in the anchorage at Store Bay around 3 p.m., but we need to take a taxi and literally run to the Customs and then to Immigration in order to make it before 4. We do all this running like a small heard on the streets of Scarborough together with Mel and Caryn for the sheer amazement of the locals, only to realize at the end, that there isn’t any overtime fee when sailing between Trinidad and Tobago…The fee is when you are arriving from another country… Anyway…

.

.

.

.

We spend only a few days in Tobago, a small island invaded by bamboo trees and vary loud annoying birds called Cocrico, Tobago’s national bird, which serenade us in the mornings. The first time we heard them we thought some weird construction machines are invading the shores.

.

.

Here we found the most beautiful beach, not far from the anchorage at Store Bay- Pigeon Point. Pink sand and palm trees leaning over delicious blue water.

Ivo chilling on a palm tree

Ivo chilling on a palm tree

.

.

We also share a car with our friends Mel and Caryn and tour the entire island, stopping here and there, visiting many fishermen villages, beaches and bays, a small waterfall, enjoying a nice day on the road, even though it is raining most of the time.

 

.

.

Mel, Caryn, Mira, Maya and Ivo , Tobago waterfall

Mel, Caryn, Mira, Maya and Ivo , Tobago waterfall

Many fishermen in Tobago still use traditional long bamboo fishing poles, one hung from each side of their boats. They show us how to clean fish. We learn something every day…

 

.

.

.

.

In Tobago, like in Trinidad, the bamboo imported from Asia during the colonial period, has invaded the entire island. Beautiful bamboo forests are everywhere and people use the tree for construction, art, and to make fishing poles and all sorts of other useful things.

Bamboo in Tobago

Bamboo in Tobago

.

.

The economy of Tobago is heavily dependent on Trinidad’s booming natural gas and oil economy. Locally, tourism and fishing are most important.

.

.

Tobago is a much smaller much quieter island than Trinidad and we appreciated its authentic Caribbean atmosphere and tranquility, friendly people, and beautiful nature.

.

.

.

.

Our journey in Tobago ended with a nice dinner in the small beach restaurant near the anchorage, where Mel and Caryn invited us for dinner. They had too many of the local Trinidad and Tobago dollars left, and needed to liquidate them before leaving the country and heading to Barbados. We were happy to help with the liquidation of Mel and Caryn’s TT$ and enjoyed some local fish and beers. Thank you guys!

Share

Fun Things to See and Do in Trinidad

After visiting The Pitch Lake and The Sea Temple in Trinidad with our friends Mel and Caryn S/V Passages, we also shared a drive to the Northern Range and spent a day birdwatching near the Arima Valley.

.

.

Asa Wright Nature Center and Lodge is a nature resort and scientific research station where we found ourselves surrounded by Yellowtails, Manakins and tiny hummingbirds of all colors coming to eat fresh fruits and to drink sugar water from the feeders. The place, 1, 500 acres of forested land, is so magnificent, we felt as if we were in the Garden of Eden.

.

.

In the afternoon we managed to drive some more and arrive at the Caroni Swamp park in time for a guided tour of the large wetland of the Caroni river delta located on the west coast of Trinidad. Here tourists from around the world come to watch the Scarlet Ibis, Trinidad’s national bird.

Scarlet Ibis, Trinidad

Scarlet Ibis, Trinidad

The Scarlet Ibis resembles the American white ibis, but its remarkably brilliant scarlet coloration makes it unmistakable. It has protected status everywhere on the planet.

The motorboat we were in with a bunch of other tourists took us to a place where the birds come to sleep at night in the trees of a small island and we witnessed the most spectacular event: flocks of Scarlet Ibis flying in V-formations started to arrive just before sunset, and gradually the small green island in front of us became peppered with bright red birds, like rose blossoms.

.

.

Another place we enjoyed visiting in Trinidad was the Bamboo Cathedral. Bamboo is an invasive species introduced on the island from Asia and it is now everywhere. Forests of bamboo.

.

.

The locals use it for construction, for musical instruments, for carved souvenirs and for all sorts of things. For us driving around and walking surrounded by tall bamboo trees was another beautiful experience. And of course, Ivo had to prove he still had his monkey powers.

Ivo up in the Bamboo Cathedral

Ivo up in the Bamboo Cathedral

A few days later, we had the honor to visit a Christmas celebration with cruising and local friends in the Queen’s Park Oval– the largest cricket stadium ground in the West Indies, located in Port of Spain.

This stadium which the locals call “the Oval” has hosted more Test matches than any other ground in the Caribbean, including many World Series Cricket games in 1979 and matches of the 2007 Cricket World Cup. Considered by many players, journalists and critics as one of the most picturesque cricket venues, the ground had hosted many first class tours as early as the 1897.
Here we listened to live music performed by local musicians, among which a steelpan band. Traditionally, steelpans have been built from used oil barrels with hummers. The history of the steelpan music is fascinating.

Steelpan Band, Trinidad

Steelpan Band, Trinidad

After the French Revolution French planters immigrated to Trinidad bringing along their slaves from Martinique, Saint Vincent, Grenada, Saint Lucia and Dominica, establishing a local community and importing the tradition of Carnival with them. The slaves could not take part in Carnival, so they formed their own celebration called Canboulay. The makeshift musical instruments which they used were made from bamboo sticks, frying pans, dustbin lids, bottles and spoons, and oil drums made by 55-gallon used oil barrels, as the oil industry on the island was picking up speed. The tradition of the steelpans developed and grew.

In 1951 the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO), formed to attend the Festival of Britain, was the first steelband whose instruments were all made from oil drums.

But our favorite musical event in Trinidad remains the piano-evening we organized at the marina in TTSA, Chaguaramas.

Every Monday at around 6 p.m., the cruisers from the anchorage gather on the patio of the marina for a potluck BBQ bringing tasty homemade delights to share. We loved this tradition and participated every time while in Trinidad.

Getting the BBQ ready

Getting the BBQ ready

But one particular Monday we had Stamen playing the piano for us. Stamen is another Bulgarian full-time sailor and cruiser aboard S/V Gaia, together with his wife Durita from Norway. He is also a professional piano and organ player whom we met in Trinidad and hope to meet again someday, some place. Stamen installed his electrical piano near the long table and played for the cruisers, about a dozen of us, all evening and well into the night, starting with some classical pieces: Beethoven, Mozart and Bah, and then on to old evergreen songs like Hotel California, Let it Be, and even some Christmas carols. He can play any tune as long as someone sings the first couple of notes, and he did. We were all singing in between eating and drinking, and we didn’t want the night to end.

Stamen, S/V Gaia

Stamen, S/V Gaia

Other places we enjoyed visiting in Trinidad were the big shopping centers, the cinema and the Saturday Market in Port of Spain, where early in the morning farmers are selling all sorts of produce, fish and meat at very low prices.

"Feet" Port of Spain, Trinidad, Saturday Market

“Feet” Port of Spain, Trinidad, Saturday Market

We also loved the local food and tried the best roti in town as well as the best doubles. Actually, only I loved them, Ivo and Maya were not so enthusiastic, especially about the doubles, which look like puke served in a piece of paper and are very spicy.

Mira getting a double

Mira getting a double

Maya was also very happy in the anchorage in Trinidad where she found a new friend, James S/V Margy, and would spend every minute with him, studying side by side in the morning outside on the terrace of the TTSA marina, riding a bike and playing videogames the rest of the time.

Maya's school in Trinidad

Maya’s school in Trinidad

Maya and James

Maya and James

Before we left Trinidad for Tobago, we sailed to Chacachacare, a small island just 8 miles from Venezuela. Chacachacare is an abandoned uninhabited island, once a leper colony, covered in dry tropical vegetation: Manchineel trees, cacti and aloes.

The Doctor's House

The Doctor’s House

We dropped anchor near the long pier in front of a building that was once a sanatorium and we explore the shores. There are a few abandoned ruins of buildings on the island reclaimed by nature: the Leper Asylum, the doctor’s house, the nun’s quarters and other houses, and exploring them is both exiting and dangerous. They even had a road, sections of which still can be found in the forest.

Mira at the steps of one of the ruins in Chacachacare

Mira at the steps of one of the abandoned buildings in Chacachacare

The island was abandoned by the 1980s when the nuns left their quarters and when the last leper that was on the island died in 1984. The colony had been abandoned since.

Today, Chacachacare remains uninhabited except for staff maintaining the Lighthouse still functioning on the island and the Hindu Temple founded in 1945 which continues to be functional with religious activities.

Pier

Pier and leper asylum

In 1999, Donald Trump visited Chacachacare during the Miss Universe contest and thought of having a casino and hotel built on the island, which never happened.

After Chacachacare, we left Trinidad, an island we enjoyed visiting so much, and sailed northeast to Tobago.

Share

The Whale Who Came To Say Hi

.

.

 

This can happen to you when sailing from one place to another, slowly, gentle breeze, the sea surface almost flat, just a few ripples; then the wind dying completely and the boat drifting in some random direction carried by an almost imperceptible current, the sky clear and so bright it hurts your eyes, no land in view only barren sea, a great intense space empty and silent, and then…pffff… a long lazy slow-motion pfff, and you know it’s a whale, and your heart starts, and adrenalin hits you so violently you feel tiny needles in your arms and legs, and you know it’s a whale but you don’t see it, you missed it, so close to the boat, and you look with all your eyes and you scan the sea in all the directions and you know: next time he comes out for air you will see him for sure.

.

.

There he is, coming slowly, like a delayed miracle, pffff, closer this time, just next to the boat, his dark back smooth and shiny, his wet eye looking at you. He circles the boat closer and closer, worried, why are you not sailing, why is the boat drifting like that, do you need help? The water is so clear and completely transparent that when he decides to pass under, just a few feet below the boat, you see every detail on his body. It is a young humpback whale; about thirty feet long, with dark back, a small dorsal fin, two white pectoral fins, and a powerful elegant tail. You are looking down as if suspended in the air. A whale is flowing beneath your feet.

.

.

He decides to stay with the boat for a while, to make sure everything is OK, coming out for air every few minutes sometimes really close. Sometimes he swims on his side his white belly shining through the water, showing off, here I am, look what I can do, how are you, nice to meet you!

.

.

Share