Tag Archives: Culture


With Festiva in St. Maarten, St. Martin, Anguilla, St. Bart’s

Last Fall, good friends (Caliber 40 Owners) invited us to share a charter with them and another couple (now new friends) on a crewed Festiva Sailing Vacations catamaran sailing out of St. Maarten. “Yes,” was not a hard answer to come up with! With all three couples having been involved in project management during their careers, the plans and details came together quickly, and then we waited for the date.

The 0500  hrs start was painful (even having practiced for it for a couple of days ahead), though the pain was eased by Devon, our excellent limo driver.  The travel went smoothly — for modern travel — and we stepped aboard the boat, a Lagoon 44, “Smitten Kitten,” crewed by Patrick and Pascale at 1730. We were actually moving toward the boat in Simpson Bay Marina for five hours and thirty-five minutes. The other ~ seven hours were spent in some form of waiting — queued or otherwise.

Patrick & Pascale

Patrick and Pascale, a multi-decade, husband & wife charter team from the SW of France, quickly showed themselves to be in the top drawer of their profession, and they reinforced that view throughout the charter. We particularly appreciated their willingness to answer endless questions (more about the food a bit farther down). They were a major part of our most excellent experience.

Our first night on board we stayed in the marina surrounded by high quality cruising boats similar to our own boats and grander. Quite a few were there to race in the 37th Annual Heineken Regatta. Dinner (more about the food a bit farther down) provided a clear demarcation between travel and charter. Light squalls provided a lullaby. Lights were out early…

Our Lightest Breakfast

OK, about the food. Janet and I felt we were continuously dining at a Michelin Three Star* Auberge. Pascale’s menu took full advantage of their culture and the Caribbean context. Patrick’s grilling revealed a kindred spirit. [* “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey” (Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage.)]

Typical Lunch

Pascale’s willingness and inventiveness at working around food allergies and dislikes was most welcome. Our meals were plentiful, creative, wonderfully seasoned and playfully plated. Dining starts with the nose followed by eyes and palate. Pascale and Patrick addressed all three with skill and aplomb — especially on the days when we were on a rolling reach in 25 knot winds with 10 foot swells [11-12 sec period] topped with three foot seas.

Mid-morning, we left Simpson Bay for Anguilla and were sad to watch Symmetry, a 96 foot German Frers apparently lose all power in a crosswind and current. Even with the help of a swarm of inflatables, she rammed the bridge at the Bay exit channel. The delay bothered us far less than it did the land traffic that couldn’t see what was happening. Symmetry almost went on the rocks before the Coast Guard arrived. Instead, it appeared she might have gotten away with just a new anchor and roller ($$$$$).

Putting the excitement behind us we headed for the Prickly Pear Cays off the SW  tip of Anguilla for the first snorkeling. By rule, the anchorage we used is only accessible to captained yachts — bareboats are prohibited. After seeing the sinuous, shallow, swell-full passage we know why.

From there, it was up to Small Bay with its cactus-covered and bird-filled cliffs and then south to Crocus Bay for the night. It was very quiet and quite calm. The Tradewinds were pushed up by the cliffs and soared over us, leaving only intermittent post-midnight sprinkles. We noted that not having the concerns of boat operation and meal preparation left us all chillaxin sooner and more thoroughly than usual. Will we ever go back to bareboating?

Monday morning (already?) found us back at the cliffs of Small Bay for a snorkel before leaving for a sail back through the Prickly Pear Cays and up to Rendezvous Bay. The wind — absent the week before our trip — was coming back with authority! We were sailing! …and what sailing!

Rendezvous Bay was nearly vacant, gin clear, and had maybe six inch swells. We swam to the beach and chatted pleasantly with some folks who needed more sunscreen… The sun here, even in great 76-80 degree day temps, was merciless when it came to UV. We slathered on 70 and 30 and wore SPF 50 long-sleeves when diving or up at the more exposed steering cockpit.

From Rendezvous Bay we sailed to Marigot, St. Martin. The anchorage probably had 20 times the boats we had seen here at the same time of year in 2007 & 2008 (the economy perhaps?).

On the way in we saw Casa Blanca another Caliber 40 with a crew known to our friends. Patrick and Pascale offered to host them for cocktails and appetizers, and they joined us for a while once we had anchored.

Typical Dinner

The nightly routine was settling in. Generous cocktails, generous, tasty appetizers, tropical breezes, NO bugs, generous memory-making meals, inspired desserts, intermittent short-lived squalls, hours (upon hours) of boat talk, and quiet sleeping ended by scrumptious aromas to go with Bonjour

We wandered Marigot the next morning and said hello to our friend Christophe, the Maitre d’ at Tropicana, our favorite bistro from 2007 & 2008. From there it was watching the world go by from a harbor bistro til Patrick picked us all up in the RIB for the next lunch and sail.

Grand Case was our destination, Carnival (Mardi Gras) was the day, and fortunately our first choice for dinner was booked. Pascale took care of Plan B.

We asked Patrick and Pascale to join us, and we made our way to Le Cottage which translates with some difficulty to “The Cottage.” This was an exceptional dinner. The menu was similar to Pascale’s and Patrick’s — French with Caribbean grace notes. The service was like theirs as well — attentive, but unobtrusive, and they did together what four took care of here. All the while, the Carnival marchers drummed and paraded along the street fronting the restaurant. Thankfully, we were seated at the very back in a semi-banquette that allowed for air flow but kept the parade noise down enough we could converse. The food and wine (a light and fruity Pouilly Fumé) and company were excellent. Bravo, Le Cottage!

Bravo, Grand Case! — It was so jammed Gendarmes were turning people away at the highway turn-in. Leaving Le Cottage, we joined the marchers as far as the dinghy landing to head back out to Smitten Kitten before the next line of squalls put a damper on us.

Again, squalls sent us to sleep, and the edges of tradewind swells rocked us gently.

The next day, it was clear if we didn’t bolt for St. Bart’s we wouldn’t be going there this trip. The wind speed would be manageable but waiting a day would put it on the nose. Catamarans like this one don’t like wind on the nose. So, it was up, eat, and away for Anse Marcel and the marina there where we took on ice and water. Going in and out, we watched and were cautiously regarded by dozens of iguana of two species. It was interesting the way they segregated themselves by size but not by species. They were on the rocks and in the trees and moving slowly between one and the other.

Even with a favorable wind direction, this was sailing you need to be a sailor to enjoy. It was pitchy, rolly, sometimes wet and a blast. We reached along at 10 plus knots the whole way. The cat had a motion unusual to us monohull folks, but we adjusted pretty quickly. It might have been a bit more comfortable in a monohull, but it sure would have been slower and a lot less level. It changed my mind about the sailing qualities of a catamaran.

We reached Gustavia in time for our appointed tour of the island with taxi driver Florian. We saw far more of St. Bart’s this time. It’s much more developed than we realized — perhaps the magazines that advertise the high-end watches (you know the ones) tell the story in just a few words. When were were here last, they were in French and English. Now they are in French, English, and Russian. The tour was really worthwhile.

For comfort’s sake we moved the boat around to Anse Colombier (Columbus Bay) where the Rockefeller’s first Caribbean mansion decays. The swell all but disappeared but the trade-winds squeezed between two peaks and strengthened and eddied. This was our most restless anchorage yet — for the boat. It moved to and fro in the gusts, and we scarcely felt a thing.

Come morning, however, it was simply too agitated to snorkel safely along the rocks, so up anchor and off we went for St. Martin. with a stop at Isle Fouroche for snorkeling with turtles, snapper, blue tangs, angelfish and lots of fire coral.

From this volcanic cone we headed for Isle Pinel. Patrick offered me the wheel, and with a little instruction for the differences between catamarans and monohulls, off we went. My large catamaran (a Rudy Choy) experience from Hawaii started bubbling up bringing a lot of memories with it. With the freer and stronger wind we were clipping along at 12+ for most of the way. Yeehaa!

The first reef entrance was too confused and so Patrick opted for the second, and we were in a scenic lee in quiet waters in mere minutes. Some of us toured Isle Pinel.  Janet and I opted to veg aboard, watching the kite surfers in the adjacent bay.

Here the night squalls came earlier.

The plan for the next day was to ghost the 37th Heineken Regatta Round Island Race fleet which ever direction they were going.

too close

Overtook us half a boat length to windward then demanded we change course — direct course to mark was to leeward of us

This ended up being clockwise, and we hooked up with the last third of the fleet largely among the bareboats chartered for the race. Some of the seamanship we saw was a bit dodgy. I don’t think some of the crews had a feel for the sea conditions or the boats they were sailing (or the rules of the road for that matter). With our speed few boats passed us, so it was a scenic return to Simpson Bay. With one exception.

screaming cat

Doesn’t do it justice. It was smokin’

A catamaran around 36-40 feet came slashing up through the fleet under plain sail at around 25 knots. We could hear the rigging humming. The spray from the wave piercing hulls flew fifteen feet into the air to be misted off to leeward — and then they put a Code Zero or Screacher? up, and they were g…o……n………e! Patrick was actually grinning! We got a pic, but they were gone before we could manage getting a vid.

When the former Volvo Ocean Race boats came by on a reach, they looked slow by comparison. Notice the reefs.

It felt funny to slip back into Simpson Bay Marina under conditions nearly identical to our arrival evening. Not deja vu (we had been there before), but still it had a familiarity almost like returning to our own slip. Racers chattered around us. Other charterers headed up the dock as if escaping. We lingered till we had to go to dinner. We ate at Lee’s Roadside Grill. No place would have fared all that well after Smitten Kitten and Le Cottage.

Breakfast the next morning had a tad of regret mixed in with the juice. Even so, as Patrick and Pascale move on with their lives we will be looking for where they crew as Polynesia calls to them again.

Smiles all round!

One thing which worked especially well was the Atrium hotel has a financial relationship with Festiva, and so we could kill time there until we got caught back up in gears of modern travel. We ate lunch at the Greenhouse, next door where the sound checks from the Heineken party musicians kept our food hot with mere acoustic energy — very good food actually — better than Lee’s? Perhaps.

Our cab driver proved the power of his brakes at least fifty times during our 12 minute trip to the airport. Where, after the high tech-low stress process of getting to the boarding gates was done, things became old fashion Caribbean again — jammed, hot, loud, delayed, multiple gate changes, passengers ignoring boarding order…  We found a cooler slightly quieter place to hang out til time to board. When we returned to the meelee, we were told the plane hadn’t even arrived yet (but they had just called it for pre-boarding).

And the plane pretty much ran out of food the row behind us. Man, when did Pringles get so thin?

All told, I think I shed a couple of years even as my birthday awaited just after our return. We remembered something this trip. We may be boaters, but we are first and foremost, sailors. That’s important as we go forward.

It’s about the sailing.

417 Resolutions in One

klaxonstrongIt’s important to remember that virtually every image on TV is put there to bring eyes/ears to ads. The same is true of the Internet and the “services” it enables. This is nothing new; it was and is still true of newspapers. And I bet, if we could go back and listen, we would find several millenia of town-criers who finished up with a shout-out for a pub or a farrier…

What’s the point? Whether the images are acoustic or graphic or textual or a mash, they are chosen and they are written and they are edited to get us to look at/hear embedded or peripheral ads for something. Therefore, the news, the editorials (hard to distinguish these days), live or die on the basis of their popularity not their utility to the hearer/looker/reader.

Stories are killed when they don’t bring eyes/ears. Stories are dragged far, far down the road past boredom as long as they do. And in some cases, non-stories are created to fill the gaps on slow eye/ear segments. Facts are the first casualties, and retractions and apologies, if  forthcoming, are usually found by journalistic archeologists, not the rest of us. And even if factually correct, much of what is offered as news is carnival freak show stuff.

Some media appear to pander to whatever appetite will bring those eyes/ears to the ads. This is nothing new, but is is greatly more visible as technology prevents us from escaping the deluge of drivel. Sadly, bad news sells better than good, and if we are left with nothing but headlines to inform us, then angst is the only emotion we need. (OK, add disgust.)

“Follow the trend lines, not the headlines,” Bill Clinton* is said to have said.

The trends are hard to dig out. They seldom have the neat clean edges of a skillfully crafted eye/ear-grabber. But there is something interesting about trends these days, the majority of them are good. Is there room for them to be better? Always. There is something interesting about that too. There are lots of qualified, committed and seemingly tireless people working on those improvements. But their stories don’t sell ads.

dollarFor New Year 2015, add one more resolution — click on one less lurid eye-grabber each day, and dig into one more trend each week. By year’s end, you will have wasted your emotional energy 365 times less (times the number of ads per look!) and you will have educated yourself 52 times. You will have benefited 417 times. If you pay yourself $1 for each, that’s a pretty positive trend too. Remember:

Look up and not down; Look out and not in. Look forward and not back; Lend a hand! ― Edward Everett Hale

*Also attributed to Bill Gates

Symphonic Music in Vero Beach

trebleclefFrom childhood we have both loved good music. From arriving in the Washington DC area in 1980, we always had good access to symphonic music. Janet was even a member of the NSO Women’s Committee. We rarely missed an Air Force performance. And so on. When we selected Vero Beach as our land base of operations, we wondered how far we would have to drive north or south to find a good symphony. We feared it might be Jacksonville or much, much worse, Miami/Fort Lauderdale.

The answer is we don’t have to drive, and if we choose to, we don’t have to drive far. Yesterday, we attended the Holiday Performance of the Space Coast Symphony Orchestra’s Wind Ensemble at Vero Beach High School just 2.1 miles from us, 6.1 from Loggerhead Marina and 4.4 from the City Marina.


From VBHS PAC Site

First, the Vero Beach High School Performing Arts Center. This is not a trivial facility. It seats 1000, and with eyes closed, the acoustics are indistinguishable from the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. It also was clean and fresh, not always the case in venues such as this.

Next, The Space Coast Symphony Orchestra. (Aaron Collins, Artistic Director*) Wow! Big Sound, Crisp Sound, Clear Sound, Large enough instrument sections for real nuance in the orchestration and presentation. Sometimes to say people played with enthusiasm is to say they were not so good. In this case, the enthusiasm empowered world class musicianship and musicality. These musicians are there because they want to be, and you can hear the result. We are critical listeners, and from where we sat, there wasn’t a note off, a beat missed, a chair scraped.

The Symphony’s commitment to making music of this composition and performance quality financially accessible to all, especially young people, is great! We can still remember how much we learned from Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts.

And how nice they began with the National Anthem and a recognition of Veterans. It was Pearl Harbor Day after all.

If you are cruising anywhere between Cocoa and Vero Beach, it is worth the time and very modest expense to take in a concert. They perform, among other locations, at:

Please consider making a donation so that the next generation can develop an appreciation for music of this content and caliber.


*30- year old Aaron T. Collins is garnering recognition for his achievements.  In February 2012,  LEAD Brevard named the ambitious Collins one of their “4 under 40” Young Professionals, the youngest-ever recipient of the honor.  Space Coast Business magazine listed him as one of Brevard’s “100 Most Admired Businesspeople” in their April 2012 issue.  Through his personal involvement with more than a dozen performing arts groups, pioneering reciprocal ad program and social media cross promotions, Collins has gained a reputation for generosity; championing other arts organizations throughout Central Florida for the cultural enrichment of the community. (From SCSO website)

Lt. Sturrup Receives Coveted Honour Graduate Award at U.S. Coast Guard Training College

Good Stuff, Click Pic:


From: thebahamasweekly.com

Keeping The Light On For 150 Years

ElbowCay“One of Abaco’s beloved jewels, the Elbow Reef Lighthouse, is 150 years old this week. The lighthouse, on Elbow Cay, is the last manually-operated light fueled by kerosene in the world…” Read More at http://www.tribune242.com/news/2014/jun/26/keeping-light-150-years/

We met the light keeper and between his story and the one  in Dave Gale’s book, “Below Another Sky,”  the Elbow Reef Lighthouse might be just another aid to navigation and not an technological icon.

Racing Again

Ala Lilliput. Easter we walked over to watch the weekly radio controlled sailboat race for the first time since we have been here. There were three to start with (there have been as many as 21). After an hour or so the man in charge hollered across the water, “Do you want to come give it a try?”

I got up from my sling chair and was off and run… walking. When I got there I admitted I was an out of practice ringer as I have an RC sailboat Janet gave me for my 50th birthday.

I wish I could say it came back quickly. Well, maybe upwind did, but reaches and runs REALLY need some work. I could blame the puffy 10-20 kt NWly, but it was more a case of dys-helm-sia when the boat was distant or coming toward me.

Janet coached me from the sidelines which was fine until it included, “You missed that mark.” Sometimes she’s better at judge than coach.

Met a half a dozen new folks and liked them all.