Marigot Bay, St. Martin (Left, March 2015 and Right, March 2018)

ST. MARTIN – SIX MONTHS AFTER HURRICANE IRMA – by Theresa

The cruisers’ forums have been reporting that in the six months since  St. Martin took a direct hit from Category 5 Hurricane Irma, recovery efforts have been, not surprisingly, slow and arduous. Countless wrecks had to be removed from the navigatable waters and docks needed to be repaired and/or replaced. Repairs to the marine infrastructure were secondary to repairs to individuals’ homes, businesses and land infrastructure. With all of that in mind, we approached the island trepidatiously and with an eye towards assisting in the recovery efforts.

We had heard through the coconut telegraph that Fort Louis Marina, in Marigot Bay, had partially reopened. We had enjoyed our stays there previously in 2015 and 2016 [see St. Martin (2015) and St. Martin (2016)], so we were glad to learn that they had survived the storm. We contacted the marina in advance of our arrival to determine what marine services were available. They informed us that fuel, water, electric and floating docs were all available. We spent the first night in St. Martin on the hook in Marigot Bay, astonishinly, one of only a few boats in the entire bay.

Pilots' Discretion Position Report (March 2018)

Pilots’ Discretion Position Report (March 2018)

We picked up fuel in the marina first thing the next morning and then tied up to a floating dock. The dock staff were fantastic, setting up brand new / movable cleats exactly where we needed them to hold the boat.

Pilots' Discretion in her slip (floating docks), Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Pilots’ Discretion in her slip (floating docks, Moorings sailboat pulling in port side, astern), Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

After securing the boat, we headed towards the office to clear immigration  & customs, and to check in to the marina. It was then that we got our first glimpses of the devastation that Irma had bestowed upon the island. Six months after the hurricane had past, one might justly have concluded that it had just blown through the day before. As boaters, it was hard for us to look upon vessels, sunken in their slips.

Ryan looking over the sunken vessels, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Ryan looking over a sunken vessel (snapped of mast lying on the dock), Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Ryan looking over the sunken vessels, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Ryan looking over a sunken vessels, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Sunken vessels, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Sunken vessels, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Sunken vessle, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Sunken vessel, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Half of the marina was closed as the docks and water and electric pedestals were in complete disrepair.

Damaged docks, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Damaged docks, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Damaged docks, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Damaged docks, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

It was both evident and comforting to see that efforts were being made to repair the docks, including rewiring the electric.

Damaged docks, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Damaged docks, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Looking past more sunken boats and mangled docks, we saw hotels that were still without roofs and windows.

Damaged docks, sunken vessel, missing roofs, Fort Louis Marina / Marigot Bay St. Martin (March 2018)

Damaged docks, sunken vessel, missing roofs, Fort Louis Marina / Marigot Bay St. Martin (March 2018)

The old Fort Louis Marina office, had not yet reopened, because it, too, suffered the wrath of Irma. We were told the windows blew out and the wind and water destroyed everything in side.

Old marina office, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2108)

Old marina office, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2108)

Old office, Fort Louis Marina, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

Old office, Fort Louis Marina, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

The new office and the immigration & customs clearing-in computer have been relocated to the building directly accross the street from the marina.

Once outside, we saw more remnants of Irma. Streetlights and signs were bent over and concrete sidewalks were torn up. There was hardly a car in the parking lot that did not show some sign of hurricane damage.

St. Martin (March 2018)

St. Martin (March 2018)

Random boat debris and road or sidewalk hazards were roped off with caution tape. A disconnected center console hardtop (with seats and rear fridge) on the sidewalk was an unusual sight. However, the backdrop of the beautiful yachts in the water, directly behind the still visible signs of Irma’s destructive powers, showed clear signs that the marine community is recovering.

St. Martin (March 2018)

St. Martin (March 2018)

Many of the European candelabra style streetlights just outside the marina were damaged. LED floodlights atop the poles provided adequate interim lighting.

LED floodlight - temporary light fixture fix, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

LED floodlight – temporary light fixture fix, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

LED floodlight - temporary light fixture fix, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

LED floodlight – temporary light fixture fix, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

After clearing in, we strolled around the area. The Saint Martin Yacht Club, just outside and to the left of the marina, was open. While it suffered some damage to its glass balcony, it is a great waterfront spot for a waterside sundowner or a meal.

Marigot Bay Yacht Club, St. Martin (March 2018)

Marigot Bay Yacht Club, St. Martin (March 2018)

While walking along the waterfront, we saw more than the usual amount of Iguanas. Perhaps there homes, too, were disrupted by the storms.

Iguana, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Iguana, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Iguanas, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

Iguanas, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

A short walk outside, and to the right, of the marina, we found the West Indies Shopping Mall open for business.

West Indies Shopping Mall, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

West Indies Shopping Mall, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

Down by the ferry docks, people were taking pictures in front of the infamaous “I love SXM” sign. The ferries to Anguilla and St. Bart were running on schedule and most of the restaurants in the square by the ferry docs were open.

Ryan, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

Ryan, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

On previous visits, we had hiked to Fort Louis, at the top of the mountain just outside the marina. See St. Martin (2015) and St. Martin (2016)

Fort Louis, St. Martin

Fort Louis, St. Martin

The fort always provided stunning views of the marina and Marigot Bay below. The views were still stunning, however, the cautionary tape at the eroded precipice was yet another sign of the damage Irma left behind.

Fort Louis, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

Fort Louis, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

Looking out from the fort, we saw many blue tarps providing shelter to those structures still without roofs.

Marigot, St. Martin (March 2018)

Marigot, St. Martin (March 2018)

Marigot, St. Martin (March 2018)

Marigot, St. Martin (March 2018)

The most stunning view was that of Marigot bay. The lack of vessels in the bay below was a stark juxtaposition to our previous visits to Marigot Bay and a strong signal that the level of marine tourism in St. Martin has declined precipitously.

Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2015)

Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2015)

Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

Marigot Bay and Simpson’s Lagoon, St. Martin, (March 2015)

Marigot Bay and Simpson’s Lagoon, St. Martin, (March 2015)

Marigot Bay and Simpson’s Lagoon, St. Martin, (March 2018)

Marigot Bay and Simpson’s Lagoon, St. Martin, (March 2018)

We did not travel outside of Marigot Bay, as we have on previous visits [see St. Martin (2015) and St. Martin (2016)], so we cannot report on how the rest of the island is faring. What we can say is, what we saw in Marigot Bay was the strength and resolve of the people to rebuild their beautiful island. Everyone we met was warm, friendly and inviting. In sum, St. Martin is still a beautiful cruising destination.

Our next port of call, The British Virgin Islands (BVIs), also took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma. More on what we encountered in the BVIs in our next post.

ST. EUSTATIUS (a.k.a. STATIA) – DUTCH CARIBBEAN – by Theresa

St. Eustatius (Statia), a Dutch Caribbean island in the  East Indies, is not a popular tourist destination, however, it is every bit as beautiful as her Caribbean tourist-destination counterparts. In fact, the lack of tourist(s)/tourism adds to the island’s overall charm.

Quill Volcano & Oranje Bay, St. Eustatius (Dutch Caribbean)

Quill Volcano & Oranje Bay, St. Eustatius (Dutch Caribbean)

Since we began cruising, in 2014, we have not missed an opportunity to stop in Oranje Bay in Statia. See Statia (2015/05/14). When we first pulled into port, in 2015, the boys had been learning about volcanoes in science. Picking up a mooring ball at the base of the Quill Volcano brought their lessons blazing to life!

Ryan & Ronan hoisting courtesey Statia flag (March 2015)

Ryan & Ronan hoisting courtesey Statia flag (March 2015)

Hiking to the top of the Quill Volcano in 2015 was an amazing experience and not one any of us will soon forget. Statia (2015/05/14). Each time we have pulled into Oranje Bay since then, with the Quill Volcano ominously towering over the Bay, I have marveled at the island’s natural beauty. This time (2018), I couldn’t help but notice the towering figures of the boys in front of the volcano. I guess the sea air has been good for these growing young men these past three years!

Ryan & Ronan hoisting courtesey Statia flag (March 2018)

Ryan & Ronan hoisting courtesey Statia flag (March 2018)

Among the things we love about Statia are her historical ties to the United States. On November 16, 1776, the guns of Statia’s Fort Oranje were ordered to return the salute of the U.S. Brig Andrea Doria, thereby becoming the first salute by a foreign power to recognize the sovereignty of the United States of America during the Revolutionary War.

First Salute Plaque

First Salute Plaque

Statia Day Plaque

Statia Day Plaque

Fort Oranje is just a short walk up the hill and is rewarded with sweeping views of the Oranje Bay.

Oranje Bay, St. Eustatius (Dutch Caribbean), Piltos' Discretion in the center of the bay below (2018)

Oranje Bay, St. Eustatius (Dutch Caribbean), Pilots’ Discretion in the center of the bay below (2018)

Cannon, Fort Oranje, St. Eustatius (Dutch Caribbean), Pilots' Discretion on the left in the bay below

Cannon, Fort Oranje, St. Eustatius (Dutch Caribbean), Pilots’ Discretion on the left in the bay below

Over 242 years later, the fort still stands strong.

Ryan & Ronan running around Fort Oranje, St. Eustatius (Dutch Caribbean) (2018)

Ryan & Ronan running around Fort Oranje, St. Eustatius (Dutch Caribbean) (2018)

Walkway, Fort Oranje, St. Eustatius (Dutch Caribbean)

Walkway, Fort Oranje, St. Eustatius (Dutch Caribbean)

Sundial, Fort Oranje, St. Eustatius (Dutch Caribbean)

Sundial, Fort Oranje, St. Eustatius (Dutch Caribbean)

Some of the more recent (roof) additions to fort did not fare as well after hurricane Irma.

Missing roof on building in Fort Oranje, St. Eustatius (Dutch Caribbean)

Missing roof on building in Fort Oranje, St. Eustatius (Dutch Caribbean)

Other parts of the island also seemed to have been adversely impacted by Irma and Maria.

Missing roof, Waterfront restaurant, Fort Oranje, St. Eustatius (Dutch Caribbean)

Missing roof, Waterfront restaurant, Fort Oranje, St. Eustatius (Dutch Caribbean)

Grounded sailboat, St. Eustatius (2018), Piltots' Discretion anchored in the background

Grounded sailboat, St. Eustatius (2018), Pilots’ Discretion anchored in the background.

We were glad to see one of our favorite restauarant/hotels, The Old Gin House, was still standing.

Old Gin House Hotel & Restaurant, St. Eustatius (2018)

Old Gin House Hotel & Restaurant, St. Eustatius (2018)

Old Gin House Hotel & Restaurant, St. Eustatius (2018)

Old Gin House Hotel & Restaurant, St. Eustatius (2018)

A rare 0-1′ weather window had us continuing our journey north to St. Martin.

Passing Saba, 0-1 foot seas

Passing Saba, 0-1 foot seas

Ryan & Randy at the helm - Statia to St. Martin (2018)

Ryan & Randy at the helm – Statia to St. Martin (2018)

St. Martin took a direct hit from hurricane Irma. More on what we found there in our next post.

Season 4: Post Irma – Cruising Martinique, Dominica & Guadeloupe – by Theresa

February, 2018, we readied the Pilots’ Discretion for sea, which included, among other things, the boys assisting Gaza (a dear friend and our ‘go to guy’ in St. Lucia  for a wide array of boat projects) polishing the Eisenglass. They did such an amazing  job, when they were done, the Eisenglass looked brand new! Additionally, we finished upgrading our inverter/battery chargers, serviced our main engines and genset and made one final run to Mega Massey to provision the boat.Ronan, Gaza & Ryan - Eisenglass done!Ronan, Gaza & Ryan – Eisenglass done!

Randy & Gaza finishing up the Eisenglass, St. Lucia (2018)

Randy & Gaza finishing up the Eisenglass, St. Lucia (2018)

A few days prior to departing St. Lucia, Ronan and I encountered a famous St. Lucian Soca/Gospel singer, Denver Pierre,  filming a music video at Rodney Bay Marina, where our boat was. He asked Ronan to be in the video. In the final video Ronan is shown 19 seconds in & again at 1:58.

It is a positive message themed song and video and it also shows a lot of nice video footage out and about in St. Lucia.

February 25, 2018

The day we departed St. Lucia was bitter sweet for us. In addition to the melancholy feelings associated with leaving an island where we had spent a significant amount of time and made many friends, it also marked the day that Patton would have turned 16. After setting out to sea, we had a moment of silent memorial and paid tribute to the greatest boat dog there ever was.

MARTINIQUE

Our first stop on our northern course was in Fort de France, Martinique. We had been there several times in prior cruising seasons, and had written about our experiences after those visits. See Dominica, Martinique & St. Lucia (2015/06/04). Martinique was fortunate to have escaped the brundt of the wrath of Irma and Maria. While we did see some minor damage (missing roofs on some structures in the fort), overall, the small metropolitan city seemed as beautiful as ever.

Fort de France, Martinique

Fort de France, Martinique

We were pleased to see that the renovations on the central cathedral, which was covered in scaffolding during our last visit, were completed. The results were magnificent.

Fort de France, waterfront cathedral, Martinique

Fort de France, waterfront cathedral, Martinique

With cruise ship season in full swing, it was no surprise that, the day we pulled in to port, there was a cruise ship picking up passengers and getting underway herself.

Cruise ship in Fort de France, Martininque

Cruise ship in Fort de France, Martininque

DOMINICA

Our next port of call on our northward bound journey was Dominica.

Ronan, Ryan & Randy at the helm

Ronan, Ryan & Randy at the helm

Unlike Martinique, Dominica was hit hard this past hurricane season.  When we arrived, six month’s after the hurricanes, the damage to the landscape and structures was still readily apparent.

Damaged roofs in Dominica, (Feb. 2018)

Damaged roofs in Dominica, (Feb. 2018)

Equally apparent was the strength and resolve of the people to carry on and move forward. Tourism and agriculture are the two main resources in Dominica. While the island continues to work towards recovering the agricultural resources, tourism was abundant. In Portsmouth harbor, the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services (PAYS) was up and running, guiding boats to mooring balls and offering other yacht services.

PAYS member guiding sailboat to mooring, Portsmouth, Dominica (2018)

PAYS member guiding sailboat to mooring, Portsmouth, Dominica (2018)

PAYS member offering services (tours, food, beverages, trash removal) to cruiser, Portsmouth, Dominica

PAYS member offering services (tours, food, beverages, trash removal) to cruiser, Portsmouth, Dominica

The mooring balls and lines all looked new and the harbor was as full as we have ever seen it. The VHF was full of chatter from yachtsmen arranging river and rainforest tours. Once again, with cruise ship season in full swing, we saw a sailing cruise ship in the harbor ferrying passengers to and from the island. She was a beautiful sight to see, sails up, departing at sunset, just off our stern.

Sailing Cruise Ship, Star Clipper getting uderway, Portsmouth, Dominica (2018)

Sailing Cruise Ship, Star Clipper getting underway, Portsmouth, Dominica (2018)

Sailing Cruise Ship, Star Clipper getting uderway, Portsmouth, Dominica (2018)

Sailing Cruise Ship, Star Clipper getting uderway, Portsmouth, Dominica (2018)

GUADELOUPE

We refueled in Rivière Sens, at the southern end of Guadeloupe, before continuing north to Deshaies.

Ryan supervising fueling up in Riviera Sans, Guadeloupe (2018)

Ryan supervising fueling up in Riviere Sens, Guadeloupe (2018)

Theresa & Ryan running the boat to Deshaeis, Guadeloupe (2018)

Theresa & Ryan running the boat to Deshaies, Guadeloupe (2018)

We pulled into Deshaies to the sight of yet another sailing cruise ship.

Club Med 2 Sailing Cruise Ship, Deshaies, Guadeloupe (2018)

Club Med 2 Sailing Cruise Ship, Deshaies, Guadeloupe (2018)

Ronan & Ryan playing chess on the bridge, Sailing Cruise Ship Club Med 2 off our stern, Deshaies, Guadeloupe (2018)

Ronan & Ryan playing chess on the bridge, Sailing Cruise Ship Club Med 2 off our stern, Deshaies, Guadeloupe (2018)

Deshaies seemed to have fewer mooring balls available than we had seen on previous visits, so we dropped our anchor and settled in for yet another fabulous Caribbean sunset.

View from the galley, Deshaies, Guadeloupe (2018)

View from the galley, Deshaies, Guadeloupe (2018)

Sunset, Deshaies, Guadeloupe (2018)

Sunset, Deshaies, Guadeloupe (2018)

In Deshaies, boats come by to “take your morning order,” and the next morning, we had fresh baguettes delivered right to our boat.

Ryan picking up baguettes delivery to the boat, Deshaies, Guadeloupe (2018)

Ryan picking up baguettes delivery to the boat, Deshaies, Guadeloupe (2018)

In sum, it seems this past year’s hurricanes have not dampened the cruise ship / cruisers / tourism enthusiasm in the Easterrn Caribbean. In fact, we spoke to many who said they were purposesfully visiting hurricane hit island nations because tourism dollars are needed to assist in the speedier recovery of the islands. We will not sugar coat it, there have been significant physical and economic consequences for the Eastern Caribbean islands but for the most part these islands and their people have proven resilient and will thrive again.

In our next series of posts we will be reporting on what we found on some of the islands that had a more direct encounter with Irma or Maria or both.

Ryan, Brandon Crawford and Ronan (Jan. 2018)

BRANDON CRAWFORD BASEBALL CAMP, SCOTTSDALE, AZ – by Ronan

BCraw35 Baseball Camp

BCraw35 Baseball Camp

For Christmas, one of the presents our mom and dad got Ryan and me was two days at “Brandon Crawford Baseball Camp!” We could not believe it! Brandon Crawford is a major league baseball player who plays short stop for the San Francisco Giants. The camp started on January 27th, so Ryan and I had a month to practice our game. Before we knew it, we were flying from St. Lucia, (the West Indies) in the Caribbean, to Phoenix, Arizona, for the baseball camp. The camp was held in Scottsdale, Arizona because that is where the Giants do their spring training. We had an overnight layover in Miami, so it took us two (2) days to get to Arizona from the Caribbean.Ryan & Ronan outside Scottsdale Stadium (Jan. 2018)Ryan & Ronan outside Scottsdale Stadium (Jan. 2018)

DAY 1

On the first day of baseball camp, we woke up early, had breakfast, and drove to Scottsdale. When we got to Scottsdale stadium, we signed in and went to the field, while the parents and family went to the observation deck (Mom, Dad, and Aunt Patti).

Pre-camp gathering

Pre-camp gathering

When we gathered on the field at the start of the day, we were very excited to see San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, as well as San Francisco Giants Coach Chad Chopp! Coach Chopp is the Giants left-handed batting practice pitcher and a video replay analyst. There were also many other coaches and assistants.San Fracisco Giants' shortstop Brandon Crawford and Coach Chad Chopp (Jan. 2018)San Francisco Giants’ shortstop Brandon Crawford and Coach Chad Chopp  (Jan. 2018)

The first thing we did was play two ball. Two ball is a game where you throw two baseballs to someone from one hand, and if they do not catch both of them, they get a point. You have to try to get as little points as possible. Next, we did warm ups. First, we ran from one side of the field to the other, and then they organized us in lines to throw and catch to one another.

Line throw catch warm up

Line throw catch warm up

Then, one by one all the kids ran forward doing lunge stretches with their legs. Next, all the kids in the camp made one enormous circle. The coaches had us hold a different position with our arms for ten seconds at a time. Warm up circleWarm up circle

The coaches then organized us into small groups by age. There were many different stations that practiced different exercises with different coaches. It was amazingly well run! They had a set time of when to rotate to a different station. There was an outfield station, a Wiffle Ball station, a base running station, an off a tee batting station, an underhand pitching batting station, an overhand pitching batting station, a pitching station, an in-fielding station, and a bunting station.

Out Fielding station

Out Fielding station

In the out-fielding station, they taught us how to catch balls properly. We also learned about “drop steps.” A drop step is when you take a step back to your right or your left depending on where the ball is coming from. This allows you to easily run backwards or forward for the ball.

Ronan at bat at the Wiffle ball station

Ronan at bat at the Wiffle ball station

At the Wiffle Ball station, we practiced hitting Wiffle Balls with a small bat, and then hitting them with the bat we brought.Ronan getting batting tips from Brandon Crawford (Jan. 2018)Ronan getting batting tips from Brandon Crawford (Jan. 2018)

In the batting cages, everyone hit baseballs off of tees for practice. After batting off of tees, we hit balls that were thrown underhand by a coach. Next, we hit balls that were thrown overhand by a coach.

At the base running station, the coaches taught that you should tag the inside corner of first base  when you are going to keep running for second and same with all the other bases.

While at the pitching station, the coaches taught us how to deliver the ball properly. At the bunting station, we were taught how to hold the bat while attempting to bunt. While at the in-fielding station, we practiced fielding ground balls at short stop and throwing them to the first baseman.

Infield station - Ryan and Brandon Crawford at short stop & Ronan at 3rd base

Infield station – Ryan and Brandon Crawford at short stop & Ronan at 3rd base

At the end of the first day of camp, they handed out prizes to the kids who did especially well.

End of Day 1 gathering

End of Day 1 gathering

The coaches also talked about the importance of appreciation of team, family and teachers. Our “homework” assignment was to do a “random act of kindness.”

Aunt Patti, Ronan, Randy & Ryan (Jan. 2018)

Aunt Patti, Ronan, Randy & Ryan (Jan. 2018)

After camp, when we got back to the hotel, Ryan, Mom, and I decided to hike Mt. Tempe which was right outside our hotel.

Mount Tempe, AZ (elevation 1495')

Mount Tempe, AZ (elevation 1495′)

Along the trail, we saw lots of cactuses and other hikers. When we got to the top, we stopped and enjoyed the magnificent view.

Going up and down Mt. Tempe only took about an hour. Next, we went to the hot tub on the roof of the hotel. We had an amazing day!

DAY 2

On the second day of camp, we woke up bright and early to get ready. Just like the day before, we drove to Scottsdale stadium in Scottsdale with our mom, dad and Aunt Patti. We started the day off with more of the game, two ball. Then we did warm ups and went to our assigned stations. However, on the second day they did the stations a little differently than before. The coaches handed out prizes, such as bubble gum and sunflower seeds, to kids that did well. While in the batting cages, I was very excited when I got a tip from Brandon Crawford himself! He told both Ryan and me that we should swivel our back leg while batting for more power. If I had to choose, I think I learned the most at the pitching station on the second day. One of the coaches showed me that I should make a “W” shape with my arms while delivering the pitch. This helped improve my pitching accuracy tremendously! At the end of the day, the coaches handed out prizes again.

End of Day 2 pep talk and Q&A session

End of Day 2 pep talk and Q&A session

I was very happy when I got picked for a prize by the pitching coach. My prize was a Gaylord Perry mini-statue. Gaylord Perry was one of the pitchers on the Giants who has been elected to the baseball Hall of Fame. After I got my prize, Brandon Crawford walked over to Ryan and I and asked us our names.

End of Day 2 pep talk, Q&A and prizes

End of Day 2 pep talk, Q&A and prizes

Then he chose my brother Ryan to get a prize too! Ryan got a Bruce Bochy gnome. Bruce Bochy is the Giants manager. The gnome looks hilarious! After giving out prizes, everyone formed a line to get an item of their choice signed by Brandon Crawford, along with a picture with him. Ryan and I had baseballs signed, and took pictures with him!

Ronan shaking hands with Brandon Crawford (Jan. 2018)

Ronan shaking hands with Brandon Crawford (Jan. 2018)

Ronan with his signed ball from Brandon Crawford (Jan. 2018)

Ronan with his signed ball from Brandon Crawford (Jan. 2018)Ryan with his baseball signed by Brandon Crawford (Jan. 2018)

Ryan with his baseball signed by Brandon Crawford (Jan. 2018)

Ryan, Brandon Crawford and Ronan (Jan. 2018)

Ryan, Brandon Crawford and Ronan (Jan. 2018)

Following the autographs and pictures, we returned to the hotel. The whole camp was an experience of a lifetime! My brother and I now have signed balls from three (3) SF Giant players, Willie Mays, Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford! (See Willie Mays, one of a kind (2015/11/17) and A Giant Among Giants, Christmas Arrives Early in Grenada (2015/12/20).

To top it off, all of the proceeds from the camp were donated to the Buster and Kristen Posey Fund. Buster Posey is a teammate of Brandon Crawford’s and is the catcher for the San Francisco Giants. The Buster and Kristen Posey Fund is a charity that provides grants to research hospitals and organizations that support children diagnosed with pediatric cancer. To check out, or donate to the Buster and Kristen Posey Fund, click here. For information on future Brandon Crawford Baseball camps, click here.

Ryan and Theresa in the shadow of the Pitons, diving in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

ADVANCED OPEN WATER SCUBA CERTIFICATION – by Ryan

For my birthday, my parents gave me a certificate to get PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certified with Dive St. Lucia. To get Advanced Open Water Diver certified you first need to complete the online, or in classroom, training and then pass the final exam. Next, you have to successfully complete five (5) “adventure dives,” two (2) of which are mandatory. The mandatory dives are “Deep Dive” and “Underwater Navigation.” For our optional dives, we chose “Wreck Diving,”  “Peak Performance Buoyancy” and “Underwater Photography.” Throughout the course, my mom was my diving “buddy.” We dove twice a day, three days in row, to complete the 5 adventure dives, plus one bonus “fun dive.” Our very competent and knowledgeable instructor for the course was Wendy.Theresa, Wendy (dive instructor) & Ryan in front of the Pitons, St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)Theresa, Wendy (dive instructor) & Ryan in front of the Pitons, St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

DAY ONE – DEEP DIVE & UNDERWATER NAVIGATION

Marigot Bay, St. Lucia

Marigot Bay, St. Lucia

We arrived at Dive St. Lucia at 8:15 a.m. and picked out and prepared the gear we would use for the course. At 9:00 a.m. the dive boat shoved off and headed south towards the Pitons. It took us about an hour to get down to Marigot Bay where we picked up more divers.

Wendy then went over the dive plan for our first dive and we geared up. The first dive site was called “Superman’s Flight,” because of the strong current, and was located  below the St. Lucia’s famed Gros Piton.Gros Piton, St. Lucia

Gros Piton, St. Lucia

Superman’s Flight was our Deep Dive. For the Deep Dive, you have to dive down 60-100 feet below the surface. Since I was only twelve at the time, our deep dive was limited to only 70 feet (you have to be 14 to dive down to 100 feet). Our dive instructor brought an egg down with us and cracked it 70 feet below the surface to show us the effect that pressure has that deep. (Click photo below to see what happens to an egg when you crack it 70 feet under water.)

The yolk and the fluid surrounding it stayed in tact. It kind of resembled a ping pong ball. After ascending approximately 10 feet, to 60 feet, due to decreased pressure, the yolk started to fall apart. That was my science class for the day. Afterwards, we drifted along the colorful reef in a super man pose. As the current pulled us along we saw tons of cool coral and sea life. After 40 minutes, and a three minute safety stop at 15 feet, we concluded the dive. The dive boat came over and picked us up for lunch.Marty and Suzanne (M/V Alizann) enjoying lunch lunch between dives in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)Friends, Captains Marty and Suzanne (M/V Alizann), enjoying lunch lunch between dives in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Ryan getting ready to dive in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Ryan getting ready to dive in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

After lunch we traveled north to the next dive site “Fantasia.” On that dive we had to complete our mandatory Underwater Navigation skills. Wendy gave us compasses and briefed us on the drills we would be required to do under the water. After gearing up we took a giant stride into the water and descended. The first drill was measuring how many kick cycles it took Mom and I to go 100 feet (horizontally). Next we had to go 30 kick cycles on one compass heading then return to the same spot on the reciprocal heading. Once we both completed that we had to go 30 kick cycles in a different direction and use natural navigation to get back. Wendy told us not to use fish, crabs, etc. (or anything else that moves)  as markers to help us navigate back.Ryan scuba diving in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Ryan scuba diving in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)Finally, we had to navigate a square. To navigate a square we had to go ten kick cycles in one direction, then, using our compasses, turn 90 degrees right. After two more 90 degree turns we ended up back where we initially started.Ryan scuba diving in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)Ryan scuba diving in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

After completing all of the “hard work” we enjoyed diving the reef in Fantasia. Like most Caribbean dives, the dive was colorful and full of sea life.

DAY 2 – FUN DIVE & PEAK PERFORMANCE BUOYANCY (PBB)

Since we already had all our gear set up from the day before, on day 2 we arrived at Dive St. Lucia later than the day before. For our third dive, Dive St. Lucia Capt. Dwight escorted us to Turtle Reef and Anse Conchon South, down by the Pitons.Theresa, Dive St. Lucia Capt. Dwight & Ryan (Jan. 2018)Theresa, Dive St. Lucia Capt. Dwight & Ryan (Jan. 2018)

On the boat we learned that we would have another diver joining us for the day – Alfie – who was on vacation from England. Ryan, Theresa & fellow diver Alfie getting ready to dive Turtle Reef in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)Ryan, Theresa & fellow diver Alfie getting ready to dive Turtle Reef in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

We picked up more divers and snorkelers in Marigot Bay, again, then continued heading South until we got to Turtle Reef. Our first dive was our fun dive so we did not have any skills to perform. We descended 60 feet and then started out over the reef. Strangely enough, that was the second time I went to Turtle Reef and did not see any turtles.

Turtle Reef in St. Lucia

Turtle Reef in St. Lucia

I did see moray eels, fish and a lot of colorful coral. I just did not see a turtle. For now, I will just have to take it at the word of the person who named the reef that there are turtles there. Wendy pointed out all of the cool creatures we might have missed otherwise. Along a wall on the dive in a little crack I saw a huge lion fish, which was the biggest one any of us had ever seen. We also saw large crabs and even a octopus.

Like day one, the boat picked us up and we had a great lunch.  We then traveled North to our second dive site “Anse Cochon South.” Our fourth dive was our Peak Performance Buoyancy or “PPB.” Some of our cruising friends said that PPB was the most beneficial of all the adventure dives because it teaches you how to best maintain neutral buoyancy. After completing the dive, I agree.

DAY 3 – WRECK DIVING & UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY

Out of all three days, day three was probably the best. We started heading South from Rodney Bay around 9:00 a.m., and like every other day, we picked people up in Marigot Bay. Our first dive site was the Lesleen M. Wreck. The Lesleen M. was purposely sunk in 1985 to create an artificial reef. We descended 60 feet and started the dive at the bow of the wreck. On the wreck dive we brought the cameras we would be using for our underwater photography dive and got pictures and videos of the wreck. Inside the cracks and portholes of the wreck there was sealife and creatures like moray eels. We swam towards the stern (back) and saw the prop and rudder. There were sea spiders and lots of coral encrusting the wreck. After circling the entire wreck we ascended to the top deck (of the wreck) and swam above it. We could see the part of the wreck that was damaged by Hurricane Irma. Due to the damage we were not able to penetrate the wreck. We were underwater for 60 minute on our first dive before ascending to the surface. (Click photo below for video and photos of the Lesleen M wreck and Anse Conchon dives.)

Lesley M Wreck in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Ryan photographing the Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Ryan photographing the Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia – 65 feet below sea level (Jan. 2018)

The bridge of the Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

The bridge of the Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

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Ryan exploring the rudder of the Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Ryan exploring the rudder of the Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia, 65 feet below sea level (Jan. 2018)Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia - 65 ft below sea level looking up (Jan. 2018)Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia – 65 ft below sea level looking up (Jan. 2018)Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia - 65 ft below sea level - looking towards the bow (Jan. 2018)Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia – 65 ft below sea level – looking towards the bow (Jan. 2018)

Ryan diving the Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia - 65 ft below sea level (Jan. 2018)

Ryan diving the Lesleen M Wreck in St. Lucia – 65 ft below sea level (Jan. 2018)

After lunch, the boat dropped us off at Anse Cochon South. The skill we practiced on our second dive of the day was underwater photography and videography. There was lots of cool sea life to take pictures of along the reef. While taking pictures on top of the reef, sometimes moray eels would go right underneath us. We used the neutral buoyancy skills that we learned in PPB  to get up close and steady to our “subjects.” Photography was definitely one of my favorites (out of five the dives) because it memorialized and allowed us to share our dive experiences. After 45 minutes, and a 3 minute safety stop at 15 feet, we ascended as newly PADI advanced certified divers! The boat picked us up and we traveled back to the dive shop.

Anse Cochon North, St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Anse Cochon North, St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Sea Urchins & Tubular Coral, Anse Cochon North, St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Sea Urchins & Tubular Coral, Anse Cochon North, St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Out of all the PADI specialty courses I would recommend the PPB as the most beneficial and Wreck/Photography as the most fun. I think the Advanced Open Water Diver certification course helped us a lot as divers and certainly expanded our horizons in the world of PADI.

Ryan, Paulette, John, Randy, Theresa & Ronan in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

As the famous New York Yankee catcher, Yoggi Berra used to say, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it” – by Randy

As we have communicated to you before, the cruising community is different than that which our land based neighbors are accustomed to. We are, by definition, a group of transients with different itineraries, capabilities and goals. We have been cruising in the Caribbean for over 3 years now and we have crossed and recrossed paths with dozens of cruising families that we have enjoyed sharing our cruising dream with. Having passing acquaintances with other families is just part of the lifestyle. That said, we have developed some unique and close bonds with a select few. One of the special cruising families that we have shared a particularly close friendship with is John and Paulette Lee of M/V Seamantha, a Kadey Krogen 58′ trawler.

Paulette & John on the bridge of M/V Seamantha

Paulette & John on the bridge of M/V Seamantha

Tobago Cays (June 2016)

Petite St. Vincent  (June 2016)

Patton

Patton

We first met John and Paulette in the British Virgin Islands 3 years ago during our initial trip south through the Caribbean. When we arrived to spend our first hurricane season in Grenada, we ended up with a slip right next to Seamantha in the Port Louis Marina. John and Paulette spoiled our Cocker Spaniel, “Patton” with fresh bowls of his favorite vegetable, cauliflower, on the aft deck of Seamantha. They have watched our boys, Ryan and Ronan grow from little boys into capable young men. Throughout our trip, we have shared countless wonderful experiences with our cruising buddies. As the saying goes, friends are the family that you get to choose and John and Paulette have certainly become a big part of our family.

M/V Seamantha arriving in Admiralty Bay, Bequia

M/V Seamantha arriving in Admiralty Bay, Bequia

After watching the devastation and subsequent recovery of the Caribbean after one of the worst hurricane seasons on record, we have decided it is the appropriate time to turn the Pilots’ Discretion north and head back towards the United States. We are actually looking forward to retracing our route through the Caribbean and points north. It will be an opportunity to revisit some of our favorite spots. With our decision to turn north we have arrived at another one of those intersections in the life of a cruiser. Our friends on M/V Seamantha are departing St. Lucia this week to head south and so it is that we have arrived at Yoggi’s infamous fork in the road. Pilots’ Discretion and Seamantha will be taking divergent paths which in many ways is sad. We will not be saying goodbye, but rather, we will say “until we see you again.” So, as you depart Seamantha, we wish you fair winds and following seas.

Ryan, Paulette, John, Randy, Theresa & Ronan in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Ryan, Paulette, John, Randy, Theresa & Ronan in St. Lucia (Jan. 2018)

Ryan, Randy, Ronan & Theresa, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, USA

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – by Ryan

Nana & GrandpaSir, 12-17

Nana & GrandpaSir, 12-17

Recently our family took a trip to Cape Canaveral, Florida to visit the Kennedy Space Center. On the last day visiting our grandparents, Ronan and I got the feeling everybody knew something that we did not. That was because they did. They told us that, “The plan for tomorrow has certainly changed; it will be a surprise.” Before the day was over we were told we were heading to the Kennedy Space Center, and we were all very excited!

Welcome to NASA - Get ready to explore!

Welcome to NASA – Get ready to explore!

The next day we drove across the state to Cape Canaveral. We went to a hotel and waited until the next day to visit the Kennedy Space Center. After arriving the next day we walked through the rocket garden (very cool) and through the whole space center to where the bus tour originated. The 2.5 hour bus tour provides a great introduction and overview of the Kennedy Space Center.

 

Rocket Garden, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL

Rocket Garden, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL

Our bus driver was a very knowledgeable guide.  He pointed out every alligator we saw until we got to the Vehicle Assembly Building. After pointing out each alligator, he would say, “5,999 to go, 5998 to go, 5997 to go,” and so on. First, we came upon the Vehicle Assembly Building (“VAB”). It was HUGE!

VVAB

Vehicle Assembly Building (“VAB”), Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral. FL

Our guide informed us that it is the largest (by volume) building in the world. He said the American flag on the side of the building was six stories tall. NASA uses this building to assemble the space craft, in the past including the shuttle, the exterior fuel tank, and the solid rocket booster.

Shortly after driving by the VAB we saw the massive crawler used for carrying different kinds of spacecraft to the launch pad. To transport the spacecraft from the VAB to the launch pad NASA opens up one side of the VAB and puts the spacecraft on the crawler.

“The Crawler” (only captured part of it, but this massive piece of machinery transported the shuttle)

“The Crawler” (only captured part of it, but this massive piece of machinery transported the shuttle)

The crawler travels on the three mile crawlerway to the launch pad. An interesting fact the guide told us about the crawlerway was that it was made of Tennessee River rocks. NASA used Tennessee River rocks because they do not contain iron and therefore would not produce sparks. We also learned that the crawlers travel at a speed of approximately one mile per hour (hence its name “Crawler”). Next, we traveled the three miles out to the different launch pads.

Crawler Space Shuttle (1 mi/hr) track, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, 12-17

Crawler Space Shuttle (1 mi/hr) track, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, 12-17

Mission Control, Kennedy Space Center, 12-17

Mission Control, Kennedy Space Center, 12-17

There are a great deal of things that could go wrong during a launch and the spacecraft has the explosive capability of an atomic bomb. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to know (and want) to be far away from the launch pad when a launch occurs. That is why mission control and the VAB are a little over three miles away from the launch pad.

We were told about how going to space was a challenge that has been recently taken on by private industries in addition to NASA. A couple of these companies are Space X and Blue Origin. We passed Space X’s equivalent of the VAB. Their building was not nearly as tall but this is because they assemble their spacecraft horizontally. When bringing the spacecraft out to the launch pad they  rotate it into a vertical position. Space X has their own launch pad.

“Crawler Space Shuttle Route” passsing in front of Elan Musk’s Space X’s launch pad

“Crawler Space Shuttle Route” passing in front of Elon Musk’s Space X’s launch pad

On the way back towards the space center we stopped in the Apollo/Saturn V Center. It houses The Apollo and Saturn V rockets as well as part of the first mission control.

Saturn V, Cape Canaveral, FL 12-17

Saturn V, Cape Canaveral, FL 12-17

Mission Control

Mission Control

After a short movie we entered into a large room with part of the original mission control. While in mission control it was like being there during the first launch. The room was rigged to play the timer, the checklist, and even the people’s voices just as it was during the first launch. After that experience, we got a new guide that showed us the real Saturn V rocket. It was gigantic!! The rocket ran the length of the whole building and was divided into three parts.

When the bus tour got back to the Space Center we went into the Atlantis building.

External Fuel Tank and Solid Rocket Boosters for Space Shuttle, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, 12-17

External Fuel Tank and Solid Rocket Boosters for Space Shuttle, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, 12-17

Ryan, Randy, & Ronan at the feet fo the Atlantis Rocket, Cape Canaveral, 12/17

Ryan, Randy, & Ronan at the feet of the Atlantis Solid Rocket Boosters, Cape Canaveral, 12/17

There were tons of cool presentations and the real Atlantis Space Shuttle. We could see the dents and marks on the shuttle where small meteorites hit it.

Space Shuttle Atlantis in its permanent museum home, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, 12-17

Space Shuttle Atlantis in its permanent museum home, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, 12-17

We then went into a realistic shuttle takeoff simulator and even tried a shuttle landing simulator. We did not leave until we all were able to successfully land the shuttle in the simulator. We spent a lot of time in the Atlantis building before going to the IMAX movie. We saw the movie “A Beautiful planet.” It was a great movie that gave us a different perspective of Earth. After that we took off back to the hotel.

Day two of our mission we got to the space center early. We started the day off with the astronaut encounter. NASA astronaut Brian Duffy gave us a personal presentation and shared his experiences in outer space.

Astronaut encounter with Brian Duffy

Astronaut encounter with Brian Duffy

His presentation, unlike most other things in the Space Center, was like a personal journal. He explained what life was like for him, and his fellow astronauts, from an astronaut’s prospective.

Astronaut encounter with Brian Duffy

Astronaut encounter with Brian Duffy

After the astronaut encounter we went to see the second IMAX movie, “Journey to Space.” The movie was about going to space past, present, and future. When the movie was over we went back through the Rocket Garden and the on to the Heroes and Legends exhibit.

Ronan & Ryan in a capsule in the Rocket Garden, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL

Ronan & Ryan in a capsule in the Rocket Garden, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL

After watching a short 3d movie, we walked through the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. The astronaut Brian Duffy, whom we met earlier, was one of the most recent inductees being inducted just last year.

After going through the Astronaut Hall of Fame it was time for us to go. We all had fun being astronauts for the day (two) and overall the experience was out of this world! I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas and will have a happy New Year.