Saturday, February 16, 2019

Where is Lulu??? - Martinique

Martinique is south of Dominica and north of St. Lucia

Martinique is one of my favorite islands that we have visited on SandStar! It felt like I was living in France and I have always dreamed of living in France.  It has been French since it was colonized in 1636. This island is also the largest island we have visited this year. Martinique’s streets have dozens of bakeries and a lot of unique shops. It is also the home of a famous volcano, Mt Pelèe.  Mt Pelèe erupted in 1902 and killed the entire town of St. Pierre except one prisoner Ludger Sylbaris. Ludger Sylbaris was in a stone and bomb proof jail cell when the volcano erupted. The cell had no windows and was ventilated only by the narrow grating in the door that was facing away from the volcano.

A view of Mt. Pelèe from our anchorage

The remains of the prison cell

The French are known for their exquisite desserts and pastries. The pastries in Martinique were amazing and we tried to visit a bakery every day! A bakery in St. Anne was open from early morning to the evening and was baking baguettes all day. The French do not believe in buying a baguette in the morning for dinner. You buy the baguettes right before the meal starts. I loved trying all the different desserts in the bakeries especially the chocolate desserts. When we left Martinique, my favorite dessert had to be either the chocolate éclair or the chocolate beignet.

Looks too good to eat!

That is A LOT of baguettes!

This was sooooo good!

St. Anne is also a great place to meet up with friends and have boat parties! One of the last days we were in Martinique we invited Party of Five, Wasabi, Sunsplash, and Frenchie. We had a total of 10 kids on board representing three counties. We swam, played King of the Hill on the paddle board, and played on the boom swing.

This is where King of the Hill turned into Queen of the Hill!

I hoped you enjoyed my post on Martinique I will be posting a blog on St. Lucia and Dominica soon!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Where is Lulu???? - Bequia

Bequia is a small island that is a part of the Grenadines. It is very mountainous and green with vegetation. In town there are many stands selling vegetables, art, and jewelry. As soon as we arrived we were in search of an ice cream shop and found one called the Gingerbread Café. It has very good ice cream there are lots of flavors to choose from including a dairy free sorbet for Jack!

Here is Lulu hanging out at the ice cream shop

There are a lot of reefs to snorkel. These reefs have lots of animals like trunkfish, angel fish, lobster, trumpet fish, squirrel fish, box fish, and eels.

The boys have recently gotten more into fishing and are going out in the dingy every afternoon to go fishing. At first, they didn’t catch anything but then one afternoon they caught an Amberjack! It was 7 pounds. Later, some of the local fishermen came around and sold us a lobster and also helped us filet the fish.

Just seconds before dropping the fish on its head

We got a little help from the local fisherman

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Where is Lulu??? - The Tobago Cays

We just started our second cruising season and I want to keep everyone more updated while we visit more islands. But I can’t do it alone, so I decided to bring my blog mascot, Lulu the Llama!

The plan is for Lulu to keep you updated on our journey as we go through the Caribbean with a “Where is Lulu?” post. Each time we get to another island Lulu will take a picture and post a little information on where we are cruising. I will still write longer posts about our adventures but wanted to give you a little glimpse into our current location.

Where is Lulu??? - The Tobago Cays

You can see the reef in the distance. The water is so clear and beautiful!

We are the Tobago Cays in the Grenadines. The Grenadines are part of the country of St. Vincent. The Tobago Cays are a protected family of islands and home to a turtle sanctuary. There is a large reef that surround the Tobago Cays and there are tons and tons of turtles here. Just driving to the beach today in our dinghy I saw three turtles pop their heads out of the water. In the Tobago Cays there are white sanded beaches, turtles, and colorful reefs that are alive with many fish.    

The Tobago Cays are so small they don't even show up on the map!

Friday, October 26, 2018

First Haul Out

Hurricane season. In the boating world this means that this is the time to keep your boat safe from the weather. Hurricane season is between August and October. We decided to go to Grenada because it was going to be fun and out of the “hurricane zone”. 

For boats our size there are really two options on what to do during hurricane season:
  • You can leave your boat in the water at a marina or on a mooring ball
  • You can take your boat out of the water and strap it down in a boat yard

We decided option two because we thought it would be safer for the boat and we selected a place called Grenada Marine. On August 22 we were ready to take SandStar out of the water. We worked hard on SandStar for two days before haul out. We were doing things such as oiling the hatches and washing the front anchor locker. The day of the actual haul out I was stressed thinking of all the work I had in front of me.

The big lift moved our boat slowly about ¼ of a mile down the boat yard to its resting place.  I can remember thinking this is a really long way to walk from the entrance to our spot.  They put a ladder up behind the boat so now every time we wanted to get on the boat you had to go up this old metal ladder. Want to use the bathroom?  Up and down the ladder you go. Going to get the laundry or lunch? The ladder strikes again! By the end of the week our feet hurt!

On August 30th we had a flight out of Grenada, we had about a week to get the boat ready to be left alone for 2 months. It was A LOT of work (I had no idea that it would be so much work). Our family sat down and made a list of all the preparations we had to do for the boat (the list was about 3 pages long) and each person signed up for their favorite job. Our parents decided to make the work more appealing by paying us for all the chores we finished and I was motivated to make some cash for our vacation.

I learned that when packing up a boat there are 5 big things that you have to make sure you do.
  • EVERYTHING must be super clean
  • Get rid of all food that will go bad
  • Package and bag everything (this make sure no mold grows on anything)
  • Tinfoil all the windows to keep the sun out and temperature down
  • Decommission all systems, setting up all systems to be stored.

When living on the boat you don’t have air conditioning, all we have is the wind. Every room has a window (hatch) that you can prop open at the top to get lots of wind. The whole point of a boat yard is to make the boats safe by having it very sheltered so the chances that your going to get any wind is 0%. The boat yard was very hot, and we sweated a lot.

On the bright side we didn’t have to sleep on the boat while it was hauled out we got to stay close by in a hotel. There are a lot of differences between living on a boat to staying in a hotel for example on the boat we were often awoken in the middle of the night by the anchor alarm going off because the wind changes direction and the boat swings.

Everyday a friendly lady named Sammie drove us to and from the hotel and by the end of the day we were thankful to have a shower and a bed because we were super tired and smelled just plain bad.  One night while driving back to the hotel a huge frog jumped out in front of the car and met its gruesome end.  This was not a normal frog, this was a mega-frog that was so big it hit the bottom of the car and not the wheels.  From then on, we were on frog watch each time we rode in the car.

When the boat was hauled out it was very hard to make food for dinner lunch and breakfast because you are always doing work. For dinner we managed to make a few salads but for lunch and breakfast we ate at the boat yard restaurant that had really good burgers. Another way we found good food was a small van that sold bread and they had the best rolls ever!  Everyday when whoever got the bread at 3:30 came back we would say “We got the goods!” Basically, my diet in the boatyard was a lot of bread, granola bars, salads, and huge burgers.

After we packaged and bagged everything our rooms looked like we never moved into the boat there were just trash bags sitting on the bed holding all of our things

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A Life Lesson....How to Make Chocolate!

Now that we are in Grenada we decided that we must go and learn one of life’s most valuable lessons, how to make chocolate.

The chocolate process starts with cocoa pods. These pods hold the beans, there are around 40 beans per cocoa pod. When you open a ripe pod, the seeds will be covered in white pulpy cream and the beans will be easy to pull apart. We got to pull out a bean and taste it and it was delicious! It had a very fruity taste. They harvest these pods by picking them off the tree. They must be very gentle when getting the pods because not all pods ripe at the same time. For the higher pods, they must use a special tool to get them down without hurting the tree. The tool was a long stick with a basket and a knife at the top of it.  To open the pods, they usually use a machete. After they are done getting all the beans out of the pod, the harvesters put the beans in bags and leave the pods on the ground. 

Here is a cocoa tree. 

This is what it looks like inside the pod.

 After harvesting they take the beans back to an open-air building.  They put them in wooden stalls that look like small horse stalls. Then they put banana leaves and jute bags on top of them for about 6 days to ferment the beans. During this process the white creamy pulp will turn into a liquid and the bean will turn brown. The bins will also get very hot during this process and reach a temperature at around 113-degrees Fahrenheit. 

When the beans get out of fermentation they must be dried. They could be dried two different places. The first open air trays where women go out and shuffle their feet through the beans every 30 minutes to make sure they get fully dried. We got to go out and shuffle the beans and it was fun, but we got a lot of beans stuck in between our toes the other place was in a building like a green house where the beans would be shuffled with a rake tool. After drying we were able to try the raw cocoa nib in the bean. It was very bitter, but we heard it is good for your heart and brain. 

Doin' the Cocoa Bean Shuffle!

Here is the other place the beans were dried.

Next the beans get put into bags wait for somebody to sort them by hand. The sorting is also sometimes done with a machine but to get them most precise results they have people sort them and it takes a long time!

The sorting is done by hand. 

The sorting job is never done!

The plantation used to send the beans away to be made into chocolate, so they had to polish the beans to get them all prepped for shipping. Belmont does not ship the beans out any more and only use them to make their own chocolate so there is not need for polishing.

The next step is roasting. Roasting is one of the most important steps to making chocolate it gives the chocolate the chocolate taste. The beans are roasted for about an hour.  The cocoa nib will then be taken out of the bean to be processed. 

After roasting they must decide what the bean will be made into. There are four different things that they make with the bean. 

Cocoa butter -  They can extract the fat from the bean which creates two products – cocoa butter and cocoa powder. Cocoa butter will be used as an ingredient in the chocolate bars. Cocoa butter can also be used in soaps and lotions. It is super good for your skin. 

Cocoa powder- The cocoa powder can be used for baking. We had a chance to taste a cake they were making for the employees just to celebrate that the day was Friday. We also tried cocoa tea. It was kind of like a hot chocolate but with island spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon. 
when making the cocoa butter they separate cocoa butter and cocoa powder you don’t get just one you get both. This is also needed when making the actual bar of chocolate.

That is some good cocoa tea!

Chocolate bars- Chocolate is my favorite thing that they make from cocoa beans! We were excited to get a chance to try samples of all their chocolate bars. 

Roasted Cocoa Nibs – They also sell just the roasted nibs to be used in baking and in coffee and anything else you can think to put them in. 

It was fun to watch the process of making chocolate. There was a lot more to it than I ever imagined. 

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Leatherback Turtles

Today I have a special guest blogger, Jack! He is my 10 year old brother. He is going to share with you our experience with the Leatherback turtles in Grenada. 

          Leatherback  Turtles

                                           By Jack Sandlin

Here is a painting on the wall of the turtle center at the beach. 

Last night we went to Levera Beach in Grenada to see turtles lay eggs. These weren’t just any turtles, they were the biggest turtle of all, the Leatherback turtle. The Leatherback turtle is the heaviest of all the turtles at over 2,000 pounds! That’s one heavy turtle and it can also grow to 7.2 ft long, which is longer than me!

It takes 70-80 days for a Leatherback turtle egg to hatch. Sometimes it takes them longer. Leatherback turtles can dive to 1,000 meters! That’s so deep! Why they dive so deep is because to get away from sharks and other predators.

Here is a picture about the life cycle of the Leatherback turtle. 

We had to wait about two hours for the turtle to come out from the ocean. While we were waiting we ate sandwiches, drank soda and played on the beach. Sam and I found a tree that had a lot of boards connected to other trees like a treehouse. After a while my dad told us that the researchers found a Leatherback turtle and we walked down the beach in a single file line to the turtle.

We had to use the red flashlight mode because the white light can blind the turtle.  The turtle was the biggest thing I have ever seen in my life! When she came ashore she dug a hole with her back flippers but the hole was too damp for her eggs so she dug another hole. That hole was further back on the beach and very deep. She was in a trance when she was laying eggs and that is when we got to pet the turtle. You could feel the bone in the flippers. Her flipper was kind of rough and the shell was hard and smooth at the same time. When she was done laying eggs one of the researchers said that there was 31 non fertilized eggs and 78 regular eggs. That’s 109 eggs in total! 

Here is the Leatherback turtle. She is huge!!
Here she is using her hind flippers to dig her nest. This took about 45 minutes.
Here I am helping the researchers count her eggs.
Here I am petting her while she is laying her eggs.

After she laid her eggs the researchers measured her and her nest. 

When she was done laying eggs it looked like she was stuck in the sand, at least that’s what Emma thought, but she was actually trying to camouflage her eggs so predators can’t find her babies.

When she was done camouflaging her eggs she went back into the water. This is when Sam was asleep already. It seemed that Sam had a very fun time. When we all went into the car we were all egghausted (he, he, he). 

I really loved going to go sea the turtle (puns, puns, puns). We all had lots and lots of fun. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Modern Medicine in the Bahamas

The United States always seem like the best option for medical care. This week I interviewed a doctor here in the Bahamas and the answers to some of the questions left me thinking that maybe the Bahamas has better medical care than the US. I know it may be a huge thing saying that, but I have some evidence.

I recently interviewed – Dr. Melanie Cooper at Exuma Medical Clinic and found some interesting differences between going to the doctor at home compared to the Bahamas:

Mix of public and private clinics –  In the US everyone is competing. Doctors’ offices compete with other doctor offices, fast food restaurants compete with other fast food restaurants. Here in Georgetown Bahamas, it’s different as it is part of their culture to help each other.  

There are two types of clinics here private and public.  If you don’t have money, then go to the public clinic and if you have more specific needs then go to the private one.  Each one offers great medical care and they work together to help their patients.

More affordable – It is cheaper to see the doctor here and a lot cheaper for prescriptions.  A three-hundred-dollar prescription in the US is just twenty dollars here. 

The clinics here also won’t turn you down if you can’t pay for the price of an appointment, you just pay what you can afford. In both types of clinics children and elderly visits are free and adult appointments usually cost about eighty dollars.

Get in right away to see the doctor – To schedule a doctor’s appointment you don’t have to wait weeks in advance, all you have to do is call ahead or just show up and you will be with the doctor in ten minutes.  There are also some islands out here that don’t have local doctors, but the doctors will fly out at least once a month to go do checkups with everyone in town. 

Each community looks after their own – Sometimes the people on other islands get sick and can’t fly to Georgetown, so everyone in the community will make sure that person is well supplied and well fed until the doctor comes to see them.

Improving all the time - One of the questions I asked Dr. Cooper was: “If you could add anything to this clinic what it would be?”  Since the clinic was really new and they just opened in September she had a lot of things on the list.  She wanted a pharmacy in the building so a client could leave with everything they needed. For blood tests they have to send it on a plane to Nassau and wait, to save time she wanted a local lab to get results in minutes.

It isn’t all "Better in the Bahamas" though as they are facing challenges such as:

Keeping Doctors- It's sadly not everyone’s dream to be a doctor in the Bahamas and right now they are facing some real problems, the Bahamas are losing doctors and nurses. The doctors and nurses are traveling to the states for jobs that pay higher. [i]

Lifestyle Changes- The Bahama Lifestyle has changed tremendously since the 1970’s.  Another interesting question I asked Dr. Cooper was what is the biggest health care problem facing the Bahamas? The answer was obesity. They eat to many fried foods and sugary drinks according to her. In the 1970s everyone walked everywhere and ate what they grew and caught.  Now people eat whatever the latest fast food restaurant has to offer and drive, instead of walk,  everywhere.  The Bahamas is the highest obesity rate in the Caribbean and Latin America.[ii]

Food Supply-  I thought that reef fish poisoning would be a lot more common here but apparently only a few people have come in to the clinic with this problem. Reef fish poisoning is when someone eats a fish that lives on the reef like a barracuda. The barracuda can get ciguatera from eating the smaller reef fish.  This is a growing problem here in the Bahamas. [iii]

Visitors– When tourists visit they can bring viruses and bacteria the Bahamians aren’t used to so a lot of them get sick with a cold or the flu every season.

To summarize, the Bahamas has great health care at reasonable prices, so you won’t go bankrupt when you are sick. Everyone has to exercise more and eat heather but, in the Bahamas, it is a huge problem with 69% of the population being overweight. Since their community is so strong I am sure that they will overcome this problem together.