July 15, 2012
Night has settled on this portion of the Caribbean and though there
are some clouds in the sky, the stars are shining brilliantly
overhead. It is a dark and almost windless night and the lights of
the city of Ponce are reflecting like Christmas lights on the bay in
front of me as I recline in the front deck of my little boat sipping a
glass of wine and waiting for sunrise. I have to say I am a little
anxious about heading out on a sailboat all alone. Though I won’t be
on the water for long at a time, there is a little something unnerving
For now though, the quiet night and a good glass of Pinot Noir have a
great calming effect on my soul. I am looking forward with great
anticipation to weighing my anchor and getting under sail.
There is a boat about 50 yards to the south of me with two couples on
it. Earlier they were on deck listening to ‘70s rock and dancing
under the starlight. I could hear the strains of the Doors, Van
Morrison, Who, Sly and the Family Stone and others as the music
reverberated off the waves in the night air. Their party has gone
below deck but the music can still be heard if I am quiet and listen
closely. If I had to guess, those two couples are down here on a much
needed summer vacation in a rented yacht trying to forget the troubles
of home, work and the day to day grind. By the way the cruiser they
are on is almost twice the size of this craft and probably 10 times as
luxurious. I hope they are enjoying there time in paradise as much as
I enjoy mine. I will try to blog again as soon as I set anchor on
another distant island.
William Fair Roberts…on island time in paradise.
On Island Time in Paradise with WFR
July 15, 2012
July 15, 2012
This morning I slept until the heat of the morning woke me. I made a
pot of coffee and pulled a croissant out of my cupboard and slipped
into some board shorts and went on deck to sit and enjoy my breakfast
in the Puerto Rican sun. There was a soft breeze blowing and I could
smell what I assume were the aromas of Sunday lunches being prepared
all over Ponce. The weather was and still is glorious with only a few
stray clouds overhead. I could see a squall or two forming and
venting their fury on the water out over the Caribbean. The
dissipated as quickly as they formed…a typical day in the tropics. I
am going to stock my boat with appropriate canned goods, veggies and
other groceries think I might need for the first voyage on my boat. I
think my grocery list should include a couple of cases of beer and
four or five bottles of good Puerto Rican rum. I plan to buy about
five gallons of bottled water even though my boat is equipped with a
watermaker. Because I have never used one of these devises I don’t
quite trust it. Maybe after a little time I will.
It is my plan to lia around on the boat until late afternoon and take
the inflatable into town. When I bought the boat I decided I didn’t
want to pay the daily rent on a slip so I am moored about 300 or 400
yards out in the bay. There are a lot of boats moored in the vicinity
so I am not worried about security while I am onshore. Until then, I
will be chilling.
My time here in Puerto Rico has been wild. This time of year is too
warm for most vacationers from North America to venture down but
almost every season here is tourist season here. Let’s see’ I landed
had dinner and a drink and bought a boat. I went from traveler to
sailor in one day. Well guess what. I am still a traveler. I just
hope that this boat helps me in my travels and doesn’t tie me down.
If I have been thinking correctly, I will not need to hop from hotel
to hotel and that could easily save me the cost of the this boat in
just a few months. Let’s see if this boat is a whole in the water
where I throw money or not.
I am looking forward to trying my hand as a captain. I have sailed
off and on for most of my life and have a lot of experience in the
waters close to land in the Gulf of Mexico and again close to the
islands all over the Caribbean. Most of my time has been sailing
smaller boats than this one even though this one is small by a lot of
people’s standards. Again, I am looking forward to taking off and
trying my hand at skippering my own boat in open water. A little
confession: I have checked, no studied the charts on board and have
charted a trip from here to St. Thomas staying as close to the islands
as I can until I get to know the feel of her. I will leave at first
light in the morning and head west and sail north of Vieques to
Culebra. I will see how long it takes me to get there and then move
on westward to St. Thomas. The long range weather forecast is good so
other than the occasional squall I should not have any weather
problems on this leg of my trip. My boat is equipped with GPS, radar
and two radios that I don’t fully know how to operate but can use well
enough to send out a “mayday” if I need to.
I need to stop writing for a bit and enjoy this beautiful tropical
island. I am sitting here in the cockpit of the boat, finishing up my
last cup of coffee and a glass of fresh orange juice listening to Bush
Man perform In the Arms of a Woman on the CD player. In the
background the sound of the small waves lapping at the side of my boat
relax me completely as I am waiting on the day to roll by. I will go
for now and begin to make the final arrangements for my next trip
deeper into paradise.
Where is that bottle of rum, this orange juice could use a little kick.
William Fair Roberts….on island time in paradise.
July 13, 2012
Unfortunately, Martinique is going to have to wait a while. Last Saturday evening I went to dinner in a little place that was
recommended to me by a friend in the states. I was sitting at the bar eating peas and rice and a grilled grouper talking to a guy from Key Largo. He told me that he was down here on a vacation to get away from the pressures of his job and the messy divorce he was currently going through. He said he had been sailing the waters of the Caribbean for the past couple of weeks and had decided to sell his boat. He assured me it was in his and only his name and that he would sell it to me at a really good price if I wanted it. To say the least I was skeptical. I told him I was not in the market for and could not really afford to buy a boat on my meager income. He said, “bud you can’t afford not to buy this boat.”
We ended up sharing a meal and a bottle Captain Morgan Private Stock. We left the café and went to a bar for another drink or two. Two
ended up in being five more and by that time we had discussed why he was wanting to sell his boat we came down to a price and he said he needed to make enough off of it to get back home in first class style. He said his wife was about to get it declared as hers even
though she hated to sail and her name was not on the bill of sale or the title. He said he would rather a perfect stranger have it than her. His only thought was that she should go to someone with a love for the sea that would get good use out of her. He said if I didn’t buy her he would find someone else to sell her to. After hours of discussion he offered her to me at the unbelievably low price of $2,250. That was the exact cost of a charter captain and his sail boat for the trip back to Key Largo. I told him I could scrape up the money if I had it wired in from my bank account in the states but I wanted to make certain that he still wanted to do this in the morning when his head was clear from the clouds cast on it by really good rum we had been enjoying. I told him that I would meet him at the boat the next morning and if he was still serious I would get the money wired down and we would make the transaction complete. He said he all of the paperwork with him, including his original bill of sale. He told me her name and I immediately thought I would like to change it and that will have to take place before I could take ownership.
The next morning I showed up at the boat, not really expecting him to be there. He was there sitting on the deck smoking a long extremely black cigar and drinking a large mug of equally black coffee. “What do you think?” he asked as he saw me walking down the dock to the boat. He knew what I thought because of the big smile across my face. “Do you still want her?” I asked him if he was really serious and he replied, “never more serious in his life.” He said that his soon-to-be ex was cheating on him and that they had agreed to a simple, quiet divorce. It was at that time that she hired a slick Miami attorney to represent her. One thing led to another and the agreement they had that they could date during the divorce went sour when her lawyer saw the opportunity to make a lot of money off of him and had him photographed by a private detective in, let’s say, some compromising situations with a young lady in the water off of Naples, Fl.
One thing led to another and his divorce was “headed south”. He took his boat and a few pieces of jewelry and some expensive watches he had collected through the years and left on his boat. His original idea was to sell those things and live as an expat for a few months and then head back to face the music. Then he decided it would be better to sell everything he could before it was “frozen” or declared “joint property.” He sold as much property as he could while he was sailing and was about to head back to Key Largo to liquidate this excuse for a marriage he had.
Anyway, back to the boat. We worked out the details and I had the money wired to a bank down here and we made the transaction. It was agreed that we would have a ceremony to purge her from Ledger of the Deep and rename her. While I do not consider myself to be a particularly superstitious person, I have a friend who owned a sailboat with a name he didn’t like so he just painted over the old name and let it go at that. His boat was plagued with numerous maladies and was even struck by lightening, not once but twice. So, if I am going to own a boat with a new name, I am going follow legend and make sure that Poseidon/Neptune, god of the sea has no memory of
her. We brought in a few locals that we met at a café near the dock and celebrated MY boats new name. It was important that all records of the original name be completely erased from history. The previous owner remover her name from the boat and then we shattered the crystal and china that were marked with her name. He had stationary that we burned and we even had to change the screensaver on his onboard computer so that it didn’t have her name scrolling across it when the computer was idle. He even went through all of the logs and with a bottle of White-Out he expunged the boat’s name from every page on which she was mentioned by name. With all of this done we had a local come and paint her new name on the transom and an on the forward name boards.
With all of that was behind us he gave me a full orientation of the boat. He told me the engine had only a few hours on it and that the
entire boat was in excellent shape. New sails, electronics, radar, radios, etc. … all new.
So, I am the owner of a well loved, sea worthy sailboat, a Tartan 34 from the mid 1970s. By doing a little searching on the web I have
found that I purchased her for a 10% of her current value. Not a bad deal even if I wasn’t wanting to buy or own a sailboat. I have taken her out every day since I bought here to get use to her and am getting more and more comfortable with her ways the more I sail. I will be setting sail on my maiden open water voyage in the next day or two with the eventual destination of Martinique but for now I am moored in La Guancha in Ponce, PR.
William Fair Roberts…on island time in paradise…sitting on the deck of My Sailboat.
July 7, 2012
It has been quite some time since I have posted on my blog. I have good reason for that but, if I tell you I have been traveling, since that is about all I do, that just does not seem like a valid excuse.
On my last blog post, I was just arriving at on the island of Barbados. We were off the city of Bridgetown when I received a call that required me to immediately head north to the U.S. I guess even when you are in paradise, life still finds a way to get in the way. Within five hours of my last real post I was on a Cessna Skymaster headed north. That plane took me to San Juan, PR where I got on the next available commercial flight to Florida.
I spent nearly three weeks taking care of unplanned business in the United States and, it was great to go back home for a short while but, I am glad to be back in the islands. While I was in the U.S. I travelled from Miami to Mississippi to Louisiana to Oklahoma City and back to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and then back to the western coast of Florida where I visited with friends. The business I had to handle was unfortunate but, as always I made the best of my travels. I found a couple of great places to eat, but one in particular eatery sticks in my mind and, I know I will go back there on my next visit home. I was in the city of Biloxi, Mississippi during the last week of June, riding down Pass Road toward Keesler Air Force Base. I was almost at the point where you have to turn right, cross the RR tracks to bypass the base itself when, I saw a converted storefront with a boldly painted sign that said Caribbean Jamaican Restaurant. I admit that is not a very original name but it looked like a spot you might find in Jamaica. On the outside there were posters of Bob Marley and the Jamaican flag and other things that hinted that there might be a Jamaican national inside. As I opened the door to go into the small restaurant of maybe ten or twelve tables I was greeted by a booming voice with a deep island accent. “Welcome to the Caribbean.”
I picked a tabe and a seat near the back and then took the menu from the hand of the owner / chef. Suddenly I felt like I was in the islands. It was early in the evening and the four members of my party were the only ones in this fine little establishment when we arrived but, that changed as the evening went on. We started with Red Stripe beer for each of us and a bowl of seafood gumbo which we all shared. That was admittedly one of the top three or four bowls of gumbo I have ever consumed. After gumbo there was another Red Stripe and we basically ordered and shared half of the items on the menu. We shared jerk wings, curried chicken, ox tail, peas and rice, cooked cabbage and fried plantains. There was more food than I could have eaten in a week. We had originally ordered curried goat, but the truck had not arrived with their latest food order and goat was temporarily off of the menu. I really wanted it and the next time I go to Biloxi I will definitely order it. Even without the goat but I will tell you that meal was one of the best meals I have ever enjoyed. The Oxtail was fabulous. The meat was swimming in a wonderful rich gravy sauce. The ox tail alone would have been meal enough for me but we shared that and everything else. The cabbage was as good as in any Irish pub I have ever been in and the plantains were delicious. I am a huge fan of curry and the curried chicken was second to none. All-in-all, this was one of the best meals I have ever eaten at any price. Oh and did I tell you, the entire meal with beer was $60 and change. On the WFR rankings scale it rated a full 5 Caribbean stars. If you find yourself in Biloxi going deep sea fishing, golfing, gambling or if you are just there to visit the new Jimmy Buffett Margaretville Casino, don’t miss the chance to enjoy the best Jamaican food anywhere. Go to the Caribbean Jamaican Restaurant on Pass Road in Biloxi and you too will feel like you are sitting somewhere just south of Cuba in the Caribbean Ocean enjoying the best of Caribbean cuisine.
Now that the fourth of July is behind me, I have found my way back to paradise. I am sitting at a little beach bar in Ponce, PR waiting for a plane to take me farther south, to a little island I fell in love with more than twenty years ago. I am off to Martinique.
To quote Jimmy Buffett:
“Well now if I ever live to be an old man
I’m gonna sail down to Martinique
I’m gonna buy me a sweat-stained Bogart suit
And an African parakeet
And then I’ll sit him on my shoulder
And open up my trusty old mind
I gonna teach him how to cuss, teach him how to fuss
And pull the cork out of a bottle of wine.”
I am getting older and this island has been calling me for much too
long and I will be back down there in that corner of paradise by
Sunday. I raise my glass of rum to paradise in front of me, paradise
behind me and to my father who taught me how to enjoy it. I wish you
all were here. I am sorry you are not, but I am damn glad I am.
William Fair Roberts…on island time in paradise
I have been doing a little traveling…serious traveling over the past few days. I left Saint Lucia sailing for Barbados and evidently we took a wrong turn. We spent eight days at sea. No, it wasn’t an accident, John and Jill just wanted to do some “real” sailing. So, we did. We sailed out into the Atlantic to 14 28 40N 53 00 41W and then sailed northwest to the tiny island of Tintamar where weanchored for one evening in the North Curve and then headed SSW skirting the islands back to Barbados where we sit anchored today watching the clouds blowing overhead. In all we sailed well over 1000 miles to make our 100 mile trip to Bridgetown. We are about to head ashore to gather supplies, dine on the local fare, sip a beer or two and purchase rum to stock our depleted on-board bar.
I promise an update of my recent travels and that story about my first journey as a traveler in the next few days. You know it is difficult to stop the carnival of life long enough to pen a few lines when the world is slipping by so quickly.
WFR…on island time in paradise.
I will be moving on at sunrise tomorrow. The weather is beautiful today with fairly strong easterly winds that will provide headwinds for us as we travel to Barbados tomorrow. The island lies a little over 100 miles to our east south east and there is a a good chance we will be sailing into some fairly strong rain and thunderstorms. Welcome to the tropics…
I love this life.
WFR…on island time in paradise.
May 13, 2012
Today is Mothers Day and I want to start by saying happy Mother’s Day
to moms everywhere. This is a special day for you because you make
every day special for your families.
This was a great week to be in Saint Lucia. Without knowing it I
landed here in the middle of the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival. I didn’t
even know it was happening but happening it has been doing. It has
been a great week of music here in this island paradise. The line-up
of stars has been a great one. Since April 30th the island has been
celebrating the music of Toni Braxton, Fay Ann Lyons, Bunji Garlin
and even Dianna Ross but my favorite of the bunch Ziggy Marley
performed the other night. I have enjoyed the week of music and all
of the celebrations that surround this huge event on the small
tropical island. The festival ends here today though I won’t be
going, but It has been a great experience and a real celebration.
My time here has been spent dodging rain showers, walking and biking
the roads that network the many small towns, villages and farms on
this island together like a spider’s web. I have spent time on the
beaches north, south, east and west on this gem of an island and it is
difficult to claim a favorite. Once you move away from the cruise
ship ports you find the real Saint Lucia experience. One day, when
you come here, allow enough time to see the real island. Meet the
people and experience the culture that has grown here through hundreds
of years on this small mountainous island. Granted the “mountains
would be considered more like hills in parts of the world, but when
you find yourself a couple of hours down a trail, alone with nothing
but the birds singing as you walk aimlessly you will realize that
these are mountains enough to find yourself and discover a portion of
nature that few seldom see.
During this entire visit, the island has been under the threat of
rain, but that hasn’t dampened my visit to this paradise. It has
probably made it more wonderful. I have been able to meet people in
small villages whom I would have n ever met, as they offered me
shelter and a meal when the showers were at times torrential. But,
between the showers I walked in the tropical sun and enjoyed the
humidity that wraps you like “warm velvet”. Those are not my words,
but the person who originally said them, and I can’t remember who it
was, was absolutely right. There is a comfort in the warmth that
surrounds you here.
I know I am bound to leave this paradise and move on to another port
and another island, but memories that I have made here, like those on
so many other islands, will stay with me as long as I am graced by
this life I live. My thoughts today have taken me to thousands of
miles north of here and my childhood. I think of how the wanderlust
that was a part of my mother’s unfulfilled dreams has been a huge part
of my drive to see and live as much of life as I can. Thanks to my
mom, and my dad too for that matter, it is from them that I learned to
live with a purpose and enjoy every day for the special value it has.
A good friend of mine once said that this life is not a dress
rehearsal and he was right. It is important to understand the time we
have is limited. The people we meet should be cherished as friends
and, everyplace we travel is a paradise to someone. My paradise
happens to fall in the islands, but from time to time, I have also
found paradise in the mountains of Tennessee and Idaho and Nevada and
even on the streets of San Francisco and New Orleans. I try to make
the best of wherever I am and find wisdom in the people I come in
Last week I was interviewed by Dennis King at WBWC in Cleveland, Ohio
and I really enjoyed talking with a kindred spirit. They have made me
think a lot about how special my life really is. I have done a lot of
thinking during my walks and my meditation on the beaches. I have
thought about my earliest wanderings and decided that in the next few
weeks I will share my first solo adventure. It was a trip to New
Orleans. I hitch hiked there and stayed for a couple of days all
alone in a city that is as full of mystery and adventure as any in the
western hemisphere. Anyway, I intend to share that journey with you
in upcoming blogs.
As I said earlier, I am bound to keep traveling and soon I will be
leaving this paradise for another one. I am trying to decide whether
to head north to Martinique or Southwest to Barbados. Bridgetown is
calling me but so is Fort-de-France. I know I will be traveling
soon, but for now, I am enjoying this paradise, right here, right now.
William Fair Roberts…on island time in paradise
Yesterday was a bit cloudy but I went and walked around the approximately 1/2 square mile Pigeon Island National Park. The views were awesome even on a cloudy day. I carried a baguette, some fruit and a cheap bottle of wine and enjoyed a picnic and the wonderful view of the Caribbean. There were scores of sailboats sailing their seemingly choreographed paths through the bright blue and green water. My only complaint was that the day was not long enough. Today is a beautiful day and I am out enjoying nature. I rented a bicycle and am headed across the island. I was able to get a WiFi signal en route so I decided to send this brief post. I hope everyone is enjoying their little bit of paradise as much as I am mine.
On Island Time in Paradise
William Fair Roberts…on island time in paradise.
May 6, 2012
I am sitting on the deck of John and Jill’s boat just off the beach in Rodney bay in St. Lucia with a rum and cola in my hand. We haven’t been on the island long and it has been years since I was here but, I can tell you when if you get an opportunity to visit this tiny island in the Caribbean, it is my recommendation that you sail in. This island is beautiful as seen from the sea. It rises from the water’s edge, its mountains touching the sky with soft white clouds floating above the deep green trees that reach all the way to the tops of the peaks as they rise from the sea. St. Lucia is a true sailing destination.
We will be leaving the boat and taking a small skiff into the beach where we will eat at Spinnakers. It has come with really good recommendations from people I have met on my travels in the past few weeks. Tomorrow I hope to tell you a little about the restaurant. The sunset on the starboard side of the boat a little while ago so, it is time we leave and go f or our night on the town.
William Fair Roberts…on island time in paradise.
Almost to Carriacou and posting on the sat phone. John and Jill and I thought it was time to get out of the rat race. Actually, we have been having a blast on Grenada. St. Georges has been a real trip, but we thought we would head to a little more traditional spot in the Southern Grenadines. Today has been a little hazy and our voyage has been uneventful. A high cloud cover has threatened rain, off and on all day and, it is almost 6:00 p.m., time for a Cuba Libre and a sunset. I hope to post on my blog tonight or in the morning. …until then, WFR on island time in paradise.