It’s a hard life

Weekly Updates

It’s a hard life

The time had come: Tarka was coming out the water. The sails had already been brought down, lines coiled and hung, and the forever-drying laundry stowed below. With the help of Michael, Meagan and Michelle to handle lines, I maneuvered Tarka over to the marina dock. From there, the dock crew took over pulling Tarka onto a very large trailer while two divers made sure she was secured on the hydraulic cradle. The tractor then pulled Tarka effortlessly out of the water, and out of her element.

Tarka being pulled out of the water. The divers ensure that the cradle is properly positioned before the tractor brings the boat out.

Boats just aren’t designed to be on land. They become prisoners, held in place by a collection of metal stands pushed up against their hull, and bound to the ground by giant concrete anchors. Tarka in this environment is no longer free to move with the breeze or rock side to side in the water. Her neighbors, giants in comparison, screened the wind, making quite certain that life on the hard would be miserable. Without the breeze or the cooling effect of the ocean, Tarka became a sweaty hot box, unbearable in the day, and barely tolerable with fans in the evenings. These conditions are also prime hunting grounds for those blood thirsty mosquitos that love my type-O blood. It’s no fun being on the hard, and I suspect these conditions will play an important role in me getting my boat projects done as quickly as possible.

Tarka is small, and probably the smallest boat in the whole yard. Just look at her bigger sisters.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve been escaping the un-comforts of land, and spending more time with friends on the water. Dave and Alli, of the 31-foot sailboat Alli Oop, arrived and took Tarka’s spot in the bay. Dave and Alli were my first drone-flight “customers”, and I hadn’t seen them since St. Martin. They’re about my age, and when you find other comparatively young people on a boat, you don’t let them go. With them, and the ever-dependable crew of Tanagra, I’m grateful to say that I have homes away from home.

Alli Oop (not my photo).

With Tarka out of the water, it was time to celebrate. But first, I felt the need to punish my body by running my second hash. This week’s hash was at the far northern end of the island, and a bunch of us boaters organized a bus to get to the event. Busses in the Caribbean are really just vans, and with 15 us packed in like sardines, it’s no surprise the engine eventually overheated. Fortunately, we made it to the event, but the overheating engine, like all overheating engines in the chronicles of The Adventures of Tarka, would ultimately come back to haunt us.


Packed into the bus on the way to our second Grenada Hash! That’s Don next to me. He’s been living on his steel boat in the yard for a year and a half now, and he’s quite the character.

The hash itself was tougher than the last and it certainly felt longer. At one point I fell into a river and had to run the remainder with soggy hiking boots. I like to think its part of the experience and if you come out of the bush dry and clean, then you’re not trying hard enough. Mike had a cold beer waiting at the finish line, which would only be the first of a great many that evening. Eventually, and reluctantly, we were herded like cattle into the same bus that had brought us up. It was dark, and none of us were sober. Thus, when the bus suddenly pulled over about 40 minutes into our trip back, we assumed it was for a pee-break. In reality, the engine had overheated again and needed to be cooled down. Like good drunkards, we proceeded to help by running across the street to buy cold beers. In our defense, the cold beers could have certainly been poured into the radiator, or better yet, provide coolant once our bodies extracted the alcohol, but he had it under control (he did!).


​The completion of our second sweaty, dirty hash, and some hard-earned beers in hand.

The next morning we brunched away our hangovers aboard Tanagra with a feast of pancakes, potatoes, eggs, and bacon. We met up with friends for happy hour, stopped at a little shack of a bar on an island, and promptly returned to our respective boats before sunset. That night we all hit our berths early, for the next morning would be met in a style truly unique to the Caribbean.

​A feast fit for kings. Hungover kings.

J’ouvert is part of the Carnival festivities in Grenada, and involves waking before daybreak (hence the name) to join an enormous street party. For reasons I do not fully understand, the party involves people carrying buckets of used motor oil and covering themselves with it or throwing it into the air. The proximity of people, and the unsolicited rubbing of bodies, ensures that you too are covered before daybreak and that you’ll know exact where people have touched you. There were also paints of various colors being thrown around, and people dragging very large chains as part of their “costumes”. Despite losing three people of our group for an hour or two, we had a great time, and enjoyed seeing this part of Grenada’s culture.

​The packed streets at daybreak during J’ouvert.

At daybreak the party slowly faded and the streets began to clear. What remained was a warzone of oil and trash. Though it is possible the country was able to clean the disaster in an environmentally friendly manner, I have my doubts. True, on a grand scheme, the impact of such a party is probably small. All the same, it does seem quite the contradiction for a beautiful island nation to freely endorse this use of motor oil. It also wasn’t a trivial task for us to clean ourselves of the motor oil, and after several showers and an afternoon swim, we were still finding smudges of oil here and there. It would be days before we were fully rid of the insidious stuff.

​The warzone of oil and trash the morning after J’ouvert.

The next few days I spent recovering, relaxing, and preparing Tarka for three weeks locked up on dry land without me. My flight back the US was fast approaching, and there was still much to be done. My dinghy had to come out of the water and get scrubbed free off months of plant life that had made its home on the rubber underside, then deflated, and packed away. Books, sails, electronics, and anything else that could get wet were packed away into big garbage bags and stowed below. Cushions were turned up to maximize airflow and windows taped over to decrease solar heating. I left my keys with Mike and Meagan should they need to get into the boat for whatever reason. Indeed, with tropical storm Harvey on its way, I had them place dehumidifying buckets inside. The last thing I want to do is come back to a boat full of mildew.

Goodbye, for now, Grenada. Also, polarized lenses have some cool interactions with the films on airplane windows.

I said farewell to Tarka, and then goodbye to friends over fudge sundaes. Our land-friend Erika drove me to the airport, and with my jury-rigged flip-flops, sun-bleached hair, and salty clothes, I boarded my flight back to a very different reality. In truth, I had not properly prepared myself for the associated shock which awaited me back in the states, and the transition has been mentally exhausting, but those thoughts will have to wait until next week.

It’s great to have such good friends down here in Grenada, even if they’re dirty.