Monday, September 23, 2013

Happy Ending

Phillip Gittens, Director of Post & Maurice Howland

Last year we discovered the Grenada Postal Corporation’s (GPC) Global service for importing items into Grenada.  This year when I attempted to pick up our first order, there was a “hiccup.”  I was advised that I would need an agent for future shipments.  When discussions with postal and customs staff proved fruitless, I wrote a rather strongly worded letter to the Chairman of GPC’s Board of Directors.  Shortly thereafter, I received a call from the Chairman assuring me that my issue was being addressed, and then I received an email from Mr. Gittens’s office requesting a meeting.

We met at Merry Baker for a Friday build-a-burger and then continued the discussions on Motivator.  Mr. Gittens assured me that customer service was his priority and that he wished to expand the service to other cruisers.  I offered several suggestions for outreach to cruisers that were well received.  In situations like this, what always amazes me is not our difference, but rather the commonalities you soon find.  Mr. Gittens was educated in the US and we took some of the same management courses.  We were both familiar with the same cities and restaurants in the US.  He used to be an active hasher, and has “on, on” stickers on his car (we have one on our dinghy).  We even enjoy the same brand of beer.

Today I picked up four packages from GPC Global without a hiccup.

For those of you not familiar with GPC Global, here is a quick rundown:

Grenada offers Grenada Postal Corporation (GPC) Global service as an alternative UPS, DHL, and FedEx (see: ).

To initiate the service::
·         Complete the 3 page GPC Global agreement downloaded from this address:
·         Take the completed form to the main GPC office behind customs on the Carenage along with 2 forms of ID.
·         You will be charged a 50 EC setup charge and a 25 EC yearly fee.
·         They will email to you the link for the Pak YA site (tracking site), your user name, password and account number.
·         When you order items, use the following address:
Your full name
7582 NW 74th Avenue
GND<your account number>
Medley, FL 33166-2423

To ensure you do not pay excessive duty:
·         Print two (2) copies of your receipt(s) for the item(s) ordered.
·         Go to: and print out a C14 form.
·         Complete the form and take it with a 1 copy of the receipt to a customs office, i.e., Port Louis, Grenada Yacht Club, etc.
·         Customs officials will sign and stamp the form

When your package arrives in Medley, FL, you will receive an email asking if you want the package held to be combined with other shipments, or processed for shipment.  There is also an opportunity to request or decline insurance. 

Shipment to Grenada by air transport is on Thursday night/Friday morning.  Friday morning you will receive an email requesting copies of your invoices and a completed C14 form.  You can fax, email, or drop the forms and receipts off at GPC Global window at the post office.   Packages are then available for pickup after 2:00 PM on Friday.  I suggest waiting until Monday so as to miss the Friday afternoon crush.

The information about the service states that there is a minimum charge of 35 EC per package up to 4 Lb, 5 to 50 Lb is 8.60 EC per Lb, and 8 EC per Lb above 50 Lb.  I found however that the shipping charges were less than advertised.  For two small packages weighing less than 4 Lb I paid $25.80 EC for shipping.

Bottom line: GPC Global is much cheaper than FedEx, UPS or DHL.  It is faster and more secure than USPS and it provides you with a U.S. address for Internet orders.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Gmail - Google

Initially we bought our iPads because we were tired of lugging our laptops to shore when we have to go on the hunt for Internet.  In most anchorages we can receive WiFi on the boat utilizing our WiFi extender equipment, but there are the occasional WiFi dead zones.

Garmin BlueChart Mobile

At the local Island Water World boat chandlery I notice they were selling brackets to mount your iPad in the cockpit of your boat and covers to protect them from sea spray and rain.  Evidently, others have discovered the apps that turn your iPad into a fairly descent chartplotter.  Motivator uses an iPad app from Garmin as a backup to the backup chartplotter.

 Hurricane Tracker for iPad, by EZ Apps, Inc

During this time of the year keeping track of tropical depressions that turn into tropical storms that can become hurricanes is very important.  An app called Hurricane Tracker provides good coverage and numerous products.

The Sun Rise & Fall, by Team Lundsguard

When we are making long passages, we like to start at first light.  Also a quick glance at this app helps us with our passage planning to ensure we will not be entering a strange harbor in the dark.  It uses the iPad’s GPS, so it gives very accurate times.

Moon, by CDV Concepts

A commercial captain in the Bahamas when asked about night crossings told me, “There are only two types of people out there at night, fools and drug runners.”  The crew of Motivator avoids night crossing when we can.  When the distance between islands is too great and we do need to do a night crossing it is nice to know how much illumination to expect if there are no clouds.

                                                          Tides Near Me, by Randy Meech

Tidal information can be important part of your route planning, especially if you expect a harbor entrance with “skinny water.”  Knowing the tides also gives you a heads-up about expected currents.

Sea State

While underway, this app settles a lot of arguments about the height of the waves that the hapless captain has once again got us into.  You simply rest your iPad on a steady surface (if you can find one) and touch the button.

Life would be good if this is all we ever see.

I think a Sea State readout ought to be a required accompaniment to sea stories told in dock side bars.

Drag Queen

Once you arrive at your destination, there are several anchor alarms available to warn about dragging anchor.  We liked the name of this alarm, and found it to be simple to operate.  Note: we did not drag anchor for 924,368 feet; that must be the last place we used it.

Anchor Watch HD, by Lukassen

We found we liked Anchor Watch’s Google Earth view of your location, but the activation process was a bit clumsy.  Here in Port Louis Marina the site depiction is about spot on.  Our primary chartplotters have anchor alarms, but we have found the iPad version to be more versatile and not as power hungry.

Recently, I have been searching for an app that will clean the bottom and change oil, while Pollie is in the market for one that cooks and cleans.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Clockwise: soursop, extra large avocado, and mangos

Locally grown fruits and vegetables available in the Caribbean are a little different from what one finds in the average US supermarket.  Most islands have an abundance fruit to the point you often see mangos and other fruits rotting on the ground.

Soursops are bright green when you buy them and are not ripe until they turn slightly brown.

The soursop is one of the strangest fruits in both appearance and name.  It is the fruit of Annona muricata, a broadleaf, flowering, evergreen tree native to the Caribbean.  The taste is best described as being a tangy banana.  My first introduction to the soursop was in the form of soursop ice cream.  At the local mall I usually opt for the banana and mango smoothie, but recently when the vendor was out of mangos and bananas, I tried a soursop and peanut smoothie.  It is now my new favorite.

Making soursop juice is quite easy.  You start by thoroughly washing the soursop and your hands.  Although the soursop’s skin looks formidable, it is easily peeled with only your fingers.

Next you place the peeled soursop in a large mixing bowl and add 1 ½ cups of milk.

Here is the fun part.  With your clean hands, squish the soursop so as to remove the juice from the pulp.

Pour the mixture into a colander over another large bowl.

Continue squeezing the pulp through the colander removing all of the liquid.

You can get quite a bit of juice out of a medium sized soursop.

Discard the stringy pulp and seeds.

To your taste, mix in the following:
·         1 tsp (4.7 g) nutmeg (optional)
·         1 tbsp (14.3 g) vanilla (optional)
·         1/2 tsp (2.4 g) grated ginger (optional)
·         1 tbsp (14.3 g) sugar (optional)
·         1 lime, juiced (optional)
·         Shot of dark rum (optional)

Soursop juice tastes great and contains significant amounts of vitamin C, B1, and B2.  Although scientific evidence does not support the claim, soursop is continuously rumored to be a cure for cancer.  Serve over ice.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Friday Is Build-A-Burger Day

Every Friday between 11:30 and 1:30 the Merry Baker sells burgers, a lot of them.  When we first returned to Grenada, I went to the bakery for some breakfast goodies.  While Nigel was ringing me up, I asked if they were still doing the Build-A-Burger Fridays.  He said if they tried to stop the tradition, there would be a revolt on the island.

Part of the attraction is the price.  At $10 EC ($3.70 USD) a burger with all of the fixings it is a real bargain.

But it also has turned into one of the cruisers’ must do social events.  Usually one has to fight for seating at one of the picnic tables under the tree, but on this Friday a torrential rain had thinned the ranks.

The first step to building a burger is to pay the perpetually cheerful Merry for your burgers and drinks while not being tempted by the baked goodies.

Step number two is slicing a fresh baked bun and decorating it with condiments.

Step three is getting your burger and grilled onions hot of the grill from Nigel.

For more information about Merry and Nigel and the Merry Baker, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Distance Shores




Distant Shores: Questions, Answers and a Giveaway!

Paul and Sheryl Shard have "been there, done that and bought the tee-shirt", so to speak.  In fact, they even have video to prove it.  This couple - refreshingly humble despite theirincredible breadth of experience - have been cruising for twenty-three years and are the husband/wife team behind the Distant Shores Sailing Adventure television series.  This ambitious and award winning duo have been making high-quality, professional documentaries since 1989, have logged over 90,000 nautical miles under their keels, completed 5 ocean crossings and have visited over 60 countries.  In other words, this cruising couple is the real dealand in a word, they are the shiz-nit.

After having the pleasure to meet them both here in Grenada (seriously, they are so nice and ooze humility), Paul gave us a couple of DVD's to check out and after having viewed them, I can say that without a doubt these videos should find a place the library of any cruiser or wanna-be water gypsy.  Not only do the Shards offer practical tips on cruising and sailing, but they give great insight into the who's and what's of the places and cultures they visit.  Their videos educate, entertain and inspire...the triumvirate of good television.  Whether you use these videos to prepare yourself for a cruise or simply to ease the minds of worried (but well-meaning) loved ones, they are sure to whet your whistle for living life less ordinary...on the water, of course.

I got Paul and Sheryl to take some time out of their busy editing schedule to answer a few questions because when you meet people that are a) this awesome and b) this experienced, there is only one thing to do: pick their brains.  (SPOILER ALERT:  GIVE AWAY DETAILS AT THE END!)
Ten Questions for Paul and Sheryl Shard

1) What inspired you to start cruising?

Paul and I grew up in families that loved boating and both of us dreamed of doing a long-term voyage in our own boat one day. 

Paul and his family did a lot of serious canoeing expeditions and later houseboating when Paul and his brothers were growing up. My family had a cottage on Lake Simcoe in Ontario, Canada, and we had boats of all shapes and sizes throughout my childhood but no sailboats. Sailing came later for me. So both of us learned to handle boats, navigation, anchoring, route planning and weather forecasting while growing up.

We got seriously interested in sailing and joined the Port Credit Yacht Club on Lake Ontario near Toronto and started crewing for Wednesday night races learning from many different skippers and trying out boats of all sizes to determine what size boat we were comfortable handling together. We did "Cruise and Learn" CYA courses in the North Channel on Georgian Bay, attended every boat show and cruising seminar offered within driving distance of Toronto, chartered in the BVI once we had our qualifications, all the while polishing our navigation skills taking Canadian Power and Sail Squadron courses. We now instruct those courses which is fun when we're home and helped design the CPS "Extended Cruising" course.

2) Why did you decide to start making cruising videos, did you fall into it accidentally or did you see a niche opportunity there?

Our background and training is in film, photo-journalism and theater so it just made sense to us to document our cruising/travel experiences to share with others who might be dreaming of doing the same thing. There were no other shows of this nature at the time and still very few. Sheryl has a Fine Arts degree in Theatre and before cruising she worked as an actress, choreographer, artistic director and Arts & Entertainment reporter for our city paper  Paul's degree is in Computer Science but he worked in film and photography since he was 16. We had an established freelance career when we set sail.

3) Making and editing videos - especially professional quality as yours are - must take a tremendous amount of time and energy.  How do you maintain a work/life balance?

Our life basically is our work since we film and document the cruising life. So I am not sure we have a work/life balance! Just 100% work :-)  But they say "choose a job you love and never work a day in your life". We are very lucky to get to see all that we do as cruising sailors, we like helping others achieve their cruising dreams as well - through our films.

4) You two not only cruise together, you run your business together and share responsibility in making/editing your videos!  You've obviously found a way to work well together despite close quarters and limited "me" time.  What's your advice on how to be a successful husband/wife cruising/business team?

I think the main thing in our favour is that we both absolutely love cruising and the television work we do together so there is no conflict there. Neither of us is sacrificing anything to do what we do, so that helps a lot. We meet a lot of couples cruising where one is living their dream and the other is reluctantly along for the ride which can lead to trouble. 

We do spend a lot of time together but we've known each other a long time (since we were 7 years old) and know when each other needs space or to stop talking or a change of scene or activity, or to blow off steam. We respect that in each other. We both have a very good sense of humour so if things get tense we know how to make each other laugh to diffuse things. We're proud of doing that so are always looking for ways to keep things fun. 

Over the years we've learned how to give each other "me" time even at sea when confined to the boat for long periods - wearing headphones, reading in another part of the boat, getting focused on a project that's of interest to only one of us while the other does something else, that kind of thing.

5) What are three pieces of video equipment the average person could get ahold of that you could not possibly do without?
  1. Keeping the camera steady is very important, especially with smaller video cameras - I recommend a medium size tripod or a monopod for quicker shooting. We use ours all the time. 
  2. Don't forget sound. Capturing good audio is often challenging on a boat, but an external microphone with a windscreen can help. 
  3. Editing is VERY important with video, so I also recommend a nice simple editing program for the computer. We use Final Cut Pro (which is not simple) on the Mac but iMovie is easier to learn and also great, and there are many options for the PC as well.
What three tips would you offer to the beginning videographer?
  1. Look at your shot - keep checking the shot as you shoot making sure its in focus, composed nicely and lighting/exposure is good too. nothing worse than getting back home to find your beautiful shot isn't what you thought 
  2. Keep the shot steady - tripod and monopod see above. 
  3. Plan the edit - we shoot 5 hours of footage to make a 24 minute program. The edit usually takes as long as the shooting for us.
You've cruised for 23 years. That is a long time! What's your secret for not getting burned out on boating?

Our secret for not getting burned out on boating is to take "time out". Our first cruise was a full-time 3-year Atlantic Circle and by the end of it we were travel-weary. We weren't appreciating things the way we had at the beginning. Language barriers became frustrating instead of exciting and challenging. We knew it was time to go home. After a year back in Canada with family and friends our enthusiasm was restored and we headed out again. 

We find being on the move constantly for 2-3 years is hard on people. People usually need a break at that point. Some people worry, that when they feel that way, they are giving up on the dream and lifestyle. But it's not that. You just need to stop in a place for a while, for a season usually, to be in one place and know how it works and where things are and just "belong" for a while. You can get things done. Cruisers do this by "wintering" in the Med or "summering" in Grenada during hurricane season or going home for a few months each year. Or even longer if they need a real break or circumstances change. But you've got the bug. You head out again re-charged and happy once more. 

8) What's once piece of advice you wish you got before you started cruising?

That cruising can become an unbreakable habit :-)

9) What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of living a nomadic lifestyle?

Initially the most challenging aspect of living a nomadic lifestyle was the difficulty in communicating with home and work while cruising. But we started cruising in 1989 when there were no cell phones, e-mail or internet. We had to rely on coin-operated phone booths or phone centres. At that time, we were thrilled when we could send someone a fax from a post office! We spent hundreds of dollars mailing out printed newsletters several times a year. Now with internet access, skype, satellite phones, etc. that's no longer a problem. And with cheap airfare it's easy to get home or have people come to you if you're missing each other.

10) What's your "dream destination" or have you already been there?

We have been to so many great places - making the television show means we need to keep moving on to new places, but that has helped us to find the best in every place we cruise! The Bahamas are probably our top spot, but Greece and Turkey are right up there!


If you would like to win Season 5 and Season 6 (a total of six DVD's) which cover all of the places we have sailed (and much more!) most you must do two things:

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