Sunday, April 15, 2012

How’s This Jelly For Your Sandwich!

While snorkeling north of Pigeon Island, St. Lucia, we encountered a ctenophore (related to jellyfish) floating by. This was, by far, the largest one I’ve ever seen up close, not quite as large as my fist (Anne’s fist, not Chris’, which is considerably larger). Looking online, I determined that it most closely resembles the picture of Ocyropsis maculata, as shown in what appears to be a pdf file of a textbook chapter on ctenophores (Plate 75B at If you look close at the picture on the left, you can see the luminescent cilia, kind of like little hairs, along the ctenophore’s top left edge. The cilia run in lines from the top to the bottom of the lobes and beat in waves, propelling the ctenophore through the water. The pink spots inside might be gonad. In the picture on the right, you can see much better the separation of the two lobes. We see lots of ctenophores (usually much smaller) when we snorkel, and also when we’re sailing at night, because when they’re disturbed, they let off a blast of blue light, which looks really fantastic in the dark water.

NOTE: I couldn’t find anywhere the ctenophores are actually eaten by people, though dried jellyfish are a delicacy in some Asian countries. No thanks.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Our Kind of Sailors!

Chris and I stopped for a drink at one of the little bars along the Rodney Bay waterfront, and I started flipping through a magazine (Caruiser, issue 2, October 2011). There was an article on Old Ironsides, which, as a good Boston girl, I had to read. Old Ironsides, aka USS Constitution, just celebrated her 214th birthday, and is the oldest commissioned warship in the world still afloat, though her only excursions now are out into Boston Harbor to turn around and go back to her slip in the Charlestown Navy Yard. The article was written by Seaman Shannon S. Heavin, USS Constitution Public Affairs, so we’ve got to assume that the information is accurate. What caught our eye were the stats (from the ship’s log) for a cruise Old Ironsides made in 1798-99 with the mission: “To destroy and harass English shipping.” It seems that someone mis-read “English shipping” as “our livers”. See what I mean below (I’m only giving the information on liquids):

 July 27, 1798, Boston – 475 officers and men sail out carrying 48,600 gallons of fresh water, and 79,400 gallons of rum

October 6, 1798, Jamaica – took on 68,300 gallons of rum

November 12, 1798, Azores – took on 64,300 gallons of Portuguese wine

November 18, 1798, Azores to England – “captured and scuttled 12 English merchant ships, salvaging only the rum aboard each”

January 26, 1799, Firth of Clyde, Scotland – captured whisky distillery and took on 40,000 gallons of single malt Scotch

February 20, 1799, Boston – arrived home with “no cannon shot, no food, no powder, no rum, no wine, no whisky, and 38,600 gallons of water

So, let’s do some math. 
10,000 gallons water / 475 sailors /209 days = ~13 ounces/person/day

187,700 gallons rum/wine/scotch* / 475 sailors /209 days = ~2 gallons/person/day
            *this doesn’t include the rum salvaged from the merchant ships they sank

Granted, they may have collected rain water, and they may have traded/sold some of the alcohol – the article didn’t say. Still, that’s a lot of sundowners.

That said, I must give a big THANK YOU to our friends Steve and Lynn on Celebration, who carried out a humanitarian mission by sailing from Martinique to St. Lucia to bring me some French wine. I had run out of wine a couple of weeks earlier in the Grenadines, where it was just too expensive to purchase. I tip my wine glass to them.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter Egg Extravaganza

We love cruising, but I really miss being home for the holidays. On Easter, we always celebrated with a special breakfast: McMillen Eggs. Dad would patiently spend most of the morning making them, then we’d devour them, along with homemade baked beans (it’s that Boston thing), coffee cake, and lots of other delights. Now my brother Greg makes the eggs, and everyone gathers with his family to partake. Here’s a picture of this year’s efforts – empty cartons and the finished product. I wish I was there!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Bequia – Sailing Mega-Yacht Hangout

When we were anchored in Bequia, there was a constant flow of mega-yachts in and out of Admiralty Bay. Unlike in Grenada, where most of the megas we saw in the southern anchorages were power yachts, in Bequia we saw more sailing yachts, many of them 100+ feet or much more. In the morning, you’d see the crews out swabbing the decks or polishing the stainless.  Wouldn’t that be a comfy way to cruise, though I shudder to think of the maintenance!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Excellent Molluscs

Mantle out (left) and partially out (right)

One of my favorite mollusks to see when we’re snorkeling is the flamingo tongue (Cyphoma gibbosum). We generally see them on sea fans. The shell is pretty: white with peachy-brown streaks, and a transverse ridge midway.  But their beauty really shines through when their mantle is out. The mantle is a thin, orange-spotted membrane that the snail can extend around the top of its shell. These pictures show all three stages: mantle pulled in, mantle starting to emerge, and full mantle. Just fantastic!
Mantle in