Thursday, January 19, 2017

In the BVI

We have moved on to the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

After several days at the marina it was time to move, marinas are expensive.  We had taken a day trip to Charlotte Amalie via a Safari.  A safari is a form of a taxi but in reality it is a pickup with rows of seats in the back with a covering.  They are the main form of public transportation on St Thomas and are inexpensive, $2 per person.  We wandered around the downtown with all of the other tourist off the cruise ship.  We learned a number of things.  The shops want your business and will go all out to get it including inviting you in for a beverage (water, soda, beer, etc), free samples and vary aggressive sales techniques including price reductions every time you start for the door.  You can also take your beverage out in the street and drink it as you walk along (including the beer).  After wandering the main streets we started checking out the small alleys connecting them and found a number of unique shops.  In one we came across an oasis, a small bar with a comfortable sitting area, air conditioning and wifi.  While having a drink the bartender explained the concept of an "island pour" when mixing drinks.  Since everything needs to be shipped in everything is expensive.  Rum is made locally, cola is imported, therefore they switch the proportions: a lot of rum and a little coke.  He demonstrated the technique several times for me.  We had been given a suggestion for where to have lunch and we were not disappointed.  From there we were looking for a safari to take us back to the marina when I spotted a small open air bar with swings instead of stools.  They were comfortable, why don't more paces offer this, and the bartender was familiar with an "island pour."  We finally caught a safari and back at the marina had a light dinner and I crashed, but with a smile on my face.  One of the interesting things that happened was when one of the clerks in a store noticed my Ocracoke shirt and asked if we were from the area.  We explained where we had lived on Clubfoot Creek and it turned out she grew up four houses down on the other side of the creek.  It truly is a small world.

We left the marina but unfortunately had an incident with the boat next to us.  We needed to back out of the slip and get the boat turned into the wind once clear of the dock and other boats.  The wind, from behind, caught the stern and pushed it the wrong way and once clear of the dock we were pushed into their anchor bowsprit.  They were backed into the slip.  After clearing our rigging from them we were out of the marina.  The captain of that boat was very helpful and understanding.  Once out of the harbor we turned right and proceeded downwind using the headsail to sail to the harbor at Charlotte Amalie.  Several other cruisers have given us suggestions where to anchor and after checking them out we chose a spot and dropped anchor.  The next morning we went ashore to take care of business.  We had already done enough of the touristy stuff so we made a trip to K-mart for a few supplies and the grocery store.  Once back on the boat putting things away we got a message that Lee and Sharon from Allegro were on their way and did we want to do lunch.  As they were coming into the harbor we went back to shore to wait for them.  After a great lunch with them and meeting some of their cruising friends, one with a Pearson 422, we headed back to the boat while they went off to do laundry.  The anchorage had been very rolly and uncomfortable so we decided to move.  First we needed to top off fuel, we pulled into a marina, got fuel and we were off again to find a place to anchor.  The suggested anchorages were very full of boats and anyplace we could choose was too deep so we decided to move over to Brewers Bay.  This anchorage is right next to the airport with the runway acting as a break wall knocking down the waves.  The only drawbacks are the airplanes taking off and landing and the music from the public beach.  In the evening it quieted down and we had a peaceful night.

This being Monday we had planned to sail to St Croix.  There was a weather change forecasted and we would have a great sail there.  The "BUT" that follows that statement was that the winds and swell was going to shift and be from the north for a week.  A lot of wind and big swells 9-12 foot.  The anchorages on St Croix are on the north side of the island and we would be exposed to them for the week.  We decided not to go, we will get there later.  With the forecast for wind and waves from the northeast we decided to go back to the south side of St. John.  We pulled into Great Lameshur Bay and picked up a mooring again.  While Cori was off kayaking a neighbor came over to invite us over for sundowners. People from two other boats were there so lots of advice was given.  Tuesday morning we went ashore and went for a hike, first stopping at the VIERS center.  We had missed this the first time here and the others were telling us how interesting it was.  VIERS stands for Virgin Islands Environmental Research Station.  They host collage student who are doing research in the area.  The site was originally built as the center for the Tektite research.  Many of us are familiar with the Sealab experiment in the late 60's and this was a follow up by researchers, including NASA, for extended underwater and close quarter living.  There was a "habitat" anchored to the sea floor just outside of the bay and during 1969 and 1970 there were a series of experiments conducted, the most notable was the first crew who lived there for 59 days venturing out with diving equipment to conduct research and study the underwater environment.  Google it, "Tektite", it is very interesting.  From there we  hiked the Tektite Trail, not one of the easy trails but to a very nice overlook looking down at where the Tektite dock had been.  We spent a couple of days on the mooring while the winds blew but we were very protected.

Thursday was a sad day on Hi Flite.  Cori received an email that notified us that George, the previous owner of Hi Flite had died and his memorial service was to be held on Saturday.  George loved his boat and selling her was an emotional experience for him.  After we bought the boat and I was spending time on her in Florida trying to learn all I could before bringing her up to North Carolina, George would come down most days to help me get familiar.  One of my favorite George stories was the day he looked at me and said "well, she is yours now so maybe I should show you where the leaks are" and proceeded to point out where there were leaks that he had not gotten to yet.  There weren't many but it was funny to me since most previous owners will never admit to any defects in their pride and joys.  We spent a lot of time together, him telling me stories and giving advice and he showed me a lot about the boat and went out sailing with us when Cori was there to make us more familiar.  He and Barbara even hosted us to Thanksgiving dinner while we were there, and it is through them that we became familiar with the Cuban sandwich.  One of his stories stuck and years later when faced with a fuel problem on a boat we were delivering his advice was foremost in my mind and we got the boat to her new home port by feeding fuel from jerry jugs when the fuel tank pickup was fouled.  We also did this the summer we had our fuel tank replaced.  While waiting for a new one to be delivered we continued sailing and using the boat by using jerry jugs again and the hoses I used for that are onboard ready to use again.  We have thought of George often and his spirit still lives with us on Hi Flite, the boat that he loved.

We decided it was to move since we had heard good things about Salt Pond Bay just further long the coast.  We dropped the mooring and motored two miles to the bay.  We were lucky, we arrived in time to pick up a mooring ball that just came free.  Salt Pond Bay is small with only five moorings but the beach is very popular with tourists and locals.  Cori went kayaking and I went snorkeling. There are a couple of rock piles in the bay with good snorkeling and there are several turtles that were hanging out between us and our neighbors, very easy to see when snorkeling or when they come up for air.  It turned out our neighbors and their company were from Sioux Falls SD.  Cori got back from kayaking and wanted a garbage bag and off she went to one of the beaches to pick up the trash that had been washed up there.  On Friday we went to shore to hike the Ram Head trail.  Ram Head is a narrow peninsula that makes up one side of the bay.  It is an easy hike, compared to the others we have been on, and once to the end there is a beautiful panoramic view of the island and the surrounding area.  Once back from this hike we took the Drunken Bay Trail across the peninsula to Drunken Bay.  The attraction there, besides the view is the rock sculptures people are making.  Besides the standard rock towers people are using rocks to make human figurines and some of the washed up coral to spell out messages.  Photos will be posted later.  All of these days we had strong winds coming over the island and short rain squalls passing through.  We saw more rainbows this week then any other time.  Saturday Cori went kayaking again and I spent the day reading and relaxing (napping). Sunday was a repeat, with Cori off in her kayak and I stayed back to run the generator and water maker.  Later we swam over to the neighbors to hang out in the water and visit.  We discussed our plans to go around the island and spend another day in Waterlemon Bay before making the jump to the BVI (just a couple of miles away).  Their response was "why wait"?  We made arrangements with our friends on Voyager I to let them have our mooring and when they showed up Monday morning we dropped off and headed around the island.  There was still a lot of wind, 15-20, and waves on the nose until we got around the island and started downwind.  We pulled out the headsail and sailed down the channel, around the edge of Tortola and across to Jost Van Dyke island.  We pulled into Great Harbor, picked up a mooring ball, had lunch and then went in to meet with Customs and Immigration.  We were cleared for 30 days.  We have again left the country.  We did a short walk along the waterfront to get familiar and had a beer at Foxies.  Foxies is an institution in the area.  If you are in the BVI you almost have to stop there,  We were there in the afternoon but their evenings and holiday parties are legendary.  Back on the boat we watched the boats come in look for a mooring and leave or find a spot to drop anchor.  We spent the night but it was a little rolly.

In the morning we decided to move around the corner to White Bay which we are told is one of the more beautiful beaches.  We grabbed one of the moorings and went to shore to take care of phone business and the required stop at the Soggy Dollar.  The Soggy Dollar is where the painkiller was invented and it is a requirement that you stop and have one.   We also needed to stop at the little store to get a SIM card for my phone.  ATT works but as soon as we leave the US islands we are using international roaming fees.  Once that was taken care of we used their suggestion for a lunch spot.  The interesting thing at lunch was if you ordered their signature drink they gave you a cup of ice and put the two bottles of rum and the fruit juice on the counter and you mixed your own drink.  While at the Soggy Dollar we met a fellow sailor from Booth Bay Harbor Maine.  We had an enjoyable time talking with him and exchanging stories, all sailors have stories.  Once again we rocked and rolled through the night so in the morning we moved on to the east end of Jost Van Dyke and picked up a mooring ball.  One of the attractions here is the "Bubbly Pool".  We made the short hike over and soon the group that was there left and we had it to ourselves.  The pool is where the water has broken through the rock shore and formed a shallow pool and when the waves hit the entrance it funnels the water in and turns the pool into a sort of a jacuzzi.  The bigger the waves the more pronounced the effect.  We only had five footers so the effect wasn't as dramatic as it could have been.  Earlier in the week with the north wind and swells they had been hit with thirteen foot swells and the pool was too dangerous to go in.  Photos and video to follow.  On the way to the pool we went under two sets of yellow tape with the message "Crime scene, do not enter".  When the boat arrived to take our money for the mooring he explained that just a few days before someone had been climbing on the rocks at the pool and fell and died.  It truly was a crime scene.  Speaking of the moorings, here in the BVI there is a boat that comes out about 5:30 to collect the $30 to stay on the mooring overnight.  It adds up quickly.  This morning we decided that when Cori got back from her kayak trip we would move the boat to another area by a sand beach and anchor for the night.  When we got to the anchorage it was more rolly then we like so we moved back closer to the mooring field and dropped anchor. We are still rolling but not as bad.  Since we are out here with just a couple of other boats I fired up the generator to charge the batteries and make more water.  I don't like running the generator when someone is close because I don't like hearing anyone else's generator and am sure they don't like mine.  I spent the rest of the day reading and Cori sorted through provisions and did some cooking.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

St. John US Virgin Islands

We have WiFi again.  We have been in some isolated anchorages and have been lucky if we get one bar with our phones and no data to speak of.  Fortunately, isolated anchorages are what we enjoy.

We left Culebra with a forecast of reduced winds and seas.  Reduced is relative, when it blows 20-25 everyday dropping below 20 is a reduction.  We have been experiencing what is called the "christmas winds".  The christmas winds continue until some meteorological event shifts the high pressure that sits up north of the islands.  Eventually something moves and the winds calm down.  We have had almost constant 20-25 knot winds from the east since we arrived.  The forecast called for several days of moderation and we took advantage of it to motor, against the winds and waves to the island of St John.  Oh yea, the waves.  The forecast called for them to drop from 7-9 foot.  Depending where we were in relation to an island they did drop but we still saw a lot of 7-9 footers.  But it could have been worse, it was a short trip, 35 miles or about six hours.

We use an online program called Active Captain to help guide us.  People write reviews and rate such things as marinas, anchorages and make notes about different hazards you may encounter.  Using this we chose a bay on the south side of St John to anchor when we arrived.  Once we got in we found that it wasn't a real good choice so we tried the next little bay.  It was a bit less crowded so we dropped anchor to see how we would ride.  Not good, too much roll.  We decided to continue along a couple more miles to Great Lameshur Bay and pick up a park service mooring.  Most of St John is a national park and most of the bays in the park have mooring balls provided by the park service.  You are also not allowed to anchor in the park waters to protect the coral and bottom structure.  This sounds like a nice service but nothing is free.  Until this year there was a charge of $15 per night for the mooring but this year it was raised to $26.  Fortunately, I have a senior access pass that reduces my cost by 50%.  I only have to pay $13 a night.  If you or anyone you know is over 62 and travels to any US National Park this is a good card to have.  It costs $10 and gives free admission to all National Parks for the person and everyone with them.  I have used many different parks.  The bad news is that there has been a proposal to raise the cost to $80 in the new budget.  Still a good deal if one visits several parks.  The card is good for the rest of your life.  I have saved well over the purchase price in just a few years.  Anyway, back to St John, most of it is wilderness and thy have developed a number of hiking trails and that is one thing we tried to do.  Our first attempt at hiking was called the Bordeaux Mtn. Trail.  This turned out to be anything but a walk in the park.  The trail is 1.2 miles long and climbs 1277 feet, and then you have to walk back down.  I thought my knee hurt going up, coming down again was ever harder.  We made it and there were some breathtaking vistas along the way.

  The nest hiking excursion, after a day of rest, was the Petroglyph Trail.  This was only about three miles with a diversion to the  Reed Bay Sugar Mill ruins, then three miles back.  This did not climb as high but we still had to climb over a major ridge line to get there, and back.  The petroglyphs are some  carvings in rocks from the original natives of the islands back several thousand years.

  The sugar mill ruins were the remnants of the last sugar plantation in operation on the island closing in the early 1900's

Another bright idea we had was to hike the Brown Bay Trail until it met up with the Johnny Horn Trail that ended in the town of Coral Bay.  From there we planned on following the road back to where we left the dinghy.  About a six mile hike across the island and back crossing several ridges with some grades almost too steep to climb and descend.  Once in Coral Bay we stopped at Skinny Legs bar for a cold one and met Rick and Nancy from Colorado and accepted a ride back to our dinghy.  Back at the dinghy we found that we had been visited by a park ranger and he left a notice that we were not allowed to leave the dinghy where it was and that it is against the rules to tie it to a tree, or anything else for that matter.  It was just a warning, not a citation so there was no penalty.  We also got a warning the nest day when we got back from a day trip to Cruz Bay.  We were not supposed to stay two nights on a day-use mooring.  We moved to an anchorage outside the park for the night in case he came back to check on us.  We made several more hikes while around the island, mostly short ones to a ruins of some sort.

We did make one trip to the town of Cruz Bay, taking a Safari Taxi to town and then the bus back.  Safari Taxis are pickups with seats in the back and a roof over the passengers heads.  We climbed aboard and quickly found we were with a former resident of New Bern NC and a resident of Ocracoke Island.  They were on their way to the ferry to return from their vacation.  While perusing shops we also met a former resident of Beaufort and while waiting to board the bus met a family from Cary NC.  They all noticed that my T shirt was from Oriental NC and struck up a conversation.

Aside from the hiking Cori took several opportunities to get out on her kayak and explore some of the beaches and I got in some more snorkeling.  I saw a variety of coral and fish, again taking too many pictures of where a fish had been.  One site had a number of squid to check out.

We worked our way counter-clockwise around the island staying for a couple of days in different bays.  Our last night the winds and waves shifted and we started to roll.  We had plans on moving along a short distance to check out an underwater snorkeling trail but it was too rough to want to stay even for just the day.  We checked out several other bays, even taking a mooring on one to see how it felt but still was uncomfortable so we moved on.

We moved across to Big James Island and picked up a free mooring in Christmas Cove.  The story is that it is called Christmas Cove because that is where Christopher Columbus spent a Christmas.  The unique thing in this cove is the pizza boat.  There is a boat anchored that is set up with a kitchen to make and sell pizzas.

We had a great time on and around St John and will be back.  We decided to take a couple of days and give Hi Flite some love.  We moved to Red Hook Bay on the east end of St Thomas and are tied up to a dock.  I need to give the electrical system some attention and need to be on 110 service for a couple of days.  We were here only a couple of hours and Bill and Andrea from Voyager I stopped by to say hello.  We met them in Culebra.  We have been meeting a lot of others along the way, even a family from Fargo while waiting for our pizza at the pizza boat.

In the midst of this we spent a quiet Christmas and New Years Eve.  We hope everyone had a nice Christmas and wish all of you a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Leaving the Spanish Virgin Islands

We are getting really to leave the Spanish Virgin Islands and head over to the US Virgin Islands.  I really don't know what the difference is.  We left Fajerdo on Wednesday, the 14th around 1:00 and motored about five miles to Isle Palamino and picked up a mooring.  We could have waited another day but we're getting eager to get out of the marina.  It is too easy to get used to the comfort of a marina, it was time to move.  We had stayed more days then we had planned but it took longer to get everything ready then we had thought.  The repair shop that was working on the generator was having problems.  Honda does not make a marine version of their generator and corrosion is evidently a problem.  It took them a day to just get the screws to release so they could disassemble it.  Several times when I talked to them they were thinking they were not going to get it disassembled.  They promised it on Monday but when I called them they said it was apart and they had the parts but it would take longer.  On Tuesday morning our new friend Cato gave me a ride in and they promised it by late afternoon.  In the afternoon we made another trip in and they had it running and powering a fan to test it.  They had it running for three hours without a problem.  Evidently the problem was that some of the wiring got corroded and lost it's ground and thought it was low on oil.  They gave me the invoice and I ended up paying them a whopping $76.10.  I didn't have any change so I got away with only paying them $76.00.  I had expected it to cost me a lot more.  We brought it back to the boat and continued to get ready to go.  The winds were supposed to moderate a little on Thursday but we left early and staged at a near by island to make the run to Culebra.  We spent the evening relaxing in the cockpit watching the full moon rise over the island.

Thursday morning we dropped the mooring and motored against the wind.  The winds had dropped a little and was only blowing in the 15-20 knot range.  It had been blowing in the 20's all week.  We worked our way around the island and pulled into the harbor and dropped anchor.  We launched the dinghy, it had been riding on the bow since we left NC and mounted the 3.3 outboard and went exploring.  We tied up on the dinghy dock and walked into town.  We must have looked lost and a lady stopped to enquire if we were looking for anything in particular.  It turned out she was from Steamboat Springs Colorado and theyspend their winters in Culebra.  She pointed out several places to check out and told us of a school musical performance that evening.  After dinner on the boat we made our way to the school for the concert.  They were also selling deserts.  The students had a project where they studied a different country and reported on a desert specific to that country.  They, with their parents, made deserts and were selling them before and after the performance.  We expected to not be able to understand the songs since we do not know Spanish but it turned out they performed in several languages dependent on where the song was from.  They did a real good version of Silent Night in three languages.  This was our introduction to Culebra.

On Friday we swapped out the 3.3 outboard for the 15 horse and went exploring.  We had been told that the snorkeling near Tamarindo Beach was supposed to be good and we headed over there.  We tied the dinghy to a mooring and I dropped into the water to swim over to the reef.  I turned around for some reason and returned to the dinghy and Cori told me that the workers on the beach said we needed to leave.  We are not sure why but we moved further up the shore and dropped the anchor and I went snorkeling again while Cori swam to shore to look for shells and glass.  I had my new underwater camera but when I switched it to the underwater setting it gave a message I couldn't understand so I left it on the boat and continued.  The reef was great with a large variety of fish and coral.  At one time I had a ray swim under me and I followed it around for a while.  I wish I had the camera.  Finally we called it quits and headed back to the boat.  Instead of stopping at the boat we continued on and took a tour of the harbor.

On Saturday we were making a run into town when we stopped at a boat with a home port of St. Paul MN.  It turned out they were from Minnetonka and Maple Grove, true Minnesotans.  It rained off and on all day but we headed back to the west side of the island and I snorkels on the reef while Cori walked the beach looking for more shells and glass.  This time I brought the camera and shot over two hundred pictures and videos.  I will get them sorted and uploaded when I have good wifi signal.  When the camera battery died we made our way back to the boat.  We also did a good deed when we went by a group of kayakers and towed the last kayak to shore.  They were tired and one of them was not feeling well due to the motion of the ocean.

Sunday we woke up hearing some disturbance outside.  We looked out to see one of our neighbors had dragged down on another boat and they were trying to get their anchors untangled.  Once they were free the boat went to anther part of the harbor to reanchor.  The winds were blowing over 20 knots again so we spent the day on board until evening when we thought the winds had died a little and we made a run into town.  We were planning to move on Monday and needed to get rid of our garbage. We dropped it off at the collection bins at the dinghy dock and then when to a nearby restaurant for dinner.  When we were through we found that my wallet had been left on the boat.  By now the wind had picked up again and by the time I made the run to the boat, back to the restaurant and back to the boat we were wet from the splashing waves.  The very thing we wanted to avoid by staying on the boat all day.

Monday we left the harbor to check out one of the small islands nearby.  We motored out into 20+ knot winds and worked our way to Isla Cullebrita.  There is a very pretty harbor on the northwest side of the island but to get there we had to go around and out into the big seas.  The waves were running about six foot when we went around the island and worked our way into the anchorage.  We picked up a mooring and went to shore.  On shore we met another cruiser who pointed out the different things to find on the island  The first thing we wanted to see was the area called the "jacuzzi".  It is an opening in the rocks that let the waves come in and flood a shallow area.  This day the sea was running too high and the water flooding in was a bit too violent.  We opted to just take pictures and head back to the boat.  There was a swell from the waves working it's way into the harbor and was causing a lot of uncomfortable rolling.  We decided to leave.  While getting back into the dinghy after pushing off from shore the lanyard on Cori's inflatable life jacket caught and all of a sudden her jacket inflated.  A big surprise and it didn't help getting into the dinghy any easier.  At least we know it works but now we need to get another re-arm kit for it.  We had more waves breaking and splashing into the cockpit until we got around the island and then moved to a protected anchorage for the night.  it was interesting to feel the wind blowing 20 knots and watch the waves break on the reef but we were sitting in perfectly calm water.  Once again we had rain showers overnight to wash the salt off the boat.

Tuesday morning we went back to the island, this time staying on the calm side and went ashore.  There is an old lighthouse on the top of the hill and we wanted to check it out.  There are trails leading to other beaches and up to the lighthouse.  We climbed up the hill checking out the plant life, lots of flowering plants, the little and not so little lizards that hurried out of our way, the hermit crabs slowly climbing along and finally got to see some of the goats that live on the island.  They are shy of people so we only got momentary sightings as we climbed.  We heard them in the brush more then saw them.  Once to the top of the hill we were not disappointed in the lighthouse.  We shot a lot of pictures and will post them in our album when we get a better connection.  Once to the lighthouse we found the rest of the goat herd.  I walked around a corner and came face to face with two goats.  I am not sure who was more surprised.  As we checked out the facility we saw the rest of the herd hanging out at the old helicopter pad.  More then a dozen were there and they were not to happy to see us.  As long as we kept our distance they put up with us and then decided to leave.  As we were looking out at the surrounding area we could see small groups of goats on the hillsides.  On our way back down we came across several more with their young.  They would stare at us for a bit then decide to make a run for it into the brush.  Once back to the boat we headed back to the harbor at Culebra for the night and to get ready to make the jump to St. John.  We are going to bypass St. Thomas for now and will visit there when we need supplies.  The winds are supposed to moderate a bit and since it is an upwind motor trip we will try to take advantage of it.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Ready to move on.

We have been here at Puerto Del Ray Marina for over a week.  We planned to stay for a week but we are waiting for our generator.  The week started out with cleaning and repairs.  After our time offshore we had salt everywhere.  Just moving from the cockpit to below deck spreads the salt, not to mention the salt water that found it's way in.  Cori spent two days doing thirteen loads of laundry.  Everything got washed: bedding, cushion covers, towels, clothes and more.  By "everything" we mean everything.  Ben and Bruiser even got a ride in the washer.  They were not impressed and do not want to go on that amusement ride again.

Everything below also had to be wiped down.  The zippers on the dodger were replaced after a wind gust ripped one out so the sewing machine came out, there were a couple of repairs to the sails and all round boat stuff to be taken care of.  I got replacement bolts to fix the auto pilot mechanism properly so that should not be an issue again.  For some reason the fresh water pressure pump decided to stop working.  We carry a spare, actually two spares, but that is another story.  While replacing the pump I redid the plumbing under the galley sink to make it a bit more user friendly but it took all day.  We found that my mp3 player is truly dead and we were not able to get our SeriusXM radio to work.  After talking to customer service we found that they do not transmit into the Caribbean.  Since we are going to be here for a while we canceled the service and packaged it all up and put it into storage.  We are going to miss it.  We listened to it most evenings not having television and it supplied a soundtrack during the day.  We will really miss it when Nascar starts up again.

Water got into one of the navigation lights and shorted it out and after spending a lot of time trying to get it working again we decided it needed to be replaced.  We met a couple on the dock and they offered us a ride to West Marine.  West did not have the one we needed but the store in San Juan had one.  Due to it being inventory time they could not ship it to the local store.  We told them to put it on hold and we would come and pick it up.  We decided we had done enough work and needed a day off.  We reserved a rental car for Friday and made the run to San Juan.  After we picked up the part we headed over to the old town to act like tourists.  We spent the afternoon at Castillo San Cristobal, a fort built by the Spanish to protect the city.  Over a 150 year period the fort grew and a wall was built around the city.  The fort and it's companion Castillo San Felipe del Morrow are now a part of our National Park system.  I love going to a national park and showing them my senior pass and getting in free.  If you are over 62 you need to get one of these.

On the way back we stopped in Luquillo at the kiosks.  Think of a strip mall with small open air bars, restaurants and shops with the beach behind.  It was late so most of the shops were closed but we were looking for dinner.  We decided on kiosk 22 with a name I cannot pronounce or spell.  We were seated on the roof with a view of the beach until it got dark and had our dinner.  I ordered the skin-on pork chop and Cori ordered the fish with mofongo as her side. Mofongo is a Puerto Rican dish made with mashed plantains and takes the place of potatoes with many dishes.  The pork chop was one of the biggest I had ever had.  The outer skin of the pig is left on and is scored before frying.  What they do not mention is the half inch of fat between the skin and meat is also left on.  It is cooked so that the skin is crispy.  I never did figure out how to cut a piece with a combination of all three, I mostly had a bite of skin and fat and then a bite of meat.  I have to admit it was good.

We have just about everything done but are waiting on the generator.  We carry a portable Honda 2000i generator to help with keeping the batteries charged.  It will not run so we needed to find a repair shop.  One of the workers at the marina knew of a repair shop but not the name of it.  He was able to give us directions so we stopped to check if they could work on it when we made the run to West Marine.  We made a quick run back to the boat to get it and dropped it off on Wednesday.  They/we misunderstood the urgency and they did not get started on it until Friday.  We notified the marina we will be staying a couple more days.  What we know is that the low oil sensor is reporting low oil and this prevents it from starting or running.  We are waiting to hear back from them, they said they would be able to have it back to us around mid-day Monday.  They even offered to deliver it to the marina.

Once the generator is back we will be ready to head out.  We won't be going far, we will be checking out some of the islands close by before moving on to the Virgin Islands and beyond.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

We are now officially in Caribbean waters.

We are now officially in Caribbean waters.

On Monday, 11/21/2016, after checking with our weather guy we made the decision to go.  We left the marina.  We made our way to the ICW and motored down to Morehead City to top off the fuel at the Yacht Basin.  We were debating whether to continue on or wait for morning.  We opted to go on and since it was now 5:00 pm it was time to talk to Chris Parker again.  He has a set schedule on the single side band radio that we monitor.  We asked his opinion on leaving or waiting until morning and he said it wouldn’t make much difference.  As we were going out the inlet we met a Coast Guard cutter and they called us to tell us to turn on our navigation lights, it was just at sunset.  Once out of the inlet we raised the sails and started to our first way-point.  We expected to reach the Gulf Stream by morning and cross it in the daylight when the winds had dropped a bit.  We were doing 8-9 knots and reached it much sooner.  As we crossed the stream we saw speeds of 10-11 knots, about top speed for us.  There is an old rule that you stay out of the stream whenever there is wind from anywhere north.  The combination of the wind blowing against the stream builds some high and rough seas.  We had a northwest wind blowing 20-30 knots.  We ended up crossing the stream during the night with a very fast but rough ride.  In the morning when we checked in with Chris Parker for weather updates he reported that we were out of the stream and ready to continue on to our next way-point.  He helps with navigation by directing you to favorable winds and currents.  During the morning the winds dropped as he had forecast and we ended up sailing at about 4-5 knots for the rest of the day.  Had we waited we would have had a little better ride through the stream but it would have taken longer.  We were now out in the Atlantic Ocean and starting to make some distance east.  We needed to go east before going south to avoid beating into the east trade winds at the end of the trip.  We were on our way!

By evening on Tuesday the wind had died almost completely and the sail was just flogging.  We had taken down the mainsail and polled out the headsail to keep sailing, but after nightfall we were barely moving.  We knew that the forecast was for some wind to catch up with us on Wednesday but for now we were going almost nowhere.  We decided during the night to just roll in the sail, turn off the autopilot and just drift until morning.  Since we had not seen a ship since leaving the stream we just went to bed and got some sleep.  In the morning our chart plotter showed that we had drifted about 2 miles.  The forecast wind shift came during the night and we now had winds form the SW and as the day went on they grew to about 10 knots, perfect for sailing our southeast course.  Since it was Thanksgiving we celebrated with a batch of caramel rolls for breakfast and chicken and dressing for dinner.  The oven is too small for a turkey.  The winds held for the rest of the day and Friday but there was a wind shift coming.

By Saturday morning the winds shifted around from the west and climbed to 20-25 knots.  This gave us waves hitting us on the side and made for a rolling and pounding ride.  We had stuff rearranging itself down below, with most of it landing on the floor.  Overnight the winds dropped but it stayed rough.  The front north of us was getting closer and the winds shifted to the northwest then moving north with some rain squalls moving in.  Fortunately the squalls only gave us some rain to wash the salt off of everything and no burst of wind.  Now it was a rough and wet ride.  The waves had shifted from the southwest to hitting us from the northeast, still hitting on the beam and occasionally breaking over the deck.  These conditions continued through Wednesday with the wind shifting slightly from the east, causing us to occasionally change course more to the south to try to smooth out the ride.  To say it was uncomfortable is putting it mildly but we were making good time running 7 knots for days but not getting far enough east.

Thursday, 12/2/2016, the winds started to drop a little but the waves did not let up.  By this time we were traveling southwest instead of south east and were actually getting further from our destination of St. Thomas.  It was time to fire up the motor and turn into the wind.  Once under power the angle of the waves changed and it made the ride a lot smoother, calming down the tendency to roll.

By this time we had encountered a serious problem, on Tuesday, the 29th, the refrigeration quit.  We needed to make a decision of where to find a repairman.  We could continue on to St. Thomas or divert to Puerto Rico and make repairs.  We opted for Puerto Rico since it was a little closer and we only needed to divert a little to the south.

Friday evening we could see the lights on shore and continued on until we reached the east end of the island taking the passage between the main island and a smaller island coming into Rada Fajardo Bay.  I have always been a strong advocated of never entering a strange harbor in the dark but our other option was to stand off the shore for the night.  The chart plotter and the charts on the iPad all agreed with what we were seeing as far as lights and buoys and it is a very wide passage so we continued in.  Once in, we moved alongside one of the small islands and dropped anchor in about 15 feet of water.  We had finally stopped moving.  It was only about 9:00 pm but we were beat.  After showers, the water was hot since we had been running the engine, we dropped off to sleep.

In the morning we woke up to a tropical paradise.  There was land in almost all directions with palm trees, beaches, hills high enough that the tops were in the clouds and the sun was shining.  After breakfast we pulled the anchor and continued on to the marina we had chosen, about an hour away.  On the way a cloud bank moved in and we got a light rain that helped to wash off some of the salt.  By the time we reached the marina the sun was shining again and with the help of a couple of dockhands we were tied up.  Once were checked in we started the process of cleaning.  Everything was covered with a coating of salt and needed to be rinsed and scrubbed off.  Makes me wonder why we worked so hard to get everything clean before we left.  We had to take a break from cleaning and get ourselves cleaned us and ready for a cocktail party the marina was hosting.  We met a number of new people with a number of surprise connections.  One had just sold his Pearson 424 formerly known as “Mikey Likes It”.  We knew Mike from Oriental.  When we were on Lake Superior our cruising bible was “The Superior Way” by Bonnie and Ron Dahl.  When I mentioned having sailed on Lake Superior one of the couples stated that they had been sailing out of Bayfield back before the marina was even built and had sold their boat to the Dahl’s.  It is truly a small world.

Trip completed…almost!  We had traveled 1360 nautical miles, or 1565 statute miles, almost half way from New York to London.  From here we will head out for the US and British Virgin Island in about a week.

What went right?  1) It was not as cold as we expected.  The coldest part was the ride from Matthews Point to Morehead City on the ICW.  2) We changed shift schedules and seemed to not be as tired all of the time like in the past.  3) We were not out there by ourselves.  We had twice a day communications with Chris Parker for weather updates.  In the morning we would check-in with the Cruiseheimers Radio Net and in the evening with the Doo-Dah Radio Net.  The Doo-Dah Net overlapped with our evening weather update and if we were late Dick would stay online waiting for us.  As he said one evening “one of our boats is out there and I need to make sure they check-in and are all right.”  At one point Valkyrie was relaying tips on troubleshooting the refrigerator from Rick on Sea Language.  We were not out there alone.  4) We saw only a few ships, most just showed up on our AIS and were too far off to see.  5) My biggest worry was the amount of fuel it may take for the trip.  We can motor for just short of four days if needed but would be out much longer.  Fortunately we had good winds most of the trip.  When the winds were light we were warned that there was no wind ahead of us and if we tried motoring we would run into the calms and end up with calm winds for even longer.  We just needed to be patient and let the winds catch up to us.  In the end we motored for about 34 hours using about a quarter of our fuel.

What went wrong? 1) The biggest is that the compressor for the refrigeration quit.  2) All of the podcasts that Cori was listening to somehow got deleted.  3) My mp3 player got wet and quit working.  4) One of the bolts connecting the auto pilot to the steering worked loose and after tightening it once it came loose again and dropped out to disappear into the bilge.  We rigged it with another bolt but not the right size or type.  5) We found that a wave coming across the deck sideways will get under the forward companionway hatch and cascade in.  This happened several times for several days.  6) We found leaks in a variety of places that had not shown up before.  7) First we were between two weather ridges with little wind then the front moved down and shifted our wind from the NE before we were able to get as east as we needed before turning south.  Eventually we had to motor against the east wind to make our destination.

All in all it was a good trip.  When you take into consideration what could go wrong very little actually happened.  We were hoping for a boring and quiet trip and we came close to that.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

We tried but it is a no-go

We tried leaving this morning but it didn't work out.  We had everything aboard, the power cord disconnected and stored and the engine running.  Unfortunately the engine didn't stay running, it bogged down and quit and would not restart.  I exhausted my knowledge of diesel engines and still couldn't get it going.  Two calls to our friend that works on most of the boats here helped and by the afternoon it was running again but very rough and would kill after a few minutes.  In the afternoon I didn't know what else to do so I just took a nap waiting for a call back.  Cori woke me up with a suggestion that I call Al.  Al is the mechanic that worked on the engine last spring when we were in Florida.  After describing the symptoms he gave me a couple of things to check and he was spot on with the first idea.  Air was getting into the system at the fuel filter.  I had changed the nut that sealed it with a new one that had a new vacuum gauge on it,  It either is not sealing properly or I messed up the gaskets when I changed it out.  I replaced the gaskets and o-rings from another filter and put the old nut and gauge on.  It started right up and ran smoothly.  Now I need to check if it is the new parts or if it was the gaskets.  It should be an easy test.

The bad news is that we have missed our weather window and just leaving one day latter will put us in much rougher conditions.  Our weather forecaster gave us an option to leave on Friday but conditions would not be that much better and we would be right ahead of a cold front on Sunday.  We have chosen to wait a week and head out after the front has gone by.  We will see, the forecast can change a lot in a week.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The New Adventure Begins

We are ready to start our next adventure.  We have been working on the boat getting things ready and are about done.  We have been talking with our weather expert and he says that tomorrow should be a good day to start.

Where are we going?

We have decided it is time to make the jump to the Caribbean.  There are a number of ways to get there and we have decided to take the offshore passage.  The plan is to move down to Morehead City, out Beaufort Inlet, turn southeast to go around Cape Lookout, then continue southeast until we reach the Virgin Islands.  It is a trip of about 1200 miles as the bird flies but we never go in a straight line.  We expect it to take us nine to twelve days.

Once we arrive we plan to spend some time in the US and British Virgin Islands and then start down the chain of islands eventually ending up in Granada or somewhere close to there for the summer.  Our plan at that point is to leave the boat and come back to the States for the summer.  In the fall we will go back to the boat and start working our way back up the islands eventually ending up back in the US.  As we say as we are traveling "plans are written in the sand at low tide," meaning that they are subject to change at any moment,  We decided to make it a two year trip since there is so much to see and there is no reason to rush back.  Friends that are there tell us that the summer months are hot and uncomfortable so we are opting to come back for those months.  We made a change in our insurance to keep us covered as long as we are not in what they call the "hurricane box" during the season.  Granada is south of the box and should be okay, time will tell.

It has taken a lot of work getting ready for a trip of this length and has taken a while to wrap our heads around everything we need to do and plan for.  We think we are ready.

On the other hand we have really enjoyed our time here at the marina seeing old friends and making some new ones.  We have had several friends we have met cruising stop by on their way south and it was good to see them since we will not be going to the Bahamas to meet up with them.

The next post you see should be from the Islands if everything goes well.