Monday, February 27, 2017

St. Martin

I would like to tell you how much we enjoyed St. Croix but that will have to happen next year.  We left St. Thomas on the 16th and started on our way.  We got about 2.5 miles and the engine started to act up.  It felt and sounded like fuel starvation.  We turned around and headed back to the harbor.  Rather than drop anchor we picked up a mooring ball and I went to work replacing the fuel filter.  It did not look that dirty but you never know.  We dropped the mooring and headed out again, motoring directly into a light wind.  All was going well until about seven miles out the engine did its thing again.  It wasn’t the filter.  Checking things out I found that the fuel primer bulb that is used to push fuel to the filter when changing filters was collapsed.  By dropping the rpm’s it ran fine.  We decided this was a sign we were not supposed to go to St. Croix and we turned and motor-sailed to Great Lameshure Bay on St John.  This is our favorite harbor on St. John and is a great place to relax and get away from all of the other cruisers and charterers.  On Friday I replaced the priming bulb and everything ran fine, again.  I then ran the generator and made water while Cori went kayaking.  Lee and Sharon on Allegro came in and in the evening we joined them and Larry and Barb from Aquilla for social hour.

We decided to make plans for the next week to go to St. Martin.  Chris Parker, our weather advisor, was forecasting an unusual weather pattern.  A low was coming in and the trade winds were to die and we would get a couple of days of winds from the NW moving to NE.  His advice was to wait until Tuesday.  Being as we were where we wanted to be it was an easy decision.  Saturday I decided to find why the priming bulb collapsed.  Was it just old and soft or did something plug the intake to cause excessive vacuum.  I pulled the pickup from the tank but could not find anything, especially with a full tank.  Later Cori went kayaking, paddle boarding, and snorkeling with Lee and Sharon.  I spent the day with a good book.  Sunday we were picked up by Lee and Sharon and Tom and Pat from Lonestar and we rode their dinghies around the point to the sugar factory to hike to the petroglyphs.  From there we took the trail that leads up to The Great House.  During the slave rebellions most of the master’s homes were destroyed but not this one on St. John.  Over the years the park service has made attempts to restore parts of it.

Saturday morning Lee and Sharon came over to drop off a book and give us advice on St. Martin.  Later in the morning we dropped the mooring and headed off to Virgin Gorda to get ready to cross.  We chose to sail on the south side of the islands instead of the Drake Channel and Cori put out a fishing line.  She caught a nice size barracuda but he was set free.  Later she hooked up a nice 10 pound black fin tuna.  Her first tuna.  After that we cut back into the Drake Channel and motored up to the North Bay hoping to get a mooring in Lubrick Bay.  We could use the free water and ice they give when you use their mooring.  With the wind forecast to come around from the west and northwest everyone else had the same idea.  We anchored where we could find a spot and settled in for the night.

The trip from the BVI’s to St. Martin is about 80 miles so sailors have to leave late in the day to arrive the next morning.  Otherwise we would arrive at night in the dark, not a good plan.  In the morning we listened in to Chris Parker and were going to verify his advice when another boat, Callahan, called and asked.  We were a go for a late afternoon departure.  We contacted Callahan just to let them know we would be out there with them and waited.  At 4:30 pm we raised the main and mizzen sails, pulled our anchor and were off.  Once out of the harbor we turned to our heading and put out half of our headsail.  The winds were on the beam at 20 knots, gusting to 25.  Chris forecasted the winds to drop during the night and about 10:30 we were under four knots and started the motor.  We had sailed 30 miles of the trip.  We continued to motor-sail through the night with one rain squall, and when the sun came up in the morning there was an island in front of us.  GPS and the auto pilot did not let us down.

We arrived in St. Martin about 9:30 am and motored around the harbor looking for a good spot to anchor.  We chose a spot with a couple of other boats well away from the pack.  We launched the dinghy just as it started to rain.  Once it was over we got our stuff together to check in.  The rain fooled us and we got soaked.  St. Martin is divided between the French side on the north and the Dutch side on the south.  Where you check in makes a difference.  We chose the French side, Marigot Bay.  I you stay on the Dutch side you have to pay more, there is a charge for going through the bridge and a cruising fee to anchor in their bay or their side of the lagoon.  The French are more lenient, They will charge a cruising fee if you check in at the Customs office near the marina but if you go into town to the Island Water World store they have a computer set up that you use to check in, print your paperwork and one of their employees signs them and collects your $2.00 fee.  Being poor broke sailors we opted for the computer option.  It was my first time checking in using a French keyboard and most of the form in French.  With a little help we got checked in and started to wander around the town.  After a great lunch at one of the bakeries we took the dinghy through the French bridge, through the lagoon, under the causeway bridge and took a tour of the Dutch harbor.  We stopped at the Island Water World store there to check it out and to meet Rene.  Rene is the store manager and a good friend of Lee and Sharon.  We pumped him for information then headed back to the boat.

Thursday, the 23rd, we loaded the Honda generator into the dinghy and got ready to run back to Island Water World to have it serviced.  It runs but after it ran out of gas once it would not idle smoothly.  I suspected some debris got into the low speed jet.  After waiting out a short rain shower we were off.  They could not promise when it would be done but we could make it through the weekend without it if we had to.  We also talked to Rene about our problem getting the dinghy up on plane.  His advice was that wings would help but a lower pitch propeller would make a big difference.  They gave us directions to the Yamaha dealer and we were off on foot again.  Just down the street is Budget Marine, the other big marine store and we stopped there to look around.  There we ran into Tony and Deb from Exit Stage Left that we had met and traveled with in the Bahamas last year.  Once back on the boat we called a dive service to come out and clean the bottom.  It hadn’t been done since we were hauled out after catching a crab pot up in the Delaware River.  They were just finishing a job and said they would be right over.  We now have a clean bottom again.  By 2:30 they were done and we headed into town to a shop called Shrimpies which offers a number of services for cruisers including Wi-Fi.  We have been without Wi-Fi for almost a week.  Once at the shop we were able to get online and get updates and email.  One email was from the shop repairing the generator.  Due to the rain showers earlier the service tech did inside jobs instead of working on boats.  He cleaned and adjusted the carburetor and it was running fine.  I made the run down to get it, stopped off at Shrimpies to pick up Cori and then back to the boat.  The transfer of the generator onto the boat was successful, we didn’t drop it overboard, and then we headed back to the Dutch side for happy hour with Tony and Deb.

On Friday we started out early by bringing a propane tank in to be filled and to catch the shuttle to the grocery store.  We met up with Tony and Deb again.  Once the groceries were on board I collected the tools and supplies I thought I would need and we set off with the dinghy to find a beach we could use to change out the prop.  The new prop gets us up on plane in half the distance and we don’t notice a loss of speed.  We are happy.  We went back to town and stopped at the Tourist Center and they were having an event for the Carnival: free snacks and pasties and a variety of music and dance acts.  We wandered back to the main town center and ran into Dean and Kim from Dream Catcher whom we met last year while we were in Nassau.  From there we stopped at a phone store to get a sim card for the phone and then over to Dream Catcher for dinner.  We now have a data plan for as long as we are here and on a variety of other islands.  We can again communicate with the world.

Saturday started with music for Carnival at 5:00 am blasting out into the harbor.  Later as I let the generator run we went into town to check out the market.  Lots of stalls selling everything they think a tourist should have and more.  There were also stalls selling fresh fish, meat and fruits and vegetables.  The weather forecast is for the winds to increase and be in the 20’s out of the east for the next week so we opted to pull the anchor and move closer to the shore with the others to be better protected.  On the second try the anchor set and we are now part of the herd.  In the afternoon we headed back to the Dutch side for a fishing seminar at Island Water World and then to a party at the Buccaneer Beach Bar being put on by Outpost Magazine.  Outpost Magazine is the latest of Bob Bitchin’s endeavors.  Bob became famous or at least well know when he started and ran Latitudes and Attitudes magazine and wrote a couple of books about cruising.  We spent the evening visiting with old and new cruising friends and talking to Bob.  It was a long slow ride back to the boat in the dark but we didn’t hit anything and we didn’t get hit by anyone else.

Sunday was the adult parade celebrating Carnival; the kids’ parade was earlier in the week.  We went to town early and took the climb up the Fort Louis. The fort was built around 1780 and there isn’t much left of it other than the walls but it is a spectacular view.  We met up with Dean and Kim again and moved down by the sports stadium to watch the parade.  The parade was set to start at 12:00 but would take a couple of hours to get to us.  We made use of the time at one of the vendors sitting under their sunshade drinking beer and eating.  For $16.00 we got ribs, chicken, rice, macaroni and a salad that fed all four of us and the beer was $2.00 a bottle.

Let me describe the parade: slowly coming down the street is an 18 wheel truck with a flatbed trailer.  On the trailer is a generator, as many BIG speakers as they can stack and either live of recorded music playing loud enough to make your ears bleed.  Behind that is a dance group with elaborate feathered costumes dancing.  This goes on for a little more than an hour but the party doesn’t stop.  It is reported they will be doing another pass.  We wander up and down the street partying with everyone else until we decide to go home.  We got back aboard about 6:30 and I lay down for a “nap” that lasts all night.

Today, Monday, we made a run into town and walked up to the grocery store for more fresh provisions.  On the way back we stopped at one of the sidewalk cafes for lunch and to use their Wi-Fi.  As Cori made a trip down the block to pick up some bread at one of the bakeries the people at the next table must have noticed my tee shirt from Oriental and announced they were from New Bern NC.  It was Hal and Marsha on Eagles Wings and Rick and Peggy on Vision Quest.  Back at the boat I am running the generator since it is mostly cloudy and the solar panels are not producing much electricity and the water maker is also running.

The weather forecast is for winds in the 20’s out of the east for the rest of the week.  When it looks like it will drop off we will move to another island.  Which one we still have not decided but it will be hard to leave St. Martin.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Enjoying the BVI

We have enjoyed the BVI.  We have been moving every couple of days staying on moorings some nights and anchored others.  We are trying to anchor more but a lot of the bays are either real deep for have a bottom that will not hold an anchor or we would be causing damage to coral if we anchored.  On Friday, the 20th, we moved over to Cane Garden Bay.  There is a beautiful beach but it is on the list for the cruise ships that visit Tortola and a lot of tourists are bused there for the day.  In the evening they all clear out but then the three beach bars start competing who can have the loudest music.  With the tourists being bussed in it feels very touristy, even the local rum distillery.  They promote that they make the best rum in the islands but if you go there all you get is four VERY small samples for a dollar.  No tour, no seeing the facilities, just them hawking their wares.  They even have signs up that photographs are prohibited until you have bought a bottle.  I don't need photos that bad, but I took one anyway and was told to stop.  When we arrived we took a mooring but after riding the dinghy around the harbor we chose a spot and moved there to anchor for the night.  During the night the swell off the ocean shifted and the harbor was a rolling mess.  In the morning we joined the exodus out.  We then followed the north coast of Tortola to find a new location.  We had decided on White Bay on Great Camanoe Island and headed for there.  On the way we topped at Monkey Point to check out the snorkeling.  This is part of the BVI National Park system so we had high expectations.  Cori launched her kayak to go exploring and I swam in to check it out.  There was a lot of different kinds of fish including the school of little ones that surrounded me.  Thousands of little two inch fish everywhere, then as you move along you are suddenly out of them, just a wall of fish along the edge of the group.  We continued on to White Bay but there were several boats there and not a lot of room so we continued on to the other side of the island and picked up a mooring in the area between Great Comanoe, Marina Cay and Scrub Island.  On Sunday morning Cori took off with here kayak to go beachcombing.  I stayed aboard and ran the generator to charge batteries and run the water maker.  When Cori got back we dropped the mooring and moved to anchor next to the mooring field.  After that we took the dinghy out exploring and I checked out an area that is reported to be good snorkeling.  A big variety of fish but the coral was a bit disappointing.  In the early evening a boat came by selling fresh fruit and tee shirts.  Cori bought some fruit we have never had before.  Interesting stuff.

As we meet other cruisers we are always asking where we should go and almost all say we need to go to Anegada.  Monday morning we pulled anchor early and headed out.  We had been told we needed to get there early and since the weather was cooperating everyone was going to make the trip and the harbor would be full.  We motored against the wind for the eighteen mile trip and joined a line of boats going into the harbor.  We maneuvered around for a bit until we were able to pick up a mooring.  The harbor is on the south side and the winds and waves were from the north so it was a comfortable location, which is why everyone was coming here.  There isn't much to the town, several small resorts, a few restaurants that fill up early so you need a reservation and preorder since everything is made to order.  No walk-ins, no just showing up.  What they do have is some of the best beaches in the BVI.  After walking around a bit and riding through the harbor we called it a day.  We are competing with hundreds of charter boats everywhere we go but we found a good use for them.  There is one company that has equipped the boats with their own WiFi, and not locked it down.  If you get close to one of these you get free WiFi and we have started to take advantage of it when we find it.
Getting WiFi means we get connected again to the rest of the world.  That is good and bad.  While here and connected Cori got an email from Francine on Both Sides Now.  She and Ken were the first people we met when we were in the Bahamas our first year.  We have met up with them several times and it was their sailboat we delivered from St Augustine to New Bern last year.  On their way south for this winter they stopped off at Matthews Point Marina and spent a couple of days with us.  This was not one of the emails we wanted to receive.  While spending their time in Florida, they decided not to go to the Bahamas this year, Ken passed away from a battle with Pulmonary Fibrosis.  Ken was a great guy and will be missed.  Another sad day on Hi Flite, we hate losing friends.  The other side of the coin is how friendly everyone is and how many new friends we make.  On the ride to Loblolly Beach we shared a ride with a family from Argentina.  At the beach I went swimming and snorkeling and Cori walked the beach looking for "treasures".  At the appointed time our driver "Lawrence of Anegada" picked us and the Avellaneda family for our ride back to our boats.  We learned that the family was on summer break and were checking out sailing for the first time, with a crewed charter.  When we got back to our boat Cori got out here box of jewelry and we made a trip to their boat to give the girls their choice of some Bahamian shell and glass jewelry and Dimas got a pair of sunglasses since Cori didn't think he would want jewelry.  Of course his little sister immediately claimed his sunglasses.  That is for him to work out.  Cori now has four new Instagram followers.  We need to also mention the locals on the island.  Everywhere we went we were greeted with "welcome to our island" and when the guy came out to collect for the mooring ball his greeting was "thank you for being my guest".  They have a small island and they are very welcoming.  A note on Anegada Island.  It is different then the other islands in the area.  It is very much a low limestone island very much like the Bahamas instead of the higher volcanic islands that make up the island groups.

On Wednesday morning we dropped the mooring and followed the herd out.  We set sail and headed for the eastern end of Virgin Gorda.  We tried sailing but after several tacks called it quits and motored our way into North Sound.  We chose a spot off of Prickly Pear Island and set the anchor.  We launched the dinghy and headed of to The Bitter End Marina to check it out.  BEM is a large resort and marina operation and we found out how expensive it can be.  We checked to see if we could buy milk and they had it available, at $12.95 for a half gallon.  We are still drinking the boxed milk we brought along.  No way will we pay that.  From there we moved over to the Saba Rock Marina for happy hour.  Several painkillers later we were back on the boat.  On Thursday morning Cori went kayaking and I stayed to listen to the generator run.  I am thinking we need a wind generator.  I spent the day in the hammock suspended from the boom and got myself a real unusual sunburn.  Later we took the dinghy to explore the bay.

Friday we decided to treat ourselves and went to Leverick Bay Marina for the night.  We thought of getting one of their mooring balls and dinghying in for dinner but a mooring ball is $30 and a slip is $1.00 per foot  which works out at $42 for the night with 100 gallons of water and a bag of ice included.  Electrical is an additional $20 but our batteries loved it.  When we finished tying the boat up there was a smaller boat pulled up to our finger pier to drop off some people.  It turned out to be Richard Branson and his people.  He seems a real nice person, greeted and shook hands with everyone before moving along.  He has a house on a neighboring island and was there with his guests the Obamas.  We checked out the facilities, made our reservation for dinner and Cori did a load of laundry.  Walking out of the laundry Cori thought she recognized someone.  Tom Emberson was sitting there waiting for his group to get out of the showers.  Tom is the guy we sailed with and then bought his 29' Ericson, "Carina" from up in the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior.  In the evening we went for the all you can eat BBQ buffet.  We both ate far too much but it was all good.  Later as the music played we retired to the boat and crashed.  In the morning we pulled out and started making our way along Virgin Gorda.  We put out the headsail and sailed around the point and aimed for Savanna Bay.  We pulled into the bay, tucking inside the reef and set anchor with several other boats.  Cori went kayaking, met a  group from Ohio and then on Sunday she did a little maintenance sealing the teak toerails and  polishing the stainless steel.  We had some rain showers off and on both days but nothing that amounted to much, mostly a dark cloud coming over the island and drizzling or outright raining for a few minutes and then the sun would be out again until it happened all over again.

Monday morning, it is the 30th now, we pulled the anchor and went around the bend, about two miles, to Spanish Town.  We picked up a mooring and headed into town.  First on our list was a haircut.  We both have not had one since we left the US.  The beauty shop was closed but we came across a barber shop and both got haircuts.  This was evidently his first experience cutting a woman's hair.  It looked pretty serious when he went at it with a pair of shears.  From there we found the Flow telephone office and topped off our data.  I have internet on my phone again and we can use it as a hot spot for our other devices.  Back at the boat we decided to take the dinghy down to the area called "the baths".  This is an area with very large granite rocks with pools of water between and through them.  It is very popular and we had planned to go early the next morning.  Approaching through the moored boats there we spotted the boat our new friends from Argentina had been on and we stopped by to check.  There was a new group on board and the captain told us the family had departed over the weekend and were off to go skiing in Colorado.  Instagram posts show they are having a great time.  We tied the dinghy to the dinghy line and swam in to check out the baths.  There are several nice beaches with paths through and around the rocks, up stairs and along rope lines getting you from one end to the other.  A very impressive display put on by Mother Nature.  In the morning we dropped the mooring and continuing past the Baths we stopped at Fallen Jerusalem Island.  We had been told that the rock formations were similar to the Baths and there was better snorkeling.  We dinghies in but it was too rough to beach the dinghy so we threw down an anchor and I jumped in to check out the snorkeling.  Not bad but there was a lot of wave action that bounced me around a lot so we gave up and continued on.  We stopped at Cooper island and again, picked up a mooring.  Cori took the kayak out to some remote beaches to look for shells and sea glass and later I took the dinghy out to find her.  She tends to stay away longer then I am comfortable with, and since she is out of sight I have no idea if she has had problems or not.  By mid afternoon the moorings were filled and boats were either moving on or anchoring further out.  It is a very popular spot.  In the morning, Wednesday, Cori was off on her kayak again and I got some quiet time on the boat.  By noon Cori was back and we dinghies around then went in to grab some WiFi from the coffee shop.  At 4:00 we went back in for happy hour then a quiet evening on the boat.

Thursday morning Cori got a message from Bo and Allison on Selah that they were on their way and after checking into the BVI would meet with us at Peter Island.  We dropped our mooring and set the headsail to make the downwind run to Peter.  We pulled into Deadmans Bay and set the anchor among a number of other boats.  Later Selah arrived and dropped their anchor.  We had a discussion, while other boats continued to try to anchor around us and we decided to leave to move to Great Harbor.  There we met up with their friends Mike and Melanie on Moonshine, friends of theirs from Ohio.  Friday morning the other two boats left early to dive and snorkel on a nearby wreck and then we met up with them in Cooper Island.  We hung out on Moonshine for the afternoon and then in for happy hour again.  In the morning Cori was ready to head off with her kayak to another remote beach but this time I towed the kayak there and she transferred over to head in.  This beach was open to the open water and had four to five foot swells coming in and breaking on a reef before calming down and hitting the beach.  Cori decided not to give it a try and paddled back to the boat.  We dropped the mooring and set our headsail and mizzen sail for a relaxing sail to Norman island and picked up a mooring in the bight.  We rode around on the dinghy for a bit, checking out Willie T's bar boat and watched some of the clients jumping off the roof and upper deck.  Willie T's is world renowned and we needed to check it out.  Just going by in the dinghy was enough.  From there I dropped Cori off at a beach and I went over to one of the points to check out the snorkeling.  After that I picked her up, dropped her off at another beach and I went snorkeling again.  After that we got cleaned up and just made it for the last 15 minute of happy hour to meet up with Bo and Allison and some of their friends.  We made plans to meet at a rock formation called the "Indians" to snorkel in the morning.  We decided to take the boats there instead of the dinghies so we headed out first thing in the morning to get one of the limited moorings.  After breakfast of fresh caramel rolls we went snorkeling while Cori went to the beach for treasures again.  The snorkeling was outstanding with a lot of varieties of fish.  Unfortunately I don't know what any of them are.  From there we moved to Privateer Bay for the rock formation called "The Caves" which is a series of caves cut into the rock.  Cori was off on her kayak and I dinghied over to the dinghy line to tie up and get in.  I swam around a bit looking at the coral and fish, didn't see any turtles although others said they did, and then swam into the caves.  The cave vary from small and narrow then opening up to large chambers, and another that curves around to another opening.  It is pretty interesting snorkeling and very different when you come above the surface and you find yourself in a cave.  An interesting experience I would like to do again.  That evening, not having any interest in the super bowl we decided not to go back into the bight and moved around the island and dropped anchor in Benure Bay with a couple of other boats.  We had a nice quiet, non-rolly night.  In the morning Cori went off in her kayak again and I charged the batteries and ran the water maker.  It was so peaceful we decided to stay another night.  By the time we left Tuesday morning Cori had collected more shells and sea urchins then she could count.  As she cleaned them and prepared them for travel she quit counting at 600.  That is not a typo, 600 and didn't bother to continue counting.

When we left Benure Bay we were planning to move up to Beef Island and anchor for the night but when we got there it was a bit rolly with the sea swell and when we dropped anchor and backed down on it we were too close to Selah and pulled it to move.  We checked out another spot but it looked too rocky so we moved back and dropped again, this time a bit further away.  Bo went out with their dinghy to check his anchor and was not happy with it.  We decided to move on.  We motored around Beef Island, straight into 20+ knot winds and waves crashing over the bow and made the decision to stop at Marina Cay again.  We picked up a mooring but by the time Selah arrived they were all taken so they anchored for the night.  We went in for happy hour at the Happy Arrrr Bar and then had dinner on Selah.

We had been planning to attend the full moon party in Trellis Bay so in the morning we moved across and picked up a mooring there.  Bo and Allison had been there, done that so they moved on.  Trellis Bay is right at the end of the runway for the Tortola airport but it was not really very annoying.  What was annoying was all of the charter boats coming in and circling around trying to find and pick up a mooring.  They are usually motoring too fast, can't turn in a short radius, have too many people giving orders, over-drive the mooring, drop their boat hook and overall entertain and scare the heck out of everyone else.  The full moon party was to be held on Friday evening but the advice was to get there a couple of days early to guarantee getting a mooring.  We arrived on Wednesday.  We made a short trip to shore to see what all was there and later Cori went in with a garbage bag and picked up trash.  She was rewarded with a free drink at Jeremy's Kitchen.  On Friday we went in to try to get attached to someone's wifi but it was too slow so we moved out to The Island Last Resort Bar and Restaurant to try there.  It was a bit better and the entertainment was better.  They have afternoon hermit crab races.  It is a lot more entertaining then it sounds.  In the afternoon we went to Avventure to visit with Rob and Cindy.  Cori met them previously while on shore picking trash.  Friday evening we went in for the festivities.  There are several bars and restaurants along with a variety of shops and an art center.  There is an artist that makes steel fire rings and fireballs.  They fill them with wood and light them on fire.  The designs he cuts into them are then highlighted by the flames.  They are really well done.  The other attraction is a steel statue of a man with his hands up in the air that is also filled with wood and set on fire.  The statue and two of the fireballs are set out in the water so you also get the reflections off of the water.  There is food served everywhere so we had a variety of choices to eat.  There were several music stages with a variety of music being played. If you didn't like what you heard you just needed to move along to find something else.  All in all it was a good night, and the full moon over the water was spectacular.  We planned to leave Saturday but when the money collector came on Friday we were told that we could have the fourth night free, so we stayed another night.  Most of the boats had left on Saturday so we had a quiet day with me running the generator and Cori polished more stainless steel.  Again, in the afternoon more boats came in to pick up mooring balls and the entertainment started again.  Just a side note but when we came in and picked up a ball Cori got applause from several other boats because it went so well.  We have developed hand signals so she is able to tell me what to do from the bow without yelling.  We are getting better.  Docking is another story.  On Monday morning we went across to Marina Cay to top off the fuel.  We circled for a while until the fuel dock was free then we made our approach.  The wind caught me and we had to go around and try again.  Again, the wind caught me and we had to try again.  This time I overadjusted my angle and just about took off the bow of the ferry that was parked there.  With a bit of help from the ferry crew on our lines we got tied up.  We got our fuel and then headed off to meet up with Bo and Allison at Jost Van Dyke.  We tried sailing but the wind was too light and from right behind us so we motored there.  Once there we anchored in the same spot we had on our previous visit and joined Bo and Allison for a trip to the bubbly pool.  The sea swell was higher then last time we were there so there was a lot more activity when the waves broke into the pool, enough to knock us off our feet and toss us around a bit.  A very good time.  From there we moved out to the Bee Line Beach Bar for happy hour.  We visited with a couple from St Paul's MN and with Bunkey, the bar owner.  Being the social animals they are Cori and Allison soon made acquaintances with Ricardo and Signe on Privileged.  He is from Portugal, she is from Latvia, they live in France and are spending their first time in the Caribbean after having their boat shipped over from Europe.  Later, Bo convinced them to just stay anchored where they were and join us for dinner.  We ended up bringing the meal to their boat and spent an enjoyable evening comparing cultures and telling stories.

Monday morning we picked Bo and Allison up with our dinghy and we made a run around the point to Little Harbor for lunch at Sidney's Peace and Love.  Later we all met up at the Bee Line for happy hour and again met a number of other boaters.  Thursday morning we moved to Great harbor to check out of the BVI.  We had been here 29 days and only had a 30 day cruising permit.  We checked out and motored to Charlotte Amelie on St Thomas.  Once anchored we went in to have lunch and find our way to Immigration to check back into the US.  Once that was done we did some grocery shopping then back to the boat for the night.

The reason we wanted to come back to Charlotte Amelie, other then check in was to find Cori's marker.  In 2007, Cori's dad was here with a NOAA survey crew.  When he placed one of the benchmark markers he changed the number on it to Cori's name.  He then sent a picture of it and the GPS coordinates for it to her for her birthday.  It has taken us ten years but we have finally made it here to find it.  This morning we took the dinghy across the harbor to the marina it is located at and got some pictures of Cori with her marker.  You can find a photo at her Instagram:

We are planning to leave St. Thomas tomorrow and make our way to St. Croix for a few days before venturing further east to St. Martin and begin working our way down the Leeward and Windward Islands.

Sorry there are no photos, I am still trying to get them uploaded so they can be added to the photo galleries.

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.