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.