11/30/2008, St. Martin to St. Barts
This is where we turn the corner! Everybody kept telling us that St. Martin would be the the beginning of the best sailing to come! We are so glad to hear that and we are living proof today! We got an early start, out the French side of the lagoon and in time for the early bridge to rise and we're off! It was probably blowing 20kts, we had ALL the sails reefed, sounds like a cutter ketch, right, and we were having a blast. It was a splendid sail! We set a new record for the rail in the water! We didn't stop, but got a close look at Anguilla while tacking by it getting around the north coast of St. Martin. We really did have a blast, but were soaked and very crusty! Very fun and exciting! Never dull on the good ship Altair! I'm telling ya that we are still so outta practice! Me tinks I forgot to stow the spinnaker and spare jib halyards and they went flying; the fuel tank we wedged beneath the dink on the foredeck went skidding around the deck because it wasn't tied; I couldn't steer the bow cleanly thru the wind for a smooth tack a few times; and we were a mess when we arrived at Ile Fourchue, just 5 miles north of St. Barts for our little 6 hour journey! The printer was on the floor along with lots of other things we thought we stowed, guess not! We thought we'd tidy up before pulling into the hoity toity elite isle of St. Barts!
We decided we were going to stop at Ile Fourchue, snuggle in for the night to clean and tidy up, when we found that all the moorings were taken, except for one. The entire anchorage is very deep so a mooring is practically essential and we took that one waaaaaaay out by the mouth of the harbor! We felt like we were on the moon! The guide book says, "it's a picturesque lunar landscape because of the goats having devoured everything, except the prickles. Judging by the way some of them were coughing they seem to have started on the prickles too." We wound up staying for another day, just for the heck of it and it was very serene when all ten of the boats moored before us left the next morning! Very blue, very quiet, very craggy with the lunaresque steep rocks just next to us, creating a whopping funnel of wind and gusts keeping us company. We managed to relax and were glad to say we stopped there.
St. Barts, now that's a deliciously different story! Very colorful, beautiful people, the fabulous architecture, the cheese, the wine, croissants and to top it off, everything is so expensive!
We danced, we ate, we went to shell beach! Great finds of beach glass and superb sea donations, and we, Dudley and I both, indulged in some topless bathing with a great lunch on the beach too!
It all went by so fast, but we really enjoyed our short visit!
11/17/2008, Jost Van Dyke... Norman Island...Trellis Bay,Tortolla and Virgin Gorda
What a whirlwind! We had so many choices ahead of us before crossing the Anegada Passage. It was so hard to decide! We knew we only had a week or a bit more to make it to Virgin Gorda where we would stage for this big sail. It's unanimous, we'll begin with Jost Van Dyke! It's north from St. John and we can sail!
Ooooh, we're gonna like it here. Great Harbor, JVD, BVI. The entire waterfront was wonderful and it didn't take long to find the local watering hole for lunch. We enjoyed some local fare, a flying fish sandwich, which sounded scary, but never tried it before and felt we had to. We cleared in effortlessly at customs, and went on a little exploration to do the lay of the land thing. We met Foxy Callwood, of the legendary Foxy's and his wife Tessa. The new guidebook says "you can find him singing his calypso and playing his guitar most afternoons", but he's not singing any more, "the doctor put an end to that", he declared. It's all about timing. We got a personal tour of his bar which was very cleverly designed. Foxy took us out back toThe Preservation Society's sailboat building project right on his own property. He's a big supporter of the program which teaches young people the old ways of boat building and giving back the way it use to be done. How special to see this kind of work happening here. We did go into go into Foxy's to check out those beach parties later that night. We met some great people, probably drank too much and enjoyed our short stay @ JVD immensly. Two days was not nearly enough but it's all about the quality and not the quantity.
Our next stop was Norman Island and we are starting to see a pattern! Lots and lots of charter boats! This has been the best sailing so far! Now we know why...the wind is just better here! So much for the quiet, serene little tucked away private harbors! We're on another mooring, but you almost have to, water is really deep! We dove the caves at the Treasure Point and then braved the long trip over open water in the dink to the National Parks Trust reef where the "Indians" stand tall and plunge deeply for excellent diving! We still had enough energy left to snorkel around Kelly's Cove for another mini adventure before heading back to Altair.
We didn't want to miss the events at the "Willie T" which has a reputation of pulling you in to quash your curiosity. It's a floating bar and restaurant with a twist.The vessel is a replica of a 93' topsail lumber schooner and she was named The William Thornton, after the architect of the US Capitol. They are home of the famous 'body shot' with the most entertaining barkeep in the BVI, Zues! We made reservations for dinner and who knows what! When we arrived, we had to wait to be seated so we headed for the bar! But of course. It was pretty tame at this hour...but we changed that and got hold of a photo album...it's all true. The parties and the wild striping, jumping naked from the second story "dining" or "diving" deck, and lude acts are captured for posterity and it's "bloody nuts!" It was very informal with long picnic tables strung together to encourage fondness it seems. We dined with people from a charter boat that had great stories to share! The place was packed and really buzzing. The steak and fish were excellent but we wasted no time heading to the fun at the bar! The place was filling up and shots were starting to happen! Not just an ordinary one like when WE were younger. They take a water ski with four holes the size of a shot glass, line four people up with that ski and 4 shots of their favorite chilled beverage and raise that baby! What a hoot!. No, we didn't! Well, add BODY shots, Tom Arnold look a like "indulger" and the party takes on a new level. Clearly this was a mild night compared to the stories and albums of the past. Only one body shot, with whipped cream for effect I'm sure.
We're getting to old for this nonsense...NOT!
This next treasure is the last place we would visit in the BVI's...but didn't know it at the time.
It's time to go north again, this time it's Trellis Bay, northeastern tip of Totolla! Angle of the wind is everything for the last leg to Virgin Gorda, but so is an artist community as popular as this one. The pictures tell it all! Well, not everything! If there was anything to be bummed about it was missing the the Monthly full moon party complete with the dancing mocko jumbies (stilt dancers) and the amazing fireballs created by Aragorn at the waters edge with dancing and live music. I was terribly sad to rush thru this place, but not before we explored all the galleries, indulged in the Sunday BBQ on the beach at the de Loose Mongoose and Aragorn himself showing up along side of our boat in the most colorful, classical skiff filled with fruit, veggies and baked goods, all fresh outta the oven and just as we were leaving. How cool is that? I was so excited about the fresh fare I didn't get his photo... it's burned into my memory for a painting though.
These three spots we choose to represent our time in the BVI's couldn't have turned out any better! We are truly blessed! We don't want to miss the weather window to cross the Anegada Passage! It feels like the Mona...I'm getting wiggy with it!
More later, Dudley and Bec
11/11/2008, Saba Rock, Virgin Gorda to Cross the Anegada Passage (Sombrero Passage)
We loved the Virgin Islands...the Spanish, US and British, ALL! The sailing has been superb and we are now sitting at Saba Rock with weather to cross the Anegada Passage. We were supposed to play at the Bitter End and Leverick Bay, do some diving, provision a little and get some laundry done! We didn't do that, so what is it this time? We got settled in yesterday on a mooring and proceeded into get lunch and some wifi. We peeked at the weather and it was as if we had ordered it for Altair's crossing! We jumped into action and left! We had joked about cutting thru the reef on the east side of Saba Rock, because Bruce Van Sant said he likes to chance it! Just for the record, we took the long way out of Gorda Sound and had a beautiful night before us! We didn't have time to get antsy about the big open passage called the Sombrero Passage or the Anegada Passage!
The Anegada was as pleasant as the Mona! We really didn't have time to even think about this passage having the possibility of being a dangerous one! It all happened so rapidly, we just got lucky and enjoyed a perfect sail! We had a beautiful sunset, we had the sails open fully, and right on schedule pulled into St. Martin, Marigot Bay before lunch! It was a 100 miles over an open channel crossing the line from the Virgins to the Leeward Islands. A wonderfully big milestone for our little sloop.
The rumor was that you wanted to arrive at the immigration office when it didn't conflict with their siesta! We had the anchor down, the dink 'duty' completed when we realized that we hadn't checked out of US Virgins! Oh no...Dudley immediately said that we would probably have to tuck our tails between our legs and head back across the Anegada Passage! "The winds were definitely going to be in our favor going west" he said. "No way!!! I wasn't going to have a thing to do with that because we only had a two day window before the weather was predicted to turn squally, with very high winds for a week!" We took our chances and got very lucky! Turns out the French are very laid back where clearing boats are concerned and we ran outta that customs office with a flame behind us!
We had a fun time in St. Martins from the new friends on Stonecutter we broke bread with, cut cheese, drank wine and laughed lots thru the two weeks in the lagoon on the French side where it was free to anchor! We hit all the hot spots, Budget Marine, Wally World (I mean Island Water World), Lagoon Marina Laundry and as well as their hot spot for live music and good food, and a very cool cruiser's hangout. Rick's Cafe, where we were treated with love, and spent lots of time for wifi and good food near the Dutch side of the lagoon, was awesome too.
We hunkered down for two weeks waiting for the winds to lie down and managed to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at Rick's Cafe where Tamara, the owner, surprised a lot of cruisers with a great feast reminding us of a homestyle spread . She is great, the turkey and fixin's were sumptuous, but just wasn't the family we missed during this time of year...boo hoo!
Dudley got an itty bitty football fix while I sat next to the witches tit rockin' and rolling on the anchor for days doing my writing thingy! Really, the tall craggy, nubby, bumpy hill, just to our north, was a mammory look a like and was on the charts that way, printed in black and white! Too funny!
We got our introduction into the French culture being on their side of the Lagoon and proceeded to procure a couple of language books called "French for Cruisers" and "Spanish for Cruisers" that will really come in handy furher on down the islands! Needless to say, we are loving the bagettes, croissants, cheeses and the vino for me! Yummmmm!!!
We got lots of entertainment from a brit and his american girlfriend! They helped us out a number of times with local alternator knowledge, outboard mechanics, etc. When they were describing a troublesome, quarellsome episode it was about the time when his sister from the UK was arriving! The girlfriend had to leave the boat...and it was a big, roomy one! We didn't see the need for her to abandon ship, but Dudley was sure that his Seeeeeeeeester was a ruse! Hehe.
It's really amazing how immersed you become in a new culture when you know you will be moving on! We were so sad to bid farewells, but the wind was calling and we do want to get to Grenada by hurricane season by July of 2009. We crawled in 2008, so let's see what 2009 will bring!
Love to all, Dudley and Bec
11/04/2008, Caneel Bay, North Coast, St. John, USVI
We are so happy to be sailing east! Actually it's northeast and that's good because the wind is from the east and we so wanted to sail! Gorgeous day and we had another short hop to St. John's of only 3 miles! We're really cruising now.
We are just getting back in the grove, feeling ourselves at anchor (oops, I mean a mooring because we were in the national park). We weren't staying long, just wanted to check out of the US Virgin Islnads here! We did and we're set to enter the BVI's which we heard were sticklers about the customs and immigration procedures.
The number of boats here were incredible! Sails everywhere! It feels soooooo good to have the wind rushing thru the boat and to be sailing at last.
When we got up in the morning and played with dolphins! What a surprise! We only had to go north about 6 miles to get to Jost Van Dyke, in the BVIs! So we didn't have to rush. Seems like the big crossings are behind us, but this is ridiculous.
Dudley and Bec
11/03/2008, St. Thomas to Christmas Cove
We finally left St. Thomas...for real! What a ride! We were so ready that we decided hurricane season would be over for us on November 1. Everyone gave examples of storms in December, but we were not listening. See ya!
We talked it up so much it was almost anticlimatic, but it's here and we took off! If anybody were to follow us or know the people in Christmas Cove anchored nearby, they would've had been hysterical with laughter. St. James Island is a special little place just 2-3 miles east of Benner Bay and we wanted to hang for a night away from the marina! It's very sweet! We told them that the BVI's were our next destination and heading for Grenada by next hurricane season...little did could they know they could see us with binoculars we were so close.
We'll start our journey tomorrow, we just wanted to make sure we had everything and could retrace in an hour if need be! Love this place!
02/15/2008, Pumkin Key, Biscayne Bay
Happy Valentines day! My honey showed up after a day of last minute duties on shore, arms full of things we had to have (probably not, hehe) and a dozen of the most beautiful red roses! We've been living on Altair at the mooring now for 16 days! (You're really not allowed to live on board at the mooring, but everyone is so living vicariously thru us and wanting us TO LEAVE...they overlook it). It's official...the cat is on board, the laptop is with us and some provisions! Can't tell you how how modern we are feeling! We have all the amenities, fridge, enclosed lanai, warm showers and LOVE. Yes, love can be modern too, with each and every day our love evolving and morphing into a new shape! As if that weren't enough, we have our new solar panel, the wind generator and new davits! We are styling. We are having a hard time adapting, with so much new equipment and no time to check it out! But we are mentally ready, I think! Are you ever ready to drop your life as you've known it and take off!
OK, I knew it! We've been stalling and now I know why! We're going to the boat show! Jim and Jimmie gave us boat show tickets so we have to spend more money on boat toys, so bummed. Not! This is an annual event that Dudley would never miss, just like the Coconut Grove Art Festival for me. We blew thru that boat show, covered lots of territory and wished and dreamed of all the goodies we still would like to have. I think we were just plain finished with projects and there wasn't too much that was calling our names. The only things we bought were some really nice inflatable pfds. Very important for peace of mind and easy to store too.
We seriously needed to stop working on the boat. We needed to call it quits and get away from the dock and the clubhouse to SAIL. We've been talking about a shakedown trip and we finally did it! We were a bit crusty this morning, but we're old salts and we just needed to go to the dock and fill our water tanks! We have been very frivolous and crazy with water usage! We have gone thru 90 gallons in approx 2 weeks or 7.5 gallons a day! That's too much for real....we've gotta cut back! We are theoretically still attached at the umbilical cord to the water supply, but bad habits are bad habits!
The club is tented, whine....so we couldn't shower before we leave, but we didn't let that stop us! We topped off the water tanks and actually sailed away from the Grove and the Club that holds us like an octopus! . It was a grand day, WE REALLY, REALLY SAILED! I'm so in awe, I forgot how great this boat is to sail! I know we have a lot of stuff onboard that weighs us down now, Dudley's biggest concern, but you couldn't tell with the wind off her quarter today! AWESOME! It was cold and blustery, a little bit squally, just the way we like it! Thank you wind Gods!
We got to Pumpkin key, expecting a n'easter tonight, just in time for a shower, body one that is, before it get's dark! We are so in love with the screened in LANAI...our shower was delightful and we got everything put away and cleaned up before dark! Yippeee, it feels so good to be clean! Dinner was pretty wonderful too! Isn't it funny when you're in the sun and wind all day how the food just tastes better? I whipped up a couple of delicous turkey burgers, ala some leftover corn relish turkey from last night's tacos, mixed baby greens, large sliced tomatoes and doncha know, smashed taters! Gotta cut down on the food intake too, or we'll need a bigger boat!
We are tired, but cannot tell you how great this feels to be at anchor! I'm being nervous nelly, guess I'll get over that, but I wanted to set the anchor, reverse the engine, put out more scope, oh well! My honey is feeling tested and he doesn't need me challenging him! Gotta work on that! That's it for tonight! We are going to set the alarm for early am to catch Chris' weather report at 6:30a so we can practice with that SSB. I must also throw a line out for a fish for Bagera....good night sweet cruising world! Not yet, but VERY soon!!
Yeiks, a storm blew thru in the middle of the night and we really got to test our 'get up in the middle of the night and jump into action" skills. We are seriously rusty. Those beautiful curtains that I made outta Phifertex, which entirely enclose the cockpit, keeps out rain, sun and gawkers, are going to have to come down before we go to bed! What a nightmare trying to see where you're dragging, need to look where you are going and have a connector and traslucent curtains in the way hindering the view and access to the deck and anchor! We are in Biscayne Bay, after all, so no great biggy, but we have to remember that for the future busy anchorages.
Just one more stumbling block....we practiced installing waypoints, setting routes and tracks on our chartplotter and it worked all day but now it's decided to quit! We were setting the anchor alarm and damn, damn, damn! We haven't even left Miami for the Gulf Stream! Dudley is going to call for tech support with Ray Marine in the am...Sheisa, shit, darn!
How fabulous to finally be ready! We are so pumped up! The big question is..."Are you ever really READY?