09 February 2018 | St Thomas USVI
29 January 2018 | Prickly Pear Island Virgin Gorda
26 January 2018 | Virgin Gorda
24 January 2018 | Sint Maarten
23 January 2018 | Simpsons Bay St Maarten
20 January 2018 | Basseterre St Kitts
14 January 2018 | Jolly Harbour, Antigua
10 January 2018 | Jolly Harbour, Antigua
09 January 2018 | Jolly Harbour, Antigua
08 January 2018 | Jolly Harbour, Antigua
02 January 2018 | 17 0.9'N:049 39.3'W
01 January 2018 | 16 59.072'N:047 57.288'W
31 December 2017 | 18 13.02'N:046 19.3'W
30 December 2017 | 19 01.661'N:041 58.3'W
29 December 2017 | 19 01.661'N:041 58.3'W
28 December 2017 | 19 55.955'N:040 34.978'W
Maho Bay, St John USVI
18 February 2018
Every evening and every morning here I listen to the birdsong from the nearby forest. I wonder if these are the same birds I listen to at home in Wisconsin. Do songbirds migrate this far? The sound comforts me as do the smells of the forest. Even though you can see the hurricane damage there is a lot more regrowth of trees here. We got a ride yesterday from a taxi driver who said that the national park never clears the trees along the roads, which are already very narrow. So he saw a good side to the hurricanes --that the roads are more clear now.
We took the dinghy for some exploring. First we went over to Cinnamon Bay and really there is nothing there but a few piles of broken concrete and lots of uprooted trees. There were no people there either, unlike Maho Bay where we are moored. Lots of people came to the beach here yesterday and today, it's a weekend. We got to talking with a couple who have some property here but haven't built on it yet. They're living in a tent with a cooler not unlike our lifestyle, which is how we started, by discussing where to get ice. They said they won't build now because it's so expensive and difficult but also because there are people who need to rebuild their houses and that's more important than a vacation home. They also suggested that we go to Coral Bay for ice and provisioning because it's less expensive and less touristic than Cruz Bay. While we were standing around trying to decide what to do a taxi came by and Jack asked if he would take us to either Coral Bay or Cruz Bay. He had a full car of beachgoers and was a little hesitant but told us to get in the cab with him and he would take us to Coral Bay to get ice and bring us back for $25. We had an interesting tour of the island to get there, past the old sugar plantation and slave quarters up and over the mountain on a narrow twisting road with no shoulders but with wild donkeys roaming on it and finally into Coral Bay, dropping off his passengers along the way. We got as much ice as we could carry (60#) and he took us back, but asked for $30. It was some very expensive ice, but an interesting adventure.
Today is Sunday and the anchorage is filling up with chartered catamarans. It's beginning to feel a little bit like a Yellowstone campground in high season. One thing we have noticed is that we don't have nearly enough toys for this area. All the boats have paddleboards and kayaks along with all sorts of floating inflatable products ranging from chairs to trampolines. A difference between cruisers and charters is that cruisers take their dinghies around and meet the other boaters but the charter cats have enough people on each that they sort of carry their own community with them and don't need to be social with strangers.
St John USVI
15 February 2018
After studying the weather for the next 10 days we decided to go back to the BVI for a while and hope the Christmas winds will moderate soon. But after motoring upwind a couple of hours we couldn't help but notice the empty mooring fields along the north shore of St John, so we pulled in and picked one up in Malo Bay, just next to Cinnamon Bay. There was an NPS (National Park Service)work boat so we asked about paying and they said they are currently not charging. I wonder how you get a park ranger job in the virgin islands. Much of this island is national park. There are a couple of other boats here but judging by the number of moorings it must usually be a lot more crowded. It's very peaceful and quiet except for the sound of chainsaws which we are accustomed to no matter where we go in the islands. So it looks like a good place to hang out for a while --at least until we run out of ice, or longer if we eat all the food in the icebox.
I never thought I would be in this state, but I am tired of being outside all the time. As I was growing up, from the young child catching crickets and grasshoppers in the tall grass to the sullen teen sitting in the woods writing bad poetry I always loved being outdoors. It was one of the things I liked most about farming--having to go out every day regardless of the weather. Also something I like about sailing. I guess Jack feels the same. But now we're ready to sit inside a climate controlled space. I don't want to put up with the glaring sun, ceaseless wind or intermittent rain any more. I don't want to worry about the forecast or even need to know what it is. I also miss the seasons. It will be so nice to get back to the normal sequence from spring to summer to autumn to winter. For three years we had no summer and then for the past nine months it's been constant summer and we are looking at another six or seven months of it. We are doing our best to enjoy it, knowing that it will come to an end in no time at all.
09 February 2018 | St Thomas USVI
We would have stayed at Nanny Cay for a week but they needed the space for catamarans. They have only a few slips open but were feverishly installing new pontoons while we were there. We learned about 'boat vultures ' there. We had seen these people before who buy up damaged yachts then flip them for a profit, just didn't know the rather derogatory name for them. The resident cruisers do not look highly on them, but do recognize them as a necessary part of the system. Mostly the 'vultures ' are young and hungry, but seem to be successful. In a few years they may be the resident cruisers.
We have moved on to the USVI. We checked in at Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas. Jack has completed many many customs forms on this trip and so far the US form is the most confusing and difficult. Lucky that we both walked there because each person has to appear face to face for immigration. This is the only place where anyone but the Master leaves the boat prior to clearing customs. We were reminded that we don't need to check out when we leave, but should call customs on approaching Puerto Rico to announce our arrival. We are in Crown Bay Marina on the west side of Charlotte Amalie. We thought it was way overpriced at 80$/night. But after clearing customs we walked to the luxury marina on the eastern side and found that it would be more than twice as much to stay there. No surprise that most boats are at anchor here. We are trying to rest up and plan the next stage -- Bahamas to Florida. Probably our next stop will be Culebra, which is part of Puerto Rico sometimes called the Spanish Virgin Islands. But we won't leave for a while until we get better weather. There's a brand new Hylas sailboat here that just came from Florida. The delivery captain said they had to motor about half the time because there was no wind, and that the Hylas people are here fixing places where the boat leaks, something that is not unusual for new boats.
05 February 2018
We spent a week on Virgin Gorda that went by very quickly. The North Sound is beautiful and practically empty. We moored off of Prickly Pear Island for free, not sure who the moorings belong to but I think it's the beach bar, which a few people were working on-- sifting through rubble, stacking and burning piles of trash, they picked up and stacked all the chairs that were spread along the beach too. Apparently the cruise ships used to dock there. One cruise ship did come into the sound one day, but it anchored near Leverick Bay and we didn't see anyone come or go from it. Leverick Bay is the one open place. There was a lot of work going on there, even though it's open they have a long way to go. We enjoyed swimming and the beach on Prickly Pear very much. A few 'boat boys' came around the mooring area. The first one we met was collecting trash for 5 dollars a bag. He said he used to be the bartender on Saba Rock and he would rather be making us martinis! Did I already mention that there's nothing left of either the Bitter End Yacht Club or Saba Rock? The good thing about it is that there weren't many other boats there because there are no services. We went to Spanish Town one day to pick up our friend, Jenny Striker. She came on the ferry from Roadtown. While we were there we walked to the Riteway supermarket. It seemed like a brand new building and was well stocked. The next morning we motored the few miles down to The Baths and picked up a mooring. There were breaking waves on shore and we debated where we could swim in to. The yellow flag was up and just when we had decided we could make it to a sandy stretch they lowered the flag. Unfortunately, they replaced it with a red one. So we abandoned our plans and went back to North Sound because we wanted Jenny to see it. We discovered that the big fish swimming under the boat was a remora, not a shark. Yesterday we had a nice sail to Nanny Cay Marina on Tortola. We are sort of accustomed to the wreckage in marinas now, but this place has a lot of boats. Half of the marina was newer with taller pylons and it survived the hurricanes. The other half is just gone. People are working to recover and repair their boats as soon as the yard can extricate them from the piles. Of course some of them are totaled with jack stands sticking through the hull and many broken masts. One boat across from us was just launched from the yard here, the owner told us that during the hurricanes a huge Oyster fell over next to his boat and just took the rubrail off the side. A few more inches and his boat would have been crushed, as it is he has pages of lists of repairs but it looks like it will sail again. He's been waiting until now for them to tell him it was freed from the rubble so he could come down and get working on it. We've heard a few of these near miss stories, and one guy told us 'either your boat was totaled or you wish it were'. Another cruiser was giving me directions to the laundry and he said to go down the road to the right and if you can stand to walk past the ruined boats go to the corner and turn left. On that road I noticed a 'playground ' where a couple of adults were lounging on broken pieces of masts and booms watching kids play on pieces of plywood and swings of boat fenders. On the beach side near the pool there is some actual playground equipment. There is a volunteer group camping near the showers called Hearts and Hands who are helping out the schools here. There seems to be more money and more building supplies here. Anyway we are totally enjoying the luxury of Nanny Cay. We had our first hot showers since leaving Portugal and went to the beach bar to eat, where Jack ordered and consumed a whole grilled chicken. There are some disadvantages to civilization though. We did laundry and in the tiny laundromat was a woman with three young daughters who has the flu, which she said came from the US, where according to her there's an epidemic. Hope those flu shots we got are effective.
Today Jack 'field serviced' our winches. They were dry and squealing. Field service means he did not completely disassemble them, just enough to clean and grease the gears and bearings. Luckily he finished just as the afternoon rain began. We also went to the chandlery and got proper courtesy flags for the BVI and the Bahamas. We may get kicked out of here tomorrow because they are using most of the berths for new charter catamarans which are being launched, the cats are big and bigger. We'll see what they tell us tomorrow, and make plans based on that.
Three Day Blow
29 January 2018 | Prickly Pear Island Virgin Gorda
We are still on a mooring here off of Prickly Pear Island in the north sound of Virgin Gorda. There used to be a beach bar here and apparently the moorings were for it, so until it's rebuilt they seem to be available. We went in to the small beach yesterday and picnicked with our friends from Snowstar. The beach ends in a steep very rough hillside on one end and a short ways down at the wreckage of the bar/restaurant so you can't walk far but there are quite a few plastic chairs that are in good enough condition that you can sit in them. Someone has made piles here and there of burnable trash like roof beams and such and other piles of plastic. There's also a full trash bag which can hopefully get picked up before it blows or washes away. We picked up some plastic and coke cans we found on the way and added them to the trash bag. We had a nice picnic lunch and went for a refreshing swim then came back to the boat for some reading, guitar playing and drawing time. It's still very windy (20-30kts) but we're pretty well protected here--as long as the mooring holds we're good. Jack has been reminding me of a Hemingway story, The Three Day Blow. The first time we hunkered down for a three day blow was in Nova Scotia while we waited out the after effects of a tropical storm. It prompted us to think we should have days like that where we did nothing at home but hunker down, read, play music etc. Slowing down is sometimes as difficult as charging forward. We are just starting day three. The forecast is for the wind to go down by tomorrow morning. Then we'll probably do some exploring on Virgin Gorda proper. Some people anchored near us went over yesterday but coming back is against wind and waves for a little more than a mile. In our dinghy we would be completely soaked by the time we got back to the boat, so I let Jack go alone to look for ice. He made it back safely and quickly but got very wet.
British Virgin Islands
26 January 2018 | Virgin Gorda
Note to Anna: on our way out of St Martin we sailed past La Samana but we were too far away to assess any damage. The beach still looks nice.
We had a peaceful overnight sail to Virgin Gorda and arrived just as day broke so we could see to get through the narrow passage to Spanish Town. We came to a beautiful Swan 56 or 57 and the guy on deck shouted over to us that he owns an Ohlson 41, of which only 3 were built, one wood, one metal, (not sure if it was steel or aluminum and one fiberglass ) he said it is in a shed in Milwaukee. We did not find out which one his is. He very kindly let Tom and Jack borrow his dinghy to row in to customs, saving us the trouble of launching ours. It was even stranger because on the boat coming in behind us we knew there's a crewmember who owns an Ohlson 35. So suddenly in the BVI there was an Ohlson gathering. The boat behind us was Snowstar. We met Tom and Ry on Lanzarote and have been running into each other since then. They live in Maine and are on their way back after an Atlantic Islands tour, so we have a lot in common. Right now we're both anchored off Prickly Pear Island and will probably stay through the weekend as there are high winds forecast. I haven't jumped overboard swimming because Ry said there is a four foot long shark under their boat. I am trying to keep my promise and stay away from 'ruins porn' but let me just say that the boats at Virgin Gorda Marina look like dominoes that have been knocked over one on top of the other.