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HALEKAI Sailing Around the World
Nancy and Burger invite you to read about their cruising adventures afloat.
Going to the Dark Side?
04/20/2014, IntraCoastal Waterway

"So what do you plan to do next, now that you've sailed around the world?"

Cruising has been a major part of our lives for nearly forty years, ever since we crossed the Atlantic from Germany aboard our first sailboat, Phantasus, in 1975. The live-aboard lifestyle has become our way of life, whether afloat or aboard our RV. We love traveling to new places while having our home along with us. But we've fulfilled our dream to circumnavigate and have had our fill of ocean crossings. We would like to be closer to our family, and now have four adorable grandkiddies to spoil!

We're not ready to "swallow the anchor" just yet, but rather to change vessels. We'd like to resume East Coast and Bahamas cruising, which is more about motoring than sailing, and a trawler would give us more living space. Now that we're back in Florida and on our way up the Intracoastal Waterway, we're ready to put Halekai on the market. If you know someone who'd like the perfect, proven world cruising boat, please set them in touch with us.

HALEKAI SALES BROCHURE

CLICK HERE FOR HALEKAI PHOTOS

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What Was Your Worst Weather?
Photo: Bridge of Lions, St. Augustine FL
04/20/2014, St. Augustine, FL

"Have you ever been in a storm? What's the worst weather you experienced while underway?"

A week ago I would have answered that during our entire circumnavigation we never had any really bad weather, except for a winter storm while we were aboard in the marina in Marmaris, Turkey. You can avoid most bad weather by not being in the tropics during hurricane season and not sailing in winter in the north (or far south). And by staging your departure to a good weather window wherever you are.

Oops, now that we've come full circle and are motoring up the protected IntraCoastal Waterway, we let our guard down. As we approached a bascule bridge near Cocoa, FL a few days ago, we heard a boater on the radio request an opening by the bridge tender, only to be told that the bridge can't open if the wind is over 40 knots, and 60 was predicted. Huh?! We looked behind us and sure enough, ominous dark clouds were heading our way.

I barely had time to close the hatches when, Wham! the squall hit us with a vengeance and the boat heeled over. Burger steered us just outside the channel and quickly dropped anchor. For at least half an hour we had 60+ kt wind, torrential rain and total white-out conditions. We sat below and watched our position on the Ipad screen, happy to see that we weren't dragging. If we had, we would have wound up in the mangroves, not the worst of scenarios.

2014 IntraCoastal Waterway
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The Ancient Mariners
04/15/2014, Stuart, FL

While still in Port St. Lucie I called our friend Ruth Weiss to wish her a happy birthday. Turns out she and Herb were at the boatyard in Stuart, visiting their new trawler, a 36' American Tug. We jumped in the car and drove over for a tour of The Ancient Mariners--it's beautiful! Love the name! Their dinghy is called The Rime. :)

Untitled

Their Halberg-Rassy Windpower is up for sale.

2014 IntraCoastal Waterway
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More Southern Hospitality. Have We Found a New Home Base?
04/14/2014, Port St. Lucie, FL

It's April and time to join the northbound snowbird migration of boats. We spent our first night anchored at West Palm Beach, right across from the center of the city. Tired after a long day taking turns at the wheel, we didn't feel like launching the dinghy, so didn't take advantage of the free public dinghy dock for a walk ashore. Maybe next time. Onward next day to Port St. Lucie, at the entrance to the Okeechobee Canal.

When we met Julie and George of S/V Seaquel in Georgetown last month, they told us about their new home at Tarpon Bay Yacht Club, a waterfront condominium development with dockage in Port St. Lucie. We've been thinking about a new "home base" in Florida, now that we're back, and the description peaked our interest. Inexpensive 2 and 3 bedroom units in a well-maintained community with amenities, including dockage on a very sheltered cove at just $1/foot per month! There's even a community workshop. Golf courses and a Club Med (with guest day passes) are right near by.

Turns out there are several other cruisers living there, among them Gina Poland, a former cruiser we know from Annapolis. Gina sponsored us for the guest dock, then had to leave unexpectedly for a week. She most generously lent us her car in exchange for taking her to and from the airport (West Palm Beach 45 min drive). What a bonus, a guest dock and a car!

Over the next several days we looked at available condo units while getting to know the neighbors and the area, which is right near Stuart. We went to the weekly cocktail party and a pancake breakfast at the clubhouse, and made good use of the lovely heated pool. We felt we fit right in. Now we're seriously considering making an offer on one of the units for sale.

2014 IntraCoastal Waterway
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A Whirlwind Week of Welcome
photo: sunset at Middle River anchorage
03/31/2014, Middle River, Fort Lauderdale

Next day our old friends Bev & Dave Feiges fetched us from the dinghy dock and took us out to lunch, on errands (West Marine, CostCo) and then dinner aboard M/V Cloverleaf at their marina. Wonderful!

During the following several days we had a whirlwind social life, meeting up with cruising friends Jon & Jill Danzig, Steve & Linda Leeds, Terry & Clint Boram, and Steve and Truus Sharp. I had lunch at the Mall with Judi Mkam of SSCA, who then came aboard for a visit. Fort Lauderdale, a major yachting center, was the perfect place to shop and do errands after a year abroad.

The following weekend Bev & Dave drove us to Boca Ratan for a "Welcome Home" party at the home of Herb & Ruth Weiss. Their beautiful oceanview condo was festooned with "Congratulations" balloons. Ruth served a delicious candlelight dinner for ten, among them our friends Katherine & Craig Briggs of S/V Sangaris, who we last saw in Greece. Dessert was melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cake lit with candles for my birthday. We felt very honored!

2014 IntraCoastal Waterway
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Only in South Florida!
photo: 17th St. Bridge, Fort Lauderdale
03/24/2014, Fort Lauderdale, FL

As we entered the entrance channel to Fort Lauderdale on a sunny Sunday morning in March, a small plane trailing a banner approached us. Maybe someone is sending us a "Welcome Home" message, I joked to Burger. But as it passed by I couldn't believe my eyes: "Trojan -- You can't wait to get it on!"

While waiting for the 17th Street Bridge to open we watched the Sunday show. Big and little speedboats whizzed by. Brawny tattooed shaven head men at the helm, bikini babes perched on the bow. "Let's make them wave," I said, as tourist boats filled with day-trippers passed us. One wave and a smile from us produced dozens in return.

After passing through the Las Olas Bridge we turned left and entered the Middle River, where we anchored among half a dozen boats in a quiet pocket surrounded by waterfront homes. We checked in by phone with Customs and prepared to take a well-earned nap.

But first ... "Halekai, Halekai, this is Key of D," the VHF crackled. It was Steve Sharp, who we last saw aboard his catamaran in New Zealand. "I saw you coming in on the AIS screen this morning. Congratulations, and welcome back!" Wow! We had a reunion with circumnavigators Steve and Truus aboard their boat, tied up right near where we anchored, a couple of days later. The small floating village of world cruisers ... And in typical cruiser hospitality, they lent us their car to do errands.

That evening we had were treated to a celebration dinner by old friends Ruth and Herb Weiss of s/v Windpower, along with mutual cruiser friends Wally and Cecily, at the Galleria Mall, just across the street from the dinghy dock at George English Park. How convenient is that? It's great to be back!

2014 IntraCoastal Waterway
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The Home Stretch: Weather Before Wallet
Photo: anchored at Emerald Bay
03/22/2014, Crossing the Great Bahamas Bank

"Working, Working, Working on the Boat!" Who of our cruising friends remember that song by bluewater folksinger Eileen Quinn? It kept going through my head as we spent days scrubbing and polishing Halekai inside and out, all the while enjoying the lovely anchorages of Stocking Island. Now that she's all clean and shiny again we're even more proud of our beautiful "floating home"--which is the rough translation of Halekai, in Polynesian.

We left Georgetown last Monday with a good weather window for the week ahead. We day-hopped along the shallow Exumas Bank to Little Farmers Cay, to Staniel Cay, and then to Emerald Bay in the protected waters of the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park. We snorkeled around Emerald Rock (in photo above) and coral heads teeming with colorful fish. It's amazing to see fish not scurry away, knowing that they're in a no-take marine reserve.

Then onward to Highbourne Cay, where there's an exclusive little marina resort. We dinghied ashore past a bunch of sharks with their fins slicing through the water off the entrance to the marina basin, begging for fish tidbits to the delight of the resort guests. After viewing the fancy $38 entrees on the restaurant menu, we bought cleaned conch from a local fisherman for $2 each and had gourmet conch salad aboard.

Last night we took shelter off Rose Island, just across from Nassau. Annoying jet skiers from a large motoryacht buzzed noisily around us but thankfully disappeared before sundowner time. This morning we sailed past the huge pink Atlantis resort complex and several cruise ships, and this afternoon we passed between Andros and the Berry Islands.

We're now on the shallow Great Bahamas Bank, a weird feeling sailing miles from land in only 10 to 15 feet of water. In the morning we'll cross the Gulf Stream and should arrive in Fort Lauderdale tomorrow afternoon. Oh no, we'll be clearing Customs & Immigration on Sunday, yet again! More overtime charges? But with the next norther on its way, waiting a day would mean risking west wind while crossing the notorious Stream, a most unpleasant prospect for the home stretch. Weather comes before wallet.

It'll be the first time Halekai has been back in the States since we left Fort Lauderdale in January 2005. Time for another celebration!

2014 Bahamas
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Bahamas: Return to Paradise
03/16/2014, Monument Beach, Stocking Island

"Now that you've sailed around the world, what places did you like the most?"

Julie and George of s/v Seaquel, some friends who had completed their circumnavigation before we left, told us that the Bahamas were their favorite cruising grounds. They've been spending their winters here ever since they circled the globe, and we just had a fun reunion with them aboard Seaquel in Georgetown.

We often thought of that conversation during our travels, which took us to more than 30 countries along the trade wind route.

The world and its peoples are so diverse that choosing favorites among them is like comparing apples and oranges. We have wonderful memories of the many places we've visited and the friends we've made along the way, and there's really nowhere in the world that we didn't enjoy in one way or another. The South Pacific, Turkey and Morocco were perhaps the most exotic, for different reasons.

But the beautiful aquamarine waters and white sandy beaches of the Bahamas are like nowhere else in the world. We love snorkeling the coral waters and hunting for lobster and conch. The climate is warm and balmy. The people are friendly, crime is almost non-existent, and it's nice to be where English is spoken. We have old friends who continue to winter here. There's an international airport in Georgetown making it easy to have guests.

CLICK FOR PHOTOS OF PARADISE!

Now that we've spent a month in the Exumas, our concern that things might have changed for the worse over the years has been put to rest. And how convenient for us that they are so close to the US East Coast, for our future winters afloat.

2014 Bahamas
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Snowbird Cruising Mecca
Photo: with Sue, Chesley, Connie and Mary
03/03/2014, Georgetown, Exumas

We anchored in Kidd Cove and spent two days catching up on the mundane: ATM, internet, laundry, haircut, produce from street vendors, groceries and ice cubes from Exuma Market. Cracked conch and grouper fingers at Eddie's our first night, freshly made conch salad and grilled jerk chicken at Martin's for lunch next day. We splurged on lobster tails from Martin and had a feast aboard two nights ago, still in celebratory mode.

CLICK FOR PHOTOS

Nothing much has changed in Georgetown since our last visit nine years ago. Hundreds of East Coast and Canadian snowbird cruisers winter here each year, keeping busy with all sorts of organized activities. We anchored off Volleyball Beach and went for a morning walk on the lovely Stocking Island beach, together with Mary and Christian from s/v I Wanda. We first met them a dozen years ago here in the Bahamas and have seen each other often over the years at SSCA Gams. Yesterday we went to the Sunday Pig Roast at Chat 'n' Chill and caught up with old friends and new.

2014 Bahamas
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Crossing Our Outbound Path
02/27/2014, Calabash Bay, Long Island

Drumroll ... ! Yesterday we crossed our outbound path! Nine years ago this month we anchored here in Calabash Bay on our circumnavigation aboard Halekai, begun in Annapolis in 2004. We celebrated with our favorite meal, duck breast a l'orange, and pink champagne. Prosit!This morning we're motoring across to Georgetown, Exumas, where we'll enter the harbor with the traditional hoisting of flags from countries we've visited along the way.

2014 Bahamas
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An Underwater Paradise No More
02/26/2014, Conception Island

From afar we could see that we wouldn't be alone at Conception: binoculars revealed a forest of masts in the anchorage. As we approached and circled the fleet we spotted mostly Canadian flags among the more than two dozen yachts, evidently a group outing organized from Georgetown.

We dropped anchor in 12 feet over sand. After lunch and a swim we took a siesta. That night we thawed out some wahoo and dined by candlelight in the cockpit, surrounded by bobbing mast lights and twinkling stars. It doesn't get much better!

We were surprised to see a cruise ship pass by to our west. The AIS showed it was in transit from St. Thomas to Little San Salvador, previously a popular destination for boaters but now off-limits, since a cruise ship company bought it from the Bahamian government.

Next morning we dinghied through the cut on the north end of the island to snorkel around the cove on the other side, where the coral was as bleak as out on the reef. Then we moved to the reef on the south end of the island but alas, it was no different there. We did spot a five foot nurse shark resting on the bottom, some colorful parrotfish and triggerfish and several small groupers, and some dead conch shells. No sign of lobster. The area has been under environmental protection for years due to over harvesting but the marine life doesn't seem to have recovered yet, surely due in part to the unhealthy coral.

2014 Bahamas
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Close Encounter with Coral
02/25/2014, Southhampton Reef, Conception Island

"We stopped in Conception on our way over here," our Kentucky boat neighbors told us before we left San Salvador, "and it was great. We were the only boat there." We were anxious to seeing if the uninhabited Out Island was as beautiful as we remember it, and this sounded promising.

As we motorsailed 37 miles across the deep trench that separates the islands, our AIS showed heavy ship traffic transiting the channel. The course was set for the end of Southhampton Reef where a visible wreck was charted three miles north of Conception. We were looking for it when suddenly we were in less than 30 feet of water, with coral heads all around us! The reef was longer than the chart showed.

We slowed down to a crawl and maneuvered around the heads, luckily not as shallow as they appeared in the clear water, into safer depths on the far side of the reef. Then we dropped anchor and launched the dinghy to explore up close. What a disappointment! The towering coral heads were mostly dead and there were few fish. Either a hurricane or a season or more of abnormally warm water temps (global warming?), or both, had wreaked havoc.

2014 Bahamas
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Reconciling with Church and Slavery
02/24/2014, Cockburn Town, San Salvador

For an island population of only a couple hundred we counted at least half a dozen churches in town, animated sermons and choir singing audible as we passed by. Late model cars filled the church parking lots and worshipers wore their finest despite the tropical temps, men in dark suits and women in fancy dresses. The Roman Catholic and Anglican churches were the largest and most impressive (see photos); there were also Baptist, Church of God of Prophecy, Kingdom Ministries, and others we can't recall.

In addition to a few shops we passed several small government office buildings. Half the population must be civil servants, there were so many of them. The other half must work at the resorts and shops, as there didn't appear to be any other signs of commerce. The island consists mostly of sand and salt marshes, not much arable land.

We smiled and said hello to everyone we saw and they all answered in kind, but nobody initiated a greeting, unusual for such a small place. Most inhabited, pastel-colored houses were in good shape but there were quite a few deserted ones slowly being reclaimed by nature.

Considering there were just a couple of lanes in the little village, they were remarkably well signed. The First Avenue and Deveaux Street intersection caught our attention (see photo), as Devaux was Burger's maternal grandmother's name, of French Huguenot origin. The other intersection was at First Avenue and Queen's Highway, amusingly pretentious for the sandy beach road.

As in all the Bahamian islands, the original native peoples were replaced by European colonials who brought in slaves to work their plantations, but when the poor soil and harsh living conditions led to their demise, the slaves were abandoned to their fate. Today's population are their descendants, and the poignant words on a large framed illustrated sign commemorating island history reflect their continuing struggle to reconcile the past with the present:

"... the salvific Cross of Jesus Christ, marking the first landfall in the New World by Christopher Columbus on 12 October 1492, reminds us that the greatest benefit of the arrival of the Europeans was the gift of Christianity, even though the Church's representatives were culpable in the genocide of many peoples in the Americas and the institution of slavery but has served to guide us towards becoming communities of love."

"... Watling's Castle reminds us of the experience of colonialism and plantation slavery and our continuing effort as a people to rise from the ruins of the institution of slavery to a free and sovereign people aware of our history and our national potential."

2014 Bahamas
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Never on Sunday
02/23/2014, Cockburn Town, San Salvador

Our 4-day passage to San Salvador ended early Sunday morning when we anchored on the shallow bank off the tiny town of Cockburn Town. We were under sail the whole way but no sooner did we arrive than the trades dissipated, as expected. Since it's an open roadstead we were happy to find it calm and relatively free of swell. One other sailboat was at anchor, hailing from Kentucky.

We had been here once before many years ago, May 1976 to be exact. We'll never forget diving into the crystalline water that the Bahamas are famous for. The pure white sand was littered with thousands of helmet conchs who were evidently on a migratory march. This time we found just one solitary helmet conch, and some rays buried in the sand with just their eyes showing.

We launched the dinghy and beached it in the slight surf, next to the rusting relics of the old town dock that had evidently been destroyed in a hurricane. (Later we realized we could have more easily tied up the dinghy in the small boat marina half a mile up the coast.) A small RO-RO supply ship (roll on, roll off) was just leaving as we arrived, having delivered a few containers to the island. It didn't need a dock to do so, as it simply drove close enough to shore to drop its front gate onto the concrete ramp at the water's edge, so cargo could be driven on and off.

We walked along the beach road about a mile to the airport to clear in with C&I. Luckily we knew in advance about the exorbitant $300 Bahamas Customs fee instituted a few years ago, and had cashed up in St. Thomas. C&I didn't accept credit cards. There was an ATM at the bank we passed, but whether it had cash? We were surprised by the additional $130 Immigration fee, $30 of which was Sunday overtime. The folks on the other yacht at anchor who cleared in elsewhere told us that overtime charges are no longer permitted, and to complain in Nassau. We will! The officials are on duty seven days a week at the airport. The Immigrations official offered us a ride back to town, maybe to justify the fee, but we declined as we needed the exercise after four days at sea.

We could of course have avoided all the recent weekend and holiday charges with better planning, but then again, waiting could have meant missing weather windows.

While we were inside the C&I office, the small Cessna we had walked past was replaced by a large private plane with 12 windows on each side. Two young American men cleared in after us, presumably the pilot and co-pilot, but we saw no other passengers. After rehydrating with sodas at the airport snack bar we returned to town, past the Club Med and the Red Riding Inn & Marina, both dive resorts whose guests fly in with Bahamas Air. White diving buoys lined the drop-off where the shallow aquamarine bank meets the deep blue sea. A handful of sportfisher boats were berthed in the marina, their owners most likely Floridians who commute by private plane.

2014 Bahamas
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Where Did the Genoa Go?
02/22/2014, Underway

It was Burger's watch in the middle of the night when he noticed a sudden change in the motion of the boat, and we were going slower. Looking forward he saw the reason: the genoa sail was gone! We were sailing under mainsail alone. Upon investigation he discovered the gib being dragged alongside, held on by lines and sheets. Luckily he had just recently replaced the foredeck light with a much brighter LED light, which made the process of wrestling the sail aboard and securing it much easier. We then set the smaller staysail to balance the boat for the rest of the trip.

Why did the sail drop in the water? The six-year old stitching on the spectra tape at the head of the sail that attached it to the upper roller reefing had rotted out. It was the only spot that didn't have acrylic UV cover. Fixing it was a relatively easy. The material was too thick to fit under our Sailmaker sewing machine foot, so next day, Burger got out the ditty bag and did a very professional zigzag hand stitch using mallet, awl and waxed doubled Dacron lace twine, better than the original. The sail is back in use as good as new, except for some pink bottom paint stains. (photos to come)

2014 Leeward Islands
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Moving Right Along
02/21/2014, The Puerto Rico Trench AKA Cruise Ship Alley

Soon after leaving St Thomas two days ago, a bright orange USCG helicopter swooped down noisily right behind us, ostensibly to read our boat name and hailing port. Yesterday we sailed over the Puerto Rico Trench in waters 25,000 feet deep, then skirted the treacherous Silver Bank, a graveyard of Spanish galleons.

The fishing line is out but so far, no bites, although schools of flying fish glide over the waves. The only ship traffic is cruise ships en route to and from Miami, Fort Lauderdale or Nassau to Grand Turk, St Thomas, St Maarten, etc. Our AIS sounds the alarm whenever one is on a close course. At night they're all lit up like plump lemon lozenges and are visible for miles.

We'd like to reach Florida by mid-March and still have many miles to go, so we're bypassing Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic/Haiti and the Turks & Caicos. Instead we're sailing 650 nm non-stop to San Salvador, one of the most easterly islands of the Bahamas Far Out Islands, where Christopher Columbus is said to have made his first landfall. Few sailors go here since it's so far to windward coming from the States, but it's a port of entry, mainly for airplanes. With a good weather window of steady NE trades and at an average speed of 7-8 knots we should reach our goal by early Sunday morning. It's been a bumpy ride so far and the constant rocking and rolling is tedious, so we'll be glad to get there. Uh oh, it'll be the weekend, will we pay overtime charges to clear in yet again?

2014 Leeward Islands
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Finding Friends in Exotic Anchorages
02/19/2014, St. Thomas, USVI

Next morning we sailed through the islands from BVI across to USVI, our first time in US waters since last May and our third visit since 1976. We anchored in Charlotte Amalia, St. Thomas, in the shadow of two giant cruise ships and several mega-yachts. After launching the dinghy we once again sought out the C & I office across the harbor at the ferry dock, which had a sign on the door, "business hours 7 days a week." Yet we were charged a $35 holiday overtime fee. Oops, we'd forgotten it was President's Day! Nonetheless, why would they charge overtime when they're open for business anyway? Surely the don't charge the ferry passengers overtime? Grrr ... These clearance fees are getting really old.

Surprisingly, the US dollar is the official currency of the British VI's, and cars drive on the left in the USVI's.

Later we dinghied back across the harbor and found that another C&I office has been opened near the mega-yacht marina, which would have been much more convenient had we known about it. We wandered about the duty free shopping area but didn't really need a Gucchi scarf or a Coach bag, so we found a local supermarket, sought out a cybercafe to check mail, and returned aboard.

The next morning we planned to leave, but after sailing through the narrow Haulover Cut we discovered, to our pleasant surprise, the sailboat C-Lise II, a world cruising couple from Seattle who we had met in Morocco. So we dropped anchor beside them and decided to stay another day. We spent the afternoon with Gordon and Elise ashore, catching up over a long lunch while doing the laundry at Crown Bay Marina. It was the fourth time we'd met up with cruising friends since arriving on this side of the pond: we'd found s/v Aquataurus and s/v Acouda in Martinique and s/v Half Moon in Guadalupe.

2014 Leeward Islands
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Over the Hill, Not!
02/17/2014, Jost Van Dyke, BVI

That same afternoon we took the dinghy ashore and hiked up the steep hill that separates White Sand Bay from Great Harbour. There we paid $47 to clear in to the BVI's with C&I, part of which was Sunday overtime even though the office is open 7 days a week for the ferries. It is tempting to just ignore the rules and not clear in but the penalty if caught is severe.

Great Harbour is famous for Foxy, a local man who opened a popular bar and restaurant years ago that's still the in-place among the charter boat crowd. We found a shady table and had a cold one, then walked to the island shuttle stop and waited with a bunch of friendly young Americans. "Where're you guys from?" was the common ice breaker. Everyone was happy to be taking a break from the snowstorms up north.

After a few minutes we decided to walk back up over the hill rather than wait any longer-showing the young folk that we're not over the hill yet! We were already down the hill on the other side by the time the shuttle passed us, waving and honking.

CLICK FOR PHOTOS

Once back on board, we cooled off with a swim and were about to enjoy sundowners when a young local man knocked on the hull and demanded $30 for the mooring fee that we were unaware of. He bristled when we asked for ID, since how did we know he was authorized to collect fees? Feeling fleeced enough for one day, we decided to leave and had a quiet night at anchor around the corner at Great Harbour.

2014 Leeward Islands
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Charter Boat Capital of the World
02/16/2014, Overnight Sail to BVI

"Like-A-Beast calling Vanquished Virgin!" "Big Rosie, this is Mama Cow!" You know you're in charter territory by the boat names. BVI (British Virgin Islands) is a major center for bareboat chartering, and today most of the charter boats are catamarans. We tied up to a mooring-since there was no room to anchor-along with a host of catamarans between the beach and the reef at White Sand Bay, Jost Van Dyke, and then watched the show: boats and dinghies coming and going, mostly Americans swimming and hanging out while roasting in the sun, with music blaring from the beach bar.

CLICK FOR PHOTOS

Watching novice sailors trying to set their anchor used to be cockpit entertainment, but now that moorings are everywhere, the sport has changed to newbies trying to capture a mooring ball. While Burger napped, I watched as a boat repeatedly approached and circled at full speed, the wife on the bow haplessly trying to catch the ball with her boat hook as it whizzed by her each time. On the fifth try she managed to catch the mooring line, only to lose grasp of the hook since the boat was still moving. A helpful couple came to the rescue in their dinghy, retrieving the hook and handing up the mooring line. I wouldn't have wanted to hear the conversation that followed below deck!

2014 Leeward Islands
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Dengue Fever and Dinghy Theft
02/15/2014, Overnight Sail to Marigot Bay, St. Martin

St. Martin has gotten a bad rap in the cruiser grapevine lately for two reasons: an outbreak of a nasty viral disease similar to dengue fever and caused by the same mosquito, and a recent increase of "cruiser crime"--dinghy thefts, boardings and muggings. (Actually other islands have the same problems; some friends were mugged in Martinique a few weeks ago.) But we are cautious and luckily survived both fates.

We cleared in with Customs & Immigration at the ferry dock and were charged EU 35 ($50) for our two-night stay at anchor--less than in Antigua, but still annoying. We found the supermarket and the chandlery and had Valentine's Day lunch at a waterfront restaurant. Due to all the U.S. tourism it seemed that more English is spoken now than French. Shops and restaurants are happy to take either Euros or dollars, at a one-to-one exchange rate!

2014 Leeward Islands
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Out of Our League
02/11/2014, Falmouth Harbour, Antigua

We followed half a dozen yachts out of Deshaies early Sunday morning, each aiming for Antigua 40 miles to the north, and one by one we left them all in our wake. The predicted light easterlies picked up to 30 knots as we close-reached at 8.5 knots across the open ocean, a bumpy but fast ride. Our freshly rain-washed deck is now all salty again.

Things have changed since we were last here 18 years ago. There are now three marinas in Falmouth Harbour that cater to the high-end crowd (pun intended): the masts of the mega sailing yachts are so high that they're illuminated with red aviation lights at night. A bevy of huge motor yachts also vie for dock space, all decorated with multiple satellite communication domes. Each yacht is worth gazillions of dollars. But out in the anchorage we're surrounded by our own kind.

CLICK FOR PHOTOS

It was here in 1976, after crossing the Atlantic for the first time aboard s/v Phantasus, that we adopted our first pet, a calico kitten at Nelson's Dockyard in English Harbour, just like we'd read that world cruising pioneers Eric and Susan Hiscock had done some years before.

2014 Leeward Islands
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Vive la France!
02/07/2014, Deshaies, Guadeloupe

The wind was particularly high and gusting to 48 knots (!) as we approached Deshaies ("Day-hay") after a long morning, so we were glad to take shelter in the crowded bay. First things first, we launched the dinghy and went ashore for lunch at one of the cute waterfront French restaurants. The sun remained out while one sun shower after the other crossed the bay while we watched.

A sign at the dingy dock said "Free shuttle to the Jardin Botanique," so after walking around the little town town we hopped aboard the van which took us up the hill. The shuttle was indeed free but we didn't learn that the entrance fee was EU 15 ($20)) per person till we got there. It seemed a bit pricey, but oh well ... Take a look at our photos and see if you agree it was worth it.

CLICK FOR PHOTOS OF TOWN AND BOTANICAL GARDENS

The gardens were beautiful and each exotic plant and tree was identified, albeit in French. The showery weather made it seem like a rain forest but they lent out large umbrellas and there were several places to take shelter during downpours. Besides the extensive plantings there were parrots and flamingos and a pond with lots of colorful koi and a waterfalls. We gave the restaurant a pass, and the large boutique at the exit was just closing by the time we reached it.

It was almost sunset when we walked back down the hill to get some exercise, not the wisest move it turned out, since the road was steep and the traffic whizzed close by us around the sharp curves. But we made it back safely in time to buy a baguette and cheese for supper aboard. This morning Burger fetched us warm chocolate croissants from the boulangerie while I made the coffee. Vive la France!

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Williwaws and Dragging Anchors
02/06/2014, en route from Martinique to Guadeloupe

It was a long day that started in St. Pierre at dawn and ended 70+ miles further up the Leeward Islands, past green, mountainous Dominica. We reached Les Saintes, a tiny group of islands belonging to Guadeloupe, in plenty of time for sundowners. We dropped the anchor at Pain de Sucre (Sugarloaf) along with a dozen or so other yachts. As latecomers we had to anchor in the outskirts of the bay where the water was deeper.

During the night there was a sudden fierce squall and cloudburst that had us closing hatches and ports at 4:30 am. When we awoke a couple of hours later we discovered that we'd dragged into deeper water, so we quickly weighed anchor and got underway. A catamaran was adrift outside the anchorage, the crew apparently not yet awake and aware of their plight. But they were in no danger, so we continued onward across the channel and up the west coast of Guadalupe. Evidently the cloudburst was widespread as there was much brown water and floating debris near the river entrances.

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Sailing is challenging as we day hop our way north. The channels between the islands are open to the ocean, with boisterous wind and seas. In the shelter of the mountainous islands we've been having strong NE trades gusting higher from sudden violent downdrafts (williwaws) and just as suddenly no wind at all. It keeps us on our toes, reefing in and letting out sails, turning the engine on and off. But at least the wind direction is favorable and it's beautiful scenery along the lush green mountainous coast.

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A Prison Cell Saved Him
02/05/2014, St. Pierre, Guadeloupe

photo: Diamond Rock, where 100 British soldiers with cannons spent 18 months in 1805 controlling the channel between St. Lucia and Martinique.

On May 8th, 1902 Mt. Pele on the northern end of Martinique erupted and wiped out all 30,000 inhabitants of St. Pierre save one, a prisoner whose stone cell miraculously saved him. The entire fleet of anchored boats burned and sank. After sailing up the coast from Sainte-Anne, past Diamond Rock, we're now anchored off the beach of St. Pierre. All around us are diving buoys that mark the many Pele ship wrecks. The town has been rebuilt around stone wall ruins, and the volcanic slopes beyond are cultivated with bright green fields. The 4800 foot high peak of Mt. Pele remained shrouded in clouds while we were there.

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Finding Old Friends in Exotic Places
02/01/2014, Le Marin, Martinique

One of the neatest thing about the floating village of cruisers is reuniting with old friends in different parts of the world. It was no surprise but nonetheless fun to find Swiss friend Peter Schaub working on his s/v Aquataurus at the boatyard in Le Marin. We last saw Peter and his wife Ruth 14 years ago at our dock in Annapolis, when we were the local reps of the German-based Trans-Ocean Club. Holiday newsletters and our blog have kept us in contact through the years so we knew Peter would be here. Ruth will be flying over after Aquataurus splashes so they can spend the rest of the winter cruising the islands.

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We joined Peter for Friday night happy hour at Mango Bay, the local sailors' hang-out, and then on to the bratwurst stand that attracts the German crowd. We fetched him next afternoon for an overnight visit at anchor, a welcome break from life on the hard.

Peter once had a thriving business outfitting yachts and is very knowledgable, so he and Burger spent time troubleshooting our headache with the starter battery. After much trial and error Burger finally solved the problem by adding a new starter cable connecting to the generator. Hooray!

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