SeaSparrow

20 March 2017 | St Martin
23 February 2017 | St Martin, French Lagoon
06 February 2017 | Brewer's Bay, St Thomas, USVI
22 January 2017 | Culebra, Puerto Rico
02 May 2016 | Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, USVI
05 April 2016 | Charlotte Amalie, USVI
04 April 2016 | Charlotte Amalie, USVI
09 March 2016 | Simpson's Bay, Sint Maarten
26 February 2016 | Grande Anse D'Arlet, Martinique
14 February 2016 | Fort de France, Martinique
31 January 2016 | Prickly Bay, Grenada
21 January 2016 | Prickly Bay, Grenada
17 January 2016 | Prickly Bay, Genada
01 April 2015 | Port Elizabeth, Bequia
11 March 2015 | Jolly Harbour, Antigua
20 February 2015 | Jolly Harbour, Antigua
05 February 2015 | Jolly Harbour, Antigua
22 January 2015 | Jolly Harbour, Antigua
11 January 2015 | Sint Maarten
07 December 2014 | Charlestown, Nevis

Heineken Regatta and Marina Life

20 March 2017 | St Martin
Jeff / Sunny 85F
Hello Folks,

We're still alive (barely) having survived another Heineken Regatta event, the 37th annual, here in Sint Maarten. This year's event was particularly special in that we saw the return of guests cousin Sean and Carla as well as good friends Bev and Shane. This group visited last season in the BVI's and it was a great time with lots of sailing and even more partying, which took a toll on the system. This year things would be different we vowed and it was - no sailing whatsoever; the rest of it however seemed vaguely familiar from one year to the next.

Our guests were kind enough to reserve one night in Fort Louis Marina for their arrival to ease the logistics of getting everyone onboard as well as do some provisioning before heading out. Here's a shot of the marina from above with the marina behind the circular looking breakwater and Marigot Bay anchorage beyond. This marina is on the French side of the island.



Debbie and I moved SeaSparrow to the marina on Sunday the 25th to meet our guests and after some confusion on the marina's behalf with respect to the reservation we managed to get secured no problem. It was a good thing too as the winds in St Martin at this time were howling and trying to get to and from the boat on our dinghy would not have been fun. With six people, every time we would have wanted to go somewhere would have meant two trips and everyone would have gotten soaked. The marina was a blessing as the winds and waves in Marigot Bay were brutal. Here's a shot of a rather large boat getting hit side on with a wave in the bay which I think illustrates the point.



The problem we now had was our reservation was for only one day and the marina stated they were fully booked it being Heineken Race Week. Fortunately, we managed to plead and beg to get our stay extended one night, then two, then three such that by the time we left we could then proceed to the next marina, which our guests had booked for the regatta - Simpson Bay Marina.

With the marina situation resolved the sails remained safely stowed and it was time to get down to the real business of our guest's trip - sun and fun. Since we were staying in Fort Louis Marina it was only right we should visit Fort Louis itself. This was a nice hike up a big hill to visit the fort used to repel the British which, according to the plaques at the site, the French did quite successfully. Nowadays the fort is peaceful and serves as an excellent place to take in some great views. Here's a few pics:





Just in case there wasn't enough reason to enjoy/ abuse ourselves during this visit, the Tuesday of Regatta Week also happened to be Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras in this part of the world, like many others, is kind of a big thing which of course means lots of partying and a parade. The Mardi Gras parade in Marigot was impressive as it started in the morning and went to the evening including floats, girls in amazing costumes and LOUD LOUD music. Here's a couple of pics of the parade going by just outside the marina.




During the evening of Mardi Gras our guests reserved dinner for us all in an amazing restaurant located the next town over, Grand-Case. Grand-Case is a beautiful spot with a great beach, local arts and crafts, and awesome restaurants. The neat thing is that Grand-Case does a mini Mardi Gras every Tuesday which is a big tourist attraction, so to be there during the actual Mardi Gras was very cool. Needless to say the place was hopping but thankfully Sean booked our restaurant a couple of months in advance so we had a primo table overlooking the beach and anchorage. The French side of St Martin is truly French which means amongst other things, the food is awesome and our meal at Ocean 82 on Mardi Gras night did not disappoint. Great setting, great friends and great food adds up to one hell of an evening.




Sean was particularly impressed with the little spoons at this fancy French restaurant.


By Thursday of Regatta Week it was time to leave our safe haven in Fort Louis Marina and head to the belly of the beast, the Dutch Side and Simpson Bay Marina. With the winds blowing 25kts + we managed to proceed through two bridges and, after another hiccup with our new marina, finally get alongside right in the center of the action for Heineken Regatta 2017. This is SeaSparrow's third time at the Heineken Regatta in the four seasons we have been doing this sailing thing and it is still a blast. We weren't in the race but there is probably even more fun to be had as a spectator. A special treat this year was a race entrant from Nova Scotia in a real sailboat built to race in regatta's such as the Heineken. This boat was Captained by a lady and had our full support from the Simpson Bay Yacht Club each time they proceeded through the bridge. Here's a shot of the boat heading out.



No trip would be complete to Sint Maarten without a trip to Maho Beach to see the planes take off and land seemingly on your head. This year's trip was extra special as while watching the planes we were also treated to the boats racing in the regatta just offshore. Very cool day at the beach.

Here it comes:

On top:

Gone:

From the bar:

Regatta as well:


I will admit not all details are crystal clear from this Regatta week with Sean, Carla, Bev and Shane which seemed to pass by in a blur. Even though the sails never felt the wind this was still a jammed packed week that once again saw Debbie and I anchor the boat and take a couple of recovery days after our guests departed. Good times my friends, good times. Thanks for everything. Oh yeah, Cheers Shane!

SeaSparrow Blog Musical Selection - Ain't Much of Me Left - Blackberry Smoke

Guests, Repairs, and Dog Blog

23 February 2017 | St Martin, French Lagoon
Jeff/ Cloudy 85F
Hello Folks,

No play on words or smart ass meaning in this title as what you read is pretty much what you get in this blog. This is not to say it hasn't been a busy and hectic period since the last blog because it certainly has so let's cover SeaSparrow's goings on.

Our first planned guests of the season (Tina was first but her visit was an unplanned dog delivery mission) have come and gone and I think all involved had a great time - I know Debbie and I enjoyed the company of our friends Doug and Fran Wright. I also think Doug and Fran were pleased with their timing as they managed to visit during Nova Scotia's "Snowmaggedon" event although it caught up with them on the return trip. This visit provided a great illustration of why we say to our guests that flexibility may be required when planning a visit to a boat like ours as the condition of the boat and weather can change things in a hurry. We had planned to meet Doug and Fran in Charlotte Amalie but due to our windlass problems we were stuck a couple of bays over in Brewer's Bay until we could repair/ replace our windlass. This was not a problem as we met our guests on the beach with our dinghy after they took a cab from the airport to the beach (change 1). We had planned to sail from the USVI's to the north of the BVI's and drop Doug and Fran off where they would take a ferry back to fly home. We changed this plan as things would be too rushed and clearing pets into the BVI's now has become a big hassle with people being ripped off by corrupt customs officials and veterinarians. Our new plan would be to stay in the USVI's then do a straight shot from the USVI's to St Martin after Doug and Fran left (change 2). Based upon the winds it looked like we would have to drop our guests ashore a day early so that we could hit the window for St Martin (change 3). Fortunately, the winds changed again and Doug and Fran were able to stay the full time of their visit onboard SeaSparrow without scrambling to get a room ashore for the night (change 4). All worked out in the end but as I said you got to be flexible.

We did manage to fit in a bit of fun for Fran and Doug as we now have experience in the USVI's after a visit here last year with Peggy and Seb. We hit some of the same spots and perhaps you may recognize some of the places as well. No trip to St Thomas can really begin until you hit the Rum Shack tiki bar set up in a parking lot with swings for chairs.



Of course the fun couldn't start until the boat repairs were completed. After working several days trying to fix/ repair our windlass we came to the conclusion that we needed to replace the whole damn thing. After a day or so of running around trying to find a new windlass somewhere in the USVI's I also came to the conclusion this was impossible. The great thing about the USVI's is they are tax free and it is relatively easy to order items from the US and get them sent to the islands. As mentioned in the last blog, we ordered a new windlass on a Friday afternoon, paying extra for expedited shipping. The windlass didn't leave the company store until Monday morning but I had it in my hands by Tuesday at 2pm. I picked it up as Doug and Fran arrived and I put Doug to work the next morning helping me with the install. All went well and here is a pic of our beautiful new windlass installed in her new home.



With the boat now properly repaired it was time to get moving so we went to a nearby island/park called Buck Island. We went there last year as well and loved it as this time around no cruise ships were in port so we had the place pretty much to ourselves. This is a great spot for turtle watching and snorkelling in general.




Old gun carriage?


It was also time to get our bean bag pic in with the twist now being Piper feels she needs to insert herself into the pic.



Piper has now cottoned on to the idea of sundowners and bean bag chairs.



Following our visit at Buck Island we headed over to Water Island and Flamingo Bay which is a quiet little spot that permits a walk over a hill to the much busier Honeymoon Bay. The lead pic for the blog is seaSparrow anchored in Flamingo Bay. Here's a few pics of our stop in Flamingo.




After a few more days of hanging out in Flamingo Bay it was time to go back to Charlotte Amalie and drop Doug and Fran off for the much anticipated return trip to the lovely weather awaiting them back home. Doug and I did manage to find the husband daycare sign although we didn't really get left to their excellent care.


After watching the weather and changing our plans one last time it was time to say goodbye and get ready for the next big schedule driver - getting to St Martin.

Thinking all was in order we were looking forward to getting our first long trip of the season underway. The day before we planned to leave we decided to head into town to get some final provisioning done. On the way in the outboard motor on the dinghy went to maximum revs but the boat was barely moving. Fortunately, my good buddy and repairman to all, Michael on Nautidog, was nearby when the outboard started acting up so we managed to limp to Nautidog. It took Mike about 30 seconds to figure out the problem which was that the propeller on the outboard "Slipped its hub". Apparently this is a fairly common problem that can be easily fixed if you have a new propeller.

Prop with spun hub. The inner rubber piece rotates when it should be stationary.


This was a real problem as our weather window was the next morning and I didn't want to miss it as we needed to get to St Martin in time to meet our next visitors. On the other hand, having a working dinghy is critical so it needed to be repaired right away. After a few phone calls and about an hour or two of riding the buses, we managed to find an outboard marine shop who unbelievably had the exact prop for my outboard - even had it in white or black. My luck was changing as I was able to get a new prop and the dinghy fully operational in time to meet our sailing plans.

We left Charlotte Amalie at 8:20am on Thursday the 16th and got to Virgin Gorda, BVI's around 2pm. We did not clear into the BVI's but left again at about 3:30am heading for St Martin. The winds and waves were down so it was a good opportunity to make headway going east, which is never easy in the Caribbean. We motor sailed the entire way across but once again experienced a problem with the boat. In this case the throttle cable for the port engine broke meaning I had to shut this engine down and sail with just the starboard. This is not a problem while motor sailing as the boat has enough forward momentum to allow the rudders to steer the boat. The problem comes when you are stopped or going very slowly as controlling the boat becomes very difficult. We arrived in St Martin just in time to make the last bridge opening of the day at 5pm. At this point we were very tired but we wanted to proceed through two bridges and anchor on the French side of the island. The first bridge was no problem as I was able to get the boat moving without having to stop. The second bridge, not so much. We arrived at the second bridge but had to stop as it wasn't ready to be opened and the bridge operator was not responding to calls on VHF. The bridge was supposed to open at 5:15pm and when that time came and went with no answer I decided to back up and anchor on the Dutch side. With no momentum the boat basically did a circle until I could get some control. Of course as I am completing my first perfect donut in the water the guy from the bridge calls and says he is now opening the damn thing. I say thanks and now have to figure out how to get the boat going forward vice a backwards circle. I finally was able to get some control but I couldn't get the boat lined up for the inbound side of the bridge without colliding with the sides of the opening. I could however get lined up sufficiently well to enter in the outbound side of the bridge so that's where I aimed. I was committed at this point but called the bridge operator anyway to let him know what I was doing. After a rather long pause he gave a skeptical "OK" ... but be careful Captain". Fortunately I knew no traffic was coming the other way so we proceeded into France via the out door, dropped the anchor, drank several drinks and went to bed. Never a dull moment onboard SeaSparrow folks.

Here's a pic of our broken port engine throttle cable that has now been repaired by Debbie and I. Can you seen the broken bit?

Control station inside of which is where break in cable occurred.


The cable is about 28 feet long and had to be routed through the boat and attached at the engine on one end and the control station at the other. Again a bit of luck as the local shops here in St Martin had multiple such cables exactly 28 feet long in stock. We have had multiple failures of items so far this year that have kept us reactive vice proactive with respect to our maintenance, which is not the place from where you want to be operating. Hopefully now we have turned the corner and can focus on preventative items instead of corrective. This is life on a boat and these things happen, however the difference this year for us is the problems we have experienced are schedule stoppers as we had to get them fixed before proceeding. So far, so good as we have managed to meet everyone's schedule and now are in St Martin for the next month or so.

I promised a dog update and I am glad to report Piper continues to do outstanding on the boat. She has adapted to everything we have thrown at her and due to her easy going nature she seems to take it all in stride. As noted above she has found the joys of the bean bag chairs such that now it's a fight to get a seat - 3 occupants, 2 chairs. She has also really taken to swimming and will now jump into the water, only when called, and more importantly has figured out how to climb the vertical ladder to get back onboard. She seems happy which is great news as you never know how a pet will react to life on a boat.

Getting ready to jump.

In flight.

Doing her favourite thing.


As mentioned above we are now in St Martin anchored in the Lagoon on the French side. We are expecting our next guests, Cousin Sean and Carla, along with friends Bev and Shane. They have been here before so they should fit right in. I mean they will only be here during Heineken Regatta time so what could go wrong ... gulp.

SeaSparrow Musical Selection - So Glad To Be Here - Boz Scaggs

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

06 February 2017 | Brewer's Bay, St Thomas, USVI
Jeff/ Sunny 87F
Hello Folks,

Sailing a catamaran throughout the Caribbean sounds like an idyllic way to whittle away the winter months and so far this has largely been the case for SeaSparrow. But things aren't always clear blue water/ postcard perfect when living this lifestyle. The last couple of weeks for us illustrate this point quite well, I think.

The Good

After getting away from the Puerto Del Rey marina we set course east to really begin this year's sailing season. After spending several nights in one of our favourite spots, Culebra, it was time to move on to the smaller island of Culebrita. This is a deserted island that has a beautiful beach, crystal clear water with great snorkeling on reefs you can swim to from the boat. This is the type of stuff one sees in travel magazines and you dream of when thinking about sailing the Caribbean.



We left Culebrita and headed for the USVI's. It was a beautiful sunny warm day with winds that were perfect for sailing. Shortly after leaving the shores of Culebrita we were able to turn off the engines and sail for the first time this season. It is hard to describe the feeling when you shut off the engine noise and listen to the sounds of the boat being powered by the wind alone. That particular moment may be the time I enjoy the most out of everything we do on SeaSparrow and that is saying something as I enjoy a lot of what we do here.


SeaSparrow With Wind In Her Sails

The only thing that makes the sailing better on days like we had sailing to the USVIs is to catch our dinner for the evening. Almost right on cue one of the rods started to sing with the "fish on" song and minutes later dinner was in hand. This is a Kingfish or King Mackerel and it is far better then the mackerel from home as this is an excellent white fish that always tastes better when you catch it yourself.



Once we arrived in the USVI's we anchored in a beautiful area known as Brewer's Bay where we still sit today. There is great swimming around the boat as well a beautiful beach a 30 second dinghy ride away. The best part of this bay for us has been hooking up with friends we have met in previous years as well as making new friends. The friends you make in the boating world are almost without fail good people that are fun to be around and make your time on the water better. In addition to the above qualities, cruisers will go out of their way to help one another as you know someday you too will need help. We had the opportunity to do some "Water Buffalo'ing" here in Brewers Bay which entailed taking the dinghies to the beach and spending time in the water while having a beverage. It was also a great chance to let the dogs play.




After the beach fun it was time to break in our newest flag or pennant - The Gin Pennant. During my Navy days the Gin Pennant was hoisted when an individual or group was hosting a party and basically it served as an invite to anyone was saw it flying. My friend Bruce, who owns the Flagg Shop on Main St, Dartmouth made SeaSparrow a special Gin Pennant and I am glad to report it has been broken in nicely with our fellow cruiser friends pleased to participate.




Now that we managed to get Piper onboard I have to add her to the Good section of this blog. Piper has adapted amazingly well to life onboard. She is an awesome dog that loves to swim but won't leave the boat without our permission. She has found a favourite place to hangout while we are sailing which serves as a great footrest for me although she does make it a bit more difficult to do things when at the helm.



Piper also likes the dinghy and now is pissed when we leave her behind.



I think Piper is happy onboard as she seemed to smile at me the other day as we watched dolphins swim near the boat. It doesn't get much better than that.




The Bad

This will be a short section as things generally are pretty good living on the water but this life style is also a lot of work that can wear you down sometimes. We really don't mind the work and the only time I consider things Bad is if I can't fix something that is broken. Maintenance on a boat like ours is a given and requires attention on most if not all days. We currently find ourselves in that situation as our windlass, the thingy that raises and lowers the anchor, has been acting funny all season. After days of working on the windlass with the help of Michael from Nautidog we finally came to the conclusion that the motor was shot and needed replacement. After several additional days of work trying to find a spare motor and disassemble the windlass to replace said motor I also raised the white flag on that effort. Getting a spare here in St Thomas in a reasonable timeframe proved impossible as the earliest we could get something was three to four weeks. We have too much scheduled to be happening between now and then for that option to work. In the end I went online to a marine supply store and ordered a whole new windlass which is due to arrive in the next 2-5 days. Hopefully sooner and not later. I won't tell you the cost of this little repair but it required several G&T's to get over the bill.






The Ugly

Again, this is a very short section but in the last week or so we experienced one of those ugly moments that can shake you up a bit. I consider Ugly in the sense that we risk injury to ourselves or significant damage to our boat or another. Normally ugly things occur when the weather is bad or in the middle of the night but in this case is was a beautiful sunny day. Our ugly story began when we decided to leave Brewer's Bay and motor around the corner to Charlotte Amalie in order to check in with customs and do some provisioning. This is a short 5 mile drive that was planned to take less than an hour. As we were travelling around the point (airport runway actually) our starboard propeller caught the line from a crab pot and started to make a loud banging noise. I immediately shutdown the engine and it was easy to see what had happened. We decided to continue on with the port engine and anchor in Charlotte Amalie as planned. Along the way we decided to hook onto a mooring ball and clear our starboard propeller before getting to the anchorage. This was a reasonable plan except this is where things got ugly. The ball we tried to tied up to wasn't a mooring ball but just a bouy in the water. As I tried to back away from the bouy the line that was still wrapped around our starboard shaft got tangled in our port shaft as well. At this point the engines would start but would stall as soon as they were put into gear. So now we were in a mooring field with many boats nearby and no engines. We were also in 45 feet of water which is very deep to anchor in for our boat which has 200 feet of chain. Don't forget we also had a windlass that was at this point working kind of funny but still operational (We hadn't determined it was toast yet). Anyway, the windlass worked well enough for us to get out 175 feet of chain and very fortunately got it to stop the boat before hitting anyone. Once we got stopped things were relatively stable so Debbie went into the water to start cutting the line away from the props. The starboard prop cleared very easily but it took Debbie and I taking turns in the water for about an hour to clear the port prop well enough to carry on. My now dead windlass worked well enough that day to allow us to retrieve our 175' of chain as well as anchor two more times after this incident before dying for good. Although I am not happy having to replace the windlass the old one managed to hang in there when we needed it the most so in my eyes it has died a hero despite costing us a small fortune to replace.



As mentioned, thankfully the ugly stuff doesn't happen very often but things can go bad quickly at anytime when on the water. SeaSparrow won't be moving again until the windlass is replaced as this piece of kit is too important for safety to not be working reliably.

There is too much to describe the good and bad parts of this cruising lifestyle in one short blog but hopefully these events over the last ten days or so onboard SeaSparrow can provide a sense of how we now live. Now we prepare for our next guests, Doug and Francine, as we will all chill for a bit longer in Brewer's Bay until the new windlass arrives. There are worst places to wait for a delivery.

Jeff


SeaSparrow Musical Selection - Alcohol and Pills - Fred Eaglesmith

SeaSparrow Season Four - The Year of the Dog

22 January 2017 | Culebra, Puerto Rico
Jeff/ Sunny 85F
Hello Folks,

It's been a while since we communicated via the ole blog but better late then never as they say, whoever "they" are. According the the Chinese zodiac 2017 is the year of the Rooster but not here in SeaSparrow as we are definitely operating under the year of the dog as the lead pic of our newest crew member, Piper, indicates. Those of you that have followed us throughout our previous seasons will remember our first dog crew member was Stella who began this sailing odyssey with us from day one but unfortunately passed away in the Bahamas due to cancer despite only being 2 years old. After that difficult blow we are now ready to try the dog on the boat thing again, which isn't something that should be taken lightly as a dog does add another level of complexity to boat life. Despite the potential difficulties we know Piper will add, we feel the benefits of having our beloved dog with us far outweigh the negatives. So far so good, well sort of.

To illustrate that having Piper with us this season will require some extra consideration we begin on the way to the airport in Halifax. Of course the day we want to leave, Sunday January 8th, just happened to coincide with Halifax's first real blizzard of the season. Being proactive we called Westjet on Saturday morning to check on the situation but were assured that since our flight was the first out on Sunday we would be fine. Despite that info and with the snow scheduled to really start Saturday evening, we decided to book a room at the airport hotel to eliminate the potential of bad roads screwing us up so all was good. On the way to the airport, as brother in law Mike was so graciously driving us, I decided to check the flights one more time and lo and behold Westjet had cancelled our Sunday morning flight. After the seemingly endless period on hold we finally got through to Westjet's customer service and were informed that yes the flight was cancelled and they would be sending out an email shortly telling me thus. The guy on the other end of the line seemed to think this would suffice however, unfortunately for him I didn't quite have the same view of the situation. After a very frank discussion mister customer service came around to my view of the situation and began doing his job, like you know Customer fu$#%ing Service.

The big problem in our case was that if we missed our connection out of Toronto to Puerto Rico on Sunday we would have to wait another 6 days for their next flight to PR. This was not good as many other plans were already in place for rental cars, Air BnB, the marina, etc. The thing that really pissed me off was Westjet didn't bother sending their planes down to Halifax from Toronto and that was the reason for the flight cancellation despite the fact at this point all other airlines were still flying. After about an hour of now more civilized talk with Mr. Customer Service, the impossible became possible and we got rebooked on an Air Canada flight on Saturday night. The drawback was the dog couldn't come with us and we would have to spend the night in Toronto in order to catch our flight to Puerto Rico on Sunday. After a short discussion Debbie and I decided to leave Piper behind and go on our own and figure out how to get the dog to Puerto Rico later. Mike thinking that one trip to the airport would rid himself the extra burden our sailing life put on him was not free and clear yet, as Piper went back to Mike and Wendy's until we sorted out our first doggie complication of the season.

Fortunately for us Debbie's friend Tina is a great sport and volunteered to transport Piper down to us in Puerto Rico the following Saturday. Due to airline regulation we couldn't just put Piper on the plane and send her to us, but rather someone had to accompany her on the flight. Tina was SeaSparrow's first guest in Season One. At that time I was still working and had to leave the boat to go to a meeting in Washington, so Tina came to keep Debbie company while the boat was tied up in Marineland, Florida. Once again Tina was coming to visit while the boat was tied up in a marina, this time Puerto Del Rey, Puerto Rico.

Puerto Del Rey is where we stored the boat at the end of last season and it is a mammoth operation with over a thousand wet slips and countless storage space for sail and power boats. Below is a panorama of the wet slip area as it is too big to fit into one normal picture.



In the end, the fact the dog was delayed in coming to the boat was a blessing in disguise as it eliminated one factor in trying to get the boat ready for the water. The inside of the boat survived very well again this year as there was minimal mold and no bad smells. The exterior was a different story to say the least. It seems our boat was the choice party spot of the birds around the boat storage area as can be seen in the pic below.



That is our normally clean cockpit and helm area after the birds partied on SeaSparrow for 7 months. If you are observant you will notice the little white thing which is the eggshell remnants of a hatching that took place God knows when. Although the boat was disgustingly dirty on the outside this is minor stuff that was rectified with a couple of days of heavy cleaning.

Dirt is an easy problem to solve, the real question that worries us when we return to the boat after an extended layup is which of our systems are still working? Boats are a funny thing in that although everything was working properly when you were last onboard things break even though no one has touched anything. After a week of hard labour I am pleased to say we were able to get everything onboard back up and running with minimal major issues. The biggest issue was the steering cable for our dinghy was seized and had to be replaced. After about a day of running around we managed to find a replacement and cable and get it installed correctly first time - a bit of a record whenever we do something for the first time.

The only other major issue that had to be dealt with related to our standing rigging. For those that don't know there are two types of rigging on a boat - running and standing. Running rigging are the halyards, line and sheets that are used to manage sails and need to be replaced on a fairly regular basis. Standing rigging consists of a series of steel cables that hold your mast up. A failure of this cabling system is catastrophic as the result is your mast falls over. Not a good scenario at anytime but when boats' demast it is usually at the worst time in rough seas and high winds. This event obviously creates major damage to the boat and can easily become life threatening. SeaSparrow is now over ten years old and that is the timeframe when a boat's standing rigging should be inspected to ensure a problem isn't lurking. People can be reluctant to have their rig fully inspected as this stuff is expensive - very expensive. In SeaSparrow's case, if the worst case result of the inspection occurred you are looking at around $12K to replace the entire standing rig. The problem comes when unscrupulous riggers tell boat owners that the entire rig needs to be replaced when in fact it doesn't. There are many stories of this occurring so as with any type of contractor work you need to get someone good and trustworthy. In our case we found just such a person in the form of "Quino" Sanchez. In the end we needed to replace two cables and add a couple of terminal extenders that permitted us to properly "tune" the rigging, which is a fancy way to say tighten. The rest of our rigging was deemed in good shape and we can now proceed with a much higher degree of confidence that SeaSparrow can handle what is thrown at her.



This is a pic of Quino and his apprentice Daniel working on our rigging. Appropriate picture of Quino as his phone rarely stops ringing which is a testament to the quality of his work and reputation. Quino and I got along very well during his work onboard as he is a big Patriots fan so we spent a long night together at the bar last weekend watching the football games. Quino may even make it to St Maarten this year and we have discussed putting SeaSparrow into the Heineken Regatta if he promises to sail with us as my right hand man - i.e. Quino whispers into my ear what to do as besides being a first class rigger, his real passion is racing and he has been flown around the world to race on other boats. Stayed tuned as the Heineken could be real interesting this year.

As always on SeaSparrow it is not all work and no play. Puerto Del Rey throws an annual party for boat owners and this isn't just a small get together. There are invites for about 1200 people and if you don't have one you don't get in. They construct something more than a tent and just less than a barn to hold the party complete with a pig roast, live bands and free drinks. Awesome party that must have cost a crazy amount of money but I guess that explains the high price of storage.





Following the party it was time to get down to business once again as we were back in the water on Friday, January 13th. Friday the 13th I know but all went well. We had final cleanup and system checks before we could leave the marina and one of those jobs was a rather dirty one of cleaning the bilges in each engine compartment. Normally this is one of my tasks but this year Debbie was keen to tackle this one so fully believing in equal rights for all I supported her in this endeavour by taking her picture. Save this one as I'm not sure she will be quite so keen next time.



We were able finish up with Quino on Wednesday the 25th and headed out of Puerto Del Rey on the 26th. After spending one night at Isla Palominos we made our way to Culebra where we are now anchored. This is one of our favourite spots and the weather has been beautiful - blue skies, light breeze, 85-90F. We managed to actually move the boat while Tina was onboard however, she has returned to the mainland via ferry today and will return home to Halifax on Tuesday morning. Tina was a great help in getting our "Year of the Dog" underway and of course she experienced the beanbag drink and photo before departing.



It has been a busy couple of weeks since we left so it is hard to capture everything in one blog. Piper has been doing great and has adapted well to the boat so far. She's been in for a swim most days and is losing the "What the Hell Are You Doing to Me" look that was very evident in the beginning. We plan to spend a few more days in Culebra then on to the USVI's, BVI's, St Maarten for Heineken Race Week, and Antigua for their Race Week and the Classic Race Week. We have many guests planned as we head east so it will be a busy Year of the Dog in SeaSparrow.

A final shot of the dog's life as it now exists.



Jeff


SeaSparrow Musical Selection - Brave L'il Fighter - JJ Grey and the Mofro

Coming To America - VI Style

02 May 2016 | Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, USVI
Jeff/ Cloudy 85F
Hello Folks,

America in the Caribbean - it exists; sort of. Following our rather full visit to the BVI's, we headed over to the United States Virgin Islands (USVIs) to meet friends Peggy and Sebastien. Hard to believe that was like a month ago so what the hell have we been doing? A little of this and that and quite a bit of nothing, which is very nice for a change. We'll get to this in a bit but a little history/info first.

The USVIs consist of three main islands - St Thomas, St John and St Croix plus some other smaller bits of land. Bonus points for those who can identify each of the flags in the lead photo. One is pretty obvious, the second should be obvious based upon where we are located, but what is the red and white one? That my friends is the flag of the fine country of Denmark, who by the way used to own these islands now called the USVIs. St Thomas, St Croix and St John became Danish colonies in 1754 and things were going along fine in terms of economics until the end of the slave trade. After that the islands became a bit of burden on the Danes and they became interested in selling. The US tried a couple of times without success but fears of German submarines setting up shop in WW1 pushed things along. The US bought the islands from the Danes in 1916 under the Treaty of the Danish West Indies. The cost was 25 million in gold coin which works out to about a ½ billion today. Those Americans were capitalists and opportunists right from the beginning.

So where does that leave the folks from these islands in terms of statehood - American, Virgin Islanders, Caribbean??? To be honest I am not sure but a quick check on Wikipedia refers to the USVIs as an "insular area of the United States" while the UN calls them a "non-self governing territory" and "an organized unincorporated territory of the United States." Clear as mud. They are organized based upon a US act from 1954 which was supposed to be temporary until they put their own constitution in place. As Canadians we know full well that constitution thing can get a little tricky and here the USVIs are in 2016 and five constitution conferences later with no constitution. It is all a bit confusing to me but the bottom line as I see things is people here in the USVI do not get to vote in US elections, but they are more than welcome to fight and die for their sort of country. Politics...

OK back to the world of SeaSparrow where no such constitutional crisis exists - I'm Captain, Debbie is the Admiral. As mentioned we came to the USVIs to meet our last guests of the season, Peggy and Sebastien, who were also trying to escape the always lingering Winter that consumes most of Spring back home in Nova Scotia. We met up with Peggy and Seb in Charlotte Amalie (pronounced "a-maul-li-a") and spent a day or two checking the town out. Charlotte Amalie is on the island of St Thomas and is the capital and largest city in the USVIs. It is the closest thing to home in the Caribbean in terms of hustle bustle and access to anything you need. All the fast foodies are here as are Home Depot and K-Mart, etc. It's great in terms of convenience of provisioning anything the boat may need, as well as access to bars and restaurants. The major drawback is the noise and rushed life that we haven't seen anywhere else we have travelled. Sirens and impatient drivers honking horns are the norm here in Charlotte Amalie. Our first day with Peggy and Seb we decided to go the grocery store in the morning but had a hard time staying focused with several distractions along the way.





We did eventually get to the grocery store but by that time Peggy was totally distracted in her new environment and sort of forgot about the bread and eggs bit for other staples.



Somehow the boat did get stocked and we headed out for our trip around the VIs. Our first couple of nights we went looking for some peace and quiet that would also allow some snorkelling and swimming. We went to a small island called Buck Island for the first night and looked for turtles as well as an old ship wreck.

Putting Seb to work





We did spot lots of turtles but couldn't quite capture a clear pic this trip but here is a photo to make it seem like we got a good shot. (photo credit to Gael Mac).



After a second night in an isolated bay we basically had to ourselves, we spent a night anchored in Megan's Bay which has an awesome beach some refer to as one of the ten best in the world. I think we all agreed the ten best thing was a bit of a stretch but it was beautiful and we were able to swim ashore from the boat to the beach bar for a great beach day with food and drink.



Following our time at Megan's Bay we headed back to Charlotte Amalie so that Peggy and Seb could catch their flight home after an all too short visit onboard SeaSparrow. Before leaving however we did mange to find a very interesting concept in rum bars called Bones. Bones is a rum produced in the USVIs and they have a store on the main street of Charlotte Amalie that advertises "Free Sample" and "Pour your own rum" drinks. Sounded too good to be true but we thought it best to check it out so that we could protect others in case this was a scam of some sort. The details are a bit fuzzy but the advertisement was quite accurate and we managed to somehow get permission to keep topping up our drinks with rum as they went down and still call it the same drink. The dangerous effect of this pour your own drink approach (at least for Seb and I) is that the "drink" gets progressively stronger as time wears on until basically we are adding rum to rum in a never empty glass. I don't think this is what the owner had in mind with his advertisement but the bartender seemed OK with this as she was telling Debbie and Peggy her life story and boyfriend problems. Seb and I quickly lost interest in the boyfriend and maintained our concentration in never allowing our one drink get to the bottom of the glass.





To show that we did actually get out and site see a bit of Charlotte Amalie here are some pics of the area.

View of the harbour



Climbing the 99 steps



To get to Blackbeards Castle, which was closed so our pic is through the fence.



Love the daycare system on this island.



Also let us not forget the mandatory beanbag pictures with our guests.



Since Peggy and Sebastien's departure Debbie and I have been doing something we rarely if ever do - nothing. We have been relaxing as we are not in a rush to get somewhere or do something. To say we have done nothing isn't quite accurate as we have tackled a few boat jobs and have started the process of getting ready for hauling out and storage. We have stayed in Charlotte Amalie for the most part but this is a noisy place at the best of times and crazy loud when Carnival is on as was the case for the last week or so. Carnival actually went on for the whole month of April but the last week saw the bands setup and play loud music until 2 or 3 in the morning every night. In an effort to get some sleep we moved a couple of miles away to Water Island and found a great anchorage that again we had to ourselves. It was within walking distance to another bay that had a beautiful beach and lots of great people who basically anchor in the bay all year. We are now back at Charlotte Amalie to provision one more time before leaving tomorrow for the Spanish Virgin Islands - Culebra and Vieques. Following that we will make our way to Puerto Del Rey Marina by the 16th of May, haul out on the 17th and be home on the 22nd. See you all soon and save a lobster (the real ones with claws) for us.


Jeff

SeaSparrow Blog Musical Selection - Tennessee Waltz - Bonnie Raitt and Nora Jones
Vessel Name: SeaSparrow
Vessel Make/Model: Leopard 40 Catamaran
Hailing Port: Halifax, Nova Scotia
Crew: Jeff and Debbie
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