08/17/2010, St. Thomas, USVI
Dawn our diminutive but dynamite diving buddy from Belize and the Bahamas has arrived and gone. A whirlwind week of diving, partying, diving, shoping, diving...! After picking her up in St. Thomas we proceeded to go out to Christmas Cove, at Greater St. James Island for a shakedown dive and a welcome to the islands beverage.
Don wanted to checkout our gear that hasn't seen the light of day since the Turks and Caicos and to see if our compressor still remembers how to work. Here in the USVI all the easily accessible dive spots are relatively shallow so free diving and snorkeling has been our focus, hense our gear is a little lonely. Luckily between the two of us Dawn and I had one dive computer and one depth gauge functioning as well as all our other gear in working order, yahoo all set!
As usual Captain Don kept us well fed and happy, a big breakfast everyday, so luckily swimming and diving were not only enjoyable but a necessity. Anybody who has been onboard the Starship knows the Captain puts on a good spread!
Dawn and I also took a dive trip with Coki Beach Dive Club and had a great time with divemasters Pete and Brian. The first dive the current was wicked but things quickly improved and we spied many colorful reef fish and a coral munching nurse shark. Gliding through canyons and arches, multiple fan coral and sponges, schools of tarpon and a few rays all left me bemoaning the fact that my underwater camara had no film!!! I think Santa needs to bring me a digital one this year, hint...hint. The crew of the diveboat enjoyed my friend Dawn's visit as well I think!
The need to reprovision and get more ice, sent us into Cruz Bay on St. Johns. The iguanas there are quite friendly and plentiful. This guy posed patiently and was very uncurious about us.
After a couple of more dives we headed to Charlotte Amalie, the second busiest cruiseship port in the Caribbean. The largest cruiseship in the world was in port when we arrived, Oasis of the Sea, as well as three others and this is the off season!
Our boat looks mighty small compared to these floating cities. Can you see it?
On her last day Dawn and I did what everyone else in port was doing, shop for bling!
08/11/2010, St. John, USVI
Hurricane season again and we are still in the USVI and Puerto Rico area. A three month hiatus from the boat in the USA for Darci's graduation and an apartment remodel has left us with a renewed love for our lifestyle and blessed lack of television. Darci's graduation from college was so exciting and we are so proud of her. Now ...job, work, send money...!!
We were lucky to find an awesome boat sitter in Deya and the Starship is in great shape after our long absence. After a few weeks of minor repair work, demolding of all surfaces, and mowing off the artificial reef that has accumulated on our hulls Don and I are ready for the first wave of guests. Why do guests always want to come during hurricane season? Nothing brewing out there right now but the weather gods are ramping up so we will see....
Sally and John are old friends of Don's from the SF Bay Area that he hasn't seen in many a year. Sally was the best "man" at our wedding in Hawaii and John and I are meeting for the first time, lots of talk story and catching up to do. John's kids and grandkids were here in St. John on vacation as well so we stuck to the circumnavigation of the national park island with its fabulous snorkeling and beautiful pristine beaches.
It has been awhile since the Starship hosted wee ones, and the boys Jonah and Ethan kept us all on our toes. New to snorkeling they loved spying all the variety of reef fish, manta rays, and occasional turtle, a real-life "Finding Nemo" experience at Watermelon Cay. And of course the boat is the ultimate "fort" so hide and seek was a must. I think we were successful in wearing them out, the nets make for great napping.
After a quick am swim we motored (wind?? What wind??), around to the south side of the island of St. John. Remote and uninhabited, the inlets and anchorages here are a step back in time. No internet, no phone, no ICE!! The crew had a quick stop for lunch at Skinny Legs in Cruz Bay (thanks Grandpa!) and then another three miles to Salt Pond.
Hiking the arid and rocky Ram's Head Bluff and the steamy trail to the Petroglyphs, viewing the old abandoned plantation Sugar Mill, and snorkeling the point at Salt Pond were the highlights of our week. We even had the reward of a juvenile nurse shark spotting on the last snorkel of the day.
Sharing the quiet anchorage of Salt Pond with our friend John on Buddy was a nice treat, he knows the names of ALL the fish on the reef!Unfortunately, the pre-sundown no-see-ums that found their way over the water due to the lack of wind forced us to have extra rum that night!
St John and the Virgin Islands has been our cruising grounds for the last year and will be remembered as one of our all time favorites. Where else can you take an 8am swim in crystal clear water, peruse the internet for weather and mindless info without stepping ashore, indulge in a gourmet breakfast prepared by the captain, hike Pre-Columbian petroglyphs by noon, have a Bahama Mama in the five star Westin Resort pool at happy hour, AND take a fresh water shower with all the water you want at the poolside shower? Boater heaven!
05/16/2010, Beaufort, South Carolina
Don, Daisy dog and I have returned to the U.S. for a few months in anticipation of our daughter Darci's graduation from SCAD in beautiful Savannah, Georgia. We are so proud of her and have linked her blog so anyone interested can see her amazing work. She recently found out one of her pieces will be on display in the Library of Congress and we know she has a bright future ahead!
While we are here, in order to make the most of our time on land, Don is doing a remodel on one of our apartments in Beaufort, South Carolina, about an hour drive north of Savannah. Being the builder that he is Don can't seem to go too long without the fine dust of sheetrock and smell of fresh paint filling in the air! As usual I am the laborer, painter, errand runner and today, after my twentieth trip in as many days, desperately wishing we had bought stock in Lowes.
Beaufort is a beautiful southern town on the Intercoastal Waterway. This is where the historical Articles of Secession papers were drafted by Edward Rhett in 1844 which eventually led to the American Civil War. Miraculously Beaufort survived the Civil War due to its strategic location on the Beaufort River and the Union Army's use of its many gorgeous homes as hospitals during the occupation. When the Starship returned to the states in 2005 after five years abroad this is where we landed. The incredible natural beauty of the marshes, wonderfully restored and intact historic mansions, and the famous hospitality of the south made it a delightful and picturesque home away from home experience for us.
Huge live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, chirping cicadas, and the heavy perfume of jasmine and honeysuckle all brought to mind a long ago era that we West-coasters had never experienced. Here we learned quickly you had to order your ice tea unsweetened if you are not extremely partial to sugar, that grits are best mixed in with your scrambled eggs, and macaroni and cheese is considered a vegetable. For us health conscious most of the time vegetarians, the southern adage "If its not fried set it aside" took some getting use to and introduced us to the delightful discovery that fried okra is manna from the gods.
Considered the "Most Romantic City in the East" by Life Magazine and "Best Small Town" by Southern Living, don't forget NOT to stand up when you take that sight-seeing carriage ride!
03/31/2010, British Virgin Islands
The Starship has returned to the US Virgin Islands for a few days to do some much needed reprovisioning, laundry, water refill, and other general housekeeping duties that are difficult to do in the picturesque but expensive British Virgin Islands. We are expecting back to back company visits from family and friends so it is well worth the public transit system of two dollars to the center of the island and a reasonably affordable market. The open safari trucks that are used as people movers provide not only natural air-conditioning but unlimited views of the beautiful scenery and local island life. Roadside lunch trucks with their delicious aromas of ribs and peas and rice, resident domino players occupying any available shade, and children neatly uniformed in bright pink plaid traveling to and from school, all delightful glimpses of the interior life away from the economically necessary tourist resorts and cruise ships.
Don's son Shawn from Lake Tahoe surprised us with a last minute visit before the spring semester, and after a few last minute shopping trips (more beer!) we headed back to Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands. Shawn wanted to try out kite-boarding while he was here and the trade winds were not cooperating. Instead of blowing the usual 15-18 knots out of the east the mosquitoes were enjoying the easy 8-10 knot ride out across the water and into our hatches. Kite-boarding we were told requires steady trade winds and the weatherman promised it would be coming in a few days so we took a leisurely motor sail thru the islands back up to Virgin Gorda, sampling beaches and cool water along the way.
Virgin Gorda is a major kite-boarding mecca for the British Virgin Islands due to its relatively shallow east facing sound completely protected by reef from the ocean swells. At the Bitter End Yacht Club Shawn met up with a local instructor and secured some lessons for the next morning when supposedly the wind would be blowing. After two days of barely rideable winds, one broken down chase boat, and a very pink tan Shawn finally rode the wind successfully and I fear will now have a new expensive hobby. Back in Lake Tahoe a wetsuit is mandatory for kite-riders and Shawn emphatically states he will be visiting us again this summer!
03/15/2010, Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands
Nearing the end of our visas Don and I stopped in White Bay, Guana Island for the night. Private and deserted we had only this mega sailing yacht for company. Possibly our next boat in our next life? As we headed to the island of Jost Van Dyke we passed a small fishing boat headed out to sea with a load of empty lobster traps. No wonder our lobster hunts have been so unsuccessful. Must go deeper!
Jost Van Dyke is one of our favorite islands, dry and arid, a combination of mangroves and cactus, numerous birds, and bugs of course. It seems where there are mangroves and birds there are always bugs. Goat is on the menu at Foxy's Taboo on the beach along with hamburgers and hand thrown pizza. We would have opted for the goat as we know they are wild and hormone free, we can hear them every morning and evening from our boat on almost every island we have been to in the BVI. Delicious and the local specialty, goat roti has become one of our favorites!
03/10/2010, Road Harbour, Tortola
In need of FedEx to send off our taxes we sailed downwind at a blazing 3-4 knots to Trellis Bay on the main island of Tortola. There we picked up a mooring ball and rented a car, a real car, and reminded ourselves to drive on the left. No pub crawl today. Tortola is the main hub of the BVI, it's where the airport is, the cruise ship dock, and the only grocery store of any merit.
After asking directions from three different locals for FedEx in Road Harbour, all of which involved a large banyan tree that we never found, our taxes finally were on their way. A little sight seeing was in order and Nanny Cay Marina was our destination where Don surveyed a boat for a friend of ours from Canada looking to go cruising. He loves boatyards so any excuse to go and look at boats in the dirt or in the water will do.
We squeezed in a little more sight seeing and incredible panoramic views of White Bay, Guana Island before returning to the boat for the night. Back in Trellis Bay where there is no town or market to speak of for miles, but the Loose Mongoose beach bar in front of our boat had a wind down cold Red Stripe waiting for us and fast wireless internet. "What a fantastic modern age we live in!"