07/12/2012, 18 03.98'N:63 05.37'W
We left the very pleasant anchorage off Eustatia Island at noon on Wednesday (7/11) for St Martin. Beyond the charter boats that would come in, anchor and hang out for a few hours before leaving, it was a very pleasant place to stay. With Ryan & Olivia on SeaUs, we had freshly hunted (speared) fish and fresh conch. The water was beautiful and there was a nearby (1/2 mile) deserted beach for walking Windy. But we had an excellent weather window, so knew it was time to leave.
After motoring out of the anchorage and across the shallow bank of the BVIs, we hoisted the main and turned for St Martin. Because of the highly unusual wind direction (from 70 degrees at 15+ mph) we could actually head straight for St Martin and sail the whole way without needing to tack. I was expecting a good sail across the Anegada Passage - one of our longer off-shore passages (about 85 miles). Considering all the motoring we had up to this point, this weather was a major plus!
Less than 15 miles out of Virgin Gorda, shortly after getting the main up and driving the boat, there was a sound like a gun shot. I quickly realized that the inner side-stay on the port side had broken! The main sail was on the starboard side with only the outer side stay holding the mast up. The side stays are stainless steel cables that support the mast with an inner & outer one on each side. We immediately turned into the wind & dropped the main. With the jib still up, the mast was vibrating slightly side to side, so the jib was hauled in as well. Using some line and a couple of blocks I was able to rig up a temporary fix that stabilized the mast. We were able then to use the jib - I did not dare to put up the main. Unfortunately, we could also not point as closely into the wind, so were sailing/motoring about 10 degrees off our intended course. Once it got dark we hauled in on the jib started the 2nd engine and motored the remaining 50 miles. With 6'-7' swells and some wind chop on top and no sails to moderate the rolling, it was not a real comfortable ride during the night. However, about 15-20 miles out we started to feel the land effects from Anguilla & St Martin as they reduced the waves significantly.
We came into Bay de Marigot and dropped anchor in the midst of numerous other boats before 8 am. After a much needed nap we took Windy ashore & went to Immigration to check in. Found out the officer was a Green Bay Packers fan! We wandered around Marigot, which seems to be mostly stores & restaurants. So we shopped a bit, splurged a little and checked things out. I found out where to ask about getting the side stay fixed/replaced and will do that in the morning.
The nice bit about this is that we are now in the Leeward islands. From here, we should be able to sail most the way south and (hopefully) won't need to motor/beat directly into the wind & seas for our trip to Grenada.
07/09/2012, 18 30.53'N:64 21.78'W
We left Peter Island on Thursday and sailed to Virgin Gorda and The Baths. We were tacking against the wind up the Drake Passage, but made good time for the 10 miles between them. The Baths is an amazing area where it looks like huge boulders were casually strewn across the beach. There are trails around, over and under these massive rocks that make for delightful exploration when going between one pristine beach and another. Once we were done exploring and after having lunch at a small outdoor (covered) food stand we headed back to the boat and moved 2 miles further east to an anchorage. There are lots of mooring balls at The Baths but overnight mooring is not allowed. A park ranger pointed out to us that there is a theoretical time limit of 90 minutes for the moorings - they don't enforce that in the off-season however. While we saw maybe 100+ people in the whole area, the ranger said that in the winter there would be over 500 people there at any time!
Friday morning we topped up our fuel, picked up some groceries and headed east again. We were planning on going to North Sound in Virgin Gorda, which is a rather large bay that has several marinas & anchorages scattered around it. Looking at the chart with Ryan & Olivia (on SeaUs), we decided on a slight modification. We sailed up the Drake Passage - still tacking but much of the time doing 8+ mph. Instead of entering North Sound, we went past it to Eustatia Sound and anchored behind Eustatia Island. The Sound is very shallow in spots and has coral heads scattered all around. Consequently there is very little boat traffic. Adding to that, there are no facilities and Eustatia Island is private - so no landing on the island. Fortunately, Virgin Gorda is 1/4 mile away, so I can take Windy ashore there.
We anchored close to a long reef area that extends off the north side of the island. So yesterday (Saturday) afternoon we took SeaUs's inflatable dinghy out to the reef and went hunting. We (Ryan mostly) ended up with 3 large fish & a couple smaller ones. There were a LOT more that I went after and missed. Spearguns are not allowed in the BVIs, so were had to use pole spears. It's extremely difficult even to get within range of larger fish with a 5' spear! I also saw a baby turtle (maybe a foot across) and a couple reef sharks (about 5' long).
We may stay here a couple more days as the fishing (hunting) is pretty good, it's a nice anchorage (no bugs!) and we need to prepare for our next leg. From here we head to St Martin, which is about 80 nm (close to 100 statute miles) and will probably take 20 hours or more - depending upon the wind. The forecast from yesterday predicts that the winds should swing around Wed to give us a better sailing angle as this is mostly an easterly leg.
Yesterday I spent a couple hours snorkeling around the boat & collected 4 large conch. I initially went into the water to check the anchor & then noticed all these conch scattered around the bottom. It took me most of the rest of the day to get them out of the shells & then cleaned. Last night I fixed them up - very tasty (if chewy).
Just a couple miles away is Necker Island, which is wholly owned by Richard Branson (of Virgin Everything). It has a recognized anchorage close to it and is surrounded by reefs. We were thinking of taking Inspiration over there to anchor for the day and hitting those reefs while we wait for the weather.
07/05/2012, Peter Island, BVI's
The most important thing that I have learned on this voyage is patience. Things do not happen as fast as they do in Florida.
The places we have been are beautiful. The people that we have met have been very helpful. Cruisers will go out of their way to help other cruisers. We have been rescued more than once in situations that could have been dangerous if we had not gotten help.
We have had all kinds of dingy problems and other cruisers have helped us get Windy to shore. Sea Us, Olivia and Ryan spent 3 days giving us rides to shore when the prop broke on dingy motor.
I have been cooking! Surprise surprise! For breakfast we have potatoes and scrambled eggs or French toast or oatmeal. When I try to make pancakes there is a lot of swearing coming from the galley.
For lunches I make grilled cheese, peanut butter or tuna sandwiches. If we are going to shore we usually have lunch where we are getting internet.
For dinners we have been having pasta or rice or Mac and Cheese with canned ham, tuna, or chicken. Or we might have soup. We bought several Annies Mac and Cheese before we left and we are running low. Although the stores have regular Mac and Cheese, I only found Annies one place and it was $6.50. I just could not pay that.
I have muffin mix and I have been burning the bottoms and the tops are fine. I told Gary that people pay extra for muffin tops. Since Carol Meeds was the only one ever to use the oven, I am still learning. We are looking for a new temperature gauge because I am not sure we are getting an accurate reading. Yesterday, I was able to make banana muffins without burning them.
Groceries are much more expensive because I no longer get things two for one at Publix.
Because we are having problems with the wind generator, we do not have refrigeration. We sometimes can get ice to keep things cold. When we are motoring and if we have ice to cool down the refrige we can run it while we are motoring.
There are lots more packages of rice a roni and pasta type packages in the stores than I expected. I am happy because I am not that good at making these from scratch.
I lost 10 pounds when I got on the boat. We are definitely eating less. I am not getting as much exercise.
When we were in Calebra, Spanish Virgin Islands , we found a great place to snorkel. The fish were colorful and plentiful.
There are times when I am scared. Thankfully those are usually temporary situations.
We are now at Peter Island in the British Virgin Islands. We have seen several big turtles around the boats.
Windy still will not use the boat as her bathroom. We are in the British Virgin Islands and she is not allowed off the boat. We even had Bo her boyfriend from Sea Us go on the trampoline and she still would not go. There are times when it is dangerous conditions to get to shore so we are still working on it.
The picture was taken from shore as we took shelter from a sudden squall that swept through.
07/04/2012, British Virgin Islands
After getting some supplies & food - fruits & veggies and eggs, we hauled anchor and headed out of Road Town Harbor. Our destination was Peter Island, about 4 miles across the Drake Passage from Tortola. We came into a nice little bay that SeaUs had told us about - called Deadman's Bay. There is a large hotel building on one hill that has wifi that beams out over the bay (& the beach where there are tiki huts & lounge chairs). We had wind with us, so we unfurled the jib and sailed across once we were clear of the harbor.
The water is crystal clear and there are some quite large turtles that hang out in the bay. While the hills do block some of the wind there is still a good breeze coming through the boat, so it's very comfortable sitting here. The water is nice enough that it's comfortable for swimming & snorkeling. Immediately next to Peter Island is Dead Chest Island. Supposedly, Blackbeard marooned 15 of his crew on the island with nothing but their sea chests & a b ottle of rum - hence the rhyme, "Fifteen men on a dead man's chest, yo ho ho and a bottle of rum."
It's a bit windy & wavey today as a tropical wave is moving through. We hope to take the dinghy over to Dead Chest Island tomorrow for some snorkeling. That's the island in the picture, taken from Inspiration
07/03/2012, 18 25.028'N:64 36.97'W
We left St John for Tortola, BVIs (British Virgin Islands) and got in to Road Town 4 hours later. We cleared in on Monday, only to find it it was a holiday. So we paid almost twice what we were expecting. Still, it was only $36 so much better than most elsewhere. We reconnected with Ryan & Olivia from SeaUs - it turns out Ryan had some type of intestinal infection & not appendicitis. He did stay in the hospital for 2 days, hooked up to an IV & getting antibiotics and he's doing fine now. We're heading to Peter Island this afternoon where we may be able to get wifi from the boat (so I can post some pictures).
The big problem with the BVIs is that they don't like dogs. So I need to smuggle Windy to shore.
The picture is of the houses on one of the hills surrounding Road Town Harbor in Tortola.
06/30/2012, 18 20.57'N:64 42.84'W
We left the American Yacht Harbor marina this morning bound for St John, which is only 4 miles away. Except that we headed towards the very east end of St John, making it a 14 mile journey. The last quarter we were even able to shut down engines & sail.
It was nice being in a marina, but it gets expensive fast. With stores and a multitude of restaurants / bars in the immediate area, it's easy to spend money. We took a "dollar taxi" about 5 miles to a supermarket to do some basic provisioning. This is a truck with a flatbed that has seats & a metal roof over open sides. You stand at the curb & point down (at the street) as one approaches & the driver stops. Yell when you want to get off & then pay $1. But as they only go 1-way (in a big loop around the island), we got a cab for the trip back. If we had more time, it would be fun to hop on & just do the whole loop.
However, we had a forecast for good wind for moving on Saturday with Sunday being not as good and Monday/Tuesday worse. We also got a message that Ryan (from SeaUs) was in the hospital in Tortola (British VIs) with a possible appendicitis. One problem is that he & Olivia have a BIG dog and she can't easily leave the dog by himself on the boat. So we decided to head for Tortola as fast as possible to help out however we can.
But right now we're in Coral Harbor (in Coral Bay) at the east end of St John. St John is largely a national park and is a beautiful island. St Thomas has buildings everywhere - even where you wouldn't think they could put a building. St John has hillsides and (small) mountains without a trace of a building. The harbor/bay we're in is between 1/2 & 3/4 mile wide and about a mile long. And filled with boats, so we ended up motoring between boats & mooring balls until we found someplace open to drop anchor. However, it's a nice, comfortable anchorage and most the boats around us seem to be vacant.
The cruising guide talked about a place here called 'Skinny Legs' as did our friend Paul. We found it just off the dinghy dock & it's a bar right out of the 60's-70's. Back on the boat, there was a bar on the bay near us that had a live band. So we had good, live rock & roll being played until midnight.
It's now quiet, there's a nice breeze blowing making it comfortably cool & bug-free. Looking at the surrounding hills, there is a scattering of house lights and lights illuminating a roads running around the bay and over the closet hill. Somewhere a dark barks as small waves splash against the hull & gently rock the boat. There's a sense of peacefulness in places like this on the water that just can't be experienced on land.
Tomorrow we head for Road Town, Tortola and search for SeaUs. As there are a multitude of sailboat charter companies there, I'll also look for a used kayak to replace ours.
The picture is of the SE point of St John that we rounded to head north along the east coast to Coral Bay.