Koinonia II has new owners
05 May 2014
Well I guess it wasi bound to happen Koinonia II has found some new owners...
Bitter sweet, but I think she will be well taken care of and it is my hope she serves and takes care of the new owners as well as she has for the Gilbert family and guests.
Koinonia II will be renamed to Carolina Girl with the home port of Beaufort, South Carolina. Watch for her and the new owners as they begin their retirement life cruising the East coast and eventually the Caribbean...Oh what a life!
04 June 2013 | Jacksonville, Florida
Linda and I were planning to depart Nassau first thing Sunday morning June 2 with the option to spend the night in a Berry island anchorage or continue on to the West End of Grand Bahama island before crossing to Florida. However, the weather update Saturday morning showed a weather window that was going to be tight unless we left ASAP. So within a matter of hours we readied the boat and ourselves to make our last passage to Home!
With our early afternoon departure, we arrived at the first anchorage option after dark, which we passed up. As forecasted, this weather window was proven to be much drier after a week of wet weather albeit with lighter winds requiring motor sailing to make distance at a 5 VMG to assure making it to Florida before the weather turned bad.
As we moved closer to the West End, we decided to forego more fuel and rest at marina to get across to Florida. This meant an extra night at sea for Linda making for her longest passage to date. Our float plan called for entering Florida at the Ft. Pierce inlet and heading north in the intracoastal waterway to visit our good friends the Lamberts, in Melbourne Florida. We were looking forward to this visit, even though it meant an extra 4 days getting home on the intracoastal waterway. However, as we tried to kill time in the Gulf Stream waiting for daylight to enter, we had a hard time staying south of the inlet and had to point our boat way south towards Miami. Furthermore, we were picking up NOAA weather forecast calling for bad weather out of the gulf in 2 days, but still unpredictable where it would head. So, we decided to just take advantage of the northern flow of the Gulf Stream and head for Jacksonville, even though it meant another night at sea.
We made good time and made it to north Florida approximately 30 miles off St. Augustine as the sun was setting for Linda's third night at sea. However, the NOAA forecast was reporting severe afternoon thunderstorms heading offshore near Jacksonville. Reports indicated the storm cells were heading northeast. Unfortunately, the weather became more widespread and began to close in on our location! As the skies became darker in front of us, we kept changing our course towards the lighter skies. Eventually we were heading due south away from Jacksonville. Finally the weather caught up with us and we had no other choice but to head directly into it. We rolled in all the sails and secured any loose items. The seas got rough, the wind got high and we set the boat speed and course for the most comfort possible. We could not see 10 ft. In front of us and we just hung on in the cockpit as lightning was occurring as close as a 1/4 mile away. This lasted for about 30 minutes until we broke into the other side. After another 10 minutes or so, the seas calmed down and the skies began to clear and we were back on course for the St. John's river and home!
Linda returns to crew in Bahamas
17 May 2013 | Georgetown, Exumas, Bahamas
With Koinonia anchored off of Stocking island, one mile from the dinghy dock in Victoria Lake, Geoegetown, and the wind blowing 15 to 20 knots, I headed to the airport to meet Linda upon her arrival back to Koinonia after a month of shore leave!
Linda spent the night before her 6:00 am departure in the Jacksonville International airport. She flew first to Miami where she boarded Bahamas Air for her arrival in Nassau Bahamas where after 6 hours she changed to a puddle jumper that first took her to Rock Sound and then on to Georgetown where I met her waiting on her luggage. After she picked up her normal carry on bag, we discovered her main luggage was no where to be found. After filling a missing luggage report, Linda discovered that she was suppose to pull her luggage in Nassau and personally take it through customs and then recheck it, despite being told that the bag was going to be checked all the way to Georgetown. We located the luggage, but had to return the next day to get it. Oh well, it was just another $40 taxi ride!
Linda says it was just as well, because the one mile dinghy ride back to the boat was against the wind and waves and was a wet ride. The next day her luggage had a drier dinghy ride.
While in Georgetown, we joined fellow cruisers at the Chat 'n Chill volleyball beach to play what else, some volleyball. We had a great time, but it was time to head northwest toward home while exploring the Exumas.
Email from Charlene and Jerry Holland
15 May 2013 | Yuma, Arizona
How can we ever thank you for the lifetime dream we spent with you. It exceeded anything we could have dreamed of. The sailing was specticular and just stellar. Wonderful memories forever and we enjoyed getting to know you and appreciate you in ways we had not experienced before.
Truly, Don, you are a masterful sailor. Getting out of that slip in St. Kitts was was remarkable. Linda is such a great 1st mate and you compliment each other so well.. As you near your completion of a lifelong dream, i know it is bittersweet but with the upcoming wedding things will be really busy. I hope you had a wonderful time with your girls when they joined you. Nice to have them one at a time. Really excited about the engagement. We will continue to pray for your girls and the choices before them..
Praying that God will give you jobs that will continue you to provide all your needs and many desires too. It is such a privilege to know you better and get to be a part of your lives, esp thru praying for your family. Sarah is doing well.. Baby due Aug 1st. keep in touch and remember we love you and cherish the caribbean memories.
The other night on Househunters on HGTV, they were in Antigua. They showed so much of what we saw and they were at Shirley's heights at night for the party. It was neat and to think we were there and saw the beautiful sunset and Antigua from a mountain top at night. Specticular. Gods blessings to you and yours. It has hit 110 degrees for the past several days. ugh!!!
Quick Update synopsis
09 May 2013 | Many islands
How many islands are there in the world? Of course, the answer would depend on your definition of an island, but one source estimates over 180,000 islands. Now I have seen many islands, but no where near that amount, however, I can believe that estimate!
Linda returned home April 17th with her mom, and Rick Elbracht got on board to participate in this odyssey of mine. After a quick introduction tour of the Virgin Islands (see the post on my Virgin Island perspective) Rick and I set sail for Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgin Islands. After arriving in the Spanish Virgin Islands, I realized how crowded the BVIs were due to the large charter bases. We did enjoy one small town and anchorage with fellow cruisers, but we had plenty of space between us. In our subsequent anchorages, however, we were either alone or essentially alone. One such anchorage was a highly publicized bioluminescent bay with a high concentration of these strange sea creatures. That night, I swam around in the glowing soup of the water. It was cool and I got the tee shirt!
After seeing the best of the Spanish Virgin Islands, we headed to the mainland where we anchored off a small resort island one mile from the mainland coast. Due to the lack of Internet, we had not gotten any weather updates in a while, so it was of much interest to find a low pressure system forecasted to settle in over Puerto Rico and Hispaniola in 3 to 5 days lasting for at least 3 days. Rick and I decided to leave the next day for a 350 mile sail up to the Turk and Caicos and then the Bahamas.
Before our departure, we decided to provision groceries. So we took our dinghy over to the resort island where we caught the ferry to the mainland. We found a taxi driver willing to drive us the 4 miles to the grocery store and wait on us while we blazed through the aisles of the store and then get us back to the ferry dock before the weather got ugly. We did it and made it back to the boat with enough groceries for a week.
We set sail the next day to the Turk and Caicos. Since we did not have a cruising guide for these islands, I got on the SSB radio and checked in to the Caribbean net which they call the "Coconut Telegraph" where some fellow cruisers convinced us we did not want to go there due to the exhorts, entry fee and mass resort construction. So we opted to skip them and go the extra hundred miles to Mayaguana, Bahamas where we checked in.
My Virgin island perspective
20 April 2013
The Virgin Islands is a collection of islands owned by the US and the British. Additionally, there are also the Spanish Virgin Islands as part of the US territory of Puerto Rico. The Virgin Islands can be thought of as a string of islands that run east to west with the Sir Francis Drake channel running down the middle of them. The only two exceptions are the islands of British Anegada, 15 miles northeast of Virgin Gorda, and US St. Croix, about 30 miles south of St. John. Excluding these two islands, the distance from one end to the other is 42 miles. However, most of the cruising experience takes place within a 20 mile run. This compact cruising ground makes for some easy sailing and easy movements to calm anchorages depending on the direction the trade winds are blowing out of or if a north swell develops.
You could probably immerse yourself completely in what these islands offer in two weeks, certainly in four weeks which would include all the full moon parties! I spent seven weeks here and started to feel like a native after discovering all the economical grocery stores and laundry facilities as well as the quiet bays and the party bays where the charter boats tend to go. I also got a second nature about where to move the boat depending on the weather forecast. One has to pay attention to the trade winds as the tend to oscillate north to south of east. This leads to sea states that will eventually vary the same and some bays will become rolly depending on the sea direction. The north swells caused by the winter low pressure systems departing the US eastern seaboard will trump the trades and you will have to carefully pick your anchorage. Again, you do not have to go far to remedy any bad spot.
If you are cruising these islands for only one or two weeks, then a cruising itinerary can be followed as outlined in the cruising guides. However, any itinerary may need tweaking depending on the wind and sea conditions. This was true even in my case, since basically I was cruising one week at a time with different guests. The Virgin Islands are a Mecca for charter bases with the largest charter company the Moorings based out of the British island of Tortola. Dodging the charterers is not much of a consideration in St. Thomas or for that matter St. John's, but it is an issue for all of the BVI's as cruisers and charterers mix in masses.
To deal with the great demand for the best anchorages, As a point of strategy, I always tried to depart my overnight anchorage in time to arrive at my next anchorage about the time the other yachts are leaving for their next anchorage, which usually results in a good choice of either a free anchor spot or a nice mooring spot. Usually a good arrival time is around 10:00 am. If this is just a lunch stop, I try to leave no later than 2:00 pm to find my overnight anchorage. This usually results in arriving between 3:00 and 4:00 pm, allowing time for a final late afternoon swim or some kayaking.
One of the biggest challenges with cruising the Virgin Islands is moving back and forth between the USVIs and the BVIs where one has to check in and out of the BVIs and into the US. This is more of a hassle than an expense, but the BVIs charge over $20 each time; however, the authorities will issue an in and out permit for just a 3 day stay, and sometimes up to a 4 day stay. Otherwise you have to checkout separately. My favorite place to check in or out in BVIs was Great Harbor Jost Van Dyke. My second choice was West End Tortola.
The host yacht making crew changes has several options: (1) drop off or pick up crew in St. Thomas or (2) have the crew take the ferry or fly into Tortola. The last option saves the host yacht captain based in the BVIs some money and hassle of transiting to the USVIs, but at the cost and hassle of the arriving or departing crew. I always choose to make crew changes in St. Thomas. If this is the choice, then, you have a myriad of options to choose. I either stayed at American Yacht Harbor marina in Red Hook or anchored in the Charlotte Amalie harbor. Charlotte Amalie is the capital of the USVI's and a very big harbor with lots of anchor room or pick up a mooring at cost. In fact, it is not unusual to see up to seven cruise ships in port here. One could also stay in the more expensive Crown Bay marina or the even more expensive Yacht Haven Grande where the super yachts moor. Also, other anchorages exist along the southern coast all the way to the airport. All of them except one will require transportation, so I choose to anchor between the historic town center and Yacht Haven Grande. This allowed me easy access to taxis, grocery stores, and sightseeing the historic town.
When staying at American Yacht Harbor marina in Red Hook bay, I would usually rent a car to drop off and pick up the crew. This is more expensive than a taxi, but afforded more flexibility to go shopping at more inexpensive grocery stores like Cost U Less and the Food Center, as well as The Budget Marine store. I made 5 crew changes while in the Virgin Islands and they all went well with only minor hassle with the weather.
Since Red Hook bay opens to the east, it can be challenging getting in and out of your slip assignment. You can also find an anchor spot out in the bay, but it always looked too rough for me. It can get a little rolly in Charlotte Amalie harbor as well when the wind blows south of east for too long and the dinghy ride can get a little wet to weather bringing new crew and luggage back to the boat. Red Hook does provide the benefit of a shorter passage over the rough seas to St. John to begin the Virgin Island experience. However, Red Hook does not have a Customs and Immigration office to check in to the USVI and the best option is to go to Cruz Bay, St. Johns before arriving at Red Hook. When leaving, you do not need to check out of USVI.
I have one recommendation for your cruising experience in the USVI's and that is to spend a day and night Anchored in Megan's Bay on the north side of St. Thomas. This is usually a very quiet spot that is usually void of other cruisers and the beach is world famously beautiful!
If one has a short stay or wants to avoid the hassle of checking into the BVIs, then you could easily spend 3 to 4 days enjoying the island of St. John where 70% of the island is a national park with many hiking trails. I suggest starting off in Caneel bay your first day and either make the dinghy ride around to the town of Cruz Bay or hike the rugged trail starting just behind the beach over to town. Either way has its pros and cons, but Cruz Bay is worth the visit even if it is just for a some groceries!
Next, make a lunch stop at Trunk bay before moving on to the well protected Maho bay. Trunk bay in settled weather is a great place to snorkel. If you like you can swim the underwater trail maintained by the park service which includes placards of information about the coral. Or you could avoid the cruise ship crowd and swim on the other side of Trunk bay. After a good swim and lunch, head over to Maho bay which is also adjacent to Francis Bay. Either Bay's mooring spots are well protected from the trade wind seas and even any northeast swells. Maho bay is my favorite for its clear pristine waters and beach. You can take your dinghy around to the beach in Francis Bay and pick up the trail that leads to the road that leads to the old Annaberg sugar plantation or you could spend some time walking up the steps to a restaurant at the top of a glorified camp ground which may be on its last leg of life since it recently changed ownership.
One could also get to the old Annaberg plantation from an anchorage in Leinster/Watermelon Bay, but I had no experience with those anchorages due to weather conditions. I also had no experiences with the southern side of St. John including Coral Bay and Hurricane Hole due to the lack of interest there and weather conditions being marginal. However, one could visit Coral Bay by taxi service which is readily available right next to the beach in Maho bay. In fact, the taxi service is another option to get to the town of Cruz Bay at $7 per person each way.
If you have more time and inclination to visit the BVIs, then from St. John, you could head to either West End, Tortola or Great Harbor, Jost Van Dyke to clear Customs and Immigration. If you plan to spend the night at either one, then you may want to look for a hole among the mooring buoys to anchor or just pick up a mooring for $30 per night. Someone will come to your boat to collect, usually in the late afternoon. Both harbors have good protection from the trade winds and excellent protection from the north swells. I prefer Great Harbor if I plan to spend the night. West end is more appealing for a nice lunch stop which I might do when I leave Great Harbor to begin my cruise around the BVIs. From the West End, a.k.a. Sopers Hole, I usually head to the Bight of Norman Island where one could be lucky to find an anchor spot right in front of the Pirates restaurant or right near the floating restaurant known as Willy T's which can be very loud late into the night. From here you can make the typical cruiser circuit of stops like the HMS Rhone wreck site or the Baths. The moorings at these sites are maintained by the BVIs park service and are free for day use only. If your yacht is over 60 feet, you must anchor out to sea behind the mooring fields.
If you are planning to attend a full moon party like the one at Trellis bay, then I recommend arriving early afternoon or even in the morning if you want to avoid the chaos that occurs in trying to anchor in a crowd. Also, you have to be careful not to end up in the restricted area at the end of the airport runway.
If the trade winds blow out of the north for several days, then you might find the south side of Peter Island to be an attractive option to explore. I highly recommend Money Bay for its great collection of sea fans. Even though we circumnavigated most of the islands, we did not make any overnight stays in the southern sides of St. John, Peter, Norman, Salt island, or Virgin Gorda. However, it appeared that some do stay overnight and thus doable in east trade winds.
We did stay comfortably overnight in several spots along the southern coast of Tortola including Road Town and of course Nanny Cay (which really is not a Cay), where we had our boat hauled out for bottom paint among other repair jobs. It was really a nice boatyard to spend 3 days on the hard.
The British and US Virgin Islands are a great cruising ground worthy of a 4 week visit, but with lots of charter boats and cruisers alike vying for the good spots. If you want more solitude, then the Spanish Virgin Islands are a good option or maybe break away to St. Croix or Anegada for 3 or 4 days.