Passage to The Antilles and Baie de Cupecoy
29 May 2017 | Marigot, St Martin
The skipper had been vigilantly watching for a weather window for our passage SE from Virgin Gorda to St Martin. This turns out to be the longest stretch of open sea in the Caribbean waters between islands, in the order of 100NMs. The day dawned with clear skies and we slipped the mooring at 05:45 at first light, allowing visual vigilance as we made our way into deeper waters. The main was hoisted with one reef and then once Trilogy cleared the end of the island, the course was set for the crossing. The wind strength was initially 12-15 knots but climbed to 15-18 knots ENE before easing in mid afternoon, which allowed us to stay on the same port tack the whole 15 hour passage.
After the initial settling period, we went to 3 hour watches, Garth and Steven constantly consulting on the conditions. The only glitch was a problem with the ship's log and it stopped working which mucked up the true wind readings, because speed through the water was not being measured. Once this was thought through, we improvised with some dental floss tied to the cap shrouds, to give at least a rough wind direction. Ingenuity is the essence of sailing!
The day passed quickly, with a balance between sleeping, eating, reading...oh and watch keeping! As we were sailing east, the sun became very hot in the cockpit by mid afternoon and we needed to drink copious amounts of water to remain hydrated throughout the day. As the land became visible, so did more birds, otherwise very little else was noted. There was one large flock of birds a couple of hundred metres off the port side that were in a feeding frenzy for quite some time in late afternoon. Dinner was at sunset, which was spectacular off the stern. It was perfect timing because as the sun dropped rapidly towards the horizon we were all watching and saw a very distinct 4 second flash of green light rays, just as the sun disappeared. It caused us all to cheer! We had about 10 NMs to go, working our way ever closer to the lights of St Martin. At 21:05 we dropped anchor in Cupecoy Baie, a bay we knew had a mostly sandy bottom and a beautiful beach. After doing a rough tidy of the cockpit, we had a celebratory drink and headed off to bed.
Unfortunately we had not tucked in close enough to the beach and had a rolly night, flip flopping side to side. Fairly early next morning, the skipper got the anchor lifted and we repositioned Trilogy out of the swell which was coming around the point. Otherwise we had a slow morning, with Steven swimming ashore to check out the hotels on the beach to see if we could have a breakfast, with coffee and croissant at the top of the desired list. Steven has the gift of the gab, and after a while he swam back to Trilogy, reporting not only that breakfast was possible but the various people he had talked to on the beach. We joined him by swimming ashore in the beautiful water and then headed up a set of stairs surrounded by lush tropical manicured vegetation to a lovely hotel terrace with views out over the bay, with Trilogy as a centre piece!
We were at the end of the buffet breakfast period which made for some difficulties regarding staff behaviour. Although we had been welcomed, the staff were not interested in us lingering for a second longer than necessary. The minute a plate was finished it was removed from the table, coffee was poured constantly to finish the pot, so it could be swiped away, and the buffet doors closed post haste. You can't help but think that this was French rudeness! Anyway, the food was lovely and we did get an almond croissant!
When back on board, we prepared to motor sail back along the coast to Marigot, the capital of French St Martin. We entered Baie de Marigot and made UHF Channel 16 with Marina Fort St Louis, an unusual octagonal shaped marina with curved sea walls creating protection. We were invited to enter and would be met at the entrance by staff in a tender. We edged our way into the rather shallow marina and were directed to tie up alongside. By now the wind had picked up considerably to 15 knots from the SE and the skipper skilfully got the dock and go system to nudge the stern in close enough to secure a line. Once that was on, the bow line and spring were secured and we doubled up on lines, as necessary...for the sky was starting to threaten. No sooner had we tied off than a deluge of rain swept over the top of us, but as usual the sky cleared again. We set about doing all the usual tasks when in the marina, once the Capitainerie formalities were complete and water and power were connected.
Dinner time came quickly and we showered in readiness for a pleasant evening ashore. Before long we were walking the streets of Marigot, planning to eat in an area known as Simpson Bay, where a string of nice restaurants coexist. In no time we were greeted by a fast talking native of Montenegro, named Milan, who claimed he'd been to 47 countries, including Australia, mentioning Darwin and Tennant Creek as places that he had been to. He was highly persuasive and promised us very good food if we ate at his establishment....listing creole, grill and curry versions of a range of dishes, including very fresh fish, caught that very day by his father in law. We looked at each other and decided his formidable behaviour was beyond resisting. He ordered his staff to prepare our table, and meanwhile we connected with three women who were the only other guests, who seemed satisfied with their meals. We had one of Milan's 'special' rum punches (delicious but definitely packed a punch!), followed by quite a tasty main course. However, our host continued to command the situation, by producing a large bongo drum, which he locked between his knees. He cranked up the volume of the recorded music and beat his hands expertly across the stretched skin. He later let us know he had been a professional musician in Miami. He was like grease lightening, disappearing mid playing at times, coming back to play again, flirting with locals he had spotted and also tried to hoodwink others to eat at his place. All the time there was intermittent yelling going from the kitchen and a number of 'extras' wandering in and out of the kitchen. Oh well, we certainly had a memorable night!
Heading back to Trilogy, we could see a lot of lightening out to sea and by the time we got back on board, there were drops of rain, which meant a dash to get some washing in before the lightening and thunder enveloped us and that happened with gusto!
Monkey Point, Guana Island and onto The Baths, Virgin Gorda Island
29 May 2017 | The Baths, Virgin Gorda
From Cane Garden Bay we motor sailed along a very scenic passage to pick up a mooring off White Bay, a long sweep of white, white sand which has a low-key resort nestled at one end. We thought we would be protected from the strong easterly that was whistling through the nearby passage but the wind must have been coming over the top of the high hill adjacent to us and dumping right on top of Trilogy. We could see cats sitting on moorings only 100 metres away that seemed to be fairing better and after a few more bullets rocketed us around, we decided we would join the cats and try a mooring closer to the passage, in the lee of Monkey Point. This was a much more comfortable position and even though the wind remained strong, the bullets were not happening and the cooling breeze was appreciated.
Monkey Point is within the British Virgin Islands Park Trust and therefore is a haven for wildlife. A small pinnacle, Monkey Point is separated by a narrow rocky isthmus from the main island of Guana. The separation allowed glimpses beyond of a sandy beach, the water, sails, masts and more islands on the other side of the passage. The water was crystal clear, deep blue and the lure of the rocky cliff line for snorkelling was irresistible.
The birds had taken possession of Monkey Point and it was a wonderful, wild site with large and small birds, mainly pelicans and shearwaters, soaring and swooping to feast on the schools of fry in the waters below. When we were snorkelling close to the cliffs, a pelican did the characteristic torpedo vertical dive just metres beside us.....what if he had missed his target! The rest of the day provided us with a memorable sunset over the distant island contours and we spent a good night firmly attached to the mooring, while the stiff breeze continued unabated.
Next morning we took the tender into White Bay where good coral was reported. We were not disappointed! Every reef is different in balance of fish and types of coral and this site was a scattered arrangement of large rocks with live coral clinging to the surface of the rocks. In one memorable rocky canyon, there was the biggest fish thus far seen - pure white except for one small black spot near the tail, the shape of a snapper and around 1.5 metres in length. We guessed it was a grouper, but this needs further clarification. It was swimming peacefully in amongst the schools of fry and really didn't seem to be interested in eating these ever alert babies. The coral was interesting and colourful, but this fish took the prize. After a walk along the beach to glimpse the sleepy resort, we launched the tender from the beach and headed back to Trilogy for lunch.
By early afternoon, we were heading through the narrow Guana Channel and motoring towards Lee Bay on Great Camanoe Island, but the skipper decided mid passage that we'd make a starboard turn to Virgin Gorda Island instead and pick up a mooring at Spring Bay, just north of a beautiful place called The Baths, part of the BVI National Park Trust. Last year, the weather had not been favourable to pick up a mooring at The Baths, but we were in luck this time with an offshore easterly breeze providing the perfect cooling through Trilogy's open hatches. We couldn't wait to get in the deep turquoise clear water and swim ashore at the end of the day. To our delight, there were not only massive granite boulders seemingly dumped on this section of the coast, there were many more to be found below the water's surface, offering havens for coral and fish. Equally good was walking along the white sandy beach, wandering in between the granite monoliths that very regularly gave way to sensational swimming holes, and we needed to sample every one! Behind this incredible beach were private single storey burré style dwellings, tucked in amongst foliage and appearing to be the idyllic type of homes that we can only dream about.
Next day was superb in every sense. The sky was vivid blue and the ocean complemented it with a deep turquoise clarity. We had been the only overnight yacht and very early the next morning, the charter fleet honed in on the remaining moorings, which were all taken by 08:00. There was a bit of internet comms to start the day as we found we could access the wifi provided by our neighbouring catamarans (thank you!), followed by a snorkel around and among the boulders towards the beach that provided access to the magnificent trail the winds through piled up boulders at The Baths. At times we found ourselves crouching low and crawling under or over these massive boulders that were juxtaposed to create dramatic geometry. At other times we needed to ascend or descend slippery steep sections and then wading through pools of gently surging sea water that eventually opened up to the most perfect beach, Devil's Bay. This beach has my vote for the best beach this cruise! We relished the whole experience and then reversed the trail, taking in different perspectives of the spectacle. At one turn, there was a very large elevated cave that took our attention as there were no other rocks that had been eroded internally by wave action. The surface of the cave wall was beautifully rippled, the sea painstakingly creating a masterpiece!
We returned to Trilogy and then took the tender the 1NM to Spanish Town, to clear customs for our departure from the BVI the following morning. It was very hot as we made our way down to the Customs Office and we were relieved to sit in the air conditioning. The process went smoothly and so back into the heat to find somewhere for lunch. Spanish Town is a bit spread out and we recalled wanting to have a meal at CocoMaya restaurant which is set on the beach. We took a taxi ride in the open air truck the mile or so distance to have a delicious and relaxed lunch in a perfect setting...think palm trees, outdoor lounges with orange cushions, white, white sand and clear aqua blue sparkling water! The food was Asian fusion was very flavoursome. We were the only guests at 14:00, and Carl our waiter did his best to provide top service assisted by his extra big smile...just a few glitches, but we were very relaxed and he kept smiling!
Back to Trilogy for another delightful snorkel in the late afternoon, relishing the cooling water after the heat of the day. We had another stunning sunset to enjoy, spaghetti bolognese for dinner, all washed down with Tempranillo red wine....just perfect! It was early to bed because it would be an early start for our passage to the island of St Martin.
Renewing acquaintances with BVI
26 May 2017 | Cane Garden Bay, Jost Van Dyke
The day dawned beautifully but the temperatures are slowly rising and the humidity with it, as the season edges towards the summer and the hurricane season. We got organised for a sail to Jost Van Dyke, our point of entry for the British Virgin Islands. The skipper decided we would hoist the main before leaving the mooring as the winds were light. This worked like a charm and before we knew it, we were unfurling the headsail and setting the sails for a sweet beam reach all the way. Steven was soon on the helm and his smile said it all. Trilogy just sings on this point of sail and the acceleration of power creates such a superb sensation for those on board....'the wind beneath her wings' feeling. It was only a 4NM crossing to Great Harbour, making sure we had hoisted the required yellow Customs pennant and BVI flag. We beelined for the Customs Office, located at the end of the ferry jetty. Great Harbour is a very sleepy place and the staff at the Customs office exemplified this. We all attended, filled out the inevitable paperwork in triplicate, all the time being very careful not to ruffle any feathers of the surly female officer, who having checked and cross checked stamped the docs and then pointed to the adjacent room, a mere 3 metres away, to have the immigration officer do his passport cross checks. We skipped out of there, relieved we had not spent too long in the process.
The main road along the beachfront was made of sand and the palm trees bent over to form a cooling canopy. We saw an ice cream shop open but not much more until we got to Foxy's, a local haunt that has a big reputation. The parties are legendary and the bar serves all sorts of diabolical cocktails. We settled in for an hour or two of sipping and munching before we moved back to the boat and pulled the anchor to move to a better swimming beach around the headland at White Beach, which was packed out. There was a tricky reef to negotiate to get to the moorings and the skipper was determined that we were going to get ourselves a mooring, even though we couldn't see a free one. We nudged ever so slowly between the multitude of charter catamarans. We got sight of a mooring next to an anchored cat and yes, we were going to have that mooring! We did our slick mooring procedure and then copped the glare of disdain from the female in the galley...yes we were that close. After a bit more glaring, the cat lifted the anchored and moved well down the beach.
This beach was definitely party land! Next morning we swam ashore, walked the beach, found a shady spot with a hammock nearby and then watched the world go by...with a cocktail in hand, of course! Lots of people dragged their chairs to the waters edge or stood in the water at waist height and talked animatedly. Bit by bit the beach filled with motor cruisers and cats that dropped anchors right on the beach and the occupants set up camp for the day. When we got back to Trilogy, two neighbouring cats were cranking up the music and we were entertained throughout our lunch with the dancing Adonis strutting his stuff but alas, no one on board was noticing his cool moves!
'Time to go' we said and so Trilogy headed off in the direction of Cane Garden Bay, but the skipper was lured to Sandy Cay en route, a beautiful atoll of the quintessential Caribbean island variety. We nudged in close to shore, picked up a mooring and had a refreshing swim to shore. The sand was white and very fine and the beach fringed around the point before giving way to a rocky shore. The clarity of the water was superb and the colour was the palest aquamarine, changed only by the occasional coral outcrop beneath the sparkling surface. Some day trippers were on shore getting their dose of island paradise but we counted ourselves fortunate to be free of group constraints and able to go where 'ere we fancied.
After this brief stopover, we headed the 4NMs to Cane Garden Bay, Jost Van Dyke for an overnight mooring. This is a fairly large bay with multiple moorings and a mecca for charter yachts. We checked out the bay and had to stay in the back this time as all moorings closer to the beach were taken. No sooner had we settled Trilogy than the call of reggae from the shore made us hurry up for Happy Hour at Quito's. Last year we had the pleasure of hearing Quito perform and ever since we have enjoyed listening to his music. However, we quickly ascertained that Quito was 'off island' and would not be back until the end of the month. The bar was still pumping and we were glad we'd grabbed a table before the younger set arrived. As we sipped on our 'sunset' cocktails, two very large rental cats rafted together almost on the shore, one full of young felines and an all girl crew, the other with young bucks and an all male crew. Dress ups were the order of the day for them, and all manner of outfits appeared on deck and then headed ashore, to Quitos. We were very entertained by this group, the imagination spiralling as we contemplated what shipboard life might be like in the next 24 hours!
We headed off back to Trilogy, planning to come back in the morning when things were quieter to wander the beach. Mistake! The rowdy young were replaced by the swarming cruise ship crowd, who had been taxied across the island for some beach time. The locals work hard to make this a good day for the visitors, but from our perspective, this beautiful bay had suddenly lost all its charm. We wanted some Wifi time however, so after a morning of cooking and some laundry, we went to a breezy cafe for lobster rolls and then to Quito's bar for the Wifi, as it was a secure network. When all was done, we motored back to Trilogy and prepared to depart, happy that at least we had acquired some more of Quitos fabulous music. We had seen Quito's old guitar that had played over 11000 songs before it was retired, a reminder to all how Quito had funded his dream of a gazebo on the beach to share his music with others. Quito, you are a legend!
Francis, Maho & Leinster Bays
22 May 2017 | Leinster Bay, St John
Bit of a slow start to the day, sleeping in a bit, writing emails (and blogs!) having coffee and more coffee, enjoying muesli and fruit for brekki and generally watching the activity of the bay....it is not hard at all for a couple of hours to slip away. By around 11:00 we had decided to take the tender ashore and to do a boardwalk trail that runs along the salt pond which sits behind the beach.
The bottom of the salt pond is made up of a layer of red algae giving the pond its characteristic red-brown colour. The distinctive 'off' smell of the pond comes from another layer of older red algae, which is found just below an intermediate layer of sand. The saltwater enters the pond by seepage at high tides or sometimes directly during heavy storms. As the pond is below sea level, there is not a lot of water flow back to the sea. Constant intense sunlight and persistent trade winds encourage a high rate of evaporation. When there is no rain for long periods, the saltiness of the water rises. When the salt levels are saturated, salt crystals start to form. The longer the dry period, the higher the temperature and the stronger the winds, the more the salt layer builds up and extends towards the centre. The best salt pond on St John is at Salt Pond Bay, which we visited on the southern coast. At that time, recent heavy rain had just ended a period of good salt crystallisation and we were told the salt is very pure and well worthwhile collecting. The Francis Bay trail runs through the surrounding vegetation on a duckboard track which at intervals offers access to the pond. The bird life is rich on this pond but we should have been there at dawn for the best show. We followed the trail up a hill to the ruins of a substantial home which is protected by the National Park governance. We wondered what stories these walls contained but the mosquitos were too fierce and we couldn't linger to hear what the walls wanted to tell us! We saw several deer in the woodland, which seemed quite tame and in very good condition, but no doubt they were wild creatures, just like the donkeys that roam the island, dating from the sugar cane production days.
Back in the tender we had a reconnoiter around the bay, trying to locate the excellent snorkelling reef we had read about. We had several areas to check out but none looked particularly promising. We kept going into the adjacent Maho Bay, with its long sweeping golden sand and amazing aqua blue water, but again the snorkelling areas were not beckoning. What we did see was a big flock of seagulls having the time of their lives, feasting on a large school of silvery fry that were probably being herded by larger predators beneath the shallow waters of the bay. The seagulls swooped and dived, soared high into the air on the mountain updraft, spiralled down when they were ready for more and repeated the gourmet meal which had been presented to them. This went on for hours and there must have been a big depletion of those tiny little sweet fish. The fry are extremely sensitive to minute changes in water currents and can sense the approach of hunters. In a burst of speed they can move away, but when the attack is from both above and below, the odds of survival stack up. It was a remarkable display of the cycle of nature at work!
We decided to depart Francis Bay via Fungi Passage, rounding Mary Point to enter The Passage and then Leinster Bay adjacent to Waterlemon Cay, which also promised excellent coral. There were 13 moorings to be had and 11 were taken when we arrived. This scenic bay offered good protection from the easterly wind, but the pilot didn't mention the mosquito army that were in combat mode! However, we donned the togs (read budgie snugglers for the boys) and snorkelled across the deep water to the cay. Not surprisingly there was a fair bit of current ripping between the cay and the bay entry and we had to push hard to get into the quieter water on the bay side of the cay. The coral was good and the fish were better, but we have been truly spoilt with our spectacular snorkelling escapades and this garden was not in the running for special awards, although some interesting new fish were sighted.
Back on board, we briefly went to the foredeck to dry off, as is our delight after a swim. Passing dinghy loads of Americans were sniggering about the boys brief swimwear which we know they classify as nakedness! We just smiled and waved knowingly. The mosquito battalion was on the march so we headed below decks to the air conditioning and relaxation for the evening.
As we prepare to depart the USVI, it would be remiss not to mention that on 31st March 2017 commemorated the Danish West Indies becoming the Virgin Islands of the United States. A message from the Lieutenant Governor, Osbert E Potter, stated:
' The people of the Virgin Islands are proud of their American citizenship and yet warmly acknowledge their Danish connection. Having the influence of both countries, the Virgin Islands has benefitted tremendously through language, education, culture, art and architecture. Throughout the century, the Virgin Islands has transformed and developed far beyond what it used to be when uncertainty and impact of being owned by another country weighed heavily on the consciences of the citizens during that time. Today, we stand tall and courageous as a territory that has produced many generations of prominent and notable Virgin Islanders, who are trailblazers in their own rights.'
We wish you well and thank you for your hospitality!
The Beautiful Island of St John
21 May 2017 | Francis Bay
'.....out to the windy beach, Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow...' to quote from Hey Mr Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan
Let me try to explain the uniqueness of this heavenly island. The sand is soft and powdery, the water is just the right temperature, refreshing but not cold. The sea is crystal clear and calm, with hues that range from light turquoise to green and dark blue. The beaches lie within protected bays, surrounded by green hills and bordered by tropical vegetation such as coconut palms, sea grapes and beach machos. The views are spectacular and from just about every beach there is a panorama of islands, cays, rocks and other small bays. All this magnificence is protected by the Virgin Islands National Park and remain natural and undeveloped.(described with the assistance of a wonderful pictorial book entitled St John Beach Guide by Gerald Singer).
St John's sand comes almost entirely from the coral reefs and therefore is finer and softer than continental beach sand. It is produced by the force of waves and currents acting on the coral reef as coral, calcareous coral algae, the shells of various sea creatures and sea urchin spines (which make up the little black grains of sand). Additionally, the reef grazing fish, particularly parrot fish, produce a significant amount of sand.Parrotfish exist on a diet of algae, which they scrape off the surface of coral with fused teeth and then they grind the coral and algae mixture to a fine powder. The algae is absorbed as food and the remainder is excreted as sand....how fascinating! There are other reef grazing fish (eg blue tang) that also produce sand in this way and about one ton of sand per acre of reef per year is produced! The sand is therefore a waste product of the reef and it would suffocate the coral if not for the action of waves and currents. The sand collects on the perimeter of the reef and when the large ocean swells generated by storms and cold fronts in North America reach the northern shores of Islands such as St John, they become steeper and break on the shore. This pounding moves the sand from the storage areas around the reef to the beach. In the summer months, the southern coasts undergo the same process, caused by the action of trade winds and/or tropical storms.
To balance this process, sand is constantly lost but not laterally because of the protected bays. The dry sand gets blown past the line of vegetation to become soil and the wet sand is constantly washed back and forth, getting finer and finer and eventually the sand goes into suspension and goes back out to sea. Hurricanes or strong tropical storms are the means by which not only significant sand can be lost but also cause the destruction of large sections of reef. The worst threat to beaches comes from damage to the coral reef!
Before leaving Cruz Bay, we did a big snorkel the next morning, went to lunch at the Caneel Bay Resort in the adjacent bay and wandered the extensive grounds of the resort, which was once a sugar mill and sugar cane plantation. The stone ruins are well preserved and the resort's top restaurant called ZoZos is located in the sugar mill building, commanding a panoramic view of the bay. We checked out the gift shop and unfortunately I managed to leave my prescription sunglasses in the change room. In spite of all efforts to retrieve my valued cruising specs, they have not been returned.
Back on board we motored around the headland to Hawksnest Bay, yet another beautiful bay. We undertook a big snorkel again, first of all to Gibney Beach and then onto Hawksnest Beach. Here we could see some exquisite beach homes set just behind the fringing foliage. We have since read that Robert and Nancy Gibney in 1946 honeymooned on St John and later built a home, where they lived with their 3 children. It was the beatnik and later hippie era and today the beach still attracts an offbeat crowd. In 1957, some of the Gibney land was sold to J. Robert Oppenheimer (father of the atomic bomb) and his wife Kitty. Today that home is a community centre for the people of St John. We continued swimming, the best coral being seen on the return to Trilogy. We stayed the night and next morning set off for Trunk Bay, where the coral and fish life is legendary and the beach is as white as snow. We snorkelled to a rocky outcrop and were stunned by the very large tarpin fish, at least a metre long, that were cruising around. Back along the rocks, we experienced something of a phenomenon. Absolutely thousands of small silvery fry created almost impenetrable clouds, schooling in different sizes but all mingling and floating in the shifting water. Apparently motionless, they would then part, criss cross, reform in unison, as medium size fish delighted in swimming through the masses. Some clouds were vertical in formation and from below there was an undulation of the forms that seemed to mimic the contours of the seabed. On the way back, we also witnessed the tarpin now cruising under the schools, lifting the clouds in response to their movement, but there was no evidence of the small fish being targeted for lunch.
By the time we got back on board, the wind had come up and we once more left the mooring and motored around to the nearby Francis Bay, which offered good protection from the strong NE wind. The boys swam to the beach but reported midgies ashore and also small stinging jelly fish in the water. There was a beautiful sunset and we relaxed over a delicious Beouf Bourguignon dinner washed down with a Chilean Merlot. It doesn't get much better than this, we had to agree!
Preparations and we underway again!
20 May 2017 | Cruz Bay St John
Our new crew member Steven had the biggest smile on his face from the moment we met. A keen sailor, the opportunity to join Trilogy was a dream come true. With Sue and Peter's departure came the shake down of Trilogy and working through the tasks so that we could sail the following day. Laundry, more groceries, haircuts and personal shopping all was achieved by the end of the day. We decided to go to Fresh Bistro again for lunch and just as we were finishing our meal, we experienced something that can only be explained as serendipitous!
Last year we experienced some wonderful hospitality by a chance meeting with Janice and Ahmed Popo, when we were both at a local jazz evening. Janice communicated with us at Christmas and we agreed to meet up when we got to St Thomas in April this year. Somehow, my email advising that we had arrived in St Thomas and we had dinner plans did not reach Janice. We let the arrangement slide, only guessing at why Janice had not responded. Ahmed and Janice walked into Fresh Bistro just as we were about to leave. They live on the other side of St Thomas and Ahmed confided that they had been a bit undecided about going out for lunch and also some indecision about where to eat. Ahmed won out and drove to Fresh! We could hardly believe our eyes when they were seated at the adjacent table. They looked at us and we looked at them, both in disbelief. It was a wonderful time of hugs and catching up and before long they agreed to have dinner with us that night. They were sad to hear that they had missed Peter and Sue by just a few hours. We dined at the lovely marina restaurant Grande Cru for the second night in a row and later invited Ahmed and Janice on board for a little night cap. We hope we have another chance to catch up if we come this way again. This is the real stuff of travel!
The skipper had planned we depart about 09:00 but he softened when we all went to Bad Ass for coffee first up. The wind was already up around 15-20 knots, so departure time was no longer a pressing issue. Steven had a safety briefing, there was fresh French bread to get and washing of the decks. Once the shore water and power metres were read and the bill settled, Trilogy slipped her lines and we headed out from Yacht Haven Grande for the last time this season. We got into the harbour, readied ourselves for a mainsail hoist, up she went beautifully and then the skipper called for the main sheet to be moved down on the traveller, something Steven and I worked together on. We waited for skipper to give the call and instantly 'BANG', the traveller sheet snapped and the boom slid rapidly down on the track! We quickly dropped the mainsail and got the preventer on the winch to minimise the chance of further damage. When there was a chance to examine why this had happened, a pulley had disintegrated and chaffed the line!
Once things were secured, we motored 8NMs on and dropped anchor on the lee side of Great St James Island in the southern end of Christmas Cove. Firstly the boys examined the traveller and before long they had devised and executed a repair, because the skipper had previously encountered the problem. The snorkelling was a wonderful introduction to the Caribbean waters for Steven, but more than coral, Steven reported seeing three mermaids and found himself quite tantalised! Wow, this trip was picking up a notch or two already. Next thing is that the skipper reports there is a treasure chest half buried in the sand below Trilogy! Much discussion and planning ensued and since we had no doubt we were in pirate waters, the imagination flourished as to what our treasure chest contained...gold doubloons and pieces of eight for sure, but the revelation would have to wait until the morrow. This was all too exciting and before we knew it, it was time to settle the boys with GNTs and a Chilli Con Carne meal before going off to dreamland...and dream they did!
The boys did have to abandon their plan of lifting the treasure next morning, especially when on close inspection it was looking more like a huge old battery.....oh well, they'd had their fun! We all set off on a long, long snorkel around the two bays that make up Christmas Cove. The coral and fish was equally excellent in both bays and Steven was like a dolphin, delighted and curious as he dived down constantly to get a closer look under the ledges and then surfacing to share his discoveries...we loved his excitement. Meanwhile, Garth continued his prolific underwater photography with his Olympus TR4.
Then we motored the 4NMs to Cruz Bay which is the main port of call for St John, picking up a mooring to the north of the bay near Caneel Bay. We took the tender back along the coast to have some lunch at the Cruz Bay cafe we had enjoyed so much on the last visit. We checked out the National Park Service Visitor Centre and the skipper paid the park fees for use of the overnight moorings. Lunch was delicious at the North Shore Deli, Steven purchased some new gear at the surf shop at the skipper's insistence and then we wandered down the road towards the Post Office. Steven was warned that buying a stamp was not likely to be a quick process, and meanwhile Garth and Ros headed across the road to Trip Advisor No 1 dessert cafe called Market Smoothies for a fresh fruit and ice smoothie, which was amazingly good, but oh so chilling on the sinuses. Steven took half an hour to buy his stamps because the clerk was having a long and involved discussion about hair styles with a local....yep, you are on island time! We continued our exploration and found a delightful shopping precinct before finding all the bars and restaurants that line the beach. We succumbed to a beach cocktail, parking ourselves in wooden aqua blue deck chairs in the shade of the trees with our feet in the sand. It was just glorious and island time can be very, very appealing.
Back on board, it was time for another swim to cool down and it was just gorgeous to walk along the beach as the sun started to dip. The 'life is very good' feeling just bubbles up when close to beautiful nature.