Babystepping on Banjo

18 June 2013 | Soufriere, St. Lucia
14 June 2013 | Soufrierre, St. Lucia
09 June 2013 | St. Lucia
20 April 2013 | Basseterre, St. Kitts
20 April 2013 | Basseterre, St. Kitts
15 April 2013 | Basseterre, St. Kitts
15 April 2013 | St. Kitts
17 March 2013 | Ram Head Moorings, St. John
05 March 2013 | Key Bay, Peter Island, BVI
05 March 2013 | Key Bay, Peter Island, BVI
02 March 2013 | Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
22 February 2013 | Dewey harbor--Culebra
22 February 2013 | Dewey harbor--Culebra
19 February 2013 | Ensenada Honda--Vieques
19 February 2013 | Ensenada Honda--Vieques
11 February 2013 | Ensenada Honda--Vieques
11 February 2013 | Ensenada Honda--Vieques
11 February 2013 | Ensenada Honda--Vieques
10 February 2013 | Bahia Salinas Del Sur--Vieques
02 February 2013 | Ponce, Puerto Rico

Bucket List

18 June 2013 | Soufriere, St. Lucia
Yesterday at 7:30 a.m. Ranger Peter picked us up for a Gros Piton hike. His step-son “Cream” was along as our guide. Next we stopped at It’s Perfect to pick up Rod and Linda who we recruited to go along.

Meyka said this climb was a “bucket list” item. Her bucket lists are apparently open ended with fresh additions appearing regularly. My “bucket list” is to keep her happy.

A fast boat ride took us to a “wet landing” at the base of the mountain. It was one of the coolest beaches I have seen. A small mountain-cold stream split the beach, fishermen’s bright colored boats dotted the shore, and a genuine Rasta man had a small restaurant with coal fired fare. My kind of place!

Cream led the way up the trail from the beach to the main trail. This 17 year old walked for approximately 5 hours barefooted up and down the trail. My puppies were painfully bruised walking in my trail approved Teva’s. Tough kid.

The trail was extremely well maintained. A dread coiffed guy passed us on the way up with a machete and bottle of rum. “Trail maintenance worker”, Cream explained.

We climbed and climbed endlessly. At a sweat soaked break, Cream said, “Half way.” “You’re kidding” we laughed. He wasn’t.

I don’t know the pitch but it was extreme. After we negotiated a particularly steep part, Cream said quietly, “Now the real climbing starts.” We repeated our previous laugh until we realized that Cream wasn’t a kidder.

Getting regular exercise has been tough since we’ve been cruising full time. We do hike as much as we can and stay active in the water. We are still moderately fit. This hike was right at the edge of my fitness level though.

After more than two hours we stood at the top of Gros Piton’s 2916 feet elevation and the view was amazing. Well worth the pain and suffering. Other hikers joined us at the top apparently equally whipped. We rested, drained our water bottles and snacked. Then down, down, down we went.

Not called a rain forest for nothing…the skies opened and the trail became a stream. Finally, when the beach trail split from the main trail, Cream called Ranger Peter to pick us up. The boat ride back was exhilarating with the 30-40 knot gusts blasting down the Pitons. Back on the boat, we recharged on beans and rice, cold beer, and good memories.

One more bucket list item that lived up to its billing—awesome!

I'm Ready to Go Now!

14 June 2013 | Soufrierre, St. Lucia
The plan was to be in St. Vincent today. But the weather has a way of changing plans. 9-10' seas and 20-30 knots of wind combined to have our weather guru, Chris Parker, call it "really rough" out there. He recommended waiting until next Thursday.

So...another week in St. Lucia. Not that it's a bad thing but...

When I get ready to move on, I get really ancy with being stuck. I feel a little claustrophobic.

Typically I fight reality by trying to find some forecast that agrees with how I want the weather instead of how it really is. Oh well. That's a losers game.

It's just 30 miles or so from here to St. Vincent. I know though that in really crappy weather and sea state that 1 mile can feel interminable.

This morning we went diving this morning with some other cruisers. If we stay busy, the extra week here will fly by.

I'm going to customs this afternoon and extending our stay. Man vs. weather. The weather wins!

It's Been a While

09 June 2013 | St. Lucia
Sorry. It's been a while. I repeat myself but lack of internet access has been a problem that I haven't found the solution to yet.

So...the last post was from St. Kitts. I seriously owe you an update.

We had a great time in St. Kitts. It was the first place that I felt measured up to my hopes and expectations for cruising. I am not saying that I did not enjoy the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and St. Martin. But I starting loving where I was beginning with St. Kitts.

From St. Kitts we overnighted at Montserrat and then went on to Guadaloupe. Our first stop was at Deshaises and it was marvelous. I became hooked on baguettes and all things French. A French deli is a thing of beauty!

We took a long uphill hike to the botanical gardens and although all the plant ID's were in French it was magnificent. Well worth the walk and Euros to see.
The anchorage at Deshaises was beautiful, too.

We bypassed the Cousteau park on the way south as it was not the best weather, overnighted in Basseterre, and then went on to the Saintes. Once there, we didn't want to leave. Great food, beautiful scenery, amazing snorkeling and diving, and gorgeous hikes. What more could we ask for? We stayed over a week and then reluctantly slipped the mooring for Dominica.

Dominica is my favorite place so far. The people were so warm hearted and genuine seeming, the garden fresh produce limitless, and some of the most awe inspiring scenery that I have ever seen. We hiked almost daily into the rain forest. I'd love to go back and spend a month.

From Dominica we traveled to Martinique. St. Pierre, Fort de France, Anse Noire, Anse de Arlet, St. Anne, and Le Marin were our stops through the island. We enjoyed it but our weather was not the best. Rain, rain, go away!

Now we are in St. Lucia. We anchored out in Rodney Bay our first night here and then came in to the marina. A piece on our davits broke and we needed to have it welded. I have to look for another descriptive word because I'm over using "beautiful." But it is. Nice people, too.

We will probably spend another week south of here in Soufriere and the Pitons. From there we will go to the Grenadines for the rest of June unless some wierd tropical weather system threatens to ruin our day. July and most of August in Grenada. Maybe Guyana and French Guiana in September as a part of a rally.

Whew! Wears me out just to tell you where we've been. I wish I could do it all justice and tell you what it has all been like. But I'm trying to get my mind around it myself.

My comprehension hasn't caught up with my experience yet. Wow!

St. Kitts...We Are Going to Miss You

20 April 2013 | Basseterre, St. Kitts
St. Kitts is my favorite island so far. We have been here almost two weeks and enjoyed every minute. If Saba was living on the wild side, our stay in St. Kitts has been the opposite. I feel downright domesticated here.

Our entire time here has been in a slip at the Port Zante Marina in Basseterre, the capital of St. Kitts. Once we tied to the dock, all our worries about disappearing moorings and rolly anchorages went away. We have been able to enjoy the city and the island from the marina’s easy access (plus unlimited water!).

After we settled in and decided to spend some time, we picked several touristy things we wanted to do:
• Tour Clay Villa Plantation House and Garden—a medium size plantation house that has been in the Gumbs family since 1763
• Visit Romney Manor—a 10 acre estate garden dominated by an ancient Saman tree which covers nearly an acre
• Spend time at Brimstone hill—a UNESCO World Heritage site
• Zip line through the rain forest
• Hike to the top of the volcano--3700 feet up the rain forest
• Rent a car and tour the island, particularly the beaches on the peninsula

This was the first time since we began cruising that we did the tourist thing. It felt like a vacation.

The rest of our time we’ve just enjoyed being a part of the community.
• Running every morning along Bay Road and out toward the airport past smiling folk saying, “Good morning…morning…morning”
• Going to market and buying fresh fruits and vegetables
• Having a couple of meals out and trying local cuisine
• Going to the bakery and getting a baguette
• Meeting local people and learning more about their life here

The scenery has been magnificent. The locals seem warm hearted, welcoming and convey a gentle spirit. The locally grown fruits and vegetables delicious.

Monday, we’ll move out of the marina and anchor on the southeastern shore of St. Kitts at Whitehouse Bay. Tuesday, we will travel to Montserat and anchor overnight. Wednesday, we will be in Guadalupe.

If our cruising guides are at all accurate, we think we will want to spend a longer time in Guadalupe, too. Hurricane season approaching soon compels us to continue traveling south but not without regret. St. Kitts…we are going to miss you!

A Road Less Traveled

20 April 2013 | Basseterre, St. Kitts
Cruising sailors tend to follow a similar path through the Caribbean; often with good reason. Most cruisers do not visit Saba. We chose to follow the road less traveled and go there after St. Martin.

Saba is a volcanic island approximately 30 miles to the southwest of St. Martin. It is Dutch. It has 2000 residents.

The reason that most people skip Saba is that there are no bays or other all weather shelters from the wind and waves. The marine park professes to have 14 moorings but we often find that the number in such places is far less.

The island rises unbelievably steeply from the oceans and its peak is usually cloud covered.

When we left St. Martin the wind was a steady 20 knots and squall lines were visible all around us. We reefed our main and jib and tiptoed through the storms. The first one we were too slow for and it missed us. The second one we were ahead of—whew! Finally a huge system engulfed the entire island of Saba for hours but lifted as we approached the mooring field.

Saba was visible in the distance our entire way from St. Martin. As we drew near, its rugged beauty was breathtaking. The mooring field was on the edge of Ladder Bay and sheer vertical stone cliffs rose up hundreds of feet above us.

The island had no port facilities until the 70’s. Boats would be held off the rocks at Ladder Bay and unloaded. Then men carried goods and materials by hand up the hundreds of steps. Everything used in building and maintaining life there came in that way. Unimaginable work and brute force!

The island is so steep that the Dutch engineers said a road could not be built. A native of Saba took a correspondence course and they built a road by hand that stands today. The airport has a runway of only 400 yards. Only one airline flies there and lands on its aircraft carrier size runway. The pilots are specially trained to do so.

Our first day there was so stormy that we didn’t leave the boat. We weren’t unsafe or uncomfortable, but to visit land required us to travel by dinghy 2-3 miles to the port. Weather reports indicated that at most we would have two days there. The second day, I swallowed my fear and we headed off into 4-6 swells in our 10’ dinghy.

Once we reached the port (after kissing the ground), we cleared in and cleared out for the next day. We had the port authorities call a taxi for a tour. Our taxi driver was a Dutch guy who was 4th generation Saban. He gave us three hour tour that included a hike part way up the peak—Mt. Scenery.

The European cottage style homes were all pristinely maintained. The road was more thrilling than a roller coaster ride. The scenery was amazing. From the top we could see St. Martin, Statia, and St. Kitts.

Around 4 p.m. I got anxious to get back to the boat so we reluctantly left and made it safely back. We readied Banjo for the trip to St. Kitts the next day and after a rolly night departed with a measure of regret—not for following the road less traveled but because our stay was so short. Saba definitely merits a return visit. But next time we will take a ferry over and stay in an inn so we can fully enjoy the diving and hiking it offers.

Catching Up

15 April 2013 | Basseterre, St. Kitts

It was sad to have Huston leave us at St. Thomas. We enjoyed our time with him so much. There is a quality to time together when there is no internet, phones, or any of the numerous other distractions of “normal” life.

From St. Thomas we had a tough ride east to St. Johns. The wind and waves were against us and it was messy traveling. We finally limped into Rendezvous Bay on the southwest side of St. Johns and had a fairly comfortable night. The next day we got off to a better start and made it to Tortola by noon. We cleared out of the British Virgin Islands in advance of our anticipated Friday departure.

From Road Town, Tortola we traveled to Virgin Gorda and did a drive by on the Baths. It was so crowded that a drive by was all we got. The BVI’s would be wonderful if they weren’t so crowded. You’d have to go off season to experience that and then you would be awfully far north in the chain to be safe in hurricane season.

After our drive by, we traveled to Savannah Bay on Virgin Gorda and tucked in behind the reef for a wonderful night. The water clarity was amazing and the beach was beautiful, too.

We snorkeled that afternoon and were shocked to see that the reef was all dead. I don’t know what happened to it. Sad.

The next day another couple started their day with an exercise routine on the beach. We were shamed into following their example. We swam to the beach and then ran or walked its length several times. Exercise has always been a big part of our lives until we started cruising full time. Since then we have walked and snorkeled but little else. We are vowing to get back to it—we will just have to learn how to be consistent given our wacky lifestyle.

That afternoon we pulled anchor and traveled a couple of hours and rejoined our friends Sherman and Judy at Leverick Bay on the north side of Virgin Gorda. We grabbed a mooring--$30 night with a free bag of ice and water fill up. We needed water desperately so it was worth it to pay.

The Chris Parker weather report said that either Thursday or Friday were our best days to go to St. Martin. Virgin Gorda to St. Martin involves an overnight passage through Anegada (often known as “oh-my-God-ah!” passage due to its often horrible wind, waves and current). Thursday, according to Chris, would be milder—probably a motor sail. Friday would be strong winds and large seas but better for sailing. Meyka and I opted for the milder day. Our friends were going to go Friday.

Thursday morning, Chris advised strongly that everyone should go on Thursday. We had a beautiful and comfortable passage. Friday the weather was horrible and folk were beaten up badly that chose it. The weather continued to be bad for crossing for a week after that. Some times you get lucky!

We arrived at Simpson Bay, St. Martin around 7:00 a.m. and entered through the Dutch bridge into the lagoon at 9:30. The boat ahead of us promptly ran aground. We were following him! Bad idea. We regrouped and found the channel and wound around to the French side, Marigot.

The French islands are preferred by many cruisers. I’m a convert to that school of thought now. Cheap and easy to clear in. Great food and wine. Marvelous bakeries. I like it!

The wind howled the days we were in the lagoon. It was a couple of miles from the boat to town and we had some spirited dinghy rides in the 30 knot gusts and wet splashes as we crashed through opposing waves. But it was worth it.

We used our time in St. Martin to address a few maintenance items—replacing the bowthruster battery charger, trading for a larger outboard motor for our dinghy, having a tear in our headsail repaired, etc.

I was claustrophic in the lagoon though and we finally escaped on Saturday, April 6th after eight days there. We got out of the lagoon and staged ourselves in a very rolly Simpson Bay to go to Saba. I learned how to do a bridle in the Bahamas and we were the only boat in the anchorage that didn’t roll that night. Some times you do good. I did good.

Saba was our adventure stop. Most cruisers don’t go there. I’ll write more about it in a separate post. We are glad we went but it was challenging. Once again, weather trumped and we only had two nights there.

A great 8 hour sail brought us to St. Kitts and we entered the Port Zante marina several days ago. It is cheap ($33 per night) and we get unlimited water for $15. Plus they have great showers. Life is good.

I’ll also write a post on St. Kitts. We are having a great time here.

OK…now you are caught up. I hope I’ll be able to keep my posts current from now on. Lack of internet or email access has been a real challenge recently. I’m hoping that it will be better as we go down island.

For friends and family, use our gmail email address until the HAM radio email gets up again. We’d love to hear from you.
Vessel Name: Banjo
Vessel Make/Model: CSY 44 Walkover
Hailing Port: Beaufort, NC
Crew: Doug, Meyka, & Wally
We began babystepping into the cruising life when we moved to the coast of Wilmington, NC. Rob Larkin became our sailing mentor. We bought our first sailboat-a 30' Rawson. Later we traded the Rawson on Banjo. We started cruising full time September 2012. [...]
Banjo's Photos - Main
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Who: Doug, Meyka, & Wally
Port: Beaufort, NC