06 April 2017 | St Lucie Inlet, Florida
02 April 2017 | Stocking Island, Exuma
01 April 2017 | George Town, Exumas
30 March 2017 | George Town, Bahamas
22 March 2017 | Elizabeth Island, Exumas
09 March 2017 | George Town, Exumas
04 March 2017 | Thompson's Bay, Long Island
03 March 2017 | Stella Maris, Long Island
02 March 2017 | Long Island
26 February 2017 | Crossing from Water Cay to Comer Channel, Jumentos
25 February 2017 | Double-Breasted Cay to Thompson's Bay, Long Island
23 February 2017 | Double-Breasted Cay, Jumentos
19 February 2017 | Hog Cay, Jumentos
16 February 2017 | Duncan Town, Ragged Island
14 February 2017 | Hog Cay, Jumentos
10 February 2017 | Hog Cay, the Jumentos
06 February 2017 | Duncan Town, Ragged Island
05 February 2017 | Hog Cay, Ragged Islands
05 February 2017 | Duncan Town, Ragged Island
Where Did the Genoa Go?
22 February 2014 | Underway
It was Burger's watch in the middle of the night when he noticed a sudden change in the motion of the boat, and we were going slower. Looking forward he saw the reason: the genoa sail was gone! We were sailing under mainsail alone. Upon investigation he discovered the gib being dragged alongside, held on by lines and sheets. Luckily he had just recently replaced the foredeck light with a much brighter LED light, which made the process of wrestling the sail aboard and securing it much easier. We then set the smaller staysail to balance the boat for the rest of the trip.
Why did the sail drop in the water? The six-year old stitching on the spectra tape at the head of the sail that attached it to the upper roller reefing had rotted out. It was the only spot that didn't have acrylic UV cover. Fixing it was relatively easy. The material was too thick to fit under our Sailmaker sewing machine foot, so next day, Burger got out the ditty bag and did a very professional zigzag hand stitch using mallet, awl and waxed doubled Dacron lace twine, better than the original. The sail is back in use as good as new, except for some pink bottom paint stains.
Moving Right Along
21 February 2014 | The Puerto Rico Trench AKA Cruise Ship Alley
Soon after leaving St Thomas two days ago, a bright orange USCG helicopter swooped down noisily right behind us, ostensibly to read our boat name and hailing port. Yesterday we sailed over the Puerto Rico Trench in waters 25,000 feet deep, then skirted the treacherous Silver Bank, a graveyard of Spanish galleons.
The fishing line is out but so far, no bites, although schools of flying fish glide over the waves. The only ship traffic is cruise ships en route to and from Miami, Fort Lauderdale or Nassau to Grand Turk, St Thomas, St Maarten, etc. Our AIS sounds the alarm whenever one is on a close course. At night they're all lit up like plump lemon lozenges and are visible for miles.
We'd like to reach Florida by mid-March and still have many miles to go, so we're bypassing Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic/Haiti and the Turks & Caicos. Instead we're sailing 650 nm non-stop to San Salvador, one of the most easterly islands of the Bahamas Far Out Islands, where Christopher Columbus is said to have made his first landfall. Few sailors go here since it's so far to windward coming from the States, but it's a port of entry, mainly for airplanes. With a good weather window of steady NE trades and at an average speed of 7-8 knots we should reach our goal by early Sunday morning. It's been a bumpy ride so far and the constant rocking and rolling is tedious, so we'll be glad to get there. Uh oh, it'll be the weekend, will we pay overtime charges to clear in yet again?
Finding Friends in Exotic Anchorages
19 February 2014 | St. Thomas, USVI
Next morning we sailed through the islands from BVI across to USVI, our first time in US waters since last May and our third visit since 1976. We anchored in Charlotte Amalia, St. Thomas, in the shadow of two giant cruise ships and several mega-yachts. After launching the dinghy we once again sought out the C & I office across the harbor at the ferry dock, which had a sign on the door, "business hours 7 days a week." Yet we were charged a $35 holiday overtime fee. Oops, we'd forgotten it was President's Day! Nonetheless, why would they charge overtime when they're open for business anyway? Surely the don't charge the ferry passengers overtime? Grrr ... These clearance fees are getting really old.
Surprisingly, the US dollar is the official currency of the British VI's, and cars drive on the left in the USVI's.
Later we dinghied back across the harbor and found that another C&I office has been opened near the mega-yacht marina, which would have been much more convenient had we known about it. We wandered about the duty free shopping area but didn't really need a Gucchi scarf or a Coach bag, so we found a local supermarket, sought out a cybercafe to check mail, and returned aboard.
The next morning we planned to leave, but after sailing through the narrow Haulover Cut we discovered, to our pleasant surprise, the sailboat C-Lise II, a world cruising couple from Seattle who we had met in Morocco. So we dropped anchor beside them and decided to stay another day. We spent the afternoon with Gordon and Elise ashore, catching up over a long lunch while doing the laundry at Crown Bay Marina. It was the fourth time we'd met up with cruising friends since arriving on this side of the pond: we'd found s/v Aquataurus and s/v Acouda in Martinique and s/v Half Moon in Guadalupe.
Over the Hill, Not!
17 February 2014 | Jost Van Dyke, BVI
That same afternoon we took the dinghy ashore and hiked up the steep hill that separates White Sand Bay from Great Harbour. There we paid $47 to clear in to the BVI's with C&I, part of which was Sunday overtime even though the office is open 7 days a week for the ferries. It is tempting to just ignore the rules and not clear in but the penalty if caught is severe.
Great Harbour is famous for Foxy, a local man who opened a popular bar and restaurant years ago that's still the in-place among the charter boat crowd. We found a shady table and had a cold one, then walked to the island shuttle stop and waited with a bunch of friendly young Americans. "Where're you guys from?" was the common ice breaker. Everyone was happy to be taking a break from the snowstorms up north.
After a few minutes we decided to walk back up over the hill rather than wait any longer-showing the young folk that we're not over the hill yet! We were already down the hill on the other side by the time the shuttle passed us, waving and honking.
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Once back on board, we cooled off with a swim and were about to enjoy sundowners when a young local man knocked on the hull and demanded $30 for the mooring fee that we were unaware of. He bristled when we asked for ID, since how did we know he was authorized to collect fees? Feeling fleeced enough for one day, we decided to leave and had a quiet night at anchor around the corner at Great Harbour.
Charter Boat Capital of the World
16 February 2014 | Overnight Sail to BVI
"Like-A-Beast calling Vanquished Virgin!" "Big Rosie, this is Mama Cow!" You know you're in charter territory by the boat names. BVI (British Virgin Islands) is a major center for bareboat chartering, and today most of the charter boats are catamarans. We tied up to a mooring-since there was no room to anchor-along with a host of catamarans between the beach and the reef at White Sand Bay, Jost Van Dyke, and then watched the show: boats and dinghies coming and going, mostly Americans swimming and hanging out while roasting in the sun, with music blaring from the beach bar.
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Watching novice sailors trying to set their anchor used to be cockpit entertainment, but now that moorings are everywhere, the sport has changed to newbies trying to capture a mooring ball. While Burger napped, I watched as a boat repeatedly approached and circled at full speed, the wife on the bow haplessly trying to catch the ball with her boat hook as it whizzed by her each time. On the fifth try she managed to catch the mooring line, only to lose grasp of the hook since the boat was still moving. A helpful couple came to the rescue in their dinghy, retrieving the hook and handing up the mooring line. I wouldn't have wanted to hear the conversation that followed below deck!
Dengue Fever and Dinghy Theft
15 February 2014 | Overnight Sail to Marigot Bay, St. Martin
St. Martin has gotten a bad rap in the cruiser grapevine lately for two reasons: an outbreak of a nasty viral disease similar to dengue fever and caused by the same mosquito, and a recent increase of "cruiser crime"--dinghy thefts, boardings and muggings. (Actually other islands have the same problems; some friends were mugged in Martinique a few weeks ago.) But we are cautious and luckily survived both fates.
We cleared in with Customs & Immigration at the ferry dock and were charged EU 35 ($50) for our two-night stay at anchor--less than in Antigua, but still annoying. We found the supermarket and the chandlery and had Valentine's Day lunch at a waterfront restaurant. Due to all the U.S. tourism it seemed that more English is spoken now than French. Shops and restaurants are happy to take either Euros or dollars, at a one-to-one exchange rate!
Out of Our League
11 February 2014 | Falmouth Harbour, Antigua
We followed half a dozen yachts out of Deshaies early Sunday morning, each aiming for Antigua 40 miles to the north, and one by one we left them all in our wake. The predicted light easterlies picked up to 30 knots as we close-reached at 8.5 knots across the open ocean, a bumpy but fast ride. Our freshly rain-washed deck is now all salty again.
Things have changed since we were last here 18 years ago. There are now three marinas in Falmouth Harbour that cater to the high-end crowd (pun intended): the masts of the mega sailing yachts are so high that they're illuminated with red aviation lights at night. A bevy of huge motor yachts also vie for dock space, all decorated with multiple satellite communication domes. Each yacht is worth gazillions of dollars. But out in the anchorage we're surrounded by our own kind.
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It was here in 1976, after crossing the Atlantic for the first time aboard s/v Phantasus, that we adopted our first pet, a calico kitten at Nelson's Dockyard in English Harbour, just like we'd read that world cruising pioneers Eric and Susan Hiscock had done some years before.
Vive la France!
07 February 2014 | Deshaies, Guadeloupe
The wind was particularly high and gusting to 48 knots (!) as we approached Deshaies ("Day-hay") after a long morning, so we were glad to take shelter in the crowded bay. First things first, we launched the dinghy and went ashore for lunch at one of the cute waterfront French restaurants. The sun remained out while one sun shower after the other crossed the bay while we watched.
A sign at the dingy dock said "Free shuttle to the Jardin Botanique," so after walking around the little town town we hopped aboard the van which took us up the hill. The shuttle was indeed free but we didn't learn that the entrance fee was EU 15 ($20)) per person till we got there. It seemed a bit pricey, but oh well ... Take a look at our photos and see if you agree it was worth it.
CLICK FOR PHOTOS OF TOWN AND BOTANICAL GARDENS
The gardens were beautiful and each exotic plant and tree was identified, albeit in French. The showery weather made it seem like a rain forest but they lent out large umbrellas and there were several places to take shelter during downpours. Besides the extensive plantings there were parrots and flamingos and a pond with lots of colorful koi and a waterfalls. We gave the restaurant a pass, and the large boutique at the exit was just closing by the time we reached it.
It was almost sunset when we walked back down the hill to get some exercise, not the wisest move it turned out, since the road was steep and the traffic whizzed close by us around the sharp curves. But we made it back safely in time to buy a baguette and cheese for supper aboard. This morning Burger fetched us warm chocolate croissants from the boulangerie
while I made the coffee. Vive la France!
Williwaws and Dragging Anchors
06 February 2014 | en route from Martinique to Guadeloupe
It was a long day that started in St. Pierre at dawn and ended 70+ miles further up the Leeward Islands, past green, mountainous Dominica. We reached Les Saintes, a tiny group of islands belonging to Guadeloupe, in plenty of time for sundowners. We dropped the anchor at Pain de Sucre (Sugarloaf) along with a dozen or so other yachts. As latecomers we had to anchor in the outskirts of the bay where the water was deeper.
During the night there was a sudden fierce squall and cloudburst that had us closing hatches and ports at 4:30 am. When we awoke a couple of hours later we discovered that we'd dragged into deeper water, so we quickly weighed anchor and got underway. A catamaran was adrift outside the anchorage, the crew apparently not yet awake and aware of their plight. But they were in no danger, so we continued onward across the channel and up the west coast of Guadalupe. Evidently the cloudburst was widespread as there was much brown water and floating debris near the river entrances.
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Sailing is challenging as we day hop our way north. The channels between the islands are open to the ocean, with boisterous wind and seas. In the shelter of the mountainous islands we've been having strong NE trades gusting higher from sudden violent downdrafts (williwaws) and just as suddenly no wind at all. It keeps us on our toes, reefing in and letting out sails, turning the engine on and off. But at least the wind direction is favorable and it's beautiful scenery along the lush green mountainous coast.
A Prison Cell Saved Him
05 February 2014 | St. Pierre, Guadeloupe
photo: Diamond Rock, where 100 British soldiers with cannons spent 18 months in 1805 controlling the channel between St. Lucia and Martinique.
On May 8th, 1902 Mt. Pele on the northern end of Martinique erupted and wiped out all 30,000 inhabitants of St. Pierre save one, a prisoner whose stone cell miraculously saved him. The entire fleet of anchored boats burned and sank. After sailing up the coast from Sainte-Anne, past Diamond Rock, we're now anchored off the beach of St. Pierre. All around us are diving buoys that mark the many Pele ship wrecks. The town has been rebuilt around stone wall ruins, and the volcanic slopes beyond are cultivated with bright green fields. The 4800 foot high peak of Mt. Pele remained shrouded in clouds while we were there.
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Finding Old Friends in Exotic Places
01 February 2014 | Le Marin, Martinique
One of the neatest thing about the floating village of cruisers is reuniting with old friends in different parts of the world. It was no surprise but nonetheless fun to find Swiss friend Peter Schaub working on his s/v Aquataurus
at the boatyard in Le Marin. We last saw Peter and his wife Ruth 14 years ago at our dock in Annapolis, when we were the local reps of the German-based Trans-Ocean Club. Holiday newsletters and our blog have kept us in contact through the years so we knew Peter would be here. Ruth will be flying over after Aquataurus
splashes so they can spend the rest of the winter cruising the islands.
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We joined Peter for Friday night happy hour at Mango Bay, the local sailors' hang-out, and then on to the bratwurst stand that attracts the German crowd. We fetched him next afternoon for an overnight visit at anchor, a welcome break from life on the hard.
Peter once had a thriving business outfitting yachts and is very knowledgable, so he and Burger spent time troubleshooting our headache with the starter battery. After much trial and error Burger finally solved the problem by adding a new starter cable connecting to the generator. Hooray!
Chilling Out French-style
29 January 2014 | Le Marin, Martinique
photo: Mango Bay on the waterfront is the local sailors' hang-out.
We've been at anchor here in Martinique for a week now, adjusting to the warm, humid climate while finding our way around Ste-Anne and nearby Le Marin, a yachting center with well-stocked chandleries and boat services. On our first day in Le Marin, I found the hair salon and the laundromat while Burger shopped for spare parts, then we dinghied over to Leader Price, a large supermarket with its own dinghy dock!
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We were planning on renting a car and sightseeing around the island for a day or two, but cars are hard to come by in high season, and we just learned that the gas stations are on strike! Bus service appears meager and irregular for such a sophisticated French island.
But we have plenty to keep us busy on board for another several days, and there's good shopping, cafes and walking ashore. I love photographing the colorful Caribbean houses. Frequent tropical rain showers keep everything lush and green and blooming, a pleasant change from the arid Canaries and Cape Verde.
Nous Sommes Arrivez!
21 January 2014 | Sainte Anne, Martinique
Hooray! After 14 1/2 days of rocking and rolling our way across the Atlantic, we have arrived in the New World! We're now anchored in the beautiful, tranquil bay just off the little beach town of Sainte-Anne, on the southern coast of Martinique. Baguettes and Brie here we come!
CLICK FOR PHOTOS OF OUR CROSSING
CLICK FOR PHOTOS OF SAINTE-ANNE