08 February 2018 | Simpson Bay Lagoon, Sint Maarten
23 December 2017 | Tyrrell Bay, Carriacou
05 May 2017 | Cumberland Bay, St Vincent
25 April 2017 | Portsmouth, Dominica
25 April 2017 | Iles des Saintes
Puerto Rico then
09 March 2018
We stayed a couple of more days in Lindbergh Bay to finish our latest round of provisioning and then motored in calm seas and no wind the 20nm to Ensenada Honda, Culebra – an island off the east coast of Puerto Rico and one of the so-called Spanish Virgin Islands (a name thought up by some tourism marketeer to try to make the islands more attractive as holiday destinations).
The bay is very sheltered, especially from SW through North to East, and this was important as a major storm off the east coast USA created northerly seas over 7 metres destroying beaches such as at Jolly Harbour, Antigua, damaging sea walls, and jetties as far south as Carriacou.
We have been fine and enjoyed this quiet island with limited development.
We have managed a WOW while here as on Thursday 8th March we took the 0600 ferry to Fajardo on mainland Puerto Rico and with a hire car, visited old San Juan accompanied by Greg and Marie from ‘Second Sally'. This fortified area and old Spanish colonial city has beautiful buildings and an historic atmosphere that is only marginally impinged on by the jewellery and clothes shops geared to the thousands of cruise ship passengers that regularly visit. We had an excellent local lunch at ‘Manolin’ which included Mofongo (green plantain, onion and pepper) stuffed with prawns.
Some more provisioning at supermarkets in Fajardo completed our trip, and taking the 1900 ferry back to Culebra, we were back on Minnie B by 2045. A long day but worth it … the ferry is only US$1 each way for us oldies.
So now we prepare Minnie B and ourselves to leave on Saturday 10th March for the 500nm trip to Mayaguana in the Bahamas and a few weeks of cruising that new and exciting country.
The 2018 Elite Luxury Cruise
09 March 2018
Having a luxury yacht brings tremendous responsibilities – being seen among elite company means keeping up appearances and guests expect to be treated like the stars and celebrities they have become.
So, it is a good job that our wonderful OVNI 395 is not known for being a luxury yacht – we just pretend it is and are grateful that it is known as the “Land Rover of the Seas”. Fortunately, Greg and Carol go along with our pretence but nevertheless we hot-footed it (if you can ‘hot-foot’ it in a boat) to the USVIs from Sint Maarten overnight 9th-10th February.
It was a super downwind sail with poled out genoa and reefed main in 18-25kts. The 103nm took 15 hours at an average of 6.7kts. We picked up a mooring at 0800 off Lind Point, St John to dinghy round and clear in at Cruz Bay. Not likely. When we got there the US Customs and Border Protection building had been destroyed by Hurricane Irma and clearance was only at Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas. So there we went and anchored in the main harbour where there is good holding and shelter from the steady 20-26kts that blew for the next few days.
Minnie B was then spick and span for the arrival of Greg and Carol and the 2018 Elite Luxury Cruise.
We went into Crown Bay Marina for one night at the start and finish of the cruise and we heartily recommend avoiding this marina. It is laid out so that virtually all berths are beam on to the prevailing wind. The berths are made very narrow by having poles for stern lines and they do not really welcome European boats as the only electricity is 110 volts 60Hz … and it is ridiculously expensive. Stay away.
Anyway despite this we had a superb two weeks, first stopping at Christmas Cove to have pizza from the pizza boat called Pizza Pi. Then on to Francis Bay and Waterlemon Bay on St John. The hurricane damage is immense but the Parks Service have reopened walking trails and we visited Annaberg School and Plantation, and made the hike over to Coral Bay for lunch at Skinny Legs. Coral Bay was very badly hit but is recovering well, albeit the old Moravian Church lost its roof and has not been repaired.
Then to the BVIs: Soper’s Hole to clear in had been devastated and had just one bar/restaurant operating, and Customs/Immigration was at table under a tarpaulin; we picked up a mooring at Cane Garden Bay, drank rum punches and walked up Windy Hill; the Bight at Norman Island had a much recovered bar/restaurant and all the moorings filled up with charter boats, but the famous ‘Willy T’ was wrecked on the beach and looked as if it would never again see topless women jumping in the water to receive a free shot.
Then we headed to Road Town for provisions – you have no idea how much Greg and Carol eat and drink (especially drink: “hollow legs” eh?) – we picked up a mooring off Wickham’s Quay, the Sunsail/Moorings charter base which is now a yacht graveyard/hospital: extraordinary number of damaged boats. However, brand new boats were being busily commissioned and they say that Beneteau/Jeanneau cannot keep up with the demand.
There was excellent provisioning at a nearby supermarket, lunch at the Tennis Club was very good, and we strolled through the badly damaged town to Pussers, for a famous Painkiller – very tasty too.
Then on to the Baths at Virgin Gorda where we were one of only four boats picking up moorings – last year we described it as a zoo but this year it was a desert. So, easy to get through the passages and enjoy the spectacular geology. Then on to Gorda Sound anchoring off Prickly Pear Island with five other boats. There were only another six boats in the whole of Gorda Sound and the damage was both immense and quite depressing.
The Elite Luxury Cruise needed a morale lift so off to Little Jost Van Dyke with a cracking downwind sail. The B-line bar had re-opened but only for lunch and we were too late. No matter the next day we would enjoy the Bubbly Pool – nope, Hurricane Irma ripped out the mangroves and the trees and dumped rocks, stones and debris in what used to be a sandy pool. It is no more. Morale definitely needed raising, so round to Great Harbour, drinks and lunch at Foxy’s and then a hike to the much-recovered Soggy Dollar for rum punches and painkillers.
It was a great way to round off the 2018 Elite Luxury cruise before heading back to St Thomas … for Greg and Carol to contemplate their return to the ice and snow that was blanketing the British Isles … (they made it home OK without hypothermia).
It was quite amazing to sail the Virgin Islands with so few boats, but so sad that some people are still living in tents and struggling to survive. It seemed that the large corporately owned resorts and restaurants were not getting back in business as quickly as the privately-owned bar/restaurant that is simply constructed with wood and corrugated roofing. We wish them all well though and recommend that folks visit as that is a very effective way to help the people recover.
08 February 2018 | Simpson Bay Lagoon, Sint Maarten
We are now in our second badly-hit island from the September 2017 hurricanes. Sint Maarten/St Martin was the victim of hurricane Irma – they call it Irmageddon – and while perhaps the most shocking feature of hurricane Maria’s impact in Dominica was on the trees and vegetation of the island, here it is on the buildings, marinas and boats that were left to their fate.
However, first to conclude on our stay in Antigua. We anchored for a few days in Deep Bay, only a few miles north of Jolly Harbour, as we needed to run the watermaker and the sea is very silty in Mosquito Cove, Jolly Harbour. This was very nice and we climbed the hill to Fort Barrington for great views toward St Johns and round about.
Our old friend Tim, on ‘Mina 2’ was in Jolly Harbour undertaking major repairs to power systems on his boat and we spent quite a bit of time with him, including a trip to Shirley Heights for the Sunday BBQ and music. There were a few OCC gatherings too so altogether very enjoyable.
Nevertheless, we needed to press on and sailed overnight 2nd/3rd February to Sint Maarten with a beam reach in 12-18kts ENE – it was a delightful sail with almost a full moon and a friendly sea. As is usual, Norma was on watch for the squall that brought 26kts wind and rain. The 93nm took us 12.5 hours and we anchored in the bay to await the Lagoon bridge opening at 0930.
So, how is the island? Well, we can only comment on what we have seen which is around the lagoon on the Dutch side and the lagoon and Marigot on the French side. It appears that the Dutch side has done more in terms of recovery as the lagoon is clear of wrecks or they are well-marked whereas on the French side there are many more unrecovered wrecks. All the marinas sustained serious damage with boats (and we are talking multi-million £ motor yachts) having sunk in their berths. The yacht club beside the Simpson Bay bridge lost most of its deck, the dock for cruiser dinghies and the dock for club sailing dinghies. They are all being rebuilt but the sea removed a section of land where the deck was sited so that is much reduced in size. The club is busy though and we had a drink there on Sunday.
The main chandleries of Island Water World and Budget Marine in Cole Bay are stocked to the rafters and probably the best stocked in the whole of the Caribbean. People are running their businesses. Restaurants and bars are open: Lagoonies is busy with Happy Hour and Soggy Dollar is open albeit much of Palapa marina where it is located, was washed away. The supermarkets are generally well-stocked but it can still be a bit hit and miss.
Whilst many buildings are damaged also many are unscathed or not badly damaged. On the French side things are worse. We are told that most of the large hotels are not yet back in business and the most severe damage is on the east coast where beaches have been washed away and such as Maho Bay on the Dutch side, but we have not toured to see for ourselves.
We are here principally for more provisioning (food, wine and rum), to collect replacement anchor chain for that which we bought a year ago but a section of which quickly rusted, and to replace our gooseneck which was very badly worn after some 55,000nm. For the latter we had been carrying a spare but used FKG to carry out the work and they were excellent.
We had been recommended to lunch at Little Jerusalem run by Abraham, a lovely character, from Palestine – he has been in Sint Maarten for over 25 years – his kitchen is in a steel container which he chained down in preparation for Irma, and although he lost his awning covering the dining area, he was back in business three days after Irma passed.
It is a mixed picture but for cruisers, Simpson Bay Lagoon has normal bridge opening times, has a lot of space to anchor and you can get pretty much everything you need.
So, next we head for USVIs for the 2018 Elite Luxury Cruise when old friends (if you read our blog a year ago you would understand that we have known them for a long time but also that they really are incredibly old) Greg and Carol arrive for a couple of weeks cruising the Virgin Islands.
More photos in the Gallery.
20 January 2018
Next stop was Antigua for some boat stuff and more provisioning at the excellent Epicurean supermarket in Jolly Harbour.
We left Portsmouth on Monday 15th and had excellent sailing in 15-18kts ESE wind and anchored overnight in Deshaies. We are not fans of anchoring in Deshaies as it is very busy, we always seem to have to anchor in 16-17 metres, the holding is not great, there can be katabatic winds gusting over 30kts, there can be no wind and boat ballet begins with pirouettes in different directions. But the town is very pretty. Hm.
On 16th January we sailed to Jolly Harbour, Antigua in 14-15kts ESE/E with a very pleasant passage making 7.5kts for much of the way.
There are quite a few cruisers here that we know, so it’s very sociable … very sociable … anchored in 2 metres with 30 metres of chain … chandlery, bars, restaurants … hard to leave eh?
20 January 2018
We were underway again on Wednesday 10th January with a fast sail to the west coast of Martinique in 25-30kts easterly wind. We stopped the one night in St. Pierre and then had a cracking sail to Dominica in 25kts easterly wind, anchoring at Portsmouth in Prince Rupert Bay.
On the night of 18th September 2017, Category 5 Hurricane Maria with sustained winds of 175 mph hit Dominica (population 70,000) stripping the trees of all their leaves and creating a brown and bare landscape. Hardly a building escaped damage and 31 people died with another 34 missing.
We had brought some supplies of clothes, paper, pens, pencils, hammers and nails, and lots of rope for the fishing boats. We took a taxi tour and were shocked by the scale of devastation, with the south being harder hit than the north. The facility of changing rooms, dive shop, café and walkway for visiting Champagne reef had been swept away by mud, water and storm surge. The restaurant where we lunched at Scott’s Head had been taken by the sea. Trafalgar Falls previously only visible close up could be seen from 2-3 miles away as the forest had been destroyed.
However, the trees are sprouting new leaves but look very odd as branches and twigs were stripped away; houses have blue tarpaulins on roofs; people in two storey buildings are living only on the ground floor; mains electricity is only available in Portsmouth and Roseau, the capital; water is largely provided in the street by stand pipe but people also collect rain water into barrels and cisterns. Work is under way to restore buildings and tourist facilities – the latter are vital for the country as it had a high dependency on tourism.
The emergency period is ending, as solar lights and portable generators have been widely distributed. Food is in the shops and the Portsmouth Saturday market has vegetables but little fruit.
The people are remarkably resilient and upbeat, wanting to get back to work and to run their businesses. Yet estimates are that it will take 20 hurricane-free years to get back to where the island was before Maria – and even then they were recovering from Tropical Storm Erica which dumped so much water in 2015 that bridges and roads were swept away and mudslides ruined houses.
We have been encouraging cruisers to go and support the local businesses as much as they can.
20 January 2018
Phew that was a bit busy. We are at anchor in Jolly Harbour, Antigua having moved north quite quickly.
We left Carriacou on Thursday 28th December with winds of 18-20kts and boat speed of 6.5-7 kts, but we were close-hauled so the 37nm rhumb line became 51nm of sailing. Bequia was busy – lots of boats and it seems a particular favourite with Swedish cruisers. We met up with John and Ellie on ‘Serenity’ and had a lovely New Year’s Eve with them. We were in bed by 2100 but awoke at midnight for a quite impressive fireworks display.
With a helpful ESE wind direction we then headed for Rodney Bay, St Lucia on 3rd January and the 70nm took 10 hours with the inevitable motor-sailing up the west coast of the island. We stayed just the one night and moved on to old favourite Sainte Anne, Martinique where we met up with Ann and Stephane on ‘SAS3’ for a very convivial time.
One of our main purposes in visiting Martinique was to take on more food and drink – we had stocked up pretty well in Trinidad but the French have a few goodies that are … well … French. We also needed to replace our windex at the top of the mast so went into the marina Le Marin for a few days.
Small world eh? We are always on the look out for boats we know and the OCC burgee, and for anyone with a Northern Ireland connection. So, what a nice surprise to see an Allures 45.9 called ‘A Capella of Belfast’ flying the OCC burgee. An even greater surprise was that Julian and Patricia are also members of our club, Royal North of Ireland YC. A splendid evening was spent recounting tales and enjoying good food and wine.