Archive for May, 2007

Entry for May 27, 2007

May 27, 2007

We’ve spent the past few days in Charlotte Amalie (St. Thomas) harbor working on small projects and doing a little shopping in town.  Yesterday (Saturday) morning we woke up to a huge cruise ship docked about ¼ mile from our anchorage.  It was the “Adventure of the Seas”, a Royal Caribbean ship.  The town was packed with passengers off the ship and the place was hopping.

Laura and I found the public dinghy dock in town and walked to a small café for lunch.  It was more expensive than we expected with a fish sandwich (mahi-mahi) for me and a pulled-chicken wrap for Laura going for almost $40.  We’re hoping the rest of the Virgin Islands won’t be as expensive but this is a big tourist part of the world so it well might be.

We walked about a mile to the grocery store (Pueblo) and bought just a few fresh veggies because we’d have to haul everything back to the boat.  We also noticed a K-Mart and gas station near the grocery store.  On the way back, we found a closer dinghy dock so Laura stayed with the groceries while I trekked back to the center of town to retrieve our dinghy.  We had the groceries back on the boat and stowed away before twilight and another beautiful evening in this harbor.  The picture is my best result yet for getting the harbor at night.  I’m not sure it does it justice but you’ll have to come down here and see for yourself to tell me.

Since last night was Saturday, the music and noise from town lasted until way after midnight.  It was a very warm night so I was sleeping up in the cockpit until about 1 am when it started to rain.  I closed up all the hatches and went back to sleep in our cabin.  Rain at night is like a Chinese-fire-drill for us.  We leave everything open when we go to bed or it just gets too hot.  There is a big hatch right over our bed so when it starts raining, I know it immediately.  Then we are running around the boat closing hatches and bringing all the cushions from the cockpit downstairs into the main cabin.  We sometimes laugh a lot because I am usually the one in the cockpit throwing things down the hatch and get soaked in the process.  I don’t really mind.  The rain is probably 80 degrees on an 85 degree night so it’s a little cooling.

Today we went into town with garbage and an empty gasoline jug.  We found trash cans near the public dinghy dock in the middle of town then took the dinghy to the east end dinghy dock (if that’s what you want to call it – it’s very rickety) and secured it for our trip to the gas station and K-Mart.  We’ve taken extra security measures here with our dinghy which includes a locked cable through the gas tank, oars and engine mounts plus a longer locked cable to secure the dinghy to the dock.  We’ll be using these for the next 6 months or so because we’ve heard about theft in this part of the world.

We walked to the gas station (about ½ mile) and filled up the 5-gallon jug.  Laura walked across the street to K-Mart while I trucked the jug back to the dinghy and locked it inside.  I then walked back to K-Mart and found Laura shopping.  We purchased a few things we needed like spare sheets for our bed then I found a very nice luggage “wheelie” which we bought.  We loaded all the stuff on the wheelie and had an easy trek back to the dinghy.  Why didn’t I have this for the gas jug back to the dinghy??!! 

When we got back to the boat, Laura proceeded to make a canvas bag that fit onto the wheelie so we could haul groceries and other stuff without worrying about it falling all over the sidewalk.  She made an excellent bag from our stock of burgundy Sunbrella canvas in about 2 hours.  She really amazes me sometimes.  At one point I thought I’d give her a hand and asked how she was cutting the material.  After about 5 minutes, I knew she had a better handle on this than me so I left her alone.  It came out perfect.  It has straps to hold it on the wheelie and is waterproof because it’s all canvas.  My only contribution was cutting out a piece of Plexiglas for the bottom inside the bag.  That will help to keep stuff from falling through the cracks in the wheelie.  I can’t wait to shop again and try this thing out!  For the past 6 months, we’ve been hauling everything for the boat on our backs or arms from grocery stores, Home Depot, etc…  Now is the new age!

We’ve been getting advice from our friend Margo here about where to find stuff and how to get around the island.  There are busses (actually pick-up trucks with seats in the back for about 30 people) that run the island for about $2 a ride.  They are mostly for the locals but we’re going to try them tomorrow to get to NAPA so I can buy the oil I like for the diesel engine – Rotella 40w – and some additional spare belts for the main engine. 

Hope everyone is having fun.  That’s the important thing!

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Entry for May 25, 2007

May 25, 2007

If you are following us on our voyages, please note that we posted 5 blog entries tonight.  Go back and read them all!

 

 

Entry for May 25, 2007

May 25, 2007

Today we slipped our mooring about 9 am and said “good-bye” to the Spanish Virgin Islands.  They were a highlight of our trip and the snorkeling was just beautiful (including the sharks).

We pointed the boat east toward St. Thomas which we could easily see in the distance.  All our sails up were pushing us about 4 knots when the wind died.  Laura and I both looked at each other and thought, “what the heck happened to the tradewinds?”  We started the engine and motored the rest of the way to St. Thomas.  Since we were running the engine anyway, we decided to run our watermaker in the beautiful ocean since we had plenty of extra electricity from the alternator.

Along the way we saw a huge sea-turtle and we turned around for a better look.  Before we could get the camera ready, it went under but it was pretty good sized – the shell was probably 3-4 feet in diameter.

We also had a passenger for part of this leg.  A seabird (not sure what kind yet) circled us about 20 times and tried to land on our bow while we were bouncing around on the ocean.  It finally succeeded and spent the better part of 2 hours there with a couple re-trys after falling off.  He was so persistent – he’d keep trying and falling off then circling around again – we didn’t want to “shoo” him away when he finally made the landing.  We let him stay and he rewarded us by not pooping on the boat.  We took this picture of the bird while he was trying to balance on the moving boat.

As we motored into the harbor, we checked the anchorages we passed and they seemed like they wouldn’t have much wind to stay cool.  We anchored in front of customs.  There were many boats on moorings but nobody else anchored.  As we were putting the dinghy in the water, a seaplane landed about 50 feet from the front of the boat.  I turned around and there he was!  I guess that’s why more boats don’t anchor here.  Anyway, I found a place to tie up the dinghy and walked to customs.  I found out that we didn’t need to clear-in because we were coming form Puerto Rico.  We had cleared in there from the DR and were good-to-go.  YEA! 

We pulled up the anchor and motored to another anchorage we saw at the east end of Charlotte Amalie harbor.  It looked fine and we anchored nicely in 30 feet of water about ¼ mile from the main street in town.  I worked on getting our Internet going and found there was a problem with our antenna.  I had to take it apart and solder a couple connections but it was working good afterwards.  We signed up with a local wireless provider we could get from the boat and are now good for the next month (if we don’t move the boat – hehe).

We’ve contacted our friends Margo and Byron Rose who we charted with 2 years ago on their 42’ Morgan Sloop.  We booked that charter to find out if we liked sailing and we had a wonderful week with them.  Byron is on a boat delivery to Ft. Lauderdale but should be back in a couple days.  We’re hoping to meet up with Margo (or both of them) shortly and have them on the boat for a nice dinner.  They were a great inspiration to us and we’d love to repay part of that with some time on our boat.  Margo is working as a broker for boat charters in the Virgin Islands so if you know of anyone who is interested, her email is caribqn2003@yahoo.com.

I can’t believe how beautiful it is here.  As the sun went down, all the lights from the city came on and the harbor water calmed down like glass.  This harbor is shaped like a big bowl so there are very steep hills on 3 sides which are all lit up  at night with houses and streetlights.  It’s almost like a dream with the reflection off the very calm water.  We tried several times to get a picture but the camera doesn’t like taking pictures of lights in the dark.  We’ll be here a couple days so we’ll try again until we get it right.

Laura made homemade pizza for dinner after we read about a Pizza Hut not too far from here.  We didn’t feel like putting the dinghy in the water and getting dressed for town so we decided to celebrate our landfall in St. Thomas with pizza and Story wine in the cockpit with the lights of the city all around us. 

Arriving here is a big deal for us. We’ve developed 5 major goals for this part of our voyage.  1) Get the boat ready to motor south from Deltaville, VA, 2) Work our way to Florida for the Space Shuttle launch and Christmas, 3) Sail (motor) to Georgetown in The Bahamas, 4) Work our way windward to St. Thomas, 5) Go south (Trinidad or Venezuela) to get out of hurricane alley.  Also, St. Thomas marks the start of The Virgin Islands which we have visited before and want to re-live some of our past experiences.  We’ll spend 2, 3, 4 or more weeks here until we are ready to travel new waters by an overnight sail to St. Martin where we finally turn the corner south.

The voyage from Florida to St. Martin is approximately 1,200 sailing miles almost all of which is against the wind.  To sailors, it’s commonly known as “The Thorny Path” because sailboats (and most powerboats) don’t work well against the wind.  We were lucky to be recommended a book by Bruce Van Sant called “The Gentleman’s Guide to Passages South” which describes in detail how to make this trip “thorn-less” by traveling at night and staying close to shore in order to take advantage of lower tradewinds.  It’s worked so good for us I can’t believe it.  I don’t think we’ve taken 1 wave over the bow since crossing the gulf stream from Florida to The Bahamas.  Almost all of our passages to windward have been comfortable and beautiful.  I give great tribute to Bruce and actually had the opportunity to tell him so when I met him at a bar in Luperon, DR one night.  Of the 1,200 miles, we have only about 200 left and they are small hops between the islands of US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.  We’ll never lose sight of land again until we make the overnight to St. Martin from Virgin Gorda.  It’s been awesome and I’ve felt so fortunate to not only know what I want (thank you Executive Success Programs) but have worked toward the goal and realize it.  Laura has been such a great companion on this whole trip and I never would have made it without her.  She always seems to be ready for anything.  Ignorance is bliss?  I don’t think that tells the real story.  She is very open-minded and enjoys experiencing new things.  That’s a rare thing to find and it fits so well with my enjoyment of life, I know I would have never done this without her so I appreciate her so much.

Can you tell I’m feeling emotional tonight?  I never thought we’d make it here and WE DID! 

Entry for May 23, 2007

May 25, 2007

Today we will be heading out to points east, but before we did, we wanted to snorkel another reef not too far in front of the boat. So we donned our snorkel gear and swam toward the shore about 90-100 yards. The coral was just amazing and the abundance of fish was astounding.. a beautiful large blue angel, atlantic needlefish (long slender, with a long “needle” type nose) butterfly, trigger, sergeant majors, blue damsels, parrotfish and many more that we’re not sure what they are. We also got to see one of the sea turtles. It was about the size of a dinner plate. While Bill was searching for lobster(dinner) he saw a tail tucked under a crevasse close to shore. As he followed the long tail that was attached to quite a large body, a top fin and flat nose, he didn’t hang around once he realized it was a shark,(close to 6 ft) snoozing in the coral. A few minutes later, he tells me about it and we go looking for it, after a few minutes, we thought better of the idea and decided it would be a good time to return to the boat. What were we thinking?? So as we approach the boat, our friends the yellow jacks are greeting us and as I look along the boat bottom, there’s a different kind of shark, not very large(maybe 24 inches),flat nose, didn’t have any kind of a back fin, nibbling on the boat. I grabbed Bills arm, he hadn’t noticed it yet, while I’m suggesting going around the other side of the boat, Bill decides to zoom for the back of the boat. The shark heads toward his fins, then turns back towards me.. eeeeeeeek.. trying not to panic, (but with a scared urgency) I swam out a bit and then toward Bill on the swim deck. Yeah, it was a tense few minutes, but when we later looked it up in our fish book, the shark by the boat was what we think was a school shark, hangs around boats and is harmless to man. Whew! Quite an exciting morning!

We left around noon and sailed most of the way to another harbor, Ensenada Honda, about 5 miles, picked up another mooring and we’re settled down for the night behind a nice reef, feeling the breeze from the ocean, but not getting the rolling of the waves. We even got English TV channels ABC and CBS Caribbean! The first time in months!

We’re off to Isla Culebrita tomorrow, more snorkeling and a few miles closer to St. Thomas.

Here is a picture of Second Wind in this anchorage.

Entry for May 21, 2007

May 25, 2007

Today’s trip was to the Island of Culebra, and again we’ve heard many nice things, especially that the waters here are as clear and blue as the British Virgin Islands (BVI), and there’s many reefs to snorkel, so we’ve planned to spend about 4-5 days going to a few different anchorages and points of interest along the south side of the island, staging to head out to St Thomas (USVI) only 20 miles off the east coast of Culebra.

We were up about 6:30, but didn’t leave until 7:30 as we were hoping that because of the angle we had to travel to Culebra (NE-E) that we could sail it most of the way and that as the day progressed, so would the trade winds. We actually never started the engine and were able to slip the mooring by having our sails out and started sailing within 5 minutes. It was cooool. We did have to tack a few times to get our approach angle into the north shore of Cayos Luis Pena, a small island just off of Culebra, and only had to start the engine for the ½ mile into the anchorage, just to make sure we didn’t get “pushed” into the reefs or rocks. We anchored in 20 feet of clear water, I could see the anchor hit the bottom, but the anchor landed on coral instead of sand and didn’t set. We decided to jump in the water and look around for a bit, the boat seemed to be caught in a current and wasn’t going anywhere. Then we grabbed a bite of lunch (about 3:30) and after that decided to move to another shore. We discovered some moorings on the west shore of Culebra, very close by, which made it much easier to settle in for the night. After dinner and a movie, sleep came easy and was much needed.

Here is the sunset from the anchorage.

Entry for May 20, 2007

May 25, 2007

Sunday, May 20

We were up at 5 am, off the anchor by 5:30 and on our way to one of the Spanish Virgin Islands, Vieques (vee-aye-case). We had heard this was a popular spot with the Puerto Ricans on the weekends, and as we motor/sailed into the area known as Green Beach around 5 pm, there were many small power boats anchored, some of them already starting to head out for the mainland. As we sailed today, we tacked a few times, and were able to sail only for a few hours, but we should know by now that the trade winds blow east!..11 hours and 45 miles later, we made it. During the day, I took over the wheel for a few hours to let Bill catch up a bit on his sleep. It was fairly easy as the winds were fairly steady and the auto-pilot was holding a good course. As I looked up into the sky, I noticed a rainbow, totally encircling the sun.. One of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. My Dad once told me that as a pilot, he often saw total “round” rainbows and had even flown through them, this had been the first time I had ever actually seen the full circle. I couldn’t get the whole thing in a picture, but what is showing is still an awesome sight. Back at Green Beach, we picked up a mooring, instead of anchoring, and by sunset there was only us, a large powerboat and another sail boat that had come in after us. The beaches were nice, but there was a rolling swell that made for some unsettled sleeping, again.

The picture is the rainbow around the sun. Enjoy!

Entry for May 19, 2007

May 25, 2007

Saturday, May 19

Well, being at the dock has been nice and convenient, but we’ve had enough. We both have been itching to get back on the open waters. So we did some final shopping at the town marine store, filled the water tank, put everything away, pulled in all the dock-lines and were on our way. A jumping off point to places, east, was only about 6 miles down a few islands, so we decided to head out there, instead of anchoring in the hot harbor. Its so nice here, we’re tucked in between two little Mangrove Islands with a reef to the sea-side that keeps most of the swell out of the cove. And the best thing is we’re the only boat here. We’ve jumped off the boat and been swimming about 4 different times this afternoon. The water is kinda different from anywhere else we’ve been, as there’s warm and cool spots as you swim along. We’re figuring the cooler waters are coming in over the reef, and what’s been in the “cove” has had time to warm up a bit. Anyway, we look for the cool spots as they are very refreshing. We decided to put out one of our poles, its not too deep, but thought, what the heck.. So Bill finally gets it all set up and wouldn’t you know, some BIG fish jumps out of the water about 10 feet from the boat, but about 20 feet away from the bait.. I saw it, but didn’t know what it was, it jumped quite quickly. We can only hope there’s more out there that are hungry for shrimp.

Time to fix some supper.. later. If we do catch the “big one” that will have to be tomorrow’s dinner. 🙂 we didn’t : (

We ate dinner in the cockpit, nice breeze, but by the time we finished, swarms of mosquitoes had infiltrated the camp. So we retreated to the salon and sprayed ourselves down with deep woods deet… We came to the conclusion that there must be something about the mangrove trees that makes it a breeding ground.

It actually was very warm in this cove and after not being able to sleep in the aft cabin, Bill decided to try the cockpit, it was a bit cooler, but he had to apply the “deet” numerous times during the night to avoid being carried away..another night of restless sleep.

The picture is Second Wind in her slip next to another boat. I lever thought I would get a picture like this because the other boat is exactly the same as my last boat. She is the same make, model and year. Great picture for comparison.

Entry for May 18, 2007

May 18, 2007

Yesterday (Thursday) we were picked up at the marina by our rental car company then were driven back to their office about 20 miles away.  We left there and drove about 100 yards to Wal-Mart for a major shopping trip.  We purchased a lot of things we had been needing for the boat (lights, cooler, batteries, etc.) and bought some new summer clothes for ourselves since what he were using was wearing out.

After Wal-Mart, we drove north into the mountains over the “old road” per the rental car agent.  This road was very narrow and I don’t think we did over 20 miles / hour for the next 2 hours as we zig-zagged up and down the very steep mountains.  The views were awesome and the mountains seemed to be straight up and down.  At one point we drove past a softball field that had been cut into the side of a mountain.  A home-run there definitely meant a new ball into the game.

We treated ourselves to Wendy’s for lunch and we enjoyed every bite.  We have never eaten fast-food very much but I think we both had been craving Wendy’s.  It tasted better than I remembered!

We enjoyed our ride immensely and eventually decided to drive to San Juan and try to find the West Marine because we were still missing some boat parts to be 100%.  I used the web access on my cell phone to look up the address of West Marine then plugged that address into MapQuest.  San Juan is a huge city but it seemed like we knew right where we were going as we drove to the West Marine front door.  They had everything we needed and I was very happy to find all the sailing parts. 

We left San Juan and took the highway along the coast back to Salinas instead of the mountains.  About ½ way back, we took an exit because I saw a Ruby Tuesdays.  I was just telling Laura a couple days ago how I was missing a good salad bar.  Once again, it was better than I remembered and this place had great Margaritas to boot.

We found our way back to the marina and unloaded everything from the car around 8 pm.  We hit the sack about 1 hour later because we were very tired from all the driving and shopping.

Today, we were up early because we had to have the rental back by 9:30 am and we wanted to stop at Wal-Mart first to pick up meats.  We didn’t get any refrigerated foods yesterday because we knew they’d be in the car all day.  We had no problem spending another $200 at Wal-Mart for mostly meats and a few other items like DVDs which we hadn’t seen yet.  Back to the rental agency where they promptly brought us back to the boat.  The rental cost us $40, including all insurances, and it was well worth it.

Back at the marina we put the final coat of bottom paint on our dingy and told the marina we’d be leaving tomorrow.  After checking, it turned out that FedEx had stopped the last 2 days with sail gear I had ordered on the Internet but the marina staff wouldn’t sign for the package.  Good customer service, huh?  I kept my marine radio with me all day and finally about 3 pm I was called for UPS then FedEx.  I was very happy that I had received all the items I had ordered on the Internet just 3 days ago.   Now all that is left for the boat is to walk to the marine store for a new fan and a few charts I couldn’t get anywhere else.  We’ll then be 110% because all of the broken things I replaced with higher quality gear – it won’t break again as easily.

Tonight we went to the marina pub on the water for their Friday night special – BBQ ribs and chicken plus happy-hour specials.  We met several cruisers and a few non-cruisers here on vacation for a few days.  We had a great time and the food was excellent.

Tomorrow we’ll take the dingy off our front deck and slide it back in the water.  Then we’ll motor out of the marina and drop the anchor just a couple hundred feet away for a “free” night in the harbor.  We’re planning on leaving here early Sunday morning for the east coast of Puerto Rico then the Virgin Islands.  We, and the boat, are ready to go!

The picture is the countryside in the PR mountains.  I’m afraid the camera doesn’t do a very good job of showing how steep the mountains are but you can get an idea of how beautiful everything is here.

Entry for May 16, 2007

May 16, 2007

Today we cleaned up the boat some, Bill swabbed the decks and I scrubbed and polished the cockpit. Since we’re at the docks, we have free fresh water and that makes a difference as to how often you can really give the boat a good washdown. When we’re not at the docks, we have our washdown pump which uses salt water, so to really “wash” the boat we wait for a good rain.

Later in the day, we hauled up the dingy onto the front deck for a good overhaul. We scraped off all the barnacles, washed it down with Softscrub (to bleach it) then sanded down the bottom with 120 grit sandpaper. After it was dry, we put on a good coat of bottom paint we bought in the Bahamas ($75 / quart). It looks awesome. I wish we had taken a “before and after” picture.

Does anyone want to visit us here? This is an awesome place. There are 5 islands within a days sail for swimming and snorkeling plus some great fishing nearby. We’d love to have company. Check flights into San Juan or Ponce which is only about ½ hour drive away. We’re even willing to hang here for a month or more if anyone is interested. No hotel necessary as we have a nice front cabin with its own head (bathroom) and plenty of water for “real” showers, not just “boat” showers. Can you tell we’re missing you guys? But seriously, if anyone wants to visit just send us an email and we’ll work something out!!

Bill talked to a fellow at the marina that knows someone who can work on our air conditioner. We actually haven’t thought much about it since we can only use it at a dock, but since we’re here, it seems that it needs to be recharged or new Freon or whatever in it. Maybe we’ll even have that fixed shortly.

We keep hearing what seems to be quite large fish, jumping in the water behind the boat. I told Bill he should put the fishing line out… now that we’ve caught one… we’re feeling lucky.. hahahaha

Anyway time for bed, we’re renting a car tomorrow and touring the country a bit. That should be interesting.

The picture is Laura standing in front of one of the giant cactus on Muertos Island.

Buenas noches all…

Entry for May 15, 2007

May 15, 2007

Hi everyone!.. not much exciting happening today. Bill went and picked up a few extra parts for the boat, also ordered some on line as we’ll be here for a mail pick up for the next few days. I did laundry which took forever, since out of three washers and three dryers only one of each worked.. oh well, after 4 hours, laundry was done for another week or two… we use clothes sparingly on our trips… hehe.. took a dip in the pool a few times to cool off between washer loads. There’s supposed to be live music at the snackbar tonight, so we’re thinking of moseying on over there shortly…

Planning on renting a car within the next few days to do some sightseeing and may even shop at a Wal-Mart!! Wooooohooooooo.. we haven’t done that in over 3 months, that’s gotta be a record. : ) hahaha.

I was talking to one of the cruisers, she said there’s some good snorkeling areas, hope to hit those in the next day or so.

Later all, have a great night!!

Here’s the picture of a Caribbean sea sunrise… it was one of our early morning trips.