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WHAT A WEEK April 29, 2015

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Son and daughter-in-law arrived on schedule Saturday evening. Now there were 7 of us. There flights had one interesting item. There flight from Tampa to San Juan was on a normal size jet. Then they transferred to a Cessna 440. A 10 passenger plane that only had 2 passengers. Them. My son got to ride in the second seat, next to the pilot. The flight from San Juan to St Thomas is short and they flew low so it was like sight seeing. I do not believe either of them had been on a plane that small before.

Then started a week of fishing and visiting the beaches on St John. My grand daughter wanted a beach trip each day, so that was the main plan. Thursday the ladies decided to go to Cruz Bay, the main city on St John and shop. Tuesday we had taken my son and his wife on the boat to Hurricane Hole in Coral Bay. There he fished and his wife kayaked all day. We had the daughter and granddaughter along and they also kayaked after the daughter-in-law wore herself out. The kayak is a one person affair, but when the granddaughter is around, she can squeeze in with you. Hard to miss hitting her in the head with the paddle.

Wednesday all of us went back to Hurricane Hole, but in another spot. It was a repeat of Tuesday, but with more people and a lot more activity. We also discovered that there were lots of starfish in the shallow water. See my Facebook for pictures.

Friday they packed up and went to Cruz Bay to await the ferry back to St Thomas. The mate and I rode the buss there and checked out of the USVI, so we could head to St Martin the next day. We then met up with the kids for lunch and good-byes as they departed on the ferry. The grandkid did not want to go home. Must have been a good vacation. It definitely was for grandma and grandpa.

THE ADVENTURE BEGINS April 22, 2015

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The granddaughter with her parents got here on time with no real incidents. Other then Southwest charges you to sit with other members of your family. Dumbest thing I ever heard of. What if a kid gets sick or there is a real emergency. Some stupid accounted thought that was easy money without thinking about all the ramifications. But I am retired and should not be bothered with poor management anymore.

Anyway, first week on St John was mostly going to the beach, sugar plantation ruins and finding the right grocery stores. Ate out a few times, rather expensive for what you get. Good quality, just expensive. $12 to $18 for a hamburger. Very good, but not in a cruisers budget. We will not talk about the group meal. But, that is St John’s. If you have to ask, you should not be here.

The grand kid loves the beach and it is a bit of an issue to get her to leave. We have been going to various beaches, but have decided on Maho beach as the most user friendly for a 7 y.o. I agree, soft sand, easy to drive to, only moderately crowded, some small fish about…, perfect.

Saturday our son and daughter-in-law arrive. That will be the first time we are all together in over 2 years. This will also be challenging. The daughter-in-law gets sea sick easily and the son-in-law is no better. Match that with a son who’s only purpose in life is to fish, and you may have a difference in opinion in what we should do from day to day. I am with him. He is a catch and release kind of guy. That’s great, neither of us eat fish.

SAD TO SEE HIM GO, BUT THE GRANDKID IS APON US April 13, 2015

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Our guest wanted to visit a quiet anchorage. That is hard to find in the BVI’s during the high season. One of our cruising buddies told us of a bay they found and liked for its seclusion. It is in a private island north of Tortola. We were the first boat of the day and ended with 3 other boats in a good size anchorage. Nothing ashore but rocks and shrubs. The first house was about 5oo feet straight up the hill.

The next morning we headed to Sopers Hole. Got checked out ate a great lobster, shopped a little. The Dock Lord bought stuff for his grandkids and some rum. Can’t go home without some rum. The next morning he left for Pensacola and we for St John. Ours was a fiasco.

Before going to the BVI’s we were in a bay in St John and called our son. We did not notice that our phone was picked up by the company in the BVI’s and we just talked away for 50 minutes of roaming charges, till they cut us off. You check back into the us customs via telephone. We have no phone, we have been cut off forever according to the message we got. To complicate matters we went to the bay where we would be anchored while our kids visit. That could be problematic. To complicated to explain here. We borrowed a phone, but the custom people are set up to take a message from you and they call back when they have your info pulled up and it is convenient for them. Well, that did not work with a borrowed phone. While waiting for the bus to go to the other end of the island, we actually hitchhiked there. Yep. This 70-year-old geezer and his almost that old bride hitched a ride with a couple that was older then us. Got dropped off at customs and the mate at the mall to talk to the cell phone people. All went very well and we took the bus back for a dollar each. Such a deal.

Saturday, the granddaughter and her parents got here about 4 pm. So we start another adventure.

SOPERS HOLE AND A DOCK LORD April 6, 2015

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We came here Monday with our guest (My dock lord from Pensacola) arriving Tuesday. He got here and we got him and luggage on board and then off to dinner. The next day we headed to Jost Van Dyke and Little Jost Van Dyke island. There is a place called Bubble Pool. The waves crash in through an opening in the rocks, especially at high tide. Timing was good and the place was bubbling. See the pictures in facebook. We left there around noon for the Soggy Dollar Bar. It is a famous beach bar that is behind a reef and you have to anchor on a mooring ball. They were all taken so we headed across to another bay for the night.

I will not bore you with details of the week. That is like watching someone’s home videos’. But there were a few other interesting place that was new to us. One was at Trellis Bay. They celebrate the full moon with a party. Again see my facebook for pictures. They build fires in these 2 pots and a figure and light them around 9 pm. They should burn for quite a while, but the wind we had made them last only a couple hours. The music, it lasted loudly till 3 am. We were moored about 60 yards from the beach and 70 yard from the sound system.

Another interesting place, was The Baths. No pictures, we accidently drowned the camera. Waiting for a new one in a couple weeks. Have been using the phone, but WiFi here is bad at best. The Baths are huge bolders that have washed out and create an area in which you can walk under and around the rocks. They are the size of large houses. It is an interesting place.

Tuesday we start heading back down the chain to Sopers Hole to drop off our guest and allow him to go home. It has been great having him on board. We have visited several other island and bays. Had some great meals and also one of the worst man has ever paid for. It has been quite breezy and rough going east. We did get a great sail in Sunday after leaving The Baths and going to The Bitter End. Outran a 40 foot Lagoon Cat while we were towing our dingy. They were out twinking there sails. One knew what he was doing and got a great shape out of his genoa. That was one of our highlights. Our guest is a great sailor and a even better helmsman.

YEA WE DID April 5, 2015

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Back to Caneel Bay, did some grocery shopping, left off laundry and rolled for the night before we could go and get the laundry and leave. Moved on to Maho Bay. Real nice beach and no roll. Some place to take the grandkid. Got the kayak out and chased a green turtle and a gray ray. The ray got to grass and dove under the sand. That was a real nice experience. The next morning I again took to the kayak and saw a spotted ray and followed him for a while. He did not go far and just settled on the bottom and sat there. I got tired of waiting for him to move and left. He was probably very happy.

We ran across one of our old boat buddies and went snorkeling with them. We did a very calm area around some rocks. Some nice fish and coral, but little else.

We went back to Caneel Bay and finished re-provisioning for our guest. Because of the rollieness of Caneel Bay we then moved along the north side of St James Island to Waterlemon Bay. This was straight across from Sobers Hole where we would pick up our guest Tuesday. We had heard that it was very crowded. Therefore, we wanted to be able to go early and get a mooring ball.

I am a day ahead, we shall see if the strategy worked. Also if we can find WFi.

VIRGIN ISLAND HERE WE ARE March 24, 2015

Posted by sailingnightwatch in Durbeck, FL, Florida, ICW, Pensacola, Repairs, Restoration, Sailing, Sailing the ICW.
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Monday was as advertised. Light winds and dying seas. We left St Maarten about 3 pm which would get us to the USVI around 8 am. I guess if you are not getting blown to pieces, it is good. Well maybe. We had 4 foot seas and 7-9 knots of wind. Both on our starboard quarter or dead astern. Think right rear fender, The seas there caused us to roll around 10 – 15 degrees all the time. We tried to sail, but the wind was to light to overcome the roll. I therefore tightened up the main and mizzensail and used them as steading sails. It worked most of the time. An occasional large wave would still cause us to roll 20+ degrees and make the sails snap back and forth. That is how you break gear. The good Lord looked out for us and nothing broke.

We got to Cruz Bay, St John, USVI about 7:30. We had a good current and with the waves pushing us along and we made good time. We checked in through Customs and headed to the medical center to have my arm looked at. Had to make an appointment for Tuesday, which we did. The outcome Tuesday was the MD gave me a referral if I wanted to use it for a specialist in St Thomas, the main island in the USVI’s. We had a long talk some of which was how I could monitor the spot myself and what to look for that was a bad sign. I have decided to do that. Have to keep the suntan lotion on and use long sleeve shirts. I have been doing that.

We left Cruze Bay and took a mooring ball for a couple days in Caneel Bay. There is a nice resort there, (rooms from $500 to $800 per night) we had a couple beers for $6.50 a piece. That cut down our stay. When my son was down last spring he took us here for lunch. Three people, $160. That may have been the most expensive lunch I ever had. If I recall I had a roast beef dip. That will kill the cruising kitty.

Thursday we moved to Frances Bay for the night. Very nice place and ran into one of our boat buddies who had guests aboard for the week. We had them over for Sundowners. A good time was had by all.

Friday we were on the move again. We sailed up Drake Passage to the east end of the island. We had 12-15 kts. wind and about 1-2 foot chop. Perfect. Made 11 tacks to cover the 7 miles. The most tacking I have done in many years. I figured I would not be able to move the next day. But, surprise, I was not stiff at all. We ended up in Johnson Bay which is a part of much larger Coral Bay. We were securely tucked in behind a reef. That kept us from rolling very much. Coral Bay is very open to the SE and the Caribbean. Talked to the people anchored beside us and they said it could get very rollie there. Thank goodness not this time.

Saturday we explored the area. There is a large anchorage in one of the bays. The water is dirty and the anchorage is crowded. Many derelict boats there. We did some grocery shopping and had lunch at a little deli. It was very good and cheap. Good is easy to find in St John, cheap is not.

We liked where we were anchored. It is near the entrance to Coral Bay. The water was very clean which we wanted because we wanted to make as much water as possible. We have my dock lord from Pensacola coming next week for 10 days. We have 200 gallons stored up and are now keeping that much on hand. It is good to have a wonderful water czar.

Sunday we were going to leave when I discovered we could get WiFi. We both spent a lot of time catching up with email and iChating with the grandkid and her parents. Found out they are coming to St Johns the 3rd week of April. That was wonderful news.
The kids are renting a place overlooking Hurricane Hole, another bay in Coral Bay. After the computer sessions we jumped in the dinghy and rode over to the area of their rental. It is half way up a 520 foot hill. Has to have fantastic views. We are oh so looking forward to the visit. Grandma is in high speed planning on things to do with the granddaughter. After what we did last summer in Granada, it will be hard to top.

Tonight we are anchored in Lameshure Bay on the south side of the island. Tomorrow we will go back to Cruz Bay to get laundry done, get a sim card for the phone, fuel up and move back to Caneel Bay and get WiFi. In a couple days we will move over to the British Virgin Islands and await our guest.

IT COULD HAPPEN March 17, 2015

Posted by sailingnightwatch in Carabbean, Durbeck, FL, Florida, ICW, Pensacola, Repairs, Restoration, Sailing the ICW.
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The trip to the clinic did not happen. The mate woke up feeling like she may beat the cold, so why go. Well I caught her cold yesterday and although am not as sick as she was, I am far from 100%. Plus I have been trying at least half heartedly to see a doc about these spots on my arms. My arms have been in the sun a lot in 70 years, and my lifestyle does not led one to the inside or even the shade. I have looked on the internet, now there is some stuff that will scare you. I see nothing as bad as that stuff, but maybe a little. Maybe in St John USVI. At least there is Medicare and insurance. We will see.

Well, the weather guy is up to his lying ways again. Back into the 20’s, gusting into the 30’s. Just like the last 3 weeks. We are anchored a long ways from anyplace. Everything is between 1-2 miles away. One of those ways is against the wind and the chop of the seas. It is impossible to stay dry. Once wet with salt water, you tend to stay wet. Once you get a cold, you tend to keep a cold. But mine is getting better faster then the mate’s. Oh, the weather guy…, next week.

The weather patterns are changing, so you work at getting ready. Last loads of laundry, last grocery shopping at as many as 3 different stores. Get part you need. None of which are in the same direction.

After being in one location for 6 weeks, you tend to develop new relations. Our Canadian Boat Buddies are scattered around the islands. We will run into them here and there, but our effort to reach Grenada was accomplished. This anchorage we fell in with a group that was heading south for the first time. We are heading a little further north to the Virgin Islands. After a month in the Virgins we will also head south.

Monday is looking good. If the weather is right, we will head straight for St John USVI. We will visit the island more then the 2 days we did last year. Then we will go to the British Virgin Islands and meet my Dock Lord from Pensacola. After he leaves in mid April, maybe my daughter and family will come. With our daughter, you never know until they climb on the plane. We were hoping our son would also come, but coordinating 4 jobs and school is to much to overcome.

Time to get the boat ready to sail. Still no wifi, plus if we leave, it could be a while. Wifi in the Virgins was a hit and miss situation.

AT LEAST IT IS PRETTY HERE March 14, 2015

Posted by sailingnightwatch in Carabbean, Durbeck, FL, Florida, ICW, Pensacola, Repairs, Restoration, Sailing, Sailing the ICW.
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Still here. I posted a couple pictures of the hills that we are facing. That’s right facing. The trades blow out of the east therefore, we face east. Chris Parker our hired weather man says this is the longest sustained plus 20 knot trade winds since 2004. We have been here 6 weeks and the trades have blown hard for the last 5. The last week they have been blowing harder. We have had gusts of 44 kts. in the lagoon. That is full gale speed. Thank goodness it was only a gust. You always worry about dragging anchor and rarely a day goes by when a message comes on the net that someone is dragging.

Last week was the Heineken Regatta. That is a series of sail boat races that went on for 4 days. They are all at sea and with the weather, there were few spectators out there. Sunday I went over to the Yacht Club and observed the boats coming in through a draw bridge and by the deck of the Club. They have a review of the crews of the various boats as they pass by. They are judged for originality, skin, performance, and more skin. The crowd shouts out a number and a couple girls in Heineken tops and shorts hold up the number like they do rounds at a prizefight. One crew came in all dressed in pajamas with the design on them matched the graphics of the boat. The 10 went to the boat with the topless lady at the bow and the crew in skimpy outfits. See my face book page. One of the boats came through the bridge, swerved towards the deck we were standing on and let go with a barrage of water balloons. They got a 0. It was a big race boat and probably had 15 or so crew on board. In the 20 seconds or so it takes to get by they can through a lot of balloons. I was right behind the girls with the numbers and could duck below the railing. It had a hard Heineken sign on it or I would have gotten wet. The girls were prime targets. It was a good time.

This coming week the trades are supposed to lay down starting Monday with winds running 15-18 knots. We will then head for St John USVI. We will wait there till our guest comes to the BVI’s on the 31st. He will be here a week or so and I am looking forward to his visit. He is a great sailor and has been in the BVI’s several times. Should know some better places then we know.

The mate has a cold, she says a sinus infection. We are going to the clinic on the French side tomorrow. That should be interesting. My French vocabulary is hello, good by, thank you, yes, no and bakery. Sometimes I can count most of the way to 10, maybe. That’s all you really need to know. They do not like to speak English. But if you try even ever so little, they will speak English.

Still no WiFi, but we will try to get this out tomorrow.

March 2, 2015

Posted by sailingnightwatch in Carabbean, Durbeck, FL, Florida, ICW, Pensacola, Repairs, Restoration, Sailing, Sailing the ICW.
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SABA

The lady was very successful in putting together a package that included a ferry to the island, pickup for a tour of the island, lunch and return to the ferry. Check out at 8 AM and return at 5 PM.

OK, I can hear people thinking why would he take a ferry when he has a boat. The ferry is a high speed, wave piercing Catamaran. An hour and a half one way vs. a 7 hour sail one way. That is not the worse. The island is pretty much up and down at a very steep angle.

There is almost no place to anchor. To deep. Your only option is to take one of the 20 or so mooring balls. Two problems. The first being you may sail the 7 hours to get there and find all the mooring balls are taken. Secondly, the balls are in poor repair and there have been 3 sailboats break free in the past few months. These are government balls. They get a grant from a major country for the balls but no money for maintenance. A politician is a politician. NO NEW TAXES. Especially to take care mooring balls for those rich cruisers. Therefore I took the ferry and had no wear and tear on either the boat or my brain worrying about where I may find my boat.

The island. Population less then 2000 spread about in 4 towns. The first is The Bottom. Not really at the bottom but 1400 feet up the hill. The next town is St Johns, then Windwardside. Guess why it is so named. Finally you get to Hell’s Gate. This is on the NE corner of the island where the trades blow hardest. It’s claim to fame is World’s smallest commercial airport runway. 1300 feet long perched 136 feet above the sea. The airline uses a twin engine Otter aircraft. Think bush pilot and his plane. See the pictures in Facebook. They do not give the feeling of the heights your at. It gets very little rain so everyone has a cistern for water. Very friendly people.

The electricity for the island comes from 2 diesel generators that are at the port. The port is man made at the SW corner of the island. Very open to the seas. Can hold one interisland ship at a time and the ferry. Has a place to tie your dinghy and let it get bashed into the concrete pier. Before the port, which is not very old, they landed everything on a beach and porter it up steps to The Bottom.

There is one road with a couple short roads off to other places. Years ago a Dutch engineer said it would be impossible to build a road on such terrain. A local taught himself civil engineering by correspondence course and designed and built the road. All by hand with no mechanized tools. The road is all concrete which was carried up and mixed on sight. This was started in the 40’s and completed in the 60’s. It has the steepest inclines and tightest switchbacks I have ever seen. All their vans are Nissans because they have a special differential that can handle the hills. All are standard shift and a lot of time you are in 1st gear. Up or down.

Sometime after the road project, they decided they wanted an airport. Again the engineers said “impossible”. The road builder was still alive and built the airport. That was back in the 60’s.

Oh, the ferry ride was something else. The weather here has been bad. Squally, windy and large seas. This day was no exception. We had about a 2 mile dinghy ride to where we caught the ferry. We follow a squall and did not get wet. The ferry followed the same squall as we headed to Saba. The wind was around the low 20’s with 6+foot seas. The ferry ran 20 knots. One of our friends brought his hand held GPS and said it never got below 19 knots. 6 foot seas mean 1/3 of the seas are 6 footers. The rest are either larger or smaller. The larger are usually where 2 waves get together and make a big one. Maybe 8 foot plus. The wave piercing bows on the cat means it goes through the waves. Some of them hit the bottom, some splash over the top. The ride is very shaky. Lots of movement in all directions. You hold on with at least one hand and brace your feet as best you can. By the time we got back, I was tired. That was like 3 hour in a washing machine. But well worth it. The mate was worried about the thing turning over or falling apart. I asked one of the crew how big the seas have to be for them to slow down. He said he had been onboard for 2 years and never remember slowing down. He did say they had canceled some trips but that was because the port in Saba was to rough for landing.

We are still in Saint Martin. Waiting a weather window that may happen around the 9th. Todays forecast calls for winds to 25 knots and 9 foot seas. Yesterday the seas were the same, with 30 knot winds. Monday, same wind and the seas drop to 8 foot. Then it gets rough. By Thursday the wind is back to 28 knots and seas at 10 foot, We have seen 10 footers. Scary in a little boat. We have been in 30+ knot winds. That is not nice either.

We are in a lagoon that is about 3 miles long and around a mile wide. A dinghy ride in this weather means you wear your foul weather jacket or get soaked to the bone. Lots of spray and occasional splash. Think someone throwing a bucket of water in your face.

A STUCK WEEK February 27, 2015

Posted by sailingnightwatch in Carabbean, Durbeck, FL, Florida, ICW, Pensacola, Repairs, Restoration, Sailing, Sailing the ICW.
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Finishing up on projects and settling in the lagoon. Been windy and the seas have been high. Therefore we have stayed put. There was a small weather window Wednesday, but there were other things to do and here we are. One outgrowth is that one of the cruising ladies is putting together a discounted trip to Saba island by ferry. We will stay another week to go to Saba. It is basically a small rock. It has a population of around 1200 and is mostly straight up and down. Been written about a few times in “National Geographic”.

We have a friend from Gulf Breeze who is coming for a visit in the BVI’s in about 5 weeks. Therefore, we still have a month for a weather window.

We also have a lot of friends who we have met the past year who are here. They are either going home, going a little further north or heading south. This has meant to many happy hours, too many dinners out, and a rapid depletion of the cruising kitty. Going to have to start saying NO, before the mate forgets how to cook. But we have craved more social interaction and more eating out. Just went from one end of the spectrum to the other. Soon enough we will be off sailing by ourselves, so we will enjoy while we can.

St Martin is a gathering place for several reasons not only for the cruisers but also for the mega yachts. The large yachts use this as a place between charters. It is in the middle of the Virgin Islands to the west and the Leeward and Windward Island to the south. It is also a duty free island. That means no fees and taxes on things that you order for delivery here. You save money on things like Anchor Windlasses. There is also a large number of craftsmen to work on your boat. All this at a reasonable price. It also is a good place to reprovision at a good price. The Virgin Islands have become ridiculously expensive to do anything. The islands to the south usually do not have the facilities or trained craftsmen to do the work. Hence, we are being stuck in a good place.

Still no WiFi. The only drawback to the island. You can buy internet service, that is expensive and the service is still slow. Another reason to go to Happy Hour. Bars have free WiFi.

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