Thursday, November 20, 2014

New Generator Install

June 7th 2014

Position 18° 23.531’ N
              64° 38.088’ W


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I know there has been a long break since my last post, two culprits, unprecedented bad internet connections and the Chikungunya virus! It was my intention to post this account in June! We left Tortola BVI with our route and destinations in mind but not considering that we chose, on this occasion, more remote locations which were void of internet connections. Apologies! 

Faraday about to come out!

Nearly out!
June 2nd. Tim arrived right on time along with the ‘Team’ Hugh and Dave…Tim proceeded to assess the job sight and confirmed that all appeared well. He saw no problems in completing the installation in the time allotted. Dave and Hugh would return on Tuesday morning to begin by removing ‘Faraday’ our old Westerbeke generator. Within five hours all electrical cables, water and fuel lines had been disconnected and the unit was ready to be removed from the boat. What we then had to do was take ‘Partners’ from her slip to the haul out area at the far northeast end on the marina where a forklift with a Hercules bar attached to the forks would extend out from the dock under the aft deck roof into the salon; with the assistance of a chain hoist the unit was lifted clear and withdrawn from the boat. So far so good! Diverting for a moment, I should mention that whenever we take ‘Partners’ into a marina we invariably enter the slip bow first as we like our back deck/porch to be facing out which allows us maximum privacy and usually the best view. With a single engine boat reversing out of the slip, in my opinion, is easier than reversing in! The whole operation of removing the old and installing the new generator required me to reverse ‘Partners’ into slips five times! I was just a little nervous to say the least as one always wants to ‘look good’ doing this operation not to mention the fact that one doesn’t want to hit anything! I surprised myself and managed five flawless docking manoeuvres. Sooo, for all of you reading this that may need to reverse into a slip sometime down the road the advice is practice a few times first then do everything slowly. This was the very first time I had done it since buying ‘Partners’ nearly three years ago! The generator was mounted on a piece of ¾” plywood which in turn was covered in resin and lag bolted to the stringers. The original board was on its last legs and was sagging and delaminating. In situ none of this was immediately visible; just a warning to others…take a look at your installation! When the generator was clear we were able to see the stern gland well and it was evident that the hose clamps were of the perforated thread type as opposed to the solid variety. We decided, while access was easy, to replace them. Back to our slip B17 we went. With ‘Faraday’ the old generator removed Hue would do all the preparatory work such as installing new wiring, water and exhaust hoses while there was plenty of room to work. The other main job was to install the new subfloor upon which the new Northern Lights 9kw would be supported. The ¾” plywood would be coated in West Systems epoxy and then bonded and screwed to the stringers. Hugh had prepared all this previously so it didn’t take very long to get everything in and ready. By the end of Tuesday the old genny was out and most of the prep work for the installation of the new unit was done. On Wednesday morning Hue finished off the last few items and then it was just a matter of waiting for the forklift and haul out slip availability so the new power plant could be lowered into the awaiting prepared ‘hole’. At 14:00 we received the call and once again we took ‘Partners’ on the short journey where we would, once again, ‘practice’ reversing her into a slip! All went as planned and within 45 minutes the new generator was in! By the end of the day 

Whitey in place!
Hue had the unit bolted down with all the fuel lines fitted leaving only the exhaust, sea water hose and new electrical wires to connect on Thursday morning. Thursday morning saw the installation completed. The last thing Hue completed was the fitting of the sound shield. The Northern Lights unit was a bright white and was a stark contrast to the dark red colour of the Westerbeke, so white in fact that we have decided to nickname our new generator ‘Whitey’. Hugh gave the word to “start her up”, the moment of truth. Whitey fired into action without any fuss or hesitation…we have a brand new generator, hurrah!
Tim stopped by to go over one or two points, some do’s and don’ts and also re-iterated the need to change the special break-in oil after fifty hours and again at one hundred. After that every two hundred hours. Nice, as ‘Faraday’ was every one hundred which seemed to come round oh so often. Tim reminded me that the valves would need adjusting at fifty hours so I called Palm Tree Marine in Grenada, where we would be for hurricane season, and lined up Mike to perform the valve adjustment while we were at anchor which would avoid a marina stay. So many technicians will only work on board if the boat is in a marina.  
Tim also completely re-did the wiring to our new battery and inverter installation as per the instructions we received from the Victron distributor in Le Marin, Martinique. By the end of Friday and several cups of tea later, Tim is British, all the work was finished. All together the job was very well done, Tim’s team did a great job, quickly, efficiently and 'right' the first time. 
As a footnote in order to explain some of the circumstances leading up to the replacement of our generator I am going to write a little about how ours and many other boats exists away from being plugged in to shore power at a dock. If you are contemplating a cruising adventure either as a sabbatical from your career or, as we are doing, a retirement dream, you will be pawing through all the boating magazines and scrolling many pages on Yachtworld.com looking for your dream boat. No matter whether it is new or previously owned the same things are needed for self-sufficiency at anchor. First, if like most trawler style boats, you have lights, refrigerators, ice maker, freezers, various appliances, a water maker, computers to run etc., etc., you need battery power, inverter power and the means to replenish all those amperes’ you will be burning! The problem arises when you realize, after the purchase of your ‘dream boat’, that in order to stay out and away from marinas you need more amperes! We found that because of an insufficient battery bank we were running our generator up to 10 hours a day and became tied to the boat, we were turning down invitations from our cruising friends, especially those with sailing boat which tend to be considerably more economical in term of electrical demand than motor boats. As soon as we awoke in the morning the overnight use of amps required replacing in order for us to get through the day and be able to leave the boat. We had 300 usable amps being 50% of the total house bank amperes. We also had an inverter/charger capable of 2 kW AC output and could charge at the rate of 80 amps per hour on bulk charge less towards the end of the charging cycle during the absorption stage. All in all putting everything together, in the real world it could take between 4 and 6 hours of generator time every morning. At night the process started again in order to zero out the amps ready to get us through the night. Remember refrigerators and freezers don’t discriminate between night and day they are running 24/7. Sooo, in the PM we found ourselves boat bound again while the generator powered the charger to replenish those pesky amps again! The purpose of this explanation to help get you from where we started to now without the heartaches we went through. We first increased our house bank battery amps from 600 to 1,020 (up to 510 usable) and replaced the old golf cart batteries with AGM Lifeline brand new batteries. We also, at the same time, replaced the Xantrex Freedom 20 inverter/charger with a new Victron 3 kW inverter/charger that could charge at 120 amp per hour. We relegated the Xantrex to a redundant backup unit. When, however, we came to set up the new Victron Inverter we found that the old 8kW Westerbeke generator we had did not have a stable enough sine wave to enable the charge rate of the Victron to be set at its full 120 amp capability, it had to be restricted to 90 amps per hour in order to protect the charger circuitry from self-destructing due to the unstable electrical supply from the generator...wow! All very frustrating! What did we do? Actually two things, we had previously installed 430 watts of solar panels on top of our pilot house roof with the intention and expectation of, on sunny days, the panels running the boat during the day thus postponing the necessity of running the generator in the mornings further more reducing the generator to one session a day in the evening. Our Westerbeke had 6,000 hours and it was constantly needing maintenance. Over the 2 years we have owned ‘Partner’ we had replaced many parts and spent a total of $8,000 on ‘Faraday’. Second the new 9kW Northern Lights ‘Whitey’ was installed and cost us $13,000 brand new, that did not include installation though. It was time to stop the ‘bleeding’ and get our electrical system running the way we wanted. With ‘Whitey’ installed we now charge at a 120 amp rate and with new wiring for the inverter and some of the appliances our current lose/drain has been mitigated. The bottom line is now we run the new Northern Lights 9kW 2-3 hours per day usually between 7 – 10 PM which allows us to run the air-conditioning as well to cool the boat down for us to sleep comfortably. The solar panels do a great job during the day maintaining the electrical demand and on very sunny days replenishing up to 40 amps of the overnight deficit. We also have replaced most of the lights on board with LED bulbs. If we need to make water or there is no sun we do run the generator additional hours on those rare days. The motto here is ask many questions at the time of purchase and try and determine if the boats electrical system will be simpatico to your life style expectations. Being tied to the boat monitoring the generator, as explained above, was the single most frustrating part of our cruising.
Nanny Cay
 
Nanny Cay Resort beach
On Saturday morning the 7th June 'Partners’ left the dock at Nanny Cay and we sailed directly across the Anegada Passage passing St. Kitts and Nevis with our first stop at Les Saintes, Guadeloupe. Ah! The French islands, baguettes, great cheese and wine, wonderful! We secured ourselves to a mooring ball, 60 euros for the week, and dinghied ashore to check in at the local internet café and bar! Yes, the Customs and Immigration clearance is done in the internet café which happens to have a bar! Only in France…it is wonderfully simple and easy. One Euro later we were in. Our 238 nm trip took 47½ hours, not too bad considering we had the equatorial current against us all the way. Les Saintes are small islands but not to mountainous so we like to walk here, there is no poverty, everyone appears comfortable; the local people are friendly and helpful. In the mooring field off Terre de Haut, the water is deep 40' or more and is deep blue and clean. We swam every day in the beautiful blue water straight from our swim platform on 'Partners'. We also enjoyed the cool breezes and gourmet dinners on the aft deck, our 'back porch'. We just love this place. While we were checking in at Customs and Immigration two other cruisers were there, we started to talk, in the end we all sat down and enjoyed a beer together. David and Trudie on-board their sailing boat ‘Persephone’. It turned out that they knew many of the other cruisers we did, it really is a small community. We became good friends and enjoyed several get-togethers with them during our stay as well as several more encounters all the way down islands to Grenada. One finds that a lot of French cruisers gravitate to the French Islands, obviously their comfort zone, therefore one does have the usual nakedness on display, both for sunbathing as well as the daily scrub down on the stern of their boats! Daily ferry boats from Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe arrive with a little wake but other than that the waters are well protected from swell.  
Alas time to move on...we have enjoyed a lazy week here now it is time to make passage to our next destination, Le Marin, Martinique...
  

Friday, June 6, 2014

Destination – Nanny Cay, Tortola

June 2th 2014

Position 18° 27.099’ N
              64° 42.560’ W


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Our journey to get our new generator installed took us to both familiar and unfamiliar anchorages through our route from Fajardo, PR to Nanny Cay, BVI. The first was Culebra, a familiar anchorage. We love Culebra, the anchorage at Dakity, the general environment, people and the town of Dewey with its facilities. After a two night stay, a visit from our cruising friend John and a few beers we were off the next morning to Megan's Bay, St. Thomas USVI. We arrived after a mixed sea condition passage, some rough confused conditions in the Virgin Passage which left both of us feeling a little nauseous and neither of us suffers from sea sickness! As we approached the lee of St. Thomas the conditions gave way to calmer seas, sunshine and the cruising we like. By 11:30 we were anchored in Megans Bay a large bay with one of the 'best' beaches in the world. The bay is spectacular with pristine water and plenty of room to choose an anchoring spot. We are now into May and the cruising season on the northern Caribbean is winding down to its close. There was only one other anchored sailing boat in the bay and we had to use our binoculars to see him, the bay is huge! 
The daily dinghy procession at the Moorings charter company
marina in Road Town, Tortola.

We were anchored amoungst good company at
White Bay, Guana Island


The sunsets never lose their fascination.


Let there be light!

A pretty hillside home


Tusen Takk II with Chuck and Barb Shipley
onboard
Barb with a wave for the camera.

Fourty feet of water and the anchor chain visible to the bottom!

Tomorrow we will explore, there are a few boat chores to do in the early morning, a teak deck plug to replace and the stainless steel to polish. After this we will launch the dinghy (Junior Partner, JP for short) and take a trip into the beach.  
The huge expanse of Magens Bay.
Magens Bay Beach, three quarters of a mile long.
After a hearty 'English' breakfast we launched JP and off we went towards what we thought would be the dinghy beaching area...we were wrong! We pulled the dinghy up on the beach alongside several other local boats, no other inflatable RIB's though. We began walking along the beach and had intended walking to the end and back, we'll over a mile. After a few hundred yards we were met by one of the lifeguards who politely explained that no dinghy's were allowed on the beach and that we would either have to anchor it off or drive it to a small patch of sand along the east side if the bay and wade back in to the main beach. We chose this option. I did ask, with my arm around his shoulder in a friendly manner, what all the other half dozen boats were doing on the beach...he smiled and said "they have special permission"; I retorted "how do we get special permission"? He smiled and we parted company cordially. The beach is run by the Magens Bay Authority and an admission fee of a few dollars is charged to all except boaters.  

 
Once we had the dinghy up on what became our own private beach we waded back to the main beach and walk its whole length, on our return we deserved refreshment so stopped at the really nice bar. We met Jeremy who took very good care of us during this and our several subsequent visits. The following day we hiked the marked trail which was fun, although we could have done without the mosquitoes! 

Our stay in Magens Bay was wonderful, we enjoyed the beach, the water and the spectacular vistas of this massive little used bay (by boaters) as we relaxed on our back porch (deck) at cocktail hour... 

Looking out from The Waterside Bistro
into Cruz Bay...
From Magens we cruised to Caneel Bay on St. John and dinghies in to Cruz Bay where we visited the National Parks building and then proceeded to one of our favourite venues, The Waterside Bistro, for lunch. Sitting at the bar one has a view of the whole bay, we love this spot. 
 
Later in the day we cruised from Caneel to Francis Bay where we spent several days swimming, dinghy exploring and beach walking. From Francis after spending one day in Leinster Bay where we snorkeled around the reef at Waterlemon Cay, we motored across to Jost van Dyke where we cleared in to the British Virgin Islands. The date is now Friday 23rd May and after spending our first night anchored in Great Harbour and sampling again, of course, the Friday night inclusive all you can eat BBQ buffet at Foxy's, we moved around to Manchaneel Bay on Little Jost van Dyke. Here the water is gin clear; we anchored on 12 feet of water 50 yards from a small white sand beach. Before we left to go cruising we dreamt of places like this, the quintessential deserted tropical island. The only habitation on the island is, yes, believe it or not, a beach bar! Jim the owner of B-Line Beach Bar has just, in January, taken over and has made considerable improvements. The have a well stocked bar and serve great food. The Mahi sandwich was one of the best I've ever had. We whiled away our last afternoon (Sunday 30th) on Little Jost van Dyke before cruising to Nanny Cay for the generator install. 

Monday June 2nd. Finally the day we make our way to Nanny Cay Tortola for the installation of our new generator. We upped the anchor at 9:55 and were underway on schedule at 10:00. Tim Dabbs from Marina Maintenance had arranged our slip reservation and all we had to do was arrive by 12 noon call on the VHF announcing our arrival and Tim would take care of everything else. We arrived safely and backed into our slip B17 without ado. I called Tim as requested and he advised he would be onboard within two hours with his team to assess the job…



Friday, April 18, 2014

The Virgins Re-visited

April 18th 2014

Position 18° 21.445’ N
              64° 34.830’ W


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A beautiful evening with a new moon
Our passage from Îles des Saintes was according to plan; the weather cooperated for the most part although seas to begin with where rougher than expected. Moderation did occur during the trip and we experienced good lee protection from the islands of Guadeloupe and St. Kitt’s.  



Necker Island

Rounding the NE point of Virgin Gorda

The sights we see




Bitter End Yacht Club








While we were transiting the lee of St. Kitt’s it was time to try our luck with the fishing rod. Lavinia chose the lure, a yellow and green one, she spat on it for good luck and away it went. I let it out to approximately 100 yards behind the boat clear of the turbulent wake water. The drag was set and we both retreated back to navigating the boat from the pilot house. Some time passed, nothing; bemoaning our luck and making mutterings about our friend Bill Miller on ‘Ann Louise’ who had just posted pictures of his catch of a massive wahoo he had caught off the coast of St. Lucia a day or two before. “What were we doing wrong”, “nothing”, I told Lavinia, and be patient. Some more time passed and HT called out that she could hear the reel paying out line…I ran down from the pilot house, there were no other boats around. I took the rod from the holder, struck and began to crank the little blighter in. It was not a big fish, I could feel that…I saw a flash of yellow as I was winding in the line. My first thought was that it was a little chicken dolphin, a Mahi Mahi, they are green and yellow. As the catch became visible at the stern disappointment set in, guess what? We had caught a banana peel. HT immediately owned up that she had, minutes before, eaten a banana and thrown the peel overboard! What are the odds of catching one’s own banana peel 100 yards behind the boat? We laughed and decided that fishing was over on this occasion as the seas were building; we were leaving the lee of St. Kitts now on our way to Sint Eustatius and Saba islands and I don’t relish dealing with a fish in rough conditions. Once past Saba Island we altered course very slightly for Virgin Gorda, we were in the Anegada Passage; had she lain down as forecast or would we have a monotonous bouncy ride? The passage was not too bad and we were able to sleep comfortably during our off watch periods. On my 4 – 7 watch, as dawn arrived, so did a distant view of land; it is easy to imagine being Christopher Columbus at times like this wondering what his thoughts were and the words he may have uttered. We were nearly there. In the morning light of February 26th I saw the outline of Virgin Gorda, the fat virgin, as Columbus called the island, a welcome sight after an 80 mile, 14 hour journey from Saba. We rounded the north-eastern tip of the island and immediately began to experience the calmer reef protected water, the trip was almost over and a welcome rest waits in North Sound. We entered the marked channel to North Sound and were moored up to one of the Bitter End Yacht Club mooring balls by 08:45. 

After clearing in at Gun Creek we spent two days enjoying the facilities of Bitter End and, of course, a great hamburger at Saba Rock, the best in the Caribbean in my opinion and all this while being surrounded by the turquoise waters on the Virgin Islands. We left Bitter End and North Sound earlier in 2013 on our way south to Trinidad so arriving back here was the completion of our Eastern Caribbean circumnavigation…we did it and we are still in one piece! 

Our next stop would be Spanish Town or as it is known ‘The Valley’, the principal town of Virgin Gorda. We spent only one night and a morning here just enough time to be rocked and rolled all night by the ferry wakes and the swell coming in from the Anegada Passage, miserable! We went into town to the bank ATM, to eat some breakfast plus go to ‘Buck’s grocery store for a few provisions.
The Baths

Our next stop would be The Baths where we picked up one of the national park moorings. With snorkel gear donned we set off for the Baths, a short dinghy ride from the mooring field. We snorkelled in the most wonderful water for two hours enjoying the colourful fish and coral marvelling all the time at how clear the water was. A visit here is a must. We pressed on to our final destination of the day Great Harbour, Peter Island. This big bay is an easy in and easy out. There are no reefs to be wary of. Anchoring is permitted and we ventured far into the SW corner where we found flat water, we dropped the hook in 45 feet. There were four other boats in the area but there would have been room for twenty so it was very private. We felt like we were in the wilderness and HT remarked that this was the closest she had come to camping, she has never camped! It is now March 2
nd the weather is perfect and I mean perfect the skies have been blue, the humidity down and the temperatures in the very low 80’s, the Virgins appeal. There are so many anchorages and islands here and it is not hard to see why the area is known as the sailing capital of the world. Even though there are many boats they are absorbed well and it doesn’t seem crowded or at least it doesn’t yet! We Stayed in Great Harbour two days and three nights, we really like this place. We took a dinghy ride to explore east to Deadman's Bay. This is another anchorage although not as protected as Great Harbour, the trade-off is the beach a wonderful stretch of white sand and clear shallow water to swim in. We pulled our dinghy up onto the beach and cleaned the bottom then enjoyed a relaxing swim before our ride back to ‘Partners’. One more candle lit dinner before we depart for Norman Island and our next anchorage in the Bight.
Great Harbour, Peter Island
Waterlemon Bay & Cay


 
Sugar Mill Ruins

Sugar Mill on St. John

Sugar Mill at Leinster Bay



A Hawksbill Turtle


A cool shady walk
'Rising Sun' (453' long)
David Geffen's yacht 'Rising Sun'
There are times for all of us who are in a special relationship or a marriage, which are brought on by an event, a particular place or a moment of imagination that make all of us want to renew our commitments to each other or our marriage vows. A thought, a warm feeling, something that triggers those thoughts of love and dependency which one has with one’s partner. The same feelings can be applied to nature and, in my case, the reason why I love cruising and the life it allows me. My latest moment was this morning, while ‘Partners’ is still anchored in Great Harbour, Peter Island in the British Virgin Islands. This beautiful protected bay on the north side of the island is a ‘back to nature’ location, no internet, TV, FM radio stations and it is uncrowded with few other boats. The bay is surrounded by high ground covered in vegetation, sound is rare and the lack of it borders on eerie. This setting promotes thought and this morning I woke at 05:15, it was pitch black dark, it was still with not even a ripple on the water or a breath of breeze; these conditions are a rarity in the Caribbean where the trade winds normally blow constantly. Occasionally there is a weather phenomenon which ‘kills’ the wind and allows a morning like today. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, HT was still asleep so I didn’t want to put a light on, I proceeded to the aft doors to the aft deck of ‘Partners’ and upon opening them saw that we were facing in a different direction. Those of you who are familiar with the trade winds know that when one goes to bed facing in a general easterly direction one expects to wake up with the boat facing in a general easterly direction! Today ‘Partners’ was facing 180° from her ‘bedtime’ direction, even the dinghy was alongside instead of streaming off the stern as normal! Zero wind, the morning was so still…nature was ‘chocking’ me, I couldn’t have found a more natural unspoilt spot. As the minutes passed and the black moonless sky started to turn to the dawn hues I could hear the sound of wild goats on the hillside only 200 feet away and a coo of a pigeon waiting for the light. The water is deep here and although we are anchored in 45 feet of water we are only 150 feet from the shore. The aura of this place spawned so many good feelings, freedom as a child playing in the countryside of England, where I grew up, being one with nature and being without a care in the world, it reminded me of and really endorsed the freedom we have as cruisers; so many back to nature thoughts, I was in overload! Some of you reading this may have forgotten the feeling I have just written about here, I feel privileged to be able to remind you all that there are places which allow one’s mind to wonder, that stimulate imagination and provide jaw dropping views of nature’s beauty. As the light came and the early still began to stir, the breeze started to ‘kiss’ the earth gently, slowly bringing everything back to normal. ‘Partners’ began to swing on her anchor back to the ‘correct’ position with her bow pointing in an easterly direction. The dinghy assumed its ‘correct’ stance of streaming off the stern mildly straining at its painter. This morning was my moment to remind myself that I love HT, I thank her for sharing my life, for being my partner and experiencing this life with me…this morning was also the time where I reminded myself of the wonders of nature and the beauty this earth provides… 

While on shore during our working lives, especially in Florida where we lived, we always talked of wanting a home on the water where there would be cooling breezes and fresh air to provide relief from the summer heat and also where there would be tranquil views of the water. Finally we have our waterfront home but with a bonus, a huge bonus in fact, we have a ‘movable’ home on the water which we can relocate at will to a new and exciting spot where we can experience the variety that nature provides. This life is addicting and a little concern creeps in at times like this of whether making the transition back to a land based existence is possible. Obviously, one day, it will have to happen but it won’t be easy or a happy day!  

From Norman Island we cruised across Sir Francis Drake Channel to Tortola and our destination was Marina Cay where we anchored a little west of the mooring field with three other large sailing boats. That evening a short dinghy ride in ‘Junior Partner’ or JP for short, our nickname for ‘Partners’ dinghy, took us to the Cay and their bar which is situated at the top of the island, great views. A live band was playing and they were great…many cruisers were there having a merry time. We drank a few beers tipped the band and took the dinghy ride back to ‘Partners’. In the morning we weighed anchor and cruised west and north to a small isolated anchorage on Great Camanoe Island. The anchorage at Lee Bay has a rocky bottom and after two attempts at getting our anchor to hold we gave up and motored over to Guana Island and the beautiful bay there known as White Bay. White Bay is a long protected bay with a white sand beach and sandy bottom. The bay is full of mooring balls now and although anchoring is allowed the privately owned island does not encourage it. We found a spot on the north end where we were able to anchor but it was a ‘squeeze’. The owners of the island have made an exclusive luxury resort here and have service boats that ferry passengers and supplies back and forth to Tortola continuously during daylight hours; at night the boats are moored on private moorings one of which was close to us, too close unfortunately and although other buoys were available we got the impression that the powers that be wanted to make us feel uncomfortable and chose to put one of the boats as close to us as they could. They succeeded and we had to move. The only available option was to pick up one of their mooring balls! It was getting dark and we didn’t want to be motoring far to find another anchorage so we bit the bullet and coughed up the $30 for the mooring fee. We had not been on the ball for more than five minutes before a young lad approached us to collect our money. He explained that the owners tried to prevent anyone from going ashore on the island but law required that access be granted to anyone up to the high water line. So although discouraged one can walk the beautiful beach and we did! Two mega yachts were anchored out in deep water in the bay and we watched as their crews transported portable cabanas, chairs, large mats and water toys to the beach to be set up to await the pleasure of the owner or guests should they wish to spend some time on the beach. We spent two days in White Bay and both days the ritual was performed. We felt sorry for the crew performing their thankless task as on the second day after spending an hour or more setting up the ‘beach club’ no one came...the owner or guests just decided to do something else! We watched as the crew of three took the dinghy to shore packed everything up and retreated back to the mother ship!  We did not feel welcome on Guana so the next morning we moved on to Cane Garden Bay where we found more mooring balls, they are everywhere now! We were able to anchor with plenty of swinging room here and were comfortable for the first day and night, the second day, however, when the NE swell became more of a N swell and the rolling began was a different story. In the morning we were still okay with only moderate discomfort and were entertained with watching the half dozen or so surfers. Cane Garden is well known as a surfing beach and when the swell is up has a reputation of producing some ‘perfect’ waves. Gradually through the day the swell grew to a point where we wanted to put an end to the rolling so off we went crossing the calm waters, enjoying the gentle ups and downs on the large swell, to Jost van Dyke the third largest island of the BVI group. We decided to anchor in the gin clear water of Manchioneel Bay on the south side of Little Jost van Dyke Island; the spot is isolated with no visible signs of habitation although there is a beach bar on the SW end of the Island. We spent four days here and explored, went ashore to deserted beaches and did our Robinson Crusoe thing; it was a lot of fun! We were joined by Steve and Janice from Sealacious a 37’ Tayana, John and Jo from Out of Africa in their Moody and Chuck and Barb from Tusen Takk II all friends and fellow cruisers that we knew. Chuck and Barb are Krogen owners like us and have a 48’. The first night we were together we all met on Out of Africa for a BBQ which was a blast. The next night we joined up with Chuck and Barb again to dinghy ashore to Foxy's Taboo for dinner where we could sample their famous cocktails and ribs. We had a reservation and arrived just in time to miss a torrential downpour; we were seated and spent little time looking at the menu, we knew what we wanted, we were having ribs, right! We ordered four exotic colourful cocktails and awaited the return of the waitress to take our orders. When she came Chuck spoke up and said “I’m here for those wonderful ribs”, the waitress, her voice laden with apology, replied “I’m sorry but we are out!” I, with disappointment, said “but we had a reservation” and the waitress pointed out very politely “not for ribs though!” We quickly overcame our disappointment and ordered alternatives which without exception we all thoroughly enjoyed. After a really pleasant evening we went back to the dinghy and successfully negotiated the trip back, about a mile, in pitch darkness. Lavinia is always a little concerned taking dinghy rides when she cannot see anything in front of her! We arrived back safely to our calm anchorage said our good nights and retired.

The next morning all of our friends left the bay and sailed off to their next destinations. This is how it is in the cruising community we are all independent, we go our own ways but when we do meet we have a great time with each other then bid farewell until the next time... 

Our next stop was in Great Harbour where we anchored just two nights before clearing out from the BVI’s for the USVI’s. We found Ralphs, a great grocery store, and did some re-provisioning. We have learnt that as cruisers when one sees something that we need one should buy it! It is not always easy to find the things one wants so when the opportunity presents itself it is always sensible to take advantage. Oh, and we paid one more visit to the World Famous Foxy’s and yes, we finally did have our ribs! Sadly Chuck and Barb were not with us this time...next stop Caneel Bay on St. John where we picked up a mooring ball, as members of the National Parks the senior price is only $7.50 per night and these moorings are nicely maintained so provide a peace of mind experience. We took the dinghy around to Cruz Bay and the Customs house where we took care of the clearance formalities...we were back in the US of A. Our next anchorage was Maho Bay where we had spent only one night a year ago. We enjoyed several nights here this time in flat smooth water which is an indescribable blue, just gorgeous! We swam and snorkelled and walked the white sand beach...an idyllic spot. Our last stop on St. John was Leinster Bay and our particular favourite Waterlemon Bay in the SE corner. We picked up a mooring adjacent to Waterlemon Cay where the water is deep and clear but close enough to quickly reach the reef that surrounds Waterlemon Cay. We snorkelled and enjoyed three days here. Seventy five percent of St. John is national park controlled and is pristine. We walked to an old sugar mill where we spoke to two of the volunteers’. One was cooking bread the old fashioned way in an open pan on a fire, the bread was good as was the almond tea she also brewed. We sat with the other lady and asked her many questions. She had lived on St. John for 26 years and obviously loved her ‘home’. She mentioned, during one conversation, that she was disappointed when the busses show up carrying the passengers from the cruise ships that visit St. Thomas, they ferry across from Redhook, that a number of the people seem uninterested in ‘her’ island and she focused on one person who actually asking her which island they were on, they didn’t even know. I think she enjoyed our questions and interest in St. John which, in my opinion, has to go down as one of the must visit islands in the Virgins, in fact in the whole of the Caribbean. In another life while working in Florida I had an assistant Caron who for some time lived on St. John and raised a son here, she always sighed longingly when she remembered her time on St. John, a beautiful place. I know Caron I’ll send more pictures!

Maho Bay
We left Leinster and cruised east around the island travelling then west along the south coast to Redhook Bay on St. Thomas. We spent one night anchored in Muller Bay where we were rocked continuously by the many ferries that use Redhook as their base...not for us; we moved round to Charlotte Amalie and the big open harbour there. We anchored in the eastern part near the main cruise ship dock and the Yacht Haven Grand Marina. The anchoring here is good with a sandy clay bottom that really doesn’t want to give up the anchor as we found out when we left. Charlotte Amalie is a big town by island standard and has every facility. The very nice dinghy dock at Yacht Haven Grand is convenient for Pueblo’s grocery store, K-Mart and all the other stores one could wish for. The marina is also a mall complex with many high end stores and several restaurant choices. The main town is a pleasant easy 1¼ mile walk west along the waterfront where duty free shopping abounds. Altogether this is an easy stop for us cruisers. We took a dinghy excursion to Frenchtown to visit Ace hardware and stumbled across the ‘Rum Shack’ which overlooks Water Island. We decided to have a beer and lunch, I ate a great hamburger and for HT a Sushi platter, we had a wonderful lunch.
HT Having fun on St. Patrick's Day
St. Thomas Regatta

While in Charlotte Amalie we had the pleasure of meeting Brian and Jackie Smillie onboard their 48’ Krogen ‘Gotta Smile’. They were kind enough to invite us for cocktails one evening. They were entering the Caribbean for the first time and intended spending hurricane season in Trinidad like us. We had much to talk about and the evening just wasn’t long enough! We were able to share some information about the Leeward’s and the Windward’s; hopefully it would enhance their cruise south. We told them of our plan to cruise to Culebra and then on to Puerto Rico where we would be flying back to Florida for a family get-together for Easter. Upon mentioning this they volunteered the name of a marina they had stayed at in Fajardo called Sunbay Marina. It sounded perfect for us too so we made reservations for a month stay there to facilitate us leaving ‘Partners’ during our Easter break. We said our goodbyes, they weighed anchor for St. John and we for Culebra, a 20 mile passage to the West. As cruisers we knew our courses would cross again before too long. 

A friend of ours John Perry on board his sailing catamaran ‘Stingo’ was already in Culebra on a mooring ball behind the reef at Ensenada Dakity, part of the larger bay named Ensenada Honda. After a good uneventful cruise in calm conditions we entered Ensenada Honda. Culebra, one of the Spanish Virgins Islands, is a popular haunt of all cruisers; the anchorage is one of the best in the Caribbean and affords flat seas in all conditions. The reef which protects the harbour here is huge and wide so any seas are reduces to a ripple by time they have passed over the coral. Upon entering, the US Coast Guard maintains two well marked buoyed channels here, we were looking through the binoculars to see if we could scope out an available mooring ball and quite coincidently the ball right beside our friend John was open, we took it! John had been in Culebra for some time and had got to know most of the other cruisers moored there. On our first evening there he invited us onboard ‘Stingo’ for sundowners so we could meet everyone else. Eight of us whiled the night away with much laughter and storytelling. There is never a dull moment when a bunch of cruisers get together for sundowners! We spent five days in Culebra. We enjoyed a meal at the Dinghy Dock restaurant with friends Dave and Jane from ‘Greta Mae’, we had first met Dave & Jane in the Windward’s at Tyrell Bay, Carriacou last July. They told us they were on their way to the East coast of the US with intentions of cruising the NE for the summer. We also hosted a sundowners party onboard ‘Partners’ before our departure...all a fun time. Our last evening was again a visit to ‘Stingo’ to enjoy Johns rendering of Pasta Alfredo...was it good or what; John is a single-hander and I guess as such one learns how to cook! Sadly when we returned to ‘Partners’ we had generator problems and we couldn’t charge our batteries which we had to do to get us through the night. This necessitated us leaving a little ahead of schedule so in the morning after a ‘short’ night (we had to run the main engine to put enough amps back into the batteries for the night) I called up Sunbay and asked them if they could accommodate us a little earlier than expected...no problem! We weren’t due there until the 15th April and today's the 10th. The wind had been blowing strongly for the past four days but fortunately a front had killed the gradient wind and the Trades had abated for this trip, we made good way and after a comfortable crossing arrived in Fajardo after 3½ hours. Sunbay is an all inclusive marina where the slip fee includes water, electricity, cable TV and Wi-Fi service. For our 42’ boat the monthly rate is $750! A really good price for the Caribbean we feel.

Sunbay is all that Brian and Jackie ‘cracked’ it up to be, friendly clean and secure; we are comfortable here. There appears to be no swell that enters so we are virtually motionless in our slip. Olga, one of the owners of the marina, greeted us in the office and made sure we had answers to all our questions she really made us feel at home. Olga provided us with a map which, as we were to rent a car, was most helpful. Olga’s husband, the other owner, also built the marina some six years ago so this is a family owner facility and it shows. Another helpful perk is that the marina has in slip fuelling!

I will end here and say that the Virgins will ‘call’ again, the calm protected waters make these islands one of the finest cruising grounds in the world and fortunately there are enough islands, bays and sights to keep us interested, visit after visit, the trip from the south back across Anagada is certainly worth it! After our trip to Florida for Easter we will resume our cruising, we are not sure where we will be off to at this point but we will let you know when we decide!

Is it time for you to plan for a life afloat?

A great view while on one of our walks...









Monday, February 17, 2014

St. Lucia, Martinique & Îles des Saintes

February 17th 2014

Position 15° 52.304’ N
              61° 35.116’ W


View Larger Map

We cruised north from Grenada and travelled directly to St. Lucia our destination being Marigot Bay famous for where Admiral Rodney used palm fronds lashed to his fleets masts to disguise them and
Approaching St. Lucia the
Pitons are conspicuous
hid from the French. Admiral Rodney eventually defeated the French fleet and Admiral De Grasse in 1746. It is very easy to see how Rodney pulled this off as the sand spit which protrudes from
Our first night in Marigot Bay
the northern side of the bay is covered in palm trees so the fleet being strategically place behind it with their palm frond ‘dressing’ made for the perfect disguise. We spent three days in Marigot, did some hiking and enjoyed a good rest after our trip from Grenada. From Marigot we cruised up to Rodney Bay and anchored in the huge bay for a week we walked through the national park and to the fort on the northern end of the bay. In St. Lucia we met Marty and Deb Campenella who own ‘Bay Pelican’ another 42’ Kadey Krogen, in fact number 76, four on from ‘Partners’. We visited with them in the marina where they are based and were getting some repairs before cruising north to Sainte Anne’s in Martinique. We invited them to ‘Partners’ out at anchor in the bay but unfortunately they couldn’t make it. This is where we met ‘Aquarelle’ with Terry and Evelyn, they did make it for cocktails and we had a very pleasant evening with the two of them. After a short visit to St. Lucia it was time to move on, we will return to spend much more time exploring this big island. The next morning we set off at dawn for our passage to Martinique, a rough trip but we made it safely.

Martinique is the first of the French West Indies Islands we have visited with ‘Partners’. We have visited St. Bart’s while on a Caribbean cruise some years ago. This year it is our plan to spend most of the winter cruising the French islands, Martinique, Iles des Saintes, Guadeloupe, St. Bart’s and Saint Martin. Martinique is a department of France and therefore benefits from many of the things one would be familiar with in Europe, good roads, plentiful consumer goods, well stocked supermarkets and, oh, the wonderful food, wine and coffee! Thankfully a large part of the population speaks English! Lavinia does speak some French which helps; unfortunately I either didn’t pay enough attention in school or am suffering from a bad memory because I don’t. There are a lot of Frenchmen sailing the Caribbean and it seems that most of them are here! The French like the French and as unfamiliar as things generally appear foreign to us they are obviously familiar to the French. The very well stocked chandleries are full of French and German products, the grocery stores only have French items. We have not seen any familiar US or British products, none! In most of the other islands there is a mixture of British, American and European items...our conclusion is that the French do make a point of being French and do not show much tendency towards integration! Le Marin is the centre of yachting here in Martinique. If you need anything it can be found here. Any and all services are available and there is a wide choice of each. One thing which is very apparent is that the businesses here unlike Trinidad, for example, understand instant gratification; the shelves are full, no ordering here. If your heart desires it, the chances are you can get what you want in Le Marin. We had some trouble with our generator, which wouldn’t start! The local Westerbeke dealer came promptly to us in the Le Marin marina where we were able to get a berth at short notice. The diagnosis a 20 amp fuse! While we were marine bound we met three young sailors from ‘Tyke’ an ocean racer cruising sailing boat moored in front of us. They kindly invited us on board to see her and to enjoy sundowners with them. As I have said before this life is not just about freedom and travel but about all the interesting people one meets. The two men were Italian and were the crew, they had a guest crew member who had joined them for the sail north from St. Lucia to here. She was half Italian and half American, spoke perfect English, Italian and French and was pretty! Lucky guys! We left the marina and made the short trip to Sainte Anne.  

Nearby, just along the coast to the South is the small town of Saint Anne’s, a beautiful little enclave mostly unspoiled by tourism and a ‘Mecca’ for us boaters. The azure blue waters and calm anchorage beckon; the narrow streets with their friendly vendors all encourage a visit and exploration. This could be one of those places which is hard to leave...

The priorities, a boulangerie, the vegetable market, a liquor store and beautiful beach are all here. Our first trip ashore was to the beach where we found clear water and fine white sand. It is protected from the wind which allows calm water with no waves, wonderful. Along the half mile long beach are restaurants and bars, not too many just enough for a choice and easy accessibility, we floated in the perfect temperature water for an hour it was pure heaven. The saline content of the water is high and one can float very easily. Now remember that we are in early February, mid-winter for the northern hemisphere, and here we are basking in 84°F sunshine and swimming in 80° water. Our anchorage is in 17’ of clear water where we can see the mostly sandy bottom. Reefs, plus the headland of Saline, gives protection from the prevailing seas and wind, so it is calm. We woke up the next morning to new arrivals ‘Receta’ with Steve and Ann aboard also Terry and Evelyn from ‘Aquarelle’, who we had met in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, both had anchored in the bay. Our great friends Bill & Ann on board ‘Ann Louise’ had arrived back in Trinidad on the 3rd February after a visit to their home in Georgia for Christmas and New Year and were going to make an attempt, weather permitting, to ‘jump’ the 200+ miles from Chaguaramas, Trinidad to Sainte Anne’s and join us. We were really pulling for them and for the weather to stay travelable so they could get to Martinique, they made it! After the welcoming Bloody Mary’s and breakfast on board ‘Partners’ plans were made for some serious nonstop socializing. With the eight of us here, there is only one word to describe the ensuing days…fun! For the next few days we had some great gatherings. On Monday the 10th it was time for us to leave, we were sad to say our goodbyes especially to ‘Ann Louise’ as they were going south again back to St. Lucia. Due to the sale of their home they would be leaving from St. Lucia in March to return to the US for the closing. All this meant was that sadly we would be losing our travelling buddies for several months. Our plans will take us to Puerto Rico by mid-April so we can return to Florida and meet our children and grandchildren for Easter. Our goodbye to Bill and Ann included a promise to meet up again ‘somewhere’ south for hurricane season. ‘Receta’ would travel the same route as us stopping at Portsmouth on the island of Dominica and then on to Iles des Saintes and Guadeloupe so we were looking forward to their company.
 
Not always great weather in the Caribbean
'Receta' in Portsmouth, Dominica
Approaching Iles des Saintes
Terre-de-Haut
Cruise ship 'Wind Surf'
Our cruise to Dominica was a bit on the rough side with wind at a constant 25knts and seas to about 8’ - 10’. Our stabilizers helped but it was still a trip that could be over as soon as possible. After 4½ hours we were, at last, in the lee of Dominica where miraculously all went calm. After a really pleasant cruise to the northern port of Portsmouth we anchored in 30’ of water but rolled constantly because of the Atlantic swell which was curling round the north end of the island. I woke up at 02:30 and that was it…a long day ensued! Fortunately the passage from Portsmouth to Les Saintes is only 18 nm so with a slight drop in the wind and the sea from yesterday the trip was much shorter and calmer. Oh Les Saintes, these islands are picturesque to look at as one approaches and the archipelago reveals itself, upon arrival one can’t help but smile. The islands are isolated, no big aircraft come here, some tourist arrive by ferry every day from Point a Pitre, Guadeloupe so there are visitors other than cruisers. The islands, however, do cater to cruisers. The main ‘Bourg’ Terre de Haut boarders a protected bay and provides mooring balls at a very reasonable charge. We eagerly motored to our chosen ball and moored up. With the dinghy lowered and equipped with our ships papers we set off to clear in and then walk around to get the lie of the land. Boy, this cruising travelling stuff is fun! Approaching a new island and destination port is always fun and full of mystery and expectation. I used to be concerned about finding customs and immigration, where to dispose of garbage and generally gain the lay of the land...not any more; it is just the cruising life. Everything unfolds and the locals have always been helpful even in the French islands with the language barrier. Most islands will grant three months entry and some six without special request.

Les Saintes are a small cluster of islands that comprise two that are inhabited and several that are not, the whole land mass only covers 4.9 square miles so they are small. The population is about 3,000, 1,900 who live on Terre-de-Haut and the balance on Terre-de-Basse. Scooters and tiny electric cars are the transport of choice, one walks in the road and the vehicular traffic simply winds its way past and between the pedestrians. The pace of life is slow but oh how civilized. The shops all close for 2½ hours at lunch time reopen at 3 then close again around 6. The French locals like a leisurely lunch and really make the time for it. One immediately realizes that there is more to life than the daily rat race. We naturally, after only one day slipped into these ways. The first day I said to HT “let’s get a sandwich for lunch”, well sandwich shops which abound in the States don’t here, each small restaurant, and there are many, post their menu de jour on a blackboard, in beautiful hand writing, which lists the choices of the three courses available for lunch and we quickly realized a sandwich for lunch is not the 'done' thing! Dinner in the evening is another lengthy affair. An early dinner would be at 7 o’clock finishing 3 -4 hours later. The most popular time to sit down is 8.
 

The day after we had arrived ‘Receta’ and George and Jan on ‘Wild Cat’ sailed in. We had not met George and Jan, friends of Steve and Ann on ‘Receta’ so a cocktail evening onboard ‘Receta’ set that to rights. Great hors d'oeuvres were served courtesy of Ann, foodie extraordinaire. We meet such nice people as we cruise, we really do. On Valentine’s Day the 6 of us made a reservation at Les Petits Saintes restaurant, one of the finest in the French West Indies. We finish our outstanding, superb, wonderful etc., etc., meal at 11:30. It ended with Xavier Simon, the chef, coming to talk to

Our table
us and he was gracious enough to explain some of his techniques and ingredients. The meal was truly memorable and the presentation simply both creative and beautifully artistic. For those interested, here is a link to the Hotel and Restaurants website, they have pictures of some of their dishes...http://www.petitssaints.com/photos.html... Having come from Europe where leisurely eating is more widely practiced, my ways had been amended during the 30 plus years I have lived in the USA where customs are different, so this pleasant reminder of the art of food and the way to savour it was fabulous, there is no table turn over here...

We were due to say our goodbyes to Les Saintes today but an undesirable weather report is going to keep us here for another week, oh yes! Sooo, what does this mean? Yep, more buttery croissants, delicious pastries, real bread and baguettes, tasty coffee and oh, that wonderful food. The scenery and water are pretty good too!

The anchorage at Terre-de-Haut can be a little uncomfortable at night as the wind drops and allows ones boat to sit in the small wave troughs, not bad enough to cause a loss of sleeps, however, but still a bit of a nuisance when moving around the boat, also the most uncomfortable rolling is when, with total disregard for the cruising boats in the bay, the high speed ferries speed by to the ferry dock. These boats travel at close to 30 knots and you can imagine the wake that they create, yes, glass breaking rolls ensue...thank heaven we can hear them coming and can prepare and thank goodness they don’t run at night! Iles des Saintes will definitely go down as a special place and one of our favourite destinations.

To close this entry I must pass a compliment to the French islands we have visited so far. They really have gone out of their way to accommodate the cruiser by building sturdy welcoming dinghy docks everywhere, they also provide accessible convenient garbage disposal and are the first islands we have visited that recycle, with containers for disposal on almost every street corner, bravo!


Life is good...     

Windjammer
Lavinia at the windward shore, Pigeon Island


We saw this Windjammer while at Marigot
When one sees the palm trees one
can just imagine Admiral Rodney
inside with this fleet






The fort at Pigeon Island, St. Lucia


Partners in Rodney Bay

Oh, the water!

Jet ski racing at St. Anne's Martinique
 


YT relaxing on the aft deck with a cohiba