Thursday, November 27, 2014

Our Passage South 2014

June 20th 2014

Position 14° 26.357’ N
               60° 52.899’ W

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Every time we get ready to make passage it is a bitter sweet affair, we are leaving the safety of a port which we have become familiar with and are heading out into the unknown again so there is the excitement too which is always experienced and associated with going to sea! Les Saintes are a special part of the Caribbean, small islands, civilized and sophisticated. Part of Guadeloupe, the small collection of islands are situated just to the south. They are west of Marie Galante, the other bigger island belonging to Guadeloupe, and north of the next island to the south which is Dominica. Our stays here are always pleasant and provide a break from the more underdeveloped islands and the more blatant and desperate behaviours demonstrated in their people’s quest to both survive and develop. I refer, for example, to the boat boys of Union Island and St. Lucia’s Pitons Bay at Soufriere who are aggressive in their quest for your business, they almost fight among themselves in order to gain the right to assist one to pick up a mooring.  

This young cruiser woke up to his dinghy sinking so he
quickly swam ashore towing it to the beach! 
A change also from the commerce of the British Virgin Islands where a mooring ball will cost you US$35 per night, this is not to mention the compulsory necessity to buy another parks permit to allow the use of the daytime moorings at the must-see venues, expensive! The French islands are inexpensive to visit although many commodities are a little more expensive…but, oh the food! We look forward to visiting every island and enjoy all their unique experiences; don’t misunderstand me we are not deterred from visiting any of the islands because of the poverty we encounter or because of boat boy behaviour, once the tussle between them is over and we have our assigned ‘boy’ everything calms down and we are fine. On Union Island we were harassed ashore by an individual who insisted on disposing of our garbage and then had to introduce us to his Aunt who ran a local fruit and vegetable stall and then a friend who ran the local rum shop and on it went, we couldn’t deter him from following us everywhere and found it very unpleasant.

From our mooring - Les Saintes
Ann & Steve from s/v Receta
in Les Saintes
In the bay where the mooring field is situated the water is deep, 40’ or more but a beautiful deep blue. We swam daily from the stern of the boat. Of course one does have to witness the daily nude displays from the French sailors while they either just take their daily swim or perform their evening bath routine! The island of Terre-de-Haut, the main island of the group, is hilly but not to challenging to be walked. We did explore and visited some of the recommended spots. Les Saintes are a tranquil destination and we find it easy to relax here and enjoy the ‘flavours’ of France. The people seem to have time for you and are friendly towards cruisers and tourists. Martinique and Guadeloupe on the other hand are bustling large islands with much more of a feeling akin to mainland France. Don’t misunderstand me we love the bigger islands too, I am just explaining the differences. As cruisers we need all the islands, each one offers a different set of services ranging from good provisioning and sophisticated marine services on the larger islands to locally grown non GMO vegetables from a small roadside grocery store and eggs from the free range chickens which we find on the smaller less populated islands.  The locally grown food reminds us of a time when the quality of food was better. The bright yellow yoked eggs instead of the milky white tasteless ones that dominate the shelves in most large supermarkets nowadays are like the ones our mothers used to get when we were children. The smaller islands give us a ‘getaway’, a relaxing aura where we can walk deserted beaches, snorkel in coves and on reefs where we are the only people. At happy hour we can visit the local watering hole, where we invariably see familiar faces from what is really a small cruising community. The proprietors in most of the establishments make time to talk and remember our names from the last time we were there, six months before…   

Slipping the mooring lines we left Les Saintes and headed south toward the western lee side of Dominica. Again we are not stopping in Dominica. We are told that Dominica is the poorest but most spectacular island in the West Indies, it is nature’s wonderland. We are told too that the people are special and the most ‘generous’, not materially but in their attitude and demeanour, just wonderful people. We will visit, maybe next year… 

A green flash in a about minute!
Our next stop is Le Marin, Martinique where we will stock up with great French provisions at Leader Price our favourite grocery store in the Caribbean! Not only is the food good but the selection is wonderful too; the wine shelves offer a good and inexpensive choice. Leader Price has a dinghy dock which makes the whole experience easy, no buses or long walks with arms being pulled out of their sockets, just cart to dinghy and dinghy to boat, perfect! Our course south will take us along the west coast of Dominica which is a mountainous island and thus offers considerable lee. We will enjoy this for about 4 to 4½ hours when we usually use the time to cook and eat a meal, filter fuel and refill our day tank, not because we have to but it is just easier in the calm lee waters. At night, especially if a moon is shining brightly, one can see the silhouette of the tall mountains towering skyward, it seems we are much closer to the land than we are, all a little eerie but nonetheless spectacular. In the channel between Dominica and Martinique the equatorial current is fierce and is running in a northerly direction so we can take up to 5 hours to cover the 21 miles between the two islands. Once behind Martinique again we are in calmer waters until we round the ‘corner’ at the southern end of the island and head windward for the last 9nm to the channel leading into the protected enclosed harbour of Le Marin. Le Marin is at the SE corner of Martinique and is protected well by a large spit of land extending southward for about 3 miles. The area of protected water in the bay is huge and there are many places to anchor. We usually start off close to Leader Price and then once our shopping is done move to a more remote location within the harbour or we cruise a few miles to Sainte-Anne where the water is so clear and there is a beautiful sandy beach. Le Marin is still accessible from Sainte-Anne in JP our fast dinghy and takes about 20 minutes. Le Marin also has every tradesman one might need and all seem very qualified. Having had a repair done here on a previous visit highlighted to me that sometimes it is better to pay a higher price and have the job done right first time and in half the time rather than have the job attempted by a lesser qualified person who is unpunctual and may or may not do the job correctly; often the case on many islands. The difference in cost at the end of the day is minimal. One doesn’t have to chase the workman either, he is usually there when and at what time he says! Surprise! After two years here in the Caribbean we are leaning and have a good handle on which islands are good for what. We even long for individual locations on certain islands where we can buy great locally baked bread!  

Sainte-Anne is a small quiet town, more a village actually, it is touristy and has all the little shops that sell trinkets and souvenirs. It is a popular cruisers haunt and is blessed with a great dinghy dock, a beautiful beach and a selection of small restaurants. We always make water here as the water is so clean and clear. Once we have negotiated the reefs that are between the main Le Marin channel and Sainte-Anne one can anchor in 8’ – 18’ of ‘swimming’ water! We usually choose to anchor near the beach which offers a lot of wind protection. Most of the sailing boats especially those that have wind generators anchor further out where there is more wind but the water is a little choppier. One can clear in now in Sainte-Anne, one of the local bar restaurants is now authorized and has the familiar computer in place. The cost here is 2EU’s compared to the 5 charged by the marina in Le Marin. The French islands cater well to cruisers and welcome us everywhere.

During our visit to Le Marin we made a reservation in the very nice marina to meet with the Victron Energy distributor, who we know; Frédéric Moser came on-board to look over the new wiring we had done in BVI’s and also to re-programme our Victron inverter/charger so it could work to its full capability, remember we had thus far only been able to charge at a reduced rate of 80 amps rather than the full 120 amps which it is capable of. We also had Frédéric install a Victron monitoring gauge so we can see exactly what is happening with our electrical system. Finally six months after the installation of our new inverter we have everything working properly! I cannot describe the wonderful feeling that having reliability in the electrical department provides…we are relaxed not worried about our generator breaking down, not always being required to check the temperature of the wiring, worrying about fire! We have a freedom now that you would’ve had to experience our previous problems in order to appreciate.   

Cruising past the Pitons
St. Lucia, the next island south, is our next stop. Our plan is to spend a short time in Rodney Bay and wait for a good weather window to make passage to Bequia, one of the Grenadines, where friends, who we haven’t seen in a while, are anchored. In Rodney Bay we met up with Bruce on ‘Wild Matilda’ and Dave and Trudie on ‘Persephone’. We only spent a few days here but unfortunately during those few days we were robbed one night! Two nice folding teak chairs were taken from our aft deck. Another boat in the anchorage fared worse than us and were boarded and lost money, credit cards and passports.
Passing a beautiful yacht on a beautiful day.
St. Lucia, sadly, is now the leading island for this type of crime. The island authorities are stepping up security in the hope of curbing the crime. We, along with other cruisers, are hoping that there will be an improvement as currently we are reluctant to visit. From St. Lucia we passaged overnight to Bequia, another small island that we like. We first visited Bequia 20 years ago when we were married on Young Island, St. Vincent. The island has changed little and the same laundry boat and other waterborne vendors were present. The island is quaint, there is a stone and concrete walking path along the waterfront which connects shops, watering holes and restaurants. A choice of beaches abound. Les on ‘Golightly’ was there and Dave, Trudie and Bruce followed us down from St. Lucia. We also met two French cruisers Sylvie & Rene. We all had a get-together one evening at the Whaleboner for cocktails with pizza afterwards at Macs which was a fun time.


Friend John's boat 'Stingo'
By now it is July and hurricane season is upon us, it is time to head further south once more…our next stop is Mayreau a small island that is the gathering place for exploring the Tobago Keys, one of the most beautiful areas in the eastern Caribbean. We only stayed in Mayreau for one night but did go ashore with Les from ‘Golightly’ and met some great people, South Africans from Cape Town. They, along with their two grown-up children, had taken a sabbatical from their lives in SA in order to cruise the eastern Caribbean for a year. We became friends and have stayed in touch ever since. We have just learned that they are planning on returning in three years to resume their eastern Caribbean cruising!

One of the beaches we visited every
day to swim in Bequia.
From Mayreau we continued on to Carriacou an island just north of Grenada and part of the Grenadian archipelago. Carriacou, as I have probably mentioned before, is definitely one of our favourite islands. Tyrell Bay, where we choose to stay, is a superb anchorage, it is calm with nice clear water for water making and swimming. Around the bay are bars, restaurants three small grocery stores. One can buy free range eggs, chickens and locally grown vegetables. We feel healthy here and have grown to love this place. We know some locals, some ‘Belongers’ as they are referred to, and feel safe here. There is no crime that we have heard of and we can leave ‘Partners’ unlocked most of the time. Many of our closer friends spend time here and the local bars are always patronized by familiar faces…Ms Lucky’s on a Saturday night is the place to be, a small restaurant where Ms. Lucky barbeques chicken, pork and potato wedges for a mere EC$12 or US$4.50 and the beer is cheap and ice cold.

'Partners' our trusty steed.

Our trip from St. Lucia to Mayreau and on to Carriacou was uneventful. The weather at this time of the year provides longer periods of calm seas which make it easier for us to go to sea.

Always hard to leave, Carriacou yet again has provided our fix for relaxed quiet island living. Grenada was 6 hours south, we headed out accompanied by our friend Les, to where we would spend three months until our final trek south to Trinidad where we would be hauled out for bottom paint and some other minor jobs. We have had an expensive year this year what with a new generator, radar and new battery and inverter/charger wiring, so to anchor in Grenada as opposed to berthing in a marina will give us an inexpensive summer to replenish the cruising coffers.  

Carriacou 'Fun Runner'.

Our Bengy Bay anchor buddy,
friend Terry on Libertad

A female Frigate bird.

A typical Carriacou scene.
Arriving in Grenada we entered Prickly Bay where we cleared in and were granted a three month stay. After a day of rolling badly we moved east round to Clarkes Court Bay and Bengy Bay where we like to anchor. Our good friend Terry on board s/v Libertad anchored next to us and we spent the next three months swimming, fishing and having fun in the bay. Of course we explored parts of Grenada that we hadn’t seen before. We had a good time, dinghy concerts, BBQ’s on the beach at Rogers on Hog Island and weekly music jams at Whisper Cove Marina. Grenada is a fun island with plenty going on! 

Crews Inn Marina, Chaguaramas,
Trinidad and Tobago

Your truly!
At the beginning of October we sailed south to Trinidad. We had made a reservation in Crews Inn for just three weeks before our haul-out at Peake Yachting Services on the 5th November so we were looking forward to some shopping in town and some soaking in the marina pool. We quickly discovered who was here and reunited with many other cruising friends. We spent time with Chuck and Barb on ‘Tusen Takk II’, another Kadey Krogen, enjoying several get-togethers and meals together. Chuck and Barb have been cruising the Eastern Caribbean for 8 years and are a wealth of knowledge. They introduced us to their friends Michael and Roberta on s/v Celilo’ and we enjoyed several outings including two ‘dinner and a movie’ excursions. Trinidad has it all, malls, restaurants galore, everything, it is like a mini America. Our haul-out went well and we left Peake’s on the 25th November after three weeks on the hard...


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 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! 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
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 Virgin Islands 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 of 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

A short trip west would take us to 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 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 idyllic spot. Our last stop on St. John was Leinster Bay and our particular favourite Waterlemon Bay. 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 asked 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 reduced 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 and Jane in the Windward’s at Tyrrel 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 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...