Monday, October 24, 2016

Four years in the Eastern Caribbean and still loving it!

October 24th 2016

Position 12° 27.480’ N
              61° 29.072’ W

Tyrrel Bay Carriacou

The trawler in the centre of the map with the dinghy behind, nearest to the beach, is 'Partners'!

Our time in Chaguaramas this year would be spent doing jobs only, not including a haul out, our antifouling paint has done well this season, mainly due to a year of longer and more frequent passages we think which keeps the ablative paint clear of slim and active. The job list includes replacing the bilge pump in the engine room, replacing the shower sump drain pump and auto switch, replacing our fuel polishing pump and installing a new scavenging pump to give us the ability to drain any water or 'bad' fuel that may be in any of the fuel tanks. It will be plumbed into the supply manifold so I will be able to select from any of the four tanks.We once did take on some dirty fuel from a fuel truck and it took us a long time and many expensive racor filters to eradicate the problem, the scavenging pump will eliminate much of  the filter changing as it will be able to eject the dirty fuel straight into a five gallon bucket prior to getting as far as the filtering system. There will be no more draining of the racor fuel bowls multiple times. We also will be fitting a new reverse osmosis high pressure pump for our water maker together with a new membrane. We have a great source here in Chaguaramas for our water maker service and he is able to rebuild our old RO pump for use as a spare. Some minor varnish work and deck cleaning will also be done. That's about it... The rest of our stay will allow us time to fly to Florida for our annual family, friends and doctor visits and upon our return to Trinidad we will rent a car for a few days to explore, shop and provision.
My youngest daughter and I

My daughters condo right on the
corner of the inlet and the beach!
We flew to Miami, Florida on the 24th September and stayed that first night in Ft. Lauderdale where we visited my youngest daughter Georgina, she kindly accommodated us in her magnificent apartment overlooking the ocean and the inlet; we could see all the cruise ships about to take their excited passengers to the Caribbean!

Our trip north to Sarasota was quick and easy, a complete contrast from the driving we had just done in Trinidad with the car we rented there. In the States it is easy to take for granted the magnificent interstate and road system. In the Caribbean one is constantly looking for potholes that will pop a tyre, it has happened to us! The contrast here is being able to travel hundred's of miles using 'cruise control' never thinking of the possibility that a pothole will ruin ones day! In Sarasota we are staying with FOJ and his wife Carol who kindly continue to make us welcome and feel like family. This year, however, we will be moving around a bit; John and Carol are travelling to China for a vacation and we will be 'moving' to other good friends Bill and Kris for our last five days here in Sarasota. After the 10th we travel to Jacksonville to see my eldest son Anthony and his fiancée Tracy whom we have not met. Our last stops will be in New Smyrna to see our great friends and fellow cruisers Bill and Ann onboard Ann-Louise their 58' Krogen, then one final visit to my youngest daughter Georgina and our granddaughters Christina (15) and Victoria (16) visiting their auntie from their native Norway. While here in Sarasota we have managed to see a number of friends and also my son Christopher, his wife and our two grandchildren Isabella (11) and Matthew (9). It is great seeing how they are maturing and it is so nice to have time for conversation face to face rather than via text messages and FaceTime. All together time is short and with annual doctor visits to attend and essential 'can't get in the Caribbean' shopping our disappointment in not being able to stay longer.

We will be returning to Trinidad on the 18th October and are looking forward to starting our fifth season in the Eastern Caribbean. When we started our cruising adventure back in February 2013 we really didn't know how long we would be doing it for, 5 years, 10 years we had no plan and still don't... We still love the 'Islands' and now feel as though we live here, we no longer view Florida, where we lived for nearly 40 years, as our home. It is strange how our mental approach to things change with time. All of you will relate, I am sure, if you have moved from one part of the country to another; how long is it before your new location becomes 'Home' and you stop referring to your previous location as 'Home'? We realize that we have passed that point... It will be hard for us to give our cruising life style up which I have said a few times before in these ramblings. We do have fun talking about the future and will probably make the transfer back to land by still living onboard but will moor 'Partners' in various marinas back in the US. We fantasize about where we will settle, having lived in Florida for so long and having experienced the mountainous islands of the eastern Caribbean, we think a home/cabin in the mountains may be the next project...we will see.

Our cruising habit now is predominantly spent enjoying much more time in the islands we really like as opposed to having the compulsion to visit every island just because it is there and is the next island up the chain. We are now totally comfortable with making multi-day passages which makes this cruising style possible. Our favourite islands are, south to north, Trinidad, Carriacou, Mayreau and the Tobago Cays, Bequia, Martinique, Dominica, Les Saintes, Antigua and Culebra. A conspicuous absence from this list, you are probably thinking, are the US and British Virgins. We still visit and do stop at some beautiful anchorages but generally we do not stay for extended periods as there are now so many charter boats which makes the area so crowded and it has become so expensive as the islands do their best to extract every last dollar from the charter customers! Mooring balls abound at US$35 per night and the areas where one can anchor are becoming fewer and fewer. St. Thomas is an exception and we do stop there for a week or two as anchoring in Charlotte Amalie is easy and Christmas Cove, Great St. James Island and Magens Bay (no charter boats) on the North side of St. Thomas are just plain beautiful.


As I write today we are in Sarasota, FL oh my, the bustle of life, the traffic, the feeling of confinement as we drive around downtown among the tall buildings, the hassle of  finding a parking spot... Sarasota has change dramatically in the last 25 years. We have been lucky to have lived here during that time, Sarasota is a gem but for how much longer? It is bordering on the transition from a small provincial town to a large city, in another five years I predict the conversion will be complete. It has reminded us both how luck we are to live the idyllic lives we do...if any of you have a dream, not necessarily a cruising adventure, whatever your dream is, do it! Don't wait too long, perhaps even to the point where you can't do it due to health issues. For many of us we think we need a little more money, need to work a little longer, just do it now or as soon as you can! Life is a one shot deal, you get one chance at it and time is our most precious commodity, don't let it run out...

Lets divert and talk for a minute, another great thing about cruising are the people...the people we meet in the islands, the locals, most all are so welcoming, usually helpful and above all seem to be a gentle people. They are not 'driven' but are rather more content and happy that life has placed them in paradise; most know it, time is different to them, they have more of it. Time has a different perception to them, usually there is no rush for anything to be done (started) lest finished which can be frustrating but once us westerners 'catch' island time it becomes easier to accept the Caribbean way of life. Things will get done but it just might take a while! Now, this is a generalization and doesn't apply to everyone everywhere. To the crew of 'Partners' we think it does apply to the people of the southern Leeward Islands and all of the Grenadines. The exceptions, to an extent, are the French Islands which are literally a part of France and their people are definitely more industrious with a pace of life that is somewhat quicker...punctuality exists here! The disease that so many cruisers 'catch' is procrastination. It is strange because most of us were taught to make decisions. I remember being told "make a decision even if it turns out to be the wrong one!". We have all come across 'mañana' well, here in the Caribbean, it is alive and well too! Obviously we cruisers react to things promptly when necessary but a non-essential task has been known to be put off! We have learnt to be flexible and be able to change direction, drop everything quickly, in favour of a fun activity or social gathering. The cruisers themselves are the biggest treasure, the cruising community is small and very soon, after arriving in the Eastern Caribbean, one will be welcomed into the fold. Remember all of us are 'living our dream' so there is instantly a common denominator, we are all, young or old, boaters, which is the other common denominator. Cruising is a great leveler, one no longer is interested in what one may have done for a living, how much money one may have etc., we are all 'just' cruisers and we accept each other for the people we are. There is no station, class, nationality...we are all simply cruisers. It is very common for complete strangers to stop by another boat in an anchorage and introduce oneself, often culminating in joining together that very evening for cocktails, the barriers of familiarity that exist in 'civvy' street don't prevail here. The camaraderie is strong, we all help each other where possible, lending a hand, a spare part, an egg or a cup of flour; kind of like life in the small village I grew up in over half a century ago in the English countryside. Having cruised in the Eastern Caribbean now for four years we have met many other cruisers almost without exception wonderful people, we have made some lasting friendships with super, special and very interesting people. I know that a good number of these friendships will sustain us for the rest of our lives...our cruising experience has been priceless but has been made all the more enjoyable and worthwhile by our island hosts and the cruisers we have met...

Here are some pictures of 'Partners' taken by our friends onboard 'Wild Cat' as we were both on passage from Bequia to Carriacou.

Can you imagine being onboard your own boat cruising these beautiful blue waters? I hope you can, maybe cruising is your dream. Just for the record and to be honest, we spent over a year living aboard preparing 'Partners' and ourselves to go cruising. We kept postponing our departure for one reason or another. When we finally cut the dock lines we thought we were 'ready' but we weren't! We may just as well have left earlier! Cruising is one of those things, like life, that you become more proficient at the longer you do it. Obviously one assumes the boat is safe and seaworthy before you go to sea but do you have all the right spare parts, do you have everything etc., etc., you won't ever be that ready! I took classes on diesel engine maintenance but it took a couple of years after we left before I became fully comfortable tackling most maintenance jobs on our Ford Lehman main engine and our Northern Lights generator. One doesn't really get to know ones boat until you are actually cruising her but that is part of the adventure! This blog is partly to record our cruising adventure and partly to, hopefully, inspires and encourage some of our readers to take the leap of faith necessary to sail away to a life of freedom and what will be, an incredible adventure!

Birds of Trinidad and Tobago
Birds of Trinidad & Tobago
Oct. 5th moving day! Today we say goodbye to our dear friends FOJ and Carol who so unselfishly open their home to us every time we return to Florida...thank you once again. "Hello" to other great long time friends Bill and Kris who are going to put up with us for a week before we drive to see and stay with our oldest son Anthony in Jacksonville. Bill and Kris have a new home on the water here in Sarasota which we hadn't seen. Wow, what a beautiful home! We hadn't seen Bill & Kris for over a year so had much to catch up on. We stayed with them for five days and for us anyway it was a great visit with wonderful meals, a fabulous outing to their yacht club for a jazz night and many fun conversations about a multitude of topics, Bill & I love to talk, the problems of the world are now sorted out!

We drove from Sarasota to Jacksonville on the 11th Oct. on the way we diverted to Flagler Beach where I used to live 26 years ago and where hurricane Matthew did severe damage to the town and to A1A which is adjacent to the ocean. Much of the road was washed away and many houses were destroyed. We drove around and saw our old house, the neighbourhood had changed a little but not much considering the time lapse, fortunately the whole street faired well in the storm. After this short nostalgic visit we continued on to Jacksonville. After an uneventful journey we arrived at my eldest son Anthony's home; that evening we met Tracy his fiancée for the first time, we couldn't be happier, what a super young lady. We spent a very special four days with them laughing, talking and hearing all about how they met, fell in love and about their lives together so far. They will be getting married in April and we will be flying back again from the Caribbean for the big day!

Oct. 15th. On the road again heading south, our destination New Smyrna Beach, FL where our great friends Bill & Ann Miller are at the moment onboard their boat Ann Louise, a 58' Kadey Krogen. We became good friends while cruising in the Greater Antilles, Bill and Ann gave us undaunting support when we were at our lowest, talking of selling Partners and giving up the cruising life which had barely started, due to a fuel delivery problem that literally stopped our one and only engine every fifteen minutes. (refer to blog entries:- The Windward's and The Windward's II for the final solution to the "air in the fuel" problem) We managed to get the engine going every time it stopped and during our trip from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico Bill and Ann stuck close by all the way as we crossed the Mona Passage. Anyway, we became great friends. Ann sadly met with a very bad accident in Les Saintes and, after emergency surgery in Guadeloupe, was flown to Atlanta, GA where more surgeries ensued and a lengthy recovery commenced. I am pleased to hear now that her treatment is almost complete after 18 months! What a journey! Sadly our visit is to be a short one as we have one more stop to see two of our granddaughters who had flown from Norway where they live, my eldest daughter married a Norwegian, to stay with their aunt my youngest daughter Georgina at her home in Ft. Lauderdale. We had a great visit with Bill and Ann and a short but wonderful reunion with our granddaughters.
Granddaughters Victoria, Christina and
daughter Georgina in Ft. Lauderdale.
All too short unfortunately and our three plus week visit is at an end. We climbed aboard the plane on the 18th for our flight back to Trinidad and our home, the good ship 'Partners'.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The ups and downs of life as a cruiser!

Crews Inn Marina, Chaguaramas, Trinidad & Tobago

September 25th 2016

Position 10° 40.754’ N
                61° 37.940’ W

After a calm passage from BVI to St. Martin we returned to Nettle Bay with a plan to stay approximately a week to top up our provisions before continuing southeast to Antigua. The plan didn't come to pass! On our first night one of the prisms in our foredeck, the one over the bottom of our bed, started to leak! For the next few nights we had to sleep with a bucket at the end of the bed! After making several enquiries it appeared we were definitely in the right place to get this work done.

We engaged Palapa Shipwrights to undertake the work. We decided to have the whole foredeck refurbished and the four prisms reseated plus the bench and storage in front of the pilot house completely rebuilt. Three weeks later and nearly US$7,000.00 we were 'dry' and were the owners of a very pretty foredeck...the job was executed to perfection and we shout out a loud "thank you" to Chris and his crew for a job well done.

Because of our delay we have decided to 'miss' Antigua and passage non-stop to Sainte-Anne, Martinique. This trip is a two nights at sea duration about 240 NM's. We definitely needed our stabilizers for the first stretch but once we had altered course from the island of Nevis directly towards the SW corner of Martinique we received a little lee from Monserrat, then Guadeloupe and more lee as we passed close to Martinique. Before too long we were into our passage making routine and although our arrival was welcome we did arrive well rested. Our first excursion from our great anchorage at Sainte-Anne was to Leader Price to buy the 'French' items we crave, cheeses, wine and wonderful fresh vegetables. On our way back the last item was the requisite baguette!

Early on our second day I started my routine maintenance in the engine room and as usual announced to Lavinia that the engine room hatch was open! Within two minutes she rose from the salon and walked to the galley and fell into the 'hole'. For some unknown reason she was oblivious to the hatch being open and the announcement I had made. She knew immediately that there was a problem and we put a call out on the VHF for help. I managed to lift her out, inflicting much pain in the process. James and Pam from S/V Love-Zur answered my call...they happened to have a rental car and offered to transport Lavinia to the hospital. That sounded easy but first I had to lower Lavinia into the dinghy all the time trying not to hurt her. It was becoming apparent that her ribs were broken and that possibly there was a shoulder injury. At the other end the dinghy dock in Sainte-Anne is beautiful but tall so here again a difficult task presented itself, how to get her from dinghy to dock. Eventually we were on the dock and walking toward the church square where we were meeting James and Pam, there they were! The time now 07:30. Soon we arrived at the hospital in Le Marin, she was seen immediately and was ushered off. I asked to accompany her but that request was turned down, only the patient was allowed into the hospital and we all had to stay in the waiting room. After a short time Lavinia reappeared holding x-rays and with the news that she had broken 5 ribs on the right side of her back! The doctor wanted her to go to Fort de France to have more x-rays and have a specialist confirm that there was no puncturing of the lung. An ambulance took her on the hour plus drive, again I was not allowed to accompany her. We did not follow but agreed to pick her up as the ambulance would not bring her back? It was nearly 22:00 before Lavinia called and we set off. James and Pam had given up their whole day to help us and we will be eternally grateful to them both. The 'up' side of the whole event was that the total bill amounted to less than 80 Euros, unbelievable! Do we pay too much in the USA?

The next two weeks were spent in Sainte-Anne allowing Lavinia time to establish her healing process which was forecast to be 6-8 weeks. Once she confirmed that she thought she could bare the movement of travelling at sea we planned our next leg which would take us to Bequia, situated just south of the island of St. Vincent. Fortunately we had a calm journey and Lavinia coped very well. We stayed in Bequia for two more weeks, still boat bound as Lavinia did not want to negotiate the swim platform and get into the dinghy. Not an exciting time but essential as part of the healing process. Bequia to Carriacou would be our next hop and we were able to find a great weather window to allow our cruising companions to sail as we motored. Arrival in Carriacou was very welcome as we stay here during late June, July and August the beginning of Hurricane season. Lavinia became more and more comfortable and began to swim every day. Carriacou is our southern 'Home', we love it although it is becoming more and more popular and much more crowded. Nevertheless we still like the island and it's people. We anchor in Tyrrel Bay although we do venture to other anchorages around the island. Carriacou is also a good place to take excursions to the Grenadines to the north and we usually visit Union Island, Mayreau and the Tobago Cays while there but this year we didn't mainly due to Lavinia's injury. We were both able to enjoy the Regatta which is always a great time in Carriacou. Every year as many of last years gang congregate for the requisite annual photograph. This year we were short one member from last year, sadly Alan Reynolds unexpectedly passed on. A big decision had to be made, should a female be invited to the group...we had a unanimous YES so our good friend Silke was invited to have her picture taken!

Taken in Carriacou, a Gurnard.
Carriacou Regatta 2016, left to right:
Me, Silke, Les and Gus

We have a reservation in Crews Inn Marina, Chaguaramas, Trindad for arrival September 1st so it is time to plan the last transit of the season. Golightly, who we caught up with, would be travelling with us to Trinidad for his first visit there. We split the journey into two legs the first to Clarkes Court Bay, Grenada and then the long passage on to Chaguaramas. Due to a great weather window we left early on the 25th August. We cleared out at Le Phare Blue Marina and off we went...after a 19 hour run and a 'smooth' passage we arrived in Trinidad. This year was the first time that we did not take the direct route. We doglegged east to about 6NM east of Poinsettia Rig and aimed for a position just off the coast of Trinidad about 16NM from the Boca's. The recent boldness of the pirates, reportedly Venezuelan, made us consider this change from our normal route. We arrived at dawn, having made our passage in darkness with all our navigation lights off and our AIS transmit off. At 06:00 daylight is always exciting to see the north range and pass through the Boca's, they are so dramatic!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

It's been a long time!

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas

April 24th 2016
Position 18° 20.094’ N
                64° 55.508’ W

I've been terribly lazy this past year, there is an explanation however, more like an excuse actually... Since buying 'Partners' over five years ago and moving aboard her permanently, to find a viable and accessible internet connection using our Wirie AP signal booster has become more and more difficult. To find free stations to use onboard they must be password free or one must know the password, they also must be strong enough to be viable from a speed standpoint. Most people and businesses, like us all, have become much more security conscious over recent years and protect their systems with a password, so accessibility is not possible for those stations. Internet in the Eastern Caribbean is not like on the mainland of first world countries such as most European nations, the United States and Asia. Some islands are only now just beginning to introduce 4G, only in Puerto Rico have we come across LTE service. We could access reasonable WiFi ashore in many of the cafés that provide it to their patrons. The thing here though, packing up ones laptop in a splash proof dry bag, dinghying ashore and then walking to said café becomes a low priority. Sitting in a café requires one to buy a drink/food to justify ones tenure so after five coca cola's i.e. sixty spoons of sugar, participation in this excursion should be avoided at all cost! So, this ramble is to explain that once it becomes difficult to write and publish a blog, also to post high definition pictures, guess goes to the 'back burner' list and doesn't get addressed, I'm guilty! We are presently in Chaguaramas Trinidad where we are taking shelter from the risks of storms during hurricane season and here we have fairly good free internet onboard provided by Crews Inn Marina where we are berthed, so here I am tapping the keys again...

It has been over a year since I have written and much has happened; After leaving Chaguaramas in Late November 2015 we set sail north for a non-stop passage to Sainte-Anne, Martinique, the route took us to Point Saline at the SW corner of Granada and then a rhumb line course directly to Sainte-Anne, a total of 258nm, we stood 'three on and three off' watches during the night hours, 19:00 - 07:00, which suites us. During the day it is a free for all with whomever wanting to take watch staying in the pilothouse while the other either sleeps, eats or reads. The passage was uneventful. We stayed in Sainte-Anne for two weeks enjoying the wonderful French food, wine and cheese. Being a full department of France all the goods required to sustain the island are shipped or flown in from France, very little, if anything comes from the United States or other Islands. We feel the quality of all produce and foodstuff is of the highest standard. The influence of Europe is evident where there is a move away from and to ban any foods that are genetically modified. The meat is void of hormones and the cattle are grass fed. All this adds up to, what we feel, is a more healthy lifestyle. Anyway, we love the civilized way of life, lunchtime is sacred with almost all people stopping to enjoy an hour or two's break; the shops close and the restaurant's buzz with activity. Lunch, for many here, is the main meal of the day and those eating a good lunch may have a light leisurely dinner later in the evening. It is not unusual to find many restaurants' still open after 10PM full with patrons enjoying conversation, wine and a little food. Weekends too remain sacred with some shops closing on both Saturday and Sunday and most shops closing on Sunday.

By early December we began to prepare for our next passage which was to Antigua where once again we had planned to spend the Christmas Holidays. A group of us had planned a Christmas gathering many months previously and having had such a great time in Antigua for Christmas 2015 Gavin, onboard 'Secret Smile,' was the instigator to, once again, try and repeat that event. Many of us were now anchored in Saint-Anne so the plan was to travel north together stopping in Portsmouth, Dominica and Deshaies, Guadeloupe for overnight rests before reaching Antigua. In Deshaies we went ashore to clear out from France and also to visit one of the best pizza restaurants in the Caribbean, oh it was good! All was well overnight and in the early hours of the morning half a dozen boats set off from Deshaies towards Jolly Harbour, Antigua. the conditions were favourable with steady east winds and 4' or less seas, ideal conditions for the sailing boats and perfectly okay for 'Partners', while our stabilizers were working! You guessed it, half way to Antigua, a 40 plus nautical mile passage, our stabilizers stopped working. Upon inspection it was apparent that the system had lost oil pressure indicating a leak somewhere. Without stabilization our round bilge, full displacement hull, was rolling! Life became quite uncomfortable, not dangerous but uncomfortable. We finished the trip and were very happy to arrive at Jolly Harbour. We cleared in to Antigua at the Immigration, Customs and Port Authority offices which are a short dinghy ride from the anchorage. We only stayed in Jolly for a couple of days before we travelled south and east round to Falmouth Harbour which was to be our anchorage for the Holidays. We were able to find a hydraulic technician to work on our stabilizers. We carry many spares and the technician determined that we had a defective hydraulic ram on our starboard unit, fortunately we had a spare! It didn't take long to effect the repair and after a good test ride we approved the job.

By this time it is mid December and all the participants have arrived. 'Life on the Corner' the restaurant we enjoyed our Christmas Dinner in last year sadly was closed! We all made suggestions for a venue and eventually decided that Pillars, a very nice restaurant in Nelsons Dockyard was to be the Christmas dinner venue. We had many good evenings leading up to Christmas and enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Pillars. After Christmas we left Falmouth Harbour and visited many of our favourite bays, Antigua is blessed with so many lovely beaches and bays and claims to have 365 beaches, one for every day of the year! Soon it was time for us to depart...

Lavinia and I with Les, our good friend onboard 'Golightly', had decided to visit St. Martin. Neither of us in three years of cruising the Eastern Caribbean, had cruised there. We planned to stop at Saint Bart's for a few days too. Our passage was uneventful and we made a safe arrival to Anse Colombier. In the bay there are many mooring balls which we used. Saint Bart's is a beautiful Island but being a playground for the rich and famous, is expensive! We enjoyed two days ashore walking around the capital Gustavia. We also marveled at the congregation of so many of the worlds biggest mega yachts which gravitate here for New Year festivities. St. Bart's is the place to be for New Years Eve; the island has gained a reputation for great festivities and a good time, the word has definitely spread among the rich and famous...
Roman Abramovich yacht Eclipse
(533' Long)
Arctic P, with Mariah Carey and
her children onboard

Leander G, the yacht the
Queen Elizabeth II of England
was lent gratis by Sir Donald Gosling 
to complete her Diamond Jubilee tour
around the UK in 2012
Just 14 nm from St. Barts is Simpson Bay, St. Martin which is our next port of call. In over three years of cruising in the eastern Caribbean neither Partners nor Golightly, our sailing companion, had visited St. Martin. St. Martin is an island shared by the Netherlands and France, essentially split equally the French half is the north side of the island and the Dutch side is the southern side. The island does not have a boarder as such and once one is cleared into either country one has free rein to visit the whole island. St. Martin is completely duty free and therefore is an attractive destination from a shopping and provisioning standpoint, the selection of goods is fantastic and there is very little one cannot purchase here. For the items one cannot find the shipping of same is inexpensive, easy and duty free. In the centre of the island is a large lagoon providing a calm sheltered anchorage in all weather. The downside of the lagoon, however, is that it is extremely 'fertile'; barnacles grow overnight here irrespective of the type of antifouling paint one may have and a monthly scape is required to negate this unwelcome marine growth. For those cruisers planning a visit here it is my suggestion that if you are to enter the lagoon you do so through the Dutch bridge as the navigation is easy and depths are less worrisome than on the French side where groundings are common place. Once in the lagoon travel to either the Dutch or the French sides are possible. We decided to enter the lagoon and anchor on the French side in Nettle Bay...the water here is a little less fertile and clear, clear enough in our opinion to swim and make water. The area is also less crowded and generally quieter. Once anchored we all took Partners dinghy ashore to Island Water World chandlery on the French side where we could clear-in using the usual and inexpensive (2 euros), simple computer system common to all the French islands. By the way one must clear-in and out from St. Bart's and similarly the same in St. Martin which is unlike Martinique, Les Saintes and Guadeloupe where one clearance is good for travel to all the islands providing the visits are consecutive. There are bays on both the French and Dutch sides suitable for anchoring, the most popular being Marigot on the French side; the advantage of using Marigot is the clear blue water and less marine growth. It is almost as convenient as the lagoon and only requires a slightly longer dinghy ride to transit to the Dutch side of the island. The bay is well protected except from a northerly swell. St. Martin is an excellent place to have work done, there is every type of marine related business here and most appear to be reasonably priced. Les, unfortunately, had to replace his windlass while here and had unlimited choices of windlasses in the well stocked chandleries plus lots of choices of skilled labour to complete the installation. The provisioning choices here are limitless and we took advantage, mainly in the French supermarket's, to literally 'load up' with great French food before we left, it's sooo good. We all enjoyed St. Martin and will return...

Partners parted company with her sailing companion Golightly and we headed NW to Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. I had a doctors appointment in St. Thomas in April and we wanted to cruise the British, US and Spanish Virgins.

North Sound Virgin Gorda
Our anchorage with pink flamingo
in the salt pond

Friends enjoying the view and lunch at
Hog Heaven, a must visit!
We arrive safely in Virgin Gorda and cleared in at Gun Creek where the dinghy dock is literally outside the customs and immigration office, very convenient. We always enjoy time here and visit both the Bitter End Yacht Club, Saba Rock and Hog Heaven, the view is not to be missed. Our anchorage here is just south of Prickly Pear towards the west end, we can dinghy everywhere within the North Sound from here. After a few days of relaxing we cruised west down the Sir Francis Drake channel to Jost Van Dyke in the BVI where we cleared-out. We love to anchor just south of Little Jost Van Dyke island it is usually empty, the water is crystal clear and swimming and snorkeling is a joy. The island is uninhabited although there is one very nice beach bar at the west end. Just across on the main island is Foxy's Taboo which is an annex to the legendary Foxy's located in Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke.

We spent the next month just island hopping in the Virgins before arriving in Farjardo, Puerto Rico. We stay in Sunbay Marina which has become our 'Northern' marina home. Olga, the owner, takes exceptional care of us and 'Partners' during our visits. We fuel up here, visit Costco's, Walmart, Home Depot and many other stores...Lavinia visits TJ Maxx and all those 'women' shops! By time we have completed our stay we are provisioned well enough to cruise for a couple of months without having to plan food stops, perfect for the British Virgin Islands where food and supplies are expensive. The USVI island of St. Thomas is a duty free island and is also reasonable for shopping although not quite like Puerto Rico. We like the Charlotte Amalie anchorage and the comings and goings of the cruise ships, is entertaining. Our favourite bay is Magens on the north side of the island it has a beautiful beach and is huge, bigger, in fact, than Charlotte Amalie. The beach is beautiful and the odd thing is that the bay is usually empty! A note for other cruisers is: one cannot beach ones dinghy so there are two options, one is to anchor just off the west end of the main beach and wade in, the other is: one can beach ones dinghy on the small beach on the west side of the bay from here it is possible to safely wade in; we often spend time on the little beach relaxing and swimming , it is so private and unspoiled. While in Magens Bay we met Tony and Angela, husband and wife crew of the 118' yacht Andrea Cay.
Andrea Cay
They invited us aboard to have a tour and oh, what a beautiful yacht and the room, the boat is huge! The engine room is a whole deck! We enjoyed each others company immensely and had a great few days together, subsequently have stayed in touch with them through Facebook. We sincerely hope that our cruising courses cross again soon. April has arrived and back to Charlotte Amalie we go, after my routine doctors visit we will begin our trek east and south. On our way round to Charlotte Amalie we stopped at several of our favourite anchoraged, Francis and Maho on St. John then to Christmas Cove where, of course, we had to have a pizza from the pizza boat 'Pizza Pi'.

One other obligatory visit was to the 'Room With a View' in Charlotte Amalie. The happy hour prices are terrific!

It is now the third week in April and we are looking for a weather window to set off back to St. Martin. Our plan is to 'Yellow' flag it through the BVI...