Thursday, March 29, 2012

Making Connections with Other Sailors

Susan, Jim, Dennis and driver, Nicholas
As usual, I struck up a conversation on the dock with another sailing couple. She held our line while we positioned the dinghy. I noticed that their dingy was registered in Virginia. Of course, I asked if they were from Virginia and we started chatting. Then the next morning, Monday, they arrived at the dinghy dock just behind us. So I asked what they were planning for the day’s adventure. It turned out to be the same as our plan, so I asked if they would like to share a taxi

Dennis talking to a client in the middle
of the rain forest hike!
And so, we spent most of the day in the company of Susan and Jim from Virginia Beach, VA. We rode up  to Golden Rock Estate for a day of hiking in the rain forest, hoping to see the wild greenback monkeys. Our taxi driver was Nicholas whom we had met on Sunday and assured him we would be ready to go on Monday.

We started up (and I mean UP!) the Nature Trail to the Source. Susan and Jim went further than we did, but they did not make it to the top either! It was cool in the rain forest and a beautiful sight, but it was very hot in the open areas. The sounds of the birds and the wind in the breeze was refreshing.

Sherry calling  "uncle" to the hike!

I am not a great hiker. My sciatic nerve is an issue when climbing up and down. Once my leg starts throbbing and shaking, I am done! Dennis went a little further than I did. I was happy to learn from Susan and Jim that not too far from where I gave up, the trail became very step and rocky. They did not find it enjoyable or safe. That is when they turned back and headed down. So none of us reached the Source!

We also shared the trail with goats. At one point, I was standing between two - one was a very large black billy goat. He was looking at the smaller one on the other side of me and she was looking at him and then at me. I was not to sure what they were discussing! But I decided it was time for me to move along before they executed their plan.

To cool off, we sat by the pool with cold Cokes until Susan and Jim returned to join us for lunch. The view from Golden Rock is spectacular. The grounds are very pretty with many different planting groups ranging from desert to rain forest in theme and location on the property.

The dining terrace at Golden Rock Estate
The restaurant at Golden Rock Estate is one of the best places to dine: beautiful view, fabulous terrace and very good food. The lobster salad was great! We all enjoyed a several hour long lunch in this lovely place.

After our big talk of walking down the mountain back to town with our taxi driver, Nicholas (who smirked at our idea), we called him for the return trip. The hike had been enough mountain climbing for all of us! Dennis and I were dropped off at the Botanical Garden.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Moving on to Nevis & St. Kitts

“Nuestra Senora del las Nieves” 
We were up and preparing to set sail to St. Kitts. The cruising guide suggested it was a 40 nm trip. However, we were at the north end of St. Barth and had to go to the south end of St. Kitts to make the passage through the Narrows between Nevis and St. Kitts. Then we were to sail back north to the port of Basseterre to check in. Well … it was more than 40 nm! It took us all day with good sailing and a little motor sailing at the end so we could get through the Narrows before we lost good light.

Once we got to the Narrows and past Booby (a huge rock in the middle of the passage) and The Cows (a group of smaller rocks to be avoided), we decided to pick up a mooring ball along the shore of Nevis. Nevis and St. Kitts are one country so we could check in at Charlestown, Nevis in the morning. (It is pronounced Neevis.)

Local park where people chill out 
Originally we thought we would skip Nevis. Having done so would have allowed us to miss a real “cat and mouse” game of checking in! The Customs people were very nice. It is just that the system works for them, but not for the visitor! First you go to the Customs office near the dock and pay some fees. Then you go to the Police Station four or five blocks away for Immigration. Next you back to the Port Office at the dock. Then you go back to the Customs office to get your cruising permit. Now, mind you, it was Sunday so they were only open from 9 AM to 1 PM. We had two hours to make it happen!

Local Caribbean music awaited passengers of a cruise ship
The challenge became apparent when we got to the Police station several blocks from the dock and the officer said we should see the Immigration officer who was at the dock. So we went back to the dock only to find that she had gone out to check in the passengers on a small cruise ship! We went to the Customs office an hour before closing to pick up the cruising permit, but found it locked. Later we learned that the Customs agent was also on the cruise ship.

Pinney's Beach where we anchored near the Four Seasons
Having waited for over an hour for the agents to return to shore, they asked us to come back on Monday since it was past 1 PM and they were “closed.” It was time to back to the boat and relax. After all, it is “island time!” We were moored on Pinney’s Beach just north of Charlestown and right under  Nevis Peak, the high volcanic peak where the clouds cover the top of the mountain most of the time. It is over 3000 feet high and you can see the rain up there several times a day. But the showers provide beautiful rainbow – often double ones! Columbus named the mountain “Nuestra Senora del las Nieves” (Our Lady of the Snows) after one of his favorite churches.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Other Side of St. Barth

Anse de Columbier bay from the top of the ridge
We left the harbor and sailed up to Anse de Columbier, a beautiful bay and beach area at the northern end of St. Barth. I could have stayed here for several days. One of the attractions of the bay is the sea turtles along with other marine life. We only saw a single turtle as we did not snorkel. It was during an attempt to grab a mooring ball that Dennis suffered his injury: a gash on the nose! More Neosporin to the rescue!

Going ashore with the dinghy was interesting! There are slabs of stone along much of the beach just under the water so you have to find a break where there is sand. Having found a good landing place, you then have to ride a wave onto the shore and jump out to pull the dinghy further up onto the beach and anchor it to something so it will stay there.

The view on the other side of the ridge!
Not being particularly graceful with my entering and exiting the dinghy anyway, this was a new challenge! I managed to get one leg out into relatively shallow water, but the wave retreated before I got the second leg over the tube! Ouch! I now have a huge hematoma on my leg! Injury number two! And it is an ugly color of purple, green and yellow.

If you follow the trail up and over the steep and craggy hill, you see the bays on the other side of the island. The village of Columbier is high above to the southwest. Anse de Columbier was originally owned by the Rockerfellers, as was Caneel Bay, St. John, USVI, and the original house is still there.  This area is now part of the St. Barts Marine Reserve. It is a well-protected anchorage and has mooring balls to protect the marine environment. Grass beds have returned and provide feeding beds for the sea turtles.

When you cross over the ridge at the top of the beach, there is a tiny (in width, but long) trail that leads up and down through cactuses and lilies all the way to Anse de Flamandes.The cruising guide book claims it to be a 30 minute walk. I beg to differ; more like an hour!

 Here we found a beautiful beach and several resorts. We walked the long beach with our eyes focused on a cool drink under an umbrella at the far end. Somewhat like a dessert oasis: it was further than it looked – much further down the long, long beautiful white sand beach.

It turned out to be a very nice resort hotel: St. Barth Isle de France. This is perfect island get-a-way – for the well to do! The Mango-colata’s were 14 EUs each! That was about $20 each with a tip! Fortunately, one was enough to refresh us before walking through the village and back to the mountain trail for a swim at the Anse de Columbier beach where we were anchored!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Going Ashore in St. Barth

Also known as St. Barthelemy or St. Barts, depending on what you are reading. This is another of the French West Indies Islands. Unfortunately, neither of us speaks French so communication is a little challenging. Most of the people in businesses speak English with a French accent and a different emphasis on the syllables than our ear is accustomed.

We found the dinghy dock and Customs and Immigration quite easily on our first try! Some islands are more complicated than they need to be. The Customs agents were very helpful and friendly and all of the paperwork and payments can be done in one location right on the wharf. It was a little challenging as the computer keyboard on the French island is the QWERTY type, which means that the letters and numbers you think you are typing are not what always appear on the screen! Dennis is getting fairly efficient at it, though.

We wandered around the town and found the French bakery. Why go to a French island and not acquire some of the pastries and breads! These old towns have challenging infrastructures. The streets are narrow, no sidewalks in most areas in the old parts, open gutters and traffic squeezing through them.

We found two interesting churches: Anglican and Catholic.   
I was amazed at how thick the walls of the old buildings were. In the Catholic Church, the walls were two feet thick. The cieling over the alter was an interesting wooden semi-dome that created great acoustics. The Church was built up high on an old stone foundation. There was a funeral garden across the street with a shine and serene places to sit among the plantings.

We went into the Catholic Church and enjoyed
the design and cool peacefulness. 
La Route des Boucaniers 
Then it was time for a nice lunch on the wharf overlooking the harbor. We ate at La Route des Boucaniers, where I had the most wonderful quinoa taboule topped with crab and shredded lettuce. I would love the recipe. We found an Internet location and spent a couple of hours so Dennis could work on client issues. I was engrossed in “The Girl Who Played with Fire” while he worked.

All was well until I smashed my hand when it got caught between the dinghy and the concrete wharf as I was releasing the line. The next task was to keep from getting blood all over the teak when I climbed back on Trillium. Unfortunately, this was the first of several mishaps that did bodily harm to each of us! Nothing too serious, but not to be ignored due to the ease of becoming infectious in the salt water environment.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

It’s About the Weather Forecast!

The little sailors at Nanny Cay. So cute and good!
Well, sort of! After a short trip back to Michigan for work and my trip to China for 10 days, we returned to the boat planning to sail from Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVI to St. Barth via St. Martin. The trip back to Tortola was uneventful and quite enjoyable. It was great to be back in the islands after a month in the north and China. Our plan for the next three weeks was to sail to St. Barth, Nevis and St. Kitts, St. Eustatia and maybe around Saba before returning to either St. Martin or Tortola. The winds and weather determine the actual course and time schedule!

We waited for several days at the marina because the winds had been very strong for a number of days even before we arrived. They were still blowing in the high twenties and thirties. Not only that, they we coming from the East-Southeast, which, of course, was the direction we wanted to sail. After checking the weather online and talking to seasoned sailors, we decided to depart on Sunday. The winds and seas were to settle down on Monday. We left the dock and sailed over to Norman Island to anchor for the night. The plan was for a 6 AM departure.

The whole boat was a mess after the wild
night! I looked and felt as bad, too!!!
All was going according to plan, knowing we would face some heavy winds at the beginning of the trip. There were supposed to die down by noon – NOT! The seas remained 5-8 feet with swells up to 10 feet at times. The wind stayed in the twenties with higher gusts. Needless to say, it was a very uncomfortable trip. What we did not take into consideration was that even though winds were to diminish some, the waves and swells were still building and traveling over a great distance. That takes more time for the waves to dwindle. (Another lesson learned from experience!)

We thought we should be in Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten by eight o’clock in the evening and would spend the night there before moving on to St. Barth. Well … that was a joke! We never got there until 3 AM and I was seasick most of the night. I took my turns at watch, but Dennis did most of the heavy lifting for the trip. There seems to be something about heavy seas and nighttime that gets to me! No matter how hard I fight it, Mal de Mare gets the best of me.

The next day was beautiful and we continued on to the capital port, Gustavia, St. Barth. I was fine. Of course, the wind and waves were a little more comfortable, too. We sailed all day and arrived in Gustavia harbor at about six o’clock. I did learn a good lesson: you must sail well above the rhumb line when the wind is strongly pushing you below it. Tacking works, except that the tack back above the rhumb line usually means no gain in forward direction – and even a loss of distance just to get back in position. (Add that to our list of lessons learned!)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fun Things to See and Do When Cruising

Visiting the various islands and meeting people from around the world who are enjoying the cruising life has been fun. We haven't done as much sight-seeing as we would like since we are "checking out" the islands to see where we might want to spend more time. Some sailors spend their whole cruising adventure in the islands surrounding the Caribbean Sea.

Here are some of the fun things we have seen and done. In Cint Marteen, the children take sailing lessons at the Yacht Club. These cute little people can really work the rudders and duck the booms. Their instructor sails along side the group shouting instructions. You can tell the children are competitive and will grow up to be great sailors.

There are many colorful fish and interesting coral species. In the Virgin Islands, anchoring is not allowed in many areas since much of the ocean is designated as Marine Parks and Preserves. Anchoring destroys the coral beds and upsets the ecosystem. 

Dennis snorkeling at the Caves on Norman Island
Sherry "guarding" the dinghy!
Of course, there are many places in the Virgin Islands and others to scuba dive and snorkel. I realize my swimming strength has diminished over the years so I am cautious, at best.

Dennis dives right in while I "guard" the dinghy. Having been a high school and college swimmer, he glides through the water.

Some excuse, huh! I will have to work on my swimming stamina if I am going to keep up with him.

Also, I am not so sure I like the looks of a lot of the creatures  below the waterline! And the goggles magnify the size of them.

In addition to the sea creatures, there are many different kinds of birds. Of course, the pelican crashing into the water to get its food is a fun sight to watch. I don't know why they don't break their necks!

A pelican resting in the tree and
watching for a meal below.
Pelicans diving for dinner

And resting afterwards!

Here they are crashing into the sea in pursuit of a meal. In some areas, such as Cane Garden Bay, Tortola and Great Harbor, Jost Van Dyke, the pelicans provide entertainment to those on the beach. They also are a hazard as they buzz the swimmers!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Enjoying the Bitter End Yacht Club

We have found the perfect place to have a family vacation. There is something for everyone here! There is every kind of water sport anyone could want: sailing, swimming, sail boarding, kite boarding, snorkeling, scuba diving, pool, beach, etc. It is located in the North Sound at the north end of Virgin Gorda near Richard Branson’s Necker Island.

It has been a family owned establishment for many years. The property is well designed fitting into the side of the mountain. The cottages are hardly visible until you are right up to them. There are several restaurants and shops, too. The bakery was most inviting after living on the boat for a month.

We were docked across from S/Y Blackbird, the 80 foot racing vessel that won the 2011 Caribbean 1500. It was the first time we had met the owners and their family. Our previous contact was with their Captain, Michael and his family.

The young men of Blackbird were into scuba diving and kite surfing. You have to be young and strong for that one!

There are a number of anchorages as well as marinas in the North Sound so I could see spending a fair amount of time in this area - especially with guests who don't want to much open water sailing. After we left the Bitter End Yacht Club, we headed to Cane Garden Bay to pick up some locally distilled Arundel Rum. It is only sold in the BVI so  you have to get it when you can!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Rainy and Windy: The Daily Dose

Rain, Rain! Go Away!
It seems that we have found ourselves in a crummy weather pattern here in St. Martin. There have been 5-6 squalls with high winds and rain every day. They do not last long, but you have to close up the boat completely each time. The winds have been blowing up to 25 knots at times. Fortunately, there have been minimal waves and no swells in the lagoon.

We have let out over 120 feet of stainless steel chain just to hold us in place in less than two meters of water. And we are swinging quite a bit. Apparently there is a lot of grass below and anchors slide right through it as boats get pushed to the other side of the lagoon. There have been several VHF alerts that boats are dragging and would the owners please return and reset the anchors!

The Dink: Our main mode of
transportation in port.
In between showers, the weather is fabulous: sunny, clear and nice breeze. We have spent some time checking out the Dutch side in the dinghy and going under the bridge to Simpson Bay where there are beautiful beaches. The water is turquoise just as you see in all of the brochures! The bottom is white sand so you don’t have the dark patches of weeds and coral heads. Absolutely beautiful!

We hang the dinghy off the side to
help prevent theft of it.
We had planned to head to St. Bart’s, but the prediction of high winds and huge swells changed our plans. We are riding out the wind gusts up to the low 30’s while swinging around the anchor as the winds shift from Southeast to Northeast within minutes. Quite a wild ride that has had us up in the night several times to check out the situation! 

Then we learned that there is a music festival in St. Bart’s. It is probably wonderful, but our concern was with finding an anchorage or mooring ball to get comfortable in a northwest wind. We figured the anchorages would be crowded with the festival and we would be late-comers. Also the cruising guide says that you need to anchor where you have a 360 degree swing. That is a huge area for us when we put out the chain! So it will be St. Bart’s at some other time.