Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Long Trip Without Wind!

Leaving St. Martin for Tortola early in the morning
Back at St. Eustacia's, we debated about going straight to Tortola rather than to Sint Maarten. It was a 120 mile trip to Tortola so it would be an overnight sail again. The alternative was the 40 mile sail to Sint Maarten, spend the night and leave for Tortola at 5 AM the next day.

We sailed past Nanny Cay to Soper's Hole for Customs

We chose the second alternative: sail to Sint Maarten. Looking back, we should have gone straight to Tortola. The wind to Sint Maarten was perfect. There was no wind for the trip to Tortola the next day. We had to motor all 80 miles of it. There was a small swell off the stern that help move us forward. At times, we were moving faster than the wind, which was also off the stern. It was another boring ride. Set the route and put it on autopilot and off you go! (Another good day for reading!)

Soper's Hole was crowded!
Once we reached Round Rock Passage between Virgin Gorda and Ginger Island, we planned to head straight down Sir Francis Drake Channel, passing Nanny Cay, and into either Soper’s Hole, Tortola or Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke.

We were watching the sun as it was slowing settling down in the west. We could have made it to JVD and anchored just after sunset, but decided the safe thing to do was to stop at Soper’s Hole and continue to Great Harbour in the morning. It really did not matter since we could check in with Customs at either place.
I love the beaches on Jost Van Dyke
Actually we welcomed a nice calm night without rolling in swells or the need to get up before the sun! After a relaxing morning, Dennis went to Customs in Soper's Hole. Then we sailed over to Jost Van Dyke. No more schedules to keep!

Once we were anchored in Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke, it was time to vacation. That is, relax and enjoy the view, the sun and the breeze. So that is where I am sitting and writing this blog entry!

Time to exhale before returning to Nanny Cay to put the boat on the hard for a month while we go home. I have to go to Germany for a project and will fly directly to the boat from there. I will only have three days to get the provisioning done for the Atlantic Cup Rally and our return to the USA via Bermuda. Then it will be a trip up the Chesapeake Bay to put the boat up for the summer! All good things must come to and end – or at least, a hiatus!

The original distillery! A neat old place.
However, we couldn't think of leaving Tortola without stopping at Cane Garden Bay for some rum! This is the home of the last rum distillery that still makes rum from cane sugar without adding all of the things other distillers add. Since it is not exported, you can only buy it on the island. We have received rave reviews whenever we have served it to guests aboard Trillium!

So we spent one day and night in Cane Garden Bay on the north side of Tortola before sailing around the west end and back up to Nanny Cay.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Perfect Sail to St. Martin

Oil tankers anchored in the distance waiting to unload.
One rolly night in St. Eustacia's was enough for us. We decided to skip Saba, which is known to be even rollier than most places. Once we sailed out and around all of the tanker ships waiting to unload their oil at the Stacia storage area and into the open between Stacia and Saba, we were off.

There are many tankers is this area as well as cruise ships so one has to be alert at night. It is very difficult for large ships to maneuver or even see a small (relative to their size) sailboat. We like to give them plenty of room. You cannot cut between the tankers and shore because sometimes there are long hoses unloading fuel.

These are the "big boys" you want to avoid - especially
in the dark! None of us have brakes out there!
It was a perfect day to sail northeast to St. Martin. In fact, the wind was on the beam again and we made the trip of 40 miles in 4.5 hours. We were flying! (I know, that doesn’t seem fast to you, but in a sailboat where you usually average 5.5-6 knots per hour, it was fast at 7.5 – 9 knots!)

The best part was setting the sails and letting her go! Once we had the course, there was nothing to do but keep an eye out for traffic. This is when you get to read a good book (and I have read many this winter!)

We did have one interesting event. A military helicopter came from nowhere, hovered over us, took a photo or two, and disappeared to somewhere! Who knows what that was about! Did we make a wrong turn or drive in the wrong lane? I wonder where that shot will turn up!

Sunrises and sunsets amaze me everyday!
Once back at
Simpson Bay, we anchored in the Bay rather than going into the lagoon. Dennis needed to access the Internet to prepare for a conference call on Monday, so it was off to Mickey D’s again for free Internet. Actually, their WiFi service is good and fast. And a milkshake seemed like the right refreshment! (Why do they never taste as good as you anticipate?)
Set the sails and let her fly!
Anchoring in Simpson Bay is not desirable! It is very, very rolly. But this time we did not want to be restricted by the drawbridge hours so we did not go into the lagoon. We just dropped the hook for the night and planned to leave at 5 am the next day. The longest leg of this trip is the one between St. Martin and the British Virgin Islands.

We hung out at the Sint Maarten Yacht Club for Happy Hour as it was Friday night and the crowd had gathered to watch the boats enter through the drawbridge. Then it was down the road for a barbeque dinner out. We tend to eat rather early - especially early by European standards - but we like getting back to the boat before it is too late. Otherwise, we end up trying to secure the dinghy in the dark.

Since we stayed at the restaurant a little too long , we had to raise the dingy to the foredeck and secure it in the dark. We had the deck lights on which lit up the whole area around the boat. Apparently the light attracted fish. One very large fish stayed along side, chasing the smaller ones. I think it may have been a Barracuda.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rock and Rolling in Sint Eustatius

A view of the Slaves' Road from the harbor to the village
up above the harbor and bay
We raised anchor in Basseterre, St. Kitts and headed north to Sint Eustacia's also known as Stacia. You can see  Stacia  from St. Kitts, and even from Nevis on a clear day. It is just another 12 mile sail up the island chain. Sint Eustacia's is a small island with a large history. In the Golden Era (mid to late 1700’s),  Stacia  was known as the trade capital of the Indies and had a very large commercial waterfront.

Traces of the original waterfront.
The Slaves' Road was not an easy climb -
especially if carrying heavy loads!
As we left the north end of St. Kitts, we were greeted by a large pod of dolphins. They swam along with us, criss-crossing back and forth under the bow of Trillium, most of the way to Sint Eustacia's. It is always a treat to have the dolphins along side. But it is almost impossible to capture them in a photograph since you don't know when they are going to surface and their coloring blends in with the water!
Sint Eustacia's, a little volcanic island, was one of the busiest harbors in the world with up to 300 ships at anchor at a time! It was the crossroads of the world. When the British and French were fighting each other, the Dutch, who owned  Stacia , acted as middlemen for trading since the countries would not trade directly with each other. In addition,  Stacia  sold weapons to the rebels of the American colonies seeking independence. This led to a war between Britain and Holland. The Dutch lost Stacia for a while, but got it back by the late 1700’s.

Stacia is a very quiet island. The only anchorage, which has 12 mooring balls) is in Oranje Baie, which turned out to be very rolly from the swells that bend around the island! Once again the Customs and Immigration process was challenging. We went ashore to check in. After paying the Port Authority, we had to find the Customs and Immigration people. The Customs agent was there, but the Immigration guy was not. “Come back tomorrow!” Ooo-kay! But we were free to wander around without checking in.

We climbed the steep steps and the old cobbled Slave Road up to the old town of  Oranjestad. There is a Dutch Reform Church right at the top of the road. Many of the houses are gingerbread style.
The home of Admiral Rodney on the right half
of the museum building complete with furnishings.

We visited the museum that is in a house in which Admiral Rodney lived during his stay. Once again the focus was on the slave nation and the decline of the sugar industry. The island has a mix of Dutch and descendants of the early slaves.

We walked through the village and found a little Dutch restaurant for lunch, The Fruit Tree. Apparently there are about 22 restaurants  and there are only 3400 inhabitants! Since Stacia is off the beaten path for most sailing up and down the chain, I wonder who supports all the eating establishments!

There is an American medical school there now. There is also a huge oil or gas storage facility on the north end of the island where big tanker ships come to unload their cargo. As a result, there are always a number of large ships anchored off  Stacia .

We had lunch under the trees with the lizards!
And  Stacia  has a number of diving sites so maybe divers come here and eat!  Another attraction is the volcano. You can hike up to the rim and even down into the Quill Crater. Dennis wanted to do this, but I was not too keen of reading about the red belly racer snakes (supposedly harmless) that live in the crater. They are only on  Sint Eustacia's  and neighboring island, Saba. I think he would come back to Stacia for this hike.

 Stacia is a major fuel storage port so you have to
navigate around large tankers and hoses.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Disappointing St. Kitts

The north end of the harbor area where we anchored
We sailed from Pinney’s Beach near Charlestown, Nevis over to Basseterre, St. Kitts. Again, good winds and a nice beam reach. It is only 10 miles or so. Just a nice morning sail. 

St. Kitts is a twin-island state with British tradition and about 50,000 inhabitants, compared to Nevis with 12,000. St. Kitts does not have a great anchorage for sailboats. It has a harbor with a marina (Port Zante), but the slips are all taken by local boaters. There are no marine services – such as, fuel! 

The new town designed for cruise ship tourists
There is a deep water port for the cargo ships and tankers and a large dock for the cruise ships. However, there is not much for the smaller yachts. And the anchorage is very rolly since there is little protection.

We found St. Kitts to be very disappointing.
So you ask: what was so disappointing about St. Kitts?

Between the old town and the water, some developers have created a 25 acre waterfront where businesses from St. Martin have built and opened stores. It feels like a low-end St. Thomas Grande Yacht Haven! Everyone is outside their stores trying to get you to come in and buy. There was a lot of junk. Of course, the duty-free jewelry and liquor stores are there, too.

It is obvious that since the end of the sugar cane business, they have made a decision to attract cruise ships.  You can even pay to have your photo taken with a tiny monkey!

The archway leads to the old town and
the museum is upstairs
Even though the cruising guides discuss the green fertile land and “outstanding visual beauty,” we were disheartened when we went ashore. Granted, we did not take a taxi ride or the luxury train ride through the old plantation areas or around the island.

Basseterre is the capital city of St. Kitts and is the site of the original French settlement. Built on the waterfront, the architecture varies from British to French. It was rebuilt after a fire in 1876 with a circle, known as the Circus (modeled after Piccadilly in London) in the center of the old town. 
Costumes in the museum
We did visit the National Museum in the old Treasury Building, where we learned about the rise and decline of the sugar industry, as well as how the slaves lived and worked.

Interesting architecture on this church

And the old tomb stones
We spent a lot of our time in the Ballyhoo restaurant using the free Wi-Fi and enjoying frozen mango smoothies while working on our computers. At least it was a good connection - with an occasional power blip- so we were able to catch up on work and correspondence. And the building was not rocking and rolling! The actual town is quite small, like most of these harbor towns.

Dennis investigated an old church that is in the old town area. Tombstones from very early dates told of the history of the area. I found a bakery for fresh bread, croissants and a wonderful slice of chocolate cake!

Another annoying thing was the car with loud speakers on top going through the old town announcing places one should go for this and that. How obnoxious! That was enough for me to NEVER go to those establishments! I couldn’t wait to get out of that area. I doubt that we will ever return to St. Kitts. Nevis, probably.
Sunset over Basseterre harbor

At least we had pretty sunrises and sunsets in the Nevis-St. Kitts area. There were several double rainbows, too. However, we did not get much sleep in the harbor. I was ready to move on to St. Eustacia just a few miles away. Although, we know the anchorage there is also known for an uncomfortable night!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Stopping in at Montpelier

The tree is very old and it greets
you at the entrance.
Nicholas came back to pick us up at the Botanical Garden and insisted that we take a few minutes to stop at Montpelier before going back to the boat. This is where Alexander Hamilton was born.

Like many of the old plantations, it has taken much renovation and a love for the historical buildings to create comfortable living spaces with today's amenities. Fine dining seems to be the draw to most of these establishments.

Interior dining area 

It is one of the old sugar plantations that have been turned into a beautiful hotel. It is now owned by an American family. The reputation for the dining is excellent both for food and ambiance - and the views!

Lobby lounge area
We only stayed a few minutes to take in the view and the interior of the hotel. Again, Nicholas was right: it was well worth the stop! I guess when you are a native and have been driving tourists around for years, you do know the places to see!

Terrace dining

A wonderful view of the ocean at a distance.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

More Beauty on Nevis

After spending most of the day hiking and relaxing at Golden Rock Estate on Nevis, Dennis and I were dropped off at the Botanical Garden of Nevis, also in the Gingerland area, while Susan and Jim went back to town. The gardens cover an eight acre area and contain numerous varieties of palms and orchids among the collection. 

There was a beautiful white egret or crane of some type in the lily pond. He was quite comfortable with people getting close enough to photograph him. I assume it was a male since in the birds, they seem to get the better looks!

In an enclosed garden area, parrots where in a large screened cage. There were several varieties and some smaller birds, as well. The orchids were located throughout the gardens and were stunning.

The garden plants are from all over the world. I never knew there were so many varieties of palm trees – every size and shape and leave shape imaginable.It is laid out as landscaping around the large house. Since most items are labeled, we just wandered around at our own pace.

The also had a large collection of fruit trees from all over the world. Unfortunately, this is not the season for blooms or fruits on many of the species. The serenity of the garden was well worth the walk and visit.