Sunday, March 4th, 2012
We have been cruising in fairly remote areas for the past month. Internet connectivity has been spotty - enough to retrieve and send necessary emails, but tough to try to upload pictures and stories.
We departed Lindberg Bay, St. Thomas at 0900 on Wednesday, February 1st and motor-sailed in light wind to Dewey, arriving shortly after lunch after winding our way through the reefs of Culebra. We were able to check in by phone to Puerto Rican Customs and Border Patrol using our US Local Boater Option numbers.
A nice walk around town allowed us to purchase a fresh baguette, and a few other grocery needs, and we stopped of at Mamacita's for drinks and to check out the location of their television in anticipation of a sporting event Charlie wanted to see on the coming Sunday.
The following day we moved Lady over to Culebrita, a small uninhabited island to the northwest of Culebra. We had some nice snorkeling and a hike ashore over to Baia Tortuga, where we followed the beach around to the northerly part of the bay and clambered over rocks until we saw the rock pools where the waves came crashing through gapes in the cliffs. We seemed to have forgotten our swimsuits for the hike, so since there was nobody else around, we took off our clothes (except our shoes and sunglasses) to finish the last wet part to get to the most delightful pool for a dip. It was such fun soaking with huge waves slashing us around.
We made friends with a neighboring yacht, Walkabout, and met up with John and Robin, who met us again on Sunday at the Dinghy Dock Restaurant back in Dewey where there were lots of TVs around for the cruisers to watch the Super Bowl.
We had to stay another day in Dewey as the generator stopped, and Charlie had to service it and replace an internal impeller. We were pleased to meet up with other friends, Linda and Bill Knowles and dog Brie aboard Sapphire, who sailed in the Caribbean 1500 Rally with us in 2009, and they have invited us to join the "Salty Dogs" rally of a group of cruisers returning to the USA later this year.
We left Dewey on Tuesday (Feb 7th), and moved around to a mooring in Tamarind Bay, on the west side of Culebra. More lovely snorkeling there. On Wednesday we sailed around Luis Pena Island and picked up a mooring there for a while, but after more good snorkeling, decided to move on the north western bay off Culebra. All these wonderful moorings are provided by the Puerto Rican Department of Natural Resources and are FREE for boaters. A lot of the area is a park area and as fishing is prohibited, the reef life and fish are plentiful. Much of the time, we were the only boat in the anchorage.
On Thursday we dropped the mooring early and motored against the easterly wind back to the US Virgin Islands. Charlie attempted to catch us some supper on the way, but although he hauled in a barracuda, which he released, the other bite got away.
We dropped our anchor off Crown Bay, and dinghied ashore to dump the trash, do laundry and purchase provisions. Charlie also took me out to lunch at the marina bar-grill.
We moved down a couple of bays, and spent the night at anchor off Honeymoon Beach in Druif Bay on Water Island, which has become one of our favorite St Thomas spots.
Next day, after taking our propane gas bottle ashore by dinghy to Antilles Gas in Krum Bay we picked up the anchor and went in to the Crown Bay Marina for fuel and water, managing to depart well before lunch, and navigated out the East Gregerie Channel between Water Island and Hassel Island, ending up at Caneel Bay off St. John.
We had a good couple of nights there, and visited Woody's in Cruz Bay (infamous place who published my picture from Charlie's birthday on their website) where we made friends with other cruisers who had come to St. John by ferry from St. Thomas for Saturday evening. You can tell that these are all retired bank executives, can't you?
We dropped our NPS mooring late Sunday morning, and navigated around the west end of St. John headed out to sea and set course for Sint Maarten/St. Martin just barely south of east and 100 miles distant. Headwinds all the way so the reliable Yanmar diesel did a great job. We took turns standing watch throughout the night.
We arrived at Simpson Bay and dropped anchor at 0415 Monday (2/13). We woke up just before the 0900 out-bound Dutch bridge opened, which was a good thing, as although we were out of the channel according to our charts, the channel markers had been moved, and we were within the deep channel.
We quickly got the anchor up and moved out of the way for the out-bound traffic, and joined the line of inbound traffic for the 0930 opening and got the anchor down inside the lagoon on the Dutch side. Charlie took the dinghy ashore and checked us in and paid for Lady to stay in the lagoon on the Dutch side for a week. It's a great place to do boat maintenance as there are a number of chandlers and all kinds of yacht services available. There are very good grocery stores, with "duty free" liquors and food.
The Sint Maarten Yacht Club welcomes cruisers, and one of the fun things to do is to meet friends there after work, and watch the inbound traffic coming through the 1730 bridge opening. You cannot see the boats in the channel until their bow comes through the bridge, and there are sailing yachts, catamarans and very large super-yachts all coming through one after another to the welcoming cheers of the happy-hour crowd on the deck of the yacht club. I walked across the road to take this picture about half an hour later as the sun was setting.
Being anchored out in the lagoon is like being anchored in the a lovely lake in the middle of a very nice town. The traffic may be bad at times, but not nearly as bad as St. Thomas.
Monday (2/20) we had planned on moving Lady over to the French side, as anchoring there is free (Dutch side charged us $40 a week), but we heard on the morning Cruisers' radio net that everything on the French side was probably closed for the next three days because of the holiday - no, not Presidents' Day but Mardi Gras.
We quickly decided that instead of going there, the weather was good for a trip to Saba, so we hopped to it, went to the marina for water, cleared out of customs, and made the 1100 out-bound bridge opening and had a great sail to Saba, about 25 miles away.
Saba is an island that is the top of an old volcano. The water around it is deep. There are no harbors. The few local boats are moored at Fort Bay on the south side of the 5-square mile island. We checked that our when we arrived, but the swells were from the east, and it was very bouncy, so we went back to Ladder Bay, and picked up a park service mooring there.
Next day, we went in by dinghy to Fort Bay, cleared in and out of Saba at the customs office (no charge), and paid the Saba National Marine Park $12 each to stay for a week on the mooring. We met a guide, "Crocodile James" and booked a hike with him James gave us a ride up from Fort Bay through The Bottom (administrative center of the island) up to Windwardside, the main village.
Jobeam's Glass Studio had glass fish, hearts and other charms embedded in the cement in the road outside the house. When we left Jobeam's a very modern fire truck (thanks to the people of Holland) came by to rescue a truck that had become stuck on a curve in the narrow road.
After lunch we visited the museum (a traditional single-storey three- room house), where they also had a statue from the government of Venezuela to the people of Saba to commemorate the bicentennial of the birth of the liberator Simon Bolivar - December 1983.
As we walked along The Road, originally hand-built by local residents in 1943 and designed by a local, Jesephus "Lambee" Hassell, who took a correspondence course in road engineering, we could see the island of "Statia", (Saint Eustatuis), another Dutch island.
We heard lots of goats in the fields and woods, and passed the island's school.
We had to set an alarm in order to be ashore to meet "Crocodile" James at 0730 on Wednesday.
The weekly mail boat of supplies for the island was unloading as we waited for him.
We hiked through dense forest, lots of ferns, big trees, an occasional spectacular flower, and sometimes an amazing view - see the airport - see St. Barthelemy - see Sint Maarten - see Diamond Rock - see Lady at anchor down there.
A taxi took up back to Fort Bay, and we collapsed on Lady for the rest of the day. My legs ached the next day - we really to need to get more walking in.
The swells changed direction, and the Saba anchorage got bouncy, so we gave up the idea for more hiking ashore and snorkeling off Torrens Point, where we had been informed at the Park Service Office that we could use a dive mooring for our dinghy (have to save that for the next visit to Saba). We had a tough time getting our lines off the mooring - they had tangled around so much. Charlie struggled with the lines for over half an hour. Then a marine patrol boat came by and took the mooring and our lines and were able to untangle and get the lines back to us.
Although it was 1040 before we were underway, we had a grand sail back to Sint Maarten/St, Martin, and went through the 1730 inbound Dutch bridge opening to the lagoon, and spied Connie and Jim from Plane to Sea cheering us through the canal from the Sint Maarten Yacht Club deck.
We motored across the lagoon to the French side, and found a spot to drop anchor in the crowd of a hundred boats anchored on the other side of the airport runway.
Charlie also made arrangements for a rental car, and we welcomed Lynne and Paul on Beaudacious to the anchorage after they arrived from the Virgin Islands.
On Saturday, we picked up Lynne and Paul, picked up the rental car, and drove via Phillipsburg to Orient Beach. We walked along the clothing optional beach; although it was interesting to see so many totally tan and totally naked bodies, we felt more comfortable settled under an umbrella in the part of the beach where total nudity was prohibited (topless is OK, thanks! Charlie) . It was fun to have a day at the beach with them, and we had a delicious French lunch at one of the many little beach restaurants there.
By the time we had toured the rest of the island, stopping in Grand Case, where we met up with Lynne and Paul's friends on Tasman, again stopping in Marigot for a baguette for breakfast, it was pouring with rain, so we parked the car and waited at Barnacles, one of our favorite little waterfront bar/grills (near where we like to tie up Bimbo when we are ashore) for a drink waiting for the rain to stop. It was dark by the time we got back to our boats, but between the four of us we managed to hustle up some food for dinner together.
Everyone had other plans for Sunday, so Charlie and I took the car for a day in Phillipsburg. We had wanted to get movie DVDs, but as there was a single cruise ship in port and it was Sunday, most everything was closed. I purchased a new sarong from a lady at the local market, and we found a bar open at the beach and had a good time that afternoon.
Monday (2/27) was a day of work - laundry, search for lost sunglasses, purchase boat parts, clean boat, etc. etc, ready for a Tuesday departure.
We were able to get going early enough and had good luck in that nobody was at the fuel dock, so we watered up and made it through the 1100 outbound Dutch bridge, and moved around the island to Baie Grand Case, where we anchored and met up with Tasman, Beaudacious and Plane to Sea, who came there by road for the evening. Every Tuesday the village of Grand Case, a village full of restaurants and bars, closes the street to traffic, and the restaurants, both up-scale and low-end set up additional tables in the street outside the restaurants and street vendors set up tables, sometimes there's a band. Paul made reservations for us all for dinner at Le Tastevin, and we had another wonderful evening.
Leap Years Day was another work day for us. We didn't leave the boat but got a lot of cleaning done, emptying shelves and dusting places that don't get dusted very often. We ended up with a number of "treasures of the bilge" that are looking for a new home - a cordless drill, a flashlight, some cushions, lots of books and magazines and some small lampshades. We sang our "Happy Sails to You" song to Lynne and Paul as they motored past us on their way back to Marigot. They are headed south after their next groups of visitors, and we are headed back to the Virgin Islands. It may be a while before we see them again.
March 1st was our last full day at St. Martin. More work in the morning, a nap in the afternoon, and a delicious dinner ashore at a Creole restaurant.
Friday March 2nd, we watched the boats participating in the Heineken Regatta as they sail clock-wise around the island from Simpson Bay to Phillipsburg, and then moved Lady to Marigot, where we cleared out of French customs.
Saturday, we departed Marigot in the dark at 0300, and picked up a mooring in Caneel Bay, Saint John at 1740, after a lovely downwind 14 1/2 hour passage. Full sails and over 8 knots much of the time, only using the engine to pick up the anchor and catch the mooring.