Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Just a short hop to the island of Anguilla.   We had a wonderful time in St. Martin, and truly enjoyed the gastronomic pleasures there.  There is a morning radio chat for cruisers that is organized by one of the service providers on the island (a laundry), and that is a great way to find out more about the island from a cruiser's perspective.

Anguilla is a very different kind of island, low hills and very dry.  We were here briefly several years ago, and plan to take the time for more land explorations this trip.  It is expensive (in fees) to venture out of the main harbor, so we will base the boat here throughout our stay.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Wind Generator

We received the generator while in Green Cay Marina in St. Croix, but didn’t have a chance to install it until arriving in St. Martin.  This was a fairly extensive project, requiring about a day and a half to complete.  The least-fun part was routing two heavy wires from the back of the boat to the batteries.  David had to climb into many nooks and crannies to get them where they needed to go.  Raising the mounting pole with the heavy wind generator on top was also a challenge.  Thank goodness for blocks and tackle.

So far we are very satisfied with the performance.  We have made a bit more power than we have used, each day since the installation.  This includes high-energy-use days when we ran the washing machine and water maker.  If we encounter weather with cloudy skies and light winds, we will still have to use the engine for charging, but that should be far less often than previously.

Passage to St. Martin

Well, this was every bit as much of an uphill bash as we had expected.  Winds were a little lighter than expected, and from a less-favorable direction, so the trip took 24 hours instead of the hoped-for twenty.

This was the first overnight passage with just the two of us.  The boat was great in these conditions, but the boat motion going upwind is always rougher, and the waves offshore were plenty big.  We planned three-hour watches, but neither of us slept much during our off-watch period.

David used his standard seasickness prevention strategy, which is meclizine (Bonine and other brands) taken several hours before departing, and repeated every 12 hours instead of the recommended 24 hours.  On our last passage, Gretchen did not like the way meclizine made her head feel, so she decided to try ginger capsules this trip.  This was a mistake.  She got quite seasick, and finally ended up hugging the leeward rail for a few minutes.  On the other hand, she functioned amazingly well even while feeling terrible, when the boat needed her help.

The winds were quite strong (ca. 20 knots), so we sailed with a single reef in the mainsail and our smaller jib.  We ended up tacking four or five times altogether.  It seems like we had more than the usual amount of trouble with sheets getting caught on our dinghy (on the foredeck) or the whisker pole.  That meant going forward in bouncy conditions to clear them – definitely not fun at night while bashing and crashing along.  We always wore life preservers with a harness, and were always tethered to the boat. 

When dawn came, it was a relief.  The sailing isn’t really any easier during the day, but it seems less stressful.  By about 10:00 am we were still 20 miles from St. Martin, and were making very slow progress due to wind and an adverse current.  We finally gave up on sailing and turned on the motor for the rest of the journey.  A lot of people motor the whole way from St. Croix to St. Martin, so we felt pretty good about sailing as far as we did.

We dropped anchor in Marigot harbor at just about 1:00 pm, 24 hours after our departure.  We were tired, but not through yet.  We hoisted the dinghy into the water, attached the outboard motor, and went into town to clear customs.  However, customs closes at noon on Saturday, and doesn’t open until Monday morning.   We grabbed a bite at a restaurant near the dock, and then went back to the boat to rest.

In all, we think this was a very successful passage for our first double-handed overnight.  It certainly reinforced our desire to avoid long upwind sails when we can.  Hopefully, none will be required for the rest of the winter.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Leaving for St. Martin

We have stayed several days longer in St. Croix than planned -- typical, I guess, for cruisers.  First, we had to wait for our wind generator to be delivered from Trinidad.  We had ordered it before Christmas, but I think that the KISS Energy company took a fair bit of vacation over the holidays.  Anyway, it arrived Wednesday evening, and we thought we could leave on Thursday.

Not quite...  We had arranged for some stainless steel work to be done in St. Croix.  The pole on the back of the boat to hold the wind generator was too short, and we needed it to be lengthened.  Plus, we had done some minor damage to the frame holding up our solar panels, and these needed repair.  This was supposed to have been done on Monday, but the welder was tied up because he had been a witness to a crime and needed to give information to the police.  He wasn't able to start the repair until Thursday morning, and by the time he finished it was too late to leave.

The trip to St. Martin will take, we think, about 20 hours.  It is just under 100 miles, but with the easterly winds in the tropics, we will have to tack quite a bit and will probably travel more like 150 miles.  We need to arrive in daylight to be safe, so we will leave St. Croix around 1:00 pm, and plan to arrive in St. Martin Saturday morning.  This will be our first overnight passage with just the two of us, and we are both just a little nervous.

A word about the wind generator.  Last summer we had tried out our solar panels.  In the Chesapeake, and at that time of year, we were able to meet all of our electricity needs with just the solar panels, plus electrical charging that came for free when we used the engine to move the boat.

In the Caribbean we are finding our electrical usage higher (warmer water means the refrigeration has to work harder, less daylight means more lights, etc.), and we aren't using our engine very much for propulsion.  The solar panels help, but in the winter they put out less energy and just can't keep up.  We were running our engine for a couple of hours a day just for charging.  This is expensive in fuel and also hard on the engine.  Therefore the wind generator.

We chose a model by KISS Energy for several reasons.  It is optimized for the wind conditions we experience in the Caribbean, and puts out an amazing amount of power in 15 knots of wind. It is extremely simple in design, which appeals because we hope for fewer breakdowns and less maintenance.   It is used and recommended by a large number of cruisers.  And it is relatively inexpensive compared to some of the more-complex models.

It will take several days to complete the installation.  We will post in the future about how well it works.

Monday, January 10, 2011

St Croix - Point Udall and Botanical Garden

We hired a taxi driver to give us a 4-hour tour of the island.  Several key sightseeing locations were closed because of the "Three Kings" holiday, unfortunately.  For example, the Cruzan Rum distillery.  But we had a great time anyway.  Our driver, Joseph, was a veritable encyclopedia of facts and figures about the island.

Two highlights were Point Udall and the Botanical Garden.  Point Udall is the easternmost point of land in the US.  Standing there at dawn, you would be the first person to see the sunrise.  A monument was erected there in honor of the new millenium, and dedicated on New Year's Day, 2000.

The botanical garden is placed in the ruins of an old plantation.  You can still see several intact slave houses, a blacksmith shop, etc.  The plants are native Caribbean species, and there is quite a variety.  I was particularly impressed with the collection of cacti and succulents.  Some really large and interesting plants, several in bloom.

We also stopped briefly at the site where Christopher Columbus landed on St. Croix in 1493.  The park service has some ambitious plans for this site, but at the moment there is just a small sign.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Back in US Territory

We picked up a mooring in Little Harbor, Jost Van Dyke, BVI in a very pretty spot.  We picked this anchorage because it was less crowded, and there was no noise from establishments on shore.  We had a great dinner at Abe's Restaurant - very small, and you have to place your order when you make your reservation. There was a lot of wind howling through, though - wind whistling through the rigging makes for an unsettled night.  The next morning, we hiked on a road over to Great Harbor, where the main settlement is located.  There we first went to customs and immigration, to check out for our departure the next day.  This was a more-than-usually lengthy procedure because it was a holiday, and there was only one Customs and only one Immigration officer on duty. 

Next stop was the famous Foxy's beach bar for lunch.  Foxy has built this business from four poles and a thatch roof on the beach into a very significant business.  It shows up on all of the "Top Ten places in the world to spend New Year's Eve" lists and does an incredible business.  We weren't there on New Year's, but we did get to meet Foxy himself and chat for a while!  He had visited Z├╝rich in the company of a Swiss Marathoner, new the city and its river.  He told us of cruising on a sailboat with this woman through many cities in Croatia.  I didn't think to ask how long ago this had been.  In any case, from the chat it was clear that Foxy is extremely well traveled.

Next morning we sailed the short distance to Cruz Bay on St. John.  This is a US Virgin Island, so we were back in US territory once more.  We moored off the shore of Honeymoon Beach, again to avoid a crowded anchorage, and then walked on a fairly rugged trail a mile or more to Cruz Bay. We had to check in with Customs and Immigration, but this was the shortest line we have ever experienced in all our travels.  Lunch in a restaurant overlooking the harbor, and then the walk back to our dinghy.

We motored around St. John to one of our favorite anchorages, Great Lamesure Bay.  This is part of the St. John National Park.  Here we had a very quiet night, well protected from the wind.

On Wednesday morning, we got up very early (6:00 am) to start our sail to St. Croix by 7:00 am.  This is one of the longer sails of our planned trip, nearly forty miles.  The weather was gray and gloomy, but we were happy that we had no rain.  The wind was perfect, and we spend a fun 5 hours under single reefed main and solent jib, making 7.5 and 8 knots.

We went into Green Cay Marina on St. Croix, where we plan to stay until Monday.  Esther has a flight out of St. Croix on Monday.  Our intention is to leave from here for St. Martin, which is more than 100 miles.  We will leave during the day on Monday, and sailing all night to arrive around noon on Tuesday.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

British Virgin Islands

We have been cruising around the British Virgin Islands for more than a week now. We left the marina at Nanny Cay on Christmas Eve, and sailed the short distance to Norman Island. The harbor there is called "The Bight" and it had changed a lot since our last visit. The whole bay is now covered with mooring buoys. This allows more boats to anchor there, and is also a bit easier for the inexperienced charter boat skippers that teem in this part of the Caribbean.

We spent a couple of nights in The Bight, and then moved over to Peter Island -- another short hop. We stayed in an anchorage called "White Bay," which we had never visited before. It was very picturesque, though the waves curled around the island and made for less-than-smooth water. Like rocking in a cradle to sleep.

We had decided to celebrate the New Year at Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda, so after two nights on Peter Island we sailed to the northernmost and easternmost of the main BVI. This meant a long day's sail upwind, with many tacks, we arrived at the entrance to the North Sound just as a rain squall hit. No difficulties sailing, but David got VERY WET.

We were at the Bitter End Yacht Club for four nights. David and Esther rented a Hobie Cat daysailor for an hour and had a blast bombing around the sound. Esther steered the whole time, and did very well. We had a buffet dinner at the Yacht Club on New Year's Eve, delicious food and lots of variety. David and Gretchen managed to find a couple of numbers we could dance to after dinner.

We're now at anchor at Marina Cay, at the Northeast corner of Tortola. Our plan is to sail tomorrow to the island of Jost Van Dyke, home of one of the most famous bars in the world - Foxy's. A couple of nights there, and then we will enter the US Virgin Islands at St. John.