Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Yet Another Day in Paradise?

A beautiful day. The sun is shining and birds are singing. The waves are lapping gently against the boat. I have lots of fun things on the agenda.
Early morning view 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Would you like the red sweater or the black?

What a difference the wind and waves (or lack thereof) can make. Our next destination is Antigua, almost due East from St. Kitts. We are traveling West to East and the trade winds blow East to West. We wanted to have a calm day to make the passage because it can be very uncomfortable heading straight into the wind. We wished for a calm day, and we got it.
Calm waters as we leave St. Kitts 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Unexpectedly Generous St. Kitts

Three cruise ships were in when we pulled in to the harbor at Basseterre, St. Kitts. All three left in the evening to transport their passengers through the night to the next port. That seems to be pretty standard for cruise ships around here. We often see them pulling out in the evening or cruising by at night, like well lit apartment buildings on the ocean, large floating light shows.
One of the cruise ships on the pier. The yellow building is the entrance to Port Zante. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

St. Barts to St. Kitts

Sailing at last! We were able to sail the entire way from St. Barts to St. Kitts.  Not motor, not motor sail, but actually sailing. That was the good part. The challenging part was the wind. We picked this particular day to go because the winds were forcast to be 14 - 18 knots, a very pleasant speed for Rhapsody to sail in, and less wind than had been blowing the previous days, or was forcast for the following days. We thought we had a good weather window.
Rhapsody under sail, although this picture was taken in the BVI (thanks Bob and Tammy!)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Only $17,000

It is difficult to compete with Dave Barry when he gives a description of St. Bart. He explains well what we experienced there.  Click  here  to read his description then come back, I'll wait.

For those of you who could not get the article, or chose to wait to read it another time, he declares that everything in St. Barts costs $17,000, from the smallest purchase of sunscreen to the rental of a car.We have now adopted this as the standard designation of the cost of everything, particularly in St. Barts.
(Not unlike the standard length of time left on a trip that some of you may be familiar with- no matter how much time is left on a journey,  the answer to the question "how much longer" is always "15 minutes") 
The last time I talked about prices I mentioned the "sticker shock" we were getting at restaurants. I believe that St. Barts has cured that. Every other place is cheap in comparison!
Downtown Gustavia, St. Barts 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Ile Fourchue

Ahh, it feels so good to be in the water again! Almost two weeks in the lagoon in St. Maarten where the shallow water, lack of water movement and hundreds of boats make the water unswimmable, the bacterial count is just too high. But now we are moored at Ile Fourchue, about 20 miles SE of Sint Maarten and about 2 miles from St. Barts. After the lack of swimming off the boat in the lagoon, one of the first things we did after safely mooring the boat was to jump in and swim to shore.

 Ile Fourchue belongs to St. Barts and is one of their marine reserves. It is a small island denuded by goats whose population died off when the vegetation was gone. They say the vegetation is coming back, but it still looks pretty bare to me, although I did meet a woman who said she had been here 10 years ago and is amazed by how much more growth there is now. All a matter of perspective.
Ile Fourchue 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Lagoon

Simpson Bay Lagoon, on the west side of St. Martin /St. Maarten, our home for almost two weeks. We anchored at the end of the runway and next to the causeway that cuts across the lagoon.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Windy Day in the Lagoon

When we arrived in St. Maarten we anchored in Simpson Bay. It is a beautiful blue. The bottom was clearly visible and littered with sea stars. The problem was, it was very rolly.

A rolly anchorage is a problem for several reasons.
 1) It makes it difficult to sleep
 2) It becomes difficult to function on the boat during the day, cooking, eating, moving about all with a constant side to side motion
3) getting on and off the boat from the dinghy can actually be dangerous if the swell is large enough.

All of these reasons sent us out of the bay and into the Lagoon.
Evening picture taken on the "Hike from Hell"
Simpson Bay in the center of the picture, Simpson Lagoon is at the bottom

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Sint Maarten

Our first impressions of St. Maarten  (the Dutch side of St. Martin) were through groggy, sleep deprived eyes having motor sailed through the night from the BVI. We arrived on Saturday morning, checked in and did a bit of exploring. The streets are narrow and crowded, the shops are small and close together. This is the section that we have arrived in, and I certainly don't want to judge the rest of St. Martin /St. Maarten by one section of one town. We found a wonderful Indian restaurant for lunch, but as seems to be the case with most restaurants we go to in the Caribbean - when the bill comes it is a bit of sticker shock. I know that this is something that we had figured into our budget,  but that does not help that sinking feeling when the bill is presented.

The next day was Sunday. A very quiet day. We took our dinghy over to the French side of the island. When taking a cruising boat from one side to the other you have to check out of the first side and check in to the second. If you are on foot, in a car or in a dinghy there is free movement between the sides, no customs, no border checks, no fees. We did not spend much time that day on the French side, just long enough to get some wonderful baguettes, soft cheese and chocolate croissants. At this point we were wondering just what Sint Maarten had to offer us.
The dinghy dock on St. Martin (French side)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Preparation for a passage

Our first night passage, our first passage over three hours, our first passage out of sight of land and we need to get ready for it. We are fortunate enough to have veteran cruisers Mike and Robin on Mermaid helping us and crossing with us. They have 15 years of cruising under their belts, have made many passages and are a wealth of knowledge for us.

Here is an annotated list of what we were preparing :

Saturday, February 4, 2017

More BVI activities

There were a few more activities that I left out of the last post. Last minute things to do before we move on to other islands.

Although not BVI specific, one of the things I did was to learn how to use my new heavy - duty Sailrite sewing machine. This machine was bought specifically to repair our sails. They had ripped once before (you can read about that here). We got the sails repaired professionally then but there were some seams that were starting to go. The plan had been to purchase the sewing machine to save money on repairs.

Sometimes the best laid plans go awry. 

Shortly after becoming full time cruisers we purchased new sails. Now we don't need the sewing machine for sail repair (we hope, for quite a while) but there are other projects that it can be used for. Our friends Robin and Mike on Mermaid had some dinghy chaps (covers) that needed to be fixed. Robin had the sewing knowledge I needed, I had the machine she needed, so she brought the chaps over and we worked together, setting up my machine and repairing her chaps. A win - win situation!