Our Caribbean Adventure: Part 11. The End of the Chain: Grenada.

chart of Carriacou and Grenadasouth Grenada IslandOur Caribbean Adventure:  Part 11.  The End of the Chain:  Grenada.

The last leg of our trip was from Tyrell Bay on the island of Carriacou (which is part of the country of Grenada) to the island of Grenada.  Its convenient to stop at Tyrell Bay to check in to Customs and Immigration and then proceed south.  That way, you can visit some of the beautiful anchorages on the west shore of Grenada.

Our first stop was at Happy Hills Bay.  It is a National Park, with 4 mooring Happy Hills anchoragebuoys.  They looked to be in good shape.  Its deep in the bay, but well protected from the easterly winds.  The water is crystal clear and the snorkeling is excellent.  Beautiful corals and lots of fish to watch.  The bays on the west shore of Grenada are undamaged by hurricanes because they are so far south and they are on the west shore.  We spent two nights at Happy Hills.   The second night we were disappointed by the behavior of someone on shore on the hill above the anchorage.  For 10 hours loud reggae rap music blared from an empty house above us, continuing until about 11:00pm.  We never saw anyone present and there were no lights.  Just very loud music and unintelligible lyrics at high decibels.  Our conclusion was that someone did not like the fact that we were enjoying the National Park.

Dragon BayFrom there we moved a bit south to Dragon Bay.  There are 3 mooring buoys at Dragon Bay and the water is deep and crystal clear here also.  Dragon Bay clear waterWe spent two nights and planned to go around the point to the south and spend a third night but the wind was blowing so hard due to the exposure to the east that we had to return to Dragon Bay.  It was calm, despite the 25knot winds just around the bend.

True Blue ResortFrom Dragon Bay we sailed past St. George and the high rent district, with Prickly Bay as our destination.  When we rounded the southern tip of Grenada the winds blew hard on our bow with 5′-6′ seas.  We motor sailed into the wind and waves and ducked in to True Blue Bay and took a mooring at the Resort.  It was a nice choice.

We spent four nights even though it got a bit rolly due to the southerly winds.  For the price of a mooring we got full access toTrue Blue Resort Restaurant deck the Resort and its facilities, including the beautiful pool.  We were happy to be able to get off the boat and sit by the pool and eat at the restaurant.  There is a small convenience store within easy walking distance and the local “bus” goes to and from St. George, with many stops in between.  These “buses” are private mini vans that seat up to 9 people and make many stops to load and unload passengers.  Its the same sort of public transportation as on other Caribbean islands.

From True Blue its a medium walk to Spice Island Marine and the Budget Marine store, and another 15 minutes to a hardware store and bank.  The bus ride to St. George is only 2.50 EC (about $1.00) but it is a bit harrowing on the narrow, winding route.

view of old St. GeorgeSt. George is the Capital of Grenada and the commercial center.  There areoutdoor market in St. George numerous restaurants, shops, and big stores and an expensive marina.  The old part of St. George is a fun place to walk around see the shops and food stalls.  Its well worth the ride and a good way to spend a day.

Most cruisers make their way further east to Prickly Bay and so did we.  Its a large bay, with decent protection but moderately rolly if the wind wraps its way in.  There are numerous mooring buoys that belong to the Marina.  There is room for many boats to anchor and it gets crowded as folks arrive to sit out the hurricane season or leave their boats and go home.  We got a mooringIMG_5957 near the dinghy dock and went back and forth daily.  The Marina has dockage for a few boats, stern tied, and a fuel dock which is open on and off, with no discernable regular hours.  Call the Marina office if you want to get fuel.  There is a nice little restaurant and bar at the Marina and its a good place to hang out and meet other cruisers.  They have live music and various other events to help keep the cruisers entertained.  There is even a tiny little store with some basic supplies.  For a fair price, you can have your Prickly Bay anchoragelaundry cleaned and folded.

If you dinghy to the west there is a dinghy dock near the Spice Island Marine boatyard, with a nice restaurant and a Budget Marine store.  This is the place todinghy dock at Prickly Bay restaurant and for Budget Marine store get a bus ride or taxi ride to other parts of the Island.

Our plan was to spend a few more nights in Prickly Bay and then haul out at Spice Island Marine for land storage during the summer.  We had reservations and the day before our morning appointment we motored over and tied up in the haul out area.  The Spice Island staff and management are very friendly and helpful and everything went according to plan.  We needed a place to stay off the boat while we prepped for summer storage and hurricane tie downs, so we made reservations beforehand at Cool Runnings Apartments, just across the Cool Runnings Apartmentroad and a short walk to the main gate into the boat yard.  They maintain several apartments for cruisers and the apartment we stayed in was clean, comfortable, well furnished, and affordable.  While you are getting your boat into land storage it is necessary to have some place to stay and these apartments are extremely convenient.  But you need to make reservations well in advance.

Spice Island Marine is well run.  We had the top sides polished and the bottom painted and they did good work for a fair price.  The staff and workers are friendlyhauling out at Spice Island Marine and always helpful.  If you are looking for a place to leave your boat, this is a good choice.  But reserve space ahead of time.  The yard fills up, full.

We flew home from Grenada early one morning a few days after our haul out.  Its a short taxi ride to the airport and the staff in the office arranged for a taxi, driven by one of the marina employees.  We appreciated their help and it made the ride worry free.

Our overall impression of Grenada was positive.  As with all Caribbean countries, they have challenges but the people are friendly and few if any exhibited the racist attitudes we found on other islands.  In fact, the people of Grenada actually seem to like U.S. citizens and appreciate tourism.  The Island has a large number of Grenadian borne citizens who are returning from other countries to retire in the country of their birth and these “new arrivals” are bringing money into the economy and personal energy into the country.

sailing to GrenadaOur adventure south along the chain of islands ended on a positive note.  We returned the following February and sailed back north and ended up back at Puerto del Rey Marina in Fajardo, Puerto Rico in May 2016.  Our next, and final installment with summarize the trip north and give our general and some specific impressions of sailing the Caribbean Islands and becoming blue water cruisers.

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Our Caribbean Adventure: Part 10. Union Island and We Are Almost to Grenada

After the Grenadines, we headed to Union Island, the last in the St. Vincent chain.  From Saline Bay we sailed in moderate winds to Chapman Bay.

IMG_5852Chapman Bay is on the west side of Union Island, lying behind a substantial hill that helps block the easterly component winds.  But don’t be deceived.  The wind can howl down the slopes and come out of a small valley at the north east edge of the bay, at up to 50 knots.  There is not enough fetch to create significant waves, and our anchor held firm in the sand, but we used 185′ of chain in 15′ of depth and the 25′ snubber stretched tight many times over one particulary blustery day.  The guide Union Island Chapman Bay resortbooks recommend anchoring in the north part of the bay but while snorkeling we saw coral heads and big, big boulders in that location, not to mention nearly all the 10-15 boats.  We moved to a big, open, flat sandy spot in front of the little “resort” and had no one else near us.  It was very nice.

There is anchorage on the south part of the island near the town of Clifton but it is bequia dinghy dock and anchoragemostly exposed to the east winds and can be quite rough.  Plus, those anchorages have been the location of several break ins and thefts of cruising boats.

Union Island is the place to check out of St Vincent on the way south, or check in on the way north.  The Tobago Cays are east of the island but we did not go due to the moderate to high winds pounding the unprotected anchorages.  The books say the Park is beautiful, but crowded, and those impressions were confirmed to us byIMG_5903 other cruisers.

The town of Clifton has an airport and a small Customs and Immigration offices in town and at the airport.  If the town office is not open, you need to walk to the airport, about 10 minutes away.  However, our experience  at both places was less than pleasant.  The officers at the airport were rude, and the officer at the Clifton office was rude and abusive.  I made the mistake of forgetting my pen when I visited the Clifton office and asked to borrow one.  I was given an ink refill and made to fill out the multi page NCR forms while holding tightly to the bare refill.  It was absurd.

IMG_5907Most of the people in Clifton are friendly and there are cute shops and stalls and places to buy fresh fish and produce.  The grocery store had sparse inventory.  We enjoyed staying in Chapman Bay heading south and again on the trip back north.  There is some snorkeling in the north part of the bay, but nothing great.  The beach is beautiful.

From Chapman Bay we moved south to Grenada, and stopped in the town of Hillsborough on Carriacou  to clear in to Grenada.  We anchored off the commercial pier and I first visited the Police StationIMG_5957 (and jail), then went to the dock to see the port office.  Everyone was friendly and efficient but it still took about an hour due to under-staffing and several other skippers ahead of me.

Hillsborough Bay is open and fairly windy and bumpy, and not scenic or appealing.  So we decided to move to the Park at Sandy Island and get a mooring.  IMG_5975It was very windy, with 3′-4′ waves but the mooring held and we bounced around until things settled a bit after dark.  We were able to get ashore on the little island and experience some of the finest, powdery white sand we saw anywhere.  The snorkeling was quite good even though it was a bit rough.  You can wind your way in and out of the coral and see many different fish and rays.  We also enjoyed seeing some kite boarders launch themselves off the beach and haul ass back and forth in the 20+ knot winds.  Very impressive.

We only spent one night on the mooring.  We found out later from other cruisers that the moorings were not well maintained and not wholly reliable, so it seems we were lucky that nothing went amiss.  It would be a beautiful spot in fair weather with light winds.

Our next stop was Tyrrel Bay,  IMG_6032This is a popular anchorage, with some relatively long term occupants.  But its a big bay, with plenty or room.  There is a boatyard that is popular, with a good reputation for quality work, at fair prices.  IMG_6052You can buy fuel at the little marina, and even spend the night at the dock if you wish.  The “town” is not much at all but its a decent walk along the road or the beach for some exercise.  One caution to pet owners.  There have been several reports of dogs dying from eating poison IMG_6056places along the road and the beach, to kill stray dogs that bother the resident goats.  The poison is a potent nerve toxin, that kills quickly.  If you have a dog, either do not go ashore with him/her, or keep him/her on a very short leash and be extremely careful!  We heard several sad stories during our stay in Grenada.  The country is not pet friendly.

Tyrrel Bay now has a Customs/Immigration office in a building at the marina/boatyard.  IMG_6050We used it to check out of Grenada on our trip north in 2016.  However, we were very surprised to find that the officers were exceedingly rude and downright nasty.  It was the second most unpleasant government experience we had in the Caribbean.  No doubt, others have had good experience at that office with different personnel but ours was awful.  I got yelled at for moving a chair next to the officer’s desk so I could sit to fill out the forms, and yelled at again for leaning on the shelf I then used for that process.  It was really bad.

Don’t count on a lot of provisioning in Tyrrel Bay.  Do that at the big stores on the main island of Grenada.

Our  final destination southbound was the island of Grenada, where we found some amazing snorkeling, friendly people (who actually like U.S. citizens) and an excellent boatyard.  Check back for Part 11 and a recap of our Grenada experience.

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Our Caribbean Adventure: Part 9, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Our Caribbean Adventure: Part 9, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

St Lucia and Rodney Bay chartWe left Martinique early in the morning, to make the passage to Rodney Bay, on St. Lucia.  There is a good anchorage and a large ICW marina, and a lagoon with mooring balls.  We planned not to stay in the anchorage because it is well known for noisy conditions, loud music, jet skis, and thefts.  We got a mooring in the Rodney Bay marina mooring field in the lagoonlagoon and settled in.  The following day we moved to a slip in the marina, which is very nice.

Rodney Bay is a good stop for provisioning, dining, and some touring.  There is a dinghy dock in the lagoon and its a short walk to an excellent grocery store and other shops.  You can buy spare parts at the marina store and hardware store and hire help if you need work on your boat.  But be prepared to Rodnay Bay lagoon dinghy dockpay top dollar for any hired help.  We had to replace a raw water pump on our genset and needed help diagnosing an alternator problem, and we paid as much or more than we would have in Miami or Ft. Lauderdale.  First world prices, third world service.

We enjoyed our stay in the Marina and Customs and Immigration was in an office in the building next to the marina office.  Very easy to find.  Don’t expect to get in and out of immigration quickly since they are understaffed and busy.  You may be able to fill out your forms online using a system called E Clear but often the computer in the office is not working or the st lucia custom office at Rodney Bay Marinainternet is down, in which case you just fill out the paper form.  As always, be sure you have all your boat documents, your crew list, and passports.  When we checked in, the medical officer (a nurse) was in her office downstairs so everyone also had to go see her to fill out a medical questionnaire and answer a few questions.  Aslo, before you leave the country, you must go back into the office and repeat the procedure, except for the medical exam.

There is a nice pool at the marina and some good casual restaurants so we went swimming and had a few meals out.  It was a nice stop.  The marina has excellent security but it is imperative that you not leave your dinghy unlocked either at the dinghy dock or on your boat.  Normal Caribbean procedures apply.

We left Rodney Bay after 3 nights.  We checked out with Immigration in the morning, and then had 24 hours to leave the country.  Our plan was Soufriere boat boy trying to prevent self help mooringto sail south and stop at the St. Lucia town of Soufriere, near the famous Pitons Park.  There are moorings in the bay, managed by the Park Rangers so we felt it would be safe, even though we were aware of problems in that area.  It turned into a less than pleasant experience.

We arrived in Soufriere and were immediately met by a boat boy in a skiff who told us he would help us get a buoy.  We motored into the harbor and were immediately met by another boat boy in an inflatable who’s sole intent was to prevent us from tying up to a Park Ranger buoy and instead get us to rent a buoy owned by “a friend”.  We said no.  He then insisted that we tie up to a buoy he told us was what we wanted but it lacked the blue markings of the Park buoys.  We finally called the Park Ranger office and requested assistance.  Soon, a more official looking boat came from ashore and as it approached the boy in the inflatable took off.  We got tied to a buoy without trouble but then the inflatable reappeared and he demanded $10.00 as payment for his help.  We forcefully refused and he said our refusal was why bad things happen to people.  We again called the Park office and reported the incident.  She asked if we had a picture of his face.  Since we did not, she said there was little they could do but if we wanted to come ashore the Ranger would come and get us.  This was good, since our dinghy could remain locked to the davits and it would look like we were on board.  So we took them up on the taxi service.

The town may have been nice at one time but it has fallen on hard times.  There are many, many, many men (old and young) soufriere landing arealaying around on benches and sitting against trees, some of whom looked very much like drug zombies.  It was unsettling walking around town and being harassed for money. On a side street we walked past an open bar and a guy came out and asked if we wanted a town tour.  Of course, we refused.  Then he asked if we were from the ketch sailboat in the harbor.  Since the bar had no view of the water, this was a bit disturbing.  We went back to the Park office and asked for a ride back to our boat.  That night I slept in the cockpit, with a baseball bat, a loaded flare gun, and an air horn, hoping that I would not be forced to repel boarders during the night.  Needless to say, we left at first light.  We found out later that our experience was not unique.

The next stop was St. Vincent.  Our stop in Soufriere, although unpleasant, meant that our passage past the main island of St. Vincent would only be about 55nm.  We planned to go all the way to the island of Bequia because stopping on the main island Bequia and Port Elizabeth in Admiralty Bayof St. Vincent is now considered dangerous and is un-advisable.  Recent crimes against cruisers include robberies, assaults, and even a couple murders.  It is best to simply cruise by and go all the way to Port Elizabeth on Bequia.  Bequia is part of the country of St. Vincent (as are the Grenadine islands) but it is much safer.  Crime on Bequia is more of the usual sort of Caribbean stuff, manageable if you stay aware and take precautions.

Port Elizabeth is a nice, protected harbor, with plenty of room and with shops and restaurants and locals selling jewelry and crafts at tables along the main road.  There are several dinghy docks along a paved waterfront walkway.  It is a very niceBequia waterfront walkway stopping point with a customs and immigration office that is efficient and friendly.  Many of the restaurants have free wifi and decent prices and there is an open air market for locally grown fruits and vegetables.  As always, be prepared to have prices start quite high with negotiations accepted.  The water is clean and we did some swimming and snorkeling.  We spent two nights there before hearing further south.

Bequia waterfront streetWe left with some regrets and headed to the next island in the Grenadine chain, Canouan.  Bequia is a favorite with many cruisers and we stopped again on our trip north the following year.

Charlestown Bay on Canouan is a wide open bay with good shelter and a beautiful, expansive beach.  We anchored on the north side of the bay with easy access to the dinghy dock at the Tamarind Resort.  Its very pretty and it was nearly deserted.  There is a small town and we found a vegetable market but no one was very friendly toward us so we passed it by.  Back on the boat we were visited by some local guys who offered to sell us some fish.  WeCanouan and Charlestown Bay anchorage were promised a large sea bass or snapper for $25.00 U.S. so we agreed and a couple hours later they returned with a “large” fish that would not even have qualified as a legal keeper in our State of Washington.  By the time it was cleaned and filleted there was just barely enough meat for dinner.  But we felt safer having not refused the offer and the fresh fish tasted great.  Since there was little to do ashore, we left the next day.

Mayreau Salt Whistle Bay BeachOur next stop was at Salt Whistle Bay on Mayreau island.  This is a beautiful spot, with a small harbor, a gorgeous beach and a short hike up a small hill to some great view points.  But the harbor is small and exposed to E NE winds so it was a tight fit to get anchored.  There was an abandoned resort with some nice cabins at one time but it was closed and the little houses were in disrepair and falling apart.  We went swimming and snorkeling for a bit but decided it was too windy for an overnight stay on the anchor so we left and sailed down to spacious Saline Bay.

 

Saline Bay is is a stopping spot for cruise ships and there is a large beach and water front park that sports lots of outside stands for food and tourist trinkets when the ship is in.  But during our stop there were no cruise ships so only one stand was open.  She was very friendly and we enjoyed walking around the park and to the salt lagoon on the landward side.  It was a good anchorage, with lots of rooms and good protection.  The water was nice and clean and we swam and snorkeled before departing the next day.

Next up, Part 9:  Union Island, the last of the St. Vincent Grenadines.

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Our Caribbean Adventure, Part 8: Dominica, Our Favorite Island.

Our Caribbean Adventure, Part 8:  Dominica, Our Favorite Island.

We enjoyed our stay in Les Saintes a great deal but after 5 days it was time to leave.

Dominica chartI made a  trip ashore and a visit to the marina office (owners of the moorings in the harbor) for immigration check out.  The French system requires that you fill out the exact same form for check in and check out but it is computerized so it goes quickly.  However, since the French use a keyboard that is different from U.S. keyboards you have to be careful with the typing and with proof reading your form.  Other than that, it pretty quick and easy, once you get the hang of the slightly obscure nature of the form and its organization.

We left in the morning, with forecasts of 15 knot winds from the E NE.  On this trip, we got our weather information from a “wind prediction” website, Windfinder Pro and from Weatherbug.  We supplemented that information by listening to the Chris Parker weather broadcast (Marine Weather Center) on our SSB radio.

Again, we were surprised by the significantly higher winds and bigger seas than were forecast.  The winds focused significantly Portsmouth Harborbetween Guadeloupe and Dominica (pronounced, “Dom-in-eee-ka”.  Our crossing featured 20-25 knots, with gusts up to 35 knots.  Waves and swell were 8-10 feet with a few larger interspersed.  It was some exciting sailing.

Our arrival in Dominica took place in the afternoon and it was still blowing, making things interesting in the mooring field in Portsmouth harbor.  But we had competent help getting tied to a Alexis arriving to helpmooring from one of the young PAYS entrepreneurs.  (Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security).

There are several reasons why Dominica is our favorite Caribbean island nation.  First, the government has made arriving and leaving inexpensive Portsmouth town dockand efficient.  You can check in and check out in one stop at the government office.  This is a real convenience.  Second, the so called “boat boys” are an organized association of young men who help you with arrival and departure, set you up with service and assistance if you need work done on your boat, and provide taxi tours of the island and row-boat tours of the river that empties into the bay.river tour  Third, crime against yachts is virtually non-existent because the PAYS organization makes it their mission to protect cruisers.  Fourth, the little town is clean and neat and the people are friendly.  There is none of the “give us your money and leave” attitude that we found in other areas such as the BVI and St. Vincent.  Fifth, we did not experience the discrimination based upon our Portsmouth downtownlight, white skin river cabin built for Pirates of the Caribbean moviecolor, that prevails on many of the other islands.  Sixth, Dominica is a beautiful country and the people are proud of their island and it shows.

Some of the activities we enjoyed were a 5+ mile hike on a jungle trail with beautiful views of the surrounding ocean, a guided tour by taxi/van of the entire island, swimming off the lovely white sand tropical land crabbeach, walking through the nice little town of Portsmouth, and shopping for fruits and vegetables at the open air market next to the town dock.

We needed our hull cleaned to remove a healthy growth of barnacles (due to a really bad bottom paint job at Nanny Cay boatyard on Tortola in the BVI) and Alexis set us up with a friend of his who did an excellent job at a very fair price.  We also needed our freezer compressor re-charged with AC coolant and again Alexis took care of us and the job was done correctly at the right price.  This turned out to be an exception from work we had done in St. Vincent at Rodney Bay Marina and at Jolly Harbor on Antigua, where we found out that cruisers are often regarded as “rich white people” who should pay more and get less.

P.A.Y.S. event houseWe stayed three night at Portsmouth (and returned a year later on our return north) and then headed south.  Our next destination was Fort De France on Martinique, a rather long distance for one day so we planned to stop first for one night at Roseau, the capital of Dominica.  It was not a restful stop.  The anchorage is very marginal.  Its deep, and exposed to winds and swell that wrap around the islandRoseau anchorage from the south.  But we got help from a very friendly man who collected our mooring fee after helping us tie up to the buoy.

Some readers (experienced cruisers and sailors) may wonder why help is nice for getting a mooring.  The reason is that many of them are poorly maintained, and the lines with a loop for tying are kept afloat by milk jugs or other small floats.  In the wind and waves, it can be difficult to grab the line with a boat hook, and they are often water logged and encrusted and difficult to lift out of the water.  In calm conditions its ok but in 2′-3′ foot chop and gusty winds its not easy at all.

We spent the night at Roseau rolling about in the 3′-4′ swells and left early the next morning.  The sailing to Martinique was very nice, with 12-15 knots off the beam and relatively smooth seas.  We arrived at Fort De France in the afternoon, but found the anchorage (in the lee of the Fort) to be crowded and challenging.  We wanted to stay there so we could check in through immigration and see the town.  Luckily, we were able to shoe-horn our way into a decent spot in about 30′ of depth, with adequate swinging room.  We were close to the channel buoy when the wind stretched our anchor chain but never in any danger.

view of Fort De FranceWe went ashore, found the store with the immigration computer, and took care of the government formalities.  Being back in France meant that we had to use our heavy 12′ SS cable and combination lock to secure our dinghy to the landing wharf but there were lots of people around and it seemed safe and secure.  This is another thing we learned about Caribbean cruising.  On some islands, like Nevis and Dominica, petty theft is fairly rare, but on the French islands like St. Martin it is prevalent, and in other countries like St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Grenada, it is rampant.  You must have a long, heavy cable, or a good chain, and a heavy duty lock to secure your unattended dingy, even for just a short walk.  Also, you must be sure to lock your engine to the transom.  At night, it is highly advisable to lift your dingy onto the deck of your boat or out of the water and locked to your dinghy davits on the stern.  Thieves will come aboard at night and steel an unlocked outboard engine right off your deck or transom, or stern pulpit.  A dinghy floating astern is an easy target, even if locked with a cable or chain.  Even a small bolt cutter will lop through a cable or chain easily and quietly in the dark of the night.

Another caution is to always lock your boat when you leave.  In many places, like Rodney Bay on St. Lucia, thieves will watch with binoculars from ashore and make note of unoccupied yachts and the owners destination at a local restaurant for dinner.  Then, they will make their way out to your yacht, enter through an unlocked hatch or companionway, or even break in, and steal whatever is available.

We visited Fort De France and the Marina at Marin, and stayed one night in the beautiful St Anne anchorage, which seems very exposed but is actually surprisingly calm and nice.  Marin was very crowded, filled with hundreds of boats anchored and on moorings, and the huge marina.  But the marina has nice shops and there is a large grocery store within an easy walk.  One thing about the French islands is that the grocery stores are well stocked and the prices are good.Village at Grande Anse

On our departure, we spent one night in the bay of Grand Anse on the west side of Martinique and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the little village and calm bay.  It was well sheltered from the wind and only a little exposed to the low swell.

Next Installment:  Our adventures on St. Lucia and St Vincent, and on to the Grenadines.

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Our Caribbean Adventure, Part 7: Plans Change Again. Going South From Nevis to Les Saintes.

les saintes picture map

The government moorings at Nevis are in a nice location, about 2 miles from the town dock, off a beautiful beach, and a short walk to a high-end resort.  We enjoyed a two night stay at Nevis, comfortable in the lee of the friendly island and its mountain.

The second day we had some entertainment.   The wind came up to about 15 knots, with low chop in the mooring field.  Another Amel ketch motored in at full throttle (6-7 knots) to try and get a mooring.  We were sitting in our cockpit enjoying the sun and conversation and I watched the Super Maramu try several times without success.  The skipper would motor full bore at the mooring buoy off our port side, yell at his crew to get a line on it, as he tried to slow down while they ran aft trying to get the buoy.  It was entertaining, and confusing.  I looked at our friends and said, “They are going to get the boat hook on the float, then there will be too much tension because of the speed and someone will either have to drop the boat hook in the water or hang on and be dragged overboard.”

Sure enough, that happened on the 4th try and the boat hook sunk to the bottom.

That’s when I stood up and told my crew to begin paying attention, as it was apparent to me that the skipper would next lose his dinghy (which was trailing aft by about 30′) or run into one of the other yachts nearby, possibly us.

I tried yelling at the skipper to slow down but that didn’t work because of the engine noise.  His wife was in tears on the bow and she heard me but he waved her off when she tried to convince him to slow down.

After another miss (with the backup boat hook) he started turning a high speed loop to try again.  This time, the wind abeam drove them down on the boat moored behind the buoy they were after.  He managed to pass close off the bow, bouncing off their mooring but forgetting about the dinghy trailing behind.  The wind blew it between the other boat and its mooring buoy, and the dinghy engine caught the mooring line.  They started to drag the other boat, and the mooring, behind them  The extra weight slowed him down, which was fortunate since it gave his wife time to run aft with a knife and cut the dinghy painter.  As he sped past our stern (less than 20′ away) I yelled as loud as I could, “SLOW THE —- DOWN”.  He heard me this time.

The dinghy broke loose from the other boat and headed off with the wind.  I jumped in our dinghy and sped off to get it.  By the time I caught it several hundred yards away, they had managed to get tied to the vacant mooring.  I returned their dinghy and I admonished the skipper to do it slowly next time.  He disagreed and said everyone knows you power up to the mooring and the crew is supposed to get it tied.  He told me he was a delivery captain taking the boat to Antigua and had tens of thousands of miles of sailing experience.  Go figure.

We left Nevis the next morning thinking we might try Antigua again but when we cleared the lee of the island we were again faced with 15-20 knots of wind and 8′ -10′ seas, on the nose.  We decided to motor sail on a beam reach to Montserrat, about 35 nm.

        montserrat harbor   At Montserrat we anchored in Little Bay among a crowd of other yachts.  It was choppy but secure.  We did not go ashore since I did not want to deal with customs and immigration for a one night stay.  That night, we got our second experience with the Caribbean affinity for VERY LOUD reggae rap music.  It was nearly impossible to sleep, even wearing ear plugs with all the hatches closed.  The music continued unabated until just before sunrise and quit at about 5:30am.  We left Montserrat at daybreak, never to return.

We poked our nose around the north tip of the island and gave up any hope of reaching Antigua.  We turned and had a very nice sail south east, headed for Guadeloupe, about 44 nm away.  The sailing in the lee of Montserrat was great, in nearly flat seas with 12-15 knots of breeze.  We had a good view of the active volcano (and a good whiff of sulfur) as we passed south.  The wind picked up and it got a little bumpy in the gap between the islands so we motor sailed to point directly to the town of Deshaies.  We were now getting used to the fact that the wind focuses and intensifies in the gaps between the islands.  Sometimes if changes direction rather dramatically also.

We arrived mid afternoon to find the harbor crowded and breezy,  just in time to enjoy an afternoon visit by 3 dolphins.  Our friends dove in the water and enjoyed swimming with the dolphins for 30-40 minutes.  We learned later it was a regular event but the animals did not return again before we left after three nights.deshaies harbor 1

Deshaies is a delightful French village, with friendly people, decent shopping, a beach, good restaurants, and no obnoxious music at night.  (We returned here on our trip back north.)  We met some fellow cruisers who were also headed south to Grenada and enjoyed happy hour aboard our boat and theirs’.  It was a lot of fun, with mild winds at night to keep us cool.  Customs and immigration was quick and simple, using the French method of computerized documentation in a local shop.  The French islands are by far the most “government friendly” in the Caribbean.

After our third night we got up early, took our friends John and Kathleen to shore and they got a taxi ride to the airport to fly pigeon islandhome.  That was a bit of an adventure, since the day of their departure was a holiday and getting a taxi driver to come to Deshaies was a bit sketchy.   But he showed up (only a little bit late) and off they went.  Mary and I left the anchorage that morning.

We gave up on Antigua, even though it would have been possible to work our way back north, because we now wanted to catch up with our new friends who had left for Les Saintes, another French island.  After a short sail we stopped and anchored east of Pigeon Island (still on Guadeloupe), which was touted as great snorkeling.  But it was far to0 windy and rough to ride the dinghy to the little island so we spent a bumpy night on 200′ of rode, hoping for calmer weather the next day.  It was a very scenic spot but again quite crowded with boats hiding from the strong E winds.  The next day we wanted to do a short hop andchart of les saintes stop at Anse La Barque but found it very small, crowded, and uninviting.  So we kept moving and headed for Les Saintes.  Since it is also French we did not need to check out of Guadeloupe or check in to Les Saintes when we arrived.

The last stretch, from the south tip of Guadeloupe to the Terre De-Haut anchorage is open water and it got a bit rough, withafternoon squall some squall activity as well.  But we made good time, motor sailing to stay on a straight course.  The harbor is huge, with many, many well maintained moorings and good shelter.  The town is delightful.  Very tidy and clean, friendly, easy walking to and fro, and good swimming around the boat.  A popular activity is to rent motor scooters and roar around the small streets and avenues so pedestrians must be watchful.  The tourists are not known for their picture of les saintes village from hillcareful driving skills.

Many cruisers will tell you thatles saintes street La Saintes is their favorite Caribbean destination.  Some will spend weeks in the same harbor.  We did not feel quite that enamored but it is a nice spot, safe, with little crime, no vagrants, and great shops.  We stayed 5 nights and liked it a lot.

 

Next Stop:  Our favorite Caribbean island, Dominica.

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1987, 46′ Amel Maramu for Sale or Trade

Amel Maramu ketch offered for sale or trade.  1987, blue water cruiser.  For more information, contact curt@boativated.com.

46′ length on deck and about 48′ LOA.  The deck walkways were repainted white by the previous owner.  A nice upgrade for the original brown faux teak fiberglass deck.   The Maramu model is the pre-curser to the 46′ Santorin and the 53′ Super Maramu, and shares the same interior layout, but smaller.  Between the Maramu and the Super Maramu, Amel built the 46′ Santorin.  We prefer the Maramu because it has a more functional dinette table and a conventional transmission and shaft drive, rather than the complex and high maintenance “C” drive offered on subsequent Amel models.

The boat is easy to sail by two persons, or even one.  Mainsail controls are in the deep, roomy, safe center cockpit and unfurling, reefing, and furling is done with powerful electric motors, with all controls at the helm.  The cockpit is covered by a large hard dodger, with an expansive windshield.  The helm is dry, comfortable, and extremely safe, even in the worst weather conditions.

Amel sailboats are built to sail comfortably anywhere, anytime.  Languedoc is fully equipped for blue water cruising.  Tankage and storage are excellent.  The water tank holds 275 gallons.  The diesel tank holds 125 gallons.

Languedoc has many upgrades. She had an extensive re-fit in 2012. 60 hp Cummins diesel, Hurth Transmission, 5 KW Northern Lights genset, Victron Inverter/charger and Victron 240V-120V transformer, Air Breeze wind gen. AC electrical system new in 2012, standing rigging new in 2012.  2015 Rocna 73# anchor,  2015 Highfield aluminum RIB.   2015 KATO dinghy davits. 15hp 2 cycle Yamaha, (2012) and 3.5 hp 2 cycle Mercury outboard (2015).   Languedoc’s hull and ballast are expoxied and painted with Micron 66. The topsides are painted with Awlgrip, polished, and in excellent condition.

New in 2017:
Removable jackstay for hank on storm jib and staysail. New headstay and Harken Roller furling. New Genoa.  New Balmar alternator. New holding tank and toilet in forward head. Refinished cabin sole in main salon. New Victron battery monitor.  Bottom painted, Oct. 2016.  Masts and booms cleaned, sanded, primed, and repainted in July 2017.

Languedoc is now in land storage in Anacortes, Washington, undergoing repairs and upgrades after 4 years in the Caribbean. After a trailer ride from Brunswick, GA., Languedoc is one of the rare Amels on the U.S. west coast.

The asking price is $165,000, Thee boat is in very good condition.  The most recent survey (2013) revealed no major issues.

We will consider trades or partial trades for another blue water cruiser on the U.S. west coast.  No “project boats” or “fixers“. 

A review of the Amel Maramu can be found here: http://www.jordanyachts.com/archives/2948.

The Amel Maramu sales brochure can be found here:  http://www.jordanyachts.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/brochure.pdf.

A forum discussion of Amel Sailboats can be found here:  http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f47/difference-between-amel-models-137037-3.html.

Here is the Amel Yachts Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/AmelYachts/

More information many photos are available.  Please direct inquiries to curt@boativated.com.

2016 Spec sheet.          Languedoc – Condition Survey – Amel Maramu

aft photo shows davits raymarine autopilot Racor filters new water lines mainsail furling motor main salon looking forward Languedoc at anchor land storage at Puerto del Rey Highfield dinghy and 15 hp yamaha haulout in Grenada galley forward head engine instr panel and bow thruster up down aft cabin double berth engine compartment cummins engine cockpit, steering wheel on the left aft photo shows davits Sum Bay Marina 2015 shore power and genset 240V panel

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Our Caribbean Adventure, Part 6: Sailing From Sint. Maarten to Antiqua, the Long Way Around

Sint. Maarten to Antiqua, The Long Way Around.

For logistical reasons, we chose to leave the Island of St. Martin from the Dutch Port of Phillipsburg.  That was a mistake for a number of reasons (customs and immigration and the cost of the marina mainly) but we did enjoy our brief stay in the tourist port and we were outside the logistical hassles of the drawbridge at Simpson Bay, and that crowded and exposed anchorage so there were some positive aspects.  We left in the mid morning, intending to stop again at St. Barts.  Anse Colombier anchorage on the north west corner of that island was highly recommended so we thought of anchoring there.  But after an uneventful sail into moderate winds and seas we arrived to find it crowded and uninviting.  Since there is no customs and immigration office there we would not be able to go ashore so after a few moments consideration we decided to proceed.

We arrived at Gustavia in the early afternoon and found it windy, lumpy, and extremely crowded.  Anchored yachts big and small were packed together, but swinging in an orderly fashion.  We called the harbor master to check on mooring availability and were advised to anchor, then come by dinghy to inspect the only vacant mooring.  We decided to combine that with a visit to the customs and immigration office.  We found the vacant mooring, a bow and stern combination of two buoys, packed tightly with very little room to maneuver port or starboard.  I thought we could probably get the bow tied but leaving, with the blustery cross wind would be difficult to impossible without the high risk of crashing into the other boats.  So we went to the port office and completed the entry on the computer.  They allow one visit for entry and exit the next day so that fit our schedule nicely.

I was unimpressed with Gustavia but my wife and our friends found it more acceptable.  I am not one to “browse” in overpriced shops at trinkets and items with high fashion labels with prices in the thousands of dollars but everyone else liked the window shopping and the little town was clean and neat.  That night at anchor was bumpy and noisy but tolerable.  It was our first introduction to the Caribbean cultural aspect of very loud music until the wee hours of the morning.  We planned to leave at first light the next day.

Three of us woke early, before sun-up, and decided to get started so as to have plenty of time to make it to Antigua.  Our goal was the marina at Jolly Harbour.  Distance, about 75 nm.  We figured a 12 hour trip, with arrival in the late afternoon, before sunset.  Unfortunately, that was not the result.

Our exit from Gustavia harbour was safe, although very dark.  The sky began to lighten at about 5;30 am.  I and my wife Mary and our friend Kathleen snacked for breakfast and we motored out of the harbor and began motor sailing into a stiff headwind.  Kathleen’s husband John stayed in the v-berth for some extra sleep.  He found it easier to sleep to the big diesel boom than to the reggae rap “music”.  But by the time he got up, we were in rough seas and he was becoming sea-sick.  Despite thousands of hours as a commercial airline pilot, the rough, confused seas, did not suit him at all.

To make headway toward our goal we needed to motor sail with the main and genoa partially rolled up.  8′-10′ St. Barts, Antigua, and Nevisseas kept us pitching forward, but the boat did not pound, primarily due to our low speed, about 4 knots over the bottom.  By lunch time, everyone was becoming edgy and impatient.  I knew our Antiqua destination was doubtful.  After about nine hours of rough going I offered the crew a choice.  Another 7-10 hours of slop and arrival in Antigua well after dark, or a course change to Charlestown, Nevis and some nice late afternoon sailing in the lee of the island.  That decision, needless to say, was not difficult.

So we fell off in the winds and seas and got a more comfortable ride.  John perked up as the boat settled down and everyone got cheerful at the prospect of a much nicer 3 -4 hour finish to the passage.

We arrived at Charlestown, fully in the lee of the Island and its mountain, with 8-10 empty moorings off a beautiful beach.  We had a very nice evening, dinner, and all slept well for over 10 hours.  Another confirmation of the old adage.  “Never sail to a schedule”.

Nevis is a beautiful island, with friendly people, accommodating and helpful government officials, clean streets, nice shops, and far less of the racist attitude toward white tourists that is so often present in the Caribbean islands.  (Be careful at informal restaurants though.  Be sure to ask prices before you order.  We learned this the hard way.)  We stayed two nights and spent a nice few hours taking a taxi tour of the small island.  It was beautiful and fun.  From the moorings, there is a nice beach with easy landing, a resort with an excellent bar and restaurant friendly to cruisers, and free wi-fi.  Nevis is part of the same country as St. Kitts, but much more laid back.  We felt very safe and secure tied to one of the government moorings.  Of all the islands in the Caribbean we have visited over the last three years, Nevis is the only Charlestown waterfront one I would chNevis, near Charlestownoose to live on.

From Nevis, we proceeded to Montserrat and then further south to Guadeloupe.  Due to the stiff trade winds and high seas we did not visit Antigua until the next year.

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Updated Cruising Guides and Nautical Books list.

We have completed our update of the list of our favorite Cruising Guides and Nautical Books.

Complete with links to purchase the latest editions of the books that we have used to find the best spots and the most fun the the San Juan Islands, the Gulf Islands, the Broughton Islands, the west coast of Vancouver Island, and the best guides to marinas and anchorages.

We have also included books about sailing, seamanship, and maintenance.

Check out the whole list.  Buy direct from Amazon.

Boativated book list.

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Our Caribbean Adventure, Part 5: St. Martin and Anguilla

St. Martin and Anguilla.  After our bit of difficulty getting to St. Martin, and barely making it through the drawbridge at Simpson Bay on the last opening of the day, we were tired and ready to relax a bit.  We decided to go through the second bridge (a swing bridge that allowed transit past the causeway to the airport) and drop anchor in the Lagoon on the French side.  Despite comments from the guide books about the higher incidence of crime on the French side, we wanted to avoid the much more expensive fees (customs, immigration and anchoring fees) imposed by the Dutch authorities.  So we passed through the swing bridge and anchored north of the bridge and just across the border.  It was crowded and windy in the Lagoon, but crowded and windy is normal in Caribbean anchorages, so it was time for us to get used to it.  We dropped the hook in 15′ of water, watched our swing, ate dinner and then went to bed.The Island of St. Martin

We learned the next day about the major drawback to our location.  We were directly under the flight path of commercial jets leaving the international airport.  The noise is near deafening but thankfully, flights are not too frequent and mostly in the morning, starting after 7:00 am.  We got used to it.

St. Martin is a cruising Mecca in the Caribbean islands and filled with permanent, semi-permanent, long term temporary, temporary, and transient visitors.  We decided to spend a couple weeks, i.e. we were temporary.  Each morning there is a VHF cruisers net that gives new arrivals a chance to introduce themselves and get into the swing of life at St. Martin.  We listened every morning.  Its a great resource of knowledge and information.

Our spot in the Lagoon was close to the Dutch side we could easily take advantage of the big stores and buy supplies we boats anchored in the Lagoonneeded.  Island Water World, Budget Marine, NAPA, and other stores are convenient to the waterfront and the free dinghy docks.  BE SURE TO BRING A HEAVY CABLE OR CHAIN AND A HEAVY LOCK.  Plus, there are numerous restaurants and bars.  We ended up spending a fair amount of money and saving some money on purchases because all of St. Martin is duty free, with no sales tax.  Plus, its possible to buy new 2-cycle outboard engines.  We purchased a simple, lightweight,  little 3.5 HP Mercury that I can carry with one hand.  Its one of the best items we ever purchased.  We can putt-putt short distances to shore, easily lift the dinghy onto the beach and lock it to a tree, and easily lift the engine off the transom and store in a lazerette.  Plus, the tiny engine is far less appealing to thieves.  We use the little Mercury far more often than the powerful 15hp Yamaha, which is a thief magnet.

The Dutch side is the place to shop the big stores and socialize and the French side is the place to go for the outdoor public market and excellent bakery items.  Like most Caribbean destinations, the town is somewhat dirty and blemished by litter, broken sidewalks, bad drivers, and noise.  Walking is the best way to get around, but you do so at your own risk.  Crosswalks are ignored by drivers and the best way to cross a street is to wait for an opening and run for it.

Within a few days we found the best places to shop, where to land the dinghy, how best to lock it even when there are no cleats, and how to ignore the tour boats and PWC rentals that haul ass through the anchorage, just 20-50 feet off the beam.  (“No Wake” zones are not observed.)  It was not unusual for us to have a PWC or other small craft pass by at 30-40 knots, 20 feet away, in the darkness, without any lights whatsoever.  Therefore, it’s important to have a bright light illuminating your anchored boat all night.  This also helps deter thieves.  There are other ways to do that as well.  I laughed aloud one morning listening to the cruisers net and the discussion of ongoing dinghy thefts.   Dinghys are sometimes stolen while locked with a cable to a dock in full view during the day.  One woman spoke on the radio and said the solution was to swamp your dinghy with water and then secure it to the dock.  She was not kidding.

Marigot BayWe adjusted our behavior to fit the circumstances and enjoyed St. Martin a great deal.  We were not able to visit the east side of the island due to rough seas and high winds but we anchored in the Lagoon, Marigot Bay, and Grand Case.  We attempted to find a place to anchor in Anse Marcel but it was impossible.  A local charter company was sponsoring a race among its fleet of 40′ Jeanneau cruisers, in the anchorage, around the mooring buoys.  The fleet of inexperienced skippers insisted on their “under sail right of way”, as they worked their way around the course in 20 knot winds.  We witnessed several near collisions with moored and anchored boats, and ourselves, before we turned tail and went back to Marigot.

 

We also visited the island of Anguilla and anchored for three nights in the bay at Sandy Ground.  Anguilla is a British Island, beautiful, and relatively un-crowded.  Its clean, friendly, and relaxing.  Anchoring is restricted, and prohibited in most bays on the island, and expensive cruising fees are charged to anyone who desires to do so.  AnguillaTherefore, nearly all cruising boats stay put at Sandy Ground and explore the island by car.  The beach is pretty, the anchorage reasonably protected from the trade winds and there are beach bars and restaurants for evening entertainment.  We rented a vehicle for a full day and enjoyed the tour.  We also visited a large, grocery super market and stocked up on many items.

We left the Lagoon anchorage in the morning.  We exited the Causeway Bridge early, to leave time to buy fuel at one of the big Marinas.  Then we caught the drawbridge opening out of the Lagoon to Simpson Bay and headed south.  On the way south, we stopped for two nights at Phillipsburg, to see the “big city” on the Dutch side.  It’s a cruise ship town, with a beautiful beach, numerous bars, lots of loud music, and a huge cruise ship dock.  At night, there were 4-5 ships in port, Phillipsburg cruise shipsenough to create protection from the easterly trade winds and waves.  We stayed there because we were waiting to pick up some friends flying in from Washington State and as a jumping off point for our trip further south to St. Barts and then Antigua.  But that was not such a great idea.  We needed to check in with the Dutch, since we had left “France” in the morning.  The customs and immigration process was cumbersome, expensive, and rude.  Its a long walk from the marina, and not at all set up to service individual cruising boats.  If you want to visit Phillipsburg its a far better plan to rent a car, or take the cheap local bus, and visit from your anchorage in the Lagoon.  You can travel overland anywhere on the island without the hassle and expense of visiting customs and immigration offices.  You only need to do that if you move your boat from one “country” to another.

Its not necessary to rent a car to get around, unless you want to go to one of the east island towns.  The local “buses” on St. Martin cover a lot of territory and are not bad.  They consist mostly of small passenger vans that seat 10-12 passengers, with an occasional larger vehicle on some routes.  They can be very crowded and ramshackle, but not as much so as on some of the islands further south.  The good news is that they are very cheap and it can be a fun ride if you relax and enjoy the show.  We liked riding the bus, even though the staff at the Visitor Center strongly discouraged it, urged us to take an expensive taxi, and told us the “bus” was for “locals only”.  We figured her husband probably owned a taxi.

After 2 weeks on St. Martin, and our two nights at Phillipsburg, we were ready to move on.  So after breakfast and coffee on a bright, sunny day, we left for St. Barts, and then Antigua, with our new crew members, ready for adventure.  On the way south from St. Barts, we got a good dose of adventure.

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Our Caribbean Adventure: Part 4. We Get to St. Martin.

Part 4 of our Caribbean Adventure.  Staying flexible, we got from the Virgin Islands to St Martin.

Sailing is a weather dependent activity.  Always.

In 2015, world-wide ocean weather was greatly influenced by El Nino conditions in the Pacific Ocean.  In the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean, this meant a dearth of hurricanes and tropical storms, drought, and stronger than normal winds, predominantly from the East.  As a result, we spent a month enjoying the sheltered anchorages and Parks in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.  Tough duty, but someone had to do it.  We took on the challenge.

We spent 2 weeks in the U.S. Virgin Islands, waiting for a good weather window for passage to St. Martin.  We needed anchorages with shelter from Easterly winds and the occasional northerly swells.  Some of our favorite spots were Christmas Cove, Caneel Bay, Francis Bay, Leinster Bay, Sopers Cove, and Virgin Gorda Sound.  All of these offer good shelter from N.E., East, and S.E. wind and waves, ideal for the conditions in March 2015.

Virgin Islands Christmas Cove is located at the east end of St. Thomas, on the west side of Great St. James island.  There are numerous, well maintained moorings in the bay, leaving little room for anchoring.  The snorkeling is excellent but there is some wake from passing boats going to St. John island or to Tortola.  Still, its a beautiful spot, well sheltered from east winds and waves.  There is not much beach and very little walking on the small island.  A highlight of the Cove is the “Pizza Pi” boat anchored nearby.  A young couple refurbished their boat into a Pizza kitchen and he roams the Cove taking orders, while she prepares the pizzas.  We ordered one.  Delicious, and a lot of fun.

From there we went north to Caneel Bay, on the west side of St. John Island.  St. John is mostly U.S. National Park but Caneel Bay has a beautiful resort and many National Park moorings.  It’s a bit exposed to wind, wake and swells but a nice spot nevertheless.  If you moor as close as possible to Cruz Bay, its a good way to visit that location by dinghy.  Cruz Bay has VERY limited anchoring space so going by dinghy is a good way to do it.Francis Bay Beach

North and east of Caneel Bay are Francis Bay and Maho Bay.  They lie close together, with beautiful beaches, great snorkeling, and many,  many moorings.  There is plenty of room to walk ashore, on the beaches or on the trails.  Ok, it can get crowded in these bays but that’s true everywhere in the Virgin Islands.  You can spend days hanging out here, and we did.

An even better spot than Francis Bay lies just east, again on St. John island.  Its called Waterlemon Cay, in Leinster Bay.  There are Park moorings and some of the best snorkeling in the Virgin Islands.
East winds blew continuously at 15 to 25 knots but we were tucked in close to the beautiful beach and very comfortable.  The beach is not accessible by car so watermellon caysaint johnit is uncrowded.  A nice trail along the shore goes to the ruins of the Annaberg Sugar Plantation and it is well worth the walk.  You can also climb the hill above the beach on the remnants of a steep road, and cross the island all the way to Coral Harbor.  Start early in the morning before it’s too hot and return after lunch.  I was glad we made the trek on foot because Coral Harbor would not have been a good place to visit by boat given the steady and strong winds and its exposure to the east.  So we got to see the little town without bashing our way against winds and waves and rocking and rolling at anchor.

From Watermelon Cay we went to Sopers Hole on Tortola and checked into the British Virgin Islands.  Sopers Hole is a picturesque marina town, crowded, buy nice.  There are lots of moorings, but it fills up every day.  Its a nice, easy place to clear customs and immigration, fully set up to service yachts and cruisers.  We stayed two nights, then moved to Penns Landing in Fat Hog Bay, east of Road Town on Tortola.  We have been to Road Town, and it’s basically a tourist zoo.  But if you need provisions, Road Town is a better choice than Penns Landing.  If you want some peace and quiet, Penns Landing is the better option.  But it’s a bit shallow in places and tricky.  Check your charts and follow the buoys and channel markers into the bay.  The marina is small and very friendly.  The moorings are well maintained but be sure to check the depth before tying up.  The first night of our stay we bumped the sandy bottom while riding up and down on the wind waves in the 20 knot breeze.  We moved to another mooring, with another 2′ of depth.  Protection from swells is good but the wind comes in from the east over the low peninsula.the low barrier isthmus at Fat Hog Bay

After Penns Landing, we bypassed the balance of the BVI and sailed to Gorda Sound in Virgin Gorda Island.  We cruised the BVI for 5 weeks in 2014 so we did not stop in other places.  Gorda Sound is a great staging spot for the passage to St. Martin.  It’s protected, with many, many marina moorings and plenty of room to anchor.  We did both.  We anchored for several nights while listening to the weather reports and predictions.  We relied upon the Marine Weather Center and its operator, Chris Parker.  This is an amazingly valuable service and resource.  We listened to the SSB weather broadcast every morning, featuring calls in from other yachts seeking specific weather alerts and advice.  On March 16, we heard a skipper ask about passage from Virgin Gorda to St. Martin and the advice was to use a short weather window on the 17th and leave before dawn.  Perfect for us.  We took the dinghy across Gorda Sound to Gun Bay and checked out through the Customs and Immigration office there.  Later that day, we raised anchor and tied to a nearby buoy, to avoid the anchor hoisting in the dark of night the next morning.  At 3:00 am we began our first ever night passage.  Using our chart plotter and radar we found our way out of Gorda Sound and headed east between the reefs.  Luckily, there were two other sailboats leaving just ahead of us so we were not alone.

The early dawn passage was exciting but uneventful.  We motor-sailed into about 20 knots of headwind, with moderate seas and swells.  We were making good time for our arrival at St. Martin before 5:00 pm, the time of the last bridge opening for access to the Lagoon and safe anchorage.  But about 8:30 our bilge pump alarm shrieked.  I rocketed from the cockpit and turned on the pump.  I checked under the floorboards and found no water.  But the bilge was full.  I turned off the engine and immediately started looking for a leak.  I found none.  The alarm ceased and the pump finished its work and I checked the time on my watch.  I closed the engine compartment (its under the cockpit floor) and we sailed without the engine for a bit, then started the Cummins again to point better to St. Martin.  Mary and I discussed what might have happened and decided it must have been our grey water (draining to the bilge) for a few days combined with a drip from the prop shaft.  Nothing to worry about I thought.

90 minutes later, the alarm went off again.  Oops.  I shut off the engine and again opened the cockpit floor hatch.  The bilge was full but I could see no leaks.  I pumped it out.  But this time, I started the engine with the hatch opened.  Yikes.  A steady stream of water blasted from the impeller housing.  Something was either loose or damaged.

Close investigation revealed that the impeller cap gasket must have failed.  Using “Rescue Tape” I jury rigged a fix that slowed the leak significantly and stopped the high pressure spray of salt water in the engine compartment.  Now, we could at least use the engine at low rpms.  With 10 knots of wind, we sailed onward to St. Martin.  But it was a close call.  Because of the time spent  sailing slowly while I did the jury rig, and the inability to motor sail high into the wind, west martin lagoon anchorage just barely made the last causeway bridge from the french sidebridge opening.  We were the final boat through, on the final opening that day.  A stroke of luck.  I did not want to spend the night anchored outside the lagoon in the swell and wind.

St. Martin is a popular spot.  We anchored on the French side of the Causeway Bridge, because the Dutch charge an anchoring fee and cruising fee that is discouraging.  We were warned that crime is rampant on the French side but we had no issues.  The French Gendarmes have limited personnel so when a crime occurs on the water they call the Dutch Coast Guard for response and investigation.  So we anchored as close to the Dutch side as possible.  It all worked out.

I spent a day repairing the leaky cap.  It was very difficult to access.  Not a good thing for an impeller housing and changing that situation is a big job for another cruise.  We stayed two weeks in St. Martin.  It is a major destination for cruisers and we met new friends and spent money on some minor repairs and provisions.  St. Martin was a highlight of our trip.

Stay tuned for our next installment and the story of our St. Martin stay and our unsuccessful effort to reach Antiqua.

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