Saturday, 25 May 2013

24 Virgin Islands (VI'S), reunions, wet tropical rains here ……… May 2013

Wet is wet is wet on a boat, close all hatches, stay inside, no going in the dinghy ashore- it’s “ pissing down” buckets in ST Croix, US Virgin Islands-thunder day & night today!    

Locals speak American English here on the street; Good morning or some say Good mahnin! Check yoh latah, t’anks. We say Hello, how are you? see ya later crocodile!                                    

Reunion with friends in the British VI’s
Keeping in touch with sailing friends on the radio/email network is fun. For weeks we heard Steve & Carol, on Innamorata and John & Linda before our rendezvous in BVI's Great Harbour. 

Kool Kat leaving..
 J&L plan to sell their home of 6 yrs, Kool Kat (sistership to Wyuna) and head back to Houston.  

Since we came to Grenada they've adopted us and taught us about sailing a Leopard.  Sharing their Texan spirit, Xmas lunch, music jams, dinners and playing Mexican trains- lucky us! Sadly, we waved them goodbye.

Surprising us Steve and Carol, English mates we met last year, sailed in the next day with Ian & Wendy on Outsider, lifting our spirits. 
We were excited to catch up on their year’s adventures to the Bahamas, US east coast and Haiti. 

Carol, Gina & Wendy ?

Next day we moved bays, going to Carol’s birthday in the rain.  
We hired cars to tour Tortola island with steep switch back turns but worth it for dramatic sea vista's.                 

Bill’s arrival party
The welcoming party for Bill’s ferry arrival in Roadtown,16 April was us and the BVI sports team, home from the Caribbean Games.

Great seeing him looking relaxed and hearing his news & RMYS Dalliance, Mt Gay crew tales.

We sailed to meet S&C and spent the week snorkeling, exchanging sail tips, dived the Pinnacles, BBQ’d (this word comes from the Caribs - Kalinago's), showing our fish videos and telling hilarious sailing stories.  

Steve & Carol with kanga
Like any campers, on water, we had What international flag is this? happy hr.  Afterwards Bruce decided to fly the Boxing Kanga, our torn red ensign is relegated to the upper stay. Relief too, we now have a new sun cover expertly made by Carol

We had a last farewell dinner with S&C to wish them many fair winds and cheers. Unfortunately they're sailing home crossing the Atlantic to Brighton UK, back to work and to save for their next cruise!  
Bill & Bruce after lunch
Bill was yet to see tell tales fly so we headed for Marina Cay to visit Pussers Rum bar and put our feet in the sand.   

Lunch on The Royal Mail Steamer Rhone                                                 

Our last lunch destination with Bill was snorkeling on The Wreck of the Rhone, a 310ft ship that hit the rocks in 1867 in a hurricane on Salt Is.!  All 260 passengers drowned as it sunk, except the only guy who wasn't tied into his bunk!

It’s enormous steel hull, broken in half, is now home to fish, coral, some relics – a porthole, rum bottle & biggest steamed propeller ever made.
Rhone stern - Gina dived the next week inside the bow- "it,s haunting but exhilarating to swim in"- with a dolphin watching!    
Hawksbill Caneel Bay

USVI’s parks and turtles
The US bought the USVI’s for $25mill from the Danish. The National Parks Service & Lauren Rockefeller have re-created marine reserves on ST Thomas, ST Croix, and especially ST John’s. Protected beautiful sandy bays, turtle breeding & fish sanctuaries and walking trails make for a peaceful and very expensive getaway (an island home is $400k-4m).

In the 1800’s the Danish colonised all 3 islands into sugar plantations, bringing slaves from Africa later burnt or destroyed by hurricanes.

Only wind mills & crushes remain - which we hiked to see.
Annaberg Sugar Mill
Friends Roni and James, of Harlequinn were luckily in the harbour when we arrived to clear customs and met us in town. We tagged with them to quiet bays, after hearing how gr8t their time ashore was we took the guided hike in Rain, rain, rain!
Reef Bay trail rock carvings- Taino people

Wise sailors haul out in Puerto Rico in May, they go home to Seattle. They gave us a wave passing by til next season, (we haul out June at the same marina).  

Harlequinn crew
May 2up cruising around ST Thomas
Ready for a slow down (from moving every 2-5 days for 6mths.)  We chose ST Thomas for a break, anchoring off town for a week to shop for food and a TV screen for watching movies. Saturday night we caught the local bus to the hills, to a small community theatre, wooed by  a black jazz singer performing Billie Holiday’s songs and life stories.

The windguru site warned us go Nth to escape the swell, so we did. In Magen’s Bay 1 mile deep harbour we dropped the anchor, content to “do what we do well”, (no dinghy dock).

We donned our masks and flippers to go ashore and dropped our kayak in to explore the surrounding cliffs. On the back deck we cracked champagne for Gina’s birthday, no other boats nearby- only stars, lovely!

Columbus in St Croix – Danish history & turquoise sea reefs
We had a fantastic sail for 4 hours for 35nm’s at a speed of 7knts to ST Croix.  Arriving at the harbour we saw no other cruisers, only the largest coral reef in the Caribbean, a 1200 ft. wall drop off. A little nerve-racking for Bruce on the helm!

Christiansted is the historic Danish sea port we moored in and a National Park. The whole town is full of 18c buildings, seafront fort, steeple tower, churches, governor’s house, auction yard for slaves and cobblestone streets line the waterfront.

How did Columbus navigate to come ashore across the reef in the 14c to look for water? Our guess is he ordered crew to row ashore to find the opening. Too bad if they washed up on the beach. 

Really it’s so like South Pacific islands without the palm trees. Except roosters & chicks roam the streets & parks freely.

The cane plantations run by the Danish for sugar and molasses ceased in 1848 after a long struggle for liberation.

On our visit to the old Whim Estate House plantation run from 1735, which had 103 slaves working 130 acres, we saw a collection of slavery photos and records.  Over 11 million people from West Africa were enslaved by Europeans & English, were brought by boat and auctioned in Caribbean market squares. 

Today cruise ships, resort guests and divers make up most visitors.

We sailed to the east coast to get out of the winds & swells & snorkel the Fredriksted cruise ship pier. Next we'll try ST Kilda pier on a hot day!

Our favorite backstreet transport & bar - local creations!

Last stop is Spanish Virgins, 40 miles away, then haul out time is June Puerto Rico.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

We find dream cruising waters with friends- Nth to Virgin islands

Barbuda thong tree

Cruising with friends NE to the clear waters of Virgin Islands, via Barbuda, Antigua, ST Barts, ST Martin…arriving 14 hrs later in Virgin Gorda, BVIslands.     March 2013

Crew Peter Van Danzig
Antigua...  Our passage crossing to Antigua, became a race with the Peter Von Danzig 60ft ketch. Bruce filmed them passing, which won us a dinner invite on board at old English Harbor with 10 uni students from Kiel Sailing Club, Nth Germany.

The next night Jill and Rhys flew in and we all BBq’d at our “fav”, Shirley Heights Fort.  Antigua is going thru a downturn, but this doesn't stop the mega/ mega yachts visiting… for us some of the attraction is walking the Falmouth marina.

The Maltese Falcon 4 masted

We sailed a day hop to Jolly Harbour, then took a locals crowded mini- bus to ST John’s fresh market  to stroll the streets, lined with locals selling goods and buy DVD,s for movie nights on board.

Gina joined the Jolly Dive boat to go on fringe reef - drift dives - and was ecstatic seeing her first sleeping nurse shark and hogfish on the sand bottom............................................ close-up.

Barbuda Island Cay, a must visit, is a 100 miles of pink sand beach and rolling breaks, (we rolled a little too) and is mostly uninhabited, gave us a quiet few days rest.

Heading across lagoon to Codrington

All islands are different!  
Off to lunch in Codrington, only a water taxi ride away, walking 5 mins across this beach to a lagoon, is a dry, hot, flat, isolated small town of friendly people and concrete hurricane proof buildings - so we headed out to go for a hot Caribbean lunch.

The main harbour was crowded arriving in Gustavia, ST Barts Island. Wyuna in true CAT form with no wind, motored along all day, as we took turns on the auto helm and Rhys tried to catch fish, coming 40 miles nth at 5 knots with the heady up.

ST B’s IS the Caribbean French Ritz, a beautiful early Swedish territory- once mariners fishing village- is now the Vogue photographers dream destination- but we ate the not so ritz Jimmy Buffet Margarita and Burger bar!

Ranger classic J Boat
Gina is searching all harbours to eye off, the Herreshoff traditional American J Boats, built in the 1930,s for racing against Britian in the Isle of Whyte. Many J's race thru the regatta season in the Caribbean islands. How fantastic to see Ranger (1 of 3 originals refitted to original size) on the dock and crew next to her to quiz on the next regatta.
Here's the awesome sight of her leaving ST B's as we walked the port.

Stunning quiet bays are usually national marine parks. We all liked relaxing in clear blue water Colombier Bay on a mooring, just reading, swimming, walking and snorkeling for a few days.
Onwards we sail ..nth swells continued in Sint Maarten, ( rocks on a Cat too) to escape we motored into the lagoon thru The Bridge. All eyes on deck.  Jill & Rhys bused it around town and we met them at happy hours bars to people & plane watch.  On 23 March, after a lot of fun together we had to wave them goodbye.

At the Budget Marine sale- yachties DJ’s- we needed a $820 Rocna 33lb anchor - guaranteed not to drag- umm?  Gina nearly gave a neighbour on anchor a heart attack manoeuvring Wyuna in a tight spot in the lagoon while Bruce and Michael fitted the new anchor!

Michael a sailor and uni. student from Kiel, Germany who is living on Peter Van Danzig for 6mths, stayed with us for a week to take a break. We enjoyed his delicious cooking and fresh mango rum punch and shared many stories. We sailed a day hop and he hopped off at Anguilla  to backpack on land.

We ate dinner out with James and Roni, then arose at 4am and sailed downwind 85 miles, west to the BVIslands. Ahoy the passage was better than the weather forecast predicted, we were pleased to arrive 14 hrs later at our new destination Virgin Gorda, to anchor by sunset. Cruiser friends are in the Virgin islands so we are meeting up.

Life on board is easier this season, getting to know sailmates, the sea conditions, and how to replace parts, using new anchoring hand signals (avoids yelling), tasting all island rums, and when the going gets tough the tough jump in the water!!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Wyuna's going nth up the Caribbean Lesser Antillees

Stern anchored on old pier 
Going into (not with) NE winds to 3 islands, 
3 countries, in 3 weeks....

Hidy ho! We sailed WYUNA fast across the passage to make St Vincent’s in daylight. An island of pirate hideaways, historic battles, steep west coast, and fertile hills for growing fruits and gunga. Locals tied us stern ashore in Cumberland Bay so we were safe and could rest for the night.

Fine BLT dining in Soufriere
Sainte Lucia...we crossed the passage on 15 Jan,an hour later we anchored, excited to meet Byron in Soufriere in the SthFishing boats, were too close so Captain Bob became our guide. 

Shut your mouth Bruce your not the captain

Up early on monday we motored 1 mile round the cliff face to lay in awe, under the Petite and Gros Pitons for 3 days- Caribbean's wonder of the world.

Looking from trail walk
In ancient times, a volcanic caldera, the ∆ shapes liken a 3 headed islander god. Too steep for us to climb but iguanas do!
Captain Byron
At Couchon our next mooring, Byron & Gina snorkelled. At 7am we ate breakfast, set the sails & chartplotter for 15 miles nth, did a breezy 8knts while Byron helmed. 

No tuna caught, only the fishing line wrapped around the prop-shiiiit 

Rodney Bay is famed for an English Fort, dive locations and eateries! 
Diving the Pitons

Byron & Gina(a tad nervous) decided to buddy for the Advanced Padi 3 day scuba course (deep water). A big attraction was returning to the Pitons to take the challenge; of the Superman II dive along the piton wall, scuba a 155ft freighter wreck, and descend the Gros piton wall to 100ft deep …where we bounced an egg yolk, can you believe it? 
A heap of fun & confidence booster.

Scuba Gina's bubbles

Going under for 6 dives opened up a whole world of exploring marine life, liking the quiet, we gazed at rays and crays, and constantly checked the psi gauge to be safe underwater.

Where are those pesky French?
True to form at midday we dinghy-ed and walked Pigeon island, Fort Rodney to see where Admiral Rodney blasted canons at pirates & planned the Battle of the Saintes, 300 ships fired on the french fleet to win the territory.

Spanish Tapas Bar Rodney Bay
Roni and James, Harlequinn friends and us went (in the rain) by dinghy to a waterside Spanish Tapas Bar, for delicious seafood on Australia Day eve. 

We waved goodbye to Byron on 26th to fly home after enjoying 2 weeks together.

Bonjour Martinique......St Anne was a little quiet this year (the week before Carnaval) so we cleared customs and sailed to Grand Anse. We snorkeled a sunken yacht and at sunset met yachty mates on the beach, for free Wi-Fi, and view WindGuru weather forecasts on the iPad.

Lamentin Band shakers
Some dislike it, but we feel at home in Fort de France the capital, maybe ..we long for urban culture, charms of creole french people, traditional Paris architecture and fluro street life! 

Under the lee of Fort de France

Plus it's calming to sit under the French Military Fort. 

Mt Pelee
Our last day, we spent at ST Pierre a quaint french town, framed by a volcano, which killed all but one survivor,a prisoner in 1902. Local belief is it was revenge for the europeans killing the Kalinago people.

So far ..we've also joined the 8am Mosquito Net (Aus&NZ yachts), still stupidly walk in midday heat, can't catch tuna, make a mean planteur punch, had 3 weeks with a blocked head(not human) and now play double 6 dominoes.

Gina also took her first fall, fully clothed into the water, stepping to the dinghy dock - in front of a lunch cafe crowd!

Our new haul out 
destination for WYUNA is Puerto Rico, which is terrifc, ...we don't return Sth,we cruise the Virgin Islands (US,Spanish & British) April-June.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Back in the Carib after 5 months at home

 Welcome to Xmas in Prickly Bay , Grenada

Dodgy Dock True Blue Grenada
Arriving in December to live on board Wyuna we were warmly welcomed by yachty friends in Prickly Bay, a safe anchorage, full of yachts heading nth/sth. Prickly is surrounded by hillside residences and favourite eateries revamped for the season.

Wyuna being launched
James from Harlequinn helped Bruce launch Wyuna in the water. We visited friends for drinks on board ‘as you do’ to catch up on their travels and plans. At True Blue resort we joined Roni and James at happy hour for margarita’s and enjoyed funny travel stories over dinner.

Cruisers radio net on VHF starts at 7.30am so we wake every day, to weather, treasures of the bilge and events to go to. The first week Gina went to the farmers market and came home with a bag full of; star fruit, guava jelly, yellow passion-fruit, beetroot cake, mango, nutmegs, coconut and huge avocado's.

Tikki Bar with Alan & Jean
By dinghy we headed for a pizza night with Jean and Alan off Tuatara, listening to the steel band, One Love and hearing of their sail from Trinidad. A relaxed way to settle back into cruising life in the Caribbean.

  • Dingy Concert CV
Think Grenada, West Indies, dinghy’s, barges, steel drums, blue water, floating bar, afternoon sun.  The 10th Dinghy party was all this. A group of us took the Bus to La Phare Bleu resort, water taxi to the party barge, rafted up to a tug and on we leapt. The Wizards played typical Grenadian, reggae beats, and everyone loved the rhythm,  til sunset when our barge floated us back to dock. See us on YouTube Why not a St Kilda RMYS annual raft up event?

Off to Christmas Lunch
Lobster lunch
Linda and John invited us for Xmas lunch on Kool Kat with six friends. We cooked 3 crayfish to go with cognac mayo sauce and Chilean champagne to celebrate, wore Santa hats, and ate delicious roast ham and american bakes. Full to the brim had a lazy afternoon lying on the trampoline.

Underwater Sculpters Grenada
We were hanging out to swim off the boat, on 27 Dec we motored 5miles nth to Dragon Bay (west coast), Grenada to find underwater sea sculptures. Luckily we got an overnight mooring in the marine park.  Bruce jumped in excited to try out his new Gopro action video camera- here’s a still of the peoples circle.

My what big teeth you have
Island hopping Nth we crossed the first island passage to Tyrell Bay, Carriacou the next day, as predicted the Christmas winds were 23knts NE so we bashed into it for 7 hrs. Go Cat -Wyuna sat flat in the water making it an easy shake out cruise. Caught a  Barracuda too but threw it back without a kiss. Have you seen their teeth?

For 5 months we forgot how beautiful these volcanic islands are to sail and how quickly heavy outbursts of rain come. No sweat, the water is 27C and day time temp 29-32C, humidity 70-90% but the cool breezes on anchor save us from melting.

We like revisiting favourite places so far. The Lambi Queen on Carriacou island a local Lobster BBQ restaurant on the waterfront was our pick for New Year. We got into the spirit drinking rum punches, Bruce and l daggy danced calypso along with everyone in the street til 1 pm and then watched the fire trucks speed past to a nearby fire (maybe a flare landed?).

Sandy Island Carriacou
On 2 Jan we took a mooring overnight at Sandy Island, a postcard spot, with mega yachts as neighbours.  We snorkeled ashore early morning to the north tip reef. Never before have we seen such a variety of fish in one small area; trumpet fish, squid, parrot, grunts, spotted flounder and some unknown.
A dreamy sea vista!!

The next day Christmas winds picked up and we took shelter overnight, then rose early for a 30 mile sail for 7 hrs in choppy seas. Coming into Bequia, the Friendship Rose an old wooden ferry was under sail.

In Bequia we’re anchored off the prettiest island village and Princess Margaret golden beach, and can walk along the waterfront to town. Weather rules, it’s very windy. Worst of all, our anchor hasn't dug into the sand, we dragged overnight too close to other boats so re-anchored  We’ll stay put til these winds drop out. 
Fish Friday Menu
Fish Friday Grenada

 Oh well, you can’t beat reading a book, hair braiding, talking to English tourists, trying lambi fritters and snorkeling with the turtle who feeds on sea grass below.

We’re mostly verrrry relaxed and relishing in being amongst friendly local people.