Monday, 30 December 2013

No 34 Christmas at St Johns I, USVI

Hi from Clare,                                           Sunday 29th December 2013-12-30
Well the good news for this week is that we have passed the winter solstice and we experienced three consecutive days without rain; a very promising sign.

Check the machine on the right - we think she was making icecream
The Laundry
After Deb flew out from Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas last Saturday we headed to the local laundry. The place was pretty busy when we arrived at 11am but we were told by the only other cruising lady present that this was nothing compared to the crowd at 7am. It was quite a cultural experience, the large Afro-American ladies were friendly but they sorted me out very smartly with "I'm next, then all these ladies then you, so you'll be waiting a looong time, sit down". OK, we got the picture and settled in. There were about thirty washing machines and forty dryers and I think the local ladies must have been spring cleaning as just about very lady there was washing curtains, floor mats, bed spreads, blankets, pillows, cushion covers along with loads of clothing. It must have been pretty normal as laundry sold large white plastic laundry bags and each lady upon finishing, backed her car up to the door and stuffed it full; we could hardly see the driver for the bags. With all the activity time passed quickly and we are not sure if we waited our turn but the male Afro-American attendant who seemed to be keeping everything moving, gave us the nod so that was good enough for us.


Christmas day
Lameshur Bay
We sailed back to Francis bay on St John Island for Christmas Day. We joined English friends Judith and Ken on 'Badgers Sett' along with Rowena and Richard from 'Galene' to celebrate. We had planed drinks on the beach on Xmas Eve but torrential rain and 35 knots of wind soon ended that idea. Fortunately Christmas Day was the first of our three consecutive days without rain; it was a sparkling day. The six of us combined our resources and celebrated on 'Badgers Sett' with champagne starters and an avocado entrée, followed by roast turkey and beef with baked vegetables, plum pudding with brandy butter, apple crumble cake with cream and custard all washed down with lots of wine and we finished six hours later watching a gorgeous sunset with a cheese platter and a bottle of port. It was a lively day and one we will remember for some time

Views from our hike

On Boxing Day Eye Candy sailed to the south side of St John Island to Great Lameshur Bay. We caught up with Mary and Jeff on 'Echo' for a sun downer and a three hour chat; it was good to see them again. We have been snorkelling and swimming each day. Great Lameshur is a beautiful calm bay in the National Park; we are surrounded by lush green hills. Yesterday we went for a 2 mile hike along a National Park trail and through a pass to the next valley to see the Petroglyphs. These rock carvings were done around 900-1500AD by the pre-Columbian Taino and their ancestors. The walk was heavy going at times but it was well worth it as we enjoyed the forest and the coastal views were spectacular.



The Petroglyphs (on the left)
Today Andrew is beavering away down the back of the boat repairing a broken wire on the rudder reference unit. The boat is so tightly packed nowadays that although he has pulled things apart at the back of the boat, the spare rudder reference unit had to be dug out from under the front bunk and he has installed a new course computer behind the cushions in the saloon area. So we are looking like the scene of an explosion at the moment. There's a good chance we will find things we didn't know we had!

New Year's Eve, but who knows where. Isn't life wonderful?
I will post photos when next we have internet access.
Love Candy xx

At 5:12 PM28/12/2013 (utc) our position was 18°19.00'N 064°43.30'W

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Monday, 23 December 2013

No 33 St John and St Thomas USVI

Hi from Clare,                  Sunday 22nd December 2013

When last I wrote we had just arrived in St John USVI. We've had a very social week catching up with some of our Salty Dawg friends.
A quiet anchorage in St Johns 

We firstly had drinks with American friends Seale and Hank on their large Catana catamaran. They hosted the evening for eleven Salty Dawgs from five boats. It was terrific to meet some of the people we have been in radio contact with throughout the Rally. We anchored in Francis Bay on St John's Island and enjoyed snorkelling, swimming and sunbaking. We enjoyed a lovely shaded bush walk around the waterfront to Water Lemon Bay. We climbed the hill and viewed the remains of an old sugar plantation. In the past sugar was the main industry on the island and the plantations were operated with slave labour. We then moved the short distance to Water Lemon Bay for more snorkelling.
Views of Sir Francis Drake Passage

This old windmill powered a sugar mill
The Following day we sailed from the north side to the south side of St John Island to Salt Pond Bay. Not a very glamorous name but the bay is beautiful. Just a short walk inland revealed the natural salt pond. By this time Flash had caught up with us and so we had drinks on Eye Candy and another enjoyable social evening was had. The following morning we (Andrew, Deb and I) went for a bush walk out to the end of the island. Seale and Hank on Flash had highly recommended the coastal scenery. Unfortunately for us it rained and it was so windy as we climbed higher we seriously ran the risk of being blown off balance. We didn't reach the highest point for this reason and although we got a glimpse south across the Caribbean sea it was too grey and wild for the perfect scenic photo shoot.
Ram Head
By the time we got back to the boat it was sunny again and so we settled for a swim and another snorkel. We joined Seale and Hank on Flash for drinks along with Terry and Bob from Kismet. Hank was mixing Pain killers that were guaranteed to do the job, that's if they didn't knock you out completely. I decided to mix my own weak rum and tonic proving at long last that 'you can live and learn'.
Entering Charlotte Amalia
We sailed the short distance to Christmas Cove on St Thomas for lunch where we met up with Mary and Jeff on Echo who we spent Hurricane Sandy with last year in Virginia. Since then Jeff has had a triple bypass and is now very gratefully enjoying a new lease of life. We also met up with Salty Dawgs Fiona and Tim on Endless Pleasure. So we had a very busy lunch break and Deb enjoyed her last swim for the holiday before we moved to the capital city and busy harbour of Charlotte Amalie.
Cruise ships in Charlotte Amalia
The following day we explored the town and enjoyed some retail therapy in the duty free shops. Deb bought a few more gifts to take home. She came with two small bags but is leaving with three. Andrew and I bought ourselves Christmas presents; new binoculars for Andrew and a pocket size underwater camera for me.

Deb left yesterday after a three month holiday. In the beginning she was saying "I can't believe I am in New York" towards the end she was saying "I can't believe I won't be here in a few days" - suffice to say she was feeling quite at home on the water.

Bringing home the shopping

Last night we moved half a mile away from the busy harbour and anchored in a quiet bay near by. We had drinks with English OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) friends Judith and Ken on Badgers Set. This morning we took the dinghy ashore to the beach bar and connected to WiFi for the first time in two weeks. We will post both this and last week's newsletters shortly.
Debs departure
We will head back to Francis Bay St John Island for Xmas day. We will know a few people there and it is a large well protected bay. After that we will probably go around to the south side of St John's and explore a few of the bays that we missed.

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Love Candy and no Deb xx

At 12:53 PM14/12/2013 (utc) our position was 18°21.85'N 064°44.78'W

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N0 32 USVI

Hi from Clare,                         Thursday 12th December 2013

When last I wrote we were on the Island of Jost Van Dyke in a shallow bay well known for Foxy's Bar where they serve the best Painkillers (a rum drink with pineapple and orange juice, coconut milk and nutmeg). At Foxy's we had access to WiFi and so before the second Painkiller we managed to send last week's newsletter. We stayed overnight and left early the following morning and returned to Peter Island to seek cover from a cold front and strong winds predicted.
Foxys from the dinghy dock

Foxys from the inside

The ceiling at Foxys
Little Harbour on Peter Island was home for the next four nights. It is a perfect place to wait and swim in flat calm water while watching the white caps and currents rush by just outside the bay in Sir Francis Drake channel. We were anchored and tied stern-to along with about fifteen other boats. It was just like being in Turkey and I'm pleased to say that our skills for tying stern-to practised and perfected in Turkey, haven't been forgotten. The procedure is to drop the anchor about 40-50 metres from the shore, back in slowly feeding the chain out. When close to shore Andrew's launches the dinghy with the rope already feed into it, rows to a rock which has already been selected and ties the rope to the rock. I then pull in any slack and wrap the rope around a cleat on the boat. Sounds simple but speed is of the essences or you will lose control of the boat and the whole thing goes to pot. Needless to say our entertainment for the next few days was watching less experienced folk tackle the procedure with not enough chain down, not enough rope to reach shore, bundles of rope in a dinghy all knotted together, people diving off the back of boats to swim ashore with the rope between their teeth and neighbouring dinghies helping to push any wayward boat into position.
Internet at Foxys

The weather has been pretty much the same as last week, a continuous pattern of wind, rain, sun and heat. We have been swimming each day and enjoying the sunshine.

Yesterday we checked out of the British Virgin Islands and entered the US Virgin Islands. There are three USVIs. We are currently on St John's which is mostly National Park and has many bush walks and lovely beaches. We checked in with US Customs in the tourist town of Cruz Bay. So far this is the only town we have been to but we could notice the US influence on the island with better quality roads walkways tourist shops and malls. It is a very pretty little town and crowded with American tourists. Unfortunately I didn't have our camera with us and so missed out on photos.

I think tomorrow we will move down to the USVI island of St Thomas. Once again there is a strong wind forecast for the weekend and so we will be in search of a peaceful bay. St Thomas is the most populated of the USVIs and we are looking forward to seeing it.

Love Candy and Deb xxx

At 12:53 PM14/12/2013 (utc) our position was 18°21.85'N 064°44.78'W

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Thursday, 5 December 2013

No 31/13 Rain and Sun

Hi from Clare,                                          Wednesday, 4th December 2013

OPEN SHUT AND OPEN SHUT AND GIVE A LITTLE CLAP (Until this week these were just words from a child's nursery rhyme)
For the past week we have experienced cycles of sunshine, heat, wind and rain. I seem to spend most of my day watching the weather and opening and closing hatches. Years ago when first on the boat, Andrew christened me "Minister for Openings and Closings". Well I can tell you, the poor old Minister is working overtime this week. It has also rained every night except for one and so the Minister is working night shift as well. Today the weather is no different, we had dead calm this morning then a boisterous sail to our next destination followed by rain and now we are seeking shelter from forecast strong wind; nothing like a bit of variety to keep us on our toes.

The highlights for the week have been some terrific company and some good snorkelling. We had English friends Rob and Sarah from 'Serafina' on Eye Candy for drinks and then a few nights later we went to their boat for drinks and met a new English couple Ian and Fiona from 'Ruffian'. Both nights were very entertaining as Rob is a talented story teller and after spending a good proportion of his work life around charter boats he has a wealth of experience from which to draw.

Deb, Rob and Sarah & Dead Mans Bay, Peter Is

After saying in my last newsletter that the snorkelling was ho hum we managed to find a few good sites on Norman Island. There are some lovely caves to snorkel and the fish life is the best we have seen in the BVIs. I love seeing all the tropical fish and when the water is around 28 degrees it is a pleasure; in fact I hate having to get out of the water.

We went over to the island of Tortola for provisioning. There were two large cruise ships in the harbour and Tortola is also the base for Sunsail, Moorings and a few other yacht chartering companies. We heard that the fresh fruit and veg arrives Sunday morning and by Sunday afternoon the best of it has gone. I guess with hundreds of charter yachts provisioning for the following week it is no real surprise. We arrived Sunday mid morning and got everything we needed except for tomatoes; they were totally sold out. Not to worry we restocked the Rum supply so hell, who needs tomatoes.

Windward side of Peter Is and Benures Bay, Norman Is    TAKING IT EASY We are now on the island of Jost Van Dyke. It is overcast and threatening rain, certainly a lot different from the brilliant sunshine we experienced here last April. It's probably a good thing to have a few dull days as Deb has been working on her suntan and she is fast approaching the colour of the natives. We will have to be careful going into town as we could loose her in the crowd.

We will be in the BVIs for a few more days before we go across to the American Virgin Islands. Andrew and I haven't been there before and so we are all looking forward to the adventure.

Love Candy and Deb xxx.

At 5:01 PM4/12/2013 (utc) our position was 18°26.49'N 064°45.62'W

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Friday, 29 November 2013

No 30/13 Paradise

Hi from Clare,                                                 Thursday 28th November, 2013

So here we are on island time. It is wonderful to have no commitments and be able to please ourselves. The biggest decision each day is to decide whether to move to another near by beautiful island or stay put.

We left North Sound, Virgin Gorda and the Salty Dawg Rally people last Saturday and sailed eight miles to Anageda Island. We passed Richard Branson's island on the way, see photo. He has certainly picked a beautiful spot in the world. His house is high on the hill top which provides wonderful views of the surrounding hilly islands and aqua blue seas.

Anegada beach and town anchorage

Richard Branson's Island and Spanish Town Marina

Anegada Island is said to have the best beaches in the BVI. We spent the day walking the beach and swimming in 28 degree water. It was very desolate and immensely peaceful. We spent the night at anchor but unfortunately our peace was ruined as we rolled rather badly. Andrew and I had to abandon the V-berth with its lovely open hatch and warm night breeze and retreat to the couch in the saloon and the second aft cabin where the movement of the boat is less. Deb who has the other aft cabin slept through the night totally unaware. The following morning we walked a few miles into the sleepy town. The walk was good, we needed the exercise but the town was a sleepy hollow. I think the bars along the shore would come alive at night as the shallow harbour is a popular spot for visiting catamarans.


Little Dix Bay Resort

LOVELY RESORTS We came back to Virgin Gorda for the night and the following morning we went down to Spanish Town towards the south end of the island. There is a marina there with a little shopping mall but once outside the marina there is not much to see. There are some large houses on the surrounding hills but difficult to reach by foot as the roads are very narrow and without footpaths. We walked through a park across the island to the resort at Little Dix Bay; a lovely tropical spot, see photos.

So now we have moved about 10 miles to Peter Island. We are anchored in a large and well protected bay. We went snorkelling yesterday off the back of the boat. The coral and fish were just OK but this is an Aussie talking and we are spoilt.

We will stay here today to enjoy the sunshine, peace and quiet and some swimming. There are a few more islands within the BVI group which we will explore over the next two weeks before going to the American Virgin Islands.

Love Candy and Deb xxx

At 12:35 AM28/11/2013 (utc) our position was 18°29.84'N 064°21.60'W

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Thursday, 21 November 2013

No 29/13 Virgin Gorda, BVI

Hi from Clare,                                  Wednesday 20th November 2013

We arrived at The Bitter End Yacht Club in Virgin Gorda around lunchtime Saturday. It took 11 days to complete the 1420 miles of the Salty Dawg Rally from the States to the BVIs. Most the boats have arrived now except for a few smaller boats who took refuge in Bermuda for a few days. I have included some photos of our voyage which were taken by Bruce on the Aussie catamaran 'Remi De' as they passed us on day 4. Needless to say the photos of Deb at the wheel and Andrew with his Mahi Mahi were taken on one of the quieter days on the trip.



Salty Dawgs in the rough and the smooth

So now we are enjoying life in the sunshine and swimming in lovely clear warm water. Yesterday we went for a walk up over the nearby hill so we could get some photos of our gorgeous surroundings. As a Rally participant we have a free mooring ball here until mid December and also access to the Yacht Club's pool. I think that's where we are heading this afternoon. The beaches are lovely but I have my eye on one of the lounges by the pool under the shade of a palm tree.


Anchorage views at Virgin Gorda

Last night we went to the bar at Saba Rock for a few Painkillers and to watch the Tarpon feeding. Believe me two drinks are enough, they certainly don't hold back on the rum. Tonight we have the weekly Wednesday Welcome Ashore Party held at the Yacht Club and then tomorrow night we have the Salty Dawg Finale Dinner. At this stage there are about 300 yachties attending so it should be a lively affair.

Friends from Remi De and Endless Pleasure

The Dinner tomorrow night is the last official function so we will then be free to explore new horizons. We haven't any firm plans; we will just have fun making them up as we go.

Love Candy and Deb xxx

At 2:42 PM17/11/2013 (utc) our position was 18°29.84'N 064°21.60'W

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Friday, 15 November 2013

No 28/13 Closer to Paradise

Hi from Clare, Thursday 14th November 2013

Today is day 9 of our 11 day sail from Hampton on the east coast of the America to the BVIs in the East Caribbean. It is a sparkling day with 30 degree air temperature and 28 degree water temperature. We are presently motoring as the wind has dropped out and it is not due to return until this afternoon. It is quite nice to have a bit of respite and Andrew stopped the boat earlier so he and Deb could have a quick dip in the sea out the back of the boat. I was waiting for a loaf of bread to come out of the oven so I missed out this time.

For the last five days we have sailed with the wind forward of the beam and so have been heeled over; nice to be level again. When the wind comes back this afternoon it will be behind us making the next few days of sailing easy going. We are having a good trip, two more fronts have passed over but we have been far enough south to miss the strongest winds and torrential rain. We did have one decent rainfall but we were glad to get a free boat wash.

The boats further north have taken a bit of a hammering. Three boats (all Catalina's a 37' a 42' and a 47') have lost their rudders. While the 37' boat was being towed to safety by the Coast Guard we heard that the people had been taken off and the boat abandoned. There is one other Catalina in the fleet; guess they are feeling a bit anxious.
Our half way mark was celebrated on the only other day when we had little wind and so we sat in the cockpit and had cheese and biscuits and a glass of coke. We are looking forward to arriving at our destination, the island of Virgin Gorda. We will then be able to add some rum to the next coke.

We caught a beautiful Mahi Mahi which we will finish tonight. There is nothing better than a freshly caught Mahi Mahi and we had been longing for one for some time. We will put the fishing line out again this afternoon.

Love Candy and Deb xxx

At 11:02 AM14/11/2013 (utc) our position was 23°10.71'N 064°45.21'W

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Sunday, 10 November 2013

Salty Dawg Rally

Hi from Clare, 9th November 2013

So we left Hampton four days ago and we have now completed 526 miles of the 1350 mile passage to the British Virgin Islands (BVIs).

Most of the fleet (116 boats) left on Wednesday but a few including Eye Candy left Tuesday on the back of a cold front. Our intention was to get across the Gulf Stream and travel sufficiently far south to miss the worst of the next cold front which was due Thursday night.

The first 120 miles was an uncomfortable close reach but that was nothing compared to the next 80 miles across the Gulf Stream. This was our fifth encounter with the Gulf Stream and let me tell you what we have learnt about this nasty piece of water - get cross it as fast as you can and if possible don't go there. The stream has strong currents, counter currents, eddies and very confused seas and its own set of convective squalls. At one stage we were doing a boat speed of 5.8 knots but only making 1.9 knots across the ground. It's a bit like a 80 mile wide twin tub washing machine - it spins you around and spits you out all wet.

Once we got through the Gulf Stream some 20 hours later, it was a further 100 mile sprint to stay ahead of the next cold front which forecast 50 knot squalls. Through the ordeal Deb went into economy mode and didn't eat for 2 and 1/2 days; sick and all as she was, she, "Determined Deb", didn't miss a shift and so thankfully we all got sufficient rest. Now for the good news, our master plan worked and during the second cold front we mostly experienced 25 knot winds with squalls of 35 knots.

Now some of the boats that left on Wednesday were still in the Gulf Stream when the second front came through. Unfortunately they got 40- 50 knot squalls and lumpy seas. Two boats were dismasted, 2 lost their rudders, 1 broke a broken steering arm, 1 had a damaged toe rail and was taking on water and last but not least one boat broke up with a delaminating bulk head. That crew was air lifted to safety by the Coast Guard and the boat was abandoned.

So now on day four all is well, we have 15 knot winds on our aft quarter and we are on track for the BVIs. The forecast for the rest of the trip is light winds. Deb is now eating regular meals and now no longer wishes to die. Andrew has started the water maker and so we will all have showers today. Now that conditions have improved I will write again soon.

Love Candy and DD xxx

At 12:42 PM9/11/2013 (utc) our position was 31°48.09'N 069°17.01'W

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Saturday, 2 November 2013

No 26/13 A Holding Pattern

Hi from Clare,                                                    Friday 1st November, 2013

So another week has passed and the good news is that the weather has warmed up a bit; we even got to wear T-shirts throughout the week.
We spent most of the week in Portsmouth; this is our fourth visit to Portsmouth. The shopping is good and of course we have enjoyed renewing our friendship with Bob and Cassy Mc Bride from the 'Mile Maker O' Ship Chandler. Cassy very kindly drove Deb and me to Wall Mart supermarket for provisioning which was a great help.

Yesterday we came back to Hampton Blue Water Marina where we are now waiting for the Salty Dawg Rally to the BVI's. The weather is not co-operating as there is a cold front coming which will delay the start.

Halloween Costumes

The Buoys are the winners and so too are the Girls

We have been enjoying a few social activities. We had cocktails on Wednesday night, Deb went to a Yoga class yesterday morning and last night we attended a Halloween party. Tonight we are off to a spit roast pork dinner. The Dark and Stormy drinks last night were strong. We are wondering how we will cope with The Painkillers tonight - this cruising life is tough!

All is well at this end.
Love Candy and Deb xxx

At 12:18 AM1/11/2013 (utc) our position was 37°01.05'N 076°20.57'W

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Friday, 25 October 2013

No 25/13 Freezing our Butts off

Hi from Clare,                                        Thursday 24th October 2013

For the first few days back on the water we anchored in Fishing Bay, Deltaville and caught up with our friends. Deb was introduced to the tradition of Sundowners meeting American friends Burt and Prue on Exuberant, Kiwi friends David and Brenda on Bandit and Aussie friends Peter and Carol on Jack Tar. After two weeks of isolation on the hard Deb was looking forward to meeting some people. However on day five of being in the water she said to me with a startled look "we've had drinks the last four nights running". It was a bit of a baptism of fire as Sundowners lasted for three or four hours each night. I'm happy to say that we haven't turned into alcoholics and since then we have quietened down and our nights are spent watching DVDs and playing on the computers.

Friends Burt & Prue, Carol & Peter

David & Brenda
We left Fishing Bay and sailed 30 miles south to show Deb Historical Yorktown and Colonial Williamsburg. Andrew and I went to Yorktown in May but we didn't get to see Williamsburg on that trip.


Scenes from Yorktown
Yorktown is famous for the siege led by General George Washington in the 18th Century which was the final battle in the War of Independence. The Americans joined forces with the French and kicked the Brits out. Unfortunately at the time 80% of the town was destroyed but it is still a very interesting place to see.

Around Williamsburg

Williamsburg is thirteen miles away and was the Capital of Virginia at that time. It is the largest and oldest interactive history experience and is know as Colonial Williamsburg's Revolutionary City. We spent an afternoon in Williamsburg with hundreds of other tourists. We really only scratched the surface as there is much to see and do.
More around Williamsburg

The weather is fairly cool. The days are sunny and around 16 degrees, at night the temperature drops to around 8 degrees; not much fun as we don't have any heating. We will leave the US around the 4th November and travel 1300 miles south to the BVIs in search of warmer conditions. We can't leave before that as the Hurricane Season officially finishes at the end of October. We have joined the Salty Dawg Rally and will travel the 1300 miles in company with more than 100 yachts. There are a few functions and some fun to be had before and after the Rally. Before we leave there are a number of interesting talks to prepare and organize such a large group. Social functions include a Halloween Party on the 31st October, some dinner and of course the always popular cocktail parties with drinks like Dark and Stormy and Pain Killers. We went shopping yesterday and bought rubber spiders, bats, skeletons and gear to make our Halloween costumes.

Tomorrow we will sail eight miles to Portsmouth. We want to catch up with our American friend Bob Mc Bride once more before leaving the country. You may recall that when we first arrived in the States Bob lavished us with southern hospitality taking us into his home and spoiling us. Personally I am looking forward to another one of Bob's big bear hugs - what a guy; we will always remember him fondly.

Love Candy and Deb xxx

At 4:09 PM24/10/2013 (utc) our position was 37°01.36'N 076°20.51'W

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