Thursday, 30 January 2014

4/2014 St. Maarten

Hi from Clare,                                        Tuesday 28th January 2014

We are now on the island of St Maarten after beating to windward in 16 knots of breeze for 21 hours. To complete the 80 mile trip we tacked three times and sailed 120 miles in fairly lumpy seas.

The new stove and taking down the old radar

Our main objective in St Maarten was to buy some new items for the boat. So far we have purchased new pumps for the toilets, a stove for the galley and digital radar. Andrew is in the process of installing the new radar. We are anchored in Simpson lagoon in flat water and although very windy this will be his best chance.

SLIPSTREAM and the iBoat.

St Maarten is an interesting place because firstly, half the island is Dutch and the other half is French and secondly, there is a huge variation between the wealth spent around the boating world and the local infrastructure. Within the lagoon there are numerous mega yachts. Just for interest I photographed 'Slipstream' owned by Simon Cowell ( Xfactor fame) and the futuristic mega yacht built by Steve Jobs (Apple). Unfortunately Steve didn't live long enough to enjoy this beautiful vessel. Also from the lagoon we can see many nice homes, good restaurants and top quality shops.

However as little as one block away from the lagoon it's a different story. The local streets are narrow with no footpaths, the drains are open gutters and water runs down the street, the gutters are broken, the pot holes are numerous, the rubbish skips are smelly and uncovered and the buildings are shabby. I was saddened by one particularly bare and depressing alley way called 'Willow Tree Drive' - a far cry from the mental picture this pretty name evoked. But somehow amongst all this, it seems to work. We had lunch at a Latino café one day as the food was highly recommended and justifiably so. The boom box was very loud and they turned it down momentarily to take my order. We ate on the veranda (as far away from the boom box as possible) and watched the car wash operations across the road. A local lady was having her car washed and instead of waiting in an air-conditioned lounge with a cup of coffee, she was given a bottle of coke, seated on a plastic chair 2-3 metres in front of the car and she lurched backwards every time the hose spray came too close.
New Causeway Bridge and our cruising friends

Since last here two years ago a causeway has been built across the lagoon. We are anchored on the Dutch side close to the causeway. We had a spectacular fireworks display on Saturday night to mark the opening. There were five trucks of fireworks strategically positioned along the causeway. Our friends joined us on Eye Candy for drinks as we had front row seats.
Beyond the causeway on the French side of the lagoon, there has been a few dinghy thefts and boats boarded at night. We have all been warned not to leave anything out and to lift the dinghy at night and padlock it whenever ashore. The police are questioning some youths around fifteen years of age. It seems that they are after anything portable to sell at the local flea market.

The Dutch Bridge and this guy was too late so he took the bypass

Bridge traffic from the YC Bar 

Upon our arrival we met up with Aussie friend Mark on 'Sea-life'. We last saw Mark in New York when he came to a Broadway Show and Yankee Stadium with us. He has been in St Maarten for some time. We met again at the Yacht Club and from the observation deck we watched the yachts passing through the narrow Dutch bridge at the five o clock opening. Some of the larger power boats just scrape through and the crowd, fired with a few drinks, happily cheer and clap each arrival. Judging by the reception one would think these boats have just completed an ocean passage. More likely they have spent the day at the beach around the corner. It's just a bit of fun and in a terrific atmosphere.
Also at the Yacht Club we caught up with Tony and Jill on 'Nychea' whom we meet at Virgin Gorda and JW and Jenny on 'Over Budget' who did the Salty Dawg Rally with us. In fact we have spent some time each day with these four people chatting on one of the boats, going out to dinner or having drinks together. Tomorrow we are going to a French restaurant for lunch on the French side of the lagoon - lock up the dinghy!

We will be here for a few more days fitting the radar and waiting for the right weather to sail to St Barts and then Antigua; all is well.

Love Candy xx

At 2:43 AM27/01/2014 (utc) our position was 18°02.43'N 063°05.69'W

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Sunday, 19 January 2014

3/14 Farewell to the BVIs

Hi from Clare,                                             Saturday 18th January 2104
Early in the week we spent a few days in Long Bay (not the gaol) on the west side of Virgin Gorda BVI. The bay was mostly deserted and so we spent a peaceful time swimming ,snorkelling and enjoying glorious sun sets in the evenings.

Sunset at Long Bay & North Sound, Virgin Gorda

We have been waiting for our friends, English couple Philip and Monica on Miss Molly and Aussie couple Ian and Helen on Sundancer 11. They were coming from St Martin and as that is our next destination we decided to stay here and wait rather than run the risk of being ships passing in the night. On Wednesday we came around to the busy bay at North Sound Virgin Gorda. This is where we sailed into at the end of the Salty Dawg Rally some nine weeks ago. So we are back where we started and the bay is just as busy now as it was then. There are many cruising yachts and some very large power boats and square rigged tall ships. The local small ferries, small private power boats and dinghies cause constant wake all day. Thankfully it stops at night and we all enjoy a good night's sleep.

We met fellow OCC members Jill and Tony on Nychea and had a most enjoyable evening with them on their boat. We really enjoy the British sense of humour. There were no awkward moments and it wasn't long before we were all laughing and sharing experiences. Jill and Tony have already left for St Martins and we are looking forward to catching up with them in the coming weeks.

We hosted drinks on Eye Candy on Thursday night and welcomed Philip and Monica and Ian and Helen to the BVI. We last saw Philip and Monica in the Canaries two years ago and we last caught up with Ian and Helen at the CYCA in Sydney in September before we flew out of Australia.

Monica, Mandy, Gavin, Clare, Helen, Ian and Phil & Andrew with the Band
Last night we celebrated Phil's birthday on Miss Molly. We also met British couple Gavin and Mandy from Secret Smile. We had a terrific evening and I hope Phil enjoyed his birthday as much as we did. Late in the evening Phil produced his guitar and Gavin joined him on his saxophone. They both played very well and we enjoyed a medley of familiar tunes from sometime back in history.

We will leave tomorrow morning to sail 80 miles to St Martin. We will be traveling south east into a 10-12 knot SE wind; that's if the forecast is right.
Love Candy xx

At 1:23 PM8/01/2014 (utc) our position was 18°25.58'N 064°37.04'W

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Tuesday, 14 January 2014

No 2/14 Tortola & the Baths

Hi from Clare,                                      Sunday 12th January 2014


We anchored for three days in the Road Town inner harbour on the island of Tortola BVI. It was very calm and protected from the strong winds which seem to be normal for this time of the year. Don and Glenys on Agua Therapy were in the near by marina having their rig checked. Surprise, surprise, the rigger knew how to charge but his solution to the problem didn't instil confidence. So Don and Andrew got together and with the instruction manual at hand, did the job themselves at a much keener price.

The Cruise Ship Tourist Trap

On previous occasions we have only visited Tortola for reprovisioning, so being a tourist for a few days was a refreshing change. Glenys and I checked out the shops and explored the town taking in the 'tourist trap' area designed to attract the Cruise Ship trade. I might add Don and Andrew tagged along behind us happily talking 'boats'. I doubt they saw anything that Glenys and I saw.

Road Town and The Dove Restaurant

On our final night in Tortola Don and Glenys requested to shout us dinner at the marina for the help Andrew had given Don. However upon our arrival they had changed the venue and we had a booking at The Dove, one of the premium restaurants in town; very generous but very naughty of them. The food was beautifully presented and every mouthful from the entrée, main course, dessert, cheese platter to wine, port and liqueur coffee was a gastronomic delight. Needless to say sharing this experience with Don and Glenys will stay in our memory for a long time.

The shore break and Clare's arrival (Olympic style)

The Baths

The following morning we parted company. It was farewell but not goodbye, I'm sure we will meet again. Don and Glenys headed south to the USVI and we headed north to Virgin Gorda BVI. We desperately wanted to see the area known as The Baths. It's a huge pile of granite boulders forming a natural maze. Inside the caves are ladders and wooden walkways and lovely small emerald pools with white sand bottoms. This is our third attempt to see the site and although the swell was up we decided not to be faint hearted. There is a line of buoys off the shore to leave the dinghy and then it's a swim to shore between the waves. Once reaching the beach our fins became an impediment and we struggled to stay upright. However we fared better than some people who were washed up the beach like sea weed. I had my new underwater camera with me and so you can check out our snaps.
We are currently anchored in Long Bay on the western side of Virgin Gorda. There is some snorkelling here and although there is little fish life, the coral is probably the best we have seen in the BVI - but not a wow factor.

Pathway in the Baths and one giant stride for man

I think we will stay here for the moment as there are friends on a couple of boats coming through that we wish to catch up with before leaving the BVI. Anyhow I will keep you posted if and when we meet up.

Love Candy xx

At 1:23 PM8/01/2014 (utc) our position was 18°25.58'N 064°37.04'W

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Monday, 6 January 2014


Hi from Clare,                                    Sunday 5th January 2014
Early morning on New Year’s Eve we tore ourselves away from our idyllic location on the south side of St John Island and went around to the main town of Cruz Bay. Because the area is national park we were only allowed to anchor for three hours just off the town. This was our second visit to the town so we used the time to take some photos, visit the supermarket and have lunch in the very pretty and shaded outdoor restaurant by the waterfront.
Views around Cruz Bay
(read the sign)
With a quiet New Year’s Eve planned we moored in Cinnamon Bay a mile away from the larger and more populated Francis Bay on the north side of St John Island USVI.  There was one other unknown boat in the bay.  No sooner had we settled, their dinghy approached with an invitation to New Year drinks (there goes our quiet one).  It turned out to be the cruising couple we meet in the laundry a few days earlier in St Thomas. We had a lovely evening on their thirty year old 58’ schooner.  With its solid rosewood interior, marble benches/sinks and traditional schooner rig all done with ropes and pulleys, it would fit in well on the movie set for Pirates of the Caribbean; a beautiful old boat and certainly a different sailing experience. But for all its 30 tonnes of weight it still rolled rather badly.
We checked back into the BVI at Soper’s Hole on the island of Totola and then motored for eight miles into a strong head wind to Peter Island.  The beauty of these islands is that being close together there are many anchorages to choose from to escape adverse weather conditions. So with the wind howling outside in the Sir Francis Drake channel we tucked in very nicely for a few drinks on Eye Candy with our English friends Ken and Judith from Badgers Sett.  When we entered the anchorage Ken came out in his dinghy and took our line ashore.  That saved us having to drop the dinghy and go through the whole rigmarole – sweet.
The following morning we set sail in perfect conditions to go five miles to Cooper Island.  We only got half way before Cooper Island disappeared in a very dark rain squall and we got wet. The wind blew 25knots and we scrambled to reduce sails before the wind died completely. So we motored for a mile or two and then the sun came out and we resumed with the perfect sailing conditions we started out with less than an hour ago – someone up there has a terrific sense of humour and must be rolling with laughter.   
Drinks on Cooper Is, BVI with Glennys and Don
At Cooper Island we planned to catch up with British couple Don and Glenys on Agua Therapy. We first met them in Cartagena Spain  in 2011 before our Atlantic Crossing.  At that time Don and Glenys were still working and fitting out Agua Therapy for their retirement adventure.  Glenys said “we may see you on the water some time” and we have kept in touch via the Blog.  When we arrived at Cooper Island, Glenys was waving from the bow of their boat and called out “What a sight for sore eyes”.  She had organised a most enjoyable BBQ lunch on Agua Therapy where we whiled away the afternoon catching up before retreating to the Beach Club for some Rum Punch and Pain Killers. The anchorage is fairly open and so we rolled for most of the night.  Needless to say we have now returned to good protection on Peter Island.
Our resort walk
The four of us went for a walk yesterday around Peter Island Resort and over the headland to Deadman’s Bay. This is a very pretty semi circular beach with aqua water and white sand dotted with palm trees. We came here with Andrew’s sister Deb a few weeks ago and it rained rather heavily. Yesterday was no exception, with very little warning we all got rained on, so we decided to give the beach up and retire to Eye Candy for drinks and dinner.
Tomorrow we will sail across to the island of Tortola for provisioning and a gas refill.  We intend spending a few weeks in the BVI before venturing further east to the Eastern Caribbean island chain.
Love Candy xx