Sunday, March 29, 2015

St Eustatia




hanging around the town square
Is a Dutch island that has changed hands 22 times between the Dutch, French and English. The Dutch influence is evident everywhere from the small quaint bungalows with their gingerbread trim to the soft yellows and clear greens and pastels of their colour schemes. And it's all immaculately kept. Right beside the town, rising up into the mist is Quill Mountain, a volcano that has not erupted since the 1600's, but still distinctively a volcano. We undertook this hike with water bottles, snacks and comfee shoes. We hiked 3 hours to the rim of the volcano and peered down in. No smoking lava pits, no molten, bubbling pools, just a huge crater covered in years of vegetation so thick you could never tell it's a volcano as it looks just like a steep lush valley.  But the view was incredible and there was a greeting party in the form of a feral chicken that loved our snacks, went wild for our Gatorade and just plain wanted to be part of our picture taking. 
Hiking up Quill

Half way up, checkin to make sure the boat is still at anchor
Tom & Meg hanging into the crater

The town itself is so cute that I just kept wanting to buy up these little cottages and move everyone here.  The streets were mostly stone, with stone buildings and small shops.

Hi End shopping- all brands- even Nike

Inside Cool Corner Bar

Cool Corner Bar
 But still there were outstanding opportunities to own property in paradise and there were still a few fixer uppers available





Oranje Fort , perched on the edge of the cliff is so very well preserved and there are many, many buildings all made of square stones. Buildings, fences, archways, gates and even the roads themselves are all made of this stone. We learned it was in abundance in the 1700 and 1800's as the ships would come from Europe with these square stones as ballast in their holds, then they would replace this ballast with spices, gold and whatever else they were taking back, leaving ready-made stone building material.

fort Oranje

Ocean wings in her sites


From the anchorage there is a sandy beach out front with the remnants of long forgotten stone foundations swept away in hurricanes and ravaged by the sinking sands of time.
So, the town was relocated to the top of the cliff and overlooks this beach way below.

nature claiming the ruins

Ocean Wings at Anchor
1803 stone on Old Slave Rd

The old slave road, entirely of stone, winds all the way up from the beach to the town above.

Old Slave Rd

To control the erosion on the cliff there is a stone terraced wall of water ducts from top to bottom, reminiscent of the pyramid walls and extremely impressive even by modern standards.
erosion control

looking down from new town

A huge Mango tree graces the Forts courtyard and as they were just turning blush pink, we made Tom, who is the tallest, jump for our first wild tropical fruit and we filled our backpacks. .....Someone, please send mango recipes, quick!.........
Fresh mangos

While wandering from one end of town to the other in search of a post office to mail postcards.  (We eventually found it, we were told to go between the Police Station and the Utility company, thru the rusty iron gate, across the field, up the alley and there it is. How could we have missed it?)  We stumbled on a small shop, where the elderly owner beckoned us to come in out of the sun. 
Pete Peterson was his name and he made funky signs and crazy, goofy animals out of coconuts, telling us he bought this place for its view 30 years ago for $25,000.00. Don't see no view!!.  He was so friendly and personable and invited us back to his home in behind and lo and behold there was that view. The whole harbour and the Caribbean Ocean laid out in front of us, with open terraces, bars and a gorgeous swimming pool.
couldn't resist
He insisted we help ourselves to cold beer from the bar fridge, make ourselves at home and stay as long as we liked.
Now that's Eustatian friendly!

It turns out that today is "Aruba" day, the Eustatians are celebrating anything Aruba with street vendors, BBQ, a stage and rocking music. Time to dance a little.

We were warned, but were disbelieving, we were sure we had found a great anchorage, good mooring balls, pure, clean sand and a great view. That was until our third night. The wind shifted and so did we, sleeping sideways on the bed. The boat rocked and rocked and rocked and rocked, violently side to side, ...All night Long... The cupboard doors banged, the dishes rattled and pushed on the doors, anything loose fell on the floor, halyards slapped, the dinghy squeaked as it swayed side to side on its davits and you could hear the water gurgling in the through hulls.
It was a nasty, no sleep night. Sleeping sideways, one minute your feet were high, the next your head, and even that was preferred to rocking sideways nonstop bracing your feet against walls, each other or pillows to keep from rolling right off the bed!
Time to leave the perfect little oasis of St. Eustatia.







Heading Down Island

Night Crossing

One hundred and twenty miles from Brewers Bay in St. Thomas Island in the US Virgin Islands  to Oranje Baie, St. Eustatia Island.
If we could hop in the car it would be a 2 hour journey. By boat , averaging 5-6 knots (that's Tom & Megs max speed) it will take 24 hours. Entering a new harbour needs to be a daytime arrival, so we up the anchor in Brewers Bay, say bon voyage  to our friends and by 1 pm we're off.

Sailing beside Alpha Crucis

Crossing at night with no moonlight is surreal, it's impossible to tell where the ocean ends and the skies begin. It feels like the boat is barrelling along into a totally black void at tremendous speed , we're playing Starship Enterprise. The swirling white wake coming off the side of the boat makes it look like the boat is going extremely fast when in reality we are travelling at just 5-6 knots. The weather is clear and the seas are relatively calm with swells of only 3 feet.
 Small twinkling lights appear, is it a distant vessel or a star? The only point of reference was Tom & Megs on Alpha Crucis and their mast light and stern light bobbing in front of us over the waves like she's having just a wonderful time dancing over the ocean and wiggling her butt in glee.
Cruise ships were out in great numbers and went by us like small lit up cities. One such ship coming toward us, intersected our path, but we could see no red or green lights and found it almost impossible to figure out in what direction she was going until we had to make a mad dash to starboard to get past her. Those captains must sleep at the helm as when we called her on the international hailing channel, they did not even have the courtesy to reply with their intentions.  We only knew it was the  Royal  Caribbean Line. I guess they feel that the laws of the sea do not apply to them.
Cruise ship in our path

Dawn broke through the clouds just as we were coming up to Saba Island, which has a prehistoric look, rising out of the sea and reaching up to touch the clouds.
Sunrise as we approach Saba


Our destination, St. Eustatia is tucked just behind Saba, but still 5-6 hrs away at this speed. We reach Oranje harbour at 12:30pm - 23 1/2 hours after leaving St. Thomas and moor off the cliffs, looking up at a very well preserved stone fort. We could almost feel the cannons pointed our way and the whispers of pirate ditty's in the air.

St Eustatia, Oranje Baie

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The 2015 Season Begins


Well, we are midway through the 2015 winter cruising season and it's been pointed out that there have been no blog entries.

Just too busy, working (that nasty boatyard, on the hard thing) that every boater knows is a necessary evil.


Meeting up with friends, having sundowners with or without friends on the boat deck, swimming and snorkelling or working again (slugging groceries over bumpy roads or by safari and into a dinghy, visiting laundromats with $11.00 washing machines and 100 * temperatures.

In short! Having way too much fun.  
Dominos on Shirley Jean with Peter & Donna, Paul & Dani

It was a flash trip down this year and a very, very short 1 day visit with Mom in Florida,, while we unpacked all the boxes and deliveries that had arrived from various suppliers all stacked into her sunroom.

We discovered how easy it is to grab a box or barrel and ship stuff from the Tropical Shippng Terminal in Miami straight to the ferry terminal in Virgin Gorda where our boat awaited. Way too easy and could be very bad for the waterline on Ocean Wings.

Needless to say, our new Water Maker, Fuel Polishing System, wonderful side-boarding ladder, lobster trap, new bow thruster prop, fabric and a host of other "necessary " things arrived safe and sound while we were still "on the hard" getting the boat ready and painting her huge bottom....(Got a great deal on bottom paint at $125.00 per gallon...usually $350.00 per gallon!) Takes 2 gallons for the 55 foot hull.
By 5 pm the no-seeums come out and the work ends and the happy hour with the other unfortunate bottom painters begins.
I totally understand why it's called happy hour!  I for one, am ecstatic when I get that toxic blue stuff washed off me. 

The launch went smoothly, Gord always agonizes over the weather, the winds and his own abilities to get Ocean Wings out of the lift and safely onto the dock so we can start to charge our systems  (need that freezer hard as a rock, for the tons of ice we go thru during Happy Hour).
He's better than he thinks and usually agonizes for nothing.
                               We're in the water!   The Happiest of Days!   And we still float!


Gord's favourite line..."Any day above ground, or above water is a good day!"

Then we sail off to Charlotte Amalie harbour in St. Thomas, to anchor.

1st order of business is getting that water maker installed.  Mike Blankenship is our guy for this job.  While he's busy in the bowels of the engine room, we try and set the boat straight (hard to put anything away when the guys pull out all the tools and parts and spread them around). Somewhat of a losing battle. 

Provisioning is top of my list, which means dinghy to shore, grab a Safari (a glorified home-made Ford 150 truck with the truck part replaced with seats where you can take it all around the whole island for $2.00). Load up with groceries, haul it back in a Safari or trundle cart, pile it in the dinghy and hopefully leave some room for us, lift it 6 ft up the transom onto the boat, then wash, un-box (cardboard is a no-no on a boat) and stow it all. Exhausting just thinking about it. But we do it over and over throughout the season because it's pretty important to eat and it's the only way to have happy hour snacks available...("and Rum -- Gord".)
Safari bus- our means of transport

Water maker is working awesome -- Its absolutely fabulous to have abundant, clean, pure water.
                                            I'm in heaven with clean hair. (Sue)

We get to move out of the channel, where we anchored to make Mikes job easier.  This is the same channel, if many of you recall, where we picked up a 16 ft boat trailer complete with rubber tires, on our anchor a few years back.  Not our favorite anchoring place.
When we upped anchor this trip, Gord laughed his head off and called back "we've brought up wheels again!!!"  We dumped our new wheels and headed off to Brewers Bay, a beautiful sandy beach with clear water, good snorkelling, showers on the beach (which we are no longer are dependant on) and great easy access to the Safari system. Heaven after the scuzzy channel.

Our latest wheels

Its fuel polisher time and that was a quick installation which we managed as a contra deal. Joe (our local friendly mechanic) did the fuel polisher with Gord and I re-sewed his bimini top, everyone is happy and no dineros are exchanged. 

We're ready to head out to Culebra, but let's wait out the grey skies and drizzle.
The drizzle has turned torrential and we are snug as a bug, having dinner and watching movies. Tomorrow will be sunshine, lollypops and hopefully rainbows!

Disaster in the dark at 2 am!  Gord, did you pull the dinghy plug? No, did YOU pull the dinghy plug?
Bang!!!!   Dinghy Davit Down! (The bar that holds the dinghy up in the air behind the boat).

Thus the importance of pulling out the dinghy plug in torrential rains.  Culebra is a No go now.

Thank you for wonderful friends . Carl from "Frolic"  assisted with the un-install of the solar panel and pulling the Davit from its boot, 3 ft below deck.   Paul from "Play to Live" for assisting with the re-install, after Sub-base Machine Shop soaked us $1,200.00 to cut and re-weld our boo boo! (They wanted $2,500 originally, but Gord's "negotiating" got them down.)

Our davit wasn't the only victim of those torrential rains. We've never seen anything like this.  The water in the bay turned from crystal clear Caribbean blue to opaque muddy brown as the beach run off filled the bay and ocean as far out as we could see.   .... Water-maker on Hold.....

The beach lost an amazing amount of sand out into the bay and left gullies deep enough for a game of hide and seek.   It took a week to clear up the water and a week of no swimming.

Beach erosion from rain

It wasn't all disaster, the happy hours abounded and the chores got accomplished.

We're finally out of here, headed up to St John's to see if we can get into Salt Pond Bay, one of our favorite anchorages.   We were pounding  into the wind with 7 ft waves so settled for a stop closer in Lamshure Bay.  After a quiet night and a great snorkel, we decided on a hike to Salt Pond --  just one bay over. 
We went uppppp and we went down and upppp and down and upppp. 
Note to ourselves, bring extra water next time.   Gave Gord's new pacemaker a good workout and test run.  Obviously works as it should as we made it back in time for sundowners on Ocean Wings.

Over to Salt Pond next with its awesome snorkelling. I am in Heaven.
Thought we might grab the Safari bus into Cruz bay for the day, only to discover that on St. John's there are No busses on Weekends.  Who made up that schedule?? However, we are on the road, so decided to do what everyone else does... Hitchhike....
Took us 2 rides and we ended up in Coral Bay instead of Cruz, browsed, had lunch at Skinny Legs Restaurant, did some shopping and ... you got it... Hitchhiked back.  Invited our neighbouring boaters aboard and made some new friends .  Pam and Lance on Bon Temps.

We're on the move again meeting up with Tom and Meg on "Alpha Crucius" in Maho Bay.  Carl and Leslie on "Frolic " are also headed that way.
 It's Tom & Megs 36th wedding anniversary and they have guests arriving into Cruz Bay on the Ferry, so we all head in on the Safari to form the welcoming commitee and celebrate their anniversary at a beach front restaurant.
Tom & Meg

Alpha Crucius and her crew are heading to Jost Van Dyke island to check into the BVI's, but Frolic and Ocean Wings are staying put. The BVI's are getting greedier all the time and are selectively charging $1.00 per ft per day for boats  to check in there. Like their $35.00 for mooring balls is not already over the top. Us and a lot of other cruisers will boycott the BVI area, until they get real. Who needs overcrowded harbours, so full of mooring balls that you can't anchor, boats discharging into the harbour and triple to quadruple the prices in grocery stores and restaurants (that automatically also add 18% to the cheque)  more than are charged in the US Virgins, not to mention the proliferation of unqualified, "credit-card" captains that they charter to in droves. 

Back on Maho Beach, the water is crystal clear and there is a birthday party on shore for a set of one-year-old twins, cruising full time with their parents,  Scott and Brittany and also a 3-year-old sister on a 44 ft Brewer-  " Asante". The beach was crowded with little mini cruisers from a variety of boats and the chocolate homemade cupcakes were delicious. We had a great chat with Whitby 42 owners Peter and Jodi on "Maria Christina".

The birthday twins
Mini cruisers birthday party on beach

While hanging out here we met Sandy and Ray on "Megerin"  and Mike and Betts on "Papageno" and Ken and Dorothy of "Blue Star" arrived to hang out, share happy hour and share learning experiences. Gord's learning to play backgammon and Mike and Betts have learned Mexican Train Domino's.

Anchorage at Maho Bay

Its not uncommon to be hanging out in the same bays with the rich and famous, some unknown and Richard Branson on his cat "Necker Belle" was our neighbour in Maho

Sharing the bay with the rich and famous

Richard Bransons cat

We all headed into Cruz Bay for the St paddies Day parade and festivities. it was a wonderful parade with mostly people riding in the back of pick up trucks, wearing funky green outfits and throwing green party type favours to us on the bar balcony's. The whole thing lasted only eight minutes, but was riotously fun.
St Paddies day fun in Cruz bay

                                    We are truly blessed to enjoy this lifestyle.

Bill and Cathy on Dream maker have arrived in St Thomas for the first time in 4 years, so even though we hate to anchor in that rolly  anchorage, we headed there to see them.
It felt like we had just seen them yesterday, as we picked up where we left off and had dinner together and played games until midnight. Our time was short, as we are preparing to island hop down to Dominica, with Tom & Meg on Alpha Crucis

Alpha Crucis

Having just come from down island, Bill & Cathy gave us some awesome information and some very good tips.

Gord and Carl in Brewers Bay
We are so blessed to live this life style!

Sailboat owners Gord and Sue aboard their 55' Whitby Ketch "Ocean Wings" share their adventures and travels as they start their retirement, living their dream of seeing the world from oceanside.
Ocean Wings is a recent purchase and our first foray into the Sailing Lifestyle. We're excited and a little scared. Join us in our adventure.