Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Virgin Islands, pearls of the Caribbean

5th – 16th January 2013

We arrived into North Sound, Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands just before 5pm and we were glad to put the anchor down.The 75 mile sail from St Marrten had been a good one. With a boisterous ENE wind of 17-20 kts, two reefs in the mainsail and a full jib, our top boat speed of the day was 16.8 knts. Wooshka!


Finally we were back in the Virgin Islands, our favourite stomping ground. We love it here. The girls now only had 11 days left before they flew out of St Thomas so we had to get moving to show them the sights. First up was The Baths, a group of giant boulders with tunnels and caves to walk through and a gorgeous beach at either end to take a dip.



From here we popped into Cooper Island to enjoy the hospitality at the beach club for sundowners and to spend the night. The following morning we moved over to Peter Island for a drift snorkel in Great Bay and then on to Norman Island.


Sadly the weather was a bit unsettled so the girls didn’t get the full  BVI experience that we had planned. The clock was also ticking and everything was a bit rushed as their departure date loomed.

Over the next three days we took in the island of Jost Van Dyke, stopping in Great Harbour to Visit Foxy’s bar / restaurant  where the girls actually met the man himself. Not many people get that chance.





Next up was White bay and the world famous, well maybe in the BVI’s, Soggy Dollar Bar. Here, most people swim ashore from their boats and spend the day on the beach sipping “painkillers”, a very popular and very drinkable rum based beverage, and soak up the sun with their soggy dollars in their pockets. My sis and niece rated this beach as the best they’d been to since leaving Trinidad.






We only had two more stops before they left the BVI’s and that was Monkey Point for a snorkel and Trellis Bay to have dinner at the Last Resort Restaurant. It’s a fun place with excellent food and entertainment by Al the resident one-man band. We stayed late into the night and ended up sipping free champagne courtesy of Al, but I think a lot of that had to do with my very good looking young niece.




P1110658The USVI’s now beckoned. There are three main Islands but we only had time to do two, St John and St Thomas. After checking in with homeland security in Cruz Bay on St John we spent a couple of days on the island and from there it was over to St Thomas.

Magens Bay was the last pretty beach that we took the girls and they spent their second last day chilling out on the white sand in the shade of a palm tree. What a great way to end a holiday.

P1150014After a brief shopping stop in Charlotte Amalie, the capital of St Thomas, which by the way is cruise ship central and full of duty free jewellery shops, our last night with our rels was in Emerald Bay near the airport. The girls had bought so many souvenirs over their 2 month stay with us that they had to borrow our large bag to get all  their gear back home.



Their flight left early the next morning and it was very sad to see them go.

Hopefully they have lots of happy memories of their time sailing the700 miles of the Caribbean from Trinidad to St Thomas. For sure they most definitely have lots a great photos to boost their spirits on a rainy day back in Sydney.



Monday, January 7, 2013

St Maarten.

3rd – 5th January 2013

Our two day stop in St Maarten was hard work for Liam and I.


On day one, after dropping Helen and Bridget over to the French side of the Island for some sightseeing, our day was spent going from chandlery to chandlery in search of new anchor chain.Three hundred feet of it to be exact.The old one which had served us well since buying it in Turkey back in 2010 had gradually rusted to the point where it was damaging our Muir windless  each time we raised or lowered the anchor. We had looked at replacing the chain while in Trinidad, but as we quickly learnt, not all chain diameters are the same. USA manufactured chain differs from the rest of the world, and the one that we needed to fit our windless we couldn’t source in Trini. Many phone calls and emails later we were pretty sure that we could buy the right one in St Maarten. As it is essentially a European country, the chandleries import the same type of chain that is available in Australia where our windless was made. Now for those non sailors out there you might think what is all this rambling on about chain. Well the windlass, chain and the anchor on the end of it work together and are the brakes of a sailboat, or in our case our home. The windlass is a powerful motor that drives the gypsy, a sort of drum that has cogs on it much like a paddlewheel, and picks up each link of the chain to drop or raise the anchor. So as you can see it is pretty important that you get the correct size chain for the whole process to work. That way we can sleep well at night.

Finally we found the right chain and, after much toing and froing to the boat to check that what we were about to buy was the absolutely right, on day two we did the deed and parted with a substantial amount of dollars.  Finding the chain was one thing but the next challenge was loading it into the dinghy and getting it back to the boat and disposing of the old chain and installing the new. The whole process from when we paid to getting it on the boat and attached to the anchor and ready to go took several hours, and by the time we’d finished it was well and truly dark.


The girls spent the second day catching the bus down to Phillipsburg, the capital on the Dutch side of the island. They said that is was quite lovely and from their photos parts of the city looked nice. The Dutch side is far more touristy than the French. Cruise ships arrive and deposit most of their occupants on to the small streets which are full of glittering shops and casino's. Meanwhile back on the French side, life goes on as normal and we much prefer it that way.

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Come dusk the four of us met up at the yacht club for sundowners and watched the line up of big boats come into the Simpson Bay lagoon. It’s a bit of an afternoon tradition at the St Maarten yacht club and draws quite a crowd.

From there we moved over to Lagoonies, a cruiser's meeting place for dinner and live music.I also caught up with Kerry, an old school friend from back in the 70’s who is cruising with her partner Neil on their cat “You Never Know”

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Even though we didn’t get to do any sightseeing this time round, (we have been here a few times before), it was a good stopover and we did get done what we had set out to and that’s always a good thing.Tomorrow we would be heading further west to the British Virgin Islands, one of our favourite places in the Caribbean.



Friday, January 4, 2013

Antigua & St Barth's 2013

1st-3rd January 2013

New Year’s day dawned a little damp and overcast in Antigua. Slowly the light drizzle gave way to the sun and we were greeted by a spectacular sight courtesy of mother nature. A beautiful rainbow took centre stage in the sky and not only was it beautiful, but so was it’s twin.Yep, a double rainbow. You sure don’t see that very often. What a great way to start the new year. 


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The morning was spent enjoying a leisurely breakfast at the Inn over at Nelsons Dockyard with friends from Sundancer 2. Meanwhile the girls, Helen and Bridget, did a bit of exploring around the historic naval site and visited the museum, catching up on the history of Lord Horatio Nelson.

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Being New Years day most places were closed so we opted not to go into the main town of St John’s and instead did some snorkeling. Sadly the coral was not very colourful and the fish life was only average, still it’s always nice to jump in and have a look around.


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P1013398As we’d be heading off early next morning we once again said goodbye to Sundancer 2 and hoped that we’ll see them again next season when we head down towards Panama. So that was our first day of 2013, and the end of the day was as spectacular as the start with “you know who” giving us another awesome display of her magic.


Even with a good sailing angle and ENE wind of 20 kts it was a 90 mile run to St Maarten, which meant that we would be arriving in the dark. As dusk fell we were abeam of St Barth’s and as we had never stopped here, a mutual decision was made that this would be our spot for the night.


This island is another playground of the rich and famous and as we approached the place was lit up like a small city. It wasn’t until we were close to the anchorage outside the main town of Gustavia that  we realised that all the lights were coming from anchored superyachts, the likes of which we had never seen enmasse before. There had to be at least 40 of them all trying their best to out-do their neighbours with numerous deck lights and  underwater lights. It was quite the spectacle.



The town itself in the light of day wasn’t anything special, though it did have all the gucci shops including one that had a 24,000Euro fox jacket in the window! We wandered around for about an hour, had a very expensive coffee, dropped into a great supermarket and stocked up on a few yummy French specialties and that was the extent of our visit to St Barth’s.  Many of the super yachts had left the anchorage by the time we got back to GWTW but there were still enough to get some happy snaps.




Next stop for us would be the French / Dutch Island of St Maarten.