Pictures/Journal - page 3

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Trellis Bay, Beef Island, BVI:

de Loose Mongoose Beach Bar / Restaurant

ARGO in background

Danny & Penny, Chocolat Blanc

Entertaining cruiser Jack

Caroline & Simon, managers at de Loose Mongoose

 

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS (B.V.I.) - June 3 - 16:   After clearing in at Roadtown, Tortola, we moved to Trellis Bay, Beef Island.  The BVIs are very mountainous with lots of lush greenery and the Flamboyant trees with their bright orange flowers are highly visible against the green landscape.  The water is clear blue and the sand white, and even though it is not as shallow as the Bahamas or T&C, you still have to watch out for reefs (marked on the charts).

Our good friend from Houston, Rhys, lives here now and being a diesel/mechanical engineer has been of enormous help with various boat projects and isolating electrical problems, and has taken us around to drop off laundry, do shopping and other errands.  Sixteen years ago, and again fifteen years ago, the three of us chartered here with our sailing club, T.A.S.S., and anchored at Trellis Bay.  How things have changed:  Now there are several beach bars/restaurants, local shops and small ferry services to other islands.  The Last Resort is still here, but have made the purple and pink beach bar at de Loose Mongoose our daily hang out with Rhys and friends.  Simon & Caroline manage de Loose Mongoose and Beef Island Guest House here.  A striking difference from where we have come from is the number of charter boats here (gotta watch out for the bare boat charters!).  Of course, this is a prime place for chartering boats as many islands and great anchorages are close by.  We have met John & Fiona (sailboat Sundowner, www.sundownersailing.com) and Danny & Penny (catamaran Chocolat Blanc, www.chocolatblanc.com) who charter out and captain their own boats for hire out of Trellis Bay.

We left Trellis Bay, made a stop in Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda to clear out, and then took off south.

Virgin Gorda, BVI

 

 

 

de Loose Mongoose beach bar at sunset; Steve & Rhys on right

Fiona & John, Sundowner, Penny, Chocolat Blanc

Sunset

Rhys (Houston friend) and Greg at de Loose Mongoose Beach Bar

With Rhys at Trellis

 
General Blurb #1: 

We have been moving very quickly, as we knew we would, since we got a late start, leaving Houston March 1st.  Why so fast you might ask.  We should be to Grenada for hurricane season, which is technically July 1 through November 30.  Hurricanes generally don't get that far south, and that's why cruisers head for Grenada, Trinidad & Tobago, Venezuela, Margarita and other surrounding islands in the summer.  So that is why we have not been able to linger much along the way, other than to wait for weather,  and are skipping by a lot of the islands.  In the past, we have chartered for 2 or 3 weeks at a time and have seen many of these islands, so we don't feel too bad passing them by now.  Our plan at this time is to come back up the island chain next season possibly as far as Guadeloupe, and spend leisurely time exploring places we have not been before, and going back to places we have enjoyed in the past.

Sailing at night is sometimes preferable if we have a long distance to travel.  As in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, the high day time winds make it almost necessary to travel the coast at night in the night island lees when the winds are calmest.  During the past 4 months, we have traveled 15 times at night.  It's very similar to flying a plane at night using only instruments.  We make big use of our radar, along with our usual electronics such as the GPS which is interfaced with our navigation software on our PC.  Contrary to what some may think, we do not anchor out in the middle of the ocean at night - we don't carry enough chain to do that - so we have to keep sailing! 

We have been surprised at the number of cruisers (and charterers) on catamarans.  They are very popular as they afford a whole lot of livable room and the big aft decks are great for entertaining.  Years ago when we chartered, we would only see a few of them.

Radio communication is the best way of communicating and getting weather.  There are numerous "nets" on the SSB (single side band) and HAM radio.  A "net" is where at a designated time you tune into a predetermined frequency.  There are several nets that we routinely use.  We use nets for:  contacting others and switching to another frequency to talk (e.g., talking to other cruisers or our friends in Houston); listening to various weather reports; getting custom weather info for a crossing (e.g., Herb "Southbound II"); getting news; getting/inquiring about safety and security issues; and sending/receiving emails.  One of the advantages is that it's like a party line, in that many people can receive and exchange information at the same time.  The disadvantage is that you have to have a time and place set up in advance, and that any one can listen in.  

During our first 3 months of travel, we had rain only a handful of days and then it was light.  As soon as we reached the Virgin Islands, and since, we have experienced rain at least once a night - frequently lasting only a few minutes.  Just long enough to get up and close the hatch, and then open it back up 5 minutes later.  Even daytime rains last only a few minutes, then bright blue skies again.  We like the rain, especially after doing a crossing as it washes the the salt water off the boat.

From the Bahamas south to Martinique (Leeward Islands), if you look at a small scale map, the islands lay more or less in a southeast direction.  The prevailing winds this time of the year are from the southeast or east.  You can not sail into the wind.  Therefore, much of the traveling until Martinique has been motorsailing - using both sails and motor.  We have been lucky to be able to sail parts of the trip when the wind shifted or we were sailing in another direction.  From Martinique south (Windward Islands), the islands lay in a more or less southwest direction, still with a prevailing southeast/east wind.  Therefore, cruisers generally enjoy this part more from a sailing standpoint as they are able to sail their sailboats.  What a novel concept!

The Leeward Islands are an island chain just south of the Virgin Islands, laying in a southeast direction.  This includes, north to south, Anguilla, St. Martin, St. Barts, Saba, Statia, St. Kitts, Nevis, Barbuda, Antigua, Montserrat (active volcano), Guadeloupe and The Saintes, and Dominica.  We have been to half of these islands in the past. 

The Windward Islands are an island chain just south of the Leeward Islands., laying in a southwest direction.  This includes, north to south, Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (which is made up of several smaller islands such as Bequia, Mustique and the Tobago Cays), and Grenada.  We have been to about half of these islands in the past.

These islands are all unique.  Many are volcanic and mountainous with rain forests, others are coral and flat, and some are shifting tectonic plates making up their hilliness.  These islands are either British, French or Dutch and a few are now independent (St. Kitts and Nevis).  This necessitates the rigor of clearing in and clearing out of customs and immigration each time we enter/depart a different country - which can definitely try our patience to say the least (you know, they're on "island time").  There are language and cultural differences to contend with, and local cuisine to sample, along with the local beer. 

COUNTRY: LOCAL BEER: LOCAL FOOD:
  (biere - birra - cerveza)  
Bahamas   Conch, lobster, fish
Turks & Caicos    
Dominican Republic Presidente Rum (not sure what food group this is from)
Puerto Rico Medalla Mofongos
Caribbean Carib, Mosel Rotis
Martinique Lorraine Cheese, pate, baguettes
St. Lucia Piton  

 

 

 

Saba:  air landing strip on top of mountain

 

St. Kitts

 

Montserrat:  volcano

 

 

 

LEEWARD ISLANDS PASSAGE - JUNE 16 - 20:    We left Virgin Gorda, BVI on June 16 with the intent of sailing overnight straight to St. Martin or St. Barts (both previously visited).  However, the wind and seas (both moderate) were right on the nose creating an uncomfortable sail, not to mention slowed our progress.  We decided to fall off the wind a little, which  allowed us to make use of sails to increase our speed substantially and level out the boat.  But now we were headed further south and would miss St. Martin.  We decided to head to Nevis instead which would put us a lot further south towards Grenada.  After an evening of "sporting" sailing in the middle of nowhere, the next day we sailed past Saba (a small mountainous gem of an island), Statia, St. Kitts (previously visited)  and arrived at Nevis.  These islands are referred to as the Islands That Brush the Clouds, as they are all very lush, high volcanic mountains with clouds hanging over the peaks.  At Nevis we anchored off a pristine white beach lined with coconut trees.  Nevis and St. Kitts are now independent countries (previously under British rule) and share the same government.  We spent a day exploring Nevis.  The Nevis Museum/his birth house highlights the fact that "our" Alexander Hamilton (signer of Constitution, Secretary of Treasurer and on $10 bill (I think), initiated the Coast Guard, etc.) was born in Nevis and did a lot for this country, too.

We left Nevis in conditions that had several boats turning back around, but once we cleared the land effects of the island it wasn't too bad.  ARGO's cockpit is pretty dry anyway, and having full dodger, bimini and weather cloths definitely makes a huge difference in being dry and comfortable, or wet and miserable, and so we continued on in "comfort". 

Depending on weather, we had planned on stopping in Guadeloupe or The Saintes after an overnight sail, or in Montserrat if weather was too rough.  We sailed past Montserrat keeping a wide clearance as the volcano is still active.  We could see and smell ash and sulfur in the air.  The southern part of the island is now barren from recent years' eruptions.  The northern part is still lush, but tourism, once big, is now almost nonexistant. 

Once again we changed our plans while under sail as wind and seas were favorable and we were making very good time (had current helping us out, too).  We arrived at Guadeloupe and The Saintes just after midnight, and decided to keep sailing instead of waiting around for daybreak.  We sailed past Dominica (previously visited) at dawn and arrived at St. Pierre, Martinique midday.

        

 

Nevis:

Anchorage

 

 Pinney's Beach

 

 Sunshine Beach Bar, home of the Killer Bee (drink)

 

Golden Rock Plantation

  

Martinique:

H.M.S. Diamond Rock

Bob & Susan on Sunrise

Baguette "condom" for BD; note TGS parrot on mast

Floating dry dock at Le Marin

Club Med beach

Ste. Anne beach

 

WINDWARD ISLANDS - JUNE 20 -      :    We rested up, cleaned up the boat, found a favorite restaurant from years ago, and visited the big Saturday open-air market in St. Pierre, Martinique.  We then headed to the south tip of Martinique where we passed the H.M.S. Diamond Rock.  This is a big rock strategically positioned, and the British navy in the early 1800's, being short on ships, commissioned this rock as a ship in their fleet, and equipped it with cannons, supplies and water for a full crew.  They succeeded for 18 months and surprised unsuspecting ships sailing into Martinique.

We sailed into Ste. Anne, Martinique where we rendezvoused with our good friends from Houston, Bob & Susan on Sunrise.  They have been cruising for almost 5 years, and we had promised them years ago that we would meet up with them down island.  We keep our promises!

We anchored close to shore at a wonderful beach, just down from  Club Med (all beaches are public in Martinique), and you know what else French beaches are known for:  Shelling.  So "shelling" has become a very popular past time for the guys. 

Debbie celebrated her birthday here, and Sunrise gave her a very useful baguette "condom" for carrying French bread from bakery back to boat.  Sunrise also taught us how to play Mexican Train with a large or small group.  Not what you're thinking.  It's a dominoes game very popular among cruisers.   We've gotten hooked on it now.

After a week and a half, ARGO and Sunrise had a wonderful sail south to Rodney Bay, St. Lucia.  Another great anchorage just off the resorts' pretty beach.  We made a visit into "the city" (Castries), our first time to use public transportation via the bus - vans holding about 15 people, passing by frequently and pretty much stop wherever you want and costs about a buck - easy, convenient and cheap.  Hope we find public transportation like this elsewhere, as taxis can get expensive.

Listening to weather, we heard that a rather organized tropical wave was going to pass over us.  We moved ARGO into the nice Rodney Bay Marina as this is cheap "insurance".  This is our first time in a marina in 3 months - how decadent having cable TV, our first since leaving Houston.  As it turned out, the tropical wave turned into "local" weather when it hit St. Lucia's east coast, causing 50 knot winds in the bay, and 44 knot winds in our slip at the protected marina.  There is also an inner harbor here that is used as a hurricane hole when necessary.  We were secure; however, the boats that stayed anchored in the bay were more at risk, as several boats dragged their anchor(s).  I don't think any collisions occurred, though.  In situations like this, you don't just have to worry about yourself, but about the other boats around you.

We are preparing to head south once more towards Grenada, as Steve's daughter Jana (28) is flying into Grenada July 18 for 11 days.  It probably would be a good idea if we were there to meet her at the airport!

 

  

St. Lucia:

Anchorage / beach

Playing Mexican Train with Bob & Susan

Schooner

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                                                                          Last updated 03/15/2009                                             

 

 

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