Terry and Anthony Visit Us in the Virgin Islands

Terry and Anthony Visit Us in the Virgin Islands

January 5 – January 18, 2007

Visitors! Yea! On January 5th my (Lisa) sister, Terry, and her husband, Anthony came to see us in the Virgin Islands. This was our first visit from family since embarking on this adventure, so needless to say we were pretty excited!

Since they arrived late on the 5th, we picked them up the morning of Saturday the 6th at the Crown Bay Marina on St. Thomas. We started the first day of their stay with a hearty breakfast from the Tickles restaurant at the marina – great food and very friendly staff! We had a busy 13 days planned with them aboard so we were anxious to get going, but first things first – we had to spend a day checking out the mega duty-free shopping available in Charlotte Amalie. Charlotte Amalie (pronounced a-MAL-ya) is the capital of St. Thomas and must be some kind of cruise ship capital as well. There were 5 cruise ships docked in St. Thomas that day which means there were approximately 7,500 shoppers perusing the same narrow, 17th century shopping streets that we were walking. Not exactly a quaint experience but we found some good deals and Terry started her vacation with a new island dress and a St. Thomas tote bag to carry back home to announce to everyone that yes, she had been in the Virgin Islands!

We ended their first official day in the islands with a celebratory dinner out at the highly acclaimed Cuzzin’s restaurant. We toasted to our brother Greg and his wife Joyce who had graciously paid for this meal by means of a green paper Christmas gift. The only thing that would have made the evening better is if Greg and Joyce could have been there with us.

An extra day was spent in Charlotte Amalie as we waited for the winds to settle a bit before taking our new crew directly into the easterly trades. By Monday we were able to set out for the Christmas Cove anchorage at the island of Great St. James, just a short 7 miles away but a world apart in atmosphere. No cruise ships, no shopping, no inhabitants (except for deer and goats) – just other sailboats sitting peacefully at anchor on the crystal clear turquoise water. Now they were starting to see what this cruising thing is all about.

Over the next 9 days we cruised through the U.S. and British Virgin Islands making stops at Jost Van Dyke, Sandy Cay, Tortola, Norman’s Island, and then again at Great St. James before returning to St. Thomas. The days slipped by quickly as we fished, we swam, we snorkeled, we walked on beaches, we toured Tortola by car (our first car trip in the Virgin Islands!), we had great relaxing visits in the cockpit, and of course, we worked on the boat – well, we had to give them the full experience!

Anthony caught some yellow snappers one day for our dinner (he’s a true cruiser!), and we had some wonderful meals ashore during their stay. Our favorite restaurants were Myett’s in Cane Garden Bay, Tortola; Rhymers in Cane Garden Bay; and Cuzzin’s back in St. Thomas. We had a good dinner and memorable night aboard The Willie T. at Norman’s Island. One of those “what happens in the islands stays in the islands” evenings. (For those of you who are 18 and older: if you follow the hyperlink, click on “More!” and then the Fun Stuff link to see more about what goes on at the infamous Willie T.) Oh, the memories… Don’t worry Mom, the tattoos were temporary.

By the end of their trip Terry and Anthony had experienced light wind sailing (with necessary motor assist), heavy wind sailing in a nine foot head sea, and then fantastically comfortable down-wind sledding on nine foot seas when three out of four votes said “let’s change our destination for the day!”. The weather was perfect and we never had to practice any man-overboard drills. And they were finally getting the hang of getting in and out of the dinghy!

Terry and Anthony – Thanks for visiting and crewing on Lucky Peek. We miss you!

Happy New Year!

Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands
January 1, 2007

We are now in the British Virgin Islands!

On Wednesday, December 27th we had a brisk motor-sail in strong trades with a 5 foot constant sea from Culebra to Great St. James Island (just 1 mile east of St. Thomas and west of St. John). Great St. James is a small, unpopulated island that is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands and its western anchorage of Christmas Cove was wonderful – definitely worthy of a revisit. We were able to tuck in close to the island and had a nice sandy spot in 15 feet to drop the hook. The VHF is alive again with Big Boat traffic (Fast ferries, barges, cruise ships, yachts) and of course there are many charter boats here, which can be an amusing audio diversion.

We were anxious to get to Jost Van Dyke, BVI (“Jost” is pronounced with a “Y” and a long “o” – yoast) so we only spent one night at Christmas Cove before moving on. After going through Current Cut, which we timed to go with the current and got a nice assist from it, we entered a body of water that was very much like a washing machine. Wind and waves blasting from the east, fast ferry wakes from all sides, various currents running, and all the vacationing people on their charter boats for the week zipping around. This must be part of what is referred to as “Puke Alley”. We finally got far enough east that we turned off the engine (yay!) and sailed the remaining distance (all of 4 miles) north to Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke.

We celebrated New Year’s Eve in Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, home of the infamous “Foxy’s”, along with more charterers (people that rent boats) than you could shake a stick at. And if we had had a stick on board we would have been shakin’ it. “Foxy’s” on Jost Van Dyke is on many lists as one of the top ten places in the world to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Hence, our purpose for getting here when we did. We had heard that during New Year’s Eve the harbor fills up with so many boats that you can practically walk to shore from boat to boat so we intended on getting there early and claiming our spot. That warning turned out to be not too much of an exaggeration as by the 31st there were more than 200 boats in the small harbor.

When we reached Great Harbour, JVD on Thursday, December 28th we easily found a spot to drop the hook in 15 feet of water relatively close to shore. The anchor set well in the sand and Rod put on his mask and fins to dive down and check its setting. He surfaced with the excellent report that he had never seen it set so well. We were feeling pretty good – we had a primo spot and now we could just sit back, relax and rest up for the big party at Foxy’s on the 31st. But the relaxing part didn’t last long…

By Friday afternoon the boats continued arriving, but none were leaving, as had been the routine on Thursday and early Friday. Charter boats, with their vacationing crew, tend to be on the move every day so they can visit as many anchorages as possible in their holiday week. Which, by the way, the week between Christmas and the New Year is the busiest week of the year in the Caribbean charter boat industry. Lucky us. By Saturday one boat had already dragged anchor next to us and they were too busy sucking on their beers to notice that their boat was MOVING. Not until the swimmers that were hanging on their back swim step were getting squished between their boat and the boat behind them did it register that something was amiss. They looked at me like I was a crazy lady when I was yelling “YOU’RE DRAGGING!” We continued to watch boat after boat drag because they had inadequately set their anchors. One boat had an exercise obsessed lady on the back deck and she was so focused in her second hour of calisthenics that she didn’t notice they had dragged about 75 yards and were still on the move toward other boats. Rod’s ear piercing whistle got their attention and our wild hand gestures got the point across.

We considered leaving Great Harbour on Sunday the 31st because we could see the insanity building and Rod was recovering from his head wound (details below). But dammit, we had planned on being here and had claimed our spot in the anchorage three days before these stupid people started arriving. And it would have taken us hours just to remove all the fenders we had tied around our boat! However, we did end up not even leaving the boat NYE day/night for fear of being dragged down on or ourselves dragging from all the other boats anchoring on top of us and possibly fouling our anchor (which for certain happened once and we had to reset). During that reset a boat load of non-English speaking people hit the stern of our boat while we were backing down on our anchor and they didn’t seem to grasp the implications (or our English) of damaging our windvane as the side of their Sunsail charter boat was scraping along it. We had to have anxious words with them for them to understand that they needed to move their bleepin’ boat!

Rod’s head wound: We had watched a 47′ charter catamaran anchor in front of us and observed them put out about 2:1 scope (5:1 is the norm). We were keeping an eye on it, especially when about 5 minutes after they dropped the hook they loaded into their dinghy and left the boat. We went below for a few minutes and came up to see it heading our way, which wasn’t going to take too long since it was only about 15 feet in front of us to begin with. The cruisers behind us had already seen it and had jumped in their dinghy to board the cat and start its engines. While we were fending it off the cruiser guy got on the cat and drove it away from us. Turned out there was a guy on board who was down below asleep – both he and the guy now driving the cat looked pretty surprised when sleepy guy came into the cockpit! Using their handy electric windlass they pulled up their anchor, which had now grabbed our chain. Rod jumped in the water to go under the cat and unhook our chain from their anchor. (This is now all happening right off our starboard side.) They had already pulled the anchor all the way out of the water and now their windlass was stuck and the anchor wouldn’t go back down. So Rod had to monkey himself onto the anchor to pull our chain off of it and during this maneuver as soon as the chain came free the anchor swung free and bashed him in the face. Rod was sent flying backward into the water — I thought it had knocked him unconscious so I was, um, calm challenged. His lights didn’t go completely out so he resurfaced quickly and got back on our boat. Meanwhile, two other boats are swarming in around us to anchor, Rod’s forehead is bleeding and tweety birds are flying around his head, and we have a fouled hook that we have to deal with. Needless to say, we were in no short supply of adrenaline at this point. Now you can imagine our state of mind when that boat wouldn’t get off our stern and didn’t seem to comprehend the damage they were nearly causing to our boat/home. It was as if they were thinking “Hey, relax man, have a drink, you’re on vacation.” Shaw.

It took many hours for our nerves to settle down after all this. Rod’s head is okay – he had a big goose egg knot with the skin split in the middle, but no stitches were required. Good thing, because my suturing abilities might have left a scar.

Even though we didn’t go ashore for the festivities that night we enjoyed sitting on the foredeck listening to the live music from Foxy’s – which stayed live until 5am. It was a warm evening, we shared a nice kiss at midnight under the bright stars, and the boats continued to drag around us.

Hope everyone had a safe closing to 2006 and we wish you all the best in 2007.

Happy New Year!

Christmas in Culebra

Culebra, Spanish Virgin Islands
December 2006

We are now in the Spanish Virgin Islands! The Spanish Virgin Islands of Vieques and Culebra lie less than 20 miles to the east of Puerto Rico and are a short jump even for a slow moving sailboat. In route we spent a day and a night on the west coast of Vieques (where until two years ago the U.S. Navy used to play with bombs) and then we sailed on to Culebra. We are now snugged into Ensenada Honda on the south coast of Culebra by the small town of Dewey and will stay put for a bit as the winds are forecasted to pick back up and blow stink (sailor talk for strong winds). We’re in the good company of Receta, Magus, and Indigo, among about 25 other boats in the harbor.

We left Salinas on Sunday, December 17th in a light drizzle of rain and motored the short distance of 5 miles to anchor behind the small island of Boca de Infierno (“Mouth of Hell” – not a very welcoming name for what is really a nice little remote spot). Lucky Peek could barely make way with the reef that had grown on the prop and bottom from our time in Playa de Salinas. It was a slow trip to B. de I. but it felt great to be out of the landcuffs of Salinas and away from its commercial temptations. Rod freed the sealife from the boat once we arrived so we anticipated making better speed on our next leg to Punta Patilla. We stayed an additional day/night at B. de I. to enjoy its quiet seclusion by swimming, lying in the sun, reading, chatting about what life is going to be like when we return, and napping. We even mixed up a batch of pina coladas in our newly purchased boat inverter-friendly blender! How will we ever adapt to life on land again?

Hindsight is so clear, isn’t it? We left Boca de Infierno knowing that the seas were still around 8+ feet from the east but we knew that just another day later the seas would be down which would make the run from Punta Patilla to Vieques much more enjoyable. So, we headed out – rockin’ and a-rollin’, a-pitchin’ and a-almost hurlin’. I made the cardinal mistake of going below to respond to a call on the VHF and spent way to much time chatting with Magus, giving them a conditions report. I emerged with a slightly green pallor to receive a head-shaking scolding from Rod. Lesson learned – do not go below in these seas. Relief was in sight as the Punta Patilla anchorage came into view that afternoon, but we still had to navigate around a couple of reefs before we could relax and call it a day. No problems there but once we got the hook down the boat still had an uncomfortable roll due to the swell that was making its way around the island. We didn’t get much rest that night but it made getting an early start the next morning pretty easy – if the boat is going to be moving around then we may as well be under way.

We had a beautiful sail on to Vieques and picked up one of the many free (!) moorings for the night at Green Beach on the west coast. The discomfort from the previous day was already melting away in the warm sun. So what did we learn? Well, had we waited just one more day at Boca de Infierno we would have had the pleasure of flat seas into Punta Patilla followed by a planned 3am departure to go straight to Culebra, but skipping the stop at Vieques. Magus and Indigo planned well by waiting.

Green Beach was a beautiful, quiet spot and we would have liked to have stayed at least another night but the winds were picking up to honking speed so we wanted to scoot on to the more protected waters of Ensenada Honda on the south coast of Culebra. So that is where we are now and we love it here! There are only about 2000 people that live on the island and from the sampling of locals that we’ve seen the population is made up of an eclectic mix of Puertorriquenos, retired U.S. Snow-birds, along with a sizable hippy contingent.

Christmas is right around the corner and we’ve been invited to a couple of Christmas day celebrations by the welcoming people of Culebra. One of which is at Flamenco Beach on the north side of the island – it’s reputed to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. So it looks like we’ll be having a white Christmas after all. White sand, that is.

Merry Christmas to all!

Feliz Cumpleanos, Lisa!

Salinas, Puerto Rico
December 12, 2007

The safe harbor at Playa de Salinas on the southern coast of Puerto Rico is one of the most protected anchorages of Puerto Rico’s 300 mile coastline. It provided a secure place in which to leave Lucky Peek for a few days and do some inland touring of La Isla del Encanto (The Island of Enchantment).

We spent a day in nearby Ponce’, which is rich in 18th century architecture and offered an impressive art museum – with air conditioning! We stayed a couple of nights in Old San Juan, walking through the 16th century El Morro fort and strolling through the city’s historical district. Old San Juan is chock full of history – more than this update is going to even touch. The drive along the northern coast offered some contrasting vistas from the dry southern coast. Lush, green landscapes with sudden rock outcroppings. Brightly painted houses perched atop hills that seemed impossible to reach by car. Kinda sounds like a picture out of a Dr. Seus story – it wasn’t quite like that but it was just as visually interesting.

In Aguadilla we visited the Micron Puerto Rico facility where Ricardo and Alexis were gracious with their time to show us around the site and have lunch with us at The Hungry Belly on the beach by Punta Jacinto. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with them and soaked up the information they shared on Puerto Rico, the people, the culture, the politics. Stories much better told in person that any guide book could offer.

And then there was the shopping. Costco, Home Depot, Sears, West Marine, K-Mart, and a large store that shall remain unnamed to protect us from those who believe it evil. We spent four, yes four, hours in Costco. Then, you won’t believe this, we spent another 2 1/2 hours in the unnamed store that rhymes with DrawlMart. We are insane. This was all after spending 1 1/2 hours in West Marine and an hour in another marine store. Our feet and bank accounts were groaning by midnight when we made it back to the boat. The little rental car was stuffed full and we weren’t sure where everything was going to go on the boat! But we now have enough canned food on board to feed an army for a year. Or at least it will feed us for the next three months.

With the provisions creatively packed away and the rental car returned (with only minor damage) we were now preparing to leave Salinas and make way for the Spanish Virgin Islands. But first we had to have a little celebration – my (Lisa’s) birthday! The morning of December 12th I awoke to the aroma of freshly grilled banana pancakes and as the day lazily progressed Rod continued to pamper me and make my day special. We went to a nice dinner that night at a shoreside restaurant and toasted to another great year of life. Another year of adventure and ample usage of sunscreen so I can lie about my age.