Click for more pictures here
Her Vital Statistics
January 2016 -- Website Update: DoodleBug has been "reloaded" and has made the transition from rental boat to cruising boat. I have moved all of the 2015 "blog" to "trip logs" which you can accessing by clicking the catamaran picture to the right. No pictures yet but I'll get to them eventually.
January 2016 -- Website Update: We have bid Australia a sad farewell for a while and our Toyota Coaster RV HAS BEEN SOLD!!! Thank You Ray at Koolah Kampers!! (see www.koolahkampers.com.au). I have re-ordered the daily entries into time order, moved the trip-logs to a new page and ADDED PICTURES!!. You will find the link to the right (click on the white bus picture).
The logs of our sailing circumnavigation were moved down a level and you will find the link to the right (click on the S/V DoodleBug picture to get to the "old" web-site).
We have also "cleaned up" the sailing logs and reformatted them into .epub files, so that they may be downloaded and read at your convenience on an iPad or Kindle reader as "e-books". Because there are about 6,000 embedded photos in the original website, I needed to split the log of the cruise into 18 "volumes". To date, I have tested these eBook files on both a "Kindle Fire" and an "iPad3". Click right on the "books" icon to access the files for download.
May 19, 2016
This morning we rented a motor scooter and I was instantly transported back to the carefree days of my youth, when the dolly-girl du jour would be on the pillion, clinging tightly on the corners. Go-go boots and mini-skirts. No texting. No music videos! Of course today it’s electric starters and automatic transmissions but the sense of freedom is still there and most importantly, we didn’t have to walk uphill to visit Fort Napoleon. This was our first stop since it conveniently is closed to visitors in the afternoon. Pourquoi? The museum seems to have plenty of employees, plus rooms barred to entry and marked for “administration”. A steady stream of visitors poured in at 5 euros per head but the museum and grounds seem run down. Outside there are sun-bleached signs in French requesting that you not “kill” the native iguanas but apart from this environmentally correct admonition, the yard overall has a dry and neglected look. Inside the museum, the exhibits similarly sport fading signs in French. Occasionally, maybe for one in twenty, there will be a nearby translation of the information to English but no discernable pattern to this break in the francophone monopoly.
The fort itself was destroyed by British forces in 1809 and the current fort rebuilt in 1867. This was an awkward time for defensive structures as the concurrent American Civil war had seen the common use of rifled cannons, armor piercing and exploding shells. This fort was built with moats, canon-emplacements and bunkers. A curious melange of styles, as though the architects couldn’t decide whether they were to be assaulted by cross-bows or howitzers. It was named for Napoleon III, the nephew of the “real” Napoleon. The former had been elected President of France but due to term limits, couldn’t run for re-election. He then staged a coup d’etat and had himself crowned Emperor – see, all he needed was a pen and a phone.
The fort was never used in any kind of battle and instead served as a penitentiary. Even here it disappoints, no guillotine or solitary cells to hold a glowering Steve McQueen. What does not disappoint is that the fort is located on the crown of a “bluff” and does provide great views of the islets and anchorages.
We spent the balance of the day touring the island and covered just about every paved road. This is truly a beautiful location and deserves its reputation of the jewel of the French Caribbean.
May 18, 2016
Today’s log entry began last night, when at dusk we received a call on our VHF radio from the Montserrat port control. We had just enjoyed supper ashore and had stopped by the only remaining vessel in the anchorage, a 50 foot Beneteau named “My Elephant”, US flagged but claiming a home port of Delaware (amateurs!!) and crewed by four Russian Nationals. The Russians as always, were charming and perfect hosts and we had enjoyed drinking a beer with them and chatting about ocean passages and our own travels in Russia. They had crossed the Atlantic last year with the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) but had been informed by the Montserrat officialdom that they would need a visa in order to land here. (The nuclear secrets of this island need to be scrupulously protected!). They were still trapped aboard and we were now three beers down when the voice on the radio requested us to move from our anchoring spot in order to make way for an arriving freighter. There was no possible way that we were blocking this idiot from anchoring but hey, we are guests here. We raised our anchor and after discovering, to no great surprise, the balance of the bay was too deep for our meager chain length, we anchored just off the beach in the next bay over. Here the charts indicated a sea bed of “rocks” instead of “sand”, not a good place to dump a couple of thousand dollars worth of anchor and chain and we were not happy. To add to our imagined misery, we could no longer access the internet. Time to split this pop-stand!
We raised our anchor at 2150 hours and set sail for Guadeloupe, some 70 miles and nine hours passage to the south. We were expecting rough conditions and tried to ensure that everything was well stowed and snugged down before we left. Raising the anchor went relatively smoothly, if indeed it was hung up on rocks, it freed itself quickly and we set of with about two thirds moon, high above the thin clouds and illuminating the waves. The electronic charts were bursting with warnings about uncharted hazards downwind of the volcano as well as lethal and toxic gases. Our land tour today had indicated none of these but nevertheless we plotted a course to take us well clear of the abandoned capital of Plymouth. For an hour and a half we headed south in a mild chop and watched the formation of rain pods on our radar, both before us and after our passage. We never did take a direct hit from the rain but we could smell the “rotten eggs” odor of sulfuric compounds from the interior of the volcano as we passed by in the darkness. All too soon, we left the wind shelter of the island, knowing that the next four hours were destined to be uncomfortable.
At just before 2 a.m. we were at N 16 21.3’ W 062 02.7’ with seas in the 4 to 5 foot range, breaking over the bow and flooding the “wing” area between the bows. This area is not well equipped with drains but DoodleBug seemed to shrug off the extra weight and ploughed on. As far as I noticed, the bilge alarm went off but once during the nine hour transit and it was likely that this was when we dumped condensate from the port air-conditioner. By the time we reached the north of Guadeloupe the waves were in the 6 to 8 foot range and it was with some relief that we felt the benefit of the shelter by the bulk of Guadeloupe to the east as we headed south along its coast. The moon set as a ruddy and squashed ball at around 3:00 a.m. and we lost this wonderful source of light and security. In return we now had the reflected shore lights from the island and as we neared open sea again to the south, dawn was breaking. One more hour of miserable crashing conditions as we fought our way “uphill” and we entered the shelter of Les Isles de Saintes, taking up a mooring at 0655 hours, just off the main port of Terre de Haut, N 15 52.1’ W 061 35.2’. We have arrived back in French territory!
May 17, 2016
We dinghied ashore this morning and walked over to the previously abandoned warehouse where there were now a half dozen officials in uniform, milling around outside of the building. We knew we were supposed to check in through door number “2”, the one with a large number two painted on it and was in fact the only closed door. We opened the mysterious door and entered into an empty waiting room, sporting several reception windows in the walls and watched as the various offices were filled up by the the officials who had previously been loitering outside. With an island population of around 4,500, a uniform and a job at the only port facility must be a much sought after post. It took three of the windows to “check us in” but thanks to the wonders of the internet, I had already filed all of the necessary information when we were in St. Kitts. Once we had paid our various fees, moved the receipt the several feet between the windows and were legally present, we were permitted to leave the security of the port facility and met our tour guide for the day, “Uncle Des”.
Uncle Des drove an aging Toyota van with nearly every body panel dented and a totally opaque side window for the rear seat passengers, not exactly the best option for sight seeing. Nevertheless he piloted this vehicle both cautiously and competently and so one wonders how he managed to trash his van so badly.
Our first tour stop was to the National Museum, mostly dedicated to the memory of George Martin, the producer of the Beatles music, who founded “Air Studios Montserrat” here in 1979. Montserrat became a gathering place for all of the beautiful people and an alternate to their exclusive haven further south on Mustique (presumably George couldn’t go there because the Rolling Stones had already staked out the best home sites in the Grenadines). Uncle Des was disappointed that we didn’t know who the late George Martin was and in truth I had to look him up on the internet. Annette and I instead remember Brian Epstein as the Beatles manager, who killed himself with the traditional 1960’s drug overdose, so if you want to be remembered to posterity, better to become famous and then kill yourself. In 1989, category 4 hurricane Hugo hit Montserrat, wiping out the fledgling tourist industry and damaging some 90% of the properties. George Martin then realized why everyone else was hangin’ down south and Air Studios was permanently shut down with no attempt to make repairs. This was just as well because six years later in July 1995, there was a major eruption of the local volcano, Soufriere Hills. The pyroclastic flows from Soufriere buried the island capital of Plymouth under 40 feet of ash and mud. The airport terminal was wiped out together with the new cruise ship dock at the port. In all, about two thirds of the island is within an exclusion zone where special permission is required just to enter. Around two thirds (8,000 people) of the then population chose to emigrate, mostly to the UK.
Des drove us south towards the old capital of Plymouth and through the parts of the island that were relatively untouched by physical damage but even here, many of the properties and businesses had been abandoned. As we passed through the various parishes, Des would point out the church and type of congregation, or say that used to be a service station, or that is where the elementary school used to be.
Montserrat was established as a colony in 1628 and the founders imported white slaves from Ireland to work the plantations which, as throughout the tropics, were to grow sugar cane. Presumably the so called ‘indentured servants” did not thrive under the tropical conditions and the harsh physical labor of cane growing and were later supported by the import of African slaves. I had wondered about the use of the Shamrock symbol plus references to St. Patrick and and Irish place names on the island. As late as 1831 it was reported that the Irish Gaelic language was being commonly spoken by both black and white slaves on the island, with free intermarrying between the two groups. Today the language is English but there remains a strange mixture of pseudo Anglican churches, Irish bars and Caribbean African culture, superimposed, one on another.
We stopped to visit a Seventh Day Adventist elementary school that was within the “no living” exclusion zone. The building was intact, the gardens overgrown, about eighteen inches of ash at the door thresholds and then you step down into an abandoned classroom with the desks, books on bookshelves, all in place. It was as though the owners really expected to be able to return. I felt that this was what Pompeii was truly like a couple of thousand years ago. It was not the apocalyptic destruction of a town as portrayed in school history books but the gradual acceptance that, “Hey, this isn’t going to get any better; let’s just give it up and move on.”
We passed by a geothermal project that is supposed to come on line in the near future and supplant the five diesel generators that the island is currently using to produce electricity. Near the project there were large yellow machines mining aggregate for export to neighboring islands for building material. There is no other economy. The island is totally dependent upon DFID (Department for International Development), a UK Ministry that operates somewhat like FEMA (with similar efficiencies and track record). We stopped at an overlook and gazed in awe and horror at the town of Plymouth, buried under the flow of material from the volcano whose summit was now wreathed in clouds. Another stop was at a once high end resort where weddings would be held. The reception desk stood with telephones at the ready. There were office supply catalogs and receipt books. The low voltage lighting was in place around the swimming pool whose stainless ladder descended into several feet of ash. The sea lay as before, blue and sparkling. A way of life interrupted, never to return.
We had earlier stopped at a “not for profit” organization based at the Hilltop café on Gingerbread Hill. I had asked the proprietor Clover, what the economy of the island was and she had looked at me blankly. She said there had been an attempt to bring in a hotel for tourism but that was not the type of industry they wanted and the project was shut down. She complained bitterly about the incompetence of DFID in that there had been no real attempt to rebuild the island’s infrastructure but when I asked her where the money was to come from, she was visibly confused. I had a similar conversation with “Uncle Des” and he again assumed that the mysterious, inexhaustible well of government money would solve the island’s woes. This reminded me strongly of the young aboriginal boy we met in the Australian Outback who when asked where money comes from, said confidently that it comes out of a machine in the wall near the post office. When he was asked how the money got into the machine, he explained that a man in Canberra put the money into his machine there and it comes out here. See, he knew!
May 16, 2016
Charles, the marina manager promised us he would be at work at 6:00 a.m. thus we prepared for a departure at this time, hoping to benefit from the lower winds, with everything stowed securely on deck, engine checks done, power cords stowed and trash dumped. At 7:10 he finally rolled up at his office, we paid our bill, dropped our mooring lines and headed out to sea.
As we motored south in the shelter of the bulk of the island, we first had to dodge a cruise ship that was docking at the port, watched closely by a little security vessel that came bobbing towards us like a terrier pup. The sky was 5/8th cloud with showers along the 3,000 foot tall mountains to the east of us, extending all the way down the island chain to Nevis. The sea had an annoying two foot chop but overall it was a pleasant run for the next hour and a half as we passed by the sea cliffs of the island of Nevis and cleared the southernmost tip, leaving the brooding rain clouds behind. Ahead we could see the island of Redonda and beyond that Montserrat, some 30 miles away. By 0920 hours we were at N 17 04.5’ W 062 35.9’ making 8.2 knots into waves in the 3 to 4 foot range. The sky still had 3/8ths. cloud cover but was otherwise sunny, a beautiful day in the Caribbean and we could see Antigua off to the port side as we passed within a mile and a half of the strange thrusting bulk of Redonda. The islet belongs to Antigua / Barbuda and looks thoroughly inaccessible with towering sea cliffs of soft volcanic ash. We dropped anchor at Little Bay, Montserrat at 1254 hours at N 16 48.1’ W 062 12.43’, just off the beach in a protected hook of land, with cliffs to the port side. Since the St. Kitts Customs and Immigration had been so rabid, we soon dinghied ashore to check in. After searching through deserted warehouses for a few minutes, we found a lady in uniform who informed us that it was a public holiday in Montserrat and it would cost an extra $120 to check in today. We could check in tomorrow morning and just pay the regular fees. Since everything was closed anyway and the afternoon wearing on, we decided to do just this but made arrangements with the taxi driver “Uncle Des” for a tour on the morrow. The appointment was made by “illegally” yelling through the fence at him. We are in Montserrat, sort of.
May 15, 2016
The big event this morning was to walk to a grocery store, a little over a mile away. The wonders of the internet had shown that it was one of the few establishments open on a Sunday morning. St. Kitts, like many Caribbean Islands, pretty much shuts down on Sunday.
We enjoyed a lazy day ourselves. We had set ourselves a goal of finding a man we had met here in 2009, John Coggins, formerly a resident of Tyseley, Birmingham. Many people we spoke to said they knew John “well” but hadn’t seen him in several years. On an island this size, it means he isn’t here any more.
May 14, 2016
Laundry day! Annette loves to have all of her laundry washed, folded and put away and so she began her first load, running our washing machine from the inverter (house battery bank) with unlimited water from a dockside hose. The electrician did show up and stopped by to see if I had a meter he could borrow. He then disappeared again to seek stainless steel nuts for the power pedestal. When he returned, he announced that the power cords had never been pulled into that pedestal (I had guessed this from the spider webs around the sockets) and he couldn’t fix this by himself. He offered the solution of us wiring into the power outlets on the next slip down with a “hot-wired” extension, to which we concurred. We now had the luxury of air-conditioning and could also plug the washing machine into city power!
Later that afternoon we went on a second expedition with Marvin, seeking additional conch toes for Annette’s collection and obtained another slimy handful, rescued from the rotting mass of guts on the seashore. When the security guard cautiously asked me what she wanted them for, I responded that the reason I have been married for forty five years is that I don’t ask questions like that.
May 13, 2016
After a comfortable night at anchor, this morning we dinghied back along the coast for some miles to check in with Customs and Immigration at the at the Port Zante Marina, located at the island capital of Basseterre. There was a cruise ship tied up at the main dock and we mingled with the passengers, forcing our way through the security cordon to reach the Customs office. In all we had to visit three different offices but all were very pleasant and polite. At the Immigration office, the lady officer was singing country and western songs as she stamped our passports and had a cable from her portable radio hooked up to a wire coat-hanger, suspended on a nail driven in the wall. At the harbor master’s office, when asked where our boat was, I vaguely jerked my head in the direction of the bay and said it was “just around the corner”, which seemed to satisfy. The marina office itself was empty but the security officer called the marina manager on his phone. When we asked about availability of a slip for a couple of days, we were told to “check back this afternoon”. There followed a hard, jolting dinghy ride back to DoodleBug. The wind had picked up and there was now a nasty, short chop to the water, demonstrating that a taxi ride to the port would have been a much better option.
That afternoon we did indeed move to a marina slip and Marvin, one of the transient marina workers, drove us over to a local fisherman’s dock to seek conch toes for Annette. When we arrived at the dock, he told us to wait in the car and to “shut up”. He would “do the talkin’ ”. He did in fact obtain nine “toes” for Annette’s collection. The “conch” is a marine gastropod mollusk that can move itself along the seafloor using a single “foot”, terminating in a brown chitinous extremity, somewhat like a large fingernail. The conch digs this “toe” into the sea bed and then hauls itself on this temporary anchor to gain a few inches of motion. The fishermen generally throw away the “toes” as well as the guts when cleaning the conch for the local seafood markets. Annette has amazed and fascinated the locals as to why she wants these and just about all of the marina workers know that she is seeking them.
Back at the marina we discovered that there was no electricity available at our slip and have been promised that an electrician will come and take a look, “tomorrow”. We gained some slip neighbors when another boat arrived at around 5:30 p.m. and they were instructed to check in with the Customs at the nearby Cruise Ship dock and then to take a taxi to the airport to check in with Immigration. The marina manager was adamant that the crew could not leave the marina premises to go shopping until their Captain had checked everyone in.
May 12, 2016
Yesterday the generator again failed to start. This is most annoying as on the previous occasion, I had “jumpered” across the “start” switch which had seemed to solve the issue. The problem was that the very same “start” switch had begun working again. I don’t like intermittent, self fixing equipment. Either break or work, there is no “try”. This time jumpering across the “start” switch made no difference. I next hot-wired across the starter solenoid and there was a loud “clunk” from the starter motor before my piece of wire fell off. I next had Annette hit the “start” switch back in the main cabin whilst I metered the wiring activating the starter solenoid. All good. I wired it all back together, hit the “start” switch again and again the generator fired up. OK as far as it goes but I really haven’t diagnosed the intermittent problem yet.
We had planned on snorkeling today as there are reportedly a couple of good spots in close proximity to our anchorage but it was drizzling rain and overcast. The rain is not the issue since you are going to get wet anyway, it’s just that the underwater visibility is so poor without sunlight above. We dinghied over to the main dock and checked out of Customs and Immigration before hiking the hill up to the post-office. Annette’s volcano hiking muscles had by now recovered and she needed St. Eustatius stamps for her grand-children bound post-cards.
By 1315 hours we were done, raised our anchor and set course for the island of St. Kitts, on a dull overcast day with 3 to 4 foot waves. As we passed the southern coast of Statia, we could look back and see the “White Wall” where the limestone seabed had been thrust upwards by the volcano and formed a spectacular south facing cliff, hundreds of feet high.
As we motored, showers of flying fish would scatter before our passage and a pair of brown Boobies hovered off the flybridge and would take off after them. The Boobies did not seem to be particularly successful fishers but since they looked like healthy adults, something must be working for them.
At 1558 hours we anchored in Frigate Bay, St. Kitts at N 17 16.8’ W 062 41.4’ and dinghied ashore seeking beer and Wi-Fi from the bar at the Timothy Beach Resort, while we watched a pair of mongooses (mongeese?) running back and forth under the boardwalk.
May 11, 2016
This morning we made the pilgrimage to the harbor to check-in with Customs and Immigration and then sauntered over to the Marine Park office to pay our park fees and get information on the marine-park and the hike up to the rim of the volcano that dominates the anchorage. We learned that the “Quill National Park” contains “The Quill”, a dormant volcano that last erupted circa 400 AD, although I’m not sure how that was determined. “Quill” is a Dutch word simply meaning “pit” and the volcano is an almost classic cone shape, 2,000 feet above sea level, with the crater forming a deep pit within.
Just before noon we had unloaded our documents back aboard DoodleBug and gathered our hiking gear, consisting mainly of rain-jackets and beer. The hike was described as “shaded” and as we headed uphill this turned out to be true, with the jungle trail well cleared but providing an overhead canopy, plus a breeze that became cooler as we climbed. There were lots of lizards scurrying about in the undergrowth but I wasn’t looking for these, I was looking for crabs. Annette spotted the first couple near the summit of the walk and they were large hermit crabs, perhaps 3 to 4 inches across, bearing worn sea shells on their backs. Since there was no beach at the top of a volcano, these tiny creatures must have hauled their homes some 2,000 feet from the sea below.
Annette called out to me as I arrived at the summit and dropped my back-pack. She was being closely followed by a chicken, which had appeared out of thin air, so to speak. All three of us sat together, gazing in awe into the vertical depths of “the pit”. The crater is well defined and has a base some 1,000 feet below where we sat, heavily forested with tall tropical rainforest trees. It was hard to take it all in, particularly with a brightly colored chicken standing perhaps ten inches from me. It was obvious, even to us humans, what it was the chicken wanted but we had not brought snacks with us. Annette offered the chicken some of her beer which was rapidly sipped up. I was not about to get chicken spit in my beer, well cognizant of the origin of the 2015 Bird Flu epidemic; besides which, I had already drunk mine. The chicken also drank the water we provided but it was obvious that it preferred Heineken.
At the base of the mountain, we visited the cultural museum and discovered that Statia (Sint Eustatius) was the first country to recognize the sovereignty of the fledgling United States, when it returned a gun salute to the US warship, the Andrew Doria in November 1776. Surrounded by the monopolistic trade centers of the French, Spanish, British and Danish islands, the Dutch operated Statia as an open port, that is without Customs duties or fees. Some 50% of the supplies, arms and gunpowder purchased by the revolutionary USA came through Statia, a fact that the British were well aware of.
In 1780 Britain declared war on Holland and sent Admiral George Rodney to this island with a massive fleet. When they arrived, the Dutch Governor de Graaff was totally unaware that there existed a state of war between the countries and under the threat of massive force, surrendered the island. Admiral Rodney plundered all of the goods here, stripping the merchants of wealth, even to the extent of body searching each individual. He dallied for 6 months gathering the huge treasure hoard and sent a convoy back to England, escorted by several of his warships. The reason for his meticulous attention to the security of the loot was that it was to be considered a “spoil of war” and he personally would gain a large share. In September, his weakened fleet met the French fleet at the Battle of Chesapeake Bay where he was soundly defeated in a couple of hours. This sealed the fate of General Cornwallis, who was now blockaded from the sea and forced to surrender in October of 1781.
Today Statia’s economy depends upon a company that uses the island as an oil transfer and storage facility. This may now be described as “faltering”. The National government in Holland has just raised taxes on the company and the local island government has just massively raised the harbor fees. Unsurprisingly the oil transfer company did not increase its investment here last year and may be considering shutting down operations. Even the chicken would have figured that one out.
May 10, 2016
The cast of the chicken entrails this morning indicated a possible weather window for this afternoon, thus we called Budget Marine on our sat phone to see if they were open at for business at 8:00 a.m., or in our case, for checkout. Amazingly, they answered the phone and we were soon tying up our dinghy at their dock. The manager turned on the computer for me and then I meticulously filled in all of the same information that I had completed upon our arrival, easier now since I was reading from my printed arrival document. I hit “save and print” and marched up to the register next to the printer. “Just give me five minutes”, the manager said as he was checking out a customer. Five minutes later and he turned back to me, just as the power went out. Total chaos ensued, with multiple employees dashing around grabbing battery jumper cables and leaping over piles of merchandise. Although there were batteries, chargers and inverters everywhere throughout the store, their UPS back-up system wasn’t working. We needed to “wait” for the power to come back on, whenever that might be, as their printer needed “city power” to function.
Annette asked the check-out girl if this kind of thing happened often and the girl did her “Gallic shrug” and said her credit card had been stolen that morning. Her cell phone went out just as she was trying to report the credit card loss. We decided a bar would be an appropriate place to wait and maybe we could find an internet connection. The girl suggested we avoid the bar just opposite, as she was assaulted there when she went to buy ice a few days ago.
Our trusty fall-back option was the main ferry dock Customs and Immigration office, where we met the same grumpy, miserable bugger as last time - instantly recognizable as a government employee anywhere on the planet. We offered him the printed “check-in” form generated at Budget Marine on Monday. He glanced at it and asked why we hadn’t checked in with him. As he continued to grumble that we had 24 hours to do so, I asked if what we had done by checking in at Budget Marine was legal and he indicated that it was. (We never could work out exactly what his problem was but acting dumb works everywhere). He said that he had to first check us into the country before he could issue us with exit papers and began laboriously to enter the exact same information into his computer, completely ignoring the printout I had just given him. Puzzled, I asked if he couldn’t just access the government database we had logged into when we arrived and he stated that his database was different and he wasn’t able to log into the “Budget Marine” database. After this elaborate and excruciating process, he asked if it was OK to use our boat name as a password. “Sure”, I said. He next needed a number to add to the name. I gave him a number. And a symbol. I said to use the “@” symbol. What was all this about? I asked if we could use this same information if we arrived at another French Island, such as Martinique. He said no, they use the “Budget Marine” type database we had originally used. He then wanted to prove to me that once entered in his system, we could simply log on with future visits, using the password just generated. The system rejected the just generated password. Now the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, particularly with a computer. This he did. For the next twenty minutes or so, he would enter the same password into his system and have it rejected. Somehow the computer got bored with this and printed out a departure document. We grabbed it and left, an exercise that had by now occupied just about three and a half hours.
At 1158 hours, we raised anchor and set course for the Dutch island of Statia, also know as Sint Eustatius. The sky was completely cloud covered with a few light rain pods in the distance as we motored out of Marigot Bay and turned west along the coast of St. Martin. An hour later we had cleared the southern tip of the island and were heading at 158 degrees with a course over ground of 180 degrees, indicating nearly 25 degrees of leeway to offset the wind and current. The waves were in the 3 foot range, plus the occasional 4 footer but about 60 degrees off the bow. If we had been sailing, this would have been a fun and fast “close reach”. Ahead on our starboard side was the volcanic cone of Saba, rising near vertically out of the sea. Saba is of course famous for its previous tenant the dread pirate Hiram Beaks, who’s favorite saying was, “Dead men tell no tales”. Our destination of Statia we could see directly ahead and faintly beyond that, the island of St. Kitts. On our port side were the Frigate islands and St. Barthelemy (aka St. Bart). Also on our port side was an ocean going tug towing a barge on the end of a long cable. The wonders of the AIS display showed that we were travelling some 3 knots faster than these vessels and would pass by no closer than a mile and a half.
By 1630 hours we were approaching the west coast of Statia and could see multiple large vessels ahead. The AIS again provided clues to their activity and what we were observing was an oil tanker, moored to a pipeline at the bow, with its stern being held in position by a large tug pulling at the end of a long cable. We could now see multiple oil storage tanks on the plateau above the beach and other tankers, pipelines and tugs scattered around. The chart noted that this was all happening in the middle of a designated “marine park”, with no anchoring allowed and obviously the Dutch are more pragmatic about such matters. Our destination was just off the town of Oranjestad and we picked up a mooring here at 1658 hours at N 17 28.9’ W 062 59.4’. Unlike St. Martin, there were just a handful of other yachts here. We dinghied ashore to find beer, supper and internet and were successful on all three counts. The internet provided the welcome intelligence that we had received the proceeds from the sale of our Corpus Christi property and so that is now a part of history.
May 9, 2016
We still had a few items we need to buy for the boat and I had read that it was possible to check into St. Martin at the Budget Marine supply store. We dinghied over early this morning, armed with our boat documents and passports and sure enough, there was a computer there set up for the government website. Of course it had the “French” keyboard in order to obfuscate all of the commonly used letters and numbers and the website had been designed by a particularly malicious alien. It was fairly easy to recognize the Microsoft origin of the graphical interface and even Microsoft would not have denied their European customers of the ability to automatically sort lists into alphabetical order. Nevertheless, the United States immediately followed Uganda on the list except that the names were in French so “Etats Unis” follows “Ougande”. We waited whilst a Canadian couple ahead of us fought their way through the system and I pointed out that Canadians were all supposed to be able to speak French – after all, we watched the movie “Canadian Bacon”. This did not help. When our turn came we breezed through the setup and printed out the form. The Budget Marine girl checked our boat papers and passports and pronounced us “checked in”. Wow! Where is TSA when you need them? We are now legally here and haven’t even been groped yet.
We ate lunch at our favorite dockside restaurant and checked our e-mails and internet. The FedEx package sent Friday was delivered this morning to the Title company in Corpus Christi. Off to the supermarket then to purchase “long life” ultra-pasteurized and non-refrigerated milk, the boon of tea drinking sailors. In mid afternoon we called to check on the status of the closing on the Corpus Christi property sale. We were informed that the mortgage company wanted a hard copy of the $45 receipt for the pre-move in cleaning of the property. As it happened, the buyers showed up whilst the cleaning was ongoing and had already moved in. Was this a new Dodd Frank regulation?
We spent the balance of the afternoon chasing down engine oil filters – found them at NAPA - and transmission oil filters – no luck. A typical day really and we watched a moody and colorful sunset as the sun went down to the west of Marigot Bay.
May 8, 2016
We had been carefully analyzing the various weather forecasts and last night, at just past mid-night, Maho Bay was like a mill-pond, with scarcely a ripple disturbing the waters. We dropped our mooring at 0640 hours and motored out to pass north along the coast of St. Johns, continuing between the islands of Peter and Norman. This was all sheltered cruising, with seas of less than a foot and with 8/8 ths hazy, light cloud cover. 0830 hours had us entering the Anegada Passage proper and in open waters the seas were 3 to 4 feet but without the sharp chop of yesterday.
A quiet run, just a couple of private craft passed heading west and we saw but a few flying fish, a “Tropic” bird, a Booby and a pair of Pelicans. The pelicans stayed with us a while and would fly past us, plop into the water and then gaze at us reproachfully as we passed. The process was then repeated. We have often had sea-birds fly just off our bow, to grab any small fish that might be disturbed by our movement but the pelicans didn’t seem to be actively fishing.
By late afternoon the seas had died down to 3 foot rounded humps, sort of like a marine golf course and it was very pleasant to sit and contemplate the absence of an island ahead. We were but twenty miles out before we could see the outline of St. Martin through the haze in the distance and then this too disappeared behind threatening clouds. The squall hit us at ten miles from our destination and the wind appeared from nowhere, hurling the rain at us and blanking out the radar display. Half an hour later it was gone, the decks were cleaned of the grime they had accumulated in the Virgin Islands and we motored into Marigot Bay anchoring at N 18 04.2’ W 063 05.6’ at 1827 hours, almost on the same spot we had occupied nine months ago. We launched our dinghy and found the L’Arhawak restaurant open where the waiter recognized us instantly and hugged Annette (who wouldn’t!). We are in St. Martin.
May 7, 2016
Another early start. At 0800 hours we raised anchor and motored through the rough waters of Charlotte Amelie Bay, passing through the narrow cut of Hassel Island into Crown Bay. Here we hailed the marina on the VHF radio and were told the fuel dock was fully occupied. We bobbed around for ten minutes or so until a catamaran departed and then slid gingerly into the space it had occupied. Annette was already having a problem with the boat motion and we had yet to leave the shelter of the harbors. We topped up our tanks with fuel and drinking water and headed out to sea.
The wind was howling, the seas short, steep and choppy and our destination this morning had been to Virgin Gorda, in the British Virgin Islands, as a jumping off spot for a passage tomorrow to the French island of St. Martin. Annette was not enjoying this experience however, thus we made a rapid change of plans, heading instead to Cruz Bay, St. Johns. Cruz Bay is a “Port of Entry” to the US Virgin Islands and a source of departure documents. We anchored in shallow water just to the east of the entrance channel markers and I dinghied over to the Customs and Immigration dock. By noon we had raised anchor once more and headed over to Maho Bay to grab a mooring, tucking in close to the land to avoid the powerful winds and wind generated chop. All of this is forecast to disappear by tomorrow and we will make the 100 mile run across the Anegada Passage.
May 6, 2016
Friday morning and we began the day with boat chores. Annette was stowing and inventorying groceries whilst I tackled the port engine. I checked the engine anode, surprisingly in good condition and then changed the oil in the transmission. Boat transmissions are like a very simple auto transmission in that they usually only have forward, neutral and reverse but they also have some kind of hydraulic clutch and are filled with red colored “ATF” oil. Our engines live under the beds in the stern cabins, thus the challenge in servicing them is to do so without spilling dirty oil throughout the boat’s living space. I next changed the engine oil itself, plus it’s filter, before leak testing everything. It was now 9:00 a. m. and I spent the following hour on the phone with multiple insurance companies, convincing them to delay the cancellation of insurance coverage on the Corpus Christi property until next Tuesday. Still nothing heard from the Texas Title company and I turned my attention to the starboard engine to repeat the morning’s entertainment.
We did receive a text saying that the Title company had received their documents last night and their lawyer was drafting the necessary “closing” papers for us to sign and we translated this to mean, “sometime after lunch”. Annette had carefully packed and padded a suitcase containing the sculpture she had purchased from the artist Hannah in Curacao and we loaded this carefully into the dinghy. The wind was blowing strongly and we motored through rough and choppy seas to reach the Crown Bay marina in the adjacent bay where the “Mail Stop” packaging store did business. Here we were to get the artwork “double boxed”, that is packed into a cardboard box nestled in Styrofoam “peanuts” and then this box packaged similarly inside a second box. We warned the office girl that the piece was extremely heavy, weighing at least 50 pounds and she hoisted to the level of her work table before dropping it to the floor. It shattered into a dozen pieces. “Was it already broken?”, she asked, followed by, “Is it insured?”. This was like being sideswiped in Houston by an ancient and decrepit pickup truck piloted by a couple of gentlemen from way south. Not much point in bothering, really. I told the girl we would be back later with documents to notarize and would discuss the matter further at that time. “Oh, the notary isn’t working today”.
We headed back to DoodleBug and were thoroughly soaked by the time we arrived, due to the rough conditions. As two p.m. approached I texted that our window of opportunity for processing the documents today was rapidly closing and further, FedEx was closed all week-end. I immediately received a text that the documents had been e-mailed to us and after a few minutes and on the second attempt, the file downloaded. It took an hour and ten minutes to print the necessary 55 pages with several restarts and rebooting of the computer and printer. In the meantime we had called the Yacht Haven marina and possibly located another notary, identified as, “an insurance company office above the Barefoot Buddha restaurant”. We tore across the anchorage, ignoring speed limit signs and blasted our way up to the dinghy dock, scrambling over other boats and not even attempting to tie up close to the dock. After several attempts we located an insurance company office (we never discovered the restaurant) and entered their calm, air-conditioned space. We signed page after page, hoping and praying we hadn’t missed anything or made a mistake. By just after four o’clock it was done and we ripped out of the insurance office looking for a taxi.
Just opposite was such a vehicle, with the driver sleeping across the passenger bench. Feeling badly about awakening him, we demanded transit to the airport and he agreed to take us there. We still had fifty minutes to make the drop-off deadline at FedEx and I could hear Tom Hanks chanting, “tick-tock, tick-tock”.(BTW, that’s from “Castaway”) The Title company had included a printed FedEx address form / voucher but I assured Annette that they would find some reason it couldn’t be used. We neared the airport without spotting an air-freight sign and just as I was beginning to panic, we spotted the FedEx logo in the distance. Jumped out of the taxi, rushed into the office and didn’t even blink when the girl said, “That is the wrong form, it needs to be International from here”. We had made it! It was 1618 hours and we had another 42 minutes we could have casually frittered away. We staggered out of the office, walked to the terminal and grabbed a taxi back to the Yacht Haven dinghy dock. Our driver turned up a back street and then explained he needed to pick up his grand-daughter from kindergarten. We didn’t care. We are in the islands, mon.
May 5, 2016
Dawn broke and we were already at work, stowing the dinghy, stowing the suitcases we had unpacked yesterday and checking the engines for departure. We were supposed to have received the closing documents for the sale of our Corpus Christi property yesterday evening but this had morphed into, “first thing this morning”. Our St. John mooring is temporally an hour ahead of Texas thus we dropped our mooring at 0810 hours and set course for St. Thomas and its easier access to groceries, notaries and communications. The seas were empty of other shipping, even the ferries were absent as we made our way into Charlotte Amelie harbour and anchored at 0936 hours at N 18 20.3’ W 064 55.6’ in Long Bay. There was no e-mail awaiting our internet login and a text query indicated a new document eta of 1:00 p.m. OK then, shopping!
Our first expedition was to the local supermarket where we loaded up with cases of beer and groceries. It was the usual fun loading up the dinghy and the wind was building in the anchorage making the unloading process more than normally challenging. Still no closing documents, so we headed back out for the bulk paper products, taking the “Safari Bus up country” to the top of the mountain to shop at “Cost-U-Less”. This time the shopping cart was loaded to the gills and we caught a taxi for the return trip to the dinghy dock at the Yacht Haven marina, alongside the cruise ships. By now the waves in the anchorage were even more pronounced, although they are supposed to die down later tonight. We unloaded everything, checked with FedEx for delivery transit times, discovered that St. Thomas is now magically “International” and shipments to the USA have to clear Customs. (Maybe that’s just Texas though.....) and again queried the status of the documents. The word came back that the Title company had yet to receive them from the lender. At this point the standby helicopter and motorcycle courier were cancelled. We cracked open a couple of the beers we had been cooling since this morning and settled into a reduced pace mode. This is going to be a “tomorrow” project.
We have also been monitoring the weather for a departure to the east and Sunday or Monday look promising. Of course this is perfectly normal with a five day forecast. The outer days always look great and then begin to suck as the departure window tightens. We face a 90 mile open water run from Virgin Gorda to St, Martin, directly upwind, an uncomfortable choppy prospect.
At least we will have time tonight to carefully review the closing documents in a somewhat relaxed manner before the dash to the notary service tomorrow. At sunset we get another text indicating that the long awaited documents have not yet arrived at the Title company. Nothing then today, we repeat the process tomorrow.
May 4, 2016
Last night we flew into St. Thomas and despite having arrived two hours late into Puerto Rico, we somehow managed to catch our connecting flight on an eight passenger twin engined Cessna for the final leg from San Juan. Amazingly our luggage arrived on the same flight, an almost unheard of experience when flying United Airlines. An hour or so after we arrived at the hotel, we received a text from United alerting us to the fact that we had missed our last connection and needed to contact “Customer Service” to arrange for onward passage.
(The air-traffic controller hears a voice on the radio saying, “Control tower, control tower, what time is it?” The controller smoothly responds, “What flight is this, sir?”, to which the anonymous voice brusquely responds, “What the hell difference does it make which flight this is?”. The controller continues, “Well sir, if this is American Airlines it is two o’clock in the afternoon; however if this is KLM, it is 1400 hours. If this is United Airlines, it’s Tuesday.”)
We subsequently found our hotel in downtown Charlotte Amelie. At the hotel Annette wanted to catch up on today’s primary election results but couldn’t get the TV to operate and demanded the hotel management provide either an “on the spot” repair or another room. We got another room.
This morning we rode the ferry from Charlotte Amelie to St. John and Colin Kinsella of http://www.properyachts.com/ picked us and swept us effortlessly in his dinghy from the ferry dock to DoodleBug waiting quietly on her mooring.
Aboard DB, the “closed in” cabin was hot and humid and Annette is still suffering from the cold she had acquired from the outbound flight eleven days ago. I had the beginning of a migraine thus we decided to fire up the generator and enjoy a “catch up” nap in air-conditioned space. The generator refused to start. I wearily grabbed a meter and screwdrivers and headed forward to check the battery charge level and the various breakers. The battery voltage was fine and the breakers all looked good. Back to the control panel in the main cabin. I unscrewed the panel and jumpered across the start switch. The generator started! Blessing the diesel gods we turned the A/C on and crashed in the starboard bedroom, since the port air conditioner was not working. In late afternoon we emerged into daylight and in better physical shape. In our suitcase we were carrying an internet purchase of a new air-conditioner control board and I now changed this out for the defective control board on the port air conditioner and threw the breaker. Nothing! I metered the power input and carefully rechecked all of the connections on the wiring harness. Still nothing. Then I had the bright idea of checking the control panel to see if the unit was actually turned on. It wasn’t. This was easily rectified and we now have three working air-conditioners aboard!
The next crisis presented itself as it was now early evening and we were out of beer. We launched the dinghy, fired up the outboard and motored the few hundred yards over to the Westin hotel for an excellent supper and a six-pack from the hotel “market”.
We are back in the islands.
April 19 - 20, 2016
Just tidying and packing; we fly to Texas tomorrow but expect to return in a couple of weeks to begin the run south towards Grenada – outside of the “hurricane box”.
April 18, 2016
This morning we stowed the boat and set course for Great Cruz Bay, picking up the same mooring we had left ten days earlier. This location has much better cellular reception and we used the enhanced communications to catch up on reservations and the like for our upcoming return to Corpus Christi. There have been series of requests for documents in order to finalize the sale of our property there and we have been fortunate that we have been in digital possession of everything requested to date.
In late afternoon, our friends Cory and Billie, who have property on the nearby islet of Lovango Cay, motored over in their RIB dinghy to pick us up for a run into Cruz Bay for supper. Their neighbors Scott and Sharon were also visiting and it was a full dinghy load that cut through the ferry boat wakes bound for the dock. We rarely go ashore after dark, thus for us it was treat to wander and explore the Cruz Bay night life.
April 17, 2016
Nancy and Jerry were entertaining some number of grandchildren and friends with the result that we saw their dinghy approaching DoodleBug very gingerly, loaded to the gunwales as they were with six kids. Last night we had offered them the use of our kayaks and they had determined to take us up on the offer. As we launched each of our four kayaks, the occupant would take off paddling furiously towards open water but that still left two kids without their own craft. We assumed rightly that they would work it out. After this excitement I called the Customs and Immigration folks to say that we had “just arrived” back in the USA, although what I had declared on my on-line float plan was that we would arrive this afternoon. The office looked up my “float plan” number and stated that Annette wasn’t on it. I explained that I had made four attempts to add her and although the website accepted my input, the summary page steadfastly maintained that I was both the Captain and also the only passenger. I had waited until the following day to enter the system again, deleted myself as passenger leaving me as Captain of course and then re-entering Annette as a passenger. This time she did show up on the summary page but apparently that was just to make me go away, as it was never “saved” by the system. The officer said no problem, he would take care of it and we were now legally cleared in.
Of course the reason that we had called Customs and Immigration early was that the impromptu party aboard Doodlebug last night, had wiped out our beer stock and we were preparing an emergency run in the dinghy to Cruz Bay to restock. If the Customs folks had demanded our physical presence for check in we would have gone there first because their office is near the grocery store. The logistics of sailing!
Back once more aboard DoodleBug, Bob of S/V Discovery passed by in his dinghy and claimed he was off to hunt lobster. If he caught any, we were invited to Discovery to help eat his catch. About an hour later he returned empty handed, claiming that he had caught one but it was “too small”. Yeah right, Bob! He did invite us aboard Discovery that evening for sundowners however and I really don’t care that much for lobster.
April 16, 2016
At 1005 hours we let go the dock lines and motored out of Nanny Cay, bound for the island of Jost Van Dyke. The Nanny Cay boatyard, like all boat yards was a filthy place to be, with the inevitable paint and fiberglass dust coating our white gel-coat but the marina itself seems a pleasant place to stay and we can see why there are many long term residents. However, at $114 per day dock fee, we would prefer to be elsewhere. We picked up a mooring at Great Harbour at 1045 hours, cleared out of Customs and Immigration for the British Virgin Islands, dropped our mooring at 1155 hours and continued on to Maho Bay, St. John’s. Here we grabbed a mooring at 1235 hours at N 18 21.6’ W 064 44.7’. It is so nice to lay quietly on a mooring in a beautiful bay such as this and watch the pelicans and boobies fishing, turtles bobbing their heads up to look around, particularly after last week’s frenetic activity. That evening Nancy and Jerry of “Always Summer“ stopped by as well as Bob from a Hunter 45 on the next mooring (It’s pointing at me so I can’t see the name).
April 15, 2016
My first task this morning was to check the plumbing job that the air-conditioner technician had done yesterday evening. As expected, just about every fitting was leaking like a sieve. He had needed to cut a hose to remove it from the fitting and the trimmed section was now too short to reach properly and was “crimped”. I walked over to Budget Marine to buy a replacement section and spent the next hour listening to the salesman tell me how hung over he was. As I stood there chanting “low blood pressure” over and over to myself, I was finally able to buy the five foot length of plastic hose.
Back at DoodleBug the window seal installer had shown up and one window was done. He also offered to lend me a heat gun and with this I was able to fit the recalcitrant plastic pipe onto the respective fittings. The air-conditioner tech showed up to retrieve his cell phone and was also bearing my sea-water supply pump, which he had bench tested and declared fully operational. He left. I installed the pump and turned on the air-conditioner. Still no water supply. I then went to the forward locker where I had stored my custom diagnostic tool I had constructed last August – an extension cord with the plug cut off. I wired the pump to this and plugged it into a wall outlet. The pump ran normally proving that the control board is bad. Five hours wasted playing with non-existent plumbing issues but the good news was that at least we had new window seals on the two hatches over the stern bedrooms.
Back in Corpus Christi, Texas we have negotiated our way through the various inspections and it looks as though we will close on the sale of this property at the end of the month. I scoured the internet for flights from St. Thomas to the mainland and after discarding an offer that only took 27 hours travel time via Newark for $2,300 each, settled on a 6 hour flight via Houston for $650 apiece. Isn’t air-travel exciting?
April 14, 2016
Launch day! Another early morning start but the window installer never showed up. We paid our yard bill, receiving the coveted pink slip for the lift operator and then did the same with the hotel. I next asked the lady who is paid to be the “dock master” what our slip number is to be. “What is the name of your boat?” I repeated it for the fourth time and spelled it for the second time. “Do you have a reservation?” She stared at her computer screen for five minutes or so, perhaps willing the queen of diamonds to go onto the king of clubs, before abruptly stating, “Check back with me later”.
When we stopped in to check the window seal status we were told “tomorrow”. Not good. The launch will be unaffected however and we spent time re-stowing everything so that it wouldn’t fall over when we were lifted. Our lift time of one o’clock came and went. We walked over to the yard office to get un updated status and were told to check with the lift operators of whom there were none in evidence. Back to the boat. This is what you do in boat yards, hang around and wait. You can’t take off because they need you aboard at launch time to drive the boat away. We heard a voice yelling at us and discovered the missing lift operator resting in the shade below DoodleBug and presented him with the pink slip of paper, proving we had paid the necessary ransom.
Two hours later DoodleBug was floating again, we had checked below to confirm that we weren’t sinking, cast off and motored over to the slip, whose location we had determined by asking the “dock master’s” boss - which took him about three seconds to determine from his Blackberry when we intercepted him as he rode down the dock on his bicycle.
We called the air-conditioner technician to give him the slip location and discovered he was working on the adjacent boat, thus he arrived around five o’clock to take a “quick” look at the unit. This is a seawater cooled device requiring both power and a sea-water supply to operate and test. He immediately decided that the seawater supply was inadequate and began tearing out the plumbing and checking for blockage, one a pipe at a time. I acted as sorcerer’s apprentice by supplying him flashlights, screwdrivers, paper towels etc. By nine o’clock we were both exhausted and ready for him to go home. We knew he would return on the morrow, since he inadvertently left his cell-phone aboard DoodleBug. We plugged it in to charge it up. A long day.
April 13, 2016
Early this morning the hydraulic cylinder was re-installed and the propeller nut replaced with a version that can support an anode that is actually available for purchase somewhere on the planet. We are ready to launch! Unfortunately the marina claims there is no space for us at a dock and we have delayed our launch until tomorrow afternoon. We are still waiting on the window seal replacement, promised for this afternoon. Our big task for the day was to install the dinghy wheels on our dinghy. These allow a heavy dinghy to be pulled up the beach by using a pair of drop down wheels on the stern where it is usually heaviest. Of course several people stopped by to ask what we were doing and I solemnly explained that these wheels were in case we ran aground and they would then prevent damage to the hull.
Annette met the window seal installer and he assured her that the window seals would be delivered today and installed Thursday morning. We also had a problem with the port air-conditioner and the refrigeration technician promised to take a look on Friday noon. Progress everywhere.
April 12, 2016
The hydraulic repair guy is supposed to begin work this morning and after leaving the required seals where he could find them, we headed into the island capital of “Road Town”, to seek the missing propeller anode. In Corpus Christi the roof has been inspected and diagnosed as having windstorm damage. We have filed a claim with the insurer and await their inspection. We began our search at the Golden Hind Chandlery where the owner searched parts books and the internet before declaring that he had never encountered an anode of the type we needed. We next sought out Robert, the Moorings service manager and he found the man who had installed the propeller. “Yes”, the man said, “we can’t get those anodes. If you want to fit one you have to change out the retaining nut for another type.” OK, then. Back to the Golden Hind and we bought another propeller nut with anode. This all makes sense to someone.
By the time we reached the boatyard again, Doodlebug had been washed and waxed above the waterline and freshly painted below. She looks great and just needs her propeller anode installed so that she can be re-launched. We have delayed the re-launch until Thursday afternoon because in-water catamaran slips are in short supply at this marina and this is the earliest we can be accommodated. We will be delayed here until the hatch seals are replaced.
Meanwhile, we have been staying in a hotel room while all this has been going on and watched the television news this afternoon. We discovered that nothing in the world has changed of the past few weeks. We turned the TV off.
April 11, 2016
It began at 8 a.m. when we were lifted out of the water and moved to a nearby work area to be balanced precariously on stacked baulks of timber like a giant child’s building blocks. While a crew power washed the underside of the vessel, I discussed the painting job with the yard manager and arranged for the delivery of the paint that I purchased several months ago from nearby “Budget Marine”. The paint retailed at $300 per gallon and I had pre-paid the purchase of 8 gallons to buy it from Budget during their annual 20% discount sale.
We had a couple of other minor repairs to make and took advantage of our position on dry land to get the rear water-tight collision compartments re-sealed. The stern of the boat is protected by a teak rubbing board that protects the gel-coat from hitting against a dock. We had diagnosed a water-leak from beneath this board and sure enough, when removed, it exposed a dozen screw holes that had never been sealed. Another minor defect was a slight hydraulic oil leak from the port side steering ram. Again a small job to rebuild the unit with the new seals which we had on board. Finally we needed to replace the rubber seals around the rear cabin hatches. In a heavy rain they would leak slightly, dripping water onto our bed. Not good. I had purchased the replacement seals and read an internet admonition that this repair was not a job for an amateur. OK then, we will let the professionals do it!
While this was going on we were organizing our communications to make sure that our BVI cell-phone was working and were communicating with our real-estate broker in Corpus Christi regarding the roof repairs that the purchaser of our home there was now demanding. We were also getting e-mails from Santa Fe saying that one of the door locks on the property there was inoperable. Phew! Who thought retirement was easy?
By afternoon the hull had been sanded, acid washed, rinsed and was drying. I took the opportunity to replace the anodes on the propeller shafts and propellers. This was going to be simple but although the two propellers are identical, their retaining nuts are not and I was only able to obtain a replacement anode for the starboard propeller. To add to the entertainment, we were informed that the replacement seals for the hatches were the wrong thickness. Rats! Now we would be delayed and we now boast a large hole in the cabin roof, covered with a sheet of plastic against the rain. A typical boating day!
April 10, 2016
We dropped our mooring at 0820 hours and with the dinghy safely raised on the davits, set course for the island of Jost Van Dyke, a port of entry into the British Virgin Islands. This was not a particularly long voyage and at 0905 hours, we picked up a mooring in Great Harbour at N 18 26.5’ W 064 45.2’, re-launched the dinghy and motored ashore to the Customs and Immigration office just as they were opening. Although our final destination today is on the island of Tortola, we have discovered this particular office to be far less hassle with conveniently available moorings, plus laid-back officials. The immigration lady was singing in a high soprano as she arrived for work and settled into her office. A baritone voice joined hers from the customs official in the next office. You just don’t get this kind of reception at the DMV in Corpus Christi, Texas.
A short delay while I returned to DoodleBug to retrieve the wallet I had forgotten to bring and we were checked into the BVI’s. Next door to the Customs and immigration building is a beach bar / restaurant and we headed there for breakfast. The proprietor solemnly informed us that the girls were just leaving for church and couldn’t cook our breakfast. I asked him if there were any sinners on the island who could perform this task and he blinked before nodding in the direction further along the beach. It wasn’t too far to the next bar and there we enjoyed the traditional sailor’s breakfast of eggs, bacon, fried potatoes and beer.
Back aboard DoodleBug and she was straining at the mooring with the wind picking up. At 1220 hours we dropped our mooring and set course to the south again, passing by Soper’s Hole marina and then turning easterly into a rising wind, along the southern coast of Tortola to the marina at Nanny Cay. As we motored into the short, choppy sea, we could hear another vessel attempting to hail Nanny Cay on his VHF radio. There was no response and we assumed that there was minimal staffing there on a Sunday. He did eventually receive a call back and was requesting assistance in the form of a tow, as he had a failed engine. We passed the outbound marina dinghy as we turned into the entrance and rightly assumed that we would be docking without assistance. This might have been problematic since we needed to turn broadside to the wind direction before backing into the haulout slip. Fortunately the marina environs were almost completely sheltered from the wind and we made our maneuver without hitting anything, tying up at 1405 hours at position N 18 24.0’ W 064 38.1’. We are to be lifted tomorrow for renewal of the anti-foul paint.
April 9, 2016
Today we faced a crisis when we discovered that we had run out of beer! We were headed for Nanny Cay tomorrow but that was still 24 hours away. We fired up the dinghy and ran four miles back along the coast to Cruz Bay where we corrected the deficit.
That evening we shared sundowners plus BBQ’d hamburgers with Nancy and Jerry aboard S/V Always Summer and also enjoyed the company of Al and Helene from S/V island Girl.
April 8, 2016
This morning we tidied up the boat for heading out to sea, dropped our mooring at 0905 hours and set course for St. Francis Bay on the north side of St. Johns. We had decided to tow the dinghy instead of lifting it onto its davits and as soon as we exited the bay, we realized that this was a mistake. Each time we have done this we have regretted it, not because of any mishap but we finish up fretting as to whether we will dump the dinghy in the rough seas we were now encountering. These were caused by a combination of northerly swells and wind and current combinations as we passed the various headlands.
We arrived at Francis Bay at 1005 hours and took up a mooring at position N 8 21.96’ W 064 44.89’.
Francis Bay was calm enough and we launched our kayaks to explore the shoreline and then crossed over to Whistling Cay. The landing on a stony beach was challenging in that the northerly swells curved around both sides of the islet and then the two wave trains crashed together on the southern point where we were approaching. The technique used was to pick a quiet spot between waves and then paddle like hell for the shore, jumping out and dragging the kayak up the slope before the bigger waves hit. Annette wandered the beach looking for the perfect rock while I sat outside the ruins of the old Customs house, enjoying a beer and contemplating life and the fact that unlike Annette, I was barefoot.
Launching a kayak into waves can also be tricky and from a sandy beach we usually wade out a ways before trying to board our vessel. This beach was both stony and steep, plus I had seen sea urchins in the shallows with their long spines threatening the unshod. What worked was to sit in the kayak on the strand and wait for a big wave to lift the boat and then drive hard to get past the breakers. Exciting! On our return journey to DoodleBug the wind had picked up a little and was also a headwind providing more than adequate exercise for the day.
April 7, 2016
A week ago we had received a phone call from our real estate broker in Corpus Christi, that we have a contract to sell our house there which has been on the market for the past twelve months. Praying that this is not some elaborate April Fools prank, we have been making our plans on the assumption that this deal will close before the end of April and we will need to be back in Corpus Christi the week before, to clear out the furniture etc. While Annette was stowing away the goodies I had unpacked yesterday, I repaired the fresh water system with a new pressure accumulator, replaced the missing “hold open” strut on the anchor locker and checked and tested both engines. All good, we are ready to move. Annette had deployed her new “kites” earlier today, a man in a bathing suit with a cigar and a pirate with a wooden leg. I noticed that the kayakers from the nearby Westin hotel have been making orbits around DoodleBug. I smile and wave at the kayakers wearing bikinis.
Annette decided that we needed to replace the bucket that I had inadvertently dropped overboard a couple of months ago and we made the pilgrimage back to the port and walked over to the hardware store before stopping off again at the “Tap Room” for emergency rehydration. You would be amazed at how many comments you get when you walk into a bar carrying a bucket.
April 6, 2016
We flew into St. Thomas last night after a chilly departure from Santa Fe. This morning we awoke to the distant sounds of roosters crowing and doves cooing on the balcony outside of the hotel window. Blue skies, sunshine and glistening clear waters, we are back in the tropics!
DoodleBug is laying to a mooring at “Great Cruz Bay” in nearby St. John’s thus we began the day by hauling our luggage downhill to the ferry dock. The ferry trip was followed by a dinghy ride for the two mile journey between the bays and we finally got to unload our suitcases and bags aboard DoodleBug, looking just as we left her, perhaps a little dustier, some 36 hours after we had begun our journey. While Annette slopped buckets of seawater across the decks, I unpacked the bags that had been weighted down with boat parts and art supplies, the token garments being used as padding. Now we needed lunch and a few groceries, so back into the dinghy and we reversed our course to Cruz Bay, where we had arrived earlier. As we exited the Great Cruz Bay, there was a large (730 ton) black painted, work boat at anchor just outside. It hadn’t been there two hours earlier and I noticed the name as the “Iron Cat”. I recognized this name immediately as that of a Research / Survey vessel that my former business partner, Jerry had sold last year. He had mentioned to me that it had been reflagged with a hailing port of “Zanzibar” and sure enough, this was the name on the stern. We took several pictures and then headed over to the Tap Room at Mongoose Junction for a balanced lunch. I texted the Iron Cat picture to Jerry without comment, waited a few minutes and then called his wife Caroline to see if he had received it. Caroline answered the phone immediately and said she was at the hospital with Jerry who was having a pacemaker installed. Bad timing! I did get to talk to Jerry and he is to be released from the hospital tomorrow so crisis averted.