We are still in still in Isles des Saintes Guadeloupe doing a long list of pre-departure tasks. Yesterday we unpacked the fo’c’sle to check the sewage tank connections, clean some tropical mold in the anchor chain locker, and stow all the spare line so the spare Genoa sheet is on top where we can reach it easily if the one we are using chafes through. And finally, I did an inventory of the food I had stashed away in lockers that have been inaccessible since November just to make sure nothing is growing or rotting. The good news is that I found all the tahini so will now start making hummus in earnest. No photos this time- having a hard time with WiFi here.
So it has taken us forever to find the right place to update the blog. We have tried several times while onshore at cafes or bars but keep running into the same problem. The wifi connection has not been strong enough to upload photos. It actually turns out to be way easier to write and mail postcards than it has been to update the blog. So we spent a nice afternoon sitting at a quiet restaurant on the side of a hill on Saba and wrote postcards!
After we caught up on sleep anchored at Maho Bay, St. John's we had a wonderful rendezvous at Peter Island with Clare, Charlie, Una and Lucy from Portsmouth on their boat LUNACY. From there, we headed over to Foxy's at Jost Van Dyke. They got hit really hard by the hurricanes but the bar is up and running. Most of the other beach bars there are simply gone. Here's the view from the top of the hill looking east.
Early morning hike up to the top of Jost Van Dyke.
Here's Jeff hanging some CA license plates that Carl asked us to contribute to the decor at Foxy's. They are hung with shoelaces from the old Portsmouth skate shop Identity and inscribed on the back "in honor of the Green Team"
It took us about 30 hours to sail from the Virgin Islands to Saba. On other trips we have sailed right past without stopping because it is very difficult to get ashore unless the conditions are just right. Until quite recently, the only way to land and get ashore was to crash onto the cobble beach and then climb up something like 800 steps that are carved into the side of the cliff you can see in the background. We anchored next to the 3,000 foot cliffs and then had a harrowing ride in the dinghy to get to the dock that was around the corner from the boat. The wind was blowing hard and the waves were high and we both got soaked. That is the other reason why we have taken awhile to update the blog.......sometimes the risk of putting the computer and the phone into the dinghy is too great knowing we might get drenched.
We spent an enjoyable day exploring Saba, walking around the village, chatting with locals, and a delicious lunch surrounded by a spectacular view of the harbor and the tidy houses that are all beautifully maintained. This is an island that loves its historical architecture.
Houses on Saba are all painted white with red roofs, and green shutters. Many of them have elaborate gingerbread molding around the doorways. I can imagine that the Historic District Commission has it pretty easy on Saba! No negotiating about roof materials, no discussion about shutter hinges, and no chance of anyone deviating from the tradition. Keep it simple and it works!
Our next stop was at Sint Eustatia, also known as Statia. Completely different feel here, with lots of old houses that are abandoned, but really friendly people. There is a large oil terminal here that dominates the harbor and probably has prevented any fancy hotels from being developed here.
CHANTICLEER at anchor in Statia Harbor among oil tankers.
We got up really early while it was still cool to hike up to the rim of the inactive volcano on Statia. On our way back to the boat we came across a woman setting up her market table with organic veggies she had picked that morning. Spinach, eggplant, chives, celery, and pomegranates.
From Statia, we had easy sail to Nevis. Here's Jeff, doing marketing for the Gundalow Company and Picton Castle! We are ashore at Nevis today visiting Janet and Peter Dinan and Melissa Carter and Jack Kane. A chance to catch up on news from Portsmouth - Breaking New Grounds is CLOSED????? - and hoping to see the monkeys. Janet gave me a photo to share here just in case none show up while we are sitting on their beautiful porch looking across the Narrows to St. Kitts. We expect to leave tomorrow, although we had a glitch with Customs and immigration when we told them we plan to stop at Guadeloupe next and they could not find the right three letter code for Guadeloupe which made the computer balk at our paperwork. There is a new law here that requires boaters to fill out this form or else be fined $10,000. We may be stuck here for days.....oh well.
First Offshore Passage After our Post-Hurricane Re-Fit
Valiant 40’s are offshore boats, and we have sailed CHANTICLEER offshore a fair bit in the last six years. But we hadn’t ventured far from the coast after our major re-fit until now. We needed a shakedown – “shake it and break it” under somewhat controlled conditions. And it was too COLD to imagine 24/7 watch-standing, with no breaks. But here we were in Morehead City, NC, with Christmas muzak in every shop, and nearly 1,000 miles behind us in the first month. It was time to point her for the Caribbean and go!
We left with a propitious forecast. (Translation: no imminent gales despite it being December.) We thrashed our way out of the Morehead City inlet in steep seas, due to wind against the tide. The boat plunged, the spray flew, and the portholes leaked. Yikes: we hadn’t seen seas like that before this fall, so our “shakedown” was continuing. Jeff got the Allen wrenches and honked down on the porthole gaskets.
Our first 30 hours, crossing the Gulf Stream, went pretty well. It was a bit boisterous, but we had a fair breeze and the boat went fast with just headsails. It was meant to fill in from the South in a few days, however, so we headed south while we could. A few days later the breeze came in fresh from the south, as promised. 25-30 knots forward of the beam is not too comfortable, reminding us that “Gentlemen (and ladies) don’t sail to windward.” Nothing to do but hang on and drive her to weather. We had several days of wet and wild, until the front caught up to us and the wind just fizzled.
We had hoped for a bit of a respite, and were imagining just motoring south in the calm. Our Westerbeke engine had other ideas. As soon as we started, it overheated. Jeff replaced the salt water pump impeller, but still couldn’t get it to suck. So we hove-to in what little breeze there was, and settled in for long-overdue naps. It is always easier to think mechanically on a bit of sleep!
After some finagling the next day, the engine started. Eureka: it is always nice when the engine works. The Trades were light this year, and well south, so we motored for a few days. Christmas at sea meant a lovely sunrise and fresh gingerbread a la Molly. But no mountains of wrapping paper to deal with – just the occasional flying fish. Two days later Tortola and Virgin Gorda appeared out of the horizon ahead at first light. And that day, Thursday afternoon, we picked up a mooring in Francis Bay, a beautiful corner of St John, US Virgin Islands. It was a 12-day passage – pretty slow, actually, due to head-winds and no winds.
We’ve been in the Virgins for 8 days now, and feel as though our long trip is finally beginning. We are not cold. We are not rushed. We work on the boat (that’s a daily occurrence), swim, take walks, drink, and enjoy first light in these lovely mountainous islands, jewels of the northern Caribbean. The cocks crow continuously, so CHANTICLEER is right at home. The US Virgin Islands were Danish for centuries, so we fly our Danish yacht ensign as a courtesy flag, and are occasionally hailed in Danish.
Two days ago we rendezvoused with Charlie Doane and Clare O’Brien and their girls Una and Lucy on LUNACY. Molly gave Lucy a knitting lesson, and Clare opened a hair salon in our cockpit to trim Molly’s hair. Great to see old friends and to transform Great Harbor, Peter Island, into “Portsmouth South.” We are hoping to head down island in a few days …..