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 …..
Here is the link - below - you are invited to visit that will show you where we are. You should see us in Morehead City, NC today, and at some point in the next 24-48 hours you should see us underway heading south east for awhile, and then south towards the Virgin Islands. Come along for the ride and don’t worry if the track disappears sometimes......we have a short list of people who are on standby when that happens.
Check out our instagram @bolsters_underway for more frequent updates. Once we leave Morehead City, the email we will check most often when we are ashore is firstname.lastname@example.org. We will not be checking this address for the next 10 days when we are at sea.
Today was notable for two reasons. First, it was a year ago today that CHANTICLEER arrived from Florida in Kittery, ME on a flat-bed trailer, which was right after she traveled on a yacht transport ship from St. Thomas, USVI to Florida. A year later and you would never know the extent of the damage caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria. Second is that the temperature was in the low 60’s today, and it was the first time in 28 days hat we did not wear any of the clothes in this picture!
We put up our Danish Christmas tree mobile today, and you can see our advent calendar in the background.
We spent today doing errands and getting ready to head offshore in a couple of days if the weather forecast looks good.
One of the best traditions at most marinas is the bin full of books with the “take one - leave one” message. This is how we keep our library full as we have limited shelf space. Here’s the latest find - a gently worn copy that looks like it went there and back! It is out of print and we searched everywhere to buy one, so we feel grateful to those who have gone before us. We like to think that whoever picks up our donation - The Witch Elm by Tanna French - will enjoy it as much as we did thanks to Clare. The rain has stopped and the wind has calmed down so we are heading to Pungo Creek today.
Today marks the 7th anniversary of the launching of PISCATAQUA. You can re-live the moment by viewing the YouTube video at Gundalow launch- YouTube. It was a great day and the culmination of years of hard work by many many people, serious commitment from all to the vision, and faith we all shared that it was the right thing to do! Here’s to all who helped make a dream come true and here’s to the current team who is keeping the mission going. This photo was taken on November 17, 2018 from CHANTICLEER, as we were leaving. We loved the three cannon shots and the HUZZAH you gave us as we turned the corner. So many good memories and good friends. Thanks and love, Molly
It has taken us three weeks to reach Norfolk, VA and the start of the Intra Coastal Waterway, a.k.a. The ICW and “the ditch.” This partially man-made canal goes from Norfolk to Florida and lets people like us avoid sailing “outside” the banks, where the weather is nasty this time of year. Some of it is very narrow and shallow, criss-crossed by bridges and rail road tracks, while other parts of it are very urban/industrial, and other parts are national wildlife refuges with migrating birds and swampy marshes. All the fixed bridges are made to let boats with masts up to 65’ pass under, and some of the bridges are swing or bascule bridges that open at set times. There is some commercial traffic, mostly tugs and barges, along with a smattering of fishing boats. This is the 4th time we have done this together, and we always enjoy the passage even though at times it feels like driving down the highway. Pleasure boats are only allowed to move in the daylight, which is fine because there are often tree stumps and logs in the narrow parts that you would not want to hit. Most of it is shallow, around 12 feet, but sometimes less. The key is to leave each morning at first light and go as fast as possible all day in order to reach a suitable place to spend the night. For most people, including us, the first stop after Norfolk is Coinjock, where we arrived last night to find five other boats.
one of ten bridges we passed under on the first day.
we joined one other sailboat and a small tug boat to go through this lock. The water only dropped one foot.
for many miles the scenery looks like this.
The channel is marked by a series of numbered red and green markers, the red ones mark the right side of the channel and the green ones mark the left side. Most of them have osprey nests built on them but the ospreys have all flown to Cuba and the Caribbean for the winter.
If only we had some LEGOs onboard, this would be fun to build!
Here are some of the gifts from friends and family - we have you with us,
Here’s another collage of gifts......there are a few more that have been stowed in such a way that we won’t see them for weeks....and there are some missing because we already ate the cornbread from Ellen that Beth made, and we had the Chardonnay from Bobbie while in Mystic. Thanks for being with us!
Our cabin is really cozy with our advent calendar.....in a few days we will put up our tree!
We are expecting some nasty weather tomorrow, December 9th. Winds from the NE, 25-35 knots and rain. Sounds like a good day to stay put at the Alligator River Marina and read, knit, make bread, tidy up, and make rice pudding. If we are lucky, we will take a walk.....we saw a sign tonight that said “red wolf crossing next ten miles”.
i am finding Instagram to be easier than the blog for quick updates. Check it out @bolsters_underway
we arrived in Norfolk/Portsmouth VA today and are feeling exuberant! Partly because this is the start of the Intracoastal Waterway and partly because the days are noticeably longer (daylight until 5:15 PM and light at 6:15 AM.) the temperature has gone up a bit too although we had ice on the deck this morning.
Getting to Norfolk was a huge psychological goal for us, even though we have done this stretch three times already. We had a rocketing sail from NY to Chesapeake City - took us 33 hours to sail down the Jersey coast, up the Delaware River and through most of the C&D canal until we stopped to sleep. The wind was howling 25 knots most of the time with gusts as much as 38 knots, until we turned the corner to go up the Delaware River when the wind died and we had to motor. Once we entered the canal we counted 10 bald eagles in less than 24 hours, including 2 pairs that were sitting side by side on contiguous trees. Chesapeake City is a quiet little town with old houses and crab estaurants along the docks - there was a large neon sign in the shape of a crab on the town dock where we tied up for the night. A sure sign that we aren’t in NH/ME anymore!
We left early the next morning and got to Baltimore by 1:00. We had a lovely visit with Pete, Julie, and Maisie and their adorable kittens. Walked in the neighborhood we used to live in 28 years ago and saw that our old house is for sale! Thanks to Pete and his Living Classrooms crew for helping us with some logistics including the replacement of our old AGM batteries.
The trip down the Chesapeake bay was easy with a fresh NW breeze so we skipped Annapolis (even though I was really tempted to stop there to see Boo!) and carried on to Solomon’s island where we anchored at dusk and left before dawn the next day. We encountered the usual traffic, a few tankers, car carriers, containers, tugs and barges.......but no other sailboats like us. Why, I keep asking, if this is so much fun, are there no other people out here doing what we are doing?
We had a grey day without much wind but anchored for the night in a cove on the Poquoson River, home of the MILDRED BELLE, but now just a few duck blinds and new houses along the shore. When we woke this morning, it was still and misty, with a pink sunrise. It turned into a beautiful day with enough wind to sail but not so much to make it feel cold. We were still all bundled up in about 9 layers of clothing and hats and gloves etc, but the sunshine really helped. We expected the approach to Norfolk/Newport News to be busy with traffic but there was nothing this time. We are at a marina for the night and will get going at first light tomorrow - we found out that one of the bridges in the ICW is getting repaired and will be open for boats tomorrow but then closed for several days after that.
so you will notice the lack of photos..
i have have several good ones but the internet connection is so weak that I can’t get them to upload.