June 28, 2010... Guadeloupe, En Fin!

We left St. Kitts Sunday afternoon for the voyage south to Guadeloupe. Yes, another overnight. The last one for a great while. Best thing about the voyage - no rain, no squalls. But not enough wind to sail either, so we motorsailed most of the time. We had a full moon and stars -- including the Southern Cross. Highlights of the trip: seeing the 'Kingdom of Redonda' (a large rock with a curious story attached) and Montserrat, an island with an active volcano (though not while we passed thankfully). But the best came last -- as we were motoring into the bay at Deshaies this morning, we passed a whale! First we just saw its back, flat against the water, and then it came up to spout. We hoped for another chance to see it, but it swam away without letting us identify what kind of whale it was. And no photo op.
Anchoring in Deshaies, a fishing village on the northwest coast of Guadeloupe, we cleaned up and dinghied to town. What a beautiful little place -- really just a couple of streets with a red roofed white church on the hill that chimes every 15 minutes. We searched out Customs to check in, which was an unusually pleasant experience. And we had a fabulous lunch in one of the open air restaurants overlooking the harbor. We may have to try them all... All the shops are closed midday, so we waited for the small supermarket to open to buy tonight's dinner: French wine, French cheese, and French bread. Vive La France!

Deshaies, Guadeloupe: +16° 18' 24.54", -61° 47' 47.34"

June 26, 2010... Landfall, St. Kittts

Friday morning we left Saltpond Bay to begin the 140-mile passage south. We expected a moderate 13-18 knot ENE wind and seas of 4-5 ft. for the initial part of the journey from St. John SE past St. Croix, then slightly higher seas in the Anegada Passage. Our plan was to make as much south as possible, then wait for the weaker SE winds from the backside of the NW-moving tropical wave to make the turn east to St. Kitts. OK, so we made a few assumptions. First, that the weather service forecast was accurate. Then, that we would miss most of the 'bad parts' of the tropical wave (which we had heard only involves a windshift anyway.)
So, first the good news: we sailed (not motorsailed, but actually sailed) all day Friday and into the night to Saturday. The not so good news: we had rain, thunderstorms, lightening, up to 30 knot winds in squalls, and tremendous waves. We were no sooner out of Saltpond when the wind was up to 20 knots and we were galloping through huge crested seas. Hanging on to the boat as best we could we set the main and jib and they stayed set all day. As the winds increased and the helm got harder to hold, we eased the main so that we could stand up straight. We reefed. Still it didn't prepare us for the lashing we took in the squalls as the waves came over the side and into the cockpit and the kayak decided to take a walk down the sidedeck. All day, all night. We were so wet, our fingers pruny, we began to wonder if it would ever end. But morning did come on Saturday, the winds died down and the sea was calm, and miraculously, the sun shone! (Though we did get a few more squalls on Saturday...) We motorsailed into St. Kitts and couldn't believe we were in the same sea we had been in the day before. Welcoming us was a fabulous red sunset that highlighted the towering clouds that hung on the mountains. Anchoring in Ballast Bay, we celebrated, we made it!

Ballast Bay, St. Kitts: +17° 14' 22.44", -62° 39' 36.66"

June 23, 2010... Up the Trail

St. John has great scenery and a huge network of walking trails. We walked the Ram's Head trail at Saltpond Bay, which turned out to be a bit more challenging than we expected. Along the bay, up the hill, through the trees and cacti, down the hill, along the next bay with beautiful blue and green rocks, and up the hill and out to Ram's Head -- the southeasternmost point on St. John. The views to the sea are spectacular; the wind blowing through the cliff notches unbelievable. A really great hike. We have some nifty photos too, but we are out of internet range (we are posting this blog entry from SSB sailmail), so when we next get to the internet we'll post the pictures. Stay tuned.

June 22, 2010... False Start to St. Kitts

Monday we picked up John's sunglasses (left behind in FL) at the post office in Cruz Bay (thanks for sending Renee!), got back to the boat, and readied for the passage to St. Kitts on Tuesday morning -- raised the kayak and dinghy, hanked on the staysail, and locked down anything that could move.  Tuesday we were up and off the mooring by 5:30am for the 24-30 hour trip.  Motorsailed out of Lameshur Bay and didn't like what we found out on the ocean.  Just as the weather service said, we found 'rough and hazardous' seas.  So, we turned back and picked up a mooring at Saltpond Bay -- one mile to the east of where we started!  Feeling defeated (but safe) we took naps.  We didn't feel that badly for too long, as by early afternoon the sun (!!) came out and we jumped in for a swim and snorkel.  We were rewarded with our first-ever octopus sighting.  Little guy, but cool.  We figure the weather window opens Friday.  So we'll hang on to this mooring for a few days, snorkel, kayak, and hike, and then try our luck again out there.
Saltpond Bay, St. John:  +18° 18' 29.10", -64° 42' 24.36"

June 17-20, 2010... St. John, Wet!

Thursday we hiked to the Taino petroglyphs that are about 1000 years old.  We kayaked to the VI Environmental Research Station dock and walked from there.  Just as we reached the dock the skies opened.  We were now set to have rain off and on throughout the weekend.  (Some of it real gully washers that cleaned our deck very nicely.)  The hike was through some pretty challenging terrain, and if we stopped to look around or rest, we were attacked by insects.  The petroglyphs were well worth the 'jungle' walk.  The pool reflects the petroglyphs making for some interesting images.
Friday we took the bus to Cruz Bay.  This first required that we walk a couple of miles to Salt Pond on steep roads.  The bus was exactly on time, and gave us some great views of the island from the Centerline Road.  The trip was around 45 minutes and we had fun in town.  The bus ride back was a kick as the driver took the pinturns without even slowing down.  Friday night the skies opened wide and we were deluged.  Glad to be back at the boat.  Happier still that this tropical disturbance didn't amount to much more than rain, rain, rain.

June 16, 2010... St John South Coast

Wednesday we went a-hunting for a good place to wait out the tropical disturbance that was an on-again, off-again possible tropical storm, coming our way in the Fri-Sat timeframe.  Finding Great Lameshur Bay on St. John's south coast, we had smooth, protected waters and a big hill providing wind protection from the east.  Immediately we jumped in for some great snorkeling, seeing big permit fish, trunkfish, and all the regular reef fish.  Plus, a terrific turtle posed for pictures.  Swimming back to Anhinga we found a barracuda hanging out under the keel - takes your breath away!  
Great Lameshur Bay, St. John:  +18° 18' 58.92", -64° 43' 19.14"

June 15, 2010... Back to the Beginning

This morning we decided to leave Leinster Bay and sail around the east end of St. John to Coral Bay.  Winds were ESE, so we tacked back and forth across the Sir Francis Drake Channel going between the USVI and BVI around 5 times.  A beautiful sail, bringing back sweet memories of the first time we sailed the BVI.  It was seven years ago; we took a one-week liveaboard class from Rob Swain and fell in love with sailing.  That was the beginning of the dream.  Look at us now!
Going into Coral Bay (which is about 3 miles across) we investigated several places before picking up a mooring that provided shelter from the considerable swell.  Taking the kayak out John spotted a couple of turtles and we watched the pelicans divebombing for fish.  We were able to get really close to them, they didn't seem to mind us at all.  In fact, one hit and caught a fish only about four feet in front of the kayak.  Big splash!  Back at Anhinga we had a tarpon hiding out under the keel, and John spotted our first bananaquit!  Cute little yellow bird flew by our boat.  You know, this just doesn't get old.
Coral Bay, St. John:  +18° 20' 45.24", -64° 41' 30.96"

June 13-14, 2010... Onto the Next Bay

Eastbound on the north coast of St. John, a tiny bit further down, we spent Sunday and Monday on a mooring in Leinster Bay.  This was pretty cool, because the mooring ball was right next to Waterlemon Cay -- one of the best snorkeling sites -- allowing us to jump off the boat and swim over to the reef.  There was a bit of current, but that worked in our favor when we wanted to just drift over the coral trying to take in all the different colors, forms, and fish.  There were gorgeous purple sea fans, tawny elkhorn coral right next to the surface, and the biggest parrotfish we've seen, feeding in packs.  Also, long lines of black spiny sea urchins, sometimes so close to the surface we had to back away so we wouldn't get stuck.  We were also able to kayak the length of the bay to the mangrove area where we were able to actually hear the birds singing.  Though this mooring field is in a park area, it is very popular, so there are lots of people talking/yelling, moored boat generators humming, and dinghies moving in all directions.  It finally gets quiet at sunset when the daytrippers go home.  And those sunsets!

Leinster Bay, St. John:  +18° 21' 50.58", -64° 43' 30.72"

And MORE Photos

St. John is SUCH a beautiful place, we can't leave out these pictures -- hope you enjoy them!

June 12, 2010... Land Tour, St. John

Patti picked up a cold, so we decided to stay out of the water on Saturday and go see what was on land in St. John.  After paying the 'iron ranger' in Francis Bay for the mooring, we beached the dinghy and headed out for a hike.  First we took the Francis Bay Trail around the mangrove swamp -- cool, beautiful walk through the mangroves; then slowly going up the hill for a great view of the Bay.  Back to the road, we walked to the Annaberg Sugar Mill getting wonderful views of Tortola and other islands of the BVI.  The mill and other factory building ruins were really interesting, especially when looking at the materials used for construction.  Some of the blocks were carved from coral and you can clearly see the outlines of the coral polyp holes in the rock.  The vegetation is so dense, it is hard to believe these hills were once all planted in sugar cane.  And we were lucky enough to see a small American kestrel, apparently a common bird around here.  Walked back to Francis Bay; another magnificent day in paradise.

June 11, 2010... St. John, USVI

First thing Friday we left Christmas Cove for Cruz Bay, St. John.  As there wasn't much room to anchor there, we headed around the corner to the north side of the island and picked up a mooring in Caneel Bay.  We dinghyed back to Cruz Bay to the National Park Service Visitor Center to get snorkeling info on St. John and to make sure we knew how to use the moorings in the Park.  We also walked up the hill to the Starfish Market (wow!) to get some fish to barbeque for dinner.  And we had lots of quality time at the post office while we waited to find out how to get a package delivered from Florida.  
Cruz Bay is a very cute town, but we were chomping at the bit to get out of town and into some natural paradise.  Back to Anhinga, we set out east and passed the beautiful beaches and coves of Caneel, Turtle, Hawksnest, Trunk, Cinnamon, and Maho Bays, and finally picked up a mooring in Francis Bay.  With only 5 boats here there was plenty of room for everyone.  Once settled we took the dinghy to snorkel around Whistling Cay.  More turtles!  And millions of little fish swimming around the huge boulders under the clear water.
1st Stop:  Caneel Bay, St. John:  +18° 20' 19.74", -64° 47' 47.46"
2nd Stop:  Francis Bay, St. John:  +18° 21' 54.48", -64° 44' 54.66"

June 10, 2010... Moving East Again

After going back to Florida for a short visit, we returned to St. Thomas.  The day we returned, the Oasis of the Seas was in, so we strolled over to ooh and ah over this huge ship, and watched it depart.  The next day we provisioned, topped off the fuel tanks, and got ready to move again; leaving today (Thursday) from Crown Bay Marina.  
We headed for Christmas Cove on Great St James Island off the east coast of St Thomas because it was a short hop and we needed to get our sea legs under us again.  We picked up a mooring (on the first try!)  After lunch we kayaked to the south end of the cove, beached the boat, and swam in to snorkel.  This is some of the clearest water we've ever seen.  The coral on the reef was a little disappointing, but we saw some beautiful fish.  The big sighting today were squid!  We hadn't seen them before and there they were!  Enjoy John's photos.
Christmas Cove, Great St. James Island, St. Thomas:  +18° 18' 44.58", -64° 49' 56.94"

June 1-2, 2010... Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas

Tuesday we went to town again -- needed to get to the post office and wanted to visit the synagogue when it was open.  This is the second oldest temple in the new world and hasn't missed a sabbath service in 214 years.  The Sephardic design is beautiful, the mahogany furnishings sumptuous, and the sand floor a real special feature.  It is worth the climb up the hill to visit this place.  
We also took the time to dinghy over to Crown Bay Marina where we will have Anhinga stay while we return to FL for a few days.  It is always good to preview the slip and approach geometry before actually bringing the boat in.  On Wednesday, we moved to the slip without incident.  Yay!!

May 30 - 31, 2010... Onward to the USVI

Sunday morning we set sail for St. Thomas.  Culebrita's weekend party was getting going again by 9am, power boats were arriving in droves, so we thought we'd clear out and open up space for the crowds in the bay.  We had one long lingering squall as we left the Spanish Virgins.  After about 45 minutes of drenching rains and clocking winds, the skies cleared and we had a light south wind that pushed us ever so gently east to Charlotte Amalie; a beautiful sail.  The anchorages west of Water Island were full, so we motored through the cut between St. Thomas and Hassel Island and anchored in the main harbor -- a little rolly -- but endlessly entertaining with the cruise ship arrivals and departures and all the tour boats buzzing in to pick up their excursion passengers.  
Monday we headed into town and did the self-guided walking tour of the old city taking in the legislature building (formerly a Danish barracks), Fort Christian, Emancipation Park, the Governor's mansion, the 99 steps, Blackbeard's Castle, a LOT MORE steps, and St. Thomas synagogue.  Of course a visit is not complete without walking through all the old arcade buildings, former warehouses, now housing the duty free shops.  This is a town transformed between the hours of 9-5 as the cruise ship passengers hunt for the perfect baubles and tax-free liquor.  Back to Anhinga in late afternoon to collapse!
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, USVI:  +18° 20' 11.88", -64° 55' 41.82"