We’re sorry about the long interval between posts, but we’ve been busy packing a lot into our limited Virgin Islands time this year. Following is a screen snap showing our final, short but wonderful, Virgin Island excursion on Jubilee.
Culebra – 2/5-2/8
Our last post (February 6th … “The Adventure Continues”) was from Culebra in the Spanish Virgin Islands a day after our arrival. We ended up staying four days in Culebra after hearing that Gail Bowdish and her husband, Barry Lyon, planned to arrive soon from St. Thomas aboard their center cockpit Beneteau 42 Gaiamar. Although we had seen Gail in Minneapolis in early January where she was the GLCC Lake Superior mid-winter dinner’s featured speaker, we hadn’t seen Barry since we crossed paths at Virgin Gorda’s North Sound about a year ago.
Before joining forces a several years ago, Gail and Barry had each logged over 20,000 sailing miles, and since that time they’ve sailed another 13,000 miles together! Gail has also non-stop single-handed the length of each of the five Great Lakes … an accomplishment attained by only a very small group of elite sailors. We first met Gail back in 1992 at another Lake GLCC dinner event in Minneapolis. At that time she was working as an ER physician at the Hennepin County Medical Center. It was good seeing them again while enjoying the funky joys of Culebra together.
St. Thomas – 2/9
We made a one-night stop in St. Thomas to re-fill the water tank that we had lost to the bilge due to a broken half-inch hose barb. As repairs go this was about as easy and cheap as one can get on a boat … fix ½-inch barb and associated 18” hose with on-board spares, and then re-fill the emptied tank at Crown Bay … total cost about $15.00 for the water. We also ran to Red Hook and back on a dollar bus (converted pick-up truck) to get a few things there, including a new Larimar pennant for Judy
St. John – 2/10-2/11
Colorado friends LaRue and Susan Boyd aboard their center cockpit Hunter ’45 Southern Cross had snagged a mooring at Caneel Bay to hang out until Susan’s sister arrived via ferry in a day or so. Caneel can often be rolly, but the winds were perfect for a visit this time. Bill had seen and had dinner with the Boyds while in Fajardo (Southern Cross splashed just an hour before Jubilee went in the water for the year), but Judy had missed them. Sundowners aboard Southern Cross were in order.
BVI’s – 2/12-2/19
We cleared into the BVI’s at Soper’s Hole, West End, Tortola, and per our usual plan spent one night there after a large mid-afternoon lunch at Pusser’s. For those who have seen them, Bill had a Pusser’s “Great Dog”, and yes, he ate the whole thing! As Pusser's describes the selection it's an oversized, humongous, gargantuan (all words from their menu), highest quality hotdog made especially for Pusser's, then dipped in beer batter and quickly deep-fried and served on a hot bun with French fries, chopped onions, ketchup, mustard and sweet relish condiments. Having it brought back cullunary memories of the Minnesota State Fair. Bill survived! Then it was off to the Bight at Norman Island the next morning.
The Bight – 2/13-15
Those who have been following our blog from year to year may remember that the infamous Pirate’s restaurant on the beach at Norman’s had been almost totally re-built for last season (see 2013 photo at left) . That’s the good news. The bad news is that while closed for hurricane season this past summer-fall, the new building burned to the ground October 1st. But for some good news again … the rebuilding was going forward at a pace we’ve seldom seen in the islands (see photo at right).
Of course EVERYTHING has to be brought in by boat, including the construction crew. They started by building an open air temporary restaurant and bar in a very permanent structure which will remain a bar area in the totally rebuilt complex. For immediate kitchen needs they brought in a temporary trailer, placed it in the bush behind the new temporary restaurant structure, and remarkably are serving the same full menu offered in prior years. Thank goodness we were able to order our favorite – Chicken Roti … the best we’ve found so far in the Caribbean.
Bruce and Susan Harris arrived on Andiamo to join us on the 14th. We’d last seen them when we stayed with them at their Calgary home in September on our way to a Leavenworth, Washington wedding. Of course, when with Bruce and Susan there’s always some hiking involved, as these Norman Island overlook photos attest.
Marina Cay – 2/16-17
We had a great reefed main and reefed jib sail up the Francis Drake Channel to Marina Cay, almost laying it on one tack! From Marina Cay we grabbed their shuttle ferry to near-by Trellis Bay to check out the happy hour scene there, followed by dinner at Pusser's Marina Cay with Bruce and Susan.
While sailing up to Marina Cay we noticed a 2" tear in the jib. Under further inspection we're pretty sure it was caused by dragging the sail across something sharp while raising it on the furler this year, as there were a few other snags in line with the rip in the same area. The good news is that these things can easily be repaired now days, using sticky-back dacron sail cloth on both sides with no need to sew. We quickly lowered the sail, applied a patch, re-hoisted the sail on the furler and voila ... a fully repaired sail! Cruising IS fixing your boat in exotic places.
For our second night at Marina Cay we caught their new, six day a week entertainment duo. The two brothers had come from Tennessee, and while not on par with a Michael Beans their performance was pretty good. We closed out this last night with Bruce and Susan with dinner aboard Andiamo. While we each have our own adventures ahead, we'll definitely miss buddy boating the remainder of this season.
Soper’s and BVI Check-Out – 2/18
Our time was limited in the BVI’s this year, as was Bruce and Susan’s. The next morning they headed further east to Virgin Gorda’s North Sound to stage for their hop further east to St. Martin and vicinity, while we reluctantly turned the other direction, heading downwind to West End and our BVI checkout. We’ll now need to start getting used to the roll of downwind sailing, as it will almost certainly be the norm for next 1400 to 1500 miles. To avoid the hassle of jibes with an almost dead-downwind course, we ran under jib alone for the trek to Soper’s … in fact we wouldn’t touch the main again until after our re-provisioning stop in Fajardo.
Once at Soper’s we decided to stay there for the night before moving on Wednesday to Francis Bay on St. John.
St. John’s Francis Bay -2/19-20
Our Virgin Island stops this year were influenced more by the friends we were hoping to spend time with than by a quest for new anchorages, experiences or favorite coves. At St. John’s Francis Bay we connected with longtime friends Hans and Ruth Deller.
Hans and Ruth had been cruising down here for more years than we can count. Years ago we had also occasionally sailed and chartered with them both here and in other Caribbean locations. We even bought two new sailboats from them back in the 70’s when they had started Sunworld Yachts as a “side business” during the gas-crunch-fueled sailing boom (timing is everything).
St. John begs to be hiked, so hike we did over toward Leinster Bay and the overlook just a short hike up the Johnny Horn trail. The next day we joined Hans, Ruth and others in an informal Francis Bay beach appetizer and sundowner gathering with about 10 other cruisers. This kind of gathering was the norm when we were cruising in the Bahamas, but it seldom happens here in the Virgins with their high percentage of charterers. Wherever cruisers congregate you can count on impromptu cockpit and beach gatherings, whereas charterers tend to stick to themselves, interacting very little with other cruisers or locals. The difference is understandable … the charterers are here on a short vacation break, typically for only a week or 10 days, and they tend to come and travel together as “ready-made” group.
St. Thomas Charlotte Amalie Harbor – 2/21
On Friday we reluctantly left Francis Bay, Hans and Ruth, and the other cruisers there to head further downwind to St. Thomas. The first order of business in Charlotte Amalie on Friday was an inexpensive eye exam for Judy.
It turns out that Judy had forgotten to renew her MN driver’s license before heading down here. Once expired, it would mean a re-take of both the written and driving tests when we return to Minnesota. However, luckily, on the MN DMV web site Judy found there was a way to renew a license while out of state. Bingo!
Wanting her eye test from an English-speaking optometrist, she arranged for a $20.00 exam at the local Sterling store Friday afternoon. In parallel our daughter Jill was watching our home mail for the snail mail state DMV forms to express mail to us in Fajardo. After one final step … finding a Puerto Rico lawyer to notarize the application (banks and other businesses don’t have notaries down here … only lawyers) … and she’ll be good to go for a remote license renewal. Oh the hassles … and complications … of cruising.
Culebra Again … and then Fajardo – 2/22 -23
Another rolly down-wind run on Saturday took us to Culebra, where we anchored one final time near the entrance reef to Ensenada Honda. After a peaceful night there we were well-positioned to exit the reef-lined entry Sunday morning, head further west to Puerto del Rey, top our diesel tanks there, find our assigned slip, and begin preparations for our downwind travels toward the east coast.
We've been busy here at Puerto del Rey. As of today’s posting on 2/28 our provisioning is now pretty well done for the trip back to the States. Our freezer is full to the brim and frozen absolutely solid with meats that should take us at least as far as Nassau with our various crews.
Plus we’ve now finished our canned goods and staple shopping (quickly closing in on $1,000 in groceries so far). We also need to do a liquor, wine and soda run to the local warehouse outlet tomorrow plus a short run for last minute produce & bread the day before we leave. The provisioning end is in sight!
Bill has also been doing a lot of much needed cosmetic work on the boat plus a few minor maintenance items that didn’t get taken care of before we left for the Virgins about a month ago. He took the pin rails, boom gallows, traveler arch, cockpit coaming, cockpit grates and kicker pad down to bare wood, and has since given them each at least two coats of Cetol Light. He also touched up all other exterior teak while Judy put a fresh coat of varnish on our interior teak window trim. Jubilee is starting to look pretty good, if we do say so ourselves.
It sure is nice having a string of days in Puerto Rico where we aren't seeing a little tropical rain squall come through every couple of hours to totally mess with any brightwork plans, as is too-often the case here. Our teak has seriously suffered over the past two years in the Caribbean sun without adequate touch-ups to keep it in shape. Hopefully this week’s efforts will get us back to at least passable appearance.
Sailing puts tremendous loads on the running rigging, often measured in the thousands of pounds, and back in Culebra we noticed that a dual mainsheet traveler block had become deformed to the point of the center brace actually breaking off! Luckily no harm was done. We jerry-rigged a temporary repair using other blocks until we returned to Puerto Rico, and now have a much heavier duty block where the old one had been (see the old deformed block on the left and new replacement block on the right).
The Next Leg
Our first crew, fellow Twin Cities sailor Alan Olson, will be flying into San Juan on Sunday, March 2nd, to sail with us as far as the Dominican Republic. Although currently boatless, Alan brings with him tons of experience including a transatlantic passage with some other mutual friends. We hope he doesn’t find our little hop along the south coast of Puerto Rico and across the Mona Passage to the DR too tame … or too warm (most of his sailing has been done in the higher latitudes).
The one downside of his visit is that his wife Beth wasn’t able to join him. Beth just started a new job a few weeks ago, and doesn’t yet have any vacation accrual for our trip.
So … with that to entice you … please stay tuned as we start our trek back to the states via the south coast of Puerto Rico, the D.R., the Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas, and finally Florida and Georgia. We’re thinking about storing for hurricane season again in Brunswick, GA, just north of the Florida-Georgia border, as we’ve had good luck there in the past. In the mean time we look forward to seeing you soon for our next installment!