Nevis, Day 3

December 28, 2006

We are still in Nevis. Tomorrow we plan to go to Golden Rock Estate, which is up high on the slope of Mt. Nevis, for a hike in the rainforest. There are supposed to be great views and lots of monkeys in the trees.

Winds in the anchorage have picked up considerably but luckily there is still only a light swell here on the leeward side of the island. We listened to Chris Parker of CaribWX give his 8:30 am forecast on the SSB radio (similar to ham radio). He broadcasts from the British Virgin Islands. Lots of sailors listen in to his broadcast, and then identify themselves and ask questions about forecast conditions for the route they have planned over the coming days. The winds and seas are forecast to abate on Sunday and early Monday morning, and then pick up again, so we have planned to sail the 115 nm. to Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe in one go, leaving Sunday late afternoon and arriving Monday morning. The other possibilities did not seem attractive. We could sail to Antigua and then on to Guadeloupe, but the sail to Antigua would be directly into the wind. We could sail to Montserrat, but it was pretty much destroyed by a volcano a few years ago, most of the population evacuated, and there has been an exclusion zone around much of the island due to falling ash and volcanic flows. As it is,our list of preparations for the sail to Guadeloupe include calling the Montserrat Volcano Observatory to make sure our course past Monserrat takes us far enoughaway to avoid the sticky ash that has been reported to fall downwind of the island.

Please check our slide show. We have added photos from St. Maarten and St. Barts. You can get to the slideshows from the home page, click on slide shows, and then the Caribbean Dec. 2006 link. The resolution looked poor from the internet cafe here in Nevis, but that could have just been the computer that I wsas using.

I think that I may have fixed the problem with the formatting of the blog but I am not certain. If it looks funky, please let me know.

M.

Nevis, day 2

We had an entirely different perspective on Nevis today when we dinghied in to the dock. Last night it was kind of deserted and it didn’t feel very safe. We didn’t like the dinghy dock at all and the town seemed lifeless. Today when we pulled up we were greeted at the dock by a very nice, friendly Nevis dockmaster, who immediately welcomed us to the island, offered to take our garbage for us, and told us exactly where to go to start the check in procedures for transient yachts. We figured out how the dinghy dock worked – you need to set an anchor off the stern of the dinghy or it will bump underneath the big wooden dock, and break your engine.
We came prepared and all went well. The dockmaster then walked us over the the customs office. He said it was a very busy day because a couple of cruise ships had just pulled in. They had a guy playing steel drums on the dock, and everyone was so friendly and helpful. Of course, once we reached the customs office, things changed a bit. There is something about bureaucracy in every country that is particularly annoying, but in the Caribbean it really is something to grin and bear. Totally unsmiling and severe,the guy in the customs office read and re-read our documentation before collecting the required $13 and approving our stay. From there we had to walk to the police station, where a relatively friendly officer requested the same information (this time, however, we didn’t have to pay), and then finally to the third and final office required for check-in – the port master. This poor guy was sitting in a little cubicle office,
just 100 feet from the beautiful bay, but his office had no windows at all and was barely big enough for his desk and paper-work. At least it was air-conditioned. Poor guy – he collected another fee from us – had us fill out the same papers again!- and then we were officially registered to stay in Nevis for 6 days.

We wandered around the town – now full of life and people. We found a great little internet cafe – run by Shelly – and were appalled to find that our last few blogs had been coming through with all sorts of odd characters in the text. We can’t see our web site when we are on the boat, so we were just assuming it was ok. We will try to get that all fixed by tomorrow if possible. We got a phone card and tried to make some calls – a lot of the phones here don’t work right, so we called Shirley and left a message (which I don’t think worked), called Ben and Hannah in Israel ( which didn’t work either), and then finally reached Kitty’s house ( but she was sleeping). Oh well, we will try again tomorrow.

Then we tried to get into the Alexander Hamilton museum – apparently he was born here -but the museum was inexplicably locked up. After a nice lunch at a restaurant that clearly catered to the cruise boat crowd, we retired to the boat to get out of the hot sun. An evening stroll on the beautiful beach, and an hour or so on deck watching the sun set reflected on the volcano Mt.Nevis capped off the day.Dinner consisted of one very large avocado, mashed into guacamole, and some great Gouda cheese and crackers-  nice not to have to prepare regular dinners here like at home.

Now we are both sitting at our computers on the boat, swaying back and forth in the slight swell of the waves, listening to some good music while our water maker is making a hundred liters or so of fresh water.

By the way, Ben and Hannah, Dad made an awesome mix for his nano.  It is classic dad music – you will have to hear it when you come out.

Love to all

Laura

Nevis

Nevis - the Volcano

We left Anse du Colombier in St. Barts early this morning for the island of Nevis. Nevis is one of two islands that make up the country of St.Christopher and Nevis (more often referred to as St. Kitts and Nevis. The winds were stronger than forecast, and we sailed a close reach almost the whole way, with water coming over the bow and spray against the windscreen. The outhaul kept slipping even though I had covered it and the pulley wheels with fan belt conditioner — which is really just stickly stuff in an aerosol can. One more thing to replace when we get to Guadeloupe.

Our course took us through “The Narrows”, a narrow strait separating Kitts and Nevis. It became gusty and squally just as we entered The Narrows so we took down sail and motored. It cleared up as we got to the leeward side of Nevis. The island is beautiful, with sugar cane fields on the sloping land coming up from the beach until the forested sides of Mt Nevis which towers up in the center of this circular island. There are no natural bays or harbors on Nevis so anchoring is likely to be very uncomfortable if a northerly swell is running. Fortunately it is not, although there are still swells rocking the boat from side to side. We are anchored off of Pinney’s Beach (17 08=2E96N, 62 degrees 37=2E81W) to
the north of Charlestown. The beach is a long expanse of sand framed by swaying palm trees.

We put the outboard on the dinghy and motored along the beach to town.It was just sunset as we tied up to the dock so we did not want to stay long. After walking a couple of blocks, and seeing everything shuttered with almost no traffic in the streets, we remembered that it is Boxing Day in all former English possessions — a holiday. We found a place that served an excellent banana ice cream and then headed back to the boat. We will hang out here for a couple of days before heading south again.

Anse du Columbier

The view on the way back

December 24th, 2006

This is our second day in Anse du Columbier – a beautiful little cove on the western side of St. Bart’s. Today we spent an inordinant amount of time just figuring out how to get to shore. There is a very pretty beach here which leads to a wonderful walking path, and eventually to the little village of Flamands which has a great restaurant (La Langouste) and an amazing beach complete with umbrellas and beach chairs. The problem was getting to the beach from the boat. Too far to swim, and we didn’t want to hike to the restaurant all salty and wet With the dinghy engine on, our dinghy is too heavy to drag up on the beach, and with the engine off, we have to row the dinghy, which is not very easy, as it is big and clunky and we were a little afraid we wouldn’t be able to manage it. We decided to throw Mark into the dinghy – with a safety line attached – and see how hard it was to row. Luckily it turned out to be relatively easy – and the current was not strong – so we rowed in. Great exercise.
The restaurant was wonderful – (delicious Soupe de Poisson again) – and we spent most of the afternoon at the beach – trying our best to look French.

Love to all.
Laura

On Our Way

On Our Way

Doing e-mail at the cafe by the dockWe dropped our lines at 8:35 am and headed out to wait for the 9 am bridge opening. We both felt nervous and excited about the start of our circumnavigation. It certainly did not
feel like just another day out for a sail. We did not sleep well last night even though we had a relaxing evening of wine and cheese wih our neighbors on “Toot” , and then a quick
dinner at “Where’s Ivan?” in the marina.

We did not go very far today, just to St. Barts (St. Barthelemy) which is just 15 nautical miles away. We made even less distance in terms of a west-about circumnavigation since St. Barts is actually east (and south) of St. Martins. What a great feeling to set our sails in the warm breezes and turquoise water of the Carribean and start on a great adventure.

We arrived in Anse du Colombier at 12:45 and found an empty mooring. We celebrated with a baguette sandwich, iced tea, and a 90 minute nap in he forward berth with a 15
knot breeze coming through the open hatch to cool us off. When we awoke we dug up our bathing suits and had our first swim. I put on my snorkel mask and flippers and inspected the boat bottom (a bit slimy but otherwise perfect) and the mooring line. Laura swam with a noodle we found at a Dutch-side hardware store in St.Martins. Tomorrow we will do a proper snorkel on the reef.

It took over three hours to get here since it was an upwind sail in a choppy sea that brought water over the bow and spray onto the cockpit windscreen. The outhaul that holds the
main sail out on the boom kept slipping so the sail could not stay flat, slowing our progress upwind. The outhaul line is new and apparently too slippery for the pulley wheels. I had
tightened it so much it twanged like a guitar string but that apparently is not enough. I have some belt conditioner on the boat that should add friction.I will try that out tomorrow.

It was a gorgeous evening with a sky full of stars and the breeze kept it pleasantly cool. We will be here until after Christmas.

Mark

Vinegar Head

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

Quote of the day: ” Laura, I am concerned about your head. It has so much trouble opening and closing. I am going to have to open it up and pour some vinegar in.”

That was Mark’s good-night words to me, last night. Needless to say, I almost split a gut laughing. I guess he must have been talking about the toilet “head”, but, I don’t know, maybe he was really referring to me. I have been kind of forgetful lately, but really… threatening to open it up and pour in vinegar seems a bit much.

We are still in Simpson’s Bay – we worked so hard getting everything put away on the boat yesterday in preparation for our first sail, that when it was time to take the hike over to customs to check out, neither of us had the energy. We decided to just wait one more day. Customs here is the type of thing that you can’t approach lightly.

We had a great relaxing evening – went out to dinner with a couple on the boat next to us – Mike and Marleen from “Toot”. We all had a good laugh over the name of the mega-yacht that pulled in yesterday “Hooter Patrol IV”. That has to be about the lowest class name one could come up with for a multi-million dollar yacht, but I guess if you made your money from the Hooter’s bars, it works just fine. We are keeping our eyes peeled to see what the crew and owners look like. So far, we haven’t seen anything too unusual.
Today we made the trip over to the customs office. You have to be very patient in the Caribbean, as everything works at a snails’ pace…. but we successfully checked out and tomorrow we should push off.

PS If you double-click on the photos posted in our blog you can see them larger and in greater resolution.
Laura

Dec 19-20: completing preparations in St. Maarten

Yesterday, December 19, was another day devoted to
boat preparations. Our rental car had to be back by
11:30 or we would have to pay for another day.
Renting a car is not cheap here. We organized our day
around the bridge opening times. At the first bridge
closing, we headed west away from the bridge in light
traffic, watching those heading east towards the
bridge lined up for a mile. We first stopped at the
sailmaker. Laura went in while I sat in the
double-parked car. Laura checked on his work and
found that he had gotten confused about what wed had
asked of him and had sewn a batten pocket closed. He
quickly set out to fix his error as we waited, but
that set us off of our tight schedule. From the
sailmaker we headed to a new supermarket we noticed on
the road to Marigot. It was the nicest one we had
seen and, with this one, we had seen them all. We
quickly loaded up the cart with 48 rolls of Charmin,
bananas, and other stuff that we grabbed off the
shelves quickly. Then back to the marina to unload
these new purchases plus those of the day before that
still filled the trunk. I also got 4 gallons of
diesel motor oil. The day was hot with passing
squalls, and we worked up a sweat hauling our load
onto the boat. We then left for the car rental place,
located on the other side of the bridge just 15
minutes before the next bridge closing. We walked
back to the marina and rested before setting out by
taxi to Budget Marine to pick up our new dinghy and
outboard engine, and a few marine odds and ends. They
now know us well at Budget Marine. We work mostly with
Rosemary and Andrew, who were very patient and
helpful. It took a while to get the dinghy all set up
at Budget Marine’s dock, and we had problems getting
the outboard to start for the first time. Finally it
sprang to life and we headed off across Simpson’s
Lagoon at the slowest possible speed. The manual says
that new outboards should be run at dead slow for the
first hour as part of the break-in process.

As we started the process of turning our mizzen
boom into a crane to haul the outboard onto the
transom of Sabbatical III, we starting talking with
Mike and Marlene in the boat next to ours. They have
been sailing out of St. Maarten for the past 14 years,
sailing around the islands for 6 months each winter
and spring before having their boat sailed back to the
States for them. They had some useful suggestions
about anchorages in St.Barths and elsewhere.

It is December 20th now, and we got lots done today
so it looks like we will push off to make the 9 am
bridge opening (the only other choices are 11:00 and
4:30). The weather is clear and hot and the wind has
moderated. “Farmer” (real name Elwyn Charles) came
by this morning to help to haul the big genoa out of
the sail locker and install some Dri-Deck on the
bottom of the locker to help keep the sail dry. While
we were at it, we emptied a number of lockers to make
sure everything is dry and mildew free, and left it
all sitting up on the deck for the day. Farmer is the
guy who watched over our boat since it arrived,
flushed our watermaker every week, and gave it a good
scrub. Everyone knows him at the marina and many
boaters trust him for all sorts of boat-keeping
responsibilities. His picture is attached, as is one
of the boat from across the dock (with our new AB
dinghy tied to the stern).

M.

Perpetual Provisioning

Dec 18, 2006

We are still busy buying things for the boat. You would think that after 9 months of purchasing stuff for the boat, there would be little left to buy. But two trips to Budget Marine for boat hardware, and two huge shopping expeditions for groceries– one to the Dutch side and to the French side – still leave us a couple of shopping trips short of meeting our perceived needs. It is amazing to unload a couple of hundred pounds of grocery items and then find that there is nothing to eat.

We have also sent our sun awning to the sail maker for alternations and stopped in at least a half-dozen places to look for a drip coffee pot. Our beautiful Chemex pot broke within 15 seconds of our first arrival at the boat when I reached for a light switch and knocked the Chemex into on open galley storage box. We have a stock of 500 Chemex coffee filters, so we do not want to give up on this “technology” too quickly. All we could find in two days of looking is a Melita drip top. We could not even find a coffee press. And this is a French island!

Water entered various storage compartments under the floor board in the forward half of the boat. We did not realize the extent of the problem until yesterday. We lost most of our engine oil filters, three novels, and had mildew on a number of other items, mostly books and equipment manuals. Luckily, we found replacement oil filters here in Simpsons Bay, and we have so many books we probably will not miss those three until August or so.

We have a little Toyota Corolla that has been extraordinarily useful in getting our shopping done. The stores and roads are crowded with Xmas shoppers who come from other islands to take advantage of the duty-free shopping that make this place popular.

Yesterday afternoon, we took a drive to the other side of the island and found ourselves in Grand Case, a cute tourist village set on a beach. We hung out on the beach sipping drinks until restaurant L’Escapade opened at 5 pm. They have the soup de poisson that we fell in love with in La Rochelle, where we bought the boat. Laura loves soup de poisson, and she was not disappointed. We savored our soup as the sun set over the bay.
We attach a picture of us that the woman sharing our table in the internet cafe just took. She is starting a circumnavigation too, along with her husband and 8 and 10 year old childen. I met her husband at the ships chandlery when I went to buy oil filters. I bet we see them again sometime over the next few months.

Time to shop again. Not that much left — bottled water, diesel engine oil, coffee pot, and garlic. What are the chances of finding those items in a single store?

M.

Posted December 17, 2006

We are doing great. We seem to be moving in slow motion though – I think we have already taken on the Caribbean personality – just get a couple of things accomplished each day. We are anxious to get going though- I am sure St. Maarten is a beautiful island, but it is so congested with traffic that it is a bit hard to appreciate. We need to provision some more, and we are waiting for some charts to arrive. I stupidly sent them US mail –
insured – but I can’t seem to track them and it has already been two weeks since
they were sent – we are really hoping they arrive before we move on to the
next island.

We drove to the large supermarket on the Dutch side of the island yesterday and loaded up two huge carts full of drinks and staples- still nothing much to eat on the boat – unless you count crackers and cookies and water.  We are planning to go to the big supermarket on the French side either today or tomorrow and load up on good food and produce

Your Documents, Please…

Your Documents, Please…..

We made it to T.F. Green airport with plenty of time to spare on Wednesday morning. Our flight was scheduled for 7:15 a.m. and having been picked up by the Comfort Inn Shuttle at 5:15 we were at the airport just minutes later. (By the way, for those of you who love airports, you have got to try the Comfort Inn. Your room will pretty much be on the runway). Loaded down with FIVE suitcases – each packed to the maximum 50 pounds, plus two stuffed carry-ons and another two mega-size carry-on “purses’”, we were all set to pay our $80 “extra-luggage” fine, and settle down for the flight south. When we presented the U.S. Air attendant our one-way tickets she morosely asked us what we were doing with one way tickets. We explained ever so humbly that we were embarking on a circumnavigation, and only needed a one way ticket. Much to our amazement she told us that there was no way that we would either be able to get on the flight, or pass through immigration in Saint Maarten unless we had the proper documentation.
What documentation, we asked? Your boat documentation of course, she replied.
Please understand that most of the weight of our five suitcases, two carry-ons, and 2 jumbo purses was taken up by various paper we were carrying with us – Mark’s work, empty and full notebooks, portfolios stuffed with documents, etc. etc. Which suitcase, and which folder contained the boat documents was not so clear. So there, with the ever increasing stream of other travelers to watch, we had to basically unzip and search through 100 pounds of paper. After a relatively short search Mark came up with our boat document. Triumphantly handing it to the woman at the desk, she responded that this document only showed that we owned a boat, not that we had a boat in Saint Maarten, and that we were going to pick her up and sail away . Ok, now we panicked. What kind of document could we possibly have that would suit her demands? After another 10 minutes of searching Mark came up with a document from the marina in St. Maarten saying that our boat was there and that they would be expecting us on December 13th. Whew! She accepted it – and we were on board.
After a change of planes in Phili, and another in San Juan we arrived in St. Maarten . We nervously approached one of the women at the immigration counter. Just as the U.S. Air attendant had anticipated, we were not about to pass through unquestioned. She passively, but severely inquired about our boat, and asked if we had “the letter” to prove that we really had a boat, that we were the owners, that it was in St. Maarten, and that we were really going to sail out of there . Just what kind of letter this could be was beyond us. We showed her the letter we had used at the Providence airport, and Mark pointed out how official it was, including our boat name, our names, and the Marina ’s name and address. Luckily she was not in the mood to inquire further and we passed through immigration without further ado.
Our bags were there, a dozen taxis were parked outside, and soon we were on our way to the marina – a mere two miles away. When the taxi came to an abrupt halt just ½ mile down the road from the airport, we thought there must have been an accident on the road. When the time stretched from a few minutes to several minutes we inquired about what was happening. “Oh”, the taxi driver said, “the bridge is up”. The bridge is opened six times a day to let boats into and out of the large harbor that our boat is in. What we didn’t realize was that when the bridge is up – which can be anywhere from ½ hour to a couple of hours, depending on how many boats are moving in and out – the main road into and out of the airport comes to a complete stop. What was so bewildering to us was that the taxi driver knew in advance that the bridge was up and would be up for a while – and yet we sat there in line with what grew to be several hundred cars – all with their motors idling. No one thought to say , “ Hey, let’s just wait at the airport until the bridge opens.” So much for environmental awareness.
After 40 minutes we were on our way again, and safely made it to the marina.
The boat looks great- clean and all polished up – and we are exhausted.
Welcome to Paradise .
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Just one thing to report from this first very laid back day. There are some unbelievable yachts here – our boat looks like a dinghy compared to some of our neighbors. The 150 foot, 3 story high mega-yacht that is just across the dock from us had their lights on in their dining area last night, so we could spy in. There was an unusually pretty painting mounted on the wall facing us. Taking out our binoculars, we casually glanced inside to see what was clearly an original Chagall oil painting. Wow!