Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Arrival in the British Virgin Islands (BVI)

We left St. Maarten after dinner about 9 pm headed for the BVI on February 24, 2019.  it hada been somewhat sad to see the condition of St. Maarten in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, but also good to see that the slow rebuilding progress was occurring.

BVI in sight
Headed out on what might be our last overnight trip for a while was both a happy/sense of almost accomplishment feeling and yet somewhat sad - we would be going home soon and also handing the boat over to Dream Yacht Charters for a while.  Still, we were almost there.

We saw a lot of marine traffic in the night - perhaps one of the busier noths we had seen.  A few commercial ships; a few sail boats and several cruise ships. 
Ginger Island

As morning broke, the islands of the BVI were in sight - Tortola, Ginger Island and Virgin Gorda all visible.  I decided to enter the island area (Frances Drake Channel) via Round Rock Passage.

We pulled in to the channel and headed up the inside of Virgin Gorda to Spanish Town, the closest Port of Entry to the BVI.  We were able to get a slip at Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor, which is currently well on the way to recovery after the Hurricanes.  Although the docks are fixed/concrete, they have been nicely finished with wood fascias.  There was only one restaurant open - the Bath ans Turtle, formerly Chez Bamboo.  i don't know why they changed the name, but the food was good and service excellent!.

Today (Feb 26) we moved on to Leverick Bay.  We can see work ongoing at Saba Rock, but the Bitter End seems to have been just cleared.  We will investigate a little more tomorrow.  Until then - time to chill out a little!

Antigua and St. Maarten

We spent 4 well deserved, relaxing days at the St. James Club in Antigua.  This is an all-inclusive resort with space for a few boats.  Until our last night, we were the only boat in there.  The resort was nice, and at $1.25/ft, quite reasonable.  This include use of pools and watersports (hobbies, kayaks etc).   The entrance in was quite straightforward and it was well protected at the dock.  Food and drinks could be purchased separately at the restaurants and bars.  Food was pricey and average.  The alternative was an all-inclusive pass for $125/person/day.  We elected the former, and many times, the bars forgot to charge us for drinks.

Start of RORC 600
The island was real nice – we rented a car for a day (which broke down and  just added to the adventure), and we watched the start of the RORC 600 – a 600 mile sailing race around the islands.  I think our favorite sights were the race start and a visit to Devil’s Bridge – a natural rock bridge formation spanning the crashing waves.  The people of Antigua were super friendly and the local history was very interesting with many remnants of British forts, Nelson’s dockyard, English Harbor

When we left, we cleared out and sailed up the coast maybe 10 miles finding a nice secluded beach anchorage in Fryes Bay.  We stayed the night before heading off to St. Kitts
Devil's Bridge, Antigua

St. Kitts

We had planned to stop at St. Kitts but could get no response from the marina on email or phone.  We finally raised them on the sat phone from a few miles away, but were told they had no space available – maybe tomorrow.  So we elected to continue on to St. Marten.

St. Maarten

Sailing Yacht A, Simpson Bay - $450M monstrocity!
Our passage was good, but we did have a few squalls overnight puffing up to 32 kts.  We arrived in St. Marten at about 11 pm and dropped the hook in Simpson Bay.
The next day, we went through the drawbridge into the lagoon and got a slip for 2 nights at /Simpson Bay Marina.  While in port, we rented a car to do some sightseeing.  St. Marten was hit badly by hurricane Irma (18 months ago), and while Simpson Bay is on the way to recovery, most other parts of the island are clearly not there yet.  Oyster Pond is the location where most of the charter boats were operated out of.  I have chartered from there in the past and it was a bustling area of bars, restaurants and boaters.  Sadly it was devastated and at the time of our visit the marina area was a sad sight.

Mega Yachts - Simpson Bay Marina

We visited the French side of the Island – Marigot Bay and drove the coastline around to Phillipsburg.  Lots of damage, but slow and encouraging signs of recovery.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Atlantic Crossing - 14 Days, 19 hours

Leaving Mindelo

What's the best thing about cruising??

One of the best aspects of cruising is the comradery between cruisers in port.  We had the great pleasure of meeting a fantastic group of people.  We met a family from California on “Lola”, a group of friends and hitchhikers on “Fat Susan”.  Boat names I don’t remember:  Deiter, Claudia, Charlie, (baby), and dog Rocky from Hamburg, Germany; three Irish guys on a boat; some English and South Africans; and an amazing character called Craig Wood or “Woody” from England.  Now I have to say a few words about Craig and strongly recommend you Google this amazing guy or search for him on Facebook.  Please do this – his story is amazing.  I will not try to tell it here as I can’t do justice to it.  But Craig is a British veteran in his 20s that lost both legs, an arm, and sustained other injuries while on active duty in Afghanistan.  He is  know sailing around the world on his Beneteau 45 as an inspiration to other veterans.  [post note: Deiter’s boat name is Whitebird]
Beach at Mindelo

Feb 1/2 – Day 1

We departed from Mindelo, Cape Verde at 3pm local time.  One cruiser we met said that this town should be called “Windelo”  He was right.  It has blown pretty hard since we arrived and as we were leaving, we measured steady winds at 33 kts.  However, we were convinced that this was a funneling effect between the islands with peaks rearing up to around 3-4,000 ft.  Sure enough, this was the case.  We sailed on jib only for a few hours and then were in the wind shadow of the adjacent island, Ilha De Santo Antao.  Then suddenly the wind died to just a a few knots.  We were about 7 miles behind the island.  We switched to the Code Zero and tried to sail, but an hour later there was no wind.  Reluctantly we motor-sailed as we were definitely in fuel saving mode, but drifting towards land.  Two hours later BAM….back to 27 kts! And a quick sail change needed back to jib.  The seas built and winds stayed in the low 20s all night.  The next day, we were still in the 20s and seas 8-12 ft, so we stayed on jib only for most of the day.  When the waves became more organized we decided to raise the main and picked up some speed as we moved into our second day.  Miles made towards mark – 125.  Not bad

Feb 2/3 - Day 2

Winds have lightened a little.  Now 18-20 and almost behind us.  We have steered up a little to maintain speed.  We have been on starboard tack since leaving. (winds from NE).  We have lost track of the two boats we left with “Lola and Fat Susan”.  But we kind of expected that would happen.  We have all agreed to try radio contact at 8am and 8pm, so will continue that.  So far we have seen 2 ships – and that’s about all!  Miles made towards the mark – 160 miles.  A good day
Feb 3/4 – , Day 3 ( we have decided our running days go 3pm to 3pm, based on our departure date)
Last night we had light winds.  One ship seen that I think was a fishing boat around 100 ft long.  He was not showing on AIS, and would not respond on VHF.  We got far too close for comfort.  His decks were lit up making it difficult to determine his direction.  We approached him fast and he still would not respond.  As we got close I saw his green light (starboard side).  Normally a higher  white light at the stern would determine his direction, but with flood lights on deck it was uncertain.  I aimed for the highest white light (stern).  We had to gybe and control sails making this a more difficult maneuver (code zero was up).  Still unsure whether he was underway or drifting, I started engines and put some distance between us before I crossed his path and resumed course.  Amazing how you can have a close call like this in the middle of nowhere!  In the morning, winds filled in.  Distance made towards mark – 137 miles.

Feb 4/5 – Day 4

Last night winds popped up to mid 20s.  Boat was making 11kts, but I was concerned about Code zero, so we switched to main and jib.  Needless to say we slowed down and the wind also dropped, but we decided to stay with the conservative sail plan until daylight.  In the morning we switched sails back to Code Zero and main to keep up sped in lighter winds.  Due to wind direction we are now steering high of the mark by anything from 10-30 degrees, putting us about 50 miles north of the rhumb line.  We tried jibing for a few hours, but our VMG went way down, so we are now back on starboard tack, with NE winds at about 14 kts.  Not expecting today to be a spectacular VMG day.  Miles made towards the mark – 137 miles, again.

Feb 5/6 – Day 5

Weather and conditions are about the same today.  We are making good progress.  Wind piped up a little at night (seems to be a pattern), so we switched from Code zero to jib, then back again this morning.  Passed one ship at night headed for Brazil.  Miles made towards the mark – 149 miles

Feb 6/7 – Day 6

162 miles  winds were fresh!  Our best mileage day so far on this leg

Feb 7/8 – Day 7

143 miles, winds lightened, and seas flattened, but otherwise similar conditions.  During the early evening, we passed the halfway point and also the “less than 1,000 miles to go”.  Since it as after dinner, we decided our celebration dinner would be tomorrow.

Feb 8/9 – Day 8

133 miles*  We are continuing to veer north of our mark (originally set as St. Lucia).  To get south, we need to either jibe or go dead downwind and lose speed.  We have decided to revise our planned landfall to Antigua, rather than try to get south.  In terms of distance to the mark, this moves our waypoint about 16 miles farther west.  Our celebration dinner for passing halfway and less than 1,000 miles to go was steak, baked potatoes, English garden peas, and  green beans.  I think that’s the last of the potatoes!

Feb 9/10 – Day 9

As the sun comes up, winds have again gone light, but with stronger winds forecast for tonight.  To be honest, that is a pattern we have been seeing – winds lighter during the day, particularly early morning; then building after dark (of course!), typically between 8-10 pm.  Miles today – 132

Feb 10/11 – Day 10

Another beautiful day on the Atlantic.  So far today, winds have been in the pattern we have become used to – picking up a little overnight into the low 20s, and backing off to about 73-78 degrees true (making for good speed and direction), then as the son comes up, dropping to low to mid-teens, and clocking into the 80s true.  Probably the least clouds we have seen so far today.  Miles today – 135

Feb 11/12 – Day 11

The  night was a little squirly with winds up and down from 8 kts, to  22 kts and a couple of rain showers thrown in the mix.  This morning we saw a couple of thunder heads pass us and now we have another blue-sky day with scattered cumulus clouds.  Just a note about our mileage – although it seems our daily mileage is reducing, it really is not.  The trade winds are moving in direction from about 75 degrees to 110 degrees – while generally from the east, sometimes ENE and ESE.this makes moving east slow when dead downwind.  So our distances reported are all “distance made towards the mark”.  Our sailed  Miles today - 132
miles is always greater than this.

Feb 12-14 - Days 12, 13

Very similar conditions; 140 miles and 143 miles....but nearing our destination!

Feb 14/15 - Day 14
the night was probably the squirliest night of the trio with wind shifts and squalls up to 34 kts.  However, the worst one only lasted 30-45 minutes.....Run with it and hope there's nothing in front of us!  The boat performed great. 150 miles


We arrived at sun up on the 15th - 14 days, 19 hours and made out way into Mamora Bay for a say at St. James Club resort - a little advertised marina at an all-inclusive resort.  Not really geared up for cruisers, but definitely geared up for R&R!  We plan to stay 4 nights to recoup.
2,075 Miles as the crow flies....sailing miles, about 2,200