Falmouth Harbour, Antigua

We sailed and motored from Jolly Harbor to Falmouth. Nice sail until we headed east along the south coast and got blasted with 25 knot winds right on the nose and 8 ft swells! But we made it in to find a bunch of friends – hence the Wine Mopping Up post…

Falmouth and English Harbours are next to each other and are perfect refuges in heavy weather. Their strategic importance was recognized early and Nelson was stationed here – and gives his name to the dockyard in English Harbour – now home to mostly super yachts!

We had a lovely walk between the two harbours – ending in a wonderful view of both. I hope the panorama posts well – unfortunately I had to dumb down the resolution to get it to post… If you click on it, hopefully it will get bigger!

Falmouth on the left, English Harbour on the right.

Falmouth on the left, English Harbour on the right.

We’re back into the land of fixing stuff – the radar (less than 12 moths old) packed in on the way to Antigua, so it’s hopefully going to be replaced by a refurbished one in the near future – and, even more hopefully; before we leave Antigua! Radar isn’t completely necessary down here – though it is good for spotting squalls well before they hit you when travelling between islands.

And… The head’s acting up again – seems to be a periodic hassle that everyone deals with. Unfortunately, our on board rebuild kit appears to be a collection of old and used components, so I can’t rebuild it until a new kit is brought to us by our good friends Jane and Mike who will join us here in just a couple of weeks.

Then there’s washing to do…

The new washing machine!

The new washing machine!

Still, all is well in paradise – we could be sitting in Providence in the cold, watching amazed as America confirms the strangest president ever!

Cheers to all!

Rip Roaring Time

Since we had been at anchor in St. Martin’s “Lagoon Jail” for a while, I had removed our hull speed sensor – which amounts to a paddle wheel stuck on the end of a stalk of electronics – to prevent growth building up on it which results in inaccurate speed readings. So, when we departed St. Martin, it was time to replace the sensor, I asked Laurie to give it her evil eye and make sure the thing was properly clean and would spin freely. True to form, Laurie set to with toothbrush, scissors and tweezers to make sure that the sensor was clear of absolutely everything.

When the sensor was back in position, it indeed performed flawlessly… but… in the process, a piece of her cleaning equipment – the tweezers – managed to puncture a hole in one of our 5L bags of wine which were stored in the same locker – a particularly good bag of Cotes de Rhone – disaster! She stemmed the flow with duct tape, but the fix was somewhat leaky and the longevity of the wine was now in question.

Disaster averted however – and turned into a major benefit – when we got to Falmouth Harbour we were surrounded by numerous familiar boats so we had a wine mopping up party aboard Toodle-oo! with Peter and Patty from Serendipitous, Tom and Suz from Nomad, Baxter and Molly from Terrapin and Malcolm and Elia on Orion – and by the end of the evening we had demolished all of the Cotes de Rhone and a little bit of Bordeaux to boot!

Needless to say, heads are somewhat heavy this morning!

Antigua

So, the escape was not without its challenges…

We raised anchor at 3:00pm and exited through the causeway bridge that separates St. Martin from Sint Maarten and then out through the Simpson Bay bridge to find that the “huge swells” we’d been hearing of really were not that bad. Even so, it took us an age to get the mainsail up – we’d decided that 2 reefs would be prudent in the weather we were to face – but that means putting the whole thing up, putting in a first reef and then putting in the second – it all takes rather longer than normal. No matter, we managed to avoid the sexy looking ketch we were about to crash into when we finally got it all done and turned for the open water in about 20 knots of wind.

We brought out the little jib and starting making good progress… then the wind came up a little more, with gusts hitting close to 30. The swell filled in and we were in for a painful trip with the boat heeling suddenly when a gust came through and frequent waves coming over the cabin top – it was going to be an uncomfortable night – even more so because we’d managed to leave the forward hatch open (underneath the dinghy which was stowed on the foredeck).

We reefed down to the third reef and furled about 25% of the jib and the motion settled to a degree and we were still making 5+ knots and 8 knots in the gusts. Occasionally we’d get hit by a bigger wave and I managed to take a bath about 4 times through the course of the night. One wave decided it wanted to have a look down below – so it did but fortunately the mess it made was cosmetic not serious.

I’d been running the autopilot and draining amps – so started the generator, which was reluctant to get going and then quit after about 20 minutes… Time to turn on Gail the Monitor windvane – and she steered us flawlessly all the way without consuming a single amp.

In the end, we made it to Jolly Harbor before morning, so with 3 or 4 miles to go we furled the jib and forereached towards land at 2 knots, arriving at the customs dock at the head of the harbor at 7:30am, tired and wet having not slept at all.

Serendipitous is in the harbor as is Maia, an OCC boat that I know to be vacant as they are back in England welcoming their son to the finish of the Vendee Globe the Singlehanded Around the World race – in which he placed second. He’s the guy in the Hugo Boss ads that walks up the mast in a suit when the boat is going like stink and heeled over to some ridiculous level…

We anchored almost out of the bay – seeking clear water so that we could make water – but I foolishly anchored in too little water (12 ft) and it was rather cloudy with stirred up sand and after a couple of hours running, the watermaker quit due to clogged filters – they had been brand new 2 hours ago! Live and learn. At least it made us some much-needed water…

Right at the back of the harbor - Another squall on the way...

Right at the back of the harbor – Another squall on the way…

We slept well as you can imagine – I got nearly 12 hours and feel much better this morning. We’ll probably make our way over to Falmouth or English Harbor later today where I believe there will be a gathering of Outbounds – a party in the making!

 

Escape!

We’re finally getting out of St. Martin – it’s been a great stop, but we are soooo ready to move on.

Weather is what one might call boisterous – with 20 – 25 knots predicted, gusts to 30 and waves 12-15ft to contend with, but if we wait longer it gets lighter, but in our face… we’d rather sail if we can!

Expect to arrive English Harbour, Antigua tomorrow morning – unless we duck into Jolly…

 

Back in Jail!

So, after a brief respite, we’re back in Lagoon Prison, St. Martin (the French side this time). We had to come back here to pick up our new watermaker membranes – and also to pick up Laurie’s new washing machine! Yes, Toodle-oo! now has a washing machine aboard and after her first load she expresses satisfaction. Storage of the bloody thing is a pain – since it encroaches substantially on my ‘garage’ space, but it’s not too bad – and at least I’ll be able to ditch storage of the home made washing machine (two 5 gallon buckets) to compensate a little…

We want to start heading south now but unfortunately, we are kept in prison for several days due to the weather – which is rising to 30 knots sustained tonight – and there’s a huge swell outside the entrance making coming and going through the bridges challenging – but also making our desired destination, St. Barts untenable as apparently, the anchorage there is extremely rolly at the best of times and hopeless in a northerly swell. Hopefully we’ll be able to wait for decent weather to head there – or we’ll just make a B-line for Antigua…

Had a nice get together with a couple of OCC boats last night on Toodle-oo! – Steve and Mary from Willow, fellow Salty Dawgs and Bob and Leslie of Moon Rebel – who lived in Leyburn, just a few short miles from the place I call home, Muker… Small world…

 

Anguilla

We escaped the Lagoon of Sint Maarten! It was a great stay – super for getting things done on the boat with really convenient chandleries and super for meeting new friends, but not being able to get into the water for fear of catching some dreadful disease was getting old. So, we sailed up to Anguilla.

The sail was very nice – with 15 – 20 knots and seas of 3 – 4 ft. We worked out that it’s basically been a month and a half since we’ve sailed properly – since arriving in the Caribbean. We’ve done little jaunts between the British Virgin Islands, but they were mostly motor sailing and when we came over to St. Maarten, we were motoring the whole way. So, nice to get the sails out and do some proper sailing for a change – and it started off down wind, as we turned north it became a broad reach and then as we rounded Anguilla, we were tight on the wind – so we got it all! Our speed wasn’t great – but I suspect some of that is due to heavy growth on Toodle-oo!’s hull.

We’re here in Anguilla to decompress! As a consequence, we’ve been off the boat just twice – to check into Customs and immigration and then last night we headed over to Elvis’ Bar for “Happy Hour” Not sure what’s happy about it – the drinks were $10 each! – but the company was good. The rest of the time we’ve been reading, playing our instruments (trying to learn Southern Cross) and swimming.

Island Paradise

Island Paradise

Elvis' Beach Bar

Elvis’ Beach Bar

It’s amazing what 3 weeks in the Lagoon did to the bottom of Toodle-oo! – we went from a nice clean hull to one with ¼” of slimy growth and barnacles! We spent a good hour snorkeling around scraping the bottom and probably have twice as much more to go to get her cleaned up. It’s no wonder we were sailing slowly!

Interesting power boat right behind Toodle-oo! – Sleek looking thing that they’ve been cleaning up… Turns out they were preparing for a photo shoot – quite entertaining!

Samsung Advertising?

Samsung Advertising?

Interesting transportation to and fro the boat!

Interesting transportation to and fro the boat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well must dash – the beach awaits!

 

Friendships

It’s interesting how many new people we meet as a result of cruising… We left Newport in October and went down Long Island sound and in Port Washington we met our good friends Mike and Jane, but also were introduced to Erica and Jos Coobs, a really nice Dutch couple on Endless Summer – who we met again in Hampton Virginia, the start of the Salty Dawg rally. There, we joined 83 other boats in the rally – some of which we initiated close friendships with – Patty and Peter on Serendipitous, Tess and Al on Ingomar, Rick and Julie Palm on Archer, Mike, Cindy and Steve on Integrity, Chris on Bristol Head, Reinhart and Mindy on Rockhopper, Lee on Hippocampus, Hank and Seal on Flash and many other folk we met, drank and ate with and will recognize again when we see them along the way – giving us another chance to form more close friendships.

Reinhart & Mindy (Rockhopper) and Lee (Hippocampus)

Reinhart & Mindy (Rockhopper) and Lee (Hippocampus)

Tom (s/v Courage), Tess and Al (s/v Ingomar

Tom (s/v Courage), Tess and Al (s/v Ingomar

Laurie leads Patty and Peter on a shopping mission

Laurie leads Patty and Peter on a shopping mission

Since we’ve been in the Caribbean, we’ve met more – Ken and Judith on Badger’s Sett, Bas and Agnes on Di Sento, Tom and Susan aboard Nomad, Matt and Kathleen on Kindred Spirit… as well as a host of other new faces – some of which we’re bound to see again as we ply the seas hither and thither… We also hope to bump into Rob and Julia a delightful couple we met at the Bubbly Pool on Jost van Dyke – hoping you guys will contact us!

This cruising way is an interesting way – in some regards the friendships we form are very temporary – but in others ways, they are very lasting as we are sure we’ll see many of these new friends along the way and will have many stories to share over a sundowner – the infamous yotie religion!

Cheers!

Sint Maarten

We’ve been in Sint Maarten now for over two weeks and most of it has been devoted to boat projects. Getting our electrical system sorted took quite a bit of time – and lots of money however, during the process I finally tracked down a major flaw in the generator’s electrical circuits which had been causing it to intermittently shut down. There was a group of wires that had fused together, probably during the lightning strike and I happened to notice them arcing when just as the generator cut out. Chance in a million of spotting it – I guess our luck is good!!

We also spent a ton of dough on a new car – OK dinghy – but it’s a car for us. This is now our 5th dinghy of the year and we’re basically back to where we were at the beginning of the year with a hard bottom’ed Aluminum rib dinghy with a 15HP Yamaha two stroke. She goes like stink but is rather more squirly than the old Caribe due to being much lighter. We’ve relegated out Achilles inflatable to the lazarette – as a backup and if we need a good rowing dinghy…

Sint Maarten has it’s plusses and minuses. For getting boat work done, I don’t know of a better place. The chandleries are plentiful, huge and with great prices and there is technical help all over the place. It’s a great socializing spot too with loads of cruisers in the Lagoon and an active VHF net each morning run by Mike Shrimpy. We managed to sell our little 2.5HP outboard on the VHF net… There are bars and restaurants all over the place, so plenty of opportunity to meet other cruisers.

Arrival Beverages at the Yacht Club

Arrival Beverages at the Yacht Club

Another OCC gathering

Another OCC gathering

New Year's Dinner

New Year’s Dinner

New Year

New Year

There are a bunch of OCC boats here and we have had several evenings out with them. New Year’s was great – with 6 boats at a very good Indian restaurant, Lal’s – good food at very reasonable prices. After dinner, we returned to Toodle-oo! to watch the fireworks which were set off from a barge just a couple of boats away from us. A bunch of Salty Dawgs have shown up in the past couple of days and we’re hoping to get together with them over the course of the next few days.

The down side is that the lagoon itself is nasty water with sewage all over. Toodle-oo! is now sporting a green beard at her stern – all of which has grown in the past 2 weeks. When we get out of here I’ll have to set to, cleaning the bottom. Another drawback is that it’s waaay too easy to spend a bunch of money! And finally, we’re right underneath the flight path for Sint Maarten Airport! Every time a jet goes over, conversation must be halted…

Waiting for the next plane

Waiting for the next plane

Here She Comes!

Here She Comes!

Big Bugger!

Big Bugger!

On the other hand, one of the most enjoyable days here was heading to the beach and bar on the other side of the runway – the jets come in really low with the start of the runway just yards from the beach. When they take off, the jet blast at the end of the runway has to be felt to be believed – the hot blast of air really tries to knock you off your feet… The local jets make a point of running up their engines before takeoff for way longer than is probably necessary!

We got to tour the island with Peter and Patty from Serendipitous – another Outbound 44 that was also on the Salty Dawg Rally from Virginia. We stopped in Philipsburg for a beer and to stock up on sea sickness meds and then had a great barbecue lunch in Grand Case.

The Beach!

The Beach!

Shopping Opportunities

Shopping Opportunities

Good Tastin' BBQ

Good Tastin’ BBQ

"Polar" Splash - Sint Maarten style!

“Polar” Splash – Sint Maarten style!

Yesterday we decided to go out of the lagoon in search of a good beach. Initially we tried on the dinghy, but the surf was such that beaching her was rather too daunting so we gave up and walked to the beach instead. We had a very relaxing afternoon of people watching and swimming in clear water!

Happy New Year!

Welcome 2017! No more boat repairs please!!! The last part of 2016 was a series of boat repairs on top of boat repairs and upgrades. Enough no more!!

So, if you’re wondering where we’re headed next, what follows is our schedule such that it is… Our schedule is developed in the sand at low water – and normally is out of date by the end of the day! However, we think that give or take a week or so, we’ll probably follow a schedule like this as we head down island:

Port / Arrival Date

Leeward Islands
St. Martin / Now
St. Barts / 4-Jan-17
St. Martin / 11-Jan-17
Anguilla / 14-Jan-17
Saba / 16-Jan-17
St. Eustatius / 17-Jan-17
Barbuda / 19-Jan-17
Antigua / 21-Jan-17
Montserrat / 29-Jan-17
Antigua / 31-Jan-17
Dominica / 13-Feb-17

Windward Islands
Martinique / 13-Mar-17
St. Lucia / 20-Mar-17
Barbados / 27-Mar-17
Bequia / 10-Apr-17
Mustique / 15-Apr-17
Canouan / 20-Apr-17
Tobago Cays / 25-Apr-17
Union / 30-Apr-17
Carriacou / 5-May-17
Ronde / 10-May-17
Grenada / 15-May-17

South America
Tobago / 31-May-17
Guyana / 12-Jun-17
Trinidad / 14-Jul-17
Bonaire / 27-Jul-17
Curacao / 10-Sep-17
Aruba / 20-Sep-17
Santa Marta / 27-Sep-17
Carthagena / 28-Oct-17
San Blas / 28-Jan-18
Panama / 23-Feb-18

 

US Virgin Islands

We set off from the Bitter End to head to the USVI’s – but diverted just before we got there and went back to Jost Van Dyke again! Spend several days there at the Bubbly Pool – a rock pool with incoming wooshes of water! We enjoyed a lovely afternon there – and then went back the following day for a follow up!  We met a lovely couple there – who might help us through the Panama Canal when the time comes…

After nearly four weeks in the British Virgin Islands, we moved over to the American Virgin Islands, which is largely National Park and therefore they don’t allow anchoring except in a few places, so we have to use the mooring balls which are plentiful and low(ish) cost.

Saint John turned out to be our favorite stop so far with beautiful beaches and great walking trails. The difficulty we had was that they are rather strict about how and where you can land a dinghy – so we were forced to land on a beach and lift her to above the high tide line. All well and good – since our new dinghy’s sole redeeming feature is that she’s light – but the problem is sand and water… You can’t land on the beach in your walking shoes – they’d get wet, so we go ashore in sandals and they get wet and covered in sand, which makes for hiking in them rather tricky and a somewhat extreme exfoliating experience! I did give in one time and retrieved sneakers and socks – but really eliminating all the sand off one’s tootsies was not an easily accomplished task.

One walk we did was up the hill to view some ruins that we could see from Toodle-oo! That trail then continued up another hill so we followed it… Now as all Balme’s know, all good walks end at a pub. Unfortunately, this one ended at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere. All we could do was back-track all the way back down – at least that was easier than the up part in the extreme heat and humidity of the forest.

Another walk took us to a ruined sugar mill – it had been quite a large enterprise once upon a time. The whole of the Virgin Island group’s economy was based on sugar production – up until about 1800 – but you’d never know it now – not a sugar cane plant spotted once! Since this was a short walk, we decided to extend it and went via yet more ruins, right over the top of the island to Coral Bay on the other side – where fortunately a pub awaited! 3 pints and a burger later, it was a rather more difficult return walk!

The beaches in St. John are great – and the snorkeling too. I got some nice GoPro footage that I’ll try to upload – though unfortunately, when we went to the best spot, the battery in the GoPro had died…

We’d been watching weather for our passage across the Anegada Passage to Sint Maarten – and unfortunately our weather window arrived a little earlier than we would have liked – but the next opportunity to make the eastward passage would likely not show up until some time in January so we left Saint John on December 15th and arrived in Sint Maarten the following morning, having motored almost the entire way.

We did do a little fishing and snagged this beautiful Mahi Mahi… We were looking forward to cooking him up but the process of preparing him requires bleeding him (hang him upside down in the ocean for a little while… well I managed to drop the slippery slimy thing into the water – no dinner tonight!

We are anchored in “The Lagoon” on Sint Maarten in just 8ft of nasty looking water, with 100ft of rode out, with wind gusting upto 35 knots and likely to remain like this for the next week! Not very relaxing!

The Mahi Mahi that got away!

The Mahi Mahi that got away!

Toodle-oo! from the Ruins (Far Left boat...)

Toodle-oo! from the Ruins (Far Left boat…)

Steep climb...

Steep climb…

Cinnamon Bay

Cinnamon Bay

Our Beach - Cinnamon Bay

Our Beach – Cinnamon Bay

Lets climb to that Ruin!

Lets climb to that Ruin!

Photogenic Bird!

Photogenic Bird!

Insect Home ( About 2 ft diameter mud ball!)

Insect Home ( About 2 ft diameter mud ball!)

Sugar Factory

Sugar Factory

Pretty flower - Pretty Bug!

Pretty flower – Pretty Bug!

Toodle-oo! from more ruins

Toodle-oo! from more ruins

Money Grabbing Boobey

Money Grabbing Boobey