Published: May 25th 2011
May 22nd 2011
Here is a view from the water of Annaberg Sugar Plantation that we had visited on St. John in the USVI.
May 10 – May 24, 2011
The distance between St. Thomas and the British Virgin Islands is a matter of an hour sail. We saw a lot of charter boats from the British Virgin Islands visiting several of the anchorages we were at in the American Virgin Islands. We never planned on spending much time in the BVI’s as we had explored the area before when we did a bareboat charter with Bob's sister Eugenia and brother-in-law Rick. We had such a great time on that trip that it was part of what made us decide to do this trip after retirement. We did make it to a couple of the same stops as last time – Foxy’s Beach Bar & Restaurant has been an institution for years on Jost Van Dyke so we checked that out. He has definitely done well as his place has expanded from our last visit. Foxy’s wife has now started her own place, Foxy’s Taboo at the other end of Jost Van Dyke (near Diamond Cay) near the Boiling Pool. This at times is like a natural Jacuzzi and has become quite the popular site. Unfortunately we visited during low tide and it was
Foxy’s is a well known watering hole located on Jost Van Dyke in the BVI. We had been here years ago & it appears that he has been doing well as he definitely has expanded.
more like a soaking pool, but still was a nice place to see. We next anchored in Cane Garden Bay which is on Tortola one night as we wanted to visit the oldest rum distillery in the BVI that is still operating. We found that the Callwood Distillery has been in operation since the 1600’s and haven’t changed much of the process (in fact as you can tell from the pictures it looks as though they haven't made many renovations since the 1600s either). The biggest improvement they made was switching from donkeys to a diesel engine to run the mill that squeezes the juice out of the sugarcane. It is interesting to note that the white (clear) rum is aged in glass bottles while the amber or dark rum is aged in barrels that are burnt with charcoal inside. The anchorage in Cane Garden Bay was extremely rolling so we only stayed one night. We then visited Norman Cay which was a short sail and gave us an opportunity to make some water with our water maker (which we are very pleased with) . It's amazing how things have changed in 16 years. Last time we were here there
Anyone for golf?
Anyone for golf? There is a 2 hole course with a great view on Jost Van Dyke for anyone interested.
were very few boats( maybe five) and a floating bar the William Thorton. Now the cay is filled with over 80 moorings which charged $30 a night. We understand the importance of putting in mooring balls to protect the reef (as well as for all of those charter captains that have never anchored out), but they put so many in to an area that it is like trying to drive through a parking lot at Wal-Mart with every size of boat imaginable. The W. Thorton now has competition with “Pirates Bar” which has guest rooms and a restaurant as well as an extremely nice dock and beachfront. However on the cruisers beer index five dollars for a Corona is at the top of the chart (or definitely over it).
We have been a little disappointed with the BVI's. Not only are the anchorages very full but the people in them are extremely loud and obnoxious. Everyone seems to think that having loud music, parties all night and running your dinghy through the anchorage at full speed is perfectly acceptable (I know I'm getting old-this is Bob talking). We also found the local people to be very unpleasant .
A hole with the view
How do you like the view from this hole?
Now this could've been because this is the end of the season and they are all tired of dealing with the cruisers, but in general we found a great interest in taking our money but generally a rather miserable attitude and not very friendly. It was a definite change from the people that we have met in the other areas that we have traveled up to now. As a result when the weather window opened up we decided to take the opportunity and leave the BVI’s and head to St. Martin. We knew if we didn’t take the jump, we would be “stuck” in the BVI’s for another week or more before we could leave due to the upcoming weather predictions.
We left the eastern end of the BVI’s around 4PM on May 13th and headed east toward St. Martin. We knew that there was a possibility of a few squalls, but otherwise the seas were to be mild. We did go between a few squalls, but luckily for us we seemed to go right between them so got some increase in wind, but none of the pounding rain, lightening or thunder. We did actually see quite a bit
What a beautiful boat
A view of Tsamaya at anchor from our view at Foxy’s. We had to try one of the beers while waiting for the rain to stop.
of lightening, but it stayed north and south of us with not a sound of thunder anywhere. The first two or three hours of the trip the winds were hitting us perfectly for a nice broad reach. We are doing about 6 1/2 KN on a very pleasant rolling sea. Then of course as soon as the sun went down the winds clocked around so they were hitting us dead on the nose. So like always you turn on the engine, pulled in the genoa, put up the staysail and try to make good about 30° off the wind. Early on we came close to a squall where winds clocked up to about 25 knots so we dropped the main quickly and sailed with only the staysail and the engine and did fine. While looking up into the rigging about half an hour later I noticed the halyard had become disconnected from the main and wrapped around one of the back stays. Unfortunately it was dark and we were in quite a bit of a rolling sea so getting it untangled was a bit of a challenge. After several tries we finally got it unwrapped, back on the main and
Jost Van Dyke
The beach as you approach Jost Van Dyke when anchored in Great Harbor.
got the main back up which immediately smoothed out the boat and added several knots of speed. All night long the seas were very confused so we did a lot of rocking and rolling but we were able to maintain 4 or 5 knots most of the time. Our plan was to get to St. Maarten before the 9:30 AM bridge opening into the lagoon. But of course just as we approached we were able to see the bridge going down. Next opening was at 11:30 AM. Luckily near the bridge there were some private moorings that were unoccupied so we grabbed one and spent the time converting the boat back to a home. You see every time we go to sea we have to put everything away, secure all the plants (Bob's herb garden) close all the thru-hulls, tighten down all the hatches, close and lock all the cabinets and generally put everything away. Additionally the engine must come off the dinghy and the dinghy must come up and be secured on the davits. We have two comfortable seats that we normally keep in the cockpit that must be folded and put below along with books, paper, handheld VHF
Another white beach
There are still some lovely white beaches left to explore. This is Sandy Cay which is at the east end of Jost Van Dyke.
radios and 1 million other odds and ends.
Right on time the bridge opened and we moved into the lagoon. The lagoon is probably a good 10 miles long and seven or 8 miles wide. There are a lot of boats inside but it's so large it doesn't seem too crowded. As we were moving into the lagoon a man in a dinghy came by and explained that we should move to the French side because it was much cheaper and easier to check in. He was nice enough to direct us to a good anchorage on the French side. Once we got the anchor down and the boat secured we put the dinghy back in the water and went over to the French side and checked them. This check-in was rather unique because you sat down in front of a computer, filled out a form which was then printed out, you signed handed him $7.40 and you are done. Very nice and very easy. We have found that even though the island is split between the French and the Dutch, it is easy to travel between the two sides. You only need to check into the country on
A natural pool which fills up with water during high tide that turns this into a natural Jacuzzi. Unfortunately for us high tide was hours away.
one side and then you can dinghy back and forth without checking into the other side. It was Saturday so we walked around a little bit and checked into some of the stores. Our Canadian friends have told us that we could buy very good French wine very inexpensively on the French side of St. Martin. We decided we would buy a few bottles and have our own wine tasting and then come back just before we left to stock up. I know you're all thinking about how hard our life is (but someone has to do it). Surprisingly we have found some excellent wines for only $4-$5 so our wine cellar will definitely find a few new bottles in it very soon. We also were able to buy very good and very inexpensive cheese on the Dutch side. The other thing that has put Bob in heaven is the fact that there are two excellent marine stores on the lagoon. We have been able to scratch a lot of things off our list as a result of this. Not only are the stores extremely well-stocked but the prices are equivalent to what we would see in the US (and
Is there a wave coming?
We went with Martin & Johanna from Snowbird to explore the area – we kept hoping the waves would start to come.
Since arriving here we have eaten out at an Indian restaurant, great pizzeria and a great Tex-Mex restaurant. Prices are a little high but not too bad. People are extremely nice and very helpful. We've ordered a few things from the States because this is a duty-free port and there are direct flights from the United States. While we wait for our shipments to arrive we have been visiting the market on the French side buying spices and fresh fruits and vegetables. The Dutch side seems to be the place to buy more food stuffs. We went into a supermarket on the French side which was called "US Market” t but the funny thing was that everything in the market was from France and we didn't recognize one US product. On the Dutch side we are finding a lot of standard commodities at very reasonable prices.
St. Martin is known as a great place for the mega yacht. There are numerous marinas set up to accommodate “the big boys”. As a result there are numerous shops that cater to those with a much bigger budget than we have on Tsamaya. One of the boats of note
Soaking is still good
This was as big as they got when we were there – oh well, Bob still seemed to enjoy the soak
here is called Mirabella V. This is a sailboat available for charter. The weekly price is $250,000 and that doesn't include food and drink. She has six guest suites each with their own state room and separate bathroom with shower. She is 247 foot long and 48.5 foot across. She has a single mast which is 292 feet off the water. She requires 14 full-time crew and is so tall there is no bridge in the world she can pass under which obviously limits your docking possibilities. If you're interested you can look her up on the web at www.boatersenterprise.com. I'm sure many of you will jump at the opportunity. She has three hydraulically operated head sails and each one of the drive units is bigger than I am. She is the largest sloop in the world.
On Wednesday night at a bar called Barnacles they have a happy hour for cruisers with one dollar beers. This is the other end of the cruisers beer index. Interestingly enough we found a major change in the people we've come in contact with. Throughout the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, the US and the British Virgin Islands we came across mostly Americans and
The Callwood Distillery located on Tortola in the BVI is the oldest rum distillery that still is a functional distillery.
Canadians who were here for the winter and would be returning to the United States at some point. In St. Martin we've met people from South Africa, Holland, Brazil, France, Australia and I could go on but the major difference is this is a long-term way of life for them. Many have been living on their boats for 10-15 years and sailed across the ocean from their home country. The age range runs from the families with young children to those that are our age or older. We came across one family from France who had five children and were living aboard with no apparent end in sight. It has been interesting to meet so many from South Africa as we are able to talk to them about areas that we had visited when living over in Botswana and to hear of the changes that have occurred since then. Another interesting thing we've noticed is that in several cases there are boats that have a second boat tied alongside. When we asked someone they explained that they had bought a second boat because they were fixing it up to sell. This is one way many fund their ability to live
A working distillery
The distillery was built in the mid 1600’s and was very popular when the pirates were very active in this area. They are still selling rum but only locally on this island.
this lifestyle. The boats are also different from those that we have seen previously. Many are definitely works in progress and have obviously seen much more wear and tear than those of the “northern cruisers”.
One thing that we really like about St. Martin is the fact that it is so cruiser friendly. Every place has a dinghy dock and there are garbage cans everywhere (the things that are important to cruisers) with every service imaginable available and reasonable. In fact right now I am sitting in a laundromat where our clothes are being washed and folded for us while we are using the Internet. The price is reasonable and the service is excellent. St. Maarten/Martin is a place we will come back to.
Yesterday, our friends on Snowbird made the crossing and are now in St. Martin. We are looking forward to seeing them tonight at th happy hour at Barnacles.
We have to be in Trinidad at the beginning of July so we have to be moving on. Our packages arrived today so went to the airport to pick them up. It was quite a hike in the hot sun. Luckily for us a woman
Amber comes from these
The oak barrels are used to produce the dark & amber rums
driving by saw us carrying our heavy package between the two of us and stopped to ask if we were cruisers. She picked us up and dropped us off at our dinghy. She moved to St. Martin 4 years ago from Germany after cruising here. Lucky for us she recognized us as cruisers. We always can be picked out of a crowd as we always seem to walk around everywhere with a backpack on.
We now plan on leaving here on Friday and head to St. Kitts, at least that is our thought as of this moment. Next we will go to Antigua and on to Guadaloupe. That is about far as we are planning now as there are so many islands to choose from.
As it stands now we will be traveling back to the United States at the end of July and stay through the end of September. This gives us a chance to see family and friends and get out of Trinidad for the hottest weather. We are planning on having the boat put on the hard before we leave and then we have some work that needs to be done i.e. bottom paint
These are some of the glass jugs that are used for the making of the clear rum. Many of the bottles are quite old and are still being used today.
before we put it back in at the end of September. Our plans are to fly into Newark, rent a car and travel north visiting family and friends.
As a note - the story goes that the way they determined where to divide the island between the french & the dutch was that a frenchman walked from one end carry a bottle of wine and a dutchman walked from the other side with a bottle of whiskey and where they met they drew the line. You'll have to look at a map of St. Martin/Maarten to see who got the bigger piece of the island. The difference in size of the two sides tells you which one drank more.
As always take care of yourselves.
All the best
Janice and Bob
There are more photos below