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Published: December 31st 2013
Finally unpacked the computer so it’s time for an update. We are currently on a mooring at Christmas Cove on Great St. James Island, which is between St. Thomas and St. John. We arrived here on the 29th
and will hang out till Friday if the weather forecast holds.
Our journey began back in early November when Jon drove to Florida to oversee the preparation of Whisper for this trip. Thought we would be underway by Thanksgiving, but engine problems and other necessary fixes delayed our departure until the afternoon of December 11th
. Our last part was delivered late on the 10th
; Jon and my brother Bob installed it the next morning.
We hired a captain for the passage to St. Thomas, USVI, and soon after Capn Derek arrived, we were underway. Sort of. We needed to fuel up and the marina we planned to go to closed at 5 PM. The bridge we needed to go through to get to that marina was being repaired and was not opening till after 5 PM. Hmmm. on to plan B. Backup marina was open till 8 PM. Good. Alarm goes off in boat while we’re waiting for bridge. Bad. Call
Derek and Jon
On the ICW in Ft. Lauderdale
mechanic who worked on engine. He’ll be at the fuel dock when we get there. As will the guy delivering the rest of the sunshade he made for Whisper. I feel like I’m living a Marx Brothers comedy. We get fueled up, Pablo, Juan and friend work on engine – loose wire, they say. Sterling delivers the sunshade, and we’re on our way when the next bridge opens.
The trip across the Gulf Stream and through the Bahamas Banks was smooth – light winds and easy seas. East winds increased so we detoured down the stretch of water known as the Tongue of the Ocean. This allowed us to take advantage of the east wind before cutting across the Exuma Island chain towards San Salvador. We cut through at Staniel Cay – we had been in the same area last spring – and were heading right into the winds and waves. Not fun, slow, and using precious diesel. It soon became apparent that our alternator was not working properly. Of all the ports in the area, Georgetown, on Great Exuma Island, was the go-to spot for both fuel and repairs. So that’s where we ended up on December 14th
While we were not happy about the delay, it was great spending a day in the beautiful Bahamian waters again. The spare alternator worked, so it turned out to be a 24-hour turnaround – we showered, had a few drinks, fueled up, and the guys enjoyed a night with no watches. I should note that Jon, Bob and Derek were on 3-hour watches around the clock. I cooked. Except one day early on when I hadn’t gotten my sea legs yet and couldn’t do breakfast. Although I didn’t do official watch duty, I rarely slept through the night.
The winds were light when we resumed our journey east. We had to get far enough east, about longitude 65 or 66, before turning south. Then we use the easterly trade winds to sail to the Virgin Islands. Make the turn too soon and you end up in Puerto Rico. We made the turn sometime on the 18th
. By the 19th
, the winds were whipping and the seas were impressive. Puerto Rico was looking good….
The last two days were tough on the crew, but the boat did well. I still am amazed that, as hard as we
hit the waves and the waves hit us, the boat did not break apart. We had numerous slams to the beam that felt like cannonballs but were just big waves. Two days of pounding, heeling at about 20-25 degrees, winds up to 30 knots and seas 10-12 feet. I rarely went into the cockpit – when I did it looked pretty scary. I was able to cook or prepare meals. They weren’t gourmet, but no one starved. May have lost a few pounds, though.
At some point on Saturday, December 21st
Derek pointed out Tortola, then St. Thomas. As we closed in on the islands, the wave heights decreased but the wind was still brisk. Once we rounded the west end of St. Thomas, both the waves and wind subsided and we had a pleasant motor sail to our destination, Crown Bay Marina.
That was 10 days ago – how time does fly. Well, after the boat was secured to the dock, we celebrated with a drink, then showered and had dinner at the restaurant in the marina complex. And enjoyed another night without 3-hour watches. On Sunday we taxied into Charlotte Amalie – we had to check
in at customs due to our stop in the Bahamas. We spent time in the old Danish section of town. It’s got some charm along with the numerous duty free jewelry, liquor and clothing shops that cater to the cruise ship crowd. Monday was clean the salt off the boat and do laundry day. Tuesday, more laundry then go grocery shopping. (Derek flew home Sunday afternoon, my brother, Tuesday morning). Christmas Day, relax, quick trip to grocery, dinner out at the marina. It just didn’t feel like Christmas – too warm!
We left Crown Bay Marina on Thursday but didn’t go far. Just over to St. Thomas Harbor for a few nights. What a busy anchorage. Water taxis, ferries, cruise ships, float planes on the water, loud trucks and sirens on land, and we were under the departure flight path for the commercial airport. Oh, and the party barge on Friday – wow, was it loud. Can’t imagine how loud it must have been on the barge! Everything except the police, fire or ambulance sirens quieted down by ten or eleven at night and the anchorage has good access to town, so it’s not a bad place to hang
Securing the flag post
It had fallen into the dinghy during a rough stretch
out for a few days. We went on a self-guided walking tour Saturday morning that took us past forts and towers dating to the late 1600’s and churches, hotels and homes built in the early to mid 1800’s.
It was time for a break from city life, so we pulled up the anchor and sailed (upwind, naturally) over to our present location. Christmas Cove is a popular day stop for commercial and private day-trippers and overnight stop for charterers and cruisers like us. The free moorings are a recent bonus, set in place by the government to reduce damage to coral caused by anchoring.
One unexpected bonus in the USVI is the fact that AT&T has cell phone coverage here – no roaming charges (not so for Verizon customers). We’ve been in touch and online since arriving. Except for a few hours today when the signal went away. The signal is back so it’s time to post this blog. Happy New Year!
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