We have almost reached escape velocity to leave Jolly Harbor. Pretty much everything that needs to be working on the boat is. This morning Barb took our laundry over to the laundry service for the last time. Our friend Jim from Orion has to make an unplanned trip back to the States for an unknown period of time, so he donated some of his perishable food to us before he left. We went to Peter's BBQ for lunch, and said goodbye to them until we return in May. Late in the afternoon, Barb went over to retrieve the laundry, and then we joined Mike & Lynn for our last happy hour with Fred. At happy hour, we said goodbye to a number of other folks whom we won't see when we get back. Graham & Liz whom we had dinner with last week will have returned to Ireland for the summer. Jersey Dave will be back in Jersey or off on his next travels, wherever that takes him. Shebby said she will be going to England in April, although her plans seem to change from day to day, so we'll see what happens with her. And of course we will miss Fred. His future at the bar is up in the air, but we have his e-mail and phone number, so we'll find him when we get back even if he's not at WestPoint.
As we hugged people and said our goodbyes, Mike and I both started to comment on the same thing. By the very nature of cruising, you meet lots of wonderful people and make lasting friendships. Of course given our prolonged stay in Jolly Harbor, we have made more than usual. But the nature of cruising is that we are always moving on, and that means saying goodbye. There are many cruisers whom we have become good friends with, and thanks to today's communications we can keep in touch with them. But we may never see many of them again.
GPS N 17-00.893 W 061-46.422 Nautical miles traveled today 0. Total miles 10149.
The day has finally come to leave the marina. We spent the morning tidying things up on the boat, making sure stuff was put away and secure for the boat to actually move. We filled the water tanks, and I disconnected our hose and shore power so William the dockmaster could come read our meters. I made one last trip to Budget Marine to get a bunch of screws for one last project I will do later this afternoon. I said goodbye to Darius and June and told them we'd see them in May.
About 10:30, Mike & Lynn came in from their mooring, and together we went up to the marina office to check out and pay our bill. There was lots of joking amongst the office staff about could we couldn't possibly really be leaving. We did the paperwork and paid the tab and said goodbye to them. We will see them again in May. The next step was the big one. Mike and I walked over to Customs to check out of the country. Antigua is the only country so far using the new electronic clearance system that has been developed, but if you didn't clear in with it, you can't clear out with it. So we had to manually fill out several forms, and visit all three of the adjacent offices, of Customs, then Port Control, then back to Customs, then Immigration, then back to Customs. It's a mess of bureaucracy, but everybody was very pleasant and wished us a safe journey. The Customs guy was particularly tickled that we last checked in, in 2009. He actually found our name in the handwritten ledger book though, and added our checkout date to the entry. When you check out of Antigua, you pretty much have twenty-four hours to actually leave the country. So our checkout date is actually tomorrow, but the paperwork is done.
We returned to MoonSail, and Mike & Lynn went back out to Seabbatical to get ready for our big two-mile journey for today. I double checked everything, checked the engine oil and water, made sure all the ports and hatches were closed, and we fired her up to warm up. I called William the dockmaster on the radio and told him we were ready to go whenever he had a chance to go take our lines off the outer pilings. He came over a few minutes later, cast off our lines, and we were underway. The departure was perfect except for the incoming boat who didn't seem to realize I had to leave the slip before they could go in it. He backed up quickly and got out of my way when he saw I was coming out.
We motored the two miles out of Jolly Harbor and around to the Five Islands anchorage. We spent several days here last year as our last stop before hauling out. This is where the high-end resort The Hermitage is. We dropped the hook in about fifteen feet of water and sat down to enjoy the feel of being at anchor again instead of tied to the dock. Being at a dock drives some people crazy, and I'm not really one of them. I lived aboard at a dock for six years before we left cruising, and I enjoy that part of the lifestyle as well as the actual cruising. But there is certainly a nice feel to the motion of the boat when you are at anchor or on a mooring, and the conditions are nice. A nice bonus to this anchorage is that The Hermitage has a great wi-fi signal that they don't mind cruisers using, so while we had left the dock, we weren't out of touch yet.
My one last project to be done before we head out tomorrow, is to screw down the floor in the main saloon. There are several parts of the floor that are removable access panels, and the rest of it is four pieces that are screwed down. At some point last year, I had the whole floor out working on things that can only be accessed that way. Knowing that I would probably need access again from time to time, I never screwed it back down. When we had the boat surveyed this year, it was handy to be able to pull up the floor for him to inspect things without having to unscrew it. But, now that we are getting underway, it needs to be secure. So, I put in about twenty-five screws that hold it in place.
Our evening was quiet. We relaxed in the cockpit, watching the rich people on the beach. Later in the evening we enjoyed nice live music from the bar at The Hermitage before retiring for the evening. We did have an odd phenomenon which we have experienced before here. When the wind died down a bit in the evening, there are odd currents in this bay that make the boat swing around in every different direction it can. We never made a complete circle that I was aware of, but we swung through 270° several times.
GPS N 17-05.166 W 061-53.681 Nautical miles traveled today 2. Total miles 10151.
We were up at 06:00, planning on about a 6:30 departure. It is just getting light at 06:00, so we took our time getting ready to go. About 06:45, we were raising the anchor and underway. Our destination today is Nevis. Nevis is an island just south of St. Kitts and the two islands make one country. The south end of Nevis is pretty much due west of our anchorage, so once we pulled out, we just set the auto-pilot and raised the main. Unfortunately, the wind is out of due east. Having the wind behind you can be a good sail, but when it is directly behind you, the sail can't make up it's mind which side of the mast to be on to catch the wind. If you had a whisker pole, which we don't, and a proper boom preventer, which we don't, you could try sailing wing-and-wing. But the seas are from behind also, of course, and they were about five to six feet once we were away from Antigua a couple miles, so wing-and-wing wasn't an option for us today. Our destination is forty miles from where we are starting, and thirty-five of those are the due west part before we turn north in the lee of Nevis. So we had a pretty uncomfortable ride for about seven hours.
As if the uncomfortable ride wasn't enough, of course there were a couple of "issues". The first was the engine temperature. The engine should run at 180°. Since replacing the temperature gauge and the raw water pump, at the dock it was running 180°on the nose. But, as we were motor-sailing over, it was fluctuating between 180° and 200°. It would just go up to 200° for a few seconds, and then come back to 180°. I'm not sure what would cause this, but I kept my eye on the gauge the entire trip. The more pressing issue, was when Barb went below and found water on the floor of the v-berth. This particular part of the floor is not open to the bilge at all, so the only way water can get stuck there is from above. This is in the area where the forward air conditioner used to be, and sometimes we got water there if the air conditioner condensation pan overflowed. But I took all that out a few weeks ago. My first thought of course was that somehow the crack we still have in the interior of the hull has gotten worse with the rough seas, and that's where we are leaking. Barb used a sponge and a bucket to bring about five gallons of water above and I threw it overboard. She kept checking it, and there was more water coming from somewhere, so we dumped several buckets overboard. If you have forgotten, I can't usually go below while underway in any kind of rough conditions or I will get sick. Barb, on the other hand, is bullet proof when it comes to sea sickness, so she gets to do any below deck tasks while we are underway. It was apparent that we were not going to sink with the amount of water coming in, but it was none the less nerve wracking. We were discussing where the water could be coming from, and I told Barb if she were up to it, she could open the access door in the panel that hid the now-gone air conditioner, and look to the port side and see if the water was coming from that compartment. This would confirm it was either coming from the crack, or one of the several through-hulls there. She came back up several minutes later, and said it was coming from the starboard side compartment, not the port side. That compartment is dead space and has nothing in it. I thought about it for a minute and then smiled and said "I know what it is!". The old air conditioner was water cooled. The input to it has a valve on the through-hull that is closed. But, the output hose goes out a through-hull just slightly above the waterline on the starboard side. Since it is above the waterline, there is no valve on it. But, it is literally only an inch above the waterline, so now that we are underway, water is being forced back through that hose that I forgot to somehow plug when I took out the air conditioner. I told Barb to go back and reach in the starboard side area where the water was coming from and see if she could grab a hose. She did, and there was the water, in spurts as the boat rocked and the through-hull went underwater. I told her to get the large vice grips and pinch off the end of the hose. She did that and put the hose directly in the bucket, so whatever water still got by went in the bucket. Problem solved! We still didn't enjoy the last couple hours of the bumpy trip, but it was less stressful. Since our engine troubles, last year, the engine has to regain my trust. Every little change in pitch of the sound of the engine now gets my attention and I think something is wrong. Hopefully, I'll calm down a bit about this as we put more hours on the engine and I learn to trust it again.
During the passage, we had gotten a fair distance in front of Seabbatical. We spoke on the VHF radio several times, and they were doing fine. We could still see their sail on the horizon, as well as another behind them. As we were nearing the southern tip of Nevis, I called back to Seabbatical to warn them we were starting to see floats from fishing traps or nets. He said he could clearly see where I was on his chart plotter, because I had my new AIS system on. I had forgotten about that and it made it much easier for him to know we were two and a half miles in front of them and where to start watching for floats.
We finally got to the point at the southern tip of Nevis where we could start turning north along the leeward coast. The seas calmed down, and now that we were on a beam reach, we pickup almost two knots of speed. We have about five miles to go up the coast to where the mooring field is. In the past few years, Nevis has installed a ton of moorings along the west coast, and if you are a vessel under ninety feet, you must use a mooring. On the way to the mooring field, we saw two turtles. It's good to be back out seeing the things we see cruising that you can't see every day. We picked up a mooring with no trouble and relaxed. It was almost 16:00 already, and Customs closes at 16:00, so we just raised our "Q" flag and settled in. Just as we had picked up our mooring, we saw the boat in front of dropping their mooring. To our surprise, it was our friends Paul & Janie on Shian. We have not seen them since they were in the marina at Jolly Harbor last year. They saw us and drove close by us so we could shout to each other. We got the gist of each other's plans, as figure we'll both be in St. Maarten in a week or two and will catch up there.
Seabbatical was about half an hour behind us, and they picked up a mooring right in front of us. Soon after that, the other boat we had seen also came in and took a mooring near us. It was Great Habit, a boat we had met this year in Jolly Harbor. We also moored right next to where Sagitta from Island Windjammers was anchored. We know this boat because a friend and former sister-ship owner was just down here a few weeks ago on a charter aboard her.
Soon after arrival, Barb made us a cheese-and-cracker dinner. It wasn't originally intended to be dinner, but we had not had anything to eat all day and were now hungry after the passage was over. Once we had that, we really weren't hungry enough to fix a real dinner. After snacking, I jumped in the water. Mike had been in the water at Five Islands yesterday, and was distressed to find a lot of barnacles on the bottom of Seabbatical. We both had fresh bottom paint this year, and I thought we used the same brand, so I was concerned too. When I got in and put my mask on to look underwater, I was pleased to see no growth at all on the bottom or the prop. I told Mike this later, and only then realized we had not used the same paint. He used the tin-based paint that is only available in the islands and is supposed to be the best. That's what we used to use too. But, last year when we stripped all the old paint off MoonSail, we switched to the more environmentally friendly copper based paint. We didn't do this to be environmentally friendly, but rather because if we bring the boat back to the States in the next few years, I didn't want any issues with dealing with the tin paint. I was really surprised that he had growth and I didn't. No matter what paint you use, if you don't move the boat for two months, you're bound to have growth, since part of the way the paint works is to slough off as you sail.
Once the wind died down in the evening, as it usually does, we started drifting up and over the mooring ball, similar to the way we were drifting oddly last night at anchor. This is a much larger bay and I wouldn't think there would be odd currents, but several times the mooring ball was right alongside of us instead of out front where it belongs. When this happens, the ball taps on the hull and can be quite annoying. It turned out not to be a big problem, but still not the kind of place where one might expect this to happen due to tidal currents.
After our rough day, we hit the sack about 20:00. It was a good nights sleep.
GPS N 17-09.000 W 062-37.904 Nautical miles traveled today 40. Total miles 10191.
We were up early thins morning because we need to go check in with Customs and Immigration. They open at 08:00, and we had heard stories about cruisers who had come in late the previous day like us, who were not at Customs first thing in the morning getting fined. We don't want that, so we were all four in our dinghy on the way to Charlestown at about 07:45. The dinghy ride is a good half mile, but there is a nice dinghy dock right next to the big dock where the ferries come in, making for easy access to town. As is common in any island, there were several guys hanging around the dinghy dock just waiting for cruisers to come in. We were politely greeted by David, a tall well dressed Rasta guy who turned out to be a taxi driver. He was very pleasant, helped us tie up the dinghy, led us to Customs, and explained that Customs, Immigration, and the Port Authority were all side-by-side now, instead of in three different locations as our guide book said. Of course he offered his taxi services, or an island tour. We told him we would consider it for tomorrow maybe.
We were at Customs at 08:00, but the Customs man wasn't. Of course, it's all island time. The Custom's man arrived just a few minutes later and took us in his office. We had to fill out forms exactly like the ones we filled out in Antigua. St. Kitts used to play with the electronic check-in system eSeaClear, but since it has been overhauled, they aren't again yet. The Customs man stamped our completed forms and sent us on to the Immigration office. There we found a very pleasant lady who took our form and our passports and entered everything into her computer. (Gee, we could have done that in advance if they used eSeaClear.) She joked about me being a Pisces when she looked at my date of birth in my passport. She said she was too, and Pisces are the best people. Of course Mike took exception to that and we all laughed. I related our story of checking into the Dominican Republic on my birthday years ago, when the very intimidating military guys broke into Happy Birthday (in Spanish) as they looked at my passport. She thought that was funny, but was also just as shocked as we were when I described the procedures for check-in and check-out in the DR. Once we were done with Immigration, we proceeded to the next office of the Port Authority. The lady there wasn't as outgoing as the others, but she efficiently did her paperwork and collected our fees. We were now officially checked into a country other than Antigua. I guess that makes us cruisers again.
Our first order of business after check-in was to find The Nevis Bakery, which we had seen an ad for in the cruising guide. Since information in the cruising guide is sometimes obsolete, we hoped it was still there. We asked a lady just outside the Customs office and she directed us a couple blocks into town. We found the bakery easily, but at first were disappointed that there was very little selection of goodies. The lady behind the counter must have sensed our disappointment, because she quickly volunteered that there would be several fresh things coming out in about fifteen minutes, and we were welcome to have coffee while we waited. We fixed ourselves coffees and had a seat in one of the booths. Sure enough, in about fifteen minutes, there were fresh cinnamon rolls, several kinds of Danishes, bear claws, and croissants. We all got cinnamon rolls and they were a fine way to start our first day in a new country.
Our next task, other than sightseeing, was to find a hardware store. Mike needed to get some work gloves to wear when he cleans the barnacles off the bottom of Seabbatical later, and I needed to find something to more permanently plug the hose from the air conditioner. We asked a couple people and got the same answer from both. There were two good hardware stores, but they were both about half a mile out of town in opposite directions. We arbitrarily went north and started walking along the main road. It wasn't a bad walk, and we eventually found the store. At first we thought we were in the wrong place, because all we could see was large appliances and furniture when we walked in. But we were directed to the back where there was a whole other huge room that was the hardware portion. Mike found his gloves, and while I was browsing plumbing bits trying to figure out what I could cobble together to seal the hose, I found the perfect thing. They had half-inch barbed fittings that were plugs. I had expected to get a barbed fitting with threads and then have to screw a cap on it. But these plugs were perfect. I have never seen these before, even in the States. I was a happy camper.
On our walk back into town, we came to the Alexander Hamilton Museum. Alexander Hamilton was from Nevis and went to the United States where he was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and became the first Treasury Secretary. The admission was $13EC each (about $5USD). There was some interesting stuff, but overall it was pretty small. There was a display on Nevis bees, which we have previously encountered. It turns out there is quite an active beekeeping community here, and Nevis is known for it's honey. (We could have bought some of course, but we have some of my brother's homemade honey aboard already.) Back in 2007 when we were moving south quickly, we overnighted in a bay on the northwest corner of Nevis. We were traveling with several other boats at the time, and one of them, Sol y Mar, became the temporary landing place for a swarm of bees just after they had anchored. They of course retreated to the safety of their cabin, and in short order the bees decided that Sol y Mar was not a good place to set up housekeeping and they moved on.
We continued our walk back to town, and continued out the south side of town. We eventually came to the supermarket mentioned in the cruising guide and went it to check it out. It still tickles me that we get entertainment from checking out grocery stores to see what they have. The store was a typical good-but-not-great grocery. But, they carried Blue Bell ice cream, which comes from Texas. You don't find Blue Bell everywhere in the States, so it was quite a surprise to see it here. Across the parking lot from the store was an inviting looking restaurant called The Patio. It was about 11:30, and we weren't ready to eat since we had our cinnamon rolls, but we were ready for a cold beer after all our walking. We sat at the bar and were greeted by a very pleasant lady who served up four cold Caribs. We sat there and rested and visited for about an hour. During that time, we saw the bartender pour a thick whitish drink from a bottle in the cooler. I asked what it was and learned it was a soursop smoothie. We were offered a small cup to taste, and it was very good.
After our beer break, we decided we had enough walking for the day, and headed back towards the dinghy dock. As we were walking, David the taxi driver pulled up alongside us. He asked if we had decided to take a tour and started talking price. He said he had two other people signed up for tomorrow, so there would be six total. We agreed to meet him at 10:00 at the dinghy dock and that the price would be $20 USD per person. We passed the fresh produce market on the way and picked up some bananas. We dinghied back to the boats and started doing our work tasks to justify all our fun time. Mike got in the water with his snorkel and started scraping the barnacles off the bottom. I installed one of my new plugs in the air conditioning hose and cleaned up some of the mess left behind from the salt water where it shouldn't have been. I also checked the engine coolant level to see if it was low, which might explain the varying temperature. The coolant was not low, so that mystery continues.
At 17:00, Mike & Lynn picked us up in their dinghy to go to shore for happy hour. Directly ashore from where we are moored is Sunshine's Beach Bar. The cruising guide make high reference to Sunshine's, as did my friend who has been here many times on charters. We took Seabbatical's dinghy ashore, since it is a bit lighter than ours, and we have to drag it up on the beach once we land. We got the dinghy secure and walked towards Sunshine's. As we were walking, I asked Barb for my money clip, which I thought she had put in a Ziploc in her backpack. Turns out she had put it in the Ziploc, but had left it on the counter on the boat thinking I would put it in my pocket. So, we had to either go back, or borrow from Mike & Lynn. They had not brought a lot of cash with them, but we only plan to have a couple of drinks, so they said they could cover us. At a little bar that sits away from the main bar, closest to the beach, we found a monkey on a leash tied to a post. We naturally started trying to take his picture as he jumped around showing off for us. We didn't see the sign that faces the other way that says pictures with the monkey are $5USD. A scruffy guy came ambling up to us and wanted money. We told him we hadn't taken any pictures with the monkey, simply of the monkey, and we weren't giving him any money. In the end, it turned out the damn monkey was so fast that we only got one shot of him anyway. So, this was our introduction to Sunshine's. We proceeded to the patio where there was one other table of four sitting. They were the only other people there. We stood waiting to get some direction from one of the three waitresses sitting just inside as to if we could take that table. They totally ignored us, so we walked inside to the bar. We already know that Sunshine's is known for it's Killer Bee rum punch, but since we are potentially on limited cash, we wanted to know how much drinks were before we started. Places like this that cater to tourists are known to be pricey. We inquired about the price of Carib beer, and the price of Killer Bees. The waitress seemed very annoyed that we asked, and quoted us prices in USD. When we asked for the price in EC dollars, the currency of this country, she was doubly annoyed. We ordered two beers and two Killer Bees from the bartender, who seemed equally uninterested in serving us. Lynn paid him and we went back out and sat on the patio. While there, we surveyed the other options nearby. Right next to Sunshine's is Chevy's, which looks a little seedier than Sunshine's. But back off the beach a hundred feet of so was a place called Lime, that looked quite attractive. We finished our drinks at Sunshine's and walked over to Lime. We were immediately greeted by a nice young woman who asked if we were off boats. We told her we were and that we were not here for dinner, but just drinks. She took our drink order and also brought us menus so that we could see what they had to offer if we came back. We had two rounds of beers and were very impressed overall with Lime.
Our dinner plans tonight are to all eat aboard MoonSail. Barb whipped up all the stuff for jambalaya before we left for happy hour, so when we got back, she just had to add the wet part and turn on the stove. We visited and ate and reflected on a good day.
GPS N 17-09.000 W 062-37.904 Nautical miles traveled today 0. Total miles 10191.
On the Coconut Telegraph this morning, a call went out looking for a boat. The situation was that there was a medical emergency in the skipper's family, and they needed him to call home. Friends of ours on Shian, were making the announcement, and they knew that the boat had left Nevis a couple days ago. So, I got tasked with going to the Customs office to see if they would tell me where the boat had checked out to, so that maybe we could direct the hunt for him.
We picked up Mike & Lynn and headed to town in the dinghy about 09:45. We got to the dinghy dock right as the same time Chick from Great Habit got there along with his guest Ron. Turns out they are the other two people going on the tour with us. David was at the dock waiting for us, but before we could leave, Mike & Lynn made a quick trip a couple blocks to a bank, and I went up to the Customs office. The officer on duty was the same guy who checked us in. I explained what I wanted, and he asked exactly who was trying to find the guy. I explained we were just trying to get him a message to call home due to a family emergency, and the officer agreed to give me the info. He looked through the forms of boats that checked out in the last few days, found the right one, and told me he was headed for Virgin Gorda in the BVI. I thanked him and went back to the dock. I tried to call Shian over in St. Kitts on my handheld VHF radio to relay the information, but the handheld won't transmit that far.
We all got in David's nice big full-sized American van and started our tour. We went around the island clockwise, which meant going north out of Charlestown. Our first stop was at one of the five Anglican churches on the island. This one is St. Thomas. We stopped at the church and got out of the van to take pictures. There was a cemetery behind the church with many modern graves, but also some dating back to the 1700's with some of the names we had seen in the museum as original settlers here. We continued around the north end of the island, past Oualie Beach, which is the northernmost place that you might anchor in the lee of Nevis. On the very north end, we passed the airport. There are no big planes servicing Nevis, but I think Liat does. Past the airport we started south and turned into Nesbit Plantation. There are several old plantations that have been converted to exclusive hotels and restaurants. We drove in Nesbit and down to their beach. It looked like it could be a nice private getaway, although not as high-end as some we've seen. We continued south past the Medical University of the Americas. It seems pretty much every island has a medical school. David told us this one had about five hundred students. Roughly mid-way down the east coast, we came across a drag strip. Here on this 36 square mile island with only 12,000 people, was a real drag strip. It looked to be well paved, and had lights for night use. This is just as curious as the horse racing track we could see from the boat as we approached the very southeastern corner of the island the other day. From the drag strip, the road leaves the coast and cuts across the southern end of the island somewhat inland and up in some hills. We stopped at an old sugar mill that had been steam driven. Sometime in the past, somebody had tried to make this a museum and many of the rusty pieces of machinery were sitting on concrete mounts that had been made to display them. Our next stop was at the Golden Rock Estate. We drove up the narrow drive through amazing flora. We parked at the small parking lot near the buildings and walked into the grounds. The pathways between the many small old stone buildings were like walking through a tropical botanical garden. We went out to the bar area where there is a multi level reflecting pool with small fish and water lilies in them. The dining room was an old stone building with a curved roof. The place is open to the public as well as their guests for lunch, and of course the taxi drivers hope you will want to stay there for lunch since they would probably get fed free then. We declined since we already had a loose plan for lunch. The tour continued west where we did a slow drive-by at another old plantation. Montpelier is known as the place where Princess Diana once stayed. Also on the grounds is the banyan tree where Admiral Nelson proposed to his wife-to-be. The house where he lived and the church they were married in were also photo stops in the area. Several times along the tour, David made little games that implied that if you got the right answer about something, that the tour would be free. But he always carefully worded the statement, so of course, you couldn't win. One of these tests was to guess how many churches there were on Nevis. All the guesses we in the twenty or thirties, until Barb guessed seventy-two. David acted genuinely surprised and said that was it. Of course he had been careful not to actually make a deal for the free tour again. And while we aren't sure if seventy-two is really correct, it's got to be close, because there are churches everywhere. We commented to David that the roads in Nevis seem to be in excellent shape. He said over the past few years they have done a lot of work to improve the roads. The only exception to this was when we went to the sugar mill, the road was an old concrete path that was two strips of concrete. It was along this section that we encountered five goats in the road who chose to run in front of us for about a quarter mile instead of simply turning off into the bushes. Each of the five parishes on the island had it's own Anglican church, and I think we passed them all. Each parish also has a police station. David said there are only four things that happen in the police stations out away from town. Eat, sleep, wake up, and sign the duty roster. His point wasn't so much that the police were lazy as it was that there was nothing for police to do out there. Our last stop on the tour was the hot baths. This natural hot spring is on the southern edge of Charlestown. The original bath house is closed now, but there are a couple of little tiled hot tubs that are available for public use. We stuck our toes in the water of one, and it was indeed hot. We returned to the dock area and bid David goodbye. It wasn't the best tour we have ever had, but it was fun and ok for the price.
We dinghied back to the boats where we swapped dinghies. MoonSail's dinghy is a little better for the long journeys to town, while Seabbatical's is easier to drag up on a beach. We went to the beach and walked to Lime for lunch. They remembered us and seated us at a big round table. They started us out with cold, wet wash clothes to freshen up, followed by a small plate of fritters made from tanja, a root vegetable. They were very nice with a pepper jelly drizzled over them. The main lunch was excellent as well. Barb and I each had lobster rolls, similar to a lobster roll in New England, but served warm and with a different taste to the mayo base. Lynn had a grilled lobster tail, and Mike had grilled grouper. I hadn't realized it, but Lime also has wi-fi, so Lynn was able to check her e-mail on her iPhone. Since we haven't had a connection in three days, I was anxious to check mine too, so I tried with her iPhone after she was done. I don't see how anybody can call an iPhone intuitive. Compared to an Android, in my opinion the iPhone was crap. In the end, I didn't remember the web address to access my e-mail, since it's saved on my phone and my computer. So that will have to wait until later.
After lunch, we walked out to a little thatched roof shack right on the beach that is called Lime on da Beach. We assume it is related to Lime. They just have coolers for beer and a minimal bar setup out there when there are people on the beach. We sat there at a picnic table for another hour and a half drinking beer and watching the world go by. There was a group of about twenty people in the water nearby who had come from St. Kitts on a big day-charter catamaran. The catamaran was out on one of the moorings until it was time for them to return. Under a palapa near us was a big plastic laundry basket full of flip-flops and sandals. We assumed they belonged to the catamaran guests. Eventually, the cat came up to the beach, and the people started getting back onboard. A few stragglers who may have been over-served had to be rounded up, and when they were all aboard the cat pulled away. They were about fifty feet offshore when the bartender from Lime on da Beach started yelling to them and running towards the beach. She had realized that the basket of shoes was still sitting there under the palapa. We had seen that too, but just assumed they weren't theirs. So, the cat came back to the beach and a local guy handed the basket up to them.
We eventually made our way back to the boats where we settled in for an early evening with just a snack for dinner since we had a late lunch.
GPS N 17-09.000 W 062-37.904 Nautical miles traveled today 0. Total miles 10191.
I started the morning with a couple of boat projects. I finished putting the v-berth back together after the water intrusion incident. This meant getting the last bit of trapped water out of the compartment that should be dry with a sponge. Then I put the floor back down and screwed it down tight. Then I put the cover back on the compartment where the air conditioner used to be. Our other task for the day is to get some gas for the dinghy. I probably should have put a little more effort into filling the dinghy gas tank before we left Jolly Harbor, but I didn't. So now we are quite low. From our walk to the hardware store I know that the nearest gas is not too far off the beach in front of us. The problem is there doesn't appear to be any paths from the beach to the road where I need one to be. Barb and I both got in the dinghy and went to the beach. We went towards town to the back side of the Pinney Beach Resort, which is a tired old small resort right on the corner where the road from town leaves the beach. The gas station is about a quarter mile down the road from that corner. I beached the dinghy, but didn't drag it way up on the beach like we do if we are leaving it. Barb is going to stay with the dinghy while I go get the gas. There was a path from the beach to the road that went around the edge of the resort property, and the walk to the gas station wasn't too bad. I had to wake the kid who was working the gas station up to get my gas. My tank holds six gallons, but since I'm carrying it, I only got two. I was back to the dinghy so soon that Barb thought there must have been a problem and I couldn't get gas, or that I had scored a ride. We went back to the boat, and relaxed while waiting for Mike & Lynn to return from a shopping trip to town.
Our plan today is to move to some other moorings farther north on the west coast near Tamarind Bay. Tamarind bay is where we had anchored for a night on our way south in 2007. According to the cruising guide, there are four or five places up there that sound good to eat at and maybe even get wi-fi from the boat. There are supposed to be another big batch of moorings up there that are also part of the Port Authority's. Part of our logic is that the forecast is for a big blow to come Sunday and last a few days, so we thought we'd stay on moorings in Nevis instead of being anchored off St. Kitts when the big winds come. We dropped our mooring first and motored north. It is only about a mile north of where we are, but there is a bit of a curve in the coast as well as a point of land sticking out, so you can't see the northern moorings from where we have been. As we got around the point, Barb had the binoculars out and we were trying to identify any of the places mentioned in the cruising guide. The guide mentioned a couple of them having dinghy docks. We found a couple of places that looked like they might be open, but could see no signs identifying any of them, and there were no dinghy docks at all. We also found there were only about ten moorings up here as opposed to the forty or fifty the cruising guide mentioned. Trying to find any reason to stay here, I went below while Barb drove and turned on my hi-powered wi-fi antenna to see if I could get connected. I saw a couple weak signals, but couldn't make a connection. Based on all that, we saw no reason to stay here and turned around. We called Seabbatical who had just dropped their mooring and told them the news. They turned around and got another mooring, and we were back in fifteen minutes and did the same. We got moorings a little closer to the Four Seasons resort and directly off the beach from Lime in hopes we might be able to pick up Lime's wi-fi from the boat.
Once we were all re-secured, Mike & Lynn picked us up to go to lunch. To beach the dinghy, you have to time the swell while getting as close as you dare under power, then raise the outboard and shut it off as the last swell throws you towards the beach. The swell here is not terrible, so this really isn't a hard act. In previous attempts, the girls have jumped out as soon as the nose of the dinghy hits the beach, followed by Mike and I. Then we all grab a handle and drag the dinghy up the sand. Today this didn't go quite as well as usual. The girls hopped out, and as I stood to get out, the dinghy jerked and I lost my balance. I fell forward and put my hand out to stop my fall, mashing Lynn's hand between mine and the tube of the dinghy. This ended up bruising her hand pretty good. Realizing I had mashed her, I immediately tried to hop over the side of the dinghy. But, since we were all out of sync now, the next wave caught the dinghy and pushed it sideways just as I stepped out. This resulted in me ending up on my butt in the water for a second. We all recovered with the only real damage being our pride, since of course there were witnesses.
We thought we would give the third place on the beach, Chevy's a try. There was a day charter cat full of rowdy young people at Lime, so it seemed prudent to not go there. We were the only ones at Chevy's and we were greeted by Jah Liv, a scraggly looking Rasta guy. While I think he was floating in another solar system, he was very polite and offered us menus to check out. We decided to stay, took a table and Jah Liv brought us four cold beers. We perused the menus, and while we were another local guy came in and introduced himself to us as Chevy, the owner. Jah Liv came back and took our orders. Three of us were having burgers, two with cheese and one without. I ordered fish and chips. There was much back and forth with the little distinctions in each order, and when Jah Liv left the table, we all laughed and said "What are the odds?" While we were awaiting our food, which I think Jah Liv prepared too, another local character came in. He had a briefcase full of jewelry that he tried to peddle to the ladies. He told us his name was Crazy Dick. He said that a Canadian girl had given him the name and that it was a long story. We didn't ask to hear it. He was very friendly and eventually took our answer of no thank you for buying any jewelry. Eventually our food came, and it was actually pretty close to what we ordered. Turned out they were out of cheese, so nobody got cheeseburgers. My fish and chips was unlike any I've had before. It was two thin, breaded slices of king fish I think. It was tasty, but not your typical flaky white-fish. There also wasn't any tartar sauce after all, but he brought me some hot sauce instead that would cauterize any bleeding ulcers you had before. While we were eating, four of the young people from the catamaran came in. It was two girls and two guys, although I don't think they were couples. They were obviously already have too much fun, but they wanted to have more. Chevy's encourages people to write on the walls with Sharpies. One of the girls decided she needed to write way up on the wall where nobody had before. To do this, she wanted to stand on a shelf that was on the wall. One of the guys wisely supported the shelf as she climbed up on it an added her name to the wall. The local guys in the place were all enjoying the show, especially from the girl who had just a scrap of a bathing suit on. Before they left, the girls ended up behind the bar with Jah Liv making drinks. We learned during their visit, that the kids were med students from the medical school on St. Kitts. They had just finished taking exams and didn't know the results yet, so they were out celebrating. There were many jokes being made by us and them, about them being the world's future doctors.
After we had finished our lunch, we left Chevy's and went over to Lime for another drink and hopefully some e-mail. The crowd of kids had left and gone to the beach, so the place was much quieter. We made it clear we were only there for drinks, but still got the cold wash cloth and fritters as we had gotten yesterday. Lime definitely gets our vote for the place to go on this beach.
We were back aboard our boats by about 17:00. Sunshine's had started blasting bad music our way and we were not looking forward to that going late into the night. I don't usually mind the typical loud island-style music too much, but the stuff they were playing was decidedly X-rated. We were also watching through the binoculars as the Four Seasons set up a private party dinner on the beach. There was seating for at least fifty or sixty, a big serving and grill tent, a bar tent, and a live band. We wondered how competing music was going to sound. We watched the sunset, and wondered where the guests were for this private party. Finally about 19:30, the guest all showed up. The band started to play, and as if by prior agreement, the loud music at Sunshine's stopped. It was probably just a lucky coincidence, but it was good, because the music from the Four Seasons party was quite nice. We watched as the guests moved from the bar to the serving tent and then to sit and eat. After a while, the band took a break and it became obvious what the private party was. It was a reward trip for a software company called Sum Total. During the band break, two guys who were owners or top management got up and gave typical rah-rah speeches to the attendees about a job well done in 2012, and how they had to hit the ground running when they got home Monday to make 2013 better. It brought back many memories of those types of meetings from my working days. The band played another set, and then that party was over. There was some music in the distance from town, but not enough to be bothersome, and we hit the sack a little before 21:00.
GPS N 17-09.000 W 062-37.904 Nautical miles traveled today 0. Total miles 10191.
Barb slept in this morning, well past the Coconut Telegraph at 08:00 which usually wakes her up. I spent a good part of the morning catching up on writing. At lunchtime, we went ashore with Mike & Lynn for lunch. Being Sunday, we found Lime closed, but yesterday we noticed there is yet another place just behind Lime. We could see there were cars there, so we walked down the road and found it was Double Deuce. Double Deuce is mentioned in the cruising guide, but it is no longer in the location the cruising guide says. We went in and took a table. They were quite busy, with about twenty other people there, all who seemed to be British ex-pats. The place obviously is pretty new, with very nice furniture. They also have a small pool for guests use, and a pool table, ping pong table, and other games and books in a room behind the eating area. Too bad we didn't find this place sooner. We had burgers, and they were great. Almost everybody else seemed to be there for their Sunday special, which was Yorkshire pudding. For the non-Brit's reading this, Yorkshire pudding is a beef dish with a puff pastry thing in it. They also had wi-fi, so I was able to check e-mails.
On our way back to the boats, we stopped at the little Lime on da Beach palapa bar and had one more beer. This will probably be our last beer on this beach, as the weather is supposed to get nasty for the next couple of days. The wind is supposed to pick up, and a north swell is predicted which will make landing the dinghy on the beach impossible. So, after our beer we headed back to the boats for a quiet evening. We did get a picture of Mount Nevis without the ever-present cloud on top. This rarely happens.
GPS N 17-09.000 W 062-37.904 Nautical miles traveled today 0. Total miles 10191.
As predicted, we awoke to a much stronger wind than yesterday. I took the opportunity to work on a few repairs. The first was to test my batteries. They were new last year, but they don't seem to be holding their voltage as long as they should between having to supplement the solar and wind charging by running the engine. I disconnected all four batteries so that I could test their voltage individually. I was hoping that I might find either a loose or corroded connection, or find one battery with a significant difference in voltage indicating it was bad. Unfortunately, I didn't find anything. Next I checked into why my main bilge pump isn't running. The backup one has run a few times, indicating to me that the main one isn't working. The pump operates with a float switch, or can manually be run from a switch on the main electrical panel. When I try the manual switch, nothing happens. Of course, to get to the pump, I have to remove a section of the floor in the main saloon which I just screwed down a few days ago. Once I had access to the pump, I started looking at the connections on the float switch and the pump itself. Being in the bilge, these tend to corrode and become problems. I found the connections on the float switch were bad, and assumed that was the problem. I cut off the bad ends and put new connectors on and tried the pump again. Still nothing. So, I started testing voltage on the wires to the pump itself. I had 12 volts there, since the float switch is floating, but the pump wasn't running. Turned out the connectors in those wires, which looked clean and nice, were not good. I replaced them and the pump then ran, but wasn't sucking up water. It has done this before on occasion, and trying it multiple times would eventually work. Rather than put up with that, I took the pump out and put in a spare. That took care of that. Next, I had Barb start the engine to charge the batteries some. I was looking at the display on the voltage regulator when she did that, and it didn't come on. So, I started investigating that and found a blown fuse. I should know better that fuses rarely blow without a good reason, but I just slapped a new fuse in and had her turn it on again. Of course the new fuse just blew. I started really investigating now and found that the positive and negative wires from the voltage regulator had continuity between them. That's not right. Fortunately, yes, I have a spare regulator. I swapped that out and all was well.
The afternoon was spent reading. Even though the wind is honking, we are only a few hundred yards from shore, so the water isn't too rough. There is a north swell coming in, but with the direction of the wind, we are not sitting sideways to the swell, so it's not too uncomfortable. Late in the afternoon, a very big sailboat named Roxanne anchored behind us. Not sure if it is a charter, or if the owner's aboard, but it is a professionally crewed boat.
GPS N 17-09.000 W 062-37.904 Nautical miles traveled today 0. Total miles 10191.
The nasty weather continued. In addition to the high winds, it now is raining every thirty minutes or so. Each rain shower is an individual that sneaks over the mountain, dumps on us for a minute, and then passes on while the sun returns. This did produce a nice rainbow at one point. The north swell has gotten much bigger, and the waves crashing on the beach are quite impressive. The beach dune is quite high, and some of the waves are rolling over the top of it. We spent the whole day just reading and watching the world go by. Our chuckle for the day came when we watched a Mooring's charter boat come in and drop anchor right in the middle of the mooring field. Even if you are not familiar with the rules here, which state that boats under ninety feet must use moorings, any boater should know that you don't anchor where you would be in the way and keep boats from being able to use a mooring. Fortunately, there are lots of moorings here, and only a few boats, so it wasn't an issue, but it never ceases to amaze me what we see charter boats do.
GPS N 17-09.000 W 062-37.904 Nautical miles traveled today 0. Total miles 10191.
We are planning on moving to St. Kitts today. Nevis and St. Kitts are the same country, but you need to have a "boat pass" from Customs to move between the two. We got our boat pass when we checked in, and it is still good through today, but our immigration runs out tomorrow. We had not planned on the extra days waiting out the big winds, so we need to extend our immigration. So, we all got in our dinghy and headed to town. The swell has subsided somewhat, but it still might be dicey at the dock. The past two days, they have been running a limited ferry schedule since the swell made the dock unsafe even for large boats. When we got there, we had no problem. The dinghy dock is sheltered some by the large boat dock, so the swell was pretty gentle. We just each waited until the water rose up and then got out of the dinghy one at a time. Our first stop was the Customs and Immigration office. The Customs guy looked at our boat pass and said we were good to go today or tomorrow, so that's not an issue. He said we needed to ask the Immigration officer about that part though. There were about eight people waiting already to get in Immigration, and at least two of them had many passports with them. So, we decided to come back after lunch. We walked into the main street of town where we found a place where we could add some minutes to our local phone. That was easy, and then we went to an ATM to get some more cash. That too worked on the first try. It seems you never know which ATM's will like your foreign card and which won't. We then walked to the south side of town to The Patio for lunch. We had beer here the first day we were here, and it looked like a nice place to eat. There was only one other table occupied when we got there, so the service was prompt. The girls had fish and chips, and it was prepared as you would expect, not like the one I had a few days ago. Mike and I had burgers, and they were quite good and huge. We relaxed there for quite a while enjoying being off the rocking boats. They had good wi-fi there too, so I was able to check mail. I haven't taken my computer ashore anywhere since we left Antigua, since I can use my real US phone to get mail without connecting to the cell service. That's much more convenient.
After lunch we stopped at the grocery store next to the restaurant to pick up a few things. With our shopping complete, we headed back to the Immigration office. Our plan to come back later was a good one, as there was nobody here now. We went in to the office and sat down in front of the woman officer. We explained that we were going to St. Kitts today, but not leaving there until probably Sunday, and that our immigration expires today. She looked at our passports, and repeated our plan to make sure she understood. She seemed quite official at first, but then closed the passports and pushed them back across the desk. She smiled and said "I'm not going to kill you for three days extra. But if you don't leave Sunday, go in and see the Immigration people in St. Kitts". Everyplace should be this nice with the officialdom.
We went back to the boats, stowed the groceries, and got ready to leave. Whitehouse Bay in St. Kitts is about six miles from here. The whole trip is in the lee of one island or the other with the exception of about a mile gap. Being basically lazy, I just plan to motor over and not mess with the sails. We got ready to go and dropped the mooring, immediately followed by Seabbatical. We were not half a mile away, when the alarm for the engine overheating went off. Really? We have run the engine every day to charge batteries, and it decides to overheat now? I shut the engine off, and unfurled the main sail. Mike called on the radio to see what was going on, and asked if we wanted to go back. I said no, we would just sail over and I would investigate as we went. My logic was that we could sail close to the bay and then be able to motor a few minutes before it would overheat again. We unfurled the headsail, and actually had a nice sail over. The wind was about fifteen knots, directly on the beam. You can't ask for better conditions. Seabbatical kept motoring, and we actually passed them. Once we got to Whitehouse Bay, we are going to have to go straight into the wind, so it could get interesting. There are also a bunch of other boats already there, so I'm not real happy with the idea of sailing in. Once the engine had cooled a bit, I opened the cap and found the tank dry. I filled it, and had Barb start it up. The temp held at 160° which is cooler than it should be, then shot to 220°. I had her shut it off again. Seabattical went ahead into the bay and got a mooring. There were no more empty moorings, so we will have to anchor. If I were a good purist sailor, I should have been able to tack back and forth and sail all the way into the bay. But, I'm not, so we opted to try and tow us in. We had furled the sails by now, and were drifting away from where we needed to go. We had put the dinghy on the davits, so we got it lowered and got the outboard on it. I got it tied to the side of MoonSail and started to try and tow. Going straight into the wind and waves, I wasn't making much headway, and I was getting soaked. As soon as Seabbatical was secure, Mike got their dinghy in the water and came out to help me. He tied to the other side and together we finally started making headway. Barb drove MoonSail as we made about three knots towards the anchorage. Of course, to add to the drama, the sun was setting by now. We were going to be cutting it close to get secure while there was still some light. The good news was that as we were getting close to the anchorage, a boat left a mooring. I would much rather get us on a mooring than try to be sure the anchor is set well by tugging on the big boat with dinghy. The moorings don't have pennants on them, meaning you have to pass your own line through the eye on top of the mooring. This is hard to do from deck, but since I was already alongside in the dinghy, it should be easy. Barb had already made the lines ready on deck, so as we approached, I untied my dinghy and pulled myself alongside to the bow. I got the line in my hand, and as we got to the mooring I passed it through the eye and handed in back up to Barb. She had started the engine just as we approached and used it to stop us right at the mooring, so it all went like we knew what we were doing. Once the line was on, I went to the back of the boat, tied the dinghy off and got aboard. We thanked Mike profusely and he went back to Seabbatical. We both went to the cockpit and collapsed. Things like this are not the fun part of cruising. Re-reading this after I wrote it, doesn't convey how stressful this event was. In hindsight, there were several things we could have done differently, but it's easy to figure out the better way once the stress of the moment is gone.
After catching our breaths, we both showered. I was covered with salt from the bath I was taking as we towed into the chop. We sat in the cockpit and enjoyed a couple of rum beverages and tried to relax after our easy one-hour trip that ended up being almost a three-hour ordeal.
GPS N 17-15.037 W 062-39.563 Nautical miles traveled today 6. Total miles 10197.
I was up early, thinking about what the overheating problem could be. Even with my exhaustion from last night, I hadn't slept well. With all the work we did on the engine last year, everything was replaced or checked out, so it's puzzling what could be wrong. But, we did notice on the way to Nevis from Antigua, that the temperature was fluctuating oddly, so it's probably all connected. The good news is, I have spare parts. My first thing to check was that there was raw sea water coming in. I should have checked this while we were sailing in, but I didn't. I cracked open the top of the sea water strainer, and plenty of water came out, so that isn't the problem. Next likely is the thermostat. Getting at the thermostat was a big deal a number of years ago, but since that episode, and it's replacement last year, it was not hard to get at today. You have to be a bit of a contortionist to get to the bolts, but at least they came out easy. I got the thermostat out, and put it in a pan of water. I heated the water on the stove while watching a thermometer in the water. At 180° the thermostat just barely started opening. By 200 it was nearly all the way open. That seems delayed to me, but it is opening, so I don't think it's the problem. I let the water cool below 180° and watch the thermostat close again. I then repeated the process with the same results. I thought I had a spare thermostat, but remembered that I put the spare in last year when we had the engine apart, and I didn't bring back a new one this year. So, I put the housing back on the motor without the thermostat at all. This should make it run too cool, but it won't hurt anything in the short term. Next I checked the impeller in the raw water pump. This should be good, because I replaced that whole pump a few weeks ago. Sure enough, the impeller was fine. This pretty much leaves the heat exchanger as the only remaining part that might be the problem. I have a spare, and it's not impossible to swap, but it's a lot of work. So, before doing that, I had filled the engine with water and had Barb start it up to see how it acted without the thermostat. I left the radiator cap off and really expected to see the water disappear, because I was convinced it was being pumped out through the heat exchanger. To my surprise, with the engine running, the water stayed full. Without the thermostat in, the temperature only gets to about 100°, which doesn't even register on the gauge, but I was reading it with my infra-red thermometer. We ran the engine for an hour, and it worked fine. We even put it in reverse and pulled against the mooring to give it a load which should make it run hotter. It never got over 110°. I was very happy that this resolved it. I guess the thermostat just isn't opening enough or soon enough. We can run without it until we get to St. Maarten where I should be able to get another (or two).
With our problem resolved by 11:00, we called Seabattical on the radio to see if they wanted to go to town. We are in Whitehouse Bay, which is on a peninsula that extends south from the main part of St. Kitts. The main city, Basseterre, is about five miles up the west coast from us. The whole peninsula is owned by a development company that is building high-end houses, a marina, etc. This project is mentioned in the cruising guide, so it's been going on for at least five years already, and seems to be proceeding at typical island speed. The shore all around this bay is rocky, and it would be tough to land a dinghy and get in and out without getting wet. But, just around the southern point of this bay, is another bay, and the development has opened up the interior salt pond to that bay and put in one dock as the beginnings of their new marina. So, we picked up Mike & Lynn and dinghied the mile or so around to this dock. There are three sailboats moored here, and a dredge working to make the shallow salt pond a viable marina someday, but we didn't see anybody, although the dredge was running. We tied up the dinghy and started walking up the dirt road. As we were, a large tender from a mega-yacht anchored out near us came in with four or five guests. A car came down the road, apparently to pick them up. The car stopped and the guy said hello. We joked that he was probably here for the other people, not us, and he laughed and said "See you in a bit". We had no idea who he was, but he loaded up the other folks and then passed us as they went off down the road. Where the dirt road met the main road, we found the sales office for the development. We walked up and found it open, but nobody was there. We assumed that the guy in the car was from there and it was a one-man show. Based on the direction the guy went, we thought he was taking the people to the only restaurant on the peninsula, and that he would be back soon. We decided to wait for him and inquire if there were busses out here or if we needed to call a cab. In a few minutes, we saw his SUV coming, or so we thought. There was a woman driving now, and she turned in the drive and stopped. Turns out there are two identical SUV's, and this was the guys wife, Lane. She greeted us and confirmed it was ok for us to leave the dinghy at their dock. She said a taxi was our only option to get to town, and she'd be glad to call us one. We went back to the office, where she invited us inside. Even though we obviously were not looking to buy land, she gave us bottles of water and make us feel at home. I tried to call a cab with the two numbers from the cruising guide, and of course neither was a good number anymore. Lane called her husband, and he called a cab for us. She had to leave to pick up some people at the airport, but said we were welcome to wait inside in the air conditioning until the cab got there. Just after she left, her husband, David Nelson, came back. He was late to also pick somebody up, so he was running around gathering some of their brochures while telling us a bit about himself and the development. He apologized for having to run and reiterated that we were welcome to wait in the office. We thanked him very much for their help and hospitality.
Our cab arrived about fifteen minutes later and took us to town. The road up and over the mountain was longer then we would have guessed. We passed lots of nice looking homes and a couple of resorts. The road was ok, but not as nice as the ones in Nevis. I guess just because they technically are the same country, doesn't mean they have the same services. The taxi dropped us in the center of Basseterre at The Circus, which is the name of the area. It was after 13:00 by now and we were hungry. We went to Ballahoo for lunch. It is a second floor open balcony place overlooking The Circus. It was quite nice, with good service and food. There is no big cruise ship in town today, just the Star Clipper which is relatively small, so the restaurant and town in general was not crowded. Once we finished lunch, we walked a few blocks to Port Zante Marina. This is the only option for having your boat right in Basseterre, and we wanted to see what it looked like. Right next to the marina is the cruise ship dock, and a large mall of typical cruise ship dock stores. Conveniently in the middle of this mall is a nice open-air bar where Mike and I could sit and drink while the ladies checked out the shops. Barb could care less about shopping, but Lynn loves it, so Barb tags along to keep her company. While at the bar, we watched CNN reporting on a Carnival cruise ship that had lost power and was being towed back to port. Made my little tow job yesterday seem simple. We met a young man at the bar who was from Ocala, FL, and is attending veterinary school here. We had a pleasant chat with him about what it's like to go to school here. While we always thought beaches might be a big distraction, he said once the novelty of it wore off, most kids study harder because they run out of things to do on the island. Eventually the ladies returned and had one drink with us. We walked back up to The Circus, where the taxis hang out and got a cab back to Christophe Harbor.
After we got back, Mike & Lynn joined us for sundowners and snacks aboard MoonSail. We made it an early night.
GPS N 17-15.037 W 062-39.563 Nautical miles traveled today 0. Total miles 10197.
I spent the morning today catching up on writing. At noon, we picked Mike & Lynn up and dinghied to the Christophe Harbor dock. We walked to the road and we're picked up at noon by our friends Jan and Teri who live here. We met Jan and Teri when they were cruising on their boat Kiva. They have since sold Kiva, bought another sailboat which they are cruising Europe in the summers on, and a condo in St. Kitts where they spend the winters. The car they have is a standard little island four-door car, so squeezing four of us in back was tight, but we are all good friends. We drove just a couple miles to a beach bar/restaurant called Jam Rock. There is one cruise ship in town today, and they bus people out to this beach, but most of them apparently went to another restaurant down the beach, because Jam Rock was empty. We took a seat and ordered drinks and food. Our waitress may have been on her first day of work, but she eventually got it right and the food was very good. Everyone departed from the usual lunch of cheeseburgers. I had a blackened grouper fillet, Barb had barbequed chicken, Teri had ribs, Jan had jerk pork, and Mike & Lynn both had the grouper fillet grilled.
After lunch, we drove to Jan & Teri's condo. It also wasn't but a few miles, overlooking North Frigate Bay and the huge Marriott resort that occupies much of the beach here. The name of their condo development is Ocean's Edge, and we had admired it from the taxi yesterday. We sat out on their balcony, overlooking the bay and caught up and told sailing stories until about 17:00. They took us back to our dinghy, and we returned to the boats just before dark. It was a very nice day and a perfect example of the friendships you make out here cruising.
GPS N 17-15.037 W 062-39.563 Nautical miles traveled today 0. Total miles 10197.
Today was spent preparing to leave St. Kitts tomorrow. The first order of business was to check out of the country with Customs and Immigration. Jan & Teri are going to pick up Mike and I at 10:00 and take us to town to accomplish this. Hoping to avoid the fairly long dinghy ride around to the Christophe Harbor dock, I went on a recon mission to the beach in Whitehouse Bay to see if landing the dinghy was feasible. The shore is all rocks, but it is nice round, smooth rocks that shouldn't hurt the dinghy if it bumps them. I found that the water was a couple feet deep right up to the shore, so I could put the nose of the dinghy where you could step off without getting wet, while still having the outboard in the water. So, about 09:30, I picked Mike up and we went to shore here. Mike got off the bow without getting wet, and took a long line I had brought with him. I then threw the dinghy anchor out behind us as far as I could. It took a couple throws to get the anchor to snag something, but once it did, Mike pulled me close and I stepped out into about a foot of water. We let the dinghy ride back away from the shore a couple feet, then took the long line and tied it to a bush on the shore. From here we had a short walk to the main road where Jan & Teri picked us up at 10:00.
We headed in to Basseterre to the cruise ship dock hoping to see Customs & Immigration there. There are no cruise ships in port today, so hopefully they are there, and it is quiet. Since there are no ships, we were able to drive right near the Customs office at the dock, where normally nobody but taxis for the ships are allowed. We found the Customs office and knocked and went in. I think we woke the young officer on duty. He asked if we had been to Immigration yet. We had not, so he told us we had to go to Immigration at the airport first, and then come see him. It's a good thing we have a private driver or we would be racking up big taxi fares. Back in the car, we drove to the airport. Luckily, unlike many islands, the airport here is right in town. It literally cuts right through the city. At night it was an interesting view to have all the lights of Basseterre bisected by a dark strip that was the runway. Since we are early in the day, there are no planes at the airport yet. As with most islands, all the international flights come and go within a few hours window early in the afternoon. We beat that rush, and found the airport empty. We asked a guard outside the big exit doors how we could get to Immigration. He directed us to go in the doors with the huge signs that said NO ENTRY. We did and were greeted inside by another security guard. We told him we were looking for Immigration. We were in the baggage carousel area, and there were stairs and an escalator to an upstairs area. Upstairs is the Immigration area. The guard yelled up the stairs to see if anybody was there, and a ladies voice came back. He motioned us to go ahead upstairs to see her. We found the one Immigration agent reading a magazine, and told her we needed to check out on private boats. She was very pleasant and looked us up on the computer and checked us out. She never questioned the fact that we were here several days past our intended departure.
Once we finished with Immigration, it was back to the cruise ship dock. When we got to the Customs office again, the young man took our papers and studied them. The procedure here, as explained to us by the Customs officer in St. Kitts, is that you can check in at either Nevis or St. Kitts, then get a boat pass good for a week that allows you to transit to the other island, and then you can check out of the other island. He explicitly told us the boat pass he gave us when we checked in on the 7th was good for a week. Well, this guy in St. Kitts, didn't understand it that way. He said, we should have gotten the boat pass the day we wanted to transit, (the 13th), and then come to see him the same day when we arrived. We politely stood our ground and said that was not what we were told in Nevis, nor what was printed in our cruising guides. He grumbled and muttered some derogatory things which we think were directed at his co-workers in Nevis, and started filling out the form we needed to say we were cleared out. For each boat, he had to fill out a short form, which he did in duplicate using carbon paper, and then whacked each copy with authority with his stamp and signed with the flair of an author at a book signing. After his initial grumpiness, he wished us a pleasant and safe journey.
Jan & Teri took us back to Whitehouse Bay where I was very pleased to see the dinghy bobbing in the water right where we left it. We bid Jan & Teri goodbye and thanked them profusely for the taxi service, which made our checkout much easier than if we had been relying on taxis. We went back to the boats, where the rest of the day was spent preparing for the trip. Dinghies were hoisted, and things were secured below. All that didn't really take long, and most of the afternoon was just spent relaxing. That is relaxing as much as one can before a passage. Our plan is to leave at 04:00, which means I won't sleep well. We went to bed about 20:00 to try and get some rest.
GPS N 17-15.037 W 062-39.563 Nautical miles traveled today 0. Total miles 10197.
We had the alarm set for 03:30, but I had been pretty much awake since midnight. We got up at just before the alarm would have gone off and started preparing to depart. We touched base with Seabbatical on the radio to make sure they were up too. I started the motor as soon as we got up so that it could get some of the bulk battery charging done before we leave. Yesterday when I was running the engine to charge, I found that I couldn't rev the engine over about 1200 rpm or the alternator belt would squeal. This means the belt needs to be replaced, but I didn't want to mess with it just before our trip and risk breaking something else, silly as that sounds. At 04:00, we were ready to go, lights on, everything hopefully secure, but batteries still charging in bulk mode. We dropped the mooring and headed northwest following Seabbatical along the coast of St. Kitts. We were going slowly for the first hour until the charging finally stepped down to the accept mode and I could throttle up without squealing the belt. We only encountered one other boat out there, and it was about a hundred foot motor yacht coming our way. My new AIS system paid off, as the yacht saw us on his AIS, but did not physically see us. He was able to call me by name and we made our intentions clear to each other for passing. The captain also made a comment we should have taken more notice of. He said he was underway to Antigua, but was going to anchor off Nevis a while to "give the guests a break". Remember that phrase.
We continued to motor in the dark along St. Kitts coast following Seabbatical by about a mile. We had the main partially out, but weren't planning to really sail until we found out the conditions outside the lee of the island in the open ocean. Dawn came a little after 06:00 as we were nearing the northern tip of St. Kitts. We partially unfurled the foresail and put the engine in neutral. The forecast for today was for wind about 15 knots from just south of east, and seas of about six feet. We found the wind to be more like 19-22 and the seas to be larger. We hoped for a while that this was just due to the strange effects the end of an island has on the wind, and that it would calm down as we got further from the land. Unfortunately this wasn't the case today. The wind became more like 20-25 sustained, with higher gusts to 27-28. The seas got larger to about ten feet, hitting us just a little bit aft of the beam. What that means to MoonSail is that when a big wave hits the starboard rear corner, it tries to push the boat around to starboard. Then the auto pilot has to work it's butt off to correct the course. Many auto pilots can't handle this type of conditions at all, but I have always bragged that mine does. Well, today it got a workout and many times gave up. When it gives up, it just goes to standby, and you better have your hands on the wheel or you will suddenly be turning. Each time the auto pilot went off, I had to quickly push the button to turn it back on and then correct it's heading, all while trying to keep the boat pointed in the right direction with my other hand. This was not the pleasant sail we were hoping for.
All the way up the coast of St. Kitts, we had been only a mile or less off the coast, but in water several hundred feet deep. This meant we didn't have to worry about fish trap floats while we were motoring in the dark. At the north tip of St. Kitts, we crossed an area that was only 80 feet deep for a couple of miles. We were sailing by then, and although the motor was still running, it was in neutral. We were still getting used to the rough conditions when Barb suddenly spotted a float dead ahead of and only about thirty feet away. I didn't have time to take evasive action, so we just watched it as we passed about ten feet upwind of it. Unfortunately, because we were upwind of it, that meant it's line was coming in our direction, and sure enough the keel caught the line and the float zipped under the boat. We heard a thump on the bottom a few seconds later which could have been the float or whatever was attached to the other end. We watched for the float to pop up behind us, but in the rough seas, we never saw it. This left me wondering all day if it was caught on the keel or the rudder, or worse yet the prop.
About half an hour into the rough conditions, which had us heeled about 15° to port, Barb looked below to see if everything was alright. What she found was a lot of water on the galley floor. The galley floor in this boat is a few inches lower than the main saloon floor, and it doesn't drain to the bilge. Unfortunately, the bilge pumps are on the starboard side of the bilge, so when you heel to port, it is not uncommon for a little water to come out of the bilge and into the galley. Barb went below to mop up the water. When she didn't return in a few minutes, I called below to see if everything was alright. It turned out that there was a lot more water than usual and it seemed to keep coming. Barb verified that the water was not coming from the same place as last time, and it was not. She was using a cup to pick the water up and put it in a bucket, then dumping the bucket in the galley sink. It didn't appear we were in danger of sinking, but this was a lot more water ingress than we have ever experienced. This is not a good pattern we are establishing here on our passages. One of us had to be at the helm in case the auto pilot quit, and I don't do well below in rough conditions, so Barb stayed below bailing. For the next four hours, the conditions stayed much the same. Every fifteen minutes or so Barb came to take a short break and get some fresh air. I could tell she was scared, although she tried not to show it, and she was getting exhausted. Fortunately, the wind finally dropped to under 20 knots and eventually under 15. The seas calmed some in conjunction with that. When we weren't bouncing around so much, the auto pilot stayed on and the water seemed to stop coming in, so Barb was able to remain in the cockpit for the last two and a half hours until we reached Simpson Bay. She was exhausted and probably couldn't have continued bailing if the conditions hadn't improved when they did. The only good news of this was that we had planned our arrival based on an average of five knots, and we had really been doing over six knots most of the trip. So, instead of arriving about 16:00, we dropped the anchor in Simpson Bay at 14:30.
While being anchored in Simpson Bay was a welcome relief from the past eight hours, it is a miserable anchorage. It is barely protected from the normal eastern swell, and there is tons of fast small boat traffic that is under no no-wake rule. To get into Simpson Bay Lagoon, where it is very protected, you have to go through a draw bridge that only opens three times a day for outbound traffic, and three times for inbound traffic. The next inbound opening isn't until 17:30, so we will have to sit here rolling for three hours. At least we can relax a bit. We each ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that Barb had prepared to eat underway, but we never did. Barb then went below and tried to take a short nap, while I stayed in the cockpit watching the world of Simpson Bay go by, including the airport landings and takeoffs, the mega yachts arriving and waiting to join us for the bridge opening, and the myriad of small fast boats and jet skis who constantly go by adding to the natural roll with their wakes. At 16:30 the bridge opened for outbound traffic. I watched a couple boats come out, and one dumbass American sport-fish boat try to go in and get yelled at by the bridge tender. I guess he thinks its the East Coast ICW. Even though there is an hour to go, I started the motor to let it try to get past the belt squealing stage before 17:30. At 17:00, I revved it up once and it didn't squeal, so I thought I was good. Even though there is still half an hour to go, there is no way we are missing this bridge, so we weighed anchor. Once we were circling around waiting though, the belt again squealed. I quickly had a thought, and went and pulled the fuse out of the alternator wire, so it wasn't charging at all. This took all the load off the belt so we don't have to be concerned with powering through the bridge. There are about eight sailboats and two large mega yachts coming in at this opening, along with the sport-fish that has been sitting right at the bridge, in the way of small boats that can go under the bridge, since about 17:00. There is a channel approaching the bridge that is several hundred feet long. I didn't want to get up in the channel before the bridge opened because a sailboat needs to keep moving to have steerage. With about three minutes to go, the bridge tender called everybody on the radio and said to start coming up the channel. The sport-fish and another relatively small powerboat were in front on me, and I cautiously inched up the channel. We were all about as close bow to stern as you would want to be (like twenty feet), when the bridge finally started to open. Once open, the sport-fish took off, with the other power boat close behind. That left me powering up and going at sailboat speed. Just inside the bridge on the starboard side is the Simpson Bay Yacht Club. They have a large deck that faces the channel so patrons can watch the boats come and go when the bridge opens. You can't really see out the bridge, so it's always a mystery what boat is coming next. Could be a little private sailboat like us, or a huge mega yacht. When we came through, there was a cheer from the crowd for some reason, and we heard somebody yell "MoonSail"! Not sure if that was somebody who knows us or just somebody who read the name off the side of the boat.
Simpson Bay Lagoon is half Dutch and half French, the same as the whole island of St. Maarten. Several years ago, the Dutch authorities started charging more for boats to anchor on the Dutch side. The French don't charge anything. This resulted in an uproar in the cruisers community, where many cruisers think everything should be free. As we entered the lagoon, we found lots of anchoring space on the Dutch side, and it looked very crowded on the French side from what I could see. We had not been certain where we were going to go, but seeing all those masts on the French side, and lots of space on the Dutch side made the decision easy for me. We picked a wide open spot to drop the anchor. The first time we dropped it, it didn't catch well, so I pulled it back in and we tried again. The second time it seemed to catch fine and we were finally here and in calm water. Seabbatical anchored right next to us. We shut everything down and fixed well deserved rum drinks. Customs & Immigration closes at 18:00, so there isn't time to do that tonight. We relaxed in the cockpit and had a couple of drinks and retired early, quite exhausted. Again, the trip had turned out to be more of an ordeal than we desired.
GPS N 18-02.434 W 063-05.579 Nautical miles traveled today 57. Total miles 10254.
I was up at 07:00 to listen to the weather forecast on the SSB radio. It sounds like the winds are going to pick up for a couple of days, making me glad we are in the lagoon, although the gust down off the nearby mountain can get quite exciting. At 07:30, I switched to listen to the local cruisers net on the VHF, moderated by longtime St. Maarten resident and cruiser friendly guy Mike, a.k.a. Shrimpy. He used to run Shrimpy's bar and restaurant and also provided all types of cruiser services like laundry, internet, mail receiving, boat bottom cleaning, etc. Mike is British and has a very dry British sense of humor. I had forgotten how funny he is doing the net. The net consists of a local weather report, then a section for new arrivals to announce themselves, or people departing to say goodbye, followed by a section for announcements, and then a buy/sell/swap section. It usually takes about half an hour. After the local net, I was back on the SSB to check in on the Coconut Telegraph. Unfortunately, the frequency we use for the Coconut Telegraph is very susceptible to interference from the big yachts electronics and generators, making hearing the net controller very hard. But, we got checked in although we couldn't hear much of anybody else on the net.
After the net, I picked Mike up in the dinghy and we went in to check in with Customs & Immigration. Since St. Maarten is totally duty free, there isn't really a Customs function here. There is just Immigration and the Port Authority which collects the port fees. We got two forms from the Immigration window and sat down to fill them out. They are pretty much exactly the same forms as everywhere else, so why we can't make copies and change the dates every time is a mystery. The Immigration officer looked over the completed forms, stamped our passports and the forms and sent us over to the Port Authority window. The lady there asked us how long we were staying to calculate the fees. We said at least two weeks, and our fee was $49 USD. There is a $7 fee for using the bridge, and then it's $20/wk to anchor on the Dutch side. I suppose if you were staying all winter, that might be reason to stay on the French side, but for a few weeks, I don't see the big deal with the fee. Especially since most everything I want to do is on the Dutch side, the longer dinghy ride from the French side would not be worth the savings to me. Once checked in, I took Mike back to Seabbatical.
I made a list of things that must be fixed before we go any further. St. Maarten is the place to fix your boat, because there is any service you could need, several well stock chandleries, and it's all duty free so it's cheaper than other islands and there is no hassle if you import something from the States. The first thing I am going to fix is the alternator belt. I have to remove the belt from the water pump and little alternator in order to remove the belt from the big alternator. I got them off and then went to get a new belt from my stock. We brought four new belts back with us this year since this alternator wears them out fast. I put one of the new belts on, and it was too big! The new belts are Gates brand, and the old one was a NAPA brand. But, I had been told that Gates makes NAPA belts, and the numbers are the same. Well apparently that was bad information. Thankfully, I have one new NAPA belt in stock too. I dug it out and installed it, then had Barb start the engine. She was able to rev it up right away with the full load of the alternator on it and there was no squeal. I put away the tools, and was glad to know there is a NAPA store here where I can get more of the correct belt.
It was about lunchtime, so we joined Mike & Lynn at the Yacht Club for lunch and internet. I actually took my computer ashore for the first time in two weeks so I could actually download mail instead of just looking at it on my phone. The Yacht Club has been spiffed up a bit since last time we were here in 2009. The bar is a little larger and it's probably been painted. It's looks pretty good. We ordered beers and lunch. Having not eaten much at all yesterday, we were all quite hungry. I didn't get the computer out until after we ate. Mike and I both took out our computers and looked for the Yacht Club's wi-fi. The name of their network is BUYABEER, implying that it's free to customers. There was a password, which the waitress told us. We connected to the wi-fi just fine, but could not get to the internet at all. I asked the waitress to look and see if their router needed to be reset, but she just looked at it and said it was fine. Many times they look fine, but still need to be reset. I couldn't convince her that there was a problem, so we packed up and left. They could have sold several more beers if it had worked.
We went back to the boats. With my amplified antenna, I can see a number of open wi-fi networks, but I can only connect to one, and that's just barely. Again, there is so much electronic "noise" in this area that it's hard to get a long-range signal. I did connect for a bit and got some mail downloaded. But, any serious work like updating the website, or using Skype will have to wait.
At 16:00, we again joined Mike & Lynn at the Yacht Club for happy hour. We want watch the boats come in the bridge, and there are several other folks Mike & Lynn know that they are meeting there. We got a table and ordered drinks. While there, we met Chris & Fran from Changes, John & Kim from 2Awesome, and Peter & Liz from Kynda. At 17:30 the bridge opened at the parade began. There were a number of regular sailboats like ours, and four or five good sized mega yachts. There was lots of waving, some very serious looking crew and one group who did a little parade down the side deck giving a Queen's wave to the crowd as they went. The bridge closed after the last boat, signaling the end of happy hour. With the show over, many people started drinking up and paying their tabs. We would have done the same, except Barb had caught wind of a rumor that Limitless was going to have a special bridge opening at 18:00. I have written about Limitless before, but to refresh - She is owned by Les Wexner, the owner of The Limited and Victoria's Secret. She is 317 feet long and very wide. When she was built, she was too wide to fit through the bridge, but Mr. Wexner wanted her here, so he paid to have the bridge widened. For a boat to get a special opening of the bridge, it has to be arranged 24 hours in advance and costs $1000 regardless of the size of the boat. Well, given the relationship Limitless has to the bridge, they get it opened anytime they want. Right after the original bridge closing, Barb mentioned this rumor to me. You can't see much of the outside bay from the Yacht Club deck, but I could barely see that there was another very large yacht out there. So, we got another round of drinks and waited. Sure enough, at 18:00, the bridge started to open again. Watching a boat the size of Limitless come through that bridge is incredible. Unfortunately we didn't have our camera, but here is a link to a Youtube video of her coming through the bridge.. The boat is not only a beautiful boat, but unlike 98% of the mega yachts in the world, she flies an American flag despite whatever fortune that cost in US taxes. Even with the wider bridge, she still has only a foot or two on either side as she comes through, noticeably slower than most other big boats do. The crew is out on each side holding huge inflatable fenders in case they get too close to the sides. Once inside, she turned and backed into the third slip in at the mega yacht marina right by the Yacht Club. It was quite impressive.
With the show over, we paid up and headed back to the boats. Barb made us some hot dogs for dinner and we again retired pretty early. The wind is forecast to really pick up tonight, so it may be a poor night's sleep.
GPS N 18-02.434 W 063-05.579 Nautical miles traveled today 0. Total miles 10254.