Friday, May 29, 2015

BVI's, Jost Van Dyke, & Tortola

Our original plan was to get to St. Thomas and then to make a run through the islands in order to stage for a run to St. Martin as quick as we could. While we were on the internet the last evening in St. Thomas we see on facebook where Lea and Roland from Victorias Ghost had purchased us a drink at the Soggy Dollar bar on Jost Van Dyke.
Drink board, thanks Lea and Roland
Well I guess our decision would be made for us. We couldnt pass by without stopping for our drinks that they bought for us so we headed that way instead. We called our friends Dave & Tanya on Dea Latis and found they were still there also. We slipped in between the reefs and found the only mooring ball available and they helped us tie on as there was no penndant on the ball. We werent happy where we were but there was no room to anchor and one must take a ball then. We have found ourselves in the charter boat mecca and it seems people dont charter too many monahulls anymore. There were 3 monahulls and the rest were all 40 to 50 foot catamarans jammed in there. Also seems most if not all anchorages have been filled with mooring balls and since you cant anchor close to the balls you are basically forced to pick one up. They are free throughout the day but in the evening they come to collect for overnighters. At $30.00 a night it can become pretty expensive. I like those DR prices of $2.00 daily rate better. Dirk took the dinghy over to the government dock and went to check us into customs. Since we were now in the British Virgin Islands we had to check in. Afterwards we joined Dave and Tanya over at Soggy Dollar to claim our drinks and have a bite to eat for lunch.
Soggy Dollar Bar
Soggy Dollar is known for their Painkiller Drinks. Its a potent drink of rum, cream of coconut, orange juice, and pineapple juice with fresh ground nutmeg on top. Wow, they are yummy....after a couple of those we headed back to the boat and since the day was wearing down several boats left so we decided to change mooring balls to one that was more tucked close to the island. Hopefully we wouldnt roll as much as we were. We ended up moving one more time after that before finally finding one we were happy with before heading around the corner to the next bay and the home of Foxy's Bar.
The pier in front of Foxys
There of course we had a few more rounds of Painkillers while enjoying relaxing in the hammocks next to the waters edge.
Relaxing on Island Time
Lets just say the painkillers had the desired effect and in the end we all had a great day, although there were the morning after regrets. Why didnt I just stop at 3 or 4, how many did we drink? Ahhhhhhh, we still had to travel today. Thank goodness it was a short run over to Cane Garden Bay in Tortola where we found a spot to anchor on the outskirts of the mooring field. Again it was filled with all charter boats. I think us and perhaps two other boats were privatly owned. We took the dinghy to shore to try and find some free internet. We found a little beach bar that offered free internet so we did a little hair of the dog and ordered a painkiller. What a great deal, we were in time for happy hour, 2 for $6.00, so we sat in the beach chairs looking out over the very hazy water enjoying life watching the kids play on the beach and bidding farewell to the day.
Hazy evening sunset
We stayed here two days planning our next move and enjoyed those 2 for one painkillers. Next stop, Beef Island.

St. Thomas

Sitting and waiting on weather gave me time to do some last minute laundry along with everyone else. I did my two loads of laundry and then took them back wet to the boat as I didnt want to be gone all day waiting on the dryer. Besides I think they dried twice as fast hanging on the line. While doing laundry I looked outside and this guy plus one smaller one were hanging around. He was a pretty good size but a little skiddish when I walked up to him.
Well hello there
We also had seen many manatees hanging around the anchorage and it must be mating season for them. I think each and every one of us have a photo of our dinghies being molested by them. My photo isnt as good as some I saw but it was getting evening so it was low light.
Mr. Manatee having a moment with our dinghy
The day before we decided to depart Salinas for St. Thomas we headed out to the mangroves in order to stage for an early morning departure. We made some water and Dirk hopped in the water to clean our bottom from sitting idle for over a week. We pulled the dinghy up, had an early dinner and decided to pull anchor at 10pm to head east. We traveled through the night and arrived in Vieques (vee-aye-case) Spanish Virgin Island at 9:30 the following morning. The rest of the rat pack decided to head elsewhere so we had the anchorage just about to ourselves. During the trip while Dirk was on the front of the boat looking out for fish traps I heard and felt an odd thud then we had a terrible vibration in the steering. Dirk went below to check all systems. Everything looked good, had we run over a fish trap unseen? Well it was the middle of the night and there was no moon so it very well may have been but we couldnt do anything about it till daylight. Once it finally got daylight the vibration had eased quiet a bit so we waited to check until we were at the anchorage. I really didnt want Dirk diving under the boat while in the middle of nowhere. As soon as we dropped anchor Dirk dove in and was happy to find, well, not exactly happy but happy to know there wasnt something else wrong. He pulled a liquid laundry detergent bottle and about 2 feet of line from around the prop. Guess that fisherman lost his trap, sorry dude but next time paint it white or put reflective tape on it.
The culprit
Later that evening we were joined in the anchorage by another Rat packer, Victorias Ghost. We had not seen them since they left the Turks and Caicos. We talked on the radio a bit but neither one of us had a dinghy down so there would be no visiting in person. We promised to get together for a drink soon somewhere. The next morning at daybreak we picked up anchor and were happy to find the vibration totally gone and our speed seemed normal once again. Thankfully the fishing buoy did no lingering damage to anything. We knew that there would be a chance of scattered showers as we traveled but we didnt like seeing the squall lines we were seeing in the sky. The day was spent reefing the sail, unreefing it and dodging the numerous cells showing up on our radar.
First glimpse of St. Thomas
Later that afternoon we saw St. Thomas come into view, can see what type of day we had. We pulled into Charlotte Amalie and found a spot to anchor away from the cruise ship dock but close to the coast guard station and all the ferry traffic.
As we were entering the channel of course the skies opened up and we were forced to close the enclosure which meant limited visability. I spent those moments trying to keep the windows defogged as Dirk watched radar closely. I really dont know how people do it without, you couldnt see past the end of our bow sprit. As we approached the anchorage it did let up just a bit which was nice but I knew Dirk would still be getting soaked setting the anchor.
Our view from the boat
St. Thomas at night
As we heard later they had a record rainfall that day. Just our luck, they haven't had rain in ages and they get records the day we arrive. I have to admit, our first impression of St. Thomas was not the greatest. With all the rain all the trash and muck had been swept into the harbor and it was very murky and trashy. In the next couple days our impression improved but we have to say, we dont know what all the hype is. We went into town the following day to grab a bite to eat and just perhaps do a bit of shopping at the street fair. We took the dinghy over to the town dock and tied up to the concreat wall.
I think this dinghy has been here a while
Looks like its time to replace that cleat.
After tying and locking up the dinghy we walked across the street and were instantly bombarded with people trying to sell stuff. We both noticed that no prices were on anything as they wanted you to ask. They would say it cost this much but I will give it to you for this much. Believe me folks, I know your not giving me a deal and it cost the lower price so why not just say what it cost the first time. After finally getting to a point we couldnt make eye contact with anyone I found one place that was ok and had a cute little cruiser type purse. Just something to throw a camera in, a couple bucks and be able to cross it over your shoulder. Plus it was pretty island colors and looks a bit hippy to me. Five bucks got me that, ten bucks got Dirk a tee shirt then we scooted out of there. I know these people make their money off the cruise ship tourist but Im a cheap cruiser. I buy what I need, not what I want. We then went in search of food and found a little out of the way place called Back Street Pub. After two drinks and two burgers set us back almost $50.00, yikes............20% tip included on the bill, we hopped back in the dinghy and headed back to Renegade before we could spend anymore. While in St. Thomas we ran into a couple that we had met a couple years ago in the Bahamas and went for happy hour drinks in a much cheaper place.
Renegade dwarfed by the cruise ship
Renegade anchored in St. Thomas
Sitting at the bar keeping an eye on Renegade
We would be moving on the following day and were told that once we leave here fuel would be much more expensive. We decided to go ahead and top off at the cheaper price. Going into the fuel dock proved to be no problem at all as we squeezed between the cruise ship and a mega yacht. Actually it was wide open, just seemed that the massive ships would swallow us up.
After filling up there were ferries picking up cruise passangers and they basically had us pinned to the dock with their back wash so we waited as they and several charter catamarans picked up customers to shuffle them off for various activities. Finally we made an attempt and had to abort as we couldnt get the rear far enough away to turn before running out of room. We spotted a man going past us in his dinghy and asked him to act as our bow thruster. He grabbed a rope from our bow and pulled us away from the dock, once we were far enough away he tossed me the rope and we made the turn and headed out. Farewell St. Thomas, next up, Jost Van Dyke, the home of the famous Foxy's and Soggy Dollar bars.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Puerto Rico

We pulled out of the marina in Samana at about 5pm in order for the winds to die down and be able to use the night lee of the island to travel in. Apparently the winds and waves forgot to lay down and we were experiencing some pretty hefty waves. I would say some were 8 footers and very confused. We were all getting tossed about and if it were just Dirk and I we would have turned back. But if we were to make it to Puerto Rico sometime this season we had to bite the bullet and move.
Doesn't look bad but it was. Tehani in the background
Everyone talks about the Mona Passage being this ominous thing and we were worried that if it were that bad now, how much worse would it get. Must say though as we got into it the seas seemed to lay down a bit as I guess the depth of the water helped. Sunrise came and it was not a bad trip at all.
Two flying fish that weren't to lucky and landed on our deck not to be found till morning.
Finally we started seeing Puerto Rico come into view as the day was beginning to prepare for sunset. s/v Jump was in the lead, then s/v Lequesteau and us. Behind was s/v's Tehani, Mythago, Lagniappe, and Glass Slipper. Lagniappe is a couple from New Orleans, so we are keeping good company. It was night by the time we got to Puerto Real and Jump and Lequesteau were already in the harbour and radioed back to us what to expect. I was on the front with a spot light as we knew there were two unlit channel markers to look for. We found the markers and slipped in the channel setting anchor. We had made it and it was 10:15 pm so we were some tired puppies. All in all it took 29 hours getting beat up part of the way but we were here and thats all that mattered.
Our trip from Luperon to Samana to Puerto Rico from our spot tracker
Tehani came in after us and the other three decided to stay outside the harbor and wait till daylight to come in. Showers and then we fell into bed for a glorious night of sleep. The next morning we awoke and saw our friends on Dea Latis sitting on the docks at the marina. We saw our friends on Tangent whom we had not seen sice the Turks and Caicos in the anchorage next to us. Lagniappe also got a slip as they had taken so much water over the bow that their vee berth needed to be hosed out. We also took a bit of water in our vee berth also from a hatch that needs to be caulked but I anticipated it and laid out a couple beach towels to catch most of it. We had the sun shades still stowed in there so the bed was pretty well protected. It was sprayed on the walls a bit so I had some cleaning to do of my own. We would be here a couple days waiting out weather so we decided to rent a car to do some provisioning. Yay, we were in the land of Wal-Marts and fast food again. Also in the land of cheap fuel but american prices. No more cheap meals but we were happy to get some Popeyes Fried Chicken. Wow, this was the first fast food we had since December and it was goooood. Of course we rented the car on a weekend so the stores were crowded. I dont do well in large crowds and by the end of the day I was truly ready to go back to my boat. The next day we took the car again and did more shopping this time hitting a Home Depot and a mall. I can honestly say I dont miss life in a city and actually wished I was back in Luperon. On the 26th everyone had laft and moved on but us. We were the only boat left in the anchorage but we would catch up to the others soon enough. They wanted to get moving. But we needed to return the rental car on Monday. After returning the car we readied the boat to leave that afternoon. It was blowing pretty hard but we felt it would ease up as the day progressed. First we needed to put some fuel in the boat so we went over to the fuel dock and filled up our water tanks with the first free water we saw since the states and fuel. After leaving the dock we continued out the channel and were heading to anchor at Cabo Rojo to stage for the next day but once we got there we decided to stick our nose out past the point and see how the winds and waves were. It wasnt as bad as what we had experienced in recent days past so we kept going, pulling in to La Parguera at sunset right between three of the boats that had left on Sunday. Gavin from Jump helped us pick up the mooring ball and we settled in for the evening. The next morning at sunrise we let go of the ball and headed over to Gilligans Island.
Ariel of Gilligans Island. Red dot is anchor spot
The others decided to keep going to Ponce and 2 of the boats that had gone to Gilligans the day before left to head to Ponce also. We had seen reviews of Ponce and decided if we could avoid it we would. Heard it was a bit of a tight anchorage, holding not so good and the yacht club not being so nice. So we went it alone and headed to Gilligans. Dave and Tanya from Dea Latis were here and they were staying while we had some winds come through. As we were getting close to the anchorge we saw border patrol stopping to check us out. Im sure they heard us on the radio with Dea Latis and checked us out to make sure we were legal, we were as when we entered we called into customs and immigration with our local boaters option number. Apparently they were doing their job which was good. We ended up sitting at Gilligans Island for two more days and spent the days checking out the island, small as it was. It had nice swim areas and a swim through you can see on the arial I have the pic of. You snorkel against the currant one way and float on the return trip down the other side. We saw a couple iguanas, one as we walked across the island and one big one when I put my hand on the mangrove roots surprised the heck out of me. He ended up being startled too and spit before running off. In the evenings we played some Mexican train with Dave and Tanya and talked about weather windows and stops. On May. The 1st we got up at 4am so we could be out of the anchorage and underway before the days winds settled in. We made it over to Caja De Muertos and tucked into a quiet little place under the lighthouse.
Red spot is where we anchored.
Our view of the lighthouse
Since we were leaving in the morning we decided not to lower the dinghy so Dave and Tanya came over and picked us up so we could do some exploring on the island. First we went to check out the little museum and checked out a swimming beach.
Dave and Dirk checking out the beach
Photo op
This little guy sat in the cactus and was not afraid at all of us.
Afterwards we took the dinghy around the island and found the trail to hike up to the lighthouse.
Look at the size of the cacti
Made it to the top
After hiking the long steep trail to the top stopping every once in a while to pull thorns out of our feet that had gone through our shoes we made it to the top only to realize the lighthouse was a bit run down and not in working order. But it did afford some nice views from the top.
Dirks photo op
View of Renegade and Dea Latis sitting at anchor
After the trek down we took a dip in the water to try and cool off before heading back to Renegade. Beautiful little island and being during the week it was very quiet. Apparently on the weekends it can get busy. It would be an early evening as we would have a 5am wakeup to make it to Salinas the next day. Later in the evening it was beginning to get pretty rolly as the ocean swells were wrapping around the island so we picked up anchor and moved to a better protected area not far on the more northern side. About daybreak we made our way out of the anchorage and towards Salinas. We heard Lagniappe and Mythago on the radio headed our way. The marina at Ponce was very rolly and was doing more damage to dock lines and cleats then they wanted so they left. The others seemed fine and stayed. Same thing Tangent had told us also. He had paid for a week of dockage only to leave 3 days later because it was tearing his boat up. As we made our way closer to Salinas there were the customs agents and police boats once again. First up behind Dea Latis, checking them out, then rolling up behind us checking us out. Once they got the ok that we were good they sped off once again. Dang, where are these border agents in the US? These guys were on it.....we pulled into Salinas harbor and were amazed at how many boats were in here. We had not seen so many boats anchored and on morring balls since the states. We drove through the anchorge and finally decided on a spot closer to the entrance. It all seemed pretty protected in here, dropped the hook and set well.
Anchorage in Salinas
We rented a car with Dave & Tanya to do a bit more provisioning. This time we drove to Ponce to a Super Wal-Mart once again making the stop at Home Depot and grabbing some Wendy's before grocery shopping. We noticed on the way that mango trees seem to grow wild here and line the roads. Right now they are ripe and just litter the roadways and the shoulders of the road with tons of mangos going to waste. We couldnt let that go unnoticed so we found a good spot to pull over and we loaded up.
Great minds trying to figure how to get some outta the tree
Dave being the tallest deployed the stick and managed to get some greener ones out of the tree
Yummmm, what a good haul and they are so sweet
Afterwards we headed back to the marina to unload grocery items. This would only be the first of two loads as I did not get any cold items nor meats yet.
And I have to put this all away?
After tossing this load in the boat we headed back to the car to visit a grocery store down the street for meats, cheeses, breads and whatever else could not be found. Even the super wal-mart does not carry certain items that I buy easily back in the states. Oh well, certain things I will have to learn to do without. Load number two was taken Back to the boat and these items had to be put away before I could do anything else. Now the real fun of provisioning begins as not only does things in boxes have to be removed, labeled logged and stowed but all the stuff already in those lockers has to be pulled out and rotated and re inventoried. Its a day long process and that process would take place tomorrow, this evening is relax time after all that work. I stowed the bags in the salon area and put what needed to be refrigerated and frozen in the appropriate locations before we hopped back in the dinghy and went back to the marina snack bar for dinner and a couple beers. Wow, what a now we do what we do best, wait. Wait for weather to hop east. Next stop, St Thomas......