It’s November. And too easy to get caught up in the day to day aspects of earning a living and forget that we spent three hours in the water in just bathing suits. It’s 25 degrees in Boston today as Frank reminded us. We do prefer to live in paradise.
I often get asked how I like living here in the Caribbean. I guess the best way to describe it is some days I feel like I am living a Kenny Chesney song:
Drivin’ on the left side gotta be learned. Happy hours from 3 to 6 but it never really stops. …We got Rasta religions, and parrots and pigeons, Mango and salt on a stick. Life is a lime and from time to time, I gotta go get my fix, yea. We roll with the flow, friends come and go. Usually by the edge of the dock. That’s just livin’ life on a rock.
Other days, I feel like we are just back to the same daily grind as everyone else…with the exception that we commute via our dinghy (our 10′ motor boat that gets us to and from Smitty & shore) and most of the time the weather is beautiful and warm.
When we were cruising (sailing from place to place and not formally working) every day was that fun summer song. We sailed, we strolled the beaches, we swam/snorkeled, fished, and watched the sunset while having a cold drink from the cockpit of our boat. We rolled with the flow, friends came and went.
Now, we are back to scheduled days off, working on boat projects, and trying to save money. Our time with visiting friends is more like vacation – trying to show them all the “tourist” stuff and eating/drinking out. We really are back to being liveaboards and not cruisers. We very seldom take Smitty out anymore, as it is our home and a complete pain to prepare her to be “sail ready”. Sail ready to anyone that has never sailed on a monohull means that anything that can fall over will once under sail (when the boat heels or leans over); everything must be stowed away unless you want a mess to clean up or items to be broken.
At this point, we are transitioning into summer & slow-season in the islands. There will be very little tourism which means it’s the ideal time to sail and visit all those anchorages that are normally packed. However, we do have to keep an eye out because hurricane season is acomin‘!
We are currently contemplating the future: Perhaps sail south and stretch the limited funds that we have? Stay here and continue to work the same jobs? Find somewhere else to live & work – maybe back to the states (doubtful!), Puerto Rico, St. Croix, or St. Maarten? While we consider our options, Jesse is going to go sailing for a couple of weeks – delivering a boat from St.Thomas to Florida (details to come in a separate post). So many things to think about, but on the plus side, we do live in paradise and now we have a water maker. 🙂
I write this to you as I sit in the cockpit of Smitty, enjoying my morning coffee and wearing shorts and a t-shirt (aka my pajamas). Smitty is anchored at our new Home Port in Elephant Bay just off of Water Island and St.Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. It’s warm and breezy and, for my second winter in a row, I am thoroughly enjoying not suffering through the cold and snow.
Completed our traverse of the entire Inter Coastal Waterway (ICW). We entered at the Dismal Swamp in Virginia and ended when we crossed to No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne, Florida.
Our first boat break-up: Yes, Skelton Crew of sv Hullabaloo, I’m talking about you! We miss you guys! For those that do not recall, they called it quits and took their boat back home. 😦
Lived on the boat on the hard (aka on dry land) in Indiantown, FL for a week. But at least we finally got to meet up with some sailors whose blogs we have followed for several years that inspired us to get out here now. Thanks MJ Sailing and the Cynical Sailor and His Salty Sidekick!
Our first overnight passage in open water: Florida to Bahamas Crossing.
Raised the yellow quarantine flag and sailed into our first foreign port: Bimini, Bahamas.
Our first overnight anchoring on a large body of water with no land in site on the Bahamas Bank.
February – April: Bahamas
The best sailing day ever happened as we traveled off the coast of Eleuthera; lovingly referred to as “The Day”, which included dolphins (of course). This write-up is published in the most recent issue of Cruising Outpost (our first paid article!).
We traveled extensively through the Bahamas for a several months: Swam with the pigs at Staniel Cay, left our mark on BooBoo Hill in the Exumas Land & Sea Park, harvested our first conch at Lee Stocking Island, had our first overnight visitor on sv Smitty in Georgetown, checked out the Bahamas Family Regatta, swam with turtles at Conception, swam with a wild dolphin at Red Shanks, swam Dean’s Blue Hole in Long Island, had our first beach fire on Cat Island, snorkeled, hiked, fished, and best of all, met so many great people.
May – first part of June: Turks & Caicos and Dominican Republic
We visited Turks & Caicos – where we met sv Sea Frog and sv Party of Five (thanks Barbara Hart!) and met back up with sv Last Tango and sv Odoya. All of which (except sv Odoya) we traveled with for the next few months.
We learned to play Mexican Train. I still really suck at it, but thank you to Quincy on sv Party of Five for teaching me how to play.
Responded to our first “May Day” call from another vessel: The Three Passages: Part 1 – Turks & Caicos to the Dominican Republic
After a rough passage with thunderstorms and confused seas, we arrived in Luperon, Dominican Republic on May 30. We visited Puerto Plata, where we jumped and slid off the 27 Waterfalls, and sailed to Samana, a luxurious resort where we only paid $1/ft per night.
Second part of June – July: Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgin Islands
We made it through the Mona Passage and arrived safely in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. The Three Passages: Part 3 – The Mona Passage
We sailed and toured southern Puerto Rico and took a car trip to San Juan.
We got to see first hand what happens to a boat that got struck by lightening. Puerto Rico
We visited the Spanish Virgin Islands: Culebra & Culebrita
August – December: British & US Virgin Islands
We have been sailing around and checking out various islands (and bars!) in the Virgin Islands since August. We were so happy to have been able to share this experience with our “L Dock” buddies (Captain Ken and sv Sunshine are officially L Dock buddies now!) that came down and chartered two boats in December.
We attended our first Full-Moon Party at Trellis Bay, BVI
We set up our new home base (recovered a mooring system that was abandoned), thanks to Jamie & Keith on sv Kookaburra. We can’t thank these two enough for all the help and guidance they have given us (and they are super fun to hang out with!). 🙂
We have officially registered Smitty Ditty (the dinghy) and Smitty in the US Virgin Islands. We officially removed Smitty from the Hingham, MA tax assessors list…I think we are now considered sea gypsies.
We have decided that St.John in the USVI is still our favorite island and we are trying to figure out a way to live and work there.
This is the first year since we have been old enough to work that we did not earn enough income to meet the requirement to file tax returns.
Jobs in paradise: trying to offset our spending and build our savings back up:
Stacey has been crew on a sailing catamaran (up to 80 guests at a time) and a power catamaran (up to 130 guests at a time). Currently, Stacey is Captain of the motor vessel that takes guests from the shore to the Sea Plane in the harbor. Bonus: Stacey got to go on a Sea Plan ride – landing on the water…this has been on her life “bucket list” since the first time that she was in St.Thomas over 20 years ago. Flying Fish Seaplane Tours
Jesse is Captain of the sailing trimaran Tribal. He takes up to 10 guests at a time sailing, snorkeling, and fishing. This boat is what racing sailors would call a “rocket ship” – it’s super fast! Jesse has gotten it up to 28 knots under sail. Tribal Day Sails
We celebrated our first Christmas in the Caribbean; complete with a boat parade and steel drum bands.
In summary, we have been to so many beautiful places and have met so many wonderful people that are now friends for life. We have had to endure storms, inconsiderate cruisers, and other challenges. We have had good days and bad days. But, in the end, it’s been an amazing journey that we absolutely do not regret. We plan to spend 2017 in the Virgin Islands, as we work to build the cruising kitty back up, however, we will sneak in some fun trips as well (like St.Marteen in January – get ready Frank we are coming for you!)
Big Hugs to our family & friends – we miss you all so much!
Happy & Health New Year to All!
Even before we left our homeport of Massachusetts, some of our boating friends were already talking about renting a boat and sailing around with us in the British Virgin Islands. At that point I was skeptical if we would make it to the Caribbean, never mind make plans with others. But a couple of months after we left, those same friends started to ask when we thought we might be in the Caribbean because they wanted to book a boat. It was so exciting to know that I would see them again but at the same time it is so hard to commit to being somewhere by a certain date when one is traveling by sailboat. But, it did all come together and on December 9th and 10th two groups of friends flew down to St.Thomas then ferried over to Tortola, BVI to get on two catamarans and sail around the British Virgin Islands with us!
Jesse and I dinghied over to the Indians to meet up with the crew of sv Bear Necessities: Pam aka Pamalama, Chris aka Big C, Chris aka Cooley, Liz, Dan aka Pants, Kerrie aka Kerrie Time, Steve, and Meaghan. It was so unreal to see our friends sailing up, it just didn’t feel real, I felt like we were watching a video of them or something. Then, watching them do a piss poor job of picking up a mooring was just comical. To be fair, although most of the crew owns boats, none have ever operated a catamaran. Before they were even all tied up I was on the boat crying and hugging everyone, still it did not seem real!
We snorkeled the Indians and then had a very short motor passage over to The Bight, where sv Smitty was already anchored. Bear Necessities picked up a mooring with 100% improvement vs the first attempt earlier that day, and we were right back into step like we were at Worlds End in Hingham, MA – floats off the back in the water, tied with dock lines so we wouldn’t lose anyone and drinks all around.
We all decided to get rinsed off and changed to head over to the 100’ Schooner, The William E. Thornton aka The Willy T, for drinks and dinner. After a while, we noticed that one of the dinghies (Bear Necessities had two dinghies for their group of eight) was still missing. They had decided to go on a trip around the anchorage when we went back to Smitty but they were now MIA. Jesse and I figured that maybe they already had gone over to the Willy T so we headed over to the Willy T, but upon arrival, their dinghy wasn’t there either. Hmmm, they must be down at the other restaurant, let’s go check. As we pull up to the dock Liz and Kerrie come running over to us and all I hear is them say “It’s Bad!” Uh Oh – what are they talking about?….
As Liz, Kerrie, Pam, Cooley, and Chris were walking the beach they saw some guys playing Jenga. This isn’t the normal table size Jenga, but the super-sized version that consists of large pieces of wood (think 2 x 4 size pieces). After they watched one of the participants use two hands, someone jokingly said “hey that’s cheating you can’t use two hands”, from here I am not exactly sure of the story, I don’t know if the guy was drunk or angry or just joking but next thing I know for sure is that a our friend got knocked in the face with this piece of wood that the Jenga player threw at the group for whatever stupid reason! The blow was hard enough to shatter the lens of his sunglasses and bring him to his knees. Due to concern that he may have a fractured skull or damage to his eye (which was already extremely swollen and black & blue and bleeding) and he likely has a concussion, the restaurant called VISAR (Virgin Island Search and Rescue) to come and pick up our friend in order to bring him to the nearest hospital, back on Tortola!
Keep in mind, this is day one, these guys have paid literally thousands of dollars to take this vacation and now it may be over, and, this particular friend is the qualified captain of sv Bear Necessities, I really can’t believe this is happening!
So, off our friend and his girlfriend went to go back to Tortola in a large RIB boat that goes something like 65 mph. Jesse dropped me off at the Willy T to tell the other half of the crew what was going on and he went to drop off the other three so they can change. At this point, no one feels like having fun, we all have that awful feeling like we just found out a friend died – everyone was just in a state of shock. Then just as I finished telling everyone what’s happening, the second group of friends gets to the Willy T and they, of course are all excited and ready to party with everyone. So, I repeat the story to the crew of sv Sunshine: Deb, Whitey, Sarah, Amanda, and Ken. Then, I’m not sure how the turn of events happened, but we all decided that our friend would be more pissed if he knew that we were sitting around not having fun because of what happened…so, we decided to do what we all do best together – DRINK!
And from that point the shenanigans ensued, there were naked jumpers from the top deck, naked body shots, board shots, dancing, tattoos (fake), and so much ass slapping! Oh, and let’s not forget about how one drunken person fell into the water three times while trying to get into the dinghy to go back to his boat (Cooley!), and not on purpose.
Meanwhile, two of friends were on Tortola. Our friend had his head x-rayed and underwent other tests and further examination is required by an eye specialist once he gets back to the states. I cannot speak highly enough about VISAR and Moorings. VISAR very quickly responded and professionally handled the situation. Moorings arranged for our friends to spend the night on a boat that was at their home base and kept the restaurant open late so they can eat and brought them back to Norman’s Island the next day.
It took a lot of convincing, and pain meds, but our friend did decide to stay in the BVI. By the end of the week he was feeling better enough to joke about his incident a little. I tried to get him to wear a Pirate eye patch but he said he wouldn’t wear one unless we found and caught a live parrot for his shoulder (epic fail). He also was joking that the VISAR crew all wore helmets but did not give “the guy with the head injury” a helmet to wear. We joked about how no one is ever going to believe this story so we might as well spin it to something that sounds just as preposterous…like telling people “It’s a Long Story that Involves a Goat, a Bottle of Tequila, and a Pitching Wedge”.
Again, this was day one of their visit, more stories to come…
After leaving Salinas, along with of sv Party of Five, sv Sea Frog, and sv Last Tango we headed east on an overnight passage to Culebra. Although there was no wind and we were, once again, making our way under power, we had flat seas and a beautiful night, that is until the motor stalled! She started right back up and we continued on our merry way, when, a few minutes later she stalled again! It is not like Smitty to act up like this, obviously something is wrong- better let the armada know we may have an issue. Again, she started right back up and again about 15 minutes later she stalled – this time we were dead in the water. Captain Jesse went down below looked over a few things and decided that a fuel filter change would do the trick to resolve our issue. We started her back up and she ran great from that point on.:) We safely arrived in Ensenada Honda, Culebra the next day.
Culebra, part of Puerto Rico but is often referred to as one of the Spanish Virgin Islands, is located 17-miles east of the Puerto Rican mainland and about 12-miles west of St.Thomas. For such a small island she packs a ton of beauty. There are several beautiful beaches, most of which have incredible snorkeling. There is only one tiny little town and the only way to get there is via boat.
Just a stones throw from Culebra, Culebrita has beautiful beaches, great snorkeling, hiking, a lighthouse, and a bubbly pool.
After a short little sail over from Culebra, we hiked to the top of Culebrita to see the Culebrita Lighthouse and, of course, to take in the breathtaking views.
Once the oldest operating lighthouse in the Caribbean, Culebrita Lighthouse was closed by the US Navy in 1975. This lighthouse served as an aid to navigation through the Virgin Passage and the Vieques Sound connecting in the Puerto Rico Light System with the Cape San Juan Light. The United States Coast Guard has replaced the lighthouse with a solar powered light beacon. Over the years, several hurricanes have damaged this structure and, currently, the lighthouse is in danger of collapsing.
Culebrita has wild goats. I thought this was a myth but Summer quickly proved us wrong.
After we went to just about every spot to snorkel and ate at Zacos Tacos at least twice (so awesome!), it was time for us to once again get a move on. It was already August and we needed to prepare for the heart of hurricane season. Next up: the Virgin Islands.
Have you ever gone on a cruise on a cruise ship or went to summer camp? You know how everything is scheduled and everyone is friends by the end of the time there…this is what George Town is like. I am not even joking…there is Yoga and Water Aerobics each morning, weekly poker tournaments, volleyball each afternoon, and fires & sundowners on the beach. And, if all that is not enough for you, there is plenty of hiking, snorkeling, restaurants with live bands, etc.
The harbor consists of multiple anchorages, which is the home to several hundred boats that come to this stop in the Bahamas, where they remain for the entire winter season. There is a Cruisers’ Net that comes over the VHF each morning to discuss the on-goings in the harbor, announces items available for Buy-Sell-Trade, and includes Arrivals and Departures of vessels to the area. To be honest, when we first arrived here all of this was very overwhelming, after we had spent over three months in pretty small, quiet anchorages.
We had an extended stay here as we waited for our guest (Frank) to arrive from Boston, Massachusetts. The timing could not have been more prefect. We ended up being at this island during the National Family Island Regatta, which we learned is the biggest sailing event in the Bahamas. Boats and people come from every island to participate in the races and festivities. Regatta Point, an otherwise quiet street, became an entire town of shacks and stages just for this event. Besides the races and drinking & eating, there were art exhibits, parades, a fashion show, and bands. It was amazing to see this quiet little town swell with thousands of people over the course of just a week. We had such a good time with Frank and miss him already!
Chat’N’Chill is one of the famous stops of this area, just across the harbor from Georgetown on Stocking Island. They have a weekly pig roast, daily volleyball games, and of course a beach bar.
We did manage to snug into a quiet spot that hardly anyone goes to anchor called Redshanks. It was a great place to hide out from high winds that we kept experiencing. The most amount of boats that we saw in this area was about 15, which meant that the most beautiful beach was virtually all ours! We probably spent the most amount of our time while in Georgetown anchored here.
On each larger island, there is a monument that identifies to approaching vessels which island that they are in fact approaching. The short hike up to the top of the hill to the monument on Monument Beach rewards you with the most spectacular views of the surrounding area.
Black Point, Great Guana Cay
After swimming with the pigs at Staniel Cay, our next stop south was Black Point. The plan for our stop at this island was to wash clothes at the clean & affordable laundry mat. It seemed as though every cruiser in a 20-mile radius was on this same plan. When we went to the laundry there were at least 50 other cruisers up there as well. It was so nice to meet so many people but it was also so overwhelming after being in small social groups or alone for the past month or so. However, we were really happy to finally meet Keith & Deborah (and Kai) Wrightaway on sv Wrightaway Blog: Wright Away Sails Away. Jesse was one of the first followers of their blog many years ago. We also caught up with John Ahern on sv Freedom Kewlchange.com…we owe him so many beers after that fun day – Thanks again John!
Black Point Blow Hole
Oven Rock, Great Guana Cay and Little Farmers Cay
At the south end of Great Guana Cay is Oven Rock. It literally looks like a huge kiln oven. There are some nice hiking trails in this area that we checked out as well as the cave that had deep water pools (Jesse and I were both to chicken to jump in).
At Little Farmers Cay we got fresh lobster from Little Jeff and checked out his pictures of the pink pearls he found in conch (these are very rare and fetch a handsome price if you come across one). We also attended the church fair, although we were late and all the food was gone.
Like most entertainers with too much money, David Copperfield owns land in the Bahamas, Rudder Cay. You cannot step foot on this island or anchor too closely – there are very large signs posted on every beach advising No Trespassing. So, what I do not understand is, if you do not want anyone to come around your playground, why add a really cool attraction to it! Obviously, we went and anchored just off one of his beautiful beaches and snorkeled to check out the mermaid playing the piano.
Dinghy Spelunking Video