Saturday, May 19, 2007

St. Thomas, USVI - Marinaville

At 11:30am on May 15th, we tied Vagus to a dock at Crown Bay Marina - our first docking in over 5 months. We had just spent 4 days anchored in a nice little bay called Christmas Cove on Great St. James Island. There we found some good snorkeling and, again, some new-to-us fish. The fish were friendly as I think they were probably fed by all the tour groups that came to snorkel the area. We were continuously surrounded by schools of fish as we swam along - something we have not seen since years ago at the Bat Caves in BVI. Some fish would come within a foot of us, stare at us as if begging for food, and then swim away.

When the time finally came to move to the marina, we had to find our dock lines and figure out where to put the fenders. Docking is a lot more work than anchoring! We were both on edge coming into a new marina and manouvering Vagus around all those hard dock bits. Crown Bay was very helpful and sent someone to help with the lines. Fortunately everything went without any events.

Now we finally have lots of fresh water. Our first priority was to get rid of some of the salt accumulated on Vagus - her first real bath since Trinidad. And it was our first real shower with lots of water as well. Karen quickly disappeared to the laundramat, loaded with bags of clothes for cleaning. There are excellent facilities at the marina - laundry, chandler, restuarant and WiFi - so we are set. We checked in with Dockwise and found that we had a bunch more paperwork to fill out - some to get notarized even. We have had a lot of paperwork to complete for this trip so we are thankful for the computer and WiFi.

We do miss being at anchor though. This is a very busy place with boats of every shape and description constantly going in and out by our boat - everything from dinghies, to ferries, to everything in between, including a submarine that takes tourists out to see the fish. The noise from the boats going by are not even drowned out by the planes taking off from the airport, which is nearby. Shortly after our arrival, a huge (82 feet) trawler parked beside us and blocked our breeze. It was 94F in the cabin yesterday afternoon, even with all the fans on. We try to do our work in the morning and hide out in the afternoon. Yesterday a Princess Cruise ship also came in to the cruise ship dock beside the marina. The ship was huge and became the only view we could look at from the cockpit. It was so close to us we could listen to the announcements over the PA during the day. Life is different here.

We just got word that we are shipping out on the s/v Explorer on the 22nd. The ship should arrive in Newport around the 31st. Now we have to sramble to change our flights. We will fly back to Burlington and then drive to Newport to meet the ship.

So it is time to get back to cleaning. Have a good week.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

BVI to St. John, USVI

We had been 9 days in Leverick Bay. Now there is not a lot to do in Leverick Bay, but it is convenient. We could anchor, get water, get groceries, do laundry, visit a restaurant, and most of the time get WiFi. Also, and happily, there are not a lot of charterers. It is bouncy though and the walking is all of the up-hill variety - something we try to avoid in the heat. However, after 9 days, Vagus' bottom was getting a little furry so we felt we really had to move and stage ourselves to the US Virgin
Islands. Promptly at 9:45am, we raised anchor and motored out of Gorda Sound. The wind was right and we unrolled the genoa for a downwind reach to Marina Cay - all of 6 miles away. We did not want to overdo it on the first day of our move. At Marina Cay we were lucky and were able to attend the Michael Bean Happy Arrrh Show. Michael does a delightful show based on a pirate theme - What is the middle letter in the pirate alphabet? - aaarrrrh! It is very popularrh in these parts and a great evening

The next day we motored all of 8 miles to the Bight at Norman Island. We were able to pick up our favourite mooring again, right beside a reef. Here, we were able to snorkel off the boat and enjoy some of the best snorkeling we have found in the islands. The variety of fish is incredible. We saw something new on every trip. As we had travelled for two days to get here, we had to rest up for a few days and, of course, we could not travel on Karen's birthday. She received a number of nice e-mail birthday
wishes. It was nice to get news from home.

But after 3 days at Normans, we had the urge to move on. Also the moorings were expensive. At the very early hour of 8:30am, the earliest underway since arriving in BVI, we left for Sopers Hole, again about 6 miles away. There we bought a few groceries, got rid of our trash and checked out. Off we went before noon to Cruz Bay in St. John's to check into the US. Check-in went smoothly and we walked around Cruz Bay a bit. We actually found a grocery store with shelves full of not-dust-covered supplies
and fresh produce. Loaded down with our greens, fruits and vegetables, we headed back to Vagus to move her to an anchorage away from the ferry wakes.

St. John's is mostly National Park. Anchoring is not allowed so we had to take a mooring - this is supposed to keep boats from damaging the coral. We have been at three bays so far and have been disappointed as the coral is mostly dead - maybe from warm water or past hurricanes. It is too bad as it would have been specactular at one time. We have managed to spot some interesting and new-to-us fish, though. At Lameshur Bay a big remora was trying, unsuccessfully, to attach itself to the bottom of
Vagus. At our latest spot, despite the water being a bit cloudy, we have managed to see a 4 foot barracuda who has taken up station under our boat, a 6 foot nurse shark resting on the bottom by our boat and a 2 foot remora trying to attach itself to a green turtle snacking on the grassy bottom - interesting stuff. And before you ask - I'm sure it was not the same remora we saw in Lameshur Bay!

The weather is still partly overcast with occasional showers - not normal "dry" season events. Not great weather but at least it is warm. We have another week before we have to head to a marina and begin prepping Vagus for the trip home - a whole week and 10 miles to cover.

Have a good week!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

BVI - Perspective

Well are we wrong. Last week we wrote how the weather was not cooperating, feeling sorry for ourselves with all the rain and feeling sorry for all the charterers who happened to pick the past week. Tonight we sat in our cockpit with couples from two other boats, both long-term cruisers, when a dinghy approached eyeing our Canadian flag.
"Where you from?" they called. They were from New Brunswick and on a charter for 10 days.
"Too bad the weather has been bad", says I.
"What do you mean?" they say "it has been great!"
We all turned to each other in surprise. "Did they say it was good?" we asked, mouths open. On reflection, how soon we forget. After a normal Canadian winter, to escape to a land where warm breezes caress your face, where you shed multiple layers of cloths for only a bathing suit, where the water is not hard enough to stand on, and where you swim in an aquarium, what is there not to like. Who cares about a few showers? What is a little wind? You are here and the air is warm and the water is warm and the beaches are golden and the rum is cheap. So there you go.

They also exclaimed before leaving, "Wow, you look like real cruisiers. I bet you have been out a long time." Now how did they know that? Was it the boat, our appearance, our clothing. our hair cuts or some other hidden-to-us sign? And we thought that by having people over and laughing and carrying on, we would fit right into the charter crowd.

In case you are wondering where we are, we are still at Leverick Bay. We were going to leave today but we had to get water. We have closed down our watermaker and now carry jugs ashore to purchase water. But first we wanted to give a boat near us -Hello World - the weather forecast. While at Hello World, it started to rain, as in squall, so they invited us aboard. We had a wonderful visit with David and Kate who also are friends with our friends on Reverie. So by the time we made it to the dock for water, picked up the water and poured it into Vagus' water tanks, it was time for lunch. Well you cannot leave after lunch. We decided to have Hello World and Always Saturday over for Happy Hour. Off we went in the dinghy to invite both boats and then into the store for supplies. We got back at 2:00 and I turned on the computer to check e-mails. Up pops a Skype call from Laurie in North Vancouver. We had a great chat for about 30 minutes from BVI to North Vancouver, complete with video of Laurie (we do not have a web cam), for zero cost. Technology is amazing.

Then I called Port Credit Marina, where we are getting our boat fixed at Bristol Marine, to arrange delivery, again via Skype. Imagine my surprise when my carefully and painfully planned house of cards was knocked down when the woman in the office at Port Credit Marina said "You can't bring your boat here." She was more than a little abrupt and I was shaking when I got off the phone. Now where was Vagus to be delivered? Where was she going to be fixed? I thought I had it all arranged!!! I called Bristol Marine and asked them how they were supposed to fix my boat when I couldn't get it into the yard. They were super and also more than a little upset. They assured me they would work it out and, also importantly, I would not have to talk to that woman again. What kind of boat yard turns away business like that?

I finished all my calls on a positive note as I next I managed to get on a Google chat line with our eldest son, Alex, and determine that all was well in his life.

By now it was 4:00 and, as we now have lots of water, Karen had promised the other cruisers, who were due at 5:00, that we would shower before they came. Time was getting near and Karen was making noises that they would be here soon. Off went the computer and into the shower I went. So it was a busy day. We now plan to leave tomorrow but then again ... Have a good week.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

BVI - Wet & Soggy

The weather is not cooperating. A big trough moved in and settled over the islands so we have had a week of unsettled weather - showers and squalls, squalls and showers. I am not sure where one stops and the other begins. The weather forecasters always say them as a pair. First the trough is moving away from the islands; oops, now it has moved back. We feel sorry for all the charterers running around in their rain gear. We went to Sopers Hole for 2 nights to hide out from what we thought would be the worst of the squalls and to have lunch at Pussers. Sopers Hole is one of the spots we chartered out of years ago - it has not changed much. A couple of thunder storms, complete with fork lightning, rolled through in the middle of the night (of course).

On Sunday we moved to Manchioneel Bay, Cooper Island, and confirmed, once again, that it is the worst bay to stop for a mooring. While the snorkeling was good, the current was weird and we spent a restless night bouncing around with the mooring ball thumping against the hull, trying to remove Vagus' bottom paint. As well we had a charterer try to anchor in the mooring field beside us. Luckily we were just returning from snorkeling and Karen was able to convince them that anchoring in the mooring field was not a very good idea. They were very good and moved outside the field but from that point on we were vigilant for any other boats trying to anchor near us. The ritual is called "Harbour TV" among the crusiers and comes on every afternoon between 4:00pm and 6:00pm. This is the time when people realize that the sun also sets in BVI and they need to find a spot to stay for the night. In they come to the next Bay on their list, looking for an empty mooring ball - the moorings have of course been filled since 2:00pm. Around the mooring field they cruise, everyone alert and pointing in different directions. Once they come to the realization that the moorings are truly full, the anchoring dance starts. This is when Harbour TV gets interesting. Down goes the pole to pick up the mooring line and the designated anchor person opens the anchor locker. Tense faces survey potential spots. Tense cruisers watch from their cockpits and pray "please not near me!" We have lots of Harbour TV stories that will have to wait for another time.

On the plus side, we have managed to get in a bit of snorkeling. Actually we have snorkeled more in the last 2 weeks than we have in the last two months. The snorkeling is still good in BVI when the weather briefly clears, with clear water and a nice variety of life. We have even seen several fish that sent us back to our guide books for recognition.

We now have moved back to Leverick Bay, mainly because we can anchor and get WiFi. As I write this the rain is sheeting down, the wind is howling,and the boat is bouncing in the wind-driven waves. We should probably move to a less bouncy spot as the weather is not supposed to clear for a few days but we still have a number of things to arrange for the trip back. Internet is essential. The better spots don't have internet. How things have changed - choosing your anchorage based on internet availablility. We even have friends that motor around an anchorage, laptop on, looking for the strongest internet signal. As soon as they lock on, down goes the anchor. So much for the life of "getting away from it all"!

Have a good week.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hello BVI!

The winds dropped and moved southerly and our time allowance in Antigua was drawing to a close. So early on Thursday the 12th, we raised anchor and headed North-west. We had a number of options for a destination with BVI being at the top of our list. We were able to sail for about 6 hours, then the winds dropped and the iron jib came on. Fortunately our jerry-rigged autopilot using the wind vane steering and a tiller autohelm worked great while motoring and we did not have to hand steer. We ended
up motoring for 24 hours, arriving in Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda about lunch time on Friday. After checking in, we went to Leverick Bay to rest up. We slept well that night. We were happy though as we were now in BVI - the home of clear water and great sailing. It has the clearest water of any of the Leewards and Windward islands and some of the best snorkeling.

At Leverick Bay we caught up with Always Saturday who we have not seen since 2006 in Trinidad. They have been cruising the Virgins and loving it. Karen was able to find a laundramat where she could actually do laundry and control the drying process - the first one since Trinidad. Normally she had to leave the laundry with a wash, dry and fold service with mixed results - such is one of the treats of the cruising life. Next we heard from Legend so we went down to Trellis Bay to catch up with them
and learn about where to go in St. John's. The winds were going Southerly, so we headed to Norman Island to find our favourite spot in BVI - at the Bight just off the rocks at the end of the bay. We can swim right off Vagus and snorkel the reef right beside us. We plan to stay a few days and catch our breath. Then we have about a month to putter around the British and US Virgins before shipping Vagus home. So no more long, overnight sails, just short day day sails for us.

I am writing this on the 18th at Norman's Island but am not sure when it will be posted. Our boat e-mail is spotty here and I am having trouble connecting - all the hills around us. Hope the weather is warming up at home.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Antigua - Happy Easter

It was a busy week. With the insurance settlement out of the way, we were able to hire a local fiberglasser to patch Vagus. The patch sure ain't pretty but it is strong. It also does not leak! Karen wants to paint a big "OUCH!" sign on Vagus' hull. The surveyor came out to inspect the patch and gave his blessing to move Vagus.It is time to move on. It is also an anniversary of sorts. Exactly 3 years ago, on the Thursday before Easter Friday, we arrived in Culebra in the Spanish Virgin Islands after an 8 day off shore passage from the Bahamas - our first time with Vagus in Caribbean waters. Much has happened since then.

Next I had to clean the hull and find the prop - easier said than done. Over the past 6 weeks, the prop had disappeared beneath a huge ball of growth. I had to pull clumps of grass off just to get to the point that I could use the scrapper. Slowly the prop emerged. With the bottom cleaned, we were ready to move. On Friday, we motored, about 10 miles, to Jolly Harbour on the West side of Antigua. Jolly Harbour is a better spot to leave for heading North-west. Once there we met up with Chinook Arch, who are preparing to haul at Jolly Harbour Marina, and with Mike & Marlene on Drumbeat, who we have not seen in a year. It was great getting back together with friends again. We first met Drumbeat in BVI on our trip south and have met up with them every year since.

On Saturday, I finally pronounced sentence on our house batteries. They have been giving us problems for the last month and I realized we had to replace them. Off we went to Budget Marine to pick up 4 new 6 volt golf cart batteries, each weighing about 65lbs. Saturday afternoon was spent taking the batteries by dinghy to Vagus, loading them aboard, lifting them down the companionway, placing them into the battery locker, and taking the old batteries on the reverse route. It was a lot of lifting, but with a few well chosen boat words, we managed to get through the day. We also managed to finish just in time to shower and head out for dinner with 12 other cruisers, mostly Canadians. Sunday was spent with Advil in quiet reflection.

Now we are really ready to move. Our time in Antigua is officially up next Sunday so before that time we hope to find a good weather window to head out. Our plan is to sail directly to BVI but that is just a plan. We will know where when we get there.
And other good news is that Mike off Drumbeat was able to clarify several of the cricket rules. Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Antigua Week 7

We settled - an entirely unsettling experience. We have spent the week doing e-mails, phone calls, faxing, wrting proposals and waiting. Once again, Bob Raymond was excellent. At 1400 Friday afternoon, we sent off the final fax accepting a cash offer so we can fix her in Canada. We REALLY did not want to spend more time fixing boats in the Caribbean! One of the most difficult things about the whole process is that it puts your life on hold. It is like going to jail in the Monoploy of life. You have to wait to get out. You cannot make plans. You just work out different scenerios that will likely not come true. One of the things we like about cruising is the freedom of movement (depending on the weather). When suddenly stuck not of our own choosing, we felt really antsy about sitting still.

It will be nice to move on and start a new, hopefully less exciting, adventure. Taking Vagus home this year was our original plan and we are sticking to it. Who says we are not flexible? Only we will be taking her by a different route. She will be getting a ride via Dockwise Transport. The Dockwise ship actually sinks in the water like a floating dry dock and we drive Vagus over its stern. We wait as the ship rises, divers weld a cradle around Vagus, we say goodbye and off it goes. Dockwise has a neat web site describing the process. We have to meet the Dockwise ship in St. Thomas on May 28th. Between now and then we have to get a great big ugly patch put on the damaged area to keep the water out and sail Vagus to the Virgin Islands. Our route is still open for discussion but we want to be in the US Virgins by mid-May. It is mostly downwind and we have time to pick the calmest water (we hope). At least we will be able to pick up some Pussers Rum along the way in BVI.

To answer the other questions - I am starting to understand the "Short" version of cricket - the short version usually takes one whole day to play. It is remotely similar to baseball and about as enjoyable to watch. And the answer to the number of books read: Mine is 3, Karen lost count.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Antigua Week 6

Here it is - the important news of the week - Karen won at domino's last Sunday. I knew you were waiting for that. It was a hard fought battle at the Mad Mongoose Restaurant in Falmouth Harbour with a total of 8 players vying for the honours. I, of course, played brilliantly until the last two rounds. I ended up with so many dots I thought I was looking at the night sky.

There have not been many new arrivals to the anchorage, mostly departures. Paramour III and Ariel have left heading North. Chinook Arch will be leaving early next week. We did meet Stitches briefly before they had to return to Trinidad. It is time to meet some new people I guess. Fortunately, we found a good book exchange at Jane's Yacht Service. We managed to trade 9 paperbacks so we now have a whole new collection to choose from. We do go through a lot of books. It is interesting that, as the selection is limited, we read and enjoy many different books that we would not normally choose to read at home.

In answer to the other cliff hangers - I know I have kept you waiting long enough - I still have not sorted out cricket. I cannot even figure out the scoring although I listen intently to the scores as they are announced on English Harbour Radio. And we still have not received a second quote - four weeks after the incident. We have, however, started negotiations with the insurance company on the first quote. We will know more next week but the pause button is still engaged on the DVD of our trip. We are lucky to have an excellent insurance agent, Bob Raymond, of BC Yacht Insurance. He has been wonderful in helping us through these times and in trying to keep the process moving. We would recommend BC Yacht without hesitation.

So once again, stay tuned. Will we go or will we stay? How many books will we read? Who will arrive? This and more will be revealed next week.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Antigua - Week 5

Well, our anchor chain has more hair on it than a Husky in the dead of winter. I hate to think what our prop looks like.. It will definitely need a dive and clean before we move - if I can find it. But, the good news is - the quoting/repair process is rocketing forward at glacial speeds. Vagus has been prodded, poked, hammered and inspected, and we got our first quote. Hopefully the other quote will come this week and we can start making plans. We have also found out that we can't get our boat hauled too soon as there is not a room, there is not even a cupboard, available in Antigua from March 24 to April 8 as several games of the World Cricket Cup are being played here. People are even chartering yachts to use them as floating hotel rooms for this period. Never could get the hang of cricket. Someone said that it was the Brits attempt at defining eternity. It sure is popular though. Even Canada has a team playing in the cup.

We finally got a local SIM card and local phone number for our cell phone. This has greatly simplified communication with the various companies. Before this we had to hang out on the boat, listening to the VHF radio for people to call. Now we can leave the boat, walk about with the cell phone in my pocket and, like everyone else, wait for a merry little jingle to page me. It still amazes me that cell phones are so inexpensive here and so expensive in Canada. The process took all of 10 minutes and about $16CAN and we have a local number. We had to take two local buses through the countryside to reach the cell phone office. One bus took us into the main terminal in St. John's - near where all the cruise ships dock. And the other took us out to a mall containing the Digicel phone office. Our total bus fare just about equaled the cost of the SIM card.

One nice thing is that we are in a cross roads for cruisers coming North and going South. Paramour III has been here all week - we had planned to sail to the US with Paramour - and on Friday, Ariel came in. (We celebrated New Year's on Ariel.) Chinook Arch is here getting a new mainsail. We are really lucky and thankful to have friends about to get us away from the boat repair blues.

So stay tuned - will we or won't we get a second quote? Will we like the quotes? Will the insurance company like the quotes? Will I suddenly discover cricket? Who will show up at the anchorage? And, most importantly, who will win at dominoes this afternoon? What a cliffhanger to end this on! More next week.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Antigua Update

This update is tough for me to write. I have been putting it off. Actually I was not planning on writing anything but good friends said I should. So here it goes.

It was a clear, sunny Saturday morning, February 24th to be exact. Karen and I were preparing Vagus to leave Falmouth Harbour and cruise to Nonsuch Bay with two other boats for a bit of snorkeling and beaches. We were on the foredeck getting ready to lift our dinghy for the trip - when travelling we store the dinghy on the foredeck. We noticed the sailboat beside us, who was also at anchor, raise his mainsail. When next we looked up, this boat was sailing directly at Vagus with all sails filled. We shouted to no avail. The boat kept sailing on a direct course to Vagus. Quickly it became obvious it was going to hit us. We grabbed onto the shrouds. A crew member from the other boat raced forward to try to fend off. Fortunately, Karen shouted at him to get out of the way. He brought back his foot just as a loud crack resounded through the anchorage. The bow of 20 tons of boat (Vagus is 8 tons) travelling at several knots had just crashed into Vagus aft of amidships. Vagus heeled over from the impact. We were stunned. Luckily no one was injured. But our season had ended. Vagus now sat with a split down the hull and a crumpled, holed deck. Interior cabinets and woodwork had been shifted. We were not going anywhere for a long while.

So the last two weeks have been been tough. We are into dealing with the claim (his insurance company has been good and stepped in to take responsibility). Bear in mind, in any accident, insurance never covers all your costs or the inconvenience that you experience. We were taking Vagus home this year. That plan is over. Now we are trying to get our boat fixed. The yards in Antigua are busy, busy - this is the height of sailing season and we are competing with Mega yachts for their attention. The process is slow. We are not sure how this will play out. Only time will tell. We are lucky in having a number of our cruising friends come by to help us out, give us words of encouragement and lift our spirits. Without them, it would be a lot more difficult. And Antigua does have some good craftsman for doing the work (when they are available).

I will try to keep updating this site on our progress. We have had so many e-mails from friends and family that I am not sure who I have or haven't updated. I hope this site helps. Don't expect much fast, though. Our life at the moment seems more "wait and stew" than actual action. But life goes on, and this afternoon we are going to Shirley Heights with friends for some Pan music and BBQ. We can still have fun!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Antigua - an island with 365 beaches! Honest that's what the brochure says. So, if you like beaches, this is the place. However, we know we are true cruisers when we didn't pick the pretty anchorage in front of Pigeon Beach but moved well into the harbour where, although not so picturesque, there is a good signal for WiFi.

I must admit, it was a bit of a culture shock coming into Falmouth Harbour. When we arrived, we motored past the entrance on our way to anchor near our friends on Reverie. This harbour is home to many Super Yachts, Mega-Yachts and just generally humongous boats. I am not sure what the difference is between a super yacht and a mega-yacht. I know that a mega-yacht has to be over 100 feet in length. But it is likely a question that if you have to ask, you can't afford it. Anchored at the harbour entrance is Mirabelle V - the largest single masted sloop in the world topping out at 175 feet in length. The Maltese Falcon, the largest sailing ship in the world at about 289 feet, is also due in. The masts on these yachts are so tall that they have to have red lights mounted atop to warn low flying aircraft. The power boats are also huge. It is not uncommon for a helicopter to be berthed at the stern for those quick trips to pick up pizza. These boats are kept in immaculate condition by their full time crew and an army of locals painting, polishing, etc - just waiting for their owners or charterer's to pop over for a few nights. This luxury is in sharp contrast to the island people who are similar to the other islands and not well off. The contrast is just more striking.

After anchoring, Mike & Chris told us about a boat building contest on Friday. There were 27 entries, mostly crews from the mega-yachts. Contestants were given some materials, had to build a boat in 2 hours, then sail the boat from the beach and around the marina. It was great fun for all. We walked the dock watching the various imaginative creations taking form. Many actually made it around the course to the surprise of all. It was a fun afternoon.

Then on Sunday, we took a taxi up to Shirley Heights for a BBQ and pan music. Shirley Heights was the lookout station for Admiral Nelson's crew and has a great view of both English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour (they are separated by a long peninsula). You could see why Nelson liked both these harbours for Hurricane season. The harbours are well protected from all directions. Unfortunately Nelson hated living there due to the mosquitoes and the fact that the local land owners had taken a contract out on his life for restricting trade with the colonies. He lived a virtual prisoner in the dockyard at English Harbour.

Another day, we walked around Lord Nelson's Dockyard in English Harbour. Many of the buildings are being restored to Nelson's time and there is a little museum giving some of the history. I also spent a fun day replacing the alternator belt - a typical boat job, including the squall that decided to go through just when I had the contents of both cockpit lockers strewn about the cockpit. Karen enjoyed her day unable to move from the corner I alloted her, imprisoned by the contents of the quarter berth. She was so thankful to move at the end of the day she insisted on washing AND drying the dishes after cooking dinner. Maybe I should do this kind of boat job more often?

Today we are off on the busses to see the big city of St. John. Next weekend, we plan to go to a secluded anchorage at Green Island on Nonsuch Bay with Reverie. More later.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


As I mentioned in the last update, we were sitting at anchor off Portsmouth, Dominica, when the wind died. Vagus slowly turned with the current, beam on to the incoming swell. We started to roll - not a gentle roll, but a hang-on roll. It also had been raining a lot during our stay and there was the type of overcast that made you feel you were in Vancouver (although warmer, Karen says). As well we had been subjected to three nights of loud music from the partying ashore - till 4 or 5 in the morning - as carnival was starting. Although it was not the best day to leave according to the weather reports, it was an okay day and we needed sleep.

After we raised anchor and motored out the harbour, Legend called to say they were leaving as well. They volunteered to take our picture under sail and they got some great shots, including the one posted. Yes, that is Vagus and we are not sinking. These were just some of the big swells we were sailing in. Legend is a 62 foot sailboat and sits very high over the water compared to our boat. The sail was actually quite comfortable; the seas were just big. We did get hit by a 30 knot squall near The Saints (our destination). We were two miles from a tricky passage through some reefs when the wind and rains hit. Visibility dropped to about 50 feet as we raced under main sail only (we had already rolled in our Genoa)at 7 knots towards the hard bits ashore. We decided to heave-to and wait through the squall. After about ten minutes, Vagus and I were thoroughly washed (Karen, of course, was still dry), the sky was clear and we could see where we wanted to go.

A few miles later, we anchored off the main village in a group of islands called The Saints, or properly called Isles des Saintes. They are part of Guadeloupe, a French Island. Ah! Back to the land of fresh baguettes! The Saints is a tourist destination for people from Guadeloupe. Every morning ferry loads of people arrive at the main dock, disperse throughout the island, walking or on motor scooters, and visit the forts, beaches, restaurants, etc. It was a great spot to visit and explore. The area is clean and picturesque. We hiked to Fort Napoleon, once again on the highest hill in the area. And we got in some snorkeling with Legend. Hopefully you can see one shot of Karen in the water and us relaxing in the dinghy before heading aback to the boat. The water temperature was down to 26C - a little cooler than we are used to.

After a week, we decided to go to Deshaies on the North West corner of Guadeloupe. We met up with some friends on Rovinkind II, a Canadian boat out of Nova Scotia. We had last seen them in 2004 in Spanish Wells, Bahamas. Together we toured the botanical gardens. Karen averaged a picture every 95 seconds - glad we are digital. The gardens were great. There are numerous hikes here but the weather opened up for a run to Antigua - due North 43 miles away. So once again we were off. More later.

Friday, February 9, 2007


Dominica - an island in transition. It is amazing. There is only 70 000 people on Dominica and eight volcanos - more volcanos than any other island. Presently it is likely the poorest and least developed island in the chain. But that is changing. They are going after the tourist trade and have a beautiful island for display. Their target is the Eco-Tourist and they back this up with numerous rain forest hikes, river tours, an aerial lift through the rain forest tree tops where the parrots fly, a working Carib Indian village and more. Most of the island seems to be park land. When we arrived at Portsmouth, we found the boat vendors that greeted us friendly and helpful. They all have taken lessons on how to greet visiting yachts and it shows. Gone are the aggressive sales tactics of the past. Even in town no-one begged from us, although they were more than willing to show their goods and barter for a sale.

Our initial contact was David, one of the water taxi operators. These water taxis buzz around the anchorage and will pick you up from your boat and take you wherever for a reasonable fee. They will also arrange island tours. Most are also registered tour guides for the nearby Indian river. This was a must tour for us so we booked a time with David for Saturday morning. We didn't realize that there is always a party in town on Friday night - one that actually lasted until 5:00am Saturday morning. We know, as the music was quite clear in our boat as we tried to sleep. We thought David seemed very happy when we changed our pickup time to Saturday afternoon as there were rain showers in the morning when we got up. David arrived promptly at Vagus at the appointed hour and we were off. At the start of the river, he shut down the engine and took out oars - engines are not allowed on the river. He then took us on an hour excursion, about a quarter mile up the river, explaining the various trees, plant and animal life that abounded along the banks. The growth along the banks was incredible. Karen averaged a picture every minute and a half - thankfully we have a digital camera. We even saw another spot where a segment of the Pirates of The Caribbean was shot (I think they covered the whole of the Caribbean). About a quarter mile in, we came to an old plantation garden that was being developed into a rest spot. We were able to walk the garden and enjoy a rum punch called Dynamite (two glasses and you will see crocodiles on the river). David then took us on a leisurely tour down the river and back to our boat - a great day.

We also managed to walk to Fort Shirley one afternoon. Our friends on Legend had just arrived and said that the walk was well worthwhile. They were right. The fort is one of the numerous forts put up by the British or French - in this case British - and is being beautifully restored. A dock for cruise ships has been put in at it's base so it looks like it will be a busy place in the future, although we didn't see any ships using it while we were there. Forts, of course, are always on the top of hills that make for an interesting climb/hike. I still do not know how they got all those cannons up there.

The anchorage got really rolly on Sunday night. It was difficult sleeping while our skeletons were being rolled about in our skins. Monday started out rainy so, with Legend, we decided to head out. Next stop is the Isles des Saintes!  

Sunday, February 4, 2007


Martinique - one of the French Isles. What a delight! The people of the island are friendly, helpful and courteous. We struggle with our limited French when on the island and they respond with their limited English - which is usually better than our French - with a smile. Even if they couldn't speak English, they would patiently try to understand what we said. And the "joie de vivre" was ever-present.

The beaches are incredible. We anchored off the small village of Ste. Anne in the south of Martinique. The water is clear and the sand beaches stretch for miles. There is quite a cruising community who make Ste. Anne a long-term stop-over. Of course there is dominos on Sunday at a local restaurant. And it is a short ride to an excellent dinghy dock to pick up freshly baked baguettes for lunch and, of course, some pain au chocolat to tide one over until lunch. The pastry is wonderful and definitely not low calorie. The village is clean (a treat from some of the other islands) and very cruiser friendly. We can see why people make long stops here!

We arrived in Martinique with Paramour.  Paramour and their friends off Kokapelli introduced us to a hike to the far side (South end) of the island to a popular beach. Along the hilly trail, we passed numerous beautiful, almost deserted, clothing optional, sandy beaches and, after about two hours, we reached our destination - Saline Bay.  We were ready for lunch at a beach front restaurant! There, relaxing with a cold beer and a sandwich, we could admire the bathing suit girls showing off their wares to prospective customers. These enterprising young ladies had a basket full of bikinis. When approached by prospective customers, they would strip and model whatever suit caught the customer's interest. I wanted desperately to buy Karen a new suit but all I got was an "I don't think so, Jim". Oh well. It made for an enjoyable lunch.

We stayed in Ste. Anne 11 days (2 domino games), wandering the village and visiting Marin, the nearby town. After that, the weather looked good so we sailed up to St. Pierre at the North end of Martinique. This town was destroyed in 1902 when Mt Pelee blew up. It literally did blow up, with 29000 people losing their lives in a giant fireball explosion. Ste. Pierre had been the center of commerce for Martinique and a thriving city, the "Paris of the Caribbean". Now only 5000 people live here. Many of the ruins are still visible. We anchored just off the main dock and could see and hear the street traffic in town. In the afternoon we went to a small museum and saw the recorded evidence of the destruction. It looked like the aftermath of a nuclear explosion. We stopped in St. Pierre for only one night as the weather was still good to head for Dominica - our next stop.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Ah Sunday! The good Lord has it right - Sunday should be a day of rest. Life on a sailboat tends to be a 24 x 7 adventure. There are always boat jobs to be done or supplies to get. So it is nice to try to take a real break once a week, put all those jobs and must-do's aside, and enjoy where you are. Such was our start last Sunday. I slept in to the glorious hour of 7:30 and woke to a blue sky and sunshine. Normally I am up at 6:30 listening to the weather nets - but the weather can wait until Monday. We have a leisurely breakfast, then relax in the cockpit with a cup of coffee, reading the latest sailing news. Life is good. The local yacht club puts on a Sunday lunch here in St. Lucia and there is the promise of a domino game with other yachties after lunch.

All looks promising - until we are getting ready to go to the club and Karen announces that the head pump is leaking. The pump is not just leaking - it is gushing stuff that really should go overboard - into our bilge! Our boat takes on a certain odour reminiscent of our trip through the volcano. I announce to Karen that a pump rebuild is required. So much for the afternoon as I haul out the pump rebuild kit instead of the domino game. I know this pump. I installed this pump. And I know that I have to disassemble half the bathroom to get at this pump. I do not look forward to it. Karen makes lunch before I start as it will be a long day. After lunch, I notice the storm clouds building. Gone is the blue sky as rain showers appear on the horizon. Great, not only do I have to fix the head pump, but I have to do it in a closed-up, hot boat as rain settles in for the afternoon. Fortunately, my nose decides to take a holiday after about 10 minutes and I cannot smell what I am worki
ng on. Karen has to retreat to the fresh air of the wet cockpit. The job proceeds (bad pun). About 4:00, I finish cleaning the pump and can now start the reassembly. I have more cuts on my hands than fingers and sweat is continuously dripping from my brow. I test the pump. It leaks at a different spot. I pull out the pump again and apply silicone sealant to anything that is supposed to seal. Back goes the pump. The test is successful. It is now after 5:30. I have been going continuously since 12:30 and am beat. I shower, apply antibiotic cream all over my hands and settle back on the settee as Karen cleans up and prepares dinner. Friends call on the radio to ask why we missed the dominoes game. Sympathy is extended and plans made instead for the next day. Cruising - what a life!

Friday, January 19, 2007

St. Lucia

We got our tour. One thing we find helpful when trying to sort out a new island is to arrange for a tour. We were lucky as our friends on Paramour III arrived at the same time and could recommend a local guide. Even better, they came with us.  Linus was available on Thursday so off we went. After traveling on taxis of various vintages on other islands, we were surprised when Linus showed up with a new Toyota mini-van - luxury. Even the AC worked! (At least, Linus offered it but we didn't try it as we prefer the breezes.)  We drove down the island from Rodney Bay, first passing through Castries, the main city and cruise ship port. We plan to go on a day trip by bus to Castries in a few days.  The bus is about a $1. The drive down the coast has enough twists and turns to break a snakes back. In fact, you can motor on a sailboat down the coast faster than you can drive it. But the roads are paved and good.

Our next stop was the fishing village of Anse La Raye, where we picked up some trinkets from the lovely ladies at the booths - who can resist someone who calls you sweetie. Then we were off to Diamond Falls and the botanical gardens where Josephine (Napoleon's Squeeze) bathed in the medicinal waters. We were already wet from the tropical showers (it is a rain forest) so passed on the bathing bit. We drove through the center of a volcano, complete with bubbling springs and sulphurous belches. It is the only drive-through volcano in the Caribbean. We had to go. For lunch, we went to Dasheen - a luxury resort on the side of a mountain. Now you have to picture this - we are now 1000 feet above the water, perched on the side of a cliff (you look over your table and you look down and and down and see little boats anchored in the little bay) and directly on each side of us is a Piton, rising 2100 feet out of the water. It was an incredible view. What a lunch stop! So a few hours later, nicely full and relaxed, Linus wound us back to Rodney Bay and our awaiting dinghies.

There is lots to see and do in St. Lucia. Tourism is their number one moneymaker (next is bananas)and they are serious about offering lots of value for visitors. The people are friendly and the island is beautiful. They should do well.

Tour done, it's back to boat jobs for me.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Well, we made the break from Tyrrel Bay. Said our good byes, promised to come back in April and checked out. The weather looked good for the next few days and boats were departing for different regions. We decided to "yellow flag" it North to hopefully St. Lucia. Yellow Flag means that when we reach a new country, we do not go ashore or check in. We fly the yellow quarantine flag so officially we are still underway.

After changing Vagus over from a harbour boat to an offshore boat, we went all of 11 miles on Saturday to Chatham Bay, on the west side of Union Island, St. Vincent. The next day, we had a great 30 mile close hauled sail (no tacks) to Admiralty Bay in Bequia. The anchorage, however, was rolly, very rolly - the kind of roll where you feel your bones lagging your body while lying in bed. We did not sleep much. The weather was still holding so we got up early the next morning to go to St. Lucia, about a 60 mile trip. We left at the break of dawn, sailed to St. Vincent, motored up the lee side of St. Vincent, then sailed the thirty mile crossing to St. Lucia. The St. Vincent / St. Lucia crossing is one of the roughest on the trip North. We had a perfect day for it. It was a bit bouncy for the first 5 miles, then the seas dropped and we sailed directly to the Pitons at St. Lucia (no tacks). We had planned to check in at Soufriere. But when we arrived, we found the moorings near t
he town full (you have to take a mooring) and the East winds had brought a distinct sulphurous odour to the area. We decided to keep going to Rodney Bay, about 15 miles up the coast. We reached the Bay about 5:00pm, just before sunset, dropped anchor at the back of the pack and had an early night. We were tired after traveling for 11 hours. The next morning we checked in and moved Vagus to the other side of the Bay, near Pigeon Island to get out of the roll. Now we are happily anchored just off a luxury Sandals resort - check them out on their web site. It looks like a great resort. We can even use their facilities for the day for $100US per person - I don't think so! Our anchor is firmly set and it is time for a little exploration.


Well, we made the break from Tyrrel Bay. Said our good byes, promised to come back in April and checked out. The weather looked good for the next few days and boats were departing for different regions. We decided to "yellow flag" it North to hopefully St. Lucia. Yellow Flag means that when we reach a new country, we do not go ashore or check in. We fly the yellow quarantine flag so officially we are still underway.

After changing Vagus over from a harbour boat to an offshore boat, we went all of 11 miles on Saturday to Chatham Bay, on the west side of Union Island, St. Vincent. The next day, we had a great 30 mile close hauled sail (no tacks) to Admiralty Bay in Bequia. The anchorage, however, was rolly, very rolly - the kind of roll where you feel your bones lagging your body while lying in bed. We did not sleep much. The weather was still holding so we got up early the next morning to go to St. Lucia, about a 60 mile trip. We left at the break of dawn, sailed to St. Vincent, motored up the lee side of St. Vincent, then sailed the thirty mile crossing to St. Lucia. The St. Vincent / St. Lucia crossing is one of the roughest on the trip North. We had a perfect day for it. It was a bit bouncy for the first 5 miles, then the seas dropped and we sailed directly to the Pitons at St. Lucia (no tacks). We had planned to check in at Soufriere. But when we arrived, we found the moorings near t
he town full (you have to take a mooring) and the East winds had brought a distinct sulphurous odour to the area. We decided to keep going to Rodney Bay, about 15 miles up the coast. We reached the Bay about 5:00pm, just before sunset, dropped anchor at the back of the pack and had an early night. We were tired after traveling for 11 hours. The next morning we checked in and moved Vagus to the other side of the Bay, near Pigeon Island to get out of the roll. Now we are happily anchored just off a luxury Sandals resort - check them out on their web site. It looks like a great resort. We can even use their facilities for the day for $100US per person - I don't think so! Our anchor is firmly set and it is time for a little exploration.