26 Feb 2013

[Cruise News] Fajardo, Puerto Rico

After finally being cleared to enter into the United States on Saturday lunchtime, we spent the afternoon at Flamenco beach, considered to be the best in the Spanish Virgin islands (including Puerto Rico).  It's a beautiful crescent of incredibly fine white sand, backed by palm trees and bordered by the most incredible turquoise seas, and is very popular with locals and tourists alike.  At the far end is an old rusty tank which dates back to the days when the US forces used it for bombing practice!

That evening we enjoyed drinks and dinner with a British couple (John and Jane) who were anchored next to us in the bay.  Incredibly John and Paul went to the same boarding school in Blackpool and are only one year apart.  Paul says it's the first time he has met anyone from St Joe's since he left, and that just happened to be on a very small, pretty much unknown island in the Caribbean sea.  A small world indeed.

On Sunday we sailed on to Puerto Rico in time to attend a conference arranged by our good friend and neighbour from Chagford, Ray.  We're sharing a villa together at the El Conquistador Resort with ocean views to die for .... not something we lack on a day to day basis of course!  

Having hired a car, we took ourselves off to San Juan today, into the old town, which is very nice with cobbled streets, colourfully painted buildings, pretty squares and an enormous fortification called Castillo San Cristobal which commands the most incredible views across the Atlantic.  It was started back in the 17th century and is very impressive with huge ramparts, a moat and tunnels used to move soldiers around during battle out of sight from the enemy.   Incredible.   We also had lunch in a small cafe recommended by a local lady and enjoyed a typical local lunch.  Paul's selection (mashed plantain stuffed with shrimp) was an interesting choice but mine was delicious.
We're hoping to visit the rain forest national park and some other sites in the next day or two ... I'll be back online to share our news then.

22 Feb 2013

[Cruise News] Culebra, Spanish Virgin Islands

We had a slow old crossing to Culebra from the BVI with following light winds and sea - our estimated 5 to 6 hours soon became just over 7 hours.  We also had a challenge with the dinghy.  Now we normally take it out of the water for longer passages but for only 30 miles on a calm day we decided to tow it.  Unfortunately for us, we were travelling more slowly than the swell which meant the dinghy would surf down waves behind Jay Jay, the tow-rope going slack, and then this would suddenly go under tension again.  This motion was putting incredible strain on the hitching point on the dinghy and so we spent 4 hours of the passage trying to dampen the effect manually.  Needless to say, it became rather tedious and strenuous .... good for the arm muscles!

Anyway, we arrived and entered the huge natural harbour at Ensenada Honda anchoring just off the main town (village?) and passed a peaceful night.  Friday morning Paul, as skipper, duly went off to clear us in with Customs and Immigration at the airport .... they fly in from Puerto Rico ... only to find out no-one was coming today!   We were given a telephone number to call which we duly did and left a message.  No-one called us back.  So an hour later we tried again only to be told to return to and remain on our boat until Saturday morning when an immigration officer would be at the airport.   So confined to barracks, so to speak but we used the time usefully.

Even from the cockpit, it's obvious we're out of charter territory and back into cruising territory.  Good to know we'll be amidst like-minded people (when we're allowed ashore!) and won't be running the risk of a kamakaze charterer hitting us!!

21 Feb 2013

[Cruise News] Checking out at Soper's Hole, BVI

I'm sitting on board waiting for Paul to check us out with BVI immigration so we can sail across to Culebra, part of the Spanish Virgin Islands and formally managed / owned by Puerto Rico, our next major destination.  It looks to be a good sailing day so we should make it in around 5 to 6 hours.  Just before we leave we'll go and buy some bread for the journey - it really is lovely from the bakery here - and will make up for the sad disaster Paul and I created a couple of days ago!  
When we were crossing the Atlantic, we were lucky enough to have fresh bread every day made (usually) by Ed, who had practised with bread mixes several times before we set sail.  Now Ed will admit he's not really a cook in the true sense of the word, but my goodness his bread was good.  Contrast that to the heavy, unrisen "lump" that we managed and you'll realise why we're buying bread today.  All I can say is, Ed, can you get out here and give us some lessons please?  Otherwise the journey back to the UK will be a bread-free zone!

I must just mention another bareboat charter incident I witnessed today.  A Moorings boat was approaching a pontoon in the marina at Soper's Hole at both a sharp angle and quite a rate of knots, both big no-no's as any sailor would know.  Add to that the fact they had no fenders out, despite the dockmaster yelling "fenders" at them, well it goes without saying that they whacked into the dock with quite some force at the bow and proceeded to scrape all the way along the starboard side of the yacht.  The amazing thing is that they really didn't seem to give a damn.  Pity the poor owner of that boat that allows Moorings to charter it out in return for 13 weeks of sailing it themselves.  Yes, you can buy them at a dicounted rate and after 5 years you get your boat back, but will there be anything left of it worth having?

19 Feb 2013

[Cruise News] Norman Island, BVI

We returned to this lovely anchorage (the Bight) yesterday after a detour to Road Town, the capital of the BVI.  There must be in excess of 40 islands making up the BVI but they are all very close together making it an ideal cruising area for sailors, novices in particular.  According to Paul, the fount of all knowledge (!), they were named by Columbus in honour of the 40 virgins quoted in the bible.

I have to be honest and say the only thing to mar the experience of being here is the sheer number of charter boats.  Unlike other areas wge have visited, where long-term cruisers are  the order of the day,  week long charterers make up the majority of  sailors out here and it's just not the same.

One thing the bar at the Bight excels at is the painkiller cocktail,,  devised in Jost Van Dyck, I, and they are a 10 out of 10.  Paul complimented the barman tonight and he added extra  rations  of rum!  Since we were last in the bar  4 years ago it has undergone an amazing transformation - tourism must be doing well here.
P.s. Loving the tanned legs!!!

15 Feb 2013

[Cruise News] Trellis Bay, Tortola

Well we're back just the two of us again now after a great two weeks covering a lot of ground.  I think a couple of days rest is in order .... maybe back down at Norman Island which was so lovely  couple of days ago.  It always feels strange when friends leave and takes a little readjusting to again.  But we'll soon be back in the swing of things I'm sure.

13 Feb 2013

[Cruise News] The Bight, Norman Island, BVI

Sitting here in the most idyllic bay with clear turquoise waters, sunshine and beautiful scenery, I felt inspired to comment on just how gorgeous the BVI are.  It's four years since we were last here and nothing much has changed but my memory has faded and it is so much better than I remember.  We've sailed over from Soper's Hole this morning in time for a leisurely lunch and afternoon swimming and snorkelling - perfect.

That said our day in Soper's Hole yesterday was just what the doctor ordered .... so easy to just step of the boat onto the dock and have boutiques and a few bars on the doorstep, all painted in pastel colours.  Several people holidaying on Tortola as well as bareboat charter crews stop to ask us if we've won the lottery to be able to be doing this for so many months.  Well, we might not have won the financial lottery but we certainly feel like it on the luck front.

Jon and Hannah go home on Friday and we'll be back on our own again for 10 days or so before we arrive in Puerto Rico.  We plan on enjoying the delights of the BVI for that time, visiting all the islands.  It really is the perfect sailing area and I'm really glad to be back.

12 Feb 2013

[Cruise News] Back in the BVI

After 3 days in St Barth's we reluctantly continued our journey north yesterday evening when we set sail for the BVI.  After a challenging overnight passage we arrived in Soper's Hole shortly after breakfast and have had a lazy day relaxing and recharging our batteries in the sunshine.

I was amazed how many cruise liners we saw last night.  I'd not expected to see anything else during the crossing but the reality was we could see the lights from other vessels all the time.  They appear as a glow on the horizon before ending up looking like something that belongs in the Blackpool illuminations.  Wouldn't want their fuel bill! 

8 Feb 2013

[Cruise News] Gustavia, St Barth's

We sailed from Nonsuch Bay to Barbuda yesterday - 6 hours of pleasant conditions to arrive in time for a late lunch.  Along the way we saw our first whale of this season which was a big treat for Jon and Hannah (who was sadly feeling a bit seasick).  Barbuda is a very low island and so we only saw it when we were getting quite close.  Only 1500 people live here in one small town called Codrington, named after the English family who rented the island back in the 1700 and 1800s for the price of a fatted sheep!  Apparently, despite it being in slave times, the family were well liked and very fair so the name of the town hasn't been changed.

Barbuda is famous for its pinky-white beaches (mile after mile of them) and also its Frigate bird colony.  We visited Codrington by water taxi (it lies the other side of a large lagoon) and it found it a very simple and unsophisticated place but very friendly.  Afterwards we went to see the Frigate bird colony - some 20,000 birds all nesting in the mangroves in the lagoon - an incredible sight and pretty noisy too.  Sadly it rained during the visit and despite being in the tropics, we all got very wet and cold, but could see the funny side of it.
After a night at anchor in Low Bay we made an early start this morning for St Barth's.  Not a lot of wind so a fair bit of motoring needed to allow us to get here in reasonable time.  

6 Feb 2013

[Cruise News] Nonsuch Bay, Antigua

We've had our guests on board for five days now and have all been enjoying ourselves.  A trip to Shirley Heights on Sunday evening let us all stretch our legs and then it was back into St John's on Monday on the local buses for lunch at Bambula.
We beat our way along to Nonsuch Bay on Tuesday - not a pleasant sail with the wind and tide against us.  But we made it late afternoon and picked up a mooring buoy for a couple of nights.  It really is a beautiful spot - turquoise seas and pretty islands - and very quiet after the crowds of Nelson's Dockyard and English Harbour.  A spot of snorkelling, lunch in a great restaurant with idyllic views.  Perfect.