February and March were really nice months. We were able to
spend quality time with long-time friends as well as getting to know some
After leaving St. Martin at the beginning of February, we did an
overnight sail to St John USVI. Sailed the entire 100 mile distance,
no motoring. It was great! We spent several days exploring the
anchorages around the island. Most of the island is National Park,
and we were required to use their moorings, rather than drop an
anchor. As senior citizens, we got the discount of $7.50 per
night. I guess there are some advantages to being old!
We then sailed
over to Road Town, Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, and put Aquila
in a marina for a week so we could stay with Frank and Patti in their
fabulous hilltop home. What a wonderful, relaxing, fun week.
Lucy got acquainted with Moose and Coco and got to join the nightly
neighborhood dog walks. We feel like family with Frank and Patti and plan to pass this way
again next November (right after hurricane season ends!). Check out
our pictures in this month's photo album of their gorgeous home.
Our next stop was St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. We spent
a few days poking around Charlotte Amalie and were on our way out when we got a call on the VHF radio from our
friends Spencer and Nana on s/v Adverse Conditions. We had been in
the same harbor the whole time and missed each other somehow. So we
turned around and went back to Charlotte Amalie for a few more days and
spent some time with our friends. They showed us how to catch the
'local' bus for $2 rather than the 'tourist' bus for $10-15. We
bought all sorts of items at the Super K-Mart and Home Depot. What
fun to be shopping in stores that carry all our familiar products.
We needed to move on and get to Puerto Rico to pick up our new 250' of anchor
chain and a replacement pump for our toilet. We arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Feb.
25. We finally got to meet Carlos Gonzalez, an ATF agent in San
Juan, whom we have been exchanging emails with for a long time.
Carlos was enormously helpful to us in getting our anchor chain delivered
and installed, as well as taking us all over town to buy all the
provisions and items on my long list. We renewed our membership at
CostCo and spent a gazillion dollars on provisions. We shopped at
Target, West Marine, K-Mart, Pet Smart, and even the Coast Guard
Commissary. We were giddy with excitement at finding so many long
Installing the new anchor chain was a challenge. The old chain
had a basketball-sized lump of rusted chain at the bottom of our anchor
locker. Mike had to use a hacksaw to cut it out (after breaking his
dremel tool and then unsuccessfully trying the cold chisel). We
hired a guy to clean it all up before installing the beautiful new
chain. You wouldn't think we could be so thrilled about anchor
chain, but we just love our clean new chain that doesn't leave rust flakes
all over the bow!
Cooking, as it turns out, is
Carlos' passion (as well as sailing), so we enjoyed some incredible meals
with him and his girlfriend Olga. We all hit it off so well, that we
invited Carlos to sail with us to the Bahamas. He was eager for the
off-shore experience, and quickly arranged for a week's vacation.
Then he prepared some wonderful home cooked meals for us to eat underway,
and arrived with so many delicious provisions we ate like royalty the
whole time. Yes!
For most of the trip we had fairly light winds (8-15 knots) with a
pretty good sized swell on our stern quarter. But the wind was
enough to sail by, so we were all pretty happy about that. We
planned to make landfall at Abraham's Bay on Mayaguana which is the first
island in the Bahamas with a port of entry. Entering the bay
requires visual reef navigation to avoid hitting the large coral
heads or going aground on the reef. For our final 24 hours, the wind
really picked up and we were sailing so fast that we would arrive in the
middle of the night! So we had to dramatically slow down in order to
arrive with midday sun which is necessary for reef navigation.
Carlos was finally getting the good wind and fast sailing that he wanted
and we couldn't let him enjoy it. We had to completely furl the
headsail and sail with a reefed main to slow down to 4.5 knots all night.
The bay at Mayaguana was very shallow and it was necessary for us to
anchor far from the small town settlement. Mike and Carlos made the
3 mile dinghy ride to shore in windy, extremely choppy conditions to get
us checked in. The dinghy ride took almost an hour! And then
the water was so shallow, they had to get out and drag the dinghy
in. Carlos did some serious dancing when he stepped in a bed of
thorns on the edge of the shore. Good Times! We had calm
weather after that and did some beachcombing. Even
Lucy got to enjoy a swim at the beach. She was in all her glory
running free through the water on the shoreline and burrowing into the
sand. Of course, that meant a 2-hour grooming session
afterward. It was worth it. She was such fun to watch.
The guys were snorkeling around the boat when suddenly Carlos swam back to
the boat as fast as he could and came up hollering
"Shark!!" He had a good laugh (after his heartbeat
returned to normal) thinking how he did everything wrong. He said he
totally panicked and started kicking as fast as he could, rather than
remaining calm. That was the end of the snorkeling!
Carlos flew out of Mayaguana on March 11. We left a few days
later and made a fast overnight sail to Cat Island. The wind was 15
knots on the beam and we had a current helping us. We made almost 8
knots of speed for the entire 190 miles.
Cat Island is very pretty, unlike Mayaguana which was not so
pretty. One day we packed a picnic lunch and hiked to the top of
Comer Hill to see the Hermitage built by Father Jerome almost a century
ago. It is the highest point in the Bahamas at 204 feet with a 360
degree view. At the Fernandez Bay anchorage, we met some other
cruisers for happy hour and a steak and lobster dinner at the
resort. We had a great time swapping stories with Mary & Dave on
s/v Mon Amie, Ed & Karin on s/v Passages, and Maurice & Pollie on
s/v Serenity. The full moon reflecting on the boats at anchor in the
still water and perfect sand of this pristine small bay was enchanting.
And finally, we had to make a full day's sail across the Exuma Sound to
the Exuma Cays (pronounced Keys). We left Cat Island before sunrise
and got across to Staniel Cay too early. We wanted to arrive at high
tide, but we misjudged. The tide was low and after making a very
scary entrance through a narrow cut that looked like river rapids, we were
swept along a skinny channel with a strong current pushing us at 7.5 knots
of speed with only a foot or two of depth under us! We finally got
through the section of strong current and tried to slowly motor to the
anchorage. But we hit bottom and just stopped. It is such an
awful feeling to watch the depth gauge register 1.0, .7, .4, .1,
0.0!! It took an hour for the tide to rise enough to float us off
the bottom so we could continue to the anchorage. The full moon
creates larger tide swings, so on a normal day we might have made it here
even at low tide. But not with a full moon. We'll be more
careful in our planning on our next move. The Bahamas are so
shallow! We must move at high tides, but we also have to make sure
the sun is high so we can visually navigate around any coral heads.
Moving around here requires a lot more careful planning than other places
we have been.
So, now we are getting ready for our kids' and grandkids' visits in
April. I (Linda) will fly home next week to pick up Kailyn (6) and
Brady (2), who will spend a week on the boat with us (Sean and Keni can't
make it this year). Linda will fly back to California with the kids,
spend a week there, and return to the Bahamas with Kimberly, Lance, Blake
(13), Garrett (10) and Paige (7). They will spend 10 days cruising
the Exumas with us. A fun, fun month to look forward to!!
Below are pictures of our kids and grandkids taken while
talking on Skype. It's so much fun to see them!
Click here for the Photo Album
Click here for next Letter Home