January 2011 Letter

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November 1, 2010 through January 31, 2011

Since my last letter at the end of October, we have travelled from the Canary Islands of Spain, to the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa, and across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean Sea.  We made landfall in Antigua, visited Barbuda and then sailed to St. Martin.  I might be starting to feel like my remaining sailing days are numbered (Oops! Did I say that out loud?).

I won't write about the ocean crossing because I kept a blog for the entire trip.  It can be found at http://svaquila49.blogspot.com if you would like to read it.  However, I did post a Photo Album on this website with pictures of our crossing, since I didn't post any pictures on the blog.

It was wonderful to see Antigua in the distance after being underway for almost a month!  And to see so many American Flags in the anchorage was terrific!  We met up with several of our friends who also did the crossing (Wings, Swanya, Leilia, Barefeet), and met a few new friends (Djarrka, Ascension, Lady).  We stayed in Falmouth Harbor to visit friends as long as we could, but we had to get around to Jolly Harbor Marina to fill our water tanks.  Our water maker quit working on the first day of our ocean crossing.  We had to be very conservative with our water usage.  Now Mike was like a kid in a candy store.  He went crazy with the hose, washing the deck and the hull and anything else he could squirt the hose on.  I warned him that water wasn't free at this marina.  We were on a meter.  After a week at the marina, Mike estimated his usage would cost about $25.  It was $156.  But we sure were clean!

We sailed over to Barbuda (about a 5 hour sail) and anchored at Low Bay on the northwest side of the island.  Barbuda is a very flat island, so we didn't even see it until we were right there.  We anchored along an 11-mile white sand beach.  Barbuda is a natural, mostly undeveloped island.  The beach is beautiful and pristine.  We went to Barbuda mainly to see the frigate bird sanctuary.  We hired a tour guide to take us in his small boat into the protected lagoon.  It was really amazing.  There are tens of thousands of frigate birds in the mangroves and it is mating season right now.  The male birds have a red pouch on their chests which they expand to attract the females.  Check out my pictures of this in the Photo Album.

Our tour guide, George Jeffries, also agreed to help us check out of the island by escorting us to the Port Authority, Customs and Immigration.  It's a good thing he offered to help us!  There is absolutely no way we could have done it on our own.  First stop was Port Authority.  We followed him down little streets, some paved, some not, some marked or not, to a house.  He went through the little gate and knocked on the back door.  A woman who was doing laundry came out and said she didn't have the book, and referred him to another place.  We walked for 20 minutes to another house with no sign, but no one answered the door (even though we heard a radio playing and the window was open).

So we left and went to find Customs.  The Customs agent wasn't home, but George was able to get him on the phone.  He returned to his home office and got us cleared through Customs.  Then we went to Immigration and waited for the Immigration lady to come (the Customs guy had called her to tell her she had a customer).  We never did find the Port Authority guy, but the Customs guy said we were cleared to go.  He was very nice, but it was the most unusual check-out we've ever experienced.  We never would have found those people on our own!

We left Barbuda at 8 a.m. to do a full-day 75 mile sail to St. Martin.  Everything was going great for the first hour.  We put up the spinnaker with about 12 knots of wind on our back.  Then the wind picked up to about 17 knots and while Mike was hand-steering (because I was on the SSB and didn't want the interference from the autopilot), the wind shifted, the spinnaker collapsed, the wind got behind the sail again, the sail inflated and then exploded!  The sail could have handled the sustained wind, as it did so beautifully for our Atlantic crossing, but the force of it inflating the sail at 17 knots of force just blew it out.  It ripped up both sides and across the top like an explosion.  The flapping pieces hit the water and Mike fished it back on deck, stuffed it in the bag and that was it for the spinnaker.  We unfurled the genoa, prevented the main out, and sailed the rest of the day doing 7.5 to 8 knots of speed on a broad reach.  It was a good sail!  In St. Martin, we got a quote to repair the spinnaker for $1,000.  I guess we won't be sailing with a spinnaker for awhile.

We anchored in Simpson Bay for the night and waited for the morning bridge opening into the Lagoon.  We stayed in the Lagoon for a week and got all of our important projects done.  You can get anything you need in Simpson Bay Lagoon.  It is a major yachting center.  We found the American veterinarian and Lucy got her annual shots and health certificate.  We went to the big market and stocked up on food.  Mike fixed the water maker and replaced a defective part on our generator.  We bought a new BBQ grill and a bunch of other stuff from Budget Marine which got us invited to their big Customer Appreciation Party (pictures in Photo Album).  On another day, we got together with some other cruisers at Shrimpy's and played Mexican Train Dominoes.  That was fun since we haven't played in quite a while.  Today, our week was up (lagoon and bridge fee was $82 for the week), so we left and sailed around to Phillipsburg.  Phillipsburg is a major shopping mecca for cruise ship passengers.  There are four huge cruise ships here right now.  Duty free shopping with many stores competing for your business.  We bought a new laptop computer.  This is also where I bought my cameras the last time we were here.

Mike is still dealing with a cough that is the only symptom remaining from his bout with the flu that hit him on Dec. 31 when we were crossing the ocean.  He's never had a cold or flu (or whatever this is) that has lasted this long.  It sounds better each day, so we're optimistic that it's nothing serious. 

That's about it.  We're heading to the Virgin Islands tomorrow.  Looking forward to seeing our friends Frank and Patti who live there.

Love to all.

PHOTOS:  Click here for Atlantic Crossing Photos.  Click here for Antigua, Barbuda, St Martin Photos.

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