We spent a few days in Falmouth Harbor Antigua catching up on school and laundry then headed around to the northwestern corner of the island to Jolly Harbor to prep for the passage to St Barts. There is a great supermarket in Jolly Harbor but unfortunately the prices are not so super. With a good forecast for downwind sailing we left just before dawn at 0530. The trip ended up in a fabulous sail wing on wing with preventers on the main and mizzen and the spinnaker pole holding out the jib. Along the way we caught our second largest Mahi Mahi using the lure I made myself following the advice of a Dominican fisherman. We rounded the southern tip of St Barts and had to motor in the windless lee of Gustavia harbor. The harbor was packed with super yachts all staged for the famous Bucket Regatta. Huge graceful J yachts Velsheda, Rainbow, and Hanuan anchored off the shore with other giants such as the Maltese Falcon. We kept the island of Ile Forchue as an alternative anchorage but were fortunate to find an open mooring in Anse de Columbier. Just as we rounded the point to enter the bay our friends on the cat Cascadura hailed us on the radio. They were headed to the same anchorage so after we tied up the kids met on the beach for some fun. We made the 78 mile sail in 13.5hrs at an average speed of just under 6kts which is great for Demeter sailing dead downwind in only about 15kts of true wind. From Anse de Columbier we headed over to St. Martin with plans to catch the 1430 bridge on the French side of the lagoon. The pleasant morning quickly deteriorated into a cool cloudy day. As we began the short 15 mile trip rain started to fall and the visibility quickly was reduced to about 500 yards. The breeze was favorable so we were able to sail but the poor visibility meant a constant lookout was required. With only a few days left before the start of the Bucket there was a lot of boat traffic coming from St Martin to St Barts. Max held vigil over the navigation computer watching the AIS from a dry sea below decks. He relayed to me target info such as CPA (closest point of approach) and time to CPA. We find AIS very helpful in these waters for spotting commercial and large private yachts. Its popularity is gaining use with more boats our size as well. Of course at the peak of a particularly cold deluge of driving rain the drag on our fishing rod sprang to life and the resounding call of “FISH ON!!” was heard. I reeled in what was to be our first Jack. I believe it was a Horse Eyed Jack, a reef fish, so we threw him back as we try to avoid eating reef fish for fear of ciguatera poisoning. Jacks may be okay to eat I just don’t know enough about them to risk it. The rest of the trip was spent dodging mega yachts and other pleasure craft and once in the lee of St Martin the wind died and the sun made its way out. We caught the bridge and settled into the calm familiarity of the Simpson Bay Lagoon. After clearing customs we got some school work done and cleaned up the boat a bit to prepare for our guests. Cascadura arrived a few days later and a rather wild evening was spent ashore involving fish bowls of margaritas. I will not attempt any further description of that evening but rest assured the participants felt the impact the following day.
Max’s 10th birthday was celebrated in St Martin and much fun was had. We found a barge anchored in Simpson Bay called the Playstation that was covered with slides and swings and all sorts of water park activities. A few hours of fun spent there followed by an evening ashore with kid’s movies. Family guests arrived the next day and after a few days of errand running and Easter weekend we left the lagoon for a wild bash to windward to Ile Forchue. The sea was up with a nasty 5-7 foot short period swell and 25-30kts headwinds. We short tacked our way up and finally into the lee of Ile Forchue for a nice swim and a quiet night. After a morning of school we headed ashore for some hiking and exploring. After lunch we set sail back to St Martin to anchor in Marigot Bay in preparation of the passage to the BVI. We left the following morning at 0500 and exactly 12 hours later we were anchored off Prickly Pear Island near Virgin Gorda. No luck fishing but a great 80 mile passage with an average speed of 6.5kts. The following morning we cleared customs into the BVI at the new facility at Gun Creek in North Sound Virgin Gorda. A very easy process and much cheaper than our prior entry at Sopers Hole. We spent another day in North Sound catching up on school and enjoying a few pain killers at the Saba Rock Resort. We also caught up with cruiser friends Skip and Madeline onboard Saralane. At night we dinghied over to Leverick Bay for the Friday night Moko Jumbie dancers.
The following day we had a great short sail over to Anegada where unfortunately the sea took our trolling rod, see prior post. Two wonderful days spent in Anegada beach combing and snorkeling. Some excellent sunset photos we will try and get up soon. After Anegada we sailed to Salt Island with a lunch stopover at Great Dog. Brother Greg and I had a great but short dive at Great Dog. With the new housing and lens filter for the Go Pro camera my underwater photography is starting to improve. After dark we headed ashore to have a fire and hermit crab races. A great evening ashore with the whole island to ourselves. The following morning we headed over to Road Town for provisions and scuba fills then back across to Peter Island to our BVI favorite Little Harbor. Anchored in the blissfully calm Little Harbor we got school work caught up and attended to some boat maintenance cleaning the bottom and polishing stainless steel. We also caught up with our friends Dave and Margaret onboard Highland Fling. While fishing in Little Harbor my brother was able to land two tasty Mutton Snappers. Also miraculously when reeling in his line for the last time a beautiful brand new trolling rod and reel were somehow tied to his line! Hikers call this sort of thing “trail magic” and we were thankful that with a little help from Uncle Greg the sea giveth! After two days in Peter Island we headed to the Indians for a lunch stop and dive.
This was an awesome 1hr dive in 30-60 feet of water with great viz. Photos coming soon. After lunch and our dive we motored the short way into the Bight on Norman Island. With the dinghy in the water we headed around to the famous caves of Norman Island and a great snorkel. When back aboard I noticed a familiar boat entering the harbor and it turned out to be our friends Jim and Connie onboard Plane to Sea. Happy hour ashore with friends catching up made for a really nice evening. Leaving Norman Island it was time to head to Trellis Bay as our family guests Greg and Kathy needed to catch their flight home from Beef Island. Anchored now in Trellis Bay we have managed to clean up the boat a bit and most importantly file our 2012 Federal and State Income Taxes. We’re expecting a nice refund this year which given our unemployed status will be most welcome. Our plans forward are uncertain. I am going to make a push to find a good job in the BVI or USVI. If I am successful we will change the insurance on the boat and look to put down roots here in the Virgin Islands. We really don’t want to make the long trip back north for the summer but we do need to start putting some money back in the cruising kitty. If I’m not able to land a good job here then we will likely pick up some additional crew and make the passage back north to Annapolis to look for summer work. Stay Tuned!