I’ve been on a writing hiatus for a while, just sooo busy. Who would think that living on a sailboat would keep us on the go, but at the end of the day .. there’s always something. Anyway, here’s a few catch-up posts.
What was meant to be a short stop along the way to pick up a ham radio in Antigua turned into a new appreciation for this diverse island.
It started shortly after receiving and installing the new ham radio we were on our way to a remote part of Antigua , Green Island and only an hour off shore we noticed the engine was overheating. We did some quick analysis, turned it off, refilled with coolant, but the thermostat still read too high. And when that nasty alarm sounded again well, we knew had a problem.
We decided to make a tack and essentially return to the anchorge from which we just came. Luckily, we could sail back. We were able to negotiate our way into the harbor and turn on the engine long enough to get anchored. Now to let her cool of, gather our thoughts and try to figure out what happened. Mike did a cursory check and there was no water leak below the engine, but there was also very little coolant in the reservoir nor the engine??? The following morning we resupplied the engine with coolant and essentially watched it drain right out the salt water exhaust. 1. That’s not what’s supposed to happen. 2 . We do have a leak somewhere. 3. This isn’t a bubblegum fix. Seriously, I think if you ask any cruising folk out here, aside from taking on water, engine trouble is probably the most dreaded problems. But you say, it’s a sailboat. Yes, but it’s essential for getting in and out of harbors and docks.
We were so fortunate to find a mechanic to come out that afternoon to confirm the bad news. We had a leak in the closed coolant side into the exhaust. Interestingly, we know a few other boats who have experienced the same. Finally, the good news… it can be fixed and the engine doesn’t have to come out. Bad news, we have to find the right exhaust manifold for the engine and there isn’t one in Antigua. Within 2 days we had located one in St Maarten and had it on order. This meant we would be out of commission for about a week.
The part took quite a circuitous route from St Maarten, to Puerto Rico to Cincinnati OH, back to PR and then onto Antigua. We watched the DHL tracking 2 or 3 times a day, nearly certain it was going to get misplaced along the way. She was in our hands just 1 week after we had found the problem. Our mechanic,Devon Norris, to who we owe our gratitude, came out on a Saturday morning and had the engine running by noon.
We took her around the harbor for a test run ,somewhat nervously, but she performed wonderfully.
We were back in the saddle, but for the next 2 weeks kept a keen eye on the temp gauge just to be safe.
We made a trip north to the remote island of Barbuda for a couple of days.
We had our friends Jay and Gayle come to visit in Antigua.
Finally have these very good friends aboard for a few days.
Beach bumming in places we would never see by boat.
Watching the Atlantic rowers finish in English Harbor
Great times with great friends.
New sailing grounds… St Kitts and Nevis… coming soon!
We have just finished lunch and a well deserved swim after a hot 14k walk on the island of Bequia, in the Grenadines. We have walked and hiked so many miles across this beautiful island over the years and thought we would try to find our way to a road we had seen coming up one of the windward ravines we had seen yesterday.. We head out from the dinghy dock and there’s only one way but up to the saddle, that divides the windward and leeward side of the island . We negotiate the light but determined road traffic to the bus stop, and take a left . This will take us to the village of Friendship and Friendship beach. As we lose elevation, we pass several brightly colored vacation villas against the back drop of the windward Atlantic. We wind down to the beach, and take a water break in the shade and brisk ocean breeze. We watch a few locals brave the swell and breaking waves for a cool swim.
We head off and make our way that becomes another uphill walk, passing a tropical nursery and now some impressive private villas. We work our way to a level spot and find ourselves at the Bequia Historical Museum . It’s closed, but we can walk around and see the old vessels used for whaling.
We glimpse ahead and feel we could be close to the ravine road. We make our way up an old 2 track road and find a no trespassing sign. We retrace to the previous turn off and, yes head uphill again. This time we wind out to a beautiful grassy overlook and take a rocky path toward the water, several hundreds of feet below. The winds have been blowing here steady 15-20 knots for 4 days, so we see the whipped up Atlantic and her waves crashing the rocky shoreline with all her effort.
We make our way through a rock quarry ( closed today because, well the government declared both Monday and Tuesday a holiday this week). We reach what appears to be access ( uphill further) to the road we are looking for. We travel 1/4 mile and find it narrows and then abruptly ends at a wire fence. We can see the access we thought we might find, but alas no go.
We retrace our steps and make a turn onto a most deserted appearing road and find besides a big black growling dog… another dead end. Our only goodness is finding wild frangipani plants and flowers blooming alongside the road.
Needless to say we have 2 strikes and decide to return quite the exact same way we arrived, back down to the beach
and uphill one more time ( now in the high sun) to the saddle and back down toward the anchorage.
This is our 3rd week back aboard Lost Loon. We have had a few hiccups…broken ham radio, a bit of an air leak in our dinghy, (yes, Patches has more repairs!) boat bugs upon return, and a bit of water taken aboard during our last passage. But also enjoyed local beers and cuisine ( roti and callaloo ), walked many miles provisioning in Grenada, met new sailing friends, participated in a huge cruisers Christmas potluck, and did our first HASH trail walk in the hills of Grenada.
We are waiting on winds to decrease a bit, and the seas to calm down before we make our next move North. We have friends returning from the states who bringing us a new ham radio in Antigua and we need to meet them ASAP.
I am lucky to have an uncle who happened to be looking for a radio replacement for us. We use it to maintain contact when we don’t have cell service , offshore sailing. We get weather reports and can also listen to safety and security issues thru a cruisers radio net. I can also use it , when connected to a modem, send and receive emails over the radio waves. This I think is totally ingenious and somewhat magical!! Well, my uncle has a good friend, Mr Larry Smith, K4CMS, who has generously given us his radio. We couldn’t be more appreciative!!! This all happened just 1 week before Christmas.. so yes, Santa Clause does exist and I know him. I know who one of my first contacts will be once the new radio is installed.
So, with the approach of a new year, we can say we are grateful for so many things….. stateside and sailing friends, for this lifestyle we are able to live, and for family that continues to support our dreams.
Well, as I write this (0830, September 30) we have officially closed the Lake Vermilion house for winter and have begun our meandering trek that will eventually land us in Grenada in early December. We have had a beautiful end to the season here near Ely, MN. In fact, we have some misgivings for not staying a bit longer as the weather looks to hold on in the 60’s for a couple of weeks. Because we do not have facilities for a hard freeze or snow, we try to predict using our own historical data over 22 years when we need to get out before we are stuck in bad weather. This year we leave geraniums and inpatients still blooming, fall colors just emerging, pine needles coloring the forest paths, and the beautifully calm clear lake waters. ..oh and some perfect pickleball days left.
As we drive, we listen to the devastation that has occurred to some awfully familiar places in southwest Florida from hurricane Ian. We think of friends with boats in that area as well as up the east coast, in this storms possible path and pray for their safety.
So this is a quick post to share the origin of the blog name. We had just sold our house in Amery, WI in 2016 as hurricane Matthew was bearing down on Georgia , where we had stored Lost Loon for about 8 months. We watched in near horror as the near eye of the storm approached land. We would have been essentially homeless had bad luck come to our good boat. But, we were lucky that the timing of high tide and tidal storm surge didn’t cause our boat to float off her stanchions, and the winds were not destructive. As we left Wisconsin, headed for Georgia with our 2007 Suburban loaded with our sailing possessions, I began to think of a name for the blog. It came to me that despite of everything and ourselves, we were actually, finally, really, and apparently going sailing. Well, for my pickleball friends in Ely, who don’t have the sailing lingo here is the double meaning.
When sailing, the wind that blows from the east (our Caribbean trades) is known as the TRUE wind and of course measured in knots. As a sailboat travels over the water, it encounters this true wind but also as the sails cause this forward motion the wind you feel is actually more than the true wind (for a simple explanation I wont get into the whole thing about angles and vectors) this is the APPARENT wind. The apparent wind is what you sail to, or trim your sails for. This us because this apparent wind changes as the direction of the wind hits the sails. Anyway, that explains the “double entendre “. So, dear pickleball friends you are now versed in some relevant sailing jargon.
Latest greatest book I finished reading.. In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick. A cool account of the whaling trade that ran out of Nantucket Island. Exciting and educational, it shows some the ancient methods of sailing and navigating.
We made our latest move in May.. from the stable weather in the Caribbean, leaving Lost Loon to fend for herself in Grenada, to the Land of the Loons on Lake Vermilion, MN in early May. This move requires us to disassemble and reassemble our lives and living quarters in both places. …and so weve become pretty good living as gypsies in between.
After making our way out of the Leewards, through the Windward Islands of the Caribbean we arrived back in the familiar waters of Grenada. It seemed like home again. We had been away for nearly 2 years due to the constraints of Covid. We actually arrived the day Grenada authorities eliminated the testing requirement to enter the country.
Once we found an good anchor spot in Prickly Bay we had nearly 3 weeks to decomission our Caliber sailboat for hurricane season. We successfully completed 3 full pages of detailed tasks. From cleaning the bilge to polishing the stainless ( oxymoron…it rusts, and too fast!) changing the oil and varnishing exposed teak. Most days we worked 7 to noon, rest during the hottest part of the day, and then resume our work from 2 until dusk, feeling accomplished as we check off completed tasks.
Afternoons were spent resting below out if the sun or rain or walking to the nearest marine or hardware store to obtain a missing part or needed provision. Saturdays we treated ourselves to a long bus ride to the HASH location.
We did some incredible HASH hikes. We were also blessed to meet some friends who escorted us to a sweet remote seaside hike followed by a post-hike reward to a remote pizza kitchen. This place is called Pizza (appropriately) and is on the east side of Grenada over a river and up a hill near the playing field. It is only open on only certain days of the week, and we were treated to very best handmade pizza in all of the Caribbean.
Nat’s place is great. The seating is very tropical and outdoors, so if there’s rain, well other than a couple of umbrellas, you get wet. The menu is written on a large piece of brown paper every night he is open. You write down your order at the counter on another piece of paper with your name, clip it to the round order thing and wait for your name to be called.
Being that it was Holy Week, the menu reflected such. Pizzas such as, the Betrayl, Ressurection, Last Meal and Easter. His ingredients include the standards of tomato mozarella, and basil but also capers, carmelized onions, mango chutney, pancetta, jalapeno, and chorizo. Ok, my mouth is watering just writing this. The atmosphere is relaxed and fun. We visited with Nat for some time that evening. He shared his new establishment sign with us. (I wonder if he ever got it up). It was truly an experience.
We decided to return to the US in early May this year, so as to get in on some early summer fishing on Lake Vermilion.
After making our family visits through IL, WI, and parts of MN, we found our way back to our other home. Little did we know Mother Nature decided to put off summer for a few weeks upon our arrival. The first few weeks we had nights in the 40s and afternoons in the 50s and some 60s. this was quite the change from the warm temps of Grenada. We found everything as we left it, which is always a good thing.
Other than the early summer storms where we were without power for several days, it has been thankfully uneventful. We have caught some fish, played countless hours of pickleball, and have managed to get in the cool Lake Vermilion water a few times. Oh ..wait PICKLEBALL! We have joined the Ely Pickleball Club. To our surprise, this is a very active PB club. We play M-W-F’s for 2-3 hours with a variety of experienced players and now good friends.
We get in as much as we can this summer because we know we cant find pickleball in the Caribbean …yet.
Boating…Of course we bought another boat. (Isnt this a yearly event for us?) To replace the small aluminum fishing boat and for trips into the boundary waters, Mike found a 16 ft. Lund with a 25 hp outboard which is allowed on a few of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area lakes. The process is to buy a permit for a weeks time period , then pick one day in that week to fish. Mike and our lake neighbor Charlie ventured out in early June to Basswood Lake, and were successful in finding some nice spring walleyes. So a few weeks later we took our “new” boat and joined Charlie and his kids on Trout Lake, just a portage away from Vermilion. It was a chilly morning at 0630 when we pushed off our dock in hoodies and long pants and took a 20 minute ride to the portage.
Here we were picked up by a boat trailer pulled by an ATV and transported 3/4 of a mile and dumped into Trout Lake, without having to leave our boat seats. The lake was crystal and flat and we only saw 3 or 4 other boats on this 2000 acre lake.
We fished several spots trying to find the fish. We fought off the chill of the morning, as the sun crept overhead. We finally located the motherload and hauled in 5 very nice walleye.
Then the worst happened. Mike was pulling up the stringer (a relic from the previous owners of the cabin..40 yrs?) and the rope broke! We watched on horror through the brightly lit, clear water as these beautiful 18-21 inch fish swam away together in slow motion deeper and deeper. Mike nearly jumped in after them!! Following a few expletives, we regained our composure and over the next hour or so managed to pull in 1 take-home fish. We completed the day with a 2-mile hike along a portage to another small lake off Trout and then returned to the machanical portage and Lake Vermilion with a pretty crazy fish story.
Sailing…we have only had a handfull of days where there has been the right wind and no rain to head out on our little DC. She sails very well when not taking on water. (more to this story when its published, yay!!!!).
As the days begin to get shorter here in the beginning of September, and nights just a bit cooler, we have begun to make our “escape-from-Vermilion” plans and migrate the other direction. So far, all is well in Grenada, however we watch the Atlantic for developing storms and look forward to warm days and warm nights, sailing friends, and some of the best sailing we’ve been lucky to experience!
Want to thank all my friends who continue to read this and encourage me to continue writing!!
0730 The boat has been rolling a bit starting in the wee hours of the morning, but we did sleep.We know tonite will be different sailing. There’s a bit of a swell we feel and boats are coming and going through the Gustavia channel where we’ve anchored in St Barths overnight….after making our first leg from Marigot St Martin. Airplanes begin to make their way overhead occasionally into the nearly treacherous airfield on this island. (SEE HERE) Seriously, I read that you have to have a special rating and training for landing here!
0910 Blue sky peaks through occasional white puffy clouds now. We tidy up and check our weather apps one more time and anticipate an overnight of sailing without a lot of drama.
1000 We fiddle about reorganizing, swimming, and resting. Our intention is to leave at noon-ish to make our 20 hour arrival in the daylight at Guadalupe.
1017 A large official dingy pulls up, the gendarme (aka, police). He asks “are you staying?” We interpret this as the fact that he knows we haven’t cleared into customs and we should, or he is telling us we’re anchored very close to the channel. Either way, Mike sits up and tells him “we’ll leave today”. The official repeats”you leave today?” Mike indicates affirmative. The official smiles and gives a kind wave and moves along through the anchorage. We are not required to check into customs if we are just anchored overnight and not going ashore.Most islands now allow this. They didnt during COVID however.
1230 We have the anchor stowed, one reef in the mainsail, and our 2 head sails unfurled into 16 knots of breeze from the East. Our heading is 144 in the direction of Guadalupe. Our heading is 144 in the direction of Guadalupe. The wind is 95 ° true. So we are about 60ﾟ off the wind from the true wind perspective. When traveling the wind becomes apparent (this means it’s affected by our forward motion) so it narrows us to about 50 or 45ﾟ at times. Lost Loon needs 45ﾟ and loves anything over 50. So, sails are sheeted in tight for now but we are sailing!!
1245 Lunch! I go below and make 2 sandwiches and grab our water bottles. A baguette and saussion…keeping it simple!!
1400 Seas are 6 to 7′ off the port bow and wind remains 50ﾟ to our course. The skies are blue and a few whisps of puffy white clouds float by, but nothing at all threatening. What’s funny is we seem to be the only ones making a move. There are no other sailboats heading our direction. We have this part of the Caribbean sea to ourselves.
1545. Winds are steady and we pass one catamaran coming from the South and then see 2 sailboats to the distance in the East. We surmise they are making our opposite run from Guadalupe or Antigua North. So we are not alone out here.
1630 We discuss putting another reef in the main for the night. This means we reduce the square footage of our sale area, potentially slow the boat down a few tenths of a knot, but also avoid a fire drill of sorts in the middle of the night if we get squalls or high winds. We decided to wait until sunset, 2 more hours, and get what we can out of the current sail plan.
1700 winds show some some indication of increasing every now and again we’re getting a few 18 to 20 knot puffs. We watch a pair of sea birds draft in the wind we make. Up and down , in front of us and then behind us. Leaving little traces of their presence on the deck and Bimini.
1730 Ham time. I make a decent connection with my uncle (W4HTB) over the ham radio. He is in Bowling Green Kentucky and we have made a scheduled time for contact.. We chat and he is now aware that we are OK and on course. It always amazes me how clear a connection is over so many thousands of miles. I have said this before but it’s comforting to know we have a connection underway when there is otherwise no cell service out here.
1745. Time to reef. We head into the wind , which is now just 13 knots. I center the main, release the main halyard, lower to the next reef, pull in that clue/ tack ( with one line), then raise and secure the halyard again. DONE! Mike bears off on to our course again. We unfurl the 2 headsails and are able to maintain a decent 5.5 knots of speed despite the reduced sail area we now carry.
1800 Dinner time. I have made chicken and dumplings before we left and just need to reheat it. Easier said. I managed my way below in a 20ﾟ heel and between swells dig out the plastic container in the fridge. Then the small covered pressure skillet in which to reheat dinner. I can lock the top and minimize spills this way. I am juggling the skillet and trying to keep the Tupperware from sliding off either onto the floor or into The sink. All while trying to remain upright myself. The skillet is closed and locked the stove is on and the gimble is unlocked allowing the stove to keep its level on our heel.. I have to stand holding the skillet for 15 minutes to reheat the dinner. A microwave would be so much faster but we don’t have one mainly because we don’t have all of the energy to power it. My next job is getting the stew in the bowls without spilling.This feat could be my audition for Barnum & Bailey circus.
1830 We are enjoying a hot meal, as the sun disappears below the horizon leaving behind beautiful colored clouds and glistening waters.
1945 The sky is fully dark. Bright stars creep out as are pupils adjust to the diminished light. We are managing 5.5 to 6 knots with winds over 15 knots steady and we continue to adjust the auto pilot to stay on our line. You see a sailboat points to a destination but because of waves and currents actually slides off the course overtime, less so when higher winds because the boat is able to make that course better. We don life jackets and clip in using our tethers.
2010 we fiddle with the sails perfecting and always adjusting. Move about the cockpit monitoring what’s ahead or not.
2130 Boat lights ahead. Are we following them or are they coming at us. The lights move left to right. Just white, can’t make out any red or green. Fishing boats we finally assume we never quite approach them before they finally disappear.
2230 Mike retires to the aft cabin for a brief rest. I make 15 minute checks otherwise sit behind the dodger watching the sails and look out for approaching vessels. The sky glows over what I presume to be Antigua to the Southeast.
2330 There is a new glow in the Eastern sky and it’s the 1st sighting of the moon rising. Clouds move before occasionally but it’s a welcome sight on a dark night. The air is cool and not too damp. No boats.
0030 I have managed to read a little from my kindle between adjusting the course, watching the sails, looking out for boats, and monitoring the weather. I think I have another hour in me.
0045 The moon disappears along with the stars. The horizon, amazingly visible in the dark, has also disappeared ahead of us. The wind clocks a bit and I sense weather ahead. Just as I make it to the helm the wind increases swiftly from 17 to 24…25…27 knots. I turn off autopilot and hand steer , falling off the course slightly to take the weather off the sails andbrudder. I calmly caliber Mike to let out the sails in order to bleed off some wind. Rain hits only briefly as we have hit the tail end of this passing squall. Wind drops from 20 to 15 and settles into 17. We reset the sails and are back on the rhumb line to Guadeloupe, now only 40 miles ahead!
0100 My turn for rest. We’ve cleared the aft cabin, but after 2 minutes listening to the auto pilot squeak with each adjustment I moved to the downwind setee. I wake briefly as there is a captain calling “Saint John’s pilot boat please come in” in Antigua and getting no response, he tries for over an hour every 15 minutes. I finally fall asleep despite the continuous calls.
0315 My alarm sounds on my phone. Mike hears it and tells me to sleep a little while longer. I have no problem with that. The motion is steady and the St John’s captain is silent.
0345 I’m awake and don my hooded sweatshirt, head lamp and drink some cold coffee left over in the thermos from the morning. I get a report that the seas and winds are a bit bigger as expected approaching Guadalupe, leaving Antigua to Stern. Skies are now littered with clouds and stars. No ships. Montserrat stands to starboard on the horizon. For the next hour or so I listened to a bit of my audiobook this time while watching for traffic. The moon sporadically makes an appearance overhead. The wind is so variable it drops to 12 and then 19 knots. Our speed changes from 6.5 down to 3.9 knots. I practice patience before engaging the engine.
0500 Mike is up and there is just a bit of light entering the Eastern sky. I have time for just a short nap. I’m awakened in 40 minutes as I hear Mike adjusting sales. The sun is peaking through the port lights now it feels warmer. Wow I have been dreaming. The seas are adequately boisterous as we approach Guadalupe and her North headland, but But we also see approaching clouds in the distance.
0720 The wind increases with the approaching squall but it appears to hold. Clouds depict rain head moving across our path. I recall 3 or 4 other squalls we have anchored in this season and anticipate the same this morning.
0800 We enter the Anchorage at DeShaies (day-hay) Guadalupe. It is heavily clouded overhead and rain begins slowly spitting at first then more steady I’m prepared in a foul weather jacket. . It is a relatively small yet beautiful anchorage with steep hillsides and rock formations on either side, but no more than a 1/2 mile wide. The village is situated as well on a hillside dotted with Red roof buildings A small local beach and scattered palms. The Anchorage is full. Boats from French Islands, Germany, Canada and Norway have taken up homage here. As we motor closer to shore where we know it is more shallow the skies open up. I’m ready at the bow to release the anchor as we nudge behind a moored catamaran. Another boat , I recognize as a beautiful 47 Island Packet, we pass to starboard is flagged US! I give them a drenched wave. And from the cockpit I hear “not exactly your Caribbean dream!”” I turned back and say” oh, but it is!”
0930 Gear is stowed, cabin picked up and we make time for a little celebratory breakfast ! It’s was a successful overnight..as we make our way to southern Caribbean waters.
Thanks for sticking with us!! Come back for a hiking trip up the DeShaies River and the Botanical Garden!!
0630. Coffee is pressed. We’re up to listen to the weather for the northeast Caribbean on Marine Weather Center broadcast. In particular we have been watching for a window to move from St Martin to Guadeloupe in our quest to get to Grenada by mid April. The forecast is for moderating winds and seas. This means it’s not blowing in the 20s and seas are settling to under 8 feet. The next 2 days are a go. But we can see we won’t leave right away due to gray skies and approaching rain. We have supplied the dinghy with fuel, done the laundry, said our goodbyes to sailing friends we will see next season, and most importantly procured some of the best cheap French wine and delicious baguettes for the trip.
0730 Another rain squall moves through and we busy about the boat securing cabinets and anything that has the potential to become airborne on a 20 degree heel in waves. Mike plots a course on Windy, and looking at the models shows me we could be in for squalls tonite after passing St Barts. So we’ll have to watch the sky. No use running into trouble if there’s no need.
0915 Coffee cups stowed. Refrigerator is arranged for easy acess to our passage meal and lunches. Jacklines in place. Life jackets , harness, and rain gear accessible. Skies have cleared and its time to pull the anchor on St Martin. We bid adieu to Friars Bay, our secret hideout these last couple of weeks.
1015 We begin our second tack in an attempt to make our way around the northeast headland of St Martin (SXM). Winds are not in our favor here but we have committed to this course. Wind is 15-19 knots. There is a catamaran on the same trajectory behind us. We are betting he gives into the motor soon.
1050 Tack #3 completed now into 8 ft seas. We calculate we can make the passage between the NE corner of the island and Tintamarre ( Island off-lying SXM to the north and east).
1135 Behind Tintamarre we have a brief respite in calm seas and a nice 17 knots of wind. The Lost Loon is crisply cutting the waters. This feels great! As always we say ” if it’s like this the whole way, we’ve got it made!” We get visited by a dolphin playing and surfing our wake! She only stays for 5 minutes and darts out of sight. We have a rhumb line to St Barths.
1200 Wind drops to 8 knots after passing Tintamarre. ( The wind is ever changing!) Our speed drops to 3 knots and we are bobbing in the waves. The engine is engaged and the genoa furled because it’s just flapping aimlessly. This gets us to 5 knots until our wind returns. We always know it will…it’s just a matter of time.
1230 Wind pipes up to 12, then 13 true wind. We unfurl the genoa and cut the engine. Speed 5 knots now sailing again.
1400 Passing Il Forchue, island that is part of St Barths. We see clouds forming to the East. Not ominous. We then sail past a very crowded Gustavia for an anchorage to the south, Governors. Upon arrival the seas and wind are directed right into the waters here and after 5 min we decide it will be too rolly overnight and we need sleep. We turn around and head back to Gustavia and pray there is a little spot for the Lost Loon to wedge into for the night. We make a serpentine to the right and left off the main channel and decide to be right off the 2nd channel marker .
1800 The sun begins to set and those clouds have formed to the south and appear darker. We can see the muted island forms of Saba and Statia in the distance. We are happy with the decision to stay here. We don’t intend to go ashore , so technically we can raise the Q flag and leave in the morning.
1930 Daylight has disappeared and several hundred anchor lights dot the proximal sky. Dinner tonite was to have been chicken stew we prepared prior to leaving SXM, so we could just reheat while sailing. We save that for the next day and opt for some simple pork tacos and beans.
2130 Bedtime . Tomorrow’s passage will be 115 miles. That’s an overnight because it exceeds how far we can typically travel in 12 hours of daylight. We look forward to being back in Guadeloupe. We haven’t been there since 2019.
We have left the safe confines of the USVIs ( our home sweet sailing grounds) and have initiated our trek south toward Grenada now.
We arrived in St John in March of 2020 just as Covid shut down the world. We were literally stuck here in paradise for 6 weeks before deciding to haul the boat here for the summer.
And due to the entry requirements on the different islands throughout the Caribbean last year, we opted to stay put in St Thomas , St John, and St Croix for 6 months. We have become accustomed to these waters and find the perfect anchorage for every type of weather and activity.
There have been awesome Christmas and New Years parties, disco parties, a St Croix regatta and post race party.
We found several go to restaurants .. Cafe Amalia (STT), Cibone( STX), singh’s Roti (STX), and Northside grind (STT) where we walk nearly 2 miles for the best coffee and breakfast sandwiches. we devoured the best pizza on St Thomas at Pizza Amore and on St Croix at the Lost Dog Pub. We enjoyed several great Leatherback brewery beers, especially Guanabana ( soursop!).
We did Chicken and Bowling !! ( Not kidding!! Right here on St Thomas there is 6 lane bowling alley and they are famous for chicken as well. We celebrated Al’s birthday. All the way down to the 2nd tequila shot and birthday cake by Brenda!.)
We sailed countless miles between St John and St Thomas and St Croix in all types of weather. We took advantage of the calm days and went snorkeling for lobsters and found the best…wait.. that’s a secret!
We filled numerous tanks of air for dives with Polly and Brian our dive buddies on sites like The Ledges, Stragglers , Carvelle Rock on St John and Tide Bottle ( appropriately named for the marker at the site), Swirling Reef of Death ( yep, we did it!), The Aquarium, and Alien Nation on St Croix.
I swam with a dolphin!! You bet. Christmas Cove one late afternoon this little fellow showed up to play. He exhausted me to no end swimming and diving. Will get a link up for that video soon.
We have hiked many miles across St John and put on likely hundreds just provisioning parts and groceries on St Thomas. We were vaccinated and boostered for Covid on the islands. We have had some of the best sailing days and some of the stormiest days at anchor since we started sailing.
We have celebrated a few monumental birthdays and had some unparalleled parties lasting well into the night.
But most of all found the friendship of many new cruising friends here. Some we will continue to run into down island , but a few we will say goodbye to for now.
But, we didn’t come out here to sit still..” it’s time to move on pardner” So, we say thanks to the sweet Virgin Islands and bid farewell to the wonderful people of these islands who have made it so special..
Step 1 Saturday morning Nov 20. Tomorrow we board a flight in Orlando for San Juan but first we need transportation from our temporary residence in Punta Gorda. We leave a car for our friends Jeff and Cynthia at the Fort Myers airport and pick up a rental car. ( rental car number 1 of the trip) This means missing our morning pickleball games in order to get our rental by 10… maybe 1030.
What’s with car rentals these days?? There are fewer and fewer availabilities and trying to drive from one location to another is a premium cost.
So we park Jeff’s car and walk to the rental facility near the terminal. Considering it’s the Saturday before Thanksgiving and the airport is crowded, we’re lucky to make it out in under 30 min. $132 for 24 hours use to drive us 130 miles. We chose a Hyundai Elantra, something big enough for our two 40 pound bags and small enough to maximize fuel economy.
Today’s win… we have a surveyor!!! Yes, as difficult as it was to find someone this close to the holidays we did it!!! Now we hope he shows up.
Sunday morning 0500. It’s pitch dark, but the bags are packed and in the car except for the clothes we will travel in and the sandwichs we prepare. The sheets are changed , coffee made and doors locked. We make the 2.5 hour drive to Orlando Airport and hope that when we check in our scale for weighing the bags is correct. We’re blessed to check in with exactly 77 pounds collectively. SPIRIT allows 40 each. Whew. I wade through security as Mike breezes with our carry-ons through TSA. ( a benefit he still holds from business travel days) By 1130 we are on time and taxiing to the runway.
1400 We arrive in SanJuan. Another car rental debacle. We claim our bags and walk to the arrivals waiting area for Dollar rental van….and wait. I finally call and the noise level is so high andbthe person on the other end doesn’t speak loud enough and all I hear ( even with my headphones on is be there right away and yelling. I tell Mike to look for a yellow van. Not one arrives. I approach another car rental van to inquire, as they must all know the secret… oh he says get on the van with the smiling YELLOW sun!! We have seen that go by and stop, what 5 or 6 times in the last 45 minutes!!
Two and a half hours later, it’s too late to get into the boatyard to see Lost Loon, so we drive straight to our AirBNB in Ceiba PR, just 2 miles from the marina.
With several hours of exhaustion under our belts, we opt for a trip to Amigo ( Walmart’s neighborhood store) and pick up a few provisions: beer, coffee, sandwich fixing. For dinner we picked up local fare… Chinese!! When in Puerto Rico?? But guess what it was delicious . And unique to PR each entre comes with not only a side of fried rice but… French fries?!? Seriously. We bought roasted chicken from the same place the following day… comes with fries! No potato shortage here!
We spent 4 days getting the boat bottom painted, waxed, and stainless polished. We organized areas inside and out. Our surveyor showed up and spent 3 meticulous hours on, around the boat and up the mast! We shopped at Walmart, Walgreens, and West Marine. We crossed tasks off one list and started others.
We worked all day Thanksgiving in a quiet boat yard. Only a select few who were going in the water were fervently getting boats ready. Our other major task today was to return the Dollar car rental for a local rental with Thrifty. Which meant picking up the Thrifty car and then driving to Dollar to drop it off at the San Juan Airport. ( definitely not one of our most convenient decisions but the only way to manage having a car in our location ). A shout out to Walgreens for being open and having a small food section, where we purchased some instant potatoes. I already had some canned veggies and a can of cranberries I needed to use on Lost Loon, to go with our left over roasted chickens, but we were told Pueblo( a real grocery ) was open all day, they were not.
Black Friday morning. We were like early morning shopper’s. We arrive at the boat before 730, where hardly a mouse was stirring. We needed to get organized for the big float day. After 3 hours of messing about lines and fenders, and putting things in order we routed back for a quick shower and lunch then checked out of the AirBNB. We made one trip for more beer in Fajardo and then we were back to the boat.
The boatyard crew surprised us at 130 by showing up to get us ready to go. We had a launch time of 330 but we’re glad to get going early. After she was placed in the traveling sling and the bottom of the keel painted, we were on our way to water. By 330 we had routed off the lift and around the marina to our transient slip getting used to the great feeling of being on the boat again.
About this time of year numerous sailing folks begin the journey to the Caribbean for the winter. Some head off the safety of the US coastline for open water to distant shores, while others, like us prepare for the flight to where our boat was left for hurricane season. As the time closes in on our return, we begin the job of procuring supplies and parts that we cannot obtain easily, getting flights and making arrangements for housing until we can get Lost Loon in the condition where we stay aboard. This is not as easy as it may sound. We have made AirBNB reservations and found that the car rental situation is a bit of a problem. We can rent a car near the marina, but it means a $120-150 ride one way via taxi or Uber. If we rent at the airport, we cannot return to alternate location without an additional $200 dollar charge. So, after many phone calls, internet searches, and otherwise hair-brained scenarios, we will rent from the airport for 3 days and then, pick up a car close to the marina for another day, while we return the car to the airport. We hope it works! We also need to obtain a survey and rigging check done for the insurance company by January 1. We found out that the surveyor, does not do a rigging check, so we have to hire another person for that task, and get it done during the busiest time of the year, we are told. Before we left our dear boat, we removed much of our anchor chain due to rust. A task that became a near feat, breaking up yards of rusted-together chain.
Our intention was to pick up our needed 250 ft upon return. Guess what? Yes, chain is a premium, and in Puerto Rico we are looking at 11.5% sales tax! WE even looked into shipping a barrel of chain ot PR, but shipping was going to cost nearly twice the price of the chain! We likely have enough chain to anchor in shallow waters to get us back to the USVI where there is no sales tax, (a full day’s sail realistically), but prices are still twice that of those in the US. Finally, we dropped canvas for repair off in May with the understanding that it would be done by our return. We have received an email that the work has not been started. We are not sure if it will be done. If not, we collect it and take it somehwere else along the way. These are the issues that make leaving a boat so far away, and in foreign ports so difficult. We both realize that our decision to leave the boat in distant waters makes life difficult and so we must go with the flow as they say. We will have a list of duties a mile long to keep us busy for 4 days upon our arrival, but know that the payoff is warm gentle breezes, clear blue water, and bright starlit nights.
“What are your sailing plans this year?” we are asked. Our answer is uncertain. With the advent of Covid many things have changed. For 5 years, we became used to being able to take off from an anchorage and decide on the fly where we were going to end up. It mostly depended on how many days we wanted to be sailing, and what the weather was going to be in that direction. Now in addition to the weather and our preferences, we have to take into account the rigid requirements for entering customs and immigrations at the islands. It looks like most of the islands will require vaccines in order to avoid lengthy quarantines, but they also require testing prior to leaving a port and upon arrival (and sometimes 4 days later!!) We will pick and chose very carefully where we will go, mostly depending on those requirements. We will likely stay in the Virgin Islands until the first of the year, and then go with the flow. We would like to get back to Antigua as well as some of the French islands like St Barths, Guadeloupe and Martinique. If we can make it far enough south to Bequia in St Vincent and Grenadine islands it would be a bonus. We have left Lost Loon in the “hurricane box” during that dreaded season for the last 2 years. We are ready to get her out of there, and back to Grenada for the next summer.
Where have we been since leaving Lake Vermilion and the cooler weather?
We are presently staying in warm Florida… learning to play pickleball better (until we have to relearn it in the Spring) and how to catch bait and fish for snook…reading…writing…enjoying unlimited internet, warm showers… biding our time until we will pack up our parts along with other belongings and leave November 21 for Puerto Rico.
For our friends who left the US last night for Bermuda, Bahamas and Antigua, and for friends who will be leaving in the near future we wish you fair winds and following seas. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers!!
Write every day they say, keep the train on the track. That’s supposed to be the key to good writing and staying consistent. So here I am day 1 2 3 of the habit. There is this very colorful podcaster I have been listening to about writing, (after listening for 2 weeks I am out of that habit as well) He says, even if you just write a sentence or change a phrase, or add a comma, THAT’S WRITING!! So, here I am, putting in a little more than punctuation changes. Every writer knows you need to read other writer’s works to improve your style. In an effort to improve, I did finish a book. I say finish, because I do have a tendency to start a few works and depending on how I feel have different options to read. The book completed was Drama Llama by Anne McNuff. It was a perfect summer read. Super lighthearted and a real cool journey by two 30-something gals who rode bicycles through South America.
I have also written and published (and received payment for !!!) a poem..shared at the bottom of this blog. That’s fun writing for me. Our daughter, Kelsey, has really been busy writing, getting published and paid as well.. and I’ll share her work as well.
Back to writing. It’s a passion of mine, and I wonder how the days go by and life gets in the way of most treasured hobbies. Oh, I found time this summer to collect rocks, (some pretty cool ones) and do some rock painting (yes, the very smallest creative, painting bone in my body was calling for some attention), collect some driftwood, and make a few wind ornaments…but the sitting and writing has become difficult. Maybe it’s the sitting thing. Whatever, its time to get (back) in action.
Our Summer in brief…
Puerto Rico and mofongo (mofongo is a very interesting local dish made of mashed green plantains and salt, garlic and some oil, that’s it..but quite delicious with a variety of PR dishes (chicken, pork, beef, etc) We spent time in the Spanish Virgins (Culebra and specifically a little natural reserve island to the west, Cayo Luis Pena) prior to hauling out at Marina Puerto del Rey (a humongous marina on the east coast of PR, near Fajardo).
We left Lost Loon to fend for herself (however well prepped, cleaned, and anchored down by her caregivers) during hurricane season. She knows we are watching every tropical wave that leaves the west coast of Africa for development into a tropical storm headed in her direction. Not that we could do anything but pray it stays away from Puerto Rico…Following departure out of San Juan, we had a short stay in Punta Gorda, FL with friends and some awesome days of pickleball ( our new favorite sport!!)
Leaving FL, we made a trip from there to North Carolina for a couple of days with my mom, brother and fabulous sister-in law ( who take such good care of Mom when I’m not there!! ) … Here we picked up our grand-dog, Teddy, for a trip of his lifetime to Louisville (missing the bourbon trail), to Illinois (where we connected with Mike’s Mom and sisters and nephews and nieces…) to the “deer shack” in Superior WI, and our final destination, the cottage on Lake Vermilion.
Summer started out warm and busy transforming our little piece of shoreline into a pretty functional beach. We enjoyed having the little critter, Teddy, to take on walks and snuggle with at night. We lost and found his little bear bell in an effort to let him off the leash. A few reports of bear sightings and he was back on the leash.
It stayed hot and very dry through visits by friends and family, fishing outings, and the placement of a new boat lift. The highlight of this year has been the construction of a road that now services our place. We have been 22 years accessing this seasonal location by boat only. We have toted all our groceries, supplies and building materials (including doors and windows!) for our renovations by boat for all these years, and now we can drive to the back door!! Mike has taken a liking to operating our neighbor’s Bobcat. He has spent over 100 hours in the last 8 weeks assisting in the construction, leveling ground, placing rock and spreading sand. He will admit it has been quite fun work and very rewarding…for the fact of being able to drive in.
I spent Mondays and Tuesdays this season working at a local clinic. It was a good change, despite the numbers of Covid tests I was involved in performing.
The negative part of the summer was the persistent dought and wildfires that started very close to our place. We had returned home one weekend to more smoke than we had seen from the Canadian fires and found out that a lightening strike started a 10- acre fire about 1 mile behind our place. That afternoon we watched as 3 single engine airtankers swooped down into the lake waters in front of us to attain precious water to douse the fire. We were fortunate for their good work and that of a group of Superior Forest Fire personnel who spent nearly a week camping out and controlling the flames. More days than we like to think of we would wake to hazy smoky smelling air. In the last 2 weeks, we have had some good rainfall and appreciate the clear cool air that has developed these early days of September.
Our plans going forward? Just a few more weeks at the Lake and we leave by the first week in October, (because of the potential for freezing temps at night that develop) winterize this location and make our way to the Caribbean where we will get back to Lost Loon. We are excited because we have been invited to sail with friends from US to Antigua! Then we fly to Puerto Rico and Lost Loon. We have been in contact with several cruising couples that have boats also doing the same thing as well as others with boats in the BVI’s, Grenada, and some that spent the summer in Bonaire. So, more about that as time gets closer…November 1.
Silent partners set to harness the wind,
No task to complex when they are trimmed
Working in unison to exact the course
Taking the spray while relentless in force
Making the speed that the vessel she craves
Propelling this mass through the swells and the waves
Making it known when the apparent is changing
Whether its settled or the storm is raging
While catching a breeze or fending a gust
Heavens pass overhead as the fabric is thrust
Their charge is complete when the mark has been made
Tall stewards of ships their benefits outweighed
Coming Soon…our worst nightmare sailing a small boat……because I have this habit..