C’est St. Barthelemy!

After a wonderful night in Governors Harbor on the south side of St Barthelemy, the following morning we woke to a crystal sunrise and the now common sound of distant roosters making themselves known to the world… it was just as gorgeous. With calm clear waters we both took time to have coffee and took turns on the paddleboard, exploring the shoreline. The wave crashed gently on the beautiful white sand beach, and we could hear the bray of goats on the mountainside. We spent a couple of early morning hours here before heading out to the city and port of Gustavia to check into Customs and Immigration.


St Barths has been fought over by the British, French and Spanish through the years. It was even held by the Swedes in exchange for port rights in the 1800’s. They sold the land back to the French in 1878 , and it has remained in their hold since.


The entrance showed us the headlands of the bay which were dotted with multitudes of red roofed homes and buildings. ( we joked the entire time here about whether this was code or if it was just the trend) . The bougainvillea was draped from every overhang in a multitude of hues…..reds, violets and whites. The Yacht mooring and anchorage was full of sailboats and mega-yachts from all over the world, lined up along the docks in Med-mooring fashion. (this is different to the traditional bow-in mooring, the sterns are moored to the dock and there is usually an anchor or mooring ball from the bow forward ). We made our way to check in with customs and immigration and found that the French have THE best system for this. (however they dont use a QWERTY keyboard and the M and A are severly displaced for us used to an English keyboard, this makes for a few typos in the process) It is a sort of do-it –yourself check –in. With our cruising papers, boat documentation and passport numbers we enter all our information then print it out for the immigration staff to review. Viola! We’re in!


We made our way through this very chic town with its Cartier, Dior, Ralph Lauren, etc high-end retailers to a few smaller shops and grocery. It was here we found fresh, hot and crunchy French baguettes, delicious croissants, cheap French wines of excellent quality, pate, and the best Brie cheese! (it became our staple for the weeks we were in these French islands)

Back on Scooters!

On the road again..

We had not ventured out on the many rental offerings for scooters at several islands since the crazy ride in Luperon, but St Barthelemy looked like the perfect location. We had made plans with our sailing friends on Desderata to tour the island the day before. With numerous beaches, few trucks and cars, and excellent highway system we decided to make a day of it.

We left Gustavia on a 125 cc scooter after the early morning rain showers had moved off to the west. It was now sunny and hot. We had plans to see each of the beautiful beaches of the island. Our first stop would be the lovely Baie de St Jean (not “saint jeen” but “sah jah”)and the little town of l’Orient (loree-ahn)  with its quaint shops in severe contrast to those in Gustavia. This was on the north part of the island and from a perch we could walk to about 100 ft overlooking the beach we could see the light blue waters and coral structure below. It was 10 AM and the beach goers were on the move. There is a very expensive resort here, where we watched assistants preparing beach beds (seriously a full size mattress with an adjustable back!) for their patrons, serving champagne and water in ice buckets! We moved on further heading south with beautiful seaside stops along the way. We made our lunch stop at a small beach place where the burgers were great and the “mahi” tartare awesome. Accompanied by a great glass of white wine and a cool walk in the sand and we were in heaven.

beachwalk to lunch


perfect lunch spot

We still had a few miles to put on before sunset and were off for the South side of the island. Here we got to see Governors Harbor from a different perspective…it was just as amazing. More from the perspective of sailing down the winding road to the beach with spectacular overlooks to the waters below. We did swim to cool off and enjoy a walk on the soft sand beach.

St Barth’s beach in L’Orient

We had a few more beaches to “run “ by and continued back to Gustavia and then to the north to Colombier, a small secluded inlet on the North side. We watched some experienced pilots make a landing at one of the shortest runways in mountainous areas we had seen. It was a great day of seeing some spectacular landscape.


We returned the scooters and made a hike to one of the overlooks in Gustavia that was once an ancient military instillation. We watched the sunset from here, above the city and imagined many hundreds of years ago, the government (French, British….whoever was in charge at the time) taking watch for pirates or other invaders, ready to fire the cannons at will.

We had to continue making headway sailing south, as we had friends arriving in Guadeloupe within the next week. Our plans were to head off past St Kitts and Nevis to Guadeloupe the next day. We woke to clear skies and a light breeze that promised to fill in by later in the day. Our next leg would now be over 50 miles which would require another overnight passage. Since we were quite used to this by now, we actually looked forward to open ocean sailing. It is generally easier than sailing between islands amongst the fishing pots, fishermen, and charter yachts.

We said our “goodbyes” for the last time to friends on Desderata (who were headed north back to the Virgins to meet with family) realizing that we had spent the most part of the last 2 months with them “on the go”. We would hope to see them back in the states when they returned in the summer at some point. With our exit papers in hand, most of the water tanks filled, and plenty of brie, sausassion, and baguette, Lost Loon headed out by mid afternoon for Guadeloupe.


The evening was gorgeous as we watched the island of St Barthelemy fade into the sunset and the shadow of St Kitts and Nevis take form in the foreground. We took our typical 3-4 hours passage shifts and watched the ships passing in the night (literally). To keep awake this night I was able to listen to local Monserrat radio where they were having the Lesser Antilles high school debate finals. They debated the importance of continued tourism and international commerce (as we sail right by), as well as the importance of maintaining literacy amongst the population. The night passed quickly as we did make a few sail plan changes due to weather along the islands. By morning light, as usual, we were comforted to see the distant shores of Guadeloupe. A contrast from the arid island of St Barts and the flatlands of St Maarten , this was green, lush and mountainous.


Next up we are a month in Guadeloupe and loving this French island and all that it has to offer!



Onto the Leewards

New waters …en route to Guadeloupe

The South East Caribbean is divided into the Leeward islands (north part of the chain) and the Windward islands (south part of the chain). “leeward” is a term used to indicate the direction the wind is blowing to and “windward “the direction from which the wind is blowing. So in early times, sailors coming from Grenada to Martinique (the windwards) north called the islands that they were easily blown north to as the Leewards (Anguilla “an-goo-la “to Dominica “dom-in-eek-a”).



These are all new waters for us now. We have graduated from the BVI “line of sight” sailing to waters that may require some respectful navigation. The weather and wind are different here as the islands take on a much larger shape…that of volcanoes! And we are hopeful that we will now be sailing on a reach of some type rather than straight into the wind, as we have been for nearly 3 months. (That’s stretching it, we did have 3 or 4 days where it wasn’t right into the wind. And, BTW you cant sail into the wind…that’s why they invented tacking or moving the boat off the wind to the left or right , about 30 degrees, to catch enough wind to propel the boat forward. It works great, but it’s a zigzag pattern that chews up time and miles. Its lots of fun if you don’t have a cold front on your tail or a line of squalls headed in your direction. There will be a test on this….ha ha ). Anyway, we have made it as far as Guadeloupe now! We have been here since March 1.





On the way to Guadeloupe, after racing through the BVI’s we made what we thought was one last overnight sail to Simpson Bay on Sint Maarten (the Dutch side). This is the only island in the Caribbean with 2 separate nationalities. There is the Dutch side and a French side, aka Saint Martin (prounounced “sa ma tah) separated by a small waterway and a couple of bridges. We anchored in the Western part of the island in a nice location near the city. We were able to take the dinghy under the bridge and get to other parts of the island or even the French side. The island is famous in this part of the world for the Heineken Cup sailboat race. This is a several class race takes place the first week of March. We were there to watch the boats out practicing and the town getting ready, but didn’t stay for the race, but we did have lunch at the Sint Maarten Yacht Club.






Let There Be Light

There are 2 or 3 very well stocked marine stores on the island and we used this opportunity to purchase new LED bulbs for our light fixtures. Energy management is top priority on the sailboat. Since we are anchored out and not connected to power every night, we must rely on the battery bank for powering our lights, electronics, recharging phones, computers, and ipads. We spent a few nights early in the trip just turning on individual components just to see how much energy they require. We found the lights are the greatest drain on the battery. The solution was to switch from incandescent to LEDs. They are preciously expensive items anywhere, but they have literally revolutionized our nights. We are now sitting in light after sunset not worrying about the amps we are using with the incandescent bulbs. We can run several lights and only use 1-2 amps, where as before we were eating up 5-7 amps of battery storage at night. We have only 2 other electrical components running all night: the refrig/freezer and anchor light (which is LED already). We are able to store quite a bit of energy with the solar and wind generators, but without the LEDs we were using it up in a heartbeat. Oh one other great new addition to Lost Loon is a Lucy light. This is the neatest solar powered light. It inflates to the size of a small coffee can and will stay lit for 5-6 hours if fully charged during the day. We leave it on in the evening if we go to shore for the night and when on board take it from the cockpit to the dining table in the salon during the night ……and some nights don’t even burn one of those expensive LEDs!!

While on Sint Maarten we took time to relax. We have made tracks on this trip, lingering little and needed a few days to settle. We made a trip to some potential snorkeling grounds on the French side of the island, to find that the winds and waves were just too active to have clear water. We found a nice resort that had a great beach that overlooked the anchorage, and we spent a few afternoons swimming here.




We also took time to sail on some pretty wonderful waters. There is a volcanic island just 15 miles to the South of Sint Maarten called Saba. It stands off in the distant towering 3085 ft from sea level. Unfortunately, the waters around this island are very deep (however poor for snorkeling, but awesome for diving we hear) and anchoring in all but very calm conditions is impossible, so we decided to sail by the island, saving the overnight anchoring for another day.



We headed out on a clear morning and had a perfect sail south, as we made a 10 mile approach we decided to head northeast to some islands just off St Barthelemy, Il Fourchue, known for snorkeling. We had lunch in a quite rolly and windy anchorage, but the clarity of the water was incredible. No beach here either, and the landscape was quite barren and dry. We had concerns about staying here for those reasons as well as knowledge of a cold front headed very far south, due to hit the following morning. It was predicted to bring heavy squalls with high winds moving from the East to the South, around to the West and then North. (this is called clocking..winds move like the hands of a clock and rarely do they make a 360 unless there is some pretty significant weather system). It poses a problem for boats on the ocean as well as those at anchor because unless very well protected in a good bay or lagoon one must prepare for a rough ride. It was a beautiful day, how could such a storm be on the horizon. We had not seen cold front weather since Luperon…several hundred miles to the east. We decided that we would return to Simpson bay and ride it our there if we had to. We sailed (no motor this day) for over 8 hours in perfect seas and moderate breeze. We returned to our previous location to anchor, setting out plenty of chain to hold us if we made the 360. We monitored the location of the other boats noting their proximity should we all begin to move, we figured we were well set. We even had time to head to our little beach spot for sunset, grab a few provisions, for we decided that we would return to St Barthelemy when the weather calmed the following day.

One o’clock in the morning, the winds picked up and we made our first move from the East to the South. The rains were moderate and seas had also picked up. As we got up to close hatches we watched lightening in the North, something we had not seen since the Bahamas. By 2 AM we were seeing sustained winds at 18-20 and intermittent rain showers. By 4:30 in the morning we had moved to facing the West, continuing to clock, and with the action of the wind and seas we felt as if we were in a washing machine. The sea state was confused, with winds that change direction at high speeds, waves seemed to be coming from all directions. We were awake in shifts, tired and also worried about the other boats out there losing their hold. We watched 3 other boats at a distance just motoring around as we assumed they had lost hold. They did not have a choice but to slowly motor at a safe distance until morning when the light made it safer and easier to put down an anchor. We spent the night in shifts again, not unlike the nights making passage between islands! By morning light boats were moving in all directions and we were very close to another sailboat. We continued to rock violently. However, once the rains subsided by 11AM we were pulling up the anchor and heading for St Barth’s. We figured the seas might be and were rough for a while, but we didn’t feel comfortable sitting at anchorage bobbing up and down, swinging side to side for another day.



We were able to safely arrive in secluded Governors Harbor on the South side of St Barth’s on a windy but sunny Monday afternoon. We had arranged to meet up with our friends on Desderata, who had contacted us on the VHF indicating calm conditions. We were definitely in search of a quiet anchorage after a hectic night and did. We pulled into beautiful crystal clear blue waters where you could literally see the sand bottom at 25 ft. It was warm and flat and perfect for an afternoon swim. We were surrounded by mountains that dropped off into craggy clifts to the waters surface, only a few houses were visible in the daylight on the hillsides, but they were like Christmas lights by nightfall.



Next up…St Barthelemy, a true French island!



Dreams do come true…..

Bonjour from Guadeloupe and the French West Indies!!! Some catching up to do!

We have come full circle as some would say. …..Arrival in the Virgin Islands ON OUR OWN BOAT!!! Our journey has now taken us 1500 nautical miles since our departure from Georgia in late November. We still have several hundred miles and more than 3 months travel ahead of us but we have made it to familiar sailing grounds, and the place where we first built the dream AND where we first met Lost Loon.
 Four years ago, Mike and I first chartered a 34 ft Beneteau Cyclades on our own for a week. I remember that as the honeymoon of our sailing career. We were ” charter folk” then. We flew down from the cold Midwest in mid-February for our winter vacation. Our luggage packed with the formidable cruising garb and food! Yes we learned early on that food is expensive here. ( BTW we are still eating food we froze from Wisconsin… this winter) We made the rounds in the British Virgin Islands for 7 days, sailing some, diving a lot, and trying to find that relaxed rhythm of the sea. We came home with nocturnal musings to buy a boat and sail there from the US. Fast forward another 2 years and we are in full pursuit of that dream. Spending our free time reading, engaging in active conversations about various sailboat configurations ( of which, by the way are endless! But there are a few which are made for cruising life). We had made our list of “needs” , “wants” and “likes” on a boat. We had arrived in St Thomas on a rainy day in anticipation of a week of catamaran sailing with 6 other friends. This very boat that we now call “home” was sitting in Charlotte Amalie harbor. The coincidence was uncanny. We had discussed the boat with the broker and he arranged for us to meet the owners and see the boat. They happened to be moving the boat from Grenada back to the US to sell it. We were wide eyed with excitement over the excellent condition she was in, but in our minds knew we must continue to look, and that we did. But we always came back in comparing the condition and cruising set up with this boat….We sit here in that same harbor quite literally in amazement of those events and how our life has changed since that fateful rainy day
It’s been a great day up to now….
That is a phrase I received after greeting a local fisherman on the docks at Red Hook the other day. It was a bright sunny hot day, he was sitting in the shade to keep cool. I chuckled as he said it so confident and kindly. I guess you could take that many ways. I prefer to believe he was just saying that life was good, whatever it brings. Someone might think he was pessimistic about what the day could bring. I have to admit that each day we have been on this journey has been great. We wake up in calm waters after a great nights sleep on the water. And we have sailed by some incredibly beautiful islands from a vantage point that is not visible to the usual traveler. ( ok…some not so restful nights…more on that soon). We have the good fortune to be able to follow this dream. 

Our sail from the Spanish Virgin Islands was perfect. We left Culebra after spending time on coral reefs ready to move along. We decided that since Jeff, our close sailing friend ( who had accompany us on 2 previous BVI vacations) was along we would make the obligatory first stop in Jost Van Dyke, and Foxy’s bar. There are many beach bars in the islands, but few have the settled reggae feel as Foxy’s. They also make a pretty good “painkiller”, drink of the BVI’s. It is THE drink of the Virgin Islands!! Ok, ok the recipe…. and you can’t just make one glass you need to make a pitcher of them. One large can of pineapple juice, one can of Coco Lopez cream of coconut, splash of orange juice, appropriate amount of dark rum to taste ( many …er , um well you know who you are….prefer Pusser’s .. it’s made here in the BVI’s!). The final ingredient is the most important….topped with freshly grated nutmeg! Yeah, I know all about the calories….but after a long days beautiful sail, putting sails up, moving them in, staysail out then in, repositioning the boom to ease or tighten the main, recoiling lines for the 100th time,( just to let them out again), rigging a preventer, reducing sail for a squall, flaking the main back in its home on the boom, setting anchor, diving to check the anchor, and finally deploying the dinghy…..we are ready for a few delicious liquid calories. And when in Rome? We had done all that on our trip to Jost and made our way to the bar. It was a quiet afternoon, as the height of the charter season was just getting underway. So familiar faces like Foxy come easy amongst the few we met ashore.

After enjoying some evening beach music and dancing we headed back to the boat. Upon leaving, we thought it was a joke when Jeff, who had been with us a week now, said ” where did you put the dinghy?”. Ha ha we laughed and walked further to the dinghy dock, where … it was gone. Terror struck, we searched up and down the dock. ( All these 10 ft rubber rafter tend to look alike in the dark, it had to be here. We couldn’t believe that we locked our precious means of transportation and it was taken. ( It was a great day…. up to now!) I remembered the friends who had their motor stolen recently, told us they began walking the beach to find their motorless dinghy. I kept saying, “no way this is happening,”….And Just 100 ft or less walking the beach here was ” Little AB”, ( AB is the manufacturer of the dinghy…the letters are written on the side ( like all the hundreds you see on docks here and she’s actually average size a decent 9 ft in length…as dinghies go) beached and totally intact. Nothing missing, just sleeping there as the water quietly lapped up onto the sand. We never figured it out. The lock was gone, but the secure wire intact. And the motor as well still perched on the stern. ( now this is the theft-proof motor we bought from Sebastian on One Life in the Bahamas. The bolts were broken off, and in order to remove from the transom Mike has to use some pretty heavy duty wrenches, it’s not just inscrew it and lift it off…maybe too much trouble for the motor thieves?) Or had the lock not caught and she just came loose? Did some kind soul then just nudge her to shore for us to find? , or did she just lazily find her way waiting for us to return? Lesson learned: double check the lock and also tie the painter line to the dock for extra measure. You can bet she was locked up tight on the davits that night. 

On our way to return Jeff to St Thomas, we made anchor at St James island and enjoyed more reef snorkeling. We stopped at Christmas Cove. It was a perfect overnight stop before going into busy Charlotte Amalie harbor. There were many boats likely with the same idea. We found pleasure in our favorite game …guess the boat. Since we are not close enough to see the manufacturer name ( and a lot of boats don’t have ) we look at the hull shape, sail configuration, (1,2 or 3 masts!), the location of the cockpit, and number of headsails. Not unlike the old family road trip games we used to play. This also stimulates further discussion on preferences and the other game “On my next boat I’ll have….”. 
Finally arriving in Charlotte Amalie we were greeted by the typical sights and sounds of the big city….enormous cruise ships, sailing vessels and motor yachts of the rich and famous, street sounds, and almost continuous airplanes overhead, taking visitors into and out of paradise. So we stay just long enough to grab some wifi and re-provision ( need beer and some veggies…. ok so the rum is cheap here too!) On previous trips through here we have been restricted to staying in the BVI as the charter company didn’t allow us to check out of the BVI and into the US VI. So we have sailed past St. John and St Thomas with envy of more beautiful beaches and anchorages. This is our time. We can now go wherever we please as long as we make the customs stops. 

We leave St Thomas for St John. This island was deemed National Park in xXXX. So there is little in the way of development and resorts are few. Our first stop was to be Cruz Bay, but as we motored closer we noticed little wiggle room for our liking. We headed to close-by Caneel Bay. As there is little residential building, the first impression is lush green mountainsides that rise steeply from the ocean. We found a nice spot not far from the beach and took our first mooring of the trip. This is a buoy attached to the seabed where you tie a line to the bow rather than anchor. Being national park waters, the idea is to preserve the ocean floor from the damage of anchors dragging on sand and grasses or coral that are home for all sea creatures. The island is know for its beautiful beaches and hiking trails. And for the second time on this journey I noticed the sound of birds along the hillside. It was a happy sound, cheerily greeting us to an overnight stay.We first began our morning with a trip to check out laundry facilities and look for a SUP paddle. You see, 3 days previous we found one afloat, lost and looking for a home, sans paddle. We put a call out on the VHF announcing our recovery of someone’s treasure but the owner was not located., or rather the owner didn’t locate us? Little did we know it would be easier to find the same exact propane selenoid ( gas control unit for propane tank, which went out last week) for the boat than it would be to procure even a used SUP paddle. This was waterworld….where are all the paddles????  
We spent 4 days exploring St. John. That arrival day we hopped a 2$ bus that took us to the other side of the island on a mountainous sightseeing ride, hiked a trail along Honeymoon beach, and did locate the self-service laundry. Our bus ride took us to a Coral Bay and back. There were only a few stops, just to pick up passengers alongside the road stops. There would have been several photo ops had we been in our own vehicle, but we enjoyed the ride and met a man who lived there. He told us of old military ruins used in years gone by that stood atop these mountains, quite secure in its location and an excellent vantage point to monitor for intruders . As we rounded a corner at the peak of our little journey, we could make out many of the surrounding islands. He also informed us about great spots to visit. He was excited to share the information as we were appreciative. From some of the overlooks we passed, looking close you could imagine the huge volcanic craters that once existed now covered with outlying water across the panorama. Subsequent days we hiked to sugar can ruins, where we also walked to the plantation owners residence almost to the clouds. We read snippets and heard about the slaves harvesting the cane plants on the mountainside and the labor intensive work of making molasses or rum. The buildings they created out of stone and coral. You can see the coral in the walls. They also used the brick ballast from old ships to build structure into the doorways. It was amazing that these structures were built well above sea level, not an easy task to transport these materials.
Trunk Bay was a spectacular day stop and our favorite spot on the island. The beach is white sand against the turquoise Bahamas-like water with vast mountain backdrop. We had a great snorkel here , a designated snorkel trail. There were even underwater signs directing the swimmer. Being a well-known beach it was very crowded with other land based vacationers. There were only 3 boat moorings here and we got lucky picking one up that day. We have this one on the list for a return visit.
We would move back to the BVI in preparation for our trip further down the Caribbean chain of islands, but didn’t spend much time as we had seemingly exhausted ourselves here in previous years. Following a stop in Spanish Wells on Virgin Gorda to clear into and out of the islands we anchored in Leverick Bay. A wonderful bay on the north end of Virgin Gorda, rimmed by Mosquito and Necker Islands…owned by Branson of Virgin Air. He has some incredibly beautiful homes perched on the mountain tops of these islands. There is a non-pretentious marina there that will let you use their pool and showers ( however long awaited, the showers were only luke warm, but they were freshwater in abundance, something we don’t have the luxury of aboard). This is also the location for the famous pirate show Michael Beans. He is a former Michigan native that now lives in the islands and performs a great song and comedy routine as a pirate. When we were there Monday night it was THE biggest audience we had seen at one of his shows. There were rows upon rows of dinghies at the dock from all over the bay and anchorages. We had watched that day as a whole set of new vessels anchored and moored in that bay,just for the show.People dress as pirates and he does a conch blowing contest, sings a few songs with interspersed pirate or beach jokes…..
Before leaving this location we had the fortunate opportunity to dive on a great reef. It’s called the Invisibles. It is just off Necker island and is usually best in the summertime or when conditions are very settled. Well we woke up one morning with no wind and settled seas. We made a quick decision to take the boat out and make the dive. Aside from some pretty strong current, it was beautiful. We saw an array of reef fishes, structure that stood some 20-30 ft off the ocean floor, and vibrant coral of many types. Quite a treat for us as we had always wanted to make this dive in the previous years, but due to conditions were unable. 
As we sail away from the British Virgin Islands thru the night ( maybe our last overnight sail) to new waters of the Caribbean, I stay awake on my navigation shift by writing this blog ( and watching for traffic, managing the sails and navigating our course with the help of the autopilot) with hopes of finding wifi to get it posted in a timely manner. We will be making arrival in Sint Maarten. 
So best laid plans… we didn’t get this uploaded in Sint Maarten .

Our next try will be either St Barths or Guadeloupe.