The latest addition to the Lake Vermilion fleet is a 1981 15 ft Sparkman Stephens designed fractional sloop Designers Choice. (For those of you who are not aware, S and S are top of the line designers for so many boats. They have designed early on masthead yawl rig sailboats, naval marine units like the ones they used for D-Day, power boats and bluewater sailboats like Hylas, Morris, Tartan, Palmer Johnson,Nautor Swan…and others. ). Not the most elegant or creative of boat names, but our DC is apparently one of nearly 8000 produced we are number 680 built between 1968 and 1985. The THS (theoretic hull speed) is a whopping 4.78! But her sail area/displacement ratio or performance index is 41.52!!! A good racer is at least 18-20.
We were looking for a something a bit more challenging than the sunfish that I have had so much fun with over the last 15 years.
She has a few gel coat cracks, and some hull blisters, but we’ve had her out on the lake twice now and in moderate winds she is a blast. The mast goes up easy with 2 people, but light enough for 1. And she is rated for 900 pounds of passengers and gear!! There is even a boom vang to manage the mainsail shape and a spinnaker pole to use with a bright yellow symmetrical chute.
The day we brought her to the cabin last week we had 15-20 knot winds and towed her alongside the Lund fishing boat. We were mistaken when we thought that a 300 pound boat would easily be dragged ashore given an improvised ramp. (Granted it was a 3 foot rise from the lake to shore land) WRONG! We spent nearly 2 hours pulling her up on a couple of heavy beams we rescued from the boat house we just took apart. The following day we headed for L and M Supply in Virginia and bought 4 – 10 ft, 3 inch PVC pipes and screwed those to the wood and she came up like a charm.
We probably need a bigger winch, but we switched to a nylon strap, and bought a improvised bridle. Now we can at least get it out of the water with fewer explicatives! Getting the boat out of the water prevents her from banging on the dock and getting caught in a wind storm there or worry about a coming loose from a mooring during a midnight storm.
The first sail was fantastic. Winds were 8-10 and the lake was quiet, so no dodging skiers or tubers, like on the weekends. We had gunnels in the water and a few times needed a hiking strap in some of the heavier gusts. It’s nice to have 2 people comfortable in the cockpit, sharing the enjoyment. We spent a few hours just tacking upwind and then used the spinnaker on the return. We also rigged the spinnaker pole with the jib and came back downwind wing on wing…something we have yet to perform on Lost Loon.
Will be working on getting some of the larger spider cracks repaired and adding a few blocks for the spinnaker halyard and sheets, otherwise this 15 ft darling will be enough to keep me sailing year ‘round!
Last sail… since this time in early September, she’s been covered secured for the winter, and apparently ready seen the first snows of the season. Left to watch things as we head South to start our 5th sailing season in the Caribbean.
Three years ago when we sailed within the US and British Virgin Islands, shortly after Hurricane Irma released her powerful fury, we were witness to the incredible destruction of homes, resorts, cars, and boats. We saw the carnage in Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda, Nanny Cay, Tortola, and boats strewn ashore in St John and St. Thomas. Today, much of that has been cleaned up, but there are still derelict vessels in the mangroves and other de-masted sailboats on moorings that remain as a warning and reminder of how life is so easily disrupted and the power of nature. We spent about a month between the countries there at that time and mentioned as we left, we were glad to have secured a place nearly as far south as we could for the hurricane season in Grenada. We were still cognizant that storms could occur there, but with far less frequency.
It is now mid May and we have done something that has surprised even us….left our boat in the Virgin Islands!! Scary huh? We think so too, but like I mentioned in the previous blog we were not in favor of making a non-stop trip back to the US from the Virgin Islands and Grenada was closed down tight from our perspective. So it’s done. And we pray for all hurricanes go North of these islands!
We spent several days in the water, cleaning and polishing and getting ready for the haul-out. We were actually contacted 3 days before the BIG day and told that the boatyard would be closed because of a holiday on May 1st (our intended date) and that we would now be hauled on April 30. Come to find out, the holiday was Carnival, but Carnival was cancelled due to the Covid virus precautions and restrictions. Wow! Cancel Carnival? That’s crazy parades, bands, food, drink, and parties !!! But as a resilient people, they decided they would still take the holiday. We have definitely learned to live day by day out here in this life on the water.
We had made a last sail around to Charlotte Amalie a few days previous where we would take off the sails and get a few other things done in what we thought would be a settled location. Little did we know that for 3 days we would have 15-18 kn winds and from where we anchored a bit of a chop and swell. We made the best of it and got the work done.
So at 1:30 on that Thursday we were sitting in the lagoon waiting for a signal. We made a phone call as we saw no one manning the lift and found out there was a boat ahead of us. Kind of disappointing, but they did move quickly to get that boat in the lift and put us on the staging dock. By 4:30 we were out and the sailing season for Lost Loon was over. Always a bittersweet moment. I will admit that I love this life so much, I did shed a couple of tears.
After procuring water and electric sources we were back to work in the cooler part of the day..late afternoon. We still had 3 days of work ahead before we flew back to the US.
We were fortunate to find someone willing to rent their AirBNB at a very reasonable price for us during this time. Our host even picked us up at the end of the day and returned us in the morning! Superhost! And a beautiful location above Red Hook with the best hot shower and comfortable bed.
From here we could see most of St John, St James and parts of the BVI.
We even had a nightly visitor that would conveniently show up as we were cooking dinner
We spent 3 long days working away at our list of tasks, crossing them off and adding new ones each night. Sunday,Departure day, arrived with a gorgeous our sunrise and we were off by 730 AM to finish the laundry we needed to leave on the boat.
By 1030 we had made it back to the boat to take one final look and turn the lock for the last time this season. She was as ready as she would ever be.
With our bags packed, masks and alcohol gel in hand we headed for the St Thomas airport that afternoon. It was a breeze through customs and security that afternoon, as there were only about 25 people on our flight back to Miami.
Thanks Pia for the masks!
We spent 16 days in Punta Gorda, FL as part of our self quarantine ( thank you Jeff Bellairs!) We spent these days walking in the early morning, biking, and kayaking, fishing, swimming. ( not a bad quarantine!) We feel great, our exposure was likely very minimal once we got off the boat through the airport, but enroute to see family, it’s what you do, right? Protect whom we can!
Next up the journey north….there are walleyes to catch on Lake Vermilion!!!
The sun peeks through the overhead hatch as the watch on my wrist vibrates signaling the beginning of another day as the music comes up… click here
I am sure many of you feel just as Bill Murray’s character, Phil Connors, does in The movie Groundhog Day that we are spinning in perpetual motion day after day as these days of the Covid-19 quarantine , self-isolation, “stay-at-home’ drone on.
Meanwhile, Lost Loon is sitting safe in the US Virgin Islands. We are surrounded by like cruisers who have either come here with plans to head back to the US or like us waiting to see if Grenada opens their doors.
We arrived in US waters on March 14 after an uneventful overnight motorsail from St Maarten. It was our plan to stage here before leaving for the ABC Islands. Shortly after our arrival we became well aware that a minuscule microscopic menace would effect a huge change to our plans. And little did we know that things would change nearly daily on a worldwide as well as local level. More about that in a few….
For a period of time, shortly after arrival here, we were literally between a rock and a hard place, with no where to go. Our insurance policy on the boat says we need to be north of the Florida GA state line or south of 12 degrees latitude … that’s Grenada. Explicitly out of the typical hurricane zone. It would have been our choice to head for Grenada ( only 350 mikes) but we see boats in quarantine, limited haul-outs and very random flights leaving the country for the US. So our second option was to head back to the US (1220miles!!). And… to our disappointment Bahamas waters are closed! ( meaning transit outside their territorial waters …no stopping for an overnight rest!) This would also mean a whole Fall season of trying to get East against the trades to just get right back here in the VIs.
Well we found out last week that just about anything is negotiable for $$$$$. We have tentatively arranged to haul the boat out here in St Thomas for a sizable additional fee on our policy and get one of the scheduled flights back to Miami. I know, it’s very obvious to us that this IS A HURRICANE ZONE, but so is most of the East coats of the US! At this point with options closing off for us we needed to make a decision.
Doing this we give up our option for Grenada. And if things don’t look good here or we have a change of mind, we will end up with our last plan and head to the continental US.
If we were making a return to the US doing the 1200 nm, and that’s 10-12 non-stop days. We have been told that there will be no anchoring in any islands; we would need to make a straight shot north – NW from here. AND they have invoked a $10,000 fine with possible imprisonment if caught anchoring or even in the waters!!
Presently we sit at anchor waiting for our haul-out at Independent Boatyard on St Thomas on May 1st. Week #4.
So what’s a day like in the Virgin Islands when you are not sailing and visiting anchorages?? It’s like having a floating condo… a very small condo. We are living in 250 square feet.
The day starts with the morning radio net on the VHF . We find out the latest local changes ( if we haven’t read Facebook), get weather, discuss options to get food, laundry done, and order pizza! Yep, there is a local pizza place that actually served 40 some boats some 50-60 pizzas today by boat!
We have a list of duties/ tasks to complete before we haul out and a list of jobs for after haul out. So everyday we get 1-2 things done …the stainless is polished, the heads are lubricated, the diesel fuel is treated, the food and medicine inventory has been completed. We have reorganized lockers, and started taking equipment off the rails.
The weather is good, sunny most days 80 degrees and light breezes at night. We can be dropped off at a closed beach just to cross to the road for a walk. ( Trails and beaches just opened yesterday again!!)
We spend time checking in on the HAM network of boats, email and messages, reading, and watching news clips from home in the morning.
Afternoons we may swim, SCUBA
do yoga aboard ( oh yeah that’s a challenge!), cut each other’s hair 🤣
and read. We have had excellent cellular service to make calls to the kids and grandkids, mothers, sisters, and brothers.
So here is a list of Lost Loon’s recent reads:
Cape Horn The Logical Route, Bernard Motissier
Dreamland, San Quinones
Land of Dreams, Vidal Sundstol
The Ravens, Vidal Sundstol
Only the Dead, Vidal Sundstol
Chasing My Cure, David Fajgenbaum
Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown
We are making the best of the situation in our little floating home. We feel we are some of the lucky ones to be located in a US territory. Some of our sailing friends are in foreign islands and either cannot leave or are stuck on their boats until the government says they can haul their boats out…. and then hope for a flight back to the US!!
We pray for our friends and family they they stay safe and protect each other. We are doing the same. And wake up each morning hoping this crazy dream is just that!!!
We are grateful for family and friends! We are fortunate for some great life experiences this last year!
While we await the arrival of a new little family member, as we spend time traveling between Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois to be with family and good friends. Yes, we are living out of a 4 wheeled vehicle until we can get back on the water and to Lost Loon.
We are thankful for all the friends and family that have given us a warm bed for a night or more along the way since we closed the Lake Vermilion place in late September.
We see our sailing friends head offshore via text and social media making their way to warm locations in the Caribbean……envious? Yes, a bit. But we will get there. Still trying to get all the boat parts and stuff together to schlep to Grenada. Until then we pack a duffle and unpack every few days, hoping we have enough warm clothes to battle whatever Winter throws at us until we leave.
So we hope this finds you surrounded with friendship and love .. as we move into the downhill run to Christmas.
With Lost Loon out of the water and meticulously stored for the Summer, we travel back to the US in mid-May to see family, enjoy the cooler climate, and yes, avoid hurricane season in the Caribbean. After a hot and busy week organizing on Lost Loon at Prickly Bay Marina in the south part of Grenada, we are ready to close the hatch and board our plane for US mainland. Its pretty strange to get in a car and drive 1300 miles (after spending 6 months sailing…not driving at all!) from Florida to North Carolina, to Illinois and finally Minnesota, our summer destination. We are thankful again that the weather has turned nice for our return to Lake Vermilion. As I write, we sit comfortable from our lake home in Minnesota and see that Hurricane Dorian has literally demolished the Abacos, and we monitor a few other tropical disturbances in the Caribbean.
In a matter of 2 weeks, we are back to work on land this time, putting in the dock, starting up the sand point well, taking off the winter shutters, picking up sticks, cleaning gutters, raking the leaves left over from the Fall before, and settling in for a few months to what we call our summer home. The water is chilly as the days have just warmed into the 60s. We are welcomed back in the evening by the call of the Loon. Most days are quiet as there are few residents that stay around on the lake all week. Coffee in the morning on the deck is highlighted by watching a mama duck bring her little ducklings around, eagles soaring high looking for breakfast, or listening to distant motor boats revving up for a morning fishing expedition.
We have owned this place since 1998 and being here full time in the summer we have finally had the opportunity to make some major renovations. Its truly nice to come back to more of a home than a 60’s vintage cabin.
So, in effort to continue the improvements we embarked on a project this year to renovate the lakeside boathouse. This structure has been home to a small aluminum boat, all the fishing equipment, water pump, lake toys, woodworking materials and outdoor implements. Literally, a catch-all, but this functioned as Mike’s workshop the last 2 years of the cabin re-do. It needs a facelift as well as repositioning. It happens to sit right in front of our sauna\fish cleaning building, and also blocks a lot of the lake view to the west. Built of sturdy rough sawn 2x4s, beams, and covered in corrugated gray steel, its a beast!
The first project at hand is to move the STUFF out, but we don’t have anywhere to move the STUFF. Enter project 1A…a new storage building. For 6 weeks this summer we (I use that pronoun loosely, because Mike did 99% of the work) cut trees, burned brush, fashioned useable timbers, and put up a storage shed.
Again this summer, we took many trips across the water and drove to our local Menards for the building materials. We were lucky to have Dave and Nate (Mike’s brother and nephew) here to help with walls one weekend! I was able assistant when things needed positioned, measured or held in place. We are finally ready to move equipment out of the boathouse, so we can start on that. Summer has segued into early Fall and were not sure we have time for that now. Of course, we will return next Spring and get that underway. Just as it is on boats..we always have a project!
On to weather and hurricanes… I find the subject quite interesting. Being on the boat full time and relying on the weather so much to move us from point A to point B, we have to have the information on wind, waves, and precipitation. We are lucky to have several resources we utilize to make the decision on if we are sailing to a location or staying put. I listen to Chris Parker and associates on Marine Weather Center nearly daily. Usually tuning in at 0700 for his forecast of the Eastern Caribbean, we hear a 4 day compilation of his interpretation of the grib and surface analysis maps. This gives us a good indication of the conditions we can expect in our location. If I have decent cellular signal I can look at a few apps we use to confirm the information. Marine Weather Center had a website with all the information.
We use Windy (free app to download and obtain GRIB information) Predictwind( there is a free version, but for $99. /3 months we can get 3 weather models, destination planning and weather routing) and windguru. The disclaimer is that these sites ( except for Marine Weather Center) present you with computer generated information and there is no human interpretation of the data. That’s our job. And honestly the models are pretty ‘spot-on’, however we do find that there are errors…mostly not as much wind or different wave patterns than predicted.
If I don’t have any cellular service and on a passage offshore, I can use my Ham radio modem and connect to email services from NOAA and not only get text version of the weather in a particular lat/long region, but I can download surface analysis maps. Reading surface analysis maps isn’t difficult, but learning how to read them is vital, along with understanding how the current, 24,48, 72, and 96 hour interval reports give further information on developing weather systems. So, in order to keep up my skills in the off season, it is very cool to watch local weather or the development of tropical storms and how they die out or progress to full blown hurricanes.
The other resource I use is monitoring cloud formations. I learned a lot of this from an ASA Sailing course on weather I took in 2016. There are so many different formations day and night to watch. It is get so caught up in the formations I forget that I’m watching clouds. There are two basic resources at Weather works and Instructables, but the ASA course is worth the time if you need to learn weather for cruising purposes.
Best Summer Recipe Find
Carrot Hummus!!!!! Sounds crazy? Well it is!!! Delicious roasted carrots combined into a great hummus recipe. And its good for you!! First introduced to this by my daughter, who is great whole foods cook.
6-8 peeled whole carrots
3-4 Tablespoons Olive oil
3-4 peeled cloves of garlic (a few more if you love garlic)
1/4 cup tahini
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
15 oz can chickpeas (drained, but reserve the liquid)
Table salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)
Set oven at 400. Coat the carrots and garlic with 1-2 T olive oil and place on cookie sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes. Add the garlic about 10 min after starting the carrots, until soft when pierced with a fork. Allow to cool. Place the carrots, garlic, tahini, chickpeas, 1/2 tsp of salt and lemon juice in blender or food processor. Add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Begin blending and add the reserve liquid from the chickpeas slowly until the right consistency is achieved. Taste and add salt if needed. Cover and put on refrigerator until thoroughly chilled.
This is a great recipe to have with veggies or pita chips. It is also a great substitute for mayo on a sandwich! Enjoy.
Thanks again for stopping….up next Fall happenings as we await a precious arrival before we set off sailing!
So the pics you see here in the beginning of this blog show us closing Lost Loon in May at Clarkes Court in Grenada. We were fortunate to have an uneventful process. The “carefree” sailing days are replaced with a few tolerable hot, dusty days in the yard. Bittersweet, we need to return to land life and see family as well as manage other parts of our life. As of this writing, we are now about 4 weeks from returning to spend another Winter in the Caribbean! The count down has begun!
We continue to live as vagabonds from one short term habitation to the next (or as gypsies..so well put by a close dentist friend of ours!) For the summer, we spent most of the time at our 3- season place on Lake Vermilion. We have completed the renovation we started last year transforming a 1950s cabin to a nice comfortable lake cottage. We also traveled to Illinois and North Carolina and spent valuable time with family in those locations. And of course passed several weekends with our Minnesota family and precious growing granddaughter! ( permission granted by the parents allows me to share one of my favorite pics!!)
They have been gracious to provide us with a warm bed and sustenance throughout the last few months, as well as priceless moments with “nos petite fille”!
The summer passed quickly. We spent time fishing, hiking, harvesting wild blueberries, and putting a new steel roof on the cottage.
Our life on the lake is challenging because we are on the north part of the lake further than the road extends. We have to boat everything in we use. This includes ..yes even the new steel roofing supplies. Thanks to Mike and Chris…their ingenuity made this possible.
In making our new cottage unique, my friend Cynthia and I decided to paint a door. this was a very enjoyable weekend project..and priceless piece of art!
There were a few days we did get out fishing…a passion of Mike’s and caught some beauties, northern Minnesota walleye! We also received our scout firefighter’s badge one day. There was a slight breeze that afternoon as we headed out to Big Bay on the lake for musky fishing (truth be told Mike fishes and I make sure I have a good book). As the breeze picked up and the afternoon progressed, we noticed a plume of smoke coming from a small island. It became darker, and in seconds we could see flames from about 1 mile away. We quickly proceeded to the location, where we expected to find someone burning a huge fire. To our surprise, there was no one around and a large part of the island was covered in fire. I tried calling 911, but with variable cell service cut out. Mike drove to a close spot where we thought it would be better and 911 was calling me back! I spent some precious 5 minutes telling the dispatch person the locations of the fire, knowing he needed to communicate this with the fire boat. I was assured they were on their way asap and told not to put myself in danger. We ran across the bay and procured two 5 gallon buckets with the intent of saving the island. We returned and inched the boat as close to the rocks without damaging the boat so we could get off. We were soon running a 2 person bucket brigade. We did have one other boat show up and with their 2 gallon bucket they had aboard, assist in putting out some of the “small stuff”, but there was a huge tree on fire that would take the professionals. Soon we saw them coming. as the fire boat approached we got off the island, noticing a small area where there may have been a campsite in the recent past….. Most of the fire was doused by the sole volunteer fireman.
During the months in Minnesota, I was able to work part-time at a local clinic. ( a shout-out to my new colleagues in Virginia , MN!! thanks for a great summer!) I worked in the family practice and urgent care areas 2-3 days per week. This afforded me the opportunity to maintain my license and continue to do something I truely enjoy. It was a mere 30 minute drive, but that was after the 20 minute boat ride acrosss the lake to get to the vehicle. This was not unlike our travels to get anywhere on Lost Loon. It was a great plan, most of the summer. I had only one late afternoon storm to wait out before getting Mike across the lake to pick me up. It wasnt until late September…my last days of work…and late days getting off work at 7 PM when arriving at the boat landing some days at 7:45 were getting chilly. By the first of October the days were chilly. We were having some night to 30 degrees and daytime highs of 40.
Yes, this is a picture of a 3 inch snowfall. Quite unusual and unexpected for this time of year. Mike actually had to snovel snow out of the boat for the first time since we have been coming to the cabin We are usually lucky to have until the middle of October to close things down, but by October 9th, we woke to temps in the very low 30s overnight and one partially frozen pipe. After Mike returned from thawing this with a hairdryer, we made the obvious decision to pack-it-up and head out. We had spent the last few nights, waking to check the water in the faucets and were not in the mood to wake to more pipes to thaw or worse broken ones! The job is fairly straighforward: pack clothes, clean everything out of the refrigerator, turn the water off and drain off the pipes, take apart the dock and lift it out of the water, cover the single pane windows with shutters. We have done this in an afternoon and were able to complete everything in about 3 and 1/2 hours. The sun provided us some warmth, but for this time of year, unexpectedly cold!
So the next question…..where to go? We decided to remain “off the grid” and head for a shared cabin in Superior Wisconsin …intended for deer hunting. It sits on 100 acres of woods in the most northwestern part of Wisconsin, along the Minnesota border. We had a few hours to prepare ourselves for the primative living…no plumbing, no running water, heated by wood burning stove. It happens to be just 8 miles south of the city of Superior, so not so far off the grid as it sounds. We stayed here 4 nights before moving on. We enjoyed a few nice Fall days of hiking and bird hunting (the guys…not me).
After a couple of days with our family, we have traversed south for a few weeks with friends in Florida, boating and diving, where we will escape the onslaught of cool temps in the Midwest and dream of sailing days to come!
We are practically Martinique citizens now! Just kidding! We have actually been in the country 2 weeks!!
We arrived in St Pierre, one of the oldest french cities on the island on March 28th in the shadow of great Mount Pele.
As the story goes, the governor and a science teacher headed a committee who knew of the impending eruption of this great volcano. It had smoldered for days, giving off ash and gasses frequently. They failed to adequately warn the people fearing a mass exodus from the city and harm to the local income. On Ascension Day May 5th, 1902, the mountain let forth with an eruption that has been likened to an atomic bomb , covering the city and taking the lives of nearly 30,000 local inhabitants. The only survivors were a cobbler and a man in jail who survived because his cell faced the opposite direction of the lava flow. It is said he became a legend and finally joined the circus after his fame waned. Ships anchored in the bay were destroyed as well. People from far off cities climbed hills to see the incredible destruction.
We arrive at the dinghy dock and in typical French fashion as the St Pierre church bells are ringing 4 pm. We make our way past Rue de Victor Hugo on to the tourist office where we quickly check into customs on the computer. Our next stop is the ruins of a grand theater which is next to the ruins of a prison.
We can see throughout the city what has been left of the volcanic ruins that have not been rebuilt on.
The village was an elegant city in its day, one of the finest in the West Indies. It was a center of commerce for Rum, sugar, cocoa and spices. We see old structures that line the narrow cobblestone streets and imagine the beautifully dressed townspeople strolling to dinner or the theater.
The bougainvillea hangs from everywhere. The real voices of children calling in their native french language fill the air. For a brief moment we are transported back to French Martinique in the early 1900s.
Our stay here is 2 days because we want to have a meal at Tamaya restaurant, rated one of the best in Martinique! There are 6 tables at this small restaurant, all set with white table clothes. We are the first arrivals of the evening and it’s 7pm ( most French dining establishments don’t open until 6:30 or 7) We are greeted by one of the owners, Peggy, who thankfully speaks English. She takes our order for a bottle of wine. We peruse the menu and see her husband the chef peeking out from the kitchen .
He waves a ‘hello’. We are instructed on the specials and other menu items and she interjects her preferences. After she returns from the kitchen, we hear her story of starting the restaurant, the ups and downs of the business and sailing. She spent many a day in her life on a boat as well. Our dinner is delightful. I have dorade with vegetables and Mike has a delicious veal, all truly French… with Easter chocolate eggs from France as a kind gesture! We stroll through the lamp lit village back to the boat on a full moon night and decide to stay another day and hike.
We make our way in typical Mike and Nancy fashion ( late hot morning) to the statue of Virgin Mary. She overlooks the anchorage and the sailors coming and going. It is a nice street that takes up high above the water and has a great view of the city and Mt Pele
The afternoon is spent making water and looking at the map for the next day’s short motor to Fort de France, the capital of this island.
Upon anchoring and with the engine off we can hear mass being said this Good Friday from the speakers of the Catholic Church that looms over the city. It is enchanting. The bells ring upon conclusion and we remember all the Good Friday masses we have attended, the soberness present in this beautiful bright Caribbean city anchorage.
We get reacquainted with a neighbor boat from Canada we met last year in Guadeloupe and enjoy an evening with them taking sailing and travels. We spend time along the waterfront watching the people and listening to the local music that afternoon.
Saturday morning we attempt to take a bus to the shopping center and get on the 421 instead of the 420 bus. We have been told of a great sports outlet store and enormous grocery here. When it is clear our bus isn’t going the way we intended we ask to get off and have a 3 km walk to our destination. Good thing for phones with GPS that we used to follow the bus route!!!
The shopping was magnificent. We found a real mall with clothing, jewelry and electronics stores. The Hyper U is one of the largest in the Caribbean. And being the day before Easter, it was packed with shoppers!! We like to check out the French wines… they are quiet grand and , well cheap!! The sports outlet store Decathalon we find great deals on some nice performance clothing. Coincidence, but we arrive at the bus stop to return to the boat and unbelievably the gal who spoke English and told us bus 420 was standing there, she laughed heartily when we told her of our mistake!
After being awakened by glorious church bells at sunrise we have coffee and decide to head for another anchorage along the western coast of Martinique. We check out anchorages of Anse Mitan and Anse Noir, and decide on Anse Dufour for an afternoon of snorkeling and hiking in the rain. We are amazed at all the locals on the beach for Pacques( Easter) swimming, barbecuing and dancing even in the rain!!
We chose to move anchor a few Mike’s to Anse Chaudrie. A grassy bay where we must find a spot of sand to successfully set the anchor. The snorkeling here is great, but in getting to the snorkel reef I feel I have observed to many sea snakes below for my liking. That afternoon we meet up again with fellow cruisers on the boat Tasman. They sail our sister ship a Caliber 40 as well. In fact, their boat spent the summer cuddled right next to Lost Loon in Clarkes Court Marina!!
We find some great seashore hikes here several hundred feet above the water with great views. We found another spot to snorkel this was for the hot afternoon.
That brings us to our current location at St Anne, Martinique. Currently the Mecca for hundreds of sailboats moving North and some moving South, as we are.
Its been nearly a year since we were last here, and 4 months since hurricanes IRMA, MARIA, and JOSE passed through here and left devastation in their wake. These are the supposed 100-year hurricanes, and they did some significant destruction.
We knew that there was some damage and we didn’t know what to expect, (whether we could get food, fuel or water if needed, but reassured by several accounts on the internet) We had discussed with family and friends about a place to pick them up to sail, and this is still one of the best places we have found to cruise around a few days for sailing, snorkeling, diving, beaching, and of course Rumming (is that a word?…it is now!)
We approached Virgin Gorda, the North Sound late in the afternoon. I called into Leverick Bay Marina and got an immediate response. I inquired as to whether the channels were clear and if there were any obstructions to avoid. I was told “all is clear and we are glad you are here!”. As we made the approach, we could see the destruction. The Bitter End Yacht Club was as awful as we had seen on TV, and Saba Rock nearly gone. It was like a ghost town from the Wild West, and just as eerie. There were still curtains hanging and blowing in the breeze, chairs and metal strewn up the hillside. The abandoned shorelines were littered with debris. There were countless homes without roofs and structures that appeared to be homes with just walls standing. Normally we would have seen 50-200 boats anchored in the entirety of Leverick Bay, but today we could count 15.
Upon anchoring we were made aware of the sounds of chainsaws, hammers, and heavy equipment hard at work to repair the chaos. Our afternoon took us into the marina to patronize the bar. They were putting on new roofs, painting the dive shop, and repairing the electric that supplies the dock. We were among 3 other couples and families there. We had a long discussion with the bartender there about the events of hurricane Irma. He retold the story of moving boats out of the bay, preparing the marina buildings, and his own home for the storm. He told us that the only information they received on how bad the storm was to be was from information received by others from outside the island. Apparently, the notification system did not prepare them for the onslaught of 150-180 MPH winds. We heard that they couldn’t believe that the storm lasted 6 -8 hours. Our bartender explained that with each increase in the wind speed he was certain that it couldn’t get any worse and yet it continued to build. One woman, he told us, lost her roof and was jogging down the road looking for shelter, a neighbor called to her to come into their house just as a refrigerator passed her going down the street taken by the forceful winds. A woman, a local, sitting at the bar as well while her child swam at the marina pool, told us that the children are especially affected. She explained that they get very scared now with any approaching storm. They have lost their school, which we would eventually see on a walk we would take the next day. The school had to relocate to another school on the island and share supplies amongst double the number of students.
They all recounted that the rising water came up 10-12 feet above the sea level, washing away anything left sitting around and most of the beaches in its wake. On that same walk the next day, we passed so much that was destroyed, previously million-dollar homes overlooking the beautiful Caribbean Sea. We met a couple from New York that were there for 6-week and had just had their water and electric resumed that week. They indicated they had good insurance, but pointed to neighbors that didn’t. A crude for sale sign was posted on what must have been a lovely hillside home. We saw from high above the marina fishing boats, sailboats, and commercial vessels shipwrecked on shore. There were downed utility poles and wires that were tangled to incredible masses.
Yet, at the end of the many conversations we had, all part of the healing process after such a trauma, we heard the same words “we’re glad to be alive…we will rebuild”. It was that positive attitude that impressed us. We know that so many people are out of work in the hospitality industry, businesses literally gone, and so many that have relocated elsewhere because of having no place to live.
Our visit in the BVI’s took us in the next few days to Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda. Here we did find gasoline for the dinghy and a great food store open. Along the shore the boats that were taken out of the water to ride out the storm were sitting like dominoes, toppled over upon one another. We saw sailboats, with no masts, motoring in the bays (we suppose waiting out the season for a new rigging).
We sailed past the empty anchorage at the Baths onto Norman Island. We chose to anchor out, but found that mooring were available throughout the Bight. We witnessed the shipwrecked Willy-T’s bar as well.
On Jost Van Dyke, Foxy was there to greet the good number of folks who knew he would be open, but the town there is quite the mess. The old yellow church has no roof, the stained glass is missing and the beautiful gardens are gone. The dive shop and other small shops are also destroyed. We did find ice at Cool Breeze, where they were also running a bar.
In the Virgin Islands, at St John, we had our pick of mooring balls in St Francis Bay and for an afternoon of snorkeling at Trunk Bay. Pizza-Pi is now open on Christmas Cove as well. We have found ourselves in St Thomas for the last couple of weeks to be here to pick up family and friends for a few days.
Currently we are waiting out a big blow at Charlotte Amalie. We have found that although the cruise ships still come in 3-4 days a week, the number of cruising vessels is fewer than in years past. We were lucky to be able to get ice, great provisions, be able to find someone to replace our freezer condenser (it’s always something), and have some really great meals at restaurants that are re-opening (Café Amalia!! On the waterfront in Charlotte Amalie). We are happy to be here. The damage and destruction are sad, but the attitude of the people and the effort that is going into rebuilding is amazing. We have had to do without 4G data due to lost cellular service, but we have found free WIFI set up on parts of the islands. We see more and more charter boats every day, so hopefully the word is out. The weather is gorgeous, the water a clear turquoise, the beaches are cleaned up, and the sunsets still happen every afternoon! Oh, and the Painkillers taste as good as they ever have!
Our last night at anchor in Grenada, (May 2) there is a calm in the warm air. Of course it’s still 84 degrees at 7 pm. We are leaving for the marina tomorrow near Clarkes Court where we take out the boat to get some serious decommissioning done before haul out.
We had mostly cloudy skies with no sunset today….a rarity. We can hear the dogs barking ashore, the water lapping up against the stern and the dinghy that’s floating off there. There is a surf against the beach due to a bit of a swell coming in today. The boat rocks gently and then quite rolls at times putting us on guard to maintain balance as we attend to our chores.
We spent the day organizing the boat, random maintenance, and cleaning the cupboards and stove. We will be in a marina tomorrow to start the final process of closing the boat for summer.
We have been on the boat for nearly 150+ days, and feel so comfortable here. People tell us that we were lucky to have such great weather and weather windows for our first year traversing the Caribbean.
We have covered about 2400 nautical miles in the boat since our launch in St Mary’s Georgia on November 24.
As I go about the day, I think back on how we anticipated this year of sailing, and all the preparation that went on to get us here. Our home was sold as well as 90% of our belongings. I see many gadgets ‘ from home’ that have now made their place here on the boat, and think of how much ‘stuff ‘ ( for lack of a 4 letter slang word) we have been able to do without. There are simple kitchen utensils ( seriously….we have 4 forks, knives and spoons…3 chopping and cooking knives, a set of 4 dinner plates and snack plates, a small teapot, indispensable coffee press, a set of stainless cookware and a blender used twice! I shudder to think of the stuff in boxes in Wisconsin…..that I can now do without most likely. I have lived in basically 4 pair of shorts an assortment of tanks , t-shirts and 1 of 3 swim suits. However, since we are leaving the boat in the tropics for next season, we are bringing back many of the cold weather clothes we loaded aboard in November when we left the cool temperatures in Georgia. This will fill nearly 3 suitcases!! What were we thinking? …that would take a wrong turn and find ourselves at the North or South Pole! There are hats and gloves, wool socks ( for heaven sakes!) and …..get this….long underwear!!!! In our defense, we did hear that the winter of 2015-2016 in the Bahamas was very cool and we wanted to be prepared. Moral of the story is don’t load up your Suburban with everything you own and drive it to the boat…pretend you have to bring it all back in the luggage. The good news….we now have an enormous amount of locker and closet space for other things….like spare parts.
A sailboat takes quite a beating on the ocean, unless you sit in a marina all the time. Even at anchor this thing is in motion. So things move and settle and twist and break. And it is always the screw or washer we need but don’t have. So….the spare parts list is growing. We need replacement screws, toilet parts, special glues, and propane tank parts. There are door locks and diesel parts we must have on hand as well. There are a few marine stores located in the chain of islands, but many parts are less expensive in the US despite the import tax we will pay bringing them in compared to a lot of the local prices.
That brings me to the regular maintenance that we must do , like a home on land, to keep us afloat. ( no grass to mow, leaves to be raked or painting to be done, relief!) Much of what we will do in the next week will be regular ‘upkeep’ and ‘preventive medicine’. There is the care of the exterior hull for barnacles and such growth, fiberglass and stainless polishing. The diesel needs an oil change, the sails need washing, folding and storage out of the elements, the through-hulls ( the intentional holes in the boat we can close off) need greasing, and the list goes on. We have our lists and hope to get it all done. And one more thing…..The LEAK needs fixing.
Yes…we have sprung a “small “leak. Isn’t that a boaters worst nightmare?? Ours come true. ( No, Mom, there was no danger of sinking, that’s why we never said anything!) We first started noticing that the bilge pump was running intermittently about 2 months ago. It is a suction device in the sole of the boat that automatically goes on when water collects here. We initially assumed we had water from the mast collecting after some time during spring rains in Guadeloupe. The pump would go off 3-4 times daily. But it was when the thing would suddenly work every 12-17 minutes we became concerned. ( yes we timed it. If there is no other reason to wear a watch on the boat than to time the discharge of the bilge it is worth it!) oh, and it is amazing how that little slurpy motor will wake us out of a peaceful sleep, and at which time Mike would ask me the time ( it’s good to have a lighted watch as well for night sailing and bilge-timing) and then wait, wait, wait until it went off again and I would give him the interval. Anyway, as soon as the frequency increased we would open the floor boars to check the collection container….we would see less than an inch of clear water sloshing to and fro, and when enough collected it would set off our Slurpy! We were not sure the quantity and so Mike even positioned himself in the dinghy and waited for the discharge to go off and measured the quantity. We used this to determine our 24 hour output. Not worrisome, unless the bilge motor burned out !
Now the scientific part….we had to determine if this was fresh or salt water…essentially was our leak from within ( a leaky water tank) or from the millions of gallons of sea water surrounding us on a daily basis? Of course, the first option was to taste it, but being the medical mind and far from any good healthcare, I made the decision this would. It be a good first step. We poured 3 glasses; two we knew were fresh and salt water and compared these to the bilge sample….no difference. The smell was the same. And it dawned on me to spread the 3 samples on a surface in the sun. I had noticed in the last 4 months that dried salt water leaves ….SALT crystals! BINGO! The bilge was salt. We were relieved we didn’t have a breach in the fresh water system, but we now had to find the point of entry of sea water. Well, the most obvious place would be a leak through hull joint. These were all checked (numerous times) and found dry. The next place where water can enter is the point at which the propeller shaft enters the boat. Mike crawled as far back as he could to see if there was water and he didn’t see any. Now this was an issue for a couple of weeks, until we noticed that Ole Slurpy would go off at more frequent intervals after we made a transit sailing or motor-sailing. Another look at the shaft and it seemed dry. One day we pulled all kinds of equipment from storage to check for water or leaks: behind the engine, deep in the rear storage, under the pile of equipment in the extra berth to check the hot water heater. We even snorkeled under the boat to look for holes….nothing. Very Frustrating!!!! It was about 4 weeks into this waxing an waning problem that we happened to recheck the propeller shaft and something called the dripless (quite an oxymoron) or stuffing box. ( ok there indeed a mechanism in place to keep water from coming in where the shaft enters the boat and it is quite common to have to replace these every few years….our was done in 2012) Mike put his hand under it again and felt an actual drip, and as he moved this around a bit…. there it was…and dripping faster.
The good news: it was about a cup an hour and the bilge was working fine. The bad news: Mike was unable to remove this corroded thing while we were on the water,(after several hours lying flat on the good old Yanmar…it would give) it would have to wait until haul-out. It was quite funny that EVERY ONE of the cruisers we happened to mention the problem to said ‘stuffing box’ but it wasn’t for weeks we could actually prove it.
It’s getting darker earlier as the earths trajectory changes and the longer days appear in the North. We celebrate an awesome voyage, that started as a little winter dream. We discuss what islands and anchorages we missed this year and where we want to go back and spend more time. We think of all the cruisers we were fortunate to meet, some already out of the water and back in Canada or the US. The discussion leads to ideas for different or change in equipment when we return in the Fall. Finally, we briefly consider what to do with ourselves in this new life back in the US. This means finding a place to live, besides the summer cabin in Minnesota.
The stars present themselves finally on a dark night. We hear roosters still active ashore, and reggae music in the background. We get out the iPad and the SkyView app and work on our astronomy, identifying Cancer, Gemini, Orion’s, always on the lookout again for the Southern Cross. We savor the experience.
Our work for the day finally brings fatigue and sleepy eyes. We retire to the comfortable berth with a gentle breeze still present through the overhead hatch window. We are thankful.
Stay tuned! We have more summertime blogs to come….just belated in getting them posted!
(April 27…thanks for hanging in there with us this summer getting these posted. Hopefully this next Winter we have better access to the WIFI and the posts come in a more timely manner)
This our final island destination on this Winter journey through the Caribbean !
We arrived from Carriacou on a terrific morning sail. We made about 30 miles in under 4.5 hours. That means we were doing some great sailing. We left the anchorage at Tyrrel Bay at 0815 and by 830 had sails up in a sweet 17 knot breeze. With a 1 reef in the sail ( which reduces the sail surface and in higher winds….which we expected….improves comfortable control of the boat) and a full Genoa, the wind lifted us to a record 8.1 knots!! ( ok, I think we hit 8.5 or 9 knots returning from the Bahamas last year as we hit the fast current in the Gulf Stream, but that was then….this is NOW!). That is cause for celebration alone. Caliber is listed by the brokers as a safe and sturdy sailing vessel, not known for speed. But she showed us this day, if given the right winds and sail she can fly!
As we sailed south, before we started southwest to make it around the northern tip of Grenada there, we passed a few small rocky islands then an area with a submerged inactive volcano , known as Kick’em Jenny.
The map has a 5 km radius of exclusion around this volcano in case she were to become active. We were cognizant of the restrictions and sailed outside the radius. One scary thought is that when a volcano is active and submerged, it changes the botany of water and ships sailing or motoring over such an area will sink. Also we found that the ocean floor comes up from 4000 + feet to 350 ft in this area and it causes the waters to be quite confused. With a 18-29 knot wind and a bit of an ocean swell we had a short choppy ride through the ‘ volcano waters’. We imagined that someday there would be a small …or possibly large island here. Well, 3 days later, we are doing our morning chores aboard with the radio on and we hear that according to seismic recordings done in the last week there is evidence of possible volcanic activity and subsequently they strictly enforced the 5 km exclusion zone!!
We approach the lush mountainous island of Grenada and it reminds us of Guadeloupe, typical West Indies. Known as the Spice Island for its nutmeg, cinnamon, and tumeric. We see the steep-to shorelines and deep green color of the inland landscape. We round several bays and find our way to the major port of St George’s. It was here that a lot of the conflict happened during the coup of 1980s. Grenada was a strife ridden island that was at the time inhabited by Cubans who decided to take control of the island. Apparently, the prime minister was assassinated by his cabinet when the government fell into leftist hands. Realizing the possible problem with Cuba having 2 ports at either end of the Caribbean and then one so close to Venezuela ( petroleum rich) waters, we sent troops in to return the nation to Grenadians. We met a fellow on the beach, one afternoon,that told us that US and allied troops went through the country and tried to weed out the Cubans. They were assisted by the Grenadian who exposed their neighbors. Some locals lost their lives when found out, but at the cost of recovering control of their country. He told us of US helicopters that were shot down right in the bay we are now anchored. This was the same guy that came out to tell us the lounge chairs we stopped to sit on would cost us $10 EC ($4.50 US) per day if we wished to stay. Mike stood up (de-occupying his lounge chair) and talked to him about the history of the island.
St George is an old city. There are high cliffs upon which rest a prison and at the other end a hospital. The Carenage is the city that sits right on the waterfront. There is also a part of this port that accepts large cargo ships which bring supplies and food from Venezuela and Europe. There are fishing and transport boats moored up 3 fold waiting to take supplies to the out islands and Carriacou. The buildings are reminiscent of an old European village with old brick and stone fronts. There is a center city full of open markets selling fruits, vegetables, clothing, and other souvenirs.
During the week the city is bustling with traffic, but by Sunday as we made our way through nary a sole could be found. It is a family oriented society and by mid-afternoon they were on the beaches and back at the parks enjoying life.
We arrived about 1 week prior to taking the boat out of the water. It is here that Lost Loon will wait, out of hurricane waters for us to return in November for another season. We decided that it was time to tarry as we began the process of readying the boat for haul-out. We spent most mornings cleaning and re-organizing supplies, deciding what things we would want to take back to the States and what things could remain safe for our 6 month hiatus. We would make a trip to shore to find our way to the marina where we would leave the boat. One morning we made our way to the dinghy dock, stopped at the chandlery and off across the island for Clarkes Court Marina. We figured we had about a 4 mile walk. We had great marine maps, but to find an accurate land map was nearly impossible. We did make our way to Lost Loon’s previous home at Spice Island Marina, and were lucky to get a shuttle ride to Clarkes. It was a sweltering day by the time we arrived. We were greeted by some great staff and showed around so we knew where we were headed on our approach. As luck would have it we were able to catch a bus ride most of the way back to where we left the dinghy that morning.
WE would spend the next week and a half getting the boat ready for the BIG HAUL..cleaning and forever organizing.
Next up….decomissioning the boat for the Summer…and things I miss…a new family member (!)..summer projects.
Thanks for stopping and reading. Please find the comment section …leave your thoughts Love hearing from everyone!