Best Birthday Ever or “I Can’t Believe My Eyes!”

Family..but who’s sailing the boat??

The day starts bright and we had been planning a birthday weekend for ‘ you know who’ …to navigate the bays of St John..a special time, just Mike and I ( so I thought) … and 3 pounds of shrimp, 2 packages of tuna, an extra bottle of rum, and no argument when I wanted 2 bottles of Pinot,  ( when he  usually prefers Malbec), along with his suggestion for a couple of sweet potatoes, extra broccoli, and more Romaine. But its my birthday right?? If nothing else, we gonna eat like royalty!

We had been on quite a few provisioning runs around Charlotte Amalie and at the end of the day joined up with our friends Bryan and Polly for a refreahment . Just like the cruisers we are, we bought a 6-pack of President beer , found a park bench and enjoyed the late afternoon and regaled our accomplishments. It had become a tradition… now that we had done it twice??? Ha ha

Back to Thursday morning, I am waffling about getting a much needed haircut.

1.  The cost.. ok so its my birthday ( excuse enough?)

2.  The covid thing. Could I sit in a salon for 30-45  min getting my hair washed cut and styled with a mask and hope not to catch anything??

3. My sister in law had agreed to help Mike via video cut this crazy mop. ( of course I trust HER!! But In all that Mike can do.. I was afraid.  Plus where would the hair go? Everywhere on the boat . I’D BE CLEANING LOCKS OFF OF EVERYTHING.)

I think it was that last thought that sold me on the salon.

We had coffee and took the dinghy to yacht basin dinghy dock and it was a 3 min walk to the salon. Mike said he’d be back when I called.

I arrived at the door but it was not open. Checked the watch 10:00. Rechecked my text message with the appointment time. Ok ‘ Island time’

About 10:10, after some worry, I had the wrong place, or time, and just about then, the owner showed up and told me my stylist was on the way. To my surprise… no one else was there. There was another woman who showed up as I was leaving, but my fears of a crowded salon were relieved. And my stylist walked in with this long kinky curly head of hair… I think we could have passed for sisters 20 yrs ago. She was THE right person for the job, and the cut was perfect!!

I depart the salon pretty happy that I got a great birthday present, I call Mike, and we head back to the boat.

We had spent a few days of much needed polishing and cleaning. What is funny in retrospect is as soon as Mike started a job, I would find something like the stove or the bathrooms to clean. Why not have a sparkling ‘house’ for your birthday weekend. And so we did a bit more cleaning…polishing the plastic doger sections, reorganizing the kitchen. .. By mid afternoon I get a text from my friend Polly. ” we’ve been out all day shopping, want to meet for a beer?” Back to the tradition we had set.

With the sun coming in the cockpit, its HOT. A beer sounds good, but I really need a shower. So we quickly get wet, change clothes and head for our favorite park bench.

We open and down 6 bottles between the 4 of us, as the sun goes down behind the luxury yachts in the marina and we watch people coming and going at the end of the day, walking dogs, jogging, making grocery runs. Mike stands up looks at his phone (?) and asks if he should get another 6 pack. I’m kinda full if beer, but Polly says sure she’ll share one with Brian. So who am I to argue. It will be cooler if the sunsets, and we have invited Polly and Brian to the boat for burgers. I’m in for the logic.

Mike leaves. For the life of me I can’t even recall what story I was telling Polly and Brian, but I’m looking off in the distance and my brain registers.. ” oh that girl has same body type and skin color as…. OMG ! Brain cells fire! Its Kelsey! and tailing her is Christopher. I let one explicative fly, and my heart is about to stop, and I realize what’s happening.

I’ve been set up for the most wonderful surprise of my life! I’m in tears now… I look at Polly and Bryan and I think they had wet eyes as well. Big hugs… but where’s Mike? 2 minutes later he’s back with the beers and has missed the unfolding surprise.

I regain my composure and then cant believe I didn’t see the signs….the food, alcohol, radio silence from both kids this week, Kelseys insistence on meeting us in St Lucia , and all the cleaning of the boat.

I need another beer now. We sit briefly and discuss their covert operation…. Kelsey’s ruse, Mike keeping me from seeing his text messages ( funny how he was saying his muskey fishing friends that were texting him alot?? It’s not even muskey season),   Christopher just plain off the grid, and my friends Polly and Bryan playing along.

We had a great weekend. Kelsey has been on the boat twice before, but to get Chris aboard was a delight. He has never seen Lost Loon!! Many thanks to his wife Jenni for encouraging him.

We anchored in Waterlemon. Hiked to the ruins.

We snorkeled, Chris fished in the flatsand Kelsey and I hiked to Coral Bay, 5 miles round trip.

Mike had wanted to dive with Chris, but we didn’t think we had enough weights. When Kelsey arrived in Coral Bay, we were within 1/4 mile of Busy Bee dive shop. We bought extra weights.. and carried them back to the boat.

We sailed to Christmas Cove and Mike and Chris took off to dive Cow and Calf dive spot.

We made some good meals, drank some good wine, had a couple great sunset happy hours.

Feeling blessed that these two made a big effort for my birthday weekend. I will cherish the memories and hope to repeat some day, somewhere.

Hoping you find blessings in your life today. Have a great week!

Never say never

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.

Sailing downwind…one last time

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.

Motoring Bare poles into Benner Bay for the haul out

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.

Sunrise Red Hook

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!

Miami airport was eerily deserted on our arrival.

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!

Redfish prize
Sunrise

Next up the journey north….there are walleyes to catch on Lake Vermilion!!!

Take care friends, stay well!

I’ve Got You Babe..

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.

Backyard
Neighborhood

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!

So this is a pizza boat. They used to be anchored in Christmas Cove, but work out of Benner Bay now from 11-7 each day

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 🤣

Yep, desperate times call for desperate measures!

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!!!

Make it a great day!

Finally got the GoPro app to work!! Diving The Ledges, St James Island, USVI

Back in the Virgin Islands…a beautiful place of healing…

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North Sound, Virgin Gorda

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.

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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.

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Leverick Bay Marina, rebuilding. These boats are missing something very important!

 

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.

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Spanish Town lettered with boats ashore

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.

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The Bight at Norman Island, as beautiful as ever

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Pristine snorkeling waters at Privateer Bay, Normal Island

 

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.

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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.

 

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Great dinner at Amalia Cafe, Charlotte Amalie!

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!

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Priceless