Tuesday, 26 March 2013

St John US Virgin Island part 2

Position 18°20N 64° 42W
26th March and some photos from the previous blog.

St John: In Cruz bay its a busy place with lots of colourful taxis, bars and small shops we didn't check it all out which is a pity but I guess this will be one of the other isles to re visit in the future.

Here are a few photos taken at the Annaberg sugar mill.

We had heard another member of the group from Cartagena was at anchor in Coral bay so we proceeded to motor the 2 and a half hours, (wind not good on the nose). Lenny from Feijao is alone at the moment as Gina is working on Necker, so we invited him across for drinks, Don and Lenny did the Painkillers justice and a few beers too.

The photo of Coral Bay was taken when we went on the taxi trip
This is where we were at anchor in Coral Bay

Some colourful residents here

These guys are big, don't bite but a slap from the tail would be very painful

Lenny and Don
Don with his extra legs and feet

There is a very popular bar here named Skinny legs, which can get very busy, I asked the waitress "are so many people drunk they leave their shoes behind", I was right 

Floating bar I wonder if it would come to us

Zoom in to see the sign

Next stop St Thomas or Puerto Rico.

No idea if we will have the "net" so keep a look out.

Agua Therapy
Don and Glenys Graham

BVI's and US virgin isles

19th March -25th
Position in Sopers Hole 18°23N 64°42W

So far the BVI's and the US Virgins
After a great overnighter with the wind behind us from St Martin we were in Tortola, Virgin Isles. Our original plan was Virgin Gorda not far off Mr Bransons place but as we were having such a great sail we moved on to Tortola one of the British Isles.

So into the bay of Sopers Hole Tortola, it was so busy, so many boats and it was if one boat left another was waiting, luckily we spotted Halsway Grace, Robin and Sue our neighbours from St Martin and Robin very kindly picked up the eye on the buoy that was not showing on the surface. The poor guy was soaked we were very grateful.

Sopers Hole a busy place with a rainbow
Nice houses on the hill in Sopers Hole
Don went with the dinghy to check in and once again paid for the customs and immigration, we had to return again to check out. 
Sopers hole does have a marina but its quite busy with tourists and a noisy place. There is a supermarket with great provisions from all over the world, at a PRICE. I bought some fresh ginger to make our own ginger beer, Iv'e made 3 batches now each one better than the last, I have to keep checking the bottles so they don't explode. 
Oh we did discover the "painkiller" a smashing rum cocktail with pussers rum pineapple orange and coconut topped off with nutmeg and lots of ice.

Home of the Pussers Rum
We had to have a couple of painkillers while we sheltered from the rain
The following day we shared a taxi into the capital not much to see but somehow we forgot about the museum. We asked the taxi driver if he could recommend a place to eat so he took us to where he easts his lunch in town, a local place and I guess not many tourist eat there they gave us great service and the food was really good.

The last night in Sopers hole after a painkiller we still went back to the boat in the dinghy while it persisted down with rain so that was another soaking at least the water was warm, maybe next time it happens we will have the shower gel and shampoo with us.

The following morning we checked out then went a short distance to Norman Island into The Bight, picked up a buoy again after the short sail across, its another 30 us $ fee to grab a buoy.
Nice place not much to see unless you take the dinghy, we did to the cave / hole in the rock where there were lots of people snorkelling, wow lots of fish everywhere but most of the coral is dead.
Had a little trouble getting back into the dinghy lol the beached whale syndrome.

Next stop the USA Virgin Isle of St John.

Cruz bay where you have to check in
The USA customs is the yellow building on the left
Checking in next, first we tried to enter the anchorage, it was full and most were catamarans, its very shallow and we did touch the bottom but with a big burst of power to free us we were able to get out and anchor outside . So a long dinghy ride into the customs and national park office to check in the first time in the USA, here we were expecting a lot more formalities, apart from finger prints, photos taken and forms filled in 2 people asking questions that was it. No Fees to pay which was a surprise.

The National park building, very helpful people with lots of info
The prices of the buoys are half the BVI's for a buoy at 15$, you can see why the US citizens stay in the US virgins.

I couldn't decide which one to use pretty much the same view
Caneel Bay
Cruz Bay park

Great open air taxi's
Next Caneel Bay, a huge bay with lots of buoys but lots of traffic passing by so it was sometime quite rocky. 
The following day we went into Cruz bay with the dinghy the found a taxi driver and guide to take us around the island.
He stopped a few time to point out the various beaches and other islands across the water.

This is a shopping area just inside the port
We paid another visit to an old sugar mill, Annaberg sugar mill there were two volunteers there who explained about the plantation and its history, there were around 600 slaves working to produce the molasses and keep the sugar plants growing. Its much better preserved than the one on Dominica and they have "dumb"  bread making classes, pity I didn't ask what "dumb" bread is.
If you want to look at the place and its history  there is some very informative information here http://www.seestjohn.com/places_annaberg.html

We left Careen bay and onto Mayo Bay which is on the northern side of the island, it joins up with Francis bay. At last white sands and palm fringed beaches, Don went in first and snorkelled around the rocks, he found a nurse shark and patted its tail, I'm still not sure if they are harmless or not. I joined him then we snorkelled all round the rocks and onto the beach, its a long way.  The downside was the Puerto Rican navy started their one week leave and we were invaded buy at least a dozen motor boats which started to play loud music, they know how to party time to move on then!

As there are so many photo's to post I'm breaking this into 2 again

Agua Therapy
Don and Glenys Graham

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Sint Martin

Sint Maarten.

Position 18°01N 63°05W

A 7:30 start with a vile swell yet again, the sea legs threw a wobbly so Don once again took care of the trip alone again. Since then the remedies are close at hand and have worked (more later on that)

Transiting between the islands can be described sometimes either good, bad, boring or frantic, this trip was a real mixture with some winds, a swell then motor sailing which is noisy, one noise definitely not what we wanted to hear when I was below and heard a thump, Don was at the helm he heard it too and we thought one on the propeller blades had broken off, when we checked the stern we could see a thick rope streaming behind us so we think it was around the propeller. So skipper tried everything he could to free the rope without going into the water with the swell being high, the solution was to raise the main sail under power (very worrying) which meant steering into the wind and turn the boat back towards St Kitts. With Dons skills and someone must have been watching over us after a little while the rope untangled itself and went back to trap another unsuspecting yacht.
We have often thought about fitting a rope cutter but no way would that have cut up that thickness.

Saint Kitts to Sint Maarten, no its not a spelling mistake, took 9 and a half hours. 

We first anchored in Simpson bay outside the town as the bridge only opens at specific times, once inside there are lots of marinas some with super-yachts and other marinas smaller dotted around the bay. As we needed to chill for a while and visit the "boys toy shop for boaters" we checked into the Simpson Bay marina. 
How did you catch that lot

We walked back over the bridge to check in with customs and immigration then had lunch walked back to find  the chandlers. The following day I sorted out the tidying up and the washing and Don went to 2 chandlers to buy containers for both petrol and diesel not wanting to run short of fuel again.  
People having fun
Another yacht came alongside, the skipper Rob and his wife Sue, we had a few drinks a couple of nights and shared cruising stories. They did say cruising is "like a floating village" its true you do see the same people as you travel to different places. 

The busses run frequently and we caught one to Philipsburg the capital, again the port is full of "tourist trap shops" 
selling just about everything, diamonds, designer clothes, sports cars, in fact it looks like a shoppers paradise.
Old Street

The island is "duty free" and the prices are quite good so we did re stock on the rum and get a replacement for the Nikon camera that died together with a GoPro video camera which is waterproof so when we have practised a little you will see more photos.

Agua Therapy
Don and Glenys

St Kitts part 2

Saint Kitts part 2  March – March 1th 2013

The anchorage we stayed in has a commercial port and a new shopping mall for the thousands of tourists that arrive almost daily on enormous cruise ships, it always makes us wonder if they ever see any of the places they visit when they arrive in the morning and have to be back onboard by five in the afternoon. 

We strolled about the town and through the park and met up with another couple from another yacht in the anchorage, we suggested we share the tour that we had booked the following day, its always more fun in numbers.

Dons new hair and hat

Big Fish

Dinner still walking

Brimstone Hill Fort

This could have been my new pet

Big guns

Islands Statia and Saba 

Romney Manor

National Park

Some of the garden in Romney Manor

Talen in Wingfeild Estate

Although our stay in Saint Kitts was short we did enjoy what we saw, we took advantage of an island tour with a local driver George who is quite a character. One of his many professions, as policeman, local government, customs officer, too many to mention he was a history teacher and knows pretty much all there is to know about the islands history. He took us along the coast explaining along the way about the island hundreds of years ago. Sir Thomas Warner landed here with a group of settlers in 1623 making it the first British Caribbean colony. A French group joined them  and them joined with them to massacre the 2000 Caribs. Afterwards the French and British fell out and ended up fighting for 150 years, sounds familiar ?
St Kitts and Nevis the sister isle became British under the treaty of Versailles in 1783. Today there are roughly 50,000 inhabitants. 
We noticed the remains of the railway tracks in places which took the sugar cane around the island, apparently there is a scenic tourist train which runs but we heard its unreliable, I would hate to think it would break down in an isolated place and have to walk back in that heat.

In the heights were green vervet monkeys hiding in the trees but it was too dark to take photos, the only close shots I could have taken were of the guys carrying monkeys with nappies on taking money from the tourists. The monkeys were taken from Africa as pets by the planters so the ones there now are descendants from all those years ago.

At various times they grew cotton, tobacco, sugar cane, and of course rum, now it looks like the economy mostly depends on tourism.  

One of the places we went to was the old distillery which is no longer in use.

Brimstone Hill Fortress built in 1690 by the British in an effort to recapture Fort Charles on the coast below from the French occupation.
It must have been an enormous task taking all the stone to the top of the hill however they used African slave workers. Although the fortress over the years fell into disrepair in 1965 and 1973 the society for restoration was founded. HRH Price Charles reopened the first restoration. The views from the top are spectacular, I wouldn't have thought much would go unseen below, you can picture hundreds of soldiers firing their cannons onto the French.

Queen Elizabeth unveiled a plaque in 1985 signifying Brimstone Hill Fortress as a national park, there are photographs of both visit from the Queen and the previous visit from Prince Charles on the wall scruffy and so normal looking just postcard size not even in a frame.

There is way too much for me to write so should you be interested there is a website here www.brimstonehillfortress.org

The plan was to stay overnight in an anchorage in the north of the island which is protected by a reef but after George showed us neither of us thought it would have been a good idea. 

Black rock has to be one of the most dramatic places I have seen, the colour of the sea crashing onto the rocks making white foam, what a stunning site. As we looked over the sea I was being followed everywhere by a very friendly donkey, it tried to nibble Dons hand, no we don't have another pet besides it wouldn't have liked the dinghy ride. 

Must apologise for the photos being all over the place the internet is not too good.

Next blog Sint Martin
Agua Therapy
Don and Glenys Graham