Friday, December 30, 2016

Out of Practice

Hi there. Remember us? It's been a while. I'm a little rusty on the blogging front but I'll give it my best and ask in advance for forgiveness for the super short post.

If this were a usual year we'd be afloat again and enjoying the company of the floating community in the Caribbean.... but it's not a usual year for a pretty cool reason. We're about to be grandparents!

Yikes. Yay! Crikey. Really? Cool. Whoa. Wow!

Yep - Skip's daughter Eliza, who was married last October, is about to have a baby. As in tomorrow. So no photos of blue Caribbean water in this post. Just this photo of what we see each evening up here in wintery Newport.

Stay tuned for incredibly sappy gushy post with baby photos coming soon.... and stayed tuned a few weeks more for photos of lovely blue Caribbean waters. We're planning to return to Saralane after we kiss baby fingers and toes for a few weeks.

Happy new year all!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Times flies (again)

I haven't done a "Time flies" post since January 2013, and since I've used "Blog-free month" twice already this seems as good a time as any for another "Time flies".  Either would work. So.....

Backing up a few days before we said goodbye to Free Spirit... John spotted a big Fortress anchor on the bottom near them (not attached to another boat!) and because boys will be boys, he and Skip decided to dive for it, haul it up into our dinghy and check it out. It had clearly been there for a while and was covered in barnacles. We took it to the beach and scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed it.

"Hey, let's haul up this big crusty anchor and load it into the dinghy!"
We took a few breaks to play with this little guy named Scrumpy who was SO happy to have someone tossing a tennis ball down the beach for him.

Pleeeeaaaasssee.... throw the ball!!"
Looks better.
Lovely day at Jolly Beach
After the anchor salvage operation, we spent a few lazy days around Jolly, then sailed for Barbuda for one more visit. Another boat sailing for the Azores, s/v Tern, crossed our bow as we headed to Barbuda and I got a few shots of them on their first day out. It looked pretty bouncy, but we chatted with them on the SSB days later and heard that they were doing well after their rough start.

So long Free Spirit!
Tern - headed for the Azores
We settled in at Coco Point, Barbuda alongside friends Maggie & Al on s/v Sweet Dreams and John & Angela on s/v Galadrial. 

Seems John & Angela have a pot of gold aboard Galadrial.
John H needed yet more patching as well as a good overall cleaning, so we took him ashore and tried using lemon juice to clean the dinghy... a trick John & Alex taught us. Wipe the dirty surface with lemon juice (no need to rub it in) and let it sit while you go for a long walk on the beach. When you get back - voila! A clean dinghy. Pretty cool.

Sorry it took us so long to clean you John H...
One more patch... for now
Saralane stays clear of the beautiful squall that spent a day stalled over the west side of Barbuda
I stay clear of it too

After almost a week in Barbuda, we can't put off our departure any longer. We head back to Antigua and get ready to haul out. 

Gulls fly by as we leave for Antigua

Last year we stayed in a rented villa while we hauled out and it made the whole turn-the-boat-inside-out thing much easier to manage, so we decided to do the same this year. I've gotten so bad about taking photos that I have zero pictures of the villa, which was fantastic. It had a private dock where we tied up Saralane for a few days before being lifted, so when we finished each day's dirty work of decommissioning the boat, we could simply walk away from the mess for the night. Nice.

Danny lifts Saralane
Mario asks if we want the bottom pressure washed. Yes please, though it looks pretty clean

Boat turned inside-out
A newly clean and patched John H, neatly tucked away and tied down on deck
Sails and canvas off, outboard covered...
Saralane is safely stored for a few months and we're back in the states, but still somehow feeling halfway between here and there. It's nice to be back and we're looking forward to being on land for a while but we're already missing our floating friends and the lifestyle we've come to love. Our one year plan to sail to the Bahamas and back has turned into six years of something so much more and we still don't know where it will take us. 

Meanwhile, I picked up the camera long enough to shoot this brief Barbuda video, which will have to tide us over until we return.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Island hopping back to Antigua

We've been making our way slowly back to Antigua, leaving behind the pretty beaches in Virgin Gorda, provisioning and spending time with friends in St Martin, snorkeling in St Barts and catching up with more friends in Nevis.

Picture perfect beach around the corner from North Sound Virgin Gorda
Distant squall on the way to St Martin

Sunrise and calm seas
We get fuel in a few places in St Martin, but my hands down favorite fuel dock is on the French side near the bridge. They have a pet goat that hangs out around the pumps and acts pretty much like a dog.

Mina the goat at 'her' dock
Awww... isn't she cute?!
On the other side of Mina's fuel dock is the dinghy dock where we tie up to go to one of the French markets. Next to the dinghy dock is a lobster shop and there are always baskets in the water where the lobsters are kept until they become a meal. 

Cleaning up

Sailing on to St Barts and looking back at St Martin and a beautiful cloud formation.
Next morning - sunrise over St Barts as we depart for Nevis
The wind was right for a stop in Nevis on our way to Antigua, plus our friends Fred and Dorothy on Aviva were there and we hadn't seen them on the water yet this year. A bonus was that there was a blues festival going on in Nevis that we'd be able to listen in on from the anchorage - nice! An even bigger (and unexpected) bonus was the huge mass of sargasso weed we sailed past on the way to Nevis. 

These giant masses of seaweed are perfect hangouts for fish so we made a beeline for the edge of the weed and caught four mahi in about an hour. No doubt we could have kept pulling in fish for hours, but we had more than our share, so we hailed Aviva on the VHF and told them we'd be arriving later than we anticipated, but dinner was on us!

One, two...
The dark strip in the back is the weed we were used to seeing. We hadn't seen the milky lighter bit before this.
Our visit with Aviva was too short because we were leaving early in the morning for Antigua and they were headed over to St Kitts to pick up visitors, but we had a great mahi dinner and a few games of dice.

Hi Aviva! Bye Aviva! See you in Newport maybe this summer?
Looking back at St Kitts as we leave sister island Nevis on our way to Antigua
Finally on to Antigua where we catch up with friends John and Alex on s/v Free Spirit. We met these two just over a year ago when we were welcomed in to a new circle of friends.... "Friends of Denis" to be specific... but haven't been in the same place at the same time since then. We reconnected in St Martin where they'd just finished repowering Free Spirit, and had some really fun evenings in their company. 

It's our habit when we're anchored in Jolly Harbor to knock off whatever we're doing at about four in the afternoon and dinghy over to a tiny beach nearby. John and Alex started to join us there as did a few other boats and soon our little beach was full of friends each day.

Skip, John and Alex in Antigua
Tiny shells from the tiny beach
As with Aviva, our time with Free Spirit was much too short. They're headed back across the Atlantic - final destination unknown. If ever there was an aptly named boat, Free Spirit is it. We miss them already! 

Alex and John - ready for anything.
 I'll leave it here for now.... and I promise some lovely Barbuda shots in the next post!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Mega Back(b)log

The only other "Back(b)log" I posted was back in December of 2011 when our friends Steve and Cindy showed up and all we did was play. No work. No blogs. No anything. I'm sensing a pattern here and will lay the blame for this back(b)log squarely on the friends and family that came down and encouraged us to spend time playing and totally ignore all other responsibilities. You know who you are. And if you don't.... you'll see yourselves here in this post!

First, there's Denise and Jean Pierre on Absaroque, whose company we continue to enjoy whenever we find each other in the same anchorage. They still whip us in dice games, though we win a few now and then. We did our usual meals together and again rented a car for a whirlwind shopping trip around the island. If you want to know where to get bargains on wine, foie gras, cheese or just about anything else.... track down Absaroque and ask.

JP kindly holds my glass up for a toast to our friendship
Next up are Tiffany and Josh, with their French bulldog Jacques, on Occam's Razor. They're friends from Rhode Island who are on their maiden voyage in the islands on their fast and funky catamaran. That big yellow cat in any anchorage? It's them.

Occam's arrives! Tiff photographs me, photographing her.
Occam's had a few rough sails (to say the least) on their trip down and were grateful to finally be in the quiet (if not very swimmy) waters of the lagoon. So what do they do as they try to anchor? They pick up a massive chain lying on the bottom. You might say it's a rite of passage of sorts... and if you haven't done it yet, you probably will someday. A couple of guys nearby reach them before we do and help them disentangle so they can re-anchor. Welcome to St Martin Occam's!

Who put that anchor chain there?
We weren't sure we'd see Tiff and Josh since we were on different tracks up until now so this was a treat for us all. Secretly, we really wanted to see Jacques most of all - though to Tiff and Josh that's not much of a secret. He's a sweet quirky little guy and we love him. He's not much of a water dog but seems to have adjusted to this watery lifestyle pretty well.

Jacques comes over for a visit
The crews of Absaroque, Occam's and Saralane all love to cook (and eat), so we gathered on the big yellow cat for some food and drink and socializing. Denise and JP spoke French to Jacques and funny thing - he seemed to understand. Hmmmm...

Around the table from L: Tiffany, Denise, Jean Pierre, Josh, Skip

On the morning radio net we'd been hearing a very enthusiastic young Spanish woman advertising her services as a massage therapist... "Hi, I'm Sylvia from Spain! I give super good deep tissue massage...!" etc. I wish I had a recording of her energetic, cheerful and forceful delivery. She made us laugh each time we heard her on the radio, with her thick Spanish accent and happy self confidence. Since Tiff and I both love a good massage, and since Occam's Razor has a huge back 'deck', we called her and had her come over for massages. She was as energetic and cheerful in person as she was on the radio.... she's been sailing down here with friends for a few years, and is having the time of her young life.

Dinghy + massage table + can do spirit = Sylvia
From top L: Tiff & Josh finding out how frustrating it is to find wifi on St Martin, Sylvia - the traveling liveaboard massage therapist, waitress at Coco Loco on Orient Beach where we stopped for lunch with Absaroque, Orient Beach view complete with blue beach umbrellas
Brilliant rainbow caps off the crummy weather that had been hanging around St Martin
Everyone had plans to make a break for somewhere new when the weather was right and it wasn't long before we all went off in different directions. We had friends and family coming to the USVI so we headed off for the BVI first.

The familiar early morning departure from Grand Case, St Martin
Good thing we bought a new BVI flag - the old flag is looking a little bedraggled
Our usual first stop in the BVI is along the south shore of Prickly Pear Island and when we arrived and attempted to anchor.... the windlass said 'I don't think so'. Time to tear the boat apart to get to the windlass and all the tools and bits and pieces needed to test/replace what needs testing/replacing. 

More messiness
The good news is that the problem wasn't as bad as we thought. The better news is that we decided to have friends bring a replacement part with them when they visit in case the next time the windlass quits, it really quits. 

We stuck around North Sound long enough to do laundry and ogle the big boats that were there for the annual super yacht regatta hosted by the YCCS. No fancy pool time for us at the YCCS while they were busy with actual customers.


Looks big close up...
...and big from far away. That's Saralane in the bottom left corner closest to shore.
Big and beautiful
For as much time as we've spent anchored here over the years, we've never hiked on Prickly Pear Island, so this time we followed the goat trails up and enjoyed the scenery.

From top L: driftwood, flamingo in the salt pond, tamarind tree, trail along the pond
The view from Prickly Pear... whitecaps everywhere.... very windy!
Baby goat... pretty darn cute.
Our Ithaca friends Rob, Marybeth, Jim and Heidi were due to arrive on St John, overlapping with a visit by Miles, Lex and their friend Becky - all were renting houses on the island and we decided to stay in Francis Bay to be able to connect easily with everyone. 

Boys in the water; girls on the beach
Heidi and Marybeth
Lex, Miles, Skip, Jim, Marybeth,Heidi, Rob, me..... missing is Becky who did the camera work.
The lovely Becky, with a Dark & Stormy
Jim, Rob and Lex get acquainted
Miles, Skip, Heidi and Marybeth
Heidi and Marybeth

By not so strange coincidence, our Ithaca friends ended up renting the house that Miles and Lex rented previously. They were hoping to book the house again this time, until I mentioned it to Rob when they were looking for a rental. Seems the Ithacans hit the "book it" button faster than Miles and Lex did when they made their plans! It was really fun to have everyone there for an evening and Miles, Lex and Becky were good sports about missing out on the house this time. 

We'd loaded up on food and drink in St Martin, where everything is less pricey and more available than in the Virgins, and unloaded it into the lovely house. There was an extra bedroom in the house and we had the unexpected pleasure of staying ashore with them for the week. A week in a square non-moving bed. A week of daily hot showers. Room to spread out. The company of good friends. Very nice.
Lex, Miles, Skip, me in Francis Bay
After snorkeling along the shore in Francis for a few days, we took the Ithaca crowd out on Saralane for a day and they got their fill of swimming and snorkeling off the boat. Along with the usual mix of pretty fish and coral, they got to see a nurse shark (those who didn't flee when I said "Look... a shark!") patrolling the shoreline. Mostly though it was an escape-the-cold-soak-up-the-sun kind of week.

Heidi gives two thumbs up
Jim and Rob make lots of bubbles
Lunch on deck between snorkels
A hike to the America Hill house gives us a great view of Francis and Maho Bays
Heidi, Marybeth, Skip, Rob and Jim... notice a Block Island/Grateful Dead vibe in this group?
Skip and I have been visiting these four on their annual vacation on Block Island for years, but since we've been down here there's been talk of a get together in the Caribbean too. This year it finally came together and it was long awaited and much too short! Maybe we'll see them out on the Block again this summer when we're back in Rhode Island. Good to see you all.... and thanks for ferrying down all the goodies we kept having shipping to you!

It's normally just Skip and me in the dinghy and it seems that having six people in dinghy was just a little too much for the old John H. He popped a seam and started losing air fast. Sorry John! We mixed up a bubbly solution to spray on and once we pinpointed the leak we worked out a patch of sorts. It seems to be working pretty well so far but John's looking a little sad with all the patching we've done this year.

Big bubbles give away the leaky spot
Lots of new patches
It was pretty quiet after all the visitors left and we walked the beach, swam, snorkeled and spent time with friends on nearby boats. 

Waterline on the rocky shore

A crowd for sunset drinks on s/v Always Summer  

Steve and Eva from s/v Music making their evening rounds as Bay Hosts, with super cool cat Kedi riding up front
One very cool cat
Lots of sailors come to the beach for a get together
Steve plays the guitar when we get together one night on their aptly named boat, s/v Music

Eva, also a musician, and always smiling
Me, Eva and Laurie from s/v Reality Check
We've gotten to know Steve and Eva pretty well over the past few weeks and are sorry to see them leave. They're headed to Florida with plans to sell Music and look for another boat. Maybe we'll see them back here again? We hope so.

I first titled this post "Back(b)log but added the 'Mega' since it seems to have developed into a mega blog without me noticing and I think it's only right to give you fair warning that it's a long one!  But, that brings us up to date and with no new plans for friends to visit I'll have fewer excuses for not keeping up with the blog. 

Gotta end this long post with a simple sunset. 

Sunset in Francis Bay