The Sailing

    Yes we have to do a little catching up. OK….perhaps a LOT of catching up. The internet has been sparse and the stops very interesting so we have neglected the blog. Then there is always the meeting of other cruisers and a bit of socializing of course but, back to the catching up.

English Harbour, Antigua

    Our sail from Virgin Gorda to St Maarten was one of our best passages yet. We motored out of Gorda Sound mid afternoon, shut down Nanni and sailed off through the sunset, through the perfect starlit night, and watched the sun rise over St Maarten. Calm seas, perfect wind, stars, and shooting stars everywhere. We especially loved it since we had blown our main sail a week earlier on what was to be a “gentle” sail around St Thomas. We felt we were due for a comfortable stress free crossing sooner or later. Now we are determined to make it to Trinidad with just our remaining (2nd reef point) mainsail and fix it or replace it there. Hey, we are supposedly in the trade winds now where it blows 15-20 every day so two reefs should be about right, right?

    Since then we have visited Saba for some of the best snorkeling I have ever done, met with some old friends Robert and Vicki from FoxSea, spent nearly a week at Antigua followed by a few days down the coast of Guadelope and are now resting in Isles Des Saintes.

Visit by the Dutch Coast Guard
    Every one of these places has been a worthwhile stop and we’re making notes on where to spend more time on the way back. Also looking to pick a spot to spend x-mas and invite the rest of the family. Clearly the French islands have it over on everyone when it comes to the food and the low to no hassle check in and out. The people are friendly and good looking , and did I mention the food?? Next stop is Dominica as we’re looking to depart here early next week. Word is the local produce is great and fair priced so a bit of stocking up may be in order.


Sublime Saba

On the trail up to Mt Scenery.
I'm forced to admit that until I started to read the guide about where we should go after St Martin,  I didn't even know Saba existed.  Which seems to be a good thing, not a lot of other people do either.  It's a part of the Dutch Antilles, although most of the people speak English. It's a tiny island, only 5 square miles, but it goes up 3000 feet.  From the water there are very sheer cliffs and hillsides, almost no beach. 
In the center of the island is Mt Scenery, a climb of some 1064 steps. 
The steps are steep, wet with moss and rain and dead leaves, en even.  Steve said it was like climbing the Great Wall, some steps were 6 inches tall and some were 18. Due to my unreliable right knee and my absolute terror of falling and being laid up, I didn't do the whole climb.  I left the group about a third of the way up and, using my trusty walking stick, made my way down an equally wet and steep trail, stopping often to listen to the birds and watch the goats and geckos. 
I met up with Steve, Anne and Chris at the bottom and we headed for the nearest bar for hydration.

Until recently, when the docks and breakwater were installed on the south side of the island, the only way on to Saba was through Ladder Bay. It's named for the 800 steps that go up from the water.  There is an old Customs House about half way up (it's just about in the center of the picture) and according to the guide "Everything from the outside had to be carried up, including, at different times, a piano and a bishop".

The snorkeling was the best we've seen to date. Water so clear we could see the bottom from 45 feet, hundreds and hundreds of fish, corals, sponges and one very curious barracuda. There was a tunnel through the rocks along the shore that we snorkeled through, a first for me.  In the picture above, you can see Chris and Anne snorkeling around the base of Diamond Rock.  From the distance, it does look like it is a faceted rock, but from up close, you can see that it's just bird poop.
                                                    Mt Scenery, as we sail away.
Saba is a spectacular place and if you are looking for a great off the beaten path vacation spot to dive and hike, I highly recommend it.


Virgin Gorda

We left the US Virgin Islands and made our way very slowly east to Virgin Gorda.  The wind was on the nose as we headed down the Sir Frances Drake Channel.  Since it's not possible to sail a boat into the wind we made a large zigzag back and forth across it.  This is known as tacking.  We tacked and tacked and tacked.  To go 18 miles, we went 29. Trust me, it makes sense if you're a sailor. 
The ride was worth it. The next morning we picked up a mooring and snorkeled into the area known as The Baths.  Giant, house-sized, granite boulders falling down the hillside and into the sea.  Hiking up and around them was beautiful and snorkeling along them was like being in an aquarium. Bright fish and waving coral, clear, clear water.  We were lucky and got there before the tourist boats arrived and as the crowds headed to shore, we headed back to the boat, a quick rinse off and a second cup of coffee.

One of the many interesting rock formations at The Baths. I thought it looked like a half-buried skull.
We're currently at anchor on the north end of Virgin Gorda, planning to leave this afternoon for an overnight sail to St Martin/Sint Maarten.  It's about 80 miles, so we should arrive around noon Friday.  Blog you then!


Caribbean Blues

Another Cool Thing...

I almost forgot about the coolest thing we did in Puerto Rico!
About 55 years ago my dad was a student at St John's University in Minnesota. He was the second son in an Irish family, I think he was supposed to be a priest, but 5 kids later...  So anyway, there were students at St John's from Puerto Rico.  What they thought about the upper Midwest winters, I can't imagine. (actually,yes, I can imagine. I imagine they thought they'd been sent to hell to freeze their asses off) My dad and Sig Cruz became friends. Sig went home with dad for holidays and visited from Minneapolis in the summers.  Sig and my grandpa Ray golfed together. In 1956 Dad visited Sig in Humacao, PR, checked out the girls on the beaches.  Sig stayed in MN for 8 years and then moved back to Humacao.  Dad and Sig have stayed in touch all these years.
I sent Sig an email in February, telling him who we were and that we were planning to be in PR for a month or so and would love to finally meet him.  He wrote back right away and plans were made.  Actually, tentative plans were made.  What really happened was that we arrived in La Pargara after an ungodly early morning sail, cranky and in need of more coffee when he called and said, "We're here. I brought my family to meet you!"  So we went to shore, substituted beer for coffee and had a great visit. 
When we got around to the east end of the island, we were invited to their beautiful home for dinner.  Sig's wife, Marie, doesn't speak much English and Steve doesn't speak Spanish, so there was a lot of laughing and teasing.  At one point Marie hugged Steve and said, in Spanish, "If you stayed one week, I'd be speaking English and you'd speak Spanish!"
My parents wedding, Sig was best man.

Marie and Sig Cruz, Steve, at their home.
Sig was reminiscing about being in Minnesota and told a great story about his mother.  She never went to school and so couldn't read or write.  Sig's sisters didn't want to write letters for her to her son so far away and so at the age of 50 she went to school and learned to read and write.  He said he still has the letters she wrote to him.