1st - 9th April
Ensenada Dakity is a lovely little spot tucked behind the reef just over a mile from Ensenada Honda where we anchored last time. Although it was a long dingy ride to town we decided that sitting in blue water surrounded by turtles was infinitely preferable to being in a crowded anchorage. We even spotted a solitary flamingo on the reef towards sunset. Too far for a decent photo but great through the binos. We did go into town on Sunday and caught a taxi over to Flamenco beach. It comes highly recommended as one of the ten best beaches in the Caribbean. It certainly was gorgeous but we didn't swim as the surf was up with huge rollers coming in as a result of the northerly winds.
On our return we stopped off at the Dinghy Dock for a drink and downloaded emails. What a surprise. Jon Lister on Hecla of Uist had posted his first blog for 3 years and he was only 3nm miles away from us! Unbelievable. The last email we had from him said that he was on his way to Panama. All was now clear, the Warrior in Ensenada Almodovar was Hecla without her blue ensign! We made Ocean Rainbow ready for sea immediately and weighed anchor. This time we made no attempt to sail, we fired up Victor Volvo and motored around to Almodovar. Exceptionally good to meet up with Jon again. We had the most marvellous evening trying to catch up on 3 years of news.
On Monday we both set sail for St Thomas. It was just fabulous to be sailing with Hecla again. We have missed our friendly races, the swapping of 'Warrior' tips, the shared sundowners and suppers. When we sailed south and Jon north for our first hurricane season in the Caribbean, it never occurred to us that it would be three years before our wakes would cross paths again. It is just brilliant to be able to finish our Caribbean sailing in his company. It kind of closes the circle.
Ocean Rainbow is performing really well .... she managed to sail into Brewers Bay ahead of Hecla where we anchored, leaving enough space for Jon to drop his hook behind us. Another supper together and more catching up.
Then on Tuesday a quick trip into town on the safari taxi bus to see the sights and do some shopping in the large Pueblo. Supper on board Hecla this time and a totally delicious Thai curry. On Wednesday we weighed anchor and sailed for Round Bay to meet up with PR2. As we sailed past Charlotte Amelie the familiar lines of PR2 came into view with full sails set. The three Warriors sailed together to Round Bay where Ocean Rainbow was first to anchor, followed by Hecla who had just pipped PR2 at the post. Not that we were racing!!
We had a bit of a puzzle about names of bays and it now turns out that Round Bay is the generic area name with Hansen's Bay as the middle bay and White Bay to the north. All the beaches are owned by Thalia and her family who have inherited them from their great grandfather who, when released from slavery, made a claim on the land and then was wise enough to get his claim legalised...... well that's the story as Thalia tells it! She was extremely welcoming when we stepped ashore clutching snorkels and fins though she did try and tell us that there was a small charge to park our car! We had been told that yachties weren't welcome ashore but that isn't the case and PR2 even managed to dump their rubbish (they'd dinghied ashore).
Our guide book (Don Street) said that there was a sunken wreck in the bay but, despite swimming miles, we saw nothing more exciting than a sunken corroded trailer! There was a lovely ray close to OR and there are turtles too, so definitely something to look at, although not spectacular snorkelling.
The Friday night jamboree in Coral Cove at Skinny Legs is not to be missed so at lunchtime we weighed anchor at Round Bay and motored the two miles across to Coral Cove anchoring in the bay. Pete suggested we take the opportunity to have a Warrior photo shoot so Robbie and Claire took to the dinghy, armed with Pete's big camera, and tried their hand at being David Bailey. Photography is a tricky art but we do now have a couple of lovely photos of the 3 boats line abreast. In the evening we went ashore to Skinny Legs where a great little trio played our type of music very well indeed. The girl on the double bass was excellent and the rhythm had us up there dancing! Burgers, crisps and salad were the basic menu ... not chips you note as that would require a deep fat fryer and Skinny Legs doesn't do deep fat frying! A great idea. No smelly cooking oil and potentially a healthier meal ... just depends how many beers are drunk! Coral Cove is really a hamlet with a few shops geared for the passing tourist trade. The Emmaus Moravian church, built in 1733, commands the best view of the bay and is a reminder of the town's former glory as the main town on the island.
On Saturday we took the bus into Cruz Bay and walked around the town. All visitors to St Johns have to come by boat as there is no airport so the centre of activity is the ferry dock. The little plaza fills with folk and their suitcases according to the ferry timings. At lunchtime, on Saturday, the youth steel pan band set up in the bandstand in time to welcome the ferry ... and hopefully collect some money towards their band equipment. They were really very musical despite their youth. We like St Johns. It is colourful, welcoming and no more expensive than St Thomas. We had lunch at Cruz Landing where they serve amazing 'loaded chips'. These aren't just any old chips, they're waffle chips .... hope they make it to UK soon, they're totally scrummy and when combined with sour cream, bacon bits, spring onions and cheese they are absolutely to die for!
On Sunday we all gathered together in Hansen's Bay and met on board Hecla for our last sundowners together. It's been such an unexpected treat to meet up. Warrior owners are very special people!!
PR2 left the bay heading East leaving Hecla and Ocean Rainbow for another night in Hansen's Bay before we too set off, but we were heading West back to St Thomas, while Hecla remained at anchor anticipating some 'north' in the wind and an easier passage to St Maarten. The weather is playing tricks again and one moment we have too much wind with squalls (as in Monday) and the next almost nothing (as in Wednesday and Thursday).
We had a good sail back to Brewers Bay and found ourselves a lovely spot at the front of the anchorage with lots of turtles, rays and tarpon swimming around the boat. Life is being conducted at a very gentle pace at the moment. We have a shipping date window for Ocean Rainbow but, unlike laying up a boat for the hurricane season, there is very little we can do in advance. Once the winds sort themselves out we shall probably sail off to another bay but this anchorage really is so lovely we're wondering if there is any merit in moving - other than to sail in the Caribbean for the last few days available to us.
In the meantime we have taken a $2 safari bus ride to the east end of the island and back - not much to report! We toured Charlotte Amalie and had a look around the market place filled with tourist type stuff then we went for a wander around Bluebeards Castle, dating from 1617, which has been recently restored. We also found the oldest church in CA, Fredericks Lutheran Church which is very simple but very pretty. The Main Street of CA is nothing but jewellery shops......how all of them make a living beats us!! So many diamonds and watches to sell and even with 5 cruise ships a day bringing a potential 8000 people to your shops how many of those actually want to spend a fortune on jewellery? We walked into the back streets and found My Brothers Workshop - MBW - a bakery with small cafe that was set up in 2007 to 'provide hope to high-risk youth ages 16-24 through mentoring, counselling, education, job training and job placement'. A great little place for BLT and homemade crisps! They also have excellent WiFi.
St Thomas is a nice island but, as everything is very expensive it is probably not the best place to stay long term. Claire had her hair cut expertly by Aryk from Phoenix Visions Hair Design in Crown Bay (prices were on a par with UK salons). Finally the razor disaster of Cienfuegos has disappeared!! It was rather fun to be back in a salon again with all the shampoos, conditioners and treatments but totally wasted on someone who jumps in the sea for an evening wash and spends hours each day swimming around after turtles!!
On Easter Sunday we had a great day. On Good Friday we had seen a baptism on the beach so we thought that there must be a church nearby. We approached the people gathered and asked about the possibility of joining them on Sunday and was it far to walk? With peals of laughter they explained that they were from Fortuna and that it was far too far to walk. We were offered a lift so we said we'd get back to them as, ideally, we would have liked to walk to somewhere local. Silly really as we hadn't been back on the boat long before we decided that we should have accepted their offer immediately! So Claire jumped in the water, swam to shore, ran up the beach to accept and arrange a collection point and time before making a hasty retreat back to the water rather self consciously clad in only her bikini!! Come Sunday there were a few ladies who approached and said 'were you the lady on the beach?'. Obviously not totally convinced that spruced up in a dress Claire was the 'apparition' they'd seen on the beach!!
Anyway, we were duly collected by Garrett and driven along really windy roads up hill and down dale to Fortuna. We commented on the fact that it was a good job the van had decent brakes. Garrett's reply 'it's ok, I have two brakes so if one fails I have another'! Love it! We arrived at Grace Baptist Church to find the meeting room absolutely freezing ... they'd just got new AC units and were putting them to the test!!! They'd also just rearranged their meeting room which explained a few rather idiosyncratic touches. Apparently all will be ready for the 5th Sunday of the month when Grace are hosting the Ladies Meeting. We had lots of singing and then more singing - our type of service! The sermon was good (if a tad long by our exacting standards!!) and then, after a closing hymn we all went outside to find a marvellous spread of local food for lunch. It was totally delicious and just so kind of everyone to include us. The young, having eaten their fill, went off to the basketball court (has to have the best sea view of any court we've seen!) and some enterprising young girls set up a candy stall. A lovely community and we were so fortunate to spend Easter Sunday with them.
Once returned to our little home on the water, we went off to swim with the turtles and rays. It's great exercise and so wonderful to see so many of them. Then it was time to get ready for our guests. 3 years ago we climbed to the boiling lake in Dominica with Janet. We travelled down island with her for a bit and then, as cruisers do, we sailed in different directions. Now, shore based, Janet is working in St Thomas. We got in touch and Sunday was the great reunion. Together with Michael, her boyfriend, she arrived at the beach and was collected by Puddle ... and the Skipper ... and brought back on board Ocean Rainbow. So very good to see her again. We had a really lovely, funny and totally relaxed evening. Definitely the plus side of cruising.
18th - 24th April
The beginning of another week so it's .... laundry! There's nothing quite like the fresh smell of laundry but, oh my goodness, what a palaver to get it all done! We try and do the laundry when we have one white and one coloured load but that always depends on where we are and the location of the launderette. In St Thomas we may have found the best value for money laundry ever but it is a bit of a 'schlepp' to do it. First pack everything up neatly so Claire can carry it to the launderette (one v large backpack and an IKEA shopping bag). Then into the dinghy, off to shore, walk to the bus, hop off at the Nisky Centre, walk to the launderette, ask the nice lady running the place for enough "quarters" to run two machines, load everything, hit the button then wait 20 minutes. Take the washing out of washer and place in dryer. Use more quarters, throw in some sweet smelling anti-static things: Bounce! - then hit the button and wait 40 minutes. Then the real fun part, folding everything so that when you get back to the boat the sheets look ironed, the shirts look pressed and the shorts aren't creased! We're still perfecting the art but Claire finds the task of folding fresh laundry amazingly therapeutic so that's why she's the one who gets 'laundry duty'.
On Tuesday we went for a little more sightseeing. We thought we had visited Blackbeard's Castle but it was, in fact, Fort Christian so we decided to have another go! We used maps.me and found Bluebeard's Castle so headed off on bus and then foot. OK so it said blue not black but we thought we must have made a mistake in the name and thought nothing of it. After a fair old hike up the hill in the boiling heat we found that we had made a small error! Bluebeard's Castle is a resort hotel complex famous for very little other than the fact President Roosevelt had stayed there! Did we give up and call it a day? No, not a bit of it. We struck out in an westerly direction, winding our way down the hill, along a narrow road until we reached the town again. A quick stop for a drink and sustenance (a very sticky, yummy pastry), we checked on directions and caused much merriment when we said that we were walking and not taking a taxi (very un-american) Apparently it was a long walk in the heat and then a serious climb .. with cries of Good Luck echoing in our ears we set off. Actually it wasn't so far and the steps weren't so bad but it was hot work and, had we but known that we could have had a swim at the castle to cool off. Sadly, with our lack of research we arrived unprepared - no 'swimmers'!! Nevertheless, we did enjoy Blackbeard's Castle with its Skytsborg Tower built by the Danes in 1679, Pirates Gallery featuring Edward Teach, the notorious Bristolian pirate known as Blackbeard, the Rumporium - surprisingly, after a really good tasting session, there are quite a few rums we don't like!! Then there was the world famous "amber waterfall" (12,000 stones) and the historical homes of Robert Notman (built 1860) and Hans Haagensen (built 1882) plus a lovely sculpture known as the Three Queens commemorating the slave revolt of 1878.
We've also done a fair bit of snorkelling and we even took the dinghy to Perseverance Bay to have a look - very murky water and nothing much ashore either. Perhaps we should have 'persevered' but without shoes we couldn't venture too far. We've met up with another English couple, Tim and Nancy, on their yacht Larus. They're doing some work on their boat so will be round for a while which is nice for us as we sit and wait for our ship to come in!
The rather disappointing news is that our ship is delayed and we won't be leaving until early May. Had we only known in March, when we booked the transport, that we wouldn't be able to load until May we could have sailed off to Barbuda to check out the pink sand but, as it is, with the strange weather here, we don't feel comfortable sailing off too far away. Brewers Bay does have its compensations though as the turtles and rays continue to fascinate us, we have even made the acquaintance of an ancient iguana who lives in the undergrowth at the back of the beach, where we park our dinghy.
From Thursday to Sunday we took a break. It was great to be sailing again: warm winds, sparkling seas and a great 15nm passage to Culebrita where we had a really lovely and memorable few days anchored off this little island. The first night we were in Tortuga Bay (on the north of the island) with a couple of other boats, the second night we moved to the south side and anchored in blue, blue waters with lots of pretty fish swimming around us. A vast improvement on the rather ugly remora that had attached itself to our 'bottom' in Tortuga Bay! On Sunday morning we woke early, took one look at the weather and weighed anchor! The front, forecast for Monday, was on its way .... early!! We had a bumpy old sail back to Brewers Bay with winds gusting 25knots but it was fun and we managed to get ourselves firmly anchored and sorted out before the rain arrived.
Now we're in for a few bad weather days. Perhaps it's all for the good that we have been delayed loading OR as it wouldn't have been much fun trying to manoeuvre her in high winds especially as we have to release the backstay in order to get her into the cradle!
On the bright side - we're now around for St Thomas' carnival! Claire will get to wear her carnival T shirt again!!