November 29 - December 31, 2004

Hello from Paradise

This update has been a long time coming. Funny -- we got them out on schedule when we were pushing hard to stay ahead of the weather. But now we're here in the warm Caribbean breezes, and all of a sudden it takes longer to get things done. Guess we're starting to convert to "island time."

Anway, in the last update we had just started the passage out of Bermuda to the Caribbean...

November 29 - December 4, 2004

Fire in the Galley!

In our last episode, we left you hanging about our "harrowing experience" on the passage from Bermuda to the Virgin Islands. Here's the story.

Morning, after our first night on the passage, about 150 miles out of Bermuda. Ken got up after his off-watch and lit the stove to make coffee. Then he shuffled to the head (toilet, to landlubbers) to take care of other business. He wasn't at his most wide awake - but that changed right away when he turned and saw that the whole stove was on fire, with smoke rapidly filling the boat.

Seems a big plastic recipe book holder had slid out of its shelf and onto the burner behind the kettle. (Given Ken's semi-comatose state, the book holder could have been there before he even lit the stove and he wouldn't have noticed it.) It was burning pretty good.

He ran back to the galley, stopping only to yell "Beth - Fire in the Galley!" as he passed the companionway (which was closed). But Beth didn't hear him, as she was in the engine room, trying to track down a faint smoke smell.

Ken turned off the LP gas solenoid, which shut down the burner. But plastic is basically just gasoline in solid form, and once it started burning, the recipe holder wasn't going to quit. So Ken pulled out the special "emergency fire blanket" that we keep next to the stove, and threw it over the flames to smother the fire. However nothing happened -- at least nothing good -- because the raised steel grid on the stove top allowed oxygen under the blanket. So the fire kept burning.

Figuring he would need to get at the flames with a fire extinguisher, Ken pulled the blanket off. Unfortunately, about half of the burning plastic stuck to the blanket, leaving Ken with a big wad of fire in his hand. He had to drop it on the galley sole (floor). (We should mention that Ken was dressed in regulation tropical fire-fighting gear - no shoes, no shirt, no pants.)

So now we had two fires and the cabin was almost completely full of smoke.

At this point Beth stuck her head down the companionway and said "Ken, do you smell something?"

We'll skip his answer. Ken now grabbed the fire extinguisher from its locker, pulled the pin, and gave each fire a burst, putting them both out. The extinguisher was so effective that it didn't even fall into the "recharge" zone on its gauge.

We didn't have the presence of mind to take any pictures during the fire. (That would certainly have been the mother of all updates!) But here are a couple of pictures of the stove post-fire:

Stove top after fire Close up of stove after fire

 

Here's the blanket with melted recipe holder. The yellow powder in the picture is the chemical residue from the fire extinguisher. The barefoot prints are Ken's. Recipe holder and fire blanket post fire

 

Stove after fire and cleanup

Amazingly enough, the boat cleaned up ok. We vented the smoke, scraped the toasted plastic off the stove and cleaned up the piles of yellow chemical powder that coated everything, and it all basically looks good as new, except for a couple of square inches of slightly scorched counter (over on the left). And that will probably buff out.

Even the cabin sole survived ok, because the blanket dropped with the burning plastic on top, so it stayed off the wood and non-skid. And nothing smells of smoke anymore.

We were really lucky. Our boat is fiberglass. Fiberglass is formally called "FRP," as in "fiber reinforced PLASTIC." Plastic as in solid gasoline. So if we hadn't gotten the fire out in the first couple of minutes, we would have been in the life raft. (If the raft hadn't caught fire also.)

We've taken away the following lessons.

  • Don't store anything where it can fall onto the stove
  • Forget the fire blanket, at least the way our galley is laid out
  • Get more dry chemical extinguishers - they really, really work well -- saved our butts
  • Keep a close eye on the stove when it's lit
  • Cook when you are awake
  • Wear clothes when you cook

Tranquil Passage To Virgin Islands

The remainder of our trip to the Virgin Islands was very tame. Once again we used Herb Hildenberg's weather routing advice, and he gave us a great, very placid weather window for our passage.

The only trouble with Herb's weather windows is that they not only avoid storms -- they sometimes avoid wind altogether. So we had light winds (less than 10 knots and often less than 5 knots) most of the trip. Fortunately our good light air capability allowed us to sail more than 50% of the time. We made a 970 mile passage in light wind, averaged about 180 miles per day, and used less than 40 percent of our fuel!

Rose colored water and sky The sky and water treated us to beautiful shades of blue and rose.

 

Even with the light winds, we had some decent size swells left over from systems that had moved through. Following seas

By the second day, the winds had shifted from north to northeast and remained remarkably steady for the whole trip. We set our sails on port tack and never changed our tack. Starting from Newport, we have now come about 1600 miles on port tack, without a single tack or jibe!

We saw several birds new to us: white-tailed tropicbirds and black-legged kittiwakes. We also saw our first flying fish -- they can cover astonishing distances in the air, sometimes the length of a football field. They do it when something is chasing them.

Approaching squall We weren't sure what to expect from an approaching squall. It looked ominous, but the wind never got above 17 knots.

 

The water temperature steadily rose as we progressed south (from about 71 degrees when we left Bermuda to over 80 degrees at the end of the trip), so we didn't mind the rain. Actually it was nice to get the salt washed off the boat. Rain squall washing our sail

 

Mahi mahi on line -- he'll make a great dinner treat

We couldn't keep the Mahi-mahi off the hook. They are big, delicious, and put up a good fight.

But they always seemed to bite in the evening, just before dark and just as Beth was getting ready to make dinner. So then Ken would have to spend more than an hour landing, fileting and skinning the big fish, while Beth kept watch and dinner got put on hold. The delay would mess up our whole watch schedule for the night.

So anyway, by the middle of the trip the freezer was full of mahi-mahi, and we had stopped fishing. Seemed strange to take a pass on big fish that goes for $13 a pound here in the islands, but enough was enough.

Along with the water, the air steadily warmed up and we began to shed clothes. What a treat to finally be in shorts and short sleeves!

Beth takes advantage of the placid conditions to work on the website. Beth working on website underway

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Aside: We had a little discussion about whether to include the picture (above) of Beth with her computer. Ken really wanted the picture in and Beth didn't. The conversation went something like this:

Beth: I don't like this picture -- its a rotten picture of my hair.

Ken: Beth, that's what your hair looks like. I'm bald -- I don't complain when somebody takes a picture and I look bald.

Beth: Well, I have a dopey expression.

Ken: That's what I'm saying ... I'm bald.

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Ken with binnoculars looking for boats Scanning the horizon for other boats. We never did see anyone else. Its a big ocean out there.

 

Ken fixing batten

For a passage of this length, we had remarkably few breakdowns. But we did have one batten that twisted in its pocket, threatening to rip the sail.

Luckily the benign conditions allowed Ken to unscrew the batten car, pull the 20 foot batten out of the sail and reinsert it.

We both agreed that this was probably our best passage ever. The steady winds, warm air and water, successful fishing .... all made it seem like we could go on forever. We were almost sad to see it end. But, then again, making landfall after a passage is always such a rush!

Fear of the Unknown

During the trip, we checked cruising guides and other information we had about our intended destination -- St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The more we read about St. Thomas, the more concerned we became. The Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) publishes trip reports from cruisers and there were reports of crime (BOAT BOARDINGS) near Charlotte Amalie, the main port on St. Thomas. The reports were several years old, but we didn't have any later information. We almost decided to bypass The U.S. Virgin Islands completely and head for Tortola (in the British Virgin Islands),

Fortunately, we talked with our friends John and Susan (aboard Direct Sail) via SSB who assured us that the U.S. Virgin Islands were very safe. They suggested we make landfall at St. John, where the immigration check-in process is easier. We decided to head for St. John.

As we describe later, we've subsequently spent a week anchored in Charlotte Amalie, with no trouble at all. You know -- one guy gets mugged in 1997, writes it up in the cruising guide and it sounds like the place is a war zone. There's no substitute for seeing things with your own eyes.

Actually, we did get boarded in Charlotte Amalie, but that story has to wait a few pages...

We made landfall the evening of Dec. 4, after five days at sea. As usual we hove to until morning so that we could approach the islands in daylight.

Here's what they looked like at first light. (That's Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands, off our port bow.)

Virgin Islands landfall

 

Approaching Virgin Islands from Atlantic Ocean

Here's Great Tobago Island, British Virgin Islands, as we make our way through the passage to St. John..

This was our first visit to the Caribbean islands, and we were enchanted by their mountainous beauty.

December 5, 2004

We moored in beautiful Caneel Bay on the west side of the island, just outside the main city of Cruz Bay. We had to clear customs at Cruz Bay, but didn't want to go into the crowed anchorage there.

Ken finishes securing our mooring line in Caneel Bay. Moored at Caneel Bay at St. John

Then we kicked back, and discovered that we actually liked the Caribbean!

This is going to sound strange, but we had no idea how nice it was down here. We thought it was going to be hot, humid, and buggy, and we were just planning to pass through on our way to the South Pacific... Well, if you go inland, in a valley, in the sun, out of the wind, you get hot, humid and somewhat buggy. But on an anchored boat you have 80 degree air, 80 degree water and nice, steady 10-20 knot winds. And practically no bugs.

So, anyway, it took us about three days to decide that we don't really have to get to the South Pacific this year. Next year is fine.

Rare sight -- fly inside boat

Here is the only bug we had on board in our first three weeks in the Virgin Islands. There are mosquitos ashore, but they don't make it out to the boat very often, even with the hatches wide open and no screens.

Sure beats the Lake Michigan flies!

 

Another rare sighting -- Tropical Ken. Ken never wore shorts in Illinois, and didn't own any sandals. Changes of latitude...

Still no tan, though, and swears he won't get one.

Ken in his tropical incarnation

The first evening we were treated to a gorgeous sunset:

First sunset in the Virgin Islands Another view of spectacular sunset at Caneel Bay

We've decided to stay in the Caribbean until next summer's hurricane season. Then we'll head back up the East Coast next summer and visit some friends and family we missed on our way down. We'd also like to explore Maine (which we blew by completely) and maybe even get back to Nova Scotia. We'll come back to the Caribbean next winter and continue on to the Pacific when the weather window opens in February of '06.

Aside: "The whiteman's graveyard"

We've done a little history reading to get a perspective on this place. We'll put some of the highlights in here and there where they seem appropriate.

Considering how nice we think this place is, it's ironic that the Caribbean was once one of the least desireable places in the world -- "the white man's graveyard" -- because the early white settlers died in huge numbers from mosquito borne tropical diseases. For example, the Danes, who originally settled St. Thomas, saw 263 of their first 324 settlers die within three years. In another example, the French landed 1500 soldiers on St. Lucia in 1655. A few months later only 89 were still alive.

And Napolean suffered one of his first major defeats in Haiti, where an entire army of about 30,000 men sent to subdue a slave rebellion was destroyed by yellow fever (and some skillful fighting by the rebels). Napolean is reputed to have said "Damn coffee, damn sugar, damn colonies!" And to have ordered the sale of Louisiana to the U.S.

Ironically, the Africans who were brought in as slaves to work on the sugar plantations had pretty good immunity to tropical diseases, and did ok. In fact, the slave ships often caused outbreaks of yellow fever when they landed in Caribbean ports, since the disease was endemic in West Africa, and the mosquitos stowed away on the ships. So the Africans got some revenge.

So if anyone ever asks you which is the most dangerous animal -- sharks, lions, grizzly bears and the like -- the answer is the mosquito, hands down. And if you go to some place where they still have yellow fever -- get your shots.

Aside: Gold, Glory, God (and Chocolate)

The original European settlers braved great danger to come to the Caribbean, in pursuit of "Gold, Glory, and God." We had other motivations. We had paid $4.00 for a three-ounce package of M&Ms in Bermuda. That was pretty scary, given our burn rate. So we needed to find cheap chocolate. We figured a duty-free U.S. territory would be just the place. So we came to the U.S.V.I. because it had cheap M&Ms.

Beth showing off new chocolate inventory Here's Beth at K-Mart in St. Thomas, with cargo. Fourteen ounces goes for $2.50.

December 6 - December 16, 2004

Caneel Bay

We watched in amazement as this boatload of naked guys pulled up near us in Caneel Bay. (The picture at the right has been doctored to protect the family nature of this website!). Ken is still waiting for the boatloads of naked women. Sailors displaying minimalist clothing style

 

Checking out new neighbors

Beth checking out the new neighbors -- she claims she was posing with the binnoculars merely so Ken could take a picture for the website.

Ken admits that's true. This picture is posed, because Ken wasn't fast enough with the camera to get the original shot.

 

We had fun watching different kinds of boats motoring or sailing by. Here is a "cattlemaran" -- a catamaran so packed with people they barely have room to moo.

"Cattlemaran" motoring by

We could understand how people would not want to leave once they got here. From our mooring we could take the dinghy a few hundred feet and have access to wonderful snorkeling. Or we could buzz over to the main town on St. John -- Cruz Bay. We heard numerous stories of people who came to the U.S. Virgin Islands for a vacation and never went home!

Ashore on St. John

St John is mostly a National Park, and we took a bunch of hikes to explore the island. Here are some highlights.

It is definitely warmer on land than on the water. We had a nice view of Cruz Bay on a hike we took soon after our arrival, but we were sobered at how tired we got in the heat.

At sea you get your "sea legs," meaning you stopping getting seasick (hopefully). But at sea you also lose your land legs -- meaning you can't walk anymore. Ken resolved to get out his exercise machine.

Cruz Bay at St. John

Flora and Fauna on St. John

After being at sea for a week, we were ready to stop and smell the flowers. Here are four pictures of the delicate flowers we saw on our first hike on St. John:

Orange flower on St. John Pretty white flower on St. John
Blue flower on St. John Yellow flower on St. John

We also saw a lot of parasitic plants in this tough, competitive tropical environment. The parasitic cactus (below left), strangler fig (below middle, wrapped around the tree trunk), and what looks like a parasitic pineapple plant (below right) are just a few we saw:

Cactus strangling tree Strangler fig wrapping itself around tree Parasitic plant on tree

 

Mushrooms setting down roots in donkey dung

Numerous donkeys roam St. John. They used to be domesticated during the days of big sugar plantations but escaped or were let loose at some point. Here's some evidence that they're still around.

We also saw evidence of the wild boars (up to 400 lbs) that live on the island. But we'll skip that.

We also saw termite nests and termite trails. The termites build elaborate dirt arcades just above the surface to protect themselves from birds as they travel around (below left). These arcades criss-crossed the trail and ran up and down the trees. You can see the termites moving through a break in their tunnel (below, right). Reminds us of those arcades in Minneapolis.

Termite arcade crossing hiking trail Termites exposed

 

The termites feed off dead wood on the forest floor and create huge termite nests in trees from the processed dead wood.

They don't bother living trees, only dead wood. Like you use to make a house...

Termite nest in tree

Ken always likes spiders (Beth wish he would stop poking around in mysterious holes -- you never know what you'll stir up). He found several interesting spiders on St. John. The one shown below was well camouflaged in the ground cover.

Spider blending into surroundings Ken offering finger to give better perspective to spider size

We had breathtaking views from the hills of St. John. Here we could see our boat in the bay (below left) and another view looking west toward St. Thomas (below right):

Eagle's Wings in Caneel Bay View toward St. Thomas from St. John

 

Green heron roosting on transom of boat in Cruz Bay The local wildlife has adapted to humankind. This normally shy Green Heron roosted on a boat in busy Cruz Bay harbor.

 

Bird Watching Expedition

The park service at St. John offers a variety of hikes to visitors and we took advantage of a few excursions.

Beth with Ranger Laurel

Every week Ranger Laurel hosts a bird watching hike at Francis Bay. We went on one and saw frigatebirds, boobies, hummingbirds, bananaquits, and yellow warblers.

Ranger Laurel is one tough-looking dudess.

 

Even in the remote forests of the tropics, Beth is able to ferret out fellow chocolate lovers. Fellow trail hiker who has "got chocolate"

 

We saw a "dug up" sea turtle nest. The egg shells were scattered far and wide, but Laurel dug deep into the hole and found more broken eggshells still buried in the sand. That fact suggested that the nest had hatched first, and that the hungry digger had found only empties.

Empty turtle egg shells

Laurel also told us about whale watching expeditions that take people out to look for whales near the islands. Unfortunately, there aren't many whales in the Caribbean. She said that in the five years she has gone on these trips, she's only seen one whale. The trip organizers love to have her along because she is a natural conversationalist and provides entertainment while people are getting seasick and not seeing whales. We like Laurel, but decided to take a pass.

After the birdwatching, we joined Ranger Laurel and some other birdwatchers for refreshments at Maho Bay Camp. (The picture shows the open air restaurant.) Maho is an "eco-lodge" where people stay in large tent-cottages (almost like tree houses) that are hidden on the densely forested hillside.

View of St. Francis Bay from restaurant at Maho Bay Camp

The guests at Maho were more interesting than the crowds at the big resort hotels. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, though some admitted that the trees kept the breeze out while the tent screens let the mosquitos in. We like the boat.

We met a young couple, Hub and Kate, who were staying at Maho and were fascinated by the idea of voyaging in a boat. They pumped us for advice, which we happily supplied. They live in Virginia where they organically grow seeds and run a business offering wilderness survival training and environmental awareness for kids. Once a year they also make a "corn maze," by cutting an elaborate maze/picture into their six acre cornfield. Last year they had 15,000 paying visitors to their maze. Not bad for a young couple just starting out! But that leaves the winters free, and they think a boat in the Caribbean would be just the thing. They have a website at www.circleofseeds.com where you can read more about them. We forgot to get a picture of them at Maho, so we grabbed a couple of pictures from their website:

Hub in canoe Kate with tipis

 

Ken with ranger Golda

We also took a day-long hike with Ranger Golda (and 25 other people) to explore some historical sites on the Reef trail. Golda's family are longtime inhabitants of the islands and she told us interesting stories about the medicinal and culinary qualities of some of the plants along the trail. Turns out you can make tea out of almost anything. Some of the plants are poisonous if you eat them outright, but apparently are safe when boiled for making tea. We decided to let her drink this stuff first.

 

Ken offering finger for perspective on size of millipede We saw a few of these millipedes on our hike. Golda called them something that sounded like "goog-a-long". The creatures excrete a numbing toxin that acts kind of like novacaine. (You don't want it in your eyes.) Ken was considering trying it out to deaden the pain he still feels in his hand from his encounter with the marine critters that were attached to the mooring tackle we fouled in Bermuda.

We saw some buildings remaining from the sugar plantation days (below left). The building are now inhabited by land crabs (below right).

Building from old sugar mill Land crab found in sugar mill building

 

Petroglyphs from ancient civilization These petroglyphs show evidence of the original Amerindian inhabitants of St. John.

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Aside

The fate of the original inhabitants of the Eastern Caribbean is pretty stunning. Estimates of the Caribbean Indian population when Columbus arrived range from about 250,000 up to about 6 million.

Today these tribes are essentially extinct. Of the three major tribes, the Ciboneys and Arawaks have completely disappeared, and only about 30 Caribs survive on a single reservation in Dominica. Disease, warfare and slavery did for the rest.

Ironically, Queen Isabella's overriding instruction to Columbus (starting with his second voyage) was to befriend and convert the natives.

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Ken about to go for swim in all of his clothes We got rained on throughout the day and were pretty much soaked the whole time. But it was still hot on those interior trails. Since Ken was already wet, he decided to cool off in the surf after our hike.

Ken left on all his clothes (including his hat) because he didn't want to get burned. Here he is trying to set a Guiness book record for swimming in a Tilley hat:

Ken going for swim in all of his clothes, including hat Ken demonstrating crawl stroke in his clothes and Tilley hat

 

Careening down mountain road in St.John taxi

We used the $1 taxi to get back to Cruz Bay after our Reef hike. These taxis are converted pickups and are a great, though nerve-racking, method of transportation around the island. The drivers go really fast around blind corners next to steep drop-offs. At least the views were nice.

The cars in the U.S. Virgin Islands are U.S.-style vehicles (with driver side on left), but people drive on the left, British style. So the drivers can't see to pass, which doesn't stop them. Yikes.

 

While we were moored at Caneel, we took the opportunity to do some laundry in Cruz Bay. Just after Beth put three loads of clothes in the washers, all of the power went out in the laundromat. Here Beth is trying to "chill out" island style while waiting for the power to come back.

Waiting for power to return at laundromat

December 17 - December 23, 2004

We got pretty comfortable sitting at our mooring in Caneel and probably would still be there if our friends, John and Susan, hadn't prodded us to come over for a visit at Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas. We took them up on their suggestion and sailed over.

Compared to St. John, St. Thomas is the "big city." We were very wary of the harbor at Charlotte Amalie based on things we'd read, but we were pleasantly surprised at how nice it was. We only felt uncomfortable one evening walking around downtown -- which seems to empty out after dark when the cruise ship passengers clear out.

John and Susan coming over for a visit John and Susan come aboard. They just celebrated their 500,000th mile at sea, which is about 495,000 ahead of us. So when they talk, we listen.

 

Anchored at Charlotte Amalie The perspective here looks like we are anchored right on top of this cruise boat -- we were actually a good distance away. Charlotte Amalie was a busy harbor, but we enjoyed it anyway.

 

St. Thomas seems to be the cruise ship capital of the world. Every evening the old set of cruise ships would pull out and by the next morning a new set would have taken their place. We had to admire how quiet they were coming in -- we would sleep right through all the docking maneuvers. Three cruise ships docked at Charlotte Amalie

 

Queen Mary 2 docked outside harbor at Charlotte Amalie

Seems like every place we go the Queen Mary 2 is not far behind. The QM2 came and went a number of times while we were anchored at Charlotte Amalie. She is too big to fit in the harbor and anchors just outside the harbor mouth.

 

Atlantis mini-submarine In addition to cruise ships, there are many local businesses that cater to tourists, including the group that runs this little submarine.

 

The Caribbean is a great place to charter a boat for a vacation. Most of the big charter companies are based in Tortola, but we did see boats for one company, CYOA, at the Frenchtown dock near Charlotte Amalie. We thought "CYOA." was a curious name for a boat charter company. CYOA charter boat in St. Thomas

 

Stunning J-Boat Ranger We saw "Ranger," the huge J-Boat we showed you in our Newport update. Out of the water she looked like a beached whale. But she looks pretty graceful here.

 

We had numerous short-lived rain squalls pass through during our stay. Often these little rains were punctuated by a spectacular rainbow. We saw double rainbows and rainbows that seemed to start and end on our boat. Full rainbow in harbor at Charlotte Amalie

While we get excited by places to buy chocolate and boat parts, other people come to St. Thomas for the selection and good prices on crystal, jewelry, and fine stones. Goods come into St. Thomas duty free and there is no sales tax charged on purchases. Despite its "tourist trap" appearance, this is really a world class shopping district with some of the best prices anywhere.

Crystal shop in Charlotte Amalie Jewelry shop in Charlotte Amalie

 

One of the jewelry shops had a collection of beautiful globes made from alabaster and other shells. Trouble was it wasn't very accurate. The Caribbean islands were shuffled around -- guess you can't believe everything you see. Beautiful globe on display in jewelry store

 

Spirits shop in Charlotte Amalie Ken checked out prices in this spirits shop and found them better than the States, since there are NO TAXES. Rum is made in the islands, and can be cheaper than water, and definitely cheaper than Coca Cola. Unfortunately we don't much like rum...

 

Traffic jam in Charlotte Amalie

We weren't sure if this was typical, but the traffic on the east end of Charlotte Amalie (where the cruise ships dock) was horrific. It was much faster to get around on foot.

All told, St. Thomas was much different than St. John. Better food, much better shopping. But much busier and more commercial.

 

Manitowoc crane spotted in St. Thomas We got a flavor of home when we spotted this crane constructed in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

 

Shed held in place with cables Here's something you don't see in the Midwest -- a shed that is held down with cables as a precaution against hurricanes.

Of course, we couldn't be in a place for two days without working on boat projects.

Ken searching for refrigerant leak We have been plagued by an elusive slow refrigerant leak ever since we started the trip. Ken is searching for the leak using a leak detector and leak detection soap. We haven't been able to track down the location of the leak but we're hot on the trail.

 

It appears that you can't do too much preventative maintenance. We hadn't checked the zinc in our DC generator for some time and upon inspection, we found the zinc was totally disintegrated. Disintegrated zinc on DC generator

FROM GHOULIES AND GHOSTIES, AND LONG LEGGEDY BEASTIES, AND THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT/GOOD LORD DELIVER US (ancient prayer)

Did we mention that we got boarded in Charlotte Amalie?

We were just getting into our dinghy after a very nice meal. It was late and dark and we were tired. Ken climbed back by the engine and put out his hand to start the outboard when he saw, right where he was going to put his hand . well, he saw what's in the picture.

Yikes! Close-up of night visitor

As he has in the past, Ken reacted like any tough sailor would -- the exact quote this time was "Holy mother of God!" At least he stayed in the boat, although the dinghy did end up a little bow heavy.

Iguana pretending to be part of motor The green fellow (an iguana), meanwhile, wasn't moving at all -- he was trying to pretend he was part of the motor. Might have worked better on a tree than it did on a Yamaha engine.

 

Ken' second thought was maybe this was somebody's idea of a joke -- you know, put a plastic lizard on the outboard and watch the owners jump out of their skins. However, a (moderately) close inspection showed that the green guy had his toes wrapped around the cabling. If this was a fake, it was world class. Iguana firmly attached to outboard

Finally, after Ken armed himself with the pole from our dinghy light and engaged in a bit of cautious dueling, the very reluctant lizard got back in the water and swam to the quay.

Preparing to do battle with iguana Ken dualing with iguana Ken coaxing iguana back into water

 

Iguana returning to shore after short-lived stay on our dinghy

We decided to tie our dinghy up in a different spot from now on. Not that we are worried about the green fellow, you understand - but you know what he was hunting, right? La cukarocha.

December 24 - 25, 2004

Once again, our friends John and Susan saved us from becoming permanently anchored in Charlotte Amalie and invited us to sail over to Frances Bay on St. John to have dinner on their boat Christmas eve.

We realized with a shock that every location we'd been in since Bermuda has been based on their suggestion! They have been sailing to the Caribbean for many many years and their advice has been invaluable.

We also realized that we are feeling the "butterfly effect." Now that we've elected to stay the season in the Caribbean, we have no rigid timetable. So the smallest thing can determine where and how we spend our time. We needed M&Ms so we ended up in the U.S.V.I.s... If we need to sail over to St. Thomas to pick up mail, we can end up there for a week, because we don't have to leave. After a lifetime of being totally directed this is all a little weird.

We are very much enjoying being off the clock and taking more time at each destination.

December 26 - December 31, 2004

After spending a great evening with John and Susan on their boat, we did a little snorkeling at Frances Bay.

We made a bold decision and set off to Redhook in St. Thomas, to pick up some boat parts that had been delivered. John and Susan weren't around when we made our decision to head to Redhook and they probably would have advised against it.

Doing the "anchoring dance" in Redhook harbor Redhook is an extremely busy and crowded harbor. We made about four attempts to anchor and finally got our hook down after about two hours of very tense maneuvering. On our first attempt, we were way too far into the channel and ferries and other traffic were uncomfortably close. The next try left us right up against another boat. And so on... The picture at the left shows our convoluted track around the anchorage.

We got alot accomplished on land at Redhook, but we were very uncomfortable on the boat. The anchorage is very exposed to the northeast and we had strong winds and swells coming into the harbor. We elected not to return to Frances Bay for the moment, as we thought the moorings over there would also be rolly in the strong winds.

The next morning we snuck around the east end of St. Thomas and found a nice anchorage in Great Bay. We are pretty much by ourselves here -- though there is a hotel on shore. We still aren't sure why other cruisers aren't anchored here. It is somewhat rolly, but has been bearable.

We found some interesting snorkeling and saw a variety of fish including squirrelfish, damselfish, yellowtail snapper, nassau grouper, spotted goatfish, and sand diver. Ken also found this starfish near our anchor and brought it up to show Beth. Ken with sea star

It looks like we'll stick around the U.S. Virgin Islands until early February. Beth will be flying back home at the end of January to visit her family in Wisconsin. The boat systems are not stable enough yet where we'd feel comfortable having us both leave.