St Thomas to St Croix

Our Anchorage
Our Anchorage

After leaving Culebra we had to start making our way to St Thomas.  A break in the weather occurred on the Sunday so we decided to take our chance and complete the 20-mile motor back to Red Hook Bay to top up with water.  We cleared the reef but the wind and swell had not settled.  We were beaten up in the first 3 hours with Troskala struggling at times to maintain a reasonable speed when slamming into 2.8-meter waves.  I was dogged throughout with seasickness, which has only ever once happened before.  I do not wish seasickness on anyone and it is so debilitating.  I was flat out for most of the journey and Carlotta took over the watches.  About 3 hours in we decided to make our first stop at Honeymoon Bay on Water Island; 8 miles short of our planned destination, but to be honest I did not care and once we dropped the anchor I was back to normal.

Approaching St Croix
Approaching St Croix

It was lovely being back in Honeymoon Bay.  We met with some friends on our first night that we had met in Tortola and another lovely American Couple.  We joined them in the evening for cocktails and smoked Oysters; a lovely evening.

We were in no rush to set out and spent another day enjoying beach life,  Our friends on Yacht Demeter kindly loaned their 20 horse power dinghy so that we could get to Charlotte Amalie to stock up on provisions without having to move Troskala.  We had Demeter over for drinks in the evening with their lovely children Max and Anya.

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We departed early the next morning and circumnavigated Water Island before heading back out to sea.  We motored another 2 hours to Red Hook where we filled with water and disposed of garbage before taking a mooring in Christmas Cove just off St James Island, a secluded and beautiful spot.

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It is easy for most people to miss St Croix and not give it another thought.  The island lies in splendid isolation 40 miles south of the other Virgin Islands.  It is surrounded by the largest barrier reef system in the Caribbean.  St Croix is said to be rich in history and the Capital (Christiansted) is said to be the most beautiful town in the Caribbean.  We also learnt that on one spot of the island you are on the closest land to the deepest water in the world. How could anyone miss this place based on what is written.  We had to go and the nest morning we set off at 07:00 to complete the 40 miles south that would take us from 18 degrees Latitude back to 17 degrees.

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Our passage went well at the start.  We had to reef the genoa and the main by one but Troskala held a steady course and when we reached the island we were only 2 miles west off our rhumb line, which is not bad considering the cross current and leeway that took place.  I suffered again from seasickness, which is a bit of blow so I will need to take seasickness tablets for the next voyages.

We approached a lush and large island, it looked beautiful from the sea and we could not wait to get in and explore.  I would not have wanted to complete the approach to Christiansted in wind over 15 knots.  The place is strewn with reefs and although there are numerous buoys, this only aids to confuse you even more with the two channels.  A couple of sunken yachts was a stark reminder of how dangerous the entry can be.

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We survived and entered the harbour at a safe 2 knots.  The guidebook recommends anchoring in Gallows Bay.  This did not look that nice so we went around Protestant Cay, a small island in the harbour.  You are not meant to anchor here due to a large mooring field that is used by many cruisers who forgot to leave the island, so really it is a homemade mooring field and not listed this was on the charts other than it being an anchorage so we used it with not a single bit of guilt.  I have to add that do be careful upon taking my advise.  I went snorkelling the next day and found that our anchor had only just missed several mooring chains, two car engines and a tyre.  The bottom is littered with debris, which is a shame as the water and the harbour are stunning.  If you do manage to anchor and avoid all the metal the holding is good, in fact we are still here with the wind gusting to 30 knots at times and we have still held.

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What shocked us the most when going to land was the friendliness of all the people.  As soon as we entered by dinghy local cruisers were there to help Carlotta off and advise us where best to leave the dinghy.  We went to a great bar, which used to be an old windmill.  We met several locals who were informative, kind and funny.  We played bar games with another lovely American couple who were staying in a hotel locally. Were given free shots of Whiskey and Rum and after becoming slightly intoxicated we departed but invited Ed and Danielle over the next night for drinks on Troskala.

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The next day was spent in Christiansted.  Yes, the town was everything we expected, in fact it was more than we expected.  I would say that the town is the most interesting, beautiful and well appointed town in the Caribbean.  There is very little tourism so it maintains its charm as a small village.  Everyone is friendly and will talk to you on the street for no apparent reason.   We felt at home and I can see why cruisers do not leave after reaching this place. I think after a few days and a few whiskey shots you could call this place home and never go back to your previous destinations.

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We loved the architecture, the small streets, shops and lovely café’s.  The history is all around you and encompassing.   St Criox does have its problems.  One of its largest revenue generators was a oil depot situated on the North coast.  The Oil depot closed down this year and an island that has only 50,000 inhabitants lost over 2,000 jobs, which has been crippling.  There is desperation and it is not recommended to walk the streets after dark.  I never at any stage felt intimidated and enjoyed my time wondering around the small streets.  There is still a very Danish feel.  The Danish ruled the island for 200 years and made the town what it is today; a relaxing, calm and beautiful.   I would say that is you want to see a Caribbean Town as it was before being messed around with mass tourism, such as St Maartens, and St Kitts, visit Christiansted before it is too late, you will not be disappointed.  Our photos do not do it justice and there is no doubt we will be back.  In the evening we had the friends we met the previous night, Ed and Danielle.  Danielle had made a made a fantastic punch and they had very kindly brought us some beers and wine.  We had a lovely evening learning about them and sharing numerous stories. It could not have been a better ending to a great day and I hope we get to meet them in New York in the future.  It is evenings like this that I think we will miss the most when our adventure comes to a close.

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The following day we decided to rent a car to tour the island and visit some of the old sugar plantations.  I have recently read a couple a books related to the history of sugar cane plantations in the Caribbean and was therefore eager to explore some old ruins.   So our new car would be a Ford Fiesta that we picked up from Centre point car rentals.  We headed firstly to Frederiksted.  Fredericksted is a quaint, charming and laid-back town with a mixture of Danish and Colonial and Victorian architecture.  It is another lovely town but much quieter than Christiansted.  We had a late breakfast at Polly’s, located on the sea front and then headed to the north of the island.  It was similar to driving in Wales or Scotland.  Steep cliffs were covered with lush green foliage.  The roads were winding and the views were spectacular.

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Two hours in to our drive the car felt slightly odd and on further investigation we found that we had a flat tyre.  We were in the middle of nowhere but two cars past and offered a hand, which I kindly declined.  Twenty minutes we were on our way and after a short drive we found the plantation.

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It was eerie to be walking around this site, which is the site of Sugar Mill Base, dated 1765.  There was a tomb nearby but we did not know whose is was and why it was there,  We then realised that we were standing on the spot that has the closest land to the deepest water in the world and that the site was used for research for Ocean Temperature Energy Conservation.  We was a lovely site and we spent some time reflecting and enjoying the glorious scenery that St Croix offers at every possible angle.

After the plantation we drove into the rain forest and stopped off for a smoothie at a small zoo, where we were looked after by the staff and spent some time holding puppies, kittens and watching tortoises make love; not on purpose, but they were all at it; must be the time of the year or something.

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The rest of the island did not disappoint.  There are relics and history at every turn and we could have spent much longer enjoying such sights but we were tired, hot and needed a swim.

We had enjoyed another lovely day on this very special island.  We are now stuck due to high winds and swell but expect to depart Christiansted in the next couple of days to head to Buck Island, which is the first underwater National Monument; so of course, we have to go and hope to send you photos of this paradise shortly.

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On a personal note, our plans have changed yet again.  Our circumnavigation on Troskala will be shortly coming to end as we pave a career in Chartering. I had hoped to keep Troskala in the BVI’s with the idea of sailing her into the Pacific but I cannot kid myself that this will be a few years away and I cannot bear the thought of leaving our beautiful yacht to rot in a marina as so many do.  We have therefore decided to sail her back to Northern Spain in May next year as it is a  place close to our hearts and the best cruising ground we have encountered during this trip. In our holidays next year, which normally occur in August and September we will sail her from La Coruna back through Portugal and into the Med as we have wanted to do this area since the start and at least this way we can use her yearly and putting her in the water here during the high hurricane months does not make sense.  That said, there is still so much to wright about and new adventures and just around the corner.

Best wishes,

Oliver

Culebra – Spanish Virgin Islands

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We have been in Culebra for a week now and we are still enjoying the quiet and relaxation that this island has to offer.  Yesterday we rented a brand new Jeep from Carlos’s Jeep rental.  Finally we had a half decent car and an island to explore.  Our first stop was Flamenco Bay, which has been voted the second best beach in the world.  Flamenco Bay did not disappoint.  The beach is crowded in parts but as it is such a long beach it is easy to get away from the tourists and do some quiet snorkelling and walking.  Culebra has been used by the US Navy in the past and some of the remnants still litter the beach, such as tanks and other debris.

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After we left Flamenco Beach we drove around the island visiting various other bays, which were all unique, quiet and beautiful. It has to be said that the island is not that big and we had driven around most of the island by 16:00.  We went for lunch in the main town at a restaurant called Mamacitas, which was good value and very tasty.  After lunch we headed to Brava Beach on the north side and completed an amazing walk through thick forest to reach it, but when we did we found complete solitude and not another person around for miles.

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The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn as we only had the car for 24 hours and this would terminate at 11:00AM.  We headed to Tamarind Bay, where there is said to be a lot of Turtle activity.  We were in the water by 08:00 but there were no turtles, just some very strange fish and a Sting Ray.  We gave up shortly afterwards and headed to Flamenco again as we had had such a great time there the day before.

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Renting a car in Culebra is worth it.  You can also rent scooters and Golf Cars but for the price difference you may as well travel around in style with Air Conditioning and a roof to protect you from the elements; we paid $70 for 24 hours.

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It looks like we will be leaving tomorrow and heading back to St John’s.  From there we will turn south and head to one of the largest US Virgin Islands; St Croix.  We will blog once we get there.

Best wishes,

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Back up North – Antigua to Sint Maartens, via St Barts:

Jolly Beach - Antigua
Jolly Beach – Antigua

 

 

I am currently sitting in Shrimpy’s (www.shrimpys-stmaarten.com) in Marigot Bay (St Maartens).  This is a great place for cruisers to meet, use the Internet and buy second hand goods.  They also offer water and information on where to get things done in and around St Maartens.  Mike and Sally who run the place will do laundry and also provide a radio net at 07:30 each morning for all cruisers.  Discussion ranges from Safety and Security, new arrivals/departures, general info and weather.  We managed to sell our lovely sat phone yesterday for half the price we brought it but at least it is not going to sit in a draw for the next 10 years loosing more of its value.

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Well, I would love to share more photos and say we have been up to a lot in the past week but this would not be true.  Firstly we have been stuck in Marigot Bay for 4 days whilst high winds blew through so due to this we will miss Anguilla this time round and head straight for Virgin Gorda tomorrow, which is in the BVI’s (British Virgin Islands), where we will meet a few friends and spend a month exploring the 54 islands that are there including Richard Branson’s.

 

I better start from the beginning of our trip instead of at the end.  We left Jolly two days after being launched.  We victualed, fuelled and prepared for a passage from Jolly Harbour to St Bart’s.  We departed at 04:00 in the morning and had to complete 80 miles to Gustavia.  With a clean bottom Troskala flew and averaged 6.6 knots.  We made Gustavia 12 hours after departing, which is a record for us.  We again anchored in the same place as we had before although the anchorage was packed as it was just coming to the end of their Richard Miller Regatta.

 

We walked around Gustavia and to Shell Beach the following day.  We decided not to check-in this time and instead move on the Anse De Columbia for the night and then depart and head to St Maartens to explore this island further.  We left Gustavia in the afternoon and all went well for the 2.7 miles until we reached the beach.  I had recently fitted a longer painter to the dinghy, which was made out of an old halyard – big mistake.  Carlotta was on the helm and as I dropped the anchor she engaged reverse.  Thank God the anchor held as a split second later the engine cut out – a first for our engine.  I did the stupid thing of re-starting it without finding the cause of the issue before but I guess that under stress we all do things we wish we could have not done.  Luckily for us the engine again cut out and I quickly established that the painter was caught around our prop.  For us we could not be in a better place, the water was clear and I was able to snorkel down to free the rope with the knife.  No damage caused but a good lesson.

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We spent one afternoon in Anse De Columbia before sailing the 12 miles to Philipsburg to pick up some duty-free alcohol and then onto Simpson Bay.  We still cannot understand the excitement people have with St Maartens.  The Dutch side is very developed and because that damaged.  In Simpson Bay there is not a lot on offer except a long busy road with various restaurants and a Mac Donald’s.  We spent our first day exploring with the dinghy the Lagoon but even this was not great and mainly consisted of chandleries and restaurants.  The beaches are nice but the water is not clear.

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We did not spent too long in Simpson Bay and instead decided to sail around the coast to the French side and anchor in Marigot Bay.  We knew the wind would pick up and as soon as we rounded the corner we were hit with 35 knots of wind and one hour bashing under motor to get to Marigot Bay and the security of the anchorage.

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Marigot Bay, along with the other bays: Grand Case and Anse Marcel are great spots.  The French have managed to keep these places cultural instead of ruining them with hotels and cheap bars.  Marigot itself is a lovely town with some good shopping but a local feel not forgetting Fort Louis, which is an old fort looking down onto the town and the bay.  The people are friendly and the Supermarkets are cheap. Marigot has a great Shopping Centre and the highlight of one of my days was to ride an elevator for the first time in 10 months – we need to move on.

 

The wind increased whilst we were in Marigot but it was not a bad place to get stuck as it is fairly sheltered and there is a lot to occupy yourself in town should you wish to explore.  The days lying at anchor gave me the opportunity to work on the engine and luckily I did.  I have been having some problems getting charge through to our batteries from the alternator and I put this down to the belt slipping.  I adjusted this and fixed the issue but to my horror, when adjusting the alternator I could actually move the engine.  This was not good news and further inspection showed that all but one of our engine mountings were loose with two bolts missing.  The engine is only a year old and I should have checked the mounts earlier but thank goodness it was checked now and all bolts are now tight and the engine is secure.

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To some up St Maarten’s I would have to say that there are nicer islands in the Caribbean.  If you have work to carry out on your yacht, then this is the place to do it.  You can miss the Dutch side unless you like noise, cheap bars and need and Mac Donalds.  If you like you can take a trip to Maho Bay and sit on a beach close to the runway and watch air craft land only a few meters above your head.  We decided we did not want to be sand blasted and past on that option although in the guidebooks this is the only ‘must-see’ place, so that just sums up the Dutch half.

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If you want quality, head to the North or North East coast.  There are some great parties and great towns not top forget, culture, walks and great scenery.  Grand Case is the gastronomic capital of the island and you will not be disappointed.

 

Anyway, we need to press on and we will be heading to the British Virgin Islands tomorrow morning at 01:00AM.  We have a lot to investigate and hope to spend a month there.  We look forward to new islands and meeting up with some old friends, so watch this space.

 

Goodbye for now.

 

Antigua – 06th February – 14th February

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We had made it to Jolly Harbour just in time to meet my Dad and Nita at a lovely bar on the waterfront.  We had spent our first night in Jolly Harbour but after the costs we decided to move out after victualing the boat and making sure we were prepared for a long stint at anchor.

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Jolly Harbour is a lovely place but more accustomed to Condos and hotel guests, it seemed to lack any real ‘feel’ or atmosphere.  The lagoon and beach are great and the contrast in color from turquoise sea to clear blue sky; it is exactly what you would expect from a post card sent from paradise.

We moved on to English Harbour the following day, unfortunately we had top head straight into the wind so for Nita and my Dad, their first sail was under motor beating into a 25 knot head wind for 12 miles.

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It states in our Pilot Book that English Harbour is one of the most beautiful harbour’s in the Caribbean; I have to disagree.  He anchorage is crowded but sheltered.  You do swing a lot on anchor so a stern anchor is useful but we did not use one throughout our stay their.  The water is not as clear as we have seen before but a guess we have been spoilt with St Lucia.  Nelsons Dock Yard however is an experience.  As you enter by way of dinghy it is similar to walking into a living museum.  All the buildings have been tastefully restored and turned into gift shops, cafes and restaurants.  There was a lovely atmosphere in the evening and if you want more nightlife you can walk for 10 minutes into Falmouth Harbour.

One evening we went to Shirley Heights with another couple from Golden Fleece.  Shirley Heights hold a magnificent party on Sunday Nights.  You have to hike up what feels like a mountain to get to it but it is worth it.  They start the party at 16:00 and carry on through the night.  There was an amazing atmosphere with near enough 400 people there.  We were completely astounded by the steel drum band they had playing, their talent is incredible.  If you are ever in Antigua make sure you take part in this party; it is a must. We will certainly pay another visit on our way down and make sure we there earlier to take better photos of the sunset.

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After a short period we decided to head to Falmouth Harbour.  The decision was made after nearly colliding with another boat on anchor so we made a quick escape before any damage could occur.

The great thing about our anchorage in Falmouth Harbour was in our proximity to the Maltese Falcon.  The Maltese Falcon is, I believe the largest and most technolically advanced Super Yacht in the world and we were a stones throw away from it.  I had studied this yacht when it has been built a few years early and could not believe we were now anchored so close to it.

There is not too much to see in Falmouth but there is a good atmosphere mainly due to tourists and Super Yacht Crew.  We had a brief look around before heading back to the boat and watching some dinghy racing.

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As we were heading to the islands of Nevis and St Kitt’s the following day we decided to return to Jolly Harbour to stock up on food, fuel and water, which took most of the day to complete.  The good thing about checking out in Jolly Harbour is that you don’t seem to have to pay for your check-out or for garbage disposal.

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