Ahh, the Spanish Virgin Islands

Featured picture for this blog: We purchased a string of lights in St Thomas to decorate Lone Star for the holidays.

Culebra

We enjoyed an easy 20 mile downwind sail to Culebra, Puerto Rico from Brewer Bay, St. Thomas. It’s only five days until Christmas and we were excited to spend the Holidays with Jeff & Marcia on UJAM’n.

UJAM’n in Ensenada Honda, Culebra

We made several trips ashore to walk around Ensenada Honda, learning the town and where things are. A highlight was shopping at D’s Garden, across the harbor from town. A plethora of fresh tropical vegetables and fruits, like pomegranate, melons, and decent salad vegetables. A little disconcerting to have no prices listed and sticker shock at checkout. The fresh smoothies were a big hit at this store as well! However, so very thankful for this fresh bounty before the holidays.

Almodovar Bay with UJAM’n and Tethys

A few days before Christmas we motored around the corner to the east and picked up some moorings behind a shallow reef.

Calm anchorage with wind coming across this reef, no waves in the anchorage.

On Christmas Day we gathered in the late morning on Lone Star for appetizers: a fresh fruit salad, raw vegetables with homemade dips and mixed nuts. Stories of past holidays and cruising grounds were shared.

Christmas Day, appetizers on Lone Star
…with crew of Tethys and UJAM’n

A few hours later, we continued the fun with Christmas dinner on UJAM’n. Grilled steak or chicken, chili, twice baked potatoes, steamed vegetables, and wine. Topped it off with lemon squares and turtles for desert.

Vieques

The sail to Vieques was also 20 miles, a reach to the east end and then downwind to another Ensenada Honda (translation: deep cove). This one had twists and turns, a very protected anchorage, and some rocks for snorkeling that looked like and were named the Turtles.

Sunset near our buddy boat in Ensenada Honda, Vieques

When the winds calmed a bit, we sailed 3 miles to La Chiva. Mother Nature provided a beautiful canvas to capture.

A full rainbow in La Chiva

Rather than the oh so common and protective mangroves hugging the bay, we finally had a beach to admire and to stretch our legs!

Ahh, beach walking in La Chiva, Vieques

Our next stop was Sun Bay. There was a very nice park here with shelters and marked swim areas along a couple mile beach. They even had a section of storage lockers so the locals did not have to cart chairs and beach equipment home every time they visited.

Sun Bay park shelters, our boats in center

This was a well protected harbor and we enjoyed some lighter winds while here. Time for laundry and boat maintenance. Tom climbed the mast and while up there he discovered a single strand, of a nineteen strand wire that is our back stay, was broken at the top fitting. Luckily, there is plenty of rigging wire in the turnbuckles, so we only need to redo the top fitting. After checking our spares he discovered we did not have the right size replacement cones. We ordered some and will have them shipped to a Marina in Salinas, Puerto Rico. In the meantime, we rigged two running back stays to help support the mast in that direction.

Maintenance time, Tom climbed the mast stairs.

There are many wild horses on this beautiful island. They have plenty of room to roam and graze. There are also some working horses on farms or available for rides.

Wild horses that are quite used to people
They like the fresh rain water puddles

On our last full day on the island of Vieques, we took a long walk down the beach to Esperanza with Jeff and Marcia. We enjoyed a relaxing lunch and a walk around the town. This is an absolutely beautiful island.

Tom, Marcia, and Jeff on our hike to Esperanza

We spent nearly three weeks in the Spanish Virgin Islands rekindling our love for these remote and picturesque islands. We last visited Culebra in 1989. Let’s hope we return before another 33 years go by.

Exploring the U.S. Virgin Islands

Photo above: The hills and beach of Brewer Bay, St. Thomas

We spent two weeks in December exploring St. John, Great St. James, and St. Thomas in the USVI. The rules at the time allowed us to spend only two weeks in the USVI, without filing a prepaid anchoring permit. COVID rules, regulations, and fees made a visit to the British Virgin Islands difficult and cost prohibitive; so we’ll reluctantly skip that this year. We plan to go where the wind takes us, generally west in the northern Caribbean Sea. We’ll move on to the Spanish Virgin Islands of Puerto Rico after two weeks.

Sunset in Caneel Bay St. John, USVI

Tom had a bit of maintenance to do after our ocean passage. He spent hours in the engine room chasing the fuel line air leak. He replaced every washer and the entire fuel filter assembly. After weeks of successful cold engine starts we are finally confident the problem is fixed. It’s a huge relief to have this problem behind us!

We made a quick stop in Cruz Bay (west coast of St. John) to check in with the National Guard with our printed health visas. Then we had a wander around town. There are very narrow streets in this old village. We found a market to purchase fresh produce. No haircut was available for Anita, so she finally cut it herself a few weeks later. No laundry services were readily available either. We have several loads of winter wear, including down vests, flannel sheets and blankets. Too big and heavy to wash in a bucket on board!

Trunk Bay, St. John, arggh embarrassing photo. Just look at the beach and beautiful water color!!

At the National Park Museum in Cruz Bay we learned Tom could obtain a senior pass for US National Parks at Trunk Bay (north coast of St. John). So that became our next destination. Many of the anchorages in St. John are part of the National Park system. To protect the coral reefs and wildlife, anchoring is not allowed, one must pick up a mooring and pay $26/night in advance. With the senior pass it is half price. We prefer to anchor, but still want to see these beautiful protected waters. After obtaining the pass, we sailed on to Francis Bay for a less bouncy and more protected anchorage.

Coral Bay is outside the park, anchoring is allowed

We recall Coral Bay (southeast coast of St. John) as a popular stop for cruisers. It offers a fairly well protected harbor and a small friendly town. Sadly, the harbor was predominantly occupied by abandoned hurricane wrecked boats. The town had little to offer as most places closed due to COVID. We did find a take out breakfast place that was open and doing very well with takeout offerings.

Beautiful downwind sail to Great Lameshur Bay

Our next destination was Great Lameshur Bay on the south coast of St. John. Beautiful bay!

Finally getting the hang of picking up park moorings

The water was a bit chilly, Tom needed a cup of tea after a hot shower to warm up after his two hour swim to clean the bottom.

Time to mow the grass!

The steep peaks of St. John are a challenge for the cruising sailor. The wind accelerates between the hills and creates shifty strong winds we call willywaws. We had numerous small rain squalls daily while visiting this mountainous island. Warm air rises and creates clouds, which dump rain and provide lots of rainbows.

With the rain, comes a rainbow 🌈

Our next stop was in Christmas Cove on Great St. James Island. We enjoyed another beautiful downwind sail to get there.

Boat name is PI, and they make/sell takeout pizza in Christmas Cove
Yummy

Sailing to St. Thomas is a trip down memory lane. We last visited here on a cruise ship ourselves. Of course we visited all these islands in Sundsvalla back in 1988-89 as well as four different bareboat charter excursions.

Three cruise ships in Charlotte Amalie

One of the very special things we enjoyed in this busy harbor was the afternoon and evening entertainment of a steel drum orchestra. We heard them nearly every day, but we never saw them.

Our anchorage in Charlotte Amalie

We scheduled our COVID booster shots at Walgreens and found a Budget Marine store where we could obtain needed spare parts. The best way to get there was to travel on the local bus system, called safari. Although, by the end of the day we were tired and settled for a private taxi to get us the rest of the way back.

Riding the Public Safari (open air bus) to Red Hook and back

When the weather finally settled down, and our errands were complete we moved on to our final stop in St. Thomas, Brewer Bay.

Brewer Bay, where we anchored near a boat similar to our previously owned White Bird
Sunrise over Brewer Bay as we sail off anchor, toward Culebra, Puerto Rico

In summary, the harbors in the USVI were not over-crowded this early in the season. The majority of the boats we saw were charter boats and shoreside facilities and the authorities seem to cater to that style of tourism. It was a fun and all too brief visit. We are happy to be a bit further south this winter season. We are enjoying the steadier trade winds that most often come from the east. This makes for some very pleasant sailing! Also, the cold fronts with their accompanying wind shifts generally don’t get this far south.

Lone Star sails to Andros and the Berries

We were enjoying cruising in company to Rose Island near New Providence and Nassau. Sadly, in mid-April it was once again time to bid farewell and part ways with our buddy boats. They were starting to plan their departure from the Bahamas. We planned to stay another month.

U’Jammin and Wild Iris depart for the Abaco’s

While our friends enjoyed an overnight sail north we left the next morning sailing west for Andros Island. We enjoyed a mostly downwind sail across the north side of New Providence. So happy with our boats performance: 46.2 miles in 9 hours, despite having to motor for 3 hours midday when the wind died. We anchored in Morgan’s Bluff at the north end of Andros at 5 PM.

Sunset our first night at Andros

Steve and Janice on Steadfast invited us over for a delicious dinner made by Janice: fresh caught fish! She is a marvelous chef. We were also happy to meet up with Steve, another long range radio relay. Great to put a face with the voice we hear every morning and fun to get to know them a bit better.

The next morning the local Customs official gave us a ride to a small local grocery as we were out of fresh produce. They sure didn’t have much, but something is better than nothing. We purchased diesel at a reasonable price here too. The next day we hiked around to enjoy the uniqueness of the area.

Morgan’s Caves believed to have been used by the pirate captain himself
Lone Star at anchor in Morgan’s Bluff

Sully gave us a guided tour to the Mennonite farm early on our last morning in Andros. I highly recommend other cruisers ask for Sully, he is not a taxi driver, just a friendly local that enjoys people. What a nice load of fresh produce!! Well worth the trip!

Bananas, melon, cabbages, green beans, tomatoes, eggplant, fresh picked strawberries, apples, oranges, white & sweet potatoes, onions, and kale
Carrots, broccoli, romaine, pears, farm fresh eggs, bell peppers, cucumbers, celery and scallions Yes, the refrigerator needs to be defrosted!!

Right after lunch we sailed the 16 miles to Chub Cay in the Berries. Regrettably, I took no photos here. However, we were here several years ago with Jenna & Alex on board.

2019 photo of Chub Cay
2019 photo sunset at Chub Cay

Time to explore new places in the Berries! We sailed east and north up a shallow bay to anchor a mile or so from Cockroach Cay.

Cockroach Cay in the Berries

This was a secure and beautiful anchorage to hide from a north east blow. No waves for us in this harbor. We saw an occasional fisherman, but no other cruising boats here. We stayed for 3 nights, then motored 15 miles to Bonds Cay. Ironically, we were now a couple miles north east of Cockroach Cay and still received a good cell signal from Chub Cay.

Full moon well risen before …
… Sunset anchored at Bonds Cay, looking toward Cockroach Cay

After three more days of moderately high winds keeping us on board, we were starting to crave a walk on shore. No beaches at all on the west side of this long skinny island, just coral. We could see a small beach toward the north end. So we pulled up the anchor and motored a couple miles north and re-anchored.

After a mile plus dinghy ride we found a small beach

We walked back and forth a few times until it looked like a whole lot of people had landed on the beach. Haha, we haven’t seen a soul. However, there was a very large flock of people shy birds!

It was a pretty small beach
Picturesque none the less
Heading back to the speck that is Lone Star

The next day we sailed 23 miles to Hawks Nest Bay. We only used the engine to set the anchor upon arrival. We were so pleased to see we were surrounded by beautiful beaches on three sides. Yeah! Let’s go for a walk!!

Hawks Nest Bay was surrounded by beach!
Now that is a nice beach to walk on!!
Looking for turtles in a nearby warm river
Ahh, our happy place!
Beach walking at Hawks Nest
Life is Good… in the Berries

We enjoyed four days filled with beach walking and turtle spotting and dolphins in the bay. Then we saw an ideal weather window for a long day sail east then north to the Abaco’s. Lately, the northern islands have experienced stronger winds than we’ve had from three passing cold fronts. Perhaps we can catch up with our buddy boats again?

Long Island and the Ragged Islands

Featured Picture Caption: Setting sail at sunrise from Long Island Bahamas

In our opinion, 2021 is the perfect year to travel farther afield in the Bahamas. The number of boats here this year is greatly reduced. It’s easy to find a peaceful anchorage either alone or with one or two other boats. Maintaining physical distance is very easy to do when traveling slowly by boat. The Bahamian government has added a few regulations to keep their residents and visitors safe. We find filling out the domestic travel visa takes less than three minutes and approval via email has been almost instantaneous. We are grateful for the privilege to sail and explore more of these beautiful islands as we escape the cold winter in New England for the third year in a row.

A glimpse of Thompson Bay and a few more cruisers

On Monday, January 18 we left Georgetown, on Great Exuma and motor-sailed to Long Island. We expected more than 10 knots of wind, but it did not materialize.

Salt Pond Long Island; heading back to the dinghy dock

There were only 8 other boats in this large protected harbor. We had a couple very windy days here and eventually went ashore for a walk and to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables before sailing south to the remote and mostly uninhabited southern Bahamian islands known as the Jumentos Cays and Ragged Islands.

Raising anchor and sails at sunrise

On Thursday, January 21 we were ready to head south towards the Ragged Islands; on the tails of a cold front of course. We love a good downwind sail! We left anchor under sail power alone at 6:45AM. We sailed 56.7 nautical miles in 11 hours, arriving at Flamingo Cay in the southern Jumento Cays just before sunset. We were all alone in this normally popular anchorage. No internet here, so a nice quiet night of reading on board.

Video: Arriving at Flamingo Cay at sunset

The weather was great for sailing. We sailed off anchor again and kept heading south toward Hog Cay, just north of Ragged Island. Ragged Island is the only inhabited island in this beautiful chain of islands,

Raising anchor the second day, sailing to Hog Cay

Hog Cay is a cruisers meeting place. There is a large pavilion on shore and several fire pits. There are lots of chairs and tables and a beautiful view. Cruisers generally gather around 4:30 pm to swap sea stories and watch the sunset. Bring your own beverages. The cell tower on nearby Ragged Island means internet is available.

Sundowners at the Hog Cay Yacht Club photo courtesy of Carol Hall Burchfield
Hog Cay Yacht Club at sunset

One morning we joined a few friends for a hike across the island. There are many wild goats on most of the islands around here. The goats must be afraid of people or they hide real well in the shrubbery. I did not get a picture of them.

Hiking the trails on Hog Cay

Video: Our destination; windward side of Hog Cay

Harvesting floats that washed up on the beach

On one of the beaches we found intact floats that must have fallen off a fishing boat. Tom and Russ untangled them and brought them back to the yacht club for reuse.

Circling back to our anchorage after our hike

We came back on a different path north of our anchorage. Nice three and a half mile hike. There are so many paths, many maintained by the goats, teehee. On another day, Tom and I took a different path and had to come back the same way as we could not find the ocean side entrance to the paths we had used before.

Walking to town on Ragged Island from Southside Bay, cell tower on right

We sailed to Southside Bay on Ragged Island and anchored there for a deep cold front that hit the whole east coast. One day we decided to walk to Duncan Town. There are supposedly about 50 residents on Ragged. We only saw about 8. We had no luck visiting the grocery. No one was around that afternoon. When the east winds returned we sailed north to Raccoon Cay. Beautiful sail in fairly calm seas most of the time. The below chart plotter picture shows five other boats heading north as well.

Fast sail to Raccoon Cay

Video: Sailing to Raccoon Cay

Another storm was reaching down and this one had a couple of days with a west component to the wind. There are very few harbors in the Raggeds with shelter from west winds. We sought shelter a day early in Low Water Harbor on the south end of Buena Vista Cay and paid the price with a rolly anchorage for the first night. However, we picked a very good spot. By morning other boats were seeking shelter there too. We managed to fit eight boats in with no problem. We celebrated the end of the storm with a small bonfire on the beach.

Bonfire on Buena Vista Cay

During this storm the Ragged Island cell tower stopped working on Saturday evening and didn’t get repaired until Tuesday morning. A couple boats that were working remotely had to sail north in the strong winds to reach another working cell tower before their Monday morning work meetings. So glad we are not on a schedule.

Sundowners on Lone Star

Appreciating another day of life afloat with a snack on our aft deck. We did see the green flash as the sun set into the blue water this day. Disappointed we couldn’t capture it with a picture.

Ice cream social at Hog Cay. YUM!!

We sailed back down to Hog Cay from Buena Vista. A couple of highlights were an ice cream social and a potluck that featured delicious ribs crisped up on an open fire with a few other cruisers that have been in the area for more than a couple of weeks, similar to us. Note: COVID-19 has not made an appearance on nearby Ragged Island. We certainly hope that continues to be the case.

Two beautiful days of sailing to return to Georgetown

We utilized some beautiful southeasterly winds to sail north up the chain of islands. We stopped at Water Cay on Valentine’s Day and grilled some delicious strip steak paired with parsley potatoes and carrots and topped off with mint chip gelato. The next day we enjoyed a smooth sail on the beautiful banks and through Hog Cay Cut before high tide and into Kidds Cove in Georgetown in the early afternoon.

Video: Approaching Hog Cay Cut

We sailed nearly 300 miles in the past month. The last two days were absolutely gorgeous reaching sails.

Our route to Long Island and the Raggeds

As we reflect on our recent travels we are so thankful for our health and floating home, and the freedom to travel among the beautiful Bahama islands safely despite the global pandemic. We hope you also find joy in your lives.

Baby it’s cold up there. 70’s where we are.

It’s mid- February and the U.S. is in another cold snap. Stay warm and connected friends.

Post Dorian/COVID cruise in the Abacos

Picture Caption: northeast beach on Elbow Cay

This is our first trip back to this archipelago since Hurricane Dorian ravaged the Abacos in September 2018. We are heartened to see progress toward rebuilding. Bahamians are strong resilient people who love their beautiful islands. Cruising in COVID times means fewer and/or shorter trips ashore. Wearing masks, frequent hand washing and keeping our distance from our friendly fellow man.

Much devastation in Marsh Harbor

We heard Marsh Harbor is focusing on rebuilding the Commercial district away from the harbor. The Mud, an area with a shanty town that was completely washed away, is fenced off and the marsh is reclaiming the land. Many of the shanty town residents perished in the storm, but the number will never be known.

Floating wrecks in Marsh Harbor

Perhaps the owners of these boats have not yet returned to the island? Population in this area is still very low.

We started out using T-Mobile and the BTC cell towers. It was very difficult to download email never mind load a webpage with 3G service. On Black Friday, Aliv cell service had a sale; we purchased a chip with a fantastic plan! $90 for 250GB a month; double there normal 125GB. Time to back up the computers and other devices. Service is LTE/4g fast now too.

BTC tower at half-height

Amazing to see that rebar reinforced concrete buildings were no match for the power of the ocean during a monster hurricane. After 3 days we were ready to move on and explore other islands in the Abacos.

Motoring from Marsh to Green Turtle Cay
Ahh, the water color; so soothing!

Green Turtle Cay Club and Marina is completely rebuilt and operational. So beautiful and welcoming. This is a port of entry and we saw a few cruising boats come and go here.

Green Turtle Cay Club from anchorage

We rented a golf cart to drive (on the left side of the road) to the Settlement to get our 5-day COVID-19 nasal antigen test at the clinic.

Touring Green Turtle

Tom called his Dad and we ended up taking him with us on our golf cart tour of the island.

Beautiful Gilliam Beach on Green Turtle

After our tour and second confirmation that we do not have COVID, we celebrated with lunch on the deck at GTC Club restaurant. Lone Star is centered in the below picture, hidden behind the nice new docks.

Outdoor lunch at the Green Turtle Cay Club

We were itching for a good sail. The 20 knot north-northwest wind normally means do NOT head through Whale Cay cut. We sailed northeast through the cut at slack current with 4-6 foot seas with no problem. The wind was at our backs the rest of the way to Hope Town. Excellent sail, 27 miles in just over 4 hours.

Made it through Whale Cay Cut on a windy day

Hope Town is on the north end of Elbow Cay. We anchored outside the harbor in 5 feet of water. We took a long walk on shore and found this boat tossed high up on a hill by Dorian, a long ways from the water. The leaning mast and rigging hung over the road.

The creek is to the right of this picture
Busy workers renovating the Primary school

Hope Town is recovering and we saw lots of new roofs and renovated homes. There is a lot more work to do in the village. Again the local population has not yet returned.

On Da Beach Bar & Grille is open

Vernon’s grocery was open and we purchased our first Bahamian Mac & Cheese of the season. Dense and baked like lasagne, this one had some hot peppers and was very delicious. We purchased some fresh produce as well.

New solar array in Hope Town

After 3 days we motor-sailed south to Little Harbor. There is a very secure inner harbor here, but we elected to anchor outside as the wind was light. A client/friend of Tom’s came out for a dinghy drift visit in the evening bearing gifts of wine and hats. That means they stayed in their boat tied behind ours, rather than coming aboard. It’s what we do in COVID times. Bruce & Trish graciously shared information about the Abacos and places to see.

Beach outside Little Harbor

The next day we took the dinghy in and inspected moorings for rent and took a walk around the village. We stopped for a fresh lemonade at Pete’s Pub, very pleasantly surprised they were open on a Sunday morning.

Nice spot for a picnic!
Love these homemade swings and sandbox
This is the type of fish net Tom cut off our propellor in the Gulf Stream

Even though there was a windy day approaching we elected to move into the Bight of Old Robinson rather than Little Harbor. We wanted to leave for Eleuthera at first light and would not have a high enough tide to get over the sand bar at the entrance.

Tom and Lone Star at Little Harbor

As soon as the cold front passed we joined the North winds to surf and sail southward to Eleuthera in search of warmer weather and turquoise seas. Stay tuned for that story next time.

Where to from Hampton Virginia?

Tom really wanted to sail offshore around Cape Hatteras to avoid the long hours at the helm through the Virginia Cut. The weather forecast only had south winds or no wind in the forecast. so a motoring we will go toward Beaufort. NC

Early morning look at Portsmouth, VA

We have seen very few cruising boats thus far. We have heard many cruisers are moving onto land until COVID is under control. The boat is a better option for us. We do a lot of research before venturing ashore and avoid hot spots completely.

First boat in the lock, Tom at work as a yacht broker

We left Hospital Point in Norfolk, VA rather early and it paid off as we were first in the lock. The water was lowered less than 2 feet. Cloudy day with lots of birds around.

Motoring through the Virginia Cut

We motored 3.5 miles past Coinjock and anchored to the side of the channel just before sunset. Tom checked the engine before we started out the next morning and found a most unpleasant surprise.

Loose bolts are broken; of four only one remains

The Serpentine belt drive shaft cover plate was attached by only one bolt out of four. He spent a couple of hours taking things apart and analyzing how to fix it. A few phone calls later the necessary parts were ordered, to be delivered next day to Coinjock Marina. The folks at the marina also gave us a phone number for a diesel mechanic and Tom arranged for him to meet us the next day to remove the old drive shaft pulley and install a new one. Amazingly, Tom was able to put the pulley back together with only one bolt(!) so we could motor slowly under our own power back to Coinjock. We stayed on the west side docks away from the restaurant and marina. So glad we hired the mechanic! He worked really hard to remove the nut holding the drive shaft pulley. He finally used a four foot long wrench! Not a tool we have on board. One boat unit ($1,000) later all was repaired and we were ready to move on.

Dockside in Coinjock

We enjoyed some walks around the local neighborhood and never saw anyone outside. Unless you count the Halloween decorations.

Happy Halloween!

We left Coinjock Marina in the late morning so we didn’t travel far; perhaps 20 miles. A cold front was approaching that evening. The next day we used those North winds to sail downwind across the shallow Albermarle Sound. It was a fun day despite gale warnings. We were very lucky to make it through the Alligator River bridge during a lull in the wind. The bridge can’t open under some wind conditions. After traveling 50 miles, we anchored for the night at the beginning of the Alligator Pungo River Canal. The next day we traveled another 50 miles and stopped for the night just north of Bay River in Bayboro, NC.

Sunset at a private anchorage in Bayboro, NC

We chose to skip one of our favorite ports, Oriental, NC due to an impending cold front with strong NW winds. We hid in Adam’s Creek for a couple of nights. Then we made the final inland journey to the Taylor Creek anchorage in Beaufort, NC.

Our route through the ICW, with anchorages noted

We like to celebrate the end of a journey with something special, like a meal out or something hidden away in our own lockers for a special occasion. There are so many nice restaurants in Beaufort and they were allowing very limited dining in. We chose to go to a Mexican restaurant, Mezcalito for burritos. We took half home for lunch the next day. Very tasty, and good strong fresh iced tea!

Yummy burritos at Mezcalito in Beaufort, NC

We finally spotted some of the wild horses on nearby Shackleford Island!

Wild horses on Shackleford Island

As there was no weather window in sight for at least 10 days; Tom decided to do the wiring and relocation of the solar controllers to the galley bulkhead. It took about four days, but he finished! We now have 1000 watts of solar panels to charge our lithium battery bank.

Tom working on the solar panel wiring
A kilowatt of solar finished

We finished all those numerous last minute details that need done before leaving the country via sailboat along with some new ones due to the Pandemic. Things like: laundry, food shopping, pay bills or setup bill pay, fill fuel tanks and jerry cans, setup cell service for overseas etc. All while being extremely cautious: wear masks, wash hands, stay away from people.

The Bahamas has protocols for the Pandemic. We ordered PCR COVID test kits from Everlywell.com and had them shipped to us at Beaufort Docks. They took 4 days to reach us. We used them the day we left, then sent them off via UPS Drop Box. A link to our results will be emailed to us. We completed our Bahamas Health Visa profiles; we’ll add the International Trip when we have our test results. They only give us five days from time of test to arrival in the Bahamas so we must go! Time to go sailing in the big blue Atlantic Ocean.

Summer in New England 2020

We arrived in CT in mid-June when restrictive stay at home rules were just beginning to relax. Outdoor exercise was encouraged, so the day after arriving off we went with a small family group to Arcadia Management area early Sunday morning. I think we only saw two other lone hikers.

Hiking with Jenna, Ipo, Nani, & son Alex

We drove to Maine to drop off a damaged dagger board; for repair, at Greene Marine and spent one night at Anita’s sisters house. Then we drove on to NH for a quick visit with Tom’s Dad.

We had been placing a bunch of online orders as we had some repairs to do. The mast track was very warn where the large batten cars rested. Poor design! Tom had to cut a larger gate in the existing mast track and installed a new super slick track. Then we both worked on replacing the sail slides. Love it when a project goes smoothly and makes a real nice difference! Check out the video below.

Removed the boom and installed new mast track
Installed new sail slides
New track works great!

On Tuesday, August 4th we had the remnants of a tropical storm. We decided to stay at our mooring as it weighs more than 1200 pounds, bigger than any anchor we have! The video below was taken when the winds were 43 knots, that’s about 50 mph. I see at least 3 roller furling jibs flapping. Folks did not prepare. Warning: do not watch the video if you are prone to seasickness when standing on a dock.

Early August Tropical Storm

A few days later we rented a car and drove to NH to join some Kintz family members for a socially distanced lake vacation. We wore masks indoors, ate separately, and most importantly everyone stayed healthy.

Newfound lake vacation

When we returned the rental car, we took a short break to sail to Block Island during the week and sail home on the weekend when most people arrived. There were no crowds on BI. We took a short hike on a new trail and looked down at the surf side beach; all were nearly empty on a gorgeous August afternoon.

Sail to Block Island
Fewer boats in the anchorage than normal
Found a new deserted walking path
Windy day at the beach, not many people

A few days later we joined a few boats from Shennecossett Yacht Club for a weekend cruise to Watch Hill, RI. This event began with a gathering at the hosts’ boat where everyone stayed in their own dinghies. The next morning, we gathered for breakfast on the beach. We kept our distance and still got to visit in small groups while wearing masks. Really fun time and great breakfast sandwiches from a local restaurant.

Dinghies tied to host boat
Breakfast on the beach
… At beautiful Watch Hill

Before we knew it, Labor Day weekend was over and we had sailed up the Connecticut River to Essex Boat Works for a four day haul out to scrub the topsides, apply two more coats of bottom paint, grease the propellor, and change the zincs.

Ready to launch

We made one last trip to NH to visit and play games with Tom’s Dad and enjoyed a hike nearby. Delicious beef stew and yummy pies, thanks Ilse!

Dad and Tom on a hike

We helped plan a last minute wedding shower for our son. They’ve set the date for next May! We’ll sail north again next spring to attend.

Wedding shower for Jenna & Alex

Our next summer project was to install 4 additional solar panels on the pilot house roof. We will have 1 kilowatt of power when the installation is complete. We couldn’t head south until the panels were safely secured. Tom finished that on October 15th. He still has to do the wiring and install a new controller, but that can be done south of here. It’s getting too cold! Although our diesel cabin heater has been working fine, keeping us warm.

New fiberglass brackets to secure the panels
New handrail to guide main sheet past sharp edges
Bundled up to read. Time to head south!

Tom’s yacht brokerage is more active this year than last. People must be realizing boats are a great way to travel and live in isolation. We love this lifestyle and look forward to making a passage south real soon.

This summer recap shows a few highlights only. The majority of our time was spent in isolation on our boat at our mooring. We look forward to a future beyond this global flu pandemic, when we can hug and laugh and be social again. Stay healthy, happy and safe everyone.

Heading South in the ICW

October 16th dawned cloudy with the promise of rain. A cold front was predicted with strong winds behind it. We elected to motor through the rain for two hours to find a more protected anchorage than Hospital Point in Portsmouth, VA. We were the only boat to anchor in a small cove at statute mile marker 10 in Chesapeake, VA. The highest wind we saw in this protected anchorage was less than 20.Picture courtesy of Tammy Merritt from her house

There are two routes south at the beginning of the Intracoastal Waterway or ICW. You may recall last year we chose the Dismal Swamp and suffered propellor damage when a thirty foot tree was kicked up by the wake (waves created by a boats forward motion) of the boat in front of us. The depth of this man-made canal has shrunk over the years from ten feet to perhaps six foot deep as there are years of debris from the overhanging trees.Dismal Swamp 2018

The width seems narrow in spots, especially for sailboats with masts; due to the overhanging trees. We’ve read that there is a large amount of duck weed floating in the swamp this year. Engine raw water filters have to be cleaned often.

This year we chose to transit the ever so slightly shorter route, sometimes referred to as the Virginia Cut. We found depths from 10-16 feet most often and the shorter canals merged with rivers and were often quite wide. There were a lot more birds this year as well. Larger flocks and more of a variety of species. Great Bridge Lock is only a 2 foot rise, quick and painless.Great Bridge LockLooking back to the lock entrance, this crane was dredging near the entrance. Don’t you think the below picture of the winding North Landing River looks wider than the Dismal Swamp?North Landing River

We anchored in Shiloh, NC after nearly 9 hours and 50 miles. It was a long day at the helm, too narrow and many twists and turns to use autopilot. We had the engine on all day. Though the jib gave us a boost with the wind behind us for about 10 miles in Currituck Sound. I was surprised that there were so few boats migrating south at this time of year. However, our night time anchorage had about a dozen boats.

The next day we sailed downwind across Albemarle Sound and down the Alligator River. This Alligator river swing bridge was closed for a couple weeks this fall. So glad it was repaired by the time we arrived. It’s a long way around this stretch of water! We anchored for the night just before the Alligator/Pungo canal and enjoyed this beautiful sunset.Alligator/Pungo CanalMorning fog in the beginning of the canal.

We chose Pungo Creek rather than Belhaven Marina for our next stop-over as the remnants of a tropical storm was predicted to race by. We found good holding near the Marina and enjoyed a walk on shore before the blow. Locals were extremely friendly and the neighborhood was filled with very friendly dogs.A TriStar 46 docked in Pungo Creek. Similar design to our Lone Star which is a TriStar 39.

On Monday, October 21 we sailed south to one of our favorite spots: Oriental, NC. This historic town is so welcoming and we love the unusual and practical supplies at the local consignment store. Last year we sold a Porta-Bote that was too long for our davits. This year we dropped off a gasoline outboard and a series drogue. They were replaced recently by a Torqueedo electric outboard and Shark drogue (sea anchor.)Bringing the Series drogue to the consignment store in Oriental, NC. We also enjoyed a delicious lunch at the restaurant behind Tom.

We motored the remaining 24 miles to Beaufort, NC two days later. We completed our southern trek down the ICW in only a week. So excited to have reached our final destination before heading offshore to sail south to the Bahamas!

Next up Preparations and Passage to the Bahamas.

Sailing the Chesapeake

It felt so good to kickback and relax for a couple of days in the Bohemia River. Click the link to see that this is located in the very northern part of Chesapeake Bay, only a mile or so from the Chesapeake and Delaware (C&D) canal. We had one windy/rainy day then woke up to fog. On the third day, October 4th, we were well rested and ready for a downwind sleigh ride to Annapolis, MD.The anchorage on the Bohemia River.Sailing south with Miles.

The seas were choppy as we headed south and wind gusts were in the high 20’s when we decided to lower the mainsail and continue at 5-7 knots under jib alone. Miles did the same. We wondered if they had an advantage as both their sails are roller-furled while ours are the old style hank on. Our self-tacking jib has a built in wishbone shaped boom, you can’t roll that up! However, self-tacking means we have no lines to pull when we turn or tack the boat. Near the end of the day, we both anchored in Back Creek just south of Annapolis. Miles found an anchoring spot half-way down the creek, near all the Marina’s and dinghy docks. We were directed by a local to a beautiful and quiet anchorage at the head of the harbor, a bit further in. The annual power boat show was underway and we wanted to avoid the crowds and boat wakes in Spa Creek. We met the crew from Miles on shore the first morning to take a much needed mile hike to the Giant food store, a large grocery store. It felt great to stretch our legs and get some exercise! So glad we had the Burley Trolley with us, so much easier to wheel our groceries rather than carry them.That evening we went to a nearby pub to celebrate Helen’s birthday. Great dinner and fun time with them and another cruising couple.

The following day we took our dinghy, laundry, and shower bags down to a marina near where Miles was anchored. They charge a small fee to tie up the dinghy and use the showers and coin laundry. Unfortunately, Miles received a message that their boat was dragging. It wasn’t, but they did re-anchor right in front of us. Much easier to play cards or enjoy afternoon tea!Steve and Helen in their dinghy near their boat, anchored in front of Lone Star.We were literally anchored at the end of the navigable creek.

We were able to rendezvous with Jeff and Kimberly on Pegu Club one day. We last saw them in July at SYC in Groton, CT. We are looking forward to Christmas in Georgetown Bahamas with them!

The Annapolis Sailboat Show started Thursday, Steve and Helen acquired some free tickets and spent the day browsing the show. We elected not to go to remove the temptation to buy more stuff. However, Steve had shown Tom a nifty new device he recently purchased and Tom asked him to buy one for us if they were discounted at the show and they were. So now we own a Bushnell imaged stabilized monocular.After a week in Annapolis we saw a weather window to head south. Can’t pass on fair winds and following seas! On October 11th, we enjoyed a fast 48 mile sail to Solomons, MD.A Chesapeake Lighthouse.We elected not to go ashore here as the full moon tides, called king tides in this area; resulted in flooded docks and the main street too.

We left Solomons just before noon and motor-sailed 35 miles to Little Wicomico River, MD. A fisherman’s haven and a beautiful spot on earth. We entered the narrow entrance channel at sunset, against the current, and through a small fleet of local fishing boats.Such a peaceful and beautiful anchorage.

After a quick warm oatmeal breakfast, we fought the current once again to leave the river. We sailed 26 miles to Jackson Creek in Deltaville, VA. We had a quick lunch then went ashore at a nearby Marina. We had a surprise guest jump in the Portland Pudgy dinghy on our way ashore: a fish jumped into the boat, trying to escape a bigger fish most likely. Tom threw him back in.

The next day we hiked across the peninsula to Norview Marina to take pictures and video of a Seascape custom 55′ trawler cat Tom has listed on yachtworld.com

That was our last stop in the Chesapeake for this year. On October 15th, we sailed the rest of the way down Chesapeake Bay and across Hampton Roads into Portsmouth, VA. We anchored at mile marker zero of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). This is also known as Hospital Point on the Elizabeth River. We only spent two weeks in the Chesapeake this year compared to just over four weeks last year. We had fewer stops waiting for good weather this year. The goal is to not run the cabin heater, which means getting south earlier.

Next up transiting the ICW.

Sailing, Shopping, and Socializing – Ahh Summer!

Lone Star anchored at Flat Hammock, near Fishers Island, New York in late August.

It appears our social calendar was as full as our project schedule this summer. Anita often took time for a brisk morning walk around nearby UCONN campus, sometimes with friends, always admiring the view! Tom preferred to obtain his exercise in the college pool and commute to and from on his bicycle.Avery Point Lighthouse on UCONN property.View of SYC from UCONN.

We first met British friends Steve and Helen Lawrence 32 years ago in Barbados after we each had crossed the Atlantic in our respective sail boats. Since then they have completed a circumnavigation. We were so happy to see them cruise into our harbor in their latest boat named Miles. Here they are after a tour of the Nautilus submarine museum in Groton, CT. We were so lucky to have use of a car this summer. Trips to Defender marine supply store, hardware stores, laundry and grocery stores whenever we needed to go were invaluable. We were prepared to use Uber all summer. Tom’s generous sister and her husband offered us the use of their van. Thank you, dear sister!! The car was also a big help when we decided to move into a better priced storage unit and downsize our belongings a bit more. We were also able to visit our son a few times and help them out with a garage insulation project. We were grateful son, Alex and fiancé, Jenna came to more than a few Friday night picnics at Shennecossett Yacht Club.

Tom’s next Project was installing a new lithium iron phosphate battery bank. He was so happy when he moved the old AGM’s off the boat!So sad that I don’t have any pictures of the beautiful blue inner cells, but here is the finished project. We still have a separate engine starting battery for now. So far we are very happy with the new lithium battery bank. It delivers a steady voltage consistently. We’ve even used the microwave and a heat gun with no voltage drop as our old batteries did.At the end of August Tom’s Dad and friend, Ilse came for a short couple night visit. We sailed to Flat Hammock and anchored for lunch and a walk on shore. What a beautiful day. So glad they made the trip!Our next event was to attend a 100 year celebration at the Montville, CT power generation station that Tom worked at from 1979 to 1987. Great time visiting, reminiscing, and touring the current facility. The food was fabulous as well. We decided to do the majority of our provisioning for the Bahamas right here. This was facilitated by the van we borrowed. This time we stocked up on some dried fruits: apples, peaches, and strawberries. Repacked in vacuum sealed bags for longer storage.Tom is always researching new marine products. We’ve been looking for some specific emergency equipment. Things we want to have on hand, but hope to never need. The first was an emergency rudder or perhaps a tiller arm. What he found is a very compact sea anchor: a Fiorentino Shark Drogue. It is deployed on a bridle off the stern and can be used to steer the boat by bringing it close in on one side or the other. The boat will turn to port if you drag it close to the port side of the boat. It doubles as a reliable sea anchor when the seas are rough by adding a weight to the thimble at the tail end; and once again dragging it behind the boat on a bridle.The item stores compactly in itself and is smaller in size than a basketball 🏀. Very well engineered product made of high quality materials. We purchased one and will practice using it as it is so easy to deploy. The YouTube videos for this product were fun to watch and informative.

Next up will be our second piece of needed emergency equipment: a life raft.

Please click the links (blue underscored words) in our blogs to learn more about the places we’ve been and the friends, organizations and products we support and love!