12-28 Family happenings

took a berth at the IGY American Yacht Harbor Marina for a couple nights and were so happy to hook-up with my sister, nephew and his wife and two kids. Talk about timing! They just happened to schedule a vacation in St Thomas, and here we were! They hadn't been aboard Infini before, and it was wonderful to introduce them to the cruising lifestyle, albeit a very brief intro. This morning, I changed the oil, filled the water tanks, did a diesel and gas can top-off run, and a few cleaning chores before it was time to take the taxi over to their hotel and enjoy a lovely buffet dinner and visit with them. Unfortunately, I think we created some new farkel maniacs, introducing the kids to the dice game we've played for some time. It wasn't "cutthroat" farkel, but they got the gist of things quickly. What fun! We'll be leaving the marina tomorrow morning, after a last minute laundry, hot shower and a bit of provisioning.

12-26 Red Hook

Pos: N18deg19.59min/ W064deg50.59min. Unfortunately, there's no viable anchorage here. There are tons of moorings, all private. There's an IGY American Yacht Harbour Marina, tres cher. So, in 20-25 knots of wind and a 3' chop on the nose, with ferries every 30 minutes running into and out of Red Hook going down the nearby channel and rocking us as they passed at high speed, we did what we had to do to get Sonja to the ferry terminal so she could get a taxi to the airport. We had a great time having her aboard! Actually, the good news is that our new Highfield dinghy handled the conditions really well. Conditions are bound to improve....

12-24 Christmas Cove, Great St James Island

Pos: N18deg18.4min/ W064deg50.0min. Where to spend Christmas? What better place than Christmas Cove, near Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas. With the added advantage of the Pizza Pi boat. Yes, that's right. A couple of young entrepreneurs are baking a variety of pizzas and other starters aboard their small motor-sailor with a specially equipped pizza oven. They take orders on VHF 16 or phone; the mushroom pizza and jalapeno poppers we ordered were good; lots of other boaters must have agreed as the orders were pouring in via VHF all afternoon. Christmas day found us snorkeling (again, not all that impressive) but the green turtles were around and Sonja got some really good footage with her Go Pro. There was a raft up in the afternoon near the shore line. Most of the boats were small runabouts, but a few were dinghies, and the local crowd was on the younger side. By nightfall most everyone had left and it was quiet once more. Actually, that is, until the charter cats started anchoring around us. Ordinarily, no big deal, but these were 74' Privelege catamarans. Big, 2-3 stories high. One cat directly astern; he was fine. One direcly to port, about 30' off when we swung; that captain was an idiot; he obviously didn't value his or my vessel too highly as he was way to close. I figured he had good liability insurance for his multi-million dollar yacht so didn't get overly excited...We hope everyone enjoys their Christmas and Holidays with friends and family; our love and hugs to all!

12-22 Waterlemon Cay, Leinster Bay

After a brief rolly stop in Hawksnest Bay so Sue & Sonja could snorkel, we anchored in Francis Bay (beautiful!), where we had Lee & Sharon from Allegro over for Happy Hour. We had met them last season, and are a wealth of local information to us newbies to the area. We decided to go to Leinster Bay (Watermelon Cay), as we had heard the snorkeling was really good. This is a very protected anchorage, and remains calm in most conditions. There were lots of green turtles around; the reef was a bit washed out, but the fish life was varied and colorful. Snorkel counterclockwise around the island; the fun is on the outside. It was a very enjoyable stop, though busy!
We're enjoying the pristine views and natural settings here in St. John. We're in National Park territory, and got a Lifetime Park Pass and trail map when we checked in. Mooring fees are 1/2 price for us! ($13.00, they've gone up double since last year!)
And another fun surprise: our friend Richard on the sv SeaLevel came into the anchorage. We haven't seen Richard for years, since we cruised Tulum, Mexico in 2003. He's doing AirBnB charters aboard his Durbeck 46' monohull, based in St. Thomas. It will be fun to reconnect with him.

12-20 St John

We motor-sailed over to Cruz Bay to check in to the USVI. This was the first time Infini had been back to US territory since 2011 when we sailed to Hawaii from French Polynesia, and, if one were to exclude Hawaii, the first time we had been In US waters since we departed in 2007 from Florida! The Officials were very courteous and check-in was a breeze. We were excited to be in St John for lots of reasons; we have a cruising friend who lives here, and there are lots of places to sail to and explore. For those coming into Cruz Bay, stay to the left channel, the one that goes in towards Customs & Immigration as well as the US Park Service building. As one enters the channel, there is a place to anchor for up to 3 hours. The water's shallow (<6'), but it's all mud; also, there's no other place to anchor in this tight, crowded harbor, so it's either here or a mooring around the corner and a long, wet dinghy ride back to the boat after clearing in. We also stopped by the Park Service office so I could get my Golden Pass ($10); that enables US citizens of Medicare age to pay 1/2 price for mooring fees anywhere in the VI, as well as discounted park fees on the mainland. Finally, one benefit of being a senior citizen! After a bit of exploring Cruz Bay, we motored around the corner and took a (discounted...) mooring at Caneel Bay.

12-19 Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke

We took a mooring in front of Foxy's place, and dinghied in to find him sitting there with no one nearby. I went over to say hi, recognizing him from his picture and excited to meet a BVI legend. Foxy is the consumate entertainer (as well as entrepreuner), and he kept us laughing for 30 minutes until I dragged Sue and Sonja away to look around; we could have stayed much longer. What I didn't realize at the time is that it's actually "Sir Foxy", as he's been knighted for his many contributions to the community and is now a proper OBE. Keeping esteemed company, we are. We walked around the waterfront, had a beer in his bar/restaurant, and planned our further adventures.

12-18 Privateer Bay

Pos: N18deg18.65min/ W064deg37.6min. In an effort to find better snorkeling, we motored around the corner from The Bight and anchored in Privateer Bay. The price to stay on a mooring overnight in the BVI's is $32/night, so we figured we save a few dollars and anchor. We dropped the hook nearby the western-most corner of the bay but had a sleepless night when a few squalls ripped through and the anchor alarm started blaring. We definitely dragged, but instead of trying to get 110' of chain up in heavy winds, I took the bridle off and basically reset the Delta. That worked, although we kept a wary eye on things. At night, everything seems closer than it really is (at least to our view), and the rocks and surf weren't too inviting, what with the depth going down to 14' when we swung. Everything held, and we pulled anchor early morning to get out of there and on the road.

12-17. The Bight, Norman Island

Pos: N18deg19.1min/ W064deg37.1min. We took a mooring here as it's a very crowded place with few places to anchor. The snorkeling was just OK, nothing special.
Pic: The Indians lies between The Bight and Privateer Bay.

12-15 Prickly Pear Island, Gorda Sound, Virgin Gorda

Pos: N18deg30.408min/ W064deg22.401min. We left at 0100 hours and had hoped to get 10-15 knots of wind for the run to Virgin Gorda. It didn't happen, in spite of all the weather prognosticators. We ended up motor-sailing the entire 80 miles from St Martin, but at least the seas were only 4-6' and the sun was out. (Actually, S reminded me that we did get 3-4 hours of good sailing in). It was squally around us but we didn't get any rain. The anchor went down at 1530 hours in 18' sand and we'll dinghy over to Gunn Creek to clear-in tomorrow. Our friend Sonja joined us in St Martin to cruise the BVI's over to St Thomas and get a bit of sailing experience. For now, that will have to wait a bit; it was Infini's trawler imitation that's greeted her!
Pic: Michael and Sonja; it was a long dinghy ride to Gunn Creek to check into the BVI's. Calm (downwind) on the way there; a bit wet for the ride back (to windward).

12-4 Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten

It's been a few weeks between postings, mainly because of slow or non-existsnt internet. To summarize, we left Trois Islet when the weather settled down and had a good run to Portsmouth, Dominica. We anchored for the night and departed at 0545 for Deshaies, Guadeloupe, anchoring at 1500 hours. Another early start put us on pace for an easy overnight run to St Maarten. Winds were, for the most part, 10-15 knots on the aft quarter. The sky was clear, the stars were bright in a moonless sky, and we reduced sail to slow down in order to arrive St Maarten at sunrise. Great stuff. We went through the Simpson Bay Bridge at 0930 and anchored in the Lagoon in 7' water. Since the island is divided by the Dutch and French sides, we cleared in with the Dutch Officials, and will clear out with them before moving about a mile to anchor on the French side, St Martin. It's a bit confusing for the newcomer, but everything soon falls in place. The entire island us duty-free, and cruisers flock here to outfit their boats and provision. We were on a different mission of sorts, and I arranged a quick haulout at Bobby's Mega Yard so I could reset the pitch of the MaxProp propeller. That went smoothly enough, and I took that opportunity to change a SW ball valve that I hadn't changed out in Trinidad. A few hours later we were back in the water; all's good. We've met up with Bas and Agnes of sv Ti Sento, as well as Jo and Greg of sv Serenade and Lee and Sharon of sv Allegro. We've also met new friends; Mike and Nancy of sv Chasseur and Henry and Catherine of sv Mowzer. Unfortunately, our 15 year old Aquapro dinghy finally gave up; there was just not a lot of integrity left in the hypalon, whose life span is typically 10 years. Our new ride is a 9'6" Highfield aluminium RIB. At the price of a used small automobile, at least it was tax and duty free...