JANUARY---St. Thomas, USVI to the Southeast Bahamas

We celebrated the arrival of 2010 watching fireworks in Charlotte Amalie (a-MAL-ya) Harbor. It was blowing around 20 knots with a light drizzle but the fireworks show went on or should I say off! Wished each other a Happy New Year and back in bed, fast asleep shortly after the grand finale.

The exhaust elbow for our generator arrived New Years Day delivered by Lee and Sharon's guests, Ralph and Nina Ross for installation another day. Dave on DANIELL STOREY asked us to join him for half-price hamburgers at the Shipwreck Bar. Sharon (HOOFBEATS) and Lee, Sharon, Ralph and Nina (ALLEGRO) also joined us at the Shipwreck. The hamburgers are huge, delicious and served with french fries. Certainly not a traditional New Years Day for us--hamburgers instead of a big dinner of turkey or ham and no college football. Yes, the Rose Bowl game was on a big screen TV at the Shipwreck but we didn't watch it.

Carl finally found the main problem with Tony and Sharon's generator (HOOF BEATS). He has been troubleshooting it for a month finding several things that needed to be replaced or fixed but the generator still would not run more than two hours or so. The problem ....exhaust pipe was restricted because of carbon build-up. When Carl reassembled the exhaust system, a part broke. So....the replacement part was ordered from Miami on Monday, January 4 with overnight delivery. With the tracking number, the part was followed from Miami to San Juan, Puerto Rico where the tracking system indicated a unexpected delivery date--- Thursday, January 7. So much for overnight delivery.! Two problems here--the company in Miami did not ship it overnight as requested and Puerto Rico was celebrating Three Kings' Day on Tuesday so it was delayed. Said our farewells to Lee and Sharon on ALLEGRO when they left Charlotte Amalie harbor with their guests. It is so hard to say goodbye to cruising friends.

We planned to stay in Charlotte Amalie until the part arrived for HOOF BEAT's generator. In the meantime, Carl installed the new exhaust elbow for our generator while Sharon and I did the usual boat chores like laundry and grocery shopping. Sharon and I took shore leave a couple times for sight-seeing and shopping. Some history about the US Virgin Islands and St. Thomas--- Denmark ruled these islands as the Danish West Indies for 250 years, with the exception of two brief periods of British Administration in the early 19th century. The Danish West Indies became the US Virgin Islands in 1917 when Denmark sold them to the US. The US wanted a naval base in the Caribbean with close proximity to the Panama Canal. The islands were purchases for $25 million! Charlotte Amalie, the capital city, was named after a Danish Queen. Charlotte Amalie still has many of the original Danish buildings and mansions on the hillside overlooking the harbor. Hundreds of small shops crowd the downtown with cute alleyways that run between the streets. Under the Danish government the port accommodated one of the world's biggest slave trade operations. The slaves were emancipated in 1848. Sharon and I walked up the "Ninety-Nine Steps" one of the few remaining stair-streets used by residents to traverse the hilly town. Around step 85, there is a stunning sculptor "The Three Queens of the Virgin Islands". In 1878, three former slave ladies on St. Croix led an insurrection against the Danish government for improved working and living conditions. During this action a major portion of Frederickstead was destroyed by fire. The revolt is known as FIREBURN and the ladies are renowned as Queen Mary, Queen Agnes and Queen Matilda---"The Three Queens of the Virgin Islands". Charlotte Amalie is a busy cruise port. One day when Sharon and I were walking by the cruise ships with our grocery bags we saw dozens of law enforcement vehicles approach the cruise ships---one of them pulling a contraption that looked like a small cement mixer with a door that looked like a bank vault door. Yes, it was a bomb threat. For about 3 hours the cruise docks were crawling with law enforcement and the Coast Guard set up a tighter perimeter. Eventually the all clear was given.

The following six pictures were taken during Sharon and my shore leave! The first picture show the start of the 99 steps. To help people traverse the steep hillsides two hundred years ago, numerous stair-streets were built. The 99 steps stair-street is one of the few remaining stair-streets. The second picture of Charlotte Amalie harbor was taken about half way up the 99 steps. The third picture is The Three Queens of the Virgin Islands. Picture four is the Governor's office an example of some of the old Danish buildings. The last two pictures are some of the alleyways that are lined with shops.

Left for Culebra (Spanish Virgin Islands) on Sunday, January 10. This is the first time we have had to motorsail for a long time. The wind was directly behind us with a velocity of less than 10 knots. Thank goodness Culebra was only 23 nautical miles away from Charlotte Amalie. We used our Local Boater's Option (LBO) to clear Customs and Immigration. Applied for the LBO when we cleared Customs and Immigration in Cruz Bay, St. John. With the LBO we simply call in for clearance--it is possible that we will be asked to stop at the nearest office but in most cases we will be given a clearance number with no further action required. How easy is that!?!?!

Culebra is a beautiful, laid back island with outstanding beaches. It is a popular weekend tourist destination for mainland Puerto Ricans and residents of Vieques. Because of the "arid" nature of the island there is no run-off from rivers or streams resulting in very clear waters around the archipelago .Anchored on the southeast corner of the island for a couple nights. This anchorage is open to the sea but protected by a huge reef. The Department of Natural Resources has several moorings available at no charge or you can drop your hook. I liked this spot--a cool sea breeze yet no wave action and beautiful, clear water. One afternoon, VOYAGEUR C (Bill and Leona who we traveled with from Trinidad to The Saintes), DANIELL STOREY (Dave and Michelle), DREAM MAKER (Bill and Kathy) all arrived from Charlotte Amalie. The three boats had organized a potluck dinner--gave us a call on the VHF radio to invite us to join them. A couple days later, Dave, Michelle, Carl and I took the ferry from Culebra to Fajardo for shopping at the 4-W's (Wal-mart, Walgreens, West Marine and Western Auto). Dick and Jane (CHEETAH II) met us in Fajardo where the six of us rented a van. Not only did we hit the 4-W's, we drove further into the island to Best Buy and an outlet mall for clothing. At Best Buy, Carl bought me a netbook computer! The ferry ride is so cheap (round trip $6--the ride is 2 hours each way). While in Culebra I walked to a couple of beaches and helped Michelle (DANIELL STOREY) celebrate her birthday.

The next four pictures were taken in Culebra. The Christmas Decorations were still up in the town park---I guess the islanders like the thought of snow! The next picture is a shop that is a prime example of the laid back approach on Culebra. Picture three is the canal that goes through the city of Dewey (only town on the island) and connects Ensenada Honda (where we anchored) with Bahia de Sadinas where the ferry dock is. The fourth picture is just a street shot showing the narrow streets, colorful buildings and number of motorized vehicles.

The first picture is of Flamenco Bay on the northeast side of Culebra. Lots of weddings take place on this beautiful beach. While we were in Culebra we helped Michelle (DANIELL STOREY) celebrate her birthday. Picture two--Michelle and Jane(CHEETAH II) ; picture three--Bill and Leona (VOYAGEUR C); picture four--Dave and Michelle (DANIELL STOREY), picture five Michelle with her birthday cake and picture six--trying to divide up the bill. The waitress put everyone spread out over 4 tables on one bill.

From Culebra we sailed to Isla Culebrita a small coral island just north and east of Culebra. Culebrita has an arm that extends out to the northeast--within that arm is a beautiful white beach. Once you are into the "arm pit", the easterly seas are blocked but the anchorage is still subject to any swells from the north making it primarily a day anchorage. However, the day we visited Culebrita, there wasn't any appreciable north swell so we stayed overnight. Hiked over to some seeward pools known as the "jacuzzi". There is a break in the land that lets waves in from the north side of the island. The water rushes into one large pool area--it then flows into a second pool where the rate of flow is slowed but the rushing waters still forms bubbles like a jacuzzi. I was there by myself so I didn't have anyone to take my picture while I was sitting in the pool.

Two pictures taken while visiting Culebrita. The first one shows the jacuzzi and the second picture shows part of the beach.

From Culebrita we sailed around the east end of Viequez and then followed the south coast to Green Beach. The east end of Viequez was used up until 2003 by US and NATO navies for land, air and sea based war games. Currently, some of the bays are closed off to cruisers and land visitors because the beaches are being cleared of unexploded ammunition. The anchorage at Green Beach is just another one of those beautiful crescent beaches in the Spanish Virgin Islands. We shared about a mile of beach with one other sailboat. While eating dinner in the cockpit at Green Beach we heard a call for the US Coast Guard. A British flagged vessel, MISS TIPPY, had a badly injured captain. I listened to MISS TIPPY's communication with the Coast Guard well into the evening. The injury occurred when the captain went forward to the bow to lower the spinnaker pole---the fitting broke loose and fell on his head knocking him out and breaking the skin open. From MISS TIPPY's conversation with the Coast Guard, we learned that his wife was diverting the boat from the original course (Tortola to Panama) to a new course 50 miles north to Ponce, Puerto Rico. Also, three children onboard--Freddie (11), Charlie (12) and Annie (9). The Coast Guard offered to send a helicopter to airlift the injured captain but the wife/mother declined the offer. She thought it was best to continue making way to Ponce and requested resources to help her bring the boat into Ponce. By the time I went to bed, MISS TIPPY had safely arrived in Ponce.

The next morning we motorsailed from Green Beach on Viequez to Caja de Muertos-- a small island about 6 nautical miles southeast of Ponce. Winds were forecasted winds at 18-20 knots from the south-southeast would have made for a great downwind sail. However, actual winds were light (less than 10 knots) so we had to motor our way west. Lots of squalls in the area all passing behind us (thankfully) . Caja de Muertos, also known as "Coffin Island"--at sunset is sort of looks like a coffin but it looks more like a mummy laying on the sea to me. It is a state park that is quiet on week days but gets busy on the weekends when local boaters from the Ponce area visit and tourists arrive by ferry. It was quiet when we were there--the third boat in the anchorage. Carl caught a mackerel underway which made a great dinner. I tell you there is nothing like fresh fish.

From Caja de Muertos we went to Ponce where we anchored in the middle of a sailboat race for young kids. Our stern as the marker for the finish line! The following day we went into a slip where we stayed for two nights. Carl needed shorepower to equalize the batteries and I needed lots of fresh water to scrub the deck and cockpit. Carl had a diesel mechanic stop by to work on our heat exchanger for the Yanmar---the mechanic took the exchanger to his shop to clean it and replaced O-rings. While in the marina, we found Brian and Sheila on MISS TIPPY. Brian ended up with 21 stitches in his head. Sheila invited us on boat MISS TIPPY (a Oyster 56) to look at pictures taken during their ms-adventure. Sheila was met by a Coast Guard Cutter outside of Ponce. The Ponce Harbor Pilot boarded MISS TIPPY and took her in to a dock at the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club. Waiting on the dock was EMT's, police, and Homeland Security. MISS TIPPY left Ponce Monday night to continue their journey to the Panama Canal and points beyond.

The following four pictures were taken between Green Beach and Ponce. The first picture shows the beach at the Green Beach anchorage. The next two picture shows the kids sailboat race going on around us when we were anchored in Ponce. Picture 4 is MISS TIPPY taking off to continue their circumnavigation.

Left Ponce with a clean and shiny deck headed for Boqueron. Winds east at 18-20 knots so we were primarily running with the wind with two fishing lines out. Carl was down below when something was on the line on the port side of the boat. I yelled at him---"Something is on the line". Carl came up the companionway like a bullet hopping up on the benchseat but missing it twice--pretty excited I'd say. By the time he had the rod in his hand, whatever was there was GONE. No problem. Later the same line had another bite. This time Carl landed a good sized albacore tuna. Shortly after landing the tuna--something was on the line on the starboard side. Landed a mackerel. Last bite was a small little tuny that we threw back. Great fishing on the south coast of Puerto Rico!

Boqueron is a "weekend beach and beer getaway" with lots of shops, restaurants and bars. We were there during the week so it was pretty quiet. Boqueron has a clean and reasonably priced laundry where I did 5 loads of stinky clothes while Carl used the free WiFi for internet. Stayed in Boqueron 3 nights--eating on board (all that fresh fish Carl caught). Thursday I stopped at the small grocery store to find food that we could eat while underway. We were making plans for a straight run from Boqueron to the Turks & Caicos.

Left Boqueron early Friday morning at 5:45 AM motorsailing for the first hour until the winds picked up. Trying out a new schedule--starting at 6 AM each did a 3-hour shift, at noon each did a 4-hour shift, at 8 PM each did a 3-hour shift and at 2 AM each did a 2-hour shift. Traveled 82 nautical miles the first 12 hours on a broad reach with a double reefed main and part of the headsail unfurled. Friday night we had a full moon so help light the night which was a big help. By Saturday morning, 24 hours out of Boqueron we traveled 148 nautical miles--off the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic. The wind forecast for Saturday----east at 16-20 knots moderating late afternoon into Sunday morning down to 10 knots. Earlier in the day, we were running with the wind so we pulled in the headsail and shook out both reefs in the main. I was coming on for my 4 hour shift....Carl noticed the wind was starting to build so he put said we should put in at least one reef and since it would be dark in a few hours we probably should put in a double reef. Based on the wind forecast, I was looking for the winds to decrease and to my surprise they continued to build and build. Pretty soon DISCOVERY was flying low---speed over ground 8.0 to 10.0 knots. The wind speed indicator was showing guts of apparent wind 20-25 knots with gust to 28 knots. The waves were building fast, close together--there was whitecaps everywhere with some spray. DISCOVERY was doing great under these conditions. I must admit I am glad we were running with the wind and the waves---it would have been difficult to turn the boat around under those conditions. Having a big bright moon to light the night made for a pleasant shift. It was still windy when my shift ended and I went below to sleep for 3 hours. By the time I did my 3 hour shift, the wind was down to 15-20 knots apparent and the waves had decreased. By 5:15 AM on Sunday, we had traveled over 300nautical miles and the wind velocity continued to moderate. Sailing conditions were so good that we did not stop in the Turks & Caicos as planned---continued on. Had to turn the engine on Sunday late morning for about 6 hours because the winds were down to 5-10 knots and our batteries needed to be charged. The winds picked up Sunday afternoon enough to run with the sails fully out on a broad reach. What a beautiful sail. Sunday night---we saw a green flash at sunset. By Monday morning, it became apparent that we would not make it to Georgetown before sunset so we altered our course slightly and headed to Rum Cay. The winds were east to slightly south of east around 18 knots so we continued on a broad reach. Arrived in Rum Cay at 3:30 PM. Traveled 557 nautical miles since 5:45 AM on Friday.

The biggest challenge Friday through Sunday was moving about down below. It was impossible (at least in my opinion) to prepare any meals. Before leaving Boqueron, I fried up about a dozen chicken thighs, purchased some Oreo cookies, cold cereal, and Snicker candy bars which we lived on until Monday night. As soon as we were anchored and settled in, I grilled two mahi mahi steaks, mashed some potatoes and made a salad--one fantastic dinner. Both of us were asleep before the sunset and did not wake up until the sun was starting to rise.

Carl really can relax! Below is a picture of Carl reading down below and up on deck underway to Rum Cay.

The following day we sailed another 55 nautical miles to Georgetown.

Submitted by:
Marilyn Thoreson
February 6, 2010