Volume 3 - June 1999
Yes, yes We know We're way overdue for a posting to the web site. Apologies. It's been in the works since March, but we got this foolish idea to wait and make one more, comprehensive "refit" posting. We didn't want to bore you all with month after month of projects stories. So this is it in one shot!
The good news is we live! We float! We sail! Most all the big projects are complete (not that it feels that way!), and the boat is working very satisfactorily! We've even done two charters, which gave us the wonderful excuse to cruise to all our favorite Virgin Island anchorages to bid farewell. We have to laugh, a two-charter season and we had a 24-hour turnaround between them.
At our last posting we added two new features to the web site, a "hit counter" and a "Guest Book". I wish we'd had these from the start. It has been neat to track how much traffic the site has been getting, and we get the same warm tickle checking the electronic guest book as we did checking the on-board guest book after charters. If you haven't signed in, please do! (Unfortunately the guestbook... umm... capsized... so there's nothing in it right now.)
ho says we don't have seasons here in the islands? In the time since our last posting the century plants out at Cabrita Point, where we do our daily four-mile walk, have sent up their long asparagus-like stalks, budded out into their broccoli-rape stage, and burst into their characteristic feather-shaped swath of yellow blooms, which are a magnet for our West Indian black bees as well as hummingbirds about the same size. Already, the giant blossoms are starting to dry down to their woody stage. By fall, those left standing after any nasty tropical weather (Let's avoid the "H"-word) will look like giant pine cones and come December at least some will be harvested to decorate as Christmas trees. Century plants, for those of your unfamiliar with them, look like large aloe plants most of their lives, until, after about ten quiet years (which evidently feels like a century to some!) they shoot up their giant blossom. Each plant blooms only once, and after the stalk dries, the plant withers away. The system must work, however, as there are lots of Century plants.
We are actually nearing the end of our time in St. Thomas. After so much anticipation, it is hard to believe. The whaler and the mooring have been sold, the $$$ tucked into the cruising kitty, and only the car remains. We are in a slip at American Yacht Harbor in order to fit Whisper's old Aries Wind Vane to TacklessII's stern, to finish the water maker installation and, mostly, to more easily sort through the stuff on board and in our shore-side storage locker down to what we will take, what we will send Stateside, and what we will sell, give or throw away. Then I will provision the boat for the next five months, and when the new life raft is delivered (due date June 8), we will finally sail away.
These past few weeks, the weather has been glassy calm (and very hot), absolutely perfect for motoring across the Anegada Passage, the first leg of the journey. You can be sure that just about June 8, when we're actually ready to go, the summer SE trades will kick in and we will be motoring hard into it to our first stop: Saba! There will probably be a parade of tropical waves marching across the Atlantic to boot. On the other hand, we have actually called our friends Rob and Barb who live on Saba to tell them we could show up any time mid-month, and that call more than anything else made us feel as though imminent departure could be real!
ll this eagerness to get out and about, to float with our bow into the breeze, does not negate the fact that we have had a really great season here in St. Thomas. We may moan and groan about six months in a slip at Independent, but we have truly made the time pay. Obviously, we have made huge accomplishments with respect to the boat, which you can read about in the "Engine Room" section. Don's "Engine Room" definitely takes center-stage of this installment of the web site, which pretty much reflects what's its been in our lives! If you think the project descriptions are getting more and more detailed, you're right. It's not just because the projects are more complicated, but because the page has become quite popular with fellow CSY (and other boat) owners who come to the site curious as to the solutions we have found for common problems. They want specifics.
With respect to ourselves, being in the slip made possible the discipline of walking daily, (as well as weekly trim n' tone and yoga classes for me) which has made us both fitter and trimmer and healthier and happier. Then, too, on charter we rarely had the chance to go to movies and or any of the good music that came to the island. Some highlights this year were Shakespeare in Love and Star Wars (last night, no lines here!) The New John Barleycorn (an Irish duo), Jyde (an awesome seven-man a capella troupe), and dancing 'neath the full moon to the Bel Airs at Latitude 18. Socially, we have been able to develop many new and deeper friendships. All these, of course make leaving all the harder.
Harder, and sweeter. We do not leave here looking for a place better than where we are. We leave just to go see. I believe this will be the key to our success.
We may not have been chartering, but we have enjoyed a steady stream of visitors this Spring. Don's friends Lew & Robbie Kestner spent a week on St. Thomas from their home in St. Louis. This gave all the local Hoosiers the excuse to party like the good old days, which came to a head with the camp coktails of Duffy's Love Shack!. Lew and Robbie celebrated their 25th Anniversary with us on TacklessII last year, and that evidently sparked a taste for the tropics as this year's visit was their third!
Our good friend Mike flew in from Australia where he'd left Double Haven, the megayacht of which he is chief engineer, for nine days of slumming it with us sailboat folk back here in his home turf. Mike had some great motivational photos of his excursions in Bali, Fiji, Palau , Papua New Guinea and Australia. We appreciated the photos, and we appreciated his taking the five days of dock projects at the start of his visit in good humor. The reward for all of us was four lovely days of sailing, lolling and reading in the lovely anchorages of St. John. It was our first outing since Christmas!
ur next trip off the dock was April 26. Officially it was a sea trial for all the new equipment, but by some coincidence it was timed so as to take our Whisper alums Steve and Sandy Divan on a day sail. Steve and Sandy had taken my advice to stay at Point Pleasant resort, and by some benign chance they got the most incredible room with the most incredible panorama of Pillsbury Sound imaginable. I was ready to let them go sailing while I stayed on their deck. Someone in our group, which included our young rigger Nils and his girlfriend Mindy, must have been living right, because the day was perfection. Absolute perfection. I must describe the scene: Nils on deck under the clear blue sky raising the sails while Captain Don sat behind the helm with an icy Amstel in his free hand and a wide shit-eating grin, as we tacked out toward St. Croix making 6-7 knots in ten knots of wind! Nils spent the morning scrambling around the rigging, tweaking and tugging, but the rest of us were clearly in a holiday frame of mind. We could easily have sailed on forever, but finally we stopped in Rendezvous Bay, St. John (a new spot for me!) for a late picnic lunch, a swim and some photography from the masthead (yes, Nils, checking his blocks and his sheaves). As the afternoon waned, we ran back to the Lagoon, sails wing-and-wing, with the new whisker pole properly deployed. The way it's supposed to be! The only flaw in the day came during docking. Don made a near perfect approach (stern-to), when in the midst of making a small adjustment, we just backed right into one of the pilings, torquing the BBQ around to a new angle (and shape!). From my post at point-of-approaching-impact I kept calling, "forward, Forward, FORWARD!" Deflected into the slip, I looked around questioningly??????? Don smiled gently and waved the throttle in the air. Evidently a set screw had been overlooked after all the transmission work and the handle had come off in his hand!! At least we were in neutral. The Divans were most impressed with Don's restraint in the nautical language department, and all our dock neighbors filed the incident away (as we all do) in that mental insurance category against their own docking disasters past and future. The BBQ is rearranged (and works) , and we departed on charter three days later!
Both charters were with friends. The first guests were Michael Roberts and his friend Susan from NYC. I came to know Michael many years ago when he bartended his way through law school at my favorite neighborhood bar, the legendary All State Café. When Michael first started practicing, I did his word-processing. When I departed NYC and sold my co-op apartment, Michael represented me. The co-op association did their best to bilk me, but imagine my surprise when two years later Michael calls up out of the blue and says, "I got your money back!" Don suggested bartering a charter for his fee. It turned out to be a great idea, because Michael and Susan - Long Island Sound sailors in their own right - were truly astounded by how much more of a vacation a charter is than just going sailing. I have never seen Michael so relaxed. Our second charter was with the Coles, a family making their fourth trip with us. They had booked the trip a year in advance, before we made our BIG DECISION, and had kindly held the happy obligation in limbo until we were ready. I've certified both parents, Openwater and Advanced, and this trip I issued my very first Skin Diver Certification to eight year old Eric, who is a free-diving fish!
ust one week later our friends Diane and Alex arrived from their current home in Atlanta. Both experienced captains, they collected a bareboat of their own, and, linked up with them and their friends Chris and Elsa on their trimaran Rafiki 3, Don and I had a three-day refresher on the joys of cruising: companions with whom to party, hike and dive; our own boats to whose privacy we get to return. At Jost Van Dyke, Alex introduced us to a culinary delight I can't believe I've been missing - stewed conch at Ali Babas, a restaurant down the beach from Foxy's. Most stewed conch I've had tasted like rubber bands; this is delicate and tender. From what I can gather the key to tenderness is cooking the conch short enough or long enough, but not in the middle! Sadly, the cook was not parting with her secrets, even to Alex.
Foxy's Wooden Boat Regatta
Our grand finale in the Virgin Islands is probably the time we spent last weekend at Foxy's 25th Wooden Boat Regatta. Formerly held over Labor Day, the WBR was moved to the spring to avoid the hurricanes which disrupted the last two Labor Days. This year, sure enough, no hurricane, but not much wind either!
Diane and Alex who were here the week prior had thought they were scheduling for the Regatta. I'm sorry they got screwed up, because we had a fine time, but then again, the way it was we had a fine time two weekends in a row. We puttered into Great Harbor early Saturday morning. Friday had just been one of those awful days when too much is happening badly, and I had a 24-hour splitting headache - a debut of migraines or bad Sahara dust day? Who knows! We'd limped out of Redhook like kicked puppies late Friday and dropped the hook in Francis Bay for the night, as far as we could face going.
aturday looked up. The boats made a sprightly departure in their many classes. The regatta attracts everything from island craft, to neat little sloops, to ketches, to schooners with all kinds of shapes and colors of sail (including one with skull and crossbones) to space-age-looking wooden trimarans! The Saturday race was one-way to Cane Garden Bay, but we stayed put, introducing friends (and also soon to be full-time cruisers) Janet and David of Wandering Spirit to the wonders of Ali Baba's stewed conch for lunch. Don went to have a few beers with another friend Stan, and by the time the two of them got home to inhale my gourmet red onion and goat cheese lasagna, it might just as well have be Chef Boyardee for the time it spent on the plate!
Don was moving a little slower Sunday morning, but we still managed the morning hike around the steep roads of Jost with Janet and David. We spent the day finishing off the projects that had foiled us on Friday, so we were feeling pretty smug when we wandered ashore to the party building as the boats returned from the second race back from Cane Garden. The party featured "Dark & Stormies," a cocktail made with rum and ginger beer and a lime. I'm fond of these if the ginger beer is sweet, which it was, so I had severrrrrallllll . The band was great, the friends plentiful and I danced for hours. Don meanwhile was taken off by our friend Godwin to be taught some of the finer secrets of catching fish in particular Godwin's special technique for running a wire leader up the ass-end of a ballyhoo! Anyone who has sailed with us to Foxy's will appreciate one of the crowning moments of the night. Don always asks for Amstel, which he knows they haven't carried since Judy lobbied for Miller Lite. It's become a running joke foiled by his own crew! Gary, the manager, snagged us in the crowd and told us he had a special parting gift for our cruise. He emerged about five minutes later with a case of Amstel!
On the dock
s I write, we are on the dock at American Yacht Harbor. Our projects - the Aires wind Vane and the watermaker are in the works. When the clutter clears I will start provisioning. Tonight, there's a going away party for us at Tickles downtown .. and then .
We be gone, mon.
Other Web Sites of Interest for Fans of Paradise
www.thecoverts.com/csy info on CSYs
www.caribwx.com A weather info site produced in Tortola by David Jones, the man we all depend on for our Caribbean cruising weather.
www.flagshipvi.com A display of the yachts currently chartering through Flagship, the clearing house Whisper and Tackless II cleared through.
www.islands.vi .A web page featuring the USVI with links to many businesses