Thursday, March 29, 2012


Saturday 17 March – Monday 19 March

We left the anchorage in Nevis at 6 and made it to the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean by noon. Just in time to celebrate St. Patrick's day, a national holiday on this island. We meet back up with S/V Ultra who we ran into in St. Martin after meeting them down in Grenada, another Texas boat form the Kemah area. They had made arraignments for a taxi ride up to the village of Salem where the days celebration festival will take place. A quick clean up and lunch and Joanne & Bill pick up Jan & George and us with their dinghy and into the dock to meet Sam our taxi driver. Joanne & Bill had done an island tour with Sam the day before so on our drive up to Salem they are filling us in on some island history they learned the day before. Of all the islands we have visited, Montserrat as one of the more interesting histories, due to a still active volcano Soufriere Hills on the southern end of the island. In 1995 it erupted destroying the capital of Plymouth and surrounding area. Years later several business were starting to rebuild when in 2006 and 2008 the volcano erupted again causing the government to permanently close off the southern end of the island. Montserrat gets it's strong Irish heritage from the Irish Catholics settling here after fleeing problems from the Protestants of near by St. Kitts. Then another wave of Irish came over when England invaded Ireland, leaving their mark before many years later returned to Ireland. So St Patrick's day is a big celebration here, and we thought it would be fun to celebrate with them. We arrive at the fair grounds in Salem and the area is starting to fill up with people, with local vendors set up in booths selling food and a few local crafts. Several parades and just about everyone dressed in green. A fun filled day. Sam drives us back to the dock and Steve & I with Jan & George set a time for 9 Sunday morning for our Island tour. Sunday we know some things will be closed BUT they will also be closed on Monday since it is a holiday so either way we will miss out on a few things. Sometimes timing works for you sometimes not. Unlike many islands where the towns are along the coast line, Montserrat has most people living inland in the lush mountains sheltered from the volcano. We go to Old Road Bay where the river has been filled with mud and ash washed down from the volcano. What once was a golf course with a club house, a hotel and homes is now buried under 30 to 60 feet of black sand, the shore line is now a ¼ mile further out. Next stop is St Georges Hill looking down at the ruins of the former capital of Plymouth. Seeing the homes, and businesses amongst the trees it is hard to believe they are all abandoned. Just past that you see the ruins of the capital hard to tell the difference between the burned out buildings and huge boulder's from the volcano. There is a small area of the Exclusion Zone that you can visit after signing a waiver. Being Sunday this is one of the things that is closed. Joann & Bill told us what a surreal experience it was, walking through a hotel with everything in place covered with ash blown in over the years. The exclusion zone covers ½ of the island where no one is allowed to go, no new construction, no renovations, no one allowed to live an amazing sight. The Montserrat Volcano Observatory, also closed on Sunday, has another great view of the volcano and surrounding exclusion zone. The government is trying to build a new capital over in Little Bay where we are anchored. Trying to convince the < 5000 residents (12,000 pre volcano) that this is a good spot to build. There is very little work on the island, they export the volcanic ash which is very fertile, other then that they are trying to build up the tourism trade. Back down by the bay where we are anchored we go to Ponts' restaurant for lunch. The open-air restaurant is filled with plants and things washed up on the beach below, it's like having lunch in a conservatory. Soft smooth jazz in the background, a beautiful view of the bay and our boats, hummingbirds and lizards to entertain us, and a barbecue lunch before we go back to the boats. Today is Jan's birthday and Joanne & Bill invited us all over to their boat for dinner and Joanne generously offered to make a cake to surprise Jan for her birthday. We have a wonderful dinner followed by a delicious chocolate rum cake. Monday morning we will all depart to head over to Deshaies (Day-ay) Guadeloupe.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

St. Maarten / St. Martin

St. Maarten / St Martin
Tuesday 21 February – Friday 16 March

Well I think St. Maarten was just as sad to see us leave as we were to leave, we spent A LOT of MONEY while we were there. The new dinghy and outboard motor which we are loving. A life raft and BBQ grill both of which we did not have before. Numerous miscellaneous boat maintenance parts from both Budget Marine and Island Water World (IWW). Several trips to the grocery store to provision since they have such a wonderful selection. A trip to Cost U Less a big box store, and several stops at Ace hardware which is more like a small home depot with home furnishings down here. Not to mention eating out more than usual, since they have so many good restaurants to choose from it was a hectic but fun 3 + weeks. We first checked into Lagoon Marina since it is located between Budget & IWW the 2 marine chandleries we needed to visit that 1st week. Friends George & Jan arrived the evening after we did, George had recently delivered their boat Wild Thing to Lagoon Marina, and now flew back with Jan to start cruising for a few months. We first met Wild Thing back in July 2010 in the Bahamas then cruised with them up in the Chesapeake and then back down the east coast to Florida and back to the Bahamas that 1st year. We were looking forward to meeting back up with them to start buddy boating again. The 1st week in St. Martin at the marina was busy getting the new boat things mentioned above, but we also mixed in several fun events. Finding my favorite spot in the Caribbean the Carousel, a Bar & Gelateria, we you can get the BEST Italian gelato !!! What a fancy place, never knew there was this much profit in selling ice cream but glad to make my contribution for them to stay in business. We rented a car for 2 days and on the 1st day drove around the island stopping at several spots along the way. The 2nd day (Sunday) we went to Loterie Farm to do another zip line, only this one had an obstacle course of hanging logs, rope ladders, or cables suspended between the trees and the zip lines that you had to walk across. It was a great time in a BEAUTIFUL setting. Loterie Farm is a privately maintained nature reserve with hiking paths, zip lines, a pool and bar lounge and a restaurant , a great place to visit. That Monday we moved out of the marina to anchor, while Wild Thing moved over to Simpson Bay Marina as they were having guests arrive that evening and wanted shore access easier for them. We talked to the dock master at the marina and he showed us a spot close by that he said we could anchor in, so we took the portable depth finder and went out to make sure where we could anchor. It turned out to be a great little spot, only enough room for 1-3 boats to anchor right outside the channel in front of IWW where we could pick up their WiFi signal and be close to the Simpson Bay marina. That week was busy running around with Jan & George and their guests Linda & her sister Debra. Hanging out at the St. Maarten yacht club watching the boats come and go timed with happy hour it is the place to be. 
The Heineken Regatta was upcoming so a lot of events were focused on that and geared to all the boats and crew coming for this event. George got on a boat as crew, and that boat Chillin the Most wound up winning a couple of awards in their division. We also ran into quiet a few people that we had met down in Grenada, so it was fun catching up with other cruisers we knew. Another fun filled busy week went by before we knew it. The following week was a slower pace and we made several trips to the different stores stocking up on supplies at the duty free prices of St Maarten. Making plans to go to several anchorages around the island before leaving the next week. On Sunday Steve was greasing the bearings on the main sail when he discovered some wear & tear on the leech line at the reefing points. First thing Monday morning we take it into the sail maker to see how quickly he can get it repaired. Not for a least a week he says, so our plans of leaving are not looking good. We decide to still go and anchor off Grand Case on the French side Tuesday, it is just a short distance ½ way around the island. We make it out the 11 am bridge and are able to sail with just the Genoa sail getting up to Grand Case by by 1. Have lunch on board and Steve goes in to clean the lagoon scum off the bottom of the boat. He is surprised and disappointed on seeing we also have quite a few barnacles even with our new bottom paint job. Tuesday night we go into Grand Case for their Tuesday night street festival, still hard to decide where to eat so many good choices. Fun walking the streets and looking at the street vendors and shops and restaurants. Wednesday morning Steve & George want to rent tanks to finish cleaning the bottom of the boats but we find out the French will not rent you a tank. So we motor sail back down to Marigot Bay and anchor, Steve goes into the lagoon to the Dutch side and rents tanks. And Wednesday afternoon is spent cleaning the bottom of the boats. The original plan was to leave Thursday morning to start to make our way to Montserrat where we wanted to be on Saturday for St. Patrick's Day. With our main sail in for repair that plan got canceled as Steve did NOT want to travel 90 miles south and then 90 miles BACK north with out a main sail. So Thursday morning we went in for a few errands and to get internet access and stopped by the sail maker just to check on our sail. To our great surprise the sail was ready !! So change of plans again, we go to have lunch with Wild Thing as planned to get internet and decide we can now still make it to Montserrat by Saturday. Back to our boat get the main sail back up, Steve goes and checks us out and we are underway by 3. A fast motor sail to Anse Du Colombier on St. Barts arriving just before sunset. Predawn departure Friday morning, thinking we can make it all the way to Montserrat by sunset but the wind and waves were making for an unpleasant trip so we bear off and head for Nevis where we spend the evening at anchor with a 6 am departure Saturday morning for Montserrat to make it in time for the St. Patrick's day celebration.

Link to pictures;