Category Archives: US Virgin Islands

Bouncing around the Virgins — Mar. 4-20, 2014

In the time since our last guests (Jon & Cathy) departed, we have bounced around the Virgins, spending time with a variety of friends.   We have hosted sundowners and joined others for sundowners on their boats.  We have hosted dinners and joined others for dinner on their boats.  We spent some time in Charlotte Amalie, where we saw the incredible yacht Rising Sun, built in 2004 by Larry Ellison (of Oracle), and now owned by David Geffen. 453 feet long, with 82 rooms on five levels.  We later learned Paul McCartney was on board.

We happened upon Cruz Bay’s St. Pat’s parade, and posted a bunch of pictures on Facebook.

I repaired a leak in the bottom of our dinghy, and I rewired the speaker for our Single Side Band radio.

I dug out my underwater housing and did some underwater photography in the Caves of Norman Island, where my goal was to finally get a picture of Glassy Sweepers.  I also dove Hurricane Hole in St. John, and became convinced that I need to expand from my usual macro pictures to include some wide-angle stuff.  Barb and I also did non-photo dives on Johnson Reef and Tektite Reef.  The viz was lousy at Johnson, but nice at Tektite, where we saw gazillions of fish.

As this is written we are making final plans to leave the Virgins and begin our trek southward; first stop: St. Martin.


Jon & Cathy Visit Us in the Virgins — Feb. 24 – Mar. 3, 2014

Chuck’s niece Cathy and her husband Jon arrived in St. Thomas late in the afternoon of Monday, Feb. 24.   We barely had time to drop off their luggage on Tusen Takk II, anchored in Elephant Bay, before jumping back into the dinghy to proceed to the ferry dock on Water Island, from which we walked over the hill to Honeymoon Bay.   Yup, we were there to watch the movie shown on a screen fashioned out of two sheets strung between two palm trees.  The movie?  Rush.  The meal?  Chicken sandwiches and/or cheeseburgers, washed down with beer and followed with popcorn.  (Except for yours truly, embarked on a month-long experiment of total avoidance of all things gluten, in the hopes of a further lessening of arthritis symptoms.   So no beer or buns for me.  I miss the beer more than the buns.)

That “quick start” set the pattern for their entire stay; we visited, in order:  Great Harbour and Diamond Cay on Jost Van Dyke, Pirates Bight, the Indians, Soper Hole, Cruz Bay, Cinnamon Bay, Francis Bay, Waterlemon Bay, Hurricane Hole, Great Lameshur Bay, Salt Pond, and Drunk Bay before returning to Charlotte Amalie after a week of fun in the sun in order to send our guests off to the frozen north of Bismarck, North Dakota.

We did a lot of snorkeling during their stay, but also played some cards and watched a movie on-board and did some boat projects, including installing new gas struts under the master bed and fashioning a new dinghy seat when the original finally gave up the ghost.  Jon felt responsible for the seat breakage, but the truth of the matter is that the seats provided by AB are notoriously vulnerable to breakage; a number of years ago we had one break from the weight of a slight pre-teen girl who was sitting in the middle when the dinghy hit a wave.   (Of course, Jon is no slight pre-teen girl 🙂 , but the breakage really wasn’t his fault.)

Jon and Cathy make lovely guests.   Easy to get along with, easy to please, and always helpful.   Watching Cathy help Barb thread our yoke through a mooring pennant eye is a joy:  Barb uses a long boat hook to grab the mooring painter.   She pulls the painter up to the high Krogen bow and hands the boat hook off to Cathy, who sets it out of the way and then immediately grabs the other yoke line, feeds it around and under the bow roller, and then hands it to Barb, who by this time has secured the first line through the eye and up snuggly to the bow so as to keep the eye within reach for the second line.   Barb feeds the second line through the eye and lets out some of the first line while Cathy adjusts the length of the second line.   Pure poetry in motion.

Meanwhile, Jon is pinning the stabilizers while I am closing down the electronics.

What a team!

Thanks for coming, Jon and Cathy.   See you next year.

Friends from Savannah; BVI & USVI — Jan. 14-21, 2014

Friends from Savannah, Beth Logan and Steve Ellis, arrived at Charlotte Amalie late on the afternoon of Jan. 14.  We got them settled in and oriented and had dinner aboard.  Steve was heavily medicated for his cold – an affliction that nearly caused the cancellation of their visit – and was much quieter than usual, but as the week wore on he became more and more his usual voluble self.   Next morning we departed Crown Bay Marina and motored up to Jost Van Dyke, where we checked in to the BVIs and had lunch at Foxy’s.  Later that day we caught a taxi over to the Soggy Dollar, where our guests did some swimming and we all did some sunning and some drinking of Pain Killers, the libation which became the drink of choice during their visit, with those served at Soggy Dollar clearly the best.

On Jan. 16 we moved around the corner to the east end of the island, where Beth and Steve got in some serious beachifying on Sandy Spit.  When they were suitably browned and toasted, we moved over to the mooring field just off Foxy’s Taboo.  We took the dinghy in and hiked the short distance to the Bubbly Pool, where Beth and Steve enjoyed being thrashed about by the breakers that occasionally came crashing in.  Next morning I returned alone and photographed the White-cheeked Pintail ducks (and several other birds) that populated a path-side pond.

When I returned to the boat we headed for the Indians, but found all of the moorings occupied.  So we went in to Pirate’s Bight on Norman Island and took a mooring and dinghied over to the Caves and snorkeled there instead.   Then, a visit to the restaurant/bar/beach at the east end of the Bight, for more Pain Killer sampling.  And then a trip to the famous Willy T’s, for, um, a Pain Killer.   We were on the upper deck when a couple of young things decided to honor the Willy T tradition and bare their upper torsos and jump over the edge.  I had only Barb’s camera, which suffers from the usual point-and-shoot malady of a long delay between pressing the shutter button and actual image capture.  #$*@!!!!

Next morning (Jan. 18 – are you keeping up with this chronology?) we moved over to the Indians and were the first to take a mooring.  Great snorkel, after which we took the boat all the way back to Caneel Bay, St. John, USVI, so we could dinghy in to Cruz Bay in order to check in to the good ol’ USA.  After some shopping and some lunch at the Beach Bar, we returned to TT2 and motored over to Cinnamon Bay, where we took our guests ashore so Beth could do some reconnoitering for a possible site for a family reunion.  Later that day we had prime rib at the campground restaurant.  Next morning we moved to Waterlemon Bay, where Barb took a break and the rest of us snorkeled.   Then we took the dinghy to shore and walked up to the ruins at Annaberg Sugar Plantation.   We were back on the boat when a dinghy approached our stern and its lone occupant asked about our boat name.   Turned out he was on the boat Viking Spirit and is from Kristiansand, Norway, where our friends Lars Helge and Tove Brunborg live.  Not only did Arild Anderson know the Brunborgs, he is a former colleague of Tove!  Lite verden! (Small world!) 

Waterlemon is such a popular place for snorkeling that we felt guilty about continuing to occupy a mooring after having already snorkeled there, so we moved over to Francis Bay, where Barb and our guests did some snorkeling along the point separating Francis and Maho Bay. 

On Jan. 20 our guests did more snorkeling (along the north shore of Francis Bay) and then we moved to Christmas Cove in order to stage for our return to St. Thomas.  Next day — you guessed it – Beth and Steve did one last snorkel before we moved to Charlotte Amalie.  We had lunch at the Green Garden and our guests did some window-shopping before we sent them off to the airport in a taxi.

It was a great visit; we hope they enjoyed it as much as we did.

US Virgin Islands — Jan 5 – 13, 2014

There are a few places in the Caribbean that are so comfortable, so pleasant and so familiar, that returning to them feels like returning “home”.   One of them is Francis Bay, St. John, USVI, where we settled in among friendly neighbors that must feel the same way, since they are so often there when we are:  Hunter and Devi (Arctic Tern), Lee and Sharon (Allegro), Bill and Coleen (Dolce Vita), and Tom and Lesley (Farhaven).  Also in the mooring field when we arrived, and hosting a sundowner that very evening, were Morgan and Lindsey (Nirvana).

The sheltered bay provided a welcome break from the raging winds we have so often experienced this winter, and the surroundings provided great opportunities for swimming and hiking.

We also engaged in some major projects.  The depth sounder had been acting flaky, and an installation of a new transducer before we left Trinidad had not solved the problem.  Nor did swapping the depth instrument in the pilot house — the one into which the transducer is plugged — with the seldom-used instrument in the master stateroom.   That left what?  The Sea-talk.  So we disengaged that and ran the depth instrument in stand-alone mode, getting its power directly from the boat via a spare sea-talk plug that Hunter graciously provided.  That apparently removed the problem.  What remains now is for me to attempt to re-integrate, one at a time, the components of the original Sea-talk network in order to find the bad boy.   Why re-integrate?  Because the stand-alone configuration gives me no depth or wind indications on the flybridge, and no wind indication in the pilot house.  (I am indifferent to lack of depth indication in the master stateroom.)

The other major project was the installation of AIS on Tusen Takk II.   (A word of explanation for the benefit of land-lubbers:  AIS means Automatic Identification System.  Active systems send and receive signals; passive systems receive only.  The signals sent contain such information as the name of the vessel, the speed, the direction of travel, the coordinates, and so forth.  The receiving instrument uses that information and similar information from the receiving vessel to calculate the closest approach and the time of that closest encounter. All of this information is then displayed on a computer running navigation software, or on a chart plotter.)  At the sundowner on Nirvana a number of captains sang the praises of AIS, recounting how during night passages the unit had kept them informed of the path and intentions of the large ships that ply the seas, and had made it possible to hail an approaching ship on VHF by name, ensuring that they would answer.  When I admitted that we had no such unit, Bill (Dolce Vita) urged me to come over the next day and see his installation. As he conducted the demonstration in his cockpit, he remarked that he had another unit installed down on his nav station below, and that his new unit had replaced the old and the old had not been used for a couple of years.   He offered to give it to me, and suggested that I bring my computer over to his boat to see if it would work.  I did, and it did.

So then we had the problem of installing the system on Tusen Takk II.  The AIS unit functions as a MUX, receiving info from the vessel’s GPS at one speed through a serial connector, combining that info with the info received on a VHF (or AIS) antenna (from other, transmitting boats), and sending the info back through the same serial connector (but at a different speed) to the computer running the navigational software.   Without Bill, I would have been at a loss.   With his help, after several attempts, we succeeded in tapping into the correct GPS output and getting the unit working!   Fantastic!

(For those who are curious, the AIS I installed is a passive unit, and the computer in question is my backup navigation device, running Nobeltech 8.something on an old Dell that just keeps on ticking and running Windows XP (gakk).  When/if I upgrade I will simply need a serial-to-USB converter to get the info to the new computer running the new nav software – which will definitely NOT be Nobeltech, given their policies concerning upgrades and additions to their charts, and will definitely NOT be a Dell, given that it is not a Mac.)

Our stay in Francis was not all work.  Our neighbors got out nearly every day, either snorkeling or hiking or both.  Our projects got only somewhat in the way; we joined the crew in an expedition to explore the now-defunct Maho Resort on one day, and on another the crew took multiple dinghies to Cinnamon Bay and explored the nearby ruins and then took the more challenging path up the mountain to Centerline Road, where we turned around and came back down.

On Jan. 13 we moved over to St. Thomas and took a slip at Crown Bay Marina, where we a)  equalized the batteries, b) provisioned, c) hired a taxi to help us get our new carpets at Tropical Shipping, and d) readied ourselves and the boat for the arrival of friends from Savannah:  Beth Logan and Steve Ellis.

About the carpeting.  We sought the advice of the folks at Kadey-Krogen, and learned that a number of KK-ers had used Jennifer Highlander ( who works at or near Stuart, FL.   We contacted her and she agreed to help out.   We sent her patterns that we carefully cut to size on craft  paper.  We sought her advice on carpet style and color, having also sent her swaths of material from our sofa cushions and window treatments.   She ordered the carpet material, cut them to size, attached borders, and sent them and appropriate carpet padding (also cut to size) to Miami, where they were placed on a Tropical Shipping vessel and sent to St. Thomas, USVI.   We carpeted the entire boat (except the engine room 🙂  ) and are extremely pleased with the results.   Our careful creation of the patterns and Jennifer’s careful work have resulted in carpets that fit each spot perfectly.

About our Savannah guests:  tune in to the next edition of “Chuck and Barb go cruising”.



USVI to Antigua – April 3 – 12, 2013

On April 3rd, we said goodbye to Charlotte Amalie and motored over to Christmas Cove.  We spent two nights there, and then moved to Francis Bay, stopping along the way at Caneel to briefly moor the boat while we dinghied in to Cruz Bay for a final pickup of mail and some grocery shopping.  When we arrived at Francis we provided Hunter and Devi (Arctic Tern) and Paul and Susan (Island Roamer) dinghy transportation to the Maho Bay Resort for our last-ever Friday-night partake of prime rib at the resort, not because we expect never to return to Francis, but because the resort has lost its lease and must vacate by May 1. Horrible news.  It will be sad to see the little tent-cabins replaced by upscale private housing; it will be sad to no longer have the prime rib; it will be sad to no longer be able to watch the fascinating glass blowing that was hosted every Friday night after the meal.

Saturday I finally got over to Francis Pond to attempt to photograph the White-cheeked Pintails that I had seen there much earlier in our stay in the Virgins. Procrastination is a strategy that I have often employed with considerable success, but it failed miserably on this occasion. We have had very little rain, and the pond had shrunk both in circumference and in depth. There were wading birds out in the middle, but at first no pintails.  Finally I noticed movement WAY off on the other side, where presumably the water was deeper.  See the disappointing pictures, below.

Early Sunday morning (at 3:08 am) we set out for St. Martin.  We had been watching closely the weather forecasts, since the howling winds had been predicted to slack only slightly for two days in the near future.  Originally we planned on moving up to Virgin Gorda on Sunday in order to shorten the distance to St. Martin, but when a last-minute weather check indicated that Sunday looked as good as the predicted lull of Monday/Tuesday, we decided to strike out between Salt and Peter Islands of BVI toward St. Martin.  It was a lumpy ride, all the more so since one of the stabilizers failed only a couple of hours into the trip.  We disabled that side and continued.  Midday we were passed by Maltese Falcon, also heading toward St. Martin, but making considerably better time, their retracted sails notwithstanding.

I was able to replace the hydraulic arm when we reached St. Martin after a 96-nm trip of 15 hours and 25 minutes. Next morning the wind/waves were still higher than is completely comfortable, so instead of getting up super early and slogging directly to Antigua, we opted to head to St. Kitts.   That added about 10 nm to the overall distance to Antigua, but meant that we would only be out in the washing machine conditions for about 64 nm, arriving at our intended anchorage in St. Kitts after 9 hours and 40 minutes. We anchored in White House Bay, one among 16 vessels.  Next morning, on our way to Antigua and out about one hour from the anchorage, we heard Arctic Tern unsuccessfully hailing Unicorn. We hailed Arctic Tern, and learned they were just outside Basseterre, several miles up the western coast of St. Kitts.  Their intention was to check in to St. Kitts and wait for better conditions to proceed to Montserrat, and to get some rest, since they had motored directly from North Sound, BVI, having departed sometime in the darkness early Sunday and just arriving in St. Kitts shortly after daylight on Monday. We learned later that Unicorn had opted to sail instead of motor, and when wind angle had not cooperated, had diverted to St. Martin.

Our trip to Antigua was uneventful, if once again a bit uncomfortable. 48 nm in just under 8 hours.  We anchored in Five Island Bay, nestled up close to the resort – close enough to get gratis wifi using just our computers’ antennas, a “good thing”, since our external wifi antenna failed this season.  Next morning we moved around to the outside approach to Jolly Harbour and took the dinghy in to check in. Yes, we took the dinghy.  The customs nazi “lady” infamous for being a – um, I cannot use that word in our blog – has been transferred elsewhere and replaced with a thoroughly friendly gentleman. So, no more silly requirement that the vessel has to be within sight of the customs dock in order to check in. There were quite a few folks ahead of me in the line; apparently Antigua is attempting to use eSeaClear again, and there was some kind of problem with the computer or its data so we were all reduced to filling out umpteen copies by hand.  But we learned from the gathering that cruisers planned to assemble that night for dinner at the adjacent restaurant Port Afina.  Bill (Dolce Vita) made the arrangements.  About 26 of us, arranged in tables for six.  Each table received three pizzas: pepperoni, cheese and veggie.  Two types of pasta and salad served buffet style.  Quite good food, and quite a party.

In other news, the dredging of the channel into Jolly Harbour appeared to finally be getting started on our last day there.  We had read that it would start on March 25, and then that it would start on April 2.  So actually starting on April 12 was something of an accomplishment.  There also appeared to be a lot of construction going on in the area; there were backhoes on tracks working on the hills both to the north and to the south of the channel.

On Friday, we moved into Falmouth Harbour, where we anchored near many cruising friends, all here for the approaching Classic Yacht Regatta.  We joined many of those friends at The Mad Mangoose, the venue for the first of many rum parties at which a ticket is given for each rum drink ordered.  When enough have been collected, they can be redeemed for a coveted red cap sporting the notations “Mount Gay Rum” and “Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta”, and the year of the event.  Redemption occurs on Friday, April 26, at a party entitled, naturally enough, “Mount Gay Rum Red Cap Party”.

Wedding Bells – USVI, Mar 27-Apr 2, 2013

When we left Road Town on the 27th, we went back to Charlotte Amalie, to await the arrival of Barb’s niece Stephanie and her fiancé Raoul. They were coming to St. Thomas from Wichita in order to get married and spend ten days on a honeymoon, and we were going to be their witnesses and photographers. We picked them up by dinghy at Yacht Haven Grand on Mar 29th, and took them to Tusen Takk II for a quick tour before heading to Christmas Cove to spend the afternoon snorkeling, relaxing and having lunch. That evening we all took advantage of “hamburger night” at Shipwreck restaurant back in St. Thomas. Saturday was the wedding, which took place on the beach of Bluebeard Resort. In addition to the presiding minister and ourselves, the other person in attendance was John, a friend of Raoul’s and a local musician, who has traveled the world over performing at festivals, pursuing surf waves, and snowboarding.

Readers of the previous post will wonder how I could photograph the wedding, since I had not yet received my replacement Nikon d200. Earlier that day I had purchased at one of the duty-free shops of St. Thomas a new Nikon d300s, which will definitely NOT be used for underwater photography.

Saturday night the newlyweds treated us all to dinner at Enkai, probably the best sushi restaurant in St. Thomas. Monday night we had the happy couple out to the boat for dinner, and afterwards taught them Mexican Train dominoes.

When not getting married or spending time with us, Steph has been completing her certification scuba dives, so she can now join Raoul in their combined honeymoon/dive vacation.

PS: Sunday, March 31, was the birthday of my beloved mother. Ninety-four and going strong.  When I called her to convey birthday greetings, she told me that she had come from good stock; one of her female forbears had lived to be 100, and had died not from disease or old age, but from being attacked by a bull! Stay out of pastures, Mom!

Complications — Virgin Islands, Mar 20–27, 2013

After the departure of Mom and Sis, we did some re-provisioning and laundry, and then on Mar 22 left Charlotte Amalie and traversed up to the BVIs to do some diving.  We checked in at Soper’s Hole, and then moved over to Norman where we dove Angelfish Reef, in the extreme southwestern corner of the island.  The winds were just enough north of east that the site was protected, so we spent the next two nights anchored in adjacent Privateer Bay, thereby avoiding the noise and mooring fees of the Bight.  We were able to refill our scuba tanks at Sail Caribbean Dive Shop, Pirates Bight Branch.  On the 23rd we dove Ring Dove, just outside the entry to the Bight.  On the 24th, Spyglass Wall, on the north side of Norman.  On the 25th we got bogged down with chores and getting tanks refilled, and on the 26th we dove the southeastern corner of Pelican, the small island just east of the Indians.

We enjoyed all of the dives, with Spyglass being our favorite, but they were all not without complications.  On the first dive, Angelfish Reef, I had decided to take my housed camera down and renew one of my passions: underwater photography.  I spent a great deal of time on Mar 21, relearning the controls, greasing o-rings, remembering how to rig the two external flashes, etc.  Just before the dive I put the housing in a bucket of water to check for any leaks.  Then, in preparation for the dive, I hung the housing (with camera inside) on a painter that suspended the outfit about 10’ below the surface.  When I entered the water I checked the housing, and all appeared to be well.  So I detached the housing and dropped to the edge of the reef to a depth of about 45’.  Kneeling in the sand and adjusting the positions of the flashes, I noticed water drops on the inside of the lens port!  Yikes!  I immediately surfaced, but by the time I got myself and the housing aboard, there was almost a cup of water in the housing.  Long story made short:  my beloved Nikon d200 was ruined.  I sent the housing back to the States to have all of the seals and o-rings replaced, and with any luck it will be finished in time to be sent to Bismarck, ND, so that niece Cathy and her husband Jon can bring it with them when they come to see us in Antigua in the middle of April.  And I immediately ordered a used d200 from B&H in New York.  (The housings are brand-and-model specific, and the d200 is no longer made.)   As this is written my “replacement” d200 awaits our pickup at a mailing service in Cruz Bay, St. John.

In other news of “complications”, we first attempted to dive Spyglass from Tusen Takk II.   But it was very windy and the painter on the dive mooring was very short.  While Barb was attempting to get the end of the painter up high enough for her to send our lines through the eye at the end of the painter, the wind blew us off.  Barb bravely tried to muscle the boat back into position by refusing to release the boathook from the painter, all the while shouting for me to come and help her.  We have been in that situation before, and I am of the opinion, reinforced by bitter experience, that even such a brave and strong person as myself cannot prevail; the only hope is to stay at the controls and try to move the boat back into position, a task made especially difficult when, as is our case, the bow thruster is inoperative.  Barb, on the other hand, maintains that had I come soon enough I could have threaded our line through the eye before we were blown off. (Digression:  we have mentioned the bow thruster problem before; we are still awaiting the parts for a repair.)  Our boathook is longer than many; it contains three sections rather than two, and extends to 12’ instead of 8’.  This, because the bow of a Krogen is higher than many other trawlers, and certainly higher than most sailboats.  Can you guess what happened?  The last section of the boathook separated from its companions!  But it floated, so we were able to retrieve it by using a fishing net.  But the section, after being re-attached, refuses to telescope back into its intended nested position.  So after the dive, which we did from our dinghy after temporarily anchoring the boat in Benures Bay, we made a special trip over to Nanny Cay, only to find that they only stock the 8’ versions.  (Days later, Barb took a ferry over to St. Thomas where she purchased a shiny new 12 foot, three-part boathook, while I saw to the problem of mailing off the underwater camera housing.)

When winds shifted a bit more southerly, we ceased anchoring in Privateer Bay and spent our nights in the Bight.   There, we enjoyed a few sessions at Pirates Bight restaurant/bar, including a reunion with long-time cruising friends Chris and Barbara (Moonsail), who we met oh-so-long-ago when we first entered the Caribbean in ’07.  The Bight was unusually busy while we there, since it was the week before Easter and the Puerto Rican “armada” was in evidence.

But why is this entry entitled “Complications”?  When the goddess of irony asked if we wanted any, we thought she said “compensations”, and we asked for extra!

The doors on the pilothouse are sturdy, metal, and “barn” style, with separate top and bottom.  In addition to the latch and lock mechanisms, there are “dog” handles on both the top and bottom doors than can be used to close the doors extra tight during inclement weather or heavy seas.   When we are washing the outside of the pilothouse and its windows, we employ the dogs to ensure that no water leaks inside.   Recently, an outer dog broke off in Barb’s hand when she was preparing to spray a door.  Krogen Yachts happened to have just one set on their shelf, and they sent it to us.  We were anchored in the narrow shoulder at the approach to Cruz Bay when Barb took the ferry over to St. Thomas to look for a new boathook.   When I had gotten the camera housing mailed off, I returned to the boat and decided to install the new door dogs, which come as a unit:  an inside dog, a shaft and an outside dog.  I removed the setscrews, but the inside dog would not come free from the shaft.   I decided that before struggling with that complication, I should double check that the gap between the dogs was the correct length for our doors.   So I opened up the door and stepped outside.  No sooner had I done so, than the inside dog spontaneously separated from the shaft and fell to the deck and bounced into the water.   I donned snorkel gear and fruitlessly searched for the dog in the sandy bottom.  When Barb returned, I switched to scuba gear, and found the dog immediately.  The sound you may hear is that of a goddess giggling.

On Mar 27 we checked out of the BVIs at Road Town, Tortola.  Possession of the exit papers rendered us eligible to purchase duty free diesel at Delta Petroleum.  We had done so last year as well, but this time there was a, um, complication. The large sailboat that snuck in just before us took forever.  We couldn’t understand why.  Circling endlessly just outside the fuel dock, we could see with our binoculars that there was no activity.  What was the holdup?  When at last it was our turn we learned the problem.  New rules:  a customs official must be summoned to ok and oversee the fueling operation, presumably to keep locals from the USVI from checking in briefly and then buying cheap fuel on their exit.  But there was an additional complication, of course.   The customs official that had serviced the sailboat had departed, and was not inclined to return so soon.   So we waited.  And waited.  Finally, a different customs official was summoned, and we could proceed while the official napped dockside.  But there was a complication.  Strong winds from the east had necessitated that we dock on the port side.  Not optimal, because the tank intakes are on the starboard side.  We followed the rule of thumb that says to fill the tank furthest from the dock first.  We had transferred most of our remaining fuel from the outside tanks to the center, so there was not much fuel in the starboard tank when we began fueling.   So by the time the starboard tank was full, the boat was listing strongly to starboard.  When I switched to filling the port side, the hose running from the starboard intake to the port tank apparently ran too steeply “uphill”, because the fuel would not flow into the tank.   So the best that I could do was to top up the center tank, giving a total less than what I wanted to purchase.  Four hundred and forty-six gallons at $3.95 per gallon. Not particularly inexpensive by USA standards, perhaps, but a good deal here in the Caribbean.

USVI – Chuck’s Mom and Sis visit, Mar 12-19, 2013

Mom (94) and sister Zona (mumble) were the latest guests to join us on Tusen Takk II.  We “received” them on Mar 12 at Crown Bay Marina, where we reasoned it would be easiest to get Mom on board.  Next day, we engaged a taxi for a “tour” of St. Thomas.  Charlotte Amalie was packed to the overflowing with passengers from the scheduled seven (!) cruise ships in the vicinity.  Turned out a fair percentage of them were also on tours, and that on such days a “tour” consists of a drive up to several vantage points above the city, including the incredibly crowded Mountain Top, home of the “world famous” banana daiquiri.   In order to get to the balcony overlooking Magen Bay to the north, one must pass through a gargantuan store filled with schlock.  But the view from the balcony, when one could finally elbow one’s way to the rail, was indeed impressive.  And Zack, our driver, originally from Palestine, was gracious and solicitous of Mom.

The waves hitting our slip, and the diesel fumes blowing our way from the nearby Tropical Shipping dock persuaded us to leave Crown Bay on Mar 14, or “pi” day.  We hoped to stop at Christmas Cove, but when there was no room at the inn proceeded to Francis Bay.  There, Barb and Zona did some swimming, but the water was murky and Zona decided she wasn’t a snorkeler, if that is a word.  Left-over rollers from the NW made the mooring field moderately uncomfortable, so we moved the next day to Leinster Bay, where, tucked deeply in to Waterlemon Bay, we spent two lovely days.   Zona and I went ashore and walked up to Annaberg, where we obtained the obligatory picture of guest-in-front-of-windmill.

On Mar 17 we moved to Great Lameshur, where the quiet waters and beckoning dock finally convinced Mom that she could get ashore.  Pleasant walk to VIERS and the Tektite museum.  See the photos below of the re-entry of Mom to the dinghy at the conclusion of the short excursion.

On Mar 18 we moved back to Charlotte Amalie, where we hosted temporarily-batching Hunter (Arctic Tern) to dinner and cards.

Speaking of cards, Mom suffers from macular degeneration, but with her boundless will and optimistic spirit continues to play Free Cell and Spider on the computer, and Progressive Rummy at the card table.  When we weren’t playing cards with Mom, Barb and Zona and I did a lot of reading.  It was a very relaxing visit, and both Barb and I feel grateful for having had the time with Mom and Zona.

Early morning on Mar 19, we all boarded the dinghy – Mom now more confident that she could manage the entry and exit – and traversed the short distance to the dinghy dock at Yacht Haven.  No sooner had we gotten underway than we were hit by a downpour which lasted just long enough to thoroughly drench us all.  Maybe we should have a) waited five minutes or b) covered the luggage with plastic before departing.

PS:  When we returned to the boat, we had breakfast and then schlepped ten tons of laundry in to shore.  Barb finally got a picture of Jerry, the pleasant man who insists on folding sheets for customers.  Gratis.


Virgin Islands – Visit by Erik and Cindy, Feb 28-Mar 8, 2013

Chuck’s nephew Erik and Erik’s wife Cindy flew in to Charlotte Amalie on Feb 28.   While anchored in the Bay awaiting their arrival, we saw an interesting sight.  Two helicopters circled the Bay and then one of them hovered over the dock at the Coast Guard Station.   It was difficult to see what was happening, but later examination of my telephoto pictures revealed that a superstructure suitable for mounting navigation aids was being tied to the helicopter.  When that was secured, the helicopter flew off, presumably to deposit the structure on some hazardous rocky outcrop.

We had a grand time with Erik and Cindy.  We snorkeled at Waterlemon and Christmas Cove, and after checking in to the BVIs in order to pick up an injector pump for our generator, visited the Bight area of Norman Island, where we snorkeled the Caves and the Indians, and of course we stopped in at Willy T’s in order that Erik and Cindy could experience that particular bit of tourist-madness.

While in Francis Bay, Barb took our guests on a walk to the Annaberg Ruins, where they were fortunate to arrive during an expo day.  On Friday night we again partook of the gluttonous meal at Maho Resort, and afterwards watched in fascination as a guest glass blower created a gnarled tree complete with green foliage.  On another day we all joined Hunter and Devi (Arctic Tern) and their guests Craig and Sharon on a hike over the Johnny Horn trail from Waterlemon to Coral Bay and back.   While in Coral Bay we had breakfast at the Donkey Diner, and then walked down to the little grocery store “Love City Mini Market”, which “has everything”.

Erik and Cindy:  great guests, welcome anytime.

Post Script:  On the day after Erik and Cindy’s departure, Mar 8, Barb took some amazing photos while dinghy-ing in to do some laundry.  See the last two photos in the album, below, of a daring rider on a “St Thomas JetRider”.  Barb later found literature which described the setup.  A 33 ft hose from the small boat to the two barrels on the jetpack unit.  Water is pumped at over 1,000 gallons per minute.

PPS:  Today, Mar 20, I am updating the photo gallery, below, to include three photos taken by Erik while he was with us.  I just got them through email a few days ago — hence the delay in their inclusion.

Jeff’s Visit – USVI, Feb 17–26, 2013

As we mentioned in a previous post, son Jeff timed his arrival so as to overlap granddaughters Kristen and Abigail’s visit by a few days. After the girls’ departure, we retraced the circuit of bays and anchorages that we have found to be guest-friendly. Francis Bay, Christmas Cove, Charlotte Amalie, Great Lameshur, Salt Pond, Drunk Bay, Caneel and Elephant Bay were all visited one or more times. We did some diving at Tektite Reef and Johnson Reef and “Cow and Calf” and Whistling Cay. We went to Heidi’s Monday night movie (where we saw “Skyfall”) at Honeymoon Beach. We got chased out of Elephant Bay early one morning by the Port Authority who was clearing the way for the arrival of the world’s largest cruise ship. We had prime rib at Maho Resort, and sushi at the Beni Iguana restaurant in Charlotte Amalie. We watched a few movies on board, and Jeff watched a gazillion episodes of Breaking Bad on his computer. He works hard when he is home in Las Vegas; we think he enjoyed his leisurely visit with us. We sure did.