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Taganga Bay and Sierra Nevada Park in northern Colombia, March 2015Th

The Santa Marta winds that are a known phenomena along this part of the Colombian coast have kicked in. We are safe and secure in the marina here but noone is moving out. The government officials discourage yachts from anchoring and require a special permit to do so overnight. However we took a bus over to the nearest bay(only 3 KMs away) called Taganga Bay for the Sunday. It was filled with families and locals. It is known as mostly a fishing village but popular with divers and backpackers. The scenery was beautiful but windy.  Here is the view from the bus window.

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Wind was whipping the sand into everyones face but it did not seem to bother anyone. I think they are used to it.
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Fishing boats are made out of dug out trees but often with a coating of fiberglass and some paint.  The hillsides are brown and cactus covered. Not sure why this Virgin Mary needs so much protection!!

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Taganga Bay has a trail joining the next bay with eco-resorts like this one with the tiki thatched roofs. Lots of people playing and eating here on the beach but no town. We had a delicious lemonade adorned with fruit there.  Getting into some bird watching too.

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See the wind whip the water on the bay!
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Delightful sunday at the Beach.

We wanted to make of trip up further into the Sierra Nevadas to see our snowy peaks. John met a tour guide in town who could take us up into the Sierras for an overnight which included hiking, birding and staying at a hostal Colombian style. He spoke good English and was a very enthusiastic birder. so we signed on for the next day. 0800 we were at the appointed place with our packs ready to go. Erik, the guide and his friends uncle who was the driver of a 4×4 which was owned by another uncle. We would be going to the home of the family. The road was 40 km of mostly dirt and potholes and dust. The driver was skillful and kept saying that the road was in great shape. I would hate to imagine the rainy season on this road. We had to drive over the river a few times now during dry season. We stopped many times to see birds, overlooks, have a drink, etc. Our tour was priced as including everything, drinks, snack, lodging, guides etc.

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And this was just on the drive up the mountain.  At the end of the road for us waited Alejandro(cousin of driver and owner of farm) his horse Corselle and mule for carrying a bag of platanos.

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The finca is 3 Kms up a dusty trail and is the only way to the farm. Everything must be brought up this path.  In the hour or so it took us to walk the path, the weather changed from hot and sunny to being in the cloud forest, cool and wet. Not sure of the elevation at the start of the trail but we ended up at 2200 meters at the finca.
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At the gate to Finca Santa Elena in the cloud forest. Santa Marta is the red dot at the left.

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Erik, our guide had prepared us for this weather change and so we quickly changed into our long pants and jackets. Ana the owner with Alejandro had prepared for us a large meal of Colombian food and drink. We were starving and it all tasted so good. First we had a drink called Panela which is pure cane sugar and can be served hot or cold. It is meant to replenish you with energy after our exertion of walking uphill to the farm. It tasted very good and not sweet. Then came the meal of beef, patacones(green platanos fried crispy), rice, vegetable soup and Lulo juice. Now very full we sat around the kitchen dominated by the cooking area which is all done with wood. We chatted for hours with Alejandro and Ana with Erik doing all the translation both ways. He is remarkably good at that. The cloud forest had turned into a rain, light but windy so we missed out on a sunset but enjoyed the fire and warmth inside.

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Early we all went to bed under several blankets as we were truly cold for the first time in more than a year. The plan was to be up and watching the sunrise above the farm. 0530 we were up, dressed warmly and out seeing the sun come up over the snowy peaks of Pico Colon, Bolivar and a few other 18,900+ peaks.

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It was a spectacular site for sure,so quite except for the occasional cow mooing, rooster crowing! No wind, crystal clear. We wandered up aboe the farm looking for birds and watching color come into the world.

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By 0700 we were back to the house to have breakfast and prepare to climb up to the top of Cerro Kennedy at 3100+ meters. We needed to get a start ahead of the clouds that usually begin to gather by midday.Oh but first I have to do a bit of milking of the cows to provide fresh mile for the meal. I think they did not believe i knew how!  Ana hobbles the cow in the corral and away we go. I believe they had 6 milking cows at this time and that provided their milk plus they make cheese. i heard that Ana is also the “vet” for the area cows. Tough lady and very hard working. They raised their 3 children on this farm and now they live in Santa Marta. Carlos, their son, is involved with the tourism business and is partners with Erik. He leads tours but does not speak much English so Erik did our tour.

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Our breakfast was a milk based potato soup-with a poached egg in it plus arrepas with their cheese in it. (Cornmeal bread fried with cheese) and Lulo juice made from their lulos. (seen below)

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So good and so filling. Turns out we would need all this energy to climb to Cerro Kennedy.

Alejandro would be our guide while Ana went to nearby farm to tend a sick cow and do a bit of milking for a neighbor who was in Santa Marta.

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Alejandro and his dog Komotu

We walked all types of terrain, pastures, wooded areas, crossed little streams.

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This ruin is now owned by Alejandro and his brother. The bank repossessed it from a big ganga dealer who built it from his profits.

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We walked upward from 0800 till about 1130 and still had not reached the Cerro and the clouds were now rolling up the valley on both sides of mountain. We decided to eat our snack of passion fruit that Alejandro had carried up, enjoy the meadow at 3000 meters and return down to the farm! They said we could just pretend we had reached Cerro but that would be fraudulent.                                                                                  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADSCN1367 (1)DSCN1369

The clouds did indeed move in and we ended walking back in and out of clouds. Luckily for us, Alejandro has lived his whole life on the mountain and so has Ana. The only farms we saw along our path up belonged to his parents and Ana’s parents. They love their mountain home.

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Waiting for us was another fabulous meal. The green soup is made of green pumpkin and their milk. Again Patacones, rice , beef and cucumbers from their garden. The juice was made of tomato de arbor which is like a sweet tomato and made a delicious juice drink. Finished off with a guava paste and their cheese.

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Just a quick siesta in the cool sunshine before we said our goodbyes to our new friends at Finca Santa Elena.

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I will miss the rooster(all 6 kgs of him), the cows and calves, horses, mules and our hosts.
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Alejandro and his trusty steed stands ready to lead us back down the mountain to return home.
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After a few more stops to get pictures of parrots and other birds, and a sunset we arrived in Santa Marta where the wind is still blowing hard.

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As always, happy to be home but have so enjoyed this excursion into Colombia and its people. May be sore tomorrow from our uphill climb but will recommend this to everyone. Soon we will be moving on towards San Blas and Panama–when the wind lightens a little. Hope all is well with our family and friends. Enjoy each day that you have!!

Colorful Cartagena Colombia February 2015

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View of city from Castillo of San Felipe

Cartagena is one of the most colorful and beautiful cities I have been to. I mean the old walled city of Cartagena where we spent our time and stayed. We found a card at the marina with this Hostal’s info so we headed straight for there. We decided to take a bus instead of sailing there for many reasons. The bus ride was half a day and showed us the countryside as well . The anchorage in Cartagena is dirty and not very good as well as expensive for clearing in/out.

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The whole city has about one million people living in it. It reminded us a lot of old San Juan in Puerto Rico. The actual area is not large and can be walked easily in a day and explored in a few days. So off we went.  Narrow streets, lots of balconies, pigeons, squares, sculptures and paintings, things for sale like fruit, hats, beer, arrebas and various street foods. Overwhelming amount of color, smell, sounds and peoples!

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We found a tour guide on the internet by the name of Edgar who advertised Free Walking Tours. So we met him at the Naval Museum along with 6 other English speaking tourists and had a wonderful 2 hour explanation of the city. I highly recommend him and he works for the tips he receives.

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The wall around the city has great views and turrets, guns and peekholes throughout. Great places to watch the sunset or go for the breezes.

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People watching is part of the experience of visiting this city. The plazas offer music, dancing, children playing, lounging.

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Another colorful attraction to the city are the ladies named Palenqueras, all dressed in colors of Colombia wearing bowls of fruits on their heads and big smiles on their faces.

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We noticed that many of the doors featured door knockers on large wooden doors. Edgar our guide explained that the knocker indicate the profession of the owner or his lineage such as royalty had iguana, or owl for academics, etc.

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The plazas and squares come alive after dark. Musicians with guitars stroll playing and singing, people dressed up, horse and carriages readied for a romantic ride through the streets.  Street food continues to be sold and we sampled lots of fried things, dough, cheese, chorizo, candies made of coconut and sesames. This was taken by 2 Colombian men who spoke good english and shared a meal with us while we grilled them about Colombia and its cultures. Loved it all….and felt safe!

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Hat sellers were everywhere, we needed a good covering as it was hot so we each got new hats. Hard to keep them on though in the breeze.  He was such an enthusiastic salesman we could not resist him.

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On our way out of town we walked across the bridge to visit the Castillo de San Felipe which was built to protect the city from attack from the mainland. It has beautiful views from the top but was very hot. It also  has miles of tunneling which has been opened and preserved.

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Just a quick word about the trip by bus. The country is flat here, arid, dusty, monochromatic mostly but the people are lively, friendly, but speak very little English. We managed to communicate ok though with our Spanglish and gestures.  A smile goes a long way!

We crossed the Rio Magdalena which is the huge river system that goes 700 miles up towards Bogota. The pictures are taken out of the bus window.  Imagine sailing on this dugout with a big plastic tarp sail.

 

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The buses were clean, air-conditioned and cheap.Frequently the driver will stop to allow a seller on the bus for a few miles to sell the passengers everything from soup to nuts.   The traffic is a conglomeration of motorbikes, bikes, donkey pulling carts, cars of all sizes but mostly taxis, buses of all sizes and trucks. The cacophony of the traffic is loud.

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We were happy as always to get back to Maraki and find her safe and sound.  We want to do a bit more exploring as we wait for a weather window to head westward again. Hope you have enjoyed Cartagena as much as we did. Let me know if the size of the pictures caused you troub

Santa Marta Colombia February 2015

The 350 miles downwind sail was one we were carefully picking out our weather. This stretch of water along Colombia had caused us problems and ripped sails in 1993 when we were first setting out for Panama and our circumnavigation. Now we know this is one of the windiest areas in the Caribbean and even in the world. So we did our research and involved Chris Parker from a weather service to look ahead. We also wondered about the decision to go to Colombia but found lots of positive writeups from previous cruisers. We headed off from Curacao knowing we could stop at Aruba if need be.

A pod of pilot whales accompanied us that first evening. They played in the waves and around the bow wake similarly to dolphins but much bigger and with a very blunt face. Here I am communing with them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey must have been good luck for us as we set off at a good pace. We did the first 170 miles in 24 hours sailing past Aruba during the night at 8 knots in flat water. There was a offshore anchorage with about 20 ships all at anchor and lit up like hotels.

Fishing as always underway is part of the entertainment as well as dinner. Caught a great big male Mahi Mahi and we are still eating it.

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In the area near Santa Marta we lost the wind entirely for a few hours. We needed a charge anyway as the wind vane had stopped working and the autopilot was doing the job. John would be able to fix it but not underway. We neared the Colombia coast near Santa Marta and the 5 capes. We had hoped to be able to see the 2 snow covered  18,000 foot peaks just inland of us but no luck. We did decide that this would be a great place for us to stop for the night in a bay in Tayrona National Park. No one else here except a few fisherman on shore. We were a bit surprised to find the hills so brown.

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The fisherman was out early to put out more pots in his dug out canoe and paddles. He moved the boat very quickly. No lights came on at night in the 3 small huts on the shore.

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Next morning we sailed the 12 miles around into Santa Marta. Anchoring is only allowed by special request from Port Authority so we have to go to the Marina. It is a busy cargo port and we have enjoyed watching many ships come in right along side the marina breakwalls.
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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMaraki in one of the rare times she gets to be pampered with fresh water rinses. We were expecting the weather to change and it did blow up to 45 knots the next few nights. We were happy to be inside the breakwall. This is a brand new marina and very nicely done. They also have just now started using agents to help with the clearing in process. This was one of the worries coming here- how would officialdom treat us. So far as has come smoothly although a bit expensive.

Santa Marta is the second oldest city in South America, started in 1525. Simon Bolivar died here.Its twin sister is Miami Beach. It is a moderate sized city(450,000) and very interesting place. Here we are walking the waterfront beside the marina.

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Wonderful fresh fruit stands as well as every other kind of street food available. Can be bought whole or cut up served with a fork and plastic cover. Love this.  Everything can be bought or fixed in this city, even baby chicks in crates.

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We took a day trip up into the hillside above Santa Marta to a small village called Minca.(Pop. 500). I wish I had a picture of the car taxi that took us plus We made it 2500 feet up in just under an hour on a narrow, potholed dirt road. He dropped off the feedbags all along the way. From here we loaded onto to the back of motorbikes to travel another 40 minutes uphill to Los Pinos for the overview of Santa Marta region. Hugo and his master Vladamir were the only people up here. He said he was the caretaker for a hostel now undergoing renovation. He had his coffee drying as well as his marijuana.
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We then sent the motorbikes away and wandered our way down back down to Minca over the next 5 hours. We heard lots of howlers in the mountains. We had hoped to see those snow capped peaks from here but no luck again. We needed to be here first thing in the morning instead of midday.
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So the road down was an easy walk(except on the quads) and we saw no one. We took along a picnic lunch and stopped at this coffee picking station.

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Here are some of the wildlife seen on the way down.

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On the way down we stopped to visit a coffee plantation(La Victoria) on the hillside. We had heard they gave a great tour so we detoured 15 minutes off the path to see.
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The plantation was started in 1892 by an Englishman who brought all of his equipment with him from England. It still runs without using any electricity instead running all the machinery and processes using water from the river and springs in the mountainside.
Jaime, a young women who was born and raised on the plantation gave us a great tour. Her english skills were good and were all learned on the internet. Made me ashamed of our Spanish skills.

She told us that the pickers pick usually from October to December but were very late this year. 120 men were employed around to maintain and process. They were paid by the amount of coffee they picked per day. the coffee is sent down from the mountain using water and pipes. Water then moves it into fermentation bins for 24 hours. Then using water power it is husked and sorted. All the grade A beans are dried by dryer for 36 hours(7000 kilos at a time). The husks and rejected beans are composted, left with worms and then sprouted. When they are 30 cm tall they are planted into the ground with mango and avacado trees to give them shade.

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We bought some beans to try them at home.

Now it was time to finish our wander back to Minca and catch the last taxi collectivo to town. Minca was a one intersection town.

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It was a great day and our legs were sore from all the downhill walking. Off next to Cartagena for a few days.

Curacao, February 2015

It is a daysail from Bonaire to Curacao of about 45 miles downwind again. We arrived into the very narrow channel going into Spanish Waters by early afternoon. Once inside the channel, there is plenty of water if you obey the buoys and watch for shallows of the points. The water was calm, no waves or even much wind as we are protected by sand dunes. 1983 was the last time we were here and so much development has occurred. My parents visited and stayed with us on the boat here enjoying themselves in  a tropical dutch country! They would speak of their stay here often. This shows the large body of water and many boats are anchored in here.  Windsurfers, prams, lasers, yenglings and fishing boats share this water.

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It is hot, dry and desert like just like Bonaire but the population of curacao is about 170,000 people, more tourists and is twice the size of Bonaire. This post will show lots of color as we were here during Carnival and their downtown is so full of color in the buildings. It is said that the King looked out on day onto all  white washed buildings and was depressed. He decreed that all buildings be painted in many different colors.

The city of Willemstadt is divided into two parts called Punda and Otrabanda and is connected by a floating bridge on pontoon.This is looking at Punda where Customs is located and most of the fancier shops.

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This is Otrabunda where the more common people live, shop and work.

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The floating market has a long history of trading ships sailing from Venezuela about 50 miles to the south. They are still bringing good looking fruits and veg to this dry country. The wooden boats park along the wharf and sell from stalls. They seem to have plenty of business.  The local market had lots of colorful clothing, household goods, spices and knic knacks of all kinds to sell.

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The city was clean, colorful and preparing for Carnival in the next week. Their currency is the Nederlandse Guilder however, Dutch is the official language but Spanish and Papiemento are  widely spoken. The flair is more Spanish than Dutch too.

We planned to meet our friends from Carina Rose, Wil and Loes now live in Curacao. We meet them first in Bahamas and promised we would eventually sail into Spanish Waters. They took us for a tour around the north end of the island. Saw these flamingos at a salt pond.  This color of mustard is the most popular color on the island i think.

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We drove up the leeward coast checking out the beautiful bays. Permission must be requested and granted by the officials before anchoring here and they limit a boat to 3 days in them. Maybe drug control?? We heard of a drug bust that occurred on the day we toured here – a fisherman was found with 50 kgs of cocaine in his boat and was sent off to jail .

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This is an example of a Landhuis, now a museum featuring the look of that era and also history of the plantations that the house was part of .Same mustard color!

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Childrens Carnival parade is for those between 6-13.  The route is 7 kms long and some of these pictures show how tired and hot they are.

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The adult parade was the following sunday and here are a few highlights from it. The route was 12 kms long and they danced and walked all day as they arrived to where we were at 5PM!

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Least you think we did no snorkeling here i will post just a few! They are of corals, soft and hard. I think you can quess which are called brain coral?

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Our next leg is 350 miles west and slightly south to Santa Marta Columbia. We are looking forward to this as we have never been here. We hope that the “typically windy water off Santa Marta” will treat us kindly with fair winds and small following seas. Till next time!

Bonaire late January to early February 2015

First a word of caution. If you don’t like fish pictures or have tired of seeing water and fish, then skip this post. This is what the island of Bonaire is all about. A divers and snorkelers paradise mixed with Dutch and Spanish culture all wrapped up in a desert like land.

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The trip from Trinidad to bonaire took 4 days as we went north almost to Grenada to avoid the Venezuelan coast and their offshore islands by 20 miles or so. It was such a pity to sail past places where 30 years ago we enjoyed stopping in. But the climate in Venezuela dictates that it could be unsafe for us due to piracy etc and most yachts now skip it.
We did catch a small Mahi and saw lots of distant large ship traffic but no small fishing type boats.
The south coast is very flat and care must be taken to avoid sailing up onto the land. There is a large lighthouse but land and reef extends out from it to the south west. This kiteboarder came out to take a look at us as we sailed along the leeward south end. Notice he is up on a foil and thus riding a few feet above the water. Quite fun to see as well as maybe another 30 kiteboarders of all colors and sizes flying along the coast.
The salt piles are also very noticeable from the sea being stark white and massive piles. More pics from land side to follow.
The Dutch coast guard was on patrol as our escort?. We made it into the anchorage just minutes before sunset and tied up to a mooring buoy off the town of Kralindijk in time to see a Green Flash. They do exist here frequently we found.
The island 30 years ago made the entire coast up to 200 feet of water a Marine Reserve. They do not allow any anchoring, fishing, spearing etc in the waters of the Reserve. Thus the underwater life is so spectacular
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The view in front of Maraki toward the town.

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This is how we spent most afternoons. I got a new prescription mask for Christmas and put it to good use. The camera we bought in Trinidad from a radio shack, not expensive performed so well.
This shows what is holding Maraki in place and the little fish nursery as well as a variety of fish underus. The bow was in about 18 feet of water and at the stern it dropped off to 60 plus feet.

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John’s goal was to photograph every species of fish we saw here but i will not include all of them.
We did rent a 50cc motor scooter one day and toured much of the island. The island only has about 16,000 residents so we chose a day when now ship was in town to do our touring. The roads are narrow and mostly flat.
Starting off toward the east and south we go to Lac Bay where windsurfing is the main activity. Maybe a hundred windsurfers here of all abilities, ages and sizes. Great wind but the locals were waiting for an even windier day.
They rent equipment as well as give lessons. What makes Lac Bay so special is that the water is shallow and is protected by an outlying reef that keeps the waves down.

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From there we headed to southern point of island where the salt pans lie. The salt in 1800s was largely panned by slaves who lived in deplorable conditions. The owners finally built them shelters which you see here, tiny!!

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You should have seen us go on that powerful scooter! Think we maxed out at 60 Kms/hour

We did stop mid day and go for a snorkel finding a turtle and 2 large lobsters which we left alone. We would have loved to grab them.

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Next to see the piles of salt and the loading station. They still ship thousands of tons of salt out daily. Now owned by Cargil Company.The sun is so bright against the white piles. Some of the ponds turn reddish as the salinity increases and bacteria enter into the process.

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We dashed off toward the north and the village of Rincon, the only other real town on the island. By the way, there is not a single traffic light on the island. Passed by Aleta’s goat farm which is apparently famous as she had a reality show in Holland last year as she tried to find a husband to help with the farm. No luck so far i am told by my Dutch relatives.

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The landscape in the north has slight elevation but still cactus, dry with windmills. We did visit some old Indian artifact in the cliffs along the eastern coast.

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We pulled out our bikes and did a few days of riding as well. Yachties need to get their exercise too. But the heat dictates that we stop frequently for water and shade. These lizards wanted to share our picnic too.

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Klein Bonaire is a small island just mile off the middle of the main island. We put in the sailing dinghy and took a day to sail over to snorkel. The colors, water clarity and variety was again overwhelming. Our very best turtle picture was taken here as well as many corals, sponges, and fish.

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We found a great place to watch the Super Bowl from, under a full moon outside at a bar a short distance from the boat.

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Our advice is to make a trip to Bonaire if you like clear, warm water snorkeling or diving. They only get 20 ish inches of rain per year, lots of breezes, friendly helpful people who are proud of their island, speak great English as well as Dutch, Spanish and papiemento, reasonable prices, use American dollar for currency! No snow for those of you struggling with winter!
What’s not to like? Hope you enjoyed the blog. Next up is Curacao only 45 miles west of here.

Tobago November 2014 until January 2015

Originally posted on marakisailsagain:

So for those who have never heard of Tobago, it is a the little sister to Trinidad and lies east of Trinidad separated by a 25 mile channel. it is the opposite of Trinidad by being small, beach and water oriented and very clean. It is where the Trinis come to holiday and play in the water. The Tobagonian is a very friendly, hard working and proud person. We have been met with only kindness and genuine willingness to help us love their island and we do love it!

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There is one main town called Scarborough which is your typical caribbean town and is the center for government and transportation. We spend only minimal amount of time there.
Tobago lacks really safe and secure harbors for sailboats so the one thing negative about our stay was that we rolled and rocked whenever there was a north swell or anything other…

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Tobago November 2014 until January 2015

So for those who have never heard of Tobago, it is a the little sister to Trinidad and lies east of Trinidad separated by a 25 mile channel. it is the opposite of Trinidad by being small, beach and water oriented and very clean. It is where the Trinis come to holiday and play in the water. The Tobagonian is a very friendly, hard working and proud person. We have been met with only kindness and genuine willingness to help us love their island and we do love it!

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There is one main town called Scarborough which is your typical caribbean town and is the center for government and transportation. We spend only minimal amount of time there.
Tobago lacks really safe and secure harbors for sailboats so the one thing negative about our stay was that we rolled and rocked whenever there was a north swell or anything other than east wind. However we got used to it. We hoped our guests would too because this is where we were planned to have the kids join us for the holidays.

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First to arrive were Jim and his girlfriend Jen from Seattle. Due to limited space we could only have additional guests when the whole family was not here. We have 4 extra berths and "they are not as big as they used to be. Jim took Jen on a private sail aboard Maraki’s newly renovated sailing dinghy.

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We had a wonderful time making our way from Store Bay at the West End to Charlottesville on the east end. A big draw for the kids to Tobago was that it had great surf whenever the north swell was around.

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The main surf spot is called Mount Irvine and we could anchor the boat next to the surf break in most conditions. Ideal for those who want to spend all day surfing. I could post about 1000 shots of surfing here because it was awesome but many have already been posted in Facebook.
Jim brought 2 boards with him, Maraki had one old board so Chris rented 1 board from Pablo on the beach. Many hours of playing in great surf!

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Jen was a keen fisherman and together they did a lot of night time fishing. here is an example of a juvenile pompano caught on light line.

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Usually we eat what we catch but little ones like this we release. Beautiful little fish!
The 10 days with Jen passed quickly by with a bit of sailing, swimming, snorkeling and hiking each day mixed in with reading, relaxing and sunbathing. She was a great easy guest that adapted to our lifestyle well.
Then it was time to go back to Store Bay to pick up the rest of the Maraki gang as they staggered in for the Christmas time family vacation. Store Bay is located within a 10 minute easy walk to the airport so each day someone came or went. The biggest challenge was the lack of a dinghy dock which meant that it had to be beach landings. Not a problem as long as we did not have a swell running. Anyway most of the time we managed to land without major water damage.

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Santa and parents are patiently but excitedly waiting loving the chance to have all of us together for 2 weeks.
Christmas eve found us in Castara, a lovely little bay with no other sailboats just fisherman and locals. We hiked up to the waterfalls for our fresh water bathing and enjoyment.

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The same excitement still surrounds Christmas morning and opening up of the gifts to each other.

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This is command central for most of the time on the boat. Phones are not for communication here because no one had SIM cards except us but they are vital as cameras I guess.
Charlottesville was a favorite spot and some remember this bay from 1998 when we stayed here during our circumnavigation. It is a small village with lots to do both in the water and on land.
We found the best restaurant on the island here strangely called the Suckhole.

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It was a beach bar, not very big but served huge meals of fish, chicken, ribs or burgers with local vegetables and lots of garlic! We all loved it.
The vacation was meant to be relaxing and a time to slow down and reconnect with each other. I think we accomplished that very well.

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But we managed to keep everything from getting bored somehow. So much to see and do.

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Two weeks went by too fast. Loved having them all with us just like old times. If you are a Facebook friend some of these pictures you have seen before. However i wanted to get my blog going again. It is easy to forget it. They all started to head off to their lives again. Hopefully we can repeat this in December 2015 somewhere new. Tobago was a magical place for us. Onward westward for the Maraki too heading first to Trinidad for a few repairs.

Closing shot of the Maraki crew!

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Boatyard living in Trinidad 2014

We were last in Trinidad in early 1998 after crossing the Atlantic Ocean nearly completing our circumnavigation. Then we had our 4 boys with us and came to Trinidad to do some needed maintainence. We stayed at what was then called Hummingbird Marina and enjoyed the food, people and cultures of Trinidad. We remembered Scotland Bay for its howler monkeys and many large jellyfish and green parrots flying in pairs through the skies.We remembered oily dirty water and friendly happy people.

We had paper charts only, no chart plotter. We navigated by portable GPS and still carried our sextant but rarely pulled it out.

Had a radar but no AIS system to help with traffic. Had SSB but no ipad for communication. .

We no longer have to fit in schooling and reading books aloud but i also do not play as many board games or scrabble. instead i play words with friends and read books quietly.

Yes, life was very different then. Same boat with different paint job and fewer crew now.

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One year ago we were hustling down the east coast trying to get out of the cold. Our goal was to be in Miami for Christmas as that is where the kids planned on meeting us.We had avoided a near disaster in the Erie Canal and again in the C and D canal.

Trinidad had been our goal for hurricane season and our haulout to complete our work list started back in Muskegon Michigan when it was time to go…..  So here we are!

Peakes Boatyard became our home for the month of early September to early October. We had our list of things to do. the rudder needed new bearings and bushings so we dropped the rudder. through hulls needing checking for corrosion and we ended up replacing 3 of the 9. chain plates and rigging needed examination and re-bedding. varnish inside the cabin was re-done. wiring to lights up the mast re-done. refrigeration needed re-insulating and upgrading. Bottom painted, topsides cleaned, polished and waxed. propeller and shaft removed to replace the cutlass  bearing. Oh the list was long and we worked hard. Nothing was hired out in typical Knape fashion. Not many action shots though.

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But it was not all work and no play for us. We had a birds eye view of the water as we were placed at the waters edge for the entire month. we watched all sorts of ships enter the harbor. Much of the ship traffic was related to oil rigs, oil exploration etc. But the harbor mixes the yachts, travellers and workers all in one place.

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Daily we had these lapwings come for a visit as well as these insects and bees and a few mosquitos as well.  Wildlife in and around the boatyard.

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Cocktail hour was never missed with time for socializing and relaxing. Everyone we knew was in the same phase, working, dirty and tired but motivated to complete the task. We are here with people from all over the world just like us. Sunset from the cockpit was scenic and often with a cooler breeze off the water.  Showers and laundry facilities were so appreciated. It may seem strange to you landlubbers who take these things for granted but not us water dwellers.

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Then we launched and she looked beautiful of course.

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After launching we spent a week at the dock cleaning up, putting away and refilling water and fuel tanks.  Peakes gives you 5 free days when you haul with them which is a wonderful freebie. The fuel price is a whopping $1 per gallon so we filled the tanks and jerry jugs as well. Water is plentiful and free and good tasting.

Then off to Scotland Bay as we promised ourselves so relaxation time. We hike up looking for the howler monkeys that “howled” so loud each morning and night but never could find them. They are so shy and live up in the canopy. We did see one on a hike near the boat yard but no pictures of them. The green parrots still fly over in pairs at dusk and dawn and make their raucous noises. The vultures still live in the trees cleaning up the dead and decaying stuff. Plastic and garbage still is strewn just about everywhere.

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Now we are nearly ready to go on to Tobago about 60 miles  to thel north and east.  But the freezer decides to stop working. so John is working on that as i blog. Soon we will be heading out again. Lots more to do and see.

So you can see retirement is very hard work!  We miss all our friends and family a lot. John’s dad is in the hospital with pneumonia and brother in law Bruce has just passed away after a long time struggling with heart failure. Enjoying life as we are able and remembering to be grateful for our life, our health  and our loved ones! Love to all of our friends and family!!

Hurricane Season 2014

Having spent the last few weeks in the true cruising mode with Charlie, we are now switched over to traveling mode to head east and south for hurricane season. We have to wait a few days for a good forecast to cross the Anegada Passage to St Martin. We use this time to celebrate our wedding anniversary at Bitter End and do some hiking and snorkeling. We took a walk to a new resort being built on the east side of Virgin Gorda called Oil Nut Bay. It was a hot hike from Bitter End past Biras Creek and then we get to Oil Nut Bay. It is reached by boat through the cut beside Saba Island and the channel inside reefs. A gorgeous spot with lots of expensive development. Worth the hike to check it out.

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The forecast came for light easterly winds set us off  for St Martin and we arrived to the Dutch side of St Martin at 1AM or 14 hours later. We decided we could come in to the bay off of Simpson Lagoon in the dark and anchor until morning . We were just inside the bay when we spotted a fast motor boat up behind us without any lights on.  Before we could react they were beside us. Turns out they were the Coast Guard patrolling their shores. There were maybe 10 guys on board all dressed in dark clothes and no lights. They wanted to know who we were, where were we from and where we were going. We were able to soon proceed to anchor without incident.

St Martin was a destination for us to look to buy a new hard bottom dinghy. We wanted to replace the type of dinghy that had gotten stolen from behind Maraki years ago on the Hudson River on our return to Michigan. Success was had with a Flexboat from Brazil, used for a few months and then traded in. We also bought a little Honda generator for emergency purposes or just batttery charging in place of the motor. We anchored inside the lagoon which would be a decent hurricane spot if need be. We did wander by dinghy over to French side of St Marten.  We did only a little sight seeing around the lagoon and spent time on boat projects and the boat shopping.  Did find the Vandorp stationary store though i think they are not relations.

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We then head south and had a lovely  8 hour sail to St Eustatia, a Dutch island. Statia as it is commonly known is a oil transhipment depot for huge tankers to offload and smaller freighters to load. Lots of activity around the depot all day and night long. There is not a harbor but only what is called an open roadstead.  We took a mooring ball for the night and had intended to explore Statia in the morning. We had done a wonderful hike into the old crater from the volcano years ago and wondered if we would do it again. But we spent such a rotten night there rolling all n.ght long and the tug boats passed by every hour through out the night. They are the ferry to the tankers and work goes on.

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Nevis was our next destination. All of these islands have a volcano(about 3200 ft above sea level) that defines their look. We anchored right under the highest point and off a miles long beach.  Nevis was a favorite stop of ours in the past but has grown up tremendously. It has become a place for the rich to buy land and buy citizenship. We wandered the hillsides and found a hot spring/bath area where the water is so hot all i could put in was my toes. People come to bathe here daily for health. we met an old man who rides his bike 2 miles here every day to bathe. He was in his 90s and said it helped his joints.

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Alexander Hamilton was born in Charlestown Nevis, son of a Scotsman and a Nevian. Later he immigrated to St Croix and eventually made his wa y to the colonies to become the first Secretary of US Treasury. There is a musuem in town to visit.  Our stay was cut short when a tropical disturbance developed so we headed for Antigua.

Antigua has a good harbor named English Harbor for hurricane protection. Our friends on Krow were anchored there so we made a long day of beating to windward. Not a fun day though we passed close by Isle of Redondo and north coast of Montserrat. Hiking up to shirley Heights above the harbor had beautiful vistas and tall gorgeous  century plants. We used this tree in the VI for our Christmas tree. Lots of sheep and goats wandering around up here too.

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After a week of sight seeing we headed on to Guadeloupe and Ile de Saintes. But another tropical disturbance was predicted for later that week so we stayed only one night and pushed off again for the south. We sailed past Dominica not stopping but sailing in close so we could enjoy the views. This island is so dramatic and beautiful but has no harbor to provide any protection so we need to keep going.

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We made it to Marigot Bay St Lucia and picked up a mooring ball here.  It was not long before Jah Man came out to the boat to sell us some fruits and veg.

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Next morning we sailed past the Pitons.

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Each day we are sailing about 60 miles southward in order to be in Martinique by weeks end as they have a good hurricane harbor in Le Marin. We hated sailing past all these beautiful spots but it is hurricane season. We have been to all these places before and remind ourselves of all the great hikes and explores we have done. At least we are not sailing past them in the dark but get to enjoy the beauty.

Next day we sail to St Pierre Martinique at the base of Mt Pelee. The mountain stands 4600 ft above and back in 1902 the 30,000 inhabitants were killed when the volcano exploded. Only survivor was a guy in jail!! St Pierre at that time was called the Little Paris of West Indies. Today it is a little village.  Pelee here is clear and not in the clouds.  Sailing along the leeward side of these massive mountain islands results in calm sailing with little wave action and it stays deep right up to the shore. We did have lots of rain showers washing off all the salt and collecting rain water for showers.

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I will stop here now and will make the next post on the Round Martinique Race by the native boats called Yole. We head for Trinidad tonight and i will catch up to real time then. We will be in Trinidad for a month or more to do some needed repairs and haul out. Love to all!

 

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Back to the US and British Virgin Islands, Charlie comes to Visit! July 2014

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With much excitement and anticipation we sailed back past Saba Island and Flat Keys and into Honeymoon Bay. Many more boats since Maraki last was there in 1998. But it still is a beautiful spot and so full of memories for us. John used to bring the boys here most weekends while i worked. He taught them to water ski here by pulling them slong the shore. Many birthday parties were held on this beach. It has been developed with a beach bar on each end but it still is a wonderful place.  We found several friends still living and working on Water Island.

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We wandered in and around Haulover now called Subbase Drydock (where John used to work and Maraki was docked).  It has changed a lot as it now has 2 large drydocks and is busy repairing/painting ferries and large ships. It was so good to see how bustling and diverse the business was as well as finding Gene and Mary as well as “little Geno” there. Geno is now taller than his dad and is looking to be the main man. How time flies.  We did not have a lot of time with Gene and Mary but enjoyed a fabulous fish dinner at their house complete with this view and sunset. Many stories and laughs were shared and we are so grateful we could have this night together.

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Cruise ships still come in right beside Subbase Drydocks but the ships have gotten even bigger-like this pic of Oasis of the Seas which may be the largest cruise ship made.

We were excited to be able to have Charlie come for a visit of almost 3 weeks. He was last to St Thomas  in 1998 when we completed our circumnavigation and he was only 10 years old.  He had completed kindergarten at Sibilly school and began 1st grade before we left. So now we wanted to show him around his old haunts. Much of it he did not really remembered but it has changed a lot too. We walked downtown, along Frenchtown , the waterfront and Crown Bay.

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As luck would have it, before we could go out to play with Charlie though we had to fix the anchor windlass and repair a hole in the dinghy.  Charlie hit a sharp metal bit at Haulover and punctured the front tube. Oh well! But then we ready to head for Christmas Cove St James. Moorings have now been put in here but they are  free and you can still anchor. It remains a wonderful idyllic place.   Little St James is now a private island all dressed up but we still snorkeled all around it.

John wanted to test out our dive gear which had not seen any use in the years we  lived in Michigan. So John and Charlie did many dives together and the equipment worked well. The water of the  Virgin Islands is just perfect for snorkeling and diving. The underwater camera got lots of use but ended up dying by the end of Charlie’s stay. It was not for  use under10 feet but they are able to go so much deeper without thinking about that.

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These were taken off Levango Key. The lobster was full of eggs so we had to let her go. Cruz Bay,St John was a must in order to see the next game in the World Cup series. They had $1 well drinks for happy hour during the game????

 

photo 1 (3) Then off to Whistling Key and Maho Bay with a walk over to Cinnamon Bay.

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We got back to Jost Van Dyke and the bubbly pool even though there was very little swell or wave. we hiked up to top of Jost just to get the picture.

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And of course we had to look for Godwin and Foxy. Found Foxy who looks just like he did years ago when he sang for Jim and Mike’s 3rd birthday!

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Lazed away an afternoon watching kiteboarders off of Sandy Cay as well. Life is hard!

Tortola is just a quick sail away so we head to Cane Garden Bay to find the tire swing and Stanleys! However it was no longer there but we had fun watching the locals and even dropped by Callwoods Rum factory.  Interesting floating picnic table craft idea!

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Too many places and stops to go through each one. But we were anxious to get to Virgin Gorda and the baths. Shocking how many boats were there and all on moorings even in summer. Enjoyed the day there and we found it easier to  navigate the steep rocks thanks to the wood stairs they have added. Even OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

found cricket on the beach.

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Underwater is just as beautiful as above the water. We spent hours and hours snorkeling and exploring with Charlie. So much to see!

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And so the days were filled with so much activity, sailing, exploring, snorkeling and diving, reading, cooking, eating, texting!!

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We also saw Rik and Ann on Sandcastle who are still chartering after sooo many years. We had a few meals and drinks and scrabble games as we caught up on the last 20 ish years. Can that figure be right???

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Evenings were lit by beautiful sunsets and moon rises.

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And then it was time to bring Charlie back to St Thomas to fly back to his summer job of teaching sailing to ROTC students in Norfolk. It took very  little adjustment to have him back in his bunk and in  our lives. How special this time has been.  It all passed so quickly and we were sad to say good-bye until Christmas time. We need to be on our way soon across the Anegada Passage towards St Maarten.  We have so enjoyed becoming re-acquainted with the Virgin Islands and if you ever get the chance to sail there, DO IT!!