Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Great Lameshur Bay, St. John

At anchor in Great Lameshur Bay
Storyville attached to a mooring
When we left St. Thomas last week our anchor windlass motor decided to give up the ghost. What that means is that, in order to anchor, we would have to do it all manually. Given the fact that we have a 45 lb. anchor and at least 100 feet of chain attached to it, that doesn't sound like a great idea to us (especially Troy, who would be playing the part of the manual windlass!). So, fortunately for us, Great Lameshur Bay, and all of the other bays on St. John that fall within the Virgin Islands National Park, have mooring balls. These mooring balls will make our life much easier while we wait for the motor rebuild kit to arrive. Even better, the cost of the moorings are $15.00 per day, paid by the honor system into a "pay station" and the money goes to the park service.

Normally we try to avoid paying for moorings as that can add up quickly and take a bite out of the cruising budget, but with the anchor issues that we are having, it doesn't sound like such a bad idea. Plus, this bay is pretty remote and it's almost impossible (almost impossible in this case is defined as a $35.00 taxi ride, one way) to get to town. Since we don't want to part with $70.00 for a taxi ride that is probably 5 or 6 miles one way, we have decided to lay low and enjoy our time in this beautiful bay. Fortunately we are well provisioned and have been able to enjoy our time here in the beautiful bay. For some great information on the park, click THIS LINK.

So, how have we been spending our days? With a little work, a lot of relaxation, a little rain and lots of sunshine.  All of our buddy boats have moved on to the British Virgin Islands while we chose to remain here and wait for our repair kit. We will catch up with them in the next week or so.  In the mean time, we've been filling up our days quite well with:
  • Swimming/Snorkeling
  • Beach Walking
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Cooking (and, of course, eating)
  • Reading Books
  • Watching Movies
  • Working on boat projects such as:
    • Installing the Mack Pack on the main sail
    • Working on a few sewing projects
    • Removing the anchor windlass in preparation for the repair
  • And just enjoying each other's company and having fun with Luna
Even though we are in a remote bay, we discovered that the Virgin Islands Environmental Research Station or VIERS located here has WIFI that you can purchase by the hour, day or week.  With our Wirie booster, we are able to have Internet on the boat, even in this location. VIERS was established for environmental educational activities and scientific research. Get more information by clicking THIS LINK.  Thank you VIERS!

Life has no auto-settings. No batteries. You gots to wind it up! ~Jeb Dickerson

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Where is Storyville?

Map courtesy of World Atlas
The easy answer is that we're in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, a territory of the United States. If you want to see where we are on the map you can click the link over on the right that says "Where is Storyville" and that will always let you know exactly where we are. But I was thinking about all the cool places that you hear about and wondering where we are right now geographically speaking.

We are in the Caribbean Sea. That's pretty cool, but then you start hearing things about the West Indies, The  Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles, the Leeward Islands, the Windward Islands.  It all gets kind of confusing so I decided to give myself a geography lesson. Luckily, Google and Wikipedia make that an easy task.

The West Indies are all of the islands that separate the Caribbean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean. All the way from the Bahamas to the Grenadines. They got their name from Columbus in 1492 because he thought that he had made it to the Asia when he first discovered these beautiful islands. The West Indies are broken down into some additions regions:

  • The Bahamas (this is the north part of the West Indies)
  • The Greater Antilles (this is the central part of the West Indies, with the biggest islands, including Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and Puerto Rico.
  • The Lesser Antilles (all of the other, smaller islands to the south and east)
The Lesser Antilles are broken down even further into two different groups:
  • The Leeward Islands
  • The Windward Islands
These islands are all made up of different island countries and territories, some independent countries, some US territories, British, Dutch, French and probably more.  We are excited to be headed down the Leeward and Windward Islands in the next few months and discovering even more cultures and wonderful people.

If you want to do more research for yourself, check out this information on World Atlas

So, here is the answer: 

Storyville is currently in The Caribbean Sea, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, The West Indies, The Lesser Antilles, Leeward Islands

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Day in the Life...

Most of our friends think that we are just living a life of leisure with endless sunny days spent sailing, swimming and hanging out on the beach. Well, OK, sometimes that's what we're doing, but other days reality gets in the way of that. Have you ever thought about how we do our laundry or buy our groceries? Next time you throw a load in the washer that's just down the hall, or hop in the car to run to the nearest store for a grocery run, think about how much easier you have it than we do. I'm not asking for sympathy, just stating facts.

Depending on where we are, sometimes those chores are easier than others. In Luperon we were spoiled because there is no laundry mat and the town is without power for most hours of the day so we had a wonderful local lady wash our clothes. Most other places we have to find a laundry mat (hopefully within walking distance) and tote our clothes down the street and back in the hot tropical sun, pay an arm and a leg, sometimes two arms and a leg, to wash our clothes. The same thing with groceries.

Yesterday we made a provisioning run (in cruiser speak that means we bought groceries) to a store called Cost U Less. It's like a Sam's Club or Costco, but you don't need a membership card. The hard thing is buying only what you can physically carry and then transport in a dinghy. We took a Safari, which is the wonderful and inexpensive local public transportation on St. Thomas. They are open-air trucks with covered seats and the cost is either $1.00 or $2.00 per person, depending on if you are staying "in town" or going "to country". Cost U Less is in country.

So, first we need to find the store and figure out where to leave the dinghy and whether we will be able to walk to the store, or will we need to find public transportation. Locals and other cruisers as well as cruising guides are all good sources of information. Next we have to make sure that we don't buy more than we can carry and then we have to reverse the process of getting back to the dinghy with our purchases, load them into the dinghy, get them back to the boat (hopefully they are still dry at this point) and load them from the dinghy onto the deck of the boat and then into the boat and finally, find a place to store everything (hopefully remembering where it all is later).

Every island is different so we find that we are always on the lookout for grocery stores and places to do our laundry.
Troy paying for our ride on the Safari
View from the Safari 
Cruisers and their provisions
Troy has the heavy bag
Food is an important part of a balanced diet. ~Fran Lebowitz, Metropolitan Life, "Food for Thought and Vice Versa"

Friday, January 11, 2013

Mack Packs

Before I get started, let me apologize to my non sailing friends. This post probably will be pretty boring to you, but we are really excited about how easy this will make our sailing life and it might be interesting to our sailing/cruising/soon to be cruising friends.

Since it looks like we will be in St. Thomas for the next week or so, we decided to order new Mack Packs for Storyville.  We've been wanting a stack pack system for a long time and since we are planning to do a lot of sailing once we get past St. Martin, and head south, we figured this would be a good time to make it happen.

We put all new sails on Storyville before we left two years ago (Wow - two years ago, hard to believe) and at the time we had the chance to add stack packs. We decided not to do so because we were worried that it would affect our sail performance. Sail performance, that's a laugh. We haven't done near as much sailing as we had hoped to do. The reason for that is that we've spent most of the last two years heading east into the prevailing trade winds. On the few opportunities that we have had to sail, we realized what a pain it is to use our main sail. Mostly because we are a center cockpit boat and it is impossible to reach the sail in order to stow it away properly and get the sail cover on.  It can be a 45 minute to an hour job that takes both of us to accomplish properly. After a day of sailing the last thing you want to do is spend an hour and a half putting away two sails (the main and the mizzen), so as a result, we tend to sail without the main. If we have sufficient wind, that usually is not a problem, but it will be so nice to have the option.

We ordered our system from Mack Pack and it will be shipped here next week. Click the link to learn more about their system. 

UPDATE: We received the Mack Packs and have them installed.  It took about a day for each one as the sails had to be removed and there was a lot of drilling and tapping in order to attach the packs to the masts and booms. Troy made it all look easy. Mack Pack sent a great instructional video and written instructions. There were a wonderful company to work with.

Here is a picture of Storyville with her new Mack Packs.  We think they make the boat look great:

To reach a port, we must sail - sail, not lie at anchor - sail, not drift ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Christmas Winds

We’re still here in St. Thomas. There are several reasons for that: a) we like it here; b) Troy is playing a gig Saturday night; and c) The Christmas Winds have set in. There are a few other reasons, but those are the main ones. We’re enjoying our time in the busy harbor of Charlotte Amalie, watching the mega yachts and cruise ships, walking Luna, shopping (getting some provisioning done before we get to the expensive BVIs) and spending time with our other cruising friends – Pipe Muh Bligh, Illusions and Alternate Latitude.

The Christmas Winds affect the Caribbean every year, around some special holiday, I forget which one.  Anyway, we knew that there would come a time when we would want to find a place to wait out these winds, and here we are.  With about 25 knots of wind, straight out of the east, which is the way we are headed, it makes a lot more sense to stay put for a while.
In technical terms there is something called the Atlantic subtropical high, or Bermuda High, that is always around in the Atlantic, shifting with the seasons and varying in strength and size. During the winter months of December and January, the high shifts further south and results in increased gradient pressure and higher winds in the region. 
Anyway, all that scientific weather talk (the whole two sentences worth) just means that we are planning to enjoy St. Thomas for a bit longer than planned and hopefully sneak over to St. John before too long to see what we can find there.
Oh, one other big benefit.  All of the wind and sunshine have our battery bank in a happy place because our new solar panel and our wind generator are making power all day long!

Don't knock the weather; nine-tenths of the people couldn't start a conversation if it didn't change once in a while. ~Kin Hubbard
There is a muscular energy in sunlight corresponding to the spiritual energy of wind. ~Annie Dillard

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Looney Bien

We've spent the last three weeks here in St. Thomas and the last three Saturday nights at a tiny Mexican restaurant called The Looney Bien.  Owned and operated by a Val, the head "looney", we've enjoyed great margaritas and Mexican food there as well as the live music every Saturday night, provided by Pony Jarrett and Tommy Hegarty.  Pony has been great about letting Troy play, even though it's not an official open mic night.  In fact, due to scheduling conflicts for Pony and Tommy, Troy has been asked to fill in next weekend.  Since we are looking a some pretty heavy winds in our region right now, we figure this is a good reason to hang out here for another week so that Troy can play the gig on Saturday.

If you're ever in St. Thomas, be sure to stop by The Looney Bien in Frenchtown!

Fun times were had by all!
Pat earned some tips for the band

Thursday, January 3, 2013

St. Thomas, USVI

Clouds on top of the mountain at Charlotte Amalie
We've spent the last few weeks (including Christmas and New Years) on St. Thomas.  We really didn't plan for that to happen, we thought we would be in the BVIs by now, but that's the way the cruising life seems to work. We have been enjoying our time here. Troy has played music a couple of times at a small Mexican restaurant - The Loony Bien - and we've learned to make good use of the public transportation system in order to get around on the island. The local buses (or Safaris) are trucks with covered, open air benches in the back and they are a cheap way to travel, with the highest price being $2.00.

We spent some time in Brewer's Bay, right next to the airport. Brewer's is a beautiful bay with a beautiful beach and clear blue water.  Troy loved watching all the airplanes take off and land and Luna loved the beach and learning about the kayaks and the dinghy.  She's gonna be a great boat dog.

Brewer's Bay and St. Thomas Airport
Rainbow on the beach at Brewer's Bay
St. Thomas is 31 square miles, 13 miles long and 4 miles wide. The island has quite a history. Christopher Columbus is said to have discovered the island on his 2nd voyage in 1493. It has been claimed by Indians, the Spanish, Pirates, the Danish and, finally, purchased by the US in 1917 for $25 million.  Now, the capital of the US Virgin Islands, Charlotte Amalie, is a major cruise ship port (can you say "duty free!").  We've seen as many a 6 ships here at one time. You can learn more about the history of St. Thomas at THIS LINK.

Storyville anchored with the cruise ships in Charlotte Amaile
We are thinking that we will be here for a few more days and then work our way over to St. John for a week or so before heading out to the BVIs.  This may be the last that Storyville sees of US waters for a long time.

We will spend a little exploring in the BVIs - they are too beautiful to rush through - and then cross over to St. Martin for a while.  We have boat projects and all kinds of things that we are planning to get done in St. Martin.  We're hoping to make it there by the end of February so that we can see the Heineken Regatta.

Luna's first trip to a park. So much to see and smell!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Wow, 2013, can you believe it? I am having a hard time with it, because 2012 just rocketed on by. I guess that's what happens, the older you get, the faster time flies. We had an absolutely wonderful year on Storyville. We sailed to some fabulous places, we got to visit our family and friends and we got a really cute new crew member. I know that I say it all the time, but we really are living our dream.

Some of the highlights of our year were:

  • Seeing how much our grand kids have grown and getting to spend time with them
  • Spending time with our fantastic daughters and nieces and their families
  • Adding our new crew member, Luna
  • Good health for us and our families

Some of the beautiful places we visited on our boat:

  • The Dominican Republic
  • Puerto Rico
  • The Spanish Virgin Islands
  • The US Virgin Islands
  • The British Virgin Islands
  • St. Martin/Sint. Maarten

We are looking forward to a fantastic year. We will spend the next several months cruising slowly down the Caribbean island chain, experiencing new cultures, meeting new people, sailing our boat in beautiful waters and soaking up the sunshine.

We wish all of our friends and family a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. Dream big and start thinking about how to make those dreams come true!

We will open the book.  Its pages are blank.  We are going to put words on them ourselves.  The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.  ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce