Thursday, February 27, 2014


We left St Maarten yesterday and we have had such great experiences here, we will certainly miss it.

We didn't snorkel or dive. We didn't play on long white sandy beaches like the BVI or St Barth's, but we made so many friends here, some going north, some going south, some staying in SXM.  We hope to stay in touch with them for years to come.

We had a couple new adventures before we left including two more 5+ hour hikes. Again, led by Mark on S/V Sea Life. These involved a lot more people and a variety of landscapes from rain forests to rocky beaches. 

Since many of the cruisers are heading out, there was a party at the Pink Iguana Monday night. It was a great opportunity to bid fair winds and exchange contact info so we can stay in touch and hopefully meet back up with some of our new friends.

Leaving the Dutch Lagoon kept us busy for a few hours with a stop at Simpson Bay marina in the big boat and then re-anchoring to run by customs in the little boat, then pulling up the anchor to make the 10:30 bridge (or being stuck inside until 4pm.)

We are heading south, going to where ever there is a good wind angle. It has become a normality for us to beat into 25+ knot winds and 7+ ft seas.  Let's hope that starts changing.

Northeast side St Martin

High above the rocky beach.

Where do shells come from?  As we walked along, it sounded like wind chimes playing.

From rocky beaches to rain forests - St Marteen has it all.

Bonus!!  Vegan Cheese & Butter.

The Pink Iguana...

Jen & John on Aeesha (Bermuda), Robin on Heidi (Canada) and Jo and John on Out of Africa (Cape Town)

Mike on Right Turn and Sabrina & Tom on Honey Ryder!!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Caribbean Pirate Survivors

Last week, we joined an impromptu dinner with a bunch of fellow cruisiers at a local Chinese restaurant here in Sint Maarten. I sat next to Bob from S/V Explorer who was the subject of a pirate attack a few months ago here in the Caribbean. The initial report from is below but the first-hand account from Bob was a lot more detailed and scary for those of us who travel on slow vessels in dangerous waters.
First person report by Skipper Robert (Bob) Jackson of SY Explorer.
We are a couple Bob (74) the captain, an American, and Hella my mate (71) who is German.  We sail a 44 foot Norseman and are currently based in Trinidad.  We completed a 15 year circumnavigation in 2010.
I sailed to Puerto La Cruz from Trinidad about 20 years ago so I knew the route.   Hella and I had discussed specific responses to an armed attack.
A few days ago the vessel “Joana” and ourselves on the boat “Explorer” cleared out of Trinidad bound for Puerto la Cruz, where I intended to go to get my chain galvanized there being no facility for that service in Trinidad.  Diane and Wade on “Joana” were making the same trip and were looking for one or more boats to “Buddy Boat” with as we are all aware of the danger in the region we would be transiting.
We met the captain Wade of “Joana” at least two times before we departed to discuss the route, the precautions and the details of the buddy boating plan.  The details were as follows: we were to sail beam to beam approximately 100 yards apart and it was the obligation of the faster boat to adjust their speed to match that of the slower boat.   I specifically brought up that subject at the time of our meetings, explaining it in detail to the captain of “Joana” and he agreed.  He added to this discussion the fact that if one boat was being attacked the other could ram the pirogue and deter the attack.  We agreed to monitor channels VHF 16 and 71 continuously.
We spent the night in Scotland Bay in Trinidad and left at 7.30 am the next day.  Wade led the way out of the bay but being a bigger boat and faster, gradually pulled ahead of us by a distance of approximately 2 miles.  Since it was so early in the trip we had not yet communicated with “Joana” by VHF.  We were occupied in getting control of our boats in a very sloppy sea created by strong currents.  Prior to leaving Trinidad we had agreed on a specific route and waypoints, and we hadn’t even reached the first waypoint when we were attacked.  We followed the route as discussed with “Joana” at the meetings.
We were about 10 miles west of the tip of the Paria peninsula and 5 miles offshore at 10.30am in the morning when we were approached by a pirogue with a 75 horse power motor with five men on board.   They were on us in seconds with drawn revolvers, with one man remaining with their boat.  I was below at the time doing navigation work and had no time at all to arrange for the deterrents that we carry for such an event.  We had hardly cleared the safety of Trinidad waters when the incident occurred.  We were not expecting anything to happen so soon.
At the time of the attack “Joana” was completely out of sight.  At no time during the attack did I hear anything on the radio from “Joana”.   Our radio was working well but we could not transmit because the pirates had hacked off the microphones to both the VHF and the SSB.  When they did start calling me on the VHF I heard them loud and clear, but that was 15 minutes after the attack and we were already heading back to Trinidad.  The implication from the report that “Joana” put on Noonsite was that there was something wrong with our radio.  That is not true, our radio was working perfectly before the microphones were hacked off.
I started up the companion way and found myself looking down the barrel of a revolver.  I was dragged the rest of the way up by one of the pirates, roughed up, and had my hands tied with a piece of rope which the pirate had cut off my control lines to my mainsheet traveller.  I was pushed down on the aft deck.  I watched Hella sitting in the cockpit being pistol whipped by one of the pirates which opened up a gash in her forehead and within seconds she was covered with blood.  I attempted to get up to go to her but was pistol whipped myself, opening up a large piece of skin on the back of my head and was covered with blood as well.  At that point the pirate took the tail end of the rope my hands were tied with and lashed me to the cleat on the aft deck so I couldn’t move.
Another pirate was trying to remove the gold wedding rings from Hella’s finger.  Hella is a German widow.  It is a German custom that if your husband dies you wear his ring as well as your own.  As his ring was larger it was worn over Hella’s band.  As Hella has gotten older her fingers have swollen and the removal of the rings was nearly impossible.  The pirate brutally pulled and twisted the rings causing great pain.  He then reached over and removed my dive knife which I keep strapped to the binnacle for emergency cutting of foul lines and was preparing to slice off Hella’s finger to remove the rings.  Fortunately, the rings finally came off and Hella kept her finger.
The rest of the pirates at that time were ransacking the boat, stealing money, cameras, binoculars, power tools, cell phones, laptop computer etc., but were convinced that we had more money hidden somewhere than what they found in our wallets.  I was unlashed from the stern cleat and pushed down below where I sat on the navigation seat.  Sign language (these were Venezuelan nationals who spoke no English) was used to indicate that they wanted more money - the one word of English they knew.  A gun barrel was placed to my head, the gun was cocked and the pirate pointed to Hella in the cockpit and drew a finger across his throat.
At that point one of the pirates stood at the companionway and fired three shots into the interior of the boat.  The bullets lodged in the drawers under the chart table where I was sitting.  Both Hella and I were convinced that they were going to kill us before the left.  However, one of the pirates looked up and saw a coastal freighter heading eastbound that was about to pass about a mile away from us.  Hella stood up and raised her hands to show that she was tied up and was clubbed down for her effort with the butt of a pistol.   I don’t think the coastal freighter saw what was happening, however the presence of the freighter nearby frightened the pirates and they left as fast as they had come.  That ship probably saved our lives.  All told the attack lasted about half an hour.    I don’t know where the pirates went after they left.
We returned to Trinidad and stopped at the Coast Guard station.  We were treated for our wounds and wrote a report about the attack.    We were treated very well by the Coast Guard who were sympathetic and helpful.  They wanted to take us to the hospital but we refused.
I would never do that trip again and would advise anyone else not to do this either.   We are thankful to be alive.  These pirates were ruthless.”
Bob related that as the pirates were boarding his boat his Hella was at the helm and he was down below getting his pump shotgun. As he came up the companion-way with the gun he was met by a pirate with a .38 pistol pointed at him. The pirate took the shotgun, pointed it at Bob and pulled the trigger. Fortunately, (understatement of the year) Bob had not yet chambered a round and the gun did not go off.  It is very sad that beautiful Venezuela is such a dangerous place to travel these days.
We have also met five other cruisers who all had been approached by pirates in the Red Sea near Somalia and Eritrea. Most had the same reflection as Bob and Hella - they were very very lucky and blessed that wasn't  their day to die but none of them have stopped cruising.  However, no one has plans to return to the Red Sea or the Venezuelan coast.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Fuel Issue - Part Deux

We have been working on our fuel issues since we left the Chesapeake.  Port fuel tank isn't working, blah, blah, blah.  We have spent hundred of dollars and several hours of labor changing fuel lines, having fuel polished, and still no resolve.  We took a deep breath and were ready to face the challenge once again.  We moved our mattress (because of course the tank is under our bunk) and were looking to see what parts we would have to replace (more hundreds of dollars.)  We have to get this fixed because the last thing you want to have happen is for the engine to quit when you are in a precarious position - like going through the narrow bridge in St Maarten or traversing a reef with a lee shore.

Baxter looked into the fuel pickup tube and thought he saw something stuck inside.  No, it couldn't be that easy, it's NEVER that easy.  He hit the pickup a couple of times to see if he could knock it loose.  Boom.  There it was - laying in the top of our peanut butter jar….the culprit.  The impediment to clean fuel.  Any guesses??

A sweet little bumble bee…well preserved but a little greasy.  Poor bugger died a miserable death.  

We are relishing our cheap inexpensive repair before we actually switch tanks and try the port fuel tank but we're 90% sure this will solve the entire issue.  

Pickup tube in left hand, bumble bee out - can you tell I'm so happy!

Poor little guy.  Who knows how long he was in there.  Maybe diesel smells like flowers in the animal kingdom.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Have Passport - Will Travel

When we travel between countries, or islands as in the case of the Caribbean, we are required to check into customs and immigration at each island.  Typically, they require the same information from island to island:  crew list, boat registration and passport.  As a side note, for any cruisers looking for advice, we have found it much easier for women to check in and out.  For some reason, we saved hundreds of dollars in the BVI between having Baxter check in and me checking in…whatever works.  Most cruisers we know have experienced the same. 

Since we are a family of three, when asked if we have anything to declare, we reluctantly let them know we have a dog.  I say reluctantly because some islands are not happy about it and make it as difficult as possible to admit her.  In fact, we really wanted to sail west through the Panama Canal and onto the South Pacific.  In previous years, we were prevented from doing so because of Australia and New Zealand’s strict pet import policies.  Recently, those have been amended and we were very excited that Pacific plans could be reconsidered, only to find out that French Polynesia is now our pitfall…so regardless, we have plenty to see throughout the Atlantic and Kala has plenty of beaches to peruse.

To make life even easier – we sought out a vet in Sint Maarten who could issue Kala an EU Passport.  That’s right, she has an EU Passport and we don’t.  This will make our transitions from country to country smoother and hopefully painless. 

Kala is truly a citizen of the world now.  She is looking forward to expanding on her current inventory of 36 US states and 5 countries.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Going Green(er)

We've been trying hard to reduce our carbon foot-print and to be as "off-the-grid" as possible when it comes to fossil fuel usage. Besides our wonderfully efficient diesel Yanmar engine, which we use for no-wind propulsion, Terrapin uses a decent size battery bank to power all lighting, refrigeration and electronics. The batteries are charged daily by our 245 watt solar panel but on days when we are anchored close to a mountain or there is limited sunshine, they don't get a full charge.

This is not a problem for us if it only occurs infrequently but recently we have had a hard time getting a full charge which will eventually damage the batteries. The best solution for us was to add a wind generator which, in the breezy trade winds is generating a lot of power 24 hours a day. We can now run all lights and electronics and are still at 100% charge by mid-day! The financial return in not using and paying for fossil fuel to charge our batteries pays for the wind generator in less than one year! Also, when we are sailing at night we will be able to run all our navigation electronics whenever we want to and not have to "cycle" them to conserve power.

Picking the location for the rubber mounted base.

Getting up the courage to drill holes in our nice deck.

The mounted wind generator.
The next morning we were almost full after running the refrigerator all night and using a lot of incandescent lights.

Kala was not impressed and just wanted dinner.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

New Car

For Valentine's Day, Baxter bought us a new car*.  It is so shiny and pretty…it will work perfectly on the boat!

* A car is used to guide the sheet (rope) that controls the sail back to the cockpit.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hiking, Snorkeling, St Barth'ing

A great way to spend Baxter's birthday!
Anse de Colombier, St Barth's (Terrapin to the right of catamaran in front)
Turtles, Turtles everywhere
Snorkeling off the boat - that's a good anchorage.
Kala is ready for the invention of the doggie snorkel.
Look what was hiding under our boat.  I LOVE starfish!
Just passing through to say hello.
Absolutely! ("pirate" used figuratively)
J'aime les markets française!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

St Barthelemy

Named after his brother, Bartolomew, Christopher Columbus landed here on his second trip to the new world. Somehow the French took it over from the Spanish in the 1600s and then they gave it to Sweden in exchange for port rights in Gothenbrug, Sweden.  In the 1870s-ish, the French bought it back from Sweden.  Confused?  Basically - it's tres French with a Swedish feel.

This island is clean, fun and tres riche!! After looking around the crowded anchorage in Gustavia and trying to find a spot between the mooring balls (moorings and anchors don't mix) we chose to move over to Anse de Colombier and pick up a free mooring. It is more protected from the east and we don't have to worry about others dragging on top of us. The beautiful beach and views are just a bonus.

We plan to spend almost a week here celebrating Baxter's birthday hiking, snorkeling and St Barth'ing.

Navigating around the mega yachts into Gustavia.

Port de Gustavia
French islands don't mind les chiens.

With prices like this, we will live on baguettes alone.

Since we are a considerable distance from the port, we needed gas for the dinghy.  This boat delivered it to St Barth's who then delivered it to us.

Breakfast in the cockpit is the best!
But a snack of croissants & nutella at Le Bar de L'oubli (The Forgotten Bar) is pretty tasty
Le Select - serving the original "Cheeseburger in Paradise".  Rumor is Jimmy Buffett just sometimes randomly shows up.
Sunsets on the water can't be put into words.
Très Riche!  Docks of mega yachts.
Our neighborhood - Terrapin over Baxter's left shoulder in back.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ile Fourchue

When we left the Dutch lagoon through the Simpson Bay Bridge on St Maarten, we were on our way towards St Barth’s with a plan to stop over at the deserted island of Ile Fourchue, accessible only by boat.  We beat into 27 kt winds and 9-foot seas, trying everything to get through it – tacking back and forth, looking for another destination, and finally submitting, for four hours.  

We were happy to pick up one of the two mooring balls on Ile Fourchue that were empty.  We soon realized that the three strand line on the pennant only had one strand left and the mooring would probably fail in any big gust.  Fortunately, one of the day chartered catamarans from St Barth’s dropped their ball right before sunset and we maneuvered over to pick it up.  After close inspection, we decided the new one was acceptable, which is good because it blew hard all night with several torrential down pours. 

We hiked around Ile Fourchue for some great views of the Atlantic Ocean, St Barth’s, St Maarten, and beyond.  Kala was very excited to have a beach to run and play – which she hasn’t really had since the BVI.

The next day called for a bit of boat maintenance.  Since we could finally see the bottom of Terrapin again, we scrubbed the growth and barnacles off the prop.  Baxter also checked the zinc grounding plate bolted to the bottom of the hull that literally disintegrated as he touched it.  With the “dust” of the zinc floating around, a 5-ft barracuda decided to check it out and see if there was anything interesting he needed to know about.  I quickly jumped in the dinghy and offered to get the new zinc for Baxter which he then bolted to the bottom of the hull (all of this underwater, of course.) 

We recognized another boat in the mooring field from St Maarten and dinghied over to say hello.  We made plans to get together later for sundowners and we were so glad we did.  Jim and Cheryl on SV Ptarmigan, hailing from Breckinridge, CO, have been cruising for over 34 years and have so many great stories to tell of their time in Alaska, the South Pacific, Thailand, South Africa and hundreds of other places.  They have been in the Caribbean for four years and had great information about some of their favorite islands and ports.  They also have a cute little Yorkie named Buster, who is their third dog aboard Ptarmigan since they set out in the 80s.  They even used to have a bird. 

Today’s winds are supposed to increase, which means the seas will increase also – but we are fortunately in a place where we have hiking, snorkeling and protection from the weather to hide out.  We don’t have internet access, but we will enjoy that for a short time as well.  Off to explore another reef…

The line waiting for the bridge to open.  If you lag behind, the bridge will close without notice and you can't leave for another 6 hours.  Notice that most boats are "treading water" fighting wind and current waiting for the traffic to move.

There is usually a crowd of landlubbers at Simpson Bay Marina whose only view of the megayachts is as they pass through the bridge.  We took pictures of them - they took pictures of us.

Il Fourchue.  Are you for hiking, Reuben?

Wind and waves as Kala and Baxter admire the power of the wide open ocean.

View from Ile Fourchue facing west - Terrapin is in bay on right.

St Barth's - five miles from Ile Fourchue.  Would you swim across if you had to?

Sunset on Terrapin (second boat from right)
On a deserted island with no patisserie, I am left to my own devices to make pancakes.

Double rainbow makes any bay amazing!

When in France, expect to see a lot of naked people….booze cruise of naked people - and they were not shy.

Happy Terrapin

Beautiful Day.

Kala happy to be playing on a beach again.

He must not have checked his mooring ball.
Time for a hike! 
Make sure you hydrate.
Happy girl.
Gillespie Selfie!