Saturday, 19th. March
Rather than sailing overnight we choose to up anchor at 0430 hours to reach our next destination before dark. We have decided not to visit Anguila as it does not come highly recommended, it expensive to stay there, and it means another session of checking in and out.
We have a lively start to the day with a problem with the headsail.The block that is supposed to direct the furling line into the drum came loose and got drawn into the drum, tangling and blocking it. Fortunately there is a wonderful full moon giving us light and we are soon underway again as we leave the Leeward Islands and head for Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.
It is gorgeous out here today, making the 80 ks. crossing over a calm blue sea with the sun glistening off it. S.O.G. varies from 61/2 - 8 kts. off the beam. We have a very happy skipper!
We track across the Anegada Passage, via Round rock Passage into Francis Drake Passage. There is a large fishing boat up on the rocks just north of Round Rock reminding us of the treacherous area here passing up to the west coast of Virgin Gorda, with some uncharted rocks in these narrow passages.
Everyone is friendly and welcoming here when we go ashore to check in and top up the provisions. The bar/restaurant has a very relaxed atmosphere with an open courtyard garden with palm trees. The internet connection is good here and there is a big screen T.V. to watch the Dokovic and Federer tennis match, and catch up on the C.N.N. news .
Tonight is the largest fullest moon there has been for 23 years. It is wonderfully bright and large giving a beautiful light over the sea and making visibility much easier to return to Impulsive in the dinghy in the dark.
Sunday, 20th. March
Today we track further north up the Francis drake Passage. The winds are 23 kts. from the n.e. and the seas are choppy so it is bashing into it. Once we enter Gorda Sound we are protected by the reef. A mooring off The Bitter End is one of many in this very attractive spot. There are many boats here and being a water sport centre is very colourful with all the activity with kite-sailors and small yachts all over this huge bay. There is a strong current swimming off the back of the boat.
Now we can relax for a few hours, reading and painting.
Late afternoon we go ashore for an exploratory walk and happen upon a flamingo which seems quite unconcerned we are watching it for sometime. It is so graceful stalking in the mangroves, and later flapping its fully outstretched wings. There are also many pelicans about.
For a change we have a movie night on board tonight - the first for this sailing season.
Monday, 21st. March
Ashore we walk west to the mangrove lined Biras Creek. Here there is a private resort set up behind a small marina. Further around are several mega yachts tied up.
Returning to our mooring ,strong winds have come up so we move to Vixen Point where there is more protection from the wind. Here we can moor close in to a white sandy beach where the swimming is excellent. We enjoy a decent swim in to pay our mooring fees.
After another relaxing time on board we venture ashore for dinner to the small islet, Saba Rock. It is fun bringing the dinghy in here where there are many others already tied up. The water here is lit with spotlights from underneath and there are many reasonable size fish swimming about.
The restaurant and its few guest rooms are built to completely cover the rock.
Tuesday, 22nd. March
The forecast for today is against us going a few degrees e. of north to Anegada. We set off to try . Luckily the wind direction was as forecast but less force than expected with only 1/2 m. swell instead of 2.4 to 3 m. seas. We have a great sail 2 1/2 hour sail across here leaving by 0830 hours to arrive in time to make sure we can see the bombies. We are out here with many other yachts all with the same idea. It is a lovely sight, looking like a flotilla. We have the headsail and a reduced mainsail up.
A large catamaran coming in the opposite direction clearly isn´t watching. We have right of way but Ross has to change course to avoid it. The crew are all out at the stern fishing!
Poloroid sunglasses help to spot the bombies. They also enhance the colours of the turquoise blue waters. There are not many other boats here on the moorings.
Anegada is a great contrast to the other volcanic islands in the Virgin Islands. It is made up of limestone and coral, and is flat. The surrounding waters close to shore are a very pale clear green. The settlement is small, very quiet and relaxed.
We take a local taxi ute out to search for the flamingos, with no luck, and then onto Loblolly Beach. This is the most beautiful and long expanse of beach where we enjoy a swim, and a snorkel along the reef.
Wednesday, 23rd. March
Tracking back across the Francis Drake passage we have a magic sail with almost a beam reach and making up to 6.8 kts. With some difficulty we moor off the "Baths", but the conditions seem much better than when we passed here a few days ago. We take the dinghy to the dinghy mooring lines and then have to swim in. It isn´t possible to take the dinghy ashore because it would be dumped in the surf waves as they hit the shore. It proves to be quite a challenging swim and I am pleased Ross suggests wearing our flippers.
We track the short distance across to marina Cay off the n.east tip of Tortola Island. The reef here gives excellent protection.
We go ashore later for a simple dinner at the restaurant on this small island. We are thrilled when Matthew from Melbourne comes to say hello. He used to live in our street when the the children were growing up and was in the same year at school as Steve. Another incredible co-incidence is that he is now living with his young family in the same suburb as Scott in Denmark! They are here on a sailing holiday so we have a lovely time catching up, including a drink on their boat once they have their 2 little children asleep.
Thursday, 24th. March
The turquoise waters here are exquisite and it is just a treat to dive in off the stern of the boat.
It is only a short walk across a small spit to the very up-market resort on this island. The two super yachts here look as if they are too big to fit into the small marina here. The palm lined white sandy beach is magnificent.
Friday, 25th. March
We are enjoying this relaxing time of just tracking a few miles each day to our next destination, giving us time to read, draw and paint.
Soper´s hole is 7 n.miles n.west around the western tip of Tortola. It is a very attractive and busy, small port to enter with its buildings painted in bright blues, mauves, pinks and greens. it also offers good protection. We have a lovely night having dinner on board tonight taking in the ambiance of this place with all its lights twinkling on the shore. The skipper is in full swing to dance.
Saturday, 26th. March
We have to track between 2 reefs to come in to moor at Cane Garden Bay .This has a lovely long stretch of white sandy beach lined with palm trees, and is known to be the best beach in the area. There are lots of pelicans here and they entertain us diving into the water for fish, quite unperturbed by any bystanders. Apparently all this diving eventually affects their eyes and they die because they can no longer see the fish to dive for. Nature is wonderful but often is cruel.
Later as we begin to prepare dinner the husband of an American couple we had been talking to ashore while watching the pelicans, calls by Impulsive to invite us for dinner with them on their friend´s boat. The barb-e-qued prawn kebabs are delicious and there are many yachting stories exchanged. It is a fun night and very interesting. Mark and Karen have sailed for years and have had many wonderful experiences, as have Marty and Susan.
Sunday, 27th. March
This morning we have a visit from our new friends. Marty works with a company of boat builders, and Mark has lots of experience. Ross is very grateful to hear their opinions about our issues with the mast and furling the mainsail.
After being ashore we happen to leave here at the same time as the American yacht and it is fun to sail towards Diamond Cay on the s.eastern side of Jost van Dyke together. This is a delightful anchorage with only 10 moorings, and with just a few houses nestled into the hillside.
Monday, 28th. March
A turtle swims close by the boat this morning and there are many pelicans to watch.
From Little Jost van Dyke to Great Harbour on Jost van Dyke is. is only a 3 n.mile motor-sail with the headsail up. We go ashore here to check out of the British Virgin Islands. The young woman serving us is particularly officious which is disappointing after all the other friendly people we have come across here.
We enjoy a quick walk around this attractive small town with is horse-shoe shaped white sandy beach, lined with palm trees. We pass the school where it is play time. The population of this island is only about 250 and the island is still unspoiled.
The U.S.A. Virgin Islands.
The 3 U.S.A. Virgin Islands were bought from the Danish in 1917.
Most of St. Johns is still in its natural state with a large percentage of it as National Park and Marine Parks.
We decide not to visit St. Thomas as it is now very touristy as we can see from St. Johns. Mark and Karen keep their boat there and suggest we don´t bother going there. They suggest it is only worthwhile if you need to provision.
St. Croix . We are sorry we are not able to visit here as we have been given another Swedish contact there, but we must continue straight through to Curacao.
We drop anchor at Cruz bay so we can go into customs to enter the U.S.A. where we have some trouble with our visa. This all takes some time and a few ferrying trips with the dinghy.
Apparently Cruz Bay is an attractive town to visit but we can see it is starting to look built up so we leave to track past some beautiful beaches along the coast to the northern shore of St. John to Francis Bay. This is all National Park area. There is a trail ashore that takes you up to the ruins of the Annaberg Sugar mill. Slaves worked here for 150 years, which seems incredible, and very chilling. From the view at the top here you can see many of the steep hills of this island.
Tuesday, 29th. March
We wave "good-bye" to the American yacht but will hopefully see each other again. Susan and Marty´s son has married a Sydney girl, and Mark and karen have already planned to come to Sydney for his class of racing boat next January. Let´s hope so.
We venture ashore again where we see a couple of iguanas. Some girls on the beach say they saw one of them coming up from the water´s edge where we can now see the tail marks, and can see them motionless, well disguised up in the trees.
Snorkeling here is lovely with a variety of fish, and the highlight is swimming with an endangered hawksbill turtle as it feeds on the grass below.
We let go the mooring to track a short distance back across to Soper´s Hole on Tortola Island for a short provisioning stop and to check our emails on the internet.
Returning to St. Johns Island we have our last mooring on the southern shore at Great Lameshur bay, again part of the National Park and the Coral Reef National Monument. A late afternoon walk along the Yawzi Point trail out along the headland is beautiful and shaded from the hot sun. We see a few deer which are very tame and so wonder if someone feeds them.
This bay is very peaceful with only 3 other boats here and it is a clear night with thousands of stars brightly twinkling in the sky. Being close in to shore we can hear the crickets chirping, and at daylight the birds singing.
Wednesday, 29th. March to Saturday, 2nd. April
After a swim and a snorkel we set sail across the Caribbean Ocean 438 n.miles south to Curacao, planning to arrive there in daylight in 3 days time. The water off the stern of the boat is azure blue as you would see in Venetian glass. The forecast is good with winds from the east coming round to e. of south the whole way, building up to 15 kts. and as we get further from the coast up to 20 kts. We set off sailing tracking up to 7.2 kts. and with a heavy shower of rain which washes down the boat. It remains overcast for the remainder of the day.
As we pass by St. Croix Island we call the Swedish contacts we are given there. We are so sorry we are unable to venture in here but time and visa problems are against us.
The winds come round to south of s.east and we average 6.5 kts.only using the motor when necessary on low revs. to keep up our average speed. We are able to sail most of he night, with both sails up. The winds build up to 18-22kts. by 5am. Thursday, from the east and 110 T, i.e. a broad reach and so excellent sailing averaging 7 kts. The seas have a 2 m swell from the east.
At one stage during my watch I think the wind has suddenly changed direction. The sails start flapping and I am about to change them when I realize the auto pilot has "popped out". A vessel not far from us probably has quite a surprise with our sudden change of direction! Ross realizes he needs to reset the AIS detector which alerts us to other vessels in the area and gives information about them e.g. their size, SOG and direction they are tracking.
Later on during this watch a vessel is clearly getting very close to us and looks as though it is on a collision course. As Ross only has 10 minutes until we change night watch I wake him early. We think it is a large fishing boat just tracking very slowly with no intentions of changing course, so we do. Maybe they are down below working.
Today is a warm, sunny day. There is a strong wind from the east varying up to 28kts. with a 2-3 m swell, so we are rocking and rolling quite a bit and averaging 6.5 kts. We reduce the mainsail and headsail quite a bit for a more relaxed sail overnight.
Tonight is uneventful. Ross is very surprised when a flying fish comes in through the hatch above the helm seat. We have seen many of them and have had several on the deck. There is phosphorescence as the boat cuts through the waves.
We are rollicking along today with the sun out and a little less swell which is much more comfortable. Since 8am. we are averaging 7kts.
Late afternoon with 90 n.miles to go the sails are still set the same. It is marvelous to sail so far without needing the engine. We have seen several birds and the barometer is steady so we are hoping for much the same tonight. A few large waves have broken over the deck so we need to keep all the hatches and port holes tightly closed which makes it quite hot and humid inside Impulsive. We have times out in the cockpit to cool off and enjoy some fresh air.
We have a simple dinner tonight to make life easier.
Before Ross goes below to sleep he furls the headsail a little more as the wind is stronger again.
It is a lovely clear night filled with stars in the dark sky above. During night watch we only see 2 more vessels as we come closer to our destination very early this morning. One is a fishing boat again on a collision course. The odds of this happening must be rare, and it has happened twice to me in this one crossing.
Favourite recipe this leg:
Prawns with wild rice (an easy but delicious dinner when it is rough)
Bring 1 3/4 cups of water to the boil and add 1 tblsn. oil
Add 1 pkt. of "Near East" wild rice and stir in with the contents of the spice sack.
Cover and simmer on a low heat until the rice is cooked (about 25 mins.)
Fluff up the rice with a fork and then gently stir through the precooked prawns (5-6 per person)
Serve with green salad , sprouts, avacado and dressing
We arrive in Curacao early morning.
Tracking along the coastline off Curacao
Coming into Willemstad, the capitol here and of the Netherlands Antilles is a lovely experience as we pass by the Dutch colonial architecture all painted in different pastel colours. The pontoon Queen Emma bridge opens so we can pass through, and it divides the city in half. We are looking forward to exploring here.
The bridge opening
The marina is further on in an industrial part of this city but the important thing is that it will be a very safe place to have Impulsive hauled out of the water to be put on the hard stand for the hurricane season. We also need to be within certain latitudes out of the major hurricane paths to qualify for insurance.
She needs a thorough wash down to get rid of all the salt that washed over her this trip and then we need to start to prepare to leave her here for 10 months. It seems like an overwhelming list to work through but we have left ourselves a few days to do this.
It is very hot and humid here. It is the first time this season we have turned the air-conditioning on. It would be very difficult to stay on the boat otherwise, especially as swimming is not an option here.
We have to work hard every day here to get Impulsive organized in time, getting up before 6am each morning to have extra daylight hours and also to do the jobs that are easier in the cool of the day. There is a power issue at times and so no air-conditioning.
One of the difficult issues is how to combat the problem of mildew. The whole interior has to be wiped over or sprayed with a mixture of vinegar and water, and the fridges wiped out with a mixture of bleach and water. Similarly everything must be stored dry eg the washed down sails and dinghy.
Ross has a huge list to deal with: eg. Running fresh water through the dinghy and yacht motors, taking down the headsail and having some work done on it. We have stainless steel to clean, and anti-rust to apply both inside and outside the boat.
Running fresh water through the dinghy motor
We enjoy some light relief to all this with an Australian couple we saw in Thailand and Hurghada, and a couple we meet from Canada. It is wonderful to discuss packing up the boat with them. The Canadians have put their boat on the hard stand here for the previous 3 seasons and are particularly helpful. They have a 60ft. racing yacht with large kevlar racing sails. They enjoy tracking at 11 knots!
We were planning to have the boat "wrapped" but they strongly advise against it because of the mildew problem, so we leave her unwrapped. There are many hints to help prevent the mildeweg. taking off the depth transducer and covering it with very fine mesh to keep the bugs out but let some air in to circulate through the boat.
There is nothing at the marina except a chandlery, with no food supplies. You need a car to get to the shops etc. We are thrilled when John and Judy suggest we go with them one night to a nearby restaurant which serves local cuisine and has mainly local people there.
Impulsive being taken out of the water
We stay in a hotel the last 2 nights here because the yacht is now out of the water and up on the hard stand, so we have no running water. This hotel, the Kura Hulanda, is very interesting. It is set around the original city square and where the slave auctions took place, which is rather chilling. The original cottages have been renovated and painted in pastel colours. The complex also houses an interesting museum about the earlier times here. We haven´t the time to visit this now so plan to on our return.
The reception area of the Kula Hulanda Hotel - with typical colonial architecture
We have to go to Customs and immigration so can see something of Willamstad. It has had a mixture of Caribbean and Dutch rule, with centuries of Dutch rule with its slave trade and commerce. Punda is the oldest part and has its floating market with the boats from Venezuela and beyond this Plaza Bieu with the old market where you can buy local dishes to eat there or take away. Punda is joined to the other side, Otrobanda by Emmaburg the "swinging old lady" bridge which opens to let the water traffic through.The oldest synagoge in the western hemisphere is on this side.
Large, plentiful and very flavoursome avacados here
Our final night we have a fun and relaxed dinner with our Australian friends, David and Sheryle, and John and Judy. Maybe we will see each other next season here.
We have really enjoyed this season on Impulsive. We have enjoyed the variety of sailing from the Atlantic crossing to the small trackings from island to island and being able to use moorings which is so relaxed. Every island is different with the Lesser Antilles being more involved with everyday living and the Greater Antilles more oriented to tourism. We enjoyed the cuisine very much, especially all the locally caught fresh seafood and freshly grown local fruit and vegetables.
We found it interesting culturally and historically. Apart from a particular U.S. customs officer we found the people generally to be very friendly, helpful and welcoming.