One year ago today we signed the papers and made Escape Velocity our home. And today we completed our first significant ocean passage aboard. It’s been quite a year for us, full of adventure, frustrations, a health scare, many successes, a few spectacular failings while navigating a steep learning curve and it’s all been so much fun and more than we ever hoped it would be. We want to thank everyone who’s come along on this journey with us by reading the blog and sending us comments and well-wishes. Your support means so much to us.
Daily Archives: April 25, 2013
The incomparable beauty of it. Approaching from the sea it seems like one second everything looks normal, you look down, scan the instruments, you look up and suddenly there they are in the gathering early morning light. Magic, plus a color we haven’t seen in a while. Green…lots of green. Green covered hills. Green covered mountains ever more pale misty blue as one island overlaps and recedes into the distance as far as the eye can see. Heady stuff after seeing nothing but lumpy seas and clouds for eleven days.
Suddenly even the VHF radio perked-up after days and days of silence, the coastguard was broadcasting a securite warning about closing the Charlotte Amalie Harbor. Didn’t catch the reason but they’ll run the warning again.
After such a long hard fought passage it seemed like we were suddenly at the mooring field so quickly that we weren’t sure if it was the Caneel Bay anchorage. We still had a full days chores to do plus it was a haircut, shave, and a cockpit shower for the skipper.
After gathering up ships papers and launching the dink we were off to see the wizard…in this case customs officials of St John USVI. At Spanish Wells, Bahamas I had seven pages of forms to fill out. This time I brought along my secret weapon who loves to fill out forms. As Marce and I walked out of the customs office we looked at each other and we both started to laugh, we actually pulled it off. We sailed to The Virgin Islands, but then we’ve always believed in special dispensation for spunky fools.
This is my kind of place, laid back with a heavy dose of island funk. Small shops, cute little plaza, restaurants. All very tidy.
We were on a mission. Food. Specifically pizza. Don’t know why. Several locals pointed us towards a beautiful little multi-level beehive collection of artsy shops called Mongoose Junction. The Sun Dog Cafe turned out to be a Vender caravan with a couple of shady tables backed up by a very interesting menu. Nice dark & stormy with bitters.
Back aboard Escape Velocity we had our celebratory dinner of champagne and Fritos Flavor Twists Honey BBQ, impervious to damp salty air. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.
As we sat in the cockpit sipping the last of the champagne in the gathering twilight when it happened again. I looked up and St Thomas had disappeared and had morphed into a thousand twinkling points of light across Pillsbury Sound.
All you have to do is get here.
We follow other sailing blogs and often laugh that whenever cruisers come to the end of a long passage they race off the boat to get checked in and hunt for their favorite thing, whether it’s ice cream or a tropical drink or even just some fresh fruits and vegetables. We always said we’d just want to sleep!
Haha. We have joined the race crowd. At least I have. We picked up the mooring at Caneel Bay, St. John, and while Jack futzed with the boat and checked out the neighbors and the incredible view I changed my clothes, washed my face and gathered the ship’s papers we need for check in. All the while I’m saying, “Come on! Come on!”
Jack finally took his cockpit shower and we launched the dinghy for the first time in two weeks. We dinghied around the point to Cruz Bay and completely missed the channel leading to the Customs Dock and tied up instead near the ferry dock. That meant we came ashore disoriented and not knowing which way to go to check in, but dazzled by the little hub of colorful activity. We eventually found our way to Customs and got checked in, then stopped in the National Park Service office to get our Senior Pass which will give us 50% off the mooring fee and free entry to all a National Parks. Unfortunately the volunteer at the desk couldn’t help us and suggested we come back later when a ranger was there. In the meantime we asked where to get a good lunch. She looked at us funny.
“It’s 10:30,” she said. I looked at my phone in surprise. Sure enough. We’d been up for hours and it felt like late afternoon to us.
“Sun Dog Cafe,” she said, and pointed down the street to a collection of shops called Mongoose Junction. We’d heard about it on the online cruising guide.
Generally speaking we prefer to patronize local and independent businesses and eschew any kind of developer-created shopping district, but we fell in love with Mongoose Junction because of the design and architecture.
Sun Dog wasn’t open yet but the waiter invited us to sit down and use the wifi. We logged on and quickly sent our arrival announcement and downloaded our two weeks’ worth of email. The waiter brought us up to date on the news highlights and when the cafe opened we both ordered pizza and a Dark and Stormy.
Sun Dog’s wifi is limited to one hour so after lunch we wandered around town looking for ice cream and wifi. We found the ice cream at an open air cafe/bar. As the proprietor scooped our ice cream I asked if she were a native of St. John.
“No,” she said. “I’m from St. Lucia.” I asked her what brought her here and she gave a big heavy sigh and rolled her eyes.
“I was in love.” We laughed and I told her “Me too! That’s how I ended up where I did.” And she looked from me to Jack and back again.
“You’re lucky,” she said. We agreed and waved goodbye.
We wandered back to the National Park Service Office and found the ranger now on duty. She explained the Senior Pass and how to pay for the moorings, then I asked if she was born and raised here. She said no, but she’s been here for a very long time. And what brought her here? She sighed and I knew the look.
“A man.” she said. “He left. I stayed.” And she laughed, “I got the better end of the deal.” We agreed with that.
As we headed back toward the main road I told Jack I wanted to go back to the ice cream cafe and when the lady saw me climb the steps she raised an eyebrow to see us return so soon.
“I just had to tell you,” I said, and I told her she had a soul sister at the Park Office. She threw back her head and laughed, then told us she’d been married for 20 years and had five kids when her husband left her.
“He’s a dog!” I said.
“He’s more than a dog,” she said and just then her phone rang and we left her to it.
For the rest of the afternoon we ambled from park to cafe to park again, taking in the charming little town and logging online whenever we could to get reconnected with the world.
We arrived in the US Virgin Islands today after 11 days and 22 hours at sea and 1150 miles. It was a frustratingly slow windward passage but we are well and happy to be here. There was no blood or vomit spilled, and no lawyers were involved. We’ll be uploading the blog posts we wrote underway when we get a good wifi connection. Everything will be posted in date order so you’ll have to scroll down to check for new posts until we get caught up.
Jack woke me at 4am for my second shift. I came out to the cockpit and he gave me a rundown on course and speed. Yeah, yeah, I said, go get some sleep.
I climbed into the helmsman’s seat to look at the chart and scan the horizon. I saw a lot of lights on the right and searched for the binoculars for a better look but couldn’t find them. I got down and crawled past the cockpit table to peer over the side deck past the enclosure. That, I said to myself, is an island!
I went back to the chart to confirm that it was St. Thomas, off our starboard bow. I leaned down the companionway and called, “Land ho!” and in a flash Jack was back up and looking too, positively giddy.
We’re still about 15 miles from St. John where we will clear in. There’s a full moon beside us, islands ahead of us, and behind us twenty years of dreams.