Daily Archives: May 10, 2013

Friday night lights

We had just settled in to watch an episode of The Voice on the iPad because we had an unusually good wifi signal when we noticed a lot of heat lightning all around us in the hills. There was no thunder so we just took note and went back to the show. Suddenly I felt drops on my arm and we both jumped up and performed our well-rehearsed ballet of hatch and porthole closing and clearing the cockpit of anything that shouldn’t get wet. Suddenly strong wind blew into the anchorage from the west, an unfamiliar direction, and swung us completely around. Jack went to the helm and checked his bearings to be sure we didn’t drag while I switched on the instruments and VHF radio. I also set a track on the iPad to keep account of our position.

The heavens opened up and dumped an enormous amount of rain. The sky was strobing with lightning. Jack monitored our position and our relationship to the boats around us while I checked that we were buttoned up and not leaking anywhere. It’s funny how your whole evening changes when a storm blows through.

The VHF weather said we were in for a lot of rain but never mentioned the wind. It blew 20-25 with 35 kt gusts for about an hour, shifting first to the north, and finally settling back to the usual east again.

At the height of the storm we heard someone hail the Coast Guard to report a large catamaran “drifting through the anchorage endangering other boats.” We recognized the name of the vessel; they had just arrived this afternoon and disappeared into the crush of other boats close to the marina just east of us. A few minutes after the call we saw a ketch come flying out of the inner anchorage, round up and drop anchor almost at the harbor entrance. We figured it was the boat that made the call, getting away from the drifting catamaran, which we couldn’t see from our vantage point.

Meanwhile we heard the Coast Guard respond to another distress call, a sailboat on the rocks at the Baths in Virgin Gorda. We winced to hear that, because our friend Alan lost his boat on the rocks in Puerto Rico not long ago.

Band after band of rain and wind came through. Just when we thought it was moving off another band would hit. The rain finally abated but the wind didn’t. We swung this way and that and we both kept checking the positions of the three boats closest to us.

Three times a tender zoomed across the anchorage at high speed and disappeared behind the boats in front of the marina. We guessed it was the Coasties checking on the drifter, and we heard them hail the boat but didn’t hear a response. Everyone else seems to have held firm.

Eventually the wind disappeared and strangely the rolling and pitching we’ve experienced all day is gone and EV is sitting quietly under a gentle rain. The clock just struck eleven. The Voice can wait for another day.


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Two for one

It’s been over a week since a cruise ship was tied up to the quay in Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas. I haven’t figured out how the shop owners know about the pending arrival of a cruise ship…but they definitely know. A few hours before a ship’s arrival, doors are unlocked, banners are unfurled, jewelry overflows in the display cases and there’s a buzz about town. It’s kind of fun. Soon they’ll be queued up five or more deep in a buying frenzy at almost every shop in town, especially jewelry!

In a display of titanic oneupsmanship the Disney cruise ship came in, do-si-doed and backed into the outer slot. Good looking boats, those Disney boats. Great colors, design, and very cool roller coaster in a see through tube on the top deck.

Next up, Carnival something-or-other. Less style, less color, many more people packed in. A lot more smoke too.

Last but definitely not least, a Freedom of the Seas monster. No style, no color, looks like a Soviet era apartment block, and I mean the whole block. Gargantuan monsters maneuvering and backing down within feet of other yachts and cruise ships without any tugs or assistance of any kind. Awesome.


Just the other day I discovered one of the treasures of Charlotte Amalie. Ok, the Carousel is no longer here but in its place I would humbly nominate The Greenhouse. I admit I passed on this place thinking that it was a little “shiny pants” for our budget but after climbing the mountains of St Thomas I felt a little parched and thought that a little pain killer was appropriate. HA! Two for one starting at four o’clock. I’ve noticed other sailors from out in the anchorage have found it too.


Thirst quenched, just as I was contemplating a dinghy ride back to Escape Velocity, I heard the most powerful, if not the loudest sound I’ve ever heard in my life. At first I thought those pain killers are powerful stuff, only to realize that it was melodic, like something from Close Encounters but played by Jimi Hendrix only with thousands of Marshal Amps turned up to eleven! No, not Purple Haze but…something like the first seven notes of When You Wish Upon A Star! It’s how the Disney boat calls its peeps back to the boat. They add another phrase as departure nears so that by end you better be on the boat. Cool.

Of course as twilight approaches, one by one, they do the dance of the hippos, gracefully backing out and leaving for the next port of call, of course with the Disney boat self-accompanied, lit-up twinkling like a city, all in line like elephants in a circus parade. I wonder where they’re headed next but I bet the store owners are already preparing for them.

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