Monday March 30. St. Thomas USVI. End of the line?

Written by Jack van Ommen on March 30th, 2020

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Earlier in the morning I had a fitting Sunday morning religious program but it has faded in the distance on St. Croix.

The Covid-19 had me abandon my original plan to visit more of the French West Indies islands like Guadeloupe and also Antigua. They do not allow foreign boats to enter any longer. Until yesterday evening I had understood that Puerto Rico was accessible for US citizens. But that was questioned. I’ll have to verify this tomorrow morning on St. Thomas. Cuba, where I had hoped to stop and get dental work done, has also closed its borders.

Without internet here on the water, I am not sure where I left off in my previous blog. So, I’ll work back.

I left St. Barth on Wednesday morning, the 25th for the over 100-miles overnight sail to La Croix. A nice downwind sail during the day but the wind dropped and it was a frustrating slow night with slapping boom and sails. Without my tiller pilot, it is very difficult to steer the helm under engine power. Thursday morning the wind came back. When I got close to my planned anchorage, I dropped the main and when I tried start the engine for maneuvering to anchorage, the starter would not respond. What to do? I had a little room and time left. Checked the obvious, fuse, etc. And when I sailed closer, under the genoa jib, it looked like I would not have an escape route to sail back out against the wind. My call on the VHF channel 16 for local assistance went nowhere. A little later the US Coast Guard control center on Puerto Rico responded. They gave me the phone number for Boat US towing assistance. It was an answering machine on St. Thomas. I had no choice but plan A and do it right. It worked, I got the hook down reasonable clear to shore, so I could row to the world and a wi-fi connection. Because I had been holed up in a remote anchorage, Le Colombier, on Saint Barth since Wednesday the 18th of March.

Pictures of St. Croix: Chickens, roosters everywhere. I could not make myself pay $8.35 for a dozen of eggs. One could make a fortune if they could figure out where these stray chickens laid their eggs, instead of flying them in from the USA.

Christiansted

The chickens and the search for eggs

A flowering flame tree, rare sight in winter.

The Danish heritage

 

 

 

 

My Gig Harbor friends returned to the United States on the weekend of the 14th of March. I had promised Richard Spindler to bring a bottle of propane along to St. Barth. The gas merchant in Marigot gave me the run around and instead on having it ready on Friday the 13th, I ended up buying it on the Dutch side of the island and sailing it late Tuesday to St. Barth. I went ashore and could not believe what I saw. Hardly a car on the road and all stores and restaurants shuttered. I managed to get a cold beer and wi-fi at a takeout restaurant. Richard then told me that they were in Le Columbier and suggested I’d consider sitting out a blow predicted for Friday. That blow did not let up until Tuesday night. So, here I was for a week on a mooring buoy. It is the most protected anchorage on the island and the mooring buoys are free. As much as I trust my plow anchor there remains some apprehension when the wind comes up. No worries here. I rowed to shore that first Wednesday and took these pictures.

sunset from Le Colombier

the windy side of the Atlantic

my dinghy on beach “Fleetwood” in background

 

 

 

 

Someone came on to the VHF radio to warn the people on the beach that this was not allowed under the restrictions that went into effect the day before. It looked like I’d be able to leave for St. Croix on Saturday after the Friday strong winds, I deflated the dinghy, then found out that the strong winds were still to last a couple more days.

I could never have imagined that I would not go out of my mind tied to a mooring buoy for a week, but I managed to get much needed chores done. Backing up my laptop, editing a string of video projects. There was no socializing across the bay with other boats. Richard and Dona would stop by and keep the required distance from their dinghy. Once in a while I’d get a knock on the hull when Richard was doing his swimming routine.

I had my favorite radio programs. Mostly in French.

Meanwhile, Monday the 30th., anchored out on the Charlotte Amalie waterfront, my previous blog left off just after the Heineken Regatta on Sint Maarten. The four Gig Harbor couples came back to the anchorage Grand Case on St. Martin and I joined them there from Marigot on March 11. Beautiful bay and protected anchorage. Good bathing beach with the shore line lined with restaurants and bars where one can rent beach chairs and sun shades. It is a short distance from Marigot and a favorite destination for tourists and locals to come out to dinner or lunch to some of the best restaurants there on the island.

The next morning the nine of us took of for a day cruise to Pinel Island on the Clark’s catamaran. This was my very first sail on a Catamaran, bigger than a Hobycat. Compared to “Fleetwood”, this is sailing in comfort and luxury while watching the shore line slide by from your large living room and deck.

At Pinel, Clark’s catamaran in front

Mothers don’t let your daughters to grow up to be slaves to their smart phones!!

Kite surfing at Pinel

 

 

 

We sailed back from Grand Case on Friday the 13th. My friends returned home on Saturday and Sunday. Marlys restocked my provisions with the left overs from their two week cruise, which came in handy while sitting out my one week recluse in Le Colombier.

My free wi-fi options have become very tough to find, with all the restaurants and bars closed. I am sitting on the edge of a drainage ditch behind a hotel, with an open connection.  I have sent an e-mail to the marina in Havana, to see if i might be able to come in and sit through a quarantine. But most likely I’ll be on my way south in the next couple of days. I might try to get to Vero Beach before Easter and park the boat there on their inexpensive buoy moorage and rent a car to come to the Chesapeake. Then I will most likely do a haul out in Green Cove Springs, near Jacksonville. The bottom is getting raunchy. So, keep an eye on my tracker when I disappear from FB and internet.

I will choose my route east or west of the Bahamas depending on the internet predictions. I now have a decent connection to Chris Parker’s shortwave briefings. Which will help me decide when it is time to duck from the Atlantic on to the ICW, while I’m underway.

I don’t see much of a possibility to find the part I need for the tiller pilot on the internet.

 

 

 

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