Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dinghies Disturbances and Dongles


Elephants Child came with a slightly faded Caribe RIB dinghy and an aged Johnson 15hp 2 stroke. Which is a good thing. I do not need to obsess over security like the owners of brand new dinghies with shiny 4 strokes. Yes it will still get nicked if someone needs a new prop for that model or wants a ride back to their boat and can't be bothered waiting for the others to return from the bar.

It still gets locked up on the town quay but I don't lift it aboard every night like some feel they have to.

You can tell the long term cruisers by their dinghies, this was taken at Red Hook and I am sure that the owners of these have all been cruising for years.


Elephants Child had been at anchor in Benner Bay for about a week while I got on with fitting the Lofrans Tigres Anchor Windlass I had treated myself to. I finally got the job done and had tested it out without actually lifting the anchor but was expecting no problems there. We had planned a trip round to Magens Bay for Christmas but the weather gods were not very cooperative and the forecast showed a strong cold front coming through and a big northerly swell setting up.

So the decision was made to sit tight and see what it looked like after the front. However along came a local member of the armed constabulary who told us we had to move now and now meaning within the next 10 minutes. When we asked for more time he said we had to be gone within 30 minutes and at that point questioned our right to anchor here at all. He was working on the previous USVI registration for anchoring which showed the boat in Choclate Hole on St Johns.

So we upped anchor and took ourselves across to the closest anchorage, Christmas Cove. In retrospect we should have gone back to Charlotte Amalie but the forecast for the cold front did not say that it was a particularly strong one. The sun was shining as we anchored and the snorklers were hard at work in the cove as we cooked tea and settled down for the night.

The front arrived later around midnight with a serious squall. We do not have an anometer so it is only a guess but 40 knots plus is a fair bet. It continued to squall all night with copious rain and a very disturbed sea. I was glad I had worn my Extra Careful Jones hat the night before and laid a second anchor out although I don;t think we ever laid to it. The primary doing it's job all night. Several other boats in the cove dragged and had to re-anchor so there was much shouting, revving of diesels and clanking of chain. I do not think anyone in the cove got much sleep that night.

Anyway Carol finally decided next morning that the sailing life was not for her and Hemel Hempstead was calling her home.

So it was back the Charlotte Amalie and a flight home to the UK for her.


I had just got the papers through to prove deregistration of the boat from the US registry so I took the opportunity of having good coms available, [ the WIFI in BADASS COFFEE always works if the power is on ] to get some paperwork done, registering the boat on SSR and changing the EPIRB over to my name and looking through the impressive cabinetfull of documentation that came with the boat. I also have to register the windlass, TV, HF radio and some other minor stuff.

I was working away on this, head down, when I realised someone was on the boat! Sticking my head up I was greeted for the second time by a pair of shiny black shoes and a uniform asking me to move. This time it was for the New Years firework display. So this disturbance was for a good reason. I heard the forecast and yet another weather disturbance was forecast for the end of the year so I moved early and settled down just off the waterfront. Again I enjoyed standing on the bow and watching the anchor being whisked from the depths by the windlass, no more sweated labour on the manual Seatiger.

So here I am today the 30th and the disturbance has arrived. The hills behind Charlotte Amalie protect the harbour from the direct blasts of the squalls but the wind is swirling atround the harbour and the boats are all dancing around their anchors.

This disturbance like the last one has bought a lot of rain and the dinghy will be filling up. I am using this as an opportunity to check for deck leaks and so far so good.


One of the things I bought for the boat and am trying out for the first time is a little WiFi booster with a rubber duck aerial. Even sat on the table, down below, it has allowed me to connect up from the middle of the harbour when the cruise ships are in.

The cruise ships have their own very powerful wifi set ups which blanket the weaker signals the local transmitters provide.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Don't feed the iguanas [ So the sign said. ]

Out for lunch at the yacht club bar and restuarant [ all right the waterfront shack ] we suffer the baleful stares from no less than 5 hungry iguanas we clearly had their beady eyes on Carol's lettuce.

We also got lucky and spotted the much less common green iguana while we were walking in the centre of the island.

On the way back to the boat we took a trip around the mangroves and spotted a roost of little herons

and some diving pelicans.

The mangroves are also home to a variety of boats in a variety of states of repair. I was offered this one for 'only' $6000 with a solid lead to the sunken mast.

The windlass is fitted and works OK but the terminals are shorting out on the casing so I need to turn them upside down to give more clearance. I should get it finished tomorrow then we are off to Magens Bay for Christmas. It is supposed to be one of the top ten in the world. Carol says " We'll see"

Friday, December 18, 2009



Carol is now enjoying driving the dinghy around the anchorage. People no longer appear with fenders at the ready when she approaches.

The boat came with a manual anchor windlass and even though it was a two speed jobbie it was hard work and took a while to get the anchor up and stowed so it had to go. Here is it's replacement, a Lofrans Tigres and I am working away fitting it on to the foredeck. I had to drill a couple of holes and the core samples from the plugs were reassuringly dry and solid.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


We went over to Hassal Island on the south side of Charlotte Amalie harbor hoping for a walk on promised paths, amongst the relics of the Danish colonial past. No luck on the paths but there were relics of a sort to be found.

A sail makers business was running out of a large old shed and as we walked up to it there were all sorts of artfully displayed rubbish from days gone by. Even the broken down little harbor we tied up in had wrecked boats and bits from sunken boats littered around the place.

It had a curious sort of charm but there was little else to see except this local who was keeping a watchful eye on us.

We could not find a path out of the area so it was back home to Elephants Child.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


We walked through the town, and practically every shop is a jewelery shop, this is for the hoards of cruisers that pour into St Thomas most days. They are all very samey, except that I found a small jewelers in a back street. I bought a necklace that I managed to knock down from $79 t0 $60. I mentioned casually that I had done some silver smithing and was interested in a good Tanzanite. This is a stone from Africa ( Tanzania ) and is a violet blue, depending on which way you turn it to the light. There is only one mine in Africa, and it is owned by a group of businessmen. The Jeweler brought me several rings to look at, but I didn't like the setting on any of them. I don't have my equipment with me to make my own setting . so he took me to a little local shop that custom makes pieces. I had chosen one particular stone that was already set, so they took it out of it's setting and made up a ring to my design at a fraction of the normal price.

These are the sort of businesses that I like to find, rather than get something the same as everyone else.

there is a little local market here, with happy go lucky vendors selling mostly Caribbean stuff made in china, so you have to look for local made goods. One lady was selling silver, and told us she used to live on a boat, but it got shipwrecked on a deserted island. They were there 7 months rebuilding the boat , before they could get home. Not very encouraging for a new cruiser.

Haven't hit the boat again with the dinghy, just a brick wall

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I can at least stand up now, without feeling I need to go and lay down again. I have been practising with the dinghey, slowly. It's a good job it's rubber, as I seem to keep hitting the boat with it. We sit up top of an evening and watch the cruisers coming and going, before going to bed.
One of the worries I had from the Trek was the mattress, it was memory foam. This is one of the most unhygienic bits of furniture I have ever come across. apart from being hot, it is absorbent with no air circulation. We now have a proper sprung mattress, that is very comfortable, and unusual for a boat. As we can sleep with all of the hatches open, there is plenty of air circulating, and I have no problem with my claustrophobia.
We had to get some propane gas. this involves disconnecting the tank and humping it to the " nearest" filling station. " Just down the road" turns out to be a hike, so we grabbed a stray shopping trolley and set off. Half way there the heavens opened, with raindrops as big as peas, so we got soaked.
The canister was heavy, so the trolley was a good idea, but we looked like a couple of tramps , trolling along. especialy John with his baggy shorts and well ventilated under the armpits T shirt. I'm shacked up with a drop out, and I don't look too fashionable either.
Once I've got the hang of the dinghey, I have to learn to handle the boat, and learning to swim may not be a bad idea either. It surprised me, how many people on boats can't swim , and they have been a lot further than I have.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Well it was a tough introduction to the cruising life for Carol. After a few quiet days with winds in single digits the reinforced trades, often called the Christmas winds arrived and it is blowing hard and a big surge is causing us to roll at anchor.

So she was feeling queasy and wanted to lay down and get the world to stop moving.

Suddenly there was a load bang and the bung fitted into the toilet outlet hose blew across the small bathroom followed by a load shit, yes that all to common boating disaster a sanitation device failure had occured. It was a really impressive shit spray, it even sprayed the ceiling. We were just lucky yhat there was no one in the small loo at the time.

So lots of cleaning and then headscratching to work out what went wrong and to get a working toilet. It was at this point we heard from the previous owners and discovered that although they had lived aboard and cruised the boat for months at a time, they had never used the plumbing! They used a solar shower pouch to shower and the bucket and chuckit method for the loo. The marine loos were in place and there are 3 shower stations on the boat but they did not use any of them.

Now for some good news, the natives are friendly at least these ones were although we did feel that they begrudged us every mouthfull even the tiny one.

We went out for lunch and this fellow plus his big brother came out to watch us eat, again I felt guilty as these poor starving iguanas needed feeding up.

However there were signs up everywhere saying " Don't feed the iguanas.

In the bacground we had the Carlos Aquilar match races going on in the harbour.

The teams racing in identical IC 24's were out on the water today and returned soaking wet, it wasn't from the crystal clear waters of Charlotte Amalie, it was from sweating. Everyone is taking this Grade 3 Open event and Grade 1 Women's Match Race very seriously and is practicing their spinnaker sets and take downs with a vengeance.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Barrels Customs and Charlotte Amalie Harbour.

Four barrels of “stuff” that we had accumulated on the RV were shipped down to the USVI and languishing in bond in Charlotte Amalie. So the job was to deal with customs and then get them to the boat and pack it all away.

I had heard that customs here could be difficult even for a yacht in transit so I prepared a pretty detailed shipping manifest emphasizing the used nature of nearly everything and where ever possible down playing the value of individual items. What a waste of time. They never even looked at it. I got the paperwork from the shipping company who applied a most impressive stamp confirming that it was for a yacht in transit, they took my word for this, no paperwork required and the Customs officer signed off on it without barely a glance.

Once I knew I could get it out of bond it was a case of finding a space in a marina and getting the barrels moved alongside the boat. Thanks to the staff of Crown Bay Marina who let me use their megayacht dock at miniyacht hourly price I was able to lie alongside and thanks to Kelvin who moved the barrels for me. Then it was three hours of sweat to hump it on board and then down below and finally break it down into some kind of system in the lockers. Elephants Child has lots of lockers, a proper cruising boat. So I made a plan, numbered the lockers and cross referenced everything.

Then it was out of the Marina and through the haulover cut and into Charlotte Amalie main harbour. On the way up to the sheltered anchorage near the cruiseship dock I had to watch out for the seaplanes that use the centre of the harbour.

However I was soon at anchor and watching sail training boats jinking through the anchorage and cruise ship departures with a Cuba Libre in hand.

This is the life, however now I have to clean up as Carol arrives tomorrow. I am sure I have a sponge somewhere, let me look it up in the cross reference, I know I saw a sponge. Argh no sponge!