Final Prep for Bermuda and Beyond

After a fabulous trip to Puerto Rico, we focused on our last preparations for the Big Trip. Every sailor should prep for such a trip, just to get their boat in order. For that matter, every person living should prep for a big move, or other such event, to tie up loose ends and finish lingering projects. There’s a satisfying feeling to knocking things off the To Do list.

Post Parade ladies
I never sent Bill to this Day Care

So, we mixed up fun with tasks for the next week. The St Thomas Carnival at night was a treat. Although we missed the parade, we enjoyed meeting this wild lady who was still in costume.

Boat mess
One of the chainplates

Alembic was torn apart in order to inspect the chain plates. Each shroud is attached to the hull with these oversized plates which can corrode or crack over the years. Luckily ours looked fine and we only saw the need to remove and reseal two. We also remounted the whisker pole, varnished the cockpit, fixed two leaky stanchions (water makes its way down the bolt holes), sewed main cabin sheets and a cover for the aft companionway, and rebuilt the instrument enclosure. Whew! The list is getting shorter!

Necker Belle

Charlotte Amalie, the largest harbor on St Thomas and in the USVI, was full of action. Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Belle was one of the many famous yachts sharing the harbor with us. This boat was used to ferry supplies to some of the hardest hit areas after the hurricanes Irma and Maria. Planet Waves was also here, actually beside us in the anchorage, and we “took care of Johnny” while Shelley flew back to Miami for a few days. Then we enjoyed both of them when she returned. We surely will miss them when we part ways again. They plan to sail north to New York when we sail east. Luckily, we never say Goodbye, just “See you next time!” as there will certainly be a “next time”!

Sugar mill plantation

Next, we sailed to Christmas Cove again, and briefly met Jody, a former Whitby 42 owner. We also fit in a fabulous snorkel at Honeymoon Beach. Moving the next day to St John, we took a Safari (a very small bus) to the mountains and hiked to see the Petroglyphs, a private beach, and a sugar plantation.

Another very sad situation at Water Lemon Cay
Annaberg Sugar Mill
Very impressive inside

The following day, we hiked along the shore to the Annaberg Sugar Plantation Ruins and snorkeled Water Lemon Cay. We wished we had our camera here, as we saw a huge barracuda, lots of lobster, a snake eel, an elusive Drum, stingrays, and a huge turtle who small along with us, staying only six feet away!

WWS Captains and First Mates

Our final excursion was to Road Town Tortola to join a Women Who Sail group. They were beginning a one week charter with 8 boats and 43 women! Bill was the only guy at this lively first night dinner in town, but he seemed to enjoy being surrounded by women, and grateful to get back to Alembic that night, where he only had to deal with me!!

Broken boats are carried away on a barge
One of the gorgeous boats still unattended

The harbor was filthy, and filled with so many wrecked boats; I was grateful that this bunch of women had arrived to bring a shine to the island!

Getting wifi
Winch maintenance

A quick downwind dash back to Charlotte Amalie for last minute tasks was energizing. Final emails at our favorite wifi spot, and a few more projects (do they ever end??) occupied our last hours. Going online connects us to all that we have left behind, which brings me to tears often, while it also allows me to feel more free to carry on with our travels. Ironic. Missing our kids and our families tops the list of heart wrenching realities. Luckily, we have super supportive families; our own children, as well as our siblings and my parents. While I try to be involved in my parents’ moves and other big events, my sister and brothers do a fabulous job taking care of them always.

Brothers helping Mom move

Here are four of them, Dan, Al, Charlie, and Paul, helping Mom move. And they keep me up to date on the important events that I miss, like my Dad’s 82nd birthday.

Mom and Dad celebrating another birthday!

Sometimes I wonder how my heart can conjure up so much joy, while also trying to keep in check the sad longings for more time with those I’ve left behind. For certain, I am always grateful for all that I experience with Bill, Alembic, our families, and all the dear friends we have made along our lives’ journeys.

Bill with his brother Ben and sister Anne
Missing our kids: Kenny, Erica, Jenna (Kenny’s wife), and Lindsay

Puerto Rico!

Helen, Steve, Jayanne, and Bill together again, Finally!

Knowing we had a month to ourselves before we embarked on our trip to Bermuda, the Azores, and beyond, we focused our attention on boat projects and visiting Jayanne and Steve McLaughlin in Puerto Rico. Some of our most fond memories of our cruising days back in 1988 and 1989 were with this wonderful couple. Bill and I were sailing on our beloved Wings, a Westsail, and Jayanne and Steve were sailing on Tashtego, his father’s Tartan. Together, we sailed, snorkeled, feasted on the fish the guys speared, and learned a lot about the priorities of life. Eventually, we all sailed back to New England, babies came along, and our lives became too busy to cross the miles for visits.

Hassel Island
A gorgeous sailboat getting a lift
Scuba gear?
Bill plays horseshoes with the locals

Before setting off for Puerto Rico, we had a few more days of enjoying St Thomas. Hikes were always in the schedule, while visiting with other boaters and locals ashore was part of our evening routine. Being April, with the summer and threat of hurricanes coming, many folks were making plans to move their boats to safer cruising areas. For those heading to Europe, some chose to ship their boats rather than sail there.
Sailing to Puerto Rico was a breeze, literally! It was a downwind ride with plenty of wind and large rolling seas. We knew that heading back to St Thomas in a month would be much more challenging as those same winds and seas would be on the nose, and make for a slow and very wet ride. Alembic is always up for a good romp and so were we! But first, we wanted to make a quick stop in Culebra to see this lovely little island that we visited almost thirty years ago.
It was nice to see that the hurricanes didn’t devastate this area nearly as much as nearby islands.

Christopher Robin is getting fixed

We found the people to be welcoming and creative, as seen in the garden signs. And finding Christopher Robin was a treat! Our dear friends, Angie and Peter, had owned this Westsail and sailed it from Maine, across the Atlantic as far as Turkey, and back through the Caribbean. They sold it to a Canadian couple who owned it for the last thirty years, putting huge amounts of love and care into it. Unfortunately, it dragged during the hurricane, suffered damage that they felt was beyond their abilities to fix, and was sold to a local friend. We met this young man and his lady, who were fixing it up for more years of adventures! Sail on, Christopher Robin!

Motor mounts were in need of replacement
Bill is finishing the rerigging of the mizzen mast

Arrival in Puerto Rico was delightful. Helpful marina workers and sailors were always ready to lend a hand with the tricky dock landing and our list of projects.

One of the many pets Jayanne and Steve lovingly care for

But the grand delight was seeing Jayanne and Steve!! Many years have passed with so many experiences shaping our way of life and our paths, but there’s something about good friends…hearts sing when reunited. We spent nearly every evening for a week with these two, catching up on all we have missed. They have two fabulous adult daughters, many gorgeous homes, and more boats than I could keep track of. When their girls were very young, they built a business, East Island Excursions, which has huge boats of all types to take folks out for day tours or longer. Jayanne has continued to work for them even after they sold the business. Hopefully, they will soon untie the lines and head off for more cruising!

Some of the gardens in which Lindsay worked a few years ago
This is the waterfall, a short walk from the home, where Lindsay bathed daily

After many complicated projects were completed, and we had a chance to visit the lovely spot where Lindsay had stayed, we made plans to sail east again. We were so sad to depart from Jayanne and Steve and this island. Goodbyes are very hard for me.
Kenny’s lifelong friend, PJ Saltzman, had lived in Vieques for a few years, and we were curious about his connections there. So we sailed to Vieques to explore before heading further east. PJ was back in the States, visiting his parents, when Hurricane Maria struck and devastated so much of this quiet island. The owners, Dan and Maria, of Al’s Mar Azul, remembered PJ fondly but were seriously struggling from the aftermaths of the storm. They have since sold the restaurant after many years of ownership.

Isabel II was our second anchorage in Vieques
A bit rugged on the edges
This man was enjoying his ride!
Maria and Dan remembered PJ well

One more quick stop in Culebra, the north harbor this time, broke up the sail to windward, back to St Thomas. Here, we relaxed in the tranquil harbor and hiked up to the ancient lighthouse. The island might be small, but the caterpillars are huge!!

The quiet harbor on the north side of Culebra
Yes, the caterpillars were huge!

Coming back to St Thomas was bittersweet. Goodbyes to all of the Caribbean, especially to the dear people we met and reunited with, left me with a heavy heart. But the excitement of crossing the Atlantic was enough to keep my mind engaged on grand plans and high hopes.