Log of the sailboat "Magnolia".

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My tentative
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  12/18/2007 - indefinite
Boat's at anchor at Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas; I'm in New Jersey.

Called a bunch of car-rental places. The cheapest seemed to be Rent-A-Wreck, and we went there, but at the last minute they mentioned an additional $9/day for required liability insurance, which made them not-cheapest. To Budget, and there the big surprise was the size of taxes (probably also not mentioned at the other places). 7% state sales tax, 11% "concession return fee", $5/day to Homeland Security, 1% for something else. So a month of rental car will cost $808. Got the car.

To Mom's townhouse, from which she's been gone for a month. Started straightening it up, put up the plastic Christmas tree and lights, and then Mom arrived in my sister's car. It was wrenching to see her in a walker and then a wheelchair, but she seems cheerful, and happy to be back in her own home. We finished decorating the tree, got groceries, cleared out some stuff so she can navigate through the first floor, checked that she can get to kitchen sink, phone, bathroom okay. But lots of decisions to make in the next few weeks. Her ankle is healing, but it's time to sell her house and move her into managed car. She's done most of the preparation for it, and has everything in good shape, but it will be a big transition for her.

Heard from Paul on "Adios" who went Culebra to St Thomas on Saturday, I think. He said it was his worst-ever passage from Culebra, and he's been kicking around that area for years and years.

Bought stuff for boat: pack of 5 AGU-30 fuses for $8 (only wanted 1 or 2); Dremel bit to grind the boom bolts ($8).

My friend Stacy (who has a trawler "Mollybeans" in Norfolk) stopped by on his way through, for a nice chat and some pizza. He loves to buy stuff on EBay, and he gave me some SS hinges and a tank-float sensor. Not sure what I'm going to do with them.

I've been going through all of Mom's photo albums and framed pictures, scanning all of the family photos into the computer. Every time I turn around I find another photo album; the things seem endless. But it's a lot of fun to remember our childhood and relatives. It turns out I was actually good-looking once, around age 10, probably for about 6 months: Bill at age 10. And I've had a lot of fun with a picture of my brother Chris as a newborn that my Mom captioned "Chris with 2 happy grandparents"; the laugh is that there are three grandparents in the picture !

This might be a good business opportunity for someone: for $200, you take a laptop and scanner to someone's house for an afternoon, scan their best family pictures for them, and take notes as they say things like "oh, yes, that's cousin Fred when he still had his hair". Then their descendants have the family photos in digital form.

Argh ! My Dell Inspiron 1100 laptop started dying again, on Christmas Eve. Same symptoms as 6 months ago: won't charge battery from AC adapter. I paid over $200 for that motherboard repair and it lasted only 5 months. Sent email to the repair company to see what they'll do for me. Dell doesn't sell this model any more; sent email to ask them if the hard disk can be moved to a new Dell. Used 1100 is going for $250+ on EBay. New laptop (Dell 1520) costs around $650. What a pain !

Yesterday, Dell said hard disk can be moved from old laptop (1100) to new one (1520); today they're sure it CAN'T be moved; old one is PATA, new one is SATA. Laptop repair place says send it back, and we'll fix for free, or at most cost of parts. So I'll do that. My brother is bringing a voltmeter today so I can check that the AC adapter is not the problem (it wasn't).

Sent the laptop off to the repair place on 12/28 ($25 for Priority Mail).

Mom got the okay from her doctor to start putting weight on her bad ankle, and she's able to walk (carefully), and is much happier now. She's out of the wheelchair, able to go upstairs, etc.

I found a webcam that shows Charlotte Amalie harbor: webcam. I think Magnolia might be the right-most boat. Will have to look a few more times to see if I'm right. [Whoops ! I'm wrong; that picture is dated Nov 4.]

We had a good holiday, seeing all the immediate family for Christmas. Lots of fun playing with my 18-month-old nephew.

The new year is starting well. Mom is walking well, and we're getting rid of stuff out of her house and fixing it up to sell it. Looks like I'll be staying in NJ at least into February.

Someone sent me another webcam of Charlotte Amalie harbor; can't make out "Magnolia" on it. Should be right off (SW of) the point where the Coast Guard station is, in top-left of the picture.

1/4: Had email from a reader who lives in St Thomas, and he says "Magnolia" looks fine. I'm very glad to hear that.

I've been scanning so many family photos into Mom's computer that my scanner is starting to complain. No word on my laptop yet.

Was 17 degrees in NJ last night; supposed to hit 60 next Tuesday.

1/8: Just about over one of my 3-day headaches. I think this one was caused by very dry warm air in Mom's townhouse.

The process of moving Mom is trundling along. I've made about 6 trips taking stuff to Goodwill, we've interviewed two real estate agents, yesterday I pressure-washed the brick patio in the backyard and got wet and muddy up past my knees, Mom's walking better, my sister and I repainted the master bedroom, my brother's going to replace the kitchen countertops, we're debating new carpeting, etc. Lots of fun.

Got a notice that my laptop shipped out of CA back to me on 1/8; should be here in a week. Guess the CA place fixed it for free; they haven't responded to my email asking the status.

More fun getting Mom's place ready to sell: rented a carpet-cleaner and cleaned all the carpeting, tracked down a broken wire that was making an outside outlet not work, made several more deliveries to Goodwill, etc.

1/15: Got my laptop back, and an hour before it arrived, the place out in CA finally responded to my email asking what had been wrong with it. They said the AC adapter was bad ! Now, I checked that with a voltmeter before sending the laptop off, but maybe there was something wrong with the third pin I couldn't really check, or something internal that made the voltage okay but the current bad. Anyway, it would have been nice if they'd told me this a week ago; now I have to wait for a new AC adapter to arrive. Bad service.

1/19: My youngest brother replaced the kitchen countertops in my Mom's place with new; took him a 13-hour day because the garage was a bit cool (even with heaters running) and that affected the glue curing.

Found out that each "month" of my car rental is really 4 weeks (28 days), so it's even more expensive than I thought. What a racket !

1/22: Received my new AC adapter, plugged it into my laptop, and everything seems to work ! But the power connector is slightly loose; every now and then it drops from AC to battery and I have to mess with it a bit.

1/29: Trying to get over a case of the flu.

2/3: About 80% recovered from the flu, 8 days after it started. Feel weak, and stomach acts up several times a day.

2/5: Totally recovered from the flu, and starting to think about boat stuff again. Searched for used mainsails, but there are few/none with wire-in-luff roller-furling. May have to buy a used one and have a sailmaker add a wire to it. Or install a modern furling system on the mainmast.

Bought 16 feet of battery cable ($25) through EBay. Bought a Skype headset ($11).

I'm trying to apply for worldwide health insurance through IMG, for a policy requiring me to stay outside USA at least 6 months of each 12. But they want an outside-the-USA address; I don't have a fixed one. And they don't seem to consider Puerto Rico as "outside the USA"; I tried using the Salinas marina address. Just have to fiddle with the process until I find something they'll accept.

11 degrees this morning in NJ; can't wait to get back to the warm weather !

Will be flying back to St Thomas on Feb 24. Airline wanted to charge me $480 for flight back, even using the unused return part of my previous ticket. But I got them to fly me to San Juan for a $100 change fee, then paid $130 for puddle-jumper from San Juan to St Thomas.

Good timing: moved my Mom on the 20th, moved a half-truckload of furniture to Goodwill on the 21st, and now on the 22nd it's up to 3 inches of snow and still snowing.
  2/24/2008 (Sunday)
Boat's at anchor at Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas; I'm in New Jersey.

To Philly airport by 8 AM. Tried to do WiFi in the airport, but by the time I figured out I had a setting wrong, it was time to board the flight.

To San Juan PR. Nice and warm here: around 80 degrees. Got my bag, went through security again, and took a two-engine prop plane to St Thomas. Lots of nice scenery on the way, taking 35 minutes to cover territory it would take a couple of days to travel by boat (upwind). $10 for van from airport to dinghy dock. Bad news: only one dinghy here, and I need to bum a ride out to my boat. No cruise ships in harbor, so the little ferries aren't running.

But waited only 20 minutes or so before Mike from "Amadora" came in, and graciously gave me a quick lift out to my boat, which is about as close to the dinghy dock as you can get. Arrived on board about 5:15.

Boat looks okay. Lots of small moths aboard, the ones that grew from the bad Raisin Bran; killed as many as I could. Added lots of water to the batteries. Found a mess in the refrigerator: I had left it off but half-full of cans of soda, and several of the cans rusted through on the bottoms somehow. Wiped up a lot of soda, and I'm sure a lot of it ran under the fridge and soaked into the cabin sole under there.

Changed water filter under galley sink and got the water system running. Old filter was full of grey chalky gunk. Pumped nasty water out of toilet and ran some soapy water through it to clean and lubricate it.

Peanut-butter crackers for dinner. Rolly here as usual, but good sleeping weather.
  2/25/2008 (Monday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas.

Started engine at 8:30. Took one long, patient session of cranking, but it started and ran okay. Kept an eye on the gauges and looked for any leaks on the engine, but all seems well. Batteries seem to be well-charged, as they should be after 2.5 months with no load and a solar-panel maintaining them.

Ran engine for 30 minutes. No free Wi-Fi signal here.

Loafed. Unpacked suitcase.

Up on deck around 11 and raised the secondary anchor. Took a while, since the boat spun about 3 times while I was gone, twisting the anchor chains around each other. And lots of grass grew on the chain, so I can't just hoist it and put it right into the chain locker. I have to leave it on deck and scrub it several times, and probably let it sun-dry. Had to run the engine to work the anchor chains, and the rope rode of the primary keeps tying itself into a knot around the chain rode of the secondary anchor. And it's rolly here, which makes everything harder and more tiring.

Finally done around 11:45; I'm pretty tired and a bit scraped and nicked. Most of the paint stripped off the anchor, so I'll have to paint it again to avoid having it rust all over deck again.

Lots of boats moving around today. Wind is swinging to the south, which is unusual. One cruise ship in harbor.

Slowly getting into "boat mode" again. Get the solar shower filled again, check that depth sounder and radio still work, figure out what to do next, etc.

Was thinking of raising anchor and moving to Honeymoon Bay this afternoon, but I'm tired and a little sunburned already. So instead I gave myself a radical haircut and a shave.

As I was going up to shower on the stern deck at 3, I heard an engine close astern, and saw a large bowsprit very close to my stern. As I popped up thinking "jeez, I hope that guy doesn't hit me", the boat passing behind me ran aground with a loud "clang". It was the charter-boat "Bones". They had to know about the shoal there (it's the only shoal in the harbor), but I guess they've been passing on that side of me for months. But now that I'm on one anchor and the wind is from the south, my boat is about 75 feet closer to the shoal than it was before (a little too close for comfort, actually; I've been keeping an eye on it).

Fortunately, they have a steel hull. But it took them a minute or two to get free, with a dinghy pushing the bow sideways.

Just after that, the guy on "Honiara" next to me went up the mast to fix something at the top. This is about the worst possible harbor in which to do that, it's so rolly here. He was up there for a quite a while.

Tightened alternator belt.

Used binoculars to look around the harbor, and there's "Presque Isle", anchored about 1/2 mile SE of me. Couldn't raise them on the radio.

Started looking at fixing dinner, and found I had no flat noodles, and no rum ! Had cornedbeef-spaghetti for dinner.

Toilet in aft head is leaking, from the crank-pivot when I pump it. Bummer.
  2/26/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas.

Grey and breezy day. Loafed a bit. Three cruise ships in main harbor.

Realized I might have forgotten to tell my brothers about some paperwork needed for Mom's furnace inspection this morning. Too late now.

Engine start at 11:10, anchor up by 11:25 in gusty conditions with a shoal behind me. Thought of going up to circle "Presque Isle" and say hi, but I don't see a dinghy there. Toward Haulover Cut, with a float-plane landing across my bow and then taxiing past my stern. Through the Cut, down Crown Bay past the "Queen Mary 2", and anchored by 12 outside Honeymoon Bay. Had loaded up and turned on the refrigerator, but then decided to live without it until I get the solar panels replaced, so I turned it off.

Hoped to get a Wi-Fi signal here, but no luck.

Untied and lowered the dinghy, and got the outboard started after a minute of trying and some starter fluid. Let it run for 10 minutes or so. Pumped up the bow tube.

Did a little test-run, mostly upwind, taking books to the book-exchange just around the corner of the island. Sure enough, about 200 feet from the boat, the outboard started running roughly, probably misfiring on one cylinder. Kept going, used the book-exchange, and then the outboard ran very roughly on the way back. But it didn't quite stall, and I got back okay.

Still very cloudy and breezy, threatening sprinkles of rain. Cleaned outboard spark plugs; lower one very oily.

Salami-and-crackers for dinner. QM2 left, passing 1/4 mile behind my boat.

Some rain just after dark.
  2/27/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor outside Honeymoon Bay.

Windy and mostly-cloudy day. Still no usable Wi-Fi signal.

Loafed most of the morning, then took out the broken section of the davits. A bit tricky, with the boat rolling. Tried perching in the dinghy, then wised up and put down the swim platform. Still a bit tricky to get everything off without losing anything or falling into the water.

Leaned over while pumping the toilet, and suddenly had severe pain in the right kidney. Just what I need, a kidney stone ! Drank a lot of water and reclined for 10 minutes, and the pain didn't come back.

Long, windy, rough dinghy ride around the corner of the island, up through the Crown Bay anchorage, then across and into Crown Bay Marina. Outboard not running well, but it kept going and got me there. Disposed of garbage. Found a welding shop and dropped off the davit section (turns out it's aluminum, which probably explains why the highly-stressed welds keep cracking). To the supermarket and got groceries and a couple of bottles of rum ($7.29/liter for Cruzan cocoanut rum). Cleaned the lower spark plug at the dinghy dock, but it wasn't too bad. Back across the harbor, and had a lot of trouble keeping the outboard running, then realized the gasoline was getting low. I have a little more on board, probably just enough for a return trip; should have bought more today. Made it back to the boat.

Will be interesting to see how the food lasts with no refrigeration. People do this all the time, but it's new to me. Only things at risk are apple, bananas, cabbage, and individual slices of processed cheese-like food. If I'd bought real cheese, I would put it in vegetable oil.

One 120W solar panel and eight golf-cart batteries easily keep up with my laptop use and a few lights. Tons of power to spare.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers and a warm rum-and-coke for dinner. The slices of processed cheese-like food feel and taste more like plastic than cheese.

A little rain around 8.
  2/28/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor outside Honeymoon Bay.

Grey and squally morning.

Still finding and getting rid of leaky cans of soda. The first half-dozen I got rid of were the fast-leakers; now I'm finding the slow-leakers.

Loafed all morning, as it rained and blew hard. Still no Wi-Fi here.

Put an extra painter onto the dinghy, which I'll have to tow behind the boat. Not usually a problem, except that the motor doesn't tilt up, so I'll have to motor slowly to avoid a huge amount of drag and thus strain on the painters. And I'm not used to towing a dinghy, so I'm very wary of getting the painters into the boat's propellor (not likely: it's pretty far forward from the stern).

Engine start at 12:30, and anchor up in windy conditions at 12:40. Motored at 2.5 knots up Crown Bay and found a spot close to shore in a notch at the E end. First try had me swinging a little close to a big mastless sailboat with someone living aboard. Second try was fine, but brought a guy zooming over from a big powerboat on the other side. He politely tried to encourage me to leave, making a few nonsense claims that we were going to collide. When he said the wind here does a 360 every night, so I'd hit the boat ahead of me or the shore, I said I'd put out a second anchor to prevent that. He went away a bit unsatisfied. His boat is about 45 feet long and on a mooring with about 40 feet of mooring line, and a big dinghy trailing behind the boat, so he'll sweep a big circle if the wind does 360. But I'm staying. This location ( E end of Crown Bay ) is perfect, right across from Crown Bay Marina. Done by 1:30.

Around 3, put all the jugs into the dinghy and headed ashore. Made it, and straight to the fuel dock. Got 5+ gallons of gasoline ($4.04/gallon) and 10 gallons of water for $22. Dinghy dock is jammed; got in only because someone happened to leave as I was trying to get in.

Walked to welding shop, and it's locked tight. Can see my davit upright inside. Guy next door says they should be back before 5 PM; it's only 3:30 now.

Walked back to marina, looked at outboards in the marine store, asked about Wi-Fi in the mail shop ($2 for first 10 minutes, $15/hour), read a couple of free magazines for a while.

Back to the welding shop around 4, and was in luck. The guys were parking their truck inside the shop; ten minutes later and I probably would have missed them. Paid $25 for the work; the guy wanted to charge more, but yesterday his helper had said $15, so we compromised. Work looks good.

Back across the harbor, into teeth of stiff wind and wet chop, and made it to the boat.

Couldn't get free Wi-Fi from the boat.

Re-assembled the davits.

Salad and chili and a warm rum-and-coke for dinner.

Several squalls during the night. Wind always from the E; no 360's.
  2/29/2008 (Friday)
At anchor at E end of Crown Bay.

Anchors up at 11, with couple from powerboat messing around near me, moving one of the mastless sailboat's anchors closer to my secondary anchor. Very windy; after the last anchor was up, blew downwind quickly and my turn took me a little too close to the powerboat for comfort. But made it around and out.

Through Haulover Cut against stiff current, with a fast ferry boat coming up behind me. Over to the anchorage, and waited a few minutes as "Sea Otter" sailed off anchor. I anchored mostly where they had been, and a minute later they came right back and anchored ahead of me, ending up somewhat over my anchor. Done by 11:35 at Charlotte Amalie.

Pretty rolly here at the moment; lowering and hoisting the dinghy will be tricky. I see a dinghy over at "Presque Isle"; will have to go over and say hi later.

Dinghied ashore and to library. Did an hour of internet ($2). Sounds like the other siblings have Mom's situation under control, and the townhouse passed the inspections. Nice to be back in touch with the world.

Sat and read a book in the central park for a while. Back to the dinghy, and went up to "Presque Isle". Doug was aboard, and we chatted a bit. Nancy has a job (or two) ashore, and Doug is cleaning a boat-bottom now and then (he used to be a commercial diver). They've been here a couple of months, and plan to stay a couple of months more. They tend to stay quite a while in some places; I get antsy after a month or so in any one place. And this harbor is much less comfortable than many others.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.

Very rolly at times during the night; pretty irritating.
  3/1/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Anchor up at 6:25 and motored out of harbor. Started hitting largish swells just outside the entrance, and they kept up the whole way to Benner Bay. A slow slog, pretty rolly at times, especially as I turned the final corner. Anchor down by 8:30 outside Benner Bay. A little exposed and rolly here, but much better than in Charlotte Amalie, because most of the swell is on the bow, not the beam.

Dinghied ashore around 10, to get the lay of the land and see what's changed since I was here 8 months ago. First stop was Pirate's Cove marina, where nothing at all has changed: they did half of the demolition of the bar/cafe, then stopped dead. Little fuel/snack shop part is closed at the moment, and a sign suggests they're closed on weekends now.

Over to the boatyard. "Bottoms Up" cafe/bar is open again, and guy there said they have Wi-Fi. But he says the Wi-Fi at Pirates Cove is working again, 24/7. So I'll take my laptop there this afternoon.

Across the street to the outboard place to look at 4-stroke Tohatsu 6 HP's. They have two in stock but they're 15-inch shafts; I think I need the 20-inch. I measured my dinghy as 17 inches from top of transom to bottom of keel. But: I measured the motors they had in stock, and they're about 20 inches from top of transom to cavitation plate above the prop; they'll work fine for me ! So what the heck are the manufacturers measuring as the "shaft" ? Or is the guy wrong, and these two in stock are 20-inch shafts ?

The price here is $1557, no sales tax. These motors were $1224 on the internet six months ago. But the dollar has swooned since then, and maybe I would have paid $200 for shipping and import duty / sales tax, and I'm buying from a small island shop instead of an internet place. Will have to check the internet price this afternoon.

But I think I'll go back on Monday and buy a motor (the shop isn't really fully open today, and I want to think a little more before buying). Alternative is to wait until I get to St Martin and buy there; don't know if price will be better there (don't think so; I think the dealer there is Budget Marine, and the price in their catalog is $1570), and outboard could die on me between here and there.

Also, the prop on the motor looked small, far smaller than the prop on my 2-stroke Mercury 20. Maybe the Tohatsu is designed to run at higher RPMs than the Mercury ?

Back out to the boat.

After lunch and Car Talk, dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Asked my brother to mail my new credit card to me here, so I'll be staying in this area for another week or so. Will use the time to shake down the new outboard, and do some chores such as an oil change and hull/prop scraping.

Looks like internet price of Tohatsu 6 HP hasn't changed, but down here they're charging full MSRP. Even in Budget Marine stores.

Tohatsu web site says top-of-transom-to-keel measurement of 14-16" should use their 15" shaft motor; 17-22" should use their 20" shaft motor. My measurement is 17", but the 15" shaft looks fine to me. Prop will be totally exposed below keel, not shaded by it at all.

Also see on internet: there is a "power" or "high-thrust" prop available for these motors, and it sounds preferable. Will have to ask the dealer here.

Salad and chicken-onion-rice and warm rum-and-coke for dinner. Used canned chicken.
  3/2/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor outside Benner Bay.

Dinghied ashore at 9, to go to a marine flea market in one of the marinas. Took a while to find it, since it was just three guys standing around a couple of trucks. I brought in some stuff I wanted to get rid of from my boat: 2/3 of an Isotherm refrigeration system (given to me in La Parguera) and a big thermos (given to me in Salinas). We chatted for a couple of hours, and bought stuff from each other; no real buyers showed up. I bought two plastic whistles for 25 cents. Nice to chat with the guys. I ended up leaving my stuff next to the dumpster, as I expected, with big "free" labels on it.

Back to the dinghy dock, and met John from "Serene". Met him first in Marathon FL about seven years ago, then briefly here last year. We chatted a bit; he has a job here now, so is just living aboard and not cruising.

Back to the boat around 11:30.

Back ashore in the afternoon, to do Wi-Fi.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers and a warm rum-and-coke for dinner.

Lots of rain and wind starting at 2:15, and rolly after that.
  3/3/2008 (Monday)
At anchor outside Benner Bay.

Totally grey morning. Windy and rolly. Rain at 7:30.

Dinghied ashore around 9:30 and went to the outboard store, but the guy was out. So went to Pirate's Cover marina and chatted with Gary and Mario. Had a nice long conversation with Mario, about all kinds of current events and politics and such.

Back to the outboard store. Bought a Tohatsu 4-stroke 6 HP for $1557, plus $10 for a fuel-line part. Seemed like it took forever to get all the paperwork and such done, and put a prop on the motor and put it in a barrel to test-run it. The guy isn't interested in my old motor, and doesn't recommend the high-thrust prop. Finally got the motor, wheeled it across the street and to the dinghy dock, and returned the cart to the store.

Back to the dock, and the fun started. Had to lift the old 112-pound motor off the transom, with no good place to stand to lift it. Tried going over against a high dock and running a line down from a cleat, but that didn't work. Eventually went over to the shore and stood behind the stern, in thigh-deep water, and lifted the motor up and tilted it over into the dinghy. Geez, it's big and heavy !

Pretty easy to install the new motor. Started it up, and it purrs.

Put it in gear and started moving, and I was less happy. It vibrates more than I expected, and makes more noise than I expected. Guess I'll have to get used to a 1-cylinder, after 7 years with a 2-cylinder.

Out to the boat, and the wind is howling today, and there are big swells/chop running through the anchorage. A real ordeal to nose up to the stern of the boat without getting slammed against or under it. And the new motor has separate throttle and gearshift, so I have to get used to that.

A quick lunch, then back ashore. Beached the dinghy again, got a dock cart, rolled the old motor up over the side of the dinghy and into the cart, and took it to the dumpster. Rolled the motor over the side of the cart and dumped it next to the dumpster, and skedaddled.

Over to Pirate's Cove marina to do Wi-Fi. A bit crowded with people drinking and yakking, mainly on cellphones. Straightened up the dinghy a bit. Took 4 or 5 pulls to start the outboard. Back to the boat.

Wind still howling and surf still high. Managed to get the dinghy emptied and hoisted without any damage except a small gash in my thumb.

Engine start at 4:30, anchor up by 4:40, and motored upwind and against big swells. A slow, rolly slog, but had anchor down by 5:20 in Christmas Cove. Nice and calm here, except for an occasional ferry wake.

Soon had a visit from Paul on "Adios"; I hadn't noticed his boat in the anchorage. Showed him my new outboard motor and complained about the noise and vibration, and he agreed with one of my readers: that's what you get with a 1-cylinder motor. Too late to change my mind now; I'm stuck with it. And I didn't want the extra 25 pounds for a 2-cylinder motor. I'm sure I'll get used to it.

As he was leaving to head into Red Hook, Paul said something about having an injured shoulder. He said he was anchored or moored in Red Hook in late December when another boat dragged down onto his. As he was trying to fend it off, he got caught between one of his shrouds and the other boat's bowsprit, and his shoulder got crushed. It still hasn't healed.

That reminded me of an incident I heard of last year: a powerboat was leaving an anchorage in St Augustine, I think, and snagged a sailboat's anchor line. The sailboat was dragged into the side of the powerboat, and the bowsprit crushed a woman on the powerboat against the side of the powerboat, killing her. The man at the helm of the powerboat saw the sailboat moving toward them, and couldn't figure out why that was happening.

Salad and cornedbeef-onion-noodle and a warm rum-and-coke for dinner.
  3/4/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor in Christmas Cove.

Did a bucket of laundry. Started doing an engine oil change, but the electric pump brought out only 1/2 gallon of oil and the manual pump just a smidge more, and I gave up after more than an hour of sweaty, oily work. I'll try again tomorrow. Added 2/3 of a gallon of new oil, and the level on the dipstick is "minimum", so I could run the engine in an emergency. Had started wondering if the engine was completely out of oil, although I'm careful to check the oil level every time before running it.

Wind howling by 1 PM or so. Planned to snorkel under the boat and scrape the hull, but it was cool and grey and rainy by 2. But the day-snorkeling boats were still coming in and discharging snorkelers into the water.

By 3, it was bit sunnier and warmer, so I lowered the dinghy and went snorkeling under the boat. Scraped the prop and about 3/4 of the hull. Plenty of grass and slime, tiny barnacles along the waterline, and some flat hard things growing on the prop.

Took a bottle of rum and went over to "Adios" to visit with Paul. We had a nice drink and chat for more than an hour, as the wind slowly cycled around to all directions. Thick clouds overhead, and some rain sprinkles.

I think the new outboard wants choke every time it is to be started; it doesn't start on one pull unless it has choke. The light weight is really nice: now I can stand flatfooted on deck while hoisting the dinghy, where I used to have to brace myself with a foot up on the davits before to handle the weight.

Salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.
  3/5/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor in Christmas Cove.

Sunny and windy morning. "Adios" left at 8:45, heading downwind to Culebra.

Took a look at charts and guidebooks. I'm planning to go to St Martin as soon as logistics and weather allow. I had been thinking of jumping off from the east end of St John in the USVI's. But Virgin Gorda in the BVI's is 15 miles closer; about a 90-mile passage straight east instead of 105 miles or so from St John. So I think I'll go to the BVI's first.

Decided to take a shortcut to finish the engine oil change: I just changed the filter and added new oil to top up, instead of trying to pump more old oil out first. Went well (sometimes it's a disaster with oil spurting out of the filter housing when I start the engine). A proper full change would have been to pump about 8 quarts of old oil out, and put maybe 9 quarts in (extra quart fills the new, empty filter). This time, I pumped about 3 quarts out and put about 6 quarts in (oil level was a bit low when I started, and I overfilled slightly). Not too horrible, I guess. Main thing is to change the filter, I suppose. A slight drip from the filter housing; I'll tweak that over the next couple of days.

Straightened up paperwork and did some work on my income taxes.

Salad and chili and warm rum-and-coke for dinner.
  3/6/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor in Christmas Cove.

As usual, the snorkel boat "Sea Blaster" arrived around 9:45. They're here every day.

Loafed all day. Windy and sunny, and rained a couple of times in the morning.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.
  3/7/2008 (Friday)
At anchor in Christmas Cove.

Anchor up at 8:20, and motored down to Benner Bay. Went inside the inner anchorage, and started to go into the west end, as Paul had recommended. But it was downwind and the water quickly got too shallow for my comfort, so I looped out before getting committed. Finally wedged myself into a little spot just off the channel, done by 9 at inside Benner Bay.

Dinghied ashore. Went to Compass Point marina, disposed of garbage and used oil, and used the book-exchange. Then to Pirate's Cove marina to do Wi-Fi. Was able to use Skype to call my Mom; had a nice chat with her answering machine. Received my new credit card in the mail and used Skype to call and activate the card.

Turns out a couple of guys in the boatyard grabbed my old outboard, probably about half an hour after I dumped it, and put it in a barrel of water and it started on the first pull. So everyone's telling that story now. More power to them: I'd hate to see it go to waste.

Back to the boat to drop off books and computer, then ashore to the boatyard. Used the book-exchange and then got groceries at the supermarket. Back to the boat for lunch. I think I'm slowly dragging into the channel a little; won't be staying here tonight. (Decide later that it's just slight wind-shifts that are making me thing I'm dragging.)

Back ashore for more Wi-Fi. Got 10 gallons of water ($1.60). Filed my federal income taxes online (but still have to mail in one paper form; what a pain).

Back to boat, and decide to stay here for the night.

Salad and cornedbeef-onion for dinner. Feeling headachey.
  3/8/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Anchor up at 6:40, and motored out and upwind to Christmas Cove. Wanted to go early to avoid the stiff wind and swell/surf later in the day, but there's a pretty good swell already. Anchor down by 7:25 at Christmas Cove.

Headachey. Want to lie down all morning, but the wind and current are doing strange things here this morning, and I have to keep looking out to see if I'm getting too close to my neighbors on either side.

By 11:30, both neighboring boats had left.

Heard engines close by at 12:30, and looked out to see a Moorings charter catamaran almost backing into my bow. Fortunately, they looked back in time and just barely got away without hitting me. No reason for it; plenty of room all around me.

After 2, felt a little better, and decided to try a dinghy-trip to Red Hook, about 2 miles each way. As I neared Current Cut, I could see how rough it was in Pillsbury Sound, and I thought to myself "this is stupid, give it up". But I kept going. It was very rough and wet, but I kept going, until I got to the marker about halfway. Still couldn't see Red Hook, and the turn would take me downwind, which means the return trip would be stright upwind into nasty chop and swells. So I finally listened to the voice in my head, and turned around and went back.

Headache worse in the afternoon. Stayed in bed. Apple and peanut-butter crackers for dinner.

At 5 PM, VHF weather said wind NE 15-20+ for next couple of days, swells 7-9 feet in the open passages.

Bad headache all night.
  3/9/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor in Christmas Cove.

Still have a bad headache. Weather still windy.

Loafed and read and napped all day.

Small salad and salami-and-crackers for dinner.

Headache went away after dinner. Slept well.
  3/10/2008 (Monday)
At anchor in Christmas Cove.

Tightened alternator belt and added water to a couple of batteries. Anchor up at 7:10, unfurled the jib, and motored out. Through Current Cut and into Pillsbury Sound. Wind right on the nose, and a little light at first, and soon I took down the jib. Wind built as I crossed the Sound, and conditions got rougher. Out through the Windward Passage and NNE across to Jost Van Dyke, a long slog into stiff wind and rolly chop. Large cruise-type ship "Club Med 2" (pictures) is anchored off White Bay.

Into Great Harbour, dodged a few charter boats who were circling and trying to anchor, and got my anchor down by 9:50 at Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, BVI. Shaved, launched the dinghy and went to check in.

Customs charged only $15, down from $20 last year, but I see the departure tax has increased from $1/person to $5/person. Then at the very end, the Immigration woman said "today's a holiday, you have to pay $16". Crap ! Who knew it was Commonwealth Day ? I would have waited another day, or cheated and come here today but checked in tomorrow. Too late to back out now. So I had to pay the extra $16.

Back to the boat, checked the Scott guidebook, and all it says is that Commonwealth Day is in March; it doesn't give the date.

Anchor up at 10:45 and motored out and around the corner. In through the reef and anchor down by 11:05 at White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, BVI. A bit more rolly here than I expected, and fewer boats than I've ever seen here. Blowing pretty hard.

Plenty of boats here in the afternoon; the usual crowd-scene. Dinghied ashore and took a nice walk up and down the beach. Few pretty women today, and the crowd coming ashore from "Club Med 2" is all fairly old.

At 4, a chartered Beneteau tried to pass about 20 feet off my starboard, and thumped aground on coral heads. They put out fenders and I went out with boathook and cushion. They said they had a 6-foot draft, and the guidebook lied about the depths in this anchorage (they're right). They debated whether they should go forward or back, and I didn't offer any advice; if they took my advice and got stuck worse, I'd feel bad. They seemed pretty competent, anyway. There's about 6.5 feet of water under me right now.

They motored forward and back, thumping from one grounding to another. But they never swiveled and hit me. Eventually they backed out; I was afraid they'd back the rudder into coral, but it didn't happen. They backed all the way back past the entrance, going straight all the way; prop-walk on my boat would never let me back straight up like that. They left.

Small sailboat (maybe 24 feet long) with two guys aboard came in and anchored close behind me; I'll be swinging over top of their anchor, and they don't have much rode out. A catamaran has parked over top of my anchor, in front of me. So I'm sandwiched in. Should be okay.

Salad and chili and a warm rum-and-coke for dinner.

A rolly night; never seen this anchorage so rolly. A swell is breaking right over the reef and coming in on our beam. The small sailboat behind me is rolling wildly at times.
  3/11/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor in White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, BVI.

Added water to a couple of batteries and cleaned the engine intake strainer.

Tricky job getting the anchor up: there's a charter catamaran parked right over top of it. When the wind shifts a little SE, the boat swings over and the anchor is uncovered for a little while. Managed to time it well, pull up next to the catamaran, and backed down to try to pull my anchor out. Didn't work the first time, but the wind stayed put, and I pulled up further and the anchor came out at about 7:35. Backed away and got the anchor the rest of the way up, then motored out.

When I started my engine and moved forward a bit, the tiny sailboat behind me raised their anchor. Then they tried to start their outboard and found a line wrapped in the prop. They put the anchor down again, not as urgently as I would have.

VHF WX says in a day or two, the open ocean will have wind ENE 10-14 and swells NE 4-5. Getting down near a range that would make a crossing to St Martin (straight to the east) feasible, but I'm not quite in a position to go yet. Would be a shame to pay $31 to enter BVI and then not hit any of the nice snorkeling spots, and rush through in 3 days.

Long, rolly, wet motor straight east into the wind, with swells on the port quarter. Finally arrived and anchored by 9:30 in Cane Garden Bay, Tortola. Tight spot for anchoring: there's a big mooring field, and then they've filled in most of the anchoring space around the edges with little anchored motorboats. Most of the moorings are empty.

That trip was so rolly that I wonder if I want to try to cross the Anegada Passage without a mainsail. The mainsail helps to dampen the rolling, and my mainsail is fairly shredded right now, so I don't/can't use it.

A school of 12-inch fish attacking a school of 1-inch fish next to my boat; both of them jumping out of the water wildly.

Several very faint Wi-Fi signals here. Got one after a lot of trying; uploaded pictures and log file, did some email, checked some weather sites. Looks like next Tuesday, at St Martin wind will be ENE 10 or so, swells 3-4 feet.

Dolphin feeding next to the boat; first time I've seen one here.

Wind swirling and circling all day. Finally had to start the engine and put down a second anchor at 2:30; was swinging too close to a nearby small catamaran. Didn't set the second anchor; just want the weight of anchor and chain to keep me from drifting toward that boat.

Did some more Wi-Fi. Moorings about 2/3 full by evening.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner. Local kid roaring around the anchorage in a dinghy; he's done that the last couple of times I've been through here, too.

Nice, quiet night.
  3/12/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor in Cane Garden Bay, Tortola.

Had planned to get going early and motor up and around the NW corner of Tortola and over to Trellis Bay or thereabouts. But I woke up at 6:45, felt "why bother ?", and went back to sleep. Why not stay here another day ?

Mostly-grey morning, and then fair amount of rain at 10:30.

After lunch, dinghied ashore. Disposed of a couple of bags of garbage. First restaurant I walked past had the odor of sauerkraut wafting out of it; must be a lot of Germans here. Had a lovely walk on the beach. Several pretty women in bikinis; lots of people and activity.

Back to the boat, to find that the small catamaran next to me had left and a big one had just come in. They're anchored a little close for comfort, with only one anchor. We'll see if the wind shifts and gives us a problem. I probably should have dinghied over and said something as soon as I saw them, but I hate to do that, maybe we won't have a problem, and the moment passed.

Salad and chili and a warm rum-and-coke for dinner.

Got a very brief flicker of Wi-Fi connectivity, just enough to see my email headers, and apparently the closing on my Mom's townhouse was completed ! A big relief.

Major power-failure ashore from 2 AM to 3 AM; everything went out except for some of the streetlights.

Rain at 4 AM or so, but no serious wind with it.
  3/13/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor in Cane Garden Bay, Tortola.

Engine start around 6:40, and then took almost half an hour to get the anchors up. The chains were twisted 4 or 5 times around each other, and the secondary anchor kept quite a gip on the bottom even when most of the chain was up. And the rope behind the primary's chain was all messed up off the reel in the chain locker, because of the last couple of rough passages. And had to watch out for a small powerboat anchored near my secondary anchor, and then the anchor of the catamaran near my primary anchor, and an anchor-float above it. At least the wind was light.

Got the anchors up around 7:05 and motored out. Grey morning but very light wind, and had a surprisingly comfortable trip up around the NW corner of Tortola; this trip usually is pretty rough. Got to Monkey Point and all the moorings were taken, so I anchored next to four rafted-up and anchored catamarans by 8:50 at Monkey Point.

Very popular place, as usual. As soon as any mooring comes free, it gets snapped up by another boat. All of them are charter boats, and all but one is a catamaran.

Around 12:30, a dinghy stopped by, and it was faithful readers Dan and Linda and her brother and one other guy. They were tickled to meet me, and they've been having a good time on their charter. Nice to see them.

In the afternoon, about 20 boats here; I've never seen it so busy here. Some nice-looking women on some of the boats.

Launched the dinghy, went up to the dinghy-mooring rope, and went for a nice snorkel. Saw a couple of 3- or 3.5-foot groupers; they had to weigh 30+ pounds each. Lots of tiny fish, and plenty of medium-sized fish, and a 3-foot barracuda or two. Water just a little cool for my taste, but nice. Chatted with a guy who singlehanded from Canada to Bahamas several years ago, and now is working on a charter boat. And chatted with a couple who remembered me from White Bay when that Beneteau went aground right next to me; they were anchored nearby.

Back to the boat, and scraped the hull and prop for 15 minutes or so. Not much growing; the stuff I didn't scrape off last time has thinned out quite a bit.

Anchor up at 2:05, and motored through the cut and up to Great Camanoe island. Had to try twice, but got anchored by 2:45 at Lee Bay, Great Camanoe. Three catamarans here, but one left soon after I arrived, and another full of SCUBA divers left after finishing a dive, around 4.

My nice radio stations, NPR from St Thomas and BBC from St Croix, have mostly disappeared. [Later, found that I can receive them when the radio is down in the aft cabin, but not when it's up in the cockpit.]

Guy from Canada I had chatted with over at Monkey Point came by in a big, fast, expensive dinghy. He'd come over from there to see if he should bring his charter-boat over here for the night. He worried that there wasn't enough room (for a 58-foot catamaran), and that holding here wasn't good enough. He's been on the job only 8 weeks. We had a brief exchange, he left, and no catamaran ever appeared.

Goats baa-ing on the steep hillsides.

Salad and peanut-butter crackers for dinner. Tried to open a box of saltines and found that it is the source of the little moths I've been exterminating for weeks. Into the garbage, tied up the bag, and put it in the dinghy.
  3/14/2008 (Friday)
At anchor in Lee Bay, Great Camanoe.

Loafed most of the day.

Repaired connection on anchor light; thing has such thin conductors in the wire that it's hard to keep the connections tight.

I'm no longer using an anchor light at the top of the mast; the thing kept failing so much that I got tired of climbing the mast to mess with it. So I brought the fixture down, connected it to 30 feet of wire and a cigarette-lighter-plug, and now I plug it in down below and hang the fixture from the boom at night. I think it's more effective down low, too: easier to see from a dinghy or boat. But it's not legal there: it's not quite 360-degree visible.

Messed with the aft toilet in the late afternoon, and quickly what I feared did happen: pulled out a part that wouldn't go back in, and left the toilet inoperative. And the forward toilet is frozen, so I have to use buckets from now on.

Started taking the aft toilet apart, and of course just about every single bit of it has to come apart before I get to the place that got disconnected when I pulled the handle out. Only two bolts required use of the impact driver, and they came out easily. I'm sure I used plenty of anti-seize the last time I had this apart, which was a couple of years ago. Aft toilet partially apart.

A couple of large (65+ foot), gorgeous sailboats anchored well behind me, in water about 50 feet deep. Charter catamaran came in and anchored a little close on my starboard side; there's more room on the port side. Later they moved their anchor back a little and put out more rode, but I still have to keep an eye on them during the night.

Salad and chicken-onion-rice and warm rum-and-coke for dinner. Used canned chicken.

Started putting the toilet back together, and the first step is the toughest. The handle connects to a shaft which inserts into the side of the pump. The piston slides down into the top of the pump, and a linkage hangs down from the piston and the handle-shaft has to pierce that linkage from the side. But first the linkage has to slide sideways out of the way of the piston. And where handle-shaft and piston-linkage mate, a little shaft-key has to fit into a slot in each of them, to make the joint fast. Why they couldn't have welded that key into the linkage, so it wasn't a separate piece, I don't know; it would have made things so much easier. I should have taken a picture. This toilet diagram gives you some idea, if you really care; the handle-shaft is 48, the piston-linkage is 15, the key is 20, and they're all deep inside the pump-body 33 when they have to meet and fit together.

Anyway, I have to stick the key into the slot in the piston-linkage, then slide the linkage and piston in while holding the pump in a way so that gravity holds the key in place. Jiggle the piston until the linkage makes that turn out from under it; not easy. Usually the linkage won't make the turn, and the key falls out. As the linkage makes the turn, turn the pump body ao gravity keeps holding the key in place. When I can see the linkage-hole through the side of the pump body, reach a screwdriver in and make the holes align. See which way the key is facing, insert the pump-handle-shaft oriented that way, and get the shaft and hole to mate with key in both of them. Took about 15 tries, a messy and irritating operation. Got it done and left the rest of the work for tomorrow.

Wind did a slow complete circuit during the night; had to keep getting up to see where that catamaran was.
  3/15/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor in Lee Bay, Great Camanoe.

Rain at 6 AM. Grey, calm morning. At 7, can see every detail on the bottom, 20+ feet down.

Anchor up at 7:05 and motored out. Very calm, almost no wind. Out past Trellis Bay and into Sir Francis Drake Channel towards Virgin Gorda. Was heading for Savannah Bay, but then heard the VHF weather forecast. The Tuesday window for crossing to St Martin is gone: large, long-period north swells will be starting then. So if I want to cross, I need to go to Spanish Town right now, check out this morning, then start crossing to St Martin tomorrow. I decide and un-decide a couple of times, then decide to pass up this opoprtunity and spend another week in the BVIs. It's too nice here to rush through. So I keep heading for Savannah Bay.

Saw small cruise-ship anchored outside Spanish Town as I went past. Eased into the bay and got anchor down by 9:05 at Savannah Bay, Virgin Gorda.

Put the rest of the aft toilet back together, making a new gasket in one place where the old one ripped apart yesterday as I took it off. Various drips and oozes, but they should settle down as the gaskets get wetter, I hope.

Heard somewhere: "Is that supposed to be dripping ?" is never a good question to hear.

Managed to hear Car Talk at noon; had to hold the antenna, and move it a bit, to keep the signal.

Took the forward toilet apart a bit and got it working. Lots of nasty-looking water pooled in the hoses; haven't used this toilet in quite a while. Ran a bunch of dish-soap through both toilets.

Launched the dinghy and went for a pleasant snorkel.

A couple of different boats have dinghies out, towing kids around in those tube-float things. Seems to be the thing to do here. Plenty of space, so it's safe and doesn't bother anybody.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers and a warm rum-and-coke for dinner.

Slight roll starting in the middle of the night. Just enough to make the boat creak and groan all night, and irritate me.

Aft toilet leaking; had to shut off the intake.
  3/16/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor in Savannah Bay, Virgin Gorda.

Rain at 6:45. Grey, damp, windy morning. More rain at 10:15.

Found that NPR reception is fine if I lie on my back in bed and put the radio on my chest.

Not sure today would have been a good day to go to St Martin; doesn't seem to match the VHF weather forecast very well. Stayed grey and threatening rain all day. Some strongish wind in the morning, but I guess not much wind. So would have been okay to go, I guess.

Took the aft toilet apart again. Went easier this time, now that everything's lubricated and I've figured out a few shortcuts. This shows the parts that have to mate deep inside the pump after some contortions; used a dab of petroleum jelly to hold the key in place, and that worked ! Put the toilet back together, tested it, and it's still leaking, maybe from a couple of places. It can leak from four places: intake, outlet, bowl-pump joint, and handle-shaft (the original problem I'm trying to fix).

Launched the dinghy and went ashore to walk on the beach. Two nearby catamarans with lots of kids have landed there. I didn't plan the landing very well, found myself in mixed coral and sand, stopped the motor and tilted it up, and found myself getting hit by breakers, 30 feet from the beach ! Managed to see a clear-sand area, and paddled and walked over to there, getting wet up to the shoulders in the process. Anchored the dinghy, waded ashore, and took a walk. Not a very good beach, and the sky is still grey and threatening rain. Didn't stay too long; back to the boat.

Salad and tuna-mushroomsoup-noodles and a warm rum-and-coke for dinner.
  3/17/2008 (Monday)
At anchor in Savannah Bay, Virgin Gorda.

Tightened alternator belt. Anchor up at 8:50, and motored out and down to anchor by 9:20 outside Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda. Rained as I arrived.

Swinging a little close to shore, but should be okay. But then as I got ready to launch the dinghy, saw the sailboat behind me getting ready to leave. So I waited and moved back into their spot, which is a much safer place.

Dinghied ashore into the marina. Dinghy dock is jammed, and everyone has their dinghied locked and tight to the dock; very inconsiderate. Had to use a long painter and walk through another dinghy to get ashore.

Disposed of garbage. Stopped in info center and got a map. Sat on bench and did WiFi briefly. Then into marine store, and found they have a computer room, where WiFi is free but using their PC costs $20/hour. Did WiFi. They have a book-exchange too; used it.

Weather printout at the dock confirms what I've been hearing on the radio: large NW swells tomorrow through Friday at least, ENE wind 15-23 or so, possibly lots of rain tomorrow and Wednesday.

Back out to the boat for lunch. Went ashore again, and went for a walk across the island to the library. Did half an hour of internet ($2) there, because I needed to print a tax form. Read a few local newspapers. Kept walking, and chatted for a while with an old black lady named Audrey. She loves to talk.

Back to the marina; probably walked almost four miles. Into the grocery store, where the check-out line was slow. And they didn't have any bananas. Got bread, apples, onions. Cheap beer was priced at about $1/can, and Corn Flakes at about $5/pound. Back to the dinghy and out to the boat.

It's rolly here, very rolly at times. I could raise anchor and head across to Trellis Bay, but that will take 90 minutes or more, and I'm tired. Decide not to go, and then regret my decision as it gets hideously rolly here. But I think they're mainly from boat-wakes, which should go away after sunset.

Salad and apple and PBJ sandwiches for dinner. Some bad rolling during dinner. But the rolling slowly eased, and the night wasn't too bad.
  3/18/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor outside Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda.

Anchor up at 7, and motor west. VHF weather says the coming weather will be "the largest winter swell event in several years", with 8-12 foot swells, possibly causing 20-25 foot breakers on some north shores. This forecast may be focused a little more on Puerto Rico than on the BVI's, but still I think I'll hunker down for a few days and see what happens.

Into Trellis Bay. I go in deep, to see if I can anchor near De Loose Mongoose, but that area seems pretty full. So back out to the east end, and anchor down in 5 feet of water by 8:25 at Trellis Bay. Nice and calm here.

Around 8:45, I see a Customs boat rafted up to sailboat "Meredith". They seem to be there for quite a while. Then they're moving, and although I keep my head down, soon they're pulling up to me and tying on. I come up and say hi and give them my papers. Four officers and a dog. Three enormous outboards on the stern of the boat, and lots of electronics in the cockpit. They don't board me, just copy down various things from my papers, and in less than 5 minutes they're done and gone. They leave the harbor and floor it, heading west. First time I've ever seen an official boat of any kind in the BVI's.

Just finished reading an interesting book of articles about science and nature. One fascinating article is by David Berlinski; he says the last 80 years or so have seen the development of the second fundamental idea in science, algorithms. The first idea, developed over the last 300 years or so, was "mathematical physics, a vision in which the real elements of the world are revealed to be its elementary constituents: particles, forces, fields, or even a strange fused combination of space and time. Written in the language of mathematics, a single set of fearfully compressed laws describes their secret nature." The second idea is algorithms (software, steps, behavior) on top of building blocks (cells, units, computers) which produce something far higher and more complex. Examples of this are the brain, social insects such as bees and ants, DNA, the steps from a fertilized egg to a baby, computers, human laws executed by institutions, etc. The two ideas are fundamental and completely different.

Another fascinating article is by Bill Joy. It's about the danger that new technologies (genomics, nanotechnology, and robotics) may lead to the destruction of the human race, or even the destruction of the whole biosphere of Earth. Our past history of trying to control other technologies (nuclear, biological and chemical weapons) does not inspire confidence. And the new technologies are more within the grasp of individuals than the older technologies were. It's possible everything could end with an "oops", as a mistake in a nanotechnology lab escapes into the environment and quickly munches everything into "gray goo". Such as a replicating nano-molecule that affects something common to all cells of all living things.

My timing was good: strong N wind and a little rain just before 11, as a front came through. Some guy was climbing the mast during it, and just kept on doing his thing. Kept blowing hard the rest of the day.

Big catamaran came by at 12:30 or so, thinking of anchoring ahead of me, but it's pretty shallow up there. They thought better of it and went away and took a mooring.

At 2, another big catamaran appeared ahead of me, and then I started getting alarmed as they went back and forth right off my bow, sideways to it; very dangerous. I ran up on deck, and found their dinghy floating down my port side as they were off my starboard bow. I grabbed a boat-hook and snagged their dinghy, then had to sit there while they tried to anchor. I couldn't really do anything with the dinghy: it didn't have a painter, and was 4 feet down from my deck. And I couldn't launch my own dinghy without letting go of theirs. Eventually I caught the attention of a nearby boat, and the guy came over in his dinghy and took the loose dinghy back to its owner. Then the catamaran tried to anchor next to me, then gave up and went looking for a mooring.

Saw a ferry carrying a fuel truck go by; common to see them carrying cement trucks and other heavy things in these islands.

Salad and chili and a warm rum-and-coke for dinner.
  3/19/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor in Trellis Bay.

Grey in the early morning, threatening rain.

Finally heard Chris Parker's weather forecast; I've been trying to get it for a week. He says the big N swells will start arriving tomorrow morning, and end late Sunday, but then a 7-foot E swell from the wind will take over. This N swell will be the biggest swell event in Puerto Rico in 30-40 years; caused by hurricane-force winds up by the Canadian Maritimes. Conditions from the E might ease next Tuesday or so.

Starting to get some roll around 9:30, since the wind is shifting a little more ENE and the harbor mouth faces NNW or so.

After lunch, dinghied ashore and went for a walk. Looked at a strange catamaran ( pics ) and a dinghy graveyard ( pic ). Walked a couple of miles on various roads, to the south side of Beef Island, then to the airport, then through the harborfront stores. Found a mailing-store in the airport; will have to come back tomorrow with a couple of letters I've been trying to mail. Also a cyber-cafe: internet for 50 cents/minute !

Around 4:30, the biggest catamaran yet (50-footer) cruised by on my starboard side, looking to anchor, but they went away.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.

Got fairly rolly during the night, and windy. Got pretty cool, too: had to put a comforter on my bed for a while.
  3/20/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor in Trellis Bay.

Grey in the early morning; rain at 6:45.

Chris Parker's weather forecast doesn't sound encouraging for going to St Martin any time in the next week or more.

Wind shifting from N to E and back again, very frequently. Gets rolly every couple of minutes, then settles down for a minute or two.

Worked on tax forms.

Saw a catamaran with a satellite dome; first I've ever seen.

After lunch, dinghied ashore. Walked to the airport and mailed three letters (tax forms and bank deposit; later found that the bank deposit got into my acct on 4/9), and chatted for quite a while with a couple of local guys in the mailing store. Saw an airplane with an interesting logo. Then walked further west down the island, hoping to catch a clear look at the north ocean. Could get only glimpses. Didn't see any huge waves, but the water looked all churned-up and ugly, and there was plenty of surf crashing on the sides of the islands just north of here. Back to the harbor, and sat reading a book for a while. To the grocery store, and bought bananas.

Back to the boat around 3, and the E and ESE wind has me swinging a bit close to a couple of boats. So I started the engine, raised anchor, and moved about 60 feet toward the shore to the E. Started running out of water, but got to exactly where I wanted to be.

Group of nice-looking snorkelers went by.

Saw a catamaran coming in with a couple of not-so-pretty topless women sitting on the trampoline up front. No pictures, sorry.

Salad and cornedbeef-onion-noodle and a warm rum-and-coke for dinner. Some people water-skiing behind dinghies.

Not much roll at all overnight; I think the swells are easing. It's getting warmer, too, so I think the E wind is beating back the N wind.
  3/21/2008 (Friday)
At anchor in Trellis Bay.

Totally grey in the early morning. E and N winds still fighting each other. Radio is reporting huge surf down in the SE Caribbean, so I guess the swell action has moved down to there.

Something nearby is interfering with the radio; I think someone's doing web or email over HF radio. Very annoying.

Large, long line of low grey clouds overhead around noon and into the early afternoon.

Dinghy-load of pretty women went past, ashore, walked on beach, came back past.

Around 1, seemed like boats started pouring in. Maybe there is a "Full Moon" party tonight; I've heard about the ones they have here. Or maybe people are coming in for lunch, or just ending a short day, because it looks pretty rough out there.

Anyway, they're coming in, and it's the usual circus as they look for empty moorings (none) or space to anchor (little). Soon one catamaran is trying to anchor too close on my starboard side; they try 4 or 5 times, move elsewhere, try another 4 or 5 times and fail for no reason I can see, then leave and try coming in the west entrance to the harbor. Meanwhile, a bigger catamaran tries to pass forward of a catamaran anchored off my port side, and I can see that they're going to run aground. Sure enough, they go aground firmly, and they take 15 minutes gunning the engines to get themselves free and back out. More boats coming in.

I am impressed with how maneuverable these charter boats are (when they're not going aground); it's the only thing that keeps this place from being a disaster area. The catamarans with twin engines can hover and spin almost in place, and the fin-keel monohulls can snap off a U-turn much faster and tighter than my full-keel boat can manage. Several times I've expected a collision between moving boat and anchored/moored boat, only to see it avoided.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner. I'm starting to run low on salami and breakfast cereal and snacks, and prices in these islands are punishing. I have plenty of canned food and pasta and a fair amount of crackers, but it would be nice to get to St Martin, where I hope prices might be reasonable.

Half an hour before sunset, a catamaran came in. First, they tried to anchor on the port side of the boat on my port side, and they ended up so close together that I thought they were trying to raft to that boat. They tried a couple more times, then gave up. Then they headed towards me. They tried anchoring off my starboard bow, and ended up a bit too close for comfort. They tried a couple more times. Then they gave up and headed out of the harbor. But five minutes later, they were back off my starboard bow. This time they did a perfectly decent job of it, ending up about 30 feet further away, no problem at all. And then the launched the dinghy and took a second anchor out, into water probably 3 feet deep. A relief to have that over with.

I don't think there was a "Full Moon" party ashore tonight; I should be able to see bonfires if the party was on. Maybe tomorrow night. [Months later, I read a magazine article about the Full Moon party here on exactly this night; I guess you can't see the bonfires and hear the music from the other side of the harbor.]
  3/22/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor in Trellis Bay.

Totally grey all morning, and lots of E and ESE wind much of the time.

Lots of rain and wind from 12 to 1, as I was listening to Car Talk. Then more rain at 1:30. Stayed grey all day.

Just loafed and read and listened to radio all day. Not much to see today. Should have worked on aft toilet, but didn't have the energy.

Customs boat cruised through the harbor again; didn't see them stop anywhere.

Salad and chickensoup-onion-rice and warm rum-and-coke for dinner.
  3/23/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor in Trellis Bay.

Sunny, breezy morning. Looks pretty rough going east: boats going that way are pitching heavily.

Did a bucket of laundry.

A megayacht was anchored outside the harbor for a while. I always wonder what they cost; suppose that's a $10 million boat ? [A reader thinks he recognizes the model and says it probably cost $20 million new, $30+ million to build it today.]

In the afternoon, took the aft toilet apart and put a different used bushing on the pump handle shaft. Still leaked. Took it apart again and found a new bushing and used that; preliminary tests look good. Put the whole thing back together, and it leaked from a different place I hadn't tightened enough. Wiped up the water, and decided I'd done enough for today. Will test it later.

Small salad and PB-crackers for dinner.
  3/24/2008 (Monday)
At anchor in Trellis Bay.

Had planned to leave early and head across to Savannah Bay this morning, but it blew hard and rained from 5-something to 7:30, then blew very hard, then a little more rain, then plenty of wind. So I stayed put.

Around 10:30, some gusts that had to be 30 knots or more.

After lunch, finally got tired of waiting for the weather to ease. Tried to pick a calm period, but failed. Rained on me a little as I raised anchor, and the wind shifted to the S and put me gently aground. Some reverse and a little patience cured that. Anchor up and moving by 1:35.

Out of the harbor and headed east, and the first half of the crossing to Virgin Gorda was as miserable as I expected. Swells from the SE or SSE, and I'm heading ENE. Very rolly, and a lot of wind against me. Lost about 1/2 knot to wind, and a squall hit and took another knot away briefly. Just kept chugging, and things eased a bit as I neared land. Into harbor and anchor down by 3:20 at Savannah Bay. Some long-period N swells coming in, but not bad here.

VHF WX says small-craft advisory offshore through tomorrow afternoon, seas 6-7 feet. Says the gusts today are up to 35 MPH.

Chili and a warm rum-and-coke for dinner.

Aft toilet seems to be in good shape; just a tiny leak from somewhere.

A strange night: wind kept gusting from 5 knots to 20+ knots and then back down abruptly, every minute or so, all night. Lots of cloud overhead at times, but no rain.
  3/25/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor in Savannah Bay.

Totally grey, dim morning, and E wind gusting wildly. Rain at 8.

Listened to Chris Parker's weather forecast, and the news is not good. And I'm not sure I completely trust him: his description of conditions here in the BVI's doesn't quite seem to match reality [later, I found he was right when he said tomorrow would be nice]. Anyway, he says another batch of big N swells (10 feet) will arrive early Thursday. After that, "squalls indefinitely". I wonder if I'm ever going to make it to St Martin.

Fuel level 5 inches at engine hour 4357.

Anchor up at 9:10, and motored out of the harbor. South to Spanish Town. Took two tries to get anchor where I wanted it; the wind and current spin weirdly here, and there's a mixture of moored boats and anchored boats. Done by 9:50 at Spanish Town.

Lovely here, as expected: wet, rainy, grey, very rolly.

Launched the dinghy and headed ashore. Key red marker on the turn in the channel is missing; looks like it got blown ashore, since I was here a week ago. Disposed of garbage, used the book-exchange, did Wi-Fi, got a few groceries (bread, onions, apple, cheese; still no bananas here). Rained lightly but steadily most of the time I was ashore, and all the way back out to the boat, and then some.

Thought of going back in to get some fuel, but that would mean spending the night here. So instead I hoisted the dinghy and raised anchor, by 2:15. Motored out into grey, fairly still waters (except for the SE swell, rolling me as usual). Rained lightly at first, but then stopped. Went west, and around the SE corner of Tortola. Into harbor and anchor down by 4:05 in Fat Hog's Bay / East End Bay on Tortola.

Surprisingly nice and calm in here. I had hoped to go up into the NE end, to shelter behind the barrier islands, but even in the mooring field it quickly got very shallow up there, so I turned around and got out and anchored in the middle / NW part. Exposed to the SE swell coming in the harbor entrance, but there isn't much of it, today at least. I'm anchored next to an anchored commercial ship; there was another one rafted to him, but it left right after I anchored.

No free Wi-Fi here, at least right now. And no NPR reception, which is a pain.

Salami-cheese-crackers and a warm rum-and-coke for dinner.

Wind shifted to the south, and for 5 or 10 minutes I was breathing exhaust fumes from the commercial ship. Then they shut down for the day, the wind shifted back SE a bit, and the air cleared.
  3/26/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor in Fat Hog's Bay / East End Bay.

Chris Parker's weather forecast this morning: tradewinds will be lighter (17 knots) Fri-Sun, stronger Mon-Tues. North swells (9-10 feet) will start Thurs and be gone by Sun night.

Yesterday, WindGuru said: lightest wind (varying 12-18 knots) Fri-Sun, stronger (15-21) Mon-Tues. Swells from N on Fri, NE or ENE rest of the time, varying 6-9 feet over whole period, lowest on Sun and Mon.

Yesterday, Tropical N Atlantic forecast from Wunderground said: wind 15-20 through Fri, 15 on Sat. Swells 8-10 through Sat.

So maybe I should go to check out on Saturday morning, and leave Sunday to arrive Monday morning in St Martin ? Customs is open weekdays and Saturday morning.

Loafed all morning. Found a tray in the galley where rainwater had dripped in and damaged some food; set things out to dry or be thrown away.

Dumped 5 gallons of diesel from jug into fuel tank, and 2 gallons of water from jug into water tank.

After lunch, dinghied ashore to Harbourview Marina. Bought 12.3 gallons of diesel ($4.25/gallon) and 12 gallons of water (15 cents/gallon); total $54.

Walked SW along the waterfront road. Noticed cow-catcher grates on several of the driveways leading down toward the harbor; what's with that ? To my surprise, came to the library; I had thought it was up at the other end of the harbor. Went in and read oldish local newspapers for an hour or so. Got some magazines they were giving away.

Walked SW a little further, and came to a small supermarket. Bought rum and saffron rice and cabbage. Walking back, saw a herd of cattle (there are a dozen more around the corner) in a junkyard and heading toward the harbor, so I guess maybe the waterfront used to be a ranch and then got subdivided into house lots ?

Saw a big sailboat (that Club Med sailboat, I think) in the distance, then Magnolia at anchor.

Back to the marina, looked into the marine store for a minute, then out to the boat. Fun to hoist four jugs of water and diesel up out of dinghy while the waves are rolling the boat a bit and rocking the dinghy.

Felt ambitious, so went back ashore, and walked NE along the waterfront road. Found a couple of book-exchanges in the marinas, a couple more grocery stores, a gas station, various facilities. No other marina fuel dock that I could find. Diesel is $4.10/gallon in the gas station, but not worth the extra effort. Saw a motorboat that's seen better days.

Chatted with a couple of people in Penn's Landing marina, which is a small but active place. One guy said they spend the winters on their boat here, then put it in Nanny Cay boatyard (about 10 miles away) for each hurricane season. A lady told me the BVI Regatta is happening right up and down Drake's Channel outside here, next Monday-Wednesday. I told her I was hoping to go to St Martin, and she says there hasn't been a decent weather-window for that in quite a while.

Bought bananas in a grocery store, and back to the boat.

Salad and saffronrice-onion-beans and a warm rum-and-coke for dinner.
  3/27/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor in Fat Hog's Bay / East End Bay.

A group of kayakers next to my boat around 8:30.

It was bit rolly last night, so at 9 I raised anchor and moved forward about 100 yards, in among the other boats, to get a little more shelter. Anchor down at East End Bay.

Wind and rain at 9:45. More rain at 10:45.

Dumped 12.3 gallons of diesel into the fuel tank, then went ashore to buy more. Was told that the dockmaster was off today, and the diesel tank was so low that they don't want to sell any more until they get a delivery, which might be some time in the next few days. Chatted with an older guy at the dinghy dock who confirmed that there's no other fuel dock here, and also said he thinks the gas station pumps are rigged to pump less than they charge for.

Back to the boat for lunch. Then ashore again. Went to book-exchanges at both marinas and exchanged a dozen or so books. Disposed of several bags of garbage in the municipal dumpster. Back to the marina, and asked again about diesel. This time, they said there's 53 gallons in the tank, so they could sell me the 20 or so I want. But the dockmaster is not in today; he should be there tomorrow. Saw the kayakers coming back in around 1:30; they had a long excursion.

Back to the boat. Wind blowing hard in the harbor all afternoon. A little rain around 2:40. A little more around 4:30. Killed a cockroach on the companionway steps; I think it had just flown in.

Salad and PB-banana sandwich for dinner.

E wind blew fairly hard much of the night. Rain at 9.
  3/28/2008 (Friday)
At anchor in East End Bay.

Couldn't hear Chris Parker's weather forecast this morning.

E wind blowing hard all morning.

Dug through the food in the V-berth to get rid of the bugs, and found a couple of packages of power-bars where some of the foil-wrapped bars seemed to be dissolving and growing things. Threw away the cardboard boxes too, which were a little soft. Maybe one of my readers is right, some of the cardboard is a problem too. But the main problem seems to be with some of the food itself. It probably went through some abusive shipping to get to the islands, then sat on my boat for 3 months, and now is bad.

Went ashore after lunch, and bought 12.2 gallons of diesel for $52. Agreed with the dockmaster that their tank was getting so low that I probably shouldn't buy any more. Disposed of a bag of garbage, then walked to the library, only to find that it's closed until 2 for a staff meeting.

Back to the boat, and dumped 6 gallons into the fuel tank. Back ashore later, to the library, and did half an hour of internet ($1.50). They wouldn't let me use a flash drive, so I couldn't update the log file. Weather forecasts are conflicting, but one says there seems to be a Sunday-Monday window of 12-15 wind and 2-4 seas. If true, it's the best I could expect, so I think I'll give it a try.

To the small supermarket and bought fruit, then back to the boat. Wind much lighter in the late afternoon; it was blowing hard earlier.

Salad and cornedbeef-onion and a warm rum-and-coke for dinner.

Tons of wind and rain from 8:15 to 8:30. Then the wind slowly spun all of us in a 360, so I had to watch to make sure I didn't swing too close to anyone.
  3/29/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor in East End Bay.

Couldn't hear Chris Parker's weather forecast again this morning; frustrating.

So, here's the plan: head up to Spanish Town, get Wi-Fi and see what the weather forecasts say. If good to cross to St Martin, check out at Customs in Spanish Town (they close at 12:30), and leave tomorrow morning. If bad forecasts, go somewhere else. In either case, enjoy some Wi-Fi and get some more diesel.

The Customs wrinkle is a pain; if it wasn't for that, I'd nose out tomorrow morning and try going anyway, and see what conditions felt like. But I have to commit today to go/no-go tomorrow, and if I check out today and then don't go tomorrow, I have to get out of the BVI and back to the USVI fairly quickly, or risk getting caught in the BVI and fined. Or pay another $20 or so to check back into the BVI, for another week. Can't stay more than another week or so, because a $200 temporary-import fee kicks in if you stay more than 30 days total.

Checked battery water, drained some water out of first fuel filter, cleaned engine intake strainer.

Anchor up at 7:40 and motored east. Very rough and pretty windy; discouraging. Tempted to give up on Spanish Town (and thus St Martin), but I kept going. Across the big channel and anchored by 9:55 outside Spanish Town. Took two tries to get the anchor where I wanted it; this place is a bit confusing.

Very rolly here today; this anchorage sucks.

Dumped 6 gallons of diesel from jug into fuel tank.

Launched dinghy, and just then a big wake came along and made it swing violently on the davits. Five minutes later, a ferry came right through the anchorage, but the big wake didn't do any damage.

Went ashore. Straight to the dockmasters building, where they have weather forecasts posted. Today's NWS forecast looks bad: seas will have a brief 4-6 foot spell Sunday night and Monday morning, but the wind will be E 15-20. Other than that, seas are 6+ feet. Wind is supposed to dip briefly late today, I think. Looks like my window for going to St Martin has closed.

Into the marine store, used the book-exchange, and tried to do Wi-Fi. But the signal is very weak today. Grabbed a dangling Ethernet cable and got connected that way. But didn't do it too long; if they saw me, they'd probably charge me the $20/hour rate as if I was using their PC; Wi-Fi use is free.

WindGuru and other forecasts seem to confirm that there is no window to go to St Martin. The possible-sounding forecast I heard the other day turns out to be for Puerto Rico. WindGuru for St Martin says seas will be 6+ feet through Tuesday, 9+ after that. Wind 17 (which I interpret as 15-20) through Tuesday, 20+ after that. NWS Tropical N Atlantic forecast (which covers a wide area) says "This Afternoon Through Mon NE to E winds 15 to 20 kt. Seas 8 to 10 ft in NE swell subsiding to 7 ft Mon." and getting worse after that.

Bought a loaf of bread in the grocery store, and then to the fuel dock for 10.2 gallons of diesel ($49.27; that's $4.83/gallon ! Maybe the guy wrote down the quantity wrong and it's 11.2 gallons, which would be $4.40/gallon ? I think that's what happened.). Back out to the boat.

Ate lunch while listening to Car Talk (poor reception) and deciding where to go. Up to Savannah, down to the Baths for snorkeling, across to Trellis, back to East End, way down to Deadman ? While I was loafing, a catamaran came through with a pretty woman on the bow.

Decided to go to Deadman Bay. Ironic: after buying all this diesel to motor east, will sail west.

Anchor up at 1:10; a chore in breezy, rolly conditions. Motored just long enough to get out of the anchorage and unfurl the jib, then shut off the motor and sailed. Wish I had a mainsail, but mine is in shreds. Doing 2.5 knots at first, then 3 knots for a good while, then back to the 2.5 range. Fairly rolly; that seems to be my fate everywhere. Saw a nice sailboat in the distance, sailing upwind.

By 4, speed had dropped to 1.8 knots, so I started the engine, furled the jib, and motored into the anchorage. Anchor down by 4:50 at Deadman Bay on Peter Island. Not as many boats here as I expected, but a few more showed up later to spend the night. And a bit of swell curling in to roll us, but not too bad. Bummer: NPR reception here is terrible; thought it would be okay.

Read a magazine article saying that megayacht captains often have to bribe dockmasters in popular marinas to get slips at popular times, paying thousands of dollars, sometimes $5K or more. That made me feel better.

Salad and PBJ sandwiches for dinner. Rain at 6.
  3/30/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor in Deadman Bay.

Loafed all morning, then felt headachey and loafed all afternoon. Weather didn't seem any better for going east than any other day this week.

Plenty of boats coming in and out during the day, and some adventures in anchoring. A 51-foot Moorings sailboat (although it said home port was "Nice") anchored several times a bit behind me, then I paid more attention as they put out a second anchor near where my anchor was. Soon they had managed to pull themselves up alongside me, and much too close. Three guys and two pretty women aboard, and they sounded maybe Russian or Polish to me. Then they were raising anchor again, and suddenly they were backing right into my starboard side, fast, about to T-bone me ! I ran up and yelled, and the guy at the helm looked back and slammed the shifter from reverse to forward and gunned the engine, and the boat pulled away after coming within 3 feet or so of ramming me. I think he had thought it was in forward gear, and kept throttling up, not understanding why the boat wasn't going forward.

They anchored several more times, with a swimmer in the water and positioning the two anchors, before finally getting into a reasonable place. There was a fair amount of open room at the time, but I think their problem was that the holding here sucks, and they couldn't get anchors to stick. I'm probably held in place mainly by the weight and friction of anchor and all the chain I have out (about 200 pounds total), and also I went as far into the shallowest water as I could go without violating the swim area.

Noticed later that the "Nice" boat has four fenders hanging off the port side and one off the starboard; sailing around with fenders still out is considered "gauche" by many. So I guess it really is a charter boat.

Another boat with a pretty woman on it.

Chicken-onion-rice and warm rum-and-coke for dinner. Used canned chicken.

Around 6:15, the dinghy with the three guys and two pretty women from the nearby "Nice" boat came out from the hotel beach; I guess they'd gone ashore for drinks and dinner and such. Anyway, the women took a quick dip, the guys started raising anchors, and they motored out of the harbor. Very strange to do it just before sunset, and they didn't seem to be hurrying. From the direction, they must be going around the corner to the nearby anchorages on this island, Great Harbour and Little Harbour. But they're both tricky places to anchor well, with deep water and circling wind. Hope they get there before dark and get set.

Wind blew hard at times during the night; went on deck after midnight to investigate a noise, and it was blowing pretty hard. (Guess I'm trying to justify wimping out on trying for St Martin, but it really does look like I made the right decision.)
  3/31/2008 (Monday)
At anchor in Deadman Bay.

Blowing hard today, and I can see boats pitching heavily as they go east past the anchorage.

A reader asked for more scenery-type pictures, so here are a couple (big pictures): from Deadman Bay toward Tortola looking NNW and a little later looking NNE. But in general it's hard to take a picture of the ocean or an island or an anchorage, and have the picture come out looking interesting. An aerial view would work better; sorry, I'm not going to climb the mast just for that.

Did a bucket of laundry. Dumped 5.5 gallons of diesel from a jug into the fuel tank.

As of 11, haven't seen any race coming up the channel; I thought the BVI Regatta was starting today.

Looking at my position, I think I've slid back 10 or 20 feet or so in the 1.5 days I've been here. The holding here is terrible, mostly grass on the bottom.

Had hoped to have a nice swim in the afternoon, but it's cool and blowing hard and grey clouds are starting to come over. And it's getting pretty rolly here.

Aft toilet has been leaking a little; tightened various bolts and it seems better.

Raised anchor at 3:55 and motored out. Very rough and windy. Went 3/4 mile or so down the coast of Peter Island and into Great Harbour. As I expected, lots of boats are hunkering down here. A few big ones anchored out in the middle, in water 60+ feet deep, and smaller ones around the edges, finding any shallower water they can. I head all the way into the SE corner, which is the most sheltered and should have the best anchoring, but might be full. But I get in fairly close to the beach and there's room, although the water's still 30+ feet deep. Anchor down by 4:25 at Great Harbour.

I'm a bit uncomfortable here; deep water makes for short scope on the anchor rode. Maybe I should have gone closer in to the beach, but if I get back-winded (possible here), I'd end up against the beach. But I'm glad no one is upwind of me. The boat back off my port quarter is in a strange place, close to shore to get the anchor in shallow water, but in danger of having the wind blow them ashore.

I'm not looking forward to raising anchor tomorrow. Let's see, when I get right over the anchor, I'll be lifting 30 feet of chain at 1.6 pounds/foot plus a 45-pound anchor; that's 93 pounds. I could use the manual anchor windlass, but I haven't used it in a while, and it's very slow, which is a pain in windy, rough conditions with other boats downwind of me. Better just to haul up the anchor by hand and get it done quickly. And exercise is good.

Soon a catamaran comes in and tries to anchor well off my starboard bow, but can't get the anchor to stick. They go back a couple of ranks and anchor in the deeper water.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.

Decent NPR reception when the radio is in the aft cabin; I've been missing NPR.

The fun started after 10:15 or so: big squall or front came through, with lots of gusty wind behind it. I ran up into the cockpit and started the engine, in case my anchor dragged. The wind had blown my hanging anchor light up onto the pilothouse roof, so I fixed that. My anchor held, but then I saw that the charter sailboat back off my port quarter, the one anchored very close to shore, is in trouble. I think they were getting blown sideways against the coral in the shallows along the shore. They backed away and got the anchor up and started trying to re-anchor.

The rain stopped and the wind eased slightly, but I let the engine run and stayed in the cockpit, watching to make sure my anchor stayed put, and watching the other boat trying to re-anchor. They tried again and again to get back into their original position, but just could not get the anchor to hold. Fortunately, they have plenty of maneuvering room, no boats near them, and are well behind me, so no threat to me. Still, motoring around at night is confusing and dangerous, and not every boat here has an anchor light on. I make sure my anchor light is very visible so they know where I am.

After 15 minutes or so, I shut off my engine. But I stay in the cockpit, watching the other boat try again and again to re-anchor, now further off shore. The wind has eased enough so I can here them calling between helm and bow every now and then, and they're calm and controlled and have flashlights and spotlight and everything. But they just can not get an anchor to hold.

As they try and try, I'm tempted to call them on the radio and advise them to head upwind, nose right into the beach, and drop anchor there. But giving advice is dangerous, and besides, that's my emergency plan. And I don't want them upwind of me.

I go back below around 11. Around 11:45, I pop back up and they're still having anchor problems ! By midnight, I think they're stable, but still on deck checking things.

Wind stayed strong and gusty all night, the gusts getting stronger.
  4/1/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor in Great Harbour.

Wind strong (17-20 ?) all the time, and howling (25-30 ?) in the gusts. It's amazing how wildly those charter monohull sailboats sail around at anchor.

I check my range, and my anchor didn't budge at all last night. Not bad for such lousy scope: about 95 feet of chain over 30 feet of water and 6 feet of freeboard at the bow: that's scope of 95/36 = 2.6 to 1. Something like 5 to 1 is more reasonable.

I had hoped to try a few anchorages I've never been to, such as Key Cay on the south side of Peter Island, or Salt Island Bay on Salt Island. But with this weather, I don't think I'll be doing any snorkeling, and I want the most sheltered anchorage, with some pretty women and NPR and maybe some Wi-Fi. That means Cane Garden Bay.

The two charter monohulls behind me left at 8:45. So now I'll have plenty of room to slide back while raising anchor. But I'm in no hurry.

Wind blowing hard, more steadily.

Raised anchor by 9:50, managing it without any damage to my almost-50-year-old body. Motored out, getting some rain that blew right up into the back of the pilothouse.

Out into the open water of the Drake Channel, and it's rough and windy ! Fortunately, I'm going mostly downwind. At first, I'm going across the channel a bit, so it's rolly. But then I turn straighter downwind, and big swells keep coming from behind and lifting the whole boat up. I'm getting an extra 1 or 2 knots most times. I see what must be the regatta (big pic), off Nanny Cay.

As I approach Soper's Hole, I'm doing 7.2 knots, almost an extra 3 knots over what the throttle setting should be giving me. The boats going the other way are really pitching heavily (pic).

I turn in at 11:15, and see that Soper's Hole is jammed with boats, with big ones anchored outside; I guess everyone's hiding from the weather. Across the face of the hole and make the next turn at 11:20, to go up the west side of Tortola. Now I'm going mostly upwind and against the big swells, and speed drops to 2 to 2.5 knots. Later, it gets up to about 3 knots. A long, slow slog. Not quite as bad here as it was down in the Drake Channel, but pretty bad.

Into the anchorage and anchor down by 12:55 at Cane Garden Bay, Tortola. Nice here; I expected a swell to be curving in, but it's calm.

Got a little Wi-Fi, then launched the dinghy and went ashore. Nice walk on the beach. Fair number of pretty women, including one in a thong bikini. Funny T-shirt. Sat and read my book for a while, then back to the boat.

Did a little more Wi-Fi. Placed a bid on a Autohelm 3000 Autopilot on EBay.

Salad and chili and a warm rum-and-coke for dinner.

Crap ! Just before sunset, suddenly something changed and a swell started coming in. Rolly all evening and all night. Didn't sleep well.
  4/2/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor in Cane Garden Bay.

Mostly grey morning. Rained hard several times before 9 AM. Rolly.

Chris Parker's weather seems to say it will be rough (too rough to go east) for the next 7 days at least.

Rain at 10:40 and 10:55 and 12:30. Stayed rolly all day, too.

Dinghied ashore around 2 and went for a nice walk on the beach. Some pretty women again today. Read my book for a while, walked the beach again, read again. Sprinkled a little rain once or twice, and was mostly cloudy all afternoon.

Then gave a lift to a guy who was trying to get back out to his charter boat; the dinghy was out at the boat and he couldn't get the attention of anyone to come in and pick him up. Good timing for me: five minutes after I got back to my boat and finished stowing everything, it poured rain briefly at 4:15. Bad timing for him: everyone from his boat was coming back ashore in the dinghy and got soaked.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.

Rain at 5:30, 5:45, 6:15, and several times during the night. Not very rolly, and I slept like a log.
  4/3/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor in Cane Garden Bay.

Grey morning. Rain at 7:10.

Grey all morning, but the beach was hopping by 10. I guess when people pay big bucks to be here, they're going to be on the beach unless it's actually raining.

Dinghied ashore after lunch, and had a nice walk on the beach. More pretty women today. Read my book for a while, looked up around 2 PM, and the beach was mostly empty ! Where did everybody go ? Chatted with a local guy, and he said their cruise ship was leaving at 5 from Road Harbour, so they all had to go. All the beach vendors are packing up and leaving, too. Still a few pretty women left.

Had another walk, read a bit, then back to the dinghy dock. Dinghy had about 2 inches of water in the bottom; I guess somehow the surge had pinned it bow-first against the dock and then come in over the stern. Out to the boat, pulled the plug on the transom, and quickly got out and hoisted the dinghy a few inches so the water ran out of the drain-hole; no bailing. Felt smart.

Salad and saffronrice-onion and a warm rum-and-coke for dinner.
  4/4/2008 (Friday)
At anchor in Cane Garden Bay.

Chris Parker's weather forecast said there might be a window to go to St Martin next Tues-Wed: wind about E 12, seas about 5 feet. He says the seas right now are 10 to 12 feet, in the open ocean. VHF WX agrees, and says wind is E 20-25 today. Glad I'm in this harbor.

Dinghied ashore after lunch. Disposed of garbage, walked down the beach and to the distillery (a glorified shack) and listened in on their sales pitch for a minute, looked unsuccessfully for anywhere to buy a loaf of bread. Read my book, walked on the beach. A smaller and older crowd than yesterday, but still a few pretty women. Back to the boat.

Beach pretty empty in the late afternoon.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Loud music from shore from 10:30 to 1:45, but it was good music.
  4/5/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor in Cane Garden Bay.

WindGuru forecast looks really good for going to St Martin next week.

Huge gusts (maybe 35+ knots) in the harbor this morning.

After lunch and Car Talk, dinghied ashore to the concrete dock and found a full gas station there; I don't think it was there last year. Diesel for same price as at East End Bay. Asked about groceries, and they said there's a supermarket behind the beach ! Didn't see it yesterday.

So across the harbor (straight into 25+ wind) and walked the street behind the beach again. Found a fork that had misdirected me yesterday, and found a decent grocery store that I had remembered from last year but not found yesterday. Bought bread and fruit. Walked on the beach; no pretty women today. Back to the boat.

Dinghied ashore again later, and walked on the beach and read a book.

Salad and chili for dinner.

Brief rain every half-hour or so, all night long.
  4/6/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor in Cane Garden Bay.

Cool, grey day. Added water to the batteries.

Dinghied ashore, and the sun came out. Nice walk on the beach, read my book, chatted with a group of charterers. Saw a few pretty women.

Salad and PB-crackers for dinner.
  4/7/2008 (Monday)
At anchor in Cane Garden Bay.

Anchor up at 6:20 and motored out. Rough and rolly around the NW corner of Tortola, as expected, but not too bad. I'm doing this today because I'm under a little schedule-pressure: weather will be good for going to St Martin on Wednesday/Thursday, my Immigration limit is Thursday, but a more-than-30-days boat-import fee of $200 kicks in Tuesday or Wednesday. So I'm planning to go to Trellis Bay today, Spanish Town early tomorrow (Tuesday) and check out, then spend an illegal night in Savannah Bay and leave for St Martin on Wednesday.

Saw a big sailboat leaving from White Bay. Even their mizzen-mast has 4 spreaders ! (pics)

Lots of low dark clouds and some light rain as I approached the anchorage. No rain when I got there, but the mooring balls don't have pennants (lines) on them. Maybe I could have wrestled a ball up and pried open the loop on top of it to run my line through, but it's too much hassle. So I anchored, by 8:25 at Monkey Point. More light rain 5 minutes later.

Watched several boats fumble with the moorings over the next hour or so; the lack of a pennant-and-eye on them is a real pain. One boat solidly hooked their boat-hook into the loop on top of the ball and had the boat-hook pulled out of their hands; that's what I was afraid of doing. Someone dove in from the boat to retrieve the hook from the loop, and then they went and anchored.

Blowing pretty hard by noon, with some gusts.

Went snorkeling, first under the boat to scrape the prop (didn't really need it) and then up by the rocks to see the fish. As I expected, visibility is poor and the wind is strong; didn't stay too long. But I did see some nice fish, including some 8-10 inch squid, and the couple of big groupers that hang around here.

Anchor up at 2:45 and motored east. Pretty strong current against me. Into harbor and anchor down by 3:40 in Trellis Bay. Interesting wooden sailboat anchored outside the entrance. (pics)

Salad and tuna-onion-rice (nourishing but not a taste sensation) and a warm rum-and-coke for dinner.

Wind fairly light all night; looks good.
  4/8/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor in Trellis Bay.

Blowing harder than I expected at dawn. Anchor up at 6:15 and motored out. Rough and rolly, wind blowing about 20, whitecaps, low dark clouds. I thought the weather was supposed to be clearing ! Took pictures looking back at Trellis Bay and Marina Cay.

Long slog across the channel to anchor by 8:00 outside Spanish Town. Rolly here, as usual.

Dumped 5 gallons of diesel from jug into tank.

Dinghied ashore to the marina. Disposed of garbage. Walked to the official dock and did Immigration and Customs, checking out. Was on pins and needles to make sure I wasn't going to be hit with the $200 temporary-boat-import fee; I think I'm one day short of triggering that. Sure enough, got out for a grand total of 75 cents ! And they said the $200 fee kicks in of you stay 30 days or more in one stretch; I can come back into the BVI in a few weeks for another 29 days, without triggering the fee (supposedly).

To the marine store for book-exchange and Wi-Fi. Had to use their Ethernet again; Wi-Fi too weak. Weather forecasts look good for going east tomorrow, but they don't quite explain what's happening here this morning.

To the grocery store (onions, cheese). Then the fuel dock. I guess I really did pay $4.80/gallon for diesel here a week ago, because today the price has gone up to $5.05/gallon ! Still worth it to have some extra margin in the tank when crossing the Anegada Passage. Got 10.6 gallons of diesel for $53.53. Back out to the boat.

I thought I had anchored pretty close to a channel marker, and no one could get between me and it. But someone did. Nice-looking sailboat too, a real sailing machine (unlike mine). Three roller-furled headsails, plus Dutchman or Max-Pack'd main and mizzen. Even a crow's nest.

Dumped 5.5 gallons of diesel from jug into tank. (I have two "5 gallon" jugs, one red for gasoline and one yellow for diesel. I like to have the yellow one full so I have a backup if the fuel tank fails for some reason. When fueling up, I use the red jug for diesel too, temporarily.)

Got a little Wi-Fi from the boat.

A big catamaran came in and anchored very close off my port stern quarter. Can't really complain, but if a big squall comes through in the night and my anchor drags, it will be bad. No need to anchor quite so close.

Salad and chili and a warm rum-and-coke for dinner.
  4/9/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor outside Spanish Town.

Anchor up at 8:50 in rolly conditions, and motored south toward The Baths. Got there and started out the gap between Virgin Gorda and Fallen Jerusalem, toward (to go north of) the shoal called The Blinders. Horrible stretch, huge swells and strong current and wind. Took me 10 minutes to go 300 yards or so; speed down to 2 knots or less most of the time. I hope the conditions will be a little better once past this place where the seas get funnelled through the gap.

Out into deeper, more open water, and conditions are still very bad. Larger, tighter-packed swells than I expected, plenty of chop, plenty of wind. Averaging about 2.4 knots at a throttle setting that would give me 4.5 or so in flat water. More up-and-down-and-slam than forward motion. Plenty of rolling, too.

Kept going for a while, wanting to give it a good try, but conditions didn't improve, and this means 32 hours or so to St Martin. So at 10 AM, gave up and turned west and immediately made 4.5 to 5 knots. Still very rolly, with big seas coming up the port aft quarter, rolling and slewing the boat around.

Headed for Round Rock Passage, but got confused about which rock was which. Actually passed in north of the rock instead of south of it, but still had clear water 35+ feet deep. Into Sir Francis Drake Channel at 10:30, and got a little protection from the island chain. Turned upwind and unfurled the jib, then motor-sailed WSW. Throttled way down and still made 5+ knots. Saw a nice sailboat.

Past Round Rock, Ginger Island, Cooper Island, Salt Island, Peter Island, The Indians, and across the border into the USVI's. North of Flanagan Island and then around the SE corner of St John. Finally into calm water, where I furled the jib and nosed up to shore. Anchor down by 1:25 at SE end of Round Bay, St John, USVI. Calm and lovely here.

So, I tried crossing the Anegada Passage to St Martin, and no joy this time. Have to put away my Leeward Island guidebooks, for now.

Felt tired all afternoon. Wind cycling around constantly. Saw a couple of the official mascots of St John: concrete mixer truck. Every day I've been anchored off this island, I've seen these trucks moving around; lots of construction going on.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
  4/10/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor in Round Bay, St John, USVI.

Anchor up at 8, unfurled the jib, and motor-sailed out. Maybe not quite as rough as it was yesterday, but close, and the horizon looks very lumpy. Around the SE corner of St John, along the south coast, around SW corner (lots of multi-million-dollar houses here), and up to Cruz Bay. Into the bay and anchor down by 10:20 at Cruz Bay.

Dinghied ashore to the Customs dock and checked in. Pretty easy: fill out two forms, show passport and boat documentation. They didn't ask about the $25 Customs decal, which I haven't bought the last two years (kept forgetting at first, and then started wondering why I needed it).

Moved the dinghy over to the general dock. Disposed of a small bag of garbage. Looked for a bar that used to have a book-exchange bookshelf, but it looks like the bar has been demolished and is being rebuilt into something else. To the library, and did an hour of internet ($2).

Back to the boat, and had lunch. Raised anchor at 1:10, left the harbor, and motor-sailed across the Sound; fairly rough and rolly as usual. No current either way at Current Cut. Furled the jib and anchor down by 1:50 in Christmas Cove. Nice here. Plenty of snorkelers as usual, although I've never found the snorkeling here to be very good.

Loafed all afternoon.

Argh ! Laptop's power connector appears to have died again !

Salad and cornedbeef-onion-noodle and a warm rum-and-coke for dinner.
  4/11/2008 (Friday)
At anchor in Christmas Cove.

PC power connector working this morning. May be on its last legs.

Ahh ! PC problem may be with power outlet in main cabin; easy to fix. [Although there's still a flakiness with the connector inside the laptop; sometimes when on AC adapter I have to jiggle it.]

Loafed all day, reading books. Just read a terrific book about Marine boot-camp (and the military in general), "Making The Corps" by Thomas Ricks.
"An old Pentagon joke hints at the different perspectives of the services: Each service is told to 'secure' a building. The Marine Corps wants to destroy it, the Army wants to establish a defensive perimeter, the Navy wants to paint it, and the Air Force wants to lease it for five years."
And "... there is no such thing as an ex-Marine, except for Lee Harvey Oswald."

In the afternoon, wind backed to NE, then strong from the N, as forecast. That's one reason I tried for St Martin on Wed/Thurs instead of Thurs/Fri; I didn't want to get caught 2/3 of the way when strong N arrived.

Salad and chili and rum-and-pineapple for dinner.
  4/12/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor in Christmas Cove.

From a magazine: nice way to stow a dinghy (tender).

Loafed all day, reading books and listening to NPR, including Car Talk.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
  4/13/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor in Christmas Cove.

Raised anchor at 8 and motored west to Benner Bay. Into the inner harbor and found my usual spot empty, just off the channel. But the tide must be low (although I don't see any indications of that), because I ran aground about 20 feet short of where I expected to. It's all soft mud, I think, so I had planned to run aground. Put the anchor down, didn't like where I was, raised it and ran as far up aground as I could and put the anchor back down. Swinging just out of the channel. Done by 8:45 at Benner Bay. This is one of those times where my shallow draft (3.5 feet) really pays off; any deeper, and I'd have to go anchor outside, where it's rough and a longer dinghy-ride.

Raised anchor at 11 and moved further forward; tide must be higher. Stern is just hanging into channel slightly, but shouldn't be a problem.

Dinghied ashore to Pirate's Cove marina. Disposed of garbage, used the book-exchange, did Wi-Fi. Chatted with Mario. Made a Skype phone call to Mom and got her answering machine, as usual. Ended up chatting with Mario and Wi-Fi-ing all afternoon. Went to the supermarket and got groceries; food prices have always been high here, and now they're even higher.

Headache. Salad and apple and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
  4/14/2008 (Monday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Very grey all day. Lots of rain from 11:20 to 1.

My stern was encroaching into the channel a little, so I pulled in some chain a couple of times, then worried that my anchor might drag. At 1:15, motored forward to see if I could move the anchor further forward, but quickly was aground. So I'd have to use the dinghy to put the anchor any further forward. Started raining a little more.

Around 11, sailboat "Gypsy Queen" went in and out a couple of times, then came in and ran aground a bit past me and on the far side of the channel; he tried a left turn in an inadvisable place. I felt a little guilty that my boat position might have nudged him that way a bit, but I don't think it really did.

Plenty more rain from 1:30 to 4:30. Dumped about 7 gallons of rainwater into jug and water tank.

Salad and chili and a warm rum-and-coke for dinner.

Rain from 7:30 until well after midnight.
  4/15/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

At 5:15, saw "Gypsy Queen" get free from being aground.

At 6:15, which is just about high tide, raised anchor and planted it 15 feet or so further forward. Now I'm just about completely out of the channel, but with enough chain out that I'm sure the anchor will hold. Comfortable.

Dumped a couple of gallons of rainwater into water tank.

Very grey morning, but a few little patches of blue, so a little better than yesterday.

Dinghied ashore early. Disposed of garbage and did Wi-Fi. Sent message to have replacement solar panels shipped here. Placed a bid on EBay on an auto-pilot.

Got sunny by 10 or so. Chatted with Mario and Gary for a while. Met and chatted with "Case", a guy I saw comming into the harbor yesterday evening. Turns out he's circumnavigated, and thus been to lots of interesting places and has lots of stories. Gary gave me some mail waiting for me: a couple of springs for my toilets.

Got groceries and back to the boat. Did a bucket of laundry.

In the afternoon, dinghied ashore to COmpass Point marina and went to the book-exchange in Patsy's Place. Chatted for a while with a guy from New Zealand who's another circumnavigator, and told me about rounding the Horn of Africa (which isn't very horn-shaped, it turns out). I told him I was trying to cross to St Martin to eventually get down to Trinidad, and he said why not cut the corner and go straight to Grenada ? I thought it was 900 miles or so from St Martin to Trinidad, but he says less (he's right; St Martin is about 18N, Trinidad about 10.5N, so that's about 450 NM).

Around 4:30, a sailboat went aground on the far side of the channel, directly behind me. They just flat went out of the channel. They put out anchors and pushed with dinghy; no luck. An hour later, a SeaTow boat came out and towed them off (stupidly: instead of pulling them mostly sideways a few feet into the channel, they towed them mostly forward all along and on top of the edge of the shoal).

Salad and PB-crackers for dinner.
  4/16/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Did some, and chatted with Gary and Mario, but then the AC power started going out for 15 minutes at a time (and apparently there was a long power-failure last night too). So bought 5 gallons of water (80 cents), and out to the boat.

Did a bucket of laundry.

Up onto the pilothouse roof and took off the non-working solar panel. Had to use the Dremel to get the mounting hardware off the panel; all of the bolts were rusted and frozen. My fault: I used cheap non-stainless hardware. I'm going to use all-wood to mount the panels again. And put them on the starboard side instead of port, to get better sun angle most of the year (in theory).

Back ashore in the afternoon. Bummer: WindGuru says there's a great window for going to St Martin next Tuesday: seas 3-4 and wind 6-9. But I have to stay here for a while.

Was in the marina at 2:45 when the FedEx truck pulled in, and sure enough, they were delivering my replacement solar panels! Wow, I sent the email telling them where to send the panels only yesterday morning. 28 hours from Scottsdale AZ to St Thomas ! Amazing.

I notice the shipping paperwork says their value is $730 (for two Kyocera 120W panels). I paid $900 for them 5+ years ago. Maybe prices have fallen slightly ? Or maybe they listed a discounted price since these are factory-refurbished panels.

Made a Skype call to my Mom and actually got her, not her answering machine ! Must be my lucky day; where's a lottery outlet ?

Back to the boat. Lots of fun hoisting the solar panels (package of two big panels) up from dinghy onto boat. The first time, I didn't have the dinghy tied tightly enough, and it started heading away from the boat and the panels started heading for the water. But the second time went better, and then I wrestled the box around the deck and into the pilothouse. Just big enough and heavy enough to be very awkward on deck.

Salad and chili and a warm rum-and-coke for dinner.
  4/17/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Up onto the pilothouse roof to Dremel rusted hinges off the second solar panel. Then pry the epoxied wood blocks off the top of the roof. Left the working panel lying down and still wired, so it still charges the batteries.

Dinghied ashore to the boatyard. Disposed of garbage, used the book-exchange, strolled through the yard to look at boats (believes more zincs are better, truly full-keel sailboat), went to the marine store. Geez, prices have gone up ! When I was here a year ago, T-105 golf-cart batteries were $95; now they're $149. The guy said the same thing has happened to stainless-steel prices. Bought four crimp-connectors ($9) for the solar wiring (fortunately, I had the foresight to buy the wire, over the internet, when I was in NJ). Went over to Pirate's Cove marina to do Wi-Fi.

Everybody here keeps complaining about the price of beer at the supermarket; apparently it's jumped 10-30 percent in the last couple of weeks.

Out to the boat for lunch, then tackled the solar panels. Opened the shipping box, and had to move it out onto the foredeck to get enough room to slide the panels out. Blowing fairly hard this afternoon, so every sheet of box or packing tried to fly away. Crimped connectors onto the new stretch of wiring. Lifted the new panels onto the roof.

Took apart the wiring of the old panels, connected up the new panels one at a time and checked that each was putting out current, then wired them in parallel. Turned them over so they're getting sun, then took the old panels off the roof and put them into the shipping box and taped it shut. Whole operation took about 2.5 hours. Still not done: I have to make permanent mounts for the new panels; right now they're just lying on top of the roof.

Salad and PB-banana for dinner.
  4/18/2008 (Friday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Started the refrigerator at 6:15; seems to be cooling down okay. Will be nice to have cold food and drink again.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Chatted with the guys.

Back to boat for lunch. Dremel'd the hinges off the wood blocks for mounting the solar panels.

Ashore and to the supermarket. $40 for a couple of small bags of groceries (fair amount of meat in that). Out to the boat and loaded up the refrigerator.

Back ashore for some Wi-Fi and conversation. Wanted to ship out the old solar panels, but I couldn't confirm the details in time to schedule a pickup.

Salad and spaghetti and a cold rum-and-coke for dinner. Living the high life !

Refrigerator is running continuously; had to get up every half-hour all night to turn it on or off, to keep it from seriously draining the batteries.
  4/19/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi and chat with the guys.

Back to boat for lunch. Dremel'd more hinges off the wood blocks for mounting the solar panels.

Back ashore for Wi-Fi and conversation. Used Autohelm 3000 on EBay went for $407; too rich for me.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
  4/20/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

More work on the wood blocks for the solar panel mounts. And tried patching the cracked battery case with Permatex "Plastic Weld" that Mario gave me. Listened to Car Talk.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Was chatting, and the guys said the slips here (in a pretty junky little marina) cost $750/month (regardless of boat size), plus electric and water. Kiwi was showing some guy's boat to a 27-year-old guy who was interested in buying it. Mario was ragging on the buyer a bit, figuring he was heading for a disaster. Later I was trying to give the guy a little advice, such as my usual line about how it's a lot easier to buy a boat than to sell one. A lot of guys here buy a boat so they can live on it cheaply, then find they have nowhere reasonable to anchor it, or something changes and they have to sell it in a hurry or abandon it, or the boat's in bad shape and they don't have the money to fix it, or something. Apparently this particular boat has been sold four times in the last couple of years, and come back to the original owner each time. For one thing, it has a 5.5-foot draft, which is a killer in this harbor.

To the supermarket for groceries. Jeez, the cheapest breakfast cereal here is $5/pound; most of it is $7/pound. I think I'll switch to fruit for breakfast; bananas are $1/pound and apples are $2/pound.

Salad and chicken-onion-rice and rum-and-coke for dinner.

Just before and after dark, a series of four speedboats driven by local guys came roaring into harbor. Very dangerous in the dark; lots of slow dinghy-traffic goes out that channel. At least you can hear these boats coming half a mile away. [Someone told me later that there was a big speedboat race nearby this weekend.]
  4/21/2008 (Monday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Going a little bit aground in the early morning; the wind is about 1 knot but from the N instead of the usual E, so the boat swung around into slightly shallower water and the (tiny) tide is going out. Launched the dinghy at about 4:30 and tried to push the boat around toward deeper water, but it wouldn't move. Not really a problem. Meant to put out a stern anchor yesterday to hold myself in place, but got lazy and didn't do it.

Dinghied ashore and called FedEx through Skype. Scheduled a pickup of the old solar panels, but they wouldn't specify to a time, so I have to sit here all day until they come. Back out to the boat, hauled the box of old panels down into the dinghy, and took it ashore.

Wow, a used Autohelm 3000 on EBay went for $600 ! Madness.

Back to the boat for a quick lunch, then back ashore to keep waiting for the FedEx guy. He showed up at 1:45, but wasn't really a FedEx guy, instead sort of a glorified taxi guy, and he didn't have the form needed to take the box. So he'll be back today or tomorrow.

A different, real FedEx guy showed up around 2:15 and the box got sent out.

Lots of work chipping and sanding the wood blocks for the solar mounts.

Salad and cheese sandwiches for dinner.

Boat floated free at 5:45, so I put out a stern anchor. And it kept me from going aground again during the night.
  4/22/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Worked on the wood blocks for a while, sanding and cleaning. Tried sawing a slot into one of them, and it's going to be tough work.

Ashore after an early lunch. Yesterday, Dan had offered me the use of a table-saw. So today I asked to take him up on the offer, and he said he'd have to arrange it, but then Gary said he had a table-saw right here in the marina. I had my wood blocks with me in the dinghy, so we went right over and fired up the saw. He left me to it, and the saw made short work of the blocks. Finished with the same number of fingers that I started with.

The solar panels I sent yesterday arrived at destination in Arizona in less than 18 hours.

Got a few groceries at the supermarket and out to the boat. Worked on wood blocks for a while, sanding them.

Sailboat went aground in the channel, maybe 5 feet left of the centerline. They got free in 30 minutes or so.

Salad and spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

A couple of speedboats driven by local guys came roaring into harbor before sunset. The first one slowed as he reached the inner harbor, but the second was going even faster, passed him, and kept flying in way up until about even with the Pirate's Cove fuel dock. Ridiculously dangerous, and waking everyone in the anchorage and the marinas.
  4/23/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Worked on fitting the wood blocks under the solar panels on the pilothouse roof. Had to fiddle with it a bit, since the roof has curves and humps and hollows in it. Got it mostly right, then started epoxying the blocks together.

Sailboat went aground right in the middle of the channel, but got free in five minutes or so.

Dinghied ashore at noon; it's hot today.

Found that one of the guys I've been chatting with, "Woody", is the owner of the dinghy I think has the funniest name I've seen: "Row vs.s Wade".

Did more epoxy work on the wood blocks for the solar panels.

Salad and cheese sandwiches for dinner.

Rain before sunset, and the light wind shifted to the S and SW, which is a bad direction for me: presses me sideways, putting a lot of strain on my stern anchor, and sliding me uncomfortably close to the small sailboat next to me. Light rain blowing sideways through the cockpit; had to close the main hatch, which I almost never do.
  4/24/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Up early to paint some of the wood blocks for the solar panels. Job is going slowly because I need to keep all the different pieces straight, so I can't just yank them all down into the cockpit and do them all in one batch.

Another sailboat aground on the far side of the channel, around 9:15, but a skiff came out and got them off pretty quickly.

Dinghied ashore to the marine store, and bought springs for the forwardtoilet ($4). Over to the marina, and Mario offered to take me on a ride in his jeep to a warehouse store. So we stashed my computer at his room and took off. A bit of a white-knuckle ride: the springs are very stiff, the roads here are bumpy and full of potholes, the jeep has no doors, and the seat has only a lap-belt. Only instrument on the dashboard is a non-working speedometer. But he's a good driver. Went to the KMart in TuTu Mall, then to CostULess, where I bought $130 worth of groceries. Prices are just about 1/2 of those at the supermarket in Benner Bay. $2.50/pound for granola, 89 cents/can for tuna, etc. Not bad at all. Could go back soon for another load. Was limited this time by the size of a shopping-cart, and the jeep's "trunk".

Back to the marina, and was met by Glenn from Tennessee. Took him and the groceries out to the boat, and chatted for a while. Took him back ashore, and back to the boat for some lunch and some more messing with the solar mountings. Saw a potential waterspout (big pic) trying to form down from a cloud in the distance; it's out over the ocean behind the hill.

Ashore at 2 for Wi-Fi. Started raining shortly afterward. I was chatting with Mario, and he told me in the 60's he did a hitchhiking and train trip around the Mediterranean, and then went to Iran. He was in Istanbul, Greece, Italy (where he started from, he was working there), Barcelona, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, etc. Amazing.

Salad and chicken-onion-rice and rum-and-coke for dinner.

Wind blowing from SW again; supposed to change to normal E or ESE tomorrow night. Will be nice to get back to having my bow pointing into the wind.
  4/25/2008 (Friday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Damp, humid, grey, still morning. Slight wind mostly from S or SW.

Epoxied a row of wood blocks onto the pilothouse roof for the solar panels.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Ordered a timer to cycle the refrigerator on and off ($11 plus $7 shipping). I'm starting to think the thermostat is okay but the fridge isn't getting cold enough; got it down to 31 degrees F the other day after a lot of running time. Will try sliding it out a bit to get more ventilation, and see if that helps.

Everyone complaining about the muggy, still weather. Rain at 12:15, just as I was about to go back out to the boat for lunch.

Cut and bent one of the new springs and installed it on the forward toilet. Needs a little more shaping. Also unbolted the refrigerator and slid it out about 6 inches, to get more ventilation. But on these hot, humid, still days with the boat all closed up to keep out rain, it gets pretty hot inside the boat.

Back ashore for some more Wi-Fi, and to get some groceries.

Salad and cheese sandwiches and rum-and-coke for dinner.

Very buggy by 6 or so; mosquitoes and no-see-ums drove me below.
  4/26/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Finally started getting back to normal weather around 8 AM: sunny and wind from E or ESE. But by 10 it was grey and more N and lighter again.

Fit and epoxied more wood blocks for the solar panels.

Listened to Car Talk, then ashore for Wi-Fi. Got rid of an AC-toaster-oven I've been carrying around unused for the last 7 years. Got rid of an AC coffee-maker yesterday.

Mario was going off to KMart and offered to take me, so we went. I bought groceries at Plaza Extra, he bought cases of Heineken at KMart, and back home without getting rained on.

Salad and chicken-onion-beans-noodles and rum-and-coke for dinner.

Heavy rain starting at 9:45. More starting at 11:45. Yet more somewhere in the early AM. Killed a cockroach in my berth.
  4/27/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Mostly grey and damp morning, but some N breeze. Did more epoxying and sanding of wood blocks for the solar panels, then ashore for Wi-Fi.

Back to boat for lunch and Car Talk, then ashore again. Starting to research roller-furlers for the mainsail; either a ProFurl NC-32 or Harken MKIV Unit 0. [Whoops; somehow I got the impression that they were both made by Harken, but not true.]

Painted lots of wood blocks for the solar panels.

Salad and apple and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Rain starting at midnight. Some lightning in the beginning.
  4/28/2008 (Monday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Around 4 AM, it started blowing a little harder from the NE, and there was a lot of strain on my stern anchor. So I went on deck and let out a bit more rode. Five minutes later, disaster: the knot connecting the two lengths of rode came undone, and I'm swinging freely. Worse, the anchor will be hard to find: this water is murky, and the line is dark and will sink (I hope; don't want it drifting into the channel and snagging someone's prop). And the anchor is valuable (CQR 35).

So I launch the dinghy in the dark and use the oar (with handle extended) to see if I can scrape the bottom and snag the missing rode (and anchor). I try for half an hour, and no luck. Will have to snorkel it during the day.

Back onto the boat, and I start the engine. Motor forward a bit, hoping to go aground gently and thus have a fixed position. But it's not far from high tide, and the tide is falling, so I don't really get aground, and don't want to go firmly aground.

I get a mild shock from something at the helm binnacle, and find that when the instrument-light switch is on, there's a 12V potential between the throttle handle and the steering wheel. Lovely.

Total power failure ashore at around 5:30.

Out in the dinghy a couple of times after dawn, dragging for the lost anchor and rode. Finally snagged it around 8; the knot in the end of rode was the only thing that made it "catchable". Adjusted the anchor rodes and put out the stern anchor again. But boat is aground.

Sunny and breezy from E this morning; looks like we have our normal weather back. Still a little damp from last night's rain.

Around 9, boat floated free for some reason. Tide should have been falling for 4 hours or so, although it fell only an inch or so, probably.

Worked on wood blocks a little; paint still drying. Did a bucket of laundry. Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi.

Signed up for medical insurance with IMG: worldwide coverage for "marine crew" who spend more than 6 months of each year outside USA. Costs $1400/year for coverage with a $1000 deductible. They have to approve it, and then I have 15 days to change my mind. I've been without medical insurance since quitting work in 2001.

Whoops: Gary, who's an ex-rigger, says the roller-furlers I'm looking at may not work for a mainsail, which is what I need. Makes sense: a jib-furler goes on the forestay, which is angled; the main-furler goes up a vertical halyard.

To the supermarket. Bought bread. Decided I've been living too high; instead of the $7/fifth rum, this time I bought the $4/fifth rum.

To the boat for lunch, and some work on the solar stuff.

Back ashore. Bought $10 of gasoline ($4.11/gallon). Did Wi-Fi. Rain at 2:40. Harken says their furlers don't work for behind-mast mainsails.

Salad and chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Wanted to try the stern-rail grill, but the knob is missing and I couldn't get the hose fittings to mate. It's been a year or two since I last used it.
  4/29/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Up on top of the pilothouse and epoxied down the second row of blocks, and added another round of epoxy to the first row of blocks. Went well, despite fairly high wind. I'll let it set for a day, then another round of epoxy, then painting.

Dinghied ashore after lunch for Wi-Fi. Bummer: looks like I can't do that particular medical insurance; PR and USVI are considered USA, and the policy requires I be out of USA at least 6 of every 12 months. Made a Skype call to my Mom and chatted with her.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  4/30/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Up onto pilothouse roof and did another round of epoxy on the wood blocks.

Etched the outboard cowling with the Dremel and then painted in the etchings, to display boat name and number, to try to deter outboard theft. Will have to do the same on the body of the motor in a couple of places. Pic.

Dinghied ashore after lunch for Wi-Fi. Lots of guys in the marina; lots of conversation.

Salad and spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  5/1/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Up onto the pilothouse roof. Wanted to paint, but found spots where I removed the old wood blocks and needed some epoxy to seal cracks. So I epoxied, and the painting will have to wait until tomorrow.

Painted boat name and number on the propane tank, and Dremel-etched the number onto a couple of parts of the outboard motor and then painted in the etched numbers. Hard to keep the paint in place on such small characters. Pic.

Hey, saw the refrigerator thermostat working ! Maybe the fridge just hasn't been getting cold enough. Today there was a good cool breeze blowing through the boat; because of rain last week, had to keep the hatches shut and it was hot inside.

Dinghied ashore after lunch for Wi-Fi and conversation. Rained briefly several times.

Salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.
  5/2/2008 (Friday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Dinghied ashore early. Did a little Wi-Fi. Then Mario took me out to TuTu Mall to do some grocery-shopping in Plaza Extra ($95). Took groceries out to the boat, then back ashore. Dark cloud hanging over the harbor and sprinkling a little rain, so I can't paint on the pilothouse roof this morning.

Took Mario out for a spin in the dinghy, to go to the other two book-exchanges in the harbor, and look around a bit. Halfway through our trip, we did our good deed for the day. A big red sailboat had gone aground in the usual place. Pushing their bow didn't work, taking a halyard out didn't work, but pushing their stern sideways worked very well.

Out to the boat for lunch, then sanded and painted on the pilothouse roof. Then back ashore to do Wi-Fi and wait for the postman to come by. Found out they tried to deliver my refridge-timer a couple of days ago, supposedly left a notice, and will send it back to originator if they can't deliver it soon.

Postman never came. To the supermarket to buy a whole roast chicken ($6); "Kiwi" was eating one at lunchtime and it looked scrumptious. Out to the boat and ate half of the chicken and a rum-and-coke for dinner; delicious.
  5/3/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Grey, still morning. So I decided to try walking to Red Hook, for exercise and to use the book-exchange. Thought I was being clever by dinghying ashore to Compass Point marina, which is further in that direction in this harbor. But it backfired: turns out the entrance road winds around a lagoon and over a hill; added an extra half-mile and a hill to each direction of my walk. Took a picture looking back at Benner Bay.

But got up over the hill (picture looking down at Red Hook) and down to Red Hook, walking along with a guy from charter-boat "Wanderbird". As I expected, the biggest challenge was that there are no sidewalks.

Found the marina office and a nice book-exchange. Exchanged 10 books and got a few magazines, too. Wandered through the marina a bit (why do people put such huge motors on (skiffs ?), and looked out at the (crowded) anchorage and mooring field. Could have caught a "safari" back home for $1, but wanted more exercise, so I walked home. Saw a nice house in Benner Bay. About 4 miles round-trip.

Boat well aground, and a nearby houseboat swinging close to me. But nothing I can do, and we won't quite collide.

Put the solar panels in place on the pilothouse roof; still need to figure some way to keep the movable blocks in place. Ate lunch and listened to Car Talk, and this week the "puzzler winner" was my sister in Indiana ! Just about fell over when I heard her name on the radio.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Cats in the marina.

Hey ! Postwoman came at 2:15 or so, and had my package with the timer for my refrigerator.

Salad and cold roast chicken and noodles and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  5/4/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

This is my 7-year anniversary of owning and living on Magnolia ! Took possession of Magnolia on 5/4/2001 in Key Largo. Have been living aboard and cruising ever since, except for a couple of "vacations from the boat" each year.

Cleaned up the boat and then dinghied ashore for Wi-Fi. Home away from home: the "shop" part of Pirates Cove Marina, where I do my Wi-Fi-ing.

Used Autohelm 3000 on EBay went for $425; I stopped bidding at $325. My Powerball lottery ticket didn't win ($179 million), so I guess I won't be upgrading to a bigger boat.

I'm starting to wonder if this timer I bought is the right thing. I sent them email before buying, saying I wanted a 50% duty-cycle, but I think I may have gotten something that just pulses every N minutes, not a N-on-then-N-off cycle.

Took Mario on a dinghy-ride down to the west end of the harbor, which I've never been to. Plenty of derelict and semi-derelict boats down there. Then to my boat for wine and cheese-and-crackers for lunch. Had a nice conversation, and between us we just about killed a 1.5-liter bottle of 2007 California Pinot Grigio. Back ashore at 2 PM, feeling fairly tipsy while driving the dinghy. Rain at 2:20.

Headache developing. Back to the boat and laid down. Salad and a little granola for dinner. Feel lousy.

Around 9, my stomach decided to get rid of the wine and dinner. Felt better afterwards.
  5/5/2008 (Monday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Dinhied ashore and did a little Wi-Fi, bought 10 gallons of water ($1.60), then off for a little grocery-shopping with Mario. He's hurting this morning; not only did he drink wine with me at lunchtime yesterday, but then he came ashore and drank Heinekens, then went out drinking with some friends in the evening.

To the boat for lunch. Must be a very low tide today; lots of boats are well aground and sticking high out of the water, including mine. I'm probably up 8-10 inches. Turns out it's a new moon, and the tidal range today is about 16 inches versus the usual 10 or so.

Back ashore. Made the mistake of stopping to say hi to "Kiwi" on the way; he was sitting with his legs over the side of his boat, and I wondered if he needed a ride ashore. Instead he started a long rant about idiots hanging out in the bar ashore here, and segued into a narrative of his circumnavigation. Apparently he was dismasted four times, rebuilt the engine four times, replanked his boat (a Herreschoff 50-something; big pics) for more than a year in South Africa, had the sails replaced/repaired many times at great expense. Finally I said I had to do stuff ashore, and got away from him.

Got email from the timer people, and later re-read the instructions, and I think it will work for my 50%-duty application. But I need a SPDT switch to control it the way I want to.

Salad and chili for dinner.

Boat floating free in the evening, so I launched the dinghy and took the stern anchor out quite a bit further. I want to crank down on it a bit, to pull me a little farther away from that nearby houseboat.
  5/6/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Heavy rain at 4:15 AM.

Loafed all morning. Boat is aground again today, but now houseboat isn't swinging too close. But now I'm aground heeling a bit (pic; feels worse aboard than it looks from the water), and slightly bow-down to boot. Awkward. One of my neighbors is even higher out of the water (pic).

Used an expensive new tungsten-carbide bit in the Dremel to grind away at the sheared-off bolts holding on the cap on the end of the boom. Made good progress, and got the top of the cap moving a little. Will do more tomorrow.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi and chat with the guys.
  5/7/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Got busy with the Dremel on the boom end-cap, and got it off ! Now I have to get the four bolt-ends out of the cap, and reach inside the end of the boom to get at the nuts/bolts that are the original source of the problem. The track on top of the boom sheared off a bolt and bent up from the boom. Pictures. Now I need to get a MAPP torch so I can get those bolt-ends out of there.

Was feeling lucky, so I pulled the refrigerator out all the way (pic) and found that the muffin-fan I added has died (again). So that may be the problem there.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. On the way in, thought I saw Cat In The Hat, but it was just a Rasta-man (pic).

Around noon, took Mario for a dinghy-ride. To Compass Point marina, and found Chris's sailboat and chatted with Chris a little. Found another book-exchange; this harbor has four of them ! Then to the marine store to look at switches, but didn't buy anything.

To the boat for lunch. Put power into the timer, and it works the way I want it to (50% duty cycle). Found a switch that will work.

Back ashore to do Wi-Fi and chat. Laptop power connector has been acting up again; the DC-fed one on the boat works fine, but the AC-fed one is very bad. May have to chop up wires to fix it.

A couple of people have suggested no furling on the mainsail; just hoist a sail. There's an old track on the back of the mast; forgot to measure it and look at what shape it's in.

Salad and spaghetti and a half-glass of wine and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  5/8/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

A grey, humid and breezey day; strange weather. I'm told it's a combination of Sahara dust and Montserrat dust.

Moved the refrigerator out a little more, got the electrical parts together, and figured out how I'm going to wire the timer and a bypass switch. But I need a few crimp-connectors I don't have.

Unbolted the bent tack-track (pic) from the end of the main boom; came off easily.

Measured the old sail-tracks (I assume they're original with the boat, and the old Schaefer wire-in-luff roller-furling was added on later). Turns out I have sail-tracks on backs of both mainmast and mizzenmast, and on tops of both booms, too. And Gary number 2 (in the marina there are two Gary's, and both are ex-riggers) said standard track widths are 3/4" and 1", but all of mine definitely are 7/8", so where does that leave me ? These tracks don't look all that sturdy to me, but I guess with enough sail-cars the strain would be spread out widely.

Dinghied ashore. To the marine store, where they say 7/8" is a standard size for sail-slides, but they don't have any of my type in stock. Their catalog confirms it, $4/slide for external 7/8" SS. Bought crimp-connectors; why are such simple little things so expensive ? 70 cents each for a little scrap of metal and plastic.

To the marina for Wi-Fi. Tried to buy some cheap computer fans online, but everyone wants exorbitant money for the shipping.

Out to the boat for lunch, and then wired up the timer and switch to the refrigerator (pics). Everything worked fine.

Back ashore for more Wi-Fi.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
  5/9/2008 (Friday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Made some cheesey little plastic housings to hold the timer and switch for the refrigerator; don't want them to sit on the cabin sole and get wet.

Did a bucket of laundry, even though it's fairly grey and humid again today.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Got 5 gallons of water ($1).

To the boat for lunch. Weaved a line around the solar-panel blocks to hold them in place.

Back ashore for the afternoon.

To the supermarket to buy a whole roast chicken ($6). Out to the boat and ate half of the chicken and a salad and a rum-and-coke for dinner; delicious.
  5/10/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Wow ! At 8:25, Gary number 2 was knocking on my hull and asking if I want to help take a powerboat to St Martin ! We'll catch a ferry to St John at noon and go check out from there, ferry back to here, then take boat out of here tonight and go overnight to St Martin. Have to hand-steer all the way; no auto-pilot. Probably spend two nights in St Martin and fly back. Sounds like an adventure; I signed up for it.

On the way ashore, intercepted Gary and we went to the VIPYachts office. The manager copied my passport info; he's looking for return plane flights. We might go to Anguilla as well, and fly back from there.

In to Pirate's Cove Marina to do Wi-Fi. Didn't win the EBay auction for computer-fans.

All of a sudden, things started happening fast. Gary showed up and said let's catch the 10 AM ferry to St John and check out. So I shut down the laptop and left it with Mario, we piled into Chris's truck, and off to Red Hook. Into the ferry building, Gary bought tickets, onto the ferry, and we're off. Chatted with him on the ferry, and turns out it will just be the two of us on the boat, no third person. He's done this trip at least 20 times, in various boats, and has lots of other experience. We don't know much about this boat, and wonder if we should be bringing tools or spares or anything, but he works for this charter company a lot, so some confidence is justified.

Arrived at St John, did the check-out in about 2 minutes, then waited 50 minutes for ferry back. Saw a dinghy that had been repaired with a mooring ball.

Back to Red Hook, caught a safari back to the marina, then Gary said let's meet at the charter place at 1. I thought we weren't leaving until tonight, but now he's saying 3 PM. Out to my boat by noon, ate lunch and listened to Car Talk while packing, then ashore.

Waited a while for Gary to show up; they said he was getting the dinghy or something. Found that our boat is "Jabale", a twin-engine trawler. Found out later it's a Taiwan-built "Trader" 47. Owner told me the starboard engine overheats if run past 1800 RPM, so we have to watch that.

Various pics of the boat taken over the next two days: at fuel dock, lower steering position, upper steering position, dinghy, at anchor in Simpson Bay.

Owner and guests went off to airport, Gary showed up, and we stowed things. He argued a bit with the charter-guys about the bridle for towing the dinghy; he didn't like the arrangement or the line, and they made a few adjustments.

I took my dinghy back to my boat and hoisted it, Gary picked me up in the big dinghy (Yamaha 50 and a steering console; pricey). Ashore and to the supermarket for some supplies, mainly soda and water. Back to the boat, stowed stuff, then the charter-operation guys piloted the boat over to a fuel dock and we loaded 162.5 gallons of diesel ($789.5). The guys here pump fuel in until it comes out the vents and spills onto the water. Saw a two-story houseboat docked nearby.

Undocked the boat, they got into a spare dinghy, and Gary and I headed out at about 3:05. Some last-minute futzing with the dinghy-bridle and motor-tilting.

Motored out of Benner Bay and up through Current Cut, steering from the upper deck; great visibility. Some strong beam seas in Pillsbury Sound, and one big roll resulted in some crashing noises in the main cabin below. Gary went below to investigate, and swore loudly. He was down there a while, then came up and told me an upper cabinet door had opened and a couple of dishes had launched themselves out and shattered all over the floor; he said there were so many white shards that it looked like snow.

Up between St John and Tortola, and up Sir Francis Drake Channel. Doing 7.5 to 8 knots in general. Had to play with throttles to keep starboard engine from overheating; also, port engine seems to be running too cool. We're trying to keep them at about 80 degrees C, but port is running at 65 and starboard will go to 90+ if we don't throttle it back. Conditions look good, at least inside: hardly any whitecaps.

Out through the passage just SW of Round Rock around 6:20 PM, and Gary is delighted with the sea conditions. Seems like a good amount of up-and-down to me, but hardly any whitecaps and certainly much better than when I tried to cross a few weeks ago. We're making 7 to 7.5 knots.

We start doing 2-hour watches, but we both stay up in the upper deck most times, with the off-duty person half-awake. Gary likes to talk, and so we chat a lot.

He has great eyes: he points out the Southern Cross, and sees ship-lights far away. I can see the ships after some looking, but I never do see the Southern Cross. Our steaming light is throwing quite a bit of light into the cockpit, making it hard to see out sometimes. We see lots of luminescent jellyfish in the water, for miles and miles. Very little traffic tonight, just a sailboat heading south far away, and much later a freighter heading SE far away. A half-moon that goes down before midnight.
  5/11/2008 (Sunday)
My boat's at anchor in Benner Bay; I'm on a delivery to St Martin with Gary.

After midnight, I look back and see that the dinghy is having a problem: instead of towing straight behind the boat, it's off to port. Gary very smartly turned on it's running lights before we left, so we could monitor it during the night (even though it's towing on a very short line, maybe 30 feet behind us).

We idle the engines and Gary goes onto the stern platform to investigate, and soon he's swearing. The nuts on the towing U-bolt have come off, and he's blaming the charter-company guys for screwing up (later, it turns out it wasn't their fault; the nuts were inaccessible). And he's outraged at the way the rigged the towing bridle; they just looped the line through without knotting it.

It'a pretty dangerous situation; even with tonight't light seas, there's enough of a surge to send the heavy dinghy crashing forward into the stern platform, and Gary has to fend it off and keep from being crushed as he tries to figure out what to do. If we put the engines in neutral, the dinghy crashes forward. If we move the boat forward at minimum speed, the strain on the towing lines is too strong for him to manhandle so he can work with the lines. I come back to see if I can help, and later he tells me he was worried that I might come down to the stern platform and both of us end up overboard, with no one on the boat. [Later, we realize we should have had harnesses and jacklines aboard.]

Finally he gets it worked out, and we head off more slowly, keeping a close eye on the dinghy. Eventually I'm able to understand how the towing bridle was rigged and what went wrong. A polypropylene line runs from boat's port stern cleat, to dinghy's towing ring, through it to dinghy's port stern cleat, across to dinghy's starboard stern cleat, forward and through towing ring again, then to boat's starboard stern cleat. So the dinghy's towing ring is just keeping the dinghy straight, not bearing any of the towing load. But the towing ring (U-bolt) came out completely. So Gary had to tie a line to the dinghy bow to act as a guide for the towing line. And he absolutely hates that they used a polypropylene line as a towing line; he can't tie a knot in it that will hold, and it's chafed in various places, and it even has a splice or two in it. As an ex-rigger, he hates all of this.

We keep going, and the dinghy behaves. Soon we can see the glow of St Martin over the horizon.

Sunrise around 5:30, and we're off the NW corner of St Martin.

Anchor down at 6:45 in Simpson Bay on the S coast of St Martin. We straighten up the boat and relax a bit; Gary starts the day with a Heineken. Customs may not open until 9; we're not sure. And it's Sunday and Mother's Day, so who knows if they're even open today ? Gary says the Dutch side is easier to check into than the French; I'd always heard that the French were the most informal in all the islands. A few rain sprinkles.

Around 9, we head ashore, toward the bridge. Office is open, and they opened at 8, and Gary does lots of paperwork as I loaf. Costs $41.25 to check in; I get a list of the fees, and it looks like this is a pretty expensive place to cruise. While we're there, the bridge has it's 9:30 opening, one of only about 3 openings each day. 9 or 10 boats come out, about 5 go in.

Back to the boat. Start engines, raise anchor. Chain jumps on the bow roller a few times and I have to clear it. Then we're free, and as we start moving, I see that we forgot and left the dinghy-motor down. So Gary idles the boat and I go back into the dinghy. After a lot of searching for the tilt-switch, I get the motor up.

Then, disaster! We've been having trouble getting in and out of the dinghy all along; the stern platform is slippery and all handholds are far out of reach. I pull the dinghy forward, try to step/hop out, and everything goes wrong. The boat moves, the dinghy moves, my foot skids out from under me on the wet teak surface, and I crash down on my back across the trailing edge of the stern platform, and into the water !

Pain ! Feels like someone has slugged me across the kidney and back with a 2x4. I'm groaning and floating on my back in the water, clutching at dinghy and stern platform to keep afloat and keep from being slammed into anything. Gary comes back, puts down stern ladder into the water, and I manage to climb the ladder. I feel like crap, but at least I can breathe and stand and move.

I climb the ladder to the main deck and collapse onto a bench. I feel a lot of kidney pain, in my right kidney, and I'm familiar with that sensation from all the kidney stones I had 20 years ago.

I decide it's best to join Gary up on the upper deck, so I'm near him if I start feeling worse. So I climb the ladder to the upper deck.

God, this hurts ! Feels like my lower ribs and kidney on the back-right side got pounded. And boat motion is the worst thing for it; I just want to be still. But we have to go down the S coast to the marina.

A deep breath or two reassures us that I don't have any broken ribs; no stabbing pains. But a few minutes later I'm feeling lightheaded, so I lie down on the seat and put my legs up until I feel better.

Any motion makes me groan with pain, so I sit as still as I can as we motor along. God, I feel stupid ! I can think of a bunch of excuses: I was tired, the stern platform is set up badly, etc, but still it was my fault.

We get to Phillipsburg, and I have to go down and out to the bow to unlock the anchor. With a lot of careful movement and plenty of groaning, I get it done and we're anchored.

We stow things and I shower and change into clean, dry clothing. I'm nervous about peeing, but there's no blood in the urine.

I manage to get into the dinghy without mishap, and we head ashore. A guy intercepts us at the fuel dock and hands us a bag of laundry for our owner, then we dock the dinghy. It's not really a dock, more of a concrete wall, and climbing up is not fun for me. But then I'm ashore.

Into a nearby cafe/bar, and there's the owner, waiting for us. We sit and tell him about the crossing and my mishap and such, and have a drink with him. Turns out he's not the owner of this boat but of another boat in the charter fleet.

I stay ashore while Gary and the "owner" go out to the boat and then bring it in to the fuel dock. I do what I can to help with lines and such, but I can't do much. Any time I have to lean over, I have a lot of pain. Even the jarring of walking is a bit painful sometimes. I move slowly and carefully.

A few interesting things in the marina here: broken prop, unusual dinghy hoist, model sailboat (about 10 feet long).

We load 413 liters of diesel, and it seems to us that the trip should have consumed more; about 17 hours of twin-engine running; that's only about 5-6 gallons/hour total ? Same mode here as in Benner Bay: pump fuel in until it comes out the vents and spills onto the water.

The boat is staying on the fuel dock until the guests arrive this afternoon. Gary and I unload our luggage and walk ashore.

I don't want to walk too far; walking is not easy for me, and walking with two small bags of luggage is worse. Fortunately, we go only a couple of hundred yards before finding an ATM and then a taxi. And a casino.

We're at the SE end of the island (Phillipsburg), and need to get to the NNW end (Marigot). So the taxi ride is long and scenic, with lots of turns and lots of nice views of ocean and hills and such. Roads suddenly improve when we cross from the Dutch side to the French side. A few big bumps cause me pain, but generally I'm okay when sitting in one position. But changing between sitting and standing, or leaning over in any way, causes agony.

We get out at the ferry terminal, and find a cafe nearby. I'm thirsty and hungry and in pain, so it's a relief when we get some water and then food. Delicious curry-chicken and rice-and-beans and plantains; very nice. The next table over has a couple of French families who look like they're here for an all-afternoon lunch. I finally have the common sense to take an Advil to start to take the edge off the pain.

Then to the ferry, and standing up and sitting down and carrying luggage is painful. Simple things like ducking down to get through a low doorway are agonizing. But I soldier on. The ferry is fast, 20+ knots as we go north to Anguilla.

Through Customs and into a taxi and eventually we're at Gary's mother's house. But she's in St Thomas (as expected), and house is locked and we can't find anyone with a key. So I lie down on a lounge chair in the front yard of the house next door and nap, and someone drives Gary off to look for a key or something. But there's mention of the boat-races too, so I don't expect he'll be back soon. I'm in the shade and it's comfortable, but it would be nice to get some water and a bathroom and a real bed.

An hour or more later, Sonja comes out of the house that was locked; I probably was sleeping when she went in. I get up and hobble after her and get her attention, and she tells me the right-hand bedrooms are free. So I go in and find the back bedroom. House looks like it's under contruction; wires hanging out of walls, no kitchen sink (pic), no waterglasses, etc. I lie down (pain) on top of a bed in the back bedroom and nap and sleep.

Sometime later, Gary appears and leads me over to the house next door for some dinner. Roy and Lorna live there, and they bring out some food that Gary bought, I think. We guzzle water and eat chicken and rice-and-beans. And we hear that these houses are all very low on water because it hasn't rained in a while; we have to conserve water. Soon we're heading back to the other house and going to bed. Fans running all night to cool us. I take another Advil and some Tylenol.
  5/12/2008 (Monday)
My boat's at anchor in Benner Bay; I'm in Anguilla with Gary.

Still aching a lot, and very painful to change positions, but no bruising on my back. More Advil and Tylenol.

Gary leaves with some friends. I have a powerbar and water for breakfast, and sit and read. A little later, Lorna comes over and invites me to her house for some breakfast; very nice of her. Two small cheese-and-warm-bread sandwiches, a wonderful mug of lemongrass tea with lots of sugar, and a locally-grown mango (delicious but stringy). Then I'm back to the other house to rest.

Around 1, Gary appears and we walk out to a grocery store and pick up drinks and snacks. Then Roy picks us up in his truck and we drive to a rise looking down over a bay on West End, and watch the start of a sailboat race. New construction has cut the road and prevents us from driving down to the beach, and everyone's upset about that. I'm sure we could drive miles around to get there, but we just want a quick look at the start.

About 11 boats in the race, each about 30 feet long with a 60-foot mast and crew of up to 22 or so, and even from a distance you can see that the boats are crowded. They're open-deck boats with a couple of tons of ballast, and Gary says when they get in trouble, they sink fast ! Everyone here is crazy about the races, and loyal to particular boats. Roy likes "Lightning Strike" and Lorna is with "UFO", and so that's a source of amusement and ribbing. "UFO" has been winning quite a lot the last few years. If something is wrong with "Lightning Strike" and they don't race, Roy takes it really hard and goes home and stays in bed and doesn't even watch the races.

Back to the house, luggage into the car (a right-side-steering Honda; they have a mixture of left/right cars here, but they drive on the left) and Lorna drives us to the airport. We pull in, and the car in front of us is her sister and nieces and nephews.

We're a couple of hours early, so we sit and snack and read. Then into the plane, which is about a 40-seat prop plane. Painful to get into the doorway, having to duck down a bit, and into my seat.

A quick flight to St Thomas, probably 40 minutes or so. Through Customs, out to the taxi stand, and home is in sight. We go through some parts of St Thomas I haven't seen before, on a road high on the spine of the island. Eventually we arrive at the Food Center supermarket, then I walk to Pirate's Cove marina and Gary goes to his boat. He comes around and picks me up in his rowing dinghy, and rows me out to my boat.

Climbing up onto my boat causes some pain, but ducking down to step into the pilothouse is worse. Anyway, I'm home, around 7:45 or so, and the boat looks okay. I guzzle some water, take some pills, slide into my berth painfully, and try to sleep.

Lying still, I feel okay, but any time I have to change positions, it's painful. This sucks.
  5/13/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Still hurting. Changing positions or bending is painful. More pills, but they don't seem to help much. I have stronger medicine, left over from my kidney-stone days, but I don't want to use if I don't have to.

I need to get my saltwater-soaked clothes washed before they rot, so I totter up onto deck, groaning as I hurt. Ducking through the pilothouse "door" and ducking under the mizzen-boom are the worst. I can't lift the 5-gallon jug of water on deck, so I have to tilt it and use a cup for some of the water transfer. Slowly I do a small bucket of laundry.

Typed all of my trip-notes into the log file. No pain while I'm sitting still. But I don't think I'll be going ashore today. And I need to call my Mom for a belated Mothers-Day greeting. I'm sure she'll understand when I explain.

Loafed the rest of the day. Hurting. And it's a bit sobering, to wonder what I'd do if this kind of accident happens to me while singlehanding on a passage.

Salad and chili for dinner.
  5/14/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Still hurting.

At 11, Gary stopped by to make sure I was alive.

Around 12:30, decided to go ashore. A lot of pain leaning into the dinghy to put the drain plug and fuel tank in. Not too bad lowering the dinghy, but then I absolutely couldn't make the big step from upper part of the transom ladder down to the tube; agonizing. So I lowered the swim platform, and going straight down the ladder was fine. Even pull-starting the motor wasn't too painful; was able to do it mostly with arm-muscles (glad I have the new outboard).

Headed ashore, and Chris helped me dock and get ashore; one or two painful motions. Told everyone my story as I did Wi-Fi. Ordered some computer-fans to install on the refrigerator. Called Mom on Skype and gave her a belated Happy Mother's Day; told her my boat-injury story and made it sound like I'd been Captain Ahab fighting the White Whale. Mario recommends alcohol as the cure, and gave me a bottle of rum, then borrowed a few shots of it for quality-checking purposes.

Mario pointed out a powerboat at the dock, and said last weekend someone took it out somewhere and it sank at anchor; apparently the top came off a through-hull strainer. They raised the boat and brought it back here, and now they're trying to dry everything out and repair the boat.

Got Mario to help me load my stuff into the dinghy, then back out to the boat. Left the dinghy in the water; I can't manage hoisting it. Locked the outboard to the boat via a long cable. Should have tilted the motor up out of the water, but that would have been painful.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Totally still until midnight or so, which made it warm and muggy and buggy. Very slight breeze after midnight, mostly from the south.

Getting in and out of my berth, and shifting positions as I lie in my berth, is painful. That's when there's a sideways strain on my torso. If I stay upright, standing or sitting, there's very little pain.
  5/15/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Still hurting, but I'm starting to heal.

After lunch, dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Gary gave me an old computer-fan he had laying around, to use on my refrigerator. Walked to supermarket and got a few groceries.

Salad and cold leftover roast chicken and noodles and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  5/16/2008 (Friday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Still hurting.

After lunch, dinghied ashore between rainshowers to do Wi-Fi. One of my readers, Bob, stopped by to say hello; he's here helping a friend work on his boat at the boatyard, then they're going to sail it back to St John. He and Mario know lots of old-timers in common.

Sprinkled rain on and off all afternoon; low dark clouds hanging overhead. The island is dry, and everyone wants a good rain, but it didn't quite happen today.

Salad and tuna-salad sandwiches for dinner.
  5/17/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Still hurting. Advil seems to help the most.

Aground again: wind blew from NE last night until tide went out and left me aground, then shifted to SE so neighboring houseboat is swinging close to me now. But we won't quite collide.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Ordered a couple of books. Even though I ordered two from the same place at the same time, they still charge a separate shipping charge for each; I guess that's how they make their money these days. About $1.50 for each used paperback, and $4/each for shipping, although they'll probably come in the same box.

Back to the boat for lunch and Car Talk, then back ashore. I've been hearing that this harbor is shoaling in a bit, and sure enough, we saw a sailboat run aground inside the marina where the charter operation is, trying to get out. I'm told a lot of the charter places in here are going to all-trawler fleets because of this.

Chatted with "Kiwi" a little. Mentioned that I was thinking of buying a MAPP torch, and he told me of someone who was using one inside his boat in the boatyard, when a rusty spot turned into a pinhole leak. The guy burned his hands badly as he threw it out of the boat, and it exploded and left a crater in the dirt surface in the boatyard.

"Kiwi" also said he knows of a boat-building operation that uses propane, an oxyacetylene torch nozzle, and an air compressor, and gets results much more cheaply than if they used acetylene and oxygen. Not quite as powerful as an oxyacetylene torch, but he says it will cut 1/2" steel.

Salad and spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Breeze died completely by 9 or so, leaving a warm, still, muggy, buggy night. Hard to sleep. Major attack of no-see-ums around 10; had to get up and spray bug-spray inside the boat.
  5/18/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Still hurting, but getting better each day. Boat aground again; forgot to adjust stern anchor when it was afloat last night. Gorgeous sunny clear breezy morning.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Back to the boat for lunch and Car Talk, then back ashore.

Salad and cheese sandwich and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Breeze died completely by 9 or so, leaving a warm, still, muggy, buggy night.
  5/19/2008 (Monday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Back/side still hurting. Boat aground again this morning, but further from neighboring houseboat.

Did a small bucket of laundry.

Saw a green-hulled sailboat run aground across the channel from me. In 5 minutes or so they were off, went back into the harbor, and 5 minutes later they came out again. This time they were taking a much better line in the channel, but they were at full throttle ! Pretty bold. They made it out without grounding, but it would have been quite a sight if they'd hit the mud.

After lunch, dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Fuel truck was delivering diesel to a powerboat; $4.59/gallon. Mario gave me an envelope Gary had left for me: $200 cash for doing that boat-delivery ! Suddenly my back and side don't hurt so much.

Salad and chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Breeze died completely by 9 or so, leaving a warm, still, muggy, buggy night.
  5/20/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Rain at 7.

After lunch, dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Saw Gary as I went in; he was bug-bombing his boat to get rid of a big roach problem, and way overdoing it: 6 bombs in a boat that might be 32 feet long.

Mario suddenly wanted to take some pictures of me with my camera, so here they are: pics.

The charter guys brought a big sloop in to the (non-working) fuel dock here. Boat is about 50 feet long with a 65+ mast with three sets of spreaders. They brought in another sailboat and rafted up to it, and transferred a lot of stuff across. Turns out the first boat has a badly damaged rudder, and has to go into the boatyard. The rudder was damaged at a dock a few days ago, but the charter company had it booked for another charter right away and so tried to send the new people out on the boat even though the rudder was broken. That didn't work, so now they were transferring the people to a new boat.

I'm having trouble finding service manual and carb rebuild kit and spare prop for my outboard; apparently only dealers sell them.

To supermarket for groceries, then out to the boat. Salad and PB-banana sandwiches and a yogurt for dinner.
  5/21/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Saw sailboat "Alcyone" motoring or being towed out, and couldn't figure out what they were doing. They had a guy in a dinghy towing their bow hard to starboard the whole time. I wondered if maybe their rudder was jammed to port, but it's an external rudder and it looked straight to me. Woody saw it too and couldn't figure it out either.

Popped some pills, dinghied ashore at 10, and into Mario's jeep to go do some shopping. To Home Depot, and bought a MAPP torch ($50). To Cost-U-Less, and bought groceries ($62). To Plaza Extra, and bought more groceries and such ($45). Back to the boat for lunch. Did my part for the economy today.

Back ashore after lunch. I've been looking at plane tickets back to Philly/Langhorne in a month or so, but I think now I might not go. Would cost $500 or so, unless I do something really funky involving flying to Atlantic City and then two trains in the middle of the night. Travel gets a bit complicated when you have figure out where it's safe to leave the boat at what time of year, and buy tickets in advance, then get to the place you're going to leave the boat, and how to get to the airport.

Heard that my friends on "Exuma Grouper" are still in Luperon, and probably will stay another year. He had a heart attack, the daughter went to Canada for an operation, the boat never was all that reliable, and they have a big jump to get up to the Bahamas.

Salad and spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Had to pick several worms out of the spaghetti noodles before cooking them.
  5/22/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Rain at 8:45.

Dinghied ashore to the boatyard. Took some pictures of the broken rudder on that big sloop (last 4 pictures are from 5 days later). Later, the guys said the shaft probably comes down only to the point where the rudder snapped across; I thought shafts tended to go almost all the way down. (5/31 heard someone say the charterers were motoring or backing hard in the shallow end of Red Hook, probably turning to avoid running ashore, when they hit something hard on the bottom.) (7/8 saw that it's been repaired: pic.)

To the marine store, to ask Roger if the guy who snagged my old outboard wants to buy the spare prop and service manual etc. He says the guys doesn't want to buy them; he's "having issues" with the old motor. That makes me feel a lot better about ditching it. To the outboard shop, and ordered a Tohatsu service manual ($40). To Pirate's Cove marina to do Wi-Fi.

Back to boat for lunch, then back ashore for more Wi-Fi and conversation.

Chris has his sailboat in Compass Point marina to try to sell it, but he says he's had only 2 somewhat-serious buyers in more than 5 months. I dread the day I ever try to sell my boat. He's selling because he's just tired of living on a boat; he wants to get back to modern conveniences such as hot showers and a real bed. He's been living on boats for 20 years or so.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
  5/23/2008 (Friday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Trying to go all day today without taking any pain-pills. Didn't make it: had to take an Advil at 4 PM.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. And got a few groceries at the supermarket.

Salad and sausage-onion-rice and rum-and-coke for dinner. Tried to make chicken-onion-rice, but got halfway through and found I had no chicken in the freezer. I had already put the chicken bouillion cubes into the rice, so I thought this would taste pretty strange. But the sausage (actually, chorizo) overwhelmed the chicken taste. Had to filter a bunch of brown dust (mold ?) and a couple of bugs out of the (unopened) bag of rice.
  5/24/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Ran engine for 15 minutes to exercise it. Started up right away; usually, after it's been idle for a couple of weeks, it takes 10 or 15 seconds of cranking to get it going.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Mosquitoes really bad this morning; we couldn't figure out why. Rained at 10:30, then I went back to the boat, then it rained again at 11.

After lunch and Car Talk, back ashore for more Wi-Fi. Called Mom on Skype and told her I wasn't coming home this summer; I'll see her for Christmas.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers and rum-and-coke for dinner.
  5/25/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

After lunch, dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. A hot, cat-sleeping afternoon. Met a guy named Ian who was doing Wi-Fi too. Then towed his dinghy most of the way out to his boat; his outboard had quit.

Salad and spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

In and out of the head all night; not a problem with tonight's dinner, but I think my system has been a bit backed-up for a day or two.
  5/26/2008 (Monday; Memorial Day)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Saw someone towing Ian and his dinghy in this morning.

After lunch, dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Cat's sleeping on a bookshelf today.

Salad and PBJ sandwiches for dinner.

Big squall/front came through around 2 AM; kept blowing hard afterward.
  5/27/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Tired this morning. Wind blowing fairly hard. Kite-sailers just outside the anchorage entrance, enjoying the wind.

After lunch, dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. All the guys jawing about military aircraft all afternoon; they're all ex-military types.

Walked to the boatyard, the outboard store, and the supermarket.

Salad and chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  5/28/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Grey morning.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Still no sign of a couple of packages of things I ordered; starting to get worried that the Post Office gave up on delivering them and sent them back. Have to catch the Post Office person and see if the packages are on the truck.

Rained hard at 11:30 or so. Back to the boat for lunch and a nap, then back ashore.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
  5/29/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Another grey, humid day.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi.

Back to the boat for lunch, then back ashore. Took a couple of pictures of Chris so he could email them to his nephews. Tried to teach Mario how to play 500 Rummy (he said he wanted to learn some card games), but he lost interest after about 2 minutes.

Back to the boat. Gave myself a haircut.

Salad and spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Sprayed a cockroach in the galley in the middle of the night.
  5/30/2008 (Friday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi.

Back to boat for lunch, then ashore again. Outboard service manual came in; went to the shop and picked it up. Postman showed up and I received package with 3 computer fans in it, for the refrigerator.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  5/31/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Dinghied ashore. Disposed of garbage. Toured the book-exchanges in the harbor and exchanged some books. Then to the supermarket and bought some groceries. Some readers recommended bay leaves to get rid of the worms in the spaghetti noodles, but bay leaves here are $4 for 0.12 ounce; that's $500/pound ! Nice, fresh, whole leaves, but no sale. Maybe I can find some dried leaves somewhere. Back to the boat.

Cut and sanded some wood blocks for mounting the refrigerator out a little from the front of the cabinet, to get better ventilation.

After lunch and Car Talk, back ashore to do Wi-Fi. Gary and "Kiwi" were telling lots of stories about the old days here, about guys with names such as "Drunk Mark" and "K-Jerk" and so on. Lots of fights and stolen boats and jail time and such. (A few days ago, they mentioned a guy with a great nickname: "Joe No Problem".)

Salad and chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Warm, still, humid, buggy night. Wind and rain at midnight and again at 2, but stayed warm and buggy. Hard to sleep. Had to take pill for back pain; still can't get off the pills.
  6/1/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

First day of hurricane season !

Boat firmly aground.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Mostly had the place to myself, but later Gary number 2 and Mario showed up.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Frequent rain from midnight to dawn.
  6/2/2008 (Monday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

My birthday; I'm 50 years old today ! Here are two appropriate cartoons.

A grey morning. Found and threw away a couple of ancient packages of Ramen noodles that had gone soft and buggy and probably punctured. Lots of rain and wind at 9:20; had to seal the boat up completely for a few minutes.

More rain around 10:15. Saw Ian being towed in around 10:30; I've been seeing that a lot.

Drilled and painted wood blocks for mounting the refrigerator out a little from the front of the cabinet.

After lunch, dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. As expected, when I told the guys it was my 50th birthday, they offered to get me drunk; I said I'd rather they offered to get me laid.

Mario has started making a model of a Fokker biplane; apparently he's done this before, and they've come out really well. He's gotten this much done so far.

Later, Mario wanted a nap, but didn't have the energy to go up to his room in the marina hotel, so he just napped right where he was.

Tim and Andrea came in. Tim just got back from a boat-delivery to Anguilla: a 30-foot "Concept" cigarette boat with two 300-hp outboards on back; they cruised at 55 MPH. But then he had to stay overnight and then take the ferry to St Martin because he couldn't get a flight back from Anguilla on the right day.

Made a Skype-call to my Mom, got her answering machine, then something dropped the call.

To the supermarket and bought a roast chicken for dinner.

Salad and chicken and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

More paint on the wood blocks for mounting the refrigerator.

Rained several times during the night.
  6/3/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Boat aground again; happens if the wind is NE while the tide is ebbing. Leaves me aground, then wind shifts to normal ESE.

Started a bucket of laundry, then went ashore. Bought 10 gallons of water ($1.60). Did Wi-Fi. Received a birthday-card from my sister; very thoughtful.

Back to the boat for lunch. Hoisting the 5-gallon jugs of water didn't hurt, but I did take an ibuprofen a couple of hours ago. Finished the laundry. Then back ashore in the afternoon.

Salad and chicken-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Had to sift the rice and then pick a couple of worms out of it before cooking; guess I bought this rice 7 months ago in Puerto Rico, and that must be too long to keep it.
  6/4/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Ashore at 9 and went with Chris to Cost-U-Less. Got $120 of groceries, including a $3/liter bottle of rum. Back home and out to the boat and stowed everything. Back ashore to do some Wi-Fi.

Out to the boat for lunch. Sailboat well aground near the usual place.

Attached fan Gary gave me to the refrigerator; it's pretty loud, but will be quieter when everything is back inside the cabinetry. Attached the wood blocks to the refrigerator. Going to let the fan run for a while before pushing everything back under the cabinet.

Back ashore in the afternoon. Postman delivered some birthday presents: LED headlamp and a tropical sun-cap from my sister, and some gourmet cookies from my brother. We munched cookies happily for a while; they're addictive. Still no sign of the books I ordered; I'm starting to wonder if they got lost in the mail.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

That grounded sailboat was stuck there until 5:15.

Installed the refrigerator into the cabinet. Fan is far too loud, isn't positioned well, and the mounting screws are too long (other than that, everything's fine!). Will have to take it out again.
  6/5/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Pulled refrigerator out again and took the fan off it.

Worked on the main boom end-cap a bit, applying WD-40 to the frozen bolt-stubs and filing their sides flat so I can grip them with a wrench.

Wired and mounted two small computer-fans to the refrigerator.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Gary was feeding hibiscus flowers to the iguanas, and soon had five of them flocking around.

Went along with Mario to Plaza Extra and bought a few groceries. The usual rough jeep-ride there and back. Took the groceries out to the boat.

Back ashore, and to outboard shop to get a refund on shipping charges for the outboard service manual. So with shipping it ended up costing exactly $30. Skiff outside the shop had a ridiculous amount of horsepower on the stern: pic. Over to Pirate's Cove for more Wi-Fi.

Out to the boat at 5 and found an Amel 54 sailboat aground 50 feet behind my boat; maybe they were 10 feet further right in the channel than I would have done, but I guess they have a large draft. Fifteen minutes later, I saw a similar-sized sailboat coming in and trying to pass the grounded boat on the wrong (shallow) side; it quickly mushed to a stop. Picture. The two of them were stuck there for another half-hour or so. The second boat managed to back off and head out, then a few minutes later the first boat got free, using its bow-thruster along with the main engine. I wonder if the bow-thruster likes so much silt in the water going through it ? They got free and went out, then the second boat came back in and got through okay.

Salad and chicken-noodles and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  6/6/2008 (Friday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Moved the refrigerator back into the galley cabinet. Filed the bolt-stubs on the main boom end-cap a bit more.

Around 11:30, looked out to see a 30-foot or so sailboat aground in the usual place. Then the situation got interesting as he hailed a passing DPNR boat and asked them for a tow. I thought to myself "nothing good can come of this" and ran for my camera. Sure enough, it was an adventure. He had managed to end up pointing downwind and straight onto the shoal area. So by the time he'd passed a thin, short towline to the DPNR boat and got it tied on both ends, the DPNR boat was downwind of him and over the shoal. So they started pulling him further onto the shoal; I figured they would end up pulling him so far aground that even high tide wouldn't let him off. And they were pulling hard; I watched to see if the towline would snap or pull a cleat off the sailboat's bow; at least one guy on the DPNR boat was in the line of fire if either of those things happened.

Eventually, they started pulling him more along the edge of the shoal instead of up onto the center of it. They floored the throttles and slowly dragged him up and over and then down the near edge of the shoal, and got him free. The whole time I was thinking "there is no situation that can't be made worse by applying more horsepower". But they got him free and he went on out. Pictures.

After lunch, dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Used the torch and WD-40 on the boom end-cap (pic), but I can't get a good grip on the bolt-stubs. Will have to take it back out to the boat and do some more filing. Gary says use a vise-grip on them; I've never figured out why people like those things so much.

Put some caulk on the old mounting bolts on the dinghy, which were used for the old outboard. Caulking didn't go too well, since the bolts are right at the waterline when I'm leaning over the stern of the dinghy. And my tube of caulk is just about dead; had to pry the one remaining pocket of liquid caulk out of the side of it with a screwdriver.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
  6/7/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Boat aground again.

Up onto pilothouse roof and tie-wrapped the solar cables a little.

Used the Dremel to file the bolt-stubs on the boom end-cap some more; didn't work very well, because access is so limited. Used the flex-shaft attachment for the Dremel; bought it years ago and this is the first time I've used it. Took a while to figure out how it went on and find the missing collet piece.

Dinghied ashore. Used torch and vise-grips and WD-40 on the boom end-cap bolt stubs, and got all four of them moving ! Gary was right about the vise-grips. Will let the cap cool and take it out to the boat and see if I can turn the stubs out using pliers. Did some Wi-Fi.

Back to boat for lunch and Car Talk and loafing. Tried to turn the bolts out of the boom-cap, but most of them won't budge at all; guess they only move when the heat is on. And I need to grind several of them down a bit more.

So ashore again with Dremel and laptop, to do grinding and Wi-Fi.

Salad and spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

A warm, still, muggy, buggy night; hard to sleep.
  6/8/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Tired and headachey this morning.

After lunch and Car Talk, dinghied ashore. No sign of Mario again today, and the cat was yowling for food, so I fed it. Did some Wi-Fi and worked on the boom cap with torch. Didn't make any progress on the boom cap; not enough bolt left to grip well, and maybe I didn't have enough patience today to really heat the bolts up again and again.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
  6/9/2008 (Monday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Still, hot morning, boat's aground (but floated free by mid-morning), and I've got a moderately-bad headache.

Headache got worse; stayed on the boat all day, taking pills and napping and trying to get rid of the stupid headache.

Salad and PB-crackers for dinner.

Headache finally broke around 9, and I slept well.
  6/10/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Headache gone. Boat's aground again (but floated free by mid-morning). Sprayed a big palmetto bug in the main cabin.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Received a couple of items in the mail: a card and check from my Mom, and some small knives and other stuff from a faithful reader (lost his email address, so I can't thank him directly). Used the torch on the boom-cap some more, and got 3 out of 4 bolts to move a little further. But there's so little to grip and it's inside the cap, so access is limited.

Gary was throwing chunks of fried chicken to the iguanas.

Turns out Mario has started house-sitting for a friend, so we probably won't see him for a while. With cable TV and other amenities, I'm sure it's a real treat for him. He's been living in a old hotel room here at the marina, with no TV or radio, limited water supply, plenty of bugs, and not much happening.

Chris told me one of the local charter operations, VIP, lost a boat (a Jenneau 46 sailboat) Saturday night. Was on a mooring in Norman's Bight in the BVI, the mooring failed while they were all ashore (including the hired captain), the boat drifted 2 or 3 miles to the east end of St John, and smashed to bits on the rocks. And supposedly some guy in a motorboat saw it drifting past and did nothing. The group came back out from the bar in the dinghy, and couldn't find their boat. And all their stuff was gone with the boat, of course, clothes and laptops and cellphones and such. Definitely a failure of the mooring; the upper part of the mooring system went away with the boat. And whatever they signed when they paid for the mooring said the usual "you the customer assume all risk of using this mooring; we assume no liability".

Back to the boat for lunch, then ashore again. Used a drill on the bolt-stubs in the boom cap, and made pretty good progress, even with what I thought was a mediocre bit. Then Gary used a pair of vise-grip pliers and lots of strength and got the bolts out ! Excellent ! He worked up a pretty good sweat doing it. He used to be a rigger (and a Ranger who did 3 years in Vietnam, and half a dozen other interesting occupations).

Plenty of rain starting at 3:15. First decent rain in a few weeks.

Gary nummber 2 is looking to someone to help do a boat-delivery again, this time sailing a sailboat from St Martin to here. I'm reluctant, but I told him if he got totally stuck for someone I'd do it.

Salad and chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  6/11/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor in Benner Bay.

Nice, calm morning. Into the dinghy around 6:30, pushed the boat forward slightly, then went ahead of it and moved the anchor back (by hauling chain across the dinghy until I got to the anchor, then raising it, then moving back toward the boat's bow). Weight of chain keeping the boat in place. Then out to the stern anchor, raised it, and brought it back near the stern.

Now have to hustle a bit; if wind comes up before I get done, the boat will be sliding back into the channel or swinging around into my neighbors. Attach the dinghy to the davits, up into the boat, and raise the stern anchor. Start engine at 6:45; running well. A little forward and reverse to grind the barnacle-growth out of the cutless bearing. Hoist the dinghy. Hoist the anchor chain until most of it is in. Motor forward slightly to get closer to the anchor, and the boat's aground a bit. Raise the anchor, and now only the grounding is holding the boat in place. Happy that my back/side didn't complain while I did all the various hoistings.

Had a bit more trouble than I expected getting off ground. Lots of forward and reverse. Didn't help that at one point I had the engine out of gear while throttling up in "reverse"; got a little confused. Anyway, got free eventually, eased out past the small sailboat on my port side, and headed out the channel !

Went out, made a right turn, and anchored by 7:25 outside Benner Bay. Feels great to have moved, and to be on one anchor again (I hate stern anchors), with plenty of room around me, in clean water, with far fewer bugs. In a day or two, might head to Christmas Cove to scrape the boat-bottom and dinghy-bottom. Unless I do that boat-delivery with Gary.

Sprinkled rain a few times. Then I dinghied ashore. Tried to hail Gary on his boat, to see about the boat-delivery, but got no answer. To the marine store, to buy bolts for the boom-cap, and a tube of Tef-Gel anti-seize ($17 ! But it'll last for years, and the only anti-seize I have on board is copper-type, not good for a SS-aluminum joint.). To the gas station, to buy $10 of gas at $4.46/gallon. Then to the marina for Wi-Fi. Rained again.

Mario stopped by from his house-sitting. Poured rain at 11:45.

Hmmm, looks like I should wake up and start paying attention to the weather. Another tropical wave coming through Fri/Sat, and a low off Trinidad that looks like no threat to me.

Power went out in the marina, so I shut down the laptop and picked up my sledgehammer. Pounded the mainsail outhaul track straight; a bolt shearing let the track bend, and that's why I had to take the boom-cap off. So now I can put everything back together. But I still have no mainsail.

Gary number 2 came by, and I think he's going to get someone else, maybe Gary number 1, to do that boat-delivery with him. So I'm heading off to Christmas Cove tomorrow morning. And a few days after that, to the BVI's.

Back out to the boat, getting rained on a bit. Ate lunch and then back ashore, getting rained on a little more.

Crap! Gary locked up the store and left for the day to take his wife to the doctor, accidentally locking my bag and wallet and stuff inside. I don't usually put it inside, but did so today to keep it away from the rain, and it didn't occur to me to grab my stuff as he was locking up. So now I have to come back in tomorrow morning to pick it up. Can't get groceries this afternoon either.

Ice-truck came to make a delivery after Gary left; he's been waiting several days for them to come, and they picked the one time he's been out. Pretty funny.

Lots of rain starting around 3:30.

Brett ("Kiwi") came in and told me he just bought another boat ! He already has four of them anchored here in the inner harbor, taking up more than his fair share of scarce anchorage space. They refer to guys like him as "fleet admirals". Every one of his boats was a real "deal", and he can tell you all about their good points, and he's slowly working on them, but generally they're just likely to be future wrecks. A good leak while he's gone for a while, a moderate hurricane or some accident, and a boat will be sitting on the bottom and not worth salvaging.

Tried to pick a dry spot between rainshowers. Wrapped the laptop in newspaper, headed out, and made it about 2/3 of the way before it started raining. The newspaper worked, and there was no damage to the laptop.

Salad and PB-crackers for dinner.

Pretty rolly and uncomfortable most of the night. The wind is light and mostly ENE, and the swell is ESE, a bad combination.
  6/12/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor outside Benner Bay.

Dinghied ashore at 8. Retrieved my stuff from the marina office/store, chatted with Gary a little, got some groceries, disposed of garbage. Still no sign of those books I ordered; probably delayed in the mail. Maybe I'll be back here to get them later, maybe not. Gary decided he can't do the boat-delivery with Gary number 2, and I'm not going to hang around (in a rolly spot) and see if he needs me for it; I want to get moving. Back out to the boat.

Engine start at 9:10, anchor up by 9:15, and motored east. A bit of a hot-rubber smell in the engine compartment, a few oil oozes on the engine, and it's running several degrees too hot (saltwater end of heat-exchanger isn't staying cool enough). All in all, not too bad. Anchored by 9:55 at Christmas Cove. Nice here.

I've noticed before that my prop shaft rotates very slowly when the gearshift is in neutral. At first I thought it was just some kind of inertia left over from running the transmission in forward. But Gary number 2 said it's a sign that my linkage is loose or out of adjustment, and now I think he's right. The shaft kept turning slowly for several minutes as I was idling the engine to let it cool a little before turning it off. So I'll have to check the linkage.

Around 1:30, lowered the dinghy and went snorkeling under the boat. Scraped the dinghy-bottom, which was tricky because wakes kept bashing the dinghy around strongly. Lots of growth on the boat-bottom, up to an inch thick in places, but it's just grass and slime and stuff, no barnacles. And the prop is pretty clean. Fair number of fish gathered to investigate the clouds of debris I was producing; more fish than I've seen here before, puffers and stripers and lots of small fish. Towards the end, a barracuda about 4.5 feet long and 6 inches in diameter appeared, and he and I eyed each other as I kept working. Got a bit more than half of the job done, and out by 3 or so.

Salad and spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

As forecast, rain and wind starting around midnight, and then stayed windy after that.
  6/13/2008 (Friday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Put the outhaul-track back onto the main boom, put the car onto the track, and put the cap onto the end of the boom. Various tapping and massaging needed, but it all went together fine.

Added lots of water to the batteries, and drained electrolyte out of the box holding the battery with the cracked case. Will have to check tomorrow to see if the patch I applied to it a month ago is holding.

Haven't seen any of the big snorkeling boats that usually come here a couple of times each day; wonder where they are ?

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Beautiful sunset tonight; redder than it looks in the picture.
  6/14/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Humid, breezy, cloudy.

Still can't hear Chris Parker's shortwave weather broadcasts; have tried several times this week.

A snorkeling boat showed up at 9:50. Another showed up later. And both came back in the afternoon.

Cleaned engine intake strainer; just a little seaweed in it. Loafed and lunched and listened to Car Talk, then snorkeled under the boat for an hour and finished scraping the bottom. The big barracuda hung around for the first 5 minutes, then left. Saw a big stingray.

Found some old packets of bread-crumbs and spices and gravy-mix and such that had gotten wet and rotted and grown bugs; threw them away.

Salad and chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Fairly rolly much of the night. Rain after midnight.
  6/15/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Couple on big catamaran "Blue Bayou" with yellow sail-covers waved to me as they left; I've crossed paths with them several times, but never had a chance to chat.

Opened end of engine heat-exchanger. Rodded out the tubes a bit, and made a new rubber gasket for the end-plate. Put it back together and ran engine for a couple of minutes; no leaks.

Checked transmission end of shift-cable; don't see any problem or adjustment point there.

Only one snorkeling boat came through today. Business must be slow.

Salad and cheese sandwich and an apple for dinner.

Was sitting on the foredeck reading a book just before sunset, when a big sports-fisher named something like "Mar Mar" raised anchor. Then they backed over toward me, turned and backed down my starboard side, not more than 30 feet away, backed around my stern and hovered there for a while, then up past my starboard side and off my bow for a while. Very weird. After a while, I figured that they're mapping out the depths in the harbor, and I'm anchored over a shallow ridge that runs from the cay to shore. Finally they went away. Whole thing made me a bit nervous.
  6/16/2008 (Monday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Finally heard a couple of the shortwave weather-nets. Lots of noise on the radio. And Chris Parker started up a solid 15 minutes later than scheduled. He usually is 5 to 10 minutes late; I guess he doesn't feel he has to hold to the schedule. No hurricanes forming, which is what I wanted to hear. Tropical waves coming through every 3 days or so. Some 21-knot wind and squalls will come through on Thursday.

Engine start at 10:05, and anchor up by 10:10. Unfurled the jib and cleated the jibsheet (a mistake), went to the bow to unfurl the last couple of turns of the jib, and the jib almost sailed the boat onto the reef. Back to the helm, let the sheet loose, and backed off. Out of the anchorage, through Current Cut, and had a pleasant motor-sail across Pillsbury Sound. As usual, somewhat rolly for the first half, but still nice. Engine still running 5 degrees hot. Lost the wind and furled the jib as I approached Durloe Channel, then motored through it and to Trunk Bay.

The three moorings nearest the snorkeling area were occupied, so I took the fourth mooring, much further away. Snagged the mooring first shot, done by 11:25 at Trunk Bay, St John, USVI. Can almost see the bottom, 38 feet down, when the wind dies for a minute.

Ate some lunch, then one of the other boats left. So at 11:55 I slipped my mooring and moved up to the closer mooring, at Trunk Bay.

Soon after that, lowered the dinghy and went snorkeling. Lots of good exercise, not as many fish as I expected, and a few good-looking women. Swam completely around Trunk Cay and back to the boat. On the way back, saw a sea-turtle swimming along the bottom, 20 feet or so down; I've almost never seen one while snorkeling. It was about 15 inches long, and seemed to be keeping a wary eye on me.

Slipped the mooring at 1:40, unfurled the jib, and motor-sailed toward Jost Van Dyke. Halfway there, the wind moved to right on the nose, so I furled the jib and motored the rest of the way. In and anchored by 2:55 at Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, BVI.

Launched the dinghy and went ashore to check in. Got halfway through the forms, and then the Customs lady told me that no Immigration officer was on duty, so I'd have to come back tomorrow or go to Tortola to check in. She kind of wanted me to go to Tortola, but I wouldn't even be able to get there before the office closed, and I wouldn't be able to stay overnight in Soper's Hole (too deep for anchoring), so it's completely out of the question. I'd planned to stay overnight here anyway, so it isn't too bad to come back tomorrow. Had to pay 60 cents for the forms I filled out.

Strolled down the road and found the school and library; they have an internet computer, but it's not working. Saw kids playing cricket on a playground; the librarian says those kids play cricket in every spare minute they have.

A mongoose flashed across the path as I was walking out of the school. Back to the boat. Hot afternoon.

Salad and spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  6/17/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Great Harbour.

A charter-boat next to me swinging pretty darn close to me; they're on all-rope and I'm on all-chain, they're a much lighter fin-keel boat, etc. Not quite hitting, and I was here first.

Dinghied ashore at 8:30 and went to the Police Station to check in. No problem at Customs ($15), but the Immigration woman tried to rip me off for $8 for arriving yesterday but checking in today. I pointed out that I was here during business hours yesterday and she wasn't, and eventually she gave in. I've heard the same thing about Immigration officers all over the BVI; they seem to have a chip on their shoulders or something. Never a bad word about Customs here, just Immigration.

Wandered down an alley to see what stores are here; just an "icehouse" and a small bakery. Back to the boat, and a catamaran is sitting right over my anchor. No problem; I take my time hoisting the dinghy, doing dishes, and getting the boat ready to go. Tighten the alternator belt. Just as I'm ready, the catamaran is raising anchor.

So, engine start around 9:10, anchor up before 9:20, and motor east. Slightly cut off by another boat, who is willing to go closer to shore than I am, so I slow down and ease behind him and outside.

Anchor down by 10 at Sandy Cay. I pull in close to get to shallow water, and five minutes later a bunch of boats pull in and wish they had my spot. But it's very rolly and looks too rough for snorkeling on the reefy sides of the cay; don't think I'm going to stay here long. A few nice-looking women here.

Anchor up at 11, and the catamaran behind me immediately moved up into my spot as I left. Motored east toward Cane Garden Bay.

Whoops ! At 11:20 or 30, I noticed the tachometer is dead. That means the alternator isn't running. Maybe the wire from it came loose and fell off. I look in the engine compartment, don't see any sparks.

A minute later, I notice that engine temperature is climbing. 10-15 degrees too high and still going. Probably means the fan belt has failed. I look in the engine compartment, and sure enough, the belt is shredded.

I could try to put on a new belt, but it's rolly out here, the engine is quite hot, and if the old belt failed because the alternator or water-pump seized, the new belt will shred too. I do have spare alternator and water-pump aboard, and a couple of spare fan-belts.

I unfurl the jib and throttle down, but engine temp keeps climbing. Soon I idle it and then shut it off.

Wind is light and shifty. Very frustrating; as soon as I get the jib driving a bit, the wind shifts and back-winds it. Can't sail very close to the wind, and I have no mainsail. I want to go E, but the wind and current and boat are happy to send me any direction but E. I can sail SSW or NNW, and I want to go E.

So I sail S and SSW, heading for a big bay. The wind and current keep nudging me further SW, toward the one place I want to stay away from, a big rocky hill at the SW end of the bay. When I near it around 12:30, I start the engine, and find I can motor 5-10 minutes before it starts to get too hot.

At some point, I look at the engine, and find that the water-pump pulley seems to rotate okay. So maybe just the belt shredded, and putting on a new belt will fix it. Still not going to mess with it out here; the engine is pretty hot.

Recently someone told me that engines (or at least Perkins engines) won't really get damaged by overheating as long as there is coolant in the fresh-water side of the system. Even with a busted water-pump or something, as long as the block doesn't run dry, it should be okay. Hope they're right !

Around 1, the wind picks up a bit, and I find I can sail a bit NE, around 25-30 degrees true. So I think I can get to my original destination, Cane Garden Bay.

I slowly make progress, running the engine every 20 minutes or so for 5 minutes or so, to make some easting. Then the wind gets fluky again, and I'm sailing N and S, only making any progress when I run the engine.

Finally I get into the mouth of Cane Garden Bay, and find it better to sit letting the jib flap, instead of trying to sail, when the engine is off. The boat is staying more or less in one position when I do that.

Finally furl the jib and motor in the channel, and immediately make a left turn. I quickly find reasonably shallow water (20+ feet) and shut off the engine and put down the anchor, at 2:40 at Cane Garden Bay. Took me 3:40 hours to make 3 miles of easting.

At 3:05, "Jabale" comes out of the bay ! That's the boat Gary and I delivered to St Martin.

Started the engine at 3:20, then hustled up to the bow to raise anchor quick, quick, quick and get into the anchorage before the engine overheats. So of course the anchor is stuck in coral on the bottom, and the wind comes up. Sweating and swearing, I finally get the anchor up and motor in. Approaching my spot, a motorboat full of guys whistle and yell at me that my anchor is dangling off the bow; I know that. Get into position, shut off the engine, and lower the anchor. Done around 3:30 at Cane Garden Bay. A relief.

Got some Wi-Fi. A little difficult here, with sun hitting the laptop's screen, and sometimes the boat-motion making the signal fade out. But can't argue with free Wi-Fi from the boat.

Hot afternoon; like a lot of people on other boats here, spent much of the time lounging in the shade on the foredeck, reading a book. Beach looks empty.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Slept like a log much of the night.

Loud cheesey music from shore around midnight, for half an hour or so. Whoever wrote "Karma Chameleon" should be shot.

I wonder if maybe when I tightened the fan belt on the alternator, I let the belt slip off another pulley, or put it on the wrong slot of the alternator's pulley ? I didn't check the other pulleys after I tightened the alternator mounting. Somehow I don't think it could have slipped off the other pulley slots.

Heavy rain at 1 AM.
  6/18/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay.

Rain at 6 AM and again at 7 AM.

Heard Chris Parker's weather very faintly this morning; sounds like wind-shear is the only thing keeping a tropical low from forming right now. Not a good sign; sounds like conditions are ripening for an early hurricane, maybe in a few weeks.

Saw a fairly big sea-turtle swimming next to the boat.

Did a little Wi-Fi, but signals were fleeting. Wind is circling around, spinning the boats.

Into the engine compartment. Old fan belt is shredded and broken; took it out. Alternator and water-pump pulleys spin smoothly, no shaft wobble or grinding, so I think they both are okay. Turns out I have 2 new spare belts and 1 used spare belt. Put a new belt on, and it seems to be a bit wider than the old belt; maybe the old one wasn't quite the right size.

Cleaned the engine air intake strainer; it looked a bit gunky. Added a pint or so of water to the coolant tank; it was slightly lowish. Checked the oil, and it doesn't seem particularly burnt-smelling, so I don't know if I should change the oil or not. Don't see any alarming signs on the rest of the engine: no oozing or scorching or anything. Ran the engine for 5 minutes and everything seemed fine.

Dinghied ashore. Took my 5 small bags of garbage to where the garbage dumpster used to be, and it isn't there any more. Ended up having to walk all the way out to the gas station / fuel dock to find a dumpster. Checked on prices there: $5.35/gallon for diesel, 20 cents/gallon for water.

To the beach, and had a nice time walking and lounging and reading my book. Lots of Japanese here today, for some reason. Fair number of pretty women.

Back to the boat for lunch.

Back ashore to the beach, and more pretty women. Then around 2:45 everyone picked up and left to get back to their cruise-ship. I walked a bit, got a few groceries, and back to the boat.

Another hot afternoon; loafed in the shade on the foredeck.

One boat came in with a pretty woman in a white bikini on board. After they moored, they were joined by a dinghy full of people, with two more women in thong bikinis. Soon there were about 10 people aboard, partying hard.

The guys in the boat next to me were looking all afternoon for a missing member of their crew. Sounded like they weren't sure if he had swum away or something. Eventually he turned up on the beach; I don't know what the story was.

A dinghy swung by, and it turned out to be Ray from the charter company in Benner Bay; I met him when I did that boat-delivery.

Salad and spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Typical full dinghy going to/from dinner ashore.

Big catamaran came in after dark and dropped anchor about 20 feet off my stern; not a good idea in this place, where the wind is light and fluky all night. They quickly picked up anchor and moved elsewhere.

A hot, fairly still night.
  6/19/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay.

Beach pretty empty today, but I went ashore after lunch anyway. A few pretty women.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Suddenly attacked by no-see-ums in my berth in the evening; lots of biting and itching. I sprayed them and tried not to breathe too much for a while.
  6/20/2008 (Friday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay.

Dammit ! Opened a new big box of Kelloggs Raisin Bran, bought less than a month ago, best if used by Sept 24, and it has a few of those moth-like bugs flying inside the sealed plastic bag. Guess I shouldn't buy wheat-based cereal in the Islands any more; I've had to throw away a lot of it. Picked out the bugs I could see and ate a bunch of the cereal.

Thought a tropical wave was supposed to come through last night, and it was supposed to be blowing hard today. Don't think it happened.

Did Wi-Fi and sent email to find out why I haven't received an income tax rebate.

Beach pretty empty today.

At 11, started getting some wind-bursts. At 11:45, rain. At 12:15, low dark clouds, wind circling, more rain. At 12:35, a burst of 50-knot-plus wind from the north; it blew my forward hatch open (from a 1-inch-open position) and turned over a dinghy onto the dinghy-dock. Over the next half hour or so, a blast of 45 knots or so from the north, and one of maybe 40 knots from the south. Boats spinning around every now and then as the wind changes; adjacent boats pointing different directions. A few nice-looking women on various boats.

By 2:30 or so, a few people appearing on the beach, so I went ashore. Read my book and walked.

Salad and spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Saw a dolphin near the boat.
  6/21/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay.

Ate some more of the Raisin Bran and then had to throw the rest of it overboard; the bug-to-cereal ratio was too high. Waste of about $6 of cereal. I'll send email to the company to complain.

Ran engine for 30 minutes to test it and charge batteries.

People on a nearby boat exclaiming about a dolphin; later it surfaced right next to my boat, 10 feet from where I was sitting. But it's up and down too quickly to get a picture.

Beach pretty empty again this morning.

Beach still empty in the afternoon, but I went ashore anyway and walked and read my book.

Salad and yogurt and an apple for dinner.

Fairly heavy rain at midnight.
  6/22/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay.

Rain at 7:15.

Cleaned outboard spark plug; of course, it's smaller than the plugs on the older outboard, so I'll have to buy a new wrench for it. Started looking over the outboard to get familiar with its internals.

Rain at 1.

Ashore to the beach. A few nice-looking women.

Salad and chili and a little too much wine for dinner.

From 5 to 7, the church ashore set up loudspeakers and blasted out hymns and sermons into the harbor. Very annoying; I was trying to listen to the radio, and read a book.
  6/23/2008 (Monday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay.

Rain at 5:30 and 7.

Saw people on the beach, so went ashore. Lots of people from a cruise-ship, and lots of pretty women ! Walked quite a bit, read my book, enjoyed the scene. Rained just before noon, and that dampened everyone's spirits, and soon they were jumping into taxi-vans and heading back to the ship.

Back to the boat for lunch.

Back ashore after lunch. Beach fairly empty, but still some cuties.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

At 7:25, lightning and some thunder and some rain. Then a huge burst of wind from the E or SE, probably 50+ knots, followed by sheets of rain. Closed up the boat and started the engine, in case my anchor dragged or something else happened. Soon there was a big green flash ashore, immediately followed by a second green flash in te same place, and all the lights went out; I figured an electrical transformer had exploded. Some individual lights came on; probably generators at various hotels and bars and houses. But by 15 minutes later, all the power was back on, so I guess it really wasn't a transformer blowing out.

By 7:50, the wind had eased and I shut off the engine. Lightning and rain kept going until about 8:10. Saw a huge horizontal lightning flash out over the water, then a thick vertical flash that zipped down to land on Jost Van Dyke. Glad I'm not anchored over there; always lots of inexperienced people anchored in White Bay and Great Harbour, so who knows what is happening there during this storm ?

More heavy rain at 10:15 and 11:15.
  6/24/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay.

Grey morning. Looks like I didn't catch much rainwater last night; the high wind kept the water from dripping down into my buckets. Still got about 4 gallons.

Went ashore, disposed of garbage, and got groceries. Interesting to see prices on the smaller islands; here locally-baked sliced bread is $3.37/24oz and frozen chicken shipped in from Georgia is $3.69/32oz.

Ashore again in the afternoon, to the beach. Not much happening today.

Salad and chicken-onion-rice and wine for dinner.

Wind light and fluky in the evening. Mostly from N, an odd direction. Then some from NW and W was pushing me towards a small motorboat anchored nearby; had to start the engine and motor away, dragging my anchor chain to another place so its weight kept me away from that boat.
  6/25/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay.

Another grey, still, humid morning. Rain at 7.

Tightened fan belt. Ran engine for 45 minutes to charge batteries.

Went ashore after lunch. Exchanged books at a one-shelf exchange I found yesterday. Grey day on the beach, sprinkling rain every now and then.

Back to boat for a while, then ashore again for a while. Sunnier in the afternoon, but still lots of clouds. A couple of pretty women.

Salad and cheese sandwich and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Started engine, raised anchor, and moved about 120 feet closer to shore, to get away from a small motorboat anchored nearby. Wind still light and fluky and coming from all directions.
  6/26/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay.

Another fairly grey, fairly still morning. Wiped dust off the solar panels; greyish, so maybe it's Sahara dust.

Updated my virus-checker, it found a Trojan horse in a system file and "healed" it, and then my Wi-Fi card no longer worked ! Managed to "unheal" the file, still no Wi-Fi, then turning off the virus-checker let the Wi-Fi work again. The joys of computing.

Two guys from a charter company (Sparkling Charters) came over by dinghy to borrow a set of files from me. Guess they figured a full-time cruising boat like mine would have decent tools aboard. Five minutes later, they came back and said the file was too slow, so they borrowed my Dremel and took it ashore. They're replacing two engine mounts on a boat (here!), and need to file a couple of holes a little bigger. 15 minutes later, they were back to borrow my drill and bits.

Ashore to dispose of garbage, buy bananas at the grocery store, and use a book-exchange at Myett's bar. Walked down the beach to the dinghy dock, and the beach is pretty empty today. I've been watching the sand slowly absorb some beach chairs over the last week or two; they've been sinking lower and lower.

The charter-company guys came by, returned my tools, and said they got the job done.

Ashore again for a while. Some people on the beach; not many women. Back to the boat just before some heavy rain (with big raindrops) at 3:30.

Salad and spaghetti and wine for dinner.

Normal wind-pattern starting to establish itself again; getting some nice, cool periods of decent wind.
  6/27/2008 (Friday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay.

Sunny morning. Did a small bucket of laundry.

Cloudy by noon, then grey much of the early afternoon.

Went ashore a couple of times, to lounge and walk and read books. Very loud fire-siren went off around 2 PM, and kept going for several minutes, for no apparent reason.

Heard a joke on the radio: "It's hard to blame illegal immigrants from Mexico: they just want to come north, where people are smart and kind and logical and friendly. So they just HAVE to go through the USA to get to Canada."

Salad and cheese-and-crackers and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  6/28/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay.

A big sport-fisher came in and anchored off the beach, too close to me. I told one of the guys on the stern they were too close, but he shrugged me off and said their anchors were going to hold them far enough away from me. But soon two more big boats had appeared and rafted up to the first boat, even closer to me.

So all day I was irritated, wondering if they'd stay the night, wondering if the wind would stay E and keep us from having a problem. Went ashore to the beach a couple of times, doing a lot of reading on the beach.

Salad and bratwurst and noodles and baked beans and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Wind starting to spin around and bring me very close to those big boats a few times. One of the three (the one furthest from me) has left, but the others look like they're staying.

Finally wised up and decided I should fix the situation during daylight instead of having a problem at 3 AM. So started engine at 7, raised anchor (much closer to the boats than I expected), and moved away. Came face-to-face with yet another big sportfisher coming in, and I quickly dropped anchor to keep him from taking the place I wanted. Eventually he dropped anchor near me and backed way in near the dinghy-dock, with about 200 feet of anchor rode running out from his bow to where I am.

Started getting those huge wind-bursts again, probably starting around 10, and continuing all night. I'm swinging pretty close to an unoccupied mooring ball.
  6/29/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay.

Checked the battery water, and it was pretty good; added a little.

Still getting huge wind-bursts this morning, and still swinging very close to an unoccupied mooring.

So, around 11:30, started engine and raised anchor, and motored to SE end of the harbor. Took two tries, but finished anchoring at 11:45 at Cane Garden Bay.

Bummer: no usable Wi-Fi here.

After lunch and Car Talk, ashore to the beach. Spent a long time ashore, and got a little too much sun. Exchanged a couple of books.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
  6/30/2008 (Monday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay.

Grey morning.

Must be a holiday: lots of local people on the beach. And someone set up big speakers and started blasting music. Not bad music, but it prevents me from listening to the radio. Kept going all day long.

Ashore to dispose of garbage and get groceries. Later ashore again to loaf on the beach.

Salad and spaghetti and wine for dinner. Loud music from shore finally stopped at 6:15.
  7/1/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay.

Grey morning. A few rain-sprinkles.

Ran engine for 30 minutes to charge batteries.

People on the beach before 9 AM; looks like a cruise-ship crowd. Went ashore and had a nice morning. Fair number of tattoos among the crowd today. Lots of pretty women ! Cruise-ship people left by noon or so.

Ashore again in the afternoon.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Headache; to bed early.
  7/2/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay.

Headache.

People on the beach before 9 AM again; looks like a cruise-ship crowd again. And the beach attendants have put out a sea of beach-chairs; they must be expecting a lot of people. Went ashore; soon got as crowded as I've ever seen it. Lots of pretty women !

To the boat for lunch, then back ashore. By 2:30, everyone was fleeing to the taxiis, to get back to the cruise-ship.

Picked up a nice towel left by someone from the cruise-ship crowd; it sat there for half an hour after they were all gone, and I got it before the local cleanup crew could get it. Back to the boat by 3:15.

Salad and chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Dinner pretty much finished off my headache; a relief.

And I've been meaning to note that my back pain has been fully gone for the last week or so; finally got over that injury.
  7/3/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay.

Rain at 7:30 and 8. Did a bucket of laundry. Heard that a tropical storm is forming SW of the Canaries, but might stay east of the Caribbean.

Finally got some Wi-Fi from this position in the harbor.

Sport-fishers starting to pour in around 2:15, for the (USA) holiday weekend. I think most of these are from Puerto Rico; people in Culebra call them "the Puerto Rican Navy".

By 2:45, swinging a little close to a moored catamaran, so started engine and moved about 50 feet closer to shore.

Went ashore, used a book-exchange, lounged on the beach for a while.

Hot afternoon and evening, with wind swirling around at random. Salad and tuna-salad sandwiches for dinner.

Boats still pouring in, and just before dark a big powerboat nosed around for quite a while and then anchored a little close to me. Well after dark, at least one other smaller powerboat came in and was looking for a place.
  7/4/2008 (Friday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay.

The big powerboat that anchored a little close to me is gone; they must have left last evening.

Still can't receive Chris Parker's weather on the shortwave.

More sportfishers arriving. Here's part of the Puerto Rican Navy.

At noon, wunderground says TS Bertha to pass north of us Wed morning; we're just outside the circle of storm-force winds. Looks like we shouldn't get more than 25 knots of wind. But the track could change. What are my options if it starts strengthening and heading for us ? Trellis Bay, Fish Bay on St John, Vieques, Culebra.

Ashore to the beach for much of the afternoon.

Salad and spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Nice sunset (big pic) (looking west out of Cane Garden Bay; right-foreground is Jost Van Dyke, left-background above stern of catamaran is north side of St Thomas).
  7/5/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay.

Still can't hear Chris Parker's weather on the shortwave.

Frequent rain from 10:15 to 11:30.

While listening to Car Talk, finally got updated forecast from wunderground. 4 out of 5 models have Bertha going well north of me; 5th model has it coming almost straight over me. But lots of good things that will prevent it from becoming a hurricane: about 10-15 MPH of wind-shear, water not quite warm enough, central winds only 50 MPH.

Ashore after lunch. Disposed of garbage, got a few groceries, and to the beach. Within 5 minutes, started raining. Sat out the heavy rain, then got sprinkled on as I headed back out to the boat.

Ashore again around 3:30, and some people on the beach. Gave a local guy a quick ride out to one of the anchored rental skiffs (little motorboats with canopies that they rent out for fishing or touring); he says they rent for $350 for a 9-5 day.

Salad and PB-butter sandwiches and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  7/6/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay.

People on the beach before 9 AM again; looks like a cruise-ship crowd again. Went ashore for the morning. Had a nice conversation with some people from NJ who were delighted to meet someone who lives on boat; one of the wives offered to join me on the boat. Lots of pretty women !

Back to the boat for lunch and Car Talk. A few sports-fishers leaving. I want to move to a better anchoring spot before TS Bertha goes by.

Got some Wi-Fi, and in the 11 AM forecast all the models have Bertha staying well north of us here, so that's good.

Ashore to the beach again for an hour or two.

Salad and spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  7/7/2008 (Monday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay.



Turned on the FM radio at 5:30 and the very first thing they said was that Bertha has strengthened into a hurricane, central wind 70-75 MPH. So I think it's time to get out of here; this harbor faces NW to open ocean and has very little reef, so could let enormous swells in, and a left turn by Bertha could nail us. So I'll head to Benner Bay today. Might stay there as the storm passes, or head to Fish Bay if things look bad.

Got some Wi-Fi around 6 AM. Looks like Bertha is tracking further N than expected, further away from us, and going slower than forecast earlier. But I'm still out of here.

Engine start at 6:45. Anchor up and boat moving by 6:55. Out of harbor, unfurled the jib, and motor-sailed west. Fairly rolly in the open, as usual. Getting a good knot or two from the jib; going mostly downwind; kept the engine running at fast idle. Engine running about 5 degrees hot. Into harbor, furled jib, and anchored by 8:10 in Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, BVI. Fan belt chirping a little. Only about 6 boats here, emptiest I've ever seen it; hope that doesn't mean something like Customs is closed.

Into the dinghy at 8:45 or so, and the PFD (life vest) is gone ! Must have blown out last night or this morning.

Went ashore, and fortunately it's not a holiday (overtime fee). Had to wait 5 minutes for the Customs guy to come back from taking his kid to school. Paid $1 exit fee. They noticed that the Immigration lady had given me a 1-day stay on the paperwork, but fortunately had stamped a 1-month stay in my passport, when I entered (I had asked for 1 month, and she'd said she was giving me a month; Immigration in this country is screwy).

Back to the boat, and anchor up at 9:20. Unfurled the jib, motored out, and a rolly motor-sail S to St John. Still getting pretty good push from the jib; it's blowing fairly hard today. Only half a dozen boats in White Bay on Jost Van Dyke; I've never seen that harbor so empty. Maybe the charter companies have told their people to get south, away from the hurricane ? But there are plenty of boats sailing around, plenty at Green Cay and a couple at Sandy Cay, fair number back in Cane Garden Bay. Saw a pretty yawl sailing north off Caneel Bay.

Anyway, into harbor and anchor down by 11:05 in Cruz Bay. Wind swirly, and before I could even back down on my anchor and straighten out the chain, there was a big captained catamaran anchoring behind me. But no problem; it's shallow and sheltered here, and they know what they're doing. And I have about 75 feet of chain out, so my boat shouldn't be going anywhere.

Ashore to Customs, and no questions except "do you have any garbage ?"; always answer "no" to that one. Back to the boat by 11:30.

Ate lunch, and listened to the weather forecast (local, 2-day). Trying to decide where to go: Christmas Cove (good protection from E; bad if major wind/swells); outside Benner Bay (guaranteed to have space, but wide open to E); inside Benner Bay (may not have space). Decided to go for the best, and try inside Benner Bay.

Anchor up at 11:55, and motor-sailed across Pillsbury Sound, through Current Cut, and down to Benner Bay. Plenty of wind driving the jib as I went downwind, and a favorable current through Current Cut.

Started into the harbor channel with jib still up, something I don't usually do, and it worked out perfectly. Wind died 1/4 of the way in, and I quickly furled the jib. Much easier than rounding up into the full tradewind and furling the jib while it's flogging like mad.

Even better: my old parking space is still empty ! Right into it, and it must be near high tide, since I got all the way in up to the old parasail boat that's been moored there for years, and dropped anchor just off it's stern. Then tried to back out, and found the stern aground somehow; hope it's not high tide. Quickly launched the dinghy, got together a stern anchor and rode, and took the anchor out to the edge of the channel. Now I'll be able to adjust the boat position once it floats free, and won't bump any of my neighbors. Primary anchor was down by 1 PM at inside Benner Bay. Wind blowing fairly hard from the E or ENE. Feels good to be here, and good to have put a couple of sets of islands between me and Bertha.

Checked tide program, and it's just about low tide now. Strange that I was able to get so far into this spot. Won't float off until about 8 PM.

Ashore to Pirate's Cove Marina to do Wi-Fi. Office is closed and no one I know is here today. 11 AM tracking on hurricane Bertha says now up to 90 MPH, but turning still further north (good for us).

Sprayed a small cockroach in the aft cabin; I think it flew in.

Salad and PB-butter sandwiches for dinner.

Boat floated around 8:30 and I adjusted the stern anchor a bit. Sprayed a couple of bugs in the galley.
  7/8/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

At 6 AM, FM radio said Bertha is up to category 3, but the center is missing us by 700 miles or so, and it's heading toward Bermuda.

Boat aground mostly, and that's fine. Wind blowing hard from the E, and I'd rather not have strain on my stern anchor rode.

Ashore to do Wi-Fi, but the laptop's AC adapter isn't working again. Chatted with Chris, and Gary number 2. Office closed again today. Weather sites seem to say only 2-meter swells expected on BVI's; that doesn't sound right, with a hurricane going past, even if it's 700 miles away.

Back to boat for lunch. Sanded the power-pins on the laptop; they're a bit rusty, but they work fine with the 12-volt power adapter on the boat.

Ashore again later. AC adapter still not working, and now the Wi-Fi access point seems to be down too. I'm not sure the AC here is completely working; maybe there's been a brown-out or something.

To the boatyard, to use the book-exchange, and to look in the marine store for some electrical things that would help me fix the laptop thing; no luck. Saw that the rudder on Laughing Pelican has been repaired (pic) but not painted yet; it was broken about 6 weeks ago.

Headachey.

Salad and chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Started messing with the secondary anchor, which is rusted (pic). Gary has told me to just throw it away and replace it with new; I haven't been able to find anywhere in the islands who does re-galvanizing.

Some strongish wind, lightning, and a little rain around 11:30. Eased my stern anchor a bit to ease the strain on it; the wind is trying to blow the boat sideways. But the strong wind didn't last long.
  7/9/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Filed the connector on the laptop AC power adapter, to see if I can get it to fit deeper into the hole in the laptop.

Went ashore around noon, and found that Gary is back from his vacation in Washington DC. But no AC power in the marina; they didn't pay their electric bill, so the power was turned off yesterday. I guess there was enough power on the line to light the LED on my AC adapter, but not enough to power the laptop. So maybe my AC adapter is okay.

The two paperback books I ordered a couple of months ago came in ! Gary says they arrived about 15 minutes after I left here. Ordered them 5/17 and I guess they arrived around 6/15.

Chatted with Gary and Gary and Chris and Mario for a while. To the book-exchange at Compass Point, then back to the boat.

Salad and PB-crackers for dinner.

Bummer: unplugged my Grundig radio, and the cigarette-plug connector came apart and the metal tip of it disappeared somewhere, maybe down one of the cockpit drains.
  7/10/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Grey morning.

Went ashore around noon, and they have AC power ! Laptop adapter works. Received mail from NJ (came in 2 days flat), including my $300 IRS stimulus check, and a $10 check from Kelloggs for the Raisin Bran I had to throw away. Did Wi-Fi. Got 10 gallons of water ($1.60).

To supermarket, and bought a whole roast chicken ($6). Back to the boat, and chicken and salad and noodles and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  7/11/2008 (Friday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Sunny, clear morning. Did a bucket of laundry. Aft water tank ran emtpy; switched to forward tank.

Ashore at 9 to meet Chris, and we drove off to shopping. Went to Cost-U-Less ($163), Western Auto, KMart, Plaza Extra ($33). Now I have food to last a couple more months. Always good to stock up on things that can be hard to find here, or hard to find at a decent price: cereal, crackers, snacks, etc. Got another bottle of $3 rum.

Back home and to the boat. Took a while to stow everything.

Ashore after lunch, but AC power is down on the island. Apparently it was down last night for a while, too. Chatted with the guys for a while, then back out to the boat.

Ashore again, and the AC and Wi-Fi were working, so did some internet. Got 10 gallons of water ($2). Heard that the AC is deliberately having rolling blackouts to cut down on the amount of fuel the power-company has to buy (later, found out they've been having generator breakdowns). Did a Skype-phone-call to my Mom. We talked a little about my sister and her husband: they're on vacation in Bermuda, and hurricane Bertha is heading there.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
  7/12/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Dumped 10 gallons of water from jugs into aft water tank.

Went ashore and did Wi-Fi, chatted with the guys. Got 10 gallons of water ($1.60).

Back to boat for lunch and Car Talk. Dumped 10 gallons of water from jugs into aft water tank. Carved a new washer for the propane stove.

Back ashore for more Wi-Fi. Got 10 gallons of water ($1.60).

Salad and roastchicken-onion-noodles and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  7/13/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Today is Mario's birthday; he's 69.

Dumped 10 gallons of water from jugs into aft water tank.

Went ashore and tried to do Wi-Fi, but something was down. Just as I was leaving, Gary showed up and fixed it. Got 10 gallons of water ($1.60).

Out to the boat for lunch and a little Car Talk. Then back ashore for Wi-Fi. Mario never showed up all day.

Back to the boat around 4:30, then dinghied out to Happy Isle (Cas Cay) for a little party with Woody and his son and some other people. I've never been out here before; this is the "False Bay" anchorage, where a bunch of old-timers live. Part of the movie "The Guns of Navaronne" was filmed on the island here, the big scene where the guns are blown out of the cliff and fall into the sea. Thousands of hermit crabs on the ground here, clicking and clattering and swarming into heaps. Forgot to bring my camera. Had a couple of hotdogs and a Budweiser, and then the bugs were starting to get bad, so the party started breaking up and I went home. Had a salad for dinner.
  7/14/2008 (Monday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Headachey.

Dumped 10 gallons of water from jugs into aft water tank.

Went ashore around 11:30. Lots of guys in the marina today. But the water tank is empty; couldn't buy any water. Did Wi-Fi.

Mario and Chris were making a model of the Red Baron's airplane, Chris doing the work and Mario supervising (pics; notice the unsafe way Chris is drilling something held in his hand). Rained heavily for a few minutes, but generally a sunny and hot afternoon. We all ragged on Mario when Andrea got $3 from him and went to the supermarket across the street to buy bread for him, and didn't come back (she met some people, went partying, and reappeared 90 minutes later).

Salad and roastchicken-onion-noodles and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Headachey.
  7/15/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Headachey. Grey morning, with a brief rain-sprinkle at 7. Lots of wind and rain at 8:30.

My general plan for the next couple of months: I think I'll explore the north coast of St Thomas (including Magens Bay ) a little, then to Culebra, then the islands off the NE coast of Puerto Rico (including Islas Palominos ), then to San Juan for a while (I've never been there by boat). Lots of territory I've never been to before. Have to dodge any hurricanes, of course.

Went ashore and did Wi-Fi.

Out to the boat for lunch; still have a headache, so took more pills. Later, back ashore again.

Lots of wind and rain at 2. Water-truck came to deliver water just before it started raining. More rain at 3:30, and 5:30.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner. Still have a headache.
  7/16/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Still headachey. Grey morning. Checked batteries and added a little water to a few cells.

Went ashore and did Wi-Fi. Chris and Mario were doing more work on the airplane model. I lent them my soldering iron.

Back to the boat for lunch and loafing. Some strong wind from ESE.

Back ashore. Got 10 gallons of water ($2). Someone brought in a shackle that had corroded almost through (he broke it the rest of the way with pliers) in about 2 years underwater.

Salad and spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Sprayed a cockroach in the galley in the middle of the night.
  7/17/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Headache is gone !

Checked a couple more batteries and added a little water to a few cells.
Fuel level 6.5 inches at engine hour 4398.
Checked engine intake strainer.
Dumped 10 gallons of water from jugs into aft water tank.
Scraped chunks of rust off secondary anchor (Danforth 40-something) and put it in the dinghy to take ashore.
Moved my spare Danforth 35+ anchor to the bow to use as the secondary; I'll buy a new spare in San Juan.

Went ashore and did Wi-Fi. Mario wanted me to take some pictures of him with his jeep, and his model airplane. Gave the rusted anchor to Gary; maybe he can sell it to someone for $20; nothing wrong with it except that all the galvanizing is gone.

I'm planning to leave here late this afternoon; may not be on the internet for a while.

Got 10 gallons of water ($1.60).

In preparation for leaving, Mario and Chris inducted me into the order of "something d'or", which involved sticking a Heineken label on my laptop power adapter, saluting, and humming the first bar or two of the Marseillais. And Mario wants me to write this in the log as I leave: "Teary eyed do I leave Pirate's Cove today mes amis; awarded the pirate's seal of approval".

To the boat for lunch and loafing. Replaced galley water filter element.

Back ashore for more Wi-Fi. Mario and Chris did more work on the model airplane.

To supermarket for groceries. Said goodbye to Mario, then out to the boat. Stowed groceries, went out in dinghy and raised stern anchor. Back into boat, hoisted stern anchor, hoisted and lashed dinghy. Started engine, and raised anchor by 5 PM. Motored out.

The usual rolly slog east, with lots of wind and swells from SE. Anchor down by 5:45 at Christmas Cove. Can't get as far in as usual; someone's in my spot. And the wind is a bit NE, leaving us abeam to the ferry-boat wakes, so it's a bit rolly. But it feels good to have the boat moving again.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Out onto deck at 7:45 to try to see the Space Station come over; I copied transit info from a web site about it today. I've always wanted to try this. Nice full moon tonight. Big clouds came over, but through a gap in the clouds straight overhead, I'm pretty sure I saw the station go over ! Saw it for only 10 seconds or so, but it was at the right time, moving fast, and moving mostly the expected direction. Couldn't see any detail through the binoculars.

Sprayed a cockroach and some other bugs in the galley.







  7/18/2008 (Friday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Was able to hear Chris Parker's weather on shortwave this morning, for the first time in a long while.

Wind moving around into the SE, so stern is facing the ferry-boat wakes, and the boat isn't rolling much any more.

In midafternoon, lowered the dinghy and went snorkeling under the boat to scrape prop and hull. Just light fuzz and grass and slime on the hull; not bad at all. Only a few puffer-fish hanging around as I worked. A couple of day-snorkeling boats came in while I was in the water.

Irritating: a powerboat named something like "Hookin and Crookin" came in and picked up a guy from nearby sailboat "Wanderer" and then drifted around the anchorage while they chatted with him. They kept coming a little too close to me, veering away at the last second, and often hovered upwind of me, treating me to their exhaust fumes. Later, they left, then came back at high speed, making a huge wake right next to me, to pick up the couple from "Wanderer" and take them off to a party somewhere.

Salad and chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Out onto deck at 8:10 and saw the Space Station come over again; no clouds in the way tonight. It passes over pretty quickly, and looks like any plane passing over at high altitude. I used the web site http://heavens-above.com/PassSummary.asp?satid=25544 to find transit info for it a couple of days ago.
  7/19/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Was able to hear Chris Parker's weather on shortwave again this morning.

Loafed all day, listening to the radio and reading books. Car Talk was pretty bad.

Salad and PB-crackers for dinner.

Headachey in the evening.

Warm, still night, with wind slowing circling around.
  7/20/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Anchor up at 8:35, jib out, and motor-sailed out and north through Current Cut. Followed the coast up the east end of St Thomas, looking into each little cove; I've never been through here before. As I expected, they're all too exposed to be decent anchorages. Around Coki Point (saw a complex with geodesic domes; I think it's the "Coral World" attraction) and up to the west end of Thatch Cay, which is supposed to be a decent anchorage. But as I feared, even with ESE wind and supposedly E swells, there's plenty of NE wind and swells up here, so the anchorage looks fairly nasty. Kept going west.

Tried a drive-by Wi-Fi connection as I motor-sailed half a mile off the coast, and got connected, but it was too fragile to do anything.

Some houses around here built on the clifftops: pic.

Around Picara Point and into Magens Bay. Nice in here, a big bay with the open end pointing NW, so very sheltered from the ESE tradewinds and most of the swells. A long way in until I found water shallow enough to anchor in. Two megayachts here, one fairly big. A couple of sportfishers, and one unoccupied moored sailboat that looks like it belongs to a house or hotel or something. Anchored by 11 AM at Magens Bay. Nice here. Fair number of people on the beach, and an open-air church service going on, but I don't feel like going ashore today; I'm a bit tired.

Sea-turtle swimming next to the boat.

Lots of music from shore, and some big jet-ski's roaring around, often right past my boat. They're the huge 4-person types that go 50 MPH or so.

Salad and chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

A last-minute small powerboat came in and, of course, anchored right in front of me. Tons of space in this huge bay, and they had to pick the spot closest to me. They're not really too close, about 100 feet away, and I'm probably swinging an 80-foot radius, and the wind should keep us 100 feet apart, but why ? If a strong SE wind makes them drag, they'll drag into me.

Tried to see the Space Station again tonight, at 7:25, but I may have been a minute or two late, and I didn't see it.
  7/21/2008 (Monday)
At anchor at Magens Bay.

Was able to hear Chris Parker's weather on shortwave again this morning.

Lots of grey clouds overhead this morning.

Found a faint, free Wi-Fi signal and used it long enough to upload photos and log file; kept dropping as the boat swung, but I kept re-acquiring the signal.

Dinghied ashore. Walked the long beach, and it got greyer and greyer as I went. Beachfront wedding reception taking place. Started sprinkling rain, stopped, then raining harder, stopped, then rained harder still. Took shelter under trees, and later in a roofed lifeguard station, then later in a big roofed picnic area. Stopped raining, walked some more, chatted with a few people. No real facilities here except garbage cans, snack bar, bar, restrooms. It's just a beachfront park.

One thong bikini on the beach, but it's being worn by a guy; you'll thank me for not taking a picture. He looks to be 55 to 60 years old, with a big nose and bleached-blond hair, and a very dark tan; he must be a regular here in this outfit. In the afternoon, with many more people on the beach, he got a lot of giggles from the women.

Back out to the boat for lunch, and the sun came out for a little bit. All of the other anchored boats left, one by one.

Ashore again. Had a nice, long conversation with a couple who know almost nothing about boats but think the concept of living on one is really cool. They're here on a cruise-ship; the main harbor is straight across the island from this bay. Rained once, then turned into a nice day.

A couple of small motorboats came in, anchored and rafted together, had a swim and beach, then left. Large charter catamaran came in and anchored.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Killed two cockroaches in the galley during the night. I've been putting out boric-acid bait too.
  7/22/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Magens Bay.

Catamaran left at 8 AM; I have the whole bay to myself again.

Launched the dinghy after 10 and went a mile or two over to the SW side of the bay; a guy at the beach-rental place told me there's some snorkeling over here. Anchored and found plenty of coral, but it's all grey and deadish (same story all over the world). Some decent fish, including one big school, and a sea-turtle. Very pleasant, long swim, and good exercise. Back to the boat by 11:30 or so.

After lunch, dinghied ashore to the beach. It's jammed today. Landed at the only place not full of swimmers, which happened to be right in front of the rental place, and immediately a rental guy asked me to move my dinghy, saying the lifeguards wouldn't want it where it was. I think he just didn't want it in front of his place. Moved it a hundred feet down the beach and dragged it up out of the water.

Wow, it's crowded here today ! Every spot of shade anywhere near the beach has people or stuff in it, and it's too hot and still inland from the beach. Even walking along in the edge of the surf, have to constantly dodge people running in or out of the water, sitting in the edge of the water, walking along the edge of the water, etc. Chatted with a guy from Massachusetts. Never found a spot to sit and read my book. Plenty of pretty women. After an hour, back into the dinghy and back to the boat.

Ashore again from 3 to 4. Beach still hopping. The rental guy semi-apologized for giving me static this morning, so we're fine.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Got too much sun today, especially on my forearms.

Killed several small bugs in the galley during the night.
  7/23/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Magens Bay.

Charter sailboat came in at 9:30 and anchored nearby. They left around 10:45, and while they fussed with getting the anchor into the bow roller, they drifted too close to me. I guess they never came closer than 20 feet, but I get very nervous when a 40-foot boat gets that close to mine, from upwind.

Plenty of activity on the beach today, but I've decided to stay aboard and keep my skin out of the sun.

Fairly heavy rain from 12:45 to 1:15. Caught several gallons of rainwater and dumped a couple gallons into the aft water tank.

Charter sailboat came in again at 6:15 and anchored.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
  7/24/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor at Magens Bay.

Rain at 9:45.

Ashore to the beach in the morning, back to the boat for lunch, then back ashore again in the afternoon.

I keep trying, but I haven't been able to get any Wi-Fi since that brief session on Monday morning. Just too far from the houses here, and the boat swings a lot too.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

A 50-foot trawler and a small cruiser anchored here with me tonight, both fairly far away from me.

Killed bugs in the aft head and the galley during the night.

Decided to try a night-time Wi-Fi session, so fired up the laptop at 10:45. Got a mostly-usable signal and managed to upload all of the pictures and the log file, and then do a couple of emails, before the signal faded.
  7/25/2008 (Friday)
At anchor at Magens Bay.

Rained several times from 9 to 11, hard at times. More rain at 12:30. Dumped about 4 gallons of rainwater into aft water tank.

Looks like just local kids on the beach today; every other Friday is a no-cruise-ship day in Charlotte Amelie, and I guess today is it.

Cabin-cruiser came in and anchored fairly close to me. Later a smaller boat with a couple of nice-looking women aboard came in and anchored too. And later a power-cat came in and anchored close to the NE shore.

Salad and PB-crackers for dinner.
  7/26/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor at Magens Bay.

Got a decent Wi-Fi signal, so did some internet.

Ashore after Car Talk and lunch, to the beach. Nice this afternoon, not too empty and not too crowded. Tested the water from a faucet on the outside of a restroom building, and as I suspected, it's salt water, so I can't fill up here. Chatted with some guys, walked, read my book, took pictures.

A bit annoyed to find a kid sitting on my dinghy, the dinghy floating at the edge of the water instead of pulled up onto the beach (maybe the tide came in ?), someone had piled some shells on one tube, and some kids whining for a boat-ride. Same story in most of these islands: the local kids often are annoying (using dinghies as dive platforms) and occasionally even a bit aggressive.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Killed some bugs in the middle of the night.
  7/27/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor at Magens Bay.

About 8 boats here today.

Did Wi-Fi.

Ashore after lunch. Beach a bit sparse today. Walked, read my book. Saw a 3-foot tarpon in the water about 10 feet off the sand, among all the swimmers. A float toy.

Apple and raisins and power-bar for dinner.

Killed a cockroach in my berth during the night.
  7/28/2008 (Monday)
At anchor at Magens Bay.

Did a bucket of laundry. Catamaran "Caribbean Dream" and small megayacht came in; two rafted powerboats next to me left.

After lunch, ashore to the beach. Chatted with a guy from the catamaran, chatted with a safari driver, walked, read, etc. Saw a police/DPNR boat come in and do a slow circle around the bay, but he didn't stop at my boat or the catamaran. Pelicans plunging into water no more than 10 feet from swimmers.

Chicken-saffronrice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  7/29/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Magens Bay.

Rain at 9:30.

Did some Wi-Fi.

Catamaran "Caribbean Dream" and small megayacht left.

After lunch, to the beach. Chatted with the kayak-rental guy for a while. Walked, read, loafed. Saw a live steel drum band playing in the parking lot for everyone's enjoyment, playing versions of Beethoven's 5th and other classical things, as well as Caribbean stuff. I've heard them from the boat before, and didn't realize it was live.

Saw a guy grab the resident iguana by the tail; not a good idea, and I think they're a protected species or something. Anyway, soon his grip slipped a little, and the hard skin cut his finger a little; served him right.

Salad and raisins and power-bar for dinner.

Catamaran "Caribbean Dream" came back in and took forever to get anchored again, trying half a dozen times in various spots; I didn't have any problem when I anchored.

Killed a cockroach in the galley during the night.

Lots of low grey clouds and a fair amount of wind going over all night.
  7/30/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Magens Bay.

Wind started blowing around 8:30, and blew pretty hard from S and SE all day.

Did some Wi-Fi.

Went ashore. Met by a lifeguard, who told me to anchor my dinghy out from shore instead of pulling it up on the beach. I've been beaching it for a week now, the rental guys beach their boats, the fishermen beach their boats, but he was adamant. So I anchored about 10 feet out and the boat lay in the water just off the sand.

Beach pretty jammed today (but I'm told it's really amazing during Christmas week). Kayak-rental guy says it'll be empty tomorrow and the next couple of days (no cruise ships). So maybe I'll leave here tomorrow. Walked on the beach and read my book.

Back to the boat for lunch. Killed a cockroach in the galley.

Back ashore to the beach. On the way in, retrieved a lost lifejacket for the kayak-rental guy. Walked and read and enjoyed the beach.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

High wind until 11 or so, then it eased, mostly.

Killed a cockroach in the galley during the night.
  7/31/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor at Magens Bay.

Still pretty windy; getting strong gusts.

Did a little Wi-Fi.

Checked left bank of batteries and added water to a few cells.

Engine start at 9, anchor up in boisterous conditions by 9:10. Motored NW toward mouth of the bay.

As I got near open water, I found that conditions are completely different than I expected: stiff wind and swells from ENE or NE, and so very rolly. Made it around the corner and anchored by 9:55 in Hull Bay. But it's pretty uncomfortable here: can't get very far in because there are several dozen moored skiffs and motorboats here, and the wind is holding me sideways to the incoming swell.

Did a little Wi-Fi.

Launched the dinghy and went ashore. Not much here: a fairly beat-up beach, a dive shop, and a big bar (empty at this time of day). But I found the main reason I came here: a big bookcase full of books to exchange. I brought three bags of books ashore, about 20 books, and exchanged them all. Rained while I was in the bar.

Back to the boat, and hoisted the dinghy (not easy in these rolly conditions) while getting rained on. Ate lunch while considering my choices. Could go further west down the coast to the next possible anchorage, but probably it will be just as rolly as this one. So I decide to go back into Magens Bay.

Anchor up at 12:10 and motor out around the point and into Magens Bay. A slow, rough, rolly slog around the point and 1/4 of the way in, until I can get some shelter from Picara Point on the N end of the bay. Then there's a huge wall of rain approaching from the SE, and I'm glad to have the pilothouse.

As I motor in, I try hugging the NE side of the bay to see if there's any shallow water to anchor in. There is, but it's all reef-type bottom, coral and rock and unpredictable depths. So I keep going, back to my old spot near the beach. Anchor down by 1:10 at Magens Bay.

Some people on the beach today, even though everything is drenched, but it's mostly kids and locals, not a cruise-ship crowd. And they're keeping going right through the rainshowers.

The kayak-rental guy came surfboarding out to give me a USVI tourist-dive-map he's been promising to give me. It's a pretty nice map, showing a lot of details I didn't know. From www.frankosmaps.com

Kept raining on and off all afternoon. And suddenly I'm very tired; napped the afternoon away.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

No stores within reach on this side of the island, so I've run out of most of the "fresh" foods I eat: bread, cheese, cabbage for salad, fruit. I have enough canned and dry foods to live for a couple of months, but I should be getting to Culebra in a week or so, and I can buy fresh food there.

Rained on and off all night, fairly hard once or twice. Some lightning, but it all seemed to be up in the clouds.
  8/1/2008 (Friday)
At anchor at Magens Bay.

Dumped 3 gallons of rainwater from buckets into jug.

Couldn't get a Wi-Fi signal.
Plenty of people on the beach this morning.
Kids in paddle-boats screaming next to my boat.

Ashore to the beach, back out to the boat for lunch and loafing, then ashore to the beach again. Hot afternoon, and fairly crowded beach.

Starting around 4:30, a dolphin circling around my boat for at least an hour (pics); I think it was feeding on the clouds of tiny fish that have been hovering around my boat. A group of kayakers and paddleboaters gathered for a while to watch it, thrilled.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Saw a photography session after sunset on the beach, at the far end, with lots of bright lights and using the palm trees as a backdrop, shooting away from the water. They seemed to keep going, or at least still lighting the big lights, right through some heavy rain.

Rained quite hard on and off most of the night. Plenty of lightning at times, and a little thunder, but again the lightning didn't seem to be ground strikes. I got up a lot to check things and watch the rain, and managed to kill a total of 5 cockroaches in the galley; didn't think the problem was that bad. Up onto deck a couple of times to dump rainwater from buckets to jugs or tank; captured 12-14 gallons of water.
  8/2/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor at Magens Bay.

Totally grey and damp and calm this morning, with everything drenched. The beach is as empty as I've ever seen it; maybe a dozen people on it this morning.

Stayed very grey all day. Couldn't even see a glow to tell where the sun was until 3 PM or so, and no real sunshine until 4 PM.

Ashore to the beach after lunch and Car Talk. Took some books with me, but the kayak-rental guy who was going to bring some books for me wasn't there. Walked on the beach (saw a wedding starting up) and read my book.

Back to the boat for some loafing, then back ashore later. This time the guy was there, but he forgot to bring the books, and he won't be here tomorrow. Walked and read and loafed some more.

Salad and apple and power-bar for dinner.
  8/3/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor at Magens Bay.

Finally some sunshine this morning, although still plenty of clouds.

Stayed aboard; the beach doesn't look very lively today. Read books, listened to radio. Rain at 9:45, 11:15, 3:30, 4:10, 6:30.

Skiff with a couple of guys came in and anchored next to me around 4:30, and the guys swam ashore. Soon the skiff was dragging anchor and heading out to sea. It was going very slowly, so I just watched it for a while. Eventually, one of the guys came back and made the long swim out to get it. I guessed that they had put out about 25 feet of anchor rode in about 20 feet of water.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  8/4/2008 (Monday)
At anchor at Magens Bay.

Sunny early, then grey and sprinkling rain at 8:15, then sunny, with more grey clouds coming.

Went ashore to the beach. Disposed of garbage. Glen the kayak-guy forgot again to bring books from home; I gave him three of mine anyway. Walked the length of the beach, read my book, enjoyed the pretty women. Back to the boat for lunch.

Haven't been able to get any Wi-Fi for the last several days.

Back ashore in the afternoon. This time the guy had some books for me, and I gave him several more books. Long session on the beach. Nice swim when I got back to the boat.

Salad and raisins and yogurt for dinner.
  8/5/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Magens Bay.

Started engine, but had to turn the key half a dozen times; solenoid or motor is sticky. Anchor up at 6:30. Unfurled the jib, but there's no wind. Tried to get a Wi-Fi signal as I motored out. Kept trying and trying, got one for just long enough to upload one picture, then lost it. Tried more along the north coast of St Thomas. Gave up.

Not much wind today; thought it was supposed to be 10-20. Maybe not until later ?

Nosed into Santa Maria Bay, but it's not a viable anchorage; the swells are coming right in unchecked. Kept going.

Got to the west end of St Thomas, and put the anchor down by 8:30 at Botany Bay. Lovely place, but rolly.

Loafed, ate lunch, tried to relax. Wind swirling around unpredictably. But by 11:30 the rolling was getting to me.

At 12, raised anchor. Tried moving up into the NE corner of this bay, where there's not really quite enough room. The roll is reduced, but as soon as the anchor touched bottom, the wind looped around and blew from the W, which would put me ashore. So I gave that up and decided to head for Culebrita, about 3 hours west of here.

Jib out and motor-sailed west. Strong favorable current as I passed out of the west tip of St Thomas, adding 2.5 knots or so to give me 7.0 knots over ground at one point. But half an hour later much of the current was gone, it was fairly rolly, and there's not enough wind to keep the jib full most of the time. Still some current, and I'm making about 5 knots with the engine on a very low throttle setting. Just enough wind to keep the pilothouse full of exhaust fumes.

A boring trip, having to steer a lot as the swells slew the stern around and the jib is luffing much of the time, failing to stop the rolling or add forward motion. Speed down near 4 knots after a while.

Finally into harbor and anchor down by 2:55 at Culebrita. A bit of roll here too. A powerboat and several skiffs here. Looks like all the mooring balls have been removed; they probably were in dangerously bad condition.

A hot afternoon, with light wind keeping the boat sideways to the swell and the sun, so the boat rolls and there's little shade.

"Caribbean Dream", the catamaran I saw at Magens Bay, came in and anchored. All the other boats left before dark.

Chicken-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

A school of 8-inch fish is feeding on a huge school of 2-inch fish that are hovering under my boat.

Fairly rolly all night, but not too bad.

Killed a bug in the galley during the night.
  8/6/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Culebrita.

Fairly strong wind from SE before 8 this morning; might have been better sailing weather today (for going W) rather than yesterday.

"Caribbean Dream" left, heading east to St Thomas; looks like a rough trip today.

Anchor up at 9:35. Motored out, and it is rough and rolly just outside the harbor, fully exposed to the east. Turned west toward Culebra, then S along the coast. Turned the SE corner of Culebra, and into Puerto del Manglar. Then eased through a shallow channel to anchor by 10:40 in Bahia de Almodovar, on the ESE tip of Culebra.

Lovely in here, nice and sheltered from the sea. 8-10 mooring balls, but no other boats. I can see my friend Bonnie's house, up on the hill to the NNE. I've never been in here before, but have passed it several times. It's a little awkwardly placed, in that I'm really supposed to go straight into the main harbor and check in at the airport, instead of lingering in these outlying anchorages. But I think I'll linger for a few days, here and in the Dakity anchorage.

Wow ! After lunch, got a Wi-Fi connection here. Not very likely, since there are only half a dozen houses nearby. Uploaded files, did email, downloaded lots of web pages to read later, paid credit card, etc.

Lowered the dinghy and went for a snorkel. As I expected, not much to see; it's a very sterile sand-bottomed anchorage. A dozen or so brown-purple sea-slugs, and a couple of stingrays, and no fish.

Five minutes after I was out of the water, a sport-fisher came in and moored up near the reef.

Salad and raisins and a power-bar for dinner.

Just before dark, was surprised to see the sport-fisher moving past me; where could they be going at this hour ? But they were just moving to another mooring, for some reason. Maybe so they'll be right next to the exit first thing in the morning ?

Sprayed several cockroaches in the cockpit.

Slept like a log; very peaceful here.
  8/7/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor at Bahia de Almodovar.

Found a palmetto bug dead in the cockpit, maybe from the brief spraying I did yesterday evening ?

Did a lot of Wi-Fi.

Small red sailboat with three guys aboard came in at 11:30. Like me, they anchored instead of picking up a mooring. They left at 12:45.

Ate lunch, loafed, did more Wi-Fi. Turns out my friend Bonnie moved to St Croix a couple of months ago, although she still owns the house here.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Sprayed a cockroach in the galley during the night.
  8/8/2008 (Friday)
At anchor at Bahia de Almodovar.

Did Wi-Fi morning and afternoon. Did a Skype-phone-call to my Mom and chatted with her for a while; she's signed up for a trip to Japan in October, bless her.

Lots of wind around 2:30, and nasty dark clouds and squalls passing 5 miles or so south of me, cutting off the view of Vieques.

Sport-fisher came in just before 4 PM and, with all of the mooring balls empty, picked the one mooring ball that puts them closest to me and upwind of me, so I have to breathe their exhaust fumes. Shouldn't be too bad when they shut off the main engines and the wind maybe shifts a little.

Soon two more boats have come in, and I start to realize that I should move. I'm anchored in part of the mooring field, because the moorings are in the best part of the anchorage. But if the Puerto Rican Navy shows up in force and most of the moorings become occupied, I'll be in a dangerous place.

So I check the engine, tighten the fan belt, and start engine around 5 PM. Raise the anchor, and it's in a different place than I thought, close to the boat that first came in, so I'm very glad I'm moving. I do a couple of loops through the anchorage, looking for a decent spot to anchor. I could pick up a mooring, but I distrust them. Eventually I settle on a less-than-ideal spot, far away from the moorings, and put the anchor down by 5:15 at Bahia de Almodovar.

Tuna-salad for dinner.

Killed a bug in the galley during the night.
  8/9/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor at Bahia de Almodovar.

Dark clouds and sudden wind shift, and strong wind from SE or SSE at 7 AM, with some rain. Glad I moved away from the other boats yesterday.

Did Wi-Fi. Killed a cockroach in the cockpit. Listened to Car Talk. Saw a huge squall coming up from the south, so battened down the hatches and hunkered down until the oobleck stopped coming down. A few boats came and went in the anchorage.

Did more Wi-Fi. Another big squall/front at 2:30 or so, lasting a lot longer, with heavier rain that was more vertical than before; caught a couple of gallons of rainwater. Killed another cockroach in the cockpit.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  8/10/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor at Bahia de Almodovar.

Defrosted the refrigerator.
Did a bucket of laundry.
Did Wi-Fi.

Raisins and power-bar for dinner.
  8/11/2008 (Monday)
At anchor at Bahia de Almodovar.

Did Wi-Fi.

Anchor up at 12:20. Unfurled the jib and motor-sailed out. A rough slog while going upwind out of the harbor entrance, with the jib flogging. Then rolly after I turned abeam to the wind and traveled along the coast. Then turned downwind into the entrance of Ensenada Honda, and had a nice romp into the main harbor. More sailboats than usual in the Dakity anchorage, probably 10-12 of them, including John on "Buddy" and Paul on "Adios". Kept going up the harbor to town, and anchored by 1:30 at Ensenada Honda, Culebra.

Went ashore; it's a hot and still afternoon here. Disposed of garbage, walked to the airport and checked in, then to a gift shop where there's a big book-exchange. Chatted with the lady and exchanged 15-18 books. Back to the boat, sweaty and tired and headachey. Took some pills.

Radio station from Puerto Rico is interfering with the NPR station from St Thomas.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  8/12/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Honda, Culebra.

Blowing fairly hard from ENE and NE today.

Got a bit of a free Wi-Fi signal.

One of my readers told me he's been reading the blog for sailboat "Prudence" too, and I should be near them now. Sure enough, I'm anchored about 150 feet from them (pic, their blog).

Went ashore around 10:30. To the "Dinghy Dock" waterfront restaurant, and bought 10 gallons of water (25 cents/gallon ! A couple of years ago it was 10 cents/gallon here.). Tried to go to the small book-exchange upstairs, but the gift shop was closed.

To the town dock, disposed of a bag of garbage, and to the grocery store. Prices not too bad; got all the perishable food I've been without for the last couple of weeks. Wet trip back out to the boat.

Nice to have my typical lunch again: peanut-butter and banana sandwiches. Someone called that an "Elvis sandwich", but Elvis used to eat them deep-fried and sometimes with bacon added. So I don't look quite as bad as the old-Elvis (yet).

Dumped 10 gallons of water into the aft water tank.

Fuel level 4.8 inches at engine hour 4411.
Dumped 5 gallons of diesel from jug into fuel tank.

Ashore again in mid-afternoon, to the gas station in the canal. Wanted to get diesel and water, and completely struck out on both. The gas station is out of diesel, and said something about there being none in Puerto Rico ! The place next to it that sold me water last year is closed today; might be open tomorrow. The guy directed me to the other gas station in town, saying I could get there by water. But the water next to that station is about 2 inches deep and full of concrete chunks, and the seawall is about 8 feet high with no cleats on top. So I gave up on that one.

Back to the first gas station. Walked to the small book-exchange, but the gift shop is still closed; I think during the summer, shops are closed quite often here. To the second grocery store, and bought groceries. Back to the boat.

Sheryl from "Prudence" stopped by to say hi. They're house-sitting ashore. We exchanged boat-cards, I told her about our mutual reader, and she said I might be able to get free water at the DRNA dock across the harbor. She said the price of water at the "Dinghy Dock" restaurant suddenly jumped from near 10 cents to 25 cents back in April.

Salad and a grapefruit (yum!) and cheese sandwich for dinner.
  8/13/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Honda, Culebra.

Wind back to normal ESE this morning, but ENE in the afternoon.

After lunch, got some WiFi. Looks like two tropical lows in play, both just 30 MPH central winds. One of them, Invest 92, is going to come over me or more likely north of me Thursday night and could be up to 55 MPH by then. But the Virgin Islands forecast says wind only to 20 knots here, clocking around the compass. The other low, Invest 93, should turn N and not come anywhere near me.

Launched the dinghy and stopped by a sailboat near me. Asked the old guy aboard about getting water and propane. He said the only propane guy is a bit far away and up a hill, and very unreliable: you have to go back five times before he finally gets around to having a full tank for you.

Dinghied down the canal to the other side of town, and tied up at the public part of the ferry dock. Across the street to the second gas station. Had to wait 15 minutes while a tank-truck delivered gasoline. Then bought diesel (43.8 liters at $1.40/liter, total $62.25; that's somewhere around $5.30/gallon ?). Not convinced the pump is completely honest. Fuel price sign. They don't sell water or do propane.

Back through the canal, and stopped at the first gas station to ask the guy about propane. Turned out he has diesel today; yesterday he made it sound like he wouldn't have diesel for a month ! And he's 10 cents/liter cheaper than the other place; could have saved $4. He very nicely called the propane guy for me, and we arranged to meet tomorrow morning at 8:30 at the dinghy dock.

Stopped at the dinghy dock and went uphill to a place where the sailboat guy had said there was a water hose; I saw one there a year or two ago. Not there now, maybe because the place looks closed for the season. Back to the boat.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  8/14/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor at Ensenada Honda, Culebra.

Lots of clouds and squalls coming through this morning; sunshine and then light rain, again and again.

Put the propane tank into the dinghy and went ashore before 8:30; propane guy was supposed to meet me on the dock at 8:30. Waited there until almost 9:30, reading my book, and he didn't show. Back to the boat.

Got some Wi-Fi, looked at the weather. Looks like Invest 92 is coming even closer to us than predicted yesterday, just a smidge north of here, and has central winds of 35 MPH. We might get some wind close to 30 knots after midnight tonight, and the wind direction will be cycling today and tomorrow.

Went ashore before lunch, to the canal gas station, and again the guy called the propane guy for me. Turns out I was waiting at the dinghy dock (town dock) and he was waiting at the Dinghy Dock restaurant. So we rescheduled for 12:15. To the big book-exchange, and exchanged another 15 or so books (now I'll have about 150 in my in-box, the shower stall in my aft head). Back to the boat for a quick lunch.

Ashore again, and the propane guy was there. He took my tank, came back 15 minutes with it filled, and we're done. $30 for 20 pounds, not a great price. Used to be around $20 in Puerto Rico, even got $10 once, but maybe prices have gone up, and this is Culebra. A full tank lasts 6-9 months for me, so it's not bad.

Salad and a grapefruit and cheese sandwich for dinner.

Tons of low grey clouds coming from E or NE. Rain and some wind around 6:30 or so. Then a hot, humid, still evening.

Around 11:15, wind started up, mostly from SE. Soon blowing 20 knots or so with light rain.

Around midnight, stronger wind and more rain, more from NE. Heavy rain; I'm catching a lot of water in the buckets.

By 12:30 or so, I figured it should start easing soon, the worst of it must be over. Wrong !

Around 12:45, very strong wind and horizontal rain from the S, and a chop started building up. Much stronger wind than I expected from the forecast. I guessed 40-45 knots. Wish I had my second anchor out. Started the engine in case the anchor started dragging. Standing in the pilothouse wearing a foul-weather jacket and trying to see if I'm dragging or anyone's dragging down onto me. But I'm in a pretty sparse part of the anchorage; lots of clear water up- and down-wind of me. And I'm not dragging. Plenty of lightning and some pretty good thunder. I can see a lot of flashlight beam up on the bow of "Prudence"; Doug is aboard and must be checking his anchor rode.

But soon I realize that one of my neighbors is gone, the beat-up sailboat with the old guy aboard, the guy I asked about propane a couple of days ago. Hard to see with this horizontal rain, but every time there's a lightning flash, I look and don't see him. There's a sailboat downwind of me, but I'm pretty sure it's an unoccupied boat. After seeing it several times in lightning flashes, I'm sure it's too new-looking to be his boat.

After about half an hour of high wind and chop and rain, the wind eases. Still blowing 20 or so from the S and steady moderate rain.

The rain and wind keeps up all night; would be nice if it stopped for 15 minutes so I could go empty the buckets and catch more rain. Could have caught 30-40 gallons, but I only have 10 gallons worth of buckets.
  8/15/2008 (Friday)
At anchor at Ensenada Honda, Culebra.

Still very grey and raining steadily but very lightly.

I look out around 7 AM to see the results of the storm. As I thought, my boat and "Prudence" and the unoccupied sailboat behind me didn't move at all. But the old sailboat with the old guy aboard dragged a good 500 feet into shallow, muddy water up near the airport, and I think he's firmly aground.

I eat breakfast and read and go back to sleep for a while, and when I next look out around 10 AM, there are about 4 dinghies around the grounded sailboat. Someone's hanging off the end of the boom (pic), trying to heel the boat over to get it free. So I launch my dinghy, pump up the tubes, and head up there to see if I can help. I meet Doug from "Prudence" and some other people there. Almost immediately, Doug and I realize we're superfluous, and soon we leave. And the sailboat is 3-4 inches up out of the water and someone says high tide was at 6:30 this morning (later, my tide program says right now is about 3 inches above low tide and falling; water will be 9 inches higher than now tomorrow morning at 9 AM). So I don't think there's much to be done right now. Someone is about to run an anchor out from the main halyard and try to pull the boat over sideways.

Everyone who had working wind-instruments thinks the worst of the wind last night got a bit over 35 knots, so I was overestimating it.

I head ashore. To an ATM and get some cash, then to a grocery store and get some food. Warm, muggy, everything drenched ashore. Back to the boat. By 11:30, that grounded sailboat is still there.

Starting to get a tiny hint of sunshine. Dumped about 10 gallons of rainwater into the aft water tank.

Did some Wi-Fi.

Anchor up at 12:45; it was set quite firmly in the bottom, and was hard to free even when pulling straight up on it with the weight of the boat. Motored down the harbor and anchored by 1:15 in the Dakity anchorage.

Hmmm, John on "Buddy" and Paul on "Adios" aren't here any more ! They were here when I passed by on Monday; I'd been looking forward to talking to them. But Steve on "Nonesuch" is here.

Also some other interesting boats: a couple of Gemini catamarans, a tiny liveaboard boat, and a houseboat.

Ahh, clear reception of NPR again; up near town I had to hold the antenna much of the time to get the signal.

After a while, Steve came over to say hi. He said John and Paul left and went to Salinas/Jobos because of the storm; they thought it might be more severe. Steve says it actually went south of us, when all the forecast models had it going north of us. And he says he slept through the whole storm ! He was on a mooring plus two anchors down, so he was well prepared, but the wind came from a different direction than expected. Offered him some books, but he doesn't read (I can't understand someone like that); he lives on computer and radio and TV and movies.

Lots of low dark clouds in the later part of the afternoon. Rain at 3:15.

Catamaran with a couple of pretty women aboard came in.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  8/16/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor at Dakity.

Tried a couple of tenuous Wi-Fi signals, but couldn't quite get anything done.

Tidied up the boat a bit, loafed, listened to Car Talk.

Around 1:30, Steve came over. He's having a lot of trouble with his knees, and didn't want to climb the side of my boat, but I put down the stern platform and he came up the ladder okay. We chatted for a couple of hours about a wide variety of things.

Turns out John on "Buddy" and Paul on "Adios" went off together ahead of the storm, staying together because they're both having serious eye problems. I knew John was blind in one eye and losing vision in the other, but didn't know that Paul now has a detached retina problem. Steve and John and Paul all are in their early 60's, although they look younger, and have been cruising for a couple of decades.

Lots of fun chatting about people we know and various other things. Surprised to find that Steve hasn't been to Magens Bay, or to San Juan by boat. He has been up and down the island chain and to Venezuela quite a bit; he loves Venezuela and plans to go back, but his stories about crime make me more determined to stay away from there.

After Steve left, I snorkeled under the boat and scraped the hull and prop a bit. Water almost too warm to be pleasant. No current, so all the crud I scraped off just hung around, slowly sinking, and got in my way. Lots of slippery fuzzy grass growing on the hull, hard to scrape off with my putty knife. And the handle of my putty knife cracked a couple of weeks ago so I can't really bear down on it; should have looked for a new one in town. 4-foot-long barracuda moseyed past, keeping an eye on what I was doing.

Raisins and salad and tuna-salad sandwich for dinner.
  8/17/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor at Dakity.

Heard on the weather net and the FM radio that the tropical low that came over us killed some people in Haiti, and will be hurricane Fay by the time it hits the Florida Keys tomorrow.

Still can't get any Wi-Fi here.

Quiet, boring day. Very light wind; enough cloud to occasionally threaten a rainsprinkle.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Killed a cockroach in the galley during the night.
  8/18/2008 (Monday)
At anchor at Dakity.

Anchor up at 6:45 and motored out. Tried to use the jib, but the wind was always on the nose, so eventually I furled it. Around the corner and into the anchorage and picked up a mooring by 7:40 at Bahia de Almodovar. Lowered the anchor and chain too.

Brief rain 2 minutes after I finished. Heavy rain at 8 AM. Caught a couple of gallons of water. Totally still and humid and buggy afterwards.

Did some Wi-Fi (the main reason for coming over here).

A couple of interesting questions I've received from readers recently:
- Extracting hydrogen from seawater and rrunning the engine with it (apparently "HHO extraction" is a common scam, the latest version of "run your car on water").
- Big NiCad's as main battery bank; how tto adapt standard chargers and regulators to them ?

Raisins and a grapefruit and salad for dinner.

Nice, quiet, calm night; have the whole place to myself.
  8/19/2008 (Tuesday)
On a mooring in Bahia de Almodovar.

Killed a cockroach in the galley.

Loafing and Wi-Fi. Anchorage still empty; no one came in at all. Several small fishing skiffs went past or anchored outside. Saw a large container-ship on the horizon in early morning, but it quickly disappeared below the horizon.

Lots of low dark clouds just north of me in the afternoon, but never got more than a couple of drops of rain.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  8/20/2008 (Wednesday)
On a mooring in Bahia de Almodovar.

Bummer: no Wi-Fi this morning.

Figured out why my laptop has been so slow: a recent update to some anti-spyware software started a background process that is taking 70 MB of memory ! Got rid of the whole package.

Got a little Wi-Fi in the afternoon.

Raisins and salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.
  8/21/2008 (Thursday)
On a mooring in Bahia de Almodovar.

Did more Wi-Fi, of course.

Hmmm, another tropical low, Invest 94, that looks like it might come right over me. And could be a hurricane. At least according to wunderground; Chris Parker this morning sounded a lot less sure. Wunderground has central winds zooming from 35 now to 85+ MPH just about as it reaches me; I find that hard to believe.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Some decent rain at 5 PM.

In his 7 PM broadcast, Chris Parker said one of the computer models is insisting Invest 94 is going to develop into a major hurricane and go up through the Bahamas to hit the SE USA, but he doesn't see that happening. He says Invest 94 is a juxtaposition of a tropical wave and some squalls, with some more potent squalls 600 miles behind that.
  8/22/2008 (Friday)
On a mooring in Bahia de Almodovar.

Could hear only a tiny fragment of Chris Parker's forecast at 7 AM, and none of the 8:30. Sounds like he still thinks Invest 94 is just a hodgepodge of stuff, not going to develop into a hurricane any time soon.

The 8 AM wunderground: the models have shifted to run Invest 94 a bit south of me, instead of right overhead. They still have the wind speed zooming from 35 now to 100+ in 4 days from now; hard to believe.

So, what to do ? I could:
1- stay here and put out an additional line to another mooring ball and maybe a second anchor.
2- go around the corner into the main harbor and put down a couple of anchors in one of the nooks to one side or the other.
3- go into Culebrita, if positive the storm was going south of me.
4- go to hurricane hole at SE corner of Vieques (never been in that one).
5- go all the way to Salinas or San Juan.

At the moment, I'm inclined to do number 1. Could change my mind tomorrow.

A sports-fisher came in around 5:30; first company I've had since Monday morning. Another came in around 6:30. Well after dark, around 9, a third came in and rafted up to the first boat. [Next morning, took some pictures.]

I wonder why many of the sportsfishers run underwater lights off the stern at night ? Is it to attract fish to watch, or to keep fish away so you can swim at night, or something else ?

Raisins and apple and salad and power-bar for dinner.

Wind blew fairly hard all night.
  8/23/2008 (Saturday)
On a mooring in Bahia de Almodovar.

Wind still blowing fairly hard this morning.

Decent reception of Chris Parker's forecast at 7 AM. Sounds like he's been right: nothing is developing, and most of the junk is going well south of us.

Did Wi-Fi. On wunderground, the 8 AM forecasts have Invest 94 going south of us and Invest 95 going north of us. Both are forecast to zoom up into hurricanes with wind around 100 MPH.

All three sportsfishers left before noon. Several skiffs came in later.

Bummer: no Car Talk today. The NPR station in St Thomas has been having problems off and on the last 12 hours or so, and they blanked out during the time when Car Talk should be on. Putting out carrier but no signal on top of it. Playing a commercial every 20 or 30 minutes or so. Eventually got fixed around 3:30.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Boats pouring in to stay the night. Ended up with 7 sportsfishers and a cabin-cruiser here.

Heard Car Talk at midnight, when they rebroadcast it here.
  8/24/2008 (Sunday)
On a mooring in Bahia de Almodovar.

Missed Chris Parker's weather this morning (or maybe he wasn't on).

Bummer: laptop wouldn't boot up. Just sat there blinking a light at me and then turning off again. Eventually figured out that one of the memory modules seems to have failed; got it to boot up with only half the memory installed. May have to dash to San Juan or St Thomas to get new.

Low dark clouds starting at 9:45, and rain at 10:20. Afterward, totally grey and muggy day.

Listened to Car Talk again. After lunch, got the laptop to run with all the memory in it again. Did some Wi-Fi. Storm positions have been updated but track-models are from yesterday morning, but looks like they're both going well wide of me. Ordered a 512 MB memory module from EBay for $15 plus $6 shipping to NJ; will make my laptop run a lot faster, too.

Did a Skype-phone-call to my Mom and chatted with her for a while.

Raisins and apple and salad and tuna-salad for dinner.

Two powerboats staying the night here with me.
  8/25/2008 (Monday)
On a mooring in Bahia de Almodovar.

Very calm and totally grey day. Rain starting at 5:15 and off and on all of the early morning.

Huge lightning strikes and booming thunder every minute or two, starting at 10 AM. Heavy rain started at 10:45, the more rain at 11:15.

No sun until about 12:45; have to minimize power consumption today, because I'm not getting enough from the solar panels.

Dumped 4-5 gallons of rainwater into water jugs.

Heavy rain from 1:45 to 2:15.

Got an hour or two of decent sun. Solar panels maxing out at about 9 amps; should be getting up to 14 amps. Maybe not enough sun for that. Wonder if my panels are producing all they should.

Wind and boat did a 360 this afternoon, twisting the mooring line around the anchor chain; untwisted it.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Occasional light rain all night, making for damp and stuffy conditions inside the boat.

Killed several bugs in the galley during the night.

Very heavy rain from 1:45 to 2:15.
  8/26/2008 (Tuesday)
On a mooring in Bahia de Almodovar.

Humid but sunny morning. Mooring line twisted around the anchor chain again; boat did another 360 during the night; untwisted it. Dumped about 8 gallons of rainwater into aft water tank.

Heard Chris Parker's weather forecast at 7. Apparently Invest 94 has become TS Gustav and made a sharper turn to the north than I expected; it's near Haiti now. As expected, Invest 95 is maybe 800-1000 miles NE of me, heading N or NW. So weather here will be wacky for the next few days, with wind from SW and frequent squalls.

By 8:45, plenty of dark clouds on the horizon in various directions, but still sunny over me.

Did a little Wi-Fi. Wow, Gustav is a hurricane, cat 1 or 2 ! Although Chris Parker says the convection and the rotation are in two places 100 miles apart, so he says it's weird. It's over Haiti or Cuba by now. Invest 95 is heading WNW but will turn N and will not come too close to me.

In the late afternoon, sitting on the foredeck and reading, I noticed that the sky contains every kind of cloud possible except cumulo-nimbus (the anvil-topped thundercloud).

Raisins and salad and a grapefruit for dinner.

Killed several bugs in the galley during the night.

Sudden wind and lightning at 8:30, but no thunder or rain.
  8/27/2008 (Wednesday)
On a mooring in Bahia de Almodovar.

Sunny and almost still morning; going to be a hot day. Mooring line twisted around the anchor chain again; boat did another 360 during the night; untwisted it.

Before noon, faint breeze circling around very slowly, motionless clouds hovering overhead, everything still and warm and humid. Untwisted the mooring line again.

Thought of going for a swim, but then a couple of 8-inch-diameter jellyfish eased along next to the boat.

Later, saw a remora munching on floating junk in the water right next to the boat (picture). I'd heard there were remora here in Culebra (a friend's kid freaked out when they were snorkeling and one attached to him/her), but never saw one myself. Saw another jellyfish too.

Trawler came in and anchored (pictures).

Chicken-mushroom-saffronrice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Powerboat came in just before dark and put out a bow anchor and stern mooring. 20 minutes later, after dark, they left ! Very dangerous to travel after dark around here, and the whole entrance to this anchorage is unlit and bordered by reefs. But I guess they decided to go to town for dinner or something.
  8/28/2008 (Thursday)
On a mooring in Bahia de Almodovar.

Sunny and fairly still again. Had to untwist the mooring line and anchor chain again. Still having weird weather (no tradewinds) from the two monster systems in the area (Gustav and TD 8).

Heard some of Chris Parker's weather forecast this morning. He and wunderground and the FM radio have been disagreeing about Gustav for the last day or so, and it looks like he might be proven right. He said it was heading for the Cayman Islands and then over the west tip of Cuba, wunderground had it going west right down the spine of Cuba, and the FM radio said it was about to pop out into the Gulf and head north. The low ENE of us is now TD 8, and Chris says it might go to the Bahamas, develop into a hurricane, and linger in the Bahamas for a couple of days. Ugly.

Wi-Fi quit suddenly yesterday afternoon, and still is having problems this morning. Worked a little and then quit again. Came back later.

Okay, now wunderground is agreeing with Chris Parker about Gustav.

Bummer: out of crackers; thought I had some more. Running low on "fresh" supplies: out of bread, fruit, low on meat, cheese.

Did a little more Wi-Fi in the afternoon.

Saw a mushroom-cloud rising off the east end of Vieques, about 15 miles south of here. They blow up left-over munitions from the old bombing range on Thursdays.

Salad and raisins and power-bar for dinner.

Two powerboats came in to stay the night.
  8/29/2008 (Friday)
On a mooring in Bahia de Almodovar.

Partly cloudy and fairly still again. Wind slowly meandering around from N and W; very unusual.

Did a bucket of laundry.

The usual loafing: read books, listened to radio, ate. Can't get much Wi-Fi with the boat pointing these unusual directions. Wind from W all afternoon.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Thirteen powerboats staying the night here. Most of them running generators all night, but they're quiet and downwind of me.

Wind from W and SW all night.
  8/30/2008 (Saturday)
On a mooring in Bahia de Almodovar.

Heard most of Chris Parker's forecast this morning. Sounds like Gustav is a monster: central pressure down to 963, gotten a bit wider and slower, probably going to end up just west of New Orleans as a category 3 to 5 hurricane. Hanna is about 300 miles due north of me, heading W or WNW, and still unclear whether it will weaken or strengthen, and exactly where it will go.

Brief hard rain at 9:15.

Boats moving in and out, and every one of them anchoring and mooring differently. Some having to put down bow anchors very close to me before backing up to mooring balls. Making me nervous.

After noon, boats pouring in for Labor Day weekend ! And many of them seem to be flabbergasted that all the moorings are taken; they don't know what to do. But many of them are rafting up with their friends around the edges of the anchorage. at 1:30, I counted about 55 boats here (pictures).

Starting to think I should move somewhere else, maybe out into the Manglar part of this harbor. Boats so close on all sides that a big squall in the middle of the night could be bad.

Around 2 PM, a bit of strong wind set a raft of half a dozen smallish sailboats dragging anchor, and they spun crazily as they all hustled to start engines, untie from their neighbors, raise anchors, and get under control. Quite a show for a while (picture), but no one ended up in the weeds.

Rain at 2:15.

Lots of dinghy and skiff traffic, with everyone going around to say hi to their friends, towing kids on rafts, etc. More boats still coming in. And I guess the Dakity and Culebrita anchorages probably are full too. A few pretty women.

Raisins and salad and tuna-salad sandwich for dinner.

At 6:30, I counted about 70 boats here. It's a parking lot.

Generators hummed away all night, running air-conditioners and refrigerators and such.
  8/31/2008 (Sunday)
On a mooring in Bahia de Almodovar.

Wind starting to get back to a normal direction, SE this morning.

Couldn't hear Chris Parker's weather at either 7 or 8:30; all the electrical noise from generators and engines here is drowning out the signal. But the FM radio is telling me all I need to know about Gustav heading for New Orleans and Hanna heading for the Turks and Caicoes and maybe the Bahamas.

At 10 exactly, a single huge rolling clap of thunder from clouds off to our SW.

A fairly quiet, boring day. Occasional dark clouds, people lounging around in the water or moving around in dinghies, lots of skiffs racing back and forth out in open water. Read books, listened to the radio, loafed.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Counted about 70 boats here again tonight.
  9/1/2008 (Monday)
On a mooring in Bahia de Almodovar.

Couldn't hear much of Chris Parker this morning. He had a little good news for New Orleans: Gustav is barely a category 3 hurricane, almost category 2, and will go somewhat south and west of the city.

Did a little Wi-Fi. Have to start keeping an eye on Invest 97; looks like it might pass just north of here as barely a category-1 hurricane.

Half of the boats gone by noon.

Did Wi-Fi in the afternoon.

Boats leaving all afternoon, then a rush of them at 4 or so. All gone by 4:50, but 20 minutes later two boats came in, maybe from Culebrita, to spend the night.

Salad and raisins and power-bar for dinner.

Feeling pretty headachey.

Front came through just after midnight, with plenty of wind and a slight rain. Blew fairly hard for several hours afterward.
  9/2/2008 (Tuesday)
On a mooring in Bahia de Almodovar.

Grey, damp, fairly still this morning. Lots of low dark clouds, occasional sprinkles of rain. Couldn't hear Chris Parker's weather.

Did a little Wi-Fi. Looks like TS Ike might pass just north of us on Friday or so; will have to keep an eye on it.

I'm going to head in to town for a couple of days. Engine started pretty easily. But the anchor chain was wrapped around the mooring ball line underwater; took a while to get free. Finally moving at 8:40. As I motor around and out, I see that the entire horizon has turned grey; a big front coming. It starts to rain. Fine with me; a good day to be motoring, since I'd have to run the engine anyway to charge the batteries.

Out and around, rolly as usual, and eventually into the main harbor channel. Looks like John on "Buddy" is back, but didn't see Paul on "Adios". Up to town and anchored in my usual spot near "Prudence". Anchored by 9:55 at Ensenada Honda, Culebra. Still raining pretty hard; doesn't look like it's going to stop any time soon.

Rain eased around noon.

Dinghied ashore at 2; first time ashore in over two weeks. Disposed of 8 bags of garbage. To the post office, and mailed my absentee ballot request form. To the mail store to get their address. To the grocery store to get $30 worth of groceries. Back to the boat. Still feeling tired and a little headachey, probably from the warm and humid weather, and maybe the barometric pressure is low too.

Got a bit of tenuous Wi-Fi, but it soon faded.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Couldn't hear Chris Parker at 7 PM; too much electrical interference here.

Slept well, and my headache went away.

Crap ! Had turned off the refrigerator at 7 to see if I could hear Chris Parker better, then forgot to turn it back on. Woke at 4 and realized it right away. Hope I didn't spoil any of the chicken in the freezer.
  9/3/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Honda, Culebra.

Totally grey, low dark clouds, no sun getting through this morning. A little rain starting at 5, then powerfull squalls at 6, 6:50, and a very big strong squall at 8:15. Fortunately they're all from the S; this harbor faces SE and squalls from that direction get a "funnel effect" that sets up a large chop.

Heard just enough of Chris Parker's weather to hear that TS Ike probably won't affect us much at all here. But, as just about every single storm has done so far, it might hit the poor people in Haiti; they just can't catch a break. [But on wunderground later, saw that only one computer model has it doing that; the rest take it much more north.]

A little more rain at 10, then the glow of the sun started getting a little stronger. Dumped several gallons of rainwater into the water jugs.

Did some Wi-Fi. Ike should become a hurricane, but stay fairly well north of me.

Squalls every hour or so, all day long. Occasionally a fair amount of rain and wind. Sometimes had to put the boat into "submarine" mode: close every single hatch up tight, even the main hatch inside the doghouse, and just stand in the cabin looking out the ports at the water going by.

Apple and raisins and cheese sandwich for dinner.

At 5:30, a huge front/storm blew in from the west. Tons of wind and rain from SW and then W. West is the worst direction for me, putting me directly upwind of "Prudence", so I'll drag down on them if my anchor drags. But holding is good here, my ground tackle is good, I'm in about 14 feet of water, and the anchor held fast.

Rain and high wind kept going until almost 6:15, then the wind eased and the rain kept going until 6:40.

Heard Chris Parker's weather at 7. He sounded funny, because he just came back from the dentist and one side of his face was still numb from Novocaine. Sounds like Ike will be category 3 or 4 when it hits the Bahamas. Nothing threatening me (but where are all these squalls and solid grey cloud coming from ?).

Rained and blew off and on until 2 AM or so. Went out on deck and dumped several gallons of rainwater from buckets to water tank.
  9/4/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor at Ensenada Honda, Culebra.

Totally grey with low clouds, but not quite as dark as yesterday morning.
Dumped 4 gallons of rainwater from buckets to aft water tank.
Couldn't hear Chris Parker's weather.
Ran engine for 30 minutes to charge batteries.

Getting a little sun by 9.

Dinghied ashore after 10. Left a note at the mail-store so they don't throw away the package that should arrive for me next week. Went to the book-exchange place, but it was closed. To the grocery store and bought food.

Anchor up by 11:10, and I had to work for it: brought up a rusty length of heavy rebar or something too. Motored up and over near the DRNA dock, and anchored by 11:35 near Punta Cabras.

No Wi-Fi here. Emptied water jugs into aft water tank. Had lunch, then dinghied ashore to the DRNA dock to see if I could get water. They have a faucet, and I got about a quart of water, running slowly, and then it quit. Walked up to the office and asked about water, and the officer said we weren't supposed to use the their dock. Back to the dock, got another cupful out of the faucet, and gave up. Back to the boat.

Anchor up at 1:25, and I'm getting tired. In 20 feet of water, that's 32 pounds of chain and 45 pounds of anchor I'm lifting when the chain is straight up. Motored down the harbor, into fairly stiff wind. Struggled to grab the mooring, but got it done. Finished mooring at 1:45 at Dakity anchorage, Culebra.

Couldn't get Wi-Fi here. Steve keeps telling me there is some at this end of the anchorage, but he uses something else, so I think his info is bad.

Took a brief swim and a much-needed shower, then went over to say hi to John on "Buddy". We chatted for a couple of hours. He's pretty bored, having cruised all of the eastern Caribbean quite a bit, and so he's probably heading for the Bahamas in a few months. I told him I needed to get a new (used) mainsail, and he said a brand-new sail for his big trimaran costs $7000. Very nice to chat for a while. We looked at charts for various anchorages between here and San Juan. He was babysitting someone's dog, so I got to pet the dog.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

At 11:30, I woke to find that the wind had shifted to the west, which is a very bad direction for me here. My mooring is close to the reef, and now the reef is directly astern of me, with breakers about 80 feet away. In the dark, they seem about 10 feet away. If the wind howls and the mooring line breaks, I'll be on the reef. I think about lowering my anchor, but I'm so close to the reef that it wouldn't help. I could launch the dinghy and carry the anchor forward 80 feet or so, but that's a lot of work. I nervously watch the wind and sky for a while, but it never blows more than 18 knots or so, and the bulk of the front/squall is already past us. Wind eases by midnight or so. Some fairly heavy rain around 12:30.

Sprayed half a dozen bugs in the galley during the night.
  9/5/2008 (Friday)
On mooring at Dakity anchorage, Culebra.

Dumped 5 gallons of rainwater from buckets to aft water tank and jug.

Slipped the mooring at 7:10 and motored out. Pretty calm morning, with lots of grey clouds hovering around, so an easy trip around the SE corner of the island. Into anchorage and picked up mooring by 7:55 at Bahia de Almodovar. One other boat here, that Krogen trawler "Coral Bay" that was here before.

Did some Wi-Fi. No storms threatening me.

Nice and sunny by 9 or so.

Did more Wi-Fi, loafed, read, listened to radio.

Raisins and salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.

Slept like a log.
  9/6/2008 (Saturday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar, Culebra.

Totally grey and raining at 6, but less grey and breezy from S later on.

The usual: Wi-Fi, Car Talk, Wi-Fi, reading, radio, loafing.

My entire credit-card bill for last month was $5 (to pay for this web site), since I was sitting in isolated places such as Christmas Cove, Magens Bay and Culebrita, and living off the hundreds of dollars worth of food I bought the month before on St Thomas.

Two sportsfishers came in. A third came in, left, then a trawler came in.

Gave myself a very short haircut.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-DrPepper for dinner.

Killed several bugs in the galley during the night.
  9/7/2008 (Sunday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar, Culebra.

Wind blowing fairly hard from E and ESE. From Chris Parker, sounds like Ike is going to chew itself up on Cuba, and nothing else happening right now.

Wi-Fi didn't work much at all today.

Raisins and salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Killed several bugs in the galley during the night.
  9/8/2008 (Monday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar, Culebra.

Wind blowing hard from E; a couple of big squalls around 8 and 9 AM. Lots of wind and some thunder at 10.

A bit of sun from 10:30 to 12:30, but that was it for the day. Solid grey otherwise. Did Wi-Fi.

Big squall/front with lots of wind from 1 to 2, blowing from the SE.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-DrPepper for dinner.

Big squall/front with lots of wind from 6 to 7, blowing from the S. Lots of lightning and thunder, but all of the ground-strikes a couple of miles NE of me.
  9/9/2008 (Tuesday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar, Culebra.

Dumped about 4 gallons of rainwater from buckets to jugs.

Did Wi-Fi.

Huge squall/storm from 3:30 to 4:30, with high wind and tons of horizontal rain. Plenty of lightning and thunder in the later stages of it, including a couple of strikes within 1/2 mile and a couple more within 1/4 mile. A small sloop with 4 people aboard came in about 15 minutes beforehand, and a trawler came in just after the storm started. Wind started from SW, then slowly clocked to W and then NW.

Here's a picture looking to the S as the storm approaches (before), another in the same direction during the storm (during), and a view to the E as the storm was overhead but not yet raining on us (another before). Remember, these were taken at about 3:30 in the afternoon.

Out onto deck after the storm and dumped 6-7 gallons of rainwater from buckets into jugs.

Rain started again at 5, this time with almost no wind, and kept going and going. I think it kept going until 9 or so.

Raisins and salad and tuna-salad sandwich for dinner.

Out onto deck at 10 to dump 3-4 gallons of water from buckets into aft water tank, to make space in the buckets in case it rains again later.

Killed a couple of bugs in the galley during the night.
  9/10/2008 (Wednesday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar, Culebra.

Sunny, still morning, with slight breeze from NW.
Dumped about 5 gallons of rainwater from buckets into forward water tank.

Chris Parkers says the huge squalls/storm that hit us yesterday afternoon and evening are the remnants of TS Josephine.

Did a bucket of laundry.
Untwisted the mooring line.

The couple from that Krogen trawler, "Coral Bay", stopped by. They're Paul and Julia, and it's a Krogen 48. They had it down in the out-islands of Venezuela, decided to come up here for hurricane season, and are regretting it a bit right now. They're looking for a boatyard to haul the boat out and leave on the hard for a month, but are having trouble finding a place that has space or will let them stay only a month, not the whole hurricane season.

Did Wi-Fi.

Chili and a rum-and-DrPepper for dinner.

Still and warm night; didn't sleep too well.
  9/11/2008 (Thursday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar, Culebra.

Sunny and calm morning. Feeling a bit headachey.

"Coral Bay" left after 9. I notice that, like a lot of people, they didn't tilt their dinghy outboard up before towing it. Leaving it down puts a lot of strain on the painter. And I guess they left it down overnight; I thought tilting it up out of the saltwater reduces corrosion.

Did Wi-Fi and loafed.

Raisins and salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
  9/12/2008 (Friday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar, Culebra.

Another one of those huge fronts/storms coming through ! Yesterday Chris Parker said something about a tropical wave, but nothing like this. At 5:45, nasty low dark clouds and plenty of wind, from the S. By 6:30, high wind and rain from the SE, and I'm surprised to see "Coral Bay" coming in (pic); thought they had left for Puerto Rico, but I guess they'd gone to Culebrita. Wind and light horizontal rain kept going and going. Rain started to ease around 7, and wind eased a bit by 7:45. Still very grey, and looks like more coming.

Heard much of Chris Parker's weather at 7, and he referred to our storm as merely "squalls", but said there's an odd low forming off the north coast of the Dominican Republic. Yesterday morning, "Coral Bay" called him on the marine SSB and asked for a forecast for this area, and he said nothing about this storm.

Ran engine for 30 minutes to exercise it and charge batteries.

Still very grey and a bit windy at 10:15.

Hardly even a glow of sunlight until 1 or so, then started getting a little solar energy. Around 2:30, started getting some real sunshine, and it kept going for the rest of the afternoon, charging the batteries.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Still, warm, very buggy evening; very uncomfortable. Killed a cockroach in my berth and another in the galley.
  9/13/2008 (Saturday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar, Culebra.

Sunny and breezy morning, but some low clouds S of us, fortunately moving W.

First sportfisher arrived at 10, next not until 1. Sailboat at 11.

Crisis ! 45 minutes before Car Talk will come on, the power-cord for my radio broke ! Fixed it.

Did lots of Wi-Fi.

Raisins and salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.

Killed a cockroach in the cockpit.

6-8 other boats staying the night here.

Killed a cockroach in the aft head.
  9/14/2008 (Sunday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar, Culebra.

Loafed, did Wi-Fi, listened to radio.

Chili and a rum-and-DrPepper for dinner.

Saw a couple of small sailboats sailing past (pics).
  9/15/2008 (Monday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar, Culebra.

Rained off and on from 2 AM to 8 AM or so; caught several gallons of rainwater.

Anchor up (I had anchor and chain resting on the bottom in case the mooring failed) and slipped the mooring by 8:40. Motored out of the anchorage, unfurled the jib, and motor-sailed W across the S coast of Culebra. Turned the SW corner and up the W coast. Jib furled and into anchorage and anchor down by 10 AM at Bahia Linda, Culebra. I've never been in here; it's pretty nice, a slight roll, and I'm just around the corner from town.

After a shave and shower, launched the dinghy and headed into town. Disposed of 4 bags of garbage. To the mail shop and picked up my mail from NJ ($2); looks like Priority Mail took 4 days from NJ to here. To the gift shop and exchanged a dozen books. To the grocery store and bought food. Back to the dinghy and back to the boat.

The USVI NPR station is playing Car Talk again today; that's not right. I think their computer is messed up: yesterday afternoon they had a solid hour of dead air, and this morning they had an hour where they were playing two shows simultaneously, one at normal volume and the other softer.

Ate lunch, installed new bigger RAM chip into the laptop, and it works (on the second try) !

Got a little Wi-Fi, but it was very flighty: took about 15 tries over 15 minutes to upload the log file.

Around 3:30, went for a snorkel. Water is very warm in this shallow, enclosed bay in the later afternoon. Scraped the prop. Looked around the reef a bit, and as I expected, nothing worth seeing: it's all grey and sandy and weedy and dead.

Raisins and salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.

Read my mail, and only two nasty surprises. A bond-account has quadrupled its annual fee and wanted it paid several months ago, so now they're charging me late fees on the fee. And a $10 rebate from Radio Shack came in the form of a one-use $10 credit/debit card, of all things, which I have to activate before using. A new low for rebates; can think of few forms they could have picked which would have been less useful, maybe if they'd sent it as $10 worth of coal or something.

A bit buggy here, since the bay is so small and there's not much breeze tonight.
  9/16/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Bahia Linda, Culebra.

Beautiful, sunny, calm morning. Nice-looking house on the point just N of here.

Very surprised to hear Chris Parker say "Good news for the eastern Caribbean: it looks like the hurricane season is over for hurricanes coming from Cape Verde area. The focus has shifted to storm formation in SW Caribbean and off the SE USA. Anything's possible, of course, and we may get something from Africa, but it looks like no more hurricanes should come from the east." He didn't say why.

Just read an interesting web article by Jacob Leibenluft from Slate, about why diesel costs more than gasoline (a lot of boaters have been wondering about that). Here's the explanation:
Historically, diesel has often been cheaper than regular gas. But with the rest of the world including fast-growing China and India so reliant on diesel, U.S. refiners have increased their exports abroad. While European refiners export gasoline to the United States, some tankers return with diesel to fulfill high demand across the Atlantic. Reduced supplies in the United States mean diesel is, on average, about 65 cents per gallon more expensive than gasoline.

While diesel and gasoline both use the same basic raw ingredient crude oil they require a different refining process. Given diesel's higher price, refiners almost certainly would produce more if they could, but it may take them years to build that additional capacity.
Some kind of fishing operation going on here: guys pressure-washing clam-flats or something on the shore, and around 10:15 a boat dragged in another flat (pic). They seem to have flotation-tanks attached to a wood frame with chain-link fencing over top of it. Maybe they sink them in the ocean and clams grow on them ?

Dumped 5 gallons of diesel from jug to fuel tank.

Dinghied ashore in the afternoon. Disposed of garbage. Got cash at the ATM, and had to get a bank officer to open it to get my card back. Looked for a pay-phone, but the only two in sight had no dial tone. Back into the dinghy and up the creek to the gas station. Got a gallon of gasoline (at 98.7 cents/liter) and 5 gallons of diesel (at 125.7 cents/liter). To the grocery store and bought food. Back to the boat.

Feeling headachey; took pills.

It figures: I put in a bid to buy shares in an oil-fund the other day, bought fuel today, and now someone on the radio says oil and gas prices are falling and are going to keep falling (I'll believe it when I see it).

Chili and a rum-and-DrPepper for dinner.
  9/17/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Bahia Linda, Culebra.

Anchor up at 11:05, motored west, and picked up a mooring by 11:35 SE corner of Cayo de Luis Pena. Got a jellyfish sting on the inside of my elbow while picking up the mooring line. This anchorage is small, and less protected than I hoped: it's open to the E and somewhat to the SE. If a big squall blows up from the SE, I'll have a rocky lee shore 100 feet behind me with only the mooring lines keeping me off it. But the weather is very settled, and should stay that way for at least a day or so.

Went for a snorkel after lunch. Water is lovely but the coral is dead, as usual. Some decent fish, including a couple of stingrays, one of them with a tail at least 6 feet long. But plenty of jellyfish, both 2-inch transparent ones and 1-foot-diameter purple-transparent ones. So I didn't linger or scrape the hull. Got a couple of minor stings as I swam.

Raisins and salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.

Pretty darn dark out here tonight; good to get away from lights a bit.

Killed a cockroach in the aft head and another in the galley.
  9/18/2008 (Thursday)
On mooring at SE corner of Cayo de Luis Pena.

A lot more cloud this morning. Chris Parker says starting tonight, we'll get some strong squalls from SE and S, and a tropical wave will come through Saturday nightish. So I don't want to stay in this tiny, exposed anchorage.

Slipped the mooring at 8 and motored NE. Picked up a mooring at 8:20 at Punta Tamarindo Chico, Culuebra. Nice here, with great shelter from E and SE, and some from the S. Supposed to be very good snorkeling here.

Very calm right now, with very light wind slowly circling around. Can see the mooring attachment on the bottom, about 17 feet down (pic). Nice view of the town dump, too, a mile or so away, fortunately not upwind (pic).

Brief rainshower at 8:50.

Started getting a bit rolly around 11 or so; maybe I won't stay here. Wind cycling around through all directions.

Went for a snorkel after lunch. Some nice schools of fish, but the coral is all dead and shallow and uninteresting. No jellyfish ! Scraped the hull for 10 minutes or so.

Out of the water, started the engine at 1:15, slipped the mooring, and motored 1/4 mile N to another mooring. Got rained on slightly. Saw a big squall dumping rain off to the NW (pic). Picked up mooring by 1:25 at S end of Bahia Tamarindo, Culuebra. Back into the water.

Snorkeling less interesting here, but a few nice fish. Scraped the hull for another 10 minutes. Only one small dead jellyfish drifting past.

Hot afternoon, not much wind, and wind cycling around through various directions.

Saw the usual Thursday-afternoon detonation of old explosives on Vieques to the S of here (pic).

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Lots of low dark clouds coming over around 5:30, but no wind or rain.

Killed 3 bugs in the cockpit.

Killed 4 bugs in the galley during the night.
  9/19/2008 (Friday)
On mooring at S end of Bahia Tamarindo, Culuebra.

Slipped the mooring at 8:10, unfurled the jib, and motor-sailed N. More moorings up the coast; didn't know about these. Lots of clouds and wind gathering.

As I approached the NW corner of the island, Punta Noroeste, I could see that it was pretty rough north of the island. Furled the jib. Wind picked up and there was a brief rainshower as I turned the corner. Lots of rough swells from the ENE, and it was a slow, rough, rolly slog to get SE down the coast, straight into the wind most of the time. Finally in and anchored by 9:40 at Flamingo Bay.

Long, beautiful beach (but no shade) with one big hotel-looking house. But a pretty good swell coming in; not sure if I'll stay the night here. Will see how I feel after lunch. Bummer: no Wi-Fi. Only one group of people on the beach.

Saw a couple of guys with blueprints (pic) come onto the beach; they must be planning some development here.

A dozen or so more people came onto the beach around 11.

As I expected, I'm right under the approach path for the airport; saw 4 or 5 small planes come over, but they're hard to photograph.

Too rolly here. Raised anchor at 11:40 and motored out. First half of trip was pretty rolly, but making decent speed. Finally neared Cayo Norte and got a little shelter from the swells.

Nice huge house on the hill on Culebra (pic); maybe it's a convention-center or something.

Squall (pic; St Thomas in background, Culebrita to right) approaching from the E as I neared NW corner of Culebrita, then it rained hard on me.

Around the SE corner of Culebra and into anchorage. Two tries to pick up mooring; done by 1:25 at Bahia de Almodovar. One sailboat here.

Did some Wi-Fi. Squalls and low dark clouds coming past every half-hour or so, but most are going just N of me. Sportsfishers started coming in for the night; ended up with 5 in here. Trawler "Coral Bay" came in.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.

Killed a cockroach in the cockpit; looks like they're coming up out of the cockpit drains.

Fairly strong squall at 9:45.

Killed a cockroach in the galley during the night.
  9/20/2008 (Saturday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Chris Parker's weather says a "low-pressure feature" has been sitting a couple hundred miles south of us and trying to make up it's mind what to become. So his daily forecast has been sliding day-by-day; all he can say is we'll probably keep getting squalls.

Did Wi-Fi. Brief rain at 10:45. Sportsfishers coming in every now and then; ended up with about 8 staying the night.

Huge squall starting at 2:30, lasting about half an hour. Lots of wind and horizontal rain. Sportsfisher maneuvering sort of upwind of me for a little while; don't know if they came off their mooring, or what. Kept an eye on them, but they were under control and got moored again. Small motorboat got soaked; nowhere to hide, especially since they were moored stern-to (pic).

Dumped a couple gallons of rainwater from buckets into jug.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Another pretty strong squall starting at 9:15 and going for half an hour or so.

Another squall at 10:15, not so strong. Another big one at 1:20.

Killed half a dozen cockroaches in the galley and both heads.
  9/21/2008 (Sunday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Huge storm/front from SE starting around 4 AM and going until well after 8, when the rain ended and the wind eased a bit. Some pretty good lightning in the early part of the storm. I wonder if the low-pressure area S of us, which was forecast to move NW to Haiti, has instead moved N to us. Morning is solid grey, with low clouds everywhere.

Dumped about 10 gallons of rainwater from buckets into jugs and aft water tank.

At 10:45, wind started howling from ESE. Checked mooring line again to make sure it's not chafing through. Lots of rain starting at 10:55.

Other than a bit of easing around 2 PM or so, it rained and blew hard all day. Why did none of the weather forecasts mention this ?

All but one sportfisher left between 2 and 4, often in very wet and windy conditions. They seemed to be heading for Culebrita, which would be a more sheltered anchorage, but getting there is a very rough and wet ride. The only sportfisher that stayed is the one directly upwind of me, naturally; hope his mooring holds firm.

Ran engine for 75 minutes to charge batteries.

Salad and tuna-salad sandwich for dinner.

Blew hard all night, with lots of rain at times. A couple of times when the rain stopped or eased, I went out onto the foredeck and adjusted the mooring line, trying to keep it from chafing through. I have the primary anchor and chain lowered down to the sea-bottom, but if the line chafes through, who knows if the anchor will catch before I slide onto the shallows a couple of hundred feet behind me ? A pretty nervous night.

Killed several cockroaches in the galley and main cabin.

Wind finally started easing around 4 AM.
  9/22/2008 (Monday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Still solidly grey with low cloud. Raining at 7:30, but wind greatly reduced. Couldn't hear most of Chris Parker, but it sounds like the low went over us or the east end of Puerto Rico, and is still over us a bit. Everything is grey and damp.

In a break from the rain around 8, went out and dumped 6-7 gallons of water from buckets to water tank.

By 1, getting a couple of amps out of the solar panel, but still solid grey and no sun out. Raining very lightly most of the time.

Did a little Wi-Fi. Wunderground says center of low "Invest 93" went just about over the east end of the Dominican Republic, about 200 miles west of here, so we got a good dose of it. Central wind up to 34 MPH. Went a bit more N than forecast just a day earlier, but still didn't come as close to us as I'd guessed from the heavy wind and rain here.

Ran engine for 30 minutes to charge batteries.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Fairly quiet night: not too much wind, and occasional very light rain.

Killed several cockroaches in the galley.
  9/23/2008 (Tuesday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Dawn looks encouraging: still tons of grey sky, but a few breaks in the clouds, especially to the NE.

At 8, huge storm (I don't call it a squall if it lasts more than a couple of minutes) swept up from the S and it blew hard for 15 minutes or so and rained hard for more than an hour. Everything totally grey again.

Wind slowly backing from E to N to W, then clocking W to N to ENE.

Dumped 6-7 gallons of water from buckets to water tank.

Finally got a little sun-glow and solar panel around 11:30, and some real sunshine starting at 12:30 or so. (I still suspect my solar panels aren't quite right; I never see more than about 8 amps out of them, when I should see up to 14 amps in low-battery high-sun situations.)

Did some Wi-Fi.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Huge lightning-storm at 8, fortunately to S and SW of us. Lots of ground-strikes and cloud lightning.

At 10, huge wind and rain from SW. No lightning. Kept going for half an hour or so.
  9/24/2008 (Wednesday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Finally, a clear and sunny morning !

Dumped 5-6 gallons of water from buckets to water tank.

Crap ! Power-connector on laptop DC-DC power adapter is coming apart, and not supplying power to the laptop.

Double crap ! Fired up the inverter, plugged in the laptop's AC adapter, and it's not working either.

Sawed the DC-DC power connector open and found the problem, but don't know if I can fix it: the thing is just flimsy and worn apart. Chopped off a lot of plastic, got the metla bits to mate mostly, and JB-Welded it back together. Will have to wait until tomorrow to try it out.

Long, quiet day. Feeling pretty headachey; wonder if the low barometric pressure has something to do with it. Finished reading a great book about the battle of Stalingrad. Last week I read a great book about Katrina hitting New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Read a couple of murder-mysteries too; I love having lots of time to read books.

Plenty of sun until about 3:45, then it turned grey again.

Added water to the batteries.

Rain at 5 PM.

Chicken-pineapple-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Killed 3-4 cockroaches in the galley.
  9/25/2008 (Thursday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Still have a headache.

Looks like fixed power connector is not working: the charging LED on the laptop is not coming on. And the AC adapter still doesn't work either.

Later, fired up the laptop and it looks like the fixed connector is working !

Felt miserable all day; headache throbbing. At lunch, realized I'd forgotten to eat breakfast, which is not good.

I thought the Virgin Islands were named after the Virgin Mary, but I just read that they're named after Saint Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins !

Salad and PB-butter sandwich for dinner.

Slept like a log.
  9/26/2008 (Friday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Headache is gone !

Did some Wi-Fi. Story about murder of another cruiser anchored off coast of Venezuela; I'm definitely not going there.

Hot afternoon, with lots of sun and little breeze.

At 5, school of fairly big fish lazing around the sides of the boat. Maybe they're stripers; 2.5 to 3.5 feet long. I know I should be a manly old salt and catch one and eat it, but dinner is already cooking, and I don't have the energy to catch and clean a fish. [Two weeks later it occurred to me: I'm inside a reef, and reef fish (especially big reef fish) here have a risk of carrying ciguatera. So I'm glad I didn't try to catch a fish.]

Chicken-onion-rice-corn and a rum-and-DrPepper for dinner.

Sprayed a couple of cockroaches, in the cockpit and the galley.

At 1:15 AM, brief, strong squall with heavy rain.
  9/27/2008 (Saturday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Did a bucket of laundry. Did Wi-Fi.

Rainshowers starting at 2:30.

Expected crowd of sportfishers never showed up; going to be a quiet weekend.

Salad and a cheese sandwich for dinner.

Plugged in the anchor light and it didn't work.
  9/28/2008 (Sunday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Only a few boats in and out today. Did Wi-Fi.

Tried to fix the anchor light, but didn't get it working.

Chicken-noodle-mushroomsoup and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  9/29/2008 (Monday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Had planned to move up to W side of town today or tomorrow morning, and then go snorkeling on NW corner of the island later in the week. But Chris Parker says there will be NNE swells from hurricane Kyle through Friday. And by 9, the wind was from the NE. So going up the W side of the island is not a good idea. But I need groceries: I'm out of bread and fruit, and almost out of rum. Fresh fruit arrives on ferry on Tues and Fri.

Did some Wi-Fi. If I ever hit the lottery maybe I'll buy a bigger boat: ship.

Fuel level 5.7 inches at engine hour 4426.
Fixed the problem with the anchor light.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
  9/30/2008 (Tuesday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Did Wi-Fi, loafed, read, listened to radio.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner. All out of rum now.

Yawl sailed by in the late afternoon (pic).

Killed 2 cockroaches in the cockpit during dinner, and 3 more in the galley during the night.

At 3 AM, heavy rain with very big raindrops.
  10/1/2008 (Wednesday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Solid low dark clouds; very light wind from NW.

Dumped 5 gallons of rainwater into water jugs.

Brief rain at 6:45, then light wind from SE and heavy rain from 7:45 to 8:10, then 10 minutes of sun. Dumped another 4 gallons of rainwater into jugs and tank.

Did Wi-Fi. Looks like the money in my bank accts hasn't evaporated quite yet, in the current financial crisis.

Salad and tunasalad-and-crackers for dinner.

Rain at midnight.
  10/2/2008 (Thursday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Nice, sunny, clear morning.

Dumped 3+ gallons of rainwater into water jug.

Did Wi-Fi.

Ouch ! Bashed my left big toe into the fiberglass while stepping into the cockpit; hope I haven't broken it. Broke the same toe in Hawaii about 20 years ago. Toe hurt for a while, felt better for a while, hurt again later.

Chicken-saffronrice for dinner.

Chased a cockroach from the cockpit into the cabin and killed it.
  10/3/2008 (Friday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Toe feels okay. Another sunny, clear morning.

Anchor up and mooring slipped by 9:10, and motored out. Unfurled the jib and motor-sailed along the south coast of Culebra. Fairly rolly, and wind shifting around. Talked to Paul on the VHF as I went past Dakity. Turned the SW corner and up to Bahia Linda near town. Took two tries to get the anchor in the right place; done by 10:40 at Bahia Linda.

Dinghied out and around to town. Disposed of 7 bags of garbage. Mailed a letter at the Post Office. Exchanged books at the gift shop book-exchange. Bought a bottle of rum ($10.70/fifth plus tax for cheap rum ! Noticed a bottle of Grey Goose vodka was $44 plus tax.) Into the dinghy, up the canal. Found the same rum was 70 cents cheaper at the grocery store. Got groceries and back to the boat.

Rain at 3.

Hot afternoon, not much breeze, and it kept circling around so it was hard to stay in the shade.

A couple of big schools of fish thrashing around near shore in a couple of places, and dozens of pelicans going crazy on them.

Salad and salami-and-cheese sandwiches for dinner.

Rolly and warm most of the night; didn't sleep very well.
  10/4/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor at Bahia Linda.

Rain at 10.

Dinghied ashore. Disposed of a bag of garbage, exchanged a few books, got groceries. Chatted with the lady in the gift shop about a poster I saw about proposed developments on Culebra. Apparently more than 1000 units of housing are planned, on an island where the total population is somewhere around 2000, some of it seasonal. I remember seeing guys with blueprints on the beach at Flamingo a couple of weeks ago; one of the developments is planned for there. The poster says Culebra should be renamed from "Isla del Encanto" to "Isla del Cemento". Actually, I guess "Isla del Encanto" is the slogan for Puerto Rico, of which Culebra is a part.

Saw guys playing cards (I think) on a table out in the water (pic).

Couldn't get any Wi-Fi.

Sprayed bug-spray down the cockpit drains, and a couple of cockroaches staggered out and died. Very satisfying.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

A bit rolly in the evening, but then I slept well.

Killed four cockroaches in the galley during the night.
  10/5/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor at Bahia Linda.

Couldn't get Wi-Fi.

Anchor up at 10:35 and motored out and north. Not much wind. DRNA boat came flying past from the N. Up a few miles and picked up a mooring by 11:20 just N of Punta Tamarindo Grande. Slightly rolly here, as I expected. Smallish catamaran with outriggers sailing S (pic). Some powerboats anchored off N coast of Cayo Luis Pena, and a fast small ferry-boat on a mooring N of me (saw them going N past my anchorage yesterday (pic); must be on a charter).

Rain at 11:45. Listened to Car Talk at noon; better reception here than there was in Bahia Linda yesterday.

Into the water after 2, and scraped the hull a little. Then had a close encounter with a 10-inch-diameter purple-translucent jellyfish, and decided to stop scraping. Swam S down to the point and found pretty decent snorkeling there: lots of coral (mostly grey) and plenty of fish. Saw a small moray eel, maybe a foot long; not sure I've ever seen one before. Hard, cool rain with big raindrops while I was right at the point. Long swim back to the boat; probably swam more than 1/2 mile total. At least 10 of those jellyfish off the stern of the boat; hoisted myself up into the dinghy quickly.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.

Rolly all night, fairly strongly at times. Didn't sleep much.
  10/6/2008 (Monday)
On a mooring at Punta Tamarindo Grande.

Killed a cockroach in the aft cabin.

Very calm morning; can see down to bottom 20 feet below (pic).

Slipped the mooring at 8:05, unfurled the jib, and tried to sail away. But there's almost no wind, maybe 2 knots, and almost immediately I had to start the engine. Headed west, getting nothing from the sail.

Went between Cayo Lobo and Cayo Lobito, to see what they looked like. Pavlidis has day-anchorages marked for each of them, but even in this very calm weather, I wouldn't anchor there. Maybe for an hour to snorkel, if someone was staying aboard to watch the anchor.

Long motor-sail west, with just a slight wind mostly from the E, just enough to keep blowing engine exhaust into the cockpit. Rolly at times, too.

Around Isla Palominitos, up the W side, and picked up a mooring by 11:40 at Isla Palominos. Nice here, just a slight roll from an occasional ferry wake. Two other sailboats here. As I expected, no NPR reception; tall island just to the E of me doesn't help.

As expected, nice Wi-Fi signal from a resort here, but it's not free.

Hot afternoon with not much breeze. What little wind there is keeps cycling from N to E to S and back again, so I have to keep moving around to stay in the shade. Wakes coming through the anchorage every 15 minutes or so, and every now and then one of them is large. The main east-west path from Fajardo to Culebra and the VI's is about a mile south of here, and the wakes seem to make it up here.

Heat finally broke a bit around 5 PM, when the usual afternoon thunderstorm brewed up over the east end of Puerto Rico, cutting off the sun.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Killed a cockroach in the galley.

Around 7:45, well after dark, a huge wake came through and hit me right on the beam. Boat rolling wildly, and I can hear stuff sliding and crashing up on deck, and things banging around in the cabin. After it ended, went on deck and tied down water jugs and such; no damage done. Must have been a wake from one last powerboat rushing home to Fajardo after dark.

Slept well. Listened to BBC on AM radio from 2 AM to 5 AM, but I really miss NPR.
  10/7/2008 (Tuesday)
On a mooring at Isla Palominos.

Another still day; Chris Parker says it's this way all over the eastern Caribbean, with an upper-level trough NE of us counteracting the normal ESE tradewind. Already hot by 8 AM.

By noon, starting to get light wind from the S, as forecast. Nice; will keep it from getting too hot. But an odd direction.

Around 12:15, launched the dinghy and started heading clockwise around the island. No decent snorkeling on the N side, just breakers and shallow barren rock fields. Finally found an area of sand at the NE corner, and went snorkeling. A nice drop-off here, and some decent fish, including a couple of the biggest pufferfish I've seen, about 18 inches long with big broad faces.

Snorkeled in another spot down the E side, but not very good. Headed for the mooring balls S of Isla Palominitos, but it's blowing harder and getting rougher, and they're further out than I remembered. Anchored and swam in to Isla Palominitos and walked the beach. Didn't take long: the whole island's about 75 yards long.

Back into the dinghy, and motored along the resort swim beach, but it's pretty empty today, and only about 4 skiffs and motorboats here too. Back to the boat, and there's a pretty good swell running into the anchorage. But it's right on the nose; pitching is easy to live with. Back around 2; I was out there for a while; it's a big island.

2:30 ferry from the resort came off their normal path to make a slow pass next to me (pics), so everyone can look at my boat (no other reason; there's no one else here).

Got NPR reception back, a little, for some reason. Have to put the antenna in one specific position and then not mess with it.

Wind and swell eased a bit by 4 or so.

Salad and salami-and-cheese sandwiches for dinner. Nice sunset.

Wakes at 7:30 and 8:30, but the big one was at 7:55.

Rain at midnight.
  10/8/2008 (Wednesday)
On a mooring at Isla Palominos.

Hot, fairly still morning. Nice wake rolled the boat around 8 AM.

Dumped a couple of gallons of water from bucket to jug.

Slipped the mooring at 8:25 and motored W. Except for one ferry, no one else out here this morning. Water almost totally flat.

Toward Fajardo, left turn, and anchored by 9:20 at Cayo Obispo / Isleta Marina. Actually, about halfway between the marina/island and the Fajardo ferry dock area (Playa Fajardo) (pic). Calm and hot here. A dozen other boats anchored here; not sure how many are occupied.

Several Wi-Fi signals here, but no free signal. Good NPR reception for 10 minutes, then it suddenly cut out; maybe the station went off the air, which it tends to do. Small ferry boat (pic) going back and forth between marina/island and Playa Fajardo.

Around 10:45, dinghied ashore to Isleta Marina. What a loss of a place ! No fuel dock, no real dinghy-dock, no grocery store, no book-exchange, and they want $10/day for dinghy dockage (but then the little ferry to Playa Fajardo is free). They do have a small marine store.

Took a little tour through the anchorage. Some rough-looking boats (pic, pic). This area was Ground Zero for hurricane Hugo in 1988; some of these boats might be the result of that.

Stopped by the one boat I can see is occupied: "Ragamuffin" (pic). Had a nice conversation with couple aboard (I forget their names) and their friend Boris. The couple is about to fly out for a week, leaving Boris minding the boat.

I asked about book-exchanging, and the lady immediately came up with 4 books she was done with, and I gave them a bag of books in exchange. They discussed various ways to beat the $10/day dinghy fee to get ashore to drink at the marina bar; I wasn't interested. They said there's no good way to dock a dinghy in Playa Fajardo, which agreed with my guidebook. Boris said go to the northern of the two marina clusters on the big island, Villa Marina, and there are stores within walking distance.

We chatted about various places. I mentioned my plan to go to San Juan, which I've been getting less interested in, and they helped talk me out of it a little more. They did mention someone (Greg) locally who might have cruised to San Juan.

I mentioned rum prices in Culebra, and immediately they pressed me to buy a bottle of rum from them; they'd stocked up in St Thomas. $10 for a liter of Mount Gay rum; a very good price. So to be polite, I bought it from them. The guy mentioned that this is rum for sipping; don't put it into Coke. Which of course is exactly what I'll do with it, mostly.

Back to the boat.

So, maybe I'll skip going to San Juan, and go back to Culebra. It's about 9 hours of mostly-motoring to San Juan, the anchorage there sucks (deep and tight and no breeze), and then 10+ hours of total motoring to get back to here. And one other factor: at some point in the next few weeks, I have to settle down somewhere where I have email and a mailing address, and get my brother to forward my absentee ballot to me.

Dumped 5 gallons of diesel from jug to fuel tank.

After lunch, dinghied ashore to more northern of the two marina-clusters. A long ride downwind over open water, maybe 1/2 mile or more. Then down a deep channel straight inland, another 1/2 mile or more. Full of nice boats, few more than 50 feet long or so, but still plenty expensive, I'm sure. And huge racks of smaller motorboats and skiffs in out-of-water storage; this place must be a mob scene on a nice weekend.

Went all the way inland and found a dinghy-dock in Villa Marina. Wandered around mostly lost. Saw a strange boat on blocks, maybe some kind of dredge ? pic. You can't see, but it has mounts for some kind of rotating scrapers or something off the stern, as well as those wheels off the bow corners. But they all seem to be at the waterline.

Not much in the marina office or store here. Finally found the guarded exit booth and went out. A couple of strip-malls nearby. Went to a marine store and an outboard store, mainly asking if they sold Tohatsu props (I still don't have a spare). Then to a North Sail loft, asking about used mainsails. The guy didn't find any in their local list, then insisted on generating a new-sail quote for me ($1350 or so). I already knew that from their web site, I think. To a grocery store, where prices were maybe 10-15% better than Culebra prices (but they had no bananas; bought a bottle of cheapest rum for $8, plus various food).

Back to the dinghy, then to a fuel dock. Got 1 gallon of gasoline and 5 gallons of diesel for $26.18; guy said the diesel price was $4.18/gallon, which seems to compute (if gasoline is $3.57/gallon and there's 7% tax on everything) and is a decent price for this area.

Blowing harder now, still from the S or SSW. Long, rough, fairly wet ride straight upwind back to the boat, having to keep an eye on a ferry and a powerboat that both seemed intent on coming a little too close for comfort. Back to the boat by 3.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Killed a cockroach in the galley.
  10/9/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor at Cayo Obispo / Isleta Marina.

Bummer: I'd been hoping to go to Cayo Lobos today, do some snorkeling, and then go to Culebra tomorrow. But the VHF WX says north swells will start arriving tonight, and the guidebook says Cayo Lobos anchorage is untenable in north swells. So it's time to head to Culebra.

And although the VHF WX says wind from NNE today, a peek out shows it's really from the E, and I'll be heading E. Still, conditions are about as light as I could hope; going E around here usually is pretty bruising.

So, anchor up at 7:30. Motored out S around the tip of Cayo Obispo and threaded my way through the unmarked gaps in the reefs. Wind light and right on the nose, so I didn't bother to unfurl the jib. Almost no swell or chop, so it should be an easy trip. Got a little chop once I passed Isla Palomino. Usual current through here is against me: I'm doing about 1 knot less than I did when coming west.

Long, boring motor trip. Saw a couple of ferries, a ketch motoring the other direction, a couple othe rmiscellaneous boats. More rolling from NE swell as I got about 2/3 of the way across. Then more adverse current as I neared Cayo Luis Pena; about a knot of current against me.

Finally made it in and anchored by 12:45 at Bahia Linda, Culebra.

No Wi-Fi or NPR here.

Salad and salami-and-cheese sandwiches and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Hot and still evening. A little rain after dark.

Heard something scuffling on deck around 9 or so. Maybe a rat or an iguana or a bird ? Went on deck with a flashlight, and found a flying fish in my dinghy. He got some serious altitude to get in there; it's hoisted about 4 feet above water level. Too much trouble to try to snag him while he's under all the junk in there; left him to die, and I'll get the body out in the morning.

Killed a cockroach in the galley during the night.
  10/10/2008 (Friday)
At anchor at Bahia Linda.

Retrieved the dead flying fish out of the dinghy and pitched it overboard.

Stupid computer: I plug the camera into it as I've done a hundred times before, and it does the wrong thing this time. Will have to futz with it.

Dinghied around the corner to town. Up the canal, disposed of 3 bags of garbage, and to the grocery store. Busy this morning; the cargo ferry has come in. Dug down under the old broawn bananas to find the new yellow ones.

Back to the boat, stowed everything, and raised anchor by 11:50. Motored out and SE. Soon started getting NPR reception. As expected, hit by 1-knot current on the nose as I turned around Solder Point. Current soon eased to 1/2 knot, but wind still is right on the nose. Along the S coast of Culebra and into the anchorage. Tried a new mooring, but the line didn't look good. Onto my old mooring by 1:15 at Bahia de Almodovar. I have the place to myself.

Did Wi-Fi. My absentee ballot has arrived in NJ; asked my brother to send it here.

Wind from ENE slowly strengthened all day.

Wind and rain at 5:15.

Killed a cockroach in the cockpit.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

6 sportfishers and a motorboat here for the night with me.

Some strong wind at 11:20.

Killed a cockroach in the galley and another in the aft head during the night.
  10/11/2008 (Saturday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Heard Chris Parker's weather for the first time in a week. Sounds like some very strong squalls might be hitting here tomorrow and Monday.

A little sun first thing in the morning, but then solid grey by 8:30 or so. Rain at 9:10, then heavy rain at 9:40.

Figured out the camera-laptop problem. Turns out the camera had no pictures in it when I plugged it into the computer, and it must be the first time I've ever done that. And the software behaves completely differently depending on whether the camera has pictures in it or not. Stupid software.

Did some Wi-Fi. Boats starting to come in for the weekend; I wonder why, since the weather is unpromising.

Some sun around noon. 14 sportsfishers here now.

Rain and wind at 1:30.

Sunny and windy most of the afternoon. A kayak-oar drifted past, too far away to reach with a boat-hook. More boats coming in; a bit of a traffic-jam at times.

Salad and cheese sandwich for dinner. One boat blasted into the anchorage making a big wake, with everyone else glaring at him.

Counted 27 sportfishers spending the night here with me.

Killed a cockroach in the galley during the night.
  10/12/2008 (Sunday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Strong squall at 7:45.

Did Wi-Fi. Dumped 2 gallons of rainwater from bucket to jug. Rough day, very windy with lots of whitecaps out in the open water.

Expected to see boats leaving in the afternoon, but they're staying. Maybe Monday is a holiday ? [Figured out later: must be Columbus Day.]

Strong storm from SE starting at 5:45, and it caught half a dozen boats entering the anchorage, including a charter-catamaran, followed by half a dozen skiffs. Darkness came earlier than usual, with all the low clouds and rain, and the boats circled and tried to anchor. Everyone in the skiffs and dinghies got totally soaked as they went to their already-moored big boats. I was cooking dinner in the cockpit, ran out of LPG, and didn't want to get soaked going to the stern to turn the tank on again.

The other big boats took more than 45 minutes to get settled; several kept dragging anchor, one kept motoring around in reverse for some reason. One big boat almost crossed the bow of another that had two anchors out with rope rodes; that would have been a big mess. Rain eased a little after an hour, but rain and wind kept going until 9 or so.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Wind and low dark clouds at 3:45.

Rain and wind at 5 AM.
  10/13/2008 (Monday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Totally grey, low clouds, damp and windy. Dumped 5 gallons of rainwater from buckets to aft water tank. Counted 25 boats plus mine that stayed the night.

Wind and lots of rain at 10:15, lasting for a solid 30 minutes. Here are some nearby boats during squall and then after squall.

Dumped 2-3 gallons of rainwater from buckets to aft water tank.

Most boats leaving from 11 to 12; a real parade of them.

Rain at 11:45.

Only 2 boats remaining at 1:15, then another boat came in.

Rain and wind starting at 1:40. Wind eased fairly soon, but rain kept going until 4:15 or so. Got very little solar power today.

Dumped 4+ gallons of rainwater from buckets to aft water tank.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Ran engine for an hour to charge batteries.

One boat staying the night with me.

Rain at 10:30.
  10/14/2008 (Tuesday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Totally grey morning again.



Crap ! Heard Chris Parker's weather this morning. He says these squalls have been "lobes" from Tropical Depression 15, which is down near Curacao, and now a trough is going to suck it up and make it come over us, as either a Category 1 hurricane or just below that ! NWS says it will hit between San Juan and Fajardo, but Chris thinks it will be more toward the Virgin Islands, which means I'm right in the bulls-eye ! Didn't get Wi-Fi or Chris Parker yesterday, so this is a total surprise. Should be here early Thursday morning.

So, where to go ? Will have to look at forecasts on internet. I probably will go up into the main harbor on Culebra; can't think of much better to do other than a long trip to Salinas or San Juan.

Did Wi-Fi. Sure enough, wunderground has TD 15 coming right over me as a Tropical Storm at 2 AM on Thursday. It's traveling NNE or NE. Something like 60 MPH wind when it gets to me. Where the heck did this come from ? One model has it going well W of here (practically over Salinas), one has it well E of here (Anguilla), and three have it mostly coming here.

NWS forecast for this area seems broken; looks like they have the Oct 1 forecast by mistake.

Raised anchor and slipped the mooring by 8:25. Paused near the sportfisher to yell to the guys lounging on the stern: "Tropical storm - listen to the weather forecast". They got the message and waved and went inside.

Motored out and around and into Culebra's main harbor, Ensenada Honda. Saw Steve on Nonesuch, anchored and moored up in his favorite storm-spot in the NW corner of the Dakity anchorage; not such it's such a good place for stuff coming from the SE. Saw John on "Buddy" and Paul on "Adios" still in the main Dakity anchorage; guess the forecast has caught them by surprise, too, which makes me feel less stupid.

Up a little and anchored in the Punta Padilla area. Several moorings in the way here, and a houseboat is up in the best nook where I had hoped to get: NNE of Punta Padilla. A bit of a sweaty struggle, but by 9:50 I'm settled with two anchors down, at Punta Padilla. Sailboat "Interlude" is N of me, on just one anchor, as far as I can see.

I sit down to rest, and see that "Buddy" is gone from the Dakity anchorage ! Wonder if he left to go to Vieques or all the way to Salinas (he has a very fast trimaran). Looks ugly out in open water, all grey with limited visibility.

I picked this spot mainly because I have land-protection from S (somewhat) and then SSE to E to N, with hills of 50 to 100 feet close by. So hurricane-force of SE or E or NE wind, for example, shouldn't hurt me.

As expected, no NPR reception here. Probably no Wi-Fi either, which limits the quality of the weather info I can get. Rain from 10:20 to 11.

That strange small motorboat is being towed up into the nook near me, in past that houseboat (pic).

At 11, saw "Adios" leave the Dakity anchorage and head over to me. I figured he was going to anchor next to me, but Paul just swung past to say hi. I'd been calling him on the VHF radio repeatedly; all he had to do was turn on his radio. He says he's going up to "the mangroves", by which I guess he means ENE of Punta Cabras. He says that's where "Buddy" went too.

But Paul says I've picked a bad spot: the storm is coming from the SW, and I'm exposed to the SW. I picked this spot becase most forecasts say the strong wind will come from ESE and slowly back to E and then NE and maybe N. Depends on whether the storm goes W or E of us, or right over us. I decide to stick with my choice. The main thing I'm uneasy about is that I'm close to the harbor entrance: major swells coming in there could curve around Punta Padilla and give me a rough ride.

Paul says he even considered going to Bahia Almodovar, the anchorage I just fled from ! It would be a bit sheltered from the SW, but would be death if anything serious came from the SE or E. I could see 10-foot waves coming right over the reef into that anchorage.

Paul told me to enjoy the bugs, and it sure is buggy here right now. Fortunately, it got better an hour or two later, as we got some sun starting at noon.

After lunch, launched the dinghy. The boat had done a 360 and twisted the two anchor chains around each other, so I spun the boat around with the dinghy and got them untwisted. Then I started the boat engine and motored until the anchors dug in more and a little slack appeared in the chains. Then I could take in a couple more feet in the primary chain: I needed to get that so I could cleat it better before uncoupling it from the line behind it.

Last few sailboats evacuating out of the main part of the Dakity anchorage. One untended sailboat still there.

Rain at 1:15.

Got out third anchor and a length of chain. Uncoupled rope from behind primary anchor chain, coupled it and length of chain to third anchor (lots of use of penetrating oil, pliers, anti-seize). Took third anchor out in dinghy and put it out to the W, to keep me from dragging into the mangroves if it blows from SW or W or NW.

Rain at 2 PM.

Radio says TD15 is now tropical storm Omar.

Chicken-onion-saffronrice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

At 7, strong S wind and lots of lightning. Was worried it was the storm starting much earlier than I expected, but then it went away.

Heard some of Chris Parker at 7. Lightning tended to wipe out critical phrases, such as exactly where storm landfall is expected. But a couple of good things (for me): Omar had ENE motion today, and should pass E of me. A bad thing: it may be a category 2 hurricane by the time it gets past me. Hope my boat-based friends in the USVI's are okay: Bonnie on St Croix, Doug and Nancy on St Thomas, and I think "Coral Bay" (that Krogen 48) is there too. Not to mention all of the permanent guys in Benner Bay.

Rain at 8.

Dumped about 12 gallons of rainwater into the tank today.

On the VHF WX, had to listen to a solid half-hour of Spanish, and lots of flash-flood warnings for Puerto Rico, before it finally cycled around to English and a little useful info. Hard to tell, since their forecasts cover such a wide area and such a short time, and Omar's track is not definite. But it sounds like: Wednesday wind ESE 17-22 knots, Wednesday night wind E 47-52 knots going to NNE 63 knots. They might have mentioned some NNW wind after that, but I think it was back down to 20 knots or so.

Rest of the night was surprisingly calm, with very light wind from SSE or S.

Killed a cockroach in the galley and another in my berth during the night.
  10/15/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Punta Padilla, Culebra.

Totally grey morning again. Calm, very light wind from SSE or SE.

At 6 AM, USVI AM radio says: hurricane Omar center was at N14.6 W67.7 at 5 AM, which is about 200 NM south and 150 NM west of me, heading NE and speeding up. Expected to hit St Croix (hope my friend Bonnie is okay) as a category 2 at midnight tonight, then pass about 40 miles SE of St Thomas. So that sounds like it will pass about 60 miles SE of Culebra. Sounds like it's taking the E-most of the tracks shown on wunderground yesterday, into the Anegada passage.

So I should be okay, but that's too close for comfort. It easily could have come right over me here, and I would have had to tie the boat to the mangroves and evacuate to shore. But now will stay aboard.

Listened to Chris Parker's weather at 7, but couldn't hear most of it. But then "Coral Bay" called him at the end, and I got decent reception for a minute. Sure enough, they're in St Thomas. Chris told them something alarming to me: although the NWS says the center of Omar will go SE of St Thomas, Chris isn't so sure. It could hit St Thomas directly, or even "somewhat west of there". I'm "somewhat west of there" ! I'm about 20 miles W of the center of St Thomas. Not good. He says there are strong squalls about 50 miles S of me right now; weather here could deteriorate before noon.

I wonder if there's going to be a deluge of boats coming in here this morning, fleeing from St Thomas and St Croix ?

Onto the foredeck to start uncoupling the secondary anchor rope from the secondary anchor chain.

No Wi-Fi. Getting some NPR reception.

At 7:45, launched the dinghy. Took the secondary anchor rope out and tied to a mooring near my primary anchor. Mooring loop looks chafed, so I tied a bowline in the line instead and shackled my line to that. Got rained on. Back to the boat and took a cold shower in the rain.

At 8 AM, smells like an electrical fire coming from the resort just to the S of me.

Heard a plane flying out through the grey, and immediately it made me think of "Casablanca", with the daily plane out to Lisbon, everyone listening to it and wishing they were aboard.

My fear of the moment is that at the last minute someone will put a boat on one of two free moorings next to me.

I notice that there are 4 or 5 anchor rodes coming off the bow of "Interlude", the only boat near me. But no one is aboard.

Noticed that the last sailboat left in the main Dakity anchorage, that untended boat, still has a roller-furled jib up, too. Not a good idea.

Tried listening to Chris Parker again at 8:30. All I heard was a small snippet, but it was bad news: NWS still says Omar will go up the Anegada Passage, but Chris thinks it will go right over the USVI's and/or BVI's. Guess that's better than "somewhat west of USVI's".

At 8:40, saw a ketch being towed into harbor from the west. It came past me around 9; I was praying that it didn't come to anchor or moor next to me. Looks like a boat (a big home-built-looking trimaran) I've seen anchored off the west side of the town here, Dewey. Guess it doesn't have a working engine.

At 9:40, sailboat "Wind Castle" came in, maybe from the USVI's.

Took the jib down and coiled and lashed it on the foredeck.

At 10:30, the VHF WX forecast for the USVI/Culebra area said:
today: wind ESE 10-15 seas 3-6
tonight: wind ENE 30-35 going to NNE 41-56, seas 5-8
tomorrow: wind NW 43-48 going to NNW 13-18 in the afternoon

Rain finally stopped for a while around 10:45, but started again at 11:20; from now on just assume it's grey and most likely raining here.

At 10:50, two dinghies with four people out at that last remaining sailboat in the main Dakity anchorage. And I see three sailboats anchored up at town; bad if there's strong SE or E wind.

At 11:40, those dinghies left that last remaining sailboat still in the main Dakity anchorage. They might have put down an anchor, but I doubt it. That boat is in danger.

At 12 noon, AM radio says Omar will "make landfall in the USVI's instead of just brushing them as earlier forecast". I think they mean the center will hit somewhere around St Thomas or St John (as well as hitting St Croix earlier). If so, I'll be 10 miles or more outside the area of hurricane-force winds, and on the good (NW) side of the center.

At 12:20, VHF WX says: at 11 AM, center of Omar was at N15.2 W67.2 traveling NE at 9 MPH. Was an 85 MPH category 1, but should be category 2 by time it gets to the USVI's.

At 1, heavy rain, then strong wind from the S and then SE. Maybe 30 knots. Kept going for half an hour, then wind started easing but rain kept on. Muddy water coming down from the hills and spreading into the harbor; can see the edge of it in this pic.

At 3, saw two military-type helicopters flying in loose formation, heading W over town. Maybe being moved from St Thomas to San Juan in advance of the hurricane ?

Salad and salami-and-cheese sandwich for dinner.

Irritating: I've been listening to AM and FM and VHF radio quite a bit today, and other than VHF twice, they never say where the center of Omar is and where and when it will make landfall on the islands. And even the VHF only gives hours-old previous positions, not forecast positions. Only Chris Parker's weather gives that critical info.

And the local AM radio stations are peculiar; I thought people here would be pretty good at getting ready for hurricanes. Instead, they come across as kind of amateur. I guess the USVI doesn't get direct hits very often.

Ran engine for an hour to charge batteries.

Dumped about 15 gallons of rainwater into the tank today. Took the buckets inside at 3; don't want them on deck when the wind gets serious.

Listened to the VHF WX for more than 30 minutes, and gave up without hearing anything useful.

Heard Chris Parker's weather at 7, and the news is good for me, bad for BVI's or St Martin and Anguilla. At 5 PM, Omar's center was at N15.9 W66.1, moving in direction 050T at 13 knots, and the eye was 20 miles across. At 7, the center was at N16.3 W65.5, about 110 miles SSW of me and moving NE. The course is expected to stay 040T to 055T tonight, making it just miss the E end of St Croix, and thus miss me by 50-60 miles. Might make no landfall in the USVI's at all, and head straight out the Anegada passage at dawn tomorrow. Any slight deviation could be devastating to the BVI's or St Martin and Anguilla; in any case I think St Martin and Anguilla are in for a tough time, either from a direct hit or from being on the "bad" side of the storm.

Started getting very "bursty" E wind at 9, and it kept going until midnight, but it was never more than 25 knots or so, maybe.

Killed a cockroach in the galley during the night.

Looked out just after midnight, and wind has shifted to NNE but is pretty light, maybe 10 knots.

Just after midnight, AM radio says St Croix is getting gusts to 60 MPH.

At 12:35, AM radio says: Omar is category 3 ! Center went 15-25 miles E of the E end of St Croix, so maybe 60 miles SE of here.

Pretty calm here by 3 AM or so; not even raining. Thought we'd at least get bands coming off the center of the storm.
  10/16/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor at Punta Padilla, Culebra.

At 6 AM: calm, grey, with light wind from NE to NNE. Pretty good surf breaking onto the reef around the Dakity anchorage. AM radio is useless, still giving the same info they were giving 12 hours ago. Except: all hurr watches have been lifted for the USVI's.

Put the water-buckets back on deck at 6:20, and by 6:25 it was raining a little.

At 6:35, VHF WX said (maybe as of 5 AM ?), Omar is already past St Martin, out in open water at N19.something W62.3. But St Martin is still getting 70 MPH wind.

So, for here, it's all over, except for some leftover rough water for a day or so. But this storm came up too suddenly and came too close and too strongly for comfort; it was scary.

At 7, listened to Chris Parker's weather. Omar apparently went right up the Anegada Passage, and the most dangerous part of it (SE part of the eyewall) missed St Martin and Anguilla by 30 miles or so. Amazing !

Hey, some sunshine just after 7 !

Now to do all the work of undoing the hurricane preparations. Lowered the dinghy, pumped up its tubes. Detached secondary anchor rope from the mooring and brought it aboard. Raised 3rd anchor and brought it aboard. Stowed secondary anchor rope onto reel. Disassembled 3rd anchor and chain and rope and stowed it all. Hoisted the dinghy and lashed it. Lots of resting and wiping away sweat; not much breeze this morning.

Saw "Adios" go by at 8:40, back to his usual place in the Dakity anchorage.

Started engine at 9. Struggled to raise the secondary and primary anchors; heavy chains, and there was a bit of a twist. Finally got them up and had the boat moving by 9:25.

Motored out slightly, enough to see out the harbor entrance. Looks calm out there, so I went out. Coast Guard helicopter buzzing around, looking for any damage, I guess. More clouds now; squalls in a few places.

Into the anchorage and finished mooring by 10:20 at Bahia de Almodovar. The mooring loop was chafed halfway through, so I pulled it back up, tied a bowline in the line, and moored to that. Then lowered the anchor, in case the mooring fails. No one else here today.

Did some Wi-Fi.

Killed a cockroach in the cockpit.
Had hoped that all the roaches would have abandoned ship when they heard a hurricane was coming.

Put out lots of towels and sheets and such on the stern deck to dry out after all the recent damp, but had to keep taking them in as various clouds threatened.

Sunny until 3, then grey. Rain at 4. Then more sun, and at an angle that made no shade on the boat except inside the cabin.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Killed a cockroach in the cockpit.
  10/17/2008 (Friday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Grey morning. Untwisted the mooring line from around the anchor chain.

Did some Wi-Fi.

Sunny until 12:30 or so, the grey. Rain at 2:20. A sportfisher came in at 2:35.

Wow, I didn't realize there'd been so much damage to St Croix ! AM radio says there are 30 sunken vessels in the Christiansted harbor; surprising since that's in the middle of the north side of the island. Omar passed to the SE, so Christiansted (and all of St Croix) was on the "good" side of the hurricane. Someone on the radio said a "feeder band" probably did the damage. Later heard that about 10% of all vessels on St Croix may have been lost. Power is out because of some problem at the power station, and it may take a week or two to fix. Nightly curfew is in effect. Coast Guard is checking the (twisty, complicated) channels into Christiansted harbor to see if the channels are clear and the markers need to be moved. The (fairly new) boardwalk has been damaged.

Salad and salami-and-cheese sandwich for dinner.

Killed a cockroach in the galley during the night.
  10/18/2008 (Saturday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Mostly sunny morning. Did a bucket of laundry. Did Wi-Fi.

Got this message from my friend in St Croix:
Christiansted harbor is a nightmare ... poor folks. My [sportfisher fishing charter] boat fared much better [in a marina a little east of there]. It is floating but I lost the sat dome and some electronics - all of which are not covered by insurance since my 'captain' neglected to tell me about his DUI's ... so this will be out of pocket. Still, all things considered, we're fine. House is fine. Kitties are fine, including the one who slipped out at 8:30pm and spent the night out. Yikes.
First weekend-boat came in at 10:30. Rather a larger and more dollar-intensive boat than we usually see here. pic. It left an hour or two later.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

At 7:30 or so, well after dark, that big boat came in again. They tried to pick up the mooring next to me, but with a bow 10 feet above the water, it was difficult. So they turned around, backed up to the mooring ball, and picked up the mooring off their stern. I wasn't too impressed with their maneuvering; they almost ran over the mooring, risking getting it in their prop.

Six other boats spending the night here with me.

Killed a cockroach in my berth during the night.
  10/19/2008 (Sunday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

At 6:30, that big boat next to me is trying to leave, but the guys are looking off the stern and can't find the mooring ball. They must have backed over it and gotten it into their prop or rudder this morning; pretty sure I saw the ball floating behind them okay a bit earlier.

Eventually, they lower a bow anchor, and then one of the guys goes snorkeling under the boat. He's there for a while, then they rig up a hookah diving rig and he uses that for a while (pic). Finally the stern is free, the boat swings toward me, but there's plenty of room and it goes past and now is on the bow anchor. The anchor has about 1-1 scope, but somehow holds; I'm impressed (not much wind right now). Soon I see the missing mooring ball floating at the surface near their bow, slowly floating downwind; the ball has been slashed wide open by a propeller and is a total ruin, and it looks like the diver cut the whole mooring system to pieces. The diver comes back aboard, they stow everything, and leave. I see lots of chunks of styrofoam, I think, floating on the water and heading downwind; the mooring ball must have been full of it. That's the end of that mooring.

Did Wi-Fi. Found a great blog entry about hurricane Omar.

In the afternoon, finally kicked myself into working on the engine starter motor. Recently, it's been balky: I turn the key and the solenoid clicks but the motor doesn't crank. Once, a week ago, had to turn the key 6 or 7 times before it would crank. Last time this happened (6 years ago), it was because the gears on the starter motor shaft needed oil. Might be the solenoid this time, I suppose.

Anyway, I throw the battery-disconnect switch to the starting batteries, and start loosening bolts holding the motor onto the flywheel housing. A little appalled to see how much water and rust there is on this side of the engine; I've been getting rainwater into the engine compartment somehow.

I wimp out and don't fully remove the motor from the engine, which would mean taking off some tricky wires. I just loosen the motor, squirt a bunch of oil into the gap, and tighten the bolts again. A sweaty, oily job, bending over the engine, with not much ventilation through the boat since there are rainclouds overhead. Eventually I'm done. Turn the battery-disconnect switch back to the "on" position.

I try to start the engine, and it's bad. The first time I turn the key, the oil-pressure alarm buzzer sounds, as it's supposed to, but no engine crank. Then even the buzzer is dead; I turn the key a few more times, and no buzzer and no click or crank. What could be wrong ?

I check the wiring (which I didn't mess with), and then focus on the battery-disconnect switch. Looks like it's gotten full of water, and maybe it worked until I disturbed it, and now it doesn't work. I blast it full of electrical-contact-cleaner a few times, but no change. Actually, there's a time-related behavior here: the battery-isolator takes a couple of minutes to decide to connect all the batteries together, so things are different if I wait a few minutes. Confusing.

I try jumper-cables across the suspect switch, mess with them until they make good contact, and suddenly the starting batteries are dragging the other down. Apparently, the bad switch has kept the starting batteries from getting charged strongly. It's almost 4 PM and the last sunlight is precious, so I decide not to try any more engine-cranking today.

So, where does a non-starting engine leave me ? I'm in a safe anchorage, unless a hurricane appears (none forecast at the moment). I need to go to town in the next few days to pick up and then mail my absentee ballot, but the world won't end if I miss that. I'd like to go to town to get fresh food, but I have plenty of other food. So the situation is not a big deal (unless there's a hurricane).

Salad and salami-and-cheese sandwich for dinner.
  10/20/2008 (Monday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Try starting the engine, and no-go. Will have to mess with it some more. Starter motor did turn briefly, so I think it's a battery or connection problem, not a solenoid or motor or engine problem.

Rain at 9:20.

Did a small bucket of laundry.

Around 11, tried cranking the engine. Starter motor moved very sluggishly, in little "chunks". I deliberately worked it hard, cranking for 15 seconds or so. Afterward, the jumper cables were hot. So that switch definitely is bad, but maybe something else is too.

Managed to damage the stupid laptop power connector again !

Did Wi-Fi. Sailmaker said they'd charge $275 to add a wire luff (for my old Schaefer wire-in-luff roller-furling) to a used mainsail from their inventory. Seems like a lot of money to me; wonder if I could do it myself ? [Later, North Sails said it would add $150 to price of a new sail.]

In early afternoon, into the engine compartment. Took out that disconnect switch, sanded all the (fairly grungy) connectors, and bolted the cables together directly. Engine cranked decently and started right up ! Ran it for 5 minutes and shut it down.

Chicken-saffronrice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  10/21/2008 (Tuesday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Did a bit of Wi-Fi. Then anchor up and slipped the mooring at 8:50. Motored out, unfurled the jib, and headed for town. Very rolly for the first 20 minutes or so, until I could turn towards the harbor entrance. Rained on me a bit as I came in. Up to town, furled the jib, and anchored by 10 at east side of Dewey, Culebra.

Shaved, showered, and dinghied ashore. Disposed of 3 bags of garbage. To the mail store, but my mail is not there yet. Sent priority-mail last Wednesday from NJ. To the grocery store, and the bread truck hasn't arrived yet today. Bought bananas and onions. Back to the boat.

Dumped 5 gallons of diesel from jug into fuel tank.

Around 3, went ashore again. To mail store, and my mail has arrived ! Contains my absentee ballot. To the other grocery store and bought food. To the gas station in the canal, and bought 5 gallons of diesel ($22.41 for 19.05 liters, at $1.18/liter or $4.47/gallon; gas is 91 cents/liter or $3.45/gallon).

Rain at 5:15. Killed a cockroach in the cockpit.

Salad and salami-and-cheese sandwich and a rum-and-Sprite for dinner.
  10/22/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor at east side of Dewey, Culebra.

Feeling headachey today.

Dinghied ashore. Disposed of garbage. Mailed my absentee ballot (go, Obama !). Ran into Steve and chatted with him and a local woman. To both grocery stores to get food.

Blowing pretty hard in the harbor, mostly from the E. Anchor up at 11 and motored straight into the wind, all the way to the harbor entrance and out. A long, slow slog, but never got as rolly as I feared. Around the corner and into my old anchorage. Took several tries in strong wind to get the mooring. Finally done by 12:25 at Bahia de Almodovar.

Did some Wi-Fi. Bought more shares in an oil index-fund.

Chili for dinner.

Killed a cockroach in the galley and another in my berth during the night.

Headachey all night. Occasional rain from 9:30 to midnight, and plenty of wind afterward.
  10/23/2008 (Thursday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Still have a headache. Sunny with lots of wind from E or ENE.

Sportfisher came in around 11.

Did Wi-Fi. Took headache pills.

Salad and tuna-salad sandwich for dinner.

Saw a cruise ship heading NW between St Thomas and Culebrita before sunset.

Bummer: since about the time of hurricane Omar, the AM radio from St Croix stopped broadcasting the BBC from midnight to 5 AM each night. I miss the BBC.
  10/24/2008 (Friday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Still have a headache. Squall with plenty of rain at 6:45. Then sunny with wind from ENE.

Was thinking some more about buying a used mainsail and converting it to wire-in-luff roller-furling myself, and thought of two things:
1- I need a used mainsail with no headboard in it.
2- A sailmaker once told me a special knot is used to fasten the sail to the wire in the luff, but carefully did not tell me what type of knot.

Did Wi-Fi. Looks like maybe a Constrictor knot would work for the attachment of sail luff to furling wire ?

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-Sprite for dinner.

Killed a cockroach in the cockpit.

4 sportfishers, 2 sailboats and a very small cabin-cruiser here for the night with me.

My head felt good after dinner; slept well.

Heard some BBC on the AM radio at 3 AM; maybe it's back.
  10/25/2008 (Saturday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Still have a slight headache.

Did Wi-Fi. A reader suggested a buntline hitch for the wire-in-luff.

Killed a cockroach in the galley.

Headache gone by mid-day.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.

13 sportfishers, 1 sailboat and a very small cabin-cruiser here for the night with me.

Killed a cockroach in the galley during the night.
  10/26/2008 (Sunday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Did Wi-Fi.

Killed a cockroach in the cockpit.

Rain at 5, during my shower. Tried to take advantage of the rain for showering, but it wasn't strong enough.

Chili and a rum-and-Sprite for dinner.

Killed another cockroach in the cockpit.

One sportfisher and one sailboat here for the night with me.

Killed a cockroach in the galley during the night.
  10/27/2008 (Monday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Defrosted the refrigerator.

Rain at 8:30. Sailboat leaving the anchorage, heading to Culebrita. [But they came back a few hours later.]

Sudden strong sunshine after the rain, and the solar panels are putting 10 amps into the house batteries, plus some unmeasured amps into the starting batteries. So I think both solar panels are working fine; I had my doubts.

Did Wi-Fi, read books, listened to the radio.

Read a good lawyer joke in a book the other day:
What did the lawyer say when he stepped in a cow pie ?
"Oh my God, I'm melting !"

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers and a rum-and-Sprite for dinner.

Warm evening with little breeze: fairly uncomfortable sleeping.

Killed a cockroach in my berth during the night.
[It may sound like I'm being overrun with cockroaches, but I kill every one I see, so I feel the problem is not too bad. Does that make sense ?]
  10/28/2008 (Tuesday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Heavy rain at 5 AM.

Still, humid, sunny and therefore hot morning. Dumped a couple of gallons of rainwater from buckets into water jug.

Killed a cockroach in the main cabin.

Did Wi-Fi.

Sailboat (ferro-cement, I think) came in at 12:15. Pic.

Around 2, went snorkeling under the boat to scrape the hull and prop. A pretty uncomfortable job. There's no current through here, so all the junk I scraped off just hung in the water and got all over me. Included lots of brine shrimp, which bit me and tried to attach to me instead of the boat. Maybe some tiny pieces of jellyfish, too; something was stinging me a bit. A 3-foot remora hung around briefly; I eyed it nervously, not knowing how they behave. Scraped for 20-30 minutes and then called it a day.

Untwisted the mooring line and anchor rode.

Killed a cockroach in the galley.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-Sprite for dinner.

Killed a cockroach in the cockpit.

Uncomfortable in the evening; itching from whatever bit me while snorkeling.
  10/29/2008 (Wednesday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Fair number of small itchy welts on my arms and chest and neck, from whatever was biting me while snorkeling yesterday.

That ferro sailboat left at 10.

Did some Wi-Fi. Rain at 10:45. Other sailboat left at 11; have the place to myself now.

Heard a Tina Fey spoof of Sarah Palin on SNL on the radio that made me laugh out loud:
Gwen, we don't know if this climate change hoozie-what's-it is man-made or if it's just a natural part of the 'End of Days'.
Asked Minney's about 3 used mainsails, but turns out they all have headboards. For my roller-furling, I need a sail with no headboard. May be hard to find.

At 3:15, the sailboat that left at 11 and headed toward town came back past, headed for Culebrita. A lot of motoring in one day.

Salad and tuna-salad sandwich for dinner.

Rain starting at 6, and continuing off and on until about 8.
  10/30/2008 (Thursday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Wind blowing fairly hard from the E this morning.

Still have some itchy welts from the snorkeling the other day, especially bad on my neck. But they're going down and itching less.

Did Wi-Fi. Asked Minney's about 3 more used mainsails, with no luck. Sent email to 8 or 10 other used-sail places, asking for used mainsail with luff 33-35 feet and foot 13-14 feet and NO headboard. I'm not hopeful. I may have to buy a sail and butcher it: cut off the headboard and a foot-wide stripe of material down the length of the luff, and form a new luff around a wire. I could have a sailmaker do that, but it probably means paying them $300 to work on a used sail that cost $200 plus $100 shipping. So for $600 I end up with a used sail. New would cost $1500.

Kept blowing pretty hard all day. Around 4:30, saw three sailboats motoring toward St Thomas. A strange time of day to be doing it; they might arrive before dark, but it will be close. They all were pitching fiercely.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Wind blew even harder from 7 to 11 or so. Then a strong squall at 2 AM.
  10/31/2008 (Friday; Halloween)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Adjusted the mooring line; it got chafed pretty badly yesterday and last night.

Sprayed a cockroach in the galley.

Did Wi-Fi.

Sportfisher came in at 2. Another at 2:30, with Elvis on the foredeck (pic).

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Not many trick-or-treaters; ended up eating most of the candy myself.
  11/1/2008 (Saturday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Bummer: laptop power connector came apart again. So I had to carve and JB-weld it again, and it will take all day to dry. No Wi-Fi today.

Read books, listened to the radio.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Six sportfishers here for the night with me.

Sprayed a cockroach in the galley.

Killed a cockroach in my berth.

Sprayed various small bugs in the galley.
  11/2/2008 (Sunday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Laptop power connector works; I'm back in business.

Did Wi-Fi, ate lunch, tried to boot laptop again, and it wouldn't accept the boot password. Finally got it to boot by installing an older, partly failed keyboard and using that to get into BIOS setup and disable the boot-up password, then switching back to the recent partly failed keyboard. Fortunately the two keyboards have different sets of keys failing (the old one is missing e , w, some others; the newer one is missing half of the numbers, right-arrow, down-arrow, left-alt). Guess I need another new keyboard; they seem to last about 2+ years each.

Did Wi-Fi, tried to order new keyboard, but the connection dropped and broke something in PayPal; had to send them a msg to please fix it.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers and then PB-crackers for dinner.

4 or 5 boats staying the night; tomorrow must be a holiday of some sort.
  11/3/2008 (Monday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Did Wi-Fi. Successfully finished the order for a new keyboard, to be shipped here.

Added water to half of the batteries.

Anchor up and slipped the mooring at 10:55. Motored out, unfurled the jib, and motor-sailed into the main harbor. Plenty of sailboats in the Dakity anchorage, and several more than usual in the town anchorage. Saw a fair amount of sailboat movement yesterday and today, also; I think people are starting to stir out of their hurricane-season refuges. Anchor down by noon at east side of Dewey, Culebra.

Took pictures of a couple of typical cruising sailboats, with crowded decks: pics.

Dinghied ashore. Disposed of 5 bags of garbage. To the book-exchange, chatted with the nice lady, and exchanged a dozen books. To the ATM for cash. To the grocery store and bought food, but they had no bread and no decent onions or bananas or apples (food-ferry comes tomorrow).

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Very loud car-parade ashore from 6:30 to 7 or so, going slowly and blasting horns as loudly as possible, circling the harbor. Maybe some festival-type thing related to Halloween ?

A miserable evening: warm still air and lots of bugs got into my berth, biting me despite bug-repellent. And I'm a bit headachey; took some pills.
  11/4/2008 (Tuesday; Election Day)
At anchor at east side of Dewey, Culebra.

Added water to other half of the batteries.

Dumped 5 gallons of diesel from jug to fuel tank.

Dinghied ashore, only to find everything closed for Election Day ! Gas station, both grocery stores, everything closed. Don't remember this happening back in the States. Guess I'll stay here another day, to get fresh groceries.

Did Wi-Fi. Got confirmation that my keyboard has shipped; total of $28. More responses from used-sail places, saying no mainsails without headboards.

Hot in the late afternoon; hard to find shade.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers and a rum-and-Sprite for dinner.

That very loud car-parade ashore was repeated tonight, lasting from 7 to 10:30 or so, going slowly and blasting horns as loudly as possible, mostly in other parts of the island but eventually circling the harbor. Still don't know what it's about. Not as annoying tonight as it was last night.

Sprayed a cockroach in the galley.
  11/5/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor at east side of Dewey, Culebra.

Very still morning; boats pointing different direction much of the time.

Did a little Wi-Fi, but the signal is pretty flaky.

Dinghied ashore. Bought 4+ gallons of diesel ($20). Gas station guy said those loud, long car-parades of the last couple of nights have been for the election; the current mayor got re-elected. Disposed of garbage. Got groceries. Back to the boat, pausing to take pictures of a couple of sailboats: pics.

Anchor up by 11:25. Motored out of the harbor. Paul swung by in his dinghy to say hello as I went. He says it's been buggy out in the Dakity anchorage too; there just isn't enough wind. He says John on "Buddy" has gone to the Bahamas.

Out of the harbor and over to my usual anchorage. Very calm out in mostly-open water; could see the bottom 12 feet down in a few shallow stretches. Picked up mooring by 12:30 at Bahia de Almodovar.

Did some Wi-Fi.

Two sailboats came in during the afternoon. Pic.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Sprayed a cockroach and a bunch of small bugs in the galley.
  11/6/2008 (Thursday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Lovely heavy rain at 8 AM. Then a still, cloudy, humid day.

Dumped a couple of gallons of rainwater from bucket to jug.

Did Wi-Fi. Looked at prices for plane flights back to NJ for Christmas. I seem to recall getting $380 round-trip from San Juan a couple of years ago; now it's more like $560 round-trip from St Thomas.

Hot in the late afternoon; humid, not much breeze, hard to find shade.

Salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.
  11/7/2008 (Friday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Did Wi-Fi. Bummer: tried to use Skype, it's forgotten my login info, and I've forgotten my login info !

Starting to get our normal tradewind back; nice.

Chili and a rum-and-Sprite for dinner.

Rained several times from 5 to 7:30.

Killed a cockroach in the galley and a bug in my berth during the night.
  11/8/2008 (Saturday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Headachey.

Did a bucket of laundry. Did Wi-Fi.

Salad and tuna-salad sandwich for dinner.

16 sportfishers here for the night with me.

Killed two cockroaches in the galley during the night.
  11/9/2008 (Sunday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Still have a headache.

Did Wi-Fi. Got my Skype username from them.

Killed two cockroaches in the cockpit.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-Sprite for dinner.

5 sportfishers here for the night with me.

Killed a cockroach in the galley during the night.
  11/10/2008 (Monday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Headache easing a bit.

Did Wi-Fi. Skype-called Mom; she's back from her trip to Japan. Ordered a new AC adapter for the laptop.

Around 4:20, a sailboat came in, and it looks like a sister-ship of mine, a Gulfstar 44 motor-sailer, named "Marbera", from Puerto Real PR. Big pic.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Headache seems to be gone by the evening.

Two small cabin-cruisers and sister-ship "Marbera" here for the night with me.

Brilliant full moon tonight; almost bright enough to read by out on deck.
  11/11/2008 (Tuesday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

"Marbera" left at 8:15, so I never got a chance to talk to them. Four guys aboard, and they're all dressed cleanly; looks like they're delivering the boat to somewhere. They throttled up pretty quickly as they left the harbor, and their engine doesn't sound like it's running very smoothly. But maybe I'm wrong; I don't know what my own engine sounds like at high throttle when heard from a distance.

Had been thinking of going to town today to pick up my new keyboard in the mail, but just found out it's Veteran's Day. So I think I'll go tomorrow.

Did Wi-Fi, listened to radio, read books.

Killed a cockroach in the cockpit.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  11/12/2008 (Wednesday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Did Wi-Fi. Made flight reservations for Christmas. St Thomas to Philly, roundtrip nonstop for total of $606. Would have been $55 cheaper to connect through San Juan, but made a much longer day with more moving parts.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Several squalls, with plenty of wind and rain, from about 7:15 to 9:15.

Fair amount of wind and occasional light rain all night.
  11/13/2008 (Thursday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

At 8:25, brief rain with big raindrops, in a sunny sky.

Dumped 3-4 gallons of water from bucket to jug.

Did some Wi-Fi.

Started engine and slipped mooring by 1:20. Motored out and unfurled the jib. Saw huge squall approaching, and it was closer than I expected; already getting some pretty strong wind. So I furled the jib and just motored. Heard an alarming pocketa-pocketa noise from the engine at one point, so I throttled down a bit and went to investigate. Couldn't see anything wrong, and the noise didn't come back.

Over to the main harbor, in and up to town, and rain caught me as I approached town. But it quickly passed, and I didn't get wet as I anchored. Done by 2:30 at east side of Dewey, Culebra.

Chicken-saffronrice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Killed three cockroaches and a bunch of smaller bugs in the galley during the night.

Fairly windy most of the night, and rained at 2:30.
  11/14/2008 (Friday)
At anchor at east side of Dewey, Culebra.

Windy day, with lots of chop here, from the mile-plus fetch up the harbor.

Dinghied ashore before lunch. Disposed of garbage. To the mail store, and picked up my new keyboard ($2). To the book-exchange, and exchanged a dozen books. To the grocery store for food. Back to the boat.

Ate lunch. Still blowing hard from the E, but I want to get back to my usual anchorage. Here, the radio reception is bad, the Wi-Fi is iffy, and it gets too still and buggy at night.

Checked the engine, and didn't see anything wrong except the alternator belt was a little loose; tightened it. Engine start and anchor up by 1:05, and motored up the harbor into the teeth of the wind.

Out of the harbor entrance, and strong wind and swells took more than a knot off my speed, but I just slogged through it. Around the corner and eventually into the anchorage. Picked up the mooring on the first try; not bad in windy conditions. Tied an extra knot to the mooring line, lowered the anchor and chain, and done by 2:35 at Bahia de Almodovar. One charter-sailboat and one sportfisher here.

Salad and PBJ-crackers for dinner. Rain at 5.

Several squalls during the night.
  11/15/2008 (Saturday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Windy morning, with fairly strong squalls coming through every hour or two.

Dumped 3-4 gallons of water from bucket to jug.

Installed new keyboard into the laptop, and it works fine.

Did Wi-Fi.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  11/16/2008 (Sunday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Still fairly windy. Did Wi-Fi. Only one other boat here.

Salad and tuna-salad sandwich for dinner.

Killed a cockroach and a bunch of smaller bugs in the galley during the night.
  11/17/2008 (Monday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Did Wi-Fi.

Through the heart of the day, a long line of low grey clouds travelled right over top of me, cutting off most of the nice solar energy I needed for my panels. Finally got some sun again starting at 3.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Killed a couple of cockroaches and a bunch of smaller bugs in the galley during the night.
  11/18/2008 (Tuesday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Did Wi-Fi, read books, listened to radio.

Saw smoke rising from detonation of old explosives on Vieques to the S of here (pic).

Nice-looking sailboat motor-sailed into next bay over, but then went back out and headed for town (pic).

Apple and salad and salami-and-cheese sandwich for dinner.

Killed two cockroaches in the galley during the night.
  11/19/2008 (Wednesday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Finally starting to work on a Will and a Health-Care Directive; I've been putting these off for years. Downloaded some sample forms from the internet yesterday. Did a will ages ago but I need to change it.

Small red sloop (pic) came in and took a mooring around noon, but stayed only an hour or so.

Sloop "Alchemy" (pic) came in and stayed the night.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Killed a couple of cockroaches in the galley during the night.
  11/20/2008 (Thursday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Did Wi-Fi, read books, listened to radio. Skype-called my Mom, but we got cut off fairly quickly, and then I got her answering machine.

Sloop "Alchemy" (pic) sailed past toward town.

Lots of low dark clouds passing SE of me in the late afternoon, dropping lots of rain in places (pic). I really enjoy watching clouds; it's one of the nicer things about cruising. Eventually it clouded over me and stopped the solar power, but no rain.

Small yellow trimaran (pic) sailed through the anchorage and moored near a house; saw them two days ago too. I think more of the nearby houses are occupied now that it's getting toward "prime season" here.

Apple and salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.

Killed a couple of cockroaches in the galley during the night.
  11/21/2008 (Friday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Wind blowing hard today.

Did Wi-Fi, read books, listened to radio. Skype-called my Mom again, but got her answering machine.

Catamaran "Skedaddle" came in.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Killed a cockroach in the cockpit.

Killed several cockroaches in the galley during the night.
  11/22/2008 (Saturday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Fairly cloudy in the morning, and wind still blowing fairly hard.

Did Wi-Fi, read books, listened to radio. Various boats came in and out.

Sprayed a cockroach in the galley.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

At 9, wind suddenly started blowing hard from NE or ENE, and kept blowing hard all night. Blew very hard at times.
  11/23/2008 (Sunday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Wind still blowing hard from ENE.

Totally grey with lots of wind and rain at 8. And again at 8:45. And again at 9:15. Stayed grey and windy all day.

Did Wi-Fi, read books, listened to radio. Couldn't do much Wi-Fi because I'm not getting a lot of solar power today.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Killed a couple of bugs in the galley during the night.
  11/24/2008 (Monday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Wind still blowing fairly hard from ENE.

Did some Wi-Fi.

Anchor up and slipped the mooring at noon. Motored out and headed for town in very windy conditions. Didn't see Paul's boat as I passed Dakity; maybe he's gone. Up to town and anchored by 1:10 at east side of Dewey, Culebra.

Dinghied ashore around 2. To the gift shop book-exchange, exchanged a dozen books, and chatted with the lady there. To the grocery store and bought food. A few more tourist-type people on the island now, and some good-looking women, too; I think it's starting to shift from hurricane-season to prime-season. More boats in the harbor, too.

Rain at 4:45.

Salad and PB-sandwiches for dinner.
  11/25/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor at east side of Dewey, Culebra.

Dinghied ashore before lunch, and bought groceries. But it turns out the fresh fruit didn't arrive this morning, as usual; it will arrive tomorrow instead, because this is Thnkasgiving week. Bummer.

So, back to the boat. Tightened the engine alternator belt. Anchor up by 11:40, and motored out and back around to my usual anchorage. Got the mooring on the first try, lowered the anchor, and done by 12:55 at Bahia de Almodovar.

Did Wi-Fi.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Killed a cockroach in the galley and another in the aft head during the night.
  11/26/2008 (Wednesday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Did a bucket of laundry. Did Wi-Fi.

Skype-called Mom; she's had some more health problems, but seems to be doing okay. I'm glad she's in a senior place now that has full-time nurses.

Salad and salami-and-cheese sandwich and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Five sportfishers spending the night here with me.

Killed a cockroach in the galley during the night.
  11/27/2008 (Thursday; Thanksgiving)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Interesting sunrise this morning: pic (actual sunrise was a bit redder than the picture).

Sportfishers pouring into the anchorage.

Around 10:15, a guy and a couple of kids in a dinghy dropped an anchor off my port bow, for one of the sportfishers moored ahead of me. No problem.

Around 10:30, I happened to see that the same dinghy was holding onto my mooring ball. I went up onto the bow, and found that they couldn't get their motor started; some kind of solenoid or ignition-switch problem. It's a pretty serious motor, too: says V-6 on top. The dinghy can't be more than 15 feet long, but it has a center console and the motor is in a compartment at the stern. Looks like maybe a jet-drive or at least an enclosed propeller.

Lent a screwdriver to the guy. Lent him my remote-starting-switch too, but I think he was trying to run starting current through it, instead of just solenoid-activating current, so it didn't work well and the wires got very hot, and he went back to using the screwdriver instead. They didn't speak much English. Eventually he got the motor started. But apparently the transmission was stuck in forward (they seemed to know about that already), so I said they could return the screwdriver whenever, and they went off to their big boat. Saw him dip my screwdriver into the water as he left, probably to cool it off, so who knows what shape it will be in when he returns it ? Heard them futzing with the motor for the next hour or so. Saw them riding around the anchorage in the late afternoon.

By noon, 18 sportfishers here.

On the internet, I started trying to do some research to figure out how I can rebuild the auto-pilot on my boat. (Annoying: there's some stock-trading software named Autopilot, so the first 500 hits on Google when searching for "autopilot" come up with that.) I'm thinking of keeping the existing hydraulic ram and hydraulic pump and pump motor and pump motor's electric relays, and throwing away all of the control circuitry. All I need is a simple fluxgate compass, and a way of converting its "heading just changed to port a bit" signal into a "turn on starboard relay for a second" signal. I'm hoping to find a simple fluxgate compass component for $20 at some surplus place or electronics place. So far, I'm finding mostly "marine" things for $200+ or cheaper things that connect to digital busses such as NMEA or USB; not what I want. [I guess another possibility is some small digital device that took the NMEA output from my GPS and processed it to provide relay-activate signals.]

People skiing, boarding, or zooming around aimlessly in dinghies and skiffs.

Skype-called to PA and talked to some of my family as they gathered for Thanksgiving, but the internet connection wasn't good and some of the family hadn't arrived yet anyway. Then a line of dark clouds blocked the sun for a while, and I had to stop doing Wi-Fi and start conserving power.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

26 other boats spending the night here with me.

Sprayed several cockroaches in the galley during the night.
  11/28/2008 (Friday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Pretty strong rainsquall from 8:15 to 8:30.

Around 9, guys swung by to return the screwdriver they borrowed. As I expected, it's been blasted with lots of scorch-marks on both sides, where they used it to short across starter motor or solenoid terminals: pic. No problem.

Did Wi-Fi, etc. Lots of skiing going on all afternoon, a jet-ski, etc.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.

42 other boats (plus assorted skiffs and dinghies and such) spending the night here with me.

Sprayed several cockroaches in the galley during the night.
  11/29/2008 (Saturday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Took a couple of pictures of the boats rafted up here.

Did some Wi-Fi. My friend John sent me a picture of damage done to his engine when a valve-spring broke; he'd had the head reworked recently, and then this happened: pic.

I'm doing some internet searching to see if I can find a simple autopilot device: something that takes NMEA output from my GPS and produces 12V output on a "steer right" wire and a "steer left" wire. I could do it with a laptop and some kind of USB relay device, but I don't want to run a laptop all the time; I want a simple dedicated device. I've found some things used in planes or RC planes (such as GPS Smart Coupler), but nothing quite as cheap as I want, yet. [And I didn't realize that the GPS will do most of the work: if you put it in "travel to waypoint" mode, it sends out NMEA "course correction" packets.]

Around 10:45, annoying speedboat started engines and loafed around the anchorage as other boats shifted around. That speedboat is incredibly loud even at idle on one engine, and spent some time directly upwind of me, blasting me with noise and exhaust fumes. I hope they run out of fuel.

Did Wi-Fi, listened to Car Talk, etc.

Saw a dinghy with an electric outboard (pic).

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

47 other boats (plus assorted skiffs and dinghies and such) spending the night here with me.

Sprayed several cockroaches in the galley during the night.
  11/30/2008 (Sunday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Did Wi-Fi, listened to Car Talk, etc.

Boats leaving all day long. By 4:30, only one other boat still here. But then another sportfisher and then sailboat "Imagine" (pic) came in.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.

Untwisted the mooring lines from around the anchor chain.

Killed a cockroach in the galley during the night.
  12/1/2008 (Monday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Blowing hard today. Did a little Wi-Fi. I wanted to go to town today, get food tomorrow, and head to Magen's Bay on St Thomas. But it looks like E 20 wind and 6-foot seas from ENE all week.

Anchor up and slipped mooring by 12:20, and motored out. Around and up the main harbor and anchored by 1:25 at east side of Dewey, Culebra. Wind blowing pretty hard. Interesting 70+ foot schooner anchored here (big pic).

Dinghied ashore in mid-afternoon. Exchanged 10-12 books at the book exchange, and got groceries. Back to the boat.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Killed a couple of cockroaches in the galley during the night.
  12/2/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor at east side of Dewey, Culebra.

Rain at 7:15, then still and grey morning afterward. VHF WX says it was a late-season tropical wave coming through.

Dumped 4 gallons of diesel from jug to fuel tank.

Dinghied ashore around 10:30 (had to turn around once to get my camera, then again to get the empty diesel jug). Took a picture of an odd-looking Canadian sailboat (pic). Went down the canal, right underneath a concrete-mixer truck parked on the old bridge (pic).

Bought 5 gallons (19.1 liters) of diesel for $17.50 (91.7 cents/liter for diesel, 59.7 cents/liter for gasoline). Disposed of garbage. Chatted with a guy on the street while we watched the concrete-mixer truck doing its thing, pouring a little concrete to fix the seawalls at both ends of the bridge. More tourist activity these days. Got cash at the ATM and groceries at the grocery store. Back to the boat.

Anchor up at noon, and motored out. Took another picture of that big schooner as I went past; look at the lengths of the booms (big pic); I can see a dozen or more people aboard today. (A reader says: "it may have been built in Maine or Luennberg Nova Scotia. It is a big gaff rig; that is why the booms look so long, it has big gaff booms also. Interesting old wooden cargo vessel.")

A rough, rolly slog out and around the corner to my usual anchorage. Picked up my usual mooring in one try (sailboat that came in right behind me took 3 or 4 tries); done by 1:15 at Bahia de Almodovar.

Sailboat sailing past (pic).

Did some Wi-Fi. Looks like the weather will be bad for going to St Thomas (E 20 and seas 6) until Saturday, when it will be better (E 13 and seas 4). But I'm toying with the idea of seeing what it's like at dawn tomorrow morning, and maybe taking a shot at it.

So, to keep my options open, I go snorkeling under the boat (first, gave myself a haircut) and scrape prop and hull. A nasty job as usual, especially here where there's no good current carrying the debris and wildlife away. I still have some welts on my neck from something biting me the last time I scraped here. And today I ended up with several welts on my left arm and my stomach and one on the back of my neck.

Long line of grey clouds traveling right overhead much of the afternoon, cutting down the solar power.

Salad and tuna-salad sandwich for dinner.

Two other sailboats staying the night here with me.

Killed a cockroach in the galley during the night.

A nice, cool, breezy night; good sleeping. I like this anchorage so much more than the town anchorage, which at night is still and warmer and buggier. And this anchorage has good radio and Wi-Fi reception.
  12/3/2008 (Wednesday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Blowing hard from ENE and lots of low grey clouds and a very choppy sea on the horizon; not going to St Thomas today. Guess I'll wait for the better weather on Saturday; the pretty women at Magen's Bay will just have to wait. By 7 or so, I do see one sailboat heading upwind to St Thomas; looks like rough going.

By 9:15, the wind had stalled out. By 9:45, coming from the N, and it's sunny. But it still looks rough out there; not going anywhere today. Rain at 10:30. Blowing hard from ENE by noon, and a big squall passing S of here.

Did Wi-Fi, read books, listened to radio. Clouded over in the midafternoon again.

Saw smoke-cloud and heard rumble of a big explosion on Vieques, where they detonate unexploded ordinance from the bombing-range days. Thought they did that only on Thursdays.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Suddenly realized I opened an industrial-sized jar of spaghetti sauce a week ago, and now I have to finish it all before leaving the boat two weeks from now !

Sprayed several cockroaches in the galley during the night.

Fairly windy all night, and really howling at times.
  12/4/2008 (Thursday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Mostly cloudy, and wind howling half the time. Rain at 9:30.

Grey all day. Did Wi-Fi. Rain at 12:45.

Saw smoke-cloud and heard rumble of a big explosion on Vieques.

Apple and salad and salami-and-cheese sandwich for dinner.

Sprayed several cockroaches in the galley during the night.
  12/5/2008 (Friday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Sunny and breezy.

Grey and lots of wind and rain at 9:15. And then grey and windy all day after that.

Did Wi-Fi, read books, listened to radio.

Lots of wind and rain at 12:25, then some sun a bit afterward.

Sprayed a cockroach in the galley.

Added water to batteries. Cleaned engine intake strainer.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Two charter-type sailboats (a cat and a mono) staying the night here with me.

Wind easing after dark, as forecast. But then it picked up again after 9 or so.

Sprayed a couple of cockroaches in the galley during the night.
  12/6/2008 (Saturday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Sunny and breezy. Trying to decide whether to go to St Thomas today. Horizon still a bit lumpy, and conditions should be a bit better tomorrow. But I'm itching to go.

Did a little Wi-Fi. Weather forecast has shifted slightly; says seas 6 today and 5 tomorrow. I think I'll go tomorrow.

I've been sketching out a project to build, and I'd like any comments my faithful readers may have about it: see my How to Make a GPS-Based Autopilot Control Head page. Thanks !

Apple and salad and salami-and-cheese sandwich for dinner.

3 sportfishers, a small cabin-cruiser and a monohull sailboat staying the night here with me.
  12/7/2008 (Sunday)
On mooring at Bahia de Almodovar.

Grey morning, but the wind stayed down all night and this morning. So it's time to go.

Slipped the mooring at 6:30 and motored out. Eased my way through an unmarked gap in the big reef south of Culebrita, and headed toward St Thomas.

As it always is, this stretch is rough and rolly, with wind and current and swells against me. Swells from SE and NE as I go ENE today, and it's ridiculously rolly at times. I hang on and keep going, and by 9:15 I'm approaching the W end of St Thomas and getting a little shelter from it. I go north of the island, and it's a bit rolly again for a while.

To mouth of Magen's Bay by 11:30 or so. A charter catamaran coming out as I went in. Anchor down by 12:20 at Magens Bay, St Thomas. One other boat here, a megayacht.

After the usual end-of-trip housekeeping, launched the dinghy and went ashore. Greeted by a lifeguard who told me I can't land my dinghy or even anchor it close off end of the beach as I did last time I was here; I have to anchor it out in the skiff-mooring area and swim in. He was adamant, so I left my book, camera, shirt, hat, and eyeglasses on the beach, swam the dinghy out and anchored it, and swam back in. What a pain !

Walked on the beach, read my book, loafed. Chatted with the guys running the kayak-paddleboat-etc concession, Glen and another guy. Glen said he'd talk to the lifeguard about the dinghy thing. A few pretty women on the beach, but not a very good crowd today. A beach wedding being set up in one area.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Sprayed a cockroach in the galley.
  12/8/2008 (Monday)
At anchor at Magens Bay, St Thomas.

Bummer: no free Wi-Fi this morning.

Small rental sailboat, mayeb a Sunfish, sailing around and coming pretty close to me at times. Then I look up to find the guy drifting down the starboard side of my boat, and he bonks into my hull. No damage: he was going slow and his boat has a rubber rubrail. And he apologized. Then he got stuck for a moment in the wind-shadow right behind my stern.

Dinghied ashore after lunch. Waded out to chest-deep to anchor the dinghy, and no one hassled me about it, but I think that particular lifeguard isn't here today. Not much of a crowd here today; I'm told only one cruise-ship in harbor. No pretty women.

Dropped off a bag of 10 books with the boat-concession guys. Had a long conversation with a guy from British Columbia and his family. Read my book a little and back to the boat.

Salad and salami-and-cheese sandwich for dinner.

Starting in late evening, getting huge wind-bursts every 5 minutes or so. I think some kind of front has moved over, and the terrain here acts like a funnel. Some bursts well over 30 knots, I think.

Killed a cockroach in the galley.
  12/9/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Magens Bay, St Thomas.

Still having strong wind-bursts.

At 8 AM, grey and rainy and very windy. Again at 10:15. And again at 11:30. I'm surprised there are any people left on the beach, but there are.

Still no free Wi-Fi.

Lots of grey clouds and occasional light rain all afternoon. Getting a little rolly in here; supposed to be 8-foot seas out in open water.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Killed several cockroaches in the galley during the night.
  12/10/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Magens Bay, St Thomas.

Sunny and less windy; maybe the strong wind-bursts are gone. Nope; they came back around 9:30.

Still no free Wi-Fi.

Dinghied ashore at 11:30. That annoying lifeguard showed up and made me swim my dinghy all the way out into the mooring area. Fair number of people on the beach today. Saw the cruise-ship schedule, and there are about 5 in harbor today; would have expected even more people on the beach. Schedule is strange: no ships tomorrow, 5 or so again on Friday, maybe 1 on Saturday. Very uneven.

Walked the beach, read my book, chatted with Dave and Frank at the beach boat concession, did it all again. Some nice-looking women. Back to the boat around 3. As I left the beach, a dinghy-full from a just-arrived powerboat went in and left their dinghy pulled up on the beach, and no one hassled them about it.

Apple and salad and salami-and-cheese sandwich for dinner.

Killed several cockroaches in the galley during the night.

Several squalls with heavy rain from 9 to 11 or so. But hard to catch much rain in the buckets when there's so much wind.
  12/11/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor at Magens Bay, St Thomas.

Beach pretty empty today.

Still no Wi-Fi.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Brilliant full moon tonight.

Killed a cockroach in the galley.
  12/12/2008 (Friday)
At anchor at Magens Bay, St Thomas.

Beach looks pretty empty today; I thought there were supposed to be a lot of cruise-ships in harbor.

Dinghied ashore after noon. Boat-rental operation is closed. Chair-rental guy told me tomorrow is the day for lots of cruise ships. I was going to leave tomorrow, but I guess I'll stay. Walked, read my book, enjoyed a couple of pretty women.

Rain at 3:20.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.

Rain half a dozen times during the night, fairly hard at times.
  12/13/2008 (Saturday)
At anchor at Magens Bay, St Thomas.

Two interesting pictures: two nights ago, full moon at dusk, and this morning, full moon at dawn.

Dumped 4 gallons of rainwater from buckets to jugs.

Still no Wi-Fi.

Rain at 10:15. Again at 10:35.

Ashore after lunch. Chatted a couple of times with one of the boat-rental guys. Walked the beach and read a book. Fair number of pretty women.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  12/14/2008 (Sunday)
At anchor at Magens Bay, St Thomas.

Engine start at 7:20, anchor up by 7:30, and motored out. Saw a smallish dolphin (maybe 4 feet long) about halfway out. Around the NW point (Tropaco Point). Into the next bay and anchor down by 8:10 at Hull Bay. Rolly here, as expected. I stopped here to see if I can get some Wi-Fi, and use a book-exchange.

Crap ! No free Wi-Fi.

Went ashore and exchanged 8 books. Tricky to lower and then hoist dinghy with the boat rolling so much.

Anchor up at 10:35 and motor-sailed out. Following wind and seas; making 5 knots at low engine RPMs, but rolly and steering is finicky.

Making 6.5 knots as I shot through the gap N of the W end of the island. Turned around the W end at about noon, and speed dropped to 3.5 knots and then 2.5 to 3 knots. Furled the jib. Slow slog up the S side of the island, straight into wind and current.

Saw a big weird-looking dome (pics) on the top of the island near the W end, part of a big complex of communications antennae.

Got a little drive-by Wi-Fi, but I guess I was almost past it by the time I got it, so it dropped fairly quickly.

Up next to the airport. There's a beach-park here; not many people on it on a nice Sunday. Anchor down by 1:35 at Brewers Bay. Soon a snorkeler with a spear-gun swam past; wonder if those are legal here ?

Bummer: no free Wi-Fi here.

Salad and PBJ-crackers for dinner.

Very short rainshowers every half-hour or so all night.

Sprayed several cockroaches in the galley during the night.
  12/15/2008 (Monday)
At anchor at Brewers Bay.

Anchor up at 8:50, motored out and around the end of the airport (fortunately no landing planes), and up to Water Island. Anchor down by 9:30 at Honeymoon Bay.

Interesting-looking motorsailer went past. Cruise ship at dock, practicing launching its lifeboats.

Bummer: no Wi-Fi here. Used to get it here every time, but the last few times I've been through here, haven't been able to get Wi-Fi.

Started blowing harder in the afternoon, and it's curving around the corner of the island and hitting me pretty directly. I launched the dinghy around 3:30, and had a very rough and wet ride up and around the corner to the ferry-dock on Water Island, only 100 yards or so from the boat. Exchanged about 8 books at the book-exchange there, then a wet ride back to the boat.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Cruise-ship went past (departing) as I ate.

Big schooner came in after dark and anchored a couple hundred feet behind me. And I can see a huge sailing-cruise-ship in the open water to the south, with all four masts and sails lit up festively.

Sprayed a cockroach in the galley.

Around 11 or so, started blowing even harder and raining frequently. Kept going all night, getting worse toward dawn. Lots of rolling and some pitching. Lots of rain and wind.
  12/16/2008 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Honeymoon Bay.

Blowing hard and lots of chop hitting the boat. Rough morning. I can see a cruise-ship coming in past me, and two more passing outside on their way to the main harbor.

Squashed a cockroach in the cockpit.

Dumped 3-4 gallons of water from buckets to jugs.

Another cruise-ship came in past me.

Schooner is anchored behind me.

Anchor up by 8:35 in rough conditions. Motored up into Crown Bay, making slow progress straight into strong wind. A four-decker megayacht came in from the other end; look at the helicopter, and the size of the satellite dome on the boat.

Through Haulover Cut and into the main harbor of Charlotte Amelie. Three cruise-ships at the main dock. Up into a cove that few people seem to nose into much, maybe because it's a little closer to the traffic noise; I've never tried here before. A lot of effort to put two anchors down where I wanted them, especially as the wind shifted a couple of times and rotated or back-winded the boat. Finally done by 9:40 at Charlotte Amelie. Reasonably calm water here; this may be the calmest place in this rough harbor.

I'm getting set to fly out on Thursday to NJ/PA for Christmas; will leave the boat anchored here.

Plenty of Wi-Fi signals here, but none free. Could pay $10/day or $25/week for service.

Dinghied ashore at noon. Disposed of garbage. The usual crowd-scene at the stalls in front of Emancipation Park and along the main shopping street. Walked to the library. $2 for an hour of internet; good to update the log file and do email; bid on a couple of 12V LED cluster-bulbs on EBay. Got a couple of free books from the take-a-book kiosk. Sat in the park and read for a little while, then back out to the boat.

Soon into the dinghy again, and over toward the cruise-ship area. Found "Presque Isle", with two dinghies home, but no answer from my friends Doug and Nancy when I hailed the boat.

Ashore to Yacht Haven Grande marina, which certainly is pretty grande now that construction is finished. Lots of tony shops, including Vuitton, Gucci, Sassoon, Hilfiger. Nothing useful, such as a marine store. A few pretty women. I kept going through, across the street, and up to KMart. Bought roach-killing stuff and a few other odds and ends. Into the supermarket for a few things, to Radio Shack, and then back to the boat. Probably walked 3 miles.

Chicken-chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
  12/17/2008 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amelie.

Rain at 6 AM. More rain from 8:15 to 9.

Loafed all day. Added water to the batteries.

I'd suddenly started wondering if they're going to have fireworks at Christmas or New Years, because I'm anchored in the spot where they put the municipal fireworks barge; I was here for July 4th one year. But I thought, "no, who does fireworks at Christmas ?".

Well, around 4 PM I heard a radio commercial for Yacht Haven Grande's restaurant, saying come see the fireworks at new Years Eve. Couldn't tell if the fireworks will be municipal or launched from the marina. But I decided I'd better move.

Had a big salad for the first half of dinner.

So, around 4:45, started raising anchor. A big effort, with two anchors down and the rodes twisted; boat must have done a 360 last night. And my timing couldn't have been worse: halfway through, big rainclouds popped up over the hills to the east.

Sure enough, as the final anchor was half up, it started raining. Raised the anchor to the waterline and retreated to the pilothouse, fairly soaked. Then faced the boat into the rain and wind and held station for a few minutes, as it really blew and poured.

Finally got a lull in the storm, long enough to put down the primary anchor where I wanted it. Tried to get the secondary anchor down as the rain picked up again, but got the anchors too far apart. But the boat was in a stable situation, so shut down the engine and waited out the storm.

Fifteen minutes later, the rain and wind stopped, and I started the engine, let out the primary rode, raised the second anchor, moved it to the right place, and finished the job. Took over an hour. Ended up at Charlotte Amelie.

Turned off the refrigerator and defrosted it.

Salami-cheese-crackers for the second half of dinner.

Sprayed a cockroach in the galley.




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