Puerto Rico

After a lovely few days in the Spanish Virgins we caught a break in the weather and snuck over to Puerto Rico. It was only 20 miles or so over to the East Coast where we called ‘The Yacht Club Marina’ at Palmas Del Mer our home for the next six days.

We had a few reasons why we wanted to stay put in one place. For one thing after almost four weeks at anchor we deserved a bit of marina time but mostly it was due to the great provisioning close by and it was also a great jumping off point to explore the island.

Coming into the Marina was a test as there was a huge swell outside the breakwater causing all kinds of dangerous waves to smash about in the narrow channel. We had to push hard to keep Interlude lined up and pretty much surfed into the marina on one such wave. Might have looked quite impressive but it didn’t feel like fun at the time.

Once inside it was more protected. The marina is pretty huge, and very empty. It’s been designed for huge super-yachts but it doesn’t feel like all systems are go yet. I think for next season they’ll really push it but we didn’t mind the space and high end facilities! I mean where else have we had a pool looking out over the ocean to ourselves in a Marina?! The staff were also very helpful, I get the feeling they get a little bored here they all love to help out in any way they can.

After we tied up we noticed the swell outside was large enough to cause quite a bit of rock ’n’ roll inside. Ugh. Oh well. Apart from that the place was gold, you can’t have everything.

Looking at the weather there wasn’t really a good window down to Panama for the next 5-6 days so we used the time to explore the island (renting a car here and there), provisioning like crazy, and stocking up on any boat parts we may (or may not) need.

We’re becoming more and more aware that shortly we’re going be in heading out into the big old Pacific ocean where supplies and parts will become harder to get. A lot of boats get caught out by this and end up paying extortionate prices for below par goods just because there’s no other option. Puerto Rico has all the major US stores so a few trips to Walmart has stocked us up for at least a large part of our trip back to Oz. Looking at the waterline, and lack of funds in our accounts, I personally think we’ve got enough for two or three circumnavigations.

However amazing Walmart was (it wasn’t) we also wanted to see the island. Public transport, which we normally use if we can’t walk, is non-existent here so we rented a car for a few days.

A trip to San Juan was a must. It’s the most visited place in the Caribbean, although I’m sure the Soggy Dollar Bar in the BVI’s must run a close second. When we arrived there were five huge cruise ships in port and the place was flooded with tourists all exploring the same two or three pre designated ‘safe’ areas.

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This idea of ‘safety’ is a real eye opener to us. Must be a US thing, but the marina we stayed in was within a gated community with armed security guards everywhere. Go to a nice town like Old San Juan and there’s a policeman with gun and bulletproof vest on EVERY corner. Humm. I understand it’s done to make people feel ‘safe’ but I’m not exactly sure what everyone’s so afraid of?

I’m sure Puerto Rico has its fair share of problems, like most areas in the Caribbean, but I’m not sure building walls to hide within is the answer, maybe I’m just being very naive. Helen and I just acted how we do everywhere we go. Try and use common sense, be respectful of the place you’re in, and don’t act like a muppet. San Juan, once you’re out of the tourist military zone, is a lovely place. We walked all over, and found the back streets off the beaten track to be stunning. The people we met were are extremely friendly but you have to play by their rules to see this. We learn’t that it’s extremely rude to just get straight to the point when talking with a Puerto Rican person. If you want to engage you have to take the time to talk and laugh… I think we’ve opened up to this naturally anyhow during this trip but you really notice how people can shut down if someone just barks an order at them in a restaurant for example.

Old San Juan also had some amazing castles and forts where you really get a feel of the quite tragic history the town has had. It’s amazing to think that so many European powers, and then the US have all taken turns of invading, fighting, burning and rebuilding the place.

The San Cristobal Castle, which is the main attraction in town, is stunning to walk around. The cloudy skies didn’t make for great photos but you get the idea.

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You can see where different occupiers have added to the fortifications as it’s importance grew. This continued right up until the second world war, so 450 year old original walls are merged with concrete machine gun placements.

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The way the history is presented is very well done and we spent a good few hours soaking it all in.

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After the castle we wandered aimlessly around, our number one way to explore. We really loved the feel of Old San Juan. It’s an extremely well-kept place and has a very active arts scene. Again it’s a shame a lot of the cruise boats never get to see these sides of places, preferring it seems to focus more on duty free shopping. Some of the best areas were pretty deserted apart from a few wanderers such as ourselves and locals chilling out.

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After an exhilarating drive back in the dark through thunderstorms and some of the craziest driving I’ve ever seen we crashed out.

The next few days were spent buying yet more provisions, swimming in the pool, and chatting with a lovely couple on the boat next to us who were also trapped here trying to head over to the BVI’s.

Time passed so quickly that it was soon time to clear out of the country. I was dreading this after the dance we had getting into the US but we walked into customs, spoke with two lovely officials, and ten minutes later walked out with our papers ready for Panama.

We just had time enough to chill out on the lovely beach here before heading back to the boat to get her ready for heading back out to sea.

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Tomorrow we set off the the 950 mile Southwest passage down to the San Blas islands in Panama. The forecast looks good! After 6m waves last week we’re now looking at a nice 1.5m most of the way over. The waters just off the Colombian coast line can be very changeable through so we’ll keep a close eye on that as we get closer.

Spanish Virgin Islands

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Two days in St Thomas is more than enough so we headed out to the Spanish virgin islands just close by. We cleared out of the US Virgins Islands and called the Spanish Virgin’s customs to give them advance notice of our arrival – according to the procedures. We were given another number to call when we arrived.

Culebra is said to be the easiest place to clear in and has a huge natural harbour ‘Ensenada Honda’ which is reported to be well-sheltered. As the weather is still a bit gnarly that sounded like a good bet.

It takes a bit of navigation to get into the harbour but once inside it’s quite open with lots of space to anchor. We chose a spot near the Dinghy Dock restaurant and settled in. We called up customs to check in but just got a voicemail so we left our details. As we weren’t allowed to go to shore until we were cleared, we had lunch onboard and waited…

After that we called a couple times more with no success. So we called the original number, and the guy there said to keep trying and if not we could visit them at the airport.

An hour later we were on the dinghy fighting with the elements again. We went to the El Batey dinghy dock, which is ever so slightly dilapidated, and then walked over to the airport. Once there we found that the immigration guys were out for lunch, so another wait… And then they didn’t really want us to clear in there so a few more phone calls… some more paperwork… and then finally we were cleared in! Just our cruising permit to pay for – what!?

It’s relatively simple if you follow the rules (just time-consuming and hard on the pocket). It’s not so simple if you don’t, like the poor guy in the office with us who had been turned away once already. Whoops.

After that it was time for sundowners so we headed to the dinghy dock restaurant. The restaurant gets busy, but luckily as we were there early we were able to bag a table and enjoy a scrumptious meal. A great end to a frustrating day.

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We’re not the only ones that get a good feed here 🙂

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The weather really isn’t letting up here and the bay, being so wide, is not overly protected. We wanted to explore the island though but weren’t keen to brave the elements again with Interlude. Solution: Golf carts!

We dingied to shore, tried a few different dinghy docks, each with their unique challenges and then went to Carlos Jeeps and rented a golf cart. These things are so much fun. It’s much like Whacky races, I only wish I had a banana skin to throw out the back to scuttle the many other tourists hurtling around.

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We got to visit many other beaches. The first, Flamenco Beach was beautiful but windy! We had a swim and then took off again.

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The second,Tamarindo, had amazing snorkelling. We saw turtles and a ray… and then a huge group of tourists with flippers turned up. So we upped and left again.

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Then the third beach was down a dirt road so we had to leave our cart, with three others who were here. The beach was a bit mangrove-y, and desolate to the point of spookiness. We hot-footed it out of there back to where the cart was. The others were still there, we don’t hold out much hope for the folks who seemed to have been swallowed up by the quicksand on the beach.

And the final beach, Melones, had great snorkelling – this time for the amazing coral growing there, and some colourful fish too.

After that it was time for some sun-downers at Mamacita’s followed by amazing Mexican at Zaco’s Tacos.

Top day!

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Vieques

Culebra was amazing but we were tired of the wind in the bay so we decided to head to Vieques in search of a more sheltered spot. It was a bit hairy with some big seas and rainy squalls. So I hid downstairs to ‘monitor the watermaker’ and left the captain to it! Ha! Actually it was a bit queasy downstairs so I’m not sure who got the last laugh.

We were headed for Sun Bay where the guidebook says there are ‘many buoys’ but as it happens there were none. There was just a solo cat braving the swell. So we continued down the coast and decided to poke our noses into Ferros Bay and Mosquito Bay where there should be buoys just outside. Nope!

But we sighted some masts in the next bay so trundled in there and captured one of the few buoys there with great relief as yet another squall hit. We had landed just near the small town of Esperanza. Chase, one of the ex-pats there, welcomed us in and explained how the holding was bad for anchoring so we were lucky we’d got the newest buoy. The official ones had been removed some time ago. Anyway we were settled.

We got the full low-down on the place and wandered into town to explore, ending up at Lazy Jacks.

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It seems like a laid-back town. Well apart from the punch-up that had the Americans ducking and hiding. Apparently punch-ups can often lead to shootings – at least here. So that just left us English folks at the bar ready for the crossfire. Hopefully that’s just an isolated incident and it seemed to get resolved pretty quickly.

Next day we were the lazy jacks. We went ashore to try and book a trip to Bio Bay but as it was full moon we couldn’t do that for another day or two. We visited the corner store and then just had a relaxed day on the boat.

Well so we thought. There we were just minding our own business when I saw a boat outside the window, and I shouted to Simon that the ‘boat was awfully close’. We ran upstairs thinking that it was the usual charter boat out of control only to find that this time it was worse. A boat had come loose from it’s mooring and was floating down the bay with two men in dinghies chasing after it. If they hadn’t have been there to push it away it would have totally smacked into us so we were really lucky. The guys managed to run it down and motor it back to another mooring. The funny thing is we don’t think the guy on the boat even realised it had moved when he returned! The problem was that it was moored by the mechanic who only put one line on. In the big winds and current it had completely chaffed through. We always tie on with two or even three lines and won’t be changing that anytime soon.

After that bit of excitement it was back to Lazy Jacks for a beer. We met an amazing guy with an awesome dog. The guy’s job is to clear up the undetonated bombs that litter the islands. There are places where you shouldn’t drop your anchor and shouldn’t go ashore. Anyway Coco the dog, eventually pushed us out of the bar so we took our pizza back to the boat.

The next day we waited for 8pm with much anticipation as we were going to do the Bio Bay. We were picked up at the ‘Green Store’ by a man in a van. We crammed inside the cab while the others took a seat out the back of the truck and we enjoyed an uncomfortable ride up to the bay. Then we were loaded two-by-two into kayaks and sent out on the lake.

We’ve seen a little bioluminescence before, out of the back of the boat at night. But here in the bay, it’s the greatest concentration in the world!

Every time you dip your oar the water lights up behind, a little like a light sabre. You can also see the trails of fish (and sometimes sharks!) as they dart off away from you. The tour guide showed us the birds, crabs and oysters that live in the mangroves too.

It was amazing to see but it wasn’t long until the moon came up and the effect was reduced. Glad we got the early booking.

So then we were just left people watching. A Japanese couple seemed to have no co-ordination and just kept powering into people. They hit us a few times and it was hard to avoid them as they were steaming ahead and changing course haphazardly. Was pretty funny when the caught people unawares.

After that it was just a quick trip back to town and then back to the boat to prepare for our trip to Puerto Rico. Can’t wait!!

US Virgin Islands

There seems to be two camps when it comes to the Virgin Islands, those that love the BVI’s and those that love the US and Spanish Virgin Islands. The BVI’s being the crazy, busy, crazy place while the US and Spanish are more laid back and remote.

We had to keep pushing on, that clock is always ticking, and we’re always keen to make up our own minds, but we had two issues.

  1. The wind/swell was still kicking up a stink (when is it not?)
  2. We had to clear customs.

We’d long come to the conclusion that if we waited for Mother Nature we’d be waiting a long time, so we decided to concentrate on issue two, getting our US visa.

The information on Noonsite was great although we didn’t like what we heard. First things first we had to get our passports stamped and for that we had to go to the USVI’s without poor Interlude. We headed to Sopers Hole (aka West End) Tortolla, picked up the dodgiest looking mooring, rowed the dingy to the dock and just made the ferry after paying a departure tax.

Cruz Bay, St John’s

The ferry screamed along to Cruz Bay without any regard to the wind, waves, or the poor yachtsmen coming the other way, tossing them around in it’s wake. Kind of funny if it weren’t for the fact it would probably be us tomorrow.

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At Cruz Bay we had to wait for a motor boat to vacate the dock before the ferry could get in and then we could clear customs. We got the necessary stamp in our passport, was finger-printed and photographed and finally let loose.

We had a nice wander around town, sought out some breakfast, browsed the shops and whiled away the time waiting for the 3pm ferry back. By then we’d seen just about all there was to see in Cruz Bay… once, twice or more.

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Back at Sopers Hole there wasn’t really much time to get to another bay before twilight so we wandered around to pay our mooring buoy fee at the marina and search out some dinner. Not much happening here, it’s really a bit of a hole, although the bar is ok.

St Thomas Harbour, St Thomas

Next morning we cleared out and headed to the USVI, this time St Thomas as the anchorage at Cruz bay was overcrowded and we weren’t in any rush to go back. It was a bit of a bumpy ride and no sooner had we dropped the anchor than a squall came bringing with it 35 knot wind and rain. At least we knew the anchor was set.

We headed out once again to get the US visa clearance sorted. We dinged down the bay to Frenchtown marina looking for a dingy dock. There wasn’t one. So we dinged back up the two miles against the wind and chop to the ‘Downtown dinghy dock’. It really put our electric motor and our balance to the test but we finally made it and headed back down the way we came to customs. It’s pretty industrial here with lots of concrete.

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There was a bit of a queue at customs but after a bit more paper-filling, more finger-printing and photographs and we were officially cleared in – whoop!

After that we went for a wander and ended up at the other end of town where a cable car will take you to the top of the hill. We paid the whopping fee only to be told it closed at 4pm, 45 minutes later. That’s almost a dollar per minute, awesome! We made it to the top where the views were stunning and the beer was cold, but somehow it always feels better when you’ve made the climb yourself so I’d definitely do that next time.

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After that we popped ourselves down at the fat turtle bar to debrief and then back to the Green House bar for an all American dinner. My first ever Reuben roll was yummy but made me feel like a fat turtle!

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Next day we took a dinghy ride up to the dock at the IGY marina for a provisioning run. After we made it past all the cruise ships and mega yachts without a scratch we searched for a spot at the dock. It took three attempts but we managed to strong-arm our way in. This is the busiest dock we’ve been to.

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In good news, the supermarket is just around the corner so we loaded up and then headed back to the boat. As we were making our way back to the boat a helicopter followed us, not sure if our fingerprints hadn’t checked out or if they were just scared for us after our recent trips up and down the harbour. He took a good look at our Interlude though! USVI 4

As the weather was squally and a bit mean looking we decided to do some planning for Puerto Rico. The guide we downloaded wasn’t great, not many chartlets, so we decided we would have to stump up for the hardcopy version. Back to the Frenchtown marina, this time by dinghy and bus, to pick it up. These things are draining our bank account fast but seem to be the quickest and most effective way to plan.

We found the book and celebrated with a quick beer at ‘The Pub’ and took in the sights. Frenchtown marina is actually quite lovely, with a great vibe and intimate feel. The one drawback is that it’s right next to the cargo ship dock, and like many of the reviews report, it’s a little dirty and noisy down this end. The town planning in this place is really quite bizarre.

After that it was time to return to the boat and get our Spanish Virgin Island trip nailed down.

British Virgin Islands

We ❤️ the BVI’s!

After a pretty nice overnight sail over from Saint Martin the weather started getting a little lumpy for our first morning view of the BVI’s. It was still impressive through. Loads of little land masses dotted around all over the place.

We headed directly a mooring field at Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda and luckily picked up the last mooring buoy. At least it was pretty sheltered from the winds and swell raging outside.

After getting the boat tidied up we headed to shore to check in. Wow. What a dance! Took over an hour. Head to this window… fill this form in…. no not like that, like this… Now head here. The whole process was quite complex, totally over the top compared to other places we’ve been, and the forms were so badly worded they should win some kind of award. Still we were in, and while I was stuck in a paperwork nightmare Helen got chatted up three times so it’s not all bad!

As we’re trying to fill our remaining days in the Caribbean as much as possible we headed straight to one of the highlights of the area called the Baths. They were on the same island so made sense to push on even through we’d just overnighted and really just wanted to crash.

The trip over was fun. We thought we’d waved down a taxi to take us, turns out it was just a guy driving to pick his wife up from work. Oops. He still offered to take us to the Baths which was really nice of him and we had a good chat about the island on the way and shared our story – he thought we were crazy. Hope he didn’t get in trouble for being late picking his wife up.

The Baths were amazing. It almost looks fake, these HUGE stone boulders are just dotted around the place creating wonderful landscapes. It’s honestly quite surreal, like someone’s placed them in such a way to create cool caves to explore. The water quality was also stunning.

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After the Baths we headed back to the boat and flopped. Was a long day but we’re glad we pushed on and saw everything.

Next day we were up early and headed the 12 or so miles North to the Bitter End Yacht Club. It’s in quite a protected group of islands to the North of the BVI’s so we were hoping for some protection as the wind and swell were still up. We grabbed a mooring again and had a good time exploring the area. There’s a great hike you can do, although it’s pretty hardcore at times especially in flip flops (Doh!) and not well-marked.

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We made it back ready for dinner and noticed everyone glued to TV’s in the bar. The Oscars were just about to begin and it started getting pretty crazy. We enjoyed the amazing sunset, ate up and left. 🙂

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Next morning up and at ‘um early again. What we’ve found is that there’s a pattern to the boat movement in the BVI’s. You have your ‘early birds’ who set off two hours before everyone else and arrive at their destination just as ‘normal crowd’ leave their spots. The ‘normal crowd’ then fight it out two hours later in a mad rush for mooring buoys. Finally you have your ‘lazy sods’ who set off at 2pm due to a crushing hangover from the night before and then panic when they arrive just before sunset in a crowed anchorage with no space left.

Although not always successful, we did have a ‘lazy sod’ day here and there complete with crushing hangover, we mostly adopted the ‘early bird’ method and it worked very well. So much nicer to arrive at a new place just as it’s emptying out and take your time picking the best spot.

The BVI’s were very much like a trail. As everything’s so close together the most you’re going to sail is an hour or two between places so everyone moves every day. There are a few must do things so we planned our route to take in as much as we could.

The other thing about the BVI’s is mooring buoys. They are EVERYWHERE. This has pros and cons. The pros are that you’re on a safe (they are very well maintained here) buoy and can sleep easy. It’s also good knowing that most of the charter guys, many of which have less than average boating skills, are safely held rather than on an anchor with a 2:1 scope (we saw this a few times) dragging over the bay.

The cons are that they are quite expensive, and due to winds dropping off overnight can damage your anti-foul (as we found out one night) by scraping the hull. Grrr.

For the most part through everything here is just setup to be easy. And we loved that. We haven’t been so chilled and relaxed in ages.

Back to our route…

From the Bitter End we hopped over to a lovely anchorage on Cooper Island where we had booked a table in one of the better restaurants in the islands. We arrived to find ‘One Love’ a Cat who’s owners blog (zero to cruising) we’ve been following for years now.

We were also greeted by a playful dolphin who was just hanging out in the bay. I dived in and snorkelled with the other early birds and had an amazing 30mins in the water with him. He was just splashing around and darting between all of us and would dive down and spin with anyone who’d head underwater. Was pretty amazing to be that close to a wild dolphin. He seemed to be enjoying the interaction as much as we did!

After a lazy day swimming with Turtles and relaxing we headed to shore. The restaurant didn’t disappoint. Was exceptionally good food and I recommend heading there if you can – just make sure you book.

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Wonder when this will be on the menu?

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Here’s some more nice sunset photos to take your mind of that poor Chicken above, although I bet those chicks are orphans by now.

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Following day we headed over to the Bight on Norman Island which is famous for it’s caves just around the headland outside for snorkelling and Willi-T’s. We moored up again as the wind just won’t let up and the holding isn’t meant to be great here and took our dingy over to the caves on what has to be it’s longest trip yet. Must have been a good 3-4 miles round trip but the electric outboard handled it no probs. The snorkelling around the caves was amazing. You just tie your dingy to a floating line and dive in. So many fish in crystal clear waters and you can swim right into the large caves to explore the darkness within. We took a flashlight so you could see everything hidden in the darkness. The colours of the rocks were stunning under flashlight as all the minerals sparkled as we swam.

That night it was time for Willi-T’s. We’d heard a few stories about this place. Seems to be an anything goes floating bar on an old boat that’s been anchored in the bay for years. You know, the normal. It didn’t disappoint and we had a pretty wild night dancing with the other nutters, getting tattoos, and somehow making it back to the boat in one piece. You really have to go to understand the place but it’s defiantly not safe for kids.

The next morning we were well and truly ‘Willi-T’ed’ out. Ugh. We did push on though and made it over to Cane Garden Bay on the island of Tortolla. This bay was really stunning. Very lush greens, it reminded me a lot of Dominique. It has an amazing wrap around white sandy beach with a lot of small beach bars. Every night a bar or two takes a turn to play some live music. Really good vibe here and while we were still a little tender from Willi-T’s, we still enjoyed the nightlife after a day lazing on the boat (but stuck to soft drinks).

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I could have stayed at Cane Garden Bay for a week no problems but we needed to push on with our whirlwind tour of the BVI’s. Next up another island, Josh Van Dkye, where we were lucky to get a buoy in the protected (well better than most) area of Great bay. The wind has been relentless and the swells are also big. Reminds us of the Christmas winds we had a few weeks before. We don’t have the time to pander to the conditions through so have to just go with it.

Great Bay is the home of ‘Foxy’s’ another famous bar and restaurant in the BVI’s. We were staying around this area for two nights to take in Foxy’s Friday BBQ and also squeeze in a bit of time at the ‘Soggy Dollar’ bar in the bay next door.

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If there seems to be a lot of talk about bars and drinking in this post it’s because, really, that’s what the BVI’s are all about. It’s kind of hard to describe but it’s sort of an Ibiza for grown ups. 95% of the people there are US folks chartering huge cats and having a darn good time letting loose. Everyone is into the holiday vibe, strong drinks flow from 9am onwards, lots of laughing, you get the idea.

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The age ranges from the young to salty old sea-dogs who have retired here, or at least spend six months of the year here during the US cold seasons. How they still have functioning livers I have no idea, maybe they don’t. I can understand why they flock here though. Safe protected sailing grounds, really good bars and food, amazing beaches and snorkelling / diving, it really is a paradise where you laze, swim, and relax by day and party by night.

I’m sure we’ll be back here to loose a few more brain cells one day!

After our Foxy’s BBQ and daytime drinking session at the amazing Soggy Dollar Bar, which was also an amazing amount of fun, it was time to get back to reality and sort out our escape departure from the BVI’s over to the US Virgins. I’ll save that gem of red-tape craziness for another blog as my fingers are hurting from typing this epic.

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Have to quickly say through that the BVI’s were one of my most loved areas so far. You have to hand it to those Yanks, they sure know how to have a good time, and we’ve never met a more friendly group of people. It can be a little ‘full on’ at times for us reserved Brits, but the BVI’s have a great way of just making you let it all go and enjoy the place.

Saint… Kitts, Barts, Martin

Everyone seems to be a Saint here. Must be a very holy area or something?

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We couldn’t really find much info on this small island apart from there being a nice beach complete with good bar called Shipwreck, and to stay away from the main town as it’s a bit of a dump. Fine, beach bar it is. Well, so we thought…

There has been a bit of weird weather flying around the area. Mostly everything comes from the East. Everything’s set up for this, so all the good anchorages, beaches, etc, are on the Western side of the islands. When the swell comes from the North. Ouchy! Everything rock and rolls.

This is exactly what we found coming into Saint Kitts.

We got to the beach and anchored. The wind and swell was so bad it felt like trying to walk home after a long night out so we had to move. We tried another spot that we saw on the way in and anchored there. Much better!

The weather luckily calmed down a little and we spent Valentine’s night on board looking out over the water. Was lovely.

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Next morning we were off. Didn’t really see much of Saint Kitts. Used it more as a stopping off point.

Saint Barts

Wow. The top 1% sure know how to spend their hard earned cash and as far as we can tell Saint Barts has been built purely to allow them to do just that. We anchored out in the bay and came in to view the sights.

Saint Barts 2The place is pretty tiny. A small town where every shop is designer. This is a place for the super rich to come when they are bored and have run out expensive stuff to buy in their home towns.

Not really our cup of tea but we did find a nice place to chill out and eat dinner that didn’t cost $50 for a beer, and had good wifi to get some planning done, every other poor looking yachtie was in here hiding as well.

Here’s Helen doing said planning. Hard work hey?

Saint Barts 1So… Kitts and Barts. I have to give them both a bit of a meh rating. Good to visit but one day in each was enough. Come on you Saints, sort it out! We had one left to go. Martin.

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This is more like it! Sure there’s still the super rich doing their thing here but at least they stay over the other side of the bay and there are places to enjoy for those not earning $500,000 per day in interest.

Coming into Saint Martin’s Simpson’s bay was a great experience. There’s a bridge that opens you have to pass under. Everyone lines up and tries to squeeze through as onlookers in the bars take photos and videos hoping someone screws up. When I say everyone I mean small boats like ours, and 60m long $300,000,000 superyachts.

When the bridge opened everyone fell into line. We somehow got wedged between two of the aforementioned superyachts. A cheap filling in a half billion dollar sandwich. It was actually quite tricky keeping control of Interlude as the wash from these monsters kept spinning us around. A quick blast from their bow thruster sent us flying. We actually passed through the bridge almost sideways to counter one such blast and then pealed off to our Marina as they reversed into their huge docks. Honestly, they were so big I don’t think either of them ever realised they had an Interlude between them.

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Here’s a video I found of Steve Job’s boat passing under the bridge. This was shot the day after we arrived and we saw his yacht in the bay. Great video showing the wash, and you can see the bar I was on about with everyone looking at you / hoping you slam it into the wall.

The guys from our Marina were great. They came out to meet us and explained where our berth was, where the fenders and lines needed to be, etc. As Simpson’s bay is quite complex, shallow, and during these bridge opening times extremely busy, it was great to see them providing this service. I wish more marinas would do the same, just takes a bit of the pressure off.

Getting into our berth was pretty tricky as there was a nasty cross wind blowing us across the lane. Just as I was lining the boat up to turn into our space Helen called out that our neighbours from way back in the Canary Islands ‘Miami to Ibiza’ were next to where I was trying to pull into. No pressure then. We nailed the berthing somehow and caught up with them for a while. Then we noticed Barry and Co from Matilda about 15m away! It’s amazing how we know people in pretty much every place we visit now. Barry is always good value so we popped over there and agreed to meet up for drinks later that afternoon.

We checked in, and which was a bit of a trek away near the bridge, and then got back just in time for drinks with Barry, who told us the bar we were off to was one of the ones next to the bridge. Grrr. Oh well, at least we’ve done our 10,000 steps again today.

We had a fun night out with Barry and some other guys he’d met checking out some of the local bars. There’s a great party vibe around the place as all the younger crew members sneak off the super yachts to play. We much prefer these kind of places and mix with this crowd far easier. Plus they all know where and when the happy hours are so you can bar hop never spending more than a dollar per beer. We started at the bar where everyone watches the poor souls trying to get through the bridge. Was nice watching it from the other side of the coin! We hit the strip ending up at Soggy Dollar Bar which was filled with crews and cruisers alike.

Next day we bumped into Barry and all agreed that endless happy hours all following on from one another are not good things. Soggy Dollar Bar was blamed. Breakfast sorted us out though and we set about doing a few boat projects and exploring the place. We bumped back into Cam and Sarah who were also getting projects fixed. Hope your battery change goes well Cam! Was a pretty lazy day and we ended staying on board as the weather turned really nasty that night and the thought of another night out filled us with dread. We must be getting old.

Next day we wanted to get away from the boat and go for a wander. We’d heard about a cool beach right at the end of the islands runway. One long walk later we were at the beach and hung out in the ‘Sunset bar’ to take in the views.

It’s crazy how low the planes fly over the beach.

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People cram themselves into the area directly under the flightpath and seconds after the aircraft bombs over you see a sandstorm blasting out to sea. If you look closely you can see people tumbling down the beach within the sand cloud smashing into the ground and each other. In most countries you’d call this extreme police riot control. Here it was called entertainment. Humans really are funny creatures but everyone seemed to be enjoying it, and their faces did look very exfoliated.

We preferred to view the madness from the bar over a nice lunch. Then a cruise ship load of people turned up and the place turned into a circus so we left and hung out on an empty beach just around the corner. Another hours walk and we were back at the boat.

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One thing we’ve noticed is that proportionately Saint Martin has a LOT of cars. It’s not that big an island but the place is packed. There must be more cars that people. Maybe Saint Martin is the Saint of traffic jams?

Also, the island has LOTS of power outages. We spoke to the Marina guy who was in charge and he said it happens all the time. They just can’t cope with demand. So every now and then everything turns off. Some places have their own backup generators but more often that not you’re just suddenly in the dark. Makes provisioning interesting through!

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So out of the three Stains my fav by far was Martin. Very fun place to visit with lots going on, a great nightlife, good marinas, beaches, etc. You’ve got the whole package Saint Martin, well done!