Posted by: bearcruzer | March 30, 2011

Cindy & Kerry’s Visit

Crystal’s sister Cynthia and her wonderful boyfriend Kerry joined us at the end of February.    With their adventurous and outgoing personalities they explored the beautiful beaches of St. John & soon knew their way around the hotspots of Love City.  They  were on a first name basis with many of the locals within a few days.   Mike and I were able to get a couple of extra days off on a weekend so we all sailed over to the BVI’s, Jost Van Dyke to experience the local flavor of the infamous Foxy’s & the Soggy Dollar Bar.   We soaked up a little too much flavor that day and Cindy’s camara took the brunt of it when it, along with Cindy went for an unexpected salt water swim.     Back on St. John while Mike and I worked, Cindy and Kerry decided they would hitchhike out to Coral Bay and hike out to the battery where a cluster of old Dane cannon are lying on the ground amidst the stone walled ruins.   They were picked up by a wonderful long time local, Georgia Wells.   When she heard they were planning on hiking out to the battery,  she took them on a personal tour of the battery and the ruins of the soldiers quarters as well.    Mike and I planned on meeting them at Skinny Legs after work.  When we arrived we found Cindy , Kerry, Georgia and a number of our other friends all gathered around a large picnic table, enjoying a few drinks and swapping stories.    It was a wonderful visit.   Kerry was rarely seen without a huge smile.

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Posted by: bearcruzer | February 14, 2011

Family Visit #1

Funny, as soon as we went back to work…..family began to visit.    It has been a real treat to see familiar faces from home again, even though our time with you is limited.   One of the hardest things about cruising is being so far away from you all.   Our first visitors arrived in January.  Michael’s stepdad Vince and Mike’s Aunt and Uncle,  Barb and Glen Berndt.    Mike’s Mom Lori was also expected but as life so often does, it took an unexpected turn when Mike’s sister Kathy was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Lori flew out to Colorado to be with Kathy while she underwent surgery.    Vince, Barb, and Glen, did their best to explore the island and carry the stories of our fun time together, back to share with her.

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Posted by: bearcruzer | December 21, 2010

Our lowly state…

Months have passed and no word from s/v Dancing Dolphin, one can only think the worst.    Has she met with foul play?  Perhaps blown off course by a gale, sent to Davey Jones Locker by the mighty Neptune or   dashed against the rocks marooning Mike and Crystal on some deserted Island?    Sorry to tell you No, although it would make for a much better story.    The reality of our situation is actually much, much worse.  We have chosen to plug back into society for a while and are currently living and working in the US Virgin Islands.   Here is a brief recap of how we ended up in this lowly state, although I don’t think I am going to solicit much pity form those of you experiencing freezing temperatures.    We have spent the last few months caring for the home and cats of our dear friends Chris and Elsa Angel who have been in the states dealing with health issues.   Chris offered Mike a job working as an electrician in addition to the house sitting position.   I stumbled into my job while we were riding the ferry to St. Thomas to look for a vehicle (a story unto itself).  Our friend James Clayton M.D. just happened to be looking for a medical assistant for one of his Doctors.   Right place, right time.  I did an impromptu interview and was hired and working 3 days later.   God works in mysterious ways.  We have spent a couple of months plugging back into society.  We have opened a checking account at a local bank picked up a P.O. Box for mail, and are considering getting a local discount card for the market here.   What a strange feeling to have to jump so many hoops and to learn a whole new set of rules to fit back into society after living free spirited and independent for so long.   “You’ll need two forms of picture ID for most transactions.”  You CAN drink and drive, but make sure you have your seatbelt on, and don’t even think of answering you cell phone while driving! (Oh yea, we have one of those now too!)  I miss my life aboard DD where the most difficult decision was whether to read 1st then snorkel  or vice versa.    I don’t mind though.  The people that I work with are some of the coolest and most professional people I have encountered.  Mike seems to be enjoying working again too.  Chris’s foreman is competent and kind and runs the business much like Mike ran BearWire.

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Posted by: bearcruzer | December 21, 2010

Arrival on St. John

Mike and I made our way to Great Cruz Bay on St. John and picked up a mooring near our friends Ken and Katy on s/v Diana.   We will spend the winter here taking care of our friends Chris and Elsa Angels’ house and their cats until they return from the States in early April.   We have spent the last couple of weeks getting reacquainted with life on the rock or as s/v Daniel Storey likes to call us…..CLOD’s  Cruisers Living On Dirt.    Mike has reconnected with a number of old friends and we have made quite a few new ones thanks to introductions by Ken and hitchhiking from the house down to town while we looked for a vehicle.    Michael is working again for Angel Electric and I am working as a Medical Assistant in a Family Practice.   I came by the position by chance as we were riding the ferry to St. Thomas.   We ran into an old friend Dr. James Clayton who owns and operates 3 family practice clinics, 2 on St. Thomas and one on St. John.  He asked if I was looking for work.   I did an on the spot impromptu interview with his office manager in the Red Hook Clinic and was working within a couple of days.     I will be working mostly in the Red Hook but will rotate occasionally into the other 2 clinics and work primarily under Dr. Mark Livingston.   We purchased a Car on St. Thomas that ran for all of 2 days before it decided to begin acting up.   We had to negotiate with the Car Dealer to get a different car.   We are did our best to get into the Christmas spirit.  We attended a great Christmas performance by the St. John Singers in the old Moravian Church.  There are a number of houses sporting Christmas Lights and decorations.  But truthfully, it just seems wrong to see a plastic snowman under a palm tree.   I put up our little table top Christmas tree that I had on the boat last year here at the house.    We have 3 days off together and so perhaps we will hop aboard DD and go for Christmas cruise.    S/V Daniellstorey, s/v Sanctuary, and s/v Diana and all here in the neighborhood and so we will try to plan to spend some time with them over the holidays.   Many of our friends and family are happy that we are settled down in one place for a bit and we have plans for visits from a number of them already.   We are looking forward to seeing them all.  It has been nearly a year since our last visit with anyone from home.   I am missing our traveling adventurous life on the boat but working again is opening up other opportunities.   It also makes me appreciate that much more my time off and the subtle pleasures this Island life offers.

 

Posted by: bearcruzer | December 21, 2010

Sailing with Santa

We left early in the morning and made our way over to St. Maarten to avoid some strong winds and weather that was predicted to be heading our way.    The timing of our arrival couldn’t have been better,  we sailed into Simpson Bay and right through the open bridge into the Lagoon.   While the winds gusted up to 25mph inside the lagoon, Mike and I spent the better part of the next few days doing maintenance on DD and wandering around the local Simpson Bay area.  We found a really cool Ice Cream parlor with a Carousel.   We also spent some time with some new friends.   Ever wonder what Santa does to relax prior to the hectic holiday season……well,  He, Mrs. Claus and their favorite Elf sail off to the Islands,  incognito, of course aboard their sailboat Tanana ll.    We spent time with our new friends Charlie and Robin Boulding and their daughter Tory who truely are from way up north,  Alaska to be precise.  Charlie and Robin bred and raced Sled Dogs in Alaska for many years including the famous Iditarod.    They live in a cabin and have a fishing camp in the woods along the Tan-a-na River that can only be reached by boat, or sled.  We enjoyed hearing about the life they lead in the wilds of Alaska and the interesting details of their remote way of life as well as Sled dog breeding and racing.     We all watched the weather reports for an opportunity to make our way over to the Virgin Islands.  We finally saw a small window where the winds were supposed to be favorable but the seas were expected to still be a little big.    We left  at 6:00am to cross the Oh my Godda (Anagada) passage to the VI on Thanksgiving Day along with our friends Charlie, Robin, and Tory.   It was the first time they had buddy boated and Tory was excited to see DD sailing along beside them.   The seas that were predicted to be upwards of 8-10 ft fortunately had dropped to around 6 – 8 ft.   The winds were out of the ENE and gave us a nice push along with the current.  We were lucky to be visited by a pod of small dolphins who were having a great time surfing the waves and the bows of DD.   It was a great Thanksgiving day treat.    We arrived in the North Sound on Virgin Gorda at Sunset.  We anchored  and caught a ride with Charlie, Robin and Tory over to have a really bad Thanksgiving dinner at the Rock Cafe but the company was great and it was a fun evening together.

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Posted by: bearcruzer | December 21, 2010

St. Barts

 

We pulled anchor at 5:00am, had a good sail and pulled into St. Barts at Sunset and decided we would overnight here and leave 1st thing in the morning for St. Maarten.    St. Barts is known as the playground of the Rich.        There were a number of Mega Yachts at anchor including the Maltese Falcon.      We took a short walk around the waterfront shopping area and I found a great handbag for only $10,000 and remarked how unique it was, casually reminding him that Christmas was coming.    When Michael didn’t take the hint I commented that there wasn’t much love in the air…..he replied he could buy a whole lot of love with $10,000 dollars.   After a good laugh and a playful slap we walked arm in arm back to Mighty Mouse rich in laughter, love, and life!

Posted by: bearcruzer | December 21, 2010

Beautiful Barbuda

]Nov 16 – 19th

We left the comfort of English Harbor, and headed up the windward side of Antigua and over to Barbuda.    S/v Diana joined us and as usual the fishing competition continued.   We caught a Spanish Mackerel and a good size barracuda.    Once again we found that perhaps we are not bringing our catch in quick enough as the Mackerel had a large bite out of the middle of the fish this time.    We also took turns taking sailing photos of each other to give to the other boat.    We arrived in the afternoon found it easy to read the turquoise waters and thread our way through the widely spaced coral heads in Gravenor Bay on the South Sound of Barbuda to a wonderful sandy bottom anchorage in about 10 ft. of water.      We found Lobster to be plentiful throughout the coral reefs and good size even in shallow water.    We are not allowed to spear fish here so we rigged up a tickle stick from a coat hanger and Mike was able to coax a couple of them out of their holes where we could grab them by hand and invite them for dinner.    We also came across numerous unmarked fish traps throughout the reef.   One of which had a 4 foot nurse shark in it along with a couple of lobster and a few fish.     The coral here appears to be fairly healthy in many areas with some dead areas where currents and boat traffic are more frequent.      We spent one morning hiking across to the windward beach avd found ourselves face to face with some long eared locals.  We walked along beachcombing and found an enormous cut section, about 40ft long and 5ft in diameter, of a hardwood tree that must have come across the ocean from Africa in a storm as it was washed high up above the waterline.  Not something you would want to hit at sea. We also found a small soft buoy to use as a dingy bumper and a working dingy pump.   I’m still looking for a message or better yet a treasure map in an old bottle but most everything on the beach these days is plastic garbage.    I’m not giving up, It’s gotta be out there.    We are enjoying our last days of our vacation before heading back to work on St. John for a few months.     The clear waters at this latitude are feeling quite a bit cooler now and we can feel the change in the air as well.   After a couple of days in the South Sound we moved the boat around to the beach off Cocoa Point in hopes of picking up some WiFi.  No Luck.     Because it is so isolated and surrounded by reef, Barbuda is still virgin territory and only a couple of high dollar exclusive resorts are located here.   The population does not seek to encourage a growth of tourism as they value their relaxed and simple way of life.   The people who come here really do want to get away from it all!  We spent part of a day making the trek into town to clear out of the country.    This turned out to be somewhat like a scavenger hunt.   We first took the dingy the 4 miles up to an old jetty and boat dock near the sand pit.  This is the main dock for the Island.  We tied Mighty Mouse off to a partially sunken boat that was washed  up on the beach.   We then hitch hiked the 3 miles into town catching a ride in the back of a pickup with 5 other locals.   Different Islands have different hand signals when you need a ride.   In the states you stick out your thumb.   In the USVI you point to the direction you want to go, using your thumb is considered rude.   We did not know the proper signal and opted for the USVI version only to find out that here on Barbuda that is a form of a wave signaling that a ride is not needed.   Finally the pickup driver slowed and asked if we needed a ride.   We learned that here on Barbuda you signal you need a ride by dropping your flattened hand toward the ground much like we would use in the states to signal a car to slow down.    Live and learn.   The driver took us into the center of town, which we would not have known was the center if he hadn’t told us.   We saw an official looking flag flying above what turned out to be the local police headquarters.  We asked about customs and Immigration.   We were directed back the way we had come and found ourselves in front of a little hovel with a small sign that said immigration.   We were told by the officer there we would have to go to clear out with the Port Authority and Customs first before returning to clear out with Immigration.   We were directed to go up the street.   As we wandered up the street, school was letting out and children in tan and blue uniforms with and without shoes were leaving the grounds.    A number of them greeted us on the street and engaged us in conversation.   They were very beautiful and their English was impeccable.   We found a building with a sign stating it was the local Office of Tourism.   We went in inquiring about the Port Authority and were told this was it.    No sign, you just have to ask.   After clearing out with them we were then given a town map and told to walk a couple of blocks to the Customs office.   We missed the street on the first pass and doubled back to find ourselves standing in front of what appeared to be a little house with a hand painted sign out front that said Customs.   Inside we were met by a young man sitting at a desk with a Stacks and stacks of Old forms in Binders piled behind him.   Next to him he had an elaborate keyboard that he played to pass the time when he wasn’t working.    We paid him 5 EC and cleared Customs easily.    We then walked down to grab some lunch at one of the 3 restaurants in town.   Restaurants is a loose term around here.   Basically it is someone who has set up a covered veranda in front of their home where they sell jerk chicken and BBQ along with sides of baked Mac n Cheese and Rice and Pigeon Peas or Salad.   We took our meal and sat on a rickety bench on the corner enjoying the local flavor of the food and the town.  We then had to head back to immigration which was our original starting point as we could not clear out with them until we had visited the other 2 offices.   We found the office closed for lunch and so passed the time chatting with the Capitain and 1st Mate of the Mega Yacht HUSH and the Boulding Family who were taking a break from Alaska on their sailboat Tan-a-na ll.   When the officers didn’t return after lunch, the driver for the Mega Yacht crew went looking for them and came back and told us they would be there shortly.    After checking out we hitched a ride back to Mighty Mouse and got DD ready to leave early in the morning for St. Maarten.

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Posted by: bearcruzer | December 5, 2010

Lord Nelson’s Stompin Grounds

Nov 13th – 14th

We made our way from Guadeloupe, north to Antigua.   As usual we dropped our lines in the water on the passage and soon the shout of “Fish On” was heard.   Mike brought in a nice Kingfish.   It put up quite a fight for the first few minutes and then suddenly stopped fighting and he brought it aboard easily.   Apparently we are not the only ones who enjoy the taste of Kingfish.    It was nice of it to only take the tail and leave us the majority of the filet.     Upon our arrival in Historic English Harbor, Antigua we reconnected with our friends aboard s/v Faith who we had first met in Tobago.   They are based in South Africa but are back here in Antigua at the request of a former employer and are working through the paperwork to obtain a work permit for continued employment here, not an easy task.    They are a wonderful family and we enjoyed our time together sharing stories and swapping movies.   They filled us in on the local amenities, hikes, food, and customs here, which is always a blessing when arriving at a place we have never been before.    We checked in with Customs and Immigration and took a walk across to Falmouth Harbor where we ran into Susie from s/v Queen Emma.    We stopped for a happy hour drink at the Mad Mongoose Bar and upon returning to the boat found s/v Diana had caught up with us once again.     We spent the weekend hiking around the ruins of Fort Berkely.  The trails here are not well maintained and now that we are back on the drier Islands much of the vegetation is scrub and shrubs with long thorns making the walk nearly impassable without good shoes.   As we picked our way carefully through the scrub we could see and smell evidence of the many goats who are the main users of these trails.   As we hiked the ridges we startled more than one group of them relaxing in the shade causing them to bleat in protest before reluctantly moving away from us.   We also spent some enjoyable hours learning about the history of the area as we wandered through the beautifully restored Nelsons Dockyard here in English Harbor.   Named after the Famous Lord Nelson who was stationed here in 1784.   The museum gives a wonderful glimpse into the life of Nelson and of the English Sailors who lived and worked on the Islands in the late 1700’s.   Their living conditions were less than accommodating.   Clothes washed once weekly in saltwater after being soaked in urine (thought to remove stains).  Mosquitoes were insufferable.   Those that didn’t die from dengue or yellow fever often succumbed to ailments brought on or exacerbated by alcoholism.   Sailors were issued a gallon of beer everyday much of which would go bad because of the heat.    Clean fresh water was in short supply and so was mixed with rum to make it drinkable.   Those that were unfortunate enough to contract more severe cases of these diseases or were severely injured in the course of their duties were normally finished off by the barbaric medical practices of the Fort hospital.  Bloodletting  and massive doses of heavy metals were the treatments of the era.  These treatments compounded by lack of knowledge regarding hygiene and sterile surgical procedures pretty much guaranteed that those who ended up there had a one way ticket to the grave.

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Posted by: bearcruzer | November 30, 2010

Sailing Pink Waters

Nov 12th

We left Les Saintes before sunrise headed to Deshaise, Guadeloupe.  I love leaving at this time of day when the weather and waves are settled.      As we pulled away from the anchorage, the waters around the boat reflected the colors of the skies and we found ourselves sailing on a sea of pink.   The pictures don’t do it justice.   It was awe inspiring to watch the colors change and become even more beautiful and dramatic as the sun crept over the top of the Island behind us.    The sunrises out here,  take my breath away even more often than do the sunsets.    We arrived in Deshaise,  Guadeloupe around noon  and s/v Diana arrived a couple of hours later.   We spent the afternoon taking a walk around town and hiked up to the botanical gardens only to find that they wanted $20.00 US per person just to walk through them.   Not in the budget.  We walked back down the hill stopping at a small resort to snap a couple photos and then back into town where we picked up a couple of baguettes to take back to the boat.   We did not have any cash with us but Mike did have his CC.    When we placed our meager groceries on the counter we were informed we did not have the minimum purchase amount to use it.   So Mike in his wisdom sacrificed and grabbed a bottle of rum off the shelf to meet the minimum.  What we won’t do for a tasty baguette.

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Posted by: bearcruzer | November 30, 2010

Les Saintes

Click above for music

Nov 11th

On to Iles des Saintes or more easily,  Les Saintes.    The light and shadows from the bow of DD caught my attention and I attempted to capture this alien yet interesting perspective it offered.   We buddy boated with s/v Diana and as always dropped our fishing lines in the water for the trip between islands.     We had one good hit but lost the fish.    Ken had a really big hit when a French Charter Catamaran cut sharply behind his boat just outside of Les Saints taking out both lines and lures including his new birthday lure.   We watched as it looked as though they then may have been having trouble with their steering which can happen when you have 200lb test around your rudders.    We saw them in the anchorage later and so assumed they had worked through the situation.    If my French was better, I would have attempted to see it they were able to salvage the lures they took from him.     Mike continued to work on the Wind Transducer and took a couple of shots from the top of the mast.     It was nice to be back in Les Saintes.     In my opinion it is the most picturesque of the French Islands.   The church bells ring on the hour.  The colorful buildings are all trimmed in gingerbread details and the walks and historical fortresses are all impressive and beautiful.

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