A Named Windstorm, which might develop into a hurricane, is our biggest fear, especially if we are in the vicinity but so far we have been lucky with the quiet hurricane seasons since 2011. This year we had seriously thought about going north to the Chesapeake via the Bahamas and had even bought many of the items we needed for that trip but we kept toying with sailing south to Bonaire instead as we had originally planned. Then a named storm arrived and it is due to hit land in the North Carolinas, where we were going, so it made us think hard again. In the end, we did what we usually do when we can’t make a decision, that being brainstorming a list of pros and cons, weighting them and letting the results make the decision for us.
So, we are off to Bonaire. Major reasons were that we felt rushed and unprepared for the 1700 miles and we normally prepare thoroughly. Hurricane season is less than 3 weeks away and we would have had to move quickly through the Bahamas and do a lot of miles in a short time. If we had not needed to return to Antigua in April it would have been simple but here we are in the British Virgin Islands and with a lot of organising to do if we were going to the States. Nothing has been booked and we have no real need to go this summer. The cost of motoring hundreds of miles along the Intra Coastal Waterway, the 300 US$ for a short stop in the Bahamas, the extra charts and health insurance outweigh the cheaper flights. In addition, we really want to do some diving again and Bonaire is first class for just diving for free off the boat or dinghy, although we will have to spend more on marina or yard costs and flights via Amsterdam. However, from there we have many options (I can feel another pros and cons list coming on) so in the autumn we can head west to Colombia and Panama or go back to the United States Virgin Islands and west along Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic or even straight from Aruba to Cuba and then to the States. We will then end up doing the Bahamas when we have more time to enjoy them. So, that decision having finally been made, we can relax and get ready to take the first good weather window south during the next few weeks.
Steve’s 3 weeks was over very quickly but we have some good memories and photos as a souvenir. We duly dropped him at the airport in Trellis Bay and saw his LIAT plane fly overhead us as we sailed back to Benures Bay to chill out. There was time to wander around the art studio on the beach at Trellis Bay first, a really laid back place and one of Rob’s favourites. Steve treated us to a last night’s meal out in the Loose Mongoose with great fish and ribs from their BBQ.
We still feel we could stay forever in Benures Bay, as the water is just so clear and turquoise. I was standing on the deck the other morning when I saw a ray on the bottom and we are anchored in nearly 30 feet of water.
There are lots of turtles and the fan coral on the western side is a pretty purple. We are also more than happy to run the watermaker and filled up the front tank yesterday. The new pump looks identical to the old one but cost more than 600 pounds less and this included many hours stripping down the old pump in case it could be repaired and then stripping down and cleaning the energy transfer pump and checking for air leaks. As I said in the last post, the watermaker now runs so quietly and makes water far more quickly than it did previously, so we can thoroughly recommend Julian from ‘Watermaker Services’ in Falmouth, Antigua.
It has been very dry here though with barely any rain for weeks. Everywhere looks brown and many trees have shed leaves. Due to lots of Sahara dust in the atmosphere we couldn’t pick up a GPS signal to download a paper on my Kindle on 8 May and I was desperate to hear the results of the UK General Election, the most important I can remember. Fortunately Rob managed to get the news on our SSB Radio and we heard that a coalition nightmare of some bizarre mix of parties had been averted. A hung parliament is never good and I had the impression the UK was more upbeat when I was there in April, so the result wasn’t a big shock. The ‘in or out’ referendum on our membership of the EU will be another momentous day for the UK though.
As soon as Steve left, Rob came down with a nasty cold, with streaming eyes and a sore throat and I’ve been looking after him ever since. We just relaxed, enjoyed the scenery and I pottered about baking him a cake, cleaning the boat and moving ‘stuff’ back into the guest cabin so we can actually see what is in the ‘garage’ cabin again. Once he felt better we sailed on to Tortola and are currently in Soper’s Hole to clear out. Next stop is Cruz in St Johns to clear into the USVIs and get some nice food, then a few days in the beautiful bays in the marine park there before moving on to St Thomas for a duty free stock up in Charlotte Amalie. We also need to find a laundry and Wi-Fi to monitor the weather and plan our 3-day passage to Bonaire, which we hope to make some time in May. Quite excited about the long trip, lots of diving and Gio’s ice-cream!
We want to stop in St Croix on the way south, as we didn’t manage to get there in January due to the wind direction and we haven’t been there before. It is also 35 miles nearer Bonaire. Our satellite phone package starts on May 15 for a year and we will sign up with Chris Parker, the weather expert, again which will enable us to telephone him for daily updates once we are on passage. The package of 10 calls lasts a year so we can use it for the other long passages we will be making. Our SSB radio reception isn’t always the best, dependant on atmospheric conditions but we do have a new cable to replace our old one in the hope we can improve our reception. We did manage to hear Chris really well the other morning though, when he was advising of the storm slowly approaching the east coast of the USA but we don’t rely on it.
So, the plan now is to be in Bonaire until the contracts exchange on our house and we have a date for completion and then book flights back to the UK for 3 months. After that, who knows!