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Posted on March 23, 2017 | 0 comments

Destination: Turks and Caicos

Destination: Turks and Caicos

Before we get underway wandering the planet, we decided to give Gémeaux a makeover in Ft. Lauderdale. Our first big passage would be a 1500 mile journey broken into two one-week segments from St. Martin to Ft. Lauderdale. Here’s the ship’s log that captured the highlights of the journey.

Destination: Turks and Caicos via the British Virgin Islands
Crew: Allen and his brother’s family (Don, Barbie, and son Allen)

3.16.2017
After many flight delays and rerouting, Don and son Allen (who we’ll call Little Allen) arrived in St. Martin ready to embark on the first leg to the BVI to fetch Barbie. Fueled up, got dinner started on the grill, and bid farewell to our friends at the Ft. Louis Marina around 6pm. With 12-15kts of wind, sailed through the night with just the jib. Lots of marine traffic back and forth to the BVI.

3.17.2017
Entered BVI’s Round Rock Passage just before noon and picked up a mooring ball outside Spanish Town where we cleared Customs. Went ashore to get ingredients to compliment the fresh fish our optimistic fishermen expected to catch, including enough wasabi to stock a sushi bar for an entire year. Picked up Barbie from the airport and we were off again. Left Trellis Bay via Monkey Island and set the main and jib in a broad reach with 15kts of wind. Had a great bbq pork dinner underway. Great sailing overnight with average speed of 7.5kts.

3.18.2017

In the morning, Don set up the fishing lines, but no action. During the day, the wind freshened to 20+kts so decided to put a reef in the main. Spotted several freighters during the day, but otherwise, very little traffic on this section of the ocean. As the sun set, wind moderated so took the reef out. Winds shifted towards the east so adjusted course towards the north side of the Silver Bank to have better sailing conditions. Wind diminished overnight to 8kts by morning. Don and Barbie took a long 11pm-5am shift while the Allens slept.

3.19.2017
Winds were light on Sunday so took the opportunity to hoist the spinnaker. Worked great! After an hour or so, winds began to freshen so we took the spinnaker down. By then, the winds were under 5kts so we turned on the motor. As we approached Silver Banks, Don caught a mahi-mahi but just as he was landing it on the swim step, the fish escaped. An hour later, the crowd went crazy as we caught a Bonita, which we landed and served for dinner! Enough fish for a group of 20 and plenty of wasabi! Our sailing journey had turned into a fishing trip! Motored all night on water that was like glass.

3.20.2017
Arrived in Grand Turk at noon on Monday. Cleared Customs and the white wine drinkers did a dinghy run to Front Street to expand the cellar. After stocking up, we went to Hawks Nest Anchorage for a quiet night. Everybody slept long and hard!

3.21.2017
Left Hawks Nest anchorage and caught and released several fish exiting the reef. Put up the sails and had a nice beam reach over to South Caicos. Along the way, we caught another mahi-mahi and managed to land this one and filet it for another dinner of fresh fish. Anchored in Cockburn Harbor for the evening.

3.22.2017
Left Cockburn Harbor under gray skies. Rounded Long Cay to start across the Caicos Bank. Had good winds so hoisted the sails. Around 11am it started to rain, which continued for the next 4-5 hours. Caught a couple of barracudas, but fishing was slow. The helmsman had a very busy time dodging coral heads along the way:) When we got close to Provinciales, the rain stopped and the sun broke out. We decided to hoist the Gennaker, which had lots of issues with the furling system. Need to get some more cleats to control the furler. Once the sail was up, we really raced along. Wind began to freshen so we took down the sail, which caused much more drama in its entanglement.

Once the sail was down, we took some great drone photos–one that remains our favorite to this day. Anchored at Sapodilla Bay, which is much prettier than the picture in the book.

3.23.2017
Pulled up the anchor and headed for Southside Marina. Pretty uneventful except the channel to Southside was very shallow. As the gauge showed a 4.5′ depth (giving us less than a foot of clearance), we crept along. Got fuel and our excellent captain pulled into our slip without incident.

At Southside, I redid the bolts on the autopilot, which I discovered was hanging on only by a thread, er…bolt–three of the four bolts were gone. Also noticed some water in the port engine compartment. Initially, I thought the heater was leaking, but would later discover it was a problem with the water maker.

Mission part one of our 1500-mile journey successfully completed.

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Posted on January 29, 2017 | 0 comments

Birthday Adventure

Birthday Adventure

When my good friend, Courtney Corda, and I couldn’t find a date to celebrate her birthday in CA, naturally we decided Courtney and her husband, Gary, should celebrate the big event on Gémeaux in the Caribbean! And naturally, since Courtney is an accomplished French speaker, we invited a young French couple we met in St. Martin, Yann and Elodie, to complete our sixsome.

What fun it was to provision together at the local Carrefour grocery store in St. Martin and hand over the galley responsibilities to Chef Courtney. And, she was happy to create her own birthday meal–a gourmet meal of steak and lamb with gnocchi in a red wine mushroom sauce. The best part of the meal was listening to how Courtney flitted around the marina meeting various boat crews and borrowing ingredients to fulfill the menu. A dip off the back of the boat in the beautiful bay of St. Martin’s Grand Cas completed the perfect day for Courtney.

And that was just the beginning…We collected Yann and Elodie by dinghy in pouring rain the following day and got underway to the neighboring island of St. Bart’s. Weather improved as we approached the little bay of Anse de Colombier. It ended up being a great day for paddle boarding and snorkeling where lion fish and and even an octopus topped the critter list. A typical Caribbean finale with champagne cocktails on the sundeck and another birthday dinner with candles!

The following day, Allen anchored Gémeaux off St. Jean and sent all the land cruisers off in the dinghy where we explored St. Barts. Sadly, the “Rock Star” villa at the Hotel Eden Rock was booked so we had to spend our $30,000 elsewhere. We returned to our humble dwelling and set off to Saba, an island between St. Martin and St. Barts that doesn’t get near the attention of its two larger neighbors but has fast become one of our favorites. In keeping with our objective of trying out all the new equipment on Gémeaux, we set our beautiful orange spinnaker. While normally we don’t have enough wind, today we had too much so we deemed the brief spinnaker sail a successful test, stowed the sail, and motored the rest of the way into Saba.

While small in size, this volcanic island presents a formidable peak in the center with steep sides plunging down to a very inhospitable rocky shoreline. Vegetation is so thick on the island that you have to strain to pick out the occasional building or sign of civilization. There are no marinas or ports and deep 60-feet water surrounds the island making anchorages impossible.

Fortunately, we were able to pick up one of the six moorings offshore on the west side of the island in Ladder Bay. We grabbed our snorkeling gear and climbed into the dinghy for a bumpy ride closer to the rock outcroppings dotting the coastline. Allen, Jim, and I recalled great snorkeling here on our last visit and Saba didn’t disappoint for our friends. We added 4 sea turtles, 2 lion fish, and numerous other colorful fish to our critter list.

We traded in the snorkeling gear for hiking shoes after breakfast the next day and decided to brave another dinghy ride to check out civilization on Saba. The trail up to town is known to locals as The Ladder—800 stone steps leading up to an old Customs House perched precariously on the edge of a cliff overlooking the bay. With still just a learner’s permit for operating the dinghy, I very unsuccessfully landed our crew on shore. Recall inhospitable and rocky? Add 5-foot waves and a 100-lb outboard to raise at exactly the right moment before the next wave comes crashing down and you get one angry captain and six very wet hikers. No permanent damage to vessel or humans so we drained our shoes, found our smiles, and set off on the 20-minute climb.

A few parrots and a mama goat and her baby served as our welcoming committee. After reaching the one and only main road, we headed up and down to the The Bottom where Sunday services were in full swing in two separate churches—one congregation mostly African-Sabas wearing colorful native dresses and headscarves, and the other a mixed group of well-dressed locals attending the island’s predominant Catholic church. The shops and businesses were closed for the Sabbath, but we enjoyed our walk around the little village and its famous medical school where 2500 students make up the majority of the island’s population. A tidy, remote place, you couldn’t look in any direction more than a few feet without spotting a garbage can!

After a much-improved and coordinated dinghy return, we boarded Gémeaux and headed back to St. Martin. Sunny, windy weather made for perfect sailing and the six-foot waves made some exciting bumps. As we arrived in St. Martin, rain showers over Simpson Bay created some of the most perfect rainbows with multiple pots of gold on either side. A spectacular sunset just before arriving in Grand Cas where we drank Veuve Cliquot and ate chips and guacamole to complete a perfect vacation.

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Posted on January 6, 2017 | 0 comments

All In A Day’s Work

All In A Day’s Work

The bay at Grand Cas catapults to the top of our favorite places as a dinghy delivers fresh (and HOT) croissants and baguettes this early morning. Goodbye gluten-free diet. We return to Ft. Louis Marina to…

Fuel, do laundry, learn to make a bed on a boat, rent a car, run errands, e.g., FKG to replace the halyard, watch FKG measure and actually install the halyard on the same day (FKG is tied with the baguette dinghy for number one service provider), measure for a new sail bag and trampoline, wash the decks, wash the window shades, clean the windows, get a lesson from pilot Jim Moore on cleaning plexyglass, forget to close the hatch and saturate my side of the bed, strip the newly-made bed, dry bed linens, make my bed a second time, do another load of laundry, knock over water bucket in galley, dry and re-clean galley floor and storage compartments in floor, meet Auston and learn the art of cleaning and restoring stainless steel on a boat, borrow his power rotary buffer to buff out refrigerator doors, realize how cool it is to operate a power tool and add that to my Christmas wish list, admire the new red halyard, admire the new yellow main sheet (because after all, if you’re replacing one, why not replace the other–just $$$), spend more money at Island Marine on new dock lines and a bunch of stuff that ends put being the wrong size but now looks interesting on the salon table, do more laundry, tour our neighbor’s charter FP Saba 60/70 and wishing we were one of their clients now being served an island drink instead of dripping sweat with grimy fingernails, clean fingernails and thoroughly enjoy the monthly wine tasting event offered at the marina, continue drinking wine with dinner across the street at our favorite restaurant, Plongeoir, who treats us like regulars who have been coming for years, back to the boat for a Sapphire Blue nightcap, and fall into my beautifully-made bed. I love sailing.

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Posted on January 5, 2017 | 0 comments

When Is Home Home?

When Is Home Home?

Following more discussion about why the GPS alarm rang, we finally let the mystery remain a mystery and took the dinghy to shore so we could hike.

This was our first excursion with the new outboard to “ride” the dinghy up on the beach. As the beach drew closer and our attempts to raise the outboard did not, we headed back to Gemeaux to read the manual. You know, if all else fails, follow the instructions. Second attempt to land was a success and we hiked up the island of St. Barts, which gave us a panoramic view of the Ile Fourchu bay below, the island’s capital of Gustavia in the distance, and even St. Martin far away on the horizon.

We cooled off with a swim and snorkeling and headed back “home” to St. Martin. Speaking of home, I decided Gemeaux will become “home” when three things happen–

  1. The salon table is no longer a work bench.
  2. We stop referring to “he” did this and “he” uses that when talking about the original owner as though we are borrowing his boat; and
  3. We go through an entire day knowing how everything works.

Later I would realize that the salon table always will host a variety of projects and there will always be something new to learn. This is how “home” is redefined.

Dotting the shoreline of St. Martin is one super yacht after another, including the Maltese Falcon, a high tech square rigger with about 20 sails–an impressive sight! Gemeaux’s AIS serves as our personal Wikipedia for identifying boats and all their facts and figures. It keeps up constantly entertained. We delay our return to the civilization of a marina and instead anchor in the north end of Grand Cas, where we can dinghy to Calmos, our new favorite bar that we discovered with Matt and Cara, which is situated on the water’s edge…literally on the edge–water laps at our feet as we enjoy margaritas on the picnic tables.

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Posted on January 5, 2017 | 0 comments

Midnight Alarms

Midnight Alarms

Sound asleep just past midnight, the GPS alarm rang notifying us that the boat had moved more than 50 feet from our original position. The mooring ball that we’re affixed to allows us a 40-foot swing so anything beyond that meant we potentially were drifting out to sea, into another boat, or crashing into the rocky shoreline.

With only a sliver of moonlight and the soft glow of neighboring anchor lights, Allen jumped out of bed to determine if we had broken free of our mooring ball. Night vision binoculars proved essential to confirm where we were relative to the shoreline and neighboring boats. At the point Allen woke Jim I knew there was a problem so I joined the triage discussion in the galley now fully underway. Of course on this boat, we have a multitude of electronic devices and part of the confusion was that they were not in agreement of any boat movement. We appeared to still be secure on the ball but had the ball moved? Not likely given that it’s attached to a concrete block at the bottom of the sea. But why would our trusty GPS alarm sound? GPS failure? Garmin no doubt would deny that possibility.

Now, we could see activity on another boat, which appeared perilously close to another vessel and was quickly motoring to another point in the bay. As is the case with most Jim Moore/Allen Roberts discussions, the triage discussion at this juncture turned into a far more technical conversation that this sleepy head could not keep up with and certainly had little to contribute. I returned to bed, trusting the shipmates to solve the immediate problem and any other global crises.

Allen eventually returned to bed but it was a sleepless night as GPS alerted us two additional times. In the morning as we caffeinated our sleepy bodies, we continued the discussion and speculation. Allen dove on the mooring line and confirmed all was good. It continues to be a mystery. Yawn.

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