Two days ago Brenda and I arrived in St John after a 200 mile run from Antigua.
Clearing in was easy using the ROAM app on my phone. I tend to be a bit skeptical about any government sites or apps but this one worked remarkably well. I opened the app, scanned the photo page of our passports, it populated almost everything needed and automatically sent a notice to customs and Immigration. About 10 minutes later, my phone rang and an officer cleared us in. It was amazingly easy.
The only thing I had to do after that was to call a second number and submit to a brief Covid-19 health survey. I was also surprised to learn that by clearing into the USVIs, a territory, that we were cleared into the US, as long as we didn’t stop elsewhere prior to arriving in the US.
We made the run here at an average speed of about 7kts with the wind on a very deep reach. This made for a very easy run until the wind picked up to 20+kts and the seas rose to a lumpy 4-7′. The problem with being on that deep a reach is that I was unable to use the jib as a way to more fully stabilize the boat and with the waves nearly directly behind us, we rolled a lot which was quite uncomfortable for Brenda.
Overall, Pandora is fairly stable, even with a following sea, but being sure that we didn’t end up with any sort of unexpected jibe required constant vigilance as having the boom slam over unexpectedly can cause all sorts of mayhem. Fortunately, between the boom break securing things and a careful eye on the wind, we had no problems.
The biggest issue for us was that Brenda really didn’t feel well and at one point we forgot to dose her on additional Stugeron seasickness pill, so as that wore off, that was the end of her taking anything to keep her comfortable.
As we passed St John on our way to St Thomas to pick up Brenda’s meds that had been shipped here from the US, the waves got pretty big and we decided to bail from rolly Red Hook harbor and head over to the more protected St John national park and the site of the old Caneel Bay resort, where we now sit on a mooring.
We still have to get her meds so I am thinking that I’ll head over there on a ferry in a day or so to meet the folks that accepted our package. In spite of the fact that there are more virus cases here, I went to a small market yesterday and felt pretty secure with the safety considerations in place, distancing, sanitizer and my mask in place. I hope I am right.
There are some pretty inquisitive turtles keeping an eye on us here. This guy, about 2′ in diameter, would approach us within 10′ of the boat, poke his head up seemingly to say “do I know you?”Most of St John, one of three major islands in the USVIs, is a national park and anchoring is not permitted in park areas. The primary reason is that anchors and chain will damage coral and tear up the grass that grows on the bottom as the boat boat drifts one way or the other. The moorings, managed by the National Park Service, are $26/day. Fortunately, I signed up for a senior discount card for use in any National Park which gives us access to any services at half price “for life”. I purchased the card 3-4 years ago when Brenda and I were visiting Chris and Melody in San Francisco. Frankly, I haven’t used the card, even once, since purchasing it and was shocked to find that it was still in my wallet. Lucky us as this means that we only pay $13 a night.
The water here is remarkably clear, more so than any place that we have visited since being in Cuba and the Bahamas and surely more clear than most places in the Caribbean so far. I’d guess that the visibility is about 40′, much more than the 6′ of Falmouth Harbor, which was more green from algae than the pure ocean blue here. We are on the closest mooring toward shore, perhaps the best location of all. On shore is a resort, the Caneel Bay Resort, closed like all others in the Caribbean these days. However, I don’t think that they will be emerging from lock-down any time soon as the resort, destroyed in 2017 after being in business since 1956 it has yet to be reopened. It was an eco-resort, opened by Laurance Rockefeller when he owned nearly the entire island. Their site suggests that they may open up again soon but I didn’t see any evidence of construction or demolition in evidence. I guess we will have to wait and see.There are dozens of moorings in the area with only one or two opening up most days. I recall seeing this very unusual catamaran in Antigua a few weeks ago. Having one mast on each hull. Very unusual. I think she was designed by Chris White from RI. It seems that he is known for some unusual designs, many of them multihulls. Not sure as I wasn’t able to find her design on his site. However, he seems like a logical choice to have been the designer based on some of the details of other models he’s drawn.
So, here we are in St John and our next step, planned for on or about May 10th, is to head to the US. However, I’ll admit that I am a bit unclear as to how our plans will play out given how uncomfortable Brenda was for much of the trip here. And both of us are nervous about making such a long trip without a clear plan for dealing with her sea sickness. We have been told that nearly everyone gets over nausea after a few days but not always and the idea of single handing back to the US is not sounding particularly appealing to me.
Before we left Antigua we had to go back to St John harbor, an industrial, wholly unattractive and smelly port to clear out. The one bright spot was seeing the ship, known as “the big lift” that transports yachts from place to place. There’s a lot to be said for putting a yacht on a ship to avoid the wear and tear of an ocean voyage. However, to move Pandora to say, Newport, would costs more than $20k, and that would pay for a l0t of repairs.This is a big ship. Her biggest passenger was the classic J, Topaz, one of the boats that competed in some races in Antigua prior to the arrival of the Covid-19. Topaz was on the receiving end of a dramatic collision between her and Svea with Svea ultimately found at fault. Check out this article chronicling the event. This very brief video shows what happened. It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like to have Svea ride up over her stern. Amazingly, the mast didn’t come down. That had to have been some really fancy footwork on the part of the crew of Topaz to secure the missing aft support for the mast.
Another boat to be hoisted aboard was Maiden. We had seen her in Antigua, most recently in English Harbor. Maiden, the first round the world race boat to carry an all female crew. Brenda and I enjoyed a showing of the movie about that race at the Antigua Yacht Club back in early January when we first returned to Antigua after the holidays. How much has changed in a few short months. When we met the still all female crew of Maiden, they were planning to sail up the US East Coast this spring to visit many yacht clubs along the way. Not now…It was interesting to see yachts pull up, one after another to be hoisted aboard. The crew made pretty fast work of getting the boats prepared. In the slings, and over onto the deck. I’ll admit that seeing all this happen made me wonder at the simplicity of it all as a way to get Pandora home.
Alas, we headed back to the harbor near St John to spend a final night in Antigua. Quarantine or not, we did have our friends Mark and Lynn over for a brief visit before we headed out on Thursday morning.
I expect that these two cavorting on their boom were likely more focused on fun than the risk. Down below, parents holding their breath…So, off we headed the next morning. Things were very settled for much of the day, mostly with just enough wind to make a decent speed. We passed to windward of Nevis and St Kitts. And into the night as the sun set. From there, not a sight of land for another 100 miles. Unfortunately, it became progressively windier and more lumpy. Brenda wasn’t amused and didn’t feel well at all. She was only able to stand watch for part of the time.
However, it all worked out even if I didn’t get much sleep. So, here we sit waiting for our date and a good “window” to head to the US, unsure about exactly when it will be the right time to head out. Mostly, because we are both fearful that Brenda will not be able to hold up her part of the crew responsibilities. And, if I don’t get at least some rest, I won’t be able to make good decisions and that will put us both at risk.
We are still considering options and the best approach to use to get Pandora and us back to CT safely but for now we will hang out here and come up with a plan that is safe and workable.
I did talk to Chris Parker yesterday to compare notes on the best options and as the next few weeks unfold, I am sure that we will figure it out.
For now, were’re here but it’s not the “here” that we want, not quite yet, anyway.