The Passage to St Croix
Ah the best laid plans etc, weather forecasts and lies….
We left Salinas with the wind in the North but not enough to sail so we are motoring again! Perhaps when we are clear of the land the wind would pick up and it did, unfortunately with not as much North in it as predicted. What do they say about gentlemen not going to windward?
With about 100 miles to go we are sailing under reefed main, mizzen and genoa as we are in no real hurry and will be there in the morning. Reefing down for the night is prudent as the squalls can be pretty fierce, and pretty sudden. The log recalls that the wind gradually went from NNE to E by 0600 we had several rain squalls where the wind got to a F6. It is good to be sailing at night as you don’t always see the size of the waves. A forecast 1-2m waves turned out to be 3-4m with 3m swells, not comfortable when going to windward! For a dry boat there were times when we were playing ‘submarines’!
We handed the mizzen as it was being backwinded and doing no work. Hard on the wind we eventually arrived at the South west tip of St Croix and tacked towards Fredericksted.
I forgot to mention the soup! This meal was taken as never ending ½ mugs at regular intervals together with slices of bread and butter. More like a rough channel crossing than the Caribbean!
We reached Fredericksted bay by 08:30 but it offered little shelter and with large 3m+ swells from the north would be very rolly! We had no choice but to make for Christiansted.
We sailed to the NW tip of the island off Butler bay then it was engine on and bash eastward into the current and waves. We were both exhausted by now because even off watch you were kept awake by the banging of the boat as she crashed through the waves. Baked beans on toast and hot chocolate was breakfast – real comfort food.
Slow passage was made but eventually we made the entrance to Christiansted harbour. The entrance is fairly narrow and surrounded by reefs on both sides together with a reef in the middle of the harbour. The buoyage is pretty strait forward even if it looks confusing. It reminded us of going into Bembrige, but we would never have gone in there with a large following sea.
Safely inside we are looking for the designated anchorage behind Protestant Cay, it seems to be taken up with local boats on moorings and no free space. Just then an alarm goes off. It is the engine overheat alarm!! No time to hang about so we anchor outside the channel just off the boatyard. We are at least safe although we are bouncing about and swinging with the wind and the swells coming in the harbour.
We tidied away the boat as quickly as we could, drinks and some crisps and fell into bed at 16:30 and did not wake until 07:30 next day!
Then we called the Customs, not sure if there is any paperwork coming from PR to the USVI’s. I tell the guy on the phone who has a very West Indian accent that I have a cruising permit, it seems to stop any questions, I am to call back later and give the details to his colleague. A nice lady with an American accent takes the details and advises me to let them know when I go ‘foreign’. (I presume she meant when we leave US territory!)
Formalities completed we can relax and fix the engine! The raw water impeller has started to strip it’s blades. Out of the 6 blades 3 are damaged, that would explain the overheating as the pump efficiency must have been drastically reduced. A spare impeller fitted and we are good to go. Now to go ashore.
With a repaired engine we decide to find a better anchoring spot. We found what looked like a good spot off Protestant Cay but after a few minutes we were swinging too close to a catamaran so up came the anchor and we went in search of somewhere better. Near the edge of the channel we find a space with no mooring ball close by. Down goes the hook only to be told by a local that we are anchored on top of someones mooring, so we move again, this time to the edge of the seaplane area. A bit noisy but we seem to be OK, although the planes do come fairly close.
Not so, as the DPNR police come and move us as we are too close to the seaplane area. We asked where should we go and he waved his hand in the direction we had come from! OK so we try again close to the Cay only to find we are dragging as the holding is poor. After 2 attempts we give up. (No wonder there were no moorings there). Finally we go back to where we started and anchor on a good sandy spot about 10 m from where we started from! We had travelled 3 miles around the harbour and anchored 6 times! We both were in need of a beer!
|Osprey on Buoy in the anchorage|
The swells seem never ending and the anchorage is not really calm. We manage to launch the dinghy but it is too bouncy to get the outboard on! Eventually after 2 days it is calm enough to get the motor on the dinghy. We now cannot start the outboard. The problem seems to be the carburettor is flooding. We call the boatyard/marina and arrange to berth on the outside. It is still pretty swelly but we get alongside with no mishap. Within a few minutes of tying up the mechanic has diagnosed the problem. The solution is to ‘boil’ the carburettor in an ultrasonic bath to clean it out.
We arrange to berth for a couple of nights so we can see the town, go shopping etc. At least we can get ashore if we cannot repair the dinghy. The boatyard were very helpful, only charging us for 1 night giving us the first night free as we were having work done (the outboard fixed) by them. Thanks St Croix Marine!
|Alongside St Croix marine|
If it is not one problem it is another! With a working outboard we have a collapsing dinghy. It seems to have suffered a catastrophic failure of the front tube! It is completely flat. The glue holding the pressure relief valve has given way and as fast as we pump it up it is going down! Giving somewhat hair raising rides across the harbour to town! The solution while ugly manages to work. We have glued the valve in with Sikaflex/3M 5200 adhesive sealant as we have glued the transom and all the other bits falling off the dinghy!
|Poor little dinghy|
The permanent solution is a new dinghy which they do not have in St Croix. We will have to go to St Thomas. A phone call to Budget Marine and a new RIB dinghy was ordered from St Martin to be delivered to St Thomas in a weeks time, at least we will have a new dinghy and hopefully this one will last longer than the 12 months of our Excel inflatable.
There is a supermarket at Gallows Bay, within walking distance of the marina so we had a nice little shop buying fresh fruit and veg that we had been missing. We had lunch at the Bistro, which also has wifi (none at the marina)- rather strange. We ordered chicken ciabatta but the bread appeared to be a deep fried roll! Nice home made chips, though. There is also a laundry and the marina offered to drive us up if we needed to, which was very nice.
We had a couple of trips to town in the dingy as it would be a long walk. This was before the Sikaflex solution, so we took the pump with us and had to re-inflate it before we could come back! Many of the lovely old buildings are nicely restored and covered walkways give shade as you shop. There are cannon planted upright on many of the corners and we discovered this was to prevent the ox carts from bashing into the buildings in days of yore!
|Old customs house|
Now, unfortunately most of the shops are geared to tourists and we only found a tiny supermarket but nice island style bread. Most of the bread we got in Walmart was very sweet.
The vegetable market did not have much either, mainly elderly ladies each with a small pile of produce, but we got a nice enough selection. Richard found a barber for a much needed haircut.
We came back in the evening for a free jazz concert but first stopped at the Fort Christian Brew Pub for some locally made very nice pale ale. The concert was on the lawns near the fort and we met a few locals which made a very pleasant evening with an interesting insight into island life. The ‘locals’ were from St Lucia, Bonaire, the USA and Antigua! None were born on the island.
The following day we had a trip around the oldest (only?) Danish fort in the Caribbean and watched the weigh in at the Wahoo fishing competition. Won by a lady with a 43lb specimen.
Somehow we are exhausted with St Croix, the sort of shopping we need is not local and the anchorage is too rolly for a comfortable stay. We are off to St Thomas on Monday and hopefully we will have a better time there (and collect our new dinghy).