Sailing across the entire Caribbean Sea, north and south is a passage of 400-450 nautical miles. We sailed this course, as we ran from Grenada and the COVID-19 lockdown. We sailed north to the USVI where we could find a working and open airport. Most of the Caribbean Islands were closed to incoming sailboats, but the USVI was open. Tradewind sailing is fantastic with steady 20-25 knot east winds. This course was a broad reach for 200 miles to Isla Aves, and then a turn to the north on a beam reach for another 200 miles. We sailed 400 nautical miles in 60 hours which is an average of 6.7 knots with only one hour of engine time to make hot water for showers. The MK450 wind turbine and solar panels provided all the 12-volt power for the ship’s systems. Enjoy this 5-minute video which shows our helm set up, wind data, and the sounds of sailing.
After leaving our boat in Puerto Rico, July 2020, we have finally made a trip back to spend a week servicing all her systems and checking in on her storage jack stands and hurricane tie down straps. We hired Ruben of R. S. Marine Services to wash and wax the hull and deck. He has been so helpful in taking care of our boat while we have been at home. So, here is the photo essay with captions showing the process we went thru.
NOTE: We wrapped the teak, again, with Caprail Protective Tape and this is the second year we tried this. IT WORKS WELL. If you are looking for CAP RAIL TAPE, then see this link to buy what we are using:
So….Let’s call it finished! OMG, another week of work.
OFF TO THE BEACH! Finally
Goodbye Island Spirit….til Nov 🙁
Sure, looking back on last season, when we ran from Grenada lock down and sailed north to St. Thomas and St, Croix and St. John, we should have kept sailing north and returned home to the Chesapeake Bay. BUT….our plan and our goal was to only store the boat July til Nov and then we thought we would be back sailing in a few months, like NOV3!.
Well, that did not happen with the craziness of COVID, with no vaccine, and with CDC saying no travel to Puerto Rico, and MORE….we decided to stay home at our Saltbox13.
Well we stayed home, all of…. Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb, Mar, April, May and now, we thought we would go and launch May 26th and sail June and some of July on Island Spirit. Well I tried to get our Markel USA yacht insurance extended into July so we could keep sailing but they said no, haul out July 1 or sail north of Florida or south to Grenada. We said no, they said then haul out July 1.
At that point, we decided that it would be insane to launch this boat, set her up with sails and canvas and rigging to only sail a month in the USVI. So we gave up on this dream plan of sailing and cancelled our May 26th launch date. Then we flew down to service the boat because our flights were paid and room was paid, so we did not want to loose that.
Final thought….yes, we could have launched May 26, set her up and prepared for a voyage. We could have and we even talked about these options….
Sail for Panama 10 days
Sail for Grenada 2.5 days
Sail for A B C Islands 3-4 days
Sail for Florida / USA 7-10 days
Sail for Chesapeake Bay 10-15 days
None of these sounded good to us because…. ONCE AGAIN….we want to be sailing the Eastern Caribbean Sea one more season, THEN hopefully then we plan to accomplish one of the above.
20/20 hindsight says, should have sailed home….but so it is. We will now wait and we will look forward to Nov sailing once again. Until then, we will take road trips, we will visit friends and family, and we will bum rides on other boats. This is the first time since 1986 we are without a boat to easily sail or play on. 🙁
Thank you for reading and thanks for any and all comments.
With the Covid-19 pandemic raging worldwide, we have been hiding out in Saltbox13 and enjoying our first winter at home in ten years! Obviously, we are normally on our boat, Island Spirit, spending winters in Florida, Bahamas or the Caribbean Sea. This has been a very different winter for us, but we have made the best of it, playing house. Did I say that we love our Saltbox13 which we designed and built in 1984? Well, we do! This house has been a lifetime joy, so spending time here has been fun, especially with our wonderful neighbors and the fantastic kids on our street. With the new media, bourbon, prosecco room, the weber grill, firepit and large bathrooms, we are not roughing it here. Please enjoy this photo update of winter 2020-21!
Time around our Fire Pit
YouTube on the Media Room TV, so fun
Well, Let’s Decorate for Christmas
We recommisioned the French Godin Petit Stove, so much fun
SNOW SNOW SNOW, all winter long!
Winter at Home was Comfortable
Upside Down Snowman and further Snowman FUN
Walks, Walks, Walks, doing 60-80 miles a month
Merry Christmas 2020
My Favorite Photographic Subject, Radeen
The Endless Winter of 2020
We have the BEST Neighborhood Children
Weber BBQ all winter long
Did I say WALKS? Yup, 2.0 miles every day we can
Thank you all for following along. This is not our usual posting about sailing and luewater and travel, but 2020 has not been a normal year for anyone. Soon, we will have our 2nd Covid-19 vaccine shots, fly to Antigua for that special wedding and then we will return to sailing….we hope. For now, let’s get into SPRING TIME WEATHER SOON.
Yes, we are still at home from Summer 2020 into Fall 2020 and all winter 2020. I am trying to bring the blog up to date with a few photos and a brief update on what is going on with Team sv Island Spirit. We are home until we get Covid-19 vaccines, it looks like that will be in late March 2020. Then sometime after that we will return to the boat, which is stored in Puerto Rico, and resume sailing. It might be April, May, June, July, and it might be the USVI and Spanish Virgins, but we will NOT be complaining about that.
We have been busy working on our home, which we call Saltbox13 as we took what was a flooded basement last winter, gutted it and remodeled it into what we are calling the MBP Room, or Media / Bourbon / Prosecco Room. We have made great progress on this, with all the flooring, electrical, heating and tile work now completed. The bar is nearly fully stocked and the media wall is doing well with the Samsung Smart TV and surround sound. We added Disney+ and, along with YouTube Sailing channels and subscriptions, we are fully immersed in sailing and travel entertainment. With our refurbished French Petit Godin coal/wood stove and rebuilt mantel and hearth, this room is really taking shape. Take a look here….
Our Daily Routine
With Covid ramped up so high all Fall and Winter long, we have simply conceded to remain home and wait it out. We go for walks every day, walking 2 miles and getting in 60+ miles a month. We cook every meal in and we pick up groceries via cubside services at the stores. We use Amazon, of course, and we simply carry on. We honestly had planned to return to our sailing program Nov 7, 2020, but that was when the CDC published an advisory to NOT TRAVEL TO PUERTO RICO! So, with that, we postponed the flights. Well, Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb….we are still waiting. Now it looks like we will be getting vaccinated in March and then, finally after that, we will set sail. Difficult time for everyone and we count our many blessings. It is what it is and we are pushing onward.
Photos of the MBP Build
Mallory Visits Us
As Whiteaker Yacht Sales Brokers, we enjoyed selling several boats
Fire Pits, Christmas Tree and Decorations
Fully Decorated for Christmas with LIGHTS!
Our Fall into our Winter here at Saltbox 13 is going well, and we are really enjoying “playing house” as we wait out the Covid-19 pandemic. We can not think of a better place to wait. We really love this home we designed and built a long, long time ago. It is a JOY to spend some time here, yet we really can’t wait until we can return to Island Spirit and be anchored off HONEYMOON BEACH. ST JOHNS, USVI. Thank you for checking in….
After our storage in Puerto Rico, we flew home to USA where we enjoyed the rest of the summer and into the fall at home isolating from COVID-19. We spent the summer and fall renovating our family basement room into a very cool media / prosecco / bourbon room. We rebuilt the fireplace and hearth with slate tile, we replaced the floor with new floating planking vinyl floor, and we built a six foot black box floating off the floor to hold the large TV. Added to this was a new bar area with slate tile floor, new cabinets and a granite countertop. We still need new furniture and the library re-installed, but so far, this has been a very good stay at home covid-19 project to keep us busy. We have been slacking on the blog as we usually blog all about sailing and travel, but with this normal, we are trying to catch up and post a few updates. Thanks for following along.
We are trying to catch up on our blog as we now post most live updates to our Facebook Page here: https://www.facebook.com/svIslandSpirit/ So, this post is a photo essay on the process we went thru to haul out the boat in Puerto Rico and prepare her for hurricane storage July 2020 to Nov 2020. Enjoy this photo essay and the captions. I hope you enjoy this….
And that is a wrap on cruising season 2020, where we started in Grenada, launched the boat and made repairs to get sailing by Dec 25, 2020. We sailed up to Bequia for Cruisers Christmas and then on north. We were in Antigua, in February and early March when Covid-19 was breaking out. By mid March we were running back to Grenada to be secure frm covid-19. We docked into Grenada and there we were, “stuck for March, April, May, with a covid-19 lock down. Safe and secure but with a closed airport we decided to sail for USA on May 18, 2020. We sailed 60 hours and 425 nm back up to St. Croix, USVI. There we quarintined 14 days on anchor and then moved up to St. Thomas for provisions. From there we moved to St John and waited for our haul out in Puerto Rico. We sailed over to PR in July 4, 2020 and immediatly had a covid-19 test. Locked down on the boat until results came back we then could begin to derig the yacht.
We down rigged for days and then hauled out July 9th 2020. With the boat now on land we worked on securing her for hurricane season. After we finished that, we moved to San Juan. There we enjoyed a weekend and then flew home to Philly, USA.
Once home, we were once again quarantined for 14 days. W placed a yellow Q Flag on our home and stayed home. This would make the 4th time we have done 14 day quarantine. After that, we began to return to a somewhat normal life….whatever normal is…
Arrival into the United States Virgin Islands after our wonderful ocean sail of 425 nautical miles direct from Grenada to St. Croix. We dropped anchor, washed all the salt off Island Spirit and then made breakfast and then crashed. After a wonderful sleep with the boat NOT moving, we dropped the dinghy and went for a swim in the crystal clear waters. Ahhhh, the beautiful virgin islands where the water is crystal clear and here in 30 feet, we can see the chain out to the anchor. That is wonderful. After a few days of rest, we did go for a walk on the locked up and closed cruise ship dock, but this was the only land we stepped on as covid-19 shut down the island and we will quarantine 14 days onboard.
Laundry In a Bucket
So, as you can see, living on a boat off the USVI is a dream life an we really enjoyed this. COVID has hit the USA and the world and we have been waiting here for it to die down. Well, it never really did die down, so we moved to Puerto Rico, hauled out and flew home to Philly, PA, USA. We will return here in Nov, and resume our sailing and living aboard.
After several computer issues, one crashed and I rebuilt it only to then have it crash again after a few days. Then I bought a used one from another boater and set that up and loaded my data onto that one. NOW, I finally was able to download the GoPro camera and view my video clips shot during our 3 day sail up from Grenada. Using a new program called Camtasia, I created this video. Our sail north from Grenada to St. Croix has been our best sail every in 19 years on sv Island Spirit. Grab a coffee and please enjoy this video:
We decided to sail 400 nautical miles from Grenada north to the United States Virgin Islands. WHY? Bottom line, we wanted to reach an open airport. Radeen and I have been sailing and cruising Island Spirit since 2001. That is 19 years and we really love this life. At the same time, we have learned that taking a break off the boat is refreshing and renews our love of cruising. So, with the airport closed in Grenada and no information on when it would reopen, we took a weather window and set sail north.
The Route, Isla de Aves
When you plan the route from Grenada to St. Croix, the southern most US Virgin island, the course of 330 degrees sails very close to an island called Isla de Aves. Now, this looks like a great midway place to drop the hook and maybe take a rest in the lee of this sandy beach. WELL….hold on there, pirate….this island is owned by Venezuela and they are not too friendly to cruisers sailing in for a visit. Matter of fact, you are advised to stay well clear of this island or else the officials might divert your vessel into shore for an inspection. NO, THANK YOU! Here is the overview of the route.
With the winds at 090 blowing 20 knots gusting to 27 knots, we decided to set a waypoint almost 50 nautical miles SW of this island. That way, we could run a broad reach downwind to that point, 36 hours away. Then once made, turn due north on the lighter 15-20 knots of beam winds for 24 more hours to St. Croix. This is exactly what happened and exactly how it all worked out.
Thank you to weather routing by Chris Parker, see: https://www.mwxc.com/ who worked with us for two weeks to pick the best days to run. We told him we like to sail, not motor, and that 20-27 knots was OK with us downwind. We let the first window pass as the seas were 6-8 feet and the next one we took. This was one of the best sails in Island Spirit’s history! Here is a short video clip of autopilot set to wind angle hold. We love our B&G autopilot.
Life at sea
On a 400 nm run, this should take 3 days, with an expected 125 to 150 nm per day average run. So, we departed Grenada on Sunday May 17th, 2020 for our sail. With a full main and a full jib we reached beyond the lee of Grenada and soon were in the 20-25 knot winds. There we dropped in a single reef in the main and ran this all the way to sunset. At nightfall, we added a double reef in the main but kept the full 110 % jib flying strong. We were sailing at hull speed, which for an Island Packet 35 is 7.2 knots. We ran this way for 36 hours until we made our waypoint west of Isla de Aves. With just the two of us, we set a watch schedule as provided by our mentor, Captain Blaine Parks, as the best for two people:
Sunset was at 1830 and the tiny crescent moon rose at 0300 giving us very little light. These two nights at sea were the darkest nights we have ever sailed. No horizon at all, dim stars, and a black sea. The black night sky blended into the black sea and we were sailing hull speed, 7 knots, around the clock. The only two vessels we saw were a container ship bound for Aruba and two friendly fishermen on a brightly painted boat who pulled alongside and asked which way to Grenada! (This is not a joke – it was very hazy that morning and the island’s mountains were not visible from 17 miles northwest.)
Lucky for us, we have great faith in our B&G 4G digital radar where we set a watch guard 4-5 miles in front with a full circle around the boat 1 mile wide. If any solid object enters this zone, then an alarm goes off and a line on the screen points to the object. This is the only way we can feel safe that we will not hit something. Your mind really messes with you when tired at night going 7 knots full speed into the black. (Do not even let it go there, you need to stop all those crazy thoughts!)
See our recorded sailing speed
Whenever our boat moves, we turn on our Garmin Inreach satellite tracker. This device sends our position to a live map every 10 minutes and shows where we are. It also records this track as an archive map. We use another service called Spotwalla which actually does a better job than Garmin, because it allows you to create trip maps. Garmin just records it all and does not separate your travels.
When you go to our Garmin map, please first click the VIEW ALL button in the top right corner and then you can zoom out and see our travels. For this trip from Grenada to St. Croix, click on any point to see our recorded speeds. Remember, on this trip we did not motor, we sailed 99% of it, we motored the last hour to beat sunset. We also ran the motor one hour each night for hot water showers and for recharging the battery bank. Here is our Garmin Travel Map, so fun to study….https://share.garmin.com/islandspirit PS: Speed was 400 nm in 60 hours = 6.7 knots for the trip!
Spotwalla, our Travel Maps
We love this fantastic free service (which I donate to yearly) called SPOTWALLA. This genius figured out a way to create individual travel maps as we run around with tracking devices. You can do all of this with your cell phone if you are always in touch with a cell tower. So, for ocean sailing we need the Garmin satellite tracker. For land adventures, you can easily create travel maps with this service. Here are ALL the maps we have made with Spotwalla… https://spotwalla.com/publicTrips.php?un=IslandSpirit35
Now…USVI for June
We are now in the United States Virgin Islands, where we can re-discover St. Thomas, St Croix and St John. In the 80’s and 90’s we took some of our summer and Christmas vacations here for a week of chartering. Now, we are staying a week on one mooring ball, swimming the crystal clear waters and learning the reefs in Christmas Cove, St. James Island. Next up, the National Park on St. John and St. Thomas, followed by a return to St. Croix.
After June, we will move over to Fajardo, Puerto Rico and prepare for our haulout at Puerto Del Ray Marina. YES, we know this places us back into hurricane zone and, yes, we recall our previous hurricane damages there. Because we want to be in the Caribbean next season, we decided this was our best option to reach a working airport, where we know we can fly out and, more importantly, we can fly back to our boat. For now….let’s enjoy the USVI.
Here are some photos to show why we enjoy being here
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