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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We have been docked in Grenada at Port Louis Marina since March 24, 2020. It is now May 9th and we have not moved the boat. We have also not been in the water, on a beach, snorkeled a coral reef or socialized with other cruisers. Grenada is under strict lockdown with curfew and restricted movement and have hardly left the marina perimeter in all this time. In the month of April, we walked 175,000 steps! As you can imagine, we were still getting very restless! So, we kept ourselves busy with a 25 day varnishing job on all our exterior teak.
We have been waiting for our Spectra watermaker to be repaired and returned. That took 6 weeks, as we dropped it off March 25th and it was returned May 6! The parts were in one parish and the watermaker repair technician was in another parish. Road blocks between parishes even on shopping days prevented the delivery. Permission from the police was granted on May 4th, it was repaired on the 5th, and returned and installed the 6th.
Now that the watermaker is back, installed and working, we can actually leave this dock and anchor out. BUT…now we think we need to sail north to the safety of USA via USVI and Puerto Rico. We have no idea how this pandemic effect will restrict the Caribbean islands, so we feel we need to move out and return first to the USVI. Of course, now the winds this week are at 20 knots gusting 27 and waves are 5-7 feet at 6 seconds, not great but doable. So, we are looking for an exit and an opportunity to sail out to USVI. We are so confused on what is best to do. After working hard thru all the options, we still cannot figure it out. Here is a chronological photo essay of the past few weeks…..
Thank you for following along
Thank you all for following along and for sharing in our sailing adventure. We are safe, secure, and working thru all the challenges that covid-19 pandemic has caused worldwide. Normally we plan our our every move and each year’s sailing goals. We are struggling with what to do now. On Facebook, we have posted about this struggle and we appreciate that many of you have given your input and ideas. The frustrating aspect is that every day, every few hours, we can convince ourselves that any one of the options is best. Then for the next few hours we work on that option. Four hours later, we think it is a bad idea and we work on another option. Next, we go to bed and wake up with another option and another viewpoint. It has been very unlike us because we have always had most things planned out. For this, we have no plan, like everyone. So, please recognize this and please try to understand. We will work it out, and we are sure it entails sailing out, sailing to somewhere. After all…… DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY….and sailing makes us very happy. 🙂
Where in the world is Grenada? The country of Grenada is the next to last in the eastern Caribbean chain. South of here is Trinidad. Many cruisers were concerned about the increase of covid-19 cases in Martinique and Guadeloupe. At that time, Antigua and Grenada had none. We sailed 48 hours non-stop from Antigua on March 16-17 with John and Nina of IP40 Sunkissed. We anchored shortly after dawn in Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou, the northern most island of the three island country of Grenada. That day, the country was placed under limited quarantine.
When we went ashore to check-in, it felt as if the world had changed in a blink. Social distancing was in full effect. For over 3 hours, we waited to give our medical and travel history and have our temperatures taken by a nurse in full protective gear. One day later, stricter measures were imposed and we were not allowed to get off the boat or access shore or visit from boat to boat. So, since March 20, we have been under strict quarantine. Here is a screen shot as we sailed south to Grenada to show where we are located now.
Job #1 Stop the Sinking
After a week in Carriacou under full lock down, we decided to sail south one more island to the “mainland” of Grenada, where the rules were more loosely imposed. Here we booked a dock at the Port Louis Marina because we were very concerned that the country would lock down more. If that were to happen, we decided we would want to be at a dock for water and safety. So glad we did! One day after arriving, a total lock down was imposed. Plus our water maker had stopped working and we knew could get it repaired here.
Hundreds of boats are docked here, with about 40 people on their boats. Most are empty charter boats from Moorings and SunSail and Dream Yacht Charters. Four other Island Packets are in St. Geroge’s: Lars and Laura of IP485 Sweet Dream (who just completed the Round the World Cruisers Rally, Mike and Lizzie of IP465 Gratitude, Daryll and Lynn of IP370 Open Agenda (whom we have cruised with since Antigua. Barbuda) and Richard and Shelley of IP465 Ailsa. No Mini-vous yet!
Now that we were safely in dock, our first job was to stop the sinking. Our propeller shaft stuffing box needed to be tightened and this would slow the leak to a drip. If you have ever worked on this, it is not an easy job on an Island Packet. The best tools are a 30″ crowbar and a big hammer, plus PB Blaster. After about 4 hours of soaking and tapping, I was eventually able to free up the cap nut and turn it tighter, stopping the leak. Good thing as all the haul-out lifts were closed and no boat yards were working. If you are sinking, you will sink, it is that simple. So, fix it yourself! Here is a photo of working on the stuffing box!
No Food Shortage in Grenada
Every day, ships arrive and offload supplies into this island country. There is no food shortage here and the government is announcing this daily, preventing panic within the population. Being in dock, we are now allowed off the boat as long as we stay on the docks and do not leave the marina. This is a very large marina and we have mapped out a 2,000 step loop which we try to do three times a day. We are getting in our steps, plus it is a good stress reliever.
Keeping the Beer Cold, Frig issues
In September 2018, we replaced our original 1994 Adler Barbour refrigerator with an identical unit (still working, gave it away, wanted to be pro-active). Of course this new one has stopped working many times since the first incident on Valentine’s Day 2020. I have discovered this new unit has very loose fuse sockets. So, over time the fuses push out, fall out, or just lose contact and then POOF the frig/freezer goes off. We see the freezer temps rising. ERRRRRRR, so into the sail locker I dive after removing 10,000 items stored in there. Then I can reach the back section of the locker where the compressor is mounted. Of course the fuses are on the side back edge where you need a mirror to see and access them. I have now emptied this locker 8 times and to work on it. Now it seems to be holding the fuses. Frustrating, but at least I know the fix.
Baking Bread, Scones and Great Meals
Radeen and I are both STRESS eaters, and this situation has potential to be NOT good for us, as we are eating more, baking bread and also scones. (Ignore the wine, bubbly and Crown Royal, we will not talk about that.) Our new oven works perfectly and Radeen is making delicious meals. Thank goodness we can go for walks, unlike the anchored boats.
Zoom Meeting with US Consulate
We are attending Zoom meetings with the US Consulate as they try to track all Americans here in the Caribbean. There has been one extradition charter flight to get people home, with only 3 days notice. We said no thank you, as we are not sure it is better in USA. We are monitoring everything daily and are on the mailing list for the USA STEP Program, so we are well connected to any support the Embassy is offering.
Food Delivered by SPRONKS Mega Yacht Services
We have now placed two orders with Spronks Yacht Provisioning. The public is allowed to go to the grocery store once a week on very limited hours. The lines are 5-6 hours long. We feel that is is best to not interfere and to not stand in lines, elevating our risk of covid-19. Several businesses have offered shopping and food delivery services for a fee of about $50 USD. You email your list to them and they shop before the doors open or on the days the stores are re-provisioning and then they message you when en route back to the marina. We feel this is best all around procedure.
Full Sun Shades
We are the shade masters. It might not look perfect, but it works. The sun is so hot down here between noon and 1600 that this really helps to keep the UV and heat off the boat. We have a shade over the boom that is about 10 feet x 14 feet with poles front and back. Then we hang Phyfertex side shades that block low sun angles. The bow shade was bought from another IP35 and designed to be lower on deck, but we rig it up higher so we can work under the bow tent.
One of the many walks we do daily. This is looking out the harbor to the west towards Panama! Maybe we should make a run for it, but then again, that country is closed as well, so we cannot sail there. We can walk outt here and see the sunsets at about 1830. Here is one of those many “selfies” we love to take.
Laundry via a Bucket!
This marina has a pool, wood fired pizza cafe, a bar, sushi bar, a full restaurant and a laundry, all of which are closed, yet we are paying FULL PRICE as if all services were offered. Heck, the water has been off for two days. They are gluing a PVC pipe, which takes me 10 minutes and then 30 minutes to cure. Its been two days, no water. With the laundry closed, we are washing our clothes in a bucket and then wringing them out and hanging them up to dry. It works, and we try to do a little bit every day, that is when the water is on! Did I mention that the air conditioning in the lovely bath house stopped three days ago and there are no opening windows in the building?
Why Not Strip the Varnish? WHAT?
The third week in March, we had an appointment in Bequia to have the teak on our toe rail, hand rail and eyebrow refinished. We decided since that was canceled and we are locked down til April 20 with no where to go, we might as well strip the varnish and refinish. After seven days of work, Radeen and I have all the varnish off the boat, the teak is cleaned and it is all taped off ready to re-varnish with Ephifanes clear varnish. This would be the third time in 19 years we have taken the wood down to bare and started over. The last time was December 2013, when the boat was in a shed at Snead Island Boatworks on the west coast of Florida. This takes a lot of work and a lot of time. (We have the time, but our spines might not do well with this. We need more yoga stretching to ease the pain. ) We use 2 carbide cabinet scrapers and, when needed, we use a little of the Citrustrip to get around the cleats and chain plates, etc. This seems to work the best.
Sunset looking west off Grenada
Thank you for following along. Remember, you can see nearly daily live postings and updates on our public Facebook page. You do not have to be a member of Facebook to surf the web. Facebook pages are live public web pages that anyone with a web browser or a smart phone may view. This is where we post more often. Please check it out here…
Our last post was from Marie Galante and now, after a month of Caribbean Dreams we are back in Antigua ready to sail south back to Guadeloupe and south to Grenada. We left Maria Gallante and sailed up to Guadeloupe then to Antigua. There we hosted dear friends Jim and Gail for a week of fun. After that we sailed up to Barbuda and fell in love with the pink sand beaches. from there we sailed over to St. Kitts to rendezvous for a few hours with boat buddies Fran and Butch on mv Smartini. A quick ferry ride down to see Nevis and then a bashing back east 40 nm into the wind to return to Antigua and here we are.
We are now on the launch pad for sailing south to Guadeloupe and onward to Grenada for haul out May 8th. But for now, we have a lot to discover along the way. Here are some photos of the best along the way over the past month. NOTE: We are posting nearly daily to our PUBLIC Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/svIslandSpirit/ Please browse to this to see all the live action. NOTE#2, you do not have to be a member of Facebook to actually see a public web page, it is the internet, you may click on it and enjoy the content, even thought it has Facebook in the URL, it will not be a problem. Enjoy…
Please visit out PUBLIC FACEBOOK Page
We have many more photos, essays, stories and nearly live postings on our Facebook page, Again, you do not have to be a facebook iuser to surf the public web, it is just like reading the news or yahoo, or goolge, it is for all to see. So, if you would like to see more, then please click this link. Enjoy…..