November 7-26, 2007: Preparation for Transport to the Caribbean - Our first Impression of St. Thomas
Just a day after we had returned from a dear friend's 70th birthday party in Massachusetts, we drove up to Milford so that we could leave for our trip to Newport on Tuesday morning. Juergen had already gotten the dinghy off the rack for towing while underway. It was pouring and cold, but we were determined and left at exactly 0800 to go to West Harbor in Fisher's Island Sound. The wind blew strongly from the West, the waves were quite choppy initially but later flattened as the tide and the wind direction were in unison. Boy were we glad to have a heating system that works. We took turns going down below, drying out, warming up. By about 1400, we were nicely moored in an entirely empty bay, protected from the wind by the landmass of Fisher's Island. It was so perfect, even the rain stopped and the sun peaked through the clouds. We were quite content to have made it in good time and to be able to sit comfortably having a late lunch, reading, writing Christmas cards (yes, they needed to be finished before we would fly to St. Thomas. So it was the perfect time to do this).
On Wednesday morning, November 7th, we left our mooring buoy at 0840 and were again swept away in the right direction (largely East) by proper winds and the tide. The sun was shining. It was very cold but the wind was Northerly, thus not blowing directly into the cockpit, like it had done the day before. We felt good, had the genoa up and motor-sailed the entire trip in just about four hours and a little bit. Getting into Newport is always beautiful. It was perfect again.
One thing we had not really considered: the marinas all seem to be taking their floating docks out of the water for the winter. It took us quite some time to find a place where we could dock Impromptu. This was important because the launch service was limited to three times a day at 0930, 1230 and 1630, if I remember correctly. This schedule did not give us the flexibility we needed, particularly since we were trying to figure out how to get our car up to Newport from Milford.
As Dockwise had informed us by email and phone that the SS3 would arrive on Wednesday but load only on Friday, we suddenly had one entire free day with our boat already safely in Newport. We took the opportunity to catch the 30 minute cab ride needed to get to Kingston, Rhode Island's capital, and the nearest train station to Newport for an approximately 100 minute ride to New Haven (thanks to AMTRAK Regional). From there to Milford took another 10 minutes or so, then a brief walk to Milford Boat Works where we had parked our car, and off we were again to go back to Newport. After a leisurely and delicious lunch in Mystic, we were back at the marina by 1600. We had a great view from the Jamestown-Newport bridge over the entire bay and had seen the SS3 in the morning, rising high out of the water. Now, she was barely visible as she already was flooded, ready to load the next morning. It was an awesome sight, and we started getting excited about the loading operation.
November 9 We had not slept much that night, too excited and afraid to miss our appointment at the SS3 at 0700. We got up around 0600 and were approaching the SS3 way ahead of schedule. We noted a number of motor boats already circling the transport ship, waiting to be called. We checked in via VHF channel 17 and stood by, watching the others and watching more and more boats approaching. It felt a little funny being only one of two sailboats initially, in a pack of motor boats. But, as we were getting close to loading, sailboats approached from almost any direction (North, South, Southwest and East). We felt relieved. And, you can see from the pictures in the picture gallery that there were many sailboats loaded by the time we left the SS3 by launch.
Meanwhile we had handed in our documentation, exchanged a few words with the local agent, Ann, received information about the contact details in St. Thomas. Before we knew it, we were sitting in the car (0940) on our way back home. We had learned from Ann that the SS3 was not expected to arrive in St. Thomas before Friday and that unloading would most likely occur on Saturday. At home, we immediately changed our flights to Thursday (from Tuesday) and made reservations at another hotel (the originally booked one had no rooms left for us for those three days). This makes everything a little easier, particularly since Monday is Juergen's 70th birthday, and it would not have been fun to have to get up really early the next day to catch an early morning flight.
We are now happily taking care of things and are more calmly looking forward to our flight to St.Thomas.
November 17 This is our second day in St. Thomas after we celebrated Juergen's 70th birthday on November 12th, in a small group of (local) family and friends. Juergen loved the surprise party and thanks everyone who joined us for making this day so spectacular for him. On November 15 we departed for St. Thomas, via Miami. There, we / I had a very bad scare which, had a happy ending. While sitting at the gate waiting for our connecting flight which was not until four hours after our arrival, I received a phone call from a woman that our computers had been exchanged and that she had mine and I had hers. I was totally perplexed. My computer had been with me the entire trip (I forgot the security check-in at LaGuardia and any possibility of a potential mix up in the process). Well, that is exactly what happened. I had to put my computer through the x-ray machine a second time because I had put something else into the container with the computer the first time around. In that process, she must have been behind me (therefore, I did not know that she also had a Mac). When the computer came through the machine again, I took it, put it into my bag, and off we went... She took the one that came through also - both of us without checking. Well, when she turned "her computer" on - thank God she did right after she arrived at her destination in Miami, she noticed that it was my computer, not hers. American Airlines connected her to my cell phone. This is how we found each other and could resolve the issue. Was I glad and relieved!!! I am sure she was, too. The retrieval was a little complicated and took very long but in the end,I had ample time to re-check myself in for the connecting flight. Juergen tended to the rest of the luggage throughout this ordeal, and everything ended up fine.
We arrived in St. Thomas. The taxi ride was barely five minutes, but with all our luggage and in the dark, not knowing where we had to go, we finally arrived at our hotel. We had had to change hotels because we extended our home stay by two days because the SS3 was not expected until Saturday, November 17, and unloading was scheduled for the 18th. Because of this change, we could no longer stay at the hotel of our choice (recommended by a few people) but had to go to another lesser quality hotel - nice views, terrible room, super lousy bed and no internet access - though it is supposed to work but it does not. Boy are we glad to be back on the boat tomorrow!
Still, we checked out the Crown Bay Marina where we will be staying with Impromptu the first five days after her arrival - all perfect, including the fact that the SS3 will be at most five minutes' boat ride away. Then we walked to town, of course, after breakfast at the hotel of our initial choice which is a ten minute walk away from our hotel. Sid was right. St. Thomas seems to consist of a beautiful waterfront and lots and lots of shopping, one jewelry store to the next, a liquor store or two, a couple of clothes stores - that is it, of course, some restaurants. At over 85 degrees Fahrenheit (after New York's mid 40s), we got tired and hot fast and had already had a drink at the Crown Bay Marina. By 1 p.m. we were ready again to sit down. We had lunch at Glady's Cafe, a restaurant recommended in the New York Times and took a taxi back to our hotel to rest, read and get ready for dinner later on.
Today, four cruise ships are supposed to arrive - most likely they have already arrived. The SS3 is also scheduled to arrive today. We expect her only in the evening or possibly in the night, but we don't know her exact time of arrival. We will walk around after breakfast, maybe take our cameras today. We decided to rent a car only after Impromptu's arrival because we will need it for provisioning. Then we will also drive around the island to sight see and ensure that we know the entire island, not the stretch from the hotel to town.
November 19 - our first night on the boat lies behind us - what luxury compared to our hotel, and what comfort - we actually could sleep though it was quite warm. And then the rain came. We had to close our hatches as it poured - not for long, but everything was wet. Thus, no breakfast in the cockpit. But I finally found butter milk - you may remember that this was virtually impossiblle in Scandinavia. It seemed impossible here. The local Pueblo supermarket does not carry it. The gourmet store right here in the marina, however, does. While its prices are outrageous - a can of crabmeat, the kind we get at Costco for about $13.95, they charge $49.95 for - no, it is not a misprint... Still, we found out that we better purchase certain items at the Pueblo - not very far from the marina and an easy walk - and some things right here at the upscale store, as someone called it.
We walked into town only briefly after our breakfast and a round of Backgammon - this time, I won!!! (a rare occurrence) to exchange Juergen's bathing trunks for a different size and to pick up the jeans we had purchased for me and which needed to be shortened slightly. $12 later, we began our walk "home" (towards the Pueblo and then to the boat). We had a sandwhich for lunch - on the boat. Now Juergen is organizing the many courtesy flags we purchased already as, soon, we will leave US territory. Then, we will need to clear in and out every time we change islands - pretty much. We are thinking of skipping every other island instead of "shooting South" towards St. Lucia very soon (a) because we really want to avoid the crowds from the ARC - Atlantic Rallye for Cruisers - whose arrival from the Canary Islands usually is around December 15-20 and (b) this way, we can take our trip South more leisurely, i.e., no overnighters - we think - at least not many if any at all. We have not totally decided because we also have not really checked the charts, what this means in daily distance as we MUST arrive during daylight, and darkness comes around 1730 here - remember, we are about an hour further East than New York at 18degrees 20 minutes North and 64 degrees 57 minutes West.
We also decided in the meantime that we prefer to have Thanksgiving Dinner on our boat rather than in some restaurant. Because our oven is too small for a whole turkey, we purchased a turkey breast, pumpkin in a can (for our traditional pumpkin soup), carrots, a red cabbage, two large potatoes for our mashed potatoes, and we will check in our upscale store whether they have any nice frozen desserts - we did not like the one they had at the Pueblo - the pumpkin pie was way too large for us. We have cranberry jelly in a can - I can use some of that in our red cabbage, the rest can be used for the dinner itself. We have pretty nice wine with us - thanks to Stefie and Eddie (their early Christmas gift) and thanks to the Isenseers who gave us wonderful wines for Juergen's birthday and for Christmas - we took some along... We also enjoyed one bottle of exquisite Sancerre last night as a celebration for having Impromptu back in one piece and spending the first night on her here in the Caribbean.
There is no WiFi here at the marina - but I can go to the business center where I can use my computer with a DSL cable. I will shortly and hope to upload everything. The one thing that bothers me is that our homepage for some reason got messed up - I believe when I uploaded the newest version of Dreamweaver. I just cannot fix it and hope that Brit can give me a hint on how to do this. I tried all sorts of things but am just not capable... So much for being able to do this entirely on my own, and I only had added some text and exchanged the photo for one that Brit had taken in Sweden - which we thought more appropriate for our website, now that we are already back from our European adventure.
November 20 Another day on Impromtpu, on the island of St. Thomas - without really doing much. Juergen organized, cleaned, I worked on getting to know the Adobe Creative Suuite programs which include not only Photoshop, but also InDesign, Illustrator, Adobe 8, Dreamweaver CS 3 and a bunch of other software products. The tutorial video is almost overwhelming. I listened and watched and was scared to realize that I really no nothing... One thing is for sure, I will be able to design CD covers for Lippit's hip hop which will be wonderful. I already have an idea for his "Weder Liebe, Hass noch Rache" piece... I will sugest to him whatever my design, and I hope he will like it...
We had a rather rich lunch. So, when dinner came, I just made some salad. The restaurant across from our dock had life music. I wanted to go. We did not go last night though they also had life music then, and since neither of us really moved away from the boat all day, we decided to join for a drink or so. We got rid of our bag of empty bottles (water, beer, wine) and some paper before we went to the bar. We met the people from "next door" - I have still not figured out who is who. After the second drink (following the bottle of wine we already consumed on the boat), I was ready to go to bed. Someone bought Juergen a drink - I left. Let's see when he will come home...
November 22 - Thanksgiving. You will not believe it, but we will have a somewhat reduced real Thanksgiving dinner today - with our traditional pumpkin soup, mashed potatoes, red cabbage, pumpkin, turkey (this time breast only, a whole turkey would never have fit into our tiny oven), gravy, stuffing and, of course, pecan pie... - we also enjoyed a bottle of the deliciious Sancerre, part of the gifts from the Isenseers, as we call them nowadays. The meal was quite delicious, particularly when considering the circumstances under which I had to prepare it. The pecan pie was anything but good - way too sweet. Still, we each had a small piece, about two hours after we ate the soup and the main course.
We also received and made a few phone calls - Margot called, together with Barbara and Alexander, who spent his Thanksgiving with them in Vermont. He sounded quite good, and Margot reported the same. Earlier in the day, we had spoken to Caroline who had just come back from her and Paul's Jazz cruise - an annual event, at least in the past few years, one that Christa had wanted to go on so badly - and never made it. It makes me sad to think about... We spoke with Luise who was waiting for Claudia, Ruben, Gladys, Chris and Mary to arrive. They were stuck on the Major Degan Expressway. Peter and Eddie were on their way picking up "their cousin" - we assume it was Bobby - maybe with Christine??? Stefie was feeding Christopher - no idea where the girls were at the time of our call. It seemed, everybody had a good time doing whatever. We spoke with Silvi who was readying dinner for the Denver clan which, this year, included Ben, Enza, her sister and husband from LA, Andrea, Sander, Kaia (of course), and Doug. They, too, were enjoying their visit, going to museums, enjoying other Denver sites - despite the extremely cold (19 degrees Fahrenheit this morning at 0800). Silvi, Brad, Andrea and family will all go to Concord to spend Christmas with Stefie, Eddie and the kids. While this may be a little crowded in their beautiful albeit small house, I am sure they will enjoy their time together. Kaia is supposed to be baptized there by the clergy who married Andrea and Sander. Now, there is talk about baptizing Kelsie and Christopher at the same time.
--- a general note about our experience in St. Thomas so far: the weather is rather strange. It is quite warm most of the time. There is always a breeze - but today, it started blowing quite a bit, relatively speaking. It is spring tide and though there is generally not much of a tidal difference, our fenders suddenly seemed to hang too low. We went to adjust them so the hull does not scrape along the dock. It also rains quite frequently - mostly at the time I just set the table for breakfast or lunch - this morning, everything was outside when, out of the blue, big black clouds appeared and fat, I mean really big rain drops came pounding down on us. So, everything had to be taken back down below, all hatches closed... of course, we were barely finished with all that, and the sun came out again - but it is rather iffy all the time. So, we decided to remain down below and enjoy our breakfast here.
We have also not really done much yet, except started to provision and we went to town a few times. It is a 20 minute walk - not particularly beautiful and along a highly traveled road. So, the past two days (including today), we decided to stay put, read, playing Backgammon, listening to music (Juergen rearranged our CDs so we do not only listen to the ones in our six CD player. Instead, Juergen has been changing them from yesterday to today - very nice. We heard some music including Blood, Sweat and Tears (still may favorite band), the Beatles, and the musical Aida.) Our decision to rent a car will depend on the weather. We will drive around the island at least for one day before we depart on November 28 - at least that is the plan right now. On the 27th, Karin (Spitka) and Peter (Huijbers) will arrive on the Queen Mary 2. We agreed to meet with them on that day before they depart again around 1700.
November 23. The past night was the first one without any clouds in the sky. I can tell because I lay awake most of the night. I don't know whether it was the coffee I drank with our pecan pie or whether it is all the stuff I need to learn (Adobe Creative Suite) or all the things I need to accomplish by mid December for my newly created company, BeeTeeWorld LLC. It all seems overwhelming when one has nobody to help or even hint at what I might be doing wrong or what I might need to do... I know I will manage eventually, but it takes a lot of time and learning. When was the last time I went to a class??? Well, one is as old as... there is a saying in German which, however, I will not repeat. - We just took a stroll to the two cruise ships that had arrived this morning. We are still looking for Campari but for some reason, no liquor store seems to carry it - weird. Then we stopped at the marina bar "Tickles" to have a rum punch and a hamburger with coleslaw - quite delicious, and the crowd is always interesting to watch.
I decided to load up the Gallery with a few pictures that I have taken so far - hopefully, you will enjoy them.
November 26 For the past few days, we have been trying to rent a car so we could explore the island - to no avail. Every time we asked for it and they found out we wanted it just for a day - "no car available". We were getting frustrated. Being at the marina still, we met a number of other boaters - not in-depth, just to chat for a while, except "Dietmar and his wife Mary-Lou" who have a beautiful Hylas 54. Dietmar studied engineering and was a CEO in a major manufacturing company both in Germany as well as in the US. So, he fixes everything on his boat and "does not let anyone else touch it". He has a water maker and offered to show us how to use it. - More of that later. He and Mary-Lou and their son Adrien, I think his name was (unfortunately, I don't remember). Sorry, Dietmar...
We chatted for a while after a motor boat next to us hit our hull (just a little, but enough to damage the gelcoat). They left to go to dinner when the owner of the motor boat came to pay for the damage (someone had already come to look at it and indicated a price which we then conveyed to the motor boater). In the end, all went well. We have not had the damage fixed yet - may want to wait till we get to St. Martin or so. Dietmar asked whether we would help him take his boat out to anchor after Mary-Lou left the next day. It was blowing pretty hard and though Juergen stayed on the deck of Dietmar's boat ("Romany Life"), to fend off the pilings, take the lines off etc., another boater and I pushed as hard as we could to keep it from scraping along the dock. Dietmar picked up a mooring in a small bay not far from the marina and brought Juergen back two hours or so later. The following night, we had dinner together - but I will talk about that in the next section "November 27-December 4". Just switch to that section.