Category Archives: St. Barthelemy (a.k.a. St. Bart)

USCG Cutter James Sept 26 San Juan

United States Coast Guard, Semper Paratus – “Always Ready!” (By Randy)

Unless you have been in a cave somewhere for the last few months, it would be almost impossible not to be aware of the catastrophic damage that Mother Nature has liberally peppered upon the idyllic Caribbean islands, St. Martin/St. Marteen, Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Hati and the Turks and Caicos Islands. As if that wasn’t enough, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and Louisiana have all had their turn in the barrel. The devastation, and loss of life, in all of the affected areas is hard to comprehend. Obviously there are many people, from many different countries, in dire need of assistance.

We respect that the decision to help, and exactly where to make donations to facilitate aid, is a personal one. Make no mistake, the people in the path of this season’s massive hurricanes definitely need our help. Many in the cruising community have been collecting donations and attempting to travel, by boat, to some of the devastated areas. At present, the U.S. Coast Guard is discouraging private boaters departing the continental U.S. from transiting to ports affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, advising in its 9/27/17 News Release:     

     While volunteers and aid are needed and welcomed, it is recommended that these              efforts be coordinated through FEMA, who has requested volunteers to go through              www.nvoad.org.  Uncoordinated volunteer efforts can hinder the response and                    impede a challenging logistics situation on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S.                Virgin Islands

In the 9/27/17  News Release, Capt. Ladonn Allen, Chief of Prevention for the Coast Guard Seventh District asserted that many affected ports “are still littered with wreckage and debris, particularly outside the federally maintained channels. Individuals entering unfamiliar ports or attempting to bring supplies without coordinating through volunteer organizations that are working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its partners are putting themselves in danger.”

Additional safety concerns have arisen in the Eastern Carribean, where there have been reports of piracy attacks, and vessels being swamped by uncoordinated relief efforts. The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Caribbean Emergency Disaster Management Agency (CDEMA) are spearheading the hurricane relief efforts in the Caribbean, and all relief efforts should be coordinated through them.

USCG Southeast working with local agencies

USCG Southeast working with local agencies

One of the common denominators that we all are repeatedly seeing throughout all of the news reports from these devastated areas is the ubiquitous presence of the United States Coast Guard. The smallest branch of the US military is perennially underfunded, and over tasked, but this year is breaking new ground in terms of extended deployments of USCG ships, planes and personnel in what is one of the largest humanitarian efforts in the Coast Guard’s storied 227 year history.  The Coast Guard is often taken for granted, but those of us who live our lives at sea have a special respect for the jobs the men and women of the USCG accomplish every single day. When most mariners were headed to port to seek safe haven from the approaching hurricanes, Coast Guard ships and aircraft were leaving home to preposition in the disaster zones in order to render aid to those most desperately in need. In the interest of full disclosure, long ago, I served in the United States Coast Guard.

USCG Venturous taking on fuel prior to getting under way for hurricane relief effort

USCGC Venturous taking on fuel prior to getting underway for hurricane relief effort

In fact, I was stationed aboard, what was then the new, USCGC Venturous, over 40 years ago (one of the first cutters to arrive in the Caribbean after the destruction of hurricane Maria). With that background, in addition to our other hurricane relief effort contributions, we have decided to make a  donation to the US Coast Guard Foundation. The Coast Guard Foundation is a non profit charity that provides, among other things, financial support to the families of the men and women of the Coast Guard that have been injured or killed in the line of duty. This is our small way to say thank you to the members of America’s smallest service for all that they do each and every day. Semper Paratus.

Click here for link to Coast Guard Sector Key West Incident Command Post (ICP) sharing some of their work and personal  experiences after Hurricane Irma.  (U.S. Coast Guard video by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle/Released)

It has been confirmed that many of the Coast Guard crews that were stationed at Coast Guard Sector Key West suffered damage to their homes and personal possessions while  deployed to render assistance to others during Hurricane Irma, they too are on the list of folks that now could use a hand up.

 

 

Hurricane Irma (photo from Marine Weather Center's post)

HURRICANE IRMA – 2017

First, thank you, to everyone, for reaching out to see how Pilots’ Discretion, and her crew, fared as Hurricane Irma tracked through the Caribbean. In preparation for the storm and in accordance with our hurricane plan, we spider tied Pilots’ Discretion, with doubled lines, in a double slip, on a floating dock, alone with no other boats, in St. Lucia. Irma was set to track north of St. Lucia, however, to be on the safe side, we left the boat in St. Lucia and flew to Florida to stay out of harms way!

As predicted, Hurricane Irma passed north of St. Lucia. We were incredibly grateful to learn that our pre-hurricane preparations were sufficient, and that St. Lucia was spared from the ferocity of the storm. The island received some rain and wind from the outer bands of the storm, but on the whole, the island and our boat, weathered the storm and are fine.

Having flown to Florida, we then holed up with family in Spring Hill, just north of Tampa, on the west coast of Florida. Having just gone through the hurricane preparations drill in St. Lucia our crew was ready and able to  assist with preparations for the “high impact” potential hit headed for our relatives in Spring Hill.

We listened to reports, and observed, painfully, the pictures of the devastation from the direct hits on Barbuda, St. Barthélemy (St. Bart), St. Maarten/St. Martin, Anguilla, Antigua, the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. We have travelled to all of these islands in previous cruising seasons, and our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the storm.

Paraquita Bay, British Virgin Islands (Before and After)

Nanny Cay Marina, British Virgin Islands, post hurricane Irma, 2017

Isleta Marina, Fajardo, Puerto Rico, post hurricane Irma, Sept. 2017

Foxy’s before (2016) and after (2017)

Forecasted Track for Hurricane Irma, Sept. 7, 2017

Forecasted Track for Hurricane Irma originally had her skirting up the east coast of Florida, Sept. 7, 2017

In Florida, the original forecasts had the storm tracking up the east coast. Slowly, the storm edged west with the later predictions indicating she would run up the middle of the Florida peninsula. Finally, within the last day prior to Florida landfall, the forecast consensus had Irma tracking up the west coast of Florida. We weathered the storm just north of Tampa. The eye passed just to our east during the middle of the night. We were extremely fortunate that a slight variation in the actual track of the storm placed us on the weak side of the circulation at the same time the storm was beginning to fall apart. We had a few hours of heavy rains accompanied by gusty winds mostly in the 40 knot range. Like most, we lost power and had a few downed trees to deal with but for the most part we came through the storm wiser for the experience but without taking any direct hits. We are all very aware of the potential devastation that just barely sidestepped us.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to all those affected by the storm. Florida, the islands, and those living and cruising in Florida and the Caribbean islands, are a resilient bunch. Communities have already banded together to address immediate needs and start the lengthy rebuilding process. Click here for additional photos, and to see several prominent business owners (including the infamous Soggy Dollar, Foxy’s, Corsairs, Willie T’s) who have already vowed to rebuild!

MOVIE TRAILER by Ronan(10) and Ryan (11)

Ronan (10) and Ryan (11) made a “movie trailer” for our Caribbean cruising adventures. We added it to our “VIDEOS” page at: https://pilotsdiscretion.com/videos/. We are also sharing it here, below. I think we found our new videographers! They had a lot of fun making it. We hope you enjoy watching it! Click on the below image to play.

We have also created a dedicated YouTube channel  where we have compiled the videos from our blog, and uploaded additional videos from our journey.  To view the videos click on the link below (or copy and paste into browser):

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC94z5hCIrRiEvY8MTJegTbA.

Patton enjoying touring the fort, Gustavia, St. Bart

St. MARTIN & ST. BART (by Theresa)

ST. MARTIN

Ronan, Theresa, and Ryan, Marigot Bay, St. Martin

Ronan, Theresa, and Ryan, Marigot Bay, St. Martin

After resolving the boys passport issues in PuertoRico, we flew back to St. Martin to rejoin Randy, Patton and the boat at Fort Louis Marina. Fort Louis Marina is a secure and sheltered Marina located in the shadows of the ruins of Fort Louis. A short hike to the fort is rewarded with breathtaking views of Marigot Bay and the surrounding area. There are dozens of shops and restaurants, as well as a modern mall, all within walking distance to the Marina. You can also dinghy into the lagoon and cross over to the Dutch side of the island to access a sizeable Budget Marine.

Spot the Pilots Discretion, Marigot Bay, St. Martin

Spot the Pilots Discretion, Marigot Bay, St. Martin

ST. BART

Randy with Patton in his jet pack, ready to go hiking in St. Bart

Randy with Patton in his jet pack, ready to go hiking in St. Bart

After departing St. Martin, we cruised to Columbier Bay, St. Barthelemy (St. Bart), where we enjoyed hiking to the various forts in Gustavia. At 14 years old, Patton is, not surprisingly, less enthusiastic about long hikes than he once was. With that said, in deference to his namesake, Patton would not want to miss touring the forts with his family. As such, we gave him a lift in his “Snoozer” dog backpack carrier. Patton seemed to enjoy the elevated view from what Ryan and Ronan refer to as his “jet pack,” and the views were indeed stunning.

 

Patton hiking the hill with Randy on his back ;-)

Patton hiking the hill with Randy on his back 😉

 

Gustavia, St. Bart

Gustavia, St. Bart

Patton enjoying touring the fort, Gustavia, St. Bart

Patton enjoying touring the fort, Gustavia, St. Bart

Gustavia hike, St. Bart

Gustavia hike, St. Bart

Randy, Ronan & Ryan, St. Bart

Randy, Ronan & Ryan, St. Bart

Our next intended stops are St. Kitts & Nevis, and Antigua. We will post additional updates from there as time and internet allows.

Pet Import Requirements in the Caribbean

Patton driving the dinghy

Patton driving the dinghy

We have been receiving a lot of inquiries through our site recently about the customs and immigration issues associated with bringing our Cocker Spaniel “Patton” along with us as we have cruised throughout the Caribbean. As such, we have updated Patton’s page to include a compilation of helpful contact details and information for various island nations that we have visited in the Caribbean over the last year and a half (2014 – 2016). For those interested in cruising the Caribbean with their four legged friends check out Patton’s page under the “About Us – Patton – Customs and Immigration” on the header above or visit:  https://pilotsdiscretion.com/about/patton/customs-and-immigration-issues-specific-to-bringing-patton-along/ or send us a reply message below.

Statia courtesy flag

St. Bart, Statia and now the push for Grenada

Anse de Columbier Bay, St. Bart

Anse de Columbier Bay, St. Bart

After enjoying our visit to St. Martin, we have moved along to explore some of the other Leeward Islands. Our first stop was beautiful St. Barthelemy (a.k.a. St. Bart). Long known as an exotic island playground for the rich and famous, we found it to also have a unique and welcoming small island feel. Our first night, we anchored in the harbor in front of Gustavia, St. Bart’s main town. Clearing immigration was a snap, done entirely online. Once cleared in, we explored the town and found a charming, sparkling clean town with dozens of restaurants and a row of high end designer stores that rival those found in Manhatten.  Although the town is charming,  we found the harbor in front of it to be very rolly with large swells coming in off the Caribbean Sea.  As a result, we elected to move the Pilots’ Discretion a few miles to the north to Anse de Colombier. Anse de Columbier is a sheltered bay

Anse de Columbier, St. Bart

Anse de Columbier, St. Bart

that at one time was owned by the Rockefeller family. The Rockefeller’s former home still sits atop the hill overlooking the bay. Although the Rockefeller home has in recent years fallen into a state of disrepair, they were kind enough to leave behind a beautiful stone dock that Patton found more than adequate for his nightly dinghy trips ashore.

After several days in St. Bart, we pressed on to St. Eustatius (a.k.a. Statia), a small volcanic island with a significant historical past. Long an important shipping port for the Dutch Caribbean, Statia is also famous for being the first foreign government to officially recognize the legitimacy of the fledgling democracy of the United States in 1776.

Quill volcano, St Eustatius

Quill volcano, St Eustatius

In addition to it’s historical significance, Statia is a beautiful island made up of five, now dormant volcanoes, the largest of which is the Quill volcano. It is truly incredible that the boys  were literally reading about the origins of volcanoes in their homeschool curriculum one day and hiking up the Quill to take a photos of the volcano’s crater the next.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay in historic Statia but the weather window clock is ticking and necessarily we must begin our final push towards Greanada tomorrow morning. We will be transitting waters offshore of St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat enroute to Guadeloupe. From Guadeloupe we will proceed to the French island of Martinique and finally the Grenadines before arriving at our hurricane season home marina in Grenada.