Category Archives: St. Christopher (a.k.a. St. Kitt)

2017 Hurricane Affected Areas in the Caribbean

Season 4: Cruising the Caribbean Post Irma & Maria – December 1, 2017 (Latitude 14° 4.505″ N, Longitude 60° 56.959″ W)

2017 Hurricane Summary

2017 Hurricane Summary

Yesterday was the last day of the 2017 hurricane season, and so it is that we now contemplate our fourth (4th) season cruising plans! We have previously communicated with you about the devastation that this past hurricane season has left behind throughout the northeastern Caribbean. The damage has been vast, but the strong will of the people on the affected islands has proven impossible to suppress. Things are not yet back to normal but the strides that have been taken by the international community and the locals has been incredible.

PROGRESS OF RECOVERY

We have been monitoring the progress of the recovery efforts on a daily basis. In addition to our general concern for the well being of our Caribbean friends and their economies, we also have been paying close attention to the recovery of the yachting infrastructure. Obviously, we need circumstances that will allow us to adequately provision with food and fuel in a safe environment for the Pilots’ Discretion and her crew if we are to turn her north towards the United States this cruising season. Additional concerns include the ability to leave the Pilots’ Discretion in a safe and suitable environment should we need to fly back home for any reason, which necessarily requires  access to operational airports with flights. Access to competent medical care, and dockside electricity and water are also logistical concerns as we plot our course north. We have found the following sites helpful in monitoring Caribbean wide recovery efforts:

  • Sailors Helping Sailors providing up-to-date information on port status and opportunities to volunteer in rebuilding efforts across the Caribbean;
  • Sailors Unite – Caribbean Comeback A guide to what is open and available in British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and St. Marteen/St. Martin, including airports, transportation, restaurants, hotels, provisioning, marketing and shops;
  • ExplorerChartbooks – includes Turks and Caicos Marinas Report;
  • Noonsite – provides information by anchorage or by island, so sailors can plan their cruising in the Caribbean with an eye to appropriate behavior and precautions wherever they decide to go; and
  • Caribbean Safety and Security Net: “Know before you go” safety and security updates throughout the Caribbean.

We will continue to update the above list and our blog as we obtain additional information when we proceed north. If anyone viewing this has additional resources that will keep mariners updated, please send them to us in the comments section below and we will add them to this list or include in future updates.

Our current evaluation is that the islands require a little more time to deal with the lingering devastation but they are getting closer everyday. We do believe that they will be in a strong position to welcome cruisers this coming cruising season. In fact, this may represent an opportunity to see what a jewel the Caribbean islands can be when not overrun with crowds. We are confident that our Caribbean friends will have the welcome mat out for all cruisers that choose to make this season the one that they cast off and set a course for the trip of their dreams.

PREPARATIONS

Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia - Aerial

Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia – Aerial

As for the preparations to get underway for the Pilots’ Discretion, we are reporting good progress. There are a significant number of details that have to be addressed prior to getting underway. The good news for us is that we are currently located at the IGY Rodney Bay Marina in St. Lucia where we have all of the services we require to ready our vessel. We would be remiss if we did not publicly thank Mr. Sean Devaux, General Manager of the Rodney Bay Marina for all of the assistance he has provided us as we prepare to head north. Our initial commitment to him was that we would be staying at his facility through September 2017. As the hurricane season devastation to our north became clear, it was initially impossible to determine when it would be prudent to depart. Sean has been great, he has told us that we can stay as long as necessary without a long term commitment. Additionally, he has worked hard to provide us will real time status updates of all of the marina facilities along our route north, even if those facilities are not a part of his organization (Rodney Bay Marina is part of the international marina group known as IGY). We are currently coordinating our annual engine and systems maintenance and that should be complete shortly.

EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) Maintenance

Solutions One Maritme, L.L.C., Tampa, FL

Solutions One Maritme, L.L.C., Tampa, FL

One component of our systems preparation is ensuring that our life vests, life raft and all of our emergency signaling systems are current and fully functional. This is normally a routine inspection but this year we got quite a surprise. We have an ACR EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon – a device that includes a GPS to determine our exact location and a satellite communication system to notify rescue personnel in the event we need assistance). We bought the unit new just before we left on our trip. Each time we get underway, we run the unit through a self test program to ensure it is fully operational. It has always past each of those tests without fail. On our most recent trip back to Florida we elected to have the unit recertified due to calendar age.

EPIRB

EPIRB

Solutions One Maritme, L.L.C., Tampa, FL

Solutions One Maritme, L.L.C., Tampa, FL

After researching facilities that are certified to service maritime rescue equipment, we elected to have the folks at Solution One Maritime, LLC in Tampa look over our unit. Expecting nothing much more than an administrative paperwork exercise, we were left very surprised when we got a call from Yusri Jadallah, the Managing Director for Solution One. He  explained to me that he had found a very small leak in the case that protects the electronics and that he was certain that had the unit been deployed in an actual emergency at sea, the electronics would have likely failed due to exposure to salt water. He went further to explain that ACR would repair the unit under warranty but their estimated turn time would likely be 4-6 weeks. Yusri told me that he understood that the long turn time would create scheduling problems for our crew and as a result he offered us a brand new unit to utilize for as long as it takes to get our own unit back. As far as we are concerned, the folks at Solution One have gone way above and beyond to ensure that our family is safe and our trip uninterrupted. We have utilized other sources in the past for our emergency equipment needs but from now on, Solution One is our vendor of choice for our life raft, life vest and emergency electronics needs.

As we look forward to our fourth cruising season, we also reflect upon all that we have to be thankful for this past year, including time spent with family and friends, good health and ongoing adventures. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the spectacular time we had spending Thanksgiving Day last week in Marigot Bay with dear friends, both old and new.

Post-Thanksgiving Day Lunch Bunch

Post-Thanksgiving Day Lunch Bunch

 

HURRICANE MARIA (SEPTEMBER 2017) – by Theresa

Hurricane season has arrived in full force. As cruisers, we spend an inordinate amount of time monitoring weather systems. The latest shows Hurricane Maria intensified into a catastrophic Category 5 storm Monday, with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph (260 kph), as it surged toward islands in the eastern Caribbean.

Projected track for Hurricane Maria, September 18, 2017

Projected track for Hurricane Maria, September 18, 2017

Hurricane warnings have been posted for the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat.

A tropical storm warning was issued for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Lucia (where Pilots’ Discretion is currently located), Martinique and Anguilla. Many of these islands are still recovering from direct hits from hurricane Irma. (See http://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/topstories/cat-5-hurricane-maria-threatens-storm-battered-caribbean/ar-AAs6sKy?ocid=spartandhp.) We are continuing to keep all those affected in our thoughts and prayers. We will post additional updates after this storm passes.

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.

Shirley Heights, Antigua

ST. KITTS & NEVIS, and ANTIGUA (by Theresa)

ST. KITTS & NEVIS

Quill volcano, Statia

Quill volcano, Statia

After departing St. Bart, we cruised past the Quill volcano on St. Eustatius and on to Majors Bay in St. Kitts. As the only boat in the harbor, we dropped our anchor in 10 feet of crystal clear water and enjoyed the view of Nuestra Señora del las Nieves (Our Lady of Snow), in Nevis, while enjoying our evening sun downers on our bow. Majors Bay is located just west of the narrows between St. Kitts & Nevis, and is a good place to stage before heading to Antigua. Another sunrise departure and we were on our way!

ANTIGUA

The day we cruised to Antigua was perhaps one of the calmest days in the Caribbean Sea that we have encountered to date with zero to one (0-1) foot seas. The clouds reflecting in the mirror-like water, as the Pilot’s Discretion cruised along slicing the sea like a hot knife through warm butter, was yet another one of those surreal moments that will remain forever etched in our minds.

NELSON’S DOCKYARD

After the calm day at sea, we cruised into English Harbor and tied up at the historic Nelson’s Dockyard Marina. The marina is  situated in the heart of a restored 18th century naval base and is named after Admiral Horatio Nelson who gained notoriety in the battle of Trafalgar. While the old naval vessels are long gone, replaced with private yachts, one cannot help but sense the immense history of this working maritime monument while strolling around the grounds.

The old Officer's Quarters now houses the marina office & other yacht service providers

The old Officer’s Quarters now houses the marina office & other yacht service providers

Ryan & Ronan pushing the replica capstans (used to careen British naval vessels), Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua

Ryan & Ronan pushing the replica capstans (used to careen British naval vessels), Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua

FORT BERKELEY

The historical Fort Berkeley is just a short stroll from the restored naval base and is well worth the hike.

Patton taking in the view from his jet pack perch at Fort Berkely, Antigua

Patton taking in the view from his jet pack perch at Fort Berkely, Antigua

CLASSIC YACHT REGATTA

We had the good fortune to have arrived at Nelson’s Dockyard just in time for the 2016 Classic Yacht Regatta. At the conclusion of the regatta, the classic yacht parade sailed right past our boat giving us front row seat viewing to the spectacular vessels from a different era.

Classic Yacht Parade, Antigua

Classic Yacht Parade, Antigua

ANTIGUA SAIL WEEK

The Classic Yacht Regatta was followed by Antigua Sail Week with week long festivities that rivalled the Classic Yacht Regatta.

SHIRLEY HEIGHTS

We had been told that no trip to Antigua would be complete without a journey to Shirley Heights. Cruisers and locals gather there every Sunday night to enjoy the the spectacular sunset views, complete with BBQ, and steel drum reggae and calypso. The night that we were there was no exception. Mother nature painted the sky in vibrant colors as we watched the sun set over the horizon with the Pilot’s Discretion in the harbor below.

Shirley Heights, Antigua

Shirley Heights, Sunday night BBQ, with steel band reggae & calypso, Antigua

Shirley Heights, Antigua

Shirley Heights, Antigua

Our next adventures will have us continuing to cruise south, including stops in Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique and St. Lucia. We will continue to post as both internet and time allow. In the meantime, wishing a very happy Mother’s Day to the most wonderful and inspirational woman I know, my Mom! We are looking forward to seeing you very soon.

 

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.

Montserrat, active volcano

St. Kitts, Montserrat and Deshaies, Guadeloupe

Our first leg south of Statia took us along the west coast of St.Kitts, providing us with spectacular views of yet another island created by massive, now dormant volcanoes. We elected to spend the night anchored in Majors Bay on the southwest tip of St. Kitts. We had the entire bay to ourselves where we enjoyed spectacular views across the Narrows (the passage that separates St. Kitts from her southern neighbor, Nevis).

 

At first light we were underway for what would be one of our longer passages in the past several months (85 nautical miles). We ran southeast, passing just to the west of Montserrat. Montserrat is an island with a still active volcano that has devastated this small island nation. From the late 1990’s until present day the volcano on Montserrat has repeatedly errupted, completely destroying the capital city of Plymouth.

 

Montserrat active volcano, Plymouth rooftops on the bottom left

Montserrat ACTIVE volcano, Plymouth rooftops on the bottom left

As a result, the island population has been reduced by over 50% as the people have found it increasingly difficult to live quite literally in the shadow of an active volcano. The day that we passed offshore, the volcano was in an active state which resulted in a marine exclusion zone being established. The net result for us was we had to remain at least 2 miles offshore as we passed by. That said, our view was still unbelievable. We could see the rooftops of the now abandoned town of Plymouth sticking up out of the lava and ash flows that buried the entire town. The volcano was spewing ash and smoke and when we went outside to take a few photos, we came back in covered in ash. It was a first hand look at the awesome and sometimes devastating power of mother nature.

Montserrat active volcano ash & lava flow

Montserrat ACTIVE  volcano ash & lava flow

As we put Montserrat astern we still had about 40 miles of open ocean to run to get to our next stop, Deshaies, Guadeloupe. The seas were a managable 4-5 ft as we continued on our journey down island. Since we are approaching the beginning of hurricane season, the routes that we are choosing are heavily travelled by fellow cruisers, all making their way towards Grenada. On this day, we passed no fewer than 10 sailboats heading the same way as us. Once in a while we will see a fellow power boater, usually a trawler but the vast majority of boats this far south are sailboats.

Ronan hoisting the courtesy flag, Deshaies, Guadeloupe

Ronan hoisting the courtesy flag, Deshaies, Guadeloupe

After a long day (about 10 hrs underway) we arrived in Deshaies, Guadeloupe. What a quaint, pleasant surprise we have found this French fishing village to be. It has one of the most sheltered harbors that we have stayed in to date. The town itself has a very French small town feel to it. It is difficult to find anyone who speaks English and unfortunately, it seems that the two years of French that Theresa took in college have completely abandoned her so we have had to revert to sign language and the amused patience of the locals as we try to communicate our needs to them. There are many restaurants and open air markets lining the main street.

Deshaies, Guadeloupe

Deshaies, Guadeloupe

The harbor is full of cruising boats from many different countries (This morning, I counted 42 boats, mostly flying the French flag, a couple from Great Britain and Spain. We are the only American boat in the harbor). We have enjoyed Deshaies so much that we have elected to spend an extra day here before continuing our journey south. When we depart here we will make a short trip to the southern tip of Guadeloupe where we will refuel, then head south for our next island country, Martinique.