Charlotte Amalie, Lit Up

Monday February 23, 2015

Charlotte Amalie at night

I love the sunsets here in Charlotte Amalie.  They truly are something special.  They always feature every color from the oranges and yellows to the pinks, purples, and blues. The sky is only part of the show though.  Just while the sky is getting dark, all the lights of Charlotte Amalie begin to flicker on.

The harbor is surrounded by small hills, and slowly they begin to light up as all the homes, hotels, and restaurants prepare for the night.  At the other end of the harbor, the mega yachts illuminate themselves and the waters around them.  It’s an extremely beautiful anchorage to be in once the sun goes down.  Possibly one of the best we’ve seen yet.

I can’t say I’ve missed a single night yet sitting out on deck with a gin and tonic in my hands and the sun goes down and the lights come on.  Tomorrow, though, will be a different story.

For tomorrow we begin our direct passage back to Florida.  Approximately 1,000 nautical miles, traveling on the far east ends of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, eventually tucking in to the Northwest Providence Channel in the Bahamas and making landfall again in West Palm Beach.  We’re hoping this will only take us 10 days, but based on some light wind passages we’ve had in the past we’re also preparing ourselves for two weeks just in case.

So we are officially leaving the Caribbean until we can return again on our new aluminum boat.  Catch you on the flip side you amazing islands!

Charlotte Amalie at night

Charlotte Amalie harbor at night

Charlotte Amalie harbor at night

Charlotte Amalie harbor at night

Charlotte Amalie harbor at night

Charlotte Amalie harbor at night

Charlotte Amalie harbor at night

Charlotte Amalie harbor at night

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Lifestyle Photoshoot with Kimberly Joy Photography

Sunday February 22, 2015

Kimberly Joy lifestyle photo

If you don’t know who Kim and Jereme of Lahowind are, you’ve probably been living under a rock.  Not only are they great friends of ours that you’ve hopefully taken the time to check out their site after we’ve linked to them, but they’re very well known in the sailing and blogging community under their own right.  And a lot of that has to do with Kim’s amazingly gorgeous photos.

Stunning colors, clarity, and a hint of soft whimsy.  This is no accident or stroke of luck.  Kim is a very talented and qualified portrait photographer that runs her own business out of Naples Florida. Kimberly Joy Photography produces great family and couples portraits and are always taken in dreamy outdoor scenery such as at the beach, under piers and next to leafy green trees.  In short, every shot is g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s.  Seriously, you have to check out her site.

So when I asked Kim if she wouldn’t mind coming over one afternoon to pretty pretty please grab a few shots of me that I could use as blogging profile pictures and (hopefully) one day editorial head shots, she had an even better idea.  Instead of just a few head shots, why not do a whole lifestyle photo shoot on Serendipity? Something like a portrait session, but encased our life on a boat.  Umm….yes please!!

So when both of us had a free afternoon on our hands and we waited until the sun was getting to it’s perfect point in the sky, Kim and Jereme dinghied over to Serendipity to begin the photoshoot.  Unfortunately we had two small things working against us though.  One was the wind suddenly decided to gust up to over 20 knots which made keeping my hair out of my face just a little bit of a problem, (introduce hat..thanks for the idea Kim!), and the other was that my dear husband vehemently did not want to be photographed. So much for the family portrait session.  We still sneaked him into a few photos anyway and the cat also did a great job of standing in for him.

In the end we were left with an assortment of dazzling photos of ourselves on Serendipity, something we will cherish forever.  Thank you so much Kim for this wonderful gift!  And for any of you readers out there…if you’re ever in or near Naples, make sure to book a session with Kim, I promise you won’t regret it.

Kimberly Joy lifestyle photo

Kimberly Joy lifestyle photo

Kimberly Joy lifestyle photo

Kimberly Joy lifestyle photo

Kimberly Joy lifestyle photo

Kimberly Joy lifestyle photo

Kimberly Joy lifestyle photo

Kimberly Joy lifestyle photo

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Back to Christmas Cove

Friday February 20, 2015

yachts in Christmas Cove

Just as we had predicted there is nothing but bad weather coming north of us for the extended forecast.  So we’ll be stuck in the Virgin Islands for just a bit longer.  Darn.  I was really getting tired of this place.  (Insert obvious sarcasm)

Just as I was hoping we’d be able to do, we’ve moved ourselves back over to the picturesque Christmas Cove.  Truthfully I had been wanting do use this extra time to explore a little bit more of St. John and some of it’s wonderful parks.  Maybe do a little more snorkeling.  Which, by the way, we now have a temporary mask and snorkel for Matt thanks to our friends Felicia and Steve on Kasablanca.  They’d just have a bunch of family visiting them and someone left their gear after only one use.  Ooops!  Oh well, their loss is our gain.

The only problem is…Matt is completely content to sit at the moment.  Not only does he not want to go through the trouble of moving the boat 4-8 miles to the next anchorage, but he doesn’t even want to get off the boat.  I was able to briefly get him off for a little bit of snorkeling the other day, enticing him with the promise of sting rays and sea turtles.  Luckily they got the memo and showed up to the party.

Otherwise we’ve just been chilling in our perfect little spot here in the cove.  We’ve had a few dinghy run ins with friends, such as Laho and Necesse, and I’ve made a few solo trips to see friends and squeeze in another night of wine and good conversation with Jody of Where the Coconuts Grow.

We know there are small things we can start doing to prep Serendipity to sell when we get back to Florida, but after this relaxing style of cruising we’ve had since June, we can’t seem to knock out more than one (short) project before it’s time for a break which turns into an all afternoon siesta.  Which suits me just fine.  This is still ‘vacation time’ in my eyes and we’ll be working hard once we get to Florida.  What’s a few more projects then?  Right now I still need my afternoon naps.

snorkeling

photo courtesy of Lahowind

sunset over St. Thomas

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A Black & White Look at Charlotte Amalie

Thursday February 12, 2015

Emancipation Park

There had been grand plans to leave the Virgin Islands in the next day or two after making a big provisioning trip in Charlotte Amalie, but it now looks as if that won’t be happening anymore.  Not that we’ll be stuck here forever!…although I’m sure we wouldn’t mind.  No, it’s pesky weather systems that keep popping up off the coast of Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic, and they’re making the window for our 1,000 mile journey back to Florida just a little hard to plan.  We can only seem to get three good days in a row when we need at least 8-9.

For the past few days we’ve been just sitting at anchor in the harbor here at Charlotte Amalie, although it looks like some storm systems are going to be rolling through here as well.  We actually had to move ourselves the other day because the spot we had been sitting in just in front of the cruise ships and the entrance to the harbor was bringing in a terrible swell.  I was getting back to the point where I didn’t want to get up off the settee because I’d get sick.  So now we’re much closer to shore and protected a bit more by one of the islands here and a few of the bigger boats anchored in front of us.

If the weather windows don’t improve in the next few days we may just move ourselves back to Christmas Cove since it’s only 5 miles away and so much more enjoyable and relaxing there.  Weather for the next week just north of us is showing pretty strong, so there’s a good chance that will be happening.  We did take advantage of one of the nice days we did have here to get off the boat and wander around town a bit.  Kind of what you’d expect from a cruise ship port, lots of shopping and restaurants, although there was a nice park by the Post Office that was a great spot to just sit and people watch.

Going back through the photos I took of the day, everything is such a hodgepodge and nothing flows from one area to the next. So I thought I would help that along try my hand at a few black and white photos.  Not something I know much about, but a handy tool for me to eventually learn. And honestly, I’ve been stuck on the boat here a few days and need something to do.

Matt at the Green House

Greenhouse Bar, Charlotte Amalie

Del Sol, Charlotte Amalie

Emancipation Park, Charlotte Amalie St. Thomas

Post Office, Charlotte Amalie

shopping district, Charlotte Amalie

side alley, Charlotte Amalie

Greengos Restaurant, Charlotte Amalie

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World Beer Tour: Portuguese vs Canairan

Saturday February 7, 2015

Super Bock vs Wuld

Guess who popped back into our lives and snagged themselves the best mooring ball in Christmas Cove?  Kim and Jereme from Laho!  Extremely excited for our paths to cross once more and when they invited us over to enjoy a beer around sunset there was no way I could say no.  Not only for the chance to hang out with them again, but also for the chance to prove that I am able to behave myself.  No mixed drinks for me tonight.

Nope, instead I planned on taking Kim and Jereme through a World Beer Tour.  Or maybe not so much a world tour as a European Atlantic Island tour.  Matt and I haven’t actually purchased any beer since we’ve been here in the Caribbean, partly because Matt isn’t much of a drinking and partly because we bought ourselves a liter of gin in Sint Maarten that is still going strong.  So what I’m left with are a few of the beers we stocked up on in the Canary Islands and also a pack of mini bottles from the Azores that I found stuffed in the bottom of a bag in our aft cabin.

One brand is a very popular Portuguese beer, Super Bock.  It’s pale lager that has vast popularity among the Portuguese and many other countries. Apparently it even has a cult status with Manchester United English Football supporters.  I was able to purchase it in ‘mini’, something I love and have not seen outside of Portugal, but the beers are bottled in little 200 ml, or approximately 7oz bottles.  Great for when you need something cold and refreshing with that lager taste but either want to watch your calories or not take in too much alcohol in one sitting.  (Yes, there are times this does happen)

Jessica & Kim w. Super Bock

It’s contender for the night is a beer we picked up in the Canary Islands, solely for it’s 0,35€ per can cost originally. It’s another light pilsen that I have found packs a lot of flavor and even enjoy it more than many of the other beers we found in the Hiper Dino supermarkets.  Many of the online reviews I were able to find describe it as lightly malty with notes of fruit and a hint of bitterness in the finish.  I’d have to agree with these comments.

Jessica & Kim w. Wuld

It was a tough competition in the beginning, opening the Super Bock first, just because we were all in the mood for a cold beer and how could it not taste delicious?  Plus everyone was in love with the tiny bottle and it’s easy pull off cap.  And although the beer was quite good, my favorite out of all the Portuguese varieties, I think it was mostly the bottle that everyone was in love with.

So push come to shove, cooler full of Super Bock and Wuld, I think all of us would be ready to reach for a Wuld first.  It was just a little more flavorful and filling.  Not that any of these were similar to the watered down light beers we’re used to drinking though. Sorry Super Bock, you played a great game.  And I still look forward to drinking you the next time I’m in Portugal.

Oliver & Matt

Matt, Jess & Oliver

Photo courtesy of Lahowind

sunset over Christmas Cove

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My Personal Paradise

Friday February 6, 2015

Georgie & lobster

The past few days we’ve been living in nothing short of a Caribbean paradise.

For starters, the weather is gorgeous.  The sun is always shinning, the temperatures are hanging out around 80 during the day and there’s always a nice breeze blowing through our hatches.  Secondly, we are anchored in the gorgeous Christmas Cove of St. John US Virgin Islands.  We’re surrounded by beautiful turquoise waters filled with sting rays and even a sea turtle that I was able to swim next to for a few minutes while snorkeling the other day.  And lastly, the icing on the cake, is I’m surrounded by friends.

Throw out the first two if you must (although please don’t, because I’m very much enjoying them), but being around people I care about and can bring a smile to my face is really the only thing in the world I truly need.  Yes, Matt does this everyday, but the more you have of this the better it is.  So it’s suffice to say I’m having the time of my life right now.  Totally worth coming back across the Atlantic for.

Yesterday evening we went over to s/v Kasablanca to enjoy a few sundowners and get to know our hometown cruisers Felicia and Steve a little better.  The vino tinto I tried to recreate for them from Montanditos didn’t quite turn out the way I hoped…I think we would have been better off drinking the red wine and Sprite separately.  What was great though was the conversation and comparisons on Atlantic crossings and attempts.

Felicia and Steve left the Great Lakes last summer with the plan to follow in our footsteps and make their way to the Med as well.  They left from much further up on the east coast and had nothing but terrible weather for their first few days and decided to turn their good ship around and head back to the US.  Instead of spending a few years in Europe, they made their way down to the Caribbean which they’ve been enjoying immensely.  Strange how we all ended up here at the same time even though both our original plans dictated otherwise.

sunset at Christmas Cove

Today was another great day where we were able to spend a few hours in the water with Jody and Peter going lobster diving.  Even cooler…Matt was able to try out their hookah diving system while doing this.  An air supplied device that allows a person to stay under the water while taking in air from the surface through a long hose, powered by a compressor.  Since we were diving for lobster in an area that was 40-60 feet deep, it’s adequate to say that he probably wouldn’t have been able to get down there with single breaths from the surface.

With only three hoses one of us had to be content just to float at the surface and watch the action below and  was fine for that person to be me.  I still haven’t mastered equalizing yet, and can’t get more than 10 feet down without the pressure forcing me to surface again.  So after a quick lesson, Matt followed Jody and Peter into the azure waters surrounding us as they poked in cracks and crevices looking for our dinner.  Matt was having the time of his life being able to stay down at the bottom of the sea floor among the rocks and coral for as long as his heart desired.  I had just as much fun following him from the surface and playing in the bubbles that floated up around me, banging on them like bongo drums as these huge spheres of oxygen rose around me.

In the end the guys were able to come back up with two lobsters, even though Peter said their catch was normally much bigger.  Our hosts for the day graciously gave us the entire haul and I was already picturing melted butter dripping from my mouth as lobster was being shoved into it.  If I was feeling generous, Georgie might even get a bite.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to enjoy our dinner with Jody and Peter and cook them up on Mary Christine’s grill since Peter had to be to class again that night for his Captain’s license and was just using the few free hours he had that day to take us out.  Such a great guy.

So I have found my little personal paradise and it’s called Christmas Cove.  I don’t think I ever want to leave here.  I’m not sure if there’s really any need to other than occasionally pick up groceries from Charlotte Amalie.  Except..there is.  Only another week or so in the Virgin Islands and we’ll be making our way directly back to Florida.  But hopefully this place and all my friends will still be waiting for us next year when we come back in our new badass aluminum boat.

Georgie looking at lobster

lobster in pan

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A SUPer Day with my Girls

Wednesday February 4, 2015

Jessica on SUP

We have finally made it to Christmas Cove.  Sigh of relief.  Trumpets sounding.  Halo shinning down.  I have been waiting to get here ever since Thanksgiving when groups of my friends began swarming here and posting about their fantastic times.  New Years parties…testing life rafts…shooting off expire flares.  I wanted, needed, to join in on the fun.

Added bonus for me, I already had two friends awaiting me when I arrived.  Felicia of s/v Kasablanca, who if you remember I hailed on the radio the other day after a random passing while on our way to Charlotte Amalie, and Jody of Where the Coconuts Grow.  Jody and I have been online blogging buddies for a few years now and since her man Peter is busy getting his captain’s license at the moment, they’ve stationed themselves in this bay where he can dinghy over to St. Thomas every day for his classes.  With a much bigger outboard than our Mercury 3.3 of course.

So knowing that they would definitely be in the area when Matt and I passed through, Jody and  made plans to meet up and even planned out lobster diving trips via satellite phone conversations during my Atlantic crossing. As soon as we got ourselves anchored the other day  (we chose to opt out of the free mooring balls and stay at the back of the pack), Jody whizzed over to say hi and we made plans to do a proper girls night tonight with a few other young cruising ladies in the anchorage.

Before we could get to that point though I called on Jody earlier today to help me with a little project, being my photographer for the day.  You’ll see what I’m talking about in my next post.  But after that was finished I asked if I could take one of her Tower SUPS for a spin, and being that she has two, we invited Felicia to take a spin with me.  Since it was basically two SUP newbies out and about, Felicia’s fist time ever!, we kept Jody as our photographer to capture the fun.

Jessica paddleboarding in Christmas Cove

Felicia & Jessica

Jessica

Felicia

Jessica & Felicia

For awhile the two of us did our best just to stay on the boards, which meant paddling while on our knees.  The winds were only about 10-15 knots but it was still enough to keep us working hard and putting up a sweat.  Plus there was a current trying to drag us out in the channel that was only making us work harder.  At one point both of us just gave up and spent a good five minutes drifting closer to St. Thomas, knowing eventually Jody would swing by with the dingy and tow us back in.

Safely back in the cove and with our ‘ride’ sitting right next to us we decided it was high time to get wet, which meant we could try some crazy antics on the boards since we knew it would mean falling off into the cool and refreshing water.  The very first step was just standing up on the boards which was cause enough for celebration in itself.  From there I tried a few yoga poses including a downward facing dog and a tree pose.  Something I couldn’t fully commit to because every time I’d begin to wobble I’d put my foot back on the board instead of letting myself hold the position for a split second before I went splashing down.

Once we had made a few trips into the water though it was really time to show off.  Felicia was pretty sure she could do a headstand on her board and I thought I’d give it a go as well.  Even though I knew it would end quite poorly for me.  As I expected, Felicia did a great job of getting her legs all the way up in the air and holding the position for just a second before gravity grabbed her and sent her into the salty water.  As for myself, I was barely able to begin putting my legs in the air before I’d begin crashing down.  It was all good fun though and definitely got a lot of laughs out of us girls.

Jessica & Felicia SUPing

standing up on SUP

downward dog on SUP

tree pose - xmas cove

Getting back to Serendipity late in the afternoon I had just enough time to relax a little and once again hastily make and eat a dinner before it was time to go back out again.  Leaving Matt alone on the ‘Dip to watch Dr. No, I happily scurried away with some cheap Don Simon Sangria in my bag, ready to spend a few hours with my girls.  The last one to arrive, I was greeted by Genevieve who had just arrived in Christmas Cove (yay!), Felicia, and a few new faces.  Chrissy of s/v Altera, and Toutou of s/v Four Coconuts.  Which the latter was full of smiles and already filling a glass of wine for me as I was still taking my seat in the cockpit.  Looks like things were already in full swing!

We ate, we drank, we were merry.  We gossiped and complained about boat chores and just did what girls do when they get together.  It’s nice to know that some things never change from land to sea.  Although I have to admit, girls nights on the water usually come with a much better view.

Chrissy & Toutou

Jody & Jessica

Genevieve

Genevieve & Jody

Jessica & Felicia

wine on Mary Christine

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Buffing Up on the Way to Charlotte Amalie

Sunday February 1, 2015

Charlotte Amalie harbor

So I’m still on my little kick to meet up with as many of my cruising friends as possible which means I wanted to get my butt to Christmas Cove in St. John ASAP, but first we had to do that pesky thing called checking into a country.  Also, I had mail waiting for me!  Little gifts from my mom that I have been waiting months to get, such as guitar strings so I could replace the ones that have rusted off mine, and a new computer charger since at the moment I have a barely working charger and battery which means I can only use my computer when it’s plugged in, and if I move a half an inch the stupid thing shuts off on me.  Very annoying.

Since I knew Charlotte Amalie had a Post Office right in town, that’s where we decided to have our mail sent and to get ourselves checked into the country.  The sun was shinning when we got up this morning and even though it’s been said that going on the north side of St. John is a calmer passage, we wanted to take the more direct route to get to this harbor on the south side of St. Thomas.  Pulling out into ‘open waters’ again we did notice that the waves went up…from about 1 ft to 3 or 4.  After the high seas we spent way too many weeks suffering in this past six months it was child’s play and still a completely comfortable ride.

With a good 3-4 hour sail ahead of us and barley any boats to keep an eye out for anymore I decided it was high time to kick up my beauty routine once more.  The past year or so has not been very kind to my skin and partially because I probably haven’t been wearing sunscreen as much as I should.  Lesson.Learned.  Always wear a SPF 30 or higher on the face at all times and for god’s sake, me, try, oh please try, to get some of that on your arms and legs too!  Maybe if I got a sunscreen sponsor I’d be more apt to wear it every day.  Hmmm….   Any takers?

Anyway, it was time for me to get to work on fixing the damage already done.  In my arsenal I had a Neutrogena Microdermabrasion System which I then followed up with a Yes To Cucumber hydrating mask.  Finishing with a bit of my Lancôme lotion that I’ve blogged about before and still can’t speak highly enough of, I could feel my skin thanking me.  I’m sorry skin, I promise to take much better care of you in the future.

Just as I was rubbing in the last bit of revitalizing cream to my skin, the sun was traded in for clouds and it looked as if there were showers just hanging over St. Thomas.  Hanging out in the cockpit to watch the incoming weather system I took a look at the chart plotter and noticed a ship on AIS that was flashing bright meaning it was going to come too close to us.  Let me remind you that we had it set for open ocean where if a boat was going to come within two miles of you it was a cause of concern, but now that we’re in a major cruising territory we can come within 100 feet of most boats and not blink and eye.

Looking up it’s information just for fun and to see our ‘collision course’ I noticed the name of the vessel was very familiar.  Kasablanca.  Wait a second…this was the same name of a boat that left from our home port of Muskegon last year with a couple near our age on it.  I hadn’t met them before, but my friend Jackie had turned me on to their travels.  If I remembered right they were also in this area since the first mate Felicia and I had joked on Facebook about how funny it would be to maybe accidentally run into each other while there.

Hailing them on the radio we switched to a talk channel and I felt kind of silly as I asked “Is this the Kasablanca with a home port of Muskegon Michigan?”, in case I got a confused or rude No in return.  When the answer came back yes I fell into full geek mode and began rambling a mile a minute.  ”Oh my god!  This is Jessica from Serendipity!  We’re about to pass each other on a starboard tack!  So you’re in the USVI’s?  We totally need to hang out!  We can talk about cruising and about Muskegon!!”.  Yeah….  Matt just affirmed my lack of poise with a roll of the eyes as if to say ‘You’re such a dork’.  Yes I am.  Proudly so.

Jessica with face mask

s/v Kasablanca

After I found out that Felicia and Steve were headed to Christmas Cove themselves and should hopefully still be there when we arrived a few days later, I went back to watching out for boats that would come nowhere near us and zoom in on the chart as we got closer to Charlotte Amalie.  The rain showers that were hanging over St. Thomas did capture us in it’s holds until we were just about to the harbor entrance but let up just in time for us to bring the sails in and motor through the channel.

One thing I noticed straight away as we made our way in was the number of boats at anchor.  No mooring balls here.  We had been warned that it could be a little rolly in this port at times, but when we dropped the anchor and began putting the sail cover back we felt nary a ripple in the water.  Looks like it was going to be a good enough spot for the next few days at least.

That evening we enjoyed yet another beautiful Virgin Islands sunset as we took it in from the cockpit with a cocktail in hand.  As the sky grew darker the hills began to light up with homes and hotels shining in the dark blue sky. As a good beat thumped from a club on shore I settled further in my seat to enjoy the nighttime show around me. I could get very used to this life.  Why did we ever leave the Caribbean in the first place?

Charlotte Amalie harbor

Chartlotte Amalie, St. Thomas

entrance to Charlotte Amalie harbor

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