S/V Delilah

A Blog to track the wanderings of the S/V Delilah, a 37-foot Tayana sailboat.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, BLUEFIN

Tuesday, March 20
Caneel Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
N 18 degrees, 20.477 minutes
W 064 degrees, 47.628 minutes

Or maybe it was a blackfin. Regardless, the critical point here is that, yesterday, just before the sun set, we sailed right through a school of tuna that were going NUTS on the surface of the ocean. I didn't even have to alter course. There they were, right in my line, leaping far enough into the air close enough to the boat that I could identify them as tuna and pray, without having time to check, that our lure didn't have any weeds attached.

We got a hit right away, but no hookup, so Dean started playing the lure, popping the skirt out of the water. He watched three crazed fish go for it before a nice sized tuna hooked himself firmly. DINNER! We had tuna satay tonight and have put the rest of the steaks aside for Rose and Stephen, who will arrive on Friday (you do like fresh tuna, don't you?).

The rest of our 100-mile sail was not quite as exciting as those few minutes when we caught ourselves a tuna, but it was a good downwind sail, and we made excellent time from St. Martin to St. John. There was no moon, but the stars were bright enough that we could see the horizon (a big psychological boost at night). We folded up the bimini (the awning over our cockpit) so we could stare up at the Milky Way and watch for the southern cross as it popped above the horizon after midnight. Between the stars, the need to keep a close eye on our compass, and the beautiful phosphorescence in the water, I was entertained enough that I forgot to turn on the radio during my first 3-hour watch.

I am going to have to get better at stowing things below before our next long crossing, however. Until we reach the Bahamas, we'll be heading almost due east with the wind and waves directly at our back, making for some rolly passages. You might recall how much I complained, this time last year, that we were taking what the call "the thorny path," with the wind on our nose until we turned the corner in St. Martin. We motored or motor-sailed for hundreds of miles.

I'm certainly not complaining about having the wind behind us. Okay, I am, but not about the sailing part. While is a little tricky for the person at the helm to keep the sail filled and the bow pointed in the right direction with the waves trying so hard to push Delilah all over the ocean, the person who is NOT sailing has it worse, on the overnights at least. Down below our dishes clang in the cupboards, clothes fly out of their baskets, doors slam or rattle, and items that have seemed secure on every other passage suddenly launch themselves across the boat. After getting up for the hundredth time to tighten the spare halyard or secure the bag of onions or retie the bathroom door so it stays open, we'd try to lie there and pretend it wasn't maddening.

On deck things were relatively peaceful. Without the engine on and with the wind behind us, the loudest sound was the soothing hiss of Delilah making her way through the water. Occasionally a block might drag across the cabin top, or a line might creak, or the sail might slap if I'd let the boat fall off course a few degrees, but it was hardly noticeable. In the saloon the noises from the deck of our pitching boat were amplified enough that each of us, during our time off watch, was startled enough by some noise that we came up to see what happened, only to have person at the helm say everything was fine, what loud noise?

All that to say, here we are in the United States. Dean is already asleep for the night, but I drank four gallons of lemonade in order to keep my eyes open past dinner, and now I'm wide awake. I'm sure it won't last.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Too Close?

There's a bar in Sint Maarten that is very close to the airport runway. So close, in fact, that signs warn of death and dismemberment caused by the jet blast. Of course, everybody ignores the signs. It's quite a thrill to see these huge planes coming in right overhead.

We are leaving this afternoon for the USVIs and our appointment with Rose and Stephen.

Where is Snoopyville?

Monday, March 19
Simpson Bay Lagoon, Sint Maarten

It should come as no surprise to us that, after a number of weeks where our spending is quite restrained, we have a reckoning. But spending TRIPLE what we have in our budget for the week hasn't happened since we had the boat hauled in Trinidad.

We did buy ourselves another dinghy this week, but the really crazy spending was for groceries. Yes, this week, egged on by Kim, who bought even MORE than I did (they are going to Cuba, those lucky Canadians, where, thanks to our government, there is nothing to buy). But St. Martin, which is actually two countries on one island--French and Dutch--has this fabulous mix of foods available in its stores, in addition to a bulk grocery store like Costco that delivers to the dock for free, that we just could not resist. And everything is duty free. And the beer is cheap. As is the liquor. As is the wine. And the meat is fresh and decently priced. And then there's the mile-long CHEESE counter in the French supermarket on the bridge! Who cares about prices when one is presented with such a selection.

So we are moving on before we spend the rest of our kitty on pate. We are also moving on because I've got to get some miles between me and the parrotheads who are beginning to flock to St. Martin in anticipation of the Jimmy Buffet concert later this week.


That's right, I am a sailor and I am not a fan. Seems like a contradiction? Well, if you had a sixth-grade music teacher who thought it would be a great idea to teach your class the song "Margaritaville," but couldn't actually refer to getting DRUNK in an elementary school classroom, so changed a single word in the song, Margaritaville, to Snoopyville, you might think the whole venture was pointless as well.

Try this: "Wasted away again in Snoopyville. Lookin' for my lost shaker of salt." But we had to sing the whole song that way. Heather hated this music teacher so much she used to time her sick days for Tuesdays, when we had music. I wonder what her stance on Jimmy Buffet is.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Wednesday, March 14
Simpson Bay Lagoon, Sint Maarten (a.k.a. The Dutch Side)

N 18 degrees, 02.441 minutes
W 063 degrees, 05.605 minutes

We spent an one day at Anse du Colombier in St. Barts, admiring the sand, perfectly clear to us 25 feet below, and trying to take a decent picture of one of the many turtles that hang out in the anchorage. Like most anchorages we've been to this winter, this one had many more boats than it did when we passed through last spring--an unfashionable season to see and be seen in the Caribbean.

On Friday the 10th we got up early and beached the dinghy in order to follow the narrow path along the shoreline that leads to a small village around the corner from our anchorage. I lured Dean by promising that there would be pain au chocolat on the other end. And there was, but it was not particularly flaky, as French pastries go. The town itself had one store (the one selling pastries) and otherwise consisted of beach houses that valued their privacy. After strolling down the main street and looking at a whole lot of bougainvillea peaking over tall fences, we opted to return to the trail via the pretty beach.

As we passed one couple on the beach and I threw out my casual "bonjour," the woman gave us a big smile full of lips and teeth from behind her enormous square glasses. Dean and I came to the same conclusion immediately: "THAT was Angelina Jolie!"

Well, that was Angelina Jolie if she is only average height, and not extremely thin, and if she ever walks on any beach without a passle of children hanging off her hips or hands (not if you ever examine those magazines at the checkout counter). The thin, gray-haired man she was next to would have to be her lawyer or or agent or accountant; he was certainly not Brad Pitt. We had a chance to double back and verify our sighting, but we decided that thinking it was POSSIBLY Angelina would be better for the blog than DEFINITELY NOT.

After our walk we hopped back in the boat and headed 15 miles downwind for St. Martin. Another great sail was had by all. We anchored for a few hours in the outer anchorage while we checked into the country and waited for the final bridge opening of the day. Once we got inside, we threw down the anchor and headed for Shrimpy's, where we knew we'd find Kim and David enjoying the free Wifi.

Also in various ports around St. Martin are Dreamweaver, with whom we had some bad Chinese food; Nancy Dawson, on whose boat we played a terrible game in which I lost the first three hands and found myself decorated with charred cork ash; Eira, with whom we had a very happy happy hour before dinner; and Dragonfly, who arrived this morning. We have been busy.

Last night we braved the wind and rain and dinghied over to the French side with Amanzi. From there we took a bus ($1 U.S.) up to Grand Case, where Dreamweaver and Eira were anchored. On Tuesday nights Grand Case closes its main street to cars, and musicians and vendors set up stands all along the sidewalks. Eira had told us how much fun they'd had the week before, and Avalanche had told us about the delicious and cheap order of ribs they sell at the beach shacks, so we did not want to miss it.

Nobody told us that the event is much more subdued in case of rain. The street wasn't closed, and the musicians never appeared. Still, all ten of us had a great time aboard Eira and then at the ribs place, where dinner, drinks, and tip cost us $10 U.S. apiece.

This morning we are all business again. Because of the proximity of chandleries, laundromats, large grocery stores that deliver to the docks, free Wifi, cheap water, and lots of other services, the lagoon is a place where people stay a long time, in spite of the fact that it's not actually that nice here. We are trying very hard to finish our errands in order to sail around to Marigot Bay on the French side, but everything takes a lot longer than planned.

One thing we have accomplished is the purchase of a new dinghy! Okay, it's new to us, but it's really very used. As our last two sets of visitors will attest, Digby, while still useable, was starting to exhibit signs of age, and though we knew we could continue to patch and glue the items that are coming unstuck, we figured it would be just our luck for the transom to detach itself when we are in Bahamas, with nary a chandlery in sight.

We only need something to get us back to Boston this summer, so instead of buying the beautiful, new Caribe we priced at Island Water World, we found another sailor who was upgrading, and we bought his old, off-brand inflatable for one tenth of the price of a new Caribe. It floats, it'll take four people, and it looks a lot better than Digby, proving once again that if you have low standards, you'll never be disappointed.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Guest Blog Special!

This guest blog was written by Lisa, after flying home from Nevis.

Arriving in Antigua 3 hours late (2:30 am), with Jill and Dean waiting patiently in the pouring rain for us, was how Jim and I started our vacation. But that was the only bad part of a great adventure. Upon arriving at the Antigua Yacht Club there was our good friends to take us to the good ship Delilah. Once on board, Jim informed Jill and Dean that he brought breakfast and dessert for the week. Yes Nutter Butter Cookies for breakfast and Double Stuffed Oreos for dessert, and I can’t forget a special gift for Dean…. Johnny Walker Blue to go with the Oreos. We got the important stuff was out of the way and got to bed at 4am.

Later that day, once we got up, we headed into the little town of Falmouth for lunch. The place for lunch was Grace Before Meals, which was a little shack with local flavor. Jill and Jim had a roti, which is chicken and potato wrapped up in a tortilla, and Dean had the special of curried pork. Me, I am not into food adventure, so I ordered a hamburger…well I think it was hamburger, wasn’t quite sure, but I was so hungry I ate it not thinking what I was eating…word to the wise, don’t order a hamburger in Antigua. We headed back to the boat and finally hit the water for a swim. After our swim and back on the boat, I learned how to take a “save the fresh water shower”…which consisted of jumping in the water, get out wash your hair and body, jumping back into the water to rinse, back out for the hair conditioner, jumping back into the water to rinse, back on board for 2 cupfuls of fresh water to rinse the salt water off. Jim even mastered shaving in the salt water. Once showered it was time to open the Carib (beer) and enjoy Jill’s good cooking. Of course after dinner we did open those Double Stuffs, and the boys enjoyed the Johnny Walker Blue under a full moon.

After the first day we were so relaxed the days just went by, enjoying dinner with Kim and David on Amanzi the next night. Sunday we needed to go to Customs to add Jim and me to the crew list for our big sail to Nevis on Monday. Once that was out of the way we had to do the tourist thing and climbed Shirley Heights Sunday night for the sunset and barbeque ribs, but we didn’t stay too late as we needed to get back to Delilah to prepare it for our sail to Nevis on Monday.

4:45am Monday morning all were up preparing for our 50-mile sail to Nevis (sister island to St Kitts). Setting out at 6am, we began our sail with Jill at the helm and Dean pulling up the main sail. The sail was beautiful, the water a little rough, and a squall decided to catch a bit of us, but 10 hours later we were anchored on the coast of Nevis again with a Carib (beer). Ever hear the expression, there is nothing like a beer after a hard day of skiing…well there is nothing like a ice cold beer after a long sail! That night while watching the sunset and the almost full moon coming over the mountain, Dean made his famous Pizza dough for dinner that night, which was the perfect ending to the perfect day.

Unfortunately, all good things have to come to the end…this is where Jim and my adventure ended, after enjoying a local lunch on Nevis and going to customs to take Jim and me off the crew list, we headed to the airport.

Spending 24/7 for 4 ½ days on a boat there were many good laughs and inside jokes, which added to a great time. Thank you Jill and Dean for sharing your world with us for the most relaxing adventure anyone could ask for.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


This is a monkey that we saw in Nevis.

Three or Four Thousand Miles Later...a Beam Reach

Friday, March 9
Anse du Colombier, St. Barts
N 17 degrees, 55.440 minutes
W 061 degrees. 52.226 minutes

Today we had a perfect sail. Once we stuck our nose around Nevis the wind hit Delilah on the starboard beam and she flew! For the first hour I clocked us at over seven knots consistently. We had reefed the sails just enough. The helm felt good. The waves were fairly big but not too steep, and they passed beneath Delilah like so much salt water under a bridge. When the wind died a little, we unrolled a bit more of our honking big genoa, and we took off again.

We caught no fish, but Dean saw the sail of a beautiful billfish checking out our lure (thank God he didn't hit it; imagine bringing in a marlin hand over hand on a yo yo). The sun shone, the water was clear, and all was right with the world.

To recap, we pulled up our anchor at dawn and were reanchored and swimming with turtles by 2:30. The passage itself, more than fifty miles, took us almost exactly eight hours. Our GPS reports that our average speed was 6.3 knots. Most times we count ourselves lucky if we average 5 knots. The miles just slipped by.

Let's hope we can do this again someday. Preferably on this trip.

Too Many Monkeys

Thursday, March 8
Charlestown, Nevis

Given that the island of Nevis is only thirty square miles, most of it vertical, we planned to spend very little time here before heading further north. But our guidebook claimed that the hiking is good, and that we could see monkeys (MONKEES!) if we hiked in the vicinity of one of the old sugar plantations that's been turned into a hotel. So, promising Dean a sighting of the latter if we engaged in the former, we took a cab to the Golden Rock Plantation Inn, which invites the public to hike on and around its 96-acre mountainside property.

Cab drivers line the pier in the tiny town of Charlestown like flies line roadkill, asking every passerby, with renewed hope, if he needs a ride or, more profitably, a tour. And though there were four cruise ships of varying sizes anchored off Nevis Thursday, the passengers were either still at their buffets or had contented themselves with ambling up and down the single road that makes up most of Charlestown. Our cab driver told us he'd been waiting on the pier for two hours that morning, and we were his first customers. It lends credence to the rumors we've heard from other islanders that the Caribbean cruise ships sometimes wind up costing the little islands they visit money, as tourists eat and sleep onboard, and only sometimes venture past the first row of shops on the main drag. But SOMEBODY (and we know it's not the tightwad yachties like me) must make it worth the while of these taxi drivers to stand at the pier all day and repeat, ad nauseum, "Taxi today, ma'am? Tour the island?" Even when their question is frequently ignored or sometimes met with a stony glare, as if they were panhandling. The first time I smiled at one such driver in St. John, Antigua and answered pleasantly, "No, thank you," he looked completely shocked, and spent the next thirty seconds wishing me a great day, enjoy the island, and so on.

So you can imagine how thrilled Barry, our cab driver, was when we answered his query, "Yes, please." He was very friendly, so we pumped him with questions about the cruise ships, the town, the island's history, its former sugar industry (all the plantations shut down in the 1950s when the business was no longer profitable), and other agriculture. Unlike most other islands in the area, Nevis does not have many farms. When I expressed surprise, Barry answered, "too many monkeys." Apparently, they eat much food, and destroy what they do not eat. These vervet monkeys that Dean and I were dying to see, and which adorn most Nevis souvenirs, are not indigenous to the island (as David already knew). Some short-sighted Frenchman brought them over several hundred years ago as pets, and now they run wild throughout the island. "They reap, but they do not toil" was how another driver explained to us the farmers' frustration with monkeys.

Our own frustration with the little guys came when we hiked around in the rainforest for three hours and saw nary a one. Having read that they frequently appeared on the inn's grounds in the afternoon, we treated ourselves to lunch in the beautiful mountainside garden. Still no monkeys. We gave up, got in another cab to go back to town, and had just complained to our driver that we had seen no monkeys when he brought the car to a lurching halt. "There!" he said. "Roll down your window and take a picture." Of course, dean had just disassembled the camera and put it away. But the taxi driver spotted about half a dozen monkeys for us. Really, we couldn't have missed them, as they were hanging out by the road, keeping company with the goats, which the taxi driver claims the like to do.

Downwind at Last

March 7, 2007
Charlestown, Nevis
N 17 degrees, 08.883 minutes
W 061 degrees, 37.857 minutes

Like two wayward students, Lisa and Jim have asked for extensions in turning in their guest blogs (Jim's excuse was he had to turn around and fly to Europe for work several hours after he arrived on a plane from Nevis. A likely story). Assuming our guests are, as we typing, writing diligently regarding the joys of Ting, Irish sausages, Carib beer, swimming in 79 degree water, and waking up before dawn to make the 50-mile passage from Antigua to Nevis, I'll cut to the chase.

Monday we left Antigua for a downwind (dead downwind: the wind and waves were directly on our stern) sail to Nevis. We broke out the medication early, knowing from prior experience that nothing makes one question the purpose of sailing faster than large swells hitting our stern. This time nobody got sick, but everybody needed a nap.

It is difficult to hold a compass course and keep the sails full with the wind at your back in large, following seas, but Jim was doing such an excellent job, Dean went below for a little snooze, while Lisa and I rested our eyes in the cockpit. When I opened mine again, I realized the sky behind us had turned dark gray all the way to the water. A squall was catching up to us. By the time I got my wits about me and called Dean up for a reduction in sail, the wind had already picked up another 10 knots. Heading downwind, the increase hadn't felt obvious until we tried to reef the genoa. Thank you, Hood sails, for making us a sturdy sail that two idiots can't manage to flog to pieces by letting the jib sheet go free in a squall.

We got the jib reefed, the squall passed, the wind died, and we let the jib out again. We had lots of bites on our lines, and we caught three fish, but none were keepers (two barracuda and a miniscule tuna). Fortunately, we had Dean's fabulous pizza to console us that night.

Tuesday we checked ourselves into the country of Nevis, checked our crew off of Delilah, checked out the town of Charlestown (that took about an hour), and put Lisa and Jim into a taxi for the airport. Thus deprived of company, we retired to the boat to contemplate the sunset.

Sorry, Lisa, but after five days of watching the sun set behind a hill or into clouds, we had a magnificent evening, and watched the big red ball dip into the ocean, turning green for one split second before it sunk below the horizon. Satisfied, we went below to read, and we were asleep by ten.

Only to wake up at one to the thump of a baseline from some seriously big speakers. The Double Deuce, a tiny, unassuming shack on the beach, had transformed itself to a dance club. It's happened to us a hundred times before, anchoring off various beachside communities, that we find ourselves awake and trying to ignore yet another poor imitation of Bob Marley, or worse, some garage band reggae group with cheap-but-loud equipment.

This time, after about twenty minutes of lying half awake, I realized I was enjoying whatever unfamiliar song it was that I was hearing, even though I couldn't understand a word. The song clearly had some Middle Eastern influence, and the language sounded Middle Eastern. It was hypnotizing. If it hadn't been four hours past my bedtime, I'd have been tempted to go in and find the bar.

Then the DJ came on, speaking English, letting his cheering entourage--and the entire anchorage--know that we were listening to some Lebanese club music. I hate to say it, but after a year in the Caribbean, I still don't like most reggae or Soca nearly as much as I liked that Lebanese club music. For about an hour. Then we closed all the windows and went to sleep in the saloon.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Gang Of Four

Here is a picture of Tina, Ian, and ourselves. Nice, eh?


Sunday, March 4 (Happy Birthday, Doug)
Falmouth Harbor, Antigua

I can almost smell the roast beef most likely being served at 161 Federal Street to honor Doug's entrance into his LATE forties today. I would be extremely envious, were I not still very full from last night's dinner of Irish sausages--the good kind--available every day in the local supermarket!

We have had a fairly quiet and relaxing week, anchored within swimming distance of Pigeon Beach, and enjoying the company of Kim and David on Amanzi. We also had another very late night with Amanzi, Mange Tout, and Kenneth, who is not a sailor but is in Antigua because he directs an organization that supports people who desire to row across large bodies of water. Three such boats have just landed in Antigua, having been rowed across the Atlantic this winter. Tara and Stewart, who watched the British boat entering English Harbor, had met Kenneth while attempting to buy the EPIRB from one of the rowboats. As luck would have it, not only were they able to rent the EPIRB (cheaper than buying, for sure), they also acquired, for free, a life raft and extra flares--all items they had planned to purchase before they cross the Atlantic themselves this spring, returning to England on the sailboat they bought in the Dominican Republic last winter.

We said goodbye to Mange Tout and Nancy Dawson on Thursday and prepared the boat for Lisa and Jim, who were supposed to fly in on Thursday night but wound up arriving in the predawn hours of Friday morning because of flight delays. Once again, we were up late enough to view the Southern Cross as it made its brief transit across the southern sky.

But that was nothing compared to the beautiful eclipse of the moon just after nightfall yesterday. Through binoculars, it had a 3-dimensional quality that a bright moon does not, and the reddish tinge was rather eerie. Lisa recalled the last time we witnessed such a phenomenon: October 27, 2004. Lisa knows the exact date because it was her birthday, and because the Red Sox won the World Series on that day. So, as we entertain our Boston friends, keep an eye out for John Henry, whose yacht is still docked here in Falmouth Harbor, and analyze spring training and the upcoming baseball season, we wonder, could this be an early and affirmative sign for success in 2007?

The weather has been rather rough for the past few days, but I still managed to sneak in one more dive with divemaster David on Amanzi's big, new, fast, and dry dinghy. We found the dive boat mooring off Windward Beach, where we had gone with Ian the week before, and spent close to an hour noodling along the ledge there. I saw no rays this time, but I did see an eel, a brightly-colored flounder, a turtle, some big groupers, and two enormous lobsters. It's illegal to take lobster while scuba diving, so we had to be content to look and merely imagine how those babies would taste grilled and topped with butter and lemon.

Today is our last day in Antigua. This afternoon we will check out of the country with our two new crew members before making the hike to Shirley Heights to watch the sunset. And at dawn tomorrow we will raise our anchor, raise our sails, and turn Delilah west for a 50-mile sail toward Nevis.