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I Wish I Was There Tonight… On Jost Van Dyke

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In the evening hours of May 24th, Peter, my Mom and I sat in the cockpit watching the planes come in over St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. We had anchored in Brewer’s Bay, just a short distance from the airport near Charlotte Amalie. The next afternoon my Grandmother was scheduled to arrive to spend a little over a week with us on Mary Christine.

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By this time, Mom was beside herself with excitement to finally be back in the Virgin Islands. Her last visit was in 2006 when she left her heart and a piece of her soul on Jost Van Dyke. Jeanne, my Grandmother and Mom’s Mom, had never traveled this far before and was thrilled to earn her very first passport stamp!  With three generations aboard, it would surely be a trip to remember.

My 31st birthday was May 26th and what better way to celebrate than to spend it on Jost Van Dyke with family?!! After picking up Bean at the airport, we immediately set sail for an overnight stop in Hawksnest Bay, St. John. (I couldn’t say Jeanne when I was little and now everyone calls her Bean. The name has stuck through all these years!) The morning of my birthday we sailed north to Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke.  It was a gorgeous sail with perfect winds. The Virgin Islands are truly spectactular – unlike anything we’ve seen on our journey so far. The way the islands are nestled together, it makes for some pretty perfect cruising grounds.

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With little room to anchor, we picked up a mooring ball toward the back of the mooring field. All four of us could hear Kenny Chesney singing a little song called Somewhere In The Sun inside our heads,

“Oh I wish I was there tonight on Jost Van Dyke
Sipping on some Foxy’s Firewater rum
Or kickin’ back with Ivan
With all my friends down in the islands
Wouldn’t take much for me to up and run
To another life somewhere in the sun”

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We made dinner reservations at Foxy’s for later that night. Luckily, it was a Monday and fairly quiet. Foxy’s can definitely get rowdy!

Dinner was outstanding and the ambiance was perfect. Just a quiet night with a little Caribbean Breeze… My kind of birthday!! :)

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Tuesday 5.27 we took a short dinghy ride over to White Bay, BVI. Mom was absolutely GLOWING!!! Happiness was spilling out of her like I’ve never seen before. The second she got in the water, it was as if she was HOME. I felt like she was welcoming us to the place where she belongs… Can you feel it too?

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Kickin’ back with Ivan…

Enjoy these photos of Ivan’s White Bay Campground and Stress Free Bar before it was torn down this summer. This famous beach bar is currently being rebuilt due to foundation damage from a rain storm 10 years ago! Rumor has it, Ivan’s will be back up and running this November, just in time for our return to JVD!! While most of the memories will be put back up, we’re sure Ivan will need lots of help with new decorations of seashells, t-shirts and autographs from all his visitors.

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What’s your favorite spot in the Virgin Islands???

Stay tuned for lots more photos of the time we spent in BVI! We are currently relaxing down in Grenada for the remainder of Hurricane Season. If you’re near Mt. Hartman Bay/Secret Harbor, come say hi!!!

Salty Myths and Secret Lore: The Haunting of Bahia Escocesa

SALTY MYTHS AND SECRET LORE… stories we’ve heard, and tales galore…

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The morning of May 4th I gazed in awe from inside the cockpit as the sun rose over the horizon with golden rays of light splashing across the surface of the water. Still out of the north, the Atlantic swell gently pushed against our hull as we motorsailed 55 nm east across Bahia Escocesa towards Playa El Valle (or what Van Sant calls “Puerto Escondido”). The deep fjord-like hillsides seemed to engulf our tiny boat with each turn of the propeller. The water was deep so we made our way in as close to the beach as we could get. It was overwhelmingly peaceful and secluded inside this quiet anchorage.

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To our port, in the middle of the rich green hillside, small flames blazed around huge brown holes that were recently burned away. Natural or planned, we won’t know for sure. It’s hard to believe such a remote village would organize any planned burning in an area like this, however, after a little research I found a website that infers that there are lots for sale here with future development of roads and bridges. The site looks old and we all know that many development plans often fall through. It would be a shame to see this beautiful and secluded area disappear.

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Suddenly, Peter noticed a small herd of cattle roaming free along the base of the valley. They strolled along what looked to be their own private beach. Our stay in Escondido was a little rolly but very relaxing and peaceful. If we weren’t on schedule to cross the Mona Passage, we would have enjoyed spending some time in this wonderfully secluded anchorage.

We expected local officials to come visit our boat, but they never did. Maybe they don’t work on Sundays…

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8pm flashed on the iPhone as the alarm blared through the cabin letting us know we were finally ready to leave our last anchorage of the Dominican Republic. We were officially checked out of Luperon and still located west of Samana so our despacho still held true. Puerto Rico was the next stop and there would be no more officials chasing us down in the dark of night to inspect our papers.

Every morning that week we had tuned in to Chris Parker on the SSB for validation that the weather window for May 4th, 5th and 6th was still holding open. The forecast called for 2-3′ seas and 5-10 knot winds across the dreaded Mona Passage. A forecast like that for the Mona does not come often and we knew this was our best chance. The timing was perfect. Although we carried only 3 meager months of sailing experience, we were about to depart across a notoriously treacherous passage, known to be the most dangerous stretch in all of the Caribbean, with conditions that most sailors in this area wait weeks for.

The familiar darkness surrounded us. Peter called out that the anchor was free and I slowly steered toward our course using only the compass and radar. I had gotten a good look at our surroundings in the daylight and felt confident I could get us moving in the right direction with the absence of the light of the moon. Our GPS is useless until there is enough forward momentum to figure out which direction the boat is moving.

After only a few hundred feet I noticed a small blip on the radar overlay directly in the path of our recommended route. I shouted out to Peter on the stern where he was washing his hands after guiding in our rusty anchor chain, “I think there’s a boat in front of us!” I turned 30-degrees to port as Peter joined me in the cockpit to take a look at what I saw. The blip appeared on the screen again, directly off our bow. I turned back to starboard 30-degrees. Still there.

“Maybe it’s a fishing boat,” Peter whispered. We’ve seen local fishermen row around setting nets in the late evening hours close to shore. Their old wooden boats bear no navigation lights and often no motors.

We eased off the engine and coasted for a minute or two. Repeated taps on the chartplotter screen indicated the blip was ALWAYS .32 or .33 nm in front of us, dead center off the bow. We sped back up to cruising speed only to find the blip sped up too.

Those that know Peter know he has impeccable vision. His eagle eyes can spot birds working over the ocean miles away. His fish eyes can spot and identify anything that moves within 100′ while swimming underwater. His night-vision is unreal. If anyone could see what was in front of us, it was Peter. He quickly grabbed the spotlight and made his way up to the bow. He hoped to see a glow, splash, reflection or something… instead he saw nothing but blackness.

With each rotation of the radar, the blip kept changing shapes, like a cloud in the sky on a sunny day. It definitely wasn’t waves. Waves have a distinct way of scattering around the boat on the screen and never reappear in the exact same place again. It wasn’t a water spout. The skies were clear and littered with stars. It wasn’t the shore. The radar signature showed features of the coastline to our starboard that were consistent with the graphics on the chartplotter. We wracked our brains trying to think of what else would cause a signature like that.

Before leaving the dock back in Florida we installed a High Definition Garmin Radar system with an 18″ dome mounted on our mizzen mast. It can pick up the smallest of objects including birds, navigational markers, mooring balls, waves and squalls. It shows other boats so accurately we can make out the stern and bow. The gain can be adjusted to filter out sensitivity as well.

What we saw on the radar that night was beyond eerie, bordering supernatural.

Following Van Sant’s guide, we “motored tight against the cliffs in the flat calm” exiting the anchorage and heading East. Is it a coincidence that it’s at this exact part of the guide that he tells how this bay is also named “the Scots Woman” and a woman supposedly haunts the bay? He goes on to say, “on different occasions I’ve talked with sober and mature merchant seamen who told me they have heard the crying of a woman while crossing the bay at night.” He then reports that he logged a peculiar melancholy during his first trip across the bay, years before learning of the haunting.

There is no other way to explain the feeling that Peter and I had that night, other than we felt as if the tiny blip on our radar screen was leading us out of Bahia Escocesa. It stayed with us for the entire length of the Eastern headland until we rounded Cabo Cabron, then vanishing from our screen as quickly as it had appeared.

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For ages, salty sailors have told stories of strange happenings out at sea. Though intrigued by the mysteries of those that have gone before us, the stories we tell here are our own. What do you think might have caused the eerie radar signature we saw? Please leave a comment your thoughts about our experience!!

Dog Leashes For Beaches

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Our beach adventures with Betsy and Gunner are sponsored by Softlines, Inc.!

Softlines outfitted us with two extra long floating leashes for Betsy and Gunner. The leash itself is made of polypropylene and FLOATS behind them tangle-free as they swim. A regular leash would sink to the bottom and could potentially get tangled around their legs taking the paddle out of ‘doggy paddle’!! The material is mildew and rot resistant, sheds water easily and is very lightweight and easy to store.

The hardware is made of quality stainless steel to stand up to the harsh salt water. It’s often hard to tell what quality of stainless steel our old leashes are made with until we expose them to the ocean. Gunner wears a pinch collar when going for walks on shore and that has begun to rust. We have several other old leashes that have started to disintegrate and are not doing well now that we live on a boat. The spring snap hardware on our Dog Leashes for Beaches, however, is still looking shiny and new after months at sea.

‘Dog Leashes for Beaches’ come in 10 different lengths from 1′-50′ with custom lengths available but we chose 20′ to give our dogs plenty of room to play around with.

Diameters available are 1/4″, 3/8″, 1/2″ and 5/8″. We selected 3/8″ so as to not be too big or too small. It’s easy to hold onto and thick enough to see easily in the water.

There are a ton of different colors to choose from, all UV resistant and colorfast. To match some of our other doggy gear we got Betsy a Hot Pink leash and Gunner a Pacific Blue one!

Softlines offers free custom labeling so each leash has Betsy and Gunner’s names on them with our website listed :)

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We are traveling to new beaches in different countries all the time. While it would be so great to just let the dogs run free, we like to go exploring with leashes on for the first trip to each new shore to make sure there are no lurking dangers that Betsy and Gunner could get into.

Betsy doesn’t stray far. She prefers to sprint up and down the sandy stretches of paradise always coming right back to us. She stays out of trouble and doesn’t eat stinky dead creatures on the beach like her brother.

Gunner on the other hand is always looking for trouble. As soon as we unhook his leash he bee-lines it to the perimeter of wherever we are and begins his patrol. With his nose to the ground he inspects every inch of land, hunting for anything that moves or anything that smells like food. If the beach disappears into the island brush, he heads directly into the thick of it with no regard for safe passage or thorn-free footing. Heaven forbid he sees a small creature, for his hunting instincts kick into full effect and he’s long gone.

In dog parks back home Gunner had no interest in playing with other dogs. He preferred to go exploring on his perimeter checks solo. It’s SO much easier to just keep him on a leash at all times if there’s any chance he could get too far away. The Dog Leashes for Beaches are great for Gunner because we can hold onto the leash from a distance and still let him swim around wherever he wants to go. He can explore on the beach without being right next to us and we’re still able to rein him back in if needed.

Betsy’s floating leash is great for her too. Sometimes she decides she wants to go back to shore before the rest of us so the extra 20′ of reach is helpful to grab onto before she gets too far away. One afternoon we took a family swim off of Sand Dollar Beach in George Town Bahamas and Betsy wasn’t too sure about staying out away from shore so long. She’s an excellent swimmer but she likes to swim TO something, and then swim TO something else. Gunner will do laps in the water with no particular direction in mind at all. Since we were swimming along side the coast it was easy to grab the end of Betsy’s leash floating conveniently behind her to keep her out by us.

We have really enjoyed discovering products and services that help make our adventurous lives safer and easier for both us and the dogs. Dog Leashes for Beaches have been a wonderful addition to our equipment inventory. We feel much more at ease now taking the dogs to shore with equipment that was designed specifically for helping keep our dogs safe in the water and on the beach. As we travel to far off lands, Gunner and Betsy will always be safely within reach :)

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Softlines, Inc. carries many other great products for dogs, boats, horses, etc. Be sure to check out their website!

IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING… We are PROUD to share these awesome products and services with our readers. There are so many different solutions out there for everything we could possibly need, but these are the solutions that work for us.

We gladly accept discounts or samples when a company feels generous enough to support our cause. In return we support the manufacturer or local service by sharing their links and writing about our experience with them. We only seek out sponsorship and affiliate programs from products and services we actually WANT to use and likewise only accept offers for products or services that we WILL use.

We are not paid for any reviews we write or feedback we provide. We simply like to spread the word and share great experiences we have had that could also bring joy to others.

**If you’re in the market for any of our favorite products, please consider using one of our Amazon Affiliate product links. Just access Amazon by clicking through from the right-hand sidebar on our website first and any subsequent products you search for during that same internet session will help us out when you complete your purchase. It’s no additional cost to you and puts a small percentage in our cruising kitty. We appreciate your support!

Photo Recap of our time in George Town

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every day sea life
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entrance to Lake Victoria where the dinghy dock is
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Prime Island Meats for provisioning
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After a trip to Exuma Markets
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Crystal Clear at Sand Dollar Beach
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We found Sand Dollars at San Dollar Beach
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Like bath water
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View from Chat n Chill at Volleyball Beach
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This is what it looks like driving to the store
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Directional signage Bahamas style
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The highway
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By 2:00 they are out of everything! Popular with the locals
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Braving the rain coming back from town
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A wet ride
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Underwater Date for bottom cleaning day
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Fish Fry Village
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We heard Shirley’s is the best at Fish Fry Village
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We’re covered here ;)
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Friends Patti and Dave on SV Dream Ketcher (whitby 42)
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Friends Bob and Ellen on Shibumi – We crossed the Gulf Stream with them and saw them all through the Exumas
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Betsy is waiting on weather to leave the Bahamas and head to the DR
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Morning dive on the inside of the reefs

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Crystal Clear at Sand Dollar Beach

At the southern most end of San Dollar Beach on Stocking Island lies a shallow sand bar with crystal clear water. At low tide it’s a giant bathtub. Grab a mask and snorkel to float along on your belly. Picture perfect for a relaxing afternoon floating in paradise! On the other side is a drop off into the harbor for the more adventurous divers. One of the many beautiful things to see in George Town…

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