Home » BLOG » under way

Tag: under way

Nevis to Guadeloupe: Spinner Dolphins and Rainbows


It was such a short hop over to Nevis once we left St. Kitts. The hillsides and black sand beaches were breathtaking at Pinney’s Beach.

We took the dinghy around the point for a little snorkeling near the rocky points. The water wasn’t very clear that day so we headed back toward where we were anchored and snorkeled off the beach near some scattered coral heads. Peter got a little too close and accidentally poked himself on an urchin. NO FUN!

Our diving adventures were cut short, but we still enjoyed the scenery.

nevis-2 nevis-3 nevis-4 nevis-5 nevis-6 nevis-7 nevis-8 nevis-9

Unfortunately we left our credit card at Salt Plage back on St. Kitts so we had to turn back and get it the next day. The management was incredibly helpful and even bought us a drink for our inconveniences. It’s not so easy to just cancel a credit card and have a new one mailed out when we live on a boat with no mailing address. Oh well. It was an easy sail and it only set us back one day.

As we set out for Guadeloupe, a small pod of spinner dolphins came out to play as we passed by Nevis around dinnertime….

nevis to guadaloupe-1 nevis to guadaloupe-2 nevis to guadaloupe-3 nevis to guadaloupe-4

We left St. Kitts at 5:45pm on July 7th. Our night passage started off terribly uncomfortable when we made the mistake of not getting far enough off shore. The shoals south of Nevis stirred up the sea in a violent way and had us considering turning around to wait for settled weather.  Our friends Dustin and Courtney were planning to leave Nevis not long after us and we later heard they took a wave on the flybridge of Captiva, a 75′ Catamaran, on that very same passage! We persevered, wearily arriving at Deshaies, Guadeloupe at 10:15 am just in time to see a beautiful rainbow above our sistership, Lunacy.

We were finally a good distance down the island chain!

guadaloupe-3 guadaloupe-4 guadaloupe-5 guadaloupe-6

We’re currently in Grenada wrapping up Hurricane Season and preparing to sail back north to the Virgin Islands… stay tuned for more adventures!

The OH-MY-GOD-A (Anegada) Passage

spanish town-4

6.26.14 – Sailing away from Virgin Gorda was a bittersweet moment. The islands we called home for an entire month slowly disappeared into a fuzzy haze on the horizon. The Saharan Dust layer was keeping the storms at bay as we set out for what seemed to be a beautiful day at sea.

Our new friends on Four Coconuts were 3 nautical miles behind us. We kept in radio contact checking in with each other every few hours, though most of the time we were out of sight. Just a few miles off shore, a dreadful feeling of uneasiness began to form in the pit of our stomachs. The waves got bigger and the fetch got shorter. We immediately recalled our first encounter with the Caribbean 2-step back along the Southern shores of Puerto Rico. We knew it would only get worse before it got better.

On a course 40-degrees Southwest to Saba we entered what is notoriously called the “OH-MY-GOD-A” (Anegada) Passage. It’s a straight in the Caribbean with some depths reaching more than 6,000 feet. Crazy currents flow through from the Atlantic as they feed into the Caribbean Sea and it’s not uncommon for waves to be slamming against the hull from three different directions.

“It felt as if we were riding a mechanical bull in a big blue pen”

It felt as if we were riding a mechanical bull in a big blue pen, slowly rocking forward followed by a quick jerk to the side in a wicked attempt to throw us from every spot we sat in. Around and around and up and down. The engine rumbled as the bull bucked on. This was the first time I had ever really felt seasick, even with medication. Seas were only 3-5′ but very disorganized.

The sails were tight to the wind, 18 knots off our port bow. Spending the last month in the BVIs definitely softened us a bit after playing in the sun and taking easy hour long sails between the islands, dinghy in tow and snorkel gear in hand.

5 foot seas aren’t even considered rough weather. Theyre just uncomfortable – especially on a 24 hour beat to Windward. Our rough passages from the Bahamas South, across the Thorny Path to Windward and the Puerto Rico pummeling all seemed so long ago. In reality it had only been 5 months since we left the dock in Florida starting out on this journey with absolutely zero sailing experience at all.

Heeled over and bucking back and forth, we calmly remember how green Peter and I are and how much more this boat can take than us. She’s a strong vessel built to cross oceans. By that point we wouldn’t have been able to remember that if we had taped it to eachother’s foreheads.

It was a terrible 30 hour long passage. We tacked up over the shoals near Saba labeled “TO BE AVOIDED” then crossed back down to the leeward side of the massive rock. Four Coconuts tried to warn us of the nasty wind gusts shearing off the island, but we couldn’t make out what they were saying on the radio. Suddenly, a blast of 35 knots hit us under full sail. Nothing like a burst of adrenaline…

Just after passing Saba, Peter insisted on putting the fishing lines out. “REALLY?” I grumbled. We were both exhausted and darkness was fast approaching. Our destination of a hopefully calm anchorage in Sint Eustatius (or Statia) was still 15 nm away. Any delays with fishing would surely put us there after dark.

Not 20 minutes later, ZINNNNNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGGG!!! Peter hooked his first billfish!! A beautiful sailfish appeared on the surface as he fought the line. I quickly began to slow down the boat, check the charts, set the autopilot and grab the camera. It was a quick fight. As he reached down and grabbed the leader line to release it, the sailfish shook off before I could snap any more photos. Enough excitement for one day, we thought.


Still getting beat up by the Caribbean 2-step, we tacked all the way to Statia. Motorsailing as best we could, it still wasn’t enough to get us there before dark. 10 pm we finally neared Gallows Bai. Our radar screen warned us of the mooring field full of tankers. Their lights were deceiving and it helped to have a visual on each of them using AIS and radar.

Little did we know, there were dozens of steel oil drums floating amidst the tankers, invisible in the dark. These are mammoth sized mooring balls for the big ships and they float at water level, undetectable by radar. Even at 5 knots, it would be like hitting a shipping container if we accidentally ran into one. After safely making our way past the tankers we approached a small little anchorage toward the far end of town. We used our spotlight and weaved between some sleeping sailboats as we searched for an open mooring ball and picked one up on the first try.

Happy to be tied up, we had to accept the fact that our 30-hour passage wasn’t over. The anchorage was terribly rolly and just as uncomfortable as the passage itself. NOT what you want to experience after trying to hold your cookies in for hours on end. The dogs were happy to have a potty break and eat dinner. Peter and I managed to wolf down some cheese  and crackers before going to bed. We left the mizzen sail up for stability, which helped dramatically. Saba would have been more exposed to the ocean swell so even though our conditions were less than desireable, they could have been much worse.

statia-9 statia-10 statia-11statia-13

We spent Friday night and Saturday night on a ball and did not drop the dinghy to go to shore. We flew the Q flag and took our chances. Supposedly, moorings are $10/night on the honor system. You go pay on shore. Maybe it was because of the weekend, but no one came out to greet us so we didn’t pay. We were too tired to launch the dinghy when we didn’t plan on staying here more than a day.

Four Coconuts was feeling much more ambitious than us and took their kids on a hike to the top of the crater. Their boat is the catamaran with red sail covers in the photo, just to the left of us.


Though we didn’t go exploring on land, we did get a glimpse of the historic beauty on this quaint little island.

statia-12statia-5statia-1 statia-6

To the right of the old war cannons is a dead palm tree. Is it just me… or does it look like a native tribe member standing up on the wall???


Our first sighting of island goats…


How amazingly peaceful would it be to live here??


We’re currently catching up on projects and waiting out the rest of Hurricane Season down in Grenada.

Stay tuned to read about our scariest moment yet!!

Beating to Wind: The Southern Coast of Puerto Rico


Our perfect Mona Passage crossing landed us on the Southern coast of Puerto Rico, in La Parguera, around 8am the morning of May 6th. We spent two nights resting at anchor near the mangroves just outside the town.

We didn’t find La Parguera to be “cruiser friendly” at all. There was no dinghy dock but a few of the local shops on the water let us tie up to their docks while we took a look around. On a second trip to shore, we found it was much easier and more welcoming to buzz up to the deserted boat ramp and tie up to the mangroves wading in to shore. No one was there to give us funny looks and it was off the beaten path which also seemed a bit safer. The town felt dirty, and not much nicer than some of the places we saw in the DR. We hoped to find some cheap authentic and tasty Puerto Rican food but our tastebuds were completely underwhelmed. Other cruisers we met along the way told us they loved La Parguera… maybe they visited other parts of town?

The remainder of our time here was spent resting on the boat. There was much sleep to catch up on after the last week of night crossings. It’s amazing how turned around your body can get sleeping during the day and staying up all night, then trying to switch back to nighttime sleeping.

On the second night, we finally began to feel a little more adventurous and took the dinghy two miles east to the Bioluminescence Bay as recommended by several locals and our Active Captain overlay in our Garmin App. As the darkness surrounded us, we sat and waited. The water was still and all was quiet. We were the only ones there. Soon, splashing our hands in the water generated small glowing streaks of blue light. We zipped in circles around the bay while huge balls of light shot out from behind the dinghy like fireballs in Super Mario Brothers. It was a pretty cool sight to see. About an hour later, we cruised back to our boat between the mangrove islands following the tracks on our iPhone Garmin app. The charts aren’t completely accurate here, placing safe water where shoals and islands reside, but we trusted our tracks in the pitch black.

A good habit to get into when arriving in a new anchorage is to stop by and meet the neighbors. We like to meet other cruisers anchored nearby and check in to see if they have any local knowledge – good, bad or otherwise. SV Rainbow was the only boat there with us. We had heard of Mark and Tina in the news several months back after they were brutally attacked on Rainbow down island. Tina was away from the boat at the time but we got to talk to Mark for awhile. The cruising community is a small world and the farther we travel the more we are meeting people with mutual friends. We learn so much from stories we hear and the experiences of others. Mark had some great tips for us on a few of the places we planned on visiting.

Mark also had a current weather report and our magic window appeared to hold up for just one more day before turning nasty. We pulled up anchor that afternoon, hoping to sweep under the nearly non-existent Puerto-Rican night lees. The wind and waves we faced on the Southern Coast of Puerto Rico were just as rough as the North Coast of the DR. The current swept us back while our 80hp Ford Lehman engine chugged along beating straight into the wind. We tacked off shore and back in again several times trying to make forward progress.

We motor-sailed our little hearts out. It was a last minute decision to skip Ponce and push on for Salinas. We had read such bad reviews about the anchorage at Ponce and after our less than enjoyable experience at La Parguera, we opted for a warm welcome in a “cruiser friendly” and safe anchorage. The journey there was rough, but we made it. We watched another gorgeous sunrise and took down the sails in the early hours of the morning. We both had a huge sigh of relief as we motored slowly into the harbor where the seas instantly turned to glass. We knew we’d be safe when the winds picked up in just a few short hours.

Stay tuned for a few highlights from our time in Salinas! We’re in St. Lucia now and have so much to share with you about all our adventures!!



The Mona Passage


After the strange happenings in Bahia Escocesa, we motored away from the shores of the Dominican Republic past Cabo Cabron and took turns resting throughout the night. The sun came up and the rare weather window we had been carefully monitoring held steady with 2-3′ waves and 5-10 knots of wind in the Mona, just as predicted. We trolled the fishing lines and barbequed lunch on the aft deck enjoying our most pleasant passage yet.

Van Sant’s guide recommended staying North of the Mona Passage, far away from the treacherous Hourglass Shoals and afternoon storm cells gaining strength from Puerto Rico’s coast and that’s just what we did. Of course the wind is always on the nose, no matter which direction we are going, so we motorsailed across The Mona Passage as quickly as we could before our golden window collapsed.


Peter hooked a good-sized Sierra Mackerel, but unfortunately that’s all the fish gods gave us between the DR and Puerto Rico. We still had plenty of fish in our freezer so this one was all for the dogs. We supplement their dry food whenever we can and they are always happy to get a hearty portion of raw fish in their bowls.


We approached the shores of Puerto Rico before the sun came up the morning of May 6th and had made way better time than anticipated. Still taking advantage of the weak night lees of the West Coast of Puerto Rico, we continued South by East before arriving at La Parguera around 8am. Just outside the little town, we anchored near the mangroves and fell fast asleep. After 3 months at sea, we were finally back in US Territory!!


Thanks for reading!! Stay tuned for pictures and stories of how we spent almost the entire month of May in Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgins, then all of June in the BVI!! We are currently on our way south to Grenada for the remainder of Hurricane Season… Leave us a comment, we’d love to hear from you!!!

Salty Myths and Secret Lore: The Haunting of Bahia Escocesa

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


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.


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.


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…


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.


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!!