28. Carnival of Sorts

Greetings!  Our last post left the crew of S/V Delancey anchored in Marigot Bay, St. Martin, giving he boat a thorough cleaning in advance of a visit from Deb’s sister, Kim.  We were a little worried because, as much as we were excited to see Kim, she has in the past gotten a touch seasick while on board.  She is also allergic to cats, even above-average ones like Lucy.  So, in addition to the usual vacuuming and scrubbing (and transforming the v-berth from its usual state as a room-sized junk drawer into a habitable living space), we moved the boat to a calmer part of the bay close to town and even gave Lucy a bath.

I’m happy to report that our worries were misplaced as, quite possibly unrelated to our efforts, Kim was not adversely affected by either the motion or the cat for the entirety of her visit.  Having spent nearly a month in St. Martin over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, we were eager to show Kim around.  Hosting a visitor also allowed us to see St. Martin through fresh eyes, reengaging with sights and experiences we’d thought we’d thoroughly consumed.

  Love Hotel, Grand Case

Love Hotel, Grand Case

We strolled among the street vendors in Marigot and took the bus to Grand Case for some beach time.  We sailed up to Road Bay in Anguilla for some more beach time.  We spent one of the rolliest nights we’ve ever experienced at anchor, upon which Deb and I constantly and apologetically commented but caused nary a hiccup from Kim.  We treated (forced) Kim to a close listen of the “Hamilton” cast recording.

  Outside Dad’s Beach Bar, Road Bay, Anguilla.  No, I don’t know why I’m doing the Napoleon thing.

Outside Dad’s Beach Bar, Road Bay, Anguilla.  No, I don’t know why I’m doing the Napoleon thing.

Back from Anguilla, we took a ferry from Marigot for a day trip to St. Barts, where we wandered the posh streets of Gustavia (where “fancy” meets “schmantcy”) and squeezed in some more beach time.

  A hot hike up to one of Gustavia’s three forts, overlooking Shell Beach (where we would shortly be cooling off).

A hot hike up to one of Gustavia’s three forts, overlooking Shell Beach (where we would shortly be cooling off).

We finished the week deeply impressed with the ease with which Kim slipped into boat life.  Climbing in and out of the dinghy, learning how to pump the toilet, conserving water, merely existing in a cigar-box-sized space with two other humans and a cat; these can be a challenge for folks used to a house, with its square rooms and running water.  None of this phased Kim in the least.  We think she even enjoyed her visit.  We know we did.

Shortly after packing Kim off in an airport taxi, we got down to the real reason for visiting St. Martin:  provisioning!  I’ve mentioned it before, but the grocery stores in the French islands put the other islands to shame.  This is especially true in Marigot, where, in addition to fresh fruit and produce, the Super U is stocked with everything you associate with French cuisine, all within walking distance from the dinghy dock.

  Adieu Super U.  We'll miss you.

Adieu Super U.  We'll miss you.

Naturally, we packed with fridge with paté and cheese.  We purchased the last crusty baguettes we’d see for a while.  Most importantly, we loaded up on French wine!  With each trip to the store, we’d trundle back a half-dozen very low-priced bottles.  We’ve now got about 50 bottles of the stuff swaddled in bubble wrap and tucked into every corner of the boat.  Make that 49 bottles.

  Maybe we should make one more trip.

Maybe we should make one more trip.

And then, with both crannies and nooks overflowing, it was time to go.  The forecast called for a good weather window to make the 80-mile Anegada Passage to the British Virgin Islands.  80 miles takes S/V Delancey about 16 hours, too long a passage to make in daylight, so we left at 5pm in order to arrive in Virgin Gorda the following morning.

  Literally sailing off into the sunset

Literally sailing off into the sunset

Much like the eastbound trip last December, the westbound passage was a pleasantly uneventful motor sail, this time punctuated by periods of actual sailing.  We spent a day readjusting our internal clocks in Virgin Gorda (nobody really sleeps on a single overnight passage) before heading down Sir Francis Drake Channel to take a mooring in The Bight (it’s a bay) at Norman Island and celebrate our wedding anniversary.

Eighteen years earlier we’d gotten married in New York City.  Two days after the wedding, we flew to the BVIs where, with barely a scintilla of sailing experience, we chartered a sailboat for our honeymoon.  The first evening of our honeymoon, our first night ever aboard a sailboat, was spent in The Bight.  We could never have imagined that we’d be back here, 18 years later, aboard a boat of our own.

  The Bight, Norman Island, BVI

The Bight, Norman Island, BVI

Unfortunately, the weather chose to not play along with our nostalgic idyll, insisting on an overcast week with blustery squalls that had us turning on daytime running lights to maintain visibility and made us feel for the current charters who’d been looking forward to a sunny sailing vacation.  Unencouraged to linger, we cleared out of the BVI and made our damp way to the US Virgin Islands.

We’d spent the previous summer hurricane season living and working in St. Thomas and this very much felt like a return home.  After clearing in at St. John, we elected to treat ourselves to a slip, from which we could visit friends and haunts, get my hair cut (every six months, whether I need it or not), as well as call on our network of local service folk to address some niggling boat issues.

  Safe and sound in Compass Point Marina

Safe and sound in Compass Point Marina

  Urban chickens in Red Hook, St. Thomas

Urban chickens in Red Hook, St. Thomas

  Our favorite restaurant,  S.O.S. Coffee & Bar.   Order the pork belly taco.  Tell Gracie what alcohol you want and let her make up a cocktail.  You’ll be happier for it.

Our favorite restaurant, S.O.S. Coffee & Bar.  Order the pork belly taco.  Tell Gracie what alcohol you want and let her make up a cocktail.  You’ll be happier for it.

To our surprise and delight, our visit just happened to coincide with St. Thomas Carnival.  Every island nation in the Caribbean has Carnival, all at different times of the year.  All throughout this journey, we’ve managed to miss Carnival on every island we’ve visited, often by mere days.  Now that both S/V Delancey and St. Thomas Carnival were in the same place at the same time, we were determined to not miss it.  Our first day, we took the safari bus into Charlotte Amalie for the Food Festival where we walked among the vendors and listened to the organizers make speeches congratulating each other.

  St. Thomas Carnival Food Festival

St. Thomas Carnival Food Festival

  Deb samples the honey.

Deb samples the honey.

  Apparently the national anthem is playing a bit too loud.

Apparently the national anthem is playing a bit too loud.

We left the cost and comfort of the marina to anchor the boat in Charlotte Amalie harbor for the last day of Carnival and the Adults’ Parade (not to be confused with the Children’s Parade, held the day before).  The parade, which wends through the length of Charlotte Amalie along its main street, began at 10am and was only winding up at 8:30pm.  We tucked into the crowd near the Governor’s reviewing stand, where each crew stopped to put on their best show.

  Beauty queen

Beauty queen

  Do not ask me what's happening here.

Do not ask me what's happening here.

After a bit we started walking west, toward the back of the parade.  Although the weather remained gloomy, the energy stayed high among the crews, each led by a semi-trailer rig carrying an entire rock band, as they readied themselves for their big moment. 

Things started to become less structured the further we walked toward the end of the parade.  The bands still pumped out frenetic music from concert-hall sound systems, but the becostumed revelers knew it would be hours before they would be putting on their show, so they conserved their energy taking selfies and staying hydrated.

Happily, every tenth float was a rolling bar.

The parade route ended in a large square lined with knocked-up stalls with food and drink vendors.  We sampled the fare and enjoyed the casual, festive vibe, finally settling on some excellent barbeque chicken to take home.

Once back on board, we enjoyed our chicken dinner while watching the closing fireworks over the harbor.

All in all it was a pretty good cap on our Caribbean adventure.  And it is a cap, of sorts.  For a while now, we’ve been avoiding thinking about the remaining legs between Puerto Rico and the US east coast.  We aren’t particularly interested in repeating the passages or destinations along this route and have been looking into alternatives.  We considered blowing through in one or two long passages, but we didn’t want to do it without additional crew, or at least a buddy boat.  (In point of fact, we just didn’t want to do it.)  After a bit of hand wringing, we decided the stress wasn’t worth it and hired a delivery captain.

Next week, our captain and his crew arrive on St. Thomas and Deb, Pete, and Lucy will fly to Florida where we’ll meet the boat in Stuart about eight days later.  Turns out there’s a limit to our salt content.

Whatever the mode of transportation, leaving St. Thomas is one of the more difficult things we’ve faced on this trip.  We’ve come to know the island enough to feel we belong.  We have opinions about restaurants.  We’ve made good friends.  I’m sure we’ll be back.  (We’ve also come to put on sweaters in anything under 82 degrees.)

This isn’t the end to our little odyssey, just the Caribbean portion.  When we left NYC in the fall of 2015, it was cold and rainy and, chasing the warm, we blew through Chesapeake Bay like it was toxic.  We plan to spend more time there on our way back, visiting family and friends and poking our bow into what looks to be an infinity of anchorages.  We’ll keep you posted.