Having resolved, by husband/wife summit (where the latter had more votes), to ride out the pandemic in our home country, we spent the morning of March 23 topping off fuel and water, provisioning, spending our last EC $100 on lunch at the Victory Restaurant (take out only nowadays), and having a final dip in the marina pool. Our original plan was to vacate the slip by 1300 to avoid another day’s rental fee, anchor off of nearby Grande Anse beach until 2000, at which time we would set sail for St. Croix. Passage planning is more art than science, but we figured if we left then and averaged 7 knots, we’d make landfall shortly after sunrise March 26.
We cast off our dock lines around 1400, but once clear of the harbor, decided the conditions were so good, it would be a shame to lie at anchor when we could be getting closer to home. The winds were 15-20 out of the east, we were headed NNW, a perfect beam reach, which is the fastest point of sail for our boat. There was also over a knot of current going in our direction, and “Nor’easter” took off like a scalded cat, making over 8 knots for the rest of the day. Our GPS/Plotter was telling us we could arrive as early as 1400 March 24. Jamie was delighted knowing she’d spend only two instead of three nights at sea.
My wife has sailed with me throughout the Great Lakes, Caribbean (aboard bare-boat charters), and between Newport Beach and Catalina Island over our 33 years together. However, she has been adamant about never doing an overnight passage with me for several reasons. First, she gets seasick if the conditions are rough, and second, she doesn’t think she has the skills necessary to stand a watch by herself, in spite of the fact that she’s probably sailed over 2,000 miles with me over the years. I have often told her that if she tried a short passage just one time, she might find she likes it, but this discussion generally went nowhere until Grenada closed its airport, and “Nor’easter” was the only way out.
Jamie has been added to the “Sailingnoreaster.com” blog, and will recount this adventure in detail, but I will say that she surprised us both at how well she fared. The wind was relatively steady both in force and direction, so the autopilot could be set to steer the boat to a set wind angle, obviating having to constantly adjust the sails. With Jamie on deck, I was able to grab a few hours of sleep here and there, and by averaging between 7 and 8 knots for the entire 380 NM trip, we arrived St. Croix just before sunset March 25, only 54 hours after leaving Grenada.
We had reserved a slip at St. Croix Marine Center, which was closed by the time we entered Gallows Bay, so we dropped the anchor and called Customs, as we heard they may be closing borders to everyone the next day. They advised me to check in online at ROAM, the Homeland Security App, which I downloaded and completed. The program accepted my submission, gave me a reference number, and said my application was being reviewed by a Customs officer. Having done all I could, we cooked a delicious dinner and had a wonderful 9 hours of sleep in tranquil waters.
The next morning, after docking at the Marine Center, I called Customs again, but they could not find my online application. I was put on hold several times while the agent searched his database, and before he got back to me the third time, I saw my application had been approved on ROAM. The agent took me off hold, I told him we were approved, and he said Customs officers would be at my boat shortly. They arrived before he hung up the phone, informed us that we were all set, and that we had no restrictions if we wanted to cruise the U.S. Virgin Islands. It felt good to be back in home waters.
After one day and two nights in the marina, where we were able to plug into 110V AC shore power for the first time since leaving San Diego, we headed north for St. John’s, got a mooring in Caneel Bay, and haven’t moved since. The water is crystal clear, air temperature in the mid-to-high 70’s, and a nice breeze blows most of the time. Last night we took our dinghy to nearby Francis Bay, where we swapped cruising horror stories with our fellow Sandusky Yacht Club sailors Brian and Polly Boissenault aboard their 62’ sloop, “Jolie.” There is a well-stocked grocery store in nearby Cruz Bay, several beaches are within swimming distance (at least for Jamie) of our boat, and we are fairly content to stay in this area until either hurricane season forces us north, or the pandemic passes, whichever comes first.
While our plans to spend months cruising Martinique, Dominica, Guadalupe, Antigua, and St. Martin have been dashed, we are thankful to be in this idyllic location where life is essentially normal. Our only close contact is with each other, except when we have to buy groceries, but the stores have rules keeping people as far apart as practicable. It would surprise me if CV were to spread in this area, and so far, there have been just isolated cases. Our decision to leave Grenada looks like the right one thus far, but if I can’t fly in crew to take the boat north before hurricane season, Jamie has stated in no uncertain terms that she is NOT the default crew for that trip. We will cross that bridge when we get to it.