Mayaguana, Bahamas

May 11 to 12

As the passage to Mayaguana was expected to be about 15 hours, we docked overnight on the fuel dock and were up at the crack of dawn to navigate our way out of the narrow passage at Turtle Cove Marina in Turks & Caicos, using the cookie crumbs from our arrival.  We motorsailed most of the way so as not to arrive in Mayaguana at dark, where we once again had to wind our way into a shallow and coral scattered Abaham Bay.  Me thinks this will be SOP in the shallow Bahamian waters. The passage to Mayaguana gave Jack and Maddy a chance to get their feet wet before an overnight passage.

bahamas mayaguana helm

We arrived in time for immigration but alas, the dinghy motor misbehaved so Frank didn’t go until the next morning.  We cooled off with stingrays, barracuda, sand dollars, etc.  We found an anchor extending to within two feet of the surface creating a hazard to navigation, which Jack later tagged with water bottle and Frank informed the locals.

I dared to think, but not speak, we have had no breakage the boat in a while, knocked on wood, etc., but it was bound to happen eventually.  Even though we had pushed to arrive on time, the dinghy outboard chose this time to not work.  Scully, who was recommended to us by the couple we met in T & C and a cruising guide, fetched Frank and towed the dinghy to shore.  No joy on the dinghy repair.  And customs insisted Frank redo all of the paperwork on site, without so much as a glance at his pre-prepared ones.

Maddy struck the quarantine flag and we were free to move about the island, only we had no dinghy to do so.  So we split for our next stop post haste, dodging coral heads and following our cookie crumbs out.

 

 

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Providenciales,Turks & Caicos

April 29 – May 11

 

The islands are beautiful. Though quite expensive, even compared to the other Caribbean islands.  I am reminded we haven’t hit the Bahamas yet.

View from the back of the boat.

tc turtle bay marina sunset

We had two changes of the guard.  Addison departed after traveling from St John through the Spanish Virgin Islands and across to T & C.  Connie and Keith, my sister and brother-in-law, arrived on the plane Addison flew back on and spent the week in T & C with us.  Jack and Maddy, our nephew and niece, joined us the last couple of days, and will stay on for the passage through the Bahamas and on to Charleston. Jack and Maddy were briefly detained and questioned by immigration since they were transferring to a boat instead of having ongoing transportation (return or advancing airline ticket), even though Frank had provided the proper documents.

tc mango reef

tc ellis arrival 2

tc jack maddy

 

The highlights of this segment were:

 

-visiting with family

-diving and snorkeling

-casinos

tc group ellis

tc connie judy

 

tc jack back

Additionally, Addison tried out kite boarding since we arrived a few days ahead of target. Connie and Keith relaxed on the beach, no surprise as they spend a lot of time on the Carolina coast.  With only one full day in T & C, Jack and Maddy walked from the opposite end of Grace Bay back to the marina, about 6 miles – youth!

The snorkeling at both Smith Reef and The Bight near Coral Gardens were good.  Smith Reef was good but had either a long swim from the easy beach entries or a rocky shore entry.

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The Bight was one of the easiest snorkels I’ve ever experienced from the beach, with good entry and lots of critters, including turtles, eagle rays, lobster, stingrays.  One turtle had a remora attached.

 

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tc turtle remora

 

tc fish

 

Frank with a turtle (middle of right edge)…

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Keith underneath…

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Connie tried the full face snorkel mask and gave it thumbs up.

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Addison, Frank and I tried a sunset snorkel.

A little fish that attached itself to me for about 1000 foot swim, staying mostly in my mask – can you spot it in the picture.  The GoPro in action.

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Keith, Frank and I went scuba diving a couple of days, once at West Caicos and once Grace Bay.  We were treated to sharks, eels and lionfish in addition to the other creatures seen during the snorkels. I hit my 500th dive!

 

tc lobster

We toured around the island a bit, checked out other marina, saw a water spout.  The island is, like most, focused on water activities.

Casino nights were interesting.  Win some, lose some.  One night was particularly interesting, as a ‘guy’ at the craps table continually taunted me about playing on the dark side.  Fortunately, Frank was nearby at the blackjack table – close enough for me to call him but not close enough to get prematurely and overly enthusiastically involved.  This guy kept calling me the ‘dark lady’, ‘I’m going to make you lose’, etc.  As I took a sip of my Marker’s Mark neat, turned to him and ask, ”And what makes you think I’m a lady?”   The guy next to me and his girlfriend tried to get me to weigh in on a personal issue they were having.  Then there was a questionable call at the table with players fussing at the casino workers, calling for a review of the video tapes.  I cashed out. BTW, the taunting guy didn’t last very long on the table, while I continued to take my winnings from the house.   And I remember why I don’t play black jack – I lose too quickly.  But in this instance the dealer hit at least 6 blackjacks in one shoe – Momma Mia!

Connie survived and thrived on her first marine camping trip (or any camping trip for that matter), even in the luggage department.  Keith will be rejoining us for the East Coast trip in June – yeah!

We meet an interesting couple, Polly and Byron, who live on T&C, and recently purchased and moved on a catamaran.  They write a very interesting blog called 2Gringos.  

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Passage Spanish Virgin Islands to Turks & Caicos

April 25 – 29

The passage was smooth getting out of the lee of the Spanish Virgin Islands.  Frank first took us north into the wind and bumpy waves for the first 12 – 16 hours, then headed west to gain the following seas and trade winds.  This path was selected for optimal continuous sail through the whale migration route along the Silver Banks and Whale Breaker spawning areas. Our sailing plan started out strong but was foiled by a storm bringing in swirls of wind, not forecast of course.  The wind fizzled like the mosquitoes in our electric zapper, complete with lightning bolts.  The plan worked to gain following seas (yeah!), but the foretasted 18 knot winds did not appear thus motoring again.

svi 2 tc sunset

BTW, we have a stowaway onboard, again.  Last time it was a praying mantis, this time a gecko, which eats mosquitoes.  I gave him a comfortable private berth and unlimited access to provisions (of mosquitoes).

svi 2 tc stowaway

Our first pod of dolphins were spotted during my watch.  They performed at the bow of the boat with Addison and me in the bow sprits.

svi 2 tc addison dolphin

And then Frank spotted another pod the following day which also joined us for terrific ride.

svi 2 tc dolphins

Addison had the ultimate catch (though not caught on film) – a pair of humpback whales with possibly a calf or two!  We veered off course to intercept them and were treated to a paired breach – spectacular!  We followed them around for a bit, watching tail slaps, fluke waves, spouts, and other various feats.  As we turned to leave, the whales started following us!  Regrettably, we missed the ultimate shot so we can’t share the moment, however, I’m happy to have seen the action not through the lens of a camera.  I tried to find a comparable pic online and could not.

Addison continued his gourmet cuisine preparation throughout the passage.  Yum!

We had about 4 hours to burn so as not to arrive in the dark and low tide, so we stopped for a swim.  As we departed from the respite at dusk, the guys put up the sails with a rocking beam sea and turned the watch over to me and both crashed!  About an hour later I chilled into the rhythm.

svi 2 tc frank sail

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The entrance to the marina in Turks & Caicos is very long and narrow.  A pilot boat met us at the cut in the coral to guide us in.  The initial dock position was inadequate for our boat, so we had to rinse and repeat the ever-so-fun docking process.

svi 2 tc marina overview

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Spanish Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico

April 22 – 25

At our request, Addison suggested some fun things to do on our trip – tour the bioluminescent bay on the mainland of Puerto Rico, visit the island of Vieques, and go whale watching.  It just so happened the bioluminescent bay in Vieques is considered even better than the one on the mainland, so we chose to skip the mainland (unless we are held up by weather or something). It’s a bit late in the whale migration season, but hopefully we’ll catch some stragglers.

Conditions, timing, etc. suggested we motor to Vieques from St John.  Now you ole salty dogs, I hear the tsk-tsk about sailing everywhere.  Athenea is a motorsailing vessel, she has two big engines, and we ain’t afraid to use them.  We got pooped a lot on the 5 hour cruise from St John’s, which means a following sea.  Hey, I’d rather be pooped than pounded any day.

We anchored in the ideal spot at the entrance to bioluminescent Puerto Mosquito bay in Vieques.

svi vieques mosquito bay bio

The full moon was not ideal for viewing the lights, however, the clouds kindly sheltered the way for us.  We motored through the entrance and then rowed, sometimes in circles depending on who was manning the oars, into the heart of the bay.  We were surprised by a caution sign about the Manatees (???)  We didn’t see any! Any movement in the water from the oars, creatures in the water, or a hand trailing along in the water created bursts of light. It fell upon me to fall (backward roll out of the dinghy) into water to create the ultimate eruption of bioluminescent.  It was a very short swim/snorkel as the waters were quite murky and dark.  Unfortunately, GoPro failed to capture the moment.

After several attempts, Frank successfully checked us into Puerto Rice via phone using the new Small Vessel Reporting System.  Really handy being able to check in to US locations from remote bays.

The short trip up from Vieques to Culebra was rainy, however the boys were able to raise the sails for most of the trip.

svi vieques culebra passage

We anchored in Ensenada Honda near the airport and Dewey town.  We took the dinghy around bay for look see,

svi culebra judy statue

svi culebra bridge

and had dinner at the Dinghy Dock restaurants with tarpons.

svi culebra dinghy dock restaurant

svi culebra tarpon

Surprisingly, the data over T-Mobile was good enough for streaming, probably the best connection we’re had so far, and in a small place such as this.

Back at the boat, we treated Addison to a blind rum tasting, with the dark chocolate winning the round.

svi culebra rum tasting

And we spent the rest of the evening watching the pink moon from the bow of the boat, continuing to contemplate the various rums.

svi culebra moon

 

svi culebra frank nets

While Frank biked over to the nearby airport to check us out of Puerto Rico, Addison and I caught the taxi/bus to Flamingo Bay for snorkeling.

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We started at one end of the bay, and quickly abandoned it for the opposite end, since we saw the day charter boats were on the other end and our end was only so so.  The area is well kept with showers, changing rooms, picnic tables, camping area, etc.  There was an iguana and lots of turtles in the backwater.

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After a quick walk through town, since it’s a very small town, we joined back up with Frank for lunch.  Chef Addison cooked up a feast for dinner of shrimp and rice – he really had to improvise as I had pretty much nothing he was looking for.

svi culebra sign

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USVI – Caneel Bay, St John

April 17 – 22

The short motor over to Caneel Bay was again in flat seas and no wind.  Yes, Katherine, where were those calm seas when y’all were here?

usvi st john passage judy

Checking into the country using the Small Vessel Reporting System was interesting.  Once in the USA destination, a phone call to a national number is required to verify entry.  However, the national phone number listed on the CBP website was answered by a marketing company?  Once the local immigration number was found, we were told we were successfully checked into the country – unless the officer called us back.

After a snorkel to and along the shoreline in search of the resident octopus, we went into the Caneel Bay Resort for a grand dinner at the beautiful old Sugar Mill.

usvi st john caneel sugar mill restaurant

usvi st john caneel zozo restaurant view

usvi st john caneel zozo restaurant

 

Once back from dinner, a shiver (look it up) of sharks was circling around the aft of the boat, where the light had been left on for our return.  Yikes!  They must be waiting for our next guest crew – Addison, who is mad about sharks.

usvi st john shark

On land, we’ve seen deer, feral donkeys left over from the sugar plantation days, and chickens in town.

usvi st john donkey

A day in town reconning the ferry, shopping, dining and drinking rounded out the trip, with the sharks again greeting us aft, and they brought a friend – a bat.  The bat flew back and forth in the light for hours taking the occasional small fish couldn’t catch that on camera.

usvi st john cruz bay

usvi st john dinghy sunset

After a fabulous visit, Jackie took the dinghy to Cruz Bay, ferry to Red Rock in St Thomas, shuttle/taxi to the airport and reported a safe arrival back in Virginia.

usvi st john bon voyage sign

usvi st john jackie ferry

Frank practiced his Swift Water Rescue skills when young girl got tired and floundered in the heavy surge snorkeling nearby as we were loading into our dinghy.  Then he got to practice his Paramedic skills for the father who got into the sea urchins trying to get to his daughter.  BTW, Frank was offered (another) paramedic/teaching job here in the Caribbean.  I think that makes four offers now.  No octopus on this snorkel either; I think it is birthing season as there were no signs either.

Frank went by the immigration office to clarify the check-in procedures in Culebra and Vieques, Spanish Virgin Islands.  The official was vague at first, then opening up after sharing a root beer, simplifying our check-in and thus our chosen course.

Addison wins the smallest suitcase award, with stuff he brought for us outweighing his own.

usvi st john addison ferry

 

usvi st john addison arrival

After settling in we headed into town for dinner, walkabout and grocery run, leaving the light on in the aft of the boat.  As hoped, the sharks were there in force, or shiver, to greet him!  Welcome aboard!

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BVI – Great Camanoe, Jost Van Dyke

April 15 – 17

The trek over to the private island of Great Camanoe was calm and windless.  The cove Frank chose goes back to an ‘exercise’ he did in the Navy – how many years ago?  Lee Harbor is not listed in the cruising guide and there was only one boat anchored there.

BVI GC Jost Camanoe approachGorgeous and quiet. The following morning began with a snorkel around the bay where we saw pelicans, small golden eel, tuna (yes, tuna), large puffer, anemone, nudibranch, and lots of fish.

bvi gc jost camanoe depart

We viewed scenic Tortola on the windless cruise across to Grand Harbor, Jost Van Dyke.  The boat hook leaped into the drink, luckily after I’d snagged the mooring – oops!?!  The ‘it’ place to go in Jost is Foxy’s.

bvi gc jost foxy sign

Frank was here in the late 70’s.  Foxy’s has expanded and now offers a full retail store, in which Jackie spent some time and even Frank bought something.

bvi gc jost jost beach

The BBQ dinner was good, and I managed to get one dance out of Frank before we left, leaving Jackie vulnerable to the advances of Foxy’s son, who earlier gave us a diatribe about American government – lucky us?  Foxy used to hang around and entertain guests, I guess the son has his own style.

bvi gc jost foxy bar

Frank signed us up for the Small Vessel Reporting System, and Jackie managed to get a clearance before her trip.  Since we couldn’t get an internet signal at the boat to post our USVI entry clearance, Frank went ashore and happened upon Foxy himself, some 40 years later.

bvi gc jost foxy frank

Jackie and I cooled off for a bit.

bvi gc jost swim

Frank was successful in fetching the boat hook that had somehow found its way into the 55’ drink – whoo hoo!

bvi gc jost boathook recovery

bvi gc jost boathook recovery 2

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BVI Virgin Gorda – The Bitter End & the Baths

 

April 13 – 15

After catching the mooring ball and Frank checking us into the BVI’s, we crashed our first morning in the Bitter End area of the north sound in Virgin Gorda, too early for cocktails.

BVI virgin gorda mooring field

Speaking of cocktails, we found a ginger liquor in St Martin just as we were departing, which pairs nicely with bourbon, better than a Jack & Ginger.

After checking into BVI, we had a late lunch/early dinner at the pub and crashed again.

BVI virgin gorda pub crawl

I’m happy to report Frank successfully resuscitated the hot water system only moments after calling it a goner.

Frank promoted Jackie to able bodied seaman after doing so well with disembarking from the dock, watches, dinghy operations, mooring, etc.

Our snorkel at Eustatia Sound was quite good, lots of fish and good visibility in turquoise waters, even seeing a turtle surfacing on the dinghy ride back. Jackie described her first backward entry roll into the water from the dinghy as “cool”, and I’m happy to report we managed to get ourselves back into the dinghy.

BVI virgin gorda dinghy ride

An interesting man helped us up out of the dinghy at the town dinghy dock – note the beard.  We later discovered he was from Frank’s old stomping grounds in the NC mountains, and another fellow whose brother lived on the same street as Jackie in Michigan – truly a small world.

BVI virgin gorda beard guy

Frank continues with his maritime ambassador responsibilities and exchanged burgees with the Bitter End Yacht Club, followed by drinks and dinner at the clubhouse afterwards.

BVI virgin gorda clubhouse

While not on our original agenda, The Baths are promoted to be ‘the’ place to go in Virgin Gorda.  So we detoured the short distance to the opposite, not bitter, end of Virgin Gorda and hooked a mooring.  I thought the caves at the Baths were accessible from the water and we could snorkel in – not so.  After snorkeling to land, we traversed a few of the cave ‘rooms’, swam in one of the enclosed Baths, and aborted before the rope assisted climb around a bolder set to committed us the hike 2 ½ beaches away.  Interesting.

BVI virgin gorda bath shoreline

 

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When we got back to our dinghy, the novices beside us were trying to get back into their dinghy – no ladder and no upper body strength.  Frank let them board our ladder and cross over to their dinghy.  Does make you wonder who is handling some of these vessel?  People just like me!

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St Martin to BVI Virgin Gorda

April 12 – 13

Jackie’s first watch, sunset into the darkness.

st martin to BVI jackie light

The overnight passage across was quiet, well, somewhat.  A vessel appeared to be heading straight toward us based on lights, etc., and I turned the wrong direction to avoid.  It happened to be a fairly large vessel under tow, and we yanked Frank out of his slumber to assist with course corrections.  A nearby boat decided that this would be a good time for a fireworks display, which made the maneuvering even more complicated in the midst of all the excitement.

st martin to BVI judy at wheel

Frank’s overnight watch entailed dodging around thunder storms.

st martin to BVI frank

Otherwise, the quarter moon lit the way with calm following seas.  No wind so no sail.

Approach to Virgin Gorda.st martin to BVI  approach

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St Martin Last Days

April 4 – April 12

The hot water system is proving to be an enigma, though possibly corrected.  Time will tell the tale.

Kennedy and Liam gave us a great card.  Misu is in the top left corner (white cat).
st martin final days kids card

Frank successfully tracked down a free swimming octopus on our night dive at Creole Rock, as well as, a large green moray.  The two tank day dive a couple of days later was about the same as the previous ones, except for the of the school of barracuda. Even with the calmer seas, there is a persistent, significant sweeping surge.

We said our good byes to local friends at drinks and dinners.

I am beginning to see a correlation of craps to boating – there are ups and downs with lots of bumps along the way, and of course, it’s dicey.  And ultimately you lose all of your money as a result.  I guess we just like the excitement.  Our casino Royal.

st martin final days casino

Jackie arrived in her usual style, all class, and will stay with us through the USVI.  She was greeted in her room by the bridge dummy dudes (gag gifts at a going away party that have accompanied us on our voyage) and a bottle of special rum (ignore me taking the pic as I forgot about that mirror!).

st martin final days dudes jackie bbd

Over two days we circumnavigated the island via car, seeing the highlights of the French and Dutch sides.  The foie gras at Bacchus was yummy, as was the crème brulee with gingerbread ice cream.

st martin final days creme brulee

The lobster in Grand Case was, well, grand.

st martin final days lobsterDarn if the shops in Phillipsburg weren’t closed on a Sunday with no cruise ship in port.

st martin final days phillipsburgThe snorkeling at Little Bay was probably our best yet with calmer sea state and good visibility, marine life and lots of sunken structures – airplane, statues, helicopter, bells, anchors, submarine, etc.  I even treated to a conger eel free swim for a minute before disappearing into the rocks.  While we missed the big planes taking off at Maho Bay Beach creating major jet wash, we did catch a gorgeous sunset.

st martin final days maho

st martin final days maho sunset

We dined at a lovely Simpson Bay restaurant – Vesna’s, in honor of our friend in VA.

st martin final days vesna restaurant toesJackie won $500 in 5 minutes at The Wheel of Fortune slot machine at the Casino Royal.  I knew she would be good luck and had she tried her hand at craps, I may have even switched from the dark side of the table.

After last minute errands, we hit the Anse Marcel beach, pool, shops and restaurants in a final farewell.

st martin final days pool
st martin final days anse marcel beachI finally got pics of the iguana petting..
st martin final days jackie iguana st martin final days judy iguana



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St Martin – Anguilla – Not St Bart’s

 

March 26 – April 3

Boating at it’s finest. Two days before our guest family of four arrived, the water system failed. Frank repaired the accumulator tank, restoring primary water – yeah! However, the hot water component didn’t work. With the Easter holiday week-end, the local marine plumber was not available. Rather than risk the entire water system to fix the hot water delivery, we took the ‘safer’ route and went sans hot water.

Frank fetched Roger, Katherine, Kennedy and Liam from the airport, dropped off the luggage and straight to the pool.

st martin kran welcome

st martin kran maho sunset

Much of the trip was spent at the pool and various beaches. The fairly tame iguana at the pool was lounging in a guy’s lap and letting everyone pet him. Kennedy and Liam learned to snorkel, even though the visibility wasn’t great. By the end of the trip in Pinel, Kennedy was a pro and snuck up on me in the water – gave me quite a start.

st martin kran snorkel lesson

We swam, snorkeled, shopped (cute jacket Kat) and/or dined (slept) in Friars Bay, Grand Case, Marigot, Pinel Island, Maho Bay and Anse Marcel beaches.

st martin kran breach

st martin kran pinel frank

 

st martin kran pinel treeAnd there were knot classes.  Maybe I should have participated…

st martin kran knots

At Maho beach the planes create a huge jet wash upon take-off blowing everyone in its path away with sand and into the water. I poo pooed this earlier as Trip Advisor’s top things to do in St Martin; I have to admit is was amusing.

st martin kran maho

Arrived for Easter service just as it let out, great timing as usual. We missed the Easter antics at the open air café, but was blown away by Chef Roger’s pasta and shrimp prepared and served on board.

The lovely hotel at the pool…

st martin kran kat hotel

For the first few days, the weather was not favorable for a cruise/sail, especially with 2 kids and Katherine prone to sea sickness. When the forecasts cleared a bit we took off for Anguilla. The cruise across was only a couple of hours.

st martin kran anguilla kennedy

Upon arrival 30 minutes before the closing of the immigration office, Frank, Roger and I swiftly launched the dinghy and they raced ashore. The officials could not check us in due to a ‘major customs incident’ on the island, later identified as drug related. Thus we could not officially go ashore. The surf was up, so snorkeling was a wash. So we swam off the back of the boat.

st martin kran anguilla swim

Dinner on board.

st martin kran anguilla roger kat

st martin kran anguilla dinner

The boys went for an evening dinghy ride and were rewarded with a swarm of bioluminescent squid.

st martin kran dinghy

The next morning,

st martin kran anguilla sunrise

we headed for St Bart’s. Contrary to the forecast, the weather wasn’t good, yes, shocking I know. But Katherine, Kennedy and Liam did so well going to Anguilla, we decided to go for it. Sailing from Anguilla to St Martin in the lee of the island was fairly rough. As we were approaching the end of the leeward side of St Martin for the crossing to St Bart’s, the local Coast Guard Safety Net announced a heavy weather warning. Frank decided to turn back. Good decision – we encountered gusts in the mid 40’s on the way back to Anse Marcel. Later we heard stories of boats that were stranded, lost an engine, lost rigging, and we saw a number of boats turning back. Had we known we could have stayed in Anguilla for another day?

Our guests decided to take the ferry across to St Bart’s the following day, which was awfully rough with lots of seasick passengers, but much quicker than on our boat. They rendezvoused with a family they met on the plane ride down, and ended up staying overnight in St Bart’s.

While they were in St Bart’s, Frank and I went to the prefecture and (finally) got our resident visas. Yeah! And only five visits.

st martin kran visa

Their last night we dined in nearby Grand Case complete with a surprise BD – mine! I tried to keep it on the down low but Frank had the restaurant put a sparkler on my dessert. We further celebrated with a special bottle of wine.

st martin kran wine

After an energetic fun filled week, Frank and I crashed for the rest of the day. And maybe even the next. Kidding, there was the hot water system to fix.

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