Final days in St Thomas

Friday afternoon and the refrigeration guys were running late – thank goodness for that local phone!!!  So we agreed that I would go ashore – alone – to get the blog published while Richard stayed on board doing more boat jobs, just in case…. When we climbed into dink we realised that he had deflated down one tube (side) – we looked like right old cruisers putting slowly along with only half of the dinghy inflated!!!!   Richard dropped me off at the marina and headed back to fix the problem. I took myself off to the coffee shop taking a few more photos of the marina along the way.

Marina 2 Marina 3 Marina 1

Luckily dink didn’t have a leak – more just the valve stopper had come out somehow – and the heat forced the air passed the valve. Well, that’s what we think anyway, as since dink has been pumped back up he has been fine since! Richard came and picked me up once I’d finished blogging and radioed him for a lift using the mobile VHF.

David and JR from Reefco arrived later in the afternoon and fixed the fridge in short order – it just needed more gas. The freezer, however, was being problematic. They identified that they thought that the Smart Speed Control box was playing up and potentially needed more gas too – but as the freezer was so ice-bound it was possible that this was causing issues too as air circulation is crucial in these Frigoboat units. So we left it that I would defrost and restart the freezer over the weekend and they would return on Monday if it didn’t resolve itself… Oh well…. never mind…. Luckily we had purchased some chemical icepacks which were already frozen solid….so I put all our frozen food into a coolbag and had my fingers crossed…while I forced it to defrost using warm water. Managed to get it ice free and drained in two hours – phew – and restarted it. Immediately it started to cool down so we repacked it and hoped for the best. After a busy day we went ashore for a couple of hours for sundowners – this time at a posh wine bar called Grand Cru – and then had a quiet night on board.

Richard at Grand Cru

Saturday we were up early and had already done some hand washing and were busy down below getting the boat ready for sea as well as running the generator and making water. This time we were getting the life-raft and grab bag ready, as well as charging up the hand-held Garmin, the hand-held VHF radio, testing the EPIRB etc…. and Richard popped his head up into the cockpit and spotted another Island Packet coming close by. It was Latitudes! They had read our blog and realised we were still around so came to see if they could find us… They anchored in front of us and then Nancy and John came aboard for a quick catch up and look around.

Latitudes at anchor

We stayed on board Morphie while they headed off shopping – and we then rejoined them onboard Latitudes for sundowners. It was interesting to see the differences between the two IP 370s – ours being a 2008 and theirs being a 2012 model – the main ones being a different make of cooker (ours is Force 10); the much softer leather fabric on their saloon cushions (although they have no hard backs to keep them in position); the position of some of the electrics and, bizarrely, the plugholes in the sinks; no drain holes in the fridge / freezer (and the best news for them – different controllers!); and the most significant of all, an electric fresh-water head!!!  Of course that doesn’t include any of the stuff we have added to go cruising……

At this point we were going ashore to watch the first England World Cup football match against Italy.

Come on England

Nancy and John had decided to stay the night in the anchorage so came ashore with us as well……  We had a great evening in the Fat Turtle – including some bites for supper – and enjoyed ourselves a lot.   Shame about the football result!

Sunday we carried on with boat preparation for the passage….and were pleased to see that the freezer was still coming down in temperature… Fingers still crossed though.   In the morning we waved goodbye to Latitudes as they left for the rest of their trip – was so pleased we managed to hook up again!

Latitudes underway

And that was it for the day really – we had a quiet evening in the cockpit having enjoyed another moody sunset over St Thomas and the comings and goings of the little sea plane.

Seaplane St Thomas sunset

Monday morning – the freezer is still pulling a huge load but is refusing to come down the final few degrees….. So we called David again and he agreed to come out after lunch.  So we went ashore for some last-minute shopping – we particularly needed a new kettle – and some more drinking vouchers as Bonaire uses the US dollar…  Back on board lunchtime and David turned up as promised. He recharged the freezer with a little gas and immediately the temperature went down. Fantastic!  And for no charge either today!  Great guys these – would definitely recommend Reefco to anyone who needs this type of service in St Thomas. While he was on board David also said that the controller was definitely (quote) “a pile of junk”!  It doesn’t stop pulling amps even when the freezer reaches its set temperature so I have to manually intervene to avoid the batteries being drained – in his opinion, we need to consider putting a Merlin controller on as a replacement on both the fridge and freezer.  Eric – on Cutter Loose – did this earlier this season so maybe it’s time we should follow his example!   Reefco has them in stock so we may do this here if we don’t get a weather window soon.

Later on we went ashore for internet and have identified a potential weather window for Wednesday – so we have e-mailed our weather guy to get him to look at it for us. Fingers crossed – much as we have enjoyed ourselves here in St Thomas we are keen to move south this time of year as we are into the hurricane season already.  We had another quiet evening on board – with another sunset – before another early night.

St Thomas sunset 2

Tuesday morning and two cruise ships have come in early….. We go in to the marina for a breakfast bagel with coffee and the internet. We enjoyed the sights of the ships on the way in and also the huge jet boat that was coming in for his first passengers / victims of the day!   Once ashore we spotted this gorgeous little dog chilling – so had to have a picture and a quick pet.   Ahhhhh…..

Two ships in Cruise ships 1

Cruise ships 2 Jet boat Cute dog!

Finally online and yes – we have a response from the weather guy – we are definitely good to go!  But there is an expected surge in the tradewinds on Saturday night in Bonaire so we need to arrive before then. That means we have to leave tonight – wow! Wasn’t expecting that.  But we are ready so decide to go and request a detailed forecast from midnight on that we know what to expect throughout each stage of our passage.

Because we thought we might be off Wednesday I had brought our boat papers ashore so we headed to the plush Customs office in the marina. Oh dear…door locked. Went into the marina office to ask about opening hours – to be told that this was for marina guests only!!!!  So superyachts get their own customs and immigration office – and the rest of us have to take the dollar bus down to the ferry ferminal in town and clear out there!!!  Hmmmmm…… No choice so off we go – and arrive at 11.45 am. The lady in the office is keen to close at noon for lunch so helps us fill in the forms – even splitting them so that we were both busy at once – and we were in and out in just under 10 minutes flat. The nicest experience in an US office for sure!!!!

View out to the anchorage from the ferry dock

Back on the bus to the marina, we pick up dink, and took our final photo of Morphie at anchor in Charlotte Amalie.

Morphie at anchor

Then back on board for the final preparations noting that we now have three cruise ships in!  Right – ready to go – everything stowed, food ready, fridge stocked, passage plan sorted etc etc…. Richard returns to the marina to pick up the personalised weather forecast.

Basically we have mild conditions 10-12 knots Tuesday night, with 2-3 foot seas and these persist throughout Wednesday. Wednesday through Thursday we are expecting 17-22 knots and six foot seas. Friday a tropical wave is forecast to pass north of us limiting wind to about 20-25 knots and six foot seas. Trades surge Saturday night so need to be in by then otherwise we are facing much stronger winds / bigger seas. He also gave us a current-optimised routing to do the easting early – in lighter conditions – before running south. Fantastic advice – let’s see how it all pans out!   Richard comes back onboard armed with all this information – so we refine our passage plan, set up the waypoints on the chart plotter / charts and phew, finally ready to go!

We have a few relaxing hours in the cockpit enjoying watching the skills of the cruise ship captains as they depart – reversing alongside each other down the dock and off out to sea. Glad they will all have left before we do!

Cruise ships reversing past each other Cruise ships reversing past each other 2

We go to bed for a few hours around 7pm with the alarm clock set for 11 – which arrives way too quickly!   We do our final checklists – picking up our anchor and setting sail at 11.50 pm. Destination is Bonaire, distance is 450 miles, and the expected passage time is around 3 days 12 hours if we average 5 knots per hour (allowing for strong currents and mild conditions). Excited, a bit apprehensive….but we’re off!

Catch up with the next blog tomorrow about our passage…..   Bye for now