28 April 2009

St Thomas Harbor, USVI

St Thomas HarborAnchored Charlotte Amalie
St Thomas Harbor
St Thomas Island
U.S. Virgin Islands

1179nm to Charleston, SC


We should have read the signs last night when we returned to the dinghy dock in Cruz Bay, St. John that things were going to go wrong today. We arrived to the dinghy dock to find our dingy trapped under the dock with the bow sticking out one side, and the outboard sticking out the other. When the tide was low it must have floated under the dock bow first. Then when the tide came up it trapped the dingy under the dock. Amy stood on one end and I stood on the other, but it was stuck good. We took off the outboard and opened the air vents to deflate it enough to pull it back under the dock. Once we got it out, we pulled it up on the dock trying to figure out how to re-inflate it so we could get back to the Piper.

Amy heard a guy with a leaf blower above us on the ferry dock cleaning off the pier and persuaded him to come down to where the dingy was. He asked "What's the problem Mon?" I grabbed the end of his leaf blower and inserted it into one of the dinghy's inflation valves, and in one pull he had it started and the dinghy was back to its original shape. With the outboard back on and a beer to our new friend we were back on the Piper.

We had plans to meet a couple who are fans of our blog in St Thomas today at a salty cruiser bar called Lat-18, just across the channel from St John. To save the ferry fare of going back and forth we decided to take the Piper over and anchor in front of the bar to save 20 bucks. The winds were cracking straight into the anchorage in front of Lat-18 bar and all the boats anchored there were rolling all over the place. So we decided to try the next bay over where we could walk over from. That bay was even worse, so we continued on to the next bay that promised a Mangrove swamp that was very protected. After motoring in we found is extremely shallow and even ran aground right in the middle of the channel that leads into a marina. I have no idea how the boats in the marina ever get out of this place. We applied full throttle and powered our way off the mud bottom.

Trying to figure out what to do next,  we decided the best idea would be to return to Cruz Bay in St John, now miles away straight upwind in 25 knots of wind. I had not anticipated doing this much motoring and Sandpiper's engine had been running off our starboard fuel tank, which we have not refilled since the Canary Islands back in December. Due to a boner move on my part months ago in Barbados, our port fuel tank had water in it. I thought I had been able to filter the water out with our portable filter. So we dropped the hook right in the entrance of the bay we were in so we could transfer fuel before motoring back to St John. Once we transferred 5 gallons we lit off the engine and headed out, beating into 25 knots of wind back to St John. We were only making 2.5 knots and having flashbacks of our Red Sea passage. We made it about one mile, then a giant slug of water that I had thought I filtered out shut the engine down just as we were very near some large rocks along the shoreline.

So we made a quick 180 and headed downwind, trying to figure out what to do next since we had no engine. We decided the safest thing to do would be to sail downwind a few miles to where we are presently anchored, off St Thomas' main harbor. We sailed along with just a double reefed main through the harbor and called the marina to see if they could assist us in pulling into a slip so we could make repairs. They suggested calling 'Vessel Assist' to tow us in. We quickly declined, imagining paying $400.00 just to be towed in to a marina that was going to charge us $50.00 a night to stay one night.

So we decided to sail into the anchorage just past three large cruise ships. With Amy steering us in through the anchored sailboats we found a spot in the middle where we threw out the hook and dropped the main sail.

We thought that we would have to tow ourselves in to the marina so we could hire someone to polish our tanks to get the water out. But after looking at the tanks we decided we can do this ourselves while at anchor. Luckily, before we left on our four year transit, I installed an electric fuel pump in the engine's fuel system so that in an emergency we could prime the engine. Using this pump I was able to pump all the water out of the tank into an empty fuel jug. Then I changed both pre filters and cleaned everything out. I think we are back in business because as I type this post, we are running the generator to see if there is any water left in the tank. It has been running for the last hour with no problems.

Tomorrow we are going to pull into the fuel dock to buy some clean fuel to put in the starboard tank and all should be well. All this just to save a $20.00 ferry ride!

One positive note: Our good friend Paddy Berry is in St. John on his new catamaran that he bought in Venezuela. We look forward to hanging out with him once we are back in St John. We met Paddy in Mexico in 2006 before we crossed the Pacific and enjoyed sharing many different anchorages in the South Pacific along the way until he headed to Australia where he sold his boat S/V Zafarse. We are looking forward to checking out his new ride, the S/V Chat Beaute, this next week. You can also check him out yourselves under 'Friends of Sandpiper'.

More very soon,
Tom and Amy

1 comment:

Christian Allaire, BMCS (ret) said...

Dude, your livin the dream...