At the time of our departure on May 6, all boarders were still closed for all islands in the Caribbean with no hints of when they would reopen and IF airports would open so we could fly out where we left the boat for the new owners.
So the plan the 4 of us decided on is we would sail BELLA LUNA I, her new name, to Brunswick, GA in the United States. We made contact with immigrations there to make sure we would be allowed in and had a reservation at the marina. You cannot believe some of the horror stories we heard from other sailors caught at sea when boarders closed and were turned away, back to sea.
The first two days was good sailing and we were making good time. The morning of the 3rd day, all came to a halt as there was a “significant weather event” approaching directly in our path further north. We then slowed our speed to 4 knots to allow the weather to pass in front of us. When we knew it was ok to speed up, the winds shifted from SW to NE, which meant we now had hard winds on the bow. Not. Good. So we slowed again hoping they would shift, or at least the wind speed would reduce and wave heights. We passed through a zone in-between storms that was quite eerie. It was now nightfall and on my watch I felt like I was in the Alfred Hitchcock movie, “The Birds”. They were quite aggressive around the boat and screaming. There was zero wind, flat seas and a white haze. This was 9 hours of motoring. When we came out on the other side, the air was fresh, less humidity and blue skies. We were able to sail and decided we would trying to go all the way to Brunswick. Within 1 hour the waves were very large, wind was very high and we knew we could not keep this up for 3 days. We then diverted into the Bahamas for shelter. We arrived at 9PM and was told NOT to go into that anchorage in the dark, so our only option was to continue sailing all night to come to another anchorage, which we arrived to at 6AM. We stayed there a couple hours until we heard the new forecast for a tropical depression coming straight at us so we pulled up anchor and went to the other side of the island and entered a type of hurricane hole, providing protection 360 degrees. The storm was predicting 60 knot winds with heavy thunder, lightning and squalls. We never got the 60 knots but everything else. That tropical depression later developed into the first named storm of the hurricane season, Arthur.
We left 2 days later and had a nice sail to the West end of the Bahamas but due to heavy thunder storms predicted the next day, we anchored in a nice place and waiting. At 0300 on the second day we pulled anchor and headed for our final destination. We passed more than 10 Cruise ships that was anchored due to Covid. That day there was only one major thunder squall to avoid and the rest of the sail was very nice. The stars were very bright. Once we were into the Gulf Stream, our average speed over ground was 10 knots and for sometime we hit 12 knots.
We arrived to Brunswick Landing Marina in Georgia 38 hours later. Here we will prepare the boat for storage and say our heartfelt goodbyes to Bella Luna who took us so many places in comfort, style and safety. The new owners come in December to enjoy their adventures on Bella Luna I.
For us, our new adventure will be driving our newly purchased motorhome from Georgia to Washington State. This will provide us independence during this COVID situation and sightseeing.
Thank goodness Malin, Pablo and Benjamin left us when they did and got home to Brazil.
We sold Bella Luna to a Canadian couple and the plan was they would return May 1 to take delivery of the boat, we would spend time with them getting them acquainted with all the systems. We would then depart and they would spent month on her, sailing to Grenada for hurricane storage. Well, here is what happened:
March 13 St. Martin closed their boarders and shortly there after all other Caribbean islands closed their boarders. So we could not fly out and the new owners could not fly in……. We all agreed that we could continue to stay on Bella and look after her until things changed. Haaaa
We were at anchored on the French side of the Lagoon on March 13 so that is where we remained.
We were required to stay on the boat. No swimming around the boat, no going ashore unless for necessary items at the NEAREST food store or pharmacy and then you had to carry a document listing your name, boat name, ID stating what you would do in the alloted hour. At that first stage only people with dogs were allowed to take a walk on their behalf. In April we were allowed to go ashore for a 50 minute exercise walk.
There were many boats there in the same situation as us. The airport closed so boats waiting for crew to arrive to sail across the Atlantic could not get in.
As a consequence of all the boats in the same situation, a VHF radio community sprung to life. Every evening 17:15 we would have happy hour. There was radio controller who had a great deep radio voice to he would call out for people to call in, give their boat name and play a song, tell a joke or story. Then anybody who could name the song title and artist, got to play the next song and so this went nightly until 18:30.
Wednesday night was Trivia. A Canadian led this with 26 Trivia questions listing multiple choice for answers. Scores were kept on a honest basis. It was really fun and funny.
A English man got several people together and they did a reading from movies, with sound effects.
All this via radio, we got to know boat names, some personal names but it became a very strong community that helped us from “crackin up while shackin up”. Strict social distancing was in effect so we could not meet, but having this radio connection was fantastic.
Those boaters at anchor on the Dutch side of the lagoon had it worse as time as the Dutch did a total lockdown. All stores closed for 2 weeks plus. They had to get permission from the coast guard to use their dingy in lagoon for a emergency or urgent need.
We finally got permission to depart the Lagoon on May 6 with the boat which was not easy and took time. At the time of our departure, the French side had a date to relax many of the restrictions and the Dutch side was May 21. I only wish we could of put faces to boat names from the radio entertainment at the beach BBQ once restrictions were lifted.
This island is divided, the northern part is French and the southern part is Dutch. The island is approximately 7 miles in each direction. A fun story, but not substantiated in history: Instead of a war over the island, the Frenchman started with a bottle of wine at one end and the Dutchman started at the opposite end with a bottle of gin. Where they met became the boundary.
Roland’s daughter Malin, husband Pablo and 5 year old son Benjamin arrived from Brazil. As we were anchored in the lagoon on the French side and the airport was just across the small bay, Roland surprised them by meeting them in the terminal. They planned to get a taxi but instead they took a short walk from the terminal to where Roland had left the dingy and they arrived to Bella Luna via a dingy ride. Benjamin immediately changed from his airplane clothes into his pirate outfit now that he was on a boat in the Caribbean. (sorry the photo was lost in the camera).
After a day of adjusting to life on a boat, we rented a car and took a tour of the island. We spent some hours at a beach, had lunch and returned the very awful rental car with no shocks and no air conditioning.
Our first sail was to the island St. Bart. We anchored in a marine park known for good snorkeling: turtles, stingrays, small sharks, and schools of colourful fish. A nice sandy beach too. We spent a day walking around the village which was once owned by Sweden until they sold to the French. The Swedish street names were still in place on the buildings. St. Bart is referred to as the Caribbean’s French Rivera and is popular with mega yachts.
From St. Bart we sailed direct to Anguilla, anchoring in Road Bay which offers the most protection. We rented a car and toured looking at different beaches. Malin found her PERFECT beach on a section of Rendezous Bay. No crashing waves, beautiful turquoise water, very white sand, a couple palm trees and very little people. A pleasant small restaurant/bar offered lounge chairs, umbrellas and good food.
We took a day sail to another anchoring area that too had a very nice small secluded beach and colourful tall cliffs, Little Bay. There is no access to this beach other than by boat. Pablo enjoyed the snorkeling. This was awarded beach Nr. 2.
Returning to St. Martin, beach number 3 is Grand Case. Here we saw more turtles than any other places. A long beach with dozens of restaurants to chose from. The village is very charming with its own personality and friendly people.
As time passes quickly, the departure back to Brazil was approaching so we sailed to Sine Maarten in time for the bridge opening into the Lagoon. Here it was very easy access to the airport. After 14 days, their plane flew over Bella Luna on March 4 when leaving for Brazil.