Posted by: rosyroadsadventures | November 13, 2011

The Boatyard

N 18° 18.50′ W 64° 50.0

Christmas Cove, USVI

Had it not been for a dog injury, the boatyard experience would have been better than expected. The Nanny Cay facilities were pleasant with hot showers a 5 minute walk away, several restaurants, a small market and marine store. We met some really friendly folks including Nancy & Rick on the sailing vessel Eternity who stopped by frequently to offer encouragement.

Camping aboard we had more than the usual amount of flies, mosquitoes & no-see-ums. It was a daily battle to keep out the dirt and we had no running water most of the time since using the drains would mess up the bottom. One day we had rainstorms that turned the yard into a muddy river with ankle-deep water for the hike to the facilities. For four nights it was tolerable. The work progressed slowly but by Friday everything was wrapped up as planned.

Managing the dogs was an issue we had discussed at length. We worried most about Lady, who sometimes freaks out and needs time to adjust to new routines. Lady got a rare tranquilizer pill on haul-out day. We misjudged our companions. Lady ended up being a Lassie-like heroine who alerted us when Bandit disappeared to befriend the boatyard dog.

Bandit is an experienced escape artist, but at 12 years of age has shown great caution getting on and off the boat. We thought perhaps she squeezed under the aft sundeck exit and went down the stair system that Bob had assembled for boarding. After retrieving her, we placed a heavy teak chair to block the exit and thought the problem was solved. We had no idea she would consider jumping off the bow as it was so high above the ground.

The next morning we had just gotten up when Lady started barking again, a frantic “help, come quick” bark rather than her intimidating intruder approaching bark. I saw both dogs on the port side of the boat with Bandit’s front paws perched on the edge as she eyed a boatyard dog. Before I could get to her she leaped 14 feet to the gravel below. This escape didn’t go as well as the first one and an injured front leg ended her fun.

A quick examination found no obvious fractures and she could bear a little weight on the leg. Walking was very difficult. The reality of being in a place with poor access to veterinary services is one of my cruising nightmares and it hit hard. We reviewed our home vet manual and decided it was most likely a sprain or tendon injury, and the recommended treatment was ice, then heat, and several weeks of rest.

After thinking about it, Bandit’s first escape was likely accomplished in the same manner, but miraculously without injury. In people terms that’s something like an 84-year-old woman jumping out a third story window. I swear she must have some cat in her.

We were happy to get the bottom painting completed on Friday and anxious to move on. We got on the lift schedule for 1 o’clock and were launched and on our way by 2:45. We wanted to get to St. Martin and had the marginal end of a weather window that we had been watching all week. The thought of another mini-home base in a very nice place for the next two months is appealing to me, and even more so with an injured dog, since I found there were several vet clinics on the island.

We decided to give it a try, and if we didn’t like the conditions we could turn around. An hour and a half into the trip it became clear that the 14 hour passage was going to be miserable. Once past the bumpy shoals and into the deep waters the seas were higher than expected and conditions forecast to deteriorate. I wasn’t up for it, and the captain agreed. We tried to get back to US territory before dark, since we had checked out of the BVI, but only made it to Norman Island and decided to stay there for the night.

Saturday morning we motored to Red Hook Harbor in St. Thomas to check in to the US. I made a vet appointment for Monday with a clinic across the street from the marina. The harbor was picturesque, but exposed to the easterly winds and punctuated by ferocious ferry wakes that were especially nasty for those of us anchored in the only vacant spots that were close to the channel. The huge Caribe Tide particularly loved to cut the corner and blast by the anchored boats at full speed creating monstrous wakes.

The conditions in the anchorage got worse throughout the day, and when it came time to take the dogs to shore for a bathroom outing I didn’t see how we could get it done. It was going to be difficult to launch the dinghy and get everyone safely aboard and was not a good setting to figure out the logistics of getting Bandit off with her limited mobility. The captain concurred that the anchorage conditions were too rough to use the stove top, but we disagreed on dinghy boarding safety and he preferred to give it a try. He hates getting the dinghy sandy and messy from dog beach trips, and the Red Hook dinghy dock was appealing. He was frustrated with the situation and challenged me to come up with a better idea. We finally agreed to relocate to nearby and better protected Christmas Cove for the night and use the small rocky beach there. The plan was to come back to Red Hook first thing Monday morning for the vet visit with the dinghy in tow and the boarding logistics practiced in a calmer location.

As we pulled up anchor, the Caribe Tide blasted by one last time and we hung on for another vicious roll. Once out of the harbor things settled down and Bob went below to get one of the remaining Presidentes to enjoy on the quick trip. The ferry captains succeeded in spoiling his moment of relaxation when the Tortola Fast Ferry zoomed through Current Pass, cut close in front of us and the beer went flying as we bounced through another huge wake.

As we set out on this adventure I expected that things would go awry from time to time and we would face unpleasant circumstances. Until the past few days we have been lucky that the problems have been minor in nature. Learning to managing a 40 pound dog aboard with limited mobility is hard. It is sad to see Bandit’s spirit a little broken. We are trying to take extra time to cheer her up, get her tail wagging, and just like with people, to keep her outlook positive to speed her recovery. I’m sure she is wondering if she will ever be able to run again.

St. Martin seems elusive. The windy Caribbean winter season with its tougher conditions looms. When we were in Luperón we heard tales of a couple that had such a horrific passage from the Turks that they gave up cruising right there, sold the boat and went home. Another Caribbean-bound couple we knew from Florida had a terrible time getting across the Gulf Stream. After two aborted attempts they thought about calling off the trip. They finally found good conditions on the third try and successfully completed their three-year journey.

We have been spoiled with excellent conditions for most of the long crossings so far, and in many ways I am surprised that I have gotten this far without much difficulty. Bob is confident that we will find a good passage window and that with a little rest and recovery Bandit will be fine. I’m in need of an extra dose of patience and optimism right now.


We arrived on Sunday to find horn parades and political rallies in preparation for BVI election day on Monday. Maybe not the best timing to start a 5 day project.

We gals hung out in a nice grassy area for 4 hours while the boat was being hauled. I read a book and the dogs got to watch the boatyard roosters.


Bob crafted a system to get the dogs aboard using our fly bridge stairs and some large wooden blocks. It looked precarious but worked. We hung onto their harnesses while going up and down in case of a slip, which saved Lady as she was learning "up".

From our perch on land we had a glimpse of the water and Peter Island to the south - not so bad!


Tuesday we arranged for Mr. Geoff Williams to update our insurance survey. The boat passed with no recommendations! Bob has done a great job cleaning up all the issues identified when the pre-purchase survey was done. "Sandman" is busy at work sanding and scraping the bottom.

Primer (yellow) was applied on Thursday and we thought there was no way that the 3 coats of bottom paint would be finished by Friday. But paint dries REALLY fast here, and the job was almost done on Thursday afternoon.


Bob applied new zincs to help prevent corrosion of the boat's other metals.


The old zincs - a corroded mess after 18 months


After the yard workers left each day Bob & I worked on cleaning and waxing above the waterline. Friday morning the stands were moved and the final paint applied.


When it was our turn to launch, we got the dogs off and Bob had help disassembling the stairs


He got off via the hatch in the boarding platform and climbed down the swim ladder to some blocks below. He did this three times, returning to fetch forgotten items including the ticket we needed to give to the launch driver. No pay, no launch! We gals observed from a shady spot nearby.


Then it was up and away to the launch area, with Mar Azul secure in the big lift


Getting the captain back on board to operate the boat was another tricky maneuver


We found another shady place to wait until we were called to board. This exercise was more difficult as I had to carry Bandit all the way out of the boatyard. Thank goodness she is svelte.


Farewell to Nanny Cay! I had spent the morning getting the boat shipshape for travel. Bob had taken a taxi to town to visit Customs and check out. We set off hoping to reach St. Martin by morning.


Our patient has been cooperative. After this lapse in judgment Bob has affectionately nicknamed Bandit his "little dummkopf".



  1. Sorry to hear about Bandit. She sure is a lucky dog! I like your comparison to an 84 yr old woman leaping! Overall, it sounds like the dry docking was a success! The Mar Azul looks very impressive on land!

    Here’s to hoping your next passage attempt is a smooth one! Be sure to write to “MR. ST MAARTEN”, if you have ANY questions about your next destination.

    I hope your “little dummkopf” (my Grandmother used to call me the same!) has a fast recovery!

    • Thank you! We are planning to try again for St. Martin tonight. It’s another marginal forecast for us, but weather seems lighter than the last time – so we are planning to go out and take a look. Tomorrow this time we will either be there or back in the BVI’s.

      Know any doggie Physical Therapists on Sint Maarten? Looks like my pal is going to be okay but vet says to expect a slow recovery.

  2. Tell Bandit to behave, maybe this will slow her down for a little while. Hope you guys make it to St Maarten soon! Will you be on the French or Dutch side?

    • We plan to check in at Marigot and keep the big boat on the French side of the Lagoon. People, dogs & dinghies can go back and forth between French & Dutch territory without further customs requirements, and we expect to do some of our shopping on the Dutch side. If we move the big boat to the Dutch side, then we have to check out with the French & in with the Dutch. We have a mooring reserved for Dec 1 with Marina Port La Royale and sure hope we will get there by then. Had another aborted travel attempt Monday night 😦 and are back in the BVI’s waiting for better passage.

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