Sailing in the Virgin Islands, visiting Northshore Yachts, Easter in Malta | Distant Shores Sailing Newsletters

Sailing in the Virgin Islands, visiting Northshore Yachts, Easter in Malta

Hello Everyone,

Lots has been happening since our last newsletter but our biggest news is that Two-Step has been sold! Her new owners are a delightful couple from Malta who have been fans of Distant Shores for many years so have shared in the boat's adventures through the TV series and DVDs and have affectionate feelings for her. Two-Step will be in good hands when we say goodbye at the end of June after our last voyage with her to ports along the west coast of Italy.

Now, to bring you up to date on some of the other fabulous cruising destinations that we've been checking out over the last few months...

After a couple of months of winter weather in Canada where we were giving presentations at boat shows and working in the studio on new episodes of Distant Shores, Paul and I Caribbean scenewere ready for some warmer temperatures and sunshine sailing. Since our main criteria for a new boat is that it be a shallow-draft ocean-going vessel, we felt it was only fair that we check out all the possibilities including motor-sailers and multi-hull sailing yachts. We'd had a couple of invitations from friends to join them in the Caribbean aboard these types of boats, so in March we flew south to the U.S. Virgin Islands to first sail with Benno and Marlene Klopfer aboard their beautifully self-built 41-foot aluminum yacht troller, Diesel Duck, and later with friends, Jan Mundy and Steve Kalman of DIY Boat Owner magazine for a week's charter aboard a Lagoon 380 catamaran.

Palm Tree

The Virgin Islands always seem to be a place of decision for Paul and me when it comes to our life of cruising. Our decision to build Two-Step and go cruising took place there when we first chartered in the Virgin Islands in 1984. We returned to the Virgin Islands aboard Two-Step in 1992 at the end of our 3-year Atlantic Circle and celebrated making the dream a reality. Now here we were back in the Virgin Islands making a decision about selling Two-Step and buying a new boat, starting yet another era in our cruising lives.

This time we worried would the islands feel too changed, too crowded? But we were pleasantly surprised! There are Mooring Fieldmore boats, yes, but there are great new mooring fields everywhere so you never worry about inexperienced sailors dragging anchor and swinging into you or anchoring too close. There was always room for everyone, so much lower stress. The mooring fields preserve the natural environment in popular places which is the islands greatest resource. If you want to anchor, room has usually been left so you have the option to anchor if you wish and in the quiet places off the main “routes” you can anchor freely. Also, there are more great facilities than in 1984 and 1992 – modern marinas, excellent grocery stores, chandleries, restaurants, internet cafes, WIFI, dive boats that come right to your yacht to pick you up! It really is great!
DD anchored

But back to cruising on Diesel Duck, the name of our friend's boat as well as the model of the boat, a Diesel Duck 41 yacht troller. Benno and Marlene Klopfer are friends from our boat building days. Before building Diesel Duck which they have been living aboard for 2 years, they built a lovely steel sailboat and completed a circumnavigation aboard her just as we were completing work on Two-Step. Their advice and encouragement over the years has been invaluable.

Diesel Duck is the Klopfer's “retirement” yacht and is well-equipped with all the latest cruising comforts – generator, watermaker, fresh-water flush toilet, washer/dryer, you name it! It was Washing Machinegreat fun to island-hop with them for 2 weeks in such comfort and learn about all the fancy systems they've installed, some of which we are considering for our new boat, the Southerly 42RST. See Paul's New Boat Blog for details.

We motored and sailed with Benno and Marlene (who let us film the experience for Distant Shores) from St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands to the tranquil island of Culebra in the Spanish Virgin Islands of Puerto Rico spotting humpback whales en route, then back to St. John's in the USVI and next on to Tortola and Peter Island in the British Virgin Islands. The yacht troller concept is appealing since there is lots of room aboard for comfortable live-aboard accommodation, you can conserve fuel by sailing with its main and jib, and it is capable of ocean passages.

DD dinner

The two weeks aboard Diesel Duck were filled with fun, laughter and good times (and good food - Marlene is a wonderful cook!) so the days just flew by. But soon it was time to say goodbye and meet Jan and Steve in Nanny Cay, Tortola BVI for a week of bareboat chartering aboard a Lagoon 380 catamaran called “Annie's Toy” which we organized through The Catamaran Company. On their website You can check out the layout of this boat, see online videos of it sailing, peruse and choose provisions, and view suggested sailing itineraries which we found very useful when planning this adventure with Jan and Steve in February.

Although all 4 of us have a lot of miles under our keels, none of us had ever sailed a catamaran before so we were all looking forward to the experience. The multi-talented Jan, besides building her own sailboat, being an expert in both sailboat and powerboat repair, a top-notch marine journalist and editor of DIY Boat Owner magazine, is a top-ranking racing sailor and former sailmaker. Jan was especially keen on testing out the cat.

Lagoon 380

Our first impression was that it was like sailing a hotel suite! For the length of the boat, the catamaran felt so wide to us die-hard mono-hullers. The accommodation is immense compared to a mono-hull of similar length. We also couldn't get over the fact you could leave a glass sitting on the saloon table and it wouldn't tip over while sailing! Each couple had their own pontoon with luxurious cabin(s) shower and heads, so lack of privacy wasn't an issue. There is also so much room on deck that you're never in each other's way.

The boat was beautifully set up with lots of fresh towels and linens, cleaning products, and a welcome basket with complimentary snacks and drinks including a bottle of Pusser's Rum! We all love to cook and the galley was well-equipped and included good sized fridge, as well as a large stand-up freezer and cooler located in the cockpit. We went with the partial provisioning service since we planned to eat out occasionally but there is a very good grocery store right in the marina, an outlet of Bobby's Market, with everything you could imagine so in future would probably self-provision but for the first time out it saved time and was a good service. While planning, we had lots of good Sunday lunches together going over the suggested lists and imagining delicious meals on board in the tropics as the snow flew at home.
Group Virgin Gorda

After thorough instructions from the Catamaran Company rep, we cast off and another week of fun began as Jan put the boat through the ropes and formed us into a well-knit crew as we sailed from Tortola to Peter Island, then to Long Bay on Virgin Gorda, and as a special treat sailed to the most remote island in the BVI, Anegada, where we stuffed ourselves with lobster for which the reef-strewn island is famous, and kicked back on the beautiful beaches, snorkelling for hours amongst the vibrant reefs. Then back to Virgin Gorda for a day at the Baths, where there are huge boulders forming grottos along the coast, followed by a slow sail to Sandy Spit for more snorkelling, and concluded our cruise with a rollicking reach back to Nanny Cay, tacking back and forth across the Sir Francis Drake Channel.

It was a great week! We all became catamaran converts, as least as far as chartering goes. They are so comfortable and fun to sail and have lots and lots of room for friends and family. But our mono-hull heritage is hard to shake. We feel safe in mono-hulls at sea and although our time in the Caribbean opened our eyes to other possibilities it also helped confirm our decision that the swing-keel Southerly yacht is the new shallow-draft boat for us.


We flew back to Toronto with Jan and Steve at the end of March, did the laundry, and jumped back on a plane to fly to England to discuss options for our new boat with the ever-patient Robert Hughes at Northshore Yachts and do another test sail of the Southerly 42, this time on a model with the same double headsail rig we want.

Double headsail

We feel so at home on this boat. The time is definitely right for a change and new adventures.

Easter in Malta
After 2 days in England where we spent the last night with friends, Larry and Eileen, aboard Wayward Wind where they have been wintering in London at St. Katharine Dock on the Thames River, we flew on to Malta where we had stored Two-Step for the winter. Upon arriving and checking our e-mail we received a request from potential buyers keen to take a look at the boat that day. We had to delay them for the weekend since it was Easter and we were scheduled to film the festivities before we'd even get a chance to give the boat a thorough cleaning following 4 months of winter storage.
Good Friday Procession

The Good Friday processions are really special in Malta. In almost every village there is a huge street theatre event where the story of Easter is re-enacted. The participants dress in elaborate costumes and teams of men carry very heavy statues depicting the 12 stages of the cross. It is an exhausting endeavor taking often three hours as they walk up and down the very steep narrow streets carrying the statues.

“Join the Crew” charters
Kids in dinghy

Thanks to everyone who has written to us about the possibility of joining us for a week or two this winter aboard our new boat, “Southerly Explorer”. We have had a very positive response to this idea so invite you to “Join the Crew” this winter to introduce your family to the cruising lifestyle, develop navigation skills, and/or build offshore passage-making experience which we'll be offering on several legs of our voyage. The voyage includes a transatlantic passage to the Caribbean, and then gentle Caribbean island-hopping through the winter for our Introduction to Cruising weeks.

Introducing Jill and Peter Schaffner
Jill in office

Joining our crew at home base are Jill and Peter Schaffner of Expedition Yacht Services of Canada. Jill is taking over from Dale who many of you had the pleasure of dealing with over the years when ordering DVDs or organizing seminars. Dale has moved from the area and has started a new career working in the resort industry. We will miss her and wish her well! Jill is now handling our office administration as well as coordinating reservations for our new “Join the Crew” program.

Jill and her husband, Peter Schaffner, are long-time sailing friends of ours and Peter will be available to skipper the new boat at times of the year when Paul and I are at home working in the studio doing post production on our television programs and DVDs. We look forward to working with both Jill and Peter on our latest venture and hope you get a chance to meet them soon! Office hours are 9-5 Mon-Fri ET. Phone 705-484-0862, Fax 705-484-5968 (Country code for North America is 1) or by e-mail at this link.

Wishing you fair winds and great fun on the water this season,

Sheryl and Paul Shard
SV Two-Step
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