Sunday, March 26, 2017

Cheapskates on the Move: Make your own Fizzy Water

Sodastream's have become quite popular for good reason:  

  • You can make carbonated water from tap water!  
  • No more lugging home cans, bottles or 2-litres.  
  • It's eco-friendly because it eliminates single-use bottles or cans (reducing the plastics going into the trash and ocean).  
  • You never run out.  
  • No ingredients you can't pronounce.  
  • Cheaper in the long run.
I frequently refer to making our own club soda on the boat since that is a term people understand, but it is really carbonated water or seltzer.  Learn the difference here:

Don't drink soda?  Here's what you can make with carbonated water:

  • Sodastream mixes:  You can make an individual glass & it can be adjusted for each individuals taste by adding more or less syrup ie. ginger ale, root beer, lemon lime,
  • The Captain drinks the carbonated water straight up
  • I like to add it to fruit juice like grape, cranberry or grapefruit (a good way to wean yourself off of soda--little fizzy & a little sweet, using less & less juice to save calories)
  • Homemade sodas like ginger ale, lime and cream soda (or Italian Soda if you're at Starbucks). There are tons more on the internet.  Think green tea or chai concentrates, simple syrups, fruit juice, Torani flavored syrups, or sassafrass concentrate.
  • Mixer:  Wine spritzer, see "lime" in recipes below for sweet & sour/margarita mix, to dilute hard liquors 
  • Tonic:  Sodastream mixer is good or homemade (
An extra Sodastream CO2 cylinder costs $30 (one is included with your purchase) & can be exchanged for refills in the states for $15 (I used Bed Bath & Beyond 20% off coupons).  We had two at home so when one ran out, there wasn't a rush to exchange.  Once you leave the country, you won't be able to exchange.  You may be able to refill if you have all the pieces and can talk someone into it.  Friends on sv Sail Pending use dry ice: (

We had a SodaStream but we bought a 4 lb C02 bottle and brought it to the boat (can't ship or take on airplanes) and then attached our Sodastream head when the smaller canisters were empty.  It lasted 18 months and we refilled it for $14 (labor waived) at Caribbean Inflatables in Red Hook, St. Thomas, USVI.  While some articles recommend using regular soda bottles, I still use the SodaStream brand water bottles (watch expiration date.  You don't want one of these to explode!)

Home brew supply stores are making it easier to find all the bits & pieces to make your own set up from scratch.  Here's a few articles:

Tips:  Water fizzes better when it's cold so we keep 2 bottles in the fridge or refill with water pitcher.  Add flavoring after fizzing or even better, in the glass.

Ginger ale
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1 1/2 cups hot (not boiling) water
3/4 cup honey
sparkling water 

1. Combine all in a blender and process for 1 minute. Strain into a canning jar and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 10 days. 
2. To Make Ginger Ale: Pour 1/4 cup of the ginger mixture (more or less to taste) into a glass. 
3. Add sparkling water and ice cubes. Makes about 2 cups--enough for 8 servings of ginger ale. 

Lime soda
2 oz lime simple syrup, or to taste
6 oz club soda

Cream soda:  
2 oz vanilla syrup recipe:  Simmer 1 cup water & 1 cup sugar until sugar dissolves.  Allow to cool.  Add 1 tbsp vanilla extract & refrigerate
6 oz carbonated water
(Splash heavy whipping cream or Half & half, if desired)

Bonnie's Copycat Starbucks Refresher Energy drink (12 oz)
Ingredients on can:
Carbonated water 
Fruit Juice concentrate 25% (Raspberry/Pom, Orange/Melon, Strawberry Lemonade) 
Green Coffee extract 
Citric acid 

4 oz carbonated water 
4 oz green tea concentrate (1 1/2 c. water to 4 teabags or purchase powder) 
4 oz white grape juice & another fruit juice of your choice (also try frozen concentrate?) 
Simple syrup to taste

muddled lime
6 oz carbonated water,
2 oz rum

Thursday, March 23, 2017

SMS from

Click the link below to see the map of our arrival in Jost Van Dyke, BVI:
Lat+18deg26'35" Lon-64deg45'4" Alt+142ft GPS Sats seen: 09 2017-03-23 14:25UTC Sent via Iridium GO!

SMS from

Click the link below to see the map of our location as we depart Soper's Hole, West End, BVI:
Lat+18deg23'15" Lon-64deg42'56" Alt+142ft GPS Sats seen: 11 2017-03-23 13:34UTC Sent via Iridium GO!

Wildlife of Brewer's Bay

The underwater camera allows pics from a new perspective!

St. Thomas, Part 2: (Yes, this is a long one.  We were here a long time!  Let's wrap this up so we can get moving...)

Our time at Brewer's Beach could be summed with TURTLES!  I could sit in the cockpit on any given day and count 6.  If I snorkel, I usually lose count at 10.  We even saw a humpback whale!  For The Captain, is was all about free water and the safari.  "Where should we go on the Safari today?"  We averaged a trip every other day, for a monthly total of $60--less than putting gas in a car.  We just added the $2-4 dollars to each errand.  Groceries--skip the cookie purchase, take the safari.  Laundry?  Go to The Washboard downtown and it will cost less than Crown Bay Marina if we take the Safari.

ALWAYS near our anchor chain.  Good job, buddy.

All the boats anchored along the beach LEFT!  So we repositioned. Closer to the dinghy dock/beach, better snorkeling, more sheltered, no rocks!  After a quick snorkel to verify our anchor set (much better), I left the pufferfish, a ray and a turtle on anchor watch (no lie. Can't make that stuff up!)

Panorama of Brewer's Beach
Thanks to cruiser happy hour aboard s/v SeaSparrow with Beagle Knot & Nauti Dog, we know the password at Bad Ass Coffee in Yacht Haven Grande is "mango" (and they were closed when we got there, so good thing we knew the password!).  Netflix me.

The very first photo with the new camera

More errands.  The Captain headed in to check on battery prices at the marina.  I braved the downtown cruise ship dock to buy an underwater camera ("No, I don't want the $300 one.  I want the $130 one!"  And cruise ship passengers, please put something on over your bathing suit before coming into town.  It's rude).  Upon returning & a quick lunch, we noticed our unattended neighbor was dragging (the wind is howling a steady 20-25 today.  Go Windy!).  We made a quick radio announcement then jumped in the dinghy.  Another boat knew how to get a hold of them on the phone (and confirmed there wasn't a key onboard).  I did a quick change to snorkel their anchor and confirmed deeper water but temporarily set with minimum scope.  As I returned to check our anchor, the owner's appeared, so I continued on and found the 4 resident turtles that live near our section of the beach.  I also found the ray, still on anchor watch--just missing the pic of him SITTING on the chain.   "I'm ON it, lady!"  Our resident pufferfish has eluded me for the last two days.  I'll find him!

Hello, DUDE!

Day #2 with the underwater camera!  After finding the 4 turtles that live close by, I went on a longer snorkel and lost count at 10 turtles and 10 rays (I was starting to think they were circling back but the turtles were really more interested in lunch--and the rays were more interested in getting away from me)!

The crap that can snag your anchor in Brewer's Bay (and I didn't make it all the way over to our last anchoring spot).  If you're chart plotter doesn't show the fiber optic cable--you should be looking for those tiny floating buoys that mark it coming off the beach

Pipe, but not the cable?

Wrapping your chain around this will be fun

Jury is still out on this one, but it was BIG.  8ftish

I'm winning at Scrabble and still had time for a sunset photo
Photos from around town. Our neighbors...

Public service announcement:  Our anchorage is dead calm, so I decided to work on treading water (sans snorkel gear).  I usually only last a few minutes with a flutter kick before I panic & grab a hold of something.  After some internet research on technique, I stayed in for an hour and for the first time ever, could float on my back!  You really can learn to do anything on the internet.  Sheldon Cooper would be proud.  I may be sore tomorrow...

Happy sunset!
Contemplating life & the sunrise with a cup of coffee and Amelia-Baby Bear

Laundry day!  Sun and breeze, do your magic...
I work up a sweat so it was followed by a jump in the water.  Yesterday, I completed 6 laps of the boat--200 yards (turns out I'm not a terrible swimmer when motivated.  We'll call that free-freestyle.  Kind of a backstroke doggie paddle).  Today was Noodling at Sea, or Staying Fit with Water Aerobics - Willie Haskins (basically, deep-water aerobics).  I did "cross country skiing" below the galley hatch while The Captain cooked Beef & Broccoli for lunch.  He even did dishes.  Win--win.  "Did you save any leftover rice?"  "Yeah, it's in the fridge."  "Got it."

One of the 7 tarpon...
(video) Life under our boat is all about the food chain.  The tiny fish live under out boat.  There must be 100's of thousands.  Small fish (6") arrive and eat the tiny fish.  Then the pelicans arrive.  This 4-foot tarpon is also clearly visible from deck (apparently what has been causing all the bigger splashes) and is currently eating the buffet under our boat.  Keep it down out there kids!  We're trying to take a nap!  THIS MORNING WE HAVE 7, yes SEVEN, large tarpon circling our boat!  And some medium fish have also arrived, that were quite territorial when I tried to clean the bottom of the boat yesterday--"Go away!  We're hiding under here!  Our spot!"  NOTE:  We also now have tiny fish in our toilet.  Well, that makes sense...

My elusive pufferfish is bashful, but always close to the boat.

Today, the water is so calm, we could see this turtle munching grass off the stern, so I waited for him to surface--RIGHT NEXT TO THE BOAT!  Love it here.  Never leaving..."TURTLE!"

Another cold front has reached us in the USVI.  (Dang it!  Don't get me wrong--I still jumped in for a swim yesterday). We knew when the winds switched SW it would get choppy because we're not protected from that direction, but it was already moving WNW as we went to bed.  I was awoken at 2:30 am by gusty winds (wind generator!  I should have made yogurt!), a pitching boat, waves slapping the bridge deck and the feel of our anchor chain jerking.  I can't sleep through that.  I go into the cockpit, expecting the winds have gone back west but they're NW and gusting.  A check of the chart plotter indicates we've either: stretched out our chain farther than we have since we've been here (The Captain), or the anchor has reset in the wind shift (First Mate).  Either way, we are closer to the swim beach but more importantly, our catamaran neighbor (who snuggled up while we were in town) is still over there.  The Captain is already back to sleep and Amelia the Princess also rolls over and goes back to sleep.  Goobers.  The good news is the unlocked guest network in the bay actually works at 2:30 am and I'm all caught up on the world.  We've settled down to simply a bouncy castle but I still can't sleep.

Our dolphins are back!  Steve from the Marine Science division confirmed they frequent the area.  It's been approximately 5 weeks since we last saw the two adults & two juveniles.   

Humpback whale sighting off the end of St. Thomas airport & Brewers Beach. Apparently took an hour long nap, then swam away!
There was speculation she may have actually had a calf!  Photos courtesy of the local paper

I dropped some sunglasses in the water.  Some nice, wrap-around cycling glasses that should have gone back to the RV.  We were headed into town.  They did a slow-motion skip down the back step and drifted on top of the water for a few seconds.  I could have jumped in.  I could have grabbed a boat hook but the wind swung us away, right then.  The Captain considered stripping and jumping in.  "Ahhhh, you can dive for them later".  Dang. 

I can barely scrape the bottom of our 3 ft keels, more or less dive the 8-10 ft of water we're anchored in.  I had hoped DH would retrieve them but his sinuses have been acting up.  The one afternoon I didn't feel like a swim, but in I go.  "Should we try a boat hook?"  No, it floats.  "What about the fishing line?"  You can try...  The current & wind kept moving me & the fishing line around.  I got konked on the head a few times by the dinghy--(this WAS his fault to begin with)!  I got the hook close a few times and was hoping to drag it across.  Instead, I finally got it on top of the sunglasses and contemplating my next move--the current gave the hook a jerk and they were off the bottom!  Quickly (but not too quickly), I reeled them in.  MUCH MORE SATISFYING than going to the mall for a new pair!  I'm pretty impressed with myself right now.  It's the little things in life, when you live on a boat.

Some of the best shell collecting since the Bahamas

"It's blowing a gale so let's get on a boat & go snorkeling!"  20 gust 30+.   We've never seen this tour boat before...2 failed attempts at anchoring & waved off of picking up the fiber optic mooring before they left. 

Note Cyril King airport 45 mph!
Our last evening in Brewer's will be happy hour on sv Encore.  Perfect end to a perfect anchorage.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Special Report: Hike Leinster to Coral Bay

Last year, we barely stepped foot on St. John (except to pay our mooring fee at Lameshur:  (planesboatsandbicycles/2016/05/virgin-islands), forget about taking advantage of the extensive hiking trails.  Time to make up for it.

Difficulty:  Moderate (No flip flops.  Teva sandals, but we did have a blowout, possibly unrelated) to difficult (tennis shoes).

This is a marked National Park hike.  The trail was mostly shaded in the morning and has a few steep sections but also levels out and a few downhills.

Recommend:  Leave early, at least 16 oz of water/each, sunblock, hat, long sleeves, (bug spray, but we didn't need it).

The island of St. John, USVI is over 50% national park which includes a series of hiking trails.  We heard a rumor you could hike from our anchorage in Leinster/Waterlemon to Coral Bay for lunch at Skinny Legs (a popular cruiser stop).

I found very little info about the trail, except the National Park map.  It was either 1.5-1.8 miles, depending on who you ask.  It should take 2 hours one way.  We feel a little out of shape, we we take it "Caribbean slow" and do it in an hour.  (MapMyRide ultimately showed 500 ft elevation gain one way, so 1000 ft of total climbing with a 30:00 min/mile avg pace).  

Here's my notes:

Tie the dinghy to the mangroves on the east beach

Step through the mangroves...

And turn left on the National Park hiking trail

You should see this sign just before you head up the hill.  The Captain broke his sandal just after here, but refused to go back...

Ruins of the Danish Guard House, overlooking Waterlemon/Leinster Bay

Another view near the top of the pass

A few signs to confirm you stay on the right path

And there are a few steep spots

View overlooking Coral Bay as we head back down

You'd think we're almost there we we reach the boat on the trail, but not yet

Street art greets us as we enter downtown

Coral Bay:  A haven from the tourists, this is a laid-back community of craftsmen and artists, but cruisers come for Skinny Legs Bar & Grill.  Apparently, Skinny Legs is to the left (I also would have also liked to scope out the dinghy dock).  We end up heading the other way towards the Dolphin Market (too tired to stop & scope it out.  Next time) and end up stopping at Oasis, an outdoor bar that was open for breakfast (it was Sunday & their website doesn't reflect this).  The Captain has a scone the size of a loaf of bread.

Brunch on the Oasis patio was like Colorado in the Caribbean!  Huevos Rancheros & an iced Chai.  Wifi & free ice water refill for our water bottle!

My favorite

More art in Oasis

For some reason, we noticed more cactus on the way back.  Taking over a tree

Cactus overtaking a rock

Good info

More interesting fauna

"Now that's a big, dam cactus..."
Aloe, I believe but The Captain didn't recognize it because it was SO BIG!  Well over our heads

And back to the ruins overlooking Watermelon Cay.  The Captain's Teva had a complete failure here (that's sv Encore in the middle).  

I would call the hike over moderate.  However, with a belly full of food & the sun higher in the sky, the first mile back up with the sun at our back was tricky (long sleeves & lots of water).  A couple we passed going down into Coral Bay was coming back from Leinster.  They swear the last hill up to Coral Bay was the hardest.  I guess it depends which way you are going.  Worth the trip, but only once.  We did it because we could.

Here's a cool website:

More about the Johnny Horn Trail & other activities on St. John, check out

Also check out the Vitran bus route for getting around the island