Evelyn, Chris and Erika

Evelyne, Chris and their daughter Eirka came sailing with me on Christmas Eve day. We had a great time beating out to the south side of St. John, then reached back in for some great snorkling at Christmas Cove. These guys own a local canvas shop, and are longtime residents of St. Thomas.

Joan and Layne's Trip to the Islands

Layne and Joan made a last minute decision to come down for a visit, and I am so glad. Layne is my boat systems guru, and I have him to thank for getting me on the path of boat maintenance and repair. He is AMAZING and can fix anything. Joan is an incredible bundle of fun, and between the two of them life becomes one party after another! For the first couple days Layne and I worked on the boat and then shoved off. The wind was blowing hard and we had a great anchorage in a little cove up in Hurricane Hole. We ended up at the Beach Bar Jazz Jam in Cruz Bay on Sunday nite and I got a chance to play harmonica with some great players. Made it up to Yost Van Dyke and said Hi to Foxy, drank Absinthe at Corsairs (ugh--we had the cheap stuff--), all had a terrible hangover the next day, eventually went diving at Congo Key and Christmas Cove, then back to port for a final farewell dinner and piano playing at Robert's American Grill.

Pictures by Layne "Cousteau" Erickson

Memories of my office in Madison

Here are pictures of the hot tub room which otherwise serves as my office in Madison. We have sold the house, closing is May 30th 2008, and we are currently looking for a "homebase" in Madison. I took these pictures of my office, which is off the master bathroom and part of the master bedroom suite. The hot tub sits across from my desk. This is the room that I spend the most time in. I'm gonna miss it--a little.

10/20 to 11/06--Phil's Trip to the Islands

Last week I had the pleasure of hosting Phil Devillers on the Bel Ami. We had a great week of sailing, starting out with a long sail from Christmas Cove to the North Sound over the north side of Tortola. Phil wrote a long a detailed journal of this trip, and I'm sure he'd be happy to send it out to any and all that are interested. Just email me and I will send you the file, which is compressed on Adobe Acrobat. Great pics and narrative of our adventures. In the meantime, below is a quick slideshow summary (and video clip immediately below) of our trip.

Bel Ami's Neighborhood

OK, so these are not the best pictures that my Motorola Razor phone has taken. Ok, so maybe I had a few too many Buds when I was snapping these pictures. But they give you a general ideal. What's missing are the gila monsters!

10/15/07--Lobster Hunt

Sunday Morning Annie and I went off with "Big Wave" Dave (BWD)and Lynne on their powerboat Sun Chaser. Friends Onyx and Janet were along. Onyx is an avid spear fisherman and lobsterhunter, and got BWD and me all psyched up for the hunt. Anne, Lynne and Janet kept the boat going while we were diving. To make a long story short, I forget to take my camera phone with me to take pictures, so I got some old pictures from BWD, and took some new pictures of their boat Sun Chaser. BWD and Onyx did manage to catch some rock lobsters and a caribbean lobster, and for dinner (after the Packer's squeaked by the Redskins)we had a great lobster zuchinni stir fry!! Anne left this morning and is on her way back to Wisconsin. I return in another week.

Welcome Annie!!!!

At long last, Annie has graced the Bel Ami with her presence! Coming off of a month where we almost sold the house, it has been quite an exciting and emotionally difficult time for us. We didn't get an offer on the house that we couldn't refuse, unfortunately. However, the offer was fair given the current market conditions, and seriously tempting. Negotiations have been protracted, the listing contract has expired as well as the offer. We got awfully close, (only 8 grand apart!) and I left it with Shelly (our wonderful and fabulous realtor--) that we would continue our conversation about selling while floating around in the islands. In the meantime, enjoy the picture show.

Dick and Shirley's Visit to the Islands. They will be returning soon for a house hunting trip!!!

Dave and Sam, the Utah Ladies Guy!

Here is a picture of me and Sam. All I heard about the whole time I was sailing with the Utah Ladies was about this great guy Sam who took care of their every want and need!!!! OK, so he's just a little better looking then I am; he's younger; stronger; smarter; and all that stuff. Sam, you the man!!!!

The Utah Ladies

September 27-28, 2007.

Here I am, playing the accordian at Tickles, minding my own business. Wednesday nite, open Mic, and I'm revving up a fine version of Billy Joel's "Accordian Man" when in walks a group of 4 Ladies from Utah! No, they are not Mormans. Just 4 friends who decided to take a September week's of vacation down in the Islands. And they are charmed by the accordian!

Here they are, from left to right, we got Kim, Sharon, Peggy and Keri (thats pronounced Carrie, like in the movie?)--WOW! They are down for the week, are having a great time, and looking for more fun times. They want to do it all: shopping, swimming, shopping, snorkling, more shopping, dancing, more shopping, drinking, shopping some more, eating...get the picture????
So I take a break, and meander over to my seat at the bar, which happens to be pretty close to where they are sitting. We strike up a conversation, and soon enough they welcome me into their group as one of their own... Ok, sorta. I let it be known that I have a sailboat that is itching to go sailing, and would they like to come along for a day sail and a snorkle. After a moments hesitation, they say yes, and the details are arranged.
Next morning they meet me at Garcigas (formerly known as Bottom's Up, the little bar/restaurant in the Mangroves at the base of A dock in my marina). The've gone shopping, and supplies are loaded on board. We head out to St. John's for an day of snorkling by Watermelon Cay. Afterwards, drinks are served and a day of sailing and snorkling turns into an onboard overnite. Finally, I had a captive audience and I played my accordian to my hearts content on the foredeck under the full moon!!

Next day we pick up a mooring in Caneel Bay, and have an exciting dingy ride over to Cruz Bay on St. John, where the Utah Ladies go shopping till their hearts content. Then its back to St. Thomas for a fine evening of Jazz at the Tavern on the WaterFront, owned by my new friend Slawek, a Polish guitar player who wants to get together for accordian and guitar duets.
Never a dull moment!
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Click Here to see Dick's Visit to the BVI

My good friend Gerard has been a fabulous resource and overall good buddy. He has lived down here for several years, and adds a wonderful craziness to all thats happening. He has introduced me to many wonderful people, including Dorene who publishes an island restaurant guide and who is also a super pastry chef (a good person to know especially if you like to eat!!). Gerard's friend Dick recently came down from Maine for a visit, and he, Gerard, Dorene and I went sailing on Bel Ami for a few days. Dick fell in love with the area. I expect he'll soon be back. Aside from being station manager for the local NPR radio station, Gerard is a professional photographer. Clicking on the above link brings you to some very nice pictures of the islands, as well as the Bel Ami. Enjoy!!!

Dick and Dorene with me on Sandy Cay

Click Here for Views from Top of Yost Van Dyke

On September 3, 2007, I hiked up to the top of Yost Van Dyke, one of the many very cool places in the BVI. White Bay on this island is one of my daughter Sarah's favorite places in the world. The hike up to the top is brutal in the heat and humidity, but well worth the trek! Plan to have good hiking shoes and bring plenty of water!

Accordian Hits St. Thomas with Devastating Force!

Yes Folks, its finally happened. My accordian is finally out and about in this Island Paradise. And how well was it received? Well, just look on the faces of some of the party goers, and you decide!

I've started playing at some of the local open Mics: Lattitudes 18 (Great Meat Loaf!!) and Tickles are two local bars that have regular weekly open Mics. Mighty Whitey (pictures below) is the moderator, and he sings all the good ole songs from the good ole days. We've had as many as 5 players/singers on stage at one time, and it makes for an excellent jam!

Hurricane Dean

Hurricane Dean began in the South East Atlantic just west of the coast of Africa and slowly made its way across the Atlantic, building up strength. When it was over 1000 miles from St. Thomas, it was predicted to hit the region of the Virgin Islands. I was originally to visit my parents in NY this past weekend, but canceled those plans to prepare the Bel Ami for a hurricane hit. This involved taking off all canvas and shades, taking down the foresail, and making 6 large dock lines with 4 feet of chain at the end of each dock line. The chain was wrapped around large pilings where the boat is docked.

Turns out the hurricane missed the Virgin Islands, with the eye passing about 200 miles south. We experienced rather benign conditions on land, although the seas were incredible, with 10-15 foot waves breaking on shore, and periods of heavy rain. But for the most part, the weather remained sunny and beautiful as always. For more information on Hurricane Dean and other hurricanes, click anywhere on the above picture.
Fair Winds

News Update

Bel Ami now has two new electric flush toilets, as well as a portable ice maker (thanks to Larry and Kitty). The project list is getting bigger and bigger, and includes such items as electronic navigation systems, windvane automatic steering, wind and solar power generators, new life raft and emergency beacons. Audio and video systems are also being installed. A spare parts inventory is being developed for those breakdowns in far-away places. Work is slowly but surely being accomplished.

Here is the Bel Ami at Dock in Benner's Bay, St. Thomas. It has a wonderful "ShadeTree" Awning that keeps the decks and interior cool despite the tropical sun. Bel Ami has 2 separate staterooms, each with its own head (bathroom/shower); a well equipped galley (kitchen); Salon area with large dining table that can seat 8 people!. There are 3 airconditioners, one for each stateroom and one in the galley/salon area. While in port there is good internet and cell service.

Daughter Sarah Visits Bel Ami in June

My daughter Sarah and her friend Terese visited Bel Ami in June. Here are some of the pictures they took.