"The days pass happily with me wherever my ship sails." Joshua Slocum
Ah....I thought I started this blog a week ago, but have misplaced it...so here goes. It appears that to be able to get a reservation at Puerto Rico you have to be there all the time waiting in line for an opening. There are currently 20 on a list and no land room even in March. I assume that there will be none in June when the rush starts. So here we go ago, back up and start over.
We have been thinking about heading to Antigua. Bill and Colleen are heading down in April, spending a few weeks in St Martin and the jumping over. Our main problem this year is timing, we cannot leave BVI until the mid parts of May (a wedding not to be missed). Since it takes 2 -3 weeks of island jumping to get to Antigua it puts us awfully close the nasty unpredictable weather season that starts June 1. We thought if we summered in Antigua we could just head south in the fall.
After talking to folks who have recently cruised down island (south of Antigua) it now seems that our memories of 15- 20 years ago are something to hang onto. The consensus is that the islands have all changed, for the worse. People talk about the crime, having to lock themselves in the boats at night only to hear people climbing aboard to try and strip off the valuables. Folks have mentioned people being hurt - on their boats - in a harbor - by people carrying machetes. Others talk about the fact that there are no places to anchor, every place is full of mooring balls costing $25-$30 a night and of dubious condition - more stories of balls pulling free, painters ( the line you tie to) breaking. Some of the islands mentioned were our favorites. A lot of the experienced long term cruisers are heading no further south than Antigua and actually wintering in the British and US Virgins where they feel safe. Some are jumping offshore to Trinidad for the summer season and then heading back north to St. Martin and then the BVI area.
We have sailed south-years ago- nearly to Grenada. We remember beautiful islands, no mooring balls, and friendly people. I think we will keep our good memories for now and stay in this area next season. Steve will be 71 soon and I am heading straight at 66. We are in good health now. If we leave this area for foreign ports we will have to purchase medical insurance ($4000+ a year) because our Medicare and supplemental insurances will not cover us outside the US. We are covered (to some extent) in the USVI and Puerto Rico - you have to file your own claims for reimbursement. Plus here we are a very short jet flight away from major medical care in PR or Miami. Things we need to think about at our age.
So this brings us to our current plans. We have reserved a "hurricane cradle" at Nanny Cay Marina on Tortola BVI for May 15. This system has a good rating with the local insurers. We are going to see if we can talk our insurer into some coverage for the summer too. It is all hit and miss. Hopefully the storms will miss. The cradle is a custom built to fit the boat system used to support the boat on land complete with tie downs to screws. They have had no problems keeping the boats upright. Of course if there is a major Cat 5 storm all bets will be off. Sometimes you just got to throw the dice. Flying out May 16th and then in mid November we will return. This coming year maybe our last in the Caribbean so we plan to hit all the anchorages we have missed this year and get more sailing in before and after the Christmas winds.
The current idea( which we all know is up to change) is to sail back up north in late April 2014, hugging the island chain, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, (Cuba if the stupid US government allows) and carefully up through the Bahamas to grab a ride north on the gulf stream. We may head back to the Beaufort NC.
We are seriously thinking about selling the house and moving out west to be closer to the family. This means summers out there and maybe winters on the boat somewhere warmish - Beaufort NC was comfortable - maybe a little further south. We could store cimaise on the hard for the summers and become snow birds. Lots to investigate and think about.
Spent yesterday in Roadtown doing errands. We had to "import" the boat temporarily for 1 year ($201) to be able to get around the 30 day check in/out cycle and leave her here when we fly out. Still have to go to the main immigration office to get our visas extended to May 16. Will do that while Steve's brother is here and we can taxi to Roadtown to show him the cruise ship tourist spots. We also finally got out new fluxgate compass and other boats parts from Richard. You remember back in November the fluxgate compass packed in and the guys had to hand steer the boat for 10 days. No fluxgate compass no autopilot - no autopilot - only human pilot. So this week we will install the new one and then go swing the boat around in circles to calibrate it and hopefully the problem will be solved. I hate electronics. The new alternator pulley system is working wonderfully. No more rubber dust, no more fan belt replacements. Lots of money but a fine piece of engineering, went on fast - works as advertised.
Today is a lay day..as in lay about and do nothing..so I need to go back to my job lying about. More later.
|cimaise and crew||
Here we are back in the good ole USA. Had to check out of BVI ¬- 30 day visa only¬....so we checked back in at Cruz Bay St John, picked up the mail and some groceries and headed back to Francis Bay. The first thing to note is the strange weather pattern we are in. The Christmas winds are gone; in fact there is mostly NO WIND. It has blown anywhere from NE to South to NW, but only 1 knot to maybe 8 knots. Periods of no wind at all. This causes the mooring float ball (a hard plastic ball the size of a large basketball) to knock on the boat as we float around aimlessly tethered to the bottom ¬- this occurs at night of course¬....knock knock, knock...who¬'s there??? Without the wind, the air becomes a little humid (not like Virginia humid thanks the gods) and warmer than we like. Ah-- jump in for a swim. It seems like there is at least a week of this windless weather coming. So as we pick up the mooring in Francis Bay we see our friends on Dolce Vita. Bill and Coleen wave and later stop by for a cool drink and chat. We tell them that we have received the serpentine pulley set for the alternator that Bill recommended and were thinking about starting the install. We had been told by the manufacturer to take the alternator to a machine shop to have the original pulley removed. This was going to be expensive and time consuming. First we would have to head back to BVI and moor nearest the machine shop recommended, then remove the alternator ¬- a feat requiring much swearing and a million electrical connections (this is not an automotive alternator) ¬- taxis to and from on BVI would run $50 each round trip (may take 2 days/trips if we have to leave it there), the machine shop cost, and then there is the down time for the freezer. No alternator ¬- no electricity ¬- no refrigeration. Bill thought that he and Steve could do it here. So the following da y Bill arrives and the two of them do manage, without cursing or raised voices. They removed the alternator pulley while still attached to the engine and install all the new pulleys and belt ¬- all in less than an hour. VOILA! So far it seems to work great. Hopefully this will be end of the rubber dust in the engine compartment. We are NOT going to get hauled in Frenchmans Cay BVI¬...too bad¬...he has too many boats already and not enough land. So the next spot to try for is in Puerto Rico. Puerto del Rey Marina has a good reputation and a hurricane program. We are going to try and get a reservation for mid May today. It is 55 miles from St. John, with US Customs check in (you have to re check in from the USVI to PR ?!) in Culebre ¬-( a Spanish Virgin Island) a PR island halfway there with a nice anchorage. So we can split the trip up into 2 day sails- with a nice spot to check out and wait for weather. Hard to believe we are starting to plan to head north already. We are making plans for next year. I think we are going to postpone trips south for now. We really like St. John and have only seen a third of it so far. Steve will be 71 this year and I am not far behind him. We are thinking it would be more prudent to stay near US medical/medicare facilities and not to get banged up heading offshore. Heading south we would have to purchase international medical insurance (Medicare does not work outside the country) for nearly $4000 a year. Thoughts may change but for now I think we will be here again next winter. We are going to talk to the US Park Service volunteer coordinator to see if we could be volunteers next season. Rumors have it you get a free mooring for the season (saving $7.50 a night) and actually get to help out and meet people. A rainy day, great for the islands..it has been weeks. Going to check out some of the TEN THOUSAND books that Bill put on our hard drive!! cool!!!!
|cimaise and crew||
see the photos..more words later
|cimaise and crew||
"A tourist remains an outsider throughout his visit; but a sailor is part of the local scene from the moment he arrives." - Anne Davison
Tis morning. This one seems to be a little late in the morning squall department. Blue skies and scattered fluffy clouds. The sounds of water gurgling by the hull as we dozed in the vee berth...awaking slowing to the quiet bouncing of the boat..NOT!! How about the sound of an airplane warming up right next to us in anchorage. A turbo charged 6 seat-er on floats. She is taxi - ing out to take off into what little breeze there is. She deserves a name but alas has only numbers on her hull. She looks like a dragonfly, so maybe that is her name. It is only a moment's noise and poof she is gone, running across the Sound, splashing, and then she rises away from the water to sail upon the air. Ms. Fly is on her way to Beef Island Airport to fetch customers for the Bitter End Yacht Club (BEYC) - those landlubber type customers seeking a dwelling on the hill. There are ferries from the airport to Virgin Gorda, mooring at Spanish Town - a mountain and taxi ride away from Gun Creek, where the BEYC ferry can pick them up. A longer trip for sure but I am sure somewhat cheaper than a private seaplane flight.
The BEYC is not on a separate island, it is on Virgin Gorda (VG) at the very north east end. The roads run over the mountain to the north west end and to Gun Creek. The terrain is too steep for roads going east, hence the BEYC ferry. Being somewhat removed has not stopped folks from building in this corner. Besides the BEYC you have Saba Rock (actually a resort build on a large rock next to the BEYC beach), Biras Creek Resort (upscale? So they claim..kinda run down), and 2 new ones. The exclusive members only - you can dock your 350 foot mega yack here - North Sound Yacht Club. The NSYC appears to empty 99% of the time, maybe no members? A very large and impressive structure with staff hanging about with nothing to do. And then there is the even newer Oil Nut Bay Resort, which is on the ocean side of the landmass, still having freighter/landing craft delivering big equipment and dump trucks full of stone. We have not seen this place yet - as it is some distance around the point past the reef and not fit for deep draft sailboats. I think they are planning on landlubbers for customers. All the resorts run free ferries to Gun Creek, not really for cruisers convenience, but they employed hundreds of locals who live on the road-ed parts of VG. The BEYC must have at least 50 people alone - each shift. It seems very good for the local economy which seems to be 100% tourist in one fashion or another.
Meanwhile, we are surrounded by the rich and famous' yacks, oops I mean Yachts capital Y. Most seem to be in charter service (in between the few weeks their owners show up) with crews of 5 to 15 aboard, with the exception of Sir Richard Branson's catamaran sailboat at around 100 feet. It has a crow's nest that you board at deck level and then it rises up the mast. Mostly the crew uses it in port to polish the giant egg shaped satellite domes for wifi and tv mounted on the spreaders up the mast. SY/Necker Belle (as in sailing yacht not like us a SV - a sailing vessel) was the biggest fish until 2 sailboats arrived from ?..originally from London weighing in at 184 feet plus. Think of it, around 5 times as long as the standard 3 bedroom rambler and 30 feet wide. Our little sailing vessel could balance on one of the booms (that the mainsail attaches to) with room to spare. One has a hatch in the foredeck - with crane- that you could easily drop a full size car into. All three of these yachts at on the BEYC dock. More seem to hang out in the harbor, both sail and power. Hard to think of the 1% versus the 99% thing here, seems more like 25% big ones, 60% bare boat charters and the rest owner occupied. A real boat show, changes nightly.
Something I read once sums it up
Cruising let's you share a back porch with a billionaire. In Turkey we anchored next to a diamond merchant's 200 foot mega yacht for two days. He spent 50 million dollars to visit the same destination as us. Some people buy floating condominiums and some people buy the sailing equivalent of a cargo crate, but we all meet at the same barbecue pit on the beach.
Well...off to the beach for a swim.
|cimaise and crew||
02/16/2013, Bitter End Yacht Club (BEYC)
Our Brit friends have left for a week or so (have to check out and in every thirty days here in BVI to start the clock on your Visa over) but promise to return. While they were here, beside poker and Napeis card games (using M+M's for $$ - there is a problem with eating your profits however), we got to share their knowledge of the place. They found a great grocery store, a free ferry ride away in Gun Creek. The store even has a small but well done hardware/house wares aisle or two. Prices are actually not bad for BVI (which are higher than St. John, which we are told are higher than St. Thomas). Eating out here at the BEYC is remarkably expensive. Breakfasts can run $25 dinners $50 without booze costs or desserts. We think a little high for the retired persons' budget. There is a Pub that has $6 beer and very good pizza however that we frequent for lunch every so often, also the wifi spot.
We are finally anchored; we had to wait our turn after a few days on a Bitter End mooring. As mentioned before - the mooring fields have been installed in the previous anchorages. There is anchoring here in North Sound Virgin Gorda however. Some of it is against Prickly Pear Island in about 25-30 feet with little protection from the wind whipping in past the Eustatia Reef. There is the deep anchorage west of the mooring field where the big (100-350 foot) boys hang out in 60-75 feet of water. Maybe it should be big girls since we all know boats are female. And then there is the north eastern corner of the Bitter End Yacht Club (BEYC)...starts in 30 feet and backs out to 55. There is room up tight for 1 boat on one edge. We got it...the best spot - as soon as "Neal's Dream" left. Dropped the hook in 30 feet, back out 200 feet of chain into 50 feet, and here we be. It is blowing 15 constant with gusts to 24 and we are so far stuck real good. Nice sleeping...especially without a mooring ball banging on the hull. Not to mention tis really nice not to have the BEYC launch appear every night to collect $30. There is more room behind us for 3 - 5 boats, if care is taken. They will have to anchor in 50 feet though, a trickier situation.
Anchoring is reputed to be an art; a notion Steve will try to address.
The Problem with Anchoring.
Anyone who has even a passing familiarity with the cruising literature knows that there is no shortage of anchoring advice: what type to use in various bottom materials, the size of tackle for a given size boat, step-by-step procedures for setting the gear, as well as a variety of multi-anchor schemes to suit any possible situation. Granting the above, and given the current advanced state of ground tackle technology, it would follow that under most circumstances anyone capable of following simple directions should be able to anchor satisfactorily. If this is true, what is the problem? I submit that the problem is not how, but where.
|cimaise and crew||
I got spoiled in Marina Cay with the WAVE antenna picking up WIFI right to the boat. Alas not here, have to dink ashore and sit in the Pub....ya- I know - boo hoo.....
Well, after waiting out the bad weather, we finally make it to Gorda Sound and the Bitter End with a minimal of effort. (for those non sailors - the bitter end is the name of the end of a line (rope) opposite from the working end) Three hours from Marina Cay and only one squall.
This was not the same result in careful planning we had when leaving Sopers Hole for Marina Cay earlier in the week. Forecasts said more normal wind and waves in the Sir Francis Drake Channel, which is 15-18 knots on the bow and 2-3 foot seas. This held until we got just east of Roadtown, about a third of the way. Looking ahead we see a very dark and grey sky heading our way. Put on the storm jackets and waited. We ended up motoring through several large squalls, one after the next - sustained 20 on the bow - gusts to 30, waves and chop 4- 6 feet. We lost all visibility for 15 minutes beyond the nose of the boat. There were several sailboats sailing toward us downwind when the squall hit, and we were hoping that they stayed on their courses. You never know with the charter fleet was folks will do -sometimes the strangest things. The wind would let up and the rain (needles on the skin) would lessen enough to get a view every so often. Finally the cloud of rain fog lifted and we passed safety to port of the charterers. The wind died down a little but the chop and seas remained until we actually sailed behind the reef at Marina Cay.
Not having spent this much time down here before, we are somewhat confused by the weather. The Christmas winds and northern swells are supposed to die down after January - but so far they haven't. We noted the blizzard on the east coast and now expect some more heavy weather here in a week or so. The weather on the US coast really affects things here. There are pressure gradients between South America and the US that get compressed by lows, which in turn raises the wind speeds and wave heights all the way down the island chain to Trinidad. Still trying to understand that RISING Barometric pressure here warns of high winds.....falling pressure less wind.
Ah the learning curve.
So the Bitter End has changed in the 20 years since we first visited it. But it remains friendly to yachtsmen with showers, garbage services and beautiful grounds to walk on. The Pub sells very nice food for reasonable prices. The Clubhouse Restaurant is still very pricey.
We have run back into the Harley and Amma and are enjoying playing cards and visiting with them. They have been here for several weeks and have figured out the system here. Going to get lessons today on how to work the free ferry to the grocery store and other tidbits about making life easier on the boat.
Steve has finally gotten comfortable with the charging system. We are now only running the engine in the morning to recharge the batteries. This allows us to maintain the freezer/refrig on batteries 2 times a day, plus a third time - when the engine is running. We make water every 3rd day - not that we are using 50 gallons that fast, but just topping up the tanks - and keeping the watermaker filters clean by backwashing them with fresh water at the end on the run. We have plenty of water for everything we do, showers, dishes, boatwashing, laundry. Harley does not have a watermaker, and must buy water at the fuel dock every couple of weeks - or a month if they horde their supplies. This means he has to pull the anchor and drive to the dock and hope no one steals his anchoring spot. We NEVER go to the gas docks. When we need fuel - 5 gallons a week) Steve just takes a can over and brings it back. We bought the JIGGLER siphon, thanks to Capt' Mike's suggestion - which works great to move the fuel from fuel can to fuel tank in minutes with no spilling.
I think we are staying here for 2- 3 weeks. We need to check out of BVI (30 day visa) in early March. We also need to head back down to Tortola to have the alternator pulley changed at a machine shop, so we can install the serpentine belt system. The fan belt has calmed down - re- shedding black dust - but wears fast. The serpentine belt system is supposed to cure it. We will see. 60 day money back warranty - so we need to install before that expires. We have a 100 amp meter on order too - so we will be able to see what the alternator is actually doing. The smart regulator monitors the batteries but does not tell us how much power the alternator is making. The alternator was running hot - we have a very small engine compartment - and automatically (at least according to the manual) shutting down to 50% power output to cool itself off. We installed a bilge blower fan, years ago, ducted from engine compartment to the lazerette (stern locker). We started using it, pulling fresh cool air from the bilge through the engine compartment and the alternator stopped running hot. It is probably better for the engine too. We installed this system when the old engine was yanked. Almost forgot about it. A good idea and it works!
We have read our way through the Outlander series on our kindles. I would highly recommend these books by Diana Gabaldon. Romantic historic novels about Time Travel!! Set in Scotland in the 1700's. Well written and fun to read. There are currently 7 books, with another due this year. You can buy the series on Kindle and save some bucks.
|cimaise and crew||