Pic: A bearded self portrait at the top of the mast.
Google Earth Position: 18 25.476N, 64 37.112W
As outlined on Day 9 of our passage, many things broke on our voyage south. Once "The Moms" left we hunkered down in Nanny Cay Marina on the south side of Tortola to get our boat back into shape.
The most immediate concern was the broken mast car. Both Davis Murray and I had been hoisted to the top of the 60 foot mast to inspect the track, which appeared to have some scaring. Thankfully we (he) concluded that a new mast car with a different height for the halyard attachment would allow the car to sit on a clean part of the track, thus eliminating the need to take the entire mast off the boat. What could have been a several thousand-dollar repair turner out to be only $130. This was by far the best news we had heard in weeks.
Although elated by the cheaper fix to the problem, I was thoroughly disappointed to find two additional mast car pins in the boat's spare parts bin. This indicated that the problem wasn't a new one, it had definitely occurred before. While I was relieved to know that we had not actually caused the problem in our own neglect, it was disheartening to know that the issue could have been avoided completely. One of the two previous owners was aware of this problem, but had not decided to share that when selling the boat. As a result, I almost had to climb the mast in 20 knot seas to bring the sail down, which could have been extremely dangerous if not life threatening. Thankfully the cost of the repair was minimal and climbing the mast at sea was avoided.
One interesting side note to the experience was our interaction with the local Fed-Ex office. As there is only one Fed-Ex location for the entire country the address is simply: "Fed-Ex, Tortola." Given this simple address you would think it difficult to screw up a delivery then, but for some inexplicable reason the Fed-Ex office was moved one day and they never thought to put up a note up in the window of the old office that provided their new location. That would be too obvious or easy, I suppose. Instead we had to scour the town in a taxi until we ran into it - only to find it closed on Saturdays. Even if you pay for priority mail, you have to wait two days for the office to open on Monday.
Life isn't easy in the islands. If you expect anything to be easy or quick you will drive yourself insane. The "Island Time" mentality is certainly alive and well down here...
11/27/2008, The BVIs
Pic: Our Moms at the Baths! (11/23/08- 11/30/08)
Google Earth Position: 18 19.111N, 64 36.956W
British Virgin Island Tour
At the end of November, my mom (Joan) and Seth's mom (Joanne) came to visit us for Thanksgiving week. It was a perfect opportunity for them to travel together from Houston to us in the BVIs and join us in paradise. My mom had never been on a sailboat and in fact had very limited time on any kind of boat. She did not know what to expect of the SV Honeymoon but I would safely say she was pleasantly surprised at the comfort and enjoyment she had aboard. Joanne has sailed for years and had in fact already spent a couple of nights aboard our boat in Annapolis at the boat show but she was at least as excited as my mom about the trip. We welcomed them to the boat the first night with dinner out on the back deck, festive with candlelight and wine and they both sank quickly into a relaxed mode post their long travel day.
The next day we sailed from Trellis Bay on Tortola to Little Bay on Jost Van Dyke. Unfortunately the seas were really rough and my Mom had her first (and thankfully only) case of seasickness. Nice introduction to sailing, sorry Mama! However, once we arrived at the beautiful cove all was forgiven and forgotten. This was one of the most beautiful anchorages any of us had ever seen and as luck would have it we were able to meet up with some of our friends from the 1500: Excalibur (Jorge & Isabel) and Minaxi (Bob & Mina). During our time in this lovely place, we decided to go for a hike up to the top of the ridge with our friends. The four of them were about a half hour ahead of us and as we made our way up the hill we met them coming down in a car on their way to the local hospital! Isabel had been attacked by a dog and the owner was driving them all for help. The wounds were so severe she needed 11 stitches and plenty of time to heal. Other than this horrific event, the island was fantastic and I can report Isabel is fine.
Next we sailed a very short distance to White Bay on the same island. If possible this harbor was even more picturesque than the last. There was a swell to the waves and Seth & I decided to try out our new surfboards. I paddled out quite confidently for someone who has never really surfed before. Once we got into the break, it was clearly apparent that the swell was too big and over a coral reef. I could not get out of the break quick enough and was knocked off the board, my foot touched down straight onto a sea urchin! At the time, we did not know what I had stepped on but my foot was throbbing and I had about 10 long black spines sticking out of my big and second toe! Seth pulled out the long ones and we paddled back to the boat. The Moms were significantly worried when they saw my foot. Over time the pain eased up but the spines were more stubborn than any splinter and the more I tried to dig them out the worse it became. We radioed shore to find out about dinner reservations and the location of the nearest clinic and had the brilliant luck of speaking with a nurse from Australia that was very familiar with such incidences. Basically nothing could be done but soaking the area and waiting for the body to work them out. So I did. They stayed in my foot a total of three weeks. That night we went to the Soggy Dollar Bar to celebrate my survival with a few "pain killer" drinks (after all this is where the rum concoction was invented) followed by dinner and had a fantastic time. The beach bars & restaurants are our favorites afterall, the sandier the floor and saltier the customers, the better.
The next day was a beautiful sailing day as we headed to Nanny Cay Marina on Tortola. Seth and Joanne sat up front as we sailed soaking in the day and my mom and I were at the helm. We refilled our water supply, stocked up on groceries and planned some of our future repairs. It was a quick chance to regroup. And the Moms did make sure I got my quick fix of pizza while we were there. Thanks Moms!
After our brief stay at the marina, we were off to Norman Island across the Sir Francis Drake Channel to visit the caves. Seth, my mom and I snorkeled the caves. It had been several years (make that decades) since my mom had snorkeled and it took a refresher coarse and a little work but she loved it! The snorkeling in the Caribbean is amazing due to the clear water and variety of sea creatures (more on this in future blogs). That night we moored in the Bight, a spot that held particular significance to the Hynes' as they had stayed at this exact spot ten years back on a Moorings bare boat trip. Both Seth and Joanne were pleased to be back. As it was Thanksgiving, we made our way to the Pirates Bight (the little beach restaurant in the cove) for the traditional lobster feast. Ok, maybe this is a new tradition but we could be onto something!
The day after Thanksgiving, we sailed to a famous snorkeling spot, the Indians. It is a group of rock formations that shoot out of the sea and stretch toward the sky right off the coast of Pelican Island (a tiny island off Norman island). Again the snorkeling was fantastic and by this time my mom was a pro. That night we anchored at Cooper Island Beach and we invited Jorge and Isabel from Excalibur to join us for dinner. We had a fantastic evening out on our deck sharing stories (many from Jorge's time with the UN, he and Isabel are from Chile).
The day before the Moms had to leave we motor sailed over to The Baths on Virgin Gorda Island for some exploration. The Baths are a most unusual formation of large granite boulders. The sea rushes between the huge rocks creating large pools. The "hike" through the area encompasses climbing rocks, wading water, climbing & descending ladders and crouching through caves. It is really cool! Also, The Baths are surrounded by beautiful white sand beaches on each side, quite a day for us all! After our adventure, we headed back to Trellis Bay on Tortola where we began the week to meet some of our 1500 friends for dinner at a famous restaurant The Last Resort. The food was amazing and we had a rowdy time with a one-man show that believed strongly in audience participation.
The day the Moms were to fly out, we decided to spend our last few hours together over in Marina Cay, which is also close to the airport but a beautiful cove to anchor for a bit. We brought our dominos set over to Pusser's Restaurant right on the water and enjoyed cheeseburgers all around and a fierce game of tiles! It was a great finish to a great trip.
Okay, not really - but check us out! We were mentioned in Latitude 38, a local online San Francisco sailing newspaper. You can copy and paste the below link to read the short story. Needless to say, they did not consult us on which pictures to post from our blog...
11/16/2008, Tortola! (Video)
Pic: E hoping off the boat to the welcome of friends from "Stray Kitty"
Google Earth Position at 06:00: 19 54 141N, 64 29 849W
The Passage According to E
Saying goodbye to land for an unknown number of days is an interesting phenomenon. I watched the Virginia shore until it was out of sight. There was no noise, no announcement of any kind that we were now really out at sea, it happened gradually, seemed natural, not scary at all. In fact, not once in what turned out to be ten days (Seth quoted 8 prior to leaving!) was I ever frightened. The worst, it turned out, was that I was uncomfortable, inconvenienced and sometimes unhappy. The best of it was the sense of accomplishment and the arrival at our destination.
Securing a prescription for seasickness medication prior to our departure was invaluable. The seas were really rough most of the time, in fact one of our experienced crewmembers was too sea sick for half the voyage to move from the couch. Another smart thing I did was prepare some meals prior to launching off that just needed heating in the oven (definitely was amazing having homemade lasagna, chicken enchiladas and Texas chili to comfort us on the high seas). It probably seems strange to many who know me well to talk of "preparing meals" but I have strangely become a pretty good cook now that I don't have a job or money for restaurants. Seth teases me that most women would do the cooking prior to marriage to lure the man in, leave it to me to do the opposite.
One other smart thing we did prior to leaving was to burn movies and TV shows onto our I-Pod and bring good books. Honestly one of the hardest things for me was what to do with the hours of the day. Coming from corporate America with time being by far my most precious resource, I felt overwhelmed by the number of hours I had each day to do "nothing." I am not good at it, nor do I enjoy just hanging out. Plus the weather was so rough much of the time, there was not much you could do. On the worst days in what I call the "washing machine", the state of seas in which the boat is being tossed so much that you felt like a lone sock in the tumble, all I could do was sit there and hold on. During the best days of the trip (only 2 days in this category) I was able to do some yoga on deck and get a little sun. The in between times were the ones filled with reading, watching movies & Tudors, napping, doing my watches and preparing dinner.
One of the most memorable days was our second day on the trip during which we had a major rigging problem. If you have been following our blog or communicating with Seth in anyway, I am sure you are well aware of the technical side of the problem so I won't revisit it in detail (even if I could). Simply put our mainsail was screwed up and it is virtually impossible to cross the ocean without it. As the entire team discussed options we narrowed it down to two: somehow "jerry rig" it and make it to our destination OR divert to Bermuda and have the problem fixed properly (interestingly no one suggested turning back for Virginia which was not far at all). Although one of our crew thought the Bermuda option was inevitable (even going so far as describing the beautiful beaches), Seth was determined to remain on track to the BVIs. I did not doubt he could make it happen for a minute. I helped when I could in the repair process (which was minimal) but Seth led the team to repair the sail and we were back on track to Tortola. I was immensely proud of him that day and it rallied our troops for the tough days ahead.
I had the best watch times (I think) on the voyage 6-9 am (hard to get up for but the sunrises made it worth it) and 6-9 pm (easy because everyone was awake and for at least part of it I was cooking and we were all eating dinner). Three hour stretches of being solely responsible for the boat at my experience level was a bit daunting and I was glad I was hardly ever "alone" on my watches. After all I had been out sailing less times than the number of years our crewmembers had been sailing. Wow! Obviously I learned a ton about sailing, but I also learned a lot about myself and about what I can handle. I am truly tougher than I look.
Once we put in the last "way point" (I am confident Seth thoroughly explained what this is in his multiple blogs about the voyage), it became a count down to Tortola. At first it was disheartening to see that it was about 80 hours away. The time was dragging, the boat was rocking and I did hit one day of true break down. I hid in my room all day reading and watching the I-Pod, I felt despondent. Not an emotion I am accustomed to. I managed to pull it together the next day and the count down made progress towards zero. Watching it decline was exciting and knowing we were in the last couple of days gave me a new sense of hope. I obviously always knew we would "make it" but I really began to feel it.
Our last day at sea was the best. We were all in high spirits, watching the horizon ardently for the first sight of land. Much as with the departure from land, the exact moment it came into view was unmarked. It entered into our line of sight gradually, at times seemingly a cloud on the horizon, not truly land but slowly and surely the image emerged. We were all mesmerized by the mountainous island, watching it become larger and larger until it could not be denied, we had made it. But as with the departure, reaching the land seemed natural, not historic, after all we are land creatures and always expected to return.
Sailing into the British Virgin Islands at sunset was unbelievable perfect timing. The setting was absolutely gorgeous and breath taking and almost instantly the uncomfortable, inconvenient crossing started to fade in our memories. Such I guess is human nature or women would only have one baby each. We dinned our last meal together, drank a toast of wine and watch wide eyed as we soaked in the beauty of the place we had sailed so far to see. We made our way around the island to Village Cay at Road Town, Tortola. It took us about an hour and a half to get around and by the time we entered the Marina it was dark.
Our last challenge upon us turned out to be finding our spot on the dock with only the direction of "by the mangroves" across from a boat named "Victoria" from the night attendant. It took all four of us, Seth at the helm and the rest of us out front with flashlights but we found it. As we pulled in and docked, many of our friends from the 1500 shouted welcomes to us. I immediately jumped off the boat and onto dry land hoping up and down with excitement. We had made it and were welcomed by happy, familiar faces in a place so far away. It was perfect.
Here are some pictures and video from our trip:
11/15/2008, Atlantic Ocean
Pic: Do we speed up, or slow down?
Google Earth Position at 06:00: 22 43 639N, 65 02 723W
At 6:00am we had only 256 nautical miles to go and we all started to get excited. From our morning and evening radio check-ins we could see that the entire fleet of boats was homing in on the BVIs and beginning to congregate into one mass of ships. Or so it would have appeared from space, but in reality we were surprised to not see anyone or anything. Aside from two random sailboat sightings and an occasional tanker, we had only seen two boats in the entire rally, and that occurred way back on day two! At this point we certainly expected to see some of the boats we had caught up to, but in reality they remained ghosts over the horizon.
As it had for the past three days, the winds remained over 20 knots and our boat continued to pound hard into the rough sea conditions. We had been double reefed for three days, so it was an exciting moment when we realized the winds had eased slightly and we were able to go back to our now permanent first reef. We hoped this would also ease the pounding, but our increased speed kept it about the same.
Later in the day the winds crept back up and I had to make a decision to reef and slow the boat down or keep our current speed and arrive earlier. Although everyone wanted to keep the current boat speed and sail by the reefing plan provided by Lagoon, we decided to do so in order to prevent anything else from breaking. This turned out to be a good idea as we barely lost any speed with the additional reef, indicating that we had been over powering the sails and that the French apparently don't reef until absolutely necessary (this became a bit of a joke for the day, with us imitating the French production company and ridiculing their overly aggressive sail plan).
We were all anxious to land in paradise and share a pain killer with our new friends, but I was also tired of things breaking. So far in the trip, the following things had gone wrong:
1) Both house batteries were replaced.
2) The refrigerator latch broke, now held closed with duc-tape.
3) We ripped the mast car off the mast, likely scarring the actual track.
4) The port winch occasionally did not rotate in both directions.
5) Our bilge pump on the port side appeared not to drain.
6) A piece of wood paneling came free from the starboard hand rail.
7) We tore a three foot section of the sailbag while reefing.
8) Our watermaker, which had just been installed, failed to keep consistent pressure.
9) Our generator overheated and failed repeatedly.
10) The port cabin window and starboard head latch leaked when submerged in water.
11) The window track stopper snapped off the rear window.
Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. I felt like we had bought a lemon - that the previous owners had known something I did not - that we had been duped. But then reality set in. This was every bit what I had been told to expect countless times. As the saying goes, "the act of sailing is waiting for something to break in exotic locations." Or, "a hole in the water you throw money into."
So, with an additional reef in our sails and looking for our non-existent boat friends nearby, we continued on. Tomorrow would be an exciting day. We only had 256 more miles. At a rate of 160 miles a day we could expect to be in the BVIs by the end of the day tomorrow. If nothing else breaks, we might even make it by sunset.