April 9, 2010 - Friday
Thursday we rented a car from the airport and spent the day checking out the island of Tortola. We have been here before and wanted to re-familiarize ourselves, as well as find the marina that we will be coming in to on Monday for some work and also do some grocery shopping. Grocery shopping is more of an ordeal than you can imagine. Shop, buy, take your bags to the car if you are fortunate enough to have one, drive to the dingy dock, unload all the little plastic bags (if you forgot again to bring your shopping bags!) haul it all to the dingy, put it in the dingy, drive it out to the boat, hand all the bags up to the boat, tie up the dingy, put the groceries away. Frozen foods are nearly impossible to keep frozen this way, but we are not suffering. In fact, yesterday, our chef extraordinaire Emily cooked up some chocolate pudding and Chicken Picatta, with a salad and Couscous. Jim's new idea of boat food has changed dramatically! I am so outclassed!
This morning we had planned to head back to the baths, but we had spotty showers overnight and woke to a front coming in from the east. Almost identical to last Fridays weather, very strange. So we sat a while and then headed over to Spanish town to pick up a mooring here, and head to the baths in the morning. The winds are blowing 25 with gusts to 30, and the channel was a rock and roll coming over. Even here, the boat is bouncing and our swim was a struggle against the current. But as usual the weather cleared and the day is bright and blue - if gusty. Our shade is up, and we are enjoying another afternoon in the gorgeous Caribbean. With luck, we will have better wifi service next week at the dock in Roadtown.
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
The past few days have been a test of our sailing and a good time too! We left Gorda Sound on Monday and sailed dead downwind down the channel all the way to the bight. At times we were wing on wing, and it was a good test to see how well she held her course. The autopilot could not steer as well as Jim, so he did most of the way hand steering. Generally speaking I feel like we are on a big boat, however as we were dousing sails next to the cruise ship coming in, I felt very insignificant... The bight was crowded, and because the cruise ship anchored off, the shore bar hired a band and we had really great music from about 8pm on. Saw another shooting star tonight.
About 10:30 the rain started and it poured for quite some time on and off throughout the night, however the day was bright and clear, and the boat looked clean and salt free...for a while.
Tuesday we decided to hike Norman Island, motivated by the back-seaters from a few days before, so took off with our backpack, a liter of water and a few granola bars. There is what looks like a 4 wheel drive path that runs up and south, and ends up running along the ridge both east and west. After a steep climb you get to the peak and can see the open sea to the south and beautiful coves with coral. We didn't hike down as they did, but vowed to comeback sometime with our snorkel gear as the water and coral look amazing from this vantage point.
We took the east path and it eventually takes you to the eastern side of Norman, overlooking the pass between Norman and Peter. There is a beautiful anchorage below with about 5 boats in it, looks like a place we would enjoy. On the return we noticed a smaller path to the left and so we took it thinking it should eventually lead back to the eastern side of the bight. Well, it did, Eventually. Unlike the road (using the term loosely) we were on before, It is clearly a path bordered by rocks, but we can't imagine who created it or when, however it is easy going until we come to the top of the south ridge where the antennae array is...we try to get down from there but it is too steep, so we continue on and find the foundation of a stone structure. We can't tell what it was, a house or a barracks, but it extends in several directions. Very cool, maybe they built the path which is now is just a trail and I think no one has come this way in a very long time.
There are brambles and branches that slap and catch our bare skin, and the breeze is almost non-existent up here. At the moment, the thought of going all the way back around from whence we came looks like the only option...however, as we double back we discover a small red ribbon tied to a branch, and so as we duck across we find a spectacular view of the bight laid out in front of us. We find the way down, however I hesitate to call it a path, more like a water runoff...but it does the trick, and we make it back down to the beach in short order, tired, hot, and hungry...but exhilarated. Later in the afternoon in a flurry of color and noise a Parrot, all bold red and green and bright blue swooped over into the trees near our mooring. It made quite a ruckus, but was beautiful to see.
Today we left at 8 am to make our way up to Trellis Bay for our airport pickup. The winds are blowing 15-22 and so we test out our reefing and put a double reef in the main (shortening the sail by about 40%) and pull out the whole jib and sheet in tight to sail to weather. Who says a cat can't point? We were 30-50 degrees to the wind, in winds up to 22 (WHY is it always blowing like snot?) and sailing 7.5 kts easy and even pushed it to 9.3 at times (under a Reefed Main!). It was work, and we had to tack oh, about 100 times (ok, more like 10)...but we sailed up the channel and except for getting within about 100 yards of the edge of Beef Island before Jim was willing to concede that we had to tack to clear it! It was great! However, picking up the can in Trellis was a bit of work, as the winds have not diminished a bit. Step by step we are getting used to our girl and the requirements for sailing her. Of course, she is now covered again in salt as the spray at times came ¾ of the way back on the boat. Perhaps it will rain overnight...however, I certainly hope not NOW! As we left the boat wide open to catch the breeze, and are sitting here at the airport watching dark clouds roll in from the east. Grrr! I just do not have this weather down yet...in the Midwest almost ALL storms come from the west. Here all the weather seems to come from the east where the trade winds blow!
Hallelujah! The Lord is Risen!
Today is a rest day for us and we decide to stay another day here, do some more laundry, charge the computer, and repower. We started the morning with a call to our daughter and grandson Evan, and since it was daylight his smile was ready as soon as he saw Bumpa (or maybe himself) on the computer! We were able to talk to some of our family, and drool over the roast beef they were eating. It's hot dogs for us tonight...
We saw a shooting star tonight, pretty spectacular as we both caught it. Good news, this means I can go to bed early, becasue I am a little embarassed to tell you that I have to wear my fleece at night. It's a little chilly...Jim assures me it is 77 degrees, but I do not trust the therm, and the breeze makes it a little cool.
We are good, missing you all, but enjoying ourselves and the life we are exploring. I'm not yet sure what tomorrow brings, but Wednesday we will be back at Trellis to collect our chef!
We leave Trellis and head east up the channel to Gorda Sound again. The wind is North at about 14 and we set full sail and have a wonderful ride up. For those who sneeze on the upwind performance of a cat we have this to say... Peshaw! Jim had her at 30 - 45 degrees to the wind, pinching to skirt the shore and we were able to perform just fine. Very comfortable and stable - a big reason we settled on a catamaran for this phase of our lives.
We picked up a can at Leverick Bay and went ashore to see the facilities. $25 mooring fee includes one bag of ice, and 200 gals of water...they have internet available, plus the showers and freshwater swimming pool are free, laundry is $3.00 a wash and $3.00 a dry, and the facilities are gorgeous. We showered, we ate lunch, we did laundry and got in touch with family & friends.
PS - Backseaters...'Next Time' we'll take you here!
A cold front blew through last night and we had a good deck wash down with the rain that came with it. Today is a transit day, back up the channel and to Trellis Bay as our friends need to catch a flight this afternoon. The BVI spring Regatta is running , so while we dodge storms and the fleet we have some great views of the boats rounding the mark, and even a penalty lap. Then we are back in Trellis bay for the night, and a short dingy ride to the dock and walk up to the airport. It is sad to say goodbye after such a GREAT week...but just until 'Next Time'!
Thursday, April 1st
Today we were up early, and zipped over to the Indians to snorkel here. This is a set of 4 rock formations that just spear up out of the sea, near Pelican and Norman Islands. The story goes that the Spanish, sailing up the channel one dark night mistook the rocks for a British warship and fired upon her. She didn't return fire, but held her position and so they turned and ran. We resolve to look for cannon balls on the sea floor. Neither Jim nor I have ever been here before - so it's a first for us. We took one of the 8 cans here and dipped into the water around 8. What a place! Fan Coral, and fern like plants swaying in the surf, rocks that go straight down, and some that bulge up from the sea floor. A tunnel thru the rock you could free dive or scuba dive thru, hundreds of fish of all different variety and size, trumpet fish and tangs and angelfish, even schools of harmless jellyfish. (Yes we know they are harmless, because someone asked a tour guide that came with a snorkel tour group.) We were about ½ way thru with our perusal of the reef when a tour boat pulled up. 35 people all jumped off the boat...swam with their guide up and back one side of the Indians, then they all jumped back on the boat and were gone inside of an hour. WOW. Who is invading our private national park?! (one of our party was labeled a boat snob for not welcoming them.)
This is some of the best snorkeling we have done, and we discussed coming back again later when the sun is one the other side of the formation.
Nearly 11am, so we cast off and pop over to see if we can get a spot at the Caves. There is one mooring ball here...but it looks VERY close to the cave walls..what the heck, we pick it up anyway and then ask a few people snorkeling by how deep the water they are in is...if we swing that way. It looks pretty shallow to us, as you can see the formations below, but it is still 20 feet - plenty deep enough.
Off we go again...The caves are actually the foundation for Robert Louis Stevenson's, Treasure Island. I am sure that some of it is still here and if I look sharp I will find it today. There are 3 caves here, one is open on two sides so some light shines thru. Inside the caves the walls are covered with different colors of rock, and exposed minerals. There is purple and orange and pink and green, on some of the rocks it looks like Nickelodeon green slime. Amazing colors - so vibrant. Each cave has its own feel, and the sea surging in and out has a power that will stop you in your fins...no matter how you kick...then it releases you and spits you in or out, depending on your intended direction.
One cave had a dozen crabs sitting on the rocks, climbing the walls, one even fell in the water nearby. Motivation to vacate the cave now.
Another note to the crew; bring along a waterproof flashlight next time to penetrate the dark. As we cruise along the cliff outside the cave our good friend Barry, the smiling fish cruises by looking for a meal. This one is 4 ft and looks menacing...so we give him a wide berth.
As we head back and past the boat to the rock beach, my diligence pays off and I spy sparkling treasure...it's shiny, it's big... a bracelet, closer, no...probably a large pirate earring...closer, no...umm actually a silver filigree ring, lying right there on top of the rocks. I gather my prize, then follow along to see what the boys have spotted. Amazingly, it's a turtle, feeding on the sea floor about 20 feet below. Now that's a first. I have never been in the water and seen a turtle, only from the deck. Very cool.
As we head back to the boat, we see a murky discoloration, kind of moving and spreading. Those of you who understand the functioning of a head at sea will understand what I THOUGHT it was, but is in under the boat, between the hulls, not on the outer hulls where the seacock is.. Now it's dissipating, but neither of us want to get too close to it... after a few moments, it becomes clear that Barry or his brother found a snack and it is the leftover chum in the water. We wait til it clears completely before we board.
Back now to the Bight, to pick up a can and spend a peaceful evening. But it's only 2pm! Ok, so after watching the tiny fish dance on the water and the sea turtles surface all around the boat, we go for our THIRD snorkel of the day. Unfortunately we took different routes, and the other route paid off with our friends being able to see 3 sea turtles at different places, one spectacularly surfacing very close to them, and then diving again. An amazing day in the water for all of us.
We had a contest tonight. Since the moon is rising later the sky is dark and thick with stars. So we all picked our prize and the first person to spot a satellite wins. The prizes...1/2 a snickers bar. A brownie, a beer, and the other ½ snickers bar. Yes we are a wild crowd! The girls spotted the first one, however do to a gender solidarity the boys refused to verify the spotting, so we waited for more to come by! They did, and we all enjoyed our prize of choice. We were able to see the milky way clearly tonight which I haven't seen since I was a kid in Chicago, and Cris had never seen.
All in all a special day.