After that marathon travel, I needed a few days of rest but come Friday, March 16th - we loosed the mooring line and said farewell to Trellis Bay. Three hours later we pulled into Sopers Hole, West End in order to check out of the BVI's for this year. We discovered that Frank & Dense were there - so after clearing customs, we stopped by to say a quick goodbye to them, then it was off the mooring again, and headed to St. Thomas where we pulled into Charlotte Amalie at 2:30. Our friends Ginny and John, on Wind Shepherd, are waiting for us and they stop by shortly after we get our anchor set to say hello. Then the rush begins as we have much to do this afternoon in order to be ready to leave the waterfront tomorrow. First - head to customs and check into the BVI's, then fill our jerry jugs with water and fuel, and return them to the boat, then meet Ginny and head to Pueblo for our provisions, and then back to the boat to put everything away, and finally...head out to the Shipwreck for a great burger to celebrate us all joining up.!
Feb - Mar
After saying farewell to our friends...we relax for a few days in the Bight, then head to BVI YC for the remainder of our electronics work, and decide to book a quick trip home to spend Jim's moms Birthday with her. When done, we move the boat over to Trellis Bay and take a mooring for a month, then make arrangements with Danny, the collector to take us to shore on Thursday Mar 1st, 8:00am where we proceed to take a ding, to a taxi to a ferry to a taxi to a plane to a plane before arriving in Chicago at 11:25pm.
After a lovely visit home with family and friends...we headed back to the boat via a return excursion (limo - plane - plane - taxi - ferry - taxi - dingy!) and finally we were back to the boat just before sunset...
A week of Hilarity with the Neighbors
After reprovisioning in Sopers, we headed up to Marina Cay on Wednesday then on to Scrub Island on Thursday to wash the boat and prepare for our Neighbors to arrive. The trip on Wednesday was typical of running up the channel with a heavy swell running down and we were taking spray all the way to the helm station so by the time we got to scrub Island we REALLY need to wash Regenero from stem to stern. Several hours later, once the boat was ready we headed to the pool to relax for a while and I tested out each mask and Snorkel in advance. Later we took the ferry over to the airport and met Jim, Linda, Mark and Donna. As their flight came in at 6:30, it was dark when they came out of customs, so unfortunately they didn't get to see any of the short walk to the docks. We had to wait a bit for the ferry to take us back, but fortunately for us there was a bar close by and a nice lady willing to serve us a few painkillers to start the trip off. After arriving on the boat the laughter flows while we demonstrated the joys of using a marine toilet, oh the things that this groups find hilarious!
Friday, Feb 10th
After a leisurely morning which included snorkel fitting and testing in the pool and lovely fresh water showers and toast using the transformer, we left the dock and headed over the ½ mile to Marina Cay for our first snorkel. While Mark & Donna have snorkeled before, this was Jim & Linda first time so we choose this as a good place to practice before we headed over to more challenging locations the rest of the trip. After a few moments of panic, and one mooring ball that saved Jim H's life briefly everyone eased into the rhythm of floating and breathing under water. We fought a heavy current toward the reef and eventually managed to see a ray or two and a dozen barracuda, plus many other marine critters, before heading back to the boat. There must have been something in the water here because 3 different times we saw rays flying out of the water around the boat..or perhaps they were just welcoming our friends? We had a moment of hilarity, one of many, watching JH negotiate a ziplock closed.... Who knew those suckers were so challenging? Our star watching netted us several shooting stars for our first night out.
Sat, Feb 11th
To Monkey point! On the way we had Mark out front on the foredeck to be our spotter and he spotted a large buoy right in the middle of the channel...it disappeared then returned in the same place, til we realized it was two very large turtles right in the middle of the pass...odd place to see one, but a good omen for things to come. Once Moored at monkey point we breakfasted, then hit the water to see what was below. Both our experienced and new snorkelers saw plenty of unique fish and we poured over the fishy books to identify what we all had seen once back aboard. From there we headed over to Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor in Spanish Town where we had booked two nights stay. Since we had no idea what was here we explored a bit of the area, then took a walk (presumably) to the town, that we discovered wasn't. Up the hill, perhaps a mile or so, to a church and cemetery and overlooking the south side of the island then back down again to the marina. After reading the travel guide later we discovered that the marina complex, nice market, restaurant, bar, internet café, laundromat, and some small shops is considered the 'shopping mecca' of Spanish Town...Oh....well then, I guess we HAVE seen it all.
Sunday, Feb 12th
The Baths! We packed up our gear and took a taxi to The Baths where we hiked the trail and spend some time snorkeling in beautiful Devils Bay. In addition to many other critters we saw a small ray, and on the way back to shore, just off the beach we came across 7 squid just hanging around a rock...Magnificent! After hiking back toward the entrance, cleaning up and doing a little shopping we walked up and had a wonderful lunch at the "Top of the Baths" restaurant and pool (not uncommon to have pools in or near the restaurants here...a little weird to us, but hey...it's the Caribbean). The Coconut Shrimp was out of this world..., then finally, met our driver and taxi'd back to the marina (shopping mecca) and to the boat. Enjoyed a lovely Sunset tonight.
Monday, Feb 13th
North to Leverick Bay. Winds were as usual from the North east, the direction we were heading, so we powered up the channel to the North Sound, past Richard Branson's Necker Island and took a mooring at Leverick Bay. Our First foray in the dingy....was uneventful, but funny while we balanced everyone and made it to shore with no drama. We enjoyed the pool for a while then showered and got a table for the Michael Bean Happy Arrr! show here. Michael was great as usual, and we had excellent representation with Mark & Donna attempting to win the Conch Blowing contest. Mark acquitted himself well with 26 seconds, but was trumped by a trombone player who carried for 57 seconds! We also met a lovely couple here, Fred and Mary from Lake Bluff who are here at the resort for a few days, they joined us at the show and we all had a ball together.
Tuesday, Feb 14th
Happy Valentines...our day started with a sweet message from our grandsons wishing a Happy Valentine's day in their Pajamas! Then we were up and out and setting sail for our run down the channel to Norman Island. Mark, JH & Linda all took the helm today, and more hilarity ensued watching the many 'coaches' giving advice to whomever was at the helm. When we got to The Bight we took a mooring in our favorite side and jumped in to snorkel the reef. Magnificent! Barracudas, angelfish, squirrel fish, just to name a few , multiple conch and a host of other critters mixed with the beautiful coral heads.. We had more star watching tonight, although it was a little cloudy and Mark was our instructor naming stars and constellations for our viewing pleasure. Donna also displayed a strange love affair with Orion, and her Aunt Barbara showed up to join us as well. I don't know how she got here, but she was gone in the morning....
Wednesday, Feb 15th
We were up early and so moved on to the Indians to catch a can for a morning snorkel. The snorkeling here was incredible and we saw amazing coral, large and small critters from tiny, perhaps 1 inch juvenile Damsel fish with their neon blue spots to a queen trigger Fish, 18 inches long. We also saw several Black Durgeon, which I have see nowhere else in the Caribbean. For all that this week was their first Snorkeling experience JH & Linda took to it like, well, fish to water, and we spent lots of time just hovering and exploring the many beautiful reef zones.
After the Indians we headed over to the caves to experience those as well, and while we got caught in a small rain shower, it was still a great experience and JH spotted a pair of Balloonfish hanging around.
After picking up a mooring back in the bight and having some lunch it was back in the water for one more snorkel on the reef. This time JH spotted a juvenile Spotted Drum (or Jack knife fish) that looked for all the world like his momma dropped him off and told him to stay in this little pool in the coral, so he did, swimming around and around. I looked up and spotted L'esprit du Nord, our friends Jim and Allison, who we met in Grenada and who live near us in Illinois. After dinner, we loaded pictures and had popcorn while watching the show.
Thursday, Feb 16th
Heading up to Trellis...in preparation for departure EARLY tomorrow, we set sail and headed up the channel toward Trellis Bay. It was a beautiful day and we hung out on the foredeck for most of the trip. Donna took the helm today and worked hard to sail to windward...which is work! Until a threatening storm cut our sail short and we doused the sails and powered up in order to duck it. Donna continued at the helm, under 8 knots to bring us in and dodge the rain all the way to the entrance to Trellis Bay.
We dropped the dingy and headed to shore, dropping Mark on the beach for a hike on the way. We dropped the garbage, then did a little shopping before Mark caught up with us and we all headed back for one last swim before dark.
Friday, Feb 17th...
The dark day is here...and it is dark indeed at 5am when we all start moving around to get ready to depart. By 6:15 we have a little light and so we start loading the dingy for our two trips to shore. After dropping off Mark & Donna and their luggage, we collect JH and Linda and their luggage and then tie off the dingy and take the short walk to the airport. In short order everyone is changed, checked in and ready to head thru security. We hug goodbye and head back to the dingy, and then the boat. We had some breakfast while we waiting on the plane, then waved madly, and took photos while they flew over head off then promptly went below for a nap! Farewell friends...we miss you and the laughter already!
Feb 4th - Sat
Thursday Morning after discovering that one of our mooring lines had snapped overnight we headed out to The Bight for a few days of calm water and relaxation. On our way we saw the Star Clipper, full sails up and heading south. Truly a lovely sight under sail, and looks very romantic, but still we prefer our way. We arrive at the Bight to find a handful of boats only, beautiful, peaceful, restful...ahhhh. Friday, the last day for many charterers, the boats start pouring in again, and here we see the flotilla boats that came into Trellis Bay last Sunday, identified by the common flag they all are flying. We are guessing that this is a race club of some sort, as they act like it, with many boats having 20 & 30 somethings, some a little older, with couples and a few guys only boats. Late in the afternoon, just past sundown all the dingies gathered over on the Flagship boat moored behind us and had a paddle race around the Willy T and back where they used paddles and swim fins as propulsion. There is always some sort of entertainment here! Afterward they easily had 45 or so people on the boat for a gathering which lasted well into the night as Jim was awake at 1:30 to see the party still going on...and apparently for some it continued, as we saw girls and a guy being delivered to different boats before 7 this morning....ahhh youth! Interesting how you can tell the day of the week by the boat traffic. Here it is Saturday morning and by 10am, over 60 boats have cleared The Bight and on their way back to RoadTown to prepare to depart the Islands. Poor Saps!
Monday, Feb 6th - we are now in Sopers Hole, moored for a few days to do another provisioning run. And as WIFI is available ...we have posted the last month of activity...finally, enjoy - and please - comment...I am feeling disconnected from all things at home!
After spending a few days hanging out at Trellis Bay on Monday we pulled into a marina in Road town as we needed to get our electronics worked on to repair the AIS, and they prefer to do that work on a dock, rather than at anchor or mooring. Although wonderful in every other regard, the dock we are on is in a very swelly location (Emily...do you remember it?) and so even with the boat lines rigged like a spiders web we are still rocking and rolling so much that we need to be careful walking around on the boat so as not to get knocked off balance. However the price is very right, and it is walking distance to fuel and the big grocery store as well as the bigger of the chandleries, and walking distance or a short dingy ride to downtown.
After we arrived and got the boat settled, we headed over to town to attend to some immigration issues. We got the boat part taken care of, however discovered we needed to return in the morning to get our individual extensions sorted. We managed to have a late burger lunch at the Pussers downtown which we thoroughly enjoyed..it's always a favorite of mine. Then we walked back to the marina exploring the Moorings/Sunsail/Footloose charter base on the way, which is enormous! There was AT LEAST a couple hundred boats on the docks as we walked thru....hope they aren't all trying to get a mooring in The Bight when we want one!
Yesterday we took care of a few small chores on the boat while we waited for the electronics guys. Squeaky head - re-lubed, broken hatch latch - glued, leaky stantion - siliconed, locker gasket - re-glued....oh, the myriad of chores. And as usual, everything takes longer on a boat than you originally plan. A bit like Scotty multiplying his repair factors by 4, so he can impress Captain Kirk and the crew and maintain his reputation as a miracle worker...but in reverse! If we think it is a 20 minute job, for sure it will take an hour plus, and might not be totally complete. And it's not just us...the electronics guy, Jeff came at about 10, looked over what needed to be done, then left to wake up the 'up the mast' guy, Nevil and bring back some other equipment we needed. When they came back at 11:30, it took three trips up the mast, three trips and two phone calls back to the shop for parts and information, 1.5 hours to run the new antenna cable down thru the mast ( one broken fish line, and 2 panels re-riveted), 1hour to install the new mast head light, re-trace the antenna and power test it, again, after it failed the first hookup, install the new tri-data speed/depth panel, then finally at 5:30...it's all done. Well, except for the part that needs to be ordered, and will be in in about a week. And for all we did nothing but watch, fetch tools, run a skinny guy up and down the mast, we are still exhausted at the end of the day, and we haven't even gotten to the laundry yet!
Today it is up and out in the dingy with 5 loads of laundry over to the Village Cay marina, where the nearest laundry facilities are. By 8:25 we have 4 loads in the wash and are having breakfast in the restaurant while checking wifi. After switching that to dry, and putting in the last wash load, we headed over to immigration to request our extension. We had to wait a bit, but the office was very efficient, and in a little over an hour we had our appointment complete, and were on our way with extensions thru May 31st to stay here in this lovely place.
Some people we had talked to complained about the people in the BVI's to us, saying they were unfriendly to outsiders, but truly, we have never found that to be the case. From the customs agent to service staff, the lady at the laundry, taxi drivers, even people on the street I asked for directions, couldn't be nicer or more gracious to us. I guess it's true when they say you get what you give.
Back to work... finish up the laundry, then back to the boat. Fill the water tanks, which requires us to 'borrow' a fitting from another spigot, since ours doesn't have one before we fit our hose, then on to the chandlery which is an easy walk less than a mile from here...we needed to get a few new mooring lines, since ours are tired and old, and getting stretched more every minute we are here! Now on to provisioning, and a trip to the lovely, large, well stocked grocery store just across the street from the marina. We can find most things here, but not all, like popcorn..only microwave popcorn is available - go figure. Even thought the store is close, we have to be careful how much we buy, since we need to carry it back. Should we get 3 sodas, or 4...hmm, we already have 20 lbs in meat, cheese and yogurt...maybe we'll leave the canned goods for the next trip. After carrying it all back, it needs, of course to be stowed, which means cleaning and reorganizing the fridge and ice box, and then, yup, time to get more ice. The shop that sells ice is closer, but hey, the bags STILL weigh 20 lbs a piece...
Thank goodness Jim works out all summer long, cause now we have to go get fuel, which is next to the grocery store (only have to cross 2 lanes of traffic going the same way). Then with me hauling one 5 gallon jerry can on the trolley and Jim carrying two 5 gallon jerry cans like free weights...its back to the boat. Finally, we're done for the day and can get our shower and watch the cruise ship leave for the night. It's a wonderful life, but it really is more work that you might think.
Jan 20 - 27
As a special treat we decided to stay at a really nice marina to greet Larry and Laurel when they came in. Nice for us and nice for them to arrive in a place on a dock. After meeting them at the airport we hustled back to the ferry dock to take the Scrub Island Ferry over to the marina. We spent the afternoon enjoying the pool and decided to have dinner at the restaurant which had a 'Cheeseburger in Paradise' Buffet that we enjoyed.
Saturday, Jan 21
We headed over to Monkey Point for our first snorkel of the trip and while the coral was beautiful, the Jacks we were hoping to see were nowhere to be found. Afterwards, we headed across the channel and anchored at Spanish Town. We found good holding up behind the private moorings, and well inside of the channel (incase the fuel freighter comes in every Sunday) and settled in for the night.
Sunday, Jan 22nd
Today we did something we had never done before. We took the dingy into shore and took a taxi over to The Baths, which is all of a 10 minute drive away. We hiked down the trail and thru the water trail, then snorkeled in and around Devils Bay...while the water was crystal clear and gorgeous as ever, the fish were almost non-existent. We enjoyed the beach for a while then headed back thru The Baths and took a freshwater rinse off at the shower room. $1.50 token gets you 90 seconds of fresh water...not a lot, but it does the trick, well unless you soap up during the first 90 seconds! Well that's OK, the kind attendant was happy to sell us another token. At the parking lot we checked out the restaurant and decided we would have lunch there sometime, but as Darius, or Taxi driver was waiting for us, we decided it could wait for another day. Another testament to the kindness of the people here is our driver. As he drops us off for the hike down we ask how much, and he says - no worries, we'll take care of it on the return. We have set a return time with him, and there he is waiting for us when we get back - imagine that happening back in the states. When we got back to Spanish Town, we decided to stay and have lunch overlooking the marina. Then, we head back to the boat, and the fun begins. There are no public mooring cans at Spanish Town now, but their used to be, however there are a few private moorings. So many charterers come here thinking they can get a can, and find out they need to anchor. The anchorage is OK, but not great, and there is a wide channel for the ferries to come in. After watching several boats anchor, and a few way too close to the private moorings. It's like a watching a dance, where only ½ the dancers know the moves. After dark, we decide it is Popcorn and Movie night since we had such a late lunch and enjoy the 'Star Trek' movie and big bowls of popcorn...Yum.
By morning things are even crazier as the tide and current have spun the boats every which way. One unfortunate anchorer finds himself fouled with the mooring of another boat and takes quite a lot of assistance to get everything untwisted. Several boats look like they are going to meet stern to stern, and the boat behind us swings around as well. They are cruisers, like us, and stop by to check in with us from their dingy. As it turns out they are heading to customs to check out before heading to St. Martin...and we can tell they are secretly wondering if we know what we are doing. We assure them we do, and are getting ready to haul anchor now anyway, they leave more confident, I'm sure, that their boat won't be damaged while they are ashore.
Monday, Jan 23rd
We intend to head north today, up to Leverick Bay, but as we make our way out we find the channel to be as rough as we have ever seen it and the winds gusty and directly on the nose...Change of plans, and we turn south to head down to The Bight (have I mentioned this is our favorite Anchorage?) The ride is a little bumpy, but better as we are going with the swells. On the way, we pick up radio traffic detailing a snorkeler who was recovered from the Indians who apparently had a heart attack and had people doing CPR in a dingy while they attempted to contact the Coast Guard in St. John. The radio operator was amazing, calm and detailed, during what was surely an intense time. After a while we saw the Virgin Islands Search and Rescue (VISAR) boat from Road Town speed out, then shortly speed back. We hope for the best outcome for the unfortunate person.
Upon our arrival in The Bight, the water was calm and gorgeous and the boys headed off to snorkel. The light was perfect and they found great snorkeling, as usual, near the edge of the bay. Still full of energy when they got back, they dropped the dingy and headed ashore for a hike. When they returned and I asked how it was Larry informed me it was 'UP'... I knew that!
Tuesday, Jan 24th (Happy Birthday Cathy!)
Today we head out early to the Indians for a snorkel. The winds are still up, and the North side of the Indians is very swelly, so we stay on the deep south side and enjoy the coral here. From there, we head over to the Caves and are back in the water again. We hit a perfect time here, and there was NOONE in the caves when we were snorkeling thru. The middle one, we discovered is over 35 feet deep into the hillside, and I can completely believe that Pirates would find it and use it as a secret place for their treasure hoard. Certainly glad for the underwater flashlight! While leaving one cave we spot a small octopus, about 8 inches across..crawling down the wall. Well, his breed was octopus, but he looked more like a sextopus to us as two of his arms were considerable shorter than the others. I'd like to think we will see our friend 'Six' when we get back there again.
Back to the Bight for one more snorkel at the wall, and a relaxing evening after a busy, busy day.
Wednesday, Jan 25th
The winds have (somewhat) abated, and we decide to sail up the channel to Leverick. Of course the winds are out of the North East, so we put up a reefed main and the full Jib and Beat our way up the channel. With Larry at the helm and max speed reading 11.2 knts...oh boy, what a day!
We drop the sails and head into the North Sound to pick up a mooring at Leverick Bay...Later in the afternoon we head to shore to enjoy the pool and showers and take in the Michael Bean Show. Michael is as entertaining as ever, and we all really enjoy joining in with the show. Larry gave the Conch blowing contest a run, but while his tone was perfect....they were after a quantity, not quality....and the winner blew for 24 seconds. Still in all a great time!
After a lazy morning Thursday we head back down to Trellis bay in preparation as tomorrow, they need to head out mid morning. We have a great last day on the boat, watching people lose boat hooks, speed thru the anchorage and run aground on the reef...an exhausting day!
Friday, Jan 27th
After advising our boat neighbor that their main halyard had broken free and was loose in the breeze, then watching them fix it, it was time to head to shore for the airport. Pile everything in the dingy, and try to keep it all dry from the sea spray. The winds are still up, and we find the dingy dock to be iffy at best for leaving the dink, so Jim waves goodbye while the three of us walk up to the airport. I say a sad good bye to our friends and wander back to jump in the dink and head back to the boat. On the way we discover turtle hatchlings, less than 3 inches long, just one or two, but a sweet thing to see in the sea, and encouraging as they have a very challenging life ahead of them, even after they manage to survive to hatch.