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Sea Otter's Continuing Adventure
Marina Cay
22/12/2012, Marina Cay, British Virgin Islands

Picked up a mooring here yesterday afternoon. Details may follow. Good swimming, yesterdays showers have stopped. Bright and sunny.

Back to Sea Otter
19/12/2012, Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVIs

We left Calgary mid day on Saturday December 15th. Overnighted in the Toronto airport then, on Sunday, flew Toronto to San Juan Puerto Rico, then on to Beef Island in the BVIs. Stormy did well, but was not really happy about the flights. Took over an hour to clear into the BVIs, but Stormy's paperwork was all in order and we got her in legally.

We reached Nanny Cay, where Sea Otter spent the summer, just after 10pm. Heather had booked us into a hotel there, so we did not have to worry about finding our beds till the next day.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are filled with boat projects. We had Antilles Yacht Management do a bunch for us, including the exterior cleaning, but there are lots of little things. Highlights (???) include recomisisoning the water system and discovering the fresh water pump had seized. Jonas bought and installed a new one. Some teak deck issues, we need to replace much of the caulking - although that task can wait until March when Sea Otter is next hauled.

Today's biggest task will be a trip into Road Town for provisions. We plan to leave dock tomorrow, although we have not decided to where, yet. We will have a week to explore before our friends John and Laura join us on December 27th. We are planning to be at Sopher's Hole at the west end, which will make an easy ferry connection from STT for them.

Put Away for the Summer
02/03/2012, Nanny Cay, Tortola

After dropping Stacie at the airport (by dinghy, then 5 minute walk), Jonas and I returned to Sea Otter. Jonas tried to phone Nanny Cay Marina to make a reservation, but was told that they had no space, did not know when they would have space, and no, they don't take reservations! This is a problem for us, as we are hauling out there on Friday, and we really need some time on the dock beforehand to pack away the dinghy and sails, and change engine oil, etc... We decided to set off for the Marina anyway, as it would be a couple of hours before we arrived, and maybe someone would have left the dock by that time. Our strategy worked, and we were able to tie up to the dock right away.

We had a long list of projects to do. Here's a sample:
-wash, deflate, and pack up the dinghy
-winterize/summerize the dinghy engine
-overhaul the head
-spray, dry, remove and pack up the sails. Also found a couple of spots that need repair.
-remove all of the stuff (and stow it below) from our deck and rails, such as the liferaft, MOB pole, Lifesling, dinghy engine, boat hook, etc...
-change the diesel's oil, oil filter, and both fuel filters, and inspect the alternator belt
-arrange for someone to fix the teak on our deck, which is starting to lift off of the deck in a few places
-arrange for a management company to look in on Sea Otter while we are away
-go through our food stores and get rid of anything that won't last until next year
-spray all of the surfaces down below with vinegar to try to limit the growth of mould
-and, of course, get ourselves packed up to come home!

We were successful in our preparations, even though we took off every afternoon to go to the pool during the hottest part of the day, and this morning we were hauled out. This was one of the more organized and professional haul-outs we have experienced, not that we have had many nerve-wracking experiences. Sea Otter will spend a couple of weeks in the working yard, while the deck is being worked on, and will then be transferred to the storage yard for the summer.

Dinner tonight was a beach barbecue, which the marina puts on weekly. We fly home, tomorrow, by way of San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Toronto, then to Calgary, arriving at 11:20pm (ugh, that's going to feel like 2:20am!). Bye for now!

Final days with Stacie
27/02/2012, Trellis Bay

As our trip from North Sound to the Bight took several much of the day, we decided to stay in the Bight for another night. It was amazing to see how this very crowded bay cleared out in the morning and then filled up again in the afternoon! Whoosh, they're gone, whoosh, they're coming back in! For us, it was mostly a lazy day but we did have lunch ashore and Jonas and I also took the dinghy around Treasure point to do some snorkelling. I think this was the best snorkelling of the BVI's so far! The cliff continues its sharp vertical descent underwater, with some coral growing on it, and numerous fish. And then there are the sea caves, some of which you can swim right into, and admire the lovely colours of the rock, mineral deposits, and coral.

The following day, we dropped our mooring buoy and picked up another one, about 10 minutes away, at the Indians, a national park which comprises a couple of small rocks sticking up out of the water, and a relatively large reef with beautiful coral and large schools of colourful fish. It was rather rough and quite windy (blowing like stink, in fact!) and Stacie and I initially chickened out. Jonas went for a snorkel anyway, and just before he came back, Stacie and I screwed up our courage to go ourselves, so Jonas got to snorkel twice around the reef. Once we were in the water, the conditions didn't seem too bad, and the reef is spectacular (at least compared to anything we have seen in the Caribbean).

Once we were back aboard, we set off for Fat Hog's Bay, on the north east end of Tortola. In Fat Hog's Bay, as we were approaching our first mooring buoy, Jonas was alarmed to see the depth gauge reading "zero"! We hastily backed up, and were debating whether to stay or go elsewhere, when we noticed Adrian on s/v Flying Low waving to us, directing us to another mooring buoy, which did, it turned out, have sufficient depth for us. We tied up, had lunch, and then stopped by s/v Flying Low and arranged to have dinner together at Emile's, a Mexican restaurant recommended in our guidebook. It was a great meal, and we stopped by s/v Flying Low for a drink afterward. It wasn't a very late night, though, as Adrian and Claire had booked a dive for the next day and needed to leave early in order to meet the dive boat off Cooper Island.

This morning, we left Fat Hog's Bay just 15 minutes after s/v Flying Low, and set sail around Beef Island, past Marina Cay, to a spot called Lee Bay. Harvey and Sherry (remember them from earlier on this trip?) had highly recommended it as a snorkel stop. It was a pretty bay, but we had real problems getting our anchor to set (sometimes you just have to negotiate really nicely with our CQR anchor, and today was one of those times), and it took four tries before we were happy with it. Part of the problem is that the bottom of the bay is full of mostly dead coral, so we had to motor up close to the shore, drop the anchor in the sand there, and hope that it dug in, in the short space it had, before being dragged back to the dead coral. The dead coral was in pieces large enough to keep the anchor from being able to dig into the bottom, but not large enough to be able to hold Sea Otter in place! By the time we had set the anchor, I was rather ticked off and in a foul mood, and well reminded of why sailors swear like sailors: they deal with boats. After all of this, the snorkelling was pleasant, but the fish that Harvey and Sherry had reported were schooling elsewhere today.

After lunch, we upped anchor and moved back to Trellis Bay, just off Beef Island, where we picked up another mooring buoy. Stacie set about packing, as her flight home is tomorrow morning, bright and early. For dinner, we went ashore to The Last Resort, a restaurant/bar on a tiny little island (only room for the restaurant). Our guide book promised singing dogs and a donkey named "Bottom", but we didn't see them, and I vetoed asking about them. It was a lovely meal and we all had a great time. It will be sad to send Stacie home (although she is spending a few days in Phoenix on her way), but our own trip is coming to a close soon, and we will have to put Sea Otter to bed, so it is time.

Stacie’s Big Day
24/02/2012, The Bight, Norman Island, BVIs

Having well settled into life aboard Sea Otter, after five nights aboard, we just scored Stacie's best day yet. We started in North Sound, Virgin Gorda, just off of Saba rock. We got an early start, refilling our ice supply and were underway by 8:30. We enjoyed a good sail down the coast of Virgin Gorda, past Spanish Town, to the Baths were we picked up a Park mooring buoy. Our mooring turned out to be a long swim to the baths, but the water was delightful, and the exercise is likely good for us.

The Baths are one of the premier attractions of the BVIs. They are granite boulders, up to house sized, that were carried in an ancient lava flow. The softer igneous rock has eroded away leaving just the jumbled boulders leaning against themselves. Picturesquely situated right on the waters edge, there is a trail that weaves through them. Heather will be posting pictures, but they are a sight best seen in person.

After lunch, we swam back aboard and continued the downwind sail, down Sir Francis Drake's Channel to Norman Island. Along the way we passed Dead Chest Island (famous from the song ... Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of rum). Norman was apparently the inspiration for Stevenson's Treasure Island, and is one of the few places in the world that treasure was actually buried on (and Spanish silver at that)!

The Bight, at Norman Island, is a large, well protected bay that is a favorite destination of sailors. At anchor in the Bay is the Willy T's, a well known sailors restaurant and bar. Heather was feeling under the weather but she encouraged Stacie and I to go without her - and so we did. What happens at Willy T's stays at Willy T's, suffice it to say that a great time was had that night (if not the next morning), and that Stacie's new favorite person is Reid the master bartender and the creator of creative (and powerful) concoctions.

The day had it all; several great swims, the majestic Baths, five hours of downwind sailing and a happening (and unique) night spot to top it off.

Sailing with Stacie
23/02/2012, North Sound

Stacie's flight came in at 12:25 on Sunday. Jonas and I took the dinghy over to Trellis Bay to pick her up. She was a long time getting through Customs, and we were relieved when they finally let her into the country! We spent the rest of the day at Marina Cay, had Happy Hour ashore, and followed that with dinner at the Pusser's restaurant.

Next morning (Monday), we set sail for Anegada, known as "the Drowned Isle". Anegada is quite different from the other Virgin Islands, in that is is a coral atoll, and quite flat. To get there, you sail about 3 to 4 hours across mostly open ocean, and then motor through a nail-bitingly shallow passage into the anchorage. Thankfully, the passage is marked, but our depth sounder was reading less than a foot all the way in, and then read zero once we were in! We picked up a mooring buoy, but after Jonas did a little snorkel and reported that we had only an inch below the keel, we left that one and found some deeper water to anchor in. We ended up with a whole eight inches of water below us!

Tuesday, we took a taxi to the North Shore, to Loblolly Beach, and snorkelled for a couple of hours, before returning to Sea Otter for lunch, and the we set off, out of the shallow pass and across the open sea, to the North Sound, on the north side of Virgin Gorda. We picked up a mooring ball at Leverick Bay, and went ashore for "Happy Arrr", a show put on by Michael Bean, who Jonas and I last saw perform at Marina Cay, six years ago. It was a really good time, and we all enjoyed ourselves.

After another snorkeling trip, Wednesday morning, we moved Sea Otter to the other side of the Sound, and picked up a mooring off Saba Rock. We were also within easy dinghy distance of the Bitter End Yacht Club, and went to the pub there for dinner.

Today, Thursday, we decided to take it easy. Jonas went out snorkelling in the morning, but Stacie and I stayed on board and relaxed. Jonas came back and reported that the snorkelling was superb, so we all went out after lunch. After we returned, as we were showering off on the stern, Gerry on s/v Chinook Arch came by in his dinghy, to say hello to a fellow Albertan (our port of registry is Edmonton, and it is written on our stern). A short conversation later, we had figured out that he and his wife, Dawn, are actually next door neighbours of Jonas' parents, Jack and Carol. What a small world! So, of course, we had the two of them aboard for cocktails and had a very pleasant visit with them.

Passage to the BVIs
19/02/2012, Marina Cay, British Virgin Islands

Arriving in Sint Maarten at 3:30, it was too late to get through the airport, visit customs, check out of the marina and make the 4:30 bridge. The trip planning to the BVIs provided some challenges, as they are particular about Customs, which are closed Sunday and only open until noon on Saturday. Also with the rocks off Virgin Gorda, Heather wanted to arrive in daylight. So we needed a bridge early enough to guarantee that with the low winds forecast we would make it to Customs by noon. So we elected to take the 11:00 bridge on Friday.

As it turned out, the winds were slightly stronger than forecast and we could make very good time. Too good in fact, at first we went with main and genoa, then put up the chute. Speed calcs said if we pushed it we could reach the BVIs at 2:30 am, well before first light. So we went back to main and genoa, but reefed. Then we reefed some more. Then we reefed again. At dusk we took in the main and continued under reefed genoa only. It's no fun to keep having to slow down - we want to go faster!

It was a good passage - other than Heather feeling somewhat queasy. 12 knots on the beam is just about perfect for Sea Otter. The waves were only about 5', admittedly on the beam, which is not ideal. The dingy was sprouting some impressive growth after two weeks in Simpson Lagoon - but Heather got it scrubbed off. (you go girl!) A busy passage, boat wise, I think at all times we were within 5 miles of another vessel. Lots of boats were taking advantage of the good weather.

Passing the rocks in good daylight we anchored off Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda where the Customs are. They do not make it easy. Some information we provide in triplicate on one form and on 3 other forms. The Customs anchorage was rolly, so once we cleared, we motored over and picked up a mooring behind Marina Cay.

Marina Cay is one of my favorite islands. I have been in the BVIs twice before. The first time was just over 20 years ago with my family on a family vacation chartering. More recently, 6 years ago, for my parent's 40th wedding anniversary we chartered a 52' Beneteau named 'Tanis Marie" for 10 days. On that trip there were 7 of us: my parents, Heather and I, my brother Paul, my brother Lucas and his then girlfriend (now wife) Ha. After 10 days of family togetherness Heather and I moved onto Marina Cay for 4 days to unwind. It is a tiny little island, 8 guest rooms, a hilltop bar with live music nightly and a great beachside restaurant with the best ribs I have ever eaten. 12,000nm ago, coming back here was a goal of mine for the trip, and we now could see it.

Hot with little wind, we got the shade tree up, and were taking it easy (recovering from our overnight passage) when I recognized the boat passing us, going to pick up the mooring ball in front of us. It is Adrian and Claire on 'Flying Low' who we met in Sint. Maarten last year. When I swam over to say hello we agreed on drinks at 6 on Sea Otter and dinner at 7 at Marina Cay. As I am floating and talking I noticed that the next boat over from them is 'Tanis Marie'!

We had a delightful time, wine and appys on Sea Otter (they hosted us last time), very good ribs ashore, and we finished the night off with port and Maderia (the last bottle that we brought from Maderia), on Sea Otter.

A great day. I regret to report though that while the ribs were, tender, tasty and very good; they changed their sauce and the are no longer the best that I have ever had. The painkillers are just as good as remembered though.

Fun and Work
17/02/2012, Simpson Lagoon, Sint Maarten

We were confusing to Immigration. Sea Otter arrived with three people on board. One was flying home in three days (Jonas). One was moving off the boat and flying home in a week (Carol). And one was staying on the boat and not going anywhere. It did get sorted, though, and both Jonas and Carol were removed from the crew list. Hey, does that make me the captain?

We had decided that we were just going to enjoy ourselves for the first few days, after all, I was going to have a week on my own to work on the boat. Jack and Carol had rented a car, so they drove us into Phillipsburg for some duty-free shopping, and up to Marigot to visit a street market, and over to Grand Caisse... you get the idea. I was glad that Jack was doing the driving, though, not me, as the roads in St. Maarten are in poor repair and the traffic was quite heavy. We also had some beach time in Simpson Bay, of course. Jonas flew home on the Sunday, and Jack and Carol and I continued to enjoy ourselves, although I started working on boat projects in the mornings before we got together. One day, I had someone come and take the sofa cushion covers away for cleaning (pretty grimy, they were!) and the next morning, they were brought back, good as new. So my morning project with Jack and Carol was to put my sofa back together.

After Jack and Carol flew home, boat work started in earnest. I got a ton of cleaning done, had a mechanic out to fix the raw water pump on our diesel engine, picked up a bunch of spare parts and supplies at the various chandleries. So now, the engine is running beautifully, the bilges are all nice and clean, the last bits of mouldy lockers have been bleached, and the chandleries in St. Maarten should be able to stay in business for another year.

Jonas got back, and we went straight to Customs to clear out of the country, as tomorrow, we are taking the 11:00 bridge out of the lagoon, and overnighting to the British Virgin Islands.

Sailing with Mom
16/02/2012, St. Kitts to St. Maarten

On Tuesday January 31st, my (Jonas's) Mother joined us in St. Kitts. She and my father flew into Sint Maarten on the 29th and she was up for a sailing adventure. Regretfully my father's vertigo issues prevented him from joining us, but he encouraged Mom to come while he visited with (or partied with???) Harvey and Sherry Doerr who left us in Nevis.

Arriving at 8:30 after the quick inter-island flight we met Mom at the airport. Sam 'The Man' was our taxi driver and we arranged for him to take us on an island tour after we collected Mom.

Very knowledgeable, "The Man" gave a good narration of the island. Great views of the other islands from the heights. Very big transition for the island when king sugar ended. Although on a very long decline, when the last sugar mill closed (less than 10 years ago) it threw almost 20% of the island's workforce out of work.

Like Nevis, a friendly island, both Heather and I enjoyed; and Mom was pleased to see another island.

The highlight of the tour, and in fact of St. Kitts, was Brimstone Hill National Park. This would be well worth visiting just for the spectacular views out over the ocean, and up and down the coast. One of the things that you look for in a site to build a major fortress is good sight lines after all. But it was not just the views, the defensive works were very interesting and one could - and did - wander all over it. Needless to say they also have an impressive cannon collection - albeit from a narrow point in time. They were almost all 24 pounders, from the reign of George the third. In fact most were made in the same decade, but there are lots of them. Heather will be posting some pictures. (Eventually)

The tour continued to the South end of the island with the great views from Timothy's hill showing the ocean on both sides of the island where they almost meet.

Back north to Frigate bay we had a tasty bbq lunch at Cathy's Beach Bar. The bbq was good, the view excellent and Cathy fun and reassuring.

Post tour we made ready for departure and got cleared though Customs, Immigration and checked out of the marina. They could make Customs & Immigration easier, but at least they were friendly (although not as friendly as Nevis). Having cleared, you have 24 hours to clear the country.

We sailed south, in increasing wind and swell to Nevis. In the Narrows, where I think there is some wind funneling, the wind hit 32 knots. This was not unexpected, we had warned Mom that she was in for a lively sail and gave her the option of delaying a day to let the wind and wave subside some.

We picked up a mooring in Nevis. The NPA (Nevis Port Authority) has laid a nice large field of mooring balls that yachts are to use. Regretfully not all of them are in good repair, we picked up and rejected 3 before returning to lucky ball #7 that we had used earlier in the trip with Harvey and Sherry and that I had dove to ensure that it was in good repair.

On Febuary 1st we got underway at 6:50 for the long sail to St. Barts. It was a close reach with winds in the high 20s and bigger waves - up to 12' but more typically 8-10'. Reaching with strong winds Sea Otter made excellent time. Mom got her big wind & wave experience. While we did not quite every leave the sight of land, there were very few boats out and it gave her a taste of the open ocean. It was a life jacket and tether day.

Reaching Gustavia (capital of St. Barts) around 2 we anchored, launched the dingy and went in. French customs are so easy. They really do not care. Last year when we were there I asked them about Stormy, as the customs forms do not ask about animals. The customs officer told me that if the animal had the proper shots and (or?) was healthy they did not want to be told about them - you were only supposed to declare sick animals. Also you can clear out 24 hours before you leave, so I cleared us both in and out at the same time.

Continuing on to Anse de Colombier, one of the nicest anchorages in the Leewards, we picked up the best mooring ball in the bay and I immediately jumped overboard into the inviting waters. After a little pasta and wine we were done in after a long day

The next day featured snorkeling, rays, turtles, a beach walk, lunch, and more swimming before setting sail for St. Barts to catch the 5:30 drawbridge. Dad was at the Sint Maarten Yacht Club taking pictures of us coming in, so Heather should be able to post pictures of us coming in with the superyachts. Dinner with Dad at the condo they had rented brought a close to Sailing With Mom.

27/01/2012, Basseterre - St. Kitts

Tied up in Port Zante Marina. Detail to follow.

Also check out the photo Gallery, Heather has 2 albums up, complete with captions.

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