07 May 2013 | Deadmans Bay, Peter Island, BVI 18’21.36N 64’34.14W – Bitter End, Virgin Gorda, BVI 18’29.83N 64’21.60W via Drakes Anchorage, Leverick Bay, Spanish Town & Statia, Virgin Gorda, BVI
So you've got a whole heap of things to do, the tasks range from the short, simple and fun, to the convoluted, painful and messy. You've only got a small window of opportunity to get everything done and there are only so many hours in the day. How to focus and get everything nailed? A list, that's the answer and on Ruffian we love lists. The jobs on the list have been steadily getting checked off and we are just about ready to make the leap north. 'The list' has not only enabled us to get the difficult jobs sorted but it has also enabled us to have the most social of times and sample the best snorkelling and swimming that the BVI's can offer.
For the trip north we have joined a bunch of like minded seafarers who make the trip under the guise of 'The Salty Dawg Rally'. The rally gives us all the benefits of scale such as discounts in stores, weather routing and safety in numbers, but it doesn't have the downside of a fixed start date, start location or even destination. All that we all have in common is that we're in the Caribbean and are heading north. There is also the social side to consider and boy have we been social. We're been 'out' more and seen more bars and people in the last week than we have in the past 3 month.
The inaugural social was billed to take place in Leverick Bay, North Sound in Virgin Gorda. We'd been making steady progress on the list and so thought that we deserved the fun. However before we could reintegrate ourselves into society we felt we had to get clean and so off to the reef we went. Under the guise of checking the anchor and managing to delay the cleanliness chore Iain went off for a snorkel and found a veritable larder on the seabed. He hunted n gathered and returned with enough poor unfortunate conchs for a veritable feast. All that was left to do was get the couch out of their safe secure homes and into the pot.
We'd seen fishermen harvesting conch in Anegada and it looked just so simple. They'd give one blow with a hammer, a quick cut with a knife and the conch simply 'fell' out. The nasty bits were then chopped off, the thing was skinned and it was ready for the pot. This was not quite how it worked as Iain got to, wielded his hammer and knife. After smashing the shell to bits and getting everything covered in sharp shell based shrapnel he had to move onto the gutting or sliming. He managed to get all the shell fragments covered in conch slime and everything he touched was also covered. Everything was so slimy that he and Thug resembled a scene from Ghostbusters. Nothing, apart from Fiona remained unscathed, although she was gagging at the horrible sight of the stuff. The dingy, the cockpit, Gerber knives, hammers, pots and pans were all covered and only elbow grease and a great deal of scrubbing resulted in the removal of the stuff. Conchs, unlike fish, are not well packaged pieces of protein.
The anchorage at Leverick Bay was filling up with Salty Dawg'ers. Their tell tale burgees were flapping in the wind and we were going to be in for a good night. We skirted past all the bigger boats in the fleet, well all the boats, as we are the smallest by a good margin and anchored where no-one else could as they are all way, way too big. It dawned on us then that we are the small boat in a big fleet about to cross another big ocean.
We sat down to a pirate based night of fun and frolics. We learnt that a pirate's favourite letter is 'Rrrrrr' and he is really good at 'ARrrrrrrrrrt', most importantly however we were welcomed into the 'Salty Dawg' community with open arms and trays full of painkillers. The knowledge we have managed to harvest and contacts we made will prove to be invaluable in the weeks to come. We also made a bit of a spectacle of ourselves by having a proper dance in the sand in bare feet. We learnt that jiving and spinning in sand is particularly difficult and found that if you keep spinning on the same spot you act like a drill and create a really rather deep hole.
The jobs continued and we had been warned that there is potentially a massive area of no wind between the Caribbean and the USA. Everybody has been shocked that we carry so little diesel and so to the list was added 'Buy more diesel and more jerry cans'. Into Spanish Town we went wanting to tick that chore off. We found the cans and off we trotted to the gas station after being horrified at the price of diesel in the marina.
With 60 litres of diesel in cans we just had to get back to the boat. Iain trotted along with 40 litres and Fiona valiantly struggled behind with 20 litres. She quickly came to the conclusion that the best thing to do would be to have a nice sit down and let Iain trot off and ferry the diesel back and forth. Iain was therefore somewhat surprised 2 minutes later to find Fiona overtaking him in the back of a truck. The age of chivalry is not dead in these isles as the driver had seen Fiona stopped and said 'That's too much for a lady, hop in.'
With yet more tasks ticked off and another SDR social in Leverick Bay we headed back in no wind but as a reward en route we felt we should to take in 'The Dogs' again for more swimming. The wind and swell, for the first time in months, was not present and so we had high hopes of what we would find. We were not to be disappointed.
One of the gems of 'The Dogs' is an underwater cave. As you swim down and down your surroundings get bluer and bluer. Then when you get to the bottom and look up its difficult not to loose all your breath as you gasp at the breathtaking view above. The sunlight flows through the corals and dances of the backs of all the ever present fishies. The swell gently wafts the underwater vegetation and as you then effortlessly (unless you've no breath left) float to the surface you are able to take in the view and the colours that light creates underwater. Simply stunning.
The social side of things were about to move up yet another gear. The sailing community is so small that you also speak of mutual friends. We'd heard of, seen and even taken photographs in Las Palmas of a boat a coat called 'Troscala' and here they were, in Gorda Sound. Just ready and waiting for a Rum punch and chilli filled night. As if this wasn't enough the very next day Limbo, with Tim & Natalie aboard arrived fresh from St Martin. The social whirl continued at a fever pitch.
With the list having had nearly everything ticked off, our minds are very much turning to the question of when to leave and where to go. GRIB's are being downloaded and analysed daily and destinations being researched. Stay tuned for a departure and destination update.
The joys of deep cleaning before another big ocean passage.
Huntin' 'n' gatherin'. Iain brings home the harvest.
But the harvest wasn't happy being harvested. The conch really didn't want to leave their home, only 1 thing for it. A claw hammer.
Arrrrrrr. The pirate theme is taken to the max at Leverick Bay with the Salty Dawgs.
Painkillers. That'll be marking the start of a sailing rally.
The Salty Dawgs.
No wind and no swell makes snorkelling at The Dogs an unreal experience.
But it does mean that the only way to get around is by using the 'Iron Topsail'.
We are now official Salty Dawgs.
Feeding the Tarpon at Saba Rock. Tame carnivorous fish. You'd only get that in a theme park.
And it happens to coincide with happy hour.
Fiona is busy once again. Chart packs of the USA arrive. It's a world of opportunity.
More huntin' 'n' gatherin'. With so much gloop involved the little critters were left unscathed in thir sheels.
Our time on deserted beaches, swimming in pearlescent water whilst anchored in flat bays is nearly over.
Water that warm makes for tropical storms and hurricanes. Time to move north where it's cold.