I'm reconnected to the internet!
07 January 2013 | Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVIs
It has been quite a while since my last blog post, and for that, I apologize. Our wifi booster quit working, and we haven't had free wifi since just after the last post. I have, now that I'm back in Nanny Cay where I do have wifi, downloaded and reinstalled the drivers for the booster, so it seems to be working again. Yay me!
Anyway, since my last post, what has happened? Christmas, for one thing! Jonas and I had a good laugh Christmas morning, as it turned out that we bought each other the same gift: tickets to Cirque du Soleil. So now we have two sets of tickets. We had Christmas dinner at the Bitter End Yacht Club, then spent the next night in Manchioneel Bay on Cooper Island, then picked up our friends John and Laura in Soper's Hole.
Jonas and I first met John and Laura while we were in Dominica. As we were each sailing into Portsmouth, we were eyeing each others' boats, thinking that these guys must be cruisers, but couldn't possibly have been out very long, as there wasn't a ton of junk cluttering the decks! At that time, they were sailing s/v Rainmaker, and taking a year off as a honeymoon. We were on our own year off, and we all hit it off well. Rainmaker has since been sold, so both John and Laura were keen to sail with us in the BVI's this year.
Some highlights of the nine days that they were aboard: barbecue dinner at Foxy's, getting laundry done in Cane Garden Bay (what can I say? I was desperate by then!), a few days in North Sound, a couple of nights in The Bight, lots of good snorkeling most days, including a stop at The Indians, and a trip (by dinghy) to The Caves. We all had a really good time and enjoyed each others company.
We came back to Nanny Cay a couple of days ago, but this is the first chance I have had to sit down and write a blog post. Jonas has gone home, back to the frozen north; I'm bach-ing it for a couple of weeks. So far, I've done three loads of laundry while fending off everyone else who wanted those machines, fixed the wifi booster, ordered parts for the stern shower, and spent much of today troubleshooting our drinking water pump, which won't turn itself off. Sadly, my plumbing skills are quite limited, but I think I have a theory I can act on tomorrow, when the chandlery is open again.
Time to start cruising
23 December 2012 | Saba Rock
Friday the 21st, we left Nanny Cay. Our boat projects were finished enough to let us go out and start enjoying ourselves. Don’t get me wrong: Nanny Cay is a lovely spot, and if Jonas and I didn’t associate it with the work of decommissioning and recommisioning Sea Otter, we would love to spend time here. But, it was time to move on to more peaceful places.
Our first choice for a destination was Manchioneel Bay, on Cooper Island, but a forecast for a northerly swell nixed that idea. Instead, we chose to spend our first night at Marina Cay. It’s a lovely spot, and fairly sheltered, with decent snorkeling, and halfway to North Sound, which is where we want to spend Christmas. We had a good trip there, had a pleasant afternoon on a mooring, and actually cooked dinner on board. The restaurant is good enough, that’s almost a travesty, but we had chicken breasts in the fridge that needed to be eaten soon! Our only disappointment was when we tried to walk Stormy on shore, we were told that there are no dogs allowed on the island. I hadn’t seen the sign to that effect, and the staff was fairly snarky about it, so I’m still in a snit. Oh, well, Stormy remembered the purpose of the Astroturf so we didn’t have take her ashore there again.
Saturday the 22nd, we moved to Leverick Bay, in North Sound. Just before we departed, a couple hailed us, as they had recognized one of our burgees. It turned out to be Ken and Leslie Collins from the Sidney North Saanich Yacht Club, here on a charter vacation. It’s a small world!
In Leverick Bay, just after we arrived, a dinghy drove by, and the couple and their dog looked familiar. I hailed them, and it turned out to be Lou and Lydia from s/v Secondhand Rose, with their dog Bugs, whom we had last seen in Martinique, almost two years ago. We had a nice visit, and agreed to meet up later for a dog walk. The walk turned out to be on a spectacular beach on Mosquito Island, which is owned by Richard Branson. We didn’t see Richard, but the dogs had a great time and so did we.
This morning, after a rolly night at Leverick Bay, we decided to move Sea Otter to the other side of North Sound. There’s less fetch (room for the wind waves to build up) there, so we are hoping to get a better night’s sleep than last night. We picked up a mooring ball right off Saba Rock, and a short dinghy ride to the Bitter End Yacht Club. Jonas discovered another good beach for a dog walk, this time on Prickly Pear Island, and Stormy had a good time. Lots of hoofprints from the island’s resident goats; not sure what they would think of having a small hairless dog invading their island, but we didn’t see them today. Jonas also went for a snorkel, and found three cannons on the sea floor, while I began setting up the lifeline netting. It’s usually a two day job, so I wanted to get started on it, now that we will be in the same spot for a couple of days. All in all, a good day.
22 December 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 December 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 March 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 February 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 February 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 February 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 February 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 February 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.