Monday, December 30, 2013

Keri Joins The Crew

Baxter, Kala and I had a wonderful Christmas in Maho Bay and then headed over to St Thomas to pick up our friend Keri.  We were able to stop at American Yacht Harbor, go grocery shopping, fill our water tanks, and fully charge our batteries.

We met Keri at baggage claim and then took her to the dinghy.  It was the first time she had been picked up at an airport on a dinghy.  Shortly after, we saw our friends Sabrina and Tom on Honey Ryder and we all sat in Terrapin's cockpit for sundowners.  Baxter and I also conveniently arranged a good show for Keri by having the Queen Mary II leave the dock and slowly make her way about 100 yards from Terrapin out to sea.  Keri was thinking this vacation was a great idea - definitely a different world from her office in Atlanta!

Since the route from St Thomas to Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda was about 20 miles and would take most of the day, we opted to take Keri to one of our favorite spots - you guessed it - back to Maho Bay.  That would give us time to play (snorkel, paddle board, and hang out) as well as make progress back to the BVI.

From there, we sailed over to Spanish Town to check into the BVI.  We made a side trip to The Baths  along with a zillion of our closest friends.  Unfortunately, the crowds took away from the coolness of the geography and we're glad we did it but my patience needed a recharge.

As we sail around the BVI, we are doing our best to give Keri a taste of the cruiser life including ripping off a dorade off the front of the boat on a hard tack, toilets running over because we forgot to close a thru hull and we heeled over, as well as finding diesel in the bilge.  Ahh, gotta love the cruising life!  All of this, while Keri is at the helm learning to sail a wind angle with a light hand on the wheel.

We look forward to a fun NYE - wherever that may be!

Queen Mary II as she motored out to sea right next to Terrapin
"Capt Keri"
Views around here don't suck

Kala enjoying a little land life.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Maho Bay

Baxter and I don't typically get "sticky feet" and hang around any one place for more than a couple of days, but we just can't find any compelling reason to leave Maho Bay.  There are enough snorkeling spots to explore for months, there are great hiking trails right off the beach, a mini market if we absolutely needed anything, and the wind is howling everywhere but here.

We have even found ourselves in a routine where we wake up and paddle Kala to shore on the SUP, eat breakfast, work on boat projects or make conference calls, more paddle boarding, some snorkeling, and then dinner. What else do you need? Not one person here has reminded us of the rules about dogs on beaches (though Kala has not really broken any) and it is relatively quiet.

We have also been hanging out with Sabrina and Tom on SV Honey Ryder whose blog I've followed for a couple years and had the chance to meet through the Salty Dawg Rally. They are like-minded cruisers and it's been fun talking boats and passage stories over sun downers.

Alas, we will have to leave in a couple of days as our friend Keri is coming to visit and we are off to St Thomas to pick her up and then to the BVI to explore and celebrate New Year's. We also might see Skylark again (who all three of us miss hanging out with), Steve on Chandara, and maybe Logan & Gillian on Stella Blue (c'mon weather - cooperate please.)

Lots more adventures in store!!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Metronome Syndrome

A metronome - you know, the thing that tick-ticks back and forth when you're playing an instrument to help keep time with the beat. Well, our mast was metronome-like last night in Hawksnest Bay. I almost felt like I was sleeping on a hammock. We had a great time there - with 4 or 5 Hawksbill turtles playing around and a good reef with some of the biggest parrotfish I've seen in the Caribbean, but it was time to say goodbye - there's only so much balancing my vestibular canal can handle without my body actually moving.

Between rainstorms we moved east on the north side of St John to Francis Bay.  When I went to the bow to pick up the mooring, it felt like someone was spitting in my face...wind gusting 30k right down a saddle. We looked at each other and decided to go to Maho Bay instead - which is 200 meters to the south. It was like someone switched off the wind tunnel and we arrived in a calm pool of turquoise water. Kala ran on deck with a huge grin. That's a good sign!

I think we might be here for a couple of days.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Back In The Groove

We have thoroughly enjoyed our mooring ball in Caneel Bay. Despite the wakes that occasionally roll through, we are so happy to be here vs. a nasty dock.

Yesterday, Baxter was able to run the entire port tank fuel line and I cut patterns for new cockpit pillows. A nice mellow day.

We might go check out a couple of other spots on the north side of the island and/or sail west to the Spanish Virgins for Christmas....or we might stay right here. 

We don't feel rushed or fussed….

That is my foot holding up our mattress while Baxter changes the fuel line connection (fuel tank is under our bed).

Old fuel line off (the brass line under the white line)

New fuel line connected

Around the generator and through the closet, to the Racor bowl we go.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pirates of the Caribbean Alive and Well

The only thing that could drag us away from Lameshur Bay was looming repairs.

We had an appointment on Tuesday to get our fuel polished. If you'll remember, it seemed like our port tank wasn't working after being contaminated during our passage from the Chesapeake. 

So...we contacted Independent Boatyard near Budget Marine in St Thomas to ensure they still had the "work dock" available for us to tie up. They said they did and we needed to be there mid-afternoon before they closed Monday. So that's what we did.

Independent Boat Yard is down a fairly shallow (6.5') canal and is a bit run down and has poor water drainage so there are big puddles of oily, greasy water that get on you and the boat. The docks are work and don't have power or water. All of this is fine with us since we have been to more rugged places and we were excited about getting to the bottom of the fuel issue. What we had a hard time with was the extreme difficulty we had with the office staff. The "work dock" is just a place to tie up and sort your boat at 1.50/foot/day. There is usually no one on the dock so we thought the office staff would like to take our money for less than a 24 hour stay. We were wrong. Baxter had a very difficult time getting a time from them to schedule the fuel polisher (though he was their contractor) and then they tried to charge us for two days when we went to pay after being on the dock for less than 20 hours. I had a very animated "discussion" with the office secretary and the office manager who each changed their reasons for charging us for two days each time I pointed out why their argument was not valid. Regardless, I'm sure many people who are nicer than we are and don't mind a good verbal match would have let themselves be taken advantage of and paid for two days. Never, never, never going to this yard. They are pirates and crooks.  As we look back on our experience (which only lasted 21.5 hours), we can't figure out how they stay in business but we're certain it won't be our money that supports them.

Despite the yard, we did meet with Jacques (who is not associated with the yard) and it turns out after running fuel through his mega-filter contraption, we don't have dirty fuel. Yayyyy, right? Nope. If not dirty fuel, than what? We made a quick visit to Budget Marine for various supplies to change the fuel line and we cast off the dock lines as fast as we could. 

It was the first time we had been at a dock since the Chesapeake and all three of us hated it! It feels dirty and claustrophobic and like someone is making you swallow a nasty pill. Put some mean, psycho people on top of that and we were done.

We left St Thomas with 8 ft waves and threatening skies and picked up a mooring in Caneel Bay. It took all three of us a moment to take a deep breath, think of any positives we could draw on from the last 24 hours, and move on.

When life gives you lemons...think of your double rainbow happy place on Lameshur Bay and all is right again.

Mega fuel filter contraption thingy where our mattress usually goes.

This is NOT fun - can we go now?

Of course, everything comes out of both lazarettes.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Rainbow Bay

It was a rough ride from St Thomas just the eight short miles across Pillsbury Sound to Lameshur Bay on St John.  With the wind gusting 25+ and the bow being buried so deep in waves the anchor disappeared, only to come up the next wave and we would look UP to the bow.

None of that mattered after we arrived. The water was the prettiest we have seen in the US and we had great protection from the 1,000ft hills close by. There were only three other boats in the mooring field and we were quite content.

They even had an NPS dock so Kala didn't have to be a law breaker and touch the beach.  We proceeded to explore, hiking and snorkeling, all around.

The only thing I'd change about Lameshur is the name - it should be called Rainbow Bay. We saw so many and they were so bright...sometimes even double rainbows! How can that not make you happy?
Christmas Cove, St Thomas, USVI
Our new mood lighting which Baxter made look so easy to install (done in an hour)
Single rainbow…we couldn't believe how beautiful it was!
Double Rainbow - right over Terrapin.  When we're having a tough moment, this will be my happy place. 
Blue Tang City (aka Dori of "Finding Nemo).  I think they are saying "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.."
Waterfalls in the Caribbean are fun.
This is right after the deluge of rain (x3)
Petroglyphs carved between 900-1500 A.D. by the Pre-Columbian Taino natives and their ancestors.
Rainbows bring smiles
This is our remoray friend.  He LOVED us!! and was happy to help clean the bottom of the dinghy.
Terrapin likes her backdrop.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Friday the 13th

Being in a beautiful spot like Caneel Bay, we had our day planned full of hiking and snorkeling. Until...we turned on the diesel generator first thing in the morning to power up our batteries a little more.

You didn't really think our dirty fuel issues were resolved, did you? Baxter changed the Racor filters twice in about 20 min and there was still an issue with the port fuel tank (of course we just filled it in the BVI thinking it was good to go.)

Loooonnnggg story short, we sailed to St Thomas, dinghied about 5 miles to Budget Marine for odds and ends, found a fuel polisher and made an appt for next week, and bought more gas for the dinghy.

By time we were back to Terrapin, it was 4:30. Baxter had a conference call and then we took Kala to shore.  It was a long hot day but like I've said before - you have to work hard to get to the fun tickets in this sailing world.

The narrow cut that didn't even look as wide as our boat when we first saw it.

You know, just the regular cruise ship traffic.

Hey Baxter, can you touch that rock RIGHT next to you?

Beautiful views of the Caribbean

See, life is not always fruity drinks and sunsets.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Back in the USA

We had checked out of the BVI on Wednesday afternoon and on Thursday morning, we dropped our mooring ball and headed over to the fuel dock at Soper's Hole for fuel and water.  From there, it was the long passage (7 miles) to Caneel Bay in St John.  Kala thought we might be headed for the Chesapeake and went down below prepared for the worst…she came back up an hour later not believing we had actually arrived.

Checking back into the US was extremely easy - easier than most airports.  It only took about 10 minutes and we went back to the boat, picked up Kala and did a little afternoon shopping to find a deck shade for her, or at least something that will work to allow a breeze to flow around her but cover her from the sun while she is on deck.

We also stopped by the NPS office to ask them how they would prefer we logistically get Kala to shore. She is allowed on all of the trails on St John but not on the beaches.  So….if you are arriving by dinghy, what do they suggest?  Basically, the NPS said, she's not allowed on the beaches…so just do it quickly and don't get caught and that's what we did.  

She was tired after the walk, so Baxter and I decided to go for an afternoon snorkel.  There was a huge Hawksbill turtle that we had seen in the area so we were hoping he would come play.  No such luck…he must be shy.  We did see lots of Sergeant Majors and after my experience at Thunderball Grotto, Baxter had to remind me they weren't piranhas and if they did bite, I would probably live.  

We considered going to Caneel Bay Resort or one of the others around for a fruity drink with an umbrella…instead we decided that the best bar was the big white one with a blue stripe and gold lettering that said "T-E-R-R-A-P-I-N".  The drink was tasty, the crowd wasn't too rowdy and the music was just to our liking!

Soper's Hole Mooring Field
Between USVI and BVI
US Customs and Immigration
NPS Office is bigger than Customs
School of yellowtail snappers
The menacing lion fish that is NOT indigenous to the Caribbean.  Thankfully, this was the first one we've seen.
According to our guide, a gurnard.

Sunset at the local bar.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Checking Out

Steve and Tom on Chandara did not want to splash their dinghy (on deck for the passage) so we helped them get around while they were in Soper’s Hole.  First thing in the morning, we ran over to Chandara to take out the trash and run Steve and Tom to shore for breakfast.  I took the opportunity to provision at Harbour Market where coffee was only $4 instead of the $16 it cost at Bitter End.

Later in the morning, Steve wanted to check out the land perspective of the marina where he will be leaving his boat while he flies back to the US and we needed a windlass part from Golden Hines in Road Town so Baxter, Tom and Steve shared a taxi and ran errands.  I ran over to customs and immigration and checked us out of the BVI (for every new country, you are required to check-in and check-out.) 

Tomorrow morning, Baxter, Kala and I will be heading to the USVI to explore, ready for new adventures.  

We leave you with the thought for the day:
If it is important to you, you will find a way.  If it is not, you will find an excuse.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Soper's Hole

We arrived in Soper’s with new projects on our list after just the 25 mile jaunt from Bitter End to West End, Tortola.  Shocker, I know.

During the trip from Bitter End, we heard a loud bang from the boom and we had “insta-main” – which, if you are unfamiliar with this term, is where you look up to the main you had reefed since it was gusting up to 25kts, and instead the whole mainsail has unfurled and you are heeled over with the toe rail in the water. 

Since we were on a broad reach, Baxter ran to the mast and the bolt that went from the mast to the main furler had bent and the pin had sheared off.  He caught it in time, but in order to fix it he needed the sail to stay full – on a port tack.  Well, not a big deal unless you’re on a broad reach and the wind is twitchy and wants to come from behind you.  Still no problem, I took the helm and kept us between a beam reach and 100 degrees off.  The problem is, we were heading towards Peter Island and we only had 1.5nm to get the problem fixed before we had to tack or hit land.  We furled in the jib and eased the main to slow down and buy some time.  I kept edging off the wind slightly…100, 105, 110 trying hard to keep it less than 120 off.  Baxter being the master-of-all tasks in front of him, fixed it just in time. 
The other issue which is now on our list is a continuous “knocking” from the rudder post.  There is not much of a fix or emergency solution if your rudder falls off, except throw out an anchor and hope someone can give you a tow…remember we are in a foreign country and it’s not as easy as calling the Coast Guard or Sea Tow.  We have noticed the knocking before and it seems to only be in following seas.  Baxter made sure the rudder post wasn’t about to break but that was about all we could do at that moment.  More research is required before this will be resolved.

We picked up a mooring in Soper’s Hole and chatted with friends to get the latest scoop on where others are heading and the fun they are having.

Soon enough, Steve and Tom on Chandara pulled into the mooring field and I dinghied over to help them pull up the pennant.  Baxter was onshore working on a conference call and had cold beer ready as soon as Chandara was tied up.  We had a great time catching up and sharing passage stories. 

The day pretty much sums up the cruising life…endless projects that keep you busy and frustrated but great friends and experiences that keep you interested and willing to make it work.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sew What

We have lots of sewing projects on our to-do's.  Most of these involve protecting something from UV rays and saltwater.  Since I am relatively new to this sewing thing, it's not perfect, but it will do.  Something is better than nothing.

Tomorrow, we are headed out of the Bitter End to Soper's Hole to meet our friends Steve and Tom on Chandara.  We have known Steve since we had Stella Blue in NC and have always had fun traveling with him.  He and Tom left the Chesapeake early December and has a heck of a passage (does this happen to everyone in the fall in the North Atlantic??).  From there, we aren't sure if we'll be staying in the BVI or moving over to Cruz Bay on St John (USVI) for a couple of weeks.  Every day brings a new plan.

Just about done with the prep work.

Bag to hold outhaul and main sheet


Instrument panel cover -before-


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Early Christmas - Winds

While it seems everyone we know is facing freezing cold temperatures in the US (except those in FL) or massive storms (west coast Sweden), we have seen the early arrival of what could be the Christmas Winds in the Caribbean.  We're not complaining, just painting the picture.  I will say that wind is much easier to swallow when it is sunny and 80 degrees and not raining all day, every day.  We can still get things done and we're not locked down below.  Our solar panels will be happy and full of energy and we can actually sit outside and enjoy the view.

We have been very productive since arriving back in Virgin Gorda.  Baxter has replaced the cracked Racor bowl and cleaned our contaminated port fuel tank, which means we can run our diesel generator again (as necessary).  I have a growing list of sewing projects that I am looking forward to working on including line bags, life raft cover (sun damage can destroy a life raft and you don't want to need it and find out that it doesn't work), windlass cover (previous one blew off), engine panel cover, etc…

My problem is there are so many fun things to do, I lose my focus on work and just want to play.  Case and point, yesterday we went for a hike to check out views atop the hills nearby and found what looks like a surf spot on the SE side of the North Sound.  The wind helped keep the bugs off and kept everything a little cooler.

Now for the gossip….The Bitter End Yacht Club (facilities onshore) is still closed due to the group who rented out the island last week.  I spoke with one of the guys working there yesterday and apparently he is ready for them to leave.  They rented out this entire island and they do nothing but sit on their huge chartered motor yacht all day.  He is bored and would like some guest interaction.  Who could this group be?  He said he thought it was a big tobacco company…more money than they can actually use.

Current Forecast - a bit breezy
The deep lazerette where the fueling control panel lives...

Here is an annotated photo of the broken generator fuel system. Yes, we know that none of the wiring is ABYC. That's on "the list" to get done!
One of the locals hiding out.
We had several miles of nice hiking to get to some awesome views.
Possible surf spot?
Here is our current neighborhood. Not too shabby!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Fat Hog Bay, Road Town & Bitter End... Whew!

We woke up in FHB with lots of work to be done.  Penn's Landing told us about taxi's on the east end - if you call a taxi, it costs $25 to get to Road Town, but if you walk out on the road and hail one, it costs $3.  Guess which option we chose?  The $3 taxi is more like a town shuttle.  There were kids going to school, women going to work, and of course, the late night crowd who looks like they were coming in from the night before…and us.  

First stop was Golden Hines Chandlery, where Matt was a wealth of information.  He advised us that they sell a Racor (fuel filter) bowl by itself, but it would have to be shipped from Miami which would be $80 for the bowl and $80 for shipping.  That option would also mean we would have to stay on Tortola until the part was received.  With no good place to anchor, that means more money for moorings.  We'll consider it….

Next stop was Parts and Power in Road Town but before we got there we found a Marine Depot where we stocked up on sealant and a dinghy light - fun stuff, I know.  No Racor bowl BUT the guy there offered to call Parts and Power just to see if they even had a bowl before we trekked ourselves over there.  They did!!!  We started walking - the wrong direction.  We found a group of taxi guys waiting for the next customer and they said it would cost $10 for a Taxi - the going rate.  Huh?  We were closer to town, things cost more.  We walked back to our happy $3 Taxi area and found one that took us to Parts and Power.  We found the Racor bowl ($60 and it worked perfectly).  We hailed another taxi who took us to Rite Way grocery store (where the prices are about 30% cheaper than any other market in the BVI).  While I shopped, Baxter dinghied to Terrapin, picked up Kala and they both met me at the dock.

Our work here was done and we were dropping the mooring and heading to somewhere with good protection from the NE-E with good holding.  It turns out, our free mooring at the Bitter End might be the perfect spot.  We received a surprise visit from Paul and Chris on Georgia (who we had last seen in Anegada) and had a quick visit and then we were off.  

The sun had come out after a rainy morning and it was a fun ride (motored right into the wind) back to North Sound.  Knowing what to expect from the forecasted winds makes them tolerable and not hard to deal with.  We have projects to keep us busy and there are still lots of fun things to do.

Red Rock of Fat Hog Bay

Fat Hog Bay - Penn's Landing mooring field.  The grocery store is the white building on the left.  Dinghy right up to the back door.

Back to our old ways in North Sound (Bitter End)

Life is great!
One of the many "To-Do's" completed…Baxter rebedded the port-side chain plates.