Thursday, April 26, 2007

BVI - Wet & Soggy

The weather is not cooperating. A big trough moved in and settled over the islands so we have had a week of unsettled weather - showers and squalls, squalls and showers. I am not sure where one stops and the other begins. The weather forecasters always say them as a pair. First the trough is moving away from the islands; oops, now it has moved back. We feel sorry for all the charterers running around in their rain gear. We went to Sopers Hole for 2 nights to hide out from what we thought would be the worst of the squalls and to have lunch at Pussers. Sopers Hole is one of the spots we chartered out of years ago - it has not changed much. A couple of thunder storms, complete with fork lightning, rolled through in the middle of the night (of course).

On Sunday we moved to Manchioneel Bay, Cooper Island, and confirmed, once again, that it is the worst bay to stop for a mooring. While the snorkeling was good, the current was weird and we spent a restless night bouncing around with the mooring ball thumping against the hull, trying to remove Vagus' bottom paint. As well we had a charterer try to anchor in the mooring field beside us. Luckily we were just returning from snorkeling and Karen was able to convince them that anchoring in the mooring field was not a very good idea. They were very good and moved outside the field but from that point on we were vigilant for any other boats trying to anchor near us. The ritual is called "Harbour TV" among the crusiers and comes on every afternoon between 4:00pm and 6:00pm. This is the time when people realize that the sun also sets in BVI and they need to find a spot to stay for the night. In they come to the next Bay on their list, looking for an empty mooring ball - the moorings have of course been filled since 2:00pm. Around the mooring field they cruise, everyone alert and pointing in different directions. Once they come to the realization that the moorings are truly full, the anchoring dance starts. This is when Harbour TV gets interesting. Down goes the pole to pick up the mooring line and the designated anchor person opens the anchor locker. Tense faces survey potential spots. Tense cruisers watch from their cockpits and pray "please not near me!" We have lots of Harbour TV stories that will have to wait for another time.

On the plus side, we have managed to get in a bit of snorkeling. Actually we have snorkeled more in the last 2 weeks than we have in the last two months. The snorkeling is still good in BVI when the weather briefly clears, with clear water and a nice variety of life. We have even seen several fish that sent us back to our guide books for recognition.

We now have moved back to Leverick Bay, mainly because we can anchor and get WiFi. As I write this the rain is sheeting down, the wind is howling,and the boat is bouncing in the wind-driven waves. We should probably move to a less bouncy spot as the weather is not supposed to clear for a few days but we still have a number of things to arrange for the trip back. Internet is essential. The better spots don't have internet. How things have changed - choosing your anchorage based on internet availablility. We even have friends that motor around an anchorage, laptop on, looking for the strongest internet signal. As soon as they lock on, down goes the anchor. So much for the life of "getting away from it all"!

Have a good week.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hello BVI!

The winds dropped and moved southerly and our time allowance in Antigua was drawing to a close. So early on Thursday the 12th, we raised anchor and headed North-west. We had a number of options for a destination with BVI being at the top of our list. We were able to sail for about 6 hours, then the winds dropped and the iron jib came on. Fortunately our jerry-rigged autopilot using the wind vane steering and a tiller autohelm worked great while motoring and we did not have to hand steer. We ended
up motoring for 24 hours, arriving in Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda about lunch time on Friday. After checking in, we went to Leverick Bay to rest up. We slept well that night. We were happy though as we were now in BVI - the home of clear water and great sailing. It has the clearest water of any of the Leewards and Windward islands and some of the best snorkeling.

At Leverick Bay we caught up with Always Saturday who we have not seen since 2006 in Trinidad. They have been cruising the Virgins and loving it. Karen was able to find a laundramat where she could actually do laundry and control the drying process - the first one since Trinidad. Normally she had to leave the laundry with a wash, dry and fold service with mixed results - such is one of the treats of the cruising life. Next we heard from Legend so we went down to Trellis Bay to catch up with them
and learn about where to go in St. John's. The winds were going Southerly, so we headed to Norman Island to find our favourite spot in BVI - at the Bight just off the rocks at the end of the bay. We can swim right off Vagus and snorkel the reef right beside us. We plan to stay a few days and catch our breath. Then we have about a month to putter around the British and US Virgins before shipping Vagus home. So no more long, overnight sails, just short day day sails for us.

I am writing this on the 18th at Norman's Island but am not sure when it will be posted. Our boat e-mail is spotty here and I am having trouble connecting - all the hills around us. Hope the weather is warming up at home.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Antigua - Happy Easter

It was a busy week. With the insurance settlement out of the way, we were able to hire a local fiberglasser to patch Vagus. The patch sure ain't pretty but it is strong. It also does not leak! Karen wants to paint a big "OUCH!" sign on Vagus' hull. The surveyor came out to inspect the patch and gave his blessing to move Vagus.It is time to move on. It is also an anniversary of sorts. Exactly 3 years ago, on the Thursday before Easter Friday, we arrived in Culebra in the Spanish Virgin Islands after an 8 day off shore passage from the Bahamas - our first time with Vagus in Caribbean waters. Much has happened since then.

Next I had to clean the hull and find the prop - easier said than done. Over the past 6 weeks, the prop had disappeared beneath a huge ball of growth. I had to pull clumps of grass off just to get to the point that I could use the scrapper. Slowly the prop emerged. With the bottom cleaned, we were ready to move. On Friday, we motored, about 10 miles, to Jolly Harbour on the West side of Antigua. Jolly Harbour is a better spot to leave for heading North-west. Once there we met up with Chinook Arch, who are preparing to haul at Jolly Harbour Marina, and with Mike & Marlene on Drumbeat, who we have not seen in a year. It was great getting back together with friends again. We first met Drumbeat in BVI on our trip south and have met up with them every year since.

On Saturday, I finally pronounced sentence on our house batteries. They have been giving us problems for the last month and I realized we had to replace them. Off we went to Budget Marine to pick up 4 new 6 volt golf cart batteries, each weighing about 65lbs. Saturday afternoon was spent taking the batteries by dinghy to Vagus, loading them aboard, lifting them down the companionway, placing them into the battery locker, and taking the old batteries on the reverse route. It was a lot of lifting, but with a few well chosen boat words, we managed to get through the day. We also managed to finish just in time to shower and head out for dinner with 12 other cruisers, mostly Canadians. Sunday was spent with Advil in quiet reflection.

Now we are really ready to move. Our time in Antigua is officially up next Sunday so before that time we hope to find a good weather window to head out. Our plan is to sail directly to BVI but that is just a plan. We will know where when we get there.
And other good news is that Mike off Drumbeat was able to clarify several of the cricket rules. Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Antigua Week 7

We settled - an entirely unsettling experience. We have spent the week doing e-mails, phone calls, faxing, wrting proposals and waiting. Once again, Bob Raymond was excellent. At 1400 Friday afternoon, we sent off the final fax accepting a cash offer so we can fix her in Canada. We REALLY did not want to spend more time fixing boats in the Caribbean! One of the most difficult things about the whole process is that it puts your life on hold. It is like going to jail in the Monoploy of life. You have to wait to get out. You cannot make plans. You just work out different scenerios that will likely not come true. One of the things we like about cruising is the freedom of movement (depending on the weather). When suddenly stuck not of our own choosing, we felt really antsy about sitting still.

It will be nice to move on and start a new, hopefully less exciting, adventure. Taking Vagus home this year was our original plan and we are sticking to it. Who says we are not flexible? Only we will be taking her by a different route. She will be getting a ride via Dockwise Transport. The Dockwise ship actually sinks in the water like a floating dry dock and we drive Vagus over its stern. We wait as the ship rises, divers weld a cradle around Vagus, we say goodbye and off it goes. Dockwise has a neat web site describing the process. We have to meet the Dockwise ship in St. Thomas on May 28th. Between now and then we have to get a great big ugly patch put on the damaged area to keep the water out and sail Vagus to the Virgin Islands. Our route is still open for discussion but we want to be in the US Virgins by mid-May. It is mostly downwind and we have time to pick the calmest water (we hope). At least we will be able to pick up some Pussers Rum along the way in BVI.

To answer the other questions - I am starting to understand the "Short" version of cricket - the short version usually takes one whole day to play. It is remotely similar to baseball and about as enjoyable to watch. And the answer to the number of books read: Mine is 3, Karen lost count.