Saturday, May 19, 2007

St. Thomas, USVI - Marinaville

At 11:30am on May 15th, we tied Vagus to a dock at Crown Bay Marina - our first docking in over 5 months. We had just spent 4 days anchored in a nice little bay called Christmas Cove on Great St. James Island. There we found some good snorkeling and, again, some new-to-us fish. The fish were friendly as I think they were probably fed by all the tour groups that came to snorkel the area. We were continuously surrounded by schools of fish as we swam along - something we have not seen since years ago at the Bat Caves in BVI. Some fish would come within a foot of us, stare at us as if begging for food, and then swim away.

When the time finally came to move to the marina, we had to find our dock lines and figure out where to put the fenders. Docking is a lot more work than anchoring! We were both on edge coming into a new marina and manouvering Vagus around all those hard dock bits. Crown Bay was very helpful and sent someone to help with the lines. Fortunately everything went without any events.

Now we finally have lots of fresh water. Our first priority was to get rid of some of the salt accumulated on Vagus - her first real bath since Trinidad. And it was our first real shower with lots of water as well. Karen quickly disappeared to the laundramat, loaded with bags of clothes for cleaning. There are excellent facilities at the marina - laundry, chandler, restuarant and WiFi - so we are set. We checked in with Dockwise and found that we had a bunch more paperwork to fill out - some to get notarized even. We have had a lot of paperwork to complete for this trip so we are thankful for the computer and WiFi.

We do miss being at anchor though. This is a very busy place with boats of every shape and description constantly going in and out by our boat - everything from dinghies, to ferries, to everything in between, including a submarine that takes tourists out to see the fish. The noise from the boats going by are not even drowned out by the planes taking off from the airport, which is nearby. Shortly after our arrival, a huge (82 feet) trawler parked beside us and blocked our breeze. It was 94F in the cabin yesterday afternoon, even with all the fans on. We try to do our work in the morning and hide out in the afternoon. Yesterday a Princess Cruise ship also came in to the cruise ship dock beside the marina. The ship was huge and became the only view we could look at from the cockpit. It was so close to us we could listen to the announcements over the PA during the day. Life is different here.

We just got word that we are shipping out on the s/v Explorer on the 22nd. The ship should arrive in Newport around the 31st. Now we have to sramble to change our flights. We will fly back to Burlington and then drive to Newport to meet the ship.

So it is time to get back to cleaning. Have a good week.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

BVI to St. John, USVI

We had been 9 days in Leverick Bay. Now there is not a lot to do in Leverick Bay, but it is convenient. We could anchor, get water, get groceries, do laundry, visit a restaurant, and most of the time get WiFi. Also, and happily, there are not a lot of charterers. It is bouncy though and the walking is all of the up-hill variety - something we try to avoid in the heat. However, after 9 days, Vagus' bottom was getting a little furry so we felt we really had to move and stage ourselves to the US Virgin
Islands. Promptly at 9:45am, we raised anchor and motored out of Gorda Sound. The wind was right and we unrolled the genoa for a downwind reach to Marina Cay - all of 6 miles away. We did not want to overdo it on the first day of our move. At Marina Cay we were lucky and were able to attend the Michael Bean Happy Arrrh Show. Michael does a delightful show based on a pirate theme - What is the middle letter in the pirate alphabet? - aaarrrrh! It is very popularrh in these parts and a great evening

The next day we motored all of 8 miles to the Bight at Norman Island. We were able to pick up our favourite mooring again, right beside a reef. Here, we were able to snorkel off the boat and enjoy some of the best snorkeling we have found in the islands. The variety of fish is incredible. We saw something new on every trip. As we had travelled for two days to get here, we had to rest up for a few days and, of course, we could not travel on Karen's birthday. She received a number of nice e-mail birthday
wishes. It was nice to get news from home.

But after 3 days at Normans, we had the urge to move on. Also the moorings were expensive. At the very early hour of 8:30am, the earliest underway since arriving in BVI, we left for Sopers Hole, again about 6 miles away. There we bought a few groceries, got rid of our trash and checked out. Off we went before noon to Cruz Bay in St. John's to check into the US. Check-in went smoothly and we walked around Cruz Bay a bit. We actually found a grocery store with shelves full of not-dust-covered supplies
and fresh produce. Loaded down with our greens, fruits and vegetables, we headed back to Vagus to move her to an anchorage away from the ferry wakes.

St. John's is mostly National Park. Anchoring is not allowed so we had to take a mooring - this is supposed to keep boats from damaging the coral. We have been at three bays so far and have been disappointed as the coral is mostly dead - maybe from warm water or past hurricanes. It is too bad as it would have been specactular at one time. We have managed to spot some interesting and new-to-us fish, though. At Lameshur Bay a big remora was trying, unsuccessfully, to attach itself to the bottom of
Vagus. At our latest spot, despite the water being a bit cloudy, we have managed to see a 4 foot barracuda who has taken up station under our boat, a 6 foot nurse shark resting on the bottom by our boat and a 2 foot remora trying to attach itself to a green turtle snacking on the grassy bottom - interesting stuff. And before you ask - I'm sure it was not the same remora we saw in Lameshur Bay!

The weather is still partly overcast with occasional showers - not normal "dry" season events. Not great weather but at least it is warm. We have another week before we have to head to a marina and begin prepping Vagus for the trip home - a whole week and 10 miles to cover.

Have a good week!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

BVI - Perspective

Well are we wrong. Last week we wrote how the weather was not cooperating, feeling sorry for ourselves with all the rain and feeling sorry for all the charterers who happened to pick the past week. Tonight we sat in our cockpit with couples from two other boats, both long-term cruisers, when a dinghy approached eyeing our Canadian flag.
"Where you from?" they called. They were from New Brunswick and on a charter for 10 days.
"Too bad the weather has been bad", says I.
"What do you mean?" they say "it has been great!"
We all turned to each other in surprise. "Did they say it was good?" we asked, mouths open. On reflection, how soon we forget. After a normal Canadian winter, to escape to a land where warm breezes caress your face, where you shed multiple layers of cloths for only a bathing suit, where the water is not hard enough to stand on, and where you swim in an aquarium, what is there not to like. Who cares about a few showers? What is a little wind? You are here and the air is warm and the water is warm and the beaches are golden and the rum is cheap. So there you go.

They also exclaimed before leaving, "Wow, you look like real cruisiers. I bet you have been out a long time." Now how did they know that? Was it the boat, our appearance, our clothing. our hair cuts or some other hidden-to-us sign? And we thought that by having people over and laughing and carrying on, we would fit right into the charter crowd.

In case you are wondering where we are, we are still at Leverick Bay. We were going to leave today but we had to get water. We have closed down our watermaker and now carry jugs ashore to purchase water. But first we wanted to give a boat near us -Hello World - the weather forecast. While at Hello World, it started to rain, as in squall, so they invited us aboard. We had a wonderful visit with David and Kate who also are friends with our friends on Reverie. So by the time we made it to the dock for water, picked up the water and poured it into Vagus' water tanks, it was time for lunch. Well you cannot leave after lunch. We decided to have Hello World and Always Saturday over for Happy Hour. Off we went in the dinghy to invite both boats and then into the store for supplies. We got back at 2:00 and I turned on the computer to check e-mails. Up pops a Skype call from Laurie in North Vancouver. We had a great chat for about 30 minutes from BVI to North Vancouver, complete with video of Laurie (we do not have a web cam), for zero cost. Technology is amazing.

Then I called Port Credit Marina, where we are getting our boat fixed at Bristol Marine, to arrange delivery, again via Skype. Imagine my surprise when my carefully and painfully planned house of cards was knocked down when the woman in the office at Port Credit Marina said "You can't bring your boat here." She was more than a little abrupt and I was shaking when I got off the phone. Now where was Vagus to be delivered? Where was she going to be fixed? I thought I had it all arranged!!! I called Bristol Marine and asked them how they were supposed to fix my boat when I couldn't get it into the yard. They were super and also more than a little upset. They assured me they would work it out and, also importantly, I would not have to talk to that woman again. What kind of boat yard turns away business like that?

I finished all my calls on a positive note as I next I managed to get on a Google chat line with our eldest son, Alex, and determine that all was well in his life.

By now it was 4:00 and, as we now have lots of water, Karen had promised the other cruisers, who were due at 5:00, that we would shower before they came. Time was getting near and Karen was making noises that they would be here soon. Off went the computer and into the shower I went. So it was a busy day. We now plan to leave tomorrow but then again ... Have a good week.

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.