Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tropical Rock n" Roll

It'd be nice to say that this was a new variation on rock n' roll dancing, and I guess in some ways its very much a dance, but not a fun one.
You know those north swells I was mentioning in my last post . Well they arrived in the middle of the night and turned our idyllic little anchorage and our boat into a milkshake machine.
Is it possible for a 55 ft structure that is 16 ft wide to roll side to side. end to end and corner to corner , ALL at same time?  You bet! Try sleeping in that! Impossible! 
Boats are amazing things in that the design of the hull and keel usually mean that at anchor or a mooring the boat will point into the wind giving a nice gentle moving motion  as well as a cool breeze down the hatches . And trust me I need that breeze.
But, those nasty north swells have a tendancy to bring in rolling swells that are stronger than the breeze. The swells hit the keel sideways and start the boat a rockin' side to side and it doesn't point into the wind. Sending us and the boat into that new Rock n' Roll dance.
Mr Disney must have been a boater when he came up with the concept of some of our modern thrill rides, but man has not yet mastered that impossible motion that nature can produce on a whim. If it could be duplicated I'd dub it "The Milkshake"

Now, you ask! How do you fix that? Boaters have 2 solutions. First try a stern anchor that will pull the boat into the wind the way man intended and nature fights. Second, Move to a quieter anchorage and at first light that's exactly what Dream Maker and Ocean Wings did.  Back to Leverick Bay for a " Good Days" sleep. 

Eustatia Sound

On the outside of Gorda Sound sit a few small islands. Prickly Pear, Eustatia, Necker ( Richard Bransons  posh little resort) and Mosquito Island ( Richard Bransons latest purchase and probably next project)  between these islands sits a shallow sound that connects the islands by a reef that sits just below the surface of the water and is of course a hazard to boaters. In most seas its a place you just don't want to be. But, once in a while when its calm and there is no north swell it is idyllic.   We had those conditions so we thought we'd check it out. We anchored in the middle between Prickly Pear and Eustatia,  in 10-15 ft of the most crystal clear turquoise water I have ever seen, with reef on all sides except the narrow channel and Necker just on the other side of the reef. As I looked into the water I could see a small black square object near our anchor chain.  What is it?  Gord looked and said: silly, thats whats showing of your anchor all nestled way into the sand and holding us tight.  The water was so clear you could see the little shellfishes blow holes in the sandy bottom below and the small blades of grass swaying in the current.
We'd hooked up with Bill and Cathy again and they were just a few boats away.  We took advantage of the incredible weather and did lots of snorkelling and a little exploring aboard Dream Maker as Cathy and Bill amazingly crept Dream Maker around the coral heads fringing the reef. They've been aboard Dream Maker for 4 yrs now and we hope we'll have the same comfort level with Ocean Wings one day.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happy Hour

Our favorite way to end the day. A rum punch on the foredeck of Ocean Wings looking out the bay and watching the sun splash into the ocean.  Retirement! I love it!


There are so many beaches here in paradise that sometimes you even get one all to yourselves. You can beach your dinghy, catch some "wrays", beachcomb or swim and snorkel. Our little private beach was all those things.

Coconut Hunter

The Bitter End is a resort and marina here in Gorda Sound.... not the end to our story.
Its picture perfect with beaches, hammocks, dining under thatched roofs, quaint hillside bungalows and palm trees lining the shore.
The male of our species still has that cave man hunter buried somewhere deep inside him just waiting to come out. Coconuts are the lure. Knock that coconut out of the tree and drink the warm coconut milk.  Macho Time!
My great white coconut hunter was not immune to that ancient allure. He took on that tree like a true hunter and grinned from ear to ear as he showed off his prize.
Once captured those things are impossible to crack open. So, I'm not quite sure who really won in the end.  

The Check IS in the mail

I believe that saying must have originated here in the Virgin Islands and they probably really meant it.
Check out the postal service! Ask your self ......Do I really want to send Gord and Sue that parcel???
Visa, Mastercard and American Express happily accepted in lui of parcels.

Off to Leverick Bay

The sun is shinning and its a great sail up to Gorda Sound and into Leverick Bay.  We are getting close to the time we will be putting the boat away for the summer hurricane season and there is the question of where? We're renting a car and going on a tour from one end of Virgin Gorda to the other with a stop along the way to check out Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour for haulout at end of April.
The view from the road is spectacular and although its a narrow winddy road we must share. It's just a little odd to share with goats, cows and chickens all trotting alone the road by themselves like they have           important business and places to be.  Some even wandering around on roof tops like their job is to check for leaks or loose shingles.
It's a beautiful drive as we curve up, down and around this island with ocean on both sides of the road at times and more beautiful bays and future anchorages than we can count.  We headed past Savannah Bay, But he wouldn't stop and let me play in the surf no matter how much I begged.
So, we cruised out to check out the abandoned Coppermine and see if we can find any glints of precious metal peaking out from the rock.
Looking out over this rugged coastline its easy to imagine this mine in the early 1860's ,perched on the edge of the sea and bustling with activity.

We checked out the Yacht Harbour and it was just what we wanted. Decision made! Ocean Wings will settle into Virgin Gorda for the summer and to await our return in the fall.

Final stop of the day is the Baths, huge boulder formations with great tide pools and trails. A swim at  the Baths is a must do.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rain, Rain Go Away

And it listened!  We finally have sunshine again after 5-6 days of high winds, stormy skies and non stop rain.
So, its not always perfect here in paradise. But it is often a great time to get some chores done.
Just so everyone doesn't think this is all fun and games
One thing to always do, rain or shine is stow, stow, stow.  we just cannot move the boat at all until every little thing is put away or fastened down. Gord also has his pre moving routine of checking oil, engine and all the other lines and fittings before getting underway.
 Windows are another constant chore, the bimini enclosure is all windows that get very salty and must be washed, dried, treated and buffed. The bimini itself also has to be constantly scrubbed and washed.  
Everything on a boat gets this slippery, greasy feel from the salt air, so unless we want to go slip slidin over the edge, we keep it clean.  You don't want to get me started on what a chore the stainless is. No sir!
Refrigeration is a little different on a boat, very drippy, so while it rained I took everything out, scrubbed the fridge and put it all back.
We've also started on that new nav stattion bench and I've done some sewing.  Fender covers are complete and theres a new cushion on the rear deck seat.
BUT! The sun is back out, so we'll shelve the projects for another day and go have some fun!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

You meet the loveliest People on Sailboats

We heard something you rarely hear and never want to. The other day while sitting at anchor: "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday"!  We turned up the VHF to listen.  Over on the island of Jost Van Dyke, the surf was hitting over 8 ft where the reef was near the surface on the edge of Sandy Spit. A group of people in a Sunsail charter boat, misjudged the depth, and didn't read their charts and were literally picked up by a wave and deposited on top of the reef with the 8 ft waves washing over the boat. All the nearby Boaters came to the rescue (we were too far away) and they pulled the sailboat onto its side and dragged it off the reef. Surprisingly, the engine started the hull was not cracked,  and they motored away. We love Happy Endings! 
A few days later we were anchored in Benures Bay, at Norman Island an we met a lovely young couple, Petter from Sweden, Rosanna from Britain with their 3 yr old son Teddy, aboard their 42 ft Juneau, "Lolo". They had sold everything they had back home and were taking a 2-3 yr sailing odyssey and hunt for a new home in Southern waters. They had been standing on Sandy Spit when the above mentioned sailboat was deposited on the reef in front of them and they were one of the dinghy's to the rescue, so we got the story first-hand.
We lent them a DVD (the 1st movie they'd seen in over a year), and after a great visit wished them well on their sailing quest and home search. 
Teddy was adorable, very smart and already developing his sailing skills.  His first observation was to point to our boat and say "that's your boat, Why do you have 2 masts?"
Fair Winds to Petter, Rosanna and Teddy ...  may we meet again in some beautiful bay!

Gord, Unmasked!

Suzanne and I took our inflatable dinghy and left our sailboat anchored in Benure's Bay on Norman Island to motor to a "dinghy mooring ball" where one can tie off to a floating, anchored ball during the day to snorkel the rugged, coral coast of the shoreline. It is nice that the Parks Dept. has done this for visitors to make it convenient to attach your dinghy to the ball, free of charge, in 50 feet of water and simply put on your snorkel and mask and swim fins, and push off from the boat to enter the mysterious and wondrous underwater world that takes up over 72% of our watery planet.
We always plan the dive, and dive the plan, but Sue has a lot more hotter blood than I do, so after an hour of sightseeing, and even watching a sleeping 7 foot nurse shark doze on the bottom, I told Sue that I was going back to the dinghy to warm up.
It takes some strong arms to hoist yourself out of the water and over the 3 foot sides of the inflatable boat, so I removed my custom-made, prescription mask and attached snorkel and threw them into the bottom of the boat and with one mighty grunt and heave, like a beaching whale, i hauled myself into the dinghy and relished in the warmth of the hot sides of the rubber boat. I removed my swim fins and plunked them into the bottom also.
Just about then, Sue frantically swam up beside the boat and shouted: "Your mask is sinking"!
I looked down to my dismay to see that my fins must have flipped out my mask back into the water!
Damn! A prescription mask is not just for fun, it is a necessity to see the condition of the bottom of the boat and rudder, etc.
I have a scuba dive tank aboard "Ocean Wings", but the first rule of diving is to never do it alone.
So we raced back to the beach at Norman Island and I ran into the dive shop, just as they were closing, and explained the situation to a very lovely young lady named Cortney Hanson who was the Dive Master there. She agreed to go back to the mooring ball, put on her dive gear and take a look for me.
I was worried about her going in alone, but she insisted that she was fine.
She donned her tank and regulator and splashed in, with Sue floating above to guide her to the last known position. After about 15 minutes of watching her bubbles circling the dinghy as she scoured the bottom 50 feet down, she came up holding a mask and snorkel!
I said: "Sorry, but that is not mine"!
She got the joke and laughed heartily.
I got my mask back and Cortney said: "No charge, have a nice day"!
We thanked her profusely and watched her motor back to Tortola, where she lived.
The next morning, I slipped an envelope with my thanks and enough for dinner and a case of beer, between the dive shop doors.
Thank you Cortney Hanson, it is people like you that make the world a lovelier place!

Sharks, Sharks & Sharks

Not only did I see my first shark, but that sighting was followed the next day by a second and then shall we say a partial third.
The Indians are a series of large rough rocks just east of Norman Island, with some of the best snorkeling in the BVI's.  While snorkelling there, I was busy snapping pics of the little fish when a 4-5 ft shark over took me from behind and swam about 5 ft under me. I had no time to either panic ( which I thought I would ) or snap a pic before he was gone.
The following day in just off the north side of Norman Island , outside a beautiful calm anchorage in Benures Bay. I spotted my second shark. He was in 15 ft of water , at least 10 ft long and havin' a snooze on the bottom. His size caused a few heart palpitations, but when he didn't move I calmed down long enough to grab Gord and frantically point. We kind of edged away slowly and kept a good eye on our path of retreat, just in case.   ***Watch the next post for Gord's account of his unmasking****
Now, what enemies do sharks have? Or, what eats a shark ( besides man of course)  In Great Harbour on Peter Island I spotted a shark head and several long ft of what used to be the rest of him. The snout, with eyes was very large, so I deduced that at some point he was a very big fella. So, what got him?  I was not sticking around to be the next meal . I high tailed it out of there.  I tried to get a pic, but the water that day was stirred up and they didn't turn out. Shall I venture back and try again?  Would You?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Waterspouts and Sunsets

They just seem to go hand in hand. Sitting in The Bight at Norman Island we were having a tall one and watching the sunset in all its glory, spreading pink and gold underneath a layer of fluffy black cloud. Pointing down from that cloud we saw 6 or more waterspouts meandering their way across the channel between Norman and St John.

Touchdown was spectacular. We could see huge sprays of water being sucked up toward the cloud as it travelled across in front of us for a good 15 minutes before disappearing behind the island. A big ball of flaming sun sank into the ocean as a final finale

Monday, March 1, 2010

Nav Station Makeover

Who ever heard of a boat being built with a Nav Station that is fixed in place with no storage underneath? We all know that sailboats like to tip and everything not bolted, glued or tucked into cabinets goes everywhere. We haven’t been able to find a rubber computer so we figured we’d better tuck it away. Now neither of us are woodworkers, but I’m pretty accurate with a tape measure and Gord’s pretty adept with a saw.

So let’s chop up the Nav Station.

Measuring and marking took a whole day. NO, I’m not slow, boats are not square! The plan is to have everything precut by the woodworking yard and just assemble. So, the measuring is critical.

With tools ready and much consultation amongst ourselves, we make the first incision. Whoever built it did not mean for it to come apart, there were some tricky cuts and pieces to work around.

Reassembly? piece of cake. Everything just slotted into place like we knew what we were doing. The hinge was tricky, due to the lack of working space and I was forced to have my head tucked up under “someones” smelly armpit in order to hold it at the right angle.

Two mornings of work and the finished product is well worth the missed snorkeling.

Scratch that search for the rubber computer off the To Do List.

We have a working Nav Station.

Stay tuned for bench construction.


You’d think renting a car on St Thomas to do a little shopping and see more of the island, would be easy. You seem to see a rental agency on every corner. Alas, they are booked solid for weeks, the *#&* cruise ships. Joe to “OUR” rescue. He must have enjoyed his days off because he’s going to take another one and show us his Island. St Thomas is only 5 miles wide and 14 miles long. So guess what, all the roads seem to skirt the coast and what do we see? More harbors and Bays of course. The views are breathtaking! The roads are narrow and do not meander up the hills. They just go for it, straight up and straight down. When you’re driving on that opposite side, then you more often that not feel like you’re hanging off the edge. Yahoo!!

Adult milkshakes were a welcome pit stop. I had a cool-a-mint ( vanilla shake with Kaluha and crème de menthe) awesome. I think everything is spiked here on “Island Time”

Magens Bay is a huge Bay on the north shore, so with N.E trades predominant it is not often boat friendly, so we took a swing by. My goodness, wall to wall people bussed in from the cruise ships. Scratch that one off our list of quiet anchorages.

The tourists and locals were all friendly.

Sailboat owners Gord and Sue aboard their 55' Whitby Ketch "Ocean Wings" share their adventures and travels as they start their retirement, living their dream of seeing the world from oceanside.
Ocean Wings is a recent purchase and our first foray into the Sailing Lifestyle. We're excited and a little scared. Join us in our adventure.