Thursday, March 26, 2015

The 2015 Season Begins


Well, we are midway through the 2015 winter cruising season and it's been pointed out that there have been no blog entries.

Just too busy, working (that nasty boatyard, on the hard thing) that every boater knows is a necessary evil.


Meeting up with friends, having sundowners with or without friends on the boat deck, swimming and snorkelling or working again (slugging groceries over bumpy roads or by safari and into a dinghy, visiting laundromats with $11.00 washing machines and 100 * temperatures.

In short! Having way too much fun.  
Dominos on Shirley Jean with Peter & Donna, Paul & Dani

It was a flash trip down this year and a very, very short 1 day visit with Mom in Florida,, while we unpacked all the boxes and deliveries that had arrived from various suppliers all stacked into her sunroom.

We discovered how easy it is to grab a box or barrel and ship stuff from the Tropical Shippng Terminal in Miami straight to the ferry terminal in Virgin Gorda where our boat awaited. Way too easy and could be very bad for the waterline on Ocean Wings.

Needless to say, our new Water Maker, Fuel Polishing System, wonderful side-boarding ladder, lobster trap, new bow thruster prop, fabric and a host of other "necessary " things arrived safe and sound while we were still "on the hard" getting the boat ready and painting her huge bottom....(Got a great deal on bottom paint at $125.00 per gallon...usually $350.00 per gallon!) Takes 2 gallons for the 55 foot hull.
By 5 pm the no-seeums come out and the work ends and the happy hour with the other unfortunate bottom painters begins.
I totally understand why it's called happy hour!  I for one, am ecstatic when I get that toxic blue stuff washed off me. 

The launch went smoothly, Gord always agonizes over the weather, the winds and his own abilities to get Ocean Wings out of the lift and safely onto the dock so we can start to charge our systems  (need that freezer hard as a rock, for the tons of ice we go thru during Happy Hour).
He's better than he thinks and usually agonizes for nothing.
                               We're in the water!   The Happiest of Days!   And we still float!


Gord's favourite line..."Any day above ground, or above water is a good day!"

Then we sail off to Charlotte Amalie harbour in St. Thomas, to anchor.

1st order of business is getting that water maker installed.  Mike Blankenship is our guy for this job.  While he's busy in the bowels of the engine room, we try and set the boat straight (hard to put anything away when the guys pull out all the tools and parts and spread them around). Somewhat of a losing battle. 

Provisioning is top of my list, which means dinghy to shore, grab a Safari (a glorified home-made Ford 150 truck with the truck part replaced with seats where you can take it all around the whole island for $2.00). Load up with groceries, haul it back in a Safari or trundle cart, pile it in the dinghy and hopefully leave some room for us, lift it 6 ft up the transom onto the boat, then wash, un-box (cardboard is a no-no on a boat) and stow it all. Exhausting just thinking about it. But we do it over and over throughout the season because it's pretty important to eat and it's the only way to have happy hour snacks available...("and Rum -- Gord".)
Safari bus- our means of transport

Water maker is working awesome -- Its absolutely fabulous to have abundant, clean, pure water.
                                            I'm in heaven with clean hair. (Sue)

We get to move out of the channel, where we anchored to make Mikes job easier.  This is the same channel, if many of you recall, where we picked up a 16 ft boat trailer complete with rubber tires, on our anchor a few years back.  Not our favorite anchoring place.
When we upped anchor this trip, Gord laughed his head off and called back "we've brought up wheels again!!!"  We dumped our new wheels and headed off to Brewers Bay, a beautiful sandy beach with clear water, good snorkelling, showers on the beach (which we are no longer are dependant on) and great easy access to the Safari system. Heaven after the scuzzy channel.

Our latest wheels

Its fuel polisher time and that was a quick installation which we managed as a contra deal. Joe (our local friendly mechanic) did the fuel polisher with Gord and I re-sewed his bimini top, everyone is happy and no dineros are exchanged. 

We're ready to head out to Culebra, but let's wait out the grey skies and drizzle.
The drizzle has turned torrential and we are snug as a bug, having dinner and watching movies. Tomorrow will be sunshine, lollypops and hopefully rainbows!

Disaster in the dark at 2 am!  Gord, did you pull the dinghy plug? No, did YOU pull the dinghy plug?
Bang!!!!   Dinghy Davit Down! (The bar that holds the dinghy up in the air behind the boat).

Thus the importance of pulling out the dinghy plug in torrential rains.  Culebra is a No go now.

Thank you for wonderful friends . Carl from "Frolic"  assisted with the un-install of the solar panel and pulling the Davit from its boot, 3 ft below deck.   Paul from "Play to Live" for assisting with the re-install, after Sub-base Machine Shop soaked us $1,200.00 to cut and re-weld our boo boo! (They wanted $2,500 originally, but Gord's "negotiating" got them down.)

Our davit wasn't the only victim of those torrential rains. We've never seen anything like this.  The water in the bay turned from crystal clear Caribbean blue to opaque muddy brown as the beach run off filled the bay and ocean as far out as we could see.   .... Water-maker on Hold.....

The beach lost an amazing amount of sand out into the bay and left gullies deep enough for a game of hide and seek.   It took a week to clear up the water and a week of no swimming.

Beach erosion from rain

It wasn't all disaster, the happy hours abounded and the chores got accomplished.

We're finally out of here, headed up to St John's to see if we can get into Salt Pond Bay, one of our favorite anchorages.   We were pounding  into the wind with 7 ft waves so settled for a stop closer in Lamshure Bay.  After a quiet night and a great snorkel, we decided on a hike to Salt Pond --  just one bay over. 
We went uppppp and we went down and upppp and down and upppp. 
Note to ourselves, bring extra water next time.   Gave Gord's new pacemaker a good workout and test run.  Obviously works as it should as we made it back in time for sundowners on Ocean Wings.

Over to Salt Pond next with its awesome snorkelling. I am in Heaven.
Thought we might grab the Safari bus into Cruz bay for the day, only to discover that on St. John's there are No busses on Weekends.  Who made up that schedule?? However, we are on the road, so decided to do what everyone else does... Hitchhike....
Took us 2 rides and we ended up in Coral Bay instead of Cruz, browsed, had lunch at Skinny Legs Restaurant, did some shopping and ... you got it... Hitchhiked back.  Invited our neighbouring boaters aboard and made some new friends .  Pam and Lance on Bon Temps.

We're on the move again meeting up with Tom and Meg on "Alpha Crucius" in Maho Bay.  Carl and Leslie on "Frolic " are also headed that way.
 It's Tom & Megs 36th wedding anniversary and they have guests arriving into Cruz Bay on the Ferry, so we all head in on the Safari to form the welcoming commitee and celebrate their anniversary at a beach front restaurant.
Tom & Meg

Alpha Crucius and her crew are heading to Jost Van Dyke island to check into the BVI's, but Frolic and Ocean Wings are staying put. The BVI's are getting greedier all the time and are selectively charging $1.00 per ft per day for boats  to check in there. Like their $35.00 for mooring balls is not already over the top. Us and a lot of other cruisers will boycott the BVI area, until they get real. Who needs overcrowded harbours, so full of mooring balls that you can't anchor, boats discharging into the harbour and triple to quadruple the prices in grocery stores and restaurants (that automatically also add 18% to the cheque)  more than are charged in the US Virgins, not to mention the proliferation of unqualified, "credit-card" captains that they charter to in droves. 

Back on Maho Beach, the water is crystal clear and there is a birthday party on shore for a set of one-year-old twins, cruising full time with their parents,  Scott and Brittany and also a 3-year-old sister on a 44 ft Brewer-  " Asante". The beach was crowded with little mini cruisers from a variety of boats and the chocolate homemade cupcakes were delicious. We had a great chat with Whitby 42 owners Peter and Jodi on "Maria Christina".

The birthday twins
Mini cruisers birthday party on beach

While hanging out here we met Sandy and Ray on "Megerin"  and Mike and Betts on "Papageno" and Ken and Dorothy of "Blue Star" arrived to hang out, share happy hour and share learning experiences. Gord's learning to play backgammon and Mike and Betts have learned Mexican Train Domino's.

Anchorage at Maho Bay

Its not uncommon to be hanging out in the same bays with the rich and famous, some unknown and Richard Branson on his cat "Necker Belle" was our neighbour in Maho

Sharing the bay with the rich and famous

Richard Bransons cat

We all headed into Cruz Bay for the St paddies Day parade and festivities. it was a wonderful parade with mostly people riding in the back of pick up trucks, wearing funky green outfits and throwing green party type favours to us on the bar balcony's. The whole thing lasted only eight minutes, but was riotously fun.
St Paddies day fun in Cruz bay

                                    We are truly blessed to enjoy this lifestyle.

Bill and Cathy on Dream maker have arrived in St Thomas for the first time in 4 years, so even though we hate to anchor in that rolly  anchorage, we headed there to see them.
It felt like we had just seen them yesterday, as we picked up where we left off and had dinner together and played games until midnight. Our time was short, as we are preparing to island hop down to Dominica, with Tom & Meg on Alpha Crucis

Alpha Crucis

Having just come from down island, Bill & Cathy gave us some awesome information and some very good tips.

Gord and Carl in Brewers Bay
We are so blessed to live this life style!

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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.